Friday, June 30, 2006

Better The Lion Hunter Than The Lion

The Counterterrorism Blog has two posts up about the most recent Osama bin Laden videotape, and while I defer to their analysis there are a few observations which struck me as I read Bill Roggio's and Andrew Cochrans's commentaries.

The first observation I have is about bin Laden's ill-informed sense of history. His ignorance has always been obvious, but we tend to treat his words as serious statements of a coherent worldview. Bill Roggio comments:

Osama bin Laden compares Zarqawi to Muhammed and the revered Imams of the Islamic faith, including Imam Ali, who is venerated in Shia Islam. Given Zarqawi's practice of slaughtering the Shia to incite a civil war, this hypocritical reference by bin Laden is curious.

It is only curious if we presume bin Laden to be a serious, studied man. But he is not. His sense of history, his understanding of the world, is a fractured jumble of hate and prejudice, constantly evolving to serve the needs of his propaganda. In this way, he is no different than every revolutionary of the last century or more, marauding into our consciousness making absurd historical polemics to justify slaughter and mayhem. He is no different than Hitler when he made irrational claims about the power of the Jews and the destiny of the German people; he is no different than Marx when he made his absurd claims about the forces of history and the war between the classes.

But I think we treat bin Laden differently than the monsters of the past: in some way, many in the West take his claims seriously, and treat them as learned expressions. But in the past, we treated Hitler as a serious statesman, and Marx is still today well-loved on many college campuses. We have seen Nazism killed off, and communism killed off at least as an intellectual enterprise, so we know what we are supposed to think of those ideologies. Too many don't know to understand bin Ladenism, Islamofascism, as an equally ignorant and ahistorical worldview. Al Andalus is no more a meaningful claim to the world's sense of justice than was the German demand for lebensraum.

The second observation is that like all revolutionary cliques, al Qaeda and associated movements working toward the same goals -- sharia at home and the humiliation of the West abroad -- suffer from obscure, internecine battles over territory and authority. Bill Roggio writes, "Finally, there is no mention of Zarqawi's successor, as I speculated yesterday. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri have yet to publicly acknowledge the new leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq."

I think it was in one of Robert Conquest's books that I read of the desultory, pointless arguments amongst Russian communist exiles in the years prior to the Russian Revolution. Bill Roggio's observations about what bin Laden said and didn't say recall those stories. By implication from bin Laden's tape, there is some hidden battle amongst the various jihadis in Iraq, one that makes no logical sense to an outsider but which makes perfect sense to ideological fanatics. This internal battle should remind us that the revolutionary Islamofascists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia are incredibly dangerous but incredibly unserious men.

Finally, one last observation. Bin Laden refers to Zarqawi as a lion. That he died on the run from an enormous American bomb should prove once and for all that it is better to be the lion hunter than it is to be the lion.

I should also note that at the Counterterrorism Blog, Walid Phares reports that a new bin Laden tape is expected soon.

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The Left Wing's Favorite Anti-Semite Returns

Mahdi Bray was back in the news yesterday, joining a protest against Israeli self-defense against acts of war and terror committed by Palestinians. Gateway Pundit has details and photos. He also has the text of this press release from Bray's organization, the Muslim American Society. It is noticeable solely for its effective use of double-speak and it's comprehensive blindness to the crimes of the Palestinian pseudo-state.

Here is an older post about this particular gentleman.

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Here We Go Again: US Soldiers Under Criminal Investigation

Accusations against five American soldiers have led the Army to open an investigation into the rape and murder of an Iraqi woman and three members of her family. The crime took place in March and was originally believed to be the result of sectarian violence, which is common in the town where the murder was committed.

It is too early to determine what merit the accusations have, and the investigation has only just begun. But it is not too early to guard against a repeat of Haditha, in which soldiers were tried and convicted by the press and some politicians despite the fact that no charges had even been filed (and in fact have not yet been filed).

Though the news is quite recent, the TimesOnline article, written by AP reporter Ryan Lenz*, linked above, has already injected one spurious connection, one unverifiable charge, and one (possible) insinuation.

The spurious connection is that AP reporter Ryan Lenz* manages to link the mutilation and murder of two U.S. soldiers to the crime, in that the murdered soldiers and those under investigation are all from the same regiment, the 502nd Infantry. This despite the fact the murders and mutilation of the U.S. soldiers occurred this month, and the rape and murder of the Iraqi woman occurred in March. Showing remarkable restraint, the military official who spoke to the Lenz* is reported to have said, "...the killings appear to be unrelated to the kidnappings. Unless the U.S. Army has mastered time travel, that would appear to be a reasonable conclusion.

The unverifiable charge comes from an unnamed "US official close to the investigation," who claims that one of the soldiers has admitted to his role in the attack and has been arrested. It would have been kind of Lenz* to have verified this claim before reporting it, but perhaps it is too early to do so. [UPDATE: In the Editor & Publisher version of the story, it is reported that the soldier came forward out of guilt after he saw what happened to the two murdered American soliders.]

The insinuation, or at least possible insinuation, stems from the report that the soldiers have had their weapons taken away. If this is normal procedure, and I frankly don't know whether it is or isn't, then it is unremarkable. If it is normal procedure, then reporting it out of context insinuates that the Army believes the soldiers are guilty, when in fact the Army is merely following neutral regulations.

We shall see in the coming weeks what results from the investigation. I hope the soldiers are innocent but am willing to wait until the investigation is complete before deciding one way or the other. I have little hope the press will be so patient, or so generous toward the soldiers.

* The original version referred to the author of the story as the "TimesOnline reporter", as that news source is the one linked above, but Editor & Publisher reports that the person who filed the story used by the TimesOnline is AP reporter Ryan Lenz, who is currently embedded with the 101st Airborne Division but who was previously embedded with the 502nd Infantry.

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Diplomatic Maneuvering Over Gaza

The Jerusalem Post reports on the diplomatic efforts of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarek. His attempts to negotiate a settlement between the Hamas-led Palestinian government and Israelis caused a delay in Israel's Operation Summer Rains.

The agreement that Mubarak claimed to have reached with the kidnappers involved an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the release of prisoners scheduled to be released anyway in the next year, in exchange for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped on Sunday, Palestinian sources said.

At Captain's Quarters, Ed Morrissey highlights a key implication of Mubarek's diplomacy, that "having Mubarak point out publicly that Hamas started the problem and that their policies are to blame for the current situation certainly represents some progress." He may be understating the anger Egypt has towards Hamas for being so provocative. Palestinian terrorists recently destroyed part of the wall separating Egypt and Gaza, prompting Egypt to increase border patrols to prevent Palestinians from crossing into their country.

He also highlights something else from the Post article that may prove somewhat more disturbing.
The Egyptian president also demanded from his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad to deport the Syrian-based Hamas leadership unless it agreed to Shalit, Palestinian sources said. He warned [Hamas leader Khaled] Mashaal that by insisting that thousands of Palestinian detainees be released in exchange for Shalit, he was leading the Palestinians to disaster, Israel Radio reported.

It seems unlikely that Mashaal will actually be deported, but there is apparently a power struggle taking place within Hamas, and his deportation might actually make the political situation in Gaza more dangerous for Israel. Via Big Pharaoh, the Jerusalem Post reports on the political battle within Hamas.
Today [6/28] it is evident that there are two major forces in Hamas - one headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and the second by Damascus-based Khaled Mashaal. Haniyeh represents the relatively moderate and pragmatic camp in Hamas, whereas Mashaal is viewed as a hardliner who is taking Hamas toward further extremism.

[...]

[Hamas PM Ismail] Haniyeh's strategy over the past few months has been to avoid resuming terror attacks on Israel. That's mainly because he wants to succeed in government and to prove to the world that Hamas is capable of running the day-to-day affairs of the Palestinian public. To the dismay of Mashaal, Haniyeh has even stated in public that he was not opposed to Abbas's desire to resume peace talks with Israel.

Unless Mashaal is intercepted by Israel, and I don't see how Syria would agree to a deportation if that were likely to occur, his presence amongst the Palestinians could result in even turmoil and bloodshed than we are already experiencing.

Meanwhile, Israellycool is still liveblogging the operation. And again, here is the map of Gaza from the University of Texas Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection.

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Miami Jihadi Informant Unveiled And Unhinged

One of the informants whose tips led to the arrest of the Miami jihadis has emerged, and his character and background is appropriately bizarre. The man, 51-year-old Sultan Khanbey, was ringleader Narseal Batiste's "mentor and teacher." From the Miami Herald:

Khanbey, who was born Charles Stewart, entered the picture in early April, two weeks after most of the seven defendants had sworn a loyalty oath -- or bayat -- to al Qaeda while the hidden cameras were rolling inside the Liberty City warehouse.

In a conversation with the FBI informant on April 1, Batiste described Khanbey as his "main man," identifying him as "the Sultan."

[...]

Wiretaps inside the warehouse captured Khanbey and Batiste discussing their plans to build a "Moorish nation of 10,000 people" and equip them with what they referred to as Moorish national security cards. They talked about recruiting, training and equipping their soldiers in green and black uniforms.

According to court papers, Khanbey said "...they were 'vanguards' and 'angels' here to rid the Earth of filth; that they were a nation and would do what nations do; and that as long as they stood on Islam they were impregnable."

But within days, relations soured in the ranks. Getchell said Thursday that Khanbey openly worried that law enforcement had infiltrated the group. On April 19, the rift between Khanbey and Batiste escalated into gunplay.

This is what got the police involved. Khanbey flipped on his protege when later charged as a felon in possession of a firearm. He had been convicted of rape in 1977 and faces 20 years in prison on the gun charge. According to Khanbey's wife, Queen Zakiyaah, Khanbey and Batiste met five years ago:
She said the couple traveled to South Florida in April to help teach Moorish Science principles. Moorish Science was founded in the early 20th Century by the Prophet Noble Drew Ali. The religion blends Christianity, Judaism and Islam and stresses discipline through martial arts.

The Sun-Times offers some more revelations from Queen Zakiyaah.
On Thursday, a woman who identified herself Khanbey's [wife] called the Chicago Sun-Times to say her husband had mentored Batiste in the teachings of the Moorish Science Temple about five years ago in Chicago. But Batiste fell under the dark influence of a man who wears a black robe and carries a staff, said the woman, who called herself Queen Zakiyaah Khanbey. The same man had filed the gun complaint against her husband, she said.

Batiste wanted to destroy the Sears Tower because he had knowledge of the building: he had been a FedEx driver in Chicago prior to obtaining his current position as racial messiah. His plan was to deliver a large amount of explosives to tunnels underneath the building, and destroy the tower from underground. But his knowledge of the building was somewhat flawed, according to a statement from a Sears Tower spokesman:
Mark Spencer, spokesman for the Sears Tower, said he was puzzled why Batiste would allegedly plan to attack the building through a tunnel system. There is a century-old coal delivery tunnel near the Sears Tower, a city official said. But no tunnels are connected to the building, Spencer said.

Every vehicle that enters the loading dock is screened for explosive residue and the manifest is checked, Spencer said. Barriers prevent any vehicle from entering the dock, he said. The loading dock is adjacent to the building, not underneath the building, he added.

As I've said, low hanging fruit. Congratulations to the authorities for arresting them and thank you to the police and FBI for protecting us, but these aren't the jihadis that should most concern us.

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Place Your Bets, Part 3

The foreign ministers of the G-8 countries issued a statement that exerts pressure on Iran to respond to the proposal made by the major powers earlier this month. The proposal offered a set of incentives to Iran to convince them to forego their pursuit of nuclear arms. From the Chicago Tribune:

"We expect to hear a clear and substantive Iranian response to these proposals" at the meeting, foreign ministers from the Group of 8 leading industrial nations said in a statement issued after their meeting in Moscow.

The issue at this point is unrelated to the proposal: the issue currently is about when Iran will respond, not about what that response will be. Iran is claiming that they need time to review the proposal, and that they will respond in August. This directly challenges -- the point, I would think -- President Bush's demand that the Iranian response be given in a matter of "weeks, not months." Now the G-8 countries have formally demanded a response:
Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, is scheduled to meet Wednesday with Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, and senior diplomats from Russia, Britain, France and Germany to discuss the offer.

"We expect to hear a clear and substantive Iranian response to these proposals" at the meeting, foreign ministers from the Group of 8 leading industrial nations said in a statement issued after their meeting in Moscow.

The 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council will meet to discuss the Iranian situation the week following next week's meeting.

Thus far, a positive Iranian response to the proposal seems unlikely. They have repeatedly stated that they will give a response in August and no sooner. Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki has claimed the proposal contains "ambiguities" that must be resolved, and that Iran had not agreed to any date for a response when initially presented the proposal.

It is a tense and tricky standoff because it touches on Iranian nationalism. Iran at times appears on the brink of collapse. Student riots and protests by ethnic minorities against the mullahs make it appear to the West that another democratic revolution might occur. But Iran's President Ahmadinejad is remarkably popular, and threats against the Iranian nuclear program might actually forestall such a rebellion. Big Pharaoh discussed this in a post about Ahmadinejad's popularity:
Second, the West till this day cannot fathom the fact that the vast majority of Iranians support the nuclear program. They even support their country having nuclear weapons. "Why Pakistan and not us? Why India and not us?," this is what Iranians told me over and over again when I discussed this issue with them in chat rooms. AJ has managed to transform the nuclear issue into a national rallying cry and that resulted in him winning the support of those who didn't even vote for him.

My current suspicion is that some action will be taken against the nuclear sites if Iran does not respond in July to the major powers proposal. The delay until August is perhaps just a delay, a bid for time in the hopes that the diplomatic coalition aligned against Iran will break down. But it might also be considered a stalling tactic that will allow Iran time to move their program underground or into the desert. I think the latter interpretation will prevail among the Western powers, and that a military confrontation, or at least open threats of such a confrontation, is possible this summer.

Now that a climax draws near on at least one issue -- the timing of the Iranian response -- we may learn the answer to a question I posed when the major powers accord was first reached: which of the major powers will betray us first, and propose we give in to Iranian demands, even if it means an Iranian nuclear bomb. The choices were shown in the picture below.

NOTE: The caption reads: "Britain's Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett, center, speaks as, from left, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana, Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov listen."

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Right Side Of History Is Also Freakin' Gorgeous

Democracy babes at Publius Pundit. Here's a full story on the Bolivian rallies. 150,000 showed up to support greater autonomy from Bolivia's central government, which is now led by a client of Hugo Chavez. God bless the demonstrators and God bless Santa Cruz.

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The Death Cult Of Peace

Via Little Green Footballs, an article in the Toronto Globe & Mail that describes the internet activity of the wives of some of those arrested in recent terror raids in Canada. It is a uniquely disturbing experience reading the newspaper's summary. It describes casual yet virulent hatred, unfathomable paranoia, and lust for violence, all mixed together with banal and mundane topics such as makeup. The story is based on excerpts of posts to a personal blogs and a web forum. Here are some excerpts:

"And i pray to Allah my sons follow his footsteps Ameeen [Amen]," she [Nada Farooq, wife of the suspected leader of the plots] writes at the on-line forum she founded for Muslim teens in Mississauga's Meadowvale area [near Toronto]. Her avatar -- an on-line symbol used to indicate personality -- is a picture of the Koran and a rifle.

[...]

"All muslim politicians are corrupt," [Nada Farooq] writes. "There's no one out there willing to rule the country by the laws of Allah, rather they fight to rule the country by the laws of democracy." She criticizes Muslims in places such as Dubai for spending money on elaborate buildings while Iraqis are being killed.

[...]

She then posts a photo of a rally held by Al-Fatiha, a Canadian support group for gay Muslims. "Look at these pathetic people," she writes. "They should all be sent to Saudi, where these sickos are executed or crushed by a wall, in public."

[...]

Ms. Farooq's hatred for the country is palpable. She hardly ever calls Canada by its name, rather repeatedly referring to it as "this filthy country." It's a sentiment shared by many of her friends, one of whom states that the laws of the country are irrelevant because they are not the laws of God.

In late April of 2004, a poster asks the forum members to share their impressions of what makes Canada unique. Nada's answer is straightforward.

"Who cares? We hate Canada."

In Cheryfa MacAulay Jamal's mind, every Muslim is another potential victim.

As a 44-year-old member of an on-line forum inhabited almost exclusively by teenagers, Ms. Jamal fits snugly into the role of maternal figure, and the advice she dispenses reflects her firm belief that the forces of evil are out to get every member of her adopted religion. She encourages Muslim youths to learn about herbal medicine and first aid lest they ever find themselves in a Muslim country under embargo, unable to receive proper medicine. Even in Canada, she says, one can never become complacent.

"You don't know that the Muslims in Canada will never be rounded up and put into internment camps like the Japanese were in WWII!" she writes in one 2004 post. This is a time when Muslims "are being systematically cleansed from the earth," she adds.

Ms. Farooq, a Pakistani, went to Canada from Saudi Arabia, where her family had previously lived. It appears she suffered from bullying:
But while her heart may be in the battlefields and holy cities, Nada Farooq finds herself physically in Canada, a country the Karachi-born teen moved to after spending her childhood in Saudi Arabia. Her name is properly pronounced "Needa," and when she came to Canada as a child, some of the kids at her school teased her by calling her "Needa Shower." She'd often come home in tears.

There are always among us those who have been broken by the rejection of the world around them. Some find themselves drawn into violent, cult-like groups that occasionally inflict themselves upon the rest of society. Ms. Farooq appears to be one such person. The Islam that surrounded her fed her alienation and paranoia and promised vicarious release through the violent exploits of murderers and gangsters thousands of miles away. In return for its comforts she offered up her entire person.

The most disturbing thing about this story is how the Islam Ms. Farooq discovered nurtured and rewarded as virtue what most of us would call a mental illness.

UPDATE: See also this report from Elder of Ziyon, on female Palestinian terrorists held in Israeli jails. One biography jumped out from its similarities to the Toronto women: "Valid originally tried to motivate her not to act such and claimed that as long as she wishes to die, it would be preferable to do it for something good. Valid indicated to Tahiti to establish contact with two Tanzim terrorists in Ramallah who will help her execute a suicide bombing."

Once again, an ill mind joins forces with an ill religion, and much horror and mayhem ensues.

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Fentanyl-Laced Heroin Summary

The Christian Science Monitor has a summary of the recent fentanyl-laced heroin news. The story includes more details about the culture of heroin users:

Jimbo tries to be cautious these days. The middle-age heroin user says he buys only from dealers he knows - a hedge against getting heroin mixed with the pain-reliever fentanyl, a concoction that has killed at least 150 people in recent months.

Many of his friends, though, seek out fentanyl-laced heroin for its potent high, swapping information about where the latest overdose victim got his dope.

"They always say, 'It's gonna be different with me, 'cause I'm not going to use so much,' but it's still too much," says Jimbo, as he exchanged used needles for clean ones at a mobile van run by the Chicago Recovery Alliance. "It's a whole new ballgame."

[...]

"The typical addict in Chicago is spending $25 to $30 a day on heroin, not actually getting high but just keeping them from going into withdrawal," says Greg Scott, a sociologist at DePaul University who studies drugs and gangs in the city. "If for that same $30 you can get high the way you used to, it makes sense."

Of the five drug crews Professor Scott has spent time with in Chicago, four are dealing at least 50-percent fentanyl-laced drugs, he says. They tell him they're willing to accept a certain number of deaths among their customers because the profits increase so much in the days immediately after the overdoses. Some gangs have even given out free samples as a marketing ploy.


Apropos of nothing, the sociologist mentioned in the story appears to be the same Greg Scott who filed a lawsuit against a theater chain that showed advertisements before starting a scheduled showing of a film. A news report on the suit can be found here, and a mention of the suit is made here while discussing another, similar suit.

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Hillary "has to prove she's a woman"

The single most atsute comment on Hillary Clinton I've seen appears at the top of Peggy Noonan's column in today's Opinion Journal:

Media people keep saying, as Hillary gears up for her presidential bid, that her big challenge in 2008 will be to prove that she is as tough as a man. That she could order troops to war. That she's not girly and soft.

This is the exact opposite of the truth. Hillary doesn't have to prove her guy chops. She doesn't have to prove she's a man, she has to prove she's a woman.

People on the right are greatly concerned by a Hillary Clinton candidacy for President. I think this concern is overheated. It fails to take into account both the great distrust the left has of Ms. Clinton and her utter lack of charm and charisma. We can add to those deficiencies a third that Ms. Noonan articulates well: Hillary Clinton does not appear to believe that anything, not even a soldier's life, is more precious than her ambitions. I frankly don't think she has a prayer of winning her party's nomination, much less the Presidency.

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Freedom Tower Unveiled


Plans for the redesigned Freedom Tower to built at Ground Zero have been unveiled. It will become the country's tallest building. From Reuters: "Symbolic of the Declaration of Independence, the reworked 1,776-foot (541-meter) centerpiece of the World Trade Center site unveiled by architect David Childs will have a 186-foot tall (57 meter) base sheathed with rolled, heat-treated glass over concrete."

I think it is essential to commemorate 9/11 like this as soon as possible, because only then will the crazed conspiracy theories be officially repudiated and the heroic actions of so many that properly highlighted. Memorials make the meaning of an event official, and even though some paranoia will persist, the presence of memorials gives a weight to the truth that forces paranoid theories aside.

My only complaint is that they aren't building two of them.

Here's a link to a complete slideshow on the new building.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Age of Aquariaaaarrrrgh!!!

Howard Dean believes that we are about to return to that enlightened time known as "the '60s", when noble deeds were dreamed and done:

Dean said he is looking for "the age of enlightenment led by religious figures who want to greet Americans with a moral, uplifting vision."

"The problem is when we hit that '60s spot again, which I am optimistic we're about to hit, we have to make sure that we don't make the same mistakes," Dean added.

Apparently our society perfected its ambitions at precisely that moment, and the great wheel of life is about to return us there once again. Though it occurs to me that Dean considers himself a progressive, so can he really believe that life is cyclical? Anyway, Dean wants us to do all the things we did in the 1960's, only not really do those things at all:
"I'm not asking to go back to the '60s; we made some mistakes in the '60s," he said. "If you look at how we did public housing, we essentially created ghettoes for poor people" instead of using today's method of mixed-income housing.

Another mistake Democrats made in the '60s, Dean acknowledged, was that "we did give things away for free, and that's a huge mistake because that does create a culture of dependence, and that's not good for anybody, either," he noted, a reference to the Great Society welfare programs created by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson in the mid-1960s.

Dean would prefer to do things the way Republicans and conservatives want, but in a way that gives all credit to Democrats and progressives, because those nasty righties don't have their heart in the right place:
"How about if I'm a wild-eyed radical liberal who is willing to say the conservatives had some good ideas?" Dean told his audience. "But let's go back and make what we wanted to work, using some of their ideas to make sure that the mistakes don't get made again," he added.

Dean also added:
"I do think that empowering people to help themselves is what we should be doing in the 21st century," he added, stating that the Democratic Party now emphasizes the value of work.

Hey Howard, how about empowering school vouchers and empowering tax cuts that let people keep more money? No? Too righty?

But if Democrats dismiss those things, how can they be sure they aren't making the same mistakes they did in the 60's? Their hearts were in the right place then, but they made mistakes, Dean said. Can they really be sure that isn't true today? I call upon all Democrats to doubt their judgment as much as Howard Dean doubts it. He's the leader of your party, shouldn't you trust him?

I'll finish with a religious sentiment of my own, a short prayer:
Dear Lord, though we Republicans are deeply flawed, we beseech you humbly for but one simple gift, and pray that you will grant us our modest desire: establish Howard Dean as the head of the Democratic Party for as long as he lives on this earth. Amen.


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Large Map Of Gaza

I have little to offer concerning the Israeli action against Palestinian terrorists except my support for the Israeli invasion and prayers for Gilad Shalit. I hope the Israeli army is effective, deadly, and able to return home soon. Israellycool has been my primary source for news, with stops at Captain's Quarters and Blogs Of War.

Since I'm a little mystified by the various place names being thrown around, and since it might help others similarly situated, I'm posting this map of Gaza. The original can be found at the Perry-CastaƱeda Library Map Collection at the University of Texas.



UPDATE: Welcome Blogs of War readers. I hope the map is helpful to you.

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Chicago After-School Programs Get Tons Of State Pork

State pork has found its way into after-school programs in Chicago. An article in the Tribune has the details: "In a new kind of political pork, state officials awarded $12 million to more than 100 non-profit groups, businesses, schools and churches for after-school programs that, in some cases, served few students or failed to deliver on their promises, the Tribune has found."

The key phrase in the above, of course, is some cases. But even excluding the legitimate recipients, the pork is still upsetting. It includes $25,000 for a drama program that had four students, and was run by a state senator's sister, $30,000 for a hip-hop exercise class, $30,000 for an arts program that never took place, and $5,180 to pay off debts that recipients owed the state.

I want my taxes back.

The part of story that caught my eye had to do with Marshall Metro High here in Chicago. From the second page of the article:

Another grant sponsored by Hendon went to Anita Jahshana Brooks, whose College Preparatory Educational Center had its address in a modest house in Midlothian. In a handwritten application, she provided no information about her qualifications, nor did the form ask for any. She got $30,000.

She wrote that her program would provide the "tools & training in GED, aides Prevention Information on testing, Resource center for Information. Bilingual class arts, & computer classes." She planned to offer the program at Marshall High School in Chicago.

Here's where the story becomes at once comic and tragic:
Gwendolyn Boyd, principal of Marshall, said during an interview in her office that she did not know Brooks. But when a reporter pointed to a gospel music CD on Boyd's desk with "Jahshana" on the label, Boyd said that jogged her memory.

"I didn't remember the name at first, but yes, I met with her once," Boyd said. "She was working with the kids and parents to introduce them to her gospel CD. She didn't work with the kids in after-school."

An hour later, Boyd telephoned the reporter to say that, after talking with her staff, she recalled that Brooks had run an after-school program for about 20 students in which she taught voice and piano lessons.

Attempts to contact Brooks were unsuccessful.

Marshall High School is almost entirely African-American and low income. A general page about the school can be found here; the PDF of the school's report card is here.

The average ACT score at Marshall is 13.8. To put this in perspective, the highest possible ACT score is 36. This puts them in the 8th percentile nationwide.

If you were to simply fill-in the same answer choice for each of the 215 questions on the ACT, you would most likely answer 54 questions correctly. If you were to answer that many correctly on the test, your scaled score would be a 12. On average, these students aren't even 2 points above what you would get if had simply guessed a single answer for the entire test.

And for a school population in that much trouble, someone got $30,000 for voice and piano lessons? As I said, I want my taxes back.

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A Russian Tourist's Revealing Photographs Of North Korea

The blog UNCoRRELATED has a post linking to some photographs taken by a Russian tourist in North Korea. The post at the original Russian site, created by the photograher, web designer Artemii Lebedev, can be found here; a copies of the photos with the commentary translated into English can be found here, at MilitaryPhotos.net.

Comment from UNCoRRELATED:

You can understand how an absence of any meaningful government could result in the typical third world chaos, but NK is just the opposite--very well ordered and yet extremely poor. A society with this kind of discipline should naturally be quite prosperous. The fact that it isn't suggest an extreme dysfunction.

As I've said before, the North Korean state has no right to exist. These photos include, literally, the best image that government can possibly present. Also included are pictures the government does not allow, but which the photographer managed to take anyway.

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Rosie O'Donnell Is Coming To Get Elizabeth Hasselbeck

The following is posted for no other reason than I could use a break from real news:

Yesterday morning at about this time I received a call from Mrs. Occidentality, who reported to me the shocking news that Star Jones announced she would be leaving the talk show The View. This premature disclosure -- the announcement had already been planned for Thursday -- displeased the host and creator Barbara Walters, who later said she felt "betrayed". In another call today, my wife reported that Star Jones -- a once normal-looking TV lawyer whose recent plastic surgeries have transformed her into a contemporary American grotesque -- was nowhere to be found on today's show.

According to Mrs. O, Elizabeth Hasselbeck ought to be a little bit scared. Though her opinions were not always treated with as much respect as they might have been, she was at least treated nicely by the others. Now she will have to contend with the deranged Rosie O'Donnell, who famously tyrannized and humiliated employees at her doomed magazine, and berated the affable and gentlemanly Tom Selleck during a national television interview. It is really only a matter of time before America's foremost hyper-political lesbian will launch a tirade at the polite, openly-Republican Hasselbeck.

The Washington Post covers yesterday's show in this article, describing in detail things which my wife thinks are completely hilarious but which no male dare confront. Like the Harpies and Medusa, men are best served leaving The View to the realm of dark mythology.

UPDATE: The claws are out. Be afraid.

Adblogging, Or, What They Think Of Us

Macs & PCs

I first encountered the tedious debates between Macs and PCs over 10 years ago, when I found myself working at an office immersed in Apple computers: I was annoyed by the arguments after the first five minutes. Now, Apple is reinvigorating that debate in it's most recent ad campaign, discussed here by Slate's Seth Stevenson.

The ad features two men, one of whom represents a Mac while the other represents a PC. As you might expect, in the little skits they perform the Mac comes out looking simple, fun, and easy-to-use. The Mac is played by Justin Long of the movie Dodgeball; the PC is played by John Hodgman. Stevenson writes:

...John Hodgman--contributor to The Daily Show and This American Life, host of an amusing lecture series, and all-around dry-wit extraordinaire. Even as he plays the chump in these Apple spots, his humor and likability are evident. (Look at that hilariously perfect pratfall he pulls off in the spot titled "Viruses.") The ads pose a seemingly obvious question--would you rather be the laid-back young dude or the portly old dweeb?--but I found myself consistently giving the "wrong" answer: I'd much sooner associate myself with Hodgman than with Long.

This reaction is precisely the reaction of my wife, and she projected that reaction on to others just as Stevenson does: why on earth would someone trust some college kid in blue jeans over an actual grown-up? But this tells us something about the target of the commercials: all those kids with iPods who are now maybe old enough to choose their own computer, instead of using one of Dad's hand-me-downs. That these consumers are the target can be inferred from another annoying feature of the ad.
The final straw, for me, is that the spots make unconvincing claims. The one titled "Network" has a funny bit where "that new digital camera from Japan" is represented by a Japanese woman in a minidress. While Hodgman has trouble talking with the woman, Long speaks Japanese and shares giggles with her because "everything just kind of works with a Mac." Now, I happen to have a digital camera from Japan, and it works just fine with my PC. It did from the moment I connected it. Similarly, the spot titled "Out of the Box" (again, a very funny visual metaphor, with Hodgman and Long crouching in cardboard boxes) suggests that new PCs require tons of attention and alteration when you first fire them up. But I bought a new ThinkPad notebook just a few months ago, and it ran on all cylinders pretty much straight out of the gate. Why insult my intelligence by telling me something that I know isn't true?

Thank you! Finally, I see it in print. What has always been the most obnoxious feature of the great Mac/PC debate is the fact that Mac users make such grandiose claims about what their products do that PCs don't do. I have no problem accepting arguments for Macs about what actually sets them apart. Macs are very good machines for a great many purposes, but many of the claims Mac users make just don't stand up to reality. For example, working in an office with both types of machine for over 10 years, I can report that Macs in fact do not break down less than PCs, and in fact are not easier to set up. Are they worse? No. Are they troublesome in the same way as PCs? No. But they are not more reliable and easier to work with overall. Cry all you want if you think that's unfair to Macs, but I was the one in the trenches talking users through the spinning beach ball of death, so don't tell me not to trust my own eyes. Really, I don't want to hear it. /rant

Stevenson says the people who might not notice this flaw in the commercials are inexperienced computer users, but again I think they are the real targets. If you've only used computers for an iPod and a MySpace or Xanga site, then you probably don't know all the things that a good computer can do. Thus, you will be swayed by the Mac guy telling you about how well the Mac works for all the things you'd like to try, and won't know enough to realize the PC can probably do them as well as the Mac can.

But Stevenson doesn't mention the aspect of the commercial that ultimately irritated me the most: the music. In the background, they're playing nursery rhyme music. Apple is literally infantilizing their users. Those of us who cannot understand Apple's dedication to things like the one-button mouse will not be shocked by their condescending sound track.

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Ward Churchill Is Still An Idiot

Via Pirate Ballerina, the long, rambling, accusatory response of Ward Churchill to his firing by the University of Colorado. The key segment of the response is at the end:

The interim vice chancellors strikingly duplicitous comportment over the past 16 months will not go unchallenged. I will file an appeal of the whole charade with the Faculty Senates Committee on Privilege and Tenure (P&T) within the next 10 days.

Far from putting the "final touches to the Churchill story," as fantasized on Denver editorial pages, the interim chancellors elaborate subterfuge has merely set the stage for the taxpayers to waste another quarter-million dollars while I go through the P&T process.

Hopefully, the members of P&T who review my case will display the sort of integrity conspicuously lacking in their predecessors on the investigative panel and the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct.

This could kill tenure for everybody. It seems that every faculty member who has reviewed Churchill's work has found it deplorable, though not all of them favored dismissal. I don't see why he thinks a new group of faculty members will come to a different conclusion: I don't see any faculty putting their reputations on the line for someone whose work was so shoddy.

Going to the P & T Committee of course contradicts what his lawyer said the other day, but perhaps Churchill wants to be vindicated by a group of scholars instead of a jury full of those "little Eichmanns" that so obsess him.

Thank you to Marathon Pundit for the tip.

UPDATE: Pirate Ballerina has removed the text of the Churchill statement due to its "questionable provenence," as outlined by some commenters at that site. I'm not sure I entirely follow their logic, but note the result. Here's a link to a news source, the Denver Post, that carried essentially the same statement.

North Korea Has No Right To Exist

The Daily NK is a Korean/English news magazine whose primary focus is, as its name would indicate, North Korea. It features news that reminds us why the North Korean state hasn't the right to exist amongst sovereign nations. Posted without out further comment is this introduction to a story from today's edition:

Hearts Beat Faster for the Reunion of Kim Young Nam and His Mother after 28 Years

A 17-year-old boy who went to play at the beach one summer day wasn't heard from again for almost 28 years. After such a long time, the boy, over 40 years old now, is still looking for his mother.

The dramatic reunion of Kim Young Nam (45), abducted by a North Korean spy at Gunsan beach in 1978 and his mother, Choi Gye Wol is only a day away.

Ms.Choi and her daughter, Young Ja, shed tears of joy when the reunion was announced. The family said, "We have been thinking that Young Nam was dead for a long time. It’s like a dream."

Ms. Choi and the family are preparing for the reunion. It is hard for Ms. Choi to get around due to physical ailments, but she is waiting for the reunion, and shopping for gifts with her daughter.

Ms. Choi said, "I can’t sleep at night at the thought of meeting my son. Days seem to be too long for me to bear."

Young Ja said, "I didn’t expect to see my brother again. I am so glad that I get to see him so soon."

She also added, "I can finally understand how my mother feels, as I have become a mother as well. I hope the sorrow of other families of the abducted can also be resolved this way."

Read it all.

Meanwhile, the primary North Korean news on Tuesday were the comments of Virginia Senator John Warner, a Republican:
Citing intelligence gathered by "overhead systems" photographing the missile, Senator Warner said, "We are not certain if it's fueled."

He also said the surveillance images indicated that "certain infrastructure" remained around the missile and would have to be removed in advance of a launching.

"They could be launching a satellite, a weather satellite or any type of satellite that might be launched by this system," Mr. Warner said. But he said the United States must "prepare for the possibility of a hostile strike," though he termed it a "probably remote possibility."

Sen. Warner's comments provided the only new details about the status of the North Korean missile launch.

UPDATE: The Washington Post has additional background on the abduction case mentioned above. Conscientiously, they refer to the kidnapped as "allegedly abdcuted." How kind of them to offer so much consideration to North Korean propaganda. If only the U.S. Marines were so well treated.

This excerpt from the Post story sheds some light on the references to Japan in the Daily NK article:
Kim's reunion with his mother, proposed by North Korea, is drawing intense attention in South Korea and Japan because it could shed light on whether a Japanese abductee whom Kim is believed to have married is dead, as claimed by the North.

Kim was accompanied by his daughter, Kim Hae Kyong, whom he is believed to have fathered with the Japanese abductee, Megumi Yokota. Also present were another woman and a boy, identified by South Korean television channel YTN as Kim's new wife and 7-year-old son.


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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hillary Clinton Buys Herself A New Blogger

Hillary Clinton has hired a Salon.com blogger as a consultant to her campaign.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign has hired Peter Daou, one of the most prominent political bloggers in the nation, to help disseminate her message in a forum that has not always been that hospitable to her.

That's putting it mildly. But Clinton's not a new face that hasn't gotten off to a good start on the web. She's an old face that didn't have a good start, hasn't had a good middle, and likely won't have a positive end.
The move underscores the degree to which bloggers -- the authors of Web logs, or blogs -- have begun to transform American politics. In many cases, candidates have even set up their own blogs, with staffers answering questions, presenting policy proposals and posting campaign literature and videos.

Thanks, New York Times, for walking us through the definition of "blog." Let it not be said the Times is not throrough.
Mrs. Clinton, who is up for re-election this year and is a possible presidential candidate for 2008, has been a frequent target of bloggers, particularly liberals who are angry over her refusal to disavow her vote in 2002 to authorize President Bush to use force in Iraq.

The Clinton camp is clearly counting on Mr. Daou, who directed blog outreach and online rapid response for Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004, to help improve Mrs. Clinton's image among liberal bloggers, who are fast becoming a constituency in their own right and may thus play a significant role in selecting the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

[...]

In a statement that was posted on Salon.com, Mr. Daou, who will be a Web consultant for the campaign, said the "nascent power base" of liberal bloggers "is only beginning to make its presence felt" and will "reach fuller potential with the participation of Democratic leaders."

This won't work, I suspect. The messenger cannot change the message, and the message people get from Hillary is: "I'm cold, calculating, and I don't care who I have to step on or what principles I must betray in order to win."

It also remains to be seen whether there really is a "nascent power base" of bloggers, or if the bloggers are simply activists using the internet to express themselves in a new way, but who are not new to politics or the party at all. (And I would add that this point applies to the right as well.)

As a side note, the conclusion of the article recites Mr. Daou's bona fides:
In addition to working for Mr. Kerry's campaign, Mr. Daou has been an online consultant to the United Nations Foundation and AARP.

Can we now all agree that the U.N. and the AARP are essentially left-wing front organizations, or am I reading too much into that little resume.

Detroit Arraigns A Dealer For Distributing Fentanyl-Laced Heroin

In Detroit, a man has been arraigned on charges related to the distribution of fentanyl-laced heroin in that city. On a per capita basis, Detroit appears to have suffered more overdoses caused by fentanyl than has Chicago. From the Washington Post:

Wayne County sheriff's deputies and federal drug agents said Daren Reese was arrested Thursday in the sale of a mix of heroin and the prescription painkiller fentanyl.

Reese, 45, of Detroit, faces charges including four counts of delivering and manufacturing a controlled substance, and two felony weapons charges for carrying a firearm and body armor. He was being held in the Wayne County Jail on $200,000 bond.

Paul Curtis, a lawyer representing Reese, told the Detroit Free Press after the hearing his client was a scapegoat for authorities trying to show they are combating the fentanyl scourge.

It is doubtful that the recent raids in Chicago and other cities had anything to do with this arrest. (For reports on those raids, see here and here.) Mr. Reese appears to have been done in by a user:
A suburban woman found earlier this month with a syringe in her arm -- slumped unconscious over the steering wheel of her car on a Highland Park street -- was a breakthrough in investigators' around-the-clock search for the source of heroin laced with fentanyl that has killed 133 people since last September.

[...]

Investigators said they found Rees carrying a large prescription bottle containing 80 individual foil-wrapped packets of the heroin-fentanyl mixture. The packets were sold for $10 to $20 under the street names "magic" or "A-1," Evans said.

All tolled, the authorities in Detroit and Wayne county have arrested five people on charges relating to the sale of fentanyl-laced heroin. The article concludes with this:
"Many of the drug buyers we have observed throughout this investigation are residents of suburban communities that come to this location to buy drugs," [Wayne County Sheriff Warren C.] Evans said.

Sound familiar, Chicago?

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Vietnam "Elects" A President To Fight Corruption

Vietnam has "elected" a new president:

A Vietnamese politician with a reputation for fighting corruption became the communist-run country’s new president on Tuesday as part of a changing of the guard to a group of younger leaders.

The National Assembly, or parliament, confirmed the appointment of Nguyen Minh Triet, 63, Communist Party chief in the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, in a session opened to the media.

Elected, appointed, it's all the same at the end of the day, right?
The leadership changes and other cabinet positions were decided at April’s five-yearly party National Congress but were being formalized by parliament this week, officials said.

On Monday, deputies confirmed Hanoi politician and sociologist Nguyen Phu Trong, 62, as chairman of the increasingly influential legislature in an era of economic and legal reforms.

In Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Triet’s campaign in 2002 against top mafia boss Nam Cam led to the arrests of a deputy police minister and several officials.

Triet’s anti-graft credentials fit with the Party’s promises to do more to fight corruption, which leaders acknowledge threatens their rule and the goal of lifting the country out of poverty in the next 10 to 15 years.

Some questions to ponder:

Communism has always has always had a toxic tendency to eat away at itself from the inside: a communist system does not appear to exist that does not have smoldering resentments amongst the all-powerful party leaders that on regular occasions flare up into violent purges. How much of the fight against corruption in Vietnam (and also in Cuba) is simply an updated format for the classic communist purge? Is the crusade against corruption simply a purge to establish dominance within the party under the guise of economic purity, a replacement of purges to establish dominance under the guise of ideological purity?

I suspect that the answer to the first question is "a lot" and that the answer to the second question is an emphatic "yes."

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Monday, June 26, 2006

A Tenured Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a company, a very big company, that produced all the goods that were ever sold in stores -- all sorts of things: pharmaceuticals, food, books. Everything from pots and pans to herbal medicine. To create these products, the company employed a lot of people, including a large number of engineers, researchers, and writers. We shall call these particular employees the brain people.

At some point, the brain people decided that they were a rather special lot. They decided that because they did nothing but research new and better products, and knew little of the ways of the world, that they should have a special employment status. The company, because it was producing so many products for so many customers, was afraid to lose all the brain people to some other kind of job. Thus, they agreed to the brain people's request and offered them a very special benefits package: they called it tenure and it meant that the brain people could never be dismissed from their jobs unless they committed a gross violation of the company rules.

This worked well for the most part, but the brain people, once they retired or stopped doing much work still had to be paid. This cost the company a great deal. The company kept raising their prices until people had to borrow money to buy things from them. But this didn't hurt the company, because people believed the products were worth it, and it's not like customers could go anywhere else -- the company was a monopoly.

But then one of the unpleasant results of tenure started to manifest itself. Since it was such a good life, and since you always had lots of people looking up to you, the job of being a brain person started to attract very vain, very selfish people. Not all of them were like that, mind you, but enough were that the quality of the work the brain people did, as a whole, became lower and lower. And another thing happened too: the brain people, who had always been in charge of hiring new brain people, started to get very careful about who they let come to work at the company. They hardly realized they were doing it, but soon they were hiring new brain people who were easy for the old brain people to control, who would agree with them instead of challenge them or otherwise make life difficult. Many of these new brain people weren't terribly talented, but were hired mostly because they were willing to conform their views to those of the old brain people.

Overall, the company still produced good products, but the costs of those products kept going up and up and up to support all the brain people that had been hired.

Then one day someone saw one of the brain people do something bad. This particular brain person was in charge of the aforementioned herbal medicine products. His name was Bob. It wasn't a big or particularly profitable department, but it lent some prestige to the company: lots of people liked to think that a few herbs could make them well. But Bob unfortunately gave a speech to a bunch of doctors where he said that a lot of doctors had tried to kill their patients, and the whole world of medicine was a great big horrible place, and that only herbal medicine could really cure anybody, not drugs and surgeries and whatnot. Naturally, many of the doctors were appalled at the accusation, and they complained vociferously to the company. But the company said nothing could be done: Bob had tenure, and they couldn't violate his tenure rights for expressing his personal views. "Why, that would violate his freedom!" they said.

But a few of the doctors didn't like this answer. They suspected Bob might have done other bad things. After all, it was only logical to suspect that someone who made crazy comments on one topic might have made crazy comments on another, or even done something crazy in his work. So these doctors started digging around, and they found a lot. Bob had been a very bad brain person indeed.

They found a number of occasions where Bob had stolen other people's ideas and repesented them as his own, and a number of occasions where Bob just made things up to support the work he did for the company. They even found out that Bob proudly claimed that he had once helped other people blow things up, and even though it seemed like he maybe wasn't telling the whole truth about this, it bothered them that we was so proud of that claim.

The doctors were very persistent: even though Bob had lots of friends who said all kinds of nasty things about the doctors, they still kept on digging. The doctors even discovered that a lot of Bob's friends took the medicine Bob produced, and it worried them a little because Bob's medicine, it turns out, was only good for making people a little crazy. But eventually the doctors who pursued Bob made so much noise about all the bad things he did that the company had to do something, even if this upset Bob and his crazy friends.

So the company decided to investigate, because they wanted to know if Bob had committed one of the gross violations that might cause him to be fired. After all, if they didn't show that their brain people really did have good brains, they couldn't keep charging so much money for their products. The investigation took a very, very long time, because no one knew what a gross violation looked like anymore. It was so hard to prove that one existed, the company gave up trying, and just let the brain people do whatever they wanted. Some in the company were even angry at the doctors for making them investigate, because it was a lot of work and whatever a gross violation turned out to be, it sounded icky.

But investigate they did, and because there were still good brain people left, brain people who want to hold other brain people to high standards, a decision about Bob was eventually reached. They couldn't talk about all the bad things Bob did, just the ones that related to Bob's work. But they found a lot of bad things there, enough that Bob had to go. The head brain people told the company president that Bob had to be fired, and the company president agreed.

So Bob was sent out into the great wide world, no longer allowed to call himself a brain person, no longer prtected by tenure. Bob promptly hired a lawyer to force the company to give him his job back.

No one will be living happily ever after any time soon.

+++++++++++++++


I'm not sure what possessed me to write this little fairy tale. Oh, by the way, did you hear that Ward Churchill just got fired? I think I might have written about that somewhere.

Tracked back to Open Trackbacks - Wacademic Edition at Pursuing Holiness.

University Of Colorado Finally Resolves The Churchill Farce

UPDATE: "[Interim Chancellor] Phil DiStefano recommended that Prof. Ward Churchill be terminated as a staff member at CU." Emphasis added and joy taken. Here's the link.

UPDATE 2: If the whole case upsets you, perhaps relax with a little fairly tale.

UPDATE 3: Pirate Ballerina has a post up, and provides this link to the university announcement.

UPDATE 4: HotAir has a brief post.

UPDATE 5: Elephants in Academia covers the story, as does, in its own inimitable way, DailyKos.

UPDATE 6: Ed Driscoll is skeptical until Churchill is officially dismissed: Churchill still gets a hearing before he's gone for good.

UPDATE 7: Daily Pundit speculates on Churchill's next stop.

UPDATE 8: From Sanctuary Blog, this gem: "University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill ain't got the wampum cred to keep his teepee."

Plus, some more media reports: FoxNews (AP), 1010WINS, Denver ABC7 News.

UPDATE 9: Drunkablog has a bunch of good stuff: a link to the audio of the news conference, a liveblog of a radio interview with Chancellor DiStefano, and some comments from Churchill's lawyer.

He also has a kind reminder for yours truly: Churchill still has an appeal before he's officially gone, so re: the "Farce" in my title, he comments sagely, "there's still a whole lot of clowns crammed in that little car."

The problem is this. As Pirate Ballerina puts it, the "burlesque" is not over. From the news conference:

[...L]et me briefly explain the process as we go forward. Professor Churchill may request within 10 days to have President Brown or me forward this recommendation to the Faculty Senate Committee on Privilege and Tenure. If Professor Churchill does so, a special panel will then conduct hearings about this matter and make a recommendation to the president about whether the grounds for dismissal are supported.

When I initially read this, my thought was that any further hearings would be a formality. With six of nine memebers on the Standing Committe recommending outright dismissal, the remaining three recommending at least suspension wiithout pay, and the chancellor recommending dismissal, any hearing would likely not go in Churchill's favor. But commenter Noj at Pirate Ballerina points out that the Privilege and Tenure Committee's rules allow them to throw out the Standing Committee's findings and launch a whole new investigation. If that is true, then this is not like a normal legal appeal, where the court accepts the facts and only reviews the application of the law, but potentially a de novo review that in theory Churchill could survive.

Oh well, the chancellor's decision is still good news, if not quite the end of the line.

UPDATE 10: Little Green Footballs has a brief post followed by numerous comments. One commenter has quite generously found a job posting for which Mr. Churchill might actually be qualified.

At Outside The Beltway, James Joyner comments:
While I strongly disagreed with some of my conservative colleagues who thought Churchill should have been fired for some of his outrageous political statements, and am a bit queasy that those controversies led to the investigation of the misconduct for which Churchill has now been fired, I nonetheless agree with DiStefano’s call here. Indeed, Churchill’s transgressions are quite severe and he has no place on a university campus.

I think the "queasiness" is a little misplaced: had Churchill had any virtues as a scholar he would have survived the investigation. Having no such virtues, he could not survive the scrutiny of the spotlight he sought.

I also do not think academic freedom should be used to dsicourage the public from reading an academic's work and, finding it wanting in some way [NOTE: or more precisely, some scholarly way], complaining to that academic's university. If the university decides the complaints have merit, academic freedom should not shield an academic from a responsible investigation such as the one undertaken by CU's Standing Committee.

UPDATE 11: Here's a full article from the Denver Channel, and the official statement from Chnacellor DiStefano. Meanwhile, Drunkablog has found a lefty who's gone a little hysterical over all this.

UPDATE 12: So I finally got around to actually reading the Denver Channel article and apparently Churchill won't be appealing the chancellor's recommendation to the tenure committee. So he's really out:
"We're going to a real court because we can trust juries to do the right thing," said Churchill's attorney David Lane. "Churchill says this all completely bogus. Let's see if a jury and a Federal District Court agrees with the committee. Or see if everything that's happened here is retaliation for Ward Churchill's First Amendment free speech relating to 9/11."

UPDATE 13: Marathon Pundit discusses Churchill and his connection to DePaul University: he got $5,000 to speak at the DePaul Student Activities Center. He makes this point:
And this is the third time I'm going to bring this up, but my point is--in my opinion--so valid that I have to press it one more time.

When is DePaul University going to apologize to the DePaul Conservative Alliance for the mistreatment it foisted upon this decent group of students when they tried to protest Churchill's paid appearance at the Chicago Catholic school?

He links to a page at FIRE that outlines the treatment he refers to, and also has this link to the DePaul Conservative Alliance.

UPDATE 14: Tracked back to Open Trackbacks - Wacademic Edition at Pursuing Holiness. The post also has links showing the attitude some faculty at CU had about this whole investigation: to summarize, they resented the idea that a non-academic might check their work.

+++++++++++++++


The interim chancellor at the University of Colorado will announce today whether Ward Churchill will be fired.

That it has taken 17 months to review the egregious work of Ward Churchill and come to a decision on his status is an indictment of the academy's ability to police itself. 17 months is far too long a time to study work that an independent committee ultimately found so thoroughly wanting for quality. Failings as grandiose as Churchill's should have been noticed long ago.

Churchill produced his shoddy work and it was reviewed and published, but no one saw fit to question his character and ability as a scholar until outside forces demanded it. Under a spotlight, his work was found to be mendacious and unscholarly, but that was the case long before he caught the general public's attention.

Updates will follow once the chancellor's decision has been released. The various findings on Churchill's work can be found here.

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Not Reporting: ABC Reporter Blatantly Displays Grotesque Bias

At Townhall.com, W. Thomas Smith reports on a biased reporter. He received a phone call from an ABC reporter seeking comments on Haditha, and Smith was asked the following question:

"Don't you think the killings at Haditha [November 19, 2005] are the result of a wrong war and a failed policy?" he asks. "Much like the tragedy of My Lai [the killings of unarmed civilians by U.S. soldiers in the village of My Lai, Vietnam in 1968] was the result of a wrong war and a failed policy?"

Smith writes:
...it's one thing to read and listen to politicized versions of news stories spun by the various national news organizations. But to actually experience the machine as it begins to process what they plan to feed the masses is quite another. It wasn't a first for me, nor will it be the last I'm sure. But I was temporarily surprised by the reporter's lack of perspective, his obvious agenda, and his attempt to put words in my mouth. And by the way, this was no recent J-school grad. This guy was seasoned.

The reporter felt no compunction to moderate his words for sake of the presumption of innocence the soldiers deserve. This is cruel disrespect for one of the primary values American soldiers defend. It is distressing that this reporter felt absolutely no shame in how he put his question: absent shame, how can such a mind be reached?

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U.S. Politicians Blather On About North Korea -- UPDATED

It looks as though CBS' report from last Saturday, that the North Korean's had finished their launch prep and that a missile launch could be imminent, was wrong. Had the reporting been correct, the launch would probably have occurred by now. Though it appears that a launch will not occur, the blathering of American politicians continues unabated.

First there are the former policy makers from prior Democrat administrations. William Perry and Ashton Carter, respectively secretary and assistant secretary in the Clinton Defense Department, argued for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea's missile base. This argument was quickly parroted by former Vice President Walter Mondale. Their suggestions were rebutted by a former Bush administration envoy to North Korea and were rejected in toto by the White House.

I suspect the White House rejection of the pre-emptive strike suggestion was both anticipated and desired by those who made it. If that sounds harsh, understand the party to which Perry, et al. belong has not recently distinguished itself in my mind as trustworthy or deserving of goodwill: see, for instance, Murtha, Congressman John. It will be a while before I have generous feelings for even the elder statesmen of the Democratic party.

I believe that rejection was anticipated because I believe that Perry and Carter could not have really thought the Bush administration would pursue their policy after seeing it in a Washington Post editorial; they could not have believed that Bush would willingly appear to be so easily swayed. Since they are outside the halls of power, they can safely suggest aggression, knowing that they will not have to brave the consequences, which could be military, diplomatic, and legal, of a direct attack on sovereign territory. They also do not have to consider the true viability of their plan, which consists of sending cruise missiles against the launch pad. The White House, unlike Perry and Carter, is obliged to make sure an attack is successful, even if it means sending special forces or other troops to effectuate the launch site's destruction.

Instead, I suspect the point of Perry and Carter's suggestion was to establish strong defense credentials for the Democratic party. I can see no other logical reason for them to offer their advice. The administration believes that a much less aggressive and risky action, activating the missile shield, will be sufficient to protect the U.S. from a North Korean missile, but because it has rejected Perry and Carter's more belligerent proposal the White House can be made to look soft and the Democrats made to look tough.

More recently, a group of U.S. senators, all of them members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have taken it upon themselves to demand the White House agree to direct talks with North Korea. In other words, in the stare-down between the U.S. and North Korea, these senators have taken it upon themselves to blink on our behalf.

"It would be advisable to bring about a much greater intensification of diplomacy, and this may involve direct talks between the United States and the North Koreans," Sen. Richard Lugar, the committee chairman and one of President George W. Bush's fellow Republicans, said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

If the North is truly using the missile threat to gain diplomatic concessions, and it is possible this is not their primary motive, then thanks to these senators they have succeeded and can ready their next demand. The North will have its direct negotiations and the six-party talks can be officially declared dead.

The crucial error the senators make is in thinking that the interests of China and South Korea can be ignored. The interest of the Chinese and South Koreans, selfish though it may be, is to avoid a complete collapse of the decrepit North. Without multiparty talks, neither of these states can be trusted to support U.S. strategy in bilateral talks: China and South Korea will work against us behind the scenes if they believe our position threatens the stability of the North, rendering bilateral talks pointless.

It was bad enough that the Senate undermined the White House by making the appointment of a special envoy to the North a requirement of a defense authorization bill. They have only made the diplomatic situation worse by demanding that Bush make so egregious a concession to a totalitarian state.

UPDATE: President Bush made a statement today that I believe is a rejection of calls for bilateral talks between North Korea and the U.S.:
"I have made clear to our partners on this issue _ that would be Japan and South Korea and China and Russia _ that we need to send a focused message to the North Koreans and that this launch, you know, is provocative," Bush said, talking with reporters in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

"And I was pleased to hear that the Chinese have delivered that message to the North Koreans," Bush said. "And we would hope that the leader in North Korea listen to the Chinese.

The specific mention of the other parties involved in six-party talks suggests that Bush will not accede to North Korean demands for bilateral negotiations.

UPDATE: The American Enterprise Online has an article by Alan Dowd about former Secretary Perry and the history of his views on North Korea: A Schizophrenic Secretary? From the piece:
Perry and his co-author deserve credit for underscoring the seriousness of the North Korean threat and for offering a bold—even audacious—answer to it. But as Perry himself warned in 2002, the cure should never be worse than the disease itself. Bombing that missile site would, quite simply, trigger another Korean War. This one would not end in stalemate--in fact, it would end the North Korean regime--but it would be anything but bloodless. Given what we know about the 1950-53 war (which is technically only paused), about the capabilities of North Korea’s military and about the disposition of South Korea’s population centers, the loss of life in a second (and final) Korean War would make us long for something as "easy" as Iraq.


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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Hinderaker v. Alter

Robert Alter has a review of a study of Leo Strauss in today's New York Times (online, free, I won't be giving them any money). The book is Reading Leo Strauss, by Steven B. Smith. Scott Hinderaker has a disdainful response at Power Line:

Alter crudely turns his praise of Strauss and Smith to immediate political purposes. According to Alter, Strauss "repeatedly argued against the very idea of political certitude that has been embraced by certain neoconservatives." Alter himself sounds a little too much in love with his own certitude for a guy who doesn't know what he's talking about.

I do not have nearly the knowledge required to say how much, if any, of Alter's review can be trusted, nor can I say how fair Hinderaker has been. But I suspect Hinderaker is on the mark because of one egregious passage in Alter's review:
"Throughout his writings," Smith concludes, "Strauss remained deeply skeptical of whether political theory had any substantive advice or direction to offer statesmen." This view was shaped by his wary observation of the systems of totalitarianism that dominated two major European nations in the 1930's, Nazism in Germany and Communism in the Soviet Union. As a result, he strenuously resisted the notion that politics could have a redemptive effect by radically transforming human existence. Such thinking could scarcely be further from the vision of neoconservative policy intellectuals that the global projection of American power can effect radical democratic change. "The idea," Smith contends, "that political or military action can be used to eradicate evil from the human landscape is closer to the utopian and idealistic visions of Marxism and the radical Enlightenment than anything found in the writings of Strauss."

Bracketed as it is by Smith's sensible remarks on Strauss, it is easy to overlook the shortcoming of Alter's conclusion and the passivity it imputes to Strauss.

The premise of one of Alter's conclusions is that Strauss was skeptical that his writing had anything to offer statesmen. Alter then states that this view was shaped by the totalitarianism Strauss witnessed in the '30s and '40s. (I assume this is taken from Smith's book and is essentially true, but don't know enough to say for sure; for my purpose here it can be assumed to be the truth.)

Alter draws a conclusion from these premises: "As a result, he strenuously resisted the notion that politics could have a redemptive effect by radically transforming human existence." He then says that this couldn't be further from the American neo-con belief that "global projection of American power can effect radical democratic change."

But there is no nexus between fascist efforts to dominate and American efforts to democratize, and I wonder how an educated person could make the analogy Alter makes. Alter's conclusion rests on the idea that the neo-con arguments for democracy are similar enough to the arguments of Bolsheviks that Strauss would reject the neo-cons. The analogy he bases this on is so glaringly unjust that this argument must be utterly rejected. The "redemption" totalitarians offer is the redemption of original sin through enslavement to a state comprised of already "redeemed" revolutionary minds; the democracy America offers is that redemption's precise opposite.

The intention of the socialist and fascist revolutionaries was the transformation of man into the into a creature perfected by state direction. The intention of American democratization efforts is to liberate people from those who might attempt to transform them, from those who might try to bend the a nation to the will of the state, be it a state represented by national socialist Ba'ath's or radical Islamic mullahs. The Bolshevik wishes to change mankind into something new and "perfected"; the American wishes to liberate that which man already is: a creature of free will and individual integrity, a creature that does not require the absolute direction of the state.

Time will tell whether Bush's democratization principle can be reliably applied to Muslim and Arab cultures, but it is grotesque to casually analogize it to the principles of totalitarian revolutionaries.

Alter's conflation totalitarians and neo-cons is so glaringly unfair that I am disinclined to trust the rest of his review.

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