Against Idolatry

The following essay on political idolatry was forwarded to me by my good friend Gila. Rabbi David Zaslow is with the Jewish Renewal movement in Oregon. Thanks, Gila, for passing this on.
As we approach the weekend when we study the golden calf we learn the calf represented an old paradigm consciousness that our ancestors were not willing to let go of: old ways of solving problems, old images of what the solution looks like. In every generation Torah implores us to have faith, to recognize that Hashem is sovereign of our partisanship, and that the unfolding of history is truly G-d's hands...as long as we do our part by staying connected to the mitzvot. The first step in doing our part is to fulfill the negative mitzvah of "not making a golden calf."

Look at the amazing ways the Holy One is working in our world. Torah invites us to see the cup as half full, and to strengthen our optimism. Yes, there is much to be done, and much will frighten us along the way, but the signs are clear.

- The Ukraine, of all places, had a nonviolent demonstration for democracy that became a model for the whole world;

- Afghanistan has a terrific leader elected in the first ever democratic election in an Arab nation;

- The Palestinians had a free election, and are beginning to experience the power of real internal debates and self-criticism for the first time in their history;

- The Saudis had a less-than-ideal election (it excluded women) but it was possibly another step in their reform process toward democracy;

- A pro-democractic revolution (or at least reform) might erupt in Lebanon as it stands up against the Syrian occupation;

- Egypt and Pakistan are discussing further internal reforms;

- The conflict between Pakistan and India is calming down;

- And the greatest inspiration of all came in the recent elections in Iraq.

Arik Sharon is riding a wave - not just President's Bush's push toward spreading democracy in the world - but a wave some of us sense as being inspired from Hashem. Let us not make a calf of our own preconceptions, but, rather, let us be open to be startled by new realities the Holy One presents to us. No one could have imagined in 1945 that the two most evil governments of their time (Germany and Japan) would be our best friends so quickly after the end of WWII; no one would have imagined after 1967 that Sadat z"l and Begin z"l could come together as they did; no one would have bet that Nelson Mandella would leave prison to lead his multi-racial nation. Miracles happen and one is happening before our eyes right now. Just as the fall of the Soviet empire surprised us in its speed, an even greater miracle is happening now - the bells of feminism, pluralism, freedom, and democracy are beginning to ring in the middle east. For sure, we need to pray for our leaders, but we also need to guard against building a golden calf of cynicism, sarcasm, and bitterness that prevents us from praying for the leaders we disagree with.

Shabbat shalom, Reb David Zaslow

Ashland, Oregon


Link: Rabbi David Zaslow

** Also, please take a few moments to read this very fine article by Reb David Zaslow:
The Two Wars in Iraq


Music Notes

The fabulously gifted acoustic artist Juliet Wyers has got a bunch of gigs planned for this spring and summer throughtout the Northwest. If you're in this neck of the woods, check out her calendar. (I previously mentioned Juliet in this post.)

Morning Report: February 28, 2005

Terrorist bombs kill over 100 in Baghdad. ' A suicide car bomber Monday morning drove into a crowd of Iraqis outside a government medical office in Hilla, killing at least 125 and wounding up to 200 others, Iraqi government and health officials said. Iraqi police recruits were lining up outside the building to be given physicals, officials said.' CNN reports that 'A second car bomb exploded about 15 miles to the north in Musayyib. Iraq's Interior Ministry said it had reports of wounded but no other details.' Ongoing updates are available at The Command Post. (CNN, TCP)

Massive protests in Lebanon. "It is a mild-mannered standoff," asserts CNN's Brent Sadler, referring to the anti-Syrian protests in Lebanon. Publius (via Instapundit) has a round-up. 'According to Lebanonwire, 10,000 people have poured into Martyr’s Square between late Sunday night and 5:00 this morning, despite a ban on protests. ... There air in Lebanon is tense. There are predictions of bloodshed.' (CNN, Publius)


Code Lavender

Hatin Surucu was shot dead at a bus stop in Berlin, Germany, on February 7. The 23-year-old Turkish woman was mourned by the lesbian and gay community, but not by her family. Deutsche Welle reports:
To the people who came to this bleak part of Berlin's Tempelhof district for Tuesday's solemn vigil -- called not by the city's Muslim community but a gay and lesbian organization -- the image of the young woman in a headscarf, a baby in her arms, was familiar from newspapers and television. A few notes at the memorial read, "Hope you get a better deal in your next life," and "Live a life on your own terms."

"It's a scandal," said Ali K, 33. "All Muslims in Berlin should take to the streets to protest." Yasemin, 22, said, "It's horrific. All Hatin was doing was leading her life the way she wanted."

But it was a choice she paid for with her life. On Feb. 7, 23-year-old Hatin Sürücü was gunned down at the aforementioned bus stop. She died on the spot. Shortly afterwards, three of her brothers -- who reportedly had long been threatening her -- were arrested. Investigators suspect it was a so-called "honor killing," given the fact that Sürücü's ultra-conservative Turkish-Kurdish family strongly disapproved of her modern and "un-Islamic" life.

Sürücü grew up in Berlin and was married off at 16 to a cousin in Istanbul. ...

It's not surprising that the ruthlessly homophobic aspects of the Middle East should spill over, unopposed, into areas of the West that have bought into a perverse notion of "tolerance".

Nor is it surprising that Western leftists, having long made common cause with the most profoundly fascist Mideastern regimes, should abandon their pretense of concern for queer people at the first opportunity. I've posted on leftist homophobia before; back then, it was an "anti-war" rally where lesbian and gay liberals were harrassed by islamists. Now, Gay Patriot blogs about homophobia on the left - take a good look at the vile "cartoon" on that post. And, no surprise at all, he finds his trolls resorting to gratuitous Gannon references.

Joshua Gibson at Fagistan is starting to connect the dots about homophobia and gannongate, too:
You know what, liberals? You are ruining a perfectly good sex scandal for me. I'd be perfectly happy to wallow in the hilarity of a conservative reporter revealed to be a hot prosty. I would laugh and make Marine sex jokes for weeks, giggling to myself quietly on the street as I soaked in the majesty of such an event. I'd even, you know, jack off thinking about having hot for-hire-sex with Mr. Gannon.

But no. You won't let me. You liberals are so intent on using homophobia to destroy the President that you can't just sit back and enjoy the ride. ...

And he, too, finds he's not very surprised when the gay-bashing turns from Gannon to Gibson:
I said, initially, that progressives should be ashamed to have supported Dean. I take it back.

Dean should be ashamed of having their support.

Read the whole post.

Patti Niehoff at White Pebble links a very good article by Daniel Pipes (which appears immediately adjacent to her post on Fagistan). Patti explains, "I never so much changed my views away from liberalism — it’s that liberalism itself moved." Daniel Pipes, while discussing anti-Semitism on the Left, identifies four significant ways anti-Semitism has shifted since World War II. The first shift, he says, is:
From right to left: For centuries, anti-Semitism was the hallmark of the right and merely episodic on the left. To take the ultimate examples of these trends, Stalin's Judeophobia was peripheral to his monstrous project, but Hitler's was central to his. Even a decade ago, this pattern still basically held true. But recent years have witnessed a rapid and global realignment, with the mainstream right increasingly sympathetic to Jews and Israel and its leftist counterparts cooler and more hostile.

What is true of anti-Semitism also holds for homophobia: gays are finding increasing acceptance in conservative circles, while the radical left, now truly "rebels without a cause", are turning against a group they once regarded as a "client minority".

Judith Weiss at Kesher Talk (the unofficial headquarters of "Jewish Liberals for Bush") is responsible for posting - but not for writing - the anonymously authored classic A Jewish Liberal New Yorker Votes for Bush. Judith is a prolific blogger and has so many great posts and links that it's hard to keep track of them all; but here I'll link her latest revelations about anti-Semitism on the campus, and her recent anti-Semitism watch. What Judith understands is that, exactly as Pipes has argued, anti-Semitism has largely migrated "from right to left". "It's not 1940 anymore", she writes in this analysis of Jewish liberalism. "The global initiatives of that legacy, as well as the will to justify and defend that legacy, have been picked up by the neo-conservative movement and is now being carried forward by the other party. Change comes hard to any minority group which has so wholeheartedly identified its salvation with a certain ideology. (Blacks have this problem too, and are shifting their alliegances just as gradually.)"

We cannot count on the liberal establishment - and most certainly not the far-left - to stand firm against racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and homophobia; indeed, these evils are increasingly showing themselves on the "left" side of the political landscape. What matters is a firm commitment to small-L liberal values: the same values our Nation was, however imperfectly, built on. This is our only true defense against fascism.

What does Pervez Musharraf know?

What does the President of Pakistan know that the world does not yet know? Find out at this post on Regime Change Iran.

Axis of Estrogen

Women on the Dreams Into Lightning blogroll.

Jane Novak: Armies of Liberation
Nadz Online
Helen: CaribPundit
Judith Weiss et al.: Kesher Talk
I Am Dr. Laura's Worst Nightmare
Sherri Reese: Straight Up with Sherri
Razor Sharp Claws
Patti Niehoff: White Pebble
Stefania: Free Thoughts
Kat: The Middle Ground
Michelle Malkin
A Small Victory
Greatest Jeneration
Auntie Cracker
LaShawn Barber
Emily: Strangechord
Pat in NC: Pawigoview
KitKat: Increasing the Circle of Impact
Little Miss Attila
Imshin: Not a Fish (Provincially Speaking)
Allison Kaplan Sommer: An Unsealed Room
Virginia Postrel: Dynamist
Fayrouz Hancock: Live from Dallas
Q80Girl: So I Want to Be an Astronaut
Irshad Manji: Muslim Refusenik
Sissy Willis: Sisu
Meryl Yourish
Ann Althouse
Beth Mauldin: Beth's Contradictory Brain
Atypical Asian Syndrome
Stephanie McLintock: Wilderness Vision (posthumous)

N. Scott Momaday

N. Scott Momaday was born on February 27, 1934 (a birth date he shares with Ralph Nader) in Oklahoma. One of America's foremost poets, he's best known for The Way to Rainy Mountain, which is probably my single favorite long poetical work. The family name (adopted in his father's day) was originally Mamedaty, as NSM records in his memoir The Names:
At four o'clock in the morning of February 27, 1934, in the Kiowa and Comanche Indian Hospital at Lawton, Oklahoma, near the old stone corral at Fort Sill, where my ancestors were imprisoned in 1873 for having fled to the last buffalo range in the Staked Plains, I was delivered into the world by an elderly Indian Service doctor who entered my name on the Standard Certificate of Birth as Novarro Scotte Mammedaty ("Momaday" having first been entered, then crossed out).

Momaday quotes the wording of his birth certificate, which duly observes that he is "of 7/8 degree Indian blood", and which cites the 1924 Act by which the US Congress generously extended American citizenship to the descendents of the country's early inhabitants.

Momaday is interviewed in the current issue of The Seattle Review. The interview was conducted in 2003, at the poet's family home in New Mexico. Momaday recalls that he wanted to be a writer from childhood: "I said, 'Mom, I'm going to be "a writer"'". As a young adult he hung out with other literary people and admired Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, D. H. Lawrence, and Wallace Stevens.

In the interview he doesn't express a lot of political anger as an Indian, but he is
alarmed by the loss of that cultural identity. The loss of language, the loss of ceremonies, the loss of relationship with elders. All of that is happening very suddenly, and the move to urban centers, all of that is costing the Indian his cultural identity. So the Buffalo Trust was created to do something about that, to reverse that trend.

Momaday speaks of his visit to the Athabascan communities near the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge:
Small village, subsisting ... 80 percent of their diet is caribou. And what we're doing up there is upsetting the balance of nature, and interfering with the migrations of the caribou, so things are changing.

Momaday's shorter poems are collected in volumes like In the Presence of the Sun, which is also illustrated by the poet. (NSM is also - like his father Al Momaday - an artist.) Some of my favorites include "New World" (written entirely in disyllabic lines), "The Delight Song of Tsoai-Talee" (a reference to NSM's Kiowa name), "Nous Avons Vu la Mer", "Rainy Mountain Cemetery", and "Prayer" (which invokes the name of his grandmother, Aho). The book also includes a series on Billy the Kid, and some delightful light poems and epigrams.

The Way to Rainy Mountain was first published in 1967-1969. Inspired by NSM's own pilgrimage, it tells the story of the Kiowas' historic migration from their original homeland in western Montana to the southern Plains. The Introduction recounts a legend surrounding Devil's Tower, Wyoming; it explains why "the Kiowas have kinsmen in the night sky" and is, I think, rather more compelling than "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". The poem itself consists of a braid of three interwoven strands of mythical, historical, and personal narrative, which gradually converge on the burial of the poet's grandmother. "If you stand on the front porch of the house and look eastward towards Carnegie, you know that the woman is buried somewhere within the range of your vision. But her grave is unmarked."

When my mother passed away almost two years ago, I went back to Connecticut to pay a last visit to the green suburban house that I grew up in. I read the first, sixteenth, and twenty-fourth cantos of The Way to Rainy Mountain aloud as a tribute to her. One of the things I love about literature is its power to remind us of the parts of our own lives, of our own selves, that we must keep alive - the almost-forgotten places, the hidden landscapes,
the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk.

Tel Aviv Terrorist Bombing

The names of the victims: Itzik Buzaglo, 40, from the Galilee moshav of Mishmar Hayarden; Yael Orbach, 28, from Rehovot; Aryeh "Arik" Nagar, 36, from Kfar Sava (Kfar Saba); Ronen Rubenov, 28, of Tel Aviv.

Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters writes on Israel's decision to suspend a planned prisoner exchange in protest:
Now that Sharon has frozen even the preliminary releases, the militants have all the excuse they need to declare open season on Israeli citizens again, and Abbas can blame the intransigence of the Israelis for the collapse of the cease fire. Abbas may make some preliminary noise about taking action against the militants, but in a short period of time he will lay the blame against Sharon ...

Read the whole ... well, you get the idea.

UPDATE: Are you following the story at Regime Change Iran? This great new blog deserves everyone's attention. They have the latest scoop on a possible Tehran connection.

Let's blogroll!

Joshua Gibson, newly recruited agent of the Portland Mukhabarat and our man in Fagistan, is living in self-imposed exile from Blue Oregon. He sends this communiqe about Slate's latest alleged "bushism".

You've seen that cartoon where the man is peering into a refrigerator filled with sticks of butter, and calling out "Honey, where's the butter?" Well, for those folks who are still wondering "Where are all the women political bloggers?", Meryl Yourish offers a little help.

Why cleaning out the attic is like drowning. Sisu finds beauty, and National Geographics, in unexpected places. That index will come in handy.

High Femme

Why I love the internet: quizzes like this one.

Your Brain is 86.67% Female, 13.33% Male

You have the brain of a girly girl

Which isn't a bad thing at all

You're emphatetic, caring, and in tune with emotions.

You're a good friend and give great advice.

It's nice, every now and then, not to have to worry about those silly chromosomes. Thanks to Villainous Company.

Melissa Q&A

Melissa Etheridge answers questions in a respected New York newspaper:
QSharon Blynn, Manhattan, founder of Baldisbeautiful.org, writer, actress, model, ovarian-cancer survivor: Given society's narrow notions about what is beauty and what is feminine, how did you react when you faced losing your hair and, possibly, your breasts?

MBecause I'm a lesbian, my experi ence might be a little different from a heterosexual woman. I felt less feminine before the cancer. I am more in contact with my femininity now. When I see pictures of me bald, I realize I am more feminine with my head shaved than I've ever been. I thought this was really going to butch me up — but it didn't. It brought out my femininity. ...

QCassandra G. Perry, Manhattan, cancer-support specialist: When I saw you on TV, you said you were going to eliminate everything toxic from your life. How will you do that — and how can I?

MYou start on a small level and then you expand. The toxicity may be a relationship, stress or the kind of food you're eating — you have to look at your whole life. ...

QMary Murphy, Queens, home maker, breast-cancer survivor: Are you religious? How does breast cancer affect your spiritual life?

MI regard religion and spirituality as two separate things. I'm not reli gious, but I'm very spiritual. This cancer journey has locked in my spirituality and opened up my mind. I'm not afraid to die anymore. I understand the human spirit more, and that's separate from the human body. ...

Read the whole thing at the link.

Morning Report: February 27, 2005

Arrests, condemnation follow Tel Aviv bombing. A Friday night terrorist bombing at the nightclub "The Stage" in Tel Aviv claimed the lives of four victims. The Jerusalem Post reports: 'Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Sunday that Islamic Jihad was behind the suicide bombing on Friday night in Tel Aviv. Issuing a short statement at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting in response to the attack, which cost the lives of four people and wounded some 50, Sharon said: "The orders came from Islamic Jihad in Syria. We know this for a fact."' Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz added that 'Islamic Jihad was directly responsible for the attack, taking its orders from Syria, and that its intent was to disrupt the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel.' Debka reports: 'Israeli police on maximum terror alert. From Sunday, roadblocks at town entrances, special patrols at schools at crowd centers, transport terminals against at least 50 attacks known to be planned by Palestinian terrorists.' A Washington Post article (appearing here in the San Francisco Chronicle) says: 'Palestinian and Israeli security forces arrested seven Palestinians on Saturday in connection with a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv the night before, while leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Syria asserted responsibility for the attack. Among those arrested were two brothers of the presumed bomber and the man who allegedly drove the bomber to the nightclub where he detonated explosives, killing himself and four others and wounding about 50 people, Israeli security sources said. Most of the casualties were young Israelis waiting in line to enter a karaoke bar called the Stage. Israeli security sources identified the bomber as Abdullah Badran, 21, an observant Muslim and university student from the West Bank village of Deir al- Ghusun, northeast of Tel Aviv on the so-called Green Line between the West Bank and Israel.' Arutz Sheva reports: 'Syria said Sunday afternoon that the suicide bombing Friday night in Tel Aviv "contradicts Syrian policy," harms peace efforts and "gives Israel a pretext to bash the peace process."' A news bulletin from Stratfor (subscription) says, 'Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Feb. 26 condemned the Feb. 25 Tel Aviv nightclub bombing, saying that "the Palestinian Authority will not stand silent in the face of this act of sabotage."' (various)

Russia, Iran conclude nuclear deal. Iranian regime and Russian interests found common ground in Tehran on Sunday, with the signing of a long-planned deal for the completion of the Bushehr nuclear facility. From Debka: 'Iran, Russia sign nuclear fuel deal in Tehran Sunday. DEBKAfile reports: Signing delayed 24 hours over Iran’s insistence on schedule for delivery which Moscow wanted to avoid. Russians now undertake to complete Bushehr reactor core by end of 2005. This was main point at issue in Bush-Putin summit.' (Debka)

Mubarak calls for election reform in Egypt. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has called for multiparty elections. '"The election of a president will be through direct, secret balloting, giving the chance for political parties to run for the presidential elections and providing guarantees that allow more than one candidate for the people to choose among them with their own will," Mubarak said in a televised speech at Menoufia University in the Nile Delta. Mubarak, 76, said the decision was rooted in his "full conviction of the need to consolidate efforts for more freedom and democracy."' Big Pharaoh is astonished. 'I never imagined what President Mubarak said today. He asked the parliament to amend the Egyptian constitution to allow multiple candidates to run for the presidency. This means that Muabark will have opponents running against him. Now, I am not stupid nor am I living in la la land. Mubarak's decision today came after immense pressure from the US and the current earthquakes (the purple revolution in Iraq and the Hariri revolution in Lebanon) that shook the region days ago. However, I credit US pressure as the number one reason. Condoleezza Rice cancelled a trip to Egypt scheduled for next week because of the arrest of Ayman Nour and Mubarak's failure to "change". Well, it seems that Bush turned out to be bloody serious about this democracy in the Middle East thing. ... ' Read the full post at the link. (Washington Post, Big Pharaoh)

Iranian Conversions to Zoroastrianism

Iranians living abroad are rallying to the faith of Zoroaster, this fascinating thread at Free Iran reports. Spenta launches the tread with this item:
On the 1st of August 2004 (Dei be Mehr, Amordaad 3742), we organized a conversion ceremony for a group of Iranians who desired for years to convert to Zoroastrianism (Zartoshti). The initiation took place at Radisson SAS Hotel in Norway and was performed traditionally by Zoroastrian Mobed. Participants (Nozoodan) were crying of happiness while reading the promise and the Avesta of Koshti. Relatives and friends were also gathered to celebrate their return to roots and share their joy and happiness. ...

Go read the whole thing at the link.

Saddam's Half-Brother Captured

Sab'awi Ibrahim al-Hasan al-Tikriti, a half-brother of Saddam Hussein on his mother's side and a close aide to the deposed dictator, has been captured, Iraqi officials said. CNN reports:
Sab'awi Ibrahim al-Hasan al-Tikriti was No. 36 on the U.S. military's Iraqi 55 Most Wanted List, and one of only 12 people on the list who remained free.

A half-brother on Hussein's mother's side, al-Tikriti held many positions in his regime, the latest being that of Hussein's personal adviser.

There is evidence that al-Tikriti was financing insurgents in the post-Saddam era, an Iraqi intelligence official told CNN.

His son, Omar Sab'awi Ibrahim al-Tikriti, was known as a high-ranking Ba'athist and was active in the "General Union of Iraqi Students and Youth." ...


Matrix Dominatrix

That famous photo of Condi Rice can be found here at Instapundit. Kesher Talk has a good roundup. I think Judith is too kind to the Washington Post's idiocy, but the quote from Aaron is a must-read.

The Manolo, he is posting here.

The Nir Rosen Peace Plan

Guest blogging at Michael J. Totten's place, Jeremy Brown deconstructs Nir Rosen's piece in the New York Times Magazine about the Kurds, Iraq, and oil.
Rosen is trying to induce in you, the reader, the idea (and you are to think it was your own) that as bad a man as Saddam was, things are going to get much worse than ever in Iraq. And very soon. Why focus on the Kurds? Because they are the most closely allied with the U.S. And because people have a tendency to, well, like them ...

Read Jeremy's post as a study in the kind of critical reading we all ought to be doing with the MSM. And read it to the very end - for its final, chilling paragraph.

False Hope vs. No Hope

Iraq the Model has a fascintating response to Big Pharaoh on the different ways a population can be demoralized by a fascist regime. Very important information in both of these posts; go read and learn.

Woo hoo

Now blogging with more RAM ... just added a pair of brand-spankin'-new chips for a total of 2 GB memory. Everything runs faster and smoother. Nice.

Why the Pope Is Not Like the Commandant of the Marine Corps

Great post on the Pope's illness by Michael Novak at The Corner.


My internet service is down at the moment so I'm posting from the fabulous Island Joe's in downtown Portland - long live free WiFi!

UPDATED UPDATE: All fixed now ... just had to reset the little black doohickey. But thanks anyway to Auntie Cracker.

Is there no end

... to the corruption and depravity of the United Nations?

Go read this post at the Redhunter.

Calling Joseph

Big Pharaoh has a dream.
I have a dream. I am obsessed with this dream. Everyday I search the news for any indication that my dream will ever come true. It is my euphoria, my ecstasy. Ohhhh, how sweet is this dream. If it came true, it will resemble a massive earth quake that will shake the Middle East. I believe it will have greater effects than the purple fingers revolution in Iraq or the Hariri revolution in Lebanon.

Now, for just a couple minutes, let us forget reality and imagine if we actually saw the below sequence of headlines:

Millions march through Tehran demanding freedom

Riots all over Iran

Student protesters occupy Tehran TV station

Government of Iran losing control

CNN’s Christian Annampour: These riots and demonstrations exceeds what we saw in 1979. The Revolutionary Guards of Iran fired live ammunition on the rioters to disperse them but the throngs are getting bigger and bigger.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivers a speech promising reform and free elections. Students call for the government and the cleric based council to step down.

Iranian regime falls ...

Read the rest of the dream at the link. Then help make this dream a reality.


Melissa: Bald is Beautiful

Melissa Etheridge performed hairless at the Grammy Awards, but unlike Sinead O'Connor's early gesture of rebellion, Melissa's scalp carried a serious message: survival.
While officially a tribute to the late Janis Joplin, many saw the bald-headed Etheridge -- in her first appearance since being diagnosed with breast cancer -- as a symbol of empowerment, not only for female rock musicians, but also for the millions who have suffered from breast cancer.

Read about it at CNN.

"Lebanon United Against Syria"

Photos of the Lebanese demonstrations posted by Stefania at Free Thoughts.

IRI Catches "Mole", Worries Over Protests

A new bulletin from Debka reports:
DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources reveal: A high-placed Iranian mole has been caught in Iranian president Mohammed Khatami’s office in Tehran.

Hossein Marashai, head of Iran’s cultural heritage council, was caught using a sophisticated US-manufactured listening-long-distance-transmitting device at top-level Iranian leadership meetings. DEBKAfile’s sources calls this the deepest foreign intelligence penetration in all 26 years of Iran's Islamic regime.

I don't care to dwell on the likely fate of Hossein Marashai at this hour; but I will be praying for him and his family. Let us hope his service in the cause of freedom will not be in vain.

On a brighter note, the cause of freedom seems to be marching forward - and it's been marching through the streets of Tehran lately, according to this thread on Free Iran:
From an Iranian Student:
I am receiving confirmed reports of protests in Alameh university campus in Tehran, now.

BBC Persian language service confirms the reports and posted a news story in Persian language on this.

A group of students are on strike in Tehran to ask for freedom of expression and release of all political prisoners.

They are protesting against the closure of newspapers, imprisonment of outspoken professors!

They demand support from the free world and the US! They support hunger strike of political prisoners. ...
Visit Regime Change Iran for updates.

If they can keep it up for six hours or more, the regime will have a real problem on its hands:
In a recent secret report to the Iranian regime's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps pointed out that were a demonstration or rebellion to last more than six hours in Tehran, the security apparatus would no longer be able to control the situation.

"Society is in an unstable state. Were certain sensitive locations in Tehran to 'explode' under these circumstances, and the capital sink into chaos, if uprisings continue unabated and grow larger for more than six hours in Tehran, the situation would become uncontrollable", the report said.

The Iranian capital has been the scene of numerous clashes between people and State Security Forces over the past few months.

The Iranian regime has stepped up repression throughout the capital over the past year to combat any outbursts against the state.

Clashes have also erupted elsewhere in Iran in recent weeks. Iranian Kurds and security agents clashed heavily on Friday in three towns in western Iran, leaving dozens injured and hundreds arrested.

The disruption occurred after SSF agents used force to disperse demonstrations taking place simultaneously in the towns of Sardasht, Saqqez, and Baneh in protest against severe fuel shortages in the area, eye-witnesses reported. ...

Read the whole story at Iran Focus for full details. Hey, I wonder how that "secret report" got out ... our friend Hossein Marashai, perhaps?

Morning Report: February 24, 2005

It's all about oil. In a series on "The Second Front" (i.e. Southeast Asia), Wretchard explores the role of Saudi money in anti-US operations, including projected Cole-like naval operations and the recently discovered plot to assassinate President Bush: 'As Little Green Footballs notes, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the US citizen charged with conspiring to assassinate President Bush, was not simply "a former Virginia high school valedictorian" the regular newspapers make him out to be. The "high school" he attended was a Saudi funded madrassa called the Islamic Saudi Academy.' (Belmont Club)

Fatah legislators approve new cabinet. Debka reports: 'After two rejections, Palestinian legislature finally confirms PM Qureia’s third cabinet lineup by majority of 54 to 12 with 2 abstentions. All 17 ministers are new faces unassociated with Arafat’s corrupt administration.' (Debka)

Syrian terrorism in Iraq. Hammorabi provides details on the Syrian regime's involvement in terrorism against Iraq, citing captured terrorists Adam Doma and Anis al-Essa: 'Some were arrested in Mosel and Baghdad including Arabs from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Sudan, Egypt, Yemen and others. Adam Doma (42 years) from Sudan confessed that he received training in Syria under the supervision of Syrian Intelligence officers. He confessed that he beheaded 10 Iraqi civilians by his own hands. ... Anis Al-Essa is a Syrian who works as an officer in the Syrian Intelligence Security. He was arrested with Doma ...' (Hammorabi)

Robert Lawrence: Space pioneer's memory honored. Astronaut selectee Maj. Robert Lawrence would have been the first African-American astronaut to fly in space, had not a tragic training accident cut short his career in 1967. MSNBC features his story. Like the thirteen women originally selected for service in the Mercury program (collectively known as the Mercury 13), Lawrence is a name that deserves to be better known. (MSNBC)


Morning Report: February 23, 2005

Man with Saudi ties accused in Bush assassination plot. A23-year-old Virginia man has been charged in connection with a conspiracy to assassinate President Bush, according to news reports: 'Ahmed Omar Abu Ali appeared in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, and was charged with providing material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization -- al Qaeda. According to the six-count indictment, Abu Ali "did knowingly and unlawfully conspire to knowingly provide material support and resources ... knowing and intending that they were to be used in preparation for, and for carrying out, the assassination of the president of the United States." The 23-year-old Abu Ali is not charged with a conspiracy to assassinate Bush, only for supporting terrorists and, as part of that, discussing Bush's possible assassination. He was denied bail Tuesday.' Abu Ali, who spent several months in his father's native Saudi Arabia from 2002 to 2003, is also said to have associated with persons known to be connected with al-Qaeda. Rusty Shackleford at the Jawa Report has some questions. (CNN, The Jawa Report)

Bush has strong words on Iran. President Bush, meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Mainz, Germany, declared that "Iran must not have a nuclear weapon for the sake of security and peace," CNN reported. Schroeder said: "We absolutely agree that Iran must say no to any kind of nuclear weapon -- full stop." Fox News adds that 'Bush and Schroeder remain far apart on the subject of how to make Tehran give up any plans it has to build such an arsenal, although both said they agreed that the end result must be a nuclear-arms free Iran. The Germans, like the French, want to offer Iran incentives to reach a nuclear agreement, and they say the United States should help sweeten the pot, by waving trade or airline restrictions. Bush feels the Europeans are too easy on Iran and he doesn't have much faith that Iran would abide by an agreement, anyway.' The visit is also the topic of a thread at Free Iran. (CNN, Fox, Free Iran)


Morning Report: February 22, 2005

Iran earthquake leaves hundreds dead. According to the latest news reports, at least 270 people are reported dead in an earthquake near Zarand in central Iran. More on this as it develops. (Fox)

Iraq: Ibrahim al-Jafari likely next PM; Chalabi withdraws. AP via USA Today reports: 'Interim Iraqi Vice President Ibrahim al-Jaafari was chosen Tuesday to be his Shiite ticket's candidate for prime minister after Ahmad Chalabi dropped his bid, senior alliance officials said. Pressure from within the ranks of the winning United Iraqi Alliance forced the withdrawal of Chalabi, a one-time Pentagon favorite, said Hussein al-Moussawi from the Shiite Political Council, an umbrella group for 38 Shiite parties.' CNN reports: 'The United Iraqi Alliance, Iraq's main Shiite political coalition, has named Ibrahim al-Jaafari as its nominee to be the country's next prime minister, an Iraqi political official said. The official, a member of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, said that Ahmad Chalabi, another candidate for the post, dropped out of consideration. Al-Jaafari told CNN last week that he would accept the prime minister position if he was offered it. Asked whether he would support an Iraq based on an Islamic republic model, al-Jaafari noted that Iraq's government would reflect its distinct personality: "We have to adapt our system according to the character and nature of our society." He said "security, services and the economy" are the main arenas that need attention. The 58-year-old doctor maintains popularity in Iraq and is viewed as a moderate.' (USA Today, CNN)

Hundreds Dead in Iran Earthquake

The known death toll continues to rise in an earthquake that struck near Zarand, Iran. CNN reports:
Rescuers in central Iran searched for survivors Tuesday after a magnitude 6.4 earthquake flattened villages and killed at least 270 people.

Iranian officials told state-run television that at least 950 people were injured in the quake, which struck near Zarand, a city of about 135,000 people in Kerman province.

AP via Fox News reports:
A powerful earthquake toppled mud-built homes and flattened villages in central Iran on Tuesday, killing at least 270 people and injuring 950, officials and state-run television said. A senior official said the death toll could top 350. TV footage showed residents frantically digging through piles of debris looking for loved ones following the 6.4-magnitude earthquake, which struck at 5:55 a.m. While homes made of mud collapsed, buildings of cement appeared not to sustain heavy damage. Survivors pleaded for help finding the buried: "What a catastrophe. Please help us," one said. Rain was hampering rescue efforts. The quake's epicenter was on the outskirts of Zarand, a town of about 15,000 people located 35 miles northwest of Kerman ...

More information and discussion is posted on this thread at Free Iran.


Ha'Aretz: Sharansky's Influence

Israeli official and former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky is profiled in this article in Ha'Aretz, which examines the influence of Sharansky's book "The Case for Democracy" in American and Israeli circles. President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have cited the book as a major ideological influence. As Ha'Aretz' Yoav Stern explains:
The basic principle of the theory is simple. Terror and war stem from the existence of tyrannical regimes that deny their peoples' liberty. In order to maintain their regimes, the tyrannical rulers must direct the anger of the masses to an external enemy - and lead them to war. The toppling of these tyrannical regimes, not by force but rather by means of economic and public pressure, will lead to the expansion of the circle of free democracies - which do not fight one another.

Read the article at the link.

Reminder: Iran Regime Change Petition

If you haven't done so yet, please take a moment to read and sign this petition. It addresses the commonality of interests that Richard Perle spoke of so eloquently when he said, "There are two issues, but a single policy toward Iran would advance both purposes."

Even as we sit here, the islamist entity is working to develop nuclear weapons to destroy Israel, blackmail America, and threaten Iran's Arab neighbors. The United States or Israel may soon have no choice but to act in their own defense and crush the regime's nuclear capabilities before it is too late. A "surgical strike" alone, however, would do nothing to advance the cause of the Iranian people, who have no quarrel with Israel or America but whose lives would be made even more wretched in the internal crackdown that would surely follow such an attack.

Therefore, this petition argues, it is in the common interests of the US, Israel, and the people of Iran that any action against the regime not be limited to a surgical strike, which would merely "wound the beast", but must rather encompass a comprehensive regime change leading to a free and democratic Iran. This petition is officially endorsed by the Iranian dissident site Activistchat.com and currently carries almost 1,000 signatures. Make sure yours is one of them.

Read and sign the petition here:
True Security Begins with Regime Change in Iran

Bush on Iran: "The Time Has Arrived"

"The results of this approach now depend largely on Iran," Bush said. "The time has arrived for the Iranian regime to listen to the Iranian people and respect their rights and join in the movement toward liberty that is taking place all around them." - President Bush, in an AP story quoted at Free Iran

Iranian freedom activists have been anxiously watching the political scene for signs that the President will support their struggle. Now, it seems increasingly clear that Washington's policy will turn toward the promotion of a free and democratic Iran. Most observers and activists agree that an Iraq-style invasion is neither necessary nor desirable in the case of Iran; rather, regime change in Tehran can be achieved through other means. There is strong, and growing, resistance to the regime. Diplomacy, of course, is always the first recourse: diplomatic pressure should be brought to bear against the islamist entity to allow a referendum on the current rulers. However, it is unlikely that any amount of persuasion will convince the mullahs to accede to a referendum, or to quietly step down in the event of a "no confidence" vote from the Iranian people. In that eventuality, other methods - such as economic sanctions and support for internal resistance movements - may be enough to bring down the regime's house of cards. In that event, what will be needed for the post-IRI era will be humanitarian aid, security support, and guidance in the establishment of liberal, democratic institutions.

Like so many things these days, this should be high on the agenda of America's so-called "liberals" - but it is not.

Melissa Etheridge: Lucky

Cancer survivor Melissa Etheridge has an interview on Dateline NBC:
“When I got home from my surgery, in the bedroom, there was a beautiful flower arrangement. And all it said was, ‘In sickness and in health.’ You know, and she meant it. There were days upon days where I couldn't make a sound. Where she would tell me she loved me, and I couldn't even tell her that back. And she would say, ‘I know you love me. And I love you.’ And she would just lay there. Because you can't move. Every cell in your body is aching.”

Melissa talks about breast cancer, love, show business, and baldness; her wife Tammy Lynn Michaels joins the interview. Read it all at this link: MSNBC: Melissa Etheridge interview

Anti-Syria Protest in Beirut

Direct from CNN:
BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Chanting "Syria out," thousands of people packed the streets of Beirut to protest the presence Syrian forces in Lebanon -- and the influence they believe Syria has on the Lebanese government.

They had the support of President George W. Bush who, at a speech in Brussels Monday, called on Syria to "end its occupation of Lebanon."

"The Lebanese people have the right to be free, and the United States and Europe share an interest in a democratic, independent Lebanon," he said. ...

CNN: Anti-Syria Protest in Beirut, Lebanon

MSNBC: How soon is soon?
(AP) BEIRUT, Lebanon - Tens of thousands of opposition supporters shouted insults at Syria and demanded the resignation of their pro-Syrian government in a Beirut demonstration Monday, marking a week since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. ...

In Damascus, Arab League chief Amr Moussa said Syria will “soon” take steps to withdraw its army from Lebanese areas in accordance with a 1989 agreement. It was not clear whether that meant Syria would completely leave Lebanon as demanded by the international community.

Moussa spoke after a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Syria itself has made no announcements about troop withdrawals.

MSNBC: Lebanese Protesters Demand Syria Out

ITM: The Mideast Tsunami
Omar at Iraq the Model checks in on the Lebanon demonstrations - and the ones in Egypt:
It seems that the demand on freedom and democracy in the ME is increasing even faster than we expected. Obviously the effects of the Tsunami of Jan 30 in Iraq and the September 11 of Lebanon have already started to play their role in shaping the region.

Meanwhile, there were demonstartions in Egypt (photo here) asking Mubarak to step out and calling for elections rejecting a 5th term for the president that has been ruling the country with emergency law since 1981 after the assassination of president Anwar Sadat. The slogan held by the demonstrators was "Kifayah" which means "enough is enough".

Go to the post for links and photos:
ITM: Tsunami

Live from the Land of the Pharaohs
... Big Pharaoh says he's never seen anything like it:
I have to admit that I never witnessed such unprecedented demonstrations in Egypt. Here the figure of the president is revered and no one dares to cross this red line. The president in Egypt is like the pope to Catholics or the Imam to Shias, he's infallible and he's eternal. This is the reason why I am very surprised that the issue of Mubarak's fifth term is actually being discussed inside and outside Egypt. ...

GM adds, however, that he sees no current alternatives to Mubarak. Read the whole post:
Hundreds Tell Mubarak 'Enough'

Stay tuned: Dreams Into Lightning will keep you posted on the revolution in the Mideast.

Morning Report: February 21, 2005

Bush in Brussels. "Now is the time for the established democracies to give tangible political, economic and security assistance to the world's newest democracy," President Bush said in Belgium while on a European visit. The President also plans to visit French President Jacques Chirac. Debka elaborates: 'Bush launched his European tour in Brussels by declaring his immediate goal was Middle East peace. He urged Abbas to seize moment. Israel, he said, should stop building Jewish settlements so that a Palestinian state will be viable with contiguous territory on the West Bank and not scattered pockets of land. Other high points of Bush address to joint NATO EU delegates in Brussels: Syria should stop interfering in Lebanese election, pull its occupation forces out of country and stop interfering in Iraq. US supports WTO membership for Russia if that country advances towards democracy. He rejected anti-Semitism from any source. Only democracy can provide the basis for a Palestinian state that should live in peace with security for Israel. Iran must not have a nuclear weapon, but we are in the early stages of diplomacy.' (Fox, Debka)

Anti-Syrian demonstrations planned in Lebanon. Also in the context of Bush's European tour, Debka reports: 'Massive anti-Syria demonstrations scheduled by Lebanese opposition at outset of “democratic uprising” to coincide with Bush-Chirac summit. Lebanese security units out in force on tense streets. DEBKAfile adds: Protest permitted only at scene of Hariri assassination on Beirut Corniche to prevent march on parliament. Opposition hopes set back by Lebanese parliament speaker Shiite Berri falling into line behind pro-Syrian government under extreme pressure.' Mr. Fadhil believes the Lebanon powderkeg is "the Middle East's 9/11" and Chrenkoff, quoting Syrian activist Anwar Bunni, agrees. (Debka, Iraq the Model, Chrenkoff)

Richard Perle interview. 'We will look back on the liberation of Iraq and the subsequent establishment of a decent, humane government there as a turning point in history. The attitude in France and Germany today is reminiscent of their attitude toward Ronald Reagan's policy to end the Cold War. They were terribly shortsighted and missed the big picture. ... The U.S. policy (of disassociating from Chalabi) was stupid. A few people in the administration developed a personal dislike for him, and that clouded their judgment. In the post-election mix in Iraq, Chalabi has emerged as the secular democrat. ... These are two issues [viz. Iranian human rights and the regime's nuclear threat], but a single policy toward Iran would advance both purposes. That policy would be to give real support – political, moral and materiel – to those Iranians who want to see a regime change.' - Richard Perle, in an interview with Global Viewpoint's Nathan Gardels. (San Diego Union-Tribune, via Free Iran)

Bush calls for a contiguous Palestine. President Bush, reiterating his long-standing support for a Palestinian state, urged Israel to cede territory to allow for a contiguous Palestine, according to a recent news report. 'Bush urged Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to be ready to yield land in a way that makes a Palestinian state "truly viable." He declared, "A state on scattered territories will not work."' (WHO-TV via Google News)


Campaign to Save Terri Schiavo

Fifteen years ago, Terri Schiavo became mentally incapacitated when her heart stopped beating. Terri's husband, Michael Schiavo, now wants to end her life support; in essence, as Terri's parents and supporters explain, allowing her to die of starvation and dehydration.

There's a campaign underway to save Terri Schiavo. Sherri at Straight Up With Sherri has been working very hard on putting together some information on the Schiavo case, and organizing people to take action. There's also the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation and Terri Schiavo News. Terence P. Jeffrey at the Washington Times and Nat Hentoff at the Village Voice are on the case. Go visit Sherri's blog, and find out what you can do.

Audre Lorde

Last Friday, February 18, marked the birthday of American poet Audre Lorde (1934-1992). Lorde was born Audrey Geraldine Lorde, the daughter of immigrants from the Caribbean island of Cariacou. As a black lesbian, her life and work were informed by her activism; her battle with cancer often put her at odds with the medical establishment as well. A short bio can be found at the Audre Lorde page at Lambda.net.

Audre Lorde wrote many exquisite poems; my favorites include "Memorial II" (dedicated to her first love, Genevieve, who took her own life); "Now That I Am Forever with Child"; "Rites of Passage"; "What My Child Learns of the Sea"; "Coal"; "Father Son and Holy Ghost"; and "Father the Year Has Fallen", one of several poems on the theme of motherhood. (I think this last poem also invokes Christian imagery.) Lorde's memoir, Zami, tells of her ambivalent relationship with her loving but overbearing mother in compelling detail. Her writing in both prose and poetry is spellbinding.

Audre Lorde lost her battle with cancer in 1992. Her last poems speak compellingly of the struggle: "Today Is Not the Day", she writes defiantly; and
New Year's Day 1:16 A.M.
and my body is weary beyond
time to withdraw and rest
ample room allowed me in everyone's head
but community calls
right over the threshold
drums beating through the walls
children playing their truck dramas
under the collapsible coatrack
in the narrow hallway outside my room ...

how hard it is to sleep
in the middle of life.

Joshua Gibson Quits BlueOregon

Joshua Gibson, whose scathing post on Howard Dean I linked this morning, has announced that he is quitting BlueOregon. He can be found at his own blog, Fagistan.

Hunter Thompson Dead, Suicide Suspected

Hunter S. Thompson, the iconic counterculture journalist who brought us the classic "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", is dead at age 67 of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to news reports.

"Egg McMuffin or Buster the Bunny"

Reflecting on the wisdom of his party's choice of Howard Dean for its leadership role, Joshua Gibson at BlueOregon expresses his feelings at the DNC Chair's initial refusal to allow the press to quote, or even paraphrase, his words at the debate with Richard Perle in Portland:
But this is the final straw, the nail in the coffin, the end so final that it requires cliche. Dean would dare to appear in a forum named for a great champion of open-meetings laws and forbid the press even to "paraphrase" his statements? We are led by a man so afraid of the press that he'll go to absurd lengths to protect himself from them. How, exactly, is this different from Bush's own fear of the White House Briefing Room? Sure, I understand why Dean's afraid. He knows that if he slips up and says something monumentally stupid (and he's smart enough to know that he probably will) the press will run the hell out of it. He knows he's up against the articulate and intellectually staggering Richard Perle.

Understandable, I suppose, from a man whose two most famous quotes are "Sit down and shut up!" and "Yeeaaarrgh!".

It's not just that Dean doesn't have faith in his own ability to give a competent performance at a debate; he thinks it's the press's job to protect him when he embarrasses himself.
But, not only does his maneuver stink of the petty despot that lurks in his shrivelled grey heart, but it was also incompetent. He had to backpedal and let them cover it anyway. He must have realized, at some point, that the story was going to be about the blackout itself.

Except, of course, that it wasn't. The story of the Richard Perle / Howard Dean debate was the shoe-throwing idiot who kept howling that Perle was a "lying m*****f***er".

But perhaps the shoe-thrower was an aberration? Tim Graham at The Corner writes that this fellow is not without his supporters. Citing the DNC blog "Kicking Ass", he notes:
As participants chewed over the recent debate between Dean and Richard Perle in Oregon, which was interrupted by a screaming heckler throwing a shoe at Perle, one DNC blogger wished for an army of cussing shoe-tossers:

Rose, for a minute you would think I was there! Lying MF this, MF that…. Shoes are flying. They had to carry the guy out, and has he was going, he was still calling Perle a MF liar! Other people objected to his lies as well, but it would have beeen really neat if as soon as one person was dragged out, another would start up. Like Crickets.

So Joshua Gibson should take heart: Dean's request for a media blackout on the debate with Perle has been all but forgotten. But Gibson may still be right about Howard Dean when he writes:
Progressives should be ashamed to have supported this man. The party shold be ashamed to have promoted him. And our politicians should fear what horrific damage this man is about to do to our chances of electoral victory.

Go read Joshua's excellent post at the link.

Peggy Noonan Gets It

The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan has an excellent piece on the power of blogs. Go check it out. Thanks, Peggy. (Hat tip: DFME.)

Michael Rubin: Will Washington Support Democracy in Iran?

Writing at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Michael Rubin asks whether the Bush Administration will support democracy in Iran. Read the article at the link - also check out the discussion at the Free Iran forum.

Winds of Change: Van Gogh Killing Was Organized

Dan Darling at Winds of Change is feeling vindicated as a Norwegian report on the Theo van Gogh killing concludes:
The killing of Theo Van Gogh was not the work of a lone fanatic but rather the deliberate work of an ad-hoc group of al-Qaeda supporters that viewed the world within the context of the network's global jihad.

Read the whole thing at the link.

VDH: The Victories So Far

Victor Davis Hanson reminds us of the impressive victories against fascism achieved by the Bush administration to date in this article on Unsung Victories. The decisions to ignore Arafat and to withdraw from Saudi Arabia generated a lot of noise from academics and Middle East "experts", but they have proved to be wise choices:
As a rule of thumb in matters of the Middle East, be very skeptical of anything that Europe (fearful of terrorists, eager for profits, tired of Jews, scared of their own growing Islamic minorities) and the Arab League (a synonym for the autocratic rule of Sunni Muslim grandees and secular despots) cook up together. If a EU president, a Saudi royal, and a Middle East specialist in the State Department or a professor in an endowed Middle Eastern Studies chair agree that the United States is "woefully naïve," "unnecessarily provocative" or "acting unilaterally," then assume that we are pretty much on the right side of history and promoting democratic reform. "Sobriety" and "working with Arab moderates" is diplo-speak for supporting or abetting an illiberal hierarchy.

What to do next? Read the article at the link to find out.

Morning Report: February 20, 2005

Iraqi police arrest suspected Zarqawi ally. On a day marred by deadly terrorist attacks against Iraqis, Iraqi police arrested a man believed linked to terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. 'Iraqi police arrested Haidar Mulaqatah during a raid in the Maffaraq area of western Baquba, about 30 miles north of Baghdad in Diyala province', according to this CNN report. In a separate raid, another suspected terrorist was captured: 'Harbi Abdul Khudier Hammudi, who served as a colonel in the old Iraqi air force, is a leader of the Salafist Jihadist terrorist group and is believed to have been involved in several attacks against coalition forces, including the bombing of an Iraqi national guard convoy last year, police said. Another leader in Hammudi's group, Faris Addula Younis, was also captured in the raid, police said.' The arrests came amid a string of homicide attacks on Irai Shi'ites timed to coincide with the Shi'a festival of Ashoura. (CNN)

Syrian allies and foes headed for showdown in Lebanon. In the wake of the Valentine's Day assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the Syrian-backed regime in Lebanon appears to be heading toward a major confrontation with its opponents. Debka reports on recent developments, including Syria's distribution of weapons and a call by Walid Jumblatt and others for the pro-Syrian regime to step down. 'The resignations of president Emil Lahoude and the Karame government were forcefully demanded by the opposition leader, Walid Jumblatt, head of the Lebanese Druses who speaks for a rare multiethnic coalition made up of his own community, Christian factions endorsed by Maronite Catholic Archbishop Nasrallah Sfeir, and Sunni Muslims led by the dead billionaire’s oldest son, Bahaa Hariri, with the blessing of the Sunni Muslim Mufti of Lebanon.' Debka predicts: 'The sparks will fly in earnest when government and Syrians move into aggressive mode to crush the opposition, which will become increasingly inflamed by multiplying leads to Syria and its Lebanese minions as Hariri’s assassins. Our sources report that US, French and Israeli intelligence have already gathered solid evidence that General Rostum Ghazallah of Syrian military intelligence orchestrated the murder on orders from Damascus with the aid of Lebanese general intelligence and its chief General Jamil al-Sayad. The Damascus-backed government in Beirut and its masters has no intention of going quietly. Bashar Assad desperately needs the political and economic benefits he extorts from Lebanon to prop up his regime. Monday, February 21, presidents George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac meet in Paris. With Lebanon at the forefront of their agenda, they will have to look hard at some tough questions. How to handle the situation if Assad orders his Syrian troops in Lebanon to march on Beirut in defense of his puppet government? And worse still, what if the full weight of the Syrian army is sent across the border to squash the uprising? Will the two Western leaders dispatch a joint US-French force to repulse the Syrian onslaught?' Chrenkoff has lots more. (Debka, Chrenkoff)


Peretz on the Left

Yet another excellent article by The New Republic's Martin Peretz has been making the blogospheric rounds. Not Much Left has been picked up by Little Green Footballs, Free Republic, and elsewhere.

But The Belmont Club really does the article justice:
Paradoxically, dogmatism is rooted in relativism more than in the belief that real truth is discoverable. For as long as the truth is believed to be "out there"; it will be sought. When its existence is doubted none will venture into the dark.

Wretchard touches on something Peretz' TNR colleague Leon Wieseltier explored in his excellent piece on George Orwell, "Aspidistra":

Here is Orwell in 1942, in "Looking Back on the Spanish War," reflecting on the lies of wartime:

This kind of thing is frightening to me, because it often gives me the feeling that the very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. ... I am willing to believe that history is for the most part inaccurate and biased, but what is peculiar to our age is the abandonment of the idea that history could be truthfully written. In the past people deliberately lied, or they unconsciously colored what they wrote, or they struggled after the truth, well knowing that they must make many mistakes; but in each case they believed that 'the facts' existed and were more or less discoverable.

Orwell plainly regards the eclipse of objective truth as a decline and a danger.

That's just it: so many liberals have internalized the message "certainty=fascism" that they cannot indulge in certainty even in their opposition to fascism. (And yet, somehow, there is no room for doubt in their hostility toward President Bush.)

There's so much to like about Peretz' article, and Wretchard's commentary, but unfortunately I've got to close up shop for the night. Go and read.

Iraq Update

"Proof that they're losing." Desperate terrorists have abandoned their failed plan of thwarting the Iraqi elections, and are falling back on their other failed plan of trying to provoke a civil war, says Mohammed. Mohammed sees good progress in the important business of building bridges between Coalition and Iraqi security forces. He notes with approval the use of keychains with hotline phone numbers for counter-terrorism tips by citizens, and adds that a website for that purpose would be helpful too. The Iraqi media, for their part, are playing an important role in combating terrorism, often at great risk. And perhaps not surprisingly, a syrian connection emerges ... read the rest at the link.

Janeane Garofalo and Riverbend are among his guilty pleasures, but Mister Ghost at IBC does a good job of holding down the fort. Read about fifteen-year-old HNK's bad dream, Ahmed's depressed musings, and Iraqi guest students ... and see the latest picture of Aya.

Army journalist Sminklemeyer is In Iraq for 365, and he wants to share the experience with you. Go to the current posts link, and read about his running partner, Iraqi military graduations, and the kid with cancer on his tongue. Also, the blogger gets a friendly reminder (and a souvenir) from a Milwaukee cop while stateside.

Debate Update

More information on the Howard Dean / Richard Perle debate is provided by Carla at Preemptive Karma, who offers this penetrating analysis of Richard Perle's foreign policy:
Perle really does believe that all we have to do is have a military that can completely overpower any foe and we will intimidate all enemies into submission. Those that we don't intimidate...we bomb into submission or wipe them out.

Read the whole post, with comments, at the link.


Morning Report: February 18, 2005

Bombers target Shia worshipers in Baghdad. Three bombers, striking two mosques and a religious procession, killed more than 27 people in Iraq Friday. According to the AP report on Fox: 'In the first explosion, the bomber entered the vestibule of al-Khadimain mosque in Baghdad's Dora neighborhood as worshippers inside knelt in prayer before detonating his explosives, said one witness, Hussein Rahim Qassim. Shortly afterward, a bomb ripped through the Al Bayaa mosque in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in western Baghdad. Fifteen were killed in the first explosion, and ten in the second, an official at Baghdad's al-Yarmuk Hospital said on condition of anonymity. Less than an hour later, a homicide bomber blew himself up as a procession of Shiites marking Ashoura passed by, killing two and injuring eight, according to Iraqi police Lt. Waed Hussein. Shiites packed into mosques Friday to mark the eve of Ashoura, the 10th day of the Islamic holy month of Muharram and the holiest day of the year for them.' (AP via Fox)

Protestor throws shoe at Perle. During a debate in Portland's Schnitzer Auditorium, Howard Dean and Richard Perle exchanged views and barbs; Perle also dodged a shoe thrown by a protester. (CNN)


Dean - Perle Debate

Well, I'm kicking myself quite soundly tonight because for just 25 bucks I could have gone to watch Richard Perle debate Howard Dean tonight at the Schnitzer. In any case, I'll post any information about this event that I can find.


I've just received my beautiful, two-inch-wide, Give Fascism The Finger button from CafePress, and it's now proudly displayed on my backpack. Got yours yet?

My next Physics exam is a week from today and I've got to make sure I know all about capacitors and inductors by then. Posting will be light to moderate. There's a ton of stuff I want to write about and I won't be able to get to all of it, but this blog won't come to a standstill either.

I've ordered an upgrade for my 17" PowerBook, which should be coming in within the next week. That'll allow me to get more done, faster and more easily. Also I'm focusing on sharpening up my computer skills because I am going to try to get into the IT line of work this year; so that means I'll be reading up on workplace applications like Excel and PowerPoint, learning the ropes of my OS X and Win XP systems, and maybe getting to know a thing or two about HTML and Unix. We'll see how it goes.

Morning Report: February 17, 2005

Lebanon asks for foreign help in Hariri case. The Lebanese government has asked for foreign assistance in investigating the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, VOA reports. Hariri was killed in an apparent suicide bombing in Beirut on Monday, which claimed the lives of 14 other people as well. The Lebanese leader was seen as a symbol of popular resistance to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Syria is widely suspected in the blast, and the United States has recalled its ambassador to Syria in protest. (VOA)

Iraq election update. From Debka: 'Shiite United Iraqi Alliance’s 140 lawmakers hold secret ballot Friday on premiership nominee. Top members failed Wednesday to choose between al Daawa’s Jaafari, who pledges to ask US troops to stay, and secular Iraq National Congress leader Chalabi. Kurds will back winner in return for presidency.' (Debka)

Sunnis admit election boycott was a blunder. The Command Post carries an article from the Guardian indicating that Iraqi Sunnis who boycotted the January 30 election now regard the boycott as a mistake, and see value in participating in the political process: '"Our view is that this election was a step towards democracy and ending the occupation," said Ayad al-Samaray, the assistant general secretary of the Iraqi Islamic party. He said unnamed Sunni leaders blundered in depicting the election as a deepening of the occupation.' Full story and comments available at link. (Command Post, Guardian)

Testimony on security issues. The Belmont Club critiques the testimony before Congress of various officials regarding strategic threats to the United States. 'All in all, the intelligence briefings painted a picture of an enemy that had not yet realized its power potential. It had been stayed, but not fatally wounded. On the contrary, if it could overcome its disorganization and mend fences with enablers it could become even more dangerous.' Wretchard concludes that 'of the testimonies is that Rumsfeld alone, of all the witnesses, articulated a complete grand strategic view. In particular, he understood that the threat, so well described in component by the representatives of intelligence and finance, menaced the world  as a whole and not simply the United States and that it had been emerging over a long period of time.' (Belmont Club)

Varying accounts of Iran blast. Last Wednesday, an explosion shook the southern Iranian city of Dailam, Bushehr province, in the vicinity of a nuclear facility. Beyond that, there seems to be little agreement as to what happened. Free Iran news carries a roundup of media reports and commentary. (Free Iran)


RLS: No Tears for Eason Jordan

Roger L. Simon (and that's Roger L. Simon, the blogger) will not be weeping for the recently deposed Eason Jordan:
... It is hard to find sympathy for Jordan, although a great many in the "MSM" do. This is a man who was willing to overlook the evils of Saddam so that his reporters in Iraq would be safe. Or so he claimed. How about telling the truth about Saddam from the outside? Evidently he wasn't interested in something so obvious. The people of Iraq were irrelevant to him. Only CNN and his own career, it seems. ...

Apropos Valentine's Day, Roger also offers his thoughts on Eason Jordan's love life. Read the whole post here:
Roger L. Simon: A Moral Issue

And we may gain some insights into the culture of CNN by reading about the network's role models (hat tip: Little Green Footballs).

Armanious - Garas Killings: "Money, Not Religious Extremism"

Religious hate was probably not the motivating factor in the murder of a New Jersey family of four last month, according to law enforcement authorities.

Tom Troncone of NorthJersey.com, writing about the horrific slaying of Hossam Armanious, Amal Garas, and their two daughters in Jersey City a month ago, reports:
"We're getting somewhere that hopefully is going to give us a clear indication as to what the motive is," said Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio. "And once you have motive, that helps lead you to the people involved."

DeFazio still won't discuss the intricate details of the case or explain why investigators are leaning toward a financial motive for the killings. But he did provide a glimpse into the probe, which has included assistance from an FBI profiler.

"The FBI does not think that, based on the information gleaned from the scene, it's based on religious extremism," the prosecutor said, without elaborating.

For full details, as well as the reactions of Armanious and Garas family members and other members of the Coptic community, read the article at NorthJersey.com.


Freedom and Peace

R. J. Rummel of the University of Hawaii has made a strong case for the thesis that the promotion of democracy is the promotion of peace, and that a free world is a peaceful world. Please go visit his website here.

Thanks to Diane for this link.

Best of Dreams Into Lightning

Pacific Memories (Ken McLintock - WWII memoir)
Urban Renewal (Ken McLintock - poetry and other writings)
Wilderness Vision (Stephanie McLintock - poetry)
Portfolio (undergraduate papers)
The Iraqi Holocaust
Iraqi Holocaust Files

Islam and Islamophobia
The World of Tomorrow
The Kabbalah: complete series
Vashti and Freedom
I Am a Jew and My Father Was a Jew
Creating the World You Love
The Names

Freedom and Responsibility (Thanksgiving Day post)

Iran Regime Change Petition

Harari: Eye of the Storm
Barnett: Gap and Map
State vs. Defense (May 2004)
Disengagement: The Messy Divorce (May 2004)

THE L WORD: Liberalism in crisis.
Truth and Hate
Response to Thomas Friedman: America's Addiction
Response to E.L. Doctorow: The Unfeeling Left
Berman: Another Peace Movement
The Moral Struggle

The Zero Ring
The Rose of Paradise
The Death Wish

WOMEN AND POWER: Gender, politics, and the price of empowerment – responsibility.
Women and Power
But Can She Vote?
Iran in Transition?
Gender and Sexuality


Sweden to Deport Iranian Dissidents

The Swedish government is cooperating with the Iranian regime's oppression by threatening to deport Iranian blogger Alireza Taherpour and his wife Roshanak Abbasi. Please take a moment to sign this petition and demand that Sweden stop its disgraceful collaboration with the islamist entity:
Stop Deportation of Alireza Taherpour

Hat tip: Spenta at Free Iran


LDS Blogs

Just discovered thru the now-dormant Sons of Mosiah: By Common Consent. Scroll to Karen Hall's piece on the verse "Charity seeketh not her own." Also be sure to read Logan's post on Mormon spirituality.

Blogs to Watch Out For

Alison Bechdel keeps a blog. Read it here.

New to Blogroll

New Ozblog called Arc of Reason. Biting, insightful, and brutally honest political commentary by The Hudster. Scroll down to January 30 for a particularly barbaric "political" crime (and Hudster's postscript), then up to February 11 for an analysis of NASA's priorities, and up to February 12 for some thoughts on Dresden.

I don't know whether Bear Left on an Unnamed Road is the same bear who Eats Shoots And Leaves, but he keeps a mighty fine blog - even though he seems to be hibernating for the time being. Back on November 8, he wondered about Howard Dean's bid for leadership of the Democratic Party. On extremism vs. centrism, he noted: 'A swing to the center, on the other hand, would mean making hard choices: What causes to champion, which issues to define the Party by, and which matters to abandon entirely or shelve for a rainy day. A swing to the center means reorienting the Party, rebirthing the Party. A swing to the center means rethinking what the Party stands for and who it represents. It means re-marketing the Party as the voice of reason, rather than the voice of radicalism.' I don't know what Bear Left is thinking today. I hope he'll post again soon.

A very cute butch called MJ brings us Friday Fishwrap. Don't ever try to stiff the waitstaff on her shift! Also scroll to February 10, where she watches the MSM do an oh-so-cute "Wife Swap". The swap? 'Exchange an average middle class lesbian mom with a upper middle class ultra conservative christian mom.' (Gee, these Hollywood creative types are so original.)

For those of us whose interests include physics and knitting, Quantum Tea is a must-read. To tell you the truth, I can't even remember how to "cast on" ... maybe this'll get me started again. (And I never even knew how to make an atomic bomb.) For the latest news on armwarmers and CERN, go here.

Virginia Postrel, aka The Dynamist, gives credit where it's due (January 30), muses on the cost of blogging (February 1), and takes on farm subsidies (February 7). Check her out.

German Pilot, Passengers Thwart Iran Extradition

Many thanks to Spenta for translating this Persian news item from Peykeiran at the Free Iran message board:
Pilot of a Luftansa flight from Frankfurt to Tehran refused to take off and return an Iranian woman to Iran!

According to a report from the Women's 8th of March Organisation, dozens of Iranian and Afghani activists from the organisation, activists from the German Leftist groups, and members of other Iranian opposition groups, participated in a protest action to stop the deportation of an Iranian woman political refugee at Frankfurt airport. They notified passengers of this inhuman act, and asked them to refuse to fly on the flight. As a result of this unified action, the pilot of the Lufthansa Frankfurt to Tehran flight, in solidarity with the protestors, refused to takeoff. According to other reports some of the passengers also supported this protest action. The German police arrested the protestors, including many memebrs of the 8th of March Women's organisation and German groups, many of whom are still detained. Today the German police was not successful in deporting Zahra Kameli. This action showed again that with united and aggressive international action the impossible can be made possible.

Zahra Kameli, who faces certain death if deported to Iran, is still alive because of the actions of decent people. There is hope. Read the story, with Spenta's comments, at the link. And keep working for Zahra Kameli - and the thousands of prisoners of conscience, as well as the millions of ordinary citizens still held hostage by fascism in the Middle East.

Iraq Update

Iraqi leader loses two sons, guard. 'A few days ago, Mithal Al-Alusi; an Iraqi politician and the head of the "Hizb Al-Umma Al-Iraqiya" or the (Iraqi Nation Party) survived an assassination attempt when a group of terrorists attacked him in front of his house but his two young sons and his guard were killed in the attack.

The brave politician, despite his tragic loss made very strong statements during an interview he gave to RFI "Radio free Iraq".

Al-Alusi: Again, the ghosts of death are going out. They are ready to kill a person, ready to kill the peace, ready to kill the victory of Iraqis and their right to life. Again, henchmen of the Ba'ath [Party] and dirty terrorist gangs, Al-Qaeda and others, are going out convinced that they can determine life and death as they desire. Iraq will not die.

My children, three people [in all] -- one of my bodyguards and two of my children -- died as heroes, no differently from other people who find their heroic deaths. But we will not, [I swear] by God, hand Iraq over to murderers and terrorists. ... '

Read the rest, and Omar's comments, at Iraq the Model.

Ali on America's mistakes. The third Fadhil brother, responding to a post by Michael J. Totten, takes a look at what he sees as America's mistakes: 'When I say America here, I mean the administration or the people they chose to help Iraqis in their transformation to democracy. While I agree that many regular Iraqis are still misled and have some anti-American feelings as a result of decades of brain washing, I cannot but wonder why should Americans chose such people and trust them in serious issues when there are so many Iraqis who do not suffer from such problems. ... In my mind such mistake comes from two places; first from underestimating Iraqis and thinking that the only Iraqis that are willing to cooperate are those who can be bought in different ways, even if what they were asked was for their own country's good. And second because it seems that Americans themselves have a mixed feeling about what's happening in Iraq. They think that somehow they did something wrong to Iraqis while liberating them since it meant occupying their country and thus they think it's perfectly natural that even those who cooperate with them should have hostile feelings towards America. It hurts me because it wastes so much valuable time, effort, money and most importantly lives and also because it shows that Americans don't think highly of Iraqis.' Read the whole post at the link.

Iraqi forces foil attack in Abu Mustafa. Small Town Veteran (hat tip: Mrs. Greyhawk) reports that Iraqi forces outsmarted the terrorists in the town of Abu Mustafa, south of Baghdad: 'Iraqi security forces foiled a trap set for a local security patrol by 40 terrorist in the village of Abu Mustafa south of Baghdad. After a confrontation between the two sides, the terrorists fled to a near by school. The Iraqi security forces among other forces pursued the terrorists and surrounded the school. The ensuing gun battle resulted in the killing of 12 terrorists and the arrest of 30 more. ...' Read it all at the link.

Let's blogroll!

Jeff draws a lesson from Mother Nature while steeling himself for a confrontation with a psycho. Let's hope the laws of karma work their magic on the vermin who did this.

Mamamontezz unfurls the new flag of Howard Dean's party. (Readers of the lavender persuasion shouldn't take the polychromatic theme amiss ... it's an allusion to Reverend Jesse Jackass's "rainbow" outfit.)

Auntie Cracker has a chat with her mom about a serious subject.

The Democrats have a new leader ... but what about the NAACP? Chris Muir has an idea.

Chapter 4 of "Pacific Memories" is up.

"And so, reluctantly ... " our hero leaves New Zealand.



Posting will be sporadic over the next week while I get caught up on school and other stuff. Morning Report will make occasional appearances.

Morning Report: February 11, 2005

US: No talks with North Korea. The United States continues to refuse bilateral talks with the newly-declared-nuclear North Korea, according to this CNN report. 'White House press secretary Scott McClellan said North Korea would have plenty of opportunities to raise issues directly with the United States if it agreed to resume six-party talks. Those have been on hold since Pyongyang withdrew last year.' The six-party talks included the two Koreas, the US, China, Japan, and Russia. Debka says: 'White House plays down North Korea claim of nuclear weapons, calls for return to multi-nation disarmament talks but rules out concessions. DEBKAfile’s Washington sources: Administration has no real proof that Pyongyang really has manufactured nuclear bomb although it has enough plutonium. Its announcement may be bluff. No indication nuclear test ever conducted. Kremlin concurs with this skeptical view'. (CNN, Debka)

Death of a playwright. Arthur Miller, America's foremost playwright, has died. The reclusive writer died at his Connecticut home Thursday night of heart failure, at the age of 89. Miller was the author of the classics "All My Sons", "The Crucible", and "Death of a Salesman", (CNN)