Wednesday, August 30, 2006

See no evil:
Mainstream media whitewash another case
of Sudden Jihadi Syndrome

Since I've had such luck lately jumping to conclusions, I will go out on another limb this morning. Omeed A. Popal's hit-and-run assault on more than a dozen pedestrians and drivers in San Francisco yesterday was not, as the mainstream media would like us to believe, merely a mentally unstable man reacting to unspecified personal demons. It was an act of terrorism, specifically a case of what is becoming known in the blogosphere as Sudden Jihadi Syndrome. Now, I'm not suggesting that news outlets like the Associated Press should state this as fact, since it could turn out that Mr. Popal is a recent Evangelical Christian convert trying to run down people he thought might be gay or on their way to abortion clinics. But the AP managed to devote over 400 words to the incident without mentioning Islam or the resemblance of this attack to Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar's hit-and-run holy war at UNC Chapel Hill this past March.

Instead, AP's Julianna Barbassa desperately throws out a raft of alternate explanations:

The driver in a bloody hit-and-run spree that killed one man and injured more than a dozen people was mentally unstable ...

I think it's safe to say that anyone who decides one morning that it's a nice day to try to murder a dozen strangers is clearly mentally unstable. That doesn't obviate the necessity to determine if there was an underlying trigger or catalyst such as mosque attendance or involvement in a radical "prayer group." If Popal had been wrestled from his SUV wearing Doc Marten's and sporting a shaved pate, you can bet the AP would be tirelessly tracking down any links he might have to the Aryan Brotherhood or their ilk. Not so here. Just a lone wolf, loose cannon. DWC, "Driving While Crazy." Nothing to see here. Move along.

But there's more. Popal was ...

... feeling stress from a recent arranged marriage ...

Parents force him to choose a burka-bride, sight-unseen, and he mows down fourteen strangers, including at least one standing in front of the Jewish Cultural Center, a fact that Ms. Barbassa thought not worth including in her article. Maybe his folks were making him marry a Jew.

Authorities believe it began more than an hour earlier when his black Honda Pilot fatally struck a man in the East Bay area ...

"[H]is black Honda Pilot fatally struck a man"?! I hate it when my car does that. "Bad Honda Pilot! Bad SUV!"

I think the implication here is that we should consider that maybe Popal was fiddling with his iPod while on the way to volunteer at the Jewish Cultural Center, drifted onto the sidewalk, killed an innocent man, and then wigged out from guilt and remorse.

Popal's cousin said he had been having recurring nightmares about someone coming to kill him ...

Wait, that's been happening to me for about the last four years and three hundred fifty-three days. Where are my car keys?

His relatives also say he ...

... had been taking medication ...

Isn't everyone in San Francisco taking medication?

No weapons were found on the suspect, though the car had not been searched, Gittens said. There was no information on whether drugs or alcohol were involved, and it was unclear how fast he was driving, he said.

When are they planning on getting around to searching the car? And who really cares how fast he was driving? If you drive slowly over pedestrians, is that a mitigating factor in San Francisco?

Anyway, there's no use trying to figure out what pushed Popal to murder. Or so San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom tells us:

"These are the things, these are so senseless. They're utterly inexplicable. They're impossible to rationalize," Newsom said afterward. "The fact that this individual felt compelled for whatever reason to be determined to do what he did is beyond imagination."

I guess I've got a pretty active imagination, because Sudden Jihadi Syndrome sure looks real to me. And it goes back years (these accounts are in no particular order):

In February of 1997, Abu Ali Kamal shot 7 people on the observation deck of the Empire State Building before killing himself. One of his victims died, another was paralyzed for life. Kamal had in his pocket a note with the typical jihadi rationalizations.

In March of 1994, Radhid Baz took his guns to the Brooklyn Bridge and shot four Jewish teens on a schoolbus, killing one. Baz liked to hang out at the Islamic Center of Bay Ridge, but he said that had nothing to do with it. It was just road rage. You know, the school bus cut him off. I was in the city at that time, and I recall that the media actually tried to run with that explanation for a while, but New Yorkers aren't stupid.

In July of 2002, Hesham Mohamed Hadayet shot five people and stabbed one at the El Al counter at LAX. Two of his victims died. He was from Egypt and had moved to Irvine, California. I guess he couldn't find enough virulent anti-semitism in Egypt.

A year earlier, a young man named Paul Gott opened fire with a shotgun at an airport ticket counter in New Orleans, killing one. He was nuts, of course, but he was also a convert to Islam, was carrying a Koran in his bag, and said he did it because people made fun of his turban.

In October of 1999, Egypt Air Relief Flight Officer Gamil el-Batouty nose-dived the Boeing 767 under his control into the ocean off Nantucket, killing 216 people and himself. Instead of responding to the Captain's panicked questions of what he was doing, he repeated the phrase "Tawakilt ala Allah" ("I place my faith in Allah") over and over. I like to place my faith in competent pilots who don't belong to death cults. The media at the time said that el-Batouty may have been desponded over gambling losses.

And of course we have this past spring's SUV-jihad by Mohammed Taheri-azar, who rented a Jeep Cherokee and drove through a crowd of students at UNC Chapel Hill, injuring nine. And Naveed Afzal Haq's fatal attack on a Seattle Jewish center last month hasn't been pushed down the memory hole yet, though it's being labelled a "hate crime."

I could go on. Perhaps I will do a sidebar compendium of Sudden Jihad Syndrome attacks over the past few decades.

The question here is not what drives these homegrown jihadis to do what they do. The answer to that one is in the Koran and the hadith. The question that needs to be answered is this: Why are our media trying to obscure the threat we face from Islamic teaching and thinking? The desire for bloodshed? The supremacist, expansionist attitude exhibited even by many so-called "moderate" Muslims. The bald-faced misogyny. The rejection of the values and tolerance at the root of our culture? Whose side are the media on, anyway?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

We are doomed:
Voice of America joins Reuters
in shilling for Hizb'allah

This is utterly beyond belief. Voice of America, the U.S. Government's own propaganda arm, effuses over Hizb'allah's good works, mentioning in passing that the organization has been "branded" a terrorist group by the U.S. Government. The Islamist fifth column in America has made more progress than I'd imagined. Margaret Besheer's report opens this way:

As soon as the U.N. brokered cease-fire went into effect in Lebanon last Monday, Hezbollah's social welfare machine shifted into high gear. The organization, which is branded a terrorist group by the United States, has been registering thousands of Lebanese who have lost their homes during the 34 days of fighting between Israel and the Lebanon-based militant group.

Just days ago, the badly bombed southern Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik was a ghost town. Now, it is alive with traffic and the sound of heavy machinery clearing the debris of more than a month of Israeli bombardments.

Before long, Ms. Besheer is stuffing down our throats Hizb'allah's hapless PR scheme of giving out thousands of possibly counterfeit U.S. hundred-dollar bills in a pathetic but predictably successful attempt to woo the Arab street. It was Reuters, of course, who led the vanguard of the Hizb'allah-free-money story. Since Reuters reporters and photographers happily and unquestioningly relay to us whatever lies their terrorist handlers offer, "special correspondent" Alistair Lyon and photographer Eric Gaillard regale us with tales and images of the philanthropy of the Party of God. Problem is, the images suggest more connivery than philanthropy.

Let's do what Mr. Lyon, Mr. Gaillard, and Ms. Besheer haven't the inclination to do: give Hizb'allah's claims a careful look.

First of all, though the figure of $12,000 is being bandied about quite a bit, I have yet to see a photo in which anyone is being handed anything near $12,000. Most of the handoffs, like this one, appear closer to the "several thousand" range, to be generous.

Second, and more importantly, there is significant evidence in Reuters' own photos that the money being handed out wouldn't add up to $12,000 if you had a trunk full of it. Hizb'allah is known to have dabbled in funny money in the past. The community of bloggers that saves Reuters the bother of fact-checking has taken some notice of the apparent absence of the well-known "security strip" embedded in the U.S. c-note. But that strip is not visible unless the note is backlit, and though there is one photo that seems to show a distinct lack-of-strip in a Hizb'allah bill, it's inconclusive to me. There is, however, a more glaring error, as a commenter on a thread at noted.


It appears likely that the "glaring error" is nothing more than a fairly common offsetting of the green treasury seal on the hundred dollar bill. The seal is added to the bill late in the printing process along with the serial numbers. Its position, therefore, may not be as fixed as the bill's other elements. I am waiting for a definitive answer from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and at present there is no clear evidence that Hizb'allah's hundreds are anything but the genuine article.

After receiving a couple of comments from people in possession of many more hundreds than I have (and therefore better equipped to "compare notes") I have decided to pull my examination of the treasury seal from Commoner Sense. Anyone who wants to see the original post can email me; I'll send a PDF. My sincere apologies to my readers for the overreach. No apologies to Hizb'allah, who remain what they are, and whose actions deserve far more scrutiny than they receive.


The Associated Press is still pushing the Hizb'allah cash chicanery as given truth, despite the fact that the "hundred dollar bills" being handed out raise a host of questions. Whether genuine or counterfeit, where did Hibz'allah get the money? Should they money be counterfeit, what is going to happen when the recipients try to spend it? What about landlords or store owners who don't feel like accepting fake cash for rent or furniture? Does this money come with some kind of terrorist-muscle guaranty for those who wish to spend it, or will Hizb'allah disavow themselves of if it once the photo op is finished?

But none of that matters to the AP:

While [Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora] visited, Hezbollah's operatives were still handing out bundles [Ed.--"Bundles"?! Show me someone walking away with a "bundle" of cash.] of $100 bills to people who lost homes to Israeli bombs -- $12,000 for each claimant. The stipend is to pay a year's rent and refurnish homes.

No doubt. No analysis. No backstory touching on Hizb'allah's history of counterfeiting. No mention of the fact that none of the recipients have been photographed receiving anything near $12,000. No idea that this relief effort might just be spun, manipulated, exaggerated, for the benefit of western observers and for the malicious purpose of turning public opinion sufficiently in favor of Hizb'allah to give them time to recover, regroup, and reload.

And then there's the question that overshadows all others: Why are our news services transforming themselves into mouthpieces for a bloodthirsty, America-hating, sharia-loving, drug-dealing, money-laundering Islamist terrorist organization?


Commenters have pointed out that their own bundles of hundreds show similar variation in placement of the treasury seal to the one first pointed out in this post. I have put in a question to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to find out if the printing process allows for such variation. I have in the meantime learned that the treasury seal is added to the bill along with the serial numbers, so it seems possible that there might be variation in the placement of the seal. I will update this entry again once I receive an answer.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Embassies burned, dozens killed
as Jews around the world
riot over Holocaust cartoons

Well, not yet. But just wait and see.

With efficiency typical of the Muslim world, a gallery in Tehran has finally gotten around to hanging those Holocaust cartoons we heard so much about last winter. Persian Islamists are a little quicker on the ball when it comes to hanging young women for the sharia crime of "having been sexually abused" or what the mullahs called "crimes against chastity." Here's an image of one of the cartoons, partially obscured by a headscarfed woman who walked through the shot. They'll hang her for her insolence tomorrow.

This cartoon apparently depicts a man lying beside a wall, struck down by that evil symbol of Hindus, or maybe Buddhists ... or Navahos. The arms of the Nazi swastika pointed to the right. And what's the cartoonist trying to say, anyway? That people today are still perishing from Naziism? Has the bizarre Israel=Nazis trope become so widespread that the swastika now symbolizes Jews?!

In the interests of total disclosure, one of my greatest journalistic faux pas was my first and last attempt at political cartoonery. (Well, maybe not last. I did do a Muhammed cartoon just for the heck of it, though I gave it the title "Solidarity" so I could claim some moral right for my free expression, just in case.) In 1986, after the Berlin disco bombing by Libyan agents affiliated with Abu "Chillin'-in-Baghdad" Nidal's terrorist clique, Ronald Reagan told the French to take their sanctified airspace and shove it, and sent bombers from England to Tripoli via the Straits of Gibraltar to level Qaddafi's tent. (Our airmen also inadvertently bombed the French embassy there. "Oops. My bad.") Incensed that our government should do anything to punish a tyrant for paying terrorists to blow up dancing Turkish women in Germany, I decided to put pen to paper. In my college newspaper, I depicted the victims of our attack on Libya as resting in coffins adorned with crosses. I put the crosses there to try to get across the idea that they were coffins, since my draftsmanship wasn't really up to the task of depicting even that. Nevermind that most Arab Muslims don't use coffins. And nevermind that when they do, they're highly unlikely to put crosses on them. It was 1986, and my sleep-deprived psyche was fully in the grip of the tentacles of Marxism, anti-Americanism, and the self-satisfied moral universe of hippie chicks in tight Che t-shirts. I've never taken political cartoons very seriously since then. The act of writing what's on your mind offers boundless opportunity for regret--thinking you can draw what's on your mind is idiotic. Especially when you can't draw.

So I'm loth to pick on cartoonists. Let's pick on curators, who are often both easy and deserving targets. The show in Tehran was arranged by Masoud Shojai, director of Caricature House (I hope that works better as a gallery name in Farsi), and by Hamshahri, the Iranian newspaper that thought up the Holocaust cartoon contest back in February. Hamshahri proposed this as a response to the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten's provocative and enlightening call for cartoonists to defy the PC censors and the jihadis and just do it--draw Muhammed with a bomb in his turban. The editors of Hamshahri say that their motives are similar, that "[i]n the wake of the publication of the profane cartoons [of Muhammed] in several European newspapers, Hamshahri is going to measure the sanctity of freedom of expression among the westerners." Well, good luck with that. How long is your yardstick?

Immediately after Hamshahri's announcement of its contest, a group of Israeli artists beat them to the punch by soliciting and publishing a series of rabidly anti-Semitic cartoons, including a number openly questioning the reality of the Holocaust.

These cartoons were published on the internet in April. No one's died yet over them. As far as I know, no one has burned anything or even bothered marching or chanting about it. (By one fairly scrupulous count, 139 persons have perished in riots over the Muhammed cartoons.) The results of the Israeli contest will be on display at the Tel-Aviv Cinemateque Festival next week. Bring your rocks.

In any event, if Jews around the world do begin rioting over Caricature House's current exhibition, killing one another and burning the embassies of Muslim nations, Iranians won't be watching the coverage on CNN. The mullahs' sense of the sanctity of freedom of expression doesn't extend to satellite channels, as the residents of Tehran found out yesterday when police confiscated their satellite dishes. But hey, it's just another day in the axis of evil, do who gives a damn, right?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

If you can't stand the heat ...

When I tell my New York friends that I like to spend the summer a few degrees south of the Tropic of Cancer, the next question is usually, "Isn't it too hot down there?" I don't think I'll have to answer that one again after this past July. We don't even have air conditioners in our house here. Today my six-year-old daughter announced that she had determined that it was 80 degrees outside and 80 degrees inside, how could that be? We pointed out that without glass windows or doors, outside and inside tend to blend. Had she brought the thermometer to the beach, she would have found the sea's temperature more or less the same.

New Yorkers (along with the rest of the U.S.) just suffered through the worst American heat wave in recorded history. Whoops, that was my inner Al Gore speaking. Actually, it was the worst American heat wave since 1980. Oh, well.

The heat wave of 1980 took over 1000 lives, though I'm still not clear on how the thermal-serial-killer death tolls get tallied. When your 300-pound uncle keels over beside the grill on a particularly sweltering July Sunday, did the heat wave do that? Does that mean his demise comes off the heart-disease death toll or the diabetes death toll?

Here's a bit of how our media is handling the killer-heat-wave-belt-notch question:
In Newark, New Jersey, a husband and wife aged 66 and 65 were found dead in their living room with the windows closed and no air conditioning, said Desiree Peterkin Bell, a spokeswoman for the Newark mayor's office.

Now do those count as heat wave fatalities? What about the old ornery-and-stupid list, like the one Harry Truman of Spirit Lake made when he refused to leave his home and subsequently died in the eruption of Mt. St. Helens?

Here's a bit of heat-wave media muddle from Indiana that will make you think twice:

One inmate in Indiana State Prison's disciplinary unit died from excess heat on Tuesday and another prisoner died there on Sunday from heart failure aggravated by the hot weather, prison spokesman Barry Nothstine said.

Now that's just terrible ...

One of them had been due to be released in November ...

... oh, even worse.

after serving his time for child molestation.

Um. My sympathy thingy just broke. Must be the heat. Maybe his heart failure was also aggravated by a shiv between the ribs?

Inmates in the unit were offered extra bottled water and as many cold showers as they wanted, Nothstine said.

Just hand me the Evian, Nothstine. I'll skip the shower.

What about Lebanon

I've received a couple of requests for comment on Lebanon.

I will not jump into the great media pile-on of Israel, for reasons both instinctual and rational. Instinctually, I'm averse to taking any stand that would put me in league with Ahmadinejad (who is evil) or Mark Malloch Brown (who is an idiot). I also see much of the Israel-bashing of late as a clever retread of good-ol'-fashioned antisemitism. Rationally, I see little argument that Israel should be expected to stay its hand. Israel agreed in 2000 to withdraw from these same territories on the assurance that the U.N. would disarm Hizb'allah and prevent rocket attacks and guerilla incursions by Hizb'allah from Lebanon. Far from fulfilling its promise, the U.N. has stood idly by while Hizb'allah has consolidated power in the south and in Beirut. On the issue of disarmament, I think the volleys of hundreds of rockets fired over the border speak for themselves. Let's not forget also that the casus belli, Hizb'allah's July 12 kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers in an ambush on Israeli soil, was not merely a kidnapping. Hizb'allah killed seven other Israeli soldiers in that attack, a fact that the mainstream media seem to be shoving down the memory hole. Israel was attacked, in violation of international law and U.N. resolutions. Concern for civilian casualties in Lebanon would seem more genuine had there been equal concern for Israeli civilian casualties, similar cries to "cease fire," during the past two decades of terror and intifada.

Muslims are fond of pointing out all the good works that Hizb'allah does, arguing that we in the west are wrong to condemn the Party of Allah as a terrorist organization. They build hospitals, don't they? Right, so does the Red Cross. And the Red Cross chooses not to get involved in politics (ever heard of a Red Cross candidate?), and they do not have a "military wing" that fires rockets blindly across international borders. Hizb'allah came into existence as a military force (and an Iranian proxy military force to boot), moved into politics and then into public relations, and (with the help of Bill Clinton and the 1996 April Agreement) gradually succeeded in legitimizing itself in the eyes of non-Shiite Muslims (which is quite an achievement) and Europeans (which is hardly any achievement at all). What makes this transformation remarkable is that they pulled it off without ever renouncing the goals set out in their charter: the absolute destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state in Lebanon. I haven't read the charter of the Red Cross, but I suspect we will find neither any talk of destroying anyone, nor any plans to establish a Christian theocracy anywhere. So I will not play relativist games with the nature of Hizb'allah. They are a violent Islamist organization, and readers of Commoner Sense know pretty well how I feel about those. Whether they're running from IDF tanks in Lebanon, CIA drones in Waziristan, or tsunamis in Banda Aceh, I just like to see them on the defensive. To paraphrase an observation Hitchens made on Zarqawi's anger at U.S. policy in the Muslim world: Do we really want a foreign policy that pleases Hizb'allah?

So let the Israelis attack. No point in postponing the inevitable. Civilian casualties are also inevitable, given that without hiding among women and children and firing rockets from beside UN observer outposts, Hizb'allah would not stand a chance against the superior weaponry, training, and determination of the IDF. And no, pious kamikazes do not possess similar determination. They are merely murderous and suicidal. Let the martyrs be martyrs, and the sooner the better.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The baby-name book of cyclones


Tropical Storm Chris passed to the north of our little island a few hours ago. Barring any sudden changes in direction, the misfortune he brings will likely belong to the Bahamians. That's "he," because it's Chris like Christopher, not like Christine. Next up on the list of names is Debby, then Ernesto (that one's bound to devastate Cuba).

The origin of the practice of naming storms is unclear. A 1930s Australian radio broadcaster may deserve the credit, though he named storms more as a criticism of the politicians whose names he used. ("Tropical Storm Cheney just skirted the Lesser Antilles and is now bearing down on the Bahamas"?) Military meteorologists during World War II used the phonetic alphabet system to name storms (Able, Baker, Charlie, and so on). According to the National Hurricane Center in Florida, people in the Caribbean in the 19th century commonly referred to hurricanes by the name of the saint affiliated with the day upon the which the hurricane made landfall. By that method, however, Hurricane Hugo would be called Robert in Guadeloupe and Matthew in South Carolina. The current method was adopted in 1953 when the old Able-Baker system was dropped. Hurricanes were given only female names from then until 1978, when Americans decided not to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and instead to end the oppressive sexist practice of naming deadly storms after women. Another great victory for the feminist movement.

The task of naming Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes falls to the National Hurricane Center--part of the federally mandated National Weather Service. The names come from a set of six lists developed by the World Meteorological Organization. Each list contains 21 names, since the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are spurned--sorry, Quincy. Storms beyond W are assigned letters from the Greek alphabet. Storms beyond the letter omega will presumably not be named, as the NHC will be under water at that point.

Pacific storms and typhoons are given names and/or numbers depending on the meteorological agency in whose region they form. The NHC keeps six rotating lists of names to cover storms that form in the eastern North Pacific. Strangely, their Pacific lists includes X, Y, and Z, but still skip Q and U. Storms brewing in other parts of the Pacific get named from lists assembled by Fiji, Australia, Papua, the Philippines, or a collection of Pacific rim nations. A number of these nations avoid using people's names, so storms end up getting named after trees, birds, insects, gods, or food. North Korea has suggested the name "Meari," which means echo, and which the DPRK Typhoon Committee thinks appropriate since, "It (Echo) means that once Typhoon forms, the Typhoon Committee's notification echoes over to its members." Commies have always had such a subtle way with words. Weather fans in Macau would like to name a storm "Parma," after a popular Macauan dish of ham, chicken livers, and mushrooms. De gustibus non est disputandem. ("Hurricane Lasagna is due to make landfall on the Florida coast sometime around midnight"?)

Once a storm name earns its 15 minutes of infamy by being particularly deadly or costly, the folks at the NHC retire that name and choose another by taking suggestions from the member countries of the World Meteorological Organization. Names get retired more frequently now than they used to. 2005 marked the last time we'll ever have a hurricane Wilma, Dennis, Rita, Stan, or Katrina. Oddly, category 5 Emily did not earn her retirement, though she killed ten people in the Caribbean and caused hundreds of millions of dollars of damage. Stan got retired despite being only a category 1, since he contributed to flooding in Mexico that killed thousands. Emily will return in 2011, unless we have a remarkably quiet hurricane season. 2004 saw the end of Ivan, Charley and Francis. Fabian and Isabel took their bows in 2003. Only one name, Isadore, was retired in 2002. Hmmm, looks like a hockey-stick trend to me. Somebody get Al Gore on the phone.

Anyway, in the time it's taken to write this, blue sky has begun to appear above our little island. Chris has seen fit to spare us much trouble. May he do the same for the people of the Bahamas.

Blue sky ... a beach day after all?