WASHINGTON, March 30 - A Department of Homeland Security internal report that assesses terrorist organizations, their anticipated targets and preferred weapons concludes that the threat to the United States presented by North Korea and several other countries long described as "state sponsors of terrorism" is declining.
"In the post-9/11 environment, countries do not appear to be facilitating or supporting terrorist groups intent on striking the U.S. homeland," says the draft report, which is intended to help the Homeland Security agency define its spending priorities through 2011.
Of the six nations identified by the State Department as terrorist sponsors, five of them - North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya and Cuba - are described by Homeland Security as a "diminishing concern." Iran, the final country on the list, alone is described as a potential threat over the next five years.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
CAIRO (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has alarmed many reformist Arabs with comments suggesting a new U.S. approach that promotes rapid political change without regard for internal stability.There are obvious risks if this becomes the policy of the United States. But Reuters really goes overboard in reporting this story. Other than Dr. Rice, the Reuters' article quotes six "experts," every single one of whom is critical of the idea of promoting democracy before stability and at least one of whom suggests that the U.S. is taking its cues from Israel.
Rice said in an interview with the Washington Post last week the Middle East status quo was not stable and she doubted it would be stable soon. Washington would speak out for "freedom" without offering a model or knowing what the outcome would be.
UPDATE: Thanks for the link Mr. Simon.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
"I see Senator Kennedy has changed his position on offshore drilling."That is pretty damn funny.
-- Former Sen. Howell Heflin (D-AL), after seeing a National Enquirer photo of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) on top of a woman in a boat. The New York Times runs an obituary of Heflin, who died yesterday.
Before deciding what Democrats should do now, it's important to see what Republicans have done right over many years. When the Goldwater Republicans lost in 1964, they didn't try to become Democrats. They tried to figure out how to make their own ideas more appealing to the voters. . .Damn insightful, I would say.
To further the party's ideological and political goals, Republicans in the 1970's and 1980's built a comprehensive structure based on [Lewis] Powell's blueprint. Visualize that structure as a pyramid. . .
At the very top of the pyramid you'll find the president. Because the pyramid is stable, all you have to do is put a different top on it and it works fine. . .
To understand how the Democratic Party works, invert the pyramid. Imagine a pyramid balancing precariously on its point, which is the presidential candidate. . .
Democrats choose this approach, I believe, because we are still hypnotized by Jack Kennedy, and the promise of a charismatic leader who can change America by the strength and style of his personality. The trouble is that every four years the party splits and rallies around several different individuals at once. Opponents in the primaries then exaggerate their differences and leave the public confused about what Democrats believe.
(For cross-post at Centerfield and comments posted there, click here.)
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Baghdad -- Playing soccer was anything but a game for Iraq's national team during Saddam Hussein's rule.March 27, 2005
Controlled by Hussein's sadistic elder son, Odai, the squad lived in constant fear of losing a match because failure on the field could result in public humiliation, imprisonment, punishment and even torture.
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) -- Prime Minister Ousmane Issoufe Maiga said Mali's soccer team will pay for losing a World Cup qualifying game which sparked rioting, looting and the destruction of monuments in the capital Bamako.
The New South Wales teenagers who robbed $171,000 from a US bank photographed themselves in a toilet cubicle with the stolen cash.Police have seized a digital camera from Luke Carroll and Anthony Prince containing 10 photographs of the smiling teens doing "gangsta" poses with bundles of stolen notes in a Denver McDonald's just hours after their heist. . .
After police found the incriminating photos on a camera they were carrying, the men made full confessions.
CAIRO, Egypt - The e-mail messages from Muslims began moments after the release of a religious edict condemning al-Qaida. They came from every corner of the world. Soon they were tumbling in too fast to handle.
"I couldn't even read them all. There are at least 1,000. Maybe more," said Mansur Escudero, secretary-general of the Islamic Commission of Spain. "The tone was nearly all the same: 'It's about time someone did it. Bravo!' "
The fatwa, issued on the anniversary of the Madrid train bombings that claimed 191 lives, was believed to be the first cleric-sanctioned condemnation directly against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. But it highlights a wider, critical dialogue emerging across the Islamic world.
Moderate Muslims are increasingly turning to Islam's sacred core - the Quran and the laws and traditions it inspires - to defend their views and discredit radicals as part of a "counter-jihad" for Islamic hearts and minds. . .
"The long and painful silence of moderate theologians and experts in Islam jurisprudence - who had been bought off or intimidated into silence - is finally starting to break apart," said Khaled Abou El Fadl, an authority on Islamic law at UCLA. "We are seeing signs of a counter-jihad."
Monday, March 28, 2005
The foregoing is simply intended as an introduction to this -- Gaypatriot has been intimidated into leaving blogland.
Al Davis (owner of the Oakland Raiders): "The NFL will find a way to make sure that Fowler is able to buy the team from Red McCombs."
The Iraqi resistance has peaked and is 'turning in on itself', according to recent intelligence reports from Baghdad received by Middle Eastern intelligence agencies.Meanwhile, Robert Novak offers his updated speculation that substantial troop withdrawals will begin this year. When Novak first raised that idea in September 2004, it was based on his allegedly informed speculation that Rice would advise Bush to cut and run and "would end the neo-conservative dream of building democracy in the Arab world." His current speculation seems much more plausible, if only because by all reports the insurgency is losing strength and the capabilities of the Iraqi police and army increase daily.
The reports are the most optimistic for several months and reflect analysts' sense that recent elections in Iraq marked a 'quantum shift'. They will boost the government in the run-up to the expected general election in May.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
The reaction journalism Prof. Jay Rosen of New York University had to the Columbine-Red Lake comparison turned the whole premise on its head. "Columbine was a media frenzy," he said. "It was overdone. Red Lake is a media frenzy. If this is a smaller media frenzy, I'm not going to get too upset about it, and I think activists who are asking for a bigger media frenzy have found a strange way of advancing the interests of their group."I also think that the biggest reason for the different level of coverage is simple -- nothing is as big of a story the second time it happens. From my experience, the respective media coverage of the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters was not even close. I would also venture to guess that a substantially higher percentage of the American population can tell you that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima than can tell you that the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki.
The Bush administration agreed today to sell Pakistan F-16 fighter planes in a major policy shift that was meant to reward Pakistan for its help in combating terrorism but was also certain to deeply antagonize Pakistan's longtime adversary India.But the Times seems to have missed the other half of the story.
The United States unveiled plans to help India become a "major world power in the 21st century" even as it announced moves to beef up the military of New Delhi's nuclear rival, Pakistan.
Under the plans, Washington offered to step up a strategic dialogue with India to boost missile defence and other security initiatives as well as high-tech cooperation and expanded economic and energy cooperation.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has presented to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the Bush administration's outline for a "decisively broader strategic relationship" between the world's oldest and largest democracies, a senior US official said.
"Its goal is to help India become a major world power in the 21st century," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We understand fully the implications, including military implications, of that statement."
It is vitally important for the U.S. to have the strongest relationships possible with the nuclear powers of the Asian subcontinent (who, by the way, came dangerously close to using those weapons against each other in the late 1990s). Pakistan is a critical ally in the war against Islamofacism. India is a crucial counterweight to China, which has significantly increased its military spending recently and turned up the volume on its threats against Taiwan. Fortunately, the dramatic improvement in relations between Pakistan and India has made it possible (albeit not uncomplicated) for the U.S. to pursue efforts to improve military relations with both countries at the same time.
Mar 25, 2005 — It's not that Sam Kimery objects to the views expressed on Fox News. The creator of the "Fox Blocker" contends the channel is not news at all. Kimery figures he's sold about 100 of the little silver bits of metal that screw into the back of most televisions, allowing people to filter Fox News from their sets, since its August debut.Or, alternatively, you could just not turn the channel to Fox.
This does give me an idea, however. Maybe I should market designer duct tape as a diet aid - you know, use it to stop food from entering your mouth.
Friday, March 25, 2005
I've made some misjudgments over these past two years in trying to anticipate developments in Iraq. It has been at once the most encouraging and discouraging story I've ever witnessed as a journalist. Over time, I've tried to temper my optimism and pessimism: It's never as bad as it seems in the low moments, and never as good as it seems in the peak ones.
That wary stance – hoping for the best even as you recognize the possibility of the worst – seems appropriate now, as the world watches a new Iraqi government prepare to take the next steps. Will Iraq's newly governing Shiite majority be wise and inclusive? Or will we see another round of settling scores, more chapters written in blood, more hearts enchanted to unyielding and inflexible belief? We really can't say. We hope the sacrifices made by Iraqis and Americans will prove to be justified. But we don't know.
That uncertainty is what makes Iraq truly an Easter story this year. You can't be sure, with a scientific certainty, how the story will turn out. It's a matter of hope, of prayer, and of continuing bloody struggle. What you can plainly see is that the stone has been rolled away from the tomb of the old Iraq. Has the country been reborn? Is this a story of redemption and triumph? Nobody can tell you the answer yet. For now, it's a question of keeping faith with the people who dreamed, two Easters ago, that they had gained a new life.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq Mar 24, 2005 — Hundreds of power workers shouting "No, no, to terror!" marched through Baghdad on Thursday to protest attacks that have killed dozens of their colleagues, while demonstrators in the south demanded that the new petroleum minister be from their oil-rich region.Add this to the list of good signs, which include:
But I wonder, what did ABC News and the New York Times do to authenticate a memo that "was unsigned, bore no Senate office letterhead, and was rife with errors, including the incorrect Senate bill number and the misspelling of Schiavo's name"?
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, March 24 - Protesters stormed the presidential compound in the Kyrgyz capital today, seizing control after clashing with riot policemen who had surrounded it during a large opposition rally.
At the same time, an opposition leader, former Prime Minister Kurmanbek Bakiev, vowed to hold new elections. "We will establish order," Mr. Bakiev was quoted as saying by Reuters. "We will not allow looting. We will hold our own elections to start our rule."
Ukraine. Lebanon. Kyrgyzstan. Where will it stop?
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
NEW YORK (AP) - In a case that could set limits on Internet search engines, the French news agency AFP is suing Google Inc. (GOOG) for pulling together photos and story excerpts from thousands of news Web sites.This is one of the reasons that sites like Daily Kos have decided to incorporate.
Agence France-Presse said the "Google News" service infringes on AFP's copyrights by reproducing information from the Web sites of subscribers of the Paris-based news wholesaler.
The issues raised by the case have profound implications for the Internet, where anyone can be a publisher and Web journals, or blogs, are becoming more frequent destinations for seekers of news.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 80 militants in a battle west of Tikrit, Iraqi officials said Wednesday. . .UPDATE: MSNBC changed the story associated with the link.
Iraqi insurgents have suffered a series of blows this week, including 26 deaths during a clash with American soldiers on Sunday. . .
Also Tuesday, shopkeepers and residents on one of Baghdad’s main streets pulled out their own guns and killed three insurgents when hooded men began shooting at passers-by. The incident gave a rare victory to civilians increasingly frustrated by the violence bleeding Iraq.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. Mar 22, 2005 — First, county Treasurer Gary Felasco hadn't paid his property taxes for years. Then, his county cell phone number turned up on a Web site promoting sex parties.
The local newspaper conducted a sting: They called the number at "Jeannie in the Bottle" and got directions from someone named Gary to an Ohio hotel where a swingers' party was advertised. Outside, they snapped a picture of Felasco's van.
A year later, Felasco is still Lawrence County treasurer angering colleagues and befuddling residents. . .
Felasco, a 37-year-old former auto mechanic, was elected in 2003 to his third four-year term as treasurer of this rural county on the Ohio line.
The county's three commissioners and the county prosecutor asked him to resign the $45,000-a-year post. Dozens of courthouse employees also signed a petition asking him to leave.
But he has refused even though the commissioners and others in the courthouse say he often doesn't come to work.
It is amazing how little shame some people can have.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
LISBON, Conn. - A state trooper was suspended for 15 days without pay after he was recorded on a 911 tape saying “too bad” to a caller seeking help for a man injured in a motorcycle accident. . .The man injured - he died. The entire plaintiffs' bar in Connecticut is going to be competing to get this case.
When [the caller] reported the accident, [Trooper Robert] Peasley said, “Yeah ... too bad,” and hung up, according to a tape obtained by WTNH-TV.
BEMIDJI, Minn. Mar 22, 2005 — A high school student went on a shooting rampage on an Indian reservation Monday, killing his grandparents at their home and then seven people at his school, grinning and waving as he fired, authorities and witnesses said. The suspect apparently killed himself after exchanging gunfire with police.This is not Minnesota's first such incident (a 15 year old shot two people at Rocori High School in 2003), but it is obviously its worst such incident.
The scariest thing about these rampages is that they are inherently unstoppable. Even if we put metal detectors and screeners at every entrance to every school (a practical impossibility), a person determined to find notoriety could simply go to a high school football game or popular mall hangout and find a similar target-rich environment.
This tragedy in Red Lake causes me deep sadness, but the worst part for me is having to admit that we are basically powerless to stop the next such tragedy.
(Linked at OTB).
Monday, March 21, 2005
2. If you are a basketball fan at all, go to this link and click on "CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE AMAZING SHOT" below the picture. (Unfortunately, you have to watch a commercial before the video plays.) Summary: High school basketball team is down 2 points in Minnesota state championship game with 2.5 seconds left. The in-bounds pass is thrown the length of the court, a guy lying on his back near the three point line comes up with it, and "swish," tie game. His team then wins in overtime.
P.S. I just put Hoosiers back on my Netflix list.
In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo case was characterized as "a great political issue" that could pay dividends with Christian conservatives, whose support is essential in midterm elections such as those coming up in 2006. . .I am conflicted about the way the Schiavo case was handled and ultimately resolved by the state courts, but this is ridiculous. Congress purported to subpoena her and, when that didn' work, it passed a law that is applicable only to her. And most members of Congress undoubtedly based their votes on nothing but a cynical political calculation. I am disgusted.
Republicans acknowledged that the intervention was a departure from their usual support for states' rights. But they said their views about the sanctity life trumped their views about federalism.
An unsigned one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators, said the debate over Schiavo would appeal to the party's base, or core, supporters. The memo singled out Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is up for reelection next year and is potentially vulnerable in a state President Bush won last year.
"This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue," said the memo, which was reported by ABC News and later given to The Washington Post. "This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats."
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Here are some simple truths every Democrat needs to hear. To win back the White House in 2008, our party must change. We must be willing to discard political strategies that may make us feel good but that keep falling short. We must finally reject the false choice between exciting our base and expanding our appeal, because unless we both motivate and persuade, we'll lose every time.
But above all, Democrats must be bold and clear about what we stand for. It's time to show the millions of people who can't tell what Democrats stand for that any American who believes in security, opportunity, and responsibility has a home in the Democratic Party. . .
Let's not kid ourselves: Americans didn't have any trouble telling the difference between John Kerry and George W. Bush. The trouble they had was figuring out what our side stood for. . .
The most important challenge for Democrats, and the country, is security. It cost Democrats the Senate in 2002. It cost us the White House in 2004. In the next decade, it will determine whether we can recapture the glory days of FDR, JFK, and Clinton, or whether we will go the way of the Whigs and the Know-Nothings. Fair or not, too many voters doubted our party's toughness and resolve in the face of new dangers. Until we recapture the muscular, progressive internationalism of Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy -- and convince voters that national security is our first priority, not just something we talk about until we can change the subject to more comfortable domestic issues -- we'll have a hard time convincing them to return us to national power. . .
I certainly hope that the DLCers prevail in this struggle. I voted for Bill Clinton (an original DLCer) twice, although I don't know that I would vote for him now because of his tepid responses to al-Qaeda and Saddam throughout his two terms. But there are Democrats that I would strongly consider voting for in 2008 (e.g., Lieberman, Biden, Bayh, Bob Kerrey), particularly if the Republicans nominate someone with no special national security resume and right wing views on domestic issues.
My point -- Go DLC!
Friday, March 18, 2005
Washingtion --An International Republican Institute poll conducted from February 27 to March 5, 2005 shows that a majority of Iraqis are optimistic about the direction of their country and hopeful for their future. . . .
The new survey revealed that 61.5 percent of Iraqis believe that their country is headed in the right direction compared to only 23.2 percent who feel Iraq is headed in the wrong direction. The nearly 40 point margin between right direction and wrong direction is the largest since IRI began polling in May 2004, and this margin is more than double what it was in the poll taken from January 13 to 25, 2005. The current poll further shows that more than 90 percent of Iraqis feel hopeful for their future.
But the American project for democracy or whatever its real purposes were, for oil, economic expansion, Middle East fit for Israel, whatever it may have been, that project is finished. It is hopeless. It cannot succeed. The insurgency in Iraq is so great now that American troops, however enormous their technology, cannot control it.All I will say is see the Krauthammer article linked below.
After all, going back at least to the Spanish Civil War, the left has always prided itself on being the great international champion of freedom and human rights. And yet, when America proposed to remove the man responsible for torturing, gassing and killing tens of thousands of Iraqis, the left suddenly turned into a champion of Westphalian sovereign inviolability.
A leftist judge in Spain orders the arrest of a pathetic, near-senile Gen. Augusto Pinochet eight years after he's left office, and becomes a human rights hero -- a classic example of the left morally grandstanding in the name of victims of dictatorships long gone. Yet for the victims of contemporary monsters still actively killing and oppressing -- Khomeini and his successors, the Assads of Syria and, until yesterday, Hussein and his sons -- nothing. No sympathy. No action. Indeed, virulent hostility to America's courageous and dangerous attempt at rescue.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
8. Said bin Laden and Zarqawi made a HUGE mistake when bin laden went public with naming Zarqawi the "prince" of al Qaeda in Iraq. Said that what the Iraqis saw and heard was a Saudi telling a Jordanian that his job was to kill Iraqis. HUGE mistake. It was one of the biggest factors in getting Iraqis who were on the "fence" to jump off on the side of the coalition and the new gov't.First, bin Laden helps Bush on the eve of the American election by releasing a videotape, and then he helps him again on the eve of the Iraqi election by embracing Zarqawi. Maybe he is not so smart after all.
Starting March 1, I began my training again in earnest and I currently have renewed motivation. I have run 36 miles since March 1, and I am going to extend my weekend run by one mile every week for the next 6 weeks as I prepare to run in a half-marathon on May 1. If I am able to complete a half-marathon by then (even if not in a time that I will brag about), the last 22 weeks of full-marathon training should be more bearable for me than many other novices. Also, since I have never run in any organized race, the experience can only be helpful.
Anyway, the reason for this post is mostly to put myself on the record again -- this time to a larger audience -- regarding my intention. I'm sure I will feel the urge many times in the next several months to throw in the towel (my training schedule calls for approximately 750 more miles between now and October 1), and I figure that I may benefit from the added motivation of not wanting to embarrass myself by reneging on my announced goal.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Quincy police arrived at a
CVSpharmacy early Tuesday morning to find Steven Jakaitis, 42, sleeping in his idling car with a nylon stocking over his head and a cap pistol in his pocket.
By his side was a note that read: "I have a Gun DO NOT Press any Alarms or let Custermors (sic) know Empty the All the register."
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The Who's Roger Daltrey has come aboard the WB Network's untitled mermaid drama pilot.
The pilot stars Nathalie Kelley as a mermaid who tries life on land in Miami. Daltrey will play the antagonist on the show.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Getting around the Twin Cities by bus would get much harder under a proposal presented Monday that would eliminate 28 weekday routes and reduce service on 78 others.
In all, the Metro Transit cuts would affect nearly three-fourths of all 153 routes that criss-cross the Twin Cities and suburbs. . . .
The proposal also includes a 25-cent across-the-board bus and light-rail fare increase.
The proposed changes will "affect real people in a very real way," Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell said at a meeting Monday.
The fare increase and the service cuts are expected to reduce bus ridership by more than 4 million a year, according to Metro Transit. . .
Of the proposed reductions, 50 percent would be made on local routes in Minneapolis and St. Paul; 31 percent of the cuts would be made on suburban local routes and 19 percent on express routes.My wife and I drive into downtown Minneapolis together everyday, but she leaves and takes the car at 3:30 each day to get home in time to meet the school bus. I then take a bus home on an express route; the first stop is mine, 12 miles from downtown. My bus service won't be impacted by the proposed changes, so this proposal represents no skin off my nose.
That said, these proposed cuts are stupid.
The people who rely on the bus within the urban areas as their only means of transportation will be, to varying degrees, forced to shoulder a disproportionate impact of these cuts. But it doesn't stop there. When I am faced with the huge inconvenience of not being able to take an express bus, and instead have to take a bus that makes several stops along the way (meaning it takes me 15 more minutes to get home), I can't help but notice that a substantial percentage of the people on the bus are commuting from the city to their minimum wage-plus jobs in the suburbs. (They are the same people I saw walking along the freeway to get to those jobs during the last bus strike.) If we want a dearth of prospective employees for low paying jobs in the suburbs, a good strategy is to make it harder for urban residents to get here by public transportation.
Public transportation is a public good from which everyone reaps direct or indirect benefits and it should be expanded, not contracted. Among other things, it leads to reduced pollution, reduced congestion, economic development, and increased opportunities for people to be self-sufficient. These proposed cuts should be rejected.
"It's hard to explain the sense of duty that a U.S. soldier has. But, you know, we're committed to something great over there. And my soldiers are again returning to Iraq with the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment. And I feel like I need to be there, too." Army Capt. David Rozelle, in an interview with "Good Morning America" on his decision to return to Iraq after losing his right foot.See here too. What can you say?
Pakistani forces hunting Osama bin Laden lost track of the Al-Qaeda leader after coming close to discovering his whereabouts several months ago, President Pervez Musharraf said in an interview.Even though it is highly doubtful that bin Laden has a current ability to direct any significant terrorist activity, getting him is still hugely important if only for symbolic reasons. I sincerely hope that those in charge of the hunt are truly getting all of the resources they need from our government.
Musharraf told the BBC late Monday that intelligence agencies had indications eight to 10 months ago about the whereabouts of Bin Laden but then the trail went cold.
Monday, March 14, 2005
More specifically, he strongly suggested that Fulton County (Atlanta, GA) officials are the equivalent of the Keystone Cops and, but for their purported incompetence, the attacks on their own deputies, a county judge and his court reporter, and a federal customs agent would not have happened.
Disturbed people do unanticipatable evil things. Put differently, police cannot prevent people with evil intentions from ever succeeding in their goals. Any suggestion to the contrary is disengenous, particularly so when the defamatory allegations are offered for nothing more the transparent goal of boosting TV ratings.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. media coverage of last year's election was three times more likely to be negative toward President Bush than Democratic challenger John Kerry, according to a study released Monday.
The annual report by a press watchdog that is affiliated with Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism said that 36 percent of stories about Bush were negative compared to 12 percent about Kerry, a Massachusetts senator.
Caption: "The cremated remains of 3,489 mental patients stored at the Oregon State Hospital, unclaimed by their families, have caught the attention of health advocates, who are considering a memorial and burial ground."
The whole story can be found here.
Hundreds of thousands of Lebanese marched through central Beirut today chanting "Syria Out" in the biggest protest yet against the influence of Damascus in Lebanon.
Crowds of men, women and children flooded Martyrs Square, spilling over into nearby streets, while more from across the country packed the roads into Beirut, responding to the opposition call to mark a month since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The protest easily dwarfed the pro-Government rally of some 500,000, held last week by the Shia Muslim group Hezbollah. That show of strength forced the opposition to act to regain its momentum.
Syria's military withdrawal continued today, with about 50 intelligence agents closing two offices in northern Lebanon: in the town of Amyoun and in Deir Ammar on the coastal road linking the port city of Tripoli with the Syrian border, residents said. . . .
There were no official estimates of the crowd size, but an Associated Press estimate put it at around 800,000 before the protest formally started, making it the biggest demonstration ever seen in this country of 3.5 million.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Today, I am glad to find out that I am not alone. Consider this.
We ran a test.
On ABCNews.com, we showed four reproductions of art works that are considered masterpieces of modern art along with six pieces that will never make it into any museum. We asked viewers to decide which work was art and which was not.
I assumed the famous art would get the most votes if only because art lovers would recognize them, but they didn't. Most got far fewer votes than the winner.
The one that received the most votes as a "real" artwork was a piece of framed fabric "20/20" bought at a thrift store for $5. . .
Four of the art works in our test were done by 4-year-olds, and when we showed their artwork on the Web, and showed it to people at the mall, the kids' work ranked ahead of most of the masters.
I assumed real artists wouldn't fall for the trick, so we invited some to take our test. Most of them also put at least some of the kids' work up there with the masters.
One artist, Victor Acevedo, described one of the children's pieces as "a competent execution of abstract expressionism which was first made famous by de Kooning and Jackson Pollock and others. So it's emulating that style and it's a school of art."
However, I have also always thought that environmental groups like the Sierra Club have been too alarmist and too extreme and, as a result, I have never sent them any contributions. (Although I am pro-choice, I have always thought the same about NARAL.) A balance must be struck. The balance at the federal government level is not sufficiently pro-environment at this time, but the opposite extreme is not the answer either.
Today, Nick Kristof has a thought-provoking column on this subject. Here is a taste.
At one level, we're all environmentalists now. The Pew Research Center found that more than three-quarters of Americans agree that "this country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment." Yet support for the environment is coupled with a suspicion of environmental groups. "The Death of Environmentalism" notes that a poll in 2000 found that 41 percent of Americans considered environmental activists to be "extremists." There are many sensible environmentalists, of course, but overzealous ones have tarred the entire field.
The loss of credibility is tragic because reasonable environmentalists - without alarmism or exaggerations - are urgently needed.
Given the uncertainties and trade-offs, priority should go to avoiding environmental damage that is irreversible, like extinctions, climate change and loss of wilderness. And irreversible changes are precisely what are at stake with the Bush administration's plans to drill in the Arctic wildlife refuge, to allow roads in virgin wilderness and to do essentially nothing on global warming. That's an agenda that will disgrace us before our grandchildren.
So it's critical to have a credible, nuanced, highly respected environmental movement. And right now, I'm afraid we don't have one.
Friday, March 11, 2005
It appears that Michael Jackson may not want to hear about this change.
Prosecutors believe Jackson may be $300 million in debt, then said the singer may have $400 million in liabilities and that his financial troubles "will all come crashing down on him in December of 2005," Auchincloss said.I wonder how much of that debt is the result of having to pay little boys and their parents to keep quiet.
MADRID, Spain (AP) -- Muslim clerics in Spain issued what they called the world's first fatwa, or Islamic edict, against Osama bin Laden on Thursday, the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings, calling him an apostate and urging others of their faith to denounce the al Qaeda leader.
The ruling was issued by the Islamic Commission of Spain, the main body representing the country's 1 million-member Muslim community. The commission represents 200 or so mostly Sunni mosques, or about 70 percent of all mosques in Spain. . .
The fatwa said that according to the Quran "the terrorist acts of Osama bin Laden and his organization al Qaeida ... are totally banned and must be roundly condemned as part of Islam."
It added: "Inasmuch as Osama bin Laden and his organization defend terrorism as legal and try to base it on the Quran ... they are committing the crime of 'istihlal' and thus become apostates that should not be considered Muslims or treated as such."
The Arabic term "istihlal" refers to the act of making up one's own laws. . .
He called it an unprecedented condemnation of bin Laden. "We felt now we had the responsibility and obligation to make this declaration," he said in an interview.
"I hope there is a positive reaction from Muslims," he added.
Two retired New York City police detectives, onetime partners who had long been suspected of ties to organized crime, were charged by federal prosecutors yesterday with taking part in eight murders on behalf of the Mafia - most while one or both were still active members of the police force.
The charges, detailed in an indictment unsealed in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, were among the most startling allegations of police corruption in memory. In one case, in 1990, prosecutors said the detectives, driving an unmarked police car, pulled over a Mafia captain on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn and shot him to death for a rival mob figure. In another, in 1986, they flashed their badges and kidnapped a mobster, threw him in the trunk of their car and delivered him to a rival, who tortured and killed him.
I saw this kid and his Dad on Fox News last night and had to laugh at the silliness of this protest. But the interviewer sounded as silly as the interviewee. One exchange went something like this:
Q: So when the Pledge was read over the PA system in French, did most of the kids recite along?
A: No, maam. Most of the kids don't know no French.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Bethesda Chevy-Chase High School in Bethesda, Seneca Valley High School in Germantown and Springbrook High School in Silver Spring will take part in the high school course in which 10th-graders will be shown how to put condoms on cucumbers.(Via Best of the Web)
It now seems just possible that Mr. Bush and aides like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz were not wrong to argue that the "status quo of despotism cannot be ignored or appeased, kept in a box or cut off," as the president put it in a speech at the National Defense University here. . .And this.
[Former President Clinton was] ebullient, noting that the Iraqi elections "went better than anyone could have imagined." In Lebanon, he said, "the Syrians are going to have to get out of there and give the Lebanese their country back, and I think the fact that the Lebanese are in the street demanding it is wonderful."
Asked about huge demonstrations on Tuesday, sponsored by Hezbollah, that demanded just the opposite, Mr. Clinton said: "I find it inconceivable that most Lebanese wouldn't like it if they had their country back. You know, they want their country back and they ought to get it." . . .Still, even as sharp and consistent a critic of Mr. Bush's foreign policy as Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat, gives Mr. Bush some credit for the latest stirrings of liberty along the eastern Mediterranean.
"What's taken place in a number of those countries is enormously constructive," Mr. Kennedy said on Sunday on the ABC News program "This Week." "It's a reflection the president has been involved."
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut and a frequent ally of Mr. Bush on national security affairs, was in the audience for his speech on Tuesday and was more effusive.
"Look, this moment in the Middle East has the feel of Central and Eastern Europe around the collapse of the Berlin Wall," he said in a telephone interview. "It's a very different historical and political context, and we all understand that democracy in the Middle East is in its infancy. But something is happening."
Mr. Lieberman said Mr. Bush deserved credit for at least two things: the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the continued American military presence in Iraq, which he said showed "the proven willingness of the United States to put its power behind its principles."
Support for President Bush's mission of spreading democracy throughout the world, especially the Mideast, is winning accolades from an unlikely source - New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson, a prominent Democrat often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate.Political momentum, both domestically and internationally, is a fascinating thing to witness.
Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary under President Clinton, on Monday cited Syria's promise to lower the profile of its 14,000 troops in Lebanon as a "very significant" result of U.S. pressure.
The presidents of Syria and Lebanon announced Monday that the Syrian troops would be pulled back to eastern Lebanon's Bekaa Valley by March 31.
"I believe the Bush administration deserves credit for putting pressure and saying that authoritarian regimes have to go," Richardson said on NBC's "Today" show. Bush's stated mission of spreading democracy around the world "is working, whether it's by design or by accident," he said.
In the past, "U.S. policy has winked at Saudi Arabia and Egypt" because of America's stakes in the region, such as energy interests and military bases, Richardson said. "We kind of said 'OK, it's all right not to be democratic.' "
"The president, in talking about freedom and democracy, is sparking a wave of very positive democratic sentiment that might help us override both Islamic fundamentalism that has formed in that region and also some of the hatred for our policy of invading Iraq," he said.
On the other hand, John Kerry -- the Senator from Massachusetts who lost the popular vote by 3 million votes to a largely unpopular sitting President -- doesn't deserve a second chance. But as the Boston Herald notes, that doesn't meant that he isn't going to try.
One thing will be interesting -- to watch how Kerry and Edwards go after each other in the battle for the nomination.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
With respect to golf, it wasn't the Tiger vs. Phil - Battle of the Titans (which I really wish that I had seen). Nevertheless, yours truly is the proud winner of the Texarkana Cup (a shotglass) based on six rounds of a trip-long stroke play tournament.
The weather was great, and the nicest dentist in Texarkana (a Brit and former European Tour player) hosted us at the Texarkana Country Club, the place where Bryon Nelson got his start. We also played four rounds at the Hank Haney Golf Ranch, and one round at the the Country Club of Arkansas.
Tomorrow (actually, later today) I will try to reintegrate myself into the real world and figure out what I missed while I was gone.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Obviously, Rall is not a mainstream liberal, but someone please explain to me why any publication is willing to pay for his crappy cartoons.
[T]his has so far been a year of heartening surprises - each one remarkable in itself, and taken together truly astonishing. The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances. It boldly proclaimed the cause of Middle East democracy at a time when few in the West thought it had any realistic chance. And for all the negative consequences that flowed from the American invasion of Iraq, there could have been no democratic elections there this January if Saddam Hussein had still been in power.
NPR's senior news analyst says that recent events in Lebanon and Egypt suggest that the Middle East is moving towards democracy. Bush may have had it right when he said that a liberated Iraq could show the power of freedom to transform the region.
Ultimate success in Iraq is far from assured, and the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East is just beginning and could be reversed, but when Bush's harshest critics start to concede that he may have been right, my optimism only grows stronger.
(Part of linkfest at OTB.)
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
"This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good." -- Howard Dean
So the point is that if you voted for Bush, you voted for evil. The good news, I suppose, is that you aren't necessarily evil too; you were just too stupid to know that you were voting for evil.