Monday, October 31, 2005


Historical Revisionism

I'm not often tempted to quote an Instapundit post in its entirety. (Well, a fair number of Instapundit posts are a single word.) But this one summarizes my recent experiences well enough that I will just quote the whole thing:

October 30, 2005

ONE OF THE THINGS I'VE NOTICED in the Judy Miller / Scooter Libby coverage is the development of a new history that's very convenient for a lot of the people peddling it. The new story is that:

1. We only went to war because of WMDs -- that was the only reason ever given.

2. Bush lied about those.

3. He told his lies to Judy Miller, who acted like a stenographer and reported them.

4. Everyone else gullibly went along.

There are lots of problems with this, beginning with the fact that it's not true. I've addressed much of this -- especially parts 1 & 2 -- in earlier posts like this one, this one, and especially this one. It gets tiresome having to repeat this stuff, but the new history, despite its falsity, is just too convenient for too many people to be stopped by anything as simple as the truth.

Democratic politicians who supported the war want an excuse to tack closer to their antiwar base. Shouting "It's not my fault --I'm easily fooled!" would seem a substandard response, but it is a way of changing position while pretending it's not politically motivated. Meanwhile, journalists, most of whom were reporting the same kind of WMD stories that Miller did (because that's what pretty much everyone thought -- including the antiwar folks who were arguing that an invasion was a bad idea because it would provoke Saddam into using his weapons of mass destruction), now want to focus on her so that people won't pay much attention to what they were reporting themselves. This makes Judy Miller a handy scapegoat.

But, as I say, the biggest problem with this revisionism is that it's not true. I guess we'll just have to keep pointing that out.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Rand Simberg wonders if Scooter Libby will get a harsher sentence than Sandy Berger if convicted.

ANOTHER UPDATE: J.D. Johannes notes that what people were saying in the 1990s seems to raise problems with the revisionist history. "The final authorization for use of force in 2002 cited the legislation from 1998. But what was conventional wisdom and uncontroversial in 1998, became hotly debated in 2002 and beyond." Especially "beyond."

MORE: Still more revisionist history, from Barbara Boxer.

MORE STILL: Dean Esmay writes:

Having been part of those debates when they were happening, I am utterly appalled at people I used to think of as intelligent and well-informed who keep repeating falsehood after falsehood after falsehood about it. And I am utterly exhausted with having to, at least once a month or so, go back and rehash the same arguments because some people are not simply honest enough, diligent enough, or caring enough to go back and look at the historical record and just be honest about it.

I find having to rehash it all about as pleasant and satisfying as chewing on aluminum foil. It's not disagreement I can't stand, it's the constant repetition of falsehoods that makes me want to scream.


Yes. I do get tired of hearing people shouting about the WMD -- as though Bush promised us that Saddam had WMD, but we haven't found any, therefore he lied to us.

First of all, I don't recall Bush ever saying that Saddam was known to have WMD. But think of what we did know at the time, which Bush did point out -- Saddam had had WMD in the past (we know because he used them, on the Iranians and on his own people)... and he had signed cease-fire agreements promising to dismantle all WMDs and prove that he had done so, but he never did.

To anyone who harbors a fear of ever seeing a mushroom cloud from the inside, that's enough, in and of itself, to reach the conclusion that Something Must Be Done about Saddam. But there's more.

Saddam was known to harbor personal animosity against the United States, and was not shy about showing it, even if it only meant violating his cease-fire by taking potshots at American jets patrolling the No-Fly Zones. Furthermore, he had known ties to terrorists (although in 2002 we didn't know of any definite ties to al-Qaeda), and was actively supporting terrorism, financially and otherwise. (This raised the specter that, if he did have WMD, or soon acquired them, they might easily find their way into the hands of terrorists... who could then use them, against the United States or her allies, while Saddam maintained complete deniability.) In 2002 we saw alarming signs of WMD programs in place, the extent of which we did not know, implying that if Saddam did not have WMD, he soon would, if we didn't act. And finally, Saddam was known to strike at his enemies without warning, as he did against Iran in 1980 and against Kuwait in 1990.

All of this, taken together, spelled a future threat against the United States... and a possible window of opportunity for dealing with it decisively. President Bush took that opportunity, and did indeed deal with the situation decisively, never looking back. I've never faulted him for it, nor do I fault him for it now.

In fact, I give him significant credit for going to the UN to make his case -- where he asked for, and got, a unanimous UNSC resolution, giving Saddam one last chance to disarm and prove that he had done so. (When was the last time the UNSC passed a resolution unanimously? I've never seen Bush given proper credit for this.)

Now. All of the above could have been handled using traditional American foreign policy, as previous presidents had done -- depose Saddam, support a local warlord to become the new despot, and feed the new guy so long as he remains friendly to American interests. But Bush did not do this. Going by his statements of the time, Bush seemed to genuinely believe that the spread of democracy was in America's vested security interests, in addition to being good for the Iraqi people (and the Afghan people, and so on).

In other words, he did not just do the right thing, according to his oath to protect the people of the United States. He chose to do so in a manner that directly benefited citizens of another country -- as we did, by the way, with our vanquished WWII enemies in Germany and Japan -- and, in my opinion, should be credited with that as well.

I've explained all this many times, here and elsewhere... and it certainly does get tiresome to hear people scream, yet again, that "it was all about the WMD" and "Bush lied!"

Memo to Americans: it was not about the WMDs. It was about you. It was about waking up, on that terrible morning of 9/11/2001, and deciding that this must never be permitted to happen again. Americans must not have to live in fear that, some day, a major city will disappear, on the whim of a despot half a world away and his terrorist buddies.

Whether you like it or not, the U.S. military exists solely to protect you. They are now doing precisely that, fighting -- and dying -- in a faraway land, so that you can live peacefully at home.

Please, show a little respect to them for their devotion to you, a fellow American citizen they've never met. And please, give the benefit of the doubt to the man who sent them into harm's way. President Bush did that, and he did it for you. Not for the oil, not for the WMD, not because he wants Iraqis to vote for him someday.

Put quite simply, he did it because he said he would. He did it because it's his job.


Sunday, October 30, 2005


JPost: "Spare Us The Lectures"

A point that, unfortunately, needs to be made every so often... because well-meaning, otherwise intelligent people seem to keep forgetting it.
Even today, as the victims of the Hadera bombing are buried, Israel's government is sure to be criticized for the way it protects its citizens. It will doubtlessly be told that it brought this tragedy upon itself, and that it must assume a passive posture if it is to avoid further bloodshed.

We have heard this all before, on countless occasions.

At times like this, there is always a chorus that pops up to lecture our leaders with the kind of advice that has proven, time and again, to be fatal. First they mourn the "regrettable loss of life" and bemoan the fact that "calm has been shattered." Then comes the familiar call for Israeli restraint, as if such restraint will prevent, rather than invite, the next attack.
Israel has been told, every single day for decades, how she should respond to terror. The advice nearly always comes from people and countries that don't have to worry every day about terror attacks (or, worse, from people and countries that condone or support such terror attacks).

You don't need a doctorate in psychology to understand that Israelis get very, very tired of this.

Israel has done what no other country on Earth has done. She has built a thriving, vibrant democracy out of nothing; she has, quite literally, made the desert bloom. (Read Mark Twain's description of the Holy Land in "The Innocents Abroad", only 150 years ago; the entire area was a desolate wasteland then. Contrast that to the Jerusalem Forest, where six million trees now flourish.) She has gathered in refugees from the remotest corners of the Earth, from the survivors of Nazi Germany to the hundreds of thousands of Jews forcibly ejected from Arab countries in the 1950s, from the entire besieged Ethiopian Jewish community to over one million immigrants from the former Soviet Union during the early 1990s (raising Israel's population from five million to six million in just a few years). She has produced thriving industries that are the envy of the Western world, and is one of the top R&D centers for hi-tech industry worldwide.

And she has extended her hand in friendship to her neighbors, time and time again, only to be spat upon and told she had no right to exist at all. Out of necessity, Israel built up a modern army that could defeat an enemy several times its own size -- and proceeded to do just that in 1948, again in 1956, again in 1967, again in 1973, and over and over in minor skirmishes ever since.

Faced with the impossible situation of governing a hostile population, that no one else in the entire Middle East was willing to help in the slightest way, Israel did her best, building hospitals and universities and roads and infrastructure. When terrorism became a regular problem, then a daily problem, Israel pioneered techniques of pinpoint attacks, going after terrorist leaders while missing the human shields all around them... and got accused of non-existent massacres for her trouble.

Today Israel must deal with daily terrorist threats. (Yes, I said daily. We hear in the news only about the terror attacks that were successful; but the IDF, and the Israel Foreign Ministry, document dozens of foiled attacks per week, every week.) Every day, somebody, somewhere, calls for Israel's utter destruction; lately such calls have been coming from heads of state. And even Israel's friends keep telling her that, faced with an enemy determined to kill as many innocent pizza-eaters and discotheque-dancers as possible, Israel is somehow not offering the murderers enough concessions.

As the Jerusalem Post editorial ably puts it, spare us the lectures. Nobody understands terror better than Israel does, for nobody has had to face it more, over the entire six decades of the country's existence.

Israel has not asked for anyone's help in dealing with the terror. She is quite willing, and quite able, to handle it on her own. In the face of unceasing international criticism, worse than that experienced by any other nation on Earth, Israel has shown more patience than most of us could imagine.

Spare us the lectures. Israel has behaved more humanely, under more trying circumstances, than any nation in history. Let Israel do what she must.



Why Should Christians Care About the Palestinians?

It sounds like a reasonable question, particularly if you're not overly familiar with recent Middle Eastern history. If the Palestinians send suicide bombers into predominantly-Jewish Israel, should this be a matter of concern for Christians?

I can think of many reasons why it should, actually, particularly as we approach the Christian season of "peace on Earth and goodwill towards men". But if you want a more personal reason, have a look at this:
Jerusalem Post: Away from the manger - a Christian-Muslim divide

"The Christians here are perceived as easy prey," complains a prominent Christian businessman. "In recent years there has been an upsurge in the number of attacks on Christians in Bethlehem."
While it's almost impossible to find a Christian who's prepared to go public in airing such grievances, Samir Qumsiyeh, a journalist from Beit Sahur, is a notable exception. Last month he was quoted by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera as saying that Christians were being subjected to rape, kidnapping, extortion and expropriation of land and property.

Qumsiyeh, who was not available this week for an interview because he was out of the country, heads a local TV station called Al-Mahd [Nativity]. In a daring step, Qumsiyeh drew up a list of 93 cases of anti-Christian violence between 2000 and 2004.
Some Christians point a finger at the foreign media and diplomatic missions in Israel, accusing them of ignoring their predicament for "political" reasons. "Although most of the foreign journalists and diplomats are Christians, they don't seem to pay enough attention to what's happening to the Christians in Bethlehem," says Bishara, a Christian tourist guide. "They're obviously afraid of damaging their relations with the Palestinian Authority."
"Almost all 140 cases of expropriation of land in the last three years were committed by militant Islamic groups and members of the Palestinian police." Qumsiyeh said he was now preparing a book on the conditions of the Christian minority. "I will call it 'Racism in Action,'" he says. "The racism against us is gaining pace in staggering ways. In 1950 the Christian population in Bethlehem was 75%. Today we have hardly more than 12% Christians. If the situation continues, we won't be here any more in 20 years."

Bethlehem was a predominantly Christian town, and proudly so, before control was handed over to the Palestinian Authority in the mid 1990s. But the terror chieftains of the Palestinian Authority care as little for the rights of Christians as they do for Jews, or indeed for Muslims. (Palestinian gunmen have no compunctions about hiding in mosques, as they've demonstrated many times; they assume, correctly, that Israeli scruples about damaging holy places will protect them.)

Israel, for the record, did its best to protect Bethlehem and to preserve its unique qualities. I know, because I was there. Christmas is celebrated three times a year in Bethlehem -- or was, at any rate, before the Palestinians took over: on December 25th (what Israeli soldiers called "the Catholic Christmas"), on January 7th ("the Orthodox Christmas", celebrated by Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox on the Julian calendar); and again in late January ("the Armenian Christmas", according to yet another calendar). When Bethlehem was under Israeli control, Israeli troops were present, every Christmas, to keep the peace, and to protect the massive influx of Christian pilgrims from terrorism. As a result, during my time in uniform, I spent Christmas in Bethlehem -- doing guard duty -- nine times in three years, helping to make sure that Christians could celebrate midnight mass in Nativity Square, undisturbed. And celebrate they did.

If the Christian presence slowly disappears from Bethlehem, then the day will come when the birthplace of Jesus will be a Muslim town, its beautiful ancient churches converted completely to mosques, and sites holy to Christianity desecrated or destroyed. Will the world stand by and let this happen?


Friday, October 28, 2005


Mourn the Death of Rachel

No, not Rachel Corrie.

In an amazing piece on the blog Boker Tov, Boulder! ("good morning, Boulder!"), Rachel Corrie -- who died a fool's death, standing in front of an Israeli bulldozer and challenging the bulldozer driver (who, it turns out, couldn't see her) to run her down -- is compared to eight other Rachels, all of them killed by Palestinian terrorism in the past two years.

These Rachels were victims of the Palestinian ideology of death that Rachel Corrie supported. They died because they went to a pizzeria; or to the supermarket; or because they were at home.

Please read it all. It won't take you more than a few minutes. But the pictures, and the stories, of these Rachels, will remain with you.



From The Threatening To The Absurd

I was going to say "from the sublime to the ridiculous", but there's nothing sublime about this:
Reuters UK: Iran President Stands By Israel Remarks
(The remarks in question, if you didn't know, are that Israel should be "wiped off the map". He said this in a delightful Tehran conference titled "The World Without Zionism".)

TEHRAN (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, cheered by thousands of supporters, signalled on Friday he stood by his call for Israel to be wiped off the map, while Iran's foreign ministry sought to defuse a diplomatic storm.

Israel said it would request an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council over the comments, which have drawn the condemnation of the West and Tehran's ally Russia.

Iranians chanting "death to Israel" and "death to America", converged from nine points in the Iranian capital for a rally attended by most of Iran's top officials. Some protesters set fire to or trampled on Israeli and U.S. flags.

Ahmadinejad took a short walk in the crowd, rallying in support of his comments that the Islamic world could not tolerate the Jewish state in its heartland. He said Western criticism carried no weight.

"My words are the Iranian nation's words," he told the official IRNA news agency, when asked if he had a message for the world.

"Westerners are free to comment, but their reactions are invalid."
As Robert at Jihad Watch notes, the call was not just for Israel's destruction:
Addressing a conference in Tehran on Wednesday, entitled "The World Without Zionism", Ahmadinejad said, "To those who doubt, to those who ask is it possible, or those who do not believe, I say accomplishment of a world without America and Israel is both possible and feasible."

To a cheering audience that at several points erupted with chants of "death to Israel, death to America, death to England", Ahmadinejad continued, "Once, his eminency Imam [Ruhollah] Khomeini - leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution], stated that the illegal regime of the Pahlavis must go, and it happened. Then he said the Soviet empire would disappear, and it happened. He also said that this evil man Saddam [Hussein] must be punished, and we see that he is under trial in his country. His eminency also said that the occupation regime of Qods [Jerusalem, or Israel] must be wiped off from the map of the world, and with the help of the Almighty, we shall soon experience a world without America and Zionism, notwithstanding those who doubt."
Many Western news agencies are reporting only the "death to Israel" part. (I suppose the rest isn't newsworthy enough.) But some people are taking notice of the rest:
Tony Blair delivered his strongest warning to Iran last night, saying Teheran would not be allowed to become a "threat to our world security".

He hinted that the West might have to resort to force.
Sounds good to me. It's clear that all the diplomatic overtures -- are there any the UN and EU have not yet tried? -- have not impressed Iran very much.

In the meantime, it's good to know that the rest of Europe is staying focused:
CNN: Rome bans 'cruel' goldfish bowls

ROME, Italy (Reuters) -- The city of Rome has banned goldfish bowls, which animal rights activists say are cruel, and has made regular dog-walks mandatory in the Italian capital, the town's council said on Tuesday.

The classic spherical fish bowls are banned under a new by-law which also stops fish or other animals being given away as fairground prizes. It comes after a national law was passed to allow jail sentences for people who abandon cats or dogs.

"It's good to do whatever we can for our animals who in exchange for a little love fill our existence with their attention," said Monica Cirinna, the councilor behind the by-law.

"The civilization of a city can also be measured by this," she told Rome daily Il Messaggero.

The newspaper reported that round bowls caused fish to go blind. No one at Rome council was available to confirm this was why they were banned. Many fish experts say round bowls provide insufficient oxygen for fish.

The northern city of Turin passed a law in April to fine pet owners up to 500 euros ($597.7) if they do not walk their dogs at least three times a day.

The new Rome by-law requires owners to regularly exercise their dogs, and bans them from docking their pets' tails for aesthetic reasons.

It also provides legal recognition for cat lovers who provide food for the colonies of strays which live everywhere from the city's ancient Roman ruins to modern office car parks.
Thank goodness for Rome. With petty annoyances all around, from the threat of nuclear annihilation to the prospect of war to contain it, it's nice to know that Rome has its goldfish's best interests at heart.

(hat tips: Smash for the Jihad Watch link and the Tony Blair link, Lileks for the goldfish, PowerLine for the "World Without Zionism" photo, and Google News for the rest.)


Thursday, October 27, 2005


2000: Much More Than Just A Number

Yes, we have reached that "milestone": 2000 American deaths in Iraq since the beginning of the war.

He was SSG George T. Alexander, of Killeen, Texas; he died of wounds sustained when his vehicle hit an IED on October 17th. Blackfive has more details, including a truly heartbreaking photo of SSG Alexander's son, and a respectful salute to the memory of a man who fought and died for his country.

Of course, some people feel differently about this:

Do you think that this Cox & Forkum cartoon is over the top? Do you think it's ridiculous to imagine that Americans would celebrate the death of an American soldier?

Unfortunately, it's not ridiculous at all. Here are some photos taken at "2000" rallies:

Do these people look unhappy to you?

UPDATE: Victor Davis Hansen, writing in the New York Times, attempt to put numbers in perspective:
Compared with Iraq, America lost almost 17 times more dead in Korea, and 29 times more again in Vietnam - in neither case defeating our enemies nor establishing democracy in a communist north.

Contemporary critics understandably lament our fourth year of war since Sept. 11 in terms of not achieving a victory like World War II in a similar stretch of time. But that is to forget the horrendous nature of such comparison when we remember that America lost 400,000 dead overseas at a time when the country was about half its present size.
Of course, some people were calling the war in Iraq a "quagmire" back in 2003, when American casualties in Iraq were still in the double digits.

To a certain frame of mind, I suppose, the deaths themselves don't matter much... except insofar as they can persuade others to see their point of view. (I can just imagine such a person thinking: "If 1000 deaths didn't persuade them that the Iraq War was wrong, maybe 2000 will!") This, however, is a fundamental misunderstanding of why people fight -- analogous to those who insisted, right after 9/11, that they wanted to know exactly how many people died that day... because the day that more people died fighting the war, that war would become morally wrong.

This is nonsense. If the Iraq War were morally wrong -- an opinion I do not hold -- then it would not matter if ten soldiers died fighting that war, or a thousand. Contrariwise, if it is moral for the United States to depose a regime believed to be a smoldering fire of a future threat, after giving it multiple chances to disarm, then achieving a complete victory -- an Iraq able and willing to fight terror on its own -- is far more important than the precise number of casualties sustained in achieving that goal.

As so many others have pointed out: if we don't fight the terrorists today, on the ground of our choosing, then they will fight us tomorrow... on the ground of their choosing. If we cut and run from Iraq, then the world will know that terrorism can cause us to cut and run -- which makes terrorism, from that day forward, an effective and valuable weapon to use against the United States.

The way to conquer terrorism is to convince the terrorists that it's too expensive -- expensive in their terms, e.g. when terrorist leaders are themselves targets, to be eliminated at will without warning.

History will record, in bold headline lettering, whether or not the United States achieves its objectives in Iraq. The number of casualties, whether 2,001 or 5,000, will be small print, at best.



The IDF Is On The Move... Again

...because Israel's enemies have shown no willingness to let up, even for a moment:

International Herald-Tribune: 5 Israelis Killed By Suicide Bomber
A Palestinian suicide bomber detonated his explosives at an outdoor market in the Israeli coastal town of Hadera on Wednesday, killing five people and wounding more than two dozen, the Israeli police said.

The powerful blast left the street littered with body parts and overturned fruit crates as ambulances and rescue workers descended on the market in Hadera, a town rocked by numerous terror attacks during the past five years of fighting.

ABC News: Blast Kills 5 Israelis, Erodes Peace Hopes
A 20-year-old Palestinian blacksmith blew himself up at a falafel stand in an open-air market Wednesday, killing five Israelis and wounding more than 30 in the deadliest attack in the country in more than three months.

The bombing stifled faint peace hopes following Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip. The blast also embarrassed Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who only hours earlier had scolded militant groups for repeatedly violating a truce.
Please spare me the crocodile tears. I don't care a whit about the embarrassment of Mahmoud Abbas; my sympathy is reserved for these people:

Hadera fatalities: top left - Michael Koifman,
top right - Jamil Ka'adan, bottom left - Yaakov Rahmani,
bottom right - Sabiha Nissim. Photo: Israel Channel 2

I regret that I could not find a photograph of Pirhia Mahlouf, the fifth victim. Obituaries for the five can be found here. (Jamil Ka'adan, in the upper-right photo, was an Israeli Arab. It is by no means unusual for Arabs to fall victim to these attacks; the terror organizations claim that they are fighting for "Palestinian independence", but in fact their utter disregard for human life extends to their own people as well.)

Responsibility for the blast was claimed by the Islamic Jihad terror organization. The bomber, it turns out, had been released from an Israeli prison a month ago, as a "good-will gesture", because "he had no blood on his hands" (i.e. no Israeli deaths could be directly attributed to him).

Israel has responded in force. The first step was the arrest a leader of Islamic Jihad. In a situation indicative of just whom Israel is facing, here's what was involved in that arrest:
Some 35 armored jeeps, backed by Apache helicopters and armored personnel carriers filled with infantry troops, had moved into Jenin just before 3 p.m. Thursday. The troops surrounded the home of Izzadin, and shots were heard as soldiers took up positions.

The army confirmed that it had completed an operation in Jenin, and said the troops were withdrawing from the northern West Bank city. According to the IDF, the action was a successful arrest operation aimed at apprehending Izzadin and five others wanted for questioning by security forces.

Contrary to Palestinian claims, the incursion was standard in size and scope for an IDF arrest operation.

This is what is required, ladies and gentlemen... to serve an arrest warrant in Jenin. The IDF has learned this from bitter experience. Had any lesser force been sent, we would now be reading about Israeli military casualties sustained during the arrest.

Israel has been to Jenin before, of course... and sadly, will almost certainly have to go there again. Israel will not level the city, but she will be accused of doing so.

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's orders were for a "broad, non-stop" operation against Palestinian terror groups, according to The Jerusalem Post:
Overnight Wednesday, Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided to clamp down on Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the attack, in a series of on-going military operations.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said there was no time limit to the offensive, which will continue until the group's infrastructure is eliminated or the Palestinian Authority begins to act against terrorist groups.


In addition to the ground offensive, a full closure was imposed Thursday morning on Judea and Samaria, while the Karni and Erez crossings in the Gaza Strip, which were re-opened on Wednesday morning, shut their gates.

The IAF will also continue to launch strikes against Kassam launch sites in Gaza.
No doubt the headlines are already screaming about Palestinians deprived of their Divine Right to find jobs in Israel.

USA Today has more:
Sharon said the military operation was necessary because of Abbas' refusal to take action and said it would be impossible to resume peace talks until the Palestinians rein in the militants.

"Unfortunately the Palestinian Authority has not taken any serious action to battle terrorism," Sharon said before meeting the visiting Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. "We will not accept under any circumstances a continuation of terrorism. Therefore our activities will be broad and non-stop until they halt terrorism."
The message should be clear: disarm the terrorists, Mr. Abbas, or we will do it for you.

I'm sure some people are asking: why would the Palestinians launch such an attack, precisely when it makes the Palestinians look bad?

Part of the answer is embedded in the question. Islamic Jihad has no qualms about making Mahmoud Abbas look bad; he is by no means radical enough for them. On a more cynical level, though, this is a rather Machiavellian move on the part of the Palestinians. They were already fighting a low-level civil war, with no end in sight. One of the only ways to get the warring Palestinian factions to unite against a common enemy is to hit Israel, and provoke a strong Israeli response.

I hope Mr. Sharon sees this, and will find a way to punish the terrorists, without uniting the Palestinians in the process. We shall see.

In the meantime, my heart goes out to the familes of the dead and wounded.

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.


Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Condi Rice and Mystique: Separated At Birth?

Oooh, this is scary:

Michelle Malkin
spotted that photo in a USA Today article. (As of today, a week later, that picture is still up.

And yes, the picture was doctored. Michelle found the original for comparison purposes:

As Michelle eloquently asks, "what the ^$%#@+! is going on?"

Here's one last comparison shot:

It makes you wonder: is USA Today trying to tell us something?

UPDATE: As my wife points out, following the USA Today link now shows the correct photograph, and includes the following disclaimer:
Editor's note: The photo of Condoleezza Rice that originally accompanied this story was altered in a manner that did not meet USA TODAY's editorial standards. The photo has been replaced by a properly adjusted copy. Photos published online are routinely cropped for size and adjusted for brightness and sharpness to optimize their appearance. In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice's face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards.
Hmm, interesting!

Ms. Malkin, as I expected, is on top of this, with lots more links, and some reader explanations as to why USA Today's story makes no sense. For example: the "brightening" effect is clearly on the eyes alone, which could only have been done deliberately. One reader split the two images down the middle and combined them:

Do you see any brightening, or any coloration difference, between the left and right sides of Condi's face? Neither do I.

Presumably, someone did this as a joke -- and either left it in until it was too late, or else thought no one would notice. This does no good to USA Today's reputation either way.

UPDATE II: Samantha Burns (and her sidekick Igor) go into this in far greater detail. I encourage you to check out the work -- the photo-editing is fascinating, at least to me. But the conclusions are: yes, of course the photo was deliberately edited, around the eyes only; no, it wasn't pixel-by-pixel editing necessarily, it could have been done with a 'sharpening' filter; and therefore, no, it wasn't necessarily deliberate malice, but possibly just an attempt to make Condi's eye-liner etc. stand out more. (If so, it was embarrassingly bad.)

This explanation makes sense to me; if I was on a jury, deliberating on whether or not USA Today had malice aforethought, I'd now have a hard time convicting.

On the other hand, I'd have to agree with anyone who thinks that it's mighty funny to see this, in a major newspaper, just before Halloween. (And isn't it a strange coincidence that things like this only happen when they can make Republicans look bad? Or am I missing the equally silly bad-editing jobs done on Democrats?)


Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Breaking News Flash: AP Politically Biased!

Hard to believe, isn't it?...

Here's how AP's dispatch on the Iraqi Constitution was reported by ABC:

Draft Constitution Adopted by Iraq Voters
Iraq's Constitution Is Adopted; Two Marines Reported Killed As U.S. Death Toll Nears 2,000

BAGHDAD, Iraq Oct 25, 2005 — Iraq's constitution was adopted by a majority in a fair vote during the country's Oct. 15 referendum, as Sunni Arab opponents failed to muster enough support to defeat it, election officials said Tuesday. A prominent Sunni politician called the balloting "a farce."

The U.S. military also announced the deaths of two Marines in fighting with insurgents last week in Baghdad, bringing the number of American service members killed in the war to 1,999.

The referendum results, announced after a 10-day audit following allegations of fraud, confirmed previous indications that Sunni Arabs failed to produce the two-thirds "no" vote they would have needed in at least three of Iraq's 18 provinces to defeat the constitution.

The White House congratulated Iraqis on the results.

"It's a landmark day in the history of Iraq," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "The political process is continuing to move forward in Iraq and it is an encouraging sign to see more and more people participating in the process."

The charter is considered a major step in Iraq's democratic reforms, clearing the way for the election of a new, full-term Iraqi parliament on Dec. 15. Such steps are important in any decision about the future withdrawal of U.S.-led forces from Iraq.

However, some fear the victory, which came despite a large turnout by Sunni Arabs in an effort to defeat it, could enrage many members of the minority and fuel their support for the insurgency.
Let's take a look at just that much, shall we?

There have been a great many real concerns about the Iraqi constitution: could Iraq could write a constitution at all? Would there be sufficient support for it to even bring it to a vote? Would Sunnis have the sense to not boycott the election this time? Would Iraqis go to the polls in spite of the threat of violence? Could the tragedy of a terrorist attack at the polls be avoided? Would the results of the election, if held, be conclusive?

Any one of those issues could have halted the entire process. But the answer to all those questions is YES, and the Iraqi draft constitution will be adopted! This is wonderful news.

And, to be fair, AP's (or ABC's) main headline is "Draft Constitution Adopted by Iraq Voters". But they have to throw in a negative subtitle, don't they? -- Marines killed, American death toll nears 2,000.

Let's speak frankly about that last bit, by the way. As much as every American military death is a tragedy, for their families and for the country, the final body count is not what's important here. We did not invade Iraq with a goal of keeping American deaths below a specific number. Nor did President Bush ever announce that we'd leave Iraq once the body count surpassed a particular point; in fact, he's been quite clear that he would not do so. (It would have been immoral and defeatist, at best, for him to have done so; for such a declaration is tantamount to a declaration of defeat. If the enemy knows that we'll cut our losses by a particular date, or a particular body count, then they can simply wait us out.)

So why mention the number at all? Because the anti-war movement has been harping on it, that's why.

Read on: the first paragraph declares the Iraqi constitutional vote a success, but includes an unattributed quote, calling the elections "a farce". (Was it necessary to introduce such negativity into the first paragraph? And was it so necessary, in fact, that an unidentified source had to be used? Was it really that hard to find a "prominent Sunni cleric", willing to speak on the record against the election?)

But paragraph one is still weighted in favor of the results, apparently, even with the negative wording of "Sunni Arab opponents failed to muster enough support" etc. So naturally, the second paragraph must be doom and gloom, all the way... and it is.

Then we get a few paragraphs on the White House reaction to this, and some cute editorializing: The charter is considered a major step in Iraq's democratic reforms, clearing the way for the election of a new, full-term Iraqi parliament on Dec. 15. Such steps are important in any decision about the future withdrawal of U.S.-led forces from Iraq. Apparently, the withdrawal of forces from Iraq is the most important issue at stake here... or at least AP thinks so. (Personally, I'd say that the most important issue here is that Iraqi democracy has won a major victory. In re American troops, I'd say that the most important issue is that we not leave before our job is done... as President Bush has repeatedly insisted.)

Nonetheless, we need to follow this up with yet another unattributed doom-and-gloom diatribe: However, some fear the victory, which came despite a large turnout by Sunni Arabs in an effort to defeat it, could enrage many members of the minority and fuel their support for the insurgency.

"Some fear" -- that old standby for journalists wanting to push a particular point of view without naming names. (Think about it. The journalist who wrote that dispatch may be the only one who "fears" this; it would still be accurate, wouldn't it? And if such things are written in the hopes of influencing more people to think that way, then what we have is journalism influencing history. It's supposed to be the other way around, isn't it?)

"The victory, which came despite a large turnout by Sunni Arabs in an effort to defeat it" -- gosh, you make victory sound like a bad thing. If opposition was that strong, doesn't that make an unequivocal victory all that much more impressive? But I don't suppose you'd want to say that, AP, would you?

Nor would you want to note that the constitutional vote could not possibly have passed without heavy Sunni support for it. Two predominantly-Sunni provinces voted for the constitution; neither vote was particularly close. But I guess that doesn't support your conclusion either.

What puzzles me -- and disturbs me, just a little -- is just how far AP is willing to twist logic into a pretzel to support their version of events, to make a pro-Iraq (and pro-American) victory seem as dismal as possible.

I'm also dismayed by ABC's willingness to run it as given. Do they truly think all their readers are idiots, unable to read between the lines of what they're publishing? Well, perhaps that's just what they do think... and if so, I hope they're prepared to accept ever-decreasing market share. People generally don't take kindly to being treated like idiots.

UPDATE: J.D. Johannes writes eloquently and movingly about "death #2000":
The Marines and soldiers who fight in Iraq are not numbers, but the media and certain groups are treating them as if they were. Number 2,000 was a national treasure, just as number 1,435 was and number 2,038 will be. For what is the value of a man who will fight a war for others who despise him?
Please do read the whole thing.

(hat tip: Instapundit)


Monday, October 24, 2005


David Gelertner's History Lesson

A crackerjack of an editorial in the LA Times, of all places! Check it out.

The crux of the argument is this:
Democracies rarely declare war to improve the world, as Rice could have explained had she had the chance. They fight to protect themselves, sometimes to fulfill treaty obligations. But once a war is underway, free peoples tend to think things over deeply. Casualties concentrate the mind. We refuse to let our soldiers die for too little. America at war has lifted its sights again and again from danger, self-interest and self-defense to a larger, nobler goal. Same story, war after war. Iraq fits perfectly.
Mr. Gelertner elaborates, using the American Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, and WWII to demonstrate. (He also makes the point that Sen. Barbara Boxer is a shrill demagogue who is ignorant of American history.)

I found this via Bruce Kessler's in-depth analysis, which in turn I found via Instapundit.


Sunday, October 23, 2005


Brett Stephens on Palestinian Barbarity

I'll reluctantly only excerpt Mr. Stephens' excellent editorial from the Wall Street Journal. (It is now on there free site,; articles there generally remain for seven days.) It really does deserve to be read in full.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas paid George Bush a friendly visit Thursday in the Oval Office. At the Rose Garden press conference that followed, Mr. Bush stressed Mr. Abbas's responsibility to "end terror attacks, dismantle terrorist infrastructure, maintain law and order and one day provide security for their own state." Mr. Abbas himself made no mention of the words "terrorism" or "terrorists." But he did demand the release of those he called "prisoners of freedom," now being held in Israeli jails.
Who are some of these prisoners? One is Ibrahim Ighnamat, a Hamas leader arrested last week by Israel in connection to his role in organizing a March 1997 suicide bombing at the Apropos cafe in Tel Aviv, which killed three and wounded 48. Another is Jamal Tirawi of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades: Mr. Tirawi had bullied a 14-year-old boy into becoming a suicide bomber by threatening to denounce him as a "collaborator," which in Palestinian society frequently amounts to a death sentence.

And then there is 21-year-old Wafa Samir al-Bis, who was detained in June after the explosives she was carrying failed to detonate at an Israeli checkpoint on the border with Gaza. As Ms. Bis later testified, her target was an Israeli hospital where she had previously been treated--as a humanitarian gesture--for burns suffered in a kitchen accident. "I wanted to kill 20, 50 Jews," she explained at a press conference after her arraignment.
What Stephens is pointing out here (correctly) is that these are not fringe members of Palestinian society. On the contrary, their release from prison is being demanded by Mahmoud Abbas, the so-called 'Palestinian President' and the most moderate face the Palestinians currently have in the West.

Demanding the release of these animals means, essentially, that the Palestinian Authority officially considers them unjustly imprisoned... and therefore condones their actions.

Could Israel, with the best will in the world, make further concessions to a Palestinian leadership that supports such brutality? (Actually, Israel has been making concessions to them for years, with little or nothing to show for it... and is always told that these concessions, horrifically expensive though they are in human lives, are not enough.)

Would you trust such people with your safety? Think about it a minute.

Mr. Stephens goes on:
Many explanations have been given to account for the almost matchless barbarism into which Palestinian society has descended in recent years. One is the effect of Israeli occupation and all that has, in recent years, gone with it: the checkpoints, the closures, the petty harassments, the targeted assassinations of terrorist leaders. I witnessed much of this personally when I lived in Israel, and there can be no discounting the embittering effect that a weeks-long, 18-hour daily military curfew has on the ordinary Palestinians living under it.

Yet the checkpoints and curfews are not gratuitous acts of unkindness by Israel, nor are they artifacts of occupation. On the contrary, in the years when Israel was in full control of the territories there were no checkpoints or curfews, and Palestinians could move freely (and find employment) throughout the country. It was only with the start of the peace process in 1993 and the creation of autonomous Palestinian areas under the control of the late Yasser Arafat that terrorism became a commonplace fact of Israeli life. And it was only then that the checkpoints went up and the clampdowns began in earnest.

In other words, while Palestinian actions go far to explain Israeli behavior, the reverse doesn't hold. How, then, are the Ighnamats, Tirawis and Bises of Palestinian society to be explained?
How, indeed? (emphasis added)

My own feeling is that the Palestinians long ago painted themselves into a corner, by building a society in which only violence is respected. Violence is the solution to nearly any Palestinian problem; violence is the only skill worth having among Palestinians today. The future many Palestinian parents want for their children, we are frequently told, is suicide. They can thank the late Yasser Arafat for this, with his endless maniacal calls for Jihad.

Matters were made worse by a total abandonment of any kind of personal or cultural responsibility. Palestinian economic problems are all Israel's fault, in spite of anything Israel does or can do to help. (Even today, a major sector of the Palestinian economy consists of jobs in Israel. What other country would keep its borders open to tens of thousands of foreign laborers, even in the face of unceasing and ever-more-brutal terrorist attacks?) Problems in any sector of Palestinian society are blamed on 'the occupation', even though Palestinians, during the years of full-fledged Israeli occupation (1967 - 1993), had a higher average standard of living than their neighbors in any Arab country -- a status that changed, for the worse, only when Arafat took over in 1993.

The result of all this is a Palestinian nightmare with no escape. No Palestinian leader can proclaim himself pro-peace, under any conditions, without being labelled a 'collaborator' (and thereby being marked for death). Violence, only violence, is seen as the answer... and if it doesn't get results, the answer is ever-increasing violence. If sending a woman to blow up the very hospital that treated her isn't barbaric enough, up the ante with a woman who hides a live grenade in her own baby's clothes.

What can be done? Frankly, not much. It's clear that conciliatory actions by Israel don't help; giving the Palestinians free reign over the entire Gaza Strip, asking for nothing in return, produced only more cries of Jihad and an increased tempo of terrorist attacks.

Conciliatory Palestinian actions would help tremendously; Israel has been waiting for almost forty years to have reasonable Palestinians to talk to. But as I've explained, the Palestinians themselves won't permit reasonable voices to be heard.

Israel could move in and crack heads, imposing a clean-slate political solution, much as the United States is currently doing in Iraq. But that wouldn't work either, for a variety of reasons. The majority of Iraqis were aching for freedom from Saddam, and were all too happy to vote in free elections each and every time such elections were held. But Palestinians have been fed a daily diet of hate for decades now. If a solution can be imposed upon them, it certainly won't be by Israel.

I hate to say it, but the only solution I can see -- other than a Palestinian civil war, bloody enough to make anything (even peace with Israel) attractive by comparison -- is an imposed solution from without. That would have to be from somebody that has earned Israeli respect, and has the muscle to get Palestinian attention as well. I can only think of one source for such a solution, and that's the United States. But wih President Bush sounding as conciliatory as he is -- toward the terror leader that is Abbas -- even that avenue doesn't look very promising.

Sometimes there is no good solution. I hope to God that a solution exists here, and that someone smarter than me will find it and make it happen... because I don't see any answers here.

UPDATE: Rick Richman of Jewish Current Issues writes about the Bush-Abbas meetings, and sees them more optimistically than I do. As he explains, the much-vaunted 'Road Map' has three phases: Phase I (including, among other things, dismantling Palestinian terrorist organizations and infrastructure); Phase II (including a Palestinian state with 'provisional' borders); and Phase III (final status negotiations). Abbas enthusiastically explains that he's ready to start Phase III at any time, athough he hasn't met (or even attempted to meet) any of his Phase I commitments.

Bush, on the other hand, continues to use the language of Phase I: terrorist organizations must be dismantled before any further progress can be made. Put that way, it does sound like good news: Abbas is selling, but Bush isn't buying. I hope that's correct.

(Rick also explains that Israel has exceeded its Phase I obligations, and makes a good case for it. Let's hope Bush sees it the same way.)

UPDATE II: More positive commentary from Anne at Boker Tov, Boulder! Granted, she's citing Debkafile, which is not always reliable. But it rings true... and I, for one, would love to believe that it's true. Check it out and see what you think.



Some Links

Well, isn't this interesting!
It is being reported that the printer industry such as Hewlett-Packard has collaborated with the government to help identify counterfeiting and other criminal activity. In many laser printers an invisible dot matrix encoded with information is also printed on the document. With microscopes government investigators can glean information to enable them to track where the document originated. If a counterfeiter prints phony 100 dollar bills then he will also be printing his location and possibly even his identity right on the bill.
The story is at Obligatory Anecdotes; the source is at Science Daily:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation of San Francisco said it had cracked the code in a widely used line of Xerox printers. The code is an invisible set of dots that contain the serial number of the printer, as well as the date and time a document was printed.

With the Xerox printers, the information appears as a pattern of yellow dots, each only a millimeter wide and visible only with a magnifying glass and a blue light, the Washington Post reported.

The EFF said it has identified similar coding on pages printed from nearly every major printer manufacturer, including Hewlett-Packard Co.
As my mother used to say: "Well, ain't that special"...

I guess I'd be surprised if something like this wasn't done. After all, color laser printers are ubiquitous enough these days to make counterfeiting simple and cheap for nearly anyone.

Granted, our paper currency is a lot more sophisticated than it used to be, with watermarks and special inks and many other things; and all American paper currency has long been printed on special paper, available only to the U.S. Mint. Nonetheless: how often do you pay for something with a twenty, and have it accepted without a second glance?

I can understand why civil libertarians are (or soon will be) up in arms about this. Speaking for myself, I'm not overly concerned with the Federal government being able to prove that my documents were printed by me. But it is weird, to say the least.

(Oh, and don't try to print out the image above. I edited it a bit before I posted it. What secret messages did I embed therein? I'm not telling.)

(Hat tip: open post at Smash's Place.)

And here's another one, courtesy of Jeff Harrell, a first-rate blogger I don't read often enough. He points us to a snazzy new Website, created by NASA to explain how they intend to land men on the Moon by 2018:

Now, either you're intrigued and want to learn more, or I've already lost you. Some people just get bitten by the Moon bug (and the closely-related space-exploration bug); other people couldn't care less. I was bitten, hard, as a pre-teen, and I find, to my surprise, that I haven't lost the sense of wonder I used to get then.

Don't get me wrong -- it's a bold approach, and I actually do think that it's worth doing. An amazing number of techniques and artifacts of our modern civilization originated in the space program. Whenever you see something miniaturized, from computers to heart monitors, you can bet that it originated with NASA. And besides, we need a foothold off-planet, if only as an insurance policy. The Cold War may be over, but we could still muck up this planet pretty thoroughly if we're not careful.

Finally, it's worth doing if only as a way to fire people's imaginations and inspire them to great things. Do you realize that human beings have been staring at the Moon, wondering about it, for as long as we've been human? And do you realize that, in all those years -- perhaps 100,000 generations of people -- a total of twelve people, all Americans, have actually been there? They've walked on the moon, done experiments there, experienced the sheer wonder of walking on another planet, seeing the Earth above them in the sky. Six of them drove electric cars on the Moon. One of them brought a golf club with him. As of October 2005, eight of them are still alive.

Nonetheless, I wonder about NASA's devotion to the original plans. Yes, it's "new and improved"; yes, it's much more reusable than the original was; yes, it can take four men to the lunar surface, instead of two plus bored-guy-in-orbit. But the basic plan is the same: command plus service module, lunar lander in two stages, command module comes in for a "splashdown" landing (although it seems that land-based returns will now be possible).

Come on, people! What ever happened to horizontal takeoff and horizontal landing for spacecraft? Whatever happened to craft that can actually land under their own power, as an aircraft does (and as the Shuttle almost does)?

Or is NASA afraid to start with a completely clean sheet of paper, for fear of the R&D necessary (or, more accurately, of the cost of the R&D necessary)? A great pity, if so. (Update: see below.)

Keep your eyes on Burt Rutan, people. We will have regular travel to and from space, and permanent settlements outside of Earth's atmosphere, within the next twenty years. But will it be government activity, or private enterprise, that makes it happen?

(For a fictional account of how the latter might happen, read this book, if you can find it. I first read it when I was fourteen, and found it extremely inspiring.)

UPDATE: My buddy Rich, who has far more experience with aeronautical engineering than I'll ever have, answers most of my questions in his comment (below):
Daniel -- what happened to "horizontal" spaceflight is quite similar to what happened with pure-electric vehicle R&D in the 1990's ... the efforts ran into the laws of physics and the state of the art in materials technology.

In particular, reliable and reusable heat shielding of a "horizontal" spacecraft, while still preserving its aerodynamic and payload capabilities, has proven quite elusive. After losing Columbia, NASA has had to take a step back in that area ... which is one of the major reasons I can see them developing this proposal, which offers both simplicity and protection for the heat-shielding systems.

If we want to return to the moon in the forseeable future, this is the most viable way of doing so.
I stand corrected. I recalled that, back in the late seventies and early eighties, the idea of horizontal-takeoff spacecraft was intriguing -- take off like an airliner, not like a rocket, thereby letting the atmosphere do a lot of the heavy-lifting for you. But apparently I'm not up-to-date on the literature on the subject.
On a side note ... while I do consider the accomplishments of the Rutan brothers quite remarkable, and have some hope they can achieve what you imply, keep in mind that they are not ahead of NASA when it comes to practical, orbital/lunar/interplanetary spacecraft designs.

SpaceShipOne was specifically designed for the suborbital X-prize competition -- it never got much above Mach 3, and the "feather" configuration shift it used to avoid heating problems at reentry would create problems if extrapolated for use in orbital flight, IMO.

From what I understand, the way SpaceShipOne avoided the heating problem was by using the feather configuration to decelerate the ship fast enough to avoid long exposure times at velocity/altitude combinations that would generate high heat. To do that with an orbital craft, this layman (an electronics expert, not an aerospace engineer) thinks that the necessary G-loads would greatly exceed human capacities for G tolerance ... if it even could be done in a way that would reduce heating to a level sufficient to eliminate the need for ablative heat shields or thermal tiles.
Fair enough. I do hope, however, that Scaled Composites will find other ways to push their work into orbital flight. (This isn't necessary, strictly speaking; if they can make suborbital flight cost-effective, the payoff for them can be enormous, even if they never achieve orbital capability. But I hope they do it anyway.)

My gut tells me that NASA will work harder, and smarter, if they're afraid of being shown up by private enterprise. Besides, competition can be healthy. I'd love to see NASA doing the heavy lifting to put a space habitat into orbit... and Scaled Composites, or their licensees (or competitors!), doing their best to outbid NASA for cheap transportation there and back.


Friday, October 21, 2005


Good Sense From An Unusual Source

As seen at Instapundit and NRO (but without their overly-flip headline):
"When the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke, there was not a single Arab who did not express the opinion that it was a despicable, mean [act] contrary to humanist values. They are right about this. But these people swiftly forgot their humanism and sealed their lips when the Jordanian terrorist Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi declared war against the Shi'ites in Iraq, and began to dispatch his booby-trapped soldiers to blow themselves up among children, women, and the elderly. None of those [who denounced the Abu Ghraib scandal] uttered a word and none shed a tear for the hundreds and thousands of Iraqis being murdered and whose bodies are being mutilated.

"The first to denounce [the Abu Ghraib scandal] were the Americans themselves, who thought that the acts of some of their soldiers distorted the image of the U.S. and served as a mark of shame...

"But don't the Arabs feel an even greater sense of shame when some of them kill and massacre Iraqi citizens? Don't the rest [of the people] feel pangs of conscience when they try to come up with excuses and justifications for the murderers and criminals whom they call the 'resistance?' How can someone outraged at the torture of or disrespect for another person be silent and ignore [Al-Zarqawi's] declaration of the [program of] extermination of millions of people because of their sectarian affiliation?
The author is Omran Salman, a Bahraini journalist living in the U.S. Please note that he is not afraid to call a terrorist by name.

Even more remarkable:
"The war being waged by the Al-Qaeda organization and the terrorists against the Shi'ites in Iraq is among the acts of collective extermination, which is rare in modern history. There has been no case in the past in which somebody has declared a similar war against a race or a group as a whole, except [for the case of] Nazi Germany against the Jews...
Think about that for a moment. A Muslim journalist, favorably comparing Iraqi Shi'ites to Jews, in print. Now that takes guts. ("Speaking truth to power", anyone?)

By all means, check out the whole thing (in translation) at MEMRI.

UPDATE: On a distantly-related topic, Saddam Hussein's trial has started... and promptly halted, at request of defense counsel. (It will resume again in early November.) Saddam has clearly lost none of his bluster; he stood defiant, did his best to intimidate the judge and the court, and physically struggled with his police escort.

Personally, I'm just as glad that he's being tried by Iraqis; no one knows better than they what this man has done. I'm also glad to see that they seem willing to take their time. (The trial of Eichmann, as I recently had occasion to remind myself, lasted over two years.)

Cox & Forkum seem to agree:




Fine, I'll admit it: I love gadgets. I have to keep myself from drooling in all those SkyMall catalogues (and Brookstone catalogues, and Hammacher Schlemmer catalogues, and so forth), all full of lovely gadgets I can't bring myself to buy. Sure, I might never use them, but they're so cool!

Thanks to Instapundit, we now have a viable entry for the World's Smallest Car:
Researchers at Rice University have created a "nanocar" measuring just 4 x 3 nanometers. It is slightly wider than a strand of DNA -- a human hair is about 80,000 nanometers thick. The car has a chassis, axles and a pivoting suspension. The wheels are buckyballs, spheres of pure carbon containing 60 atoms apiece.

Maybe I'm being unimaginative here... but it's hard to believe cars could be made any smaller. (Is there a round structure smaller than a Buckyball?)

In the meantime, I'm enjoying the vision of ten thousand of these little guys, drag-racing side by side along the length of a single human hair. (To math purists: yes, I'm allowing 4 nanometers' clearance between vehicles. I don't think that's too much to ask. Heck, sometimes it seems that Boston drivers miss me by nanometers.)

And no, I'm not going to even think about the cost of one of these... car molecules. (What should we call this substance, anyway? Automobilium?)

But still. Isn't that cool??

Okay, back to whatever you were doing before...


Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Miers According To PP

For the sake of perspective: if you thought the conservatives were up in arms over Harriet Miers (and her nomination to the Supreme Court), have a look at this e-mail I just received from Planned Parenthood. Please note the subject heading:

Interesting, no?

What intrigues me about this is its barely-controlled hysteria. Harrier Miers has demonstrated a bias against abortion rights -- meaning, actually, that she's expressed an opinion on the subject contrary to Planned Parenthood doctrine. (Oh, horrors!) Ditto in re "Miers' draconian views" (that she supports the right to an abortion if it will save the life of the mother??) and "the stealth nature of the Supreme Court nomination process to date" (as if it was unconstitutional for Supreme Court judges to have any opinions of their own, without describing them in detail to PP).

Hardly any context is provided. That goes also for that cute lined-paper photo -- by implication, this is the actual questionnaire filled out in Miers's own hand. (Except that it's typed... and a mimeograph copy, to boot, followed by more questions and answers that don't even pretend to be authentic.)

There's no bona fides for any of this, in short, except that Planned Parenthood says so. Nor does PP address the issue of what the big deal would be, even if all this were true. Is it reasonable for a judge to ascend the bench with known biases? Uh, I'm not aware of any Supreme Court Justice that ever lacked known biases. They're human beings. And if they're good judges, they'll apply the law, regardless of their personal feelings.

Is it possible that Harriet Miers is not a good jurist, and could be expected to rule from the bench based on her personal biases? Sure, it's possible... but if that's what's eating you, why not say that? (Probably because that's not hysterical enough for a fundraising letter.)


Tuesday, October 18, 2005


A Few One-Liners

Sometimes it's humbling to see someone express something far more eloquently than you can yourself. I've noted that about James Lileks before; and to my annoyance and delight, he continues to do it -- in this case, expressing his puzzlement that people would protest the American presence in Iraq, on the very day that Iraqis had voted for a Constitution thanks to that American presence. To wit:
What struck me was that these people standing by the shopping mall were protesting the means by which the right to vote had been secured. It seems like protesting Meals-on-Wheels because the truck broke the speed limit and had expired tags.
Precisely. Yes, War Is A Bad Thing, I agree... but can't we be thankful when something good comes of it?

Michelle Malkin also comes to mind:
And I would add my observation about the "diversity" crowd's unabashed support for racial profiling in every kind of domestic policy--housing, education, government contracting, etc. -- except where homeland security is concerned.
Damn, she's good. How come I never thought of that?

She's quite correct. People who object to racial profiling only seem concerned about it when it determines who gets arrested. But if it determines who gets into college, who gets a job, where Congressional districting lines are drawn, or just about anything else, racial profiling is just fine, isn't it?


Monday, October 17, 2005


When is a terrorist not a terrorist?

...when he's an "insurgent", or a "rebel", or a "militant". (God forbid we should even call them "extremists".)

Thanks to Mark Steyn (about whom I've said, I believe, that nobody does snarky better), we now have a direct connection between Islamist terrorism and Lord Voldemort: "the enemy whose name it's best never to utter".

Among other gems to be found therein:
I'm aware the very concept of "the enemy" is alien to the non-judgment multicultural mind: There are no enemies, just friends whose grievances we haven't yet accommodated. But the media's sensitivity police apparently want this to be the first war we lose without even knowing who it is we've lost to.
By all means, check it out.



The Iraqi Referendum Is A Resounding Success

I just wanted to see that headline. I doubt very much that we'll see it in print from any of the major newspapers.

Please note: I don't think the referendum was a success because it passed, although I'm certainly pleased with that result. Rather, the vote was successful in all the ways the January election was successful -- high participation, high optimism among Iraqis as to the results, almost violence-free voting -- and, in fact, went as well or better than the January election in all those cases.

Then, as now, I'm less concerned with the specific result than I am with the process. Iraqis are learning what democracy is, and they're learning by doing. Last time, hardly any Sunni Arabs participated; this time there was high Sunni participation. Last time, there was heavy American security at the polls; this time, there was heavy Iraqi security at the polls. All this is progress, and it's all welcome.

The Iraqis have many hurdles still in front of them. But they've come a lot farther, a lot faster, than we had reason to expect. Some of the credit for that goes to the American and Allied forces, clearing the way and lending a helping hand. But the bulk of the credit must go to the Iraqi people themselves.

All we could do was to give them the opportunity, and to hold our breath. Would they take it? And they have, overwhelmingly.

Commentary on the referendum is, of course, all over the blogosphere. I enjoyed reading Smash, Instapundit, and Murdoc, among others... but nobody tops Mohammed at Iraq: The Model.

Bravo, Iraq! Bravo.

UPDATE: Now multiple sources are claiming that the referendum results are suspect. That's troubling; the Iraqis need to develop confidence in the system. (On the other hand, they also need to understand that democracy is messy, complicated, and expensive. Dictatorships are cheap.)

On the other hand, from what I've read, the alleged vote-count irregularities (higher-than-expected 'yes' votes exceeding 95% in some provinces; one province with more votes than residents) are not such as to affect the outcome of the referendum. Of course, that, too, could be incorrect; we'll see.

Let the process work, people. If Iraq is to be a lasting, thriving democracy, they'll eventually have to face problems like this on their own. Let them deal with it.


Sunday, October 16, 2005


Add Another Blogroll To The Fire...

...or something like that. I've just had the honor of being blogrolled by The Iraq War Was Wrong Blog, under the category "Bad People Wrong About Iraq War Being Right". (There's one other category, called -- you guessed it -- "Good People Right About Iraq War Being Wrong".) And hey, that blog is considerably higher up the food chain than this one is.

I admire the author's moral clarity, although not his (or her) spelling or grammar... and I'm happy to return the favor.

UPDATE: Smash has pronounced it the "Worst. Blog. Ever"... which appears to have started a bit of a firestorm. Wheee!

(Summary: Smash and The World's Worst Blogger duke it out. Smash wins, hands down; apparently his opponent can't figure out how to comment on Smash's site.)

UPDATE II: The blog (commonly abbreviated IWW, I believe) collects testimonials. I'll offer my own here: "Four out of five dhingers agree: the Iraq War is right, and The Iraq War Is Wrong is wrong".

(I also suggested "Of all The Iraq War Is Wrong blogs I've ever seen, this is The Iraq War Is Wrongest!"... but perhaps the first is preferable.)



Chuck E. Cheese, And The Irony Of It All

This was my senior stepdaughter's idea... that I write about "Chuck E. Cheese and the irony of it all". So be it.

Actually, I must admit that I've spent very little time in Chuck E. Cheese's... which just goes to prove that I haven't been a stepfather for very long. So I'm not yet tired of their well-nigh-cheeseless pizza, or their insanely annoying animatronic singing animals, or the ambient noise level that makes an airport runway seem peaceful, or the overal ambiance intended to pump children full of sugar so that they can pester their parents for tokens and games and toys... no, not tired at all.

How'm I doing, Dagny?

Mmmm... perhaps not so well. She now wants me to discuss the overall oxygen content in the atmosphere in Chuck E. Cheese. My general supposition is that it's the same there as most everywhere else... i.e. about 16% by volume.

(Boy, do I have a way with children, or what?!?)

Now she says I have to write about... and she's hemming and hawing, trying to come up with a subject. Okay, honey, ONE more topic. (Now she says not to call her 'honey'. Whatever you say, sweetie.)

Okay, we have a topic. She wants to know what I think about the game where you have to hit little duckies... and what effect this has on children, and the environment, and duckies.

To which I can only respond: no doubt this does result in children expressing their violent tendencies in public... and towards duckies, which might be alarming. The effects on said duckies in the environment is also worthy of discussion. However, since duckies in Chuck E. Cheese establishments are made of plastic, I can safely say that the environment will get along quite well without them... and that children will not suffer unduly from brutally killing them.

Oh. NOW she says she wants to know if this will cause children to want to kill real duckies... and whether or not that is a good thing. (Well, gosh, you didn't say so...) (Yeah, I did.) (No, you didn't.) (Yeah, I did!) (Stop typing in my blog, Dagny... you have your own.)

Well, then:

I guess I'm just gonna have to keep a close eye on my stepdaughters... and see if they develop any intense interest in duck season. (No, I mean wabbit season. Whatever.)

Go right ahead and keep pounding duckies, Dagny. If I think it's stunting your moral and ethical development, I'll be sure and tell you.

UPDATE: My stepdaughter's latest blog entry includes this:
My blog must be really boring. I wonder if anyone except my step dad is reading it. If you read it, do me a favor and comment on it. I just want to know if it's really on the internet, and not just on my computer.
If you have a moment, could you please stop on by and say hello? Many thanks.

UPDATE II: Daniel T. points out to me that this is, actually, my first LiveBlogging experience. Okay, so it was me live-blogging a conversation with my stepdaughter... but all technicalities count, don't they?


Friday, October 14, 2005


"A Little Before The Nuts Work Loose..."

I said recently that the long-expected Palestinian civil war had begun in earnest. Gloria Salt, whose wonderful blog I truly must read more often, has three posts in a row on the subject:
It’s the Wild West revisited in Gaza right now — and none of the bullets flying around are Israeli... not for the first time, events in the region have taken on a certain surreal quality. It must be a little disorienting for Holocaust-denying Abbas to be having reassuring telephone conversations with Ariel Sharon while intra-Palestinian gun battles are raging in Gaza City.
Indeed. This entry deserves to be quoted in its entirety:
Lest we infer from the events of last night that Abbas’s Fatah crew are the white hats and Hamas the black in the Gazan Wild West drama:

Earlier in the day yesterday, members of Fatah’s military wing, the Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, responded to a roadblock set up east of Khan Yunis by several hundred Palestinians protesting a rise in gas prices by spraying them with gunfire. Taxi-driver Yasser Barakeh, 36, was killed at the scene and three others wounded. In a collective gesture simply loaded with ironic historical reverberations, the drivers at the roadblock reached down, picked up stones, and rained them down on the gun-waving Fatah men. They turned tail and ran.
Welcome to the Middle East, folks. A roadblock demonstration is set up by ordinary citizens -- to protest gas prices, of all things. (So far as I know, Palestinians pay Israeli prices -- or worse -- for gasoline, i.e. up to $5 per gallon... because their gasoline is provided by Israel. Why don't Saudi Arabia et al support their Palestinian brethren with cheap gas, for goodness' sake? The short version: Arab mistreatment of the Palestinians is worse than anything they've ever accused the Israelis of doing... and it's been going on for almost sixty years.)

And how does the Palestinian Authority respond to such a roadblock? By sending their armed thugs, who sprayed the crowd with gunfire. (And then the armed thugs are chased away by Palestinians throwing stones!! The irony in that is just too thick for words.)

You'd think that opening fire on demonstrators would be statement enough, but apparently Abbas took it a step further:
Abbas’s Fatah organization, under extreme pressure from both without (violent Islamist factions jockeying for political position) and within (Palestinian security officers who feel increasingly hamstrung by the administration), decided to try a page from Hamas’s own playbook this weekend. Five members of Hamas were kidnapped (and later released relatively unharmed) in a move allegedly orchestrated by PA security officials and “members of the ruling Fatah party”.

Lo and behold, this morning there are reports of a truce between Hamas (among other violent factions) and Fatah.

Word to the wise, Mahmoud: we’ve learned over here that Hamas’s interpretation of the word “truce” is, shall we say, flexible. It also bears mentioning that their spiritual compatriots (and your sworn enemies), eager to see a rejuvenated Taliban in Gaza, are making noises in the neighborhood.

Watch your back.

I still hold out the hope that, somewhere in the mess that is Gaza, the Palestinians will pull a rabbit out of an empty hat, and find a statesman -- or even a warlord -- who can avert a bloodbath. But the historical record doesn't speak well for that chance.

Please note that, had the Palestinians been willing to live in peace with Israelis in the first place (instead of sending their children to blow themselves up in Israeli discotheques and pizza parlors), Israel would no doubt help the Palestinians with their internal troubles however possible. (Didn't Israel offer help to earthquake-devastated Pakistan, as she always does, worldwide, in times of emergency?)

But the Palestinians have long insisted that they wanted Israel out of their affairs... and that they were willing to kill as many Israelis as it took to accomplish that. Israel's Prime Minister Sharon has taken them at their word. Now Israel is more than content to sit back, watch the Judenrein Gaza Strip that the Palestinians claimed they wanted, and wonder at the sight of Palestinians killing each other.

UPDATE: My wife wonders if any Israelis are protesting this brutal mistreatment of Palestinians at the hands of Palestinians. I haven't heard of any, but it wouldn't surprise me!

UPDATE II: Gloria has responded, at great length. I did my best to respond in kind.



Condi Shows Some Steel

As seen at Gateway Pundit and The Indepundit (as linked to by The Instapundit... hey, maybe I should change my name to BrooklinePundit or something):
After Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made stops in Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and later to Tajikistan, she was not about to put up with any silliness from the Ex-Soviet Autocratic President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, on Thursday...
After their opening remarks, the Kazakh Leader left his podium. That is when Condi chased him down and brought him back to the podium to answer reporter's questions!
As is then pointed out, he had reason to run -- and Condi had reason to stop him:
QUESTION: Andrea Koppel with CNN. I have a question for both of you. Mr. President, one of your daughters controls the media. The other controls the main bank here. The opposition, the political opposition, is routinely harassed, arrested. What evidence is there that you are anything more than a dictator?
I've been less than impressed with Dr. Rice of late, as both of my regular readers will remember. I'm delighted to see her take a stand like this! -- and I hope we see more of the same.

(Wouldn't it be nice if, say, Mubarak was given no choice but to answer sharp questions? How about Assad?)


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