May 31, 2003
Sherlock Holmes, Norwegian Style

Palestinian sought over Iran embassy attack in Oslo

OSLO, May 30 — Norwegian police said a Palestinian man had claimed responsibilty for throwing fire extinguisher powder into Iran's embassy on Friday and setting fire to his car outside the building, but they ruled out terrorism.
Police said the man, who had a psychiatric history, had telephoned them and admitted to the attack that forced one embassy employee to be taken to hospital with breathing troubles from the powder.
They said they failed to get the man to surrender, but hoped to arrest him soon after charging him with vandalism in his absence, a crime carrying a jail sentence of up to one year.
''This is not a terrorist attack,'' Deputy Police Commissioner Roger Andresen said.
Andresen said the same man had made an attempt to set a car ablaze outside the Israeli embassy in Olso five years ago.
The attack was the first on an embassy in Norway since a purported audio tape by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda listed the country last week alongside the United States, Britain and Australia as a target for attacks.
Governments around the world have been on alert for packages containing white powder since a series of anthrax attacks in the United States killed five people in 2001.
The Aftenposten daily newspaper reported the man had also phoned it to say Palestinians needed a state of their own and that Iran was hampering the process by supporting groups such as Hizbollah and al Qaeda
At least the man was right about Iran, Hizbollah and al Qaeda hampering the peace process. But if he tried to attack the Israeli embassy five years ago, why was he free to do such a thing again?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:57 AM
May 30, 2003
Scheer and There, May 30

Bill Herbert, one of the champion fact-check-the-ass-ers on the Internet, finds more than a few factpimples on Scheer's soiled rear end. Example:

And on the question of whether the Pentagon did "nothing" to challenge the erroneous leaked report, here's paragraph four of Vernon Loeb and Susan Schmidt's story [Washington Post, April 4, recounted here]:
Several officials cautioned that the precise sequence of events is still being determined, and that further information will emerge as Lynch is debriefed. Reports thus far are based on battlefield intelligence, they said, which comes from monitored communications and from Iraqi sources in Nasiriyah whose reliability has yet to be assessed. Pentagon officials said they had heard "rumors" of Lynch's heroics but had no confirmation.
Lona Manning e-mails:
Scheer is actually paying the Pentagon a compliment. He believes that the "leaks" about Lynch must have been orchestrated and deliberately planned with the intent to mislead, which argues a higher degree of precision than the alternate explanation -- that the some individual officials blundered and passed along unverified information.
Good old Occam's Razor, destroyer of lunatic conspiracy theories everywhere.

But speaking of silly conspiracy theories. I got a good chuckle out of Roger Simon's satirical suggestion that Scheer is a Republican plant to discredit the Left. But after contemplating it some more, I think Simon might be on to something. Specifically, I speculate that Scheer is a card-carrying CIA cointelpro operative. Let's review the facts:

* Scheer has never been imprisoned, tortured or killed by the government (at least his own biography doesn't brag about any such accomplishments) in spite of his courageous provocations against the fascist American police state. How could this be?

* Scheer has been close to many other dangerous dissidents over the years, from Huey Newton to Barbra Streisand. Wouldn't the CIA want to keep tabs on all of them, and doesn't Scheer have the ideal public persona for insinuating himself with such people?

* He has been writing for the L.A. Times for three decades, yet nobody can figure out how he's gotten away with it. David Horowitz has reported that he was told Scheer was "annointed" or "protected". But Horowitz never found out who was protecting Scheer. Who else could have an interest in doing so?

* The L.A. Times is in Southern California, home to numerous defense and aerospace companies, all of whom have a vested interest in discrediting the leftist opposition to the military industrial complex.

* Scheer's biography brags that he has interviewed every president from Nixon to Clinton. Recall that there were four Republicans during that period, including former CIA director George H.W. Bush.

* Scheer was the interviewer who induced then presidential candidate Jimmy Carter to confess on the pages of Playboy "I've committed adultery in my heart many times". Could Scheer's interview have been a deliberate attempt to discredit Carter?

* Scheer is a senior lecturer at the Annenberg School of Communication. The school was founded with a grant from Walter Annenberg, a one-time member of President Reagan's "kitchen cabinet".

* Scheer owns a yacht and is often seen dining in fancy restaurants. How could a communist afford to live so well?

* Most revealing, Scheer's writing is so bleeding-brained goofy that it can only be persuasive to those who are already beyond help. Why would anybody write such stuff unless it was orchestrated from above, as part of a project to Manufacture Dissent, so to speak, in order to distract the potentially dangerous rebels while still providing an illusion of dissent? At the same time, Scheer's (fabricated) madness would serve to discredit the entire dissenting movement in the eyes of all of those potentially free-thinkers who listen to talk radio and read blogs, thus turning the latter into manageable drones for the service of the ruling class.

Here at the Shark Blog we report, you decide, but I challenge anybody to prove my findings wrong. And if I ever should be killed under mysterious circumstances, you already know why.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:03 AM
May 29, 2003
What Liberal Media?

The Seattle Post-Liberal-Intelligencer, always scrupulous about publishing multiple opinions on every important topic, carried two op-eds today on the Texas redistricting flap. The first, from the unbiased Adam Cohen of the objective New York Times, entitled GOP power grab is part of a trend

Republicans, who now control all three branches of the federal government, are not just pushing through their political agenda. They are increasingly ignoring the rules of government to do it.
Which rules? Are they laws, or merely conventions? Are the rules being broken, or merely changed by the majority party? Cohen doesn't say, but I have my hunches.
Texas Republicans seized control of the Legislature last year
emphasis mine. Did they seize control in the same way that Mussolini seized control of Italy, or are the people of Texas simply fleeing from the Democrats toward the Republicans in massive numbers? Cohen doesn't say. Nor does Cohen ask the following question, so I will ask it for him: Have Democrats ever used their majority power to help themselves to a favorable redistricting plan? Answer: Of course they haven't.

The other op-ed, presented directly below the first one in an apparent attempt to offer "balance", is from Marianne Means, entitled Democrats did what they had to do

to Democrats in Texas and elsewhere, the stalemate was serious business. Extreme partisan measures require extreme responses. The insane gerrymandering masterminded by DeLay would have handed the GOP several additional congressional seats and denied fair representation to many voters
Somewhere you might find a credible, non-partisan, fact-filled discussion of the Texas redistricting saga, but that somewhere will not be on the pages of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:19 PM

I guess Poseidon didn't want me to feel too homesick for San Francisco, so he gave Seattle a little earthquake this evening. For me, it was just one quick, short, sharp shock, and they didn't do it again. Radio says only 3.4 Richter, epicenter near Bremerton. No news online yet.

UPDATE, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a report, but given that's in the Post-Intelligencer, don't believe a single word of it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:17 PM
Welcome Aboard, Carolyn

Of all the things I missed this month on account of the interstate dislocation, the arrival of Carolyn Lewis Gulley is perhaps the most important. And while you're over there looking at the photo of this gorgeous newborn babe (a spittin' image of her mom!), be sure to read the rest of Papa Ned's blog.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:59 PM
Scheer's Lame Defense

Robert Scheer lamely attempts to defend himself today from the intense criticism over last week's hysterical and mendacious column where he accused the Pentagon of fabricating the Jessica Lynch rescue.

The column starts with the salacioius headline "Pentagon Aims Guns at Lynch Reports" In fact, nobody from the Pentagon aimed their guns at Scheer, a spokeswoman merely responded to his nutty allegations in a letter to the editor. Does Scheer really think that he is a victim as were the journalists in Saddam's Iraq who really did have to look down the barrel of the regime's guns for questioning their rulers? He then plays the Defense is Treason Canard in the very first line ("It is one thing when the talk-show bullies who shamelessly smeared the last president ... now term it anti-American or even treasonous to dare criticize the Bush administration").

Scheer implicitly backs away from his most ridiculous assertions from last week, such as repeating the BBC claim that the American rescuers were firing blanks and using Hollywood effects to simulate explosions. And he tries to cover himself with non-statements like

several major publications such as the Chicago Tribune and the London Daily Mail have independently verified much of the BBC's disturbing account of what the broadcasting corporation called "one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived."
But he doesn't say what is the "much" that the other media verified, and which of Scheer's claims were dismissed elsewhere as fraudulent.

In short, Scheer is capitulating in the face of a rout and calling it a victory, and the L.A. Times has given him the platform to do so. I expect that Mrs. Scheer's newspaper up in San Francisco will do the same.

Hugh Hewitt is not impressed with Scheer's defense:

Coming on the heels of yesterday’s leak of John Carroll’s promise to purge liberal bias from the news columns of the paper, Scheer’s combination of posturing as a victim and acting like a clown keeps the Times in the deep, deep hole it has dug for itself since 9/11.
Roger Simon, who until today had been going easy on Scheer, is not impressed either. Simon writes:
As lifetime liberal/leftist I would have to think he is, considering his pathetic, self-serving RESPONSE, if that's what you call it, to allegations he trumped up charges against the Pentagon on the Jessica Lynch rescue. This "defense" contains not one single fact, only vague references to other articles he "says" are on his side. (Of course, they are unlinked; this is print journalism). If I were the Republican National Committee, I'd put this guy on staff. Scheer concludes weakly:

The truth hurts, but that's no excuse for trying to shoot the messenger.

No, just fire him.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:14 AM
The Ex- Files

Ex-President Bill Clinton admits that he has far too much time on his hands.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:06 AM
May 28, 2003
Good News / Bad News

The good news is that Nancy Pelosi is no longer my Congresswoman (If I were her I would think that's good news too). The bad news is that she is still the House Minority Leader. The good news is that she is not House Majority Leader or Speaker of the House. The bad news is that my new Congressman is Jim McDermott, aka Baghdad Jim aka Traitor Jim aka Lunatic Fringe Jim aka Hamas Jim aka Jim the Crazy Psychiatrist aka Vichy Jim aka Jim Who Defies Economic Progress aka Alarmist Jim aka Jim the Gullible Bleeding Head Liberal aka Jim Whose Staff is Out of Control. The good news is that at least there should never be a slow blog day as long as Jim of the Stupid Ideas is in Congress.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:29 PM
Here and There, May 28

The Hugh Hewitt Show, what a find. Today's high point: a phone interview with Mark Steyn, who just returned from a trip to Iraq. Believe it or not, Steyn rented a car in Jordan and motored around Iraq, where he found the situation to be not nearly as bad as what you read about in, say, the New York Times. You know how some Americans abroad pretend to be Canadian to avoid provoking the locals? In this case, Steyn was leery of flashing the Maple Leaf so he wouldn't have to admit that his country didn't do very much to help liberate the Iraqis ... Hopefully there will be much more about this trip on Steyn's web site.

Hewitt continues to bash the L.A. Times, this time for a leaked (and very strange) memorandum from editor-in-chief John Carroll, admitting liberal bias in the paper's coverage of a story on new abortion legislation in Texas.

I'm concerned about the perception---and the occasional reality---that the Times is a liberal, "politically correct" newspaper. Generally speaking, this is an inaccurate view, but occasionally we prove our critics right. We did so today with the front-page story on the bill in Texas that would require abortion doctors to counsel patients that they may be risking breast cancer.
[read the whole memo]
I happen to think that abortion is a deeply personal matter that the state has no business regulating any more than it regulates other medical procedures. Still, a woman contemplating an abortion should be able to obtain credible, unbiased information about the various risks of terminating (or not terminating) a pregnancy. There are many questions here: Does abortion increase the risk of breast cancer? How credible is the evidence for or against? Does the Texas legislature routinely mandate that physicians give their patients specific warnings prior to performing other procedures, or is abortion being singled out here? I don't know enough to answer these questions. My pro-choice bias would tend to make me skeptical of this law. Yet I would hope that a major newspaper like the L.A. Times would provide enough unbiased information so that I can reach an informed opinion, rather than leap to a prejudiced opinion. The memo reinforces the perception that the Times is too narrowly liberal (not to mention scientifically illiterate) to do the job. And if it allows its biases to color this particular story, I also wonder where else they're "adding value" by filtering the news for me.

Which brings us back to Robert Scheer. a.ka. Robert "Where's Elmo" Scheer. An L.A. reader writes:

Yesterday's (5/27) L.A. Times Op-Ed page had a note that Robert Scheer's column, which normally appears on Tuesdays, would appear today. It's not there today, either. Curious.
It's not on his archive yet either. It is unusual, though not unprecedented for Scheer to skip his column for a week. Is "Santa Monica's favorite columnist", (no really), on a well-deserved vacation? Did the Times spike the column? Is Scheer in Iraq trying to produce sources to validate last week's piece? Is he working double-time to force himself to write something that isn't insanely and mendaciously anti-American? Either way, we're all waiting for his next emission with unprecedented anticipation.

In the meantime, go read's April 2 profile: Robert Scheer, Gucci Marxist

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:57 PM
Scheer Hystery

Climb into the time machine, put on the love beads, drop a tab of acid and listen to this groovy 1968 recording of Bob Scheer speaking at a rally for the Oakland 7. [Scheer's speech starts at approx. 20:30 min. into the broadcast and lasts about 10 minutes]. Scheer shared the podium that day with Black Panther co-founder (and future BBQ wizard) Bobby Seale and future Revolutionary Communist Party chairman Bob Avakian.

Kudos to the enterprising Freepers who found the speech and posted a transcription here. (There are a few minor mistakes in the transcript, most notably the misspelling of "Che Guevara" as "Jay Kevara").

Here are a few of the 1968 Scheer's choicest lines

my fear about the next few years in America is that people are going to be picked off and put in jail for long periods of time.
Bob Scheer's own biography does not say that he was put in jail for a long period of time. Instead, it says that "His columns appear in newspapers across the country" and that he has "interviewed every president from Richard Nixon on through Bill Clinton". So much for the crushing of dissent.
the war in Vietnam is clearly a war of example, aimed at crushing revolutions. Once the Hanoi Government said that it would negotiate if there was a halt in the bombing, once it gave it’s unconditional commitment to talks, and everyone knows that commitment was made, and the Administration continued it’s bombing, we knew that this was a war to the finish. This is a war for total victory. To establish the military supremacy of the United States Government, and to teach a lesson to people in the world that they cannot make the revolutions of their choice. That the only kind of peace that will be tolerated is the Roman peace.
Compare with Scheer's column of Mar. 18, 2003: The Azores gang apparently realizes that if it doesn't start dropping bombs now, a peaceful solution to the crisis might actually be found. In this coming war, Hussein, as loathsome as he is, is not the aggressor -- we are. ... the stark fact is that a barely elected president has made the United States the first colonizer of the 21st century, openly declaring that he plans to reorder the politics, economy and culture of the Muslim world.
And we have to say that dissent cannot be a joke. Dissent cannot be a private matter. And dissent is unimportant in a society unless it forces a society to confront the enormity of its crimes. To consider in a deep sense what it is doing. And if it is true that our society is committed to preventing revolutions in the world, then we have to indicate our solidarity with those people that have resisted.
the people he was refering to were the "people", that is to say the dictatorships, of North Vietnam and Cuba.
And we have to act in the spirit of Che Guevara, not because we were raised in the spirit of Che Guevara, but because the times call for the spirit of Che Guevara...People do not become Che Guevara’s out of choice; they become Che Guevara’s when the situation demands that they become Che Guevaras, if they have the personal integrity to meet that demand.
Che Guevara was a middle class physician from Argentina, who became a guerilla out of choice, joining the Cuban revolution where he became notorious for his brutal suppression of, uh, dissent.

This 1968 speech provides important context to Scheer's more recent columns. It helps illustrate that Scheer's opposition to the Iraq war, like his opposition to the Vietnam War, was not motivated by pacifism or a concern for human rights and the American way. To borrow a phrase from Glenn Reynolds, "He wasn't a peace activist, he was just on the other side".

Do listen to the recording if you can. It's worth it to hear the hysterical passion in Scheer's voice and for the dog, who barks at just the right moments.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:42 AM
May 27, 2003
Derailing the endorsement

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (aka the Seattle Lost-its-Intelligencer, aka the Seattle Paucity-of-Intelligencer aka the Seattle Intelligent-as-a-Post-er aka the Seattle Pestilencer) opines that the only thing standing in the way of the Peacefulstinian dream of a Judenrein paradise is hardline Israeli refusal to permit schoolbuses to be blown up on alternate Tuesdays.

Without [Bush's] determination to restart Middle East peace negotiations, Israel's government clearly would have found a way to derail the process before it could begin...In contrast to Israel's foot-dragging, the new Palestinian government pointedly has endorsed the plan as a whole.
Whatever the Palestinian "government" may or may not have "endorsed", it has demonstrated its inability and/or unwillingness to act against any terrorists. The editorial writer for the Seattle P-I might be willing to accept his salary in a currency that is backed by the full faith and credit of the Palestinian "government", but only an idiot would trust his family's security based on the "endorsements" made by the cabal of liars, thugs and holocaust deniers in Ramallah.
Even with Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas heading the government, troubling questions remain about Yasser Arafat's commitment to peace, trustworthiness and brutal history
I don't know what specific "questions" the P-I is asking about Arafat's intentions at this point. But hasn't the time long passed to give him any benefit of doubt?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:14 AM
Scheer Watch

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke sharply disputes the Robert Scheer/BBC allegations about the so-called "staging" of the Jessica Lynch rescue.

I take strong exception to the accusations in Robert Scheer's tirade on the Jessica Lynch rescue (Commentary, May 20). Scheer's claims are outrageous, patently false and unsupported by the facts. He cites an anonymous source in a Washington Post story and questions the credibility of the Iraqi lawyer who provided details about Lynch's whereabouts yet takes at face value the allegations made by other Iraqis to the BBC. That he relies on third-party sources for the information upon which he draws his conclusions is no excuse.
That Scheer would simply repeat the BBC's claims without talking to the Defense Department or independently verifying them makes it clear he is more interested in spurious charges than in the facts.
Indeed. Scheer's fantasy disguised as journalism confirms what a noted media pundit recently wrote:
Once-revered practices of journalism--avoiding not-for-attribution quotes and never printing information from only one source--are often overlooked by editors in today's overheated competitive market. Being briefed "on background" or "off the record" once meant that you were provided a lead that had to be reliably confirmed before printing; now it is a license for fantasy.
Who was the media pundit who wrote the above quote? Robert Scheer, June 25, 1998 in a column titled "When the news proves to be fiction"

UPDATE The L.A. Examiner weighs in on the hometown Scheer scandal.

UPDATE 2 Cathy Seipp doesn't seem to like Scheer very much. (But her mother was something of a fan).

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:52 AM
Cycle of Violence?

Arnold Roth emails:

I speak publicly more and more frequently about the experience my family and I have gone through since our daughter Malka Chana z"l was murdered 21 months ago in Jerusalem. It sometimes happens that a person in the audience will ask me a question along the following lines: "The Arabs kill the Jews' children, the Jews kill the Arabs' children. There's so much hatred. It can't keep going that way. How can peace ever happen if you Israelis don't change your tough attitude?"

I try to explain how very different the Jewish attitude is from this alleged "cycle of violence" mentality. I say to such questioners that we hope for peace, pray for it every day, educate our children towards it. We see the Arab leadership as having made catastrophic mistakes - teaching its children to hate, turning them into barbarians and robbing them of their future and of their human dignity. I say that Israel's obligation to its own people is to seek peace -- and to first ensure security, protecting our towns, our kindergartens, our pizza restaurants.

All too often, my words seem to fall on deaf ears. For many people, this is all just too complicated. They seem to find it easier, less challenging, to think of this Palestinian Arab war as being one fought between two troubled sides, each bearing roughly the same degree of blame.

Every so often, we get to look through a window that's normally closed -- a window that is revealing for those who are ready to take the trouble to understand. Here's such a window, one which provides insight into the base truth about what's going on in this war... a war waged by Arab barbarians and thugs who have hijacked the language of nationhood, of liberation, of human rights.

Read now the words of Dr Mahmoud Zahar, the senior spokesperson for Hamas who was interviewed in the BBC by Tim Sebastian on location in Gaza for the Hardtalk TV program on 20th May 2003. Part of the interview has been transcribed in full below - the whole thing can be viewed online here

To remind you, Hamas is the organization which carried out the massacre at the Sbarro restaurant on 9th August 2001 in which my daughter Malki, her best friend and thirteen other innocent children, teens, mothers and other civilians were cold-bloodedly murdered by a barbarian thug and a long, long line of their henchmen. (For the record, there remain serious observers like the Telegraph newspaper in the UK which persist in describing Hamas as "a legitimate resistance movement bent on liberating Palestinian land". You can see this under the heading: "The Islamic groups dedicated to change" online here )

Please consider sharing this with others. Think particularly of friends with views like those of the well-known Australian journalist who told me his interview with me in August 2001 needed to be part of a double-headed interview -- the murderer's father on one side, me on the other -- on the grounds that that man's son's suicide death and my daughter's murder were, as he put it, two sides of the same coin. (The interview did not take place.)

Let's do what we can to explode the abhorrent nonsense of a cycle of violence. The lives of innocent Israelis depend on it.

Extract from BBC interview of Mahmoud Zahar:

TS: Dr. Zahar, I asked you a very simple question, if Israel accepts your conditions which are calling for the elimination of the occupation and an end for the Palestinian suffering will you renounce violence totally? Yes or no?

MZ: We are going to cease fire, and only cease-fire.

TS: Yes or no to that condition - yes or no?

MZ: I answered you - it's not the way to say yes or no. We are not -

TS: so how can Israel trust your assurances ever if you can't even give a straight answer to a straight question? How can they trust you?

MZ: The question is -

TS: If Israel withdraws -

MZ: If they withdraw from our land, if Israel is ready to say that we are not going to re-attack, and re-occupy our country

TS: If they said that

MZ: It's a big if - it's just imagination - they are not going to, they did that before. They occupied our country in '48, they occupied our area in '56, they occupied our area in '67, they occupied in '82, so the history is telling us that with Israel, it is impossible to stop their aggression.

TS: What you're telling me then there are no circumstances in which you will give up violence until you ve pushed Israel into the sea, that's what you want, isn't it?

MZ: I'm not saying that -

TS: You are saying that, aren't you??

MZ: I'm giving you it frankly - the attitude of Islam is not to accept a foreign state in this area

TS: Until Israel ceases to exist, you won't lay down your arms, is that right?

MZ: First of all we are a part of a Pan-Islamic state

TS: Yes or no?? I am asking you a very fair and straight question

MZ: I am giving you what is the attitude of thousands of, millions of people here

TS: But you won't give me a straight answer to a straight question

MZ: Because this will not be implemented, an independent state will be a small part in what is called a Pan-Islamic state; it will be in part with Jordan, with Syria, with Egypt

TS: Why do you keep on with this attitude? You are seen by many people in the world as a bunch of ruthless killers and fanatics. Are you happy with that?

MZ: We are not happy. These people are not seeing except the fault. These people are considering Islam as their enemy, as terrorists, this is a historical mistake. Because Islam is the supreme power in this area. Sooner or later we are going to achieve our power, our moral principle, our virtue in order to augment the (Islamic) state

TS: What with? What are you going to achieve it with? Explosives strapped onto a suicide bomber, you really think that is going to help you achieve your ends?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:45 AM
May 26, 2003

We spent the afternoon with Gedänkenpundit Solly Ezekiel and his family -- the lovely and charming Galit and the dangerously cute little Gedänkenmoppet Eli. There was a picnic by Green Lake, followed by a strenuous walk. We mitigated the harmful effects of the aerobic exercise by stopping for an ice cream break. Solly, it turns out, develops database software using Perl, and if you didn't know anything else about him, that should be enough to tell you that he's not only brilliant but also a hell of a guy (okay, I'm biased). A fabulous time was had by all, especially David, who ate all of the Ezekiel family's grapes ("Baa! Baa!") and then went to sleep. And they even gave us a delicious homemade honey banana bread!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:30 PM
Defensive Shield

David Frankfurter forwarded the following graph from Major General Giora Eiland of the IDF [click for a larger version]

Frankfurter explains:

In the 18 months from the start of the current violence until March 2002, there were 85 suicide attacks executed and another 31 foiled by the IDF. In March 2002, there were 135 Israeli deaths - and "Operation Defensive Shield" was launched as a direct result. In the 12 months from then until till March 2003, the Palestinians increased their efforts, but the statistics were reversed. 35 suicide attacks were successfully carried out and 145 were foiled.

Hundreds of lives were saved and thousands of injuries were prevented by the IDF. The cost in all senses to both sides is high, but these are the simple facts. Until the Palestinians effectively stop terror, the IDF must stay put. Roadmap or no Roadmap.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:21 PM
Scheer Watch

Tim Rutten of the L.A. Times wrote on May 7 that big newspapers' responses to scandals like the Blair case are a testament to the media's credibility

Distressing as they are, all three cases can just as easily — and far more accurately — be made to stand as a lesson in how the speed and implacability of the Fourth Estate's self-correcting mechanisms are unmatched by any other institution in American life.
The "three cases" did not include the scandal of Robert Scheer's decades long mendacious career at the L.A. Times that erupted into national prominence only two weeks after Rutten's column appeared.
like other leading newspapers, including this one, [the New York Times] has adopted a far more scrupulous policy on speedily admitting mistakes than prevailed just a few years ago — no matter how senior the reporter who commits the error.
Let's see how long it takes Rutten's newspaper to admit the mistakes made in Scheer's most recent column, not to mention all the others.
If Blair, Walski, Cantera or Vigh were doctors, lawyers, securities analysts or corporate executives, we'd all wait years to see their cases resolved. As it is, they're all out on the street, which is where they're more than likely to stay.
Robert Scheer joined the L.A. Times in 1976. How many more years will it take until his editors finally catch on?
[link found at the L.A. Examiner]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:00 PM
May 25, 2003
The Return of Ruth Rosen

I've received a mountain of faxes and telegrams from desperate readers demanding to know why I've stopped making fun of Ruth Rosen of the San Francisco Chronicle. I figured: hey, I left town for a reason. She's somebody else's problem now. But in the Internet age, everybody has a global audience, including Ruth Rosen and the Shark Blog. So here's a summary of Ruth Rosen's greatest columns of the last few weeks:

May 8: I suspect that Ruth Rosen doesn't have any children of her own (and if she does, they probably don't like her very much), because (a) I haven't seen the tediously self-absorbed paleofeminist mention any of her own offspring in her column, and (b) her Mother's Day celebration column could not have been written by anybody who has ever been treated to flowers and brunch on Mother's Day.

THIS SUNDAY IS Mother's Day. Restaurants are already booked for brunches and dinners. The flower, candy and card industries await their annual spike in sales.

This is soooo 20th century. The women who conceived Mother's Day would be bewildered by our rituals. They would expect us to be marching in the streets, not honored for our individual sacrifices.

So next year folks, please don't buy Mom a card. Drag her to a peace demonstration, where she gets to stand around in the rain with a bunch of unwashed hairy lesbians, listen to crappy music and hold a sign with a silly slogan about learning to solve the world's problems without violence. This won't help protect us from the bad people who want to hurt our country, but it will inspire Mom to keep a safe distance from you.

May 12: Ruth Rosen asks: "McCarthyism happened in this country once before, can it happen again"? The short answer is "yes it can", but then again the reintroduction of slavery and the banning of birth control and interracial marriage are right around the corner too.

May 15: Ruth Rosen admits she has no idea what causes breast cancer, but she really hopes that it is caused by chemicals in the environment. Presumably because it's easier to get the ladies to stage a sit-in against George Bush and corporate polluters than it is to turn them out to protest the advances in public health (such as the reduction in fatalities from maternal complications) which enable more women to live long enough to succumb to breast cancer in the first place.

May 22 Ruth Rosen discovers Google for the first time, years behind the rest of us. She is astonished to discover how much information you can find out about other people by looking them up on the Internet. She closes:

It's a new world. Privacy, it appears, is a thing of the past; get used to it.
Yes, that's right. Privacy has disappeared now that Google operates the 24x7 "Ruth Rosen Toilet Cam". I know I'll be watching.

Just for yuks I looked up "Ruth Rosen" on google. I was delighted to learn that a certain Russell Wardlow, aka Mean Mr. Mustard, donates some of his valuable free time to pummeling the good Dr. Rosen. Keep up the good fight, Russ. The San Francisco Chronicle quality control effort needs you.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:39 AM
Wrong Number

Have you ever changed your telephone number to get rid of unwanted phone calls from people who harass you or simply from people you don't like any more? You might not have realized that changing your number does not make these phone calls disappear. All you've done is to give your nuisance phone calls to somebody else. I know this because in the two weeks since we got our new phone number we've been getting a non-stop parade of hang up calls and wrong numbers, all apparently meant for the same woman named "Debbie". Like the call from the drunk and depressed girlfriend who woke me up at 3:14am this morning.

The next time I get a call for Debbie I will say: "I'm sorry but Debbie isn't here right now. I'm one of her slaves. Let me grab a razor blade so I can take a message."

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:05 AM
May 24, 2003
Screwdriver Licenses

Some people should not be allowed to use screwdrivers. Or at least they should be required to undergo a background check, a waiting period and a certified training course before they are allowed to purchase and use a screwdriver.

But not me. I know how to use a screwdriver. I've been installing child safety locks on my kitchen cabinets. I've already done three cabinet doors; it's only taken me a total of two hours; I've only broken the heads off of three screws, leaving the screw tails tragically and irretrievably embedded in the cabinet frame; and I've only drilled two other unnecessary holes. That's three cabinet doors I've finished, only twelve more to go.

Yes, there are some people who should not be allowed to attempt such a project. Fortunately I'm not one of them. On the other hand, I'm not responsible for any accidental firearm deaths.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:39 PM

A columnist for a major daily newspaper e-mails:

One simple way to evaluate nonsense like Scheer's is to ask yourself, as any moderately competent copy editor would do, where we would play this stuff were it true. As a former copy editor, I'm astonished it got through the desk.

Thus, why wasn't the following a five column lede in the LA Times:

US: "Bulletproof Evidence"
Iraq Sponsored 9/11 Attacks

Iraq "Imminent Threat"
To US, President Says

So here's The Question: If what Scheer wrote was the truth, why wasn't it on the front page?

Good point. I can't find any major news source that reported the first example but the L.A. Times printed this front page headline on Jan. 29, 2003:
THE STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS; Bush Calls Iraq Imminent Threat; Trusting in Hussein's Restraint 'Is Not an Option,' President Says
What Bush actually said in his State of the Union address was this
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.
So Bush did not call Iraq an imminent threat, yet the headline in the L.A. Times the next morning was "Bush Calls Iraq Imminent Threat".

The problem is bigger than Scheer. The newspaper rots from the headline down.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:11 AM
May 23, 2003
Thank God for Helen Thomas

In today's column, carried by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, shrivelled octogenarian Helen Thomas, the doyenne of the White House press corps, gives some parting criticism to Ari Fleischer

But great press secretaries also wear another hat, which requires them to challenge White House insiders to provide more information for the public ... For example, for credibility's sake, he could have urged the president not to link the war on terrorism with the war against Saddam Hussein. There was enough horror about the now-deposed Iraqi leader to discredit him in the eyes of the world without the administration's strained efforts to tie him to terrorism.
Thank God for Helen Thomas, without whose insights, carefully honed over six decades as a professional journalist, we would all be lost in a fog of credulous ignorance. Without Helen Thomas, some of us might even buy into silly canards, like a link between Saddam Hussein and terrorists. Imagine that, Saddam Hussein and terrorists. Who would be gullible enough to believe such a thing? Saddam Hussein had no conceivable ties to terrorists. It can't be true -- Helen Thomas said so and the Seattle P-I printed it.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:18 PM

Hugh Hewitt continues to hammer on the Scheer scandal. Astoundingly, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune printed Scheer's BBC Jessica Lynch hoax column today. (How could this happen? You'd think that the folks at a Minneapolis newspaper would at least read Lileks. Oh, wait). Hewitt says:

I have just posed the question to Stefan Sharkansky: How does the Star Tribune's decision to reprint the Scheer fantasy compare to a paper's decision to reprint a Jayson Blair article two days after his resignation?
I feel put on the spot to say something profound here, but I'm no Howard Kurtz, and this comparison is facile enough that all I can think to say is: "well, yeah".

Hewitt also has a well-written Weekly Standard column on the Scheer/L.A. Times scandal which closes:

So the question for Mickey Kaus is quite simple: How can a newspaper that tolerates such stuff be taken seriously at any level? Hospitals don't keep quacks on staff to butcher again, nor do most law firms hang on to incompetents. Most professions ruthlessly weed out the crazies and the dangerous.

Not the Los Angeles Times.

Presumably, Kaus will have a more interesting response to Hewitt's question to him than the response I gave above.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:20 PM
Likud fascist harrasser

Labor union think tank economist Max Sawicky (or someone pretending to be him) posted this comment about me in a Left Business Observer message board discussion about the Robert Scheer Canard-o-matic

this guy is a Likud fascist. For some reason he harrasses me periodically. He also goes to demos and takes pictures of participants. I wouldn't take any statement by him at face value
I am not a "Likudnik" -- I am not an Israeli and I do not take sides in Israeli politics. I am not a fascist (and I suspect very few actual Likud supporters are fascists). The correct spelling of "harrasses" is "harasses", but I don't harass Max. In the past year I've left a handful of critical comments on his blog and written about him on my blog maybe a half dozen times. I went to a demo and took pictures of some participants exactly once. It was for the purpose of telling the story of the demonstration on the blog. The San Francisco Chronicle, for example, does the same thing on a regular basis. It's called "reporting". You don't have to take my criticism of Robert Scheer at face value. All you have to do is read Scheer's columns for yourself. I've merely pointed out some specific examples of his writing to go look at.

Yet another example of articulate discourse from one of the leading public intellectuals of the American progressive left.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:57 AM
What kind of gun was that?

From the Seattle Times:

A fully loaded hand gun was found in a student's backpack at Evergreen High School this morning, according to the King County sheriff's department.
A King County sheriff's deputy who works at the school searched the student's pack, expecting to find a bottle of alcohol but instead found the "Mac-10," 9 mm assault pistol.
King County Sheriff Dave Reichert said the gun will be tested to determine if it is a semi-automatic weapon or a gun that has been altered to fire automatically.
The same incident, as described by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A White Center high school sophomore who brought a loaded machine gun to school in his backpack yesterday ...

Officials said the weapon was a Mac-10 machine gun, but they did not yet know whether it was fully- or semi-automatic

So what was it? A handgun or a machine gun? Did one of the newspapers get it wrong?

Not necessarily. The Mac-10 seems to be both a handgun and a machine gun. It is a handheld machine gun.! (Not that we want our high school students bringing them at school, however they're classified). Any of my readers more knowledgeable about guns care to comment on the newspapers' choice of terminology?

Either way, the hottest chicks seem to prefer the bigger guns in the Mac family.

UPDATE Reader Daniel Schwartz adds

I've never used the Ingram Mac-10 myself. Technically, however, it falls under the classification of "submachine gun" -- a small weapon, of limited accuracy (as compared to, say, an automatic rifle), with automatic fire (which is sometimes disabled). The Israeli Uzi falls into this category, as does the belgian MP5.

The Germans in World War II had a more accurate term for this sort of weapon, one which translates as "machine pistol". In other words, it's a weapon comparable in size to a pistol, but capable (at least in theory) of automatic fire.

Many of these weapons have been sold with the automatic fire option disabled, so as to avoid automatic weapon restrictions. As the newspaper articles you cite have pointed out, it makes an important difference if the Evergreen High School weapon is capable of automatic fire or not.

I guess one could quibble on the use of terminology by the papers you quoted. In essence, though, they captured the crucial facts -- the kid was caught with a weapon, and it's a weapon at least in theory capable of automatic fire (and thus capable of doing a lot more damage, a lot more quickly, than a pistol).

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:33 AM
But at least he'll never use that word again

Brian Emanuels, the Seattle high school teacher who used the "n-word" in a clumsy attempt to teach a lesson against bigotry, has resigned. Yes, it was wrong for Emanuels to use a racial slur in class, even if used rhetorically and without intent to harass. By all accounts this was a person who was otherwise doing a fine job of serving his mostly minority students. A single mistake of this type should not have been sufficient grounds to deprive the students of an otherwise valued teacher.

The school district issued a written reprimand to Emanuels, saying that while his use of the slur was "inappropriate and unprofessional," it was understood that the teacher was attempting to make a point about discriminatory language and "did not intend to harm any person."
The district permitted Emanuels to keep his position, but he resigned because
he felt that returning to the school would be too distracting for staff and students. He said neither the school nor the district asked him to resign, but he acknowledged that comments by the NAACP -- which demanded the district fire him -- made him uncomfortable about the prospect of going back to work.

"They made statements that 'We'll make sure this man never sets foot in a classroom again,' " he said. "I don't know what they might do, but who needs that?"

Indeed. I hope the school district can find a competent teacher to replace Emanuels. Perhaps the NAACP will help with the candidate search.

UPDATE Reader Orin Ryssman writes:

If the news report that you gave the link for is correct then it was wrong for him to have been reprimanded, wrong for the NAACP to have demanded anything, and it was wrong of the teacher to have "cut and run". Surely a racial slur is dehumanizing...then again, so is the epithet "faggot" or "retard".

Of the later slur I have personal experience since as a child in elementary school I was placed in a Special Ed class due to a learning disability. While I appear to everyone else as a fairly normal 41 year old man, I still quietly bear the emotional scars of having been labeled the one that goes to the "retard" class, not to mention being called a "retard."

How else will a black student understand the hurt a slur can cause then to be on the receiving end of one? It was clear that this teacher sought to use this as an opportunity to teach. What I suspect the school and the NAACP did indeed teach is that while all victims are equal, "some are more equal than others." Powerful lesson indeed; the gods of Political Correctness have been offended and they must be appeased. I guess Brian Emanuels did just that...

Yet another reason why I will never choose the teaching profession as a means of making a living or contributing to society.

Good points, although it would be unfortunate to give up on teaching altogether. There are many places one can teach. The public schools, in the hands of pussilanimous administrators and hostage to all kinds of nutty pressure groups, offer a disappointingly small upside and a frighteningly large potential downside.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:03 AM
After the Deluge

Yesterday was an amazing day for the Shark Blog, with links from several of the biggest blogs on the planet, including Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, Hugh Hewitt, Lucianne and The Corner, among others. Over 22,000 page views yesterday. For some bloggers that might be the slowest minute during, say, the Superbowl. For me that's a typical month. The blog has never had a day like that before, and I doubt I'll ever see such a day again. I guess my commentary on Robert Scheer tapped into a nationwide reservoir of disgust with Scheer and his sponsors at the Los Angeles Times.

But my favorite link of all was from Jim Taranto at Best of the Web

Duck Season
Blogger Stefan Sharkansky has what strikes us as a possibly unhealthy preoccupation with Robert Scheer, the Los Angeles Times' mendacious, America-hating columnist. But sometimes peculiar obsessions are a spur to creativity, and Sharkansky has produced a hilarious chart he calls the "Canard-o-Matic." He's analyzed Scheer's entire oeuvre for the first four months of the year--16 columns in all--and charted his uses of 32 canards, ranging from "Alienating our allies" to "Neocon clique" to "Vietnam." Even if you don't care about Scheer--in which case you're blessed indeed--its a good catalog of the pro-Saddam side's empty arguments.
Maybe my preoccupation with Robert Scheer is a little peculiar, but unhealthy? I'll leave that diagnosis to our family dermatologist. I have plenty of other odd preoccupations, including (not necessarily in this order) Nancy Pelosi, Juergen Moellemann, the high cost of mutual funds, Al Jazeera and my mother-in-law's cranberry relish. Then there are all my other preoccupations that my wife has begged me not to discuss in public. On the other hand, my wife has plenty of interesting preoccupations of her own.

And by the way, it might have been a little geeky to go to the trouble of compiling the Canard-o-matic, but I'm not the one who took the time to count that it was 32 canards and 16 columns.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:58 AM
May 22, 2003
More Scheer

Hugh Hewitt has more on Scheer today, including this link to a recent entry -- a 1970 item from the Black Panther Magazine about an American friendship delegation to North Korea that year, which included Eldridge Cleaver and Robert Scheer.

Several readers wrote to tell me about Spinsanity's excellent debunking of Scheer back in October 2001.

Many pundits sling jargon or make blithely irrational arguments. Some, however, seem to specialize in twisting the facts to fit their ideology, continually making assertions that are at best unsupported and at worst blatantly false until they--and presumably their readers--come to accept these false tropes as truth. Robert Scheer, a nationally syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times, has established himself as the leader of this breed, with some of his worst spin coming since the September 11 attack. Sadly, this is only the latest iteration of a trend that can be seen in Scheer's columns throughout the year
An excellent example of this tactic can be found in what my co-editor Brendan Nyhan has labeled the "Taliban aid trope." Scheer created this trope in May, when he attacked a "gift of $43 million to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan," saying it "makes the U.S. the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that 'rogue regime' for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God."

Drawing on work by Bryan Carnell of Leftwatch, Brendan pointed out that the $43 million was not aid to the Taliban government. Instead, the money was a gift of wheat, food commodities, and food security programs distributed to the Afghan people by agencies of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Secretary of State Colin Powell specifically stated, in fact, that the aid "bypasses the Taliban, who have done little to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people, and indeed have done much to exacerbate it."

read the whole thing.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:23 AM
Deck of Weasels

I don't usually react well to things that are sent to me as spam, but this is very, very funny: The Deck of Weasels

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:50 AM
Scheer Deluge

Yesterday was the biggest single day of page views in the history of the Shark Blog, thanks to my postings on Bob Scheer, the man whose mendacity inspired me to become a blogger in order to help expose journalists like Scheer. Thanks also to Glenn Reynolds, who linked to me 4 times yesterday and to Hugh Hewitt, who linked to me and mentioned me on his radio program (he heard about me from Reynolds, so the Prof. gets credit for this too). And initial traffic from Andrew Sullivan's Thursday link (which went up late Wednesday) also counted in yesterday's page count. But enough about my page traffic. Back to Bob Scheer, without whom none of this would be necessary:

Glenn Reynolds comments on my comparison of Scheer to Blair:

I'm not sure that's a fair comparison -- Scheer's a pundit, if a not-very-good one, while Blair was (or pretended to be) a reporter.
Fair enough, and I would say that anything an opinion columnist states as an opinion should be given plenty of lattitude as opinion. But anything even an opinion journalist states as a fact should be held to the same standards as anything that any reporter states as a fact. Hence my choice of the three examples in my previous post where Scheer asserts as factual three statements that are almost certainly false. The more I think about Scheer, the more I convince myself that the scandal of his career is of the magnitude of the Blair scandal, not only because of the habitual misquotes and distortions, but because the problem has been going on so long, and because Scheer has become such an entrenched institution that he seems to have become immune from serious editorial oversight.

David Horowitz, who has known Scheer for decades, emailed me:

I can vouch for the fact that Scheer gets special treatment at the Times. I used to write opeds for the Times. Bob Berger my editor would tone down everything I wrote until one day I complained. I said, what about Scheer's columns (which are exceptionally nasty)? Berger said "Scheer's anointed." I said, "You mean he's protected?" And Berger said,
This, and more, in Horowitz's FrontPageMag article "Scheer Lunacy at the Los Angeles Times". I've linked to this piece in the past, and it's well worth revisiting.

Scheer's biography states that "He is now a Senior Lecturer at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, where he teaches a course on media and society." The Annenberg School course catalog includes the following course description

500 Media and Society (3, FaSp) Analysis of major theories on the role of communication media and society with special emphasis on the role and responsibility of the news media.
Is Bob Scheer someone who should be educating aspiring journalists on the "role and responsibility of the news media"? I can only ask the question, somebody at the Annenberg School might want to answer it.

UPDATE a closer look at the USC catalog and class schedule shows that Scheer taught this course in the Annenberg School of Communication (not the School of Journalism):

310 Media and Society (4, Fa) Interplay between media and society, including family and children’s socialization, inter-group relations and community, pornography and violence, gender and race, media ethics, conduct of politics.
Media ethics? Is this the guy who should be teaching media ethics?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:09 AM
May 21, 2003
Scheer Scandal

The scandal surrounding Bob Scheer and the Los Angeles Times' uncritical parroting of the BBC's Jessica Lynch hoax is growing into a west coast version of the Jayson Blair scandal. Glenn Reynolds, Hugh Hewitt, Roger Simon, James Lileks and Bill O'Reilly are all on the case.

I'm pleased that Scheer's gross disregard for professional standards, and his sponsorship from newspapers that should know better, are finally getting the national attention they deserve. I've been writing about Scheer since last April. Indeed it was the publication of his mendacious columns in the San Francisco Chronicle every week that motivated me to start this blog in order to respond to such lapses by the major media.

There are two as yet underreported aspects of the Scheer case which should put this on par with the Blair scandal. The first is that Scheer is not merely a reflexively anti-American columnist who puts forth silly analysis. He habitually distorts quotes and misrepresents facts. The second aspect of the scandal is that Scheer's work seems to have escaped due scrutiny at least in part because of the influential editorial management positions held by Scheer's wife.

The "Robert Scheer Canard-o-matic" that I just posted contains a long list of Scheer's most frequent and comically biased statements on Iraq. Most of these are merely fantasy dressed up as analysis (e.g. "the UN weapons inspections were working") The guy is an opinion columnist, after all, not a reporter, so it isn't necessarily a scandal simply to express his opinions, even the goofy ones. But the real scandal is factual distortions such as these:

1) Column of Mar. 18

The United States lied to the world when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he had "bulletproof evidence" that Iraq was behind the Sept. 11 attacks
The source for this was presumably a New York Times article of Sept. 27, 2002 (reposted here) which actually said
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today that American intelligence had "bulletproof" evidence of links between Al Qaeda and the government of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
the article also said
Administration officials say there is still no evidence to link Mr. Hussein directly to the attacks on Sept. 11 in the United States.
If Scheer has another source where Rumsfeld did say that Iraq was "behind the 9/11 attacks" then he should produce it.

2) Column of Apr. 29

the American people and their elected representatives in Congress were deliberately deceived by the president as to the imminent threat that Iraq posed to our security?
Scheer has often repeated the allegation that the president said that Iraq posed an "imminent threat". I am unable to find such a statement from the President (a few similarly unsubstantiated news stories that show up in google notwithstanding). The closest I have found is the Jan. 2003 State of the Union Address
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.
If Scheer knows of another quote where the president actually says that Iraq posed an imminent threat, then he should produce it.

3) Column of Apr. 8

Bush's belief -- according to his close friend, Commerce Secretary Don Evans -- that God has called him to wage war on Iraq leaves little room for legitimate argument.
I am unable to find this quote from Don Evans. The closest I could find was this
Bush believes he was called by God to lead the nation at this time, says Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a close friend who talks with Bush every day
Hardly the same as what Scheer wrote. Meanwhile, President Bush, speaking for himself, has said this
"I don't believe God picked who was going to be president. I do believe that in God we can find great strength and great solace and great comfort, and I feel the prayers of the American people," the president told ABC a few months after the [9/11] attacks.
If Scheer has other evidence that Bush chose to go to war in Iraq because he believed that God called him to do so, then he should produce this evidence.

It wouldn't surprise me if one could find many other similar examples of irresponsible journalism in Scheer's columns if one only looked (not to mention just plain dumb analysis lacking in logic and common sense). And don't the editors at the newspapers which publish Scheer have a responsibility to filter this stuff out? You would think so, expect that in Scheer's case they apparently don't bother. Scheer's column appears regularly in both the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Scheer's wife is Narda Zacchino. Zacchino was a senior editor at the Los Angeles Times for several years. In 2001 she joined the San Francisco Chronicle, where she has the title "Assistant Executive Editor" and is the #3 ranking editor on the masthead, and "oversees the written content of the newspaper", including, presumably, her husband's column. For some reason the Chronicle doesn't disclose this obvious conflict of interest.

Is there a connection between the Scheer/Zacchino family's ties to the Chronicle and the Times and the apparent lack of oversight on Scheer's columns? I can only ask the question but the newspapers' readers, shareholders and other stakeholders deserve an answer.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:27 PM
Robert Scheer's Canard-o-matic

The long promised Canard-o-matic is finally up!

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:56 AM
May 20, 2003
Scheer Gullibility

Bogus Bob "B.S." Scheer (aka "Bob the Gullible", "Bob the Credulous", "Pyongyang Bob", and "Bob of the Ten-Thousand Canards") seems to have bought the BBC Jessica Lynch hoax hook, line and sinker.

After a thorough investigation, the British Broadcasting Corp. has presented a shocking dissection of the "heroic" rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch, as reported by the U.S. military and a breathless American press.
"Her story is one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived," the BBC concluded—the polite British way of saying "liar, liar, pants on fire."

Hint: If you read something in a Bob Scheer column, it is almost certainly wrong. When Bob Scheer savages someone with criticism, then that person is almost certainly doing a lot of good.

Coming soon: The Robert Scheer Canard-o-matic

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:37 PM
Diversity of Opinion

Here are all of the editorial columns that the Seattle newspapers have published on the Jayson Blair scandal. (both papers always print headshots of the columnists next to their columns).

Seattle Times May 18 Lynne Varner wrote that the Blair scandal had nothing to do with Blair's race:
In the aftermath of the Blair incident, no manager should be ashamed or afraid of working to create a diverse newsroom. Blair is an example of nothing more than how dramatically a soaring bird can crash and burn.
Seattle Times May 18 Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote that the Blair scandal had nothing to do with Blair's race:
Times editors say they initially brought Blair into the newsroom because they were wowed by him. They offered him a slot in an internship program that was being used to help the paper diversify its newsroom. He rose swiftly from there.

It is upon this slim reed that critics have perched claims that diversity has hurt The New York Times. The charge is otherwise unsupported.

Seattle Times May 20. William Raspberry wrote that the Blair scandal had nothing to do with Blair's race
Was Jayson Blair hired — and were the negative signals about him ignored — because he is black? I don't know... What I do know is that scores of people, black, white, Asian and Hispanic, have come and gone over the years I've been at the Post — and that not all have gone willingly.

Blair, by all accounts, was a first-rate schmoozer, and I don't doubt that it helped keep him afloat. It wouldn't be necessary to say any of this if the miscreant were white.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer May 20 Bob Herbert wrote that the Blair scandal had nothing to do with Blair's race:
Listen up: The race issue in this case is as bogus as some of Jayson Blair's reporting.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer May 14 Robert L. Jamieson Jr. wrote that the Blair scandal did have something to do with Blair's race -- but only in the sense that Tacoma police chief David Brame's murder-suicide crime also had something to do with the police chief's white race :
Brame and Blair are two sides of the same coin -- both anointed, for different reasons, by institutions of white male privilege.

Meanwhile, Howell Raines of the New York Times has admitted that race did play a role in his inadequate supervision of Blair:
"Our paper has a commitment to diversity and by all accounts he appeared to be a promising young minority reporter," Mr. Raines said. "I believe in aggressively providing hiring and career opportunities for minorities."

"Does that mean I personally favored Jayson?" he added, a moment later. "Not consciously. But you have a right to ask if I, as a white man from Alabama, with those convictions, gave him one chance too many by not stopping his appointment to the sniper team. When I look into my heart for the truth of that, the answer is yes."

The Seattle Times did also publish John Leo's recent column under the headline "Quest for diversity undermines NY Times"

Note to Seattle editors: "diversity" in the newsroom means more than just publishing op-eds from five different black columnists who all give similar (mis-)interpretations of events, even if you also include one token white guy.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:11 PM
Palestinians protest against terrorists

This sounds like a first

In an unusual protest, about 600 Beit Hanoun residents blocked a main thoroughfare with trash cans, rocks and burning tires to show their anger at the militants and Palestinian Authority officials.

"They (the militants) claim they are heroes," said Mohammed Zaaneen, 30, a farmer, as he carried rocks into the street. "They brought us only destruction and made us homeless. They used our farms, our houses and our children ... to hide."

And they're probably not the only ones who feel that way.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:44 AM
May 19, 2003
The Moose

Remember the old Woody Allen monologue where he brings a moose to a costume party? ("The moose mingles. Did very well").

It must have been a New York Times office party.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 04:45 PM
The high cost of misbehavior

A news item from The Land of My Birth: A middle school student in Madison, WI was ordered out of school, so he returned with a belt in hand, accosted another student, and got in a teacher's face while still wielding the belt. The teacher slapped the student in self-defense. The student's mother wants the teacher fired and is suing the school district for $35,000.

Just defending the teacher and the district from the lawsuit will probably cost far more than $35,000. My solution: give the mother a full refund on the tuition she paid to the Madison School District, provided however that she agrees to permanently remove all of her children from the public schools.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 02:57 PM
Goldfish in a blender

Glenn Reynolds might put puppies in blenders, but at least he doesn't put goldfish in blenders. Then again, how do I know that he doesn't?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:04 PM
Vigilance against discrimination

The Seattle Times applauds the overreaction to the Seattle teacher who used an inappropriate word in front of his class. The editorial closes:

Parents and students have the right to expect vigilance against discrimination. And if it occurs anyway, they should expect swift recourse.
Indeed. But this particular incident wasn't about "discrimination", it was about a clumsy attempt to use an offensive word in order to teach a lesson against, uh, discrimination.

But fair enough, we should be vigilant against "discrimination", which Merriam Webster's defines as:

to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit
How does the Seattle Times do on this score?

The Times published this pro-affirmative action op-ed in 1998 during the campaign for anti-discrimination ballot measure I-200 (the text of the measure was:

Shall government be prohibited from discriminating or granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, education, and contracting?
The op-ed said
Will the University of Washington provide a better educational environment if the already small percentages of African-American students (3.4 percent), Latinos (3.8 percent), and Native Americans (1.6 percent) are reduced?
) We learn elsewhere that the percentage of Whites at the University of Washington is 60.5% and Asians 21.9%. Meanwhile, according to the US Census Bureau, the State of Washington as a whole is 81.8% White, 5.5% Asian, 3.2% Black and 1.6% Native American. In other words, Washington Blacks are already slightly "overrepresented" at the state university, Native Americans are proportionately represented, while Whites are dramatically "underrepresented" and Asians enormously "overrepresented". No matter, the Times published numerous editorials against the anti-discrimination initiative, apparently agreeing that the university needs to discriminate on the basis of race to change its racial composition.

And even in the last month, the Times has published supportive editorials and sympathetic news articles defending the Seattle School District's legal fight to continue to discriminate on the basis of race in making school assignments.

Yes, we should all be vigilant against discrimination, and so should the Seattle Times.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:01 PM
"We need the truth"

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer didn't learn very much from the Jayson Blair scandal:

We already know that the story about Jessica Lynch's family -- the one told by New York Times' reporter Jayson Blair -- was merely the product of a fanciful imagination. The newspaper is investigating -- as it should.
The lesson should have been "don't always believe everything that the media reports". Instead, the P-I is already repeating the dubious claims of the BBC that the Jessica Lynch rescue was little more than a theatrical production, closing with the line
We need to know more; we need the truth
Glenn Reynolds has an entire page of links debunking the BBC account. Who's right? the BBC? or the various debunkers? The BBC version sounds pretty far-fetched, but who am I to say?, I don't have the time or the staff to investigate all the various claims and counter-claims. But the P-I does. And don't they have a responsibility to investigate such fantastic-sounding reports from a habitually biased source before promoting them on the editorial page?

Yeah, we need the truth all right. I've been reading the P-I for less than a week, and they've already convinced me that if I want the truth, I shouldn't expect to find it in the P-I.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:42 AM
May 18, 2003
Affirmative Action Blowback

Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald, writing on the Jayson Blair scandal:

So apparently, Jayson Blair's biggest crime is not that he cheated and misled. It's that he cheated and misled while black.
The issue is not that he was black. The issue is that his management apparently cut him more slack than he deserved because he was black. And there's a big difference.
I've frequently said that to be a black professional is to be always on probation, every day expected to prove that you belong.
This would be the blowback from affirmative action, wouldn't it? If the only blacks who were hired into professional positions were expected to meet the same standards as everybody else, then black professionals shouldn't feel more pressure to prove themselves than anybody else. It is only when standards are lowered in the name of "diversity" that the qualifications of diversity hires become suspect. Unfortunately as a result, these doubts are sometimes also raised on the qualifications of minorities who would otherwise be hired solely on the basis of merit.

Just a hunch -- but I'd bet that black professional athletes, say, all of whom are hired solely on the basis of merit, are not under any more pressure to prove and re-prove themselves than are any of their teammates.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:29 PM
May 17, 2003
Seattle Observations

The people here are so darn friendly and welcoming, it blows me away.

"The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is even nuttier than the San Francisco Chronicle". So says local blog reader Hank Bradley, who very kindly treated me to breakfast this morning. Bradley cautions that the P-I is superb at "selective omission" of facts. (see this grotesquely biased editorial from yesterday for an example of the P-I's selective omission of historical context and justice).

As you'd expect, the newspaper is the way it is because it has to pander to the local tastes and opinions. All over my neighborhood I see red-white-and-blue yard and window signs that say "No Iraq War" and "Impeach Bush". I still haven't found any signs that say "Impeach Saddam".

Never leave the house without a hat. It can and will rain at any time. Don't carry an umbrella, though, that is the surest way to stand out as a tourist.

There are nearly as many coffee houses in this city as there are fire hydrants, but I'm thrilled to discover that my neighborhood espresso bar is crema de la crema. Zoka Coffee on 56th and Keystone was named by USA Today as one of the USA's "10 great places for caffeine and conversation". Not only that, but the guy behind the counter, Dismas Smith, is the reigning North American Barista Champion! No, seriously, there really is such a championship and Dismas does make a damn good latte.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 12:36 PM
May 16, 2003
Bush-Cheney '04

George W Bush filed formal notice of intent to run for re-election with the Federal Election Commission today.

Readers of this blog might be surprised to learn that I have never voted for a Republican for president. The first three presidential votes I cast were for Mondale, Dukakis and Clinton. In '96 and '00 I voted Libertarian, mostly as a protest against the major party candidates. Although I didn't think much of Gore in 2000, I thought even less of Bush. He struck me as shallow, unsophisticated and too beholden to the religious Right. At the time, I was disappointed by the outcome of the 2000 election. I still think that Gore should have won, in the sense that the decisive majority of people who showed up at the polls clearly intended to vote for Gore, even in Florida. But, there were flaws in the ballot machinery and we were left with what was essentially a tie. Bush prevailed not because he had more support at the ballot box, but because his team did a better job of managing the post-election confusion than Gore's team did.

The first part of Bush administration was one regrettable move after another -- appointing Ashcroft, "faith-based initiatives", the "missile shield"

It wasn't until after Sept. 11 that I formed a more favorable opinion of the President. Simply put, he has managed foreign affairs and national security far better than any President in decades -- including Reagan and Bush the elder -- and certainly better than Gore would have, not to mention any of the current crop of Democratic contenders.

Short of an unforeseen major screw-up, I will cast my first vote for a Republican presidential ticket for Bush-Cheney in 2004.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:23 PM
N-word Scandal

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported yesterday that

A teacher at Cleveland High School in Seattle was suspended with pay after reportedly referring to an African American student as a "n- - - - -" in front of his classmates
The full story is that the student in question was using the word "gay" in a derogatory context and the teacher was trying to make the point that using "gay" as a slur is as offensive as using the N-word as a slur. The teacher, Brian Emanuels, is a former Microsoft technology manager who recently made a career change to teach computer skills in a public high school with a population of disadvantaged minority students.

By all indications, Emanuels' use of the N-word was not meant to harass anybody, but was merely a clumsy attempt to teach a lesson in tolerance. He has expressed regret for making the remark. Still, the local NAACP has demanded that Emanuels be fired for violating the school district's anti-harassment policy.

Students deserve respect and to be treated with dignity by their role models -- teachers," Phyllis Beaumonte, the [NAACP] branch's education chairwoman, said during the news conference. The use of racial epithets, she said, does not foster an environment "that is conducive to learning and reduces children's self-esteem."
One wonders whether the NAACP might do more to "foster an environment that is conducive to learning" for minority students if instead of firing an otherwise competent and passionate teacher who made a single misguided remark, they would fire their "partners" in the incompetence-defending teachers' unions.

One also wonders whether the NAACP might do more to bolster the self-esteem of minority children if they abandoned policies which imply that minorities are incapable of competing without special preferences and lowered standards.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:42 AM
May 15, 2003
Roadmap to Nowhere, Redux

Yassir Arafat said on Thursday that

Israel must withdraw from all the lands it occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War and Palestinian refugees must be allowed to return to their homes
which would seem to help undermine any chances that Abu Mazen might have to persuade the average Israeli that the Palestinians are sincere about seeking peace.

Meanwhile, "It's the demography, stupid": Israel Harel explains why the vision of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza is a delusion. Unless Egypt and/or Jordan agree to cede some of their enormous and underpopulated territory to the Palestinians, then the demands of the overcrowded Palestinians on tiny Israel will never end.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:00 PM
Oy Vey

Today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer carries Robert Fisk's latest column

President Mohammed Khatami of Iran -- whose election gave him a far more convincing majority than President Bush received in America ...
of course, Khatami had help from the "Guardian Council" in narrowing the field of competitors, not unlike Saddam "100%" Hussein, but don't expect Robert "the human punching bag" Fisk to put anything into its proper context. Don't bother to read the whole thing, it's Fisk after all. But oy, why does the P-I publish such mendacious garbage? Even the San Francisco Chronicle doesn't stoop so low as to publish Fisk. Yes, I can see that the P-I will supply me with plenty of fodder for the blog.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 05:22 PM
A peculiar definition of "Advancement"

Kweisi Mfume's National Assocation for the Advancement of Colored People has failed in its lawsuit attempting to blame gun manufacturers for illegal gun use in minority communities. That Mfume filed this lawsuit in the first place sends the message that he believes that Colored People are incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions. Along similar lines, Mfume is aligning the NAACP with Fidel Castro, praising Cuba's "education and health care systems, which offer free schooling and medical care to all citizens". (These goods are "free", only if you don't ascribe value to the civil liberties you forfeit to live in Castro's paradise).

By aspiring to a Castro-style coerced social welfare state, Mfume is not only saying that Colored People are incapable of managing their own lives, but that they mustn't even be allowed to manage their own lives. This is a peculiar definition of "Advancement". In most cases, advancement comes only by taking more responsibility for one's own life and actions, and not from shifting responsibility to somebody else.

Now I'm not a member of the NAACP's core constituency, but something tells me that Shannon Reeves has a more effective understanding of advancement than Kweisi Mfume does.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:41 PM
May 14, 2003

I am slowly becoming Seattlified. The various moving-in crises I mentioned yesterday are being resolved. The crib parts were located, as were the bookcase shelves. Still no sign of shelf mounting brackets for bookcase #2. The wife swears she knows which exact clear plastic container she put them in. Unfortunately, she has no idea which of the several dozen identical cardboard boxes she put the clear plastic container in. We had to throw away our old clothes dryer as soon as the movers brought it here, because we discovered only then that the new house doesn't have any 220V outlets. A brand new gas powered dryer is on order. At least we have a new washing machine. But what the heck, it rains here so much, why bother to dry one's clothes in the first place? They'll only get wet again anyway. In the meantime, we subsist only on take out food eaten with our hands and knees because all of our plates and silverware are still AWOL. The good news is that my home office computer network is operational, so my business is back in business.

One thing I learned today: "Seattle's Best Coffee" isn't.

The San Francisco Chronicle no longer has Stefan Sharkansky to kick them around anymore. But Seattle has a paper called the Post-Intelligencer. Today's editorial on this week's bombing in Saudi Arabia:

In a world in which there is a single super conventional military power, random acts of terror with rudimentary weapons will be a reality of life. Terrorism cannot be eradicated, only mitigated. The civilized world must remain vigilant and ready to respond with swift and decisive law enforcement and military action. The civilized world would do well, too, to rid the planet of the cultural, social and economic inequities that these murderers use to justify their unjustifiable acts.
That'll end terrorism. Just satisfy every terrorist's demands and they'll leave you alone. Until they fabricate the next grievance. In the case of Al Qaeda, the inequities are along the lines of (a) they're Muslim and we're not, and (b) Osama bin-Laden is/was richer than 99.999% of everybody on the planet. A modest proposal to rid the world of these inequities: (a) redistribute Osama's wealth, and (b) force all the Saudis to convert to Judaism.

Yes, I think the P-I might turn out to be a satisfying replacement for the Chronicle.

Blogging may be sparse for a while as I continue to seattle in and catch up on some projects for my clients.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 03:16 PM
May 13, 2003
Beam Me Up

The movers did come yesterday morning with all or most of our possessions. My life is slow beginning to rematerialize. Phones are mostly in normal state. the DSL is up and I can work from my laptop, if not yet from the full blown network. Not all of the essential household parts have been located. We managed to put the baby's crib back together -- except we couldn't find the mattress support hangers, so we're left with a useless wooden cage from which David can crawl out the bottom. In my office I have two bookcases. I have the shelves for one, but no mounting brackets. For the other I have mounting brackets but no shelves. This is the last time I inflict myself with a move until the technology is at the point where I can simply say "beam me up" and then rematerialize in the new location both instantly and painlessly.

Meanwhile in Seattle there is apparently some sort of terrorism practice drill going on.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:26 AM
May 11, 2003
The Eagle Has Landed

The Shark family arrived at our new house in Seattle on Saturday afternoon. We've been here for a little more than 24 hours and there hasn't been any rain yet. In fact, the weather has been mostly warm and sunny, a bit more so than what I'm used to in San Francisco.

The house is a 1920s Craftsman that has been almost completely rebuilt. We bought the place when the reconstruction was still in progress, and there are a few more final touches that are still being finalized. The renovators who sold it to us have done an amazing job, working round the clock these last few weeks. Still, no project of this magnitude goes off without glitches or odd incompletions.

All of the bathroom tiles and kitchen granite are brand new. Yet, for unexplained reasons of trade custom? superstition? deliberate cruelty? the contractors refused to apply the stone and grout sealants for us. So we are forced to do this work ourselves, getting down on our hands and knees with tiny paint brushes and inhaling chromosome-altering fumes for hours at a time before we can use the shower, lest the moisture turns our bathroom into a forest of furry black poisonous mushrooms, arrayed in neat rectangular patterns where the grout used to be.

Speaking of bathrooms, we are now one of those households which have more bathrooms than residents. We now require a continuous parade of houseguests if only to ensure an adequate supply of fresh rear ends to keep all of those toilet seats fully utilized.

All of our furniture and most of our worldly artifacts are on a long truck somewhere south of here. Will they arrive tomorrow morning as promised? Who the hell knows. In the meantime, I am reduced to blogging while sitting on the floor. If I don't get a table and chair by tomorrow I will change the name of the blog to "Floor Pundit".

We don't have any window treatments yet, so for all intents and purposes we live in one of those proverbial glass houses. Women from all over the neighborhood have been swooning to stolen glimpses of my impressive grecian physique. Meanwhile, other neighbors are apparently wagering on the frequency and duration of our marital performances.

Today I pulled a Lileks and spent the afternoon at Target. What a great store. Is there anything they don't sell?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:01 PM
May 09, 2003
Savaged by the Star

This blog was just savaged by Antonia Zerbisias of the Toronto Star in an op-ed "Where is the outrage over activist [Rachel Corrie's] death":

Bad enough that Corrie was crushed to death, but now she is being buried again, a victim of media neglect and Blogistani justice. Cruise the net and you'll find many Likudnik hardline blogs, or web logs, and web forums, where Corrie has been crudely excoriated.

On "I nominate the Bulldozer for the Nobel Peace Prize! It improved society; and now with blood on its hands, I mean blade, it'll fit in with past recipients such as: Terrorfat, Mandela, Carter." On, where she's known as "the flat bitch:'' "How 'bout we all get together at Rachel's grave and stage a vomit-in on it?'' while on, "I hope that Rachel's parents read this site. I just want to say hi; and that at least you have the knowledge that she died painfully."

First of all, I do not consider myself a "Likudnik", hardline or otherwise. What Zerbisias doesn't also say is that the quote attributed to "" was from an anonymous reader in the unmoderated comments section, and that I get plenty of equally obnoxious anti-Israel comments that don't reflect my viewpoint either. (and the same applies to little green footballs)

And it looks like Antonia Zerbisias has struck a chord with her own avid fans -- like Holocaust denier David Irving

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:52 PM

Here we are in Salem, Oregon. 600 miles from San Francisco, 220 from Seattle. Yesterday we left the old house, tomorrow we arrive at the new house. Today there is no continuity with either future or past, we are nomads. Information-age Bedouins with laptop, cell phones and a digital camera, and a 1995 BMW M3 in lieu of a camel.

Sections of I-5 in northern California and southern Oregon are stunning, with big green trees, big mountains and big lakes. There are few people and cars in parts. I once heard that there was once a young single man who, one Sunday morning years ago, drove that stretch of highway at over 100 mph for more than an hour. I heard elsewhere that the BMW M3 can exceed 100mph quite comfortably. I can't say where I heard these things, there are just certain things one knows to be true. Nevertheless, I scarcely pushed it past 80 today.

I don't think there are any witches in Salem, Oregon but I do have a splitting headache. Davey blew chunks all over himself this afternoon. I think it was just motion sickness but it was a bitch to clean up and he still smells funky.

Tomorrow: a day without towels or furniture.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 09:09 PM
May 08, 2003

It was a later start than expected. The movers showed up at 10, not 8 and it took them almost 6 hours, not 5. By the time we dropped off the bags of debris at Goodwill at 4:01pm (they close at 4, and you try to get them to accept your free stuff after closing), bought lunch, ate lunch, strategically placed the editorial page of the San Francisco Chronicle in the bottom of the cat carrier so that Ruth Rosen's column was directly underneath the cat, Easy-Offed the oven, threw away most if not all of the remaining trash, packed the car, locked the house, left our coats in the house, cried one last time and finished picking up David from the babysitter it was already 6:30.

We stopped at Grandma's in Vacaville to drop off the microwave and to eat fresh tomatoes and avocados. I also let Chompers the traumatized cat out of the trunk and out of the carrier so he could taste fresh air and take a leak, but tied his leash to the garden faucet so he wouldn't run away. Chompers didn't take a leak because he had already peed all over Ruth Rosen's column in the bottom of his cage.

We're spending the night at the Best Western in Willows. 140 miles. Not bad for such a late start. Only 682 more miles to go. Tomorrow night: somewhere in Oregon, maybe Salem

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:36 PM
So long, San Francisco

This is my last blog post from San Francisco. The movers are here and they have given me a choice. Either I pack up the laptop, or they will take it from my cold, dead hands and pack it for me.

It's been a good run here in S.F. Now it's time to do it somewhere else.

My next post should be later this evening from a motel somewhere off of I-5 in northern California.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 10:09 AM
May 07, 2003
Home Stretch

Getting down to the home stretch here, on my way to Seattle. The movers were here this morning and they packed up all kinds of stuff, chik-chak, converting a disorderly pile of debris into an orderly pile of boxes. These guys are strong as oxen, they can even rip tape with their bare hands!

The good people at Peet's Coffee named me Customer of the Week this week. Unfortunately it's a short week, so I only get two days worth of free coffee. How does one become Customer of the Week? Don't ask. If you ask, they will never, ever, pick you.

Also at Peet's Coffee today someone pointed out to me that one of the regular customers whom I've seen in there many times but never met is one Paul Pelosi, husband of the Nancy. Those who know him tell me that Paul is a fine gentleman.

That felt good: I called today to terminate my subscription to the San Francisco Chronicle. I'll still read it and skewer it online. But at least I won't be subsidizing Ruth Rosen's salary any more.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 06:00 PM
Here and There, May 7

The Shark has officially announced that he will not be running for President in 2004 either. Sorry to disappoint you all. You may still try to bribe me with illegal campaign contributions anyway.

More evidence of looting in Iraq. Shouldn't the Marines go after the people who did this and bring them to justice?

No, they haven't found bulletproof evidence of Iraqi biological weapons yet. But what could possibly explain the fact that Saddam appointed a microbiologist to his inner circle? Are we to believe that she was in charge of a strategic yogurt initiative?

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:44 AM
What is Next?

Commentary from my father, Hebrew University political scientist Ira Sharkansky

If the road map leads to nowhere, what is next?

All I know about political science tells me that the highest probability should be assigned to "more of the same."

What's that?

Arabs and other Muslims will continue to fantasize about vengeneance and victory.

Palestinians will continue to train their children to be fighters by having them bite the heads off living chickens. Meanwhile their country will continue to crumble; those who can will leave; their leaders will not move seriously against their own violence while demanding that others force Israel to make concessions.

Western leftists will continue to blather about equity in the treatment of Israel and Palestine.

The Bush administration will continue to lose credit among those who award intellectual dexterity and subtlety, but unless it does something of monumental stupidity in the realm of economics, or suffers terrible bad luck, it will be around for another five and one-half years. Perhaps then a brother will be ready to perpetuate the dynasty.

The Israeli left will continue to eat itself. The savior of the Labor Party has just resigned while claiming he was right all along, and others were responsible for his failures. Meretz waits for its leader who formally resigned several months ago to really step down so they can get on with the task of beating up on one another in order to choose a new leader.

How long can this go on?

Notice that there is no prediction of a war between civilizations. Containment is more efficient. Nobody wants to embark on the destruction of Islam or a billion Muslims. But who really wants them to exercise influence on the rest of us?

The destruction of the Iraqi regime was part of that containment. Ariel Sharon's response to the road map ("Yes, but") is another part of the containment. Israeli security forces will continue to do what they can to contain the violence. The security fence will continue to crawl its way to completion, taking more land that the Palestinians dream of as their own. We'll continue to suffer losses as security is imperfect, but the incidence is on the decline. If there is a really monumental event and lots of Israelis die, the Palestinians will dance in the street and Israel may finally move forcefully against the Palestinian political and religious leadership.

The last time I looked, the monumental crossed swords remained over a main thoroughfare in Baghdad. Together with the sure-footed Iraqi Minister of Interior, they represent the essence of Arab culture. Too bad. But it's their problem.

Occasionally things change. Hopefully they'll get better But it's wisest to bet on more of the same, no matter how far it falls short of what is desirable.

Today is Israel's Independence Day. We're still here. Chag sameach.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:21 AM
May 06, 2003
One last look at the S.F. Chronicle

This will be my last grand tour of the San Francisco Chronicle editorial page, at least as a San Francisco resident. On Monday, May 5 we got the following:

Louis Freedberg profiles Democrat Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, who Freedberg describes as a moderate. According to the "moderate" Tauscher:

Unbeknown to most Americans, she says, a "fundamentalist revolution" has taken place in the United States -- a revolution comparable to those that have taken place in the Islamic world.

The revolution being waged by so-called compassionate conservatives is focused around a handful of rigid principles: U.S. military domination, cutting taxes and shrinking the federal government, and expanding "faith- based" initiatives.

Sure thing, Ellen. I want smaller government and lower taxes too, so I guess that makes me comparable to the Taliban. Allahu Akbar, Ellen, and be sure to keep your head covered, otherwise Denny Hastert will have you stoned to death.

Ruth Rosen believes that anybody who wants to live in the city with the highest cost of living in the United States should be able to do so. And if they don't feel like getting a job, they should be paid a stipend for slacking off, courtesy of working taxpayers in places like Oklahoma. Ruthie doesn't say it in exactly those words, but that's the upshot.

Luis Rodriguez says that immigration criminals should be entitled to all the privileges that citizens have. Or something like that.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez is more interested in celebrating Cinco de Mayo than the Fourth of July. And he seems to think it's a bad thing when developing countries start becoming less like Zimbabwe and Cuba.

Exploitative foreign loans, coupled with foreign corporate activity, often only serves to deepen poverty, not alleviate it. Recent examples of this include privatization of water in Cochabamba, Bolivia; abolished tariff protections on domestic rice in Haiti; and the forced sale of the Demerara forests in Guyana -- all the consequence of IMF policies to repay international debt.

Sadly, Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the United States have lost their political focus, degenerating into commercial efforts to drive up beer consumption.

Oh, the horrors of privatization, competence, free enterprise and having a good time. Lighten up, Matt and have a Corona.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:08 AM
Scheer B.S.

In last week's column, Bob Scheer says that

For some, victory in Iraq justifies our government's continued lies

Forget truth. That is the message from our government and its apologists in the media who insist that the Iraq invasion is a great success story even though it was based on a lie.
What "lie" might that be?
the American people and their elected representatives in Congress were deliberately deceived by the president as to the imminent threat that Iraq posed to our security
In fact, this so-called "lie" is just one of the many canards that Scheer is fond of repeating. The President never said that Iraq posed an "imminent threat" to our security. (the other half of Scheer's canard is the implicit assumption that an "imminent threat", whatever that means, is a sine qua non for military action).

And since Bob Scheer is so fascinated with lies, here's another one, from his column of March 18

The United States lied to the world when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he had "bulletproof evidence" that Iraq was behind the Sept. 11 attacks
No, Rumsfeld never said that. What he did say was this
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today that American intelligence had "bulletproof" evidence of links between Al Qaeda and the government of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.
Got it? Links (which have since been confirmed by journalists in post-Saddam Iraq). Nothing about Saddam being "behind" 9/11, except this:
Administration officials say there is still no evidence to link Mr. Hussein directly to the attacks on Sept. 11 in the United States.
So who's the liar? Donald Rumsfeld or Bogus Bob "B.S." Scheer?

Coming soon: Robert Scheer's Canard-o-matic

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 07:12 AM
May 04, 2003

As I pack my belongings for the Great Trek North, I am confronted with the accumulated debris of my entire adult life. As I sift and winnow through the artifacts of my existence, I have to keep asking myself whether an item is a memento or merely detritus? Do I keep it, or do I throw it away? This key, which does not fit any of the locks of this house, what door does it open, and what treasures might it access? The fetching young woman in this photograph, who is she? Did I ever kiss her? Might some future historian know the answer? The letter I received from a college friend, should I keep it, in case he wins a Nobel Prize some day?

When I moved in to this house seven years ago, I brought with me boxes of papers that I could not then bear to throw away -- credit card receipts from the 1980s, for example. This time I tossed them into the recycling bucket. I had mixed feelings about this. What if I need an alibi some day? "No officer, I wasn't in Texarkana the night of the murder. I was eating dinner in Budapest. See?" And what if somebody were to write my biography some day? Destroying my audit trail would be a crime against history, at least as serious as the looting of the Baghdad Museum. Nevertheless, out it all went.

Some things I'm glad I kept, like a personal thank you letter I received in 1984 from a then obscure young Wisconsin State Senator, named Russell Feingold; or the business card of a not so obscure young man, named Marc Andreessen, who I met in 1994 when he was the vice-president of technology for a company whose business cards at the time said "Mosaic Communications Corporation"

And then there are the vinyl LPs. From about 1978 to 1988 I spent hundreds of dollars amassing a small collection of phonograph records, everything from Bob Marley and The Who to Antonin Dvorak and the Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band ("And looking very relaxed, there's Adolf Hitler on the vibes!"). My turntable died in the early 90s. I never bothered to replace the turntable and I never bothered to get rid of the LPs. Until yesterday. I took the disks over to Amoeba Music on Haight St. and waited for an hour while a guy named Craig sifted and winnowed through them all. His verdict: $95 cash or $114 in store credit. The only one he really liked was the import of the Velvet Underground and Nico. He didn't even care for the autographed copy of Bogalusa Boogie by Clifton Chenier ("The problem with autographs is that when people ask us if it's a real autograph, we have to say 'well, I don't know'"). I took a combination of cash and store credit and went home with 6 used CDs and $50.

At dinner last night I told this story to some friends and one said "Wow, you had an import of the Velvet Underground and Nico?". When I later looked it up on e-bay, I saw that they're going for $150 each. How was I to know? Still, for the amount of time I would have otherwise had to spend looking up the value of every piece in the collection I won't complain. I have no use for the LPs -- discwashers and needles and flipping sides every 26 minutes -- why bother? $50 at least paid for the dinner and the 6 CDs shouldn't grow obsolete any time soon.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:53 PM
The 3 Blogsketeers

Neighbor bloggers Daily Pundit Bill Quick (aka Mr. Blogosphere) and Toren "Safety Valve" Smith stopped by Shark Manor this afternoon and we all went out for lunch. Bill regaled us with stories of his life as a Hollywood ghostwriter, among them an anecdote from his rewarding collaboration with American icon William Shatner. Toren gave us samples of his work as a translator of Japanese manga comics. I am now engrossed in a graphic novel called Club 9. I quote from the book jacket:

Before she leaves, she makes a pledge that she'll remain true to her boyfriend, despite all the temptations a big city can throw at her, and the temptations pile up like cordwood when the need for a few yen to rub together nets her a job at Club 9, a hot hostess bar. The charming country girl lights a lot of fires in the hearts of the club patrons, and her short skirt is fanning the flames!
Mrs. Shark took our picture:
l to r: Bill, Shark, Toren.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:52 PM
May 02, 2003
The Shark is Homeless

Due to economic conditions in San Francisco, I have reluctantly surrendered my home. We are required to evacuate the premises next Thursday, May 8. At that time, my wife, our infant son and I will get into our remaining car (we sold the other one) and we will drive north toward Canada in search of as yet unknown opportunities. Blogging might be light for the next few days.

But before you feel sorry for us and start sending envelopes of cash and cartons of baby food, you should know that all of the above is true, BUT, I'm pulling your leg. In fact, what's really going on is that we're selling our house and buying a bigger house with a smaller mortgage in a city with better public schools! Wa-hoo!

We closed escrow on the SF home today, and we expect to close on the new home on Monday. So for the next few days we are officially homeless, so to speak, but the buyer is letting us live here until Thursday. To celebrate our blessings, the Mrs. Shark and I are having dinner tonight at the legendary Chez Panisse.

I've lived in San Francisco since 1990 and in the Bay Area since 1984. San Francisco is truly a great city, especially if you are a single person or childless couple, and/or if you are fabulously rich. If you have children and are merely upper middle class or worse, you will either live in a small house without a real yard and send your kids to a scary public school, or you will live in a small house without a real yard and work like a dog in order to pay through the nose for your kids to go to private school and then you will enjoy a retirement of penury. But San Francisco, so far, has been very good to me. Yeah, the city is full of oddballs, misfits, lunatics, crooked politicians and insane politicians, but all of that is just an expensive form of entertainment until you really need the city to do something for you, like give your kids an education.

So we're moving north to another great city a little closer to Canada, that is sure to provide plenty of entertainment. A modern city with high-tech coffee, low-tech software, mountains, ocean, trees, a good university, major league baseball and a statue of Vladimir Lenin. Yes, even if you didn't follow the links, you probably figured out that we're moving to Seattle.

Why Seattle, of all places? Because (a) it's cheap, and (b) because of the weather. You laugh, hahaha. But no, seriously. The only city that makes Seattle look cheap is San Francisco, but that's where we're coming from, so to us, Seattle does look cheap. The new house is 2/3 larger than the old one, the new mortgage is 1/3 smaller than the old one and we're still getting cash back! And the weather? When contemplating new cities, the wife's two NON-NEGOTIABLE criteria were (a) hardly any snow in the winter, and (b) hardly any heat and humidity in the summer. That didn't leave us with many places to choose from. And Seattle has a warmer July and August than San Francisco has.

Yes, I'll miss San Francisco. I'll miss all of our wonderful friends, and I'll miss this view from my kitchen of the Bay and the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge.

We won't have a view from the new house, but we will be in the Green Lake neighborhood only a few blocks away from the lake and the zoo!

This whole process of finding a new city and a new house and selling the old house has been a comedy of crises. I can count at least four (4) distinct crises with the wife, a crisis with a neighbor, a crisis with the buyer of the old house, a crisis with the seller of the new house and various minor flare-ups with just about everybody else involved in the process. If this were to go on any longer I would probably require medication, but praise Allah it's just about over. Except for the packing, and the 800 mile drive with a baby and a cat named Chomsky, and the unpacking. Some day, I'll write about the whole thing. In the meantime, I gotta go put a lot of shit into a lot of boxes. Blogging might be light for the next few days.

Oh, if you need a real estate agent in San Francisco, Janis Stone is the best there is. If you need to sell a house, you want it staged by Arthur McLaughlin

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 08:00 AM
May 01, 2003
Famous physicists were nerds

A medical doctor diagnoses Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein as having classic symptoms of nerdiness (although he calls it "Asperger's Syndrome").

Einstein started to speak only after his third birthday. He was a slow, thoughtful talker who would also softly repeat sentences to himself until he was seven. Although outstanding at maths, his teachers found him disruptive in the classroom.

Later in life he was a notoriously confusing lecturer. While he had healthy friendships, he is said to have found small talk difficult.

"What most people with Asperger syndrome find difficult is casual chatting," Prof Cohen-Baron told New Scientist magazine.

As do half the software engineers in Silicon Valley...
Newton cut an even more eccentric figure than Einstein. According to contemporary accounts, he barely spoke, became so engrossed in his work that he often forgot to eat, and was said to be grumpy with his friends. He had a nervous breakdown at 50, triggered by paranoia and depression.

Asperger syndrome was first identified as a separate condition from other autism-like disorders in 1944. It is still poorly understood by doctors and often goes undiagnosed.

People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence and lead highly productive lives. However, many sufferers find social situations confusing.

They can be good at picking up details and facts, and may be obsessive about deeply-held interests, but find it hard to work out what others are thinking and feeling. Often they do things in inflexible and repetitive ways and have problems making friends.

If there's a difference between Asperger's Syndrome and garden variety nerdiness, the article doesn't explain what it is.

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 01:02 PM
On Wisconsin

Aaron Smith reports on the MADness surrounding Daniel Pipes lecture in MAD City this week. I am a proud alumnus of the UW-Madison. In spite of its nuttier elements, it's still a wonderful place. Nice to see that Aaron is helping to hold the place together.

[hat tip: Charles Johnson]

Posted by Stefan Sharkansky at 11:39 AM