If you hear London calling, run in the opposite direction

This is London calling, and it’s not a place you want to go. First, from Melanie Phillips, we get a view into how the media, especially the British media, reported the war (hat tip: Crossing the Rubicon):

In short, much of the most incendiary media coverage of this war seems to have been either staged or fabricated. The big question is why the western media would perpetrate such institutionalised mendacity. Many ancillary reasons come to mind. There is the reliance upon corrupted news and picture agencies which employ Arab propagandists as stringers and cameramen. There is the herd mentality of the media which decides collectively what the story is. There is the journalists’ fear for their personal safety if they report the truth about terrorist outfits. There is the difficulty of discovering the truth from undemocratic regimes and terrorist organisations. There is the language barrier; there is professional laziness; there is the naïve inability to acknowledge the depths of human evil and depravity; there is the moral inversion of the left which believes that western truth-tellers automatically tell lies, while third world liars automatically tell the truth.

But the big answer is that the western media transmit the lies of Hezbollah because they want to believe them. And that’s because the Big Lie these media tell — and have themselves been told — about Israel and its place in history and in the world today has achieved the status of unchallengeable truth. The plain fact is that western journalists were sent to cover the war being waged against Israel from Lebanon as a war being waged by Israel against Lebanon. And that’s because that’s how editors think of the Middle East: that the whole ghastly mess is driven by Israel’s actions, and that therefore it is only Israel’s aggression which is the story to be covered. Thus history is inverted, half a century of Jewish victimisation is erased from public consciousness, victims are turned into aggressors and genocidal mass murderers turned into victims, and ignorance and prejudice stalk England’s once staunch and stalwart land.

That’s why the fact that hundreds of thousands of refugees from the north of Israel fled to the shelter of strangers in the south; that within one third of Israel, those too poor or old or handicapped or disadvantaged to seek refuge elsewhere were forced to live in shelters for a month in great hardship; that the entire economy of northern Israel was effectively shut down for a month; that thousands of rockets were fired at northern Israel, hundreds every day, many times more than were daily fired at Britain during the Blitz — that’s why none of this was reported in Britain (where as a result such facts, when now related, are received with open-mouthed astonishment) because journalists were told to ignore it all since that wasn’t the story their editors wanted. Israel’s victimisation simply was not, could not, be the story. The only story was Israel’s aggression. But that story is a Big Lie. So a host of lies were transmitted to support it.

Second, we get to see how this Big Lie plays out on London’s streets (hat tip: Seraphic Secret):

A 12-year-old Jewish girl who was beaten unconscious and robbed by anti-Semitic yobs on a bus has spoken out at her disgust that no-one came to her aid.

The girl, who does not want to be identified, was stamped on several times in a racist attack lasting around five minutes while on board a 303 Metroline bus in Mill Hill, north London.

At 6.30pm on August 11, she and a friend were sitting at the back of the bus when a group of around four girls got on at the Concourse, Grahame Park estate, and asked them if they were English or Jewish.

They both replied they were “fully English”.

One girl in the group asked the victim for money, but she said she did not have any.

She and her friend tried to leave the bus at Mill Hill Broadway but were blocked by the gang who searched their pockets and stole a bracelet.

One girl hit the victim around the face with her phone, slapped her several times, grabbed her hair and pulled her to the floor, where she was kicked and stamped on. She was left with a fractured eye socket, bruising and swelling to her face and chest.

“All I remember is her stamping on my face,” she said. “Me and my friend were screaming. Then I blacked out. There were four people on the bus who didn’t do anything.”

After regaining consciousness, the girl and her friend tried to pull the bus doors open to escape.

She said: “The driver heard the attack and didn’t open the doors. A boy opened the doors for us and I ran off.”

It’s becoming a scary thought indeed, that there might “always be an England.”  I’m sorry for those of you Brits who are good, and honorable, and true.  Your ancient country is becoming a place where you no longer belong.

The old anti-War warriors

If ever a single article told you everything you need to know about the torch the old anti-War protestors carry for their youth, you have to read this editorial by Andrew Rosenthal, the NY Times’ Assistant Editor (so the editorial also tells you a lot about the NYT). In Rosenthal’s world view, protest is an end unto itself, and he finds repugnant the fact that this generation is (to his mind) unwilling to take to the streets. Here’s just a part of it (and please note that Rumsfeld’s innocuous and apolitical speech has now morphed into Rumsfeld terrorizing anti-War anti-War protestors by calling them Nazis):

This, perhaps, is the ultimate difference between the Vietnam generation and the Iraq generation: When you hear Young and Company sing of “four dead in Ohio,” their Kent State anthem, it’s hard to imagine anyone on today’s campuses willing to face armed troops. Is there anything they care about that much?

Student protesters helped drive Lyndon Johnson — in so many ways a powerful, progressive president — out of office because of his war. In 2004, George W. Bush — in so many ways a weak, regressive president — was re-elected despite his war. And the campuses were silent.

There was a brief burst of protest when America first invaded Iraq. But if there is a college movement against the war, it’s hiding pretty well. Vietnam never had the moral clarity that the 9/11 attacks provided to this generation’s war. But in Iraq that proved to be a false clarity, and a majority of Americans now say they oppose the war and no longer trust Mr. Bush’s leadership of it.

But because there is no draft — a fact that Graham Nash noted sardonically on Sunday night — no young person has to fear being conscripted into the fight. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Americans find it much easier to stay silent when there is no shared sacrifice.

This war is also largely hidden from American eyes. Unlike Vietnam, when journalists were free to witness and record combat operations, the Pentagon controls access to American troops in Iraq and the images that come with it. The Pentagon banned press coverage of the flag-draped coffins returning home from Iraq. The president refused to attend the funerals of soldiers. Even the cost of this war was tucked from the very start into “supplemental bills” that magically don’t count toward the budget deficit.

The pressure to be silent is great. This week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared critics of Mr. Bush’s Iraq policy to those who appeased Adolf Hitler. And antiwar protesters are told they’re un-American, cowardly and lending aid and comfort to terrorists.

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Teaching by identity

I blogged earlier about how I was pleased that the California Legislature gutted SB 1437. This bill, as proposed, would have amended various Education Code provisions to require California schools, beginning in first grade, to teach positive lessons about homosexuals. In another post, I explained my position: I certainly do not believe that we should be negative about, or derogatory of homosexuals. However, I was concerned that the bill, as passed, would result in a situation in which some nonentity was placed in the curriculum, not because of his accomplishments, but because he was gay. Now that my kids are in public school, I’m getting the chance to see how public schools are handling their already existing obligation to deal with identity politics in the curriculum — and realizing that my sense about the proposed amendment was correct.
As it stands now, Education Code Section 51204.5 states that

Instruction in social sciences shall include the early history of California and a study of the role and contributions of both men and women, black Americans, American Indians, Mexicans, Asians, Pacific Island people, and other ethnic groups, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.

and Education Code Section 60040 states that

When adopting instructional materials for use in the schools, governing boards shall include only instructional materials which, in their determination, accurately portray the cultural and racial [sic] of our society, including: (a) The contributions of both men and women in all types of roles, including professional, vocational, and executive roles.(b) The role and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, European Americans, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups to the total development of California and the United States.

In other words, just as was being proposed about gays, lesbians, etc., California schools are currently required to highlight people, not because of what they’ve done, but because of their ethnicity.

My first exposure to this policy in action is a homework folder/calendar that my daughter brings home. It’s a useful tool. It’s essentially a calendar that allows my daughter to record her required homework every day, for every subject, with spaces for both the parents and the teacher to sign off. It’s called “Character Counts! School Agenda” and comes from Alliance Publishing & Marketing, Inc., in Maryland. The book includes useful information, such as punctuation guidelines, the basic parts of speech, abbreviations, etc. The book also includes, for every week, the biography of certain people who are meant to show specific character traits such as responsibilty, citizenship, etc.

It’s these mini-bios I find interesting. Here’s the whole list, which I’ve broken down into six paragraphs just to provide some visual relief, with a brief notation for those who are less well known:

Sarah Chang (violinist); George Washington Carver; Bessie Coleman (first female African American pilot); Kyle Maynard (congential amputee and championship wrestler); Lou Gehrig; Hellen Keller; Paul Ruseasabagina (Rwandan who sheltered over a thousand Tutsis); Christopher Reeve; Bethany Hamilton (surfer who lost her arm to a shark); Theodore Roosevelt; Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (a 19th Century Rosa Parks);

Hank Aguirre; Veronica Guerin (crusading Dublin crime reporter); Chico Mendes (environmental activist); Major General Jeanne Holm (first women in the armed forces to become a major general); Ronald Reagan (I was actually surprised to see him here); Gail Small (Native American activist); Thomas Edison; Mother Theresa;

Adi Roche (raises money for Chernobyl victims); Delvar Barrett (former college basketball player who loves his mother); Arnold Palmer; Ruth Bader Ginsburg (lauded for her activism on women’s behalf; apparently Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court justice, wasn’t available for this book); Leonard Covello (Italian American educator who helped Italian immigrants in the early 20th Century);

Ella Fitzgerald; Abraham Lincoln; Temple Grandin (overcame autism); Martin Luther King, Jr.; Marlee Matlin (deaf actress); Chief Joseph; Peter Westbrook (African American championship fencer); Gandhi; Dolores Huerta (co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America); Jim Thorpe; T.A. (Tom) Barron (writes books to teach kids to respect nature); Harriet Tubman; Dean Kamen (inventor);

Joan of Arc; George Harrison (Beatle, who, rather weakly I think, is used to illustrate the trustworthiness section because he helped out Ravi Shankar re troubles in Bangladesh); Konosuke Matsushita (founder of the eponymous company); Oskar Schindler (rescued 1,200 Jews from the Nazis);

Elissa Montanti (started a foundation to help children in war torn or disaster ravaged countries); Albert Schewitzer; Mary Ann Bickerdyke (Union nurse during the Civil War); Mary Hayashi (Korean-born woman who works in various health related areas); Barack Obama; Adrian Cronauer (DJ during the Vietnam War); Ralph Nader (well known anti-Semite and crackpot).

You can draw your own conclusions about the list’s political make-up. For purposes of this post, I’d like to focus on people who seem to be there to fill a quota. The one that first leapt out at me was Mary Hayashi. She sounds like a decent, intelligent, humane and interesting woman, but she also sounds like a quota:

Mary Hayashi , whose family moved from Korea to America when she was a child, reveals how this move helped her grow as a woman in her book, Far From Home : Shattering the Myth of the Model Minority. Today Hayashi is a well-known advocate for the expansion of healthcare delivery coverage. She founded the non-profit National Asian Women’s Health Organization in 1993 to attain equal health benefits for Asian American families. Hayashi has also established the Iris Alliance Fund to help prevent suicide among children and young adults.

Reading the above makes me feel as if I’m reading the resume for someone applying for a corporate position.

Barak Obama also sounds like a filler. Yes, he’s African American, but he’s certainly not the first African American in Congress. Again, it’s just resume reading. Frankly, if they wanted to put an inspiring “minority in Congress” squiblet into this booklet, why not Bobby Jindal? Isn’t he the first Congressman of East Indian descent?

Another quota filler, from the way the bio is written, is Delvar Barrett. To be honest, he sounds like an absolutely lovely young man:

Delvar Barrett took the time to care for his diabetic mother, Vivien, while playing basketball at Ohio University. Growing up in an underprivileged, gang-ridden area of Detroit, Barrett was teased for being especially poor. When offered a basketball scholarshiop at Ohio, he happily accepted — and took his mother withhim. Barrett then balanced full-time studies and athletics with cooking, cleaning, and caring for Vivian in their shared apartment. After graudation, he became a pharmacy technician. He continues to care for his mother.

As I said, Barrett sounds like a lovely, decent young man. But has he really done something significant enough to be included in the pantheon with Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, and Thomas Edison? He loved his mother? (That keeps making me think of Tom Lehrer’s masterful song about Oedipus Rex.) I’m all for mother-love, being one myself, but this is stretching.

So it goes: A bizarre mix of genuinely accomplished people, who represent a spectrum of race, colors and creeds, mixed in with decent, hardworking people who appear merely to fill quota requirements. What’s sad about this isn’t that it has a slightly demeaning smell about (“sorry, we couldn’t find a better Asian woman”), but also that it takes space that could be used for a few more genuinely accomplished or significant people (and again, I leave you to draw your own conclusions about the people you’d add to the volume if the quotas were gone).

UPDATE:  I don’t like baseball, so had never heard of Hank Aguirre, who is included in the calendar.  I noted, though, that he didn’t sound very impressive on the little squiblet (which I don’t have now; it’s at school with my daughter).  He was pretty much damned with faint praise, and sounded as if his main claim to fame was that he showed up at work every day.  Oh, and by the way, he’s Hispanic — but he’s not even the first Hispanic in the major leagues.  Again, he sounded like a quota, not a star.  I mentioned this to Don Quixote, who likes baseball, and he sent me the following:

I thought you might be interested in this link:


Turns out Hank Aguirre was a mediocre pitcher in the 60′s.  He made the all-star team exactly one time and ended his career with an unimpressive 75-72 won-loss record.  What was he on the calendar for?  If they were looking for an Hispanic ballplayer from the 60s, they would have been better served to use my boyhood hero, Roberto Clemente who not only was one of the greatest players ever, but died a hero.  He was also a pioneer, being the first Puerto Rican player (I think the very first, but maybe the first of note) in the major leagues.

Here’s a little bio on him:


and his stats:


Wouldn’t he have been a better choice?

Yes, DQ, he would have been a better choice.
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Popal required to undergo psychiatric evaluation

Well, it’s official: Popal’s defense will be that he’s crazy:

A San Francisco judge ordered a detailed psychiatric report today on the 29-year-old Fremont man charged with 18 counts of attempted murder stemming from a hit- and-run rampage that prosecutors said was premeditated and involved a plan to kill a police officer.

The defendant, Omeed Aziz Popal, “said he wanted to kill a police officer but didn’t see any” as he drove around San Francisco in the middle of the day Tuesday, picking off pedestrians with his sport utility vehicle, prosecutor Jim Thompson told Superior Court Judge Donna Little.

Thompson made the statements in arguing against bail for Popal, who is being held in the psychiatric ward of San Francisco General Hospital.

Popal told authorities that he had been thinking about killing someone for a day before he allegedly set off in his Honda Pilot, ran over and killed a 54-year-old man in Fremont and drove to San Francisco, where as many as 19 people were struck in about a dozen locations.

Will Maas, a public defender, quickly interceded to stop the bail discussion, and Popal’s arraignment was delayed until Sept. 6. Popal was not in court.

Outside court, Public Defender Jeff Adachi said Popal suffers “serious mental illness” and called the attacks “a horrible tragedy.”

Members of Popal’s family have said he suffered from psychological problems recently and had been hospitalized at least twice.

It could well be true — or not. The fact is, from here on out, whatever information comes in regarding his motives and conduct, it will be slotted under the “insane” heading.

And now, here’s a snarky sarcasm alert. Don’t read the next sentence if you can’t handle snarky sarcasm. Given the number of young Muslim males who have had insanity attacks, whether in San Francisco, or Seattle, or Arizona, or North Carolina, maybe we have to consider whether the pressures of living in a pluralistic, Democratic, non-Sharia society are too much for their delicate sensibilities.

By the way, to shift the focus away from the living and to the dead, here is a very lovely word portrait of Stephen Jay Wilson, whom Popal killed.

UPDATE: The family busily spins the (maybe true) insanity story.

UPDATE II: It appears that Popal is truly delusional:

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, relative said.

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,” he 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.”

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

Not long after, Popal went to his native Afghanistan for a marriage his family had arranged.

“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.”

In July, Popal confessed to a murder in San Francisco, saying he had stabbed someone, said Majeed Samara, an attorney who represented Popal until Wednesday. Police concluded there was nothing to the story and took him to Washington Hospital in Fremont for psychiatric evaluation. The hospital concluded he posed no risk to himself or others and released him.

In other words, the fact that his religious identity aligns perfectly with other young men in America who have recently engaged in acts of mass (or attempted mass) murder, is a mere coincidence.  I don’t fault any of us, though, who believed that Popal’s religion is a relevant part of the story, to be considered with all the other available facts.  It also says a lot about the degradation of modern news reporting that so many of us — and I put myself in a front row seat on this one — suspected that the Press was trying to cover up his religious identity, rather than being forthcoming with it.  In any event, it’s a tragedy no matter how one looks at it.

Today’s last word on Popal

I blogged myself into exhaustion yesterday keeping up with the development (or, should I say, degradation) of the Popal story, as it went from being about random terror, to an Islamic perpetrator, to a crazy guy. Today, believe it or not, I should be working, not blogging. I’ll therefore leave the last word to Thomas Lifson, who ably writes about how we inevitably catagorize these Muslim mass murderers within our midst as deranged:

Was Hitler crazy? He certainly believed in bizarre contra-factual conspiracy theories, had a deep interest in the occult, and is believed by many historians to have so ineptly and arbitrarily handled German military strategy and weapons development that he turned quite possible victory into defeat for the Third Reich.

Does it matter whether or not he was technically insane? Probably not. Judge him by his actions.

The same approach should be taken with those who seek to slay Jews, Americans, and infidels in the name of Islam.

This week saw yet another incident of a young Muslim male traveling to a location where Jews can be found, and attempting to murder them. Omeed Aziz Popal, who drove his vehicle into pedestrians in San Francisco and Fremont, was quickly diagnosed by nearly all the media as a lone, insane young man, a paranoid schizophrenic who had been previously hospitalized. Eyewitnesses who reportedly heard him say “I am a terrorist” were all but ignored by San Francisco media, save for KTVU, Channel 2, the local Fox affiliate.

Read the rest here.

Incidentally, in my first paragraph, I originally wrote that Thomas Lifson “able writes about our secular society’s fevered insistence that anyone who kills in the name of religion isn’t a religious warrior, but is crazy.” As I finished the sentence, though, it occurred to me that, if a vocal Christian guy were to go nuts and kill (or try to kill) a bunch of people, his religious beliefs would dominate the airwaves. And this despite the fact that modern Christianity does not demand that its followers engage in Holy War. It’s only when a member of a religion that demands Holy War actually engages in such a war that we hear, absolutely, positively, that the killer is . . . crazy.

What the media sees fit to report about news out of Iraq

Yesterday, I heard on NPR that at least one of the soldiers charged with murdering an Iraqi man will not be subject to the death penalty. It was an interesting story in that it talked about the evidence, or lack thereof. At the heart of the case is a body so badly decomposed nothing can be discovered from it.  It yields no clues. On one side of the body are Marines who confessed to a murder, but now claim that their confessions resulted from coercion. On the other side are claims from some Iraqis that these Marines seized this Iraqi man, killed him brutally, and tried to cover it up. The Iraqis refuse to give their statements in court. From a legal point of view, with no physical evidence, no witnesses, and confessions that may be the result of coercion, it’s not much of a case. As always, what’s more interesting is how the media handles it.

First off, I suspect without actually knowing that, during WWII (the last of the wars people believed in), the Press wouldn’t have reported this stuff at all. Wherever you have vast numbers of young men with guns and high stress levels, you’re going to have some crime, and some of those crimes are going to be awful ones. The Press would have understood the normalcy of this fact, and would either have ignored the stories altogether, or would have made the considered decision that reporting these inevitable outbursts of ugliness would be bad for morale. News focused on (a) battles and (b) bravery.

The paradigm is so different nowadays. Reporters are obsessed with death: how many of our soldiers have been killed and how many “innocents” our soldiers have killed. When our troops successfully route bad guys, it gets covered and forgotten. When a minute fraction of our troops are accused of having killed civilians the news keeps being regurgitated like a bad meal.  (And keep it mind that it’s not always easy to tell whether the dead are, in fact, civilians.  Witness the Hezbollah fighters who, upon death, were magically transformed into Lebanese civilians for body count purposes.

In any event, you don’t need to listen to the NPR story I listened to; you just need to read this little NPR summary:

U.S. military prosecutors in California have begun to lay out their case against seven Marines and a Navy corpsman. The servicemen are accused of committing murder while serving in Iraq.

The incident in town of Hamdaniya was one of several that has called attention to the conduct of American troops in Iraq. (Bolded emphasis mine.)

Don’t you love that insouciant language? It’s an “incident” that “called attention” to ” conduct.” That’s all. But cast your mind back to the press’s savage coverage of Abu Ghraib and Haditha. It’s as if, to the American Press, every member of our military would have cheerfully participated in the My Lai massacre. That’s it, guys and gals: you’re all mass civilian murderers, every one of you. There are no bad guys (aside from the American military, of course), there are only innocent civilians.

I’ll concede, though, that the story out of Hamdaniya is news, even though I’ll also argue that American newspapers would not be impairing their ethics if they chose not to cover it. But what about the good news out of Iraq, the stories of bravery and loyalty and decency? Those are reserved for the bloggers and the military’s own publications. A case in point is the CENTCOM story I just got today about Marine Medics who have come together to save an Iraqi girl:

For a 12-year-old Iraqi girl in need of a kidney and liver transplant, time is the enemy. Her friends are a team of U.S. Marines and Sailors who have applied their medical skills to help the keep the girl alive.

Hadael Hamade is in desperate need of surgery, say U.S. Navy physicians who have treated her in recent months.

The girl first befriended Marines from 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, months ago when the Marines were on patrol in Karabilah – a city of about 30,000 near the Iraq-Syria border.

You can read the rest of this story about simple human decency here.  It’s a lovely story and, in a just world, it wouldn’t just be languishing in my email inbox, but would be in every paper’s “human interest” section.  But it’s not.  The papers don’t want this kind of human interest story because it interferes with the My Lai paradigm I mentioned above — all soldiers are brutes.

So next time you read in the newspaper about some atrocity a minority of our troops are alleged to have committed, ask yourself where the stories are about the myriad acts of decency our troops routinely engage in every day, all while functioning in a hostile environment.

Two pieces of good news

Gas prices are dropping (something I’ve already noticed at my local pumps):

Gasoline prices are falling fast and could keep dropping for months.

“The only place they have to go is down,” says Fred Rozell, gasoline analyst at the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS). “We’ll be closer to $2 than $3 come Thanksgiving.”

Travel organization AAA foresees prices 10 cents a gallon lower by the end of next week. It reported a nationwide average of $2.84 Tuesday, the lowest since April 20.

It’s nice to see the MSM report this story, by the way.

And the Army’s doing just fine, thank you, despite the MSM’s and Democrats’ relentless efforts to show it as a failed organization that can’t hold on to people. (And what’s really funny is that same relentless effort shows up in the AP story reporting the Army’s successes.):

While the Army struggled last year to meet recruitment goals, it has been able to keep soldiers in the service by using a growing list of incentives and escalating bonuses to shower troops with money, schooling and career advancements.

So far this year, the Army has doled out an average bonus of $14,000, to eligible soldiers, for a total of $610 million in extra payments.

The re-enlistments come despite the escalating casualties on the Iraq battlefield – where more than 2,600 troops have lost their lives since March 2003. And they have enabled the Army to meet its retention goal every year since 1998.

“The bonuses have a lot to do with it, along with a feeling of accomplishment that comes with doing their mission,” said Army spokesman Henry Minitrez. He also said that retention rates have even gone up for some of the military’s high-profile units – such as the 82nd Airborne or 101st Airborne divisions – when they return home from Iraq or Afghanistan.

Both the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve expect to meet their re-enlistment goals for this fiscal year, which are 34,875 and 17,712, respectively. Both totals are slightly higher than last year’s goals.

The number of expected and confirmed re-enlistments dipped in 2003, the year the war began, but has increased since then.

By the way, I think it’s great the Army is offering such incentives.  These men and women are putting their lives on the line to protect me.  It’s appropriate that they should have something to look forward to on their return from service.

15 minutes

Well, if the numbers at my stat counter are any indication, my 15 minutes of blogger fame are just about wrapping up.  I enjoyed it tremendously while it lasted, and do think I was a useful respository of information about an interesting, and possibly quite significant, story.  Now it’s back to normal, which is probably just as well.  Much as I found this 24 hour cycle lots of fun, the responsibility to keep the news about Popal current was difficult to balance with my work and family commitments.  Back to the usual now.  (And for those of you new to the blog, you can see “the usual” means just by scrolling down, down, down.)

Doing the dirty work at MoveOn.org

If you don’t have the stomach to wade through the banal, silly comments at MoveOn.org in order to find the more sinister and distasteful anti-American, anti-Semitic comments that pepper that same site, take heart.  Some brave bloggers have stepped forward to do it for you.  Check out MoveOn.org, Please Move On!, but be prepared to hold your nose as you read the vile garbage they found trolling through MoveOn’s forum sewers.  (Please note:  these are not comments from MoveOn.org itself; just from some, or maybe many, of its followers.)  Then, if you’re Jewish, promise, promise, promise that you’ll vote Republican this year.

(Hat tip:  Richard D.)

Idle thoughts of an idle blogger

Do you think electronic scanning at grocery stores has increased or decreased magazine sales?  In the pre-electronic age, when grocery stores had long lines, I used to read the magazines kept near check-out.  If what I was reading was interesting, and I wasn’t going to get a chance to finish it in-store, I’d toss it in my cart and buy it.  Nowadays, the lines move so quickly, I barely have time to unload my cart.  And glancing at the magazines’ front covers alone seldom tempts me (and often puts me off).  What’s your experience been?

autres temps, autres moeurs

Today, we all know that the principle purpose behind journalism is pretty close to what it was at America’s inception — to spread rumors and bring down governments (something that becomes obvious when you read David McCullough’s biography about John Adams). Certainly, both of these are activities that the First Amendment protects, although they’re not precisely laudable. During a halcyon period between the 1920s and Watergate, though, journalists actually thought that their responsibility was to convey the most accurate information possible. I’m sure many, if not most, of those journalists struggled with achieving these goals, but they had least had them as goals.

All this occurred to me as I’ve been reading, with much pleasure, Melanie Rehak’s Girl Sleuth : Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her.  As the title suggests, this book tells how the Nancy Drew books came to be. It turns out that two women were the moving forces behind the Nancy Drew books: Harriet Stratemeyer Adams (whose father came up with the idea) and Mildred Wirt Benson. Benson, in the mid-1920s, enrolled in the University of Iowa’s prestigious journalism school. Here’s what the book has to say (p. 88) about her experiences there:

In the fall of 1926, [Benson] reenrolled at Iowa, this time in the brand-new master’s program in journalism. There, she soaked up more of the principles and rules of journalism that would serve her for the rest of her life. In a guest lecture, the editor of the Sioux City Journal charged the young hopefuls with a serious task: “I enjoin every journalist to make sacrifices to truth and in furtherance of truth. Write nothing that you do not know to be true. Check and double-check your facts. Do not crucify the truth for the sake of a good story. Invention should have no place in newspaper writing.” (Emphasis mine.)

Someone really needs to nail those words over the doorway at Reuters. And maybe the BBC. And possibly AP. And CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC.  And of course the New York Times….

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Horror on San Francisco streets

A madman ran amok all over San Francisco today, targeting pedestrians with his car and deliberately running them over:

As many as 14 people were injured this afternoon by a motorist who drove around San Francisco running them down before he was arrested, authorities said.

Seven of those injured were in critical condition, police and firefighters said.

Authorities have identified the man who was arrested as Omeed Aziz Popal, who has addresses in Ceres (Stanislaus County) and Fremont.

Authorities said they believe Popal was the same driver who ran over and killed a 55-year-old man walking in a bicycle lane in Fremont, at Fremont Boulevard near Ferry Lane, just after noon. That crash scene is just blocks from Popal’s Fremont address, where he had most recently been living.

Popal was arrested at a Walgreens at Spruce and California streets.

In San Francisco, the attacks began around 1 p.m., but it was unclear in what order:

Two people, one of them a child, were critically injured around by a sport-utility vehicle on the 3500 block of California Street in Laurel Heights.

Three people were hit at California and Fillmore streets. Witnesses said they included a man with a broken hip and a woman with a gashed head.

Two people were seriously hurt at Bush and Pierce streets and one person was seriously injured at Bush and Buchanan streets, police said. One person suffered minor injuries in an incident at 1850 Fillmore Street.

Two other people suffered minor injuries when they were hit at Pine at Divisadero streets, and another two were hit and suffered minor injuries at Divisadero and Bush Street.

There is, of course, a substantial likelihood that Popal is just a homicidal maniac of the type that crops up occasionally. On the other hand, it may not be a coincidence that Popal is, apparently, a fairly common Afghani name. (I leapt to this conclusion when a Google search on “Popal” led me to this website, and this one, and this one, and this one, all of which describe estimable and innocent Afghanis who are named “Popal”.) In other words, someone named “Omeed” (a variation on Ahmad?) Aziz Popal is, possibly, Muslim. I’m therefore wondering if we’re going to start hearing more about his motives in a few hours or days. I’ll try to keep on this story (with my memory, that’s more of a wish than a promise) and see if anything turns up.

UPDATE: This may not be Popal’s first run in with traffic problems. In March last year, in the Stanislaus County criminal courts, Popal was a defendant for an unidentified traffic infraction.

UPDATE II: According to SF mayor Gavin Newsom, Popal is a “relatively young man.” In other words, we have a young, probably Muslim, male, who killed one person and attempted to kill more than a dozen others. I know I’m leaping to conclusions, but I see a pattern developing here. I’ll do my mea culpas, of course, when it turns out that he’s a man with a history of mental illness utterly unrelated to religious principles.

UPDATE III: Fremont, which is one of Popal’s addresses, is home to America’s largest Afghan community. [Correction: Apparently since 2001, Fremont has had one of the largest, not the largest, Afghan community in America.]

UPDATE IV: An unidentified cousin claims that Popal, who is indeed Afghani, is delusional and on medications:

Court and property records list Popal’s age as 29 and he is a member of Fremont’s large Afghan community. A woman who identified herself as his cousin said he was having recurring nightmares about someone coming to kill him and had been taking medication.

“He thought the devil was coming to him,” said Zargona Ramish, who went to the family’s home Tuesday afternoon while Popal’s relatives were speaking with police. “He is a very good person. He is not like that. What’s wrong with him?”

UPDATE V: Apparently Popal “‘made some comments‘ to officers as he was arrested….” I wonder what they were? Were they delusional, along the lines of “I am she and she is me and we are both together and the Devil is behind it all and I saw the brilliant moon explode” or were they delusional along the lines of “I hate Israel, and I needed to kill all the Jews?” Incidentally, Little Green Footballs notes that one of the “hits” took place in front of San Francisco’s Jewish Community Center. I’m not ready yet to give too much meaning to that. It looks as if Popal was all over the Laurel Heights neighborhood, and the JCC victim could have been a random moment given the much larger scale of his attack.

UPDATE VI: Michelle Malkin also makes much of the neighborhood’s Jewish character. The fact is, though, while there’s definitely a Jewish block — the JCC, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, etc. — his rampage was wider. Also, the neighborhood is affluent and yuppified but, again, but for that one block, it’s never struck me as a particularly Jewish neighborhood. (Indeed, San Francisco as a whole is an exceptionally un-Jewish City, something I never understood growing up there, until I had the chance to visit Los Angeles and New York.) That doesn’t mean, of course, that Popal didn’t believe the whole area to be Jewish and, on that basis, cast a wide net.

UPDATE VII: Well, I’ve done my work here. The AP story by Juliana Barbassa now controls the wires and will set the tone at least until tomorrow morning. Since I’m living on West Coast time, the likelihood is that the East Coast bloggers will report on any breaking news about Popal’s statements or motivation long before I’ve had the chance to get to my computer.

UPDATE VIII: It’s okay. Everyone can stop worrying. The killer was, in fact, a kind and gentle man who was simply suffering from a bad case of wedding jitters. You doubt me? No, really, that’s what the latest report about him says:

Relatives of a Fremont man connected to Tuesday’s deadly driving rampage said he may have been distraught after returning recently from Afghanistan without his newlywed wife who iswaiting for a visa.

Omeed Aziz Popal, 29, who sources said was being held by the San Francisco police, was normally a kind and gentle person, said Hamid Nekrawesh, 43, a first cousin in Fremont.

But a recent trip to Afghanistan to participate in an arranged marriage could have caused him a lot of stress, Nekrawesh said.

“He was a very respectful, quiet, nice guy,” Nekrawesh said. “I’ve never seen him do anything violent.”

Zarghona Ramish of San Jose, who also identified herself as Popal’s cousin, said he had been having strange dreams since returning a month ago from Afghanistan.

Some of us deal with our jitters with ice cream, some with therapy, some with alcohol, and some with attempted mass murder. It’s all clear to me now.

UPDATE IX: I just watched local coverage. Apparently several witnesses reported that Popal referred to himself as a “terrorist.” The police quickly denied this. Either the police are trying to hide something (why?) or the witnesses are succumbing to mass hysteria. The truth is in there somewhere. This coverage also had the single relative who claimed that Popal was crazy. Apparently he had dreams about the Devil. I’d like to point out, as someone only marginally informed about psychiatric disorders, that it’s my understanding that, if you know it’s a dream and not reality, you’re not delusional.

UPDATE X: This was one of those rare — very rare — mornings where I couldn’t wait to get to the local paper. The SF Chron, though, in its cover article on this story, was resolutely silent about Popal’s background, on the scene statements or motives. The Mercury News, which includes Fremont in its ambit, was more forthcoming. For starters, Popal is indeed a young Muslim male. The same relative I heard on the news yesterday was again quoted as saying he heard voices. This could well be true, in which case this is nothing more than the sad story of a crazy man. As I noted, though, in yesterday’s news report, she kept saying he told her he dreamt about the Devil, which is very different from hearing voices. Other unidentified, unquoted relatives also said “he heard voices.” For the time being, that’s their story and they’re going to stick with it — and, as I said, it could well be true.

(My statcounter is telling me I’ve got lots of visitors, although its shy about attributing them to any specific website. Welcome, all of you.)

UPDATE XI (or, really, editorial comment no. 1): One comment left here accuses me of racism. It’s true, if you define “racism” in this context as meaning a belief that the known perpetrator’s ethnicity and religion need to be examined as part of his conduct. Given the appearance of young Muslim males in so many acts of murder for the last twenty years, it would be a travesty if we were to pretend that this part of the analysis does not exist when we’re trying to determine the man’s motives. I’ll just add that my kind of racism is becoming more prevalent.

UPDATE XII: It turns out that Zarghona Ramish, the cousin whose name keeps popping up now in news stories about the event, because she’s the one who describes Popal’s alleged delusions, may have a history of her own: A Zarghona Ramish is one of the named individuals in a “cease and desist” order describing a pyramid scheme that ran afoul of the California Corporations Commissioner. An unsigned copy of that “cease and desist” order (which may mean it was never formally entered into the system as a legally binding document) can be viewed here. It’s interesting that Ramish may have a fluid relationship with truth in business matters doesn’t necessarily mean she’s being dishonest here, but it’s certainly an interesting tidbit.

UPDATE XIII: Sweetness & Light has excellent coverage, and good links. S&L also noted that another of Popal’s cousins, who has set himself up as a family spokesman, is a LaRouche supporter, but I think that’s neither here nor there (except that it probably doesn’t speak very well of the man’s intelligence).

UPDATE XIV: Back to those “devils” that reportedly plagued Popal. We hear about devils and automatically think of the (we hope) harmless and unwashed lunatic raving on a downtown street corner. That’s because we’re a secular society of associate the Devil with madness. John Updike, of all people, suggests that the prevalence of devils in modern Islamic speak may be a spur to action, and not a sign of madness. I haven’t read Updike’s latest book, Terrorist (in my defense, I can’t stand Updike’s prose), but I did have the pleasure of reading Mark Steyn’s review. In that review, Steyn offers the following:

Perhaps sensing that he hadn’t exactly risen to the occasion [when he wrote about 9/11], Updike has now given us the Big Novel on terrorists, so Big indeed that its title is simply Terrorist. The eponymous terrorist — or “terrorist” — is Ahmad, a high school student in a decrepit New Jersey town called New Prospect, who gets mixed up in a plot to blow up the Lincoln Tunnel. And Updike gets stuck into his protagonist from the opening sentence:

Devils, Ahmad thinks. These devils seek to take away my God. All day long, at Central High School, girls sway and sneer and expose their soft bodies and alluring hair. Their bare bellies, adorned with shining navel studs and low-down purple tattoos, ask, What else is there to see?

What else, indeed? It’s doubtful anyone could write “the” novel about Islam today — it is a faith, after all, that can seduce everyone from Ontario welfare deadbeats like Steven Chand to the Prince of Wales. Yet it seems to me Updike has gone awry from the very first word. If Muslims were simply über-devout loners, this whole clash-of-civilizations rigmarole would be a lot easier. But the London Tube bombers were perfectly assimilated: they ate fish ‘n’ chips, loved cricket, sported hideous Brit leisure wear. Updike’s absurdly alienated misfit is a lot less shocking than the video that aired recently on British television of July 7 jihadist Shehzad Tanweer: he’s spouting all the usual suicide-bomber claptrap, but in a Yorkshire accent. Imagine threatening “Death to the Great Satan!” in Cockney or Brooklynese. Or Canadian: “Death to the Great Satan, eh?” That’s far creepier and novelistic than Updike’s opening: it’s someone who appears perfectly normal until he gets in the subway car and self-detonates. As for the revulsion at navel studs, compare Ahmad with Assem Hammoud, recently arrested in a real-life plot to blow up another New York tunnel — the Holland. Mr. Hammoud said he had been ordered by Osama bin Laden to “live the life of a playboy . . . live a life of fun and indulgence.” That way he would avoid detection. Pretty cunning, huh? Just to show how seriously he took his assignment, there was a picture of Assem with three hot babes (all burka-less) on a “mission” in Canada. “I was proud,” declared Mr. Hammoud, “to carry out my orders” — even though they required him to booze it up and bed beautiful infidels all week long. But it’s okay, because he was nailing chicks for Allah. So he gamely put on a brave show of partying like it’s 1999 even though, as a devout Muslim, he’d obviously much rather party like it’s 799.

UPDATE XIII: The current meme is that Popal is mentally disturbed — and I’m sure that, but for a few blips here and there, that’s the story and everyone is sticking with it. However, those who are actually investigating what happened discount mental disability as a motive:

But those involved in the investigation — speaking on condition of anonymity — discount any mental illness, saying the 29-year-old Afghanistan native seemed coherent, unrepentant and claimed that he repeatedly drove at pedestrians because he “just wanted to.”

Well! The rest of the same article is the usual “he was so quiet,” “he was so nice,” “he was stressed about his marriage” stuff. From news stories, one also gets the feeling that mass murderers (or attempted mass murders) are just the nicest people in the world.

UPDATE XIV: I’m still keeping track of Popal’s alleged mental illness. Here’s what his attorney has to say (as summarized in the Mercury News):

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.

These slender facts are a far cry from Ramish’s claim that he’s bonkers completely bonkers (see updates X and XII, above, for details) or from the unattributed statements that he was hospitalized for mental illness. It’s entirely possible that Popal is bonkers and that his family was tentatively moving to help him. It’s also entirely possible that Popal had become radicalized, and that his family, which is probably a nice middle-class, assimilated, non-violent family, was trying to change that too.

Assuming, solely for the sake of argument, that the last scenario is true, the question then becomes whether we, as a society, are going to equate Islamic radicalism with insanity, and pathologize the problem out of existence?

UPDATE XV: More on Popal’s alleged “terrorist” statement. The news story I heard last night really rushed over it, with particular emphasis from the police that terrorism is not suspected. Here’s a story reporting the KTVU news expanded on the “I am a terrorist” statement. I wonder if the issue is going to boil down to one of definition: In journalism and American law enforcement, will terrorism occur when an organized group of at least two people, acting under a known terrorist umbrella (such as Hamas or Al Qaeda or Hezbollah), blows something up? If that’s the case, it will never be terrorism if an individual, taking matters in his own hands, and acting under the banner of Islam, decides to engage in an act of mass murder. (And I’m not saying that’s what Popal did. I’m just saying that this story, like the events in Seattle, and at the Arizona (?) Home Depot, and at the college in the Northeast, all raise this definitional question.)

UPDATE XVI: The Fremont police are seeking a murder charge against Popal for Stephen Jay Wilson’s death. Wilson was 54 when he was murdered.

UPDATE XVII: AP’s latest ignores Popal’s religion altogether. Indeed, only in the last paragraph of the latest story does his ethnicity appear. Even if neither was the cause of his rampage, is there any reason to exclude or downplay into invisibility their existence as facts? The mental angle is being played up strongly, with the fifth paragraph mentioning pschiatric observation. Who knows? Maybe that’s exactly the way the emphasis in the article should be. Maybe he is just a loony who is, coincidentally, a young Muslim male who tried to commit mass murder. And maybe it’s incredibly sad that, after the past couple of years, I so deeply distrust the MSM that I can’t take the article at face value, but automatically assume that it’s written with an intentional slant.

UPDATE XVIII:  Here’s the self-appointed family spokesman’s official story:  Religion was not the problem; his parents’ decision to keep him socially isolated was the problem (although he did find time to attend San Jose State and Cal State Hayward for several years).  He’s a nervy kind of guy, and the wedding stressed him.  I don’t know….  It’s not a compelling tale to me.

Helping to pay for war damages

The UN, in Resolution 1701, agreed to help pay for damages Lebanon sustained in the recent war, but has not even considered doing so for Israel.  You could argue that Lebanon is a non-combatant that got caught in the middle.  I think, though, this is a difficult argument to sustain considering that Lebanon created a safe haven and a base of operations for Hezbollah.  To me, the more compelling argument is that a UN member nation was attacked by a terrorist organization, and the UN should step in to help out economically.  In any event, if you incline to the latter argument, you can sign a petition calling for UN financial aid to Israel.

By the way, I recognize that this is a symbolic exercise only.  When one remembers that the UN was busy making available to Hezbollah information about Israeli troop positions, I can’t easily imagine it ponying up money to help Israel recover from Hezbollah’s successful missile strikes.

Why I doubt the reality of so-called moderate Muslims

Radical Islamists in England sought to blow up at least ten transatlantic flights. Britain’s so-called “moderate” Muslims did not condemn this manifest act of terror. Instead, they sought to be capitalize on it, in order to advance the same Muslim agenda the terrorists wanted to impose through mass murder:

Islamists working within the system exploited the thwarted Islamist terror plot to pressure the British government to implement their joint wishes and reverse British policy in the Middle East. Lawful Islamists shamelessly leveraged the near death of thousands to forward their agenda.

Despite its reported fears of Muslim street unrest, the Blair government heatedly rejected the letter. Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett called it “the gravest possible error.” The Foreign Office minister Kim Howells dismissed it as “facile.” Home Secretary John Reid deemed it a “dreadful misjudgment” to think that the “foreign policy of this country should be shaped in part, or in whole, under the threat of terrorism activity.” Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander rejected the letter as “dangerous and foolish.”

Undaunted, the “moderate” Muslim establishment pushed even harder on the domestic front. In an August 14 meeting with high government representatives, including the deputy prime minister, it made two further demands: that a pair of Islamic religious festivals become official holidays and that Islamic laws pertaining to marriage and family life be applied in Britain. A Muslim present at the meeting later warned the government against any plans to profile airport passengers, lest this step radicalize Muslim youths further.

Why these ultimata and why at this time? According to the Daily Mail, the leader of the August 14 Muslim delegation, Syed Aziz Pasha, explained his group’s logic: “if you give us religious rights, we will be in a better position to convince young people that they are being treated equally along with other citizens.” More ominously, Mr. Pasha threatened the government leaders. “We are willing to cooperate, but there should be a partnership. They should understand our problems. Then we will understand their problems.”

The press reacted furiously to these demands. The Guardian‘s Polly Toynbee condemned the open letter as “perilously close to suggesting the government had it coming.” The Daily Mirror‘s Sue Carroll portrayed Mr. Pasha’s position as “perilously close to blackmail.”

This was not the first such attempt by “moderate” British Muslim leaders at political jujitsu, to translate Islamist violence into political clout. The same happened, if less aggressively, in the aftermath of the July 2005 London bombings, when they piggybacked on the death of 52 innocents to demand that British forces leave Iraq.

By the way, as Daniel Pipes, who wrote the above quotation, goes on to explain, the last acts of political jujitsu worked. Maybe after the show of heated expressions of outrage at the latest demands, the British establishment will cave this time too.

On the lighter side — and I mean that literally

I never watched morning news shows and I stopped watching the network news about 20 years ago. All I know is what I read on the internet and in news magazines.  I have therefore been mercifully unaffected by the hoopla surrounding Katie Couric’s imminent ascendancy to the nightly news. This, however, which reports on the amazing effects of Katie’s airbrush diet, was too good to ignore.

Hat tip: Mary Katharine Ham

Afraid of shadows

David Horowitz and Richard Poe have written a book about George Soros and the negative effect he’s having on American politics. It’s called The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party. FrontPage Magazine has interviewed Poe about the book. I can’t decide if Poe and Horowitz are suffering from paranoid delusion or if they’re warning us about a genuine threat. I the beginning of the interview, it sounds like Grassy Knoll talk. However, when Poe starts talking about Soros’ on-record statements, and the way in which he’s used his money, the Grassy Knoll retreats and the sense that there is something there rises.

FP: Does the Shadow Party really seek to destroy America?

POE: Judge for yourself. In his new book The Age of Fallibility, Soros writes, “The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States.” He announced in 2003 that it is necessary to “puncture the bubble of American supremacy.” Soros is working systematically to achieve that goal.

On the economic front, he is shorting the dollar in global currency markets, trying to force a devaluation. At the same time, Soros is orchestrating a nationwide movement to encourage mass immigration into the United States, and to mandate the provision of free social services to illegal immigrants. These measures alone have the potential to bankrupt the nation. However, if they fail, Soros has another program that will certainly finish the job. A long-time Soros operative named Jeffrey Sachs has been placed in charge of the United Nations Millennium Project – a global war on poverty designed to transfer wealth from rich countries to poor ones. Sachs is currently demanding that American taxpayers turn over $140 billion per year to his global welfare bureaucracy.

On the political front, Soros has poured massive funding into such groups as the ACLU, which uses lawsuits to hamstring the War on Terror. Soros also funds Amnesty International, whose US executive director has called for the arrest of President Bush as a war criminal. Another Soros-funded group, The Center for Constitutional Rights, has drawn up detailed articles of impeachment against the President.


FP: Tell me about Soros’ efforts to rewrite the U.S. Constitution.

Poe: Mr. Soros advocates deep structural change in our system of government. In April 2005, Yale Law School hosted an event called, “The Constitution in 2020”, whose stated goal was to formulate “a progressive vision of what the Constitution ought to be.” Of the event’s five institutional sponsors, one was Soros’ flagship foundation The Open Society Institute, and two others were Soros-funded Shadow Party groups; the Center for American Progress and the American Constitution Society. We nicknamed that event the Shadow Constitutional Convention.

FP: What parts of our Constitution does Soros want to change?

Poe: He appears to have a special animus against the Bill of Rights. Take freedom of worship, for instance. Soros seems to favor some sort of religious apartheid, with fundamentalist Christians banished to a socio-political Bantustan. For example, in a New Yorker interview of October 18, 2004, he said of President Bush, “The separation of church and state, the bedrock of our democracy, is clearly undermined by having a born-again President.”

Then there’s the Second Amendment. Soros has provided massive funding to anti-gun groups and anti-gun litigators. The unprecedented assault on gun rights during the 1990s was largely bankrolled by Soros.  [Bolded emphasis mine.]

In other words, Soros would impose a reverse religious test on all political candidates, something currently banned under the Constitution the Founding Fathers were kind enough to give us.

If you have the chance, read the whole interview and tell me if you think the anti-Soros cadre is in “Grassy Knoll” or reality land?  And if you’ve read the book, I’d be even more interested in what you have to say.

The larger import of the reporters’ forced conversion

Andrew Bostom, who has written a detailed, erudite treatise entitled the Legacy of Jihad : Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims, weighs in on the Fox reporters’ forced “conversion.”

Forced conversions in Islamic history are not exceptional—they have been the norm, across three continents—Asia, Africa, and Europe—for over 13 centuries. Orders for conversion were decreed under all the early Islamic dynasties—Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, and Mamluks. Additional extensive examples of forced conversion were recorded under both Seljuk and Ottoman Turkish rule (the latter until its collapse in the 20th century). But the list is much longer yet. The Shi’ite Safavid and Qajar dynasties of Persia/Iran. During the jihad ravages on the Indian subcontinent, beginning with the early 11th century campaigns of Mahmud of Ghazni, and recurring under the Delhi Sultanate, and Moghul dynasty until the collapse of Muslim suzerainty in the 18th century following the British conquest of India.

Moreover, during jihad—even the jihad campaigns of the 20th century [i.e., the jihad genocide of the Armenians during World War I, the Moplah jihad in Southern India [1921], the jihad against the Assyrians of Iraq in the early 1930s, the jihads against the Chinese of Indonesia and the Christian Ibo of southern Nigeria in the 1960s, and the jihad against the Christians and Animists of the southern Sudan from 1983 to 2001], the (dubious) concept of “no compulsion” (Koran 2:256; which was cited with tragic irony during the Fox reporters “confessional”!), has always been meaningless.

In the Western tradition, of course, a forced “conversion” is meaningless, because it doesn’t arise from true religious conviction. As I’ve been reminded, however, both from comments left at my blog and from reading articles about the reporters’ experience, a forced Islamic conversion is an entirely different kettle of fish. It subjects the convert to sharia law — whether he wants to comply or not — with all the penalties associated with violating that law. In addition, if he attempts to practice his own faith, the one in which he actually believes, he can be executed for apostasy. It’s a lose/lose situation for those unfortunate enough to be “enticed” at gunpoint into “embracing” a new religion. You’ll learn a lot — none of it good — just by reading the entirety of Bostom’s article.

UPDATE: Anna led me to a Caroline Glick column that manages seamlessly to discuss the incredible pressures placed on Centanni and Wiig — of the kind that would result in a forced conversion — and the Palestinians’ masterful media manipulation. Here’s a sample:

While their [the reporter's] remarks [praising the Palestinians] were covered extensively, no one seemed to think that the fact that their first post-release statements were made at a Palestinian Authority sponsored media extravaganza in Gaza was significant. No one noted that the men were flanked by Palestinian “security forces,” and stood next to Hamas terrorist leader and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

No mention was made of the fact that the two were initially kidnapped by just such PA “security officials,” or that Haniyeh is one of the leaders of one of the most fanatical jihadist organizations in the world, an organization that the majority of the “beautiful, kind-hearted and caring” Palestinians voted into office last January.

That is, no mention was made of the fact that until the two men left Gaza, they remained unfree. No one asked whether they had been given the option of not giving a press conference in Gaza. And now that they have spoken, there can be little doubt that a second press conference by the two men, in Israel or the US where no one will force them to convert to Judaism or Christianity or threaten to kill them, will draw far less media interest. After their press conference, the two men became yesterday’s news.

And now for the good news from Iraq

Here’s a bit of good news:

An ambitious military sweep appears to be dramatically reducing Baghdad’s homicide rate, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Sunday — even as violence nationwide killed at least 80 people, including six U.S. soldiers in and around the capital.

Last month, the Baghdad morgue received more than 1,800 bodies, a record high. This month, the morgue is on track to receive less than a quarter of that.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki seized on the drop in slayings during a CNN interview.

“The violence is not increasing…. No, we’re not in a civil war,” Maliki said. “In Iraq, we’ll never be in civil war. What you see is an atmosphere of reconciliation.”

Although the smaller monthly tally offers encouragement to U.S. and Iraqi officials, it remains a triple-digit reminder that sectarian violence and insurgent activity continue to roil the country.

“It is not possible to create a democracy at the barrel of a gun…. We cannot even work freely as politicians,” said Saleh Mutlak, a Sunni Arab member of parliament. “It is not possible for us to even hold meetings. We cannot travel between one province and another.”

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of military forces in Baghdad, attributed the capital’s declining violence to a sweep involving 8,000 U.S. soldiers and 3,000 Iraqi troops aimed at stopping sectarian violence.

The numbers certainly are still unpleasantly high — it’s not nice to live in a City that has close to 400 homicides per month — but the decline (more than 75%) is staggering and impressive.  Many congratulations to both the U.S. and Iraqi forces for bringing this sea-change about.

A treasure-trove of war news from almost 40 years ago

My Mom was quite the packrat.  In addition to the Life magazine that I quoted from in the two previous posts (here and here), which was published at the end of the War, my Mom also saved the June 16, 1967 edition of Life magazine, which was written within days of the War’s abrupt beginning and swift end.  The news reports are pretty much the same as in the commemorative edition (sometimes verbatim), but there’s still something new and surprising, making it an enlightening glimpse at a different era of reporting.  How’s this for unimaginable rhetoric, which appears in the magazine’s opening editorial?

The tremendous discrepancy between the competence of Israeli and Arab armies is the most obvious fact from which to start [in searching for meaning about the War].  The Israelis are very patriotic, brave and skillful soldiers, brilliantly led.  But that only gives half an explanation of their huge — and mounting — military superiority.  The other half may yield to an impolite but unavoidable question:  what is the matter with the Arab armies?  Was there ever a people so bellicose in politics, so reckless and raucous in hostility — and then so unpugnacious in pitched combat — as Nasser’s Egyptians?

The editors than take on what they perceive as the canard that the U.S. blindly allies itself with Israel.  Au contraire, say the editors.  The fact is that the U.S. allies itself with the moral side, and that side is Israel (can we find some editors to write this way now?):

The error [the belief that the U.S. unthinkingly supports Israel] arises out of the fact that in most disputes the U.S. has been found on Israel’s side.  That’s because it is the Arabs who challenge the existence of Israel, and not vice versa.

There you have it, in a 1967 nutshell.  The U.S. sides with Israel not because of any hostility to Arabs, but because it recognizes the right of a sovereign nation to defend itself against annihilation — a principle that should be as operative today as it was 40 years ago.

Talking to Technorati: ,

More on how the press covered Israel a mere 40 years ago

I’m still going through my 1967 Life magazine special edition about the 1967 war, and would like to highlight two more articles within the magazine, one about the refugee situation, one about Russia’s involvement in events.

First, here, in its entirety, is Life’s, June 23, 1967 editorial, which is both clear-headed and prescient about the refugee problem:

The 20th Century’s excellence — and its horrid defects — find some of their most vivid monuments in the hate-filled camps of Arab refugees. The refugees have been supported by the voluntary U.N. contributions of some 75 governments, not to mention the Inner Wheel Club of Hobart, Australia, the Boy Scout Union of Finland, the Women’s Club of Nes, Iceland, the Girls High School of Burton-on-Trend, England, and (for some reason) a number of automobile companies including Chrysler, Ford, G.M. and Volkswagen.

The philanthropy, governmental and private, that has aided these displaced Arabs is genuine — and admirable. The stupidity and political selfishness that have perpetuated the problem are appalling.

Down the ages, there have been thousands of episodes in which whole peoples fled their homes. Most were assimilated in the lands to which they fled. Brutally or beneficently, previous refugee groups were liquidated. Not until our time have there been the money, the philanthropy, the administrative skill, the hygienic know-how and the peculiar kind of nationalism which, in combination, could take a wave of refugees and freeze it into a permanent and festering institution.

In the wake of Israeli victories, the refugee camps received thousands of new recruits, and there may be more if, as seems likely, Israel successfully insists on some enlargement of its boundaries. Thus the refugee problem, one of the main causes of Middle East instability, is about to be magnified.

The early Zionists, looking toward a binational state, never thought they would, could or should replace the Arabs in Palestine.  When terrorism and fighting mounted in 1947-48, Arab leaders urged Palestinian Arabs to flee, promising that the country would soon be liberated.  Israelis tried to induce the Arabs to stay.  For this reason, the Israelis do not now accept responsibility for the Arab exodus.  Often quoted is the statement of a Palestinian Arab writer that the Arab leaders “told us:  ‘Get out so that we can get in.’  We got out but they did not get in.”

After the Israeli victory, Arab leaders outside of Palestine reversed their policy and demanded that all the refugees be readmitted to Israel. Israel reversed its policy, [and] refused to repatriate large numbers of Arabs on the ground that they would endanger the state. Nasser, for instance, has said, “If Arabs return to Israel, Israel will cease to exist.”

Now 1.3 million Arabs, not counting the recent influx, are listed as refugees. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has an international staff of about a hundred and spends nearly $40 million a year, 60% of it from the U.S. government. UNRWA services are performed by 11,500 Arab employees, most them refugees. Obviously, this group has an interest in not solving the refugee problem.

So have the host governments. Consistently they have refused to go along with any plan or policy for the resettlement or assimilation of the refugees, preferring to use them politically. In 1955 the Arab League scuttled a Jordan Valley development project precisely because it would have reduced, perhaps by 250,000, the number of Arab refugees.

It’s about time this dangerous deadlock ended. The inevitable reshuffle of the Middle East ought to include a plan to phase out the refugee problem in five or 10 years. Israel, to show goodwill, should repatriate a few thousand refugees per year. All of the 1.3 million could be absorbed in underpopulated Iran and Syria, provided their governments would cooperate in internationally supported developments projects. Persuading Arab governments to adopt a policy of resettlement should be central to U.S. policy, and it would be worth putting up quite a lot of A.I.D. money to get the job done. [Bolded emphasis mine.]

History has shown the Life editors to be correct when they believed that UN economic interests and Arab political interests would leave the refugee camps as a permanent blight on the Middle Eastern landscape. They were naive only in believing that anyone had the political will to solve the problem. They also could not have anticipated that, in a very short time, the same situation, with its same causes, would be plunged into a looking-glass world, where the Arab governments and the UN were absolved of their sins, and the blame was placed on Israel for not having engaged in an act of self-immolation by taking in these 1.3 million (and counting, and counting, and counting) hate-filled refugees.

These same editors understood the Cold War aspects of the 1967 War. They editorialized about the Soviet Union’s UN fulminations (an editorial I’m also quoting in its entirety):

As the Arab soldiers and refugees made their sad and painful way from the scenes of their defeat, the Soviet Union threw its heaviest oratorical gun into the United Nations in an effort to salvage some of what it had lost in the Mideast. Premier Aleksei Kosygin arrived at the General Assembly with an arsenal of invective.

Kosygin put all the blame on Israel and its “imperialist” backers (i.e., the U.S. and Britain). As he saw it, Israel’s “atrocities and violence” brought to mind “the heinous crimes perpetrated by the fascists during World War II.” He demanded the Assembly’s approval for a resolution — rejected earlier by the Security Council — that would condemn Israel as sole aggressor in the conflict, and he proposed that Israel not only be made to pull back to her prewar borders but also to pay reparations to the Arabs for their losses.

He was answered by the Israeli foreign minister, Abba Eban [his speech is here], whose detailed documentation and eloquence told how the Arabs had given his country the choice of defending its national existence or forfeiting it for all time. Then he put Kosygin himself in the defendant’s dock. Russia, he charged, was guilty of inflaming passions in a region “already too hot with tension” by feeding the arms race and spreading false propaganda. He called Kosygin’s reference to the Nazis “an obscene comparison . . . a flagrant breach of international morality and human decency.” As for the Russian demand that Israel pull back to her prewar lines, that, he said, was totally unacceptable until durable and just solutions are reached “in free negotiations with each of our neighbors.” The Arab states “have come face to face with us in conflict; let them now come face to face with us in peace.” Israel was determined not be deprived of her victory. [Bolded emphasis mine.]

Did you catch that the Soviet speaker used precisely the same rhetoric about Israel that has become normative throughout Europe and in most Leftist publications? He castigated Israel as an imperialist entity and claimed that her tactics were “atrocities” that were identical to those the Nazis used. Unlike today’s MSM, Life‘s 1967 editorial team appears appalled by the tenor and falsity of those accusations.

By the way, if you haven’t already, you should read this National Review article describing how the Soviet Union seeded modern Islamic terrorism as a weapon against the West.

UPDATE: Here’s another post about magazine coverage from 40 years ago.

UPDATE: Welcome to both American Thinker readers and to those of you who found your way here through the comment left at Little Green Footballs. To clarify my links, the two other posts I did about old-fashioned MSM coverage of Israel are here and here.

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Beloved Israel

When my mother was going through her stuff, she came upon a 1967 issue of Life magazine entitled “Israel’s Swift Victory.” It’s a 100 page special edition, so I won’t attempt to retype all of it here. I’ll just cherry-pick my way through those bits of coverage I found most striking. What makes the magazine so distinct from today’s coverage is the tone. The Life editors admired Israel tremendously for standing up to the overwhelming odds the Arab nations presented, and triumphing. The very first page identifies Israel as a beleaguered haven for refugees, surrounded by an ocean of hostile Arab nations:

The state of Israel, no bigger than Massachusetts, was established in 1948 in Palestine as a haven for the war-ravaged Jewish communities of Europe. Bitter fighting attended her birth and fixed her boundaries against the surrounding phalanx of hostile Arab states: Jordan cut into her narrow wasp waist and through the holy city of Jerusalem; Egypt along her western desert flank was entrenched in the coastal strip of Gaza. At Israel’s southern tip is the strategic port of Elath, against which Egypt made the play that brought on th war and unhinged the entire Middle East.

The magazine opens by describing Nasser’s conduct, which presented such a threat that Israel had no option but to react. It’s interesting to read in part because it assumes a legitimacy to Israel’s 1967 preemptive strike. After describing how Pres. Abdel Gamel Nasser, speaking from Cairo, demanded Israel’s extermination, the Life editorial board goes on to say this:

The world had grown accustomed to such shows [of destructive hatred towards Israel] through a decade of Arab-Israeli face-offs that seasonally blew as hot as a desert sirocco. Since 1948, when Israel defeated the Arabs and won the right to exist as a nation, anti-Zionist diatribes had been the Arab world’s only official recognition of Israel. Indeed, in the 19 years since the state was founded, the surrounding Arab states have never wavered from their claim that they were in a state of war with Israel.

But now there was an alarming difference in Nasser’s buildup. He demanded that the U.N. withdraw the 3,400-man truce-keeping force that had camped in Egypt’s Sinai desert and in the Gaza Strip ever since Egypt’s defeat in the Suez campaign of 1956 as a buffer between Egyptians and Israelis. A worried United Nations Secretary-General U Thant agreed to the withdrawal, then winged to Cairo to caution Nasser.

He found him adamant. Plagued by economic difficulties at home and bogged down in the war in Yemen, Nasser had lately been criticized by Syrians for hiding behind the U.N. truce-keeping force. With brinksmanship as his weapon, Nasser had moved to bolster his shaky claim to leadership of the divided Arab world.

So, a few things haven’t changed — the UN has always been craven. Egypt demands that they withdraw and, voila, they withdraw. The other thing that hasn’t changed, although it’s no longer spoken of in polite MSM company, is the fact that the Arab nations have always used anti-Israeli rhetoric and conduct to deflect attention from their failures and as a vehicle to establish dominance over other Arab nations in the region. In other words, if there weren’t an Israel, the Arab nations would have had to invent one.

In contrast to the fevered, irrational hatred on the Arab side, the Life editors are impressed by the Israelis. Under the bold heading “Israel’s cool readiness,” and accompanied by photographs of smiling Israeli soldiers taking a cooling shower in the desert, listening to their commander, and attending to their tanks, Life has this to say:

With the elan and precision of a practiced drill team, Israel’s largely civilian army — 71,000 regulars and 205,000 reservists — began its swift mobilization to face, if necessary, 14 Arab nations and their 110 million people. As Premier Levi Eshkol was to put it, “The Jewish people has had to fight unceasingly to keep itself alive…. We acted from an instinct to save the soul of a people.

Again, can you imagine a modern publication pointing out the vast disparity in landmass and population between Israel and the Arabs, or even acknowledging in the opening paragraph of any article that Israel has a right to exist? The text about Israel’s readiness is followed by more photographs of reservists preparing their weapons and of a casually seated Moshe Dayan, drinking a soda, and conferring with his men. Under the last photograph, you get to read this:

The Israelis, Dayan said, threw themselves into their hard tasks with “something that is a combination of love, belief and country.”

After admiringly describing the Israelis’ offensive strike against the Arab air-forces, which gave Israel the decisive advantage in the War, Life addresses Israel’s first incursion into Gaza. I’m sure you’ll appreciate how the Gaza area is depicted:

Minutes after the first air strike, a full division of Israeli armor and mechanized infantry . . . was slashing into the Egyptian-held Gaza Strip. A tiny wasteland, the strip had been given up by Israel in the 1956 settlement and was now a festering splinter — the barren harbor for 315,000 refugees bent on returning to their Palestinian homes and the base for Arab saboteurs.

Wow! Those clueless Life writers actually seem to imply that Egypt, which controlled Gaza for eleven years, had some responsibility for this “festering,” dangerous area.

The Life editors are agog about Israeli tactics.

The Israeli plan was so flexible that its architects at the last minute switched strategy to avoid a new deployment of enemy forces in southern Sinai. After the air strikes that wiped out the Arab air forces, Israeli armor and infantry swept westward across the waist of Sinai, parallel to the path of the Gaza breakthrough. A smaller column cut south from El Kuntilla, then raced toward Suez. Patrol boats and paratroops were sent to Sharm el Sheikh to break the blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba, but the airborne troops were able to land at the abandoned airfield because the Egyptians had fled. Meanwhile, fighting erupted on another front — the divided city of Jerusalem, where an Israeli pincer column encircled the old, Jordanian section. Yet another Israeli force moved against Jenin, north of Jerusalem. The final Israeli attacked, at the end of the week, was mounted against Syria, which had been shelling border settlements.

[Regarding the last sentence, it seems as if some things never change.]

The Life editor’s tactical admiration emerges again when speaking about Israel’s successful taking of the Sinai Peninsula:

Stabbing into the Sinai desert, the Israelis stuck to the same strategy that in 1956 had carried them to the Suez Canal in 100 hours: never stop. Although outnumbered more than two to one — by an Egyptian force of almost 100,000 men grouped in seven divisions and supported by 900 tanks — they smashed ahead day and night, outracing the foe, encircling him time and again and trapping thousands of prisoners as Egyptian discipline collapsed. *** The battle — one of the epic armored engagements in history — lasted 24 hours and involved some 1,000 tanks.

A couple of things occur to me as I read this: First, in the recent Israeli/Hezbollah war, if press reports are to be believed (and that’s always a leap of faith) Israel did not demonstrate either flexibility or speed. She remained rigidly fixated on using air power, despite the fact that (a) this hadn’t served the Americans that well in Iraq and (b) it didn’t appear to be achieving her objectives. Israel did not seem to have a plan for air power’s failure, and the subsequent land-based incursions seemed ad hoc and half-hearted. Israel was also afraid of casualties, which is logical and humane, on the one hand, and a dangerous way to wage war, on the other hand. As for the “never stop” doctrine, Israel seemed constantly to want to stop — partly because of that same fear of casualties and partly, I think, because Israel didn’t have a clearly defined goal going in.

The other thing that occurred to me reading the above was the fact that the Life writers are describing a traditional war: army versus army. Under those circumstances, there’s a tremendous virtue in cheering for the underdog who routs the larger force. Nowadays, where asymmetrical warfare means that there’s a traditional army on one side and terrorists hiding amongst and targeting civilians on the other side, the battle lines, the tactical lines, and the victory lines can easily be confusing. This is especially true when you have those, like members of MSM, who don’t understand the nature of the war (one side wants peaceful coexistence; one side wants genocide), and who focus on the minutiae of the daily casualty reports. It was interesting to see how, in a traditional army versus army conflict, the press could still distinguish the forest from the trees, as demonstrated in this paragraph:

The Sinai victory had cost the Israelis heavier casualties than the 1956 Suez campaign, 275 dead and 800 wounded. . . . The Egyptian losses were staggering — 20,000 dead by Israeli estimates and perhaps a billion-dollar lost in war materiel. But the objective was gained. Israeli troops took up positions on the east bank of the Suez Canal — and trained their guns on Egypt’s homeland. [Emphasis mine.]

Work calls, and calls, and calls (the telephone will not stop). I’ll pick up on this later. (Part II is here; part III is here.)

UPDATE: For an analysis about the UN’s most recent, and entirely expected, act of perfidy against Israel, read this Weekly Standard article which details how the UNIFIL carefull provided info to Hezbollah about Israeli troop movements, weapons positions, etc. with, in the name of neutrality, providing to Israel the same information about Hezbollah. The same article details how the UN deliberately stood aside when it had information that could well have prevented terrorists from murdering three kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

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Defining Hezbollah

As part of a superb article about Hezbollah, the war with Israel, and the larger ramifications of that war and its outcome, Dan Gordon properly identifies Hezbollah and its goals:

Hezb’allah is not your father’s terrorist organization. This is not a group of loosely affiliated cells of would-be hijackers or suicide bombers. Hezb’allah is a terrorist army, trained like an army, organized like an army, funded and equipped like an army, with one glaring difference. The main use of its arsenal was terror aimed at Israel’s civilian population while hiding behind Lebanon’s civilian population. Its intent was to cause maximum civilian casualties amongst both. This was not by accident. This was by design.

This was Hezb’allah’s war, planned and prepared for six years, funded by close to a billion dollars by Iran, aided by Syria. One of the great benefits to the West to come out of this war (if they choose not to turn a blind eye to it) is the certain knowledge that Hezb’allah is Iran’s terrorist operational arm. It is the terrorist extension of Iran’s expressed foreign policy.

It is not a coincidence that Hezb’allah launched its totally unprovoked attack across Israel’s internationally recognized border, killing and kidnapping Israeli soldiers and dragging Lebanon and Israel into a war which neither one wanted at exactly the moment when the international community had issued its ultimatum to Iran. That ultimatum was: “Cease your efforts to develop nuclear weapons or face the sanctions of the International Community.” Iran’s response was Hezb’allah’s war.

Even a cursory examination of Hezb’allah’s statements, captured documents, the weapons it procured over six years and instantly deployed, provides an insight into their war aims and the battle plan to achieve those aims. Hezb’allah announced in the clearest possible way that it was its intent to turn Southern Lebanon into a graveyard for the IDF. This was not mere rhetoric. It was their plan.

By the way, I’m well aware that the quotation above gives a much more accurate rendition of the way in which to spell “Hezb’allah.”  That spelling emphasizes the army’s Islamic cast — that is, it’s a religious army intended to spread a radical view of Allah, not a national army.  I have enough problem with apostrophes at the best of times, though, so really have no interest in embarking on more typographical nightmares.