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Monthly Archives: March 2004

Some Graphic Content

March 13th, 2004 - 5:47 pm

I haven’t seen this item anywhere else.

There’s an uprising going on in the Iranian city of Fereydunkenar:

The demonstrations began some hours ago. Fereydunkenar is a small town in the northern province of Mazandaran. The people attacked and were able to liberate a building used by the Islamic Republic’s security forces (Sentry Post #2). They then started moving to the city of Babolsar, but were soon confronted by Mazandaran’s provincial security forces. They’ve been pushed back into Fereydunkenar and the latest news I’ve heard is that the small town is now divided between the rebels and the security forces and the scene of fierce street battles.

At least 5 people have been killed and scores injured.

Click here for pictures.

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Impure Thoughts

March 12th, 2004 - 1:33 am

I tried to read the latest David Ignatius column all the way through. Really I did. Here’s how far I got:

The Bush administration’s new initiative to encourage democracy and reform in the Arab world has all the solidity of a hot-air balloon. It’s floating grandly toward Planet Arabia, while down below the people who would be affected by it are variously taking potshots, running for cover or scratching their heads in confusion.

Are we really going to make this mistake again? To state what should be obvious after the reversals of the past year in Iraq: The idea of Arab democracy is meaningless unless it begins at home, driven by an Arab agenda for change, rather than by outsiders.

He’s trying to make a good point. And he’s trying to make it well.

But part of me is so angry after yesterday’s bombing, that all I could think was, “Isn’t it time we made that American sentiment ‘Live free or die’ into a goddamn ultimatum?”

I’m not proud of that thought; I know, logically, it’s an oxymoron. And yet. . .

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Nobody Does It Better*

March 12th, 2004 - 1:27 am

Lileks on Madrid:

I

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Jihadi Math

March 12th, 2004 - 1:16 am

Darren Copeland, the Colorado Conservative, notes this about yesterday’s attack on Madrid:

Today is 3-11…two-and-a-half years to the day since 9-11. That figures to 911 days since 9-11.

Conspiratorial? Yes, but very interesting.

I don’t play numerology games — but that doesn’t mean al Qaeda doesn’t.

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Required Reading

March 12th, 2004 - 12:49 am

I could kiss Charles Krauthammer right on the mouth for coining the phrase “shooting French in a barrel.”

After that lede, then he gets mean.

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Friday Recipe Contest

March 12th, 2004 - 12:32 am

No, there wasn’t really a contest. Yesterday, however, when I asked for chicken soup recipes, I got a bunch of great replies. But there can be only one. And since Melenie Lambert is my favorite Jewish mother, her recipe had to be the winner. So

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Bumper Sticker

March 12th, 2004 - 12:20 am

I think Bill meant to type a “dr” instead of a “th”. Or maybe it’s just me.

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Islamic Nihilism

March 12th, 2004 - 12:17 am

At least 190 people are dead in Madrid, and another 1,500 are wounded. Ten bombs, exploding near-simultaneously on four different commuter trains. It’s the kind of job that just screams “al Qaeda.” Not that any screaming was necessary

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Notice

March 11th, 2004 - 2:46 pm

Thoughts later on the Madrid bombing.

Short version: It’s all about killing infidels.

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Notice

March 11th, 2004 - 10:13 am

Light blogging today — Melissa is home sick. Anyone have a great recipe for chicken soup?

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Send in the Marines — Later

March 11th, 2004 - 12:41 am

I haven’t said mcuh about Aristide’s exile from Haiti, because I didn’t know what to say. Fortunately, we have Ralph Peters to capture the tragedy of that nation — and the Franco-American involvement — for us:

We should have let him hang.

That sounds cruel, of course. But we consistently focus on the leader’s rights and forget the population’s suffering. Our intervention (supported by France, which is always a bad sign) saved one life – Aristide’s – at a potentially terrible cost to a country already ravaged by poverty, misrule, AIDS, gang violence and civil war.

We simply delayed a resolution. Haiti is, again, on hold. We’re arguing that power must be shared and compromises reached. In effect, this means we’re backing Aristide’s supporters: They were on the brink of a clear and incontestable defeat; we kept them on life-support.

This isn’t meant to praise the rebels. There’s little to choose between the various factions – thugs, crooks and demagogues rule on all sides. But unless we intend to remain in Haiti and oversee a neocolonial reconstruction of the country (desirable, but unlikely), the best hope for the Haitian people would have been a decisive win by either side. Unattractive though the resulting government would have been, at least it would have had a winner’s authority.

Instead, our good intentions have guaranteed continued strife and violence. Aristide uses his exile to foment further dissension, dreaming that the United Nations will return him to power as the United States once did. Conspiracy theories abound, in Port au Prince, on the Potomac and around the world. And we have ourselves to blame.

Read the whole thing.

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False Starts/Fresh Starts

March 11th, 2004 - 12:32 am

Recovering flatlanders should know better than to make fun of mountain weather. Yesterday, about an hour before lunch and after four days of gorgeous springtime temperatures, I wrote,

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A while back, I observed that one of John Kerry’s early general-election strategies is to try and preemptively stop GOP criticism by loudly decrying “negative attacks!” at every opportunity.

Turns out, I didn’t know the half of it. Check out the sheer vitriol in Kerry’s words today at a Chicago rally:

“Let me tell you, we’ve just begun to fight,” Kerry said. “We’re going to keep pounding. These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I’ve ever seen. It’s scary.”

Kerry’s spokesman, David Wade, then turned around and accused Kerry’s opponents of being over the top:

“The Republicans have launched the most personal, crooked, deceitful attacks over the last four years,” Wade said. “He’s a Democrat who fights back.”

Now, far be it from me to be overly-critical of pointed language in politics, but this is some seriously harsh and ad hominem stuff.

That kind of rhetoric has been par for the course in the Democratic primaries this year, but can you imagine the media outcry if Bob Dole had said the same thing about the Clinton Administration? Katie Couric would lead every half-hour of the Today show for the next six months with ritual denunciations of “mean-spirited” and “nasty” Republican “smear” campaigns. At the very least, the GOP candidate would be browbeaten into a humiliating public apology. I see no signs thus far of any such reaction to Kerry.

When I first posted about Kerry’s tactics, I surmised that in today’s more open media climate (where, unlike in 1996, Fox News, Drudge, and the Blogosphere are on the watch), Kerry wouldn’t be able to get away with making these extreme attacks without media criticism. Nearly a month later, I have to wonder.

Just what will it take before a major, non-conservative media figure and/or outlet describes Kerry’s charges as “mean” or “nasty”, without the ritual reference to “both sides,” particularly when the Bush side’s rhetoric doesn’t even register on the vitriol scale compared to Kerry’s?

If not this, then what? Is there anything that Kerry could say that’s worthy of media criticism, or even scrutiny?

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt just read most of the above post on his radio show, crediting VodkaPundit (and yours truly). As they said in the Kentucky Fried Movie, he has my gwatitude.

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That Last Line is a Joke, OK?

March 10th, 2004 - 10:51 am

We’ve had four warm days in a row, and that means two things here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains: it’s time to do a little (a lot, really) spring cleaning on the VodkaHome; and, now that it feels like spring, we probably won’t see any more snow here until at least Friday.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some porcelain kitties to dust.

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File Sharing for Grown-Ups

March 10th, 2004 - 1:13 am

And it’s legal!

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Private Moments

March 10th, 2004 - 1:10 am

Is there any alternative to our headlong rush into “The Recorded Age?”

Bill Safire thinks there might be.

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The Enemy We Know

March 10th, 2004 - 1:04 am

The election hasn’t even been held yet, and already Vladimir Putin has named his new cabinet:

Putin retained the cabinet’s strongest advocates of market reforms and left the military and internal-security forces in the hands of fellow KGB alumni. He removed entrenched ministers left from Boris Yeltsin’s presidency in favor of his own loyalists and installed a close aide in the office of the new prime minister.

If you ask me, the cabinet sounds pretty damn good. Let me explain.

If Russia is ever going to become a fully modern nation — and let’s hope like hell it does — it’s going to need two things:

1) More real economic freedom.

2) A strong hand to keep everything from blowing up before freedom sinks in.

And don’t let the KGB bogeyman scare you. Back in the bad old days, it was Leonid Brezhnev’s KBG who tried to put Mikhail Gorbachev in power. They failed on the first attempt — and we got the brief gerontocracy of Konstantin Chernyenko. After he died, the KGB finally got their man as General Secretary.

And why would the KGB want Gorby? He wasn’t a spook — he was an old party hack best known for some minor agricultural reforms. And that’s exactly why they wanted him.

The KGB, better than any other body in the old USSR, knew that reform was needed if the country was going to survive. They saw the future — that was their job, after all — and it was bleak. Old Splotchy looked like the best bet to reform the government enough to survive, but not so much that the Party would fall from power.

The fact that they ended up wrong on both counts doesn’t change the fact that the KGB knew the value of reform.

So when you see that Putin — himself an old KGB hand — has appointed more of his old cronies to power, you might breathe a small sigh of relief. We might not get along with them very well, we might have good reason to distrust them, but in many ways they’re the best hope Russia has right now.

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New Blogs

March 10th, 2004 - 12:49 am

Captain Patti, the “sweetest woman on the planet,” is in Baghdad.

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What Price Freedom?

March 10th, 2004 - 12:45 am

Anne Applebaum succinctly describes what’s wrong with (what’s left of) Russia’s democracy:

What is really missing in Russia is not just a political opposition but the machinery needed to create one: yes, free media, but also politically independent businessmen willing to provide the finance, politically savvy people willing to work for the president’s defeat without fear of reprisal, and politically educated voters who feel they have a reason — other than a desire for cheap groceries — to turn up at a polling booth. Not all these elements are equally abundant in every mature democracy, including ours. But they are sufficient to ensure that elections are, most of the time, genuine contests between at least two plausible political parties.

Is there a cheap solution? Maybe:

Our ability to foster the growth of a Russian or Iraqi political culture, complete with independent businessmen, independent journalists, independent election officials and, above all, voters who do not still retain some fear of independent voting, is extremely limited. Nevertheless, there are minor ways we can influence the process, as our experience with Russia should tell us. Clearly the selling of democracy — through the provision of scholarships for journalists, seminars for judges, textbooks for lawyers — shouldn’t stop once a new democracy begins to hold elections. The tools of “democracy promotion” and education aren’t powerful but they are, by foreign policy standards, quite cheap. It will cost a lot less to teach Iraqi schoolchildren about their new bill of rights than it would to send in the Army and Marines again 10 years from now.

Amen.

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Required Reading

March 10th, 2004 - 12:38 am

Anyone who thinks George Bush has an easy road to reelection is required to read today’s Robert J. Samuelson twice.

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Any Kind of Justice Will Do II

March 9th, 2004 - 5:18 pm

From This is London:

The Washington sniper, John Allen Muhammad, has today been sentenced to death for his role in a killing spree that left 10 people dead.

As expected, Judge LeRoy Millette confirmed last November’s guilty verdict and death sentence by a jury and brushed aside Muhammad’s appeal, which had argued his conviction was based on guesswork and emotion, rather than facts and law.

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Now That’s a Worthy Cause

March 9th, 2004 - 5:12 pm

Annoy France — vote Bush.

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Stunted Nation

March 9th, 2004 - 3:30 pm

Last year, I wrote:

Through no fault of their own, the people of North Korea simply aren’t ready to enter the modern world, and South Korea can’t afford to feed, house, re-educate, and re-civilize them all.

Whether or not there’s a war, when North Korea collapses there’s going to be a humanitarian crisis on a scale the world has never seen — 22 million scared, hungry, and desperate people left without any semblance of anything familiar.

I didn’t know the half of it:

More worrisome to South Koreans, and something that is not discussed publicly, is the effect of malnutrition on IQ. It is known that children who suffer malnutrition when they are young, do less well in school and have more discipline problems. Some 500 North Korean children have made it to South Korea since the famine began, and they have had trouble in school. North Korean refugees who go to South Korean universities, drop out 80 percent of the time. Some of this poor academic performance can be attributed to the disruption, to the education system up north, by the famine. But the North Korean kids score lower on all sorts of tests. The South Korean government won’t release statistics, but observers estimate that the Northern children born since the famine began a decade ago are three or more inches shorter than their counterparts down south. South Koreans fear that, when reunification comes, the northerners will feel inferior because of their shorter stature and weaker intellectual powers. As a result, the northerners will be less economically productive, which will require southerners to come up with more money to rebuild the north.

Can anyone — outside of Europe’s early senility factories, er, “ivory towers” — still doubt the true expense of totalitarianism?

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Any Kind of Justice Will Do

March 9th, 2004 - 3:11 pm

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Mohammed Abul Abbas, head of a Palestinian splinter group and mastermind of the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro passenger ship in which an American tourist was killed, has died in U.S. custody in Iraq, Palestinian and U.S. officials said Tuesday.

The ship was commandeered by Abbas’ small Palestine Liberation Front. Palestinian militants threw an elderly wheelchair-bound Jewish American tourist, Leon Klinghoffer, overboard.

Abbas was captured in Iraq in April by U.S. forces. Late Tuesday, officials in Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Abbas had died in U.S. custody.

In Washington, a U.S. official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Abul Abbas died recently of natural causes while in U.S. custody. The official said his health had been deteriorating.

When the conspiracy freaks claim that Abbas was killed in custody, will anybody care?

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By the Numbers

March 9th, 2004 - 1:01 pm

Byron York has poll numbers you haven’t seen anywhere else.

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A Question…

March 9th, 2004 - 1:00 pm

Martha Stewart is most likely going to prison because she lied to Federal investigators.

With the understanding that I have no particular sympathy for Stewart, just how exactly is lying to Federal investigators worse and/or different than lying to a Federal Grand Jury?

Just askin’.

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And We’re Just Getting Started III

March 9th, 2004 - 11:59 am

Priceless.

(Hat tip to Venomous Kate.)

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School Violence

March 9th, 2004 - 11:56 am

More on the Iranian teachers’ strike:

The Islamic republic regime agents intervened in several schools, on the 4th day of Teachers strike, in order to beat and arrest several teachers and supporter students. These sporadic clashes have increased in the cities of Hamdean, Esfahan and Ardebil while starting in several areas of Tehran and its suburbs, such as Rey, Eslamshahr and Karaj. . .

Read the whole thing.

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Fred Kaplan Is Lying

March 9th, 2004 - 11:09 am

Slate’s Fred Kaplan makes an effort at defending John Kerry from Republican attacks on his Senate record, specifically, Kerry’s attempts to cut a number of major weapons systems over the years, including unimportant items like the F-14 and F-15 fighters, the B-2 bomber, AH-64 Apache helicopter, and Aegis cruisers.

Kaplan starts out with what he probably considers a clever ploy, quoting George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney laying out defense cuts that were proposed in the early 1990′s. He then notes,

Granted, these reductions were made in the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution and the Cold War’s demise. But that’s just the point: Proposed cuts must be examined in context. A vote against a particular weapons system doesn’t necessarily indicate indifference toward national defense.

Quite right, as far as it goes–but then Kaplan proceeds to obscure the point by charging that Kerry didn’t really “vote” to cancel all those systems, he just voted one way or another on different procedural and conference bills for one reason or another, and,

Kerry was one of 16 senators (including five Republicans) to vote against a defense appropriations bill 14 years ago. He was also one of an unspecified number of senators to vote against a conference report on a defense bill nine years ago. The RNC takes these facts and extrapolates from them that he voted against a dozen weapons systems that were in those bills. The Republicans could have claimed, with equal logic, that Kerry voted to abolish the entire U.S. armed forces, but that might have raised suspicions. Claiming that he opposed a list of specific weapons systems has an air of plausibility. On close examination, though, it reeks of rank dishonesty.

That’d be a nice argument, Fred, except that you didn’t bother to fact-check your own statements against the rest of the public record. Like, say, this 1984 Kerry memo, which Kerry’s campaign has admitted is genuine. It lays out, in Kerry’s own name, plans to “cancel” all of the above programs, plus several others.

In other words, Fred, you’re either completely misinformed, or you’re lying. Based on your previous “work” regarding defense issues, I might have given you the benefit of the doubt. You clearly don’t know a damn thing about how weapons systems are designed, tested, used, or bought (repeatedly quoting a fraud like John “I’m not an engineer, but I play one on TV” Pike doesn’t help your credibility), but since Mark Steyn has had that memo linked for the better part of a month, I’m inclined to think that you’re just ignoring it.

In other words, lying.

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Welcome Home

March 9th, 2004 - 10:48 am

Jane Galt is back from vacation in Mexico, mysteriously pale…

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