October 31, 2002
Here and There, Oct 31

Nice work if you can get it: Three Hamas "activists" blow themselves up in an apparent "work accident" in a crowded Gaza City neighborhood. Six uninvolved Palestinians were injured in the blast, including a 10 year old girl. Will the "international community" condemn the Hamas for using explosives in a residential building? Be sure to let me know when the furious condemnations start rolling in.

If Meryl Yourish sent you to me looking for information about "merde", the answer is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:16 AM
Roots

The 1880 United States Census records are now available online, courtesy of the Mormon Church.

I found the household record for my great-great-grandparents, Abraham and Julia Rosenheim, who were the first of my ancestors to immigrate to the US. They were both born in Russia in 1843, and came to New York ca. 1870. The census lists Abraham's occupation as "huckster", which back in 1880 simply meant "peddler".

Their middle daughter Ella (b. 1867) married my great-grandfather Isaac Sharkansky ca. 1890. They had five children, including my grandfather. Ella passed away in 1938. I don't know much about her, except that she was a terribly strong-willed woman. My grandma had a tough time with her mother-in-law, and used to describe her to me as "a regular bitch on wheels". But I prefer to think of my great-grandma Ella as the lady who put the Shark in Sharkansky.

I don't know anything about any of my Rosenheim relatives. If anybody who reads this also happens to be descended from Abraham and Julia Rosenheim, please drop me a line

And thanks to the versatile Ned "Paracelsus" Gulley for letting us know about the census records.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:42 AM
October 30, 2002
Molson-chugging Dudley Do-wrongs

And now for something completely Canadian.

I used to think of Canada as our quaint big neighbor up north. The one with cold winters, good hockey, decent beer, bad baseball and Reversing Falls (where my bicycle was once stolen, and promptly recovered, but that's another story). A basically decent, but insecure country, whose biggest claim to fame is that they're not the United States of America, and they proudly fly the Maple Leaf flag all over the place, as if to help people remember that they're not in the USA. This is a country that has pictures of the Queen on the currency, laws to protect its citizens from American media, and a Cuban-style healthcare system that doesn't work nearly as well as they would like to think that it does.

And in the last several months I started to pay closer attention, and began to notice an embarassing odor wafting down from the northern side of the border.

On September 9 at Concordia University in Montreal the police acquiesced to rioters and prevented Benyamin Netanyahu from giving a speech.

On September 12 Jean-Marie Chretien released an offensive speech, blaming America for inviting last year's attacks on the World Trade Center (and an overwhelming number of Canadians apparently share those sentiments)

On October 3 customs officials confiscated copies of a brochure titled "A Moral Defense of Israel" on the grounds that it was hate propaganda.

And just this week the Chretien government removed the tax-exempt status of donations to Magen David Adom, while maintaining the charitable status of several known terrorist organizations, such as Hamas and Hizbollah.

Are these isolated incidents? A sinister new development? Why, no! Canada has a long history of institutionalized anti-Semitism. Back in 1938 when the nations of the world were discussing the quota of Jewish refugees each country was willing to accept and save from Hitler, the Canadian representative volunteered: "None is too many" (read the whole article for more astonishing tales of pre-war Canadian anti-Semitism. It turns out the French Canadians were among the worst, go figure).

The French have earned the sobriquet "Cheese-eating surrender monkeys", and Chris Johnson and Tim Blair have devised comparable epithets for Schröder-style Germans. And Canada now deserves some condescending labels of its own.

Unfortunately, Canadians as a whole seem bland and undistinctive to the point of defying satire. The best I can come up with:

Molson-chugging Dudley Do-wrongs.

Please, send me some more suggestions.

And I should point out that there are many wonderful anti-idiotarians up in Canada. My derision is certainly not aimed at any of them.

UPDATE Meyer Rafael sent me this gem of a news story from today's Tehran Times, headlined "Iran, Canada Call For Expansion of Judicial Ties"

[Canadian Ambassador to Iran] McKinon, for his part, underlined the eagerness of Canadian authorities and politicians to become familiar with the Iranian judicial system.

He said that expansion of relations with Iran in political, economic, technology and scientific fields tops the Canadian government's agenda.

So how's this for another epithet for the list:
Hockey-obsessed Mullah-huggers

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:47 AM
October 29, 2002
Here and There, Oct. 29

Canada revoked the tax-exempt status for donations to Magen David Adom on the grounds that some of MDA's ambulances operate in the occupied territories. I would be less bothered by this if the Canadian government applied this rule equally and penalized the Red Cross chapters in every country that possesses "occupied territory". Like Canada, for example.

Akiva Eldar, writing in Ha'aretz, criticizes the Israeli Labor Party for not reaching out more to dovish liberal American Jews. His theory is that if Labor tried harder to persuade more American Jews to support the Israeli peace camp, those Americans would have been able to put more pressure on the Bush Administration to take a tougher line on Sharon. This all sounds pretty silly, not least of all because liberal American Jews aren't going to have much influence on GWBush to begin with. And putting pressure on Sharon is not a job for Jews in Santa Monica, but for Jews in Beer Sheva. What Eldar's editorial really tells me is that the Israeli peace camp has very little left to offer the Israeli voter.

North Korea rejects demands to give up nuclear program. Who would have guessed?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:35 PM
October 28, 2002
Being Fair to Islam

I've recently gotten in the habit of writing something to the effect of "Religion of Peace kills again" whenever Islamist terrorists invoke their religion to kill somebody. Some might misinterpret this as demeaning sarcasm against a great religion, when in fact the vast majority of Moslems do not support terrorism.

I assure you that I have no ill-will against Islam in particular, and in fact, I am an equal-opportunity critic of senseless murder in the name of religion. So you just watch the next time a group of fanatical Buddhists, for example (and not to single anybody out), kill a bunch of innocent civilians in the hope of achieving Nirvana. You can bet your bottom Dalai that I will write something snide about the crime, e.g. "Religion of Enlightenment strikes again". Especially if the public reaction of Buddhist organizations includes statements along the lines of "How dare those vile non-Buddhist hatemongers to give Buddhism a bad name because of this".

Please be sure to let me know as soon as you hear of an act of deity-driven terrorism -- Shinto, Jain, Buddhist, Islamic, Christian, whatever -- and I will immediately get on the case.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:54 PM
Here and There, Oct. 28

Bruce R. expresses his disagreement with self-appointed anti-warblogger Tom Coates. And Bill Quick is now offering the Tom Coates award -- for the best warblogger. Bill is accepting nominations.

George W Bush says "Saddam has made the United Nations look foolish". And to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt: "No one can make you look foolish without your permission"

Minnesota Democrats dig up a fossil from their distant past: Mondalesaurus

Religion of Peace kills again

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:25 AM
October 27, 2002
Here and There, Oct 27
Brazil voted to flush itself down the toilet.
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:23 PM
October 26, 2002
Medea, killer of children

The San Francisco Chronicle today gave us a gushing front-page profile of Susie "Medea" Benjamin, a founder of lunatic-fringe temper-tantrum group Global Exchange, and by profession a full-time Useful Idiot on behalf of Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, Mullah Omar, etc.

The article was a puff piece timed for the anti-America, pro-Saddam riots that Benjamin helped organize today. Headline: "S.F. woman's relentless march for peace". In typical fashion, the Chronicle portrayed Benjamin as a noble activist, and didn't bother to ask her any difficult questions, such as "If we don't go to war against Iraq, how would you prevent Saddam Hussein from getting nuclear weapons, or does that scenario not bother you?" or "What would you have to say for yourself if we do leave Saddam Hussein in power and he goes on to kill several hundred thousand more people?"

The story does reveal a number of interesting items from Benjamin's background. For example, she earned a master's degree in economics (but apparently didn't pay attention in class). She visited Cuba once:

at first, Cuba's comparative social equality "made it seem like I died and went to heaven." Then she bumped into the limitations of free speech while working at a Communist-run newspaper; she was deported after daring to write an anti-government article.
Go figure. Nevertheless, Global Exchange continues to support the Castro regime with an unquestioning, religious-like passion

Most intriguing is her main goal in life:

Blunting the world's inequities that allow some children to starve and others to grow up in comfort would become her life work.
It's interesting that she now calls herself Medea, after a mythical character who murdered her own children. But I'm pleased to report that she has made progress toward her goal. Susie Benjamin's massive protest in San Francisco caused a horrendous traffic jam. A friend of ours was stuck in traffic for two hours on the way to David's birthday party, and her 14-month old daughter spent the whole time being uncomfortable and screaming her head off. The protest rally, the intent of which was to help Saddam stay in power, couldn't possibly have done anything useful for the children of Iraq.

But it did blunt the inequity by making at least one American child miserable for a few hours.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:11 PM
Happy Birthday!!!

Today was Little Baby David's 1st birthday. A year ago he looked like this:

Today he was doing this:

Where does the time go?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:13 PM
October 25, 2002
MSNBC Controversy

Will Femia is the controversial editor of the controversial Best of Blogs column on MSNBC. MSNBC is a controversial joint venture between two controversial corporations, GE (formerly led by the controversial Jack Welch) and Microsoft, manufacturer of the controversial Windows operating system, and led by the controversial Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.

Femia describes Little Green Footballs as a "popular but controversial Warblog", backing down from an earlier, and even more controversial characterization of LGF "some may find its content hateful or even racist" Femia asks the controversial question "Is LGF too hateful for the Best of Blogs?". He defends this question with another question: "Is it possible to ask if a blog is hateful (or biased or anything else) without simultaneously accusing it of such?"

Perhaps it is. And I have a few questions of my own:

Is Will Femia a registered sex offender? Was he a co-consipirator in the Washington area sniper attacks? Has he ever robbed a liquor store? Does he hate gay people and/or pet owners? Has he ever taken a bribe from a foreign government? Does he wash his hands after using the bathroom? Is he simply an imbecile? Is it possible to ask any of these questions without accusing Femia of anything?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:41 PM
More Pelosi Sleaze
House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi apparently has an unprecedented two "leadership PACs", which allows her to skirt federal campaign laws. I wrote about her best known PAC, the wretchedly paleo-liberal "PAC to the Future" earlier this week. The second PAC, "Team Majority", is effectively a branch of the first PAC, sharing the same donors, recipients, and decision makers, differing only in legal form, not substance.
This is a blatant violation of the spirit, and possibly the letter, of campaign finance laws. Pelosi's bagman Leo McCarthy, who is treasurer of both PACs, admitted the ethical failure by saying: "We made a good faith effort to make sure we went about this in the correct way". [quote from an AP story, no longer available online -ed.] Which is a smarmy way of saying "We were careful to use the hidden loopholes in the laws that Pelosi helped craft so that we could subvert the intent of the law"

This is yet another example of Pelosi's habitual sleaze and hypocrisy. Pelosi likes to position herself as a champion of campaign finance reform, but behaves as if those rules apply to everybody else but her.

Nancy Pelosi aspires to be Speaker of the House. When you vote for your local Democrat House candidate, you are effectively voting for Nancy to be Speaker of the House some day. If that sounds like a good idea, then vote for the Democrat.

UPDATE (Nov. 8) Pelosi has secured the position of House Minority Leader, making her an even stronger candidate to become Speaker should the Democrats retake the House in 2004. A complete index of my blog entries devoted to Nancy Pelosi is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:45 PM
Sen. Wellstone Killed in Plane Crash

CNN TV just confirmed that Sen. Paul Wellstone was killed when his campaign plane crashed in Northern Minnesota. All eight people on board died in the crash, including the Senator's wife Sheila and daughter Marcia. Paul and Sheila Wellstone are survived by two other children and six grandchildren.

My heart goes out to the Wellstone family and to the families of the other victims of the crash.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:51 AM
October 24, 2002
Here and There, Oct. 24

Someone at the San Francisco Chronicle found the light switch today. After months of printing editorials from left-wing Americans who seem to know for a fact that going to war against Iraq will only "create more terrorists", the Chron finally published an op-ed from an Iraqi-American who still has family in Iraq. John Kanno writes:

What's been missing from the debate has been the voices of the Iraqi people who have experienced Hussein's brutality. We got a glimpse of it this week with those pictures of wives and mothers pleading for news of their missing loved ones in Baghdad and all over the country.
...
To those who say the United States should not take any military action in Iraq, I say, "That's what was said about Adolph Hitler."...
and he gives his reasons why removing Saddam will only help his people and closes with "I'm 200 percent behind the president". Read the whole thing.

Oh, Deer The land of my birth is awash with scandal.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:30 AM
The Arab Basement

Thomas Friedman says the problem is not the "Arab Street" but beneath the street in the Arab Basement, which is where all the terrorists are.

So what to do? The only sensible response is to defeat those in the Arab basement, who are beyond politics and diplomacy, while at the same time working to alleviate the grievances, unemployment and sense of humiliation that is felt on the Arab street, so that fewer young people will leave the street for the basement, or sympathize with those down there — as millions of Arabs do today
...
My guess is that the only way to stop the drift of young Arabs from the street to the basement is by administering some shock therapy to this whole region. Could replacing Saddam Hussein with a progressive Iraqi regime be such a positive shock? I don't know. I don't know if the Bush team really wants to do that, or if the American people want to pay for it. But I do know this: If America made clear that it was going into Iraq, not just to disarm Iraq but to empower Iraq's people to implement the Arab Human Development Report, well, the Arab basement still wouldn't be with us, but the Arab street just might
Faster, please.

And Friedman doesn't exactly say this, although he almost says it, and I take his comments to the next level: Arab and Islamic terrorism is not primarily motivated by hatred for America or Israel. Those are just the external excuses for resentments against the terrorists own societies. Put the shoe on the other foot and think about it in these terms: Americans, especially Jewish Americans, have many good reasons to be pissed-off at, say, Saudi Arabia. But how Jewish Americans go off and commit acts of terrorism against Saudi facilities around the world? Not many, and the reason for that is because of the society we grew up in, and not because of how awful Saudi Arabia is.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:09 AM
That's my boy
Little Baby David is very close to walking on his own. And he just learned how to wave "bye-bye". And he just got his first tooth. And his daddy finally bought a digital camcorder.
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:26 AM
October 23, 2002
Mustard Gas and Moral Equivalence

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that vials of a toxic substance, suspected to be crystallized mustard gas, were found in San Francisco's Presidio this week. The vials are believed to be stray discards from US Army training exercises more than 30 years ago.

In an interesting display of moral equivalence, the Chronicle goes on to give examples of mustard gas use in warfare

The gas was also reportedly used in the Italian-Ethiopian conflict of 1936, the Sino-Japanese conflict during WWII, and in the mid-1980s during the war between Iraq and Iran.
I think I would have described some of these conflicts with a slightly stronger emphasis on the party that actually used the poison gas. For example:
Italy used the gas in its conquest of Ethiopia in 1935-36, Japan used the gas in its subjugation of China in the 1930s and 40s, and Iraq used the gas in its attack on Iran in the 1980s
I think I also would have noted that Egypt used mustard gas against Yemeni civilians in the 1960s.

But it's refreshing to see, at least, that the Chronicle plays the game of moral equivalence in other situations, not just when it criticizes, say, Israel and the United States for standing up to aggression.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:26 PM
Professor Plate gives me an 'F'

Tom Plate, the UCLA professor/journalist whose columns I critiqued last week posted a comment:

I will defend to my death your tight [sic] to post these comments, however juvenile and even libelous. They made my day -- the best laugh in a long time! Cheers

p.s. i agree about the pix, though

I wrote him back:
Thanks for writing. I'm glad you had a good laugh. If you'd care to write a more thoughtful response that goes beyond the slur of "juvenile" and the veiled threat of "libelous", I will be happy to post your reply.
his riposte:
It's hard to take you seriously, because of what you wrote. You can't seek to engage people at such a low level and expect a high level response. You have to grow up some time.

Cheers

I thought the final "Cheers" was a nice touch.

He's entitled to disagree with the form and substance of my critique, and he's entitled to have difficulty taking me seriously. But my comments were centered on specific things that he wrote. I think it's even harder, no, impossible, to take someone seriously when they dismiss a critic as beneath talking to and also hold themselves above responding to actual criticism. But then again that type of behavior is consistent with the authoritarian regimes whose censored newspapers help pay Plate's salary. (e.g. China, Singapore, Indonesia)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:10 PM
Letter to the S.F. Chronicle

From our old friend, Maurice Englander:

North Korea is a greater threat than Iraq

Editor -- The United States does have real enemies, but Iraq isn't one of them.

With North Korea's acknowledgment that it has nuclear weapons, the garment of make-believe has been stripped away to reveal President Bush's lies about Iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. North Korea also has a large army facing thousands of U.S. troops at the border with South Korea. It has a leader no less likable than Saddam Hussein. Will we threaten North Korea as we have threatened Iraq? No. Demand weapons inspections? No. Demand regime change? You can bet we won't.

We emerged from our last war with North Korea bloodied and dangerously close to all-out war with China. We won't go that route again. As to Iraq? What enemy? What weapons? What army? What delivery systems? Why war? We want the oil, but getting it will come at too high a price in blood.

Time to begin to deal sensibly and diplomatically with other nations, and not with threats of war that will cost us far more than the futile Vietnam War cost us. More and more it is beginning to look as though we have met the enemy, and that enemy is a reckless, war-mongering Bush administration.

MAURICE ENGLANDER

San Francisco

Thank you for that, Maurice. By reasoning that "because North Korea has nuclear weapons, Iraq can't have them too", you have demonstrated that you are impervious to logic. At the same time, you seem to criticize Bush for not using force against North Korea, even though you insist that the solution to all conflicts is diplomacy. Which is actually what allowed North Korea to sneak away with a nuclear bomb in the first place. So it's hard for me to figure out just what your point is except that you apparently feel that George W Bush is a bigger threat to the world than are either Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong Il.

The diligent Googler will find that Maurice Englander has a track record of making interesting statements. Such as a letter to the Examiner where he defends the right of people to defecate on our city sidewalks, and another letter where he writes that creating a Communist utopia is the only realistic solution to the homeless problem. And best of all:

Maurice Englander, a World War II veteran and San Francisco native, traded in his dog tags for peace necklaces, three to be exact, and denounced violence as a solution to America's war on terrorism.

"I'm a decorated soldier of World War II and I know that violence doesn't solve things," Englander said. "We should solve things in the pursuit of the people who did this, but not in the U.S. to unilaterally bomb countries. It will only create more enemies."

. Either he fought for the losing side in World War II, or he slept through the whole war and its aftermath. Excuse me, but it actually was violence that solved our Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo problems, liberated Europe from the Nazis, and Asia from the Imperial Japanese. And last I heard the people we rescued from the tyrants became our friends.

Once again, the Surrender Now! folks reveal their intellectual, factual and moral bankrupcy. The one good thing I can say about Maurice Englander is that he is a retired schoolteacher, so he is no longer filling the heads of our young people with illogical nonsense.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:02 AM
October 22, 2002
Here and There: Oct. 22

Simon for Governor. With increasing doubts about Bill Simon, the people are demanding Laurence Simon. At least most of the campaign signs could remain the same.

Axis of Ignorance: Egypt upholds prison sentence for a webmaster for posting a profane and politically sensitive poem on the Internet. Will many of the West's self-appointed "progressive intellectuals" speak out against this medieval assault on human rights? doubt it.

France and Russia are happy to go along with UN Security Council resolutions against Iraq, provided however that the resolutions don't carry any weight. Remind me -- wasn't it Russia that signed a non-aggression treaty with Hitler in 1939 and France that capitulated in 1940? Please do send us your foreign policy advice, Jacques and Vladimir, and we'll get back to you.

MSNBC's "Best of Blogs" column trashed the Little Green Footballs blog with the ridiculous charges of racism and being a "hate site". To be fair, if LGF's Charles Johnson hates anything at all, he hates terrorism, hypocrisy and the refusal by many to recognize the dangers that exist in the world. LGF is one of the most useful sites on the Internet that helps educate the public about the threats from radical elements in the Islamic and Arab worlds -- largely by linking to Arab and Islamic sources. But contrary to the ignorant and baseless accusations levelled against him by MSNBC, Johnson targets his criticisms only against the perpetrators of the violence and hatred. There is nothing in his writing to suggest broad prejudice against an entire religion or ethnic group. MSNBC should wake up and recognize the real sources of hatred and violence in the world, and not smear the messengers who help point them out to the rest of us. I sent MSNBC an e-mail in support of Little Green Footballs, and so should you: bestblog@msnbc.com.

Today's headline reads: Palestinians Welcome Statehood Plan. Yesterday's bus bombing must have been the celebration.

Jay Nordlinger tells a tale of Judenrein furniture

Perhaps we were too hasty to execute Timothy McVeigh. He's not going to help us answer any of the interesting questions that keep popping up about a possible Iraqi connection. Then again, wouldn't he have said something about this when he was still alive?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:09 PM
Forward into the Past

House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi, who plans to be Speaker of the House someday, has her own Political Action Committee, called PAC to the Future. I imagine that the word "Future" in the title is meant to convey that Pelosi and the PAC recipients all support progress. In fact, many of the PAC's recipients are, like Pelosi herself, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which has nothing to do with progress and is all about a return to the paleo-liberal failures of the past.

The recipient list of Nancy's PAC reads like a roll call of the dimmest bulbs in Congress. The top recipient this campaign cycle was Earl "his opponent is supported by the Jewish lobby" Hilliard, who scored $15,000. Likewise, Pelosi was tied for #1 on Hilliard's donor list. Hilliard will not be returning to Congress in January as he was trounced in the primary by Artur Davis.

Other retrograde beneficiaries of Nancy's largesse include the lame-brained lame duck Cynthia McKinney, Sen. Paul Wellstone, useful idiots David Bonior and Jim McDermott of the Committee to Re-elect President Saddam Hussein, the ethically challenged and boorish Sheila Jackson Lee, John "reparations" Conyers, Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-His Father), someone named Huey P Long, (but presumably not that Huey P Long), primary losing Schwarzenegger brother-in-law Mark Kennedy Shriver, and Mel Carnahan, who is apparently still dead.

As I explained last week, when you vote for your local Democrat House candidate, you're also voting for Nancy Pelosi to become Speaker of the House someday. If that sounds like a good idea, then vote for the Democrat.

UPDATE (Nov. 8) Pelosi has secured the position of House Minority Leader, making her an even stronger candidate to become Speaker should the Democrats retake the House in 2004. A complete index of my blog entries devoted to Nancy Pelosi is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:10 AM
October 21, 2002
Here and There, Oct. 21

Jimmy Carter is a "very, very good ex-President", says Martin Snapp in a S.F. Chronicle op-ed piece. Carter was a good President, Snapp said, because he lacked "a genial willingness to sacrifice others' lives for his own purposes.". Snapp continues, without irony, to remind us that Carter conducted his foreign policy around his belief that "we should lead our lives as though Christ were coming this afternoon." But that is precisely why Carter is such a dangerous fool. Most of us would prefer a foreign policy based on defending ourselves from the dangerous enemies who might be here tomorrow, on the off-chance that Christ doesn't show up in the meantime. It is Carter's naive and gullible "turn the other cheek" approach to brutal dictators that led him to help North Korea obtain its nuclear weapons.

Axis of Evil: North Korea and Iran are apparently collaborating on their nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein explains why she voted to support the President on Iraq, and demonstrates that she has a clue.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:07 PM
Auf Wiedersehen and good riddance

The bizarre story of German politician Juergen Moellemann became even more strange this week. Moellemann was forced to resign his remaining party leadership posts over apparent campaign finance violations. He may also face criminal charges.

Rewind back to the week before the election when Moellemann sent out an anti-Semitic campaign flyer. The flyer apparently cost his own Free Democratic Party enough votes to hand the election to Schroeder and the Social Democratic / Green coalition. Moellemann's colleagues in the FDP were sufficiently fed-up that they forced him to resign as vice-chair of the federal party. They also scheduled a no-confidence vote to topple him as chariman of the local party in his home state of North-Rhine Westphalia.

On October 6, the day before the no-confidence vote, Moellemann went to the hospital with a cardiac arrhythmia and the no-confidence vote was postponed until sometime in November. But last week, while Moellemann was supposedly still convalescing, it was revealed that the controversial campaign flyer was paid for with illegal campaign contributions of unknown origin. Somehow 840,000 Euros (broken up into 145 separate donations of 8,000 - 10,000 Euros each) mysteriously appeared to pay for the flyer. This is in violation of the federal campaign finance laws, with penalties of up to 3 years in prison. Moellemann wouldn't say where the donations came from.

The party gave him an ultimatum to disclose the funding sources by Monday morning or face removal from office, regardless of his medical condition. He continued to withold the information and also fled to his palatial vacation home on Grand Canary Island. On Sunday evening European time, he sent a fax resigning both as chair of the state party, and also as leader of the party faction in the state parliament (for health reasons, and blaming his party colleagues for persecuting him). It does not appear that the letter served as a resignation from his seats in the state and federal legislatures.

This is not the first time he has hit the bottom. In the early 90s he was forced to resign as federal Commerce Minister for improperly promoting an in-law's business venture and was subsequently ousted as state party leader. It is impossible to imagine that he has any kind of a future in the FDP. Still, he wrote that he would decide about his political future after he recovers from his illness. The only German party that might welcome him would perhaps be the insignificant far right-wing Republicans (Do click on that link, it's worth it for the subtle message in the photograph of their leader). So he may start his own party. Then again, he is the president of the German-Arab Friendship Society and he apparently once attended a birthday party for Saddam Hussein, so maybe he will start the Düsseldorf branch of the Ba'ath Party.

In the meantime, the FDP continues to press for an explanation of the campaign contributions and the state prosecutor will want to have a word with him as well.

Herr Möllemann, ich wünsche Ihnen eine gute Besserung und einen neuen Beruf I wish you a full recovery and a new profession. And if it's license plates they make in prison over there, may you be the best license plate maker of them all.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:12 AM
October 20, 2002
Here and There, Oct. 20

No Blood for Oil: Tom Friedman says that oil wealth gives the Persian Gulf dictatorships a "pool of money that they can use to monopolize all the instruments of coercion" and that the "most important thing we can do [to liberalize the societies of Iran, Iraq and their neighbors] is gradually, but steadily, bring down the price of oil — through conservation and alternative energies." He's absolutely right about this. But in the meantime, we still need to eliminate Saddam and also internationalize the Saudi oil fields

California Gov. Gray Davis is effectively selling pieces of the state's coastline to large campaign donors. We have come to expect nothing less from our corrupt governor, this is just one more example among many

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:00 AM
October 18, 2002
New Element Discovered: Governmentium

The following has been making its way around the net recently. Source unknown


A major research institution has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest chemical element yet known to science. The new element has been tentatively named "Governmentium ". Governmentium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 11 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of governmentium causes one reaction to take over 4 days to complete when it would normally take less than a second.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 3 years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause some morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate that governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass". You will know it when you see it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:48 AM
The Sharkansky Peace Prize

Hearing the various reactions to Jimmy Carter's Nobel Peace Prize, I get the impression that some people think the Nobel is the ultimate honor that any human being can receive. This is surprising, especially since the Nobel Committee's track record is so spotty. In addition to some truly fine choices (Lech Walesa, Elie Wiesel, Dalai Lama) they also missed the mark several times -- Jimmy Carter, Yassir Arafat, the United Nations, Viscount Cecil.

Well, if the Nobel people can give out a peace prize, then so can I. I hereby announce the Sharkansky Peace Prize ©, which is a smarter alternative to the Nobel prize. The list of all of the laureates to date is here. The Nobel prize is about refusing to use force for any reason. But the Sharkansky Peace Prize allows the appropriate use of force in the service of justice and lasting peace. I intend to award a Sharkansky Peace Prize not only every year into the future, but also retroactively for every year going back to 1901. I've only awarded the prize for some of the years past and I welcome your nominations to complete the list. Send them to me by email: sharky .AT. usefulwork DOT com or post them in this comments section.

The Sharkansky Peace Prize doesn't come with any money, but it has massive prestige.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:51 AM
The 1937 Nobel Peace Prize

If you want to put Jimmy Carter's Nobel Peace Prize in its proper perspective, and to see how little the Nobel committee has learned in the last seventy years, go back to the 1930s and see who was winning the Peace prizes while Hitler was preparing to conquer Europe. The 1937 Nobel Prize went to a British nobleman named Viscount Cecil of Chelwood (Lord Edgar Algernon Robert Gascoyne Cecil), who was president of the International Peace Campaign, and earlier helped found the League of Nations. Even then, The Nobel Committee was still singing the same refrains of disarmament, moral equivalence and aimless diplomacy.

The Committee explained the goals of the International Peace Campaign:

international disarmament and «establishment within the framework of the League of Nations of effective machinery for remedying international conditions which might lead to war»
The Peace Campaign apparently didn't do a lot to stop Hitler or Tojo, but not because the pacifists weren't optimistic enough.

Cecil gave his acceptance lecture on June 1, 1938, just a few months after the Anschluss, and showed us why he was the Jimmy Carter of his day, or maybe it's the other way around:

I am still convinced that with a little more courage and foresight, particularly among those who were directing the policy of the so-called Great Powers, we might have achieved a limitation of international armaments, with all the enormously beneficial consequences which that would have given us....And I am perfectly satisfied that the attempt to limit and reduce armaments by international action must be resumed and the sooner the better, if the world is to be saved from a fresh and bloody disaster.
But Hitler was happily on a roll, what conceivable incentive did he have to disarm?

Cecil had a momentary glimpse into the abyss of reality:

The Italian invasion of Abyssinia ... was, perhaps, even more indefensible internationally than the invasion of China by Japan, and unhappily it was equally successful. Here, there was no excuse for the peace-loving powers. They had unquestionably the strength and the opportunity to have stopped that defiance of the principles of the supremacy of law in international affairs, and they declined to use them.
But the realism quickly fades and he's back to wishful thinking and a call for unspecific diplomacy
Let us, rather, examine where we now stand and what steps we ought to take in order to strengthen the international system and thrust back again the forces of reaction.
And even after the Nuremburg Laws he sees no difference between life under the Union Jack and life under the Swastika, because they are morally equivalent, and investing in defense of one's homeland is a waste of money:
The civil life of every nation is deformed and weakened and obstructed by this threat of war. We are wasting gigantic sums, sums far greater than we have ever wasted before, on preparations for war, because war has again become a very present possibility and, at the same time, its horrors and dangers are enormously greater than they were before 1914. And so the world is spending some three or four thousand million pounds sterling every year on preparations for what we all know will be, if it comes to pass, a tremendous danger to the whole of our civilization, whoever wins and whoever loses.
And then Cecil's stirring finale, which you have probably never read, because it was long ago stuffed into a plastic bag and left on the doorstep of the Goodwill store of history
The acceptance of the principle of international cooperation is of immense importance for all states....May Heaven grant that the statesmen of the world may realize this before it is too late and, by the exertion of the needed courage and prudence, restore again to the position of authority which it had only a few years ago, that great institution for the maintenance of peace on which the future of civilization so largely depends. I mean, of course, the League of Nations.
The Nobel Peace Prize of 1938 was awarded to the Nansen International Office for Refugees, which was needed to assist the victims of both Hitler and the failed policies of hollow diplomacy and moral equivalence of the International Peace Campaign. In 1940 Norway fell to the Nazis. The Peace Prize was not awarded again until 1944, when it went to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Oslo was liberated in 1945 by Allied peacemakers, using guns.

The moral vacuum that is the Nobel Peace Prize inspired me to create the Sharkansky Peace Prize

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:05 AM
October 17, 2002
Viewer Mail

A reader who identified himself only as "Captain Radium" sent me this email:

I read your comments about the Blue Angels flying over. Then I saw this on SFgate.com. I have read several pieces by this fellow an he seems exceptionally bitter and negative. I am not from the San Francisco area but from everything I read you seem to be the only person there not full of self-loathing patrio-nihilism. It must be a very lonely city.
Thanks for your kind words, Captain, and yes, that piece by Mark Morford is rather lame. (I can speak only for myself, but my own butt didn't clench and my own baby didn't cry at the sight of the Blue Angels). Although Morford might wish for Saddam Hussein to defeat Amerikkka, I am not the only person in San Francisco who disagrees with him. There are many fine people here, although we are an endangered minority. And if you enjoy my blog, I'll bet you would also enjoy the work of my fellow embattled anti-Idiotarian San Franciscans, William T. Quick and Toren Smith

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:50 PM
Here and There: Oct. 17

Religion of Peace strikes again

This is the price we pay for the Clinton/Carter style of appeasing wretched dictators. Let this be a lesson to those who want to be nice to Iraq.

Victor Davis Hanson writes about Germany in his current column at the National Review Online. I respect Hanson a great deal. He makes a number of good points in this piece, but I also think he misses some of the big picture. As evidence of resurgent German nationalism, he points to anti-American statements during the campaign by the Justice Minister and a parliamentary leader (getting a few minor facts wrong), and Juergen Moellemann's anti-Semitic rantings. He also speculates that these various offensive statements might have won Schroeder the election. My response to Hanson is similar to the one I gave a few weeks ago to Marc Fisher writing for Slate: the election was close, but it was a regional victory. Schroeder won in the former Communist East. The more pro-American Stoiber won among America's allies of more than 5 decades in the West. Schroeder fired his party members who made anti-American statements. If any of Hanson's examples helped elect Schroeder, it was Moellemann, who was running against Schroeder, and whose anti-Semitism apparently caused his party to lose votes to Schroeder's allies in the Greens. Moellemann is now being driven out by his own party.

Schroeder's ambivalence about Iraq is unhealthy as is his attitude toward the Bush Administration. But my take on the German-American relationship is that it is more about a personality clash between two leaders who both happened to get lucky and squeak out on top of very close elections. And is up to both leaders (and I put most of the blame for the rift on Schroeder) to see that it doesn't turn into anything more than that.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:53 AM
"Solidarity Forever...

...because the unions pay me money"

Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Whip, and aspiring Speaker of the House, had this to say about the recent West Coast longshoreman's labor dispute:

...in callous disregard of the effects on the American economy, the shippers chose to close the ports and keep them closed...Today’s decision by the President to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act... reflects the failure of the Administration to encourage the shippers to bargain in good faith with the union
The longshoremen staged a de-facto strike for two reasons: they wanted to maintain their six-figure salaries, and they wanted to ensure that future port jobs, that arise from technological innovations, be classified as union jobs. So this was about nothing more than maintaining the ILWU's institutional power, and the union was essentially committing extortion and threatening billions of dollars of commerce in order to get their way.

Why would Nancy side so brazenly with the union on such a shameless power play that hurts rather than helps average working people? I don't know for sure, but it might have something to do with the $256,000 that labor PACs gave to her campaign for the current election, accounting for 30% of her contributions, twice as large a share as the average Democrat. This page has the complete honor roll of her union donors. Starting with $10,000 from the National Education Association down to $250 from the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen.

If Nancy gets to be Speaker of the House, it's fair to assume that she'll speak for John Sweeney before she speaks for anybody else.

UPDATE (Nov. 8) Pelosi has secured the position of House Minority Leader, making her an even stronger candidate to become Speaker should the Democrats retake the House in 2004. A complete index of my blog entries devoted to Nancy Pelosi is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:30 AM
Scowcroft and Belafonte together again

This month's Charles Schwab IMPACT conference made an unfortunate choice of keynote speakers -- unrepetant Stalinist and self-appointed expert on the antebellum South, Harry Belafonte, along with Saudi-leaning business consultant and chronically clueless former White House fixture Brent Scowcroft.

The schedule would have been set months before Belafonte embarassed himself by insulting Colin Powell last week, and Chuck Schwab happens to be a supporter of the President and a reliable Republican money spigot. I can't imagine there was any kind of hidden agenda here. Just a bad choice made worse by unlucky timing.

I tried to come up with some clever joke involving a calypso duet and Iraq. But I couldn't so I will leave that as an assignment to the reader. An as yet undetermined and probably unglamorous prize goes to the best reader submission.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:29 AM
October 16, 2002
Here and There, Oct. 16

No, I'm not Martha Stewart's financial advisor. But the October 2002 issue of Martha Stewart Living does mention me and my personalfund.com website in its article on Web financial calculators (p. 164, not available online). Had Martha asked me for financial advice, I would have told her to buy a low-cost tax-efficient mutual fund, and not to throw her money away on questionable fad stocks, such as ImClone.

And by the way, if you happen to own any mutual funds, you too should visit personalfund.com to find out how much you're actually paying to own your funds.

Did anybody bother to actually count?

Steve Plaut explains the Bali Difference

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:20 AM
"It's the U.S. media's fault"

The home page of the Asia Pacific Media Network of UCLA, which presents "Media News and Views from the Asia Pacific" and strives "Toward a keener sense of community in the Pacific region" always links to one news story from every country in the region.

Even on October 15, their one story from Indonesia is from September 28, two weeks before the Bali nightclub bombing, and has the headline "U.S. media stigmatizes Indonesia as terror haven, moderate Muslim leader says". I'm sure the families who lost loved ones this weekend will sympathize with the Indonesian Muslims who are suffering from stigma. The Jakarta Post article further quotes its source as saying

"Not only do those stories cause damage to Indonesia and Indonesian Muslims, they could also inflict damage on the U.S.," Hasyim said as quoted by AFP, adding that "These sorts of actions can trigger radical sentiment that could become detrimental to the U.S. government."
That's it. I'll bet this moderate Muslim leader now blames Time Magazine for causing the bombing in Bali. But let me presume to give some free business advice: The best way to get the US media to stop writing about Muslim terrorists is for Muslims to stop blowing people up.

In the meantime, the Asia Pacific Media Network might want to update their home page. That headline is not only stale, but now it's also in poor taste.

I have more on the Asia Pacific Media Network and its goofy founder, Tom Plate, here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:13 AM
Kofi's Double Standards

Sadly, few would be surprised any more at the suggestion that Kofi Annan and the United Nations have two sets of standards by which they judge member states. One set of standards for Israel and another set for the rest of the world.

The Agudath Israel World Organization is a human rights NGO with official status at the UN. Its representative to the UN, Prof. Harry Reicher, wrote this letter to Kofi Annan, where he very courteously points out an example of the UN's double standards.

Annan has previously gone on the record [PDF] with a blanket condemnation of armed militants operating from refugee camps. Yet when Israel defended itself recently against terrorists based in the Khan Younis refugee camp, Annan condemned only Israel, not the terrorists for hiding out among civilians in the first place.

Sadly, the UN's chronic hypocrisy has long ceased to surprise or amaze me.

Read Reicher's entire letter.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:50 AM
October 15, 2002
Outlaw murder!

On today's installment of Solving the World's Problems with Legislation © I would like to propose a radical solution for ending gun violence: outlaw murder. Some people want to wimp out and just pass laws against guns. But surely, anybody who would be deterred by gun control laws would be deterred from actually using a gun to kill somebody, wouldn't they? And make the law against murder really, really tough, punishable by, say, life in prison or even the death penalty. Plus, a law against murder has the added bonus that it would ensure that nobody will ever be killed by knives, poison, baseball bats, or anything else.

Join us again next time for another installment of Solving the World's Problems with Legislation ©, where we solve all the world's problems, the easy way.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:05 PM
Here and There, Oct 15

Yet another well-intentioned Clinton-Mitchell peace initiative collapses.

Iraq goes to the polls today. Jimmy Carter, I suppose, will declare that the process was fair.

You know the Internet bubble is really, really over when you read a story in the newspaper about a former Silicon Valley software marketing executive who is reduced to parking his trailer home in an office complex, scavenging in dumpsters to make ends meet, and washing his laundry with a garden hose.

Reuel Mark Gerecht writes that

A war against Iraq will reinforce, not weaken, whatever collective spirit has developed among intelligence and security agencies working against Islamic radicals. Indeed, without the war to remove Saddam, it is likely that the counterterrorist efforts of "allied" intelligence and security services in the Muslim world will diminish, if not end entirely. And it shouldn't be that hard to understand why. Self-interest and fear of American power, not feelings of fraternity and common purpose, are what will glue together any lasting international effort against terrorism.
Read the whole thing

Australian blogger/journalist Tim Blair is covering the Bali bombing story.

Be sure to read the interview with Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the Islamist leader who pulled off an upset in the Pakistani election. Recall that Pakistan already has a bomb. Does Qazi not make you wish we had been more pro-active in preventing Pakistan from getting that bomb in the first place? Let's not make this mistake again.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:22 AM
October 14, 2002
Justin Raimondo discovers his calling

Justin Raimondo has revealed his true calling in life. He is destined to be not merely a conman, a liar, a lunatic paranoid conspiracy theorist, a gullible idiot, and an anti-Semite. He has promoted himself into the ranks of the common criminal, for he is a petty thief.

In today's drooling rant, Raimondo attacks Ronald Radosh for a piece that Radosh wrote in the Boston Globe. Among other things, Radosh criticized Raimondo for continuing to insist that ''Israel had foreknowledge of 9/11". In his own defense, Raimondo says:

And I have another news flash for Radosh: Die Zeit, a generally pro-Israel German weekly of some repute, is now reporting that the Israeli spy operation I've been detailing in this space since last year was indeed watching the hijackers, which is precisely what I've said all along.
This is a most remarkable bit of news, for several reasons. The Die Zeit article that he is referring to is the one that I translated several days ago. It does not imply in any way that Israel had foreknowledge of the attacks, only that Israel was investigating some of the hijackers. And as it turns out, the Die Zeit piece was ultimately fact-checked and dismissed as being based on a discredited source. I posted an update to that effect on my translation of the Die Zeit article. Still, Raimondo linked to my translation anyway, even though the original story was both lacking in credibility and spun opposite of the story that Raimondo in his hallucinatory anti-Semitic view of the world wanted to tell.

And then it gets even better. After I discovered Raimondo's link, I revised my translation to include an even more prominent disclaimer, at the top of the page and in red letters:

Note: This report appears to based mainly on questionable and previously discredited sources, mainly a DEA investigation report on the so-called art students. Blogger Bruce Rolston fact-checks a number of Die Zeit's claims in this story. I'm inclined to go along with Rolston's interpretation and to disregard this article. I've e-mailed [article author] Oliver Schröm, inviting him to respond to Rolston's critique and I'm still waiting for his response.
So what do you suppose Raimondo did next? He removed the link to my website, and linked instead to a BBC Report about the Die Zeit article that didn't bother to question Die Zeit's sources. And he posted an unattributed copy of my translation on his website, without my permission, and without any of my disclaimers and links to Bruce Rolston's fact checking.

So he simply stole my work (or at least the parts that serve his idiotic fantasy world) and took credit for it. He is an ordinary thief, a piece of trash. One wonders what else he steals when he's not too busy spreading lies.

UPDATE: Raimondo removed his shameless rip-off of my translation from his own website, apparently after seeing this post. Instead he links to another copy someplace else

UPDATE #2: "On the Internet no one knows you're a dog", but the Internet does keep an audit trail. The comment entry from "wendy rimely" came from IP address 66.125.92.172, which the preponderence of circumstancial evidence in my traffic log suggests belongs to either Justin Raimondo, or to the person who maintains his online column.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:39 PM
Whip Nancy

Q: What do the following people have in common -- John McCormack, Carl Albert, Hale Boggs, Tip O'Neill, Tom Foley and Newt Gingrich?

A: The easiest answer is that they were all Speakers of the House.

Another answer is that they all served as their party's House Whip on the way to becoming Speaker. Indeed the only two Speakers in the last 40 years who hadn't first been a Whip were Jim Wright and Dennis Hastert. Looking at it another way, 5 of the last 10 Democratic Whips became Speaker of the House. So being Whip is a pretty good stepping stone on the way to becoming one of the most powerful people in the country and 2nd backup in line for the Presidency. Which brings us to the current Democratic Whip, Nancy Pelosi.

Nancy Pelosi represents my own San Francisco district. She's a nice enough lady, but as one might expect from a San Francisco representative, she represents the far-left lunatic fringe of American politics, and if she were to become Speaker of the House, she would not be speaking for most Americans.

Pelosi is one of the most paleo- of all paleo-liberals, as a member of the Congressional "Progressive" Caucus, and having earned a perfect score from the Americans for Democratic Action. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 30% of her campaign contributions come from Labor PACs (as opposed to 15% for the Democratic party as a whole and 1% for the Republican party). Pelosi enjoys raising taxes and spending other people's money, opposes educational choice, aspires to a Cuban-style universal health-care system, and seems to believe that Saddam Hussein is a more trustworthy negotiating partner than George W Bush.

I do happen to agree with her on a few issues, by the way, including abortion rights, opposition to the War on Marijuana and support for compassionate pain-relief for dying patients. But on many of the big issues, such as implementing meaningful education reform, maintaining a free market economy, and conducting a sane foreign policy -- she's a disaster.

In a nutshell, if the Democrats win the House, Gephardt will be Speaker and Nancy Pelosi will be House Majority Leader. That alone would give her enormous influence on the Congressional agenda. She would also be next in line to be Speaker, and you know that if and when the time came, the Democrats would be under pressure to "give it to a woman", and it wouldn't matter whether the specific woman happened to be an imbecile. Nancy's re-election this November is a fait accompli. But that doesn't mean that she necessarily has to rise any higher than Minority Whip. The race for control of the House is still close. So think of it in these terms. A vote for your local Democrat also means a vote for Nancy to become Speaker some day. If that sounds like a good idea, then vote for the Democrat.

Between now and the election I'm going to devote much of my blogging energy to shedding light on Nancy Pelosi. If anybody has any news (or history) about her that's worth reporting, please e-mail me and let me know. I will be fair and truthful, but I won't pull any punches.

UPDATE (Nov. 8) Pelosi has secured the position of House Minority Leader, making her an even stronger candidate to become Speaker should the Democrats retake the House in 2004. A complete index of my blog entries devoted to Nancy Pelosi is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:58 AM
October 13, 2002
Islamists Win Big in Pakistan Election

The biggest winners in this week's Pakistani election may well be the anti-American Islamists. A multi-party Islamist coalition known as United Action Front (or MMA) did surprisingly well, winning control for the first time of the Northwest Frontier provincial legislature, and also becoming the third largest bloc in the fragmented national parliament.

Qazi Hussain Ahmad, leader of the main force in the Islamist coalition, has made clear that his goal is to establish Islamic Shaaria law in Pakistan, and to "eliminate Western culture from our country." Lutz Kleveman, writing for Der Spiegel, has what may be the first western interview with Qazi since the election. Kleveman calls Qazi the winner of the election and claims that his coalition received nearly half the votes. I can't find independent confirmation of the vote count, but what is clear is that Qazi's victory represents an upturn in Islamist and anti-American sentiment and is a slap in the face to Musharraf's alliance with the US. This is not an encouraging sign.

Some reports quote Qazi's colleagues as saying that "We are ready to cooperate with the U.S. in the war against terrorism, but they should not expect support from us in a war against Islam or Muslims". But Qazi says nothing concilliatory toward the US in the interview, only that the US was unjustified in attacking Afghanistan (which he says had nothing to do with 9/11), and that Qazi's allies the Taliban are honorable men. He says his strong showing in the polls amounts to a "revolution" (echoes of Khomeini?), and he questions whether Al Qaeda has ever existed in the first place.

I think it's important to hear the Islamists speaking for themselves. Read the whole interview, and see for yourself what one of Pakistan's most important ascendant figures sounds like. Remember that Pakistan has the world's first Islamic nuclear weapon. Qazi, for me, makes the case for pro-active non-proliferation.

(I suspect that the interview was actually conducted in English, but it was published only in German [here]. I translated it back into English. If I can reach Kleveman, I'll ask him if he's willing to share the original English version).

Bonus article: Kleveman filed a few other stories on the Pakistani election for Der Spiegel. In this article, he says that many women were actively prevented from voting. In the Tribal Areas, men who failed to prevent their wives or sisters from going to the polls were subject to heavy fines and threatened with having their houses demolished.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:39 PM
October 12, 2002
West Wing Wisdom

Chief of Staff Leo McGarry on this week's episode of West Wing, on the situation in the Middle East:

I don't know what winning looks like. What does it look like? Is it... I mean is it honestly the US flag flying over Mecca? Is that what's going to straighten this out? And if that's the case, why are we postponing that? What are we hoping is going to happen in the meantime?
What are we hoping for, indeed.

And nah, they can keep Mecca. But liberating Baghdad and internationalizing the Saudi oil fields might be a good place to start.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:16 PM
Here and There, Oct. 12

We spent the afternoon at the Marina Green watching the Blue Angels. I hope that Saddam and his Republican Guards will enjoy the show at least as much as we did.

Forwarded to me by an Israeli-American friend:

Funny people, the Europeans, my paternal grandfather used to joke. When I left it in 1937, there was graffiti on the walls everywhere: "Jews, go to Palestine".

And now when I visit a European capital, the graffiti says: "Jews, get out of Palestine".

Have they no memory, the Europeans?

Apparently not.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:42 PM
October 11, 2002
Here and There, Oct. 11

It is too a religion of peace, and we'll fucking kill somebody if you say otherwise.

Palestinians might give up dream of independence: Ha'aretz: A Palestinian envoy warned top U.S. officials this week that the Palestinians may have to "re-evaluate" support for a two-state solution - Palestine alongside Israel - if the international community does not do more to halt Jewish settlement expansion, according to a document released Friday.

Suicide bomber can't even do that right, which is an apt metaphor for the entire Palestinian "movement".

Steven Plaut reports that Israel will soon be the first country to adopt Christianity as its official foreign policy.

Der Spiegel reports that a Holocaust denial conference will be taking place in the Italian city of Verona this weekend. This particular conference is an innovative marriage of Islamic anti-Semitism with the European neo-Nazi variety. Romeo will be played by Frenchman Vincent Reynouard, and in the role of Juliet will be the Moroccan Ahmed Rami.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:37 PM
Saddam Hussein Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Oops. Sorry. It was Jimmy Carter who won the Nobel Peace Prize. But Gunnar Berge, chairman of the Nobel committee, said: "It should be interpreted as a criticism of the line that the current administration has taken. It's a kick in the leg to all that follow the same line as the United States." Let that be a warning to anybody who dares to stand up to a genocidal dictator.

The Nobel Peace Prize's previous winners include anti-birth-control activist Mother Teresa, anti-Zionism society "The United Nations", terrorism kingpin Yassir Arafat and biography fabricator Rigoberta Manchu.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, whose name is synonymous with an earlier disastrous attempt to appease Arab fascists.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:42 AM
A Plate Full of Nonsense
Tom Plate is an adjunct professor of Communications and Public Policy at UCLA and runs the Asia Pacific Media Network, which is a kind of institute that offers "Media News and Views from the Asia Pacific" [sic], and whose motto is Toward a keener sense of community in the Pacific region.
What the APMN actually does is unclear. But it does have a website and we learn that its "Founding Members" include several English language newspapers from around the Pacific Rim, including the Los Angeles Times, the Korea Times, the South China Morning Post from the newly Bolshevized People's Colony of Hong Kong, the Straits Times from the teenage-prankster-caning island of Singapore, and the Jakarta Post from the reporter-clubbing archipelago of Indonesia.

And Tom Plate writes a weekly column about the "Asia Pacific", which the San Francisco Chronicle is thoughtful enough to publish for us most Tuesdays. When reading Plate's columns, one gets the impression that he either doesn't understand what he's writing about, or that he behaves obsequiously towards Asian despots in order to solicit more government-controlled newspapers to pay to join his network, or both.

In an August column, Plate castigates the elected Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian for saying that Taiwan was an “independent, sovereign state", which would only provoke the self-appointed panjandrums in Peking. What chutzpah of those Taiwanese, Plate says, for wanting to be a sovereign state with an elected President, when everybody at the UN agrees that Taiwan rightfully belongs to the Tiananmen tank commanders.

Last month Plate pointed to the Wen Ho Lee case (remember that?) and a single mystery novel that had some Vietnamese gangsters and declared that the media has poisoned public opinion and "planted negativity about Asians in the national psyche". [I have no idea what he is talking about and neither does my wife, who happens to be the daughter of Korean immigrants].

On the Iraq question, Plate wonders aloud why Saddam shouldn't be allowed to have his own nuclear weapons, when the United States and Israel have them too. And he tells us that

The truth is, many people in Asia as elsewhere are turned off by the arguable arrogance of Washington’s gut instinct toward geopolitical moralism, as if only America knows the right thing to do.
And to back this up, he points to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, who he admiringly says has been "Head of a largely Islamic nation of a mere 22 million for more than two decades". What Plate leaves out is that Mahathir has kept his office for more than two decades by having the loyal opposition convicted of sodomy. So yes, it often is the case that only America knows the right thing to do, and our elected leaders have both the moral and military authority to operate without taking into account the petty selfish interests of two-bit tyrants like Mahathir Mohamed.

In his most recent columns, Plate is angling to be annointed Pope of Moral Equivalence ("Washington wants to preserve its military option against Iraq but denies that same right to Beijing in its tussle with Taiwan"), and to be crowned Pharoah of Cultural Relativism(dismissing as racist a statement by Australian Prime Minister John Howard that Australia should support the Americans and the British against Iraq because of their similar values and similar view of life.)

I'm sure that Plate's columns are highly regarded by government officials in places where they censor their newspapers, such as Hong Kong and Singapore. But why do UCLA and the Chronicle waste their money on this dreck?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:14 AM
October 10, 2002
Saddam's Personal Physician

Today's San Francisco Chronicle carries an op-ed piece from bleeding-brain hystericist and junk-science proponent Dr. Helen Caldicott, called "Medical Consequences of attacking Iraq".

Caldicott works herself into a frenzy over the imaginary health consequences of the depleted Uranium that was used in the Gulf War. She calls depleted Uranium a "potent carcinogen". The World Health Organization, in its survey on health effects of depleted Uranium says that it is only "weakly radioactive", in fact used as a radiation shield in medical devices, and that

contamination by DU in the environment was localized to a few tens of metres around impact sites. Contamination by DU dusts to local vegetation and water supplies was found to be extremely low. Thus, the possibility of significant exposure to the local populations was found to be very low.
and the WHO says absolutely nothing to suggest that environmental DU is carcinogenic.

Caldicott blames depleted Uranium for various cancers and other illnesses in Iraqi children, but offers zippo evidence of the cause. She also blames the "sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United States and the United Nations" (that evil Kofi Annan!), for depriving Iraq of resources to pay for medical treatment for these children. But she conveniently ignores the fact that it is Saddam's own behavior that has kept the sanctions in place, and that Saddam chose to blow his health care budget on suicide terrorism in other countries.

None of this distracts Caldicott from her tirade against the Bush Administration. As usual, her primary function in life is to fabricate reasons to demonize America, and she doesn't want to be bothered with all the children who really were murdered by Saddam and his supplicants.

Another of Caldicott's unsubstantiated charges is that depleted Uranium caused a number of Iraqi children to born "missing all or part of their brain". But as we see in the person of Helen Caldicott, this can also happen to little girls who are born in Australia.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:54 AM
Here and There, Oct. 10

Axis of Stupidity: In Pakistan Friday, a coalition of pro-Taliban parties won control of a provincial legislature near the Afghan border

No shit, Sherlock Yemen Blast Seen as Terror Act. The poor terrorists apparently had no other choice but to blow up the ship. If only France wasn't such a big supporter for Israel, this never would have happened.

As I write this (12:45pm) the Navy's Blue Angels are strafing my house in their F/A-18 Hornet jets, practicing for Fleet Week. It's loud as hell, but I'm glad that they're on our side.

Al Barger takes apart calypso singer and dimwitted political activist Harry Belafonte. Be sure to listen to the audio clip of Belafonte's interview with Tom Leitner. In addition to his insulting remarks about Colin Powell, Belafonte also gives us his own plan for world peace: The UN should have a standing army.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:04 AM
October 09, 2002
Here and There, Oct. 9

Send in the reinforcements: The Khaleej Times of Dubai reports that the US State Department has cleared a backlog of 10,000 visa applications from applicants hailing from Muslim countries including the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. Some of these visa recipients will be attending US flight schools.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:57 AM
Ditzkrieg
This is my Congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi. She is also House Democratic Whip. Some people might say she is an airhead. Others might think of her as a shallow and ditzy socialite. Comedian Larry Miller saw her on TV recently and concluded that she was a village idiot.
In fact, they are all right. Here is Pelosi's official statement on last week's Congressional resolution authorizing military force against Iraq
"The decision of whether to send our brave men and women in uniform to war is the most solemn and serious choice we face as Members of Congress.
Actually, the decision whether to capitulate to a genocidal maniac and risk the lives of millions of civilians in the US, Iraq and elsewhere is probably equally solemn.
Before putting our young people in harm’s way, we must be certain there is no other recourse.
There is never any certainty in statecraft, only uncertainty and the weighing of imperfect choices amidst incomplete information. If you require certainty before you can get out of bed in the morning you should quit politics and take a job with a funeral parlor.
"Because I do not believe we have exhausted all diplomatic remedies,
Saddam Hussein is a butchering, torturing despot, an obsessive acquirer of weapons of mass destruction, a starter of wars, a launcher of missiles, a starver and a gasser of his own people, a subsidizer of suicide terrorism, and a deceiver of UN weapon inspectors. If after all that, you honestly believe that there is any hope that any kind of diplomacy can lead to long-term peaceful co-existence with him, then you would probably also believe that the word gullible is not in the dictionary.
I cannot support the Administration’s resolution regarding the use of force in Iraq. I am also extremely concerned about the impact of such action on our war against terrorism.
Earth to Nancy, hello! There is no such thing as a "war against terrorism". The fact that the Administration uses this idiotic, politically-correct, bubble-minded fluff-ball of a euphemism does not excuse you from using it too. The war we are fighting is a war against Arab and Islamic totalitarianism. And Saddam is to Arab fascism what Woody Allen is to Woody Allen movies. To say that the use of force against Iraq is inadvisable because it would impact our war against terrorism, is like saying that a war against Germany would have distracted us from our war against Nazism.
"A number of my colleagues are working on an alternative that I hope I can support.
Your colleagues like who, David Bonior and Tariq Aziz?
An acceptable alternative would require the United States to seek a multilateral diplomatic initiative before authorizing the use of force.
Oooh. Another multilateral diplomatic initiative. As if we haven't already tried like 20 or 30 billion of these with Saddam before, each one giving him a little extra time to move his botulism factory. And what kind of "force" would you and Barbara Lee be willing to authorize when your diplomatic initiative fails? Would you ask Santa Claus to pretty please give Saddam a smaller serving of cookies and milk?
"As the ranking Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence
I don't know what frightens me more, that George Tenet is still Director of Central Intelligence more than a year after 9/11 or that you're a senior member of an Intelligence Committee.
I have seen no evidence or intelligence that suggests that Iraq indeed poses an imminent threat to our nation. If the Administration has that information, they have not shared it with the Congress.
I don't think you would be capable of recognizing a piece of intelligence if it wore a purple hat and stuck a finger up your nose. And as far as this "imminent threat" red herring goes, I don't think I heard the President say anything about an "imminent threat". As far as I know Hitler didn't pose an imminent threat to our nation either, but he posed a very real strategic threat as does Saddam. Are you saying that you would prefer to wait until Saddam acquires or even uses weapons of mass destruction before we send in our troops to take them away from him? How many more people does Saddam have to kill before you are satisfied that he is any kind of a threat?

"If we invade Iraq, we will show our military power. If we can eliminate the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction without invading, we will show our strength."

Um okay, sure Nance. My dictionary defines the word fatuous to mean "complacently or inanely foolish", kind of like your statement that refusing to confront a genocidal tyrant is a show of strength. And what exactly is your plan for eliminating that threat without invading? If you care to share it with us, I'm all ears. But you don't say what it is, so I conclude you don't really have one, now, do you, hmm?

When we combine Pelosi's ditzy foreign policy with the fact that the Democrats elevated her to their number 2 leadership post, I can only conclude that the Donkey party has finally lost whatever wheels it might have had left.

Incidentally, Nancy Pelosi is on a path to become Speaker of the House. If you vote for your local Democratic House candidate, then you're also voting for Nancy to become Speaker of the House some day. If you think this is a good idea, then vote for the Democrat.
--
UPDATE NancyWatch, An index of all my blog entries related to Pelosi is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:25 AM
Dead Tree Chicken Hawk Squawk

The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board thought it was doing its readers a favor on Tuesday when it published a bleeding-brained moon-bark, called Roast the Chicken Hawks, by John Sugg of the alternative weekly paper "Creative Loafing". Indeed.

Chicken hawks are defined as creatures who belligerently advocate violent military solutions to political problems, but who dodged opportunities to serve in uniform during wartime...

Chicken hawks believe that you should be willing, even grateful, to make the supreme sacrifice in spite of a crumbling economy, mega-billion-dollar thievery in corporate boardrooms and the gang-rape of the environment. Not to mention such ditties as the failure of the "war against terrorism" and little blemishes like the mass-murder war crimes of our Afghan allies

Among the "chicken hawks" it cites are George Bush, Ann Coulter and SEC chairman Harvey Pitt. In response I sent this letter to the editor of the Chronicle
I was confused by John Sugg’s op-ed piece about so-called “Chicken Hawks” (Oct. 8). I can see he is upset that some members of Congress, the Administration and the media have not served in the military. But I can’t figure out what he is proposing as an alternative. Perhaps he suggesting that only combat veterans should be allowed to formulate foreign policy or discuss it on TV. He might prefer to live in a country where only people like, say, Norman Schwarzkopf, Oliver North or Timothy McVeigh were permitted to make decisions about the military. As for me, I’m comfortable with the status quo where our civilian elected officials are in charge of our military and not the other way around.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:21 AM
October 08, 2002
Saddam's Bagman in Ramallah

Ma'ariv(Hebrew) reports today that Rakad Salam, the recently arrested head of the Arab Liberation Front in the West Bank, has been in charge of distributing Saddam's stipends to families of suicide bombers. The Arab Liberation Front is led by Abu Abbas, who organized the Achille Lauro hijacking. According to Ma'ariv sources at the Shin Bet, Salam claimed under interrogation that he received $15 million from Saddam, transferred from Baghdad to Ramallah by way of a bank in Amman, and that Saddam personally approved the schedule of payments to the families of dead and wounded terrorists: $10,000 for each death, $1,000 for a serious injury and $500 for a minor injury.

The Shin Bet claims further that Salam acknowledged that he had been aware of his own group's terror attacks, that he had served as a political advisor to Arafat, and that Arafat and other leaders of the Palestinian Authority were personally aware of Saddam's payments to families of terrorists.

UPDATE: The Ha'aretz English service now has a similar report. But you read it here first. Ha'aretz adds that "Over the past two years, the Shin Bet has arrested 16 Palestinians who underwent training in Iraqi military camps."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:46 PM
What is Stefan Sharkansky?

"stefan sharkansky is a security camera that looks like a fish and is inflammable". I know I am, but what are you?

Meanwhile, Tim Blair has the goods on some other folks.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:29 AM
Amiri Baraka Responds

Amiri Baraka answers the latest criticism of himself and his idiotic poem "Somebody Blew Up America"

A reader e-mailed me this link, calling it "an article written by the man himself in response to his poem and the backlash and misinterpretation it has received" It's 4,700 words long, and trust me, it would be a waste of your time to read the whole thing, unless you are either a masochist or Baraka's own psychiatrist. These are a few extracts

"I Will Not Apologize, I Will Not Resign"

The recent dishonest, consciously distorted and insulting non-interpretation of my poem, “Somebody Blew Up America” by the “Anti-Defamation” League, is fundamentally an attempt to defame me. And with that, an attempt to repress and stigmatize independent thinkers everywhere...

The Reichstag fire, parallels the 911 Attack, in that after that “mysterious act of terrorism”, which Hitler blamed on Jews and Communists, the Nazis passed a law The Reichstag Enablement Act, that gave the Nazis much the same carte blanche as the Bush administration used the 911 tragedy to pass the wholly undemocratic Patriot Bill and begin rounding up suspects, even without identifying them...

I WAS NOT SAYING ISRAEL WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ATTACK, BUT THAT THEY KNEW AND OUR OWN COUNTERFEIT PRESIDENT DID TOO!...

As they are attempting with me the ADL slanders anyone who is not happy with Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians As Anti Semitic, when lst of all Israel and its guiding philosophy have nothing to do, as categories, with Jews...

It is unfortunate that Governor McGreevey has been stampeded by paid liars, and apologists for ethnic cleansing and white supremacy, bourgeois nationalists and the dangerously ignorant, to be panicked into joining in the ADL’s slander, belittling my intelligence, and insulting not only my person, my family, my fellow artists and activists who know all this is just the feces of a very small cow...

That's as much as I can stand to read. Seriously, though, it answers my own questions. I think the guy is ill. I hope his family and loved ones get him some proper medical treatment.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:10 AM
October 07, 2002
Israeli Art Students?

Apparently there really were a number of Mossad agents in the US last year posing as art students. Or at least that's what Die Zeit says this week in a pair of articles about American intelligence failures prior to 9/11. What were the Israeli art students doing? They were tailing Mohammad Atta and his merry band of Muslim extremists and trying to figure out what the terrorists were up to. And they were trying to warn the CIA. But then the Israelis were deported. And the CIA didn't get their act together until it was too late. Parts of the story might not hold water, though, as a few readers have raised concerns about some of Die Zeit's sources.

See the two companion reports that I've now finished translating from this week's Die Zeit. The main report, titled Deadly Mistakes is a comprehensive overview of the intelligence failures leading up to September 11. Much of the material has already appeared in the US press, but this article does a particularly good job of telling the story and presenting the chronology. The sidebar article, Next Door to Mohammad Atta has the story about the "art students" who supposedly had Atta under surveillance.

BUT: BruceR fact-checks Die Zeit's ass on the Israeli Art Students story. He locates the DEA report, which was apparently Die Zeit's primary source for the article, and pokes holes in Die Zeit's interpretation. Bruce argues persuasively that the purported "spy ring" was nothing more than a petty fraud ring. I have no independent information other than what I read in the Die Zeit article, nor am I wedded to its conclusions. The article also mentions that Israel gave the US names of suspected terrorists prior to the attacks. That is outside the scope of the DEA report. If Oliver Schröm, the freelancer who wrote the article for Die Zeit has additional sources to back up his work, I'd certainly be interested in hearing what they are. I will try to get in touch with him to ask him directly.

Whether or not there was any stateside Israeli investigation of Mohammed Atta et al, the main point of Schröm's stories was that American intelligence and law enforcement disregarded a considerable number of clues that an Al Qaeda conspiracy was taking place in the US. I can confirm, at least, that I found corroborating sources for much of Schröm's main article (Deadly Mistakes). Nearly all of the quotes attributed to American officials are the original quotes which I found elsewhere on the web. And even if the Israel art student story doesn't check out, I'm still left to ask this question: Why does George Tenet still have the same job he had 13 months ago?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:14 AM
October 06, 2002
Here and There, Oct. 6

The Federal Paper reports that the proposed Homeland Security Department has drawn up a shortlist of possible locations for its headquarters. One of the sites is St. Elizabeth's Hospital, which would relocate in order to make room for the new agency. St. Elizabeth's is an insane asylum that was once the home to Mussolini fan Ezra Pound and is now the home to Jodie Foster fan John Hinckley, Jr. So it's probably a fitting choice for a redundant agency with a nutty name.

Today in San Francisco there is a demonstration to support Saddam Hussein, his kleptocratic police state, and his program to develop weapons of mass destruction. Maureen Dowd would probably approve.

I couldn't go and protest against the pro-Saddam festival this afternoon because we went to see a concert of the Redwood Symphony, where my wife's sister is a violinist. They did terrific renditions of the Beethoven Violin Concerto and the long version of the Wilhelm Tell Overture. They also performed a modern piece, Daugherty's Metropolis Symphony, which was inspired by the Superman comics (the program describes the fourth movement, titled "Oh, Lois!", as having a tempo that is 'faster than a speeding bullet'). The Metropolis Symphony had its moments, but for the most part I would describe it as being "innovative and challenging", which is a polite way of saying that it was "strange and unlistenable". Call me a Philistine, but I'll stick with Rossini and Beethoven, and especially Dvorak.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:18 PM
October 04, 2002
All Fidel's Children

The San Francisco Chronicle today devoted much of its op-ed page to this essay by a Bay Area seventh-grader who toured Cuba with his choir and ate lunch with Fidel Castro! Twelve-year old Eric Tuan writes:

I left the lunch impressed with Fidel. He seems to me like a kind man who is more amiable and friendly than most politicians. Also, he appears to want the best for his people and his country. The U.S. media, however, gives our country an altogether different picture of El Commandante. When we watch TV and we see Fidel, he becomes the cruel, oppressive, "bad guy." It's true that he doesn't allow freedom of speech or private ownership of land. It's also true that he doesn't like the government of the United States.

But it's hard to believe that the Castro we see on TV and the Castro we saw at the luncheon are the same person! These two different images of the same man show that he is a complex individual. I think that the real El Commandante is not a kind, amiable politician or a cruel, oppressive dictator; I believe that, as usual, the truth is somewhere in between.

I'm skeptical that this was actually written by a seventh-grader (Any middle school teachers out there care to judge? Dr. Weevil?), but let's assume that it was.

I won't fault Eric for getting the impression that the real El Commandante is anything but a cruel, oppressive dictator. And I won't criticize him for thinking that Fidel is "more friendly than most politicians". Eric is only twelve, after all, and I doubt he's broken bread with many other politicians. And it's not like his hosts gave him the opportunity to meet with other twelve year-olds whose fathers are, say, rotting in prison for requesting free elections. Eric has plenty of time to grow up and learn to be skeptical of ruthless despots. But there are still plenty of grown-ups who haven't outgrown their pre-pubescent admiration for totalitarian revolutionaries in green fatigues. Castro's gullible fan club includes the likes of Jean Chretien and Thabo Mbeki and Jesse Ventura, among others.

And I have to admit that Eric is a better writer and displays more maturity than some of the Chronicle's regular columnists. Like Robert Scheer for example.

UPDATE: Doctor Weevil e-mailed me to say that "the essay seems _highly_ unlikely to have been written by a middle-school student without help". But he also admits that he's been teaching middle school for only a few weeks. Joanne Jacobs and her readers are also suspicious about the essay's authorship.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:10 PM
Here and There, Oct 4

Desperate and oppressed? Are the members of the Portland, OR Al Qaeda cell desperate and oppressed, or just deranged, stupid and vicious, like all the other Middle Eastern terrorists?

You know the Internet bubble is really, really over when the VC funds start suing each other

Religion of Peace Worshippers of a certain religion were recently seen throwing stones at people after a prayer service. Hint: the stonethrowers were neither Buddhists nor Presbyterians.

Barghouti on trial Arnold Roth, whose daughter Malki was murdered by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem last year, is attending the Marwan Barghouti trial. Tal G has Roth's updates

Meanwhile Frimet Roth disapproves of Parents Circle, a group of Israelis whose children were also murdered by terrorists, but whose response is to grant understanding and forgiveness to the unrepentant killers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:50 AM
October 03, 2002
Here and There, Oct 3

Practice makes perfect Ma'ariv reports that the IDF has planned and practiced an operation for exiling Arafat that can be implemented on short notice. The babywipe terrorist would be bundled into a helicopter and flown to an uninhabited location in a foreign country somewhere in the Mediterranean region. The drop off location has been identified, and covertly surveyed and visited.

Shots Fired Outside United Nations The AP reports that A man jumped the fence surrounding the U.N. compound Thursday, fired several shots into the air and was quickly tackled by security officers. In a later development that did not reach the wire services, Kofi Annan concluded that the gunman must have been desperate and somehow oppressed by the United Nations. Annan apologized for whatever it was that had been done to the unidentified man and also gave him a permanent seat on the Security Council.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:48 AM
October 02, 2002
Chronicle Campus Confusion

The San Francisco Chronicle recently published this story on Campus Watch which begins as follows

Professors want own names put on Mideast blacklist
They hope to make it powerless

by Tanya Schevitz

In an effort to counter what they label as a McCarthyesque hunt by a pro-Israel think tank, about 100 professors from across the country have asked to be added to a "Campus Watch" Web site that singled out eight professors because of their views on Palestine and Islam.

Which prompted me to pen this letter to the editor:
I was disappointed by the Chronicle’s story about Campus Watch, an organization which critiques scholarship about the Middle East. With your inflammatory and specious use of the word “blacklist”, and with the unchallenged allegation that Campus Watch is “McCarthyesque”, you not only misrepresented Campus Watch but also whitewashed McCarthy’s shameful legacy.

McCarthy was a United States Senator who misused the power of the federal government. The blacklist was used to put people in jail or deprive them of their livelihood. Campus Watch, on the other hand, is merely a project of individual scholars exercising their first amendment rights and their academic duty to expose and answer flaws and biases in other scholars’ work.

Likewise, if there are flaws in Campus Watch’s criticisms, then it is appropriate for others to critique their critique. That’s what people in an open society do for each other. We challenge each other’s ideas, and we challenge each other to keep doing a better job. Your article misses the point about those professors who hope to make Campus Watch “powerless”. That can only mean they seek to stifle public debate about their own work. One wonders why they want their scholarship to be exempt from public scrutiny. Are they afraid of having their errors and prejudices exposed for what they are?

The Chronicle did not print the letter, which they probably would have done by now, given their normal quick turnaround. Presumably the Chronicle's editors couldn't part with the space to correct their own specious and ignorant use of the English language, because they had many more thoughtful and informative letters to run. Like this work of babble from a confused "America Last!" activist, who is possibly a Nazi, possibly a pacifist, possibly both. And they also chose to kill a few more trees in order to shower us with the latest burst of flatulence from Robert Scheer, whose wife happens to be the paper's second-ranking editor.

Does the Chronicle have a bias that they're trying to protect? I don't know, but in yesterday's paper there was this article, also by Tanya Schevitz, that repaints the violent anti-Israel riot at UC Berkeley last April (police officers were assaulted and students were prevented from going to class), into a "pro-Palestinian event". One wonders what other acts of campus violence the Chronicle would consider to be "pro-Palestinian events"? Last month's riot at Concordia University? July's bombing of the Hebrew University cafeteria?

And then there is this Tanya Schevitz Chronicle article from October 2000, about another website, TeacherReview, that posts information about college teachers. TeacherReview seems to be mainly about anonymous ad hominem attacks, and not about scholarly review as is Campus Watch. But Schevitz gets a quote from the ACLU defending TeacherReview's First Amendment rights. Which is exactly the opposite spin that she put on the Campus Watch story.

Does any of this suggest bias? ignorance? lazy reporting? You be the judge.

My earlier entry on Campus Watch is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:38 PM
Today in San Francisco

San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly has introduced legislation to ban the Segway Scooter from the city. "These things are dangerous," Daly said Monday. "We need to take action." The Postal Service has been testing the machines and has not yet had any accidents. Even the safety conscious State of California enacted legislation permitting the two-wheelers to be used on sidewalks.

It is interesting that Daly, whose website says that one of his top issues is "Transportsation" [sic] would be opposed to a safe, non-polluting and energy-efficient form of urban transportation. But Daly's mental age has been estimated at somewhere between 4 1/2 and 6. In addition to being afraid of the Segway, which is essentially a sophisticated wheelchair, Daly is also rumored to be afraid of many other things. Such as cats, spinach, getting shots, and having to go to bed with the door closed. We eagerly await his future legislation.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:50 AM
Letter to the S.F. Chronicle
A QUESTION Editor -- I have a serious question for those who say that we should attack Iraq. The rationale for such an attack seems to be this: Saddam Hussein is working hard to acquire weapons of mass destruction; and, once he has them, he will use them.

I share your revulsion for human monsters who would do this -- who, in fact, have done this. You see, I live in a nation that not only worked hard to acquire nuclear weapons, but used them -- and not in direct combat situations but in urban terrorist attacks meant specifically to shock the target nation by incinerating many thousands of innocent mothers and children in their homes and schools.

So here's the question: In, say, 1944, would you have supported another nation's invasion of the United States to destroy our nuclear weapons facilities at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Hanford?

THOMAS E. BRAUN
San Jose

I think that there are some people who would answer this "serious question" with a yes. But they would either have to be a pinhead, like Thomas E. Braun, or a Nazi, like Thomas' favorite aunt Eva Braun.

Bill Quick has a longer response to this letter.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:02 AM
Deadly Mistakes

Appearing in Die Zeit today is another blockbuster investigative report on terrorism. Titled "Deadly Mistakes", the piece gives the chronology of the Sept. 11 attacks, with particular focus on the failures of the CIA and FBI to follow up on the leads they were already collecting. Yes, it's easier to put such a story together in hindsight than in foresight. Still, these are amazing tales of bureaucratic ineptitude. Particularly the failure of these agencies to cooperate with other essential government agencies (like the INS), and with other friendly intelligence agencies. Like the Israelis, who were following Atta and knew something was up, but not sure quite what, and were told to lay off by the Americans. Or the Germans, who might have been able to do something about the plot that was unfolding in Hamburg, if only the CIA shared the knowledge about certain individuals, like Ramzi Binalshibh, who was already on the CIA's radar screen. Die Zeit is published in Hamburg, so this is a local story for them too.

The original story in German is at Die Zeit Online here. Der Spiegel has a synopsis which refers to details not in Die Zeit's online article, so there might be a longer print version which may or may not make it online later. I'm translating whatever I can get my hands on. The first part of the translation is here. This is good stuff. More tomorrow.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:54 AM
October 01, 2002
Here and There, Oct 1

My Oxford English Dictionary defines the words "unconditional" and "condition" thusly:

unconditional, a.

Not limited by or subject to conditions or stipulations; absolute, unlimited, complete.

and
condition , n.
I. A convention, stipulation, proviso, etc.
1. a. Something demanded or required as a prerequisite to the granting or performance of something else; a provision, a stipulation.
Now. You be the judge. Is the following a condition or an uncondition?
[Chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix] said eight presidential sites — 12 square miles of territory — would remain off-limits to surprise inspections unless the U.N. Security Council bends to U.S. demands that all sites be subject to unannounced visits.

Argentina has fingered Iran and the Hizbollah as responsible for the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center. Ma'ariv reports that Argentina has asked for the extradition of Hizbollah leader Sheikh Nasrullah. Ha'aretz' source denies this.

My answer to Nigerian fax scams By e-mail from a Yahoo! account:

Mr. Eddy,
thank you for contacing me. I am interesed in yor proposal. please send me your information by fax to: 202-323-2079. And I will come pick it up.
The fax number is for reporting tips to the FBI

All the news that's fit to print and plenty of drivel that isn't

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:45 AM
O Jerusalem

George Bush signed a bill Monday acknowledging (once again) that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Really, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The Knesset (parliament) is there, as is the Prime Minister's office building. I know this for a fact, I've been inside both buildings and so have a lot of other people. Israel doesn't need other countries to pass laws in order for Jerusalem to be its capital. But this is one of those funny political issues that seem to perpetually haunt our Capitol, filling the twilight between symbolism and reality.

As usual, this new law will make some symbolic gestures acknowledging that Jerusalem really is the capital, and this time we mean it! But it will also decline to make other symbolic gestures, such as changing official U.S. policy. So you can bet on seeing this bill again in some form or another on or about (set your watches) September/October 2004.

Bush signed the bill, apparently, because not signing it would mean not having a budget to pay for the rest of his foreign policy. And when you're gearing up to dismantle another country it helps to have a foreign policy so that you can distract your fair-weather allies and get on with your invasion. But Colin Powell made clear that he
opposed this bill, because he believes "the city's future is for Israel and the Palestinians to decide through negotiations". But indeed the issue was settled through the kind of negotiation that matters most, in 1948 and again in 1967, when the Palestinians started wars that Israel didn't want, but Israel won anyway.

UPDATE: Arab governments and Palestinian leaders(?) are predictably in a hissy fit. Eternally frustrated with themselves having started one failed war after another, they threaten another one: "Such resolutions could mean Palestinian and Israeli lives," [Saeb] Erakat said

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
Paracelsus Rambles

If you only have enough space in your brain for one new blog this week, that one blog should be Paracelsus Rambles. Paracelsus is the pen name (keyboard and mouse name?) of a former housemate, Edward Whittington Gulley, better known as Ned (and occasionally Nedward or even Neodore).

Ned and I had many a silly time together, such as when we became obsessed with the Monty Python Cheese Shop Skit ("I'm afraid we're fresh out of Red Leicester"). We finally resolved the problem by throwing a party for several dozen of our closest friends where each guest had to bring a different kind of cheese (Adam Finkelstein brought Fontina)

But I digress. I am writing to tell you about Ned's blog, which is written with the genuine hail-fellow-well-met good cheer that Ned is famous for. He unleashes his wide ranging, curious and clever mind and will inform and entertain you with his essays on, for example, optical illusions, the Civil War veterans in his family tree, and the Amish. It's kind of like a one-man Atlantic Monthly, with web-bite-sized articles.

Just go read Paracelsus Rambles already. And tell him that some guy named Phil from the corner of Filbert and Fillmore sent you.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:36 AM