November 30, 2002
Chronically Clueless Chronicle

In today's editorial, the San Francisco Chronicle, treats us to a lesson in ineffectuality and cluelessness, called "Terrorism's Hand Must Be Stopped". Referring to the attack on Israeli tourists in Mombasa:

A heartless attack on vacationing Israeli families in Kenya should convince anyone of the ever-changing, elusive face of terrorism
It wasn't "terrorism" that killed nine Kenyans and three Israelis, it was individual terrorists with a particular origin and a specific agenda. Who were these terrorists? The Chronicle does not attempt to characterize them other, than calling them "terrorists".
The attack is part of a dangerous pattern since Sept. 11, 2001, where unsuspecting civilians were drawn into the line of fire around the world.
The pattern started long before Sept. 11, 2001. Didn't these guys read their own newspaper before then? Just for starters, there was the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam (1998), The bombing of the World Trade Center (1993), Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie (1988), the Achille Lauro ship hijacking (1985), the Munich Olympics Massacre (1972), the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (1968).
The evil of terrorism cannot be eliminated by a single nation, but only by a huge alliance of countries large and small. Sharing information and building a broad anti-terrorist coalition remain the best bet in this new war against an unseen enemy.
The evil is not disembodied "terrorism", but the radical ideological movements and institutions that incite the terror, and this enemy is less unseen than the Chronicle wishes to admit. World War II was a war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and not, say, a war against the breaking of windows or rape. Similarly, we cannot hide our heads in the sand and pretend that we are in a war on "terrorism". We are in a war against certain regimes and radical elements in the Islamic world. Our enemies include sovereign states, such as Iraq, non-governmental entities such as Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hizbollah (all of which enjoy various forms of state sponsorship), and the elements in the governments and societies which support the terror networks, such as in Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran.

And yes, having more allies to fight these enemies might be better than having fewer allies. But that doesn't mean that a "huge alliance" would be more effective than a smaller but committed alliance, and it shouldn't mean that we have to wait for others to join in before we get started.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:21 PM
November 29, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 29

On this day in history Nov. 29, 1947 (or Kaf-Tet be'November as they say in Israel) was the day that the United Nations voted to partition the British Mandate territory of Palestine into a Jewish state and a Palestinian Arab state. The Jews were ecstatic. The Palestinian Arabs, who would have had their first sovereign state since the days when Samson was using the jawbone of an ass to fend off the Philistines, couldn't bear the thought of the Jews getting a state too, so they threw a massive temper tantrum. The state they chose to walk away from would have been much larger than any of the ever-shrinking series of offers of statehood that they also keep walking away from.

The Religion of Peace has been busy in the last couple of days, firing missiles at airplanes, blowing up hotels and shooting at people casting ballots. These latest victims were apparently guilty of grave offenses against the Peaceful Religion, namely "Vacationing While Jewish" or "Selecting Ones Own Political Leaders". Than again, most of the fatalities in the Mombasa hotel bombing were Kenyan, which just goes to show that the people who did this don't really care who they kill. Happy Ramadan.

The Palestinian "Authority" is now claiming for the first time that they have nothing to do with the Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. This is more than a little disingenuous, given the mountains of evidence that, say, Die Zeit has published (here and here) to the contrary. This apparent repudiation of violence may be the sincere result of a process of omphaloskepsis by the Palestinian leadership, which has finally realized that the last two years of Intifada has backfired. (Make a note that it wasn't exactly the western or Israeli peace activists who helped drive this point home). On the other hand, it could also be simply a cynical (and misguided) last minute attempt to try to inspire the Israeli electorate to vote for the Labor Party. I can't help but observe that if the Palestinians hadn't started the violence two years ago, Ehud Barak might now be coasting to his re-election. As they say, he who hesitates is lost.

There seems to be some kind of controversy raging over some feminist scholar's fantasy vision of a world where only one out of 10 people are male. Nine women for every man. I admit to having that fantasy sometimes myself. It's called being Hugh Hefner for a day!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:27 AM
November 28, 2002
Happy Thanksgiving

I spent most of the day cooking up an outrageous feast, and then sharing it with my wife, my boy, my mother, my mother-in-law and my sister-in-law.

Roast turkey with giblet gravy; stuffing from pears, chestnuts and sage; baked potatoes, etc. All made from basic ingredients, I even roasted the chestnuts for the stuffing. With acknowledgements to Williams-Sonoma for most of the recipes and a fair amount of the industrial equipment. Call me a shallow consumerist house-husband, but I'll always say that one of the great things about our house is that it's within walking distance of a Williams-Sonoma.

And yes, it was four ladies, an infant and me, but it was the man who did most of the cooking. How's that for women's liberation? Others did their part, though. Wife drove to the bakery to pick up the pumpkin pie, ran interference with the baby, and did most of the post-clean-up. Sister-in-law bought some beet salad and green beans and burgundy pears. Mother-in-law brought her renowned relish of whole cranberries, jello, nuts and oranges, which is near the top of the list of the many wonderful things about marrying into the wife's family. My mother mainly helped with the baby, she's already paid her dues.

David provided most of the entertainment, with his funny faces, attempts at walking, and odd vocalizations that are almost beginning to make sense. His grandmothers live 2,000 miles apart, this was his first time to see both of them together.

And in addition to all of that, I'm also thankful for Peet's Coffee, Mark Steyn and his new website, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Tomorrow there will be turkey soup.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:27 PM
November 27, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 27

The Mombasa, Kenya branch of an as yet unidentified group of human rights activists blew up an Israeli tourist hotel and also fired missiles at an Israeli charter plane a short time ago.

It's all in the name It just occurred to me. The "progressive left"'s biggest objection to the Jewish residents of the West Bank and Gaza might be the label "settler". So instead of calling them "settlers", why not just call them "undocumented immigrants". That should win not only heaps of multi-culti sympathy, but also demands that the PA grant them voting rights, culturally sensitive education in their native language, and full welfare benefits. Any attack on a Jewish immigrant to Hebron would be immediately be denounced by Amnesty International as a hate crime. Wouldn't it?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:51 PM
A Modest Milestone

Sometime yesterday this blog delivered its 100,000th page view.

For some blogs, that's a good week, or even a slow week. For me, that's nearly six months of traffic. Still, it is far more cumulative traffic than I would have expected back on June 1 when I posted my first entry. These are real page views, actual pages read by actual human beings (the count excludes things like graphic files and queries from "bots")

I don't receive any tangible compensation for doing this, I don't even have a tip jar button. My only reward is the joy of expressing myself and the pleasure that any performer, artist or writer gets from the favorable reaction of their audience. So thank you all for visiting, for reading, for writing back. If I've made anybody laugh or think, or imparted any knowledge, it's been worth it.

Let me also acknowledge those who (unknowingly) inspired me to do this: Blog Father Howard Fienberg, Blog Mother Susanna Cornett, and the many others who have encouraged me with links and kind words, most notably Charles Johnson, Bill Quick, Glenn Reynolds, Tim Blair and Damian Penny. And last but not least a thank you to my most frequent reader ... my mother. Hi Mom! and thanks for being my number 1 fan.

And here's a recap of my 10 most widely read entries to date:

Arafat Bombs, Europe Pays A translation of Die Zeit's article on EU funding for the Palestinian Authority terror machine.

The Berlin-Berkeley Axis Last week's incident where some anti-Israel "human rights activists" interfered with the exercise of my free speech rights by stealing and destroying my camera.

Psychotic Death Cult Photo Album A collection of photographs celebrating murder and destruction, from the Hamas' own web site

With Unyielding Faith Part 2 of Die Zeit's series on EU funding for Palestinian terrorism.

Earth Calling Amiri Baraka My telephone interview with the other-wordly poet laureate of New Jersey

It's the Oil, Stupid My Mideast peace plan: confiscate and internationalize the Saudi oil fields.

Saddam's Personal Physician Debunking some pro-Saddam junk science from brainless doctor Helen Caldicott.

Comedy Tonight Ray Hanania, the Arab-American comedian initially portrayed by the press as a victim of discrimination at the hands of Jackie Mason, turns out to be not an apolitical victim of "discrimination", but an outspoken activist, polemicist, inaccurate columnist and rationalizer of terrorism.

Moral Equivalence Down Under Australia's ABC continues to report on the imaginary massacre in Jenin, long after everyone else concluded that there really wasn't a massacre.

My Saudi Pen-Pal (part 2) In my final e-mail exchange with an officer at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, we learn that the Saudis denounce all forms of terrorism, but that suicide bombings against Israeli civilians are not considered terrorism.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:43 PM
An Interview with Me

README, the net-media journal of the NYU J-School devotes the latest issue to the blogging phenomenon. Diana Espinosa, one of the students who writes for README, asked me to do an e-mail interview for her article, and I sent her answers to all of her questions in early October. She ended up not using any of what I sent her, she focused her piece [here] on Alex Knapp, who writes the witty and clever Heretical Ideas blog.

Espinosa quotes Slate columnist Rob Walker

"A lot of bloggers just offer their take on whatever's the news of the minute," says Walker, "without really having any greater understanding of issue X than anyone else who pays attention to the news." Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, he acknowledges, but too many opinions could crowd out the validity of informed commentary, leading people to lose interest in the news.
Well I'm not convinced that very many paid opinion columnists have a greater understanding of most issues than anyone else who pays attention to the news, either. And I don't count, say, Robert Scheer or very many of the San Francisco Chronicle's in-house editorial writers among those with above-average understanding of the world we live in. Nor do I think that there is such a thing as "too many opinions" or that an abundance of opinions will crowd out sane and informed commentary. His quote sounds like that of a guildsman who wants to protect his franchise by erecting bogus credentials instead of by producing a superior product.

Even though Espinosa wasn't able to include my interview, I will not let it go to waste. I publish it in full here

My basic profile is based on the idea of the news web logs. I found your web log interesting because it was not just ranting about what a bad day you had instead it was discussing issues that affect almost all of us.

What is your age and occupation?
39. Iím a self-employed computer software developer and consultant.

How did you first start hearing of web logs?
When and why did you start this web log?

Iíll answer these together. I think Iíve been hearing about web logs in the background for a few years, but I never paid attention. Earlier this year, April 2002, I was paying close attention to the news from the Middle East and I noticed how biased and misinformed so much of the mainstream press was. I started writing letters to the editor of my local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle in response to some of their stories. I also wrote a few essays that I posted on my own website. It wasnít a daily web log, just a few pages that I posted from time to time. And I didnít even know about all the bloggers that were out there. One of the things I wrote were line-by-line critiques of a few columns by Robert Scheer. I never gave him much thought until then. But I discovered that here was this nationally syndicated columnist who was one of the worst journalists I could imagine. I found his columns to be ignorant and hysterical, full of errors, bizarre non-sequiturs and strange conclusions. I was insulted that the Chronicle thought they were performing a service for me by publishing his columns. So I did a few line-by-line critiques of his columns and posted them on my website. One example is here:

I searched the web one evening to see what else I could learn about Robert Scheer and I discovered some other people who also wrote line-by-line critiques of some of Scheerís columns. Those were the first bloggers I encountered. So I sent email to a couple of them to say hi! Iím doing this too. One of them (Howard Fienberg wrote me back and I sent him one of the letters to the editor that I had written. He liked it and posted it on his blog. Several other bloggers also posted the letter. So suddenly several hundred people read this letter and I thought hey, thatís pretty cool, I have an audience! A few weeks went by and some of my other writing got circulated around various web logs and people started visiting my site. And I started visiting other blogs and posting comments and exchanging email with the writers. Then I jumped in and started my own blog on June 1, 2002.

One of the great things about it is that I can realize my lifelong dream of writing for an audience, whatever the size. Before the days of the Internet I probably would have had to quit my day job in order to both write and find a publishing outlet. Now I can keep my day job, write a little bit and still have an audience.

What is your view on web logs?
Thatís like asking whatís your view on books/letters/newspapers. Theyíre as good as the people who write them.

Do you think some people are just using them as journals of their daily lives or do you feel that they are genuine?
The question implies that the two are mutually exclusive. But my answer is yes to both.

Regarding your web logs:
How do you choose what you want to comment on?

I have no plan. Itís just whatever I happen to read about that day and find interesting. I happen to be interested in a lot of things, and often comment on the following: the Middle East; poor-quality journalism coming from major outlets; foolish statements and/or behavior from government officials; silly statements made by prominent left-wingers; I read German and frequently browse the German press and sometimes comment on events in Germany, mainly regarding German foreign policy.

How do your choose your links?
Sometimes I link to news stories that I want to comment on, or articles that contain facts that support an essay that I write.

How often do you update your comments and links?
I usually write daily, but not always

Where do you get the news you comment about (newspapers, the web, television radio etc)?
The San Francisco Chronicle, National Public Radio, Yahoo! news, and the websites from a large number of major media outlets from around the world: New York Times, Washington Post, Haíaretz, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, most of the London newspapers, The Weekly Standard, National Review, New Republic, Atlantic Monthly. Iíve also exposed and written commentary about the websites of Palestinian terrorist organizations, such as the Hamas military wing. I read a modest amount of Arabic and with a dictionary I can find my way around an Arabic website and Iíve been able to locate and publicize some very disturbing photographs and columns on the Hamasí own website that illustrates how fundamentally sick and evil they are.

Is your web log a priority in your life?
My main priorities in life are my family and my business. My blog is a fun distraction. But Iím also an obsessive reader and thinker and the blog is just the expression of some of the things that Iím currently thinking about.

Do you consider it as a form of voicing your opinion?
of course

Do you feel it affects people?
I assume so. Enough people read it regularly and write back to me. So there has to be some kind of impact.

How have people responded to your web log?
Most of the response has been positive. The most moving e-mail Iíve received was from a gentleman in Jerusalem whose teenage daughter had been murdered by a suicide bomber. He wrote to thank me for something I posted on the blog. I translated an article from a German newspaper about how the Palestinian Authority is diverting European Union aid funds to pay for terror attacks. The article was very well-written, a very powerful condemnation of both the PAís involvement in terrorism, and the EUís apparent lack of concern for the way that their aid money is being misused. The article caused a storm in Europe, but it was in German, so its audience was limited. My translation made it available to a lot more people around the world, including in Israel. It helped educate a lot of people to Europeís unhelpful role in the Middle East, and a lot of people, like that girlís father, appreciated that I helped inform people.

Some of my other work has received an unfavorable response in other circles. Iíve been following the case of Juergen Moellemann, a German politician who made a number of anti-Semitic statements in his campaign for the recent election. A number of people in Germany e-mailed me to complain that I was criticizing this guy. Other Germans wrote to praise what I wrote about him. Two German periodicals even published brief items about my writing about Moellemann. I think they were trying to make the point that Moellemann was giving Germany a bad image overseas. At the end of the day my coverage of him was insignificant compared to the negative coverage he had in the German press, and the German voters soundly rejected him and his message in last monthís election.

Has it caused controversies?
I donít think Iíve caused any controversies of my own. Iíve written about other peopleís controversies, like Moellemann, and by doing so Iíve played a small role in the controversy.

Do you feel that it could?
I think itís unlikely that my web log would cause a new controversy on its own.

Personally as a young girl I remember listening to the news and feeling as if everything they said was the truth. I felt if they thought it, I should too. Now with web logs such as yours people are able to voice their opinion on important subject matter. How do you think this will affect journalism?
Iíll limit my answer to web logs that cover current events. I think that web logs are a form of journalism. The Internet is just another distribution medium, like radio, TV, or print newspaper. A lot of web logs simply comment on the work of professional journalists and donít do any original reporting. But then again thereís little difference between that and what syndicated columnists who write op-ed pieces do. Some professional journalists have their own web logs. Among my favorites are Joanne Jacobs ( and Tim Blair ( There are also some folks who started as amateur bloggers, and have also sold articles on the basis of their reputations as bloggers. So the distinction between professional journalist and amateur blogger gets fuzzy. Overall it will have a positive affect on journalism, in the following ways:
1) Bloggers help republicize other journalistís articles. An article might appear in a local newspaper, and if itís interesting for some reason, a blogger will spread the word about it to people that might not have seen it otherwise. This is taken a step further when bloggers translate articles from one language to another, like I have done.
2) We hold the press more accountable, both to get the facts right and to reflect on their biases. If a newspaper publishes a story that contains errors or is written with an outrageous slant, it can be more embarrassing to the paper now when bloggers pick up and publicize those errors. So I think the either the quality of what the newspapers write will improve, or people will just get used to looking to blogs to get corrections and commentary. Either way, people will be better informed.
3) Bloggers put the most competitive pressure on editorial and op-ed writers. There are too many thoughtful writers out there writing commentary on blogs (donít get me wrong, thereís a lot of junk on blogs too, but the good stuff has a way of finding readers). Thereís little excuse any more to give print space to some of the columnists who are currently in syndication. And wise newspapers will limit their in-house editorials to subjects where they have unique expertise. For example, the San Francisco Chronicle occasionally writes editorials about the situation in Israel. But why bother to read them, when the Chronicle editors know so little about Israel, and there are a number of thoughtful and informed Israeli bloggers who write in English and can shed so much more light on the subject. So the Chronicle should focus their editorial efforts on San Francisco and California issues where they do have expertise.

Do you think that this form of journalism you are providing is an example of our democracy?

On the contrary do you feel that if too many people voice their opinions it will have a negative effect?
I do not accept the premise that we can ever have ďtoo many peopleĒ voicing their opinions. That doesnít mean that every opinion will necessarily be listened to, let alone become widely held. But the more opinions that are voiced, the greater the chance that good ideas will come out.

By this I mean do you feel that if too many people have opinions than as the chain of opinions continues, the first opinion will be diluted and so on?
I have no idea what you mean.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:53 PM
November 26, 2002
Politically Correct Hate Speech

How would you react if someone said that "Arabic is really just Hebrew dumbed-down so that the Arabs could write complete sentences?". If you were like me, you would reject the above statement as an offensive ethnic slur. I've never actually seen anybody express that sentiment in earnest, but I did find a similar ethnic slur online recently:

Afrikaans ... as a wise man once said, is really just Dutch dumbed-down so the Boers would be able to write complete sentences.
As it turns out, this specimen of bigotry and prejudice is from a fellow who also calls for boycotting websites that publicize and denounce Arab and Islamic hate speech. Ah, the self-appointed progressives, the politically correct, the multi-cultis who sometimes condemn racism and prejudice, but equate pigment with virtue and tolerate intolerance precisely when the untolerated are European and Judeo-Christian or when the intolerant are not.

And if it makes him feel like a hero, this fine fellow of the progressive bigoted left can "de-link" everybody in the transitive closure of everybody who links to anybody who links to me. I will neither notice nor care, one way or the other.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:37 PM
Here and There, Nov. 26

And they won't even get their money back Investment News reports that the financial services industry gave $14.7 million to Congressional candidates this season. But contrary to what some might think, the Wall Street in-crowd did not buy the election for the Republicans, 56% of these contributions went to Democrats, and most of the industry's favorite candidates were defeated. Well okay, these guys are financial servicers, not political pundits. If they don't know how to spend their own money wisely at least they do a good job of managing other people's money.

Freedom of the Press: The Religion of Peace imposes a death sentence on a journalist.

The Arab News reports on a Saudi charity campaign to help Palestinians in the occupied territories. One can only imagine what that money will actually be spent on.

Fries with that? I've never had a Monk Burger, from Monk's Bar in Wisconsin Dells, but I like the sound of them:

The hand-patted patties fry atop a pile of minced onions, which marinate in the grease as they cook. One secret, says Heller, is a well-seasoned grill that's scraped but never washed.

"That grill is fifteen years old," he said, "and it's never had water on it."

Poetic Justice Department: The last of a dozen Palestinians exiled to Cyprus by Israel in May to end the siege of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity was escorted Monday to Mauritania. Although I've never spent time in either place, exile to Mauritania sounds like a harsher punishment than incarceration in an Israeli prison. Ha'aretz also reports that

In an interview with The Associated Press last month, Daoud denounced all terror attacks that result in the killing of civilians.

He said he was so outraged by the Oct. 12 terror attack in the Indonesian tourist resort of Bali that killed nearly 200 people that "I decided to appeal to Arabs and Muslims everywhere to denounce the murder of so many innocent people."

"I cannot understand such action, it is truly unbelievable," he said.

Asked about the suicide attacks carried out by fellow Palestinians against Israeli civilians, Daoud said "I am against operations that result in the killing of innocent people, and that includes the Sept. 11 attack against the Trade Center tower in New York."

And the rest of us can figure out what he doesn't include. Have fun in Nouakchott, dude.

Carinthian Leather Joerg Haider, the leather-faced governor of the Austrian state of Carinthia, friend of Saddam and apologist for Hitler, guided his party to a resounding defeat this weekend, and promptly quit politics. He has since decided to stay in politics, after all.
Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:36 AM
November 25, 2002
Racism in the Academy (II)

By way of Damian Penny and Bill Herbert: David Graham DuBois, visiting professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, continues to fantasize in public that the Mossad had a role in the 9/11 attacks. (see also Laurence Simon's letter to the university's Provost) I too wrote to the Provost, suggesting that academic freedom doesn't necessarily cover hate speech and blood libel. The Deputy Chancellor wrote back and told me that "Prof. DuBois retired from the University in the summer of 2001, a few months before he wrote the article in question.". But for some reason, he is still listed on the Afro-American Studies faculty page.

DuBois, by the way, is the step-son of W.E.B. DuBois, who started his career as perhaps the pre-eminent African American intellectual of his generation, but ended his career as a Communist and groupie of Ghanaian "President for Life" Kwame Nkrumah. The younger DuBois seemed to emulate only the later career of his step-father, as one can see from his biography on the aptly named Endarkenment website

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:16 PM
Racism in the Academy (I)

The most racist op-ed I've seen in recent memory came from a pair of African-American women at Stanford Law School, complaining that

This year, Stanford Law School... was unable to matriculate one African American man in its first-year class.
If any African American applicant had been rejected on the basis of his race that would have been wrong, of course, but that's not what is being alleged here. The writers are blaming the university for an outcome that is probably the result of many factors. It's possible that there weren't enough sufficiently qualified Black men who applied this year, or that those who were accepted chose to go to other, possibly less expensive schools, or that the regrettably underrepresented pool of qualified Black male college graduates is being fought over by other law schools, not to mention business schools, medical schools, academic graduate programs, major corporations and government agencies. And unfortunately, maybe there just aren't enough qualified applicants to go around to fill everybody's unstated color quota. And if there are only so many qualified people of a given type applying to Stanford it's not Stanford's fault for not "reaching out", it's that potential applicants are just not showing enough initiative to try to get in.

And the main concern of these women?

As a group of people whose reasonableness has been consistently questioned and undervalued, black men have intimate knowledge of the reality of the law. Their unique perspective gives them a strong platform from which to respond to statements like "Aren't we all American?" and from which they can succinctly reveal the complexity of legal debate and doctrine. Their absence detracts from the quality of the debate.
Suffice to say that groups of people aren't admitted to law school, individuals are. To assume that a particular individual has a particular life experience, or a particular perspective on their experience, or a particular set of career aspirations primarily on the basis of their "race", is well, as close to the dictionary definition of racism as anything I've read in a newspaper this year.

I agree that diversity in an academic program is a good thing. But let that diversity be defined in ways that matter, such as by experience, opinions, interests and career goals. Not the bogus diversity of fleshtones.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:44 AM
November 24, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 24

We went to see The Ring last night. Not my type of movie. Supernatural fantasy horror films don't scare me, they bore me. What does scare me? One thing that scares me is when the Administration panders to the Religion of Peace. Another thing that scares me is that we're still talking about a "war on terrorism" instead of a war on the specific groups of people that are behind the terrorism.

The Palestinian Authority has a secret project to manufacture its own explosives. Go figure.

Iraq now seems to be placing conditions on the unconditional weapons inspections (again). Just get the whole thing over with.

The San Francisco Chronicle posed the following question to its panel of San Francisco citizen pundits: "When will the war with Iraq start?". The Chron published the seven answers, each from its own reality-bending alternative universe.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:43 PM
Explaining Suicide Terrorism

ABC News Nightline tried this week to explain the phenomenon of suicide bombers. I didn't get to see the program, but the Nightline website has transcripts of some of the interviews.

Gaza psychiatrist Eyad Sarraj says

"I believe that every single case of a suicide bomber is attributed directly to a history of trauma during childhood...It is a form of despair...And of course, if someone wants to kill himself no one can stop him."
For some reason, Sarraj is not asked to diagnose the bureaucracy that funds, trains, equips, videotapes and transports the traumatized and desperate human missiles to their targets. If someone wants to use a vulnerable human being as ordnance, can no one stop him?

Another interview is with the incarcerated Mohamed Daghlas, who helped take a bomber to his massacre. Daghlas would have preferred to be a martyr himself, but said "There were circumstances that forbid me to do it myself". He didn't say what the circumstances were, but I'm guessing that either cowardice or intelligence might have had something to do with it. Contrary to the psychiatrist's theory about trauma and emotional damage, Daghlas said the bomber "was in very stable condition and he was calm and very normal". Daghlas concludes the interview by saying

We in the Hamas movement believe that Palestine includes the 1948 borders but we also believe that the independent state must be within the borders of 1967- as the first step to peace and normalization and two states besides each other.
Which is an obscurant way of explaining that Hamas is committed to destroying the State of Israel

Arnold Roth, on the other hand, sees suicide terrorism for what it is

There's no point in trying to understand it. You have to be prepared to say, "This is evil, this is sickness." This is the result of whole process that we have to be able to identify when we see it, and if we don't recognize it and call it what it is, I'm afraid that we are doomed to be living with it again and again. We are seeing that already, we are seeing it in places like Bali. How many people have to be killed by this insanity before people say, "no, this is insanity." We don't need to understand this, we need to stop this.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:22 AM
November 23, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 23

Tragic Mistake, or vicious crime? The Arab News today has an editorial criticizing the events in Nigeria this week, where 200 people died in riots related to the Miss World contest. Except that the Arab News does not criticize the Muslims who started the orgy of violence and committed murder. The Arab News criticizes only the Miss World pageant organizers for provoking the riots by offending the sensibilities of the local Muslims, and in their words "Over 200 people have lost their lives because of it". Why does the Religion of Peace always seem to blame others for its own crimes?

Ditzy Conspiracy Theory Watch The San Francisco Chronicle reader opinion survey asks the question: Why is the United States promoting war against Iraq? 57% say "To remove weapons of mass destruction" (not bad) and a full 22% say "To assure President Bush's re-election in 2004". Yes, that unfoolable 22% of San Franciscans must be thinking of the way that victory in Iraq assured the elder Bush of a rousing re-election 10 years ago.

What motivates Al Qaeda? Some, like the superannuated yachtowning Marxist Robert Scheer, imagine that Al Qaeda is animated by sympathy for Palestinians. But The San Francisco Chronicle yesterday published this organizational chart of the top Al Qaeda operatives, their nationality and their status (dead, alive, or in custody). For some reason, most of the members are Saudi, Yemeni, Egyptian, with a few Pakistanis, Kuwaitis and Libyans. Only one of the 35 is identified as Palestinian. If Palestine were the driving issue, might there not be more Palestinians in the leadership? Perhaps the large number of oil-rich Saudis and Kuwaitis suggests a more mundane explanation: These are not desperate and oppressed liberation seekers, but disaffected sons of the upper-middle-class suffering from existential angst. Kind of like an Arabian version of the Manson Family or the Baader-Meinhof Gang. The good news is that the Al Qaeda "Public Relations" man, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith is still at large. Hey, Sully, if you happen read this, drop me a line and let me know what you guys are actually hoping to accomplish.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:28 PM
Not in their name?

The San Francisco Chronicle published this letter to the editor today

Editor -- Colin Gallagher's outrageous and unfounded claim that Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan "provide financial support to bin Laden's network," and his subsequent proposal to deny visas to visitors and immigrants from those countries (Letters, Nov. 20) suggest that his motives are driven more by xenophobia than by any rational desire to improve American security.

San Francisco

Meanwhile the Chronicle also published this story (originally from the New York Times) which reports that a Congressional committee concluded that US investigators failed to adequately investigate links between the 9/11 hijackers and Saudi Arabia.

The Khaled Galals and the CAIRs of the world seem to use every report of criminal behavior in the name of Islam as an opportunity to play the victim and allege that somebody else is trying to defame Islam and discriminate against Muslims. I'll be more sympathetic to their complaints once they start an organization (call it "Not in Our Name", or something along those lines) that protests against violence committed by other Muslims.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:17 PM
If at first you don't succeed...

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that California fans still want Gore for president. And Al Gore is still trying to make up his mind.

What is the historical precedent for renominated losing candidates to win on their second try? Let's look at the major party Presidential nominees who lost their first election and were renominated in the subsequent election. The most recent was Adlai Stevenson (Democrat) who lost in 1952 and again in 1956. Before him there was Thomas Dewey (Republican) who lost in 1944 and again in 1948. Then there was William Jennings Bryan (Democrat) who lost in 1896, again in 1900, and in a masterful triumph of hope over experience, also lost in 1908. We have to go all the way back to William Henry Harrison (Whig) who won on his second try in 1840, after first losing to Martin Van Buren in 1836. (Harrison died after a month in office).

The only first-time loser in the modern era to regain the nomination and win election was Richard Nixon, who sat out 1964 before getting back on the horse in 1968.

My predictions: Al Gore's chances of getting elected President? not very good. The likelihood that the Democrats will nominate him anyway? pretty good.

Acknowledgements: Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:10 PM
November 22, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 22

Coming soon to a war theater near you! (click on picture for larger size)

I had no idea that Oliver Sacks, neurologist author of "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat", was the first cousin of Abba Eban. Sacks gives a touching personal tribute to his departed cousin.

One of the IndyMedia pindits displays self-reflection:

Omar [Chaikhouni, the alleged camera-smasher] is probably in royally deep S**t, which is probably where he belongs, since he does our side no good, because we're already stereotyped by the Zionists as anti-semitic, violent assholes.
Those damn Zionists with their unfounded stereotypes.

An aide to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien is in trouble for calling George W Bush a "moron". Let it slide. I'm sure that most of the folks who work in the White House call the Canadian PM either "Mr. Cretin" or "that syrup-swilling appeasement moose"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:03 AM
A Remarkable Editorial

Several months ago I posted a page with the headline "Editorials from the Arab press calling for an end to suicide bombings and a recognition of Israel's right to exist". The body of the page says

You're kidding, right? Seriously, though, if you find any, send them to me and I'll post them.

Well I'm pleased to say that I found one. Honest.

Yesterday's edition of the English language Lebanese Daily Star has an unsigned opinion piece with the headline "Time for Arabs to win trust of Israelis". It applauds the Labor Party's selection of Amram Mitzna, and calls on the Palestinians to act responsibly

As this newspaper has said more than once, Mitzna has the potential to break up the logjam that threatens to rob Israelis and Palestinians alike of a better future. But first he has to get elected, and it will take more than asking Israeli voters to be mature and reasonable to have that happen: It will also require Palestinian behavior that offers proof of just how different things can be. That means refraining from the kind of shortsighted tactics that gave such a boost to Sharon in 2001 and to Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996.

The choice Israeli voters are being asked to make is a clear one, so anything that clouds their judgment is a victory for Sharon and his allies. They need bloodshed to build support for their heavy-handed policies and so will continue to secretly applaud whenever a suicide bomber blows up a cafe. Palestinian militant groups that have fallen for this ruse need to end such attacks, and quickly. What is at stake here is not a debate between right and wrong but one between smart and stupid. Why help someone who hates you?

I flatly reject the notion that Sharon and his allies "secretly applaud" cafe bombings, but the editorial does call for an end to suicide bombings and it does implicitly recognize Israel's right to exist and to have a "better future" and a "full and comprehensive peace agreement"

And despite its imperfections, it is the most encouraging editorial I've seen in the Arab press in recent memory.

I've reposted that page to link to this editorial, and I'm pleased to be able to remove the "You're kidding" line. If anybody finds any other positive editorials from the Arab press, please send them to me and I will link to them too.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:25 AM
November 21, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 21

The first public autopsy in 170 years was performed in London Wednesday night.

The Religion of Peace, upset about a beauty contest, started a riot that killed 50 people

Who's on First and Hu's the new General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:26 PM
Roundup of Barak Speech Coverage

The university posted a streaming video of the complete speech here

The San Francisco Chronicle covered the speech, and mentioned the protestors' allegations that Barak spoke "lies" and "propaganda", but didn't include any substance to support the protestors' claims.

The Daily Californian reported on the audience members who wore T-shirts with the word LIE written on them and added that "Their actions were met with applause from many in the audience" (it wasn't that many). But again, there is no substance to indicate which of Barak's remarks were supposedly lies or what the truth was supposed to be. The best part of the DailyCal story was this item

"Barak is an evil man, he is a violent man, a racist and a liar," said rhetoric professor Daniel Boyarin.
Excuse me, but I would expect a rhetoric professor to say something more interesting than just the PC multi-culti equivalent of "big fat poopy-pants doodie head"

The Daily Cal also had an exclusive interview with Barak, which they discredit by including a picture of the unexplained "LIE" T-shirt people at the top of the page.

A Berkeley student named Lev ruthlessly fisks the Daily Cal's coverage of the event.

The anonymous tinfoil hat denizens of SF IndyMedia posted a thread, which includes a bunch of pictures of protestors that are similar to the pictures that I would have posted had I not been relieved of my press freedom by a young Muslim performing an act of Peace. There is a hilariously distorted version of the camera theft incident:

After the talk was over, a proIsreal fanatic attacked a Palestinian woman and after a small scuffle he dropped a disposable camera and yelled for the police. A Palestinian man who may have pushed him was then arrested and is being held on felony charges for stealing and damaging the man's disposable cameraÖ
The woman was not Palestinian, but East Asian, I did not attack her, nobody pushed me, there was no scuffle, I didn't drop my camera, somebody threw it; I never identified myself or my position on Israel, so I have no idea why they assumed I was pro-Israel, even though I am. And Israel is spelled Israel, not Isreal, but it is real, which is the main thing that most of these people seem to have a hard time accepting.
The man whose first name is Omar, a Palestinian, was arrested by campus police, and put in jail for "stealing and vandalism" after he took away the disposable $10 camera from a pro-Barak Zionist who was flashing it in his face as a taunt, and stepped on the camera.
Again, I have no idea why he assumed I was pro-Barak Zionist instead of a pro-Sharon Zionist, but I'm not an Israeli citizen so I don't endorse any Israeli parties or candidates. I did not flash the camera in anybody's face, I did not taunt anybody, and he did not step on the camera, he threw it to the ground.

I see that some other brave anonymous soul in the IndyMedia thread called me the "attacker" (that should have been spelled P-H-O-T-O-G-R-A-P-H-E-R) and posts my home phone and address. My response: give me a call sometime, I'm always happy to chat with folks who are willing to be civil and rational.

Cal Student Kevin Deenihan happened to see at least some of the camera incident, and says that I gave too much credit to the police.

David Foster mentions me, along with several other recent incidents, in his essay BE AFRAID: The Rise of Political Violence and Intimidation in America

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:15 AM
November 20, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 20

The Religion of Peace blows up another bus full of commuters and schoolchildren.

Marten Barck, who writes the fine Watch website from Stockholm, Sweden, names Shark Blog "Site of the Week. He describes me as

Trenchant commenting on current affairs, often with a surprising and provocative twist. Stefan Sharkansky's sharp, pinpoint reporting and modest proposals combine a killer instinct for revealing details with a Swiftian sense of satire.
Thanks for the kind words, Marten, and keep up your good work Watching and exposing "fundamentalism, apologetics, moral equivalence, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:33 PM
The Berlin-Berkeley Axis

I went to UC Berkeley last evening to attend Ehud Barak's speech. I was there specifically to cover the speech and the attendant demonstrations for this here blog, in other words I went as a journalist. I returned as the victim of a felony at the hands of one of the demonstrators.

The speech was worthwhile and I will write up and post a summary. In addition to Barak's insights, the most remarkable moment came during Chancellor Berdahl's introduction, when he made a Freudian slip and called his campus the "Berlin Campus", which turned out to be prophetic.

The speech itself proceeded with only a couple of disruptions. There were numerous demonstrators outside the hall and I took lots of pictures both before and after the speech. Unfortunately nobody will ever get to see any of these pictures, because one of the demonstrators grabbed the camera out of my hands and destroyed it. I chose to press charges against the culprit. The suspect, Omar Chaikhouni, Berkeley student and member of a certain "Religion of Peace", is spending the night in jail and will be arraigned Wednesday on felony robbery and vandalism. [Chaikhouni, incidentally, complained about anti-Muslim hate crimes after 9/11]

One of the people who disrupted Barak was a young Asian woman who burst out yelling something unintelligible. I think it might have been the word "lie" or "liar". She was quickly escorted out of the lecture hall by a couple of police officers. I spotted her again after the talk let out. She was standing around outside with some other demonstrators. I went up to the Asian glossolalist disrupter woman and took her picture. She scowled and yelled at me, and insisted that I have to ask permission in order to take her picture. In fact, I did not need her permission since she was standing in a public place. I wanted her picture because she chose to turn herself into a news item by disrupting a public event. Unfortunately the flash didn't go off the first time, so I recharged the flash and humored her by asking permission to take her picture. She said no, and since I didn't need her permission in the first place, I took her picture again anyway. Now perhaps I could have gone about that in a different way, I have not yet cultivated the unguent manner of the professional photojournalist. But I was within my rights and there was no justification for what happened next.

At that point the young man who was later identified as Omar Chaikhouni grabbed the camera out of my hands using physical force, and thereby committed an act of felony robbery as well as interfered with my right (as a freelance journalist, no less) to take photographs (of a newsworthy subject) on public property. I then started shouting Police! Police! of which there were several a few dozen yards away. The group of five or six student protesters got all agitated. Some of them started walking toward me with menacing expressions. Others told me that I was breaking the law by taking their pictures without permission, which of course was nonsense. Moments later the alleged robber hurled my camera against the ground, shattering it into pieces and trashing the film.

Half a dozen cops suddenly appeared and the alleged robber and vandal turned his back and started walking away. I fingered him and some of the cops took him aside and talked to him and his friends, while another couple of cops spoke with me. They asked me what I wanted to do. I told them I wanted to press charges. I was impressed with the cool professionalism of both the Berkeley city police as well as the campus police. They made sure to defuse the tension by separating me from the demonstrators and even made sure to minimize our eye contact with each other. But I did see the little jerk getting handcuffed. I only wish I had a camera to preserve the moment.

It took nearly an hour of talking with cops, waiting around, filling out forms. I have no idea how the Alameda County DA will treat Chaikhouni, but I hope the DA will consider the fact that the crime was not merely about the destruction of a $10 disposable camera, it was primarily about interference with my rights as a photographer. Whatever happens, as our family friend (and Berkeley law professor) Malcolm Feeley puts it: "The Process is the Punishment" and may Chaikhouni have plenty of process.

The biggest lesson that came out of this episode for me was the nature of the demonstrators. It was clear from their puerile signs and vapid slogans, their hostile attitudes, the yelling, the disruption, the theft and destruction of my camera, the various multi-cultis who have no connection to the conflict, not even by ties of ethnicity. Few, if any of them know anything or really care about Palestinians. They simply require something to hate and to attack, and Israel just happens to be the fashionable target du jour. Which is why "Berlin Campus" (from decades past) was so interesting a slip.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:19 AM
November 19, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 19

Little Baby David learned today how to stand without holding on to anything.

I am leaving shortly to go see Ehud Barak speak at UC Berkeley. I expect to see all kinds of Jew blamers and terrorism supporters throwing temper tantrums, rioting and hurling furniture. Not to mention the supercilious dorks whose favorite hobby is encouraging other countries to unilaterally self-destruct. I will be armed with a disposal camera and a microcasette recorder. Wish me luck.

The Religion of Peace celebrated a murderer today.

Headline from Reuters: Australian Plotted to Bomb Israeli Embassy. Only in the sixth paragraph does the article mention a conspiracy involving a Muslim network, and only in the seventh paragraph does it mention that the accused Australian is himself a Muslim. The Islamic connection was not incidental, but central to the story. Shouldn't it have been mentioned in the lead?

And speaking of the Religion of Peace. Syria rejects a U.S. request to close the Islamic Jihad office in Damascus, demonstrating once again why Baby Doc Assad should be inducted into the Axis of Evil.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:31 PM
One on one with Diana Buttu

I had the chance to meet PLO spokeswoman and legal advisor Diana Buttu the other day (Nov. 8), when she spoke at an event organized by Global Exchange.

Before I get into the details of the event I'm going to make a public apology to Ms. Buttu for some of the things I wrote about her earlier. After meeting her, I came away with a more favorable impression of her than the one I formed only on the basis of her media exposure. It's easy to take cheap potshots at a public figure whom you've never met, but it's also wrong. In her case, I wrote some idiotic comments along the lines of "shameless flirt" and "PLO pin-up girl". Once I saw her in person, it was clear that such descriptions were not only ungentlemanly, they weren't even accurate. She is indeed an attractive, personable woman, gracious and friendly, but also serious, and it would be a stretch to call her a flirt, let alone a "pin-up girl". She's down-to-earth and in many ways like the other young professionals that my wife and I work and socialize with. In fact she seems so familiar and genuine, almost incapable of guile, that it's disarming.

But having a pleasant manner is not the same as representing a just cause and possessing the gift of believability is not the same as consistently spinning the truth. I remain a tough critic, but my earlier mischaracterizations of her were wrong, and I will do my best to keep my future remarks substantive.

Buttu calls herself a "peace technician" and presents herself as some kind of a victims rights advocate. And she is probably the most refereshingly pleasant and sympathetic spokesperson the PLO has ever sent to tour the United States. So it may be easy for some to overlook the fact that she's an advisor and spokesperson for Yassir Arafat and the PLO, the pathological leadership of a violently dysfunctional community. And unfortunately, she has a habit of misrepresenting much of the reality of the Arab-Israeli conflict and articulating unproductive negotiating positions. And that doesn't help anybody.

I wrote up some highlights of her presentation and my brief one-on-one chat with her along with some analysis here. As I explain in the write-up, her speeches to US audiences aren't likely to accomplish very much until the PLO and the PA undergo substantial internal reforms. In any event, it's not the Americans, but the Israeli swing voters who are the key to a peace agreement. The Palestinian leadership would do well to establish trust with the Israeli center. Buttu could perhaps apply her considerable talents to that problem. I wish her well, for everyone's sake.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:45 PM
Not the Free Speech Movement

The San Francisco Chronicle yesterday published a sympathetic profile of Roberto Hernandez, the UC Berkeley miscreant who is facing university disciplinary charges over his violent behavior at a campus riot in support of Palestinian terrorism last April. Tanya Schevitz' 1,200 word profile should earn some sort of an award for salacious liberal bias in reporting. Among other things, she wrote that

Hernandez's strong feelings about the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire have gotten him in big trouble at his school, UC Berkeley
But it wasn't his "strong feelings" that got him in trouble, it was the allegation that he bit a policeman and used force to prevent other students from attending class. Schevitz describes Hernandez' case as
a battle that students characterize as a free speech issue but one that the university considers a simple matter of protecting other students' rights to an education.
One suspects that the only students who confuse "free speech" with "criminal behavior" are Hernandez and his co-conspirators. When asked about his chronic misbehavior on campus, Hernandez admitted
he is involved in a lot of campus political actions but says it is because he has been frustrated every time he has tried to work within the system. He served as a student senator on campus but found his agenda thwarted by politics and partisanship, he said.
May this great University teach Hernandez and those who would emulate him that a democratic process offers only the right to participate and speak out, not a guarantee of persuading others to adopt one's point of view.

It's not okay to commit violent temper tantrums at other students' expense. Hernandez deserves a long time-out. If the University doesn't expel him, it will only send the message that the reward for campus violence is a little inconvenience and a lot of heroic media exposure.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:15 AM
November 18, 2002
Iraqis for Regime Change

Kudos to the San Francisco Chronicle's Rob Morse for today's column about Assyrian-American immigrants from Iraq. This is a community which has suffered greatly under Saddam and which supports military action to topple his regime. I wonder if any of the so-called "peace activists" will bother to listen to, and learn from the Assyrians

At Friday's dinner, Youel A. Baaba, a literary scholar and patriarch of the Assyrian Aid Society, spoke in the Assyrian language about how few people knew of the 200 Assyrian villages destroyed by Hussein and people forcibly relocated to undesirable places. "Sadly, not too many people are aware of the atrocities committed against Assyrians or their deplorable living conditions in Iraq," he said.
"Whatever happens, it will happen for the best," said Los Angeles developer Pierre Toulakany. "It couldn't be worse that what we've had, with chemical weapons used against our people.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:07 PM
Strip for Saddam

A significant number of today's visitors are coming from Google looking for this entry, which originally ran on Friday:

A group of Marin County women exposed themselves for the camera to protest the impending liberation of the Iraqi people from Saddam's reign of terror.

If any other ladies wish to use nude pictures of themselves to express their opinions either for or against Saddam, please send me a photograph and a brief statement and I will post both right here on the Shark Blog.

If I receive enough pictures of naked ladies in support of Saddam I promise to reconsider my opposition to his regime.

UPDATE Nobody has sent me any naked pictures yet. Please, ladies, make a statement. Do it for the children.

UPDATE Jan 4, 2003: The Marin Naked Women's Saddam Brigade will be marching down Market Street on January 18!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:46 PM
Who is Nancy Pelosi?

The San Francisco Chronicle has a few stories in the last couple of days that give insight into the soon-to-be Minority Leader. Matier and Ross ask if she's a "Latte Liberal". (Not that there's anything wrong with a latte. I start most days with a latte. You can call me a Latte Libertarian). Their answer is yes, Pelosi is a Latte Liberal, but she's more than that, she's also a ruthless and vindictive operator who never forgets an insult.

Meanwhile Washington Bureau Chief Marc Sandalow explains how Pelosi clinched the leadership post: she raised $8 million and doled out more campaign cash than any other Democrat last year (improperly, some say, but the Chronicle overlooks this). Sandalow quotes California state Sen. John Burton: "Some people are in government, and some people are in politics, Nancy Pelosi cut her teeth in politics." Which would be consistent with her habitual cluelessness on foreign affairs, economics and other aspects of governance. And in Pelosi's own words: "Politics is about motion, You are either going forward, or you are going backward." So she is using her political savvy to take us forward to the good old days of the McGovern Administration.

Today's paper recaps her appearance on yesterday's Meet the Press. As usual, the Chronicle accepts without question her vapid statements on Iraq. But the money in the article is the insight that Pelosi "prefers to describe herself as an Italian American grandmother of five". When you combine that with the side of her that is a vindictive backroom operator, you realize that underneath the big grin and the non-fat almond latte she is in fact ... Livia Soprano! So maybe there is hope for her after all. All we need to do is convince her that George Bush is not Tony Soprano. Saddam Hussein is Tony Soprano.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:49 AM
November 17, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 17

Even the Democratic Party insiders are tired of Al Gore.

The Religion of Peace is having a busy but unproductive weekend, as attempts to hijack an EL AL passenger plane, gas the London subway system, and bomb a hotel in Yemen, have all been foiled.

Nancy Pelosi was the featured guest on NBC News Meet the Press this morning. Among her various reality-defying statements was: "we want to make sure that we can resolve [the Iraq confrontation], show our greatness by resolving it diplomatically rather than just showing our power by going in militarily." Yet she gave no hint of what a diplomatic solution might conceivably look like. And Russert was too polite to press her on it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:03 PM
Horsing Around

Palestinian Media Watch is presenting short summaries of Horseman Without a Horse, the dramatization of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, now airing on television stations across the Arab world.

Read the following entries in order to catch up : Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and check back with PMW for updates

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:21 AM
November 16, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 16

In Mark Steyn's column in the Spectator last week he admits he had been wrong about Bush's prospects in the 2002 elections. A columnist admitting that his commentary turned out to be wrong should be unremarkable, but when was the last time a liberal columnist admitted he/she was wrong? Steyn also hints at who should be the next President, if only we change the Constitution to allow Canadians to hold the office.

And another item that's a few days old but essential reading -- David Brooks of the Weekly Standard on Saddam's Brain

My wife's reaction to the Marin County women who took their clothes off to protest US action against Saddam: "Who are these people? I'll bet they're a bunch of bored housewives who aren't working".

If you know what's good for you, you better join the Religion of Peace or else.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:15 PM
November 15, 2002

Tom Plate, UCLA professor and recidivist San Francisco Chronicle columnist, has an uncanny ability to pen a line that is either nonsensical, irrelevant or just plain wrong. In today's column he scores a trifecta:

The Gates gift [to fight AIDS in India] also demonstrates an increasingly potent phenomenon of globalization: the intimate interconnectedness between what is important locally and what is important globally. All along the West Coast of the United States, Indians dominate the software spotlight of the American computer world.
I've been in the software business for over fifteen years and I have no idea what Plate means by the "software spotlight". It is true that many of the most talented and successful people in the industry happen to be Indian or Indian-American. But it would be a stretch to say that Indians dominate the software industry. Then again, Plate didn't say that they dominate the "software industry", only the "software spotlight", whatever it is. And as far as what's important globally and locally -- over the years I've had many conversations on serious issues with my numerous friends and colleagues from India. As with many people in the software business, one of their main concerns seems to be not the spread of the AIDS virus, but the spread of Windows viruses and Bill Gates' unhealthy domination of the American software industry.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:50 PM
A Jewish Joke

A story is told of a Jewish man who was riding on the subway reading an Arab newspaper. A friend of his, who happened to be riding in the same subway car, noticed this strange phenomenon. Very upset, he approached the newspaper reader: "Moshe, have you lost your mind? Why are you reading an Arab newspaper?"

Moshe replied: "I used to read the Jewish newspaper, but what did I find? Jews being persecuted, Israel being attacked, Jews disappearing through assimilation and intermarriage, Jews living in poverty. So I switched to the Arab newspaper. Now what do I find? Jews own all the banks, Jews control the media, Jews are all rich and powerful, Jews rule the world. The news is so much better!".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:40 PM
Here and There, Nov. 15

The Religion of Peace shot and killed a group of worshippers today. This latest act of peace took place in the town of Hebron, site of an earlier attempt to ethnically cleanse the Jewish community. Injured victims were evacuated and treated by Magen David Adom, an organization which the Canadian government is seeking to defund.

The FBI warned Thursday that al-Qaida is likely to attempt a "spectacular" attack intended to damage the U.S. economy. One way to do that would be to file a barrage of frivolous lawsuits.

Quid pro quo: A senior Fatah official said Thursday that the Hamas leadership "promised to give serious thought to halting terror attacks against Israeli civilians". In return the Palestinian Authority demanded that "Israel refrain from any provocation that might torpedo any possibility for a cease-fire". If it weren't for all the human suffering wrapped up in all of this, it would be almost funny to watch these guys crawling out from under their piles of rubble to negotiate as if they were in a position of strength.

And speaking of a disconnect between fantasy and reality, Al Gore is now promoting single-payer health insurance. In order to find enough voters who believe in Santa Claus, he will be moving to Yellowknife, Canada

I've now tried Fruity Booty, which isn't bad, but I still prefer Veggie Booty. Little Baby David loves it too!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:28 AM
November 14, 2002
House Democrats Elect Pelosi

House Democrats have formally elected Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader, which is certain to mean chronic irrelevance and minority status for the Democrats far into the future. Front Page Magazine is not impressed with Pelosi's loony lefty views either. The San Francisco Chronicle reassures us, however, that Pelosi "has no intention of tugging her party to the left or imposing her liberal outlook on the rest of the country". It defies common sense that anybody would seek such a leadership post without intending to influence public policy. But then again, a great deal of what Pelosi says defies common sense.

Although the vote is over, Glenn Reynolds shares some good reasons why Harold Ford would have been a better Minority Leader than Pelosi.

UPDATE I just found this cartoon from Roll Call

and there are more cartoons from R.J. Matson here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:50 AM
November 13, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 13

David Broder predicts that Bush will be easily re-elected in 2004. (He doesn't actually come out and say that, but draw your own conclusions from the article)

Dumb and Dumber: Representatives of Fatah and Hamas are meeting in Cairo this week. Fatah is apparently trying to persuade Hamas to recognize Arafat and the Palestinian Authority as the sole representative of the Palestinians and perhaps even to agree to end the suicide bombings. A Hamas spokesman rejected any suggestion to end suicide bombings, saying "We will defend ourselves with all means." It's unclear to me how the unprovoked murders of, say, a four-year-old boy, a five-year-old boy and their mother could be construed as self-defense, but there you have it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:45 AM
November 12, 2002
Feminist Mathematics

Writing in today's San Francisco Chronicle, columnist Joan Ryan expresses frustration that only one of the 16 new Senate committee chairs is a woman. Her solution is that more women should "get angry" and then get involved in politics. Ryan also includes the statement:

The one female committee chair would represent a 100 percent increase over the number of female committee chairs in the Senate now (which is zero).
That is not correct. An increase from one to two would be a 100 percent increase, and a decrease from one to zero would be a 100 percent decrease. But it is mathematically impossible to express an increase from zero as a percentage. Perhaps instead of encouraging women to simply "get angry", Ryan should encourage more women to study mathematics.

UPDATE: I sent this link to the eminent Joanne Jacobs, who during her time at the San Jose Mercury News was the best local opinion columnist in the Bay Area. I asked her if editors shouldn't be checking math in addition to style and grammar. Her response: "Editors can't check math. They don't know any." She also didn't think much of the following paragraph of Ryan's:

But our government can never be truly representative of the female half of the population as long as nearly all of the decision-makers have never been working mothers, choosing between decent child care and decent housing, never whacked their heads on a glass ceiling, never sat in a bathroom staring at a positive pregnancy test.
Jacobs wrote:
I thought her paragraph about what men can't understand is sexist, and confuses being poor with being female: Plenty of couples have worried about the cost of child care and housing (or the cost of mom quitting her job and housing); plenty of men are invited into the bathroom to stare at the positive pregnancy test. And lots of people blame bias for their failure to win promotion. But few people with money and connections, like Dianne Feinstein or Nancy Pelosi, have had to deal with these problems.
How true.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:46 PM
Here and There, Nov. 12

It seems that the rules existed but were not enforced. I think it's time for some new rules to ensure that all the existing rules are enforced. And we might as well have some brand new rules too.

Ehud Barak will be speaking on the UC Berkeley campus on Nov. 19. The bleeding-brain crowd is organizing a protest. Barak, recall, is the man who pulled the troops out of Lebanon and was the first (and perhaps last) Israeli Prime Minister to offer the Palestinians all of Gaza, nearly all of the West Bank, a big piece of Jerusalem and a limited right of return to Israel for refugees. Maybe it's just me, but shouldn't they be protesting against the idiot who turned all that down?

I am John Adams

Which Founding Father Are You?

The average IQ of the anti-war movement fell a little more last week, when one of its brighter lights died.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:12 AM
November 11, 2002
Pelosi vs. the Extremists

A headline in a weekend news story reads: "Pelosi Called Pragmatic, Inclusive" (You have to read the whole article to figure out that only her closest allies call her that).

In the meantime, Pelosi herself is inclusive of everybody but Republicans, whom she dismisses with the old label of "extremist":

We must draw clear distinctions between our vision of the future and the extreme policies put forward by the Republicans
And to figure out what is Pelosi's non-extremist vision of the future, let's poke around her recent press releases, where we will find the following specimens of her self-appointed non-extremism:

"Force protection is our top priority on the Intelligence Committee...We cannot put [our troops] in harmís way unless we take every precaution possible to protect them." (I always thought that the military were the brave folks who volunteer to go into "harm's way" to protect the rest of us, not the other way around).

"[Housing projects for very low-income frail seniors] are investments in our parents and our grandparents..." (I always thought that investment was about developing productive assets, not about taking care of dying invalids)

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union stands for economic progress

The women of Zimbabwe and Saudi Arabia are better off than the women in the United States because those countries signed a treaty for the "Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women"

Maintaining the teacher union's monopoly on public schools is more important than giving parents a choice in their own children's education

Enlarging the member base of public employee labor unions is more important than public safety.

Government funded art is somehow better than privately funded art.

The government should decide how much companies are allowed to pay their executives.

Employees shouldn't be allowed to make their own decisions on managing their own retirement savings

Pricing unskilled workers out of the labor market will help their children.

Tobacco companies cause women and children to smoke.

Immigrants should get food stamps

Campaign finance reform laws will prevent special interests from influencing politics.

More resources should be shifted from working taxpayers to people who choose not to work.

You get the point. There's plenty more where this came from. But if Pelosi thinks her positions are an antidote to extremism, then go ahead, call me an extremist. After all, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:18 AM
November 10, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 10

Richard Rappaport argues that Dianne Feinstein would be the Democrats' best bet for President in 2004. I have concerns about Feinstein, as she is more willing than most politicians to whittle away at the First Amendment in order to salve various fits of public hysteria. But on many issues she is pragmatic, centrist and certainly more of a foreign policy realist than the Pelosi Democrats. Nominating Feinstein probably would be a smart political move for the Dems.

The Religion of Peace has just killed some more innocent people.

Thomas Friedman makes some stellar points today:

Let's be blunt: the Democratic Party as a force for shaping U.S. foreign policy is out of business, until that party undergoes regime change. That's not healthy. You can't have a sound foreign policy without an intelligent domestic opposition keeping people honest.
Consider the Predator drone that last week fired a rocket and wiped out a key Al Qaeda cell in Yemen. I'm glad we did that. Sometimes it's the only way justice gets done.
I think that Friedman is chronically wrong in arguing that the Palestinian aspriations will be satisfied if Israel removes its settlements from the West Bank. But Friedman is so right on so many other issues.

Maureen Dowd has a run-in with the religious police in Saudi Arabia and writes: "I missed John Ashcroft desperately." Perhaps she's beginning to understand what this whole thing is about. Good for her.

The best new snack food I've discovered in a really long time is called Veggie Booty

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:17 PM
November 09, 2002
Yeah, whatever

Floundering comedian Ray Hanania accuses Shark Blog, Little Green Footballs and others of being "hate & anti-Arab sites", belonging to a collection of "Bigots, assholes and others, including a few Pro-Nazi jerks, promoters of bigotry, and other hate inspired websites". It is true that I have written unflattering remarks about corrupt tyrannical regimes, deranged terrorists and their apologists. But I do not "hate Arabs" as Hanania implies. Indeed, in the specific post that Hanania links to, I specifically condemn discrimination against Arabs. But anybody who calls the Israeli government "Nazi-like", or says that the United States Congress is "Israeli Occupied Territory" will probably say anything for a laugh.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:56 PM
November 08, 2002
Pelosi clinches House Minority Leadership

The contest is over, now that her rivals have dropped out of the race. Nancy Pelosi will now become House Minority Leader.

May the House Democrats enjoy a long period of paleoliberalism and irrelevance.

UPDATE: Bill Quick isn't impressed with the future of the Democratic party either. But he also cautions the Republicans not to blow it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:31 AM
Nancy Pelosi Update

The San Francisco Chronicle endorses Nancy Pelosi for House Minority Leader. Partly because they liked her ineffectual stance regarding Iraq. Meanwhile, the Chronicle is also running a "news" article with the headline Decision time for House Democrats: Do they follow Pelosi and battle GOP, or move to 'center' with her rival?. This overexcited editorialization of the news would seem to mock the Chronicle's own stated policy of maintaining "a fire wall between the opinion pages and the news sections".

Meanwhile, Harold Ford, a 32-year-old member of the Congressional Black Caucus has mounted his own challenge for the Minority Leader position. Will his challenge split the Pelosi-McKinney wing of the House Democrats, leaving the Caucus in more responsible hands, or is he trying to build his own name recognition and/or play power broker?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:46 AM
November 07, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 7

Religion of Peace takes another hostage

Charles Johnson "endorses" yet another fine Microsoft product.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:18 PM
Minority Leader Pelosi?

Dick Gephardt has announced that he will announce [sic] that he will step down as House Minority Leader. Vying to replace Gephardt are my own Congresswoman, House Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi, and House Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost of Texas.

Neither Frost nor Pelosi are particularly well known. But whoever becomes Minority Leader has the inside track to becoming Speaker of the House if the Democrats return to the majority in 2004. In the meantime, the Minority Leader will be one of the key spokesmen for the loyal opposition. Some partisan Republicans might prefer to have the most extreme liberal in that role, so that the Democrats look foolish and self-destruct. But I disagree. I think we should have the most capable opposition we can get -- to support the majority when appropriate and to disagree when appropriate, but to always do so from a sensible position and with reasoned and articulate arguments.

I don't know much about Frost, but I know enough about my own Congresswoman to have concerns about her fitness for a senior leadership post. Her politics are a proud throwback to the discredited paleoliberalism of the McGovern/Carter/Mondale/Jackson/Dukakis era, revised for the 00s with Tom Ammiano and Cynthia McKinney as co-poster-children. Pelosi won 80% of the vote here in San Francisco, but the rest of the country is not San Francisco. Nor, fortunately, does it want to be. Nor does it have much use for Nancy Pelosi's version of nanny-state socialism and ineffectual foreign policy.

I've blogged several entries about Pelosi in the last month or so. I've organized the links on a permanent page here. I'll be writing more about her in the days ahead.

Get to know Nancy Pelosi, she may be playing a bigger role on the national stage. And if your local Congressman happens to be a Democrat, write to him or her and express your opinion on Pelosi as a House leader.

UPDATE Cokie Roberts [NPR audio] gives the advantage to Pelosi, adding that the House Democratic Caucus is "a lot more liberal than the voters, and how that plays in the end with the electorate becomes another question".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:46 AM
November 06, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 6

If you were to combine international film star Salma Hayek with Nazi propaganda master Joseph Goebbels, airplane hijacker Leila Khaled, and teen girl suicide bomber Ayat Akhras, the result would be PLO spokeswoman and cheesecake girl, Hamas Honey Diana Buttu. Buttu is speaking at UC Berkeley this evening (Evans Hall 7-9:30). If her track record serves as a guide, she will throw the truth out the window and describe a version of Israel and Palestine that exists only in the hysterical imaginations of PLO terrorists and their fan club.

Republicans retake the Senate, improve margin in the House, in what is, among other things, an endorsement for the Administration's foreign policy, and a rejection of Democrat defeatism and appeasement. And in Minnesota, voters choose Coleman over Walter "Mesozoic" Mondale.

Here in San Francisco, voters were surprisingly sane, passing an initiative to end cash handouts to homeless people, and rejecting measures to raise real estate taxes and to municipalize the electric company. On the other hand, the anti-private property lunatic left defeated a measure to permit renters to purchase their apartments. Also, the city will now be in the business of growing and dealing marijuana for medical use and temper-tantrum throwing bleeding-brain Supervisor Chris Daly has been reelected.

And in Berkeley people are still allowed to drink whatever kind of coffee they want.

The latest Carnival of Vanities is up.

I thought we had stupid referenda on our ballot here in San Francisco, but this takes the cake.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:16 AM
November 05, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 5


Harvey Pitt has resigned as SEC chairman. (heard on NPR)
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been re-elected.
New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg has been elected.


The Religion of Peace has been caught selling drugs and buying missiles.

What time is it, boys and girls? It's time to bomb Saddam

The headline at Ha'aretz: "Jewish Defense League chair brain dead after suicide attempt". One could also argue that he was brain dead before the suicide attempt.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:01 PM
Election Day

If you live in California: vote for anybody who is not Gray Davis.

If you live in San Francisco: vote NO on propositions D (public power), L (real estate tax increase), O (Tom Ammiano wasteful handouts to homeless)
vote YES on K (restore competition in public notice ads), N (Gavin Newsom sensible homeless initiative), R (home ownership for renters)

And regarding your local race for the House of Representatives. If you vote for your local Democrat your are also voting to help Nancy Pelosi become Speaker of the House. Vote Democrat only if you want Nancy to be Speaker.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:10 AM
Goebbels with a Pretty Face
PLO propagandist Diana Buttu[right] -- shameless flirt, cynical exploiter of well-intentioned Useful Idiots, ardent practitioneer of Joseph Goebbels[left]' "Big Lie" theory of public relations, and all-around fabulous babe -- is on a speaking tour of the United States this month.

San Francisco Bay Area: Nov. 6-9
Notre Dame, IN: Nov. 11
Pittsburgh, PA: Nov. 13
Boston, MA: Nov. 14
Newark, NJ: Nov. 15-16

See the schedule for details. Buttu takes, uh, creative liberties with the facts, so why don't you visit one of her appearances if you can, and challenge her on some of her more inventive misrepresentations of history.

UPDATE More on the Goebbels/Buttu connection:

Goebbels earned a doctorate in history and literature. Buttu is working toward a doctorate in law.

Goebbels had verbal facility and intellect. Buttu has verbal facility and intellect.

Goebbels worked for Adolf Hitler. Buttu works for Yassir Arafat.

Goebbels was a Jew-baiter. Buttu demonizes Israel.

Goebbels helped orchestrate Kristallnacht. Buttu is a spokeswoman for the Intifada.

Goebbels developed "Big Lie" propaganda: tell the biggest lie you can and repeat it often and eventually people will believe it. Buttu tells numerous Big Lies: that Israel's occupation of the West Bank is "illegal"; that Arafat is not involved in terrorism; that Israel is an "apartheid state".

Goebbels blamed the German invasion of Poland on Polish intransigence. Buttu blames the Intifada on Israeli intransigence.

Goebbels had numerous love affairs with beautiful women. Buttu is a beautiful woman.

Goebbels hijacked the democratic process to destroy democratic institutions from within. Buttu is demanding Israeli citizenship for millions of Palestinians in order to destroy Israel from within.

Goebbels helped organize the Final Solution. Buttu wishes to destroy the State of Israel.

Goebbels committed suicide. Buttu is an apologist for suicide bombers.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:09 AM
November 04, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 4

The S.F. Chronicle has a gushing puff profile of local Congresswoman and aspiring Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The Chronicle, which is understandably eager to promote a local candidate for Speaker, criticizes only Pelosi's unpolished public speaking ability, and doesn't bother to question Pelosi's actual politics or ethics, both of which would be disastrous in a Speaker of the House.

Religion of peace kills again

And a few more warriors of the Religion of Peace die a glorious martyr's death

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:38 PM
Talking Turkey

My friend Joseph Leitmann sent me his thoughts on the Turkish election results (Joseph has lived in Turkey and has published at least one academic paper on Turkish foreign policy)
It will be extremely interesting to find out how "moderate" these Islamists will behave once in power since they won't have any real opposition...even for changing the Constitution! They control Parliament, and they control it fully: 362 seats vs. the CHP's 179 (the only other party to cross the 10% minimum to be represented in Parliament). Only those two parties will be represented.

I don't expect this government to last more than a year. The military simply HATES having an Islamist telling them how to play with their toys. Besides, while the previous Islamist-led government existed, Turkey was moved closer to the West by signing economic agreements with Europe and the US and signing my babies: the Turkish-Israeli defense cooperation agreements. The then PM, Erbakan, wasn't even consulted in either negotiations and was only told by the military and the pro-West establishment where to sign the documents! So, while the military continues to be declared by the Turkish Constitution "the guardians of Secularism" it doesn't matter what extremist/radical/Islamist is in power, nothing will be changed in the only Muslim democracy in the region.

The major factor, having seen it first hand, in the victory achieved by the Islamists is really not based on religious aspects. Over the past decade, the Islamists have controlled most of the municipal governments across Anatolia and have done a very efficient job at providing all the necessary services for urban and rural areas, especially in the political capital--Ankara-- and the economic and cultural capital--Istanbul. Also, they promised "everything" to "everybody": jobs, meat, bread, etc. Populism and economic crisis are not a good match for a developing country, but that seems to be the winning formula this year: Lula in Brazil.

Now, what will be fascinating is to see the extent to which the military wishes to impose its power over the new government: the new governing party's leader, Erdogan (former mayor of greater Istanbul [equivalent to the County of Istanbul]), is accused of "again" inciting religious hatred and could end of in jail. Also, one of the country's 4 supreme courts (the Court of Cassation) is going to start hearing a case against the AKP, the new governing party, and could move to dissolve it. So, we could end up with a scenario were the governing party is dissolved and its leader sent to jail. That is politics a la Turkiye!

Some news and commentary from Turkey's only newspaper in English:

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:18 AM
Where is everybody?

I've been fascinated with geography ever since I was a little boy. So I reorganized my blogroll by geography, even though there were probably better ways for me to use my time. If you happen to be listed, be sure to correct me if I've mischaracterized your location. And if I put you in the "USA - elsewhere or unknown" bucket, feel free to drop me a line and let me know what region you're in. (If it's obvious from your blog, you can just write "RMFB" in the subject of your email).

And speaking of making the most of one's time -- Prof. Reynolds is a living lesson in time management.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:11 AM
Biological Warfare?

Is Lebanon using biological weapons against Israel? Ha'aretz reports that

Israel suspects that Lebanon dumped sewage water in the Ayun river in south Lebanon, which flows into Israeli territory and connects to the Jordan river and Lake Kinneret.

Aniela Goldberg, a resident of the northern town of Metula, saw three of four tankers pouring fluids north of the town, in Lebanese territory on Thursday. "I could see the truck on the road dumping fluid on the side of the road. I couldn't see where everything went because of the high vegetation," Goldberg said.

At this stage, it is not clear whether the fluid dumped is sewage water and whether any damage has been caused.

Hebrew website reports that the Israeli Environment Ministry confirmed that the fluid was sewage, and that this would be detrimental to an important source of drinking water [cheers to an anonymous LGF reader for the link]

Perhaps we should call this biuvlogical warfare.

("Biuv" is Hebrew for "sewage")

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:53 AM
November 03, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 3

Saudi Says Will Not Help Any U.S. Strike on Iraq

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia, a "key U.S. regional ally", said on Sunday it would not allow the United States to use its facilities for any attack against neighboring Iraq even if a strike was sanctioned by the United Nations
(the quotes around "key U.S. regional ally" are mine) This was to be expected, and I'm not worried about it. Either they're dissembling and really will help when the time comes, or they won't. Even if the latter, we will still take care of Iraq. And then we should be able to count on Iraq to help us in a future strike against Saudi.

Axis of Nazism: Right-wing Austrian politician JŲrg Haider is visiting Baghdad for the third time this year

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:04 AM
November 02, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 2

Link-o-rama I have just updated my blogroll to include many more worthwhile blogs. Most of these new additions are long overdue. If I didn't include you this time and I should have, then it's not a slight, but an inadvertent oversight. Just remind me that you're still out there. I didn't intend to drop anybody from my roll (unless you've merged or gone out of business), so if you suddenly can't find your name any more, it was an honest mistake, just let me know. Likewise if I spelled your name wrong or something.

And this is just as good a day as any to say that I added Michele to my blogroll, which I was planning to do anyway.

Army Fires Arabic Linguists for Being Gay
Hey guys! We're in the middle of a war. We need all the talented people we can muster. My Arabic is rusty, but I remember enough to know that the Arabic word for "insane" is "majnun". [link from Mike Silverman]

Of course the Democrats and Republicans will do whatever they can to get around the campaign finance laws. As long as the government regulates commerce and spends tax dollars, interested parties will inevitably pay what it takes to influence the political and regulatory processes. So-called "campaign finance reforms" only raise the cost of participation and therefore give the advantage for purchasing influence to established moneyed interests relative to everyone else. While some folks are apparently naive enough to think that campaign finance reform will somehow benefit the average taxpayer, those in Congress who actually craft the laws are cynical enough to make the laws work in their favor.

What would you do if you were the President and you wanted to fire your SEC Chairman? You can't actually fire him, because you don't have the statutory authority to do so. What you might do instead, as a first step, would be to have one of your senior aides make an anonymous statement to a reporter to the effect that the White House is angry about something that the SEC Chairman has done, and to add that "no decision has been made" whether to ask for his resignation.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:18 PM
November 01, 2002
Here and There, Nov. 1

Imshin shares a fundamental insight that helps explain the entire Middle East conflict. Be sure to click through to the very perceptive essay by Egyptian intellectual Tarek Heggy

I don't have nearly the number of visitors as do Glenn Reynolds or Bill Quick, but I believe I have a larger nose. Draw your own conclusions.

Is South Africa going the way of Zimbabwe? This article reports that the Mbeki government is blaming a recent series of bombings on a vague conspiracy of right-wing Afrikaaners in the security forces , but the report doesn't give any actual facts linking any Afrikaaners to the attacks. Is this a precursor to an ongoing purge of whites from the police and military? Any South African readers care to comment?

And now it really is time for Harvey Pitt to resign.

Saddam's shop of horrors: Jeff Jacoby in today's Boston Globe explains why regime change in Iraq would be "performing an act of nearly incalculable mercy" -- for the people of Iraq

As a boy, writes Kenneth Pollack [in his new book], Saddam Hussein would heat an iron poker until it was white-hot, then use it to impale cats and dogs. Years later, when he had boys of his own, he would take them into prisons so they could watch -- and get used to -- torture and executions
and the rest of Jacoby's column is even more gruesome. Read the whole thing [courtesy of reader Michael Delman]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:26 AM
When public grief is personal grief

Arnold Roth sent me a couple of articles this week that are well worth reading and sharing.

The first article, by Ilene Prusher of the Christian Science Monitor, is about some Israeli families who lost children in terrorist attacks, and who came together this Sukkot for a Family Healing Retreat to try to grieve and grow together. The article portrays the deeply personal side of the tragedies that, for most of us, are merely public tragedies. Roth, who attended the Retreat with his own family and is quoted in the article, wrote that Prusher's report is "uncommonly sensitive and perceptive".

And after reading the article, do follow the links to the foundations that the families established in memory of Malki Roth and Koby Mandell

The other article that Roth sent me is about some of the root causes of Palestinian terrorism: The Palestinian Authority and its finances. Scroll down, or follow this link for more

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:03 AM
Where does the money go?

Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority has "systemically and systematically used corruption and crime, and diverted funds donated for the development of the Palestinian state, to fund terrorism and to enrich its leadership."

So says Rachel Ehrenfeld, of the Center for the Study of Corruption and the Rule of Law, in a study released last week titled "The Palestinian Authority: Where does the Money Go?"[.pdf file]"

The study is full of fascinating tales on the origins of PLO and PA money: official contributions from Arab states, taxes on Palestinian wages, investments (legitimate and otherwise), extortion, charitable front organizations, illegal arms deals, fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, monopoly businesses in the Palestinian territories owned by Arafat cronies, drug trafficking, graft, bribery, kickbacks, car theft, skimming of Palestinian workers' pension funds, and oh yes, donations from US and EU taxpayers.

And where does the money go? Of course, some of it goes to support what most would accept to be the customary functions of an emerging government. But a lot also goes into the pockets and private bank accounts of PA officials, from Arafat to Faisal Husseini to Mohammed Dahlan to Nabil Shaath and Jibril Rajoub. If you recognize a PA official's name from newspaper reports, chances are he's important enough to have his own off-the-books income stream. And the money also goes to buy and build illegal weapons, to pad the payrolls with terrorists, (or Tanzim activists as they are officially known), and to support propaganda and incitement to murder.

I always approach any such heavy-hitting article with some degree of healthy skepticism, but this particular report is well-documented, with over 100 footnotes from dozens of different sources, including official EU and PA records. It repeats some of the allegations reported by Die Zeit (here and here), and adds much, much more.

The scale of the corruption is astounding, and chances are that your tax dollars and mine are floating in that swamp. Read the whole thing. And then why don't you send a letter to your elected officials urging them to table any new subsidies to the PA.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:47 AM