April 30, 2003
GO HERE to see how you can help save Amina Lawal from being stoned to death.
GO HERE to see how you can help save Amina Lawal from being stoned to death.
TWO British citizens were responsible for the suicide bombing of a pub in Tel Aviv early yesterday that killed three civilians and wounded 46 others.
A hunt was under way for one of the bombers, who did not detonate his charge and was believed to have it still in his possession. He is thought to have fled the scene when he saw his accomplice being blocked by a security guard.
Israeli police released an image of the passport of the dead man, Asif Mohammed Hanif, who detonated his explosives at the door. He was born on 2 August, 1981, in Bhowanj, Pakistan. The passport photograph of the wanted man, Omar Khan Sharif, born on 13 March, 1976, in Derby, was also released.
The security guard was seriously wounded as were another five people.
Reports in Jerusalem said the bombers were members of al-Qaeda or Hezbollah.
The British turned a blind eye to Islamic fundamentalism in Britain for a long time. This is the fruit of that policy.
ANATOLE KALETSKY WRITES:
Today is May 1, the International Day of Labour. It seems appropriate, therefore, to devote this column to the triumph of global capitalism. For if there is one social principle on which all economists, historians and politicians must now surely agree, it is that capitalism has done more than any other human construct to benefit working people around the world.
He’s right, of course. Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, the real question is whether the lovely Lily Malcolm will find the right special someone under her cherry tree.
MISSING TOURIST UPDATE: According to this report, they’ve been found:
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Thirty-one European tourists who vanished in the Sahara Desert are being held hostage by terrorist groups, a ranking Algerian official said Wednesday.
The official said the tourists had been located by the Algerian army. Some 5,000 Algerian troops and 300 local guides were brought in to track down the tourists. . . .
No one has claimed responsibility for the disappearances, and there has been wide speculation about who might be behind them.
A name that regularly surfaces in the press is Mokhtar Benmokhtar, an Islamic insurgent thought to be a trafficker in arms, vehicles or cigarettes in the vast desert region between Algeria, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.
Interesting. I think there’s more involved in this region than mere cigarette smuggling. I think someone’s trying to set up a shadow state.
HOORAY FOR THE ALABAMA LEGISLATURE: They’ve managed to render their obscenity law illegal — and they did it knowingly!
COLIN POWELL IS FLOATING THE IRAQI OIL-TRUST IDEA:
“It is under consideration, we’re looking at that,” Powell told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. “It’s a concept that applies in the case of Iraq at least for consideration.”
Absolutely. I’m glad somebody’s thinking about it.
ORSON SCOTT CARD IS WORRIED: What if everything goes right in Iraq? No, really, he has a point, sort of.
SEVERAL PEOPLE have emailed me this story from AlterNet about a “Patriot Act” raid. It seems a bit odd to me: 5 NYPD officers come in with drawn guns — but then they’re followed up by “officers of the INS and Homeland Security Department.” I’m no expert on how federal raids are conducted, but I’ve never heard of one conducted in this fashion. The feds generally have their own guys with guns.
Does anyone know if this M.O. makes sense?
These questions aside, the raid seems heavyhanded, but not dreadful. (Certainly not as bad as this pre-911 raid, which wasn’t even especially famous.) It’s hard to know more, since the story has few specifics, and we never learn what the feds were looking for.
UPDATE: Orin Kerr is skeptical — there was a raid, apparently, but this account raises doubts:
The idea that the author was told that he was “being held under the Patriot Act” sounds particularly unlikely to me. I can’t find a section of the Patriot Act that could conceivably apply to this.
It’s not impossible, of course, that a cop would claim to be acting under a law that, in fact, offers no such authority.
TRAFFIC FOR THIS MONTH is a hair above last month (which had one more day) at about 3.5 million pageviews. I suspect that it’ll be lower next month. And given that this traffic peak came about because of war, that’ll be just as well.
HERE’S AN INTERESTING INTERVIEW WITH NANOTECHNOLOGY PIONEER ERIC DREXLER about various claims regarding nanotechnology safety.
SLATE’S DAVID EDELSTEIN has a fascinating review of a documentary about the National Spelling Bee by Jeff Blitz, called Spellbound.
I was in the National Spelling Bee, and the documentary sounds like it rings true. I’ll have to order a copy when it becomes available.
MORE ON THE JOHN LOTT –STANFORD LAW REVIEW ISSUE: There’s an update here.
ALPHECCA’S WEEKLY CHART OF MEDIA BIAS ON GUNS is up.
JUDGE GILBERT MERRITT, THE JUDGE I CLERKED FOR, is going to Iraq to offer advice on setting up a real judiciary there. He’s a thoughtful guy with a lot of experience in this sort of thing, and I think this bodes well.
TENNESSEE’S STATE LEGISLATURE is looking at some truly dreadful DMCA-like legislation. But grassroots opposition is growing. Bill Hobbs has more.
SOME THOUGHTS ON SPACE SETTLEMENT, over at GlennReynolds.com. And scroll down for some reader email on Star Trek, in a post that I neglected to plug over here.
Of course, why should you listen to me, when I only rate the three of freakin’ clubs? I mean, you’d think that one of the Four Horsemen of the Ablogalypse would rate at least a face card. But I’m not bitter.
JUAN PAXETY NOTES that two can play the frivolous-Belgian-complaint game. Except that I’m not sure that he’s being frivolous.
ALL SORTS OF PEOPLE have been weighing in on Norman Mailer’s latest remarks, but fellow novelist Roger Simon has it nailed:
Talk about white boys who still need to know they’re good at something–how about NM and political analysis? Mailer continues to see everything as sports–fills the article with stale athletic references–as if, unconsciously, he were still in competition with Hemingway. (I doubt Hemingway, wherever he is, thinks much about Mailer.) That is also probably part of the reason he personifies the war in Iraq as Bush’s affair. There always has to be some kind of human adversary for Norman. Issues are not the point because they are not, never have been, Mailer’s forté. He prefers the boxing match and the ready opponent on the other side. But this time it’s interesting, despite the fact he’s writing in the London Times, Mailer didn’t dare take on the real heavyweight in town — Tony Blair. I guess even Norman knows when he’s over his head.
It was another novelist, Pietro Di Donato, who once said that for all their tough talk, Mailer and Breslin couldn’t punch their way out of a paper bag. Nowadays, that’s true even with regard to their rhetorical skills.
ORIN KERR has your 2002 wiretap roundup, just in case you were wondering.
VIRGINIA POSTREL WRITES THAT BILL MCKIBBEN ISN’T “BRAVE:”
This is an abuse of language. McKibben’s book may be sincere, forceful, impassioned. It may be well written. But it is not brave. It will offend absolutely no one who matters in Bill McKibben’s world. To the contrary, it will reinforce the righteous self-image of those who promote his career. By writing this book, McKibben can count on attention and praise. That doesn’t make him a coward. But neither does it make him brave–or the reviewers brave for praising him.
But if you say it often enough, maybe no one will notice.
What really interests me is that people think that they’ve made a moral argument against genetic engineering when they say that the idea “sickens” them. The idea of sodomy “sickens” some people, too. So does the idea of interracial marriage.
So you feel ill. Why should I care? After all, pompous, empty-headed moralizing sickens me, and nobody’s stopping that.
ROBIN GOODFELLOW WRITES that America is ready for a political axis-shift.
THE ELF-AQUITAINE SCANDAL REACHES INTO SOME ODD PLACES:
One of the largest private shareholders in BNP Paribas , the French bank that holds more than $13 billion in Iraqi oil funds administered through the United Nation’s oil-for-food program, is an Iraqi-born businessman who once helped to arm Iraq in the 1980’s and brokered business deals with Saddam Hussein’s government, according to public records and interviews.
The involvement of the businessman, the British billionaire Nadhmi Auchi, raises questions about how carefully the United Nations has vetted the bank in its continuing role as repository of oil-for-food funds. . . .
Earlier this month, Mr. Auchi was arrested and released on bail in London pending a court hearing next week on fraud charges involving the French oil giant TotalFinaElf. French prosecutors have accused Mr. Auchi of helping channel bribes to Total’s executives, a charge Mr. Corker denies.
We keep hearing about Halliburton, but it seems to be TotalFinaElf that’s at the center of all the really shady stuff.
UPDATE: Reader Kathleen deBettencourt emails with an excellent suggestion:
The United States should propose that a full audit of the Oil for Food program be conducted by an international team of independent auditors immediately. This proposal should be done in open session. It will be very illustrative to see who objects.
DANNY PEARL: Killed because he knew too much?
PARIS (AP) – Islamic extremists killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl because he had discovered dangerous secrets about their ties to the Pakistani intelligence community, according to an investigation by a respected French writer. . . .
Levy believes that Pearl was about to complete an article revealing that the al-Qaida terror network was close to acquiring nuclear weapons from supporters inside Pakistan’s scientific establishment.
“Pearl’s conclusion, like my own, was that in Pakistan there are atomic scientists who are also committed Islamic extremists,” Levy said in an interview with Paris Match magazine published Wednesday.
That wouldn’t surprise me at all.
HOWARD VEIT has some thoughts on why celebrity anti-Americanism seems particularly offensive.
DR. WEEVIL is playing “Ba’ath poker,” and seems to have more cards to play with all the time.
GARY FARBER has good news and bad news. The good news: he doesn’t have SARS, and he didn’t have a heart attack. The bad news: he does have pneumonia, and high blood pressure.
Drop by his blog, and leave him a little love. Heck, hit his tipjar if you’re in the mood.
TERRORISM, PORN, AND SAUDI MONEY in The Netherlands: DiLacerator has a post.
The Saudis have been waging low-key war against the West for decades; this is just more evidence of that.
MIKE HAWASH HAS BEEN CHARGED as a terrorist coconspirator. I don’t know how strong the evidence is, but at least he’s not being held without charges now.
HERE’S AN ENCOURAGING REPORT on the humanitarian situation in Iraq, though I don’t know a lot about the sourcing other than that it comes from the UN. But they wouldn’t be likely to paint a rosy scenario here. Excerpt:
Basrah – An UN inter-agency mission reached Basrah on 27-28 April, to carry out a humanitarian assessment and to identify office premises. In Basrah, the situation is improving but is still tense. Water and power supplies are provided at 90% capacity, and are expected to reach 100% shortly. This constitutes a higher level than before the war. UNICEF is in dialogue with local water companies to gradually take over the water tankering operations in the city. Garbage collection is problematic. All hospitals are functional and guarded by military.
These reports sound pretty good to me for the immediate aftermath of a decisive war.
MORE EURO-SCANDAL AFOOT:
Prosecutors said on Thursday that they were dropping their probe of the massive destruction of computer data in the Chancellery just ahead of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s departure from office, and would not lay any charges.
The prosecutors’ office in Bonn said that despite almost three years of investigations it could not prove that there was criminal intent behind the erasure of thousands of sensitive files in the weeks following the defeat of Kohl’s Christian Democratic Union in the September 1998 election.
Complaints by the new Social Democratic Party government were muted during the transition, but the issue took on new resonance a year later when prosecutors in Bavaria found financial irregularities in CDU finances. Ultimately, it was revealed that Kohl and other top Christian Democrats had maintained an elaborate system of secret bank accounts.
Of particular interest to prosecutors were links between the CDU slush funds and some $51 million in bribes that prosecutors in Switzerland and France said had been paid during the early 1990s to German Christian Democrats in connection with the privatization and sale of eastern Germany’s Leuna oil refinery.
But many of the files pertaining to the sale of the Leuna facility to France’s state-owned Elf-Aquitaine were found to be missing from the Chancellery.
Do tell. I’m sure there’s nothing to it.
MALAYSIAN CATBLOGGING: Well, why not?
LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LAB is missing thousands of computers. Ouch.
FROM WARBLOGGING TO SARSBLOGGING: Will Femia has a roundup of SARS-related blogs.
MARK STEYN ON THE IDIOCY OF THE UNITED NATIONS:
Got that? Last month, the Russians were opposed to war on the grounds that there was no proof Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. This month, the Russians are opposed to lifting sanctions on the grounds that there’s no proof Iraq doesn’t have weapons of mass destruction. . . .
You don’t have to be a genius to see that, since September 11th, we have entered a transitional phase in world affairs. But reasonable people are prone to reasonableness and, as I mentioned the other day, they’re especially vulnerable to the seductive power of inertia in human affairs. The wish not to have to update one’s Rolodex burns fiercely in the political breast. Brent Scowcroft, George Bush Sr.’s National Security Advisor, wanted to stick with the Soviet Union even after the Politburo had given up on it. The European Union was committed to the preservation of Yugoslavia even when there had ceased to be a Yugoslavia to preserve. In the Middle East, clinging to the status quo even as it’s melting and dripping on to your shoes is one reason why the region is now a problem. . . .
Now another Middle Eastern war has come and gone, and the bien-pensants are anxious that once again an obsolescent institution be glued back together and propped in position. This time it’s the UN. The editors of Britain’s Spectator concede it has more than its share of “irritating do-gooders,” but surely even that’s a euphemism: The do-gooders are, in fact, do-badders. The “oil-for-palaces” program (as Tommy Franks calls it) is a grotesque boondoggle even by UN standards: It was good for bureaucrats, good for Saddam’s European bankers, good for his British stooge George Galloway, but bad for the Iraqi people. A humanitarian operation meant to help a dictator’s beleagured subjects has instead enriched the UN by over $1-billion (officially) in “administrative” costs. There’s no oversight, no auditing, nothing most businesses would recognize as a legitimate invoice, and, although non-essential items can only be approved by the Secretary-General himself, Kofi Annan (Mister Legitimacy) has personally signed off on practically anything Saddam requested, including “boats,” from France.
He’s right, of course. The United Nations is not a force for good in the world. To the very modest extent that it’s a force at all, it’s a force for corruption and the propping up of tyrants.
RANDY BARNETT HAS SOME THOUGHTS on ending the confirmation standoff
If the Democrats don’t think they like “stealth” candidates like Miguel Estrada, just wait until they experience the delights of judges Richard Epstein, Lillian Bevier, Bernard Siegan, Lino Gragia, and dozens more like them on the Courts of Appeals. Or how about Morris Arnold, Alex Kozinski, Richard Posner, Frank Easterbrook, Edith Jones, or even Robert Bork as recess appointments to the Supreme Court? For the White House, the point of the exercise would be to propose a list of bright and articulate judges who are far more ideologically objectionable to the Democrats and their activist support groups than the president’s current nominees.
UPDATE: Philippe De Croy has a response.
I CAN’T VOUCH FOR THIS SOURCE, which I’m unfamiliar with. And the email with the link came via a Russian anonymous-remailer service. So keep that in mind as you read this report:
Well placed sources tell Mineweb that sensitive records and correspondence related to the oil-for-food programme have been purged from the computer system at UN headquarters in New York. For detail of the sums involved, see the table at the end of this article.
Mineweb’s sources dismiss assurances by oil-for-food programme director, Benon Sevan, that current audits are sufficient. “These audits are sometimes used to cover-up real problems in programmes such as the UN’s Chief Resident Auditor in the Congo who was removed and his audit blocked when it alleged possible fraud involving communications equipment procured for that mission,” the source said.
Perhaps some other journalists will be inspired to take a look.
“The movie is much more beautiful now because there’s sex,” said a beaming Mohammed Taher, 18. Since Saturday, when the theater reopened with a freshly uncensored version of the low-budget flick, he has seen “Blue Chill” three times.
Baghdad has gone through a revolution in the past three weeks, casting off decades of censorship and state control. Banned books, satellite dishes and video CDs are now sold on the street – as are alcohol and women.
Nobody knows how long the permissiveness will last. Iraq’s American governors brought together Iraqi political leaders yesterday to discuss a new government, and many Baghdadis believe that once it’s in place, some of their freedoms will disappear.
Conservatives are counting on it. “Everything against Islam, everything we hate, has been imported by the Americans like a disease,” said Abbas Hamid, a 60-year-old merchant. “We’ll fight them. We’re tired now, but we’ll rest up and use our guns to drive the Americans out.”
For now, Hamid appears to be in the minority as Iraqis excitedly discover worlds of vice – and virtue, too – long forbidden by the repressive regime of Saddam Hussein.
Christina Aguilera’s belly button: irresistible force for freedom!
(Via Zach Barbera).
UPDATE: And Kylie Minogue is doing her part (er, parts?) for liberty, too!
OUCH. Those Gawker folks can be mean.
WHENEVER I POST PIX OR DESCRIPTIONS from Knoxville, I hear from homesick Knoxville expatriates around the world. For those folks, here’s a picture taken looking across the river from Cherokee Boulevard this morning.
TIM ROBBINS CENSORED? Media Minded is all over this nonstory. Excerpt:
What this means is that America was actually subjected to an EXTRAORDINARY 11 MINUTES of Robbins’ paranoid ramblings, not a longer-than-average nine minutes, as I posted last night. That also means Robbins was granted NEARLY FOUR MORE MINUTES of airtime than the longest recent celebrity interview currently available at the Today Show Web site. (See post below.)
Maybe this is a clever plan to swing American opinion in favor of censorship.
HOWARD KURTZ SAYS THAT bloggers are taking over the 2004 Presidential campaign. Well, yeah.
UPDATE: Jim Treacher offers this comment.
IRAQIS ARE SOAKING UP FREE MEDIA now that Saddam’s censorship is over:
“Now I am a free man,” says Salih in halting English. “How could we have lived under this regime?”
How, indeed? But here’s the most amusing part:
His friend, Abbas Ali, concurs. “We used to go to sleep at 10 p.m. Now we stay up until 4 or 5 a.m. because we can’t get enough.” Still desperate for war news, they tune to CNN, BBC, and what appears to be a local favorite, Fox. They like it, people here say, because it has been the most supportive of the war.
For many here, the only foreign channels they can understand are in Arabic, and they are deeply resentful of the most prominent one, Qatar-based Al-Jazeera.
Abu Bakr Mohammed Amin, an elderly man in a red-checkered headdress visiting Salih’s television shop, gives them a dismissive flick of the wrist: “They only knew how to support Saddam,” he says.
SGTSTRYKER IS BACK!
DANG, I SLEPT THROUGH THE EARTHQUAKE last night. Fortunately, SKBubba was awake and has the scoop.
MISSING TOURIST UPDATE:
The tourists have been separated into two groups and are being held in canyons and gullies near the town of Illizi, which lies near the Libyan border some 900 miles south-east of Algiers, a senior security official told the French newspaper Le Monde yesterday.
The 15 Germans, 10 Austrians, four Swiss, a Dutchman and a Swede who, while travelling in seven different groups, have gone missing since mid-February, are being held by rebels led by local Islamist leader Emir Ammari.
Well, that doesn’t solve the problem, but it does dispel some of the mystery.
MINNESOTA JOINS THE GROWING NUMBER OF STATES with “shall-issue” hangun-carry laws, meaning that citizens who qualify must be issued permits, with no discretion (traditionally a source of corruption and cronyism) left to authorities.
JERRY POURNELLE thinks patience will be the key in reconstructing Iraq:
The central question in a democracy is, can you afford to lose the election? If you try and fail, is loss total? Will you be jailed, your property confiscated, your family jailed or killed? If the consequences of loss are enormous, then you don’t let the ballot box be the final decision. Nor should you.
The first thing we must do is assure the losers they can afford to lose, and that we will be there to protect them.
I think that Rumsfeld has figured this out. But how many others have?
THE SECRET OF WEALTH (no, really) — just start here and scroll up.
DON’T SNIFF THE MYSTERIOUS WHITE POWDER: Well, this story isn’t really that funny:
An Egyptian merchant-marine sailor met “someone” in Cairo and was given a suitcase. He traveled to Brazil to join his ship, which was loading bauxite intended for Canada. He was supposed to deliver the suitcase to “someone” in Canada, but being curious about the suitcase he opened it while in Brazil, and shortly thereafter died from anthrax. Like as not, having found the legendary white powder he suspected it was drugs, and took a sniff to see.
I don’t know if he really sniffed it — another account I saw suggested that he died of intestinal anthrax — but this is a rather serious worry.
UPDATE: Here’s more, suggesting that worry is appropriate.
GERHARD SCHROEDER’S POLITICAL STAR isn’t exactly rising:
Chancellor Gerhard Schröder issued a veiled threat yesterday to resign if his party refuses to back his “Agenda 2010” package of reforms, intended to slim down the welfare state and give desperately needed impetus to the German economy.
It doesn’t have anything to do with the war, but it indicates why Schroeder was desperate enough to try distracting people with anti-Americanism.
HERE’S AN UPDATE ON arrested Iranian blogger Sina Motallebi.
JUST WATCHED A TAPE of the PBS Newshour piece on weblogs that I mentioned earlier. I thought it was pretty good, and certainly better than yet another InstaPundit piece would have been. They interviewed a number of bloggers, showed a number of blogs, and featured Joan Connell who was — until last week — my editor (only she was called a “producer”) at MSNBC. It was actually the first time I’d ever seen her, since we’ve interacted entirely by phone and email.
The focus was on the blogosphere, not on particular blogs, and that was good — because the blogosphere is smarter than any individual blog or blogger.
I taped the piece because the InstaWife, InstaDaughter, and I went to a carnival tonight. Bumper-cars, shooting galleries, and Ferris wheels. And caramel apples. It was lovely.
UPDATE: There’s RealAudio here.
KEVIN DRUM CASTS DOUBT ON MEDIA ORIGINALITY: But you have to see the photo to appreciate it.
I’M NOT SURE THAT BERKELEY HAS REALLY BEEN LIBERATED YET, but this is surely evidence that American columns can operate at will even in the heart of the city.
UPDATE: Here’s more from the L.A. Times. Excerpt:
BERKELEY — Borrowing a page from this city’s radical traditions, a boisterous band of 200 college Republicans demonstrated Saturday in the bastion of American liberalism, staging a pro-Bush administration rally on the UC Berkeley campus and leading a flag-waving procession down Telegraph Avenue.
As street vendors and merchants looked on in disbelief, delegates attending a state college Republican convention here marched two blocks to People’s Park, site of a widely publicized protest incident in 1969, where they chanted “Bush! Bush! Bush!” and sang “America the Beautiful.”
By Berkeley standards, it was a minuscule procession played out on a balmy Saturday afternoon on a mostly deserted campus. But to the hardy corps of young Republicans, uniting under the theme “Behind Enemy Lines,” it was a highly symbolic event. Even grizzled political warriors said they were impressed by participants’ moxie. Longtime Berkeley professors said it represented a political drift to the right at California’s pioneer state university.
“I never dreamed in my lifetime that I would see this,” said a buoyant Shawn Steel, former state Republican Party chairman from Rolling Hills.
Well, it’s a man-bites-dog story, for sure. Or maybe a man-bites-geezer story:
The difference is clear at the Free Speech Movement Café, an elegant coffee shop funded by a wealthy 1964 graduate at the base of the new Moffitt Undergraduate Library. One of the walls of the cafe is covered with an enlarged photograph of a Free Speech era sit-in. Almost all of the faces in the photo are white. Recent classes entering Berkeley, however, have been largely Asian, accounting for more than 40% of the entering freshman class.
“As a general rule,” said Leonard, “the increase in Asian Americans has pushed the student body more toward the center politically.”
In fact, Leonard said, opposition to the campus conservatives is more likely to come from the faculty or aging leftists in the surrounding community. “I get the sense the community is much more into protest than the campus,” Leonard said. “There is a culture of protest in the Bay Area that is steadily getting grayer and older.”
It seems to be that way everywhere.
THE WAR IS FINALLY OVER, and it’s an unconditional victory, according to Rand Simberg.
I like the reference to “bunkum-busting.”
ANOTHER WALL HAS FALLEN, this one in Cyprus. Christopher Hitchens writes:
I wish I’d been there to see it, having so often traversed this grim border in both directions as a journalist, but I was able to get cell-phone reports from my former sister-in-law, Manto Meleagrou, who was one of the first to make the trip. The sense of exhilaration and liberty was extraordinary, as if people indefinitely confined in a cramped cell had suddenly been allowed to stretch and exercise. And also as if a “no talking” rule in a barren jail had suddenly been relaxed: Conversation that had been impossible for decades was suddenly and volubly resumed.
Germans were Germans on either side of the wall, while Cypriots are either Greek-speaking and Orthodox or Turkish-speaking and Muslim. One of the few benefits of British colonialism is that English is widely spoken on both sides, and the temper of both communities is also heavily secular, but there has been enough mutual distrust in Greek-Turkish history for demagogues to work on. Nonetheless, Manto and others told me that they were greeted very warmly by the Turkish Cypriots and that the local police and army seemed to have taken the day off. The same was true reciprocally: Turks venturing south were embraced by former friends and by new ones. . . .
The fraternization among Cypriots — a people long written-off as hopeless victims of “ancient hatreds” and tribal feelings — is of course mainly a compliment to themselves. Those of us lucky enough to know the island are well aware that the majority is immune to fascistic rhetoric and maintains a long tradition of courtesy and coexistence. However, it must be emphasized that the idea of a democratic, open, law-governed society, represented in part by the “pull” of the European Union, does now constitute an alternative pole of attraction and a challenge to traditional, confessional, and nationalist modes of thought. And this has implications across the region.
Along with the slow but now unstoppable movement among the Palestinians for a democratic “civil society” approach to their common problems and their long battle for statehood, this sudden development in Cyprus shows that there is indeed a “wind of change” blowing in the Middle East.
I hope he’s right. It does often seem to be the case that “ancient tribal hatreds” stem from modern demagoguery more than actual longstanding history.
JOHN LOTT HAS RESPONDED to the Ayres/Donohue post below. I’ve added his email as an update, which you can read here.
HERE’S AN UPDATE ON WHAT’S GOING ON WITH SGTSTRYKER.COM.
MISSING TOURISTS UPDATE:
ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) Algerian authorities found a vehicle in the Sahara desert that likely belonged to a German couple who are among 31 European tourists missing in the north African country, a security official said Sunday.
The discovery may provide one of the most important clues into the disappearances since the Algerian military began searching in mid-February, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The four-wheel drive vehicle was “practically buried under sand” near the remote town of Illizi, 930 miles southwest of the capital, Algiers, he said. Its battery had been removed.
THE PBS NEWSHOUR FOLKS emailed to tell me that there will be a program on weblogs on tonight. You’ll have to check your local listings for the time, but it should be around halfway through the program.
Originally, this was supposed to be a program about InstaPundit, but I persuaded them that InstaPundit had been done to death, and suggested that they branch out to some newer faces, which I gather they’ve done.
A transcript, etc., will appear here at some point after the show airs.
HERE’S MORE ON AN INSTAPUNDIT STAPLE: scandalous problems at the FBI crime lab.
The AP reported this month that FBI lab technician Jacquelyn Blake quit while under investigation for failing to follow required scientific procedures while analyzing 103 DNA samples over the past couple of years, and a second lab employee was indicted for allegedly providing false testimony.
Inspector General Glenn Fine expanded the Blake inquiry to examine the FBI lab’s broader practices in DNA cases. The FBI has been cooperating, the government officials said.
I wonder how many people were wrongly convicted? I feel pretty sure that some have been.
DAVID PLOTZ HAS A SURVEY OF IDEAS, all of which seem pretty good to me, on how to rebuild civil society in Iraq.
One useful thing to remember: unlike Russians, Iraqis had a civil society, more or less, as recently as 35 years ago. Iraq is more like Eastern Europe than Russia in this regard: there are still plenty of people who can remember a different way of living.
Here, by the way, is something I wrote on the subject a few weeks ago. And Jeff Jarvis has been all over this question (with special attention to the role the Internet can play) — just keep scrolling.
HERE’S MORE ON SARS and its impact on China.
PETER OBORNE WONDERS:
It is worth pondering this contradiction, made sharper by the military victory in Iraq. It raises two fascinating questions. Why do British armed forces, with their meagre £25 billion budget, always deliver? But why do the NHS and the education system, though in receipt of unlimited amounts of public money, continue to fail? To put the problem in another way: how come the simple British squaddie — though underpaid, overworked and forced to carry out his or her duties in conditions of appalling danger — always rises to any challenge? But how come so many British schoolteachers, rather better paid, with far shorter hours and long holidays, endlessly whinge and — as the teachers’ union conference demonstrated yet again — block even quite sensible reforms?
But it’s the paragraph after this one that demonstrates just how big a challenge Blair faces.
NOAM CHOMSKY AND HOWARD ZINN deconstruct The Fellowship of the Ring movie. I’m pretty sure this is a parody, but, really, how can you tell the difference?
THE GUARDIAN reports on Internet Satire sites and gives Scott Ott’s ScrappleFace a lot of attention.
CLAYTON CRAMER NOTES ANOTHER DEFENSIVE HANDGUN USE, pointing out that “These don’t get much coverage nationally, but they happen frequently.”
IAIN MURRAY REPORTS on a poll suggesting that Brits are developing an astonishingly, well, American attitude toward crime.
SARS UPDATE: A friend in China sends a disquieting report, suggesting that things there are worse than I had realized:
Within the past week, it has finally become evident that the Chinese government’s failure to own up to the SARS problem when it began several months ago is coming back to haunt it, at the expense of many innocent people who had no idea that their government was (once again) lying to them. Although we have always known that we were visiting an authoritarian regime that lacks a free press, until this week, the police presence has been relatively low-key and the “news” in the China Daily has been a source of amusement to us. It is easy, in the capitalist mecca of Shanghai, to forget a key fact that the government here plainly wants you to forget but that is now quite clear: This is very much a police state. . . .
[Numerous anecdotes of coverups, “appearance-oriented” strategies, and so on follow. Example: a sick student showing up at a university clinic and being told “There is no SARS at the University. Do you want to be the first case?” after which he went home without treatment. Shanghai is reortedly quarantining anyone who enters the city from anywhere else.]
But for the facts that it is rapidly heading toward martial law and is infected with a contagious and potentially lethal disease, Shanghai is a fantastic city. . . . China is a growing world power with enormous political, military, and economic importance. But it will not be a full-fledged member of the world community until it meets its responsibilities to other countries and to its own people.
The report suggests that things are much worse elsewhere in China, particularly in Beijing and Guangzhou. I should note that my friend was until recently very optimistic about China, and very favorably disposed toward the direction that its government is taking. I suspect that the damage done to China’s reputation may, in some ways, do as much harm as the disease itself. China will have to work very hard to get out of this hole.
RACHEL BELTON WRITES THAT WE SHOULD KEEP THE UNITED NATIONS OUT OF IRAQ:
The United Nations and international allies promised to rebuild democracy in Bosnia. Seven years later, they have departed — only to hand over responsibility for the semi-state to the European Union. They failed again in Kosovo, where they are preventing a civil war but have brought little movement toward self-government in their four-year reign. In Afghanistan, international aid is coming too little and too late to support the fragile government.
The failure of these efforts to build autonomous, sovereign democracies lies in the very structure of international coalitions. Coalitions diffuse responsibility. When Bosnia failed to arrest war criminals, each coalition member could blame its compatriots. No one felt responsible for ensuring the legitimacy of the coalition — or the success of the country. Slow funding from a coalition is also inevitable, given the multiple money streams and organizations that must be coordinated. Yet lack of disposable funds causes pro-Western politicians to lose ground to more shady leaders, often funded by less-savory states and criminal organizations, who can deliver results to the citizenry more quickly.
Reconstruction efforts often become the battlefields for unconnected struggles between coalition members. To gain the upper hand, “internationals” dissipate their time and energy playing politics against one another.
This seems right to me.
Yes, conceded the defendant — a man named Yves Verwaerde — he had opened a $2 million Swiss bank account with the code name “Salad” in July 1991, when he was a Member of the European Parliament. It was his other employer at the time, the French oil company Elf, that asked him to open the account, he explained. The salad full of greenbacks was earmarked for Jonas Savimbi, the rebel leader in Angola, where Elf was negotiating important contracts.
Listening intently in the wood-paneled courtroom of the Paris Tribunal last week, Judge Michel Desplan had some questions. If this $2 million was for Savimbi, how come Verwaerde had allegedly used about $300,000 of it to build a villa for himself on Ibiza? And why did his wife have power of attorney over the account? Verwaerde didn’t miss a beat. He claimed that Savimbi himself had said he could dip into the money. As for his wife, “she was usually the one who picked up the telephone when it rang, so she spoke to Savimbi several times when he called my home,” he replied. . . .
Why would Elf make potentially illicit payments to French politicians? Le Floch-Prigent’s rationale had a touch of paranoia to it: “Elf is a French company up against the Anglo-Saxon world,” he told the court. “We are David against Goliath. Our politicians had to support us everywhere. In Africa, for example, if we got into a war between Socialists and Gaullists, we wouldn’t know where to go. A certain number of French politicians were capable of destabilizing Elf. We had to shut them up or make sure they were with us.”
Those damned Anglo-Saxons! We needed those villas to compete with them!
SLATE IS MAKING MONEY: Cool.
A BLAIR/CHIRAC SPLIT WIDENS:
Tony Blair has issued a direct challenge to France’s Jacques Chirac over the future of the transatlantic relationship by warning that the French president’s vision of Europe as a rival to the US is dangerously destabilising. . . .
Meanwhile a new MORI poll for the FT reveals that 55 per cent of Britons regard France as the UK’s least reliable ally, while 73 per cent view the US as the country’s most reliable.
Blair would like to heal the breach, but with Chirac’s ambitions — and, now, obvious efforts on behalf of a military enemy — it’s hard to see how that can happen.
PITCH CORRECTION IS THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRET of pop music. Now R.S. Field, one of my favorite record producers (he produces Webb Wilder, John Mayall, and has worked with Steve Earle), is blowing things wide open with a sticker on the latest album he’s produced:
Pitch correction is actually one of many computer-based tools that producers use to make singers sound better. Using increasingly common studio software such as Pro Tools, flat notes can be fixed, off-key vocals can be spruced up and entire performances can be cut and pasted together from several different takes.
According to industry insiders, many successful mainstream artists in most genres of music — perhaps a majority of artists — are using pitch correction. Now some in the music industry think the focus on perfection has gone too far.
“Vocal tuning is contributing to the Milli Vanilli-fication of modern music,” says R.S. Field, who produced Moorer’s record. Putting the sticker on the record, he says, “was sort of our little freak flag.”
The software is, I have to say, very cool. You can program in the scale and it’ll force someone’s voice to it, or you can put it in automatic mode and it will just move the voice to the nearest “real” interval. I don’t use it (don’t believe me? Just listen to any record I ever produced!) but I’ve been tempted from time to time.
The problem is that — like quantization, which does the same thing, essentially, for beats — while a little bit of it may save an otherwise great take, more than a little tends to make everything sound the same: perfect, but lifeless. And the temptation is to overdo it. There’s a lot of that out there.
UPDATE: Mickey Kaus is waiting for the blog application!
CHRIS REGAN HAS BEEN LOOKING AT DATES on the Iraqi documents that have been discovered. It makes him think less of Barbara Bodine.
MATT WELCH ACCUSES COLIN POWELL of being too close to Saudi Prince Bandar. His source: Colin Powell.
MORE FRENCH COLLUSION WITH IRAQ:
France colluded with the Iraqi secret service to undermine a Paris conference held by the prominent human rights group Indict, according to documents found in the foreign ministry in Baghdad.
Various documents state that the Iraqis believed the French were doing their utmost to prevent the meeting from going ahead.
Ann Clwyd, the Labour MP who chairs Indict, said last night that she would be demanding an apology from the French government for its behaviour, which she described as “atrocious”. . . .
Saddam supporters staged a protest outside before it started, she said, and at one point a bomb scare led to the hall having to be evacuated.
Victims of Saddam’s regime gave evidence at the conference and filming was strictly forbidden because they feared being identified.
But someone smuggled in a camera and started filming, Miss Clwyd said.
“The police were called. But they could not take the film from the man because he was an Iraqi accredited to the Moroccan embassy.”
The French foreign ministry denied collusion.
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: And here’s more on George Galloway:
The appeal set up by George Galloway to treat a sick Iraqi child spent more than £800,000 on political campaigns and expenses, including a direct salary payment to his wife, the MP admitted yesterday.
Dr Amineh Abu Zayyad, Mr Galloway’s Palestinian wife, was paid around £18,000 by the appeal fund to “look after” Mariam Hamza, the girl who received treatment for leukaemia in Britain and America.
It’s always the money with these tribunes of the people. As Tim Blair notes:
The charity spent £860,000 on anti-sanctions campaigns, expenses and administration, and only £100,000 on the kid. She was effectively used as a front for a propaganda operation.
He thinks things are looking bad for George.
BILL WHITTLE hopes the Iraqis kick our ass. No, really, he does.
THE CONSPIRACY IS UNRAVELLING. Whatever shall I do?
JEFF JARVIS has observations on democracy in Iraq, Iran,and China. Just keep scrolling.
HOWARD OWENS WRITES that we shouldn’t worry about charges of imperialism:
It’s a charge leveled by people who want the power for themselves and their kind. In Athens, it was the oligarchy, displaced by the democrats who trumped up the imperialism charge, then conspired with Sparta to war against Athens. Today, it’s a wide swath of liberals and a few conservatives (mostly paleos like Pat Buchanan) who blame western liberalism for all the evils of the world. Such people are uncomfortable with the uncertainty an open society engenders, and either consciously or unconsciously they seek more order and centralized control.
The charge of imperialism has nothing to do with any actual fault of the United States, and more to do with a fear that America’s model, the open society, will take hold in more regions of the world.
UPDATE: Don Williams sent me a lengthy comment on Howard Owens’ history, which he says is wrong, but it was too long to post here. He’s posted it with Howard’s essay — it’s comment #21, just scroll down.
JESSE WALKER NICELY CORRECTS an error from his USA Today piece on Iran. That’s one of the nice things about a blog: fast’n’easy error corrections. God knows when, if ever, he’ll be able to get USA Today to run the correction. And it’s another good reason to have your Big Media pieces link to your blog!
I didn’t even catch the error when I read the piece, because — seeing what I expected instead of what was there — I read it as saying that Iran isn’t as oppressive as Saddam was, which is true, rather than as saying what it actually said. So for me, at least, it was harmless error.
MORE SUPPORT for Mickey Kaus’s theory on why Cuba is so popular with politicians and celebrities: “It’s the ‘ho’s!”
HOORAY FOR JEFF BEZOS:
Now he has a $1.7 billion fortune to try to convert that dream into reality. NEWSWEEK has learned that Bezos created Blue Origin, also known as Blue Operations LLC, to pursue his fervent dream of establishing an enduring human presence in space. He has surreptitiously recruited a stable of rocketeers: physicists, ex-NASA scientists, veterans of failed space start-ups and even sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson (“Snow Crash” and “Cryptonomicon”), who has a lifelong interest in rocketry. People familiar with the firm say Bezos spends part of a day each week at Blue, and is in frequent touch through e-mail, pinging his staff with technical questions. These sources say Blue Origin is actually building a spacecraft whose mission will be closely related to some of the first voyages that brought astronauts to the very edge of space. Confident that people want to travel beyond the Earth’s atmosphere—even after a second shuttle disaster—Bezos and his engineers are in the process of working on rocket designs. They’re adding staff and aiming toward launching a reusable space vehicle into suborbital space, with seven tourists onboard, in the next few years.
I wonder if he’s a Star Trek fan?
UPDATE: Reader Demian McLean emails that Bezos is indeed a Star Trek Fan:
I worked at Amazon for four years. Bezos named his dog “Kamala,” after a minor character on The Next Generation. Kamala was the metamorph in the episode titled “The Perfect Mate.”
I knew it!
I WONDER IF THIS MADE AL JAZEERA?
(04-27) 10:40 PDT CAMP BUCCA, Iraq (AP) —
Chanting “Saddam no, Bush yes,” some 200 Iraqi prisoners of war were let go Sunday at the coalition’s main internment camp in the desert near the southern port of Umm Qasr.
The men, many of them barefooted, shook hands with the American soldiers guarding the camp before boarding buses and trucks to be driven to nearby Basra, southern Iraq’s largest city. . . .
“I gave orders to my five men not to fight and we surrendered,” he said, his eyes red from the sand. “Americans were coming for our own good. … What has Saddam done for us? I’m 30 and I haven’t enjoyed life — no justice, no piece of land, no car.” . . .
The men gave thumbs-up signs and peppered journalists with questions: “No more Saddam statues?” “No more military service?” “No more executions?”
Hussam Abbas, from Basra, said all he had known in his 25 years were prisons and military service. “I gave myself in so that I would have a chance to be evacuated and not to come back to Iraq,” he said. “But now, I am happy. We got rid of Saddam who oppressed us.”
Hanging out a bus window, Mussalam Hassan, 22, shouted happily: “We did not fire a single shot!” He said he was taken prisoner in Rumeila on March 21, the second day of the war.
I sure hope so.
ACCORDING TO THIS ARTICLE, Saddam was bribing a lot of journalists and politicians.
Is it ethical not to expose these people, if we find out who they are?
UPDATE: Meanwhile, these thoughts on George Galloway:
Leaving aside unproved accusations of personal gain, there are other explanations that might cover George’s sudden blindness on the road to Baghdad. And the most obvious is that sin of the committed, the belief that my enemy’s enemy is my friend. Or, in the context of the modern world, any anti-American will do. When Iraq stopped being a friend of the West it became a friend of George’s.
This is linked to a characteristic of much of the Left, which is a strangely cavalier attitude towards freedom and democracy. What, for example, should we make of this question from Tam Dalyell, asked in Parliament in 1998: ‘Is an alternative to Saddam Hussein,’ queried the man who has condemned Tony Blair as a war criminal, ‘really preferable? How can we be sure that post-Saddam Iraq will not descend into civil war along religious and tribal lines – like the north of Iraq?’
True, the same people will often shield themselves with one half sentence about Saddam’s ‘appaling human rights record’. But this is a phrase invoked as a defence against the reality of that record.
JIM LINDGREN WRITES IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE ABOUT IRAQ AND EXPECTATIONS:
A few days ago Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld referred to the continuing confusion and death in Iraq as “untidiness”–a euphemism for something far more serious. Yet community upheavals can be deadly–even in the absence of war, cruise missiles, and attack helicopters.
Just last year, more than 200 people died in riots in Nigeria over newspaper comments about the Miss World contest. In the three days of burning and looting in the 1992 Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, 52 people died and 1,200 businesses were destroyed. Looting was also a big part of the 1990 Detroit Pistons riots, which killed 7 people. In the 1993 Chicago Bulls riots, our fellow Chicagoans killed 3, shot 20 more people, looted 197 businesses, and damaged more police cars than the chase scenes in “The Blues Brothers” movie–139 cruisers in all.
These numbers, of course, are mere shadows of what can happen when a people are freed from colonial rule and millions are forced to relocate, as happened in 1947 with the partition of India and Pakistan. In a recent issue of the scholarly journal Asian Ethnicity, professor Ishtiag Ahmed offers estimates that 2 million people were killed and 750,000 women raped in the violence accompanying the partition. . . .
The French were so angry after only four brutal years of Nazi occupation that more than 9,000 collaborators were summarily killed at the end of the war, according to standard academic accounts. And these vigilantes were the oh-so-civilized French.
The evolving process of reform after World War II was slow. Britain’s wartime rationing continued until 1954–and, remember, Britain was bombed but not invaded, and it won that war. Sometimes I wonder whether the English might still be under wartime rationing if they hadn’t kicked out the Labor government for a few years in the 1950s and brought Winston Churchill back in.
Read the whole thing.
MICKEY KAUS is all over Rupert Murdoch and Robert Reich.
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