Important: Read this before sending email




My Amazon Wish List
(Buy me presents)




Indexed Archives

Portal (links)

Contact me

Who am I?


The diary of
Iseema bin Laden

Secret Arafat
Phone Transcripts

Greatest Hits


Letters from
Captain Steve

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay Learn More



Relaxing links

Yes, no need to get your blood pressure up today.

I found this review of the new Mandy Moore film yesterday via Google News, and found it to be one of the funniest reviews I've ever read. This guy does not like Mandy. Now, I've caught moments of her films while channel-surfing, and I saw a preview of the new film while watching Regis & Kelly the other morning (I don't know why I was watching. I think something hypnotized me). And, well, the acting level is on a par with the Power Rangers, I think. But this guy... Hoo-wee.

Chasing Liberty - the latest dabble in movies by pop singer Mandy Moore - defies description.

It's either tediously pointless or pointlessly tedious.

In either case, this movie is not a pleasant way to spend an hour and 45 minutes. I don't want to suggest that Chasing Liberty is torture. I want to say outright that it is torture.

By all indications, the entire script was written on a Post-it note. The story is as thin as Paris Hilton on the Atkins diet, a bland wisp of cotton candy made to order for three-word descriptions in the TV listings, such as "Girl tours Europe." It's The Lizzie McGuire Movie all over again, right down to the Vespa ride, only not as deep and analytical.

Chasing Liberty is difficult to watch for another reason: We're forced to contemplate the existence of a macabre alternate universe in which Mark Harmon is president and Jeremy Piven is a Secret Service agent.

No, really, Bill. Tell us what you really think about the film.

By the way, if you click on the Google link above, you'll see a wide variety of reviews. Take note of the positive ones and see if they're all owned by a company that put out the movie (does CNN ever do bad reviews anymore?).

Here's a really neat Flash link that my old boss (who is a phenomenal graphic artist) sent me. Click on the image and then use your arrow keys to move the guy up and down. Lots of neat things happen. Caution: May be very addictive.



Israel news

Everyone else has gotten this one, but I think I'll link to it anyway. (I could have linked to it first, but I was busy most of the mornings this week. You snooze, you lose.) The Israeli flag is on Mars, right above the U.S. flag. Here's a larger image from the guy everyone is linking to. Credit where it's due, Josh.

Israeli terrorist victims decreased by 50% in 2003 over the number in 2002. Instant analysis: The closures and the fence helped. Duh.

While there was a 30% decrease in the number of terrorist attacks perpetrated against Israeli targets in 2003 compared with 2002, officers said that terrorist groups resorted to new strategies to enhance their prestige by recruiting foreigners, targetting US interests, and planning to assassinate Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said a report released Thursday.

There was a marked increase in the use of female suicide bombers and minors, who were used to smuggle weapons and bombs. Of the 22 Palestinian women arrested by soldiers, 12 were potential suicide bombers and 10 were recruited to assist.

Stop and think about that. A marked increase in female suicide bombers. It's the palestinian ERA program. Now, in 2004, palestinian women can raise babies, or they can blow them up!

A total of 3838 attacks were perpetrated against Israeli targets compared with 5301 in 2002.

That would be 10.5 terrorist attacks per day.

Officers said the decrease was due to intensive operations and numerous arrests in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. There was also a 50% drop in the number of terror victims – 213 in 2003 compared with 451 in 2002.

The terror infrastructure in Judea and Samaria was reponsible for the majority of suicide bombings in Israel last year, but, said officers, the terror infrastructure in the Gaza Strip was involved in over 70% of attacks, and constantly attempted to upgrade its weapons capability.

Yeah, those "metal shops" strewn throughout Gaza do a hopping business in bombs, shrapnel, and missiles.

Officers said that the construction of the security fence hampered terrorists from crossing from Samaria into Israel, forcing them to compile intelligence on the areas where no fence has been erected. The security fence and the presence of soldiers forced terrorists to employ tactical changes when dispatching attackers.

Since last August, officers noticed a growing involvment of Iran and Hizbullah in Palestinian terrorist groups, particularly those affiliated with the Fatah Tanzim.

Yes, and Iran has been using airplanes from Syria to restock Hizbullah's weapons and send in more missiles. Oh, but that's just the evil Mullah government, not the people of Iran. Just like Saddam Hussein and his family alone governed Iraq. No complicity. Nope. Nuh-uh.

In 2003, terrorists also rigged tunnels with explosives which were blown up near IDF positions in the Gaza Strip, for example the tunnel near the Hardun military post located between Gaza and Egypt that was packed with hundreds of kilograms of explosives and detonated, causing damage to the position but no casualties.

There was also a marked increase in cooperation between the different terror organizations. The infiltration into the Netzarim military base in October in which three soldiers were killed was launched by the Islamic Jihad and the Hamas.

So much for the theory that terrorists don't work with one another. What bull.

There was an increase in the involvment of foreign terror elements, in planning strategy, dispatching instructions, transferring funds, weapons, and knowledge to local terror groups and recruiting senior terror officials abroad.

Al Qaeda's been working its way into the West Bank. Damn. DEBKA isn't all smoke and mirrors after all.

In other news: Defense Minister Mofaz tells Baby Assad to remove Hizbullah's missiles and close down terrorists' offices in Damascus, and Israel will talk peace.

According to the report, Mofaz wrote the Syrians that Israel would not start negotiations with Damascus as long as Hizbullah is arrayed along Israel's northern border, and the offices of terrorist groups in Syria remain open.

Meanwhile, the US administration has said that Bashar Assad's intentions regarding peace with Israel are not to be determined through words but actions. "Damascus needs to stop its support for terrorism and start a democratization process," officials Washington told Israel's ambassador to the US, Danny Ayalon, Channel One TV reported Friday.

The Bush administration is skeptical about Assad's latest statements about renewing talks with Israel, Channel One reported. There is a disagreement within the American administration as to how seriously the Syrian's President's statement should be treated; for the moment, the hawks in the administration are leading Washington's response, the TV report said.

In related news, European Union officials told Syria that the Trade Agreement signed only last month between Syria and the EU would not be fully implemented unless President Assad declares he is ready to dismantle the country's chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.

Hoo-wee, Baby Assad is surrounded by enemies on all sides! And the Dead Dictator Pool is now up to $200. I have another busy weekend planned, but come Monday, the promised page will be up, and bloggers who are contributing to the pool will have a link to their blogs on the page. Nonbloggers will have their name on the honor roll.

Homer Simpson's take on the binational state

Ahmed Qureia says if Israel doesn't stop building the wall and making other "unilateral" steps (maybe if you stopped the effing murdering scum in your own organization from trying so hard to murder more Jews, he wouldn't have to), he's going to drop the idea of a palestinian state altogether, and try to co-opt Israel. Well. You have to give him points for honesty. That's the first high-level pal who's ever admitted in public he wants only one state, with the Jews as a minority.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia has warned that further unilateral steps by Israel could destroy chances for an independent Palestinian state and might lead to the creation of a single bi-national state. The Palestinian prime minister says he may abandon the goal of an independent state and instead seek a single state with Israel.

Ahmed Qureia says such a country, where Palestinians and Israelis would share power, may be the only solution if Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally imposes a new boundary on the Palestinians.

"It will kill the road map and it will kill the two-state vision as proposed by President Bush," he said.

And here is my response to this idea: You and what army, Ahmed? Hell, even Colin Powell is on the other side for this one.

In Washington, Secretary of State Colin Powell rejected the Palestinian prime minister's suggestion of a single state solution as not viable.

"We have a road map that is the way forward and it's been signed up to by the parties," said Colin Powell. "What we need is, I believe, more responsible action by the Palestinian Authority in order to bring terrorism under control, make sure that violence is being brought to an end, and then I think the road map can be put into use and can provide us with a way forward."

Mr. Powell said the United States is committed to a two-state solution, a state for the Palestinian people called Palestine and a Jewish state, the state of Israel.

I'm going to translate that into Simpson dialect: In your face, Ahmed!

So what did Israel have to say about this?

Officials in Jerusalem reacted angrily to remarks made by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei Thursday to the effect that the Palestinians would seek a bi-national state if Israel unilaterally determined its borders.

"This is nothing less than a threat to put an end to the state of Israel as a Jewish state, and we categorically reject it," a high-ranking Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"Instead of threatening us, Mr. Qurei would be best advised to come back to the negotiations table and start implementing the roadmap," he said.

[...] "Mr. Abu Ala has threatened to call for a binational state, but he may just as well call for a Palestinian state on the moon," Sharon adviser Zalman Shoval said. "This is an empty threat that Israel is obviously not going to think seriously about."

Let's translate this into Simpson dialect: In your face, Ahmed!

So what did the rest of the PA have to say about this?

Senior Palestinian Authority officials on Thursday dismissed as "not serious" threats by PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) that the Palestinians would seek a binational state and demand the same rights as Israelis if Israel carried out its threat to absorb chunks of the West Bank.

"I didn't fight all my life against the Israeli occupation in order to get Israeli citizenship," said one official. "Abu Ala's threats are just meant to put pressure on Israel because of the construction of the fence."

Homer Simpson's take on this: In your face, Ahmed!

Hulk three-fers

This search request weirded me out more than a little, but the more part is because, well, hello, eleven results? Someone obviously bought green Hershey's syrup and, well, things came out green. And yet, eleven results?

Good Lord.

Speaking of the Hulk, Mac sent me a link to Montykins' latest entry, in which we find the Hulk all dressed up as—George Washington. Yes, really. Y'know, Monty, if you don't want to keep that calendar, I'll buy it from you, for the sheer joy of Hulk as the Father of our Country. Too funny.

Oh, and when he says to click on the link, it's really funny? It is. He discusses last year's calendar, which I both read and (I think) linked to last year.

I really want to find a third Hulk link to make this a three-fer. Last week, I got a referrer from this link but was unable to find the link to my site. Of course, it being Site Meter and all that, it could have been that someone was there and used their favorites to come here, and Site Meter recorded it as a referrer because, well, their referrers suck. But it's a neat Hulk link, and that makes this a three-fer Hulk post.


Judith Weiss sent me this excellent link, which details the plans to interrogate Saddam Hussein:

Truth drugs will be administered intravenously shortly before Saddam’s interrogation begins – probably in the New Year. Drugs were used early on in their captivity on Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners on Guantanamo Bay to try and discover where bin Laden is hiding.

By the time interrogators get to work on Saddam, his links with the outside world will have been totally severed. He will have no idea of time or date. There will be no such thing as day or night. The normal patterns of waking and sleeping and meal times will be deliberately disrupted.

There will be no physical torture. But he will receive what one intelligence officer calls “the full coercive treatment”. But the interrogators do not underestimate their challenge.

The intelligence officer said: “Saddam presents a unique challenge. He is a man who saw himself as morally, spiritually and intellectually superior to the Western world.

“Coercive treatment will include sitting for hours with a hood over his head to increase his isolation. All the time, the questions will be to increase anger in his mind about being betrayed. For someone like Saddam, betrayal will be hard to cope with. Being confronted with Tariq Aziz was part of that. The interrogators will tell Saddam that Aziz is looking out for Number One. Saddam could do the same by revealing what he knows – which is a great deal”, explained the senior intelligence officer in London. He is a trained interrogator.

I did a little background checking on the author of this article. He runs this website. I can't vouch for the authenticity of anything on the website, or in the article above. On the other hand, what he writes in the article on Hussein gels with the Atlantic article quoted yesterday. I sure wouldn't want to be Saddam Hussein these days.

Speaking of Arab dictators, several more people have climbed aboard. Our Dead Arab Dictators Pool fund is now up to a $200 donation to MDA every time an Arab dictator (and that does include ex-dictators like Saddam) buys it.



A belated birthday present

Back of screenI've been looking wistfully at Chinese panel screens for years and years, and it feels like years. Whenever I accompany Heidi to an auction here, I've zeroed in on the few Oriental pieces of furniture and art while she searches always for Stickley desks. Each time, the screens that I've liked have sold immediately, for far more than I can afford. But the price down here in the Richmond area is still much lower than the prices I saw in New Jersey. Yesterday, I helped Heidi load another desk into her car at yet another auction house, but not before finding, and buying, my long-sought screen. And it's a beauty. (And it's a bargain.) This screen would cost about $1500 and up in NJ. I paid far less. It's hand-carved, made circa 1945, and imported from China by the people who sold it.

Front of screenI am most pleased, though you're going to have to wait for a sunny day before I can take a picture with no flash. But here's a preview: Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.

Jews and the use of torture in the War on Terrror

Jeff Silver tipped me off to this letters section in the Atlantic, regarding last October's article on the use of torture. The author, Mark Bowden, is also the author of Black Hawk Down. He interviewed American and Israeli intelligence agents and wrote in great detail about certain interrogation methods, having been giving much more information from the Israeli officer than from any former military or CIA agent.

The gist of Jeff's letter is that in both letters, the authors are blaming Israeli torture for creating more suicide bombers, even while fully ignoring the fact that torture was outlawed in 1999, and that many suicide bombers have been well-educated, middle-class palestinians who have never been arrested. Of course, the letter-writers offer no proof of their bullshit theories. Blaming the Jews is enough, apparently.

It is certainly interesting, and rather telling, that two of the six letters published chose to concentrate on Israel, even though the article is about the use of torture in general, and makes very clear that coercion (non-physical methods) should be used to extract information when required. And it does reaffirm my contention that no matter where you turn, Israel is being demonized or held to a higher standard than any other nation.

But overshadowing even that is the article to which the letters refer. Take a few minutes (well, more than a few, it's quite long), and either pick up the magazine from the library or print it out or just read it online, but don't miss this article. It is an amazing insight into a world that few people ever see, and I quite agree with the author's conclusion:

The Bush Administration has adopted exactly the right posture on the matter. Candor and consistency are not always public virtues. Torture is a crime against humanity, but coercion is an issue that is rightly handled with a wink, or even a touch of hypocrisy; it should be banned but also quietly practiced. Those who protest coercive methods will exaggerate their horrors, which is good: it generates a useful climate of fear. It is wise of the President to reiterate U.S. support for international agreements banning torture, and it is wise for American interrogators to employ whatever coercive methods work. It is also smart not to discuss the matter with anyone.

If interrogators step over the line from coercion to outright torture, they should be held personally responsible. But no interrogator is ever going to be prosecuted for keeping Khalid Sheikh Mohammed awake, cold, alone, and uncomfortable. Nor should he be.

A must-read.

Dead Pool Arab dictator matching fund

As of this morning, we're up to $75 in matching funds, for a total of $100 donated to Magen David Adom every time an Arab dictator dies in 2004. (Here's hoping a ton of them go, starting with Yasser Arafat.)

Mark F. wants to know if this also includes "defacto leaders and loudmouthsl ike Hanan Ashrawi." Defacto leaders, yes. Hanan Ashrawi, no. She's not a dictator. She's a dictator's stooge. Qurei? Hm. He's the Head Stooge. He's sort of a leader, but not really. How about this: If he dies while in office, we donate. If not, he doesn't count.

The criteria for Arab dictator is that the person is an Arab, in charge of a country or pseudo-country (the PNA, which was supposed to rule the occupied territories, counts, obviously) for which he was not elected in free and fair elections.

That would mean, oh, every single Arab nation meets the criteria.

I'll have more on this later, and dedicate a page with the information to it when I get the chance. Busy morning planned with Sarah and the twins, whom I have not seen since before the holidays.



Assad on banning WMD: Israel first

The Telegraph published an exclusive interview with Baby Assad yesterday, in which the little dictator came as close to admitting Syria has biological and chemical weapons as he has ever come:

Syria is entitled to defend itself by acquiring its own chemical and biological deterrent, President Bashar Assad said last night as he rejected American and British demands for concessions on weapons of mass destruction.

In his first major statement since Libya's decision last month to scrap its nuclear and chemical programmes, he came closer than ever before to admitting that his country possessed stockpiles of WMD.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Assad said that any deal to destroy Syria's chemical and biological capability would come about only if Israel agreed to abandon its undeclared nuclear arsenal.

[...] Asked about American and British claims that Syria had a WMD capability, he stopped short of the categorical denial that has been his government's stock response until now.

Instead, he pointed to the Israelis' recent attack on alleged Palestinian bases in Syria and the occupation of the Golan Heights as evidence that Syria needed a deterrent. "We are a country which is [partly] occupied and from time to time we are exposed to Israeli aggression," he said. "It is natural for us to look for means to defend ourselves. It is not difficult to get most of these weapons anywhere in the world and they can be obtained at any time."

I'm starting to believe more and more in DEBKA's claim that Iraq's WMD are being stored in Syria.

It is the worst kept secret in the Middle East that Damascus has one of the largest stockpiles of chemical agents in the region.

The latest CIA report on weapons of mass destruction says: "Syria continued to seek CW-related expertise from foreign sources [this year]. Damascus already held a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin but apparently tried to develop more toxic and persistent nerve agents. It is highly probable that Syria also continued to develop an offensive BW [biological weapon] capability."

Gee, like, maybe, anthrax?

This part is good for a very big laugh:

But he risked infuriating the West by stepping up his defence of Palestinian suicide bombers. He said the attacks had become "a reality we cannot control" and blamed them on "the Israeli killings, the Israeli occupations".

The Telegraph itself laughed at it the next day in an editorial:

This, of course, is one side of the land for peace deal outlined after the Six Day War by UN Security Council Resolution 242. Israel has since fulfilled its side of the bargain only in part. But it has done so in the face of unremitting hostility from many Arab countries, with Syria to the fore. It is extraordinarily disingenuous of Mr Assad to claim that the onus for stopping the killing rests on Israel alone. First, he knows full well that the goal of the Palestinian extremists and their backers in the Islamic world is that Israel should cease to exist, not that a modus vivendi be found on the basis of Resolution 242. Such enmity leaves any Israeli prime minister very little room for manoeuvre. Second, the notion that Syria is powerless to rein in rejectionists sounds bizarre coming from the mouth of a man whose father ruthlessly suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama in 1982. The president's counsel of despair suggests there is no point in Israel reopening talks with him on the Golan Heights.

Baby Assad is on my ATS Dead Pool list. One can hope. And I have just become inspired. For each Arab dictator on the Dead Pool list to go, I'm donating $25 to Magen David Adom. Anyone out there want to put up a matching fund? Email me or Lair.



Bachelor refrigerators, blogiversaries, and Britney

If I ever make it to Alabama to visit Mac Thomason, trust me on this one: He's taking me out to dinner.

Mac's been taking digital photos of the food remnants in his fridge. Here are posts one, two and three that include photos, or simply go here to the category and scroll down.

But you might not want to look at these pictures on a full stomach.

Lair Simon is celebrating his second blogiversary today. Perhaps the tagline should be changed to "Pissing people off for more than two years."

The scene: This evening, going from our classroom to the sanctuary for music and t'filah. The conversation went something like this:

Student 1: [Student 2 ] likes Avril Lavigne!

Student 2: I do not!

Student 1: You said you did!

Student 2: I did not!

Student 3: [Student 2] likes Britney Spears!

Teacher: She got married this weekend, you know.

Student 2: She did? To who, Madonna?

Teacher: You know about Britney and Madonna?

Student 2: Yeah, I saw it on TV. They were french kissing.

Student 1: What's french kissing?

Student 2: It's where they kiss and their tongues go in each other's mouths.

Student 1: Ewwww

Teacher: All right, let's go. The rabbi is waiting for us.

Oh. My. God. They're ten. Ten. It's a very different world.

The new Hundred Years' War, and Reagan Day

This is a fascinating essay on the current war on terror, which the author calls the end of our own Hundred Years' War:

From the fall of the Berlin Wall until the September 11 attacks, Americans believed they were living in a largely post-conflict world—the “end of history” as Francis Fukuyama titled his famous 1992 book. Humanity was embracing an enduring state of liberal democratic happiness, a world entirely broken from the bloody past. Since the September 11 attacks, a shadow of doom has run across this new-age portrait, but the belief that we are in an entirely new age remains.

Yet, viewed with a little more attention to history and less to the euphoria and hysteria of the moment, this “new world” appears hardly new at all. Instead the major conflicts of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries appear to be chapters of a single story, of a single epochal struggle: a new hundred years’ war that is almost finished and will shape human institutions for centuries to come.

[...] The First World War led to the shattering of three imperial systems, and it is not too much to say that the world is still struggling with their demise and that of the international system of which they were so integral a part.

The three imperial systems were the uneasy German imperial brotherhood of Prussia-dominated Germany and Vienna-centered Austria-Hungary, the Russian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. From this perspective, the three major post-war struggles have been part of a single struggle about the character of the successor regimes and whether they or the democracies that prevailed in World War I—particularly the United States and Britain—would establish the norms of the international system that would eventually emerge. In World War II we dealt with Nazi Germany, the successor to the Germanic empires. In the Cold War, we dealt with the Soviet Union, the successor to the tsarist Russian Empire. Now we are grappling with those who followed the Ottomans.

I think it's a little heavy on the Reagan-worship, but still a worthy read. (Stanford? They allow you to publish essays like this in a Stanford-based magazine? Perhaps the lunatics haven't taken over all the asylums yet, hm?)

On that subject, if anyone knows of an unbiased Reagan biography to recommend, please do. I lived through those years as a college student and twentysomething, and my memories of the Reagan administration are quite biased by my ultra-liberal thoughts of the time. I'd like to read something balanced to, er, balance out my memories.

Scott of AMCGLTD wrote an essay some time ago about about nuclear nightmares. He reminded me of it after reading my post from yesterday. (It must be Reagan Day here.)

It only got worse when Reagan became president. Reagan inherited a shattered and weak military, incapable of even rescuing a few hostages in the desert. He inherited an economy weakened by inflation and recession. He inherited a press corps and international community happy for American weakness that made their jobs easier. Most of all he inherited a people who had sunk into despair and self-loathing over a stupid war in a stupid place that sent all too many sons home in boxes.

Reagan would have none of it. A charismatic man, someone you literally could not help but watch speaking, who had a mind like a razor and a love of country from a simpler time. He decided appeasement would not work, communism was a danger to the entire world, and only through confrontation would it be defeated. He rearmed, rebuilt, and reaffirmed America. For the first time in a very, very long time someone was standing up in front of cameras saying this country was the best country in the world, and you could be for us or against us, but you didn't want to be against us because we were going to win no matter what it took.

The rest of the world went bananas. This crazy old man, this actor, was going to get us all killed. The press did everything to tear him down. Almost the rest of the world (lead by, no surprise, France) heaped scorn and did their level best to keep America where it should be... beaten down and only just strong enough to keep the tanks from rolling through the Brandenburg gate and down the Champ Elysee. The Hollywood elite completely blew a gasket, convinced the plebes really had managed to elect Hitler himself to the Whitehouse.

In truth it was a scary time, because even though nearly everyone else liked Reagan, we weren't really sure if he actually was going to get us involved in a nuclear holocaust. A veritable deluge of books, movies, and TV shows rolled out showing in graphic detail what, exactly, would happen if it all really did come apart at the seams, if the bombs really did fall. The nightmares weren't going away, they were getting worse.

As they say, read the whole thing.

This is not a Blog for Bush

That banner is showing up all over the place, even on former liberal and/or Democrats' blogs. You're probably never going to see it here, for several reasons. First is that I believe Joe Lieberman is starting to sound more and more like a candidate I would vote for. Second is that I still think John Edwards (the Senator, not the fraudulent psychic without the "s" on his last name) has potential. The rest of the candidates could fall into a hole tomorrow and I wouldn't miss them.

I also think it's wrong of some people to link all of the candidates together. Lieberman and Edwards aren't accusing Bush of having prior knowledge of 9/11; that's the Dean and nutjob elements. Lieberman and Edwards aren't using hideous nazi analogies. They use the rhetoric of the Democratic party, just as the Bush people use the rhetoric of the Republican party. Class warfare is an old method, tried-and-true, and frankly, has a basis in truth.

People still think I am center-right on political issues. I am not. I am a hawk on two issues: Israel and the War on Terror. I believe we are in a war against Islamic fascists who want to put an Islamic totalitarian government in every nation in the world. But I don't believe W. is the only man who can wage that war, nor do I believe that others can't wage it as well, or better than he. His long familial ties to the Saudis, for instance, bother me immensely.

On social issues: I have always been for progressive taxation. I am pro-choice. I am a staunch feminist. I believe in gay rights, including marriage rights. I believe that the state needs to regulate certain industries, because I don't trust the captains of industry. In nearly every instance, those "captains" have proven their greed and disregard for safety and the public well-being. (Do I need to start naming the modern robber barons? Enron, Healthsouth, the large Wall Street firms and their insider traders... the list could go on a long time.

I am for affirmative action laws. We still need them. We're not there yet, much as some would like to believe. I don't believe that the white male is being discriminated against. I'm for the death penalty in certain situations. I'm against oppressive sentencing laws and more for judicial discretion. I believe minorities are unevenly represented in prison, and I know there is a condition called "driving while black." I have seen it in New Jersey, and I've seen it in Virginia. No, it isn't time yet to throw away our affirmative action laws.

I'm withholding my judgement, and my vote, until November second. Bush hasn't won this former liberal's vote yet. And it's time to start paying more attention to Joe and John.

Public service announcement

Actually, I could call this a dumbass announcement, but that would qualify me as part of the stupid people mentioned in this article, and the last thing I want to admit in public is how stupid I am.

However—I'm pretty sure I really messed up my spam filters and deleted a whole bunch of real email in the last few days or weeks. If you've sent me mail and not gotten a response (that is, if the mail required a response, and I normally respond to you), then that's why. If you've sent me mail and not gotten a response but I've never yet replied to you, well, I probably ignored you again.

I know, I know, it's a tough pick. But you're all (mostly) smart enough to figure out in which category your letter falls.



Anti-Semitism in response to anti-Semitism

If you've read the post below, then you know that Tom Paine recently flew Air Emirates, the airline of the United Arab Emirates, and was refused a kosher meal after having specifically requested and gotten one confirmed. The airline attendants said, among other things, they didn't serve "Jewish food" and they didn't expect Jews to fly an Arab airline.

His report has been linked to by several weblogs, including Damian Penny and Tim Blair. Most of the weblogs had a fair number of comments. And there's a recurring, low-level anti-Semitic theme in those comments. It goes like this: "Yeah, well, maybe it was bigoted of Air Emirates, but El Al doesn't serve halal meals, either."

The argument, of course, is another example of blaming the victim. One especially stupid argument invokes the "slippery slope" premise, that is, you will ultimately have to accomodate people who want Godiva chocolates for their meals. Two words for that argument: Religious requirements. Air Emirates will prepare meals that satisfy the strictly-vegetarian Jains of India, yet they refused to supply a kosher meal to a Jew.

It's amazing how so many commenters immediately turned the point around to whether or not El Al offers halal meals. The point isn't the fictional Israeli treatment of Arab airline passengers. That, frankly, has nothing to do with Tom flying Air Emirates. All that does is feed into the "It's all the fault of the Jews" mentality. And it's also untrue.

But let's think about it for a moment: If El Al refuses to supply halal meals, does that somehow lessen Air Emirates' discrimination against Jews?

I think not.

Tom was discriminated against because he is Jewish, by employees of the main airline of the United Arab Emirates. (That's the Arab nation that used to host the Zayed Centre, a bastion of anti-Semitic speeches given by lunatics and neo-Nazis like David Duke, that was forced to close due to external pressure.)

Those of you trying to pin this one as a tit-for-tat because you think El Al discriminates against Arab dietary restrictions (one more time, they do not) are simply showing your bigotry.

Murray Hill summarized perfectly the point of view of the comments I'm talking about in a recent email:

Is it just me or is the essence of most of the argument in favor of Air Emirates essentially that it's Tom's fault for being Jewish in a public place?

It's not just you, Murray. It's not just you.

Cats and mice and rain and nuclear explosions

Yes, all the elements of that title actually do have a common denominator. Give me a chance, I'll get to it.

It is raining here in Richmond, and it's a lovely 64°F (looks like about 18 or 19°C according to this conversion chart, and yes, I'm too lazy to do the math, so sue me). So the patio door has been open since I got up this morning, and Tig is able to go in and out as he pleases. He pleases to go in and out a lot. We have a new routine for rainy days: I have a dishtowel near the door that I use to dry him off. He likes it because I am basically petting him with a towel in my hand, except for the picking up his paws and drying them part. He actually meows until I towel him dry, now. And the benefit I've discovered is that rainwater makes his coat soft and fluffy and clean-feeling. Why, it's just like one of those old commercials about a shampoo that makes your hair feel like you washed it in a barrel of rainwater.

The mouse was in a dream. Damned cats kept missing it, so I grabbed it with a towel, and it bit and scratched me until I threw it out the fourth-floor window of the building where my apartment was (huh?). It hurt its front leg and limped away, glaring at me, while I had glimpses of Willard running through my head. I had no idea that mice could glare so evilly.

And the nuclear explosion came in one of my last dreams. I'm a child of the seventies, but when I was in grammar school, we had nuclear attack drills. We filed silently and quickly to the "nuclear shelter," (generally the school gym), identified by the familiar symbol on the left, perfectly sure that we'd be safe if The Bomb went off (we always capitalized it when thinking or talking about The Bomb). For many, many years, I'd have recurring nuclear nightmares. There would be some kind of war or disagreement, and boom! would go The Bomb. The dreams went away after the fall of the Berlin Wall. They came back after 9/11. I had one again last night. This morning, actually, as I was pretty tired from yesterday's activities and decided an extra couple of hours' sleep were in order. Something to do with Russia, and something to do with the neutron bomb, as the building in which I was did not disintegrate though a bomb exploded all around us.

And not only that, I was snoring all morning. I think I shouldn't have bothered going back to bed. Probably would have been more restful to stay awake.

So much news, so little enthusiasm to report it

Foreigners from all but 27 countries have to have visas or get fingerprinted to get into America. (What countries bordering the United States are absent from that list? Hint: They're called Mexico and Canada. That's what Al Qaeda and Saudi Arabia have done to our borders.)

The Likud Central Committee meeting is underway, replete with proposals that will be great grist for the anti-Semitism (sorry, anti-Zionism) mill of news agencies like Reuters and the LA Times:

The central committee of the governing Likud Party is considering whether to force Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to clear every major policy decision with the hard-line body, potentially tying his hands in peace efforts. The proposal would give the central committee a veto over government decisions.

Another proposal would recommend transferring Palestinians to a region in Jordan and Syria. Jordan's Prime Minister Faisal al-Fayez told two visiting Knesset members on Monday that Jordan "rejects any Israeli schemes which seek to expel Palestinians (from the West Bank) or to return to statements that Jordan is a substitute homeland (for Palestinians)," the official Petra news agency said.

I'm not a hundred percent up on Israeli politics, but I do believe that this is their version of, say, the Republican National Convention that will take place in New York this summer. My predictions: Reuters takes the proposals mentioned above and refers to them as if the proposals have already been approved and undertaken. I'm guessing they'll ignore facts like these:

The right-wing extremists and criminal elements that have infiltrated the Likud pose a serious danger to the state and its ruling party, Education Minister Limor Livnat warned Sunday, on the eve of Monday's Likud convention at Tel Aviv's Mann Auditorium.

[...] Livnat singled out right-wing activist Moshe Feiglin's Jewish Leadership Movement, which submitted a proposal that would ban Likud MKs from running with the party if they vote against the party platform. If such a motion passes, any MK voting for a Palestinian state or territorial concessions would be exiled from the party. Feiglin was abroad and could not be reached for comment.

"A minority of central committee members who have ideological or financial interests, including criminal elements, are trying to take over the ruling party," Livnat told The Jerusalem Post. "These people are not real Likudniks and their ideology cannot be allowed to prevail. We need to say out loud that the party must return to its senses. We must prevent them from taking over or the party and the state will be in danger."

But make no mistake: This is an extremely important convention. Its outcome will have an important effect on the Middle East peace process. As for the palestinian side of the peace process:

Palestinians booby-trap Gaza tunnels, fire mortars
The army discovered two tunnels near the Keren Shalom Border Crossing. This is the first time the army has uncovered tunnels in the area east of Rafiah. Army Radio quoted defense sources as saying the tunnel was booby trapped intended to explode when a vehicle drove over it.

Twenty mortars were fired at Gush Katif settlements in the Gaza Strip on Monday, mostly at Nevei Dekalim. One hit a home, one the local park, Army Radio reported. Nobody was injured.

Hamas: No 'hudna' while IDF in territories
"There will never be a huda [ceasefire] while the Israel Defense Forces continues to operate in the occupied territories," Mohammed Nazzal a top Hamas official told the London based Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper Monday.

Israel has to silence its guns before the Palestinians will enter a ceasefire agreement, he added.

Nazaal added that an agreement to halt attacks on Israeli civilians had been reached between Palestinian factions at the Cairo ceasefire talks, but that the ceasefire broke apart due to disagreements between Hamas and Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, Army Radio reported.

And last, but not least, Israel's partners in peace:

Qurei calls off talks with Sharon
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) said Monday he has called off efforts to schedule a summit with his Israeli counterpart, aimed at restarting peace talks, amid ongoing violence in the 39-month-long conflict.

Top aides of Sharon and Qurei have met repeatedly in recent weeks to prepare for a summit of the two premiers intended to rejuvenate the stalled "road map" peace plan, which envisions a Palestinian state by 2005. But Qurei said Monday that even those contacts have been stopped because of recent violence.

I'm waiting for the howls of outrage from the EU and the State Department, and the cries to not let violence derail the peace talks. Mind you, I'm not going to hold my breath.

The stones of the palestinians

Time and again, we read about palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers and civilians. Time and again, we read about the IDF firing shots, wounding, and killing these stone-throwers. Time and again, we read about the international outrage for the IDF daring to use deadly force against "stone-throwers," with the clear subtext that they were simply children throwing rocks.

Here's a picture from January 2nd of some of these stone-throwers, and the stones they threw, from the AP:

Palestinians hurl bricks and pieces of concrete at a passing Israeli vehicle during clashes between Israeli troops inforcing a curfew and residents in the West Bank town of Nablus Friday Jan. 2, 2004. Israel has been carrying out raids aimed at militants in the West Bank city of Nablus in recent weeks.(AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

Hold your mouse over the photo to read the caption. As I've said before, those stones could kill a man. That's why the IDF shoots. Those are deadly objects, thrown with deadly force. But you never see these photos in Reuters. You never will. It would force them to admit that the pals aren't the innocent waifs they make them out to be. Hat tip to Barry R.



Something's definitely not kosher here

Tom Paine of Silent Running booked a flight on Air Emirates, the airline of the United Arab Emirates. He asked for a kosher meal. His travel agent said no problem. When he got on the plane and asked for his meal, he was told they didn't serve "Jewish meals." They do, however, serve meals for everyone else.

So he wrote two letters: One to his travel agent, and another to AE. No response from the airline yet. A nice letter back from the agent. Go over there and read it.

But be prepared to get pretty sick at the comments. The Jew-haters have arrived, and flung their steaming piles of crap in the air, attacking Israel because, well, of course, since Tom is Jewish, he must also be responsible for whether or not El Al serves halal meals. Asshats.

Yes, the new year will be much like the old year, in a lot of ways. Oh, wait. I said that last week.


Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary and The Fudd Doctrine are also good bets if you've never been here before.