Friday, May 19, 2006
Iran Takes Another Step
For someone who claims that the Holocaust never happened, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has learned a lot from it... and seems determined to put his education into practice, step by step:
Iran Eyes Badges For JewsHave we learned nothing? There are still thousands upon thousands of people, alive and well, who had to wear Jew badges themselves during World War II and before.
Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country's Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.
Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.
Ali Behroozian, an Iranian exile living in Toronto, said the law could come into force as early as next year.
It would make religious minorities immediately identifiable and allow Muslims to avoid contact with non-Muslims.
Mr. Behroozian said it will make life even more difficult for Iran's small pockets of Jewish, Christian and other religious minorities -- the country is overwhelmingly Shi'ite Muslim. "They have all been persecuted for a while, but these new dress rules are going to make things worse for them," he said.
The new law was drafted two years ago, but was stuck in the Iranian parliament until recently when it was revived at the behest of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Have we forgotten what this means, or what it can lead to?
Or is Ahmadinejad cynically testing to see just how far he can go, in lockstep imitation of Hitler, before anyone does anything to oppose him? Is he pushing to see how far he can go... and are we letting him?
Hitler is often used as the textbook example of pure evil in human form. And sometimes people wonder if, in today's climate of political correctness and multiculturalism, we would have the moral fortitude our grandfathers had when they fought Hitler's Germany.
Would we fight Hitler, if we had the chance? Or would we talk endlessly, as Neville Chamberlain did, and not see, in full view, the long knives being sharpened?
We may yet have a chance to find out. Ahmadinejad seems determined to give us that chance.
(hat tip: Smash)
UPDATE: There are reports that the Canadian National Post article, cited above, is false.
At this point (Friday afternoon, May 19 2006), we don't know. Stay tuned.
UPDATE II: I wanted to be sure about this... but it now seems clear that the original report was incorrect.
As I understand it, the Iranian dress-code law -- which was passed, although it has some legislative hoops to jump through still -- once had a provision in it for the abovementioned colored ribbons. That provision does not appear to be in the law now, although we might yet see this story again as the legislative process continues.
For now, though, we have no evidence that this will come to pass... and it's far too serious an accusation to make without evidence. So let's not have any "fake but accurate" arguments here; neither Ahmadinejad, nor Iran as a whole, should be denounced for something that hasn't happened.
(It's also interesting to see how strongly Iran has insisted that this story was untrue. Perhaps their sabre-rattling isn't quite as loud or as insistent as we thought it was.)
UPDATE III: J.J. McCullough had a good point to make about the whole thing:
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Books for the Troops
Greeting to both of my regular readers (and any lurkers)...
I have long felt that our troops in the field could benefit from some books, magazines, etc. that do not undermine the work they're doing. This Power Line entry confirms my feelings:
Sergeant David Thul writes that he is serving with the Minnesota National Guard in Iraq. He asks a simple favor. If you have conservative books or magazines sitting around the house that you'd be willing to part with, he asks that you send them to him for his unit in Iraq. He says that the unit is short of reading material -- he read Sean Hannity's Let Freedom Ring about three months ago and it is still being passed around and read again. He says that books and magazines can be sent directly to the USO or to him:Now, as it happens, I know of a conservative writer -- I find his stuff very inspirational -- who is willing to send his books to the troops in large numbers. But I need some addresses; preferably places where our troops are stationed, where a box of books can be handled. (Some organizations will only take a book or two at a time; I'd rather streamline this if possible.)SGT Dave Thul
Weapons Company 1-133
If you have addresses of soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines that would like some inspirational conservative reading, please let me know in the comments to this post.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
A Twisted Happy Mother's Day
Of my two regular readers, I'm guessing that at least one of you has heard of Paul & Storm (formerly the two middle voices of the much-lamented Da Vinci's Notebook). Their unique brand of music -- alternately sick, twisted, or just plain weird -- has left audiences everywhere laughing hysterically (or, sometimes, running out to the nearest alleyway, retching).
Seriously, it's funny stuff if you like that sort of thing. My brother-in-law Sean just e-mailed me a link to a new track of theirs: The Mother's Day Song. Please note: this is not for the easily offended!
(You clicked on the link anyway, didn't you? Well, you can't say you weren't warned.)
Note to Paul, who no doubt Googled to this point: you thanked me for putting up a link, so I figured the least I could do was actually put up a link. Here ya go, buddy!
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Breathtaking Naïveté From The New York Times
I don't often read the New York Times, particularly about international affairs; these days they seem too clueless to me to be relevant. (Unfortunately, the editors of the NYT are determined for their opinions to become relevant, delusional or not.)
On the occasion that I find myself reading the Times, it takes my breath away with drivel such as this (reprinted by the International Herald Tribune):
America's expanding secretUh, please excuse my ignorance... but isn't the whole idea of the NSA to operate secretly, without providing any details?
The New York Times
FRIDAY, MAY 12, 2006
Ever since its secret domestic wiretapping program was exposed, the Bush administration has depicted it as a narrow examination of calls made by and to suspected terrorists. But its refusal to provide any details about the extent of the spying has raised doubts. Now there is more reason than ever to be worried - and angry - about how wide the government's web has been reaching.
Certainly, oversight is essential, even during wartime... and the Bush Administration claims it has kept key members of Congress, of both houses and both parties, informed about this (which has not been denied by Senators and Congressmen). But the New York Times seems to be complaining that they were not informed, so that they could turn around and inform their readers (and al-Jazeera stringers, and al-Qaeda NYT subscribers, and so on).
As the old wisecrack goes: who was it that appointed the New York Times editorial board to be the acting government of the United States?
According to an article in USA Today, the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting telephone records on tens of millions of Americans with the cooperation of the three largest telecommunications companies in the United States. The scope of the domestic spying described in the article is breathtaking. The government is reported to be working with AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth to collect data on phone calls made by untold millions of customers.Actually, as is pointed out by Glenn Reynolds and others, we can do better than that -- type a telephone number into Google and you're likely to get a name, an address, and probably a satellite photo.
The government has emphasized that it is not listening in on phone calls, only analyzing the data to look for calling patterns. But if all the details of the program are confirmed, the invasion of privacy is substantial. By cross-referencing phone numbers with databases that link numbers to names and addresses, the government could compile dossiers of what people and organizations each American is in contact with.
But the polls seem to indicate that Americans aren't overly concerned with the NSA knowing which phone number calls which other phone number, nor how often, nor for how long -- which is, as I understand it, all the NSA is trying to find out anyway. Heck, the way people wax lyrical on their cell phones in public -- while jaywalking, in public men's rooms, and so forth -- Americans don't even seem to mind that much if their private conversations are known, which the NSA isn't doing.
(I must admit that there's a difference -- the annoying twits who force an entire restaurant to eavesdrop on their cell-phone conversations are, actually, exercising some self-censorship. They have chosen which conversations to make public; if the conversation really was private, presumably they'd find a private place to have it. That's by no means the same as a government agency deciding which of your conversations to listen to. But again, that's not what the NSA is doing.)
The phone companies are doing a great disservice to their customers by cooperating. To its credit, one major company, Qwest, refused, according to the article, because it had doubts about the program's legality....meaning that domestic terrorists, attempting to communicate plans to co-conspirators, will now choose Qwest exclusively. We can hope that the terrorists will offer thanks to USA Today, and to the New York Times, for helping them choose a network free from NSA scrutiny.
(I can't find it in my heart to condemn USA Today for revealing this, however. No doubt they thought they were doing USA Today a favor, by lauding their refusal to cooperate with the NSA. But you can bet that, the moment that newspaper hit the streets -- and the NSA learned that Qwest's refusal had become public knowledge -- the NSA started leaning on Qwest like a huge unfriendly planet. It would be very much to the NSA's advantage, after all, to have terrorist cells all switching to Qwest at once... especially if Qwest can be reminded of national security, and which nation has made it possible for them to operate in the first place.)
What we have here is a clandestine surveillance program of enormous size, which is being operated by members of the administration who are subject to no limits or scrutiny beyond what they deem to impose on one another. If the White House had gotten its way, the program would have run secretly until the war on terror ended - that is, forever.The NYT seems to be objecting here to the very idea of secret programs -- again, as though what really bothers them is that they were left out of the loop.
Please note that nowhere in this editorial is any recognition, any whatsoever, that clandestine programs -- kept secret from the general public -- might be A Good Thing in helping to win a war. Perhaps this concept has escaped the New York Times somehow.
Congress must stop pretending that it has no serious responsibilities for monitoring the situation. The Senate should call back Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and ask him - this time, under oath - about the scope of the program. This time, lawmakers should not roll over when Gonzales declines to provide answers.Whoa, Nelly! So now the New York Times is no longer interested in determining if the Bush Administration's actions are legal. The New York Times has determined for us that this is illegal, and call for new laws to enshrine their beliefs.
Most of all, Congress should pass legislation that removes any doubt that this kind of warrantless spying on ordinary Americans is illegal.
What was that I said about the New York Times acting as though it was the United States government? Now they seem to have taken on the role of the Attorney General's office as well. If you want to know whether the government's actions are legal or not, don't ask a lawyer, read the New York Times.
Bush began his defense of the NSA program Friday by invoking, as he often does, Sept. 11. The attacks that day firmed America's resolve to protect itself against its enemies, but they did not give the president the limitless power he now claims to intrude on the private communications of the American people.Uh, yes, they do. Presidents during wartime have very broad powers indeed, since they are charged with the protection of the United States. Theirs is the ultimate responsibility -- "the buck stops here", as one of Bush's predecessors famously said.
"Breathtaking" indeed -- breathtaking to see the extent to which the New York Times, once the "newspaper of record", is willing to undermine the American government at a time of war.
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin had some fun with this, in her latest Hot Air Vent. Have a look!
UPDATE II: Citizen Smash points to a Stephen Spruiell article, dated May 11th, with a screen shot from Google News that pretty much says it all:
If we don't go looking for the terrorists, it's no big surprise when we fail to find them, is it?
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
On Claudette, no, make that Stephen, Colbert
So Stephen Colbert gave a speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner, and used it as an opportunity to lambaste the President... and a lot of people have had a lot to say about it.
I won't try to summarize; Armando and Treviño have done a far better job than I could. Let me just say that, yes, I listened to Colbert do his bit... and some parts of it were reasonably funny. (Not nearly as funny as what Bush did, though. Bush also had the advantage of not taking himself seriously... which Colbert tried to look like he was doing, but failed, in my humble opinion. And, perhaps most importantly, Colbert was trying to rip the President to shreds while being funny at the same time. Bush was simply trying to be funny, which worked a lot better.)
More to the point, Colbert's humor fell flat, for me, because of something simple. He was trying for biting satire of the President, from the perspective of a supporter of the President -- "as we know, reality has a strong left-wing bias!" (In a logical argument, that would be a straw-man; but this is satire, where such things are quite acceptable.)
And Colbert simply doesn't get the President's point of view, nor that of the President's supporters. He could mouth the slogans -- "I believe in America!" -- but he doesn't understand what those slogans mean to the people who actually say them. And so he reaches for a high bar, and fails... because, in the end, he does not understand the President nearly as well as the President understands his critics.
By the way, if you watch the video of Colbert's bit, keep a careful eye on Bush; the camera covers him from time to time. You don't see him frowning, or grimacing; he sits there smiling, acknowledging the whole thing, and letting it just keep coming at him. Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising, given that this man has been compared unfavorably to Hitler, every day, for several years now. Nonetheless, it amazes me; I sure couldn't do it. But he somehow has the strength to take it, and the grace to do so with dignity. Now that's a class act.
UPDATE: Freeman Hunt puts it in perspective:
How can the Egyptian government behave in this way and expect to be taken seriously? (Hat tip to Instapundit.)I couldn't agree more. "Speaking truth to power" (God, how I'm growing to hate that phrase) has no meaning if there's no risk.
Protesters in the US need to look at these protesters in Egypt. This is bravery. This is "patriotic dissent."
Brave Egyptian protesters, seeking nothing but free speech and freedom of assembly -- rights Americans have long since taken for granted -- risk public beatings, right out in the open. I salute them for their bravery, and their willingness to step forward and be counted when it matters most.
Monday, May 08, 2006
When Mark Steyn's Funny...
...which is most of the time (while he nevertheless has some vital points to make).
Have a look at this column in The Australian, for example:
Here's the lesson of the past three years: The UN kills.Ouch. Unfortunately, the man's dead right. President Bush has been reviled, as few modern Presidents have been reviled, in large part for his authorization to invade Iraq with only 17 UNSC resolutions. Who can blame him, now, for refusing to restart the whole circus again in Sudan?
In 2003, you'll recall, the US was reviled as a unilateralist cowboy because it and its coalition of the poodles waged an illegal war unauthorised by the UN against a sovereign state run by a thug regime that was no threat to anyone apart from selected ethnocultural groups within its borders, which it killed in large numbers (Kurds and Shia).
Well, Washington learned its lesson. Faced with another thug regime that's no threat to anyone apart from selected ethnocultural groups within its borders which it kills in large numbers (African Muslims and southern Christians), the unilateralist cowboy decided to go by the book. No unlawful actions here. Instead, meetings at the UN. Consultations with allies. Possible referral to the Security Council.
And as I wrote on this page in July 2004: "The problem is, by the time you've gone through the UN, everyone's dead."
But Steyn really goes to town with John Kerry, the self-lampooning Democrat whom Republicans love to cite. (Yes, Democrats have a lot of fun with Bush's malapropisms; so does Bush, by the way. But according to the Democrats, Kerry really is smart enough to know better... so what's his excuse?)
In particular, Steyn has fun with Kerry's widely-disseminated misquote of Thomas Jefferson: "No wonder Thomas Jefferson himself said: 'Dissent is the greatest form of patriotism.' " :
Close enough. According to the Jefferson Library: "There are a number of quotes that we do not find in Thomas Jefferson's correspondence or other writings; in such cases, Jefferson should not be cited as the source. Among the most common of these spurious Jefferson quotes are: 'Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.' "(My apologies for the lame blog-post title.)
. . .
It was the Aussie pundit Tim Blair who noted the Thomas Jeffefakery. American commentators were apparently too busy cooing that "Kerry may be reflecting a new boldness on the part of liberals to come out and say what they believe and to reclaim the moral high ground on patriotism" (CBS News) to complain that KERRY LIED!! SCHOLARLY ATTRIBUTION DIED!!! Instead, KERRY MISQUOTED!! MEDIA DOTED!!!
Indeed, America's hardboiled newsmen can't get enough of the Thomas Jefferbunk. The Berkshire Eagle used it as the headline for last year's Fourth of July editorial. Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press thundered: "We need to stop slicing this country in half, and saying those who support this act or this politician are 'good' Americans, and the rest are not. Sometimes 'dissent is the highest form of patriotism.' I didn't make that up. Thomas Jefferson did."
Er, no. You made up that he made it up. But former Georgia state Rep. Mike Snow uses it, and Miranda Yaver of Berkeley wore it on a button to the big anti-war demo in Washington last year, and Ted Kennedy deployed it as the stirring finale to his anti-Bush speech...
UPDATE: On the subject of funny, today's final item in James Taranto's Best of the Web made me laugh:
Regular or AB-Negative?Never thought I'd see the day when that slogan would actually mean something...
"There's an unusual sign catching drivers' eyes on South Main Street in Las Cruces [N.M.]," reports KFOX-TV of El Paso, Texas:It reads "donate plasma for gas money."How long before the antiwar moonbats start parading around outside the clinic holding NO BLOOD FOR OIL signs?
It's caught the eye of many passers-by including Erin Scott, who told KFOX she's stopped driving her Suburban to save money.
"You just sit here and pump your hand to get the blood flow and you get paid and you can use it for gas money," Scott said.
Employees of Las Cruces Biologicals told KFOX they're seeing more drivers coming in for gas money.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Several bloggers (Aziz P. of Dean's World among them) have drafted a short manifesto, no doubt in response to nonsense such as this.
Go and read the whole thing -- it's only four short paragraphs. But the gist of it is this: endorsers pledge to respect the privacy of others, including the right to keep one's online identity separate (and anonymous, if desired).
I don't know how much good this will do in the long run; it seems to me that the problems will come from those who don't sign it (to say nothing of the worst offenders so far, who aren't bloggers at all). But certainly, I support it; as a blogger who writes under my first name only, I'd have a hard time justifying myself otherwise.
(For the record, my last name is no big secret; if you really want to know it, dig a little and you'll find it. I have chosen not to advertise it, however, for precisely the reasons given above -- I prefer to keep my personal life, and my professional work, separate from my online writing.)
Not that I've had many anonymous commenters, or a desire to unmask them, or irate readers pounding on my door, mind you. Adding my name to the list won't make any practical difference. But it is important sometimes to take a stand. And if you choose to comment anonymously on this site, you may rest assured that, except for extreme circumstances, I won't try to track you down. I may block you, or remove offensive comments, but I won't track you down.
(What would constitute extreme circumstances? Nothing that's likely to come up here, frankly. But if your comments give me strong reason to believe that you're involved in a felony -- particularly one in the planning stage -- then I may well get the authorities involved. After all, I used to be a cop.)
Now, having gotten that out of the way... does anybody feel like commenting??
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
More Bluster From Iran
As reported by Reuters (with a tip-o'-the-hat to Roger Simon), Ahmadinejad is doing his thing again:
TEHRAN (Reuters) -You've gotta love the sense of responsibility here. Do anything I don't like, and I'll retaliate immediately -- but not against you, certainly not... against somebody else entirely.
Iran threatened on Tuesday to attack Israel in response to any "evil" act by the United States and said it had enriched uranium to a level close to the maximum compatible with civilian use in power stations.
The defiant statements were issued shortly before world powers meet in Paris to discuss the next steps after Tehran rejected a U.N. call to halt uranium enrichment.
The psychology of this is strongly reminiscent, at least to me, of schoolyard bullying -- if you dare tell on me to the teacher, I'll go beat up your kid brother. By implication, the entire nation of Israel is being held hostage, subject to good behavior as defined by Iran.
And hey, isn't it nice that Ahmadinejad was carefully non-specific about what American behavior would trigger a response? (Would another conservative Supreme Court appointment do it? How about some more Mohammad cartoons?)
This is all classic terrorist rhetoric. If we ever had doubt about Iran as a terrorist regime, we can put those doubts to rest now.
Reuters later provides more detail concerning the levels of uranium enrichment:
Driving home that message, the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, said his country had now succeeded in purifying uranium to 4.8 percent, at the top end of the 3 to 5 percent range for fuel used in nuclear power plants.Well, gosh, that's a relief. At least there's a gulf between the 4.8% they claim to have now, and the 80% they'd need for weaponized uranium.
"Enrichment above 5 percent is not on Iran's agenda," Aghazadeh told the students' ISNA news agency.
Iran has previously said it had enriched to more than 4 percent, far below the 80 percent level needed for bomb-making.
Nonetheless, and I blush to mention it: uh, what if they're lying? (You think terrorists wouldn't lie? I think it's a safe assumption that, once you've condoned the brutal, deliberate murder of women and children, the utteration of a falsehood comes rather easily. A regime intent on weaponizing uranium, for the stated purpose of "wiping Israel off the map", would also find the occasional lie not too difficult a burden, I daresay.)
Oh, and check out this gem:
The U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), says it cannot confirm that Iran's goals are peaceful, but has found no proof of a military program.Uh, right. In the same article, we are reminded that Iran is the fourth-largest oil exporter in the world. Explain to me, please, exactly why a major oil exporter needs nuclear power plants?
(If the UN wants proof, by the way, perhaps they've been asking the wrong people. Somehow I have a feeling that Israel, the abovementioned hostage to America's good behavior, is keeping a close eye on Iran these days.)
And yes, I've heard the arguments that Iran is as entitled to nuclear power as the United States. Perhaps, from the Olympian viewpoint of a hypothetical over-arching World Government, that might make sense. But we don't have a World Government, and we're not likely to have one any time soon. What we do have is the international anarchy of countries and their vested interests, as has been the case throughout much of history.
In this situation, countries are entitled to defend themselves, since no World Government police, or militia, can do it for them. (They also have a moral obligation to their citizens.) And the United States has every right to see the acquisition of nuclear weapons, by a dangerously belligerent tyranny, as a national threat.
(So does Israel, for far more immediate reasons. Ahmadinejad's position is far from new; Israel has known about the threat from Iran for a long time. Ahmadinejad is simply the first leader of Iran to state the obvious explicitly and concisely.)
The next several months will be interesting, to say the least. At this point, it doesn't matter in the least if an Iranian nuclear-weapons program exists or not; Ahmadinejad is forcing us to assume that it does, and to plan accordingly.
Personally, I suspect that the deafening silence in re Iran -- from both the United States and Israel -- is rather meaningful. Israel can do quite a bit on her own, and the United States has a strong vested interest in helping out.
UPDATE: Juan Cole claims that Ahmadinejad didn't say what he said, and didn't mean it anyway. Christopher Hitchens thinks otherwise.
UPDATE II: Victor Davis Hansen points out that President Bush is following his classic strategy: giving his opponents as much room as they want, until they get wildly hysterical and make his own case for him -- and then come out swinging when he is ready. Read the whole thing.