"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."


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.

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!


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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}


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.


New Fiction


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.

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.

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."


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


Comments: 202-456-6213
Visitors Office: 202-456-2121
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


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.


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)


"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.

Morning Report:: February 13, 2006

Jafari named Iraqi PM. Sabah: 'United Iraqi Alliance has passed a significant milestone as it succeeded in nominating Dr. Ibrahim al-Ja'ferri as prime minister by voting when Dr. Adil Abdul Mehdi won 63 votes in less than Jaferri with only one seat of the alliance who gave Ja'ferri 64 seats.Following this step there should be convention of the House of Deputies and achieving transaction by forming presidency post and speaker of the parliament let alone nominating the ministers via hard compromise so as to be acceptable from others.People waiting for the news would be happy for hearing the last news as they wait for presenting services to them by the political class.The political class would burden legislation and implementing all of laws that were approved by the parliament to get rid of disruption of nearly half a century and make the government free of every thing save people's services. Ja'ferri would hold such burden as a challenge basing on legible representation of people.' Iraq the Model: 'Earlier observations on the conditions within the UIA predicted that each of the two candidates had ~55 secured votes leaving approximately 20 votes undecided. Those remaining 20 votes represent the Fadheela Party that until Friday had its own candidate. Jafari had the support of the two wings of the Da'wa Party as well as that of the Sadrists while AbdulMahdi had the support of the SCIRI and the independents within the UIA. Knowing that Jafari and AbdulMahdi got 64 and 63 votes respectively indicates a division among the members Fadheela Party over whom to support after their candidate withdrew his nomination and apparently the votes of Fadheela were split equally between Jafari and AbdulMahdi. There is a theory that the UIA decided to make Jafari win in a compromise to avoid an internal conflict over the chairmanship of the UIA because the charter of the UIA states that chairmanship of the bloc and that of the cabinet cannot be granted to the same party, which means al-Hakeem wouldn't be able to keep his position as head of the bloc if AbdulMahdi was chosen for heading the government. It is unclear how other parliamentary blocs are going to react to the results of this voting. Both the Kurdish alliance and the Accord Front expressed publicly more than once that they would prefer AbdulMahdi over Jafari. The Accord Front now is part of a larger bloc that has 80 seats in the parliament after they allied with the Iraqi list and the Dialogue Front and it is believed that the latter two share the same attitude towards Jafari and AbdulMahdi. Even though Jafari won the vote inside the UIA, he still needs to win support of the parliament by 50%+1 of the 275 votes. The Kurds and the United Congress for National Work (the Sunni+Allawi) collectively have 133 votes and if joined by the Kurdistan Islamic Union who has 5 votes they will have a total of 138 votes which is 50% of the parliament seats which means that their votes are essential for the cabinet to be approved. Choosing Jafari will most likely complicate the process of forming the government and longer negotiations will be needed if the UIA wants to convince the others to accept and support Jafari's cabinet. It's worth mentioning that the Accord Front at an earlier time asked the UIA to let them take part in the voting since they (the UIA) will eventually have to get the support of other blocs for their candidate. But the UIA refused this suggestion.' Debka: 'Our sources in Baghdad report Hamas leaders are making a point of being received and recognized by an Arab government backed to the hilt and sustained by the US government and army. DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources note: An invitation from the democratically-elected government in Baghdad to a democratically-elected Palestinian (terrorist) party would place the Washington in a cleft stick, after having initiated both elections.' (Sabah, ITM, Debka)


Michael Totten is back from Iraq ...

... and blogging from Lebanon. Here's his latest post:
I just spent two weeks in Northern Iraq and have arrived back in Lebanon safely. Sorry for misleading everyone about my travel schedule. For those of you who forgot...a few weeks ago I said I was beginning my Iraq trip today.

At least one organization on the U.S. terrorist watch list already monitors my Web site, and a Lebanese friend of mine convinced me that it would be smart not to advertise to the entire planet when I would be in that country. That’s why hardly any new material has been posted on this Web site lately.

Once I arrived in Iraqi Kurdistan and spent a little time there, it didn’t seem like the ruse was actually necessary. I kept it up anyway, though, because I had almost no time to write in any case ...

Go to Michael J. Totten's homepage for the full story, and watch for new posts.

Morning Report: February 10, 2006

Iranian solidarity demo in DC. Via Doctor Zin, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions calls for solidarity with the striking bus drivers in Tehran, Iran: 'ICFTU Department of Trade Union Rights joined the global labor movement in calling for the release of more than 500 Iranian bus drivers and invited members of the Iranian-American community in Washington DC to join the AFL-CIO, the Solidarity Center and the DC Metro Labor Council in a solidarity demonstration with striking bus drivers in Iran, February 15, 2006.' (Doctor Zin)

Journalists as citizens. Armed Liberal at Winds of Change has a fascinating post on the roles of journalists, citizens, and those (like Michael Yon) who cross over the boundaries. (Winds of Change)

Southeast Asian officials: terrorist backed out of West Coast plot. Sean Young at AP, via Yahoo, reports: 'A Malaysian recruited by al-Qaida to pilot a plane in a second wave of Sept. 11-style attacks on the United States pulled out after observing the carnage of the 2001 assaults, Southeast Asian officials said Friday. ... The plan never appeared close to the stage where it could be put into execution. Scores of arrests in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks severely curtailed al-Qaida and its Southeast Asian affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah.' Full article at the link. (AP)


New to Blogroll: Just Some Poor Schmuck

Often read but never heretofore cited, Just Some Poor Schmuck makes a debut on the Dreams Into Lightning blogroll. Here's JSPS (alias John Dunshee) on the subject of, wait for it, cartoons:
Most make the point that riot and murder is not the normal response to a cartoon, even if you find them offensive. Many people found the recent Tom Toles cartoon in the Washington Post offensive. But the Joint Chiefs of Staff with all their soldiers, planes, ships and missiles did not flatten the Post building. They wrote a letter.

Some of the cartoonists seem to have decided that writing a letter expressing your displeasure is exactly the same as burning an embassy.

Others take the position that it was irresponsible for the Danish cartoonists to draw the cartoons and for the newspapers to publish them. A strange position for editorial cartoonists whose work is always offensive to someone. At least if they're any good it is.

Go pay JSPS a visit.

Amir Taheri: Sherk

Amir Taheri has a tremendously illuminating piece on the controversy over ... well, you know. Insert applicable Technorati tags here. Just read it. Here's a snip:
There is no Quranic injunction against images, whether of Muhammad or anyone else. When it spread into the Levant, Islam came into contact with a version of Christianity that was militantly iconoclastic. As a result some Muslim theologians, at a time when Islam still had an organic theology, issued "fatwas" against any depiction of the Godhead. That position was further buttressed by the fact that Islam acknowledges the Jewish Ten Commandments -- which include a ban on depicting God -- as part of its heritage. The issue has never been decided one way or another, and the claim that a ban on images is "an absolute principle of Islam" is purely political. Islam has only one absolute principle: the Oneness of God. Trying to invent other absolutes is, from the point of view of Islamic theology, nothing but sherk, i.e., the bestowal on the Many of the attributes of the One.

The claim that the ban on depicting Muhammad and other prophets is an absolute principle of Islam is also refuted by history. Many portraits of Muhammad have been drawn by Muslim artists, often commissioned by Muslim rulers. There is no space here to provide an exhaustive list, but these are some of the most famous: ...

RTWT. Don't miss what he says about Islam and humor, and the prinicple of "limits and proportions". And remember what Omar said, "we here in the Middle East have tonnes of jokes about Allah, the prophets and the angels that are way more offensive, funny and obscene than those poorly-made cartoons, yet no one ever got shot for telling one of those jokes or at least we had never seen rallies and protests against those infidel joke-tellers."

Cinnamon Stillwell on Danish Cartoons - and More

Cinnamon Stillwell (originally of ChronWatch fame, now writing from the belly of the beast) has an outstanding column on the Denmark cartoon affair. Go to the link to read it, but here's a splendid quote:
How did this double standard arise? The answer is multiculturalism. Not the multiculturalism of different cultures living side by side, but the ideology that renders all cultures equal and therefore none worthy of condemnation. Such moral equivalence allows for the most backward traditions to flourish, even when they are destructive to the society as a whole. When democratic societies find themselves dominated by intolerant cultures to which they have given sanctuary, everyone's freedom is put at risk.

Multiculturalism also has the effect of erasing any unifying culture or nationality in favor of a collection of balkanized groups with nothing in common. ...

Go read it all.


BBC Admits Misinforming Public

Can you stand one more post on those damn cartoons? I know, I'm sick of this business already, too. But look, it's The Belmont Club we're talking here.

So to begin with, the BBC admitted (scroll to bottom) that it was "caught out" by a picture of a pig alleged to be one of the cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, and "for a time showed film of this in Gaza ..."

In Gaza?!?

Now here's Wretchard:
This is going to rank right up there with the fake Koran-flushing story which got people killed in Afghanistan. No one has a right to expect perfection from the media. Like intelligence agencies, which they resemble in some respects, the media sometimes gets things wrong. But I'd argue that some publications have a dangerous tendency to believe stories like "right-wing Danish publication portrays Mohammed as pig" because they want to believe it. This phenomenon is called bias and bias is dangerous not because it predisposes one to a wrong set of opinions but to the wrong set of facts.

Ironically, if the BBC had published the cartoons it would inevitably have discovered that the pig picture was not part of the Jyllands-Posten cartoon set. But instead of presenting the dry facts it substituted hearsay and for days the world was inflamed over a set of images described only at second-hand; wrongly described at that and imagining the worst about what were actually a very mild set of drawings. This violent debate occurred precisely because organizations like the BBC, whose job it was to present the facts, failed signally in their duty.

Emphasis in original. Go read the rest at the link.

Let's blogroll!

From the ranks of the LiberalHawks, east and west, comes tonight's roundup.

Judith at Kesher Talk reports that nothing will get in the way of the Church of England doing its duty by voting for divestment from Israel:
As appears now to be par for the course in such decisions, no time was made for Anglicans for Israel, the new and influential pro-Israel lobby group, to debate the issue. [There is, by the way, a very interesting interview by Tovia Singer on Israel National Radio with the founder of Anglicans for Israel, Simon McIlwaine, on the website on the upper right hand side of the page.]

Judith's links:
Anglicans for Israel
Shalom Lappin at Normblog, on the AUT boycott of Israeli universities

Jason Holliston at Columbia Gorge Dispatch has got his hands pretty full these days, but he's made time to put together a very good roundup of links on the cartoon business. Go visit the post, and don't forget to bookmark Columbia Gorge Dispatch.

ShrinkWrapped sees little reason to be complacent about the Iran situation, despite some optimistic assessments:
While some observers have suggested we may have as long as 5-10 years before Iran has a deliverable nuclear bomb, their threat to immediately begin enrichment suggests that they will have a dangerous amount of fissionables well before then; further, it is hard to have any confidence that they do not already have a nuke or two (perhaps from the AQ Khan and/or North Korean bazaar.) Certainly the Iranian behavior suggest that the leadership is either supremely confident, extraordinarily foolhardy, or some combination of the two leavened with an apocalyptic vision.

Shrink's conclusion:
My speculation is that the Administration knows that much of Saddam's WMD ended up in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, home of Hezbollah, and in the dessert in Syria. The race is on to attain regime change in Syria before the Israelis (or Americans) feel compelled to act. Finding proof of WMD in Iraq, moved to Syria prior to the invasion of Iraq, will force the West vs. Iran/Syria confrontation to ratchet upwards which is why the administration is not eager to translate all the documents found in Baghdad. The Democrats have no interest in the papers either since they have staked their party's position on "Bush lied" and the post-war intel could blow that meme to shreds along with the last vestiges of authority of the Democratic left.

Patrick Lasswell at Meaningful Distinction thinks the old slogan "Global War On Terror" is a bit clunky. He's got one that's short and to the point ... with an illustration to match.

Fausta has a roundup of "How Muslim Clerics Stirred the Arab World Against Denmark".

Meanwhile, far-flung Portlanders bring their reports. We've already mentioned Michael Totten's dispatch from Lebanon, but here's that link again. Michael's closing thoughts:
I strongly suggest the civilized people of Lebanon, Muslim and Christian alike, stage a counter-demonstration downtown where flags are not burned and where buildings are not set on fire.

And finally, Sean LaFreniere is in, of all places, Denmark. On the Mohammed cartoon mess he says this:
One cartoon shows a man with a bomb in his turban, but given the fact that an explosive device has been detonated in the name of Islam daily for three years in Iraq (and for decades in Israeli pizza shops, in French cafes, and German discos) I don't think the cartoon is surprising.

The Muslim community in Denmark promptly erupted and demanded that the Prime Minister explain why he did not have the paper shut down and its editors arrested.

Perhaps they do not realize that when they escaped oppression in their home countries they left that kind of fascism behind as well?

And this:
We should keep in mind that the publication of this Danish newspaper is for domestic consumption in a country that is not Muslim and does not follow Islamic laws (although some Muslim immigrants do live here). They did not send copies to the Middle East in order to make people angry (and they responded politely to the domestic Muslim population). Rather, it was a legitimate editorial discussion of a domestic issue that only tangentially touched on Islam - namely typical Protestant censorship of difficult issues.

Additionally we should remember that the controversy actually erupted two months after publication, when the Prime Minister refused to discipline the paper or to apologize for its actions (as he noted he does not authorize its publication). This was seen in the Middle East as a sign of official support for the cartoons and an intentional offense by the Danish government against Muslims, since in the Middle East there is no freedom of speech or independent press.

In the end the newspaper, and other European governments, did apologize or make conciliatory gestures, and the United States government called the cartoons irresponsible. Today there are many Danes who would like to discuss this controversy but will not out of fear. However, the Danish PM continues to defend their freedoms and rights, now Denmark really "has a dog in the fight".

Be sure to follow Sean's homepage for the latest from Denmark ... with lots of great photographs!

Michael Totten: Good Press for Lebanon Goes Down the Tubes

Michael Totten has some first-hand observations about Lebanon:
I will say, however, that I am extremely dismayed by the despicable behavior of the Lebanese mob that rampaged in one of Beirut's finest neighborhoods over a freakin' cartoon published months ago in a Danish newspaper.

My mother took one look at that Achrafieh neighborhood and said "This could be San Franscisco" when she visited me in November.

"Don't be fooled by that," I told her. At the time I worried my response might have been unfair to Lebanon, but apparently that wasn't the case. It should be noted, however, that the people who live in that neighborhood had nothing to do with this. Most of today's mobsters don't even live in the city at all. They appear to be poorly educated reactionaries bussed in from Tripoli and Hezbollahland.

Beirut, once again, looks like yet another Middle Eastern Fallujah. It isn't, but the photos...these are not pretty to look at. All the good press I have been giving this country for the past year was destroyed today by goons who would surely be happier living in Saudi or Syria.

Read it all at the post, and don't forget to bookmark Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal.

Those cartoons, etc.

It should be blindingly obvious to all concerned, at this point, that all the craziness about the Mohammed cartoons has nothing to do with cartoons and everything to do with the regimes in Syria and Iran trying desperately to get out of the richly deserved ass-kicking they know is coming their way. Personally I think we will be at war with both Iran and Syria before the end of March. I guess we'll have to wait and find out if I'm right or wrong.

Buy Danish! (continued)

More Danish products for those supporting the movement:
Bang & Olufsen, Jysk, Louis Poulsen, Royal Greenland, VELUX and Vestas, not to mention Maersk. Although it's "just" Scandinavian, please fly SAS when you travel!

Thanks to commenter Erik:

Also if you live on the West Coast (or near a Trader Joe's): TJ's Potoato Medley and Fire Roasted Vegetables (in the frozen foods section) are "Product of Denmark". And they're economical, easy to fix, and mighty tasty too.


Fight back!

If you're upset over the assault on freedom of expression being waged by certain fanatics, you can fight back by showing the world that you believe in freedom and American values. Judith has some ideas.

So do I. I've just ordered one of these.

An American Hero

Via Winds of Change:
This is a slide show that shows a Lakota Sioux wake and ceremony for a Marine that was killed in Iraq. It shows you the integration of 2 cultures and the specific Sioux culture. Native Americans have the highest per capita service than any other ethnic group. We are only less than 1% of the total US population.

Native Americans do not typically allow photography at traditional ceremonial events; this is why I am sending this to you. You may never be able to see this again.

There are a couple photos with Cpl. Brett Lundstrom’s body in the coffin, so please review before you show any one else.

Rocky Mountain Daily News: Cpl. Brett Lundstrom, USMC


Roundup: Denmark, Mohammed cartoons, and Muslim riots

Okay, with a little bit of luck I'll be able to get through this without my Rock-Solid Operating System (TM) giving me another spinning beachball or unexpected quit. Grrrr. (When is Vista coming out?)

City of Brass gets out the soapbox with this magnificent post: There is no insult to Islam.
"Islam is infinite. They can burn the Qur'an, or insult the Prophet SAW, or outlaw the hijab. But they can never erase the delicate calligraphy of Deen upon the muslim's soul. Our religion is infinitely greater than the sum of their scorn, and as such we have no opinion on their insults as they matter, in the end, not even the tinest whit."

INDC Journal: Those Mohammed Cartoons
The right is full of people that like to boil down the complexities of the war against Islamic radicalism into a much simpler fight than it is, paradoxically agitating for a war of civilizations by continually maligning an entire religion, while ostensibly claiming support for neoconservative policies that attempt to strategically diminish Islamic radicalism by democratizing the larger Muslim world, effectively turning them against the radicals in their midst. Which is why, whenever Islamic radicalism raises its ugly head, you get several hundred right-wing pundits mocking President Bush's description of Islam as a "religion of peace" in the headlines of their blog posts, like a pack of chortling magpies apparently unable to recognize that it is not in our nation's or President's interest to attack an entire religion of a billion people, but rather quite the opposite, in service of the strategic foreign policy aim of ushering the greater Islamic world into a pluralistic 21st Century. Talk the walk, and all.

Red State: On Cartoons and Conservatives
This could have been what some people call 'a teachable moment,' in fact, were it not for the perplexing responses by the American right, even from usually-reliable conservatives. People like Michelle Malkin, who can usally be counted on to expect a certain amount of dignity and respect in our culture, are waving around the cartoons like they're wonderful things to see, while not showing much recognition of how hateful they really are. She's not alone, either. I just single her out because I read her site every day.

I understand the logic, and the reasons, for this 'blogburst,' but I think the enthusiasm is misplaced. We can celebrate freedom without holding up the worst of it as an example. We can even go farther than that, and condemn trash when we see it, while we mutter to ourselves that tolerating it is the price of freedom.

We can show solidarity with the Danes, in support for western values, without endorsing and integrating the 'art' at issue. These cheap scribbles, drawn up by a smirking 'artist' for the shock value, aren't worth the paper they were printed on. I think it'd do us more good if we remembered that in discussing this issue.

As appealing as it is, we can't fall into the trap of supporting the enemy of our enemy. The fact that the radical Islamists don't like these cartoons, doesn't imply that these cartoons are something that should be celebrated. If we want to celebrate somebody, how about paying tribute to Theo Van Gogh and Hirsi Ali, for making more honest portrayals of the worst of Islam, without slamming the whole, varied Islamic tradition in the process?

Hugh Hewitt: A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Humankind
The cartoons were in bad taste, an unnecessary affront to many of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world, just as Joel Stein affronted the military, the families and friends of the military, and as Toles did the same to the wounded, and their families, friends and admirers. Of course each of them had the absolute right to publish their screed, and the Danish (and now Norwegian) governments must reply to demands that these papers be punished with a steely refusal to be dictated to as to their culture of free expression and the protection of the vulgar and the stupid.

But don't cheer the vulgar and the stupid.

There are hundreds of thousands of American troops deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and across the globe among Muslim peoples who they are trying to befriend. The jihadists like nothing more than evidence that these troops represent a West intent on a new crusade and a new domination of Muslims. Idiot cartoonists make our troops' jobs more difficult, and the jihadists' mission easier.

Aziz at Dean's World: Jesus H. Christ!
I have many observations on it, but the only two that really matters are 1. that people are free to do what they want, and 2. actions have consequences. What few commentators on the topic seem to appreciate is how these two facts form a feedback loop.

You can print, say, or draw whatever you want. Just don't be surprised when - and let's frankly admit this - the people you are deliberately trying to provoke conclude that you're a complete jafi. A jafi, whose soaring rhetoric about freedom and respect for Islam and the sacredness of the cause to bring liberty to the middle east as a grand antidote for tyranny and oppression, just came off looking a lot less sincere. A lot less.

Go to the links, all of them, for the complete posts.

"Muslims of the world, be reasonable."

On the bright side, there's a lot of courage being shown both outside and inside the Muslim world, as Pink Flamingo demonstrates. Via the PFB&G, here's a BBC story on two Jordanian editors who published the Mohammed cartoons:
Two Jordanian newspaper editors who published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad have been arrested.
Jihad Momani and Hisham Khalidi are accused of insulting religion under Jordan's press and publications law.

Mr Momani was fired from the weekly Shihan after reproducing the cartoons - originally printed in Denmark - which have caused a global storm of protest.

One of the cartoons depicts Muhammad as a terrorist. Any images of the Prophet are banned under Islamic tradition. ...

Mr. Momani is the author of the words that serve as the title of this post. He adds: "What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?"

Hear, hear.

Meanwhile, the Queen of Denmark says, "We must show our opposition to Islam."* Now, I can't get behind the "opposition to Islam" thing, as my regular readers will already know. But Queen Margrethe II has the right idea when she says, "we have to, at times, run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on us because there are some things for which we should display no tolerance. And when we are tolerant, we must know whether it is because of convenience or conviction."

Amen to that. And as the Pink Flamingo Bar & Grill adds,
We are living in times that are demanding of a persons soul. Bravery is one of the most important attributes in our fight and it has gone missing in so much of the elite in our society. Never having been tested in life because of the ease of their lives, for the first time they need it, bravery, and have no idea what is missing. But it takes a brave soul to publish items that have people calling for your head. But avoiding the threat by giving up your freedom only postpones your day of reckoning it doesn't eliminate it. Worse because you have allowed the enemy to gain so much strength, and you have given up so much of yours in an effort to appease, you suffer so much worse.

*UPDATE: Please see comments - possible mistranslation.

Viking Observer

Dreams Into Lightning welcomes the too-long-overlooked Viking Observer to the blogroll. Go visit VO's main page for the latest on the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy ... and please bear this post in mind as you scroll down past some of the right-wing cartoons.

Buy Danish!

Fighting my way through the blur of a Carlsberg-induced hangover, I've got to put in a few words for the "Buy Danish" movement. History News Network has some ideas:
Danish Havarti cheese

Carlsberg and Tuborg Beers.

Arla owns White Clover Dairy, a Wisconsin company so buy that brand. It comes under White Clover and Holland Farm.

Danish Crown hams ( DAK (sold at Sam clubs)... baby back ribs, because they come from Denmark.

You shop online at The Danish Foodshop and Danish Deli Foods.

You can also buy gorgious Danish porcelain and LEGO for the kids.

Go to the link for more details and more links. Denmark has refused to apologize for the cartoons, and that's as it should be.

UPDATE: Please see Comments for more ideas. And of course, go to the link.