Saturday, July 09, 2005

London 4 

Update 1: Our British correspondent, writer Phil Craig, reports from a London bus:
It's hard to sit here without picturing the double-decker with its roof peeled off. But people are getting on with it. Virgin Radio is playing a series of audience requests -- 'I'm Still Standing', 'I Get Knocked Down Then I Get Up Again', and even -- in history's first recorded use of a Blondie song as a counter-terrorism anthem -- 'One Way or Another...I'm Going To Get You'.

I switch to BBC Radio Four and the momentary euphoria fades. To the cheers of the British middle classes in some suburban Town Hall, pop producer Brian Eno is explaining how we brought this on ourselves because 'We allied ourselves to America, which has done nothing but destroy liberty and antagonise Moslems'.

'Which Moslems?' I want to shout. 'The millions who voted in Iraq, the millions more who yearn for our freedoms in Iran, or who marched so bravely in Beirut?' Of course not. He means the ones he had read about in the Guardian and the Independent. But I'm sad to say that Eno reflects what most of my left-of-centre TV friends have been saying for years. How did the poison ever go so deep into the British Intelligencia?

Still, Hitchens is on fire in the Daily Mirror, that old tabloid stalwart of the British popular left that has abandoned Bush-bashing for a couple of days.

What are Eno and the other antiwar writers and pop stars really doing? Grovelling at the feet of those who despise the culture that he and I and everyone else on this bus love, the one we celebrated in Hyde Park on Saturday, a thousand years ago. And the people who blew up the tubes and buses yesterday? They despise that world -- his world -- of fun, freedom, hope, love, sex, drugs and rock n roll. I switch back to Virgin and I find myself whispering along [I'm British after all] to the Clash:

'London calling to the faraway towns,
Now war is declared - and battle come down'.

Please make it true.
And one other thing, when we talk about grievances. Whenever this issue is raised by the "But" crowd ("Terrorism is bad, but..."), there is a large (very large; the size of an elephant in a room) and unspoken assumption being made that the grievances voiced by the terrorists, presumably on behalf of the larger community, or at least used by them as excuses for their actions, are legitimate. The assumption is unspoken because that saves the trouble of actually analyzing and judging the claims made on us by others, as well as the implications of these claims. It is, arguably, partly a result of the continuing haunting of the Western intelligencia by the specter of the noble savage ("the other" is virtuous, therefore always rights), combined with a fair dose of moral relativism (cultures are different but equally valid; who are we to judge?), and generously sprinkled with some lingering post-colonial guilt.

So what of the demands? Palestinian state is a fine idea, but what if it turns out to be yet another dysfunctional cleptocratic dictatorship? What is the end here - the statehood or the plight of the people? Besides, terrorists are not agitating for the two state solution - they want one state, Palestinian one, from Jordan to the Mediterranean, with Jews one way or another gone. Is that the acceptable outcome? After all, that's what the people want. And if these particular occupied territories should be returned to the Muslim people, what about all the others like East Timor or Spain? And if not, then why not, since Muslims have as good a claim on them as they have on Palestine?

End of the Western occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq is also a fine idea, but the only viable alternative is the return to Baathist fascism or Taliban theocracy or a combination of both. Is this a good thing? What about the people - why should they be condemned to continue to live in hell? - surely not because they want it, because they don't, no more than we would want to live under Hitler or Stalin; surely not because that's "their" culture, because I always thought that the left stood for universal human values; and surely not because unless they can change their plight themselves they "deserve" to live under despots - the left is never this callous to the plight of the poor, marginalized and disadvantaged at home, so why should it be to those in other countries?

And what of other claims - should Kashmir become a part of Pakistan? Should southern Philippines become a separate Muslim state? Or southern Thailand? Or western China? And if that's the case, why shouldn't Lebanese Christians have a country of their own? Or Christians and animists in southern Sudan?


Too broke to breed? 

This is truly scary - the other side of the West's demographic decline coin:
Taking into account the absolute cost of raising children from 0 to 18 for a typical high-income family with a combined annual income of $150,000 or more, plus income sacrificed by the parent with primary responsibility for the child, the total cost of raising a first child in Sydney is, for the first time, more than one million dollars: $1,032,600, to be precise.

The figure emerges from two pieces of research: Henman's study shows more than $607,000 in spending in Sydney on a range of child-rearing expenses, including housing, electricity, food, clothing, childcare and household goods and services until the child reaches 18. Breusch and Gray's analysis identifies $425,000 in forgone income for university-educated parents in Sydney and Melbourne, including the short- and long-term effects of career interruption...

Henman has found even families on combined incomes in the middle range of about $70,000 a year spend between $240,000 and $280,000 on direct child-rearing costs. Add to this the income sacrificed by the secondary-educated parent with primary responsibility for a child, and even middle-income families face a bill of more than $550,000 over the lifetime of their first child in Sydney and Melbourne, and between $505,000 and $533,000 in the other capitals.
I imagine the figures are comparable throughout the rest of the Western world, although I'm sure that different welfare and tax models make for local variations. The big question is: has the cost of child-rearing always been this high compared to average wages and the current middle class reluctance to have children is merely a result of growing selfishness, or have the costs (as well as expectations) been skyrocketing well above the increases in the standard of living? The answer is quite crucial if we are to work out appropriate solutions to the West's demographic freefall.


Filibuster that! 

Wouldn't that be a lot of fun? Judge Judy on the Supreme Court:
"I am very flattered even to be mentioned in the same sentence as the Supreme Court," Judge Judy told me through a spokesman...

When asked point-blank if she'd like to be considered for the job, Judge Judy dodged the question.

"I prefer not to rule by committee," she said.

Yeah, and I bet she'd also prefer not to give up her $30 million annual salary, but that's not the same as saying she wouldn't do it if the President called.
It would be worthwhile just to hear her tell a party to one of those precedent-making constitutional cases, "You, sir, are a moron." Or any of these:
On your BEST day you're not as smart as I am on my worst day.

I'm here because I'm smart, not because I'm young and gorgeous... although I am!

This is my courtroom I can say what I want. When you become a Judge, we will talk.
Although I bet that's what most judges are thinking anyway.


London 3 

Update 2: In Gleneagles, meanwhile, the terrorists have not won. After committing themselves to boost the aid to Africa to $50 billion annually by 2010, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo thanked the G8 leaders for their "resolve not to be diverted by these terrorist acts." But terrorists could still win if we put too many restrictions on democracy, cautioned Vladimir Putin: "We would be giving a great gift to the terrorists themselves because they are aiming exactly for that... They want to use the instruments of democratic society to destroy democracy." All rather ironic coming from Putin, who's doing good enough himself.

Update 1: Since the left had its "We're sorry" and "Not in our name" sites, I guess it was only a matter of time before the reaction - "We're not afraid" (hat tip: Michelle Malkin). If you have some good photos and/or like Photoshop, why not contribute?

And so it goes, the expected "we've had it coming" chorus. If we didn't invade Iraq and Afghanistan, we wouldn't be terrorist targets now. But hang on, September 11, the biggest of them all, happened before Iraq and Afghanistan, remember? That was motivated by another set of grievances. We're talking here about people with very long memories; for them the Crusades or the Reconquitsa of Spain happened but yesterday. That time frame leaves an almost inexhaustible supply of pretexts to draw upon in the fight against the West. Ultimately, Iraq and Afghanistan (and Kashmir, Israel/Palestine, East Timor, the Balkans, and so on and so on) are only tactical grievances, dime a dozen to throw around to make sure as many people as possible are affected. But ultimately, the biggest grievance is us.

OK, let's not get involved in any foreign adventures; let's leave far-away people be. The jihadis' short term goal is the re-establishment of the Caliphate, but on a much grander scale than ever before, achieving a total unity of Muslim lands from the Atlantic coast of Africa to northern Australia. The price we pay is another Jewish Holocaust and the control over most of the world's oil supplies in the hands of complete nutbags. This is the price that so many in the West are obviously all too ready to pay.

The jihadis' long-term goal is of course the conversion of the whole world to their own very special brand of Islam. But you will not convince people who never believed that Nazism and communism were real threats that Islamofascism's global ambitions is something to be worried about. Ironically, it's the people with most to lose - intellectuals, artists - who seem to be the most oblivious to the threat. They fall head over heels for the tactical grievances, thinking that the American withdrawal from Iraq or the two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will "make the bed men stop." It won't, but we can't really afford to perform the experiment of giving in to all the jihadi demands just to find out wrong the left was.

For some "blame the West" reactions check out the Blue State Conservatives and Security Watchtower.


Saturday reading 

For your reading pleasure this weekend.

Honoring our Heroes Foundation - a worthy cause.

Seeker Blog brings to your attention an excellent Paul Wolfowitz interview.

Eric's Grumbles Before The Grave offers his weekly round-up of Life, Liberty and Property.

California Conservative: Jacques Chirac - the joke's on him.

It's grand opening at the new-look Stop the ACLU blog.

Chuck Simmins analyses the tsunami aid six months on.

Quillnews continues its quality blogging about China, oil and Unocal.

Against the Grain blogs extensively about debt relief, trade reform and the "ONE Campaign".


Friday, July 08, 2005

London 2 

Update 6: I love the war on terror hawks at Democratic Underground:
The attack in London, tragic as it is, is a direct result of Bush and Blair losing interest in pursuing al-Qaeda. They followed their own agenda when they went to Iraq, knowing full well that there was no connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq.

Bush and Blair both lost interest in Afghanistan, where the Taliban is now in resurgence. Both failed to take any action whatsoever against Saudi Arabia or Egypt which is where the 9/11 hijackers came from. They both forged an alliance with Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden is apparently being hid, and orchestrating present terrorist attacks.

Had we stayed in Afghanistan, spent the billions necessary to rebuild that war torn nation, and aggressively pursued Bin Laden and crew, much of what is a real terrorist threat could have been nipped in the bud.
There is no evidence whatsoever that Afghanistan today is exporting international terrorism like it was over three years ago, but never mind; had the left been in power post-S11 today we would have had five divisions stuck in the 'Stan, continuing cold war with Saddam still in power, and on top of that cold war with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan. And I thought it was the Shrub who was on a mad crusade. Coming tomorrow: DU will demonstrate how more boots on the ground in Afghanistan would have stopped a Moroccan cell in London pissed off that we're in Afghanistan in first place.

Update 5: Alenda Lux notes the full spectrum of responses to the bombings on the opinion pages of "Guardian": calls for understanding and tolerance, blaming America, and unconditional surrender to the terrorists (parts one, two and three).

What was it that Karl Rove said? Oh, never mind.

Update 4: Reports vary as to the public sentiment on "the British street". While some articles paint the picture of quiet defiance - the spirit of the Blitz,
("As Brits, we'll carry on - it doesn't scare us at all," said 37-year-old tour guide Michael Cahill. "Look, loads of people are walking down the streets. It's Great Britain - not called 'Great' for nothing"...

Computer technician Matt Carter, 25, said he was struck by how the attacks had united Londoners.

"It's amazing how people have stuck together. I've seen total strangers hugging each other and people coming out into the street with free cups of tea," he said.

"We can't let the terrorists defeat us. We've got to show them they will never win.")
others, like the American blogger Charmaine Yoest, are reporting different reactions:
I expected some grief, at least as much as there was when Lady Di died. And grief I got. I interviewed three very ordinary, normal teenaged English Muslims, one with short spiky hair (dressed not unlike my 10 year-old-dude). All three seem to be parroting Muslim talking points. "The bombings were a conspiracy by Blair to generate support for the war," they recited in a charming British accent.

The bombers were quite indiscriminate. Edgware is not far from the heart of Little Beirut, a Muslim ethnic neighborhood.

A young British black woman told me, "The bombings are Tony Blair's fault - they killed a 100 thousand Iraqis - and it's like a boomerang [coming back at the British]." Most everyone I talked to believed that the British caused the bombing or had it coming.

Of the dozen or so people I interviewed only white males in business attire expressed surprise that anyone would think the British were at fault in anyway. But these gentlemen were the minority. Most felt that the Brits were complicit. The people at London's ground zero were sounding like the "wobbly" Spanish after their train bombings.
My sources in the UK are split on which version is more correct.

Update 3: A Londoner's call to arms:
Some will attempt to blame Tony Blair's government for bringing this horror to our capital. The people who set these bombs expect this reaction. They saw it in Madrid, and they crave it in London.

They must get the reverse. Under Blair's leadership Britain has taken its place in a war against Islamofascism, against the bombers of New York, Bali and Beslan, against those who believe that their love of death is stronger than our love of life. We saw that love clearly displayed last Saturday at 'Live 8' in one of this city's great parks - striking proof of this young, diverse nation's desire to engage with and assist the wider world.

We are right to be in this war, and right to work with progressive forces in the Islamic world who want a life free from tyranny, totalitarianism and the cult of death - such as the millions who voted in Iraq, such as the millions who today yearn for freedom in Iran. Together with our Moslem allies we must redouble our efforts - and, yes, our troop deployments - so that we can isolate and destroy Bin Ladenism wherever it chooses to make a stand, and send the clerical fascists back to the dark ages.

But many people will blame Tony Blair. Some of them have spent years saying that there is no real terror threat anyway, that the war is something worthy of inverted commas, something got up by the American right for its own dark purposes. Let yesterday prove that they were wrong. Let yesterday prove that 60 years after defeating another brand of this same poison, Londoners and Britons of all faiths and backgrounds can still see clearly who their enemies are, and refuse to bow the knee.
Phil Craig is co-author of "Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain", "End of the Beginning", and most recently "Trafalgar".

Update 2: With reports of two unexploded bombs being found, we are left with a coincidence of seven bombs on the seventh day of a seventh month of a year whose individual digits add up to seven. There's no evidence, however, that jihadis are into numerology, or into marking any anniversaries.

By another strange coincidence, at the time of the report on the nighly news in Brisbane, the number of killed at three subway stations was seven each and twenty one on the bus.

Update 1: Reader Jim writes:
Been watching the news casts all day and I must say I'm really tired of hearing how this was a "well planned attack" or a "well coordinated attack" or was done by "skilled, well trained terrorists."

What is so damn hard about telling a few crazies "here's a bomb, set it off in a bus or subway around eight o'clock AM on such a such day"? A troop of cub scouts could have pulled this off! All you need is one guy to get the bombs rigged and a bunch of crazies to plant them. And since these bombs went off over a period of time, and apparently set with timers, instead of simultaneously, they could have been dropped by just one or two people. Why do we make it sound as if these scum are so smart, so skilled, so well trained? Why make them bigger than they are? Why stroke their egos with such praise?
Some links: At Labour Friends of Iraq, Alan Johnson pens an open letter to his friend in anti-war movement.

Mark Steyn (hat tip: Joe G.): "This is the beginning of a long existential struggle, for Britain and the West. It's hard not to be moved by the sight of Londoners calmly going about their business as usual in the face of terrorism. But, if the governing class goes about business as usual, that's not a stiff upper lip but a death wish."

Jim Robbins
: "The London bombings are likely part of a wider al Qaeda summer offensive."


Thursday, July 07, 2005


Update 11: Another reader, De andere kijk, writes:
Paraphrasing Le Monde after 9/11: We are all British
As we indeed we are. Unlike Le Monde, however, we'll remain so for more than a few days.

Update 10
: A reader and UK expat James A writes: "I'm hoping the political sniping back home doesn't get vicious as a result of this. My opinion of George Galloway will go up a few notches if he waits till monday before opening his trap."

C'mon James, you might have hoped, but you knew this was never going to happen:
No one can condone acts of violence aimed at working people going about their daily lives. They have not been a party to, nor are they responsible for, the decisions of their government. They are entirely innocent and we condemn those who have killed or injured them.

The loss of innocent lives, whether in this country or Iraq, is precisely the result of a world that has become a less safe and peaceful place in recent years.

We have worked without rest to remove the causes of such violence from our world. We argued, as did the Security Services in this country, that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq would increase the threat of terrorist attack in Britain. Tragically Londoners have now paid the price of the government ignoring such warnings.
You can always count on Gorgeous George to agree with the terrorists. Iraq and Afghanistan? Wow. Should have left those peace-loving Taliban and Al Qaeda in peace. But sice the jihadis in their official statement forgot to mention a few things, Galloway helpfully added in his address to the House of Commons that it's not just Afghanistan and Iraq, but also Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. So the Secret Organisation Group of Al-Qa’ida of Jihad Organisation in Europe, pick up your act and stick to the full set of talking points, will you?

The best reaction from one of the government ministers? Galloway is "dipping his poisonous tongue in a pool of blood".

Update 9: Is there a blogger not writing about the London attacks at the moment? Lots of posts at Tim Blair's and LGF, just scroll down; a huge round-up at Instapundit; some thoughts at Terrorism Unveiled.

Update 8: Call it the British phlegm:
Workers in the city of London are still trying to take in what has happened. And almost every pub around Liverpool Street is packed with people wanting to watch the One o' clock news.

At the East India Arms, a small pub on Fenchurch Street, bankers quietly sipped their pints of Young's bitter while listening to the news and watching the pictures of how their city has been changed. Those in the pub were recounting tales of the morning's events, some of them speculative, much of it rumour. When the prime minister's statement came up on the news the pub almost immediately fell silent.

However, the strange thing is that despite this terrible attack, there really is an air of people just trying to get on with things. As soon as the prime minister stopped talking, the pub erupted in conversation with all the usual talking points - contracts, deadlines and projects.
Update 7: More: "Rejoice, Islamic nation. Rejoice, Arab world. The time has come for vengeance against the Zionist crusader government of Britain in response to the massacres Britain committed in Iraq and Afghanistan... We continue to warn the governments of Denmark and Italy and all crusader governments that they will receive the same punishment if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan."

Pretty bad tactical mistake there - Iraq is unpopular, Afghanistan is not. Call for withdrawal from Iraq, and you're merely echoing public sentiment; call for withdrawal from Afghanistan, and you suddebly remind everyone about the war on terror, Al Qaeda, bin Laden, Taliban - all the nasty things that even the French and the Russians are united against.

Update 6:
Al-Qaida terrorists today claimed responsibility for the London blasts on an Islamic website and said that “Britain is burning with fear”.

The unverified claim, made on the Al-Qal’ah – Fortress – internet site, was posted by a group calling themselves the Secret Organisation Group of Al-Qa’ida of Jihad Organisation in Europe.

The message, posted this morning, said: “The heroic mujahidin have carried out a blessed raid in London.

“Britain is now burning with fear, terror and panic in its northern, southern, eastern, and western quarters.”
Update 5: Remember all the post-9/11 conspiracy theories how all the Jewish workers at World Trace Center didn't turn up to work that day? Now, a slight twist:
Israel was not warned about possible terror attacks in London before at least six blasts ripped through the city, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said today.

A Foreign Ministry official had said earlier that British police warned the Israeli Embassy in London of possible terror attacks minutes before the first explosion.

“There was no early information about terrorist attacks,” Shalom told Israel Army Radio. “After the first explosion an order was given that no one move until things become clear.”

Israel was holding an economic conference in a hotel over the underground stop where one of the blasts occurred. Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was supposed to attend the conference, but “after the first explosion our finance minister received a request not to go anywhere,” Shalom said.
Update 4: Blair, again: "It's particularly barbaric this has happened on a day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa, the long-term problems of climate change and the environment."

It's barbaric enough, Tony, without any need for "particularly". Terrorists couldn't give a stuff about poverty or environment, they just like to kill. That's the difference between them and us, but you know that already.

Update 3
: Tony Blair: "Our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction on innocent people to impose their extremist values on the civilised world."

Update 2: "The first confirmation that these are being treated as terrorist attacks and the prime minister is sending two messages - firstly of course of sympathy for the victims, and secondly a message of defiance to the terrorists. The visible evidence is that he will return to London in a couple of hours to be briefed by senior officers and then return to the G8 summit later to carry on. All leaders seem to have decided not to give the terrorists what they were looking for - the cancellation of the summit."

Update: Courtesy of BBC:

08:49 police called to Liverpool Street station after reports of bang
Blasts also reported at Aldgate East, Edgware Rd, Kings Cross, Moorgate, Russell Square tube stations
10:14 Reports of blast on bus at Tavistock Square

A bus was ripped apart in an explosion in central London today and several blasts rocked the Tube network leaving dozens of people injured.
The underground explosions were initially blamed on power surges, but since the incident took place at 8.49AM, that's a bit too much of a coincidence with September 11. Besides, taken together with at least one exploding bus, we're seeing Great Britain's very own Black Thursday. It's probably not a coincidence either that the attack took place one day after London has won the right to host the 2012 Olympic Games.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Insurgents do the darndest things 

Insurgency in Iraq might be a relatively sophisticated operation, but some of the participants are certainly a few fuses short of a working Improvised Explosive Device and consequently are likely to end up way short of the promised 72 virgins.

Item 1: If you are an insurgent who wants to stash a large quantity of weapons and munitions at your house, please make sure that you don't paint the building's outside walls with anti-Coalition slogans.

That can, sort of, attract the attention.

And it did, when soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd U.S. Infantry Division were engaged in a random "knock-and-search" operation in the Al Rashid District of Baghdad on 4 July.
A full search of the house yielded the following items: one U.S. body armor vest, two load-bearing vests for AK-47 rifles, eight rocket-propelled grenade triggers, one RPG pouch, one detonator, four AK-47s, two improvised RPG/rocket launchers, two 82mm mortars, two 82mm mortar tripods, 20 rocket primers, 11 RPG propellants, three RPGs, 17 grenade fuses, 12 AK-47 magazines, four AK-47 stocks, an expended 1,000-round RPK belt, more than 1,000 RPK rounds (both expended and live), 300 rounds of 9mm ammunition, a large amount of propaganda materials, various improvised explosive device-making materials, welding supplies, two 60mm mortars, one 60mm mortar tripod, 10 grenades, one modified ammo box, three new Iraqi Police uniforms, three bullet-proof windows and one rifle scope.
Item 2: It's true that it's not always possible to detonate explosives remotely - while post-liberation the number of cell phones commonly used for that purpose has increased dramatically throughout Iraq, so has the intrusiveness of American jamming technologies - still, some ways to set off a roadside bomb just make it too easy for the infidel imperialist soldiers.
Task Force Baghdad soldiers caught a man red-handed trying to detonate a roadside bomb along a highway south of the city. The military said soldiers patrolling in south Baghdad at around 2 a.m. [July 3] noticed two sets of wires leading to the side of a highway. The patrol followed the wires to a bunker with an overhead cover and found a man with a spool of wire inside.
The spool man was not the only insurgent recently who obviously haven't read up on the old Greek myth of Theseus, Labyrinth, and Ariadne's thread.
Task Force Liberty soldiers detained five suspects, three of whom were arrested after soldiers followed a trail of wires from the roadside to a house near Duluiyah on June 27. The soldiers searched the house and found three AK-47 assault rifles, a shotgun, small-arms ammunition, a suitcase of Iraqi currency, and 25 identification cards.
Item 3: Security forces are trained to look for suspicious things, so the sight of a car parked on the side of the road with wires sticking out of the steering column will unquestionably pique the curiosity of those on the lookout for car bombs. But you don't have to confirm the suspicions by driving the car in question, parking it, getting out, and then - in full view of the locals - catching a taxi.

Those were the circumstances that Iraqi soldiers from Alpha Company, 4th Battalion, 1st Iraqi Army Brigade faced while patrolling in the Ameriyah district of west Baghdad at around 6:00 p.m. on July 3.
The Iraqi Soldiers secured the site to keep everyone away from the bomb and called in a team of explosives experts. When the team investigated they found four mortar rounds, one land mine and a radio with wire connected to the car. The explosives team safely detonated the car bomb.
Item 4: When you're fighting a jihad against foreign occupiers, the best strategy is to try to win the hearts and minds of residents of a town you've decided to take over as your base of operations. Please note: this objective is unlikely to be achieved once you start killing members of the local tribal establishment and destroying vital infrastructure.

Case in point, a little town of Husaybah, which has recently seen repeated bursts of fighting between the locals and their Al Qaeda guests:
The trigger was the assassination of a tribal sheikh, from the Sulaiman tribe, ordered by Zarqawi for inviting senior US marines for lunch. American troops gained an insight into the measures the jihadists had imposed during recent house-to-house searches in nearby towns and villages.

Shops selling music and satellite dishes had been closed. Women were ordered to wear all-enveloping clothing and men forbidden from wearing western clothes.

Anyone considered to be aiding coalition forces was being killed or kidnapped. That included those with links to the government - seen as a US puppet - such as water or electricity officials. As a result local services had collapsed.
As one resident who left the city comments about Al Qaeda: "We thought they were patriotic. Now we discovered that they are sick and crazy. They interfered in everything, even how we raise our children. They turned the city into hell, and we cannot live in it anymore."

Item 5: OK, so you can never be sure whether the prospective martyr will actually martyr himself when it comes to the crunch, but as this story shows, there is only so much you can do to double-guess him -– you can chain the suicide-bomber-to-be to the car seat and tape his hand to the steering wheel, which might ensure the unbroken connection between the driver and his load, but will unduly restrict his movements and reflexes; you can put in a remote control detonator under his seat, just in case he changes his mind, but the chances are it will be radio-jammed by the Americans anyway; and you can also drug the martyr up to his eyeballs.

This will banish any fear or second thoughts about going to Paradise too soon, but it will also, arguably, make him incapable of using the activation switch for the bomb.

Item 6: And an oldie but a goodie from the early days of military operations in Iraq. The enemy will always try to provoke you into doing something impulsive and, let's face it, stupid - so don't let them. This simple lesson was, alas, lost on Saddam's brave but foolhardy irregulars:
Before plunging into Iraq, U.S. psychological-warfare operators studied certain cultural stereotypes. One was that young Arab toughs cannot tolerate insults to their manhood. So, as American armored columns pushed down the road to Baghdad, 400-watt loudspeakers mounted on Humvees would, from time to time, blare out in Arabic that Iraqi men are impotent. The Fedayeen, the fierce but undisciplined and untrained Iraqi irregulars, could not bear to be taunted. Whether they took the bait or saw an opportunity to attack, many Iraqis stormed out of their concealed or dug-in positions, pushing aside their human shields in some cases—to be slaughtered by American tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.
Not impotent; just stupid.


Europe - the superpower chronicles 

Karl Rove must be chuckling to himself - well, he must be behind it all, mustn't he? - watching the European project frying, leaders quarrelling, and agendas changing beyond recognition.

Chirac to the British - you suck: apparently unaware that his microphone was on, Jacques decided to crack a few jokes to Gerhard Schroeder and Vladimir Putin at their recent summit: "the President claimed Britain's only contribution to European agriculture was mad cow disease. He then turned to the subject of British cooking. 'We can't trust people who have such bad food,' he said. 'After Finland, it's the country with the worst food.' He also suggested that France's troubles with NATO began after its Scottish former secretary-general Lord Robertson offered him a local Scottish speciality - apparently a reference to haggis - to eat." Great piece of advocacy, as Paris battles London for the rights to host the 2012 Olympics.

Blair to Europe - face the music: "Some have suggested I want to abandon Europe's social model... But tell me: what type of social model is it that has 20 million unemployed in Europe, productivity rates falling behind those of the United States; that is allowing more science graduates to be produced by India than by Europe; and that, on any relative index of a modern economy -- skills, R&D, patents, IT -- is going down not up." That's Tony speaking to the European Parliament last month. He has now called for a summit in October to debate where the "European social model" is going - or, more likely, not going.

Europe to the US - maybe you were right: As the Blue State Conservatives note, very much under the radar the EU has decided that there's such thing as being too green if it keeps screwing your already screwed up economy: "Environmental groups have been angered by a decision by the European Commission to shelve its long-term environmental strategy because of concerns that it would constrict Europe's economy and destroy too many jobs. In an unprecedented change of direction in EU policy, Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the Commission, ordered the suspension of the air-pollution strategy after he saw an assessment that showed that although it would help to prevent 350,000 premature deaths annually, it would cost businesses and consumers nearly 15 billion euro (10 billion pounds) a year. After a fractious meeting between pro-environmentalist and pro-business commissioners, Senhor Barroso ordered a review of six other strategies due out shortly, on water quality, waste, soil, natural resources, pesticides and the urban environment. The strategies, which have taken years to prepare, propose detailed environmental policies that would have entailed a series of new regulations."

Europe to illegal migrants - good-bye: Not as nice and caring anymore, Europe facilitates quick tours of the continent -– in reverse direction: "Five major European powers plan to jointly ship illegal immigrants back home in a single plane that makes stops in each of their countries, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy announced on Tuesday. 'Together ... we will organize airplanes to repatriate illegal immigrants from Britain, Spain, Germany, France and Italy,' Sarkozy told a news conference on the final day of talks between the group of Interior Ministers, known as the Group of Five. The plan will allow the five countries to combine political and financial efforts to control illegal immigration, Sarkozy said, adding that the joint repatriation effort was proposed by Spanish Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso." Shame on Spanish Socialists for leading the efforts. What's next? Socialist Minutemen (or, seeing it's Europe, Fortyfivesecondsmen) patrolling the borders to make sure that illegals aren't sneaking in?


Live 8, Dead 8 

While a clever campaign combining entertainment and political activism has been using a series of concerts, multi-media events and high-powered meetings in order to raise the awareness of Africa's plight and to inspire the developed world's young to pressure their elders in power to do more, elsewhere, another awareness-raising effort has been just as successful but without much fanfare:
On July 2, 2005, Al-Arabiya TV broadcast a report on an Iranian movement of suicide bombers with the aim of targeting Americans in Iraq and Israel. The volunteers said they wanted to carry out martyrdom operations to liberate Islamic lands and stated that so far 40,000 "time bombs" have been recruited.

According to the chairman and spokesman of The World Islamic Organization's Headquarters for Remembering the Shahids, Mohammad 'Ali Samedi, his organization began recruiting suicide bombers about a year and a half ago... Since then, he has engaged in organizing conventions, registering volunteer suicide bombers online, and providing guidance and training for martyrdom operations.
But what if some Muslims don't necessarily want the Islamic lands to be liberated - after all, what will happen to democracy, jobs and social benefits? Writes Daniel Pipes (hat tip: Dan Foty):
Palestinians - even terrorists - generally prefer life in what they call the "Zionist entity." This pattern became especially clear twice when a chunk of territory - eastern Jerusalem in 2000 and part of the Galilee "Triangle" in 2004 - was slated for transfer to PA control. In both cases, the Palestinians involved clung to Israel.

When Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak's diplomacy raised the prospect, in mid-2000, of some Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem being transferred to the PA, a Palestinian social worker found "an overwhelming majority" of Jerusalem's 200,000 Arabs choosing to remain under Israeli control. A member of the Palestinian National Council, Fadal Tahabub, specified that number: 70 percent, he said, preferred Israeli sovereignty. Another politician, Husam Watad, described people as "in a panic" at the prospect of finding themselves under PA rule...

In the Galilee Triangle, a Palestinian-majority area in the north of the country, just 30% of Israel's Arab population, according to a May 2001 survey, agreed to some of the Galilee Triangle being annexed to a future Palestinian state, meaning that a large majority preferred to remain in Israel. By February 2004, when the Sharon government released a trial balloon about giving the PA control over the Galilee Triangle, the Haifa-based Arab Center for Applied Social Research found the number had jumped to 90%. And 73% of Triangle Arabs said they would use violence to prevent changes in the border.
As Pipes writes, it's not that Arabs have suddenly turned into ardent Zionists. They might not actually like Israel, but it certainly beats the Palestinian Authority on any socio-economic indicators.

Some see Israel as the outpost of Western liberal democracy in the Middle East, others as the outpost of Western imperialism, but whatever the interpretation, there is a basic underlying consensus that Israel stands out in the region. So if the above sounds familiar, it's because it is. It reminds me of every "Yankees Go Home - And Take Us With You" slogan painted on a Third World wall, every anti-American nutbag who's waiting for his engineer uncle from Detroit to sponsor him to come over to the Great Satan, every anti-globalization weirdo clad in designer rags and designer sneakers.

As they say, hypocrisy is the compliment that vice pays to virtue, and as such is a temporary safe-house between rejection and acceptance. If acceptance is too much to ask, I'd rather have hypocrisy than rejection, because more than anything, hypocrisy shows that we're right.


Today's "Doh!" from Iraq 

If you are an insurgent who wants to stash a large quantity of weapons and munitions at their house, please make sure that you don't paint the building's outside walls with anti-Coalition slogans.

That can, sort of, attract the attention.

And it did, when soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd U.S. Infantry Division were engaged in a random "knock-and-search" operation in the Al Rashid District of Baghdad on 4 July.
A full search of the house yielded the following items: one U.S. body armor vest, two load-bearing vests for AK-47 rifles, eight rocket-propelled grenade triggers, one RPG pouch, one detonator, four AK-47s, two improvised RPG/rocket launchers, two 82mm mortars, two 82mm mortar tripods, 20 rocket primers, 11 RPG propellants, three RPGs, 17 grenade fuses, 12 AK-47 magazines, four AK-47 stocks, an expended 1,000-round RPK belt, more than 1,000 RPK rounds (both expended and live), 300 rounds of 9mm ammunition, a large amount of propaganda materials, various improvised explosive device-making materials, welding supplies, two 60mm mortars, one 60mm mortar tripod, 10 grenades, one modified ammo box, three new Iraqi Police uniforms, three bullet-proof windows and one rifle scope.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The axis of common sense 

It seems that the whole "axis of evil" thing is resonating well beyond the American neo-con circles (hat tip: Dan Foty):
"There is no doubt that if the real intention of the Iranian authorities is to reach capability to attain nuclear weapons [then] it would be greatest threat to peace not only in this part of the world... but theoretically it can be the greatest threat to world peace...

"With all due respect to the UN, there are too many examples of ineffective action by the UN to trust sending the Iranian case to the security council... We should not overestimate this procedure."
And that's how left-wing politicians talk in Poland. This is Wladyslaw Cimoszewicz, and even if "The Jerusalem Post" must be reading tea leaves instead of opinion polls when it says that Cimoszewicz is likely to win the coming presidential election, it is still encouraging to know that in some countries good sense is a bi-partisan matter.

By the way, Cimoszewicz has just revealed (link in Polish) that while a student in the United States in the 1980s, he was approached by the CIA with a view to recruit him as an agent. He said no, but the spooks obviously didn't need to have bothered.


Charity begins at the cash register 

Not surprisingly, "Help end poverty" more immediately turns into "Help end declining music sales":
They came out of charity. They left with booming record sales.

The galaxy of rock stars who took part in Live 8 concerts on Saturday to help beat the curse of poverty have seen their records fly off the shelves in British music stores, proving that cash balances as well as consciences were the winner.

According to HMV, one of Britain's main record retailers with 200 stores nationwide, Pink Floyd's Echoes album posted a staggering 1343 per cent increase in sales on Sunday compared with the same day a week ago...

Next came The Who's Then & Now, with an increase of 863 per cent, Annie Lennox's Eurythmics Greatest Hits (500 per cent) and Dido's Life For Rent (412 per cent).
This is hardly unexpected - the original Live Aid has had similar impact on participants' album sales (and is, among other things, credited with reviving the career of Queen), which meant that while 20 years ago, stars had to be strongarmed by Bob Geldof into lending their lungs to the cause, this time around musicians were queuing to get in on the act.

Idealists and pure-hearted activists will scoff at millionaire superstars prancing around the stage ostensibly to help the poor but in reality to also help themselves get even richer, but we should be more indulgent, and not just because some Live 8 stars might actually be quite sincere. This is, after all, another example of Adam Smith's "invisible hand" - or, in this case, "invisible larynx"? - in action: whole lot of people acting out of self-interest whose actions in the end contribute to the general well-being. As the great man would say today: "It is not from the benevolence of the aging rock legend, or the upcoming pop star, that Africans can expect dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."

The questions whether and how the Africans will get their dinner, and if this is the best way to deliver it, are something else, of course, and well beyond the scope of music-making.

P.S. Fausta at Bad Hair Blog is not impressed: "Live8 was at best an exercise in feel-good banal uselessness. The final 'nah-nah-nah-nah' chorus from Hey Jude was the sonic statement of its jejuneness."

Hey, even rock'n'roll can't make everyone happy.


End it, don't mend it 

It's a deal:
"Let's join hands as wealthy industrialised nations and say to the world, 'We are going to get rid of all our agricultural subsidies together.' We are willing to do so and we will do so with our fine friends in the European Union."
(hat tip: Tim Blair) That's a gauntlet thrown by President Bush. Forget Kyoto and debt forgiveness and aid - this is the "big 'un" - the one action that can have the biggest impact on the plight of the developing world. And it's also a clever move by Bush, who is thus shifting the onus onto Europe, knowing full well that the hypocrites will not take the bait. Cynics might also say that Bush can feel very courageous making such proposals precisely because the European rejection (or, more likely, ignoring) of the proposal will absolve him of the need to take on the powerful agricultural interests very well represented in the Congress. But it's nice to dream once in a while of a world where so much of our taxpayers' money is not going to subsidize the pork (both literally and metaphorically) and skew the international food markets. Yes, Virginia, a developed country can have a vibrant agricultural sector with only minimal state support - just look at Australia.

As Australia's Trade Minister Mark Vaile said in a press release today:
President Bush's comments show he is prepared to show real leadership in addressing global poverty, and I urge EU leaders to follow suit...

Debt forgiveness and aid are admirable but it is time the world's leaders attacked one of the major causes of poverty - agricultural protectionism.

Oxfam argues that total subsidies to farmers in rich countries, particularly in the EU and the US, amount to around US$300 billion a year -– more than the combined income of 1.2 billion of the world's poorest people.

Government support in both the EU and the US totals $180 billion. As a percentage of farm income, 33% of it is government support in the EU, and 18% in the US. Australia provides just 4% or $1.1 billion.


Patriotism - still hip after all these years 

In case you were wondering why many liberals are so paranoid about anyone questioning their patriotism:
The poll, conducted by the Roper Reports unit of NOP World, is based on personal and telephone interviews over several years. It found that 81 percent of Americans believed patriotism is "in," meaning it is an important factor in their individual identities, compared with 14 percent of Americans who believed patriotism is "out."

The Roper/NOP poll found the gap was the widest since 1991, after the first Persian Gulf War, and far wider than during the mid- to late 1990s.
The sentiment seems to cut across all the lines and divisions of American society, as the MSNBC report is at pains to point that out:
The poll also found that, African Americans and Hispanics are among those most inclined to have patriotic feelings. The survey found "virtually no difference between blacks' views and those of the nation as a whole."

Eighty percent of black Americans and 78 percent of Hispanics strongly identify themselves as patriotic, as well as 81 percent of white Americans, the poll found.
Seeing that whites, black Americans and Hispanics constitute an overwhelming majority of American society, it doesn't really leave too many other ethnic groups in the society compare against.

And patriotism is also a bi-partisan affair:
The pattern of support remains consistent, even allowing for distinctions along the great divide of politics. The survey found that "only 2 points separate the shares of Democrats from Republicans and liberals from conservatives."
Patriotism, of course, means different things to different people (just like "freedom" or "equality", never mind "happiness"). Clearly you can be pro-war and pro-Bush and consider yourself patriotic, just as you can be anti-war and anti-Bush and consider yourself patriotic, too. From that point of view, the label is meaningless as an indicator of one's views - indeed, again, just as are "freedom" (to or from?) or "equality" (of opportunity or of outcome?), never mind "happiness".

Still, it's good to know that patriotism, broadly understood as love of one's country, is still so widely recognized as a positive value. It also demonstrates the political risks for the Democrats inherent in the current debate. While one can make both the arguments that "Because I love my country, I support President Bush" and "It's because I love my country that I oppose President Bush", once the criticisms of the Commander-in-Chief (particularly at the time of war) become too shrill, the questioning of the actions of commanders strays into questioning the humanity of our troops, and your own country is seen more often as a problem and not a solution, then the middle ground of the American politics might start question your... um... patriotism, however broadly construed. In other words, it's much easier for the conservatives to corner the patriotism market, than for the liberals, whose positions tend to be more - how shall we put it? - nuanced.

Often too nuanced, in fact. While one shouldn't tar all liberals with a broad brush, they haven't done themselves any favors lately by being very reluctant to disassociate themselves from even the most outrageous outburst of some of their own. The chorus of outrage from the Democrat establishment after Karl Rove'’s recent "indictments and therapy" speech stand in very graphic contrast to an almost universal silence that followed Chuck Rangel's comparison of President Bush's foreign policy with the Holocaust, or Dick Durbin's comparison of American troops to Nazi and communist mass murderers. The 2004 elections have already demonstrated the danger of being seen as associated too much with the Angry Left fringe.

Lastly, perhaps the most interesting finding of the poll:
Some 87 percent of baby boomers - the bloc of Americans demographers generally consider born between 1946 and 1964 - said patriotism is a central identifying fact of their lives. Seventy-eight percent of Generation Xers, born between 1965 and 1980, felt the same way.
Ah, Baby Boomers - the flag waving generation. I'm not usually one to defend the BBs, but perhaps it needs to reminded how small a minority the flag-burning ferals were among the cohort. What's too easily forgotten is that the under 30s were most consistently the strongest supporters of the Vietnam war all throughout its course. And yet the mystique of a radical minority have in the end managed to color the general perception of the whole generation - largely, one would think, thanks to the prominence of the former (and not so former) Baby Boomer radicals in the acedemia, the media, and the entertainment industry. It is interesting, therefore, to see how out of step the wilted Flower Children are not just with the rest of the American society, but even with their own generation.


Thank you from Baghdad - and Brisbane 

With the Independence Day weekend just behind us, do yourself a favor and read this post by Ali of Free Iraqi - "What independence means for me":
And allow me, one very grateful Iraqi on this day, the 4th of July to congratulate all Americans on their independence day that I truly celebrate with them. It's not just out of gratitude but also because I believe it's more than an Independence Day for America, for by being free and independent, the American people gave so many other nations their independence, and thus I see it as an independence day for all the free around the world. Happy 4th of July America and thank you for all your help and sacrifices, not just for us Iraqis but all free people that you helped them get their freedom, and thank you for being the symbol of freedom that gives hope to all oppressed people around the world.
It might not be a popular thing to do around the world right now, but Ali is right; the 4th of July should be an occasion for all of us to remember the struggles for freedom and independence, and the role the United States has played in protecting and spreading these two values throughout the twentieth century, and as it indeed continues to do at the start of the new millennium.

As a Pole, let me join Ali in thanking the American people past and present for your friendship, from Woodrow Wilson's support for the resurrected independent Poland, to your struggle to vanquish the Evil Empire and restore freedom and sovereignty to the states of Central Europe, and all the way to today's alliance.

And as an Australian, thank you for your fight alongside our Diggers to stop the Japanese imperialism those sixty years ago, and for your friendship ever since.


Monday, July 04, 2005

When gansta rappers grow up 

Quote of the day:
"I ain't got time to beef"...

"I'm thirtysomething years old with three kids at the pad and they're trying to see their daddy.

"It was me relaying to (other rappers) that the bangin' in the business ain't making us no money.

"This is the west coast. We built on gangsta, gangsta, gangsta, but sometimes we gotta know when to have peace."
That's Snoop Doggy Dogg, after a meeting of West Coast rappers to try to put an end to bloody feuds between warring gang-affiliated rap posses.

In other words, make money, not war - too much violence can all too easily distract from the main game, which is ripping off stupid white suburban teenage kids who think that by listening to your new CD they, too, can be a part of the dangerous, pathological ghetto lifestyle.

If only all gangstas shared Dogg's capitalist (not too mention family-oriented) spirit, Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. would still be alive. I say, Dogg is your man to represent Compton in the Congress.


Long walk to freedom 

There is one person who doesn't think Tony Blair and Bob Geldof have the answer for Africa - his name is George Galloway and his answer is - more Marxism!
"It's no accident that Blair has chosen Africa, where there is no ideological opposition... He is not talking about poverty in the Muslim world, not talking about Latin America because people are rising in revolution. The people of Bolivia have given their answer to the G8."
Whatever, George. Viva la revolucion! It worked a treat the first time.

Over the weekend, two hundred thousand marched in Scotland under the "Make poverty history" banner. Poverty is a symptom -– that much, at least, everyone agrees on. To those on the left, it's a symptom of neo-colonial exploitation of the developing world by the Western governments and multi-national corporations - in other words, they're poor because we're rich. For those on the right, it's a symptom of dysfunctional domestic political and economic, and international trade systems - in other words, they're poor because their own rulers steal from them and because the West subsidizes own agricultural producers.

As Niall Ferguson writes:
It may come as a surprise to Live 8 fans, but the top three reasons why most African countries are economic basket cases are not lack of aid, excessive debt service payments and protectionism by developed countries. They are in fact chronic misgovernment, recurrent civil war and the high incidence of diseases such as malaria and Aids. It is just possible that more aid, debt relief and freer trade could mitigate these problems. But experience is not encouraging.
Even instituting sensible "right-wing" reforms (democracy, transparency, free market and free trade) will only be a start. As the reform experience everywhere else has shown, changing institution is one thing, changing culture is another, and in many ways much more difficult task that can easily take decades to achieve. Sometimes, it's a case of dealing with the Post-Totalitarian Stress Disorder, the spiritual consequences of life under the infantilizing jackboot of totalitarianism. But even countries which have not experienced communist or fascist oppression are not necessarily culturally prepared to instantly adopt alien political and economic systems.

This is not a relativist cop-out argument along the lines of "Arabs can't take democracy" or "capitalism is a Western thing" - Arabs can have democracy and Rwandans can have free market, but what is required is a change in mentality - from tribalism and familism to individualism, from apathy to initiative, from collectivism to entrepreneurship, from strongman mentality to openness. And that takes time, so whatever we do, let's not expect quick fixes or easy journeys in Africa.


You can't stop the music 

OK, it looks like Western peace-keeping and peace-enforcing operations are turning into a Eurovision contest as the deadly music race grips armed forces from the Balkans to Iraq.

Two days ago I brought you "Is This The Way To Amarillo?", performed by the British troops in Basra.

Today, there's something even better (?) - a military boy band, with Norwegian peacekeepers in the Balkans doing a spoof of the Beach Boys' "Kokomo", here aptly renamed "Kosovo". "Amarillo" was an exercise in lip synching -– "Kosovo" has original reworking of lyrics. Enjoy!

(hat tip: Niner Charlie)


Good news update 

Public service announcement: Because of the Independence Day long weekend, the new installment of "Good news from Afghanistan" which would have normally appear today, will instead be published next Monday, covering five as opposed to the usual four weeks' worth of positive developments from the other front of the war on terror.

But speaking of good news,
Radio talk show hosts will be broadcasting their shows live from Baghdad, Iraq. In an effort to shed light on the "whole Iraq story," seven radio talk show hosts from across the United States are traveling to Baghdad from July 7 to 17, 2005.

Move America Forward, a non-partisan not-for-profit organization, is coordinating the trip for the talk show hosts with the U.S. Armed Forces Central Command...

Talk show hosts who will be making the trek to Baghdad include nationally syndicated talk show host, Dennis Prager (based at NewsTalk 870 KRLA - Los Angeles, CA); nationally syndicated talk show host Lars Larson (based from NewsRadio 750 KXL in Portand, OR); Melanie Morgan of powerhouse KSFO 560 AM (San Francisco); Mark Williams of Sacramento, CA's #1-rated radio station, KFBK 1530; Michael Graham of NewsTalk 630 WMAL (Washington, DC); Martha Zoller of Newstalk 550 WDUN (Atlanta-Gainesville, GA) as well as the RighTalk Radio Network; and Lt. Col. Buzz Patterson, host of "The Buzz Cut" on the RighTalk Radio Network.

"We're looking forward to taking our medium to Baghdad and blowing the lid off of the other half of the Iraq story that the mainstream media refuses to cover - success, progress, democracy and freedom," said Morgan.
Sort of like Chrenkoff Radio. And the left doesn't like it, either (hat tip: Tony in Boulder):
"This is the most pathetic thing I've heard in a long time. They should be ashamed of themselves," Peter Beinart, editor of left-leaning The New Republic magazine, said.

"They have no idea what journalism is, and to pretend they are journalists is laughable," Beinart said. "You do not achieve victory by not facing reality. I think these are the kinds of people that will lead us to lose there...

Steve Rendall, senior analyst for Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting and author of "The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error," said with an attitude like that, the trip will probably be useless in terms of real news-making…

"If these talk show hosts are going over there to find good news no matter what, their trip is useless," he said. "It would be laughable if it wasn't as troubling as it is when they call it 'The Truth Tour.'"

Rendall said that such a pro-Bush administration mission might be inappropriately supported by taxpayer money, considering the delegation will be hosted on bases and brought over on military transport.

"If they were actually reporters out to tell the story, good, bad, warts and all, than it wouldn't be entirely objectionable," he said. "But if they are acting entirely as government propagandists, which seems to be the case here, it's improper."

Rendall noted it "bears comparison to the Armstrong Williams and the other instances" of government payment for good news, referring to conservative talk show host Williams, who was paid by the Department of Education to pump up school choice on his radio show in 2004.
There is only one way to find out the worth of this exercise - and the proof will be in the pudding - or baklava. If the assorted radio hosts go to Iraq and start reporting doom and gloom, then their credentials as "real journalists" will not be in doubt. If, on the other hand, they start reporting good news that no one else is, then the onus will shift onto "real journalists" - why aren't you? So "real journalists" shouldn't really feel threatened, should they?


Sunday, July 03, 2005

Say what you will 

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Friday that a newspaper cannot be sued for printing a letter that suggested Americans respond to attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq by going to the nearest mosque and killing the first five Muslims they see.

The high court unanimously held that the letter to the editor was political speech protected by the First Amendment. It threw out a lawsuit accusing the Tucson Citizen of intentionally inflicting emotional distress on residents.

Two Tucson men had sued the Gannett Co. newspaper for unspecified damages after it ran the letter in 2003.

The letter frightened some area Muslims enough to keep their children home from religious schools, and protests poured into the newspaper.

Four days later, the Citizen ran an apology and said the letter's author had written a second letter to clarify that his comments referred only to military actions in combat zones.
Oh, that's alright then.

Whoever wrote the letter is an offensive idiot of the highest order, but the story illustrates how increasingly divergent the United States and the rest of the West are on the matter of freedom of speech. While suggestions of personal and deadly violence still seem to be protected in the US under the First Amendment, even mild criticism is falling foul of anti-vilification laws everywhere else. Take the latest fiasco in Australia's southern state of Victoria, involving Daniel Scot and Danny Nalliah, pastors with the Catch the Fires Pentecostal church:
Without [the new anti-vilification] laws, these men would have quietly given their church seminar on jihad three years ago to 250 fellow worshippers and none of us would have even known. But the laws changed everything.

They inspired the Equal Opportunity Commission to urge Muslims to complain, and one EOC employee, May Helou, even asked three converts from the Islamic Council of Victoria -- of which she was an official -- to drop in on the pastors' seminar.

So began a three-year prosecution against the pastors that has cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Last December, Judge Higgins finally ruled that Scot in particular had offended by quoting the Koran in a way that got "a response from the audience at various times in the form of laughter". Is laughter now a crime?

Stranger still, he gave 13 examples of how Scot had "made fun of Muslim beliefs and conduct", at least eight of which involved him quoting the Koran, and, I believe, accurately. Yes, the Koran indeed authorises men to beat their wives. Yes, it indeed calls for thieving hands to be chopped off.

What did Scot say that was false? The judge listed just two trivial examples, but also said Scot hadn't made clear enough he was giving a literalist reading of the Koran that wasn't mainstream.

Did he? Isn't it? On such points, so deserving of debate, Scot was convicted of stating the wrong opinion.

But if the judgment was strange, so was the penalty.

Scot and Nalliah must now run four big advertisements, costing $70,000, in the Herald Sun and The Age, declaring they've been found guilty of bad-mouthing Muslims.

Oddly, these apologies must reach not just the 250 people who were at their seminar, but 2.5 million newspaper readers who weren't. Odder still, the judge ordered the pastors to never even imply what they'd said about the Koran. They are banned from speaking their mind not only in Victoria, but anywhere in Australia, where others are still free to say what they may not.

Not surprisingly, the pastors say they'd rather go to jail than comply.
I have to say, I'm all for freedom of speech here, whether it's somebody burning the American (or Australian) flag, or somebody else criticizing Islam (or Christianity). Our nations, our institutions, and our religions are not some fragile flowers; they can take it. I'd rather know what people really think, instead of driving debate underground. I'd rather not create martyrs and I'd rather not criminalize differences of opinion.


Tehran games 

They doth protest too much:
President-elect opposed U.S. embassy seizure
runs a "Tehran Times" headline. Since when did it become something to be ashamed of inside the mullah establishment to have taken Great Satan's hostages?
Abbas Abdi, a fierce supporter of reforms in Iran who helped to orchestrate the raid on the embassy and the seizure of its staff after the Islamic revolution, said the former American hostages had poor memories.

"Ahmadinejad was not among those who occupied the American embassy after the revolution," said Abdi.

Mohsen Mirdamadi, a former reformist lawmaker and Hamid Reza Jalaeipoor, a reform-minded political activist, who had both taken part in the embassy seizure, rejected the Times report about Ahmadinejad's involvement.

"I deny such reports. Ahmadinejad was not a member of the radical students' group who seized the embassy," said Mirdamadi.
Apparently even "Tehran Times" understands that reformers will be more credible to the West than Mullah X or Ayatollah Y. Still, the claim that Ahmadinejad not only was not involved in the seizure of the embassy, but wasn't even a member of the group responsible for it, is contradicted by another interview quoted in the article:
Seyyed Nejad was one of the members of the central council of the Office to Foster Unity (OFU)...

Q: Mr. Seyyed Nejad! You were one of first members of OFU in 1979. Who else was in the OFU Central Council?

A: The other members were Mohsen Mirdamadi from Polytechnique University, Ibrahim Asgharzadeh from Sharif University, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from the University of Science and Industry, and another man whose name I can not remember from Shahid Beheshti University.

Q: Is that right that Mr. Asgharzadeh and Mirdamadi had first proposed the plan to occupy the U.S. embassy in Tehran and you and Mr. Ahmadinejad disagreed with the idea?

A: Exactly.
But other recollections of the meeting paint a diametrically different picture of Ahmadinejad:
He belonged to the ultra-conservative faction of the OSU [a different translation of the organization's name]. According to other OSU officials, when the idea of storming the U.S. embassy in Tehran was raised in the OSU central committee by Mahmoud Mirdamadi and Abbas Abdi, who later became leading figures in President Mohammad Khatami's faction, Ahmadinejad suggested storming the Soviet embassy at the same time.
In the end though it matters very little whether Iran's president-elect was a supporter or an opponent of hostage taking back in 1979, or whether he was even actively involved in the whole long crisis. What's far more important is what he intends to do now, and his desire to start exporting again Islamic Revolution with gender segregated lifts hardly inspires confidence. Unless you believe this posturing is all bluff, a sort of good mullah-bad mullah routine to get a better deal out of the West.


Sunday reading 

Lorie at Polipundit has the Plame affair refresher.

Right Wing News scored an interview with everyone's favorite columnist, Mark Steyn.

Enough! looks at the photos and concludes the new Iranian president is not the US embassy hostage taker.

Transatlantic Intelligencer has a worrying analysis of ransom and terror trends in Iraq.

No Speedbumps blogs about permanent US bases in Iraq.

Alenda Lux has the latest on jihad Down Under.

Decision 08 presents "The Top Ten Liberal Reactions to the Retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor".

Security Watchtower interviews a US Army interrogator who worked in Afghanistan.

Quillnews ruminates about the big time game of 3-D oil chess that China is playing with Chevron to get Unocal’s oil assets.

Media Right goes on an anthropological expedition to search for Genus Libratas Americana.

Don Surber blogs about Robert C. Byrd Memorial For Martin Luther King Jr.

Geopolitical Review looks at the paradox of the southern border.


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