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Friday, April 23, 2004

Stick to the script! 

U.S. Soldiers Re-Enlist in Strong Numbers

As of March 31 — halfway through the Army's fiscal year — 28,406 soldiers had signed on for another tour of duty, topping the six-month goal of 28,377. The Army's goal is to re-enlist 56,100 soldiers by the end of September...

The Marines, which along with the Army have borne the brunt of combat in Iraq, said they have already fulfilled 90 percent of their retention goal for the fiscal year for getting Marines to re-up after their initial commitment. The Air Force and the Navy said they, too, are exceeding goals for getting airmen and sailors to re-enlist.
But... but... didn't anyone tell these guys their morale is low?
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Schizoid UN 

These two articles were posted two hours apart on the BBC website:

UN envoy condemns Israeli policy:

The United Nations envoy to Iraq has sparked a row after describing Israeli policy towards the Palestinians as "the big poison in the region".
Gaza plan 'may aid peace drive':

The UN special envoy to the Middle East has said that Israeli plans to withdraw from Gaza could bring in a new era of peace-making in the Middle East.

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So why are you there? 

There are new allegations of a massacre in the Sudanese region of Darfur. The UN's response? You know, the UN that was recently allowed into the country to investigate these kinds of allegations? Refusal to censure Sudan.

The allegation comes as the United Nations Human Rights Commission adopted a watered down statement on Darfur.

The United States had pushed for a much harder hitting resolution criticising Sudanese government abuses.

Unlike the original draft resolution, the text does not go into details about the targeting of civilians by the Arab militias in Sudan, or mention rape, sexual assault and forced removals of black communities in the area.

Rather than condemning Sudan, it expresses solidarity with the country in overcoming the present situation.
Tell me again what the hell this joke of a UN is good for?

The UN says more than 10,000 people have been killed and over one million displaced over the past year as a result of conflict in Darfur.
But they'll refuse to condemn it, and express solidarity with Sudan. I guess 10,000 dead and a million displaced isn't serious enough to make the UN point a finger at someone. Is there any bigger farce in the world today than the United Nations?

At least the organization still has a handful of moral people left:

Human rights campaigners expressed outrage on Thursday that a leaked UN report strongly critical of the Sudanese government was withheld from the UN debate.

The report, seen by the BBC, details claims of rape, looting and killing of non-Arabs by militias with government help.

It says the atrocities in Darfur "may constitute war crimes and/or crimes against humanity".

It was compiled by a UN team of experts who visited Chad to speak to refugees from the conflict.
What could it possibly take to spur the UN into action, if this won't do it?
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Headline bias? 

This NYT article's headline when I read it in the wee hours this morning was "Maine Takes a Conservative Path on Its Pensions." Now it has been updated, with "Cautious" replacing "Conservative."

The article is positive about Maine's approach, so the change in wording is understandable. The state's policies are framed as a good thing, and we all know that "conservative" is bad, right?

By the way, it only took someone at the Times 23 minutes to catch this greivous error and correct it. When you need to get your bias out to the masses, you can't be too quick about it.

UPDATE: The Boston Globe kept the headline as is.
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Saudis embrace jihad (just not at home) 

The New York Times brings us a disturbing, if totally unsurprising, look at support for terrorism in Saudi Arabia. In a nutshell, terrorism inside the Kingdom: heinous, inhuman crime for which the perps must be cursed by God and condemned to death. Terrorism against the filthy kafir Americans, two thumbs way up.

It's hard to restrain myself from letting loose a string of invective about these people, but I will. I'll let them speak for themselves.

"May God curse you, you vermin, you people of filth and not jihad." --Web posting after the Riyadh bombing.
"People are calling all the time to congratulate us — crying from happiness and envy." --Brother of a Saudi terrorist killed in Iraq.
A place where people are happy and envious of a family who lost a young man is a sick, sick society indeed.
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RIP Pat Tillman 

Pat Tillman, Army Ranger and former NFL safety, was killed in Afghanistan while fighing Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists.

Tillman believed in something higher than football stardom, and literally put his money where his mouth was. He passed up a three-year, $3.6 million contract to enlist, after he decided that it was the right thing to do. His brother, Kevin, a former minor league baseball player, did the same, and the brothers served in the same Ranger platoon in Afghanistan.

America, Pat Tillman was one of your finest. He was a gifted athlete, a scholar who graduated summa cum laude, and a dedicated citizen who decided that his physical and mental skills would be put to better use on the battlefield than on the football field. He died fighting against the people who attacked us on 9/11 and their supporters.

Pat Tillman could have stayed in Arizona to become a great football hero. Instead, he went to Afghanistan as a great American hero.
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LCPL Boudreaux's mom? 

A visitor claiming to be LCPL Boudreaux's mom has posted comments in this Graphictruth.com thread.

All of you are wrong about this young man. The picture has been altered. This young marine wound give his life for any of you; even those that wish him harm. He would stop a bullet for anyone and because some fool altered the picture and thought it was funny the rest of his life will be awful. His family lives in fear every minute now because of the negative comments on the internet. They all stand behind him because they know he would not have done anything to hurt his God, his nation or his family. Back off; you've hurt him enough.

The Proud Mother of a very special Marine: LCPL Ted J. Boudreaux Jr.
Another user dismissed this comment as "coming from Freepland," and I can't say that I blame him/her. I would be skeptical too.

But upon being challenged, the name she gave checks out in this Houma Courier (Louisiana) article, as does the email address she gives at this Houma, Louisiana company.

The Houma Courier article is pretty interesting. In it, we find yet another claim about what the sign said in the original photo:

"They were not the original. The original was in a group of photos he sent in the e-mail," Gustafson said. "It said 'Welcome Marines’ or something like that. There was not anything unusual or offensive."
And for the first time that I'm aware of, LCPL Boudreaux speaks:

Now working in retail, Boudreaux was reached by telephone Tuesday and confirmed his mother’s account of the photo, but would not discuss it in detail.

"There is nothing really I can say," Boudreaux said. "I will stand back and wait and hopefully let everything work itself out."

The reservist did say the original photo was taken in the town of Al Kut, and he spoke of the many children his reserve unit made contact with while there.

"Plenty of times little kids would come up to us, we would be out in town or on patrol," Boudreaux said. "We had (military "Meals Ready to Eat") and Skittles and Starbursts and we would hand them out to the little kids."
Finally, it seems like Boudreaux just can't catch a break. When his mom said he would stop a bullet for anyone, she wasn't kidding:

In August 2001 Boudreaux was kidnapped and shot during a carjacking at the Southland Mall.

He and a companion, Jason Kaylor, were approached by a Jefferson Parish man, Dominic Robinson, who brandished a gun and demanded Kaylor’s customized Nissan Stanza.

Boudreaux was wounded during an ensuing struggle, after which Robinson drove the car to the Mississippi state line and released him.

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Thursday, April 22, 2004

Empty gesture 

Twenty members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, meeting in Malaysia, have said they will contribute troops to Iraq if certain conditions are met.

Islamic nations have said they could contribute troops to Iraq if the UN takes charge of the operation.

The offer was made by officials from about 20 of the Muslim countries attending an emergency summit in Putrajaya, Malaysia.
Of course, taking charge of Iraq is something that the UN, by its own admission, is unwilling to do. So this is just an empty, meaningless gesture, because those countries know the UN will never take over. Therefore, they will never have to cough up the troops. That's real guts for you.
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Kerry's military record 

After looking through John Kerry's Navy fitness reports, I was going to comment on his record from my point of view as a junior Navy officer subject to similar evaluations. However, Phil Carter has already done a fine job, and I really have nothing to add. It's an impressive record, pure and simple, even given the Navy's love of superlatives and inflated marks on officer FITREPs. Even today, after the evaluation system has been totally revised, an average of 4.00 out of 5 is close to the median and words like "outstanding" and "expert" are common. Glowing praise is the norm, but the remarks of Kerry's superiors still stand out.
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Trusting online images 

Salon.com's Farhad Manjoo has a pretty good piece today on digital images and their slippery nature. He uses the LCPL Boudreaux picture as the jumping-off point for an examination of how "a picture is no longer worth a thousand words" in a Photoshopped world. The possible consequences of this are explored as well:

But [photojournalist Ken] Light worries that the truth we see in photographs will diminish in a digital age. He has two nightmares: First, that fake pictures will be mistaken for true pictures, rattling the political discourse. But a scarier proposition for him is that, in the long run, people will start to ignore real pictures as phonies. When every picture is suspect, all pictures are dismissible, Light fears, and photography's unique power to criticize will decline.
And that truly is scary. How many times have people been moved to tears, or to outrage, or to action by a strong image? Will that remain the case in a future where every image is suspect?

Would we believe images like these ones today?
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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Bahrain appoints woman minister 

The King of Bahrain (His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, as the local media invariably and long-windedly call him, every single time he is mentioned) has appointed a woman, Dr. Nada Haffadh, to the post of health minister--a first for Bahrain and for the Arab world in general.

Good for her, and good for Bahrain. I have been to Bahrain, albeit for a stay of less than a month, but in that time, I came to believe that Bahrain has a good thing going. The rest of the Arab world should take note. From what I understand, some of the other Gulf states, in particular Oman, Qatar, and the UAE, have pursued reform to one extent or another with a good deal of success. I wonder if the Saudis, Egyptians, and Syrians are paying attention, and if so, what they think of all this moderation in the neighborhood.
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Accommodating Muslims 

Psst... France... Here's how it's done.

HAMTRAMCK, Mich. - The City Council gave preliminary approval Tuesday night to a mosque's plans to send out a call to prayer to Muslims on a loudspeaker.

The Bangladeshi al-Islah mosque wants to air the Arabic call to prayer via loudspeakers five times a day, but agreed Tuesday not to air the calls before 6 a.m. or after 10 p.m.
UPDATE: I mentioned my trip to Bahrain in the post above, and during my stay, I quickly became used to hearing the Athan (call to prayer). I came to enjoy hearing it as part of the rhythm of life in the Islamic world. Even as a non-Muslim, it was kind of a comforting thing to hear, and a sign that all is well and normal.

My point? I don't know. I guess I'm just saying that for me, the call to prayer would not be something I would mind hearing. It would remind me of a place and of people that I really enjoyed getting to know a little. Fortunately, I will probably be going back before too long. Unfortunately, it'll probably be during the hottest part of the summer...
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Contrast 

Two stories from Africa:

In the first, United Nations officials will be allowed to enter the Sudanese region of Darfur to investigate human rights abuses.

In the second, Robert Mugabe is hosting a meeting to discuss the furtherance of human rights abuses.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Bad, bad idea 

Italy is reportedly close to a ransom deal to secure the release of three Italian hostages held in Iraq.

The last thing we (meaning the international community) need to do is to show terrorists that their methods work. Spain's actions have been damaging enough without Italy's help.

Of course, some naive people believe that if we just give these cowardly thugs what they want and leave them alone, they'll just leave us alone in return. Don't bet on it. What has neutral Sweden done to anyone lately?
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Waste, fraud, and abuse 

The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) has been renumbering exits on I-95 and its various branches in Maine, in order to reduce confusion. There used to be more than one exit with the same number as you drove through, and now they will all be numbered according to mile markers. The change makes sense and will help end the confusion (mostly on the part of summer tourists).

But I wonder a) how many tens of dollars it cost the taxpayers to renumber Exit 6, and b) what the MDOT workers were thinking as they attached the helpful change notice.

(And yes, I know I've expressed skepticism about web images before, but I know someone who lives near this exit, and he's the one who sent me the link.)
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LCPL Boudreaux update 

The latest: The Marine Corps has reopened its investigation of the photo, and is seeking assistance from imaging specialists with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Boudreaux has told the Corps that the photo was doctored. It looks like we'll be waiting a little while longer for the denouement of this case.
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Monday, April 19, 2004

The anti-Boudreaux 

Let's see if I get several thousand hits from people searching for pictures of this Marine...

UPDATE: I guess I should put the guy's name in the post so it'll show up in search results: CPL Joseph Sharp. (Not like anyone is going to be looking for stuff about CPL Sharp, but this is just so I can compare referrals.)
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3-1 

With today's win over the Yankees, the Red Sox win the first battle in the rivalry three games to one.

Almost as good as that is Alex Rodriguez's batting average after going 0-4 today and hitless in the series: .143. That's what you get for selling your soul, A-Rod.

OOPS: Make that 1-5, now batting .160. And not hitless in the series, obviously...although one hit in four games isn't terribly impressive. He has 8 hits in the first 13 games of this season. At his 2004 salary of $21,726,881, A-Rod has earned 13/162 of that so far, or $1,743,515. That's approximately $217,939 per hit. Good pickup, Steinbrenner!
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