Monday, September 29, 2008

The Bailout is dead. Long live the Bailout.

The House of Representatives just stopped the financial-crisis bailout in its tracks, despite the enthusiastic support it had received from Bush and the rather less enthusiastic support it got from Obama and McCain. Chalk up another win for democracy, but at what cost?

It seems to me this thing failed for the same reason the EU couldn't stuff its voluminous constitution down the throats of the Irish. (No, I'm not saying the CIA got involved.) The whole plan is inscrutable to the average voter. No matter which way you hold it up to the light, it looks like a very large hat being passed around for the purpose of saving the asses of bankers who deserve our disdain (and perhaps prison) more than our charity. The last-minute attempt to change the name on the hat from "Bailout" to "Rescue" didn't make much difference to those being asked to open their wallets.

The legislators who voted against the bailout cited their political survival as the main reason. Which translates into: "We couldn't sell this piece of junk to our electorates." It did not help that we never got a straight answer on how this massive belt-tightening was not going to end up merely guaranteeing this Christmas's bonuses for the Wall Street Bunch. And it didn't help that Forbes discovered last week that "$700 billion"--the best-known figure in America after Heidi Klum's--is derived from exactly nothing.

"It's not based on any particular data point," a Treasury spokeswoman told Tuesday. "We just wanted to choose a really large number."

Well, that is indeed a really large number. They know their stuff, those government economists. How much are we paying them for this? I hope they don't get to name their salaries.

It also didn't help that Nancy Pelosi decided to kick off the biggest bipartisan effort since the American Revolution with a little rant laying (unfairly) the current mess at the feet of the Bush administration. After all, her buddy Barney Frank said this back in 2003, when he was busy trying to kill Bush's plan to increase oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac:

"These two entities -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are not facing any kind of financial crisis,'' said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ''The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.''

Well, good luck with affordable housing now. You know that new fridge you bought with your 2008 tax rebate? Hope you saved the box.

I doubt that many legislators changed their votes because they were annoyed by Pelosi's speech, but it may have made a difference to her later efforts running around pleading with the fence-sitters to go her way. A few weeks in charm school might be in order. Bear in mind that this woman may be our next president if Obama and McCain tie the electoral college. Just when you think things couldn't get worse ...

Another significant bit of obscurity in the bailout plan was whether we should be bailing out the banks or the homeowners who find themselves unable to pay the banks. I tend to lean toward the banks, in the perhaps naive hope that bailing out the banks would allow them to restructure mortgages to make them more affordable month-to-month for the homeowners. But I've read reports that say that mortgage terms cannot be altered after the mortgages have been bundled into "financial instruments" and resold to other banks. Kind of sounds like bullshit, but maybe it's there in the fine print. Ultimately, the point is that the bailout plan was saying, "Trust us. We'll get it right this time." And it looks like that trust simply was not there. Bad for the banks, but no doubt worse for the people who are watching as gas prices and the credit crunch eat away at the money they need to make their mortgage payments.

Living where I do, I've grown accustomed to spending $6 a gallon for gas and $12 a gallon for milk. But I have to drive only about 10 miles per day, and my doctor says I should stop drinking milk anyway. What will happen to those who can't stop at ten miles, or who need milk for their children, and who still have to pay the bank? They need to be bailed out, or at least "rescued" somehow. Drill for oil. Reinvigorate nuclear power (look at Belgium and France). Make America more attractive for businesses so we stop hemorrhaging jobs. But in the meantime, we do need some kind of plan to tide people over until we make those changes. Can we have a plan that looks like a plan, and not just a dollar-figure pulled out of thin air and a promise that it will be wisely spent? Americans may not be the best at balancing checkbooks, but we're not stupid. That is why the bailout was nixed. Stop saying "trust us" and show us some meaningful changes.

If you are interested in how the bailout plan would have limited the ability of bank executives to enrich themselves at the expense of the investors whose money they'd squandered, see for yourself. Here's the bill in PDF format. The part about limiting executive compensation is section 111, beginning on page 30, and it is awfully vague, explicitly defining no specific limits at all. It also contains a glaring typo, which does not say much for the attention paid by lawmakers to this particular provision of the bill. (It reads: "top 5 executives of a public company, whose compensated is required to be disclosed pursuant to the Securities Exchange Act ..." Minus five points.) In fact, golden parachute provisions are only forbidden in the bill after the government has bailed out the institution, which would appear to even an untrained eye to be encouragement to executives to wrap up raiding the coffers before calling for help. The whole thing is a depressing read, leaving you with the distinct impression that you're being hoodwinked.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Obama proposes an American triumvirate

Barack Obama had this to say at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania yesterday:

"You have a real choice in this election. Either Democrat would be better than John McCain. And all three of us would be better than George Bush."

Bush must be pleased to hear that it would take the combined efforts of three senators to match his prowess at leadership.

Even if Obama had said what he meant--"Any one of us would be better than George Bush"-- and even if it were true, it's probably not something he should say on the campaign trail. Clinton wasted no time in criticizing Obama for failing to toe the Democrat line and perpetuate the absurd "McBush" myth. Her suggestion that Obama was "cheering on" McCain is a bit much, but she has a point. If the Democrats fail to conflate McCain and Bush in the minds of swing voters come November, they won't stand a chance.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The 2008 Hurricane Prediction Season
Is Upon Us

Unbelievable, in so many ways.

We got a six-day reprieve from the Greek chorus of tropical storm forecasters. Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted. I have a feeling that next year we won't get even that. Despite three years of bad calls, William Gray at the University of Colorado is already back in the saddle. His new prediction amounts to little more than foreseeing our recent average, give or take. In fact, it's not much of a prediction at all: we're in for a "somewhat higher than average season," thanks partly to what will be "fairly warm" Atlantic sea surface temperatures. "Somewhat?" "Fairly?" Have I mentioned how unscientific this area of science is becoming?

Gray and his colleagues include so many caveats (three paragraphs' worth) in their introduction to their "Extended Range Forecast" for 2008 that any sensible reader would put it down after page one and return to looking out the window at actual weather. Here's a sample of Gray's hedging:

We issue these forecasts to satisfy the curiosity of the general public and to bring attention to the hurricane problem. There is a curiosity in knowing what the odds are for an active or inactive season next year. One must remember that our forecasts are based on the premise that those global oceanic and atmospheric conditions which preceded comparatively active or inactive hurricane seasons in the past provide meaningful information about similar trends in future seasons. This is not always true for individual seasons. [Apparently it wasn't true for the last three seasons.--ed.] It is also important that the reader appreciate that these seasonal forecasts are based on statistical schemes which, owing to their intrinsically probabilistic nature, will fail in some years. [As they did in 2005, 2006, and 2007.--ed.]

Mainstream media sources dutifully overlooked all the caveats, mentioned Gray's past failures either in passing or not at all, and churned out a new slew of utterly meaningless and counter-productive hurricane scare-stories. Incredibly, one media outlet even credits Gray with getting it right lately when the truth is the exact opposite:

Gray, who began publishing his forecasts in 1992, has gained widespread respect for correctly predicting a surge in hurricane activity over the past few years.

Gray and his team enjoyed a streak of accurate forecasts (well, "fairly" or "somewhat" accurate, at least) in the late 90s and through 2003, but the assertion that they have gained respect for their performance in the "past few years" is patently false.

To top it off, Reuters has proved me right about the obfuscation of our new storm-counting methods, just seven days after I predicted the NOAA's fudging would result in mainstream media confusion over how many storms actually occurred in 2007. Hey--I'm a better forecaster than William Gray!

Reuters puts this tropical storm count way up near the top of their article:

In the end, the [2007] season saw 14 Atlantic tropical storms, of which six strengthened into hurricanes.

Arrgh! No it did not! The NOAA gave out fourteen names, but the first one, Andrea, went to a sub-tropical storm that never developed into a tropical storm. Any self-respecting meteorologist will tell you that Andrea was not a tropical storm and that the 2007 season had only 13 tropical storms. The pinheads in the mainstream media, however, can't be bothered to study the details. So now we have the genesis of an inflated storm count for 2007.

I knew this would happen.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Weather ... or not

Well, there goes another hurricane season.

Forecasters who got it wrong for a second year in a row now have--as Ricky Ricardo would say--some 'splainin' to do. Or maybe not. Priesthoods do hold their work above accountability.

Back in the late spring, weather experts tried their best to scare the hell out of us again with forecasts of a summer and fall chock full of storms and hurricanes. As if the prospect of having your roof ripped off or your home flooded wasn't scary enough already. Having flubbed their pre-season predictions in 2006, they didn't quite get the same breathless reaction from the press in 2007, but there were a fair number of articles in the mainstream media repeating their warnings. I'll be interested to see how they play it next year. I can't believe anyone is going to take them seriously if they decide to cry wolf a third time. At this rate, I will feel more anxious if they predict a mild hurricane season for 2008.

So what's going on? As I see it, there are three forces at work that have rendered pre-season tropical-storm estimates worthless, and none of them are meteorological forces.

First of all, the political maelstrom surrounding the recently popularized theory of anthropogenic global warming has warped the already uncertain science behind large-scale weather prediction. One fine example of global warming irrationality was the attempt by some scientists and media outlets to pin the 2004 tsunami on American SUVs. (Connecting the dots from carbon dioxide emissions to melting permafrost to tectonic plates to earthquakes to massive waves is quite a stretch, but it's sadly conceivable in the new world of weather pseudo-science.) The global warming debate (no, the debate is not over) may be helping dysfunctional third-world governments in their ceaseless search for scapegoats and handouts, but it's not helping science.

Second is the ramped-up media coverage of everything on earth except genocide in Darfur and the gradual Islamist takeover of Europe. Incessant shrieking from the mainstream media about each supposed looming disaster keeps our attention firmly focused right where they want it.

The third force at work is the most complex, and in my opinion the one most deserving of some exploration. The criteria for identifying and analyzing tropical storms and hurricanes have grown dangerously loose and unscientific, allowing for weather prediction driven by agenda rather than by reason. The media have gleefully joined forces with meteorologists in ascribing significance to tallies--how many storms we count--and comparing those tallies to lists from bygone, politically calmer times.

The problem here is obvious: We are no longer measuring how many storms occur, we are measuring how many storms we can count. The only tropical meteorological phenomenon that has shown an anomalous change in recent years is that of meteorologists' willingness to pad the storm tallies they feed to the media. Scientists now draw sweeping historical conclusions from comparison of recent data with that of years past while quietly neglecting to compare the new data-gathering methods with the old. Granted, there is some noise about this problem in the insider-world of weather wonks, but no one seems inclined to bring this dispute to the attention of the public.

This third force can be broken down into three statistical flaws. The first is the most obvious: we didn't have satellites scanning the Atlantic prior to 1960. The 2007 hurricane season's tally includes four named storms (Ingrid, Jerry, Karen, and Melissa) that never threatened land and might have gone unremarked or even unnoticed without satellite imagery. Jerry is the clearest example of this form of tally padding.

Jerry's storm track. That's Newfoundland off to the storm's left. About 700 miles off.

In the 1930s, out of 98 storms, only 12 that never touched land were identified and included in the list. In 2007, out of 14 identified storms, four never touched land. That's a jump from 12% to 28%. Which is the more rational explanation--that a greater percentage of storms are somehow avoiding landfall, or that we are counting more storms?

Which leads us to the second statistical flaw: the criteria for including storms in the annual tally have been gradually modified in ways that increase the number of storms reported and inflate the public's perception of storm activity by naming storms. In 2002, the NOAA altered its policy and began naming not only tropical storms and hurricanes, but sub-tropical cyclones as well. Sub-tropical cyclones are certainly worth noting, since they can develop into tropical storms, but naming them is deceptive, given how we are repeated told that the number of named storms in a season is significant. Since the policy change, NOAA has put three named sub-tropical cyclones on their lists. Two of them (Nicole in 2004 and Andrea in 2007) never became tropical storms, yet their names will forever unbalance the statistics of these years against earlier data.

Although weather experts may see the distinction and not include named sub-tropical storms in their scientific assessments, it is difficult for journalists and activists to see the difference, even when they would like to be honest. The NOAA's own website contains contradictory information on the nature of the first named sub-tropical storm, Nicole. The main webpage on the 2004 season identifies Nicole as sub-tropical in its text, yet the linked map of Nicole's track across a stretch of the open Atlantic identifies her as a tropical storm.

It is also important to note that even after the practice of naming storms was formalized in the 1940s, many storms and hurricanes were judged undeserving and left with just numbers to identify them in the records. The records from the relatively quiet 1960s include five unnamed tropical storms of equal or greater strength and effect than 2007's Jerry. In 1969, two full-blown hurricanes even had to settle for numbers instead of names. Whether or not we name storms wouldn't matter so much if we were not being told that there is some meteorological significance in using up the whole alphabet in a single year.

The third statistical flaw lies in the way the various data have been parsed to draw specious conclusions--in particular, that we are seeing an unprecedented increase in tropical storm and hurricane activity. We are told that early storms are an ominous sign of things to come, that the power of storms like Katrina is unprecedented, and that our unfortunate generation is witness to an unusual rise in hurricane frequency and strength (rather than just another crest in a multi-year activity cycle).

These fallacies are easily dispelled by spending a little time examining the records (even without consideration for how the old data is not comparable to newer data). Take the 1950s. Hurricane Able arrived on the 15th of May in 1951, well ahead of the season, and reached category 3 strength earlier than any hurricane on record. The following year saw the first tropical storm arrive in February. That's way ahead of 2007's Andrea (May 6, and bear in mind that Andrea never became a true tropical storm). Alice arrived on May 25, 1953. Perhaps we should just say that the season begins in May. Twelve tropical storms struck in 1955, nine of them becoming hurricanes and six of them reaching category 3 or greater. Tropical storm Arlene arrived three days ahead of the season in 1959.

And since hurricanes do not give a damn what decade we think it is, let's look past the end of the 1950s and see if the storms changed their ways. Eleven storms were recorded in 1961, of which eight became hurricanes, six of those category 3 or greater. From my vantage point in the Caribbean, I'm starting to feel lucky I wasn't here for what the media want us to believe were the good old days.

But the weather priesthood doesn't see it that way. Here's Joe Bastardi from AccuWeather on what my reaction should be to his colleagues' miserable batting average over the past two seasons.

"Overall, the nation got off very easy this year and last year ... We are in a time until about 2020 that hurricane threats will be more frequent and more intense on our coastlines. So instead of saying, Ha, ha, ha, there's nothing going on, people should be thankful that there's not as much going on."

Has anyone said, "Ha, ha, ha"? This is the weakest straw-man tactic I've seen in a while. No one in his or her right mind would gloat over being spared the tragedy that we've so recently witnessed in New Orleans. Being pleased that we had a mild storm season does not mean we are pleased that our scientists have proven themselves fallible two years in a row. And don't respond to our justifiable concern with a patronizing repetition of the same old dire threats. We never asked you to tell us how bad each coming season would be. The meteorological establishment came up with that plan on its own. Perhaps it's time to abandon it.

Meteorologists should admit that pre-season forecasting is simply beyond their current abilities, stop playing into the hands of our hysterical mainstream media, and focus on the useful and much-appreciated business of identifying and tracking the storms we care about--the ones that exist.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Gender Apartheid creeps into our public schools

If we truly believe in equality, then there is is no reason for this program taking root in South Carolina's public schools, and there's no excuse for this supposed news story from the Associated Press. The ironic thing is that the same media outlets that decry the shameful persistence of racial segregation in places like Jena have no problem spouting propaganda like this for the equally shameful resurgence of sex discrimination in America's schools. Oh, but it's new, improved sex discrimination made to look like educational and social theory!

S.C. pioneers in single-gender classes

By SEANNA ADCOX, Associated Press Writer

David Chadwell believes boys and girls can get through the awkward middle school years better when they're separated, learning in classrooms tailored to the learning styles of each gender.

As the country's first and only statewide coordinator of single-gender education, Chadwell is helping to make South Carolina a leader among public schools that offer such programs. About 70 schools offer the program now, and the goal is to have programs available to every child within five years, he said.

"Pioneers"? "Helping to make South Carolina a leader among public schools"? Where is the supposed journalistic objectivity? And the last time I drove down to Florida, South Carolina still looked to me like a state, not a public school. Where are the editors?!

The theory is that by separating girls and boys — especially during middle school years typically marked by burgeoning hormones, self doubt and peer pressure — lessons can be more effective because they are in unique classroom settings.

"Burgeoning hormones"? Did I mention that we need an editor over here?

For example, Chadwell explains, research shows boys don't hear as well as girls, so teachers of all-boys classes often use microphones.


And because boys' attention spans tend to wander, incorporating movement in a lesson, like throwing a ball to a student when he's chosen to answer a question, can keep them focused.

A little waterboarding might help to focus their daydreaming little minds also, but that doesn't mean ...

In one recent boys' class, a group of gangly seventh-graders sprawled on the floor around a giant vinyl chart, using skateboard parts and measuring tape to learn pre-algebra. In a different school a few miles away, middle school girls interviewed each other, then turned their surveys about who's shy and who has dogs into fractions, decimals and percentages. Classical music played softly in the background.

And the plaintive call-to-prayer of the muezzin echoed eerily in the distance. Don't get too attached to that dog of yours, wallflower.

Teachers in all-girls classes say they've learned to speak more softly, because their students can take yelling more personally than boys.

In the boys' class, they just yell all the time, for no reason. Especially during a good waterboarding.

And the educators gear their lessons to what students like: assigning action novels for boys to read or allowing girls to evaluate cosmetics for science projects.

No way. She did not write that and publish it in the Associated Press, and all with a straight face. We don't need an editor, we need someone from Human Resources.

I can't go on. If you're masochistic enough, read the whole thing. The only interesting points in the remainder of the article are that this is partly Bush's fault (shoulda known) since the No Child Left Behind Act mandated streamlining the process toward realizing gender Apartheid. And the reporter got around to writing five sentences conveying the misgivings of one rather mild critic of the program. At the end of the article, the AP shills the website of the National Association for Single-Sex Public Education, an advocacy group whose potential usefulness has not been lost on our nation's fifth-column Islamists. If you don't believe me, read it here (middle of page 2) and here.

In 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in the Supreme Court's unanimous decision in Brown vs. Board of Education: "We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

Obviously, the context of this statement was race, not sex, but if the same rules do not apply, I'd like to hear why. Facile generalizations about boys' hearing or attention spans will not be entertained, however. The society you will face as an adult will not usher the opposite sex out of the room to accomodate your supposed weaknesses, so don't get comfortable behind that "No Girls Allowed" sign. And girls! Good grief, where are the feminists?

Separate is inherently unequal. That's why they have that little curtain between coach and business class. That's why there's a children's table at Thanksgiving dinner. That's why we have a border with Mexico. But division--and the differences that division inevitably generates--have no place in public education.

Meghan O'Rourke at Slate did a pointed critique in 2006 of the faulty reasoning behind the renewed push for gender segregation. It highlights the various flaws in the arguments of people like Chadwell and his fellow travelers at NASSPE, though it doesn't address the greater question: Why is the so-called progressive left in America (whether in public policy or the media) so consistently willing to embrace terrible ideas in the name of creating a better society? (Think "eugenics" ... "midnight basketball" ... "Jeneane Garofalo" ...)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Jumping Ship

Well, I've gone and done it. I will skip the apologies and jump straight to the excuse. My family and I have spent the last few months pulling up roots and moving. A new home, a new latitude, a new language, a new lease (if not on life, then at least on the home).

Just for the record, I didn't leave because of Bush. You wouldn't believe how many times I've been asked that by former fellow New Yorkers. Good grief.

My reasons for leaving New York are complicated and personal enough to be more boring than enlightening, so I won't go into them. The reasons to be here are more interesting. The photo explains a lot: my youngest daughter, diving off a sailboat into the Caribbean Sea. Over the next few years, she'll do that more times than she'll climb into a taxi. We'll all spend more of our waking hours under blue sky than under a roof. We'll all remember that stars should be plentiful and that air should smell like flowers or rain.

And I will be writing again. Sorry about the prolonged silence. (There, I went and apologized anyway.)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Iraqis to U.S. soldiers:
"Please don't go! We want to kill you!"
Or why pollsters waste our time

In my opinion, public opinion polls are useless--kind of the mentally challenged younger sibling of the noble project of one-man-one-vote democracy. But when it comes to grinning idiocy, the antique media just can't get enough, so today we're going to hear a lot of nonsense about how many Iraqis feel nervous and how many don't, about how many can think of a family member hurt since the invasion and how many can't. Public opinion poll results are only slightly less malleable than Play-Doh. Reuters mentioned that the latest poll "oversampled" in Anbar, Sadr City, Basra, and Kirkuk. Oversampling is a bit of statistical funny business that seems hard to justify in this case, especially since quizzing residents of Anbar or Sadr City about the occupation is like stopping passersby in Berkeley and asking how they feel about Bush. Pollsters normally oversample to compensate for under-representation of minorities in random polls, and even in those cases I have my doubts over whether oversampling increases the poll's "accuracy" or whether it simply opens the door for manipulation by agenda-driven poll workers. Oversampling may have been partly to blame for the inaccurate exit polls that helped blow Kerry's chances in 2000.

As if to demonstrate the utter meaninglessness of opinion polls, this latest survey uncovered a startling bit of Iraqi cognitive dissonance.

Slightly more than half of Iraqis — 51 percent — now say that violence against U.S. forces is acceptable ...

About four in five Iraqis oppose the presence of U.S. troops but only a third want those U.S. troops to leave Iraq immediately.

That means that at least 18 percent of Iraqis think it's okay to shoot our soldiers and think our soldiers should stick around.

Now obviously this makes no sense, and only some pretty tricky (or pretty sloppy) polling could render results like that. The suspect figure is the 51 percent, which the pollsters say is a 300 percent jump from 2004. I'd like to know how the term "acceptable" was translated--whether a "yes" answer meant "I'd let my teenage son shoot at Americans" or something more akin to "shit happens"--a popular sentiment, incidentally, in Dar al Islam. I'd also like to know that the question was phrased the same way two years ago. But for some reason, mainstream media outlets never provide a full explanation of a poll's questionnaire and methodology. In this case, a little digging (about seven mouse clicks away) reveals that the poll workers' "oversampling" placed them in harm's way a number of times and subjected them to repeated questioning and harassment by Iraqi police. They were stopped from conducting interviews with female family members even when the poll protocol required it. And most importantly, they did not have the trust of the people they were questioning, a fact that pretty much invalidates the entire project.

The main reason behind this problem is the unstable security situation in this area, especially if we realize that the business of private research is new for Iraqis who are not familiar with such things. Many people believe that we are doing something against them and that we work for foreign interests.

If the interviewees cannot be certain they're not speaking with insurgent spies trying to root out coalition collaborators, they're not likely to give an honest opinion about the whole G.I. vs. jihadi popularity contest. And if the AP had more integrity, they would include these flaws in their own report on the poll, not bury them in hyperlinks or pass the buck to ABC (who sponsored the poll).

But we can't expect such integrity because it doesn't serve the mainstream media to reveal to us their biases, their agendas, their limitations or their manipulations. Like fast food, if we know too much about it, we just might stop swallowing it.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Welcome to Crazy Town

Am I the only one who thinks this is nuts?

March 17, 2007 -- A mother and four children killed in a Bronx fire that left 10 people dead began their final trip home last night. Mamadou Soumare's Air France flight to Mali, via Paris, took off around 7 p.m. despite bad weather conditions, with the bodies of his wife and four children. The airline is covering the travel costs.
Soumare is to be greeted at the Bamako airport today at 9:20 p.m. by members of his extended family who have flown in from other African countries and Europe, and by hundreds of people from Tafacirga, his home village.
"All the preparations are in place for this," said Moussa N'Diaye, an uncle of Soumare's wife, Fatoumata Soumare.
"We are ready for Fatoumata and the children to come home," N'Diaye said.
Because he is residing in the United States illegally, Mamadou Soumare had to get special clearance from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to travel to Mali and return to The Bronx.
He is hoping to get permission for his three children living in Mali to return to the United States with him.

At the risk of sounding heartless, I believe we're letting our sympathy cloud our judgement. Mamadou Soumare did not merely "reside" here illegally. He worked here illegally (as a livery cab driver--which I thought was impossible), and brought his wife and children here illegally, all with the help of his cousin, Moussa Magassa. Magassa runs a kind of underground railroad for Malians wishing to skirt our nation's immigration laws in order to escape from the shithole their tribal and religious customs have made of their own nation.

"We are a very strong culture," Bukiray said. "We all live together. We share everything. I don't have to know you and I will give you money if you are from my tribe. Any country you go to in the world, you would just send a letter and then just come and you would have six months to stay at someone's house. It is OK, we are all family."
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Mali said the Magassa household was well known in the country.

I might find the community's cohesiveness touching if it weren't illegally importing "cultural" practices I don't want to see infecting the society of my city. Malians suffer from all the symptoms of Islamic backwardness, and as usual, it's the female half of the population that suffers the worst. If you're born female in Mali, your prospects don't look too bright. You've got a 95% chance of having your clitoris and labia minora hacked off by the time you're five. And chances are one in four your family will marry you off for a "bride price" before your fifteenth birthday. You've got even odds that your husband will be twice your age or older. You most likely won't have much to say about who the lucky guy is, but don't complain, because the law allows him to rape you and the cops will allow him to beat you. And he can just go and get three more wives if he finds you tiresome. Oh, and you might get to go to school until you're made a wife, but it will probably be a Koranic school, so your chances of learning to read are about one in ten.

I can see why people would want to leave Mali. But the problem arises when Malians come to America not with the intention of leaving Mali behind, but rather with an elaborate (and in some ways illegal) plan for bringing Mali here.

An article in The New York Post describes Magassa's family as "always skirting the edge of poverty." Having eleven children and one income is a good way to guarantee perpetual poverty. Magassa filed for bankruptcy three years ago. The article also mentions that he had seven of those children with his wife, Manthia, and four of them with his second wife, Aissa. (And that's not "second wife" as in divorced-from-first-wife-married-to-second-wife, it's "Big Love" polygamy of the kind the authorities prosecute when Christians do it.) Aissa's name is particularly fitting, as she's only 23 and has four children. Her husband's age remains shrouded in mystery: not one reporter seems to have been able to turn up this basic bit of information. Nonetheless, a little simple math shows that Magassa may be following in the footsteps of the Prophet to an extent that could get him locked up. Moussa Magassa has a 7-year-old daughter. Reporters don't seem curious about whether that daughter is Manthia's or Aissa's, probably because the answer could raise another discomfiting problem. If the 7-year-old is Aissa's, what we have is more than polygamy. It's statutory rape.

Then there is the equally uncomfortable issue of negligence. Magassa had turned his three-story house in the Bronx into a multi-family dwelling. He had reportedly applied for permission to divide the building into three apartments, but permission had not been granted. Suppose for a moment that I have twenty-two people sleeping in my house, and I remove the batteries from the smoke-detectors, and I fail to provide any secondary means of egress (the house had only one staircase and no fire escapes), and have space-heaters going while everyone's asleep. And my house burns down. It wouldn't be Bloomberg visiting me, it would be the police. But then, I don't have multi-culturalism on my side.

I'm not opposed to immigration. My ancestors were immigrants. But letting the left's mantra of "one culture is just as good as another" become a tacit part of immigration policy is suicide. Of course Malians should be welcome in New York, so long as they are not polygamist, misogynist, primitivist, statutory-rapist Malians. It seems evident to me that the post-tragedy, melting-pot hug-fest over New York's Malian community is well-intentioned but dangerously misguided. Americans are ignoring obvious signs that their laws are being flouted, their cultural mores disregarded as irrelevant, their society duped into playing host for all the backwards crap that makes places like Mali what they are. As Richard P. Feynman said: "Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out."

Friday, February 23, 2007

An object lesson for the Democrats

Here's what happens when you pander to the hard left to get yourself in power:

ROME -- Romano Prodi couldn't live with them and couldn't live without them. The far-left fringe of his fragile coalition, they are the parties that noisily opposed the premier's U.S.-friendly policies on keeping Italian troops in Afghanistan and expanding U.S. bases in Italy.

Those tensions forced Prodi to resign Wednesday after he lost a key foreign policy vote in the Senate - and threaten to usher in a new era of turmoil in Italian politics.

Prodi needed the leftists to edge out Silvio Berlusconi in elections in May 2006. But they have paralyzed his ability to govern.

From the start, Prodi's government was fraught with friction, as it struggled to meet European Union demands to cut Italy's budget deficit and increase productivity while seeking to please its electorate by maintaining Italy's generous welfare state.

But foreign policy proved to be its downfall.

Prodi and D'Alema's efforts to raise Italy's profile in NATO and the EU while weaning the government away from Berlusconi's cozy relationship with Bush were not enough to please the more radical wing of the center-left alliance.

"I believe Italy is today the only country in the West where nearly 10 percent of the voters believe in an anti-American platform," said political analyst Stefano Folli. [Ed.--Signore Folli should come visit. He might be suprised at how many American voters believe in an anti-American platform.] "This explains the aversion to foreign policy, which is an aversion to the alliance with the United States."

For example, Lidia Menapace, a member of the Senate's Defense Commission, says U.S. and NATO bases are an "infringement of Italian territory" and that after the fall of the Berlin Wall NATO should simply "dissolve itself."

While Prodi has tried to play a major role as a peacekeeper in Lebanon, his ally, Communist Party leader Oliviero Diliberto, returned from a visit to Lebanon and Syria and said Hezbollah was a "victim of stereotyping."

Pictured on his party's Web site wearing a Palestinian scarf, Diliberto assailed Israeli criticism of his visit as "offensive."

Another communist leader, Marco Ferrando, defended banners held up during a recent protest that called for the release of a group of Italians arrested on terrorism charges as Red Brigades suspects.


"Let's hope that after this trauma, the radical left understands that political suicide is in nobody's interest," D'Alema said.

Clinton understands this, I believe. Should she get herself elected by the Cindy Sheehan, 911-Truther crowd, she won't have the political capital to accomplish much more than overseeing our withdrawal from Iraq.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pig Farsi?

To skirt the few sanctions the U.N. has imposed on its nuclear program, Iran is renaming the blacklisted firms involved in acquiring nuclear technology for the mullahs. They put their turbans together to see how best to pull the wool over the eyes of the IAEA, and here's one of the new names they came up with:

Sookht Atomi Reactorhaye Iran

Landlady: Oh I'm sorry. I didn't introduce you. This is Ron. Ron Vibbentrop.
Johnson: Oh, not Von Ribbentrop, eh?
Vibbentrop (Graham Chapman, with German Accent): Nein! Nein! Oh. Ha ha. Different other chap. I in Somerset am being born.

"Atomi Reactorhaye"?! That's the most suspicious thing I've ever heard. "Yes, Hello, this is Mr. Ameneikhay calling from North Minehead. Ouldcay ouyay easeplay Edexfay emay entay oundspay ofway utoniumplay?"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

We torture people. Islamists "forcibly interrogate" them.

Those who are "forcibly interrogated" are later killed. In passive voice. By no one in particular. Don't forget, the mainstream media are not unbiased, and not merely anti-Bush. They are on the other side.

The FBI has been handed a gift by Kenyan authorities: Daniel Aljughaifi, an American citizen and convert to Islam who signed up with al Qaeda in Somalia to wage jihad against anyone standing in the way of Islam's continuing conquest of North Africa. He even talked with his new friends about turning Ethiopa into a fundamentalist Islamic state, which would be quite a trick, considering that less than half the population of Ethiopia is Muslim. He was captured by Kenyan authorities after he and his buddies got their butts kicked out of Somalia by Ethiopian troops. If these jihadis have dreams of turning North Africa's Orthodox Christians into dhimmis, they'll have to get better at defeating them when they're soldiers. Aljughaifi proved his bravery as a Muslim warrior by beating up an unarmed (and probably tied-up) flight attendant.

While there, he helped forcibly interrogate an alleged spy against the rebels, a flight attendant who was later reported killed.

Though the criminal complaint against Aljughaifi clearly states that the flight attendant (who the jihadis thought had photographed them on the plane to Somalia) was beaten, slapped, and told (by a gun-wielding Aljughaifi) that he would be killed, the reporter chooses to call it "forcible interrogation." Our media give every benefit of the doubt to our enemies while tearing down--at every opportunity--the men and women who risk their lives to protect ours.

Aljughaifi was born Daniel Maldonoda, and his chosen Muslim moniker may be intended to ally him with his murderous brethren in the al-Jughaifi district of Fallujah. He also appears to have been a contributing member of the website (where he and other posters frequently end their comments with the phrase "Unite and Conquer"), as well as the author of a rather lame blog. In May of 2006 he wrote about his move to Egypt. His last post was in August of 2006. I suppose he then packed his bags, left his burqa'd wife and three little jihadi babies, and went off to join the militia of the Islamic Courts Union, who had taken control of Mogadishu in June. In one of his posts he wonders, "Am I a Wahabbi?" Well, Daniel, you might be. But I'll tell you what you certainly are: a traitor. May you rot in prison.

You can read the government's complete criminal complaint against Aljughaifi here.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Is Iran having money trouble?

An article from Reuters today suggests that Iran may be showing signs of cash-flow problems. Russia has announced it is delaying work on Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant because the mullahs are pulling the old "check's in the mail" trick with January and February's required payments. Their excuse supposedly has something to do with switching from paying in dollars to paying in Euros: dollars are punctual, Euros are tardy. Sounds kind of like Boeing and Airbus. Who would have though that cash has a work ethic?

But the real reason behind the missed payments is likely a matter not of which currency Iran is using but of how much of it they've got. To cover their current expenditures--including frivolities like lobbing missiles around the region, smuggling arms to terrorists, and confiscating everyone's satellite dishes--the Iranians need oil to remain at or above $65 a barrel. It's under $60 a barrel and will likely remain so for some time. The Saudis can live with revenues at that level, and they can do it with a smile knowing they're screwing their Shiite rivals across the Gulf.

Depending on whom you ask, Iran has between 30 and 80 billion dollars in foreign cash reserves. (The vice-governor of their central bank says they like to keep the exact amount shrouded in "mystery" ... kind of a "hidden Imam" approach to fiscal responsibility.) If you trust the lower figure, their 2006 budget called for spending nearly all of it, apparently in the hopes that 2006 oil prices would be sustained into 2007. Well, not only did that not happen, the ayatollahs' Powerball pool didn't come through either. And Mr. Ahmedinejad hasn't cut back on the spending, unless you count stiffing the Russians as an economic strategy.

Iran's brinksmanship becomes more frightening when combined with the possibility that their pockets are empty. The Shiite penchant for glorifying humiliation and defeat--along with Ahmedinejad's membership in an apocalyptic cult that makes mainstream Islam look nearly rational--could mean a very ugly end-game. The Iranian people are already suffering from double-digit inflation. A confrontation leading to a total blockade of the regime or to all-out war could easily spiral into a crisis with worldwide ramifications, not least among them that it's 13 degrees outside and my furnace is already cycling about every ten minutes. On the brighter side, Iranians are growing increasingly fed up with Ahmedinejad, to the point where he's resorting to shutting down criticisms he apparently cannot answer. We can only hope that the Iranians give the madman the heave-ho before he ruins it for everyone.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Uh oh. The Chinese are in for it now.

What, me worry?

Saw this headline on Yahoo this afternoon:

Fortune: Year of Pig will bring disaster

... and immediately thought, Hmmm. I bet I know what this is about. The promise of a whole year of porcine imagery is sure to get the Islamists' panties all in a twist. Much seething will surely ensue, followed by the obligatory Friday-afternoon chanting and burning things, with a strong chance of occasional explosions and head-chopping.

But no! The article opens with the dire predictions of some Feng Shui master, who thinks the Year of the Pig bodes ill for reasons more mystical than political. Apparently, the elements of the pig (whatever that means) are fire and water, which make for conflict, which therefore mean we're in for a year of stuff blowing up around the world. Wait, haven't things been blowing up on a daily basis for the last few years anyway? Whatever. I learned not to look for reason in the arguments of the religious back in my days in Catholic school. Whatever the supposed cosmological reason for the coming chaos, it does start to sound like it's related to that other reason that Tom Pain has been howling about since the last Year of the Snake.

He noted that the Russian AK-47 rifle, a weapon of choice among insurgents around the world, was invented during a pig year.

"So it will not be surprising to see more gunbattles, murder with guns and bombing attacks in 2007," he said.

And I thought we were through with all that.

In any case, it turns out that Tom Pain's Islamo-sensor wasn't malfunctioning after all, as the article gets around (in the 27th paragraph) to the real reason we should nervous.

While the pig is beloved by the Chinese, the animal is offensive to Muslims, who consider it unclean.

Here we go ...

For that reason, Chinese New Year celebrations have to be handled with care in Malaysia and Indonesia, mainly Muslim countries with large ethnic Chinese minorities.

For the first time in its history, Indonesia introduced a special set of postal stamps to mark the Lunar New Year. But concerns over Muslim sensitivities led the postal service to drop plans to put a large pig on the stamps. It chose a Chinese temple instead.

"We took the middle path," said Hana Suryana, director of the Indonesian postal service.

The "middle path" apparently being the all-too-common one of suppressing anything that differs from the mindless unity of Islam.

Still, that was progress for a country where ethnic Chinese, who make up 5 percent of the population and have long faced discrimination, once were not allowed to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

"That has changed now, but we still feel uncomfortable celebrating the day in a large way because there are some people who cannot accept that Chinese culture is a part of Indonesian culture," said Jhony Tan, a trader in Jakarta's bustling Chinatown.

Yusri Mohammad, president of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, said he had no problem with the Chinese celebrating the pig year in his country. He said decorative pictures of pigs in shopping malls are fine — as long as Chinese don't start using live pigs or eat pork in public.

And what pray tell, Mr. Mohammad, will happen then?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I am curious (not).

The Associated Press Department of Headline Blandification turned out a real winner this afternoon:

Obama says voters curious on his faith

Aside from being written in Engrish, this headline manages both to alter reality and to misrepresent the article's focus, and in just seven words! Somebody deserves a raise.

To be clear, this is not the fault of AP writer Henry C. Jackson, who actually puts the point more sharply in his article:

Obama's religious background has come under scrutiny because he attended a Muslim school in Indonesia from age 6 to 10.

I like that Jackson resisted the common antique-media trend of qualifying any statement that might be seen as skeptical of Islam's cloak of benevolence. Attendance at a Muslim school in Indonesia is not the same as attendance at a Catholic school on Long Island, and it is a fact deserving scrutiny. Here's what Obama had to say in answer to the public's supposed "curiosity":

"If your name is Barack Hussein Obama, you can expect it, some of that. I think the majority of voters know that I'm a member of the United Church of Christ, and that I take my faith seriously," Obama said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Perhaps I'm not representative of the average voter, but I'm not curious about Obama's faith. I'm disdainful of his trumpeting it, and it only diminishes the already slim chances I will vote for him. If I vote for a Democrat at all, it will be for Clinton (who I believe deserves not to be addressed by her first name just because her husband can't step out of the spotlight).

In any event, only five of the article's 29 paragraphs focus on the issue of faith. Jackson strays quickly from the piece's supposed topic to other aspects of Obama's candidacy--ones that might interest voters more than his early connection to a death cult that keeps hundreds of millions of people locked in ignorance, misogyny, and primitive superstition. Those aspects would apparently be his skin color and whether or not he's quit smoking.

In the interview, Obama also said his race might be a "novelty" this early in the presidential contest ...

The greater novelty would be Obama's stature (admirable, in my opinion) as the first U.S. presidential candidate deserving of a fatwa for irtidad (turning from Islam to another religion), a crime regarded by many Islamic "scholars of jurisprudence" as deserving the death penalty. Don't blame me ... It's in the Koran. His status as an apostate might put the kibosh on any plans for hand-in-hand strolls with Saudi princes. Wait, maybe I should vote for him.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Not much "truciness" to this truce

When is a ceasefire not a ceasefire? When people get shot in head while the ceasefire is "in effect." Can somebody at Reuters explain this to reporter Nidal al-Mughrabi?

GAZA (Reuters) - Gunmen shot dead a Hamas commander in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and the Islamist group blamed a Fatah-dominated security service for the first killing in the territory since a ceasefire went into effect overnight.

Hospital officials in the southern town of Khan Younis said Hussein Shabasi was shot in the head.

That seems to happen quite a bit during Palestinian ceasefires. This double-speak would be laughable were it not for the western media's complicity in spreading it.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Jermaine wants Michael to convert to Islam

What would we do without Reuters? I was just wondering what's on Jermaine Jackson's mind?

LONDON (Reuters) - Jermaine Jackson said on Monday he wants his brother Michael to convert to Islam; and he believes the reclusive superstar has given it serious thought.

"Michael, I feel, needs to become a Muslim because I think it's a great protection for him from all the things that he's been attacked with, which are false," said the former Jackson Five singer who now lives in Bahrain.

Yes, I can see how joining a cult that reveres a man who married a 13-year-old might make sense for somebody with Michael's public relations woes. I hereby second the motion. The umma can have The Gloved One. We'll hold onto his music (especially the earlier stuff) if you don't mind. It's undoubtedly haram anyway.

Local warming

Friday, January 19, 2007

A rare, thoughtful look
at the frightening progress
of Islamist aggression

An excellent article from Der Spiegel about how Islam is glomming territory as fast as it can, forcing anyone who doesn't want to get with the program to flee for their lives:

A Christian Exodus from the Arab World

The resurgence of supremacist, totalitarian Islam as a force that kills all difference and dissent wherever it can is largely ignored by Western media. The fact that non-Muslims in places like Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, and Malaysia increasingly face the dismal prospect of dhimmitude or exodus usually warrants little more than a brief aside in articles that focus on specific instances Islamic intolerance, such as the targeting of Christians after the publication of the Danish Mohammed cartoons. Even when the topic of Muslim expansionism is addressed, its long and bloody history is usually downplayed. Younger generations today in America are well-versed in the evils of Christian European expansion into the Americas in the 17th and 18th centuries, but they harbor the illusion that North Africa and the Middle East have been Muslim (and Arab, for that matter) since the dawn of time. Der Spiegel takes a long-overdue look at the big picture.

The article does suffer from some very minor symptoms of Western suicidal double-think, but nothing too bad. The sub-head reads: "Violence, terrorism and the Islamists' growing influence pose a threat to Christianity in the Middle East" ... as if the violence, terrorism, and Islamist influence are three distinct things. That's like saying, "Smoke inhalation, blunt force trauma, and terrorist attacks killed nearly three thousand people in New York on September 11, 2001."

Still, Der Spiegel has done us a much-needed service. Here's an excerpt:

Christians have lived in the Arab world for the past 2,000 years. They were there before the Muslims. Their current predicament is not the first crisis they have faced and, compared to the massacres of the past, it is certainly not the most severe in Middle Eastern Christianity. But in some countries, it could be the last one.


Demographics have accelerated this development. Christians, often better educated and more affluent than their Muslim neighbors, have fewer children. Because the wave of emigration has been going on for decades, many Middle Eastern Christians now have relatives in Europe, North America and Australia who help them emigrate. Their high level of education increases their chances of obtaining visas. Those who leave are primarily members of the elite: doctors, lawyers and engineers.

But there are deeper-seated reasons behind the most recent exodus: the demise of secular movements and the growing influence of political Islam in the Middle East.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Oh, brilliant.

From the CanWest News Service:

Researchers bring 1918 Flu Virus Back to Life

Scientists have resurrected the 1918 flu virus in Winnipeg and uncovered evidence of what made the microbe such a relentless killer - it turns the body against itself ...
''The procedure was not all that difficult,'' says Darwyn Kobasa, a researcher at the Manitoba lab. He says the eight carefully crafted genes were inserted into cells along with a few proteins. Within hours, the cells were taking instructions from the inserted genes and mass-producing copies of the 1918 flu virus.
''It is kind of neat looking through the microscope and realizing you are looking at something that is responsible for so many deaths,'' says Kobasa.
Last January, he and his colleagues produced millions of copies of the virus in a bid to understand why the 1918 flu was so deadly ...
The scientists intended to observe the [infected] animals for 21 days, but the monkeys grew so ill, so fast, they were all euthanized by day eight of the experiments.

"Neat." Why don't we cut to the chase and just euthanize ourselves now?

In fairness, the Canadians are only the second stupidest scientists on the planet. American researchers apparently already pulled a Dr. Frankenstein with Spanish Influenza last year. Now who wants third place? Hmmm ... do I see Mr. Ahmedinejad raising his hand in back there?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The friend of my enemy

Ayman al Zawarihi sent out a Christmas message to his friends and enemies last week. Unlike past missives from al Qaeda's spiritual leader, this one is being largely ignored by the mainstream media, for reasons that should be clear to those who read it. We who support the crusader armies in Iraq and Afghanistan can rest assured we remain on Zawahiri's naughty list, but the American Democrat party seems to have found favor with the old jihad-pushing Egyptian "doctor." The letter explicitly links the interests of al Qaeda and the interests of the party that will take control of our nation's legislature after the New Year.

In the latest speech of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two, titled: “Realities of the Conflict Between Islam and Unbelief” he discusses several topics within the context of this subject, focusing on the incumbency for jihad upon Muslims and the support for the Mujahideen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Algeria, and Somalia. The speech derides several recent events, such as the victory of Democrats over Republicans in the November 2006 U.S. midterm elections, and the November 30 meeting in Amman, Jordan between U.S. President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, giving an indication that the video was recorded within the last few weeks ...

To the Democrats in America, Zawahiri states that they did not win and the Republicans did not lose; rather, it is the Mujahideen who have won, and the American forces and their allies those who lost.

I haven't seen a transcript of the tape, but it seems to me there are two ways two interpret this, and neither of them is good news for Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama (and even less so for Congressman Keith Ellison, whose supporters have been known to ululate and shout "Allahu Akbar" at rallies). Zawahiri could mean that the Democrats should thank al Qaeda for bringing them to power in the House and Senate. (Don't the Democrats credit al Qaeda with keeping Bush in power in 2004?) The second possible meaning is more damning for the Democrats--that Zawahiri feels that an electoral win for the Democrats in America is tantamount to a battle won by Islam in its struggle against "Unbelief." Zawahiri may have meant a little of both; when it comes to semantic precision, Arabic is a long way from German.

In any case, this speech from Zawahiri once again lays out plainly the intent of our sworn enemy, while our own leaders blather on about the Religion of Peace and our War on (the amorphous and unaffiliated concept of) Terror. There's a New World Order coming, and it's not the one Bush's father had in mind back in 1991.

Harkening to the speech’s subject, Zawahiri directly tells the Muslim Nation that they have a decision in which they may live on the margins of the New World Order, or rely upon Allah and embrace Islam, doing jihad for His Sake. [Given that this analysis by SITE is from an audiotape, I don't know how they came to the decision to capitalize certain words. It looks suspiciously like creeping dhimmitude ("His Sake") and an Orwellian submission to totalitarian lingo ("New World Order")--Ed.] Scholars who advocate Muslims to take a moderate and progressive position are condemned [As usual, moderate and progressive are good for the infidels (at least until they submit) but bad for the faithful.--Ed] and those who obligate Muslim women in France to remove their hijab and those who obligate the Muslim in Britain to “obey Elizabeth” are not suitable, in Zawahiri opinion, to take the reins of leadership or authority. The Palestinian women of Beit Hanoun who surrounded the besieged mosque are deemed more courageous, resolution, and honorable than the “religion-selling traitors” in Iraq and Afghanistan, Cairo, Riyadh, Amman, and Sana’a.

I think we learned a while back in Afghanistan that the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend, but is the friend of my enemy anything but my enemy? I didn't really need to be dissuaded from voting Democrat anytime soon, but after this, I'm about as likely to cast my ballot for Bin Laden in 2008 as for Clinton or Obama.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Curiouser and curiouser

Russian-spy-turned-walking-biohazard Alexander Litvinenko is still dead. But now he's Muslim. Actually, he turned Muslim a week before he died, but only those of us in the vast right-wing conspiracy knew about it. Now that his memorial service has been held in the target-rich environment of London's Regent's Park Mosque, and Chechen Islamists have attended his funeral, the mainstream media have pulled their heads out of the sand and noticed.

LONDON - After a Muslim prayer service, ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko was laid to rest Thursday in a rain-swept funeral at London's Highgate Cemetery attended by a Russian tycoon, a Chechen rebel leader and other exiled Kremlin critics.


Litvinenko, who criticized Putin's policies in Chechnya, reportedly had converted to Islam before his death, and some of the mourners were dressed in traditional Muslim robes. They left red flowers and an orange and yellow wreath at the stone gate of the famous cemetery where communist revolutionary Karl Marx is buried.

Earlier Thursday, Zakayev and Litvinenko's father, Walter, joined hundreds of Muslims who had gathered at London's Regent's Park Mosque for regular daily prayer to attend a memorial service, where the imam recited a funeral prayer.

"The imam said a special passage for him from the Quran," said Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, head of Britain's Muslim parliament.

"Britain's Muslim parliament"? Is the AP writer channelling us information from the future, or is there some kind of shadow government operating out of London now?

Why can't we have a good old cold-war-style, spy-vs.-spy dust-up without Islam getting involved? You can't swing a cat without hitting the Clash of Civilizations these days. Problem is, that's exactly the way the Islamists want it. "We're here! We're backwards, misogynistic supremacists! Get used to it!"

Friday, November 17, 2006

Storm receding

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What passes for progress in the umma

Rape victims in Pakistan may soon be able to press charges without fear that they will end up in prison while their attackers walk. Under the country's sharia-based "Hudood" laws, a woman who fails to produce four eyewitnesses (male, of course) to support her accusation of rape has effectively pled guilty to adultery, which carries a maximum penalty of death. Under a new law passed yesterday over loud objections from the parliament's substantial Islamist contingent, a failure to prove rape will no longer automatically morph into an adultery charge against the victim. Should a court actively choose to pursue the adultery charge, the woman may spend only up to five years in lock-up. Brilliant.

Bear in mind that Pakistan--like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Indonesia--is supposedly on our side in the ideological battle against the forces of darkness. With friends like these ...

ISLAMABAD, Nov 15: The government rushed a signal women's rights bill through the National Assembly on Wednesday amid a boycott by religious parties and some drama after the draft survived a prolonged controversy and an apparent last-minute intrigue.

Slogan-chanting members of the Muttahida Majlis-Amal (MMA) walked out of the house in protest before the vote on the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Rights Bill, which they said was contrary to Islamic injunctions about punishments for zina (adultery and rape).

It's not easy to read about Pakistan's Parliamentary politics without going cross-eyed from the endless acronyms the parties employ in a vain attempt to distinguish each brand of primitive double-think from the next. For the masochistic and the stubbornly inquisitive, here's the link from the Pakistan Dawn Online: Some respite for women, at last: Protection of rights bill gets through NA

In any event, reading a little deeper into today's issue of the Dawn reveals that there isn't really as much dawn there as we might hope. On the same day as the Hudood laws came a step closer to the trashbin, the regional goverment of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) voted to introduce a new "anti-vice ombudsman" to protect Islamic values and keep everyone in line with sharia. This is the same bunch of AK-toting, hardscrabble yahoos who thought the gang-rape of Mukhtar Bibi was no big deal. Improbable as it might seem, they manage to give Pakistan a bad name. Oh yeah ... and they've probably been shuttling a burqa-clad Osama Bin Laden from safe house to safe house ever since he crawled out of Tora Bora back in 2002.

Well, they've put their heads together and written a new law, the NWFP Hisba Act, and it will drag their little patch of earth back into the seventh century faster than you can sing "Come, Mister Taliban ..." Whoops, sorry, no singing allowed anymore. Check out some of the highlights of the powers exercized by the new religious police:

Special powers of Mohtasib.

Without prejudices to the powers conferred by section 9, the Mohtasib shall have the following powers:-

(i) To monitor adherence of moral values of Islam at pubic places;

(ii) To discourage Tabdhir or extravagance, particularly at the time of marriages and other family functions;

(v) To monitor adhearence of Islamic values and its respect and regard at the times of ‘Iftar’ and ‘Taravih’;

(vi) To Whom It May Concern
[ed.--Gee, that's subtle.]: discourage entertainment shows and business transactions at the times of Eideen and Jumm’ah prayers around mosques where such prayers are being held;

(vii) To remove causes of derelection in performance and proper arrangement of Eideen and Jumu’ah prayers;

(xiv) To discourage un-Islamic and inhuman customs;

(xv) To check the tendency of indecent behaviour at public places including harassment of female;
[ed.--That's "female," singular, because that's about how many you'll find out and about on the streets of Peshawar before too long.]

(xvi) To eradicate the deal as profession in ‘Taweez’, ‘Gunda’, palmistry, sorcerary, etc ...

"Sorcerary"? "Eradicate the deal as profession"? Can I start a Taliban to eradicate Engrish?

Better yet, can NASA hurry up and find us a new planet? We'll slip quietly away in our spaceships while the Sunnis and the Shiites duke it out. They can have earth. I'd breathe canned air and drink Tang for the rest of my life to get my family safely away from these morons.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Long Live Saddam ... In prison

The death penalty is something our nation should be outgrowing, not exporting.

That said, there are reasons to string the madman up, take some pictures of his bloated corpse, and be done with him. Mainly, his demise might diminish the fervor of one rank of the so-called insurgents who've devoted themselves to spilling the blood of Americans and Shiites in Iraq for the last three and half years. His death might also reassure some of our Iraqi allies that they'll not be facing an exact repeat of the last time we retreated from the region and left them to be rounded up and tortured for their support of Western intervention. And there's always the sadistic pleasure of taking revenge on an unrepentant, egomaniacal killer.

Nonetheless, Saddam should live. It might be a good idea to remove him to a maximum security prison in, say, Denmark, but killing him is unwise. Everybody loves a shahid, so why let him pull an Obi-Wan Kenobi on us? Move him to a northern climate, put him on a high-trans-fat diet with not much yard time, and he'll pass like Slobodan--in his sleep before the next Olympics. Not much glory in that.

Sadly, it's not up to us--or me, for that matter, like always. We turned him over to the Iraqis (not so much a puppet regime as a Pinocchio regime) when he should have gone to the Hague. When they hang him, there will no doubt be celebratory gunfire in the streets. Get yer' AK out. Another victory for civilization. Before the barrels cool they'll be back to murdering one another in the name of Allah.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Same as it ever was

(Punches FAWLTY in the gut.
FAWLTY falls to the floor behind the desk.)
Now, I'm not a violent man, Mr. Fawlty!

(From behind the desk)
Oh yes you are!

Thirty-eight prominent Muslims have sent a letter to Pope Benedict lecturing him on Islam. A big deal is being made of this by Reuters and the usual suspects, but it isn't really anything more than the same old obfuscations fancied up and given a slightly snottier tone than usual. The tactic of claiming loudly to be a force for justice and peace while all evidence points to the opposite is practically the sixth pillar of Islam.

Much of the letter is devoted to the argument that despite the glorification of violence in the Koran, Muslims reject violence. The writers point out ...

... the sacred formula Muslims use daily, In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Is it not self-evident that spilling innocent blood goes against mercy and compassion?

Yes, it is. Is it not also self-evident that a great many Muslims either see things a different way or have a different definition of "innocent"? So once again we face the tired old argument that the ceaseless bloodshed across the Muslim world and wherever Islam intersects with any other belief, secular or religious, is not the work of good Muslims. Fine, for the sake of argument, I will accept that. But the bloodshed is undeniably the work of people whose beliefs (whatever you call them) were generated by Islam. They say so themselves (and further, they often claim the mantle of "good Muslims" and accuse others of apostacy). So what are we to do? The west will always arrive at this same absurd impasse when it tries to speak rationally with people for whom reason is not a virtue, and for whom logical thought and discourse are nothing more than tools in a bag of tricks.

So perhaps we should just play it their way:

We in the west would like to correct some misperceptions that exist in the Muslim world about our sense of mercy and compassion. Those young men and women in uniforms tramping around the Middle East and Asia with guns in their hands are not soldiers. In fact, the U.S. Army is not really an army. It's more of a construction team. Those explosions you hear are merely the work of the demolition division. Once they're done, the building will begin. They are, to the last one, merciful and compassionate, as our society teaches them to be. Should any of them stray from our beliefs and do something obviously unmerciful or uncompassionate, then clearly they are not really of our society, are they? They ceased to be our responsibility the moment they began acting against the mercy and compassion we hold so dear. So don't come blaming us for what they do. And the War on Terror is not really a war. You see, war is peace, and terror is justice, and "on" and "of" are both prepositions, so you could say that it's actually the Peace of Justice.

And after all, the Koranic verse that now conveniently abrogates all others is, "There is no compulsion in religion." But we'd like to take that one step further, just to put everyone's mind at ease. We firmly believe that "There is no compulsion in anything." So do what you like. Chop off the heads of Buddhist teachers and Wall Street Journal reporters. Blow up marketplaces and nightclubs. Rent SUVs and drive them through crowds of college kids. Poison police officers eating evening meals during Ramadan. Revive polio by banning vaccines. Take children hostage with guns and bombs on the first day of school. Buy young boys and force them to jockey camels. Kill nuns when the Pope says something that pisses you off. Fly planes into buildings. Cut off the genitalia of twelve-year-old girls. Then marry them. We don't care. Do what you like. We trust your self-evident mercy and compassion. And don't complain about all those men and women with the uniforms and the guns; don't complain about the planes, the helicopters, the prisons; don't complain about the U.N. inspectors or the trade sanctions. We've got nothing to do with all that.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mark Foley is not gay

Here's a bit of amusing idiocy from Marshall Darts in today's Daily Kos:

The best thing for the whole country is to force the Republican Party to "out" every gay on their side of the aisle in Congress, whether on staff or a politician.

This is not a homophobic reaction to the Mark Foley scandal.

Um. Yes it is.

Quite the contrary, it is to expose Republican hypocrisy and to take the gay issue off the political table.

No, it's not. It's a tiresome expression of the left's creeping fascistic tendencies, this time to require that people wear their sexual preferences on their sleeves. (I'll take a "polymorphously perverse" armband, if Woody Allen didn't get the last one. Or does he get a pedophile one?) And it isn't exactly hypocrisy for a closeted gay politician to oppose gay rights or same-sex marriage. It would be hypocrisy for an openly gay politician to do so. The closeted one could say he is living the lifestyle he advocates for all gays: secret. Furthermore, I don't agree that Mark Foley has the right to call himself gay just because's a pedophile who targets boys. Sex between adults and minors is not "gay," it's morally reprehensible. And it's a crime just about everywhere in the good ol' Dar al Harb.

Some gay-rights groups have intelligently taken Foley's self-outing for what it is: a cheap ploy to shift the focus from his apparent criminality. Matt Foreman, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying, "It's irrelevant if he's gay or not." But a spokesman for another gay advocacy group, Human Rights Campaign, said that organization would not take a stand one way or the other on the issue of Foley's sudden gay-ness. "We're not going to comment on it,'' he said. If HRC is in the business of protecting gay rights, they should comment on it, because Foley's donning the mantle of the oppressed homosexual damages all gays' chances of achieving acceptance and equal rights.

Anyway, if we follow the advice of Marshall Darts, why stop with just the right side of the aisle? Is he suggesting there are no closeted gays in the Democrat Party? Or maybe he's saying that all closeted gay Democrats support gays on issues like same-sex marriage. What about former governor of New Jersey Jim McGreevey?

Democrat? Check.
Gay? Check.
Closet? Check.
Opposed same-sex marriage? Check.

McGreevey claimed he opposed gay rights so nobody would suspect he was gay. Wow. I guess we're lucky his dirty little secret wasn't that his grandparents were Jewish.

So Mr. Darts, if you're concerned about hypocrisy, don't talk about outing only Republicans. And if you are concerned about rights, don't advocate outing anyone. The right to be openly homosexual should be respected, but so should the right to privacy. Expose crime, expose corruption, and certainly expose the pedophiles. But if sexual orientation truly doesn't matter, then treat it like it doesn't matter.

The memory of the monarch

A monarch butterfly feeds on milkweed flowers outside our house.

The ubiquitous milkweed is crucial to the monarchs' survival during their migrations to and from their southern wintering sites. This particular plant is actually called "Butterfly Milkweed," and it can be found all from New York to Minnesota, often covered in monarchs. Kind of the Denny's of the butterfly world. Milkweed plants often serve as home to the insects' larvae, and pollen stored as fat provides the butterflies with the energy to make migrations of nearly 3,000 miles.

Monarch butterflies demonstrate a form of inherited knowledge that goes beyond simple behavioral instinct. The monarch in this photo is on his way to a forest in southern Florida or Mexico, the same forest where his now-deceased grandfather or great-grandfather spent last winter. Despite the passing of one or two generations that never had the need to make the trip back south, this butterfly will be able to find his way. I wonder if Carl Jung knew about this? It sounds like butterflies have a collective unconscious, whether or not we do.

From the Department of Misplaced Modifiers

Government corruption in Nigeria has hit a new low:

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Un-revolution in Iran?

This could well turn out to be nothing, but I will throw it out there for the hell of it. An Iranian blogger opposed to the current Islamic regime claims there is fighting in the streets of Tehran at this moment.

According to Anti-mullah's latest post, an Iranian cleric who has supported an end to theocracy is evading arrest while his supporters battle police in the streets around his home. Apparently, the clerics in charge have found probable cause by claiming that Ayatollah Boroujerdi has claimed to be the Twelfth Imam, the international man of mystery who disappeared down a well about a millenium ago and whose return is eagerly awaited by Shia Muslims.

The most obvious question is: "Who gives a fuck?" When it comes to imam-vs.-imam, I definitely have no dog in that fight. But I have to admit that I like the idea of anti-government riots in the streets of Tehran. If Muslims are going to hurl rocks at somebody, I'd rather it be the mullahs' plainclothes death squads than Belgian police.

There's a mention in Anti-mullah's post that this uprising (or at least the backlash against it) may have some connection to the Baha'i faith, which is an odd outgrowth of Shia Islam that regards all religions as equally valid. I guess that's the next best thing to my belief that all religions are equally invalid.

In any event, this is what passes for progress in the Muslim world. Though I generally like what Anti-mullah has to say, I can't get too worked up over this news. If the best anti-theocratic leader the Persians can muster is just another imam, they're doomed.


Anti-mullah reports that the defenders of Ayatollah Boroujerdi did not stand much chance against the regime's water cannons and bullets. Apparently popular support for Boroujerdi was rather half-hearted, possibly for the same reason my post above was less than effusive: the average Iranian isn't going to waste time or risk bloodshed in a struggle between one cleric and another.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Forget Che

Since the American left can never find enough nasty, murdering megalomaniacs to toe-suck, the AP gives them their semi-annual Che Guevara paean. Though this one has a good deal more balance than others I've read, it's still giving valuable time and attention to the memory of a man who deserves no more. (And revealingly, though the article is titled, "'Che' Guevara's iconic image endures," the web address for the piece calls it "che_s_mystique_5." Could this be the fifth one this year?!) I imagine the story's been dragged out this time because we're nearing the anniversary of his birth or death, or perhaps Hugo Chevez rings a Pavlovian bell in writer Martha Irvine's mind. "Hey look, a blustering South American loudmouth with dreams of spreading totalitarianism and failed economic policies around the globe! Let's do another piece about Che!"

As usual, the great legacy that keeps Che in our faces is that stupid t-shirt. I hope there's an afterlife, so that he can see what I've seen: two young men strolling hand-in-hand along a Chelsea sidewalk, one of them wearing a Che t-shirt, extra-small, the guy's gym-toned abs rippling beneath Che's pursed lips. Guevara was a vicious homophobe. The only thing better will be the day I sit outside Starbucks on the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana, sipping an Iced-Che Latte while reading in the Cuban free press about the progress of Castro's trial in the Hague.

In the meantime, if the editors and writers at the Associated Press are so eager to keep doing Che stories, why don't they do one about his penchant for executing dissidents, or the fact that his (and Fidel's) gay-bashing machismo ended up shaping a special police-state apparatus for homosexuals in Cuba, or that once he stepped off Castro's coattails, his armed uprisings failed to achieve anything except making more people dead. Even leftists sometimes admit that Che was a failure in pretty much everything except self-promotion. In 2007 we'll reach our fortieth Che-free year on this planet. Can we resolve to ignore the anniversary and give Ernesto Che Guevara the inattention he deserves? Somehow I doubt it.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

That happy, jolly time of year

It's Ramadan again, that marvelous month when Muslims around the world fast from dawn till dusk, eschew gossip and sarcasm, and refrain from anger and violence.

Well, two out of three ain't bad.

To start the month off, Noam Chomsky and Bin Laden have both been reported dead, by Hugo Chavez and the French, respectively. Let's hope the French have better intelligence than Venezuela. Chomsky is alive and still blowing hard. Chances are he'll soon meet with his admirer in Caracas to demonstrate that he remains among the quick. My old admiration for Chomsky's research and writing has not stood up to a second read-through, but I would never wish the man dead. Bin Laden is another matter. Let's hope he saw his last Ramadan last year.

The month of Ramadan begins when the new moon is visible. Apparently not anticipating that his cult would eventually span the globe from Michigan to Thailand, Mohammed did not see the problem that would arise from this. Since mindless, submissive unity is central to Islamic thinking, the possibility that the Dearborn Muslims might still be eating while Medina Muslims are already fasting is clearly cause for crisis. Mohammed's system also relies on the kind of weather more common in deserts than in places the rest of us chose to live (thank you, Sam Kinison). Muslims in Seattle or Brussels could probably make it through the whole lunar cycle without seeing the moon once. Then there's the fact that in a millennium and a half, Muslims haven't caught on that the lunar cycle makes a shitty basis for a calendar, since without constant correction the "months" will shift in place relative to the solar year. And the solar year is the one we need to think about, since it determines the meteorological seasons.

The smallest common multiple of the lunar cycle and the solar cycle is nineteen years, known as a Metonic cycle. Ancients like the Hebrews who wanted to stick to the lunar cycle solved the "drifting" month problem by adding seven extra months here and there in the nineteen-year cycle. This way, some years have twelve months and some thirteen, but at least you know that your holidays, planting and harvesting times, monsoons, etcetera will fall in roughly the same months each year. These extra months are known as intercalary months. With typical rejection of reason and reality, Mohammed wrote into the Quran a prohibition against intercalary months. I guess his astronomers were too fearful of his sword to point out that this obstinacy would condemn the ummah to an eternity of never knowing exactly what date it is, what date any given day in the past was, or what date a particular day in the future will be. Today there are numerous Islamic calendars since different "scholars" come up with different lengths for the months. Turkey, Indonesia, and a few other Muslim nations have settled on mathematically based lunar calendars, which solves the problem of the lengths of the months but not the problem of months drifting within the solar year. Muslims in America may soon follow suit, but they are encountering resistance from the primitivists who hold so much sway in the cult. These are the same geniuses of "Islamic jurisprudence" who still issue fatwas on the topic of istijmar, the glorious Muslim practice of wiping your ass with a rock, just because that's the way Mohammed did it.

Anyway, happy Ramadan, everyone. (Oops, I forgot. No sarcasm allowed.)

Fresh from the Department of Redundancy:
Another reason not to trust Reuters

Surprisingly, Reuters has run an obituary on Pham Xuan An, a North Vietnamese spy they (unwittingly, I hope) provided with cover during the war so he could pass to his communist overlords intelligence on U.S. and South Vietnamese troop strength and positions.

It's awfully short for an obit. But I'm surprised it's there at all. Kind of makes a nice counterpoint to Reuters' whining impotence over its staff's evident fealty to Muslim terrorists.

They just never met a traitor they didn't like.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Dear Abby, Muslim style

From the "Islam" Q&A section of today's Arab News:

Who Can Be a Woman’s Guardian?
Edited by Adil Salahi

Q. I want to marry a relative of mine ...

Incredibly, the fact that he wants to marry a relative is tangential to his question. He just wants to know who's going to sign the marriage contract, since her father can't do it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Anti-Bush march in New York City

Rode my bike up to 6th and 37th this morning to see what kind of a crowd the United for Peace and Justice march would draw. They were quite proud of themselves for getting permission from the city to march to the U.N. on the day President Bush would address the General Assembly. All in all, it was pretty bland: the usual crayon-on-cardboard hyperbole, a lackluster "die-in," and a monotonous, repeat-after-me chant led by Jesse Jackson. The weather was nice. And I got to catch a some of Bush's speech on the radio in my cab ride back to where I'd locked my bike.

These leftist/socialist/so-called-liberal events attract quite a range of opinions and characters. After just a few minutes I'd spotted some of the usual birds: muttering lunatics looking nervously up at the traffic cameras, despicable anti-Semites waving Palestinian flags, college students searching for the artistic heart of dissent.

First up, the hyperbole. The theme that we are unwittingly submitting to a Nazi--or fascist, or Orwellian--regime was repeated many times over. It's a take on reality the left would be wise to dump in favor of something less hysterical, given the smirks and scowls of passersby faced with stars-and-stripes swastikas. But the left loves overstatement, so this is what we get:

Bush is Big Brother.

Bush is an "Insane World Criminal." (Is that anything like an "Insane War Criminal"?)

It's not just Bush. America itself is turning Nazi.

Moving on, we have the distortions of reality:

The Loose Change crowd made an appearance.

Not to be outdone were the 911Truth-ers.

This woman apparently thinks democracy is a bad thing, and we need more tyranny around the world to stop the Bush agenda. Or perhaps she's also pro-sex-worker, in which case I guess it's a good thing. Who knows?

This marcher wants victory for "The People's Resistance" in Lebanon and Palestine. If she's really so unembarrassed to support Islamist terrorists, why doesn't she wear a Hamas headband and wave a Hizb'allah flag next time?

This woman thinks that what Kanye West says is worth repeating. Except that Kanye West never said that George Bush hates poor people. He said that George Bush doesn't care about black people. But it sounds like something he might have said, kind of a "fake but accurate" misquote.

These kids were very sharp--the only ones in the march who "made" me as not-on-their-side. Or maybe they thought I was from the FBI. Must be the button-down shirt I was wearing. I should get a neat t-shirt like his. Actually, I should have just asked him to give me his--after all, it's not really "his," is it?

The NYPD were very patient and polite, though I did hear on the radio a few people managed to get arrested.

This guy is my favorite. Couldn't we organize a march and rally just for people who can't figure out what's going on?

A young woman placed tiny plastic soldiers here and there along the crosstown route. I have no idea what it means, but I think it made for a nice photo-op.

The LaRouche Gang showed up. Yikes.

A guy was selling "Zapatista" t-shirts. Someone should tell him that the Zapatistas have become a joke, even in the judgement of the highly sympathetic New York Times. (The article was titled, "At a 60's Style Be-In, Guns Yield to Words, Lots of Words," and it ran on 31 August 2005. It's now trapped in their TimesSelect archives.)

There was one counter-protester, though he wasn't really opposing the UPJ people, he was just an anti-UN protester. I like his sign. Straightforward, clear, insulting but not vulgar. In need of a spell-check, but one can't ask for too much.

The only time I heard a cop start to lose his patience was when a platoon of marchers dropped to the asphalt in a spontaneous (I think) "die-in." The policeman beside my sighed and said, "Oh, you've got to be kidding me!" I think he was afraid that the protesters were going to remain there, blocking the street, until he and the other cops had to haul them off in zip-ties.

After lying there for a few moments, gasping and moaning in a way that struck me as mockery more than street theater, the protesters got up and moved on.

The marchers arrived at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza and were corralled into a pen so they could all face the U.N. building. Oddly, there were four or five other pens. I went to investigate. The first one was occupied by a small group of Muslim Pakistani men who would like Musharref to step down.

I won't pretend to know what their agenda is. Pakistani political rivalries and maneuvering are beyond Byzantine. There are five different Pakistani Muslim Leagues. That's why they have the (N) in their name. And you think we have it bad here with Insane Orwellian Nazi World Criminal Bush(it).

The second pen contained an even smaller group of Thai protesters in yellow t-shirts. In lieu of a banner, they had pinned up this t-shirt on the barrcade:

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin must GET OUT! "Thaksin = Toxin." The UPJ crowd should count it's blessings with Bush. They could have gotten the "Master of Evil." But Thaksin was at that very moment losing his country to a military coup, one apparently endorsed by Thailand's king, since no one sneezes there without his go-ahead. Word of the coup may have reached the yellow shirts, since there weren't very many of them and they didn't seem to have much to protest.

The next corral, adjacent to the UPJ rally, contained a large crowd of supporters of Iranian dissident Maryam Rajavi, who opposes the Islamic Republic with a blend of democracy and Marxism. When the UPJ rally ended, the Iranians got started. Wow, do they know how to throw a rally. The Americans got Jesse Jackson leading the crowd in a droning, halting chant ("This land [repeat one time] ... was made [repeat one time] ... for you [repeat one time] ... and me [repeat one time]" ... I kid you not.) The Iranians got drums, cymbals, horns--playing something melodic instead of the cacophony apparently favored by pacifists. They had photos of the people they want in power (they apparently can agree on whom they want in power), lots of flag-waving, and a stage flanked by two golden lions.

Now that's what the left in America needs!

They also had better signs ...


And funnier cartoons:


All in all, the march wasn't as depressing as I'd expected it to be. There was a strong core of people who are simply anti-war, and though I strongly disagree with them, I'd never want to see their opinions squelched. However, if the rational left hopes to attain any kind of meaningful power, it must find a way to disinvite the conspiracy theorists, lunatics, and vulgarians who always manage to show up for and dominate such events.