August 30, 2002
Comedy Tonight

According to this AP story the "Opening act for comedian Jackie Mason canceled because he is Palestinian" implying that it was yet another outrageous act of racist discrimination against some poor oppressed Arab by a powerful Jew. Indeed, an Arab community leader in Chicago said "I'm outraged. It is an act of hate and racism against Palestinians, and we demand an apology." In fact, if it was a simple matter of discrimination against a person of Arab descent, I would rebuke Jackie Mason too. Because what's important is not how someone is born, but how they live. And who is the Palestinian comedian in question, and how does he live?

The man's name is Ray Hanania. I wasn't in the room when the decision was made to pull the plug on him, so I don't know all their considerations. BUT I did a little digging on Mr. Hanania, which, by the way, reporters for the AP and the newspapers that carried the story could and should have done too. It turns out that Hanania is less of a comedian than a columnist and a (self-described) activist for the... Palestinian cause. In fact he has his own web site and blog! where he publishes reality-distorting opinion columns and perverse interpretations of history that predictably do not condone terrorism but excuse it away and of course blame Israel for it.

So a more accurate headline might have been: Jackie Mason refuses to share stage with apologist for terror organizations

Good for Jackie.

Al Barger also has thoughts on the issue

UPDATE: I'm elevating from the comments section, Yair's suggestion to look at this column by Hanania which appeared in the Lebanese newspaper Daily Star. Hanania calls Israel's Prime Minister, government and Army "Nazi-like" and looks forward to the "possibility of correcting the original injustice of 1948 and restoring Palestinian control over all of Palestine". And this is from a "comedian" who claims that he is "an outspoken advocate for peaceful compromise between Arabs and Israelis and has dedicated his life to bringing Arabs and Jews together". Now is that comedy, or what?

UPDATE (9/2) Al Barger exchanges e-mail with Ray Hanania

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:06 PM
Blogging for Dollars

My neighbor Bill Quick is experimenting with a blog-for-pay model as part of the newly launched Blogging Network. Some people like the idea, others seem affronted by it. I think it's great that Bill and others are going out on a limb to try a new method for monetizing their talents, but I'm skeptical that this particular approach is the optimal way for a blogger to make money.

First, I should qualify my expertise by saying that I've been professionally involved in developing content-based Internet businesses in some capacity or other almost continuously since 1994. Yes, that's a 4. Which means that I've been involved in this space as long as anybody else, and my predictions are still as worthless as everybody else's. But here are some of my observations.

1. You're going to need an awful lot of readers paying $2.99 a month before you generate enough money to be interesting.

2. This particular payment scheme does not scale very well to either incent new bloggers to join the network, or to motivate old bloggers to welcome new ones.

3. Consumers are terribly resistant to paying for content, particularly under the following conditions:
a) they've been trained to think of it as "free"
b) there are readily available free substitutes
c) people seldom pay for content in and of itself, but they will pay when they perceive value in the delivery medium, e.g. book, CD, cable wire and decoder box. That rules out most online stuff.

4) The few examples of (non-porn) Internet content services that are making significant revenues -- e.g. Wall Street Journal, I think are almost entirely funded by corporate users.

5) The one defense that Blogging Network has is to exclude non-subscribers, but that defense can be readily breached. i.e. if it ever started to produce really cool content, you know that within 5 minutes there will be a "BloggingNetworkWatch Blog" that posts the cream of the crop for free. Yes, that will violate somebody's intellectual property rights, but just think of how many $2.99 a month subscribers you're going to need just to pay for the very expensive lawyers you will need to hire in order to defend those rights.

6) Finally, this particular payment model, I think, is threatened by the very essence of blogging. Think about it this way:
Blogging is to journalism as Open Source is to software
Think about it. Microsoft and the New York Times are Cathedrals. The Linux community and the Blogsphere are Bazaars. In both cases there is a decentralized, self-organizing, and self-correcting "volunteer army" of passionate, creative and obsessive geeks. It is those qualities that turn the best output of the blogosphere into an increasingly important link in the media value chain. Bloggers will never replace the New York Times, just as free software will never replace a lot of the enterprise software that's too boring for Linux hackers to write out of love. But both phenonmena make their respective ecosystems more robust. And just as cheap Linux has put severe pricing pressure on commercial operating systems, the ever ready army of volunteer bloggers will ruthlessly conspire to drive the margins of the paid bloggers to 0.

Not being one to simply throw cold water on somebody's else's parade and walk away, I also have some thoughts on viable economic models for blogging. These are similar to the economic incentives for the developers of free software.

1) Personal satisfaction. That's my compensation. Notice that I don't even have a tip jar on my site. I've harbored an ambition to write for an audience ever since I was a little boy. I write because I feel I have ideas to spread and stories and jokes to tell and I enjoy the feeling of sharing them with an audience. Now I can have all of that without quitting my day job. In the pre-blog days I would have had to make larger sacrifices of my time and income to both write and find an audience. Having said all that, if there are any editors out there who love my work and want to pay me for my writing, please call me, I'm in the book.

2) Reputation building and self-promotion. For example, as career building for aspiring journalists. I gather that the traditional career path for many journalists starts on the copy desk or the neighborhood precinct beat, or the farm report at the 5000 watt radio station. The blogosphere will probably provide a different entry point. Also as we already see, professional writers use their blogs to practice, network and build audience for the paying projects. In addition, we're already seeing various celebrities writing blogs. In time, I suspect, many celebrities will have blogs for PR purposes, and many of these will be anonymously ghost-written. Who will the PR agencies turn to for this, but to... amateur bloggers who have proven their stuff.

3) Tip Jar like with shareware and public television, people do make money this way, but few will get rich.

Other models may emerge, and if I happen to be wrong about Blogging Network, then its founders and bloggers deserve to laugh at me all the way to the bank. And in any event, I wish Bill luck in finding the optimal model to support himself and his fine work at the DailyPundit.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:49 AM
August 29, 2002
The new Chief-of-Staff

There is a must-read interview on Ha'aretz with Israel's new Chief-of-Staff Moshe Ya'alon. When Clemenceau said that "war is too important to be left to the generals" he must have been thinking about a different kind of general. Ya'alon framed the current conflict in some of the clearest terms I've seen so far.

Ha'aretz editorial board criticizes Ya'alon for some of his comments. Not as much for their content, as for the fact that they are seen to be too strongly political coming from a military commander whose job is only to implement policies of the elected government and not to influence politics. I don't have a comment on that controversy, but Ya'alons analysis of the situation makes a great deal of sense to me.

On the nature of the current conflict:

"The campaign is between two societies that are competing for territory and, to a certain degree, for existence. I don't think that there is an existential threat to the Palestinian society. There is an existential threat to us. In other words, there is asymmetry here, but it is reversed: Everyone thinks we are Goliath and they are David, but I maintain that it is the opposite...They feel that they have the backing of a quarter-of-a-billion Arabs and they believe that time is on their side and that, with a combination of terrorism and demography, they will tire us out and wear us down. There is also an additional reverse asymmetry here: We do not have intentions to annihilate them and we have also expressed readiness to grant them a state, whereas they are unwilling to recognize our right to exist here as a Jewish state
and on Israel's goals and the definition of victory:
I defined it from the beginning of the confrontation: the very deep internalization by the Palestinians that terrorism and violence will not defeat us, will not make us fold. If that deep internalization does not exist at the end of the confrontation, we will have a strategic problem with an existential threat to Israel. If that [lesson] is not burned into the Palestinian and Arab consciousness, there will be no end to their demands of us.
and on a solution to the conflict:
... the emphasis should be on the path and not on the final goal, on the process of the struggle and not on the final destination. As human beings, we want a solution now. Now. But in the situation of Israel, nowism is false messianism. Nowism is the mother of all sins...The Palestinians have returned us to the War of Independence. Today it is clear that the State of Israel as a Jewish state is still an alien element in the region. It will take generations until various elements in the region accept its existence. Therefore, we have to go back to the ethos of standing fast, not because I am enamored of that ethos, but because there is no choice. It is an ethos of no choice.

At the same time, there is no reason for gloom. We are a power....After 54 years, we are truly a power. Therefore, at bottom, I am truly optimistic.

Read the whole thing

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:51 PM
Idiotic Brouhaha About the Number 88

Target Stores issues a nationwide alert to recall clothing with insignia 88 on the grounds that some neo-Nazis use the 88 in logos to represent Heil Hitler (because H is the 8th letter of the alphabet). Maybe so, but 88 is certainly not the exclusive property of neo-Nazis. 88 is also:
The frequency and symbol of WCBS, newsradio 88
The jersey number of Green Bay Packer Bubba Franks
The number of Astronomical Constellations
The number of a middle school in Brooklyn
The local of the Canadian Auto Workers Union in Ingersoll, Ontario
An Interstate Highway in Upstate New York
A gift store
An online casino
A Burmese human rights group
A classic Oldsmobile
and driver Dale Jarrett's NASCAR number

Even more problematic is the number 18, which some wackos use to represent Hitler's initials AH, but has also been considered the most auspicious number in the Jewish tradition for centuries.

So really folks, nobody has a monopoly on any two-digit number (except maybe Douglas Adams with the number 42 and Barbara Feldon with 99). So why don't we all focus our efforts on something more important than numeric logos on outerwear.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:42 PM
Here and There, August 29

The Boy is Father to the Man and the liberation movement is father to the state: Ha'aretz reports that a brother and sister from the West Bank town of Tul Karm were kidnapped Thursday by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of the Fatah, on the suspicion of aiding Israel. The kidnapped are the niece and nephew of Ikhlas Yassin Khouli, the mother of 7 whom the Al Aqsa Brigades recently tortured and killed. Does anybody really believe that a Palestinian state would be democratic and respect human rights and the rule of law for its own people, let alone its neighbors? Does anybody really believe any more that the Palestinians will get the keys to their own state anytime soon?

No Shit, Sherlock Dept.The little boy who was kidnapped at gunpoint yesterday is apparently the object of a "bitter custody dispute". Police are looking for the boy's mother, who lost custody a few weeks ago and has already been arrested for violating a restraining order. But the Riverside County sheriff-elect says that she is not a suspect at this time.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:31 AM
August 28, 2002
Here and There, August 28

Idiotic Lawsuit Dept. A couple from Northern California have filed a $5 million lawsuit against Air Canada alleging the airline lost their 14-year-old cat during a Toronto-to- San Francisco flight last year. $5million in exchange for a senescent cat sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Stacy Tabb's daughter is getting off to a good start in life

If It Doesn't Make Sense, Don't Buy It Because I operate a respected website that provides financial information, I occasionally get e-mails from charlatans and idiots trying to sell some worthless investment scheme or book. Like this one. In his e-mail to me the author wrote:

What difference does it make if the fund is in a downtrend? You should be OUT and not worry about expenses. Cash is a position that will give a greater return than a loss. Buy and hold will not work in a secular bear market that can last for years.
His book, If It Doesn't Go Up, Don't Buy It, is supposed to tell us how to "Earn 30 to 50% Annually With Your Mutual Funds Working Less Than One Hour Per Month", which depends on forecasting market movements, which if there was a reliable way to do that, who in their right mind would bother to keep their day job, or publish their secrets in a $25 book? (The long-term real annual return in the U.S. stock market, after all costs and taxes has historically been about 3%, by the way) No, the only way to enjoy this kind of phenomenal success is to sell investment books to suckers, because there is one born every minute. Just don't you be the one.

If Saudi Arabia is a sandbox with an oil well, this article helps confirm that Jordan is little more than a sandbox without an oil well. Their king is decent guy for that part of the world, as was his late father much of the time. But an entire country for one helpful family?

San Francisco's proposal to host the 2012 Olympic Games has reached the U.S. final round, along with New York. New York can have the games, if their taxpayers are dumb enough to ask to host them. As for me, I'd rather my local government figure out how to run its police and school departments worth a damn, before they raise my taxes in order to subsidize a money-losing sports and entertainment festival.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:43 PM
August 27, 2002
The #1 Palestinian Blog?

According to Google, the top answer to the query palestinian blog is Shark Blog.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:10 AM
The Shark is Back

I'm back home after a long weekend in Boston watching my little sister get married to an excellent man. My whole family was there, including the war-weary Jerusalem branch. It was already little baby Dave's second wedding and third plane trip in only ten months of life. He conducted himself beautifully, in spite of the fact that we managed to leave the house without his bottle.

I'll have more to say about the whole zany weekend later -- silly stories of airport security, travel with an infant, a wife who doesn't get enough sleep, a bi-national family with its own healthy share of dysfunctions, and a brand new vegetarian brother-in-law. In the meantime, Mazal Tov to my sister and new brother-in-law, who are now enjoying their honeymoon in Maine and the Maritimes.

Mazal Tov also to my sophomore year rommate, Michael Breuer (aka "The Putz") who also got married this weekend. Best wishes, Mike. Cara is a very lucky lady.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
August 23, 2002
The Shark will be back

The Shark will be focused on a joyous family occasion for the next few days. The Blog will not be fed again until Monday or Tuesday. In the meantime, please enjoy any of the many fine morsels in my archive that you might not have seen, and also be sure to visit some of the many fine blogs in my Blog Roll.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
August 22, 2002
Here and There, August 22

Always look on the bright side. What is the bright side of idiotic and inconvenient airport "security" that causes people to travel less? (assuming that the net effect is that people are staying home more and not simply driving more) Less money spent on jet fuel = less money into the coffers of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, etc.

Charles Johnson discovered an article by Claire Berlinski about what really goes on at the CIA. It describes an ossified bureaucracy, to put it kindly. Unfortunately, it jives with too many other things one has been hearing lately about our various federal "intelligence" and "security" agencies. I wish I didn't believe this article, but unfortunately I do. Read the article and weep. As Arnold Kling wrote

My guess is that somewhere, in some random agency far removed from the Department of Homeland Security, there is a skunkworks of fewer than 300 people that is going to defeat violent Islamic extremists operating in the United States. If not, then we are in big trouble.
I hope he's right.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:55 PM
Green Sheets, White Sheets

Imagine a parade of KKK lunatics, wearing white sheets, pointed hoods, carrying toy rocket launchers and shouting deranged slogans like "Kill Blacks and Jews in the name of Jesus". Now change the white sheets to green, the white hoods to black, change "Jesus" in the slogan to "Allah" and leave out the part about killing Blacks. And the result is Hamas.
Photo by Adel Hana/AP Wednesday Aug. 21, 2002.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:03 AM
Follow the Money

The IDF is about to release a report called "Follow the Money: Where Do International Contributions to the Palestinian Authority Really Go". Someone who contributed to the report sent me a copy of the document prior to its official release. The document is available for download here. The report reiterates some of the allegations that were reported last week by Die Zeit. It also reveals some new details about PA finances.

Here are some of the highlights: The PA's monthly budget (as reported to international donors) is about $90 million a month, of which roughly $55 comes from Arab states, $9 million from the EU, and the rest from other sources.

Of the expenditures, $60 million is supposedly for salaries split roughly equally between security and non-security employees. But, based on PA documents captured by the IDF earlier this year, only $40 million are actually spent on salaries. What happens to the rest?

The IDF estimates that the PA controls $27 million a month outside the budget that is shown to international donors. This comes from a combination of: mandatory membership dues in Fatah that are deducted from employee salaries, profits from manipulating currency exchange rates, revenues and taxes from PA-controlled monopolies for fuel and tobacco. In addition large numbers of Fatah activists are paid as "employees" of the PA, even though they are not engaged in legitimate PA business, but in terrorist activities.

Where does all the money go? Hard to say, exactly. As Die Zeit reported, there is no public audit of PA finances, neither internal nor by the donor community or the IMF. Much of the laundered money presumably disappears down the pants of PA officials and their friends. This has been alleged for years, including by senior Palestinian officials.

Even more disturbing, the IDF estimates that "Fatah elements are allocated $5 - $10 million per month from the PA for their expenses in the confrontation with Israel".

An informal IDF internal name for the Palestinian kleptocracy is apparently "PalScam"

The IDF document contains English translations of captured documents (and links to the original Arabic documents). These documents include an itemized request for materials to create a mortar factory; and requests for stipends to "fighting brothers" who "took part in shooting attacks". The latter contains the approving signatures of both Yassir Arafat and Marwan Barghouti

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
August 21, 2002
Here and There, August 21

A reader named Irene (not my wife Irene) wrote to tell me that Sweden is boycotting Israeli foodstuffs. All I have to say is that if you were thinking of buying an Ericsson cellphone, get a Nokia (they're said to be more reliable); if you were considering a Snaab or a Volvo, buy an Acura; and don't go to Ikea -- the lines are way too long anyway.

Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation released a report about the growing divide between the U.S. and the EU over Middle East policy. And he has some recommendations for the Bush Administration. Namely, stay the course and remain firm in dealing with the EU, isolate Arafat, defund the PA until there is real reform, don't let the war against Iraq be derailed by the EU's misguided Palestine fetish (not his exact words).

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:09 AM
August 20, 2002
Here and There, August 20

Cynthia McKinney has lost the primary. What will she do in January once her term expires? Maybe her patrons in Saudi Arabia can find a job for her. Like as a driving instructor, or something.

My fortune cookie from today's lunch says: "You would make a good lawyer". I don't know if I'd make a good lawyer. I do know that I married a good lawyer

This man is not an Islamic terrorist. He only chooses to look like one. And think like one. He is Joel Beinin, professor of Middle Eastern History at Stanford, president of the Middle East Studies Association, editorial board member of Middle East Report and subject of this profile in Front Page Magazine. Read it to learn about the unfortunate state of much of what passes for Middle Eastern scholarship in this country.
Mark Steyn says that multiculturalists who condone crimes committed by Muslims are racist. And he puts in a nice word for Charles Johnson

Art photographer Spencer Tunick takes pictures of naked people in public places. See the slide show on this page in the upper right corner

The hostage crisis at the Iraqi embassy in Berlin has ended. The U.S. condemned the act, but perhaps some Europeans will now start saying that the Iraqi people are desperate and oppressed and feel abandoned by the Europeans and have no choice but to commit acts of terrorism on European soil.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:10 PM
August 19, 2002
Here and There, August 19

Mark Steyn writes about Elvis Presley. Meanwhile Tim Blair asks "how many handshakes separate you from Elvis Presley?. I am no more than 3 handshakes away from The King. I was once in a German class with Elvis' first-cousin once-removed, opera singer Robert Presley . Robert never met Elvis, but Robert's father had.

All Hail Marx and Lennon. Groucho Marx also died 25 years ago this month.

How does Google work? I have no idea, but if you search for arab blog, the top 3 hits (in order) are: Andrew Sullivan, James Hudnall and me. A sincere As-salaam aleikum to all of my Arab visitors.

My neighbor Bill Quick, author of the excellent Daily Pundit blog, is available for a new gig. Hire him before your competition does.

Mike Silverman gives us a an Idiotarian Dictionary

Eric the Counterrevolutionary says that journalists should stop pretending to be objective. I agree. Along with the pretense of "objectivity", journalists should reject the pursuit of "balance". I see these concepts as similar, but different. "Objectivity" is the attempt to focus on facts in the absence of moral judgment. "Balance" is acknowledging differing viewpoints, and granting equal validity and/or consideration to the various viewpoints. After all, who among us would even want to read journalism that is "balanced" about, say, pedophile priests, Hitler or female genital mutilation. That's not to say that journalists shouldn't be honest, thorough and fair, which they certainly should be. But every journalist is biased in some way or another about every story that they write, and that's legitimate. They should simply be honest about what those biases are.

The Associated Press reported over the weekend that Blacks Rally D.C. for Reparations. Saying that "Blacks" were rallying suggests that this is a movement that has overwhelming support among Americans of African descent. The reality is that the descendents of people who were slaves in this country 140 years ago are about as likely to get reparations as the descendents of the slaves of the Roman Empire are likely to get reparations from Italy. How many people take the reparations movement seriously? I haven't seen any poll numbers, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect that most Americans who are descended from African slaves probably agree more with D.C. Thornton or Oliver Willis on this issue than they do with Louis Farrakhan.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:50 PM
August 16, 2002
Europe's Unyielding Faith in Arafat

Die Zeit has now published Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff's latest story on Arafat's involvement in terrorism, and EU funding thereof. Die Zeit's article (in German) is here My translation of the full article into English is here

UPDATE (8/16 10amPDT) The posted translation is now of the longer, online only version of the article. Mr. Kleine-Brockhoff graciously reviewed my translation to ensure its accuracy.

This article updates a Die Zeit article from June called Arafat Bombs, Europe Pays, which I translated when it appeared. In the latest installment, Kleine-Brockhoff shares more detailed Israeli evidence, including official PA documents captured during operations in the West Bank earlier this year.

The headline for this story is With Unyielding Faith, as in the unyielding faith that Chris Patten and the EU seem to have in Arafat's goodness and peaceful intentions, in spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

The EU cries "no proof!" yet generously disregards the plethora of direct and circumstancial evidence. The EU is acting like the wife who assiduously overlooks the stranger's lipstick on her husband's collar and doesn't believe that she's been betrayed until there's a private detective with an incriminating videotape standing at the door.

In an online-only supplement, Die Zeit has posted a number of documents (in English)that are referenced in the main story. There's a lot of interesting stuff there, including some of the PA documents captured by the IDF last spring, and EU internal memoranda. There are a few hundred pages in total and I haven't looked at it all yet. But one of the most astonishing items that I've found so far is in their "Document 4", which is official EU responses to written questions posed by Die Zeit.

Die Zeit: The Israelis claim that the PA has exploited its budget for providing money to the Fatah by collecting a mandatory "Fatah membership fee" from the salaries of PA security personnel. Does the EU have evidence to the contrary? If yes, what is it?
EU: Fatah is the majority party in the democratically elected Palestinian Legislative Council, and has many party members including policemen. The a.m. meeting and report provided some documents showing that Fatah party members among the security services have between 5 (lower ranks) and 50 shekels (Generals) membership fee deducted from their salaries. This equals between 1 and 10 Euro per month. This system is not dissimilar to the mandatory deductions from salaries for trade union members' fees in some EU countries
So there you have it folks. The EU's official position is that the Fatah, which operates the Tanzim militia and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (think: suicide bombers) is morally equivalent to a labor union.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:00 AM
August 14, 2002
INS Idiocy Update

Iranian-born, Israeli terror victims denied entry into US, the Jerusalem Post says.

The United States has refused to give visas to four Israelis who are terror victims or relatives of those killed in attacks because they were born in Iran, Israel Radio reported.

The four people were due to leave Wednesday night for Los Angeles to participate in a conference with other terror victims.

The US has instituted a policy requiring that all visa applicants that were born in an Islamic country must wait a period of three weeks before being granted permission to enter the country.

UPDATE (8/15): Laurence Simon realized that several members of the Israeli government not to mention President Katsav were also born in Islamic countries.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:30 AM
Marwan Barghouti = Nelson Mandela?

No. At least not yet. But if the Palestinians are to ever salvage their society and dreams of any kind of independence, they will probably need a Mandela-like figure to lead the way. And that sure ain't going to be Yassir Arafat. Barghouti has the popularity and the "street cred" to be that leader. Yes, he's a terrorist and yes his hands are soiled with the blood of innocents. The reality is that it's in Israel's interest to find a Palestinian who can make a peace deal on behalf of the rest of the Palestinians. And the ugly reality is that anybody who can unite and lead the Palestinians to make peace will have blood on his hands. Barghouti is still a relatively young man. Perhaps after a few decades in prison he can learn how to be a statesman. Or not. That would be up to him. There's no hurry. No leader can take his people to a place they're unwilling to go, and the Palestinians, as a whole, are not ready to make peace any time soon.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:02 AM
August 12, 2002
Yassir Arafat has two different resumes

Yassir Arafat's official website has two different versions of his resume. One in English, the other in Arabic.

Admittedly, the two versions are quite similar. Both contain the same mundane details and lists of silly awards (like the Felix Houphouet Boigny peace prize). Both are equally bogus, claiming that he was born in Jerusalem, while other reliable sources say he was born in Cairo. Both contain the same gaping hole of 1968-1982, during which time he started civil wars in both Jordan and Lebanon, causing the deaths of tens of thousands of people and getting himself expelled from both countries.

But the small but telling difference in the two resumes is this: The English version mentions that he signed the Oslo agreement and the Wye River memorandum. The Arabic version does not. Check both versions and see for yourself. You don't need to know any Arabic to tell which dates are missing. I hate to think that Arafat feels that being party to a peace treaty would diminish his popularity with his own people. But what other explanation could there possibly be?

P.S. The English version also mentions that he was awarded an Honorary PhD in Business Administration from a Dutch university. Presumably this was for his innovations in accounting that enabled him to hide the fact that he skimmed off millions of dollars in European aid and used it to fund terrorism.

P.P.S. While you're visiting Arafat's website, be sure to check out the page with the photo of his meeting with a German youth delegation. Yes, there's a box of baby wipes on the table.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
August 11, 2002
If there was a massacre in Jenin, what were the victims' names?

A recent U.N. report dismissed as unsubstantiated Palestinian claims that Israeli soldiers committed a "massacre" in the Jenin camp in April.

Still, Arab propagandists and yellow journalists from around the world (such as Australia's Peter Cave) insist that there was a massacre. Many more "journalists", such as Robert Fisk, who claimed back in April that there was "mass killing" in the camp with "hundreds" of victims, have yet to issue a retraction. Let's suppose there was a massacre. Any victims that could be identified would surely be listed in the "List of Martyrs of the Al Aqsa Intifada" maintained by the Palestinian Authority (more on this below). Furthermore, if there had been a massacre and the bodies of its victims were hidden, then at least some of the those victims would surely have survivors. The survivors would certainly notice that someone was missing and it would be reasonable to assume that someone like the PA would compile a list of the missing. I am unable to find such a list.

I took a close look at the PA's List of Martyrs, which is on the website for the official PA news agency, WAFA. For some reason the list is on the Arabic portion of the website only, there is no version in English. The list includes every Palestinian who is said to have been killed in the conflict. To the PA's credit, suicide bombers don't seem to be included. Other terrorists who are responsible for killing civilians, such as Hamas military chief Salah Shehadeh and his deputy, are included. The list includes each casualty's name, age, date, location and circumstances of death. (The total number of Palestinian casualties claimed between September 29,2000 and August 11, 2002 is 1,648. This is slightly higher than, but in the ballpark of, the number given by Israeli human rights group Btselem)

And casualties In the Jenin Camp during the fighting in April? The PA lists exactly 42 deaths, which is even lower than the 52 mentioned in the U.N. report. Only 9 are specifically mentioned as being younger than 18 or older than 40. Only 4 have female names, as far as I can tell. The rest are males of combat age, many of whom are explicitly described as having died while "resisting the occupation forces". At least one of these was double counted (unless there were two 24-year-olds who happened to have the name Rabi Jalamna and who both died on April 4 while "resisting the invasion forces along with comrades"). These casualties occurred over a 15 day period during which 23 Israeli soldiers were also killed.

Massacre? Doesn't sound like it to me. If someone can come up with the names of all of the missing "victims" we should take a look. In the meantime, perhaps all of those who wish there had been a massacre should just be grateful that the number of innocents who were killed is smaller than they first feared. Even if it means they don't get to report as sensational a story as they initially hoped for. And even if it means that the responsible thing to do would be to retract any earlier unsubstantiated claims that there was a massacre.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:48 PM
August 10, 2002
Adding value to "big journalism"

I received an e-mail from one of the German journalists who wrote the story Arafat Bombs, Europe Pays, about EU funding for the PA terror regime, which I translated into English and posted here back in June

my name is Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, I am the Washington Bureau Chief for DIE ZEIT, the German weekly newspaper. Several weeks ago I found an article that I wrote together with a colleague, Bruno Schirra, posted on the web in an English translation, your translation. Thank you very much. The English version was very helpful, it travelled the world.
He lets me know that a second installment of the story will be appearing in this week's newspaper and online. I plan to link to and translate the story. He concludes:
By the way, you have commented on Chris Pattens response to our first piece. I felt you remarks made a lot of sense: Patten mostly denied what be didn't claim (or not exactly) So I am still looking for our mistake in reporting - and haven't found it. I could go into detail if need be (and have had to do so on several occasions since). We'll see what Pattens reaction will be this time around.
And this illustrates how blogging, at its best, can add value to "big journalism". These guys wrote a first-rate piece of investigative journalism and they deserve the real credit. But I also added value by translating their work into English and making it accessible to a larger audience. Other bloggers linked to it (most notably Charles Johnson and Steven Den Beste ) and publicized it even further. James Taranto found it on Charles' blog, linked to it, brought it to even more readers, and so on. No, blogging is not in the same league as, say gathering off-the-record confessions from EU diplomats, but it can and does add value to the work of professional journalists.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:18 AM
Publish or perish

My father, Ira Sharkansky, is a Professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He's currently working on a book about the present conflict and is circulating proposals to publishers. He didn't expect to encounter many difficulties getting published, as he's published about thirty books during his career, including several books on Israeli politics. But this time something is different. The following excerpt is from a "friends and family" e-mail he sent out today.

As some of you know and others may have guessed, I'm writing a book that I call COPING WITH TERROR: AN ISRAELI PERSPECTIVE. I asked a friend in the publishing business to take a look at it, and help me find a publisher. What follows is a response he copied to me from an editor at one of the leading publishers of academic political science.
Hi there, I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. I just returned to the office from maternity leave and it's taking me a while to catch up. The project you mention below sounds promising, but I hesitate because of your friend's affiliation. Though I'm sure Prof Sharkansky is not a polemicist, the fact that he teaches at Hebrew University signals certain messages to readers I'd think. . . .I think when marketing a book on the Arab-Israeli crisis, the more non-partisan, objective the authorship, the better. Thanks for getting in touch, but I'm going to pass on this project. Best of luck to your friend.
It is not easy to maintain a sense of pride in a 40 year academic career when a publisher will not consider my work because I am teaching at the Hebrew University.
I'm not a political scientist, and I'm biased because this is my dad, but some of my initial thoughts are:
(a) The editor's only objection was the university where my father teaches. It doesn't sound like she even saw the manuscript.
(b) The way that Israel copes with terror is a timely subject, and might be considered important if for no other reason than that policy makers in this country might learn something useful from it.
(c) You're not likely to find very many experts on the way that Israel copes with terror except at say, an Israeli university.
(d) Israel's reputation for academic freedom and scholastic integrity is as good as any other country's reputation. We're not talking about, say, the USSR or Libya.

This was only the first reply out of several inquiries, so the book may well find a publisher. But I can only conclude that the other side's propaganda campaign, abetted by credulous journalists and scholars around the world, is having the desired effect of persuading people to treat Israel and Israelis as tainted goods. Individual scholars like my father lose out, but then so do those who would otherwise benefit from their research. This is just one more example of how the hideous Palestinian revolution serves to destroy more than it creates.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
August 09, 2002
Here and There: August 9

Max Sawicky demonstrates once again that having a PhD does not disqualify someone from being a village idiot. Max claims that self-described libertarians who support the war against Iraq are "inauthentic libertarians", because his modest brainpan apparently only has space for libertarians who are isolationist. (Some of us who consider ourselves libertarians also recognize that liberty is not an entitlement that grows on trees, but must be earned and maintained and defended from people who pose a threat to it.) In another post, Max threatens to run for Congress, or Mayor of Washington DC on behalf of the "Afro-Jewish Peoples Party" with the slogan that "Social Security is not welfare; it is a program of social insurance providing benefits that are an earned right. Max also says "It is hard to understate the malevolence of the Sharon government [or its] threat to the Jewish people..." I can only imagine how dangerous it is to be a Jew in Maryland these days, Max. But if Sharon is such a threat to your existence, why don't you go to Jerusalem, ride the buses, attend a funeral or two and tell everyone you meet whom to vote for? Or why not even run for Prime Minister yourself? Good luck, and let me know if there's anything I can do to help your campaign.

UPDATE: Max thinks that Robert Fisk is an "excellent journalist" who is "always worth reading". Max also aspires to a career in airport security apparently in the hope of fondling women's breasts.

Today on Ha'aretz News Flashes:
(1) Danish justice minister says country will not ban Al Aqsa organization for collecting donations for Hamas
(2) Hamas chief in Lebanon says group to expand actions to include targeting an Israeli leader or minister

Sasha Castel takes apart Adrian Hamilton's drooling rampage from the Independent (Yes, we need 'regime change' in the rogue US&A). La Blogatrice gets a permalink in the old blogroll, which she deserved long ago anyway. Politics! Opera! Cole Porter! (I Get a Kick Out of You, too, Sasha)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:03 PM
August 08, 2002
Moral Equivalence Down Under

I received this email from reader Ralph Zwier in Melbourne

Arnold Roth [whose daughter Malki was murdered in the Sbarro pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem last August] has had trouble here in Australia getting interviewed on our ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission). They wanted to put him together (many months ago) with the father of his daughter's murderer in an interview. It would have been a cynical and grotesque show of moral equivalence. Arnold refused. The person who Arnold was dealing with was Mr Tim Palmer, the then Jerusalem correspondent for the ABC. His immediate boss is Peter Cave, who is quite high up in our ABC.

Now Peter Cave announced on a radio program last Sunday that he and others were in Jenin at the relevant time and saw the whole thing with their own eyes, and there "probably" WAS a massacre. They denied the validity of the U.N. report. This man is very influential.

Zwier included a link to a transcript of Cave's broadcast

Peter Cave says: "Was there a massacre in Jenin? Well, yes there was." even though "The simple fact is that nobody really knows how many died." He really, really seems to want to believe there was a massacre, even though there is no evidence of a massacre, which "The Macquarie Dictionary and the OED define as the unnecessary indiscriminate killing or slaughter of human beings."

(The Macquarie Dictionary, I learned today, is an Australian dictionary, which also defines a "Dutch Oven" to be "a prank in which one holds another's head under the covers of a bed they have just farted in.")

Mr. Cave then goes on to equate the clean-up of the booby-trapped bomb-factories in Jenin with China's 1989 slaughter of student protesters: "Just as happened in Tiananmen Square, the uninformed and those with their own agenda, are now claiming there was no massacre. There was a massacre, a considerable number of human beings were indiscriminately and unnecessarily slaughtered. The truth was the other victim."

So it seems that the only evidence of a "massacre" in Jenin is Cave's own yearning for there to have been one. But let's adopt, for argument sake, his definition of "massacre". It would seem to fit any number of bombings that have taken place at various eateries around Israel in the last several months, where we saw some "unnecessary indiscriminate killing or slaughter of human beings" -- such as last week at the Hebrew U, or last year at the Sbarro pizzeria. But I can't find any transcript of Peter Cave calling these events "massacres". So either the truth is the victim here, or Peter Cave believes that indiscriminately killing teenage girls and college students while they're eating lunch is, in fact, necessary.

UPDATE (Aug. 11) I took a look at an official Palestinian list of casualties from the Jenin camp. Even the Palestinians own data throws cold water on any allegations about a massacre.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:12 PM
Here and There: August 8

Lose Money for a Dumb Cause! Diane E sent me a Letter from Gotham about an idiotic "investment" site called Karma Banque. Under the slogan "what goes around comes around", the site's mission is to encourage people to boycott and sell-short the stock of companies that "hurt society" (as defined by the site's anonymous but seemingly left-leaning operator). Never mind the fact that the people who care enough about social change to short stocks aren't likely to have enough clout in the market to have much of an impact, short-selling is a really dumb way for an individual to invest. Short selling may make sense for institutional investors, but not for individuals. When you add up the tax disadvantages, the fact that most retail brokers charge margin interest on stock loans, the fact that stock returns have an upward bias, and the fact that it can take the market a really long time to recognize mispricings, short-selling is stupidly risky. Don't do it. Then again, do I really care if a bunch of moronic left-leaning do-gooders hurt themselves in a misguided attempt to make the world a better place? Nah.

Need to reach the PLO for some reason? The contact information for their Washington, DC office is here. The after-hours voicemail is as pleasantly professional and banal as any other corporate office: "You have reached the PLO mission to the United States in Washington, DC. The office is now closed. Please leave a message after the tone. Your call will be returned. Thank you." Your call will be returned and your people will be murdered. Have a nice day.

Daneshjoo.org has nothing to do with synagogues in Copenhagen. It's the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran. And they're on a roll.

But nobody wants it "Dissatisfied with the speed at which television is going digital, the Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to require television manufacturers to include digital tuners on all new sets by July 2007."

But the main reason, one suspects, that the speed of the digital conversion is so slow, is that there aren't enough customers who perceive enough value in HDTV to pay enough money to motivate manufacturers to produce enough equipment. Has anybody over at the FCC ever heard the phrase "free market"?

Life without Arafat would be indistinguishable from life with Arafat, according to Saeb Erekat: "the alternative to Arafat is chaos, ladies and gentlemen, Palestinian militants spread in each neighborhood, maybe having civil strife... and competing to send more suicide bombers to Israel."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:24 PM
August 07, 2002
Tidbits August 7

Islam for TeensYou've probably already heard about ClearGuidance, the website for Islamic teenagers, which is chock full of hatred, odes to violence and outright threats against Jews and "kafirs". Tal G. apparently found it, and Charles Johnson, Glenn Reynolds and James Lileks all wrote about it today. This website is sick. It's upsetting and it seems to be a sincere expression of somebody's "faith". Where are the leaders of the "mainstream" Muslim community? and why aren't they speaking out against this nauseating website? Or is this the voice of mainstream Islam after all?

Rummy RocksThere shouldn't be anything remarkable about this quote from Donald Rumsfeld, speaking what can only be described as common-sense about the status of the so-called occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza. What is remarkable is the fact that so few world leaders in the last 35 years have spoken the truth so plainly.

My feeling about the so-called occupied territories are that there was a war, Israel urged neighboring countries not to get involved in it once it started, they all jumped in, and they lost a lost of real estate to Israel because Israel prevailed in that conflict. In the intervening period, they've made some settlements in various parts of the so-called occupied area, which was the result of a war, which they won.

They have offered up -- successive prime ministers have offered up various portions of that so-called occupied territory, the West Bank, and at no point has it been agreed upon by the other side.

(link found over at PejmanPundit)

Saudi Arabia said Wednesday its ties with the United States were "excellent in all fields," dismissing a report of a briefing to a Pentagon body depicting Riyadh as an emerging enemy. Nevertheless, the oil-rich desert kingdom has made clear to Washington publicly and privately that the U.S. military will not be allowed to use the kingdom's soil in any way for an attack on Iraq.

Now remind me again. They are our ally because...

Garbage.com I just got a bulk e-mail inviting me to the Garage.com "Capital Summit on Technology Fundraising" where one can (for only $699) spend a couple of days listening to some of the brightest lights of the venture capital community (read: some of the guys who brought forth the likes of pets.com, Webvan and DrKoop.com). If you want to raise VC money to start a company, let me give you some free business advice: If you already have a fledgling company with the basic elements of a management team, a product, some deals, a business strategy and you also have some acquaintances who can introduce you to some VCs, skip the conference and ask your acquaintances to introduce you to some VCs. If you don't have all of the above, then instead of going to this conference you should be out there putting together a team, building a product, finding a customer who's willing to pay for your product , refining your business strategy and meeting people who can introduce you to VCs. If you don't think you can do all of those things without raising a lot of money first, then rethink your whole game plan until you can.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:24 PM
August 06, 2002
Tidbits August 6

Union Humor Who says a labor union think-tank economist can't have a sense of humor? Is Union the new Onion?

Imshin is not amused by the Israeli Left. Unrelated to this she suggests that shark liver contains an anti-obesity chemical. If it were only so easy for me to get my youthful figure back...

Totalitarian Threat to Democracy: People's Republic of China says "Taiwan choosing independence is tantamount to choosing war"

Democracy Fights Totalitarian Threat: IDF operates against militants in Gaza Strip after a week of deadly terror attacks.

Paleo-Democrat John Bonior routed in Michigan gubernatorial primary

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:54 PM
21st Century Blood Libel

For centuries now, Jews have been subjected to the "blood libel" that they use the blood of gentile children in the baking of Passover matza. While these old legends live on in certain places, the 21st century version of blood libel has become more sophisticated. Nowadays, we are told that the Palestinian children are being starved to death by the "illegal Israeli occupation". Last week we heard PLO pin-up girl Diana Buttu claim that "Malnutrition in [Palestinian] children is now peaking at 30%. And this is the same rate as in sub-Saharan Africa". In fact, I have looked at the most recent data from the United Nations and Arab sources and found that not only are Buttu's claims pure fiction, but that the children of the West Bank are among the best-fed kids in the entire Arab world.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:27 PM
Facing up to the Saudi threat

WaPo reports that a recent briefing by the Rand Corporation to a top Pentagon advisory board described Saudi Arabia as "an enemy of the United States, and recommended that U.S. officials give it an ultimatum to stop backing terrorism or face seizure of its oil fields and its financial assets invested in the United States."

This is merely a recommendation (presumably one of many) and a ways to go from being official policy. But it's reassuring to note that the powers that be are beginning to catch on.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:20 AM
You were there: June 1967

A friend of mine was cleaning out his apartment and found copies of Time and Newsweek from June 1967. He was going to throw them away, but gave them to me instead. Moshe Dayan is on the cover of both, the main story is Israel's victory in the Six Day War. What a treasure.

One story in Newsweek (June 19) described Israel's rout of Egyptian forces in the Sinai, but also mentioned that

Arabs had some heroes too. Near the town of El Arish, a severely wounded Egyptian prisoner climbed docilely into an Israeli ambulance, pulled out a hidden hand grenade and blew himself and a group of Jewish medics to bits.

[more excerpts to follow]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:09 AM
Humor from the Holyland

From my brother in Jerusalem. A simulated want-ad.

The text reads:

The Holy Agency for Recruiting Personnel to Serve in Paradise
is urgently seeking
Gay Martyrs
due to a severe shortage of virgins

fascinating work and good conditions for suitable candidates
fax your resume to...
strictly confidential

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:37 AM
August 05, 2002
Tidbits August 5

This item gives a whole new meaning to the slogan"I'd Walk a Mile for a Camel"

Stacy Tabb of Sekimori design wins a contest and perhaps also solves the "Arafat baby wipes" mystery.

Moral Equivalence Watch Today's San Jose Mercury News headline: Violent clashes kill 18 in Mideast . clashes?: 9 people were killed in a bus bombing courtesy of the Hamas. 2 people were shot dead in an attack by a Palestinian gunman in Jerusalem. 2 people were shot dead by a different Palestinian gunman. In addition, the bus bomber blew himself up, another potential car bomber blew himself up, the Jerusalem gunman was shot dead by police before he could kill anybody else, and an armed gunman emerging from the Mediterranean Sea wearing a wetsuit was shot dead by the IDF. (Presumably the grenades he was carrying weren't intended for killing fish). Why couldn't the Merc simply tell it like it was: "Palestinian terrorists kill 13, wound 100"? Unless they also consider the victims of, say, Jeffrey Dahmer or the Oklahoma City bombing to have been parties to a "clash".
UPDATE: The New York Times used this more informative headline in today's print edition: "Burst of Attacks from Palestinians causes 14 Deaths"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:56 PM
FBI in Israel?

An FBI team arrived in Israel today to work with Israeli police investigating last week's Hebrew University bombing that killed seven people, including five Americans.

I imagine the conversation at the bomb scene goes something like this:

FBI agent Chris: I can't imagine who would have done something like this, Biff.
FBI agent Biff: I can't either, Chris. You don't think it could have been terrorism, do you?
FBI agent Chris: I doubt it.
Shin Bet agent Shlomo: Guys, we already know who did it. The Hamas claimed credit for it already. Look at this. Shlomo shows them the Hamas web page that claims credit for the blast
FBI agent Biff: Well that doesn't do us any good. It's in Arabic.
FBI agent Chris: Yeah, the FBI isn't going to hire anybody who reads Arabic. Only pot smokers read Arabic. Losers.
Seriously though, the FBI isn't likely to add much value to an investigation, as such. I assume that they're there mainly to help provide justification for a U.S. move against Hamas. And as an American, I hope that our response will be more comprehensive and less restrained than the Israeli responses have been.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:24 PM
Mark Steyn

I'm declaring today Mark Steyn Appreciation Day. His columns are priceless. If you're already a fan, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't yet discovered him (and I discovered him only a few weeks ago myself) his style is, well, imagine what the lovechild of Dave Barry and Victor Davis Hanson might write like, and that's a pretty good approximation. The only problem with Steyn is that his columns seem to get published all around the English speaking world, so it is sometimes a challenge to find them all. But here are a few pages to bookmark:

Steyn's home page at the Chicago Sun-Times

Steyn's home page at the National Post

The Spectator, a London weekly where Steyn's column appears every other week.

UPDATE (11/30/2002): The long awaited marksteyn.com is now up! It appears to include links to his latest columns, among other things.

UPDATE (10/23/2002): Another reason to appreciate Mark Steyn is this letter in support of Charles Johnson and Little Green Footballs

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
Six Days of War

I just finished reading Michael Oren's history of the 1967 war, Six Days of War. For a full book review check out this list of reviews from the author's own site. Also hear or read the author's interview with Terry Gross All I'll add is that if you want to understand the current events in the Middle East, this book is required reading. It's also a gripping story.

The picture it paints is surreal, yet a lot of the themes ring true today. The story in a few sentences is this: Arab regimes compete with one another to shout the loudest for the destruction of Israel; A United Nations and world community do little to rein in the Egyptian and Syrian calls for Israel's destruction, movement of troops, shelling of Israeli villages and blockade against Israel, yet call on Israel to exercise restraint. Soviet Union goads the Arabs into the war. World leaders, like Charles deGaulle, refuse to come to Israel's assistance; Israeli government does everything to avoid hostilities, of which it is terribly afraid; Yizhak Rabin has nervous breakdown. Arab militaries that promoted officers for loyalty, family ties and sycophantry, not competence, prepare for glorious battle. Said Arab armies collapse and are slaughtered within hours, not so much by Israeli ingenuity, but due to their own poor planning, poor training, cowardly leadership. Egyptian government extols victories and broadcasts fantastic reports of its army capturing Negev, on way to Tel Aviv, even while its air force has been decimated on the ground and its tanks are burning by the hundreds in the Sinai desert. Arabs blame U.S. and Britain for fighting alongside Israel. King Hussein of Jordan is drawn into the war. Loses the West Bank, Jerusalem. Israel is bewildered by its own success; extensive territorial gains are more accidental, improvised than designed. Egypt, Jordan finally beg for ceasefire. Syria delays agreeing to ceasefire, loses Golan Heights. Arab world and Soviet bloc demand that Israel return the territory it captured through its "aggression". Israel offers to return nearly all the captured territories in exchange for peace. Meeting at Khartoum in August/September, the major Arab nations resolved "no recognition of Israel, no peace and no negotiations with her".

And there you have it. And that explains why, 35 years later, the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza is still labeled an "illegal occupation".

Read the book.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:58 AM
August 04, 2002
Like father like son

Stefan, 10 months

David, 8 months

Stefan, 22 months

David, 8 months
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:28 PM
August 03, 2002
Tidbits August 3

Axis of Evil (I): The foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia on Saturday said their countries were opposed to a U.S. military strike against Iraq.

Axis of Evil (II) Syria is now supplying weapons to Iraq.

All About Sharks

Moral Equivalence Watch (I) from John Kifner of the New York Times refering to Hamas spokesman Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi's "regret of American deaths" in the Hamas bombing of the Hebrew University:

There was an eerie parallel between Dr. Rantisi's reaction to the American deaths and the response of Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, the Israeli Army's chief of intelligence, to the Gaza City bombing that killed Sheik Shehada and the others. General Harel had said, "Unfortunately, along with him died several civilians, apparently innocent, and we are very sorry for it."
In the strange non-Euclidean world of Kifnerian Geometry, parallel lines seem to be diametrically opposed. Does anybody need to re-remind Mr. Kifner that the attack on Gaza was against a terrorist kingpin who happened to surround himself with civilians (in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention), while the bombing of the university was a deliberate attack on civilians? If Rantisi "regret" the American deaths, presumably it is because he realizes that we Americans are now probably going to open a big can of whoop-ass on the Hamas, and that our military is not always as careful as the IDF about minimizing collateral damage.

Moral Equivalence Watch (II) The San Francisco Chronicle in a July 25 editorial is "disturbed" (at Israel) for the fact that Yassir Arafat decided not to arrest Hamas terrorist kingpin Saleh Shehadeh, who also chose to use his own family as human shields. Is the Chron equally "disturbed" about this week's murder of 7 people including 5 Americans, and the attendant celebrations in Palestinian cities? If they are, I couldn't find it on their editorial page.

Bringing It All Back Home Bob Dylan played the Newport Folk Festival today, for the first time since 1965 when he stunned the audience by playing an electric guitar.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:00 PM
A peak into the future

Members of the World Future Society met in Philadelphia July 20-22. Here are some of the futurists' predictions, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer [published July 23, no longer online for free]. :
* People will use genetic engineering to raise the average IQ to 180, and also make themselves faster, stronger and taller
* People will eschew meat for protein powders
* In 1,000 years some of the world's biggest cities will be underwater
* Earthlings will learn to avert asteroids
According to Joseph Coates, a "professional futurist":

By the 22nd Century, most people will no longer have to work for a living. With automation and with better, more durable products, society could fulfill people's needs without work. So people will play games and sports, will try their hand at the arts and will stay home. Jobs will become "valuable commodities" that people will compete for.

By 2400, crime will evaporate and medical intervention will cure drug abuse Prostitution will become legal. English will dominate other language but will fragment into mutually incomprehensible dialects. Religion will disappear.

Okay, now it's my turn to go out on a limb. In the year 2400 we will still have futurists, along with astrologers, psychics, stock market analysts, television evangelists, phrenologists, haruspices, false messiahs, and politicians who claim they know how to solve the ills of society.

Visit the World Future Society for more forecasts, or to find a consulting futurist in your neighborhood. Or to see the schedule of the Society's upcoming meetings . (note that they don't have a forecast on where or when the 2006 meeting will be held)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:32 PM
August 02, 2002
Terrorism Quilt

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on a Ramallah organization that is constructing a quilt where each panel commemorates a shahid "who Palestinians say has been killed since the second intifada erupted against Israel in September 2000".

"While the commemoration makes no distinction between Palestinian fighers and civilians who died," the quilt's director insists that suicide bombers have been excluded. The quilt, which seems to have been inspired by the AIDS quilt, is presumably created for public relations purposes to play to a western audience. Its promoters didn't want to "create a false debate about suicide bombers by including them. It would have taken away from the message"

Since non-suicide-bombing Palestinian fighters are included we can only wonder what sorts of grisly crimes these "fighters" might have committed. But the reporter, who apparently didn't want to "take away from the message" either, tells us only about two of the (female) civilians who are on the quilt, like a 21-year-old secretary who was shot "as she passed through an Israeli controlled checkpoint in a car with friends". That is to say that her "friend" who was driving the car chose not to stop at the checkpoint and therefore created a reasonable fear in the minds of the soldiers staffing the checkpoint that the car might be full of, say, aspiring shahids.

What do the quilt panels look like? The pictures [newspaper only, not online] don't give us a good look, but we are told that at least one "has a picture of a winged map of Palestine rising from a pierced Israeli flag" The quilt director, never wanting to take away from the message, "prefers to describe the iconography as existential rather than political"

The Palestinian flag "is who you are," she said. "This is all about the struggle for perception. Israelis are perceived as the survivors of the Holocaust and we are faceless -- at best, terrorists.
Go figure.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:16 AM
Repealing the laws of nature

Anti-globalization activists, still unsure of whether or not their campaign to repeal the laws of economics will be successful, have already set their sights on a new goal: Repeal the laws of physics.

"Physics was invented by white European males in order to exploit people of color," according to Professor Mbuthukwe Sanchez of the SFSU Center for Imperialism Studies. "Gravity, in particular, has been shown to hurt women and minorities disproportionately", she/he said, citing a study by the Economic Progress Institute.

But Sanchez' main target is Relativity, which Sanchez admits she/he doesn't understand completely, but was invented by Albert Einstein, a Zionist, and led to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. "And anything that can justify another Hiroshima against non-white and transgendered people is simply unacceptable", she/he said.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Global League for Eco-Pacifism is leading a March on Washington next Tuesday to fight the First Law of Thermodynamics. "The so-called First Law was devised by the profit-thirsty oil companies to force people to consume their deplorable product and to justify the war in the Middle East and the annihilation of the rain forests in Ecuador", says group Chaircreature, Meadow Safelove. "Without this oppressive law we would have perpetual motion, which is a non-polluting, peaceful and affordable form of energy." Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Uranus), sponsor of a House resolution to repeal all five laws of thermodynamics, will address the rally.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
August 01, 2002
Tidbits August 1

Rock the Casbah IDF moves in on Nablus including the Casbah (old city) in order to dismantle Hamas infrastructure.

My hosting service had major network difficulties today (including my server being down for nearly 5 hours). This inconvenienced not only you, gentle blog reader, but also the paying clients of my business websites, which in turn affected their ability to serve their clients, etc. And my clients turned their wrath on me, as such things usually work. I use the same hosting service that Craig Schamp fired a few weeks ago. They usually do a good job, but not always.

Solly Ezekiel tells Yassir Arafat how to spend the $15 million that Israel has offered to transfer to the PA.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:54 PM
Is Harper's Bizarre?

This is a quiz question: How did Harper's Magazine report on a recent military operation in Gaza?

(a) Israel eliminated Hamas military wing commander Saleh Shahedeh. Shehadeh was responsible for killing or injuring hundreds of Israeli civilians and inciting dozens of young Palestinians to commit murder and suicide in the name of "Allah", and was actively planning new attacks. Despite the fact that his activities were known to the Palestinian Authority, Yassir Arafat decided not to have him arrested, disregarding numerous pleas by Israel, the United States and other countries. The Israelis chose to attack the target using a laser-guided bomb in order to maximize the success of their mission, while minimizing unnecessary casualties. Although Shahedeh knew that he was wanted by the Israelis, he continue to manage his terror campaign while surrounded by his wife, children and other civilians, placing them at risk in violation of Part III, Section 1, Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

(b) Israel used an American-made F-16 to drop a one-ton laser-guided bomb on a densely populated residential area in Gaza City, killing a prominent Hamas leader and 14 others, nine of them children.

Click here for the answer. Oh and by the way, if you buy Harper's for the cryptic crossword puzzles, keep in mind that the Atlantic Monthly has those too. Along with good articles, like this one.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:22 PM
I slam, you slam, we all slam for Islam

PLO fixture Edward Said on NPR Wednesday slammed much of the post-9/11 discussion about Islam. In conversation with All Things Considered host Robert Siegel, Said said that we have "oversimplified a complex religion"

Said cautions that talking about the problems of Islam when we discuss the September 11 hijackers is

just as appropriate to talk about the problems of Christianity when we discuss Fascism or anti-Semitism or any of the other major depradations that have emerged from the Christian or for that matter from the Jewish world. What I prefer, since I'm a secular person myself, is a wide lens that treats them all with the same suspicion
His equal suspicion policy is apparently the same one that is used to justify treating all passengers at airports as potential terrorists.

Said also tells us that "Islam has historically been the most tolerant of the three monotheistic religions" and that "the diversity of opinion [on Arab satellite television] is much greater than it is in America. There's debate about women's rights."

I would suggest (and humbly, because he's a professor and I'm not) that the Arab world has to debate women's rights and we don't, because for example, in our country women are allowed to learn how to read and already have the rights that Arab women are still debating in order to get.

Said also points to the recent UNDP report about the abysmal state of affairs in the Arab world, as an example of Arab self-criticism. The report broke new ground by condemning, among other things, the absence of self-criticism in the Arab world.

Siegel refers to a brochure he received from the Saudi embassy called "All About Islam", which contained the priceless quote "Like Jews and Christians, Moslems regard this life merely as preparation for the next"

Said proceeds to laugh at this quote and also dismisses the Saudi embassy as not being a credible source of information about Islam.

Said recommends a number of books to help us understand Islam, including a tome by a Viennese Jew who converted to Islam in the 1920s.

Yes, it is wrong to oversimplify a complex religion. There is more to Islam than martyrdom, jihad and the mistreatment of women. Similarly there was much more to Nazism than Auschwitz, and more to the Soviet Union than economic retardation and the KGB.

The complete audio file of Said's interview is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:16 AM