Morning Report: April 29, 2005

Debka: Osama bin Laden may be dead. Debka is currently reporting that Osama bin Laden may be dead: 'An announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death appears Friday in one of his close aides’ most credible Web sites. It has sparked a storm of controversy in al Qaeda circles, some of whom claim notice is false. Signed by the Pen of Jihad Warriors, the site provides no information on circumstances of death, only asks: Where are those who break out of borders? Where are the lamenters? Where are those who throw themselves from the tops of towers and skyscrapers? Where are the heart-rending cries?' Morning Report notes that previous claims of OBL's "death" from Debka have proven to be untrue; therefore, MR suggests that the current claim be taken seriously but with a degree of skepticism. This site will post any new developments. (Debka)

Bombs kill at least 24 in Iraq. CNN reports: 'A three-hour spurt of car and roadside bombings targeting Iraqi security forces and civilians killed at least 24 people and wounded 98 others Friday, Iraqi police said. Many of the bombs went off after 8:15 a.m. (12:15 a.m. EDT) and focused on Iraqi police and army patrols. Two of the car bombs exploded within 50 yards and several minutes of each other in Baghdad.' (CNN)

Sabah: Iraq PM says no Sunni/Shi'a dispute. Today's al-Sabah (English) reports:'On his way to present government to parliament, Prime Minister Dr. Ibrahim al-Ja'ferri denied disputes between the two main Muslim factions Shiite and Sunnis, hoping these nominations would be removed in the coming era for the aim of Iraqi society's unity. The Ja'ferri's government was provided with integrity, qualification and national history. Disputes among political powers have pushed for many adjourn so as to contain Arab Sunnis in government. Both Ali al-Adeep of Dawa Party and Hasan Ar-Beie of Sadr Trend stressed that some of Arab Sunnis were engaged in Saddam regimes' crimes against people. Humam BAqir Hammoudi of the Superior Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq and MP has upheld their statements.' (Sabah)

Debka: OBL Dead?

Debka has reported (again) that Osama bin Laden may be dead, according to a recent bulletin:
DEBKAfile’s Exclusive Islamic and Intelligence sources report:
An announcement of Osama bin Laden’s death appears Friday in one of his close aides’ most credible Web sites. It has sparked a storm of controversy in al Qaeda circles, some of whom claim notice is false.
Signed by the Pen of Jihad Warriors, the site provides no information on circumstances of death, only asks:
Where are those who break out of borders? Where are the lamenters? Where are those who throw themselves from the tops of towers and skyscrapers? Where are the heart-rending cries?
Egyptian bin Laden adherent, Yasser Sari, calls notice a lie and promises new videotape soon in which leader announces end of al Qaeda truce in Europe. Other followers credit the announcement as “authentic and Islamic.”



What is Beirut?

Beirut is a bullet-riddled Holiday Inn with 15-foot holes blasted into the side of it towering above elegant new construction downtown.

Beirut is a Starbucks that is identical to the one near my house in Portland, Oregon down to the last nail. ...

Read it all here.

Next Week at Dreams Into Lightning

In which the author explores the scary territory of "making commitments".

Escape Velocity: Alastair Reynolds - Space opera for the 21st century.

Matters of Life and Death: PVS diagnoses, locked-in states, and a few thoughts on abortion.

Arts & Letters: On the greatness of the Indigo Girls.

Culture of Life: Reflections on Passover.


Stefania: "The New Slavery"

Colonialism has been a form of slavery for all who endured it.Nevertheless, what has come after has not been what one would have hoped for.Indipendence has not came along with freedom for the local populations.

They have been living under "new" forms of slavery: military dictatorships and tribal regimes. ...

Go read the whole post at Free Thoughts.


Syria Leaves Lebanon

Confronted with the spectacle of thousands of Lebanese citizens marching, protesting, and singing "Edelweiss" (okay, I made that last part up), the Syrian government has withdrawn its military forces from Lebanon.

Michael J. Totten exercises the better part of valor and decides that maybe he doesn't really need that photograph after all. But then again, maybe a camera is superfluous with a word picture like this one:
The soldiers looked like miserable dogs that had been kicked in the ribs with steel-toed boots. The popular uprising in Lebanon had totally thrashed and demoralized them. Every one of them stared into the windows of the bus as we drove past. Many saw my camera and stared at me personally. ...

Roger L. Simon has this:
The Syrians, including their notorious intelligence chief, have left Lebanon four days ahead of schedule. MEANWHILE: The Daily Star has intersting stories on grieving families of Lebanese still in jail despite the Syrian demarche and of tentative Israeli hopes for relations with Lebanon. The dialectic moves on.

Go hit Roger's post for the links.

Morning Report: April 26, 2005

Syrian troops quit Lebanon. 'The soldiers looked like miserable dogs that had been kicked in the ribs with steel-toed boots,' writes Michael J. Totten from the front lines, as Syria officially ends its military presence in Lebanon. The Belmont Club believes the withdrawal 'probably is real because there is no point in dissimulation on this scale. Syria is withdrawing actual assets, that is to say the basis of its tangible strength from its former semi-colony.' The move, Wretchard says, has some benefits for Syria in terms of shorter supply lines and decreased strategic liabilities; but these will probably be outweighed by the cost to Syria in terms of lost revenue from Lebanese resources, upon which the Syrian economy had depended heavily. Debka adds: 'Monday, intelligence HQ quit Anjer in Lebanese Beqaa Valley.' (Michael J. Totten, Belmont Club)

Israeli students organize worldwide protests against Iran regime. The Student Solidarity Movement, a human-rights activist organization, is organizing protests in cities around the world this Wednesday to draw attention to the Iranian regime's continuing atrocities against Iranians and others: 'World powers continue to ignore Iran's aggressive policies, and violation of Human Rights. Students' Pro-democracy and human rights demonstrations in Iran have been violently brought down by authorities. We, as students in the "free" world, would like to help our peers "break the silence" concerning these violations of Human Rights in Iran, and remind the world of the trampling of Humans Rights taking place there every day.' According to the Jerusalem Post: 'An Israeli student group called the Student Solidarity Movement organized a series of protests – which drew more than 2,000 in Belgium, Germany, Sweden, France and the UK – to criticize the UN meeting in Geneva, which declined to condemn Iran for human-rights violation, and to call attention to cases of missing people in Iran, such as Ron Arad.' More information may be found at this thread at Free Iran. (SSM website, JPost, Free Iran)


Passover Thoughts

Dreams Into Lightning will be on posting break this weekend in observance of the Passover holiday. As just about everybody knows, Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) commemorates the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.

And speaking of Egypt, Tuesday's post at BigPharaoh warns of the danger of mob rule under the guise of "democracy" - which is a a good way for me to emphasize the importance of certain fundamental values in building any society. GM is worried that an Egyptian government that pursues "democracy" for its own sake - without safeguarding the rights of citizens - will end up like Malaysia, which appears perilously close to sliding into a Taliban-style theocracy.
If Malaysia, a country that is more democratic and economically better than Egypt, can have a moral police then imagine what can happen in Egypt if full democracy and freedom were unleashed in my country. If many Malays were becoming more religious and do not oppose the existence of the government-sanctioned moral police, imagine what would happen if the majority of Egyptians got a free hand in determining their future and how “religious” they want Egypt to become. Again I repeat, I do not expect the majority of Egyptians to transform Egypt into another Iran, but I cannot rule out the fact that radicals would definitely be empowered as a result of the “Arab spring” that everyone wants Egypt to bask into. Just look what happened last month, the world was talking about the demonstrations in Cairo and how awesome they were, and me and my liberal friends were talking about how suddenly the Muslim Brotherhood found their voice and how threatened we are feeling right now.

The beginning of Passover also marks a less well-known observance, called the Counting of the Omer (Sefirat ha-Omer in Hebrew). This is the seven-week countdown to the holiday of Shavu'oth (known to Christians by its Greek name, Pentecost). Shavu'oth is the commemoration of the giving of the Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai. And while it's pretty hard to find Hallmark cards for Shavu'oth, the holiday is no less important than Passover itself: for while Passover marks the Jewish people's birth as a free nation, Shavu'oth celebrates our covenant with G-d - that is, our system of law, morality, and deepest values. It is who we are. Or put it like this: If Passover is the Jewish people's "Independence Day", Shavu'oth is the celebration of our "Constitution". Without our values and our moral code, our freedom would be meaningless.

This is why responsible freedom activists do not merely stress "democracy"; the "rule of the majority" is not an end in itself. Today's Jews know all too well what happened under a popularly elected government in Germany. Democracy is necessary, but it is not sufficient; there must also be a formal, written code that spells out the rights and the responsibilities of the individual.

In Malaysia, the so-called "moral" or "religious police" showed themselves to be nothing but a gang of armed thugs interested only in beating innocent people and humiliating women. A moral code truly worthy of the name ensures that people are free to live their lives without intimidation or harrassment. Many Mideasterners are figuratively "wandering in the desert" now; it is important that we help them find their way to just such a code - not a "tyranny of the majority".

Otherwise, Big Pharaoh will make an exodus of his own.

Happy Passover ... chag kasher ve'sameach!

Connecticut Students Sent Home for T-Shirt Protest

Gay rights took a step forward in Hartford yesterday, but free speech suffered a setback in South Windsor last week when four students were sent home from South Windsor High School for wearing T-shirts protesting Connecticut's civil unions legislation. The Manchester-area Journal Inquirer reports:
By Candace Taylor, Journal Inquirer April 16, 2005

SOUTH WINDSOR -- Four high school students were sent home Friday after they wore T-shirts bearing anti-homosexual slogans to school, causing a series of disturbances as other students became "emotionally distraught," students and school officials said.

The boys, who wore white T-shirts on which they had written, "Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve," say their constitutional right to free speech has been violated.

"We were just voicing our opinions," said Steven Vendetta, who made the T-shirts with his friends, Kyle Shinfield, David Grimaldi, and another student who asked not to be identified. "We didn't tell other people to think what we're thinking. We just told them what we think."

But other students say they felt threatened by the shirts, which also quoted Bible verses pertaining to homosexuality.

"I didn't feel safe at this school today," said Diana Rosen, who is co-president of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance. ...

Now this is a perfect example of "political correctness" run amok - and ultimately hurting the struggle for gay rights. The article indicates that the offending T-shirts bore the slogan "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" and some "Bible verses pertaining to homosexuality." Nobody was calling anybody "f*ggot", nobody was threatening anybody. And yet, Diana Rosen "didn't feel safe", and that was enough.
Vendetta said the impetus for the T-shirts came earlier in the week, when students at the high school took part in the annual Day of Silence, a project orchestrated by the national Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. On the Day of Silence, students across the country do not speak, as a reminder of the discrimination and harassment experienced by homosexuals.

Students at the high school also wore signs showing their support for legislation that would recognize civil unions for same-sex couples in Connecticut, Vendetta said.

Vendetta and his friends, who oppose civil unions, wanted to make their feelings known.

"We felt if they could voice their opinions for it, we could voice our opinion against it," he said.

But he was wrong. SWHS principal John Dilorio, who had initially approved the students' protest, apparently backed down by the afternoon.
Eventually, DiIorio called the boys into the office and told them that other students were becoming "emotionally distraught," Shinfield said. He then asked the boys to remove the shirts. They refused and were sent home.

Who were these "emotionally distraught" students? Apparently Miss Rosen herself:
Rosen said that when she first saw the shirts, she "almost didn't believe it." She became very upset, crying and spending most of the day in administrators' and guidance counselor's offices. She also got into several arguments, she said.

Well, you poor little dear. I hope you weren't too terribly traumatized by the incident. Do yourself a favor: Never, EVER pick up a Bible, read the editorial pages of a newspaper, or log on to the internet. Don't go out and get a job, either - you might have to work with people who disagree with you. In fact, just to be on the safe side, don't leave your house.

Contrast her reaction with Vendetta's:
"I walked down the hall, and people were either cheering me on, yelling at me, or just sneering," he said. "It was the most intense experience."

Here is someone who is not afraid of being challenged. I wish more gay-rights advocates had this attitude.

Read the full JI article at the link.

As it happens, I attended South Windsor High School from 1978 to 1981. I think it's fair to say things were a little different back then. We didn't have a "Gay-Straight Alliance". We didn't have teachers, counselors, and administrators falling all over themselves to make sure we "felt safe". We didn't have a "Day of Silence", either - if you were gay, or if you were just different, your day of silence was every f*ing day. So I'm afraid I can work up precious little sympathy for Diana Rosen and her self-created victimhood.

I'm pleased to see that schools like my old high school are finally taking anti-gay harrassment seriously, but I'm deeply disappointed that they have chosen to do so at the expense of free speech. The students who wore the shirts sparked controversy and debate; and in the end, it was not they, but the administration of South Windsor High School, that hurt the cause of gay equality.

Civil Unions in the Constitution State

As a gay rights advocate and a Connecticut native, I'm very pleased with the news that the Connecticut legislature has chosen to lead the way in making gay civil unions legal. I had been planning a light posting day today (with Passover coming up, and after a busy day yesterday), but I'll be following this closely. I'll be commenting on civil unions and the same-sex marriage debate, as well as related topics. Keep an eye on this space.

Morning Report: April 22, 2005

Connecticut approves gay civil unions. News sources report that Connecticut became, on Wednesday, the first state to enact a civil-unions law for gay couples through the legislative process: 'Gov. M. Jodi Rell, a Republican, signed the bill about an hour after it was approved 26-8 by the Democrat-controlled Senate. The law, which takes effect Oct. 1, includes an amendment that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Civil unions are reserved only for same-sex couples.' Gay marriage advocates were disappointed that the bill also contained a provision explicitly defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman; but many also recognized the law as an important step forward. '"I think we are all going to have to step back and take a deep breath and realize that we need to understand the world is not going to change as the result of this legislation," said Democratic Sen. Andrew McDonald, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee and one of a handful of openly gay legislators.' Gay Patriot (the blog is now being written by GayPatriotWest) has this to say: 'When we look at Connecticut's recognition of same-sex civil unions in this context, we see how huge it is. Yes, many municipalities, universities and private employers, including 200 Fortune 500 companies, offer domestic partnership benefits. Yes, many religious denominations celebrate gay unions, with Reform Judaism recognizing gay marriage. But, until yesterday, no elected state legislature, without having been forced by the courts, passed a bill recognizing same-sex civil unions. When the state's democratically elected Republican governor (albeit elected Lieutenant Governor, but who assumed her current position in accordance with the state Constitution when her predecessor resigned) signed the legislation, the bill became law. Now, the whole nation is watching.' GPW echoes the concern of many gay conservatives that relying on judicial activism will undermine the legitimacy of legal advances for gay rights. Log Cabin Republicans welcomed the new legislation: 'Log Cabin Republicans praise Governor Jodi Rell (R-CT) for signing legislation creating civil unions in Connecticut. "Today Governor Rell becomes the first Governor in history to sign civil union legislation without being forced to do so by the courts. We thank Governor Rell for recognizing that all families deserve basic fairness, including gay and lesbian families," said Log Cabin Republicans President Patrick Guerriero. Legislation establishing civil unions in Connecticut passed the State House and State Senate by wide margins and with bipartisan support. Governor Rell previously signaled her support for civil unions by stating, "I don't believe in discrimination of any sort, and I want people to have equal rights and equal opportunities." "The Governor's signature on this bill is an important reminder that the fight for basic fairness for gay and lesbian families is a bi-partisan fight," continued Guerriero. ...' (various)


Best of Dreams Into Lightning

The Zero Ring
The Rose of Paradise
The Death Wish

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

THE L WORD: Liberalism in crisis.
Liberals, Conservatives ...
TNR Deconstructed: "The New Republican" series
Response to Thomas Friedman: America's Addiction
Response to E.L. Doctorow: The Unfeeling Left
Paul Berman: Another Peace Movement
The Moral Struggle
Code Lavender

The Shul I Don't Go To
Islam and Islamophobia
The World of Tomorrow
The Kabbalah: complete series
Vashti and Freedom
I Am a Jew and My Father Was a Jew
Creating the World You Love
The Names

On American Literature
Trina Schart Hyman
N. Scott Momaday
Audre Lorde
Shahna Lax (see also here)
Music and Encyclopedias

Freedom and Responsibility (Thanksgiving Day post)

Iran Regime Change Petition

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

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


The Calling

Fruma: You want to kill innocent dragons? How COULD you?
Mirka, responding to her stepmother: But - but - dragons are EVIL! They eat people and stuff!
Fruma: That's just nature. Owls eat other animals, but we don't call owls evil. For that matter, you eat fish and beef and chicken all the time, but you don't propose to kill yourself in revenge. Don't try telling me "eating humans is different". Try selling that to a CHICKENS's mother ... [and yada yada yada]
Mirka: Okay. You're right. I give up. I won't slay any dragons.

Fruma: Mirka! You mean you'd just let a dragon kill and eat the whole village? How COULD you? ...

From the "Hereville" comic by the genius Barry Deutsch. You don't subscribe? Just look what you're missing. Go to Girl-a-Matic right now and sign up ... and discover what Mirka's true calling is. (Hint: It's what every blogger dreams of.)

While you're there, check out lots of other great comix, like "Dicebox" (featuring Molly - alias Benecia - and Griffen), drawn (usually) by Jenn Manley Lee; "Arcana Jayne" by Lisa R. Jonte (aka Luminous Rae Jones); "Kismet: Hunter's Moon" by Layla Lawlor; and lots of others.

I guess I'm not very bright.

I don't understand why wife-beating is a lesser crime than cockfighting in South Carolina. Alas, A Blog has the scoop:
If you’re a victim of domestic violence living in South Carolina, guess what?! Cockfighting is a felony, while domestic abuse is just a misdemeanor! From the President-for-Life Sheelzebub of Pinko Feminist Hellcat…

The South Carolina Judiciary Committee passed legislation that turned cockfighting into a felony. The same committee tabled a bill to protect victims of domestic violence–beating up your spouse is still just a misdemeanor.

And if you question this logic, you’re obviously not very bright, at least according to SC State Rep. John Graham Altman III.

And here’s a little spat between Altman and a reporter named Kara Gormley who dared to do her job and ask why the fuck would anyone place more value on a rooster’s life over a domestic violence victim.

Rep. Altman responds to the comparison, “People who compare the two are not very smart

Read the whole post at the link; then go on to this post.

Ethnic Arabs, Persians Join Forces Against IRI Regime

Anti-regime riots continue in Iran as ethnic Arabs protest against the IRI's declared "total persianization" of Khouzestan Province, according to a new item on this thread at Free Iran.
Iran Press Service:
Unrests continued unabated in the oil rich Iranian province of Khouzestan, with local and international sources putting the death toll at about 30 people, including seven revolutionary guards and security men in plain clothes and the number of injured at five hundreds.

Though the authorities insist that they have the full control of the situation and calm had been restored, but an Interior Ministry’s spokesman confirmed on Monday some media’s reports that at least 2 more people had died on Sunday in clashes with security forces in the port of Mahshahr, increasing the number of dead at five people, according to official accounts.

According to the government, troubles in this south-western region of Iran situated on the borders with Iraq started last week after the distribution of a letter, attributed to Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the former Vice-president for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs calling for a “total persianisation” of the Province that is dominated by Iranians of Arab ethnic speaking an Arabic dialect of their own. ...

Read the full analysis at the link. Buried in the middle is the following paragraph: "Commanded by Admiral Ahmad Madani, the Governor of the Province, the fighting lasted several days before the heavily armed Arabs, some of them Iraqi soldiers, were defeated and calm restored. "

Reader Pantea adds the following info: "There are many people calling dissident tv stations, telling them what's going on in Khoozestan. It may have started with the Arabs but other people have joined them."

American commenter Rasker observes: "When the Ceaucescu regime collapsed in Romania, it all started unraveling with demonstrations among German minorities in a backwater town called Timosoara."

It appears that Iranians of all backgrounds are uniting toward a common goal of freedom. Keep an eye on Free Iran.

UPDATE: The latest DebkaNet Weekly (which just hit my e-mail box ten minutes ago) suggests that the CIA and MI6 may be lending a helping hand. No surprises here, but it's nice to know. If it's true, all I can say is: Good for the CIA. Keep an eye on the Debka website for breaking news and analysis about the Mideast; also, consider subscribing to their weekly newsletter. Information is available at the site.

Liberals, Conservatives, Neoconservatives, and the Rest of Us

Every little while, I could hear something about the abolitionists. It was some time before I found out what the word meant. It was always used in such connections as to make it an interesting word to me. If a slave ran away and succeeded in getting clear, or if a slave killed his master, set fire to a barn, or did any thing very wrong in the mind of a slaveholder, it was spoken of as the fruit of abolition. Hearing the word in this connection very often, I set about learning what it meant. The dictionary afforded me little or no help. I found it was "the act of abolishing"; but then I did not know what was to be abolished. Here I was perplexed. I did not dare to ask any one about its meaning, for I was satisfied that it was something they wanted me to know very little about.

-Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life

It took me two years to figure out what a "neoconservative" was. I kept hearing the word in the news media, invariably in a phrase like, "some neoconservative hawks in the Bush Administration". If you thought about it, you'd have to notice that these "neoconservatives" - whoever and whatever they were - seemed only to exist in the government (specifically the "Bush Administration"); clearly, then, they did not represent any segment of the American people. Opinion writers would often describe them as a "cabal", suggesting a close-knit group of crafty outsiders, sort of like ... well, you could always draw your own conclusions.

The neoconservatives (whatever the term might mean) seemed always to be stirring up trouble. But who were they, and what had they done to earn the media establishment's enmity? I think it's partly because the liberal establishment has been caught sleeping on the job, and they're not happy about it at all. Liberals like to portray themselves as the messengers of enlightenment, open-mindedness, and freedom. But where was the liberal concern for the peoples of the Middle East suffering under islamist or ba'athist regimes? It appears that many of these self-proclaimed champions of human rights are really only interested in "human rights" when it provides an excuse to bash America - or those Americans they don't happen to like (for instance, Republicans).

Those neoconservatives, then, were a threat to the liberal media establishment. They showed up the weakness and hypocrisy of what liberalism had become. No longer could the people who controlled the newspapers, the TV networks, and the universities hide behind their vapid slogans about peace and brotherhood. If you're serious about fighting dictators, the neocons were saying, it takes more than writing a few letters for Amnesty International.

I've always thought of myself as a liberal. I was raised by Unitarian parents who opposed the Vietnam War and disliked President Nixon. I became involved in a number of liberal causes (including seven years with the Green Party) because I really believed all that stuff about human rights and freedom. And I still do. I've been reluctant to call myself a "neoconservative" mainly because I don't care to cede the title of "liberal" to a bunch of moonbats. What amazes me is the number of so-called "liberals" who, having been at best indifferent to the human rights of Mideasterners, were only too happy to actively defend the fascist regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. When the democratic revolution begins in Iran in mid-June (mark your calendars), they will probably oppose that too.

The other big discovery for me has been the depth and scope of media propaganda. Leftists like to use the word "propaganda" in conjunction with "government" because they can't conceive of any other kind; after all, the left conceives of power - and the government - as intrinsically evil. But there are other kinds of propaganda too. And I have to admit I was slow to catch on to the media's game. After all, they were the voice of reason - educated, literate people who reported fearlessly on current events. Writing on the Vietnam-era news media, Neo-Neocon puts it this way:
I was getting my news from several sources: network TV, Newsweek, Time, the Boston Globe, and the NY Times. I was under the impression that this represented a broad spectrum of news.

But some of us have seen through the matrix of deception woven by the media machine. We've awakened to the mortal danger that threatens our very existence, even as the entrenched powers try to keep us hypnotized with their version of reality. We are the ones who have chosen to face the truth, however horrifying it may be; we are the ones who took the red pill.

(Maybe that's why they call us Neo-cons? But I digress.)

I'll always believe in the possiblity of positive change. But there are some things that are worth conserving. I've learned a lot from conservative thinkers, and I've learned a great deal of respect for the values of tradition, religion, morality, cultural authenticity, small government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise. Perhaps we are coming to the point where the old labels no longer mean much; in any event, I don't mind saying that I have a "conservative" side as well.

I think there will always be people who are temperamentally predisposed to seeing the possibilites of a better, future society, just as there will always be people who instinctively understand the value of our heritage of the past. What matters is to learn from one another, and to find common beliefs and goals. "Out of many, one."

See also:
Poison Pill - the Media Today

The Left Today

British anti-war activist George Galloway found himself on the bad side of some Muslim extremists recently:
The bitter election battle in the East End has spilled into violence, with extremist Muslims and anti-war protesters targeting George Galloway and Oona King.

Anti-war campaigner Mr Galloway was forced to take refuge from Islamic militants who denounced him as a “false prophet”. The former Labour MP said “the police saved my life” after supporters of radical group Hizb-Ut-Tahrir clashed with members of his Respect party last night.

Labour’s Ms King had her car tyres slashed and the vehicle was pelted with eggs by a gang of youths angry at her support for the Iraq war. Both incidents triggered fears for the safety of Mr Galloway and Ms King as they prepared for a stormy hustings meeting in Bethnal Green and Bow tonight. ...

Mr Galloway was electioneering on the Osier council estate in Bethnal Green last night when a gang of 30 Muslim fundamentalists, who claim voting is un-Islamic, surrounded him and his supporters.

The men said they were angry at Mr Galloway’s attempt to woo Muslim voters. They said they were “setting up the gallows” for him and warned any Muslim who voted for his anti-war Respect party that they faced a “sentence of death”.

After a fight broke out between the two groups, police were called and Mr Galloway was forced to hide in his car in an alley until the violence calmed down. Two men were later arrested.
Speaking to the Standard minutes after the attack, Mr Galloway said it was clear the men were worried that he could become MP for an area with a large Muslim population.

Source: This Is London (via LGF).

A loyal fan of Ward Churchill, Emily at Strangechord heard Churchill speak at Reed College recently and had the following observations:
The Q&A afterwards was really wild... The lineup for the mic was about 90% young, white guys and most of them asked questions that revealed a complete blind spot as far as their privilege was concerned. If they weren't being ethnocentric and even racist, they were being painfully and irrelevantly intellectual in the phrasing of their questions (like the student who asked Churchill about the "distinction between theory and practice" and found a way to work Homer into his question). I mean, what the hell?

It was horrendous. For example, one guy asked whether it was still relevant and fair for the U.S. government to have to honor land treaties with Indians that the gov't broke since "most Indians on reservations have more European blood than native blood these days". Another guy started off with the phrase, "I have a few Navajo friends..." and went on to ask how best to deal with the "immense loss of culture Native Americans have undergone". Mind you, this was coming from a 20-year old, rich-looking white student. Another asked in a whining voice what white people like himself were going to do if Indians were decolonized as Churchill suggested - "if they get their land back, where are we supposed to go?"

Churchill didn't mince words with these people at all; he was justifiably cutting and precise in his replies and the students would walk furiously away from the mic, shaking their heads, and grabbing their friends for the door. They couldn't stand to listen to someone who didn't coddle them.

Read the full post at the link.

Meanwhile, Galloway finds himself unwilling to confront Salam Pax in a debate:
The "Baghdad blogger" was at the event to make a film for Newsnight, and he managed to snatch a brief interview with Mr Galloway before the Respect candidate dashed off to his meeting with the lawyers.

"I know who you are," said Mr Galloway, warily eyeing Mr Pax, whose weblog gave the world an insight into the lives of ordinary Iraqis in the run-up to the US-led invasion.

Mr Pax wanted to know why Mr Galloway wanted the immediate withdrawal of occupying troops from Iraq.

"I really don't think we are going to agree on this. You supported the war and I opposed it," said Mr Galloway.

"You welcomed the invasion of foreign armies into your country. I opposed it. So we are not going to agree on this, which is why I didn't think it would be productive to have a discussion with you and I do have to go now."

But Mr Pax - whose real name has never been revealed - pressed the point.

Galloway: "I just want to be honest with you. You can not demand that our armed forces occupy your country - that's a matter for us.

"It's not a matter for you - it's a matter for us. Now I think there are millions of people in this country who think the war was illegal, was wrong shouldn't have happened and should be immediately withdrawn from. We are entitled to that point of view and we are."

Mr Pax "shouldn't have supported" the war in the first place, added Mr Galloway.

But Mr Pax countered that would be tantamount to supporting the continuation of a regime like Saddam's.

Galloway: "We are not going to agree on this. You are a supporter of the war. You are a supporter of the occupation and I am an opponent. Your family joined the puppet government."

Pax: "We are helping to build the new Iraq."

Galloway: "That's your point of view, it's not our point of view and you are entitled to your opinion, and I welcome you to London, and I am entitled to mine - and let's see what the British people think."

And with that, Mr Galloway really was gone.

Morning Report: April 21, 2005

UN Oil-for-Food officials resign. According to news reports: 'Two senior investigators in the probe of corruption in the U.N. Oil-for-Food program have resigned because they believed a report that cleared Kofi Annan of meddling in the $64 billion operation was too soft on the secretary-general, a panel member confirmed Wednesday.' Roger L. Simon writes: 'The level of prevarication surrounding the recent resignation of investigators Robert Parton and Miranda Duncan from the Independent Inquiry Committee into the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme is so great that even a blogger in farwaway Los Angeles can see that committee members responding to the resignations are lying through their teeth. Here's an excerpt from CNN's coverage of the breaking story by Richard Roth: Another member of the Volcker panel, Richard Goldstone, discounted a media report that Parton and Duncan resigned to protest conclusions the panel reached about U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Goldstone told CNN that was not his understanding, and that Parton and Duncan had already been set to leave after having completed their work. He said their departure would not affect the investigation. Well, I am sorry Mr. Goldstone but I am actually amazed you would put your name publicly to such nonsense (next time I would advise speaking, as did your female cohort from the committee, on "condition of anonymity" or some such). Why am I so sure this is nonsense? Because I have known personally about Parton's disaffection from the committee for over a month ... ' Read Roger's piece at the link; the CNN story is here. Roger Simon has provided extensive - and exclusive - coverage of the Oil-for-Food scandal on his homepage. (AP via Fox, Roger L. Simon, CNN)

Debka roundup. Latest headlines from Debka: 'Civilian Russian-built Mi-8 helicopter shot down by ground fire near Tarmiya north of Baghdad killing all 9 aboard. ... Several Israeli soldiers injured, one seriously, in Palestinian bomb explosion against Israeli patrol outside Gaza Strip near Kfar Aza. ... Israel’s security chiefs recommend three-week delay in start of Gaza Strip and N. Gaza Strip pull-back to August 15. ... In Passover radio interview, Sharon pledged again no more Israeli withdrawals after Gaza and N. West Bank. Settlement blocs must remain part of and contiguous to Israel and each other. Washington never accepted settlement policy common to all Israeli governments from 1967, he added. The peace process will go forward, he stressed, only after Palestinians meet commitments to disarm and dismantle terrorist groups, enforce complete calm and reforms. Sharon will raise Russian anti-air missile sale to Syria with Putin when he visits next week. He does not accept deal final or not detrimental to Israel.' (Debka)

Mohammed: Iraqi people's success is Tehran regime's failure. Mohammed at Iraq the Model writes: 'The role of Tehran in creating the sectarian conflict in Iraq has became more than obvious after the failure of all the attempts to provoke a conflict between the Sunni and the She'at. The astounding successes of Iraq in democracy and writing the constitution and building a free community is causing a panic the neighborhood. We mentioned earlier that the Mada'en crisis is a fake and we pointed out that intrinsic and extrinsic parties had taken a stance to invest this story. ...' Full post at the link. (ITM)

Iran: Unrest spreads after Khouzestan riots. Report from Free Iran: 'Violent clashes continued, yesterday and this evening, in several southern Iranian cities, such as, Ahwaz, Khoramshahr, Mahshar. This wave of unprecedented unrest which has started from Ahwaz, since last Friday, has spread to other cities of the oil rich Khoozestan province, such as, Dezful and Masjed Soleiman. Sporadic demonstrations are still taking place despite the heavy security presence and injunctions to end the riots. Slogans against the Islamic regime and its leadership are the main motto of these actions. New reports are stating about the increase of number of deaths among the demonstrators but also security forces. Two militiamen were killed in an armed attack against a security post yesterday evening in Ahwaz. Houses of some of the regime officials or their relatives have been set ablaze ... ' (SMCCDI via Free Iran)

Dreams Into Lightning Celebrates One Year

Dreams Into Lightning is a year old today. It's been an amazing year. I love blogging and I have no intention of quitting, so I am now looking forward and making some plans for this blog's second year.

What won't change. Don't worry about updating your browser favorites: I have no plans to leave Blogger. There are some very good blog hosting services out there, but I'm a creature of habit, and I confess that (like Wretchard) I've developed a certain sentimental attachment to BlogSpot. On a more pragmatic level, I'm accustomed to its features and its limitations. Finally, having suffered (along with thousands of other bloggers) through Blogger's growing pains and service outages, I think we're finally out of the woods. The Blogger status page indicates that they've been working pretty hard on upgrading their capabilities, and I've noticed a spectacular improvement over the past few weeks. I'm banking on the trend continuing, and sticking with Blogger/BlogSpot.

Style and content of Dreams Into Lightning will evolve, but I don't expect any radical departures. My politics and values haven't changed; as many of you know, I am a pro-Bush liberal with interests in politics, culture, science, the arts, religion, feminism, and gay rights. The events of recent years, and blogging in particular, have brought me into contact with many fine conservative thinkers and activists, and I've gained a great deal of respect and appreciation for conservative thought. So I don't mind saying that - to whatever extent these labels mean anything anymore - I have a "conservative" side too. Whatever that means.

A little about me. As I've said, I am liberal, feminist, pro-gay-rights, and pro-Bush. I am passionate about the battle for freedom, human rights, and democracy in the Middle East; this is enormously important, both for moral reasons and because our own survival depends on it. (As I've argued previously, I believe that the term "neo-conservatism" is basically a fancy name for "enlightened self-interest" - which is not a bad thing at all.) As a veteran of the 1990-1991 war (Desert Shield / Desert Storm) I have a particular connection to Iraq. I am a moderately religious Jew and a strong supporter of Israel; this does not mean, of course, that I agree with everything the Israeli government does. I've always supported the Palestinians' right to self-determination; I agree with President Bush - the first American President to explicitly call for a Palestinian state - that this is not incompatible with a safe and secure Israel. (This vision will not be possible, though, until the fascist regimes trying to undermine it are removed.)

Clearly there will be some areas where I don't agree with the President; but I think he is right about the things that matter most. I also think he's a man of principle. This doesn't mean I think he's perfect - I believe that he acts from a combination of idealism and self-interest, like you and me and most people in the world. Is he a "fundamentalist"? Well, I've become very cautious about throwing that word around; more and more it seems like a scare word used by the liberal establishment. Personally, I believe in a G-d who cares about our well-being and our conduct as human beings, and who wants us to live with dignity and to treat each other with compassion and respect. If the President, or anyone else, believes in the same G-d, then we have something in common, whatever our particular doctrinal differences may be.

I enjoy writing and I was raised in a home where books and writing were a way of life. Blogging allows me a creative outlet for my writing, and in the coming year I hope to be posting more creative material. (Outside of the blog, I'm planning to spend more time at creative writing, with an eye to getting published in print one day.) Incidentally, this is also one reason I haven't chosen to pursue "photoblogging" here. I think you can say a lot with pictures, and (for instance) Iraq the Model has given us some extraordinary images we would never have been able to see otherwise. But for me, it's about the written word; so while I can't rule out the possibillity that I might post an image some time, Dreams Into Lightning will remain first and foremost a wordblog.

As I mentioned a few days ago, a little structure may be in order. I'm working out a tentative posting plan where I can focus on a particular topic each day of the week, while retaining enough flexibility to deal with the vagaries of world events and my own life. Watch for an updated version of the projected posting schedule.

Thanks for visiting, and come back often.


Morning Report: April 20, 2005

Cardinal Ratzinger becomes Pope Benedict XVI. The College of Cardinals elected the former Cardinal Ratzinger as the new Pope, succeeding the late John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI spoke at the Sistine Chapel on Wednesday. The Belmont Club cites the Catholic Encyclopedia for information on the new Pope's predecessor in name, Benedict XV, who was born in 1854 and held the papacy from 1914 to his death in 1922. Of Benedict XVI, Wretchard writes: 'Ratzinger comes at a time when his own native Western Europe is gripped with a crisis similar in some respects to that which divided Eastern Europe in John Paul's day. Like John Paul, he arrives at the Papacy in the midst of a global war: what the Cold War was to John Paul the War on Terror must be to Benedict XVI. He is an unknown quantity, without extensive pastoral experience; a philosopher Pope: the Pope of the Memes. And it is in this last where Benedict's historical significance may lie. He is the first Pope of the Internet Age and stands uncertain, as we all are, on its brink.' Other responses come from Jana Novak (the daughter of Michael Novak and no relation to Jane); David Klinghoffer; seminarian Dennis Schenkel (via Dawn Eden); Andrew Sullivan, who's not happy; Mamamontezz, who hopes for bark and bite; and finally, Winds of Change with an excellent selection of links and an interesting analogy. (various)

More than 60 bodies found in Iraq. The bodies of more than 60 people have been found in the Tigris River and identified, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani announced. News reports indicate that the victims were hostages seized in Madain (Mada'en) earlier this month. Morning Report notes that contradictory accounts of the hostage crisis continue. Another 19 Iraqis were found murdered execution-style at a sports stadium in Haditha. Debka reports: 'First report: Iraqi president Talabani reports 50 hostages’ bodies found in Tigris River south of Baghdad. He claimed to know who they were and who captured them but gave no further information. Shiite officials identify them as belonging to hostages taken in town of Madean by Sunni insurgents. Unconfirmed report of 19 bodies shot dead found in soccer stadium in Haditha northwest of Baghdad.' (Fox via Command Post; Debka)

Musharraf says no to inspections. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said today that he would never allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to visit Pakistan's nuclear sites, Stratfor (subscription service) reports. The IAEA had wanted to compare Pakistani environmental samples with traces of enriched uranium found in Iran. (Stratfor)

Belmont Club on intellegence rivalries. Today's entry at Belmont Club assesses US interagency rivalries (particularly Defense Department vs. CIA) in intelligence operations, especially the critical area of human intelligence. Dreams Into Lightning has previously posted on the State Department's longstanding rivalry with Defense, in State vs. Defense (May 2004). (Belmont Club)

Ledeen: The revolution continues. 'Blessed be we, who live in exciting times. Not only are we participating in a global struggle against tyranny, but, if we look carefully enough, we can see the collapse of the conventional wisdom about the relationship between tyrannical rulers and their subjects. We're in the midst of a great paradigm shift, which, as any decent Hegelian will tell you, involves both a transformation of the world and of the way we understand it. In such rare times, both pundits and policymakers need to constantly challenge their own assumptions about the way the world works, because those assumptions age, along with the world they once described.' Michael Ledeen goes on to cite recent developments in China, Iran, and North Korea, which, he argues, portend a "dramatic tipping point" for the regimes in those countries. Read the article at the link, and watch for discussion on the Free Iran forum. (NRO, Free Iran)


A Moment of Silence

In honor of the first anniversary of Dreams Into Lightning, Blogger will observe 20 minutes of downtime on Thursday, April 21.

Quote of the Day

Today's words of wisdom come from Eric the Unread, who has just joined our blogroll. (Hat tip: Discarded Lies.)
Last week the Today Programme had some interviews with disaffected Labour voters. Many reiterated the commmon mantras about trust, creeping privatisation, and the Iraq War. I suspect that many of these disaffected Labour voters were not very happy when the Tories were in power for 18 years.

However, one got the feeling, that they would be happy to see Labour lose the election, in order to enjoy that feeling again. Some even imagine that they would be able to titrate the effect of the election, in order to leave Blair in power with a reduced majority - in order to "teach him a lesson". There is, I suppose, a rather comforting thought about being in opposition to something, which is rather spoilt by your party actually being in power.

So true. Go visit the homepage of this anti-fascist, pro-Blair, Labour liberal. Check out his August archives, too, for some surprising background about Geddy Lee, frontman of the Canadian prog band Rush.

Morning Report: April 19, 2005

Analysis of Mada'en "crisis". The Fadhil brothers weigh in on the apparently fabricated hostage crisis in Mada'en, Iraq, in which a number of Shi'ite hostages were allegedly captured and threatened by Sunni insurgents. Mohammed at Iraq the Model writes: 'The American government denied the story but a She'at figure stressed that the American government is intervening to stop certain She'at parties from controlling the security systems for reasons he considered unconvincing. That's why the crisis was fabricated in Mada'en and that's why it got mentioned by prominent Assembly members and the PM and other senior politicians even before they had certain news about the situation. I think the motive was to put pressure on America and other members form the Iraqia list and the Kurdish alliance by submitting a new security formula that rescues the Shea't from an imminent genocide on the hands of the extremist Sunnis so they demand a greater active control over the security systems to confront the challenges threatening the She'at leaders and people. It's true that She'at were threatened many times and sustained many atrocities but so did the other segments of the people here and faking such crisis is not in the interest of the country; especially after we've seen many signs of unity among all Iraqis against terrorism. Someone comes now and ruins this by faking sectarian troubles ignoring everything about the higher national interest and the critical nature of the moment. ...' Ali at Free Iraqi notes that Muqtada al-Sadr and certain ex-Ba'athist elements were quick to contradict the Iraqi government's (erroneous) early reports - a risk to their own credibility they would have been unlikely to take unless they had inside information on the manufactured "crisis". Ali concludes that 'it must be done by those who want a civil war to occur; Iranians, Syrians and their agents in Iraq, the Sadrists and the "Association of Sunni scholars". The confident tone in which the latter two parties denied the incident supports such conclusion ...' Read the full articles at the links. (ITM, Free Iraqi)


More Mass Graves Found in Iraq

More evidence of mass murder under the Ba'ath Party regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq came to light as a number of mass graves were discovered near the southern Iraqi cities of Samawa and Nasiriya. Many of the victims were Kurds.

The New York Times reports:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 14 - Investigators have discovered several mass graves in southern Iraq that are believed to contain the bodies of people killed by Saddam Hussein's government, including one estimated to hold 5,000 bodies, Iraqi officials say.

The graves, discovered over the past three months, have not yet been dug up because of the risks posed by the continuing insurgency and the lack of qualified forensic workers, said Bakhtiar Amin, Iraq's interim human rights minister. But initial excavations have substantiated the accounts of witnesses to a number of massacres. If the estimated body counts prove correct, the new graves would be among the largest in the grim tally of mass killings that have gradually come to light since the fall of Mr. Hussein's government two years ago. At least 290 grave sites containing the remains of some 300,000 people have been found since the American invasion two years ago, Iraqi officials say.

Forensic evidence from some graves will feature prominently in the trials of Mr. Hussein and the leaders of his government. The trials are to start this spring.

One of the graves, near Basra, in the south, appears to contain about 5,000 bodies of Iraqi soldiers who joined a failed uprising against Mr. Hussein's government after the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Another, near Samawa, is believed to contain the bodies of 2,000 members of the Kurdish clad led by Massoud Barzani.

As many as 8,000 men and boys from the clan disappeared in 1983 ...

Read the article at the link.

Morning Report: April 18, 2005

SMCCDI needs your help. The Iranian activist organization "Student Movement Coordination Committee
for Democracy in Iran" (SMCCDI) is facing a budget shortfall which has forced them to take their website offline. 'The SMCCDI website gets 45,000 to 65,000 visits each day with [peaks] of 183,000 hits on key dates such as July 9th (anniversary of Students' Uprising of 1999). SMCCDI also sends its Reports, Statements and Urgent Calls to Action via its well developed mailing lists (peyk@daneshjoo.org or list@daneshjoo.org) with several thousands of subscribers.' Visit this post at Regime Change Iran to find out what you can do. (SMCCDI via RCI)

Scandal threatens Canada's ruling Liberal Party. Newsmax reports that Canadian public outrage over a scandal involving Prime Minister Paul Martin's Liberal Party may result in a gain for the Conservative party. 'Martin reiterated that he had nothing to do with the ethics fiasco, in which Liberal Party members are accused of having taken kickbacks from advertising agencies hired to promote federalism in the rebellious French-speaking province of Quebec. ... The scandal, based on a secret program that dates back to the 1990s and the Liberal Party leadership of former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, erupted anew last Thursday when a judge probing the alleged misuse of public funds lifted a publication ban on testimony by a Montreal ad executive. The executive, Jean Brault, who faces fraud charges stemming from the now-defunct program, told the federal inquiry that senior Liberals forced him to secretly divert more than $818,000 to the party's Quebec wing in exchange for sponsorship contracts. During his six days of testimony, Brault spoke of hushed-up payments to Liberals in restaurants, money being given to a brother of Chretien, and reluctant contributions strong-armed out of employees.' While the domestic dispute does not directly affect Canada's foreign policy, a poster at Free Iran wonders whether this will translate into a more aggressive policy toward the Iranian regime, which is known to have been responsible for the brutal killing of Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi. (Newsmax, Free Iran)

SMCCDI Needs Your Help

The Iranian activist group SMCCDI has been working tirelessly for the freedom of the Iranian people. But they need your help. At this time, their site is offline. (Thanks to Stefania for the heads-up.)

SMCCDI needs your donations - right now - to continue its work. You can make a PayPal donation to their e-mail. Regime Change Iran has the details:
SMCCDI (Urgent Action Call):

Dear Iranian Compatriots, Dear World's Freedom Lovers,

We need desperately your valuable help in order to continue
to exist and respond to our duties and moral obligations.

In the last twenty-six years, whether in Iran or abroad,
all of our lives have been affected negatively by the
Islamic regime and its desire to destroy Iran and Iranians
alike. We have witnessed the inhumane ideas of this regime,
and we cease to be horrified at the lengths this barbaric
theocracy has reached in its ability to terrorize Iranians
as well as the international community. Most of us Iranians
have dealt with the reality that the international
community did nothing to stop the holocaust of our people
and our country at the hands of this tyrannical regime. We
know the freedom of Iran and the end of the regime of
terrorists in our country lies in our own hands.

In a surprising twist of fate, for the first time in
twenty-six years, the President of the United States
directly spoke to Iranians during his State of the Union
Address in February of 2005. For the first time, the leader
of the most powerful country in the world has proclaimed
support for Iranians committed to returning freedom and
democracy to Iran by ending the Islamic terrorist regime.
If pro-democracy endeavors are not supported during this
short window of opportunity, Iranians may never see freedom
in Iran again.

With this in mind, the Islamic regime has actively been
working in Iran and abroad to make sure freedom fighters do
not have the chance to use this window of opportunity.
After President Bush's proclamation of support for Iranian
freedom fighters, the Islamic regime has embarked on a
campaign to separate any unified forces of opposition who
seek freedom and democracy for Iran.

One such group, "Student Movement Coordination Committee
for Democracy in Iran" (SMCCDI), has always been on the
forefront of the opposition movement against the regime of
terror. This opposition group has been a key figure in
aiding the freedom fighters in Iran with the aim of
establishing a secular political structure elected by the
majority of Iranians and returning human rights to Iran.
By way of its web site, SMCCDI has been a major source of
political inspiration for many young Iranians striving for
modernism and democracy. ...

Read the full article at the link. And please send whatever you can, via PayPal, to the following e-mail address: SMCCDI@DANESHJOO.ORG. I've already made my contribution this morning.


And Don't You Forget It

The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler has some choice words for the peace movement:
Not in your name, though, and you're fooling yourselves if you think that we're ever going to let you run away from that. We'll be there to remind you, every last step of the way.

A country was liberated from the claws of a sadistic dictator and his psychotic sons - BUT IT WAS NOT IN YOUR NAME.

That country recently held democratic elections and now have, for the first time, a government that they themselves have chosen - BUT IT WAS NOT IN YOUR NAME.

The psychopath responsible for at least the 300,000 victims mentioned in the above has been brought to justice and will murder no more - BUT IT WAS NOT IN YOUR NAME.

The Kurds will no longer have to fear seeing helicopter gunships spreading poison gas over their villages, as a matter of fact one of their own was just elected President - BUT IT WAS NOT IN YOUR NAME.

Iraqi schoolgirls will no longer have to fear being picked up, abducted, raped and fed to dogs by Uday and Qusay - BUT IT WAS NOT IN YOUR NAME.

Plastic shredders in Iraq will no longer be used for anything other than shredding plastic - BUT IT WAS NOT IN YOUR NAME.

And we could go on, as we shall if any of those terror-supporting "peace" freaks ever presume to claw their way to the foothills of the moral high ground.


Now That's Class

"A tendency toward vanity, self-absorption and callousness"? You don't say?
I was on assignment in Nicaragua, far from my base in Washington DC. I watched the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on a flickering TV. And then I called my wife back home. She was tearful and distraught. Our kids had been rushed out of school in an emergency drill. It felt, she said, like war had broken out.

"God this is awful," I said with feeling. "I know," she replied, "there may be thousands dead".

"I don't mean that", I snapped. "I'm talking about me. I'm missing the biggest story of my life."

- BBC foreign correspondent Stephen Sackur in his farewell broadcast, via Wizbang. (In all fairness, he does admit to this "shameful sentiment.")

Terri Schiavo resources ... and a few final comments.

I'm posting a list of links that have helped me to better understand the Terri Schiavo case. I do not have the time, space, or energy to post a full-length analysis of the case as I see it; and I don't expect to post regularly on it after today. (I will post, however, if something new comes up. So if you're tired of reading about it, don't get your hopes up.)

If you have a constructive, intelligent point to add, whether you agree or disagree with me, you are welcome to do so. If you wish to post a link, please provide some context. Certain readers have taken a page from the Iraqi blog trolls and started pasting "here-look-at-this" links in my comments section. Don't waste your time and mine. If you want to advertise your inability to form your own arguments (or even your own sentences), that's your business. But don't fancy that you have the one bit of information that's suddenly going to change my mind, especially if you're too lazy to explain why you think it's credible and why I (or anyone else) should give a damn.

No two people think alike, and you and I may not assign the same level of credibility to this or that piece of information. You may find one argument more persuasive, and another less so, than I do. That's human nature. It's called having a conversation, and it's what blogging is all about. Please keep this in mind when commenting.

I've come to believe that the Terri Schiavo case represents questions we should all be concerned about: What is the value of human life? Does our society do enough to safeguard the lives of the sick, the elderly, and the vulnerable? Who decides when a life is worth saving? I don't expect that there will be any easy or conclusive answers to these questions, which is why I will continue to address them regularly in this blog in the future.

And now for the Terri links:

Blogs for Terri - Homebase for activists. Now carrying updates on other endangered lives, like Mae Magouirk and Clara Martinez.

Liberals for Terri - "But I'm not gonna go along with a bunch of right-wingers!!!" Oh, please. Haven't we heard that before? After you read the intro, go to their current posts.

In Love With Death - Peggy Noonan's column about the pro-death people. If the link has expired, you can find it here.

Deroy Murdock: Not Just the God Squad and Deroy Murdock: Schiavo's Struggle.

CNS News: "Some Kind of Trauma" - New York forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden on Terri's injuries (2003)

Straight Up With Sherri - Sherri Reese was a tireless activist in this case. Her February and March archives have lots of information.

Kesher Talk - Judith Weiss has been on the Terri case too; this recent post on The Right to Eat connects to the others.

The Redhunter - Tom is a regular reader and commenter here. He wants to know: Are human beings Disposable When Broken?

Keep watching this entry for updates and additions.

Redhunter on Living Wills

I used to think that the purpose of the "Living Will" was to create a class of people who, having expressly made their wishes against certain forms of life support known, would be allowed to live or die according to the dictates set down in these documents; and that, conversely, the rest of us might reasonably be presumed to want to live. Now that that bit of happy folly has been demolished, we might wonder exactly what a living will is for.

The Redhunter wonders, too:
If you think a living will will take care of you in a Terri Schaivo-type situation think again:

For decades, we have deluded ourselves into believing that living wills would solve our caregiving problems; that healthy individuals could provide advance instructions for what to do if they became incompetent; that such a system would ensure that no one is mistreated and that everyone defines the meaning of life for himself until the very end. But it is now clear that living wills have failed, both practically and morally.

Tom recalls an earlier post in which he argued that "Studies by University of Michigan Professor Carl Schneider and others have shown that living wills rarely make any difference. People with them are likely to get exactly the same treatment as people without them, possibly because doctors and family members ignore the wills. And ignoring them is often the right thing to do ..."

Media's Double Standard on Lethal Injections

Hyscience delivers this account from A Mom and her Blog:
The Death with Dignity Act would allow Vermonters with six months to live to take a lethal dose of prescribed medications. There must be two physicians who sign off on the illness as terminal, and the patient must voluntarily make a written request for the medication.

"It scares me to think I might have taken that option," said Maureen Kelly, who is opposed to the legislation. Twenty years ago, Kelly suffered severe brain damage in a car accident that left in her in the hospital for three years -- including nine months in a coma. While she may have considered using lethal medication, she's glad she did not. ...

Read the whole thing at the link(s). And ponder this observation from Hyscience:
It is ironic that at the same time the Daily Telegraph and other media outlets are reporting that execution by lethal injection is "cruel".

Allegations of Husband's Intimidation

Allegations of intimidation by Michael Schiavo ignored.
The judge presiding over the life of Terri Schiavo has ignored potentially explosive claims detailing what those making them believe is a pattern of unusual and allegedly perhaps even violent behavior by her husband, behavior they fear may have factored into the demise of the Florida woman to begin with.

The allegations are just that: assertions by a number of people who are on the opposite side of the debate over the fate of Michael Schiavo's wife -- who has languished in a severely disabled but hardly vegetative state since February 25, 1990, when she was found in a collapsed state between a hall and bathroom during the early morning hours. As allegations, they should be held with a degree of circumspection that provides a presumption of innocence until more evidence is brought to the table.

Moreover, it must be remembered at each turn that there is a bitter dispute at the heart of the issue.

But they are serious allegations, and it was apparently these assertions that caused the state's Department of Children and Families to ask for a 60-day delay in the March 18 date for removal of Terri's feeding and hydrations tubes, saying it wanted time to investigate allegations of "abuse" and "neglect" against Michael, who has since taken up with another woman with whom he has two children.

The judge, George W. Greer of the Sixth Circuit in Pinellas County, has denied that request for a delay, as he has denied virtually all substantive motions by her parents, the Schindlers -- who are desperately fighting to keep their daughter alive and who have now called for the judge's impeachment on the grounds of partiality. ...

Read the whole thing. Source: Spirit Daily via Blogs for Terri. See also Liberals for Terri.

A Few More Thoughts on Terri Schiavo

Terri Schiavo is dead but the questions surrounding her killing remain. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that, more than any other news event since 9/11 (and perhaps even more than that), this has caused me to re-examine some of my basic assumptions. As I've said here before, I am not a pro-life absolutist; at least, not yet. I believe in the importance quality of human life, not just the fact of its existence.

But even as I write these words, something in me grows uneasy with this facile formulation. Who decides what is a desirable "quality" of life? How do these decisions get made, and for whom? We can all agree that a patient writhing in pain on a hospital bed, with no hope of relief from their pain and a certainty of imminent death, does not have a good quality of life. Perhaps one could even reasonably argue that a patient, having explicitly enunciated his or her wishes, might be allowed an early death - either passively (through the withdrawal of artificial life support) or even actively (through a lethal dose of painkiller).

But none of this applies to Terri Schiavo. She was not in discomfort - at least, not until she was sentenced to a slow death by the Florida courts. She had not left a living will. She was killed solely as a result of the determination of her so-called "husband", over the agonized objections of her blood relatives. If there was any doubt in my mind as to the reality of the "slippery slope" principle, this atrocity has removed all trace of it.

This Is Really Cool

Infrared technology may open ancient books. Hat tip: Mangan's Miscellany.
For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure - a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed. ...

Article in The Independent (UK) at this link.


A world between two Poles. The late Pope John Paul II is remembered in this extraordinary Debka analysis, which details the relationship between the Carter administration's Polish-born national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and a Polish archbishop named Karol Wojtyla. Debka traces how the relationship between the two men, which began in 1976 and continued "for years after Wojtyla’s investiture as Pope John Paul II on October 22, 1978", changed the course of history. In Debka's analysis, the religious passion of the Poles living under a Communist regime was none other than the "doomsday weapon" of the cold war; but, the Israeli site argues, the Americans drew some wrong lessons from their success against Communism, believing that fundamentalist Islam could be productively harnessed in West Asia in the same way that Catholicism was in East Europe. The rest, as they say, is history. Read the article at the link.

Andrea Dworkin remembered. Barry Deutsch (aka Ampersand) had his criticisms of Andrea Dworkin (1946-2005), but that hasn't stopped him from posting a tribute to her life and work. Go there for Dworkin-related links.

New to Blogroll

A few new names on the sidebar:

Greater Democracy is a left-of-center group blog critiquing both the Bush Administration and current liberal strategy. In a current post, Michael Cudahy cautions against the mentality of "educating the masses" and instead counsels respect for the ordinary citizen. 'Instead of trying to educate and scare the masses, I would suggest that it would be better to engage them in an active dialogue about their ambitions and the dreams they hold for their children. They know what works and what doesn’t. And, they are becoming abundantly familiar with the abuses of power rained down upon them by this self-righteous and insensitive administration. There is a growing hunger for boldness and innovation. -- for honesty and an understanding of the problems that threaten this nation. Americans can be motivated by the power of eloquently articulated ideas. It is a formula that has worked for decades. It is an equation that can win today.'

Cry Freedom has conservative news and views, Mac news, and White Trash Wednesday participation. Safari users, did you know that the latest OS X update will let you read Beth's Vast Right Wing Conspiracy in all its Alabama splendor? I'll bet you missed the new LHOTP, too.

American Dinosaur (hat tip: Cry Freedom) hails from Arizona and is a member of the Alliance of Free Blogs. Current posts have all the poop on the ACLU and the latest news on Minuteman.

Urth: The Drowned Land appealed to my inner Gene Wolfe fanatic - also lots of sports news, although I confess to being a sports illiterate.

Obviously Right has news on a disturbing trend in Belgium; also a number of good posts about media bias.

My sidebar is currently a bit disorganized but I'm planning to clean it up a little bit this week. I'm using BlogRolling but not exclusively, as I still find I like the flexibility of organizing my own Blogger template (imperfect though my understanding of HTML may be); also I like the idea of having a backup in case BR goes down (or, conversely, I screw up the Blogger linklist). Links may be found in either or both of these locations. The links I've just added today are on BlogRolling. I'll try to work something out where BR complements my basic template.

This is not a hate crime.

Racially motivated crimes against whites are not conidered "hate crimes" in New York. As many as 30 young people beat up four girls, calling them "white crackers", yet somehow it wasn't a hate crime:
Invoking the name “Martin Luther King” and screaming “Black Power!” a gang of up to 30 black teens attacked four white girls in Marine Park in what police are saying is not a bias crime.

The March 30 attack was a hot topic at state Senator Marty Golden’s recent public safety forum.

According to witnesses and parents of the victims, four young girls from St. Edmund’s had the day off from school due to Easter recess. They were playing basketball during dismissal from nearby Marine Park Junior High School, when several Marine Park students demanded to use the court.

After adults intervened and asked them to wait their turn, the teens left - but returned in a pack of up to 30, both boys and girls, and stormed into the park.

Witnesses say the attackers were all black and called their victims “white crackers” during the bloody melee, which raged for almost 20 minutes.

“This is not being looked at as a bias crime,” NYPD Deputy Inspector Kevin McGinn said at the meeting.

Read the rest at the link. Hat tip: LaShawn Barber.

Morning Report: April 17, 2005

Three held in plot to kill Shas leader. Three Israeli Arabs have been arrested on charges of conspiring to assassinate Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Israel's religious Shas Party and former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel. Arutz Sheva: 'It was released for publication that the General Security Service (GSS) arrested three Israeli Arabs on suspicion that they were planning to assassinate former Sephardic Chief Rabbi and spiritual leader of the Shas party Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The three, residents of northern Jerusalem, are members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group. It is suspected that aside from the plan to murder the rabbi, they were planning other terror attacks in the capital as well.' Debka: 'Shin Beit is holding three PFLP members from E. Jerusalem in plot to murder ultra-religious Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Two still under questioning. Same terror group assassinated Israeli tourism minister Zeevi three years ago.' Jerusalem Post: 'Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who established a cell in northern Jerusalem and planned to assassinate Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef while leaving his Jerusalem home, as well as other attacks in the capital, were recently arrested by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Israel Police. In January cell members studied the route leading to and from Yosef's home, the security arrangements and monitored his movements. Their arrests prevented them from carrying out the attacks. Details released by the Shin Bet on Sunday revealed that the cell members are all residents of neighborhoods in northern Jerusalem, received funds and instructions from a senior PFLP member in Jerusalem and maintained close contacts with PFLP members incarcerated in Jericho for their involvement in the assassination of former government minister Rehavam Ze'evi. The identities of three of the members revealed by security officials are Salah Hassan Hamori, 20; of Dahiat Al Barid in north Jerusalem is the holder of a Jerusalem identity card and French citizenship. Hamori was incarcerated in the past for PFLP activities. Matsem Dieb Sheikh, 25, of Anata and Mussa Darwish, 22, also the holder of a Jerusalem identity card lived in Issawiyah. ... ' Further details in Jerusalem Post article at the link. (A7, Debka, JPost)

State hiring Iran freedom activists? Regime Change Iran reports that the US Department of State is soliciting applications for grants to promote human rights and democratization initiatives in Iran. The State Department website announces: 'The Office for the Promotion of Human Rights and Democracy of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL/PHD) announces an open competition for assistance awards. DRL seeks to provide grants to educational institutions, humanitarian groups, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals inside Iran to support the advancement of democracy and human rights. Due to current sanctions on Iran, United States Government funds may not be used for activities involving the Government of Iran. Organizations may submit grant proposals that focus on promotion of democracy and human rights in Iran. While this RFP does not solicit proposals targeting concerns in other countries, DRL will consider proposals that include other countries when 1) for security or other reasons it is necessary to invite Iranians to neighboring countries, or 2) exposure of Iranians to individuals or groups in other countries is of direct benefit to Iranians. In this later regard, while DRL prefers new program ideas, the Bureau would consider ideas to expand current successful human rights and democracy programs to include Iranians.' (State Dept. via RCI)

Ethnic Arabs clash with Iranian security forces in Ahwaz, Iran. From Iran Focus, via Free Iran: 'Tehran, Apr. 16 - Anti-government protests erupted yesterday through the night in the city of Ahwaz, southwest Khuzestan province in Iran, leaving at least six people dead and hundreds injured or arrested. Ahwaz, close to the Iraqi border, is a major hub of Iranian ethnic minority groups, and its largely Arab population has faced brutal repression undere clerical rule. Fierce fighting occurred when Iran’s State Security Forces were dispatched to quell angry residents who were complaining of government plans to redefine the ethnic make-up of the province. Some 3,000 residents gathered in Kurdvani Square on Friday morning and thousands more in Sheling-Abad, Malashiya, Ameri, and Kut Abdollah districts of the city of Ahwaz, demanding the authorities stop what they called “ethnic cleansing”.' (Iran Focus via Free Iran)


The Shul I Don't Go To

There's an old joke about a Jew who's shipwrecked on a desert island. Finally he's rescued, and they find he's built not just one but two synagogues on the island. They ask him why. "One is the shul I pray in," he says, "and the other is the one I never step foot in!"

There's a liberal synagogue just a few blocks from where I live, which I'll call, arbitrarily, Beth Emeth. The atmosphere is nice, the people are friendly, the services are pleasant. But it's not right for me.

Why? Lots of reasons. I guess part of the problem is liberal Judaism itself. (By "liberal Judaism" I mean the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements collectively, as opposed to Orthodox Judaism.) In many ways my issues with liberal Judaism mirror my difficulties with American liberalism generally: it's become smug and self-satisfied, it has reduced the spirit of true inquiry and idealism to a set of political dogmas, and it has embraced reform for its own sake - to the point where the reforms themselves take on more importance than that which is being reformed.

Beth Emeth is in many ways a typical liberal Jewish synagogue. There's a lot of emphasis on social action - which is all to the good - but not much real dialog about important issues. As you've probably already guessed, I was the lone voice of dissent when the rest of the congregation were voicing their anti-war and anti-Bush sentiments. That by itself wasn't the problem - I mean, I could live with it. What bothered me was the realization that religious issues - even basic things like the divinity of the Torah - were open to debate, while political issues were not. The Torah was less sacred than liberal doctine.

(Were there other people who agreed with me? Well, sort of. Occasionally someone would come up to me after services and tell me privately that he agreed with me, or knew someone else who did. But no one else wanted to say so in public.)

The rabbi, whom I'll call Rabbi X, is nothing if not a scholar. And he won't let you forget it. It's hard to catch him on a Shabbat when he won't begin his talk by mentioning the famous philosophers he's read or the famous rabbis he's schmoozed with. He doesn't take kindly to being challenged; in the first part of 2003, I had an e-mail discussion with him about Iraq, which went smoothly until it became clear that my opinions weren't exactly the same as his. Then - suddenly - the conversation ended. His messages became terse and abrupt, and he soon stopped answering my e-mails altogether. Rabbi X had, in fact, originally leaned towards supporting the war, but then reversed himself; in fact, he gave a talk on the High Holy Days in which he publicly did "teshuvah" (repentance) for having supported the war in Iraq.

Liberal intellectuals like Rabbi X are very fond of speaking grandly about "dialog" and "competing narratives" and (my favorite) "the encounter with the Other". And who is the Other? There's the beauty of it - the Other is whoever you want him to be. For Rabbi X, as for so many Jewish intellectuals, Palestinians are the quinetessential Other. But Iraqis are not the Other; and American conservatives are most definitely, emphatically, not the Other. Why? Because when you designate someone as "the Other", you are obligating yourself to enter into a dialog with them. And many, many so-called "liberals" are afraid of that dialog.

I could tell you a lot more stories about Rabbi X, but I think you get the idea. I am not writing this post to single out a particular congregation or a particular Rabbi. The problem is not with this or that rabbi, or this or that congregation; it's with liberalism generally. It's with a political and cultural movement that has barricaded itself in ideology and has closed itself off from any ideas it finds challenging.

The problem, in short, is that American liberalism has isolated itself - to such a degree that liberals might as well be living on a desert island.

Why Terri Schiavo Matters

The April 11 print edition of National Review carries a good analysis of the Terri Schiavo controversy beginning on p. 14. One thing they point out (as I've argued here - scroll down to point #3) is that the many questionable aspects of the Schiavo case lend substance to the "slippery slope" argument of pro-life absolutists. NR says it better than I can:
Opponents of assisted suicide have good reasons for persisting in efforts to save Terri Schiavo's life. But supporters of assisted suicide may have even better ones.

The opponents have always asserted that allowing assisted suicide at all, while bad in itself, would lead to further evils: that we would start by allowing people who want to die to kill themselves, but end up allowing the killing of people who do not want to die. If we were supporters of assisted suicide, we would want to disprove these predictions. We would want to make sure that safeguards are in place to prevent such abuse. Even if we granted that she said both that she did not want to be on life support and that she did not want to be in a coma, it would not establish that she would not even want food and water when she is not in a coma.

Terri schiavo has had no MRI or PET scan. Only a CT scan has led some neurologists to conclude that her cerebral cortex has liquefied; other neurologists [and radiologists - aa] dispute the possiblity of reliably making that inference from CT scans. Many of the initial demonstrations of fact under Judge Greer relied on the testimony of Dr. Ronald Cranford. He is certainly a medical expert; but he is also a right-to-die zealot who advocates the removal of feeding tubes for patients with Alzheimer's dementia. ...

I'll be posting some final thoughts on Terri Schiavo this Sunday. There is more to talk about here. It's not just Terri. There are people in nursing homes whose lives and well-being depend on our willingness to affirm the value of life. And yes, that is exactly what this is about. You do not have to be a pro-life absolutist (I am not) to sense that there is something very wrong here. I used to think the talk about a "culture of life" versus a "culture of death" was just a lot of right-wing rhetoric. Now I'm not so sure.