December 31, 2002
Happy New Year

Here's wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, joyful and prosperous New Year.

Irene and I get to have a low-key celebration tonight, which will consist mainly of watching Ken Burns' Civil War on tape and eating Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia. Which is just one more of the many advantages of being happily married and having children in the house.

And if it's gratuitous excitement you seek, may I recommend the first Carnival of the Vanities for 2003, over at Solonor's place

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:30 PM
Free At Last -or- SUNW RIP

In December 1994 I purchased a Sun Microsystems SPARCstation 5. At the time, Sun was the leading edge UNIX workstation and the machine of choice for the serious UNIX software developer. The machine came with 32MB of RAM, 1.5 GB of disk space and a 20" GDM 20D10 monitor. The original operating system was SunOS 4.1. The whole thing cost $9400, net of a generous developer's discount. Over the years I spent thousands of dollars more in upgrades and add-ons -- switched to Solaris 2.5, bought a tape drive, an external disk, a new motherboard with a 70MHz (!) processor, more memory, and replaced 2 or 3 internal hard disks as they crashed.

In the years since I bought the Sparc5, Linux has gone from a hobbyist's toy to a serious and reliable commercial operating system, and the Intel processors have given the Sparc a run for the money. In 1999 when I had to buy new computers for my company, Linux could do what I needed to do at a fraction of the cost of any Sun. My Sparc5's role evolved from my main development machine, to a DNS and e-mail server and finally it was just a repository for a bunch of old files I didn't take the time to move to a different machine.

Several months ago another of its disks died and I didn't bother to replace it. The last time I shopped around, I found that a disk for a Sun cost a lot more than the same size disk for a commodity Intel box. I tried to figure out what to do with old Sparky, upgrade it again and put it to work? Sell it? In the meantime, I let it sit on my office floor, collecting dust. This was never a priority until I had to clean up the office for some important visitors. I looked on e-bay and found that I couldn't expect to sell it for enough to justify the time and hassle and shipping costs. But I did find a local outfit that recycles old computers and donates the salvageable parts to schools and non-profits.

So I restored the old files from tape onto the working disk, and copied them to a different computer. And I brought the SparcStation to be recycled. I had to take a cab because the oversized 20" monitor wouldn't fit in my car. After spending thousands of dollars on the system over the years, it cost me another $40 to get rid of it -- $30 for the round-trip cab ride and $10 to pay them to take the monitor. At least I'm free of the big albatross collecting dust in my office.

And this little story is also a metaphor for the state of Sun Microsystems, Inc. Back in the mid-eighties when I started my career Sun was beginning its ascent. One of its big selling points was that as a system based on "open standards" (like Berkely UNIX) it would be more economical than a proprietary system, such as from IBM or Digital (anybody remember Digital?). In the meantime, the meaning of "open standards" has shifted. Now, the commodity Intel ISA box is effectively the open standard for hardware and Linux is the open standard for UNIX. Both of which are much cheaper than SPARC hardware and Solaris 2.x. Yes, Sun invented Java, but you don't need Sun hardware to use Java. And Intel and Linux have done to Sun what Sun once did to Digital and the VAX. And it's hard to imagine how Sun will regain a position of dominance, or even stay independent indefinitely.

Back in 1998 a friend of mine sold his company to Sun for a lot of Sun stock. I recommended that he sell nearly all of the stock in order to diversify his portfolio, even though he would pay millions in taxes. I believe he took my advice, but I'm not positive. At the time, SUNW was trading between $5 and $6 a share (adjusted for subsequent splits). It peaked two years later at about $60. My friend had long before stopped asking me for financial ideas. Sun closed today at $3.11. I wouldn't expect it to see $5 again any time soon.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:59 PM
December 30, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 30

You don't need to read Arabic to appreciate this page on the Al-Jazeera website, with its photograph of the USS Harry S Truman, in Marseilles on its way to the Persian Gulf.

South Korea, underscoring differences with the U.S., said today that economic pressure would not persuade the North to halt its nuclear program, calls for appeasement instead. Which is why the U.S. should end the North Korean regime as soon as possible. Not to save those South Koreans who refuse to defend themselves, but to save the rest of the planet from North Korea's proliferation of missiles and nuclear technology.

The Religion of Peace kills some more American aid workers

A Yemeni shot dead three American doctors and wounded a fourth U.S. national at a missionary hospital in the south of the country, a Yemeni official said Monday... The Yemeni official described the gunman as an Islamist militant. After he was arrested he told police that he had shot the two men and two women to "cleanse his religion and get closer to Allah."

And speaking of the Religion of Peace, the FBI is seeking 5 Religion-of-peaceniks who are wanted for questioning "based upon information developed in the course of on-going investigations" and who entered the US illegally on December 24.

French police, meanwhile, have arrested a Religion-of-peacenik airport baggage handler, for having a stash of weapons and explosives hidden in his car at Charles de Gaulle airport parking lot.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:17 PM
December 29, 2002
Cure the Kim Jong Illness

The New York Times reports that South Koreans are Divided on North Korean Atom Threat

"I should not say this here, but I hope North Korea has nuclear weapons," Shim Wan Kyu, a 31-year-old financial worker, said while taking a cigarette break outside his office. Asked about a nuclear threat to this affluent society, he replied: "They wouldn't attack South Korea with it. It is not for attack, but for defense."
There have always been those who play down the hostile intentions of belligerent neighbors. And what would these missiles be used to defend? Not the North Korean people, who are already starving to death, but only the corrupt and incompetent regime. Furthermore, I'm not sure whether people who smoke cigaretters and deliberately fill their lungs with known carcinogens are the ones I would turn to for rational advice about self-preservation.
On a busy shopping street, Kim Hyo Jin collected signatures urging the United States to negotiate with North Korea. "A country that is threatened by nuclear weapons has the right to have nuclear weapons," said Ms. Kim, a 26-year-old university student. "If North Korea would be threatened by the United States with nuclear weapons, North Korea can also have them."
I don't think that the issue is whether North Korea "has the right to" or "can" have nuclear weapons. I think the question is whether it is a good idea for the rest of the world to let them get away with it.
In past crises, North Korean military brinkmanship has produced "panic gaps" between Washington and Seoul, with the South Koreans largely inured to half a century of North Korean bluster.
Given North Korea's history of threatening not only South Korea, but also exporting weapons and nuclear technology to countries such as Iran, Iraq, Syria and Egypt, it is a global problem, not only a South Korean problem.
On Dec. 19, it was largely voters in their 20's and 30's who overwhelmingly elected as president Roh Moo Hyun, a 56-year-old liberal who advocates a relationship with North Korea based on aid, trade and dialogue. As soon as the election was over, North Korea moved to free its nuclear program from international controls.
Interesting timing, no?
... several thousand largely young people, turned out for a candlelight vigil outside the United States Embassy. Their demands ranged from a more equal partnership between Seoul and Washington to the expulsion of the 37,000 American troops stationed here.
Right, we'll move toward an "equal partnership" with South Korea when they're willing to take responsibility to help us shut down the North.
One Korean who, according to news reports, did have a relaxed day was North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, who attended a concert, where an army choir praised him in song.
And hopefully this will be one of his last days, relaxed or otherwise. This is a man who has broken his agreements with the US and simply cannot be trusted. The Bush Administration is talking of exerting "economic pressure" to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program. But what then? If Kim Jong Il promises to shut down the program, will we reward him with economic assistance until the next time he threatens to build a bomb? It's time to put an end to his pathetic regime and free his long-suffering people. A few well-targeted missiles should do the trick. But first let Shim Wan Kyu and Kim Hyo Jin go north as human shields.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:16 PM
Here and There, Dec. 29

Diamonds are Forever The Washington Post reports that Presidents Charles Taylor of Liberia and Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso have given support and refuge to Al Qaeda operatives who were trafficking in diamonds to launder money and finance terrorism.

The Hummer 2 has turned out to be one of the top selling SUVs in the Bay Area, despite its $50,000 price tag and poor fuel economy. And even some self-described environmentalists are willing to overlook the fact that the Hummer only gets 10 milles per gallon

On the weekends, [Hummer owner Sam Bernstein] and his wife like to go off-road to look at birds.

"I'm a Sierra Club member," said Bernstein, who noted that he avoids such disposables as paper cups. "You can be environmentally correct and drive a Hummer."

Which helps bolster the perception that the Sierra Club is comprised of folks who simply want to enjoy the outdoors on their own terms, while demanding that other people make the real sacrifices to protect the environment.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer refuses to commit himself to opposing a war against Iraq. Germany takes a seat on the UN Security Council in January and Fischer won't promise that he will vote against resolutions calling for military action against Saddam. This is seen as a change in position, which has earned Fischer the outrage of pacifists from his own Green party, and also praise from the opposition Christian Democrats.

Bill Quick is compiling a list of "Iron Laws" (e.g. "You Get What You Pay for" and "Less Guns, More Crime") and he's asking for reader input. This will be interesting.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:54 PM
December 28, 2002
Your Government at Work

As the owner of a small business (I'm the only employee), I am constantly bombarded by silly, irrelevant, intrusive, unnecessary and otherwise time-consuming and burdensome government regulations and paperwork. For example, I am required to fill out the U.S. Department of Commerce 2002 Economic Census Classification Form (Form AS-56192) so that the bureaucrats can figure out what sort of business I operate, for the purpose, presumably, of devising new regulations and paperwork to help me or burden me or both.

For whatever reason, somebody already decided that my business is in the broad category of "Services to Buildings and Dwellings". In fact, I develop software and operate a web site, (for which I wrote all the software). The only "Services to Buildings and Dwellings" I perform are for my own house, and even there I hire a contractor if it's anything more complicated than changing a lightbulb. Still, my "RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW" (Title 13, United States Code) so I must complete the form and report just what sort of "Services to Buildings and Dwellings" I perform, in order to avoid (a) soldiers with guns showing up at my house to enforce Title 13 U.S.C. or (b) spending all kinds of uncompensated time trying to get a federal employee to send me the appropriate form for my sort of business. So here are the choices of business classifications I have to work with:

* Landscaping care and maintenance
* Exterminating and pest control services
* Janitorial services
* Other cleaning and maintenance services
* Other kind of business or activity, which includes:
** Employment agencies
** Facilities support management, excluding computer
** Travel agencies
** Detective agencies
** Hazardous waste collection services

I choose: Other kind of business or activity, with the note "software development". That should keep the federal bureaucracy distracted for a while.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:02 PM
Here and There, Dec. 28

Axis of Evil: The Palestinian Authority is said to have acquired aid from Hizbullah in the design and production of missiles. The Hizbullah, in turn, gets its support from Iran and Syria.

And Justice for All (2) The City and County of San Francisco sent me a check for my first day of jury service: $1.50. This apparently covers the day of jury selection before I was sworn-in. A round-trip bus ride would have cost $2.00, but that would have taken two buses and at least an hour each way. Parking was $12.00 a day. I was told that I would be paid an additional $16 for each day of actual service.

And Joanne Jacobs tells us about yet another reason to avoid sending one's kids to the San Francisco public schools: Members of the school board are calling to indoctrinate students to appease brutal dictators.

Nanny State Watch: Effective Jan. 1, 2003, the State of CaliNannyfornia requires all minors to wear bicycle helmets, not only when riding a bike, but also when riding a scooter, skateboard or wearing inline skates. What's next? Making people wear helmets whenever they leave their house?

Now who thinks that these people aren't credible when they claim to have cloned a human being?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:58 PM
December 26, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 26

Anybody in San Francisco for MacWorld? I've heard from some other bloggers who will be in town for MacWorld. So I was thinking this might be a good time to have an informal Bay Area blog bash. Perhaps the evenings of Tuesday, January 7th or Wednesday the 8th? If anybody is interested, please drop me a line.

The newest additions to my blogroll are: Jonathan Edelstein (be sure to read the story that explains why he's the "Head Heeb") and Rick Heller (Be sure to read his very funny stand-up bit about Painting the House)

And now for something completely different: Prof. Reynolds gets what may be the coolest present ever

And now for something completely the same: Muslim "rebels" murder 12 in the Philippines

If you haven't done so already, be sure to vote for Idiotarian of the Year, over at Little Green Footballs.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:22 PM
December 25, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 25

Peace on Earth: The Religion of Peace kills three people celebrating Christmas at a church in Pakistan.

Axis of Evil: Iranian sponsored terror groups are trying to infiltrate Israel.

Axis of Evil (2): Ze'ev Schiff reports that Iraq has been sending rockets and other, uh, "stuff" to the Hizbollah by way of Syria. And those North Korean Scuds intercepted on a boat recently? They were orginally destined for Iraq apparently. Faster, please. And when we're done with Saddam we can mop the floor with Baby Doc Assad.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:51 PM
December 24, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 24

Useful Idiot Watch It is with a nod to the vacationing Andrew Sullivan that I point out a group of Usefully Idiotic Americans who are now visiting Baghdad: "Activists take faith in peace to Iraq; Some vow to stay even if war comes"

Elizabeth Boardman is bundled up in a chill desert wind, standing outside the Al-Taji power-generating plant 15 miles from downtown Baghdad
Kathy Kelly, co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness, acknowledges that her organization's credibility was tarred last September when it staged a demonstration outside U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. Critics point out that demonstrations except those staged by the government are usually banned.

It was "a disaster," she said. "We're here to protest the fact that U.N. sanctions and U.S. bombs have killed hundreds of thousands of children in the past decade, but we get saddled somehow with being dupes."

Go figure.

The only question is: Do we bomb the North Korean nuclear plant now, or do we send Jimmy Carter over there on a peace mission and bomb it while he's there?

Death or Glory? The Clash's Joe Strummer, dead of a heart attack at age 50.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:32 AM
December 23, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 23

Happy Holidays to my readers who celebrate Christmas. Being a Jew, Christmas is mostly an opportunity to spend time with my wife's lovely family and to enjoy some of my mother-in-law's cranberry relish. Blogging will continue unabated.

Victor Davis Hanson, always worth reading, reminds us who we're fighting and why.

Rick Heller discusses a Boston Globe article about American Jewish academics who support divestment from Israel. Heller doesn't think much of Jews who want to boycott Israel. I don't either. The kindest thing that I can say about them is that they are cowardly, shallow, supercilious fools. The cheapest form of social activism is to sacrifice nothing while demanding that other people risk their lives for your own principles. And these folks are particularly foolish since they seem to be either unaware or unconcerned that they are serving a larger movement whose goal is not to pressure Israel to make concessions, but to destroy the country altogether. And as I've previously written to other self-righteous Jewish Americans whose suburban notions of civility are burdened by the sight of Israelis doing unpleasant things to defend their homes -- go to Jerusalem for several months, ride the buses and eat in the pizzerias. Go to the funerals and convalescent homes to meet survivors of terrorism, talk to the people and try to teach them how to manage their security situation differently. You'll be as successful as you deserve to be.

And speaking about the immorality of economic boycotts against Israel -- the Rainbow Grocery Co-op here in San Francisco has nullified their boycott due to community pressure.
UPDATE: Michael Phillips was at this weekend's picket march in front of Rainbow. Read his report here.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:45 AM
December 21, 2002
Hate Crime Watch

The San Francisco Chronicle reports of more anti-Arab hate crimes here in the city: Mission graffiti strikes at Arabs; Women's center, cafe defaced. It turns out that the cafe belongs to an Arab-American and was displaying a "Stop the War" sign. I condemn such acts of violence, but I also wonder how it would have appeared for a German-American in 1941 to display a sign saying "Stop Lend Lease" or "Leave Hitler Alone". It is appropriate to express disapproval of people who display pro-Saddam signage, but not by damaging their property.

In the meantime, I'm still waiting for the Alameda County District Attorney's Office to explain why they chose not to prosecute the anti-Israel protester who was arrested for stealing and destroying my camera in Berkeley last month. I don't claim expertise to determine what is or is not a hate crime. But it would seem hard to explain the theft and destruction of my camera except as being motivated by a perception that I was pro-Israel (as an indication of this perception, see IndyMedia's report on the event, which appeared hours before I posted my own report, and described me as a "proIsreal [sic] fanatic". )

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:48 PM
Three More Reasons to Leave San Francisco

The San Francisco Chronicle this week printed a few stories that reinforce my current thinking to find a different city to live in, certainly before David starts school.

1. San Francisco is a pig heaven for criminals: S.F. cops give up on some crimes; Investigating all called too costly

The San Francisco Police Department wants to investigate every violent crime but doesn't have enough inspectors to get the job done, the department's top brass conceded Wednesday
2. The public schools are a disaster and assignment of children to schools is governed by a time-consuming and bizarre spoils system
Last year was the first time the district used a so-called diversity index to assign students to schools, and the process was not without its problems -- and detractors.

The index does not consider race but diversifies schools by looking at family income; preschool experience for incoming kindergartners and standardized test scores for others; mother's education level; language status; and the academic ranking of a prior school.

When the district mailed its enrollment results, hundreds of students were designated as "unassigned," and many siblings were assigned to the wrong schools. And as students entered school for the first day, about 100 students -- some of whom had appealed their placement - still hadn't received an assignment.

3. Our elected officials are idiots S.F. may soon see psychics regulated; Pioneering proposal would ban trickery
The proposed law, which comes before the Board of Supervisors next month, covers fortune-telling by not only crystal balls, tarot cards and astrology charts, but by "sticks, dice, tea leaves, coins, sand and coffee grounds" as well. Fortune-tellers would be required to post rate cards and a phone number for complaints. Police say requiring permits would make it easier to keep tabs on swindlers.
Peskin said fortune-telling is an "age-old industry that is welcome in San Francisco" and said he did not want to discourage legitimate, modestly priced psychics, seers, tarot card readers or sellers of fortune cookies
(I wonder how the law would treat other purveyors of worthless nonsense, such as TV preachers, stock analysts and politicians who think that laws can protect people from their own stupidity)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:16 PM
December 20, 2002
Wrong Brouhaha

Over at the "Democratic Underground" message board there seems to be a little brouhaha brewing, because one of its members (alias "Jem Note") quoted me in a post condemning suicide bombings (He posted a few paragraphs from this essay of mine). Some other members discovered that Jem Note borrowed my words and attacked him for plagiarism, or something. Jem Note wrote to me to apologize for failing to cite me and here is my reply to him

I do ask to be cited when my words are used. But the main reason I wrote that piece was to express my thoughts in an attempt to persuade others. You quoted me in the proper context and are using my words for the purpose which they were intended. I'm glad you did. That's more important to me than the oversight of not mentioning my name. I guess I
should be flattered that you found my words worth repeating. thank you. So tell the weenies to focus on the real issue here -- that killing innocent civilians is unacceptable, and to stop inventing bogus non-issues to distract attention from what's really important.

(My response would be different if someone used my unattributed work for commercial gain or outside the context in which it was intended, but that's not an issue here).

So get your priorities straight, all you passionate "democrats" -- murdering innocent civilians really is a more serious crime than forgetting to cite somebody who forgives the oversight.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:39 PM
Here and There, Dec. 20

Trent Lott will apparently step down as Majority Leader.

Moral EquivalenceReuters reports that "Two Killed in Gaza Violence". Who were the two? One was a "militant" killed in a gunfight with Israeli soldiers, the other an Israeli motorist, driving in a car with his wife and children.

What do you think about Bush/Rice 2004?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:09 AM
And Justice for All

I completed my jury service yesterday afternoon. When I showed up at the Hall of Justice a week ago Wednesday, my hope was to be excused. I'm self-employed and have obligations to my clients and there's nobody else who can do my job for me. The last thing I need is to be unavailable for several days. Both prosecution and defense had good reasons to excuse me. One of the charges was robbery, and I was recently the (alleged) victim of a robbery. Another of the charges was drug-related and I felt obligated to tell the judge that I am opposed to many drug laws. Much to my surprise, neither attorney used their peremptory challenges on me. A week ago Thursday I was sworn in as Juror #7 in the People vs. Marcellus Carpenter. After the initial shock of being selected wore off, my attitude quickly focused on the awesome nature of my responsibility.

Carpenter was charged with beating up and robbing 62 year-old Beverly Sanders at a San Francisco subway station in July 2001. Sanders suffered a large bump on the head, a laceration on her cheek and some bruises. Carpenter was caught by police officers minutes after the attack carrying Sanders' purse. Sanders identified Carpenter at the time, as did several other eyewitnesses. Carpenter was also found to be in possession of a crack pipe. Those were the basic facts.

The trial took place every afternoon between last Thursday and this Tuesday. We heard from Sanders, the arresting officers and the eyewitnesses. Carpenter was represented by a public defender, who did not present a case. The prosecutions case was convincing. But it was not impenetrable. Only Sanders among the witnesses saw Carpenter's face during the crime. The others id'd him only by clothing and build. The defense tried to poke holes in the credibility of all of the identifications, and he even tried to make hay of the fact that the police had destroyed some of the evidence. But he did not offer any plausible alternative theory that might explain the prosecution's evidence. Carpenter sat silent during the entire proceedings. I did not once hear his voice. He was all alone, except for his defense attorney. Not a single friend or family member came to support him.

The jury started deliberations on Wednesday afternoon. By this time the crack pipe possession charge had been dismissed, the pipe was one of the pieces of missing evidence. The twelve of us quickly concluded that the totality of all the identifications along with the purse possession was sufficient beyond a reasonable doubt. The missing evidence was determined to be immaterial in this instance. In short, the defense did not produce enough doubt to dent the body of evidence presented by the prosecution. By the end of the day Wednesday, we were unanimous in deciding that Carpenter was guilty of Robbery; Assault likely to inflict serious bodily injury; and Receiving stolen property.

The only remaining controversy was regarding the severity of Sander's injuries. We had to determine (separately) whether the Robbery and the Assault inflicted "great bodily injury" and also whether a separate count of Battery inflicted "serious bodily injury". We spent a lot of time debating any possible differences between "great" and "serious" injuries, and how to classify Sanders' injuries. "Great" and "Serious" bodily injury have distinct definitions under California law. Both definitions are highly imprecise. Some of us felt that Sanders' injuries were merely "moderate" (myself included) others felt the injuries were "serious" but not "great" or "great" but not "serious" or both "great" and "serious". The foreperson sent a note to the judge asking to explain the difference between "great" and "serious". The judge wrote back to clarify that they were "substantially the same". I proposed a compromise that we would find the injuries "serious" but not "great" which would mean convicting the defendent on four felonies, while also making the statement that the injuries were more serious than "moderate" but not really, really serious (like a broken leg or loss of eye). Most of the jurors were okay with this, but a few had difficulty with the inconsistency of finding the injuries "serious" but not "great" when the two were substantially the same. We adjourned at 5pm and had to come back another day. I was very tempted to inflict both "great" and "serious" bodily injury upon the small-minded man who was so preoccupied with being consistent that he forced me to spend another afternoon with him.

Thursday afternoon we reconvened to again debate the wholly subjective nuances of "great" and "serious" injuries. Most of us were on board with Wednesday's compromise, but Mr. Consistency was only willing to agree that the injuries were EITHER "both great and serious" (too harsh for some of the jurors to accept) OR "neither great nor serious" (too light for some of the jurors). He didn't care about the actual result, as long as it was consistent. After an hour of this I staged a temper tantrum and said that we're not trying to reach some unattainable ideal of celestial justice, only to implement justice in a practical way; that I am most comfortable with "neither great nor serious" but will comprimise with "serious but not great" in order to split the difference and accommodate the positions of the other jurors. At this point, we would be convicting the defendant on either three or four felonies, so justice is served and debating whether the injuries are "great" or "serious" is like counting angels on the head of a pin and won't make any practical difference, the defendant is already toast and it's not worth anybody's time to debate this any more so you guys go ahead and decide whatever you want about "great" or "serious", and I'll go along with whatever the group decides. And to show I was "serious", I pulled out the crossword puzzle that I brought along for exactly this purpose. The remaining doubters quickly signed on to the compromise before I even started to look at the crossword. We were done, the sausage was made. All make nice and shake hands, and reaffirm to ourselves that the decision serves justice. Carpenter is convicted of four felonies, yet we didn't convict him of the severest possible charges, which is consistent with our collective assessment that the Sanders' injuries were "serious", but not "very serious".

We are reseated in the jury box, the judge reads the verdicts to herself with a quizzical look on her face, then the clerk reads out the verdicts also with a quizzical look on her face. Carpenter remains silent, barely reacting. This is a man who appears to have long ago given up any hope for his life. The prosecutor asks to poll the jury. One by one we all affirm that the verdicts reflect our own votes. The judge sends us back into the deliberating room while she confers with the attorneys, then she calls us back in, thanks us for our service, tells us we are now free to discuss the case and our deliberations, but nobody can require us to discuss it. All the information about the jurors will be sealed. We file out of the courtroom.

The prosecutor spends a few minutes out in the hall chatting with some of us and answering our questions. It turns out that Carpenter has a record of prior convictions, but he's not a "three strikes" candidate. He was on parole at the time he committed the robbery, so he's been kept in custody for the past seventeen months. Sentencing for the new convictions will take place in another month or so. I told the prosecutor that while I wouldn't call this a pleasant experience, it was an important experience and it gave me a richer sense of my citizenship. I didn't mention this to him, but when you consider that in some other parts of the world the criminal justice system looks like this, serving on a jury is a profound privilege. Even if it interrupts your business for a few days.

And the prosecutor explained the quizzical looks worn by the judge and her clerk during the reading of the verdict. The case law has interpreted "great bodily injury" and "serious bodily injury" to be interchangeable terms. So they were surprised we decided that the injuries were "serious" but not "great".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:00 AM
December 19, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 19

My friend Peter Wayner has just re-released as a free e-book Free for All: How LINUX and the Free Software Movement Undercut the High-Tech Titans. It's a very good book and makes a compelling case for the merits of "free software" relative to "commercial" software. (I'm pleased to note that the Shark Blog and my business server run on Linux boxes, which seem to be more reliable than any Windows machine I've ever used). Buy Wayner's book in hardcopy if you can, in the meantime you can download for free here

Why am I not surprised? "Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Thursday Iraq's arms declaration was riddled with lies and omissions and predicted there would be no peaceful outcome if Baghdad continued its 'dissembling'" But If Baghdad continued dissembling?

Bill Frist Challenges Lott for Senate Leadership

And in another lapse of judgment, Boalt Hall professor Linda Hamilton Krieger has been found to be a signatory on a Faculty Petition in Support of Students for Justice in Palestine and Free Speech. But the petition is not really in support of "free speech", it is in support of students who were charged with acts of violence, such as preventing other students from going to class, and biting a police officer. Fortunately, only 31 other Berkeley professors were as easily confused about the difference between free speech and violence. Not to mention that the student violence was committed in support of a terrorist movement.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:04 PM
December 18, 2002
Bloggers show up newspaper (again)

The story of the alleged sexual harassment incident at Boalt Hall quickly transcended the individuals involved. In fact, the public story seems to be about more than just a single incident where an inebriated student invited an inebriated dean into her apartment at 2:30am.

It's also about the press itself, and with the latest twist, it's also about bloggers showing up a newspaper. But first it's about several major newspapers that decided to protect the privacy of an anonymous accuser (who has declined to file charges) while also granting the accuser's attorney and mentor a forum to exploit the accusation for their own agendas. As the attorney said

her client has not gone to police because media coverage of the accusation will be more effective in preventing Dwyer from obtaining future jobs than the court system would be.
Wow. And if any newspaper still prints anything at all about the story after that admission, shouldn't they at least publish the name of the accuser? The public has a right to know who this woman is. Shouldn't we be able to assess the credibility of her allegations before we decide whether to deprive ourselves of the future services of John Dwyer? And don't we, as citizens in a country founded on due process, expect the media to uphold the principle of "innocent until proven guilty", and help protect us from unsubstantiated accusations, whether made by the state or by individuals?

When the press effectively conspires with an anonymous accuser to destroy an innocent person's livelihood, something is seriously broken. The newspapers that have withheld the accuser's name have violated their public trust. And they continue to sit on her name even though I know that at least two papers have been aware since Friday that Erin O'Connor identified Jennifer Reisch (with an assist from me).

It is in this spirit that I reveal how I confirmed Reisch's identity as the accuser. Using O'Connor's hints, I formed a theory that it was Reisch, but I wasn't 100% certain. So I tactfully duped an unwitting newspaper reporter into confirming my hunch. I don't wish to identify and embarass the reporter. He/she is one of a number who have covered the story while withholding Reisch's name. It's not about this one reporter, it's a more systemic problem of concealed biases, hidden agendas and selective disclosure of critical information.

The mental image I used to have of newspaper reporters was Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman playing Woodward and Bernstein in "All the Presidents Men", using guile to coax information from reluctant sources. Now it seems that members of the public have to use guile to coax information from reluctant newspaper reporters. And that's just one more reason why newspapers will continue to decline in importance while blogs continue to grow in importance.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:29 AM
December 17, 2002
Martha Burk's Press Agent

Last week I commented on a San Francisco Chronicle article sympathetic to Martha Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, and her crusade against the Augusta National Golf Club. I focused on Burk's quote "Every citizen has an obligation to fight discrimination wherever we find it". I posted the e-mail I sent to the Chronicle suggesting that they ask Burk to state whether she is willing to fight the sex discrimination practiced by the Boalt Hall Women's Association in maintaining a women's only lounge at a public university.

Today I got this response from Chronicle reporter Brian Murphy

Thanks for the email. Your point is clear, but I think Martha would tell you that the Masters has a "moral obligation" because of its status as host of a major championship; I doubt she'd put the same "moral obligation" on the Boalt women's lounge.

Thanks for reading.

Sounds to me like the Chronicle sees itself less as a newspaper than as Martha Burk's press agent.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:56 AM
December 16, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 16

Joseph Lieberman is now seriously exploring a run for the White House. A credible source told me that Gore notified Lieberman on Friday that he had decided not to run, and that Lieberman would have access to Gore's donor lists. Should this be considered a de facto endorsement?

The word of the day is Sophistry: "Secretary of State Colin Powell is assuring the Arab world the Bush administration's demand for regime change in Iraq aims at disarmament, not ousting President Saddam Hussein".

Then don't eat then, like, as if Saddam cares.

Baby Doc Assad in London: "We don't have in Syria what is called organizations promoting terrorism" [interpretation: Assad does not consider Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hizbollah to be terrorist organizations]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:41 PM
December 15, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 15

Into the blogroll go Oliver Willis and Joshua Micah Marshall

Al Gore has decided not to run in 2004, increasing the odds that the Democrats may nominate someone who actually has a chance of winning.

Nancy Pelosi's daughter Alexandra followed George W Bush during his 2000 campaign and made a film about the experience. Haggai found a hilarious cartoon that wonders what would happen if the Bush twins made a film about Nancy Pelosi.

Voir Dire I was also in the Hall of Justice jury room on Wednesday, but I didn't see anything like this [scroll to the bottom]. Eww.

Left-wing media bias The Chronicle has another puff piece about "ordinary people" who protest against military action to depose Saddam. Funny, the reporter didn't ask any of these folks why they think that it's a good idea for Saddam Hussein to remain in power and develop weapons of mass destruction. Nor did he mention any "ordinary people" (like me) who think that deposing Saddam would make the world a more peaceful and stable place.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:48 PM
"Public Interest" Law Firm?

Jennifer Reisch, recently identified as the woman who accused Boalt Hall Dean John Dwyer of sexual harassment, was described in some press reports as working for a "public interest law firm".

Her employer is Public Advocates, Inc., which calls itself a "public interest law firm", with a mission to

challenge and overcome the persistent, underlying causes and effects of poverty and discrimination against immigrants, people of color and the poor of California
But do their activities actually serve a widely-held perception of the "public interest"? And if not, why should the press help perpetuate the false notion that it is the "public" they are serving?

Some of Public Advocates' activities may indeed perform valuable services for poor people who might not otherwise be able to afford representation (although I think a lot of people might question how many "immigrants" and "people of color" are actually poor and disadvantaged, and/or likely to benefit from Public Advocate's lawsuits). And how well do any of these cases really serve the public?

Challenging the state CBEST teachers exam, with the goal of lowering standards in order to force the state to hire more teachers of specific ethnic backgrounds. This would seem to be in the interest of underqualified aspiring teachers, not in the interest of the public. (The CBEST exam doesn't look all that hard, by the way. How many members of the public would want their kids to be taught by people who get a low score on this test?)

Challenging the decision of the people of California by trying to overturn Prop. 227 and restore bilingual education. Who is in a better position to define "public interest", voters, or these guys?

Fighting to secure public healthcare services for illegal aliens, at the expense, apparently, of members of the public who have a legal right to live in California and also require public health services.

Forcing telephone companies to pay millions of dollars in contributions to unaccountable ethnicity-based charitable organizations. Such contributions ultimately come out of the pockets of ratepayers, i.e. the general public.

Clearly, much of Public Advocates' efforts are spent advancing a narrow political agenda, and not serving any widely held perception of the "public interest". Perhaps a more accurate description would be "political advocacy law firm".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:33 PM
Resignation Watch

Recent resignations we should be grateful for
Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, for covering up decades of sexual abuse in the church.

9/11 Commission chairman Henry Kissinger, who has too many suspect business ties that he was unwilling to disclose.

Resignations we should look forward to
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, for stealing newspapers that endorsed his opponent.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, who has never managed to completely renounce and distance himself from the segregationist beliefs he has held since his youth.

Boalt Hall Law Professor Linda Hamilton Krieger, for helping an anonymous accuser use the media to destroy the career of John Dwyer, and for insulting the students, faculty and alumni of Boalt Hall with her patronizing op-ed piece.

Palestinian Authority President Yassir Arafat, responsible for tens of thousands of deaths during his bloody and incompetent tenure since becoming head of the PLO, and for chronically damaging hopes for a peace and progess in the Middle East.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:20 PM
December 14, 2002
Council of Creepy Citizens

The only public support that Trent Lott seems to be getting these days is from the racist creeps at the "Council of Conservative Citizens". Brink Lindsey found one nutty statement on their website. I discovered this offensive article referring to Lott's recent remarks

Flippant feminist columnist Kathleen Parker went into hysterics, asking just what kind of "problems" Lott meant. Using silly references to Hitler, she wrote, "Wonder which problems Herr Lott had in mind? That darned black vote? Those integrated public schools? Hip-hop? White flight? Black crime? The blind date that darkens the door of the white family room?" Not bright enough to realize it, she was giving all the correct answers. To think that white parents are not concerned about the racial makeup of their families and passing down inherited traits from generations back is to exhibit a profound ignorance of the importance of race in this country and in the world.
(emphasis mine). Kathleen Parker's column, by the way, is carried by, which advertises itself as a center for "Conservative News and Opinion".

This is not merely a wacky group that offers Lott their unsolicited support. Lott has proactively sought their support. And this is just one more item in Lott's pattern of behavior and associations going back decades.

It's no longer be a matter of "if" Lott is replaced as Majority Leader but when and how. And it couldn't happen too soon.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:07 PM
My Boy is a Genius

"Davey, what does a dog say?"
"Hwww hwww"
"Davey, what does a cow say?"
"Davey, what does a snake say?"
"Davey, what does a cat say?"
(quizzical expression)

Not bad for 13 months!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:05 AM
December 13, 2002
Boalt Update

Erin O'Connor identifies Jennifer Reisch as the woman who accused Boalt Hall Dean John Dwyer of sexual harassment. O'Connor explains eloquently why the public deserves to know the accuser's identity. She also reports that I independently confirmed the woman's identity. This is true. I read O'Connor's earlier post describing how she used Google and the various facts that have been reported to identify a person who matched the profile and whom she was "90% sure" was the right person. I did more or less what O'Connor described above and came up with Reisch's name. I then approached a credible source who has been publicly involved in the story and this person confirmed Reisch's identity. I won't compromise the source by publicizing any more details, but I did share the proof with O'Connor. Now that Reisch's name is out on the blogosphere, I suspect that some of the Big Media outlets who have been protecting her identity will have no choice but to name her as well.

UPDATE (12/18): I have more to say on the source that confimed Reisch's identity
Meanwhile Boalt Professor Linda Hamilton Krieger published an op-ed in today's San Francisco Chronicle. The paper is not only happy to protect Reisch's anonymity, but also to give a soapbox to her comrades so they can prosecute their extrajudicial campaign against Dwyer, and agitate for all manner of bizarre policy changes at Berkeley. Some of the most telling quotes in the op-ed (emphases mine):

As a teacher who sat with this student in my office as she wept, who watched protectively from a distance as she barely made it through her law school graduation,
It's barely credible to suggest that Reisch "barely made it through graduation". In addition to graduating, she also managed to pass the Bar exam two months later. She also somehow found the inner strength to serve on the board of directors of the Berkeley Law Foundation, to win an award for service to the International Human Rights Law Clinic, to obtain a fellowship at Public Advocates, Inc., to write an article about labor unions in Mexico, win and perform a summer fellowship [.pdf]. That's not bad for "barely making it through graduation".
as a sex-discrimination scholar and lawyer who last summer could not figure out, even after many phone calls and much Cal Web site searching, what I was legally required to do with this information if the student chose not to report, I have a really hard time viewing this as "the system working."
I don't think you need to be a law professor to realize that if an adult chooses not to report an incident, then there's not a whole lot that a third-party needs to do with information about the incident.
the university must determine whether members of the Boalt Hall community had information suggesting that our former dean had a propensity to engage in risky sexual behavior like that he has admitted to here. If some people did know, the university needs to find out why they did not offer that information when Dwyer was being considered for the deanship.
It's impossible to read this any other way except that Krieger is demanding that a candidate for dean must submit to an open-ended fishing expedition into one's most intimate affairs looking for any rumor about behavior that someone might find objectionable.
Given the tremendous power imbalances between students and faculty, and the psychological transference so often present in the student-teacher bond, can sexual relationships between students and faculty ever be truly "consensual," particularly in a gender-stratified environment like that at Boalt Hall? And why is the environment at Boalt still so gender-stratified anyway?
First of all what does "gender-stratified environment" mean in the first place? Is this a reference to the fact that the Boalt student body is 60% female? As I've mentioned before, my wife graduated from Boalt and I've gotten to know many of her female schoolmates. They are among the most intelligent and assertive women you will find anywhere. Most women who attend Boalt are at least in their mid-twenties and have a few years of professional work experience between college and law school. To suggest that they are incapable of making their own decisions about whom to form relationships with, and that they need to be protected from their professors is as demeaning as anything you might say about them. The reaction that my wife and a classmate had to this op-ed piece -- "ridiculous and offensive".

UPDATE (12/18) My wife and four of her classmates respond to Krieger in a letter to the Chronicle
Naturally, this whole matter has recently been a major topic of conversation for my wife and her girlfriends from Boalt. These are women in their 30s who have gone on to careers in major law firms, corporations, the DOJ and the federal court system. They are mostly liberal Democrats, certainly more liberal than I am. This is not a group of people that would be sympathetic towards a sexual predator. Their overall assessment of Dwyer seems to be that he was an effective dean and a popular teacher "Half the women in the class had a crush on him" one said. But none of them have ever heard any rumors about inappropriate behavior, until the news of this one incident broke a few weeks ago. A lapse in judgment, but hardly severe enough to banish him from academia, as Reisch's attorney Laura Stevens has demanded. Overall, they have more sympathy for Dwyer than for his formerly anonymous accuser.
My wife says this story has evolved and it's now about the press vs. the public. "I can't figure out why the press is protecting this woman, and effectively taking her side against Dwyer. She's trying to destroy a man's career. Her credibility should also be an issue. There's no good reason for her to be anonymous."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:30 PM
December 12, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 12

Just nuke it before it's too late. And then nuke this

Twelve Angry Men I was selected today to serve on a jury in a criminal case. I won't say anything more about the case until it's over, but that's where I'll be spending my next few afternoons.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:08 PM
Burk-Raines Virus Spreads

The San Francisco Chronicle has joined the Martha Burk-Howell Raines crusade against Augusta National Golf Club, with an attack on a local Augusta member, the 82-year-old former Secretary of State George Shultz.

The Chron quotes Burk, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations

"Every citizen has an obligation to fight discrimination wherever we find it," Burk told The Chronicle from her Washington, D.C., office.
I sent the following e-mail to Chronicle reporter Brian Murphy, who wrote the story
I read with interest your article in today's paper regarding Martha Burk's comments on the Augusta National Golf Club.

In the spirit of Burk's quote that "Every citizen has an obligation to fight discrimination wherever we find it." I thought you might be interested in looking into another exclusive club operating here in the Bay Area.

At the University of California Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law, the Boalt Hall Women's Association has a women-only member lounge. I quote from the description, which you may find in its entirety here:

"BHWA's Member Lounge is a convenient, private space just for women! ... The Lounge provides a safe, private place for women to relax between classes, nap, eat, and use the phone."

As far as I can tell there is no comparable lounge for men. To best of my layman's understanding, this may be a violation of Title IX. The Boalt Hall student body, by the way, is 60% female. At the very least, it seems inimical to the
function of a university to physically exclude 40% of the student body from a space where academic issues are likely to be discussed, and where career-building connections are likely to be formed.

I understand that you are primarily a sports reporter, but if you've been covering the Augusta case, I think your readers would be interested in learning how serious Burk really is about "fighting discrimination wherever we find it", and if she feels that anti-male discrimination at a major public university is as significant an issue as the membership choices of a private golf club.

Can anybody guess what Burk's reaction might be? And how long will it be before the Boalt Hall Women's Association quietly removes the tell-tale paragraph from their web page, without changing the underlying policy?

UPDATE (12/17) The Chronicle's Brian Murphy replies to my e-mail

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:34 AM
Scheer Nonsense

Today we have the latest in a series of assaults on logic, common sense, the profession of journalism and the intelligence of the American newspaper reader. Even without the punny title, you might have guessed that I was talking about Robert Scheer's weekly column.

to anyone not rabid for war, the United Nations inspections would seem to be going well. As regards the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein's dictatorship is now arguably the most open society in the world.
After Saddam has spent years deceiving the UN arms inspectors, and all of the recent months dragging his heels to avoid inspections, you'd have to be a credulous fool of the highest rank to believe that Iraq is any kind of "open society". Yet Scheer reflexively jumps to the conclusion that the U.S. is wrong and Iraq is right even before Iraq's 12,000 page report on its weapons programs has been examined.

And let's not forget that Scheer was so quick to applaud Saddam's acceptance of "unconditional inspections" back in September, just as Saddam was placing a huge list of conditions on the unconditional inspections. Scheer has since quietly dropped this claim, but has he issued a retraction or correction? of course not. And will he give any credence to this report which says that "Many of the Iraqi scientists U.N. arms inspectors want to interview have been spirited abroad or switched to innocuous posts and their places taken by unknown technicians, according to Iraqi exiles and Western officials. "? Of course he won't.

What if the United States were subject to such an investigation? Might U.N. inspectors find the source of the anthrax used to terrorize the nation in a nerve-racking but as yet unsolved crime committed a year ago? Our government has said that the deadly anthrax brew was almost certainly not an imported product, so why has its origin eluded the world's most elaborate security force?
So now he's drawing some kind of twisted equivalence between Saddam's weapons programs and last year's anthrax attacks on Americans as if imputing that the US government was somehow responsible for the latter.
How could one blame George W. if he is among the vast majority of Americans who blissfully and conveniently forget that we are the only ones to ever actually use a nuclear may explain why even those who love freedom and democracy as much as we do are frightened not only of Saddam Hussein, but increasingly of us.
How fatuous to compare the ending of World War II with Saddam's use of chemical weapons on his own citizens. And to compare Saddam's pathological monocracy against our open society with its accountable and decentralized government and a free press that permits even the demented bloviations and chronically discredible ravings of a Robert Scheer.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:15 AM
December 11, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 11

Turtle Diary of a Madman British playwright Harold Pinter in his acceptance speech for an honorary doctorate at the University of Turin, reprinted in today's Telegraph: The American administration is a bloodthirsty wild animal Choice bits:

The desperate plight of the Palestinian people [is] the central factor in world unrest
The atrocity in New York was predictable and inevitable. It was an act of retaliation against constant and systematic manifestations of state terrorism on the part of America over many years, in all parts of the world.
Thousands of schoolchildren travel on the Underground every day. If there is a poison gas attack from which they die, the responsibility will rest entirely on the shoulders of our Prime Minister.
I can no longer call Pinter a "playwright". From now on he'll always be a "playwrong" to me.

Accused pedophile priest Paul Shanley is out on bail, somewhere in Boston. Keep your children indoors. Meanwhile Cardinal Law is in Rome. The discussion seems to center around bankrupcy for the Boston Archdiocese and a possible successor for Law. Why shouldn't the man be prosecuted as an accessory to multiple acts of child abuse and embezzlement?

Canada finally bans Hizbollah.

Last week James Lileks linked to me(!) this week he taped a TV program with Al Roker. What a great life he has.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:18 AM
December 10, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 10

Here's wishing a very Happy Blogversary to my Blogfather

Axis of evil "A ship carrying a dozen Scud-type missiles from North Korea was intercepted in the Arabian Sea on Tuesday, U.S. officials said. They said the missiles were believed to be headed for Yemen." Too bad Jimmy Carter is partying in Oslo when he could be helping the North Koreans get their missiles back.

Over 100 of the largest superfluous egos in North America are voicing their support for Saddam Hussein.

Youthful Ambition When 6-year-old Michael Wong-Sasso grows up, he wants to be a trash collector. So his parents held his birthday party at a local landfill.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:16 PM
Democrat Strategy

Marc Sandalow reports on a remarkable Democrat Congressional strategy session held in Washington this week.

Behind closed doors in a meeting room across the street from the Capitol, House Democrats will embark on a two-day examination of what went wrong on election day and what can be done to make sure it doesn't happen again...

San Francisco Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the incoming Democratic leader who convened the meeting, wants her colleague to stay focused on the economy and lay the foundation for a Democratic alternative to President Bush's expected call for more tax cuts.

I can just imagine the dialog, which would have more or less the following subtext:

"We're in trouble. The only people who vote for us any more are poor people, old people, sick people, the members of public employee labor unions, and the Surrender Now! leftists. We've got to do something to broaden the base. Who else could possibly vote for us"
"Polling data shows that the Gullible-American community is up for grabs."
"Perfect. We'll appeal to their self-interest: 'We're in a tough economy, so we have to take more of your money away from you in order to make things better for you.'"
"Sounds like a plan to me"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:03 PM
Santa Claus Health Care

The San Francisco Chronicle's own Ruth Rosen had an op-ed in yesterday's paper calling for universal health care.

HEALTH CARE, according to a recent Field poll, now rivals education as a top concern for California voters
But Rosen overlooks that education is a top concern because of the widely recognized failure of government to manage the K-12 education system. Her solution for government incompetence: give the government even more responsibility!
One of the dirty little secrets of our free-market health system is...
I think its a stretch to call our highly-regulated, subsidy-cosseted and tax-code-distorted health system "free-market".
But the right question is, how dare we not provide medical care -- embraced by other industrialized nations as a basic human right -- to everyone in our society?
Rosen, who is also a history professor, seems to be confused about the meaning of "rights". The rights enshrined in, say, our Bill of Rights, are limitations on the power of government, they are not guarantees of provision of services. The right of free expression means that the state can't prevent one from speaking ones mind, it does not mean that the state needs to buy everybody a printing press. Similarly, a right to health care would mean that the state may not interfere with a person's treatment, not that the state must supply the bandages.
We are a wealthy nation. But we feel poor because politicians in Washington have transferred the nation's wealth to the rich
By this she seems to be referring to tax cuts which mean that the government no longer confiscates as much of the people's money as it used to.
End tax cuts for the very wealthy, resurrect the estate tax, return the country to the progressive tax system of the 1950s and we could afford universal health care. A single-payer system, moreover, would end the obscene salaries paid to CEOs of medical insurance companies that extract huge profits by underserving patients and underpaying doctors. The billions saved could be used for the delivery of health services.
You would almost have to be a feminist historian like Rosen to believe that high taxes and low incentives are a recipe for creating wealth. And yes, there are fundamental problems with the health care system, but these have more to do with the fact that health care consumers are trained to demand infinite amounts of health care while having minimal direct participation in covering the costs. A single payer model, funded with huge amounts of tax dollars and managed by bureaucrats who had few incentives to make economically rational decisions would only exacerbate these problems and inflict on us the Stalinist utopia of the British National Health Service
State Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, says that "the conversation in California has shifted from whether there should be universal health care to which plan can get us there."
Then it's time to shift the conversation back onto a rational plane.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:05 AM
December 09, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 9

My tax dollars at work There is a new development in the story of freakish San Francisco Elections Director Tammy Haygood. Recall that Haygood, who was fired from her job for incompetence and flagrant budgetary overruns, continues to get paid for not showing up at the office, while her lawsuit demanding reinstatement makes its way through its umpteen appeals. (Haygood's biggest motivation for keeping her job seems to be the wonderful city health benefits which would pay for her "husband"'s female-to-male sex change). Now it turns out that Haygood also signed off on padding the hours of her top assistant (eight straight months of 40 hours of overtime a week). The assistant also continued to draw a salary for seven months after leaving office. Haygood has an appeal hearing on Tuesday.

Quid Pro Quo Not that self-interest should ever influence a country's decision to join an international coalition or anything, but now we find out that Turkey Links Position on Iraq With Its European Union Status. And I'll bet that the anti-Turkish factions in say, France and Germany, are having a field day with this one.

Exhibiting apparent signs of dementia, the 78-year-old Jimmy Carter on his way to accepting the badly misnamed Nobel "Peace" Prize offered this uniquely creative interpretation of modern Middle Eastern history

"One of the key factors that...arouses intense feelings of animosity in the world is the festering problem in the Holy Land, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the inability of Israel to live in peace with its neighbors,"
Ah yes, it's that damned Israel, with its inability to please its neighbors and just disappear into the Mediterranean Sea, that keeps forcing all those Arabs to attack it all the time.

Be'hatzlacha My brother Mattan is drafted into the IDF today. Like nearly every other 18-year-old male born and raised in Israel, he will serve his mandatory three years of duty. I spoke with him the other day, and his comment was typically laconic and philosophical "I haven't started to panic yet". After several weeks of basic training, he expects to enter a course to become a communications officer. When I was his age I was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin and my only real concerns were getting good grades and meeting girls. The closest I came to the military was registering for the draft. (Carter seemed like such a hawk when he reinstated mandatory registration). Mattan, I imagine, would prefer to have it as easy as I had it. Or at the very least to feel certain that he and his friends would all make it through the next three years alive and in one piece. But such is one of the prices of having a free country of your own in a region where most of your neighbors hate you. And the alternatives are far worse. I know that Mattan will serve his country well and make his family proud. Good luck, or as they say in Hebrew, be'hatzlacha.

The San Francisco Chronicle yesterday quoted Eugene Volokh on the Ninth Circuit's Second Amendment ruling

most [commentators] said Reinhardt's opinion had moved the legal debate a step forward.

"It's long and thoughtful. He deserves credit for confronting the issues, " said UCLA law Professor Eugene Volokh, whose writings endorsing an individual's right to own guns were cited -- and disputed -- by Reinhardt.

This is an interesting spin, considering that Volokh blogged a systematic fisking of Reinhardt's opinion, concluding with a one-word summary: "Disappointing".
UPDATE Prof. Volokh e-mailed me this reaction to the article: "I don't mind the quote -- I did say it, and I do agree with it. The context makes it clear
that I likely disagree with his views."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:58 AM
December 08, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 8

NEWSFLASH Little Baby David took his first steps today. My boy can walk!

Peanut-brained former President Jimmy Carter, on his way to Oslo to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize, says that

I think that if Iraq does continue to comply completely [with the UN inspections] then I see no reason for the war
It's remarkable that he is so quick to assume that Iraq has been complying completely, isn't it, given Saddam's track record of deception and obstruction. Does Carter even know what's in the 12,000 page report? Time to rename the Nobel Peace Prize the Viscount Cecil of Chelwood Prize

Erin O'Connor has more to say about the alleged "sexual harassment" case involving John Dwyer, former Dean of the Berkeley Boalt Hall Law School. Of the news articles O'Connor links to, of particular note are this one from the Contra Costa Times and this one from the San Jose Mercury News.

A more complete story seems to emerge. The still anonymous accuser was drunk the night of the alleged assault, invited the Dean into her apartment, and has no recollection of the next two hours. [we learn this from the accuser's own attorney]. After the incident she speaks with three female professors in the law school, including at least one self-described expert on sexual discrimination and employment law. In spite of their germane expertise, they all claim that they had no idea what this woman should do to pursue a complaint. The woman chose to postpone filing a complaint until after graduation because she wanted to focus on not only her academic work, but also on her extracurricular activities in "public interest" law. Now, if any of these female law professors felt that Dwyer had committed a serious offense or was an imminent threat to the other female law students, would they have waited nearly two years to expose the incident? I find that hard to believe. So does my wife, who graduated from Boalt in 1996, while Dwyer was on the faculty, but before he became dean. She knew Dwyer slightly and says that he didn't have any kind of negative reputation among the female students, which he almost certainly would have had, had there been a pattern of inappropriate behavior. But that doesn't stop the feminazis of the Boalt Hall Women's Association (who are so intent on eradicating gender discrimination that they banish men from their meeting room) from declaring that

sexual harassment and assault in the law school environment have gone unaddressed for too long
My wife is not aware of any other cases of sexual harassment or assault in the law school, and it appears that the only people who ever left such charges unaddressed would be the women professors that the accuser consulted nearly two years ago.

In what is perhaps the most telling quote in all of the press coverage, the accusers attorney, Laura Stevens, said that

her client has not gone to police because media coverage of the accusation will be more effective in preventing Dwyer from obtaining future jobs than the court system would be.
In other words, this appears to be little more than the unsubstantiated and opportunistic take-down of a successful white male, and performed by a student body that is 60% female. Just another skit in the ongoing vaudevillian comedy of left wing justice

And speaking of Boalt Hall's women-only lounge, can someone please explain how it is different from the formerly all-male eating clubs at Princeton University, which in 1990 were ordered by the New Jersey Supreme Court to admit female members?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:40 PM
December 07, 2002
One World

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke to CNN's Aaron Brown Thursday night on the subject "How the world views the United States". They were referring to the Pew Research Center's recently released study of public opinion in 44 countries "What the World Thinks in 2002"

ALBRIGHT looks to within this poll that the Arab world, the Muslim world, is equating our war on terrorism with an attack on them.

BROWN: And so no matter how many times the president says that, no matter how many times the United States government, in one way, shape or form, says this is not an attack on Islam, this is an attack on terror, people don't believe it.

ALBRIGHT: They don't at this stage. And so, I think we have to do more in terms of our public diplomacy. I think what the president has been doing in terms of trying to give messages and he did again today, is helpful.

But actions, in fact, in terms of constantly showing that we don't understand Islam generally, is part of a major problem.

The other part, Aaron, that's so unbelievable are the number of people who, in various of the Muslim countries, believe that suicide bombing is a legitimate way to argue against what's going on. Stunning to me.

Yes, as the Pew study reports, 73% of Lebanese, 43% of Jordanians and Bangladeshis and 33% of Pakistanis believe that "suicide bombing is often or sometimes justified to defend Islam". Could it be that the real problem is not our diplomacy, but the Muslim world's self-awareness of their own broad and deep support for terrorism?

Other highlights from the Pew study:

"just 6% of the Egyptian public holds a favorable view of the US". I wonder if they would they like us any less if we stopped sending them $2 billion in foreign aid each year, and if so, how could we tell?

The Germans, on the other hand, agree overwhelmingly that Saddam is a significant danger (82%) and that he must be removed (75%). Confusingly, 71% feel that he should not be removed by force. It's not clear how else they propose to remove him, so maybe they believe that the Weihnachtsmann will do it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:41 PM
Here and There, Dec. 7

Today is National Student Day in Iran, with protests taking place around that country. The police are cracking down. The Student Movement Coordination Committe for Democracy in Iran (SMCCDI) claims that the tear-gas and electric batons the police use to silence the protesters are purchased from the EU. The most comprehensive coverage of the protests is on the SMCCDI news page

In case you missed it when it first appeared (as I did), I highly recommend this November 2001 New Yorker article by Bernard Lewis: The Revolt of Islam, on the long history of Islam's conflict with the West. If you read only one article this week, make sure it's this one. (thanks to Haggai for the tip)

The unionized dancers at San Francisco's Lusty Lady strip club are renegotiating their contract and picketing for higher wages. My sources tell me that before the dancers formed the union in 1995, the club was "quite a fun place". But since the Bolshies moved in, the Lusty Lady is "about as erotic as a Siberian post office"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:53 AM
December 06, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 6

The lying Bolshevik swine of the Rainbow Grocery Co-op are now covering up their anti-Israel boycott. They changed the text of their online statement about the boycott, to pretend that there never was a boycott. An earlier version said that while there was no storewide boycott, some of the store's autonomous departments did choose to remove Israeli products from their shelves. Now they only say that

At no time did a boycott of Israeli products come up for a vote by the no way do we tolerate any workers at Rainbow Grocery who support hatred, racism or any form of religious oppression in or outside of our workplace.
Interesting that none of those things were ever alleged, and that the denial does not cover the partial anti-Israel boycott that seems to be in place. The only appropriate steps for them to take at this point are to announce that the boycott has been reversed and to issue an apology for their earlier mistake. Until they do that, I can only wish on them that their produce should rot in its bins and their nuts and grains should be devoured by rodents.

Welcome them with open arms Some Palestinians, including Diana Buttu, have recently started to question whether the Palestinians should abandon the two-state solution and instead revive the old idea that Palestinians should simply demand Israeli citizenship. I think that's a fine idea, with the one condition that they convert to Judaism first. Adding several million people to the team in one fell swoop. Sounds good to me.

I learned yesterday that the Berkeley student who was charged with stealing and breaking my camera was arraigned on November 21, at which time the matter was dropped with "no complaint". That's all I know at this point. I have some calls in to get the scoop and I'll report whatever I find out.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is giving a major policy speech about Iraq today at the Commonwealth Club (12:30pm PST). KQED-FM is carrying the speech live on both the radio and the web. (Go to the KQED daily schedule page and look for the "Listen Live" button). For a schedule of delayed broadcasts in your area go here. My bullet point transcript of Wolfowitz's speech is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:29 PM
Wolfowitz on Iraq

Bullet points from Dep. Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz speaking at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco today. Live! as I hear it on the radio.

Wolfowitz acknowledges the demonstrators outside, agrees that war is a terrible thing, but so are terrorist attacks.

A group of demonstrators try to shout him down before he can really get started.

Recall's George HW Bush's press conference on NATO after end of Cold War. Said that the purpose of NATO evolved to reach out to former Communist countries, including Russia, and to help overcome threat of "uncertainty".

NATO demonstrates that alliance built on common values has more staying power than an alliance built on convenience. Can also help shape response to global threat of terrorism.

Mentions British document outlining human rights abuses in Iraq, mentions Ritter's comments about Iraqi prison full of children of Saddam's political enemies.

Saddam rules by fear alone, when his people no longer fear him, he will fear them.

Still hopes for peaceful resolution.

Goal is not return of inspections, goal is disarmament.

Will that distract US from war on terror? No. Disarming Iraq is crucial part of war on terror.

It shouldn't be the responsible of the inspectors to discover, disclose, destroy all weapons of mass destruction. It is the responsibility of the Iraq to do this.

Let me repeat: We are trying to achieve the disarmament of Iraq, voluntarily or by force, that goal will be achieved.

Saddam will give them up voluntarily only if he thinks that is the only way for his regime to survive.

Only hope of achieving that outcome is confronting Iraq with a credible threat of force behind the diplomacy.

To those who say: let's wait until threat is imminent, he asks, when did Sept. 11 attacks become imminent? We can't afford to wait until last minute.

Says this a crucial time for Turkey. Turkey wants to join EU. The west must support Turkey as an example of a modern Islamic nation. Turkey is one of our most reliable and self-reliant allies

Saddam should make no mistake he is surrounded by the international community.

Praises Turkey's commitment to peace demonstrated by their peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Somalia, participation in Gulf War.

Most Turks in last election were casting votes for accountable government, NOT politicizing religion. new government rejects Islamist label, sees destiny in Europe.

Calls European leaders to embrace Turkey. Says Turkey's democratic values should be an example to Iraq.

Territorial integrity of Iraq should be maintained. Iraq will thrive when unleashed from Saddam's tyranny.

Closing: The security of the US must be foremost in our minds. People around the globe look to the US for leadership, in values, fighting terrorism. In maintaining our security keep the world secure. "Terrorism is biggest threat in our time"

Questions from Audience
How do we measure success of war on terrorism? Has anti-Americanism gone up or down, how does our Iraq policy affect that? How will we know war on terrorism is over?

Progress hard to measure. 2400 people off the streets is progress. End of Taliban is progress. War is fought by intelligence, law enforcement. Measured by threats blocked, people arrested.

Polling data on anti-Americanism not encouraging, but false to assume that we cause that. Alludes to (Saudi-funded) propaganda. Once Saddam tyranny is ended, which is inevitable, if we have a role in ending it we will be cheered.

Winning is also about building models in Muslim world that attract people away from terrorism.

Have we been had by Pakistan? There are reports that Pakistan has supplied North Korea with nuclear capabilities. What does that say about them as ally?

Some of this started before Pakistan became our ally. Musharraf has been very helpful. Need to work with them, recognizing that problems still exist.

Re: sanctions. Is Saddam guilty until proven innocent?

Given his track record, yes. It's his responsibility to give full disclosure. The stakes are enormous. this is not a game.

In the eleven years since the US army pushed the Iraqi army out of the northern third of Iraq to create an autonomous Kurdish area, the northern third has done much better than the Saddam controlled portion of Iraq. That should serve as a model for the rest of Iraq.

In the event of a chemical or biological attack by Saddam on Israel, what is Israel's likely response? Should the US have been more aggressive in achieving peace between Israelis, Palestinians?

US was as aggressive as it could have been. inevitable outcome: two separate states living side by side in peace. Most Israelis want peace. Last month was 25th anniversary of Sadat visit to Jerusalem. This created psychological breakthrough enable Israel to give up Sinai. Peace is out there to be achieved and not because of lack of America trying.

Saddam's use of chemical or biological weapons against Israel, other allies, or US itself is a real concern. Any Iraqi who knows about such weapons and doesn't come forward should be considered an accessory if such weapons are used.

Departure of dictator often leads to chaos. What are US plans to ensure that post-Saddam Iraq is mother of all quagmires?

Post-Saddam instability is misplaced concern. Saddam himself is source of instability. Without Saddam Iraq can have perhaps the best government in Arab world. Romania did not fall into chaos after Ceausescu. Post-Saddam Iraq can do at least as well as post-Ceausescu Romania.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:41 PM
December 05, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 5

Ed Ward, rock historian for Fresh Air with Terry Gross, remembers the Lovin' Spoonful [audio]

Immaculate Conception "A priest who still serves in the Roman Catholic Church fathered three children, and, when their mother suffered an overdose, did not immediately call for emergency help, Boston lawyers who are releasing the priest's personnel file said on Thursday." But that's impossible. A priest can't father a child. Priests are celibate, aren't they?

The Montreal branch of Al-Najah University (usually known in English as "Concordia University") has banned the local Hillel organization from operating on campus. Montreal blogger Segacs is following the story

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:14 PM
Boycott This

The Rainbow Grocery Co-op of San Francisco has initiated a partial boycott of Israeli products. The Co-op's home page says "There is no Israeli boycott - click here for more info", but the >more info page confirms that some of the store's autonomously run departments have chosen to drop Israeli products and that "To the people who made the decision, their concerns were based on human rights violations"

Never mind the validity of the specific concerns over "human rights violations". The store has not indicated that it is imposing similar boycotts on any other countries, so the Jewish state is being singled out, as it so often is. This brings to mind the following image from the 1930s.

"Germans! Defend Yourselves! Don't Buy From Jews!"

On April 1, 1933 the new German government led by Adolf Hitler imposed a boycott on Jewish businesses. The response of the German Jewish community at the time was "Wear The Yellow Badge With Pride". While there is a big difference between a government-led boycott of all Jewish businesses and a limited boycott of Israeli exports by an independent grocery collective, it is a difference of degree and not of kind. And if this boycott goes unchallenged and succeeds, other boycotts will surely follow. This is not an occasion to accept a boycott with pride, but to fight back, to expose this anti-Jewish boycott for what it is and to delegitimize and inflict economic damage on those who are behind it.

The San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council has demanded that the store reverse the boycott immediately. I've never been to this particular store. I'll give them until, say, the end of the week to drop the boycott. If they don't drop the boycott, I pledge to never spend any money there, ever.

Even if you're not in San Francisco, why not give the Rainbow Grocery Co-op a call and explain to them why maintaining such a boycott will only cause severe and permanent damage to their moral health, their reputation and their business prospects. (415) 863 0620

UPDATE: The Chronicle's own Debra Saunders also bashes the Rainbow Co-op in "Food fight in tofu-land"

UPDATE 2 (12/06): The Rainbow Co-op now appears to be lying in an attempt to cover-up the boycott.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:14 AM
December 04, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 4

Ya-ya Sisterhood And speaking of sexual discrimination at the UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law. It turns out that there is a Boalt Hall Women's Association, which boasts that "BHWA's Member Lounge is a convenient, private space just for women!". (For some reason I can't find any signs of a men's association or a men-only lounge) Are women a beleaguered minority group at Boalt who need special protection and refuge? Nah, women comprise 60% of the student body. Is this "underrepresentation" of males evidence of discrimination or simply a matter of self-selection? I suspect the latter, but you never know.

(I should also point out that I'm proud to be married to a Boalt graduate, and it is really a very good law school. Still, gender-based discrimination is gender-based discrimination, and it should be exposed, shouldn't it?)

UPDATE In regards to the above, Prof. Reynolds asks "Doesn't this violate the Constitution?". Now I'm no lawyer, and at first I thought he was just exaggerating. But this is what the Supreme Court had to say in 1950 about a situation where a Negro [sic] graduate student at the University of Oklahoma was denied access to the same campus facilities as the white students.

We conclude that the conditions under which this appellant is required to receive his education deprive him of his personal and present right to the equal protection of the laws. See Sweatt v. Painter, ante p. 629 . We hold that, under these circumstances, the Fourteenth Amendment precludes differences in treatment by the state based upon race. Appellant, having been admitted to a state supported graduate school, must receive the same treatment at the hands of the state as students of other races.
And more to the point of gender discrimination there is Title IX. Am I missing something, or can someone explain how having a women's only lounge in a public university might somehow not be unconstitutional?

No surprise Saddam Hussein isn't too keen on unconditional inspections after all.

A Pakistani branch of the Religion of Peace apparently bombed the home of the honorary consul of Macedonia in Karachi today. Presumably this was due to festering resentments over Alexander the Great's invasion of the Indian sub-continent in 329 BC.

I had a beer yesterday with Haggai Elitzur, the Israeli-born, Kentucky-raised, Michigan-based blogger, who was in town for a conference. I am pleased to report that Haggai is as smart and engaging in person as he is on the pages of his fine blog. In our discussion of the Middle East, Haggai made a number of good points, among them:
* Arafat was never serious about following through on Oslo and obtaining a peace agreement. So why did he bother to start down that road in the first place? At the time he had no choice. With the end of the Soviet Union and because of his dimwitted support for Saddam in the first Gulf War, nearly all of his funding sources dried up. This was the only chance he had to gain legitimacy and fill his coffers, and apparently he milked it for all it was worth
* Barak wasn't such a patsy to pull out of Lebanon after all. Israel never wanted to stay there in the first place, so it's not like they gave up very much. And what they did do was deprive the Hizbollah of a grievance that others might think legitimate. The conflict on the northern border is now relatively low-level and as far as encouraging the Palestinians to start the intifadah? Feh, they would have done so anyway.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:05 PM
The Comedy of Left-wing Justice

The Beverly Hillbillies was a very funny sitcom and a wonderful example of the use of status in comedy. Stage comedy is essentially all about status. Every character has both social status and situational status. Social status is relatively fixed and derives from one's wealth, occupation, organizational rank, etc. Situational status is more dynamic and has to do with how the character performs his role -- bearing, body language, control of space, use of language, and also what happens in the scene -- is the character a victim or an aggressor, does he succeed or fail at the task at hand? Characters are generally described as high-status or low-status. Comedy happens when a character gets his status lowered, or when a low-status character raises his status at the expense of a high-status character. That helps explain why The Beverly Hillbillies was so funny. The low-status Clampetts had their status raised with their new found oil wealth, and they somehow always ended up lowering the status of the banker Mr. Drysdale and his high-status wife. Did Mrs. Drysdale ever get the better of Granny? Of course not, because that wouldn't have been funny.

Left-wing notions of justice are also about status. There is a whole ladder of characteristics where some people are assigned high status and others low status. Now I'm not making any value judgments in the following list, I'm simply reporting my understanding of progressive thinking: Men are higher status than women. Caucasians are higher status than Asians who are higher status than Hispanics who are higher than Africans. The rich have higher status than the poor. Management has higher status than labor. The able-bodied are higher than the disabled. Heterosexuals are higher than homosexuals. Christians and Jews have more status than Muslims and Hindus. Americans are above everybody else on the planet. You get the point.

Left-wing justice is very simple. As long as the outcome is one where a low-status person wins at the expense of a high-status person, justice is done. No need to be concerned with the circumstances or the particular individuals involved, all that matters is group-based status. Case closed.

Think of all the examples of public issues or controversies and how most lefties respond. They all fit into this framework. Every single one. How else would the Sept. 11 attacks get turned into a discussion of American oppression of Muslims? Why else would so many on the left identify with Saddam more than they do with Bush? Why did college lefties get their knickers in a twist over Apartheid, but couldn't care less about Zimbabwe or Sudan? Why do some people call Ariel Sharon a "war criminal" because of Sabra and Shatilla, but never even mention the Christian Arabs who carried out the massacre? Why do university administrators impose harsher discipline against those who dress up as the Jackson 5 than against those who commit violence in their protests against Israel? It's all about the dynamic of elevating the low-status (Arabs, Muslims, Black people) while lowering the high-status (America, Israel, white frat boys).

And that also helps explain why so many people find it so easy to ridicule the left. Because so much of what the left believes in is essentially, well, comedy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:49 AM
December 03, 2002
Is The Shark Blog Terrorism?

This e-mail just reached me from the United Arab Emirates

Subject: Coin always have two sides!
From: *** (Haneen Tamari)

Since you are a "journalist", I would expect you to look to the both sides of the stories you write and publish.And been reading your articles, make me sure of your 100% "subjective" opinions, particularly concerning Arabs and Islam. Talking about terrorism? I think works done and published as the way you do, is a good example for a kind of it.

Journalism is a noble proffesion, which is determind to show the truth as it is and not the truth as you want it.

First of all, thank you, Haneen, for reading my blog and taking the time to write. It's nice to know that I can hold my own in the race for mindshare, even in the land of the Zayed Centre for Co-ordination and Follow-up. If you think my writing is a "good example of terrorism" then you take too literally the expression that "the pen is mightier than the sword". As far as I'm aware, nobody has ever died or lost the use of a body part because of anything I've written. And I would take you a little more seriously if you bothered to point out exactly what I have written that is untrue. Naturally, I will be more than happy to correct any incorrect statements you bring to my attention. Until then, I regret that I must dismiss you as just another frustrated loonie idiot.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:16 PM
Here and There, Dec. 3

Survival and Beyond Eliad Moreh survived the July 31 bombing of the Hebrew University cafeteria. The friend she was sitting with, Diego Ladowski, perished in the blast. Diego was my father's student and was in the process of wrapping up his graduation requirements when he was killed. The faculty awarded his degree posthumously. Moreh's essay on terrorism, which honors Diego, appears in the current issue of the Harvard Israel Review

Some people in Israel and abroad place terrorism in the context of the political conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. To place terrorism in any context is to avoid confronting its horror and inexcusable nature. What cause can justify the deliberate murder of as many human beings as possible? What kind of a people could officially appeal to terrorism as a legitimate weapon in their desire for statehood? And this is all the more repugnant given that the Palestinians were offered an independent state in the frame of the Oslo agreement.

There is no explanation for terrorism. I tell you out of my crying body, out of my screaming heart and my wounded mind, I tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing justifies such pain. And no reason in the world can excuse the criminals who perpetrate such inhuman deeds. There are times in history when one has to condemn evil. The facts are so horrible that they do not leave a place for understanding, because to understand means to justify. And I have to warn you, trying to justify such barbarous acts makes you become morally complicit in them.

Read the whole thing

The BBC has a story today on indicted terrorist Marwan Barghouti, with the perhaps unintentionally ironic headline "Popular Palestinian calls for change". The Beeb doesn't say why Barghouti might be popular (among Palestinians). But one can only assume that it has something to do with the 26 murders he has been charged with organizing and with the fact that unlike many other Palestinian leaders who are reevaluating the diplomatic value of terrorism, Barghouti wants to continue the "military" struggle.

Osama Bin Laden is also openly popular in some parts of the world, including in Mombasa. Add Mombasa to the list of formerly popular Islamic vacation hotspots, along with Bali and Egypt

Who can really sort out the He said / She said story of Berkeley law dean John Dwyer's alleged sexual harassment incident. But there's a revealing quote in today's San Francisco Chronicle story

Boalt law professor Linda Hamilton Krieger, who teaches employment discrimination including sexual harassment, said the California Education Code requires a university to take "affirmative steps to prevent harassment."

"There are some pretty specific requirements. I have never received any training at all. I've never gotten a document that contains the university's policy," said Krieger, who has been at Boalt since 1996.

You know what, Prof. Krieger, by the time you get to be a professor of employment law, "Nobody spoon-fed me the answer" is no longer a valid excuse. If you don't have the initiative to obtain your own employer's sexual harassment policy for yourself, then you're obviously so much of a whiny helpless loser that you shouldn't bother to leave the house in the morning, let alone pretend to train the nation's future employment lawyers. And in case you still need help with this, the document you're looking for is available on the web, right here.

Certain stingy and economics challenged commuters continue to complain about BART's new paid reserved parking system

"Where are the poor people supposed to park?" asked one woman in a maroon Acura Integra in the Orinda lot.
Uh, poor people don't drive Acura Integras, nor do they live in Orinda.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:02 PM
Leftist Self-Defense

A few weeks when I went to see Diana Buttu speak in San Francisco, I also had an enlightening exchange with another member of the audience. The gentleman, a self-described Jewish San Franciscan, jumped into the conversation when I was giving Buttu my opinion on suicide bombings. I told her that the bombings would interpreted by most Israelis as a signal of hostile intentions, and therefore were not likely to produce an outcome that many Palestinians would find desirable.

The Jewish San Franciscan, a short little middle-aged guy with an abrasive manner, interrupted me and demanded that I explain why people commit suicide bombings in the first place. I countered that it was like asking why some men rape women, it's completely irrational. He said that suicide bombings were nothing at all like rape, they were a legitimate response to oppression. He said that he works with African American youth in the projects and explained that their violent behavior is not irrational at all, it is a rational reaction for people who are desperate and oppressed. He couldn't explain the rational process by which violent crime would actually lift the perpetrators out of their oppression and despair, but no matter.

"How would you respond if I were to hit you in the face?" I asked him in a rhetorical and non-threatening manner. He protested that my hitting him in the face has no similarity with suicide bombing. "But how would you respond if I did hit you in the face?" I insisted.
"I don't know what I would do if you hit me in the face" he said with fervent conviction "But if enough people hit me in the face, I would ask myself what I was doing wrong."
I asked him for his address so I could bring a group of friends over to his house so we could all hit him in the face, but he declined to give me his address and I wasn't going to press the point.

I had absolutely no intention to hit him, of course, but his answer astonished me. I've never heard anybody proclaim so vociferously such a lack of self-assertion and such an eagerness to capitulate to violence. At least not on a personal level. I wonder if this guy is typical of the anti-war protesters who oppose national self-defense and sincerely believe that, say, multi-centi-millionaire Osama Ben Laden and his upper middle class zealots were all desperate and oppressed and simply expressing legitimate grievances against the United States. Are these so-called peace activists merely projecting their own personal ineffectuality onto the entire nation?

And how would that guy have reacted if someone really did hit him in the face or even murdered his loved ones? Who knows, but I don't think it's a stretch to draw a comparison with Peaceful Tomorrows, an organization of families of September 11th victims, which all but blames U.S. foreign policy for causing the Sept. 11 attacks and advocates vague and unspecified "alternatives to war" for countering terrorism.

In Israel, a similar organization called "The Parents Circle", describes itself as a forum of bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families for peace (nearly all the names of members listed on their website are Israeli) and is "committed to putting an end to the cycles of retribution and creating a climate for tolerance, reconciliation and peace". The Jerusalem Post last week had a pair of Point - CounterPoint essays about The Parents Circle. Both essays are worth reading. Frimet Roth, another bereaved mother, compares the members of Parent's Circle to hostages suffering from "Stockholm syndrome" who end up identifying with their captors, and says that they consititute a small minority of bereaved Israeli families. Nurit Elhanan-Peled counters that Roth is "monologic, racist and aggressive" and describes her own daughter's killer as "a young man desperate and distorted by humiliation and hopelessness to the point of killing himself and others, just because he was a Palestinian" and looks forward to the return of the "golden age of both Islam and Judaism when the two lived side by side, nurturing each other and flourishing together". She doesn't mention that the young man who killed her daughter along with several other people was from Hamas, which is not looking for compromise but to "remove the Zionist settlement in Palestine".

Far be it from me to tell a bereaved parent how to mourn for her daughter, or to take sides in an Israeli domestic debate over how to achieve security. But I can't help but observe that when Palestinian officials now say that the use of arms in the intifada was a mistake and call for an end to terrorism, it was because of Sharon's military response, not the moral hectoring of the peace camp.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:44 AM
December 02, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 2

No surprise U.S. hints al-Qaida Behind Kenya Strikes "Two missile launchers recovered after last week's attack on an airliner in Kenya are from the same production batch as one used by an al-Qaida operative who tried in May to down a U.S. military plane in Saudi Arabia, American officials said Monday"

No surprise (2) Bush: Iraq Inspections 'Not Encouraging' "President Bush warned Iraq's Saddam Hussein that he has until a Sunday deadline to prove he is serious about averting war." faster, please

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:53 PM
Where are all the Fatwas?

The term fatwa is used most often in the Western media to refer to a death sentence issued by a Muslim official. The most famous example, perhaps, is the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa for Salman Rushdie's execution.

But a death sentence is only one kind of fatwa. As Islamic scholar Ziauddin Sardar explains, "A fatwa is simply a legal opinion based on religious reasoning" and any Muslim can issue a fatwa.

Sardar goes on to issue this fatwa:

any Muslim involved in the planning, financing, training, recruiting, support or harbouring of those who commit acts of indiscriminate violence against persons or the apparatus or infrastructure of states is guilty of terror and no part of the Ummah. It is the duty of every Muslim to spare no effort in hunting down, apprehending and bringing such criminals to justice.
I applaud him. But is this an isolated incident? Have many other Muslims issued fatwas against Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbollah and others who murder innocent civilians in the name of Islam? Where are these fatwas? And where are the fatwas against those who finance and support the terror organizations? And even more importantly, how are those fatwas being carried out?

If Islam is truly a Religion of Peace, wouldn't the peaceful Muslims be proactively fighting those who use violence in the name of Islam?

These questions are not rhetorical. I'm not aware of any such fatwas (other than Sardar's) but I would hope that they're being issued and acted upon. Could anyone give me examples?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:35 AM
December 01, 2002
Here and There, Dec. 1

United Airlines and the Boston Archdiocese are both teetering on the verge of Chapter 11 bankrupcy. The main difference between the two is that Cardinal Law's organization is also ripe to declare moral bankrupcy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:26 PM
San Francisco Democrats

The San Francisco Chronicle is taking umbrage at those who describe House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as a "San Francisco Democrat". But what does this label mean? The Chronicle points out that some, including Joe Conason and Pelosi herself, believe that it is a none-too-subtle form of gay baiting. Some people probably do use it as such, but I don't. San Francisco liberalism is about a lot more than gay rights (which I generally support). While the Chronicle believes that

The defining quality of a San Francisco Democrat -- an elected one, anyway -- is an ability to bring together people who celebrate their differences, relish their political feuds and demand their leaders' constant attention.
I beg to differ, and I'm speaking as a former San Francisco Democrat -- I've been a San Francisco resident and voter since 1990, and at the outset my official voter registration was as a Democrat.

I've found that the San Francisco Democratic party is about a uniquely lunatic vision of America and the world. It's activists are hostile to free enterprise, they believe that private property should be all but criminalized, that corporations are inherently evil and that normal people only work for the government or non-profits. They believe the government was created to take care of poor people, women, minorities and AIDS patients, and that able-bodied heterosexual white guys exist only to "pay their fair share"; They can state with conviction and without irony that the city shouldn't allow high-rise apartment buildings and that rent-control is sacred, but that government should also do something about the "afforable housing crisis". The San Francisco Democratic city government is run solely for the convenience of the public employee labor unions, whose members are routinely granted ever-increasing benefits and paid time off, and are never held accountable for actual performance. The Board of Supervisors has its own foreign policy, which starts with three fundamental assumptions: It's wrong for the US to have a military; the US must promote and defend democracy around the world without ever using its military; and Cuba is a showcase society of social justice.

That, in a nutshell, is what the San Francisco Democrats are all about. If you don't believe me, you can start by visiting Nancy Pelosi's official website and reading through her press releases. Also be sure to take a look at the endorsements page of the San Francisco Democratic party. And read the letters to the editor page of the San Francisco Chronicle from time to time. Needless to say, I mentally checked myself out of the party years ago.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:43 PM
Economics for Dummies

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that most BART (regional commuter rail) stations are reserving a portion of their parking spaces for paid monthly permit holders. This has sparked a storm of complaints among some BART riders, because parking has previously been "free". But demand for parking spots exceeds supply, and there are only so many ways to allocate a scarce resource (namely pricing, queuing and lottery). In the case of BART, parking spots have been allocated by queueing, i.e. first-come, first-serve, meaning you're not likely to find a parking spot after say, 8am. Does it make sense to give away all the parking spots to people who happen to go to work early, or who don't place a monetary value on their time? It does if you're a member of both of the above

Kathleen Crawford, who lives in Oakland and works for the state in San Francisco's Civic Center area, already has to arrive at the MacArthur Station by 7:20 a.m. if she wants to find a parking place. When she goes to Lake Merritt Station, she has to be there by 7 a.m.

"If they block off three, four, five rows of parking, who knows how early I'm going to have to get there," Crawford said. "I hope it's not a success, because I'll have to get there earlier and earlier and earlier

The highways in the Bay Area are overcrowded, and BART has excess capacity that could be used. But people will only opt for BART if it is convenient and time-efficient. The sanest solution would simply be to build more parking spots, and charge by the hour for all of them. But transit agencies tend to be run by a combination of people who hate cars altogether ("let them take the bus or ride a bike to the BART station!"), redistributionists ("BART should be free!") and the economically illiterate. So the half-assed solution of reserving a portion of the parking spots means that a few people will pay for reserved spots but probably won't use their spot all the time, meaning there will always be some unused parking capacity. At the same time, more of the occasional riders will fail to find parking, and will probably avoid BART altogether, and just drive all the way to their destination. Where they may have to pay for parking anyway.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:09 AM