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Friday June 13, 2003

More protests in Iran. From The Guardian:

Hundreds of demonstrators taking part in a third night of anti-government protests in Tehran called today for the execution of Iran's conservative supreme leader - an audacious move under the country's clerical regime, which has threatened a crackdown.

The pre-dawn protests constitute the biggest show of opposition to Iran's clerics in months.

"Khamenei, the traitor, must be hanged," the protesters chanted, referring Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Meanwhile, here's the take from the Islamic Republic News Agency:

Chairman of the Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani here on Friday called on students to be vigilant not to be influenced and misled by US conspiracies. Rafsanjani was referring to student gatherings at Tehran University dormitory which turned violet during the past few nights. Addressing worshipers at the congregational Friday prayers at Tehran University campus, Rafsanjani said that the recent incidents stem from the students' anxieties. They believe universities are going to be privatized. "This is while the Science (Research and Technology) Ministry has officially announced that privatization is not at issue," he said. The youth are angry and are possibly trying to prevent any such move from happening, he said adding that this is very good.


Charles Schumer teams up with the Christian Coalition to introduce anti-Spam legislation:

"Can you imagine, in the safety of your own home, a child being inundated with pornography that you can't control as a parent?" he asked. "This stuff is garbage, this stuff is trash, and this stuff is harmful, and we need to come together as the American family...to fix this problem."

While I agree that this is a problem, it's not one that the government should or likely will solve. There are other methods such as filters and supervision that don't come with all the extra burden and unintended consequences of government intervention. The Internet is one of the biggest things in society that is not in some way corrupted controlled by the government and we should seek to keep it that way. Politicians have for years been eyeing the Internet as a possible source of revenue (which may be Schumer's primary motivation in this case) and this legislation would set a bad precedent. yeah, one of those "slippery-slope" arguments. Yeah, well it's also known as incrementalism.


Speaking of incrementalism, if you can bear it, read this article entitled Pedophiles Seek Online Support, Societal Acceptance.

This is about where the homosexual activists were thirty years ago. If the pedophiles make similar progress in the next 30 years, heaven help us.


The non-fiction version of Living History is available here.


Mahmoud Abbas threatens to resign since he has finally realized that he has no ability to halt the terror. Excerpt,

As Hamas terrorism increases and Israel raises the stakes on retaliation, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to resign his post, blaming Yasser Arafat.

Palestinian sources said Abbas has told allies in the Fatah movement that he has been isolated in his efforts to achieve a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian war, Middle East Newsline reports. They said Abbas has accused PA Chairman Arafat of inciting Hamas to escalate attacks against Israel in an attempt to undermine the new prime minister.

And in a distinct about-face from the White House, this:

The Bush administration signaled strong support for Israel's crackdown on militant groups yesterday, effectively abandoning its earlier criticism of the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that had sparked an outcry from lawmakers on Capitol Hill and pro-Israel lobbying groups.

The article does explore a possible reason for the turn-around.

One pro-Israeli source in touch with administration officials attributed the initial White House criticism of Israel to a "human reaction" after administration officials awoke to discover that the glow of last week's Middle East summits attended by Bush had been shattered by the Israeli strike against Hamas official Abdel Aziz Rantisi. "But by Wednesday they realized it was not the natural place of the United States to rush to the defense of Rantisi," he said.


Bill Press has a bee in his bonnet about this:

Last month, in response to complaints from religious conservative customers, Wal-Mart pulled three men's magazines Maxim, Stuff and FHM from its shelves. This week, after more complaints, it announced it would shield the covers of four women's magazines sold in checkout counters.

He even goes so far as to equate Wal-Mart with the Taliban. Sheesh Now maybe I'm a bit of a naif, but I thought Wal-Mart was a business and, as such, in order to maximize profits must appeal to the wishes and desires of its customers. Meanwhile, the Taliban was a thugocracy and, as such, in order to maximize power must instill fear and terror in the minds of its subjects victims. Yeah Bill, I see the connection, but hey, at least Wal-Mart didn't resort to murder, torture and intimidation.


Mopping up operations continue in Iraq as US forces continue to encounter resistance from Saddam loyalists.


The Bleat never fails to produce a chuckle:

One new fashion twist almost made me laugh out loud: tight pants that ended at mid-shin and flared waaay out. Completing the look, platform sandals. You just wish the fashion paramedics would screech up in a van and administer 20ccs of Anne Taylor, stat.


Thursday June 12, 2003

For all of those who lament the lack of Republican resolve on issues as varied as gun control, taxes and the size and power of the federal government in general, here's the Libertarian perspective :

When I changed parties a few years ago, many of my Republican friends couldn't believe it. After all, I'd been a Republican since my first vote.

I had long dreamt of the day when the Republicans would win control of the House and Senate. In 1994 I got my wish. I was certain the policies Ronald Reagan espoused would soon become a reality.

Spending and taxes would fall faster than sweat from a fat man's brow on a hot day in Juarez. Freedom from government regulation would reign across the land. Political expedience in the legislature would come to a screeching halt.

I'm not sure when I realized I'd been hoodwinked. Maybe it was the passage of one of those expensive Bud Schuster highway bills, or the failure to get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts. It could have been the failure to cut corporate welfare, or the constant caving by the Republican leadership.

It might have been seeing prominent Republicans fighting for more gun control, tobacco legislation and "campaign finance de-form." The neo-cons had taken over the party and I was through. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, the party left me.

If the Libertarians had any real chance to actually win a major election, I'd be tempted to vote for them. I know the adage: you must vote your convictions. But I believe that you must also vote for those who you most agree with who also have a chance to win.

Look at the Green Party voters in the 2000 election. Do you think that those voters who voted for Ralph Nader would rather have George Bush in office or Al Gore? Unquestionably, it's Al Gore. If those same Nader voters had cast their vote for a candidate with an actual chance to win (i.e. Bush or Gore), we would have President Gore in the White House. Yikes! But hey, at least those Naderites were true to their convictions.


Tensions are still high between the two Koreas:

North Korea claimed South Korean war ships violated its territorial waters on Thursday, and warned of "an unpredictable crisis." South Korea's Defense Ministry denied the charge.

Two South Korean clippers and one patrol boat sailed into North Korean waters and stayed there for several hours Thursday, following similar incursions by 10 warships Tuesday and 20 warships Wednesday, said Pyongyang's official news agency KCNA, citing an unnamed "military source."

"If the South Korean military authorities misjudge the self-restraint of the North side and lead the situation in these waters to a tough-and-go situation, this will spark an unpredictable crisis," KCNA said.


The Iranian youth are getting restless. They are becoming increasingly bold in their protests against the hard-line mullahs. Excerpt,

-- Iran's supreme leader raised the possibility of a harsh crackdown Thursday after two days of pro-reform demonstrations during which hundreds of increasingly bold young people have gone so far as to call for his death.

The last two days have seen the largest demonstrations against Iran's political leadership in six months. Among the youth in particular, frustration with the regime has grown stronger than fear of arrest or of the hard-liners' well-established reputation for brutality.

Here is an important article from an Iranian student. He refers to the 32 million Iranians born since the revolution in 1979 as "The Burnt Generation". He ends on this note of hope:

Today, however, despite our despair, we have found hope. Hope among ourselves. Hope in our numbers. Hope in the fact that world seems to finally be caring. Hope in the fact that we may at last have a chance against the mullahs' rule.

Yet, we are nervous. Nervous of the endless debate among your opinion-makers: Shall we, or shall we not listen to the Iranian people? Is their discontent real or is it not? Should we engage moderate Islamists or should we not? Axis or no Axis?

Listen to our story. It is the story of life. It is the story of liberty. It is the story of the unalienable right to pursue happiness. It is the dream that made America, America. We have been deprived of the very basic rights which you take for granted every day in your free world.

We, too, want and deserve the freedom to dress. The freedom to speak. The freedom to assemble. The freedom to love and the freedom to dream.

We do not need military intervention in Iran. We do not need clandestine operations either. We need nothing but your resolve. Lend us a hand and we will take care of the rest. How, you ask? Simple: Do not deal with our mullahs.

It isn't only America's children that deserve to dream.


Ben Shapiro thinks it'll be Bush in 2004:

The Democrats need a scandal. With only 17 months until Election 2004, George W. Bush is riding high in the opinion polls. The economy looks to be on the rebound. Reconstruction in Iraq is underway...

... Unfortunately for Democrats, George W. Bush is the real deal: likeable and honorable. His likeability means he can't be portrayed as nasty. His faithfulness means he can't be portrayed as untrustworthy. There's no scandal in sight for the Democrats. Look out for the Bush tidal wave in 2004.


Bully!

Consider: When American citizens are slaughtered by terrorists at home and we dispatch troops around the world to eliminate those responsible, that's justice. When Americans soldiers are gunned down in Afghanistan and Iraq and we respond by hunting down the killers, that's justice. But when Israeli civilians and soldiers are slaughtered on their own soil and Israel responds by acting in self-defense -- that's inconvenient and unhelpful.

David Horowitz thinks that the US should play a military role in the conflict.

The President needs to assemble a coalition of the willing once again, insert a military force into the West Bank and the Gaza strip, hunt down the Palestinian terrorists and bring them to justice.

William Safire believes that Abu Abbas and the peaceful Palestinians will act in concert with the Israelis to root out the terrorists:

Giving Abbas the benefit of the doubt, Sharon directed his defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, to work out a step-by-step arrangement with Muhammad Dahlan, Abbas' new security chief. Dahlan is to choose a given area to assert loyalist Palestinian Authority control. The Israeli Defense Forces will pull out. As 100 percent effort to stop terror in that area is demonstrated, on to the turnover of the next village or city, until rebel-held neighborhoods are shrunk and the PA gains internal control - the necessary prerequisite to statehood.


More UN fecklessness. Excerpt,

For six days, two terrified United Nations military observers phoned their superiors - as many as four times a day - begging to be evacuated from their remote outpost in northeastern Congo.

They were receiving death threats, they said. They were alone and unarmed in Mongbwalu, a former gold-mining town ruled by the cannibalistic Lendu tribal militias. A U.N. helicopter from the town of Bunia could have retrieved them in 35 minutes.

But the United Nations, handcuffed by its own rules and bureaucracy, never sent a chopper. On May 18, 10 days after the two peacekeepers made their first distress call, the United Nations finally flew some armed peacekeepers to Mongbwalu.

They found the mutilated bodies of Maj. Safwat al Oran, 37, of Jordan, and Capt. Siddon Davis Banda, 29, of Malawi.


Some preliminary numbers on the magnitude of Saddam's killing fields. Excerpt,

The killings went on right up to the end, with tens of thousands being killed in the final month between March 20 and April 20, according to a Fox News report.

The numbers are fuzzy simply because they are so vast. The Shiite estimate of 6 million is considerably higher than previously published victim totals, but even the Arab press acknowledges that the death toll at the hands of Saddam's executioners numbers in the millions.

A May 25 article by Hazem Saghiya in Al-Hayat claimed, "The number of those murdered by Saddam ... ranges between a million and a million and a half ..."


Conservatives, Neoocons, Religious Right, Paleocons. William Rusher has a good primer on the origins of these groups.


Wednesday June 11, 2003

It's impossible to comprehend that hell is worse than this catalog of Iraqi atrocities.


If you don't read Peggy Noonan you should. She has a keen insight into the real and lasting effects of 9/11.


More sad news from the Holy Land. Excerpt,

A suspected suicide bomber blew up a bus in Jerusalem killing at least 13 people on Wednesday, a day after Israel tried to kill a leader of the militant Islamic group Hamas. Medical officials said at least 13 people were killed and 65 injured in the early evening blast. The explosion tore the roof off the bus near an open-air market in central Jerusalem's Jaffa Road. Rescue workers who rushed to the scene rushed victims into waiting ambulances.

And Israel responds:

GAZA (Reuters) - A top militant from the Islamic group Hamas was among six Palestinians killed when an Israeli helicopter gunship slammed missiles into a car in the Gaza Strip Wednesday, Palestinian hospital officials said.

Tito Massaoud, a leader in Hamas's Izz-el-Deen al-Qassam military wing, was killed in the missile attack along with another Hamas militant who was traveling in the car with him, hospital officials said.

And the difference is, as it has always been, thus: the terrorists are the ones who intentionally kill innocent civillians.


More fair and balanced coverage from PBS. Excerpt,

PBS mogul Bill Moyers has accused the Bush administration of plotting the "deliberate, intentional destruction of the United States of America," according to a report by John Nichols at the Web site for the leftist magazine the Nation (www.thenation.com).

And don't forget that shining beacon of objective truth: NPR.


Don't do it Trent! For one thing, you ain't gonna make no 6 mil. For another thing, nobody cares.


State Department personnel recently went to mosques in Saudi Arabia to report on the content of the sermons. I am shocked, shocked at the contents:

In all of the mosques covered in the cable - which was marked "sensitive, but unclassified" - the imams said the sort of things people would expect to hear in a normal house of worship. The imams alternatively spoke of "charity," helping others, following "advice" provided by religion, "mercy" and "justice." But the sermons also contained comments that definitely would not be found in normal faith services.

Two of the five mosque services called for the "destruction" of Americans, and four of the five called for the "death" or "destruction" of "the Jews." On the latter count, the fifth sermon didn't NOT call for the death of "the Jews," but rather had a more generic prayer for G-d "to destroy the enemies of Islam." Judging by the other four sermons, "the Jews" would be considered a subset of "the enemies of Islam."


I just heard Margaret Carlson on the Mighty MOX (KMOX-St. Louis) explain that John F.Kennedy Kerry has gravitas. Gravitas...now where have I heard that term before?


Guns give women a false sense of security. Excerpt,

But gun popularity among women is based on two misconceptions. First, gun advocates often call guns the great equalizer between men and women. In reality, according to a new study by the University of California at Davis, women who own handguns are more than twice as likely to be murdered with a firearm by their partners than those who do not. While this may be partly explained by the fact that women who fear an attack are more apt to buy a gun, the study shows guns often fail to help women protect themselves.

women who own handguns are more than twice as likely to be murdered with a firearm by their partners than those who do not. This does not say that women who own handguns are more likely to be murdered by their partners with that handgun. I would argue that women who have handguns are more likely to have partners who also have handguns. This is in addition to the other partial explanation that women may buy a gun because they fear attack.

"Having a gun gives women a false sense of security," says Naomi Seligman, communications director of the Violence Policy Center, a Washington non-profit that urges stricter gun control. "Guns can be taken away, and women can be killed by their own guns."

The second misconception is that guns are the only solution to help otherwise "weak" women protect themselves. In fact, a wide range of self-defense options, from chemical sprays to street fighting, gives women the tools to fight back.

Yes, and women can be shot while street fighting. Guns are not for all women. And guns do not provide absolute safety. Just because you have a gun doesn't mean that you completely ignore all other common sense measures. Oh, I have a gun, so I can walk alone at night in the worst part of the city with $100 bills pinned to my shirt and be perfectly safe.

But that's exactly the attitude in the article. Closing paragraph:

Considering guns as women's only shot at self-defense is like eating fat-free cookies to ward off obesity; they can make the situation even worse. Instead of buying a gun, I'm sticking to basic street smarts that will always be there when I need them most.

Well, a gun certainly helped this guy. Although the gun was not registered, so the victim may have to do time. Excerpt,

"I went in. I looked in his face. I didn't know this guy; I was so shocked. In a nervous voice I said, 'What are you doing in my house?' and he ran toward me yelling, 'Come upstairs!' like there were other people with him. /pI shot him 'cause I thought more people were in the house," Dixon told the New York Daily News.

Dixon fired two shots from his .9 mm pistol, wounding the suspected burglar in the chest and groin...

...Authorities charged Dixon with illegal possession of a firearm when they discovered his gun was not legally registered in New York, a charge that carries up to a year in prison.


So which party is more fiscally conservative? The answer may surprise you. Excerpt,

Think Republicans are the party of small government? Federal domestic spending rose 8 percent from 2001 to 2002, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, at a time when the GOP controlled the White House and the U.S. House.

A decade ago, when Democrats controlled all of Congress and the presidency, spending rose 4.8 percent from 1993 to 1994.

And it's not just to fight the war on terror:

"Really, Congress isn't saying no to anybody right now," said Riedl. Federal spending per American household is now at $21,000 annually, up from $16,000 in 1999, he noted.

The largest increases in fiscal year 2002 federal spending came in the form of programs such as Medicare ($251 billion, up 5.8 percent), unemployment compensation, earned income tax credits and food stamps.

Medicaid payments increased $148 billion (11.1 percent). Federal procurement awards, which include contracts for the Department of Defense, increased by 10 percent.


Tuesday June 10, 2003

Check out the odds of the Apocalypse.


A bit of an antidote to all the reports of CIA analysts who allegedly felt pressured regarding the Iraqi WMD threat. Excerpt,

The responsibility of the intelligence community is to provide senior government officials - including the president - with accurate, comprehensive and timely national-security reporting. Intelligence assessments are supposed to serve as an independent, objective source of information for those who make the big decisions, such as going to war.

Briefing the vice president is a tough job for any intelligence official, especially when the end result could be the commitment of troops to battle. Cheney likely asked some very difficult questions, as he should have...

...When Colin Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he was widely credited with saying to his military intelligence briefers: "Tell me what you know; tell me what you don't know; tell me what you think; and make sure I know the difference." You can't get that sort of interaction by reading an intelligence report or sitting in your mahogany-lined office.

The intelligence official's job is to tell it like it is, not as they perceive the senior official wants to hear it. Doing anything else would be unprofessional, unethical and potentially tragic. The failures of the Vietnam War come immediately to mind as an example of the costs of fairy-tale intelligence.


Lots of in-depth Scott Peterson info here. Jonna Spilbor thinks that public opinion on the case is turning. At least there does seem to be a bit more doubt.


John, Paul, George and Pete? Interesting story on the travails of Pete Best for the Beatlemaniac in all of us.


A letter from a grunt in Iraq, courtesy of Col. Hackworth:

I wish my chain of command would have read your book before we deployed. Our CO came to us from a maintenance slot [Battalion Motor Officer] about seven months ago. Not only is he inexperienced in infantry, but arrogant as well.

It's a combination that has bred an atmosphere of total distrust and doubt within our company. Personally, I don't think he's fit to lead a latrine-burning detail. Back in the States, he was more worried about shined boots and razor-sharp creases than preparing for war.

For example, we deployed with eight out of 15 SAWs [Squad Automatic Weapons] broken. One of my buddies' SAW had no safety. Just a hole in the pistol grip where the safety was supposed to be. The only reason we haven't suffered more casualties is the result of a squared-away sergeant armorer who begged, borrowed and stole what parts we needed before we crossed the Line of Departure.


Jesse Jackson on a good day. Excerpt,

Its judicial appointments are vetted by ideologues who seek right-wing activist judges who will strip the government of the authority to regulate corporations and protect workers, consumers and the environment. Its Justice Department is waging a continuous war on the right of women to control their own bodies, on affirmative action and civil rights.

Its foreign policy is driven by neoconservative zealots who openly proclaim the desire for an American Empire, in violation of our entire history, and who are willing to lie to the American people, even to the president, to pursue their ends.

And large parts of the rest are pure crony corruption: an energy policy for and by big oil, a prescription-drug plan cooked up with the drug companies.


No, no please don't take away my lawn additives.


Dennis Prager asserts that peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians can only come about through a Palestinian civil war. But, how can you have a civil war if everyone is on one side?


Gee whiz. Hamas vows the destruction of Israel and refuses to renounce terrorism just as the "Roadmap" is being implemented. They then go on to kill five Israeli soldiers over the weekend. So what do the Israelies do? They try to kill the Hamas leadership. Excerpt,

Israeli helicopter gunships swooped low over Gaza City this morning, firing up to seven rockets at a jeep carrying Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, the second most senior figure in Hamas.

Mr Rantissi leapt out of the vehicle and survived the attack, suffering wounds to his legs. A female passer-by and a bodyguard were killed, doctors said.

Hours later, Israeli helicopters launched a second attack on suspected militants in Gaza, killing three members of one family and wounding another 32 people. Hospital officials described the one woman and two men who were killed as civilians.

The Israeli army said that it launched the second attack, on Gaza's Jabalya refugee camp, after Palestinian militants fired five rockets into Israel, injuring at least one person in the nearby town of Sderot.

It's certainly better than sitting back and let your enemies kill you. It' not like you can "negotiate" with them. After all, isn't that what we did in Afghanistan and Iraq?

This pattern is repeated over and over again and Barry Rubin has some clues as to why. Excerpt,

Europeans and Americans believe by a 70-20 margin that Israel's existence and Palestinian rights can be reconciled. Israelis, who support creating a Palestinian state that would keep the peace, agree by the almost identical margin of 67 to 29 percent. Incidentally, Arab citizens of Israel hold views on this matter pretty close to those of Israeli Jews.

Yet among Palestinians in the territories an overwhelming 80 percent insist that their rights and needs "cannot be taken care of as long as the State of Israel exists." I'll bet that hard-line view is even more strongly held by Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, and elsewhere.

This is the root of the problem. How many people in the West, including European leaders, have any idea whatsoever about this reality as the main roadblock to peace?

Years of propaganda and indoctrination have skewed reality for many Palestinians.


Monday June 9, 2003

I know I said this was a Hillary-free zone, but with all the "flood the zone" coverage (with plenty more to come) I just have to get a few comments off my chest. Aaaaaagghhhhh!!!

Whew, that's better. I managed to withstand about 10 minutes of The Interview last evening and what I noticed most was the utter phoniness. Whether the question was about Chelsea or Gennifer or Monica or Chappaqua it didn't matter. Same smirk smile, same tone, same stiffness. No expression or body language. Certainly anyone with any feeling would have terribly different emotions when asked these various questions. It made the whole interview seem so staged and well, phony.

Second point is simply this: why bother listening to someone when you don't believe what they say. I won't go into all the gory details, but some of her answers are simply, shall we say, not credible. I stopped listening to her husband several years ago because I realized that it simply didn't matter what he said because so little of it was truth.

Well that's it. No links. No excerpts. You wanna read more, do a google.