September 30, 2002
Here and There, Sep. 30

"The United States agreed Monday to give cash-strapped Jordan an additional US$85 million this year to bolster economic reforms, health services and other projects in the Arab kingdom." Baksheesh for help in the war against Iraq? Let's hope so.

Did the United States help create the Saddam bioweapon monster by supplying him with germs back in the 1980s? If we did, then it was a huge mistake. And all the more reason for the current administration to take responsibility for the mistakes of its predecessors and to go in and undo the damage.

Mother of all canards But of course there all kinds of conditions to the "unconditional inspections" that Iraq supposedly agreed to. Would anybody but a bleeding-brain leftist believe that there wouldn't be?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:46 PM
September 28, 2002
Earth calling Amiri Baraka

I just had a brief telephone conversation with New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka.

Baraka made a fool of himself in public last week when he recited a poem titled "Somebody Blew Up America," in which he said

Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed

Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers

To stay home that day

Why did Sharon stay away?

Baraka has refused New Jersey governor James McGreevey's demand that Baraka resign as poet laureate and the governor does not have the legal means to force the resignation.

So I looked up Baraka's phone number and called him to ask where he got the information that 4000 Israeli workers were told to stay home last September 11. I reached him at his home in Newark shortly after 8pm Eastern Time today. Based on the jazz that was playing in the background, I can report that at least he has good taste in music. I mentioned that I heard about the recent controversy and asked him where he got his information from.

He was largely incoherent, but said that he got it off the Internet from the Israeli web sites "Yadiot" [his spelling] "Haaretz" and "Shabak". Shabak is the Hebrew acronym for the security agency which is generally known in English as "Shin Bet", and if they even have a public website, it is not called "Shabak". What he calls "Yadiot" would most likely be daily newspaper "Yediot Aharonot", whose website is solely in Hebrew, a language which Baraka gave no hint of understanding. I asked for references to exact pages, and with great confidence he refered me to the Jordanian newspaper Al-Watan. He couldn't give me a single URL. (Perhaps he got his information from this report, attributed to the Hizbollah Al-Manar TV station, and not independently verified.)

I told him that I saw a story about his poetry reading on Haaretz (the website that he cited just a moment earlier) and he asked me how to spell that. So I spelled it, and he repeated "H-A-R-C-V"... I gave up and ended the conversation. I felt sorry for the guy. If he's not simply a garden variety idiot then he probably suffers from a medical condition or substance abuse. Either way, the State of New Jersey should be able to find a way to completely distance itself from him.

His phone number, by the way, is easily found by doing a WHOIS lookup for amiribaraka.com

UPDATE: lots more good tidbits on Baraka in the inimitable comments section at Little Green Footballs. Like this link from Erin O'Connor

UPDATE (10/8): Baraka responds to his critics

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:02 PM
Excitable Speech

Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that "Sunlight is the best disinfectant". But certain folks are not happy about the healthy sunlight that CampusWatch is shining on the biases and questionable standards of some Middle East scholars. Some have labeled CampusWatch's work on behalf of truth and academic standards "McCarthyite-style" and a "blacklist". (Meryl Yourish appropriately slams a New York Times report on this controversy)

Let's take a closer look at the some of the scholars who take issue with CampusWatch, and at those scholars' charges of McCarthyism. Over on the website of CAIR we find a letter from Stanford professor Joel Beinin, president of the Middle East Studies Association, advising his "friends and colleagues" (including, apparently, the terrorism-rationalizers at CAIR) about CampusWatch. He includes this excerpt from an e-mail that Judith Butler of UC-Berkeley sent to CampusWatch

I have recently learned that your organization is compiling dossiers on professors at U.S. academic institutions who oppose the Israeli occupation and its brutality, actively support Palestinian rights of self-determination as well as a more informed and intelligent view of Islam than is currently represented in the U.S. media. I would be enormously honored to be counted among those who actively hold these positions and would like to be included in the list of those who are struggling for justice during these times.
Wow. That's quite an excited snippet of prose, with 83 words in only two sentences. One wonders what sort of scholar would sign her name to such a rant. It turns out that Judith Butler is not a Mideast expert. She is a professor of Comparative Literature and Rhetoric, specializing in feminisim, sexuality studies and queer theory. Indeed. Is it just me, or does anybody else find it unusual that a professor of Rhetoric could write so poorly? (Never mind the content of the letter, which implies that our Mideast scholars should be struggling for justice and not, say, engaging in scholarship and intellectual inquiry) No, it is not just me. Experts in Butler's field call her writing "ponderous and obscure" or "difficult and unreadable" and say that "it is difficult to figure out what [her ideas] are". One would hope that a tenured professor of Rhetoric, of all things, should at least know how to write readable prose, if nothing else. But it's fitting, I suppose, that one of her books would have the title Excitable Speech

Another letter at CAIR is from Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, who says

...it would be legitimate to write letters of protest to the major news and cable networks protesting that they give Daniel Pipes a great deal of air time. As journalists, surely they are concerned that he is heading up a McCarthy-like campaign of watch lists and so fostering un-American values and attitudes.
Yes, it is legitimate to write letters to news organization when you disagree with their coverage. But is Daniel Pipes' campaign really McCarthy-like? McCarthy, recall, was a United States Senator who used the powers of the state to deprive people of their livelihood and to throw them in jail for their associations and beliefs. CampusWatch is an organization of private citizens, who are merely exercising their right to free speech by criticizing the professional shortcomings of certain scholars. It is not "un-American" in any sense of the term to engage in public debate, least of all when some of those scholars whose work is in question are employed by public institutions.

So the reaction to CampusWatch has revealed that the problems in the academy extend beyond the Mideast studies departments. Our public universities also employ rhetoricians who can't write and historians who don't understand history.

UPDATE: I see that Juan Cole has his own blog! Along with his other distortions, he tries to resuscitate the tired canard about Palestinian malnutrition

UPDATE: Damian Penny discovers more hysteria about Campus Watch from Joel Beinin and his groupies

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:24 PM
Here and There, Sep. 28

Repo Man: Turkish police find 33 lbs of weapons grade uranium in a car bound for Syria and/or Iraq. The interesting questions are: Where did this uranium come from? Where was it going? And who's going to get it now? UPDATE: Charles Johnson asks another important question: How much has already gotten through?

Marching off the edge of a cliff: "We reiterate on this anniversary that we are marching until victory and until the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," Arafat told crowds gathered in the West Bank city of Qalqilyah after the army lifted long-standing curfews there and in Tul Karm.

But don't tell anybody about this

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:27 AM
September 27, 2002
Here and There, Sep. 27
With the influx of all those anti-globalization protesters who got arrested, the collective IQ of the inmate population at the Washington DC city jail today fell farther than the Dow
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:39 PM
Ha-Ha-Ha-nania

Everybody's favorite terror-loving comedian, Ray Hanania, is not just coasting on all the free publicity that he scammed off of Jackie Mason. Hanania continues to troll for laughs on the pages of his own blog.

Stealing a line from the gag-writer who penned the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Hanania jokes that the U.S. Congress is "Israeli Occupied Territory" (ROTFL, Ray)

Then he gets serious when he commemorates the mass murders of last Sept. 11:

I also hope we remember the up to 17 other Americans who were murdered after Sept. 11 in post-Sept. 11 hate related crimes. They are American too and their killers are as much terrorists as Osama Bin Laden.
Ray's list of these victims is here. From the available information, it's not clear whether or not all of the people on his list are indeed Americans, or what the motivations of their killers were (several of the victims were neither Arab nor Muslim, but Indian Sikhs and Hindus). Not that that should matter. Every murder is a hate crime, the survivors deserve our sympathy and the killers should be brought to justice. And are these killers just like Osama Ben Laden? Osama Ben-Laden spent tens of millions of dollars a year, organizing a force of hundreds of people to commit crimes around the world, and has managed to kill thousands of innocent people and cause billions of dollars in economic damage. The murderers of those 17 seem to be isolated individuals, all of whom are probably too stupid to tell the difference between a Hindu and a Moslem. Are they like Osama Ben-Laden? Only if Ray Hanania is the reincarnation of Donald Duck.

But let's proceed on Hanania's terms and honor the victims of ethnically-motivated murders since last Sept. 11. For some reason Hanania chose to exclude the victims of Mohammed Hedayet's ethnically-driven shooting spree at the LAX El-Al counter. Now isn't that funny? Not funny ha-ha, but funny peculiar.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:02 AM
New! Free! Digital TV!

The San Francisco Chronicle reported today that your current television set and VCR might soon be rendered useless.

Draft legislation explored at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing would make all current television sets and videocassette recorders obsolete within four years by requiring that they recognize a "broadcast flag" that would prevent copying of televised content.

The bill, crafted by committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-France, and John Dingell, D-Yemen, would also shut off all analog broadcasts by Dec. 31, 2006.

In a private conversation not reported by the Chronicle, Tauzin also said that anybody who owns a current-model TV or VCR can exchange their existing appliance for a new digital version for free. All you have to do is show up at Tauzin's house with your old equipment and he will cheerfully give you a brand new state-of-the-art digital TV/VCR, paid for out of his own personal slushfund. Free coffee and beignets will be served while supplies last.

UNRELATED UPDATE: John Dingell has introduced legislation that would prevent Canadian Prime Minister Jean-Marie Chretien from entering the United States.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:58 AM
September 26, 2002
Letter to the Chronicle
TERRORIST RECRUITING Editor -- While I appreciate your Sept. 24 analysis of a U.S.-Iraq war, I am astounded that you fail to clearly specify what is perhaps the most important reason for avoiding another war with Iraq: that such a war will not only alienate the rest of the world, but the resulting increase in anti- American sentiment will strengthen the hand of terrorist groups by filling their ranks with new recruits.

Our policy of beating up on Iraq and its people while continuing to support Israel and to condone three and a half decades of military occupation of Palestinians is not only the dumbest way to fight terror, it's also downright un-American.


FRED VOSTE
San Francisco

Fred, you have a point, but if you wear a hat nobody will notice. Ha ha ha! just kidding. Seriously though, you are right in the sense that it could be seen by some as "un-American" for the United States to support Israel. After all, the American thing to do in the 1930s and early 1940s was to stand back and allow Jews to be murdered by the millions. And now that you mention it, we really could have avoided all those mean soldiers/terrorists, whatever you want to call them, from Japan and Germany in World War II. If only we had just taken Pearl Harbor as a signal to be less arrogant and mind our own goddamned business and to stay out of other peoples wars on far-away continents where we don't belong. After all, the UN Security Council at the time didn't give us permission to fight back, now did it?

But since you want to be absolutely certain that you don't cause other people to become terrorists, here's something else to think about, and in terms that might make sense to you. Do you have any idea what would happen if Israel were destroyed by its neighbors as you seem to feel it should be? Well, you will have recruited a whole bunch of really, really, pissed off desperate, oppressed, homeless and poverty-stricken (no oil for Shlomo) Jewish terrorists. They will target people like you who write anti-Israeli letters to the editor. They will break into your house, circumcise you to death and then make matza out of your blood. And you will only have yourself to blame.

Thank you for your letter and please write again soon.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:20 PM
Deif Doo-doo

Hamas terror kingpin Mohammad Deif was hit by an Israeli missile today. The IDF initially said that they believe Deif was killed, but had no conclusive proof. As of this hour their assessment is that he was merely wounded. Hamas maintains that Deif was only moderately wounded. Hamas made similar denials in the first hours after Deif's predecessor Salah Shehadeh was killed in July. (And the Soviet Union said that Brezhnev, Chernenko and Andropov all had colds after their hearts had stopped beating).

Most people in the English speaking world learned of the attack on Deif from Reuters Gaza correspondent Nidal al Mughrabi, who was careful to point out that "Palestinian hospital officials said 15 of 27 people wounded were civilians under age 18, three of them small children. Six people were in critical condition, they said." <irony>And Palestinian sources are always scrupulously reliable about casualty figures, aren't they?</irony> We also learn that Palestinians say the tactic [of killing terrorist commanders] is state-sponsored assassination and it has been condemned abroad.

But the Reuters story chooses not to ask, let alone answer, the crucial question of "why did Israel want to whack this sumbitch in the first place?" For this we need to turn to Ha'aretz, which says that

The Shin Bet security service has been trying to nab Mohammed Def for nearly ten years...Deif has been considered to head both the Hamas military wing and Israel's most wanted list [for his] involvement in a number of terror attacks, dating back to suicide bus bombings in 1995 and 1996 .... Def managed to avoid arrest during most of the period when the Palestinian security establishment was pursuing and arresting Hamas activists from 1996-2000. Some attribute this to his connections with Dahlan.

Ma'ariv(Hebrew only) says that Deif personally assembled some of the bombs used in certain bus attacks in the mid-90s. The paper claims that he actually was arrested by the PA sometime after 1996, but was released in mid-2000 under Arafat's personal instructions.

It's fair to assume that one of Ha'aretz and Ma'ariv got the details right and he was either arrested briefly and released or not arrested at all. Either way, the PA had the opportunity to put the lid on this mass murderer and they chose not to act. Which is just one more demonstration why the PA has never been a credible partner for peace and should be obliterated along with the Hamas. Naturally, the outrage of the world will only be directed against Israel, and not against either Hamas or the PA's calculated inaction with respect to the Hamas.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:33 PM
Rearranging the Deck Chairs

The San Francisco Chronicle is concerned about the influence of "special interests" on the state legislature. Their solution: more rules to regulate the legislators, such as "Outlaw political fund-raisers during peak periods of legislative activity." Presumably this is supposed to prevent lobbyists and "special interests" from slipping bags of cash to the Assemblymen in exchange for legislation. But it won't.

First of all, we live in a democracy. We all have interests, and we all have the right to petition our government to advance those interests. So how can it be that some of those interests are special and other interests aren't so special? But the bigger point is this: The People of California give their public representatives authority over an enormous sum of money every year. (The current budget is just over $100 billion). This figure doesn't even come close to the total dollar mount of transactions that the state can influence through regulation. And none of that $100 billion will ever go to waste, because we Californians demand that our legislators burn the midnight oil to pass laws and spend money to do Good Things for the people, and to pass laws and spend money to control the behavior of all those evildoers, such as criminals and corporations. So go figure, some lady from Coalinga might actually be motivated to persuade a senator to spend some of that $100 billion at her store. Or that some guy in Yreka who has a wife and a mortgage might actually fight back to prevent the crusading do-gooders in Sacramento from passing a law that would accidentally cause his plumbing supply factory to lose all its customers.

So the underlying problem is that We the People have delegated to the State an enormous role in managing the economy. And yes, it's perfectly natural and unavoidable for some folks to invest relatively small amounts of money to influence how the really big sums are spent. And making silly little rules, like the dates and hours when cocktail parties can be held is like rearranging the deck chairs on an aircraft carrier. Yes, it is possible to craft elaborate rules to make it harder to donate money to a candidate or to lobby a legislator. But making it harder only means making it more expensive, which means concentrating ever more power in institutions whose interests may or may not be any more special than yours, but who for sure will have more money to throw at the problem than you do.

The only solution to the problem of influence peddling in politics is to do away with the "root causes", which are the $100 billion budget and a political culture of "better living through legislation".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:42 AM
September 25, 2002
Here and There: Sep. 25

Over in South Asia this week, Muslim gunmen killed 29 Hindu worshippers at a temple in Gandhinagar, India. In Karachi, Pakistan today Muslim gunmen killed 7 Pakistani Christians at a Christian welfare agency. Who wants to bet that Robert Fisk or somebody of his ilk will blame these outrageous murders on "American support for Israeli occupation of Palestine"?

Investment Logic: Ever think you bought low or sold high? By definition, that also meant that somebody else would have had to sell low and buy high. Could it be that the other guy knew something that you didn't?

Why is it that the most trashy idiotic spam always comes from companies with names like offersuwant.net or greatemailoffers.com?

Spoon's fiancee apparently has an unusual fascination with the name "Shark Blog".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:35 PM
New rift between U.S. and Germany?

Marc Fisher writes in Slate on Gerhard's Generation, Why the rift between the United States and Germany is for real

I don't quite buy it. Fisher's main thesis is that the rift in US/German relations is exemplified by Justice Minister Daeubler-Gmelin's comparison of Bush to Hitler and that

the gaffe was an expression of a fundamental change in German politics, driven by a generational shift
He goes on to say that
Daeubler-Gmelin said what many Germans believe
and closes with
Daeubler-Gmelin will vanish into history's dustbin but the chancellor won re-election. And Hitler helped.

Certainly there are tensions between Schroeder and Bush. Clearly Germany and the US have distinct national interests. Yes, Germany is largely a pacifist society. But I'm not completely sold on Fisher's theory of a major new rift. I make the following observations to put the situation in perspective.

First, the Red/Green coalition's share of the vote actually went down since the last federal election in 1998.

I haven't found statistics that relate to a generational trend, but there is definitely a regional trend going on. Schroeder won in the former East Germany, but Stoiber and the center-right won in the former West Germany (48.5% to 47.6%) and also won a majority of the parliamentary seats in the West. On the other hand Schroeder won in the West in 1998 (49.6% - 44.0%) [source: Tagesschau TV news]. So in a sense our old friends from Western Germany swung toward the party that was most friendly towards us.

If the spirit of Hitler had a significant role in this campaign it probably manifested itself more in Moellemann's appeal to anti-Semitism than anything else. This tactic was roundly denounced and probably cost the FDP enough votes to throw the whole election. At least that's what one leading Christian Democrat has said.

Finally, here's another piece of anecdotal evidence against a major rift: this email that a reader from Germany sent me a couple of days before the election. Yes, he speaks only for himself, but he still speaks for more Germans than Marc Fisher does.

In a nutshell, the outcome of the election doesn't suggest to me (as an outside observer who at least reads the German media), that we're seeing a major new rift. What I think we are seeing is two ambivalent electorates, one on each side of the Atlantic, and the clash of two personalities, each of whom got lucky and managed to prevail in an election that was really a draw.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:36 AM
September 24, 2002
Here and There, Sep. 24
Are we living in a democracy or a majoritarian kleptocracy? In any event, it's time for regime change in Sacramento.

Ronnie Schreiber is riding in the 3rd Annual Charity Bike Ride from Jerusalem to Eilat to help raise money for the Alyn Children's Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Jerusalem. Read more and sponsor him if you can.

Jonah Goldberg explains what it is about the USofA that most of the rest of the world just doesn't seem to understand:

America is unique because it has the power to be an empire and has chosen not to be one.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:00 PM
A rant against the Easter Bunny

California Gov. Gray Davis signed into law today the nation's first comprehensive paid family leave bill. This new law offers up to six weeks of paid leave to anybody caring for a family member (parent, child, spouse, domestic partner) or anybody who wishes to "bond with a new child". The ever-generous State of California will pay up to 55% of workers salary, up to $728 a week, and funded by employee payroll deductions of up to $70 a year. Labor unions hail the measure and hope it will serve as a "model for the nation". Pardon me while I go off and vomit.

Yes, it's just another $70 a year skimmed off my earnings, which is just another drop in the barrel of the tens of thousands of dollars of various taxes and compliance costs that are separated from my income every year, most of which may as well be converted into dollar bills, and dumped into the San Francisco Bay.

This $70 is especially interesting to me because it's for a benefit that I don't want, never asked for, and can't even use because I'm self-employed. And while I would really like to take six weeks off at half pay to bond with my child or visit my parents, I can't, because my business can't run itself and it's not like the State of California is going to supply an expert who can run it for me.

So it's just another $70 picked out of my pocket by our whore of a governor, in a quid pro quo for a contribution to his re-election campaign from the AFL-CIO

I'm probably not going to miss the $70 a year, unless something really bad happens to me and I actually need the money to take care of my own son some day. So meanwhile I will enjoy the satisfaction of paying for somebody's else's daddy to take an extra 6 weeks of paid vacation every year.

In the long run, though, this kind of misguided bleeding-brained Easter Bunny legislation will continue to pile up, and laws like this are always expanded and never contracted. And year by year we continue to creep in the name of social progress toward a European-style social welfare state built on the principle of "to each according to his desires and from each according to his abilities, if and when he feels like getting off his ass and actually doing a little work for a change", which inevitably comes with higher unemployment, and less innovation and a lower standard of living. Because workers need to be protected and have a right, a right! to receive their paychecks and to attain their spiritual fulfillment from the workplace, and business owners are inherently greedy (the bastards!) and they need to be controlled and taxed and regulated and kept in their place. So the constraints on starting and growing a business and hiring someone become a little tighter every year and the more it costs to employ someone and the harder it is to fire someone, the less likely an employer will be to take a chance to hire someone in the first place. So it is no surprise that a country like Spain, which has some of the strongest "worker protections" in Europe also has 22% unemployment for workers under 25. And yes folks, we can have all that here too, if we only keep making the workplace more worker friendly. And why not? Why should anybody take a chance and risk their life savings to start a business and expose themselves to endless idiotic government regulations and the ever-rising threat of employee lawsuits? I mean, who says you have to start a business, why can't you people just get a steady job working for the government like a normal person? And at the end of the day, high unemployment and a constipated economy are more of an opportunity than a problem for the leftwing politicians, because it means a constant supply of needy constituents who have to be taken care of, and to whom the politicians can sell increasingly elaborate government interventions that people like me get to pay for.

And yes, this new law also says that a company with 50 or more employees has to guarantee to hold your job for you when you return from your annual six-week taxpayer-paid vacation to provide psychological comfort to your dad in Hawaii. Now imagine, if you will, how many companies with almost 50 employees will go out of their way to avoid hiring any more people, especially someone who is planning to have children.

So this dumb law was the last straw for me with Gray Davis and the California Democrats. I was planning to vote Libertarian, because I'm not thrilled with either major candidate and I just wanted to make a statement. But now I'm going to vote for Bill Simon who actually has a shot at beating Davis. I'm even going to make a donation to Simon's campaign, and I don't usually make donations to political campaigns. Because for all the idiocies of the California Republican Party (and I'll save that rant for another time), at least they don't make it their life's work to undermine business as do the bleeding-brain Democrats.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
September 23, 2002
Heads will roll

In the aftermath of Gerhard Schroeder's re-election victory:

Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, who last week compared George Bush to Hitler, has resigned. The constituents in her legislative district also voted her out of parliament. [CORRECTION. Her constituents denied her direct election, but she will still win a seat through proportional representation, see PapaScott in the comments]

Anti-Semitism doesn't win elections:Juergen Moellemann resigns as vice-chair of the federal FDP after his disappointing show in the polls. He remains for now the head of the state party and member of the legislature in his home state of Nordrhein Westfallen, but his leadership there is also being challenged. The Christian Democrats blame both Moellemann and FDP chair Guido Westerwelle for harming the center-right coalition's outcome

George W Bush, still offended by the tone of Schroeder's campaign, has not yet offered the customary congratulations to the Chancellor on his re-election victory. Relations between Bush and Schroeder are likely to remain frosty for a while.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:00 AM
September 22, 2002
German Election Results

UPDATED AT (4:30pm PST / 1:30am 9/23 in Germany) After a few hours of neck and neck vote counting, it appears that the Schroeder/Fischer team stays. The current projected seats in the Bundestag, from Tagesschau TV news ,are:
Social Democrats 250
Christian Democrats 247
Green 55
FDP 47
PDS 2

The biggest losers are the PDS (East German former Communists), so there will be that much less bleeding brain leftist idiocy in public office. The other big losers are the FDP, an otherwise sensible, centrist party that failed to rein in the Jew-baiting rampage of Juergen Moellemann. Their vote share rose slightly from four years ago, but fell far short of their expectations for this election. As expected, the FDP governing committee has officially asked Juergen Moellemann to resign as co-chair of the party. He will give his answer on Monday morning. I can't help but think that if they had made him toe the line back in the spring, their election performance could have been strong enough to form a governing majority with Stoiber.

There is increased speculation that Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin will also be ousted. One of the names mentioned as a replacement is Ute Vogt, state chair of the SPD in Baden-Wuerttemberg (Stuttgart's state). Vogt, in any event, is a lot younger and cuter than the frumpy Frau currently in office. And hopefully she has a better understanding of the differences between Bush and Hitler.

Be sure to check Daily Pundit today, Ralf Goergens is posting election commentary live from Germany.

Ralf also sent me this e-mail after it became clear that Schroeder was re-elected:

I'm depressed. I hope beer helps.

At the end of the day it was Möllemann who decided the outcome. At least the voters showed that they don't reward anti-Semitism. Schroeder also was less
successful than he expected, so anti-Americanism also doesn't seem to pay.

It's pretty much decided by now. I have some small hope, though.

Ralf, when are you going to get your own blog? The trans-atlantic alliance needs you!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:50 PM
September 21, 2002
German Election Update: Sept. 21

UPDATE (9/22) Election results are here

As of this posting, the polls open in only a few hours. I believe the polls close at 1800 Germany time on Sunday, which is 9am Pacific.

Justin Weitz has his final comments before the election. He predicts a slight Stoiber victory. Read his reasons why. The latest polls still say neck-and-neck.

Scott "PapaScott" Hanson is an American living in Germany. Check his blog too for local color on the election.

Today's round-up straight from the German press
Well, they're actually all from Die Welt today.

Die Welt has a conservative outlook and a number of its stories are favorable to Stoiber. The current headline in the online edition: "Tensions with the U.S. overshadow election", next to a picture of the Justice Minister who is confused about the differences between Bush and Hitler. The story mentions Condoleezza Rice's comment that the atmosphere in German-American relations has been "poisoned".

Die Welt interviews Edmund Stoiber. He criticizes Schroeder's economic results of high deficits, record bankrupcies, high unemployment and also the state of education, research and morale. He criticizes the Justice Minister's statement comparing Bush to Hitler as "unutterable and intolerable" and blames Schroeder for fomenting and exploiting anti-American feelings to divert attention from his own domestic failures. Stoiber effectively dismisses as a gaffe his earlier statement about not allowing the US to use its German bases for an attack on Iraq and acknowledged that the US can use its facilities as it sees fit. He clarified that he will support the UN's decisions, whereas Schroeder has indicated that he would not participate even in a UN sponsored action against Iraq.

Die Welt also reports that Juergen Moellemann will be asked to resign after the polls close on Sunday. If he refuses, the FDP governing committee will convene on Monday morning to kick him out. The only thing that could save him would be a blow-out victory in his home state.

Finally, Die Welt walks us through the various scenarios for the next coalition government . Bear in mind that the outcome of the election depends not only on the contest between Stoiber and Schroeder. As it stands, they are each at about 37% in the polls and whoever becomes Chancellor will do so only with the support of one or more of the smaller parties. Neither party will want to include the ex-Communist PDS, which might not even get enough votes to win any seats in the legislature. But Schroeder could conceivably be willing to include the PDS. Also, Schroeder could form a government with either the Greens or the FDP or both. But Stoiber's only option would be to have a coalition with the FDP. The only other combination would be a grand coalition involving both large parties, with the larger party in the driver's seat. The fact that the election appears to be so close along with the fact that Schroeder has more options for forming a government, suggests that he has the greater odds of staying in power. Then again, we'll find out for real soon enough.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:32 PM
Letter from a German fan of America

In spite of the unpleasant rhetoric that has emanated from Germany during the end stage of the election campaign, it's important to keep it in proper perspective. Most Germans do not support Juergen Moellemann and most Germans do not agree with the Justice Minister Daeubler-Gmelin's idiotic remarks about George W Bush. There are huge shitstorms raging in the German press over both controversies. The pressure of both the domestic media and the political establishment will in all likelihood cause both Moellemann and Daeubler-Gmelin to lose their positions after the election. I also received this e-mail at the moellemann.com website this morning, and I believe it reflects the views of a lot of Germans

Dear Mr Sharkansky,

I recently discovered your site on the web, as I was shocked concerning not only Möllemann's utterances - which are totally unbearable - but also his recent election flyer which I found in my post box and immediately threw into the dust bin. It is totally inexplicable why a German politician acts like that, and I am aware that this is seen with Argus eyes abroad, especially in Israel (he attacked Mr Friedman very personally, with abominable words) and in the USA (the German minister of justice obviously has lost all senses recently). I feel an urge to shout at some German politicians, as anti-American feelings are utilized in elections here, which I condemn strictly.

I and many many Germans have not forgotten America's help to free us from the greatest abomination in history, Hitler. Of course, president Bush may be criticized, but the tone here in Germany is totally inadequate. Please note that I am ashamed by recent politics here, and I urgently hope that the damage being caused by recent utterances may be repaired, though I understand that many Americans feel hurt by Mrs Däubler-Gmelins words. She must have been sacked immediately, but as it is two days before elections, Schröder didn't have the balls to do it. By the way, to conclude my mail and return to my original intention, the following link shows that Möllemann will be thrown out after Sunday: http://www.n-tv.de/3067385.html. Mr Westerwelle recently even denied to show in public with him. I hope the Americans are aware there will NEVER EVER be a majority for positions of Möllemann or Däubler-Gmelin again. It is just such a shame for us here.

UPDATE: The gentleman who wrote this letter is named Roland Wilde. He added later

The friendship between America and Germany has ever been one if not the backbone of German foreign politics in post-war Germany. There are many who want to defend this friendship, and this we will.
If you wish to tell him that we Americans appreciate having friends like him, you can reach him by email at: enigmasixx .AT. yahoo.de

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:31 AM
September 20, 2002
Letter from a German fan

... a fan of the Jew-baiting German politician Juergen Moellemann, that is. Every once in a while someone sends an e-mail like this one to me at my www.moellemann.com website. I have a clear disclaimer in both English and German that the site is in no way connected to Moellemann, but people send the e-mails regardless. I include the original German below

Dear Mr. Moellemann,
Finally a democratic politician with a backbone. You express what many citizens are thinking, but don't dare say for fear of being labeled a right-wing radical. Now this is happening to you. I hope that the voters to whom you are speaking from your heart will vote for you and your party. If you, as one of the most successful and popular politicians in Germany, are not acceptable to the FDP any longer, then you as a "stand-up guy" should be able to start a new party and get past the 5% hurdle.

I wish you luck and success in your political future.

A new party sounds like a fine idea to me. The only question is what to call it. I believe it is now illegal in Germany to call a party "Nazi", so the next best name for the Arabist Moellemann might be the Ba'ath party

UPDATE (9/21): I should also say that I've received a lot of emails that are critical of Moellemann. Scroll up or go here to see one of them.

Sehr geehrter Herr Möllemann! Endlich einmal ein demokratischer Politiker mit Rückgrat. Was Sie aussprechen denken viele Bürger,wagen jedoch nicht ihre Meinung zu äußern,da sie sofort als rechtsradikal hingestellt werden. Sie erfahren das ja nun selbst. Ich hoffe, daß die Wähler, denen Sie aus aus der Seele sprechen, Ihnen und Ihrer Partei ihre Stimme geben. Sollten Sie als einer der erfolgreichsten und beliebtesten Politiker Deutschlands für die FDP nicht mehr tragbar sein, wird es Ihnen, das "Stehaufmännchen" sicher möglich sein eine neue Partei zu gründen und die 5% Hürde zu überspringen.

Für Ihre politische Zukunft wünsche ich Ihnen viel Glück und Erfolg.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:01 PM
Fatah vs Hamas

The IDF reports on an emerging power struggle between Fatah and Hamas.

Hamas spokesman Abdel-Aziz al-Rantisi calls Marwan Barghouti a traitor, and the Fatah slams Hamas for "disgracing one of our noble warriors".

Read the whole thing.

May the Islamist Hamas terrorists and the secular Fatah terrorists continue to work out their raging hormonal violence on each other and leave the rest of us alone. thank you.

(link courtesy of Arnold Roth in Jerusalem)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:13 PM
German Election Update: Sept. 20

UPDATE (9/22) Election results are here

Today's round-up, straight from the German press

All the latest polls now show that Schroeder is in the lead. But the combination of the Social Democrats with the Greens is not a majority. If this is the outcome, can they govern with a legislative minority? Or will the third coalition partner be the PDS (former Communists) or the Free Democrats?

Stoiber's people have carefully retracted yesterday's statement that he wouldn't permit the U.S. to use its German bases for launching a unilateral attack against Iraq. In any event, existing treaties leave such things solely to America's discretion. The Social Democrats are making hay of the statement anyway. Historical note: The Germans have twice before prevailed on the U.S. not to fly over their country in the course of military action: supply operations to Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and the 1986 bombing of Libya.

Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin doesn't dispute the reported quote comparing Bush to Hitler. Yet she insists that her comments were misinterpreted. It also came out that at the same trade union meeting she said that the US has a "lousy criminal justice system" and that Bush should have gone to jail for some of his financial transactions. At a news conference she attacked as slanderous political manoeuvering any insinuation that she would actually equate Hitler and Bush. She dismissed as comical the suggestion that she should resign. But it is reasonable to assume that her post-election job prospects are not secure.

Juergen Moellemann's colleagues in the FDP will apparently try to oust him from his party leadership posts immediately after the election. But Moellemann is fighting back with an open letter accusing the rest of the party leadership of harming the party's chances by attacking him. He seems to be used to this sort of thing. He was ousted from the party leadership in 1994 and in 1993 he was forced to resign as federal Commerce Minister for improper conduct.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:46 AM
Here and There, Sept. 20

"You have the right to remain silent" Police in San Diego arrest a man in a coma.

Great Headline: Explosion Occurs Near Arafat Office

An even better headline would have been
"Explosion Occurs In Arafat Office"

UPDATE: Now the headline is "Israelis Blow Up Arafat's Buildings". I kind of like that one too.

Koizumi asks Bush to drop North Korea from the "Axis of Evil". At the very least it should go into the Axis of Stupidity

My true-life story about getting stuck in the snow at Lake Tahoe won third prize in a contest for stories to be included in the next book in the I Should Have Stayed Home series of books about true-life travel disasters. And yes, there were more than 2 other entries.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:28 AM
September 19, 2002
German Election Update: Sept. 19

UPDATE (9/22) Election results are here

Germany's federal election is less than 3 days away. 72 hours from the time of this posting the first official results will be coming in.

Justin Weitz gives a terrific overview of the context for the current campaign.

Deutsche Welle explains the complicated election system, which combines direct election of district representatives with a proportional party-based system.

This site , which seems to be updated daily, gives the latest results from the various election polls.

Today's election news from the German press

Free Democrat (FDP) leader Guido Westerwelle finally dissociates himself from his deputy, Juergen Moellemann, in the wake of Moellemann's anti-Semitic flyer. The flyer almost certainly killed Moellemann's career as a respectable politician. Although many of the FDP's leaders have criticized Moellemann's obsessional Jew-taunting behavior since it erupted a few months ago, Westerwelle has also been criticized for doing too little, too late, to rein Moellemann in. Both Westerwelle and the party's chances have probably already been damaged by Moellemann's behavior.

Although the FDP is only the 3rd largest party with about 10% of the vote, the fallout from this scandal could help determine who becomes Chancellor. Stoiber and the Christian Democrats can come to power only with the FDP as their coalition partner. Every voter that Moellemann drives away from the FDP will either vote for another party (most likely either the Christian Democrats or the Social Democrats) or sit out the election. With the two big parties still neck and neck, any loss for the FDP is also probably a net win for the incumbent Social Democrats.

Edmund Stoiber said today that if elected he would not allow the US to use its German military bases for a unilateral (Alleingang) American action against Iraq. This came as a surprise, as Stoiber and the Christian Democrats have recently criticized Schroeder for his "anti-American" Iraq policy, and try to portray themselves as the more pro-American party. But Stoiber can read the polls too: 45% of Germans would support German participation against Iraq under a UN mandate, 50% would oppose German participation even under a UN mandate, and only 4% would support unilateral American action. In any event, Stoiber's statement about a unilateral American action may be empty rhetoric. If other countries such as, say, Britain work with the US against Iraq, it's not exactly a unilateral American action now, is it?

Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin (Social Democrat) likened George W Bush to Hitler. Speaking to a small group of trade unionists she said that "Bush is [using the war against Iraq] to deflect attention from his domestic problems. That's a popular tactic. Hitler did that too." Equating one's allies with Hitler is still the third rail of German politics. Daeubler-Gmelin tried to explain her way out of this by saying she wasn't equating them on a personal level, "only their methods". The oppositon Union and FDP leaders have demanded that Schroeder both apologize to Bush and fire the Justice Minister.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:39 AM
September 18, 2002
Here and There, Sep 18

I am opposed to a war on Iraq. I don't like war. I don't want to see any innocent civilians get killed. I don't want to put our soldiers into harm's way unnecessarily. All I want is regime change in Iraq. Why should that entail violence? Please, can't we pacifists do something to persuade Saddam to resign and surrender peacefully before he leaves us no other choice but to go in there and kick the shit out of him?

Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Britain, the one who caused a fuss several months ago by publishing a poem praising a suicide bomber. That they actually recalled the guy deserves at least some faint praise. Of course, they had to wait until all the fuss died down, because otherwise they might inadvertently send the message that they disapproved of what he wrote.

The James Madison Memorial High School of Madison, Wisconsin, Class of 1980 has its website here [you probably don't care, I'm just linking to it so it will be picked up by the search engines]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:55 PM
Bleeding-Brain Leftists

We've all heard of bleeding heart liberals. For me that connotes those who are at worst well-intentioned, but a little too generous with other peoples money. Always wanting to raise taxes to give ever more of it to the poor, the aged, minorities, women, crippled puppy-dogs, basically anybody but able-bodied heterosexual males of European descent. Always wanting to pass legislation to regulate our lives, but only for wholesome purposes. Bleeding heart liberals are usually annoying, and frequently expensive, but seldom horribly dangerous.

Lately, though, I've been vexed by what to call those truly loony goofballs who identify themselves as the "Progressive Left". This is an oxymoron, because what they stand for has little to do with being for progress, but being against progress -- anti-globalization, anti-Israel, anti-war-of-any-kind-even-a-justified-war, anti-equal-opportunity, anti-choice-in-education, anti-technology, etc.

Idiotarian is a good word, but that also covers people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Buchanan, who are not exactly of the left.

My solution: Bleeding brain leftists. That is how I will from now on refer to people like Noam "Two-Home" Chomsky, Bob Scheer, Ted Rall, Susan Sontag, Jesse Jackson, most of the chicken-hawk-squawking anti-war-blogger crowd, Dana Cloud, Mona Baker, Gore Vidal, etc. Did I forget Robert Fisk?

UPDATE: This is also my official submission in response to Tim Blair's question

SO, WHAT are we going to call those people who routinely refer to the September 11 attacks on civilians as attacks on America or the US government, but characterise US attacks on al Qaeda leaders or Iraq's government as attacks on civilians?
We can call them Bleeding brain leftists.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:29 PM
German Election Week

UPDATE (9/22) Election results are here

Germany goes to the polls on Sunday, September 22. Between now and then I'll try to post items of interest from the German press that might not otherwise make it into the U.S. media.

The outcome is still up in the air. The latest poll, as reported in Die Welt, shows the center-right coalition of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), led by Edmund Stoiber, to have a slim lead, with 37.3% for the Union, and 10.1% for their likely junior partner, the Free Democrats (FDP). The incumbent Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SDP) are at 37%, their current partner, the Greens, with 7.2%, and the former East German Communists, the PDS at 4.4%. Just last week the Social Democrats held a slim lead.

Meanwhile, FDP vice-chair Juergen Moellemann is breaking new ground in post-war German anti-Semitism

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
Fishing for votes in the swamps of Germany

Der Spiegel reports that Juergen Moellemann, the German politician whose bizarre anti-Semitic escapades I've been tracking since the spring, has broken new ground in post-war German anti-Semitism by sending out the following campaign flyer the week before the federal election.

Moellemann departs from his otherwise centrist party's line of "Taxes, Jobs and Education" to prove that he can lay it on the Jews better than any German politician since the fall of Auschwitz:

Juergen W. Moellemann has long worked tirelessly for a peaceful solution to the Mideast conflict: secure borders for Israel and an independent Palestinian state.
He also happens to be President of the German-Arab Friendship Society, an "export consultant" who opens doors for German businessmen in the Arab world, and a friend of Yassir Arafat, Saddam Hussein and various members of the Iranian mullahocracy

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rejects a Palestinian state. His government sends tanks into refugee camps and disregards UN Security Council Resolutions.

Michel Friedman defends the actions of the Sharon government. He tries to label Sharon-critic Juergen W. Moellemann as "anti-Israel" and "anti-Semitic".
Friedman is vice-chair of the German Jewish Federation, the man who Moellemann blamed earlier this year for fueling anti-Semitism, and is apparently this year's proxy for The Eternal Jew

Unimpressed by these attacks, Juergen W. Moellemann continues to be engaged for a peaceful solution, with justice for both sides.
As far as I know, the Israelis refuse to speak with him
For that is the only way that we can avert a war in the Middle East, which might involve us as well.
Pesky Jews, dragging Germany into one war after another!

Support Juergen W Moellemann by voting for the FDP!
All polls have indicated that Moellemann is causing the FDP to lose votes

So there you have it. The only reason for war in the Middle East is Ariel Sharon sending tanks into refugee camps. And if it weren't for the interference of the German Jewish Federation, Juergen W. Moellemann would be able to bring peace to the region and save Germany from World War III. All that's missing from this flyer is for Juergen W Moellemann to trim an inch off each side of his moustache and to change the color of Sharon's Star of David to yellow.

Der Spiegel goes on to say that this flyer has been slammed by other leaders of all the major parties, including the FDP. The two large parties have made it clear that Moellemann will not be part of any coalition government after the election.

UPDATE (9/19): Check my main blog page over the next few days as I'll be posting updates on the election campaign straight from the German press.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:56 AM
September 17, 2002
Republican Party Census Document

I just received in the mail a solicitation from the RNC called the "Republican Party Census Document", which has a questionnaire asking my opinion on various issues so they can report back to "Party Leaders", and more importantly, asking me for my money. I find it amusing that they sent this to me since there are only 3 or 4 Republicans in all of San Francisco, and I'm not one of them. (although between Rummy and Condy, and after GWB's UN speech last week, I'm more inclined now to vote Republican than I've ever been). And if they really want to know my opinions they can just read my blog like everybody else.

So now I'm going to answer some of their questions. Unfortunately, the form they sent me only gives 3 possible answers for each question (Yes, No and Undecided). But in most cases a longer answer is required. I'm certain, by the way, that a comparable Democratic questionnaire would have been even funnier. But this is the material I was given to work with, so here goes:

Domestic Security
1. Do you support President Bush's initiatives to promote the safety and security of all Americans?

Safety and security for all Americans? no. But for just about everybody except for these guys. In any event, I support putting a bullet in Saddam Hussein's eye like they did to Moe Green in the Godfather.

2. Do you support the creation of an Office of Homeland Security?
First of all, no. The problem is not that there aren't enough Offices, the problem is that the existing Agencies and Bureaus aren't doing their jobs properly. Fire some of the chuckleheads in the CIA who didn't see those planes coming and then come back to me with your outstretched hand, which I will promptly slap for picking the worst totalitarian-sounding name for a federal agency ever, with the possible exception of the Office of Strength Through Joy.

3. Would you support increasing the amount of security at airports, train stations and all government buildings including monuments and museums?
It depends on how you define "increasing the amount of security". If you mean hiring more high-school dropouts who can't speak English to rifle through the underpants of elderly Korean women looking for pencil sharpeners, then no. If you mean searching for people who fit the demographic and psychological profile of the combatants in the current war against Arab fascism and radical Islamism, then yes

International Security
1. Do you support the use of economic sanctions against nations who do not actively support and provide assistance to Operation Enduring Freedom?
No, I do not support economic sanctions. I support kidnapping those nations' heads of government and throwing them out of moving airplanes at 30,000 feet

2. Do you support the use of air strikes against any country that offers safe harbor or aid to individuals or organizations committed to further attacks on America?
Can I get extra cheese on that?

3. Do you support increasing the use of covert operatives in targeted areas?
Only if the covert operatives can actually speak the local languages. Not if the agents are anything like these dimwits

Education Issues
1. Do you support President Bush's plan to make our schools more accountable to parents and to restore local control of education?
Only if his plan entails: (a) disbanding the teachers unions (b) offering vouchers, and (c) putting every administrator and school board member from the San Francisco Unified School District on a slow boat to a far-away galaxy

Social Issues
1. Do you support President Bush's initiative to allow private religious and charitable groups to help those in need through faith-based programs?
What do you mean "Bush's initiative"? First Al Gore claims credit for the Internet and now Bush claims credit for Tzedakah?

2. Should we take the next step in welfare reform through faith-based programs?
Only if the government has absolutely nothing to do with this, whatsoever

Defense Issues
1. Do you think U.S. troops should have to serve under United Nations' commanders?
Ha ha ha (I'm sorry, I laughed so hard the Pepsi-Cola I was drinking squirted out of my nose). No.

2. Do you think that the U.S. should modernize our national defense to meet the challenges of the 21st century -- such as building a ballistic missle defense system?
Ha ha ha (Damn, now there's Pepsi-Cola all over the other wall). Missile Defense, you mean like Star Wars? Like that's so 1980s. Hey, have you heard the new Paul Simon album, it's called Graceland. Look, anybody who has ever seen the inside of a computer program and has half a clue should be able to tell you that they'll never get the software to work. I am fully confident that if an anti-missile missile were fired at an incoming missile over Tierra del Fuego, it would actually land in my mother's backyard in Madison, Wisconsin. But if kids get to believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy then grown-ups should have a missile defense system to believe in. But no. Let's just tell people we have a missile defense system and then use the money for something that'll actually make us more secure. Like putting a bullet in Saddam's eye like they did to Moe Green in the Godfather.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:02 AM
September 16, 2002
How to punish Ramzi Binalshibh?

I am generally opposed to the death penalty. Not because I have a soft spot for murdering scumbags, but because I don't have enough faith in enough government agencies to believe that they will not end up executing a lot of the wrong people. (Next time you're dealing with a clerk at the Post Office or the DMV, ask yourself if you want to give civil servants the discretion to kill people who have already been disarmed). The fact that so many mistakes have already been made by law enforcement, prosecutors and judges in prior death penalty cases should be reason enough to suspend the death penalty, and certainly at the state level.

Having said all that, I believe that in certain extraordinary cases of spectacular crimes -- especially politically motivated mass murder -- where the evidence is overwhelming, the death penalty should be an option.

In Ramzi Binalshibh's case (assuming he's convicted), his execution should be slow and painful, involving a lot of screaming and blood, and the whole thing should be broadcast live on Al Jazeera.

Have a nice day.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:16 PM
September 15, 2002
Marin County Malcontent Writes Back

L.M. Arndt, the Marin County homeowner whose letter to the San Francisco Chronicle I criticized the other day, sent me this e-mail:

Stefan:
You don't know me. And your assumptions are just plain wrong. I was born in the United States and have lived here all my life. I grew up at a time when we learned Civics in school--the differences between Democracy and Communism; the way our government is supposed to work, the balance of powers among executive, legislative, judicial. I collected scrap metal during WWII. We had rationing--tires, gasoline, butter, sugar, meat.

Many of my classmates died in the war. I love my country in ways that I'm afraid you would not understand. I love our flag. I remember many years ago at a Fourth of July event scolding a boy who persisted in running around during the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance. I felt sick, after 9/11, to see that beautiful, wonderful flag desecrated, abused, misused--dangling limp from a crane, attached to a car antenna to be shredded, tied around the neck of a dog. Is that "patriotism"? Not in my book.

Yes, I own a very nice home in Marin County. My husband and I saved--and we were lucky. Does that make me ineligible to exercise my First Amendment rights? If your loved one is an addict, denying that fact simply makes you an enabler, not a loving friend. The U.S. government has made mistakes--admit it. The people of the U.S. are not any different from any other people: generally friendly, open, generous, kind, wanting for themselves and others the kind of world in which we can all live in peace, minding our own business, raising our children, living our own lives. That is why so many of us who love our country oppose the Bush/Cheney push for war. To me, this is the most patriotic thing I can do. You may disagree--but please do not assign motives and characterizations to me of whom you know nothing.
L. M. Arndt

Ms. Arndt -- Thank you for writing. You are correct. I don't know you or the totality of your experience and opinions. I was merely reacting to the few statements you wrote and signed your name to. This is in no way an attempt to deny your "First Amendment rights". You have every right to express your opinions, and here I am granting you "equal time" on my own private website to explain your views further. But your right to express your opinions also means that the rest of us have the right to say that your opinions are misguided, dangerous or just plain silly. And if you want to start your own website where you argue that my opinions are silly and misguided, I'll even point you in the direction of how to get started.

I do agree with you that there is more to patriotism than flag-waving and that it is a patriotic act to express one's disagreement to government policy. I also agree that our government has made mistakes. But here's where I differ with you. Although the individual human beings of United States are no more or less deserving of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness than any other people, I have to say that our society and culture as a nation is superior to others. -- and precisely because, with all our collective faults and imperfections, we have done a far better job of giving people the opportunity to have a safe, comfortable and rewarding life than any other society that exists today or has existed in history. That is why millions have come from around the world to these shores. That is why my great-grandparents came here from Eastern Europe a hundred or so years ago to escape poverty and persecution. That is why my wife's parents came here in the 1960s from Korea with only $30 in their pockets. That is why many more continue to come today, and many more want to come, but can't. On the other hand, how many Americans (especially those in Marin County) are so dissatisfied with their lives that they are queueing up to move their families overseas so their children can enjoy a brighter future? Not many, and I guess that should tell us something.

So when I read your letter to the editor when all you could say about this country was a litany of hysterical complaints against the current administration ("assault on women"?, give me a break ) and that a tattered flag was "all we have left", I blew a gasket. That we can do a better job at many things is a given. But for a person with the obvious success that you deservedly enjoy to be so absurdly critical is not only an incredible, unhelpful contribution to an important public debate. It is also an insult to those of us who are grateful for our country's many blessings, and to those of us who work and contribute to make this land an even better place to live than it already is.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:58 PM
September 14, 2002
It's the Oil, Stupid

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the Arab world without oil.

Would the U.S. government be propping up the aristo-klepto-theo-idiotocracy that is the House of Saud? Would Saddam have invaded Kuwait? and if he had would anybody in the U.S. have cared or even noticed? Would Al-Qaeda have had the money to send its boys to flight school? Would the United Nations have turned into the sewer of Israel bashing that it has become? Would the hideously self-destructive Palestinian movement have stayed alive as long as it has?

No. Without oil, the Arab world in the 21st century would have been little more than sub-Saharan Africa without the modern infrastructure, a quaint but cruel backwater of tents and camels, with many people but little influence, hardly different from the world depicted in the film Lawrence of Arabia.

Yes, there would probably still be religious fanatics, beheadings, shrouded women, wretched despots, and an unhealthy number of terrorists. But we would have little reason to engage with them and they with us. Imagine how the last four decades would have been different -- no Six Day War, no Yom Kippur War, no oil embargo or stagflation in the 1970s, no Gulf War, no September 11.

Now open your eyes and return to reality. Unfortunately, the Arab world does have oil, especially Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the rest of the Persian Gulf. And not only do they have lots of it, they also have about the lowest cost of exploration and extraction on the planet, so they can outprice and outcompete any alternative supplier. And as long as they are a big competitive force, they can hold the rest of the world over a barrel (no pun intended) and they can use their revenues to purchase weapons of mass destruction and/or export radical Islam and terrorism. So what can be done?

Sen. Conrad Burns gave an important speech on Thursday, on the future of American energy policy and foreign policy in the Middle East. Bush's speech to the UN got more attention, but the National Review reported on Burns' speech, which may be seen as an expression of Administration policy. Burns acknowledged that U.S. dependence on Persian Gulf oil is inadvertently financing anti-American hatred and terrorism. His proposals to alter the situation:

1. Use technology to develop alternatives to fossil fuel.

2. Use existing fossil fuels more efficiently

3. Look to alternative suppliers of fossil fuel, such as Canada, Russia, South America, Norway.

4. increase exploration in the U.S.

But some of these solutions will take years. Furthermore, since other sources of petroleum are more expensive than the Persian Gulf, that would not only raise our own cost, while still leaving the Saudis and their neighbors as a viable supplier to other more cost-sensitive economies. So I would like to propose an even more radical solution:

Imagine Saudi Arabia without oil. Visualize it. Make it happen: The United States and its allies should simply take possession of the Saudi oil fields.

If this sounds harsh and unfair, bear in mind that oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia only in 1933. Bear in mind also that the modern entity of Saudi Arabia only came into existence, by conquest, during the period 1905-1926, as part of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and its aftermath, and with the help of the British. And does anybody really think that the British would have been so magnanimous if they knew what was under all that sand? So it's not like the current ruling family has any more of a legitimate claim to the oil fields than anybody else. They were put in place by the British and kept there by the Americans and they can just as easily be taken out again.

And it's not like we have to take over the whole country. Fortunately, the oil fields are concentrated near the Persian Gulf, hundreds of miles from the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. We'll leave them the rest of the country. They can keep the seaside resort of Jeddah and their tourism franchise on the holy cities.

But we'll take the petroleum. Because at the end of the day, no people has an inherent or perpetual right to any land or resources. The earth's treasures belong to all of humankind, really. Whoever happens to live on a piece of land is merely a tenant and a steward, with the obligation to both defend his possession and to utilize the resources well. And if you can't defend your land and manage your resources, somebody else will move in and take them away from you. That's how history works. Always has, always will. The Saudis happen to possess the oil fields by way of historic and geologic accidents. They don't have the werewithal to defend the territory (that falls on us anyway). It's really only the westerners who have the technology to extract the minerals in the first place. And the Saudis have used their accidental wealth in the worst possible ways -- for the pleasure of the profligate royal family, denying freedom, decent education and opportunity to their subjects, treating the women worst of all, and exporting hatred, fanaticism and terror. They simply don't deserve to hold on to the immense wealth that happened to fall into their laps in the last hundred years.

So yes, the United States and Britain and our allies should simply take possession of the oil fields that our troops and weapons are already defending. And we should be charitable. We should run the oil fields and refineries, give the local residents good jobs at good wages, with benefits and holidays and health care. Local women will have equal opportunity to work for, alongside, and above both local and foreign men. And we shouldn't be greedy about all those billions in revenues. Whatever rents and royalties that would have gone to the Saudi government should go instead to a non-profit foundation, administered by U.S.-led international committee. This foundation would use its resources in many positive ways: funding research for renewable, non-polluting fuels; economic and social betterment of the region in a kind of a Marshall plan, building schools and industries to employ, educate and train the locals in running a self-sufficient free-market democracy; as well as economic development in other third-world nations.

And we should also confiscate the oil fields from the other rogue states, like Iraq and Libya. Hopefully, some of the other states in the region, like Kuwait and the Emirates, will catch a clue and reform on their own. If not, we'll take their oil and give it to the Foundation too. Many in the Arab world won't like this idea. But they had their chance to do something constructive with all their mineral wealth and they blew it. At this point, they can go pound sand.

UPDATE: Charles Johnson says that Jackie Mason and Raoul Felder raised a similar proposal a few weeks ago.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
September 12, 2002
Desperate and Oppressed in Marin County

The following letter appeared in today's San Francisco Chronicle, referring to this photo, which the Chronicle chose (badly) to commemorate Sept. 11

LEFT IN TATTERS
Editor -- What an appropriate front page for Sept. 11! With the Bush administration's assaults on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the environment, civil liberties, personal privacy, women, endangered species, workers' rights, national forests, not to mention international law, that tattered scrap of a flag is about all we have left.

L. M. ARNDT
San Rafael

Yes, Louisa M. Arndt, that flag is all you have left, except for your 4 bedroom, 2 bath, 2100 sq. ft. home at 810 Idylberry Rd. which sits on a quarter-acre of land and is probably worth at least $500,000 today. And since you bought it back in 1979, the regressive generosity of Prop. 13 means that you only pay $2,000 a year in property taxes for the privilege of living in one of the most beautiful, safe, prosperous and comfortable towns on the planet . Yes, Louisa, I can only imagine how miserable your life must be in order for you to be so ungrateful to this country which has given you such good fortune at such an affordable price.

But I guess Louisa's letter helps kick the legs out from under the argument that feelings of rage and oppression are necessarily caused by poverty.

[enter parcel 164-021-08 at the Marin County Assessor-Recorder site to see the details for Louisa Arndt's fabulous house.]

UPDATE: Louisa Arndt has also gone on the record demanding insane, draconian government regulations that would cause near-total economic constipation:

Genetically engineered foods, and in fact ALL products and systems that pose potentially catastrophic risks, MUST BE REQUIRED TO PROVE THEIR SAFETY BEFORE BEING APPROVED BY OUR GOVERNMENT.
I like it! A luddite world where fear of imaginary risks stifles life-improving innovations, and where we are all left to die from naturally-occuring catastrophic risks like starvation, disease, skin cancer, earthquakes and whiny selfish idiots who aren't even grateful for their own fancy houses.

UPDATE: L.M. Arndt sent me an email

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:01 PM
Here and There: Sep 12

Amira Hass argues that the Israeli political and military leadership got it wrong in believing that intifada was organized top-down by Arafat. She echoes instead the Palestinian popular view that Arafat and the PA

did not have the political and public strength to stop the popular uprising when it broke out as a revolt as much against the Palestinian leadership and its policies as against the Israeli occupation
The bottom line is that the PA organized some of the violence and was powerless to stop the rest. Which is still a very good a reason to destroy the PA militarily and to let something else take its place. But that wasn't Hass' conclusion.

Qatar's Foreign Minister says he is opposed to a war against Iraq, concerned such a war "might destabilize the entire Middle East" (Of course, many people, like me, think that destabilizing the entire Middle East would be a good thing). The Qatari minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani, might be speaking under duress. Der Spiegel reports that Saddam Hussein recently threatened al-Thani that if he allowed U.S. forces to attack Iraq from the al-Udeid air force base, then Qatar would be "completely destroyed". Al-Thani said that the United States had not asked Qatar to use al-Udeid for a strike on Iraq. He declined to say whether Qatar would agree to such a request. That the U.S. will use its forces at al-Udeid to attack Iraq is almost a given. Whether the U.S. will actually ask Qatar's permission to do so will probably be left for future historians to argue about.

Cluck-cluck Diane E has the definitive response to those who whine "chickenhawk".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:05 PM
Palestinian Peace Proposal

On Tuesday Ha'aretz published an exclusive! draft declaration from Fatah, which was supposed to be some sort of peace proposal. Within minutes, it was repudiated by various Fatah "activists".

One wonders what parts of the document were so objectionable, and in opposition to the spirit of Fatah. Perhaps these lines:

And in accordance with the higher interests of the Palestinian people, and with our moral values, tolerant religions and belief; we, the Fatah movement reject and we will prevent any attacks against Israeli civilians...we will work to prevent all attacks on civilians in keeping with our human values and this important human principle

We choose peace . We call on Israeli society to work with us to put an end to the continuous suffering of the two peoples. We believe in the importance of the continuity of dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis. We seek to achieve peace immediately and are ready to fulfill the requirements of this peace upon finding a partner on the Israeli side. The only choice we have is to live side by side in two neighboring states, in security and peace, far from hatred, violence, and war.

We both must exclude children from the circle of this conflict.

We will build an independent State of Palestine and a political system in accordance with the principles of democracy, the rule of law, with an independent judicial system, separation of powers, respect for human rights, civil liberties, and a market economy. We will build a state whose institutions are ruled by administrative and financial transparency, free of corruption.

Yes, I can understand why many Palestinians would be strongly opposed to such a document.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:26 AM
September 11, 2002
September 11, 2000


The last time I was in one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center was on September 11, 2000. Exactly one year to the minute before United flight #175 crashed into the South Tower I was sitting in an office on its 74th floor. I had a meeting with someone from Morgan Stanley, trying to persuade him to buy my software, or invest in my company, or both. I still have the visitor badge they gave me at the downstairs security desk. Two days later I had a similar meeting at Salomon Smith Barney in 7 WTC. That building was also destroyed. I understand that all the people I met with in those two meetings survived the terror attacks. Some of their colleagues did not.

I've been to the Trade Center several other times. Back in 1989-1991 I made a number of business trips to lower Manhattan and I usually stayed at what used to be called the Vista Hotel (later the Marriott) which was in between the two towers. I always thought of going up to the observation deck, and also having a meal at Windows on the World. But I never got around to it. I was there on business and didn't find the time, but no big deal, I thought, because there would always be another time.

But now there won't be another time.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:19 AM
September 10, 2002
World Hug Day

The extremely useful Tim Blair tells us about World Hug Day. Go now and give an Islamic fascist a hug they will never forget

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:12 PM
A Lawyers' Lawyer Joke

The following is a lawyer joke that is currently circulating by e-mail among lawyers (courtesy of My Wife, Esq.)

A lawyer dies in a car accident on his 40th birthday and finds himself greeted at the Pearly Gates by a brass band. Saint Peter runs over, shakes his hand and says "Congratulations!!!"

"Congratulations for what?" asks the lawyer.

"Congratulations for what?!?!?" says Saint Peter. "We're celebrating the fact that you lived to be 160 years old."

"But that's not true," says the lawyer. "I only lived to be forty."

"That's impossible," says Saint Peter. "We've added up your time sheets."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:58 PM
A Problem and its Solution

Glenn Reynolds today points to two otherwise unrelated columns.

The first, by Susan Sontag in the New York Times, says that

When the government declares war on terrorism — terrorism being a multinational, largely clandestine network of enemies — it means that the government is giving itself permission to do what it wants. When it wants to intervene somewhere, it will. It will brook no limits on its power.
Sontag is right (on this point, at least) but doesn't offer an effective solution.

The solution comes by way of Michael Gove in the Times of London, who calls our noxious enemies by name:

One of those toxins, Islamic fundamentalism, created the killing fever in the bloodstream of the men behind September 11. The other poison, Arab national socialism, is driving Saddam towards the acquisition of terrible weapons with which he could pose an even greater threat to the West. The most important lesson of the past year is that the world’s security now depends on dealing with these poisons. And the surest way of doing so is to tackle the cultures in which they grow. For the real root causes of the conflict which has become known as the War on Terror are the failures of Arab and Islamic elites.

Yes, an open-ended war on "terrorism" can only lead to an unhelpful and dangerous expansion of state power -- think idiotic airport "security" and the war on marijuana and every other federal stupidity and multiply by 10 and insert into several places in your daily routine for the rest of your life. And we'll still be no safer from the real enemy than we are today. But a real war with real objectives against a real enemy can be fought and won. And we won't need to give the federal government yet another big expensive perpetual mission that will only make our lives worse.

In the mid 20th Century our wars were against Communism and European and Japanese Fascism. In the early 21st Century our enemies are Islamism and Arab Fascism. We prevailed in the last century and we will prevail in this century, but only if we stay focused on who the enemy really is and proceed accordingly.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:10 PM
Rall Gall

Ted Rall is a sick individual

(With, uh, thanks to the LGF reader who pointed it out)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:20 AM
Actions vs. Words

Actions speak louder than words. Especially when there's disagreement over the words.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:59 AM
It's the ideas, stupid

"Students" at Montreal's Concordia University protested violently to prevent former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking.

Meanwhile at Colorado College, opponents of Hanan Ashrawi's lecture at a September 11 remembrance forum respond to Ashrawi by inviting Daniel Pipes to give an alternative lecture.

One group fights ideas with sticks and stones and de facto censorship, the other group fights ideas with different ideas. Which group implicitly concedes the inferiority of its own ideas? Which group is more likely to prevail in the end?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:58 AM
September 09, 2002
Tom Friedman gets a C-

Tom Friedman comments on the NEA's Sept. 11 lesson plan:

This is a moment for moral clarity, and here are the three lessons I would teach
He performs brilliantly in parts, but based on his total score and on a straight scale I have to give him a C-.

Lesson #1:

Who are they? This lesson would emphasize that while most people in the world are good and decent, there are evil people out there who are not poor, not abused — but envious. These extremists have been raised in societies that have failed to prepare them for modernity, and the most evil among them chose on Sept. 11 to lash out at the symbol of modernity — America
...
Assigned reading: Larry Miller's Jan. 14, 2002, essay in The Weekly Standard: "Listen carefully: We're good, they're evil, nothing is relative...The plain fact is that our country has, with all our mistakes and blunders, always been and always will be the greatest beacon of freedom, charity, opportunity, and affection in history.

Friedman's grade for Lesson #1: 10/10.

Lesson #2:

Who are we? We Americans are not better than any other people, but the Western democratic system we live by is the best system on earth. Unfortunately, in the Arab-Muslim world, there is no democracy, too few women's rights and too little religious tolerance....
Assigned reading: "An Autumn of War," by the military historian Victor Davis Hanson
Friedman's grade for Lesson #2: 10/10.

So far so good. But Friedman loses it on Lesson #3:

Why do so many foreigners reject the evil perpetrators of 9/11 but still dislike America? It's because, while we have the best system of governance, we are not always at our best in how we act toward the world. [a] Because we want to drive big cars, we support repressive Arab dictators so they will sell us cheap oil. [b] Because our presidents want to get votes, they readily tell the Palestinians how foolishly they are behaving, but they hesitate to tell Israelis how destructive their West Bank settlements are for the future of the Jewish state. [c] Because we want to consume as much energy as we please, we tell the world's people they have to be with us in the war on terrorism but we don't have to be with them in the struggle against global warming and for a greener planet.

The point, class, is that while evil people hate us for who we are, many good people dislike us for what we do. And if we want to win their respect we need to be the best, most consistent and most principled global citizens we can be.

Assigned readings: The U.S. Constitution, Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points speech and the Declaration of Independence.


Grade for part [a]: 1.5 out of 4 points. I agree that our desire for oil entangles us with some unsavory folks in the Middle East. But the reality is that the societies over there are so dysfunctional, it has nothing to do with our support of repressive regimes, no matter who we deal with we're screwed and so are they.
Grade for part [b]: 0 out of 3 points.Israel's conflict with the Palestinians is not about the "occupation", except if you mean the occupation of Tel Aviv and Netanya. The ongoing settlement of the West Bank may or may not be a good idea, but it would be a moot point if there were a viable partner on the Palestinian side that can both accept Israel's right to exist and defend itself against its own extremists.
Grade for part [c]: 0 out of 3 points.I have no idea where the non-sequitur about the environment comes from, or why he thinks that our environment stardards are in fact worse than the rest of the world's, or why rejection of the Kyoto Treaty represents a blanket rejection of all forms of environmental cooperation, or why there is any causal connection between disagreements over environmental policies and terrorism. (And by the way , the air pollution caused by the collapse of the Twin Towers is certainly one of the worst environmental disasters since ... Iraq's burning of the Kuwaiti oil fields. Do our enemies show concern for the environment? I don't think they do)

And as far as Wilson's Fourteen Points go, I'm not sure how much of this post-WWI peace proposal is relevant to today's world, but Point 7 would seem to be the most appealing on its face ("Belgium, the whole world will agree, must be evacuated and restored..."), until you recall that it's not talking about evacuating the EU from Brussels.

Total score: 21.5/30 = 71.7%, or a C-

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:15 AM
A non-violent response to terrorism?

The San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday tells the story of Oakland resident Barry Amundson, whose brother Craig was killed in the Pentagon on September 11. Barry is involved in an advocacy group called Peaceful Tomorrows, which seeks "nonviolent responses to terrorism".

I am sorry for the unimaginable grief that Craig Amundson's family members must have endured. I'm not going to criticize Barry Amundson for the way in which he chooses to mourn the loss of his brother. And I should also say that I am open to non-violent responses to terrorism. I am not interested in violence for its own sake, and I am not interested in revenge for its own sake, I am interested in preventing further acts of terrorism. A non-violent response doesn't have to consist of appeasing the terrorist. Indeed, appeasement will only reward and encourage more terrorism. But if there is an effective non-violent response to terrorism, I am certainly interested in hearing what it might be.

So no, I am not writing this post to criticize Barry Amundson and his colleagues in Peaceful Tomorrows. I am writing this to criticize Sam McManis and the S.F. Chronicle for publishing a lame article. Because in the entire 1,800 word article, we never once learn what the non-violent response to terrorism actually is. We do learn about Barry and Craig's childhood in Iowa, and that Craig used to drive to his Army job in a car that had a "Visualize World Peace" bumpersticker, and that Barry's girlfriend doesn't believe that bombing Afghanistan is the answer.

"Some people think we want to sing 'Kumbaya' with Osama bin Laden," [a Peaceful Tomorrows] says. "But we're really the opposite. We're just people all around the country who are nonpartisan but want to get the point across that nonviolence can be the answer. I think of us as 'sleeper peace cells.' I'm North Carolina. Rita Lasar's in New York. Ryan in the Midwest and Kelly and Barry in California. We're out to do good."
Oh. They're out to do good. I can see what they're against -- they're against war. But I read the article three times and I still can't figure what it is that they're for, other than doing "good", because the Chronicle doesn't bother to tell us.

Then I looked up Peaceful Tomorrows on google, because the Chronicle didn't even bother to give the URL www.peacefultomorrows.org. After perusing their site, I still can't figure out what Peaceful Tomorrows' nonviolent response is, except to oppose U.S. military action, anytime, anyplace, and for any reason apparently. How that is supposed to be an effective response to terrorism, I don't know, they don't tell us, and Sam McManis of the Chronicle apparently didn't bother to ask them either.

The more I read useless and uncritical drivel like this in the S.F. Chronicle, the more I realize that large pieces of the mainstream media's franchise are vulnerable to competition from bloggers and other non-traditional online journalists. The mainstream media have inherent strengths that online soloists do not have, but they're going to have to start working harder and doing a better job than they have been doing. Otherwise the online freelance writers will do to Sam McManis what the Linux community is doing to, say, Sun Microsystems' in-house proprietary system developers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:10 AM
Letters to the S.F. Chronicle comemmorating 9/11

The San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday published a page of letters from readers with thoughts about the events of 9/11. These two take the cake:

"Many people worldwide see Western Judeo-Christian culture, epitomized by American-style capitalism and hedonism, as a blot on the escutcheon of the human race that must be stamped out. As the sordid sagas of Enron, Anderson, WorldCom and other pillars of our business community unfolded this past year, it became much easier to understand that view."

TOM BILLINGS
Alameda

Well, Tom, I have no idea why you think Enron and WorldCom are even remotely an excuse for the deaths of 3,000 people who didn't even work for those companies. But if you are such a snivelling ingrate that you find it "easier to understand" the view that America should be stamped out, what are you waiting for? Please, do your part and either relocate to, say, Burkino Fasso, or hurl yourself off the Bay Bridge. As you've acknowledged elsewhere, Alameda is an overcrowded town, and I know there are many people out there who would be grateful to live in your house.
---------
"The tragedy of Sept. 11 provided an opportunity for the United States to improve its relations with those nations that had been ambivalent toward Uncle Sam. Unfortunately, the actions of the Bush administration have done everything to undermine this."

HUGH KEITH-JOHNSTON
San Francisco

Hugh, if a serial killer came to the workplace of one of your family members and killed her, would you use the occasion as an opportunity to improve your relations with the killer? Well, maybe you would. Some other people apparently did.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:03 AM
September 08, 2002
Dumb Movie

Watching this dumb movie robbed me of 112 minutes of my life that I will never get back.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:02 PM
September 07, 2002
Looking Back

Rosh Hashana is traditionally a time for Jews to reflect on the past year. Here are two reflections from two different Jewish voices. One has a clue, the other is Noam Chomsky

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:55 PM
"Sophistry from a Peanut Brain"

A credulous optimist who goes by the name "Demosthenes" shares with us a public opinion poll, called "The Potential for a Nonviolent Intifada". Demosthenes lauds the

Hopeful survery [sic] results from Search for Common Ground:

80% of Palestinians would support a large-scale non-violent protest movement and 56% would participate in its activities.

Yes, I'm sure they would, but if only that were the whole story.

Demosthenes throws down a challenge:

How much you want to bet this little study doesn't end up on LGF or Instapinion
It already has been mentioned on Instapundit. Les Dabney, in Demosthenes comments section, raises the bar:
I am betting it will end up on LGF or Instastupid but it will be slammed with as much sophistry as their peanut brains can come up with.
I hope that LGF does add to the discussion on this. In the meantime, here are my two cents:

Palestinian support for non-violent resistance means nothing unless its accompanied by rejection of violent methods. As Win Fitzpatrick points out, this survey also says that "Palestinians show equal levels of support for violent methods". On page 6, there is a graph which shows that 57% of the Palestinians think that armed force against Israelis makes Israelis more willing to make compromises. (which seems to be little more than a fantasy, in light of what they've lost in the last two years)

Then there is this other poll from a Palestinian organization, taken just a few weeks ago:

"43% support, and 53% oppose, internal Palestinian efforts aiming at ending bombing attacks against civilians inside Israel"
"52% support, and 46% oppose, bombing attacks against civilians inside Israel, but more that 90% support armed attacks against soldiers and settlers"

Clearly there are some Palestinians who favor an exclusively peaceful resolution to the conflict, and I wish them well as they are the best hope for peace in the region. In the meantime, all the evidence is that they are outnumbered and outgunned by the violent rejectionists who are leading the Palestinian movement.

The unyielding faith of certain American liberals in the good intentions of the Palestinian revolution never ceases to fascinate me, but we'll save that forensic analysis for another day.

If Mr. Dabney (who entertains himself by equating George W. Bush with Hitler) wants to call these observations sophistry from a peanut brain, he's entitled to his opinion. But I think that "sophistry from a peanut brain" applies more aptly to Jimmy Carter's recent op-ed in the WaPo.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:24 AM
September 06, 2002
Here and There, Sep 6

Our favorite labor-union think tank economist Max Sawicky, always fabricating reasons to lament the absence of a Communist government in America, is now outraged that so many Americans have consumer debt. Yes, it's evil how the greedy corporate state oppresses and exploits the working class by forcing them to acquire the good things in life using money they might never even earn. Max's solution to this crisis: Big Government.

Scott Hanson, an American living in Germany writes this blog. He apparently didn't find any references to the 1972 Olympics Massacre in the German press, other than the ones that I posted. He does remind us, though, that this Sep. 5 was the 25th anniversary of another terror attack involving Palestinians and the German Red Army Faction.

Jimmy Carter demonstrates his idiocy by rejecting U.S. military action against Iraq, instead saying that there is "an urgent need for U.N. action to force unrestricted inspections in Iraq". But since Iraq has been chronically rejecting U.N. demands for unrestricted weapons inspections for years now, how else could one possibly force something without using force?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:46 PM
Mazal Tov Redux

I am posting the diary of my recent trip to Boston for my sister's wedding. I can promise you that this is the only true wedding story you will read this year that involves travel with an infant, stupid airport security, a sleep-deprived wife, a dysfunctional bi-national family, a laconic Israeli teanager, a clan of women who don't really grow old, two different kinds of artificial meat, and a very useful SleeperPeepers sleeping mask. Did I mention the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:04 AM
The Liberation of Iraq is Underway

From the Daily Telegraph: 100 jets join attack on Iraq
About 100 American and British aircraft took part in an attack on Iraq's major western air defence installation yesterday in the biggest single operation over the country for four years.

The raid appeared to be a prelude to the type of special forces operations that would have to begin weeks before a possible American-led war. It was launched two days before a war summit between President George W Bush and Tony Blair in America.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:45 AM
September 05, 2002
Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Saddam Hussein, in addition to all of his other wonderful talents, is apparently also a shadchan. Der Spiegel reports that Saddam has married off his 14-year-old granddaughter Moj to a distant relative, in order to strengthen family ties. Moj, daughter of Saddam's younger son and favored successor, Kusai, apparently married the son of Saddam's cousin Adnan Khairallah Tulfah on August 22. Tulfah was the Iraqi Defense Minister until his death in a mysterious helicopter crash in 1989 after a disagreement with Saddam.

Mazal Tov to the, uh, young couple and may further inbreeding in the Hussein family produce many more offspring who are as emotionally stable as Saddam's son Uday.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:24 PM
One Day in September

This is my bonus post for the Munich Olympics Massacre Blogburst

Others in the blogburst may mention the film One Day in September, but I'll recommend it too. It's very well done and more edge-on-the-seat gripping than nearly any Hollywood thriller. It goes into more detail on the screw-ups alluded to below. And it ends with an open question of conspiracy, that I dare to question even further.

Some of the terrorists survived the failed rescue operation and were held in German custody. Less than two months later a Lufthansa jet was hijacked with a demand to release the terrorists, and the Germans caved in to the demand. The circumstances of the hijacking were mysterious, suggesting that it might have been a face-saving set-up for Germany to get rid of the terrorists, in exchange for not having any more terror attacks on its soil. Very disturbing. The film leaves this hanging out there, implying the Germans caved and denied justice. That's quite possible. On the other hand, I don't recall the Israelis making too much of a public fuss about this and Israel has since assassinated most of the terrorists (only 1 survives and he was interviewed for the film). That makes me wonder if Germany did a two-legged deal. The obvious one with the terrorists (we'll let you go, just leave us alone) and the other one with Israel (we'll let them out of jail, you can eliminate them yourself). I can't help but think that the justice Israel obtained was more of a deterrent, and, yes, more satisfying than if those guys went to a European prison. Not to mention taking away a potential pretext for another outrage.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:27 AM
The Cheerful Games

The following article is part of a blogburst - a simultaneous and cross-linked posting of many blogs on the same theme. This blogburst commemorates the Munich Olympics Massacre which began in the dawn hour of September 5th, 1972. Go to the The Index of the Munich Massacre Blogburst to find links to all the other articles.

Since the attack took place in Germany I was curious to see how the German press is looking back on the events. Recall that 1972 was only 27 years after the end of World War II, which means that the war was closer to the time of the Olympics than the Olympics are to the present time. This was the first Olympics held in Germany since Hitler cast his shadow over the Berlin Olympics of 1936. For Germans, the Munich Olympics were very much an opportunity to move beyond the Nazi legacy and to demonstrate that they were a normal country again. The official motto for the event was Heitere Spiele, Cheerful Games

I found this very comprehensive site , of uncertain authorship which calls itself "the unofficial homepage of the cheerful and tragic Munich games". It devotes a few pages to what it calls "The Olympic Tragedy". It includes background information, a detailed chronology, reactions from around the world and photographs. Especially chilling are the photographs of the terrorists.

This article from the Reuters German service, dated Sept 1, 2002, is headlined Thirty years after the Munich Olympic attack there are many open questions The article is written from a German perspective.

Heinz Hohensinn can't forget the scene to this day "It was the most horrible moment of my life," said the former policeman about the [failed rescue] operation "The worst was when my colleague was killed next to me. He was a family man with two children"
and it continues
38 [sic] years after the Nazis misappropriated the 1936 Berlin Olympics, West Germany wanted to put on the Cheerful Games in Munich. It took a considerable effort for many Israelis to travel to Germany. Police chief Manfred Schreiber deliberately minimized the security measures in the Olympic Village. He didn't want any barbed wire and guard posts to evoke memories of the concentration camps in the former "capital of the movement"
and the lack of adequate security is what made it so easy for the terrorists to enter the village. Moving on to the shootout at the airport, the authorities reject the criticism that they acted amateurishly.
Nevertheless, many open questions remain. The police weren't prepared for such an operation, said Guenter Krause from the Interior Ministry. Hohensinn said that some of the equipment dated back to the Second World War. Then there was a series of mishaps: The sharpshooters didn't have radios, the officers who were in the airplane dressed as flight crew left the plane of their own accord. The Palestinians were able to watch the first rescue attempt in the dormitory on television. Shortly after the massacre the government learned from the consequences and formed the elite GSG-9 unit for future operations

Sueddeutsche Zeitung, the main Munich newspaper ran this piece on August 31, which is the recollections of Olov Enquist, a Swedish author and journalist who covered and wrote a book about the 1972 games. His article is harshly critical of the amateurish German security and the decision of the Olympic organizers to rush to end the hostage crisis so the games could resume. He ends

They died and the games died with them. Nothing in hindsight could have saved those who died on the military airfield, where they were shot, because the games had to go on.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:22 AM
September 04, 2002
Close Call

Ha'aretz reports that Israeli security forces prevented what a senior police officer described as one of the biggest terror bombing attempts since the start of the intifada, when they intercepted a car in the early hours of Thursday morning filled with 600 kilograms of explosives near Pardes Hana, not far from Hadera.

What I'm wondering about is, where do these people get the money to pay for the explosives and the cars (unless they're stolen) and the organization and infrastructure? Oh yeah. never mind.

UPDATE: Israeli blogger Shoshannah points to a video clip of the controlled detonation of the car. Shimon Peres is quoted in the video (in Hebrew) as saying if the bomb went off it would "meshaneh et pnei ha'ezor". Literal meaning: "change the face of the region". Not sure exactly what he meant, but it certainly sounds like the response would be far more comprehensive than anything seen to date. Let's just hope it doesn't have to come to that.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:15 PM
Happy Birthday

A very special happy birthday to Olivia who is 10 years old today.
She is the best big sister that Little Baby Dave could hope for, and the best little girl that her parents could hope for. We're very proud.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:08 AM
Here and There, Sep 4

A larger than normal number of pinheads will converge on our nation's capital later this month.

Imshin has a lot of good stuff on her blog this week. Then again, she usually does. Whenever I see an idiotic editorial about Israel in the S.F. Chronicle and I need to clear my head, I go and read Imshin.

Why does this graphic portray K-12 test scores for "Whites", "African-Americans" and "Hispanics" but not for other minority and immigrant groups, such as the various Asian minorities? Might it be that the relative success of some minority groups (such as some Asians) but not others would undermine the implication that "Whites" are somehow responsible for causing others to fail?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:41 AM
September 03, 2002
Here and There: Sep 3

Jerusalem blogger Tal G. is written up in this Ha'aretz article about blogging. It's in Hebrew, and if someone does a complete translation, I'll link to it. The article, for the most part, is one of the better mainstream media articles about blogging that I've seen. It talks about how Tal started blogging early this year, motivated mainly just to say what's on his mind and to tell the English reading world what daily life is like in his home town during the wave of terror attacks, because there wasn't much reported on it in the foreign press. To a lesser extent he tries to persuade people to see things from his mostly right-leaning point of view, but it's mostly about just saying what's on his mind. Now Tal is one of the most widely quoted Israeli bloggers and gets about 1000 visits a day, and more when there's a terror attack. He gets the most reaction from readers when he writes from his own personal experience, such as how he found out about the bus bombing in June that was near his house. Tal says that like many of his blogging colleagues he is critical of the mainstream media which is too politically correct and that the bloggers serve as an alternative to the established media and aren't afraid to express their opinions. The article goes on to argue that it is merely a "fantasy" that the blogosphere will ever be an alternative to the mainstream press, because a lot of reporting is too time consuming and expensive for a part-time blogger to engage in [which is almost silly to argue, because I don't think many bloggers would claim that they are a substitute for the kind of exhaustive primary research and reporting that some full-time journalists do]. The reporter acknowledges Tal's point that bloggers frequently find and correct errors in reports from, say, CNN and BBC, and make the media more accountable. She kind of misses the main point, in my opinion, which is not that the blogosphere is likely to replace the mainstream media, but that it will serve an increasingly important role in adding value to it. Then the article goes off the rails completely and talks about the digital divide and how there are no Palestinian blogs and that it is a fantasy to think that blogs can be an alternative to the mainstream media in the third world where people can't afford computers or the time to blog, ignoring the fact that the mainstream media in the third world is mostly worthless government spew anyway. But congratulations to Tal for the well-deserved publicity back at home. And congratulations too to Bill Quick -- "blogosfira" is now a Hebrew word.

Victor Davis Hanson reviews a dozen years of naysaying.

Diane E gives me grief for my earlier comments on public libraries. Diane makes some good points, as usual. Though she either missed my main point, or I failed to make it: I'm not anti-library by any stretch of the imaganation, I only think that my hometown library would do well to reevaulate their mission for the 21st century and use their limited budget more effectively.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:40 PM
September 02, 2002
Here and There, Sep 2

Al Barger exchanges email with Ray Hanania, Jackie Mason's jilted opening act. Hanania explains that the Lebanese newspaper column where he called the Israeli government "Nazi-like", and expressed hope for the effective destruction of Israel "does not reflect my views ... it did reflect my emotions ...". Well that clears it up for me then.

Bedtime for Gonzo. The very useful Tim Blair tells us about an interview on the Australian ABC with the rapidly deteriorating Hunter S. Thompson, who shares his, uh, thoughts on September 11.

Axis of Evil. Syria is harboring Al Qaeda members in Lebanon, and apparently failed to tell U.S. investigators that Muhammad Atta made a number of mysterious visits to Syria prior to September 11. I suspect that the boy doctor despot from Damascus will soon regret his career change and will wish that he had gone on instead to a comfortable but unremarkable life prescribing eyedrops at an HMO somewhere. ( cookies and milk in Damascus, anybody?)

Joanne Jacobs reports on an idiotic brouhaha about the word niggardly, which is a perfectly legitimate word that unfortunately sounds a bit like a completely unrelated racial slur.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:51 PM
September 01, 2002
Here and There, Sep 1

My Hometown Library I was out and about enjoying the San Francisco summer and wandered into a public library branch. I'm already in the middle of reading a couple good books (this one and this one) so I checked out a few of the more interesting looking CDs that I found in the bin: The Best of Sonny Rollins, Cesaria Evora: cafe atlantico and Creedence Clearwater Revival Chronicle Vol II. What a great deal. I can check out up to 4 CDs for up to 3 weeks. I also learned from a sign (in Spanish) at the check-out counter that they now have People magazine and Cosmopolitan in Spanish! The public library as we know it was invented about 100 years ago at a time when the economics of information were quite a bit different than they are today. Nevertheless, like most government-run institutions the municipal library continues to consume taxes while losing track of how to deliver the most value to the taxpayers. I listen to the fine music of Sonny Rollins while I write this, and I have no objection to Spanish speaking immigrants reading Cosmo in their native language. But I think that offering popular music and trashy magazines in Spanish for free is a stupid waste of my property taxes. Although the original mission of the public library has largely been subsumed by Border's Books, the Internet and the used book shop on the corner, there's much that the public libraries can still do to create value and changes they could make to use their budgets more efficiently. Like focus on teaching immigrants English instead of entertaining them in their native languages; teaching Americans languages of strategic importance such as Arabic and Farsi; concentrate the collections on reference materials that are impractically expensive for individuals to own, while dispensing with all the cheap paperbacks that can be found in used bookstores for a buck or two; close seldom-used branches and keep the remaining ones open during hours that people actually want to use them.

Road to Nowhere. EU foreign ministers are backing a 'road-map' for a Palestinian state, leading to full statehood by 2005. This plan is based on the assumption, along with other fanciful assumptions, that it will be facilitated by "the three moderate Arab states". (As hard as I try, I can't come up with nearly that many, even if I include Michigan). If anybody out there still thinks that the Palestinian political culture has the competence to put on its own pants in the morning, let alone preserve law and order among its own people or respect its neighbors' borders, read this interview with Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon. This should help make it clear why there won't be a Palestinian state within anything close to 3 years. And no, the EU is not a credible broker for peace in the region

Inside the brain of a married guy (I) an attractive young lady approaches me on the street and asks "What time do you have?". The answer which pops into my brain but which I do not say out loud is "For you, I have as much time as you need." Now that I'm happily married and have no use for that sort of idiotic pick-up line, they come to me without my having to try. Back when I was single, it would have taken me a week to think of such a comeback. Why is this? (Fred Lapides will probably have an opinion)

Inside the brain of a married guy (II) I was chatting with a married couple I'm friends with and the woman shares the latest slogan she came up with: I'm the CEO of my own life. I reply I'm also the CEO of my own life, and my wife is the COO of my own life. The man nods understandingly. His wife nods approvingly.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:39 PM