Saturday, March 13, 2004

Arabs worry about Madrid blame 

While condemning the Madrid bombings, many Arab papers are worried that Arabs will be blamed. The BBC has some editorial comments from around the Arab world.

This is a clear attempt to brand Arabs with terrorism. -Jordan's Al-Ra'y
It is? Maybe I'm unique in this, but I won't hold "Arabs" responsible for terrorism any more than I hold "white people" responsible for Columbine. It's possible to blame some Arabs without blaming all Arabs. But at the risk of stereotyping... you're all way too sensitive. Get off this "poor me" inferiority complex already.

It is very regrettable that some analysts and leaders rushed to link this terrorist act with so-called "Muslim terrorists" without verifying the truth of this insane statement [claim of responsibility by Abu-Hafs al-Masri brigades]... This insane statement has soiled the name of Islam... Islam is innocent of these bombings. -Jordan's Al-Dustur
Absolutely. Islam--the real Islam--is innocent of these bombings. But so many terrorists do consider themselves faithful Muslims fighting God's war against the kafir. (And when it's against Israel, a majority of your fellow believers support their "holy war.")

And finally,

Arabs and Muslims cannot commit such an act. We therefore condemn the act and hope that the Spanish government will be able to find out the truth. -London's Al-Arab al-Alamiyah
And what if they find out that Arabs and Muslims did it? I don't think anyone buys the "Arabs and Muslims can't do this" line any more. It didn't work on 9/11, it didn't work after Bali, and it isn't going to work now. Give it up.

It is far from clear who committed the Madrid bombings. But those who rush to exonerate Arabs and Muslims without any evidence are no better than those who rush to blame them. Let's let the facts play out as they will, okay?

UPDATE: Some Arabs and Muslims have been arrested in connection with the bombings...
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Not a good idea 

It's hard to believe that the Bush/Cheney campaign didn't see this coming:

The Bush-Cheney presidential campaign disabled features of a tool on its website Thursday that pranksters were using to mock the Republican presidential ticket.

The tool originally let users generate a full-size campaign poster in PDF format, customized with a short slogan of their choice. But Bush critics began using the site to place their own snarky political messages above a Bush-Cheney '04 logo and a disclaimer stating that the poster was paid for by Bush-Cheney '04, Inc.
Someone--it might have been Atrios, or Democratic Underground, or some other site, I forget--was keeping track of which words the poster generator would and would not let you insert into a slogan. I guess they'll have to find something even wittier to do now.

UPDATE: It was Wonkette, per the article. Duh. Real classy site, that one.
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Nuke fear 

Drudge is being his typical alarmist self, saying "CANADA WORRIED BY NUKE MISSILE MISHAP... DEVELOPING..."

Well, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has the actual story. And it's really a whole lot of nothing, but it's hard to tell that from the article.

It might not have been a "broken arrow" nuclear missile accident, but a mishap that damaged a Bangor Trident submarine ballistic missile and was kept under wraps by the Navy until this week threatens broken trust on an international scale.
Why it was "kept under wraps" is because it wasn't a big deal. We'll get to that part. First, more fearmongering.

Libby Davies, a member of Canada's national parliament from Vancouver East, yesterday said she intends to seek the same kind of answers for Canadians that her U.S. congressional counterparts are seeking for Americans.

"If something happens in Bangor, we're the ones upwind. Nuclear fallout knows no border," Davies said.

"The whole issue of transparency in government is fundamental to our democratic system. I think when something is covered up it is pretty outrageous."
Okay, by now you're wondering how close the Navy came to wiping out half of Puget Sound, right? Wonder no more, because here is what has everyone up in arms:

The incident occurred when a missile being extracted from the USS Georgia's No. 16 tube smacked into an access ladder left in the tube, punching a 9-inch hole in the missile's nose cone.
So there you have it. Missile smacks ladder. Ladder punches hole in some sheet metal on missile. In terms of the risk to the surrounding population, this is about as dangerous as a baseball crashing through a window.

It takes a whole lot more than bumping into a ladder to detonate a nuke. These things don't just sit around in submarines and silos, waiting for someone to make one false move. You have to really mean it to cause a nuclear detonation in one of these weapons. An instructor of mine gave a good example: Many modern explosives can potentially detonate from the shock of a hammer blow. But you could pound on a nuclear warhead all day long with a sledgehammer and nothing would ever happen. You could dribble the fissile core on concrete. They are hardy devices (thank goodness) that can survive drops from various altitudes without detonating. Just ask the people of Savannah, Georgia, who are alive today because nukes don't explode unless someone wants them to.

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World's tiniest violin 

Robert Fisk on Abu Abbas:

When 55-year-old Mohamed Aboul Abbas died mysteriously in a US prison camp in Iraq on Tuesday, nobody bothered to call his family.

His American captors had given no indication to the International Red Cross that he had been unwell and his wife Reem first heard that he was dead when she watched an Arab television news show.
Boo frickin hoo. Leon Klinghoffer's wife watched her wheelchair-bound husband get shot and thrown overboard at your husband's order, Reem. At least you'll probably get a funeral. Consider yourself extremely fortunate that your husband didn't end up as a red stain at the bottom of a bomb crater.

Yet in his last letter to his family, written just seven weeks ago and shown to The Independent in Baghdad yesterday, the Palestinian militant wrote that, "I am in good form and in good health", adding that he hoped to be freed soon. So what happened to Mohamed Aboul Abbas?
I'll let the Qu'ran answer that one:

`They who believe not shall have garments of fire fitted to them; boiling water shall be poured upon their heads; their bowels and also their skins shall be dissolved thereby, and they shall be beaten with maces of iron. So often as they shall endeavor to get out of hell because of the anguish of their torments, they shall be dragged back into the same, and their tormentors shall say unto them, taste ye the pain of burning.' (22:19-22)
That sounds just about right for someone like Abu Abbas.
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Friday, March 12, 2004

We aren't the only ones 

That is, we aren't the only ones who stoop low enough to compare our political opponents to Hitler. South Korea has joined the club.

But the more interesting part of the story, to me, is the apology, which I don't think you would ever see in this country. See MoveOn.org's circumspect treatment of their Bush/Hitler ads for comparison. South Korea's Kuomintang didn't issue a statement saying that some junior staffer slipped the Hitler ad into the paper without authorization. It took responsibility and apologized.

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Thursday, March 11, 2004

Annan shocked, indignant 

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed "shock and indignation" at today's Madrid bombings.

When was the last time a U.N. official expressed the same sentiment after a bombing in Israel?

By the way, The Command Post is doing an outstanding job of staying on top of the Madrid bombing story. Head over there for much of the latest info.

UPDATE: It didn't take long for someone on the left to start yapping about how bad this bombing is for the Spanish "progressives." You know, Billmon, maybe if "progressives" weren't such pantywaists about confronting danger, you wouldn't be so afraid of the right gaining political viability when terrorists strike. It boils down to one thing: People's perceptions about the best way to confront terror. Are trials, debates, and UN resolutions the best approach, or is it better to shut the terrorists down financially, cut off their communications, pin them down physically and then eliminate them? I know what the terrorists prefer.
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Why we need fewer lawyers 

Because things like this are far too common.

In more innocent times, mothers visited schools to bake brownies with kindergartners, fathers chaperoned field trips, grandfathers came in to help 6-year-olds learn to read, and no one gave it a second thought.

But in these complicated, nervous days, a growing number of school districts nationwide are adopting rigorous security policies for parents and others who want to volunteer.

Take Rio Rancho, N.M., a district just outside Albuquerque. Under a policy adopted last year, parents who want to mentor in the schools must produce character references and go through a criminal background check, fingerprinting and training.
Before you say, "But those are just isolated cases," let me tell you that I know people who work at schools in various places, ranging from Maine, to Michigan, to Maryland, and this kind of thing is happening everywhere.

And of course, it's being done in the name of safety for the children. But it's not really about safety. It's about making a big show of exhausting every screening method so the school district won't get sued for negligence when a parent convinces a kid that he/she was wronged by someone.

So the schools spend money on training sessions, fingerprinting, and criminal background checks... or they get sued and spend even more money. How many books could be purchased with that money? How many classroom assistants could be hired? What is deprived from the children when education money is not spent to teach them anything, but to keep lawyers off the schools' backs?

Lawyers have made us into a risk-averse society. We can never achieve zero risk, but God forbid something unpleasant happens, because then you'll be sued for accepting a slight risk and endangering others.

I get even more incensed reading the other headlines lately. People talk about suing fast food places, I assume for advertising Big Macs as diet food and forcing people to eat three at a time. McDonald's does not make you eat their food. Then people sue gun makers. Bushmaster did not make John Allen Muhammed and Lee Boyd Malvo shoot people. They made that decision themselves. You might as well sue Boeing for making airliners that are known to be hijacked occasionally. That's an unacceptable risk to the consumer! Sue them!

Will we ever be responsible for our own actions again, or are we already a nation of people who look for the nearest deep-pocketed organization to blame for everything that happens?

UPDATE: If all of the above is too abstract, then let's put it in dollar terms. How much do you think lawyers indirectly add to the cost of your medical care, or the price of an airline ticket, or even a gallon of gasoline for your car or a cart full of groceries? Across the whole economy, it's in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that it could save between $25.3 and $44.3 billion of your money every year, on health care alone, if limits were placed on medical malpractice damages. Just think of how much health care that money could buy for the uninsured or underinsured.

And just think of how much excess spending goes on in other sectors...
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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Tonya Harding signs minor league hockey contract 

And she's making her first appearance on "Guaranteed Fight Night." I'm sure the people of Indianapolis are very proud.
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Abbas memorialized 

Murderous terrorist Abu Abbas died in U.S. custody recently. Good riddance. Mr. Abbas led the Achille Lauro hijacking, in which Leon Klinghoffer, an elderly, wheelchair-bound American Jew, was shot and dumped overboard. So it's obvious what kind of person Abu Abbas was, right? How about this:

"an exceptional combatant and nationalist chief who devoted his life to serving his people and homeland." - Yasser Arafat

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Rwandan accusations 

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has been accused of masterminding the downing of President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane in 1994. The attack on the plane and the death of Habyarimana triggered the Tutsi genocide at the hands of the Hutu majority, in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed.

A French newspaper says an official report has blamed Rwandan President Paul Kagame for a rocket attack that triggered the genocide 10 years ago.

Le Monde says French police have concluded that Mr Kagame gave direct orders for the rocket attack on then President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane.
Does that ever smell fishy. First off, France has every reason to point the finger away from itself and the Hutu Power genocidaires it armed and supported. France will naturally try to blame the "other side" for setting off the genocide, because otherwise France itself is deeply guilty of what happened. Secondly, the virulently anti-Tutsi radio station RTLM foretold violence in Kigali just a couple of days before Habyarimana's plane was shot down, while the similarly violent newspaper Kangura had predicted that "Habyarimana will die in March," missing the mark by less than a week. Each of those media outlets screamed for death to the Tutsis before and after the shootdown. Paul Kagame is a Tutsi, and was the leader of the main Tutsi militia at the time of the genocide. While he would have had a good reason for wanting Habyarimana dead, he would hardly have tipped off the Hutu Power media beforehand.

The second story about Rwanda today is about the trial of singer Simon Bikindi, who has been charged with six counts of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Bikindi denies the charges.

If half of his indictment (pdf) is true, he doesn't have a leg to stand on.
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Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Muslim nations praise Iraq constitution 

The Organization of the Islamic Conference, a group of 56 Muslim nations, has praised the signing of the Iraqi interim constitution. In addition, the governments of Saudi Arabia and Iran have voiced their support. So, can we look forward to similar laws being adopted in those countries? Don't hold your breath.
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Halal polio vaccine in Nigeria 

Conspiracy-theorist Nigerian Muslims can take heart, for their polio vaccines will no longer be tainted with sterility-inducing agents, or black magic, or whatever it was they suspected the evil Americans were putting in the vials.

The northern Nigerian state of Kano is seeking polio vaccines from Asian countries to be used in a mass immunisation programme...

Kano suspended immunisations following reports by Muslim clerics that the vaccine was contaminated with an anti-fertility agent as part of a US plot to render Muslim women infertile...

Mr Sule said they opted to seek the vaccine from Muslim states in the Asian continent where they had developed their own.
If this means that the people with the world's highest rate of polio infection are going to stop letting their kids suffer and die from the disease, then good for them. But damn, these people have some crazy ideas.
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Monday, March 08, 2004

A victory for small schools 

Taking a little break from the news of the world, I just want to say congratulations to "tiny" St. Joseph's for reaching the top of the college basketball poll.

Coming from a slightly less tiny school, I can't help but root for the small schools as they go up against the huge universities. I know how it feels to see my school break into the polls, which has only happened once (in football), since I first arrived there. So St. Joe's must feel pretty good about this.

And I'm happy for them, even if their hockey fans a few years ago had the really annoying habits of beating a bass drum and reading opposing players' names on their jerseys and yelling "(last name), you suck!" (No hard feelings, guys and girls.)
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The Islamic Republic of Hamas, Part II 

Following up on an earlier post, I would like to share this unfortunate news...

Hamas setting up army in the Gaza Strip

The Hamas is apparently taking Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan seriously. The terror group is currently in the process of establishing an army in the Gaza Strip, with the intention of taking over the region following the expected Israeli withdrawal.

Hundreds of activists have been recruited to the “popular army,” expected to be tasked with taking over the Gaza Strip. The militia's leaders are amassing weapons, training warriors, and have decided on a command structure.

Israeli sources assume the popular army has one intention only – to fill the vacuum in the Gaza Strip after the Israeli withdrawal, take control of the area and support the Hamas, after the Palestinian Authority collapses.
Whatever it takes, that cannot be allowed to happen. The Palestinian Authority might be beyond saving, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, if a better organization takes its place. But Hamas isn't it.
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Iraqi Interim Constitution 

Sean-Paul Kelley has posted the full text of the Iraqi Interim Constitution. After reading it, I am very impressed with what the Governing Council has written, and I'm proud of them. Beyond that, I can't help but think that people who can write such a law will be able to govern a free and democratic Iraq. It's a very encouraging read, and I highly recommend it if you're interested in the future of Iraq and the Middle East.
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