Saturday, February 26, 2005
Stephen Sestanovich of the Council on Foreign Relations wrote an important essay for this page a few weeks ago, arguing that American diplomacy is often most effective when it pursues not an incrementalist but a "maximalist" agenda, leaping over allies and making the crude, bold, vantage-shifting proposal - like pushing for the reunification of Germany when most everyone else was trying to preserve the so-called stability of the Warsaw Pact.
As Sestanovich notes, and as we've seen in spades over the past two years in Iraq, this rashness - this tendency to leap before we look - has its downside. Things don't come out wonderfully just because some fine person asks, Why not here?
But this is clearly the question the United States is destined to provoke. For the final thing that we've learned from the papers this week is how thoroughly the Bush agenda is dominating the globe. When Bush meets with Putin, democratization is the center of discussion. When politicians gather in Ramallah, democratization is a central theme. When there's an atrocity in Beirut, the possibility of freedom leaps to people's minds.
Friday, February 25, 2005
A top aide to Al Qaeda's frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been arrested.
The Iraqi government said Mohammed Najm Ibrahim, who with one of his brothers runs a Zarqawi cell, is responsible for the beheading of several citizens and for attacks against Iraqi security forces.
Writing in the Washington Post on Wednesday, David Ignatius offered up this quote from Lebanon's paramount Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who, after siding with Syria for decades (he didn't have much choice; they killed his father) and opposing the U.S. war in Iraq, has become the leading figure in the anti-Syrian Lebanese opposition: "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world . The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
Jumblatt, for whom political changeability has long been the price to pay for protecting his minority community (and his control over it), nevertheless means what he says. Like many Lebanese, albeit at much greater risk to his own life, Jumblatt has gone too far in attacking Syria to turn back now. And while there are those in the Middle East and the United States who will refuse to give the administration any credit on democratization, at this end of the table, and in Iraq, the more pragmatic view is that it's best to take what one can from the outside if expanded freedom is the upshot.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
As of last week, MSN-Hotmail has made even Outlook Express unuseable for me. Every time I want to send an e-mail to anyone with a @msn.com or @hotmail.com extension, my Outlook Express e-mails disappear. I then have to re-sign into to Hotmail.com, and decipher an inkblot that looks like this.
In general, this is annoying, but when you are engaged in a back-and-forth conversation with another MSN/Hotmail user, it is absolutely maddening.
I have been watching the development of "Gmail" for a while and I think that it represents the future of e-mail. The bottom line is that it saves every e-mail that you have every received or sent, and you can find any of them in an instant through a Google search of your archives.
Given my recent frustrations, I have decided that now is time to move on. So I figured out how to get an invitation to the "invitation-only" Gmail (it was not too hard).
My new e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Please use this e-mail address for future correspondence.
P.S. When I opened my "invitation-only" account, I was given some invitations to give to others. If you want one, send me an e-mail and I will "invite" you too. (It is free.)
She used to be known as the receptionist.I would simply call the Superintendent, the creator of these new titles, "doofus."
Now she's the Director of First Impressions. . .
Was the school bus late? Blame the "transporter of learners," formerly the bus driver.
Got a problem with your school principal? Take it up with the 10-word "executive director for elementary schools and excelling teaching and learning," formerly known as the assistant superintendent of elementary schools.
(Hat tip: reader David G.)
STATE OF MINNESOTA TOO POLITE TO ASK FOR FEDERAL FUNDING
ST. PAUL, MN—Although many of its highways and bridges are in severe disrepair, the traditionally undemanding state of Minnesota isn't comfortable asking for more interstate funding, sources reported Monday.
"Oh, we wouldn't want to bother the U.S. government—they've got more than enough on their plate as it is," Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. "Most of the potholes on I-90 are less than four feet wide. We get by just fine. I wouldn't want anyone all the way over there in Washington to be worrying about little ol' us."
Here is the BBC's story from 1945.
US troops have raised the Stars and Stripes over Iwo Jima four days after landing on the Japanese-held volcanic island.
The 28th Regiment of the 5th Marine Division took Mount Suribachi at 1030 local time.
The extinct volcano offers a strategic vantage point for the ongoing battle for control of the island.
Lying in the north-west Pacific Ocean 650 miles (1,045 kms) from Tokyo, Iwo Jima would serve as a useful base for long-range fighters to cover B-29 Superfortresses in a bombing campaign against the Japan's capital.
Although the Stars and Stripes are flying over the island the battle is far from over and the Japanese are reported to be defending every inch of the island using elaborate underground defences.
The battle for Iwo Jima has been described as the toughest fight in US Marine history by the commander of the Marines in the Pacific, Lt-General M "Howling Mad" Smith.
On 19 February, after four days of naval and air bombardment had pounded the beaches and weakened Japanese defences, the 4th and 5th Marine Divisions landed on the south side of the island under the overall command of Vice-Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner.
After a day of little resistance, the enemy fought back in earnest. Hidden in fortified caves and pillboxes linked by a series of tunnels they relentlessly attacked the Americans with artillery fire, grenades and other explosives as well as from the air.
The last 24 hours have seen the fiercest fighting yet with every step of the way up the mountain defended by the Japanese.
But by 1035 local time the Marines had reached the summit of Mt Suribachi.
Reporting from the US base in Guam, Admiral Chester W Nimitz said so far the battle had cost 5,372 casualties, including 644 dead, and that US carrier-based aircraft flying over the Bonin Islands north of Iwo Jima had destroyed three enemy planes.
Reuters news agency also reports Marines have finally reached the Japanese fighter-plane base in the centre of the island, which lies just 700 yards (640m) from the bomber airfield taken by the Americans two days ago.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor embroiled in a controversy for calling the victims of the World Trade Center attack "little Eichmanns" who deserved their fate, once suggested Hawaii ought to rid itself of golf courses.
The genie of people power has come out of the bottle and no amount of political chicanery will send it back in. Nor can Syria dispatch its tanks to crush the demonstrators on the streets of Beirut as the Soviet Union did in Prague in 1968.
"This is the start of Lebanon's second war of independence," says parliamentarian Marwan Hamade. "We are determined that Hariri's tragic death be transformed into the rebirth of our nation."
Monday, February 21, 2005
It doesn't matter that Minnesotans have had poor opinions of sports team owners from Calvin Griffith to Norm Green to Carl Pohlad to Roger Headrick to Red McCombs.
It doesn't matter that people in your own hometown haven't even heard of you.
It doesn't matter that even by your own representations you are not in nearly the same league as other sports owners, most of whom are billionaires.
It doesn't matter that your first public relations move was to release a resume that misrepresented your childhood, your educational background, and your (non-existent) career as a professional athlete.
Nope, because I am somewhat skeptical that you can pull this off, I'm a racist.
UPDATE: To be fair, it isn't Fowler who is playing the race card.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Unfortunately, too many folks on the liberal side are willing to accept the invitation to play by Coulter's ugly rules. Consider this from Oliver Willis.
You cannot deal with that sort of ideology in any sort of accomodationist manner. Liberals need to understand this, from Democratic senators in Washington who still – still – refuse to vote their conscience out of some sense of loyalty to a long-dead notion of civility in Washington, to progressive pundits who actually believe that their right-wing counterparts in the nation's media are actually there for a give-and-take rather than a chance to paint everyone to the left of Joe Lieberman as a terrorist sympathizer.I can understand why Democrats are frustrated as hell, but they need to keep their eye on the prize -- the 30 percent of voters in the middle who decide every national election. The Democrats can regain the presidency in 2008 if the battle is over the reasonable middle (yes, the Lieberman and McCain independents) rather than who can come up with the cleverest sounds bites to release into the echo chambers of the converted and unpersuadable.
Wake up, folks. We're in an ideological war with these folks and the sooner you realize that the better. The goal of the modern conservative movement, as embodied by George W. Bush, is not just a simple majority of conservative thought – rather, it is the elimination of everything but conservative thought. In their dream world, a debate over war in Iran would be between differing ideas on whether a standard issue invasion or a tactical nuclear strike would best suffice.
UPDATE: I just saw this. I don't get why "work in a bipartisan way" yet "don't go too far" are assumed to be mutually exclusive paths.
Why disclose the tapes now?
Mr. Wead said he recorded his conversations with the president in part because he thought he might be asked to write a book for the campaign. He also wanted a clear account of any requests Mr. Bush made of him. But he said his main motivation in making the tapes, which he originally intended to be released only after his own death, was to leave the nation a unique record of Mr. Bush.
"I believe that, like him or not, he is going to be a huge historical figure," Mr. Wead said. "If I was on the telephone with Churchill or Gandhi, I would tape record them too."
Does this guy really think that we are all stupid enough to believe that his motives in making the tapes in the first place and in releasing them now have been consistently pure and unselfish? What a putz.
As the author of a new book about presidential childhoods, Mr. Wead could benefit from any publicity, but he said that was not a motive in disclosing the tapes. . .
"I just felt that the historical point I was making trumped a personal relationship," Mr. Wead said.
UPDATE: Even kos agrees. ("To be honest, I do think releasing these tapes is a betrayal. This guy Doug Wead is an ass. Could you imagine one of your good friends secretly taping a conversation with you and then leaking it to the NY Times?")
Saturday, February 19, 2005
[T]he Centrist Coalition has created a Centrist Blogosphere aggregator. With one click of this link http://kinja.com/user/centrist, you will have access to dozens of the latest posts by centrist bloggers. Let us know about any blogs we've missed that ought to be included. We hope through this mechanism to encourage centrist bloggers to link to each other, and even create our own "echo chamber." :-)This blog is among those with posts included in the aggregator. Check it out.
Hi Todd. You may have already seen this on Centerfield, but I wanted to touch base about our new voice chat initiative.
We think that politically active moderates and centrists should find more ways to talk to one another. We're launching something called Centrist Townhall, which will be a live national voice chat between moderates and centrists.
We plan to hold them periodically, on a different topic each time, and we plan to feature a different centrist weblog with each chat.
This Sunday's meeting will feature Joe Gandleman of The Moderate Voice. He'll share some thoughts about his blog, the centrist movement, and Gov. Schwarzeneggar's initiatives in California, where Joe lives.
The meeting will be Sunday, Feb. 20, at 9:00 pm EST. The details are available on our blog posting here -- http://www.centristcoalition.com/blog/archives/001771.html. You can join the chat group here -- http://groups.yahoo.com/group/centristtownhall/.
We'd really like to see as much participation as possible in the first meeting or two. Early participation is critical in helping us establish a new way for us all to talk to one another.
If you can make it to the first meeting, that would be great. If you're willing to put a post about it on your blog, that would be most helpful too.
The Centrist Coalition
I plan on participating but, unless I get out and get a microphone for my computer, I will just be listening.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Three suicide bombings and a mortar attack killed at least five people in Iraq on Saturday. At least 62 others were wounded in a wave of insurgent attacks.I can see how some Iraqi suicide bombers can be motivated based on some sense of nationalism to blow up Americans or Iraqi police "collaborators?" But how are the "insurgents" motivating people to blow themselves up as they are among innocent Muslims who are practicing their Islamic faith?
In the latest attack, a suicide bomb exploded on a bus in a Shiite section of Baghdad on Saturday afternoon. . .
Hours earlier, a bomber on a bicycle blew himself up inside a funeral tent at a Baghdad mosque, killing three people and wounding 38, Iraqi police said. . .
Shiite mosques were the targets of three suicide bombings and a rocket strike, officials said, while another bomber targeted Iraqi security forces at a checkpoint. . .
Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said the attacks were intended "to try to draw a rift, to dig a wedge between the Shia and Sunnis in this country."
He said the insurgents were "trying to portray themselves as defending Islam against the infidels and the foreigners."
"They are blowing up pilgrims; they are blowing up people who are attending the mosque to do their Friday prayers."
Friday, February 18, 2005
Bryant Cecchini sat in a room full of white supremacist pamphlets, books and compact discs recently, lamenting what could have been.
He projects that the South St. Paul-based Panzerfaust Records company that he helped build into a force in the niche of white-power music could have made almost $1 million this year. Instead, the company is defunct.
Things would be different, Cecchini said, if his business partner and neighbor, Anthony Pierpont, hadn't been charged with a low-level drug crime in December. And if the company's clients didn't now believe that Pierpont, who founded Panzerfaust, is of Mexican descent.
Cecchini, 33, who once was sentenced to three years and seven months in prison for a stabbing years ago, said he has standards for the people with whom he does business, such as being truthful and refraining from drug use.
"And, unfortunately," he added, "you have to be white."
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Fast forward to 2005, and I direct you to this article from a New Yorker.
So, there it is. Both for me and those who legitimately argued for a different course.
Like most New Yorkers, I disagree with the Bush administration politically, temperamentally, and ontologically most of the time. Two years ago, however, unlike most New Yorkers (but probably like most Americans), concerning Iraq I went from 50-50 fence-sitting to fretful 53 percent support of an invasion. So the ups and downs of the war and occupation since have conformed, more or less, to my own deep ambivalence.
But for our local antiwar supermajority, the Iraq elections were simply the most vertiginous moment of a two-year-long roller-coaster ride. By last November, they’d hoped the U.S. would see things their way—and it was some solace that by January, a solid majority of the country apparently agreed with New York that Iraq was a mess and a misadventure.
Until the Iraqi vote: surprisingly smooth and inarguably inspiring and, in some local camps, unexpectedly unsettling. Of course, for all but a nutty fringe, it is not a matter of actually wishing for an insurgent victory, but rather of hating the idea of a victory presided over by the Bush team. (I may prefer the Yankees to beat the Red Sox, but I cannot bear the spectacle of Steinbrenner’s gloating.) Three months after failing to defeat Bush in our election, plenty of New Yorkers privately, half-consciously hoped for his comeuppance in Iraq’s. You know who you are. . . .I don�t mean to suggest, in the right-wing, proto-fascist rhetorical fashion, that every good American is obliged to support all American wars. But at this moment in this war, that binary choice of who you want to win is inescapable and needs to be faced squarely�just as being pro-war obliges one to admit that thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed or maimed or orphaned.
Each of us has a Hobbesian choice concerning Iraq; either we hope for the vindication of Bush’s risky, very possibly reckless policy, or we are in a de facto alliance with the killers of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. We can be angry with Bush for bringing us to this nasty ethical crossroads, but here we are nonetheless.
UPDATE: War opponents - listen to Matt.
(For cross-post at Centerfield and comments posted there, click here.)
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Say, what?! I'm sure that there is a role for robots to play in the Pentagon's future, but "life-or-death decisions" and "effective control"? Maybe I have seen too many movies like I, Robot, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and War Games, but that sounds crazy to me.
The robot soldier is coming.
The Pentagon predicts that robots will be a major fighting force in the American military in less than a decade, hunting and killing enemies in combat.
Robots are a crucial part of the Army's effort to rebuild itself as a 21st-century fighting force, and a $127 billion project called Future Combat Systems is the biggest military contract in American history.
The military plans to invest tens of billions of dollars in automated armed forces. . . .
Military planners say robot soldiers will think, see and react increasingly like humans. . . And as their intelligence grows, so will their autonomy. .
As the first lethal robots head for Iraq, the role of the robot soldier as a killing machine has barely been debated. The history of warfare suggests that every new technological leap - the longbow, the tank, the atomic bomb - outraces the strategy and doctrine to control it.
"The lawyers tell me there are no prohibitions against robots making life-or-death decisions," said Mr. Johnson, who leads robotics efforts at the Joint Forces Command research center in Suffolk, Va. . .
"As machines become more intelligent, people will let machines make more of their decisions for them," Mr. Joy wrote recently in Wired magazine. "Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage, the machines will be in effective control."
UPDATE: Thanks for the link Vodkapundit. And OTB.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Here is one from today: "Did you know liberals aren't appalled by child molestation?" Of course, he then immediately claims that he isn't saying it, someone else is. I don't know why the Wall Street Journal allows its name to be associated with the things that this guy writes.
LONDON - Paul Casey, an Englishman who lives in Arizona, returns to the PGA Tour this week after undergoing counseling to deal with the fallout from his derogatory comments about Americans.
Casey said in an interview with The Sunday Times of London in November that he learned to “properly hate” the Americans during the Ryder Cup. He also said U.S. fans can be “bloody annoying,” and the vast majority of Americans don’t know what’s going on in the world.
So how will Howard Dean's selection as chairman of the Democratic National Committee fit in with Reid's centrist opposition strategy? Paul Krugman today predicts that it will fit quite nicely:
I think it's becoming CW that Reid's Senate is off to a great start -- a unified, focused caucus ramping up strong, principled opposition to Bush his Republican cronies.
Part of that newfound effectiveness may stem from the absence of those very Democrats who once backed key tenets of the Bush agenda, only to be targetted and defeated the following election cycle.
But part of it seems to be based on Reid's deputizing of key Red State Democrats.
A little-known fact -- conservative Dem Max Baucus of Montana is in charge of Senate Democratic opposition to Bush's privatization scheme. Biden, no flaming liberal, is in charge of leading the Senate Dem charge on foreign policy.
And the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, which today ran hearings on corruption in US contracting in Iraq, is chaired by North Dakota's Byron Dorgan.
"The Republicans know the America they want, and they are not afraid to use any means to get there," Howard Dean said in accepting the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. "But there is something that this administration and the Republican Party are very afraid of. It is that we may actually begin fighting for what we believe."
Those words tell us what the selection of Mr. Dean means. It doesn't represent a turn to the left: Mr. Dean is squarely in the center of his party on issues like health care and national defense. Instead, Mr. Dean's political rejuvenation reflects the new ascendancy within the party of fighting moderates, the Democrats who believe that they must defend their principles aggressively against the right-wing radicals who have taken over Congress and the White House. . .
For a while, Mr. Dean will be the public face of the Democrats, and the Republicans will try to portray him as the leftist he isn't. But Deanism isn't about turning to the left: it's about making a stand.
Ultra-liberals Kos and Krugman cannot help themselves when it comes to the "cronies" and "right-wing radicals" rhetoric, but they both appear to be bowing to reality that this is a center to center-right dominated country right now and to get back in the game the Democrats have to act accordingly. That is a big, and necessary, first step.
(Linked to OTB.)
The results of Iraq's first free elections are in. They're better than any realist could have expected. And, predictably, the media are grasping at every possible negative.
Let's look at things honestly.
The United Iraqi Alliance, endorsed by the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, got 48.2 percent of the vote. That's enough to please the party's wide array of Shi'a backers, but it's not enough to govern without a coalition.
Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi List came in third, with 13.8 percent. This largely Shi'a party also includes Sunni Arabs and will act as a secular counterforce to the UIA's religion-tinted coalition.
Vitally, the Kurdistan Alliance took second place with a startling 25.7 percent. This not only demonstrates the power of Iraq's most pro-American element, but grants the Kurds the role of political kingmakers. Both of the major Shi'a parties will court them.
Moqtada al-Sadr, the bigoted thug who cast himself as the voice of Iraq's Shi'as? His party gets three seats out of 275. So much for Shi'a extremism.
Democracy works. . .
You can also disregard the warnings that Iraq will turn into another Iran. Ain't going to happen. The Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq's most revered figure, is well aware that Iran's theocracy has failed miserably — tarnishing the faith he loves. As a result, Sistani has set a rational course that will endure beyond his death.
Monday, February 14, 2005
[I]n one of the greatest ironies of the U.S. intervention, Iraqis instead went to the polls and elected a government with a strong religious base -- and very close ties to the Islamic republic next door. It is the last thing the administration expected from its costly Iraq policy -- $300 billion and counting, U.S. and regional analysts say. . .
Yet the top two winning parties -- which together won more than 70 percent of the vote and are expected to name Iraq's new prime minister and president -- are Iran's closest allies in Iraq.Yet skepticism started to set in when I read this.
And the winning Kurdish alliance, whose co-leader Jalal Talabani is the top nominee for president, has roots in a province abutting Iran, which long served as its economic and political lifeline.I thought we wanted to the Kurds to do well in the election? How come a strong performance by the Kurds is being sold as "bad news?" My skepticism grew deeper when I read this.
Cole is a well-known leftist who refuses to believe that any good news is possible out of Iraq. He is not a good source for an objective analysis. And while I have never heard of Khouri, who said that Iraqis would elect a government that was "pro-Israel?" Hell, countries in Europe don't elect governments that are pro-Israel.
"This is a government that will have very good relations with Iran. The Kurdish victory reinforces this conclusion. Talabani is very close to Tehran," said Juan Cole, a University of Michigan expert on Iraq. "In terms of regional geopolitics, this is not the outcome that the United States was hoping for."
Added Rami Khouri, Arab analyst and editor of Beirut's Daily Star: "The idea that the United States would get a quick, stable, prosperous, pro-American and pro-Israel Iraq has not happened."
In its penultimate paragraph, the article states this.
For now, the United States appears prepared to accept the results -- in large part because it has no choice.
Finally, I note that nowhere does the story tell you what outcome was "expected" or "hoped for." (With a large percentage of Sunnis not participating, this is fairly close to what I was expecting.)
I then read the New York Times' coverage. And after I was done, I was left wondering whether the two stories were reporting on the same election. First, there is the headline: "Iraqi Shiites Win, but Margin Is Less Than Projection." Then, there is the story.
A broad Shiite alliance led by two Iran-backed religious parties won a slim majority of seats in the national assembly, final election results showed Sunday. The alliance's victory - in the first fully elected parliament in Iraq's 85-year history as a separate state - was narrower than the alliance had projected and set the stage for protracted maneuvering. . .So, despite the Washington Post's suggestions to the contrary, perhaps these election results are not the end of the world after all.
Calculations based on voting results indicated that while the Shiite alliance had on about 48 percent of the popular vote, it would hold 140 seats, or 2 more than equired for a majority.
Until just before results were announced, alliance officials said they were expecting 150 seats. That number would have brought them closer to the two-thirds majority required to name a new government and to take the controlling hand in writing a constitution. Instead, heavy Kurdish voting in the north and secular voting in Baghdad and Basra offset the alliance's sweep in most of the southern provinces. . .
The sweeping victory sought by the main Shiite group, the United Iraqi Alliance, was denied . . .
In an interview as the last election returns were being tallied, the diplomat said the Americans were "ready to work with whatever government the Iraqis choose," and were not worried about the alliance's Iranian links. "I think that they're nationalistic Iraqis, and that they didn't go through all those years of struggle against Saddam just to hand their country over to the Iranians."
(Linked at OTB).
Sunday, February 13, 2005
So what hath the blogosphere wrought? The left blogosphere has moved the Democrats off to the left, and the right blogosphere has undermined the credibility of the Republicans' adversaries in Old Media. Both changes help Bush and the Republicans.In an e-mail to Powerline, Barone adds that "the right blogosphere is more tolerant of differing opinions than its left counterpart. "
On the other side, I offer Kevin Drum, who believes that in 2004 the blogosphere focused too much on collecting scalps and opines that "conservatives gain strength from promoting this brand of warfare far more than liberals do. "
My view is that both sides of the blogosphere are self-righteous and hypocritical. But 2004 was a better year for the right than it was for the left and, thus, the right can pretend to be magnanimous while the left, understandably, is angry and working to find a way out of the forest.
With odds against the pope's survival set as high as 12-1, Las Vegas' biggest sports books took a massive financial hit last weekend when the ailing pontiff pulled off a huge upset against his heavily favored archrival, death.
"No question, it's a catastrophic loss," said Bally's sports book director Tony Silvestro. "You've got a frail and gaunt 84-year-old man with massive health problems and he finally gets the flu. It's like a gift from God for oddsmakers. I've never been more confident of a betting line."
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 12 - A suicide car bomber killed at least 17 Iraqis at the entrance of a hospital south of Baghdad, and a judge who had investigated crimes in Saddam Hussein's government was gunned down outside his home in Basra by masked men riding a motorcycle, as Iraq's insurgency continued to intensify since elections two weeks ago.
From Monday to Saturday, bombers and gunmen have left at least 108 people dead. The attacks have been at or near a Shiite mosque, a hospital, police facilities, a bakery in a Shiite neighborhood and in front of Iraqis' houses.
The motives and strategies of the shadowy and probably fragmented insurgency are never certain, but Iraqi security officials said Saturday that its leaders might have been surprised by the recent willingness of Sunni political and religious figures to join discussions over the formation of a new Iraqi government. . .
"What is happening is that, having failed to stop people from going to the polls, they are trying to create the impression of a civil war," said Sabah Kadhim Jumah, a senior official at the Interior Ministry.
American military commanders express cautious optimism that the underlying trends indicate trouble for the insurgents. . .
With more tip-offs about insurgent hide-outs and weapons caches reaching American and Iraqi forces, the commanders say, and with more than 2,500 suspected insurgents or collaborators captured in a month of intensified raids across the country that preceded the Jan. 30 elections, the insurgents are finding it harder to sustain their campaign. . .
General Chiarelli said his commanders, with 35,000 troops across the city, are reporting that many more Iraqis are now willing to give them information about insurgents in their neighborhoods, and that they were seeing a widespread feeling that control of the country's affairs was passing into Iraqi hands.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
BEIJING, Feb. 12 - State-controlled media and censored Internet chat rooms in China have become uncommonly critical of North Korea in the two days since it declared that it had nuclear weapons, even as the foreign ministry here has said fairly little.
The criticism by state-run media is important because the Chinese government has tended to take a protective position, at least in public, toward North Korea, its neighbor and sometime ally. China also has more influence with North Korea than any other country does, providing it with much of its fuel, food and other supplies - although even Chinese influence has proved limited at times. . .
Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University, said, "The Chinese government is really angry in their hearts about the declaration of North Korea, so they take a permissive attitude toward the media," allowing greater criticism of North Korea. Sentiment has started shifting against North Korea among those in China who follow foreign affairs and possibly among the broader public, he said, adding, "For this moment, many people are strongly inclined to think the bad guy is North Korea."
The success of the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq has created an exciting moment of opportunity. It matters greatly that Iraq's transition is a success. I am determined to make certain that the United Nations will play its full part in helping the Iraqi people achieve that end.
But it also matters that the international community, which has been angrily divided over Iraq, now recognizes that we all share a common agenda: to move Iraq from the starting point -- its successfully completed elections -- to a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future. . .
Let's not pretend that it will be easy. Iraq is in a complicated region of the world, and has had a tortured recent history. It also has a diverse society, and some groups are determined to prevent a democratic outcome on any terms. But I believe that with international help, such a society can use democratic institutions to build itself a stable and prosperous future. That hope and that vision offer us in the outside world a real opportunity to start again -- together -- and support the Iraqi people in their great experiment.
Friday, February 11, 2005
RACINE - Isac Aguero made it a Bud Light on Saturday night. His employer thought it should have been Miller Time.I have heard a similar story that goes like this. US Bank, headquartered in Minneapolis, has a very popular VISA card that gives you a frequent flyer mile on Northwest Airlines for every dollar you charge. Wells Fargo also has its headquarters in Minneapolis. According to the story, after a nice dinner with the Wells Fargo CEO, a Wells Fargo executive vice president pulled out his credit card to pay the bill. You guessed it -- a US Bank VISA card. The boss was pissed, and didn't care if everyone in the restaurant knew it.
The 24-year-old from Racine said he was fired Monday, the same day a picture appeared in The Journal Times showing him holding a bottle of Bud Light. The picture was taken Saturday night, while Aguero was out in Downtown Racine during Mardi Crawl, and appeared as part of the JT's weekly "On the Town" feature depicting area nightlife.
Our resort will be the world's first permanent one-atmosphere sea floor structure and the world's first true undersea resort. Guests will enjoy 5 star luxury accommodation, all with stunning views of the underwater world. . .
We estimate that the room rate for a standard 550 square foot undersea suite will e $1500 per night. The Poseidon Undersea Resort will be the only place where you can spend a night underwater on the sea floor with a spectacular view. The "once in a lifetime" experience will be worth every penny.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
LONDON (Reuters) - Legal precedent will be set when film director Roman Polanski gives evidence in an English court via videolink from a Paris hotel room in order to avoid the risk of extradition to the United States for a child sex offence.
England's highest court ruled on Thursday the 71-year-old should be allowed to sue the publishers of U.S. magazine Vanity Fair for libel from the safety of France.
Let me get this straight. He can assert his rights in court but he doesn't have to appear in court because he is a wanted criminal by the courts?
(Linked to OTB.)
SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea on Thursday announced for the first time that it has nuclear arms and rejected moves to restart disarmament talks anytime soon, saying it needs the weapons as protection against an increasingly hostile United States.
The communist state’s pronouncement dramatically raised the stakes in the two-year-old nuclear confrontation and posed a grave challenge to President Bush, who started his second term with a vow to end North Korea’s nuclear program through six-nation talks.
The most worrisome part of this is that Kim Jong Il is paranoid, unpredictable, and probably mentally ill. That is not a reassuring combination. I would not feel too comfortable if I lived in Seoul right now.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
One of Zimbabwe's leading junior athletes, who has won several gold medals in women's events, is really a man, police say.
Samukeliso Sithole, 17, has been charged with impersonation.
At her court appearance, she insisted that she was a woman, despite a doctor's report to the contrary.
Ms Sithole said she was born with both male and female sexual organs and a traditional healer had made the penis disappear but it had since regrown.
She told the court that the penis had returned because the healer had not been fully paid for his services.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., said today that he will not run for re-election in 2006.The problem is that the likely DFL nominee is Mike Hatch (current Attorney General), an egomaniacal publicity hound. My dream candidate would be Tim Penny, former Democratic congressman, but he burned his bridges in the DFL party when he ran as an independent for governor in 2002.
Dayton made the announcement this afternoon in a telephone conference call with reporters.
"I do not believe that I am the best candidate to lead the DFL Party to victory next year,'' Dayton said.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas declared Tuesday that their people would stop all military and violent attacks against each other, pledging to break a four-year cycle of bloodshed and get peace talks back on track. . .
As part of the deal, Israel will hand over control of five West Bank towns to the Palestinians within three weeks and immediately release 500 Palestinian prisoners.
Those agreements, and the sight of Abbas and Sharon shaking hands, were the clearest signs yet of momentum in the peace process after Yasser Arafats death in November and Abbas election to succeed him in January.
One Israeli official, Gideon Meir, said there was a great atmosphere in the talks ... smiles and joking.
An invitation to both sides to meet separately with President Bush at the White House this spring added another round of momentum on the summits eve.
Saddam is gone, Arafat is dead, and hope is reborn in the Middle East. If peace and democracy in the Middle East are not yet officially on the march, at the very least they seem to be getting their boots on.
UPDATE: The self-proclaimed leading Middle East expert in the country, Juan Cole, so far today has nothing to say about this meeting and the agreements reached there. No, he is too busy with his spat with Jonah Goldberg.
- AGRICULTURE: $19.4 billion, down 9.6 percent
- COMMERCE: $9.4 billion, up 49 percent
- DEFENSE: $419.3 billion, up 4.5 percent
- EDUCATION: $56 billion, down 1 percent
- ENERGY: 23.4 billion, down 2 percent
- HHS: $67.2 billion, down 1.2 percent
- HOMELAND SECURITY: $34.2 billion, up 6.8 percent
- HUD: $28.5 billion, down 11.5 percent
- INTERIOR: $10.6 billion, down 1.1 percent
- JUSTICE: $20.3 billion, up 1 percent
- LABOR: $11.5 billion, down 4.4 percent
- STATE: $32.7 billion, up 15.6 percent
- TRANSPORTATION: $57.5 billion, down 1 percent
- TREASURY: $11.6 billion, up 3.9 percent
- VETERANS AFFAIRS: $33.4 billion, up 2.7 percent
- EPA: $7.6 billion, down 5.6 percent
- NASA: $16.5 billion, down 5.6 percent
Monday, February 07, 2005
Bob Woodward, a reporter on the team that covered the Watergate story, has advised his executive editor at the Washington Post that Throat is ill. And Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Post and one of the few people to whom Woodward confided his source's identity, has publicly acknowledged that he has written Throat's obituary.So who is it? How about this guess? (Via KJL at the Corner).
[Sen. Ted] Kennedy blamed the country's skittish mood of "overwhelming anxiety and fear'' in the wake of the 9/11 attacks for Kerry's loss. "It was just a difficult thing to kind of break through,'' the senator said.Sounds like he is starting to get "it," namely that first and foremost any Democrat who plans to run for president needs to figure out a message that will reassure enough independents and other swing voters that he or she has what it takes to be trusted with the keys to U.S. national security. As someone who is pushing for Kerry to run again, that is where Kennedy's immediate priorities are going to be, right? Guess again - next paragraph.
Democrats must do a better job of conveying their values on issues such as health care and jobs if they want to take back Congress and the White House, Kennedy said.No, no, no. Although I recognize that as the party out of power the most that the Democrats can actually achieve are some tactical victories on domestic issues, a strategy for a return to the White House that ain't. To mimic someone who Kennedy might actually listen to, the lesson in 2004 was that "it's national security, stupid," and it surely will be again in 2008. The sooner the would-be candidates in 2008 figure this out and start thinking accordingly the better, both for them and for independent hawks like me who voted against Kerry as much as we voted for Bush.
(Linked with OTB).
Sunday, February 06, 2005
There is growing evidence -- in polling and in public statements of church leaders -- that evangelicals are beginning to go for the green. Despite wariness toward mainstream environmental groups, a growing number of evangelicals view stewardship of the environment as a responsibility mandated by God in the Bible.
"The environment is a values issue," said the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals. "There are significant and compelling theological reasons why it should be a banner issue for the Christian right."
WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 - President Bush will seek deep cuts in farm and commodity programs in his new budget and in a major policy shift will propose overall limits on subsidy payments to farmers, administration officials said Saturday. . .I will support subsidies if there is compelling evidence that an industry that is vital to our national well-being cannot operate without them, but even then the subsidies should be narrowly tailored to address a specific problem. Too often, they devolve into nothing more than corporate welfare. That is clearly what has happened with farm subsidies. I wish the White House luck in this battle.
The proposal puts Mr. Bush at odds with some of his most ardent supporters in the rural South, including cotton and rice growers in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.
The new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, and more than 100 farm groups are gearing up to fight the White House proposal.
(For cross-post at Centerfield and comments posted there, click here.)
Last week, as the euphoria of nationwide elections washed over this country, a remarkable thing happened: Iraqis, by and large, stopped talking about the Americans. . .
The Iraqi focus on its own democracy, and the new view of the United States, surfaced in dozens of interviews with Iraqis since last Sunday's election. It is unclear, of course, how widespread the trend is; whole communities, like the Sunni Arabs, remain almost implacably opposed to the presence of American forces. But by many accounts, the elections last week altered Iraqis' relationship with the United States more than any single event since the invasion. . .
"America will be good if it completes what it came here to do, to bring us democracy, and then it goes home," Mr. Shahir said. "The main thing now is that they keep their promises, and leave. Personally, I believe they will do it."
Saturday, February 05, 2005
UPDATE: I should confess that I want the Eagles to win for at least two reasons. First, I lived in Philly for 2 years (during the Buddy Ryan era) and, although I was no fan, I know how committed the Eagles fans are. They need this. Second, with the Red Sox victory in the World Series this year and two Patriots Super Bowl victories in the new millenium, New Englanders need a win tomorrow in the same way that Warren Buffet needs a good stock tip.
BAGHDAD, Feb. 4 -- Influential Sunni Arab leaders of a boycott of last Sunday's elections expressed a new willingness Friday to engage the coming Iraqi government and play a role in writing the constitution, in what may represent a strategic shift in thinking among mainstream anti-occupation groups.Two.
The Iraqi police have investigated a case in the village of al-Mudhariya, which is just south of Baghdad. The villagers there say that before the election insurgents came and warned them that if they voted in last weekend's election, they would pay.(via Centerfield)
Now the people of this mixed village of Sunni and Shia Muslims, they ignored the threat and they did turn out to vote.
We understand that last night the insurgents came back to punish the people of al-Mudhariya, but instead of metering out that punishment the villagers fought back and they killed five of the insurgents and wounded eight. They then burnt the insurgents' car. So the people of that village have certainly had enough of the insurgents.
Friday, February 04, 2005
Thursday, February 03, 2005
In May 2004, I said that Rumsfeld should resign over Abu Ghraib. (See here.) Well, apparently he offered - twice:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says he twice offered President Bush his resignation during the height of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, but the president refused to accept it.I predict that Rumsfeld will again offer his resignation as soon as we start to reduce (even marginally) the troop levels in Iraq, and that Bush will accept the resignation at that time. I also predict that both of those events will happen very soon after the elections for a permanent government take place in December 2005. But an assumption behind these predictions (which I guess qualifies as a third prediction) is that we will get Zarqawi, and soon. To that end, I hope that this report is accurate.
TBILISI, Georgia (AP) - Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, who helped lead Georgia's revolution that toppled the corruption-tainted regime of Eduard Shevardnadze, died early Thursday in a friend's apartment from what officials claimed was an accidental gas leak from a heater.
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) "has been maneuvering behind the scenes for months to put the framework for a White House bid in place," Roll Call reports. "With an eye on moving quickly to consolidate his chances of emerging as the Hillary Clinton alternative, Bayh has made a number of notable hires in the past few months."
Press Secretary Scott McClellan: "Why don't we plant a Republican hack in the White House press corps and consistently call on him at press conferences?"
Karl Rove: "Great idea. Just make sure he is not with Fox News. That would be too obvious."
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
NAJAF, Iraq, Feb. 1 - Salim Yacoubi bent over to kiss the purple ink stain on his twin brother's right index finger, gone cold with death.I would like to think that, if I were an Iraqi, I would have braved the danger and voted, but that is easy to say from the frozen tundra in Minnesota. Anyway, I continue to marvel at the unbelievable courage of 8 million Iraqis.
"You can see the finger with which he voted," Shukur Jasim, a friend of the dead man, said as he cast a tearful gaze on the body, sprawled across a washer's concrete slab. "He's a martyr now."
The stain marked the hard-won right to vote that Naim Rahim Yacoubi exercised Sunday, and the price he paid for that privilege. . . .
At polling centers hit by explosions, survivors refused to go home, steadfastly waiting to cast their votes as policemen swept away bits of flesh.
Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Stronger countermeasures will be needed, including an unequivocal White House response to obstructionism, curbs on filibusters, and a clear delineation of what's permissible and what's out of bounds in dissent on Iraq.Democrats are not helping themselves by ratcheting up the Iraq rhetoric (particularly in light of Sunday's successful elections), but I reject the idea that anyone can impose boundaries on their right of free speech.