Sunday, September 03, 2006

Midnight News -- 9/3/06

Hillary Clinton may back away from running for President. She is probably realizing she can't win the Presidential race without first winning her party's nomination, and that her exceptionally plotted steps towards the White House have not made her popular with the Democrat core of liberal-left voters. My sense is that they hate both her positions on the Iraq war and her phony, empty-suit personality. Not fertile ground for her to win their votes. The puffery that supports Clinton's fame can now be seen for what it is: great for winning safe seats like the Demcratic Senate seat for New York, and for maintaining a high profile amongst the nation's editorialists, but useless for actually winning a contested race.

An American has renounced of his home to join Osama Bin Laden in the caves of Afganistan. He suggests we all convert to Islam.

The nascent terror group that kidnapped two FOX News reporters has only just begun it's war on Jews and the West. They plan more assaults on non-Muslims: "'Any infidel blood will have no sanctity,' the group said in the statement." If they were American, they would be roundly denounced by all quarters; since they are Palestinians, their murderous hatred will be excused, forgiven, and even praised by many American leftists.

Russians riot against the presence of Chechen immigrants in their northern city after two Russians are killed in a Chechen restaurant.

A 24-year-old American basketball player for the Sydney Kings of Australia has been charged with rape.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Hugo Ready To Throw A Tantrum

Venezuela will hold presidential elections on December 3, and the tyrannical Hugo Chavez is preparing to take action should his popularity continue to slip. Upon returning from his most recent overseas effort to build an anti-American alliance, he claimed that his opponents were preparing a coup d'etat.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he had uncovered a plot to topple his government, blaming his political opponents and calling them "lackeys" of the United States.

Chavez's mention Friday of a coup plot prompted whistles and shouts from thousands of supporters who filled the streets to welcome him home after a foreign tour in which China, Malaysia and Syria offered to support Venezuela's bid for a U.N. Security Council seat.

He called opposition presidential candidates "lackeys of U.S. imperialism."

His viciousness and his simpleminded attacks may betray his fear. As the article notes, his popularity has been polled at about 50%. This is ridiculously low for a man who has spent the better part of a decade destroying civil institutions and who has built an army of dependents reliant on his government's generosity.

His popularity may be even lower than 50%. From Publius Pundit:
But since the arrival of Zulia-state opposition presidential candidate Manuel Rosales, an authentic democratic alternative from an independent part of the country not affiliated with the old guard Chavez unseated seven years ago, something has shifted the wind.

Suddenly, Chavez has lost those padded middle-region areas of support he had earlier and now seems to be down to the left-leaning hardcore ahead of December's presidential election. He's got only about 27% support now, and he may even lose that. So explains pollster Alfredo Keller, whom Daniel Duquenal at Venezuela News & Views assures us from experience is reliable. He's got all the details and some analysis of his own in this post here.

Chavez perhaps senses he might go the way Ferdinand Marcos should the election proceed, so he has begun to contrive a way to stop the election completely. That it may involve the unjust imprisonment of the opposition, or even their deaths, would not concern a man such as he.

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Mystery Surrounds Attack On National Guardsman

Pierce County, Washington police are investigating a brutal attack on a National Guardsman. The soldier, who was attacked while wearing his uniform, claims he was beaten by a group of anti-war thugs who called him a "baby-killer". A witness had cast doubt on the Guardman's testimony, that witness has now contradicted his own testimony and the police are back at "square one":

The witness told police he saw several men in uniform beat a man in civilian clothes, but later changed his account to back the guardsman.

Investigators said the witness's stories were inconsistent with the guardsman's, and they are back to "square one" in the investigation.

A story headlined "Witness Claims Guardsman Attack Not What It Seems", presumably referring to the witness above, has shown up on Google searches since the day the attack was reported, but the URL of the story turns up broken.

Bizarrely, the father of Jon Lester, a young and promising starting pitcher for the Red Sox recently diagnosed with cancer, is a sergeant with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.

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Euro Terror News

14 people were arrested in England on suspicion they were plotting terror attacks. 12 were arrested at a "halal Chinese" restaurant in London:

The restaurant was full of people, including children, when around 40 police officers wearing riot gear raided it shortly after 2200 BST on Friday.

Diners were told they were being questioned under the Terrorism Act.

Each was asked to give their name and address, after which those arrested were taken away in handcuffs.

The police also investigated a plush Islamic school in rural England:
According to its website, for an annual fee of £900, the Jameah Islameah school provides its students with "an opportunity of a lifetime in the form of Islamic teacher training".

It continues that "these trained individuals will then be qualified enough to teach in local Masajeds and Madares".

The school was formerly a convent: fools rush in where angels abandon their treading.
Last weekend it emerged that radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza booked a weekend for him and his followers at the school after he saw an advert for the retreat in a London mosque.

Bilal Patel, the school's imam, said he was immediately worried about Hamza's behaviour and on what impact the sight of the cleric and his 15 followers would have on the neighbours.

In Germany, investigators have concluded that the men arrested in a train bombing plot were motivated to kill innocent westerners by the Mohammed cartoons:
The publication of caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammed was the trigger for a failed attempt to bomb passenger trains in Germany, police have concluded.

One of the main suspects, Youssef Mohammed el Hajdib, who was arrested in Germany on August 16, "interpreted (the cartoons) as an insult to Islam by the western world," Joerg Ziercke, the director of Germany's federal police, told Focus magazine in an interview to be published on Monday.

He and the other main suspect in the failed plot, Jihad Hamad, who was arrested in Lebanon on August 24, were also influenced by the killing of the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in June, the police chief said.

How ignorant they are to understand the actions of one magazine from a small country as the action of the entire western world. What brittle weaklings they are to be so offended by cartoons.

Back in England, life is becoming increasingly dangerous for Jews.
On Thursday an all-party parliamentary inquiry will state that anti-Semitic violence has become endemic in Britain, both on the streets and university campuses. The report will call for urgent action from the Government, the police and educational establishments.

The religion of peace is behind many of the attacks:
Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust, said: "In July, when the conflict in Lebanon began, we received reports of 92 incidents, which was the third-worst month since records began in 1984." In 2000 the monthly average was between 10 and 30 incidents.


The July incidents "were more dispersed than usual", Mr Gardner said. "It is usually a small number responsible for a large number of attacks, but these were very widespread across the country and included graffiti attacks on synagogues in Edinburgh and Glasgow."

The attackers, when visible, are from across society, he said. "When it's verbal abuse, it's just ordinary people in the street, from middle-class women to working-class men. All colours and backgrounds. We hardly ever see incidents involving the classic neo-Nazi skinhead. Muslims are over-represented."

The British elite, and the American elite as well, need to explain how it was they could ever believe that multi-culturalism is beneficial. All it seems to do is provide a cover for people who want to bully, tyrannize, and kill.

Midnight News -- 9/2/06

The Mexican left has decided to cast aside one of their country's greatest political traditions to protest an election that no one but them believes was corrupt. Current Mexican president Vincente Fox was literally left to fume in the wings as leftist legislators threw a tantrum that prevented him from giving his annual state of the nation address. He instead presented the legislature with a copy of his speech and gave the address on television.Exploiting the fact that only 9% of the polling places were reviewed, they hope to prevent the Mexican public from noticing that the Mexican electoral court completely rejected all of their claims of electoral wrongdoing.

Democrats and liberals seem all too gleeful over the extent of sectarian violence in Iraq, where about 3,000 Iraqis have died each month. The end result for America needs to be a stable Iraq; the end result for Democrats is to have their party control the White House and Congress. When they are willing to sacrifice votes to have the former, I may be willing to tolerate the latter. I see no evidence that they are actually interested in preventing a civil war in Iraq. The report that has them so exicted is here.

Kofi Annan would like us to believe that Syria, which has already decided to build a Hezbollah-like force in the Golan Heights, is interested in peace and the security of Israel. Annan can't leave the U.N. fast enough.

A Japanese corporation may be responsible for helping North Korea and Iran develop nuclear weapons.

In the Bihar province of India, suspected criminals are regularly lynched. "Jagender Prasad, a businessman, said: 'People are fed up with growing lawlessness and rising crimes. As the police do little to curb the crimes, they (people) have started punishing the criminals.'" Whether we wish to admit it or not, this is democracy in action: the state having abdicated, the people become the state.

The IRS made a mistake on its taxes, and should be forced to pay a penalty. The penalty should be precisely the amount of the refunds mistakenly awarded American taxpayers.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Don't Believe Your Lying Eyes

People have been using the term Islamofascist since 9/11. In my opinion, this is as accurate as the phrase German fascist, indicating a mixture of the peculiar traits of a national culture with the peculiar traits of fascist ideology. Now that Donald Rumsfield and George Bush have used the term to describe the threat we face from Iran and other Muslimn states, the term is considered politically incorrect, and various groups not concerned with the persistence of American values are trying to shame us away from the word.

That the word is accurate can be proven not only be correctly defining Islam as type of nation -- the umma, after all, is a national community -- and correctly identifying the traits of fascistic Islamic movements. It is also proven by the actions of those who wish us to stop using the word. By controlling the language, they wish to control our right to resist their incessant demands.

In Rosemont, Illinois, just outside Chicago and near O'Hare airport as well as my office, the Islamic Society of North America is holding a convention. Its newly elected female leader, Ingrid Mattson, is one of those people trying to purge "Islamofascist" from our vocabulary:

"But I think that when we then bestow that term upon them we only make the situation worse and somehow give validity to their claims which we need to deny and reject," she said at the opening of the group's 43rd annual convention.

To a point, she has a point. The terrorists to which she refers do claim authority over all Muslims, and it is perhaps wrong to indulge their claim by appearing to acknowledge its validity. To her credit, her demand we stop using the word is put in practical terms, and is free of the whiny victimhood that usually accompanies such demands.

However, to use a different word would be false. The Islamic community, as I noted, is a nation, perhaps even more than it is a religion. The terrorist movements within that nation are fascist in nature. To demand we ignore this fact is to demand we ignore reality. This perhaps is her real goal. It would make the demands her organization no doubt wishes to make on the rest of us more palatable. (For the record, I would say that any ethnic or religious group intends to make such demands, and that this is not peculiar to Islamic groups.)

I would be inclined to sympathize with her, were it not for the fact her group has invited a true totalitarian to speak to their assembly, with no acknowledgment whatever of the evil he represents:
The Islamic Society drew its own fire for inviting former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who is expected to address the convention Saturday.

"Khatami ... behaved as an enemy of America and our most cherished values," said Jay Tcath, vice president of the Chicago Jewish Federation in a statement. "It is disturbing that any American organization would honor him by providing such an important platform."

Tcath said American Jews remember "the egregious 1999 imprisonment and circus trial of 13 Iranian Jews on trumped-up charges of espionage for Israel," which happened under Khatami's presidency.

Mattson said the group hopes to show Khatami "how the American Muslim community has dealt with issues of religious freedom and tolerance and perhaps he can carry some of that message back."

Khatami, whose receipt of a visa was announced this week by the State Department, also plans to attend a U.N. conference in New York and to speak on religion's role in promoting peace at the Washington National Cathedral during his trip to the United States.

The persecution of minorities in general and Jews in particular on trumped up charges of treason is a hallmark of a fascist state. Iran is also an Islamic state, in fact referring to itself as the Islamic republic. If Mattson wishes to purge our language of the useful and descriptive term Islamofascist, she will have to stop indulging real Islamofascists herself.

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A Few Good Jihadis

An appeals court handed down a decision affecting the ocnviction of a group of American jihadis who attempted to fight for the Taliban in 2001, after 9/11. The convictions were upheld, and one case was referred back to the district court because his sentence was too light. The decision, available here as a PDF, is fascinating for two reasons.

First, laying out the facts behind the charges, we can see the cultishness and self-absorption of conservative Islam.

Between 1999 and September 11, 2001, Khan, Chapman and Hammad [the appellants] attended the Dar al Arqam Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia where Ali Timimi ("Timimi"), a primary lecturer, spoke of the necessity to engage in violent jihad1 against the enemies of Islam and the "end of time" battle between Muslims and non-Muslims. Several of the attendees, including Chapman and Hammad, organized a group to engage in activities in preparation for jihad. (pg 4)

Right next door to the Capital, while we were all obsessing over stained dresses, a group was indulging in end times fantasies. Earlier in the Clinton administration, a similarly Armageddon minded group was treated to a siege.
In the spring of 2000, members of the group began simulating combat through paintball exercises and practices at firing ranges. By early summer, the group was meeting every other weekend. Chapman, Hammad, and others brought AK-47 style rifles to paintball training and also practiced marksmanship. Members were required to follow three rules: don't tell anyone, don't bring anyone, and invoke the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if questioned by the police. pg 4)

Not unlike the 9/11 hijackers attending at flight school, they took advantage of a mundane recreational activity to plot violence against us. The appellate judge did not buy their arguments that their little paintball sessions were merely recreational.

What's a little disappointing is that the FBI was aware of their paintball activities in 2000, but did nothing about the appellants. This is after one of them had traveled to Pakistan, joined Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), and fired on Indian positions in Kashmir.

9/11 galvanized the appellants. Timmini argued that the attacks should not be condemned. He was thereafter turned out of the Dar al Arqam Islamic Center and tapes of his speeches destroyed. Shortly thereafter, the appellants decided to travel to Pakistan to make their way to join the Taliban. They failed to do so, and although they spent time in Pakistan's terror training camps, they eventually returned to the U.S. They were not arrested and charged until 2003.

The second interesting aspect of the decision is how cowardly and weak these men appear now that they are faced with punishment for their crimes. It may be that their actions and arguments are solely an attempt to manipulate the legal system, and that they don't really believe what their lawyers are saying. But it is also possible that they are, deep down, rats scurrying from a fire.

First, one of the conspirators turned on the others.
Caliph told the FBI that paintball was used for jihad training and that the reason the trainees had acquired AK-47-style rifles was that they were the type of weapon used overseas. When Hammad learned of the admissions, he called a colleague with the "bad news" that Caliph had "cracked."

Later, they made utterly preposterous arguments for their innocence. One of them attempted to challenge the finding that he knew that LET was engaged in violent jihad by saying that although he provided material support to them, he never learned the nature of LET as an organization. The court did not indulge this argument:
The evidence reflects that LET broadly disseminated its goals for the destruction of India, America, and Israel on its web site and elsewhere. Khan was personally acquainted with Singh, an LET official, whom he assisted in purchasing paramilitary equipment. Even if Khan remained unaware of the nature of LET's activities before training in its camps, he was certainly aware of it by the time he returned to them after leaving temporarily because the LET camps were full of descriptions of LET's violent exploits. (pg 11)

Another attempted to argue that the group's paintball exercises had nothing to do with training to fight for the Taliban.
This assertion, however, is belied by the record. Ample evidence demonstrates that Hammad continued to train people in his paintball group after he learned that some members of the group were going to work with LET in the fight against India. In light of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the district court expressly declined to "credit [Hammad's] testimony that paintball was strictly for recreation and physical fitness." J.A. 3207. We conclude that sufficient evidence supports Hammad's conviction for knowingly providing material support to LET in the form of trained personnel. (pg 15)

These appellants are no different than the members of a criminal gang. Once caught, once challenged, they give up on their cause and start looking out for themselves. Timmini, their spiritual leader, had told them that only cowards would turn from war against the U.S. Eventually, these men turned.

The case should also serve as a reminder to all of us of the importance of allowing law enforcement to pursue cases like this. The court does not provide detail in this decision as to why the FBI zeroed in on these jihadis in 2003. Since they had ties to LET overseas, and had provided LET material support, we can speculate that the NSA surveillance program might have intercepted some of their communications.

If that's the case, then thank God the New York Times editors hadn't turned on us earlier. Who knows what this bunch might have gotten up to if they hadn't been caught.

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John Travolta Really Likes This Dude

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

How this will go over with the infamously anti-gay "church" of scientology I have no idea. I suppose their legion of attorneys can come up with some way of spinning this photo, but I can't see anyone really buying it. It's probably best they just start with the lawsuits and bully the tabloid that ran with this story into a retraction.

Come to think of it, I should probably call my lawyer.

Via Wuzzadem.

Jon Lester Has Cancer

22-year-old Red Sox starter Jon Lester has been diagnosed with cancer and will start treatment immediately:

Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester has been diagnosed with a treatable form lymph node cancer.

The Red Sox made the announcement on behalf of Lester's family shortly after 6 p.m. ET on Friday.

The specific condition is known as anaplastic large cell lymphoma, and Lester is expected to begin treatment within the coming week.

"Jon and his family wish to thank all those involved in his care at Massachusetts General Hospital," the family said through a statement. "Our gratitude also extends to the Red Sox organization, which has provided Jon and his family much needed support during this ordeal.

"We ask that you respect our need for privacy during this difficult time."

Lester, in his first Major League season, is 7-2 with a 4.76 ERA in 15 starts for the Red Sox.

Let's all pray he enjoys a speedy recovery.

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Pipe Bomb At Chicago Commuter Train Station

Once again, we must parse the euphemism and denial surrounding a possible terror attack. A pipe bomb was set off at a suburban Chicago Metra station:

A man is in police custody after allegedly putting a pipe bomb in a trash receptacle at a Metra train station this morning in west suburban Hinsdale, authorities said.

The device went off, but no injuries were reported. Nor was damage extensive. Remnants of the device were found in the Hinsdale Station, 21 E. Hinsdale Ave., around 7 a.m.

"At this time we do not have any reason to believe this was a terrorist act, nor do we have any reason for this act," Hinsdale police said in a prepared statement.

It's too soon to say what this is all about, and probably too soon to jump all over the police and reporters for not telling the whole story. However, I'm not going to hold my breath that this will be the day that law enforcement officers and journalists decide that the public is capable of hearing all the facts, should those facts prove politically incorrect.

Here's a Google map of the location.

The Chicago Tribune story above describes the suspect thusly:
A witness saw the suspect, described as a tall and skinny 20-year-old man, put an item in the garbage can, Hinsdale police said. The suspect then got on the 6:56 a.m. or 7:04 a.m. Metra train heading to Chicago.

CBS2Chicago adds the detail of his race:
The suspect was described as "tall and skinny," a black man about 20, according to the release, which said authorities did not believe this to be an act of terrorism.

The bomb did not disrupt Metra traffic at all.

UPDATE: But wait! There's more! From an updated version of the Tribune article:
A pipe bomb exploded in a trash receptacle at a Metra train station in Hinsdale today and, in a separate incident, passengers evacuated a train in Park Ridge after detecting a strange odor, authorities said.


Meanwhile, in northwest suburban Park Ridge, authorities sent bomb-sniffing dogs onto a Metra train following reports of an unidentified chemical smell aboard the train.

The strong odor was reported on train No. 638, which was traveling toward the Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago around 10 a.m. near the Dee Road Station, at 881 N. Dee Rd., authorities said.

I used to pass that station on my commute everyday. It was just rebuilt. There's no word on what caused the smell, but this incident did delay the trains about an hour.

Metra spokeswoman, Meg Reile claimed the two incidents were unrelated. That statement may be true, but so far has not been justified by any fact whatsoever.

UPDATE 2: The latest version of the story states the man arrested originally has been released. Here's reassuring bit of information:
[Hinsdale Police Chief Bradley] Bloom said the department has not ruled that man out — or anyone else — but said police don't have a good description of who may have left the bomb. There are no security cameras at the station, and nobody actually saw anyone place the bomb into the trashcan, he said.

They might consider installing some cameras, maybe a few of those red light cameras that have proven so lucrative for so many communities. There must be a few that can be spared. Chicago is not entirely dissimilar a target from London, Mumbai, or Madrid.
Still, the device was more sophisticated than some - it had a timer that allowed it to have a delayed detonation, authorities said.

"We're a little concerned, because it was a somewhat sophisticated device," Bloom said, referring to the timer. "And it was just inside the door (of the station)."

This is what concerns me: a timer suggests great sophistication, even if the bomb itself does not. It makes the pipe bomb story worth paying attention to.

And it makes the perfunctory declarations that this event has nothing to do with terrorism somewhat less than believable.

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Thomas Klocek On Constitutional Public Radio Today

DePaul professor Thomas Klocek will be on Constituional Public Radio this afternoon -- 3:05 pm CDT. Marathon Pundit has the rundown of the show, some other guests, and some links of interest to those who have been following the Klocek affair.

For any parent of a high school junior who might be considering applying to DePaul, here's a quick reference guide to the school:

Professor Thomas Klocek: fired under false pretenses because he refused to bow down to radical pro-Palestinian students.

Professor Norman Finklestein: not fired despite saying things like, "I say this without fear: for those who believe in freedom and dignity, we are all Hizbullah now."

If your kid ends up going to DePaul, now you know why he or she comes back a little deranged.

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Midnight News -- 9/1/06

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has stirred a controversy by asking immigrant groups to learn English, adopt Australian values, and cast aside primitive treatment of women. Naturally, the head of the Government's Islamic advisory committee is suggesting that Howard tone down his remarks lest another race riot break out. Blackmail is blackmail in any language.

Thanks to Typhoon Ioke, the world has one less island.

It's hard for a Florida Democrat to be politically correct when voting in that state's gubernatorial primary. They suffer a choice between coldblooded, law-and-order racism and a tool of the corporate elite. You'll forgive me if I don't shed a tear for them.

It is good to be a shareholder in Lockheed Martin this morning.

Munch's "Scream", uncharacteristically silent when stolen two years ago, has been recovered.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Correct, But Don't Apologize

No one should apologize, explicitly or implicitly, for suspecting that Omeed Popal was a lone jihadi. No one. Set the record straight if needed, but don't apologize.

The record of the media and public officials in denying the presence of Muslim terrorism in America, be it after loner's assault or when a group is found to be plotting an attack, is shameful. We are forced to navigate through every euphemism and denial that they can contrive in order to determine just how likely it is we might be killed for walking down the street. They force us to dig for facts on our own, and parse every neutered announcement, just to know what the basic facts are. It is contemptible that people who claim to serve the American public can't bring themselves to tell a story straight.

Public officials and journalists should apologize for putting American citizens in a position where suspicion is more reliable than trust. The smug politicos and journalists who look down their noses at the bloggers who suspected Muslim terror need to tell us why they think they can be smug when blogger suspicion has been correct every single time a rampage involving a Muslim has taken place in the past. Every single time bloggers have been right -- we're not the ones who should be apologizing.

Correct the record, but don't apologize.

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The Iranian Threat

That anyone in the west can deny what Iran is doing is unconscionable. One can say we ought to negotiate, one can say we ought try to appease the mullahs somehow, but no one can say that their aims are not to build a nuclear weapon and to use it on Israel at the first opportunity. From the New York Times:

The global nuclear monitoring agency deepened suspicions on Thursday about Iran's nuclear program, reporting that inspectors had discovered new traces of highly enriched uranium at an Iranian facility.

This finding alone ought to be sufficient to impose sanctions at the very least, if not engage in military action against Iranian nuclear facilities. Even if neither action is taken, Iranian intentions should be undeniable.

But undeniable facts do not lead to sensible action. Even though the deadline for Iran to halt uranium enrichment has passed, there is no guarantee the major powers will impose sanctions on Iran. Even though Iranian excuses for producing heavy water are increasingly absurd, they have been sufficient to confuse the debate over Iran in the U.S. Iran itself is defiant towards the threat, and probably would not be greatly harmed if sanctions were only imposed by the U.S. and a few allies.

AJ Strata believes strongly George Bush will never be allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons, even if preventive action undermines Bush's project to build the Republicans into a long term governing party. I think a nuclear Iran is inevitable. The world now has a late-40s feel to it. Ahmadinejad is determined to have the bomb to project his ideological obsessions, just as Stalin was after he saw the destruction unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And as we were towards the Soviets, we have become too weary and naive to resist Islamofascist Iran.

God's Been Known To Smite Whole Cities For Less

Alright, so maybe my theology is a little off, but He can't be too pleased with a people that would spend over $20,000 on something like this.

"'A bronzed cast of baby's first poop can be a meaningful memento for the family,' gallery director David Kesting said...."

For a family of horse flies, perhaps. A sane human being can make do with a photo.

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Chicago Cops To Be Charged For Robbing Crime Victims

There's a new police scandal in Chicago:

A winner of the prestigious Superintendent's Award for Valor was stripped of his police powers this week as prosecutors prepare to charge up to eight Chicago Police officers suspected of raiding homes and stealing valuables, sources said Wednesday.


The 43-year-old officer, described by sources as a ringleader, has been a defendant in five lawsuits in federal court alleging police misconduct. In some cases, he was accused of participating in ripoffs of cash and jewelry during illegal searches of homes, cars and a bar.


Last year, NBC's Unit 5 profiled Miguel Melesio, a high school student at Excel Academy who said he was stopped, handcuffed and held by police who stole thousands of dollars from his home. Melesio said he was driving a 2003 Cadillac when officers swooped in. He said he thinks they were looking for drugs.

Melesio said he was taken back to his family's three-flat and remained in the police car while three officers, including a woman, went inside. They searched the building and left. About $13,000 in savings was missing from the home, Melesio said.

Sources said they do not think the Melesios, who are legal U.S. residents, were engaged in illegal activity.

"It's gonna be our word against his [an officer's] word, and they are the law," Miguel Melesio's brother Uriel Melesio lamented in a Unit 5 interview.

Second City Cop, over to you.

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The Agonies Of Alex Rodriguez

The Village Voice, of all places, has a lengthy and mostly sympathetic profile of Alex Rodriguez. What I did not realize was just how common it is for New York fans to make life miserable for stars who deserve much better.

Veteran sportswriter and Lou Gehrig biographer Ray Robinson has heard something like it. "The torrent of boos that Yankee fans inflicted on Mickey Mantle from about 1958 to 1960 was shocking," recalls Robinson. "What was baffling about it was that Mantle had, by 1959, two Most Valuable Player awards and five World Series rings. I'll say this: Rodriguez has reacted to the booing with a lot more maturity than Mantle did. Mickey led the league in smashed water coolers and batting helmets."

Though he hasn't done as much as Mantle, A-Rod deserves better than he gets from New York fans. However, he brings some of it on himself:
"Most Latin fans in the New York area don't regard him as Latin like they do Ramirez or Ortiz," says Constantino Viloria, baseball writer for El Diario. "To them, he's an American, and comes off phony when he makes reference to his Latin background."

In a revealing interview a few weeks ago with The Sacramento Bee's Paul Gutierrez, Rodriguez said, "We're kind of lost in the mix a little bit because African Americans are one thing, or being of a different religion or descent. But Latinos who are born and raised here are kind of overlooked in a crazy way."

"A main criticism," Gutierrez said to Rodriguez, "from both mainstream America and the Latino culture, is that you are seen as a sellout. That your public persona is so polished that you're not real."

I'm more sympathetic to Guillen after reading this then I was before. I never knew how much he struggled after his dad essentially abandoned his family, and it's clear that bouncing back and forth from the Dominican Republic and the U.S. left him deeply insecure. I hope he bounces back from his trouble at third, but not in way that actually leads the Yankees to a World Series. No matter how much I might like or respect one of the players, another trophy in New York is more than I can bear.

Writer Allen Barra makes a remark that I can't let go uncorrected.
That was certainly the reaction earlier this year when White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen lambasted Rodriguez for wavering over whether to play for the U.S. or the Dominican team in the World Baseball Classic. "Alex was kissing Latino people's asses," said Guillen, a Venezuelan. "He knew he wasn't going to play for the Dominicans. He's not Dominican. I hate hypocrites. He's full of shit." Guillen, who later made headlines for calling critical sportswriters "fags," later apologized--sort of.

It is inaccurate to say Guillen said what he did about all reporters, or even critical reporters generally. Rather, he was speaking of one particular reporter that Barra by definition must not be familiar with. If he were familiar with Jay Mariotti's work, he would have been much more sympathetic to Guillen's message, if not to Guillen's ill-considered use of a bigoted word.

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Anti-Americanism Run Amok, Maybe

Omeed Popal's rampage could have been, but apparently was not, an instance of freelance jihadism. In Washington state there was possibly an instance of freelance ... something. I'm not quite sure what to call it. Revolutionary terror? A purge?

The Pierce County Sheriff's Department is searching for five people who allegedly attacked a uniformed National Guardsmen walking along 138th Street in Parkland Tuesday afternoon.

The soldier was walking to a convenience store when a sport utility vehicle pulled up alongside him and the driver asked if he was in the military and if he had been in any action.

The driver then got out of the vehicle, displayed a gun and shouted insults at the victim. Four other suspects exited the vehicle and knocked the soldier down, punching and kicking him.

"And during the assault the suspects called him a baby killer. At that point they got into the car and drove off and left him on the side of the road," Detective Ed Troyer with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department told KIRO 7 Eyewitness News.

The suspects were driving a black Chevy Suburban-type SUV.

The allegation may fall apart. A quick search for an update found a headline from the same source that read "Witness Claims Guardsman Attack Not What It Seems". The link is broken as of the original post time. If the allegation isn't true, there's a story in that as well.

Via LGF.

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Not Reporting: Plamegate

I don't usually follow Washington scandals too closely, especially once I decide that no real legal controversy exists. This is because Washington scandals are almost universally phony and tilted by the media against conservatives and Republicans. Plamegate was no exception, and since learning that Valerie Plame was not a covert operative for the purposes of the identity shield laws I have only paid attention when a leftist has decided to make an ass of himself waiting for Karl Rove's much rumored "frog march".

Now the scandal has more or less settled with the revelation that former deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the person who revealed Plame's identity to the press. The facts surrounding these reports illustrate what I mean when I say Washington scandals are phony: the really scandalous behavior gets ignored in favor of contrived controversy.

I take it as an obligation to understand what happens in the world. By that I mean I want the full story. I don't think I necessarily have an obligation to do anything about it: most problems we see as important are fleeting. But I still want to know the truth.

From the start, it was clear to me that the media and the various talking heads bloviating about this story in no way respected the obvious truths of the matter. The distance between what was known about the case and what people tried to argue was as vast as a sea. It isn't simply that known facts were spun, or even that known facts were dismissed; it seemed that even suggesting the existence of certain facts brought down wrath and fury.

In the Plame case, the two obvious truths that none of the anti-Bush crowd wanted to recognize were that it was Joe Wilson who lied about Saddam Hussein and Nigeri uranium, and that "outing" his wife Valerie Plame could not under the law be considered a crime. Thus, to me, the most important part of the story became how it was the scandal was sustained for so long.

We are much closer to knowing the answer to that question today than we were before Richard Armitage was revealed to be the leaker. At FOX News, Jack Kelly helpfully and succinctly explains the case:

In his 2003 State of the Union address, President Bush said: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

First in leaks to reporters, and then in his own op-ed in The New York Times, a retired diplomat, Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, said the president was lying. His claim to speak with authority was that in the spring of 2002, the CIA had sent him to Niger to see if Saddam had tried to buy uranium there.

Wilson's charge was important because it marked the beginning of the "Bush lied" meme about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But investigations by the Senate Intelligence Committee; the Robb-Silberman commission on prewar intelligence, and the British Butler commission all concluded it was Wilson who was not telling the truth. Saddam had indeed tried to buy uranium in Africa, as even Wilson himself had acknowledged to the CIA officers who debriefed him after his Niger trip.

This is the truth about Joe Wilson. Supposedly, despite the fact Wilson was lying, George Bush instructed his staff to silence Wilson by intimidating his wife.

The scandal that ensued was a procession of half-truths, insinuations, and pompous rants that never failed to overlook Wilson's lie. It has continued for well over three years now, and with the knowledge of many who had no interest beyond watching Karl Rove suffer. As Kelly notes:
Armitage, Powell, and Justice department officials knew the truth, but said nothing. Clarice Feldman, a Washington, D.C. lawyer, described Armitage's silence as "inexplicable and perfidious."


Fitzgerald knew in his first few days on the job that Armitage was the leaker; that the leak was inadvertent and that the Intelligence Identities Act hadn't been violated. Yet he has persisted in a sham prosecution.

Isikoff and Corn write: "The Plame leak in Novak's column has long been cited by Bush administration critics as a deliberate act of payback, orchestrated to punish and/or discredit Joe Wilson after he charged that the Bush administration had misled the American public about prewar intelligence."

They add, lamely, that: "The Armitage news does not fit neatly into that framework."

They don't mention that Isikoff and (especially) Corn have been among the journalists flogging this meme, and the time that it takes to research and write a book indicates they've known for quite some time that it isn't true. They're only willing to tell the truth, now, for money.

The behavior of Fitzgerald, Corn, Isikoff and others is the real story behind the Plamegate scandal. They are the bad actors in this preposterous drama, and we will be waiting a very long time before anyone tells that tale.

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Omeed Popal Just Crazy

Omeed Popal is just a sad and crazy man, and his rampage in San Francisco is just the insane expression of his frustration and isolation.

The arguments began over the weekend. Omeed Popal begged his father for permission to return to Afghanistan to be with his new bride.

The tension heightened Tuesday morning when his mother, like his father, refused to let him go.

By around noon, police say, Popal -- who has a history of mental problems -- was so enraged he jumped in his family's black sports utility vehicle and began a rampage. He plowed through pedestrians up and over sidewalks, police say, leaving one man dead in Fremont and 14 others injured in San Francisco.

This Mercury News story, as well as a story in the San Francisco Chronicle, both rely almost entirely on the comments of Popal's cousin Hamid Nekrawesh. It is possible he is spinning the event, but I think that's highly unlikely. The story is too sophisticated to be fake, unless Nekrawesh, an auto shop owner by day, doubles as a forensic psychologist by night. Some bits from the Mercury News:
"I didn't know he had these mental problems until last night," Nekrawesh said Wednesday. "They were keeping everything pretty much within themselves."

Popal is 29 years old, but Nekrawesh said he was under such strict control from his parents -- who believed they needed to protect him from America's "evil society" -- that Popal probably felt his arranged marriage was a ticket to freedom.

Before one jumps all over this Muslim family for teaching things like that, it should be recalled that there are native-born Americans who would say similar things. In this case, I don't even think the family's religion mattered: they were simply isolated, oppressive people by nature. I think if we look at the family histories of spree killers or rampage killers we'll find a similar profile. The variable isn't religion, but paranoid isolation.
"My personal feeling is that he has been away from all the other pleasures and growing up of life, and all of a sudden he got this pleasure of a woman out of nowhere and he fell in love and wanted to be with his wife," Nekrawesh said.

"All I know is that he wanted to go back and his family wouldn't let him," Nekrawesh said, giving one relative's version of a complicated tale that police are only starting to unravel.

I'm not sure there is any more to unravel, unless they find jihadi propaganda in Popal's possession.
Since Popal returned from his wedding two weeks ago, Nekrawesh said, he had been haunted by dreams that a man was dragging him to a graveyard to kill him.

I really want to know how that should be interpreted.
On Saturday or Sunday morning, after the intense argument with his father over returning to Afghanistan, Popal "ran away" to Los Angeles, Nekrawesh said.

"He came to his senses that he didn't have any money," Nekrawesh said, "so he called home and asked his dad to pick him up."

His father drove down with his sister, and the father put the siblings on a train back to Fremont on Monday while he conducted some business, Nekrawesh said....

On Tuesday morning, the argument with his mother began, Nekrawesh said. It continued in the car, as Popal's mother and sister came along for the ride when Popal dropped off his brother at San Jose State University. And it kept going as Popal headed to a job interview at a Fremont temporary-employment agency, Nekrawesh said.

Popal parked, then returned to the car, telling his mother the agency needed her signature for something. Mother and daughter got out of the car, Nekrawesh said, and that's when Popal jumped in and sped away....

At this point I imagine he felt a rush of freedom that quickly gave way to overwhelming frustration that he released with unrelenting, remorseless aggression against whatever targets he could find.
"He has been pretty much isolated from society most of his life," Nekrawesh, 43, said. "He was pretty much under full control of his parents, not having a whole lot of freedom of talking to people and making friends. I have tried to talk to his dad to allow him to grow up as a normal kid, just like anyone else's kid in the community. He thought he should keep him away from everybody."

This is what the husband did to Andrea Yates. Forced isolation is toxic when added to mental instability.
The cousin said he found out after the rampage, when the family gathered at a relative's house, that Popal had been hospitalized for mental problems two or three times over the summer.

"I asked his mother why didn't she tell us about his hospitalization," Nekrawesh said. "She said, 'I didn't want the bride's family to find out.' They wanted to keep it a secret."

How charming of them to lie to people thousands of miles away. That the family thought to avoid shame first rather than their son's health or the fairness of their actions to the girl's family says a lot about the family's moral character.

The San Francisco Chronicle piece covers much the same ground. Here's a few unique highlights:
Family members said Popal could be rational and calm. But he had also been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and had been hospitalized at least twice in recent months after suffering breakdowns, relatives said.

I wonder how accurate that definition is. Was Popal just emotionally disturbed because of his environment, or was there genuine reason to say his behavior was caused by an organic mental illness (which is what I understand schizophrenia to be)?
At 29, Popal still lived with his parents in Fremont. His mother was especially sheltering, seeing the world as filled with "evil people" and trying to keep Popal from being harmed, said his cousin, Hamid Nekrawesh.

"Since he was a little kid, they had been overly controlling of him," Nekrawesh said. "They tried to keep him away from evil situations, in their mind, and that had a negative effect on him. He just didn't have any friend or anyone to talk to except Mom and Dad."

Isolation, again.
Last spring, Popal was voluntary committed to Kaiser Medical Center in Fremont after a breakdown on brought by a dream of "the devil taking him to a graveyard and trying to kill him," Nekrawesh said.

The Mercury News said it was a "man" in the dream, not specifically the devil.
"He was supposed to be taking medication," Nekrawesh said. "From what I heard from his mom and dad, when he was in Afghanistan, he was perfectly fine. When he came back, all these problems occurred."

This doesn't surprise me at all. In Afghanistan, Popal was in the environment his parents tried to recreate, apparently, in their home. Or at least he was away from the environment they kept calling "evil". He was the center of attention. he was away from any pressures of working or fitting in. He was away from his more successful relatives and peers. And he finally had hope of achieving independence from his family. It must have seemed like paradise to him.

Then his family brought him back home to his personal hell.

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Midnight News -- 8/31/06

The UN is concerned that Israel's "immoral" use of cluster bombs against Hezbollah has made parts of south Lebanon dangerous and perhaps uninhabitable. Left unnoticed is Hezbollah's use of human shields that drew Israeli fire to civilian areas in the first place. Frankly, Israel's attacks humiliate the UN: Israel does what the UN claims it wants to do, but hasn't the will to do itself. Nothing is more humiliating than someone else fighting your battles, and that's how Israel humiliates the UN.

Israel has rejected the UN's request that the blockade against Lebanon be lifted. Respecting the position that terrorist put Israel in might benefit the innocent people that Kofi Annan claims to want to help, because the constant criticism of Israel's self-defense probably didn't aid Annan's diplomacy.

Iran is enriching uranium despite the deadline imposed by the major powers that they stop. They will never stop on their own. Every bit of rhetoric coming from the mullahcracy indicates that they believe the world is insane for not allowing them to have the bomb and for irrationally supporting Israel. Iran has a monstrous, aggressive government that will continue to threaten Israel, Iraq, and the West until it is deposed. Sanctions are the least we should be doing, and I hope that the U.S. imposes sanctions of its own if the other major powers lose their backbone.

The family of the woman killed by poor construction in Boston's Big Dig tunnel is filing a lawsuit.

According to an upcoming Russian mini-series, Stalin was more lover than fighter. I can think of about 100 million reasons why a soap opera about Stalin is grotesque.

Young Red Sox starter Jon Lester may have cancer.

Someone in Ho Chi Minh City was very, very horny, but will now have to go unsated.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Really, It's A Union

The workers at a Chicago Starbucks are now represented by a union that is not actually recognized by anyone.

The baristas at the Logan Square Starbucks store joined the IWW Starbucks Workers Union Tuesday night, the union said. They issued a set of demands that included a living wage, guaranteed work hours and the reinstatement of IWW baristas fired for organizing activity.

They're caffeinated Wobblies! The union also claims to represent the workers at a "handful" of New York City Starbucks, but is not recognized by the National Labor Relations Board and has not actually negotiated anything with the Starbucks corporation.
Daniel Gross, a former barista who has led union organizing efforts at Starbucks, has refused to disclose how many members the union has, characterizing it only as a "modest-sized group" with "positive membership growth."

Step one: we organize. Then step 2. And finally, step 3: revolution!

Starbucks is known for offering good benefits to part-time workers, but apparently that isn't enough for our neo-Wobblies. Like the organization they work for, they are too pretentious to realize they are working at a fast food joint.

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A Bad Job Situation

A man upset that his boss would not have a sexual relationship with him decided to exact revenge in a peculiar way that ultimately backfired:

A Chicago man who allegedly tried to frame his boss by telling police the boss had child pornography on his computer was charged with possessing the illegal images.

I think this pretty much defines 'bad idea'.

At some point, the lovelorn employee confessed that he in fact had planted the images. The story does not indicate the gender of the boss, which inclines me to think it must have been a man: the reporter wouldn't be so coy if the truth did not appear embarrassing to a protected minority, especially one that is hypersensitive to insinuations relating to child pornography.

The clincher for me, however, is this: the employee had an advanced degree in education. I have to say I'm not entirely surprised that someone that came up with a scheme this dumb could get a hold of an advanced degree in education. Frankly, as stupid as his scheme was, it's probably smarter than Whole Math.

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In Case You Forgot, Scalia's Evil

The Associated Press would like you to know that Justice Antonin Scalia has had particularly nefarious dealings with all sorts of dark and sinister organizations:

Justice Antonin Scalia was the Supreme Court's most frequent traveler last year with 24 expense-paid trips that took him as far as Ireland, Italy, Turkey and Australia.

Law schools and legal groups paid for most of Scalia's travel, although Italian heritage organizations, media giant Time Warner Inc., the Roman Catholic Diocese of Louisiana and the Juilliard School also covered some trips.

It is well known that the Julliard School uses bribery to corrupt all manner of public officials.

The article doesn't fail to imply sinister dealings, even though the trips were perfectly legal. What's worse is that Scalia was more or less singled out for this treatment. Other Justices made similar trips, though not as many, and six of the nine, including Scalia, reported incomes of over $1,000,000. Enviable, but not criminal, even though this fact is presented thusly:
Scalia also is one of at least six millionaires among the nine justices, with assets of $1.1 million to $2.6 million.

Implying they could all be millionaires, not just the standard-bearer Scalia, and that they may not be reporting everything as honestly as they might. The other millionaires aren't named until the end of the article, and reporter Mark Sherman notes that Justice Sam Alito might be among the millionaires depending on how one valued his assets.

By the end of the piece one is left wondering what, exactly, this story is meant to accomplish. Since he is mentioned so extensively, one can reasonably conclude that it is about discrediting the integrity of Justice Scalia in particular.

Red Sox Done

Curt Schilling got his 3,000th strikeout today against the Oakland A's Nick Swisher. He's one of only 14 pitchers to reach that milestone. It's about the only honor the Red Sox can hope for this year, I'm sorry to say. Schilling lost the game today, the Red Sox fifth loss in a row.

The team has gone 8-20 this month, and dropped from a half-game up on the Yankees at the All Star break to 8 games back prior to tonight's second game of a New York Yankees / Detroit Tigers doubleheader. Their most important players are sidelined by injuries, with the remarkable David Ortiz now hospitalized with some sort of ominous heart ailment.

Now there's news the Red Sox are planning to trade David Wells to the San Diego Padres for prospects. Though injured for much of the year, Wells is still strong enough to help the Padres, who play in a pitchers park and are just 3 games out of the lead in the NL West. Sources tell ESPN that there's at least an 80-20 chance that Wells will head west by the end of the week, when teams will have to set their playoff roster.

Whether or not he goes, the trade talks are the signal that the Red Sox are tossing it in for the season. They were outplayed by the Yankees, out-traded by the Yankees, and suffered more injuries to star players than I remember any other team suffering in a long time.

It was a fun season while it lasted. If only it were the Blue Jays who'd be winning the East, instead of the damn Yankees. Again.

UPDATE 8/31/06: Players and reporters that entered the Red Sox locker room today at Fenway were greeted by an empty locker at the spot where David Wells would normally dress. It was later announced that Wells had been scratched from that night's start and designated for assignment. Finally, tonight, it was announced that Wells had been traded to the Padres for a catching prospect mostly known for his defense. That's pretty much it for the season, as manager Terry Francona has admitted:

Pressed as to whether the pending loss of Wells was a sign that the club was throwing in the towel on the season, Francona defended his club's competitiveness.

"I don't think that's the way to put it," the skipper responded. "I don't think that's the proper way. Throwing in the towel means you give up. I don't think you get to this level [and] give up. That's not how you compete."

But Francona acknowledged the club needs to not only think about now but also the future. So, Thursday's move was an opportunity to get younger and deeper at a key position.

And so it will be the Yankees at the top of the division again, only this year the Red Sox won't be the Wild Card. And yes, Casey, it does suck.

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Afghani Immigrant Charged In SUV Rampage

Details about the driver in the San Francisco SUV rampage are trickling in. He was, apparently, Omeed Aziz Popal, an Afghani living with his parents in Fremont, California. There is no indication of how religious he was, if at all.

Popal had recently returned from Kabul, where he celebrated his arranged marriage. According to family and neighbors, that was the only new stress in his life. A cousin suggests he has a history of mental illness -- specifically that he was deathly afraid of the devil -- but other relatives and the police discount that. Nothing in the testimony of relatives and neighbors suggests why he went on the rampage, be the reason political, religious, or simple insanity. The only statement that begins to shed light on Popal's mental circumstance is from his next-door neighbor:

Popal was usually friendly but wasn't talkative lately, [Frank] Silva said. "It seemed like since he got married he quieted down," he said.

When Popal was arrested, he was eerily indifferent to his circumstance:
Moments later, the Pilot roared through a red light and turned left, narrowly missing a man as he crossed the street at California and Spruce.

"It was just by a couple of inches," said architect Jeremy Warms. "Then the car came down the opposite way down Spruce and the police converged in on him all at once."

Warms said the police blocked the man's path and he heard a crashing sound -- police said one officer was slightly injured in the collision. Then the officers pulled the man out of the car and sat him down on the curb.

"He looked calm and pretty clean-cut, like a normal guy," Warms said. "He sat on the pavement for a good 25 minutes ... I don't think anyone said anything to him. They put him in a police car and took him away."

The office manager at a dental office at 500 Spruce St., who identified herself only as Kira, saw the arrest from a second-floor window.

"They dragged him out and put him on the ground. They got him up. He was absolutely indifferent, no fear, no expression. He was like a zombie."

She said he was bald, with a mustache, wearing a gray sport jacket. He showed no sign of injury. Police identified him as Omeed Aziz Popal, 29, of Fremont, and said he would be booked on 14 counts of attempted murder.

UPDATE: Ed Driscoll and Hugh Hewitt are both picking up on the possibility this may be an anti-Semitic hate crime. Two of the victims were pedestrians outside a Jewish center in San Francisco. Without dismissing the possibility, if this were motivated by anything other than narcissistic stress, it was probably general anti-Americanism, as his behavior suggests he was looking for any target possible, not Jewish targets in particular. As I said earlier, however, it's pathetic that Americans are reduced to reading news accounts the way the citizens of the Soviet Union once did: all tea leaves, no facts.

Ironically, the Washington Post runs a feature today on a new magazine that presents Afghan culture to the children of Afghan immigrants. Most of the target market are families probably like the Popals: people who fled the Soviet occupation 20+ years ago.
As Aman Feda, 32, tells it, many of them were well-educated professionals who scraped by as taxi drivers and beauticians when they arrived. They've raised doctors, engineers and now publishers. But calming the political tensions they brought with them, reconciling Muslim tradition with American lifestyles, and easing the resulting strain between generations proved tougher than the financial challenges they faced.

I don't think the Popals were quite that successful, and maybe that was the son's problem.

UPDATE 2: The Mercury News has more details about Omeed Popal and his family:
Friends and relatives said Popal had been hearing voices since returning a month ago from Afghanistan.

"He thought the devil was coming for him,'' said Zarghona Ramish of San Jose, who also identified herself as Popal's cousin.

A stressful event triggers a madness.
Afghan community leader Farid Younos said Popal comes from a "decent, pious and respectful" family, devout members of the Abu Bakr Siddiq Mosque in Hayward.

So now the obvious question: has that particular mosque been known to preach radical Islam? No tea leaves in the story to help us answer, so we'll just have to wait.
"It's very bad, very bad. We're very sad about it," said Younos, a California State University-East Bay anthropology professor.


He was born in Afghanistan but came to the United States at a young age. Three months ago, he returned to his home country to marry, relatives said, and his wife's family was very traditional and strict.

"He grew up as a Western boy in the United States and went to Afghanistan to get married culturally over there," [first cousin Hamid] Nekrawesh said.

Nekrawesh wondered if the stress of the trip and the culture shock affected Popal, especially since Afghan weddings are large, and he comes from a large extended family.

The bride's family didn't let the couple meet or talk before the wedding, Nekrawesh said.

"The only thing would be some kind of mental pressure," Nekrawesh said, adding that Popal seemed happy before leaving for Kabul. "The lifestyle is very different in Afghanistan."

This is why modern, Westernized societies are superior to other cultures: it is inhuman to put two people through a marriage like that.

UPDATE 3: Clarity & Resolve points to a video linked by JihadWatch, in which a female witness reports Popal proclaimed himself a terrorist shortly after his arrest. I think this clarifies the moral principle quite well: "[A]n act of random violence by someone who declares himself a terrorist is terrorism even if he lacks a laminated Al-Qaeda ID."

UPDATE 4: Popal may need a new lawyer. His current attorney, Majeed Samara, was retained by the family. He says he's only handling the matter until the public defender steps in. He has not yet been able to see his client.

Samarra made a comment that makes me quite curious:
Millbrae attorney Majeed Samara said that according to Popal's father, Popal has not been the same since waking up from a bad dream six months ago.

His family once took Popal, 29, of Fremont, to a Kaiser Permanente facility in Fremont for treatment of his mental health issues, Samara said. He also said Popal disappeared for three days last week without telling anyone where he was going.

Samarra notes that Popal will need "a lot of doctors."

The family has become less than sympathetic in my eyes:
The attorney retained by the family of Omeed Aziz Popal, the driver suspected of killing a Fremont man and injuring 14 San Francisco pedestrians in a hit-and-run spree on Tuesday, said today that Popal's family is terrified for him, for the victims and for themselves.

It would be nice to hear them express sorrow for the victims undiluted by self-regard. I'm going to be extremely generous and understand "terrified...for themselves" to mean they are terrified in a general, what-do-we-do-now sort of way, and not that their terrified by what other Americans might do in response.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Cruel Death In A Public School

Teachers at a public school in suburban Chicago have defined negligence for a future generation of lawyers.

Deanna Mendieta, 36, claims in the suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, that her daughter became ill about 10:30 a.m. on tn April 4, but despite a deterioration in her condition for the next 40 minutes, little was done to help her, according to a release from the Power Rogers & Smith law firm, which is representing the plaintiff.

Katina, a first-grader, told her gym teacher she was sick to her stomach and not feeling well, the suit claims, but the girl was told to continue with class activities. Shortly afterward, she told the teacher she was nauseated, had chest and stomach pain, and had urinated on herself, the suit alleges, but the gym teacher told her only to return to her first-grade classroom, which she did without supervision or escort.

In the classroom, the teacher noted Katina's sickly appearance and sent her to the principal's office, again alone and without escort, the suit alleges. Minutes later, the girl was found by a school official in the hallway, slumped over a roll of construction paper, the suit claims. She again reported nausea, chest pain and discomfort, but was only taken to the principal's office, given a change of pants and placed in a bathroom by herself, the suit claims.

The girl was later found in the bathroom, "collapsed on the floor in an altered state of consciousness," according to the release. At the time, school officials were on the phone with Katina's grandmother, telling her the girl had wet her pants, the suit claims. No professional health assistance was ever offered, the suit claims.

Paramedics were subsequently called, and found the girl struggling to breathe, the suit alleges. Resuscitation efforts were attempted and Katina was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, where she was pronounced dead, the suit claims.

But here's two questions, the issues that the emotions of the case would probably overwhelm at trial: how does a 7-year-old die of a heart attack, and should the teachers be held responsible for not recognizing that rather bizarre possibility?

A portable cardio-defibrillator was within feet of where the girl died, but no one at the school was trained to use it; there is frankly no evidence anyone thought to try to use it. This could be evidence they anticipated such a problem, but is more likely evidence that the district had money left over in their budget and needed to spend it on something or risk facing a budget cut in the future.

I wager the school will settle.

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News That's Fit To Fake

It looks as though the Katie Couric era at CBS news will maintain Dan Rather's exacting standards.

You'd think by now CBS would realize that bloggers aren't idiots, and many know all sorts of PhotoShop tricks.

They say the camera adds 10 pounds. CBS added the stupid all on its own.

UPDATE: It was Photoshopped. CBS comes clean:

No, Katie Couric didn't suddenly lose 20 pounds. The incoming "CBS Evening News" anchor appears significantly thinner in a network promotional magazine photo thanks to digital airbrushing.


CBS News President Sean McManus said he was "obviously surprised and disappointed when I heard about it."

Good for him. Now if we can just get him to be skeptical of photos coming out of Gaza and south Laebanon.
Couric, 49, said she hadn't known about the digitally reworked version until she saw the issue. The former NBC "Today" show host told the Daily News, "I liked the first picture better because there's more of me to love."

They really want me to believe this?
Gil Schwartz, executive vice president of communications for CBS Corp., said Wednesday in a phone interview the photo alteration was done by someone in the CBS photo department who "got a little zealous."

But he dismissed any notion of heads rolling over the matter.

"I talked to my photo department, we had a discussion about it," Schwartz said. "I think photo understands this is not something we'd do in the future."

Someone got "zealous"? Over what? Is Katie Couric's waistline some kind of religious icon? Yikes!

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SUV Crazy

An SUV driver has finally done what we've always suspected a stereotypical SUV driver might do:

A man targeted pedestrians with his sport utility vehicle Tuesday, killing one man and injuring at least 13 people and himself, authorities said.

Among the injured are a young child. Only the first person struck was killed. The others were run down later, after the driver crossed the bay to San Francisco from Fremont.

The man is being questioned, as is his family.

UPDATE: The San Jose Mercury News has more:
The victims appear to include a Fremont man, a 78-year-old man who was using a cane to cross the street when he was struck, and a woman in her 70s. Earlier reports that a child was injured was incorrect.

"It's one of the craziest things I've seen in my years on the force,'' said San Francisco police Sgt. Neville Gittens. "This individual was driving around the city mowing people down."

They have not released the name of the driver in custody, but the Department of Motor Vehicles has released the name of the person the SUV, a black Honda Pilot, is registered to: Omeed A. Popal, of Fremont.

The million dollar question: is that a Muslim name, and is this a frelance Jihadi, like the driver in North Carolina?

If it is, we won't hear anything about it from the authorities. If it is not, they'll fall all over themselves to tell us. It's pathetic that in America we have to treat news like this in the same way my wife once treated news coming from the Soviet-era Kremlin: all tea leaves, no straightforward facts.

The rest of the Mercury News article deserves a read, if only for the sheer drama.

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I Told You So Redux

The Mexican judges charged with responding to losing candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's complaints of fraud have eviscerated AMLO's complaints and cleared the way for Felipe Calderon's inauguration. As I suspected, the recount of 9% of the polls changed the result hardly a whit, and the court dismissed the allegations of fraud as flimsy and unfounded.

Ceci Connolly at the Washington Post recaps the results and reports what might follow should Obrador continue his protest. The most ominous part is that Obrador's party plans to hold its own convention and decide whether to elect Obrador as the "legitimate" President of a resistance government or simply authorize him to be the leader of a peaceful civil resistance. The latter sounds dangerous, the former like civil war. Perhaps there is some nuance in the rhetoric that is lost on me for not being knowledgeable about Mexican politics.

Typical for Obrador, he doesn't say which role he would prefer, saying instead that it is up to his supporters to decide. He was similarly passive-aggressive when the protests first began, saying that he couldn't control how his supporters reacted to his loss, even as he stoked the controversy surrounding the election results.

Also ominous are the coincidence of three events that will take place in coming weeks in the Zocalo, the locus of the protests: Vincente Fox's final state of the union address, the Mexican Independence celebrations, and Fox's final review of the Mexican military.

I think the controversy may die down now that the judges have found so strongly against Obrador. 70% of the Mexican public is against his party's planned "convention", and even his party's spokesman seems to recognize that Obrador has lost his fight. It is better for Mexico the sooner it ends: a country with such mature elections after so many years of corruption deserves a better fate.

Midnight News -- 8/29/06

George Bush will not make the same mistake twice. He, as well as leading Democrats, are racing to the Gulf Coast in solidarity with the victims that Hurricane Ernesto has not yet created. In a related story, Wizbang has an analysis of last year's levee break in New Orleans. New Orleans was doomed the moment Katrina made landfall, and would probably be doomed should Ernesto turn to the west.

The British newspaper the Telegraph insists that Hassan Nasrallah has made himself enormously popular by claiming on Lebanese television that he did not expect Israel's robust response to his attack. They speak of him the way a preteen girl speaks of a pop star. Big Pharaoh provides information suggesting the Telegraph may be misreporting the truth about Lebanese opinion.

Gas prices have mercifully dropped. It has less to do with oil imports than refinery capacity and gasoline supply. It has always had less to do with oil imports than refinery capacity and gasoline supply. When gas prices go up in the future, it will be less due to available oil imports than refinery capacity and gasoline supply. It is problems with refinery capacity and gasoline supply that cause high gas prices, and not oil imports. How long do I have to say it before someone builds another damn refinery?

A team from Columbus, Georgia has beaten a team from Kawaguchi City, Japan to win the Little League World Series. It's the second year in a row the U.S. team has won.

Monday was another bad day for airline travel.

Desperate to make a case for himself as a viable Democratic candidate for President, Joseph Biden makes an unfortunate argument. If he wants to run for President, he'll have to learn not to say things like this.

The Farmer's Almanac predicts a frigid winter to come. They were more or less right about last year's winter, and claim 80-85 percent accuracy.

Thugs broke into a forest preserve in Australia and killed a favorite koala.

Marapana manager Tim Mullany says Mambo was so friendly he would have rushed towards the intruders, who are believed to have bashed the animal, possibly tearing off an arm, before the dingoes found and attacked him.

That koala could have worked for the U.S. State Department, so trusting was he in the face of mortal danger. He could have also worked for the U.N., the mainstream media, academia, about half of Congress, and the Democrat Naional Committee.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Allah's Enemy... a lovely 16-year-old Australian girl.

Ayten Ahmet, a Muslim teenager from Melbourne, has advanced to the final round of competition to become one of two representatives from Victoria to the Miss Teen Australia pageant. This action has infuriated Muslim leaders in that Australian state.

A spokesman for Melbourne cleric Sheik Mohammed Omran last week branded the competition, which involves swimsuit parades, as a "slur on Islam". And Victorian Islamic leader Yasser Soliman said the contest did not conform with the teachings of the Koran.

But fortunately, her family is that rarest of breeds: the moderate, assimilated Muslim:
Parents Salih and Sarah Ahmet said their daughter was a typical teenager, and her faith was irrelevant to the contest.


Mr Ahmet said the family respected their religion, but his daughter was entitled to participate.

"We are not flying any flags, we are Australians first and foremost," Mr Ahmet said. "We live in a democracy, we respect the religion as well, and they are good kids and come from a good upbringing."

Some leaders in the Muslim community have backed away from Sheik Omran's comments, and this is to their credit. They really ought to be running away furiously from the comments, but every journey begins with a first step.