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Friday, July 29, 2005


I agree with Bill Quick, anyone who wants to should feel free to buy me one of these.

The sky is falling


Humans live in a vast solar system where 2,000 feet seems a razor-thin distance. Yet it's just wide enough to trigger concerns that an asteroid due to buzz Earth on April 13, 2029 may shift its orbit enough to return and strike the planet seven years later. The concern: Within the object's range of possible fly-by distances lie a handful of gravitational 'sweet spots,' areas some 2,000 feet across that are also known as keyholes. The physics may sound complex, but the potential ramifications are plain enough. If the asteroid passes through the most probable keyhole, its new orbit would send it slamming into Earth in 2036. It's unclear to some experts whether ground-based observatories alone will be able to provide enough accurate information in time to mount a mission to divert the asteroid, if that becomes necessary.
On the plus side, Social Security and Global warming may not be so important after all...

High school stereotype



Drama nerd








Ghetto gangsta






What's Your High School Stereotype?
created with QuizFarm.com
This is probably mostly accurate, although the low geek score was a big surprise. However, given my extreme laziness and lack of concern about grades it is probably correct. Luckily for my GPA I was able to do better with no excertion than many could do by onerous study. (via Gib)

I believe I saw this movie...


The endangered grey nurse shark is its own worst enemy, its young eat each other in the womb, so Australian scientists have a radical rescue plan to artificially inseminate and breed the ocean predator in test-tubes.
Not one of my all time favorites, although Sam Jackson's death scene is a classic.


Daily Herald:

“I think it is the responsibility of the leaderships of mosques to be more connected to the congregations, to make communities safe on an individual basis, and to keep an eye out for people under stress and make sure they channel it in a nonviolent way.” Abdul Malik Mujahid, chairman of the Chicago-based Council on Islamic Relations People who commit terrorism in the name of Islam are “criminals, not ‘martyrs,” according to a powerful religious edict, called a fatwa, issued Thursday by leading American scholars of Islamic law. Today in Chicago, Muslim leaders from throughout the city and suburbs will underscore that not only is violence against innocents forbidden, it’s the duty of Muslim leaders to dissuade, speak out against and even report to police anyone in their community they suspect of inciting violence or preparing to commit violence. “We go beyond condemnation,” said Abdul Malik Mujahid, chairman of the Chicago-based Council on Islamic Relations, which will be leading this morning’s endorsement of the fatwa by a host of local mosques and foundations, as well as the civil rights group Council on Islamic-American Relations.
This is a good step and I applaud it. If this exhortation would be echoed around the world in terms just as strong, Islamist terrorism would be severly curtailed. That isn't going to happen just yet, and the fact that it won't is a cause for grave concern but this is a step forward. I do believe that Islam is a worthy religion. It has forgotten how to police itself and how to prevent distorted, dangerous heresy from masking itself as piety. Eventually it will remember, and regain it's place as a noble force for good. Until then, many more innocents will suffer. The best thing we can do to help is call a spade a spade. We must denounce terror. We must support democracy in the middle east. We do these things because they are the right thing to do. And most of all, we must demonstrate again and again that we will not be cowed by brutal thugs with an ideology of death.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

A tempting solution...


Russia’s most (in)famous spammer, Vardan Kushnir, 35, was dead in his apartment in downtown Moscow on Monday, July 25. Someone repeatedly smashed his head with a heavy object, authorities say, and then ransacked his entire apartment. The authorities have obviously got no clue as to who that someone might have been. And, as a matter of fact, they don’t seem to really care: every day between 10 and 20 people meet a violent death in Russia’s capital, and a significant part of those crimes remains unsolved (Russia’s Interior Ministry reports 1,935 unsolved murders, 73,000 burglaries and 11,400 robberies between January and May in this year alone). There is no reason for Moscow’s law enforcement officials to give Kushnir’s case any special treatment, so they most probably won’t. But the Moscow-based media is awash with comments and speculations, expounding one simple, albeit largely irrational, theory: someone (ranging from God almighty to an irate IT office worker) finally punished Vardan Kushnir for his seemingly unstoppable spamming activities.
You gotta admit, there are days when this seems like a fair punishment... (via Gaijin Biker)

Humor Index

the Comic
(47% dark, 39% spontaneous, 44% vulgar)
your humor style:

Yours is the most versatile and also the most popular kind of humor. On the one hand, you'll crack a joke about just about anything, but you're not mean-spirited or intimidating, so you can get away with it--even when, for example, you bust on Mexicans. Even though you appreciate a good dirty joke as much as anybody, over all, you've got a cerebral approach to humor. In fact, you appreciate all well-crafted humor. Now just go out there and write up a routine; it's likely you'd be good at it.

PEOPLE LIKE YOU: Dave Chappelle - Rodney Dangerfield
Link: The 3 Variable Funny Test written by jason_bateman on Ok Cupid
(via The Duk)

China and its chums

Guardian Unlimited:

Robert Mugabe is having a whale of a time on his state visit to China. The Zimbabwean president has been made an honorary professor and praised by Hu Jintao, the prime minister, as 'a familiar and much respected old friend of the Chinese people'. This is uncomfortable for the 700,000 Zimbabweans who have been made homeless in massive 'slum clearance' programmes, the United Nations, and much of the rest of the world - apart, most significantly, from neighbouring South Africa - who see Mr Mugabe as a pariah who should be shunned rather than given the red carpet treatment he is getting in Beijing. If this welcome was purely ceremonial it might matter less. But a new trade agreement with China and promises of soft loans and investment will help Mr Mugabe with his policy of 'looking east' - adopted because the west has finally run out of patience with him. Both the EU and the US have imposed limited sanctions targeting the Zanu-PF regime because of its land seizures, rigged elections and other human rights abuses. The International Monetary Fund is to decide soon whether or not to axe Zimbabwe from its list of eligible borrowers.
Certainly there is a lot of similarity between Mugabe's programs and some of Mao's more spectacular failures. Perhaps it is this historic nostalgia that has made China so interested in supporting Zimbabwe. I don't know if it would work or not, but I have long thought that some diplomatic jujitsu with China could be very beneficial for everyone. Basically, I believe that one of China's big desires is to gain standing and importance on the world stage. More than power, China wants prestige. It seems with that lever it should be possible to convince China to agressively promote human rights. Sure, China isn't steller on that score, but there are places that are much worse than China. Zimbabwe is not a bad example. If we could convince China, behing the scenes, to lead a humanitarian in Zimbabwe it could confer much desired prestige on China and greatly help the situation in Zimbabwe. I believe that a deal could be reached where we would support China's actions in this arena in exchange for some minimum limits on how China went about this and what the eventual outcome was. I expect also that this would have a desirable effect on China itself. As it invested it's might in helping failed states to reform politically and economically, it would naturally encourage internal reform as well, and given that it would obviously be doing so from a position of strength, not weakness, on the world stage that reform would be easier to swallow. China wants to be a super power, lets make them act like one.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Latin America's flickering democracy

Christian Science Monitor:

Polls show decisively that Latin Americans want better housing, food, education, opportunities, and democracy. And there are now some democratic and market-oriented leaders who know well what needs to be done. As Mr. Vargas Llosa says, 'Reform ultimately involves undoing more than doing.' Government must be small, less intrusive, more efficient, more honest. Entrenched and corrupt entitlement programs must be eliminated. There must be greatly improved education for everyone, better healthcare and environmental standards, and legal reforms that guarantee opportunity, property, and other rights to all people.
We ignore Latin America at our peril. Perhaps more importantly, we should analyze why these democracies fail, and how democracies in general can succeed. If we don't know that, our hopes for other regions successfully developing democracies seems risky. Obviously there are a lot of factors that cause a Democracy to fail. Primarily though, it seems that economic failure is the key, and this failure is often directly caused by Democracy itself. One of the risks of Democracy is that people will vote themselves greater entitlements than can be economically sustained. This leads to a rather quick collapse of the economy, and hence the government. The cycle here is viscious. First, government programs are enacted that demand high taxes to support. These taxes limit growth directly, but even worse they often encourage under the table economic deals and corruption in an effort to avoid those taxes. This in turn reduces the overall tax base, requiring even higher taxes to support the entitlement programs. The prevalence of under the table businesses also has the effect of pricing out foreign investment, as foreign companies, usually under serious scruntiny, are unable to compete on an equal level with their black market counterparts. Meanwhile, with all of this drag on the economy, poverty tends to increase making further social programs seem desirable, even necessary which in turn demands more tax. Obviously, this cannot go on forever, and it doesn't. Eventually these economies and governments collapse, leading to anarchy (minor is some case, much more serious in others) and usually trying again. How though can we prevent this from happening? Education might help. Explaining frequently and loudly that taxes need to be low for a developing country (developed nations can much better afford this 'luxery') and that economic growth is the only way out of poverty.

Hillary vs. the Xbox: Game over

Steven Johnson has a must read rebuttal to Hillary Clinton's call for a video game investigation in the LA Times. Here is a teaser:

Kids have always played games. A hundred years ago they were playing stickball and kick the can; now they're playing 'World of Warcraft,' 'Halo 2' and 'Madden 2005.' And parents have to drag their kids away from the games to get them to do their algebra homework, but parents have been dragging kids away from whatever the kids were into since the dawn of civilization. So any sensible investigation into video games must ask the 'compared to what' question. If the alternative to playing 'Halo 2' is reading 'The Portrait of a Lady,' then of course 'The Portrait of a Lady' is better for you. But it's not as though kids have been reading Henry James for 100 years and then suddenly dropped him for Pokemon.
Great stuff!

Must read economics posts

I have mentioned The Skeptical Optimist before. He only posts once a week usually, but he has the best economic explanations of anyone I have ever seen. This weeks posts Deficits for Dummies and The Social Security Lockbox Hoax are no exceptions to this and are must reads. There is plenty of other great stuff on his sight as well.

I.R.A. to Give Up Violence

New York Times:

The Irish Republican Army has given up its armed struggle for a united Ireland, agreeing to turn solely to political methods, an American businessman said yesterday after being briefed on a statement expected from the guerrilla group later this week. The agreement, if borne out, would be a historic turning point in the violent history of Ireland and Northern Ireland. But there is still widespread official skepticism about I.R.A. promises, particularly when it comes to the issue of disarmament. Indeed, it was not immediately clear whether the I.R.A. would address how several tons of arms, hidden in bunkers across Ireland, would be disposed of, according to the businessman, Niall O'Dowd, who brokered talks between the I.R.A. and American officials that helped lead to a cease-fire in 1994. The continued existence of those weapons, which were to have been destroyed under an agreement reached after the cease-fire, contributed to the collapse of the Northern Ireland government in 2003. Last night, an Irish government spokesman said an I.R.A. commitment to nonviolence had to be backed by an unambiguous process for disposing of all its weapons. 'The ultimate test is the delivery on that,' said the spokesman, who as a matter of routine practice spoke only on the condition that he not be identified. A spokesman for the British government declined comment.
It is wise to remember that this conflict was once considered unsolvable. That should give us hope for the other 'unsolvable' problems, such as Palestine. I don't know enough to say whether the I.R.A. will get rid of it's weapons at this time. Whether it does so immediately or in the future it is clear that the popularity of a violent struggle has waned and peaceful solutions are being persued. Old habits, and old hatred, are never easily or quickly settled. The progress in Ireland is very hopeful though.

U.S. outflanks Kremlin, Beijing on Kyrgyz base

Chicago Tribune:

Facing pressure from Russia and China to end America's military presence in two Central Asian states, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld won assurances Tuesday from Kyrgyzstan's new leaders that they would not shut down a U.S. base on Kyrgyz soil used for combat and humanitarian missions in Afghanistan. The U.S. air base at Manas in Kyrgyzstan and its air base at Karshi-Khanabad in southern Uzbekistan have become vital cogs in American anti-terrorism operations in Central Asia. Serving as important conduits for humanitarian aid and military equipment sent to Afghanistan, they also are seen as part of a shift in Pentagon strategy that establishes within the world's hot spots small, rapid response outposts that can be quickly ramped up during crises. Central Asia, home to numerous Islamic extremist and terrorist groups, is one of those hot spots. The continued use of those bases was put in doubt by a declaration July 5 by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security coalition made up of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The group called on the United States to fix a date for its pullout from its Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan bases. Since then, Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Kyrgyzstan's newly elected president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, have questioned the need for the U.S. bases in their countries, contending that Afghanistan for the most part has stabilized. U.S. troops can remain at Manas and Karshi-Khanabad only as long as the governments of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan allow them to stay. After meeting with Rumsfeld on Tuesday in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, Kyrgyz leaders said Rumsfeld convinced them that Afghanistan remains volatile, and that Manas is needed to provide logistical support for operations there.
This is signifigant, and a triumph for American diplomacy. While I am uncomfortable with U.S. support of Uzbekistan because of lack of Democracy and human rights issues, it must be acknowledged that these bases serve a number of important strategic goals, as well as the more tactical uses in Afghanistan. The mere pressence of these bases provides a deterent effect and a stabilizing effect on the region, a region that will likely become more and more signifigant over the next several decades.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Shuttle returns to space


Discovery roared into the skies over Florida Tuesday morning as NASA returned to shuttle space flight for the first time since the 2003 Columbia disaster. Under a blue, nearly cloudless sky, the spacecraft lifted off at 10:39 a.m. ET, as scheduled. 'Liftoff of space shuttle Discovery, beginning America's new journey to the moon, Mars and beyond,' said George Diller, the voice of shuttle launch control.
It is good to see a shuttle flying again. My they return safely home.

The Failed States Index

Foreign Policy:

America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones.” That was the conclusion of the 2002 U.S. National Security Strategy. For a country whose foreign policy in the 20th century was dominated by the struggles against powerful states such as Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union, the U.S. assessment is striking. Nor is the United States alone in diagnosing the problem. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned that “ignoring failed states creates problems that sometimes come back to bite us.” French President Jacques Chirac has spoken of “the threat that failed states carry for the world’s equilibrium.” World leaders once worried about who was amassing power; now they worry about the absence of it. Failed states have made a remarkable odyssey from the periphery to the very center of global politics. During the Cold War, state failure was seen through the prism of superpower conflict and was rarely addressed as a danger in its own right. In the 1990s, “failed states” fell largely into the province of humanitarians and human rights activists, although they did begin to consume the attention of the world’s sole superpower, which led interventions in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo. For so-called foreign-policy realists, however, these states and the problems they posed were a distraction from weightier issues of geopolitics. Now, it seems, everybody cares. The dangerous exports of failed states—whether international terrorists, drug barons, or weapons arsenals—are the subject of endless discussion and concern. For all the newfound attention, however, there is still uncertainty about the definition and scope of the problem. How do you know a failed state when you see one? Of course, a government that has lost control of its territory or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of force has earned the label. But there can be more subtle attributes of failure. Some regimes, for example, lack the authority to make collective decisions or the capacity to deliver public services. In other countries, the populace may rely entirely on the black market, fail to pay taxes, or engage in large-scale civil disobedience. Outside intervention can be both a symptom of and a trigger for state collapse. A failed state may be subject to involuntary restrictions of its sovereignty, such as political or economic sanctions, the presence of foreign military forces on its soil, or other military constraints, such as a no-fly zone.
These states are, and will continue to be a signifigant threat and a challenge to our security. Foreign Policy as provided a valuable service with this index, as it lets us understand that scope and the nature of the challenges we face.

And so it begins...

The Boston Globe:

With a moderate message and a call for a ''cease-fire' between the Democratic Party's liberal and moderate factions, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton accepted a new leadership post yesterday with the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist group that helped propel her husband to the presidency in 1992. Clinton's increased involvement with the DLC -- the organization Bill Clinton used as a springboard to his national campaign when he was governor of Arkansas -- is the latest indication that she is seeking to build a moderate base for a possible run for the presidency in 2008. At the DLC's annual convention in Columbus yesterday, the senator's address to about 300 state and local Democratic officials promised a return to the prosperity of the Bill Clinton presidency. Using imagery first conjured by her husband, she blasted Republicans, saying they are presiding over a sluggish economy and allowing the nation's image in the world to tarnish. ''They turned our bridge to the 21st century into a tunnel back to the 19th century,' said Clinton, a New York Democrat. ''The clear mission of a unified Democratic Party is to back us out of that Republican tunnel, fill it in, go back across the bridge, and get America back in the business of building dreams again.' Clinton will serve as chairwoman of the council's new 'American Dream Initiative,' where she'll lead a nationwide effort to generate fresh ideas for Democrats to bring to politics. Charged with developing an agenda for the DLC by next summer, she'll travel extensively and make contact with local business, labor, and civic leaders.
This should end any doubt about Hillary's plans for 2008. This DLC position is a thinly disguised cover for a national presidential campaign. I continue to believe that Hillary will win the Democratic nomination and that she has a very good chance of capturing the Presidency. There is in fact a very good chance that I will be one of her supporters, dispited a dislike of many of her politics. Absent a Rice or Guiliani nomination, Hillary is my preferred candidate at this time. My reason for this is that I am, primarily, a single issue voter. While I am interested in Social Security, Education, and all of the other issues, I believe that whatever happens in those arenas we will muddle through. The War on Terror though, and the spread of Democracy matters however. I am terribly concerned that this effort, the most fundamental and signifigant of our time, has become a partisan issue. I am not confident that half the country can successfully wage this war and therefore getting Democrats actively involved in prosecuting it is fundamental. Whatever else Hillary may be, I am absolutely convinced that she is tough.
This month, Clinton called for adding 80,000 troops to the Army and pushed a Senate bid to expand healthcare for National Guard members who are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her increased attention to the armed services prompted a gibe yesterday from Bayh, who joked that he recently spied Clinton reading an issue of ''Soldier of Fortune" magazine tucked inside a copy of the Congressional Record.
I would trust Hillary to lead the War on Terror.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Sensible Health Care Reform?


The idea behind the legislation, sponsored by GOP Representative John Shadegg of Arizona, is disarmingly simple: Allow Americans to buy health insurance from vendors in any one of the 50 states. Right now Americans who aren't lucky enough to get insurance from large employers or poor enough to qualify for Medicaid find themselves at the mercy of the legislators and insurance commissioners of the state in which they happen to live. This can be OK in states that exercise this regulatory function judiciously. But in others, the young and working poor find themselves effectively priced out of the market by special-interest regulations dressed up as consumer protections. New York requires every insurance policy sold there to cover podiatry. Acupuncture coverage is mandated in 11 states, massage therapy in four, osteopathy in 24, and chiropractors in 47. There are an estimated 1,800 or so such insurance 'mandates' across the country, and the costs add up. 'It is always the providers asking for the mandate; it is never the consumer,' says health policy guru John Goodman, who has testified before legislatures considering such rules. What's more, states like New Jersey and New York add two more ultra-expensive requirements: 'Guaranteed issue' allows people to wait till they are sick and then buy insurance; 'community rating' prevents insurers from charging different prices to people of different ages and health status. These may sound like compassionate ideas, until you realize they make insurance so expensive that millions of people are exposed to financial ruin because they aren't allowed to buy basic policies focused on catastrophic costs. How expensive? A 2004 study by eHealthInsurance.com found that a typical insurance policy ($2,000 deductible, 20% co-insurance) for a family of four could be had for as little in as $172 per month in a reasonably regulated locality like Kansas City, Missouri. But in New York that family's only option--managed care--would run $840 per month, and in New Jersey family policies run a whopping $1,200-plus. We bet Democratic Representative Frank Pallone's constituents in New Jersey would be interested in his view that insurance in his state is only 'slightly' more expensive than elsewhere.
I would be interested in more analysis on this. From what is here, it seems to me like a very good idea, and one that could dramatically reduce the cost of health care. I know that Washington State is one of the over-regulated ones, and regulated especially stupidly at that, so it would have a direct benefit to me. If anyone has any good reasons why this is a bad bill, I would be interested in that though. I must say that I have a small degree of trepidation about this. It seems to me that this bill makes too much sense and would be too easy to put into place. I have a hard time believing that anything so good could come out of DC, so there must be a catch somewhere. Update: Ezra Klein has blogged on this, without satisfactory reasons to be against it, in my opinion. However, a discussion has now started in the comments that hopefully will prove enlightening.

How to Stop the Contagion

Fareed Zakaria writes in Newsweek:

What this is about, as Tony Blair has argued, is fanaticism. Radical ideologies of hate and violence have often seduced disaffected young men searching for some great cause. Forty years ago they would have embraced Leninist revolutionary dogma, with Che Guevara as the bin Laden of his day. Today, for Muslims, it is a violent interpretation of Islamic fundamentalism. Born in the Middle East, it has spread like a virus across the Muslim world and into the Islamic diaspora in the West. The good news is that in the heart of the Muslim world, this ideology is not doing so well. The bombings, increasingly of civilians, are showing Al Qaeda and its ilk in their true light. Arabs are finally denouncing terrorism and also the ideologies that feed it. They need to do much more, and far more forcefully. It's a cliche, but true, that ultimately only Muslims can win this fight.
As always with Zakaria, the entire article is well worth reading.


I haven't commented on the Egyptian bombings previously. Obviously I am horrified by them. My condolences to those who lost their lives in this evil attack. This attack though serves as a reminder that the primary battle against terrorism, both for us and for the terroristis is in the Arab world, not the West. We are a sideshow, an eventual target, but at the moment attecks in the west are a flamboyant propaganda tool rather than a pure military or strategic goal. The attack in Egypt, like those in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and of course Iraq, is different. This attack was a strategic attack against Egypt's most important source of revenue: tourism as a method of weakening the Egyptian government and eventaully driving it from power. This tactic has been tried before, unsuccessfully, but that doesn't make it any less dangerous.

Sweet, sweet justice

Stephen Green explains why he is not fond of unions, and why this story about the ALF-CIO splitting up fills him with glee. Read the whole thing. My belief on unions is pretty basic. I think that they should be allowed. I don't think that they should be mandated though, or that the government should EVER get involved with negotiations between an employer and it's employees (other than enforcing contracts and basic labor laws.) The duty of the government is to keep either side from employeeing violence. As long as the unions don't beat up the managers (or even more likely those employees who do not wish to be in a union) and as long as the company doesn't beat up the union members they should be free to negotiate with one another as best they can. I will go so far as to say that the government can legitimately prevent an employer from firing someone for attempting to form a union. Beyond that though, the government should be neutral in who 'wins' any negotiations. The government certainly has no business promoting union workers over non-union workers. Obviously this is a bit more muddled when the government is also the employer, obviously politics plays a huge role in that situation, something I am willing to live with. I think that a good portion of the troubles that unions are facing is a result of overreach on their part. Rather than working to ensure that they have the right to collectively bargain, they instead tried to politically gain a monopoly on labor. In some cases this failed, and they were discredited by this failure. More damaging though was when this tactic succeeded. Having a monopoly on labor changed their negotiating practices and methods. To a large degree, the political arena, rather than the marketplace, became the fundamental focus for labor negotiations. Just like the Soviet Union discovered, political arenas make a very poor substitute for the market in determining fair values. As a result, labor has largely killed the golden goose that supported it. It is my belief, that if unions had remained focused on bargaining with employers, rather than controling the negotiations through politics, we would have a stronger economy, and stronger unions today. That would have been a good thing.



Less than 24 hours after a Tri-state soldier was buried, someone pulled up 20 American flags from his father-in-law's front yard and set fire to them under a car in the driveway, News 5 reported. The family of Pfc. Timothy Hines and neighbors can't understand why someone would do that. 'If it wasn't random vandalism, what statement were they trying to make?' said Jim Wessels, Hines' father-in-law. The car, belonging to Wessel's daughter, was burned beyond repair.
I cannot imagine why anyone would behave in such a fashion. (via Instapundit)

Sunnis Agree to Rejoin Iraqi Charter Process

New York Times:

Weeks before an important deadline for the new constitution, Sunni Arab leaders said today that they had ended their boycott of the drafting process. The Sunni leaders said the original constitutional committee, made up almost entirely of Shiites and Kurds, had agreed to the conditions the Sunni Arabs had set for their return, including having the government provide bodyguards. The Sunnis said they expected an agreement in writing to formalize the accord. The Sunni Arab boycott began last week after two colleagues were assassinated in downtown Baghdad. ' We met in the morning with the speaker Mr. Al-Hasani, and Humam Hamoudi and other members like Dr. Fouad Masoum, and we reached an agreement that will be announced today,' Kamal Hamdoun, a Sunni member in the constitution committee said during a phone interview today.
Obviously this is a positivie development. I have a great deal of admiration for the members of the Iraqi constitutional committee. At a very real threat to their lives they are engaging in an extremely difficult task, and one that is largely thankless as it is difficult to please everyone (a proper constitution won't completely please anyone.) They are, along with men of similar nature in Afghanistan, and reformers who are emerging in other Arab nations, the true heroes, and most central figures, in the War on Terror. If it is won, it will be because of the bravery and sacrifice of these men and women, all too often martyrs in the cause. Our role is to give them a chance to win this war. We can give them time and space to change the nature of the Arab world and rescue Islam from the death cult that has so successfully, and deeply infiltrated it. Blowing up trainstations, busses and sea side resorts is easy. Building a system of government that respects and protects the rights of every citizen is hard. I'm betting on the builders though.

The RINO Roundup

The Countertop Chronicles: The RINO Roundup. If you like this blog, there is a pretty good chance you will like some of the other RINOs too.

Armstrong wins 7th Tour de France

SI.com :

One last time, 'The Star-Spangled Banner' rang out over the Champs-Elysees in honor of Lance Armstrong. One last time, on the podium against the backdrop of the Arc de Triomphe, the cancer survivor who became the greatest cyclist in Tour de France history slipped into the leader's yellow jersey Sunday. This time, it was the winner's jersey, for an unprecedented seventh consecutive year in the world's most grueling race. He held his yellow cap over his heart as the American anthem played, and his twin 3-year-old daughters, Grace and Isabelle, wore matching yellow dresses. 'Vive le Tour! Forever,' Armstrong said.
An amazing feat, an amazing man.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The sidewalks where terror breeds

This Christian Science Monitor article is extremely informative. It discusses radical British Muslims, how they become radical and what they think of terror and jihad. Frightening.

The preacher, who calls himself Abu Osama ('Father of Osama'), is one of a new breed of British radicals thriving at the margins of London's Muslim community. Young, independent, and streetwise, they are preaching in urban slang outside the confines of Britain's mosques. They are helping teens and 20-somethings beat drugs and alcohol. And they are inspiring a new pool of impressionable young Muslims to consider killing their fellow Britons. These radical bands constitute a small fraction of London's 1 million Muslims. But their freewheeling ideology - hardened in the jihadi echo chambers of cliques like Abu Osama's - is creating a new subculture within Britain's Islamic community. So far, the growing influence of these informal, maverick groups has gone largely undetected - and unchecked.
Read the whole thing. While there are individuals like this in the U.S., they are not nearly as prevalent as in Briton. Of course we have a smaller percentage of Muslims to begin with, but more importantly we have succeeded in integrating people better than most of the European nations. Still, it doesn't take to many to cause serious problems, especially if they can link up with an organization that can provide technical expertise.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Internet Nostalgia

Reason's Edge links us to the top 10 web fads.

Sex scenes force re-rating of best-selling game


The video game industry on Wednesday changed to adults-only the rating of 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,' a best-selling title in which explicit sexual content can be unlocked with an Internet download. The decision followed intense pressure from politicians and media watch groups. Grand Theft Auto's producer, Rockstar Games, said it was now working on a new version of the game that would satisfy the original 'M' for mature rating. It said it would provide new labels to any retailer willing to continue selling the version currently on store shelves.
Anyone want to make any bets on the current version selling like hotcakes in light of this news?

Canadian Professor Calls for State Control of Religion

Canadian National Public Radio Broadcasts Call for State Control of Religion, Especially Catholicism:

Just as Senate approaches the final vote on the gay 'marriage' bill, C-38, Canada's national public radio CBC Radio has aired a commentary by a retired professor from the Royal Military College calling for state control over religion, specifically Catholicism. While parliamentarians dismissed warnings by numerous religious leaders and experts that such laws would lead to religious persecution, former professor Bob Ferguson has called for 'legislation to regulate the practice of religion.' ... Continuing his comparison Ferguson stated, "I envisage a congress meeting to hammer out a code that would form the basis of legislation to regulate the practice of religion. Like the professional engineers' P.Eng designation, there would then be RRPs (or registered religious practitioners). To carry the analogy to its conclusion, no one could be a religious practitioner without this qualification." Ferguson also suggests 'obvious' prohibitions on religion including preaching of 'hate'. "I won't try to propose what might be in the new code except for a few obvious things: A key item would have to be a ban on claims of exclusivity. It should be unethical for any RRP to claim that theirs was the one true religion and believers in anything else or nothing were doomed to fire and brimstone. One might also expect prohibition of ritual circumcisions, bans on preaching hate or violence, the regulation of faith healers, protocols for missionary work, etc.," says Ferguson.
It should be obvious that he is not actually calling for state regulation of religion, he is actually calling for imposition of his secular faith (by force if necessary.) It is quite possible that the value he is supposedly championing are laudable and that the various religious denominations would do well to adopt them. That is really beside the point however. One lesson that I believe can convincingly be drawn from history is that whenever a religious ideology is promoted by force the society it is foisted on and the ideology itself are both greatly damaged. I don't think that Canada is anywhere near enacting anything like this (although with some of their speech codes they are not all far away from this as one would wish) but it is clear that there are people who desire this end, and that religious people who fear such a thing are not entirely paranoid. I am not deeply religious, although I have a lot of respect for faith and people who hold it. Religious or not though, this sort of stifling of freedom in the name of tolerance has the potential to be truly dangerous. (via The Anchoress)

The Devil's Foyer

Michael Yon reports on some raids and the finding of a huge weapons cache in Mosul. Fascinating reporting, far more interesting that most of what we see out of Iraq. Lots of details and pictures. Mostly it is straight reporting, but there is a little bit of editorializing in it that I found comforting:

Nobody was sore that the police left us to unearth tons of dangerous munitions. To put it in perspective, just some months ago there really weren’t any Iraqi police because the insurgents were beheading them. Knowing they are still the primary targets for terrorists, seeing the police now squeezing suspected insurgents and raiding their nests, everyone was happy to see the Iraqi police scoring victories day after day, though this was by far the biggest I had seen. ... These cops had nailed the beheaders, rescued the woman, found this cache and left us to clean it up. No informed person can honestly say there is no progress in Mosul.
Read the whole thing (via Instapundit)

Three London Tube Stations Evacuated


Three London Underground stations were evacuated at midday Thursday following reports of incidents, British Transport Police said. The Fire Brigade was investigating a report of smoke at one station. Emergency services personnel were also responding to some sort of incident on a bus in the Hackney neighborhood. A London Underground spokesman said there were no reports of casualties in the incidents.
Hopefully the zero casualty figure will remain.

China revalues yuan

CNN Money:

In a move that could trim the trade gap with the United States, China revalued its currency higher against the dollar Thursday and said it would no longer have the yuan tied to a fixed rate against the U.S. currency. The move, while small at this point, could be the first step to reduce competition for some U.S. companies from lower-priced Chinese imports. A stronger yuan could also increase the revenue U.S. exporters get from sales to the world's largest country, one of the fastest growing consumer markets. It also reduces the threat that Congress could impose threatened trade sanctions on China. On the downside for American citizens, it could lead to increased prices for Chinese-made goods such as apparel and electronics.
While this will be good for American manufacturers, I am not sure that it is good for the American economy overall. Simply put, China has been buying dollars for more than they are worth, and America has been the one getting the better end of that deal. Another way of looking at this, is that a big worry has been inflation, which despite rising energy prices has not yet materialized. An increase in the price of Chinese goods, which is basically the entire stock of Wal-Mart, has the potential to tip us into an inflationary cycle.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

One Small Step

36 years ago today, one of the most significant accomplishments in history was made. Sadly, we have not lived up to the promise of that great day.

Be sure to check out this google map too.

litigating loose and torting easy

Heh (via The Llama Butchers)

Beam him up

Yahoo! News:

James Doohan, the burly chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original 'Star Trek' TV series and movies who responded to the command 'Beam me up, Scotty,' died Wednesday. He was 85. Doohan died at 5:30 a.m. at his Redmond, Wash., home with his wife of 28 years, Wende, at his side, Los Angeles agent and longtime friend Steve Stevens said. The cause of death was pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease, he said.
Scotty is probably my favorite of the original cast. James Doohan brought a sense of fun to the role that I always appreciated. He will be missed.

War of the Worlds

'E.T. blog home!':

Is there anybody out there? And if there is, what will aliens make of bloggers signed up to a new service to beam their online rantings into outer space? 'We are giving bloggers the opportunity to send a piece of their lives into space to potentially connect with extraterrestrials,' said Ted Murphy, president and CEO of the Florida-based firm MindComet. Blogosphere meet atmosphere: The free service, BloginSpace.com, will beam web feeds of blogs - weblogs, or personal internet diaries - into deep space via a powerful satellite broadcast. 'I've always believed that other intelligent life forms are out there, and now, for the first time, they will be able to peer into the life of average Homo sapiens,' Murphy said.
This seems like a really, really bad idea. One of my trademark expressions that I like to use when people I know propose unusual schemes is 'what if it works?' In this case, it is abundantly clear that the most likely result should our blogging reach aliens is:

Surprise Nomination Pick

In a move that surprised everyone, President Bush has nominated a white caucasian male to the supreme court. I have no particular knowledge or opinion of John Roberts Jr. I am sure we will here everything that could possibly be bad about him in the next few days.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

What Lawrence Summers should have said

Sex Differences in Mathematical Aptitude:

Mathematics is a man's game. A gender gap appears early in life, blossoms with the onset of puberty and reaches full bloom by mid-adolescence. It indelibly shapes women's prospects for doing significant mathematics. In this account of cognitive sex differences, Prodigy shows how sex-differentiated ability in 15 year-olds accounts for the exiguous female representation at the highest levels of mathematical research. A female Fields Medalist is predicted to surface once every 103 years.
Read the whole thing, it is fascinating. (via Derbyshire at NRO)

I don't know whether to laugh or cry...

Chrenkoff has the U.N. human rights violation alert scheme

Some people I know are going to be happy about this...


Eating dark chocolate may help lower blood pressure, boost normal responses to insulin to keep blood sugar levels down, and improve blood vessel function in patients with high blood pressure, according to new research findings. All of these effects would be expected to decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke.

A Horse is a Horse...

The Seattle Times:

King County sheriff's detectives are investigating the owners of an Enumclaw-area farm after a Seattle man died from injuries sustained while having sex with a horse boarded on the property. ... Deputies don't believe a crime occurred because bestiality is not illegal in Washington state and the horse was uninjured, said Urquhart. But because investigators found chickens, goats and sheep on the property, they are looking into whether animal cruelty — which is a crime — was committed by having sex with these smaller, weaker animals, he said. The farm was talked about in Internet chat rooms as a destination for people looking to have sex with livestock, he said. 'A significant number of people, we believe, have likely visited this farm,' said Urquhart.
Here in Washington State, it is not uncommon for us to make jokes about Montana and Sheep-lovin. It looks like we can't make those jokes anymore, as to the best of my knowledge Montana has never had a sheep brothel, at it appears that Washington has one, an much more than sheep are offered. I also had no idea that such behavior is legal here. I don't know whether bestiality should be legal or not. I find such behavior disgusting, but it is hard to come up with a moral principle that makes it ok to kill and eat an animal but not ok to copulate with one. It is still gross though. (via Environmental Republican)

Get ready for the fight


President Bush has decided whom to nominate to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court and was poised to announce his pick in a prime-time Tuesday night address.
Should be exciting

Pakistan and Terror

Investor's Business Daily:

In the wake of 9-11, hatched in Pakistan, we gave that Islamic state a pass, plus billions in aid, for a promise to dismantle its terror factories. But those factories are still active and may be behind Britain's 7-7. What's more, investigators believe they're churning out terrorists to also kill Americans in this country. It turns out that at least three of the London bombers traveled to Pakistan a year before the attacks, and two of them may have trained at a Pakistani madrassa run by al-Qaida-linked militant groups — Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad — which Islamabad was supposed to have banned years ago. The radical school is based in Lahore, Pakistan, where the bombers recently spent three months. They returned to Britain in February.
As I have mentioned before, Pakistan is a major problem, and it is very difficult to determine how to deal with that problem. I am inclined to believe that Musharraf is sincerely trying to battle Al-Qaida terrorism. For one thing, they have tried to kill him several times now. There seem to be few Pakistani's allied with him in this struggle though, and that is the real issue. It both prevents him from taking significant action, and makes it tough for us to apply more pressure. We don't necessarily want to distabilize his rule at this point. Nuclear Pakistan as an Islamist state is a nightmare scenario. Nonetheless, the London bombings highlight the fact that the status quo is not tenable. Something has to change. At this point, it may be appropriate to reassess the risks and demand more action from Musharraf.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Compare and Contrast

Us and Them (hat tip: Jawa Report for the 'us' link)

The Half Blood Prince

Yes, I am a Harry Potter fan, and while I won't be at any midnight release parties tonight my copy has been pre-ordered from Amazon for months now. There is a good chance I will have it read by Sunday.


The Papa, as we call my father, recently purchased a 1946 Willys Jeep for a ridiculously low price.

I am trying to avoid the temptation of having him bumped off.

Egyptian Biochemist Arrested

Guardian Unlimited:

An Egyptian biochemist arrested Friday in Cairo in connection with the London bombings taught at a British university after taking graduate courses in North Carolina. Magdy el-Nashar, 33, was arrested early Friday, an Egyptian government official said on condition of anonymity because an official announcement of the arrest had not been made. El-Nashar was being interrogated by Egyptian authorities, the official said. Metropolitan Police in London said a man has been arrested in Cairo, but they would not confirm his name or characterize him as a suspect in the London subway and double-decker bus bombings that killed at least 54 people. ``We're aware of an arrest in Cairo, but we are not prepared to discuss who we may or may not wish to interview in connection with this investigation (into the London bombings,'' Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
This caught my eye because of the biochemist aspect of this. Someone with that sort of training could be very, very dangerous.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hearts and Minds?

Poll Finds Drop in Muslim Support for Terrorism:

Osama bin Laden's standing has dropped significantly in some key Muslim countries, while support for suicide bombings and other acts of violence has 'declined dramatically,' according to a new survey released today. In a striking finding, predominantly Muslim populations in a sampling of six North African, Middle East and Asian countries are shared to 'a considerable degree' Western nations' concerns about Islamic extremism, the survey found. Many in those Muslim nations see it as threat to their own country, the poll found. 'Most Muslim publics are expressing less support for terrorism than in the past. Confidence in Osama bin Laden has declined markedly in some countries, and fewer believe suicide bombings that target civilians are justified in the defense of Islam,' concluded the Pew Global Attitudes Project. Compared with previous surveys, the new poll also found growing majorities or pluralities of Muslims surveyed now say democracy can work in their countries and is not just a political system for the West. Support for democracy was in the 80 percent range in Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco; in Pakistan and Turkey, where significant numbers of respondents were unsure, it rated 43 percent and 48 percent respectively.
This seems very encouraging to me. (via Tsykoduk)

Trouble in China?

Stephen Green as some interesting speculation on China posted.

TIME.com: ... Why That's Ridiculous -- Jul. 18, 2005

Charles Krauthammer makes some of the points I have been trying to make in TIME.com, and he does so far better than my meager attempts.

On 9/11, the U.S. was rudely injected into a Muslim civil war--the jihadists are intent on conquering the entire region and re-establishing an ancient caliphate--except that only the jihadist side was really fighting. By taking the fight to the Arab/ Islamic heartland, the U.S. has forced Muslims to commit. The most remarkable effect of the wars to liberate Afghanistan and Iraq is that, whereas on 9/11 we stood alone against the terrorists, today there are two large and energized Muslim populations--with legitimate governments building armed forces--engaged in the same struggle against jihadism as we are. It is those allies who are critical in ultimately winning the war on terrorism. The terrorists may have recruited their new Atta, now splattered on the walls of the Baghdad mosque he has suicide-bombed. We have recruited tens of millions of Afghan and Iraqi Muslims--with Lebanese and others to follow--opposing that Atta as they attempt to build decent, moderate, tolerant societies. I'll take our recruits.
Read the whole thing. (via Powerline)

Anger At Government Grows In Bombings' Wake


Signifigant captures in Iraq


U.S.-led coalition forces have captured two alleged leaders of the insurgent group al Qaeda in Iraq, including a man suspected in the death of an Egyptian envoy, an American military spokesman said Thursday. Troops caught Khamis Farhan Khalaf abd al Fahdawi, also known as Abu Seba, on Saturday in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, after intelligence led them there. Abu Seba reportedly is a senior lieutenant for Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and is suspected in this month's attacks on Bahraini and Pakistani diplomats and the killing of Ihab al-Sherif, who came to Iraq to be Egypt's ambassador.
Hopefully, we are not far from capturing Zarqawi either. It seems to me that popular opinion in Iraq has signifgantly shifted against the terrorists or resistance if you prefer that term (in my world, a resistance doesn't blow up kids.) This will have two likely effects. First off, without public support Zarqawi's forces face constantly greater operational challenges. With sufficient money they can probably overcome some of this disadvantage and remain a dangerous threat but it will be consistantly harder, and more expensive to mount operations. At some point it seems likely that their logistical capabilities will be overwhelmed and they will effectively collapse. The second effect, is that a major Arab nation is in the process of rejecting the Jihadist mindset. While certainly other nations, Egypt for example, have confronted and defeated Islamist radicals before, in the past this has always been a battle with the official authorities on one side and the jihadists on the other and the people largely being neutral observers, perhaps with a preference for one side or the other, but not integral to the confrontation. In Iraq, as we see all too often, the people are on the front lines of the battle. For the first time they also stand to benefit by winning this battle, as they are fighting for their own freedom, the right to determine the course of their nation by votes, not violence. For the first time in this conflict, civilians in the Arab world are being forced to choose for themselves what they value, and to evaluate the nature of the Jihadists. They are taking responsibility for themselves and, as bin Laden and Zarqawi both know, this change is absolute poison to the Islamist goals.

There's a lot we don't know yet about the CIA flap

This is a good article about everything that we don't know about the Plame situation. I haven't commented on this previously, because there is a lot that we don't know, and without knowing that speculation is useless. I do think that Democrats are making fools of themselves by going after Rove at this point. There is certainly not enough evidence out there yet to claim he did anything at all wrong, and even less to claim that he commited a crime. Wilson isn't really someone they want to spend too much energy defending either. I certainly will admit that Rove and the White House were interested in discrediting Wilson's point of view. Ironically of course, it wasn't their words about Plame that ended up doing that, but the Senate Intelligence Committee. It is possible that there will be new information that will show that Rove or someone else did commit a crime. If so, they should be punished. If it can be shown that someone technically avoided breaking laws, but knowingly destroyed Plame's cover they should lose their jobs. We don't know that yet, and until we do, we shouldn't rush to judgment on this.

Some Democrats get it

Ed Koch:

The various terrorist organizations are overwhelmingly Muslim. I believe they are supported by millions of Muslims around the world who are bent on destroying both Western civilization and those Muslims, Christians and Jews who believe in the Western values of democracy and tolerance. Of course, not every Muslim is a fanatic or terrorist, as pointed out by Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, the general manager of the Al Arabiya television station, who said, “It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.” They are responsible for near daily suicide bombings in Iraq that have deliberately murdered Iraqi police, military personnel and thousands of innocent civilians -- men, women and children. We are truly in a war of civilizations. While the Muslim fanatics do not have us on the run, they have won some major victories. I count among those victories the submission of France and Germany to the demands of Islamic fanatics, and their refusal to stand with us in Iraq, despite the fact that we are now there pursuant to a U.N. Security Council resolution and at the request of the recently-elected Iraqi government. Italy, which originally stood with us, has announced it will leave Iraq by the end of the year. Prime Minister Berlusconi is running for reelection and is worried that the Italian electorate will throw him out of office as did Spanish voters to their pro-Iraq war prime minister and his governing party after the Madrid railroad bombings. The newly-elected Socialist government in Spain withdrew its troops. Poland has already withdrawn its troops.
I wish I knew a sure fire silver bullet that would end Islamism. My bet is that the answer is accountable, democratic governments in the Middle East, but that is admittedly just a guess at this point. Others have called on Muslim clerics to police their own religion and remove the filth that is corrupting it. While this path might well work, it seems that for the most part the clerics either cannot, or will not take this step. Most of the victim of Islamist terror are muslims, this is a war within the Islamic world even more than it is a war waged by the Islamic world against the West. Perhaps the greatest tradgedy so far is that their is not leader within the entire Islamic world that is championing the cause of life and freedom. I believe that these various factors are connected. A Democratic middle east will free the clerics to oppose terror and revitalize their religion. A Democratic middle east will produce leaders, not just rulers in the Arab world.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Why Johnny can't read

NEA: 2005 Annual Meeting, RA Action Online, New Business Items. Read the list. A good portion of them having nothing to do with schools, teachers or teaching. Regardless of whether these things are good or not, it does not seem appropriate for the NEA to be spending it's time on these issues. Although if the NEA would focus a bit more on teaching, instead of furthering the progressive cause, we wouldn't need to big social programs they seem to love so much. (via Decision '08)

Chief Justice Rehnquist hospitalized


Chief Justice William Rehnquist was taken to a hospital for observation and tests overnight after complaining of a fever, a U.S. Supreme Court spokeswoman said Wednesday. An ambulance took Rehnquist to Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington on Tuesday night, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said. Arberg gave no indication when the 80-year-old justice, who has been battling thyroid cancer, would be released.
Not to be ghoulish about this, but this seems to increase the likelihood of a second Supreme Court nomination battle this summer. I hope Rehnquist recovers, but certainly his time on the Court cannot last much longer.

Hopeful Signs

Publius Pundit on protests in Iran (via Instapundit)


Must read!

Suicide bomb kills Iraqi children as soldiers give them sweets

Times Online:

A suicide bomber drove his car alongside American soldiers handing out sweets to children in Baghdad this morning and detonated the vehicle, killing as many as 24 people, most of them children. The US military said one soldier had died and at least seven Iraqi childen had been killed in the explosion. Iraqi officials put the death toll at 24. Three soldiers and 18 other passers-by were wounded in the attack. A US military statement said that bomber approached the troops in a neighbourhood in the east of the city when the vehicle, laden with explosives, drove up to a Humvee armoured personnel carrier before detonating. 'Many Iraqi civilians, mostly children, were around the Humvee at the time of the blast,' said the statement, which added that the explosion set a nearby building on fire.
You have probably seen this already, but it had to be posted. What sort of monster would do this. Sadly though, we cannot be surprised as this, we have seen it before and we will see it again.

Blair shocked 'bombers' were British


Prime Minister Tony Blair has expressed his shock that the four men believed to have carried out last week's deadly terrorist attacks on London's transit system were British nationals. But speaking to parliament on Wednesday, Blair also urged Britons to react calmly to the bombings that killed at least 52 people, and he condemned attacks against Muslims. 'Particularly with the shock of knowing that those that have perpetrated this were actually born and brought up in this country, I think it is particularly important we recognize the worldwide dimension of this,' Blair said.
I hope that this is a rhetorical expression and the fact that the bombers were British citizens did not actually shock Tony Blair. I would hate to think that he is that clueless about the Islamists in Britain and the failure of Britain to assimilate young Muslims. Britain has been the command and control for Jihad in Europe for some time, although it was previously not targetted itself. I certainly knew this, and my initial thoughts on the London Bombing was that it was probably British citizens who did it. I would hope that Tony Blair has at least that much knowledge. As an aside, the title of this post is the headline of the CNN article. What is up with the scare quotes?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Armstrong captures yellow jersey again


Lance Armstrong took a decisive step Tuesday toward a seventh consecutive Tour de France title, blowing away his main rivals in the first Alpine stage to regain the overall lead. Armstrong did the damage on the punishing 13.8-mile climb to the ski station of Courchevel, eating up the ascent with ease while Jan Ullrich and other challengers grimaced in pain behind.
Armstrong is an incredible athlete. Good luck to him!

Suicide bomb breaks five-month truce in Israel

FT.com :

A bomb killed at least three people and wounded 30 at a shopping centre in the Israeli coastal town of Netanya yesterday, the first suicide attack since militant groups agreed in February to abide by a period of calm. Islamic Jihad, which was a party to the truce, claimed responsibility for the blast in a call to Reuters news agency. The attack came just over a month before the start of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and amid efforts by the Palestinian Authority to ensure that calm prevails during the withdrawal. Eyewitnesses said the bomber had tried to enter the shopping centre but detonated the bomb at the entrance. Islamic Jihad, which Israeli officials allege is being sponsored by Iran to carry out attacks, was responsible for an upsurge in violence in the Gaza Strip last month. However, Tuesday's bombing was the first suicide attack in Israel since a nightclub bombing in Tel Aviv on February.
It is worth remembering that Israel has been battling terror longer and harder than other Western nations. I think there are some signifigant differences between Palestinian and Al-Qaida terrorism, however there are many similarities and connections as well. Lets be clear on one thing. This bombing was not about 'justice' or the cause of the Palestinian people, it was about controlling and dominating the Palestinians. It is a naked attempt to wrest power, on the bones of Israelis and there is nothing romantic or glorius about it.

Kenyan children killed in ambush


As many as 100 people, mainly children and women, may have died in an early morning armed raid in north-east Kenya, according to eyewitnesses. Police confirm 19 deaths, with locals describing bodies in the streets after an ambush on children going to school. The attack in the village of Turbi - populated mainly by the Gabra community - is blamed on the rival Borana crossing the border from Ethiopia.
This sort of news makes one want to give up on the entire continent. That is not the answer of course, but it is sometimes hard to see a solution. So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate? Ride out with me. Ride out to meet them. (via Daily Pundit)

Officer Down

Gib has a good post up about a police officer injured at an anti-G8 protest in San Francisco.

10 year anniversary of Srebrenica Massacre


During the war in Bosnia, from 1992 to 1995, the United Nations declared Srebrenica the world's first civilian "safe area," stripped its soldiers of their artillery and armored vehicles, and promised to protect the enclave. But in July 1995, Bosnian Serb forces overwhelmed 370 lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers here, seized control of the enclave, and killed virtually every man and boy they captured.
I am not proud of my attitude during the Bosnia war. I viewed it as a European problem and something that we did not need to get involved in. Further, I viewed American military action as a 'wag the dog' tactic designed to divert attention away from domestic political issues. I was wrong. That attitude, was a big part of what allowed the Srebrenica massacre, and others, to happen.

Mirror.co.uk - News - WE CANNOT SURRENDER

Christopher Hitchens, when he is on, he is on:

We know very well what the "grievances" of the jihadists are. The grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won't abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor's liberation from Indonesian rule. All of these have been proclaimed as a licence to kill infidels or apostates, or anyone who just gets in the way.
Read the whole thing. Update: Speaking of Hitch, you can see him verbally pummel Ron Reagan here.

Roots of Terrorism

I Was Wrong About The Roots of Terrorism--or--How I Came To Understand the Reasoning of Bob Herbert (via Instapundit)

A Way Forward on Stem Cells

I am no fan of Leon Kass, but he does have an interesting Washington Post op-ed today:

By fusing an adult cell with an existing embryonic stem cell, scientists have reported progress toward producing cells that are genetically identical to the adult cell but that retain stem cell properties. An Australian group has succeeded in doing this in mice. A Harvard group, working with human cells, has produced hybrid cells with many stem cell properties. And Yuri Verlinsky's team at the Reproductive Genetics Institute in Chicago, working with human cells, claims to have succeeded altogether; he has submitted a patent application that tells us how he did it. The merits of this approach are great. You would get stem cells of every available genotype, permitting studies of the molecular basis of genetic diseases. Way down the road, you might get individualized cell-based therapies -- all the advantages of cloning-for-research but without the need for eggs and without creating embryos. And this research is eligible for federal funding under President Bush's existing policy. These fusion experiments could be carried out using any of the 22 human stem cell lines that are eligible for federal funding under the Bush policy and that are today available from the National Institutes of Health.
While I find no moral reason not to use excess embryos from invitro fertizilation as a source for stem cells, I do understand those who disagree with this point of view. Certainly it is approaching at the very least a moral gray area. Beyond that though, Kass is certainly correct in that a method to transform adult cells into pluripotency is superior to embryonic stem cells. We certainly live in interesting times.

"Our way of life"

Honest Partisan explains why he takes the London bombings personnally.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Afghans sheltered SEAL from Taliban


Afghan villagers sheltered a U.S. Navy SEAL wounded in a battle last month with the Taliban until they could get word to American forces to rescue him, a military official said Monday. The SEAL was part of a four-man reconnaissance team that went missing June 28 after calling for help during a firefight in the mountains near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. ... An Afghan villager found the SEAL and hid him in his village, the official said. According to military accounts, Taliban fighters came to the village and demanded the American be turned over, but villagers refused. The SEAL wrote a note verifying his identity and location, and a villager carried it to U.S. forces, the official said. The note indicated to U.S. troops that they wouldn't be entering into a trap. The commando was rescued July 3.
Apparently, we are not totally failing in the battle for hearts and minds in Afghanstan and the Muslim world. These villagers were very brave, and doubtless risked their lives both for this particular SEAL, and in a larger sense, for a free Afghanistan. I honor their courage.

The Mother of All Connections

Stephen F. Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn report in The Weekly Standard on what we now know about connections between Saddam and Al-Qaeda:

'In August 1998, the detainee traveled to Pakistan with a member of Iraqi Intelligence for the purpose of blowing up the Pakistan, United States and British embassies with chemical mortars.' U.S. government 'Summary of Evidence' for an Iraqi member of al Qaeda detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Very interesting stuff.

TCS: Tech Central Station - Terrorism Lessons From 1870

Arnold Kling expands upon Lee Harris's concept of terrorism as a blood feud. TCS - Terrorism Lessons From 1870, the entire analogy he presents between American Indians and modern Muslim society is interesting. He conclusion is especially thought provoking though.:

Perhaps Muslim society cannot address radical terrorism with its existing institutional base. If so, then it will take time for new organizations to emerge within the Muslim world that are capable of effectively promulgating and enforcing prohibitions against terrorism. I am not trying to absolve moderate Muslims, and moderate Muslim leaders, of responsibility for helping to end the barbaric gestures of terrorism. I agree with Friedman that in the end the only humane way to end the war between the West and radical Islam is for moderate Muslims to exercise better leadership. However, the approach that I would favor with moderate Muslims is high expectations rather than ultimatums. We should not be tolerant or passive in response to terrorism. We should continue to pursue, incarcerate, and kill terrorists -- without apologies or mindless insinuations. As to the Muslims who are not active terrorists, we should be particularly hard on those who voice moderation in Western-style press conferences but who preach hatred when they think that no one from the West is watching. However, we should not rush to declare that the moderates' cause is hopeless. Their task may be more difficult than we can appreciate. If we are to avoid turning our clash with radical Muslims into a re-run of 1870, we will need patience.
That has been a difficult question the entire time. How much can, and should, we demand of moderate Muslims. We do not wish to let them off easy, or undermine them by lowering our expectations too much, yet we also must acknowledge that being a moderate Muslim, forging a new identity for an entire people out of a tribal society that is capable of interacting with the modern world, is a very, very difficult task. It will take time. And time is not something we have a huge luxery of. I believe that eventually terrorists will succeed and aquiring and using weapons of mass destruction unless the source of terrorism is destroyed first. When that happens, it seems unlikely to me that the civilized world will be willing to be patient any longer and wait for moderating influences to reform the Arab world from within.


(via Tsykoduk)

Live another day



I saw the Fantastic Four over the weekend and I very much enjoyed it. If you insist on your super hero movies being dark and angsty, don't bother seeing this one, but if you like fun, heroic, mouthy heroes, this is a very enjoyable movie. There isn't anything deep about it (although Ben Grimm coming to terms with being the Thing was well done) and the climatic end battle against Dr. Doom wasn't the best ever and seemed sorta just tacked onto the end of the movie. Despite that though, the interaction between the main characters and the pure fun of the movie made it more that worthwhile.


The Globe and Mail:

For the first time in modern history, a Central Asian country has chosen new leadership with ballot boxes instead of civil war or Soviet intrigue. The circumstances were less than ideal for voters in Kyrgyzstan who cast ballots in their presidential election yesterday. They faced oppressive heat, a flawed voters list and rumours about impending violence. Voters also didn't have much hope of influencing the outcome. Six candidates ran for the leadership of this tiny country at the mountainous heart of Asia, but the result was predetermined by a deal in which a popular candidate, Felix Kulov, dropped out of the race to support the front-runner, Kurmanbek Bakiyev. After all the ballots had been counted, Mr. Bakiyev had secured 88.9 per cent of the popular vote, the election commission said yesterday. It also confirmed that the requirement for at least 50-per-cent voter turnout was satisfied. Despite the flaws, politicians and observers in Kyrgyzstan say it's a historic moment. No violence was reported, and no reports of widespread fraud had surfaced.
It is a process, not an event, and obviously this was not a perfect election. None of that matters though. This event is hugely important, and the effects of this election will likely resonate throughout the region.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Blair lauds G8 doubling of aid to Africa


British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced 'very substantial progress' in addressing African poverty at the G8 summit on Friday, but acknowledged only limited advancement on the other top issue on the agenda, global climate change. Blair praised the leaders of the major industrial nations for their commitment to double African aid to $50 billion by 2010. But he acknowledged that 'some of us would like to have gone further' and set a date to end export subsidies, a key factor in the debt overwhelming many African economies. Blair said that in politics 'you don't achieve everything you want to achieve,' but that the aid increase was 'a huge advance on anything that's been there before.' He also announced a pledge of $3 billion to the Palestinian Authority. 'Despite obviously being overshadowed by the terrorism that occurred yesterday in London, I think and hope we did demonstrate that there is a better and more hopeful way of doing politics in the future,' he said of the summit.
Obviously, I am no fan of aid, as I am convinced it does more harm than good. Leaving that aside for a moment, it is truly remarkable that the day after a serious terrorist attack on his nation, Blair is working to give money away, including money to the Palestinian Authority. This may or may not be wise, but there is a certain nobility to it. We all know that it is likely terrorists will attack London again sometime. Doubtless, once again they will justify this in part because of Palestine and claim that Great Britian is a 'Zionist Crusader' (how can you be both anyway?). They will do this no matter how much help or support is given to Palestine. Blair knows this. Most Brits probably know this. And the money is going to Palestine anyway, because they think it is the right thing to do (I am less sure, but the impulse is certainly noble). When it is all said and done, what can the Jihadists offer that is the equal of this spirit?

Political talk isn't cheap, according to ruling

via Of the Mind this article is extremely disturbing:

Talk-radio hosts regularly discuss candidates and ballot issues, often with a particular point of view in favor of one or opposed to another. Do those comments constitute a financial contribution to a campaign? Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham thinks they do. In a ruling issued Friday, Wickham said the comments and activities by KVI-AM (570) hosts Kirby Wilbur and John Carlson on behalf of the Initiative 912 campaign are in-kind contributions that must be reported to the Public Disclosure Commission.
Campaign finance reform is, and always will be, fundamentally opposed to the principles of free speech. You cannot have both, you must pick one or the other. Politicians would of course prefer to get rid of that nasty, and unpredictable free speech and make sure that only the approved messages go to the people. There is bi-partisan support on that.

War in Pieces: The Blood Feud

Lee Harris, who wrote the fantasy ideology article I linked to in the post below, has an interesting TCS Article looking at tactics, rather than motivations this time:

Immediately after 9/11, the general consensus was that we were at war. And yet this evocation of the concept of war bothered me because it did not quite fit. Wars were things that Westerners did. They were fought for economic reasons or for territorial expansion; they were instruments of policy; they had a point and an objective. You knew when a war started, and you knew when it was over. On both sides of a war you had diplomacy -- the breakdown in diplomacy normally started wars, and a recommencement of diplomacy inevitably signaled their termination. Finally, wars, when they were fought, tended to resolve into a series of increasingly climactic battles, allowing each side to keep score of its position, as in a game of chess, and ending in some well-established gesture, like waving the white flag or slaughtering your enemies en masse. If you try to make the random and scattered terrorist attacks since 9/11 fit into this pattern, you will soon realize that it takes a good bit of twisting and squeezing to make these events match the profile of Western warfare. Indeed, when I wrote 'Al Qaeda's Fantasy Ideology,' I argued that war was not the appropriate model to employ in order to gain an understanding of the enemy that we faced -- and yet at the time I was still unclear what model of conflict would make more sense. After the London bombing, I feel more than ever that the war model is deeply flawed, and that a truer picture of the present conflict may be gained by studying another, culturally distinct form of violent conflict, namely the blood feud.
The parallels are interesting, and troubling. If Al-Qaida terrorism is like a blood feud, it is a new version of that old tactic that has gone beyond the traditional family and clan nature of a blood feud to embrace elements throughout the Islamic world. A globalized blood fued if you will. Another thing that makes it different from a more traditional blood feud is the hidden nature of the participants. The Hatfields didn't hide in the general populace of West Virginians, they were a known and identifiable group. Al Qaida operates very differently, taking credit for attacks, but hiding as best they can who their members are. I will have to think if this paradigm is useful in developing specific ways to combat terrorism. First thoughts are that we pretty much have to kill those who have joined this 'clan' and make the clan less attractive to those who haven't joined. Hardly earth shaking, and pretty much what we are attempting to do anyway.

And this is why they did it

Amir Taheri explains in why they did it:

Moments after yesterday’s attacks my telephone was buzzing with requests for interviews with one recurring question: but what do they want? That reminded me of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch film-maker, who was shot by an Islamist assassin on his way to work in Amsterdam last November. According to witnesses, Van Gogh begged for mercy and tried to reason with his assailant. “Surely we can discuss this,” he kept saying as the shots kept coming. “Let us talk it over.” Van Gogh, who had angered Islamists with his documentary about the mistreatment of women in Islam, was reacting like BBC reporters did yesterday, assuming that the man who was killing him may have some reasonable demands which could be discussed in a calm, democratic atmosphere. But sorry, old chaps, you are dealing with an enemy that does not want anything specific, and cannot be talked back into reason through anger management or round-table discussions. Or, rather, this enemy does want something specific: to take full control of your lives, dictate every single move you make round the clock and, if you dare resist, he will feel it his divine duty to kill you.
Read the rest as well. One of the great challenges in dealing with terror, or any political action for that matter, is discerning between reasons and excuses. I am of the opinion that the vast majority of Al-Qaida terrorists do not have any sort of rational plan for victory but are instead motivated by a fantasy ideology in which the rest of us are just props. Unfortunately, this makes them more, not less dangerous.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I agree

Gib and Bull Moose suggest displaying the Union Jack today.
It is important however that those engaged in terrorism realise that our determination to defend our values and our way of life is greater than their determination to cause death and destruction to innocent people in a desire to impose extremism on the world. Whatever they do, it is our determination that they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear in this country and in other civilised nations throughout the world.
Tony Blair

For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!

SPIEGEL Interview with African Economics Expert:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa... Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop. SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty. Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor. SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox? Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.
Read the whole thing, fascinating. (via Vodkapundit)

Terror in London


Four explosions in London's transport system have killed at least two people and wounded dozens more in what UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said was an apparent terrorist attack. A previously unknown group, calling itself the Group of al-Qaeda of Jihad Organization in Europe laid claim to the blasts, posting a statement on an Islamist web site a few hours after the explosions. The claim could not be independently verified. More fatalities were sure to follow -- emergency services personnel told CNN that a rescue operation at Kings Cross station had successfully evacuated all survivors, leaving dead below ground "in the double digits."
My sympathy to those who are victims of this attack.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Peak Oil and the War on Terror

There has been quite a bit of talk on the left side of the blogosphere about high oil prices and Hubbard's peak. For those of you who don't know, Hubbard's Peak is when we achieve maximum oil production and begin a long decline, coupled with highly rising prices. This either is, or soon will be a serious problem, although I believe it will not prove to be an insurmountable one. It is an interesting questions though as to when this will occur. We can only make a very rough guess because we lack a key piece of data; how much oil is in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi's have been claiming that they can bring a lot more production on line quickly if need be. There are those who doubt those claims though, and say that Saudi Production is already at, or at least near, maximum capacity. Only the Saudi's know for sure, and they sure aren't telling anyone. This Newsweek Article inspired some interesting thoughts though. It seems that the current high oil prices may be fueling so real reforms in Arab governments and economies, especially in Saudi Arabia itself. If this article is accurate, the perception that we are near Hubbard's peak, whether true or not, may have some very beneficial effects on the war on Terror. First off of course is the direct effect on Saudi Arabia. I have written before that Saudi Arabia is embroiled in a quasi civil war. Prince Abdullah, the guy we would really prefer to see win this battle, needs time, and especially money to institute reforms. Unemployment is quite high in Saudi Arabia (and most of the Arab world) and a demographic bubble of the young adults is adding further stress to the system. A big infusion of oil cash, which Saudi Arabia is certainly receiving, can help mitigate those pressures, allowing for orderly reform rather than civil war. A taliban style Saudi Arabia is a real possibility if things go badly there, and that is certainly something that we desire to avoid. A similar dynamic, although not a severe, exists for the smaller Gulf states as well. additionally of course, high oil prices have the potential to greatly benefit Iraq. With the insurgency there it is unlikely Iraq will be able to greatly increase it's Oil Production quickly, but high oil prices means that nation gets a lot more capital for what it does produce. This capital will hopefully be able to fuel economic expansion, which will do a lot to quell the domestic insurgency. We could also consider the likely effect of high oil prices on some of the other Oil producing states, such as Iran. While certainly the increased money will help the Iranian governments coffers, it seems unlikely that a country with a command style economy will be able to effectively invest that money into wealth producing industries. This means that the increased money will have little effect on the lives of ordinary Iranians. While increased social programs may help to keep the people happy, this will be a difficult balancing act. And, should the Saudi's indeed be able to increase production, a significant increase in Iranian social programs, followed by a reduction in the price of oil and the need to cut those programs could be the end of the mullacracy. You can sometimes buy off the mob, but if you do you can never stop. Although not an Arab nation, Venezuela is in a similar to Iran in this way. Of course expensive oil is not an all good from a geo-political point of view. It will create more money for rich Arabs, who will doubtless continue to contribute to terrorist organizations. Also, Oil has certainly been the enemy of economic reform in the past, and while we can hope for a different outcome this time, there is certainly no guarantee. Even more significant perhaps is the expensive oil will greatly hurt Europe in it's attempts to find it's way out of it's economic morass. A vibrant European economy would be far more able to address it's internal issues with Muslim immigrants and their descendants. A stagnate, weak economy is likely to increase European nativism and help to radicalize young European Muslims.