Monthly Archives: December 2008

U.S. Treasury Seizes Property Linked to Iran’s Bank Melli

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[h/t Global Security Newswire]

The U.S. Justice Department seized a share of a Manhattan building held by Assa Corporation, a suspected financial supporter of Iran’s nuclear program:

Assa Corp. is a front company that for nearly 20 years has used a complicated system to redirect rental profits from its 40-percent stake in 650 Fifth Ave. to Iranian state-owned Bank Melli, officials in the Treasury and Justice departments wrote in court documents (Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, Dec. 18).

The State Department accused Bank Melli in a statement of underwriting acquisitions for Iranian ballistic missile and atomic programs that could support nuclear weapons development, Agence France-Presse reported. The bank also provides credit lines, opens accounts and conducts transactions for entities engaged in proliferation operations, the statement said (Agence France-Presse/Google News, Dec. 17).

Tehran has insisted its nuclear efforts are strictly peaceful.

U.S. law requires the Iranian government and any affiliate to obtain special approval from Washington before conducting business in the United States, the Post reported.

“This scheme to use a front company set up by Bank Melli — a known proliferator — to funnel money from the United States to Iran is yet another example of Iran’s duplicity,” Treasury Department Undersecretary Stuart Levey said.

Assa lawyer Peter Livingston said the charge was incorrect although he had not seen the court documents.

“It’s a mistake on the part of the government,” he said. “We don’t believe this is accurate at all” (Kessler, Washington Post).

Meanwhile, Israel warned that Iran would “not hesitate” to use a nuclear bomb to attempt an attack on the United States, the Associated Press reported.

[read it all here]

More on Bank Melli from the U.S. Department of the Treasury:

Bank Melli provides financial services, including opening letters of credit and maintaining accounts, for Iranian front companies and entities engaged in proliferation activities. Further, Bank Melli has facilitated the purchase of sensitive materials utilized by Iran’s nuclear and missile industries, and has handled transactions for other designated Iranian entities, including Bank Sepah, Defense Industries Organization, and the Shahid Hammat Industrial Group.

Bank Melli has been designated as a proliferator by the United States and the European Union for its role in Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1803 calls on all member states to exercise vigilance with regard to activities between financial institutions in their countries and all Iranian banks, particularly Bank Melli.

Further, Bank Melli provides banking services to Iran’s military vanguard, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Qods Force, which is a branch of the IRGC that has been designated under Executive Order 13224 for providing support to terrorist groups, including the Taliban, Hizballah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command.

Bank Melli created ASSA CORP. as a vehicle to hold Bank Melli’s interest in a building located at 650 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York, whose construction had been financed, in part, by a Bank Melli loan. ASSA CORP. co-owns the building through a partnership formed with the Alavi Foundation of New York, called 650 Fifth Avenue Company.

UPDATE [via AP]:

The president of a foundation that co-owns a Manhattan building allegedly linked to a bank accused of supporting Iran’s nuclear program was arrested Friday.

Farshid Jahedi, 54, the president of the Alavi Foundation, was charged with obstruction of justice after he tried on Thursday to throw away documents responsive to a subpoena he received one day earlier, federal prosecutors said.

An FBI complaint against Jahedi said he was warned not to destroy documents requested by a grand jury. It said he disobeyed the order when he went home to Ardsley, N.Y., where he dumped papers in a public trash can.

New York, Nepotism, and Caroline Kennedy

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I am frankly nauseated that Caroline Kennedy may be our (New York’s) next senator. Maybe I should not be so upset. After all, if Democrats can elect a president with no executive experience, why not appoint a senator who lacks legislative experience?

Roland Dodds (But I am a Liberal!) expresses opinions quite close to my own:

There are few things that disgust me like the reverence many Americans hold for the Kennedy household. I see nothing inherently wrong with claiming JFK was a good President (an average President in my assessment), or that liberals may feel Bobby Kennedy would have been an excellent president if he were not assassinated (an unscientific conjecture, but I am willing to let it slide), but to extend this benevolence to anyone associated with the family’s lineage is the most appalling form of nepotism Democrats readily participate in.

We have yet another Kennedy (this time it’s Caroline) looking to capitalize on her namesake, and she looks posed to take Clinton’s senate seat when she departs to be Obama’s Secretary of State.

The fact that she is even being considered for the position over qualified civil servants should disgust any American, but that doesn’t begin to repulse me. Forget that she has little experience doing anything of significance (let alone legislative experience), and that she has only been heavily involved in a number of duties that revolve around glorifying the family’s name (like standing as President of the JFK library). I can also excuse the reason she was brought into the political center stage: the Obama campaign wanted to incorporate the populace’s romanticism of America’s Camelot into electoral victory for their candidate. A shrewd but wretched political move, but so goes an American election.

Ross Douhat (The Atlantic) notes:

Caroline Kennedy is no doubt more prepared – in terms of her base of knowledge about national politics, her comfort with the ways of Washington, etc. – to be a United States Senator than Sarah Palin was to be Vice President. But if you consider where the two women started and stack their subsequent accomplishments against one another, Palin’s Alaskan career is roughly six times more impressive than Kennedy’s years as a high-minded Manhattan socialite and custodian of her family’s good name. That doesn’t mean that McCain was wise to pick Palin as his running mate. But if you think he wasn’t, then you should definitely hope that the Democratic Party of New York hunts a little longer through its ranks before handing a Senate seat to the editor of The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Eric Trager (Contentions) suggests city councilman John Liu is a better pick for the position:

Having represented parts of northeast Queens since 2002, Liu would be an intriguing choice for a number of reasons. First, as chair of the City Council’s Committee on Transportation, Liu would bring appropriate experience for working with the incoming Obama administration on improving domestic infrastructure. Second, Liu has demonstrated laudable political independence. In October, he was among the minority of councilmen who voted against extending term limits for city offices, including his own. Finally, having emigrated from Taiwan when he was five years old, Liu would be the first Asian-American to serve in a statewide office. His appointment would therefore widen political opportunities for one of New York’s largest – and often overlooked – minority groups.

Most importantly, putting Liu on the “short list” of possible Senate replacements would delay plans for the next Kennedy coronation. It would force Governor Paterson to choose between a respected councilman who has been hard at work serving his constituents for the past six years, and a presidential daughter who has conspicuously dropped “Schlossberg” from her last name.

Councilman Liu is an excellent choice. He had my respect when I was living in Queens and it has only increased over time. I really appreciated the way he stood up to Mayor Bloomberg and many of his fellow council members regarding term limits.

If you happen to live in New York (even if you don’t) and would like to express your opinion contact Governor Patterson:

Phone (518) 474-8390

To email the governor click here.

What I Missed

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I managed to stay away from computers, email, watching the news, and the rest of my regular routine while I was out of town so I missed Muntader al-Zaidi’s shoe attack on President Bush. Read all about it at But I am a Liberal!, Contentious Centrist, and Normblog.

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ADDED from comment by Kellie (h/t Airforce Amazons):

Angry Arab wants to try out the idea that throwing a shoe is inoffensive in the west, found via Abu Muqawama, and a piece from the International Herald Tribune on what to throw in other cultures around the world.

Back to the Blog

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I was out in Northern California for about a week visiting family and friends. Unfortunately I did not take any pictures this time as the weather was not great, a lot of fog, a bit of rain, and very damp. It was actually colder in San Francisco than NYC!

My usual first stop after getting of the plane is some Mexican food in East Oakland. There are plenty of taco trucks and taquerias to choose from. I used to always get tortas from Tacos Michoacanos on East 14th near 36th Ave. But it has not been so great the past few times. My close friend and driver decided on the Ojo de Agua truck which is next to the Fruitvale BART station. The carne asada was good and the other ingredients tasted fresh but they definitely could have put some more avocado on it.

That evening I went to the open house at the new location for the Judah Magnes Museum in downtown Berkeley. It is not in its finished state but you can get an idea of how fantastic the new space will be when completed. They had a nice spread of food too, salmon, falafel, beef brisket, chicken, salad, challah, the works. Had a few He-Brews and then headed home.

I would have stayed to eat but had plans to get some sushi with my brother-in-law and a good friend. We were going to Yu San Sushi in El Cerrito which is like a pilgrimage for me. I’ve been eating there for well over ten years. Every time I go back to the bay area I make sure to hit this place, usually my first night in town. It is a very small spot that seems like it has been there forever. The owner, Yuzo Sasaki, has pictures of his customers babies on the wall so it has a very homey feel. There is also a white record sleeve signed by the members of Metallica back when they were an up and coming Easy Bay band (the sleeve says “Yu San Sushi Rules!!!”). Yuzo has been getting up in years so his son, Kaz, has been cutting the fish the past couple of times I paid them a visit.

When the three of us entered the restaurant there was an immediate shock because an unknown man was behind the sushi counter, Yuzo’s wife was nowhere to be seen and the staff had changed. The pictures were not on the walls. The Metallica album sleeve was gone. I was ready to turn around and walk out but was convinced to stay by my companions. Eventually I noticed one waitress from the former crew and my brother-in-law mustered enough sense to ask her “what’s up? What happened to Yuzo and Kaz?” She explained to us that Yuzo had passed away due to stomach cancer in October. I was very sad to hear this unexpected news.

Yu San Sushi was about more than the food, which was always top-notch. Best sashimi and sushi I have ever eaten. He was a true sushi master and spent years as an apprentice before striking out on his own. He said he made rice for three years as an apprentice before ever touching a piece of fish and waited until his master died until he started his own place. He also claimed he invented the California Roll back in 1974

Beyond the quality, what really made it great was Yuzo’s personality and hospitality. He was so funny, always cracking jokes, always willing to sit down with you and have a drink, always giving you a taste of something you had never tried before. Even after I left the bay area and was not eating there nearly as often as I used to, he still treated me as if I was a true regular. I can still hear him saying, “ah, you’ve come back! No good sushi in New York, right?” I’m really going to miss him.

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The next day I went with my mom to the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco (pic above) to see an exhibition “The State Museums of Berlin and the Legacy of James Simon“:

James Simon (1851–1932), a German Jew, was a patron of the arts, connoisseur, collector and philanthropist best known for his sponsorship of excavations in Egypt, the Near East, and Central Asia that brought great riches from the ancient world to Berlin including the bust of Nefertiti and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon and its Processional Way. Dedicating his life to public welfare, Simon displayed a remarkable social commitment and created an extraordinary cultural legacy. His gift of thousands of items to the State Museums of Berlin identified him as one of Berlin’s most important patrons and elevated Berlin to the ranks of museum capitals such as London, Paris, and Vienna. His support of archaeological excavations, including the Amarna and Mesopotamia expeditions, helped to preserve some of the most rare and important objects from antiquity.

james-simon

We also saw some very small da Vinci drawings from the Biblioteca Reale in Turin. These mostly consisted of studies of human and animal movement in addition to a few portraits and one mechanical drawing.

No outing with my mom would be complete without food. We decided to get some dim sum on Clement St. I have not been to Clement St. for over ten years and did not have any specific spot in mind. We figured we would walk around and see what looked good. When we saw the steamers in the windows of Lee Hou, we knew we were in for a treat. We were not disappointed and at $1.88 a plate it was quite reasonably priced. We ordered a bunch of items, I can’t remember them all. The deep fried tofu skins stuffed with crab were memorable and the shrimp har gow were huge.

I made it back to San Francisco the next day to check out a friend’s apartment. He recently moved out of Oakland and I had not visited him in his new digs. He took us around the neighborhood, including a few pints at the local pub. Then a group of us went to an old stand-by of mine, Hong Sing. It is a nondescript, neighborhood Chinese spot in Glen Park. The sort of greasy spoon Chinese food that was quite common back in the day. I discovered it about 15 years ago and the menu has remained unchanged. Our crew had deep fried flounder with garlic sauce, spicy salt baked squid, beef with asparagus, and snow pea leaves. Everything was good but the squid could have been cooked a bit less.

The last restaurant to report on is Ruen Pair which is in Albany. Ruen Pair is located in the same place as my mom’s favorite Thai restaurant, Thai Thai. After Thai Thai closed down my mom avoided the new place because she had such fond memories of the old. But we have both read some really positive reviews and she was ready to give it a chance so we went there for lunch. It was very tasty. Spicy, but not too spicy. We had a couple of lunch specials, bbq beef (can’t recall the Thai name. Nua young?), prawns with eggplant and som tum which is a green papaya salad. NYC needs Thai places like this.

Before lunch we took a walk around Jewel Lake in Tilden Park, one of my favorite parks in the East Bay:

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More Weekend Reading: New Democratiya (15/Winter 2008)

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[Just a few selections. Check it all out here.]

Terry Glavin: Afghanistan: A Choice of Comrades

Irfan Khawaja: Rethinking Afghanistan: Reading Sarah Chayes

Progress: Progressive Multilateralism White Paper

Maajid Nawaz: Countering Violent Islamist Extremism

Maryam Namazie et al.: One Law for All: The Campaign against Sharia

Fred Siegel: On Bernard-Henri Lévy on the ‘Right-Wing Left’

Gabriel Noah Brahm: The Concept of the ‘Post-Left’: a Defense

Lyn Julius: On Weinstock on Dhimmitude and the Jews

Inna Tysoe: Inside the ‘Israel Lobby’

Sidney Hook: Archive: Heresy, Yes – But Conspiracy, No

Weekend Reading, Weekend Grading

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I’m spending the weekend grading exams and would rather be having a drink with these guys. The man with the mustache in the light colored suit is Mel Blank.

Here is a roundup of my regular reads:

Airforce Amazons: Springtime for Islamists

Contentious Centrist: More on the Kundera Affair

Roland Dodds (But I am a Liberal!): Obama the Hawk?

Elder of Ziyon: Islamist Strategy vs. Western Tactics and More Proof of that Hindu Zionist Conspiracy

Flesh is Grass: I Finally Learn Something from PACBI

E.D. Kain (Indiepundit and NeoConstant): Limited Government vs. Privatization (on public education and vouchers)

Martin in the Margins: Gramsci, secret Catholic Humanist?

Modernity on Politicos and the Web

A Second Hand Conjecture realizes Andrew Sullivan has completely lost it

Welcome back Snoopy! (Simply Jews)

The Stark Tenet assesses Obama’s National Security Team

Sultan Knish: Barak’s Assault on Beit Hashalom House and In Pictures, Kadima’s War Against Zionism

Zombietime (Zomblog) on the mysterious death of Dan Kliman, a Zionist activist who was found at the bottom of an elevator shaft in San Francisco.

Zword on Antisemitic Caricatures