2006-02-28

"Israel will have to attack Iran."

Jerusalem Post:
"Whether America provides Israel with a security umbrella or not, Israel will have to attack Iran," NRP-NU MK Effi Eitam said on Tuesday.

In an interview with Channel 10 television, Eitam warned that "In the coming year - and no later - Israel will have to take one of the most difficult decisions in its history."

The attack will be necessary, said Eitam, "Unless an unimaginable miracle happens and the diplomatic initiative will bear fruit."


2006-02-27

Television Appearance

Your humble blogger recently had the honor of being interviewed for Portland Cable Access television by Ann Kasper. The first airing was last night, but if you live in the Portland area you still have two more chances to catch the show:
Iraq: Languages and Politics

A 50-minutes television program featuring intreviews with Hama Mohammed, a Fullbright Scholar from Suleimanyia, Northern Iraq who studies Linguistics at the University of Oregon and Asher Abrams, blogger and verteran of the first Gulf conflict.

on Portland Cable Access
Sunday, 2/26 at 11pm on Channel 22
Wednesday, 3/1 at 7:30pm on Channel 23
Friday, 3/3 at 8:00pm on Channel 23

The schedule is available at PCMTV programming. The program is titled "Iraq: Languages & Politics". I'm featured in the second half of the program.


Afternoon Roundup

Michael Totten: Kirkuk not good. Michael J. Totten wanted to go to Suleimaniya after visiting Erbil. But his driver had other ideas.
KURDISTAN, IRAQ – I liked almost everyone I met in Iraqi Kurdistan. But no culture is without its annoying bastards, and the idiot who drove me from Erbil to Suleimaniya was one of them.

A torrential storm blew into Erbil on my last morning in the city. Streets flooded, in some places with feet of water. The power was out everywhere except in my fake “Sheraton” hotel. A journalist friend who was staying in another hotel packed his bags and moved into the “Sheraton” while I was on my way out. His hotel was wet as well as dark.

“You might not want to drive to Suli today,” he said. “You’ll have to go over some steep mountain passes.”

“I’m from Oregon,” I said. “It rains eight months out of the year there. I’m not worried.”

I would have to find a new driver and translator in Suleimaniya unless I wanted to pay hotel accommodations for my guys in Erbil. So I asked Birzo, my translator, to find me a driver who would just drop me off at my hotel in Suli, then turn around and head back to Erbil. He took me downtown and set me up with a company that had a good reputation.

“This man will take you to the Suli Palace Hotel,” Birzo said as he introduced me to a fat grinning 20 year-old. “Normally it would cost 50 dollars, but it’s raining so he wants 60. He doesn’t speak English, but you should be fine. He knows where the hotel is.”

“Okay, Birzo,” I said. “Thanks for all your help.”

“If you have any problems,” he said, “just call me and I will translate for you over the phone.”

I loaded my luggage into the car and we were off.

As we were leaving the city, my driver said “We go Kirkuk.”

“No!” I said, more sharply than I probably should have.

“Kirkuk good, Kirkuk good,” he said.

“No,” I said. “Suleimaniya. We are going to Suleimaniya.”

“Erbil. Kirkuk. Suleimaniya.” he said. The fastest road went through Kirkuk. “Kirkuk good.” ...

Go read Michael's post at the link to find out what happened after that.

ITM on the shrine crisis. Mohammed at Iraq the Model has some thoughts on the recent bombing of the Shi'a shrine in Samarra:
It's not a secret who was behind the attack on the shrine and I am sure that who did it were the Salafi/Wahabis whether Iraqi or foreigners and with external support from parties planning to disrupt the political process in Iraq.
The reason I believe it's the Salafis who did it comes from their own ideology which considers all mosques built upon tombs as places of polytheism and infidelity and thus must be destroyed. This also applies to Sunni shrines like Abu Haneefa and al-Gailani; Salafis consider the Shia and the Sufis their worst enemies and they commonly refer to them in their speech with the term "tomb worshippers" or Mushrikoon Quborioon in Arabic.

It's worth reminding that this is not the first time Salafis try to destroy the shrines in Iraq; their armies invaded Iraq back in the 19th century and burned the shrines in Kerbala and Najaf before the Ottoman empire repelled them and stopped them from reaching Baghdad where they were planning to destroy the shrines of al-Kazum, Abu Haneefa and al-Gailani (Shia, Sunni and Sufi respectively).

Followers of other sects would not dare do something like this because they fear the wrath of the imams; our culture has many stories about the supernatural powers possessed by the deceased imams. These stories planted fear in our hearts from even talking badly about them, let alone blowing up their tombs!

This leaves only one faction that justifies and pushes for destroying these tombs and this is the Salafi ideology.
Of course there are some who invest this ideology for political causes and here we come to the second beneficiary who stands behind the first beneficiary who carried out the attack for ideological reasons.

This second beneficiary is the parties who would like to see the new Iraqi state fall apart and who are scared of the idea of a democratic, stable Iraq next door as such a neighbor would transmit the democratic infection to their peoples. This includes more than one neighboring country; one provides logistics and training, the other provides media support while another one endorses the remnants of the Ba'ath regime who lost a lot of their privileges when Saddam was toppled.

Now that we have outlined the identity of the perpetrators depending on motives, interests and ideology we can move on to talk a little about the reactions to the atrocity which has a lot in common with the reactions to the Danish cartoons (I'm comparing the reactions here, not the actions that triggered them). The two reactions are similar in two aspects a) Overreaction and b) Exploiting the atrocity to serve political causes.

As a person who lives in Baghdad I've been following the situation from the early hours after the attack; on Wednesday morning I was on my way to work when I heard the news on the radio and I began watching closely to probe the feelings of the common people. People were at work as they always are, clerks behind their desks, grocers looking after their goods and municipal workers picking trash from the streets and I haven't noticed any unusual feelings among the people I came in contact with. In general life was normal until noon in the Shia majority district of Baghdad and there were absolutely no signs of a crisis of any sort. But on my way home I saw the men in black take to the streets after Ayatollah Sistani issued his fatwa (I wish my Shia brothers bear with me and read to the end).

Ayatollah Sistani issued a fatwa on Wednesday that sounded peaceful and normal from the first look but if you look closer at each word you will find that the "safety valve" became the igniter this time.

Two years ago the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf was attacked and although this is the holiest shrine for Shia Muslims the incident wasn't met with that much angry reactions instead we heard soothing statements like "these are mere stones and we can rebuild them and make them even better than before".

This time things were different because the political situation is different; the Ayatollah called for nationwide protests (and not to attack Sunni mosques) and a week of mourning. Now let's examine the part that said "do not attack Sunni mosques"…the sentence openly accuses the Sunni of being behind the attack or why would their mosques be mentioned in the first place? ...

However, it seems there are also some positive outcomes from this incident and its aftermath; the first one in my opinion was the performance of the Iraqi army which had a good role in restoring order in many places. Actually the past few days showed that our new army is more competent than we were thinking.
But the latest events have also showed the brittle structure of the interior ministry and its forces that retreated before the march of the angry mobs (if not joined them in some cases) and I think the statements that came from the meetings of our politicians pointed this out so clearly when Sunni politicians said they wanted the army to replace the police and police commandos in their regions and this indicates growing trust between the people and the army.

The other positive side is represented by the line we've seen drawn between clerics and politicians.
In spite of the attempts of clerics to look like as if they were the defenders of national unity with all their meetings, joint prayers and hugs, the political leaderships got a sense of their growing danger and the meeting at Jafari's home (which al-Hakeem didn't attend) showed that the government is keen to keep the country intact and the government systems as functional as possible to contain the crisis. This meeting indicates that politicians have realized that those clerics whether Sunni or Shia are the origin of the problem and are ready to coup on even their political allies which made the politicians more aware of the danger imposed by clerics on the project of building a state ruled by the law.

Clerics will not stop and they will carry on with their plans and I suspect they will launch the next phase of their plan soon after they received instructions from Syria (the Muslim scholars) and from Iran (the Sadrists).
The objective of the second phase will to move the conflict from one on the streets to a conflict with America. ...

Mohammed calls on the Iraqi government to disband the religious militias.

Iran Focus: Terrorist training camps in Iran. In an exclusive report, Iran Focus identifies 20 terrorist training camps inside Iran:
London, Feb. 27 – Iran Focus has obtained a list of 20 terrorist camps and centres run by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

The names and details of the training centres were provided by a defector from the IRGC, who has recently left Iran and now lives in hiding in a neighbouring country. Iran Focus agreed to keep his identity secret for obvious security reasons.

The former IRGC officer said the camps and the training centres were under the control of the IRGC’s elite Qods ["Jerusalem"] Force, the extra-territorial arm of the Revolutionary Guards.

“The Qods Force has an extensive network that uses the facilities of Iranian embassies or cultural and economic missions or a number of religious institutions such as the Islamic Communications and Culture Organisation to recruit radical Islamists in Muslim countries or among the Muslims living in the West. After going through preliminary training and security checks in those countries, the recruits are then sent to Iran via third countries and end up in one of the Qods Force training camps”, the officer said. ..

Full analysis and list at the link.



Morning Report: February 27, 2006

Iran disputes nuclear deal. Via Iran Focus, 'Iran said yesterday that it had struck an agreement with Russia on its nuclear programme but Moscow insisted the fundamental dispute over Tehran's nuclear plans had yet to be resolved.' But Iran will not suspend nuclear research: 'Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told Japan on Monday that Tehran will not suspend its atomic research and development, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said. Mottaki made the remarks during a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso in Tokyo, the official said.' Meanwhile, the IAEA says Iran is not cooperating: 'Uncertainties "have not been clarified after three years of intensive agency verification," said the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Mohamed ElBaradei's report comes a week before the IAEA board meets to discuss Iran's nuclear activity. The IAEA has already voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council.' (Iran Focus, BBC)

Zarqawi aide captured, says Iraqi official. AP via Yahoo reports that key al-Qaeda figure abu al-Farouq was captured in western Iraq: 'Interior Ministry forces captured a top aide to al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi during a raid in western Iraq, a security official said Monday. The official, a member of the ministry's counterinsurgency Wolf Brigade, identified the key al-Qaida figure as Abu al-Farouq, who was previously unknown. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The officer said al-Farouq and five other al-Qaida operatives were captured based on a tip from residents near al-Bakr, about 30 miles west of the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi. "Abou al-Farouq, a Syrian, was in charge of planning and financing militant groups operating in Ramadi while the other five are responsible of attacking Iraqi and coalition forces," the officer told The Associated Press.' (AP via Yahoo)

Iranian governors' offices bombed. The Intelligence Summit reports that bomb attacks struck the offices of two governors in southern Iran: 'Two bombs exploded in governors' offices in the southern Iranian cities of Dezfoul and Abadan on Monday morning, according to the official IRNA news agency. The first blast occurred at 10.04am in the Dezfoul governor's office in the oil-rich Khuzestan province and the second followed shortly thereafter in the Abadan governor's office. In both cases the explosive devices were placed in office toilets.' The report notes that the southwestern province of Khuzestan is home to more than two million ethnic Arabs. (TIS)

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Considers Rice's $85M Iran Democracy Request

... and I've just called the Foreign Relations Committee's office to express support.
Majority Phone: (202) 224-4651
Minority Phone: (202) 224-3953

You can also contact your senator to show your support. I've just called Senator Smith's and Senatory Wyden's offices; I don't have to look up their numbers 'cuz they're on my speed dial!



2006-02-26

Night Flashes

Debka reports that Russia has rescued Iran from UN Security Council action: 'The accord was announced Sunday, Feb. 26, by Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, after two days of talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Kiriyenko at the Bushehr nuclear reactor. DEBKAfile reports: The Russians, by going along with Iran’s demands, have rescued the Islamic Republic from the threat of a US-European-Israel complaint to the UN Security Council. Referral of Iran’s nuclear breaches of the NPT was to have taken place after the critical IAEA board session in Vienna March 6' ... Ramin Etebar delivers a message in observance of Charshambeh Souri: 'For the last 27 years of the Islamic rule, the Iranian New Year Nowrooz, and the Red Wednesday fire Festival, which falls on the last Tuesday evening of the Iranian year, have been the battleground between the Iranian culture of joy, knowledge and life and the non-Iranian culture of mourning, ignorance and martyrdom. The Islamic regime's security forces have tried to reach a compromise each year by not banning the celebrations but declaring only certain official parks in the cities for lawful celebrations. Yet the people and the youth in particular once again turn the Red Wednesday celebrations into a combat zone for the test of forces. As the youth jumped over the bonfires the traditional ancient rhymes were replaced with anti-government ones. ["toop, tank, feshfesheh Akhoond bayad koshteh sheh" " Cannons, Tanks and Firecrackers, We must kill the Mullahs". When it comes to the liberation of Iran, President Bush's words have been perfect. When will his administration's deeds follow suit?' ... it's beginning to sound like a cat-and-mouse game ... Art Spiegelman, where are you?

Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler has died, reports fellow SF novelist Steven Barnes. (Hat tip: heyiya.)


This is an awful tragedy. Octavia Butler's passing is a great loss to the world. I enjoyed her ingenious and often chilling stories in "Bloodchild", as well as "Mind of my Mind" and "Parable of the Sower". I really don't know what else to say now; I'm just stunned.

Octavia Butler info page.

Cross-posted to Translinear Light.

2006-02-22

Morning Report: February 22, 2006

Bomb blast wrecks Samarra shrine. AP reports on the bomb attack at Samarra: 'A large explosion Wednesday heavily damaged the golden dome of one of Iraq's most famous Shiite shrines, sending protesters into the streets and triggering reprisal attacks against Sunni mosques. It was the third major attack against Shiite targets in as many days. ... The Interior Ministry said four men, one wearing military uniform and three in black, entered the mosque early Wednesday and detonated two bombs, one of which collapsed the dome and damaged part of the northern wall of the shrine. A government statement said "several suspects" had been detained and some of them "might have had been involved in carrying out the crime."' ITM reports: 'The quality of the target and the timing of the attack were chosen in a way that can possibly bring very serious consequences over the country. The situation in Baghdad is so tense now, it wasn't like this in the early hours of the morning as it took a few hours for the news to spread but on my way back from clinic I saw pickup vehicles with loudspeakers roaming the streets calling on people to shut their stores in the name of the Hawza and join the protests after the noon prayer to condemn the attack on the holy shrine. Ayatollah Sistani reacted quickly to the escalating anger by issuing a fatwa that forbids his followers from "Taking any action against Sunni sites" obviously to discourage his followers from carrying out retaliatory attacks on Sunni mosques. Sistani has also demanded a 7 day mourning and to consider it a week off but the government so far has announced only a 3 day official mourning. Muqtada cut his tour in Lebanon and is heading back to Baghdad, he called on his followers from Beirut to "have self-control and refrain from violence". ... I believe there are foreign terror groups behind this attack and I don't think local insurgent would do such a thing, simply because this particular shrine had been in Sunni territory for a thousand years and the residents of Samarra had always benefited from the movement of religious tourism and pilgrimage.' More info, updates at the link. Zeyad: 'The situation in Baghdad is bad, bad, bad. I had to flee work early and return home after news of large protests in Shi'ite districts, and several attacks against Sunni mosques in the Baladiyat, Sha'ab and Dora districts by angry rioters. Sunnis are being blamed for the attack against a Shia holy shrine in Samarra, a largely Sunni town.' The Belmont Club has a roundup. (various)

Al-Arabiyah airs Saddam tapes. The Intelligence Summit reports on audio recordings of Saddam on WMD: 'Al-Arabiyah airs rare recordings for former Iraqi President Saddam Husayn. The US Central Intelligence Agency has found in Iraq the recordings, which date back to the 1990's. The recordings document some 12 hours of conversations between Saddam Husayn and some former officials about dealing with the international teams in charge of inspection for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. [Begin recording] [Unidentified Al-Arabiyah announcer] More than 12 hours of audio recordings of conversations between ousted Iraqi President Saddam Husayn and his senior aides, which date back to the mid 1990's, have become public for the first time. They bring focus once again to the controversy over whether the former Iraqi regime possessed weapons of mass destruction. ... Excerpts at the link. (TIS)

Captain's Quarters on polarizing effect of cartoon rage. Ed at Captain's Quarters responds to a NYT article: 'In fact, most Muslim journalists who have criticized the response to the cartoons find themselves either in jail or facing arrest, and the article itself provides a very telling look into why. The isolation and persecution of these journalists show that the riots and demonstrations represent mainstream Islam, despite the multicultural pablum given by most pundits over this eruption. Friends and relatives of these reporters remain silent for fear of violent retribution. A significant moderate faction within Islam has been cowed into almost-complete silence by the ascendant violent and radical factions.' (Captain's Quarters)

Fausta on Ilan Halimi murder. Fausta has a roundup of press reaction to the murder of a young Jew in Paris. The press still find it hard to see anti-Semitism here. (Fausta)

Culture wars. Queen is now kosher in Iran, but Vietnam cracks down on a cultural menace: karaoke. (Andrew Sullivan, Samantha Burns)



2006-02-21

Who to Blame

Is it just me, or has there been an uptick in a certain, er, variety of social-conservative thought (and I am using the word "thought" somewhat broadly) that seeks to lay all the blame for America's ills on feminists and gays? Oh, and for those awkward moments when bashing homosexuals isn't socially acceptable, there's always some other group of queers you can pick on.

Listen, I don't mind sitting through all the sexist, homophobic drivel about "feminized society" and "feminized men" and all this crap, but don't expect me to get on the program with you.

Best. Cox & Forkum. EVER.

Here.

Hamas: Nuke Israel.

From JPost:
JP: Details released by the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) on Tuesday revealed that graphics appearing on the Hamas website call for the destruction of Israel in a nuclear holocaust.

On the website, a red Star of David is encased in a black rectangle which is then obliterated in a nuclear explosion. ...

Manuel Quezon on Philippines Coup Rumors

Via Pajamas Media, here's Manuel L. Quezon III on those rumors of an impending coup in the Philippines (reported in yesterday's Morning Report):
I’d ask, not only what, but why, and add, further, it would be wrong that the country has reached its present, crucial, juncture, simply due to the egotism of the soldiery and the ambitions of some within the citizenry.

First and foremost, the President has brought it upon herself. ...

The opposition doesn't get of easy either. Full article at the link.

Highlander: From the Rock

Don't forget to visit Libyan blogger Highlander at From the Rock. Her news and gossip will make you smile. And photos! Go to her homepage for the photopage link.

And while you're at it, check out Libyan bloggers.



2006-02-20

Night Flashes

President Bush says US is on the verge of an energy breakthrough: 'One of Bush's proposals would expand research into smaller, longer-lasting batteries for electric-gas hybrid cars, including plug-ins. He highlighted that initiative with a visit Monday to the battery center at Milwaukee-based auto-parts supplier Johnson Controls Inc. During his trip, Bush is also focusing on a proposal to increase investment in development of clean electric power sources, and proposals to speed the development of biofuels such as "cellulosic" ethanol made from wood chips or sawgrass.' ...

Meanwhile, the lights are going out in Europe according to the gloomy assessment of a recent conference on islamization: 'Andy Bostom, author of The Legacy of Jihad called me fresh off a plane flight into Boston Logan’s airport from Amsterdam. Andy had been at a conference convened by the Pym Fortune Foundation (named in honor of the memory of the assassinated Dutch Prime Minister candidate) held under tight security at The Hague in Holland during this long Presidents Weekend here in the US. Andy’s first comment to me was, “its over in Europe.” ... She was there at the conference, as were Daniel Pipes, Robert Spencer , David Littman , Ibn Warraq , Bruce Bawer...'

Russian and Iranian officials failed to reach an agreement about Iran's nuclear program, although they said they might try to resume the talks later ... Hamas and Fatah consider a unity government ...

Plus Ultra: 'Toon Rage Toll

Plus + Ultra / Dragon Key Press has a few thoughts on the cartoon violence:
Over thirty people died this weekend, bringing the total death toll for toon rage to an estimated 45 so far, although I suspect that is slightly low.

Has anyone heard the US government condemn the arson attack on the US embassy in Indonesia this weekend? No? That’s not unusual. Jacques Chirac did not condemn the attack on the French embassy in Iran over a week ago. I guess whatever they do to any Western person or interest is justified now because of what Jyllands-Posten did six months ago.

And don't forget to bookmark the homepage ... you'll want to keep track of what all those CIA agents are up to!

Morning Report: February 20, 2006

VOA: Rumors of Philippines coup. Voice of America: 'Rumors of coup plots are circulating in the Philippines as the nation gets ready to mark the 20th anniversary of the "People Power" revolution that ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. A trash can on the grounds of the Presidential Palace exploded Monday, adding to the tension, but authorities blamed the blast on chemicals and a lit cigarette.' (VOA)

Nigerian militants strike oil targets, threaten more attacks. The Intelligence Summit cites Reuters: 'Nigerian militants said they blew up a military houseboat and an oil pipeline on Monday, extending a campaign of sabotage in the world's eighth largest exporter which has already cut supplies by a fifth. The militants, who are holding nine foreign hostages, vowed to prevent Royal Dutch Shell from using the damaged Forcados tanker loading platform, which accounts for 15 percent of Nigerian output, and threatened an even more devastating series of attacks on the whole region. "Patrol units ... carried out attacks on one houseboat belonging to the Nigerian army and the Shell Ughelli Odidi-Escravos manifold. Both were destroyed with explosives," the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said by email. ... It was not immediately possible to confirm the information independently, but the militants have provided accurate details of their attacks in the past. Shell said it had suspended 455,000 barrels a day of oil production, 19 percent of the OPEC member's output, after a string of pre-dawn raids on installations in Delta state, on the western side of the vast wetlands region, on Saturday.' The incident sent the price of North Sea Brent crude oil over $60/bbl. AllAfrica adds: The militant group, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which claimed responsibility for the attack on the Forcados Oil Export Terminal on Saturday, yesterday issued another seven-day ultimatum, for oil companies to vacate the region or face more attacks. ... The militant group, however, said the attacks on the oil facilities were in retaliation for the military air raids on the Ijaw community of Okerenkoko last week. In an e-mail sent to media houses, MEND said it would keep the nine expatriate oil workers until the Federal Government met their demands including withdrawal of troops from the Niger Delta and allowing the communities control of their oil resources. MEND also threatened to fire rockects at international oil tankers and attack any person or group of persons found in any oil company in the region after seven days of releasing the statement.' More details at the AllAfrica article. (Reuters, AllAfrica)

A Jew is tortured and murdered in France, but it's not anti-Semitism. Ha'Aretz reports: 'The French police arrested late Thursday night most of the members of the gang that abducted, tortured and murdered Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old Jew from Paris. Hundreds of SWAT officers raided apartments in Bagneux and arrested 12 people. Another suspect was arrested in Belgium. "They acted with indescribable cruelty," the judiciary police chief leading the investigation said. "They kept him naked and tied up for weeks. They cut him and in the end poured flammable liquid on him and set him alight." ... Halimi was abducted on January 21 after a woman came into the mobile phone store where he worked and charmed him into a dinner date. The woman had been sent by the gang, which calls itself "The Barbarians." A police source said the gang is a group of childhood friends who grew up in Bagneux, a suburb south of Paris. The gang includes Muslims of North African descent and is headed by Youssef Fofana, who has escaped police capture so far. According to Marin, the gang had made six similar abduction attempts in the past. After overpowering Halimi, the gang brought him to an apartment in a high-rise in Bagneux. They contacted Halimi's family and over the next three weeks demanded ransoms ranging from 300,000 to 500,000 euros. According to reports, at one point they agreed upon a deal and set a meeting place but the kidnappers backed out and eventually ended contact.' Family members point to elements in the kidnapping that suggest anti-Semitism: '"First, because the killers tried to kidnap at least two other Jews, and second, because of what they said on the phone," Rafi Halimi added. "When we said we didn't have 500,000 euros to give them they told us to go to the synagogue and get it," Rafi said. "They also recited verses from the Koran." ... A source in the Jewish community said the gang's behavior suggested that the motive behind the kidnapping was violence for its own sake, particularly against Jews. "Why didn't they release him when the realized the family couldn't pay ransom?" asked Sami Gazlan, who is responsible for security in the Jewish community.' But Paris prosecutor Jean-Claude Marin sees it differently, telling a Jewish radio station that "no element of the current investigation could link this murder to an anti-Semitic declaration or action." Allison Kaplan Sommer has more: 'More details in the story, including the fact that French daily Le Monde revealed that one of the people arrested told police that the gang had chosen “Jewish targets.”' (Ha'Aretz, Allison Kaplan Sommer)

Gay rights coalition forms in Washington State to protect civil rights. Timbre of a TimeFree Mind cites the Seattle PI: 'Gay rights activists and supporters have formed a coalition to fight a campaign aimed at overturning a new gay civil rights law that bans discrimination in housing, employment and insurance. Washington Won't Discriminate formed in response to two ballot measures seeking to challenge the new law, signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire last month. Its Web site went live this week, and organizers said they are starting to mobilize support across the state.' The article adds that 'The measure passed by the Legislature and signed by Gregoire adds "sexual orientation" to a state law that bans discrimination in housing, employment, insurance and credit. The fight to turn the bill into law spanned nearly 30 years. Washington is the 17th state to adopt such laws covering gays and lesbians, and the seventh to protect transgender people.' (Seattle PI via TOATFM)


2006-02-19

Chinese Communists vs. the Internet: China Youth Daily Editor Faces the Music

Via Just Some Poor Schmuck, here's a Washington Post article on the battle against censorship in China:
The top editors of the China Youth Daily were meeting in a conference room last August when their cell phones started buzzing quietly with text messages. One after another, they discreetly read the notes. Then they traded nervous glances.

Colleagues were informing them that a senior editor in the room, Li Datong, had done something astonishing. Just before the meeting, Li had posted a blistering letter on the newspaper's computer system attacking the Communist Party's propaganda czars ...

Read the rest at the link.

The PRC's goons aren't going to go away gracefully, though, and Sean LaFreniere links this disturbing story about Chinese government harrassment within America's borders:
Peter Yuan Li was beaten, tied up, blindfolded with duct tape and robbed of two laptop computers last week by three Asian men who burst into his suburban Atlanta home with a gun and knife.

He and other Chinese-Americans suspect it was no ordinary robbery.

Li, who works for a newspaper and Web site critical of the Chinese Communist Party, is one of several people tied to China's banned Falun Gong spiritual movement who say they have been harassed and hit with break-ins in the United States by Chinese agents.

They say China has carried its crackdown on dissidents to this country.

FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett said the bureau is looking into the attack on Li for potential civil rights violations and refused to comment on whether the Chinese government was behind it. ...

Sean calls it an "act of war", and I agree. Here's more from the Epoch Times:
At noon on February 8th, two armed men forced themselves into the home in Atlanta of Epoch Times Chief Technical Officer Mr. Yuan P. Li, beating him and stealing two of his laptops. After Mr. Li managed to free himself from the extension cord used to bind him, he was taken to an area hospital for treatment. His statement describing this attack is published below.

This crime, occurring in a very safe area in Atlanta and done without concern for the taking of valuables, breaks new ground in the Chinese Communist regime's campaign against The Epoch Times.

That campaign has previously taken the form of arresting Epoch Times staff inside mainland China, and, outside mainland China, systematically stealing newspapers, attempting to intimidate advertisers, applying pressure to deny Epoch Times staff the opportunity to cover events at which Chinese government officials appear, and threatening the family members inside mainland China of Epoch Times staff living outside China. ...

Go to the link for the rest, and for pictures of the poor guy. Here's Li's statement:
My name is Yuan Li. I am forty-one years old and am an Epoch Times IT staff member. Today (Feb. 8) I was beaten up by thugs and my computers were taken away.

Around noon, someone rang the doorbell. I looked through the peephole and saw an Asian man in his 30s, and I opened the door. The man told me that he was there to deliver water. I said I did not order any water and asked if he made a mistake.

While I was talking, another man appeared from around the corner. The two forced themselves into the apartment. One of them pulled out a dagger, the other, a gun. And they ordered me not to move. I started crying for help and wanted to run away. They covered me with a bed quilt until I was almost suffocated. Then they took off the bed quilt and started beating me, especially in the temple area; they probably beat me with the gun handle, and I bled profusely. Finally they used the tape they brought with them to tape my mouth, my eyes and my ears; my arms were tied behind my back and my legs were also tied up. I couldn't move at all; I could neither see nor scream.

The first two men spoke Korean, which I don't understand. From what I could tell, another two men came in [later], one of them knows Mandarin, as he asked me in Chinese, "where is your safe?" He probably doesn't speak English. They searched upstairs and downstairs several times and left about half an hour later. ...

Epoch Times: Yuan Li beaten in his own home.



The Political Machine

I haven't blogged on this issue before because I confess to being somewhat biased. You see, I grew up on the East Coast.

East Coast voting is a ritual. You walk into a "voting machine" surrounded by a curtain that draws shut when you pull the lever. The aura of power and mystery is palpable: at that moment, you are quite literally "the man/woman behind the curtain". As you face the seductively-shaped switches labeled with the candidates' names, you become aware that you are at the control panel of the world's mightiest democracy. You move a switch and it gives a satisfying click; your votes will not be made final, however, until you open the curtain and emerge from this "kodesh kodashim" of American politics.

Somehow this business of ballot cards, cardboard cubicles, or (heaven forbid) mail-in ballots never quite did it for me. So you can already imagine how I feel about electronic voting machines.

Feelings aren't at issue, though, for Armed Liberal at Winds of Change, who joins citizens from across the political spectrum in protesting the advent of electronic voting. Without further ado:
Right now is a four-month window before the June elections when many states are trying to decide how they will comply with the federal HAVA act. Here in California, we are about to be locked in a battle to decide if our votes will be processed - I won't say counted - by poorly designed voting machines and systems.

Friday, the California Secretary of State conditionally approved (pdf) the use of the fatally-flawed Diebold voting machines, subject to some rather sketchy conditions. Take a look at the attached report (pdf) for the testing he commissioned.

This independent testing that the SoS commissioned found still more flaws - but suggests that it's OK to use these machines anyway while we cross our fingers and hope.

I don't think so, and I'll be working hard to get as much attention paid to this as possible. Over the next few days, I'll post some specific suggestions about what can be done.

Among AL's previous posts on the issue is this one:
There are election-day issues in most elections (as we all can remember from 2000, right?) But e-voting machines are a particular problem, as presently constituted, because without a permanent paper trail, the votes - stored as records in a database - must be taken on faith.

In Florida, we could at least go back and try and figure out what happened. With paperless e-voting machines, there's just no way.

There are a lot of things that can make e-voting work; open-source software and ISO9000 audits are two of the ones that I support.

Now to to the link for full details - and take a gander at the testing that was done for California's e-voting machines (PDF link at the Winds post).

Night Flashes

From JPost, Ayman Nour appeals his prison sentence: 'The trial of Ayman Nour, who came in a distant second to President Hosni Mubarak in September elections - the first in which the longtime Egyptian leader faced challengers - badly strained US-Egyptian relations. Nour's lawyers told The Associated Press they filed their appeal Saturday on grounds that the court did not provide due process and that the trial was political not judicial. Nour, 41, was convicted Dec. 24 of forging signatures on petitions to register his party before the elections. He said he was brought to trial not because he broke any laws but to eliminate him from politics.' ...

In Israel, "Terrorists in the northern Gaza Strip fired a rocket into Israel late Sunday night, Zaka reported" - the rocket landed near Ashkelon but no casualties resulted ... to understand why those rockets from Gaza make Israelis nervous, read this JPost article linked at Israpundit on preventing disaster: "The Jerusalem Post quoted senior security and government officials who warned that this country must gird itself for “a large-scale disaster,” should the Kassam rockets fired from the northern Gaza Strip hit one of the super-sensitive targets in Ashkelon’s industrial zone. These include the Rutenberg Power Station - which supplies electricity to nearly half of Israel (as well as to Gaza) - huge depots of fuel and potentially deadly chemicals, the Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, a desalination plant and many more. Ashkelon is not only a large and very soft civilian target; it is of vital strategic importance. In this setting, even unsophisticated weaponry can cause environmental and economic catastrophes, to say nothing of the taking of innumerable lives." ...

Freedom for Egyptians covers Condi's upcoming meetings with Egyptian politicians and dissidents - FFE quotes Rice on the importance of democratic reforms, and adds: "I hope she won't miss meeting opposition leader Ayman Nour and the Egyptian Judges."... more here ...

Buy Danish. But don't buy Lurpak. Big Pharaoh isn't going to be happy ...

"How We Betrayed European Muslims"

Miranda Husain of the Daily Times, Pakistan:
While no one can deny that the European press has offended Muslims worldwide with the printing and reprinting of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) caricatures, the violent response of certain elements in the Muslim world has done an even greater injustice to Muslims everywhere. Especially, those living in Europe.

It can be argued that the cartoons do not criticise the Prophet (PBUH) per se, but what the West believes Muslims have turned themselves into: terrorists and fanatics incapable of entering into dialogue with the ‘other’. ...

Indeed, in the words of New York Times columnist David Brooks, violent, rampaging Muslims have not only demonstrated that they and the West hold different ideas — they have demonstrated their different relationship to ideas.

Read it all.

"God bless Hitler."

Just in case you hadn't seen it already.

Afternoon Roundup

Israpundit follows ISM. Bill Levinson at Israpundit rebuts Huwaida Arraf in this latest post on the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).

Iran regime continues persecution of Sufis. Iran Focus reports the latest IRI brutality against Sufi Muslims:
Islamic mystics, or Sufis, focus on the direct perception of Truth or God through mystic practices based on divine love. Sufism, common to both Sunni and Shiite sects of Islam, has its roots in Iran. Its followers oppose Iran’s ruling theocracy on spiritual grounds.

Police arrested some one thousand Sufis as clashes broke out after the place of worship used by the mystics was demolished Tuesday on government orders.

Hundreds were injured during the clashes after police fired teargas and used truncheons to attack the demonstrating Sufis.

Go to the link for a list of names.

Rice to Arab states: Isolate Hamas, Iran. Reuters via The Intelligence Summit reports that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called on Arab states to isolate islamist Iran and the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority:
Rice, who will visit Egypt on Tuesday and travel to Saudi Arabia and to a regional meeting in the United Arab Emirates, will lobby states to deny aid to a Hamas-led Palestinian government and push Iran to curb its nuclear plans.

Arab powers such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia oppose Hamas' rejection of peace talks with Israel and fear a nuclear-armed Iran.

But they are reluctant to explicitly support America in the Middle East, where U.S. backing for its top ally in the region, Israel, angers many Arabs and clouds governments' cooperation with Washington.

Full article at the link.

Fun with Search Terms

what does it mean when a woman wears a ring on her left thumb? I have no idea. (Now a ring on the RIGHT thumb ... well, I know all about that one, but unfortunately I can't explain it here. This is a family-safe blog.)

what terms of the "treaty of versailles" did germany find objectionable? Do your homework, kid.

irshad manji hottie She certainly is!

world's most dangerous lightning storm You've found it, baby!

ITM: US seeking to outspend enemy in Iraq?

New at Iraq the Model:
The Iraqi and American authorities had been trying several ways in dealing with the local insurgents including offering amnesty for those who drop their arms, offering more reconstruction funds for the hot spots and opening the doors for the sons of those areas to join the Iraqi security forces.
But al-Sabah published a report this morning about an alleged big change in the American strategies towards the local insurgents:

Instead of talking to the leaders of the militant groups in the western regions of Iraq, US forces now are trying to arrange for disarming the insurgents through talking to tribal sheikhs and community leaders.
It seems the new strategy includes providing the sheikhs with huge amounts of money to be distributed to great numbers of insurgents to persuade them to stop the violence since they say that they had to resort to violence because they were in need for money. A source with close ties to the insurgents told al-Sabah.

The source revealed that American forces are receiving good feedback which encouraged them to increase their support to the mediators to get more insurgents under the umbrella of this program, and mentioned that the US forces have so far distributed approximately 20 million $ out of 250 allocated by the US authorities for this program.

...
One might say that paying the insurgents to stop the violence means submitting to the pressure of the terrorists and that doing this is useless because they will keep asking for more every time they run out of it. And that makes sense.

But let's look at it from another angle (again assuming the report is accurate) according to the report the insurgents (at least many of them) are paid mercenaries fighting for money and when thinking about the possible sources for this money I can only think of Syria and Iran.
So who's capable of investing more in Iraq, the US or the fading regimes in Iran and Syria?
I think that if it's possible to buy the loyalty of local insurgents with money then we should consider this as an option. so we won't have to keep paying them for a pretty long time.

Remarks: Omar's assumption that "neither the Mullahs nor Asad will be in power few years from now" is important. I believe he is right, in fact I'm guessing they won't be in power even a year or two from now.

Whence this optimism? Well, for one thing, nothing the US and Israel are doing now makes sense unless Jerusalem and Washington are operating under the same assumption. The liberation and reconstruction of Iraq are, quite frankly, doomed to failure unless the neighboring regimes, which are doing their utmost to bring the project to ruin, will themselves fall first. The Israel/Palestine "Road Map" is a tragic and disastrous exercise in self-deception for America and Israel unless the regimes backing Hamas and Hezbollah are to be brought down. The entire premise of the Bush Doctrine will be for naught unless the dominoes continue to fall in Tehran and Damascus. I believe they will.

Based on everything I've been reading, I think it is very likely that the US and its allies will be at war with Iran - and probably Syria too - by the end of March. What happens after the balloon goes up is anybody's guess.




In this particular instance, it's actually a figure of speech.

Al-Jazeera headline of the day.

H/T: Israellycool.

Morning Report: February 19, 2006

Two articles from Yemen. Armies of Liberation carries Rahma Hugira's piece on double standards in Yemen: 'Then it is typical that the regime would ask for security and financial cooperation to use for the purpose of blackmailing donors further, and terrorizing journalists .That is what Yemen’s friends found it out lately about Yemeni-American cooperation to fight terrorism. Now they that they can’t achieve any victories against terror with corrupted and cheating partner like the Yemeni regime. It is beyond the ability of Saleh to fight terror, which has created by bigotry and illiteracy because it has been used by him to maintain his rule period for more than 28 years.' From the Yemen Times, Tawakkol Karman speaks out against embassy burnings: 'The concurrent burning of the embassies in Beirut and Damascus did not come out of the blue. Those who still dream and long for the ‘old days’ are seeking to restore them through hatred and incendiary actions. I am aware that it is rather unsafe to say such things and there are many who advise that it be overlooked. Yet, it would be a misuse of religion to ignore it because our religion is a complete network of values and principles.' And don't miss the interview with Mohammed Asadi, the jailed editor of the Yemen Observer. (Armies of Liberation)

Israel halts payments to PA. The electoral victory of Hamas has prompted Israel to freeze payments to the Palestinians: 'Israel's Cabinet on Sunday approved an immediate freeze on the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax money to the Palestinians in its first response to the takeover of the Palestinian parliament by the militant group Hamas. The decision came a day after a new Hamas-dominated Palestinian legislature was sworn into office and tapped to form the next government. Israel had promised that relations with the Palestinians would suffer the moment that happened. The Palestinian Authority is becoming "a terrorist authority," and all funds to it must be halted, acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Cabinet. Israel, he added, "won't have contacts with a government in which Hamas takes part."' (AP via Yahoo)

Ismail Haniyeh nominated Palestinian PM by Hamas. Newly-elected Hamas has named Ismail Haniyeh to be the next Prime Minister of Palestine: 'Ismail Haniyeh, a prominent Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, was nominated Sunday to be Palestinian prime minister. The militant group announced the nomination in a text message, a day after its members were sworn into the new Hamas-dominated Palestinian parliament. The nomination was widely expected.' (AP via Ha'Aretz)

VDH: No nukes for IRI. Victor Davis Hanson spells out the case against a nuclear islamist Iran: 'irst, we cannot excuse Iran by acknowledging that the Soviet Union, Communist China, North Korea, and Pakistan obtained nuclear weapons. In each case of acquisition, Western foreign-policy makers went into a crisis mode, as anti-liberal regimes gained stature and advantage by the ability to destroy Western cities. A tragic lapse is not corrected by yet another similar mistake, especially since one should learn from the errors of the past. ...' Read the full analysis at the link. (VDH)

Russia/Iran: Last chance for diplomacy? 'A meeting between the Iranian and Russian governments in Moscow on Monday may be the last chance for diplomacy before international sanctions and other punitive measures against Tehran become inevitable, according to most observers,' says this report. (Inter Press Service via RCI)

Russia/Palestine: Russia to arm Hamas in exchange for "peace pledge". Internet Haganah is a wee bit skeptical of this Russian offer to Hamas. (Internet Haganah)

Debka: Olmert follows Washington script for dealing with Hamas. A feature article at Debka outlines some pros and cons of Israeli acting Prime Minister Olmert's likely strategy. According to Debka's analysis of the Bush plan:
DEBKAfile’s Washington sources therefore cut straight to the chase to examine in general outline the plan the Bush administration has compiled for curtailing the Hamas regime, including the role assigned Israel.
1. To starve the Hamas-ruled Palestinian Authority of funding.
2. Foreign aid will be channeled directly to the Palestinian population through international organizations.
3. The Gaza Strip will be cut off from the West Bank so as to isolate the main body of the Hamas leadership and diminish its influence on the seat of government in Ramallah.
4. Careful orchestration of Abu Mazen’s actions as chairman of the Palestinian Authority to ascertain that he uses the next four to six months to restore and consolidate his own defeated Fatah.
5. He will then trump up a constitutional crisis, sack the Hamas government and dissolve the 132-member legislative council along with the 74-member majority Hamas gained in January, and call a snap general election.
6. This time, unlike in January, the United States will apply all its intelligence and financial might to make sure Hamas does not win again.
7. The Olmert government will act in conjunction with the steps laid out in the Bush administration’s plan of action.
DEBKAfile’s Palestinian experts see little chance of this blueprint actually succeeding for three main reasons:
A. Reliance on Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party for practical steps has never worked – witness the mayhem in the Gaza Strip, the arms smuggling, the failure to rein in terrorists. Nonetheless, for twelve years, Washington has pinned its Palestinian policy on the man in charge, be he Yasser Arafat or Abu Mazen – a course that promoted anti-Israel violence rather than peace.
B. Hamas leaders have known about the Washington-Jerusalem scenario for at least two weeks - long enough for a head start for moves with their Arab and Muslim allies to balk the American plan. The Palestinian Islamic terrorist group belongs to and enjoys the support of the vast, powerful Muslim Brotherhood network spread out across the Middle East. In Egypt, the Bush administration is pushing for local elections on schedule - and a certain victory for the Muslim radicals with consequent shocks for the Mubarak regime. How will the US government manage the acrobatic contortions of supporting a Muslim Brotherhood victory in one part of the region and combating the same group in the next-door state?
C. Hamas can easily circumvent the plan to starve its administration of finances. Palestinian employees staff all the international organizations operating in Palestinian areas; these locals will not risk their lives by holding back incoming funds from the ruling Hamas. And personnel associated with Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah will be told to hand the cash over - after taking their cut.

For its part, Debka favors 'Palestinian military coup d’etat in the West Bank, which would leave Hamas government isolated and hanging out to dry in the Gaza Strip.' Full analysis at the link. (Debka)

Belmont Club: "To be outnumbered always; to be outfought, never." Turning to the history of the Philippines, Wretchard looks to the campaign against the Molos of a century ago for inspiration in today's battle against islamist fanatics. 'When the US acquired Mindanao after the beating Spain in the Spanish-American war, Americans came face to face with what came to be known as asymmetrical warfare. Here were attacks on civilians, beheadings, raids on schools. All the stuff of modern headlines. And in the pre-explosive era the ultimate weapon of Imams was the suicide bomber of the day: the juramentado.' Go to the link for the whole story. (Belmont Club)


2006-02-18

Not to Be Outdone

As everybody knows by now, a Danish newspaper published some unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed a few months back, and the incident has been seized on as a pretext for a worldwide orgy of Muslim rage against all things non-Muslim. (Not all Muslims are going along with this nonsense, of course, only those who are willing to let themselves be manipulated by the fascist regimes.) Many in the West have stood firm in defense of freedom of speech against intimidation (again, by no means all).

Suddenly seized with a passion for free expression, an Iranian newspaper announced a Holocaust cartoon contest:
Farid Mortazavi, graphics editor for Tehran's Hamshahri newspaper, said that the deliberately inflammatory contest would test out how committed Europeans were to the concept freedom of expression.

"The Western papers printed these sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, so let’s see if they mean what they say and also print these Holocaust cartoons," he said.

From a certain standpoint, this was a stroke of genius. The islamofascists in Tehran enjoy nothing better than tying the liberal West in intellectual knots, and this latest tactic is surely a scheme that Sayyed Qutb himself would have been proud of.

But wait! The mullahs have met their match:
Eyal Zusman (30, back from anonymity) and Amitai Sandy (29), graphic artist and publisher of Dimona Comix Publishing, from Tel-Aviv, Israel, have followed the unfolding of the “Muhammad cartoon-gate” events in amazement, until finally they came up with the right answer to all this insanity - and so they announced today the launch of a new anti-Semitic cartoons contest - this time drawn by Jews themselves!

“We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published!” said Sandy “No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!”

Heh. The ayatoilets slipped on a banana peel and stumbled into that most potent Jewish secret weapon: humor.

Portland's Barry Deutsch is going to enter the contest! The mullahs are doomed.

{dark, malevolent laughter}


Night Flashes

From JPost, police believe the stabbing of Sergei Karbatsov of Ma'aleh Adumim was motivated by Palestinian nationalist ideology ... meanwhile Israel's centrist Kadima Party had the windows of its Hadera office smashed ... Internet Haganah is reporting that key military figure Muhammed Deif may be leaving Hamas to join al-Qaeda, along with his faction Izzadin al-Kassam ... DebkaNet Weekly (subscription) predicts that in keeping with its ongoing charm offensive, "Hamas will not force Islamic restrictions down the people’s throats, such as the veil for women and a ban on the sale of alcohol in Ramallah’s night spots", but it looks like Ismail Haniye didn't get the word ...

Also just in from Internet Haganah, a bomb at an army camp in Jolo, Philippines has wounded 20 ... while over at the Belmont Club, Wretchard posts a roundup on Rumsfeld and the war of ideas - and perhaps appropriately, suspends the self-imposed ban on consecutive open threads, to allow BC readers to continue the discussion on the electronic battlefield ... meanwhile, Neo offers her analysis of Rumsfeld's speech: 'You'll notice that, although the headline of the Reuters article is "US lags in propaganda war: Rumsfeld," he does not actually utter the word "propaganda" during the speech. Instead, Rumsfeld speaks many times of "communication" and "communications," and of truth. It's not surprising that Rumsfeld is reluctant to use the "p" word; propaganda has gotten a bad name. But, as I wrote in my previous post on the subject, it by no means precludes telling the truth; on the contrary. You may also notice that Rumsfeld's speech deal entirely with foreign propaganda ("communications") rather than domestic, which he ignores. ...'

More cartoon violence, and we don't mean Bugs Bunny and Road Runner ... at least fifteen people have died in Nigeria over this nonsense, while the Counterterrorism Blog calls the cartoon protests what they are: a political tool ...

From GayPatriot, Moscow says "nyet" to Gay Pride and Sully notes that "the one thing that can unite Muslims, Jews and Orthodox Christians is hatred of gay people" ...


2006-02-17

Oregon: Ben Westlund Quits GOP, Will Run for Governor as Independent

Oregon State Senator Ben Westlund of Tumalo has announced he is quitting the Republican Party to campaign for the state's governorship as an Independent.

The Bend Bulletin:
In his career, Ben Westlund has been known by many labels.

Rancher. Legislator. Innovator. Addict.

Tax reform advocate. Consensus builder.

Republican in Name Only.

Tuesday, the state senator from Tumalo added to that list - and with a title that could shake up Oregon politics: independent candidate for governor.

In two press conferences Tuesday, one in Bend and one at the Capitol, Westlund stood with his family and announced his intent to take Oregon in a new direction.

"Paralyzing partisanship is keeping us from the challenges of our day," he said. "I cannot stand for that, and I hope you can't either."

After the Bend speech, he walked upstairs to the Deschutes County Clerk's Office and switched his party affiliation from Republican to independent. ...


The Oregonian:
Westlund, who has been in the Legislature since 1997, now must gather 18,368 signatures from Oregon voters by Aug. 29 to qualify for the ballot. Under a new state law, the signatures must come from people who don't cast a vote in a party primary.

His announcement stirred an immediate and intense political debate about whether his moderate stands might suck votes away from a Democrat or whether his conservative voting record would hamper the Republican.

"What's clear now is there's going to be two Republicans in the general election," said Cameron Johnson, campaign manager for incumbent Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat who is seeking re-election.

Naomi Inman, spokeswoman for Kevin Mannix, a Republican candidate, predicted Westlund would appeal most to Democratic voters, despite his longtime standing as a Republican.

Citing his past support for a sales tax, Inman said, "We just think he's another liberal in the race." ...


Oregon gay rights activists remember Westlund's name from the SB 1000 cmpaign. Basic Rights Oregon:
Friday, May 20, 2005

Republican Sen. Ben Westlund of Bend has been flooded with phone calls, mail, e-mail and facsimiles attacking him for his support of SB 1000, a measure that would allow same-sex Oregon couples to form civil unions and protect gay, lesbian and transgender individuals from discrimination. The Source Weekly submitted a freedom of information act request to Westlund’s office asking it to provide us with one day’s worth of e-mails on the topic—which are legally considered public records when they deal with public business. Westlund’s office complied. ...

Go to the BRO link for a selection.

Gay Rights Watch is also covering Westlund.

This story is a couple of days old but I'm going to be following it closely here at Dreams Into Lightning, not only because of the gay rights angle but also because I'm interested in Westlund's candidacy all around. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, please visit Ben Westlund for Governor - official site.



2006-02-16

New Fiction

Here.

Who's next?

Will Cheney be replaced? Dr. Sanity cites Peggy Noonan:
It would have to be a man [sic! - aa] wildly popular in the party and the press. And it would have to be a decision made by Dick Cheney. If he didn't want to do it he wouldn't have to. If he were pressed--Dick, we gotta put the next guy in here or we're going to lose in '08 and see all our efforts undone--he might make the decision himself.

Who should it be? Pat Santy thinks she knows ... and I agree.

Roundup

Irshad Manji on the cartoon wars. Lesbian Muslim reformer Irshad Manji weighs in on the Mohammed cartoon controversy:
... Muslims have little integrity demanding respect for our faith if don’t show it for others. When have we demonstrated against Saudi Arabia’s policy to prevent Christians and Jews from stepping on the soil of Mecca? They may come for rare business trips, but nothing more. As long as Rome welcomes non-Christians and Jerusalem embraces non-Jews, we Muslims have more to protest than these cartoons. ...

Read the rest at Irshad's homepage.

Forgotten news. Tammy Bruce has five stories that the MSM didn't think were as important as Cheney's hunting accident. Tammy sounds off on media reporting:
Coverage of the Cartoon Jihad reminds everyone of the madness of the enemy (and exposes the general cowardice of the American MSM when it comes to reprinting those cartoons), the trials of Saddam and Moussaoui (our success at bringing the enemy to justice), Al Gore pandering to the enemy on Jeddah, as well as the continuing and astounding economic boon here at home (despite the manic spending of the president). Had you heard, as an example, that the Dow is once again above 11,000?

Read more - and enjoy the lovely Diana Rigg - at Tammy's homepage.

A Turkish woman journalist was stoned for not wearing a headscarf. Aliye Cetinkaya, covering a Mohammed cartoon protest (thost things have gotta be loads of fun) wasn't looking demure and ladylike enough to suit the tastes of the marchers, we hear from Sissy Willis. "Cultures that trash half their population -- the distaff side -- are as stupid as it gets."

Iraqi prisoners tortured, murdered. The Jawa Report has graphic photos of atrocities being committed against Iraqis. Rusty asks, "Where is the U.N.? Where is Amnesty International? Where is al Jazeera?"

Moral authority. Pamela brings us this video recalling the sacrifices of some American heroes.

Jewish men targeted in France; 23-year-old Ilan tortured and murdered. Pamela brings us this:
Friend and colleague of Naomi Ragen, journalist Nidra Poller, brings to our attention something you won't hear in the media.

A French gang is targeting Jewish men, and recently kidnapped and brutally tortured and murdered a 23 year-old Jewish man named Ilan in Paris. His mutilated body was found by the railroad tracks. Once again French authorities are belittling the racist nature of this crime, even though evidence points to those involved being North African and three of the four known previous attempted kidnappings targeted Jewish men. ...

Read the rest at the link.

Alison Bechdel's flashback. Via the pen of Alison Bechdel, the cast of Dykes to Watch Out For are condemned to repeat the past, it seems. For those who miss this reference, it's Simon and Garfunkel's "Silent Night". I still have my Mom's old copy of "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme" from 1966.

Here and There

Trevor at The Will to Exist has a few thoughts on literacy:
Yes, literary standards are changing. Yes there is more mediocre writing flooding the market. But language is supposed to evolve. It has to evolve. It’s in the nature of the users for that to happen. Standards are critical if you want to reach any meaningful level of success in writing, but in an increasingly diverse and complex world, you tailor your language to your audience. As the number and type of audiences for various information palettes grows so does the range of the language. English has always been spoken differently by different groups. I don’t think the growth of mediocrity and the growth of the English language are that closely related.


Tom the Redhunter spies a monkey wrench in the attempt to reform the UN commission on human rights:
'A drive by a bloc of Islamic nations for a global ban on "defamation of religions and prophets" has thrown a major kink into U.S. hopes for an overhaul of the leading U.N. human rights body.' ...

The entire affair is an attempt to intimidate the West into making concessions to radical Islam, and what's happening in the UN is only the latest example.


DCat at Razor Sharp Claws has the last word on Cheney and the lamestream media.

Night Flashes

Freedom for Egyptians reports "Danish democratic Muslims are going international": 'According to JyllandsPosten Naser Khader said "We’re now working to get the network functioning across boarders. Problems with integration and religious differences are not specific Danish. We’ll invite Muslim networks from among others USA, Canada and Australia for our founding assembly."' ... Amarji wonders if bird flu might be the spark for Syria's tinderbox: 'Let’s see if how our inept authorities will handle this situation. If they screwed things up, as they usually do, a lot more people have a lot more reasons to take to the streets as well, and they might just up the ante, and there a million ways how they could do that, and thanks to satellite TV, they are not exactly totally uninformed about this. And people can actually be quite creative when they finally break through the barrier of fear. And they tend to develop their own organizational structures, ones which can be quite independent of any existing opposition or civil society movements and parties.' ... Big Pharaoh covers Egypt's first presidential kiss: 'irst Lady Suzanne Mubarak bent down and kissed her husband President Mubarak as she was celebrating Egypt's win of the African nations football championship. Millions saw the "kiss clip" live on TV or via chain emails. You might say "big deal". Well, it's big deal here. This might be the very time in Egypt's presidential history for Egyptians to see the wife kissing her president husband live on TV. Nevertheless, I believe what she did triggered more positive reactions than negatives.' ... Egyptian cohort Sandmonkey cheers al-Qaeda's newest foe: 'Bin Laden ain't got shit on the Dark Knight! Batman rules!' ... and finally, Silly Bahraini Girl find some real blasphemy on the internet ...

Random Thought for the Day

Prediction: A social-conservative backlash in country music will inspire a single titled "Mamas, Don't Let Your Cowboys Grow Up to Be Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other."

2006-02-15

Let's blogroll!

City of dreams: Michael Totten looks into the future of Kurdistan. It's located in a place called Dream City, a fitting name for a city located in a nation whose borders exist only in the minds of its inhabitants. But that's not stopping the Kurds, and Dream City is fast becoming a very concrete reality:
The heart of the new Kurdistan is soon to be known as the Dream City, a massive construction site going up on the outskirts of Erbil.

The Baath regime’s agoraphobic totalitarian urban planning model will be replaced with a cityscape fit for human beings. Neighborhoods will be built for people, not cars. Tree-lined streets will be pleasant to walk along. Open public green space will beckon people outside their homes and into their community. Restaurants and shops will add the perfect grace notes. Erbil, as a city, is a hard city to love. That may not be true for very much longer. ...

Read the rest - and view the pictures! - at the link.

Thanks to AmbivaBlog for the link! Don't miss Amba's latest roundup on religion - and this post on mortality in 19th century America.

Somewhere on A1A, Ocean Guy thinks the Mideast is going to get worse before it gets - hopefully - better:
A few days ago, I asked if it was starting already... it wasn't. Those incidents were simply a continuation of the low grade conflict the Arabs have been engaging in against Israel. The bigger fight is coming sooner rather than later... and it will come regardless of what happens in Iran. ... Two dates to watch will be Purim on March 14... and Passover begins on April 12...

Read the rest at the link.

"We are America." That's good enough for Pamela at Atlas Shrugs, and it's good enough for me. We can make a difference ... you, me, and John Bolton. You know what this is about ... so don't wait any longer.

After you have fulfilled your obligations as a human being, you have Dreams Into Lightning's permission to enjoy the refined entertainments offered by Friday Fishwrap and Samantha Burns.

Do this now.

First, read Jonathan Gurwitz in the Jewish World Review:
The death toll from the Sudanese government's three-year campaign of ethnic cleansing against black Africans in Darfur is now approaching 400,000. The Sudanese military and their Janjaweed allies have driven more than 2 million refugees from their homes. Last year, an investigation by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights found as many as 2,000 villages and towns had been depopulated by a brutal scorched-earth policy.


Beyond the abstract numbers are the horrific violations of human dignity taking place in Darfur. The High Commissioner and numerous human rights organizations have documented a widespread, deliberate campaign of terror and sexual violence: women and young girls taken into slavery or gang-raped in public; men castrated and left to bleed to death. ...

This month, the United States holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council. Ambassador John Bolton is in a unique position to dispel the council's inertia and initiate actions that will save lives on the ground in Darfur.


Bolton has already accomplished something of consequence. The Security Council has approved a statement that would initiate contingency planning for a U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur. The proposed U.N. force would replace a poorly equipped, undermanned and largely ineffectual African Union force of 7,000 monitors whose mandate runs out at the end of March.

At the moment, however, a U.N. peacekeeping force is only hypothetical. And despite Bolton's modest achievement, there's little reason to believe the Bush administration's policy of benign neglect has changed. In a Feb. 7 interview with journalist Jim Lehrer, Vice President Dick Cheney offered this deplorable assessment of the U.S. response to Darfur: "I am satisfied we're doing everything we can do."

Whenever I write about the situation in Darfur, readers ask me: "What can I do?" Invariably, I refer them to aid organizations such as the Save Darfur Coalition or tell them to contact their representative and senators.

This month, my answer is different. Contact the White House. ...

Here's all the information you need:
Phone Numbers

Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

TTY/TDD

Comments: 202-456-6213
Visitors Office: 202-456-2121
E-Mail
Please send your comments to comments@whitehouse.gov.

Go have a quick chat with the nice folks at the White House switchboard. They've heard from me; they're waiting to hear from you.

Condi: A Nice Big Chunk of Cash for Iranian Democracy

... and I hope Congress comes through with it, and quickly. Via Free Iran News:
By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer
10 minutes ago

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060215/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/rice_12

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is asking Congress for $75 million in an emergency spending bill to support U.S. efforts to build democracy in Iran, Bush administration officials said Wednesday.

The money, to be included in a supplemental 2006 budget request the White House is expected to send to Congress as early as this week, will be used for radio and satellite television broadcasting and for programs to help Iranians study abroad, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because Rice had not yet announced the request.

"The United States wishes to reach out to the Iranian people and support their desire to realize their own freedom and to secure their own democratic and human rights. The Iranian people should know that the United States fully supports their aspirations for a freer, better future," Rice was expected to say based on remarks prepared for delivery before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Over the past two years the State Department has invested more than $4 million in "projects that empower Iranian citizens in their call for political and economic liberty, freedom of speech, and respect for human rights" and in the current budget year will invest at least $10 million in such efforts, according to Rice's remarks.

The $75 million is in addition to that money, which Congress already has approved. ...

Go read the rest at the link.

2006-02-14

Morning Report: February 14, 2006

Where is the love? Part 1: Pakistan riots target US officer. Pakistani Muslims turned their anger against Colonel Harland Sanders and other Western business interests, according to news reports. 'Thousands of protesters rampaged through two cities Tuesday, storming into a diplomatic district and torching Western businesses and a provincial assembly in Pakistan’s worst violence against the Prophet Muhammad drawings, officials said. At least two people were killed and 11 injured. Security forces fired into the air as they struggled to contain the unrest in the eastern city of Lahore, where protesters burned down four buildings housing a hotel, two banks, a KFC restaurant and the office of a Norwegian cell phone company, Telenor.' (MSNBC, KFC)

Where is the love? Part 2: Basra council breaks coalition ties. Feeling wounded over allegations of British abuse and offensive Danish cartoons, the provincial government of Basra, Iraq, has temporarily cut ties with the UK and Denmark, CNN reports: 'Basra's provincial government temporarily has cut ties with the Danish and British contingents in Basra, the council's head told CNN on Tuesday. The move -- which calls for what a British official referred to as a "period of noncooperation" -- comes amid the Muslim protests over Danish cartoons and the alleged beatings of Iraqis by British troops. Mohammad Zaher Sadoun said the Basra Provincial Council demanded the withdrawal of Danish troops and an apology to Muslims worldwide from the Danish government amid the publications of caricatures of Islam's Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. ... The council also demanded that soldiers accused of beating "innocent Iraqis" be brought to justice and demanded clarity from the British government on the incident seen on the videotape.' (CNN)

Where is the love? Part 3: Heartsick Saddam refuses to eat. Devastated at the prospect of facing trial for genocide, torture, and various crimes against humanity, Saddam Hussein has declared a hunger strike. 'Saddam said he had not eaten in three days, while his former intelligence chief, Ibrahim Barzan, said he had been on strike for two days. Their claims of a hunger strike could not be independently confirmed.' LATE-BREAKING UPDATE: Nadz has exclusive coverage. (AP via MSNBC; Nadz)

Where is the love? Part 4: US, Israel to play homewrecker to Hamas and PA. Washington and Jerusalem are working to engineer a breakup between Palestine and its new beau, Hamas. Debka reports: 'The United States and Israel are working on ways to destabilize the Hamas-led Palestinian government, the New York Times reported Tuesday, Feb. 14. The plan is said to center largely on money and on Mahmoud Abbas playing his part. The Palestinian Authority payroll amounts to $100 m per month. Israel will withhold its regular $50-55 million a month in collected revenues and place the money in escrow, creating a large cash deficit. The US and Europe will follow suit. In other words, the US, Europe and Israel propose to impose economic sanctions against the Palestinian Authority, even before putting them in place against Iran. ...' Read the rest of Debka's analysis at the link. (Debka)

Where is the love? Part 5: Hindu, Muslim fundamentalists burn valentine cards. Also via MSNBC, 'Hardline Hindu and Muslim groups burned Valentine’s Day greeting cards on Tuesday and held protests across India against celebrating the festival of love, saying it was a Western import that spread immorality.' No word on whether chocolate-covered cherries were also consigned to the flames. (MSNBC)

It must be love. Irshad Manji treasures her readers' love notes. Go to the link for the heartwarming details. (Irshad Manji)



2006-02-13

"They stuffed the corpses of children with explosives."

Letter from the mayor of Tall 'Afar:
In the Name of God the Compassionate and Merciful
To the Courageous Men and Women of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who have changed the city of Tall’ Afar from a ghost town, in which terrorists spread death and destruction, to a secure city flourishing with life.

To the lion-hearts who liberated our city from the grasp of terrorists who were beheading men, women and children in the streets for many months.

To those who spread smiles on the faces of our children, and gave us restored hope, through their personal sacrifice and brave fighting, and gave new life to the city after hopelessness darkened our days, and stole our confidence in our ability to reestablish our city.

Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed. Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city. Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young. This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who liberated this city, ridding it of Zarqawi’s followers after harsh fighting, killing many terrorists, and forcing the remaining butchers to flee the city like rats to the surrounding areas, where the bravery of other 3d ACR soldiers in Sinjar, Rabiah, Zumar and Avgani finally destroyed them.

I have met many soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment; they are not only courageous men and women, but avenging angels sent by The God Himself to fight the evil of terrorism.

The leaders of this Regiment; COL McMaster, COL Armstrong, LTC Hickey, LTC Gibson, and LTC Reilly embody courage, strength, vision and wisdom. Officers and soldiers alike bristle with the confidence and character of knights in a bygone era. ...

Read the rest at the link.

Zeyad: The New Government

Zeyad is back at Healing Iraq and he's got plenty of complaints about the new government:
The Kurd and Sunni brats want to create a Council of Elders with executive powers to oversee the government and parliament, probably to guarantee their own shares. Have they not read the constitution? Do they not understand Democracy? Do they not realize that it is our Allah-given, Sistani-endorsed, Iran-protected right to run this country the way we see fit? To hell with those newcomers who pester us about shares exceeding their electoral constituencies.

By the way, it is good governmental practice to label anyone we don't like as a Ba'athist, a former regime official, a supporter of the insurgency or terrorism. Call our friends in the good ole Deba'athification Commission to bar a few winners from entering parliament, because we have suddenly discovered their past now; never mind that they were members of last year's parliament. It also doesn't really matter that our own slate contains former Ba'athists, they have all repented their past sins, and his Excellency Grand Ayatollah Sistani himself has given them his blessings. Who are you to question that? ...

Read the rest at the link.

Ays: No Fan of Jafari

Following a referrer thru Sitemeter, I stopped by Iraq at a Glance. Ays hasn't posted since December (we miss you! come back!) but his last post is troubling:
AlJa’fari is clearly taking control of most of the departments and suppressing others rights by different professional ways.. I see him the most cunning man in the scene now, much more dangerous than Saddam, the one who will set the fire among different sects in the Iraqi society and lead Iraq to the civil war.

I don't know where is the US from all of this mess and chaos, I can not believe that US lifted her hand (or can not control anymore? Since Alja’fari is getting stronger).

Anyway, I completely lost the ambition and hope about a secular Iraq where you can express your feelings and thoughts freely especially the religion, but it seems for the coming three centuries the Islamic acts of beheading in the name of God for fundamentalists in Sunnis, and the sadist whipping as a punishment (till death) for Shia will improve and continue enthusiastically. And might go further to cutting hands and keeping women inside the houses, who knows what is inside the dirty sick minds of the Islamic politicians..God damn them all.
No need to speak about the Iranian style celebrations on monthly basis since there are tens of anniversaries in Shia’s calendar..we are going to see much more wheels with their black and white kinds on heads..I hate that.. I hate it.

What about the rights of Christians in Iraq? They constitute 5 percent of Iraq population..what about the other religions? Don’t they have rights? Or shall they convert to Islam?
What about secular Muslims?
What if someone wants to convert and embrace the religion he believes in? or be an atheist?

We got out of Saddam’s prison and got in a new one with a ‘democratic’ door..
Dreams will never come true as long as Islam is ruling countries and fundamentalists are leading them.
Iraq is far away from being free.

I'll be watching for more Iraqi opinion on Jafari.