Monday, June 30, 2003
Couldn't have put it better myself:
I don't know about you, but I'm sick and tired of Geography killing so many people. Someone needs to step in right now and stop Geography from continuing his murderous sprees against the jews.
And don't even get me started on Geometry.
Cynthia Ozick makes an extremely distressing point in today's Opinion Journal:
No one can refute the truth that the Palestinians have fashioned a culture peculiarly their own--but one so steeped in the negative as to have been turned into a kind of anti-history. In order to deprive Jews of their patrimony, Palestinians have fabricated a sectarian narrative alien to commonplace knowledge. Although the Arab invasion of Palestine did not occur until the 17th century, Palestinian Arabs are declared to be, according to activist Salah Jabr, "the descendants of civilizations that have lived in this land since the Stone Age." With equal absurdity, other such deniers of Jewish patrimony claim a Canaanite bloodline. By replacing history with fantasy, the Palestinians have invented a society unlike any other, where hatred trumps bread...
The salient attribute of any culture is originality and its legacies. Genius, no matter how rare, is a human universal. It sends into the world new perception and new experience, inspiring duplication: Out of Israel came monotheism, out of Greece philosophy, out of Arab civilization science and poetry, out of England the Magna Carta, out of France the Enlightenment. What has been the genius of Palestinian originality, what has been the contribution of the evolving culture of Palestinian sectarianism? On the international scene: airplane hijackings and the murder of American diplomats in the 1970s, Olympic slaughterings and shipboard murders in the 1980s. And toward the Jews of the Holy Land, beginning in the 1920s and continuing until this morning, terror, terror, terror, terror.
Even if the roadmap succeeds, just what kind of society can the Palestinians build on this basis? Not much comes to mind that is encouraging. The best that can be hoped for is that they will use the best traditions of Araby, but other Arab countries make even that hope rather dim.

Nations -- even disputable ones, such as "Palestinians" -- should never be written off lightly: human beings are infinitely adaptable, and can often find their way out of the thickest mullah-run fog and the most profound National-Socialist darkness. Nonetheless, disturbing as it may be, I keep wondering whether the Arab world has sacrificed not only individual Palestinians, but the entire Palestinian nation -- their history, worldview, civil society, culture, and ultimately, population -- to the pointless assault against Israel. Most ironically, while thus destroying the would-be nation of Palestine, the Arabs have unwittingly forged a much stronger and more cohesive Israel, than could otherwise have been possible.

I'll have to write more on this later.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Re-cycle of violence

Hey, where have we heard this before?
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A gunman shot a U.S. soldier in the neck as he browsed a Baghdad market on Friday and American forces accidentally killed an 11-year-old boy, part of a vicious cycle of Iraqi attacks and ever-tougher U.S. crackdowns on resistance.
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I have to ask...

Sheep smugglers?!

(As to the border guards, I don't suppose the U.S. could offer their return in exchange for the Israeli soldiers abducted into Lebanon...)

By way of Best of the Web.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
AP has a story on the wires that the CIA may have spotted bin Laden from Predator drones in late 2000 and early 2001, but no order was given to kill the man.

Before the usual suspects jump on the "Bush blew it!" bandwagon, let's get a few things straight from the beginning:

  • Bush did not take office until March January 2001.
  • By 2001, the WTC massacre was already planned and financed.
  • Killing bin Laden would require firing into a sovereign nation without a declaration of war. That would be a violation of that precious International Law™, which must never, ever be violated, heaven forfend.
  • There was disagreement over whether the man seen was actually bin Laden. It's not as if Afghanistan had a shortage of turbaned guys with beards, or Japanese trucks.
  • Bin Laden was never convicted in any American court, much less an international court. No UN resolution was in place, authorizing his killing. This would have made his removal an unsanctioned unilateral American act of violence and an extrajudicial killing, both of which, of course, are very very bad because they delay the coming of the messiah the advent of World Peace™.
  • Innocent people (innocent brown Muslim people!) would likely have died along with bin Laden -- also unacceptable under any circumstances.
  • Al-Qaeda was more than just one millionaire. Bin Laden's death would certainly be damaging, but not a crippling blow to the network.
Which brings me to this:
  • If Bush had given the order, and the missiles were fired, and bin Laden was turned into small chunks; and if, in all likelihood, the WTC and Pentagon massacres were still carried out, how many of his current detractors would be out there yelling how we deserved it, how it was all our fault for killing al-Qaeda's "spiritual leader," how this was just an arrogant attempt at bullying by the Boy President who put us all in danger with his arrogant disregard for the feelings of humiliated Muslims and the complexities of international norms?
Call me a cynic, but somehow I doubt that, had Bush made an effort to kill bin Laden prior to 9/11, he'd be given credit for any foresight. I doubt even Clinton could talk his way out of that one.

Update: Geoff Grasshoppa Meltzner fact-checked my [statements], and pointed out an obvious howler: Bush was inaugurated as President on January 20, 2001, as is customary. I meant to say that Bush's team wasn't fully in place until March 2001, but Bush himself was in the White House well before then. Apologies for the error; the rest of my point stands, though.

A most interesting photo slide show by the AFP in regards to the Supreme Court affirmative action decision.

There are 32 photos in this show as of the time of this entry. Five of them show the plaintiffs (three show Jennifer Gratz.)

There are at least nine distinct photos of proponents of affirmative action, mostly done as groups, but also a few "human-interest" pieces show people who are smiling, vivacious, celebrating, and diverse. One slide includes a cute doggie with a "VICTORY" sign on his side.

Another six or so photos of Mary Sue Coleman, U of M president.

Number of photos of affirmative action opponents: three (13, 25, and 26), and they are all of the same three men, who are (of course) white and not especially photogenic.

Must have been a real tempest in a teapot, eh, with only three guys opposed, and so many supporters? What was all the fuss about, anyway?

Monday, June 23, 2003
Fans of Rachel "Squish" Corrie will no doubt be outraged by this. Protect the rights of the Pyrostinians, brave souls! Fight the illegal occupation authority of FEMA! The illegal settlers of the Southwest are the real burners, with their Yankee imperialism and cowboy mentality!

Protesters bare meta-asses

The usual bunch protested the biotech conference in Sacramento, with tactics that so successfully prevented the Iraq War:
Demonstrators included chefs in aprons and white hats banging utensils on saucepans, as well as activists dressed as giant ears of corn, butterflies and tomatoes. Protesters carried large puppets, signs such as "Feed the needy, not the greedy," and trumpeted urban food programs, veganism and organic farming.

After the planned march, about 20 protesters doffed their clothes, danced on the Capitol steps and began an unauthorized march through downtown. The naked protesters dispersed when the highway patrol brought in buses and threatened to arrest them.
Well, I sure am convinced. Veganism über Alles.
I'm usually not very interested in loud arguments over race relations in the U.S., and particularly affirmative action. My own views on the subject are ambivalent, and I can understand both the motivation for the program, and the negative consequences of it -- so I tend to stay away from the topic.

But sometimes the demagoguery gets to be too much:

CHICAGO - Democratic presidential hopefuls say they will continue to promote affirmative action regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in a case challenging the constitutionality of programs to help minorities in college admissions.

The court is expected to rule any day whether affirmative action programs at the University of Michigan are constitutional. The case was a main topic of discussion Sunday at a candidate forum sponsored by Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

"When I'm president, we'll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day," said Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri.
Whoa! Let me get this straight: Gephardt will use use the power of the presidency to push through a policy even if the Supreme Court says it's against the Constitution?! And people accuse John Ashcroft of "shredding" the Constitution, and Bush of being a "fascist"? In my view, this alone makes Gephardt unfit for election, regardless of how you feel about affirmative action, or how the Supreme Court ends up ruling. Good grief.

Then there's this, by Howard Dean:

"The president has divided us," former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean said. "He's divided us by race by using the word 'quotas.'"
This is just patently silly. No matter how necessary you may find affirmative action, there is no question that it divides people by race -- that's its whole purpose. Accusing someone of being divisive simply because they dared discuss the wisdom of such a policy is incredibly disingenuous.

Kerry said he was committed to have minorities in positions of power in his administration, and pointed to diversity in his campaign staff.
Well, there's an easily countered strategy: Bush merely has to point to Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Rod Paige, Elaine Chao, Norm Mineta -- and that's just his cabinet. Campaign commitments are cheap and easy; Bush doesn't need to "commit to have minorities in positions of power," because he's already put them there.

Of course, some would say that it's not enough to put minorities into high-level positions; they have to be the "right kind" of people, too. Check out the revolting master demagogue himself:

Al Sharpton responded that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a black man who may vote against the university's affirmative action program. He said Democrats shouldn't be talking about getting more blacks in high places, but getting the right blacks.

"If we doubt that, just look at Clarence Thomas," he said. "Clarence Thomas is my color, but he's not my kind."
I suppose Mr. Thomas ought to be grateful for the compliment. But remind me again, Governor Dean: who is dividing the country?

(I would like to note that I am not partisan to Bush, and this isn't meant to be an endorsement of his policies. But with press conferences like these, the Democrats certainly don't seem to be offering any better alternatives -- just some very disturbing rhetoric. They seem quite eager to prove Megan right.)

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Another day, another bomb...

The Arab-Israeli conflict continues to be a mix of the tragic and the comical. To wit, this AP report:
JERUSALEM - Four Palestinian militants died late Sunday, apparently when a bomb they were planting went off in northern Gaza.
There's that word militants again, as though these guys simply had very strong feelings on the subject. I mean, really -- they died making a freaking bomb. Would calling them terrorists really be such an editorial stretch? Well, at least it's not Reuters -- they would have called the bombers "activists."
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel could still build Jewish settlements in defiance of a U.S.-backed peace plan.
In defiance of. Those uppity Israelis, not bowing to American authority. ...What? The U.S. has no authority? So where's the "defiance" part?
At first, Palestinian security officials said Israeli tanks fired at a group of militants from the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, affiliated with the Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah, killing three men and wounding four others, in the northeast Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. Another died later in a hospital, doctors said.
Well, if Palestinian security officials say it, it's gotta be true, right? Oh, oops, no:
Later, however, loudspeaker trucks drove through the area saying that the four died while "fulfilling their national duty," a phrase used in the past to announce accidental deaths.
I don't suppose this will cause the various news-gathering outfits in the PA to be a little more skeptical of PLO pronouncements in the future? ...didn't think so.

Also, love that bit about "fulfilling their national duty." Apparently, the people in the trucks consider it Palestinians' national duty to die stupidly and uselessly. Well, no surprise there.

Sharon adviser Raanan Gissin said Israel would continue construction in built-up areas of settlements. Asked about the required freeze, he noted that the Cabinet, in voting on the plan, attached objections.
I don't suppose anyone asked about the "required" cessation of violence that the Palestinians were supposed to deliver last month? Who the hell "requires" these things, anyway?
Mideast mediators, meanwhile, expressed concern over Israel's killing of Abdullah Kawasme, a local leader of the Hamas militant group in the West Bank city of Hebron.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said the killing Saturday could set back peace efforts, but stopped short of directly criticizing it.
Oh brother -- look, I know that Powell needs to say these things to appear "even-handed" and all, but really: Hamas has rejected this vaunted road map pretty unequivocally. They have refused to cease violence, simply because they are not yet defeated. They have told both Abbas and Egyptians to shove it. They have planned and carried out murderous attacks. So how exactly is killing one of their most red-handed leaders going to "set back the peace process"?!
The Quartet is trying to rescue the peace plan, buffeted by Mideast violence since its launch by President Bush on June 4.
I don't suppose the author even realizes how ironic this sounds. "Yeah, they have a nice peace plan, only the violence keeps getting in the way." Naturally, the word violence is used neutrally: Arabs kill bus passengers, Israelis kill Arabs that kill bus passengers, both sides equally at fault.
The statement did not refer to Israel's extrajudicial killings of wanted Palestinians, which have emerged as an obstacle to Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas' efforts to persuade militant groups to halt attacks. The armed groups have said they will agree to a truce only if Israel halts military strikes, including such killings.
Oh, please! One might imagine that, had an Israeli court found these terrorist scum guilty before their "extrajudicial killings," Hamas and Islamic Jihad would be just fine with it. They want paperwork, dang it! And I believe Hamas has made it quite clear that they won't agree to a cease-fire, much less any kind of real peace, under any circumstances short of a mass Israeli suicide.
The Israeli military said troops tried to arrest Kawasme, and that he was killed after he did not heed calls to stop. The wanted man was armed, the military said.

A Palestinian witness, Mohammed Nasser Eddin, said Kawasme was unarmed and tried to run from soldiers encircling him in three vans outside a mosque in Hebron.
Well, since we can't possibly discount the tale of one "witness" living in the middle of Arafatistan, I guess we'll just have to believe that the Israelis were lying, and Kawasme was the only jihadi to fight against the evil usurper Zionists "unarmed."
Palestinian officials accused Israel of trying to undermine truce efforts.
Offered without comment.
The "road map" starts with a halt to violence, a crackdown on militant groups, the dismantling of settlement outposts and leads through three stages to a Palestinian state in 2005.
And we can expect the halt to "violence" and a crackdown on militant groups any time now. ...aaaaaany time now.... aaaany time...
Palestinians charge that Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are a major obstacle to a peace agreement because they encroach on land the Palestinians claim for a state.
I wonder if anyone asked the Israelis whether Palestinian mass murders of Israeli civilians and Hamas's calls for an Islamic state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean are "a major obstacle to a peace agreement."

Nah. Their opinion doesn't count. They are just Jews. And probably Zionists, too.

McDonald's vs. Lunch Ladies; no contest

The eeevvviillll Yankee hamburger-peddlers at McDonald's are destroying France yet again, this time acting as scabs.

The cafeteria staff at Robespierre (!) middle school in Epinay-sur-Seine went on strike, figuring they'd use the hungry students as leverage. So the school management ordered out at McDonald's.

I've got to say -- either the food at French school cafeterias is vastly superior to that of the U.S., or the Lunch Ladies of Labor were vastly overestimating the impact of their strike.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Two words: mashed peas.
Sunday, June 15, 2003
June's Atlantic Monthly has a fascinating article into the investigation of just who shot Mohammed al-Dura. They throw light on a lot of physical evidence that seems to indicate that al-Dura wasn't shot by Israeli troops, but rather by the Palestinians looking to create a child martyr. It would seem highly implausible, except for the numerous well-documented efforts by Palestinians to militarize their children. Conclusions seem to vary widely, from the unquestioning belief that the boy was killed by Israeli bullets (prevalent in the Muslim world), to the Israelis' innocence, to the theory that the whole thing was a well-staged Palestinian conspiracy. At any rate, The Atlantic does a good job outlining physical evidence that Israeli troops couldn't have shot the boy, and several good diagrams are given -- though, unfortunately, those are only available in the paper version.

The paper version also has an article on suicide terrorism, and what Americans will have to learn from Israelis.

It doesn't suprise me that Mark Morford has penned yet another effluent, rambling piece. (Honestly, the whole e.e. cummings style is really passé, and rarely worked for people who weren't e.e. cummings.) It doesn't surprise me that he admires Dennis Kucinich, the "Vegan Holistic President." What does surprise me, just a little, is the endorsement given to Kucinich's Department of Peace. I guess Orwell references are lost on some people.

Oh, and don't miss this brilliant essay, either: apparently, Morford had quite the crush on Clinton, but finds Bush to be, like, totally dweeby. Or something like that; I'm not sure what the point is, but it makes for fun reading.

Update: As Laura points out in the comments, Morford's lack of admiration for Bush & Co. is hardly universal. In fact, as Lisa Schiffren writes in an OpinionJournal Taste column, many women are quite fond of Rumsfeld, Bush, et al., though admittedly they don't display quite the same level of squealing-schoolgirl enthusiasm that Morford pours out on Clinton. Well, all's for the best, I suppose: I doubt Bush or Rumsfeld would have cared much for Morfords ecstatic rambling run on sentences that are ever so wonderful oh my gosh my golly they sure are sweet aren't they?

Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Wow, talk about credulous reporting:
Teachers staged their 11th strike on Tuesday since the start of the academic year in September and were already considering fresh action on June 12, timed to coincide with the start of France's high school leaving exam, the baccalaureat.

Teachers are concerned Raffarin's plans to decentralise power will harm education by handing over responsibility for hiring some staff to regional authorities.
No scare quotes, no "claim to be concerned," no alternative viewpoint: CNN completely credits and broadcasts the idea that teachers who have denied their students an education eleven times since September are concerned about "harm" done to that same education, as opposed to, say, the harm done to their paychecks and generous benefits.

(For those wanting to read more about the strikes in France, Steven Den Beste has a bunch of stuff.)

Saturday, June 07, 2003
So much of this AP article on the Sultaana Freeman decision is cringe-worthy, I barely know where to start:
A Florida judge ruled Friday that a Muslim woman cannot wear a veil in her driver license photo, agreeing with state authorities that the practice could help terrorists conceal their identities.
While true, this seems like a pretty dumb reason. Why is everything about terrorism, anyway? What about perfectly ordinary concerns, like the inability to actually ensure that the person presenting the driver's license is, in fact, the same person licensed to drive?
Freeman, 35, had obtained a license in 2001 that showed her veiled with only her eyes visible through a slit.
What??!? Can she make up a fake name, too?
Freeman sued the state of Florida, saying it would violate her Islamic beliefs to show her face publicly. Her case was taken up by the American Civil Liberties Union, which saw the case as a test of religious freedom.
It's cases like this that make me glad I'm not an ACLU member. Since when is it an infringement of "religious freedom" to require people to take a photograph in exchange for the privilege of being allowed to operate a vehicle on a public road? If Ms. Freeman won't show her face in public, the state certainly shouldn't compel her -- it should simply withhold her driver's license, and point her to the nearest bus stop. The ACLU's position seems to be that driving is now a civil right. It isn't: driving is a privilege, though one routinely granted. The state certainly shouldn't base its decision on whom to license based on religion -- but they do have to meet basic requirements, and getting a photo ID is one of them. I mean, really, what if tomorrow I declare that my "religion" prohibits me from following "infidel" speed limits and using turn signals -- would the ACLU have the state issue me a special dispensation, or are we going to start having official certification as to what is and isn't a religion? (Better yet, what is and isn't really Islam -- since millions of Muslims, women and men, drive on American roads with their faces uncovered.) What the hell was the ACLU thinking?
Conservative commentators ridiculed the case, saying it would be absurd to allow people to obscure their faces in ID photos.
Nice little bit of editorializing by Mr. Branom -- as if a huge number of people from all over the political spectrum didn't find this case absurd. Naturally, no one else in this story gets painted with a wide political brush. Only those "conservative commentators" ridiculed a case in which a woman wants to have her ID photo consist of a black cloth.
Assistant Attorney General Jason Vail had argued that Islamic law has exceptions that allow women to expose their faces if it serves a public good...
Oh great, now we have theological arguments from a Florida bureaucrat, in a public court. What was Mr. Vail's point, anyway? What if Ms. Freeman's beliefs disagree with those teachings of Islam? Is he seriously going to make an argument that Ms. Freeman is misinterpreting the word of Allah? That sounds like just the issue for a court of law -- in Saudi Arabia.
...and that arrangements could be made to have Freeman photographed with only women present to allay her concerns about modesty.
Surely the man jests. What happens if this woman gets pulled over, and the policeman is male? Does he have to call a female officer to match the driver's license? What if it happens on a city street -- will the street have to be cleared to protect this woman's "modesty"? If she ever gets arrested, will the ACLU be up in arms because she was touched by a male stranger, or taken away from male relatives, in violation of her religion?
The ACLU of Florida said it was disappointed in Thorpe's statement that while Freeman "most likely poses no threat to national security," others may take advantage of a ruling in her favor to threaten lives. "So we have to infringe on Freeman's religious beliefs because of what someone else might do," ACLU legal director Randall Marshall said. "It seems to be a funny kind of interpretation on how the law should apply."
Only because it's "a funny kind of interpretation" of what really happened. No one infringed on Freeman's religious beliefs -- her beliefs simply happen to get in the way of what she wants to do -- namely, drive a car on Florida roads. That's too bad, but it does not obligate the state of Florida or the society at large to suspend its own (entirely sensible) rules. Plenty of people manage to get by without driving automobiles -- it is positively ludicrous to claim that refusing someone a license is a violation of anything.

And yes, all our security measures are in place "because of what someone else might do." All people in the U.S. are presumed innocent until proven otherwise -- surely an ACLU attorney understands that!

Marshall noted that a driver license can be obtained without a photo in 14 states.
Is Florida one of them? No? Then our newly pious woman is out of luck. Perhaps Mr. Marshall can forward her a list of those states, so that she may move to one and drive to her heart's content.
Freeman's lawyers argued that instead of a driver license photo, she could use other documents such as a birth certificate or Social Security card to prove her identity.
How exactly would she do that? Those normally don't come with photos.

This whole case is idiotic. Florida requires a photo in order to permit you to drive on public roads. No photo, no license. A license isn't a right. End of story.

Update: James Taranto links to an editorial in Arab News that essentially makes the same point:

In Arabia, those who choose not to have their pictures taken remain in the country and never get issued passports. Sultaana should relinquish her right to drive if she feels the same way.
Exactly. If she wants to be treated like a fundamentalist Wahhabi woman, she ought to behave like one -- i.e., stay at home and let her husband handle everything else. Imagine that: Arab News making more sense than the ACLU, attorneys for both sides, and even the judge.