Saturday, July 13, 2002

I just discovered Adam Curry's blog. Yes, Adam Curry from when MTV was cool. He lives in Holland.
Interesting news from the Middle East (well, London, actually).
IRAQI opposition leaders seeking the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein received the unexpected public endorsement last night of a senior member of the Jordanian Royal Family, raising hopes among royalists for a return of the monarchy to Baghdad.

Prince Hassan of Jordan, the uncle of King Abdullah and a well respected statesman in the Arab world, addressed about 200 Iraqi exiles, including scores of former army officers and several prominent émigré leaders, at the start of a three-day conference to discuss how to overthrow the Iraqi regime.

Prince Hassan paid tribute to his “fellow officers” in the Iraqi military and said that he supported efforts to “end the suffering of the Iraqi people”.

The last few days certainly have seen some positive developments in regards to Iraq and Iran.
Certainly there was nothing ambiguous about the aim of the conference. Three former Iraqi generals received rousing applause from the audience after speeches on how the armed forces could be mobilised to mutiny against Saddam, how they could maintain security after an uprising and how they could help to create the climate for a new democratic regime.

Meanwhile, a BBC profile of Farrakhan has this headline:
Louis Farrakhan: Prophet or bigot?

Louis Farrakhan continues his whirlwind "Suck Up To Despots 2002" tour with a stop in Zimbabwe.
Louis Farrakhan, leader of the US Nation of Islam organisation, has backed Zimbabwe's controversial land reform programme at the start of a three-day visit to the troubled country.

Mr Farrakhan told the state-owned Herald newspaper that he was in "full support" of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's policies "as it was aimed at correcting a historical injustice".

The paper in turn praised Mr Farrakhan for his "stance against Western manoeuvres to undermine the sovereignty of Zimbabwe," the Associated Press news agency reported.

Apparently "correcting a historical injustice" is more important than feeding the people.
Where's the next stop on the tour? Stay tuned...
The US folded in the face of international pressure and agreed to a one-year exemption from the ICC for US troops deployed in UN peacekeeping missions. I was under the impression that the ICC wouldn't begin prosecuting cases until late 2003 anyways, so this immunity seems worthless. All that has really been accomplished is that we have ensured that next year we'll be in the same argument - we'll threaten to pull out of peacekeeping missions, and then we'll agree to a compromise extending the exemption one more year.
Under intense opposition from its closest allies and countries around the world, the United States backed down this week from its demand for permanent immunity for American peacekeepers.

Court supporters argued that the demand even for a one year exemption would have amounted to an amendment of the treaty.

The impasse was resolved when key court supporters — Britain, Mauritius and France — made a new proposal Friday morning that would ask the court for a 12-month delay in investigating or prosecuting peacekeepers from countries that don't support the court "if a case arises."

Isn't Mauritius a tiny island in the Indian Ocean?

Friday, July 12, 2002

If you haven't been keeping up with the Yasser Arafat/baby wipes situation, check it out.
Blogger is finally working again. Here is an idea for what the blogosphere can do to help Iran.
How dumb are these people? Days after attacking Bush for not being able, due to his business ties, to lead on the issue of corporate corruption, Drudge reports that a bank founded by Terry McAuliffe once gave an "unusual and unsecured" loan to none other than Dick Gephardt.
Michael Newdow (the Pledge guy) is a huge jerk.
SAN FRANCISCO, July 11 -- The 8-year-old girl whose father successfully sued to have the Pledge of Allegiance declared unconstitutional has no problem with reciting the pledge at school, her mother said today.

"I was concerned that the American public would be led to believe that my daughter is an atheist or that she has been harmed by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, including the words 'one nation under God,' " Sandra Banning said. "We are practicing Christians and are active in our church."

Banning never married Michael Newdow, the third-grader's father and plaintiff in the pledge lawsuit. She has full custody of the girl, which Newdow is challenging.

In his lawsuit, Newdow argued that his daughter was "injured" by being forced to listen to others recite the pledge at the Elk Grove Unified School District.

Newdow said today that he has the right to determine how she is raised. "I have a right to send my child to a public school without the government inculcating any religious beliefs," he said.

Doesn't the mother having full custody mean that Newdow does not have the right to determine how she is raised?

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Fascinating, and scary...
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Experts can now download a genetic blueprint from the Internet and use mail-order materials to assemble a deadly virus, say researchers who made a synthetic polio virus in the lab to demonstrate the threat.

``The world had better be prepared,'' said Dr. Eckard Wimmer, leader of a biomedical research team at the University of New York at Stony Brook where the virus was assembled.

The researchers made the virus in the laboratory using data from the Internet and tailor-made sequences ordered from a laboratory supply service. They injected the virus into mice to show that it worked. The animals were paralyzed and then killed.

MBABANE (Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi's convoy of armored cars and female bodyguards swept through the tiny African kingdom of Swaziland Thursday as the flamboyant Libyan leader made his way home from an African summit.

Nowhere in this article does it explain why Gaddafi's bodyguards are all female, although it mentions them twice. Anyone? In other Gaddafi (how many different ways can that be spelled?) news, the WSJ prints this translation of one of his poems.
I look for you in every quarter
Don't you hear me?
If you are near by
be my sweet heart,

Not only because you're so beautiful, brunette, and blonde but because you are so pure, chaste and disdainful, knows nothing about somebody else, subdues not to a human being,

I love you being lonely, unique and stubborn.
Are you the mirage or the inconceivable?
Because it is impossible for the impossibility to exist.
Respond not to his sweet tongue

Shun away from his smile as long as you are not a loose woman, nor you are an unwanted.

Presumably it loses something in the translation.
Amnesty (International) took aim at Palestinian militants in its seventh report on the human rights situation since the September 2000 eruption of the Palestinian uprising for an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

It said the Palestinian attacks on civilians violated "fundamental principles of humanity which are reflected in international humanitarian law. In the manner in which they are being committed ... they also amount to crimes against humanity."

Ya think?
More bad news for baseball.
NEW YORK (AP) - On the eve of resumption of baseball's labor talks, commissioner Bud Selig said a major league team might not be able to meet its next payroll.

Selig did not identify the team, whose payroll is Monday. In an interview Wednesday in Milwaukee with the Houston Chronicle and other papers, Selig also said a second unidentified team had so much debt it might not finish the season.

There was no way to corroborate his remarks. Reached at his home Wednesday night, Selig refused to discuss the subject.

"I'm done. Major league baseball's credit lines are at the maximum," Selig said in the Chronicle on Thursday. "We've done everything we can to help people by arranging credit lines. Frankly, at this point in time, we don't have that luxury anymore.

"If a club can't make it, I have to let 'em go. I'm a traditionalist, and I hate all that. It pains me to do it. I just don't have any more alternatives."

We must give support to the people of Iran, where big changes seem to be afoot - massive demonstrations against the mullahs, the recent resignation of an important cleric. What does the State Department have to say about it? Here's a transcription (via Michael Leeden in NRO).
QUESTION: Scheduled for tomorrow, there are supposedly going to be major demonstrations in Tehran. Does the State Department have a message for the demonstrators, given US interest in this recently?


QUESTION: You have no message?

MR. BOUCHER: We don't.

QUESTION: This is supposed to be a really big demonstration and, you know, the "axis of evil" speech from the President, un-elected few — (laughter) —

QUESTION: Is that the official US line?

MR. BOUCHER: That's the official US line. No, the official US line is, you know, we don't comment when people demonstrate. I mean, when do we give messages to demonstrators?

QUESTION: Well, no.

MR. BOUCHER: I guess — no, I remember. Bob Strauss went out the night that the Soviet Union fell out, fell apart, and he gave the liberty message to demonstrators. That's about the only instance that I can remember that we've been out there. Certainly in places as far away as Tehran, the idea that we would have a message every time there's a demonstration is a little far-fetched.

QUESTION: All right. Well, it's just I asked it because in the context that the President did call them a member of the "axis of evil" and mentioned the un-elected few. There's been a lot of talk about supporting the people who want democracy there, and you know, they're having a big demonstration tomorrow, so I thought it would be a nice way to.

MR. BOUCHER: Iran has been more and more open as time goes on, and we'll watch that process from afar at this point.

We are missing a huge opportunity to support a moderate, pro-Western (at least more pro-Western than what we have now) revolution in one of the few bright spots in the Middle East. Leeden puts it best.
I know it reads like unrestrained satire, verging on slapstick. But it's real. Perhaps the best therapy for comrade Boucher is to lock him in a room and make him listen to the collected speeches of Ronald Reagan and read the collected works of Vladimir Bukovsky, Lech Walesa, and Natan Sharansky.

This strikes a little too close to home (via Andew Sullivan).
BERKELEY, Calif., July 9 (Reuters) - Is "coffee with a conscience" sexy or just overly politically correct?

City leaders in Berkeley, the famously liberal college town near San Francisco, decided on Tuesday to leave that question to the voters, opting against an executive ban on the sale of coffee deemed politically incorrect.

Measure Sec-C, or "sexy" as it has been dubbed, would require all coffee sold by Berkeley's roughly 300 cafes and restaurants to be certified "fair trade" -- meaning that it has been brewed from beans grown in accordance with strict guidelines protecting workers and the environment, usually in the Third World.

Aside from the questionable use of the term "fair trade" to describe this, it actually seems like a noble effort (noble, not good). And implemented on a small scale such as Berkeley, probably wouldn't have much of a difference in the world of coffee production. But think if the whole of the U.S. suddenly stopped importing any non-organic or shade-grown coffee. That would absolutely devastate the already struggling coffee industry in many African nations, for whom coffee is a main source of revenue. But we could all sleep a little better, knowing that our coffee was picked, in the shade, by unionized workers.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

One more thing about the All Star game. What the hell was that opening ceremony? Is there no dignity in baseball? It's great that all those folks were honored, but did Hank Aaron have to appear from under... I don't even know what to call it. We couldn't stop laughing. All that was missing was the fan parachute guy. Or Up With People bungee jumping from the roof...
UPDATE: I completely forgot about the mangled National Anthem.
A lot of people more qualified than me are writing about last night's All Star game (see here, here and here), so I'll just say that, in my opinion, the game these days is pretty much a waste of time. Even after Curt Schilling told A-Rod that he would only throw him fastballs, A-Rod struck out on three pitches. Not to take anything away from Schilling's fastball, but come on. A-Rod could have at least managed to foul off more than one pitch.

There doesn't seem to be much to cheer about in sports these days. A baseball strike looming, mostly because of a bunch of whiny, overpaid children. (Nomar Garciaparra actually had the gall to say "We're doing it for all those kids in the sandlots who may someday be major leaguers." Bullshit, you have nobody but yourself in mind.) A warrant out for Allen Iverson's arrest. Ted William's trashy children fighting over his body.
Two bright spots, though. Lance Armstrong going for his fourth consecutive TDF win. He'll get it, too. And the guy from the (football) Cardinals giving up his multi-million dollar contract to take an $18,000/year gig with... the Army. And give him even more credit for refusing to talk to the media about his decision.
More good news fom Iran.
A senior religious figure in Iran has resigned and issued a bitter condemnation of the way the country is being run.

Ayatollah Jalaluddin Taheri has held the position of Friday prayers speaker in the major city of Isfahan for the past 30 years, but he has increasingly been at odds with Iran's hard-liners.

Ayatollah Taheri's resignation came as a bombshell in the clerical establishment that has controlled much of the power in Iran since the Islamic revolution in which he himself played a significant role.

Much of what Ayatollah Taheri had to say reflected a concern, which appears to be gaining ground within the clergy, that the growing rift between the powers that be and the people may be threatening to discredit the clergy as a whole.

While Ayatollah Taheri is associated with the reformist camp, a number of senior conservative clerics have also warned in recent months that the country risked a social explosion because of the system's failure to meet the expectations of the people.

In a first reaction to the ayatollah's resignation, Isfahan's five reformist members of parliament issued a statement sympathising with his pain and expressing their support.

Mark Steyn steals my "denial is a river in Eygpt" line...

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Ted Widmer, writing about Moby in Slate, touches on what's wrong with electronic music...
. What's missing is the organic feeling of real people bouncing real musical ideas off each other and living in the moment—the basic performance honesty that true gospel never strays from, which is why the best gospel is always heard live under the tent or in church. There are beautiful bits and orts of music, but after rote repetition, they lose their appeal and you start to hear them as interchangeable pieces of a rock-by-numbers kit.

Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of electronic music...Ok, I like a small percentage of electronic music (Moby included). But it just isn't the same as a few guys with guitars, drums and keys set up in a studio jamming. I'll take Exile on Main Street, which just happens to be on my friend's turntable as I write, over any electronic music ever made. Come on, honey child, I'm begging you...indeed.
As a life-long, dedicated carnivore I find this pretty silly:
Radical vegans - who avoid any product that comes from animals - are now buzzing about the evils of honey.

They claim its production uses the labor of oppressed worker bees, according to a Time magazine report on the growing numbers of American vegetarians.

Come to think of it, as a rational human being I find that silly. Unfortunately, our side seems pretty silly too:
"Vegetarians don't live longer, they just look older," said South Dakota cattle rancher Jody Brown. "If animals weren't meant to be eaten, then why are they made out of meat?"

Brown overlooks the obvious - humans are made out of meat as well. I would like to have a bumper sticker that says "Vegetarians don't live longer, they just look older." A friend of mine used to have a bumper sticker that read "Brighten your day, eat beef," with a picture of a cow. One day we came out to his car to find that someone had taken the time to write a page long anti-meat screed and stuck it on the windshield. So we went and barbequed.
From the Nice Shot Dept.
"Canadian snipers are being credited with more than 20 kills in Afghanistan, including one from 2,400 metres away--almost a mile and a half," the National Post reports. "If validated, the kill would be the longest shot made by a military sniper in combat, according to the latest issue of Soldier of Fortune magazine."

Happy birthday to Don Rumsfeld.
Nicholas Kristof, in the NYT this morning, tries to compare Islamic bigotry to bigotry here, especially among conservative Christians, and fails miserably. He seems to be missing the big point. While it may be true that "appalling hate speech about Islam has circulated in the U.S. on talk radio, on the Internet and in particular among conservative Christian pastors," Islamic hate has resulted in a large hole in downtown NYC filled with 3,000 dead bodies. In addition, while our national leaders go out of their way to get out the "Islam is a religion of peace" message, a quick glance at shows that many Islamic leaders do no such thing. He goes on to say that Islam is the world's fastest growing religion because it "confer(s) dignity and self-respect." Unless you're female. Then Kristof offers up this:
Critics often quote from the Koran, for example, to argue that Islam is intrinsically violent ("fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them"). But the Koran, like the Bible, can be quoted for any purpose. After all, the New Testament embraces slavery ("Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling").

Of course, while radical Islamic scholars regularly use the words of the Koran to justify violence, when was the last time you heard Jerry Falwell call for the return of slavery? In fact it was Christian groups that spear-headed the abolition movement. And slavery is still practiced in Sudan, a Muslim country.
Now I'm not disagreeing that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, but to compare the words of a few on the extreme right to the deadly actions of many (yes, many) is just ridiculous.
This is just embarrasing:
MIAMI - The "Janet Reno Dance Party" isn't just a comedy skit anymore.
Reno, the former attorney general who wants to become Florida's next governor, will be holding a dance party fund-raiser July 19 at Level, a trendy club on Miami's South Beach.

NBC's "Saturday Night Live" had an ongoing skit featuring Will Ferrell dressed in drag as Reno and leading a dance party.

Reno herself made a cameo appearance on 'SNL' before leaving Washington, breaking through a false wall and performing the twist with Ferrell, dressed as her lookalike.
..."I'll pay $25 to go myself, if she can dance around a disco half as well as she can dance around the issues," said Todd Harris, a spokesman for Gov. Jeb Bush's re-election campaign.

BARCELONA, Spain, July 9 (UPI) -- Whistling, shouting and clapping activists Tuesday drowned out Tuesday's speech of U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson at the 14th International AIDS Conference.

About 50 to 100 demonstrators carrying signs denouncing U.S. AIDS policy demonstrated for nearly 30 minutes, although Thompson gamely recited his remarks in an auditorium at the conference.

"He was going to tell lies and we shut him down," said Milano Mark of New York City from the activist group ActUp/New York.

The moment Thompson began his speech, demonstrators erupted with cries of "Shame, shame, shame." Some blew high-pitched whistles while others in the audience clapped and stamped their feet.

About 50 protesters marched in the aisles and to the edge of the stage where Thompson was standing. Security personnel blocked the demonstrators from reaching the stage and at no time was the secretary threatened, although the group held signs that blocked the audience's view of Thompson.

The signs read: "Wanted Bush and Thompson for Murder and Neglect of PWAs (people with AIDS)" and "Where is the $10 billion?" The latter was a reference to the $10 billion per year price tag health agencies have suggested is necessary to treat all people with AIDS in the world. The U.S. government's current commitment to the fund -- which has raised $2.8 billion worldwide -- is about $700 million.

I'm not even going to get into the issue of why the US should be responsible to raise all 10 billion. I just wanted to point out that in San Francisco, one of ActUp's big issues is that the government has been lying and that HIV does not cause AIDS. Real responsible.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Cold Fury posts a very interesting e-mail:
I'm in Intermodal transportation, rail-truck/truck-rail, you know the drill. Anyway, lately the industry has been hobbled by an acute shortage of equipment, trailers & containers. A seasonal shortage is not unusual and is expected every fall. This year however the shortage is way early, like now. And in past years, the equipment always accumulated on the East or West coast and the shortage was felt at manufacturing centers. Rail Roads would reposition empties at their cost to the interior. This year it's different. There is no equipment to be had anywhere. Not East coast, not West coast, not in the interior. The last time this happened was just prior to the Gulf War. The military sucked up the containers/trailer and rail space prior to the public announcement of Desert Shield. Could the equipment shortages the Intermodal industry is seeing now be a precursor to a military build-up? Something for you to consider....
Good insight on what the upcoming Iraqi adventure will look like - from VodkaPundit.
I know it's a bit late, but I thought I'd weigh in on The Who. I personally never got The Who. They were a decent band, but I never understood how they could be put on the same pedestal as the Beatles or Stones. Keith Moon's reputation seems to be based more on his manic drug-taking than his manic drumming. I've never enjoyed the constant-soloing style of drumming, which is why I never dug Cream. And the fact that you can pass out on stage several times in one show does not impress me. Pete Townshend is at best a competent guitarist and songwriter. (A rock opera about pinball? What's next, a musical about the common cat or the King of Siam?) He does win the prize for being the biggest pompous asshole in the history of popular music - not a category easily won. I did like John Entwistle's playing, although his contributions to the bass are not as great as say, Paul McCartney's. And Roger Daltry is no Mick Jagger. Not even Diamond Dave.
And now to lose all credibilty I will admit that my favorite Who song is Eminence Front.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Beatles guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said on Wednesday in a July 4 message to Americans nervous about new Sept. 11-style attacks that he could kill world terrorism with love -- but he would need $1 billion to do it.

"July 4 could be a great day for freedom," Maharishi, who brought Transcendental Meditation to the West more than 40 years ago and is a spiritual inspiration to some 6 million people worldwide, said in a conference call from the Netherlands.

Maharishi said that with $1 billion he could train 40,000 expert meditators, or "Vedic Pandits", who would generate enough good vibes to save the world. His press office said $85 million toward that goal had already been raised.

Apparently denial is a river in Eygpt:
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) -- The wife of an Egyptian who gunned down two people at the Los Angeles airport said Monday that her husband is innocent and that he gave no hint of violence in a phone call hours before the shooting.

``My husband didn't do such a thing. This is nonsense,'' 41-year-old Hala Mohammed Sadeq El-Awadly told The Associated Press on Monday in Cairo.

Of course, the US is to blame...
El-Awadly said she did not believe her husband was responsible for the July 4 shooting. She offered no explanation for how he could be innocent when so many people saw him open fire, but said he was being blamed because he was Arab and Muslim.

``He is a victim of injustice,'' she said three times. ``In America, they hate Islam and Arabs after Sept. 11.''

Interesting piece on Iran in NRO.
A refutation (scroll down, permalink doesn't seem to work) of Malthus and the WWF's new report on the death of the planet by H.D. Miller (via Instapundit).
Michael Jackson is blasting the racist recording industry, and Tommy Mottola in particular.
Jacko dished up a huge smacko to music world heavyweight Tommy Mottola yesterday during a cross-town tour of New York in which he carried a sign telling the record mogul to "go back to hell."

Michael Jackson's day on the town saw the usually reclusive Gloved One making a string of appearances from Harlem to the East Village. At each stop he blasted Mottola, calling him "devilish" and a "racist."

The article in the NYP is pretty funny, especially this line:
Jackson, who is more likely to be found holed up at his Neverland Ranch in California with a coterie of young friends, started his day in the spotlight alongside Rev. Al Sharpton at the gadfly's Harlem headquarters.

Sharpton, to his credit, is rejecting Jackson's attack.
The Rev. Al Sharpton yesterday said Wacko Jacko's bizarre attack on Tommy Mottola was unfair and unfounded, and called the Sony honcho a staunch supporter of black artists.
"I have known Tommy for 15 or 20 years, and never once have I known him to say or do anything that would be considered racist," Sharpton said.

Fortunately for Jackson he hasn't been black since 1987.
And strangely enough a Jackson 5 song just came on the radio.

Feel free to stay, Louis.
BAGDAD, Iraq, July 6 (UPI) -- Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan held a series of meetings Saturday with Iraqi officials on the second day of his visit to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, to discuss ways to avoid a possible U.S. military campaign.

The official Iraqi News Agency, INA, said Farrakhan, on a "solidarity" visit to Iraq, held talks with Islamic Affairs Minister Abdul Munem Saleh on "ways to confront the American threats against Iraq."

INA quoted the African-American Muslim leader as saying "the Muslim American people are praying to the almighty God to grant victory to Iraq."

As a blow to almighty God, an Iraqi victory seems pretty unlikely, given the history. (As an aside, couldn't Iraq come up with a more creative name for their state run news agency than INA?)
The article continues with the usual everything-is-the-fault-of-sanctions b.s.
Mubarak described the resolution as "arbitrary that further complicates the import of medicine and medical equipment to Iraq." He added the total lifting of the sanctions was "the only way to end the suffering of the Iraqi people." (emphasis mine)

Really? I can think of another way.
President George W. Bush would rout Al Gore by more than 2 to 1 in Iowa, a state he lost in 2000, if a rematch of the historic election were held today, according to the latest Iowa Poll.

A year and a half after Gore edged Bush by fewer than 5,000 votes in Iowa and by a similarly narrow margin in the popular vote nationwide, Bush has turned the tables on his former opponent, prevailing in Iowa by landslide proportions among likely general-election voters, 64 percent to 27 percent, the poll shows.

Fortunately for Gore, he no longer relies on polls.
From the Des Moines Register
This seems highly unlikely, but a Jordanian magazine is reporting that Arafat will step down in the next few weeks.
AMMAN, Jordan, July 8 (UPI) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is expected to step down in the coming weeks through an agreement between the United States, Israel and certain Palestinian and Arab parties, a Jordanian magazine said Monday.

The opposition periodical, Al-Majd, which is considered close to Syria, quoted unidentified high-ranking Palestinian sources as saying the president of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Ahmad Qurai, known as Abu Alaa, is Arafat's most likely successor.

They said Abu Alaa has the upper hand over another favored candidate, Mahmud Abbas, who goes by the name of Abu Mazen and is secretary-general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization,

The sources said Arafat was almost acquiescent about stepping down willingly after being briefed about a U.S. and Israeli request to replace him as a condition for restarting peace negotiations and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

Of course...
The reports about Arafat's projected departure coincided with denials by Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt that they were involved in contacts aimed at ousting him.

Given the guy doesn't even think we're talking about him when we call for a new Palestinian leadership, this report is probably a little premature, to say the least.
Another tidbit from the UNDP Arab Human Development Report mentioned below: the Arab world has fewer internet connections per capita than sub-Saharan Africa.