The Head Heeb : Knocking Down 4000 Years of Icons

Musings about politics, religion, law, art and marriage - what else is there?

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Saturday, February 22, 2003

Expat Egghead has discovered a novel form of government:

I am indebted beyond measure to The International House of Logorrhea for bringing to my attention a number of unusaul words which I plan to make use of... However, one word stands out in this wonderful list. 'Beerocracy'. 'Government by brewers or brewing interests '. Well, who could have thought it? Either someone at some point in time, experienced a beerocracy or desired a beerocracy... I read this with interest as electoral reform is surely overdue here. So, my proposal is of course 'Beerocracy'.

The original beerocracy, however, wasn't as utopian as it sounds. The term was coined by Lady Nancy Astor to describe the Scottish brewing families that entered politics and were influential in Parliament in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and they somehow never brought about a boozy paradise for all. Like all other political theories, beerocracy seems to work much better on paper than in actual practice.

More Antarctic politics

A few days ago, I linked to a photo of a peace demonstration at the South Pole and described it as the first political protest in Antarctica. Ikram Saeed pointed out that another Antarctic protest had taken place in January, also against the war in Iraq. I have since learned that neither of these was the first, and that Australia's Casey Station was rocked with unrest on previous occasions. Neither of these received wide publicity, however, because - in contrast to the recent antiwar protests - they concerned purely Antarctic issues.

Yes, there are such things. Like most Antarctic stations, Casey has a class system of sorts, and is divided between the scientists who run the station and the tradesmen - "tradies" - who keep it running. The scientists are not always respectful of the tradies, and resentment of high-handed management practices has created labor-management tensions much like those in the rest of the world.

Matters first came to a head in 1986, when a crew of tradies wintered over at Casey, and labor unrest was magnified by cabin fever. The resulting mutiny was described in the Australian newspaper The Age:

... a construction crew was left behind over winter to complete the refit of the Casey station. They resented the researchers' clubby atmosphere and called them "ANARE wimps." The scientists regarded the builders as outsiders: not real expeditioners in the traditions of ANARE, the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition. The result was social breakdown.

Three years earlier Dr Philip Law, doyen of Australia's Antarctic research, had warned of such a potentialy explosive combination: cliques formed by malcontents and of the dangers of intellectual arrogance. He described the problem in his book Antarctic Odyssey. "Deeply ingrained social or intellectual inferiorities in men cannot be eradicated overnight, and these present some of the worst problems that we experience."

The sore at Casey festered until the situation went out of control. The construction crew turned feral, declaring their own public holidays and getting wildly drunk on home-brew. They forced the scientists to retreat to their bedrooms.

This reign of terror turned even uglier when a handful of young women scientists arrived aboard the first boat in spring. It left ANARE with no alternative but to send the ringleaders home prematurely.

Ten years later, mutiny erupted again at Casey, and this time it was the scientists as well as the tradies who rebelled against an unpopular expedition leader. Autocratic management and clashing personalities resulted in ostracism, shouting matches, passive resistance and finally a clandestine protest meeting at which the other 14 station personnel decided to overthrow their chief. As the Sydney Morning Herald related, they were kind enough to inform their superiors at home:

It was then that a facsimile machine at the Australian Antarctic Division headquarters in Hobart blinked and printed out a letter from Casey Station. Signed by all of the expeditioners, it said that they would no longer heed the station leader's orders. It went first to the assistant director of expedition operations and then to the desk of Rob Easther, a former station leader just back from long service leave.

Easther was given three weeks to catch the next ship to Casey. He took a couple of books on conflict resolution which he read on the voyage into his role as peacemaker.

Easther was able to smooth the situation over temporarily and keep the peace until the station leader departed, but the leader ultimately resigned Antarctic service, and the full report on the incident is classified.

Modern Antarctic politics - a heady, ever-changing mix of labor unrest, antiwar activism and isolation.

UPDATE: Via the comments in Electrolite: Big Dead Place, a web site written by an Antarctic dissident (or possibly several Antarctic dissidents).

UPDATE 2: Chris Barrus links to another Antarctic news and bulletin board site, 70 South.

Black humor

Gil Shterzer shares some gallows humor about the matsav from Ma'ariv and Yediot Ahronot.

Deadlock in Côte d'Ivoire

The rebel factions in Côte d'Ivoire are insisting that last month's Paris peace accord be followed to the letter, casting doubt on earlier rumors that they were prepared to relinquish their claim to the defense and interior ministries. The powerful Ivorian army, which has become increasingly ideological in recent years, opposes turning control of the security forces over to the rebels - who, for their part, are concerned that the government might renege on the accord if they disarm without achieving some control over the security apparatus. The past days have seen some signs of flexibility from the government side - the army is open to the rebels receiving other ministerial posts, and the influential PDCI party, which initially opposed the accord, now favors it - but the defense and interior ministries remain a potentially explosive sticking point.

Good News from Palestine, part 3

22-year-old Palestinian actress Yuswa el-Awadi has won an award for children's theater in Jordan. Her most recent role was in the play "Humanity," in which "she played the role of a black cat that found a lost baby and competed with another cat in keeping this child and raising him to make him leader of the cats in the future." El-Awadi, who has also appeared in television and adult theater, considers children's theater the most difficult because it "isn't easy to convince a child with the importance of your performance at the time to make him interested in it."

"Good News from Palestine" is a weekly column on The Head Heeb, appearing more or less on Saturdays, which highlightins positive achievements of Palestinians in the arts, music, science, sports, business and humanitarian work. Please suggest articles for next week's column by comment or e-mail; I will link to all articles that meet the above criteria and do not directly concern the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Positive thinkers may also be interested in visiting Good News from Israel, which provides similar news items about Israelis.

Friday, February 21, 2003
He's going home

Ari Ben-Menashe was granted a one-week respite from testifying in the Morgan Tsvangirai treason trial to attend to business in Canada. The court suspended the proceedings for the duration of Ben-Menashe's break, and trial is expected to resume on March 3. His packing list for the return trip hasn't been determined yet; a defense motion to compel him to provide certain business records is still pending, and the court is expected to rule on Monday.

Erdogan to run

Turkey's election board has cleared Reccep Tayyip Erdogan to run in a parliamentary by-election in Siirt province. Erdogan, the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), was barred from last year's election due to a conviction for "inciting religious hatred" by reciting a pro-Islamic poem. After the AKP's victory in the general election, the Turkish parliament changed the electoral law to allow him to run. If he wins the by-election, he is likely to be named prime minister.

Erdogan is an interesting politician. He has characterized the AKP - which is the third and least theocratic incarnation of his party - as Islamic in the same way that Christian Democrats are Christian. Given that the Christian Democratic parties of Europe also evolved in reaction to what was perceived as excessive secularism, the analogy might be a very apt one. There are other Muslim politicians in secular countries, such as Abdurrahman Wahid, who have roughly similar views, supporting freedom of religious expression and integration of Islamic values into government but opposing religious coercion. I could easily imagine a post-Mahathir UMNO going the same way - its platform is already Muslim-democratic, and without Mahathir's autocratic influence, the party might become so in actual fact.

It's also possible that Muslim Democratic parties might develop in the opposite way - as a reaction to excessive religious coercion rather than excessive secularism. The most common reaction to religious repression is anticlericalism, as demonstrated by the Mexican PRI and arguably Shinui, but in Iran, many reformers seek to find a middle ground and establish a more democratic Islamic republic. Given time and a good deal of luck, Turkey and Iran might meet in the middle.

Thursday, February 20, 2003
It was a setup

The Zimbabwe government's attempt to prosecute opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai for treason suffered another setback as star witness Ari Ben-Menashe admitted that Tsvangirai was duped into attending their fateful meeting:

Ben-Menashe admitted in court yesterday that he tricked Morgan Tsvangirai to make the videotape that he claims contains incriminating evidence.

Under cross-examination, Ben-Menashe said he and his colleagues pretended they were ready to help assassinate President Robert Mugabe ahead of the presidential election last year.


Ben-Menashe said Tsvangirai was made to believe that the meeting in Montreal was to discuss a political transition after Mugabe had been "eliminated", but the real aim was "to collect evidence to show the plot."

In other testimony, Ben-Menashe revealed that Rupert Johnson, a South Africa-based trader who was the initial intermediary between his public relations firm and Tsvangirai, was a former member of the Selous Scouts, a notorious Rhodesian counterinsurgency unit. Johnson's role in the Tsvangirai affair is hotly disputed; the defense claims that Johnson approached them unilaterally on behalf of Ben-Menashe's firm, while Ben-Menashe contends that he is a long-standing member of the opposition MDC and that the contact went the other way. The Mugabe government has an obvious interest in associating the MDC with Rhodesia, but Johnson's involvement in the case is particularly ironic given that he was allegedly tasked with killing Mugabe during the civil war of the 1970s.

Ben-Menashe is now in his 14th day on the stand, with no apparent end in sight; the presiding judge is expected to rule tomorrow on his request to be excused temporarily to attend to business in Canada.

The Neturei Karta

Imshin discusses the Neturei Karta:

This is a tiny and inconsequential sect of fiercely and vehemently anti-Zionist ultra-ultra-religious Jews. Their views are accepted here by no one but themselves. They have no Israeli following and I don't think they even have a Jewish following overseas (am I wrong?)

I'd say that "tiny and inconsequential" is about right, but there is a Neturei Karta organization in the United States, as well as a Brooklyn affiliate called Friends of Jerusalem. The Neturei Karta actually predates the state of Israel, having been founded in 1938 as a splinter group of Agudath Israel. After the 1948 partition, a number of Neturei Karta members became political exiles; most of them settled in haredi neighborhoods in Brooklyn, but there are also Neturei Karta synagogues in London and Monsey (a haredi enclave in New York's Rockland County).

The Neturei Karta get a great deal of press because of the novelty of their vocal anti-Zionist views, but they aren't the only group of religious anti-Zionists, or even the largest. A number of the Hasidic sects, particularly the Satmarim, also oppose the creation of a Jewish state before the coming of the Messiah. The Satmarim, who are probably the largest Hasidic denomination today, aren't as aggressive about their anti-Zionism as the Neturei Karta, but they're every bit as vehement. When I taught part-time at the United Talmudic Academy (the Satmar day school system) during the early 1990s, the two worst insults the children knew were "Lubavitcher" and "Zionist" in that order, and when they went to visit their families in Israel, they flew TWA rather than El Al so that the "Zionim" wouldn't get their money. They were also quite self-conscious about refusing to buy Israeli products; on one occasion when I walked into class with an orange, one of the students made me promise that it was from Florida rather than Israel. (It was an Israeli orange, but I thought it the better part of valor not to say so.)

The Neturei Karta, though, are unique in at least one respect: their leader, Rabbi Moshe Hirsch, is a minister in the Palestinian Authority government. His status is actually somewhat ambivalent; he refers to himself as Minister of Jewish Affairs and President Arafat has addressed him as such in letters, but he was never officially granted a portfolio, and the Palestinian Authority web site doesn't list him as a cabinet member. He is Arafat's Jewish voice, though, and Imshin finds it "significant that Yasser Arafat, accepted leader of the Palestinians, a man who claims he wants to make peace with the Israeli people, should choose Rabbi Moshe Hirsch, a leader of this fanatic group of Israel haters, as his advisor on Jewish affairs."

It may not be as significant as all that. Whether or not Rabbi Hirsch is actually a Palestinian cabinet minister, it's a safe bet he doesn't attend many meetings. The Palestinian Authority cabinet meets on Saturdays.

UPDATE: Dhimmi Guy (added to the blogroll) comments on the Neturei Karta on his blog, and Imshin has further comments at the same URL as above. Hey, Yehudit, feel like jumping in?

Filling Olmert's shoes

Ari Shavit wants Dan Meridor for Mayor of Jerusalem:

If Jerusalem had a mayor, in the last nine-and-a-half years he could have done wonders. He could have given Jerusalem a new secular life. He could have put it once again at the center of the Israeli experience. He could have redefined Jerusalem as the cultural center and the focus of economic and artistic and academic creativity. He could have turned the closed ghettos of the city into a fruitful mosaic of pluralistic existence.

But Jerusalem does not have a mayor. For nine-and-a-half years the city has been mayorless. Instead it had Ehud Olmert, a wily apparachnik, who works day and night for his own sake, a cynical politician who doesn't know the limits of power, pretension and patronization, a constant traveler who had no hesitation about partying in foreign climes while his own city was under attack, a haughty cigar smoker with no feelings for the pain, poverty, and despair of Jerusalem's residents.

I'm far from sure that Shavit is being fair to Olmert, who inherited rather than created many of the city's problems. If he's right, though, then why support another national politician? Meridor has long-standing ties to Jerusalem and a good track record, certainly, but none of it has involved running a city - and, at 55, he still has a Knesset career ahead of him if he wants one. If Shavit wants a mayor who will be entirely focused on Jerusalem, why not Yehoram Gaon, an independent city councilman who has never been involved in national politics and whose ambitions are all at the municipal level? Gaon's name has been seriously mentioned as a mayoral candidate - and, if Shavit would like to see Jerusalem as a cultural center, the popular Sephardic singer and municipal culture minister seems like the one to do it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003
First-past-the-post in Israel?

Pini Dunner, an Israeli expatriate rabbi in London, has a problem with Israel's system of proportional representation. He's hardly the first to do so - complaints about the disproportionate influence of small parties have been an Israeli staple since time immemorial - but his recommended solution isn't the usual mantra of raising the proportional representation threshold. Instead, he thinks that Israel should borrow a leaf from his adopted country:

Political activists should start a new party that is a one-time, one-task political entity. Its agenda will be divided into four stages: get into power by receiving a majority mandate; immediately change the system legislatively; disband parliament and call new elections; and disband itself as a party before those elections take place.


The system I recommend as the new Israeli electoral system is the one that works so well in the United Kingdom. We call it "first past the post." The country should be divided into 120 different constituencies of more-or-less similar voter numbers. Each constituency should have a list of candidates from various parties for election on polling day. The candidate with the most number of votes in each constituency is the person who takes the seat in parliament on behalf of that constituency.

What it means is that only mainstream parties that speak for the majority get elected.

I have my doubts about whether it can work, not only because a one-issue political reform party is unlikely to get any farther than Yisrael Aheret did this year, but because "the majority" in Israel means different things in different places. There are several distinct populations in Israel who have political and social concerns that are not easily represented by any of the mainstream parties - and these populations are concentrated enough that they would control a significant number of electoral districts in a first-past-the-post system.

The Arabs are the first and largest of these groups. As the map on page 4 of the Central Bureau of Statistics compilation on Arab Israelis demonstrates, Arabs account for less than 5 percent of the population in 24 of Israel's 51 statistical regions. In contrast, five regions - two in the Galilee, two in the Triangle area and the Golan - are more than 75 percent Arab, and five other regions in the Galilee have Arab majorities of 50 to 74 percent. Arabs are a majority in two contiguous territories: the Triangle, which is almost entirely Arab, and the Akko and Yizre'el sub-districts of the Galilee.

The population of the Triangle, which consists of the Eastern Sharon and Alexander regions, was approximately 142,000 in 1997, and is now above 150,000, which would represent three electoral districts in a first-past-the-post system. The seven Galilee regions with Arab majorities - Kinnerot, Kokhav, Nazareth, Shefar'am, Karmi'el, Yehi'am and Elon - have a total population of more than 650,000, representing 13 seats. In addition, although Arabs are not a majority within the Be'er Sheva Region as a whole, the 120,000 Bedouins who live there are territorially distinct from the Jewish population, and it is likely that two Arab-majority electoral districts would be drawn in that region. This means that, in a first-past-the-post system, at least 18 seats would be controlled by the Arab electorate.

Over the long term, the major parties could be competitive in these seats if they ran more Arab candidates and became more responsive to Arab concerns. A district-based electoral system, in which local concerns become more prominent in national elections, may also encourage the growth of Arab parties such as the Progressive National Front that are focused more on domestic issues and more likely to cooperate with mainstream factions. In the short term, however, the Arab vote has long since drifted away from the mainstream parties - particularly Avoda - and many Arabs do not trust the ability or the inclination of Jewish parties to represent them. In the first few district-based elections, the advantage in winning these seats will go to the established Arab parties with the strongest local organizations - which means that Balad will be first past the post in most of the Galilee, and the United Arab List or Ta'al in the Triangle.

The second population group that does not fit easily into a two-party scheme are the haredim. Like Arab Israelis, haredim tend to be territorially concentrated, preferring neighborhoods which contain amenities such as eruvim, synagogues of their denomination within walking distance and kosher markets acceptable to their rabbinate. It is estimated that 30 percent of haredim - some 150,000 - live in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, while another 200,000 live in distinct neighborhoods in Jerusalem. In a district-based electoral system, this would translate to at least 7 haredi-majority seats. It is likely that the rabbis who control the haredi parties would prefer to remain independent and sell their seats to either of the major parties rather than becoming a safe Likud constituency that can be ignored much as African-Americans are ignored by the Democratic Party.

Finally, there are the West Bank and Gaza settlers. The settlers are hardly a monolithic group; those who live in the large development towns just east of the Green Line are very different from the ideologically motivated residents of the isolated settlements. There are enough of the latter, however, to form majorities in at least two electoral districts, and they, too, might not trust Likud to look after their interests. Indeed, if the National Union merges with Mafdal to fight the first district-based election, Jerusalem - where Mafdal is strong - might provide a third or even a fourth seat.

That leaves the mainstream. Most of the minor parties could merge into a two-party system without a great deal of pain; Meretz and Am Ehad would join Avoda, and the non-haredi constituency of Shas would fold into Likud. Shinui, however, might be another story. In a first-past-the-post system, many Shinui voters would drift back to one or another of the major parties, but its core constituency would be uncomfortable with Avoda's economic program and Likud's traditional alliances with the religious community. It's not at all impossible that Shinui might survive as the party of the urban middle class and pick up a few seats, particularly in Tel Aviv.

This means that, at a reasonably conservative estimate, 30 to 35 seats would go to minor parties even if Israel adopted a district-based electoral system. In order to obtain an absolute majority in the Knesset, a party would have to win 61 of the remaining 85 to 90 seats, or more than two thirds. That isn't impossible - Labour won more than two thirds of the major party seats in the last British election - but it's rare; Jean Chrétien didn't manage it despite his landslide victory in 2000. It seems likely that for some time after the inauguration of first-past-the-post elections, Israeli politics would still involve coalition-building, with fewer places other than the extremes to look for coalition partners.

Of course, the way in which candidates are chosen might make a difference. If the candidates in each district are selected by American-style open primaries rather than party committees, the major parties' ideological breadth would increase, possibly enough to create a real two-party system. The successor party to Avoda might evolve into a "big tent" organization taking in the left, the secularists and most of the Arabs, with Likud picking up the right, the Mizrahim, the Orthodox and the Druze. This would come at the price of party discipline, however; because American candidates can win elections independently of party organizations, American political parties are in many ways not parties at all by European standards. Open primaries and first-past-the-post elections might lead to a two-party Israel, but it would be an American-style two-party system, with legislators crossing party lines whenever they disagreed with the leadership on a particular issue. This would, no doubt, make it easier to arrange seats in the Knesset, but whether it would bring political stability is a different, and more difficult, question.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Comments are back

Haloscan is back online, and the missing comments have returned.

2 of 135

Expat Egghead puts the issue of Israel's compliance with Security Council resolutions in perspective.

Good News from Palestine, part 2

Palestinian graduate student Hashem Shahin is participating in a joint Israeli-Palestinian project to discover the genetic basis of deafness. The project is being supervised jointly by Professors Karen Avraham of Tel Aviv University and Moien Kanaan of Bethlehem University, and provides scholarships for Palestinian students to complete their graduate work in Tel Aviv.

"Good News from Palestine" is a weekly column on The Head Heeb highlighting positive achievements of Palestinians in the arts, music, science, sports, business and humanitarian work. Please suggest articles for next week's column by comment or e-mail; I will link to all articles that meet the above criteria and do not directly concern the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Positive thinkers may also be interested in visiting Good News from Israel.

Fayyad out of the picture

Ha'aretz reports that the Palestinian finance minister, Salam Fayyad, has taken himself out of consideration for the post of prime minister. The leading candidate is now Abu Mazen, Arafat's chief deputy, although Ahmed Qureia, the speaker of the Palestinian legislature, has also been mentioned as a possible contender.

Abu Mazen, an old Fatah hand who has been with Arafat since 1965 and a member of the PLO Executive Committee since 1980, is considered something of an independent voice within Fatah and represented the Palestinians during the original Oslo negotiations. His long-standing relationship with Arafat, however, raises serious questions about whether he can be an effective counterweight to the Palestinian Authority president. In this respect, he is unlike Fayyad, a technocrat who joined the PA in 1999 and had no previous organizational loyalties to Fatah. In addition, Palestinian sources indicated that Arafat would continue to "be in charge of security and foreign issues" after a prime minister is appointed, raising further questions as to the degree of influence that the prime minister will have in negotiations with Israel.

Dreaming of a white Presidents' Day

It's official: yesterday's storm was the fourth-largest snowfall in New York City history, with 19.8 inches of snow in Central Park and even larger amounts in other parts of the city. (The Post mentions 28 inches in "parts of Queens," and I can vouch for something close to that in my part of Queens.)

It was still snowing this morning, and getting to work was an adventure. I arrived at the Kew Gardens station of the Long Island Railroad in time for the 8:46, only to find that I was also in time for the 8:23 and the 8:05. The public address system reported delays of 45 minutes and then one hour; when it began to mention service interruptions, I decided to give up and try the subway. The trouble is that the streets between the LIRR station and the subway are mostly private houses, and a great deal of the sidewalk hadn't been shoveled. Once I made my way through the arctic landscape to Union Turnpike, however, I was rewarded by an almost-empty train into the city.

I realize I won't get any sympathy from my Canadian readers - or from the people of Garrett County, Maryland, who got 49 inches dumped on them yesterday. Just see what I say next time you have a heat wave.

Monday, February 17, 2003
Message from Haloscan

Haloscan has traced the past two days' comment problems to "a hardware failure in the database server, and promises to "have everything working by Tuesday at the latest." I'll believe it when I see it, but hopefully the periodic outages that we've been experiencing recently will cease when the server is fixed.

UPDATE: The good people at Haloscan report that the server work is "on track" and that comments should be fully restored later today.

The Falashmura: coming home?

The Israeli government has officially approved the Interior Ministry's plan for the immigration of the remaining Falashmura community of Ethiopia. The Falashmura, who are believed to number approximately 20,000, are descended from Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews) who converted to Christianity in the nineteenth century. The Shas party has championed their cause, however, and Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has ruled that they are Jewish:

Itzik Sudri, a Shas spokesman, said Rabbi Ovadia Yosef had decreed the Falashmura converted to Christianity because of fear. "They lived double lives," Sudri said. "On the outside they lived as Christians, but internally they preserved their Jewish culture."

The precedent for this ruling is, in many ways, sound. Since the Middle Ages, rabbis have ruled that Jews who are forced to profess another religion must be accepted by the community if they choose to return. Jewish law distinguishes between anousim - those who are converted by force - and apostates, and Maimonides, among others, ruled that anousim who return to Judaism must be welcomed even if they had practiced other religions for generations.

Although Rabbi Yosef's ruling is legally correct, many in the Israeli government have quarreled with the facts on which it was based. While none would argue that anousim should be shut out of the community, considerable doubt exists as to whether the Falashmura are in fact anousim - that is, whether they actually converted due to fear and whether they are sincere in their desire to return to Judaism. Housing Minister Natan Sharansky, among others, has argued that Rabbi Yosef's ruling "goes against the views of experts in the field," and that it is motivated more by a desire to win votes for Shas than to rescue a persecuted Jewish community. For now, though, Rabbi Yosef's views have prevailed, and Israel will soon have another dimension to its diverse society.

Harare theater

A supporter of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change was arrested in a Harare courtroom when he attempted to assault prosecution witness Ari Ben-Menashe. The assailant broke into the room where MDC chairman Morgan Tsvangirai and two others are being tried for treason and rushed at Ben-Menashe before being restrained:

"You come here to tell lies," he said. "People are starving in Zimbabwe because of people like you.

"Why do you come down here to lie? Right now you are eating chips and rice and stay in fabulous hotels. Mupeyi kenya mhani! (Give him yellow maize-meal)."

Ben-Menashe survived the outburst to face another day of grilling from defense counsel, during which he admitted that, despite the requirements of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, he did not file a copy of his alleged contract with Tsvangirai with the United States government. Ben-Menashe has filed copies of other contracts relating to his work in Zimbabwe, for which he has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the Zimbabwe government.

In the meantime, another Zimbabwe High Court judge, Justice Benjamin Paradza was arrested for "attempting to defeat the course of justice." The nature of the charges are uncertain, but the government-owned Zimbabwe Herald has suggested that Paradza attempted to fix a criminal case against a partner in a safari business he runs on the side. Within the legal community and opposition circles, however, there is considerable speculation that Paradza is being held because he freed the opposition mayor of Harare, Elias Mudzuri, after Mudzuri was charged with speaking at an illegal meeting.

Snow day

When I moved to the city, I thought I'd been snowed in for the last time - with underground public transportation a few blocks away, snowstorms suddenly seemed much less confining. This morning, though, I found out that subways aren't much good if you can't get to the station. There were 17 inches on the ground at JFK when I got up, and more coming at the rate of three inches an hour; the city had hardly begun to clear the streets, and the sidewalks might as well have been the slopes of the Himalayas. I was about to call my boss when she called me and told me not to bother.

I haven't seen snow like this since the ice storm of January 1998, when my National Guard company was called up for disaster relief near the Canadian border. It wsa my first disaster area, and the catastrophe was already well under way by the time we got there; I vividly remember the miles of highway without a telephone pole left standing, and the pine trees so loaded down with ice that they were bent double to the ground. A night or two after we arrived in Plattsburgh, we got 30 inches of snow in one night, and it was a major obstacle even with military vehicles to help clear it. At the same time, it was very peaceful - an enforced peace, certainly, but a break from the normal routine of the world.

They say today's storm will last until the afternoon, possibly until tomorrow morning. If you don't hear from me, I'll probably be digging out.

Sunday, February 16, 2003
Antarctic protest

Via Atrios: Yesterday's antiwar protests included a small demonstration at the South Pole. The protest - which took place at the US-perated Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station - is, as far as I can tell, the first political demonstration ever held in Antarctica.

Comment problems again

Haloscan is once again "doing some work on the server," and has lost the last two days' worth of comments. Hopefully this will be a temporary condition.

Another border atrocity

Randy McDonald lets us know that the INS people have done it again:

A Toronto woman coming home from India says she was pulled aside at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, accused of using a fake Canadian passport, denied consular assistance and threatened with jail.

In tears and desperate, Berna Cruz says she told U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) officers she didn't want to go to jail. She told them she had to get home to her two children and was expected to be at work the next day at a branch of a major Toronto bank where she works as a loan officer.

Instead of jailing her on Jan. 27, an INS officer cut the front page of Cruz's passport and filled each page with "expedited removal" stamps, rendering it useless.

She was photographed, fingerprinted, barred from re-entering the U.S. for five years and immediately "removed."

Not to Toronto, but to India, where she had just spent several weeks visiting her parents.

It took four days, and help from Canadian officials in Dubai and a Kuwaiti Airlines pilot, to get her back home.

According to Cruz, the INS officer refused to contact the Canadian consulate and didn't allow her to make the phone call herself. The officer - who evidently had never heard of Portuguese India - also "asked her why her surname was not 'Singh' and commented that it was clever of her to use a Spanish name."

Canada is demanding an explanation, and will hopefully get one, along with the INS officer's head on a plate. Before anyone rushes to blame the Bush administration, though, the attitudes and policies that led to this atrocity have been in place for several years. The "expedited removal" procedure through which an INS officer was able to remove Cruz was created by a Clinton- era law called the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), an Orwellian statute that owes much more to the nativist attitudes of the mid-1990s than to post-September 11 vigilance. The removal provisions of IIRIRA vastly increased the discretion of line officers at border points - giving them, in the words of an INS spokesperson, "the authority to use expedited removals when passengers have no documents or are carrying documents that are suspected to be fraudulent or tampered with." This is equivalent, in terms of ordinary law enforcement, to giving patrol officers authority to conduct on-the-spot investigations and administer punishment, with no avenue of appeal.

Any authority this broad - especially when combined with lax supervision and the warped sense of mission that many INS officers have developed - is almost certain to be abused. "Expedited removal" should not be a line officer's call, especially if there are no strict investigative guidelines for him to follow. What is needed is not a change in administration but reform of the regulations that govern border points, to ensure that "removals" don't happen without some form of judicial review and that investigative procedures include consultation with consular officials from the alien's homeland.

PM holdup

Ha'aretz reports that Arafat may have included a Trojan horse in his promise to name a prime minister:

A senior Palestinian source said yesterday that the most important part of Arafat's decision to appoint a prime minister is his announcement that he must convene the Palestinian Legislative Council and the PLO Central Committee to approve the appointment.

"Arafat is counting on Sharon not to permit the meeting of these two bodies, and by the time they do convene, many months will have elapsed," the source said.

The requirement of approval by the Central Committee - which is not an official Palestinian Authority body - is particularly likely to cause problems, given that some of its members live abroad and have been banned from the country due to terrorist connections. Like many of Arafat's other dodges, though, it will only work if Sharon lets him get away with it - if Sharon wants, he can take away all of Arafat's excuses by providing one-time entry visas to the Central Committee membership. I'm not optimistic, though; Sharon and Arafat have been each other's best excuse for two years now, and I expect that their strangely symbiotic relationship will prevent the installation of an effective Palestinian prime minister.