February 28, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 28

Hey, if they can convict this 72-year-old man of a 1966 murder, maybe they can convict this 74-year-old man for a double murder in 1973?

Doing my part to spread the word: My friend Peter Wayner wrote to tell me about the following signature line:

Memes don't exist. Tell your friends.
Pass it on.

Senior members of a politically connected San Francisco street gang have been indicted on conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Crayon Diversity Watch: The San Francisco Chronicle apparently equates social justice with the lowering of standards on the basis of race

California's most selective public universities, UC Berkeley and UCLA, have found it difficult under the constraints of Proposition 209 to achieve a student body reflective of California's diversity.
The Chronicle also seems to blame former UC Regent Ward Connerly for his campaign to ensure that all university applicants are evaluated on the same standards of merit.
"I fully expect the [SCOTUS decision on the Michigan case] will be applicable to the Stanfords of this world," [Connerly] told The Chronicle this week. "I think the court is going to go all the way and say race is a suspect classification, and there is no compelling rationale for using race in admissions."
I hope Connerly is right. The Chronicle hopes he's wrong
Depending on how the Supreme Court rules, private colleges will face the same obstacles.
Funny how equality is seen by some to be an "obstacle". I've come to the conclusion that the real agenda of those who support the lowering of standards in the guise of "affirmative action" simply want to lower the standards of excellence for everybody, everywhere. I've been reading the Chronicle long enough to understand why its editors might feel less threatened in a world with lower standards.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:15 PM
Virtual March on Baghdad

Why didn't I think of this before?

Inspired by the Moveon.org peace (for Saddam) activists and the Virtual March on Washington, I just started a Virtual March on Baghdad!

The Virtual March on Washington was a flood of phone calls and faxes to the White House and Congress asking our (elected) officials to find a peaceful way out of the Iraq conflict. Likewise, the Virtual March on Baghdad will be a parade of phone calls and faxes to the (unelected) officials of the Tikrit Mafia asking them to find a peaceful way out of the conflict.

I just took the first bold step and telephoned the office of the Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations in New York with a statement of peace. My remarks were:

Hello, I'm an American who wishes to see a peaceful solution to the conflict between Iraq and the United States. For the sake of the Iraqi people, I call on Saddam Hussein and the current Iraqi government to surrender in order to avoid the loss of innocent lives.
The man on the other end of the line said:
Yes, but there's nobody in the office right now.
You too can join the Virtual March on Baghdad. The Iraqi UN Mission may be reached at Telephone: (212) 737-4433, Telefax: (212) 772-1794.

Anybody know how to get in touch with Janeane Garofalo? I'd like her to be our spokeswoman.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:47 PM
Nancy Pelosi: Drug Kingpin, Extortionist

House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi published an op-ed in Thursday's San Francisco Chronicle, calling on the Bush administration to take a tough line against American companies who sell tobacco to willing customers in other countries

While we face many challenges to our security at home and abroad, the United States must not miss opportunities to demonstrate leadership in important global affairs. Our country's participation in these negotiations should demonstrate that we value the health of people around the world.
On the other hand, Pelosi doesn't seem terribly worried about the deleterious health effects caused by Saddam Hussein, a product that has fewer willing takers than tobacco has.
According to the World Health Organization, by the year 2025, 10 million people will die annually from tobacco, and seven out of 10 of these deaths will occur in developing countries.
Nobody knows what's going to happen in 2025, but according to the same WHO, the actual number of tobacco-related deaths was only 4 million in 2000, most of whom were in the developed world.
U.S. tobacco companies play a major role in spreading this death.
Only in the sense that a very large number of people are going to smoke anyway, and many of them happen to prefer American products over the competition
The United States is the world's number one exporter of cigarettes ... The Bush Administration must not impose the agenda of Big Tobacco on these negotiations, and should instead advocate strong provisions on marketing, labeling and taxation of tobacco products.
Translation: (a) Pelosi is an imperialist who wants to impose American public health standards on foreign countries. (b) Pelosi believes the purpose of government is to punish American shareholders and to throw American workers out of work because their companies sell a product that consumers in other countries want to buy.

But wait. There's more! Is Pelosi campaigning against tobacco because of a deep sense of virtue to save people from their bad habits? Probably not. The WHO reports [pdf] that

Alcohol causes as much death and disability as measles and malaria, and far more years of life lost to death and disability than tobacco or illegal drugs.
But Pelosi is a bit of an alcohol kingpin. According to her 2001 financial disclosure statement [pdf, 1.1MB], she owns multi-million dollar interests in at least two Napa Valley vineyards. She has also accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the alcohol industry over the years. The Democratic party has taken millions of dollars more from the beer, wine and liquor people.

In fact, if you look at the campaign contributions from the Alcohol industry vs. the Tobacco industry, the breakdown looks like this:

Alcohol$25.6 million$31.5 million
Tobacco$11.8 million$36.5 million
(contributions since 1990. source: Center for Responsive Politics)

Pelosi appears to be less of a saint than a shakedown artist. If I had to guess, I'd say that this crusade against the Marlboro Man is really about getting the Tobacco boys to cough up [so to speak] their "fair share" to the DNC.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:07 AM
Gender Crap

Ruth Rosen, our favorite womyn's hystery professor turned mendacious San Francisco Chronicle columnist, polishes off the dusty Reagan-era canard of the "Gender Gap". In Thursday's column she asks the irrelevant question: Do people with freckles want war? ( Actually, the headline is "Do women want war?") The answer is: yes, a majority of women do support military action to depose Saddam. But Rosen isn't straightforward enough to say this, instead she reports that more men support the war than women, implying that this is a form of sexist oppression, even though, uh, there will be far more testicles sent to the battlefield than ovaries.

She goes on to argue that women are a force for peace, stating the silly psychobabble that

we [don't] need to prove a manly willingness to engage in international brinkmanship with Third World dictators.
Is Condoleezza's toughness the result of having the right set of clues or due to a well-kept secret? Rosen doesn't say.

The statistical genius that is Ruth Rosen then concludes

any politician looking ahead to 2004 can't ignore a double-digit gender gap. The slim victories that determined the elections of 2000 and 2004 should remind any presidential hopeful that women's opinion just might be decisive.
Yes, Ruth, but the "gender gap" works both ways. If the Democrats want to win next time, they will also have to figure out a way to make sense to more men.

UPDATE Rosen also names George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz as "chickenhawks"

who had no principled opposition to the Vietnam War, avoided military service and now clamor for war
The chickenhawk argument is silly to begin with -- it's like saying that any member of Congress who isn't a pharmacist should exmpt themselves from voting on drug legislation. But the sloppy Professor Rosen doesn't even bother to get her facts straight. Donald Rumsfeld served in the Navy for 3 years and in the Naval Reserves for another 18.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:01 AM
February 27, 2003
The New Israeli Government

Commentary from my father, Hebrew University political scientist Ira Sharkansky

I've already seen in the international press, and have heard from media commentators here, that the new government is too right wing to make peace with the Palestinians.

The new government is right wing. If a vote of ministers were held today, a majority would probably oppose the creation of a Palestinian state. But the problem of peace should not be laid at its door.

Public opinion surveys prior to the election showed the Israeli population was not bent on revenge. A majority favored the establishment of a Palestinian state. The polls are not clear, but I suspect that many of those favoring a Palestinian state would attach at least some of the conditions identified by Sharon: an end to violence; a serious reform of the Palestinian Authority; and an end to anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian media and education.

Sharon will not poll his ministers publicly on what they think of a Palestinian state. I doubt that any of them expect the Palestinian Authority to meet reasonable conditions anytime soon. Or perhaps anytime. Arafat's appointment of a prime minister beholden to him will not satisfy.

Bigger than Israeli or Palestinian intentions/actions is the looming war in Iraq. The onset of these things is easier to predict than the end-game. The range of scenarios is profound. Many of them are not pleasant for Iraq, Israel, the larger Middle East, or the United States. The "quartet" of US, Europe, Russia, and the UN, and its "road map" to peace in the Middle East will undergo more than a few strains and revisions in the coming weeks. Let's not waste time on speculating. We hope for the best, but in the meantime our gas kits are up to date, and we have plastic and tape to seal a room.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:48 AM
February 26, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 26

Better living through legislation: Legislation-thirsty San Francisco Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Chris Daly introduced legislation Tuesday that would ban talking on cell phones and cell phones that ring at places of public performances. Now I'm as opposed as the next guy to all those nudniks who talk on their cell phone during Swan Lake. But as it is, the San Francisco Police Department solves only 28% of all violent crimes that people even bother to report. Do we want the SFPD to shift priorities and pursue ballet cell phone users before they hunt for child molesters? And how does one report such a crime in the first place? If the guy sitting next to you during La Traviata starts talking on his cell phone, are you supposed to ask to borrow his phone so you can call 9-1-1? But, there will always be those, like Peskin and Daly, who have unshakeable faith that simply passing a law against something will make it disappear. What will these guys try to ban next? Farting in elevators?

Some might say that the San Francisco Chronicle editorial page is useful only for making paper hats. But that would be unkind. Nearly every Chronicle editorial has enormous pedagogical value as a counter-example when teaching our young people how to use, for example, logic, facts, honesty and common sense. Today's lead editorial opens

THE RIGHTIST coalition being formed by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon offers little hope for restarting the stalled peace process with the Palestinians.
In fact, the biggest obstacle to peace with the Palestinians is not the democratically elected Israeli government. It is the unelected terrorists. And Sharon seems to be making good progress to reduce their ranks and thereby create an opening for meaningful peace.

Ze'ev Schiff reports that Iran's nuclear weapons program is coming along nicely, thanks to the Chinese (a veto-wielding member of the UN Security (for Tyrants) Council). The Mullah State also seems to be pulling a fast one on the IAEA, but going about it in a smarter way than Iraq has.

The Jerusalem Sharkanskys report 30cm of snow. Will the local Bedouins have to trade their tents for igloos?

Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel has penned an "open letter to my Israeli friends," which is meant to explain that the Belgian court decision to enable the prosecution of Israelis involved in the Lebanon war is not aimed at Israel. Michel added

I want to emphasize that in Belgium anti-Semitism is not tolerated; and should any sign of it occur, I will fight it with all the means at my disposal
Unfortunately, he has no means at his disposal.

Gil Shterzer reports that the IDF Intelligence Corps has a new website, that includes a fun memory game in which you need to match faces of Arab leaders with their names, either in Hebrew or in Arabic. I played the game in Arabic and I solved the puzzle in just over 3 minutes!

"Saddam, what is the frequency?": Saddam Hussein tells Dan Rather that he prefers death to exile.

We will die in this country and we will maintain our honor
I'm sure that can be arranged.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:28 PM
The Chronicle on Iraq

The foreign affairs experts at the San Francisco Chronicle continue to write editorials about the Iraq crisis, while simultaneously performing full-facial self-proctoscopy.

Weapons inspectors have just begun their work, which is why France, Russia and China argue that war is not yet a last resort.
Weapons inspections have been an ongoing failure since 1991. It is an act of unmitigated whimsy to believe that France, Russia and China might be motivated solely by an objective sense of justice (and not, say, ruthless self-interest or ineptitude) while also assuming that the United States is motivated by inappropriate self-interest or incompetence and not, say, legitimate national security interests.
Public support for a war in Iraq is hardly strong. In the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll, while a majority of Americans support the use of force as an option, 59 percent want to give the United Nations and weapons inspectors more time.
An even more recent poll says that "57 percent support military action even without approval of the United Nations as long as some allies such as Britain, Spain and Australia are involved.", which they are.
The Bush administration has tried to portray a pre- emptive war against Iraq as essential to the war on terrorism, but the evidence of "links" between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda is highly questionable
The threats from Arab and Islamic terrorism are not confined to those with incontrovertible links to al Qaeda.
Some critics suggest the real U.S. motive is access to oil.
Other more knowledgeable critics would argue that (a) there are easier ways to get oil, and (b) France has an oil-related interest in keeping Saddam in power!
But, if oil is the reason for war, Bush has not been willing to acknowledge it.
And if oil is not the reason for war, then Bush's unwillingness to acknowledge that oil is the reason for war is not evidence of a cover-up.
An exit strategy is also missing.
Missing only from the Chronicle's reading list:
Baltimore Sun, Feb. 23:White House moves ahead with postwar plans
International Herald Tribune, Feb. 24: U.S. lays plans for rebuilding Iraq after war
Financial Times, Feb. 25: US draws up plans to oversee postwar Iraq

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:31 AM
February 25, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 25

I have safely returned from yesterday's birthday-induced mid-life crisis. Work and blogging is back to normal.

On Sunday I had the pleasure of meeting the charming and talented Mr. and Mrs. Xrlq, who were in the Bay Area for the weekend and stopped by for lunch. Mr. Xrlq, who studied linguistics before he went to law school, has a knack for language. Among other things, he came up with the ingenious word Idiotaryan, to describe an idiotarian from Germany, e.g. Gerhard Schroeder or Juergen Moellemann. Mrs. Xrlq expressed some concern about being a blog widow. I tried to assuage her fears by explaining that although blogging may be a time-consuming hobby, it is also an inexpensive hobby with little risk of physical danger. Furthermore, if Mr. Xrlq spends much of his free time at the computer, Mrs. Xrlq will always know where her husband is. And be sure to add the fine Xrlq blog to your reading list, if it's not there already.

Saddam Hussein is acting more and more like the guy who barricades himself into a house with a shotgun and forces a stand-off with the police. He wants to commit suicide, but not by his own hand, so he gives somebody else a reason to neutralize him. He is both refusing to dismantle the missiles that Blix has ordered him to dismantle, and asking to debate George W. Bush. Doesn't he know what happened to the last guy who challenged Bush to a debate?

Subvert the dominant paradigm: I am one of the few patrons of my neighborhood coffee-house who hasn't protested the war against Saddam. So yesterday I left a copy of Mark Steyn's recent Chicago Sun-Times column "Don't ask peaceniks to make any sense" on a table. Hopefully somebody picked up Steyn's column, read it, and learned something.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:39 PM
Bowling for Columbine

I celebrated my birthday yesterday by seeing the movie Bowling for Columbine. No, really. (Be sure to read Tim Blair's exhaustive fisking of the movie if you haven't already done so). My brief review is this. It's hard to tell exactly what Michael Moore was trying to say. He's a snide guy who likes to make fun of everything in his path. The movie was more or less an aimless collection of visual one-liners that were loosely related to the subject of guns and seemed to be designed to produce guffaws, without arguing an actual thesis. But reading between the lines I think Moore was trying to get me to accept the following positions:

1. Dick Clark was responsible making a six year old boy in Flint, Michigan shoot a 6 year old girl at his school.

2. The Columbine shooting massacre was morally equivalent to the concurrent NATO campaign to end Milosevic's genocide in Kosovo.

3. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold committed the Columbine massacre because the US doesn't have a Canadian style health care system.

4. Because of (1), (2) and (3) above, law-abiding Americans should not be allowed to own guns

But what the movie actually convinced me of was this:

1. I should buy a gun to protect my family
2. I should join the NRA in order to learn and promote responsible gun ownership.
3. The most humanitarian way for the US to end poverty and crime in this country would be to send our welfare recipients and convicted felons to Canada, where they will be transformed into responsible consumers of health care services.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:24 PM
February 24, 2003
39 Forever

A year ago today I turned 39. I guess that means today is my 40th birthday. Then again, how would I know for sure? My earliest memories are from 1966. But you're as old as you feel, right? And I still don't feel a day older than 39. So I think I'll take a cue from Jack Benny, and declare today my second 39th birthday. Next year, we'll see how I feel. Maybe 42, maybe 36, maybe 39 again. I'll let you know.

Saturday night I was the victim of an honest to goodness surprise party. My wife said she was taking me out for a quiet dinner, she wouldn't tell me where, and she made me wear a blindfold on the drive over. When we showed up at the Slanted Door restaurant, I found a dozen or so of my favorite friends and family waiting for us, including my sister and her husband who secretly flew in from Boston for the occasion. I had no idea that any of this conspiracy was going on. This was remarkable not least because my wife does not have a very good poker face and she's never been able to play such an elaborate trick on me before. I was terribly flattered by all the attention and had a wonderful time. If you're ever in San Francisco, I highly recommend the Slanted Door. Especially the pork loin.

Today I'm going to have a mid-life crisis and play hooky and go to an afternoon movie. Blogging might be erratic.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:00 AM
February 23, 2003
Yet another Schroeder cover-up

Sunday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, citing German intelligence sources, reports that Iraq has recently moved rockets toward the Kuwaiti border, in a new and serious violation of UN resolutions. The Ababil-100 rockets, which can carry conventional as well as chemical and biological warheads, threaten the US, British and German troops stationed in Kuwait.

This is the second report I've seen in the German press this weekend where German intelligence appears to have leaked information regarding the Iraqi threat, with the implication that the Schroeder government has been sitting on this information. [I translated the other report here]

The FAZ article closes with quotes from opposition figures criticizing the government for withholding the information and using "smoke screen tactics", and demanding that the Chancellor give a full report to the parliament on what he knows of the Iraqi threat.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:00 AM
February 22, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 22

The San Francisco Chronicle is not reporting the remarks made by Congressman Tom Lantos in Germany earlier this week. Lantos, who represents some of San Francisco's southern neighborhoods and suburbs, is also the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee. Speaking at a German-American economic conference in Bonn, Lantos expressed his strong support for German-American business ties. He also had sharp criticism for the French and German governments' Iraq policy, which he characterized as "misguided", and singled out Chirac for making "sick anti-American tirades". He reminded his audience that the NATO alliance is not a "one-way street", that the United States "has done more for Europe than Hussein has"; and that "certain European leaders need to re-learn the lessons of the 20th century" that a policy of appeasement and rapprochement with dictators doesn't accomplish anything. (Lantos, you may recall, was born in Hungary and fought both the Nazis and the Communists before immigrating to the US in 1947).

One would think that the Chronicle would want to report on one of its hometown Congressmen's public statements on the current trans-Atlantic crisis. Then again, the Chronicle editors are fervently anti-Bush and reflexively blame the President for every disagreement with other countries. I can see how the Chronicle might bury a story about a leading Democrat saying that the difficulties with France and Germany are not the President's fault, but, well, France and Germany's fault. So I didn't read about this in the Chronicle. I read it in Der Spiegel, which also tends to be critical of Bush, but at least its coverage is more comprehensive than that of Lantos' hometown Chronicle.

And speaking of those who prefer to appease violence: The University of California-Berkeley has chosen not to punish the anti-Israel rioters who bit a policeman and used force to prevent students from entering classrooms last April. Instead, the university has allowed the rioters to stay in school under a "confidential settlement". Whatever the terms of the "settlement", the consequences to the rioters do not appear to be very serious

[the rioters] were delighted with the outcome. They had faced the prospect of hearings on disruption charges, with a possible suspension of up to one year.

"None of us are going to have to take any forced absence from school," said Hoang Phan, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine. "We're all more than happy with this settlement."

One would have expected that any settlement would at the very least have required the rioters to publicly express remorse for their unlawful behavior and to encourage other students to eschew such violent modes of protest. But the university didn't demand even this much. One can expect this non-punishment to only encourage more student protesters to riot, destroy property, injure police officers and intimidate those students who actually want to get an education. Chancellor Berdahl should be ashamed of himself.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:08 PM
What did Schroeder know and when did he know it?

More indications that the Schroeder government has chosen to ignore the evidence of Iraqi WMD capabilities. This report is from the forthcoming Der Spiegel. I translate:

German intelligence knew about mobile poison laboratories

Even before the beginning of the current crisis the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) obtained evidence that Iraq possessed rolling laboratories for bio-weapons production. According to reliable classified sources, Saddam Hussein ordered the mobile facilities built as recently as 2000.

Hamburg -- The BND reported their suspicions to both the Chancellor's office and the Bundestag foreign affairs committee several months ago. US Secretary of State Colin Powell showed pictures of this type of rolling laboratory to the Security Council three weeks ago.

The Chancellor's office considers it extremely unlikely that the suspected poison labs are connected with the Iveco truck-based toxicological labs that were sold to Iraq in the 1980s with the official approval of the German government. Although the truck laboratories were provided by a German company that was later suspected of assisting Iraq in poison gas production, those facilities were considered to be unsuitable for production.

The German trucks would have been used to test whether Saddam's troops could safely advance into an area following a poison gas attack.

UPDATE Only two countries in the 20th century used poison gas on their own ethnic minorities. Can you name them?

Bonus points if you can name the Arab country that used poison gas on the civilians of a different Arab country.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:18 PM
February 21, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 21

The kumbayologist editors of the San Francisco Chronicle are so intent on opposing the Bush administration on Iraq that they might as well be the PR agency for the Tikrit mafia. But every once in a while they take a detour from their "Peace through Weakness" campaign and publish an article that actually teachs the public something new about Iraq. On Thursday they printed a story about a group of Iraqi Kurdish immigrants in California who are training to support the U.S. military to overthrow Saddam.

Fares was living in Baghdad in 1991 when he says the first Bush administration made a strategic blunder all Iraqis have paid for: "Life was going to be beautiful. They were supposed to continue until Baghdad, to kick him out. They made a mistake. Ever since, the people have suffered."

He dismisses the dire predictions of a bloodbath in the streets of Baghdad if U.S. troops invade.

"Nobody is going to fight," he said. "(The Iraqi soldiers) are waiting for this moment. When they hear America is going to bomb, they are going to throw their weapons away.

"I speak English and Arabic and Kurdish. I want to help."

another man named Tariq says
"I have friends from Baghdad frankly talking about the collapse of Saddam Hussein," he said. "It means he has lost control. This is the first time I've heard people talking freely on the phone."

Ever the military strategist, Tariq draws a map of Iraq and says that U.S. planes must drop messages on Iraqi cities making clear that the Americans are coming as liberators, not attackers.

"Bush needs to get rid of Saddam Hussein as soon as possible," he said. "If he takes too much time, the anti-war movement in the United States and Europe will probably halt everything."

Yeah, but I suspect that the Chronicle's editorial writers will keep spewing forth that their opposition to replacing Saddam is motivated by human rights concerns for Iraqi civilians.

Pelosi Sleaze Watch The Chronicle also takes a break from its predictably fawning coverage of hometown party hostess and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to report that Pelosi is serving up a big barrel of Pork.

Pelosi has pushed through $1 million in federal funds for a think tank started by her longtime adviser and campaign treasurer, former Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy, sparking concerns that she is rewarding a supporter with taxpayer money.
McCarthy, recall, is the bagman who helped Pelosi circumvent the very campaign finance laws that she helped pass.

The good news in California politics is that outgoing San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown failed in his bid for the presidency of CalPERS, the nation's largest public pension fund. All California state employees should sleep a little better knowing that their retirement savings are safe from Brown's sticky fingers.

The INS has decided to give potential terrorists a little extra time to evade authorities.

Friday's deadline for male visitors from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan has been extended four weeks, to March 21. The registration period for men from Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Kuwait has also been extended four weeks and will run from Feb. 24 to April 25.

The INS extended the deadline in response to requests from individuals and immigrant-rights groups, said Jorge Martinez, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department.

I wonder if the INS would also consider requests for tougher immigration controls from citizens-who-don't-want-to-be-on-an-airplane-that-gets-blown-out-of-the-sky-rights groups.

German reader Tobias encouraged me to mention CDU leader Angela Merkel's op-ed in Thursday's Washington Post "Schroeder Doesn't Speak for All Germans" (I infer that Tobias is one of those Germans for whom Schroeder doesn't speak). I also noticed that Der Spiegel slapped Merkel for criticizing the Chancellor in the foreign press (which she did) and for "kowtowing" to Bush (to be precise, they spell it Kotau, but she didn't do that either). Amiland has the rest of the story and some interesting history.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:59 AM
February 20, 2003
The world through Rosen-colored glasses

Ruth Rosen starts today's column by praising an illegal immigrant who marched with her last weekend to oppose term limits for Saddam Hussein. She goes on to praise her kindred spirit Europeasers

In European cities, millions of our traditional allies poured into the streets and said, with pride and defiance, Yes, we are Old Europe. Our land is soaked with blood: we've known war, we've been bombed, and we want to prevent the deaths of Iraqi civilians.
Earth to Ruthie: The only time any of these Europeans have been bombed in the last 80 years is when they chose to appease tyranny, as they did in the 1930s, during the Cold War, and again today. And it doesn't sound like any of this weekend's marchers actually asked any Iraqi civilians for input.
As I watched these global protests on television, I couldn't help but remember the days and weeks that followed Sept. 11, 2001. I was in Norway when the terrorists slammed planes into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers and the Pentagon. The grief and sorrow expressed by Europeans were deeply moving. In Oslo, families with children covered blocks surrounding the American Embassy with heaps of flowers and mounds of toys. On a wire fence, they strung notes to survivors, pledging support, expressing their solidarity with the American people.

What a difference 17 months make. So much squandered goodwill. Today, tens of millions of people view America as an arrogant bully.

Quisling's children can keep their teddy bears. If they're not going to offer their support and solidarity to help us get rid of the menace that caused 9/11, then their goodwill isn't worth a bucket of warm piss.

Rosen even praises decaying Senator and former Klansman Robert Byrd (now there's a guy who knows the difference between right and wrong)

In only the space of two short years," Sen. Robert Byrd said on the Senate floor on Feb. 12, "this reckless and arrogant administration has initiated policies which may reap disastrous consequences for years."
as opposed to, say, the Carter and Reagan administrations, (when Byrd was Senate Majority Leader) which watered the seeds of today's Islamist threat by standing down in the face of terrorism.

Some might say that the Ruth Rosens of the world are silly and ineffectual idiots, so why bother with them? Yes, they may be ineffectual to defend their own countries and freedoms. But they are at least useful to Saddam Hussein, whom they've inspired to defy the UN weapons inspectors.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:08 PM
Win Without War

The "Win Without War Coalition" bills itself as a "mainstream voice advocating alternatives to preemptive war against Iraq". The coalition includes groups that are mainstream at, say, your average Santa Cruz nudist colony, e.g. Tikkun, Greenpeace and Global Exchange. Its alternatives to American national security and restoring human rights to Iraq include: (a) unilateral disarmament and (b) helping Saddam remain in power.

The group is organizing a massive Virtual March on Washington on February 26, where they ask you, valued citizen, to take serious action to keep Saddam in power without even having to leave your living room! Yes, you too can help Janeane Garofalo and Martin Sheen support Saddam's repression of Kurds, Marsh Arabs and Iraqi homosexuals. Or you can make a statement against the appeasement of tyranny. All you need to do is visit the Virtual March website, leave your name, zip code and a brief statement and they will assign you a time when you can call the White House and your U.S. Senators to read your statement. At the appointed time your statement will also appear in the MoveOn chat room!

I encourage everybody to sign up. I even signed up twice.

My main statement is "Support the President. Liberate Iraq. Oust Saddam. Appeasement kills". I also left an anti-war statement under the pseudonym Bob Sphincter of 1212 Headinanus Drive, Baghdad, Massachusetts. I believe the organizers will be sending Senators Kerry and Kennedy a fax on Mr. Sphincter's behalf.

Most importantly, I am also organizing as a counter-protest a "Virtual March on Hollywood", where the virtual marchers send jars of mayonnaise to the various celebrity spokeshairdos for the Virtual March on Washington -- Janeane Garofalo, Martin Sheen, Mike Farrell, Anjelica Huston, et al

Why jars of mayonnaise? So these actors can refill their heads when they start to leak.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
February 19, 2003
Plus ça change

"...we are all working for something important. What is at stake here is war and peace, and our responsibility, our common responsibility of everyone in the Security Council is involved. And we are willing to try to give peace a chance. "
French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin in a press conference following U.N. weapons inspector's report to the Security Council, February 14, 2003

"The efforts of the present French Government, continuing those of all its predecessors, have been directed with unswerving sincerity towards the maintenance and the organization of peace...I have no doubt that this joint declaration will bring to the cause of general appeasement a contribution the value of which will be confirmed in the future."
French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet in a communique announcing the Franco-German non-aggression pact, December 6, 1938

UPDATE The value of the latter contribution to the cause of general appeasement was confirmed by the Franco-German Armistice of June 25, 1940

In the occupied parts of France the German Reich exercises all rights of an occupying power. The French Government obligates itself to support with every means the regulations resulting from the exercise of these rights and to carry them out with the aid of French administration.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:48 PM
Here and There, Feb. 19

9/11 conspirator Mounir el Motassadeq was convicted and sentenced by a German court today for his role in the murder of 3,066 people. His punishment: 15 years in prison, or 42 hours and 51 minutes for each life he helped destroy. He will be a free man before his 44th birthday.

Max Sawicky, our favorite labor-union-think-tank economist, seems to be shilling for the French this week. He is either (a) credulous enough to accept the French "anti-war" (keep Saddam in power) stance at face value, or (b) he is a closet believer in France's "blood for oil" doctrine of diplomacy -- as long as it is Iraqi blood that is flowing to ensure a steady stream of oil into TOTAL refineries.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:55 PM
Jerusalem's new mayor

Commentary from my father, Ira Sharkansky, a Hebrew University political scientist and long-time resident of Jerusalem

Uri Lupolianski is the new mayor of Jerusalem. He is chubby, wears a modest beard, and a perpetual angelic smile. He is the first ultra-Orthodox head of the city. He comes to the job more or less automatically, from a prior position as deputy mayor, on account of the resignation of Ehud Olmert. Olmert had to resign due to his election to the Knesset, where he hopes to be tapped for a major ministerial position by Ariel Sharon.

Lupolianski may not remain mayor for long. The ultra-Orthodox do not relish the task of a general election campaign, where they will come up against the substantial suspicion of the religious by the secular. Jerusalem is the most religious of Israel's major cities. Perhaps a quarter of the residents are ultra-Orthodox, but a majority are not, and many of the secular are set against what they perceive the growing power of intense religiosity. This is not only a holy city. It is also a political city.

The betting, or the hope, is that Lupolianski will only serve out Olmert's term. Lupolianski promised to be the mayor of "all the people," but they all say that.

Lupolianski's reputation rests on his development of Yad Sarah, a non-profit organization that operates in cities and towns of Israel, Jewish and Arab. Its work is to loan medical appliances to those who need them: from simple canes to the sophisticated and expensive. It also operates dental clinics, provides home service, does laundry for the incontinent and many other blessings. See it at www.yadsarah.org.il. It's an interesting site, equipped with pop-ups that will ask for donations. Be warned.

The idea is great. Some years ago the organization received an Israel Prize, an honor awarded to distinguished individuals and organizations by the government each year on Independence Day. From all signs, it's also a gold mine that attracts a small flood of contributions from overseas.

The smiling cherub is not all saint. He was not only deputy mayor but chair of the local planning commission. That commission had a role in approving the plans for a massive building that would serve as Yad Sarah's headquarters. The building is several times the height of nearby residential buildings. It blocks the sun and funnels the wind into what had been quiet streets. Despite the fact that much of the existing building is empty, the commission has approved a major expansion. A group of neighborhood residents sought to prevent the new construction, but could not find a Jerusalem attorney with experience in property law who would agree to represent them.

Property developers and their lawyers depend on cooperation from the planning commission. The chairman formally absented himself from the consideration of his own case, but his spirit remained dominant. What lawyer interested in representing property developers would challenge the chair of the planning commission on a case so close to his heart? None.

Most planning crawls from one committee to another before obtaining approval. In the words of a municipal official, the expansion plans for Yad Sarah's project got their approval "with the speed of the Concorde."

We have a stake in this. The small building closest to Yad Sarah is the house where my wife Varda's family has lived since the early 1940s. Yad Sarah occupies what used to be an empty field where Varda and her sister Gabi, and more recently Gabi's children and ours' chased butterflys, collected stones, played in the dust or mud, and lit bonfires on Lag B'Omer. Gabi and her husband live in an apartment that they built on top of her parents'. Gabi's daughter and her husband now live on the ground floor. In other words, it's a small family home, surrounding by a small garden. For those familiar with North American lot sizes, this one is 1/12 of an acre. Some of the characters in the neighborhood have been there as long as Varda's family. Jerusalem is not a small town. It has perhaps 650,000 in the municipal boundaries. Not everyone knows everyone. But when I went to a protest meeting about Lupolianski's project, I found a former student. He and his wife live in the apartment where his parents lived, around the corner from Varda's family; his uncle lives in another apartment in the same building. Together with Varda's parents, their ancestor was one of the first residents of the neighborhood.

Nobody in their right mind would argue that an empty field should be preserved for yet another generation to chase butterflys and light bonfires. Some kind of development was inevitable. I would have preferred something more modest than what has been built, and much more modest than the plans for an addition. I would especially have liked the opportunity to express reservations about the plans, without the futility of coming up against a planning commission chaired by the person whose plans were on the table for decision.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:54 AM
A Kurdish Perspective

Sherko Fatah is a prize-winning German novelist, born to a German mother and an Iraqi Kurdish father. Fatah maintains phone contact with his relatives in Iraq, and wrote about some of his recent conversations in Tuesday's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

I want to know why my uncle and his large family have stayed in Baghdad ... he knows the reality from the last war. High-tech professionals against conscripts like his son, whose own mother has to sew his uniform because the Iraqi state doesn't want to spend the money to buy him one.
Is Sulaimania gripped by fear because of the impending events or because of the Baghdad regime's likely reaction? Neither, really. Everyone is anxious but also optimistic. They tell me that there has never been so great of a chance to topple the regime as there is right now, and never before have "Assyrians, Chaldeans, Turkmen -- everybody" been so united in their reading of the situation ... One can even see the loyalist troops who were recently stationed on the Kurdish border and how weak they look in comparison with years past. They are there only for defense, not for offense. For the first time in many years, I notice, it seems that the threat of revenge from the regime is not a great cause of concern.
I am [often] asked why Germany is promoting a policy the result of which would undoubtedly keep the Baghdad regime in power. ... I try to explain, but am only met with incomprehension. Why would the Germans all of a sudden make this their own business, they ask. And I have to admit that here in recent months this has turned into a German-American issue, even something of a European issue. I say it, but I'd rather not explain it to them. Likewise when I'm asked in all seriousness how we even know that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or at least the raw materials to make them. I can't bring myself to answer that it's not only here in Germany where we can at least guess what and how much we've supplied to Iraq ourselves.

It has more to do with a general principle of rejecting the use of violence, I keep trying to explain, while I know that this beautiful stance is reserved only for those who know that their basic rights are secure.

So, just some more indications, if it wasn't clear enough already. European opposition to war may be dressed up in a costume of human rights and justice. But it's hard to argue that it is motivated by serious concern for the human rights of those who have the most skin in the game.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:46 AM
February 18, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 18

Stanford University stated on the record today that it believes that some ethnic minorities aren't as smart as others

Stanford has joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a handful of leading institutions of science and technology in filing a "friend of the court" brief arguing the importance of diversity in science and technology education and the necessity of taking race and ethnicity into account in admissions policies to achieve that diversity.
I'm open to arguments that a diverse student body (if we're talking diversity of life experience, not skin color) can enhance everybody's learning experience. This is especially true, in say, a social science program or a law school. But using skin color to create diversity in a science and technology program? Are we to believe that there is a distinctive African American perspective on mathematics, or a Cherokee tradition of chemical engineering?

I know exactly what Stanford means when it says it has "a long history of supporting affirmative action". It means lowering standards for people of certain ethnic backgrounds to the point of admitting unqualified candidates, with all that implies. How insulting to all of the minority candidates who are capable of meeting the same standards as everybody else. Stanford should be ashamed of itself.

It couldn't have happened to a nicer country: Thieves emptied more than 100 vaults at a diamond trading center in what officials said might be the largest theft ever in Antwerp, the gem trading capital of the world.

Axis of eBay: In case you missed Robert Scheer's recent line calling our allies in the mulinational campaign against Saddam

an "international coalition" that amounts to a fig leaf named Tony Blair and a motley collection of nations one can buy on eBay.
Today the Professor links to a couple of anti-Weasel editorials from our eBay allies the Czechs and the Romanians. (Can't imagine why these countries would be nervous about a Russian-German alliance, but there you have it):
Communism wrung our neck while the honourable democracies issued communiqués. And now they are surprised that all the countries in the former communist bloc do not give a damn about obsolete stratagems of France and Germany.
And we all know which side Robert Scheer was on in the Cold War, don't we.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder continues to pick up support from the unelected despots of failed states everywhere, as Egypt's Hosni Mubarak praises Schroeder's Iraq policy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:18 PM
Pictures from the Peace March

Some pictures of the weekend's Saddam-friendly "peace" march, from the San Francisco Chronicle.

The intellectual leader of the San Francisco Peace Movement, above; and the movement's moral conscience, below

Below, peace marchers are fighting to preserve democracy and freedom of expression.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:19 AM
February 17, 2003
EU gets tough on Saddam

The EU today passed a resolution to give Iraq one last chance to disarm:

"The Iraqi regime alone will be responsible for the consequences if it continues to flout the will of the international community and does not take this last chance.
What consequences will Saddam face if he declines to accept his "last chance" to disarm? Now that the EU has passed several prior resolutions that have escalated from "we're serious" to "we mean it" to "this time we really, really mean it", the next steps would be: one or two more really bad-ass resolutions followed by some onerous new cheese regulations.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:19 PM
Jacques in the Box

Weasel-in-Chief Jacques Chirac gave an interview to TIME magazine this week.

I really like the United States. I've made many excellent friends there, I feel good there. I love junk food
Yeah, that's what this land of ours is all about, junk food. Unlike French food, which is highly civilized.

Chirac also told TIME

It is not France's role to support dictatorial regimes in Iraq or anywhere else.
Of course it isn't.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:44 PM
Gary Hart was right ...

... about one thing, at least.

Hart was criticized last week for this statement on the grounds that it was a veiled anti-Semitic jibe at Jewish Americans who support the U.S.-Israel relationship

We must not let our role in the world be dictated by ... Americans who too often find it hard to distinguish their loyalties to their original homelands from their loyalties to America and its national interests.
I disagree with the allegation that the statement was either anti-Semitic or even targeted at Jewish Americans. But I did find a perfect example of what Hart was talking about.

In a story in today's San Francisco Chronicle about yesterday's Saddam-friendly "peace" riot, headlined "Bay Area anti-war coalition building the beginnings of a rainbow Anti-war movement galvanizing minorities" we learn what motivated some of the immigrants who took to the streets:

In the 400,000-strong Filipino community, many have friends or family members working in the Middle East as maids and construction workers, said Rhonda Ramiro, a San Francisco resident. An estimated 1.5 million Filipinos are employed in such jobs there.
..."And the older people lived through martial law (in the Philippines) or think that a war will bring more American military presence in the Philippines."
Somebody should read these people the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:59 AM
Womyn's Hystery Watch

Ruth Rosen, our favorite womyn's hystery professor turned hysteroid newspaper columnist and human rights (for genocidal dictators) activist, has this in her column in today's San Francisco Chronicle.

These are times that test our character. Al Qaeda threatens terrorist acts; North Korea risks going ballistic. Our government presses for war with Iraq, condemns our traditional allies, considers using tactical nuclear weapons, curtails our civil liberties, shreds our social services and offers the rich even more of the nation's wealth.
Actually, Ruth, Al Qaeda commits terrorist acts, it doesn't just threaten them. That is a little different from considering the use of certain weapons in unlikely hypothetical combat situations. North Korea already has gone ballistic. Reducing the amount of income that the government confiscates from its citizens is not the same as handing over more of the "nation's wealth". Unless you're a Maoist who thinks that private property is a crime. Well, maybe you are.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:14 AM
February 16, 2003
Axis of Weasels, ca. 1965

From Tom Lehrer's 1965 album That Was the Year That Was, the song MLF Lullaby

spoken intro: A considerable amount of commotion was stirred up during the past year over the prospect of a Multi-Lateral Force, known to the headline writers as MLF. Much of this discussion took place during the baseball season so the [San Francisco] Chronicle may not have covered it but it did get a certain amount of publicity, and the basic idea was that a bunch of us nations, the good guys, would get together on a joint nuclear deterrent force including our current friends, like France, and our traditional friends, like Germany. Here's a song about that called the MLF lullaby:

Sleep, baby, sleep, in peace may you slumber,
No danger lurks, your sleep to encumber,
We've got the missiles, peace to determine,
And one of the fingers on the button will be German.

Why shouldn't they have nuclear warheads?
England says no, but they are all soreheads.
I say a bygone should be a bygone,
Let's make peace the way we did in Stanleyville and Saigon.

Once all the Germans were warlike and mean,
But that couldn't happen again.
We taught them a lesson in nineteen eighteen,
And they've hardly bothered us since then.

So sleep well, my darling, the sandman can linger,
We know our buddies won't give us the finger.
Heil--hail--the Wehrmacht, I mean the Bundeswehr,
Hail to our loyal ally!
Will scare Brezhnev,
I hope he is half as scared as I.

And you must listen to the audio sample from Amazon.com to hear Lehrer's pronounciation of the word "France" and the audience's reaction. Yeah, the context surrounding the song was very different from the issues that we're confronting right now. Still, something essential still rings true today.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:29 AM
Hart Attack

The San Francisco Chronicle, with its ever keen eye for foreign policy wisdom, published this story on Tuesday about former Senator Gary Hart's recent speech in San Francisco.

Hart says Iraq invasion will increase terror attack risk "We're going to kick open a hornet's nest, and we are not prepared in this country," Hart told about 200 people at a joint gathering of the Council on Foreign Relations and the World Affairs Council. "When we engage in a military conflict in the Middle East, the threats to this country will skyrocket."
Hart is perhaps best known for his 1987 quote ''follow me around . . . it will be boring.'' This of course referred to the as yet unproven allegations of womanizing, which were quickly proven by the journalists who took him up on his suggestion. So you'd hope that the Chronicle would be particularly skeptical and questioning of anything that Hart says.

But no, the Chronicle seldom challenges the statements of anti-war Democrats. They didn't give Hart the opportunity to explain why he expects a wave of terrorism in response to an attack on Saddam, even though there's little historical precedent to support Hart's prediction.

First, think of all the wars in the last hundred years or so -- e.g. World Wars I & II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, El Salvador, the Gulf War. Where were the proximate terrorist attacks? I don't believe there were any. Next, think of the various terrorist attacks against U.S. civilians: e.g. World Trade Center bombing (1993); Sept. 11, 2001; Kenyan and Tanzanian embassy bombings (1998), Achille Lauro (1985). What were the proximate connections to U.S. military action? I don't believe there were any.

The only event that comes to mind that does have a clear connection to U.S. military action is PanAm flight 103 (Lockerbie). The 1988 bombing was apparently ordered by Qaddafi in retaliation for the 1986 bombing of his house, which in turn was in retaliation for the unprovoked bombing of the Berlin disco. The main lessons I take from this are that Islamic terrorism follows its own internal logic (lack thereof). It can be defeated but not accommodated. Had we been more thorough in our reaction to Qaddafi back in 1986, flight 103 might have reached its intended destination.

So I'm not ready to buy Gary Hart's jeremiads. And while we're on the subject of Gary Hart and specious foreign policy advice, don't forget that Hart was George McGovern's 1972 campaign manager.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:53 AM
February 15, 2003
Belgian Waffle

On Thursday I predicted that Belgium would waffle and wiggle out of its shamelss abrogation of responsibility to its NATO allies. I was right!

Belgium offered a compromise Saturday to end a bitter dispute within the NATO alliance over providing military aid to Turkey in advance of a possible war against Iraq.

Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said Belgium, France and Germany would endorse a U.S. proposal for such help if NATO makes clear the aid is defensive in nature and it must not be seen as making the alliance a participant in war preparations against Iraq.

Nice try, but I still say that everything in Brussels is little.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:06 PM
If only McGovern had won in 1972

From today's San Francisco Chronicle, expressing nostalgia for George McGovern's close-but-no-cigar bid for the White House

Some argue that a U.S.-led pre-emptive strike [on Iraq] without something resembling full international backing will seriously damage the country's moral standing and make it harder to persuade other countries not to act on their own.

"What is going to stop Pakistan from invading India when they feel threatened," said former Sen. George McGovern, whose opposition to the Vietnam War was the linchpin of his unsuccessful 1972 bid for the presidency. "It weakens our moral stature."

Uh, if Pakistan wants to attack India, they will do so, as they did in 1971, without any consideration for the U.S. "moral stature". On the other hand, if we step back and allow Saddam to remain in power, what kind of message would that send Pakistan about U.S. resolve and the likelihood that the U.S. would intervene to prevent them from attacking India?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:14 PM
Dishonest Leftwing Poetry Watch

Fossilized and sclerotic beat-era poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote this poem which appeared on the op-ed page of Friday's San Francisco Chronicle.

Speak Out

And a vast paranoia sweeps across the land

The only paranoia I have seen is from the Saddam-friendly "anti-war" activists, most notably from the "poets"
And America turns the attack on its Twin Towers

Into the beginning of the Third World War

The war with the Third World

Actually, it's the same Islamic nutjobs who attacked New York and Washington who are waging war against the Third World, e.g. Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Bali, Mombasa, Afghanistan, Tunisia, need I say more?
And the terrorists in Washington
yes, the Islamic nutjobs put terrorists in Washington too. Remember John Muhammad and John Malvo?
Are drafting all the young men
The draft ended in 1973, long before you were wearing diapers.
And no one speaks
Lots of people are speaking out against the government. Just because most of them seem to be idiots does not mean that there's no one speaking
And they are rousting out

All the ones with turbans

All the ones with turbans? Most of the people with turbans are Sikh and I don't know of any Sikhs who have been implicated with the Islamic nutjobs.
And they are flushing out

All the strange immigrants

not all the strange immigrants; only the dangerous Islamic nutjobs and those who have broken the law
And they are shipping all the young men
only those who volunteered to join the military
To the killing fields again

And no one speaks

Lots of people are speaking.
And when they come to round up

All the great writers and poets and painters

The only endangered writers on the planet are mainly in danger from the Islamic world or from China. The They you are refering to (i.e. the Bush family) are not rounding up any great writers and poets. And don't worry, they're not rounding up any senile has-been poets either.

The National Endowment of the Arts of Complacency

Will not speak

While all the young men

only those who volunteered to join the military
Will be killing all the young men
only those who stay loyal to Saddam and don't have the good sense to mutiny or surrender
In the killing fields again

So now is the time for you to speak

I will speak in a moment. see below
All you lovers of liberty
had better be careful when visiting Islamic countries

All you lovers of the pursuit of happiness

must better not run afoul of the Sha'aria police

All you lovers and sleepers

Your tedious poetry is putting me to sleep
Deep in your private dreams

Now is the time for you to speak

Okay, now I'll speak. Hey, Larry. Come back and see me when you have something sensible to say. In the meantime, don't waste our time with all this delusional nonsense.

O silent majority

Before they come for you

They are not coming for anybody. At least not the they Ferlinghetti is talking about. The only people who we need to worry about coming for us are the Islamic nutjobs who already came and killed and will come again.

What's most interesting is that Ferlinghetti seems to have no clue that he and his beatnik friends -- Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs -- represent precisely the values and behaviors that the Islamic terrorists and their state sponsors despise most --- freedom of expression, free love, homosexuality, sexually explicit art, socialism, the drinking of alcohol, the taking of drugs.

I'll be more inclined to listen to Ferlinghetti's anti-American hysteria and suggestions for dealing with the Islamic world after he sets up a branch of his City Lights bookstore in Riyadh and tries to sell Howl in Saudi Arabia.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:06 AM
February 14, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 14

Maybe this will inspire the ACLU to take a stand against the Baghdad-Paris Axis.

Anschluss: It looks like Austria has joined the Axis of Weasels. Just yesterday Amiland posed the question: Austria -- new Europe or old? My reply to The Ami was

Not sure I'd put it in one camp or the other. Austria is a wonderful place to hike, ski or go to the opera, but there are other countries I'd rather have in my foxhole. At least they're not (publicly) getting in our way yet.
When The Ami posted my comment yesterday he (she?) left off that last sentence. Was that inside knowledge or simply keen insight?

Forwarded from the Mrs., who works in a high-rise office building

4 x 4 Envelope Found in Front of the Eastern News Stand- Bomb Squad is Checking It Out
An unidentified package was found downstairs by See's candy and is being checked out by the police. The Clay street entrances are closed; others are open and there are guards downstairs to direct people around. Unless we hear otherwise, there is no need to disrupt your day. We'll keep you posted on any developments.
Reminds me of life in Israel where every unattended package is assumed to be a bomb. Welcome to life in a world which is shared with the nutjob wing of the Islamic party. Fortunately the package turned out to be harmless. This time.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:47 PM
Pissy Little Country

If America's defining landmark is the Statue of Liberty, then Belgium's national symbol is the Manneken Pis, a two-foot tall statue of a little boy taking a pee. Today's uncaptioned cartoon from Ha'aretz accurately depicts Belgium's stature on the world stage this week.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:58 PM
Womyn's Hystery Watch

For all the talented people in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Chronicle had to choose womyn's hystery professor Ruth Rosen to be its marquee in-house columnist. Rosen's columns display the shimmering ignorance of a woman who has led a fascinating life without ever having bothered to travel outside of her own head. Yesterday she wrote a gushing recruitment advertorial for this weekend's Parade 'o Idiots which will be protesting the liberation of Iraq.

Why, you may ask, should you participate in this demonstration? Because you are a citizen of a great nation that is violating its own democratic ideals, treating the rest of the world with dismissive contempt and refusing to be restrained by international law.
It's fatuous to suggest that defending our own security interests is a violation of our democratic ideals. And I can't find in our Constitution where it says we're supposed to surrender our sovereignty to the United Nations.

And don't get me started on the fantasy of "international law". Laws have meaning only when there is someone who can ultimately enforce those laws (using force), and international law has no such enforcer. To exchange meaningful self-defense for unenforced gauzy laws in a world full of rogue states would be like trying to fight off the man who is raping your daughter by singing the Girl Scout Law at him.

Because you are a citizen of a new global society.
I am not a citizen of a "new global society" I am a citizen of the United States of America. It is not the "community of nations" that protects my freedom or my safety. Rosen might wish to entrust her own liberty and security to the Chinese, Syrians and Cameroonians who sit on the UN Security Council, but most Americans probably wouldn't.
Globalization is about more than free trade. What we are witnessing is the birth of a grassroots global democracy.
Call me on my cellphone as soon as a left-wing Jewish feminist gets a weekly column in a Baghdad newspaper where she can invite her readers to attend anti-government demonstrations. Only then might you convince me that we have a "grassroots global democracy".
To emphasize our membership in this new global society, many protesters around the world will be carrying the U.N. flag, a fitting symbol for a new era.
Yes, the U.N. flag is a fitting symbol for these protesters, and largely because of the U.N.'s accelerating slide into dictator-coddling and irrelevance. This is the same U.N. that recently put Libya in charge of the human rights committe, Iraq in charge of the disarmament committee, and gave Syria a seat on the Security Council and its counter-terrorism committee. That makes the UN as cynical and immoral as Rosen's Saddam-friendly "peace" movement is gullible and insipid.
When people ask, as they eventually will, who stood up for human rights, let your name be among those who opposed an unjust and unnecessary war.
You bet I'll oppose an unjust and unnecessary war. But this isn't one of them. I'll stand up for human rights by applauding the peacemakers who dispose of Saddam and his nightmare of a regime. As will a lot of Iraqis.

UPDATE: Iraqi exiles in Britain react to the "anti-war" demonstrations with contempt. "It's a just war, say Iraq's exiles"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:08 PM
The Islamic Blame Game

A recent Die Zeit essay by Mordechay Lewy explains some of the fundamental differences between the Judeo-Christian west and the Islamic east, and it's all about guilt and blame -- The west has a "guilt culture" (accepting one's own guilt), while the Arab / Islamic world, which Lewy calls the Orient, has a "blame culture" (blaming others). I summarize and/or quote key portions of the essay:

Lewy examines the key question: why is it that the west can produce so many intellectuals such as Susan Sonntag, Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy who are so ready to criticize western civilization and blame the United States for the problems in the Islamic world. The latter, on the other hand, accepts little responsibility for its own inadequacies, and instead embraces conspiracy theories that typically blame the west.

Lewy identifies eight principle reasons:

1. In the Orient, one's own guilt and inadequacies are always assigned to others. Self-criticism is seldom practiced. The ability for self-correction is accordingly limited.

2. In the Orient, the preferred role is that of the victim. Conspiracy theories are forged to rationalize this behavior.

3. Islam does not have the concept of "original sin" and therefore no historical tradition of collective guilt.

4. Islam does not promote the formation of free will and individual responsibility. In the Islamic notion of man, free will is subordinate to Allah's all-encompassing pre-ordained plan.

5. In the West, there is a tendency toward the avowal of guilt, whether rightly or wrongly. Therefore the role of culprit is readily adopted.

6. The guilt society in the West promotes self-criticism, and also the capacity for self-correction.

7. In the modern West, the religious-based notion of "original sin" has been secularized to some extent, and also expresses itself in acceptance of blame for the Islamic-Arab world.

8. In the overt or covert conflict between the two cultures, the West cannot operate with a free hand, by virture of its own self-imposed moral constraints. These self-imposed restrictions will be interpreted as a weakness by the aggressive blame society of the Orient. They will not be respected in conflict situations, but exploited.

Islam does not have the same concept of original sin as in the West. The expulsion from paradise was not a key experience in the Koran. Allah forgives all sins, large and small, if the sinner shows remorse and willingness to change. In the Koran there are no explicit battles between good and evil. In western tradition, Satan can lead men astray (the Faust motif). In Islam the devil disarms himself voluntarily so that he cannot exert any power over man. A practicing Muslims becomes certain of attaining salvation, solely by fulfilling Allah's commandments. This spares him the moral dilemmas that are inherent in Christianity. In the Islamic view, guilt is an entirely personal burden, that can be lifted by the strict ritual adherence to Allah's laws. The Muslim Orient knows of no collective guilt that is passed from one generation to the next.

In the West by contrast the Christian idea of original sin has become an integral part of the civilizational understanding. The original sin has been secularized. One feels guilty for being rich, even when one's wealth is earned through hard labor. Likewise one feels remorse over the use of force, even when it is legitimate force. Anticolonialism, anticapitalism and the anti-globalisation emotions are also fed from the such feelings of guilt that one feels toward the third world. Despite its oil wealth, the Orient is also depicted as a victim. And that is why it is absolved of its role in the violence. Financial contributions to developing countries serve to pay off the guilt. The Islamists abhor the democratic values of man-made origin and therefore stand in contrast with Sharia which descends from God. But if they themselves are politically persecuted, they don't hesitate to denounce the undemocratic treatment and to appeal to human rights. Some guilt-aware westerners are easily taken in by this hypocrisy.

Likewise, Muslims use conspiracies as consoling explanations for strokes of fate, which are due to God's inexplicable wishes. If a Muslim is dealt a hand from Allah that he can't influence, he doesn't take any responsibility for it. And thus arose the tendency to explain events as the intervention of outside forces, rather to attribute them to one's own shortcomings.
Why yes, Lewy's framework of guilt and blame does help explain of a great deal of Arab and Islamic behavior which doesn't otherwise seem rational to many of us here in the west. It also explains a lot about the behavior of the left-wing self-blamers and victimologists, which doesn't seem rational either.(Thanks to German reader Tobias Kuhn for suggesting this article)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:57 AM
February 13, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 13

Fascinating Search Engine Query Watch I just got a hit from the United Arab Emirates looking for "uae gay sheik". Not that there's anything wrong with it. Just don't tell the Islamic police

The Belgians, at some point, will probably back down from their morally bankrupt and overreaching attempts to put Israeli soldiers on trial for fabricated human rights abuses, while simultaneously tanking the NATO alliance in order to keep Saddam Hussein in power. When they do back down, the wags will undoubtedly chuckle "Belgian waffles!" (you heard it here first). In the meantime, we will call the Belgians (their government, that is) "a bunch of Belgian chocolate boobs" [as seen in a Bruges shop window].

Multinational Unilateralism Watch The predominantly Muslim Kazakhstan, a former member republic of the USSR, is the latest country to join the several dozen other countries in the unilateral coalition to disarm Iraq.

Thomas Friedman writes that

the Bush hawks need to realize they cannot achieve their ultimate aim of disarming and transforming Iraq without maximum international legitimacy...We don't need a broad coalition to break Iraq. We can do that ourselves. But we do need a broad coalition to rebuild Iraq, so that the American taxpayer and Army do not have to bear that full burden or be exposed alone at the heart of the Arab-Muslim world. President Bush, if he alienates the allies from going to war — the part we can do alone — is depriving himself of allies for the peace — the part where we'll need all the friends we can get.
Read the whole thing. Friedman makes some good points and also tells the Euro-doves to get real and cooperate with the US. But I think he misses the main point. Once Saddam has been dispatched to join up with Nebuchadnezzar then I suspect that Gerhard, Vlad and Jacques are going to be in a very different posture than they are in today. With the US-led coalition in control of Iraq, the Euro-moochers are going to be lining up like hookers at a dental convention for some of those big-ticket contracts to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure and resell Iraqi oil. No, I don't think there will be too much of a problem with other countries ceding to the US exclusive influence over post-Saddam Iraq and its resources. They just want to stick us with the check for the hard part.

John Hawkins posted his interview of Mark Steyn. It's well worth reading.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:13 PM
The Chronicle on Iraq

When I read the editorials in the San Francisco Chronicle I often get the urge to bang my head against the floor. Why does the paper only hire editorial writers who seem to have learned everything they know about international politics from a yoga teacher in a Marin County hot tub?

Here is Tuesday's editorial. Read it and marvel.

Alienating allies on the way to war
a more accurate headline would have been "France and Germany -- Alienating allies on the way to appeasement"
IF THE IRAQI leadership is at all rational,
Stop right there. If the Iraqi leadership were at all rational, they would not, for example, be playing chicken with the Fifth Fleet and the 101st Airborne.
it can still head off a devastating U.S. military attack
the only way Saddam could do that, at this point, would be to swallow his own ricin
by demonstrating conclusively to the world that it has disarmed, or is doing so without another moment's delay.
Nobody in their right mind will believe that Iraq has disarmed completely, let alone disarmed permanently. The only people who would accept Saddam's assurances at this point are the raging clueless and those who want Saddam to stay in power.

Such a credible showing of Baghdad's acceptable behavior can be achieved with the aid of newly agreed-to U-2 surveillance flights, and greatly augmented U.N. inspection teams prying unimpeded into every suspected trove of illegal weaponry. Gone would be the deception and delaying tactics long practiced by Saddam Hussein and condemned by U.N. inspectors as well as President Bush.

right. Saddam will suddenly take a Dale Carnegie Course and cease being a lying son of a bitch.
Is such a resolution too much to be hoped for,
given the suspicions and irreconcilable aims on both sides? Perhaps.
Given Saddam's long track record, we are not dealing with "suspicion"
Only modest expectations were aroused by the top inspectors' expression of optimism on an urgent weekend visit to Baghdad, where they were given more Iraqi documents about purportedly abandoned nuclear, chemical and biological efforts and heard assurances of more cooperation.
Just enough documents to encourage the most credulous of fools to rush to their typewriters to bang out editorials in Saddam's defense

In its seeming haste for war,

haste? this has been dragging out for years
the Bush administration is engaged in a potentially damaging dispute with some of its most important NATO allies,
Allies? You mean the disturbingly self-interested and militarily weak fair weather friends like France, Germany and (ha! ha!) Belgium (?!)
and with Russia, over how to proceed in disarming Hussein.
Here's a quiz question: Why does Saddam have to be disarmed in the first place? Is it because he was armed by (a) France, (b) Germany (c) Russia (d) all of the above

France, Germany and Russia have joined in a call for strengthened and extended U.N. inspections to avert war and promote a diplomatic resolution with Baghdad.

There may be several reasons for this, some possibilities are: (a) they want Saddam to stay in power so they can keep doing business with him (b) they know we're going to do this anyway, and they're glad that we are, they just want us to do all the dirty work and take all the heat for being the bad guy
France and Russia both have veto power in the U.N. Security Council,
and all that proves is that the composition of the Security Council is 56 years out of date
where the administration hopes for passage of a second resolution authorizing military action
the administration might hope for a resolution, but they're not going to wait for another one
against an unrepentant Iraq.
repentance is not the issue. Being a threat to civilization is the issue
These longtime allies
Russia is not a "longtime" ally, unless you were a member of the Communist Party USA.
want to make sure the United States makes a sincere effort to exhaust alternatives to war,
been there, done that
such as more rigorous inspections, a reasonable
says who?
posture shared by many Americans.
a shrinking minority

Belgium, Germany and France further embarrassed Bush by blocking NATO planning to protect Turkey from Iraqi attack in the event of war.

more to the point they embarassed themselves and have acted, ahem, unilaterally to abrogate their obligations under a treaty
Turkey borders Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, which could be a second front in an assault on Baghdad. U.S. Special Forces are already on the ground there.
God bless 'em.

The Bush administration must attend seriously to the strain in the Atlantic alliance, which was aggravated by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's offensive dismissal of the "old Europe."

In fact, the strain in the alliance is attributable to the rapidly downward-swirling Gerhard Schroeder, whose colleagues compared George Bush unfavorably to Adolf Hitler and Augustus Caesar
The United States, even as the lone superpower, needs these old democratic friends in a world where the war against terrorism is far from won and may or may not not have much to do with the threat of Hussein's arsenal.
We do need our friends in Germany, but we and the Germans alike need Gerhard Schroeder like we need an extra hole in the head

Almost a week after Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the U. N. Security Council of our government's case against Hussein, ambiguities remain in the record about Iraq's real intentions.

The only "ambiguities" are along the following lines: can they produce nuclear weapons in 2 years or 3? Would they put ricin in the drinking water or in restaurants? Which American or European city will be hit first?
The chief inspectors will make an updated report Friday about Iraqi cooperation,
"Tales of Iraqi Co-operation" That sounds like one of those old "books that were never written" jokes, like "Spots on the Great Wall of China, by Hoo Flung Poo"
and that could bend further Security Council deliberation in the direction of more diplomacy -- or toward the use of force.
For some reason it doesn't seem to matter how grim the inspectors reports are, but Russia, France and the San Francisco Chronicle always seem to demand another go at inspections

This is a moment for the United States to be persuading its allies, not alienating them.

Anybody who isn't already persuaded is unpersuadable, and also has some serious explaining of their own to do.

What's most interesting and pathetic, really, about the Chronicle editorial is the way that it instinctively blames Bush for the rift in NATO. What masquerades as internationalism is merely the naive provincialism and fashionable anti-Bush mentality of the Bay Area liberal. If anybody at the Chronicle actually bothered to read, say, the German press, they might understand how badly Gerhard Schroeder is being criticized on all sides at home for alienating his supposed allies (e.g. us). Read this op-ed ("Bismarck must be spinning in his grave at Germany's blunder") written by Josef Joffe, editor of the leading German weekly Die Zeit. And lest you suspect that his is his own form of reflexive criticism of the home team, read both the Joffe piece and the Chronicle piece and decide for yourself which one displays the most insight into trans-Atlantic affairs as well as the most common sense.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:00 AM
February 12, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 12

Why does the AP bother to publish this garbage?

A British-based Islamic news agency
[Now that has credibility written all over it]
said Thursday it has a new audio recording of Osama bin Laden in which he predicts he will die as "a martyr" this year in an attack against his enemies.

The Al-Ansaar news agency said that the 53-minute tape was allegedly recorded this month and acquired from a seller who advertised over the Internet.

Yeah, and I have a bin Laden tape too. Elvis Presley dropped it off at my house this evening.

Shitty Little Country Watch A Belgian court has ruled that Ariel Sharon can be tried for genocide (the Sabra and Shatila massacre) after he leaves office. The "case" against Sharon is not that he ordered the massacres, but that he somehow failed to anticipate or take action against the Lebanese Christian Arabs who actually committed the atrocities. For some reason, the plaintiffs' objective is not to prosecute the Arab culprits but to find an excuse to persecute the uninvolved Israelis. The other thing that is remarkable here is this. Even in the unlikely event that Belgium would want to prosecute any Arab leader (such as Saddam Hussein) for their various mass murders, they wouldn't have much of a chance. Hardly any Arab leaders leave office alive, unless by force. And Belgium has made it clear that they're going to stand in the way of removing Saddam.

Imshin explains why Iraqis and Israelis have more in common than you might expect.

Put him in the comfy chair: UN Set to Take N.Korea Crisis to Security Council

The governing body of the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog is expected to adopt a toughly worded resolution on North Korea on Wednesday that would take the standoff with Pyongyang before the U.N. Security Council.
Yeah, now that the Security Council has decided to get tough, it should buy Kim Jong Il at least a dozen more years to really ramp up his nuclear weapons program.

Ze'ev Schiff reveals the silver lining in the Axis of Weasels' self-immolation and isolation on Mideast security matters: The end of the unhelpful and meddlesome "Quartet Road Map", and the EU's loss of influence on Israeli-Palestinian matters.

For Israel, the crisis over Iraq is proof that European and European Union thinking is tendentious, based on irrelevant considerations that can complicate problems rather than solve them.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:49 PM
February 11, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 11

Let them eat Semtex The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is responsible for feeding and housing hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in "refugee camps" is about to run out of money. You know, if the Palys had accepted the UN Partition Plan of 1947, or the various other plans for peace and statehood that have been offered to them in the 55 subsequent years, or if their Arab "brothers" treated them like human beings, they would not be festering in "refugee camps". Similarly, if they had invested their efforts in creating a civil society and a functioning economy instead of making bombs and murdering Jews, they would all have homes and lives and they wouldn't need the United Nations to give them food and shelter for their entire lives as if they were a bunch of zoo animals. Of course the people who live in these miserable camps deserve to have decent lives. But until there is a Palestinian leadership that can put an end to the terrorism and guide the people toward a realistic future (i.e. Israel will continue to exist and the "refugees" may get homes in Jericho, but not Jaffa), a lot of Palestinians will stay hungry and miserable, unfortunately.

You know, if it really was only about the oil, it would be a hell of a lot easier to invade Alberta, Mexico or Norway instead of Iraq. Just thought I'd mention it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:51 PM
Today in the German Press

As you'd expect, the German press is all over the various crises that Herr Schröder is causing: in the UN, NATO, his coalition, etc.

Der Spiegel reports that "Germany sees itself in the mainstream of the UN", referring to its insistence on avoiding war in Iraq (=leaving Saddam in power). Not that being in the mainstream of the UN is anything to be proud of...

Klaus Naumann, former Inspector-General of the Bundeswehr and one-time chairman of NATO's military committee has harsh words for the Schröder-Chirac plan to send an army of UN troops to Iraq to disarm and contain Saddam.

I think it's unrealistic. Such a mission could be successful only if Saddam actually wanted inspections. And that's the heart of the problem: Saddam Huessein has never wanted to disarm. You have to realize that these weapons are inseparable from the regime. And I doubt whether he'd give up these weapons voluntarily
Naumann also criticizes Schröder for blindsiding his own foreign and defense ministers who were at the Munich conference when the leaked plan appeared in the press, and had no idea how to respond. "I really feel sorry for Fischer", he says.

On the other hand, it's hard to imagine that Schröder wanted his disarmament plan leaked to begin with. Who would have been motivated to do such a thing to torpedo Schröder? Scott Hanson thinks he knows.

Schröder is apparently being hailed by most of his own (shrinking) party as the leader of the world wide peace movement, and a candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to peacefully disarm Iraq. (If Viscount Cecil of Chelwood could earn a Nobel for encouraging the British to disarm while Hitler was rearming, and Jimmy the Dhimmi can win a Nobel for peacefully disarming North Korea, then why should the Nobel committee bother to raise its standards?)

But while Schröder is leading the world's Useful Idiots in a chorus of "Kumbaya, Saddam", he's losing friends left and right at home, including some leading foreign policy experts from his own party, who criticize the chancellor for having "irreparably damaged" the relationship with Washington.

According to last week's poll of German voters, Schröder has only a 28% approval rating, and if a new federal election were held today, the opposition Christian Democrats would trounce Schröder's Social Democrats 49% - 27%. The more popular Christian Democrats have come out in support of the US position on Iraq.

(To put Schröder's numbers in context, Bush has a 61% approval rating among US voters and is the early favorite against any potential challengers in 2004)

The best news in today's papers (and not directly related to Schröder) is that our old friend Jürgen Möllemann may finally be leaving the Bundestag. A poll of his party colleagues had 39 in favor of expulsion with 1 against and 5 abstentions. But Möllemann has also, uh, voluntarily announced his resignation. A similar vote in the Nordrhein-Westfalen state parliament allowed him to keep his seat, falling one vote shy of two-thirds majority needed for his expulsion. What could Möllemann do now that he has more time on his hands? I propose he might be very useful as a human shield in Baghdad. Möllemann, president of the German-Arab Friendship Society, was federal commerce minister in the 1980s and helped supply Iraq with materials for its chemical weapons production. He also reportedly attended a party held in Germany to celebrate Saddam's birthday.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:37 PM
What If the Government...

Last time on "What If the Government..." we asked the question: "What if the government ran the telephone company?"

Today we ask: "What if the government were in charge of the schools?".
Answer: One can only imagine the sorts of things that would go wrong if the government were in charge of the schools. For example, insane bureaucratic rules would mean that it could take up to 14 years to build new school buildings. Incompetent oversight could mean that hundreds of millions of dollars in construction costs would be wasted before people figured out that a new school was built on, say, a toxic waste dump.

Political pressure from lunatic fringe activists of both the left and right would cause classics of American literature, such as Catcher in the Rye or Huckleberry Finn, to be censored and removed from school libraries.

Millions of people would graduate from high school and even college as functional illiterates. And even those students who wanted to learn would be prevented from doing so by other children with chronic behavior problems against whom the school authorities are powerless to take effective action.

Again, we don't have to worry about any of this, because these nightmare scenarios would only come to pass if we actually put the government (ha! ha!) in charge of the schools. So please join us next time for another edition of "What If the Government..." and remember this thought experiment the next time somebody talks about expanding the role of government.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:13 AM
February 10, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 10

The Religion of Peace ("not a new form of Nazism") was caught today carrying a suitcase with 20 kg of explosives.

Meanwhile, it seems, the Hamas branch of the Religion of Peace ("not a new form of Nazism") might have expressed some willingness recently to stop attacking civilians inside Israel (temporarily, when they get around to actually agreeing to stop the attacks, and with a possible exception for suicide bombs, see above). Ha'aretz cites a PA report that puts Hamas tactics in context: Any such "ceasefire" is only for tactical reasons. Hamas' real goal is to assume power in the PLO and PA and they'll commit mass murder whenever it serves their political aims (Read the whole thing). If you also read the Hamas Charter you will see that their end game is to establish Sha'aria law and make Israel judenrein. Whatever peace that Israel might be able to achieve with other Palestinians, there is no way to make peace or negotiate with Hamas. I suspect that a necessary pre-condition for a meaningful peace in the region would be to liquidate all Hamas institutions and a large number of its supporters.

The Axis of Weasels, apparently not content with castrating only the United Nations, has now set its sights on dismantling NATO. Yes, the Friedman plan to rejuvenate the UN by having India replace France on the Security Council is a good one. Maybe have India replace France in NATO as well?

A shocking discovery: In 1944, The German-American Bund sent a group of human shields to Hamburg to prevent the Allied invasion of Europe. (well, almost)

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:01 AM
The Liberal Media on Yugoslavia

The disappearance of Yugoslavia (or at least its renaming) got me thinking. In light of the liberal media's coverage criticizing the Bush Administration on Iraq, I started wondering how the liberal media's foreign policy sages covered the 1999 war against Yugoslavia. Were they for the war or against it? What did they predict? How right were their predictions? What have they learned in the interim and have they applied those lessons to their coverage of Iraq? Let's turn back the clock to March 1999 and rummage through some archives, shall we?

The San Francisco Chronicle printed this op-ed piece on March 24 titled Clinton to Bomb Again -- Now Serbia Is the U.S. interest to `stop the killing' or to expand the police power of NATO?

With already hundreds of U.S. military facilities around the world and new U.S. bases in Macedonia and Hungary, along with the expansion of NATO eastward to now include the former Warsaw Pact countries of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, a picture is being painted that any student might recognize as resembling designs of the Roman or British empires. No one should fool themselves about who is enjoying the spoils of victory of the Cold War.
Ah, yes, the mundane KFOR as the spoils of victory and the return of the Roman Empire. This author is nobody's fool, for sure, except perhaps his own.
This denigration of international law threatens to exact a horrible price for the future of peace and justice in world affairs, both for Americans and others. While this unilateral action by U.S.-led NATO forces against Yugoslavia is illegal under the U.N. charter, it also represents a dangerous precedent, namely the attack of an independent, sovereign state, which violates all of the founding principles upon which international law has been based. It portends a more lawless future.
The worst lawlessness in the world since then has been the anti-Western violence emanating from the Arab and Islamic quarters, and probably not attributable to America's defense of Kosovar Muslims.

The Chronicle also ran a few articles from the New York Times which implied that bombing Serbia would only make matters worse --
March 27 A Military Loss by Yugoslav Forces Could Be Political Plus for Milosevic

``It sometimes looks like America and Europe are doing all things to support the survival of Milosevic,'' said a 31-year-old rock musician drinking beer at Wunderbar. ``After the bombing and the loss of Kosovo, he will be stronger.''
March 30 "Milosevic's Acts May Prevent More Talks; Brutality could make negotiation uneasy for West "
As reports of Yugoslav forces killing and evicting the ethnic Albanians emerge from Kosovo, a critical question has arisen for the West: At what point do brutal acts by Slobodan Milosevic, and the increasingly personal attacks on him by the West, make it impossible ever to negotiate with him again? ... The United States has looked in recent years for credible and moderate opposition figures in Serbia, without unearthing many.
Four years later, you tell me -- who is worse, Kostunica or the jailed Milosevic?

The following is from the Progressive Magazine from May 1999, titled Bill Clinton's War

This NATO war is another boost for the nationalists in Russia, where all the ingredients of a revanchist regime are in place: a lost empire, a ruined economy, a humiliated leadership. Clinton's chief accomplishment in office may turn out to be that he laid the groundwork for a new Cold War.
Sorry, Russia has not revived the Cold War any more than Spain has revived the Inquisition
Bombing is not the answer. And ground troops are not the answer. The answer is to stop the war, negotiate a settlement, and dedicate our energy and our Pentagon treasury to finding peaceful ways to settle conflicts instead of resorting to war.

The United Nations is the only proper forum for addressing and resolving the difficult issue of humanitarian interventions. These are global problems; they are not the province of the lone superpower or of the alliance it dominates. Only when the United Nations exercises its responsibility and expands its power will it be able to intervene with enough force to prevent humanitarian catastrophes.

That last sentence was true, at least. But it's easy to demand a ruthless adherence to fictitious processes when you're sitting in your safe comfortable home in Madison, Wisconsin, a city where no child has ever been murdered in her bed while waiting for the French and Chinese to approve a Security Council Resolution for her benefit.

Most intriguing was this San Francisco Chronicle editorial from March 16, titled "Count Kosovo as Vital to America's Interest":

MANY AMERICANS don't get it. Why is a poor, landlocked Kosovo worth sending U.S. troops or weeks of diplomatic overdrive? What vital interests does this country have in a Connecticut-sized realm embroiled in ethnic strife not of our making?
For 50 years NATO has had the task of containing the former Soviet Union. Now the alliance must handle new trouble -- meeting the challenges of ethnic and religious tensions. Credibility is everything for the military pact which the U.S. founded.

There is also a profound moral dimension to Kosovo. Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milosevic regards his province as a fiefdom beyond the world's control. He wants to tear up agreements on Kosovo autonomy by moving in soldiers and police who have displaced tens of thousands of refugees. He must be curbed from further dirty work.
But the importance of peace in Kosovo should not be lost on Americans, who live half a world away. Kosovo, tiny and unfamiliar, still draws in this country's interests.

This is striking in the context of the Chronicle's editorial of Feb. 6, 2003, which rejects military action against Iraq on the grounds that Saddam is not an "imminent threat" to the US. I read the March 1999 editorial four times and even played it backwards on my phonograph. For some reason the phrase "imminent threat to the US" does not appear. NATO didn't even have UN approval for its aerial bombing campaign. All the arguments that the Chronicle used to justify action against Milosevic apply to Saddam. Why, I wonder, does the Chronicle demand such a higher standard to act against Saddam, who makes Milosevic look like the Mahatma Gandhi? Could it be pure partisanship to support a Democratic President but not a Republican President? Does the Chronicle think it's okay to use force for purely selfless humanitarian reasons to save non-Americans, but wrong to use force that is justified for both humanitarian reasons and also for defending US interests? Does the Chronicle think it's only okay to go to war against Europeans, but not against non-Europeans?

NATO's bombing of Serbia lasted less than three months, and ended with the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo and their replacement by NATO ground troops. Milosevic was ousted less than a year and a half later. Life in Serbia and Kosovo seems to be an improvement, at least, from what was there before the NATO campaign. The liberal media doesn't seem to have learned anything since then to overcome its near evangelical belief in unilateral pacifism. And the Chronicle has taken a giant step backwards, toward the Progressive's fantasy view of the universe.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:00 AM
February 09, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 9

I just met Robin Williams outside of my neighborhood Peet's Coffee. I was holding David, and Williams was getting out of his black Mercedes SUV. He lives in San Francisco and many local residents have a "I saw Robin Williams at the store today!" story. This is my first official Robin sighting. I said "Hi, howya doin'?". He responded not with a comedic "Nanu-Nanu", but with a very friendly "Hi, how are you?"

Last night we went to see Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, based on Chuck Barris' "unauthorized autobiography" of the same name. I'm certain that the part about the CIA assassinations is entirely fictional. But do see the movie and be sure to look for a cameo by Matt Damon as Bachelor Number 2.

This week's issue of The Economist has a story [paid subscribers only] on the recent annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference. Regarding some of the merchandise on sale at the meeting:

One activist stopped selling his “No Muslims = No terrorism” stickers when the vice-president's office complained. But there was no shortage of anti-Islamic ware: T-shirts mocking the idea that Islam is a religion of peace, mugs hinting that Islam is a new form of Nazism.
It is certainly the case that many Muslims share the Nazi fetishes for totalitarianism and murderous anti-Semitism, but it is an insult to those same Muslims to suggest that Islam is a "new form of Nazism". Islam pre-dates Nazism by more than thirteen centuries.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:17 PM
February 08, 2003
What If the Government...?

On today's installment of "What If the Government...?" we ask the question "What if the government ran the telephone company?"

Answer: If the government had been in charge of the nation's telephone system since inception, all innovation would have slowed to a trickle. Say good-bye to cellular phones, fax machines, touch-tone and even dial phones. If you were even lucky enough to have a phone in your home in the first place, it would look like this one:

and all calls would still have to be completed by operators. Not least because the American Federation of Telephone Operators would have been the largest constituency in the Democratic party, ahead of even public school teachers, trial lawyers and welfare recipients. So naturally, the Donkey party would have enshrined their jobs into law too.

Please join us next time for another edition of "What If the Government..." and remember this thought experiment the next time somebody talks about expanding the role of government.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:19 PM
The Chronicle on Iraq

In Thursday's editorial about Colin Powell's UN speech, The San Francisco Chronicle said that Powell made a compelling case, but that

There are several compelling reasons for restraint at this moment.

For all the damning evidence of Hussein's tyranny and evil ambitions -- neither of which has been in doubt since the Persian Gulf War -- Powell did not show that Iraq amounted to an imminent threat to the United States.

I'm not sure that "imminent threat" is the necessary standard for military action. And how is "imminent threat" even defined? For that matter, one could argue that Germany was not an "imminent threat" to the US in December 1941. Because even though Hitler had declared war on us, it's not like the Luftwaffe was circling over Philadelphia. One gets the impression that the Chronicle is not going to declare Saddam an "imminent threat" unless and until a committee of three lesbian Global Exchange members personally witness Saddam personally counting down the launch of a nuclear missile aimed at, say, a minority-owned organic grocery store in a Democratic precinct. The Chronicle concludes
Restraint and ever-toughening diplomacy should not be mistaken for weakness or appeasement of Iraq.
No, nobody will ever mistake this for weakness or appeasement, because that is precisely what it is. "Ever-toughening diplomacy"? What exactly does the Chronicle have in mind? What are we to offer Saddam? What can we threaten him with that we haven't already threatened? Who in their right mind would believe any assurances that Saddam might give?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:00 AM
February 07, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 7

I woke up this morning to the nasal whining [audio] of Howard Zinn arguing that grade school teachers must never inculcate in their students that the US is a great nation. Instead of learning to appreciate the exceptional nation we live in, he believes, children must be taught mainly about all the things that are wrong with America (but not necessarily the bad things about other countries). At some point, presumably, he'll demand that the UN Security Council pass a resolution calling for regime change in Washington DC, to be carried out by a coalition led by the French and the Saudis.

And speaking of France, did you know that the French haven't won a single war since 1565?

Bill Clinton is calling on Saddam Hussein to "come to his senses and disarm". Come to his senses? I think it's a stretch to assume that he has any senses. (thanks to Joseph Leitmann for pointing this out)

And speaking of making charitable assumptions about the rationality of insane despots, NPR reports [audio] that North Korea is threatening pre-emptive strikes against American troops in South Korea. NPR's Rob Gifford acknowledges that the North Korean regime is not rational, but also says that the Bush Administration has concluded that the only way to resolve the nuclear weapons situation is to "negotiate", even though that amounts to nuclear blackmail. Perhaps, but as in the case of any other negotiations with a mentally unstable hostage taker, the purpose of the negotiation should be to buy only enough time to get a clear shot at the madman.

FLASH 11:53am PST. Ha'aretz has this bulletin:

Turkish TV: Man claiming to have bomb seizes 2 hostages at Istanbul airport; CNN-Turk TV: No flights to, from Istanbul
UPDATE: The situation seems to have been resolved. Turkish police stormed the plane and removed the hijacker, who appeared to have been drunk. There is no indication he had any ties to any radical group.

Why dosn't this sort of thing surprise me anymore?: The Religion of Peace has been caught using a mosque as a place to stash suicide bomber explosive belts.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:56 PM
An Israeli Perspective on Iraq, etc.

Commentary from my father, Hebrew University political scientist Ira Sharkansky

Ilan Ramon was the ideal Israeli image of a warrior: handsome, well-spoken, son of Holocaust survivor, with an appropriate bit of religiosity and national pride. We mourn his loss.

Quite different was the officer sent by Civil Defense to one of the major nightly television news shows to explain the situation as currently perceived. He looked a bit overaged; not particularly handsome with a receding chin and a small growth on his forehead; in a uniform that was as tired as he. All in all, not the ally one would pick from a picture book to fight on a battlefield or in a bureaucracy. And he clearly was under orders not to say anything.

He was pressed time and again to say when civilians should prepare themselves with plastic sheeting and tape to seal a room against gas, and otherwise stock up on bottled water, canned goods, and batteries for the portable radio. In response, he could only say that it was appropriate to update older gas masks, and wait on further instructions from civil defense. "Rely on us" was the message offered to a population that is cynical with respect to authority, even when it's dressed in an army uniform.

Other reports are that the population is well stocked on the stuff to seal a room, as well as other accoutrements to do the best it can under the circumstances.

On the one hand we hear that Iraq is less well equipped than in 1991, and that the US is better equipped. We hear that the first target of the US will be Iraq's western desert, from which Iraq can launch bad things against Israel. We also hear that there are other first targets of the US, including Iraqi communications, air defenses, and key military bases. Especially disturbing are reports that Iraq has moved substantial amounts of chemical and biological agents to the western areas from which they can be launched against us. We are told that the Patriot missiles are better this time. Last time they failed to knock down any scuds, and falling pieces of the Patriots caused some of the damage. Not a good benefit-cost ratio. The IDF says that its own Arrow missiles are great. Which means that they passed some of the tests in experimental firings.

Hopefully, there will be enough US power and dedication to pursue all the things called first targets, including those that are important for us.

Our own best personal defense may be the Arab population in and around Jerusalem, and the prominent mosques. Tel Aviv is a better target for Iraq, but we should not rely on Iraq's technology, or feel secure because other Israelis are less secure.

Powell sounded all right at the UN laying out the evidence about Iraqi duplicity. When he testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he edged closer to his own duplicity. I've not found much coverage in the press for what I heard him say on a broadcast: that it was nearing time to implement the "road map" for peace in the Middle East. If this was lip service to the Arabs, okay. If it was a preview of US pressure on Israel to make concessions to terrorists in order to make the world more convenient for the US administration, then we'll have a problem.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:32 AM
February 05, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 5

"Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you". So said my fortune cookie at lunch today. That would also be an apt description of France and Germany's pusillanimous responses over the decades to various threats. Think of how these two countries have dealt with dangerous phenomenon, such as Nazism, Arab terrorism, the Baader-Meinhof gang, the recent civil war in the Ivory Coast and Saddam. The pattern is basically to try to appease the bad guy just enough to get them to leave you alone -- and to cause trouble to somebody else. And it's inevitably left to the somebody else like the US, Israel and/or Britain to deal with the problem and save France and Germany's sorry asses anyway.

No shit, Sherlock! USA Today reports that "War could fix or flatten economy", and quotes a professor who says "it really depends". Thank God for experts!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:01 PM
Eugene Diary

I took a short trip to Eugene, Oregon this weekend to see friends. It was my first time there. I found it to be a mostly pleasant if somewhat quiet little town with nice parks and beautiful wooded hills. But the politics? One gets the sense that there's a large faction of Ken Kesey worshippers still waiting for their guru to drive back into town on his painted bus. Some highlights:

On the local public radio station I heard part of a speech given to the Oregon Peace Festival by warmed-over Ramparts magazine stalwart Reese Erlich. The title of the speech was "TARGET IRAQ: WHAT THE NEWS MEDIA DIDN'T TELL YOU", based on his book about his recent visit to Iraq with Norman Solomon and other fellow travelers. In fact, there was nothing in his speech that I hadn't already heard in the media, except for his unique analysis, which had been liberated from all constraints of logic and common sense (sort of like what you sometimes read in the New York Times or San Francisco Chronicle, but more so) And why is it that it is mainly at government-funded universities that you find people giving speeches with a straight face on the subject of "what the corporate-owned media doesn't tell you about the corporate-owned government" and also have the same speech broadcast on public radio (which is subsidized by corporations as well as the government)?

In the local alternative Eugene Weekly newspaper the letters to the editor section contained these priceless gems. Example:

Since the political coups of 2000-02, the Republican Party should be renamed the Fascist Union of Corporate Kings (FUCK) whose prime purpose is to FUCK the resources, institutes and peoples of the world: Karl Rove is making Rasputin look like an angel. When the full truth is known about everything the Bushies have done, it will become the biggest scandal in the history of the U.S. The cleansing wind of freedom and justice will blow the secrets away. That is my hope.
If it is good for the United States to have atomic and other weapons of mass destruction, it is also good for Iraq, Iran and North Korea to have them; and if it is evil for Iraq, Iran and North Korea to have them, it is also evil for the U.S. to have them. Tit for tat, and shit for shat.
All I can say is I'm glad it's George Bush who is in charge of such weapons, and not, say, the Eugene city council.

I had brunch with a friend at the very fine Zenon Cafe. The guy at the next table kept interrupting us. He described himself as a "global warming advisor to over 200 Oregon churches" and told us about his solution to the state's budget woes. "We need to be more like Sweden, Denmark and Germany and decide what kind of society we want to have ... and part of the problem is that our tax revenues keep fluctuating, we need to have more stable, predictable tax revenues ... the media doesn't tell us how serious global warming really is ... so the way to solve both our financial and environmental problems is to base all taxes on carbon fuel consumption! It will be a tax that people are glad to pay, so we can trust people to self report how much they drive every year." In addition to being an expert on global warming and economics, he also told us he was a "therapist and expert on Oriental [sic] medicine". Then he stood up from the table to get another bottle of ketchup for his corned-beef hash with eggs and fried potatoes. He was so fat he couldn't walk, he could only waddle. I felt like suggesting that we also solve our spiraling cost of healthcare by taxing, say, edible fat consumption, but I didn't say this. As my friend and I left, the global warming Oriental ketchup healer wished me well: "Enjoy your visit to Eugene. You'll find that it's a very special place".


But I have hope for Eugene. In addition to all the yard signs with "anti-war" (i.e. leave Saddam alone) messages, there was also one house with a window sign proclaiming "Free People Will Set The Course Of History"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:04 PM
February 01, 2003
Here and There, Feb. 1

You know that it would only be a matter of time until the tin-foil-hat brigade claimed that the shuttle tragedy is mainly about distracting public opinion away from the impending war on Saddam: SHUTTLE DISASTER=TEXTBOOK PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE OPERATION -- MASS DISTRACTION/MASS UNIFIER

Another set of key data points that need to be looked at are:
-This is the first Israeli in space -- the fact that he died on board is given twice as much attention than the other six are getting combined. This is being used as a type of tribal bonding mechanism for the coming war for empire in the Middle East. "Our champion warriors died with your champion warriors..."
-You cannot ignore the fact that globalists are obsessed with numerology and that this was the 113th flight of the space shuttle program.
um, yeah. This is parody, right?

Glenn Reynolds' coverage of the tragedy is more enlightening and thoughtful, of course.

More evidence that Arafat gave the green light and funding for terrorist attacks against civilians

Separated at Birth?

Miss PiggySuha Arafat

Bush administration officials increasingly believe North Korea is moving rapidly to produce a nuclear weapons, but they privately say they have few options to thwart the threat. If they don't think they have enough options, they are limited only by a failure of imagination. Here is my modest proposal to deal with the problem: (1) Remove all 37,000 American troops from South Korea. (2) Fire enough nuclear-armed ICBMs into North Korea to turn both Pyongyang and Yongbon into smoking piles of trash. (3) Give Kim Dae-Jung and Jimmy Carter each a pail and a shovel and let them clean up the mess.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:12 PM
Axis of Esel

schroederwitze.de is a German website dedicated to jokes about Gerhard Schröder. Examples:

Schröder wanted to buy a pair of opera tickets, but he wasn't sure what to do, so he decided to imitate the person ahead of him in line. The latter tells the clerk "I'd like a pair of tickets for Tristan and Isolde". Schröder then says "I'll have a pair of tickets for Gerhard and Doris"
Q: What's the difference between the Baby Jesus and Doris Schröder?
A: Baby Jesus had to sleep next to a jackass for only one night
Then there's this photograph with the caption "Lies have short legs"

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:57 PM