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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Site Makeover

Observant previous readers will note the new look of the blog. We became frustrated with the relatively narrow column for the posts, particularly when using pictures. The old template (Rounders) made it very difficult to change this. We also like the lighter background of the new look.

The new width is just under 800 pixels, which could be a problem for those with 800x600 monitors. If so, leave a comment, and we'll try to improve things.

Reading Blogs

There is an interesting post by Don Singleton (via Sisyphean Musings) about a new Gallup poll on the reading of blogs. He includes a roundup of the comments on the poll from others.

Detective Dan Has No Friends

Detective Dan has one last caper before riding off into the sunset. He has to get to the root of the blogger conspiracy that put him down. Who's the mastermind, the Man Behind the Curtain? Fellow Plainsman, Iowahawk, has the birdseye lowdown:
iowahawk: The Big Snooze: "It was a blustery March morning in Manhattan. I hiked up the collar on my trenchcoat and stepped out into a fresh sheet of snow that had fallen in front of the seedy West 80's flop house I call home. Pretty stuff, that snow. But just below the surface it can conceal something icy, something treacherous. Something that can make your Florsheims lose their grip, set your arms and legs windmilling spastically, cause you to make a violent, jarring, assplant into a frigid sidewalk filth-slushee. And in my line of business it's all part of a day's work.

My name is Rather. And I'm a dick.

I wiped off the seat of my coat and got in my car. After a few groans, the starter eventually coaxed the snow-covered Hudson Eight coupe to life and I wrestled it through morning traffic down Central Park West. I fishtailed into the concrete canyon of West 57th, sideswiping a supicious looking Hindu and his pretzel cart. What was he yelling? I didn't have time to think about that now. I was due at Black Rock and Captain Moonves would have bigger pretzels for me to investigate."
and...
"I stared blankly out the window, deep in thought, as the Zephyr raced westward toward L.A. The questions kept pouring out of my mind like the cheap rotgut at a Bill Moyers PBS fundraiser. Were the Blog Boys planning another fake-but-true document heist? Was Fat Man Rove laying another ingenious forgery trap? Why were all those people outside the train window waving with one finger? I would have my answers soon enough, and I knew where to get them."

Who could it be? You'll have to read the rest to find out.

60 Minutes This Week

... apparently will have a segment worth watching. Roger L. Simon reports that the show will feature Hirsi Ali, the Dutch lawmaker who produced the film "Submission" with countryman Theo Van Gogh. Van Gogh was murdered last year on the streets of Amsterdam by a jihadist who didn't care for the film. Since then Ali has been in hiding due to threats against her life by terrorist groups. The silence coming out of the US film industry about the incident has been deafening. Simon says:
"But now, according to a press release, at least '60 Minutes' is going to report on the case this Sunday and show part of the film, which harshly criticizes some Islamic attitudes towards women. Hirsi Ali, the Somalian actrees/activist who wrote the script and starred and is now living underground in fear for her life, will appear on the program and announce that she is doing a sequel. In Ali's words to '60 Minutes'' Morley Safer:

'By not making 'Submission Part Two,' I would only be helping terrorists believe that if they use violence, they are rewarded with what they want.'"
If you want to see the film that Van Gogh died for producing, it's available here.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Jerry Brown: Culture Crash

The former governor of California has recently joined the blogosphere. We find he has improved with age, like a fine wine, perhaps. He writes about a bizarre cultural phenomenon in a piece called Culture Crash:
"Louis Sahagun of the Los Angeles Times has written a fascinating piece on Oakland's sideshows. A sideshow, for the uninitiated, is a homegrown version of a demolition derby, except it takes place illegally on city streets - often under the influence of drugs and violence.

On any given Saturday night, the streets of East Oakland are clogged with automobiles blaring loud music and performing dangerous stunts while spectators party on the sidelines. People come from all over Northern California to take part.

Having witnessed these antics below my own bedroom window, I know the annoyance and danger firsthand, but the spectacle has its share of apologists. They believe government has failed to provide 'youth' with suitable evening amusement - thus the need for late night hijinks."

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Terrorist Confessions on Iraqi TV

The Times of London has an article about the al-Iraqiya TV show featuring confessions of captured terrorists: Terror confessions on TV grip Baghdad

We prefer the treatment of the same subject from Omar and Mohammed at IRAQ THE MODEL from last Sunday. This was their second post on the subject, and the ITM article includes much more information about the program contents, including pictures. You can read the comments for a discussion of the appropriateness of the practice of putting these killers on TV.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Hezbollah Rents "Lebanese" Demonstrators

The Hezbollah rally in favor of Syrian occupation pulled in some impressive numbers. Does that mean many of the Lebanese want the Syrians there? In an article on WorldNetDaily (via Jihad Watch) former Lebanese Prime Minister Michel Aoun says no:
"'Yesterday's huge protest calling for Syria to stay made it look to the world like a large segment of the Lebanese population actually wants to live under Syrian occupation,' said Aoun, speaking to WND from Paris. 'But the protest wasn't what it appeared to be. It was an elaborately staged affair.'"
The crowd was estimated at up to half a million, but Aoun says...
"'This was not a Lebanese showing, and many of those who actually were Lebanese were not there because they support Syria. We know that at least three Palestinian camps were present. And there are 700,000 Syrian workers inside Lebanon, many of whom are not even supposed to be there. They were urged by Syria to attend so it looks like many Lebanese are protesting. Plus Syria bused in their own citizens from Syria through the border into Lebanon to join the rally.'"
and..
"'In all, it was a real multinational rally,' joked Aoun. 'Even watching protestors being interviewed, you hear they had Palestinian and Syrian accents. This was not the Lebanese people expressing their will.'

Aoun compared yesterday's rally to the opposition events held almost daily.

'Yesterday was not a spontaneous outpouring; it was planned and orchestrated,' he said. 'You see in the opposition rallies that they happen every day. People are going because they want to, and they are going regularly.'"


From Cox & Forkum.

Torture and Abu Ghraib

Here's a great piece from the Mudville Gazette, "the on-line voice of an American warrior."
"Abu Ghraib is but a stone's throw from where I now type these words, and it's ugliness is more than skin deep. It's a very real place, and an undesirable home to criminals and those whose duty it is to guard them. But to many it's an abstract image, a debate point to be used against opponents like garlic to frighten vampires, a boogy man to frighten children. They inject that ward into any writing they do on certain topics in an attempt to frame the discussion around what is unquestionably now the immediate mind's eye association most people in the world make with the word "torture" - the horrendous photos from the notorious prison."
Contrary to what you might think, this is not a defense of "torture." It includes a 10 question quiz on the facts surrounding the now famous incidents of prisoner abuse by Americans, followed by the correct answers.

We can just about guarantee you will learn something by taking this test. We did.

Best of the Web and The Daily Show II

The fun continues on the Best of the Web story we mentioned previously regarding the discussion between Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, and guest, Nancy Soderberg.

Readers respond to the original article here and here. For the second one, scroll down to "A Joke Is a Very Serious Thing. The current debate is not so much about whether or not Soderberg and Stewart were "joking." They clearly were. It's also clear that there is truth amid the humor that some would rather not acknowledge.

The original BotW article is here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Kofi Still Clueless

According to KA, Hezbollah aren't really such bad sorts. They just want to be accepted. My Way News:
"UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The United Nations must recognize Hezbollah as a force to be reckoned with in implementing the U.N. resolution calling for the withdrawal of all Syrian forces from Lebanon and the disarmament of the country's militias, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Tuesday.

He was responding to a question about the disarmament of Hezbollah, which showed its strength Tuesday at a huge pro-Syrian rally in Beirut attended by hundreds of thousands of people who chanted anti-U.S. slogans. Two huge banners read in English: 'Thank you Syria' and 'No to foreign interference.'

Annan said the world needs to accept that in every society different groups may hold different views."
We are sure Hezbollah is completely on board with the idea of accepting different views. They have certainly shown themselves to be a peaceful, tolerant group in the past.
"'But even the Hezbollah - if I read the message on the placards they are using - they are talking about non-interference by outsiders ... which is not entirely at odds with the Security Council resolution, that there should be withdrawal of Syrian troops,' Annan told reporters."
Kofi needs to use some of his share of the swag from the Oil for Food Scam to buy himself a clue here. The entire point of the demonstration was to oppose the UN resolution that requires Syrian withdrawl. So, yes, it is "entirely at odds with the Security Council resolution." When Hezbollah speaks of ending "foreign interference" in Lebanon, it has nothing at all to do with Syrian or Iranian activities, which certainly cannot be labeled "foreign" or "interference."

When good news strikes

How about some sympathy for the President's opponents? Every day seems to bring some "disasterous" new positive events from the Middle East. Rich Lowry describes their dilemma in When good news strikes:
"If the world that Democrats have been living in lately were made into a reality disaster show, it would be called 'When Good News Strikes.'

One of the inconveniences of political debate is that occasionally reality intrudes to invalidate a given position no matter how much its partisans want to believe it. This is what has been happening recently to the argument that the invasion of Iraq produced an irrecoverable mess. Although surely setbacks still await us in Iraq and the Middle East, stunning headlines from the region have left many liberals perversely glum about upbeat news.

Schadenfreude has faded into its happiness-hating opposite, gluckschmerz."

Read the rest.

Monday, March 07, 2005

What ever happened to The Most Important Story on Earth?

The "blockbuster story" of the closing days of the presidential campaign dropped completely off the radar immediately after Bush won. Jonah Goldberg asks: What ever happened to The Most Important Story on Earth?:
"Remember al-Qaqaa? This was the massive cache of explosives that American forces failed to secure after the fall of Saddam. In the final week of the presidential campaign it was The Most Important Story on Earth.

The New York Times splashed the news on its front page and didn't stop splashing it for a week. In all, the Times ran 16 stories and columns about al-Qaqaa, plus seven anti-Bush letters to the editor on the subject over an eight-day period. Editorial boards across the country hammered the 'outrage' for days. It led all the news broadcasts. It became the central talking point of the Kerry campaign, with John Kerry bellowing his indignation at the administration's incompetence at every stump stop. Maureen Dowd wrote a column about it, titled 'White House of Horrors.'"
Jonah reviews the details of the story and the way it was reported at the time. Then:
"So, anyway, I'd forgotten about all this. Bush won the election despite the al-Qaqaa drumbeat from Kerry and his surrogates in and out of the press.

But Byron York, my colleague at National Review, didn't forget. He wondered, whatever happened to The Biggest Story on Earth? The answer, it turns out, is nothing. The Times has not run a single story about the al-Qaqaa story since November 1. Nada, bupkis, zilch.

For a piece at National Review Online, York called the Times' ombudsman - they call him the "Public Editor" - Daniel Okrent and asked him what he thought about it. Okrent showed admirable candor, allowing that the paper should have followed up. Assuming the story was accurate, Okrent thinks his paper could at least try to figure out the question of where the explosives went.

If the story was accurate, it should be important enough to follow up. If it wasn't, we should be told that."
Nope. No media bias here. Move along. Nothing to see. Or read the rest.

Just Say "No" to Minimum Wage Increase

The Senate just did, and a good thing, too. We say raise it to $250,0000 per year or not at all. But what heartless person could reject such a worthy cause? The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council explains:
"Raising the minimum wage is an easy vehicle for political pandering. Politicians don’t have to raise taxes. But, of course, someone pays a price whenever government intervenes in the marketplace with this kind of regulation.

In fact, there are real and severe costs that come with a higher minimum wage. First, small businesses get hit with higher labor costs. That translates into reduced earnings, lower wages and benefits for other employees, and/or fewer resources to expand the business. All politicians say they love small business, but then they call for a higher minimum wage, which hurts small business.

Second, the people that a higher minimum wage is supposed to help get hurt. A higher minimum wage simply prices many inexperienced, low-skilled workers out of the market. Some business owners can replace labor with automation, or certain duties are added to the work done by other workers with higher skills. It also is important to understand that people who earn the minimum wage tend to move up the wage scale fairly quickly. But that process is delayed, if not derailed, when a higher minimum wage destroys jobs. This lost work experience hurts the lifetime earnings of individuals.

All of these ill effects of the minimum wage have been documented by countless economic studies over the years. Indeed, this is one of those rare subjects upon which most economists agree. After all, it’s straightforward, basic economics. Now we only need politicians to stop the political pandering, and instead deal with the ugly economic realities of increasing the minimum wage."
A minimum wage doesn't guarantee anyone a job at that wage. It only guarantees that no one will get a job unless their labor is worth at least that wage.

lgf: Middle East News Roundup

There are serveral posts tonight on Little Green Footballs that we'd like to discuss here. Rather than become an LGF Mirror Site for the Day, we'll roll them all into one post with minimal comments.

lgf: Afghanistan Attacks Decline Dramatically as Mullah Omar loses control.
lgf: Kuwaiti Women Demonstrate for women's suffrage. (Nothing to do with Bush's policies, of course.)
lgf: Hundreds of Thousands of Lebanese Protest Syria. Three weeks since Hariri's murder, and daily demonstrations continue. (Nothing to do with Bush's policies, of course.)
lgf: Hezbollah to Protest Tomorrow in Beirut. No, not against Syrian occupation, in favor of it.
lgf: The Times, the T Word, and the ICNA. The NY Times gets advice from terrorist supporters on when/when not to use the term "terrorism."

That should do it for now. To keep our membership card for The Vast Rightwing Conspiracy we have to do this when the LizardMaster commands it.

Bill Clinton: "Iran the Model"

There's a new kerfuffle from same World Economic Conference in Davos, Switzerland, where CNN's Eason Jordan made the remarks that led eventually to his resignation. Former President Bill Clinton made remarks about Iran that can only be described as bizarre. Jim Geraghty of TKS on National Review Online has comments and a review of other blog activities on this. A Clinton quote:
"Iran is the only country in the world that has now had six elections since the first election of President Khatami (in 1997). (It is) the only one with elections, including the United States, including Israel, including you name it, where the liberals, or the progressives, have won two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote in six elections: Two for president; two for the Parliament, the Majlis; two for the mayoralties. In every single election, the guys I identify with got two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote. There is no other country in the world I can say that about, certainly not my own."
So there you have it. Not Iraq, but Iran is the beacon of freedom for the Middle East. How could we have missed that? Clinton goes on to extensively criticize past US foreign policy to a wildly appreciative, anti-American audience.

Oh my God! There's an axe in my head!

It occured to me how useful the arabic translation of this phrase might be if Islamic extremists continue their preferred method of execution.

A list of translations.

This site is also a phenomenon unique to the Internet and its ability to tie together disparate interests. Its an excellent example of seemingly strange group behavior.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Dutch Deputies on the Run

Since the murder of filmaker Theo Van Gogh by jihadis, two Dutch deputies have been living like Salman Rushdie. Dutch Deputies on the Run, From Jihad Death Threats - By MARLISE SIMONS:

THE HAGUE - Every evening, plainclothes police officers escort two members of the Dutch Parliament to armored cars and take them to hiding places for the night. One of them, Geert Wilders, has been camping out in a cell in a high-security prison where his life, he said, has become 'like a bad B-movie.' His colleague, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, has grown increasingly miserable sleeping on a military base.

The special treatment would certainly seem warranted: both have received a deluge of death threats since they strongly criticized the behavior of militant Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands.

After two previous political assassinations, Dutch officials are taking the threats seriously, treating the safety of the two lawmakers both as a matter of personal protection and as an issue of national security. Several politicians have said that in the country's present polarized mood, public violence could erupt if either of the two were killed.

But the two legislators themselves have disturbed the officials' plans, choosing to reveal their whereabouts to protest the conditions under which they live. Neither has had a permanent home since November, when a filmmaker, Theo van Gogh, was shot and knifed to death on an Amsterdam street. A 26-year-old Dutch-Moroccan, Muhammad Bouyeri, has been charged with the murder.

The decision by Mr. Wilders and Ms. Hirsi Ali to reveal their secret lives, one in a jail cell, the other on a naval base, has raised a question that is troubling many Dutch: is it acceptable for legislators in a Western democracy to be forced to go into hiding, to live like fugitives on the run in their own land?

'Of course this is an outrage,' said Abram de Swaan, a prominent sociologist. 'It's not bearable. The government must come up with better solutions, like putting them in protected homes. That's the way it happens in other countries.'

The NRC Handelsblad, a leading daily newspaper, ran an editorial recently headlined 'Unacceptable.' A situation in which legislators are 'hampered in carrying out their tasks puts democracy in question and makes terror successful,' it said, adding that the official bureaucracy evidently 'does not know how to deal with the new reality' in which Muslim terrorism may also threaten Dutch politicians.

Officials point out that the government is prosecuting several men for death threats and has adopted tough laws against terrorism suspects, including voiding their Dutch nationality. Late last month the Justice Ministry announced that it planned to expel three Muslim preachers for spreading radical Islamic ideology at a mosque in the city of Eindhoven.

Mr. Wilders's isolation becomes quickly evident on a visit to his closely guarded office in the attic of the Dutch Parliament. In his small, windowless room, far from his colleagues, he can receive visitors only if they are carefully screened and escorted at all times.

He no longer answers his own telephone, but the threats keep showing up in his e-mail, in Internet chat rooms and Web logs. Offering some samples, he switched on his office computer and a short video appeared, featuring his photograph, the sound of gunfire over Arab music and a voice that said, 'He is an enemy of Islam and should be beheaded.'

'The people who threaten us are walking around free and we are the captives,' Mr. Wilders said. The government has told him that he will have to wait until September for a secure home. Until then, he said, he presumably has to continue his spartan life, sleeping in a cell at Camp Zeist, deprived of family and friends. The security detail schedules weekly private meetings with his wife.

Mr. Wilders, a rising right-wing politician, feels an affinity with neoconservatives in Washington and recently visited the United States 'to gather ideas.' He contends that Islamic dogmas and democracy are incompatible, and has called for a five-year halt to 'third world immigration,' the closing of radical mosques in the Netherlands and the preventive arrest of terrorist suspects, whom he has labeled 'Islamo-fascist thugs.'"
Read the rest. (Registration required)

Continues...

US - European Relations

The always fascinating Victor Davis Hanson weighs in on the current trans-Atlantic tensions.
VDH's Private Papers :: Eurospeak: "What are we to make of this strange passive-aggressive syndrome? The usual explanations, offered weekly during the last three years, are that in the post-Cold War era the monopoly on military force, and its accompanying opportunities for unilateral action by the United States, naturally earn opposition. Our military prompts envy and with it mistrust from those far weaker who seek to curb raw power with multilateral protocol, shame, and bureaucracy. Perhaps.

Of course, there have always been tensions arising from our two differing views of the Western cultural paradigm. Those disagreements are now brought to the fore thanks to the demise of the common threat of Soviet imperial Communism that could have overrun Western Europe in weeks. Europe bites now — simply because it can. Maybe.

But in all of our own lives — especially in the case with beloved teenagers — we have endured such immaturity: the 16-year old who demands 'her' allowance and the freedom to use it as she wishes, but calls at midnight when she is broke; the 21-year-old who comes in at 3 A.M., but apparently chooses not to entertain such hours in his own home at his own expense.

These are the natural contradictions in the evolution from childhood to maturity. Europe may be old, but its union is young. It wants to be independent and powerful, but given its past bloody history and present utopian ideology it's not sure quite what that entails. Its leadership points to a strong Euro, low inflation, trade surpluses, and a high standard of living, but is really more worried about a low birthrate, troublesome unassimilated minorities from the Middle East, static worker productivity, high unemployment, and poor rates of economic growth."

Read the rest. It's well worth it.

Questions about the Kidnapped Italian Journalist

American troops firing on the car that was taking her to the airport killed one of the Italian agents in the car. She wonders aloud if it was an accident:
My Way News (AP): "Sgrena, who works for the communist daily Il Manifesto, did not rule out that she was targeted, saying the United States likely disapproved of Italy's methods to secure her release, although she did not elaborate.

'The fact that the Americans don't want negotiations to free the hostages is known,' Sgrena told Sky TG24 television by telephone, her voice hoarse and shaky. 'The fact that they do everything to prevent the adoption of this practice to save the lives of people held hostages, everybody knows that. So I don't see why I should rule out that I could have been the target.'"
Well, one enormous reason to rule it out is that she's still alive. It's not as if some other army swept in and stopped the Americans from killing her. Obviously, if the US troops at the checkpoint really wanted her dead, she would be dead.
"Italian officials have not provided details about the negotiations leading to Sgrena's release Friday after a month in captivity, but Agriculture Minister Giovanni Alemanno was quoted as saying it was 'very likely' a ransom was paid. U.S. officials object to ransoms, saying it encourages further kidnappings."
How many more people will be kidnapped or killed using the ransom money paid to get her released?
"Suddenly, she said, she remembered her captors' words, when they warned her 'to be careful because the Americans don't want you to return.'

Sgrena wrote that her captors warned her as she was about to be released not to signal her presence to anyone, because 'the Americans might intervene.' She said her captors blindfolded her and drove her to a location where she was turned over to agents and they set off for the airport."
It's heartwarming to see the concern her former "hosts" have for her. How wise they were to realize the Americans might try to kill her before she could get out of Iraq and do... what exactly?

UPDATE: The Italian press is asking the same kinds of things. Little Green Footballs has the story.

Forests of The Great American Desert

The relative scarcity of trees here in the Great American Desert makes us all the more appreciative when we do find one.
National_Forest
National_Forest, originally uploaded by Abe of Lincoln.