Wednesday, April 26, 2006


A Link Or Two

Jeff Harrell has some good thoughts on Mary McCarthy -- and he approaches the whole thing from the perspective that, no, we actually don't know much of anything yet!

(That's part of the problem. In a situation of journalists openly hostile to the current Administration, with some journalists actively seeking leaks so as to make the administration look bad -- well, when someone gets fired over precisely these sorts of leaks, it's going to be hard to get the straight story out. Too many conflicts of interest coincide here.)

In any event, I encourage you to have a look at what Jeff says.

On a different topic entirely, Thomas Lifson has written something interesting for The American Thinker. He wrote this, more than two years ago, on George W. Bush as our first-ever MBA President (never mind our first-ever Harvard MBA); the basic thesis, which I found interesting and persuasive, is that GWB has made a career of encouraging others to underestimate him, based on lessons he learned at Harvard.

Mr. Lifson now has a follow-up article, and I think it's well worth a read as well, although it's a lot more tied to current events than the other one was. (He talks quite a bit about Mary McCarthy as well, for example, with some interesting speculations in re Valerie Plame and Scooter Libby.) He concludes:
I have always seen George W. Bush in a different light than almost all of his opponents, and even many of his supporters. He is a trained strategist, an MBA graduate of Harvard Business School, where he learned that the point of having a strategy is to win when it counts, not just to feel good about yourself at every moment of the process.

When it counts, right at election time, Bush tends to come out much better than his enemies assumed he would.
Food for thought, as we enter a new off-year election cycle. Perhaps it's time for me to read Misunderestimated again.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Another Side of the IDF

Rachel Papo
, an American who served in the Israeli Air Force, was recently inspired to photograph Israeli women soldiers. She captured a wide variety of moods and settings, in a remarkable collection of photos.

I'm sorely tempted to post some of them... but she has politely requested that her copyright be respected, and I'll honor that. Instead, let me link to some of my favorites:

- Israeli recruits are taught to take their rifles with them everywhere.

- Anyone who's been through Basic Training will recognize this.

- A corporal's barracks room, complete with movie posters on the wall.

- Getting ready for a route march, it seems.

- Taking a moment to rest.

- Letting their hair down...

- Group shot -- the drill-instructor corporals at a training base, by the looks of it!

- A memorable face.

When you read about Israeli soldiers (and their supposed inhumanity), that includes these young women too. Please keep it in mind.



Monday, April 24, 2006


Is Abu Mazen Nuts?

I just have to wonder, after seeing this on
Abbas warns he can remove Hamas from power
"The constitution gives me clear and definite authority to remove a government from power, but I don't want to use this authority," Abbas said in an interview with CNN-Turk. "Everyone should know that by law this power is in my hands." The interview was recorded before he arrived in Turkey on Sunday.
I'll admit that I'm no expert on the Palestinian constitution, such as it is. (Follow the link, and have a look at Article 89: the President does indeed have the right to dissolve Parliament, but not during the first year after an election.) But I'm reminded powerfully of Secretary of State Alexander Haig, back in 1981, asserting on television that he was third in line for the Presidency... and thereby making a laughingstock of himself forever after. (Coming from a retired general, during a time when the President was incapacitated by a nearly-successful assassination attempt, this felt at the time like a power grab... and a spectacularly incompetent power grab at that. Haig was fifth in line, not third, and it's incredible to imagine that he didn't know that.)

As for Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen, I'm not sure what he thinks he's doing. I do hope, however, that his life insurance is paid up. Hamas, as the saying goes, is not known for playing nice with others.
Asked about the possibility of Abbas bring down the Hamas government, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank said the group would "not leave in silence" and threatened to stop recognizing a truce with Israel.

"We will go, but we will not recognize the Palestinian political regime. We will not participate in any new election and we will go underground as we did before and we will not adhere to any commitments, any truce, by anyone. Being ousted from power will have a heavy price for everyone. We hope not to reach that."
Okay, so now we have Abbas threatening to remove the popularly-elected Hamas government from power, although he "doesn't want to use this authority"... and Hamas, typically for a terrorist organization, threatens "a heavy price for everyone", although they "hope not to reach that".

Keep talking, gentlemen. You're doing fine. Let's hear more about all the things you hope the other side won't make you do. (Is threatening to hold your breath among them?)
The [Hamas] official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.
Well, now, that's what I call a confidence-building measure...
"Hamas has to face the facts and establish communication with Israel," Abbas said. "I'm worried that the situation will turn into a tragedy in the near future. A short time later we could be up against a great hunger disaster in Palestine."

"Without help we can't stand on our feet long," he added.

Abbas said that he would work for a solution with or without Hamas.

"Hamas can support me or not. When I find a way to a solution with Israel, I'll present this to the Palestinian people in a referendum," Abbas said. "The Palestinian people are above Hamas and other politicians."
Hmm, now that's interesting. Does Abbas really think that he can prop up his political career by supporting peace with Israel? (I don't recall a single Palestinian poll, not one, showing a majority in favor of ending the terror war against Israel.) Or is he simply trying to paint himself as the moderate -- not hard to do, when Hamas is your competition -- in an effort to gain foreign support for himself personally?

If that's his game, it might be good for him to remember that Palestinians, not foreign leaders, are the ones whose support he'd need. He might also like to recall that foreign leaders cannot save him from a Hamas assassination squad.
With Hamas in power, many Western nations froze vital aid to the Palestinian government, causing a financial crisis. The government is nearly three weeks late paying March salaries to its 165,000 employees, and Hamas officials say they do not know when they will have the money.
Perhaps I'm naive... but does a provisional government, claiming authority over roughly two million people, really need that many government employees? (Particularly a government that cannot even prevent masked gunmen from storming a Cabinet session to demand better working conditions?)

I suspect that the barely-controlled struggle between Hamas and Abu Mazen's Fatah is reaching a flash point. For myself, I hope that Israel stays out of it, and lets them settle matters among themselves.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006


Another Muhammad Cartoon Spotted

Here, have a look:

Problem is, this image of Muhammad appears on the Website of Air Arabia.

What, you don't think the little tyke looks like Muhammad? Well, I think he does... and I think the burden of proof is on Air Arabia to prove that they are not profaning the Prophet, before angry mobs start burning airliners.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Whose Idea Was This?

Greetings and apologies to both of my regular readers. What with Passover and several other things going on, I've been distracted, too much so to blog and feel that I was making any kind of sense.

Yes, things have been going on that I want to comment on -- emphatically so. But I want to make sure I have something worth saying about them first. Pauca sed matura, as the man said.

In the meantime -- no doubt you've heard of the Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute; perhaps you've even added your own articles to the mix. But have you seen the Uncyclopedia? It's an online collection of nonsense to which anyone can contribute. (Go ahead, check it out.)

And I don't know whether to be delighted or disturbed that there's a Hebrew-language version. (Today's front-page article contends that:
Terror is a popular type of human activity, involving violence and senseless destruction. This is one of the phenomena considered to be unique to the human race, although this assertion is controversial; some researchers claim to have proof that terrorism is also practiced by gerbils.
So far there is no Arabic-language version... too bad.

UPDATE: While on the subject of slightly nutty ideas, there's this: the Robotic Chair, which falls to pieces on a whim... and then seeks out its parts and reassembles itself.

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to sit in the darn thing...



Sunday, April 09, 2006


Dan Simmons: The Visitor

With a tip o' the hat to Stephen Green, who pointed the way, this scary and all-too-plausible tale by Dan Simmons.
The Time Traveler appeared suddenly in my study on New Year’s Eve, 2004. He was a stolid, grizzled man in a gray tunic and looked to be in his late-sixties or older. He also appeared to be the veteran of wars or of some terrible accident since he had livid scars on his face and neck and hands, some even visible in his scalp beneath a fuzz of gray hair cropped short in a military cut. One eye was covered by a black eyepatch. Before I could finish dialing 911 he announced in a husky voice that he was a Time Traveler come back to talk to me about the future.
The protagonist snorts, "Prove it" -- which the Time Traveler proceeds to do, by rattling off a series of words that, in December 2004, mean nothing:
Before I could say anything else on this New Year’s Eve of 2004, a few hours before 2005 began, the stranger said, “Terri Schiavo, Katrina, New Orleans under water, Ninth Ward, Ray Nagin, Superdome, Judge John Roberts, White Sox sweep the Astros in four to win the World Series, Pope Benedict XVI, Scooter Libby.”

“Wait, wait!” I said, scrambling for a pen and then scrambling even faster to write. “Ray who? Pope who? Scooter who?”

“You’ll recognize it all when you hear it all again,” said the stranger. “I’ll see you in a year and we’ll have our conversation.”
Sure enough, a year later, the Time Traveller appears again... and is taken seriously this time. A good thing, for his message is deadly serious.
“I came back for my own purposes,” said the Time Traveler, looking around my booklined study. “I chose you to talk to because it was . . . convenient. And I don’t want you to do a goddamned thing. There’s nothing you can do. But relax . . . we’re not going to be talking about personal things. Such as, say, the year, day, and hour of your death. I don’t even know that sort of trivial information, although I could look it up quickly enough. You can release that white-knuckled grip you have on the edge of your desk.”

I tried to relax. “What do you want to talk about?” I said.

“The Century War,” said the Time Traveler.

I blinked and tried to remember some history. “You mean the Hundred Year War? Fifteenth Century? Fourteenth? Sometime around there. Between . . . France and England? Henry V? Kenneth Branagh? Or was it . . .”

“I mean the Century War with Islam,” interrupted the Time Traveler. “Your future. Everyone’s.” He was no longer smiling. Without asking, or offering to pour me any, he stood, refilled his Scotch glass, and sat again. He said, “It was important to me to come back to this time early on in the struggle. Even if only to remind myself of how unspeakably blind you all were.”
He goes on at great and detailed length, offering lessons from history (the Peloponnesian War in particular), and our failure to learn vital lessons from it -- and the certainty that our children and grandchildren will know their history, all too well, when it comes back to tear their world apart.
“How are we supposed to know who our enemies are?” I turned and growled at him. “The world is a complex place. Morality is a complex thing.”

“Your enemy is he who will give his life to kill you,” said the Time Traveler. “Your enemies are they that wish you and your children and your grandchildren dead and who are willing to sacrifice themselves, or support those fanatics who will sacrifice themselves, to see you and your institutions destroyed. You haven’t figured that out yet...”

He stood and set the Scotch glass back in its place on my sideboard. “How, we wonder in my time,” he said softly, “can you ignore the better part of a billion people who say aloud that they are willing to kill your children . . . or condone and celebrate the killing of them? And ignore them as they act on what they say? We do not understand you.”
It is a chilling vision of the future... possibly your future, and mine.

Please do go and read the whole thing.



Thursday, April 06, 2006


Iran: On The Verge?

Thanks to two posts at Powerline, some disturbing thoughts.

To begin with, Michael Ledeen's February 17, 2006 NRO article said:
Sometime in late November or early December, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gathered his top advisers for an overall strategic review. The atmosphere was highly charged, because Khamenei’s doctors have diagnosed a serious cancer, and do not expect the Supreme Leader to live much more than a year. A succession struggle is already under way, with the apparently unsinkable Hashemi Rafsanjani in the thick of it, even though Khamenei, and his increasingly powerful son Mushtaba, is opposed to the perennial candidate-for-whatever.

Despite this disquieting news, the overall tone of the conversation was upbeat, because the Iranians believe they see many positive developments, above all, the declaration that "it has been promised that by 8 April, we will be in a position to show the entire world that 'we are members of the club.'" This presumably refers to nuclear weapons...

Khamenei called for two urgent missions. The first was to do everything possible to drive up oil prices by an additional 30 percent by the first week in April. The second was to intensify the propaganda war against the West in the same period. He stressed that it was important to compel the United States to face at least three crises by the April 8.
(emphasis added)

Is this just bluster? Perhaps, but I highly doubt it. Cultures that attach great importance to 'face', or appearances of dishonor, do not make such pronouncements lightly; in particular, they do not announce specific dates lightly.

(Israel has known this for a long time. Israeli politicans are fond of saying that, when a Muslim dictator announces outlandish plans, the world laughs, but Israel takes the pronouncement seriously; the implied capabilities may not be accurate, but the implied intentions are. When Saddam Hussein announced in the summer of 1990 that he would "incinerate half of Israel", Israel knew he meant it... and six months later, Iraqi Scud missiles were landing in Tel Aviv.)

Is this just internal bravado, not intended for consumption outside Iran? I think not. Iran's "Great Prophet" military exercises, being conducted this week, have included several new-weapon showpieces -- missiles, high-speed torpedoes, stealth technology-- that are being boasted of openly, and are clearly intended to frighten. Moreover, with another hat-tip to Powerline, have a look at this USA Today article:
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran said Wednesday it has successfully test-fired a "top secret" missile, the third in a week, state-run television reported.

The report called the missile an "ultra-horizon" weapon and said it could be fired from all military helicopters and jet fighters.

The tests came amid war games being held since Friday by the elite Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea at a time of increased tension with the United States over Tehran's nuclear program.

Iranian television called it a "turning point" in its missile tests but gave no other details.

At the same time, the head of the Revolutionary Guards, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, said the United States must recognize Iran as a "big, regional power."

Speaking on state television, Safavi said Iran could use the Straits of Hormuz to apply pressure on foreign powers. About two-fifths of the world's oil supplies pass through the 34-mile-wide entrance to the Gulf.

"The Straits of Hormuz are a point of control and economic pressure on the energy transfer route for those foreign powers that might want to undermine regional security," Safavi said.

He reiterated that Iran could defend itself against any invasion and added: "I advise Americans not to move toward a military strike against Iran."

On Tuesday, Safavi called for foreign forces to leave the region. The U.S. 5th Fleet is based in Bahrain.
All this is very consistent with the April 8 deadlines mentioned above.

Now, Mr. Ledeen has reasons to be optimistic about what America can and will do next; read the whole thing. Nonetheless, we may see some serious events this weekend in the Persian Gulf. (Perhaps not; Lord knows, I'd love to be wrong about this.)

Keep your eyes open.



Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Orson Scott Card Wants A Fatwa

At least, it's hard for me to conclude otherwise from his latest "Ornery American" post:
There is no faith under compulsion. Any nation where Sharia is enforced is not a Muslim nation, and none of its people are Muslims. If they cannot choose not to be Muslim, then they have not chosen to be Muslim. Without freedom not to believe, faith is a sham even if you think you are sincere.
You see what I mean? This guy is asking for trouble, he is!

In all seriousness, I have to give him credit for stating his mind bluntly and unambiguously, as he generally does. For he's absolutely right -- Islam today insists on a right to kill Muslims, and even non-Muslims, for a variety of transgressions. (Remind me, please: who were the Muslim clerics who denounced the brutal murder of Theo van Gogh?)

But Islam does not accept the right of any other religion to encroach on Muslim territory. If you draw a mediocre cartoon, or write a controversial book, or film a thought-provoking documentary that causes offense to Muslims, then any Muslim may consider it his duty to kill you... and this is an open threat to all non-Muslim society.

(Indeed, as Mr. Card points out, it's a threat to Muslim society as well. A society that punishes religious conversion with death will not have many attempted conversions... but it will be a stagnant and increasingly meaningless society, the sort of society that feels a need to blame its woes eternally on someone else. Hmm -- sound familiar?)

Moderate Muslims, in countries (such as the United States) where freedom of speech is an unquestioned right, have mostly felt that they could not afford to speak out about this. But, as Mr. Card explains, the time may soon come when they can no longer afford not to speak out; their fellow Muslims will have left them with no choice. Remember the widespread opposition in the United States to the UAE ports deal; how much of that could have been averted, had Muslims -- and Arabs -- taken the trouble to make it clear that they do not support terrorism?

Americans are, it seems to me, increasingly losing patience with being told that "Islam is a religion of peace" (when the most prominent spokesmen for Islam are the ones kidnapping journalists and beheading people), or that "the Saudis are our friends" (when their actions show nothing of the sort). We need to hear that from Muslims... and we need to see it backed up by action.


Monday, April 03, 2006


On Islamic Subjugation of Women

Dr. Sanity says:
I have said it before and I will say it again here: the treatment of women under Islam is not only the key to understanding the pathology of the culture, but also the key to developing an antidote to its most poisonous and toxic elements.
There's more, a lot more, including the unbelievable quote "I have no relation to reality. I am talking about how things should be... Reality is a mistake, we must rectify it."

Please do read the whole thing.


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