Friday, February 25, 2005

Stand and Fight

David Ignatius writes an excellent piece in today’s Washington Post, “Our guys stayed and fought.

He looks at the relationship between Iraqi General Adnan Thabit, the leader of the Special Police Commandos, and Colonel James Coffman, a US Army Special Forces officer.

The quality of personal relationships at the lowest levels determines the lasting success of almost any undertaking, and Ignatius’ article illustrates specifically how these relationships will make the crucial difference in Iraq.

Leaders are vitally important there, and they must succeed in two main areas in order to be successful. Their plans and orders must be sound, and their relationships with subordinates must set the example for how their subordinates treat those under their charge.

These two leadership characteristics are applicable throughout the entire chain of command, from private to general, and significant lack in either area at any level will doom the operation to failure.

In this light, the importance of the American Soldier becomes obvious. Perfect plans and an ideal chain of command will fail if individual Soldiers do not treat Iraqis with respect. This situation is highly unlikely, because Soldiers tend to follow the example of those appointed over them, but it shows the importance of cultivating a society where individuals have an innate respect for life.

Over an extended period of time, Colonel Coffman convinced General Adnan of his respect and good intentions. He did not try to convince Adnan to change his mind about the American occupation, just about himself:

Despite the initial rebuff, Coffman kept returning each afternoon to pay his respects to Gen. Adnan. The two soldiers gradually became friendly, and Coffman began providing supplies and some training help.

The ensuing relationship is extraordinary, and its results have bolstered our efforts substantially.

Ignatius also provides a quote from Adnan that illustrates what I have long felt and recently experienced: Iraqis are ordinary people. Their culture is different from ours, and like any foreign culture, it is impossible for an outsider to truly understand it. However, the sectarian divides, which seem so impassable from our side of the globe, are not universally accepted, and citizens who desire personal freedom and a quiet life will overcome them.

"I don't care who's Shia, who's Sunni. I want only a good soldier who will fight for his country. I don't want anyone to ask that question, Sunni or Shia. We are all officers."

Ignatius’ closing paragraphs again point to how a personal relationship enabled success on the battlefield:

The Iraqi general looks over at his American adviser and says he's a brave soldier. "In the Mosul battle, he stood shoulder to shoulder with my men." It's obvious he could not pay a higher compliment.

Relationships like this one take time to cultivate, but they are the only way to achieve lasting change.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Tough Questions

The latest issue of The American Conservative includes Pat Buchanan’s piece, “The Anti-Conservatives.”

He lays into President Bush for what Buchanan calls his “worldwide crusade,” and rides him especially hard for his most recent State of the Union address.

Here’s Buchanan’s first point:

A conservative knows not whether to laugh or weep, for Mr. Bush has just asserted a right to interfere in the internal affairs of every nation on earth. Why? Because the “survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” But this is utterly ahistorical. The world has always been afflicted with despots. Yet America has always been free. And we have remained free by following the counsel of Washington, Jefferson, and Adams and staying out of foreign quarrels and foreign wars.

What Buchanan fails to recognize is that our enemies are different, and their tactics have changed. In the time of Washington, Jefferson, and Adams, global travel was not easily accessible to the masses, and no known weapons gave a tiny group of individuals the power to murder millions.

The President is absolutely correct to assert that the “survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.” He does not claim that we cannot be free unless all other nations are free – such a claim would fit Buchanan’s description: nonsense. President Bush is simply pointing out a fact that seems self-evident to me (especially in light of 9-11): expanding globalization means that a few America-haters can wreak havoc on our country, even with limited technology and resources.

Buchanan calls the President’s current plan a “prescription for endless war.” He then quotes Madison, “No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

Though I doubt it, he may be correct. However, the alternative is worse: a prescription for endless fear.

(on a side note, as long as the factories are turning out H2s with leather seats and Bose stereos instead of HMMWVs with armor plated doors and .50 caliber machine guns you’ll have a hard time convincing me that America is truly at war, but that’s a different conversation)

As I see it, our options are either restricting our freedom to passively protect Americans from those who would do us harm, or conducting operations to destroy said enemies. Currently we are operating on the spectrum between all-out war and complete passivity and isolationism, and I think we’re in an acceptable position.

<>When faced with the choice between fear and prolonged war for the cause of freedom, I’ll quote another famous American, Patrick Henry: “Give me liberty, or give me death.”

I have much more beef with Buchanan’s argument, but it’ll have to wait, as my time is short, and I have miles to go before I sleep.


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Watch the money trail

Thanks to Toni for linking to an in-depth article on the connection between Race for the Cure and Planned Parenthood.

My beautiful wife first informed me of the link between abortion and breast cancer when I suggested that we run in a local Race for the Cure, and since then I’ve been much more careful in investigating the charities we support.

Most people involved in such a large organization are doubtlessly true supporters of the cause and not motivated by a political agenda, but a few bad apples will certainly spoil the whole bunch.


Counting my blessings

Roger Simon points out a BBC article of particular interest: “Iran jails blogger for 14 years.”

Iranian authorities have recently clamped down on the growing popularity of weblogs, restricting access to major blogging sites from within Iran.

The First Amendment is such an ingrained part of my life that I have trouble imagining a place where it does not exist. However, a large percentage of the world’s population has no such protection.

The article concludes with this:

"The eyes of 8 million bloggers are going to be more focused on Iran since Sigarchi's sentence, not less.

"The mullahs won't be able to make a move without it be spread across the blogosphere."

Americans are a blessed people, and our prayers should be with those to whom blogging isn’t just a pastime, but their only venue for self-expression - one which their government is attempting to destroy.


Monday, February 21, 2005

“Water will win this war.”

RealClearPolitics points out a feature in yesterday’s NYTimes on MG Chiarelli, Commanding General of the First Cavalry Division: “Tears of Pride, and Loss, as General Leaves Iraq.”

I’ve met General Chiarelli on several occasions, and my beautiful wife received a commander’s coin from him in recognition of her work with the Commander’s Emergency Relief Program during the last year in Baghdad. He strikes me a good leader and a caring man, and I think the article portrays him in that light as well.

Chiarelli makes an excellent point about how we will achieve peace in Iraq:

For the general, building infrastructure plays as big a role in the battle for Iraq as any operation. He cites the example of Sadr City, the seething Shiite district of Baghdad where violence boiled last year. The area, where the First Cavalry Division has put enormous efforts into bringing water into homes, is now calm.

To what degree this quiet is due to the arrival of water – “Did I ever think I would be excited to see a woman turn on a tap?” General Chiarelli asks – and to what degree it reflects the political containment of Moktada al-Sadr, the radical cleric influential in the area, is unclear. But the general says he believes water will win this war.

“Take Haifa Street,” he says referring to a main Baghdad thoroughfare. “We are turning people to our side there. We are moving southeast to northwest and we are improving electricity, sewerage and water. And as we go, the bad guys move back, and we find more and more people denouncing them.”

He’s absolutely right that improving the everyday lives of the Iraqi people is what will make the difference for us. If people’s lives are improving, they have no reason to side with the insurgents. The elections were a major factor in improving their lives, but water, electricity, and employment are what will make the turning tide irreversible.


A step in the right direction

I apologize for being a poor blogger lately. My blogging has suffered due to many other duties that arise upon returning to a house and cars after 13 months absence.

I’ve got the cars running again (no small feat when the youngest in the fleet is a 1988 Volvo with 154,000 miles) and the mess in the house is almost under control, so I’m rewarding myself with a post or two tonight.

I haven’t been able to access my gmail in several days either, so I’m sorry if any of you have had messages go unanswered. I’ll get up to speed again a soon as I can.

Anyway, Jeff Jacoby’s “Terminate the gerrymander” is worth a read. He touches on Arnold’s attempt to end gerrymandering in California in time for the next election, which is a noble goal indeed.

A quick teaser:

The deepest and unhealthiest divide in American politics is not the one that separates Republicans from Democrats or conservatives from liberals. It is the gulf between Insiders and Outsiders -- between the incumbents who treat public office as private property and the increasingly neutered electorate in whose name they claim to act.
- - -
The incumbent-protection racket takes many forms, from high ballot-access hurdles to onerous campaign-finance rules. But nothing does more to turn elections into shams than gerrymandering -- mapping congressional and legislative districts so that they become wholly-owned subsidiaries of one political party.

I’m all for making government as transparent as possible, and an end to gerrymandering sounds like it would certainly advance that end.

Like term limits, such a measure is sure to be difficult to get past the politicians, as it would redistribute power, giving more to those who should have it in the first place.


Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ownership Society

I think the idea of pushing for an “ownership society” is one of Bush’s best, so I was glad to see this from Reuters: 'Ownership' Key Soc. Sec. Goal – Greenspan

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan embraced President Bush's vision of an ``ownership society'' on Thursday, saying private Social Security accounts could foster feelings of wealth among poor Americans.

A bit more of what he said:

``It's crucial to our stability that people all have a stake in this system,'' he said. ``I don't perceive that Social Security is conceived that way and I think it is very important to people to have a sense of ownership.''

The last word in the article went to a detractor:

``I do have to express skepticism that telling workers losing their jobs ... 'Do not despair. Private accounts are coming' will be less a morale booster than I think you implied,'' said Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Frank’s condescension disgusts me.

I don’t need help from any Massachusetts politicians (or any other for that matter) in getting or keeping a job or saving for retirement, and I certainly am not relying on them for a “morale boost.”


Endless possibilities

Instapundit points this one out: Exclusive: NASA Researchers Claim Evidence of Present Life on Mars

A pair of NASA scientists told a group of space officials at a private meeting here Sunday that they have found strong evidence that life may exist today on Mars, hidden away in caves and sustained by pockets of water.

More details:

What Stoker and Lemke have found, according to several attendees of the private meeting, is not direct proof of life on Mars, but methane signatures and other signs of possible biological activity remarkably similar to those recently discovered in caves here on Earth.

The topic of life on places other than Earth blows me away. I never really thought much about it until reading C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, and since then I’ve been fascinated.

The universe in which we live is unsearchably expansive, and that fact alone is enough to lead me to believe that life elsewhere is very possible, if not probable.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Still not appeased?

Maybe the French are learning how not to defeat terrorists. The AP reports: “Officials: Militants Targeted Eiffel Tower.”

According to judicial officials, the three men said among the targets was the veritable symbol of France, the Eiffel Tower. Also targeted were a clothing store in the central Paris district of Les Halles, which is a commuter link packed with people, Israeli interests and police stations, officials said.

I doubt that France will be deploying any divisions to Iraq any time soon (nor am I sure that we would welcome their help), but maybe they’ll be a little more cooperative as it becomes apparent that showing weakness will only encourage the terrorists and that appeasement isn’t a real option.


The right reasons

Instapundit points out some interesting news on a topic we’ve discussed before:

Red light camera programs in at least 19 cities across the country are likely to be shut down this year following actions taken by courts and legislatures in the past two weeks.

The main reason for shutting the program down isn’t the fear of big brother though:

Following a state Dept. of Transportation study showing red light cameras increased overall injury accidents, a Virginia House of Delegates committee killed legislation required to continue camera usage in the state by a 15-6 vote.

The purpose of traffic laws is to make the streets safer, so if the cameras are having the opposite effect they should go.


The low down

For anyone interested, I put up a lengthy post (including photos) covering the last few eventful days of travel at Cord of Three.

I have quite a bit to take care of here at home, and I have a lot of news to catch up on, but I expect to get back to blogging shortly...many thanks to all of you for sticking around and checking in here. I'll do my best to get a couple posts up later today!


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Back in the USA...

...and it sure feels good.

It's hard to believe I'm back, but as I write I'm sitting in my home in beautiful Harker Heights, Texas instead of Saddam's Al-Faw palace...I'll take my 2,000 sqft over his 200,000 sqft anyday!

Thanks to all of you who have sent prayers and encouraging comments. I really appreciate your support, and please keep it up...we've still got lots of Soldiers who need it.

I have some photos to post, along with details of the trip, and hopefully it'll be back to the regularly scheduled programming here shortly.


Saturday, February 12, 2005

Greetings from Camp Doha

Well, we've made it to Kuwait with no incidents and no major delays...internet time is at a premium here though, so I'll have to keep it short!

Manifest for our flight home begins late tonite, and we should be home about 24 hours later...the process is always painful (with customs inspections, long waits in uncomfortable bleachers, long waits in uncomfortable buses, long trips once those uncomfortable buses actually start moving, long waits once the buses stop but before you can get out, layovers in strange airports with Soldiers 10 deep behind every phone and toilet, etc...), but the result is very nice!

As is usually the case here in Kuwait, I've run into several friends either headed in or racing me home - the Army is small like that.

I'll post again when I can, and it'll most likely be from beautiful Fort Hood, TX (I never thought I'd use that phrase!)


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Warning signs

Here's another AP headline that caught my eye: "Seattle Mandates Recycling."

So the City Council passed a mandatory recycling law that took effect Jan. 1, but penalties won't be enforced until next year.

Starting in 2006, people in single-family homes won't get their trash picked up if they dump ``significant amounts'' of recyclables in their trash, defined by the city as more than 10 percent by volume. Owners of apartments, condominiums and businesses will face $50 fines.

I'm immediately skeptical, because this just seems like another government intrusion. However, I believe that "reduce, reuse, recycle" is part of good stewardship of the environment.

I don't know if there are any private garbage collection companies in Seattle, or whether they will be subject to inspections. If so, the new law is quite likely to increase their operating costs significantly, which could certainly end up giving the government owned collectors a near monopoly -- certainly speculation, but something worth considering.

I'd also be interested in who owns the recycling plants, and, if they're government owned, how efficient they are. The tax-payer burden may well outweigh the environmental benefit.

Recycling is a worthy cause, but from what I've see it's rarely economically beneficial (thus it must be government sponsored.) Any government enterprise that can't pay for itself is destined to be a money pit and should be subject to much scrutiny before approval.

I could be way off on this one, because I haven't researched any recycling statistics, so if someone is a recycling guru, please let me know!

As long as initiatives like this stay at the city level, I'm really not too worried about them. When they get past the local level, we'll definitely have cause for concern.


And they call Americans brutish?

The AP reports, "Stampede at Opening of London IKEA Store."

A man was stabbed and five other people were taken to hospital after thousands of customers caused a stampede at the midnight opening of a new IKEA furniture store in north London, British authorities said Thursday. The Swedish retailer expressed regret at the incident.

Some 6,000 people flocked to the Swedish furniture store, which had been offering special bargains including leather sofas for $84.

``It was extraordinary and to a certain extent unexpected,'' Bird told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. ``There were crush injuries and people suffering from shock from the pushing and shoving.''

Those Europeans are so debonair.


Allowance? Maybe not.

With "Take care of yourself," Cal Thomas address what is probably the root cause of the most serious ailment affecting our country - the entitlement mentality.

Most children expect to leave home and lead independent lives. Most parents expect them to do so. But government is the omniscient (not to mention omnipotent and omnipresent) parent that never kicks out the "children" no matter how old they get. Too many of the "kids" think it perfectly normal to have a permanent "allowance" and take no responsibility for their own lives or retirement.

Like many of society's problems, this one is caused in great part by poor parenting. I won't suggest that a nation of Ward and June Cleavers would be free of all governmental woes, but a strong nation cannot be built without strong families as its foundation.

The whole article is worth your time, but in case you don't get to it, at least check out these numbers:

A $5,000 one-time tax-deferred investment at birth, with an average interest rate of 10 percent compounded, means that a child would have $2.4 million when he or she is 65 years old.

Makes me wish I had gotten my Roth IRA started a little earlier.


Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Eye on Iraq

I just got another Eye on Iraq special edition with some great voter photos. This will be the last Eye on Iraq I'll send from Baghdad (unless the Army flips the script on me in the next 48 hours!) If you're not yet on the distro and want to get in on the action, shoot me an email at

Blogging will be light over the next week or two, as I'll be redeploying. I'll try to get some photos up from the trip home, but I'm not sure when I'll have full internet access again.

I should be able to post tomorrow, but after that it'll be touch and go.

I sure appreciate all of your prayers and support during my time here, and please remember all the Soldiers still here (including my beautiful wife).

On their 404th day in country - 2 days before we're scheduled to leave - some of the guys I work with got shot up this afternoon. Thankfully, no one was injured, but their humvees aren't too pretty anymore. (not that they ever were!)

Despite all our progress, Iraq is still a pretty dangerous place to be, and as some of us rotate out, we remember what it felt like to rotate in.

Please do remember all the incoming troops and their families in your prayers, as well as the families of the Soldiers who came here with us, but aren't headed home. Their sacrifice is almost too much to comprehend, but were it not for their continuation of the American heritage of selfless service, the rest of us would not be free to enjoy the liberty that makes ours the greatest Nation in the world.

Thomas Jefferson said, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

The American and Coalition service members who have died here are patriots, as are the members of the Iraqi Security Forces who have been killed in their country's first days of freedom.

As a result of their efforts, the determination and perseverance of a great president, and the unrelenting support of the American people, the tree of liberty has taken root in a place many believed to be hopelessly barren - the heart of the Middle East.

Update: Thanks to Wes Roth for a top-of-the-stack link...if Wes isn't one of your first stops, you're missing out.


A little progress

The AP reports, "Mosque Founder Ordered Deported From U.S."

A leading fund-raiser for an Islamic charity with alleged links to the Palestinian militant group Hamas was ordered deported Tuesday.

An immigration judge ruled that Abdel-Jabbar Hamdan, 44, should have known that his work for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development provided support for the group.

``Our laws prohibit aliens who are living here as our guests to use this country as a base to advocate terrorism or raise money for terrorist causes,'' said John Salter, Los Angeles chief counsel for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hopefully we'll see more cases like this one. These terror-charities have got to go.


Longtail Chatter

Anne points new rules for military families - they can now escort their Soldiers to the gate at the airport, and wait at the gate when their flights arrive. Just in time!

Bookworm comments on Dennis Prager's latest.

Toni posts some interesting federal budget numbers.

Captain Ed (ok, so he's not really considered longtail) has some more thoughts on Sistani and Islamic law in Iraq.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Don't believe the hype

A headline in yesterday's Arab News worried me a bit: "Sistani Wants Islam to Be Sole Source of Legislation "

The article didn't allay my fears:

Iraq’s Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani and another top cleric yesterday demanded that Islam be the sole source of legislation in the country’s new constitution.

A source close to Sistani announced soon after the release of the statement that the leader backed the demand. “We warn officials against a separation of the state and religion, because this is completely rejected by the ulema and Marja and we will accept no compromise on this question,” said Ibrahimi.

Something about this one just didn't seem right. I know a (very) little bit about Sistani, and didn't expect to see him leading the charge to turn Iraq into another Iran.

I emailed an Iraqi-born friend of mine about the article, and in speaking with him later in the day I remembered that the Arab press is much like the American press - you can't trust them.

Here's the gist of his reply to my email:

Well, Iraq is a Muslim nation but not an Islamic nation; this does not mean that Iraq will be have an Iranian style government, Sistani believes in secular democratic Iraq, the foundations of most constitutions

In the free world came from the holly book of (Christians) because of the majority of the populations in the free world are Christians, in Iraq which is the first free nation in Islamic world, the law and constitution will be writing according to the Muslim Holy book and that because of the majority in Iraq are Muslims, but that does not mean that other religions has follow Islamic law in everything especially the legal issues with marriage, death, and religious practices,

I think the media added some flavor on it.

I guess all this is just to say that most Iraqi Muslims don't want Sharia rule any more than most American Christians would want Jerry Falwell writing our constitution.

If the media (both Arab and American) can't keep the people from voting, they'll try the next best thing - trying to scare us with the results.


Not a zero-sum equation

Dennis Prager's "The case for Judeo-Christian values: Part IV" is based on this premise:

Only if there is a God who created man is man worth anything beyond the chemicals of which he is composed.

And his piece begins with this question:

Would you first save the dog you love or a stranger if both were drowning?

He points out that an increasingly substantial number of Americans would choose their dog, and he gives two main reasons why he believes this to be the case:

-with the denial of the authority of higher values such as biblical teachings, people increasingly make moral decisions on the basis of how they feel.

-secular values provide no basis for elevating human worth over that of an animal.

His article is excellent, because it carries modern thought through to its logical conclusion - an exercise which should be undertaken more often.

He brings up another interesting topic in his conclusion:

[I]f man was not created by God, the human being is mere stellar dust -- and will come to be regarded as such. Moreover, people are merely the products of random chance, no more designed than a sand grain formed by water erosion. That is what the creationism-evolution battle is ultimately about -- human worth. One does not have to agree with creationists or deny all evolutionary evidence to understand that the way evolution is taught, man is rendered a pointless product of random forces -- unworthy of being saved before one's hamster.

Such devaluation of humans must be overcome for ours to become a culture of life. To place great value on human life (of all ages) does not decrease the value of other life such as animals and plants. Instead, I would argue that one who places inestimable value on human life would also highly value other life because of its evident and inherent similarity.

Update: Due to some sloppy blogging, I didn't post the link to the article...I just fixed it. Sorry about that.


Monday, February 07, 2005

Taking nothing for granted

At Done with Mirrors, Callimachus has a very interesting (and somewhat disturbing) post, "The Google Game."

In it, he outlines the reasons he has for suspecting that Google's programmers may not be completely fair in their listings, nor completely honest.

His experiences are eye opening to say the least. The lesson for me is to never assume that a seemingly neutral source, such as Google, actually operates on fair and reasonable grounds and produces reliable and consistent results.


Words matter

In his column, "The impotent insurgents," Jack Kelly writes on the growing desperation of the terrorists in Iraq, showcased by the GI Joe incident and how the MSM has been a reliable ally to the terrorists by spouting their party line and staying mum on issues like Eason's Fables.

He includes some stats that beg for attention, and makes an excellent point on one of the media's favorite terms - "insurgents."

Eight suicide bombers killed 36 Iraqis besides themselves. Of these, seven were foreigners (six Saudis and a Sudanese). The only Iraqi suicide bomber was a child suffering from Down syndrome. That is, as the Iraqi writer Nibras Kazimi put it, "eight against 8 million." And on what basis, one might ask, do the media call seven foreign terrorists "insurgents"?

The child he mentions was actually detonated by remote control, which hardly makes him a suicide bomber - more like a hostage used as a tool by sadistic thugs.

The day after the election, Roger Simon pointed out that the term "insurgent" was no longer applicable. I would question whether it was ever applicable to foreign fighters in Iraq; they are better described as Islamofascist mercenaries or crusaders.


Lest we forget

Thankfully, it's been awhile since we've seen a beheading video or any similar reminder of the brutality of our Islamofascist enemies, but that doesn’t mean they've changed their tune.

The AP reports, "Islamic Radicals Hunt Barbers in Baghdad."

Umm Ali says militants killed her son last month for the most unlikely of reasons: He trims men's beards.

In Baghdad's Dora neighborhood, residents say Sunni Muslim extremists have made barbers the new hunted, accusing them of violating a strict reading of Islamic teachings that say men should keep their beards long.

Some extremists also consider Western-style haircuts an offensive symbol of the hated, secularized culture of Europe and the United States.

To them, sporting a clipped beard or a modern haircut is an infraction worthy of death.

These radicals cannot be reasoned with, nor dealt with by a peacekeeping force in baby-blue helmets. They must be rooted out and killed - a task which will engage our Soldiers, Marines, and the Iraqi Security Forces for a long time to come.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

Eye on Iraq

I just got 2 special Eye on Iraq newsletters with lots of election photos. Here are a couple of them:

These photos are good antidote for the "it wasn't worth it" crowd.

Send me an email with "Eye on Iraq" in the subject line if you'd like to be added to the distro list.


Thanks for reading!

Wow. I just checked my TTLB stats, and you guys have pushed me into the top 500 in the traffic rankings....number 461.

I suspect it has something to do with a couple links from Captain Ed last week. In any event, I appreciate you all taking time to stop by, read, and comment.


Removing a speck

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer draws my attention with this headline: "You got WHAT pierced?! Washington could rein in freedom to pierce."

Senator Pam Roach is sponsoring the bill:

Almost a decade ago, she helped pass a law that makes it a misdemeanor to tattoo minors under the age of 18. Under the proposed piercing bill, it would also be a misdemeanor to pierce people younger than 18 unless their parents give permission and are present when the piercing occurs. The latter, the senator said, almost guarantees that teens won't be getting pierced in, well, inappropriate places.

Currently, the state of Washington does not require parental consent or even parental notification for teenaged girls to get an abortion.

Sure, you may regret a piercing or a tattoo a few years down the road, but is either likely to cause serious emotional damage? Does a tattoo or a piercing inevitably result in the death of another human being?

I might support Senator Roach's bill, but the lack of prioritization here is illogical.

It's like making parents accompany their kids to purchase a pocket knife, while the local gun shop will sell a teen an uzi, no questions asked.


Slow and steady? (ok, maybe just slow)

Ha! The Arab News posts this cartoon, which aptly characterizes the UN in most everything:


Dutch flag prohibited in schools

Wes Roth points out a commenter at LGF, who posts a summary of a Dutch article with some disturbing news: the Dutch have banned their own flag in schools for fear of offending immigrants.

My Dutch is pretty rusty, so I ran the article through an online translator, and the LGF commenter seems to be accurate. I'm sure some details were lost in translation, but the gist of the article appears to be true.

Here's the summary from LGF (as posted):

In the Netherlands the national flag is now banned on most schools. If a student wears the national flag of his own country he will be suspended or expelled from school. The reason for this is that this provokes the immigrants (the muslims) and therefore it is considered discrimination if you wear your country's flag in your own country. Even people who have an bumpersticker whit the flag on their car are harassed and called a facist by the Muslims. Most schools also ban certain clothing like the Lonsdale brand and combat boots with white or red laces. This is also concidered a sign of racism. There are of course no restrictions for the immigrants on clothing.

When politicians are so intimidated by a minority of their citizens (or illegal immigrants) that they ban the symbol of their own country, that country has reason to be very afraid.

Update: The link on the Roth Report is actually to Hyscience, which links to Dhimmi Watch, which links to LGF. My bad.


Friday, February 04, 2005

Sunny day and a fine aircraft

Rain in the morning has given way to a beautiful afternoon, and I couldn't resist snapping this photo of a UH-60 flying past a mosque here in Baghdad:
I think I'm enjoying the weather even more now that I'm under a week to go here!


Ownership Society

The biggest single factor, which will make or break our efforts here in Iraq, is whether or not Iraqis will step up and take personal responsibility for their country and their future.

The election turnout leads me to believe that I am not naïve in clinging to my optimism that they will do so, and a story posted on Free Iraqi makes me even more confident in the people of Iraq:

Citizens of Al Mudhiryiah (a small town in the "death triangle") were subjected to an attack by several militants today who were trying to punish the residents of this small town for voting in the election last Sunday.

The citizens responded and managed to stop the attack, kill 5 of the attackers, wounded 8 and burned their cars.

3 citizens were injured during the fire exchange.

I'm not always an advocate of vigilante justice, but I'd sure rather see reactions like this one than scared citizens huddled in their homes, hoping that the terrorists won't pick their house.

The successful election has made the people of Iraq more willing to get off the fence and openly oppose the terrorists.

This story is huge. I'm glad to see it's getting some exposure, and I won't be at all surprised to see more and more like it.

(ht Powerline)

Update: I read about this horrible incident a couple days ago, but haven't yet pointed it out - this is no "popular" insurgency. Thanks to Roger Simon for pointing it out again.

UpdateII: Rummy is optimistic too:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters at a Pentagon news conference he believes the elections may stiffen the resolve of ordinary Iraqis to fight in cooperation with American forces.


Don't believe the hype

The San Francisco Chronicle's Open Forum has an excellent article defending Alberto Gonzales: "Geneva Convention isn't the last word."

I've discussed this topic before, but it's worth spending some more time on, and I think this analogy is especially appropriate:

To believe that the Geneva Convention should apply jot-and-tittle to such enemies reminds us of the first generals of the Civil War, who thought that the niceties that were ideals of Napoleonic warfare could be applied to battles fought by massive armies, armed with ever more advanced weapons and aided by civilian-run mass-production factories and industry. War changes, and the laws of war must change with them.

Studying the Civil War is painful, as I read about the mass casualties inflicted as row upon row of Soldiers advanced into cannon fire shoulder to shoulder. Such tactics we appropriate for armies armed with swords and spears, but failure to adapt to a changing battlefield yielded thousands of needless casualties, and we should take care not to make a similar mistake today.

The Geneva Convention was conceived in a different era of warfare:

Unfortunately, multinational terrorist groups have joined nations on the stage of war. They operate without regard to borders and observe no distinction between combatants and civilians. Our weapons for controlling hostile states don't work well against decentralized networks of suicidal operatives, with no citizens or borders to defend.

From everything I've read, I believe Gonzales is an intelligent and reasonable man, and an excellent nomination for attorney general. He is right on in advocating a critical look at what rights we afford prisoners.

(ht RealClearPolitics)


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Rock and roll all night (and party every day)

As an avid concert-goer and live music fan, I was glad to see this headline: "Group to Distribute Earplugs at Concerts."

The motto of the Norwegian Rock 'n' roll Federation could well be ``Turn it up!'' but the group fears increasing numbers of members might respond to that request with an uncomprehending ``What?''

The group plans to distribute 100,000 earplugs at rock concerts, so fans can enjoy the loud music and still hear what's said after the show.

The campaign, called ``Rock against Ringing,'' is being organized by the rock federation in cooperation with the national association of the hearing impaired, HLF, and has sought government support.

First of all, the HLF sounds like either a terrorist group or a late-80's one-hit-wonder band, but anyway . . .

I always carry earplugs to clubs and concerts (you already knew I was a dork) and have gotten in the habit of taking several pair because no one else seems to remember, and everyone seems to want some.

There's nothing quite like a great concert, but I'd prefer not to need Miracle Ear by the time I'm 30!


An excellent speech

The blogosphere is packed with excellent SOTU analysis, so I won't spend too much time on it. I started watching it at about 0530 local time, just in time for the foreign policy portion.

The first memorable moment for me (other than watching it in Saddam's palace) was seeing Congressman Bobby Jindal holding up an ink-stained finger in support of the Iraqi people. I've read a little bit on Jindal, and I think he is one to watch in the GOP - I hope he goes far.

The other moment (of course) was the hug between Mrs. al-Souhail and Mrs. Norwood. What an overwhelming moment for both of those women, and what a powerful image of the solidarity freedom and selflessness can bring.

I thought the President's delivery was very good; he's beating the bad rap he's always had for public speaking.


Last full measure

SFC Paul Smith will become the first Medal of Honor recipient since 1993, and President Bush will present the Medal to his widow.

Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith and his combat engineers set about their mission that day, putting up a roadblock on the divided highway that connects the airport and Baghdad. Then, just before 10 a.m., a sentry spotted Iraqi troops nearby. Maybe 15 or 20. By the time Smith had a chance to look for himself, the number was closer to 100.

Smith could oppose them with just 16 men.

It's very humbling to realize that SFC Smith fought and died only a couple of miles from where I sit right now. I'm proud of the opportunity to serve with selfless Soldiers like him.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Happy Groundhog Day!

A popular joke over the past year in Iraq has been how closely our lives resemble the Bill Murray flick "Groundhog Day." When the year consists of 366 workdays (it was a leap year--lucky us!) and you wear the same clothes, eat the same food, and see the same people day in and day out, that's pretty close to the truth.

Anyway, I just realized that today actually is Groundhog Day, so I hope you all have a good one!


Better nate than lever

Anne pointed out this slideshow out a couple days ago, but I just checked it out today. The photos from the election are inspiring, plus it loads nice and quick!


No critical thinking, please.

Walter Williams has an excellent piece sparked by the reaction to Dr. Lawrence Summers' remarks concerning the inherent differences between men and women: "Anti-intellectualism among the academic elite."

He questions Professor Nancy Hopkins' remark that, had she not left Summers' lecture, "I would've either blacked out or thrown up."

I find it unbelievable that people can take someone seriously who claims to be a professional and an intellectual but cannot control her physical actions when presented with views different from her own.

I wonder if Professor Hopkins was able to sit through the beheading of Nick Berg without having to rush to the nearest restroom.

Williams proposes:

In today's campus anti-intellectualism, it's acceptable to suggest that genetics explains some outcomes, but it's unacceptable to use it as an explanation for other outcomes.


The only behavioral genetic explanation that campus anti-intellectuals unquestioningly accept is that homosexuality has genetic origins.

He presents an interesting example contrasting the domination of sports such as basketball, track, and football by people of African descent with their decided lack of success in other sports, like swimming and diving, and wonders whether such analysis is now considered to be racist.

He concludes:

It's not that important whether Dr. Summers is right or wrong. What's important is the attempt by some of the academic elite to stifle inquiry.

He is all over this topic, and I think Sean got it right in yesterday's comments when he said, "I think too many people confuse people with their opinions. People must be respected, their right to their opinions must also be respected. Neither of these requires you to respect the actual opinion." "People have lost the ability to disagree and still be agreeable."

Update: In an interesting caveat, the AP reports: "UC Faculty Backs Professor on Free Speech."

As pressure mounts on a University of Colorado professor who ignited a furor by comparing the World Trade Center victims to Nazis, colleagues have come to his defense -- on free speech grounds.

University of Colorado spokesman Peter Caughey said, ``The lifeblood of any strong university is its diversity of ideas which allows for the environment necessary to educate and train young learners and advance the boundaries of knowledge,'' ``Debate is a fundamental characteristic of a university.''

Interesting how these intellectuals choose their battles.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005


The Knight Foundation recently released the results of a study on high school students' knowledge of the first amendment. Here are some of the results:

Seventy-five percent think flag burning is illegal.

Half believe the government can censor the Internet.

More than a third think the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.

I'm pretty surprised at these results, but I probably shouldn't be.

No wonder kids are confused, after being exposed to our school system's version of "tolerance" for most of their years.

They need to be taught the importance of the first amendment along with our civic duty of using our free speech rights responsibly.

I would never burn an American flag, but I am thankful for the freedom to do so.

Kids need to learn that true tolerance is not the silencing of differing and offensive opinions, but respect of others' rights to those opinions, which ultimately springs from a simple respect for the other people themselves.


A costly sacrifice

The AP reports on a heart-wrenching story, "Woman Loses Dad and Husband in Iraq War."

Less than a year ago, Tabitha Bonilla's father gave his life for his country in Iraq. Last week, her husband gave his, too.

Army Capt. Orlando A. Bonilla, 27, of Killeen, Texas, was killed Friday in a helicopter accident in Baghdad. Her father, Army Sgt. 1st Class Henry A. Bacon, 45, died last February in a vehicle accident.

This one hits close to home, as CPT Bonilla was also an Army Aviator stationed at Fort Hood, and his young widow needs our prayers.

Also, perhaps President Lincoln's words, penned in 1862, could bring her some comfort:

It is with deep grief that I learn of the death of your kind and brave Father; and, especially, that it is affecting your young heart beyond what is common in such cases. In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares. The older have learned to ever expect it. I am anxious to afford some alleviation of your present distress. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You can not now realize that you will ever feel better. Is not this so? And yet it is a mistake. You are sure to be happy again. To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once. The memory of your dear Father, instead of an agony, will yet be a sad sweet feeling in your heart, of a purer and holier sort than you have known before.

Here in Iraq, our progress is encouraging and our cause is just, yet still, war is hell.


Smarter than you think

Elections and election-blogging has been pretty tiring, so here's a little change of pace. The NYTimes caught my attention with this one: "Minds of Their Own: Birds Gain Respect."

Birds fascinate me, and I was glad to hear that they are smarter than most people give them credit for. Here are some choice bits from the article that I found interesting:

In a laboratory, when a crow named Betty was given metal wires of various lengths and a four-inch vertical pipe with food at the bottom, she chose a four-inch wire, made a hook and retrieved the food.

Clark nutcrackers can hide up to 30,000 seeds and recover them up to six months later.

Nutcrackers also hide and steal. If they see another bird watching them as they cache food, they return later, alone, to hide the food again.

Magpies, at an earlier age than any other creature tested, develop an understanding of the fact that when an object disappears behind a curtain, it has not vanished.

At a university campus in Japan, carrion crows line up patiently at the curb waiting for a traffic light to turn red. When cars stop, they hop into the crosswalk, place walnuts from nearby trees onto the road and hop back to the curb. After the light changes and cars run over the nuts, the crows wait until it is safe and hop back out for the food.

Pigeons can memorize up to 725 different visual patterns, and are capable of what looks like deception. Pigeons will pretend to have found a food source, lead other birds to it and then sneak back to the true source.

Maybe I'm just a dork, but that's pretty cool.

One more thing on this topic; if you haven't seen the film Winged Migration, I highly recommend it. The narrator is French, so mute it if you have to, but the photography and the birds are amazing.