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The Stupid Award

Just how stupid can some people be? This stupid:

So 19th Century Slaves Were Freer than 21st Century American Taxpayers? (posted 1-29-04)

Paul Craig Roberts, former Associate Editor of the WSJ editorial page, writing in his column (Jan. 27, 2004):

Compare an American taxpayer's situation today with that of a 19th century American slave. Not all slaves worked on cotton plantations. Some with marketable skills were leased to businesses or released to labor markets, where they worked for money wages. Just like the wages of today's taxpayer, a portion of the slave's money wages was withheld. In those days the private owner, not the government, received the withheld portion of the slave's wages.

Slaves in that situation were as free as today's American taxpayer to choose their housing from the available stock, purchase their food and clothing, and entertain themselves.

In fact, they were freer than today's American taxpayer. By hard work and thrift, they could save enough to purchase their freedom .

No American today can purchase his freedom from the IRS .

Slaves could also run away. Today, Americans who run away are pursued to the far ends of the earth. Indeed, the IRS can assert its ownership rights for years after an American gives up his citizenship and becomes a citizen of a different country. The IRS need only claim that the former American gave up his citizenship for tax reasons .

Milosevic Elected (Yes, that Milosevic) (posted 12-30-03)

From the Associated Press (Dec. 29, 2003):

Jailed former President Slobodan Milosevic and another U.N. war crimes suspect won seats in Serbia's parliament as an extreme nationalist party swept weekend elections, according to results released Monday.

Vojislav Seselj's Serbian Radical Party, which supported Milosevic's Balkan war campaigns in the 1990s, won 81 seats in Sunday's ballot for the 250-seat parliament -- far more than the pro-Western groups that toppled Milosevic three years ago, the state electoral commission said.

Milosevic of the Serbian Socialist Party and Seselj are jailed by the U.N. tribunal at The Hague on atrocity charges stemming from the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Tourists Can Take Pictures, Journalists Cannot (posted 12-29-03)

From the Times of India (dec. 26, 2003):

The Red Fort has finally been ‘‘liberated'' from Army control and ‘‘returned to the people.'' But the ‘‘people'', in this case, obviously does not include the Press.

When The Times of India team visited the 17th century monument on Tuesday, A K Soni, conservation assistant, Archeological survey of India (ASI), who is in-charge of the place, refused to let the photographer enter. ‘‘As per Jagmohanji's orders, Press photographers need permission to take pictures inside the fort,'' he said.

The rest of the visitors, however, were allowed to take pictures with both still and movie cameras.

When asked to show the ‘‘order'', Soni said, it's a ‘‘verbal order.'' When the correspondents insisted that there was no way they could be stopped from taking pictures, they were allowed to enter the fort. But two personnel of SIS, the private agency who looks after Red Fort security, tailed them throughout the visit.

Interestingly, when this correspondent called up Union tourism and culture minister, Jagmohan, he said, ‘‘There is no bar whatsoever on the Press. I find this very strange.''

Protocols of the Elders of Zion: Holy Book of the Jews? (posted 12-2-03)

From the website of the Middle East Media Research Institute (Dec. 3, 2003):

Recently, a manuscript museum opened at the new Alexandria Library, which was renovated by the Egyptian and Italian governments via UNESCO. In the November 17, 2003 issue of the Egyptian weekly Al-Usbu', correspondent Jihan Hussein reported [1] that the museum had added "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" to the display case of the holy books of the monotheistic religions, next to a Torah. The book on display is the first translation of the "Protocols" into Arabic, by Muhammad Khalifa Al-Tunisi, and its binding, according to the report, features "a Star of David, the Bolshevik Jewish symbol, surrounded by symbolic snakes." The following is an interview with the museum's director, Dr. Yousef Ziedan, in which he explains why he decided to add the "Protocols" to the exhibit:

'The Protocols of Zion Are More Important Than the Torah'

"When my eyes fell upon the rare copy of this dangerous book, I decided immediately to place it next to the Torah. Although it is not a monotheistic holy book, it has become one of the sacred [tenets] of the Jews, next to their first constitution, their religious law, [and] their way of life. In other words, it is not merely an ideological or theoretical book.

"Perhaps this book of the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' is more important to the Zionist Jews of the world than the Torah, because they conduct Zionist life according to it… It is only natural to place the book in the framework of an exhibit of Torah [scrolls]."

Dr. Ziedan maintains a website "for heritage and manuscripts" where he posts, among other things, articles that he writes. In his article "WWW and the Informatics Plexus [sic]," Dr. Ziedan writes of the difference between reality and reporting on reality:

"…There is no doubt that every 'news item' originates in a [particular] event, but the distance between the event and the news item is great… I will give an example: When Hitler's atrocities are mentioned, [people] immediately point out the cremation of the Jews in the gas chambers. This happens because of the knowledge that is passed on regarding the Holocaust.

"This is knowledge that has reached the world via a diverse stream of information from journalists' reports, historical research, compensation, [the] unceasing buzz in the media, and films such as Schindler's List which made the entire world cry and which was banned in our country [Egypt] so that we won't cry too over the fate of the poor Jews!"

'Only 1 Million Jews Were Killed by the Nazis... There Wasn't Enough Cyanide'

"What is important is that the information arrived, but what about reality? In reality, 50,000,000 fell victim to the Nazis, among them 1,000,000 Jews and the rest Gypsies, Poles, and other nations. In reality, an analysis of samples from the purported gas chambers has proven that these were sterilization chambers, without a sufficient quantity of cyanide to kill.

"In reality, had Hitler wanted to annihilate the Jews of Europe, he would have. He had an opportunity. The distance between events and widespread knowledge about them is great."

[1] Al-Usbu'(Egypt), November 17, 2003.

Editor's Note: On December 6, 2003 the library withdrew the Protocols from the exhibit, according to the Associated Press.

Make Ivan the Terrible Ivan the Saint?

Susan Glasser, writing in the Washington Post (Nov. 10, 2003):

For centuries, he has been called one of the most villainous of the many villains in Russian history, a blood-soaked tyrant who murdered his son, created the country's first secret police force and personally took part in its massacres. Even the name by which he came to be known tells bluntly of his legend: Ivan the Terrible. [And now some in Russia want to make him a saint.]

It's a cause embraced by a loose coalition of dissident priests, extreme nationalist newspapers and politicians, monarchists and an increasing number of regular Orthodox believers, according to religion experts.

"We don't think this is ridiculous," said Sergei Chapnin, editor of the official Russian Orthodox newspaper, the Church Herald. "We consider it to be a serious problem for the church. There is a group that is leading this propaganda and thousands of people are under their sway. It threatens the unity of the church."

Indeed, what makes this Ivan the Terrible revisionism most notable is how hard the church hierarchy is fighting it. Alexy took the unusual step of blasting the idea of sainthood for Ivan, calling it "madness" for the church to equate "murderers and martyrs, lechers and saints." The church canonization commission is now marshaling historical evidence to prove why Ivan the Terrible cannot be a saint, according to a member of the panel.

While publicly dismissing Ivan's supporters as a fringe movement, church leaders fear it is turning into a popular cause among the millions of people who have returned to the Orthodox church in the dozen years since the Soviet Union collapsed. Their enthusiasm taps a deep strain of mystic nationalism that has proved a powerful force at odds with the country's official turn toward integration with the West.

In part, that's because the pro-Ivan forces already have a record of success. In the 1990s, this same coalition advocated the once-outlandish idea of sainthood for the last czar, Nicholas II, and his family, who were all executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. In 2000, yielding to their pressure, the church canonized the murdered Romanovs, ignoring Nicholas's documented anti-Semitism and condoning of pogroms against his Jewish subjects.

"They believe the canonization of Emperor Nicholas II gives them reason to hope for canonization of Ivan the Terrible," said Vladislav Tsypin, a religious scholar and member of the canonization commission. "But there are no real parallels between the two. Nicholas II was a victim of terror, and Ivan the Terrible was an organizer of terror."

The record would seem to make the man known formally as Ivan IV the unlikeliest of saints. The first Russian leader to crown himself czar, or emperor, he built the majestic St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square to commemorate his victory over the Tatar khan in Kazan. But he is better known for the disastrous 24-year Livonian War, which he lost to the Poles and Swedes. He created the feared secret police force known as the oprichniki and led a pogrom that killed thousands in the city of Novgorod in 1570. In 1581, he fatally stabbed his oldest son Ivan.

Tsypin ticked off some other facts that would make Ivan a candidate for church condemnation, not sainthood: his seven marriages (the Orthodox Church allows no more than four) and his alleged involvement in the murder of Metropolitan Filip, who denounced Ivan's terror and was eventually canonized for his sacrifice.

The religious scholar doesn't bother to mention Ivan's reported childhood predilection for throwing animals off roofs or gruesome grown-up practices such as ordering up tortures to duplicate biblical accounts of the sufferings of hell.

Ivan's boosters dismiss such historical criticism. One pro-Ivan Internet tract calls such accounts "myths, legends and lies," circulated by Russophobes, Catholics, Jews or some combination of them. Ivan is instead hailed as Russia's first emperor and as the humble Monk Ioann, who repented in his final years.

At many religious gatherings in Russia, Ivan's supporters circulate through the crowd, handing out glossy printed cards with an icon of Ivan as a saint on one side and a prayer to him on the other. There's also a CD-ROM mustering evidence for their cause, such as a 16th-century fresco in one of the churches of the Kremlin. It depicts the czar with a halo over his head.

"This idea has come to be very popular among simple believers," said Chapnin, the editor of the Orthodox paper. He and others say its success is grounded in the "naive ignorance" of Russian churchgoers about their own history after decades of Soviet repression and point out that those behind the movement are openly challenging the authority of Alexy.

Many Ivan backers also support sainthood for Rasputin, the charismatic monk who gained power over the last czar's family and was famed for his orgies as much as his religious preaching.

This is not the first movement to rehabilitate Ivan. At the height of Joseph Stalin's reign of terror, in the 1930s and 1940s, the Soviet dictator made something of a cult of personality out of Ivan. New popular histories were written emphasizing his spirituality and his campaign to win control over fractious noblemen. Today, some of Ivan's supporters say that Stalin, too, should be canonized.

"In the history of the Orthodox church, the praising of a new saint always comes first from the respect of simple people," the singer Bichevskaya said in the interview. "Only when the process reaches its zenith does the church have no choice but to accept it. Right now, we are educating people so they will pray to Czar Ivan."

The IRS Goes to Court After Being Taken in a Reparations Scam

Law professor Jonathan Turley, in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post (Nov. 9, 2003):

Last month a federal court in Richmond finally took action against one of the country's most virulent tax scams: the "black tax credits." Crystal Foster, 25, and her father and tax preparer, Robert Lee Foster, 51, were sentenced for claiming -- and receiving -- tax refunds as reparations for slavery. Crystal Foster claimed a taxable income of only $3,429 but demanded $500,000 from the government in reparations -- and got it. The IRS actually paid her $507,490.91 to cover the interest due to the delay in sending her a check.

Cases such as the Fosters' have fueled a cottage industry of charlatans and crooks pushing the promise of a "black tax" in what might be the greatest tax fraud in American history. The Internal Revenue Service has campaigned against the myth of a black tax for years, warning citizens that such claims amount to fraud, yet tens of thousands of claims are filed annually.

The court ordered Crystal Foster to repay the money that the IRS mistakenly had paid her and sentenced her to 37 months in prison. She had spent most of the $500,000 on a Mercedes, loans and gifts within eight days of receiving the payment. Her father was given a 13-year sentence on four counts of conspiracy to defraud the government. Similarly, Gregory Bridges, a tax accountant in Woodbridge, was convicted in June of preparing more than 100 such fraudulent returns for D.C., Maryland and Virginia residents.

The origin of the black tax and the story of its many victims combines a misunderstanding of history, raw political opportunism and old-fashioned greed.

The myth began with the April 1993 issue of Essence magazine and a piece by "journalist and economics consultant" L.G. Sherrod. Sherrod informed readers that the United States owed them for the value of the 1866 promise of "40 acres and a mule." Citing as an authority "The People's Institute for Economics," she said that the adjusted value of this broken promise was $43,209. Readers could claim this amount, she advised, by writing on line 59 of tax form 1040 -- which asks the filer to list "other payments" -- the $43,209 in black taxes.

At first blush, one might assume that this was a joke. After all, by the same logic, one could calculate the current value of "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage" promised in 1928 by Herbert Hoover. However, the IRS was deluged by refund requests, often with a copy of the Essence article attached. A legend had been born. Incredibly, the IRS paid out tens of millions in such refunds before realizing its mistake.

The black-tax theory is based on a mix of bad historical and legal knowledge. The promise of 40 acres and a mule was never an enforceable obligation by the government. In 1865 Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman signed Special Field Order No. 15, which made the promise. The basis for the promises was dubious because the land was largely confiscated. Government officials at the time argued that the ex-slaves could live and work the land for three years and then buy it. The ex-slaves and others viewed the land as payment for their bondage.

Within months 40,000 ex-slaves occupied 300,000 acres from South Carolina to Florida. President Andrew Johnson then rescinded the order and allowed the original owners to reclaim their land -- leaving a wound that remains open today. While there were attempts to pass a law returning the land to the ex-slaves, the law was barred by Johnson, and no formal bill was signed.

Dim Bulb

From the debut episode of "Rich Girls," the new reality show on MTV that follows around 17 year olds Ally Hilfiger and Jaime Gleicher,"normal teenagers who enjoy doing normal teenage things like shopping, talking on the phone, and going to the prom" who also happen to be"really, really rich." (Ally Hilfiger is the daughter of fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger.) (Nov. 5, 2003):

Ally: We must have done something really good for us to have the privileges that we do. Benjamin Franklin was born on my birthday. Muhammad Ali was born on my birthday. Maybe I was one of them.

Jaime: Wait, wait, who was born on your birthday?

Ally: Benjamin Franklin, who invented the light bulb.

According to the MTV website, both girls recently graduated from high school"with honors."

So He Moonlights as a Nazi Lover, So What?

Daniel Foggo and Fiona Govan, writing in the London Sunday Telegraph (Oct. 26, 2003):

Det Con Linda Daniels, who is married to a known racist and BNP member who believes the Holocaust was "exaggerated", works in the community safety unit at the police station in Notting Hill, one of the most ethnically diverse areas of London. The unit … investigates "hate crimes", including "racist crime, domestic violence, homophobic crime and hate mail".

Her home, however, which she shares with her 52-year-old husband Keith Beaumont, contains a life-size mannequin of a Nazi SS soldier, with swastikas on its helmet and belt, in the hallway.

Until recently, the couple kept a bust of Hitler in the porch and in their living-room, items of Nazi uniform are displayed on plinths. Even their alsatian dog is named Blondi, after Hitler's pet of the same breed.

Mr Beaumont, who is an honorary member of an SS veterans' society, told a reporter from this newspaper that the Holocaust had been "exaggerated" and that there was "no proof of any of it". He has also claimed that the gas ovens at Auschwitz were built by the Russians to smear the Nazis and that nobody was deliberately starved of food at Belsen....

A reporter from The Sunday Telegraph first visited the Beaumonts' home as part of a story on SS soldiers now living in Britain. Last week another reporter from this newspaper, posing as a researcher, revisited the detached house in Holland-on-Sea in Essex, but was told by Mr Beaumont's mother Kathleen that the couple were on holiday in Greece.

She said that the article printed about her son in this newspaper in May last year must have been written by a "Jewish" journalist. She said that her son could not be a Nazi because he came from an Irish family and was not alive during the war.

Mr Beaumont has been married to his wife for 10 years. He has been a member of the BNP for some years. He makes a living dealing in military memorabilia of the Waffen-SS, the military wing of the Nazi party, who committed countless atrocities during the Second World War.

He attends their reunions and takes pride in being one of a tiny number of foreigners allowed to join the Hilfsgemeinschaft auf Gegenseitigkeit der Ehemaligen Soldaten der Waffen-SS (Mutual Aid Association for Soldiers of the Former Waffen-SS). He has said that David Irving, the Holocaust-denying author, is "the greatest historian Britain has ever had".

What's a Missing Zero Anyway?

Siddhartha S Bose, writing in the Hindustan Times (Oct. 27, 2003):

India gave [the] zero to the world. But the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education (RBSE) has taken it away from its students.

As a result of a gross printing error in the senior secondary history books of the RBSE, the zeros from all dates are missing altering the face of India and it's past.

To quote from the RBSE history book for Class XI, "Bharat ka itihaas evam sanskriti" (Indian history and culture), Harshvardhan was crowned the king in 66 AD. Due to a computer error the zero has been omitted from 606 AD pushing the date of his kingship by more than five centuries.

On page 265 the Indian history book part 2, Mahmood Gaznavi's seventeen invasions of India have been spaced between an impossible 125 years beginning 1 AD to 126 AD. The true chronological sequence is between 1000-1027 AD which has been misquoted owing to the computer error.

According to the RBSE book, Qutubuddin Aibak, the founder of slave dynasty in India, makes an appearance in 126 AD before Gaznavi's invasions whereas the fact is his rule starts from 1206 AD.

The mistakes are many and the RBSE has been quick to point out the cause. "The mistake occurred due to a computer error. In removing a zero from a particular place the entire sequence of zeros were removed by a wrong command to the computer," a senior RBSE official told the Hindustan Times.

Officials said that the publishers have been directed to replace new books to the students in exchange for the old books. "The publishers have sent a correction booklet to all the schools," said a department official.

School children in Jaipur said they were yet to receive the corrected book. "We have read out the errors to the children and have asked them to mark the correct dates in their books," a city schoolteacher said.

When contacted Board secretary SL Bohra said that books have been dispatched to all centres and children could avail a new book in exchange for the old ones. "In spite of it, if the children have not received their books, they can send a mail directed to the RBSE and the books would be dispatched to the schools immediately," he said.

For now, zero that is a vital to the DNA of the computer language, has by the default of computer, changed the course of the Indian history.

In the Name of History

From the Associated Press (Sept. 30, 2003):

DALLAS -- A high school band director has apologized for a halftime performance that included "Deutschland Uber Alles," the anthem closely associated with Adolf Hitler, and a student running across the field with a Nazi flag.

Charles Grissom, Paris High School's band director, said his intention was to have a historical performance featuring the flags and music of the nations that fought during World War II.

The show, titled "Visions of World War II," nearly caused a melee at Friday night's football game at Dallas' Hillcrest High School.

"We were booed," Grissom said Monday. "We had things thrown at us. We were cursed."

Paris' assistant coaches were even targeted as they made their way through the bleachers to a press box after halftime.

"The assistant coaches ... got blasted, cursed," said Brent Southworth, Paris' head football coach.

Grissom said he never intended to offend anyone, and he apologized repeatedly.

"We had an error in judgment," Grissom told The Dallas Morning News in an interview published Tuesday. "Our intent was never to cause any harm." ...

The show also includes the flags and music of France, Britain, Japan and the United States. The flags were raised in intervals that corresponded with the music of the nations. An announcement over loudspeakers before the performance explained the school was trying to do a "historical, accurate depiction of the event."

Mark Briskman, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said his organization received many calls and e-mails expressing shock "that in 2003, this type of insensitivity would occur."

"This can serve as an educational tool that there are certain tools and certain symbols that still carry ... an amount of hurt," Briskman said. "It was a mistake, and they've apologized for it, and we basically accept their apology."

The Mother of All Lawsuits

In late August 2003 Dr. Nabil Hilmi, Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Al-Zaqaziq, announced that he is filing a lawsuit against"all the Jews of the world" to recover the property allegedly stolen from Egypt by Jews 3300 years ago during Exodus. According to media reports, Dr. Hilmi"is demanding, presumably on Egypt's behalf, the return of 'gold, jewelry, cooking utensils, silver ornaments, clothing and more,' not to mention interest thereon, taken by the ancestors of today's Jews 'in the middle of the night' - a 'clear theft of a host country's resources and treasure, something that fits the morals and character of the Jews.'"

Utah's Scandinavian Origins

From David Kelly, writing in the LA Times (August 31, 2003):

CEDAR CITY, UTAH: Each year when summer ends and the tourists leave, the economy plummets in this little town nestled among the crimson cliffs and twisted juniper of southwest Utah.

That gave Mayor Gerald Sherratt an idea. He decided to boost off-season revenue with a festival of feasts, shows and pageantry based upon its Viking heritage.

And he didn't let the lack of that heritage stand in the way.

With a liberal blend of fact and fantasy, Sherratt wrote a series of articles -- some under the byline "Gretchen Vanderhooven" -- for the local newspaper reporting incredible finds of Viking swords, tools, anvils and papers documenting a secret Norse kingdom standing on what is now Cedar City.

Warming to his subject, Sherratt, 71, grew ever more detailed in his coverage, sometimes publishing photographs of Viking artifacts supposedly found in local caves that he in fact photocopied from Norwegian tour books.

Soon he had created an entire history of the imaginary Kingdom of Himmelsk, written in serious reportorial tones and sprinkled with bogus quotes from historians, analysts and anthropologists to lend an air of legitimacy.

Atop each installment, the words "paid advertisement" appeared in small type -- though apparently too small for some.

"It was so absurd," said Sherratt, who took out the ads himself. "We have no Norwegian blood in this town. Who would believe it?"

One resident marched into City Hall and said the cave where the artifacts were found was on his land. "He said they belonged to him," recalled the mayor, stifling a chuckle. "Another man said he owned the mold used to make the swords."

And there were reports of a Viking ship submerged in a nearby lake.

Sensing trouble, Sherratt quickly concocted a story with a Washington dateline saying the Smithsonian Institution was taking control of the artifacts based on the fabricated "Antiquities Act of 1803," which he claimed automatically awarded items of "historical importance more than 500 years old" to the government.

People called in, terrified that they'd never get the stuff back.

When the mayor confessed to the prank, they weren't amused.

Britannia! (Say, What's That?)

The UK's Telegraph wanted to find out what the British know about the history of their own empire. Not much apparently. A poll of 2,327 adults revealed that only one in three know that Mad King George was on the throne when Americans demanded independence. Only about half know that the United States was once part of the British Empire.

Click here to see the results.

Arnold, Arnold, Arnold!

A Marine corporal, explaining his support for Arnold Schwarzenegger, as quoted in the New York Times August 15, 2003:

"He's got all those movies and stuff. People know who he is. He's the tough guy, the Terminator. He'll be good for California."

From"No Blacks Wanted" to"Only Blacks Wanted"

From the Newsnet5.com July 28, 2003:

A group of parents said they will fight a possible decision to allow a white teacher to lead classes in black history at Oberlin High School.

NewsChannel5 reported that a scheduling conflict could cause the district to reassign the black teacher who has taught the course for seven years.

Using a white teacher at Oberlin High School would send the wrong message to black students, said A.G. Miller, an associate professor of American and African religious history at Oberlin College.

"The message is that we are not concerned about the importance of your historical background ... that that is less important than a schedule conflict," said Miller, whose three children graduated from Oberlin High School.

Jaqui Willis, a black Oberlin parent, said the teacher is a role model and that removing him from the class would be detrimental to students.

The parents have protested the move to the school board, but the district's superintendent, Beverly Reep, has not commented on the case. Reep told parents at a school board meeting that scheduling issues would be addressed this week.

Schools and community leaders in the Cleveland area are split over the issue of whether blacks should be the only ones to teach black history.

In Cleveland, white and black teachers teach black history. A black teacher teaches black history at Shaker Heights High School, but a white teacher handles classes on oppression and human relations, both which deal extensively with race relations and slavery.

So Liberia Is a Republic?

From the CIA website as of July 8, 2003:

Country Name: Republic of Liberia

Government Type*: republic

*This entry gives the basic form of government (e.g., republic, constitutional monarchy, federal republic, parliamentary democracy, military dictatorship).

FOR REFERENCE: American Heritage Dictionary:"republic n. 1.a. A political order whose head of state is not a monarch and in modern times is usually a president. 2.a. A political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them."

Good Old Joe McCarthy

From Ann Coulter's new book, Treason (2003):

The myth of 'McCarthyism' is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times. Liberals are fanatical liars, then as now. The portrayal of Sen. Joe McCarthy as a wild-eyed demagogue destroying innocent lives is sheer liberal hobgoblinism. Liberals weren't hiding under the bed during the McCarthy era. They were systematically undermining the nation's ability to defend itself, while waging a bellicose campaign of lies to blacken McCarthy's name.

Thank Goodness the CIA Was There to Protect Santa Claus

From the Ottawa Citizen (June 30, 2003):

One of the CIA's deepest and darkest secrets -- a classified report about a plot by the "Ebenezer Scrooge" terrorist group to attack Santa Claus and his reindeer -- has finally been revealed after almost 30 years.

Researchers who recently uncovered the report say the joke memo warning about a potential terror attack on the North Pole, which had been classified "secret" for decades, speaks more about the U.S. government's obsession with keeping information from the public than it does of the black humour of the spies who wrote it.

The saga of the top-secret Santa file began in 1974, when international terrorism was prevalent. Planes were being hijacked and bombs detonated. As Christmas approached, intelligence analysts thought they would have a chuckle and liven up their report on global terrorism they regularly sent to the White House. They decided to raise the alarm about an attack that would come some time Dec. 24 or Dec. 25.

"A new organization of uncertain makeup using the name 'Group of the Martyr Ebenezer Scrooge' plans to sabotage the annual courier flight of the Government of the North Pole," top U.S. decision-makers were warned. "Prime Minister and Chief Courier S. Claus has been notified and security precautions are being co-ordinated worldwide."

The report was stamped "secret" and put away in the deep confines of the CIA.

Fast-forward to 1999, when the CIA and other U.S. government agencies were being forced by then-president Bill Clinton's administration to declassify millions of pages of records. Among the documents the CIA reluctantly agreed to make public was its December 1974 report on international terrorism.

But even with Mr. Clinton's decree, the CIA declared that most of the report was still too sensitive to be revealed to the public. Instead it declassified only a few sentences of the five-page document, mainly references to a car bombing in Argentina and a private plane being hijacked to Cuba.

But what the U.S.'s top spies didn't know was that the same report had already been sent over to the Gerald Ford Presidential Library for safekeeping. More importantly, the version the Gerald Ford library had in its possession didn't censor the supposedly top-secret details.

Details of the memo were only recently revealed after historians compared the censored and uncensored versions of the document and realized the CIA considered a decades-old joke about Santa Claus as a matter of the utmost national security.

"This shows that the system is not about protecting real security issues," said Thomas Blanton, director of the U.S.-based National Security Archive, which made the Santa records public. "The bulk of what government keeps secret is to avoid embarrassment."

How to Strike Fear in the Hearts of Terrorists

From the Boston Globe (June 27, 2003):

[Massachusetts State] Senator Guy W. Glodis has angered Muslims and a civil rights group over a flier he sent to fellow senators that says terrorist attacks could be deterred if convicted Muslim extremists were buried with pig entrails.

The flier, which Glodis's 39 colleagues received Wednesday, said an execution of Muslim extremists in the Philippines was ordered by General John Joseph ''Black Jack'' Pershing before World War I, in which the terrorists were shot with bullets dipped in pigs' blood, then buried with ''pigs' blood, entrails, etc.'' According to the flier, contact with the blood and entrails of pigs ''instantly barred'' Muslims from paradise, dooming them to hell. It said news of the burial deterred other terrorist attacks for ''the next forty-two years.''

''Maybe it is time for this segment of history to repeat itself, maybe in Iraq,'' the flier concluded. ''The question is, where do we find another Black Jack Pershing?''

A Muslim group denounced the flier as ''slanderous garbage.'' Internet websites cast doubt on the authenticity of the killings as described in the flier, with at least one referring to the description as a fictional chain.

The Auburn Democrat would not say yesterday whether he agreed with the contents of the flier, which he circulated to his colleagues with a note that said ''thought this might be of interest to you.''

''I didn't write it,'' he said. ''I just passed it along to my colleagues. I often share news items of interest with my colleagues.''

The flier merely recounted historical fact, Glodis said, and should not have offended anyone.

''If some of my colleagues are so weak-kneed and politically correct and cannot accept historical fact, I suggest they lodge a formal complaint with the secretary of the Army,'' Glodis said.

Jews Killed in Romania? What Jews?

From the Montreal Gazette (June 14, 2003):

A day after allowing U.S. experts to study its archives, Romania yesterday denied a mass murder of Jews took place on its territory during the Second World War.

Historians say 250,000 Jews were deported from Romania or killed.

"We firmly claim that within the borders of Romania between 1940 and 1945 there was no Holocaust," the Ministry of Public Information said.

Medieval History Is Boring

From the Guardian (London) (May 8, 2003):

Charles Clarke, the education secretary, has continued his assault on the great subjects of academe by revealing that he regards medieval history as"ornamental" and a waste of public money.

Not long after expressing the view that he didn't think much of classics and regarded the idea of education for its own sake as"a bit dodgy", Mr Clarke, who read maths and economics at King's College, Cambridge, went one further.

"I don't mind there being some medievalists around for ornamental purposes, but there is no reason for the state to pay for them," he said on a visit to University College, Worcester. He only wanted the state to pay for subjects of" clear usefulness", according to today's Times Higher Educational Supplement.

But Wasn't George First in War, First in Peace And First in The Hearts of His Countrymen?

An op ed by former Congressman Lionel Van Deerlin, as published in the San Diego Union-Tribune (April 30, 2003):

Heroes. Every nation, in every time, seems to need them. Some heroes who often were regarded harshly in their lifetime – e.g., George Washington – gained luster in later years.


From News-Miner.com (Alaska) (April 13, 2003):

At a recent legislative hearing, Sen. John Cowdery, R-Anchorage, requested a list of University of Alaska-affiliated people who had signed a petition opposing the Iraq war, and he didn't exactly want to send these folks a Valentine's card.

"I'd be interested in looking at those names of the faculty there," the senator said."If you would send it to us, because they're down here asking for money as you speak."

After the hearing, Cowdery denied stifling Alaskans' free-speech rights, suggesting instead he was saying some faculty make too much money. When asked whether he was questioning faculty's right to hold opinions different from his, the senator waffled, implying that faculty are overpaid money-grubbers.

With Malice Toward Some

From Bruce Craig (April 11, 2003):

This last week, 138 years after President Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad visited the capitol of the Confederacy to begin to begin the healing process after four years of bitter war, a bronze likeness of the 16th president was dedicated at the Richmond National Battlefield Park on the site of the foundry that forged munitions for the Confederate army. The statue -- the first of Lincoln ever to be erected in any of the 11 former Confederate states -- is generating considerable controversy.

Commissioned by the nonprofit U.S. Historical Society, the statue is a life-sized depiction of Lincoln and his son sitting on a bench with the inscription,"To Bind Up the Nation's Wounds." Some Richmond residents protested that the funding for project came from people who are not originally from Virginia, and that"the idea of celebrating Lincoln somehow goes against the culture of Virginia [and] is just wrong." Robert Hayes, the state director of the pro-secession League of the South, puts it more bluntly: the statue is"a second occupation." Others feel that placing the statue in the former Confederate capitol is"like installing Adolf Hitler's semblance in Tel Aviv."

Was that Saddam or Was It Memorex?

From Reuters (March 19, 2003):

Austrian far-right leader Joerg Haider chose the eve of a U.S.-led war on Iraq to praise President Saddam Hussein as a man with an open mind and a vision of a unified Arab world.

"Meeting Saddam was quite interesting, because he spent more than two hours explaining his philosophy of the unification of Arab nations," Haider told reporters on Wednesday at the launch of his new book about his 2002 meeting with the Iraqi leader.

"And (Saddam) explained the danger Israel poses for the Arab world, especially for the Palestinians," said Haider, who once praised Nazi employment polices and Hitler's Waffen SS -- comments for which he later apologized.

"I had the impression that (Saddam) is well-educated, he knows a lot about the history of his country and the region, and he's open to different arguments," Haider said....

In his book,"A Guest of Saddam in the 'Realm of Evil,"' Haider describes how he praised Saddam's intelligence in a meeting with two Israeli secret police agents, who asked to interview Haider in Vienna after his return from Baghdad.

"I described my impression of the man Saddam Hussein as best I could after our single meeting," writes Haider."I also told them of his obvious intelligence, which had impressed me during our discussions, and of his clear thought-processes."...

Last year, a German forensic pathologist said the man Haider had been photographed with was not the real Saddam Hussein, but one of at least three doubles who had undergone plastic surgery to look like the Iraqi leader.

Haider dismissed the idea that the man he shakes hands with on the cover of his book is a fake Saddam, though he joked that the existence of doubles could help prevent war.


From a news story, March 13, 2003:

At an anti-war workshop for Catholic leaders, Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) compared Islamic terrorists to “nontraditional American revolutionaries” such as the “Green Mountain Boys.” When critics protested that the analogy falsely portrayed people like Ethan Allen, the congresswoman snapped that she welcomed the controversy because it gave her a chance to get her views across to a larger audience.

Pink Triangles? What Pink Triangles?

Minnesota State Rep. Arlon Lindner, R-Corcoran, wants to pass a bill repealing the state ban on discrimination against gays and lesbians. In defense of his bill he remarked that gay people were not persecuted in the Holocaust. "I was a child during World War II, and I've read a lot about World War II," he said. "It's just been recently that anyone's come out with this idea that homosexuals were persecuted to this extent. There's been a lot of rewriting of history." He predicted that if the anti-discrimination law was not repealed, America will become "another African continent."


The people of La Verkin, Utah (pop. 3,300) are considering re-passing an ordinance banning United Nations troops from city limits. According to the Guardian, "The council repealed the ordinance last year, on the boring grounds that it made the place look silly. Now its chief proponent, Al Snow, is fighting back and has secured enough signatures to get the matter on the ballot in the November election. He claims, on the basis of his own polling, 60% popular support."

Bring Back Our Dead from France

A Florida member of Congress, Ginny Brown-Waite, has proposed that the government pay for families who might want to bring home from France the remains of Americans who fought and died in the world wars. "I, along with many other Americans, do not feel that the French government appreciates the sacrifices men and women in uniform have made to defend the freedom that the French enjoy today," she said.

Lafayette, Keep Your French Fries

"With frustration rising in the Capitol over French opposition to President Bush's policy on Iraq, Representative Bob Ney, the Ohio Republican who is chairman of the House Administration Committee, which is responsible for House operations, ordered the word "French" stricken from all House menus. The action was unilateral."

Tears for Stalin

"The latest poll of 1,600 adults by the All-Russian Public Opinion Center, released today on the eve of the 50th anniversary of his death, shows that more than half of all respondents believe Stalin's role in Russian history was positive, while only a third disagreed. By the poll's reckoning, 27 percent of Russians judge Stalin a cruel and inhumane tyrant. But 20 percent call him wise and humane — among them the head of the Communist Party, Gennadi Zyuganov, who today compared Stalin to 'the most grandiose figures of the Renaissance.' "


A new survey in Europe of the greatest Europeans in modern history include: Winston Churchill, Leonardo da Vinci and, Joschka Fischer. Fischer is the German foreign minister opposed to war with Iraq.

Hoarse Over a Horse

Philadelphia museums claiming they are the rightful owners of the head of Old Baldy, the horse upon which General George Meade rode during many of the Civil War's most infamous battles."