October 04, 2002

No to DHS.

Never thought I’d see the day The Washington Times urged Congress to hurry up and create yet another bloated, inefficient government department to hoover taxpayers’ wallets.

We do not need a Department of Homeland Security. Period. Had we a reasonably competent FBI not so beholden to political correctness 9/11 would likely have been thwarted. I’m all in favor of heads rolling to create an efficient FBI, but I see no advantage in throwing one more layer of bureaucracy on top of what we have now.

According to the White House the Department of Homeland Security would be responsible for four major areas – border and transportation security, emergency preparedness and response, chemical and biological, radiological and nuclear countermeasures and information analysis and infrastructure protection.

There is not a job in the proposed department that is not already being done elsewhere. Is it being done well elsewhere? No? Fix it at that level. If it’s not being done well now what makes anyone think more bureaucracy’s the answer?

Here’s the brief description of the Department’s border and transportation security mission: “The Department of Homeland Security would be responsible for securing our nation's borders and transportation systems, would manage who and what enters our homeland and work to prevent the entry of terrorists and the instruments of terrorism while ensuring the speedy flow of legitimate traffic.”

We already have folks doing that. Are they doing a good enough job? Provide additional training and incentives, upgrade equipment, improve communication, increase funding, kick butt, do whatever it takes to help them do a better job. What reason is there that employees of the Department of Homeland Security would by definition do a better job?

Put it this way: If you’re trying to catch a bad guy, do you think one really big cop or twelve smaller cops could do a better job? Would you want one method of apprehending criminals or lots of different approaches at work in the field?

Conservatives are forever accusing the media of a liberal bias. They’re right. They’re also correct when they say that on the whole it’s not a conscious bias, nobody gets a lot of people in a room and says “Okay, now here’s the liberal slant I want everyone to take this week.” It just sort of happens on its own. It appears coordinated, but it’s actually much more effective than central control.

That’s how homeland security will work best. I’d bet that employees and managers of the federal agencies tasked with security are aware of the terrorist threat by now. It enters their thinking. They don’t need to be employees of a Department of Homeland Security to realize that they might encounter terrorism. Train them on who to contact and how to handle it, then get out of their way and let them do their jobs.


As the last blogger in blogdom to throw out my two cents about Torricelli...

... let me first say that I don’t consider the elected Republican a morally higher breed of political animal than the elected Democrat. Amoral liars abound on both sides of the aisle, although I must say the addition of “Hillary!” has tipped the scales in the Democrats’ favor.

Torricelli was one of the more obviously flawed men in the Senate, and notice how well I’m doing in resisting the temptation for a cheap New Joisey joke here. Even by politicians’ standards he’s considered unethical and slimy, which is no light feat. Few people have anything good to say about the man, but that’s not what’s important.

America is a country founded on the principle of rule of law. This is why we can survive the Richard Nixons and Bill Clintons, the Bob Torricellis and James Traficants, the Carol Mosley-Brauns and Al D’Amatos who flock to politics the way lawyers flock to ambulances. That Torricelli is a sleaze is not in dispute. The dispute centers on whether or not he and the Democrats are under the law.

My guess is that they are. I realize we’re talking about New Jersey, but still I am under the impression that there is a “controlling legal authority,” as Al Gore might have said. The law is quite clear: You have until 51 days before the election to make a change. The 51st day came and went with no change made. Case closed.

What is going on now is the Democrats are saying well, if we lose control of the Senate, which we will if the Torch goes down, which it’s looking like he will, then we’re screwed. They’re right. Tough beans. They don’t want that to happen. Tom Daschle rather likes seeing “Majority Leader” on his office door. So they’re essentially asking for an out-of-bounds ruling here: We know the law says we can’t do this, but we want to do it anyway.

As I’ve said, I don’t like Bob Torricelli. Few people do. Therefore it’s all the easier to get on our high horses and say oh isn’t this terrible, the law must be followed, because in addition to being right we also get the pleasure of watching Torricelli get his smarmy butt handed to him come November.

So take Torricelli out of it, take the political party, the situation in the Senate, everything out and look at what’s happening: A major American political party is replacing John Doe as a candidate for the United States Senate when it’s against the rules to do so, and the only reason they’re replacing him is because he can’t win. That’s the essence of the thing.

It’s not about taking choice away from the good people of New Jersey. They had a clear choice and they were clear to pollsters about what choice they’d make. Even now they have more than two candidates on the ballot. It’s not the choice Democrats, Chainsaw Tom Daschle or liberal in-house mouthpiece The New York Times would like, but so what? Who cares? That’s not an issue of law. Parties lose elections, balances of power shift all the time. Why do the Democrats think they should be immune to that sort of thing?

Of course put in stark terms anyone instantly sees this is wrong. This is bringing in a different boxer to “complete” the fight when one gets knocked out. If they’re allowed to get away with this it will happen again and again and again, and the concept of rule by law will take yet another body blow.

Besides, things like this tend to come back and bite perpetrators on the butt. No president had served more than two terms before FDR. Republicans were so miffed about his fourth term that they passed a law limiting the president to two terms. When Ronald Reagan came along they realized they’d been pretty stupid, but there they were, stuck with the consequences of their own actions.

If the Democrats are allowed to make the switch it will happen again. Sometimes it will temporarily benefit Democrats, sometimes it will temporarily benefit Republicans – since as much as they squawk about the ethics of it now, if it goes through they’ll be the first to copy it.

Andrew Sullivan has said he doesn’t think the Republicans should press their case to the Supreme Court, he thinks they should just leave it to the voters of New Jersey to reject the Democratic candidate and that’s punishment enough. I disagree (Andrew quakes). For once, in politics, it really is the principle of the thing.

October 03, 2002

World’s Funniest Joke – Scientifically Proven.

Thanks to N.Z. Bear for this, from New Scientist:

A year-long online search for the world's funniest joke is over. The winning rib-tickler emerged from two million ratings of 40,000 entries, submitted by people from more than 70 countries.

The LaughLab experiment was run by psychologist Richard Wiseman and colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire, UK. The data showed clear national differences in humour, Wiseman says.

People from the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand preferred jokes involving word plays. American and Canadians found gags involving someone else looking stupid most entertaining. And many European countries preferred the surreal entries.

Overall, Germans gave the LaughLab jokes the highest ratings. But they did not express a strong preference for any type of joke. Wiseman's team travelled widely to examine global humour. They found that verbal jokes are common around the world, except in one country. "It is very, very difficult to find joke-telling in Japan," he says.

The results suggest that people from different parts of the world have fundamentally different senses of humour. "Humour is vital to communication and the more we understand about how people's culture and background affect their sense of humour, the more we will be able to communicate effectively," says Wiseman.

Quack quip

The LaughLab results might also help scientists attempting to get computers to create truly entertaining jokes, he says. And they should also provide tips for people. The team's analysis has also revealed the world's "funniest animal" - the duck. "If you're going to tell a joke involving an animal, make it a duck," Wiseman says.

Visitors to the site were asked to rate jokes on a five-point scale. Of ratings for the world's second funniest joke, 64 per cent were a four or five. But an entry submitted by a psychiatrist in Manchester, England, triumphed, with 65 per cent:

A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator, in a calm soothing voice, says: "Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy's voice comes back on the line. He says: "OK, now what?"

This joke won because it appeals to people in many countries, to men and women, and young and old alike, the data analysis shows. "This one had real universal appeal," Wiseman says.

However, about one third of jokes submitted to LaughLab were rejected by the moderators for being offensive or rude. Acceptable jokes had to be deemed suitable for a 10-year-old to repeat.

October 02, 2002

Blast from Toronto

One of my evil pleasures is reading the Monday morning sports columnists in cities where favored NFL teams lost on Sunday. Another is hearing what Canadian friends have to say about Americans. I got this yesterday from one of the wittiest people on the planet:

When I lived on the Main Line and was waiting for my work visa to come through, I decided to volunteer at the library in Bryn Mawr (because I lived in the all-Jewish section of the Main Line, Penn Valley, and I was feeling quite discriminated against - some people wouldn’t even shake my hand, and I could never get served at the kosher deli - I thought perhaps a couple of afternoons a week with the WASP contingent might be helpful).

I find myself laughing even now, because my job (mainly) was to re-shelve the CDs. They had a complicated system for borrowing and returning them, and then re-organizing them was a labour-intensive job that one actually had to think about, and of course the other volunteers consisted of a fellow with Downs (he was actually quite good with the magazines, which were also a Hooverian system of organization), a former criminal who was always talking about his babymama and would I like to go out with him since I was so ‘foxy’, and a young woman who appeared to have some serious issues including being bipolar, obsessive/compulsive, anorexic and quite unable to tell time and date with any regularity. (She was quite upset when I was promoted to actually checking books in and out, since she had ‘seniority’. I felt badly about it, but she really was rather unstable and made you just itch to check her forearms for track marks.)

Anyway, that’s not why I am laughing. I am laughing because (a) one day, the ad hoc book display adjacent to the CDs was looking a little rough, so I made a new one, consisting of as many Canadian authors as I could find (which were not many - the Bryn Mawr library is nice looking but small), supplemented by my own personal favourites (well, they didn’t have stuff like Mervyn Peake, so I settled for things like Brideshead Revisited, a biography of Evelyn Waugh, and I even resorted to Alice Munro and Margaret Laurence, who both suck but at least they’re Canadian). Two weeks later NOT ONE of those books had been taken out! And they were on display!

And then there was (b): One day, after being promoted to the check out counter (this was a big deal, since I actually handled money - the overdue fines - and had the power to make the fines ‘go away’ if I wanted), a typical Bryn Mawr woman (well dressed, well-groomed, plenty of money but nowhere to go if you know what I mean) came to the counter and asked for a copy of The English Patient. We were all out (we only had one copy), so I said, “Oh, I see we have In the Skin of a Lion, do you want that?”

“Pardon?” she says, clearly unused to the library staff being able to offer suggestions, and wondering if she should take offense.

In the Skin of a Lion - it’s another Michael Ondaatje book, and I see it’s here. Have you read it?”

“Michael who?”

“Ondaatje - you know, he wrote The English Patient.”

“You mean there was a book before the movie? I just liked the movie so much I wanted to read the book.”

[tempted to become really quite deliberately elitist, and settling for just a taste] “Well, as you know,” which of course she did not but I was toning down my urge to tell her that, with a Mercedes station wagon and Sub-Zero fridge and 2 children in private school, she really did have an obligation to at least make an attempt to look like her brain hadn’t stopped taking in new information round about the time her husband gave her the Saks card, “Michael Ondaatje was quite a famous author prior to The English Patient...he has won several awards for both his writing and his poetry - oh, you know, if you liked the movie, you’d probably love his poetry,” I said with carefully calculated naive enthusiasm, “There’s one I love, called ‘The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife’ - it’s so evocative, it’s like you can actually smell the poem...and I’m not much of a poetry fan, myself. There’s a novel by the same name, and Coming Through Slaughter, but I don’t think we have that...”

“Uh...” she said, wondering how on earth the library girl could possibly know much about literature, since clearly, if I was working at the library, I could not afford a Sub-Zero, “How do you know all that?”

“Well,” and now I had to cut her some slack, because I have just disrupted the social order in Bryn Mawr, “Ondaatje’s Canadian, and so am I, so I suppose I grew up with him. We took his books in school," leaving her to think that I meant high school, while of course they don’t teach In the Skin of a Lion in high school because of the sperm-passing thing, “so perhaps it’s natural for me.”

“Ooohhhhh,” she says, clearly relieved that everything can be explained by the fact that I am Canadian, “So it’s not like he’s really popular or even known outside of Canada...” I used to get this sh*t all the time when I lived in the States - people would actually say to my face that they couldn’t possibly be expected to know or remember that in Canada, the cantons are called ‘provinces’ not ‘states’, and that Quebec City was different than the Province of Quebec, or Pierre Trudeau was not, in fact, related to the guy who did the Doonesbury comics. So her comment dissipated any pity I was feeling.

So I said, “Well, actually, Ondaatje is quite famous on an international level - “

“Well, sure,” she said, “Now that he’s done The English Patient movie,” evidently not remembering that, at the outset of this conversation, she herself did not know Michael Ondaatje was the guy who wrote the thing, so he’s probably not famous because of the movie.

“Actually,” I said, “if I’m not mistaken, he was short-listed for the Booker Prize” - this was an outright lie, since while I know he’s won several awards, I do not think the Booker is yet among them - “for In the Skin of a Lion, well before The English Patient, and signed first editions of his works fetch high prices at auction - gosh,” I said, returning to naif mode, “I once saw an annoted galley of one of his novels for sale at $1,000.”

“Oh,” says Ms Bryn Mawr, “Well, I don’t think I’ll take the other one anyway. Just call me when The English Patient comes back in.”

“Okay - but you know, if you want it faster, I know they’ve got copies at Barnes & Noble down the street.”

“No, thank you, I’ll wait til it’s returned.”

Ugh! Perhaps this is how she affords her Sub-Zero - by not purchasing books!

Coffee For Women, Brandy For Men.

It’s now official.

Coffee can kill pain, but only in women, The London Times has reported:

The Times said researchers in London had asked a sample of men and women to plunge their arms into buckets of freezing cold water and keep them there as long as they could. They then gave the volunteers coffee in the expectation that it would ease the pain.

Caffeine increases blood pressure which usually, according to the paper, leads to a lowering in the perception of pain. The study found that while the caffeine did little for the men it had "a strong impact" on the women.

"A double espresso probably would make the pain of something like leg-waxing more bearable," the paper quoted one of the researchers as saying.

Actually probably not, since bitterness of taste is not how to judge caffeine content. Drop for drop espresso has less caffeine than a cup of regular coffee: espresso tends to be more dark-roasted, and the longer coffee is roasted the more caffeine is roasted out. The most caffeine coffee ever has is when the bean is picked. Lightly-roasted coffee has more caffeine than dark-roasted, and espresso probably has the least of all.

October 01, 2002

I Don't See Any Problem. Really.

Iraq agreed today to let the U.N. inspectors back in - as long as they stay away from Saddam Hussein's palaces and presidential sites, which are complexes of scores of buildings and underground research labs with industrial capability. I don't see why America's upset.

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - U.N. inspectors reached agreement with Iraq on Tuesday about a new mission to reassess Saddam Hussein's alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Iraq said it expected an advance party in Baghdad in two weeks.

The Iraqis did not, however, bend to growing pressure from the United States and Britain to open Saddam Hussein's palaces and other so-called presidential sites to surprise inspections, which were banned under an agreement negotiated between Iraq and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 1998. The United States and other Security Council members agreed to the deal at the time.

In what was seen as a concession by Iraq, the talks resulted in "assurances from the Iraqis that we will have unconditional access to all sites," except the presidential sites, said Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the Vienna-based Atomic Energy Agency, where the talks were held.

The Iraqi chief negotiator, Gen. Amir al-Sadi, said the issue of surprise inspections of Saddam's palaces and other presidential sites was "not a subject on the agenda."

"Quite honestly I don't understand why it is so critical," al-Sadi said.

My wife and I divorced in 1991. As part of the divorce settlement I agreed to hand over all her jewelry. She claims there’s a lot of her jewelry I’m still hiding in the house. It was a pretty bitter divorce – a war, really – and we’re not on speaking terms anymore. If she fell off a cliff tomorrow I’d hold a party.

I gave her lawyers my personal assurances that I had none of her jewelry but had handed it all over. Turns out she could show that she was missing some pieces which are worth millions, so her lawyers asked if they could come and look through the house to make sure I was complying with the terms of the divorce.

I told them sure, as long as they told me when they were coming and exactly which rooms they wanted to search. They kicked a little but agreed to it. They didn’t find any jewelry.

You’d think that would prove to them that I don’t have it, but they’re not satisfied. So she’s threatening war if I don’t let the lawyers back in to conduct surprise searches of the whole house.

Well that’s just not acceptable to me, sorry. But to show I don’t have anything to hide they can come and search whenever they want to – but they can’t go in the bedroom, my study or the workshop. I’ll lock those.

The malcontents are peeved about that, can you believe it? I mean, they can search the rest of the house to their hearts’ content, just not the bedroom, my study or the workshop. Why are they making such a big stink out of three lousy rooms in a whole house? Quite honestly I don't understand why it is so critical.

God Is Great – Not Allah.

The first great misconception about Islam is that it is a religion of peace. The second is that “Allah" is just another name for the Judeo-Christian God.

In other words, some people say, we all – Christians, Muslims and Jews – really worship the same God, the God of Abraham. People who believe this also believe that under those quaint turbans and burkhas Arabs really hold the same values we do, and that Islamic terrorists have legitimate concerns (which it's our fault for not taking more seriously) which they're expressing as best they can through terrorism. And they’re just as wrong about this, too, mostly for lack of the inclination and effort to do the proper research to know what they’re talking about.

Allah is not the Arabic word for "God."

According to an excellent online survey the word allah comes from the compound Arabic word al-ilah. Al is the definite article “the” and ilah is an Arabic word for “god.” “By frequency of usage, al-ilah was contracted to allah, frequently attested to in pre-Islamic poetry,” according to the Encyclopedia of Islam III:1093 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1971).

It’s a purely Arabic word and has no counterpart in the Biblical understanding of the Trinitarian God or Yahweh. See Hastings’ Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, I:326, and J. Blau’s “Arabic Lexiographical Miscellanies” in the Journal of Semitic Studies, volume XVII, number 2, 1972, pages 173-190 for further discussion on the matter. Allah is not a Hebrew or Greek word for the God of the Bible, it is a purely Arabic term used in reference to an Arabian deity.

More scholarly findings on the matter:

· “‘Allah’ is a pre-Islamic name...corresponding to the Babylonian Bel.” (Encyclopedia of Religion I:117)

· “The Arabs, before the time of Mohammad, accepted and worshipped, after a fashion, a supreme god called allah.” (Encyclopedia of Islam I:302, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1913)

· “Allah was known to the pre-Islamic Arabs; he was one of the Meccan deities.” (Encyclopedia of Islam I:406, ed. Gibb)

· “The origin of allah goes back to pre-Muslim times. Allah is not a common name meaning “God” or a “god”, and the Muslim must use another word or form if he wishes to indicate any other than his own peculiar deity.” (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics I:326, ed. Hastings)

So who was "Allah?"

Okay, so Muhammad didn’t come up with the name Allah, it was already well-known to Arabs when Muhammad started the Qu’ran around 610 A.D. Of course his claim was that Allah was the Biblical God of the patriarchs, prophets and apostles. In other words, his claim to pagans was that Allah was the greatest of their pantheon of gods and his claim to Christians and Jews was that Allah was just the Arabic name for what they called God. Is that true, or is there some other “Allah” who’s really being worshipped here?

Among Arabs in pre-Islamic times worship of the moon god(dess) was common. According to Dr. Arthur Jeffery, one of the foremost Western Islamic scholars in modern times and professor of Islamic and Middle East Studies at Columbia University, “The name Allah, as the Qu’ran itself is witness, was well known in pre-Islamic Arabia. Indeed, both it and its feminine form, Allat, are found not infrequently among the theophorous names in inscriptions from North Africa.” [Arthur Jeffery, ed., Islam: Muhammad and His Religion (New York: The Liberal Arts Press, 1958), page 85].

The Quraysh tribe into which Muhammad was born in 570 A.D. was particularly devoted to Allah the moon god, and especially to Allah’s three daughters, Al-lat, Al-uzza, and Manat, children of the moon god father allah and the sun goddess mother. These three star goddesses were viewed as intercessors between the people and Allah. Muhammad’s father was named Abd-Allah, a name commonly found as Abdullah in Islamic countries today, which means “servant of Allah.” Muhammad’s uncle was Obied-Allah. So even before Muhammad began reciting the Qu’ran (he was illiterate and couldn’t write) there was a great deal of personal devotion to this moon god, Allah.

According to a survey of the available archaeological evidence “the worship of the three goddesses played a significant role in the worship at the Kabah in Mecca – today the center of worship of Islam. Well-known Middle East scholar H. Gibb points out in his 1955 book Mohammedanism: An Historical Survey that the reason the Qu’ran never explains who Allah is, is that “Muhammad’s listeners had already heard about Allah long before Muhammad was ever born.” Arabs worshipped about 360 gods at the Kabah in Mecca, but the moon god allah was the chief deity – Mecca, the most sacred site of Islam was also the most sacred shrine of Arabian paganism since it was built as a shrine for the moon god.

Dr. W. Montgomery Watt, who was Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Edinburgh University and Visiting Professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University specializes in the pre-Islamic concept of Allah. “In recent years,” he writes, “I have become increasingly convinced that for an adequate understanding of the career of Muhammad and the origins of Islam great importance must be attached to the existence in Mecca of belief in Allah as a ‘high god.’” For further study see his book Muhammad’s Mecca or his article “Belief in a High God in Pre-Islamic Mecca,” Journal of Semitic Studies, volume 16, 1971, pages 35-40.

So what happened, according to Archaeologist Carleton S. Coon, who did extensive work in Arabia, was that “under Muhammad’s tutelage, the relatively anonymous Ilah, became Al-Ilah, The God, or Allah, the Supreme Being.”

What "Allah" Really Is.

According to Middle East scholar E.M. Wherry, whose translation of the Qu’ran is still used today, in pre-Islamic times allah-worship, as well as the worship of ba-al, were both astral religions in that they involved the worship of the sun, moon, and the stars. In Arabia, the sun god was viewed as a female goddess and the moon as the male god. In Islamic scholar Alfred Guilluame’s book Islam, page 7, he records that the moon god was called by various names, one of which was allah. This was the personal name, other titles could be appended. And in fact in the Qu’ran there are over 90 additional titles given to Allah – none is “love,” by the way, and the God of the Christian Bible is explicit: God is love.

The symbol of the worship of the moon god in Arabian culture and elsewhere throughout the Middle East was the crescent moon. Islam has continued to use the crescent moon as its symbol – crescent moons top all minarets and mosques, Islamic countries have crescent moons on their flags. Archaeologists have dug up numerous statues and hieroglyphic inscriptions in which a crescent moon was seated on top of the head of the deity to symbolize the worship of the moon god allah.

Al-Kindi was one of the earliest scholars to compare Christianity to Islam. He grew up the Arabian culture shortly after Muhammad died and understood it intimately. He pointed out from a strictly Middle Eastern world view that Islam and its god Allah did not come from the Bible but from the paganism of the Sabeans. Al-Kindi realized that Muslims did not worship the God of the Bible but the moon god and his daughters al-Uzza, al-Lat and Manat.

An allah idol was set up at the Kabah in Mecca along with all the other idols, according to Robert Morey’s Islamic Invasion, pages 214-216. Correspondingly there is the Black Stone of Kaabah, said to be built by Abraham, there for Muslims today. The pagans prayed toward Mecca and the Kabah because that is where their gods were stationed. Today’s Muslims pray towards Mecca as well – when I was living in Boston I had a good Turkish friend who had a special compass which pointed towards Mecca.

The cult of the moon god, under whatever name, has been a continual snare for worshippers of God down through the centuries. The Old Testament is replete with warnings to beware the cult of the moon god and rebukes when the Israelites fell into this particular idolatry – see Deuteronomy 4:19 and 17:3; II Kings 21:3 –5 and 23:5; Jeremiah 8:2 and 19:13 and Zephaniah 1:5 just to get started.

That's why they call it the "fertile" crescent.

Islam spread fairly quickly throughout the Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia. Worship of the moon god was common – temples to the moon god have been found from Turkey to the Nile. Everywhere in the ancient world, the symbol of the crescent moon can be found on seal impressions, steles, pottery, amulets, clay tablets, cylinders, weights, earrings, necklaces, wall murals and just about anything else that could carry an impression.

In Ur, the Stela of Ur-Nammu has the crescent symbol placed at the top of the register of gods because the moon god was the head of the gods. Even bread was baked in the form of a crescent as an act of devotion to the Moon-god – did someone mention croissants? All right, since you asked:

In 1686 the Ottoman Turks tried to seize Budapest by digging under the walls of the city at night. Only the bakers were awake and working. They heard the noise and sounded the alarm, foiling the surprise attack of the Turks.

Their reward was permission to sell a delicacy at a premium price. They baked tasty, flaky bread in the shape of a crescent to mock the crescent of the Turkish flag. A more detailed account can be found in Stewart Lee Allen’s delightful, erudite book The Devil’s Cup: Coffee, the Driving Force in History.

Islam’s use of the crescent moon as its symbol helped ease acceptance. Even today Islamic ritual follows lunar cycles: The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan is measured as “the month which begins and ends with the appearance of the crescent moon in the sky.” In honor of Allah, their beloved moon god.

A moon god for all times.

See, Muhammad did not simply appropriate the name “Allah” and paste it onto the Judeo-Christian God. The pagan Arabs worshipped moon god allah by praying toward Mecca several times a day, making a pilgrimage to Mecca, running around the temple of the moon god called the Kabah, kissing the black stone, killing an animal in sacrifice to allah, throwing stones at the devil, fasting for the month which begins and ends with the crescent moon, giving alms to the poor – all of which is still done today as part of Islam.

In fact, Islam is nothing more than a revival of the moon god cult. It has taken the symbols, the rites, the ceremonies, and even the name of its god from the ancient pagan religion of the moon god, and has nothing whatsoever to do with Christianity or Judaism. Least of all does its pagan (i.e. Satanic) moon god allah have anything to do with God, Yahweh or Jesus Christ.

September 30, 2002

Fight Fiercely!

What a historical NFL game in Seattle last night.

My wife’s from New Zealand, and doesn’t watch football except when I’m watching it and she doesn’t feel like cleaning the bathroom yet again, so I don’t think she realized the bit of NFL history she saw last night.

Minnesota was playing – term used loosely – at Seattle. Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander scored five first-half touchdowns, an NFL record. He scored three in a 1:05 span at the end of the second quarter, which has to be a record. The Seahawks piled up 45 first-half points, tied for third-highest first-half score in NFL history. The Vikings are 0-4 for the first time since 1967, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren got his 100th career victory and Alexander set a passel of Seahawk individual records.

But the really amazing thing: Two Harvard grads faced each other across the line of scrimmage as starters in an NFL game – Minnesota center Matt Birk and Seattle linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski.

Let’s see someone find the last time that happened.

Is That “Barbara” or “Barbra” Again?

Of course Drudge got this first, but it’s too good to resist.

According to the International Herald-Tribune Barbra Streisand’s “political advisor,” a certain Margery Tabankin, faxed a “confidential memo” to House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. It wasn’t actually from Babs herself, since she was "busy in rehearsals," presumably for the September 29th fund-raiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at the Kodak Theater in L.A., which set a record for the DCCC by pouring over $6 million in unregulated slush fund money into Democrat hands.

So she asked Tabankin to "convey to you her feeling that it is time for the Democrats to get off the defensive and go on the offensive.”

Evidently it has recently come to Streisand’s attention that “there are serious problems with Iraq and Saddam Hussein,” yet “Barbra feels that we can't let this issue become a distraction from the country's domestic issues." After all, as Babs reasoned, Saddam "did not bomb the World Trade Center."

Fortunately the “confidential” memo was also faxed to a House Republican, who leaked it to Matt Drudge, who took due note of the “mass of typos and misspellings – ‘Gebhardt’ at one point, ‘Sadam’ and ‘Al Queda.’ Find it on his site under the headline "Streisand to 'Gebhardt': Don't Attaq Irack."

“Of course, Republicans will say anything they need to in order to accomplish their own political agenda,” the memo frets. “Barbra feels that the Democratic Leadership must not continue to take this lying down.”

Come on guys, Babs wants you to look more manly. No doubt Al Gore still has Naomi Wolf’s number, maybe she can help out with a few more alpha-male instruction lessons.

Liberal in-house organ The New York Times, evidently hoping for a few complimentary tix to the show, reported straightfaced on the memo, including that “Mr. Gephardt [spelled correctly] said today that he had thanked Ms. Streisand for her views,” and that Dick and Babs “spoke regularly about politics.”

Angling for good seats the Times did not mention the plethora of stupid misspellings and dumb mistakes in the memo. Naturally they would not have called attention to similar mistakes in a Bush memo either, of course.

Streisand has been a frequent contributor of valuable ideas to the nation’s political and social debate. The summer California suffered rolling blackouts due to a power shortage Babs instructed Southern Californians to line dry clothes to conserve energy which could be better used at the Streisand estate, despite the fact that line-drying is illegal in many parts of Southern California:

"A call to conserve must be issued to Californians just like when President John F. Kennedy called on the citizens of America with his words, 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.' " Streisand wrote in a press release posted on her Web site.

(No I'm not going to put a link to Barbra Streisand's Web site here, if you're that desperate for low comedy find it yourself.)

As is frequently the case, Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser said it best:

“Let me ask you something: You think Barbra Streisand hangs her wash on a clothesline?

“Are you crazy?

“Babs pinning up bras and panties? With those nails? Bite your tongue.

“She has people (who need people) to do her wash. (They're the luckiest people in the world.) The closest Babs ever gets to a line of clothes is Versace. Barbra Streisand couldn't find the washing machine in her own house without a Coast Guard search and rescue operation. She thinks All Temperature Cheer is what she gets when she steps onstage at Caesars Palace when the AC is on the blink.

“Barbra probably hasn't done a load of wash in 30 years. It's a misty watercolor memory of the way she was.”

Ah, the hypocritical moneyed Hollywood ditz set... what would the Democrats ever do without them?

September 29, 2002

Marty, Steve and The Danny.

Smart move, Danny Boy, dumping that loser Marty Schottenheimer. I mean, what's he done since you fired him?

Just watched the San Diego Chargers, coached by Marty Schottenheimer, defeat the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. It's the first time anyone's defeated New England since before last year's playoffs. Congratulations to the Chargers, Schottenheimer and his staff.

Just wondering, as I have in this space before, exactly why Redskins owner DannyBoy Snyder fired Schottenheimer, who finished the 2000-2001 season with an 8-3 surge (with, bear in mind, Tony Banks at quarterback) and came pretty close to a playoff berth after everyone had written the team off. In appreciation of this great coaching job Snyder dumped the highly respected proven winner in favor of glitzy neophyte Steve Spurrier.

Since that day Schottenheimer's led San Diego to their first 4-0 start since their 1994 Super Bowl season, and the Chargers have put over 100 points on the board in those games. Offensive maestro Steve Spurrier's Redskins have scored fewer than 50 points over three games. The Redskins are off to a rousing 1-2 start where the second loss was much worse than the first. The offense strikes fear only in the hearts of Redskin fans. The defense, outsourced to Marvin Lewis, manages to do the worst possble job with its formidable lineup, including what is on paper the league's best linebacking corps.

Offense, everyone says, offense is what Spurrier does best. Right. Like Brian Billick was an offensive/quarterback guru when he came from Minnesota to Baltimore. The quarterbacks Billick wanted were Scott Mitchell, Stoney Case, Tony Banks and Elvis Grbac, none of whom did jack. The one he didn't want, Trent Dilfer, won 11 games in a row for Billick and made him look smart by winning a Super Bowl -- with the worst offensive team ever to win a Super Bowl; during one five-game stretch that Super Bowl season the Ravens didn't score an offensive touchdown.

But Dilfer pulled it together in the playoffs, leading the team to a Super Bowl victory with a near-flawless performance. Billick thanked Dilfer by telling him to clean out his locker in favor of perennial underachiever Elvis Grbac. Dilfer, the first Super Bowl-winning quarterback to lose his job after the game, signed with Seattle and went 4-0 as starter. Billick's hand-picked quarterback tanked and took the Ravens down with him. Today the Ravens are a winless mess. Sources report some person named Chris Redman is the Raven quarterback du jour.

Schottenheimer plays Martyball. Conservative offense, tough defense, move the chains, keep the other team from scoring points, win the game and wake up the fans on your way out of the stadium. It worked in Kansas City, it worked in Cleveland and it was well on its way to working in Washington. But not quickly enough for The Danny, who seems to prefer glitzy losing to boring winning.