Beef always wins.
Monday, January 31, 2005
An historic day
Yesterday I was happy to be in Baghdad.
Most days I can think of many places I would rather be, but on January 30, 2005 I was in the right place at the right time.
By Sunday morning we had all been wearing full protective gear for a couple days and I was eating stashed beef jerky and granola bars (instead of the issued Meals Ready to Eat) since the mess halls were closed for force protection reasons.
The chapel service I attended was standing room only, and the power went out after the first song, so we did the rest of the service by flashlight and candlelight. Prayers were offered for our Soldiers, the Iraqi Security Forces, and for the safety of the voters, and by the end of the service we hadn't heard any explosions, which was encouraging.
While taking care of normal business at work, I followed the election news on the internet and checked the official reports on the secure network used for internal reporting here. Two mortars came in a little after noon, but otherwise everything was still quiet, and the reports looked promising.
In the late afternoon I was able to hitch a ride on an overflight of Baghdad (photos posted below) and as well as I could tell from overhead, the mood on the street seemed almost festive.
Kids were out everywhere, using the streets as soccer fields since vehicle traffic was very restricted. I saw only one sign of violence - a burning hole in the road where an IED had apparently exploded.
I saw a few polling places with small crowds of people milling around them. I was flying over around 5:00 pm - the time they were scheduled to close.
In the evening, the good news was pouring in. Attacks, while fairly numerous, were mostly ineffective. As expected, suicide bombers were the most deadly, since they are very difficult to detect and deter.
After each attack, the citizens of Iraq got back in line - still determined to vote.
I wasn't completely convinced of the day's success until about 11:00 pm, when I listened to the top of the hour news on the BBC World Service. The BBC report was almost unbelievably positive. I'm accustomed to their normal pessimism and spin, so I was almost laughing out loud to hear them report on the huge turnout - even in the least secure areas.
With my deployment drawing to a close, yesterday was very satisfying. Despite the demoralizing efforts of the media and some American politicians (specifically Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Coble), we have made a real difference here in Iraq.
No matter what Mr. Kerry says, the world is a better place without Saddam in power, and the United States is safer with Iraq on the growing list of democratic nations.
Today, there are lots of smiles here on Camp Victory. Granted, most of them have something to do with the fact that a lot of us are headed home in less than two weeks, but they are also a result of being part of something really big.
This morning, Geraldo Rivera happened to be in my office area, and he couldn't stop smiling. When I mentioned that he had a pretty exciting day yesterday, all he said was "incredible."
I think that about sums it up. History happened in Iraq yesterday, and it was incredible.
Eye on Iraq
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Election day photos
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Keep this in mind
A long journey ahead
Amir Taheri didn't wait until after the Iraqi election to begin looking ahead to the problems Iraqis will have to solve as they experience self-government first hand.
In "Issues that concern Iraqis," he begins with a theory that the insurgents and terrorists have actually done Iraq a favor:
The violence unleashed by the insurgency has concentrated most minds on a single issue: Security. It has brought together communities and political parties that would otherwise be fighting one another over faith, ideology, and economic interest.
He goes on:
[T]he new Parliament is likely to have heated debates about how to quell the insurgents and their terrorist allies. For the time being, however, the terrorist campaign has united Iraqis in a quest for democracy as the only means of keeping the nation together while preventing the return of despotism in any form.
He then points to the myriad of issues with which the transitional government will have to deal, including: separation of mosque and state, federalism, market economy v. welfare state, forgiveness of former Baathists or revenge against them, dividing up oil revenue, the presence of foreign forces, the role of women, and foreign policy.
With tomorrow’s election Iraq’s real political problems, pushed by onto the backburner by the insurgency, will begin to move center-stage. Building a new pluralist Iraq remains a difficult task, but one that is certainly worth working and fighting for.
Though the security of Iraq is certainly far from certain right now, Teheri is right to look to the future. As for the difficulty of resolving issues in a non-violent manner, it will definitely take time, but Iraqis have experienced much violence, and I doubt that they'll be interested in a return to the good 'ole days.
Freedom on the march
Radioblogger has a great post with several photos from the polling place in El Toro, California where Iraqis began voting yesterday. Here's a bit of what he has to say:
The Iraqi polls opened for the first time ever in a meaningful way. No one's hands were chopped off if they voted the wrong way. No one voted at gunpoint. Thanks to a determined foreign policy by a determined president, and carried out by a determined military of the finest men and women this country has to offer, Iraqis voted. There was a large rush at the beginning of the day, the first of three days of voting. Iraqi nationals from all over the West Coast came. Even through a driving rainstorm, making for a very atypical raw Southern California day, they came, they voted, and they smiled.
The photos are the best part - the enthusiasm on the faces of the voters is encouraging. If expatriates are that eager to vote, my money is on a huge turnout tomorrow.
Also, check out Friends of Democracy for election news.
Update: More on the election from Arab News. The best quotation from the article:
“Yes, we did it!” shouted Ali Al-Kabeer, clapping his hands after casting his ballot, breaking into tears as he hugged his wife. Kabeer said he had “been waiting for this moment for 54 years.”
“I’m doing this for my children ... it’s the first step in a thousand-mile journey.”
Friday, January 28, 2005
Iran's terminal disease
It's probably because I've been in the army for too long (where I can't even eat a meal or get into my office without my ID card), but I wasn't too frightened by this headline: "U.S. edges closer to national ID card."
I haven't thought too much about this issue until now, and the more I think about it, the scarier it gets. I can deal with the traffic cameras without getting too paranoid about Big Brother, but I think a national ID card may be a bit much.
In the article, Mary Sanchez makes some good points:
The initial problem is that driver's licenses have already gone far beyond their intended use in society. Driving is a privilege. Not a right. That's why people who screw up by driving while drunk, or getting too many speeding tickets, have their license revoked.
And yet, Americans use their licenses to board planes, to open bank accounts, rent cars, to prove who they are in a variety of places and situations. Tinkering too much with driver's licenses, therefore, is the fastest route toward establishing a national identification card.
Life as I know it would not be possible without my driver's license. I've only had to show it a handful of times to prove that I am licensed to drive, but I show it multiple times a day for other purposes (making credit purchases, buying beer, etc.)
We need to solve our country's security and immigration problems, but I'm pretty sure a national ID card is not the way to do it. Having to produce an ID card to prove that you're not a terrorist, criminal, or illegal alien sure seems like an assumption of guilt instead of a presumption of innocence to me.
Time flies when you're having fun
Today marks day 366 here in Baghdad for me. Many of the folks I work with have recently hit the one-year mark as well, and it's almost time to head home.
Us Army types like to complain that we're now seeing our 3rd rotation of Marines and British troops (normally on 6-7 month rotations), and 5th rotation of Airmen (3-4 month rotations). However I don't hear any complaints from the Iraqis who are volunteering for the Iraqi National Guard and Iraqi Police Service, running for elected office, and administrating the elections.
They are here for the long haul, come what may. They have made a stand against tyranny and Islamic extremism and have bet their lives on the success of this experiment in democracy.
These brave Iraqis are seeing the third rotation of US Army Soldiers, and I think they're pretty happy with that. I'm sure they, like us, look forward to the day when American troops don't plan to spend every other year in Iraq, but they are working to improve their country, and right now their lives depend on our rejection of Congressman Coble's advice to cut and run.
I'm glad I'll see the elections before I leave; I have a feeling that Iraqi kids will be reading about January 30, 2005 in their history books for years to come.
My blogging may get a little light over the next couple of weeks as I redeploy, but I'll do my best to get some posts up. Also, I posted a few photos from the past year here.
As usual, the NYTimes is a bit behind the times, but today's article on the booming internet junkyard business is interesting nonetheless.
As the proud owner of a '76 International Scout II, an '82 Land Cruiser FJ60, an '88 Volvo 760 wagon, and a '91 Honda Nighthawk CB750, I am familiar with hunting for car parts.
Much to my beautiful wife's chagrin, I've spent more than my share of Saturday mornings trekking through acres of rusting vehicles looking for some part that NAPA stopped carrying a decade ago.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting back to my cars, even though I'm pretty sure that none of them will be running after a year in the garage. Oh well, I wouldn't have them if I didn't like working on them!
Thursday, January 27, 2005
A convenient rule for tyrants
For anyone (like me) who wants (and needs) to learn more about Islam, the Arab News is a good place to start. Here's an interesting bit from the Q&A column in the religion section:
Q. I have always felt that the use of credit cards is permissible if one makes sure not to pay interest on one’s transactions. However, I saw a published ruling forbidding the very use of credit cards because it involves agreement to pay interest in certain cases. Please explain.
A. Some scholars find it easy to pronounce rulings of prohibition on questions put to them, when they may not be able to produce sufficient evidence to support such a ruling. In this case the ruling is based on the conditions imposed by the company or the bank issuing the credit card, rather than on the person’s own intentions and actions. The company requires that interest be paid when payment of transactions recorded within a month is delayed beyond the specified date of payment, or when one withdraws money in cash, rather than pay bills. But when the client takes out a credit card, Islam holds him accountable for what he does with it, not what the issuing company requires.
Interesting start, though I don't quite follow some of it. The answer goes into more detail, referencing the policies common to credit card companies, then concludes with this:
Besides, my reader says that he has arranged to pay his credit card bills through direct debit, which means that the card company sends the bill to his bank for payment, and the bank pays it on the due date, ensuring that there is never any delay. This covers all eventualities and ensures that interest is never charged on his credit card transactions. In other words, it shows that the man has taken sufficient precautions and has no intention whatsoever to put himself in a situation when interest may be charged from him. How can this be forbidden? If we were to forbid it on the basis of a situation that may never arise, we may as well say that having a bank account is forbidden because of the possibility that one may at one time or another be in debit and the bank would then charge interest. This will place people in great difficulty, when Islam is a religion built on the basis of making things easy. God says in the Qur’an: “God desires that you have ease. He does not desire that you be afflicted with hardship.” (2: 185)
I already knew about Islam's prohibition on paying interest, which comes in mighty handy for keeping your subjects poor, with little chance of improving their lives. What strikes me about this column is the lengths to which ordinary citizens appear to go in order to obey Islam's laws.
Slices of culture like this give some insight into the lives of normal Muslims - those not interested in waging jihad, but just trying to live their lives and provide for their families.
Hopefully our efforts here in Iraq will result in the freedom and security these people so desperately need - many will doubtlessly continue to live by rules such as these, but at least they will be able to make that choice themselves.
Update: Maybe President Bush didn't have his head too far into the clouds on Inauguration Day. The AP reports: Jordan to Introduce Democratic Reform. At least it's a start.
UpdateII: Chrenkoff posts "Good news from the Muslim world, part 4"
Big Brother II
Instapundit posts on a topic that we have discussed before - traffic cameras. Glenn links to Classical Values, where Eric argues against them and proposes (but of course does not advocate) a couple of ways to beat them.
He calls them "destestable, unconstitutional devices," but I'm not so sure about either of those charges.
He refers to the Confrontation Clause of the Constitution, which states:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
The only phrase I see that could be used to frame a case against the cameras is the right " to be confronted with the witnesses against him." However, the camera surely is a witness, and if properly used is more reliable than a human witness.
I don't think he has much of a case - it mainly consists of accusing the government of "computerized Big Brotherism."
The cameras are a law enforcement tool, like radar guns and fingerprint kits. They must be used properly and not abused, but they are surely not unconstitutional.
I've heard some decent arguments against the cameras (such as discretion), but I don’t think this is one of them.
Update: While I'm linking to Instapundit, check out these articles he points out. Well armed citizens seem like quite a deterrent to me.
A Dangerous Profession
Helicopter crashes always hit close to home for me. Many of my best friends are pilots, and as a Blackhawk driver myself, I know how quickly a seemingly routine mission can turn disastrous.
The recent CH-53 crash took the lives of many young Marines, who had already survived much combat. My thoughts and prayers are with their families, one of whom Anne knows personally.
Also, Bookworm has an excellent post on keeping perspective after such tragic events.
Wednesday, January 26, 2005
The Arab News reports on some Iraqi pilgrims who are eager to return to Iraq in order to vote:
Over 60 Iraqi pilgrims took to the streets in Shisha district here just before Maghreb prayers yesterday, demanding to be returned home to Iraq in time for the elections set for Feb. 2.
“We represent 13,000 Sunni and Shiite Iraqi men and women here for Haj from every part of Iraq. We were scheduled to leave this week, but now we’re told that our return flights will be delayed until as late as Feb. 6,” one man told Arab News.
As they walked, more than a dozen men and women carried signs stating, “If we are not counted now, when will we ever be heard?” Others carried signs that said: “In order to be freed from occupation and to secure the future of our children, we all must vote.”
“We are maybe 70 people here, but behind us are thousands of other Iraqis who are stuck here and want to go home and take part in the elections. We are all being deprived of taking part in what is now our right. We ask the Saudi authorities to help us in getting back in time for elections.”
The Iraqi people are serious about this election, and they are determined not to let their future be determined by thugs and criminals who claim to speak for all Muslims. I certainly hope that these Haj pilgrims will make it back, and I think this story is another harbinger of a huge turnout on Sunday.
France and Germany cracking down?
These two AP headlines caught my eye:
"France Detains Suspects in Iraq Network" and "Federal Judge Undercuts Terror Case"
The first was a bit surprising, the second not at all.
From the first:
PARIS (AP) -- Security agents have detained seven people suspected of being part of a network funneling French Islamic militants to Iraq, police said Tuesday.
In neighboring Germany, numerous arrests linked to Iraq have been made recently. On Sunday, German security forces arrested two alleged al-Qaida members, an Iraqi and a Palestinian, accused of plotting an attack in Iraq. Earlier this month, German police arrested 22 people to break up an alleged network of Muslim extremists suspected of falsifying passports and spreading militant Islamic propaganda.
Maybe Europe is starting to wake up a bit, but the second article shows that we have a long way to go here at home:
The government had hoped to prove al-Moayad's ties to Osama bin Laden with address books containing al-Moayad's name and phone number, which were confiscated from suspected al-Qaida fighters being expelled from the former Yugoslavia. The government also planned to introduce an admission form for an al-Qaida Afghan training camp that used al-Moayad as a reference.
The judge called the Croatian evidence ``so remote, I am going to preclude the government from using it.''
He went on to exclude the Afghan evidence, apparently agreeing with a defense argument that the presence of al-Moayad's name on the form was not sufficient proof of wrongdoing. ``We don't know who put this name in,'' the judge said.
He also ruled a videotape showing al-Moayad with a high-ranking Hamas official on the day of an Israeli suicide bombing could not be introduced without the testimony of Mohamed Alanssi, an FBI informant who recorded it.
I'm no lawyer, and I don't know anymore than the AP tells me about this case, but I do know that our government needs to find an effective way to deal with terrorists and those who harbor them. Our judiciary, if left unchecked, will cripple the best efforts of our military and intelligence community.
Don't call me chaste
The AP and the Progressive Newswire point out the latest effort by NARAL.
This from the Newswire:
According to Carrie Rae, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Pennsylvania, “We are launching this campaign to tap a new generation of activists tired of seeing their tax dollars spent on discredited “abstinence-only-until-marriage” programming. Pennsylvanians want real choices and real solutions to today’s reproductive health problems, not the modern equivalent of a chastity belt.”
Embracing abstinence-only-until-marriage programming, the Pennsylvania State Legislature has passed resolutions recognizing Chastity Awareness Week since 1999 and has channeled almost $6 million in federal funds to schools, health facilities, and anti-choice organizations across the state despite reports showing that these programs result in higher teen pregnancy rates and higher transmission rates of AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.
Though Newswire links to http://www.giveusrealchoices.org/, they offer no links to show how the abstinence programs were "discredited," to the "anti-choice" organizations of which they speak, or to the reports purportedly showing higher rates of pregnancy and STDs.
One "anti-choice" organization, the Urban Family Council, makes it into the last sentence of the AP piece:
``I think it's quite sad that this organization is speaking negatively about young people being made aware of the healthiest choice they can make,'' said Jill Page, an abstinence and youth development director for the group.
I think it's sad too, especially when groups like NARAL make it so evident that they certainly don't have young women's best interests at heart.
BTW, NARAL stands for National Abortion Rights Action League, but that name doesn't even appear on their website. Also, a search of "chastity belt" on their site didn't turn up any results.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
More deafening silence
I pay pretty close attention to news of all sorts, but I didn't even realize that the March for Life was Sunday. Either I've been slacking, or the media didn't give it much attention (probably a bit of both...)
Bunnie Diehl photoblogged it, and has some great photos - my favorite is "Punks for Life."
If anyone knows any other bloggers covering it, I'd be interested to check them out.
Update: The San Diego News Notes has an interview with a girl employed by an abortion clinic that should be should be required reading for every public official before any votes on abortion-related issues. Warning: graphic language.
Update: Bunnie points out Premature Terminal Delivery.
Encouraging signs at the UN?
Strange as it may seem, a special session of the UN commemorating the liberation of Nazi death camps featured some fairly direct words:
In comments to the body, Secretary-General Kofi Annan directly recognized Jews as the chief victims of the Holocaust, not just one group among many that suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
``An entire civilization, which had contributed far beyond its numbers to the cultural and intellectual riches of Europe and the world, was uprooted, destroyed, laid waste,'' Annan said.
The United Nations was created in part because of world leaders' hope that it could help make sure the Holocaust was never repeated. That fact had largely been ignored for years, until Annan stated the fact starkly.
``The United Nations must never forget that it was created as a response to the evil of Nazism, or that the horror of the Holocaust helped to shape its mission,'' he said.
Even more interesting:
Later Monday, a photography exhibit opened at U.N. headquarters featuring images from the death camps, the first time an exhibit about the Holocaust is being shown at the United Nations.
U.N. officials defied longtime protocol against allowing prayers at the United Nations. The ceremony began with the El Maleh Rachamim, the traditional memorial prayer, and ended with the Israeli national anthem.
The words and symbolism are encouraging signs, but without decisive actions, they are worthless.
The UN barely gives lip service to supporting the Iraqi elections, providing just a handful of workers (who most likely just complicate the process anyway) and another toothless resolution.
These signs may be nothing more than the death rattle of an organization that has outlived its usefulness, but since I don't see the UN going away anytime soon, they're certainly better than nothing.
I look forward to Bookworm's take on this one.
Update: Bookworm responds.
UpdateII: Above link is now fixed.
A thousand years are like a day.
The creation v. evolution debate has drawn more comments than just about any other topic on this blog, so this AP headline caught my eye: "Scientists Create Petrified Wood in Days."
YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) -- Researchers at a national science laboratory in south-central Washington have found a way to achieve in days what takes Mother Nature millions of years -- converting wood to mineral.
Natural petrified wood occurs when trees are buried without oxygen, then leach their wood components and soak up the soil's minerals. For instance, at the Ginkgo Petrified Forest, a state park on the west shore of the Columbia River in central Washington, trees were believed to have been buried without oxygen beneath molten lava millions of years ago.
To create petrified wood, the researchers bought pine and poplar boards at a lumber yard. They gave a half-inch cube of wood an acid bath, then soaked it in a silica solution for days. The wood was air-dried, cooked in an argon-filled furnace at temperatures as high as 1,400 degrees and cooled in argon to room temperature.
I have not yet tackled the young earth v. old earth debate (mainly because I am not yet sufficiently educated on the subject), but I think this article may be a point for the young earth advocates.
If researchers could replicate specimens that were supposedly millions of years old in a matter of days, is it not at least possible that immense natural forces (i.e. volcanic eruptions, massive floods, etc) could do the same?
An admission to the affirmative could open up holes in the arguments (specifically, the reliability of dating systems) of those who insist that the earth must be millions of years old.
BTW, I think the AP reporter deserves some credit for including the qualifier "were believed" in the sentence referencing the Ginkgo Petrified Forest - maybe it's a hint of open-mindedness on the subject.
Update: Today's Seattle Times runs a column by Froma Harrop, "Finding common ground between God and evolution":
Clearly, many religious people regard evolution theory with sincere and heartfelt concern. But theirs is not a mainstream view — even among practicing Christians. Most theologians these days will argue that the biology book and the Good Book are reading from the same page.
Her condescending piece basically discounts creation scientists as fanatical evangelicals. For some perspective, I'd refer her (and those who agree with her) to the site of the Institute for Creation Research, where those open-minded enough to do some research will find biographies of biological scientists and physical scientists who have done extensive research into the subject and each state their cases for creation.
Monday, January 24, 2005
Another step in the right direction
We're now less than one week from the Iraqi election. As is the case with many events with such a lengthy and tumultuous build-up, much attention is directed toward the event, with little foresight given the following days and months.
We are right to build the election up as an event of great significance for Iraq, the Middle East, and the rest of the world, but we must take care not to lose grasp of the larger picture.
Also, even if the election is an unparalleled success, the MSM will first refuse to admit it by focusing on the inevitable election-day violence, then tout stories of voter intimidation, trumpet any fatwahs of anti-democracy clerics, highlight the shortcomings of the fledgling Iraq government, and seek out any and all other angles to continue their legacy of negative, anti-US coverage of the situation here in Iraq.
For those of us who spent the last year preparing for January 30 (and are headed home shortly thereafter), the tendency to focus exclusively on the election is great.
However, we must temper our enthusiasm and realize that though the election is of inestimable importance, it is not an end in itself. Instead, it is a vital step in Iraq's journey toward representative and responsible government, with many miles to go.
Americans are used to huge elections with climactic finishes (usually followed by "meet the new boss. . .") In Iraq the situation is different; simply holding an election is a grand feat, and every vote is essentially for the same cause - victory of democracy over tyranny.
Soldiers here know that our jobs will not be significantly different on January 31, and we do not expect them to be - we know exactly how difficult change can be. It is important for the American people to realize that this election, however it turns out, is just the beginning of the long journey that our country began over two centuries ago.
I am optimistic that the Iraqi people will confound the pundits by turning out to vote despite the mortars, car bombs, and suicide attacks, but we must be ready to hold the course in the following days and months, since the media will certainly never concede the victory, no matter the reality on the ground.
Freedom of speech indeed.
For a little insight into the protest and counter-protest scene, check out Indepundit. He describes the Inaugural protests in Washington and San Diego.
The protest warriors, holding signs such as "Free Cuba" and "Real liberals fight tyranny," encountered much resistance, from the verbal:
"Hey," one man shouted, "Why don't any of you young guys go over and fight in Iraq?"
I hear this one at almost every one of these events. "I've already been."
This stopped him in his tracks, momentarily. "Well, why don't you go back?" Also predictable.
"If they send me, I'll go again."
He walked away, cursing at us under his breath.
To the physical:
You can go a [expletive] half-mile away and stand on the first street corner you see!" shouted a self-described anarchist, dressed all in black with a bandana covering his face. As they taunted and threatened and liberally profaned Kobrin and the rest of the group, a member of the D.C. Anti-War Network (DAWN) -- the official organizers of the rally -- tried to break it up.
"Your purpose is to instigate people. You're going to have to leave!" shouted the "marshal," DAWN's term for their ad hoc security force.
"We're staying here," Kobrin replied.
Then he went down under a hail of black boots. Once the marshals pulled the anarchists away, ProtestWarrior sued for peace and made for the exit. Their chant of "Four more years!" was answered by the anarchists' reply: "Wah wah wah!"
For more stories of this ilk, check out Protest Warrior.
Disgusted by the BBC
The BBC is one of the few English-language radio stations I pick up here in Baghdad, so I tune in fairly regularly for a quick listen. Last night I caught about five minutes of "The Interview," which featured Carrie Gracie questioning the Iraqi author Kanan Makiya, founder of the Iraq Memory Foundation.
The bit I heard was very interesting, with Makiya discussing the revival of Iraqi intellectual life after the 2003 invasion. However, right as Makiya was getting to the good stuff - his take on the actions of the Coalition and the terrorist attacks - the editors faded him out and Gracie in with "More on that later" followed by a different question obviously trying to elicit a condemnation of the invasion, which Makiya seemed very unwilling to give, despite much prodding by Gracie.
I hope I'm wrong, and that the rest of the interview gave Makiya a chance to speak his mind without the gist of his responses being edited away, but I can't find a transcript or an audio clip to download (I can't get the one on the website to work). If any of you heard the interview or can find a transcript, I'd love to get your take.
I was able to find a bio and links to other articles from Makiya, though none of the articles are very recent. One press conference transcript contains much of the same discussion I heard last night, minus the interruptions by Gracie. Here's some of what Makiya said on October 16, 2003:
"The fact is I can't recognize the Iraq that I've just come from, from the one that is being portrayed in the media and being discussed in the press and talked about so -- so much these days. I simply don't connect as I used to do when I lived here continuously with the discourse that is going on here about Iraq.
"Not that I'm about to paint a very rosy picture of how wonderful things are compared to how badly they're being portrayed by the media; no, I'm not trying to deny that there are very serious problems in Iraq, there are problems. But the problem is that they're not the problems that people are talking about here. There are all kinds of very, very important issues and grave questions that we need to deal with, but I don't see them being discussed in the press here, and that is really troubling, especially as we are in a very important discussion over a very large sum of money that Congress and the Senate are discussing for the reconstruction of Iraq."
He goes on to describe what he refers to as a Saddam's criminal state. Reading this interview, I believe you'll quickly realize why the BBC cut him off.
I regret not being able to listen to the whole interview last night, but I opted out of it (wisely I believe) in favor of a conversation with my gorgeous wife, who had just returned from an afternoon spent driving the streets of Baghdad (btw, I haven't figured out why she's so eager to drive around here - when we drive anywhere in the States, she's out like a light in the passenger seat!)
I was in disbelief as I heard the BBC broadcast last night. What I heard was a shameless cut and paste job designed to paint the Coalition in a bad light despite whatever Makiya actually said. He was very articulate, and from the small bit I heard, I think his opinion on the current situation in Iraq would have been telling.
I'm disappointed and utterly disgusted.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
Bad idea jeans
From the AP, "Nevada Democrats Are Betting on Lottery":
Nevada Democrats are betting the time is right for the nation's No. 1 gambling state to create a lottery, despite a prohibition in the state constitution dating back to 1864.
Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins said Friday that the money is needed to fund education.
The article mentions dissent from the Nevada Resort Association on grounds that it would hurt casino business, but never mentions any other reasons to oppose a state lottery.
Maybe it's a lost cause since 39 states already have lotteries, but I don't see any redeeming qualities in state-sponsored gambling. Of course the lotteries make money like nobody's business, and maybe I shouldn't complain since it's that much more money the governments don't have to raise through taxes (which is a boon to me, since I don't play, but do pay taxes).
Still, I find it odd that the democrats (supposedly the party of the poor and downtrodden) are pushing the Nevada lottery, which will doubtlessly prey on those who cannot afford to play.
Of course, I am an advocate of personal responsibility, and it would seem to follow that I would place all the blame for gambling addiction and the resultant poverty and broken homes on the gamblers. However, I have no patience for government programs designed only to increase revenue, with no redeeming social value, especially programs that will disproportionately take advantage of the poor and uneducated.
Maybe the silver lining in this story is that the lottery is supposedly intended to raise money for education - if any of that cash goes toward high school statistics classes, maybe Nevadans will get wise and invest that $2 a day instead of wasting it on a long-shot jackpot.
In the Arab News, Amir Taheri writes "Iraq Election: Wider Significance":
Never have so many people pinned so much hope on a single day of voting, Jan. 30, 2005, that is to give Iraq its first freely elected Parliament plus provincial and regional councils.
The election will not only set the course for the 25 million Iraqis but could also determine a new balance of power in the Middle East. Beyond Iraq, the election will confirm or challenge the United States’ status as a “superpower” capable of reshaping the regional status quo. President George W. Bush has vowed to bring the Middle East into “the global democratic mainstream”, with Iraq as the starting point. Success could boost his prestige and encourage local democratic forces. Failure would mark the beginning of a decline in American influence, and revitalize forces determined to keep Muslim nations out of the modern world.
As the President intoned two days ago, these are "consequential times" indeed.
Here's an interesting statistic . . . I wonder why it's not more widely known?
Despite almost daily terrorist attacks most Iraqis appear determined that the election should take place. Almost 75 percent of those eligible to vote under a UN-established list have registered.
Just as Washington, Jefferson, and many others were willing to take great risks to establish our country, men and women in Iraq are prepared for (and are already making) great personal sacrifice:
“We know that there are criminals determined to blow us up,” says Abdul-Hussein Hindawi, head of the independent Electoral Commission. “But we cannot allow fear to shape our future. Iraqis know that they must take risks to build a free society.”
Here's another little-known fact:
Grand Ayatollah Ali-Muhammad Sistani, the primus inter pares of the Shiite clergy, has issued a fatwa (edict), urging everyone to vote. “Taking part in the elections and building a democratic system are religious duties,” he asserts.
Interestingly, a Google News search of "vote iraq Sistani fatwa" turned up 60 articles, while "vote iraq car bomb" finds 9,930.
What about the man-on-the-street?
“I am hungry to vote,” says Ghazban Fayyad, owner of a bookstall in downtown Baghdad. “All I hope is that I am not blown up before I cast my ballot.”
And Syria and Iran?
Iran and Syria fear that, were the US to succeed in Iraq, they could be the next targets for regime change. They are, therefore, doing all they can to make sure that the Iraqi election does not produce a pro-American majority.
On to the conclusion:
The best-case scenario for Iraq in 2005 will run along these lines:
The election is held producing a Parliament that, in turn, will choose a new government of national unity. Enjoying people-based legitimacy such a government would deprive the insurgency of its claim of fighting against foreign occupation. The US and coalition allies would be able to scale down their military presence while accelerating the recruitment, training and deployment of the new Iraqi armed forces and police. That would make it possible for the US-led coalition forces to be withdrawn by 2007, the most realistic date for such a move.
Also in the best case scenario Iraq could mobilize its immense manpower and natural resources, to rebuild its economy. A little noticed report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), issued last November, [I think he's referring to this] shows that even now the Iraqi economy is, relatively speaking, performing better than anyone else’s in the Arab Middle East. The report makes a predication that some might find audacious: In the next decade, Iraq could become the engine of growth for the region.
The IMF experts are not being frivolous.
Iraq sits on top of the world’s second largest oil deposits. It is the only Middle Eastern nation with substantial water resources and arable land. At the same time Iraq has the highest rates of literacy in the Arab world plus a vast pool of skilled workers at most levels. With a minimum of security, Iraq could also attract up to 10 million Shiite pilgrims a year from all over the world. (Between June 2003 and June 2004 some seven million foreign pilgrims visited Iraq.)
The worst-case scenario is equally stark:
Widespread violence could disrupt the election while mass Sunni boycott casts doubt on the results. The insurgents could extend their attacks to Shiite areas, provoking Shiite counterattacks. This could lead to a de facto partition of the country or intermittent ethnic war of the kind Lebanon experienced in the 1970s and 1980s. President George W. Bush may try to stick it out until the end of his term. But his successor, lacking the stomach or the desire to stay the course, may galumph out of the quagmire. Then the Kurds may decide to set up a break away state, provoking clashes with Turkey and Iran. Iraq could become a black hole sucking the Middle East into the unknown.
Which of the two scenarios is more likely? I think the best-case scenario is more likely.
After reading his bio, I'm pretty sure that Amir Taheri is: 1) a pretty smart guy, 2) not just blowing smoke.
I don't expect the next 8 days to be pretty (or the many days following that), but the 8 years beginning in 1776 weren't pretty either, and we've turned out alright.
The majority of Iraqis are determined not to let fear shape their future, and despite the scare tactics of the MSM, I believe the majority of Americans agree with them. An incessant torrent of bad news stories didn't dissuade the American electorate from reelecting the man with the grit and determination to prevail in Iraq, and a successful election next week will be a major victory in the war between reality and spin.
Friday, January 21, 2005
My muse is quiet today, so here's what I've read from fellow longtailers:
Bookworm had the same thought I did at the sight of three former presidents at the inauguration - what a great country, and what visionary founding fathers:
[Adam's inauguration was] the first time in Western history that a living ruler ever voluntarily stepped aside and ceded power to another.
Callimachus knows I'm a sucker for belly dancers.
Sean has a good question for a Muslim school.
GotDesign takes issue with Peggy Noonan's piece on the President's speech. I agree with him - I have been underwhelmed by the little Noonan I've read.
Patrick points out some phunny photos.
After reading through the President's Inaugural Address, here are the bits that stand out to me:
"[I am] mindful of the consequential times in which we live"
"Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave."
"America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way."
"The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it."
"To serve your people you must learn to trust them."
"You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs."
"From the perspective of a single day, including this day of dedication, the issues and questions before our country are many. From the viewpoint of centuries, the questions that come to us are narrowed and few. Did our generation advance the cause of freedom? And did our character bring credit to that cause?"
These words, coupled with his consistent actions give me good cause to trust the highest man in my chain of command, and knowing that he understands these "consequential times" is great reassurance that our efforts in Iraq and elsewhere are not in vain.
Glimmer of hope
As a former (and future) reader of the Greensboro News and Record, I was interested to see "Hunting where the ducks are flying" in the Poynter.
GN&R's Editor, John Robinson is leading an effort to make the paper more blogger friendly. The paper's homepage links to at least 5 internal blogs, along with the standard fare of news stories.
This is an encouraging sign - at least some in the MSM are taking steps to prevent their own extinction.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
A real cause for anxiety
Kind of a light blogging day today, so I'll leave the heavy lifting to Callimachus. Here's a teaser from "Mullah-palooza," his post on Iranian nukes:
[W]e're talking about Iran. We're talking about a nations whose leadership class considers suicide attacks not just an acceptable tactic but a religious duty. A county whose quasi-independent military openly recruits its citizens to be car-bombers to kill foreign construction workers building sewage plants in Iraq, or blow up Israeli buses full of school children.
Who is America to decide who can have nukes and who can't? Nobody -- and everybody. I have no problem living in a world where the grown-ups decide who gets to have nuclear weapons and who doesn't.
And if much of Old Europe chooses a slow suicide by uberfremdung, by indifference to its children, by blind trusting pacifism in a jungle-world, then I am not interested in having that part of the world make the safety choices for the rest of us.
We do not accept an Iran armed with nuclear weapons. We prefer to resolve that situation by diplomacy. But we're not limited to that approach. Keeping the most harsh military options on the table, as the U.S. administration has done, gives us the maximum possible degree of flexibility.
Gay Patriot points out Lance's idea: now-unemployed human shields should volunteer to work the Iraqi election on January 30.
All those great humanitarians, who so sacrificially self-deployed to protect the Iraqi people from the evil Americans invading to steal their oil, must have been pretty bored over the last year or two, and they should jump at the chance.
As Lance points out, after facing off against the world's most powerful military, a one-day standoff against a few thugs armed only with AK-47s and bootleg explosives should be a walk in the park.
In 2003, the Iraqi people needed human shields to protect their schools and hospitals from the imperialist and reckless US Air Force, and now in 2005 another opportunity arises - protecting polling places.
Let's see how many show up.
A little bloghumor
Wes Roth points out "You might be a blogger if. . ."
You know that “blogroll” is not the name of an exotic Thai food.
At any given time, you have no less than three browser windows open.
You think in half-thoughts and quotations such as “More below:”
Hindrocket sounds like a perfectly reasonable name for a journalist to you, as opposed to the stage name of a porn star.
You can’t remember the last time you actually heard news on television first.
You roll your eyes everytime you see the MSM try to explain blogging to the masses because they screw it up so badly.
It gets your dander up hearing the MSM refer to DU as a blog.
Hmmm . . . how about if
You get frustrated when a friend says, "you've got to read this article" and then hands you a magazine or newspaper.
You proudly refer to yourself as part of the longtail.
You've never met some of your best friends.
You have your "favorites" folders set up by blog categories.
I'm sure you all can think of some more
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
It's almost an oxymoron, but not quite. A friend alerted me to an article on radio host Edd Hendee's Iraq trip. I don't get to listen to much (if any) talk radio, but Hendee's article makes me think I'd enjoy his show:
My last caller Monday morning was a truck driver in Iraq for 18 months. He recalled warm greetings and sincere appreciation from the Iraqi people almost everywhere he went. Now as he returns to the United States he hardly recognizes Iraq from the media reports. My guess is he saw more of the country than any of those reporters. In a few days I’ll know if my suspicions are correct – that the main stream media had their stories written long before they got on the plane to come over. This trip is vital for many reasons.
I don't think he has a blog, but I'll be interested to read anything he publishes after his trip. Who knows, maybe I'll run into him while he's here in Baghdad.
Update: Same friend points out that you can listen online.
UpdateII: fixed a typo - originally spelled "Handee"
Headlines like this blow me away:
Summary: Rice Won't Give Iraq Timetable
Pressed at her confirmation hearing about U.S. policy in Iraq, Secretary of State nominee Condoleezza Rice refused on Tuesday to give a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops.
The issue isn't difficult to understand, and an oft-used (but seldom followed) army phrase sums it up: "we train to standard, not to time."
We're talking about war here, not T-ball.
If the 7&8 year olds are tied 3-3 after playing for an hour, it's time to line up for handshakes and let the 9&10 year olds take the field. Some fanatic dads may be a bit upset, but the game still achieved its objectives: the kids had fun.
Such is not the case in Iraq. Taking Mr. Coble's advice to cut and run would have a worse result than never invading at all - it would be a huge boost to the jihadist cause, along with providing a brand new haven for Islamofacist training camps.
Whether you agree with the invasion or not, we're here, and setting a timeline for departure is asinine. We'll leave when the Iraqi government is firmly in place and no longer needs us to help them police their country.
Plan on extra innings.
No questions allowed
More on the topic of evolution . . . the AP reports:
Pa. Students Learn 'Intelligent Design':
High school students heard about ``intelligent design'' for the first time Tuesday in a school district that attracted national attention by requiring students to be made aware of it as an alternative to the theory of evolution.
Administrators in the Dover Area School District read a statement to three biology classes Tuesday and were expected to read it to other classes on Wednesday
Apparently, the statement is the only thing the students will hear about intelligent design:
Biology teacher Jennifer Miller said although she was able to make a smooth transition to her evolution lesson after the statement was read, some students were upset that administrators would not entertain any questions about intelligent design.
``They were told that if you have any questions, to take it home,'' Miller said.
I find it unbelievable that our teachers are not even allowed to entertain questions on alternative theories to evolution. A government that squelches dialogue and critical thinking should never be the hallmark of a democratic nation.
Update: Here's another interesting article: Board of Ed. Wants to End Social Promotion. Imagine that...forcing kids to complete all academic requirements for one grade before progressing to the next.
Commander of Saddam Hussein's "The Army of Muhammad" Confesses: We Received Aid in Money and Arms from Syria and Iran:
The following are excerpts from the televised confessions of Muayed Al-Nasseri, who commanded Saddam Hussein's "the Army of Muhammad" throughout 2004. The confessions were aired by the Iraqi TV channel that operates from the UAE, Al-Fayhaa TV, on January 14, 2005.
Some interesting tidbits from the transcript regarding Iraq's neighbors:
"The fighting has been going on for almost two years now, and there must be aid, and this aid came from the neighboring countries. We got aid primarily from Iran. The truth is that Iran has played a significant role in supporting the Army of Muhammad and many factions of the resistance."
"As for other factions of the resistance, I have reliable information regarding the National Islamic resistance, which is one of the factions of resistance, led by Colonel 'Asi Al Hadithi. He sent a delegation to Iran from among the people of the faction, including General Halaf and General Khdayyer. They were sent to Iran in April or May and met with Iranian intelligence and with a number of Iranian leaders and even with Khamenei."
"Cooperation with Syria began in October 2003, when a Syrian intelligence officer contacted me. S'ad Hamad Hisham and later Saddam Hussein himself authorized me to go to Syria. So I was sent to Syria. I crossed the border illegally. then I went to Damascus and met with an intelligence officer, Lieutenant-Colonel "Abu Naji" through a mediator called "Abu Saud." I raised the issues that preocupied Saddam Hussein and the leadership. There were four issues: First, the issue of the media; second, political support in international forums; [third], aid in the form of weapons, and [fourth], material aid, whether it is considered a debt or is taken from the frozen Iraqi funds in Syria."
"Through the Ba'th party- The Arab Socialist Ba'th Party operates in Syria with complete freedom. It maintains its relations and organizes the Ba'th members outside Iraq. The Syrian government is fully aware of this, and the Syrian intelligence cooperates fully, as well as the Ba'th Party, in Syria."
Not that any of this comes as a surprise, but it's always nice to get more evidence, especially from a top terrorist leader. It seems like the axis of evil remarks may not have been so far off the mark.
So far, I've only found one article that mentions this information: on WorldNetDaily. I think this story is worthy of at least a below-the-fold article, but I guess the MSM doesn't agree.
I'm yet to find any info on how or when Muayed Al-Nasseri came into custody, or how he was persuaded to talk so freely, so if anyone has any details I'd be interested.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Dennis Prager's "Judeo-Christian Values: part III" is out. He employs history as he argues against using reason alone as a basis for values:
[T]he era following the decline of religion in Europe led not to unprecedented moral greatness, but to unprecedented cruelty, superstition, mass murder and genocide. But believers in reason without God remain unfazed. Secularists have ignored the vast amount of evidence showing that evil on a grand scale follows the decline of Judeo-Christian religion.
He works through four points on why reason cannot stand alone, and he closes with this brutal blow:
But if you want a quick evaluation of where godless reason leads, look at the irrationality and moral confusion that permeate the embodiment of reason without God -- your local university.
Once again, the man is all over it.
What is the real problem?
The AP points out lackluster PE programs in our schools:
As American children grow fatter and more out of shape, physical education classes are being found wanting. Experts say there's little accountability for P.E. teachers in most schools. They say the classes are often poorly run, and students don't spend much time in them anyway.
What do you know? They also mention TV in an interesting comparison:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2003, only 28 percent of high school students nationwide attended a daily P.E. class, but 38 percent watched television for three hours or more each school night.
As I recall from not too long ago (I graduated from public high school in 1996), the individual student's motivation was the key to how much benefit PE class produced.
My school offered several different categories of PE: a freshman course that taught basics, including classroom work; regular PE, which consisted of lots of standing around and huge basketball or volleyball games, and advanced PE, which involved 3 days of weight training and 2 days of cardio each week. (there may have been others, but I don't remember)
I took the advanced class, and it was hard work - the class size was small, and we got as much individualized attention as we could handle. However, from talking to my friends in the regular class, I know that it was pretty much how the AP describes it - a waste of time.
I have only that limited experience, but I know that the differentiating factor at my school was student motivation, not inexperienced or uncaring teachers. Had more students expressed interest in the advanced PE, they would have probably added more classes, but most kids preferred to spend the hour hanging out and occasionally shooting hoops.
As the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.
People with brains
My earlier post "Inching closer to a theocracy" has been getting quite a few comments, so I'm opening a new thread to keep the discussion on the front page.
I'll also point out a post at Chaos Digest on the subject. Haydesigner rambles a bit, and spends most of his time criticizing the Christian Coalition; here's his opener:
People with brains can breathe a small breath of release... today a judge stopped the weird practice that a Georgia district had of adding a sticker to science textbooks that stated 'evolution was only a theory'...
Imagine . . . there are actually people who dare question evolution. Shocking.
(ht Daou Report)
Countering the doom and gloom
Chrenkoff just posted installment 19 of "Good news from Iraq," which he opens with a well-worded disclaimer:
Below is not the full picture of Iraq - merely that part of it you don't often see on the nightly news or the pages of newspapers. This does not automatically make it more - or less important in the scheme of things, merely equally important to consider.
Of his plethora, some of my favorites are:
"Attack on Police Station Results in Defeat for Insurgents":
An Iraqi police station in southeast Mosul came under attack by multiple rocket propelled grenade fire during a coordinated effort by insurgent fighters to overrun the station. The Iraqi Police successfully repelled the attack. This is the fifth attack on the station this week. Each attack has resulted in defeat for the insurgents and a victory for the Iraqi Security forces. This is the twelfth time since Nov. 10 that insurgents have tried but failed to overrun police stations here. Since Nov. 10, no police stations here have fallen into the hands of insurgent fighters.
"Iraqi Slides Toward Olympics - Faisal Takes Up Skeleton in Quest For Spot in Turin":
[S]keleton specialists who've watched him over the last two weeks have reached a surprising conclusion about the beginner. Faisal might well debut as Iraq's first winter Olympian at the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy, some said, because a determination this intense is difficult to doubt.
"Hotline Succeeding In Foiling Iraqi Insurgents":
[T]he tips hotline received more than 400 calls during the past few months. These enabled the coalition to take prompt action — from freeing several women who had been kidnapped for ransom to identifying and destroying vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices Hammond said "were rigged and ready to explode."
"High school reaches out to students in Iraq":
Thanks to the generosity of Monsignor Donovan High School students, teachers and the business community, 900 children who will attend two newly rebuilt schools in Baghdad will have pencils to write with and paper to write on. They also will have arts and crafts supplies, sporting equipment, backpacks, lunch boxes and educational games and toys.
Courtney Good, a 17-year-old junior at the Toms River school, launched the project called "The Innocent Child" with her honors Christian service class.
And finally, here's some good news for anyone with an investment in Iraqi dinar: the Central Bank of Iraq has begun issuing coins in denominations of 100, 50, and 25 dinars. Right now the 100 dinar coin is worth only about 7 cents, but I think we'll see that ratio begin to change soon - they wouldn't be making coins in such small denominations if they weren't optimistic.
Monday, January 17, 2005
In the New Republic, Michael Fumento writes on one of my favorite (or least favorite, I guess) topics - television.
He describes a campaign by the Center for Science in the Public Interest designed to convince companies to restrict the types of foods they advertise to children.
Fumento says that it's not just the advertising that's making American kids fat, it's too much TV:
Debating how much blame to assign television advertising for childhood obesity isn't irrelevant--but it misses the bigger picture. True, as any parent can tell you, it's not easy to refuse children's pleas, which marketers term the "nag factor" or "pester power." But in focusing its attention on television advertising, CSPI is foregoing an opportunity to confront an even bigger culprit behind childhood weight gain: the television itself.
To be sure, measures--voluntary or otherwise--to reduce the amount of junk food advertising aimed at kids would almost certainly have a salutary effect.
But a more comprehensive approach wouldn't stop with advertising; it would seek to limit the amount of time that kids spend watching any kind of TV. Such an approach wouldn't just help to reduce childhood obesity; it would also address other problems--of the educational and intellectual variety--that television causes.
The CSPI report contains one stat that I found a bit startling:
Each day, children receive about 58 commercial messages from television alone, about half of which are for food.
Here is how they describe their campaign:
Today CSPI sent its Guidelines to officials at major food companies, chain restaurants, television networks, television stations in the 50 largest markets, movie studios, supermarkets, and children's magazines and urged them to comply on a voluntary basis.
I've never heard of CSPI before, but I'm not alone is being a bit skeptical. I've got no problem with their voluntary compliance program, but I surely won't support government regulation of junk food ads.
I agree with Fumento that it's not just the ads; the amount of time that kids (and adults) spend watching TV is obscene, and can only lead to worsening health.
Thought I don't think he means to, his words at the end of his piece could be construed to imply that the government may need to play a role in changing Americans' TV habits - again, a concept with which I would vehemently disagree.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
Count me red, white and blue.
The AP's "Anti - Bush Bracelets Say, 'Count Me Blue'" reports on three people with the same great idea - create a knock-off LIVESTRONG bracelet to identify yourself as a Bush-opponent:
After spending 10 days in London with friends who were outspoken about their disdain for President Bush's policies, Berns Rothchild came home wishing she had a way to show the world she didn't vote for him.
"I sort of felt ashamed, and didn't really want to be associated with being an American,'' said Rothchild, who lives in New York City and voted for John Kerry.
Rothchild, 35, is selling blue bracelets that say ``COUNT ME BLUE,'' while Laura Adams, of Fairway, Kan., offers blue bracelets that say ``HOPE.'' The McKnight family, of Moscow, Idaho, is even more direct; their black bracelets proclaim: ``I DID NOT VOTE 4 BUSH.''
For anyone interested, I have another idea.
This site is marketing a small, red, white, and blue shoulder patch for anyone who is proud to be an American, and wishes to be associated with American values such as liberty and justice.
The patches are slightly more expensive than the bracelets - the cheapest one comes with a three-year service obligation, but they make quite a statement.
The AP has more news from our public school system. A student who (with the ACLU's help) was suing his school has dropped the suit:
The controversy involving Brad Mathewson's choice of clothing -- including a shirt that said ``I'm gay and I'm proud'' -- deflated with his withdrawal from Webb City High School last month.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which supported Mathewson's suit, said seven other students were sent home in November after refusing to change out of homemade T-shirts in support of their friend. The shirts bore messages such as, ``If this shirt offends you, look the other way'' and ``We support gay rights.''
The school district has said it prohibited the T-shirts because they were disruptive and therefore a violation of school dress code.
I'm in no position to judge whether or not the Tshirt in question was actually disruptive, and thus in violation of the dress code, but I can't help but wonder who the ACLU would have sided with had the Tshirt said "I'm Christian and I'm proud."
Update: For more ACLU action, see Chuck Colson's latest.
Big Blog roundup.
Blackfive posts an excellent essay by a Task Force commander in Fallujah - here's a teaser, but you're missing out if you don't read the whole thing:
What if domestic news outlets continually fed American readers headlines like: "Bloody Week on U.S. Highways: Some 700 Killed," or "More Than 900 Americans Die Weekly from Obesity-Related Diseases"? Both of these headlines might be true statistically, but do they really represent accurate pictures of the situations? What if you combined all of the negatives to be found in the state of Texas and used them as an indicator of the quality of life for all Texans? Imagine the headlines: "Anti-law Enforcement Elements Spread Robbery, Rape and Murder through Texas Cities." For all intents and purposes, this statement is true for any day of any year in any state. True -- yes, accurate -- yes, but in context with the greater good taking place -- no! After a year or two of headlines like these, more than a few folks back in Texas and the rest of the U.S. probably would be ready to jump off of a building and end it all. So, imagine being an American in Iraq right now.
The media allows the terrorist to use relatively small but spectacular events that directly affect very few, and spread them around the world to scare millions. What about the thousands of things that go right every day and are never reported? Complete a multi-million-dollar sewer project and no one wants to cover it, but let one car bomb go off and it makes headlines. With each headline, the enemy scores another point and the good-guys lose one. This method of scoring slowly is eroding domestic and international support while fueling the enemy's cause.
Also bothersome are references by "experts" on how "long" this war is taking. I've read that in the world of manufacturing, you can have only two of the following three qualities when developing a product -- cheap, fast or good.
IMAO posts several "Blog myths and facts." My favorite:
MYTH: Bloggers are a bunch of ankle-biters to the mainstream media.
FACT: Our effect to the MSM is more akin to a strong kick to the groin. Thus, we are "groin-kickers."
BTW, if you are undecided on how to deal effectively in foreign policy, read "Nuke the moon."
Finally, Michelle Malkin provides proof to back up Bookworm's theory. (Warning: Proceed with extreme caution. Post contains rantings of liberals spewing hatred that borders on insanity, which would be called racism, intolerance, and bigotry were it ever uttered by a conservative)
Friday, January 14, 2005
Iraq is a dangerous place to be right now. The terrorists trying to tear this country apart are in the most danger, as they are being hunted down and killed daily. However, no one denies that coalition troops and our Iraqi allies are in danger as well.
The Iraqi people working build their country and get their government on its feet have my respect. They are popular targets for terrorists, since they offer a much easier target than heavily armed and well trained Soldiers, and because intimidation is one of the terrorists' favorite tactics.
The NYTimes runs "Under Fire, Election Workers in Iraq are Scared but Resolute." It gives a good look into the lives of the people whom history will remember as Iraq's founding fathers and mothers.
This particular worker says he does it to serve his country. "There are a lot of people around the world who also would fight for what I do," he said after finishing his day recently at the election commission. "I believe in democracy."
Keep in mind that the report focuses on Baghdad, which is one of the most dangerous places to work as an election official. Many places are much less hostile, but all the Iraqis brave enough to risk their lives to provide a better life for their children and countrymen deserve our respect. They are putting great faith in us to back them up, and we must not let them down.
Hat tip to Captain Ed, who has this to say about the Iraqi election workers:
However, unlike many in the US, they don't want to cut and run, leaving the country to the Islamofascists while abandoning the majority of Iraqis that want peaceful self-determination. Perhaps some of our own politicians can be inspired to show a bit more courage in defense of democracy.
Inching closer to a theocracy
"This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."
A federal judge ordered Cobb County school officials to remove stickers with the above paragraph from high school biology textbooks. The ACLU challenged the stickers as an unconstitutional violation of separation of church and state, and the judge agreed, saying they represent a state endorsement of religion.
This reminds me of a similar case, a few centuries back:
"This textbook contains material on the shape of the Earth. Flat Earth is a theory, not a fact, regarding the shape of the Earth. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."
The ACLU lost the case that challenged the stickers with this message.
Any government endorsement of open-mindedness, deliberate study, and critical thinking, besides being unconstitutional, is obviously very dangerous and must be squelched at all costs.
Thank goodness we have the ACLU looking out for us.
(ht Roth Report.)
Update: After a gym conversation with my roommate, I decided for clarity's sake to point out that the reference to a flat Earth sticker is purely satirical. Sadly, the evolution sticker story is not satirical at all.
UpdateII: My friend GW sent me Scott Ott's take, and his satire is much better than mine:
The newly-evolved stickers read as follows: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a fact, not a theory, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with childlike trust, accepted obediently and defended vigorously against the attacks of ignorant monotheists."
UpdateIII: My original link to Wes Roth was wrong - it's fixed.