Memorial Day

Please take a moment to remember those who have given their lives in the defense of freedom.

I had the privilege of serving in the armed forces of the United States for ten years. During my four years in the Marine Corps, my unit took part in Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm. Our story is told here:
1st Light Armored Infantry Battalion, USMC

The Marines we lost are remembered here:
In Memoriam

(Mac users: This site is best viewed in Microsoft Internet Explorer; the navigation menus don't show up in Safari and Firefox.)

Have a pleasant Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy the blessings of liberty - and remember, freedom brings responsibility, so celebrate responsibly.

UPDATE: Mamamontezz has Memorial Day posts here and here. Go check 'em out.

The Long Road Home

My reflections on Desert Storm. I served with the First Light Armored Infantry Battalion in the 1990-1991 Kuwait campaign. This item was originally posted here.

Asher Abrams, 1st LAI Battalion USMC, 1989-1993
Posted to the unit veterans’ bulletin board.

“That is a chapter of ancient history which it might be good to recall; for there was sorrow then too, and gathering dark, but great valour, and great deeds that were not wholly in vain.”
-- J.R.R. Tolkien, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ I:2

“It is not your job to finish the task -- but neither are you free to abandon it.”
-- Rabbi Tarfon, 1st century

We gave what our leaders asked of us. If they had asked more, we would have given more.

Before the ground campaign began, we were told that the American forces’ final objective would be Baghdad, and that we would eliminate Saddam Hussein. As we all know, this did not happen. “The word was passed; the word was changed.” But we did liberate Kuwait.

All of us need to know that what we are doing has meaning and purpose. This is especially true in war. War is a hard thing -- having a reason gives us the motivation and the will to fight. Sgt. Michaels talks about this in his book (pp. 97-100): “It’s about my comrade, and his tiny Kuwaiti flag...” I don’t think this is naive. I think it is honest, truthful, and inspiring.

Nothing we do will ever be complete or perfect. If you’ve read ‘The Lord of the Rings’, or seen the movie, you might have noticed that theme. It’s not a story of superheroes, but of little people who are at the mercy of forces greater than themselves. They don’t set out to do great things; they love their home and dream of returning to it. They confront evil in a world that gives them no choice. Only then do they discover what they are truly capable of. Their victory comes with the loss of teachers, leaders, friends, and innocence. But they win, and some come back alive. It falls to them to tell the tale.

One of Dave Snyder’s favorite sayings was, “This isn’t fun anymore. I want to go home!” What made it funny, of course, was that in the military you can’t go home when you want, and a lot of what you do isn’t fun. But in the end Dave got his wish -- he went home before the rest of us.

Those of us who returned alive from Desert Storm have done many things with our lives. Some are still defending our Nation, either as “lifers” or as defense or security personnel. Others may have turned to teaching, creativity, or volunteering, enriching other people’s lives in whatever way we can. (Ken has contributed this site, where we can share our thoughts and memories, and honor our fallen comrades.) Many of us have married or had relationships, raised children, or discovered things about ourselves we had not known before. All of us have given of ourselves, and continue to do so.

We must all, each of us, find our purpose in the world. In war, your purpose is clear: defeat the enemy and come back alive. Life off of the battlefield is not so simple. All of us must find our own way home. It is a long, hard road.


to Arthur Chrenkoff for the link.

Posting Break

Dreams Into Lightning will be on a posting break for the week ending June 4 (this Saturday). Morning Report will be on leave. With the exception of a Memorial Day piece, and possible one or two short items today, there will be no new posts until Sunday, June 5.

Have a pleasant and safe Memorial Day weekend. See you next week.


Poison Pill: The Media Today

"Someone is trying to make us look bad." That seems to be the message for Patrick D. Healy in this New York Times editorial on the media's credibilty. (Hat tip: Democracy for the Middle East.)

For Healy, the operative metaphor is the case of the cyanide-laced Tylenol from way back in the 1980's. I'll let Patrick explain:
SO many Americans apparently now see journalists as self-interested, careerist and unprofessional that perhaps it would make sense for media executives to call up another group of bosses who once faced fundamental questions about their product: the makers of Tylenol in the 1980's.

After all, Johnson & Johnson proved that credibility, not to mention market share, could be regained after scandal - in its case, a series of deaths caused by cyanide-laced capsules some 20 years ago. Part of the strategy was to portray the company as a victim in its own right.

But as Healy admits a few lines later, "It would be hard for the media to pitch itself as a innocent victim of its own shortcomings."

No one is secretly stuffing bad reporting into the TV and print media while the editors' backs are turned. The MSM have only themselves to blame for the state of affairs, and they don't have much time to fix the problem.

And there's the key concept that Healy misses: this is not a PR issue, it is a quality issue. The media need to fix the problem, not just improve their image. Or to return to the Tylenol metaphor, they need to imagine that every newscast, every newspaper, every magazine is a bottle of pills, which is going to be ingested by the consumer. They need to make it their business - their responsibility, their personal mission - to ensure that the product contained therein is nothing but the purest "medicine". This will be a bit more complicated than adding a new layer of shrink-wrap to the packaging.

And here's where the New York Times ventures into territory charted by Neo-Neocon.

Healy writes: "With credibility in mind, several news executives are now trying to limit the use of anonymous sources." A-ha! Now perhaps we are getting somewhere. How long has this practice been with us, anyway?

Neo writes:
Well, it turns out you can blame it on Watergate.

The recent prominence of anonymous sources in the Newsweek Koran-flushing story tweaked my curiosity about the history of the practice.

To the best of my recollection, the newspapers of my youth attributed every quote to an actual named person--not that I was paying a whole lot of attention at the time to subtleties like that. Now, however, it seems as though articles are often merely glorified gossip columns full of anonymous commentary--a sort of "he said, he said" kind of journalism--especially any article written by Seymour Hersch, which usually consists of nothing but a long string of such tidbits.

The only thing we know for sure is the identity of the article's author. We are asked to take the facts on trust, without a chance to evaluate the source of the remarks. This over-reliance on the anonymous source gives both the journalist and his/her informant an overwhelming power, and takes away our ability to judge the veracity of what we are being told. I believe it's one of the most pernicious trends in journalism.

This practice seems to be the logical development of a phenomenon that started with Vietnam and became stronger with Watergate. ...

As usual, Neo nails it. Read her whole post - it's beautifully written, carefully thought out, and meticulously researched. But meanwhile, back at the Times, the thought of breaking that anonymous quote addiction is already giving Healy fits of withdrawal:
But reducing anonymous sources could have its limitations. Many journalists, believe it could undermine the ability to get at the truth that so many readers and viewers believe the media is missing or trying to avoid.

And even if the news media outlets were squeaky clean, somehow freed of all human failings, there would still be Americans whose biases would lead them to distrust the media.

("Whew! Well, I guess we're off the hook. If we stop using anonymous quotes, we won't be able to get at the truth ... and anyway, folks love us for our imperfections, right?")

"Many journalists believe ... " You see? He can't even write an editorial about anonymous sources without quoting an anonymous source.

If the MSM really wanted to clean up their act, they might follow these sensible guidelines, devised by prominent journalists in a 2003 Poynter report:

• Anonymous sources should be encouraged to go on the record.

• We should weigh the source’s reliability and disclose to readers the source’s potential biases.

• The more specific we can be in describing the source in the story, the better.

• Anonymous sources should not be used for personal attacks, accusations of illegal activity, or merely to add color.

• The source must have first-hand knowledge.

• Journalists should not lie in a story to protect a source.

(Hat tip, again, to Neo.) These are sensible guidelines, a first step towards curbing the use of anonymous sources. They do not "undermine" jounalists' ability to get the truth out, they enhance it.

But this isn't what the New York Times wants to hear. And so, after bravely facing up to the enormity of the problem, Patrick Healy retreats into utter denial. The last lines of his column are almost painful to read:
And even if the news media outlets were squeaky clean, somehow freed of all human failings, there would still be Americans whose biases would lead them to distrust the media.

Analysts say that the political partisans who are most likely to be critical of the press are also among the most reliable and hungry consumers of the news.

Maybe therein is a silver lining: if the people who distrust you the most are also many of your most devoted customers, perhaps survival is assured. They have accepted flaws as part of the bargain of following the news.

Well, there's the sound of confidence for you. Especially that last paragraph - "maybe" and "perhaps" in the same sentence! And maybe, perhaps, I might possibly be the Queen of the Space Unicorns. There's always hope, right?

Earth to the MSM: The public doesn't trust you. Deal with it. You folks at the New York Times want the public to "trust" you? Listen, I'll let you in on a secret: My readers don't trust me, either - and I don't expect them to. That's the whole idea. I have to earn their confidence, and keep it, every single day.

No one is perfect, and the human mind is limited. Sometimes a thing can look like one thing, and be something else, or nothing at all. (Ask me about green lasers and Coptic Christian murders.) What bloggers demand of themselves - because their audiences demand it of them - is a commitment to openly acknowledging past errors and learning from them. And even more, a commitment to getting the story right the first time.

"Scrutiny is intense. The Internet amplifies professional sins, and spreads the word quickly. And when a news organization confesses its shortcomings, it only draws more attention." No kidding. The internet does exactly the same thing to us bloggers - that's why we treat our medium, and our audience, with the utmost respect. "Also, there is no unified front - no single standard of professionalism, no system of credentials." All respectable bloggers live by a strict code that forbids concealing our errors or reporting dubious "facts". This "single standard of professionalism" - and its attendant "unified front" - may soon become more concrete with the help of Roger Simon and the nascent Pajamas Media organization.

As I've said before, a growing segment of the population are willing to take a cue from Neo's cinematic namesake by "swallowing the red pill" and awakening from the pseudo-reality of the media matrix. The problem for the media, then, is not one of image, but of substance. The mainstream media must adapt to a more critical and demanding public - or face extinction.

Morning Report: May 27, 2005

Pakistan bomb kills at least 18. Debka reports: 'Blast at Bari Imam shrine in Pakistan capital of Islamabad kills at least 18 people early Friday. Police believe suicide bomber struck as thousands of Sunni and Shiite Muslim devotees were celebrating festival. Shrine is near government buildings and diplomatic enclave.' Updates at Command Post. (Debka, CP)

AUT ends Israel boycott. Britain's Association of University Teachers voted to strike down a boycott of two Israeli universities. Ha'Aretz reports: 'Britain's biggest union of university teachers voted yesterday to end its boycott of two Israeli universities. The decision to cancel the boycott passed by a two-thirds majority. The council of the 40,000-member Association of University Teachers (AUT) announced it had decided in a special session to overturn the boycott against Bar-Ilan and Haifa universities immediately. The measure, which had drawn outspoken criticism, was put in place last month.' (Ha'aretz)

Iraqi Operation Thunder targets insurgents. A major offensive by Iraqi and US forces called Operation Thunder (no connection with the Iranian dissident action of the same name) is set to begin in western Iraq. Command Post states: 'In the wake of American led offensives in Western Iraq and Haditha, the Iraqi government has stated it is prepared to commit a massive force to take the initiative away from the insurgency. Iraqi Defense Minister Dulaimi has announced Operation Thunder will commence shortly and will consist of over 40,000 Iraqi troops. The purpose is to secure Baghdad then fan out to other trouble spots, presumably in the restive Anbar province. ...' Full details at the link. (CP)

Woman TV host killed in Afghanistan; station won't buckle to terrorists. A woman television host was murdered in Afghanistan, but the station won't give in to intimidation, according to this item from the Feminist Majority Foundation's Feminist Daily News: 'A 24 year-old Afghan woman who was a presenter on a popular music program on a private television station in Kabul was shot and killed in her home last Wednesday. Shaima Rezayee was fired from her job with Tolo TV in March after pressure from conservative mullahs, who complained about the “un-Islamic values” of the show, according to the Times Online. The program was also criticized by the Ministry of Information and Culture for the pop videos that were shown and for “casual” conversations between male and female presenters. Saad Mohsenia, who heads Tolo TV, told the Christian Science Monitor that there are no plans to change the programming following Rezayee’s murder, stating, “…we do not allow individuals to dictate the terms to us, to act as terrorists.” ' (FMF)

US attorney says no authority to enforce gay nondiscrimination. The Washington Blade reports: 'Scott J. Bloch, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, startled gay activists this week after testifying before Congress that he does not have the authority to enforce a ban on discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation. “We are limited by our enforcement statutes as Congress gives them,” Bloch said when asked to explain his stance. “The courts have specifically rejected sexual orientation as a class protection.” ... The White House released a statement in April 2004 expressing President Bush’s support for a longstanding policy that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation in the federal workplace. “Longstanding federal policy prohibits discrimination against federal employees based on sexual orientation,” the memo said. “President Bush expects federal agencies to enforce this policy and to ensure that all federal employees are protected from unfair discrimination at work.” The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent federal agency that works to protect federal employees from discrimination and from retaliation in cases where employees act as “whistleblowers,” by reporting corruption or incompetence.' The Blade adds that Human Rights Campaign and Log Cabin Republicans have called for Bloch's resignation. GayPatriot clarifies that 'Bloch has based his belief on the fact that since no federal law bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, his office lacks a mechanism to enforce the Executive Order and longstanding policy.' However, GP adds, 'while Mr. Bloch's office may not be able to prosecute federal officials who discriminate based on sexual orientation, it should be able to reprimand them for such discrimination and protect the employee claiming discrimination.' (Blade, GP)

State of the Insurgency. Today's analysis at The Middle Ground concludes that the Iraq insurgency is having difficulty recruiting, and will be operating at a significantly degraded level in the next few months: 'Recall that these groups are small, insular cells. Working relations are built on absolute trust and not easily won. As much as some might believe otherwise, money is not handed over like candy at a barmitvah. Particularly, in today's atmosphere of slowly closing financial resources and other issues making it difficult just to "send money, will write". Requests are made and approved through regular, nearly beaurocratic processes and approved further up the food chain (see AQ manifest and other stories regarding operations, including September 11). Whether Zarqawi died, is wounded or just took the low road out of Dodge to save his ass, operations will be extremely slowed down for a bit. ...' (TMG)

Good news from Iraq. Morning Report is pleased to announce that it will begin carrying the series "Good News from Iraq" on a regular basis. From today's edition: 'You might remember Dhia Muhsin, carpenter from a working-class Baghdad neighborhood of al-Dora, who became a celebrity of sorts back in March, when he and his nephews stood up to insurgents who terrorized his area and in a firefight lasting half an hour killed three of them and forced the rest to retreat. Well, two months on, and Muhsin is still ready to take on any intruders: “I expect them (the insurgents) to come back and I’m ready to face them,” says the 33-year old who seems to have inspired his neighbors ...' Read the rest at the link. (GNFI)

Guantanamo: Disgrace Yes, Gulag No

Michael J. Totten offers the best assessment of the human rights abuses, real and otherwise, at the US detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Quoting Hitchens, Michael goes on to add:
One reason [Christopher Hitchens] is able to write these kinds of sentences without being dismissed as a knee-jerker is because, well, he isn’t a knee-jerker. He doesn’t exaggerate, he doesn’t describe as torture things which aren’t torture, and he doesn’t wallow in moral equivalency.

... It’s exactly the sort of thing those of us who are repulsed by prisoner abuse, vastly-milder “Koran abuse,” extraordinary rendition, and all the rest of it need to make it all stop – or at least be properly condemned and punished wherever and whenever it is uncovered.
What we don’t need are hysterical heavy-breathers like Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International, describing the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the gulag of our times as she did in the foreword to the group’s latest annual report. ...

Go read the whole post at the link.


Patriots, Rabble Rousers, and Comic Strip Artists to Watch Out For

Alison Bechdel of Dykes to Watch Out For got a surprise in her e-mail recently:
Imagine my surprise when I saw David Horowitz’s name in my in-box the other night. He’s the once-radical-now-conservative force behind Students for Academic Freedom—an organization that is more or less to academic freedom what Bush’s Clear Skies Initiative is to reducing mercury emissions.

David was asking for permission to reprint a recent episode of my comic strip on the SAF website. It’s the one where the conservative student Cynthia is tabling for SAF, and Ginger, her professor, engages her in a little Socratic dialogue ...

I've posted previously on Alison Bechdel's character Cynthia. I'm planning to write a longer post soon about Cynthia; the strip is fun, beautifully drawn, and well worth reading on its own, but the introduction of a conservative character is especially interesting.

MJ at Friday Fishwrap is still steaming after spotting a certain unbecoming resemblance in the Desert Sun. These memorable comic book covers seem to have lightened her mood a bit, though.

Also on the wild side ... Beth and Wintermelonsoup/Nerdstar spent an exciting weekend at the zoo, which might have helped to take Nerd's mind off her ailing grandpa. And while looking for jobs in their new home, Beth muses on how not to be out as an unrecognized military spouse.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it? The lions can do whatever they like in front of a lot of schoolkids ... but two adults in a loving, committed relationship have to keep it a secret.


Arab, Muslim Women Today

Ayaan Hirsi Ali has some words for today's Left at Transatlantic Intelligencer (hat tip: LGF):
Because the left is exactly like the Muslims! I wanted to give priority to the defense of immigrant women who are victims of domestic violence. They said to me: “No, that’s not a priority! The problem will take care of itself when the immigrants have jobs and are integrated.” It is exactly what the Imams say who demand that we accept oppression and slavery today because tomorrow, in Heaven, God will give us dates and raisins…. I think we need first to defend the individual. The left is afraid of everything. But fear of giving offense leads to injustice and suffering. ...

Go to the TransInt link for the full, translated quote. Original French link is there also.

Nadz reads the celebrity blogs so you don't have to. Find out what Michael Moore, Moby, Rosie O'Donnell, and Barbra Streisand are spewing ... Also check out her post on shifting the blame. Excerpt:
Women's rights

The problem: Don't get me started. Ok, everything. Read my past entries for details.
AlJazeera pundit: Why do Americans always tell us what to do? There are problems for women everywhere around the world, so why focus on the fact that we treat women like shit? Because you have a hidden agenda to make Arabs look bad, and to control us! You want us to feel humiliated! Oh, I'm so humilated!
Nadz: So now you know what it's like, jerk. Think you're the only person on the planet who has felt embarrassed or degraded? The reason people criticize the ME over women is because we are one of the world's most mysogynistic regions. If that bothers you, don't tell others to shut up, change it! Instead of blaming colonialism and American imperialism, try demanding gender equality.
AlJazeera pundit: Ah, but they don't really want gender equality! They want us to be just like them, or else. We'll do it our own way, in our own time, on our own terms.
Nadz: Yeah, I'm sure women's rights are really high on your list. That's why you've either done nothing or apologized for doing nothing these past few decades. It's in everyone's interest to have a more egalitarian society - and women's rights are not just a "western concept". It is a universal issue.

As always, read it all at the link.

Irshad Manji is in fine form (and when isn't she?) with this response to a reader who claims she is offending 98.9% of all "true Muslims" and should write about fashion instead:
First, am I to censor myself because you are offended? Suppose I told you that I’m offended by the fact that you’re offended. Do you then have an obligation to clam up, simply because I’m offended? Of course not. Offense is the most minor price of breaking deadly silences. Deal with it.

Second, how did you determine that that 98.9% of true Muslims in the world are offended by me? Why not 98.7%? Or 99%? Please cite your sources, as I do with every claim I make in my thoroughly un-academic book.

Finally, I appreciate your suggestion to write about fashion. It’s certainly up my alley, since I sit on the inter-faith editorial board of Seventeen magazine. I can see a title now — The Cardinal’s Sin: What Catholic Priests Can Learn from Hijab-Wearing, CNN-Watching Muslim Housewives. If you’ve got a better title, bring it on.

Go to the link for Irshad's current posts (updated twice a month).

Fayrouz saw the latest "Star Wars" (Revenge of the Sith) and posts some plot spoilers. For real excitement, read the rest of her post to learn about a handshake between officials of two Middle Eastern countries (hint: it wasn't Iran and Syria). Fayrouz concludes: "Whether some pessimists want to admit it or not, tides of change have started to hit the Middle Eastern shores."


Many thanks to GayPatriot for the link - and for a great blog! GayPatriot West, carrying on the tradition of the original GayPatriot, remains critical of Log Cabin as an organization, but keeps us posted on LCR victories as well; related posts can be found in GP's Log Cabin Republicans department.

For my in-person report on LCR leader Patrick Guerriero's visit to Oregon, see this post.

Also, thank you to Gays For Life for the link, and for an important contribution to the abortion debate.

Morning Report: May 24, 2005

Operatioin Squeeze Play brings results. Debka reports: 'Joint Iraqi-US military swoop on guerilla and terrorist hideouts in Baghdad nets another 143 armed men bringing Operation Squeeze Play total to 428. Operation mounted to catch Abu Ghraib detention facility assailants continues.'

Daily Demarche: No fence is good enough. Diplo-blog The Daily Demarche compares five policy experts' ideas about the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, and concludes: 'I want our troops home, and I am more than certain that they want to come home. But they are there today because the job was not finished the first time. We failed to uphold our promise to the people of Iraq under the President’s father, and the situation degenerated. Is there anyone out there today who thinks that leaving Iraq tomorrow will result in a better future for the Iraqis, the Middle East or America? I would love for them to tell me how that can come to be. Until that time we owe it to the people of Iraq and the ME to see the job through. ...' Read the full article at the link. (Daily Demarche)


Iran Report

Op Thunder hits Brussels. On May 18, Operation Thunder 1 struck the European Parliament, as Iranian expatriates in Europe staged an audacious act of civil disobedience:
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Update on Operation Thunder One - in Brussels

I reported earlier today, Anjomane Padeshahi, lead by Foroud Fouladvand launched Operation Thunder One. The campaign appears designed to shame the European Union into ending its support of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

One of our readers, Arash Kamangir, left the following report:

Dear DoctorZin,

Europe just blocked all media coverage. There were so many cameras and reporters on the scene, but nothing was reported. Its the most ignored event of the whole year.

Operation Thunder 1 started in the morning of May 18, 2005. There were around 151 vehicles parked in front of the EU Parliment Building, in Brussel, Belgium. The cars were chained together, and the people were out side and inside of the cars depending on the situations.

The operation started with couple of hours delay, since EUROPEANS some how expected this, they checked every cars. However, Anjomane Padeshahi's soldiers manage to get there.

Once again, EU police, broke their own law and committed crimes and they used force against non-violent soldiers (IRANIANS). ...

Link here: Free Iran - Protesters Block EU Parliament

Rice: World "must not tolerate" nuclear IRI. From VOA, via Regime Change Iran:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Monday said the world must not tolerate any Iranian attempt to develop a nuclear weapon. She spoke as European foreign ministers prepared for new talks with Iranian officials on the nuclear issue.

"The United States has focused the world's attention on Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction," she said. "And along with our allies we are working to gain full disclosure of Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. The world must not tolerate any Iranian attempt to develop a nuclear weapon, nor can it tolerate Iran's effort to subvert democratic governments through terrorism."

The revolution will not be televised. Free Republic (ht: RCI) posts photos of the student protests that are taking place in Tehran RIGHT NOW.

Another One Leaves the Left

This time, it's the San Francisco Chronicle carrying the words of an apostate from the Leftist religion:
Nightfall, Jan. 30. Eight-million Iraqi voters have finished risking their lives to endorse freedom and defy fascism. Three things happen in rapid succession. The right cheers. The left demurs. I walk away from a long-term intimate relationship. I'm separating not from a person but a cause: the political philosophy that for more than three decades has shaped my character and consciousness, my sense of self and community, even my sense of cosmos.

I'm leaving the left -- more precisely, the American cultural left and what it has become during our time together.

I choose this day for my departure because I can no longer abide the simpering voices of self-styled progressives -- people who once championed solidarity with oppressed populations everywhere -- reciting all the ways Iraq's democratic experiment might yet implode.

My estrangement hasn't happened overnight. ...

Read the whole thing here:
David Thompson: Leaving the Left

David Thompson's website:
Thompson at Large

Comments at Roger Simon and Michael Totten.

Morning Report: May 23, 2005

Wolf Brigades score victories; Iraqis suffer losses. Iraq's elite Wolf Brigades struck a blow to terrorism, according to Iraq the Model: 'According to Al-Iraqia TV, the Wolf brigade's intelligence elements successfully infiltrated the terrorist groups in the Abu Ghraib region and the information gathered this way paved the way for the latest operation which was done in two waves; the 1st raid was accomplished yesterday while the 2nd one started at 5 in the morning today and has just ended as Al-Iraqia reporter at the scene in Abu Ghraib said. The successful raids which represent the largest operation performed by Iraqi forces so far had resulted in arresting 450 suspected terrorists. The brigade depended mainly on its intelligence personnel who recognized the suspects' faces and pointed them out one by one. The Wolf brigade did almost all the job with the multinational forces providing backup when needed. Among the detainees was an "Amir" i.e. someone who beheaded at least 10 Iraqis. Also it's believed that the terrorist who lead the latest large attack on the prison in Abu Ghraib was also among those detained. Abu Ghraib area has a special significance in the plans of terrorist groups and it's the joint between Baghdad and Anbar province (which includes Ramadi, Fallujah and Qa'im). This area hasn't tasted peace since the terrorists began their operations against Iraqis and coalition troops two years ago. The area also hosts one of the biggest camps of the former Iraqi army; a factor that made it easy for terrorists to possess weapons and ammunition. The raids ran smoothly and were clearly very well planned and implemented as no casualties happened among the soldiers of the Wolf brigade.' On Monday, four people were killed in a bomb attack apparently targeting security forces, Fox News reports. (ITM, Fox)

Belmont Club on Galloway: Style vs. substance. Most who observed British MP George Galloway's performance before the US Senate found Galloway's presentation impressive. Wretchard at The Belmont Club is more interested in what was asked and answered during Galloway's 47 minutes of fame: 'The really striking thing about the Galloway's testimony as transcribed by the Information Clearing House is how the Senators and the Member of Parliament for Bethnal Green and Bow were pursuing a non-collision course. Galloway had come to score press and public relations points at which, by all accounts, he was successful at doing. But Senator Coleman and Levin seemed totally uninterested in responding to Galloway's sharp political jibes. It was almost as if the Senators were deaf to his political posturing. Instead, they focused exclusively and repeatedly on two things: Galloway's relationship with Fawaz Zureikat and Tariq Aziz. Zureikat was a board member of Galloway's Mariam foundation who is also implicated in the Oil For Food deals. Tariq Aziz was Saddam's vice president. ...' In light of the Senators' utter indifference to Galloway's provocations, and the curious disappearance of his testimony from the Senate Committee's website, Wretchard concludes: 'The Senators were building a causal bridge to something, but to what? I am in no position to say, but will guess that Galloway's testimony and its disappearance from the Senate website can only be understood in the context of what Coleman and Levin were trying to achieve. My own sense is that the investigations are cautiously nearing far bigger game than George Galloway; but that his evidence or his refusal to give it is somehow crucial to achieving this larger goal. ...' Read the full article at the link. (Belmont Club)

Kuwaiti women get the vote. Morning Report belatedly notes this important May 16 news item: 'Kuwaiti lawmakers approved political rights for women Monday, clearing the way for females to participate in parliamentary elections for the first time in the Gulf nation’s history.' Nadz offers this analysis: 'And it's about time, too. The activism and hard work of Kuwaiti women has finally paid off - although as always, there's a catch: "fundamentalist Muslims included a requirement that any female politician or voter abide by Islamic law" So what does that mean, exactly? "Abide by Islamic law" could mean many things, from separate polling stations to women being told who to vote for by their husbands. You can be guaranteed that the conservatives will use this to restrict female voters as much as possible. It will take more action by Kuwaiti feminists to stop them. But there's no doubt that this is a clear step forward, and should serve as a reminder that there is much more to be done.' Nadz also writes about some important Arab/Muslim women: Nawal al Saadawi, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Amina Wadud, Hind al-Hinnawy, Irshad Manji, and Mukhtiar Mai. Read her post, and follow the links there for more information. And don't miss the current posts at Nadz Online. (MSNBC, Nadz Online)


Dreams Into Lightning Marks 20,000 Visits

... and counting. Congratulations to the visitor in Germany, Windows XP user, who read my post on hair at 7:53 AM (Pacific) on May 21, and became this site's 20,000th visitor.

And thanks to all the 20,078 people who've visited so far. From my stats I know I've got readers in Iraq, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Europe, Britain, and every time zone in North America. (Special thanks to that regular reader in the Nome Time Zone!) Also a personal thank you to the regulars I know by name (either onscreen or in person): Blanche in SF, Diane in Ottawa, Gila in Portland, Stefania in Italy, Judith in New York, Tom the Redhunter, the Fadhil brothers in Baghdad, and Jane Novak in New Jersey, who started me down this road to perdition.

LCR's Patrick Guerriero Addresses Basic Rights Oregon

Patrick Guerriero of Log Cabin Republicans addressed a group in Lake Oswego, Oregon this afternoon. The event, hosted by Basic Rights Oregon, drew about 30 people in weather that was sunny and rainy by turns.

Guerriero was introduced by host Karl Rohde (pronounced "roadie"), who opened his elegant, Frank Lloyd Wright - inspired home (designed and built by Rohde's father, he told us) to the event. Karl served on Lake Oswego's City Council as both the only Republican and the only openly gay member, and led passage of the city's civil rights legislation. Also introducing the speaker was Roey Thorpe of BRO; Guerriero praised Ms. Thorpe's activism, which he said had earned her respect at the national level.

The Massachusetts-born Guerriero joked that there were "more Republicans here [in the room] than in all of Massachusetts", although perhaps most of the guests were BRO-affiliated Democrats. He began his talk by noting the need for "a segment of the LGBT community to speak out with a centrist voice for equality - in every state." For that, he said, the help of the Republican Party will be needed "in every area" because all major advances in civil rights in the modern era have come through working within institutions.

"I debate the far Right all the time," he said; "someone has to do it." (In response to Pat Buchanan's "amazing" accusation that he is advocating for the "radical homosexual agenda", Guerriero counters that he is advocating for basic respect and dignity - in short, for "the right to have boring families.") "We want the most stable and conservative thing," he said.

Outlining the special role of gay conservatives and the Log Cabin organization in the national debate, Guerriero enumerated three areas of particular interest: (1) family recognition and responsibility; (2) the war on terror, and our responsibilities toward the thousands of lesbians and gays serving silently in the American armed forces; (3) persons of faith. Lesbians and gays in the American military, he said, unlike their British and Australian comrades, cannot be honest with their commanding officers about their most important relationships, and must face painful discrimination in the area of family notification.

Guerriero concluded by noting that "conversations are going on in the kitchens of conservative America" which will provide the framework for a broader understanding of gay people and their relationships. In an interview with Gay Patriot, he said of LCR, "our goal is to go out of business." Looking forward to the day when LCR will no longer be needed as an activist organization, he told BRO: "Some of us are going to be here when we get into the endzone."

Lesbian and gay activists have won many victories for equality, but face some tough challenges from the opposition, which has been highly effective in gaining grassroots support. The task ahead is to win the grassroots back. In the Gay Patriot interview, Guerriero outlined the three phases of gay activism:
The first phase, which was necessary, was this very angry, in-your-face…I’m thinking of the folks at Stonewall who had the guts to rise up against the police. ... The second phase from the mid-Eighties to, I think, probably the Year 2000 – I’ll use that since it was an election year….was this effort to show that there was a different face to the community. So that was when folks started their black tie dinners; Log Cabin Republicans comes to Washington and professionalizes itself. And you have organizations that took this kind of rabid, more left-leaning, aggressive, in-your-face type of tactics [phase] to a “now we have to make ourselves feel good” [phase]. ... And then from 2000, and I’ll use that year loosely, the challenge which I don’t think any organization has quite figured out yet, is how you move to the third phase of this [gay rights movement]. How do you speak to the conservative grandmother in Toledo, Ohio, and the conservative Southerner who has only been yelled at about these issues – and probably cast a bad vote at some point in his or her life. Or even said something that they would probably take back now.

We are now at the beginning of the third phase. This is not the hardest part - that part was done by those who stood up to police and criminal harrassment and legal prosecution in earlier years. But it is a part that requires dedication and maturity. Or as Guerriero says, "our biggest focus is to prepare Log Cabin Republicans enough to grow up."

What this means in practical terms, he explained in response to a question, is meeting the challenge of going from "safe" environments like the liberal coastal cities to places like rural Washington and interacting with persons of faith. It means asking ourselves whether we've maybe spent a few too many activist dollars in the big cities instead of places where the funds were needed more, or perhaps called a few too many people "bigots" who weren't really bigots but just uninformed. Guerriero recalled that he's met many Republicans who have said, "you're the first person who just asked to talk about [gay issues]" - all too often, gay activists were picketing and protesting but not dialoging.

The battle for equality will be won. If we are complacent and timid, the speaker said, it will take fifty years; if we take action, it can be done in fifteen years. The choice is ours.

Log Cabin Republicans
Basic Rights Oregon

Many thanks to Patrick Guerriero for visiting Oregon. Also thanks to Karl and Roey for making this possible, and to Eric Carver, the Finnish-American freelance journalist who covered the event for audiences in Finland.

Also, a personal thank you to the gentleman who gave me a ride back home to downtown Portland - thanks for the ride, and for the stimulating debate about Iraq!

(Don't worry - I promise not to rub it in when you finally realize you were wrong.)

Politically Correct Homophobia, Misogyny

Cathy Young nails it at ReasonOnline: Multiculturalism:
On April 30, American journalist Chris Crain became the victim of a hate crime in Amsterdam. While walking in the street holding hands with his partner, he was savagely beaten by seven men shouting antigay slurs. A few days later, Scott Long, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Program at the Human Rights Watch, expressed some sympathy for the gay-bashers. Crain's attackers were reportedly Moroccan immigrants.

"There's still an extraordinary degree of racism in Dutch society," Long opined to the gay news service PlanetOut. "Gays often become the victims of this when immigrants retaliate for the inequities that they have to suffer."

Welcome to Politically Correct World, where acts that would merit unequivocal condemnation if committed by white males are viewed in a very different light when the offenders belong to an "oppressed group."

Read it all. Hat tip: Gay Patriot.

Morning Report: May 22, 2005

Oregon's Smith to Arab leaders: Freedom first. Debka reports: 'US senator Gordon Smith [R - Oregon] advised Arab leaders to first take care on injustices in their own countries before fixing Palestinian issue. Addressing World Econonic Forum panel in Amman, he said: “Obviously greatest US commitment is to Israel’s security”, he stressed, and justice for Palestinians “if possible.”' (Debka)

North Korean ship docks near Seoul. Incredibly, the North Korean government is experiencing a shortage of fertilizer. South Korea has agreed to provide the humanitarian aid during inter-Korean negotiations, CNN reports: 'For the first time in over two decades, a North Korean ship docked in a South Korean port Sunday, the start of a series of voyages to pick up fertilizer donated to North Korea by the South Korean government. ... South Korea pledged to send 200,000 tons of fertilizer to North Korea during meetings last week between the two nations. ... North and South Korea ended rare bilateral talks on Thursday without agreement on Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.' (CNN)

Stefania Hits Print in JPost

Congratulations to Stefania LaPenna of the blog Free Thoughts! Stefania has published an article on Iran in the Jerusalem Post. Read it here:

Deceive and Rule


Another Successful Meet-Up

PDX LiberalHawks had another meet-up in Portland Wednesday night. Five of us got together - Michael Totten, Michael W., Martin, Richard, and myself - over drinks and dinner. We talked about politics, liberalism, conservatism, and the "radical center". All agreed that liberals have better food.

One thing I mentioned is this: Now that we know one another in person, none of us can say "I don't know anybody else who voted for Bush." There's strength in numbers. The internet is a great way to share information, but meeting other people face-to-face gives you a kind of solidarity that the internet can't. Whoever you are, whatever your politics, there are probably other people out there who'd like to meet you. (Hannah Arendt argued that human activity can be divided into three realms: labor, work, and action. Labor is the stuff you do to survive; work is your creative activity; and action is your interaction with other people in person - the political sphere in its purest form. But I digress.) Anyway, it's always good to know you're not alone.

Thanks to all who attended - and to those who couldn't make it, we missed you. Hopefully we'll hook up soon.

We're set for next week's meeting, too - this one will be in my neighborhood.


MSH, Ian Curtis +25 Years

Today marks twenty-five years since the death by suicide of Ian Curtis, lead singer of the Manchester, England -based rock band Joy Division (previously known as Warsaw and Stiff Kittens, and subsequently re-formed as New Order); it's also the 25th anniversary of the eruption of the Mount Saint Helens volcano in southern Washington State, which killed 57 people.


I'm working this week, plus I've got a busy social calendar, so posting will be light. Meanwhile, don't miss Michael Totten's post on conservatism (and liberalism). I have only one or two thoughts to add to that, which I'll try to do within the next few days.

Also, remind me to tell you about the rabbi who thinks Jews have too much power. Hoo boy.

Go read Michael's post at the link and find out what Pat Buchanan thinks about the future of the gay marriage issue..


Chrenkoff: Good Guys Wear Black

This is repulsive.
"Star Wars" director George Lucas says that although he wrote the original film during the Vietnam War, his six-part saga could apply to the war in Iraq.

''In terms of evil, one of the original concepts was how does a democracy turn itself into a dictatorship,'' Lucas told a news conference at Cannes, where his final episode had its world premiere.

''The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable.

''On the personal level it was how does a good person turn into a bad person, and part of the observation of that is that most bad people think they are good people, they are doing it for the right reasons,'' he added.

Arthur Chrenkoff has a few choice words for Mr. Lucas; go read his "Open Letter" at the link.

Morning Report: May 16, 2005

"Newsweek Apology Inflames Pentagon." Morning Report regrets that it cannot take credit for the foregoing headline; that honor goes to Fox News, which reports: 'Pentagon officials reacted angrily to an acknowledgement from Newsweek that it published a flimsy report, accusing the magazine of inflaming anti-American violence in Afghanistan. In an apology to readers, Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker said that its original source for a story accusing U.S. interrogators of flushing the Koran down the toilet to rattle a detainee later said he or she could not recall where information about the alleged incident came from. "We believed our story was newsworthy because a U.S. official said government investigators turned up this evidence," Whitaker wrote. "But we regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst."' No word yet on whether the Washington street will explode. (Fox)

Jewish extremists held in alleged terror conspiracy. Jerusalem Post: 'Three Jewish extremists have been questioned by police for allegedly planning to fire a missile at a mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount in an effort to torpedo this summer's planned unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, police announced Monday. The three men were part of a group of nine Israeli Jewish suspects arrested over the last month in two separate cases over alleged plans to attack the Temple Mount. But calling into question the strength of the police's case, however, all of the suspects have been released from custody, with the state attorney's office deciding not to press charges against any of the suspects due to lack of evidence and the fact that they had second thoughts about their plot even before they were detained.' Arutz Sheva: 'The police were forced to admit that no indictments would be handed down, and no weapons were found in their possession. In addition, none of the nine "suspects" were kept in jail - though they face various restrictions on their mobility for the coming weeks. Members of one "cell" discussed attacking the Dome of the Rock with missiles, but never acquired the weapons or the know-how to perpetrate the attack. Another man, Ilan Hirshfeld of Raanana - a 61-year-old retired air-conditioner retailer - was interrogated for several hours last month after he asked his employees if it was possible to install a camera aboard a drone flying over the Temple Mount.' Ha'Aretz: 'Two of the central suspects, Avtalion Kadosh, 21, from Jerusalem and 23-year-old Eyal Karamani from Rehovot, turned to the criminal underworld in a bid to obtain the weapons, Israel Radio said. According to the report, the five toured of the site, and decided that they would fire the missile at the Mount and then throw hand grenades at security forces who arrived at the scene, before committing suicide. Another man was also detained over a plan to fly a model aircraft into the Mount. Last summer, the defense establishment confirmed that it was becoming increasingly concerned that right-wing extremists might be plotting an attack on the Temple Mount to derail the planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. As a result, Israeli security sources said at the time, the Shin Bet and the police were preparing for a number of possible terror attack scenarios at the sacred Old City site.' Debka: 'Jerusalem judge dismissed case and ordered Shin Beit and police to set free without charge or restrictions 9 Israelis alleged to have contemplated a missile attack on Temple Mount, followed by grenade assault on Israeli security forces and collective suicide. Defending lawyer accused security service of trumping up charges with aid of agent provocateur. The episode released Monday is one month old. Internal security minister Ezra: The episode was not serious and Temple Mount was never in danger. Another man accused of planning a glider flight over shrine to ignite a Palestinian uprising was likewise freed without charge.' (various)

Lavender Alert

Netherlands no safe haven for Iraqi Kurdish lesbian. An Iraqi Kurdish lesbian writes at Gay Middle East:
I was always different as the rest. I felt different when I was very young.
I didn’t know why, but i knew i was not the same.
At the age of 5 my parents, brothers and sisters and me flee from Northern Iraq to Holland. We arrived in Amsterdam, where i also grew up.
I went to primary and secondary school and then studied Economics at the University. I didnt have any boyfriends, although men wanted to date me. I was not interested in them. I first believed that i didnt want to date men because it was not allowed by my parents. My parents forbid me to date any men; if there was a propriate marriage kandidate, they would decide if i had to marry him. A lot of men asked my parents to marry me, and always i was forced to marry, but i just coulnd’t. I always made up “ excuses” not to marry ...

She's 31 years old, and she feels that time is running out. Read her story at the link.

The harm to her was imaginary; the harm to the gay community was real. Seems there wasn't enough homophobia in the world to suit a lesbian teenager in Mill Valley, California, who felt she needed to invent some of her own. The high school student admitted to faking hate crimes against herself. (Hat tip: LaShawn Barber.) 'The student was not arrested, but police said the case would be referred to the Marin County District Attorney's Office for review. In a series of incidents dating back to November, the student claimed she was the target of hateful language, with anti-gay epithets scrawled on her car and on her school locker. She told police she was pelted with eggs outside her home by an unknown assailant.' Pity they can't send her to Amsterdam ... to walk a mile in that Kurdish woman's shoes.

Gay-bashing in Eurabia. The Washington Blade's Chris Crain knows a thing or two about real gay-bashing - and about Amsterdam. He writes about his experience here. Crain disagrees with Scott Long's criticism of "Dutch society" and is wary of blaming "America’s favorite target — fundamentalist Islam".
I do not mean to discount the influence of religion on culture. I grew up in the American South, where fundamentalist Christianity provided aid and comfort for the racist oppression of blacks and continues to rally opposition to equality for gays.

But the contribution of religion here is more indirect, and I’m not sure much can be accomplished with non-Muslims blaming a faith about which we are mostly ignorant for the culture we think it has produced.

"We are mostly ignorant"? Speak for yourself, my friend. I'm sorry, but I refuse to give islamist fundamentalism a free pass just because it's different from what I grew up with. Get a clue, Chris: One can criticize Islamic fundamentalism without being an islamophobic bigot - just read Irshad Manji's book. And if you feel you're "mostly ignorant" about Islam, then by all means educate yourself. Read blogs by Arabs and Muslims, learn about the moderate Muslim groups. And don't be afraid to call religious extremism by its name.

Nevertheless, Chris Crain brings up some excellent points, and he's right on target when he says: "Our attackers would have reacted at least as viciously to two men of their own ethnicity who walked the street as lovers." (I suspect our Kurdish friend would agree.) And most importantly, he concludes that gays should not allow this incident to intimidate them or to frighten them away from Amsterdam, or anyplace else.

Chris, I wish you a full and speedy recovery from your injuries, and better luck on your next visit to Amsterdam.

Spokane mayor in sex scandal. Spokane, Washington Mayor Jim West is resisting calls for his resignation despite allegations that he abused his position as a Boy Scout leader to molest boys, and took advantage of his office as Mayor to attempt to lure young men into sex with illicit favors, according to the Spokesman-Review (hat tip: My Vast Right Wing Conspiracy). Perhaps predictably, West steals a page from the McGreevey playbook and wraps himself in the rainbow flag, claiming he's a victim of homophobia:
Meet the state's newest, most fired-up crusader for gay rights: Spokane Mayor Jim West.

In the week following the news that the conservative Republican may have molested boys in the '70s and is cruising for barely adult males now, West has transmogrified himself into a gay-pride activist. "I am being destroyed because I am a gay man," West told The Spokesman-Review.

Excuse me while I puke. Since when does being gay give you the right to molest underage boys and turn the mayor's office into a whorehouse?
Yet some insist the story is West's gayness and how it contradicts his right-wing policies.

"The hypocrisy, cynicism and lies upon which Mr. West built his political career harmed homosexuals in our state, and his sexual orientation is thus a legitimate topic for discussion," Mike Kress of the Spokane Human Rights Commission wrote in The Spokesman-Review paper.

Well, this idiot got the hypocrisy part right anyway: West is picking up on one of the worst aspects of today's liberalism, the "victim mentality", to deny personal responsibility for his own actions.

A summary of the Jim West story to date is avialable through CNN.

Blade on civil unions and reciprocal benefits in Oregon. The Washington Blade reports on an Oregon reciprocal-benefits bill that appears aimed at undermining the more comprehensive civil-unions bill (SB 1000):
Oregon Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) has introduced a reciprocal benefits bill (HB 3476) in an attempt to counter SB 1000, a bill that would create civil unions and ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and which has strong support in the Senate.

Scott Jorgenson, legislative assistant for Richardson, said he expects to know within the next week or so whether the reciprocal benefits bill will receive a committee hearing.

Jorgenson said that the bill is modeled on one enacted in Hawaii in 1997.

“Last November, Oregonians voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman with measure 36, which received 57 percent of the vote,” Jorgenson said. “SB1000 runs counter to what the people said they wanted. We wanted to address all the basic fairness issues that came up … transfer of property, hospital visitation.”

Basic Rights Oregon, a statewide gay and lesbian advocacy organization, called the reciprocal benefits bill “unfair, inadequate and insulting.”

In a letter to members BRO said, “This bill is an attempt by religious extremists to appear ‘moderate,’ to undermine any real chance at fairness for same-sex couples and to dominate the terms of this debate by making civil unions look too extreme for Oregon.”

Basic Rights Oregon gives this account (dated May 6) of the citizen debate at the State Legislature. BRO also points out the bait-and-switch tactics of the DOMC: 'When Oregon’s “Defense of Marriage Coalition” was seeking a Yes vote from Oregon Voters on Measure 36, the DOMC was clear that the vote was not about civil unions, and even suggested it would be open to civil union legislation to provide same-sex couples with the benefits of marriage. But, now that measure 36 has passed, the same groups are saying something very different. ...' Follow the link to a PDF download with some very interesting "before and after" quotes ... in the DOMC's own words.

Guerriero to visit Oregon. I'm pleased to report that Log Cabin Republicans leader Patrick Guerriero is coming to Oregon in an event hosted by BRO. I plan to be there. If you're in the area, and you want to help support fair treatment for the gay community, follow the link for more info.


LCR: Say No to William Pryor Nomination

Log Cabin Republicans press release:
(Washington, DC) — Two mainstream Republican groups are launching a grassroots effort to defeat the nomination of William Pryor to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. “Log Cabin Republicans and the Republican Majority for Choice are activating our nationwide grassroots memberships to put pressure on Republican Senators to oppose William Pryor’s nomination,” said Log Cabin Republicans President Patrick Guerriero. ...

"We support the confirmation of all fair-minded jurists, however, Mr. Pryor's record is so out of step with mainstream Republican values and contemporary jurisprudence that our organizations are compelled to forcefully oppose his nomination," continued Guerriero.

William Pryor has gone out of his way to oppose equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. He authored an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court defending Texas's discriminatory statute, and in particular a state's interest in singling out same-sex relationships for punishment, even though his own state's statute made no distinction between same and opposite-sex relationships. Pryor's brief compared same-sex relationships to pedophilia, bestiality, and necrophilia. The Court rejected Mr. Pryor's argument that gay and lesbian Americans may be branded as criminals because some in a state disapprove of them. In Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Anthony Kennedy—who was appointed by President Reagan—dismissed as "demeaning" the arguments that Mr. Pryor made before the Court. ...

LCR Press Release on Pryor

Free Muslims Against Terror - Update 2

The Autonomist has a good post with photos.

Good comment from the thread at LGF:
the low crowd turnout had two causes:

1) muslems didn't show up, and...

2) people who claim to want to see moderate muslems to denounce jihad didn't show up.

the former, as pointed out, face ostracism and reprisals when they return home.

what was your excuse?

Now, I live in the Pacific Northwest, and I didn't have the chance to fly 3,000 miles to "the other Washington" to participate. But I know that there are things I can do in my community, and I'm doing them. Perhaps the same is true for you. No, the turnout for this event wasn't great, but it was a start, and it tells us we've got our job cut out for us. Let's keep working.

Africa Report

YU students rally against Sudan genocide. A group of students at New York's Yeshiva University organized a rally against genocide in Sudan, reports Kesher Talk: 'It got a respectable crowd, considering that it took place on Mother's Day. The rally was generated by a group of students at Yeshiva University, and there were many references to Jewish values from the podium and many kippot and tzitzit in the crowd. (Of course, the so-called social justice groups that staged the May Day rally in Union Square were nowhere to be seen.)' Judith also reports some welcome - though out-of-character - words from a Human Rights Watch representative. Read the full article at the link. (Kesher Talk)

Sudan violence rises. A recent news item reports: 'Rape, kidnapping and attacks on civilians increased last month in Sudan's Darfur region despite a growing international effort to end the bloodshed, a senior United Nations (UN) official said on Thursday. Hedi Annabi, the deputy head of UN peacekeeping operations, said African Union (AU) troops were effective in helping to stem the violence where deployed but underlined the importance of the AU's plans to beef up the force. "Instability, violence and civilian suffering in this troubled region continue," he said to the UN Security Council, adding there were also attacks on aid and relief workers. He called the attacks a "worrying trend in light of the role played by the humanitarian community in sustaining the 2.45 million conflict-affected civilians in Darfur".' A State Department report at AllAfrica notes: 'Because Jingaweit [Janjaweed]militia continue to attack civilians in Darfur and thus perpetuate a lack of security in the region, bringing short-term stability to the area will require considerable strengthening of the African Union (AU) mission in Sudan, a senior U.N. official said May 12. Assistant Secretary-General Hedi Annabi told the U.N. Security Council that organized violence continues and that attacks on civilians, rape, kidnapping and banditry actually increased in April. Although there was no evidence of direct involvement of regular government forces, there were widespread reports of abuse by the pro-government Jingaweit militia.' (AllAfrica)

Egelund: Horn of Africa crisis highlights neglect. United Nations Undersecretary General Jan Egelund cited Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as Southern Africa, as regions slipping beneath the industrial world's radar. According to a State article at AllAfrica: 'Speaking with journalists after a private briefing to the U.N. Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Africa, Egeland said, "In general there is too little attention and there is too little investment" in Africa's humanitarian challenges. "Today a majority of our activities in Africa are badly underfunded. The majority [of projects] are less than 20 percent funded so far this year." Calling the situation in northern Uganda "one of the worse humanitarian crises in the world," the U.N. aid official warned, "We will have a break in the food pipeline in June unless we get more resources." "Already in the Horn of Africa and in parts of southern Africa we are having very meager rations and decreasing rations. In Ethiopia and Eritrea we are not able to feed all [the people] we should be feeding," Egeland said.' (AllAfrica)

Ethiopia: Election observers arrested. A recent bulletin from Stratfor (subscription service) reports: 'Ethiopia's opposition parties said May 14 that many of their election observers were arrested across the country, in addition to one candidate from the opposition United Ethiopian Democratic Forces. The opposition parties said that more than 100 observers remain in detention ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for May 15.' (Stratfor)

Morning Report: May 15, 2005

Rice visits Iraq. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paid a surprise visit to Iraq. An AP story at Fox News reports: ' Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a surprise and heavily guarded visit to Iraq, thanked U.S. troops and diplomats Sunday for taking risks to help Iraqis build a new nation. Rice flew to Baghdad to meet with the senior leadership of Iraq's newly elected government to offer support and ask how the United States can be most useful, she said. Before those sessions, however, Rice addressed a gathering of uniformed troops and U.S. embassy employees in the fortified Green Zone.' Debka adds: 'US Secretary Rice on unannounced one-day visit to Kurdistan was flown under heavy security to Barzani’s Saladhin mountain stronghold. Later Sunday she sees PM Jaafari. She will tell him his government must try harder to include all population segments. No word on where meeting will take place. Official in Rice party says she also brings strong demand for constitution timeline to be met.' (Fox, Debka)

Operation Matador concluded. US officials declared the offensive against insurgents in Iraq, known as Operation Matador, a success. AP via Fox: 'The U.S. military wrapped up a major offensive in a remote desert region near the Syrian border Saturday, saying it had cleaned out the terrorist haven and killed more than 125 militants during the weeklong campaign against followers of Iraq's most wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Nine U.S. Marines were killed and 40 injured during Operation Matador — one of the largest American campaigns since militants were driven from Fallujah six months ago. The number of civilian casualties was not immediately known. ... The U.S. offensive began May 7 in Qaim, a town 200 miles northwest of Baghdad on the southern bank of the Euphrates River. American intelligence indicated terrorists had massed north of the waterway, according to reporters embedded with the assault. But as soldiers built a pontoon bridge, they started taking mortar fire from nearby Obeidi.' Debka: 'More that 125 insurgents killed, 39 held for questioning. US forces lost 9 men, 40 injured. DEBKAfile adds: US commanders reported hundreds of foreign fighters escaped ahead of US week-long village-to-village push along Euphrates northern bank. They slipped into Syria or the Iraqi border town of Husaybah facing Abu Kamal, Syrian logistic smuggling center. US forces will not challenge Husaybah for now.' (Fox, Debka)

Iranian thunder. A resistance campaign codenamed "Tondar-1" (Thunder 1) is set to begin in Iran and in Europe's Iranian diaspora, according to a new thread at Free Iran: 'Loose translation: after 26 years of Islam's brutal rule and opposition groups just bickering at each other, etc. anjomane padeshahi took a referandum on Your TV and came to the conclusion that the only way the regime can be brought down is through "fists and bullets". They will start 'Operation: Thunder One' soon (in the month of Ordibehesht) which will take place inside iran and also in europe and they want all Iranians to pay close attention, etc. ... Note: this part isn't in the announcement but was said on TV: The european part is non-violent but very poweful. The Iranian part may involve violence against regime forces and those who won't listen to the message. It will take a week. During this week, they have warned that no buses, taxis, trains, trucks, tankers, and other methods of transportations are allowed to move on the roads (either between cities or within cities). If they don't listen, there may be consequences for them. No one knows exactly what Tondar invovles until it starts.' (Free Iran)


A Vast Right-Wing Anniversary

Happy Blogiversary to Beth, our favorite 'Bama Pachyderm, at My Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. And no, Beth, you NEVER sucked.

We can blame Beth for bringing us such time-wasters as Bob's Cube.

("Myst" pales by comparison.)

Happy first, Beth. Keep up the good work.


Judith at Kesher talk has an excellent post in response to Andrew Sullivan's recent dishing on the subject of hair.

Sully quotes a reader who suffers from that horribly debilitating social affliction: a hairy back.
A very hairy back.
Like Robin Williams’ arm hair hairy .... There. I've said it. I've admitted it. The weight is off my shoulders, though the follicles remain. I feel much better. Knowing there are people out there like you, people who support folks with back hair almost makes life worth living again. I say almost because I do have a couple of other hurdles to clear. Like biting my fingernails rather than a manicure. And I like red meat and regular beer. But then, recovery is a process, right?"

The question then arises of people who use depilatories. Judith takes up the debate:
I personally find this fad repulsive. I haven't seen as many naked guys lately as I would like, but to whatever extent I have been exposed to the hairless pubes look, it grosses me out. If I wanted to lech on smooth hairless boys, I would be a pedophile. Men have pubic hair, pre-pubescent boys don't. Women have pubic hair, pre-pubescent girls don't. Any guy who would be turned off because I don't shave down there is going to be politely shown the door.

Judith then lets another genie out of the bottle:
I have never shaved, period. Anywhere. I have never been very hairy and as I've gotten older the body hair has gotten even thinner, so at this point it looks like I shave my legs and pits, but I don't. ...

Now, I have always wondered: Why is it that straight men have this fixation on women's armpit hair (or its absence)? Is a woman with - gasp - unshaved armpits some kind of freak? Apparently it is an abomination - nay, a crime against nature - for a woman to fail to shave under her arms. "Female armpit hair" appears to have replaced "bra-burning" the new cliche of the Scary Feminist. Or as Judith says:
What gets me is the extremes of emotion this subject generates. To listen to blog comments when the topic comes up, women who don't shave are the most repulsive civilization-destroying creatures out there, almost as bad as terrorists. And of course any woman who doesn't shave must be a brain-dead New Age antiwar moonbat hippie. ...

My social life isn't quite as glamorous as I might wish, but I can tell you one thing - I'm not going to judge a date on how scrupulously she shaves her armpits. Sheesh.

Free Muslims Against Terror - Update

Davids Medienkritik doesn't sugarcoat it - turnout at the march in Washington, DC by the Free Muslims Against Terror was disappointing. Coverage from the MSM was sparse and overtly hostile, but you already knew that. Tune in to Little Green Footballs for the inevitable snarky comments (as well as a few positive ones). Perhaps Adrenalyn says it best: The name should really be "Three Muslims Against Terror".

A Message About Iraq

This message was forwarded by Andrea "Pajamas" in Minnesota. This Ali is not Ali Fadhil of ITM / Free Iraqi fame, but another Iraqi.
I am sending you this message to thank you for your support to the Iraqi people. I would love to tell you that people like you give us a huge hope to live in a better condition. I know that things are not going very well in Iraq at the moment, but we are trying our best to defeat our enemies. The problem with us Iraqis is that the number of countries surrounding us have dictators, from the smallest security service man to the highest rank in the government. These people send their brain washed children and support them. They are countries like, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan, Egypt etc. + many Palestinians who want to solve their problems in Iraq. I wish we can see better days in Iraq soon and hope your country men will be safer.
By the way I live in London at the moment and going to Dubai tomorrow for 2 weeks. I was a regular reader to the brothers blog and comment section for a long time, but was unable to keep up with them.
Thank you again for your support and I hope Mr. Coleman will kick George Galloway's and Kofi Anan's As*es. Keep in touch.

Best Regards,

Your Iraqi friend Ali

Thanks, Andi, for passing this on.

Yemeni Activist Nabil Wazir Kidnapped

Freedom activist Nabil Wazir has been kidnapped. Please visit Jane's post at Armies of Liberation:
The Kidnapping of Nabil al-Wazir.
UPDATE: Jane e-mails me to report that he's been released, and he is now back with his family. Go Jane!!!

See, people ... blogging works.


Culture of Life: The Reading Hour

We had television in our family while I was growing up, but we didn't have much of it. Mom and Dad were pretty strict about what got watched and what didn't: "Captain Kangaroo" and "Lost in Space" early on, but no Saturday morning cartoons; later, "All in the Family", "Mary Tyler Moore", and "Bob Newhart", but none of the other sitcoms, which Mom considered coarse and vulgar. Actually I should clarify that Mom set the TV schedule - Dad didn't watch television, period. And they never, ever used television as a "babysitter".

Instead of sitting in front of the television tube, the four of us (my parents, my sister, and I) would sit around taking turns reading aloud, usually a chapter at a time, from some book. Both my parents were literary people and had excellent taste in books. This ritual, which lasted throughout our school years, helped us to bond as a family (and believe me, we had plenty of problems, so we needed all the help we could get) and did wonders for my literacy and speaking skills. It is one of the main reasons I feel comfortable writing and (to a lesser extent) speaking.

The best writing reads well aloud; indeed, the best writing is meant to be read aloud. Even in modern times, novelists like Toni Morrison and Theodore Sturgeon have affirmed the value of live reading. I read silently a lot, but even then I am conscious of how a passage sounds when read out loud; sometimes I will read a paragraph or two to my empty living room just to enjoy the sound of it. Personally, I do not think it is possible to write well without an awareness of the sound of the spoken word.

The books we read:
Madeleine L'Engle - A Wrinkle In Time
(I was too young to catch the Kennedy-era references - "Camazotz", indeed! - but I took its warning against cold intellectualism to heart; and I never forgot Meg's words, "Like and equal are not the same thing at all!" In retrospect, I think there must have been a strong anti-Communist message.)

Lucy Boston - The Legend of Green Knowe (series)
(Even though I was too old, I had nightmares about the trees near our house.)

Susan Cooper - The Dark Is Rising (series)
(Another wonderful fantasy series drawing on the lore of ancient Britain.)

Charles Dickens - A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist
(I remember being troubled by the constant references to Fagin as "the Jew"; but it didn't lessen my admiration for Dickens as a writer. "A Christmas Carol" is still one of my favorite works of literature.)

Louis Slobodkin - The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree (series)
(Delightful stories of first contact in small-town America. Among my favorite lines: "General Store? Who is this General Store?" The bond between Eddie and his ET pal Marty - who, like Eddie, was always getting into trouble - was very warm.)

Louisa May Alcott - Little Women
(The relationship between the cross-gendered Jo and Laurie fascinated me.)

... I could add a lot more titles to the list if I thought about it, but those are just the ones that pop up for me now.

If I could make just one request of today's parents, it would be: Read with your kids. Don't just read to them, when they're at the storybook age (do that, certainly); but also get in the habit of sharing good books with them as they grow up. That is a gift they will keep for a lifetime.

New Blogs

Paul Edwards of Australia is a familiar name to those who followed the Comments on the Iraqi blogs. Now he's got a blog of his own, Anti-Subjugator.

Feras of Palestine credits Paul with getting him started with his own blog, called simply Palestine. Go read his introductory post.

Afghan Report

Clerics urge peaceful protests. According to a recent bulletin from Stratfor (subscription service), 'Afghan clerics said May 13 that they support protests against the reported flushing of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, but also urged protesters not to use violence.' Former State President Sibghatullah Mojaddedi called for restraint, urging protestors not to attack agencies that help Afghanistan. (Stratfor)

Bomber kills three in internet cafe. Afghan Warrior reports: 'A suicide bomb blast in an internet cafe in Kabul killed three people, including a UN official from Burma, and injured five others at 5:50pm local time Saturday. According to some eyewitnesses, the blast hit the internet cafe immediately after an unusual suspect stepped into the cafe. Around 15 people, including three foreigners, were busy using the internet when the bomb blasted. The name of this internet cafe is Park Resident Internet Cafe.' Full details at the post. (Afghan Warrior)

On Vietnam

Absolutely the best analysis of the Vietnam and post-Vietnam era I've seen anywhere is provided by Neo-Neocon in her series "A Mind Is a Difficult Thing to Change" - the latest installment of which is now up. Links to the series are provided in Neo's sidebar. Go, read, and be enlightened.

Let's blogroll!

"And most important, Who." Baldilocks has some thoughts on gender and religion. As Gertrude demanded of Polonius, "More matter with less art!" Baldilocks thinks a shortage of males in a congregation may be a symptom of a lack of substance: "I have this theory about church congregations; if there are too many women in the congregation, say more that 55%, the pastor has likely has too much “praise and worship” in his service and not enough teaching of the word and some of its less “uplifting” aspects." She also doesn't share the feminist snarkiness of certain commenters in response to Michael Totten's "Babes of Lebanon". Go check out her post - and her blog.

Sobriety test. The scary part is, I've been there. Also, blondes have more fun; and there's lots of sartorial excitement at a Saturday night party, at Auntie Cracker. (But we never do find out what happened with the guy in the kilt.) (UPDATE: See Comments!)

LaShawn Barber gets in touch with her inner geek again. On the more serious side, LaShawn explores an article by Kay Hymowitz on children and achievement, adding: "Sorely lacking in lower income families is this sense of Mission. The children, sadly, are not the focus of the family unit, especially when there’s no father around. ... It’s cultural, or more accurately, sub-cultural. Lower-income parents, in general, don’t help their children develop talents or equip them with skills necessary to be productive citizens. Part of the reason is that generally, children from lower-income households are raised by the mother and no father, at least not one living with them, and her time is sub-divided between working and/or playing. For whatever reasons, these mothers either don’t understand or care about the Mission." Read the post to find what the exceptional familes - the ones who "get it" - do differently.

UPDATE: Nehring shows why LaShawn was right to leave well enough alone, in that galaxy far, far away ...

Is the internet broken? Dean Esmay tells you the terrible truth.

Ulrich Schnauss claims another victim. Emily is right: "A Strangely Isolated Place" is a killer piece of music; now I'm hooked too. Go visit her meme post to find out why good things come in threes.

"The Accretion of Truth"

Doubt is the prerequisite of truth. I don't buy the Millite idea of inevitable progress. But I do believe that one by-product of a free society is the advance of science and a better understanding of human nature. So we do not view women as we did a century ago. This is not simply a random, relativist change: it's because we now know the truth about the equality of women, we experience it daily, and our blind prejudices and cruelties have far less power . . . Ditto with race. And, so some extent, with abortion. Our ability, for example, to see the development of a fetus, to understand its development with far greater precision and detail than ever before, has inevitably sharpened our awareness of its humanness . . . And the reason our view of homosexuality has changed is not because we are somehow losing our sense of what is true or false: it is because we have a better, more informed view of what is true and false. This is not relativism. It is the accretion of truth. - Andrew Sullivan, quoted at The American Scene (hat tip: Ramesh Ponnuru at The Corner

Morning Report: May 13, 2005

Rumsfeld to name bases listed for closing. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will announce on Friday the names of US military bases marked for closure, according to news reports. CNN reports: 'Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is scheduled Friday to unveil the Pentagon's list of recommended military base closures -- moves that he says will save the U.S. military nearly $50 billion over two decades. The defense secretary will present the recommended list of installations to be closed to lawmakers and the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Rumsfeld kept a tight lid Thursday on details of the much-anticipated list but said it would contain fewer names than expected since additional space will be needed to house U.S. troops now deployed overseas. "Nonetheless, the changes that will occur will affect a number of communities, communities that have warmly embraced nearby military installations for a good many years -- indeed, in some cases, decades," he said.' (CNN)

Debka: Embassy guard thwarts terror attempt in Tashkent. According to a current bulletin at Debka: 'Israeli embassy security guard in Tashkent shot dead a suicide bomber on way to attack building Friday morning. Bomb was strapped to his body. Some authorities claim bomb belt was a dud.' (Debka)

Wretchard on Operation Matador. Analysis of Operation Matador, the US counterinsurgency campaign in eastern Iraq on the Syrian border, is currently posted at The Belmont Club. Thursday's first post notes: 'The enemy delivered mortar fire as the assault began on Sunday and delivered a night-time combined arms counterattack on Monday and made various attempts to escape by boat or vehicle on Tuesday. The list of incidents and chronology belie the assertion that the enemy was gone before the Marines arrived.' In the day's second post, citing reports from a Syrian border town, Wretchard adds: 'The Syrian townsfolk report US heavy weapons use (fixed wing, helicopter gunships and probably artillery) and return fire. This type of fire is significant, because heavy weapons are typically used against entrenched enemy fighters. Fixed-wing ordnance is often used to attack positions that cannot be harmed by helicopter missiles because the targets are too strongly built. The fact that many fires are delivered by night is also suggestive, because it recalls Marine tactics in Fallujah, when US forces exploited their superior night vision and surveillance capabilities to maneuver while the enemy was blinded. That in turn implies that the level of enemy resistance is such that individual positions have to be reduced by maneuver and destruction. Reports of return fire from enemy fighters imply they have prepared positions or ammunition caches because it is hard to keep shooting if they only started out with the ammunition in their personal bandoliers.' Full details at the links. (Belmont Club)

Senate Pasqua/Galloway report: MeK also involved. Sharp-eyed commenter Rasker, a frequent poster at Free Iran News, presents an important detail of the Senate's report on the Oil-for-Food corruption report (which also accused Britain's George Galloway and France's Charles Pasqua of involvement) at this thread: 'The report diplomatically buries one of its most interesting revelations in footnote 5. According to footnote 5, "Terrorist individuals and entities who received [OFF] allocations include the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Abu Abbas and the Mujahedeen-e Khalq". It will be interesting to see if Thursday's news stories pick up this particular item on the friends of Saddam Hussein.' The Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), or People's Mujahedeen, are an Iranian opposition group whose possible role in any action against the IRI regime remains highly controversial among freedom activists. (Free Iran)

Carpool regulations strictly enforced. Every road in Tikrit is a high-occupancy vehicle lane these days, Iraq the Model reports: 'In an attempt to protect their city from suicide car bombers, the local authorities in Tikrit set an emergency rule for driving on the streets; the new rule says that "no drivers will be allowed to drive their vehicles alone, i.e. every vehicle has to carry at least two people to be allowed to move on the streets". Source, Al-Sabah. The local police said that they will shoot at any vehicle that violates this rule ...' (ITM)

Federal judge strikes down anti-gay Nebraska measure. 'A federal judge on Thursday struck down Nebraska's anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment, which also banned recognition of gay domestic partnerships and civil unions', the Washington Blade reports. Morning Report notes that unlike other state measures aimed simply at defining marriage as a heterosexual institution, the Nebraska amendment would have gone much further: according to the Blade, 'The amendment, Section 29 of the Nebraska constitution, was passed in November 2000. The law went far beyond restricting the right to marry to heterosexual couples. The law explicitly barred any legal recognition of a same-sex couple in a "civil union, domestic partnership, or other similar same-sex relationship."' (Washington Blade)


Sudan: Help Save Activist Dr. Mudawi

Dr. Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, a human-rights activist in Sudan, was re-arrested on May 8, only days after being released from his previous detention by the Sudanese regime:
For the third time in the last 18 months, Dr. Mudawi has been arrested in apparent reprisal for his human rights work in Darfur.

On May 8, only hours before he was to travel to Ireland to receive a prestigious award for his tireless promotion of human rights, Dr. Mudawi was arrested in Khartoum along with two others, Yasir Saleem and Abdalla Taha. Dr. Mudawi is chairperson of the Sudan Social Development Organization (SUDO), an organization actively monitoring human rights violations in Darfur.

You can help. Send a message through the Human Rights First website.