Friday, March 31, 2006
The Breathtaking Pace Of Technology
Based on a post at Varifrank, I got to wondering -- in how many ways is the word of 2006 not only different, but unrecognizably different, from previous times?
Let's start a list, the sort that would make teenage jaws drop:
- I sent my first e-mail when I was fifteen.
This was before public Internet access; I used a now-defunct service called MCI Mail. Since hardly anyone could receive e-mail then, MCI Mail would, for a fee, print out your e-mail for you and put it in an envelope! I was in my twenties, at university, before I first had access to the Internet -- and it was mostly text-only then. I couldn't believe that the system would let me write to college students all over the world for free; I kept expecting a whopping big bill to arrive in the mail. Paper mail, that is.
- I owned my first VCR when I was twenty.
Before that: you want to record a television show, and watch it more than once? Tough. You want to watch a movie at your own convenience? Go buy a movie theater.
- I was in my mid-twenties before I had cable television, or a television with a remote.
Yup: only three channels. When I lived in the United States, there was ABC, CBS, NBC, and UHF, which didn't really count; as a boy in Israel, there was Israel's TV station, Jordan's station, and maybe Egypt if you were lucky. Israel didn't even broadcast in color until I was eleven. And if you want to change the channel, you bloody well got up out of your chair and walked to the TV. Amazingly, we didn't see this as a hardship.
- I was in my twenties before I first saw or heard compact discs.
Before then, recorded music came on audio cassettes or big black records. You could copy them, but we spoke of "multi-generation" copies -- each copy would sound a little worse, until you could barely hear the music over the hiss. Digital media doesn't do that, of course -- I can copy a CD a hundred times, and each one sounds exactly like the original.
- I was nineteen before I first saw an affordable laser printer.
Before then, we used affordable dot-matrix printers (which produced blocky letters that were obviously made of big fat dots), which sounded like they were shredding the paper; or expensive and ultra-slow daisy-wheel printers (which were basically glorified typewriters, producing clean-printed text in a very specific font at a very specific size); they sounded like machine guns, and needed to be kept on a separate table so that they wouldn't shake the computer to pieces.
Personal computers in those days cost thousands of dollars, had (at most!) 640K of memory and 80MB hard disks (which we sometimes called "Winchesters", after the IBM code-name for the project that invented them). Networking was in its infancy; you got data from one computer to another on big square black 5 1/4" floppy disks, a term that was all too literal then. Each floppy held about 180K per side; you could flip them over and use the other side too, if you knew how, although the disk manufacturers discouraged you from doing that. A single CD-ROM today can hold as much as eighteen hundred of those double-sided floppies.
- I was thirty-three when I bought my first cell phone.
Before then: how did you stay in touch? With phones that had thick curly cords on them, that's how... and they generally had rotary-dials, not push-buttons. If you wanted to pace while you talked, you got a phone with a long cord; I got pretty good at splicing my own phone cords to save money. If you weren't at home or at work, you went looking for a public telephone, and hoped you had enough pocket change to feed it. Long-distance calls were expensive; you avoided calling out of state unless you had to, or you waited for special occasions.
- I was in my mid-thirties before I used Google for the first time.
Before then: remember libraries, folks, and card catalogues? Remember the Dewey Decimal System? Remember when you couldn't ask a random question and have an answer within moments?
Just think about the many, many things that people today take for granted, that were utterly unthinkable twenty-five years ago. I can take photographs and e-mail them instantly around the planet, using a device I carry in my pocket. I can carry a small library's worth of books and music around with me wherever I go. I don't bother to ask people for directions most of the time, although I have a lousy sense of direction; I type an address into MapQuest.com, and get everything I need, for free.
I'll continue adding to the list as I think of more items!
Thursday, March 30, 2006
The Erosion of Civil Liberties
...or, in this case, the voluntary decisions of people to give them up, getting nothing whatsoever in return for them.
A poorly-proofread article by Ethel C. Fenig in The American Thinker begins:
The liberals were right: our civil liberties are slowly disappearing now that George Bush is president.(formatting added)
Of course most of the liberals not only seem to approve of these infringements on our freedoms -- they initiate them...
Have a look... and, next time you shop at Borders, check out where their Korans are located.
UPDATE: On the subject of bookstores voluntarily -- and even pre-emptively -- surrendering without a fight (refusing to stock a magazine that published the Mohammed cartoons, moving the Korans to the top shelf so as not to offend Muslims, etc.), Stephen Green had this to say:
President Bush isn’t a fascist, and I can prove it.A good point. When was the last time you heard the Bush administration tell anyone not to publish anything?
We’ve seen what American bookstores and publications and universities do when confronted with real fascists: they knuckle under. You might not be able to find those Danish cartoons anyplace respectable, but you’ll sure find lots of anti-Bush stuff.
(Well, the NSA wiretaps are an example, I suppose: the White House asked the New York Times not to go public with their story on it, and they did sit on the story for a year... before going public, over the government's protestations. Has the New York Times suffered in the slightest for doing this?)
Compare that, if you will, to the frightened delight with which Iraqis defaced Saddam portraits in 2003. (One can only imagine what the penalty would have been while Saddam was still in power.)
I'm reminded of comments made about the much-hyped "Iraqi civil war". As the bloggers at Powerline put it, we know what a civil war looks like, because we had one of our own... and one of the first things that happened was that half of the commissioned officers of the US Army resigned, en masse, so that they could go fight for the South. This has not happened in Iraq, nor is it expected. "Civil war" is therefore grand rhetoric, nothing more.
Similarly, we know all too well what fascism is, having fought it in WWII and sacrificed a great many brave young people in that fight. But one of the classic hallmarks of fascism is a leader who cannot stand being criticized... and we most certainly do not have that here. (Bush may well hold the unenviable title of "American politician compared most frequently to Hitler". I don't know how he stands it, but he does.)
Civil liberties are being violated and threatened, certainly... but because we're voluntarily giving them up, not because they're being taken away from us.
A friend once commented to me that "an education is the one thing Americans are willing to pay for and not get". Perhaps Security should be added to that list -- we grudgingly pay for homeland security and a strong military, so long as they don't actually protect us from anything.
Not A Good Vacation Spot
In researching something else on MapQuest, I stumbled upon this:
What's even more interesting about this place is that it's hard to find. It appears to be a very small town, small enough that it has to borrow its zipcode from nearby Schuyler Falls. (Do a zipcode lookup at www.usps.gov, with zipcode 12985, and you'll be told that "Swastika NY" is "not acceptable" as a town name... which presumably means that the post office might not deliver mail addressed that way.)
Hmm. Any synagogues nearby, I wonder? (Google Local says not, to my thunderous surprise... any Jews foolish enough to live in Swastika, NY would need to go "over the river" to Burlington VT to worship.)
Please note also the misspelled "Jersalem NY", just about eighteen miles due north of Swastika. Sounds like a fun neighborhood!
UPDATE: Yes, I know there are some weird town-names scattered across America (and elsewhere). Two favorites of mine are Jim Thorpe, PA (which has a fascinating story behind it) and Toad Suck, AR (which doesn't). Essex County, Great Britain, has a town named Ugley... and, getting back to our original topic, I note that Cornwall County in Britain has a Jew Street. (So do Frankfurt, Lisbon, and other European cities.) The one in England is interesting, given that England formally expelled all Jews in 1290, and never formally rescinded the edict! But clearly there was a substantial enough Jewish population, many years later, for a street to be named accordingly.
Jill Carroll Freed
After being a hostage for three months in Iraq, having been kidnapped in a bloody firefight that killed Ms. Carroll's translator, and after her impending execution has been threatened many times, she has, inexplicably, been let go.
Now, don't get me wrong -- this is sensational news! I'm delighted that this story has a happy ending, unlike many of the other hostages taken in Iraq over the past three years.
Nonetheless, there are some fishy details here.
First: why on Earth was she let go, suddenly, with all demands dropped? (The original demands, if I recall correctly, were for all female Iraqi prisoners held by Allied forces to be released by February 26th; Ms. Carroll was to be killed on that date otherwise. So far as I know, these demands were not met.)
I refuse to believe in a sudden attack of conscience on the part of the hostage-takers. I've read the opinion that perhaps the hostage-takers were afraid of a military operation to rescue Ms. Carroll (and perhaps kill them all as well), but I'm not sure whether to believe that or not. A different angle was explored by Sen. John Thune this morning, commenting on talk radio and theorizing that the terrorists need to show "a human side" now and then; I don't believe that either.
(Sen. Thune had some other, extremely positive things to say about his recent visit to Iraq, and the conversations he had with troops at all levels there; in his words, we are "doing freedom's work". That's a powerful phrase; I'll have to remember that.)
A second thing that puzzles me about the whole inexplicable-hostage-release is how much Ms. Carroll is emphasizing how well she was treated by her captors:
According to the Associated Press, Carroll had a brief interview on Baghdad television Thursday morning, saying she “was treated well, but I don’t know why I was kidnapped.”These are the people that murdered your translator right in front of you, Ms. Carroll. If they are not the group that had previously sawed people's heads off, they certainly were comrades-in-arms with them. Saying "I felt I was not free" is not incorrect... but it's a bit like saying that the Grand Canyon isn't small, or that Uday Hussein sometimes wasn't nice to his dates.
“They never hit me. They never even threatened to hit me,” said Carroll, who was wearing a light green Islamic headscarf and a gray Arabic robe.
“I’m just happy to be free. I want to be with my family,” she was heard to say under the Arabic voiceover. “I felt I was not free. It was difficult because I didn’t know what would happen to me.”
Finally, there are the pictures. Here's a stock AP photo of Jill Carroll (left), with her twin sister Katie, from 1999:
Now here's the photo of her from Baghdad television, this morning, talking about her release:
I'm not assuming a case of Stockholm Syndrome here, necessarily. But there's definitely more here than meets the eye.
UPDATE: This is good to hear (hat tip: Powerline):
Carroll arrived at the Ramstein Air Base in southwestern Germany on Saturday from Balad Air Base in Baghdad. She strongly disavowed statements she had made during captivity in Iraq and shortly after her release, saying she had been repeatedly threatened.There's also a new picture:
In a video recorded before she was freed and posted by her captors on an Islamist Web site, Carroll spoke out against the U.S. military presence. On Saturday, she said the recording was made under duress.
"During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me I would be released if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. So I agreed," she said in a statement.
"Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not."
In the statement, Carroll also disavowed an interview she gave to the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni Arab organization in whose offices she was dropped off upon her release. She said the party had promised her the interview would not be aired "and broke their word."
"At any rate, fearing retribution from my captors, I did not speak freely. Out of fear, I said I wasn't threatened. In fact, I was threatened many times," she said. "Also, at least two false statements about me have been widely aired: One — that I refused to travel and cooperate with the U.S. military, and two — that I refused to discuss my captivity with U.S. officials. Again, neither statement is true."
Okay, so now we know why she looked and spoke the way she did upon her release. This still doesn't explain to me why she was released to begin with... but I'm very glad she was!
UPDATE II: John Noonan at The Officer's Club has some interesting conclusions on this:
Jill Carroll will not be the last Westerner to be kidnapped in Iraq, but she may be the last one released. Kidnapping is the only real way the insurgents can get airtime these days, which is why Jihadi propaganda comes with kneeling captives at their feet. Releasing Carroll was an experiment, one that failed from the insurgency's point of view. Carroll was released and immediately disavowed statements she made in captivity. The insurgents were exposed as a cheap propagandists, and their message was blurred in the celebration surrounding Carroll's return home. Killing a hostage makes a far more drastic statement than releasing one does, which is precisely why we're unlikely to see any more hostages released.I agree that this was an aberration... and I'd argue that the release itself was a sign of weakness on the part of the kidnappers.
And that has its own consequences. If it becomes generally understood that future captives will be killed, then future captives will have nothing to lose; they become kamikazes. (Remember Todd Beamer?)
Of course, it's also possible that people will draw the opposite conclusion: the terrorists have let one captive go, maybe now they'll let others go too. That would, in my opinion, be a serious mistake, one for which people could pay with their lives.And given the willful blindness we've seen from so much of the Journalist Class lately, I fear very much that we'll see other journalists taking unnecessary risks, emboldened by Ms. Carroll's release... and paying the price for their naivete.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
The Results Are In...
...and it's Kadima... but by no means as much as expected.
(Sorry, the English-language Globes site has less up-to-date information.)
My own informal translation follows:
Victory and Disappointment for Kadima; The Pensioners Astounded [Us]; Shas and Lieberman Are The Big Winners;The graph spells out the numbers, in terms of how many seats in Israel's 120-seat Knesset were won by the various parties. As put by the Israel Foreign Ministry:
The Likud Crumbles
With 99.5% of the votes counted, the results are: Kadima - 28 seats; Labor - 20 seats; Shas - 13; Lieberman - 12; Likud - 11; Pensioners - 7. Netanyahu: "I will not resign". Olmert: "A majority for the disengagement plan".
After an election season full of surprising developments, the citizens of Israel awake this morning to an entirely different political landscape from the familiar one of years past.
From counting 99.5% of the voters' ballots, it seems that the Kadima party has won 28 [Knesset] seats, and on the party's head, Ehud Olmert, the mission will apparently fall to form a new coalition government. The Labor party won 20 seats and is the second-largest...
Elections to the 17th Knesset were held on March 28, 2006, with voter turnout of 63.2%.Some valuable background information on Israeli elections in general, with some details about this one in particular, can be found here.
With 99.5 percent of the votes counted, Kadima has won 28 seats, Labor 20, Shas 13, Yisrael Beiteinu 12, Likud 11, National Union-National Religious Party 9, Gil (pensioners) 7, United Torah Judaism 6, Meretz 4, United Arab List/Arab Renewal 4, Hadash 3, and National Democratic Assembly 3.
The members of the 17th Knesset will be sworn in on April 17.
It's an embarrassing statement about Israeli politics that a "Pensioner's Party" exists at all. (A few years ago there was a "Taxi Driver's Party", which seemed interested mainly in revoking the seat-belt law for taxi-drivers. They got nowhere.) It's all the more embarrassing that the Pensioner's Party got 7 seats, or nearly 6% of the vote... which means that they will likely become the 'swing vote' in a coalition government, with tremendous power for making or breaking deals.
With whom will Kadima try to form a coalition government? As of now, nobody really knows for sure. Acting Prime Minister Olmert has given orders, to his negotiating teams, to try to form as broad-based a coalition as possible -- but that could mean anything.
Chances are, Kadima will not invite Likud into the coalition. (Kadima is largely composed of ex-Likud members, looking for a fresh start.) Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beiteinu ("Israel is our home"), a right-of-center party that's more polarized than Likud, seems even less likely to join Kadima in a coalition... but stranger things have happened.
I could easily see Kadima joining forces with Labor; add in Meretz (a secular left-of-center party) and the Pensioners, and that's still 59 seats, or not quite a majority. I will earnestly hope that they will not push themselves over the top by including one of the special-interest Arab parties. I don't see how any of the religious parties (Shas, NRP, United Torah Judaism) could be serious candidates for the coalition, but there's usually at least one religious party in the government; perhaps they'll work it out.
So now, all eyes are on Olmert. Perhaps he'll pull it together, and find a way to emerge from Ariel Sharon's shadow and lead Israel boldly. I doubt it... but I sure hope he can do it.
By the way, a great many more parties ran in these elections (31 in all!); the list above only includes those that got enough votes to earn at least one seat in the Knesset. Here are some of the parties that were on the ballot, but didn't get enough votes to make it in:
- The Green Leaf party (a single-issue party, advocating legalization of marijuana)
- The Green party (environmentalists, equivalent to the European Greens)
- The Party for the Struggle with the Banks (another single-issue, it seems!)
- The Strength to the Poor party (poor enough themselves, it seems, that they can't afford a Website)
Some older, respected parties, with a history of service in prior governments, also didn't make it in:
- Herut (under Michael Kleiner; was originally the forerunner of Likud)
- Tzomet (originally Rafael Eitan's party, now run by Moshe Green)
When Americans complain about the Electoral College system, and how it makes the entry of a new party into American national politics all-but-impossible, I generally respond that that's precisely the point! -- and I use Israeli politics as a counterexample. With such a laundry-list of political parties to choose from, it's next to impossible for a single party to get a majority of the vote... and, in fact, it has never yet happened. (David Ben-Gurion, Israel's George Washington in more ways than one, never got anything close to the unanimous vote that Washington enjoyed. Heck, he never even got a majority of the vote.)
There's also the point that the Electoral College saves the United States from the awful possibility of a nationwide vote recount (imagine Florida in 2000, if we'd had to do that for the entire country!)... but I digress.
UPDATE: Daniel T. warns me that I may be violating copyright by posting a screen-shot of the globes.co.il page. I don't think so, but if this presents a problem, I'll substitute something else, and update this post accordingly.
Daniel T. also regrets that I didn't list Atid Echad (One Future), another party that didn't make the cut... and whose number-three man is a neighbor, here in the Boston area, who goes to the same synagogue that Daniel does. (It's a small world, isn't it?)
UPDATE II: Paul of Powerline makes a strong point:
It's interesting, but not heartening, to compare these fragmented election results, in the context of low voter turnout, to the crystal clear Palestinian election results. A people who knows what it wants has a big advantage over a people who is unclear. And when the former wants destruction of the latter, things become scary.Indeed they do.
I have yet to see a Hamas response to the election results (unless you count the Katyusha rockets fired into Israel from Gaza on election day). I am certain, however, that Hamas will not change their ways... although they may change their rhetoric. They have been dedicated to the utter destruction of Israel for quite some time, and show no signs of changing that.
Later: I added some text to this entry, colored green so that you can see my changes.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Election Day in Israel
I'm watching the exit polls, as summarized by Allison Kaplan and Aussie Dave... and the results are disheartening, at least to me.
Mind you, this is a trying time for Israel by any standard. She needs a statesman to guide her through this period... and she hasn't got one.
We thought Sharon could do it -- he was heavy-handed at times, and his policies and reversals infuriated a lot of people. Some of his policies were good ideas, marred by blundering implementation on the ground. But he led, at a time when Israel desperately needs leadership... and took Israel in a new direction, one that put Israeli security squarely in Israeli hands for the first time in nearly fifteen years.
But Sharon is gone... and there is no one to take his place. Olmert, who inherited the head of Sharon's Kadima party, offered me some hope, before he started wooing Shimon Peres, Israel's geriatric perennial loser, the man who never saw an ivory tower he didn't want to live in. Benjamin Netanyahu, as head of Likud, could be a reasonable leader in peaceful times... but Israel has never known peaceful times, and so far it looks like there won't be much left of Likud for Netanyahu to lead. The Labor party has surged ahead of Likud, which does not encourage me in the slightest; Amir Peretz, the new head of Labor, seems determined to ignore international politics and focus on domestic issues. (An isolationist Israeli makes far less sense than even an isolationist American.)
The only Israeli politician with the spark of statesmanhood in him, that I know of, is Natan Sharansky... and he may be out of politics entirely. Keep an eye on him.
With such uninspiring choices, particularly after the dynamo that was Sharon, it's no wonder that Israelis went to the polls in low numbers -- the lowest in Israel's history. (63% nevertheless seems quite high by American standards, as many are pointing out; Americans can afford to be more apathetic about elections that Israelis can.)
I don't fear for Israel's future. But I do think Israel is in for a difficult time.
UPDATE: Israeli newspaper Hatzofeh seems to agree with me:
Hatzofeh says that the election results, "constitute a very serious blow to the Right," and warns that, "These elections are liable to bring about additional expulsions." Thus, the editors believe that, "There should be no doubts; we are heading into a difficult period."(translation thanks to the Israeli Foreign Ministry.)
Monday, March 27, 2006
As seen at the Big Lizards blog: an AP report of violence in Iraq in which all potentially pro-American context is removed, American reports get "scare quotes" but enemy reports are taken as unvarnished fact... and even the final numbers don't add up.
This, coupled with the willingness of American Congressmen and Senators to give defeatist press conferences -- from Baghdad! -- and thereby aid the enemy while demoralizing our own troops, adds up to a scary picture.
This used to be a no-brainer, people. One can certainly dispute the events that led us to war; but once we're fighting a war, and our troops are overseas fighting and dying for us, some of the debate should end. Once we're fighting the war, we must win it -- or we'll have to fight it all over again in a few years, under conditions far worse than what we have now.
We should not be speaking of retreat. Retreat is a last-ditch tactic, to be used when the only good we can possibly hope to achieve is to save our own lives. That is emphatically not the case here -- American troops are still doing a world of good in Iraq, by anyone's standards.
We must not leave before the job is done. We must not leave until Iraqi troops are able to shoulder the burden without us. That American lawmakers -- some of them veterans! -- should demand that we cut and run is inexcusable. I don't know if they're saying it from mind-numbing ignorance of the consequences of what they propose, or whether it's blinding stupidity, or just callous political maneuvering. I don't care. None of those characteristics belong in a government at war.
Winston Churchill had some words to say, on the subject of retreating from a winning battle:
"Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, and still yet if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you, and only a precarious chance for survival. - There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."There are times, and enemies, against whom not fighting is simply not an option. If we do not fight them today, on the ground of our choosing, then we will have to fight them tomorrow... on the ground of their choosing.
Last time we let the terrorists set their own agenda, the ground they chose was Ground Zero, the World Trade Center in New York City. Who wants to wait to see where they'll pick next?
(hat tips to Power Line and the Instapundit.)
Sunday, March 26, 2006
For The Jugglers Among Us
This has been making the e-mail rounds, and so you've probably seen it already. But if you haven't, by all means, check it out:
The guy, Chris Bliss, turns out to be a stand-up comedian (as well as one heck of a juggler).
When you dig deeper, however, you find that there are an awful lot of talented jugglers out there! Check this out too, for example:
That's juggler Jason Garfield, having fun by juggling to the Chris Bliss soundtrack... except that he's juggling five balls, not three!
And don't miss the ten-second (silent) sequence at the end, in which another juggler (or is that Jason Garfield again?) juggles five balls in each hand:
Jugglingjon.net has some good moves too.
And can anybody tell me who this guy is??
Friday, March 24, 2006
A lot has been said online about the seriously-flawed Mearsheimer-Walt study. As my own (extremely modest) contribution to the discussion, let me point you to an editorial on the subject from the Metro West Daily News of northern Massachusetts:
In their paper, called "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy," the bias of authors John J. Mearsheimer of Harvard University, and Stephen M. Walt of the University of Chicago is so apparent that it discredits the entire work.There's more in the same vein. Please take a moment to read the whole thing.
It is a document rife with innuendoes and inaccuracies. Even a cursory revue of the paper reveals sloppy scholarship. The list of errors, misstatements, and faulty logic that run throughout this paper is long and disturbing. One of their underlying assumptions, stated by the authors in a footnote on the very first page, is an excellent example of the carelessness that characterizes the paper: "The mere existence of the [Israel] lobby suggests that unconditional support for Israel is not in the American national interest. If it was [sic], one would not need an organized special interest group to bring it about." The circular reasoning of their argument is incoherent on its face, lacking both logic and common sense.
In a democratic system like ours, the broad spectrum of opinion that defines our way of life demands that we continually discuss and dispute the various positions upon which policy is decided. When we disagree on an issue, we attempt to convince each other of the justification for our position. It is precisely because of this that organizations are created to champion diverse positions. They help to clarify the complex issues that face law and policymakers every day. In this case, the opening assumption of their paper is flawed and misguided.
In fact, the whole paper is full of errors, large and small. A matter as simple as Israel's current population is incorrectly stated at 6,276,883. The number is precise but inaccurate. Israel's population recently reached eight million, a fact that was reported extensively in the press, and could have been verified with very little effort...
(Oh, and the author of the editorial is Ilana Freedman. Good work, Mom!)
Thursday, March 23, 2006
The Internet Has Everything
...and it continues to surprise me what you can find, here and there:
A tip-o'-the-hat to The Sandmonkey!
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Once again, I've neglected (and happily rediscovered) a fertile source of insight, amusement, and clever commentary. For example, you can find all three in one of today's articles at The American Thinker: "Terrorists Fight Like Girls", by Major Sharon Tosi Moore.
The title alone makes it worth reading... and the fact that it was written by an American female Army officer just makes the ironies all the more tasty. (I could easily see a Cox & Forkum cartoon coming out of this!)
Also to be found at TAT is a new series of articles, called "Prospects of Terror: An Inquiry into Jihadi Alternatives" by J.R. Dunn, exploring the history and prospective future of jihad. The first and second articles are now available, and both deserve your attention. (The first was the source of a thoughtful essay at The Belmont Club, also an extremely worthwhile read.)
Another interesting quote at TAT (a quote, alas, not an article) reads as follows:
“Anyone who declares war on Israel declares war on the European Union.” [said] Hans-Gert Poettering, German member of the European Parliament and chairman of the Group of the European People’s Party and European Democrats, the largest in the 732-strong EP. Poettering made the opening remarks Tuesday at a workshop on “The role of textbooks in the Middle East conflict” hosted by MEP Jana Hybaskova.Frankly, I think that anyone declaring war on Israel has a lot more to fear from the Israel Defense Forces than from the European Union. But it's always nice to know people care.
(Time will tell if this statement is anything more than a momentary aberration, of course. By the usual historical standards, Iran has already declared war on Israel.)
In any event, if you have not read The American Thinker lately, you should!
UPDATE: J.R. Dunn's third article on Jihad is out -- on the subject of what America can expect from the Jihadis in years to come, and vice versa.
It's not an easy or pleasant read by any means. He openly predicts that the United States will let its guard down in a big way after President Bush steps down; he matter-of-factly states that 'the Bush Doctrine is dead'; and speculates openly on the next major Jihadi attack on American soil, which is, he says, almost certain to be of the WMD variety.
He also proposes a bold answer to these concerns (while simultaneously admitting that he does not expect his answer to be implemented) -- the empowerment of the American people in their own defense:
Let’s consider a single possibility: how to deal with a new attack on an American target. The simplest and most effective method of meeting such an eventuality would be a people’s militia. This is a word that has been tarnished in recent years, so it’s best to emphasize that what is meant is how the term is used in the Constitution: the people assembled for the purpose of the defense of the public liberty. The threat to the United States is effectively universal; the response should be as well.(emphasis added)
. . .
At this point, victims of a disaster are supposed to sit and wait until FEMA shows up with its laptops and forms in triplicate. We saw how well this worked in New Orleans. Suppose instead we had one house in each neighborhood with a supply of atropine and potassium iodide, and people trained to use it? (The first of these is a specific against many types of nerve gas, the second a preventive medicine to stop radioactive isotopes from settling in the thyroid. Both are extremely simple to use, requiring little in the way of medical training.)
The armed units of such a militia would keep order and prevent terrorists from taking advantage of a strike. Medical units would carry out preventive treatment and first aid, evacuation units would either get people away from the scene or persuade them to remain in their homes, whichever response was appropriate, while acting as sources of legitimate information.
(Many people in this country already own suitable rescue vehicles; they’re called pickups and SUVs.)
One of the few heartening things about 9/11 was watching people appear from all across the country to aid and assist the city of New York. Firemen, policemen, and ordinary people got into their cars and drove sometimes thousands of miles, simply to lend a hand. That is the response we’d be looking to harness. There is nothing more American than this, and the fact that no effort has been made to take advantage of it is difficult to fathom. Consider what the Katrina farce would have been like with such an organization in place.
. . .
Of course, it won’t happen. It is straightforward, it’s workable, and it utilizes the American traditions of competence, community, and initiative. But it’s also against the spirit of the age, the rebirth of Big Government, the drift toward centralization and bureaucracy. In this paradigm, the U.S. citizenry is viewed not as a resource, as a reservoir of talent, ability, and good will, but as part of the problem, to be cajoled, hoodwinked, and manipulated into doing what the bureaucrats think is necessary. The results can be seen in Louisiana.
Please give this some serious thought. You can start by reading the whole thing... and then contemplating how you, personally, can be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
The War on Terror was not invented by George W. Bush, and it will not go away when he leaves. The world really did change on Sept. 11 2001, as the cliche goes, and it will not change back, no matter how much we wish it would.
This war will be with us for the long haul... because the Jihadis won't have it any other way. It behooves us to be ready for them.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
An Insider's Look at Palestinian Culture
Israpundit reprints a well-nigh-unbelievable story from the Jerusalem Post (available for a fee):
Amnon’s “aliya” began when he snuck across the border from Gaza nearly eight years ago. Formally “Ayman” from Khan Yunis, 28-year-old Amnon Itzhak Shahar left his Palestinian past in the Gaza refugee camp where he grew up. He converted to Judaism three years ago, and now looks forward to strengthening Israel against the “terrorists in the territories.”This man, born and bred in the Gaza Strip as a Palestinian, has discovered that Israel is where he prefers to live, and that an Israeli is who he wants to be:
A vocal supporter of the Likud party, Shahar is featured in the party’s upcoming promotional broadcasts lauding the tough stance it advocates for Israel against the Palestinians. He is hoping to sway Israeli voters to vote Likud - “the only party strong enough,” he says, “to deal with the Palestinians.”
“From the time I was a little boy, I remember everyone would always call out to kill Israelis… that they are three-legged monsters that should be killed so we [Palestinians] could reclaim our grandparents’ lands,” he says.This is a good illustration of a central conflict in Palestinian national identity -- the fierce hatred of all things Israeli, while simultaneously being utterly dependent on Israel's economy for jobs. Mr. Shahar's father, who beat him for not hating Israel enough, had no choice but to turn to Israel for work -- because there was none to be had at home.
Shahar traces the flight from his Palestinian and Muslim identity back to the early age of six, when he received a candy from an Israeli soldier operating near his home.
He suffered frequent beatings at the hands of his father and school teachers for questioning the gap between what he was told about Israelis and what he perceived for himself.
Shahar recalls the zealous hatred which his family, neighbors and peers expressed for Israelis, but says that fire never burned in him. Showing reservation when teachers led his class in cries for the destruction of Israel, he recalls the fierce punishments he received when he did not participate. His parents regularly expressed their shame over him.
When Shahar first ventured into Israel at age 11, joining his father at work at a construction site in Rishon Lezion, he relates, “I remember looking for that third leg that Israelis were supposed to have and not seeing it. I was confused.”
Israelis at the construction site treated him kindly, he recalls; he yearned to go back again. At age 13, Shahar left school and returned to Rishon Lezion, where he spent several years residing and working illegally. Shahar says that while he severed contact with his family back in Khan Yunis, in Rishon Lezion he forged a connection and was “adopted” by the family who purchased one of the houses he worked on. He recalls joining the family for his first Pessah Seder and being mesmerized by the holiday and its story.
“I wanted that holiday to be mine. It is something amazing,” he says.
The Palestinian Authority has been in control of Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1994 -- and, instead of building an economy and generating work and wealth for Palestinians, has instead oppressed them worse than Israel was ever accused of doing.
Mr. Shahar also contrasts his treatment at the hands of Israeli and Palestinian authorities:
When he turned 19, Israeli authorities arrived at the construction site where he worked and deported him back into Gaza. In a Palestinian court he admitted wanting to be an Israeli, and was thrown into a local prison where, while incarcerated, Shahar says he suffered repeated abuse.Israel deported him to Gaza, presumably for staying illegally in Israel proper without a permit; but in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority arrested him and tortured him. (Arrested him for what? Perhaps for being a dreaded "collaborator".) In Israel, by contrast, he evaded prison with the same statement that led to his torture in Gaza: "I want to be an Israeli".
“I was hung upside down,” he recalls. “They threw hot water on me and gave me electric shocks.”
At the end of his six-month sentence, the court placed him under house arrest at his parents’ home. Shortly after, his “shamed” parents kicked him out into the street. “They were embarrassed by me,” he explains.
Several months later, after scraping by and sleeping on the streets of Khan Yunis, Shahar eventually saved up enough money and crossed back into Israel, returning to work at another Rishon Lezion construction site. A heightened number of terrorist attacks at the time saw Israeli police out in droves, and within a few weeks Shahar was arrested again. At his trial, he expressed to the presiding judge his desire to become an Israeli citizen. Moved by his story, she aided in launching his naturalization process.
And now he is one, living in a one-bedroom apartment in Rishon le-Zion (near Tel Aviv), eager to spread his message: that Israel must deal with the Palestinian Authority uncompromisingly, for the PA will give no quarter to Israel:
He claims Palestinians need to be controlled with an iron fist because, he says, any concessions they are given will be met with the same type of Kassam rocket barrages that have hit the areas surrounding Gaza since the pullout.By all means, read the whole thing.
“All they want is to kill Israelis, that’s what they are constantly told. They cannot be trusted,” Shahar maintains.
. . .
He opposes the notion of a Palestinian state, which he claims would turn into a terrorist hotbed. Israel must assume control over the entire population, Shahar says.
“The Palestinians need to be controlled,” he repeats. “Israeli forces should enter the territories and clean them up.”
. . .
The Palestinians need to be afraid of Israel, Shahar believes. “They call an Israeli premier who doesn’t do anything ‘a barking dog that doesn’t bite.’ We need to bring a dog that will both bark and bite. They need to be taught a lesson on acting up against Israel.”
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Back To Work...
Well, that was fun! -- my first-ever Instalanche. (Darn near doubled my lifetime stats in a few hours, too.)
But now it's time to get back to work... the work of preparing my quartet for contest, that is. We're entered in one of the spring contests for the Barbershop Harmony Society for this weekend, meaning that blogging will be light. So check out the archives, if you're so inclined, and wish us luck!
UPDATE: The contest has come and gone. We didn't do as well as we'd hoped we might, but we didn't do badly either!
A few days ago, I got my copy of Glenn Reynolds' new book An Army of Davids:
I actually found it an easier read than I was expecting:
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Thanks to The Professor for linking... and to Daniel T. for putting him up to it. (And no, that wasn't a photoshop; the photos were not digitally edited. Draw your own conclusions.)
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Ahmad Saadat in Israeli Custody
I've hesitated to blog about this until a clearer picture emerged. Until yesterday evening, reports were conflicting -- Israel had stormed a Palestinian Authority-controlled prison in Jericho, demanding the surrender of prisoner Ahmad Saadat (a leader of the PFLP, and part of the group that assassinated Israeli Minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001). The prison had been under the supervision of British and American guards, who left suddenly yesterday; the circumstances were unclear.
During the process, Saadat reportedly claimed that he'd never surrender. I don't know what persuaded him to change his mind, but he did surrender himself to Israeli authorities, who now have him (and several other Palestinian prisoners) in custody.
A press release from Israel's Foreign Ministry attempts to make everything clear:
Following the violation of agreements by the Palestinian Authority, IDF units entered Jericho on Tuesday, March 14, 2006, to rearrest the terrorists responsible for assassinating Israeli minister Rehavam Ze'evi, as well as other senior terrorists being held in the local PA prison. The prisoners surrendered after a 10-hour siege of the prison.(emphasis and link added)
American and British inspectors, who had been monitoring the implementation of the agreements reached between Israel and the PA on the incarceration of the terrorists, had left the city after the PA violated the agreements and declared its intention to release the murderers. Israel decided to take action only after the terrorists were no longer under the supervision of the international inspectors. The Israeli operation in Jericho was meant solely to ensure that the murderers of an Israeli minister remain behind bars.
In October 2001, terrorists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) shot to death tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi as he left his room in a Jerusalem hotel. The murderers were then harbored by Yasser Arafat in his command compound in Ramallah. During Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, IDF units surrounded the compound and demanded the assassins be brought to justice. Through the mediation of US President George W. Bush, an arrangement was reached whereby US and British wardens would take responsibility for the imprisonment of the murderers in an isolated Palestinian prison facility. The arrangement was approved by Israel's cabinet on April 28, 2002, and the terrorists were transferred to the PA's Jericho prison.
Israel would have preferred to continue this arrangement, but could no longer do so after the American and British wardens were forced to leave the prison. The international monitors could no longer fulfill their functions due to a dangerous deterioration of their personal security and continued Palestinian violations of the agreement. As British Foreign Secretary Straw stated following the IDF operation: "The UK and the US have repeatedly raised our concerns over the security of our monitors with the Palestinian Authority and urged them to meet their obligations under the Ramallah agreement. Unfortunately, there has been no improvement. The Palestinian Authority has consistently failed to meet its obligations."
Public statements by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas left no doubt that the murderers' release was imminent. Following the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January, Meshaal repeatedly and publicly demanded that the PFLP terrorists held in Jericho be set free. In addition, Abbas said in an interview to Israel's Channel 10 on February 24 that he had no objection to the murderers' release. These statements by the most senior Palestinian leadership indicated clearly that, following the forced departure of the international wardens, the release of Ze'evi's assassins was about to occur.
It is important to note that Israel made every effort to avoid casualties during the operation, which was planned and carried out with the sole purpose of assuring the continued incarceration of terrorist murderers. At all stages of the operation, care was taken to reduce the risks to bystanders and the prison inmates were allowed to surrender with their safety ensured, even though by doing so, Israel increased the vulnerability of it own forces.
The operation was concluded as soon as the objective was achieved. The willingness of Ze'evi's assassins to surrender to Israeli forces, and their being taken into Israeli custody unharmed, demonstrates how Israel's intentions were clearly understood by all the relevant parties, including the terrorists.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry website has more, including the text of a letter from the British and American consuls regarding PA security breaches:
March 8, 2006Follow the link to see a list of terror attacks for which these six prisoners were responsible.
President, Palestinian Authority
The Palestinian Authority has never fully complied with basic provision of the agreement that established the US and UK Jericho Monitoring Mission. While the six detainees - Fuad Shobaki, Ahmad Sa’adat, Iyad Gholmi, Hamdi Qur’an, Majdi Rmawi, and Basel al-Asmar - are held in continuous custody at the Jericho Prison, the Palestinian Authority has consistently failed to comply with core prevision of the Jericho monitoring arrangement regarding visitors, cell searches, telephone access and correspondence. Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority has failed to provide secure conditions for the US and US personnel working gat the Jericho Prison. Repeated demarches by our governments to the highest levels of the Palestinian Authority have not resulted in improved compliance with the Jericho monitoring arrangements. The pending handover of governmental power to a political party that has repeatedly called for the release of the Jericho detainees also calls into question the political sustainability of the monitoring mission.
If the Palestinian Authority would like the US and UK to continue their involvement with the monitoring mission, conditions at the Jericho Prison must be brought into full compliance with the Jericho monitoring arrangements. Alternatively, the Palestinian Authority can come to a new arrangement with the Government of Israel regarding the disposition of the six detainees. Likewise, adequate measures must be put in place to assure the security of the US and UK personnel working at the prison. Regrettably, if the Palestinian Authority does [not] into come into full compliance with the Jericho monitoring arrangement and make substantive improvements to the security of the US and UK personnel working at the prison, or come to a new agreement with the Government of Israel, we will have to terminate our involvement with the Jericho monitoring arrangements and withdraw our monitors with immediate effect.
I hope you understand our concerns and the seriousness with which we take this matter.
Jacob Walles (US Consul General)
John Jenkins (UK Consul General)
Press of this event elsewhere, as one might expect, has been spotty. The BBC, for example, had this to say:
All Palestinian factions called on businesses and schools to close after Ahmed Saadat gave himself up after troops stormed his jail in Jericho.Please note the subtle implications. The US & UK monitors left after "complaining about lax security" (making the monitors sound petulant and childish). Note that Israel had no complaints at all about the actions of the foreign monitors; see above.
The West Bank raid began when UK and US monitors left the Palestinian-run prison complaining about lax security.
Gunmen have released all 11 of the foreigners kidnapped in retaliation.
Two French citizens and a South Korean journalist had been held hostage by Palestinian gunmen overnight, but they have now been handed over to Palestinian police.
The authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip remain on high alert fearing further anti-Western violence, a day after the British Council cultural centre in Gaza City was set ablaze.
Gunmen have released all 11 of the foreigners kidnapped in retaliation... my, isn't that nice of them! Israel insists that prisoners remain in custody, per international agreement, and takes steps to ensure that prisoners remain in prison. In response, Palestinians take hostages and set cultural centers on fire.
In candor unusual for the BBC (with respect to coverage of Israel, at least), the BBC admits that there might have been some justification for the raid:
The military said Tuesday's prison raid was necessary because several militants had been about to be freed by the Palestinian authorities.I'm not seeing much else in the press about this today, which surprises me. I'd have expected worldwide condemnation of Israel, in league with Palestinian demands... but apparently not this time. (Meryl Yourish has found some fun commentary by AP. It's the usual stuff -- AP quoting Palestinian wild claims without comment, while refusing to quote Israeli officials as well... oh, and emphasizing the Palestinian rioting, and blaming it squarely on Israel. Move on, nothing to see here, just some ordinary AP anti-Israel bias.)
Mr Saadat has been in Palestinian custody since early in 2002 - and was moved to Jericho under international supervision in a deal to lift Israel's siege of Yasser Arafat's Muqataa compound in Ramallah in May of that year.
The following month the Palestinian High Court ordered his release, saying there was no evidence to link him to the Zeevi assassination.
He was elected to parliament earlier this year, and both Mr Abbas and the militant election victors, Hamas, had spoken of releasing him soon.
More AP bias can be found here, if you've acquired a taste for it -- along with a great quote from Palestinian figurehead Mahmoud Abbas:
Abbas cut short a European trip and called the raid an "unforgivable crime" and "an insult to the Palestinian people" as he toured the demolished complex.Time to grow up and learn how to handle insults, buddy.
I might add that, according to James Taranto's Best of the Web, quoting a month-old Jerusalem Post article -- link unavailable, sorry -- Hamas was full of bravado about this, right up until it actually happened:
Hamas Leader Khaled Mashaal said on Friday [Feb. 24] that the new Hamas-led Palestinian parliament would release the assassins of former tourism minister Rehavam Ze'evi from the Jerico jail where they have been incarcerated for the past four years. . . .Hmm. Who's angry now?
Asked about Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz's warnings against any moves to release the murderers, Mashaal said, "Israel always threatens and makes assurances, but it does not scare us. We will do what our people need whether it angers Israel or not."
I continue to await a Palestinian willing to exert authority and responsibility, at the same time. I will refrain from holding my breath.
UPDATE: Roger Simon gets it:
Not missing a beat to curry favor with his constituents, desperate politician Mahmoud Abbas has called the Israeli raid on the Jericho prison an "unforgivable crime." Hyperventilating a bit there, are we, Mahmoud? Now let's see... Hamas says they are about to free a group of terrorists from that prison, including Ahmed Saadat (secretary general of the notorious PFLP), then the British and American monitors leave the premises, fearing for their own safety, and the Israelis are supposed to do what? Sit on their rear ends? Negotiate with Mahmoud Abbas - a lame duck who was never more than a figurehead in the first place and is now a joke? Talk to Hamas who doesn't even recognize their existence and are terrorists themselves? Let's get serious. Even if this weren't in the midst of an Israeli electoral campaign, the result would be obvious. The people who should really be playing close attention to this are the Iranians - and I would imagine they are. Because it is an example of how the Israelis take action when their interests are threatened. They'll do it again.
Indeed they will. Israel has, on occasion, adopted long-term policies that proved disastrous. But when the time came for immediate action, Israel has always done what needed to be done, and offered apologies as necessary later.
UPDATE II: Gloria Salt has her own cheerfully-worded commentary on this:
The most striking event of the past week was the — how shall I put it? — transitioning of the murderers of Israeli MK Rehavam Ze’evi from a Palestinian prison in Jericho, from which they were about to be sprung, into Israeli custody, where they belong. It’s an interesting story on many levels — the strikingly abrupt departure by the British and American monitors who finally lost patience with the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to uphold its obligation to protect them; the hissy fit thrown by Mahmoud Abbas, which was chutzpadik even for him (accusing the Brits and Americans of reneging on a deal he’d been reneging on since it was inked); the remarkably good timing of the IDF action from the point of view of Olmert’s Kadima party (which begs the question whether the monitors’ departure really was quite as strikingly abrupt as it seemed from the outside); the candy-ass response of the murderers’ PFLP buddies back in the territories (running around grabbing foreigners, making dopey comments to the media, releasing the foreigners and then fading instantly back into the woodwork); the non-response of Hamas to the PFLP mayhem (perhaps an homage to the uselessness of the Fatah police in the days when it was Hamasniks running amok), and more.(Gloria was even kind enough to link to me. It seems only proper to return the favor.)
It really is like the Wild West in Gaza these days, isn't it? (Except that I don't see John Wayne in evidence anywhere, or even Gary Cooper -- too bad, they're badly needed.)
Perhaps, in decades to come, people will make movies about the gunfights and civil anarchy in the Palestinian territories, and call them "Easterns".
UPDATE III: The escalating war of chutzpa continues: Ahmad Saadat is now suing the British Government. Why? For failing to protect him from the Israeli Army! (hat tip: LGF.)
Monday, March 13, 2006
Okay, Now I've Seen Everything|
Friday, March 10, 2006
Counterterror: A War For Hearts & Minds
A blog I've sadly neglected lately, Wretchard's Belmont Club, has, as usual, had some fascinating, thought-provoking, and disturbing things to say. Yesterday's post, The Cult, speaks of "deprogramming" jihadis as a useful weapon in the war on terror -- attacking the problem ideologically, in other words, treating captured jihadis the way we sometimes treat brainwashed cult fanatics. Interestingly, this seems to be working.
Wretchard has a lot to say about the long, long history of doing such things... which leads to a discussion of counter-terror, the efforts to make your enemy more afraid of you than you are of him:
One psywar operation played upon the popular dread of an asuang, or vampire.... When a Huk patrol came along the trail, the ambushers silently snatched the last man of the patrol.... They punctured his neck with two holes, vampire-fashion, held the body up by the heels, drained it of blood, and put the corpse back on the trail. When the Huks returned to look for the missing man and found their bloodless comrade, every member of the patrol believed that the asuang had got him and that one of them would be next.... When daylight came, the whole Huk squadron moved out of the vicinity.Pretty cold-blooded and vicious, by pacifistic standards. But think about it from a military perspective -- by killing one enemy soldier, and leaving him for his comrades-in-arms to find, an entire large combat unit was banished from an area... and we can safely assume that all the survivors were less effective fighters than they were before. To a military mind, that's an extremely cheap and effective victory.
The fighting in question, by the way, was in the Philippines, circa 1950. There's more where that came from, if you're interested.
But Wretchard ties it all together in his conclusion:
Leafing through history, one realizes that it is possible to write an account of warfare without mentioning a single weapons system other than the human mind. The reader can try to expunge from the tale all reference to the human heart, but in vain: for man is at the center of warfare. His will is its ultimate prize; his broken body its ultimate currency. In that light the "deprogramming" efforts of the Australian Federal Police in the dingy corners of the world are simply a return of warfare to its roots. The jihadis want our souls; the rule in warfare is that we will want theirs.Indeed. And I'm grateful that, in the ideological war, we're beginning to take the fight back to the enemy.
By all means, read the whole thing.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Looking For Slogans?|
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
On Media Irresponsibility In General
Thanks to the Instapundit, this well-written and well-thought-out post by The Opinionated Bastard (emphasis added):
I want to be able to read the New York Times or watch CNN, or listen to NPR and be able to trust what they're telling me. Since I can't do that, since the media is no longer fulfilling their basic function, I have to blog, and I have to read blogs. It pisses me off, because I had better things to do this decade than be my own news service.Bingo.
I don't like having to read transcripts of press conferences because I can't trust the media to even write down what was said correctly. I don't like having to spend hours finding real experts on the web to analyze how this or that media expert has distorted the facts. I don't like having to pore through the blogs of journalists, soldiers and Iraqi citizens so I can get some inkling of how things are really going, without the hype. Even though I do it, I don't even like having to download the Brookings report once/month in order to see what the numbers say about how the war is going.
But I have to do all that, because its the only way I can truly be an informed citizen.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that most of all, I blame the media for being incompetent.
Whenever the Mainstream Media complains about blogs and bloggers, in capacity, I want to remind them: technology made blogging possible, but they made blogging necessary. If the newspapers, networks, magazines, and news radio stations were providing reliable news coverage, we wouldn't need alternate sources.
The sad fact is that we do... and the mainstream media doesn't seem willing to do anything about it.
On the flip side, though, I have to say that what's bad for the newspapers, in this case, is good for America. The newspapers certainly don't want every news-savvy American to go searching for their news, tracking down multiple sources, and so forth; they don't want us Americans "spoiled" to the extent that we expect a link to every pertinent fact, so that we can check the sources ourselves.
But the mainstream media is making that necessary... and the result is not only a better-informed America, but one that is less willing to take a charlatan's word for anything. And an America less willing to listen to snake-oil salesmen, as far as I'm concerned, is a fine thing indeed.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
White House Agressively Plugging Leaks
The Instapundit says what I'm thinking, and says it more concisely than I would:
I'M NOT SURPRISED AT THIS DEVELOPMENT: "The Bush administration, seeking to limit leaks of classified information, has launched initiatives targeting journalists and their possible government sources."I agree. On the one hand, I think that our First Amendment rights are crucial and vital, and I do want our journalists aggressively pursuing the news, wherever they see it. On the other hand, the government is entitled to fight back aggressively if the need arises, particularly during wartime... and journalists should understand that there are limits to what they should and should not publish, in the name of national security.
Members of the press are, for the most part, appalled. But having made a big deal of leaks and their alleged harm to National Security in the Plame case, they're in a poor position to complain. Bill Keller's outrage is particularly out of place, and his suggestion that the Bush Administration is "declaring war at home on the values it professes to be promoting abroad" is just a political sound-bite, and not a particularly good one. There's not even a right of journalists to protect leakers under the U.S. Constitution, despite journalists' representations, and doing so has hardly been a slogan on the war on terror. The tendency of the press to conflate its own desire for guild-like special privileges with the protections of the First Amendment is one of the reasons for its decline in trust and popularity.
It is a sad statement on journalistic professionalism and integrity in this country, when the New York Times needs to be reminded not to publish top-secret details of NSA surveillance, or of CIA covert operations and operatives.
There is also, as Prof. Reynolds points out, a double standard in press protestations over this. The outing (mistaken or not) of Valerie Plame was a scandal, because she was supposedly a covert agent whose exposure broke the law. (It was pretty well understood from the outset that her exposure did not endanger any lives, since she was not overseas at the time and had not been for some years.) A great many newspapers invested a great deal of ink on that scandal, screaming loudly about what a terrible thing it was that national security was violated. Yet violating national security seems to be a good thing, doesn't it, if the President authorizes the NSA to listen in on al-Qaeda telephone conversations, subject to oversight by a bipartisan Congressional group? (Please note that that exposure does endanger lives; al-Qaeda undoubtedly changed its methods of contacting Americans as soon as the news broke.)
And now the press complains when the White House pushes back, on issues that actually do affect national security. As I've wondered before, just how far does an American in 2006 need to go to be charged with treason? (Or have we forgotten what the word means?)
The war we are fighting is quite real, and we are all in jeopardy from it. We cannot fight it effectively when American citizens consider it their duty to tell the enemy how we are fighting them, in the name of "the people's right to know".
Again, I want journalists to pursue their stories as aggressively as they see fit. But I want them also to know that there are limits and boundaries... and that there are penalties for crossing them.
A brief memo to the journalists: there is no such thing as a "citizen of the world". Perhaps there will be, one day, and that will truly be a wonderful thing. But wishing for it won't make it so. Disavowing allegiance to one's own country, in the name of professional objectivity, places one's own family, neighbors, and countrymen at deadly risk. The illusion of "citizens of the world" is a pretty one, but it's also a luxury we cannot afford today.
Friday, March 03, 2006
On the UAE - Israel Connection
As seen at Yourish.com:
Dubai, 1 March (AKI) - Emirates airlines, which have bought the naming rights to Arsenal’s new stadium, and whose logo appears on the team’s shirts, have slammed a decision by the top-flight English football club to sign a sponsorship deal to promote tourism to Israel. The two-year 350,000 British pounds (around 610,000 dollars) agreement will involve promoting Israel on LCD billboards around the pitch of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in London, news reports said.The remainder of the post provides further details: the stadium, to be named by Emirates Air (presumably something relevant to them and the UAE) has already signed a contract to display prominent "visit Israel" ads during the games, and so forth... and Emirates Air is uncomfortable about it, in spite of being told about this many times before the contracts were signed.
The club said it had cleared the deal with officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), whose national airline bought the rights to name the new stadium for around three million pounds (around 5.2 million dollars) a year. But a spokesman for the airlines has denied this. He told the Dubai-based daily Khaleej Times that the deal with Israel is “unfortunate, and we are obviously not happy.”
“We will do our best to persuade Arsenal to not renew its deal with Israel,” said the spokesman, who was not identified.
Look -- I've never visited UAE; I don't know what the conditions are like there. People who have visited there, and have written about it, report that things are not nearly as bad as we'd expect. (I'd love to get coroborration of that story about buying beer in Dubai... bottled beer with Hebrew labels, no less!)
From my perspective, they're kicking up a fuss about being seen as supporting Israel... but they seem to be going ahead with it. Mind you, I wish they could support Israel earnestly, wholeheartedly, and cheerfully. But if that's not an option, and I have to choose between walking the walk or talking the talk, I'll take the former.
So far as I can tell, they're doing the right thing. Let them protest, if it makes them (and/or their Muslim brethren) feel better; I can live with that.
(I can see this helping the UAE with the ports deal too, by the way...)
Obligatory disclaimer: I don't know the full story yet, and it appears that, so far, neither does anybody else. We know that three Israelis -- two women, one man -- went into the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, disguised as pilgrims, and at some point started setting off firecrackers.
Not knowing much else about the incident, I have no idea if these were insane pranksters, violent demonstrators, or what. Of course, I do not in any way condone the incident -- setting off firecrackers inside a building is dangerous, no? -- and I want to see the perpetrators prosecuted.
It seems that this will not be a problem; the police were on the scene almost immediately. But other people were paying attention too:
A number of people were lightly injured in the incident, while others suffered from shock.Other reactions were, of course, quickly forthcoming:
Shortly thereafter hundreds of Nazareth residents arrived at the scene while chanting “death to Jews” and attacked the Jewish man, beating him severely and slamming his head in the ground.
One suspect was able to escape.
Arab MK Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash) said the throwing of detonators inside the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth is “an attack by a group of Jewish terrorists from the extreme Right.”Mr. Barakeh is an Arab Member of Knesset. I'll admit that I do not recall his denunciations of Israeli synagogues being burned to the ground, by jubilant Palestinian mobs, in the wake of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza... but perhaps I just don't read the correct newspapers.
“This act proves that terror groups of settlers and the extreme Right feel free to commit their crimes in the occupied territories and against the Arab population in Israel. The government and the police must capture these groups and stop treating them with kid gloves,” Barakeh said.
It goes without saying, mind you, that Mr. Barakeh is making up his details as he goes along; I can be confident that he knows no more about the motives of the three Israelis than I do. That's okay, we have demagogues here in the United States too.
What really raised my eyebrows, though, was a statement by one of Mr. Barakeh's colleagues:
Arab MK Azmi Bishara (National Democratic Assembly) called the attack on the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth a “vile act.”Oh, right... we must "capture these groups" and "stop treating them with kid gloves"... but the rioters that show up afterwards should be treated "with restraint"?
“This was a religious or nationalist attack, which in this country both are the same,” Bishara said.
“Such creatures (attackers) grow here due to the racist atmosphere and culture in Israeli society. We ask that police act with restraint in light of the demonstrations by the city’s residents.”
Just for perspective, folks -- the "racist atmosphere and culture in Israeli society" is one in which terror attacks are carried out, not with firecrackers, but with bombs, usually laced with shrapnel and rat poison... by Muslims, against Jews. Israeli Jews attacking Muslims or Christians in this fashion is extremely rare; I believe this is the second such incident in my lifetime.
Again, I don't condone this incident in any way; I deplore it, and I'm glad that no one (except for the perpetrators, apparently!) was seriously hurt. But it's an interesting situation, isn't it, when Israelis are subject to lethal terror attacks in their major cities almost daily... and the first-ever incident of Israelis using firecrackers inside a church is, somehow, an escalation.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, folks.
UPDATE: Solomonia has more, including a wealth of links. Powerline has some disturbing pictures. (Okay, I can understand a mob being upset about this. But to seal the perpetrators in the church, so that police couldn't get at them? And why on Earth did they find it necessary to set a police car on fire?)
As Sol says: "it's a little difficult to blame the incident on [Israeli] anti-minority discrimination when the wife's a Christian, isn't it?"
Indeed. Muslims and Arab Christians in Israel are claiming that they "refuse to accept any excuse for this criminal act". Muslim terror, on the other hand, that actually does kill people, is excused... by the perpetrators, by their neighbors, and always by the mainstream media and by the UN.
By setting low expectations for the accountability of Muslim terror, Muslim terror is guaranteed to continue. Why, exactly, should Muslim terrorists stop inflicting their evil on the world, when the world makes it clear that it doesn't expect any better from them?
Once again: I want these Israeli perpetrators prosecuted to the full extent of the law; I would have no problem at all with them getting life sentences without parole. (Israel has the death penalty, but has only used it once.) But why is it that much more than that is (apparently) expected of Israel, for "letting" this happen once... while hardly anything is expected from the Palestinians, for letting it happen day after day for decades on end?
Thursday, March 02, 2006
...including one of a local guy:
Cpl. Jason L. Elder, a 22-year-old from Marlboro, Mass.,
looks through the scope of his rifle while providing overwatch
for Marines from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment during
Operation Industrial Revolution. He is a scout-sniper attached
to Headquarters and Service Company serving with Regimental
Combat Team 8. The operation was designed to disrupt insurgent
activity in Fallujah's industrial area and resulted in the discovery
of several weapons caches. (photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn)
Hey, right down the street from me (so to speak). When he gets home, I hope I'll have the chance to shake his hand and buy him a drink.
Here's another guy we can be glad is on our side:
Cpl. Darren R. Smykowski, a 21-year-old from Mentor, Ohio, looks through
the scope of his rifle while providing overwatch for Marines from 2nd Battalion,
6th Marine Regiment during Operation Industrial Revolution. He is a scout-sniper
attached to Headquarters and Service Company serving with Regimental Combat
Team 8. Operation Industrial Revolution was designed to disrupt insurgent
activity in Fallujah's industrial area. The operation several weapons
caches. (photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn)
I have relatives in Mentor. I'll have to ask if they know him!
No doubt these pictures arouse different emotions in different people. (I don't know if either of my regular readers has military experience.) For myself, I find pictures like these thrilling and exciting... and they make me tremendously proud.
Like it or not, our young men in Iraq are potential targets -- of Iraqi "insurgents", who are either the dregs of Saddam's regime pining for the days when they were in control, or the agents of foreign terrorists desperately trying to prevent Iraqi democracy from taking root. Either way, they are doing everything they can to sow chaos in Iraqi society, and that includes attacks on American troops, who are the guarantors of the newly-born Iraqi democracy -- even as Iraqis are increasingly taking control of their own lives, their own security, and their own destiny.
But American troops are not idle; they pursue the terrorists mercilessly, rooting them out wherever they can be found... and, in the process, increasing Iraqi confidence in the rule of law and a society they can run themselves. So it gives me pleasure to see our young men and women in uniform -- cool, confident, competent, and more than ready to pursue the enemy anywhere.
Have another look at Corporal Elder. At a guess, he's carrying between twenty and thirty pounds of gear, on top of his body armor; how long do you think you could do that, dashing from one combat position to another, and still maintain your focus and concentration as a sniper with pinpoint accuracy? He'll hold that position as long as he needs to... and, if there's a shot to be had, he'll find it.
Now look at Corporal Smykowski. If I had to guess, he's in place for a long stretch... and he's camouflaged himself and his weapon, making himself all-but-invisible from any reasonable distance. He is the invisible bolt of lightning, out of a clear blue sky, that will see a threat to his Marines down below, and eliminate that threat quickly and quietly, before the target knows what hit him.
These men are professional warriors, dedicated to the destruction of their country's enemies -- and, by extension, dedicated to the freedom of their fellow citizens. Now take a look at their ages. They could have gone to school, gone to work, signed up for fraternities, coasted for a few years on their parents' nickel. They did not; they volunteered to defend their country, and were trained to be expert in doing just that.
However you feel about the war, please remember: these men volunteered. They volunteered to go through years of pain, grueling hard work, and tremendous personal sacrifice... because they felt it was worth it -- that their country was worth it. They volunteered to fight, and to die if necessary, to protect men and women they'd never meet. That's me... and you. They felt we are worth it.
You don't need to understand what motivates them to be grateful to them. Even if you believe that the war was a misguided mistake, remember the sacrifices they've made -- and are ready to continue to make -- for you.
I see pictures such as these, and I feel the pride of knowing America is in very good hands.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Blog ettiquette notwithstanding, Ralph Peters has an op-ed in the New York Post that's important enough to quote in full. So here goes (with some emphasis added). Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds.
NO WAR IN THE STREETSAmen!
By RALPH PETERS - In Iraq
March 1, 2006 -- The reporting out of Baghdad continues to be hysterical and dishonest. There is no civil war in the streets. None. Period.
Terrorism, yes. Civil war, no. Clear enough?
Yesterday, I crisscrossed Baghdad, visiting communities on both banks of the Tigris and logging at least 25 miles on the streets. With the weekend curfew lifted, I saw traffic jams, booming business — and everyday life in abundance.
Yes, there were bombings yesterday. The terrorists won't give up on their dream of sectional strife, and know they can count on allies in the media as long as they keep the images of carnage coming. They'll keep on bombing. But Baghdad isn't London during the Blitz, and certainly not New York on 9/11.
It's more like a city suffering a minor, but deadly epidemic. As in an epidemic, no one knows who will be stricken. Rich or poor, soldier or civilian, Iraqi or foreigner. But life goes on. No one's fleeing the Black Death — or the plague of terror.
And the people here have been impressed that their government reacted effectively to last week's strife, that their soldiers and police brought order to the streets. The transition is working.
Most Iraqis want better government, better lives — and democracy. It is contagious, after all. Come on over. Talk to them. Watch them risk their lives every day to work with us or with their government to build their own future.
Oh, the attacks will continue. They're even predictable, if not always preventable. Driving through Baghdad's Kerada Peninsula District, my humvee passed long gas lines as people waited to fill their tanks in the wake of the curfew. I commented to the officer giving me a lift that the dense lines of cars and packed gas stations offered great targets to the terrorists. An hour later, one was hit with a car bomb.
The bombing made headlines (and a news photographer just happened to be on the scene). Here in Baghdad, it just made the average Iraqis hate the terrorists even more.
You are being lied to. By elements in the media determined that Iraq must fail. Just give 'em the Bronx cheer.
And a hearty thanks to Mr. Peters -- first, for going to see for himself, and second, for his willingness to buck the majority of his colleagues with his reporting.
UPDATE: He just doesn't quit, does he? His March 5th op-ed is called "Dude, Where's My Civil War?" --
I'm trying. I've been trying all week. The other day, I drove another 30 miles or so on the streets and alleys of Baghdad. I'm looking for the civil war that The New York Times declared. And I just can't find it.He doesn't pull his punches; when he sees American troops or Iraqi police unites doing a poor job, he says so. But he's clearly disgusted with American journalists reporting the opposite of what he sees -- either because they're not there to see it, or because they have a different agenda.
Maybe actually being on the ground in Iraq prevents me from seeing it. Perhaps the view's clearer from Manhattan. It could be that my background as an intelligence officer didn't give me the right skills.
And riding around with the U.S. Army, looking at things first-hand, is certainly a technique to which The New York Times wouldn't stoop in such an hour of crisis.
Let me tell you what I saw anyway...
Funny, I thought the idea was to report The Facts, so that the American people could decide for themselves how they feel about what's going on. Could it be that some people don't want the American public to figure out their own feelings about current events? In particular, all those misguided people who didn't have the sense to vote the correct way in 2004?
Not that I think the Democrats are being deliberately dishonest, mind you. But it's funny -- whenever I hear complaints about how stupid Americans are, and how they need to be guided carefully down the right path to protect them from their stupidity, the speaker is always a Democrat.
I think Andy Rooney said it best, back when Carter was running against Reagan. Democrats believe that people are basically good, but need to be saved from themselves by their government. Republicans believe that people are basically bad, but they'll be okay if you leave them alone.