January 31, 2003
Mrs. Arafat's Criminal Enterprise

The Israeli daily Ma'ariv reports today [Hebrew only] that Yassir Arafat's wife Suha is suspected of involvement in a car theft ring

Suspicion: A company owned by Suha Arafat connected to stolen cars

According to reports that reached the police and the IDF, it appears that the Elbahar company, owned by Suha Arafat, is responsible for forging license plates for stolen vehicles. This is a frequent occurrence in the Gaza strip and the Sharon region

The article goes on to say that Mrs. Arafat's company is the only non-governmental Palestinian entity authorized to issue license plates, and that it is easy to spot the forged plates because her company was issuing truck numbers to private cars.

The article continues to explain that Israeli cars are frequently stolen by gangs of Israeli Jews and/or Arabs and then sold to Palestinians in areas A and B, where the Israeli plates are replaced with Palestinian plates, and the cars sold on the cheap.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:36 AM
Here and There, Jan. 31

In Naples, 28 missionaries of the Religion of Peace were found to be possessing religious texts, stolen property, falsified documents and explosives. The latter were apparently intended for as yet undetermined peaceful purposes.

The European Union's Parliament moved closer to setting up a special inquiry Thursday into whether millions of euros in EU aid to Palestinians was being used to fund terrorism. A petition with the required support of 157 members calling for a special investigating committee was approved this week.

Dot.com bubble legal juggernaut Brobeck, Phleger and Harrison has imploded. Associates were told yesterday that they would be paid until the end of the month, which is today. Five hundred attorneys are now roaming the streets looking for work. Members of the general public are advised to stay in their homes and cars with the doors locked until we give the all-clear signal.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:03 AM
January 30, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 30

Brett Thomas read Tuesday's item about a link on San Francisco's Marina Middle School's web site to a porn site. Thomas called the school to report the link and tells what happened. Punch line: it took the school 36 hours to fix the problem, and they couldn't just remove the link. They took the whole site down! I hate to think how they would fix a more complicated problem, and how long it would take. Marina is my neighborhood middle school. God forbid I should ever have to send David there.

Listen to NPR's Annie Garrels' priceless report from Baghdad [audio]: A group of Greek anti-war activist physicians try to organize an anti-American demonstration, but find few Iraqis who are willing to join them. Instead they find Iraqi physicians blaming the shortage of medicines not on the UN sanctions, but on the Iraqi Ministry of Health. Garrels reports that Iraqis seem to want Saddam's cruel and corrupt regime to end, but they are (justifiably) concerned whether Bush has the interests of the Iraqi people at heart. This is in no way an argument against use of force for regime change. It is an argument for the Administration to continue to speak and act like the liberators that we are.

An appropriate punishment for this man? He should have to spend the rest of his life in prison, wearing these.

Nancy Pelosi's reaction to Bush's State of the Union address included this quote

"If you don't have a job, and you don't have access to health care, and you see your retirement savings fading away . . . you have a different picture of the state of the union than the rosy one that the president might paint."
Translation: "We Democrats believe in taxing the industrious to subsidize the indolent, and in squeezing responsible investors to support those who blew their retirements on pets.com"

Dilettantish Asian expert Tom Plate blasts George Bush for causing the North Korea nuclear crisis and says that the only approach that ever made sense to deal with North Korea would have been "an endlessly patient engagement policy". But wasn't it the Pollyannaish engagement by Carter and Clinton that allowed the Dear Leader to launch his nuclear program in the first place?

Like Father Like Son: Unindicted killer and Harvard expellee Edward Kennedy doesn't want to get off his bar stool long enough to read the evidence that Saddam Hussein is an incorrigible problem.

The UN is taking the right steps to disarm Saddam Hussein ... That's why I intend to introduce a resolution to require the President to come back to Congress and present convincing evidence of an imminent threat before we send troops to war with Iraq.
Kennedy seems to have inherited more than just his towering libido from his father, Joseph P. Kennedy. The elder Kennedy, as FDR's pre-war ambassador to Great Britain, argued against confronting Hitler. Teddy should learn instead from his late brother John, from whom he inherited his Senate seat. JFK's book Why England Slept blames pacifists and proponents of unilateral disarmament for causing Britain to delay preparations for the ineluctable confrontation with Hitler.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:18 PM
Israeli Election Post-Mortem

From my father, Hebrew University political scientist Ira Sharkansky


Reports are that the absentee ballots have been counted, most of which are the soldiers'. There are only a few categories of Israelis who can vote absentee: soldiers; diplomats, some other public service employees and sailors posted away from home; hospital patients; and prison inmates. Ordinary citizens in the country but away from home get free round-trip bus or train tickets to their home. Ordinary citizens overseas can't vote.

Likud and the National Religious Party each gained another Knesset seat from the absentees. An Arab party and a party linked to the Labor Federation each lost. Soldiers tend to be a bit right of center, and the NRP is prominent in sending its sons to the army, including elite combat units.

Prominent losers in the election were the parties that pitched their campaigns leftward. Labor and Meretz together dropped from 36 seats in the previous Knesset to 25 in the coming Knesset.

Unconnected with ideology, the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox SHAS party dropped from 17 to 11. Natan Sharansky's Russian immigrants' party dropped from 6 to 2.

The big winners were Likud, going from 19 to 38; and Shinui from 6 to 15.

The problem of the left was their misreading of the situation. Party leaders of Labor and Meretz continue to blame the government for not having a peace plan, while the voters seem to have felt that there is little point trying further to make peace with the Palestinian leadership. The Labor candidate for Prime Minister, Amram Mitzna, made a number of other mistakes. While polls were saying that 60 percent or so wanted a national unity government, he based his campaign on promising to stay out of a national unity government. Then when the polls showed his party wasn't doing well, he conceded defeat before the polls opened! Thus he depressed his party activists and may have lost another seat or two in the Knesset.

The leader of Meretz and Sharansky have done the honorable and resigned their positions. Mitzna and his supporters at the pinnacle of Labor remain convinced of their wisdom. He will stay. Some of his senior colleagues, more interested in winning than in being right, are said to be preparing an intra-party putsch.

SHAS' major problem was the lack of their skilled and charismatic political leader, who spent much of the past two years in jail, and was paroled on condition that he avoid political activity for a given period of time.

Shinui appealed as the middle of the road choice for voters not happy with established parties. It thus joins a list of three of four parties that have done the same over the past 25 years. None of them have done well for more than one election. This is Shinui's second term, but its aging charismatic leader may not have another election in him; and the party's fate in the coming coalition is not yet clear.

Sharansky’s loss may signal the end for Russian parties; at least until some of the younger generation--or perhaps those not yet born--perceive themselves to be disadvantaged. Avigdor Lieberman used to lead a Russian party. Now he is the leader of a party that promotes itself in Hebrew rather than Russian in behalf of right wing causes; he won 7 seats.

Sharon has several options for a coalition, and 42 days to present a government to the Knesset after he is invited by the president to make an effort; and that invitation isn't due for another week or two. It's in Sharon's interest to probe, ponder, wait for the Iraq war, and pursue his best deal. He is a clever politician, and the conditions seem ripe for his talents. Labor and Meretz say he is destined to have a short and stormy period as prime minister and quite a bit of the media supports that view. But a lot of that talk is the sour grapes of ideologues who lost the election, don’t seem to know why, and can't count the number of seats being held by Sharon and his potential partners.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:02 PM
Media Demographics

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country

3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand the Washington Post. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country, if they could spare the time, and if they didn't have to leave LA to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and they did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.

7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country, and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country, as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country or that anyone is running it; but whoever it is, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs, who also happen to be illegal aliens from ANY country or galaxy as long as they are Democrats.

10. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.

11. The National Inquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

(author unknown, courtesy of Joseph Leitmann)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:09 PM
January 29, 2003
Useful Idiot Parade

Here are some recent statements from Saddam's assortment of Useful Idiots

"Don't let the thugs muddy the message": In today's editorial, the San Francisco Chronicle praises the peaceful anti-war protesters, and condemns what it calls the "small band of supposed allies whose methods fell short of the Gandhian ideal", i.e. the dozens of protesters who indulged in an orgy of vandalism. The editorial closes with the line "Don't let the thugs muddy the message". I agree. The anti-war movement should re-focus its energies on ridding the world of thugs.

Elwyn Chase, a former foreign service officer and retired college professor gave an interview to the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he said: (I summarize) Saddam is a monster who does have weapons of mass destruction but we don't have any pictures of them, so we have to wait until he attacks something before we prevent him from hurting anybody. In the meantime, we need to understand that Saddam thinks he's doing the right thing, so we shouldn't call him "evil".

Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches and leader of the "Win Without War" coalition, permitted himself to be used recently when he went on a Potemkin tour of Iraq. Edgar told NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross last week that he's not categorically opposed to all wars

I think that if there's a nation that is subjugating its people we ought to intervene... but wars have to be just and we need justification ... if Saddam Hussein was lobbing weapons at someone ... if he was invading a neighbor there could be some justification.
Maybe something like that will come up. In the meantime, Edgar wants the inspectors to keep inspecting, and if they find any weapons he would still be opposed to (our) use of military force, he would want the inspectors to destroy the weapons. He doesn't say how they should destroy the weapons, or what they should do if they find proof of weapons, but not the weapons themselves, or what they should do if Saddam tried to stop them from destroying his weapons. In any event, the prospect of a nuclear-tipped Saddam didn't seem to cause him any concern.

Janeanne Massacre Comedienne Janeanne Garofalo pulls a Rodney Dangerfield and claims that she gets no respect as an anti-war celebrity. But what of all of her TV appearances and newspaper interviews?

"They have actors on so they can marginalize the movement," the stand-up comic says. "It's much easier to toss it off as some bizarre, unintelligent special-interest group.
I, for one, care less about someone's profession than what they have to say. For example, I respect the opinions of this jazz guitarist, but not of this college professor. One can see how people might treat Garofalo as a marginalized "member of a bizarre, unintelligent special-interest group" when she says things like:
These same corporate entities [the mainstream media] have an interest in war, have an interest in profiting from war. They represent corporate America. Corporate America dictates the news we are getting."
Yeah, Corporate America is a monolith, and its mouthpiece is the unwavering pro-Bush New York Times Corporation

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:41 PM
January 28, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 28

The "You Can't Make This Shit Up" Dept.: Not only is Libya in charge of the UN Human Rights Commission, but Iraq will chair the UN's next disarmament conference. [thanks to Joseph Leitmann for the tip]

The Taxocratic Party: While watching the President's State of the Union speech this evening, I couldn't help but notice that the Congressional Democrats declined to join the Republicans for a standing ovation when the President said

the economy grows when Americans have more money to spend and invest; and the best and fairest way to make sure Americans have that money is not to tax it away in the first place.
That apparently goes against everything that Nancy Pelosi believes in.

It appears that Ariel Sharon has won a big re-election victory. The Palestinians are condemning Sharon's victory as a heavy blow to peaceful settlement. But they have only themselves to blame for rejecting the earlier peace offers and then launching the wave of terrorism, and thereby persuading the Israeli voters to take a harder line.

Judith Weiss has reports on the Judenrein anti-war movement (here and here)

Gary Williams is selling Axis of Weasels merchandise!

The students at San Francisco's Marina Middle School are getting an unexpected lesson in, uh, biology. (visit the school's home page, then follow the link that says "Youth Power is now online!". The power of youth indeed. (In case the school site gets fixed at a later time, as of this writing it was linking to this ) UPDATE (Jan. 30): Brett Thomas called the school to report the link, and tells what happened.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:56 PM
Feminist Cover-up Scandal at Boalt

Remember the Boalt Hall Women's Association, which proudly advertised its unconstitutional member's only lounge as

a convenient, private space just for women! It is centrally located (next door to Cafe Zeb on the second floor), spacious, newly repainted, and well-stocked (BHWA keeps feminine products and Advil on hand, as well as a stash of tea, cocoa, and eating utensils). The Lounge provides a safe, private place for women to relax between classes, nap, eat, and use the phone. Students who are mothers use the Lounge for breast-feeding and -pumping. During the fall interview season, members use the Lounge as a women's dressing room.
(there is no men's lounge).

On December 12 I predicted that the BHWA would eventually delete the above description from their website without changing the underlying policy. It turns out that I'm right! Their website now reads

BHWA's Member Lounge is a convenient, private space for members.
period. Yes, it's wrong to have a segregated lounge at a public university, and the BHWA knows it's wrong, so they tried to cover it up. Fortunately, google keeps a cache, so see for yourself. The cache will be updated at some point too, so I saved the original here

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Joan Ryan wrote today that "There is no stronger supporter for Title IX than I am". I wonder if she'll look into the Title IX implications of Boalt's women only lounge?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:08 AM
Media Innumeracy Watch

This week's Economist reported [paid subscription only] on a new academic study on black/white integration (or segregation) in US cities. The study, conducted by John Pawasarat and Lois Quinn of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, attempts to challenge prevailing definitions of integration and to overturn the conventional wisdom that their hometown of Milwaukee is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country. The good news, according to their report, is that Milwaukee is no longer the 98th most integrated of the 100 largest American cities, it is in the middle of the pack at 43. The bad news is that they accomplished this legerdemain simply by devising a thoroughly bogus measure of integration. The worse news is that neither the Economist, nor the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which dedicated a three-part series to the study, even commented on the fundamental mathematical silliness in Pawasarat and Quinn's definitions.

There are many legitimate questions to ask about integration/segregation that have nothing to do with mathematics. It is true that many black people in large cities live in predominantly black neighborhoods, and that many white people live in mostly white communities. Some cities (like Houston) have far more black people (25%) than other cities (like El Paso, 3%). There are historical factors that explain racial patterns of residence, and in many cases institutionalized discrimination played a role. It is also the case that many people voluntarily gravitate to live among those of similar backgrounds. And just as many black people choose to live where there are other black people, so too are there clusters of Polish Americans, electrical engineers and gay people, for example. The interesting questions are not which city is the most integrated (however that's defined) but whether people can exercise their right to live where they can afford, and whether everyone has real opportunities for upward mobility; or are people prevented from attaining their goals on the basis of their race?

For now, let's focus on the Milwaukee study's flawed definitions, which won't add much value to anybody's understanding of trends in segregation and integration.

The researchers define integration by looking at each city block (using 2000 Census data). A block is defined to be black/white integrated if at least 20% of its residents are black and at least 20% of its residents are white. The study does acknowledge that this has the limitation of ignoring the fact that many people are neither white nor black while others are mixed race (a big limitation). So a block that is 21% black and 79% white is considered "integrated", but a block that is 12% black and 22% Asian and 66% white is not considered "integrated". The study then counts the percentage of people who live on "integrated" blocks, the higher the better, and ranks the cities accordingly. Their most "integrated" of the 50 largest cities is Virginia Beach, VA where 19.5% of the population is black and 41.1% of the residents live on "integrated" blocks. The least "integrated" of the 50 largest cities is Albuquerque, where 3.2% of the population is black and only 0.3% of the residents live on "integrated" blocks.

But their math really falls apart when you consider that they require 20% of a block to be black in order for the block to be considered integrated. But blacks are only 13% of the US population. This means that in what most people would think of as a perfectly integrated and colorblind society -- where race is almost invisible and people would be evenly distributed everywhere -- every block would be 13% black and by the Milwaukee definition, no block anywhere in the country could be "integrated"! Looking at it another way, the only way for a block to be "integrated", is to have at least 50% more blacks than it would if all races were evenly distributed. The most integrated society under this definition (with the maximum number of people living in "integrated" blocks), would have 65% of the population living in blocks that were 20% black, and 35% of the population living in blocks that had no black people at all (the calculation is left as an exercise to the reader).

This methodology looks even more absurd when it is applied to cities that have even smaller black populations. Salt Lake City is derided for being the 99th least "integrated" of the 100 largest metropolitan areas, as only 0.1% of the residents live on "integrated" blocks. But only 1.3% of the population is black, which means that a block can be "integrated" only if its proportion of black people is 15 times that of the metro area as a whole, and to maximize "integration" without busing in a lot of (reluctant, I would imagine) black people, the city would have to put 6.5% of its residents in blocks that were 20% black, with the other 93.5% of the population living on white-only blocks. I doubt that this would fit many people's intuitive notion of "integration". On the other hand, a city that has a small black community, and where race is not an obstacle to housing, would probably show a very low number of blocks that were 20% black.

I don't claim to know the extent to which Milwaukee is an integrated or a segregated city. All I can say is that this particular method for measuring integration is inherently absurd and unhelpful. (A more sensible measure of integration, I think, would be based on a weighted average of "sum of squares of differences" between a theoretical evenly distributed population and the actual population, and it would also take into account the ethnic variety that goes beyond black and white). And the NAACP, for its own reasons, didn't think much of the study either.

And this story illustrates yet another shortcoming of the cult that equates diversity with skin color -- even when dealing with the subject of race. While the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has been sensitive to hire reporters of diverse ethnic backgrounds (Click here and scroll through the "Getting to know us" section), they didn't see fit to also diversify by educational background. If they had, they might have had someone on board who knew the tiny amount of algebra it took to see through the integration study's specious methodology.

P.S. I've come to expect this sort of sloppy innumeracy from an American daily newspaper, but the Economist has no excuse.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:21 AM
January 27, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 27

Before I do anything else, I would like to wish a Happy Birthday to my mother.

"Let the inspections work" say the various "peace activists" whose vision of "peace" means keeping Saddam in power. Well, the inspections have been working, and they have confirmed that Saddam has not accepted disarmament. Let's roll.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday that California's state disability insurance program has made hundreds of millions of dollars worth of mistakes in recent years, making payments to "injured" people who may not have deserved the money, and denying payments to deserving recipients. An estimated 39% of claims are handled erroneously. I wonder if the Chronicle's editorial board will keep this spectacular failure in mind as they continue to campaign for a state-managed universal healthcare system.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:14 AM
January 26, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 26

Goofy-faced comedienne Janeanne Garofalo was seen on CNN today expressing her "vehement disagreement" to the war against Iraq. She went on to say

We are given disinformation and White House propaganda all the time. We have no history to our news, no context to our news, no global perspective. We don't see people outside our borders as humans. And if I am uninformed, which I'd like to think I work very hard not to be, uninformed, it is the fault of the White House and the mainstream media.
I agree that some of the mainstream media has terrible coverage of Iraq. If Garofalo feels she isn't getting enough information about Iraq, she might try using Google, which links to over 6 million web pages that mention Iraq. And since she seems to substitute reflexive blame of the Bush Administration for serious inquiry regarding anything that goes wrong in the world, including her own personal shortcomings, she might as well spend her time reading Saddam's official media. Which we all know has never once been accused of spreading disinformation (at least not by any Iraqi comedian appearing on Iraqi television).

What is PETA going to have to say about this?

U.S. Middle East policy apparently really is all about oil. If it weren't for all the oil and defense companies that do so much business with the Saudi theo-klepto-idiotocracy, I imagine that the Administration would be far less solicitous of the dysfunctional Arab regimes than it is today.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 PM
The Israeli Election

Israel goes to the polls on Tuesday, Jan. 28. The following is some commentary from my father, Hebrew University political scientist Ira Sharkansky


Israeli politics has been contentious at various points, but the period since the signing of the Oslo accord between the Palestinians and Israel in 1993 has been especially bitter. One indication is a precipitous drop in the length of time a prime minister has been able to serve. Prior to Oslo, the average term of a sitting prime minister was 4.3 years. The maximum term of a sitting Knesset is four years, but several prime ministers served more than one term. Since Oslo, and until Ariel Sharon began serving as prime minister, the average dropped to two years; and Sharon called elections after less than two years in office.

As you may know, Israelis vote for parties, not individual candidates. The parties produce ranked lists of their candidates, and the proportion of the total vote received by each party determines how many of its candidates will go to the Knesset.

Twenty-nine parties registered candidates for the election, which is Tuesday, January 28th. There is the usual line-up of two major parties, Likud and Labor; with middle-sized Meretz to the left of Labor; two ultra-Orthodox parties appealing respectively to Ashenazi and Sephardi voters; the National Religious Party that could be termed religious Zionist or modern Orthodox; which emphasizes its concern to maintain Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza; Natan Sharansky’s party of Russian immigrants; the party calling itself Shinui (Change) that offers its opposition to the religious and financial demands of the ultra-Orthodox; two parties that emphasize security concerns to the right of Likud; and three parties that appeal primarily to Arab voters. There is also a Green party campaigning on environmental concerns, a Green Leaf party seeking to legalize marijuana, a party calling itself Men’s Rights in the Family seeking a better deal in divorce settlements, and a party named Another Israel that advertised itself as a “non-political” party.

A new ultra-Orthodox party split off from the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox SHAS and calls itself Ahavat Israel (Love Israel). It is led by the grandson of a rabbi who may be 106 or perhaps 108 years old. The ancient rabbi is the party’s figurehead. He is taken to campaign opportunities in an Israeli version of the Popemobile: a plexiglass structure mounted on a campaign bus. He remains silent or makes unclear comments that his handlers interpret. In the case of this party and others, the head of the election commission tried, with limited success, to keep religious campaigners from offering rabbinical blessings in exchange for votes. Students from religious academies associated with competing movements taunted and cursed one another, and moved to a physical encounter until separated by the police. These young men do not serve in the army, but they know how to taunt, curse, and shove when ordered to by their rabbis.

The campaign began in a setting where public opinion polls showed the Israeli public having moved rightward in the direction of Likud’s more forceful posture with respect to the Palestinian violence. The logic of political science was that the left-of-center Labor Party should have campaigned for the center of the national electorate, insofar as it—or its obvious coalition partner Meretz—would automatically garner the left of center votes. Likewise, the right-of-center Likud should also campaign for the center of the electorate, and count on winning the rightist voters or seeing them vote for parties that would likely support the Likud candidate for prime minister in a government coalition.

The Likud candidate Ariel Sharon followed this prescription. He pitched himself as a consensus candidate. He has urged a government of national unity, and identifies himself with the goals articulated by President Bush that include an eventual Palestinian state, even while Sharon asserts that the Palestinians would have to cease violence, reform their institutions, and removed Yassir Arafat from a position of leadership before being ready for statehood. In contrast, the Labor candidate, Haifa mayor Amram Mitzna, moved his party to the left. He said that that he would not join a coalition government headed by Ariel Sharon. He promised a distinctive course. He would pursue peace from the point where the most recent negotiations with the Palestinians had ceased; he would remove most Jewish settlements from the West Bank and Gaza, and would negotiate even with Yassir Arafat. These postures came to haunt Labor. In case the voters did not notice, Likud’s media campaign emphasized them time and again, along with film clips of other Labor party figures saying that they disagreed with Mitzna or that Mitzna was inexperienced. Likud’s message was that Mitzna would offer the Palestinians even more than Prime Minister Barak had offered them, and that—in effect—Mitzna would reward the Palestinians for their violence.

Early surveys showed Likud likely to increase its Knesset representation from 21 to something in the range of 40 seats, with Labor dropping from the 25 seats it had won in the election of 1999.

The timing of the elections did not help the Labor campaign. It has occurred in the shadow of a likely American invasion of Iraq, and the prospect of Iraq retaliating with missile attacks against Israel as it did in the Gulf War of 1991. The atmosphere emphasized security as the primary national problem. The military units concerned with civil defense urged citizens to stockpile 12 liters of bottled water per family member. Neighborhood stations for the upgrading of gas masks opened extra hours. There were reports that special IDF units had operated in western Iraq (the desert area from which Saddam can launch missiles within range of Israel), perhaps in concert with American special units. The health ministry weighed the plusses and minuses of inoculating the entire population against small pox, and decided on a limited plan of inoculating certain health and security personnel. People began to buy material in anticipation of sealing a room against poison gas. Committees in apartment houses cleaned their bomb shelters, often used for storing junk.

The culture that produced Jeremiah could do not overlook the problems. There were reports that a substantial number of the gas masks do not fit properly, and will not provide total protection. What about dogs? Will they be endangered? A commercial firm sold kennels protected from gas, but they were expensive. Some asked why the army is not providing them for all Israel’s pets, including perhaps the cats that live around the garbage dumpsters. Someone spotted a problem in the way the small pox vaccine had been stored. The Health Ministry claimed that all was well.

The travel industry saw opportunities where others saw problems. Hotels and bed&breakfasts in the Galilee and around Jerusalem advertized themselves as likely to be outside the danger zone. The media focused on individuals going to Europe, only a 4 hour flight away. Some felt they should go early before the flights are fully booked, and before the foreign airlines stop flying into a war zone.

A television news item dealt with the problems of caregivers putting gas masks on the people in a sheltered workshop for the autistic. Hardly less troublesome was the item on the residents of an old folk’s home, walking awkwardly to their shelter in a practice drill. Another item portrayed the problem of a young child who must live on a breathing machine: her father’s repeated calls to the army indicated that no one has thought of how to protect her from a gas attack.

One of the university’s janitors asked me if I expected a war. He had renewed his family’s gas masks, and had bought plastic sheeting to seal a room in his home. I told him that he and the rest of the Arabs living in and around Jerusalem—along with the mosques on the Temple Mount—were the best protection available for his family and mine. He agreed, but reminded me that the missiles are not all that accurate. In 1991 one of the missed Haifa and landed on an Arab village.

Labor candidates accused the Sharon government of beating the drums of war and emphasizing its plans for civil defense as a way of increasing its vote. In response, Likud candidates asserted the dangers of an Iraqi attack, noted the public’s legitimate concerns for protections against the prospects of small pox and poison gas, and emphasized that their candidate for prime minister had much greater experience in dealing with security than Labor’s candidate.

Other features of Labor’s campaign emphasized police investigations of corruption in the selection of Likud candidates for the Knesset, another police inquiry into charges that Ariel Sharon and his sons had engaged in illegal campaign finance, and what it claimed was a traditional Labor concern for the economically disadvantaged. The theme of corruption reduced Likud popularity, but failed to help Labor. Some of its own candidates found themselves being investigated for similar problems of corruption. The charges against Likud emerged early in the two-month long campaign, and gave the party an opportunity to deal with them. Less than a week before the voting, television news showed a police squad seizing documents from Mitzna’s office amid charges that as mayor of Haifa he had supported the granting of a building permit to a contractor in exchange for payment.

Labor’s effort to emphasize economic issues ran up against the public’s greater concern with security, and its failure to see a overwhelming difference between Labor and Likud postures on the economy. One poll taken about half-way through the campaign found the public ranking security issues more important than economic or social issues by 42 to 32 percent; and dividing as to which major party offered a better economic platform: 38 percent said Labor, 30 percent Likud, and 32 percent were undecided. Another poll found that 50 percent of the respondents felt that issues associated with security were primarily responsible for the country’s economic problems, whereas only 23 percent felt that the economic problems reflected the policies of the government. Even when charges of corruption among Likud candidates were at their height, a poll found the public thinking them less important than other issues. Asked to rank the items of greatest importance to them, 47 percent of respondents said Palestinian terror and only 17 percent said corruption.

A week before the election, a poll found that if Shimon Peres was Labor’s candidate, the party could expect to win 29 Knesset seats; with Mitzna as the candidate, however, the party stood to win only 19.

The poll added to recriminations among Labor Party activists that Mitzna’s candidacy was going nowhere. Several of the leaders charged that Mitzna had made a serious mistake ruling out participation in a coalition with Likud, insofar as more than 60 percent of the public felt that such a coalition was desirable. One senior figure called the campaign the party’s worst in more than 30 years. Especially vocal were candidates for the Knesset beyond number 19 on Labor’s list. Several of them stood to win election if Peres was the candidate, but not if Mitzna remained the candidate. Mitzna’s supporters accused Peres’ supporters of organizing an unfriendly poll. Mitzna proclaimed his intention of staying the course. Infighting at the summit of the party leadership was more prominent that united campaigning, and seemed likely to weaken the party further. Two days before the election, the political cartoon in Ha’aretz showed a miserable looking Amram Mitzna asking his wife how she will vote.

A prominent feature of the campaign was the emergence of Shinui as a popular alternative to other parties. Polls showed it capable of receiving as many as 18 Knesset seats, in contrast to the 6 it held in the outgoing Knesset. Commentators worried that Shinui would replace Labor as the second-largest party in the Knesset. Several parties focused their campaigns against the upstart in an effort to keep their voters from deserting. Meretz and Labor emphasized that most of Shinui’s candidates and policy postures were unknown; that it not only was an anti-religious party but a party that opposed their own commitments to peace and to strengthening social policies. Likud worried that Shinui’s posture against the religious parties was leading its own religious voters to leave it for the religious parties.

The election may be easy compared to the subsequent problem of putting together a government coalition. Shinui has said it will not sit in a coalition with SHAS. Labor’s Mitzna says he will not sit with Sharon. Other leaders of Labor seem inclined to oust Mitzna as party leader soon after their expected election disaster, so things will bubble along for a while.

You can follow the details on the official Israeli web site: www.mfa.gov.il

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:23 PM
January 25, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 25

Christos Cotsakos, the delusional, self-aggrandizing, self-serving and money-losing CEO of E*Trade, has abruptly resigned.

Claire Berlinski has a terrific piece in the Weekly Standard on Israel's friends in France (seriously); and another piece on Israel's appalling foes in the Netherlands

Tom Friedman has some very good reasons why liberals should support the ouster of Saddam Hussein

Robert Collier of the San Francisco Chronicle, on the other hand, believes that women's rights in Iraq "may even get worse" if there is a war. Collier seems to blame the United States for Saddam's curtailment of women's rights in Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War (which Saddam started by invading Kuwait). He also argues that Iraqi women have more freedom than women in other Arab countries, mentioning that "There are 19 women in the 250-seat National Assembly" (all of whom are Saddam's rubber stamps), and that Kuwaiti and Saudi women cannot vote, while Iraqi woman can. (He forgets to mention that their vote doesn't count for much, anyway). With the Chronicle publishing this sort of idiotic reportage that whitewashes Saddam's horrific regime, is it any wonder that my city is often called ... "Baghdad by the Bay"?

If anybody still needs to be convinced that New Jersey Poet Laureate Amiri Baraka is a bleeding-brained nutcase, go read this transcript of his recent interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly (thanks for the link to ... my mother!)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:34 PM
January 24, 2003
And this is the thanks we get?


American cemetery near Omaha Beach, Normandy

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:22 AM
Here and There, Jan. 24

The cover of this week's Economist has a picture of Ariel Sharon with the text: "After the election...After Iraq...Can Sharon Make Peace?" I think the more relevant question would be: can Hamas ever make peace?

More indications that Iraq is imposing unacceptable conditions on the "unconditional inspections"

There are also reports that Iraq is preparing to use chemical weapons against western troops in the event of an invasion. Wonder if the UN inspectors will look into this?

Iraq intends to "cause damage or destruction" to its own oil fields if war breaks out, say U.S. defense officials. But that wouldn't be very environmentally sensitive of Saddam, would it?

With this agreement and a cup of coffee you won't need to spend $1.55 at Peet's

These guys might want to switch to a more media-savvy PR agency

CNN is reporting with a straight face that Clonaid has produced its third cloned baby. Yeah, big deal. Today I finished building my time machine, went back to 1662, had lunch with King Louis XIV and returned 5 minutes before I left. I'm already getting calls from Connie Chung's booking secretary.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:54 AM
January 23, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 23

The Religion of Peace murders again.

Lesson in Idiocy: Ruth Rosen, the San Francisco Chronicle's in-house Womyn's Hystery professor, dedicated today's column to the weekend's "anti-war" (appeasement now!) protests, titled "Lesson in Democracy":

MY FRIEND JANE brought her two granddaughters to the anti-war march in San Francisco last Saturday because she wanted them to learn about the right to dissent in a democracy.
But would it not have made even more sense to teach them the distinction between thoughtful constructive dissent and arbitrary foolish dissent, as Rosen goes on to describe
Everywhere I looked, people seemed to be on their best behavior.
Apparently she didn't look very hard because she somehow missed the vandalism and disregard for the environment.

She then goes on to applaud the "Masked undocumented workers" (= immigration criminals) in the crowd, to whom I say: "you don't like our foreign policy? then don't inflitrate our borders"

The signs, as always, said it all. "This is my Patriot Act" and "Stop Clear Cutting Our Civil Rights" reflected widespread concern about government secrecy and violations of civil rights at home. "Corporate terrorists have hijacked our government,"
Um, yeah, like the terrorists from the Hearst Corporation who pay Rosen's salary at the Chronicle.
For one split second, it seemed as if the Bay Area existed in a parallel universe
Actually, I get that feeling every time I read the Chronicle's editorial page.

And this looks like child abuse.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:21 PM
Heaping Plate of Idiocy

Tom Plate, in last week's column, demonstrates again that spewing dishonest left-wing hysteria is no obstacle to a regular gig as a San Francisco Chronicle columnist or a full-time job as journalism professor.

The column starts by describing the anti-war movement as full of a growing number of "centrist Americans". He doesn't happen to mention that the movement is led by a Communist organization(yes, there is still a Communist movement in America, believe it or not) called ANSWER. Plate writes, with unconcealed nostalgia, "a spring of protest may bloom on the West Coast that will remind people of the bad old days of Vietnam". Never mind the many differences between Vietnam and Iraq, Plate is apparently one of those who instinctively equates every US military engagement with Vietnam.

In a characteristic non-sequitur, Plate changes the subject to 1942.

Perhaps reconstituted memory as much as hard analysis is involved here. West Coasters, noting the recent arrests and clandestine imprisonments of Iranians and Muslims, recall the awful internment of Japanese-Americans six decades ago that still haunts our past. We recall that in 1942, the government routed 120,000 Japanese out of their homes and stashed them in detention camps -- even though the majority were solid American citizens or legal permanent residents. The fear then was that some were working for Tokyo as spies, so forget the procedural protections of the Fifth Amendment and due process.
In the injustice of the 1940s, innocent American citizens were rounded up solely because of their Japanese heritage. Nothing of the kind has happened to American citizens of, say, Iranian descent, nor is there any serious suggestion that this ever will happen. Today, the only people summoned by the INS are foreign visitors, and only those who have violated their visa terms are being detained.

What seems to motivate Plate and his fellow hystericists is the desire to return to the "bad old days" of Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement. Because righteous indignation is an exhilirating feeling and protesting against government misdeeds does wonders for one's soul. And government sanctioned segregation, for example, really was something to protest against. But for thirty years now, the left-wing protest junkies have been desperately searching for a legitimately invigorating problem that can be solved through protest. They haven't found any. So they have to invent them. And every military deployment is portrayed as another "Vietnam", and every time a foreign visitor is detained for breaking the law, it's called a "Japanese internment camp".

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:52 AM
Excrepedia

I used Expedia, Microsoft's bastard stepchild online travel service, to make hotel reservations for a recent trip to Portland. Why did I use Expedia? I used Expedia because I didn't know any better. A friend recommended the Mallory Hotel , but Expedia showed me that I would get a "special weekend rate" at the Westin, which was cheaper than what it showed for the Mallory. So I reserved my room at the Westin through Expedia. When I showed up at the Westin I learned that they charge an additional $20 a day for parking, which Expedia didn't tell me. I later learned that the Mallory has free parking, and the room rate you get by calling them directly is cheaper than the rate that Expedia quoted me. So I would have saved at least $50 by just calling the Mallory in the first place.

The lesson: use Expedia for doing research, but get your own price quotes and make your own reservations.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:44 AM
January 22, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 22

Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix raises yet another complaint that Iraq is placing unacceptable conditions on the "unconditional inspections" that Saddam has agreed to. I wonder how Saddam's Santa Monica spokesman will spin this.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on a public opinion poll regarding American attitudes toward Jews. Among other things, the poll reveals that 24% of 18-24 year olds believe that "Jewish control of the media distorts the news", that 34% of Americans agree that "Jews have too much influence on Wall Street," and 37 percent believe that the Jews were responsible for killing Jesus Christ. (If I understand the New Testament correctly, it was the Romans who crucified Jesus, but I've never heard of anti-Italian pogroms) In any event, if anybody is jealous about Jewish financial and media power and wants a piece of the action: Come and join our team.

Today's Crayon Diversity Award goes to the Naugatuck Valley Community College in Westbury, CT, for an affirmative action program which could almost be a parody of affirmative action programs: The college spells out in explicit detail how many people of each category they seek to hire for specific jobs. For example, the college has a short term goal of hiring the following professors: "2 Black Male, 1 Black Female, 4 Hispanic Male, 1 Other Male" and the long term goal of hiring "1 Other Male" professor. I guess that's another way of saying "No Irish need apply"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:30 PM
Minority Report

The US Census Bureau announced yesterday that Hispanics now comprise 37 million people, or 13% of the population. The Associated Press spins this to mean that Hispanics are now "the nation's largest minority group".

But what does this really mean? The Census Bureau defines "Hispanic" as follows:

Persons of Hispanic origin, in particular, were those who indicated that their origin was Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or some other Hispanic origin. It should be noted that persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
It should also be noted that this modern definition of the word "Hispanic" has been in use only since the 1970s (according to the Oxford English Dictionary, offline) and that the concept of a Hispanic ethnic identity was invented by the federal government.

By the above definition, a Hispanic is any person who is descended from anyone who ever lived in a Spanish-speaking country. This includes people who trace their ancestry to Spain, many of whom are indistinguishable from other Caucasians; as well as people descended from the Aztecs and Mayans of Central America, the Incas of Peru, African slaves who were brought to Cuba, and Northern Europeans and Japanese who immigrated to South America. It also includes people descended from 17th century Sephardic Jewish immigrants as well as recent arrivals from Mexico. As such, the term "Hispanic" is as broad as would be the term "Brittanic", meaning any immigrant or descendent of an immigrant from a country where English is a dominant language -- including Scotland, Canada, India, Hong Kong and South Africa (both Blacks and Whites).

In fact, when the Census Bureau breaks down the "Hispanic" population by country of origin [pdf], it appears that there are about 21 million Mexican Americans (7% of the population), which makes them only the 4th largest minority group, behind the German Americans (46 million), Irish Americans (33 million) and English Americans (28 million), and just ahead of the 20 million Americans who simply consider themselves "Americans". (Not that referring to "Mexicans" as a single ethnic group is particularly accurate, as Mexico is itself an ethnically diverse country) The second largest group of Hispanics are Puerto Ricans (all of whom have been US citizens since 1917), of whom there are about 3.4 million, significantly smaller than several other minority groups, including the Italian, French, Polish and Norwegian Americans.

So why, then, are Hispanic Americans considered a distinct and distinguished minority group, eligible for bilingual education, hiring preferences and government contract set-asides? Presumably because there are a lot of them, and with well-organized numbers come political advantages. I imagine that one of the original justifications for "affirmative action" for Hispanics was the fact that so many Mexican immigrants were (and are) low-wage unskilled laborers. Not that this has anything to do with, say, my friend's Ecuadorean father who owns his own business, or another friend from Madrid who earned her PhD in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, or the late Roberto Goizueta, a Cuban immigrant (from a rich family) who became CEO of the Coca Cola Company. Still, if you want government largesse, it helps to create a grand coalition, and if you're an immigrant from, say, Chile, it's easier to go "oh, okay, I don't mind if you give my daughter some unearned advantages in getting into law school" than to write your Senator to protest your daughter getting a leg up over the competition. So why not lump all of the various diverse Spanish-speaking ethnic groups into one big voting bloc, and promise them something (at the expense of somebody else)?

But what the heck. Hispanic identity is solely a matter of self-identification, it only lubricates admissions and hiring, it carries no inherent disadvantages, and the category is already broad and permeable. It's time for me to come out of the closet as a Hispanic: At least one branch of my family lived in Spain before they were expelled by the Inquisition. I'm sure that many other folks with non-Hispanic surnames can come up with a Hispanic great-great grandmother if they shake their family tree hard enough. And who's going to prove them wrong? Imagine how happy the university diversity officers will be when they start getting a flood of new Hispanic applicants.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
January 21, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 21

The Religion of Peace has been caught hording weapons and tear gas at a London mosque. British Muslims are outraged -- that police would enter a place of peaceful worship.

Meanwhile, other Islamic peace activists are shooting Americans and transporting explosives

Japan is making a financial contribution to sane diplomacy.

A group of western "peace" activists along with a few Romanian Ceausescuist hold-outs have chosen to devote their lives to Darwinian evolution.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:17 AM
January 17, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 17

I am taking a weekend break from the blog. I will be spending the time with my Korean-American wife and our Korean-Jewish son. My personal debt to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is for his efforts that helped lead to the repeal of laws that would have made my family illegal in some states.

And speaking of King, some ask whether he would have been in favor of, or opposed to explicit racial preferences in hiring and education. Today's notions of "affirmative action" (meaning quotas and/or other racial advantages) was not seriously on the public agenda in King's lifetime, so some have tried to extrapolate from his statements to determine what he might say about the current debate over racial preferences. Columbia University's Eric Foner divined that King would have been in favor of racial preferences. Allen Favish critiques Foner, arguing that King would have favored preferences on the basis of poverty, not race. Obviously, we will never know for sure. But the one quote of King's that seems to be most remembered is this one:

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character
and it is hard for me to reconcile that statement with any kind of policy that uses race as a basis for, well, anything.

Erin O'Connor has an update on the fallout from the Boalt sexual harassment controversy: Some UC Regents are calling for a comprehensive ban on consensual student-faculty relationships. This is part of Krieger/Reisch/Stevens' radical agenda to impose draconian and intrusive controls on the personal lives of people in the university community. It's also interesting that even if such a sweeping policy had been implemented, it still would not have prevented that now infamous isolated ambiguous incident involving two inebriated adults at 2:30am.

O'Connor adds that she's had several dozen hits from people doing search engine queries for Jennifer Reisch. In my own traffic log I find 144 search engine hits for "reisch" (without regard to case) from 95 different IP addresses.

Ian Buruma, a self-described "squeamish namby-pamby European wimp", observed the sausage factory of an Iraq policy discussion in Washington. He described the discussion as a debate between Trotskyist-influenced neo-conservative ideologues who aspire to bring civil democracy to the Middle East, and the more traditional and pragmatic oil and country-club conservatives who simply want order and stability. Personally, I'm skeptical about the prospects of American-style democracy taking hold in the Arab world in the short-term, but there's no doubt in my mind that replacing the Baathist nightmare in Baghdad will only be an improvement.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:50 PM
Move On

A group calling itself MoveOn.org is organizing for inaction against Saddam Hussein. They created a remake of LBJ's "girl with daisy petals" TV ad culminating in a mushroom cloud -- as an argument against military action in Iraq. (you'd think that people concerned about nuclear war would want somebody to disarm Saddam).

Their solution is to "let the inspections work"

As weapons inspections in Iraq kick into high gear, most of us are breathing a sigh of relief. But some elements of the Bush Administration are still dead set on war, even if the inspections are working.
It's too early to say how effective the inspections will actually be at neutralizing Saddam. That they are proceeding at all is because of Bush's convincing posture that he is prepared to go to war, not because of the pressure that appeasement activists in San Francisco are putting on Bush. One also gets the sense that if chief inspector Hans Blix continues to criticize Iraq for lack of cooperation (let alone uncovers incontrovertible proof), then MoveOn will change its story and fabricate some other excuse for unilaterally disarming ourselves.

MoveOn is also concerned about what they call the Administration's "inconsistent", "even hypocritical" policy toward North Korea. But somehow I don't think they would congratulate the Administration if it made its North Korea policy more "consistent" by threatening to use military force against the Pyongyang psychopathocracy.

MoveOn is organizing a set of meetings on Tuesday, January 21 where

across the country, thousands of us will be urging our Senators and Representatives to tell the Bush Administration to let the inspections work
You can sign up here to attend a meeting at your hometown Congressman's office. You, gentle reader, and other members of the Clued-American community should be sure to attend (whether or not MoveOn confirms that you're on their guest list). It's important to show our elected representatives that not all Americans share MoveOn's Pollyanna fantasy that appeasing psychotic dictators makes the world a safer place.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:04 AM
January 16, 2003
The Shark, Jr.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:12 PM
Here and There, Jan. 16

As I've written before, "everything in Brussels is little". That would also include the politicians' moral compass.

Scheer Dishonesty Robert Scheer, in this week's display of intellectual dishonesty, says

Headlines tell us that United Nations arms inspectors have failed to find a "smoking gun" in their ongoing, unimpeded search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Yet the Bush administration, like a peeved child, has treated what should be good news as nothing more than rain on its war parade.
But even the UN's Blix says the standard that Iraq must meet is to provide sufficient evidence that it has destroyed the weapons programs that it was known to have had earlier, and that Iraq has failed to do even this much. Scheer conveniently neglects to mention this, just as he always spins Saddam's pronouncements in the most positive light imaginable. Like when he triumphantly repeated the lie that Saddam had accepted "unconditional inspections", and never followed up with a correction when there turned out to be all kinds of conditions on those unconditional inspections after all.

Today Blix has confirmed that Iraq has violated UN import bans, and weapons inspectors have found chemical warheads. Saddam's Santa Monica spokesman will no doubt find a way to use this information to ridicule George W Bush

And the Punning Pundit doesn't think very highly of some of Gray Davis' budget choices, either.

Congratulations on the launch of GlennReynolds.com

For the Children: The Prism Group reports on Palestinian child abuse.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
January 15, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 15

What steps does Gov. Gray Davis take to solve California's $35 billion budget deficit? He gives prison guards a raise, drives border retailers out of business and appoints his cronies to expensive sinecures.

I'm not a big fan of the death penalty. Not because I have a soft spot for murderous scumbags. Because I'm not confident that my state government would kill the right people. But sometimes I reconsider my opposition to the death penalty, like when I read about the losers who did this, or when I read about this loser.

Why do they hate us?

Anti-American recriminations stroke a society’s collective ego by drawing attention away from its own failures. Such weapons of mass distraction are at work, for instance, when a muzzled Arab press spreads the belief that the war on terrorism has placed draconian curbs on the US media. Likewise, Africa’s elites like to blame all their continent’s ills on the United States, to avoid facing up to their own responsibilities. In 2001, the Organization of African Unity called for a “Marshall Plan for Africa”. But as Revel observes, Africa has received the equivalent of four Marshall Plans in as many decades .

The purpose of European anti-Americanism is to find a reassuring explanation for the Continent’s catastrophic loss of status. Europe virtually tried to commit suicide in the twentieth century, and American preponderance is a direct consequence of its self-inflicted wounds. In the space of thirty years, the Europeans triggered two World Wars from which the Americans had to come and rescue them. But rather than face up to this sorry history, Europeans prefer to pose as victims of America’s drive for world domination. American “unilateralism”, Revel explains, “is the consequence, not the cause, of power failures in the rest of the world”. One striking confirmation of this came in July, when Morocco sent troops to Perejil, a disputed rock in the Mediterranean which is formally owned by Spain and home to a few dozen goats. Worried by looming hostilities between a member country and an associate state, the European Union tried to resolve the crisis – but failed, despite the fact that its foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, is Spanish. The two sides did not come to their senses until the US Secretary of State Colin Powell personally telephoned Morocco’s King and Spain’s Prime Minister. The Americans had to deal with this minor, faraway crisis only because Europe was powerless.

From The Times Literary Supplement, in a review of Jean-Francois Revel's L'OBSESSION ANTI-AMERICAINE

Human Rights in Palestine: A pair of Palestinian brothers who converted from Islam to Christianity were imprisoned and tortured by the Palestinian Authority. They are now asking for asylum -- from Israel. [courtesy of David Frankfurter]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:27 AM
Peets > Starbucks

These are only some of the reasons why I prefer Peet's Coffee over Starbucks:
6. When you go to Starbucks and ask for a "Large Decaf", they give you a 20 oz. "Venti", not a 16 oz. "Grande", even though "Large" is the precise translation of "Grande".
5. When you go back to Starbucks the next day and are careful to ask for a "Grande Decaf", the girl at the counter corrects you with barely concealed derision: "Decaf Grande".
4. My friends also go to Peet's
3. Peet's always plays mellow classical music or classy jazz at a pleasant volume. Starbucks often plays loud techno or world music that gives me a headache.
2. Starbucks always puts a lid on the coffee for you, so you always have to take the lid off in order to put your cream and sugar in.

and the number 1 reason I prefer Peet's over Starbucks...


1. Peet's coffee tastes better!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:15 AM
Arafat's Patrons in Brussels

David Frankfurter e-mailed me this interesting update about EU funding for Arafat's terror regime. Chris Patten continues to insist that the IMF strictly monitors how the funds are spent, while the IMF firmly denies this. See the quote in this letter which has been sent to the Members of the European Parliament to demand an official inquiry into EU funding for the PA. At this point 140 MEPs of the necessary 156 have signed a petition to force an inquiry. Any EU nationals should contact their MEPs.
(The report mentioned in the letter is here [pdf])



Dear MEP,
In recent weeks, a petition has been submitted to review whether EU financial aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been passed on with due supervision and transparency.

The EU has proudly contributed 10 million Euro a month to the PA, as well as millions more annually to a variety of social Palestinian institutions. Europe has a clear role to play in ensuring that the Middle East peace process moves forward.

It is striking to note that the motion has met with opposition, primarily for three reasons. First, the EU has declared that the IMF has assumed the role of monitoring the transfer of the funds.

What is new in this regard are the comments of George T. Abed, the Director of the IMF’s Middle Eastern Department.
With weak institutions and a budget of nearly $1 billion, there has, no doubt, been some abuse; the Palestinian Legislative Council itself has complained about this…the IMF does not and cannot control downstream spending by the various Palestinian agencies. This matter remains between the Palestinian Authority and the donors.” (IMF survey: Vol 31 , No 16, September 2002)

The importance of this statement is that it implies that the governing institutions of the EU have been misinformed. Even the European Commission's Deputy Director-General for External Relations reported in a meeting on December 17, 2002 that money transfers from the European Commission to the Palestinian Authority are made under the IMF's supervision.

A second reason promoted for opposition to an enquiry is that the PA is an independent entity, linked neither officially nor unofficially to terror groups. Much doubt has been cast on this. Many terrorists have been employed in official capacities within the PA, such that their monthly salaries are funded at least in part by EU subsidies. This circumstantial association, though, is only a limited part of the story.

I submit a new report to you (pdf), which clearly outlines the reasons that the financial linkage between the PA and terror cannot be ignored. You will note that the report quotes widely from original documentation of the American “Human Right’s Watch” - a group noted for its support of the Palestinian cause over the years.

A further argument that has been proffered is that the EU must support the only potential negotiating partner that Israel may confront today. A proper enquiry would hopefully clear the PA of misuse of the funds. If improprieties were to be revealed, the EU could take swift action to reestablish the international integrity of in any governing Palestinian body. Either path would create a base from which confidence could be restored and peace can become a possibility.

The world looks to the EU to demand accountability from the PA. If this institution and its sister organizations require international financial support, then they must show that they are capable of using these monies in a reasonable manner.

If you have not yet done so, I urge you to support MEPs Tannock, Zimeray and I. Schroder's motion ensuring that the EU fulfils its legal and moral duty to validate that taxpayer funds have not been diverted to corruption or terrorism.

I look forward to your comments,
Best wishes,
Michael Horesh

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:59 AM
January 14, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 14

A policeman in Britain was stabbed to death today in an anti-terrorist raid. No news yet on what sort of terrorists these might be, but I can't help but wonder whether the Religion of peace might have something to do with it.
UPDATE It turns out they were "North African" (= R.O.P.). As one of their neighbors said

"It's shocking something like this has happened."
The Religion of Peace involved in terrorism? I'm shocked. Absolutely shocked.

Elsewhere in Merry Olde England, A father who stood up to a gang terrorising his community bled to death after being slashed with a Samurai-style sword. Well at least it's a good thing that Britain has such tough anti-gun laws, otherwise these two victims of blade violence could have been shot to death or something. Now all we need to do is pass laws against swords and knives.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is contemplating whether the city should officially secede from the United States and declare itself a haven for terrorists.

Palestinian Peace Camp (I): The closest thing the Palestinians have to a "peace movement" would probably be a man named Sari Nusseibeh, head of Al Quds University. He has called for Palestinians to stop murdering Israelis and to give up the fantasy of a "right of return" to Israel in exchange for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Hundreds of students at An-Najar University in Nablus yesterday demonstrated to prevent Nusseibeh from speaking at their campus.

Palestinian Peace Camp (II) A peace activist from the Religion-of-Peace was killed yesterday when the bomb he was constructing exploded.

Palestinian Peace Camp (III) Religion-of-Peace spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin rejects Arafat's calls for a moratorium on killing Israeli civilians, and now threatens to start kidnapping Israelis too.

I finally updated my blogroll to include all the new friends I made at the Blog Bash last week (everybody with active blogs, that is). And be sure to read Wes Dabney's ongoing commentary on Korea.

How not to get added to my blogroll: just send me an e-mail that says "I'll link to you if you link to me" and I promise not to add you to my blogroll. It's really that easy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:42 PM
January 13, 2003
Womyn's Hystery Watch

Ruth Rosen is a Womyn's Hystery professor who also has a regular editorial column in the San Francisco Chronicle. With every column, Rosen demonstrates how little one needs to understand the outside world in order to get a job as a feminist scholar or as a columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle.

In today's column she applauds the Bay Area "anti-war" movement, and claims that

Publicized throughout cyberspace, the anti-war movement has left behind its sectarian roots and entered mainstream culture. To give just a few examples, the National Council of Churches, the National Organization for Women, Win Without War (Hollywood celebrities), the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, and the Sierra Club have all voiced their opposition to an invasion of Iraq.
Um, yeah, these permanent members of the clueless left, such as the flatulently Marxist National Council of Churches, are "mainstream" in just about every Women's Studies Department, if nowhere else. She goes on to praise the surreal Susie "Medea the Child Killer" Benjamin and the Marin County Naked Friends of Saddam and proudly proclaims
As you'd expect, Bay Area students are key players in the movement.
Yes, I would expect Bay Area students to be key players in any movement, especially in misguided movements, such as this one.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:09 PM
Bad Immigrant, No Green Card

The front page of Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle said "How one Californian was deported to Pakistan without proof of ties to terrorism". When you read the actual story of Ali Mubarak's deportation, you realize that he is not a "Californian", but an illegal immigrant from Pakistan with a long history of unlawful and otherwise anti-social behavior. His history is roughly this:
* 1991: He came here on a one-year student visa
* 1992: His visa expired. He remained in the country without trying to get an appropriate visa.
* 1993: He has a son out of wedlock
* 1993: He fraudulently applies to the State of Oregon for a birth certificate, claiming he was born there.
* 1996: He signs an affidavit falsely claiming he was born in Oregon
* 1997: He offers a woman $15,000 to marry him so he can get a green card. She marries him, he never pays her.
* 1997: The INS initiates deportation proceedings
* 1998: He fathers another child out of wedlock with the mother of his first child; Meanwhile he is courting another woman.
* 1998: He is charged with passing bad checks
* 1999: He gets a divorce from his wife, marries a second wife; applies for legal residency
* 2000: Files for bankrupcy; house is foreclosed
* 2001: Sued by a creditor; racks up his seventh moving violation in as many years
* 2001-2002: Makes inconsistent statements to FBI and INS officials
The FBI investigated him for his ties to terrorists -- he had been a friend and schoolmate of with Abdul Hakim Murad, who was implicated in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Mubarak claimed he had no connection to or knowledge of Murad's terrorist activities and hadn't seen the guy in years. The Chronicle portrays that he was wrongly deported because the FBI failed to make the case that he was a terrorist. Even if he wasn't a terrorist, he was still a social problem. If closer scrutiny of illegal immigrants in the course of looking for terrorists helps us get rid of the chronic behavior problems, I'm all for it. And if Mubarak is the most sympathetic "wronged" immigrant the Chronicle can come up with in their crusade against the Adminstration's tougher immigration policies, well, there you have it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:19 PM
January 12, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 12

It turns out the French/Algerian baggage handler at Charles de Gaulle airport whose car was found to contain guns and explosive was framed. [hat tip: WarbloggerWatch ] The pindits over at WarbloggerWatch also call me "reliably obnoxious", so I must be doing something right!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:13 PM
Crayon Diversity Watch
Here at the Shark Blog we're starting a new feature called the "Crayon Diversity Watch". From time to time when we encounter someone substituting skin color for diversity, we will award them the Crayon Diversity Award. Because even though a box of crayons contains many different colors, at the end of the day, they're all just little pieces of wax. So that's not really very diverse, now, is it.
We start by awarding the prize retroactively to President Bill Clinton, who in 1993 announced his pledge to appoint a cabinet that "looks like America". There is nothing inherently objectionable about this, except that the priority should have been to appoint a cabinet that thinks like America, and also accomplishes something.

I'm pleased to announce that this week's Crayon Diversity winner is Oliver Willis. I like Oliver's blog, and he is usually as thoughtful as he is witty. But this week he wins a box of 8 crayons for his remarks on the San Francisco Blog Bash

I suppose the professional backgrounds were "diverse", but there's a decided lack of color there (brown, yellow, or otherwise).
[emphasis his].

I wasn't entirely sure what this observation was supposed to imply. Was he insinuating that we were actively excluding people of "color"? We most certainly weren't. The invitation to the Blog Bash was an open announcement. Besides, I had no idea what most of the people I invited even looked like, just like I have no idea what most of the bloggers I read, link to, and correspond with look like.

But in his comments section, Willis explained what he really meant:

Stefan, I'm not saying its anything you or the people involved did. Blogging is a mostly male, mostly white, pursuit - which is why I'm leery of people proclaiming its revolutionary status. No harm, no foul, just reality.
and
What I was saying is quite clear. For all the hubub and brouhaha about blogs bringing new voices to the forte [sic], the people involved are almost all white, all male.
And thus Willis misses the big picture. Forty years ago, say, there were relatively few Black newspaper reporters. In no small measure because some of the people who hired reporters didn't want to hire any Black people. Today, there may be less of that type of discrimination than there was forty years ago. But still, in order to get a job as a newspaper reporter, you have to persuade somebody else to give you the job. And hiring managers discriminate all the time, by educational background, by appearances, by personal chemistry, by writing style, etc.

But blogs are revolutionary. The blogosphere isn't about "bringing new voices to the fore". It's simply a place where any new voice can come to the fore, including those who would not otherwise have institutional sponsorship. You don't need an editor to hire you. No individual or institution can stand in your way and prevent your voice from being heard. All you need is a desire to write, some initiative and access to the Internet (which you can even get at the public library). The blogosphere is entirely self-selecting. And nobody even has to know you're a one-legged albino African lesbian single mother with Tourette's syndrome, unless you choose to tell them. And even if anybody is so bigoted to think that any of that is a problem, they still can't get in the way between you and your readers.

So to Oliver Willis and all those who are concerned about the genuine cases of exclusion and discrimination in society -- blogging is not a new exclusive institution to complain about, embrace it as a new resource to help you speak and be heard.

UPDATE For the next Crayon Diversity Award, Erin O'Connor nominates the leaders of 35 higher education associations who wrote a letter to the President in support of the University of Michigan and racial preferences in university admissions.

I concur. I award a box of 64 crayons, to be split 35 ways. I recommend cutting each crayon into 35 pieces, so that every institution can get a piece of every color.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:36 PM
Showing They're Asses

The Marin County Naked Saddam Supporters continue to show they're asses by showing their asses. Unfortunately, I will miss their parade down Market St. next Saturday as I will be out of town with my family. But hopefully one of my neighbor bloggers will screw up the courage and make the sacrifice to go downtown to watch these ladies:

strut their sagging breasts and floppy buttocks. And please take and post pictures, if you think the rest of us can stomach them.

Meanwhile, another group of Useful Idiots held a pro-Saddam singing vigil in Berkeley recently.

Among the pacifist folksongs they were singing: "Thank you, O Saddam, for firing Scud missiles into Tel Aviv", "Who gives a shit about all those Kurdish children you gassed?" and "Every Arab deserves the chance to be tortured by his own government"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:53 AM
January 11, 2003
An Update and An Apology

A few months ago I translated an article from Die Zeit that purported to substantiate the story that some Israeli "art students" who were in the US prior to 9/11 were actually Israeli agents. Furthermore, Die Zeit reported these alleged agents were trailing some of the hijackers, including ringleader Muhammad Atta, and unsuccessfully tried to warn US officials with their suspicions about the soon-to-be hijackers. The article was largely based on a DEA report about the "art students". I translated and posted Die Zeit 's article because it seemed plausible, and a refreshing departure from the nutcase conspiracy theory that the so-called art students were actually behind the 9/11 attacks.

Fortunately, Canadian blogger Bruce Rolston had already read the DEA report and argued persuasively why it simply didn't support any of the significant claims in the Die Zeit article. (In fact it appears that the so-called "art students" were little more than a petty fraud ring, not an espionage ring).

Meanwhile I e-mailed Oliver Schröm, the freelance reporter who wrote the piece for Die Zeit, to tell him about the critique of his article and to give him a chance to respond. I also put a disclaimer on my translation indicating my opinion that the article was lacked foundation, and mentioning that I was awaiting Schröm's response. Schröm did write back about two weeks later, but his response to the questions was unconvincing. I meant to follow up, but the matter fell through the cracks. In the meantime, I forgot that my translation of the article still said that Schröm hadn't replied to me. That was my mistake.

Schröm wrote back to me today, justifiably unhappy that my site still claimed incorrectly that he hadn't replied to me. For that error I apologize. I should have acknowledged his reponse in a timely manner. And my apology extends not only to Mr. Schröm, but also to my readers. I should have been more timely and aggressive in airing the flaws in his article. I've corrected the page with the translated article and I post his reply below, translated from his original German

Many thanks for your note. I'm sorry that I couldn't answer you sooner but I was travelling the whole time and wanted to glance at my notes before getting back to you.

Please understand that I can't disclose anything more about my sources. A journalist has a duty to protect his sources.

There are a few a published items that you and/or your readers might be interested in.

1) Regarding the arrest and deportation of Israelis: It goes without question that a number of young Israelis were arrested in the US and expelled. The Washington Post reported that on November 23, 2001. This was confirmed by both American and Israeli authorities. The official reason: Visa violations. This is the standard explanation whenever spies from friendly countries are caught. I could point out a countless number of examples where countries handle the matter of "spying amoung friends" most discreetly. Only rarely is this made public, one of the major exceptions is the Pollard case. On the other hand the CIA is not afraid to make general statements in its annual report that friendly nations like Israel spy in the US).

2) Regarding the terror warning before 9/11: Similarly it is a fact that Israeli sources warned American officials six weeks before the 9/11 attacks. This, incidentally, was never disputed by the Americans. But it was always claimed that friendly intelligence services raised warnings of a "general nature".

On German TV, in the meantime, members of Israeli intelligence circles said something completely different. The Mossad had apparently given the American authorities detailed information about terrorists residing in the US. I have no knowledge whether these interviews were broadcast in the US. But the Los Angeles Times reported on this in detail on September 20, 2001.

3) Regarding the DEA report: I was surprised by your doubts (and by those of your readers) about the DEA report. The DEA long ago confirmed the report's authenticity. Among other things, several of the DEA agents who helped compile the report were mentioned by name. These DEA agents have repeatedly affirmed the veracity of its contents. In your writings you mentioned that you yourself also had access to the report. So you should be able to see for yourself.

I hope that this was helpful to you. In any event I thank you for your interest and let us both hope that the [Joint Intelligence] Committee in Washington will succeed in getting at least a few answers.

A few comments on Schröm's remarks:

1) Just because alleged spies from friendly nations are sometimes expelled for "visa violations" does not in any way imply that people who are deported for "visa violations" are necessarily spies, or even accused of being spies. The WaPo article of 11/23/2001 indicates that the Israelis were deported for working while on a tourist visa. Post 9/11 a large number of foreign nationals were expelled for visa violations unrelated to espionage or terrorism, such as this woman from New Zealand. I did not find any mention of "friendly nation" spying, let alone by Israel, in any of the CIA annual reports that I looked through. That's not to say these reports don't exist, I was simply unable to find them.

2) It's certainly possible that Israeli intelligence did share some information with US intelligence regarding possible terror attacks before 9/11. But it's not clear what was the extent of the information, and that's a separate issue from the "art students". I was unable to find any online references to the Israeli intelligence agents appearing on German TV. The LA Times report of 9/20/01 says only this

FBI and CIA officials were advised in August that as many as 200 terrorists were slipping into this country and planning "a major assault on the United States," a high-ranking law enforcement official said Wednesday.

The advisory was passed on by the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency. It cautioned that it had picked up indications of a "large-scale target" in the United States and that Americans would be "very vulnerable," the official said.

It is not known whether U.S. authorities thought the warning to be credible, or whether it contained enough details to allow counter-terrorism teams to come up with a response. But the official said the advisory linked the information "back to Afghanistan and [exiled Saudi militant] Osama bin Laden."

"There was a connection there," he said

The Times also amended the story with this correction:
An article Thursday [9/20] reported that in August, Israeli intelligence warned U.S. officials that terrorists were preparing a large-scale attack in this country. The article cited as its source a high-ranking law enforcement official. The Times has since learned that the official's account was based on a British newspaper report, not on independent information.
The complete Times follow-up story of 9/21 which dismisses the 9/20 story is here.

3) Schröm insists that the DEA report was both authentic and true. But that was never the issue. Even if all of the facts in the DEA report are true, it still doesn't support the theory that the "art students" were intelligence agents, let alone on the trail of Muhammad Atta. I read the report myself. It comes across as a comical, almost pathetic, attempt of a second-rate and bureaucratically paranoid agency, trying desperately to imagine an anti-DEA conspiracy where there is nothing but a loosely organized network of small-time travelling con artists. Like this item:

A young brown haired woman claiming to be from San Francisco College selling artwork contacted the wife of a Special Agent at home in mid January 2001. The young woman was observed contacting two of the Special Agent's neighbors.
Right. A door-to-door peddler happens to visit a DEA agent's neighborhood. I'm sure that the Jehovah's Witnesses and Amway have also visited neighborhoods where DEA agents live. Is this supposed to be newsworthy? Indeed, I recently met a local DEA agent at a social function. I asked him about the report and it turned out he was actually mentioned in it. His take: "We were sitting in a stake out and someone came up to our car. It seemed totally random". Rolston has already done a thorough job of explaining why the DEA report does not support Schröm's conclusions. Read his work, I don't have much more to add. Furthermore, a March 6, 2002 WaPo article (written by the same author as the November 2001 article cited above) also dismisses the DEA report and quotes a DOJ official that calls the Israeli spy ring story an "urban myth".

There may indeed be a story somewhere about Israeli espionage in the US and about Israeli warnings about terrorism prior to 9/11. But Schröm's article doesn't make a good case. Of course most journalists will feel obligated to protect their sources. Sometimes that protection helps make more information available to the public. Sometimes it only serves the interests of the source and the journalist. And either way, readers should be skeptical of any story that relies heavily on confidential sources, especially when the story's public sources turn out to lack credibility or relevance, as is the case here.

UPDATE: Thanks to Bill Herbert for sending me the LA Times and WaPo articles. Also be sure to read his entry in the comments.

If any reader can locate anything more on the CIA and German TV reports that Schröm mentions, kindly let me know and I will link to them.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:44 PM
January 10, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 10

Raging Bullshit: Martin Scorsese is one of my favorite film directors. But I'm not impressed with his script for dealing with incorrigible mass murderers like Saddam: "I think it really has to come down to respecting how other people live. There's got to be ways this can be worked out diplomatically, there simply has to be." Go see Lileks take Scorsese apart.

Gretta Duisenberg, the rabid wife of the head of the European Central Bank, believes that Israelis are worse than Nazis. Duisenberg, who was permitted to enter Israel on a Dutch diplomatic passport, was quoted in a Dutch newspaper

"With the exception of the Holocaust, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian areas is worse than the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands...The cruelty of the Israelis has no limits. That they are blowing up houses of Palestinians is not rare. The Nazis never went that far during the occupation of the Netherlands"
None of this is true, and in any event, I don't believe that the Dutch incited their children to blow themselves up in Düsseldorf supermarkets. Nor did the Nazis occupy the Netherlands because the Netherlands initiated a war of annihilation against Germany. Nor did the Nazis allow foreign activists to go to the Netherlands to protest the Nazi occupation. Nor does Israel do to any Palestinian children what the Nazis did to, say, Anne Frank.

Mike Silverman points out an example of outrageous anti-Semitism in the San Francisco Bay Guardian (an alternative weekly). Mike e-mailed me to ask "Is this kind of stuff par for the course for them?" The Bay Guardian is a keystone of the local idiotarian left. You can always count on them to be squarely behind any leftist idiocy du jour.

Ray Hanania can't tell the difference between Al Qaeda and Al Barger. Al (Barger) is unimpressed.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:25 PM
January 08, 2003
Blog Bash Report

Last night's San Francisco Bay Area Blog Bash was a raging success and a hell of a fun time.

Of all the interesting comments that I heard last night, the most interesting came from Joanne Jacobs. Joanne worked as a journalist at the San Jose Mercury News for a number of years, and she still has high regard for "Big Media". But she also finds that the great majority of newspaper reporters seem to share similar educational backgrounds, similar attitudes and similar personality types. One example she gave was that there don't seem to be many religious people who write for newspapers. On the other hand, she said, the blogosphere includes a lot of "very smart people" with a wide variety of backgrounds and knowledge. As a result, she finds that blogs can be more interesting to read than newspapers.

Indeed, our little ad hoc group included a few software developers, a bookseller, a cabinet maker, an attorney, an Army officer, a professional journalist, a science fiction writer and former restaurant manager, a math PhD student, and a musician. I imagine this is far more diversity of knowledge, experience and perspective than what you can expect to find in a group of 13 randomly selected newspaper reporters.

A page of pictures with names! and running commentary is here

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:36 PM
Here and There, Jan. 8

Ha'aretz (non-permanent) news flash: "European Union says Israeli travel ban of Palestinians must end". That suggests this modest proposal: Why not just let all 5 million Palestinians travel to Europe. Permanently. That would solve a number of problems, not least of which is the balancing of European moral accounts.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:20 AM
January 07, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 7

This evening is the San Francisco Bay Area Blogger Bash. A dozen of the best known and most beloved local bloggers will be there, and so will I! And we're also expecting a Kansan! Wahoo! Watch this space tomorrow for photos.

Ruth Rosen, a feminist historian whom the Chronicle, for no apparent reason, hired to write editorials about the real world, is frustrated with her HMO. Her complaint: too much bureaucracy and bad customer service. Her diagnosis: "Our market-driven health care system is broken; it's time for a major overhaul" Her prescription: Universal Health Care! Good call, Ruth. Putting the government in charge of something is always the surest way to reduce bureaucracy and improve customer service.

No kidding? The Lebanese subsidiary of the Religion of Peace is holding some hostages

The Religion of Peace is calling for all Americans to be killed. In London, meanwhile, some other Religion-of-Peace-niks have been found to be in possession of the deadly poison ricin. Can't we just negotiate with them or something?

What would Jesus smoke? High Times magazine reports that Jesus was almost certainly a cannabis user and an early proponent of the medicinal properties of the drug. And in the spirit of fairness I will also ask: What would (Muhammad|Moses|Buddha|Confucious|Zoroaster) smoke?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:30 PM
January 06, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 6

No kidding? The journalist who said he would oversee DNA testing to verify a company's claims it had produced a human clone said Monday he had dropped his efforts for lack of cooperation and could not rule out the possibility of "an elaborate hoax."

Civil Rights in Palestine: Will "Reporters Without Borders" protest this suppression of press freedom? Doubt it.

The main headline in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle was "Wartime Iraq aid calamity feared" subheading: "Relief agencies predict humanitarian disaster". The story goes on to quote various UN agencies and other NGOs. Of course, back in the Fall of 2001 the same organizations were predicting a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan in the event of US military action. As it turned out, the US-led regime change in Afghanistan actually improved the humanitarian situation for most Afghanis.

On the other hand, a group of human rights activists from a Muslim country demonstrated in Seattle yesterday to support regime change in Iraq.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:35 PM
A Tale of Racial Preferences

The Christian Science Monitor recently published an op-ed piece defending affirmative action, written by Andrea Guerrero, a (half) Mexican American woman who was proud to have been admitted under affirmative action into Stanford (with a 1250 SAT) and into Boalt (with a 3.25 undergrad GPA). A number of other bloggers, (namely Jeff Bishop, Number 2 Pencil and John Rosenberg) have taken this op-ed apart and show why it is a more effective argument against rather than for racial preferences.

While I oppose racial preferences in all situations, I can at least understand why those who believe in group-based justice might argue for preferences for African-Americans (their ancestors were enslaved) or Native Americans (many of their ancestors were forceably displaced by more recent immigrants). But preferences for Hispanics? They're immigrants! Just like most Americans are descended from disadvantaged, impoverished, non-English-speaking immigrants who faced discrimination of various kinds. Why should Spanish-speaking immigrants (a great variety of people from twenty different countries and a range of socioeconomic backgrounds) be given advantages that other immigrants are not?

But I've seen first hand how the admission preferences game works. Back in the mid-80s when I was a computer science graduate student at Stanford, I was the student representative on the department's Master's degree admissions committee. The number of applicants greatly exceeded the number that we could admit. Only the students with the highest GRE scores, GPAs and strongest recommendations were accepted. To my surprise, two of the faculty on the committee were arguing to admit a candidate whose scores and grades (as a Stanford undergraduate) were far below the rest of the admitted candidates. "We can't let him fail" one professor said. "I'll give him as much tutoring as he needs" said the other professor. No student in the department got any where near this kind of individual attention, so this made no sense to me until I saw that the candidate was Black. So yes, at least in this case, "affirmative action" meant admitting a student who was deemed to be incapable of peforming as well as the other students. I have no idea how he actually did in graduate school. But I can't help but wonder whether he might have ended up happier and more successful had he entered a program where he was on the same academic level as the other students and where he wasn't expected to fail before he even started.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:26 AM
January 05, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 5

The L.A. Times today has a thoughtful op-ed piece that approaches the Boalt scandal with appropriate skepticism. It also mentions Erin O'Connor and me.

The Religion of Peace commits another act of mass murder. Gil Shterzer has pictures.

Der Spiegel is reporting that the man who hijacked a small airplane and threatened to crash it into a Frankfurt skyscraper is a mentally ill German. His primary motivation was apparently to get publicity for Judith Resnick, one of the astronauts who died in the 1986 Challenger shuttle explosion.

Heav’n has no Rage like Love to Hatred turn’d, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d -- William Congreve

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:30 AM
January 04, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 4

The Marin County Naked Women plan to march naked down Market Street in San Francisco on Jan. 18 to express solidarity with Saddam Hussein. And I plan to be there for the parade. I'm contemplating going naked except for a Saddam mask and holding a sign that says "Thanks for your support". And in any event I'll be taking pictures. Lots of pictures.

An alert reader in the LGF comment section reports that the Tallahassee Democrat suspended a reporter for using "strong language" in an e-mail criticizing Arab nations for the way they've reacted to Israel.

Political writer and columnist Bill Cotterell, in an e-mail exchange, wrote "Except for Jordan and Egypt, no Arab nation has a peace treaty with Israel. They've had 54 years to get over it. They choose not to."
and
"I don't give a damn if Israel kills a few in collateral damage while defending itself. So be it."
The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations sent an alert to its members calling the remarks anti-Muslim and anti-Arab, and the paper capitulated to pressure from the Islamo-fascists at CAIR. But I say Cotterell deserves a commendation, not a reprimand.

European moral equivalence seems to be an old phenomenon. The French and British were sympathetic to the South during the American Civil War, partly because they needed cotton. And partly because

the ruling classes in [Europe] sympathized strongly with the Confederacy... The South was, after all, an aristocracy... Europe's aristocracies had never been happy about the prodigious success of the Yankee democracy.
That sounds a little like the unelected panjandrums in today's EU. In 1862 and 1863 France tried to broker a negotiated settlement to the conflict (meaning that the Confederacy would be preserved). This reminds me of the current French government, with its oil and weapons merchants, that wants to preserve Saddam's regime.

Civil Rights Activist Sharpton Seeks White House says the headline. Civil Rights Activist? Sharpton's only connection to "civil rights" is that he was found liable for defaming Steven Pagones in the Tawana Brawley hoax.

Jimmy Carter wins the Little Green Footballs Idiotarian of the Year Award (the "Fiskie"), which by extension should also apply to the Nobel "Peace" Prize committee. Be sure to see the award cartoon by the improbably named Cox and Forkum.

Moral Equivalence Alert Reuters reports (actually it's their Gaza correspondent Shahdi al-Kashif doing the reporting) that

Israeli bulldozers destroyed at least two buildings in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday, despite U.S. concerns that a recent spate of house demolitions could fuel the conflict with the Palestinians.
Whatever the U.S. concerns are, the only thing that "fuels the conflict" is Arab rejection of Israel's existence.
Tension has heightened recently following a spate of house demolitions by Israel and the killing on Thursday of an elderly Israeli man by a militant group linked to President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction.
Nice attempt at moral equivalence. The people whose homes were destroyed are terrorists and those who harbor terrorists. The elderly Israeli man was killed on his way to donate clothes to poor Arab children.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:49 PM
January 03, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 3

Josh Kraushaar has a chilling report on a fifth column of extremist Religion-of-Peace-niks operating a school and mosque in the Washington, DC area. And be sure to read the full WaPo articles Kraushaar cites. [by way of Charles Johnson]

And in Paris, another Religion-of-Peace-nik stabs a Rabbi, while shouting "Allah Akbar"

Now this is a pathetic waste of tax dollars:

The government has sent taxpayer money from its child support programs to religious and nonprofit organizations so they can promote marriage — reflecting chief elements of President Bush's faith-based initiative.

And yes there are anti-idiotarian Muslims in America. And some of them are being oppressed. [ by way of Campus Nonsense]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:44 PM
Where are they now?

Every once in a while I get curious about some of the people who have wandered into my life over the years, only to wander out, never to be heard from again. Now, with the Internet, it's possible to find out what happened to some of them, without having to actually ask anybody. The following stories are all true:

Years ago a young woman I had been seeing told me blissfully that the night we spent together was her "first time". Two weeks later she dumped me. Now she is a gynecologist.

Another unrequited love is still single, and turning forty!

A guy I was friends with in college used to go around telling everybody about his penis, which he named "Myron". Now he is a urologist.

Another friend from college is now a member of the Wisconsin state legislature.

I had a boss once who alienated everybody. Nobody wanted to work for her, customers couldn't stand her, her peers conspired to get her fired. She started her own company, which she took public. At the height of the Internet bubble her share of her company was worth well over a billion dollars. The company has never made a profit. Her stock is now worth $12 million.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:46 PM
January 02, 2003
Here and There, Jan. 2

An elderly Israeli man made a habit of donating clothes to poor Arab children. Yassir Arafat's Fatah organization thanked the man by shooting him and setting him on fire.

Now if only it were legal to place bets on (or in this case against) political candidates

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:28 PM
January 01, 2003
Here and There, Jan 1

A Northern California Blogger Bash will take place the evening of Tuesday, January 7. Join us for drinks and dinner. E-mail me for details.

Hamas has apparently been exploring the possibility of launching chemical and biological attacks. So far, there are no signs that they're anywhere near actually having that capability. But you know they would not hesitate to commit such atrocities if they could.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:45 AM