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.

Once Again, Never Again

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is so evil that he does not know he is evil. This is the only explanation for his bizarre letter to Germany's Angela Merkel, in which he denies the Holocaust only to justify its repetition.

"Is it not a reasonable possibility that some countries that had won the war made up this excuse to constantly embarrass the defeated people ... to bar their progress," Ahmadinejad said in the letter.

"The question is if these countries, especially Britain, felt responsible for the Holocaust survivors, why they did not settle them in their own countries?" it said.

He understands the Jewish people as one would a herd of sheep. It is not that Britain chose Palestine for the Jews at the expense of Arabs. Rather, Jews expanded their settlements already there and took responsibility for creating their own state.
"By promoting the necessity of settlement of Holocaust survivors in the occupied Palestine, they have created a constant threat in the Middle East," he said, referring to Israel.

On behalf of Muslims, he is shamed by the proximity of a prosperous Jewish state not under the thumb of Islamic rule. Their escape from the grasp of his coreligionists seems to burn away at him, thus the insane historical rantings.

Iran will hold a conference on the Holocaust in a few months, one which will no doubt be appalling and intellectually monstrous. But we should remember that his goal is not to deny the Holocaust, but to rehabilitate it.

NFL Steroids

The NFL may have a steroid scandal approaching. Not just a one-player, failed-drug-test type scandal, but a big-scale, everybody-looks-bad, the whole-league-is-dirty type scandal:

According to an investigative report posted on the Charlotte Observer's Web site on Sunday, a number of Carolina Panthers used a vast quantity and tremendous variety of performance-enhancing drugs during the team's 2004 Super Bowl season.


Players' names were blacked out on Wadler's report, but the Observer reported that six Panthers -- and three of the five starting offensive linemen from the Super Bowl team -- were taking performance enhancers. And many reported adverse reactions.

Although studies have shown that steroids can affect blood flow and contribute to strokes and heart disease, one member of the Panthers ignored a family history of strokes and took the drugs anyway.

This story is going to get bigger.

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Possible Proof Castro Is Dying

AcademicElephant infers from the following story that Castro may be on his death bed:

Venezuela's President says he made a second visit to Cuban leader Fidel Castro earlier this week.

President Hugo Chavez describes his ailing ally as "recuperating" and says they spoke for a couple of hours.

Chavez' visit was more or less secret, and thus AcademicElephant's inference: had there been good news about Castro's health, Chavez would have arrived with cameras in tow. He did not, therefore Castro's health must be very poor.

We can hope.

In the Australian, Caroline Overington describes how she came to realize that Castro's Cuba was not the paradise she had imagined in here fevered, progressive dreams:
Two years ago, I was given what quickly became an awful assignment. I was told to visit Cuba. Oh sure, like everybody I thought: dark rum, hot nights, fat cigars, the rumba.

The reality was very different. Cuba was wretched. Every day the photographer and I encountered distressing scenes of women, children and ageing Cubans living in terrible poverty.

I should be grateful she eventually figured out that all those nasty right-wing Cubans were telling the truth all along, but I'm not lately inclined to be generous to the dimwitted.
It was a terrible shock because, like many people, I'd believed the hype about Cuba: that it was a socialist paradise; that Castro was a visionary leader; that the Cuban people were happy communists. In fact, Castro is a gutless dictator who has never been brave enough to hold a presidential election. Yet across the West he continues to be celebrated as some grand, visionary leader, instead of being derided as a lunatic on his last legs.

If she really was a believer, then she probably owes a number of people an apology. People like her, people who "celebrated" Castro, are responsible for denouncing and denigrating those who have always understood Castro was a lunatic, long before he was on his last legs. Now that she's found her courage, she might take the time to recognize the Cuban dissidents who have always been courageous enough to tell the truth.


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Dumb Blogger

So, I'm still waiting for HTML editor that was promised in a time frame of "days, not weeks" almost two weeks ago. And I'm still waiting for my Google AdSense ads to appear, and the DiggIt links, and so on, and so on. But while I'm waiting I've discovered yet another bizarre glitch.

A few days ago I clicked on a referring link from my logs. I could see it was to somebody's Blogger dashboard, but I was curious if it was simply a "Next Blog" hit or if there was some other link on the page. It turns out, the particular dashboard page was on the Korean blogger site, or at least I think it was Korean. I think, fine, whatever, and log in. Since then, every time I go the dashboard on my home computer, the site is in Korean. Every single time. At right is a partial screenshot.

How stupid is the programming that it thinks one visit means I want to work in the Korean version of blogger.

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I Told You So

Eleven days ago I wrote the following about John Mark Karr:

The man is a pedophile obsessed with the death of JonBenet Ramsey, and think it highly unlikely his confession will hold up once DNA evidence is tested. Despite all the talk, we never really left square one on this case.

I was right.

Since the prosecutors have declined to file charges, John Mark Karr can be returned to California to serve his time for possession of child pornography. His release from jail for that charge will probably be heavily covered by the media, so we can then learn whether he really is planning a sex change.

The media's insistent belief that not only had the JonBenet Ramsey murder been solved, but that the Ramseys' deserved all manner of mea culpas for ever having been suspected of the crime, only proves that the media is full of pompous, preening buffoons. In no way did Karr's sudden appearance exonerate the Ramseys: if he were guilty, given the facts of the crime, he would at least have to have been inside the Ramsey's home, making the parents possibly complicit; if he were innocent, then his appearance in no way relieved the parents of suspicion. After they had rushed to a judgment about Karr, they rushed to decry their prior rush to judgement about the Ramseys. We'd have all been better off if these reporters had chosen a career in janitorial science instead of journalism.

As I noted previously, Drunkablog has been covering the case more than is healthy,
as he now admits. I'm sure his friends and family are happy to have him back. But before he returned to his senses, such as they were, he did find this nugget of wisdom from the World Socialist Web Site. It is rapidly becoming axiomatic that while all idiots may not be leftists, all leftists are idiots.

Upon being cleared, one of Karr's lawyers, Seth Temin, advocated so zealously on behalf of his client that he nearly managed to defy the laws of physics:
"We're deeply distressed by the fact that they took this man and dragged him here from Bangkok, Thailand, with no forensic evidence confirming the allegations against him and no independent factors leading to a presumption that he did anything wrong," Temin said.

Let's see, what's insane in that statement?
  1. He was returned to California because he violated laws against child pornography in that jurisdiction.
  2. He confessed on international television.
  3. Champagne and fried prawns hardly constitute "dragging."
  4. He confessed on international television.
  5. He was returned Colorado because he refused to challenge a duly legal extradition warrant in a California court.
  6. He confessed on international television.
  7. He alluded to his guilt to two different sources, who each kept records of his statements.
  8. He confessed on international television.
Yes, his arrest makes no sense at all.

One last point: I heard a few of my friends say things like this about Karr: "Why would he confess if he didn't do it?" For the record, I've never heard anyone ask a question like that when it actually made sense. Every time I've heard someone say, "Why do x, it makes no sense," that person has only succeeded in displaying naivete and ignorance. There is always a very solid reason that someone would do something that seems crazy, and its because that person is crazy. Karr confessed because he had a broken mind to begin with and somehow convinced himself he was guilty. It's called human nature, and it isn't always sunshine and moonbeams. The next time you hear someone say, "Why would somebody do that?" remind them of that fact.

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Hurricane Ernesto Reaches Cuba

Hurricane Ernesto made landfall this morning more or less right on top of the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay and the terrorist detention center there. My question, what do they do with the prisoners? The vast majority of people held there are monstrous, using every opportunity to harass and intimidate the Marine guards, including hurling feces at them. Do they all sit together in a shelter? Are left in their open air cages? Can we just put them all on a little boat and hope they sink in the bay?

UPDATE: Question answered (see page 2 of the article). The prisoners are no longer housed in open air cages, and haven't been for some time:

For the last three years, detainees have been kept in cells without windows or with a single window covered with a heavy steel hurricane shutter. The cells replaced the open steel cages where prisoners were initially held.

U.S. military personnel, except for guards and people in other critical jobs, were told to stay in their quarters until the storm passed, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Defense Department spokesman.

My image of the open air cages persisted.

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Midnight News -- 8/28/06

The Washington Post implies there is something fishy about how few homicide charges are brought against American troops responsible for civilian deaths in the Iraq War. That may be the case, but it is more important to ask why the Washington Post and other media outlets are willing to equivocate when American lives are taken by terrorists, and cry injustice when Americans accidentally take the lives of Iraqis. It seems that civilian deaths only discredit the force responsible when that force is American or Israeli. I would be more inclined to take the Post's concerns seriously did it not so often act as defense attorney for groups that would prefer to chop off my head for not submitting to Islam rather than praise my country's application of the rule of law.

Thousands of Central American children risk "robbery, rape and death" to sneak into the U.S. illegally. The primary source of their suffering is the desperate economies of parts of Central America. The secondary source is our lax and indolent treatment of our own borders. Our unwillingness to act like we deserve to enforce our own immigration laws offers these children a false hope, and entice them into making the cruel passage north.

The pilots of Comair flight somehow made a horrible mistake. The lone survivor was the co-pilot, and he will carry the weight of this tragedy on his shoulders for the rest of his life. I think I would prefer to be one of the 49 fatalities.

Public school teachers in Detroit have voted to strike, beginning tomorrow. From some colleagues in that area, I learned that the teachers are highly motivated for two reasons. First, they haven't had a raise in four years, and are beginning to feel stretched. Second, their union has caved so many times in the past that many believe that should the union agree to the proposed pay and benefit cuts, that the union would effectively be broken. One strategy I heard bandied about, and which I think the teachers will regret not employing, would have had the teachers delay a strike until next week, when the students arrive. It would have shown good faith, allowed more time for negotiation, and would have given the teachers a chance to cause real pain, by forcing the schools to somehow manage all those teacherless students.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Another Reason To Shrink The Government

According to some experts, the United States is falling apart.

A pipeline shuts down in Alaska. Equipment failures disrupt air travel in Los Angeles. Electricity runs short at a spy agency in Maryland.

None of these recent events resulted from a natural disaster or terrorist attack, but they may as well have, some homeland security experts say. They worry that too little attention is paid to how fast the country's basic operating systems are deteriorating.


The American Society of Civil Engineers last year graded the nation "D" for its overall infrastructure conditions, estimating that it would take $1.6 trillion over five years to fix the problem.

I once heard an analyst from the Cato Institute describe big government as a luxury we purchase for ourselves when the economy is strong. I think this is a wise insight, and can be expanded by noting that when we buy ourselves a luxury, it usually has little to do with our actual needs. A luxury item isn't usually an expensive version of a necessity, it is an impulsive purchase for which no prior need existed. In this sense, the big government we support when times are good is not big government that will prove useful, but simply a popular impulse in response to a supposed, not actual, need.

All those billions we've thrown at expanded regulations and expensive programs are now coming back to haunt us. Most of them should be tossed aside as unaffordable luxuries, so that money can diverted to infrastructure or taxes cut for those industries that can improve infrastructure. It pains me to say it, but even the so-called "big-government conservative" programs I generally support, such as a Mars mission and NCLB, probably need to be dropped in favor of infrastructure spending. We shouldn't tolerate living in a country where our elites preen at their own superiority for passing grandiose federal programs, while all around us we see deterioration and decay.

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Government By Gangster

The kidnapping of FOX News journalist Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig represented something at least unusual. Prior kidnappings of Westerners in Gaza were short lived, but the two journalists were held for several days, and were even subjected to a forced conversion. The internecine feuds driving Gaza politics are responsible for this strange kidnapping case.

In its broadcasts, Fox News often portayed the Hamas militants as terrorists, but the kidnapping of the two journalists, sources tell TIME, had nothing to do with Fox's perceived pro-Israel stance or a serious attempt, as the captors first demanded, of swapping the pair for Muslim prisoners in the U.S. Instead, the two newsmen were more likely the victims of a vicious feud between various Palestinian militias.

Palestinian security sources close to the negotiators told TIME that the two Fox Newsmen - reporter Steve Centanni, 60, from Washington, D.C., and New Zealand cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36 - were kidnapped from Gaza to embarrass Haniyeh's government. The militants, who earlier identified themselves as members of the previously unknown Holy Jihad Brigades, were enraged with fellow Hamas militants because they too had joined in the daring capture on June 25th of Corp. Shalit, in which Palestinian gunmen tunneled under a wall and attacked an Israeli army post. But according to these security sources, the militant groups fell out after Hamas' military wing took control of Shalit and elbowed the other co-conspirators aside.

In revenge, these militants, who belong to a splinter group of the late Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, struck back by seizing the two journalists, these sources said.

The Palestinian pseudo-state is governed by gangsters, and this fact alone makes their government one with which no deal can be struck. I don't know what can be done instead, since the Palestinians are such the darlings of the international community and the U.N., but we ought to at least recognize their government and political culture for what it is: barbarous collections of armed thugs, driven by irrational hatreds and preoccupations.

The problem that follows from the kidnapping is the price that Ismail Haniyeh had to pay to secure the journalists' release: the hard line militants will now have a say in whether Gilad Shalit is released.

Also mentioned in the TIME article is the air strike against a car carrying various Palestinian journalists:
The reporters' car was clearly marked "TV" and the crew were filming the destruction of an Israeli air raid when the missile struck. The Israeli military said the journalists' vehicle was acting suspiciously, a claim that the Foreign Press Association in Tel Aviv dismissed as "outrageous."

Given the outright lies in "news" stories from both Lebanon and Gaza, and the willingness of terror groups and militants to use civilians as cover for their attacks, I think the notion that the Israeli claim is "outrageous" is outrageous itself. The Israeli claim may be true, it may be untrue, but unbelievable it is not.

The strenuous response from the Foreign Press Association suggests they also think the military's claim may prove true. In other words, methinks the Muslim doth protest too much.

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Brewers-Rangers Trade One Month Later

On July 28, the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers completed a typical deadline trade: the Brewers got a strong relief pitcher to shore up their bullpen and the Rangers got a soon-to-be free agent slugger and a prospect in return. I thought at the time the trade would help the Brewers but made no sense for the Rangers, and now that it's been a month we can see if that statement was accurate.

In the trade, the Brewers received four players: reliever Francisco Cordero, outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix, left-hander Julian Cordero. Texas received Carlos Lee and top prospect Nelson Cruz.

Nix is a bench player and Julian Cordero is a minor leaguer; neither was expected to have much of an impact on the season. The primary player in the trade for Milwaukee was Francisco Cordero, and Mensch was included to replace the player the Brewers gave up, Carlos Lee, and as a sign of Lee's value.

I'll use July 29 as the baseline, even though F. Cordero pitched on the 28th; the 29th is the first date that all players had settled in with their new teams. On that day, one day after the trade, the Brewers record was 49-55, and they were 9.5 games out of first place in the NL Central and 6 games back, tied for fourth place, in the wild card. As of today, they are 62-67, 6.5 games out of first place, and are only 4.5 games back for the wild card, but behind 6 other teams in seventh place.

My thought at the trade was that since F. Cordero was a strike out pitcher, he'd be missed by Texas and effective for Milwaukee. Since the trade he's come in as the teams closer, pitching 11.2 of about 120 innings for the team. He's compiled a remarkable record, with 10 saves in 10 opportunities and no losses. He has yet to give up any runs, and has had 15 hits and walks against 13 strike outs. If the teams has not won more games, it is because the starters and the offense has not gotten to th 8th or 9th inning with a lead.

One reason why this might be the case is the loss of slugger Carlos Lee. The acquisition of Kevin Mensch was intended to replace Lee, so the immediate wisdon of the trade might be an issue of whether losing Lee cost the team any of the leads that may have allowed F. Cordero's performance to help them. Since he's come to the Brewers, Mench's average has dropped 50 points and his OPS has gone from a respectable .797 to a lowly .573. He's scored but 5 runs and only driven in 13, and has seen limited playing time in the last two weeks. This shouldn't surprise: until this year, he's only played in the American League.

The best comparison is to what they might have had from Carlos Lee had they not traded him. In the 21 games he played for the Brewers in July, Lee had 8 runs and 17 RBI, and thus was only marginally more productive than Mench. The Brewers may have a problem in left field, but Mench's presence instead of Lee has hardly hurt the Brewers win percentage.

On July 29, Texas had a record of 51-53, was 3 games back AL West, and was 11 back for wild card in sixth place. As of today they are 66-65, 9 games back, and still in sixth place for the wild card, 11.5 games back.

For Texas, the value of the trade isn't just what they get in Lee, but what they lose by giving up F. Cordero. In his last 12 appearances for the Rangers, used as a setup reliever and not a closer. Cordero had 16 strike outs against a 14 hits and 4 walks. He gave 5 runs, all earned, 4 of them in a single game against the New York Yankees.

In his place, the top 2 setup men for Texas have mainly been Wes Littleton and Ron Mahay; these two seem to be the best players to compare to Cordero. In August, Mahay has 14 Ks and has given up 4 runs, 3 earned, in 11.2 innings. In the same month, Littleton has 1 strike out and has given up 4 runs, all earned, in 13.2 innings. Against that lone strike out, he has given up 12 hits and 4 walks. Losing Cordero can be said to have changed nothing, since he had not pitched that much better than either of these men, or it could be said to have cost 2 or 3 runs. Unlike Mahay and Littleton, Cordero had been consistently strong excpet for one bad appearance against the Yankees.

Meanwhile, Carlos Lee has provided more offense for Texas than Mench has for the Brewers, but little more than Mench did before the trade. His slugging percentage since joining the Rangers has been an unexciting .517, and though he has hit well, he has drawn few walks. However, compared to Mench, he has been a run scoring machine. He has 24 runs and 15 RBI. In his last 28 games with the Rangers, Mench had 7 runs and 10 RBI.

Lee has probably benefited from playing a stronger line up and in a park that allows a lot of offense. In this sense, they've improved their team by including him, because he has taken advantage of the park in a way that Mench never has. That his presence has not helped the team greatly is a function of a pitching staff that did not improve from the trade, and arguably became weaker.

Ultimately, this trade will probably mean little to either franchise. Unless Nix, Cruz, or Julian Cordero turn into top players down the line, the whole episode will be quite forgettable. Neither team improved greatly after the trade, and neither team will reach the playoffs this year. But it is interesting to note that the two primary players in the deal, F. Cordero and Lee, have been rejuvenated somewhat by the change. Cordero, for 12 games at least, has gone from a slightly above average set up reliever to a top closer, and Lee, in terms of runs, has become more productive than he had been in Milwaukee. At least their agents will be happy, and Milwaukee, with an important position solidified, can build for next year.

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FOX News Journalists Freed

As Ismail Haniyeh had predicted, Olaf Wiig and Steve Centanni have been released by their captors.

The two journalists were dropped off at Gaza City's Beach Hotel by Palestinian security officials and appeared to be in good health. A tearful Centanni embraced a Palestinian journalist briefly as he entered, then rushed upstairs as Wiig followed.

Centanni, in a phone interview shortly after his release, said "I'm fine. I'm just so happy to be free."

He said he was so emotional because he was out and alive.

"There were times when I thought 'I'm dead,' and I'm not," Centanni said. "I'm fine. I'm so very happy."

Prior to their release, the kidnappers released another videotape.
Parts of the latest six-minute tape, aired on al-Jazeera television, showed Centanni and Wiig seated cross-legged. Both read from written statements condemning the American policy in the Middle East. In one scene, both men were shown eating.

"It is Apache helicopters firing Hellfire missiles made in America that kill the residents in Gaza," Wiig said on the tape.

Their statements were punctuated on the tape with screens of written verse from the Koran, and scenes from Abu Ghraib, the prison in Iraq that was the site of abuse of Muslim prisoners by American soldiers.

Despite this barbaric treatment, the two men still very positive towards the Palestinians.
At a news conference, Centanni and Wiig said they worried that their kidnapping might discourage other news organizations from reporting on the Palestinians, whom Centanni said "are beautiful."

"That would be a great tragedy for the people of Palestinians" if their story does not get told, Wiig said. "You guys need us on the streets."

The end of the FOX News story, which included material from the Associated Press, tries to put the kidnapping into perspective.
In chaotic Gaza, gunmen often change their affiliation or form splinter groups. Their agendas are often driven by personal issues, including jobs and power for their clans, rather than by ideology.

They sound almost like old-fashioned hillbillies. Except for the death worship and the blowing up of Jews.

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Midnight News -- 8/27/06

The Sudan has charged a Chicago Tribune reporter with espionage.

Paul Salopek, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, was charged with espionage and two other criminal counts in a Sudanese court Saturday, three weeks after he was detained by pro-government forces in the war-torn province of Darfur.


Salopek was on a scheduled leave of absence from the Tribune when he and the two Chadians were detained Aug. 6 and jailed. All three were officially charged Saturday with espionage, passing information illegally and writing "false news," in addition to a violation of Sudan's immigration laws by entering the country without a visa.

Though unable to convince his own militia to quit launching rockets at Israel, Prime Minister of the Palestinian pseudo-state Ismail Haniyeh is convinced the release of kidnapped FOX newsmen is imminent.

The Israeli Air Force apparently struck an armored car containing Palestinian journalists. None were killed, and Pallywood has a new storyline.

Iraqi civil defense workers are unsung heroes in the sectarian violence in Baghdad. It is really a question of how long they will keeping working for the benefit of a weak central government that cannot at this point protect even them from violence.

Democratic candidates are discovering that courting the left means riding a tiger. The left does not wish to confront real threats, preferring instead more aggrandizing policies that involve spending other people's money to satiate their egalitarian whims. A war against people that want us all dead is to them only a distraction, and they want that distraction to end as soon as possible, regardless of the consequences. Democrats who realize that an immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be disastrous are finding that however sensible their proposals for ending the war might be, they are not going to satisfy for their most vociferous and demanding supporters.

Tropical Storm Ernesto could strengthen and become a major hurricane. Ernesto is also chatting up your date at the cabana bar, so there's another reason to watch out for him.

An invitation to a conference on freedom of expressions was rescinded for one participant because he was Israeli, and indication the organizers didn't quite grasp the concept of freedom of expression. Some Norwegians offered to grant the person Norwegian citizenship to allow him to bypass the restriction on a technicality, but the participant, a former Israeli MK, declined. Freedom of expression follows directly from the freedom to exist; denying the latter implicitly denies the former.

An advertisement on the Tokyo subways that features a nude and pregnant Britney Spears will not be censored as originally planned. This is not good news for America.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Insult Upon Injury

The fact they survived for months on raw fish and rainwater does not stop the vultures of the Mexican press from invading the lives of three fisherman.

The story captivated Mexico when first reported last week. Having disappeared in October, family members said, the fishermen and their 27-foot skiff turned up two weeks ago in the central Pacific halfway between North America and Australia, a blip on the radar screen of a tuna vessel north of Baker Island.

But the 100 or so journalists who greeted the survivors at Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport are more used to reporting crime and scandal than heroism. They grilled the three men at an often chaotic news conference that ended in a melee between producers and cameramen from rival television networks.

This is the tragic part: an ordeal like this alone would be fascinating were anyone to take it seriously enough to tell these fishermen's story, but the press is too caught up with themselves to do so.
Is it true that you guys are really drug dealers on a failed smuggling mission, the reporters asked. What happened to the two other men who you say were on board with you? Did you eat them? If you were at sea for nine months, why aren't your fingernails longer?

"To those who don't believe us, all I can say is that I hope that what happened to us never happens to you," Lucio Rendon, 27, said after denying that he and his comrades [Salvador Ordoñez and Jesus Vidaña] were either "narcos" or cannibals. "I just thank God for being here."

The truth should be enough, but it probably isn't sick enough for the media.
Family members say the three are typical fishermen from a stretch of coast dotted with hardscrabble fishing hamlets. When they left San Blas with two other men on Oct. 28, they didn't notify port authorities, or even many members of their family — not an unusual practice in an area where many fish illegally.


The survivors have said in interviews that they set off in search of shark, but have not said whether they were licensed. Their first night out, they lost a fishing line. While they tried to find it the next morning, their onboard engines ran out of gas. They began to drift.

One of the men, known to the others only by the nickname "El Farsero," died in January. Fifteen days later, a second man, known to the others as "Juan," died. The men either wouldn't eat or couldn't hold down the raw fish the others were eating to survive.

The other two men have not been identified, which does not seem surprising given the fishing industry of these little Mexican towns. The fact they dies so early has led to the accusations of cannibalism.
The men read a Bible they had on board. When a storm ripped out the Apocalypse chapters, they said, they took it as a good sign.

I think a case could be made that moral imagination allows people to persevere, and having the Bible with them no doubt insipred them.
They collected rainwater to drink. Ordoñez remembered advice from a government-sponsored survival course: Eat as little as possible and drink fish blood to stay hydrated. (Officials in San Blas confirmed that Ordoñez completed the course in 2004.)

Score one for a government program.
Upon hearing of his presumed death, Ordoñez's 15-year-old daughter, Gladiola, gave up her dream of being a teacher, dropped out of school and set out for the United States, the newspaper La Cronica de Hoy reported Thursday.

"My father is dead," Gladiola told her brother Angel. "What will I do here? I don't even have money for a notebook." Gladiola crossed the border illegally and reportedly is working in a Los Angeles factory, the newspaper reported. The account could not be independently verified.

The story is possible, but it sounds too good to be true, especially from a country where there is much resentment at America for acting like it has a right to defend its borders. I wonder how the "hardscrabble" life she endured in this little village would have allowed her income enough to go to school in the first place, and thus why her circumstances so changed upon her father's supposed death. That the story has not been verified illustrates the problem with how the Mexican press is treating these men. They treat the most salacious rumors as though they were true, as though these men were Brangelina.
Rendon, it turned out, was on probation on charges of stealing shrimp from a fishing company. A mortgage company was about to foreclose on the family home of Vidaña, 27. Vidaña's wife had given birth to their baby, a girl — Juliana is now 4 months old. And while talking with Ordoñez in a phone call broadcast live by the Televisa network, his family in Oaxaca learned that he had moved in with a woman in San Blas.

But little has emerged about the two men said to have died at sea. "Up to now they are only ghosts," the newspaper El Universal wrote Tuesday. "No one knows their full names or where they're from. It's as if they never existed."

We might learn the truth if the press were interested in more than the following:
At Friday's airport news conference, a radio reporter asked the three men whether they would take lie detector tests to prove that their story was true.

Yes, the fishermen answered.

After the news conference, producers from the rival Televisa and Azteca television networks engaged in a shoving match over who would get the first "exclusive" interview with the three men: Televisa ended up with two of the survivors, Azteca with one.

Reporter Carlos Loret de Mola prodded Ordoñez and Rendon until they acknowledged that, yes, at one point they had drunk their own urine to survive.

The press probably won't bother finding out who the other two fishermen are: ghosts and victims of cannibalism make better copy.

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