Monday, October 31, 2005

Sistani Ends Shia Party Backing

Ayatollah Sistani, one of Iraq's most senior Shia clerics, will not endorse any political groups for December's election, his spokesman has said.
The grand ayatollah wants Iraqis to vote according to their beliefs, Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai said in a sermon on Friday.

The ayatollah's statement may worry the ruling Shia-led coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance.

His support before the January election helped them win over many Iraqi Shia.

Delivering a Friday sermon in the holy city of Karbala, Sheikh Karbalai revealed that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a marja, or source of emulation for his followers, would not back any party.

"The marja enjoins Iraqis to participate massively in the forthcoming elections, but does not support any political group in particular," he said.

"It's up to Iraqis to make their choice based on their beliefs."
Very Impressive.

The Satire That Writes Itself

Sean Penn interviews George Galloway about a possible bio-flick about the life of George Galloway:
George Galloway is in talks to have a Hollywood movie made about his life.

The Scot - who is facing claims that he took cash from Saddam Hussein - has met with US actor and director Sean Penn to discuss the project.

Film chiefs hope to cash in on Galloway's popularity since he blasted the US Senate over Iraq.

McKay, a writer who shares a flat with Galloway in London, said"Sean Penn took us to his mansion and we all had a good laugh - George and Sean really hit it off.
That's even more amusing of Penn taking his retinue to New Orleans and filming him saving himself in a boat that was flooding with a papercup.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Presence Through Absence

My co-blogger at Kesher alerted me to a must read post at Michelle Malkin's. It shows, explicitly, that the NYTimes used the occasion of the "grim milestone," of 2000 deaths to twist the words of a soldier who died serving Iraq to fit its own "grim" agenda. In this case, Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr, was on his third enlistment. He didn't get there by being oblivious to the risks.

Here is the entire portion of the article the NYTimes devotes to Cpl. Starr:
Another member of the 1/5, Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr, rejected a $24,000 bonus to re-enlist. Corporal Starr believed strongly in the war, his father said, but was tired of the harsh life and nearness of death in Iraq. So he enrolled at Everett Community College near his parents' home in Snohomish, Wash., planning to study psychology after his enlistment ended in August.

But he died in a firefight in Ramadi on April 30 during his third tour in Iraq. He was 22.

Sifting through Corporal Starr's laptop computer after his death, his father found a letter to be delivered to the marine's girlfriend. "I kind of predicted this," Corporal Starr wrote of his own death. "A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances."
Here is what they left out of the letter, because it didn't fit the constant agenda of the NYTimes.
I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."
Also, this letter, at Tim Blair's site, to Byron Calame camplaining about the article's slant is a must read.

On a different note, the NYTimes article tell us this:

"So far, the emotional turmoil of repeated deployments has not taken a toll on re-enlistment rates for the Army or the Marine Corps, which provide most of the American forces in Iraq. Both exceeded their re-enlistment goals this year, aided by signing bonuses of $20,000 and more. But many experts said that could change if the war dragged on and troops were asked to serve more tours in combat."

So many anonymous experts with the same agenda as the NYTimes said that, huh? Gee, that's authoritative. I'm persuaded.

Friday, October 28, 2005

60 Minutes Sunday: Featuring Joe Wilson, for whom Indictment Day was a sad, sad occasion

Because, you know, um, that shows he has gravitas.

According to Drudge, Joe Wilson will be appearing on this week's Sunday 60 Minutes with Ed Bradley to talk about how much harm has occurred to Valerie and how there have been threats against her.
“There have been specific threats [against Plame]. Beyond that I just can’t go,” Wilson tells Bradley. Wilson says he and his wife have discussed security for her with “several agencies.”
Can a lawsuit for damages be far behind?

Also, MacRanger is back from Hurricane Hiatus. And he's letting it be known that his sources at DOJ are looking into the nepotism situation with regard to Valerie Plame lining up her husband against the interest of the Administration. After all, hiring your husband to suit your CIA cabal should not leave you enviably untouchable.

Nevertheless, I'll believe it fully when I see it.

Surprisingly, the AP explores the bad blood between the White House and the CIA.
Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff is learning one Washington lesson the hard way: Don't do battle with people who run covert operations for a living.

You Went to Washington for Two Years and All I Got Was A Lousy Indictment?

10/28: UPDATE: Libby's statement, and that from his lawyer

Michelle Malkin has live blogged parts of Fitzgerald's press conference.

Q: Did Libby know whether Valerie Wilson's identity was covert?

A: ...We have not made any allegation that Libby knowingly/intentionally outed a covert agent...

Q: Terry Moran...There are some who see this is vindication of their views on the war. Is it?

A: This indictment is not about the war. Not about the propriety of the war. This is stripped of that debate and focused on a narrow transaction...they will be frustrated and not good for process and fairness of trial.

Libby indicted on obstruction of justice, 2 counts of false statment and 2 perjury charges...

Patrick Fitzgerald is in the House, the US District courthouse in Washington, D.C, that is.

Apparently the current buzz - which has been buzzing about for a few days but now newly confirmed - is that Libby will be indicted for misleading the Grand Jury that he learned of Plame through the media, when his notes say he learned of her from his boss, VP Cheney. Um, didn't he read his notes before handing them in?

Jane Hamsher suggests that these notes were found on a hard drive that Libby tried to wipe, but Fitzgerald reconstituted. Which only goes to suggest there is a lot we still don't know... Is Libby falling on his sword for Cheney over this as others have suggested? But Hamsher also warns that we should take this with a big dose of salt. And, in fact, doesn't indicate a source for this beyond the rumor mill. It does explain, though, why Libby "forgot" what his own notes said. On the other hand, perhaps it explains it too well -- in other words, it's projection. [Hat tip on Hamsher: Just One Minute]

The Corner this morning is featuring some fascinating give and take on what can be gleaned so far about Fitzgerald's prosecutorial demeanor in regard to leaving Rove under investigation - between Mark Levin, former chief of staff at the Justice Department and Andy McCarthy, for NY Prosecutor and friend and colleague of Patrick Fitzgerald.

So it looks like its going to be a mostly grinchy Fitzmas after all. But as the Captain reminds us, there are 12 days of Fitzmas to go.


10/27: Reactions to Drudge's news, based on illegal, anonymous leaks to the NYTimes, that it looks like the investigation will continue on Karl Rove and that Libby will be indicted tomorrow; there are rumors he is white collar lawyer shopping -- although you'd think he'd shop first in his former firm. After all, he was Mark Rich's lawyer. Considering the deal that guy got, too bad he can't represent himself.

At the Corner, from Mark Levin:From the New York Times piece: "Karl Rove, President Bush's senior adviser and deputy chief of staff, will not be charged on Friday, but will remain under investigation, people briefed officially about the case said."

If this is accurate, and I say if, it bothers me a great deal. To continue to hang this investigation over the president's top aide seems highly inappropriate to me. If they couldn't find something on Rove by now, then move on. If they couldn't find or convince witnesses to contradict Rove by now, then move on. It appears they took another run at his assistant the other day, but may have come up empty. This is clearly disruptive to the president. And at some point you would think this would be relevant to investigators.

And from Jonah Goldberg:

Obviously, there's a lot more to know, but this sounds to me as not very good news for the White House. If Rove hadn't been indicted and Fitzgerald essentially cleared him, the White House would have been in great shape. Rove's an obvious huge asset. So, of course, if Rove had been indicted that would have been bad news for the White House but it might have had the positive benefit of ripping the band-aid right off. Rove would have been replaced, the White House could get a fresh start, etc etc. This situation (if it is the situation) brings no closure of any kind. The media is obviously going to take a glass-is-half-full perspective on this and keep up Rove-indictment-watch. That means Rove remains distracted, no fresh start. Or at least that's the way it seems in terms of very instant analysis.

AJ Strata is not the least bit happy either:

This NY Times piece is claiming Rove is in the clear, pending further investigation and Libby faces indictment for not agreeing with the press who is culpable and covering their backsides.
Fitzgerald is going to come out of this looking like an idiot. If leaking Val’s employer was not a crime, confusion over accounts about it are not a crime either.
And after two years he better have answers or admit there is simply no way to tell and move on.
Pat, you know what happened to Ken Starr’s career (rightfully) after impeachment???
Indicting those who told the truth about those who lied to America…..
Time to throw them all out of DC. The whole bunch. Media, pols and lawyers.

And Tom McGuire compares this situation, with the open indictments, to Giuliani's Wall Street investigations from the 80's:

folks who remember Giuliani's Wall Street investigations from the 80's will remember that no one was ever exonerated except by a "not guilty" verdict - once an investigation was announced, the Feds did not follow-up with an announcement that the investigation was over. That is probably all that is happening here.

Macranger, who has had some fascinating coverage, unfortunately is still on Hurricane Hiatus in Florida.

Amir Taheri Explains Iran

Amir Taheri has an important column in today's NYPost explaining what lies behind the recent threat against Israel by Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
[W]ith the [Iran-Iraq] war's end in 1988, the mullahs reverted to their original anti-Israel posture. For years, the Islamic Republic waged a proxy war against Israel via the Lebanese Hezbollah and several Tehran-financed radical Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jihad.

Yet Ahmadinejad has gone several steps further — presenting the destruction of Israel as a major goal of his government. Why?

One reason may be his desire to distance himself as far as possible from his predecessor, Muhammad Khatami, and from Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful mullah-cum-businessman who still heads a key faction within the regime.

Ahmadinejad has criticized the "softness" of Khatami and his mentor Rafsanjani, which led to "a decline in revolutionary spirit." Thus the new stand on Israel may be part of a package of measures to revive the regime's original radical message.

Another reason may be Ahmadinejad's belief that Israel is preparing to attack Iran's nuclear sites as part of a broader U.S. plan against the Islamic Republic. He may thus be trying to mobilize Iranian and Arab public opinion for the coming showdown.

But the real reason for Ahmadinejad's Jihadist outburst may well be his deep conviction that it is the historic mission of the Islamic Republic to lead the Muslim world in a "war of civilization" against the West led by the United States. One of the first battlegrounds of such a war would be Israel.

Since his election in June, Ahmadinejad and his "strategic advisers" have used a bellicose terminology as part of their program to put Iran on a war footing. In the past few weeks, the regime has been massively militarized with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Ahmadinejad's main power-base, seizing control of almost all levers of power.

According to Gen. Salehi, one of Ahmadinejad's military advisers, a clash between the Islamic Republic and the United States has become inevitable. "We must be prepared," Salehi says. "The Americans will run away, leaving their illegitimate child [i.e., Israel] behind. And then Muslims would know what to do."

The war talk has given the Iranian economy the jitters, prompting the biggest crash ever of the Tehran Stock Exchange.

Remarkably, the new foreign policy aimed at provoking war with Israel and America has never been properly debated in the parliament, or even within the Cabinet. Some of Iran's senior diplomats, speaking anonymously, say they, too, have not been consulted.

New York Stinks So Fine

This one is weird.
Strong, Sweet Smell Reported in Manhattan

New York City has many odors, but when the city began to smell a little too good, New Yorkers became alarmed.

Residents from the southern tip of Manhattan to the Upper West Side nearly 10 miles north called a city hot line to report a strong odor Thursday night that most compared to maple syrup, The New York Times reported Friday.

There were so many calls that the city's Office of Emergency Management coordinated efforts with the Police and Fire Departments, the Coast Guard and the City Department of Environmental Protection to find the source of the mysterious smell.

Air tests haven't turned up anything harmful, but the source was still a mystery.

"We are continuing to sample the air throughout the affected area to make sure there's nothing hazardous," said Jarrod Bernstein, an emergency management spokesman. "What the actual cause of the smell is, we really don't know."

Although many compared the smell to maple syrup, others said it reminded them of vanilla coffee or freshly-baked cake. All seemed to agree that it was a welcome change from the usual city smells.

"It's like maple syrup. With Eggos (waffles). Or pancakes," Arturo Padilla told The Times as he walked in Lower Manhattan. "It's pleasant."
I can attest to this -- because I smelled it for hours last night. I thought it smelled like French Toast. But I just assumed one of the neighbors was cooking, that's all.

I've got to say, though, it would never have occurred to me to call up and complain! about it.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Wall to Wall Coverage

Well, its currently wall-to-wall Harriet withdrawal coverage over at Memeorandum, but the best goodbye yet is at the Harriet Miers blog, written by "Harriet" herself.

I have to help figure out who the next nominee is... I know, sucks... so here's a question. Can you nominate John Roberts for Associate Justice, so he'd get two votes on the SCOTUS? He was a really good nominee last time.
Just keep on scrolling for some belly laughs.

And the comments are just as funny as the entries!

UPDATE: Speaking of laughs: I just heard Juan Williams on O'Reilly refer to the Conservatives viz. the Mier withdrawal as a far right Donner party -- evidently we eat our own.

Storming the Halakhic Barricades

Well not quite.

Nevertheless, these 12 women, newly ordained as halakhic advisers on Jewish family purity laws, are inexorably chipping away at the barriers towards orthodox women taking a formative role in the halakhic process.
Twelve new female halachic advisers, ordained in Jerusalem on Wednesday, will help mitigate inhibitions felt by religious women in need of halachic advice on the intimacies of Jewish family purity laws.

These 12 women, the fourth graduating class of halachic advisers produced by Nishmat, a college for higher Jewish learning in Bayit Vagan, are trained to answer the same questions normally directed at a male rabbi. But as women answering questions posed by women these advisers minimize the awkwardness that often accompanies exposing intimate details on, for example, menstruation to a male stranger.

Dean of Nishmat Chana Henkin said that in many cases religious women who were apprehensive about asking a rabbi about family purity laws were needlessly stringent on themselves.
I'll say. What could be weirder and more awkward than dropping off your bloodstained underpants in a brown bag for the doorman of a building to hand over to the rabbi for him to examine! So that he can pronounce on your state of purity or its opposite. Which is the waythe process is generally handled in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, the fact that women are making progress advancing in the world of halakhic decision making still has to be couched very discretely.
However, Henkin's husband, Rabbi Yehuda Henkin, who, together with Rabbi Ya'acov Warhaftig, supervises the fielding of dozens of questions via Internet and a special daily hot-line, said that the advisers are not a substitute for male halachic authority.

"We purposely call them halachic 'advisers' to emphasize their role in citing known, undisputed Jewish law. But none of the women are poskei halacha (halachic authorities). None of them make decisions on new, unprecedented issues in halacha."

He added that "very few men have enough halachic knowledge to make groundbreaking halachic decisions let alone women...But the time will come when women will have the appropriate background necessary to make innovative halachic decisions."
Moreover, looks like the women, as opposed to the men, are actually getting the medical knowledge necessary to answer these questions authoritatively. Under the radical assumption, no doubt, that the 5th century world was not the acme of knowledge about female biology.
Rabbi Henkin said that during their two-year course of studies female halachic advisers cover all of the studies demanded by the Israeli Rabbinate for rabbinic ordination.

But unlike the men, the women are required to study physiology, anatomy and certain medical issues such as the effect of birth control on the body and fertility problems.

"We also require women to learn basic psychology, sexology and counseling," Rabbi Henkin said.
I wonder when the male halakhic authorities on matters of nida are going to be required to have appropriate medical knowledge?

In the Best Tradition of British Irony...

...American Joe Wilson deadpans...
Leak indictments would be 'a sad day,' Wilson says
Uh huh.
Wilson said Wednesday he took little comfort that the men he believes have engaged in a campaign of character assassination against him for the past two years -- Karl Rove, President Bush's deputy chief of staff, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the vice president's chief of staff -- may soon be facing charges and possible jail time.

"The fact that this may become a crisis of governance should please no one," Wilson said at a private hotel reception before speaking in downtown Seattle Wednesday evening.
Yes, that is a very proper and admirable sentiment. No doubt that is why the Dems, taking their clues from him, have christened Indictment Day, which could come any day now, as a new holiday, called Fitzmas. In the sense of isn't it's beginning to look a lot like Fitzmas. And of course some people are worried that the Grinch will steal Fitzmas this year. In which case, their schadenfreude level won't be met.
Wilson said he was withholding judgment regarding the claims about Cheney. "I don't know what to think of that, except to say it saddens me deeply. I get no satisfaction from that."
What a terribly sad man he must be of late! Perhaps some Prozac would cheer him up. You know, so he could return to the mindset of the jouncy Wilson of old who blithely announced that, "Rove ought to be "frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."

Yes, I imagine Fitzmas will be a terribly sad day for him, indeed!

Steven Spruiell at NRO: Media Blog calls Wilson a "sad clown".

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

La Plus Ca Change...

According to the BBC, Russia opposes UN action on Syria.
Moscow says it will block any UN effort to impose sanctions on Damascus over its alleged role in the assassination of former Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri.
Sigh. I thought the old Soviet/Syria alliance no longer operative. Can anyone parse what Russia stands to lose if Syria's current leadership receives a shock to its system?

Speaking on a visit to Israel, a spokesman for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow "opposes sanctions against Syria".

"Russia will be doing everything necessary to prevent attempts to impose sanctions against Syria," he said.

The draft UN resolution proposed by France, the UK and US urges Syria to arrest any of its nationals seen by UN investigators as suspects in the Hariri assassination.
Is it any wonder that Lavrov is being obstructionist about Iran as well... Feels like the old days.
Israeli officials have long considered Iran to be the biggest threat to their country, and accuse the Tehran government of pursuing nuclear weapons and missile technology that could be used against Israel.

At a joint news conference with Lavrov, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel believes Iran is "very close" to obtaining the knowledge to produce a nuclear bomb. "That is why all of us should be very determined to move the Iranian (issue) to the Security Council," he said.

Lavrov said that Russia will follow the lead of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is investigating the Iranian nuclear program, and believes that talk of sanctions is premature.

The U.S. has been leading the international effort to pursue sanctions against Iran. Tehran says its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

"We rely on the professional assessment of the International Atomic Energy Agency," Lavrov said. "All our assessments ... do no substantiate the allegations that we have a clear and present danger coming from Iran."

"This issue is too serious to be guided by politics," he added.

Lavrov said that if the IAEA determines that Iran is pursuing illegal weapons, Russia would consider taking the matter to the Security Council.

The IAEA board last month declared Iran in violation of the nuclear arms-control treaty, opening the way to Security Council referral when the 35-nation board meets Nov. 24. But the chances of referral were weakened earlier this month after Iran agreed to provide sensitive documents and other access to IAEA investigators.
Meanwhile, YNET is reporting that today's terrorist bombing in Hadera, Israel originated from sources inside Damascus.
Officials: Orders come from Damascus

In response to terror attack in Hadera, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem say 'decision to carry out attacks originate in Damascus, carried out by local terror cells'
But that can't be related to anything going on in Syria. Because we all know that, like Arafat in days of yore, Bashir Assad has absolutely no say over the activities of Syria's terrorists.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Me, I'm curiouser and curiouser

Unlike the quagMier, which my esteemed co-blogger at Kesher Talk has pronouced "intensely boring", the Plame Game keeps getting more fascinating.

Not only does it provide a rare glance into the nature of the CIA's war against the Bush Administration's Iraq policy - complete with covert ops and a disinformation campaign - but now, for our delectation, we have the NYTimes implosion at full throttle.

Friday saw the publication of Bill Keller's email dissing Judith Miller, whom only days before he had feted and dined, after her release from jail.

Miller's response is here, where, among other things, she takes issue with Keller's curious insinuation that she was "entangled" with Libby.
As for your reference to my "entanglement" with Mr. Libby, I had no personal, social, or other relationship with him except as a source, one among many to whom I had pledged confidentiality as a reporter for The New York Times.

I know how important it is for the paper to protect its reputation, but I have my reputation to protect also.
Saturday saw Gail Collins' salvo against Miller in the shape of a Maureen Dowd shaped missile at her cattiest and bitchiest. BTW, isn't it fundamentally sexist to suggest that a female colleague ought to be leashed, even if it is in a literary context?

Sunday saw Byron Calame, the public editor, basically letting us know that he thinks Judith ought to be fired or should resign.
What does the future hold for Ms. Miller? She told me Thursday that she hopes to return to the paper after taking some time off. Mr. Sulzberger offered this measured response: "She and I have acknowledged that there are new limits on what she can do next." It seems to me that whatever the limits put on her, the problems facing her inside and outside the newsroom will make it difficult for her to return to the paper as a reporter.
Today, we get to see Judith's reply to Byron Calame.
You chose to believe Jill Abramson when she asserted that I had never asked her to pursue the tip I had gotten about Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger and his wife’s employment at the C.I.A. Now I ask you: Why would I – the supposedly pushiest, most competitive reporter on the planet -- not have pushed to pursue a tantalizing tip like this? Soon after my breakfast meeting with Libby in July, I did so. I remember asking the editor to let me explore whether what my source had said was true, or whether it was a potential smear of a whistleblower. I don’t recall naming the source of the tip. But I specifically remember saying that because Joe Wilson’s op-ed column had appeared in our paper, we had a particular obligation to pursue this. I never identified the editor to the grand jury or publicly, since it involved internal New York Times decision-making. But since you did, yes, the editor was Jill Abramson.

Obviously, Jill and I have different memories of what happened during that turbulent period at the paper. I did not take that personally, though she never chose to discuss with me our different recollections about my urging her to pursue the story. Without explanation, however, you said you believed her and raised questions about my “trust and credibility.” That is your right. But I gave my recollection to the grand jury under oath.
It's fascinating -- though not in the least unexpected -- that Jill Abramson did not consider that, having carried Wilson's column smearing Cheney, the Times had no special obligation to then examine and report on any conflicts that might be informing Wilson's public stance.

Meanwhile, with Times circulation figures and revenue way down, the sharks in the newsroom are out for blood.
Newsweek, meanwhile, carried a report on Sunday asserting that "many Times staffers are out for blood. At a contentious meeting in the paper's Washington bureau last week, some reporters and editors demanded Miller's dismissal. In private, some staffers argued the paper had to do more -- sacking Keller or even somehow punishing Sulzberger, whose family controls the Times. 'Judy took advantage of her relationship with the publisher,' said one Times staffer who asked not to be identified because he feared losing his job. 'The publisher should pay the price.'"
Editor and Publisher quotes David Gergen tepidly speculating that "Miller was 'used' by administration officials and Iraqi exiles."

Snort! No doubt to distinguish "her situation" from the entirely above board relationship that most journalists have with their leakers. Never any other agendas or using going on there. No, this kind of relationship is unique to Judy, as the great sage Gergen propounds it.

On this point, the NYSun weighs in with an editorial of it's own about the situation at the NYTimes.
For those of us who love newspapers, it's hard to take even a competitor's pleasure in the autophagy under way at the New York Times, whose own reporters and columnists are writing in the paper to attack one another and, most of all, Judith Miller. While she was in jail, the Times ran editorial after editorial defending her. Now, only days after she emerged, her colleagues have tried to transform her from First Amendment hero to "Miss Run Amok," not even fit to work at the paper. Suddenly the newspaper that was denouncing the special prosecutor for being overly aggressive against Ms. Miller is now hanging on every detail of his investigation in the hope he will use the same kind of aggression against aides to Vice President Cheney and President Bush...

There are some of us who remember the days when there was a New York Times that would not have sat for the CIA trying to overturn decisions of a democratically elected American government, whatever political party was involved...

Who has been the better journalist - Judith Miller or those attacking her in her own paper's pages? Ms. Miller was sounding the alarm about the Iraqi threat and working her sources and fighting not to get beat. Ms. Dowd was parroting unsubstantiated smears, and Mr. Wilson was falsely downplaying Iraq's effort to obtain weapons of mass destruction, without disclosing to Times readers his wife's institutional interests. And huge numbers of Times reporters have been complaining about her to competing news companies. To which we can only say that if Ms. Miller is to be run out of the Times in favor of Ms. Dowd and Mr. Wilson and those who believe, falsely, that the Iraq war was all just an elaborate con job by Mr. Chalabi and his neoconservative allies - well, then the Times is in even worse straits than we thought.
That's an excellent point about the NYTimes aiding and abetting a CIA attempt to derail the policy of the duly elected government. [Though perhaps the editors share the opinion of their editorialist, Mr. Paul Krugman, that Vice President Gore actually won the election?] Moreover, let me point out, it was the CIA that promulgated much of the recent disinformation campaign against Mr. Chalabi.

And to cap off all this journalistic hallaballoo and wallowing, Andy McCarthy, at National Review, points out the operatic level hypocrisy of what is going on.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you now know that Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, was Miller's source that Plame worked at the CIA. And you know that Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, was a source who confirmed that fact for Cooper.

But how do you know?

You don't know it from the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald...

You also don't know it from Libby and Rove. As we are now informed, they spoke to reporters on condition that they not be publicly identified by name. Indeed, Libby is said to have gone so far as insisting that Miller refer to him as a "former Hill staffer" rather than a "senior administration official" to make extra sure his words would never come back to bite him you know where.

Note that at the time Libby insisted on this nom de leak — which is to say, insisted on that oh-so-solemn promise of confidentiality to which the Millers and Coopers and editorialists from coast-to-coast have effused about their unflinching dedication — there was no special prosecutor. Pat Fitzgerald was still in Chicago, minding his own business (or, at least, minding al Qaeda's business).

No, the promise Libby and Rove were seeking, and that Miller and Cooper purported to give, had nothing to do with any grand jury. It was that the sources' names would never be revealed to the public.

Yet, you are the public, and you do know their sources. Why?

You know them because the journalists decided to tell you. Miller and Cooper both made certain that the public knew every syllable uttered by the sources they've sanctimoniously told us, again and again, they made commitments to shield. And they did it in the worst possible way: in hyper-hyped, autobiographical, self-adulating accounts of their valiant struggle to withhold information from a grand jury despite that nagging inconvenience the rest of us know as the law...

But, as these reporters and their publications well know, they didn't have to do it...

If their principle was what they purported it to be, if they were as committed to it as they feigned, you wouldn't know anything. Their sources would remain confidential — perhaps forever. In the chain of charades begun by the charlatan Joseph Wilson, the phoniest of all may be that the special counsel, rather than mendacious media themselves, outed confidential sources...

It's worth remembering the now ancient history of this affair. Matters got kicked off over two years ago when Robert Novak wrote a column recounting what two Bush administration officials told him about Plame.

Who were Novak's confidential sources? We don't know.

It's fair to assume Novak has told the grand jury who they were. The law gave him no choice. But having promised to shield his sources from the public, he evidently did not regard a narrow legal compulsion to provide evidence in a secret proceeding as license to expose those sources for the entire universe to see and snicker at. And if the investigation ends without charges or with guilty pleas, you won't know anymore about Novak's sources tomorrow than you do today.

Yet, in the inverted world of media morality, it's Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper who are the polar stars of integrity. Go figure.

Considering Cameron

An interesting look at how the birth of a son with disabilities has sensitized David Cameron, the emerging favorite for the Tory leadership in Britain, to problems with the structure and shortcomings of British health care.

Note, Ian Birrell, the writer of this piece printed in the Spectator, a conservative paper, is the deputy editor of the Independent, a Labour paper. Knowing very little about how these situations work in Britain except what I've observed casually, I'm wondering about the politics of that bit of cross fertilization. Why does the sympathetic portrait of David Cameron appear in the Spectator, not the Independent? Does he lose creds with his hometeam if he bats, in however limited a fashion, for the other side? Similarly with the criticism of the British national health care system. Are his Independent readers less receptive to such criticisms? But then would they not benefit the most from hearing about such shortcomings?

I'm just speculating wildly here, based on American mores. If anyone if more informed, feel free to comment.

Hat Tip: Clive Davis.

Yay Bush!

Finally some extremely positive Bush news. Debka is reporting some excellent news about what happened inside the Bush-Abu Mazen talks last week.
According to our sources, the US president laid down a new set of rules, unfamiliar to the Palestinians. In a word, no one will help the Palestinians if they don’t help themselves – and that goes for me, the US President, too. If you think you can disarm Hamas by letting them take part in elections, go ahead, but you are on your own. We think you are making a big mistake, but we don’t interfere. But there is a price to pay. A regime dominated by terrorists cannot expected to be treated as a democracy.
He reminded Abbas that he was the first American president to envision an independent Palestinian state and make it a strategic goal of his foreign policy, but the Palestinians had not risen to the challenge. He informed Abbas that to achieve statehood, they must meet three categorical conditions:
A. A Palestinian state must live in peace with Israel.

B. Peace alone is not enough. The Palestinians must demonstrate they are capable of being good neighbors.

C. The Palestinian state must be clean of terrorism.

As matters stand now, said Bush, I see no prospect of Palestinian statehood coming into existence before I leave the White House. The US president said he continued to support the Palestinian leader. However, his terms were the reverse of what Abbas wanted to hear.

1. Final-status negotiations must not begin yet. (This knocked on the head Abbas’ most cherished goal which is to skip the road map preliminaries and jump to the final stage.)

2. Washington is holding back the timeline for progress towards Palestinian independence. (This was a stunning setback for Abbas’ plans and his standing at home.)

3. The Middle East road map for peace will not for now be activated. It will remain on paper as long as Palestinian “armed gangs” are in charge.

From vampirology to the godhead

Anne Rice has apparently left the world of vampires far behind and is now writing novels about Jesus.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Duelling Portraits

A portrait of I. Lewis Libby Jr. here.

And a portrait of Patrick Fitzgerald here.

I'm curious as to why the NYTimes is hosting a relatively positive portrait of Libby. Can it be, maybe, for deniability purposes after the fact. Is it just to show, if there are indictments this week, that all of their coverage of Libby was not negative. Given all the loving attention directed to the Administration's team by the NYTimes, it's nigh on impossible to take the thing at face value, instead of a bit of Times strategy.

BTW, for those of you following the Plame-Game saga, I want to recommend Macsmind for digging into a lot of depth into this story in a way that is not available in much of the media, and certainly not the most superficial renditions of the story that we see on TV news, cable and otherwise.

With an intelligence background himself, he's demystified the context of this saga - explaining the war going on between the Administration and certain "rogue" branches of the CIA, who were seeking to lob missiles at the Bush Administration policies. His contention is that the narrative of the Plame Game was constructed deliberately by these rogue elements.

Scroll through the last week on his blog if you like this kind of stuff. He's done some excellent work on it. Whether his contentions actually bear fruit, we'll likely see later this see.

For a more conventional approach, but also plenty nuanced, see JustOneMinute

UPDATE: Here is another portrait of Libby, in the Washington Post, with some fascinating details:
Libby greatly admires the work of Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and military historian who posits that warfare is an inevitable part of civilization, evil is a basic condition of humanity, and tyrants must be confronted by the harshest possible means. (In late 2002, a few months before the Iraq invasion, Cheney -- also a Hanson devotee -- invited the historian to the vice president's mansion for a small dinner gathering that included Libby.)

Hanson's stark perspective comports with Libby's view on Iraq....

Friends and associates say Libby remains unbowed about the U.S. action in Iraq, and despite the setbacks of recent months has shown no hint of doubt. In times of travail, Libby recalls the excitement of his job and the grandeur of his mission.

"Cheney and Scooter play chess on several different levels," Matalin says. "That's how their minds work. It's not about what's right in front of him. They look at things in the sweep of history.
And Stephen Hayes, writing in the Weekly Standard, presents his theories of Plame-Gate.

Are Jews Smarter? Or, Does History Determine Ontology?

I meant to post this earlier in the week, but like everyone else currently in the last few days of suffering through celebrating the final onslaught of Jewish fall holidays, I had a bit of a time management problem.

New York magazine has a lengthy feature discussing the question raised last summer by Henry Harpending, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of Utah, and Gregory Cochran, an independent scholar, about whether Jewish genius arose through natural selection. The article in NY Magazine, by Jennifer Senior, explores the theory itself and some of the social science problematica surrounding it.

The two shopped around a paper that tried to establish a genetic argument for the fabled intelligence of Jews. It contended that the diseases most commonly found in Ashkenazim—particularly the lysosomal storage diseases, like Tay-Sachs—were likely connected to and, indeed, in some sense responsible for outsize intellectual achievement in Ashkenazi Jews. The paper contained references, but no footnotes. It was not written in the genteel, dispassionate voice common to scientific inquiries but as a polemic. Its science was mainly conjecture. Most American academics expected the thing to drop like a stone.

It didn’t...

We may consider ourselves the products of a new, more enlightened age, and scientists may carry on with more sensitivity than they did in the past. Yet to invoke the genome as an explanation for anything more complicated than illness or the most superficial traits (like skin color) is still considered taboo, as Harvard president Larry Summers discovered when he suggested the reason for so few female math and science professors might lurk in scribbles of feminine DNA (rather than, say, the hostile climes of the classroom, the diminished expectations of women’s parents, or a curious cultural receptivity to Pamela Anderson’s charms).
I imagine quite a few people -- Jewish and otherwise -- will be troubled by the bare supposition that Jewish intelligence advanced due to being fit into the role of financier in Europe beginning at the twilight of the dark ages. That direct linkage of Jewish properties, even Jewish virtues, with money making will be quite discomfitting to some.

Case in point, on a much narrower basis. Over the summer, I gave a copy of Paul Johnson's, The Anti-Semitic Disease to someone I well know. And was quite flummoxed that he ended up thinking there was an anti-semitic odour to it, despite Paul Johnson's creds and that the original article was published in Commentary. It came down to the fact that Johnson was arguing that anti-semitism has frequently crippled the economies of the countries that pursue it vigorously as a national policy. Thus, anti-semitism is tied into the suppression of Jewish talent with regard to the creation of wealth.

I, myself, had no problem with this notion. But then I'm more familiar with Paul Johnson's record and have far more training as an historian. For example, at this point in time, it is fairly well established in academic literature that the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in the last 1400s had a very negative impact on Spain's economy during the next centuries because it destroyed the financier class just before the discovery of the New World, at a time when much gold was to be arriving on Spain's shores. Which had the effect, overtime, of ruining the once vigorous economy, since wealth was accruing in Spain without any national investment. (Not unlike, say, the situation in Saudi Arabia today - when the oil wealth bears no relation to local initiative or investment.) Since I was already familiar with this argument vis-a-vis Spain, I had no problem extrapolating it to other circumstances.

Of course, there are all kinds of places where I would find these kinds of insinuations problematic - and I certainly think the exact same tie in, written up by other people (with other motives) could be extremely disturbing to me as well. But these seem non-problematic to me. I find it interesting to speculate how sociological factors may have impacted the genome over time.

And there are other way in which this kind of a study could be revealing. Is there, say, a condition that relates not just to numerical genius but to spiritual genius as well? The ultra-orthodox certainly believe such a thing is possible, which is why marrying someone with ichus - that is marrying someone from a well known line of people that have displayed characteristics that are religiously admirable - is so important.

What do you all think?

Friday, October 21, 2005

First Female Airman Killed in Iraq Had Jewish Roots

Elizabeth Nicole Jacobson, 21, was providing convoy security in Iraq on Sept. 28 and was killed when her vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device.
At her funeral in Pompano Beach, Fla., on Sunday, her father David Jacobson, who lives in California, spoke of his last conversation with Elizabeth, three days before her death. She had called him in tears from Kuwait; during the drive from Iraq, a dog ran in front of her vehicle and was killed.

“She felt horrible,” he said — even in a combat zone.

Five years ago, David Jacobson began practicing as an Orthodox Jew; a few years later his father, Allan, who did not even know that he was Jewish until the age of 9, began to explore Orthodoxy as well.

“Her mother wasn’t Jewish, so she wasn’t Jewish,” said Allan Jacobson of his granddaughter. “But she believed that if her father had determined” that a traditional Jewish life “was for him, it must be the right thing.” Jacobson had “Jewish” stamped on her dog tags, and her father and grandfather both believed that she intended to convert to Judaism upon her return from Iraq.

A Cantata For Liebowitz Rachel

A play and the revival of that play all in a space of mere months isn't enough to celebrate the wonder that was Rachel Corrie. Now she rates a cantata, too!

Can sainthood be far off?
On 1 November the 'Cantata concert for Rachel Corrie' - co-sponsored by the Arts Council - has its world premiere at the Hackney Empire.
I love the irony of its opening venue. Hackney Empire. That about sums it up for me.

Still, is it any wonder, in an atmosphere like this, thoroughly aided and abetted by today's artistes, so full of zest and crusading spirit to do right in the world by gum!, the Chief Rabbi of Britain, Sir Jonathan Sacks, feels compelled to announce publicly that for the first time in his life, he has felt uncomfortable being a Jew in Britain.

Meanwhile, Clive Davis who actually has seen the play, and wrote a review of it, calls it, "an embarrassingly banal slab of agit-prop." Hardly surprising considering the knee-jerk, herd-mentality, bien-pensant perspective from which it was written. He suggests that the arts community has some serious growing up to do. Oh, but Mr. Davis, they're too busy feeling good about themselves for crusading against the evil Jews Zionists to worry about that.

He warns us, however, of what's to come:
In the meantime, I hear that Lincoln Center has expressed interest in staging the play, and the Royal Court is awash with requests from smaller companies. Depressing, very depressing. But not particularly surprising.
Perhaps I'm being naive, but I just can't see this as a real money maker - on consecutive nights - in NYC. But, hell, you never know. They might bus the moonbats in from all across the country!

Is Compassion Scientifically Measurable?

[The Dalai Lama] has been an enthusiastic collaborator in research on whether the intense meditation practiced by Buddhist monks can train the brain to generate compassion and positive thoughts. Next month in Washington, the Dalai Lama is scheduled to speak about the research at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.
This is interesting for practicing Jews as well because it raises the question whether kavanah - or intentionality in prayer - is also measurable and, therefore, efficacious in a manner that can translate persuasively to a modern-trained sensibility.

Of course, the very fact that such an experiment takes place - religion, God forbid! mixing with science - attracts its share of immediate, kneejerk detractors.
But 544 brain researchers have signed a petition urging the society to cancel the lecture, because, according to the petition, "it will highlight a subject with largely unsubstantiated claims and compromised scientific rigor and objectivity."...

[M]any scientists who signed the petition say they did so because they believe that the field of neuroscience risks losing credibility if it ventures too recklessly into spiritual matters.

"As the public face of neuroscience, we have a responsibility to at least see that research is replicated before it is promoted and highlighted," said Dr. Nancy Hayes, a neurobiologist at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey who objects to the Dalai Lama's speaking. "If we don't do that, we may as well be the Flat Earth Society."

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Deeds, Not Words

In response to seething dissatisfaction about US policy on the Palestinian issue in the ME, Karen Hughes set up an impropmtu meeting between Palestinian diplomats in the US and the President.
During Hughes's trip to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, she told reporters that she was surprised Bush had not received more credit for his efforts on the establishment of a Palestinian state. At almost every public forum, Hughes highlighted Bush's support for Palestinian statehood as a way of rebutting the perception that the administration leans toward Israel on the key issues needed to achieve a peace deal.

But Arabs have complained that Bush's support for statehood has been merely words. "The slogan of a Palestinian state is not enough," said Randa Siniora, general director of Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights group in Ramallah, West Bank. "These words have to be translated into real deeds."
Post Gaza, for the Palestinians to claim that Bush's support of a Palestinian state is mere words, not deeds, sounds like the usual Palestinian victim rhetoric. As though nothing has changed. Nothing substantial has been done. And for her to fall for this line, when the Palestinians have done nothing to ameliorate the rising terrorism in Gaza, does not reassure me that she understands how politics works in the ME, where making concessions is seen as weakness, not strength. Perhaps she should have pressed them on the point as to why they view actual progress on the ground - the handing over of Gaza - only as words, not deeds. And asked them what actions they had contributed to ameliorating the situation. Karen Hughes, with her maternal sensibility unschooled in ME politics, just strikes me, over and over, as the wrong women for this job.

See also, this post.

In other news, Palestinians still have not figured out that Arafat died of AIDS. Because they didn't allow those tests to be performed.
The official investigation into the death of Yasser Arafat failed to determine what killed the longtime Palestinian leader, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said Wednesday.

Qureia said the special committee that led the investigation would publish the results later Wednesday, along with a report by the French doctors who treated Arafat.

"French and Palestinian doctors who treated the martyred brother found that medicine could not find the disease which infected Arafat, neither viruses, nor germs, nor AIDS, nor bacteria," Qureia said.
Of course, it is rather hard to find AIDS, if you do not allow the doctors to test for it, as in this case.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Revisiting David's Palace

Azure is carrying an article on the finding of the building that may be David's palace, Facts Underground. [Or you can read an excerpted account in Ynet (a site that doesn't require free registration): Part I, Part II]

You know one of the best things about finding the palace in Jerusalem? Besides the amazing fact that David's Palace may have been found!

Shows up the archaeological revisionists in plain sight for the fools they are.

The field of biblical archaeology has been rocked, so to speak, by dramatic new finds in the heart of ancient Jerusalem. For the last few years, a number of respected archaeologists have posited that the biblical accounts of Jerusalem as the seat of a powerful, unified monarchy under the rule of David and Solomon are essentially false. The most prominent of these is Israel Finkelstein, the chairman of Tel Aviv University’s archaeology department, whose 2001 book The Bible Unearthed, written together with Neal Asher Silberman, became an international best seller. The lynchpin of his argument was the absence of clear evidence from the archaeological excavations carried out in Jerusalem over the last century. “Not only was any sign of monumental architecture missing,” he wrote, “but so were even simple pottery shards.” If David and Solomon existed at all, he concluded, they were no more than “hill-country chieftains,” and Jerusalem, as he told the New York Times, was “no more than a poor village at the time.”

But now comes word of a most unusual find: The remains of a massive structure, in the heart of biblical Jerusalem, dating to the time of King David. Eilat Mazar, the archaeologist leading the expedition, suggests that it may be none other than the palace built by David and used by the Judaean kings for over four centuries. If she is right, this would mean a reconsideration of the archaeological record with regard to the early First-Temple period. It would also deal a death-blow to the revisionist camp, whose entire theory is predicated on the absence of evidence in Jerusalem from this period. But is she right?
Hillfolk, indeed! Or maybe, just maybe, if only they could stretched their imagination and schooled their patience, they might have imagined the finds yet unfound.

I doubt I'll ever understand the automatic impulse to want to deconstruct history - to belittle it more or less, to batter it down, to reduce it to nothingness - rather than to understand its sweep. There's a whole minimalist aesthetic going on in that mental framework, the post-modern thrust, which wants to reveal historical roots as scanty, overblown and inauthentic in order to cry out, Oh what a fraud has hereto been perpetrated on man. With this absence of proof, we reveal that to you for the first time.

There's surely no absence of ego in that approach. Intellectually speaking, it's a bit like Ham uncovering the nakedness of his father, Noah. Harold Bloom, I imagine would speak of it in terms of the Oedipal complex.

By the way, I'm certainly not decrying the precision which the academization of history brings to the field of biblical studies. Far from it. Just this particular intellectual thrust, with its will to negate, let loose and foisted on the rest of us by a post-modernist mafiosa. And their allies, who are happy to misappropriate such theories of nothingness for their own nefarious political ends.
So, is it David’s palace? It is extremely difficult to say with certainty; indeed, no plaque has been found that says on it, “David’s Palace”; nor is it likely that such definitive evidence will ever be found. And yet, the evidence seems to fit surprisingly well with the claim, and there are no finds that suggest the contrary, such as the idolatrous statuettes or ritual crematoria found in contemporary Phoenician settlements. The location, size, style, and dating are all right, and it appears in a part of the ancient world where such constructions were extremely rare and represented the greatest sort of public works. Could it be something else? Of course. Has a better explanation been offered to match the data–data which includes not only archaeological finds, but the text itself? No.

There will be no shortage of well-meaning skeptics, including serious archaeologists, who, having been trained in a scholarly world weary of exuberant romantics and religious enthusiasts prone to making sensational, irresponsible claims about having found Noah’s Ark, will be extremely reluctant to identify any new archaeological find with particulars found in the Bible. Others, driven by a concatenation of interests, ideologies, or political agendas, will seize on any shred of uncertainty in the building’s identification to distract attention from the momentousness of the find. Both groups will invoke professionalism and objectivity to pooh-pooh the proposition that this is David’s palace. They will raise the bar of what kind of proofs are required to say what it was to a standard that no archaeological find could ever meet. Or they will simply dismiss it all as wishful thinking in the service of religious or Zionist motives...

“You can never be sure about this sort of thing,” Mazar says. “But it seems that the theory that suggests this to be the very palace described in the book of Samuel as having been built by David is thus far the best explanation for the data. Anyone who wants to say otherwise ought to come up with a better theory.” This is neither wishful thinking nor an imagined past, but good science.
Note, too, that a similar, text-based approach in Greece is likely to have located Ithaca, home of Penelope and Odysseus.

Previous posts on this subject:

Unlayering History
David's Kingdom

Sociology Among Some of the Ultra-Orthodox

Attitudes among the most Ultra Orthodox never seem to change...

Well that's a truism of course. That's why they're ultra-orthodox, because their perspective on Judaism never budges, except to become more determined to resist the march of time. Sometimes it's a strength. Other times...well speaks for itself.

Ha'aretz provides an interesting look at how in some Israeli ultra-orthodox communities, the schools are rejecting as pupils the children of the not-so-recently religious. That is, the parents of these children did tshuva -- turned from secular to religious - and have lived their lives in religious communities from that point. But now their children -- who were raised in these religious communities -- are facing prejudice from the generational taint of secularism they inherited.
A newly religious journalist stirred up a fierce storm among the ultra-Orthodox public when she asked what was the point of attracting more people to Torah observance if their children would not be accepted to Haredi schools anyway.

In recent years, a new type of discrimination has emerged in Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox educational institutions. In addition to their discrimination against girls from Sephardi backgrounds, children whose parents found religion in adulthood are also being sidelined. For the past month, the Haredi weekly, Mishpacha, has devoted several pages each week to a public discussion of this sensitive issue.

Avigail Meizlik - the paper's cuisine columnist who lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh and became religious as an adult herself - kicked off the discussion. She related that the class in which her daughter studied, and which was composed mainly of children from homes like hers, had been closed and that now no other school wanted to accept her daughter.

"There are so many organizations and people devoting their lives to attracting people to a religious lifestyle," wrote Meizlik, "Why bother? Why convince them to make such a difficult, painful change? Why call upon them to come and live a Torah lifestyle if no one has any intention of giving them the opportunity to live such a lifestyle? Perhaps the time has come to stop investing in outreach and to redirect the immense energies of these organizations to the existing newly religious families."
An excellent set of questions.

I understand the rationale for why the Ultra-Orthodox do not want to let anyone into their select circles. They see their position -- as the fierce and unyielding guardians of the law -- as absolutely critical for the spiritual fate of the people Israel in the long quest to persevere until the days of the Messiah. And thus, they resist anything that might expose their inner circle to forces that will weaken it. In this case, they presume the weakening will creep up on them from inside, attack their children unawares, by exposing them, however tangentially, to a favorable impression of secularism. And thus, in their desire to maintain a pure guardianship over the law, they eschew contact even with the children of people who have joined their world, but are widely regarded by many within that world, as living on a second tier. Not quite pure enough yet. The sins of their fathers -- even if since repented -- still manifest themselves, however subtly, in the upbringing of their children.

It is interesting, though, that they privilege the threat these marked children can do to their own children above the good that their children and they themselves might do these children by providing a righteous - and thus persuasive - model of Torah Jews. The fear weighs more than the chance to do what by their lights would be a mitzvah.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur starts this evening at sundown. An easy fast to everyone observing the Holy Day.

Due to Jewish Holidays, posting will once again be light in the upcoming days.

Usually Yom Kippur is my favorite Jewish holiday - because I love the drama of the liturgy, particularly the Temple reenactment ceremony - but I've been feeling under the weather so far this week, so I'm a little worried about my fasting stamina this time around.

Although, ever since I realized it was halakhic (religiously permissible) to take tylenol, etc. as needed - the coated ones are best for swallowing without water - it's been a bit of a relief. Those afternoon caffeine withdrawal headaches can be killers.

See you back here later this week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hobbit Update

Here's more on the discovery of the hobbit bones in Indonesia. More bones from several individuals have now been found.

The original find now is fallen into some controversy, with some critics advocating a position that the bones belonged to a diseased humans. But given the fact that new bones have been located, ranging over a span of as much as 80,000 years, this theory appears less plausible now than when it was formulated.

Carl Zimmer provides more background to some of the scientific disputes swirling around this find and their repercussions on his blog, Corante. And an earlier post discusses the evolutionary viability of shrinking brain size here.

Previous post on the Hobbit controversy.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Al Qaeda Moving Into Gaza

Powerline has an account of signs that Al Qaeda is moving into Gaza. Well, with Al Qaeda operating among the Bedouin in the Sinai, we all knew it was only a matter of time. Particularly, after the breach in the Gaza Sinai Fence that went unguarded for days. The article points out that with Al Qaeda occupying Gaza, it may be time, at long last, to retire the bi-polar policy of treating terrorism in Israel differently than everywhere else in the world.

Unfortunately, it's hard to imagine even this eventuality, of Al Qaeda in Gaza, effecting the EU policy of buying off the Palestinians in order to keep the discontent from their own shores - at least in anything approaching the short term. Their current policy is too damn useful for them for non-altruistic reasons of their own.
The EU, which provides the Palestinian Authority with half of the $1 billion in European aid, is not an altruistic player in the Middle East, said said [EU Parliamentary President Josep Borrell Fontelles].

With its growing Muslim population, Europe is finding that violence in the Middle East leads to unrest within its own borders, he said.

"The conflict in the Middle East is dangerous for us. We are not just here, as the good guy who says, please do not fight between you. We need this conflict to be finished because of its impact on life in Europe.

"As European society faces the problem of xenophobia, it can destabilize our society," said Borrell explaining that the Israeli- Palestinian conflict fuels anti-Semitism, "Islamophobia," and anti- globalization feelings.

Borrell denied charges that Europe was making political overtures to Hamas, adding that Europe´s attitude toward the organization had not changed.
[The original link to the Jerusalem Post is no longer functioning - this is an archived copy. Hat tip: Melanie Phillips]

Jalal Talabani to Tony Blair and the British People

Writing in the London Times, Jalal Talabani, the current President of Iraq, says:
EVENTS OF recent weeks have reaffirmed the need for the alliance between the new Iraq and Britain. The lesson of the ghastly drumbeat of terrorism, the rioting in Basra and the vile murder of the leadership of the Iraqi Anglican Church is that the battle of Iraq cannot be won by retreat or compromise, but by the vision and determination for which Britain is renowned. Above all, Britain owes no apology for delivering the enslaved people of Iraq from the hands of a callous tyranny.

The challenge is to show fortitude in the face of horror so that we can finish the job that began in 2003 of uprooting dictatorship and implanting a democratic government. Reforming Iraq, restoring a society distorted by fascism, was never going to be easy.
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Jesus H. Christ!

I never heard about Secret Mark! Sheesh! The things you never learn in New Testament Seminar!

So Morton Smith, who was a professor of Ancient History at Columbia last century, claimed, in 1958, to have discovered, at the Monastery at Mar Saba in the West Bank, an excerpt of a letter from Clement of Alexandria that alludes "to a homosexual relationship between Jesus and Mark, and casts doubt on the authenticity of portions of the canonized gospel of Mark."

Talk about your ways to undermine Christian theology.

In today's culture, that's even far more explosive than claiming that Jesus had a secret child, covered up by the Church. (Though I think, classically, that undermines the supersessionary claim of Christianity far more neatly. Emotionally speaking, it is harder for a spiritually gifted human to sacrifice his child than himself. So the harder sacrifice for Jesus would have been of his child, not himself.)

Great subject for a novel, too. Just tentatively, you could call it, hmm, The Michelangelo Code.

Some scholars, I note, regard Morton's Smith find as a hoax. And it is being debunked in a book due out next month, named appropriately for its subject Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith's Invention of Secret Mark.

[UPDATE: Now I've read the relevant text. And it strikes as far more likely to be referring to a mystical initiation- an early Christian version of merkavah mysticism, which is the technical term for first and second century Jewish mysticism (pre-kabbalah) - than homosexual activity. But the gay speculation is so much more fun!]

The World Wide Web (of Bureaucrats?)

Another take on keeping the UN away, far far away from the Internet.

And Roger Simon kicks in with Not My Internet!

Recent posts on this subject:
1) Is the Guardian Engaging in Wishful Thinking
2)Ye Gods!

An update on the conversion of the B'nai Menashe in India

Here's an exciting update (from two weeks ago) on the Conversion of 700 B'nai Menashe to Judaism. [sites needs registration]
A Beit Din, or rabbinical court, arrived in India earlier this month to begin the conversion process, which will enable Bnei Menashes, as they are known here, to move to Israel.
"This time only a small population of us are being converted in India. But Beit Din will return to India again to conduct similar conversions in future," said Lyon Fanai, a Bnei Menashe leader.
"We all will finally get the right of aliyah and settle in our long-lost homeland," he said, referring to the right of Jews to emigrate to Israel.
About 700 of the impoverished Indian Jews living in India's economically backward northeastern states of Mizoram and Manipur are being converted this month.
B'nai Menashe are Jews from the lost tribe of Menashe, exiled first to Assyria, beginning in 722 BCE. And from there, over the centuries, they migrated to points east, such as India, Afghanistan and Tibet. At this point, the identification of their Jewish roots is accomplished easily through DNA testing. However, due to the fact that there is no way to establish whether all their female progenitors were Jewish (I believe the DNA only marks the male line, but correct me if I'm wrong on that one) -- which is current Jewish law -- a rabbinic conversion is also required.

Which always tickles my brain. Since, at the time the progenitors of these folks were exiled, rabbinic Judaism had not yet been dreamt of. And, in fact, from the academic perspective (as opposed to a faith position), it seems unlikely that female descent was a requirement at the time. Nevertheless, it's standard practice that in order to become a Jew today, one must convert to some branch of rabbinic Judiasm. And in Israel, if one wants state support, as is advisable in a community wide conversion of people from an impoverished region, and is not looking for a legal fight, the easiest way to comply is an Orthodox conversion.

Er, I hope that was phrased delicately enough not to upset sensibilities on either side of the great conversion divide.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Political Anti-Semitism in Britain Today

Melanie Phillips brings our attention to the fact that the Chief Rabbi of Britain, Sir Jonathan Sacks, has warned of a new wave of anti-Semitism, saying, that that "there have been times, the first in my memory, when it has been uncomfortable to be a Jew in Britain."
In the message, Sir Jonathan cites calls, backed by Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, to abolish Holocaust Memorial Day because it is offensive to Muslims.

He also refers to remarks with "anti-Semitic undertones" by public figures, the threatened academic boycott of Israel earlier this year and Church debates over divestment from Israel.

He says that Israel and Jews are being cast into the role of scapegoat for the troubles thrown up by rapid global change, even though they are not responsible for them.

The new anti-Semitism differed from the old in being "political rather than racial, focused on Jews as a nation rather than Jews as individuals. But it has adopted and adapted all the old myths, from the Blood Libel to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

Although Israel has nothing to do with such events as "the millions of Muslims murdered by their fellow Muslims" in Iraq, Sudan and elsewhere, it is being turned into "the scapegoat of the 21st century," the Chief Rabbi says.

But he adds: "We must not over-react. Not every criticism of Israel, nor every infelicitous remark by someone in public life, is anti-Semitic in intent, even if we find them offensive and unfair."

Jewish leaders were angered by a planned boycott of Israeli universities by the Association of University Teachers in April, which was reversed after it came in for criticism.

In another attack on Israel, the Anglican Consultative Council approved a report in the summer urging the worldwide Church to sell its investments in companies deemed to be profiting from anti-Palestinian policies.

Sir Jonathan's remarks come before a BBC programme on Sunday about the Community Security Trust, the organisation that protects synagogues and other Jewish centres. The trust has claimed that anti-Semitic attacks are on the increase in Britain.
Meanwhile, Nick Cohen has come in from the cold and, having in recent years been hit in the face with it innumerable times, now recognizes the depth of anti-semitism on the British left.
I learned it was one thing being called “Cohen” if you went along with liberal orthodoxy, quite another when you pointed out liberal betrayals. Your argument could not be debated on its merits. There had to be a malign motive. You had to support Ariel Sharon. You had to be in the pay of “international” media moguls or neoconservatives. You had to have bad blood. You had to be a Jew....

One minute I would be talking to a BBC reporter or liberal academic and think him a civilised man; the next, he would be screaming about the Jews...

Politicians I’d admired astonished me: Tam Dalyell explained British foreign policy as a Jewish conspiracy; Ken Livingstone embraced a Muslim cleric who favoured the blowing up of Israeli women and children, along with wife-beating and the murder of homosexuals and apostates.
Cohen attributes this ultimately to the left's loss of direction. He's got a few real gems in the mix, such as the idea that modern anti-semitism arose after the emancipaiton of the Jews from the ghettos. At which point, they took over from the Freemasons as the symbol of societal change, the throwing off of the shackles of stultified societal stratification and the new notions of equality. Which makes a great deal of sense. Read the whole thing if you have the time.

Serenity for Home Viewing

As an advertising stunt, someone very kindly arranged to make the first 9 minutes of Serenity accessible for home viewing. Here it is.

With some related information here.

Other Serenity posts here:

More Serenity Reviews
Just Got Back From Seeing Serenity...
Serenity and Joss Whedon

Friday, October 07, 2005

Navel Gazing At Its Best

I don't really have anything original to say about the Miers nomination one way or another. It seems like a misstep to me. But I'm taking Michael Ledeen's advice to wait and see.

Meanwhile, LOL.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn, characteristically, makes some intelligent points as well.

More on the Finding of Ancient Ithaca

I think this story is just so neat. Ancient Ithaca, home to Odysseus and Penelope, has, it seems, been located at last. Good news, since people have been searching for it since Strabo in the first century CE.

As it turns out, a series of earthquakes altered the landscape considerably, so what was once an island turned into a peninsula. Yet, much like Schliemann who discovered the site of Troy, scholars Robert Bittlestone and James Diggle and geologist John Underhill, used the descriptions from the text of the Odysseus to locate sites that were inland, and so their geography had not changed.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Après Moi Le Deluge

Many conservatives assumed that corrupt deal making was going on back during the Clinton White House precisely of the kind that Freeh illuminates in the coming attractions of his new book highlighted on Drudge.

And the reply we unfailingly heard from the left in reply? You people are so obsessed with Clinton's sex life.

It's really a shame that when this kind of corruption is going on inside an Administration, no one, not even the head of the FBI, will speak out about it publicly.
In another revelation, Freeh says the former president let down the American people and the families of victims of the Khobar Towers terror attack in Saudi Arabia. After promising to bring to justice those responsible for the bombing that killed 19 and injured hundreds, Freeh says Clinton refused to personally ask Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to allow the FBI to question bombing suspects the kingdom had in custody – the only way the bureau could secure the interviews, according to Freeh. Freeh writes in the book, “Bill Clinton raised the subject only to tell the crown prince that he understood the Saudis’ reluctance to cooperate and then he hit Abdullah up for a contribution to the Clinton Presidential Library.” Says Freeh, “That’s a fact that I am reporting.”
And of course, this attitude led ultimately to 9/11. If President Clinton had taken a firm stand at Khobar and every bombing after that, the course of history would have been different.

But God knows. It was more important to get those extra millions for the library.

Remember when Clinton, mind bogglingly, expressed jealousy that an event like 9/11 did not occur on his watch in order to define his Presidency? Can't find a link for it offhand, but it was soon after 9/11 itself.
Freeh says he was determined to stay on as FBI director until President Clinton left office so that Clinton could not appoint his successor. “I was concerned about who he would put in there as FBI director because he had expressed antipathy for the FBI, for the director,” he tells Wallace. “[So] I was going to stay there and make sure he couldn’t replace me,” Freeh tells Wallace.
For which we can all thank him.

If blogs had existed during the Clinton era and the same level of cynicism about the MSM, that period would, I believe, have been far different and ended, mercifully, sooner.

Is The Guardian Engaging In Wishful Thinking?

Let's hope so.

After troubled negotiations in Geneva, the US may be forced to relinquish control of the internet to a coalition of governments
The Bush Admin has been a little, shall we say, quirky of late. But this is one battleground they better not cede.

The issue of who should control the net had proved an extremely divisive issue, and for 11 days the world's governments traded blows. For the vast majority of people who use the internet, the only real concern is getting on it. But with the internet now essential to countries' basic infrastructure - Brazil relies on it for 90% of its tax collection - the question of who has control has become critical.

And the unwelcome answer for many is that it is the US government. In the early days, an enlightened Department of Commerce (DoC) pushed and funded expansion of the internet. And when it became global, it created a private company, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) to run it.

But the DoC retained overall control, and in June stated what many had always feared: that it would retain indefinite control of the internet's foundation - its "root servers", which act as the basic directory for the whole internet.
I love the obvious editorializing here in the technology section. "The unwelcome answer for many." Yes, I suppose that is the case if you hate America first! And which countries fall into that category?
A number of countries represented in Geneva, including Brazil, China, Cuba, Iran and several African states, insisted the US give up control, but it refused.
Meanwhile, who should control it? The UN? With a rotating chair to be held by freedom-loving countries like China and Sudan and Iran?

Shall we give the regulation loving EUniks the go-ahead?
But the refusal to budge only strengthened opposition, and now the world's governments are expected to agree a deal to award themselves ultimate control. It will be officially raised at a UN summit of world leaders next month and, faced with international consensus, there is little the US government can do but acquiesce.
Hello? Has The Guardian ever heard of the irascible John Bolton? He eats Guardian reporters for lunch. Or noticed that Bush is in a stubborn mood?
But will this move mean, as the US ambassador David Gross argued, that "even on technical details, the industry will have to follow government-set policies, UN-set policies"?

No, according to Nitin Desai, the UN's special adviser on internet governance. "There is clearly an acceptance here that governments are not concerned with the technical and operational management of the internet. Standards are set by the users."

Hendon is also adamant: "The really important point is that the EU doesn't want to see this change as bringing new government control over the internet. Governments will only be involved where they need to be and only on issues setting the top-level framework."

Ah yes. I believe that China, Iran, Cuba, Brazil and several African states have no interest at all in setting new government regulation over the internet. None! at! all!

Previous post on this issue: Ye Gods!

UPDATED: Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

And speaking of God, or that is to say, God speaking to us, apparently President Bush confessed to Nabil Shaath, the Foreign Minister of our friend Abbas over in Gaza, that God speaks to him:
Nabil Shaath says: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …" And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.'"

Abu Mazen was at the same meeting and recounts how President Bush told him: "I have a moral and religious obligation. So I will get you a Palestinian state."
So let's see. Here we have the Palestinian Prime Minister and his foreign minister, leaders of rectitude to a man, recounting this conversation to a representative of the BBC, widely praised for its fair and balanced coverage of the Bush Administration.

Naturally the Palestinian Ministers would be the first people, outside of his private circle, to whom Bush would feel comfortable confessing this.

Yes, fools! Proof at last. The Iraq war was a Christian jihad, spearheaded by God's latest false prophet. No wonder, it's turned into such a quagmire. But at least it's not yet like Vietnam.

An interesting point, to my mind, is the difference in language between Nabil Shaath's comments and Abu Mazen's. Abu Mazen's comments are to my mind completely unobjectionable. Since Bush is a religious man, his moral obligations would obviously be formed out of his religious core.

Seems to me, from this summary, that Shaath's comments are a reference to the same conversation that Abu Mazen mentions but translated through some unique and highly excitable filter of his own. Arabic poetic license, as it were. Not for naught the floweriness.

Still, if the two men were in the room simultaneously during this BBC interview, it is telling Abu Mazen did not correct the record.

UPDATE: The White House has actually bothered to deny the charge, which means that some reporter was stupid enough to ask about it in the White House briefing in the first place. Happily, this allows The Guardian, for one, to air the charges all over again. Given a choice between Bush and Nabil Shaath, it's no secret whose probity Guardian readers would rely on first. And in this regard, Andrew Blackstock, director of the British-based Christian Socialist Movement, the Guardian's interlocutor in the article, does not disappoint. He takes Shaath's verity seemingly as a matter of faith
"If Bush really wants to obey God during his time as president he should start with what is blindingly obvious from the Bible rather than perceived supernatural messages.

"That would lead him to the rather less glamorous business of prioritising the needs of the poor, the downtrodden and the marginalised in his own country and abroad.

"When we see more policies reflecting that, it might be easier to believe he has God on his side. And more likely that God might speak to him."
Uh huh. In other words, if only Bush were a socialist, this would show he had God on his side.

Humor in the morning is such a delightful thing.

Happy New Year - Belatedly!

Got in too late on Monday - due to some unforseen pet shenanigans - to do anything but shop, cook (for later in the week), shower and run - off to my Rosh Hashanah first night evening meal. Hence, no time to post a holiday greeting then.

Hope y'all had a good one.

Is it fair to think of Rosh Hashanah davening as two days of basic training for the Yom Kippur marathon?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Disappearing Future of P2P Tech in the US

Peer-to-peer file-sharing companies in the U.S. will cease to exist in their current forms over the next few months, the president of MetaMachine, the company responsible for the eDonkey software, predicts.

Speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Sam Yagan said that in order to avoid expensive litigation, file-sharing companies will have to change their models to become similar to iTunes or the new Napster or face expensive legal battles.
Of course, becoming like iTunes would be an excellent solution. It's the other side that doesn't appear to want to learn how to innovate.

Yagan further predicts the necessity for these companies to move overseas.
Another file-sharing company, WinMX, appears to have recently shut down its operations as its Web page is no longer accessible. However, rumors online have WinMX leaders relocating outside of the U.S., thus fulfilling another of Yagan's expectations.

He suggests that a wide variety of technology companies will choose to locate outside of the U.S. to avoid such potential lawsuits. "It's hard to imagine future 'open decentralized' P-to-P companies opening shop as American corporations," he said. "Where are the Skypes of tomorrow being founded? Your best bet is to look offshore."
Which is pretty much my expectation at this point as well. Bad for America though that the new innovative technology is being forced off of US shores, so that the dinosaurs can keep control of their universe and refuse to evolve.