Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Next Up: The National Museum of German-Irish (Kraut-Mick) Heritage

The House has just passed a bill that would authorize spending $200 million to fund a new Smithsonian museum dedicated to black history. After 15 years of trying to get such legislation passed, Rep. John Lewis seems optimistic that it'll finally make it this year. The only thing odd about this story, of course, is that there already is a Smithsonian museum dedictaed to black history. It's called the Anacostia Museum & Center for African American History and Culture, and is located at 1901 Fort Place, SE. And for civil rights advocates who think prejudice also shortchanges the art and culture of Africa itself, the Smithsonian has a museum for that, too. So why the need for $200 million in taxpayer funds for yet another museum? Still wondering that myself.

The Guaranteed Recession Act of 2005

Howard Dean is revving up the anti-corporate faithful with a plan for 're-regulation' of, it seems, pretty much every industry he can think of. What better way to inspire consumer confidence than to have every major company micro-managed by a slow moving bureaucracy with no direct stake in the outcome of their actions? And with more government control over corporate practices, I don't suppose that would inspire even more rent-seeking lobbying to get Congress to write the rules in a way that disadvantages competitors or erects greater barriers to entry in the market. I would have thought it would be a tough contest, but Dean has easily captured the Most Idiotic Policy Announcement of the Democratic primary so far. It makes Kucinich's Department of Peace look like the flat tax.


Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Some Real News

Even though (like everyone else) Fox News is featuring the CIA leak as its top story, it's good to see they aren't completely neglecting real news. They've been brave enough to bring to light possible trouble in Al Sharpton's presidential campaign. It's not all bad news, though - there's a birthday party fundraiser planned for the Rev. to be hosted by Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, and Puffy. With mad cash like that in the hizzouse, it should be no problem to double the $162,000 he raised through the end of June.


Thursday, September 18, 2003

Brit Terror: The Mars Bars Attack

The U.S. “obesity epidemic,” about which so many words have been written in the last few years is, amazingly enough, not confined to the United States. It turns out lots of people are getting fatter in the UK as well. The storied “special relationship” between the U.S. and the UK goes beyond transatlantic military cooperation and has now expanded to a shared interest in oversize packets of crisps. Instead of choosing to be fat and jolly together, however, Maxine Frith of the Independent is suggesting that supersize Britons sue their local saturated fat dealers for “aggressive marketing of extra-large food portions.” Marketing of unhealthy foods should assumably be unobtrusive and ineffective, confined perhaps to public restroom stall doors and billboards facing away from roadways.

Thanks to Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner for the link.


Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Chief Taking Cash

See John Fund's Political Diary from Monday for how Cruz Bustamante has become a wholly-owned political subsidiary of the California state Indian casinos:

A growing number of complaints about Indian casinos prompted Gov. Davis to hold each tribe to a maximum of 2,000 slot machines. He also slowed down the applications of 35 tribes who want new gambling licenses. By backing Mr. Bustamante, the San Jose Mercury News reports, "Indian tribes have anted up for a man who has pledged to loosen the reins that Governor Gray Davis has held since he signed gambling compacts with 61 tribes." Contributions to Mr. Bustamante are "a cheap bet" for the tribes, observes Nelson Rose, a Whittier College law professor who tracks gambling issues. "In return they get a monopoly on a casino industry that this year alone is going to make $4 billion or $5 billion." Indian gambling interests already represent the biggest political contributor in California, having plowed $122 million into state political races in the past five years. If their clout leads to a further expansion of their profits under a Bustamante governorship, they could become a force that no one in California would want to--or could--challenge.


Thursday, September 04, 2003

The Fake Hispanic

The Democrats' stonewall campaign against Miguel Estrada, a display of Senate politics so rank and brazen it made Robert Bork's confirmation hearings look like an award ceremony, has finally paid off. Estrada has withdrawn himself from consideration for the slot on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for which he was ogirinally nominated two years ago. The minority party decided to make Estrada's nomination a heels-dug fight to the death, meaning that his qualifications never seriously came into consideration. Despite being a former Clinton administration Justice Department official and a Hispanic, the usual gang of Democratic Senators gave him no deference at all. The Congessional Hispanic Caucus (most members of which are Representatives and thus have no role in judicial confirmations) went to far as to publicly oppose his nomination despite the claim that their Hispanic Judiciary Initiative "promotes and encourages Hispanic representation at all levels and in every branch of government." Except when nominated by a Republican president, that is. The thumbs-down from the CHC is especially galling when one realizes that people born in Texas, like the current and immediate past chairmen of the Caucus are essentially saying that Estrada, who was born in Honduras, isn't Hispanic enough for them.


Monday, September 01, 2003

Twilight of the Drug War?

Jacob Sullum has good news from the front – more former drug warriors are re-assessing their support of prohibition. This includes people like Dr. Forrest Tennant, who at one time claimed that the Reagan administration wasn’t hard core enough.


Friday, August 29, 2003

Taking Our Minds off of the Obesity Epidemic

The World Trade Organization is finally acting on the complaint by the U.S., Canada, and Argentina against the EU for unfairly banning the importation of foods that have been improved with agricultural biotechnology. Not only is it unfair to perpertuate a protectionist regime based on unscientific scare tatics about GM foods, as the Europeans have been doing, the global, down-stream effects are even worse. You may remember the spectacle of the government of Zambia refusing U.S. food aid on behalf of its starving citizens during a severe drought because they thought it might be "contaminated" with GM crop varieties? It wasn't just anti-GM enviornmentalist pressure that caused them to be suspicious, but the EU's agricultural trade restrictions. The government worried that if Zambian famers kept any of the (possibly) GM corn to plant the next Spring, their future crops could be excluded from exports markets in Europe, or anywhere else that shares the EU's excessive precaution. Thus we have a situation where European agricultural officials are starving sub-Saharan Africans with their protectionist trade barriers. The only reason millions more haven't starved to death throughout the Third World over the past few decades is because of exactly the kind of new technology Europe seems to unaccountably afraid of. If the drought-stricken Zambian famers of tomorrow want to be able to keep feeding their children, we're going to need even more men like this.

Mark Steyn on the humanitarian culture of New Europe and the heat-related death toll in France:

"In Paris this spring, a government official explained to me how Europeans had created a more civilised society than America - socialised healthcare, shorter work weeks, more holidays. We've just seen where that leads: gran'ma turned away from the hospital to die in an airless apartment because junior's sur la plage. M Chirac's somewhat tetchy suggestion that his people should rethink their attitude to the elderly was well taken. But Big Government inevitably diminishes its citizens' capacity to take responsibility, to the point where even your dead mum is just one more inconvenience the state should do something about."


Sunday, August 24, 2003

Kagame vs. Twagiramungu vs. Nayinzira

That troubled land of Rwanda is, finally, after nine years of genocide and unrest, preparing itself for a national election. The incumbent President, Paul Kagame, is heavily favored to win, as many African presidents are at election time. Former Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu is the main opposition, trailed by mysterious opponent Jean Nepomuscene Nayinzira. One wonders what good will come of this election, given that the last struggle for power left 750,000 men, women, and children in the country dead. Or without their extremities. Hacked off by machetes, for the most part, in case you had forgotten. The orphans are still waiting. We in the West can hope for the best. Given recent history, Rwandans would do better to chart the nearest road to the border. Best of luck, Mr. Kagame.


Saturday, August 16, 2003

The Return of the Sniper Killings

Residents of Charleston, West Virginia are getting jittery these days, after a string of three (and possibly four) sniper-style killings. The killings obviously echo the ten deaths which John Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammed are currently charged with causing last year slightly farther east in the DC metro area. The only lesson available to West Virginia residents so far seems to be to avoid the Go-Mart chain of convenience stores, where two of the three confirmed killings have taken place. The police do have a lead however – they’re looking for a heavyset white man driving a pickup truck. With a rifle. In West Virginia. On second though, it might be easier to assemble the people who don’t answer that description.


Tuesday, August 05, 2003

You Come a Long Way, Benazir

A Swiss judge has scored a blow against gender stereotypes by finding former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto guilty of money laundering. Her husband, Asif Zardari, was found guilty as well, but who ever heard of him (other than the family of the man he's been accused of mudering)? Just when you thought it was only testosterone poisoned A-type masculine personalities of the world who craved political power for personal gain, along comes Madame Bhutto to teach us a lesson. Not for her the traditional female role of profligate wife to the stern dictator - she got in there with kickbacks from international corporations like the best of them. Not since Jiang Qing lef the Gang of Four has there been such a refreshingly counterintuitive example of female political leadership.


Friday, July 25, 2003

Nigerium from Uranus

The brilliant Mark Steyn takes on the irrelevant sideshow over Bush's State of the Union threat assessment and the disputed uranium in Niger and comes away with some wider observations about Democrats in Congress:

"But here’s a much more pertinent question than whether BUSH LIED!!!!!!!!!!!!!: how loopy are the Democrats? One reason why the President, in defiance of last week’s Spectator, is all but certain to win re-election is the descent into madness of his opponents. They’ve let post-impeachment, post-chad-dangling bitterness unhinge them to the point where, given a choice between investigating the intelligence lapses that led to 9/11 and the intelligence lapses that led to a victorious war in Iraq, they stampede for the latter. Iraq was a brilliant campaign fought with minimal casualties, 11 September was a humiliating failure by government to fulfill its primary role of national defence. But Democrats who complained that Bush was too slow to act on doubtful intelligence re 9/11 now profess to be horrified that he was too quick to act on doubtful intelligence re Iraq. This is not a serious party."


Wednesday, July 23, 2003

A Head-Tapping Problem

Despite nearly every news outlet in the world producing obituaries of Uday and Qusay Hussein, relatively little new is being said about their lives. We’ve heard that Uday was a lusty fiend and violator of female Iraqi virtue, and that Qusay won his stripes by murdering hundreds of thousands of southern Shi’ites in 1991. But the depths of Uday’s depravity can still yield a few fresh details if you find the right article, as in this excerpt from the Evening Standard:

“Twice Uday, 39, turned up at wedding parties and raped the bride-to-be as her and the bridegroom's families were held at gunpoint, listening. At the second such occasion, in 1998, the groom shot himself.


“Uday's behaviour shocked even his father, who was often asked by members of Baghdad's ruling elite to try to rein in his eldest son. However Saddam would just tap his head with a finger to indicate the ‘craziness’ of his son.”

Raping another man’s bride on the alter. Only an especially creative psychotic predator could have come up with that one.


Saturday, July 19, 2003

I Rule in Favor of My Cultural Prejudices

Professor Matt Franck of Radford University gives an interesting review of this year’s end-of-term Supreme Court coverage. The stories written by Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times and Nina Totenberg of Morning Edition, demonstrate an unfortunate expression of an old trend – legal analysis by personality:

“From [the idea that there is no distinction between law and politics] it is a short step to believing that the reasons given by the justices for their rulings (or their dissents) are not really worth any scrutiny. For they are, after all, mere rationalizations for the underlying sentiments. Got kids in New York? Know some nice gay people? Then make the Constitution protect a right to commit sodomy, and then dress up the visceral conclusion with some high-sounding rhetoric about dignity. Feel put upon as a black conservative whom folks suspect of getting ahead on your race? Angry about it? Why then, fulminate about the ‘stigma’ of affirmative action, and manufacture some guff about the Constitution's ‘principle’ of equality to make your anger seem righteous.”

African Ingenuity

Problem: Zimbabwe is experiencing a severe fuel crisis. Drivers wait in mile-long lines at gas stations. Fact: Station operators make special head-of-the-line exceptions for vehicles carrying dead bodies to burial or family members transporting departed relatives to the local morgue. Opportunity: Mortuary employees begin renting out corpses to motorists in a hurry. And there are people who say sub-Saharan Africans are not culturally inclined to a capitalist system.


Wednesday, July 16, 2003

The Nature of Contemporary Art

Artist Sam Easterson likes animals. And now that he’s incorporated several of them into his latest video project, he has more respect for them than ever. He’s gone the Young British Artists of “Sensations” fame one better – instead of displaying preserved slices of animals, he’s made the animals themselves the creators. No – he’s not the author of Why Cats Paint – he just affixes video cameras to animals and lets them record. And the animal-eye view results he’s gotten have generated some unexpected insights: “I was shocked to realize all the other animals in the flock could tell that this one sheep with the camera had been ‘altered’ in some way. She kept trying to enter, and they kept treating her as an outcast. I also learned sheep can run very fast and fences are not as sturdy as you think.” Depends of the particular fence in question, one would suppose, but fascinating stuff regardless.


Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Thus Always to Patriots

It has now become controversial for government-funded facilities to display the U.S. flag. A state-operated ‘learning center’ for home schooled kids in southern Oregon has come under attack because they’re planning on putting up a flag pole for ole glory (as required by state law). Local parents are disagreeing with the plan on political grounds. Said Tracey Bungay told the Ashland Daily Tidings: “I feel our country is on a strong push towards imperialism, and we're not a democratic nation anymore. I want to raise my children to be citizens of the world, and the flag does not represent ideals I want to instill in my children. It represents dominance, greed, corporate power and not freedom. I think it even represents commercialism and consumerism.” Greed is bad enough, of course, but the thought that the flag might represent even consumerism is truly alarming. This melodramatic assessment of the nation’s current political climate is hardly surprising – leftist activists are after all the people who came up with bumper stickers like “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” People who are perpetually outraged can often be found doing things like trying to divest public schools of the nation’s flag. Even more to the point, this tempest is stirring in Ashland, the home of a very well-regarded Shakespeare Festival. Flamboyant performances by the tragically aggrieved seem to be in the air down there.


Monday, July 14, 2003

Let Them Eat Sausage and Onion with Extra Cheese

Homeless ‘advocates’ are a notoriously difficult to please bunch. They seem to make a career out of setting up the perfect (and therefore impossible) as the enemy of the good. An entrepreneur in Portland gives the local street kids some free pizza and coke for holding a sign with the name of his restaurant, and some poverty pimp in a downtown office calls it “exploitation.” In his mind, anyone doing any kind of work should be paid minimum wage or nothing at all. Better that they should be rooting through dumpsters than eating pizza worth less than $6.90 an hour.


Saturday, May 24, 2003

Apalachicolan Apprehensions

Not surprisingly, the atmosphere of introspection at the New York Times in the wake of the Jayson Blair scandal has quickly turned into a self-consuming paranoia. Now Rick Bragg, a veteran Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner, has been suspended for not adding the name of a freelance contributor to his byline despite receiving background research from him on a story about imperiled oystermen on the Florida coast. But reporters in the field and on deadline frequently make use of research and even interviews conducted by assistants and interns back in the home office. Did Bragg’s uncredited reliance on aspiring stringer J. Wes Yoder cross the line? Perhaps – but the fact that such a minor matter is now national news is a clear sign that the public beating of the Times is far from over. Conventional wisdom has it that Executive Editor Howell Raines’s hold on the paper can’t stand another scandal, which means that borderline infractions on the paper’s ostensible code of conduct are now being treated as severe offenses, lest anyone suspect that laxity in journalistic ethics is too deeply ingrained in the Times editorial offices to be overcome. Bragg, I suspect, is merely the first of a large number of people at the Times who have none nothing seriously wrong who will hung out to dry in order to atone for the sins of Blair – and Raines.


Tuesday, May 06, 2003

Come Home, Nimrod

Finally, John Ashcroft is doing something other than secretly wiretapping Americans’ phone lines. The Attorney General has announced an international investigation into the organized theft of the antiquities from the Iraqi National Museum. The investigators are also getting help from the British Museum, which has estimated only 30-40 major pieces were missing – far less than previous news reports have led the world to believe.


Friday, April 25, 2003

Looters Be Damned

As usual, Mark Steyn has the best piece so far on the thefts from the Iraqi National Museum by organized thieves (not random looters as has generally been reported around the world). He made light of the impact in a previous column, sparking an indignant letter to the National Post, to which he responded:

[Editor of the London Spectator] Boris Johnson called the Iraqi museum's contents "the equivalent of the Crown Jewels, things that were meant eternally to incarnate the culture of your land." But the Crown Jewels matter because they symbolize reality -- the peaceful constitutional order that the Queen's subjects have enjoyed for centuries. By contrast, the contents of the Baghdad museum symbolize everything that the monstrous reality of Saddam's Iraq rejected -- law, government, progress, innovation, vitality. So a lawless regime preserved the records of the first legal code in a glass case, and for most of the last few years you couldn't even get in to see it. The past was just another Saddamite plaything, appropriated for some useful regime-propping imagery but otherwise disposable. Before they got diverted into jumping on the Bush-bashing bandwagon, the students of antiquity were more concerned with Saddam's dam project at Makhul, which was threatening to submerge Assur, the old capital of the Assyrian empire. There's a fine image: civilization's cradle being thrown out by the Baath water. As usual, it fell to British, American and European archaeological teams to plan to rescue as much of "Iraq's past" as they could.

Democratic Primary Report

I’ve always considered Senators Kerry and Lieberman to be the only serious candidates for the Democratic nomination in 2004, but the lofty position the Senator from Connecticut held even after the 2000 defeat is clearly slipping. He’s running fourth in a declared field of ten in fundraising so far, barely beating Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont as of the last SEC filing deadline. If Lieberman, as the default national leader of his party, has to run hard just to overtake a wildly leftwing antiwar candidate like Dean he’s got a lot of work to do in the next three months.


Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Finally, Protestors Make an Impact on Government Spending

Given their failure to stop Operation Iraqi Freedom from proceeding, antiwar protestors across the country have been understandably dejected lately. Now the reports are coming in, however, that their demonstrations are having an impact after all. All of the extra police and emergency response presence needed to maintain order has ended up costing the cities in which protests were staged millions of dollars. Even my humble hometown of Portland, Oregon is footing the bill for around an extra million. This in a state that is laying off teachers because of a state-wide budget crisis. Congratulations, you brave street activists. You might not have changed the White House’s mind, but you helped deprived the state’s kids of a quality education.


Thursday, April 10, 2003

The Language of Diplomacy

As my good friend ZCC has noted, subtlety is not the U.S.'s strong suit when it comes to foreign policy. The State Department has already begun warning rogue nations and their compatriots to “draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq” – which would be something along the lines of “you’re next.” Given the informed speculation about top Iraqi officials being given refuge by former ophthalmologist and regional strongman Bashar Assad, the Syrians should be especially nervous.


Wednesday, April 09, 2003

The Jackal That Didn’t Bark

Dalal Saoud, writing for United Press International today, surveys how what was supposed to be the Mother of All Battles is ending up more like Oakland after a championship game loss – lots of general looting and lawlessness, but no organized military action. The house-by-house urban bloodbath that antiwar pundits predicted we would find in Baghdad is nowhere to be seen.


Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Just Say No to Misleading Propaganda

In perhaps the rarest of all occurrences within the federal government, an agency is recognizing a failed policy and choosing to discontinue it. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is discontinuing it’s shameless All Drug Users Are Terrorists campaign. The spots premiered at this year’s Superbowl, to the tune of $3 million wasted taxpayer dollars.

The View from Medicine Hat

Canadian MP Monte Solberg takes his countrymen to task for their reflexive anti-Americanism and inane protests: “For a good number of people this is not about war at all. It's just primal-scream therapy for people who hate George W. Bush.”


Sunday, March 23, 2003

Signs O’ the Times

The antiwar protests in Washington, D.C., as elsewhere continue apace; nothing new there. There were a couple new posters posted near the White House, though.

This poster, appropriating the memorable phrase uttered by Todd Beamer aboard Flight 93 on September 11, 2001, depicts an anthropomorphic pig driving an SUV over a pile of crushed Iraqi bodies. It was pasted up on a utility box across from Lafayette Square, next to the Hay-Adams Hotel.

This one, likely torn by ideological opponents, invited people to walk out of their jobs and schools when hostilities commenced: “When the Bombing Starts, America Stops.” Looking back to earlier in the week, very few Americans followed the invitation.

Also near Lafayette Square, the drawing in this example has become almost completely destroyed. It used to be a depiction of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney:

Here’s what it looked like on March 15, 2003. At that time a couple people had pasted over it with bumper stickers reading “This Poster Paid For By Saddam Hussein.”

It was fresh and new on March 8, 2003 when this photo was taken.


Wednesday, March 19, 2003

‘When you eat pussy cat, you don't get fever’

What is it about Cameroon? Is it their lack of arable land? The unfortunate prevalence of water-borne diseases? Their proximity to the Bight of Biafra? What is it about the place that leads people to eat housecats for good luck? And as if gorging on domesticated pets wasn’t enough, you just know that, despite government opposition, they’re going to end up washing down their feline feast with a brimming glassful of their own urine. When the Bush Administration is finished bring democracy to Iraq, maybe they could stop by Cameroon and build a few Olive Gardens. I assume he and Cameroonian President Paul Biya will discuss the plan when they meet at the White House tomorrow.

Did We Get a Warrant For That?

The BBC reports today that phone lines in the offices of France and Germany’s delegations to the European Union have been secretly tapped. Le Figaro reported the story yesterday and naturally pointed the finger at the U.S. It’s not surprising that a French newspaper would accuse the U.S. of spying on our European adversaries, but one wonders what we would have heard that would give us any advantage. Both countries have done everything they could to thwart the effective disarmament of Saddam Hussein. What could they be saying in private that’s anything worse than what they’ve been saying in the Security Council?


Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Twisting the Straight Story

Thanks to a wack-job on a tractor, residents of Washington, D.C. have something else to think about besides the waking of the sleeper cells. He’s a tobacco farmer from Whitakers, NC and he says he’s upset about the state of the federal government's subsidy program. He’s been driving his John Deere through the shallow waters of Constitution Gardens, to no apparent purpose, since last night. His claim to have explosives ready to detonate has kept the 100 or so law enforcement officials on the scene at bay so far. Imagine it – people in DC have been so unnerved by the prospect of terrorist retaliation for an Iraqi invasion that a psycho roaming the Mall and claiming to have access to explosives has become merely an amusing distraction from the otherwise serious news of the day. But of course we can’t let it go one for ever. By far the most popular response in news stories and from conversations with other people downtown has been to bring out the tranquilizer guns. After all, the National Zoo is only a few minutes away by emergency vehicle ride.


Monday, March 17, 2003

War on Wednesday

From the Associated Press:

President Bush on Monday gave Saddam Hussein a 48-hour deadline to flee Iraq or face a U.S.-led invasion, saying American forces will wage war "at a time of our choosing."

The president, commander in chief of 250,000 U.S. troops poised at the borders of Iraq, addressed the nation at 8 p.m. EST.

Bush = Caligula?

The author of Why the Left Hates America was also at Saturday’s anti-war protest, and he ran into some outspoken characters. Eric Dyer, one of the demonstrators interviewed, compared the President to Hitler (naturally) and, displaying his ample knowledge of classical history, the Emperor Caligula. While I don’t think Bush has ever had a sexual relationship with a close blood relative, perhaps Eric is encouraged by the original Caligula having been assassinated by his own soldiers. Thankfully there is considerable less palace intrigue in the U.S. Secret Service than in the Roman Praetorian Guard.


Sunday, March 16, 2003

More photos from the March 15, 2003 Emergency National Anti-War Convergence on the Mall

We all understand the idea behind yesterday's event - to stop the U.S. from invading Iraq. But who are these people that feel so strongly opposed to forcible disarmarment of the Hussein regime? Where are they from? Let's begin locally:

Greenbelt, Maryland which, according to its website, is a "National Historic Landmark," is a suburb of D.C., just outside the Beltway in Prince George's County. I couldn't find any information on the city's website about their decision to oppose an invasion of Iraq, so the sign pictured here not have been strictly authorized. It does have several charming features, though - a sprig of greenery and a Mardi Gras-style harlequin mask among them. Very creative.

But the list of peace-loving municipalities isn't limited to small liberal enclaves. The State of Florida was also represented at the event, and clearly displayed their opposition to war. No doubt there is some tension these days between George W. and his brother Jeb over Florida opposing war in Iraq. Also, perhaps fearing that the Florida state flag would have gone unrecognized, you can see on the right that the Sunshine State demonstrators have opted for the next best thing.

Not wanting Florida to be out there alone, New Jersey sent its own Coalition Against War in Iraq. Next to the anti-war New Jersians was one of several demonstrators holding a United Nations flag. One wonders what they'll do with their flags if the Security Council actually does vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq.


Saturday, March 15, 2003

Some early photos from the March 15, 2003 Emergency National Anti-War Convergence on the Mall

Let's start with the religiously themed signs:

We have confirmation. The Jews really are forcing the U.S. toward a selfish war to benefit Israel. I just hope that's not Nancy Pelosi holding that sign.

Just in case you were still confused, the Jews are bad. Don't think for a minute that as a Christian you should support the Children of Abraham in defending their homeland.

To round out today's course in comparitive religion, we have a reminder that Islam is a religion that seeks nothing more than justice and peace for everyone. I'm sure the pious men of Nabatiyeh, Lebanon couldn't agree more.


Friday, March 14, 2003

Dirty Talk in Mombasa

As any international development expert will tell you, different countries have different needs. Some nations desperately need telecommunications reform, and some are in greater need of indoor plumbing. Kenya could use a little of both. According to the BBC, a mobile phone dropped into a latrine by careless university student Dora Mwabela ended up causing the death of three people sent to retrieve it. Upon lowering themselves into the pit, police hypothesize, they were overwhelmed by the fumes rising from the pit and slipped into the “putrid mess.” Some would argue that a nation with a 40% unemployment rate and an industrial production growth rate of -1% has more pressing concerns than mobile phone toilet retrieval, but let’s not forget we’re talking about human lives here. How many have to die before officials act?

Giving War a Chance

Anti-war activists wont be the only people demonstrating in the streets this weekend. In addition to the Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles rallies being planned by International A.N.S.W.E.R. for this Saturday, Free Republic is also sponsoring events in Washington and San Francisco. While it’s always interesting to see conservatives hit the streets like their counter-cultural opponents, their ranks are generally a little thin. The pro-Bush people at the White House protest on March 8th were gathered together in a little knot of about a dozen people, chanting their slogan “War freed the slaves! War saved the Jews!” as thousands of anti-war people streamed by them on 17th Street. Very few bothered to actually talk to (rather than shout at) them until the demonstration itself wound down and everyone else had gone home. They were persistent, though, and managed to rile up even more people than the pro-life protestors with the bullhorns and aborted fetus posters from earlier in the day.

A few photos from the other side of the street: the pro-war people who showed up at the March 8, 2003 CODE PINK Protest Against War in Iraq:

The leader of the Free Republic encampment argues with some anarcho-teens while other interested parties look on. The young woman in black was in a highly agitated state.

A father and daughter duo (left) engage in a surprisingly civil discussion of the prospect of invading Iraq. I was a little disturbed, though, by the wild-eyed look of the woman on the extreme right (perhaps in more ways than one).

When everyone else had wandered off to Starbucks and McDonald's, a few dedicated souls from each side linger on 17th Street next to the Renwick Gallery. The Saddam poster (left) and U.S. flags (center) are from the Free Republic people, the UN flag (right) from the other side.


Hipsters for Peace

John Fund’s Political Diary this week takes a good look at the entertainers who have found a second career as anti-war foreign policy experts. As the subtitle goes, “Hollywood celebs aren't antiwar. They just hate the president.” He compares remarks made about unilateral use of U.S. force during the politically fashionable Clinton Administration with the current anti-Bush rhetoric. There seems to have been nothing wrong with bombing Bosnia, Afghanistan (the first time), Sudan and similar targets when Bill was in office, but now that Bush is directing the pilots it’s bordering on genocide. As Janeane Garofalo explained, though, there’s an obvious reason Hollywood types never thought about marching against the Clinton-ordered attacks: "It wasn't very hip."


Thursday, March 13, 2003

Blogorama at Kalorama

Today has brought yet another usual-suspects blog theme story, this time from the Baltimore Sun and featuring quotes from Cato Institute policy guy Julian Sanchez. The story itself, or at least the experience of reading it on the Sun’s website, reinforces why blogs continue to draw so many dedicated readers despite the massive investments many metropolitan dailies have made in their own elaborate websites. Despite being about the blog trend and referencing several specific sites, the only link in the online version of the story was to the Sun’s own visitor’s guide to North Baltimore. In order to find any of the sites described, you’d have to go to a search engine, copy the titles, and scan through the results, several of which are likely to be other newspaper story cites like the one you just read. Will they ever learn?

Vandals for Peace II

At least one of the anti-war protestors who defaced a September 11 memorial in Orange County, California last weekend has now been arrested. Jennifer Quintana, angry 19-year-old, was taken into custody not for her original vandalism of March 8th, but because she assaulted two women at the site of the memorial after returning there yesterday. According to press reports, the assault of the two women, one of them the organizer and caretaker of the memorial, included pushing, grabbing and poking. Quintana was later described by one of her victims as “one hamburger short of a Happy Meal.” Just as I guessed – probably a vegetarian.

Just Mix It with a Spoonful of Sugar

Despite the already poor public health infrastructure throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the Republic of Cameroon has recently taken steps to ban one of the nation’s most popular and versatile treatments for everything from hemorrhoids to snake bites – drinking human urine. With a life expectancy of only 54 years and an adult AIDS infection rate of almost 8%, you’d think the government of Cameroon would want as many options available to their local healers as possible, yet they have taken an inflexible stand against therapeutic urine drinking. And Africans are not the only ones medicating themselves with their own fluids – Indians of the Brahmin caste have been drinking their own urine for centuries. In fact, Morarji Desai, the Prime Minster of India from 1977 to 1979 was a great believer in the therapy and never shrank from advocating the refreshing practice to his fellow countrymen, whatever their caste.

Last Minute Reprieve

It appears, going against my prediction, that convicted murderer Delma Banks did get his eagerly-sought stay of execution from the U.S. Supreme Court. Now with legal assistance from the NAACP, Banks is hoping the Supremes will choose to review his case in detail. High-profile supporters include three former federal judges, one of them former FBI director William Sessions.


Wednesday, March 12, 2003

They’ll Have BBQ at the Wrap Party Afterward

The State of Texas is poised for a milestone of recent history – its 300th execution since restoring the death penalty in 1982. The oddly-named convict, (Mr.) Delma Banks, is protesting his innocence and hoping for a reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court, but I’m not betting on him getting it. Texas didn’t get to 300 by having their sentences overturned frequently.


Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Vandals for Peace

Nothing riles up an anti-war protestor like an honest display of patriotism. In the case of protestors in La Habra, California, that display came in the shape of a flag-covered fence. According to the Whittier Daily News, demonstrators tore apart a September 11 memorial on Saturday afternoon, burning and slashing American flags while police watched. What a difference a year makes.

Perfect Timing

Maybe avoiding an invasion isn’t where his heart is after all. With the Security Council talking about giving Saddam Hussein even more extended deadlines for compliance with relevant resolutions, he seems unwilling to let well enough alone, and is now recruiting a new corps of suicide bombers to take out U.S. soldiers in a future invasion. Not content with forced conscription of a terrified and captive population for his regular army, he’s now giving fanatics from around the world a new path to martyrdom. Many of them have apparently become bored with blowing up buses full of Israeli civilians.

Yet more photos from the March 8, 2003 CODE PINK Protest Against War in Iraq

We're ready for some more entertaining protest signs:

This one highlights how contentious the protesting lifestyle can become. As anti-war forces were milling around in front of the White House waiting for the bulk of their compatriots to arrive from Meridian Hill Park, they were confronted by perennial demonstrators of the pro-life variety. Coming as it did on a day of feminist empowerment, many of the progressive women in attendance were noticably chagrined by the anti-abortion rhetoric and posters.

This gem was riding the umbrella of a Code Pink protestor on the sidewalk next to the Old (now Eisenhower) Executive Office Builidng. If you look close enough you can see that despite its aggresive phrasing, the signmaker saved herself from employing obscenity by noting that SOB stands for "Son of Bush." Though if you're an anti-war protestor that's probably just as much of an insult.

The South Lawn of the White House with anti-war signage in the foreground, taken from the Ellipse. This was late in the afternoon when most of the protestors from 17th Street had retreated to either the McDonald's across from the New Executive Office Building or the Starbucks on K Street and Connecticut Avenue.

More photos from the March 8, 2003 CODE PINK Protest Against War in Iraq

Now, for some of the imaginative and incendiary signs carried by the day's participants:

This one is actually a poster, pasted up on H Street, on the North edge of Lafayette Square. Nice Austin Powers reference.

Here's one that was being carried early in the afternoon on the pedestrian-friendly section of Pennsylvania Avenue directly in front of the White House. It's nice that they restrained from calling the President pure evil. From this person's perspective, the approaching War on Iraq isn't his fault at all - what can we expect from a misguided simpleton?

Remember, folks, that the French and their partially-Americanized cousins have feelings too. Pride appears, inexplicably, to be one of them.


From the March 8, 2003 CODE PINK Protest Against War in Iraq

Code Pink marchers entering Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the U.S. Treasury building

Low-key face off with the police on 17th Street near the Old Executive Office Building

The Granny Bus drives down 17th Street through the crowd


Friday, March 07, 2003

Dispatches from the Fringe

Some recent highlight from Reason magazine’s daily Brickbats feature: The new Chief Justice of Afghanistan, Fazl Hadi Shinwari (who is coincidentally also a Muslim cleric), has decided to ban all cable television in that his country because of the smut it shows. Satellite transmissions are, praise be to Allah, beyond his reach…Also out of Afghanistan, a Taliban soldier who fought against U.S. and British forces has been granted asylum as a political refugee by the UK. It seems he fears for his life if he returns to now Northern Alliance-dominated nation…And in a disturbingly French-sounding move, Labour MP Harry Barnes wants to legislate American words and phrases out of British broadcasting. You can take your aubergine into the lift while you’re on holiday, just don’t try to carry an eggplant on an elevator while you’re on vacation.


Monday, March 03, 2003

Singing Songs and Carrying Signs

Jennifer Bishop has a great summary of one of San Francisco’s recent anti-war protests, complete with photos of inane sings and placards. As she points out, the last place anyone is going to find good anti-war arguments is at an anti-war rally. Such protests, especially in insular liberal-activist communities like San Francisco, have long since ceased to make any attempt at moving the opinion of the general population. Rallies like the one Bishop describes are now mostly victimization carnivals, where the people who can boast the most categories of oppression (female/black/gay/disabled/non-Christian/non-English speaker) get the most applause, and everyone else competes for the self-abasement award, lamenting their inalienable privilege and agreeing that, no, they could never really understand what it’s like to be a lesbian midget albino from a developing nation.

Link originally from Cruel.


Monday, February 03, 2003

Oh Yeah, and You Too

Yet more celebratory Islamic crowing about the Columbia disaster this week, this time from London. Abu Hamza al-Masri, Muslim cleric and suspected terrorist, went one further than other anti-America, anti-Israel leaders, calling the shuttle mission "a trinity of evil because it carried Americans, an Israeli and a Hindu." How considerate of his fellow Muslims in Pakistan. People in Iraq only managed to hate the Americans and Israeli austronaut Col. Ilan Ramon, while al-Masri correctly remembered that Dr. Kalpana Chawla had been born in India. Now that’s multiculturalism at its finest.


Sunday, February 02, 2003

March On, Christian Democrat Soldiers

Anti-war sentiment in Germany may not be nearly as strong as most people thought. Yesterday’s elections were a “crushing defeat” for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats and their policy of opposing any military intervention in Iraq. Schroeder, in the reverse of the policy leftists accuse President Bush of employing, has attempted to draw attention away from a faltering economy by focusing attention of his party’s staunch refusal to confront Saddam Hussein. It doesn’t seem to be working.


Saturday, February 01, 2003

Requiescat in Pace

According to Hiawatha Bray, tech columnist for the Boston Globe, people are already trying to sell debris from the Columbia shuttle on eBay. The good folks at eBay, however, are deleting listings as soon as they are made. Fortune hunters with no respect for the dead might be their own worst enemies, however, as the NASA has already warned people not to handle any bits of wreckage. From the Fox News website: “The Army's 1st Cavalry Division sent a helicopter search-and-rescue task force from Fort Hood, Texas. NASA also asked members of the public to help in its search for debris, but warned people not to touch the pieces because they might be contaminated with toxic propellants.”

The Last Images

Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz has posted several photos from the last mission of the space shuttle Columbia, including shots of first-ever Israeli astronaut Col. Ilan Ramon. Americans and Israelis are joined in mourning by the people of India, in lamenting the loss of Indian-born astronaut Dr. Kalpana Chawla.

The Surly Bonds of Earth

Accounts of the loss of the shuttle Columbia are here: Associated Press, United Press International, and Washington Post. Reuters is reporting the inevitable claim from Iraq, that the death of the seven astronauts was divine retribution for U.S. misbehavior.

Also, Declan McCullagh has posted an intriguing email from a woman who was apparently fired from NASA two years ago for complaining to administrators about safety concerns. Writes Dian Hardison: “I F-ING WARNED THEM. I told them that the technicians and engineers were overworked. I told them that there were too many managers and too many meetings and ‘dog-and-pony’ shows. I told them that their senior ‘face time’ play games, while they spent all their time plotting how to give each other pay raises, and left the guys on the floor to struggle day to day with obsolete and overpriced and unqualified equipment, was going to result in another Challenger.”


Monday, January 27, 2003

No Peace for Oil

Which nation is being cavalierly unilateralist in its policy toward Iraq? Which nation is hiding behind high-sounding rhetoric in order to mask its oil-hungry agenda? Which nation is ignoring the human rights of Iraqi civilians for its own greedy reasons? Why France, of course. While anti-war protestors tar George W. as a petrol-mad cowboy with a family vendetta to settle, conservative security experts are looking at lucrative oil deals France (and to a lesser extent Germany) have made with Saddam Hussein. Naturally, they wouldn't want profits from these deals interrupted by a Security Council-authorized invasion. Of course, public opinion in France and Germany is running something like 70% against an invasion, but that doesn’t mean that their respective governments aren’t also worried about safeguarding their oil contracts as well.

Admirable Restraint

I have to congratulate Raiders fans this morning. They had their hearts broken by their chosen team, yet they managed to limit their destructive impulses to a dozen burned cars, a trashed McDonald’s and a few superficial injuries to law enforcement personnel. By Oakland standards, that’s a tea party.


Sunday, January 26, 2003

When You Smoke Pot, You Party with Satan

The War on Drugs will claim yet another casualty today – millions of taxpayer dollars. Just as with last year’s drugs-fund-terrorism TV spots, the Office of National Drug Control Policy will premiere ads during the Superbowl this evening blaming marijuana for such common evils as auto accidents and unplanned pregnancy. No doubt the millions of people watching professional football’s championship game will be susceptible to the suggestions of ONDCP’s ads, given that so many of them will be high on America’s favorite legal drug at the time.


Friday, January 24, 2003

The Pen Mightier Than the Nightstick?

Police in the UK are now targeting repeat offenders by…sending them letters. Twenty-two bad apples in Wiltshire received letters this week reminding them that local police had reviewed their criminal records and helpfully suggesting they refrain from such activity from now on. In a nation where law enforcement officers rarely carry firearms, things just got more genteel.

Ballad of the Bug Chasers

This is the most fucked-up thing I have ever read. Fortunately, it may not be true.


Thursday, January 23, 2003

Wanted: Experienced Terraformers

The road to Mars just got shorter. NASA has announced it plans to adopt a nuclear-powered propulsion system for future spacecraft to cut travel time on manned missions to the Red Planet. Missions that NASA had expected to take three years roundtrip could be cut down to only a few months.


Tuesday, January 21, 2003

The Morality of Light Trucks in Limbo

The anti-SUV jihad continues apace. The latest wave began a few months ago with Keith Bradsher’s book High and Mighty: SUVs - The World's Most Dangerous Vehicles and How They Got That Way. Bradsher is fond of making unflattering assumptions about the lives and emotional health of SUV owners – including that they’re selfish, anti-social and insecure about their marriages. That’s bad enough, of course, but they’re basically the same secular Liberal assumptions that most Volvo-driving SUV-haters agree with anyway. Cue the church bells, however, because Bradsher was soon joined by the Evangelical Environmental Network and their What Would Jesus Drive? campaign. According to them, driving a Cadillac Escalade makes baby Jesus cry. Evangelicals take note. But wait, not only are SUVs anti-Christian, they’re also funding terrorism according to Arianna Huffington’s Detroit Project. Using TV commercials disturbingly similar to those of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Project targets SUVs as the source of terrorist revenue. Assumably the oil used in the rest of the economy only helps buy palace furnishings for King Fahd and Bashar Assad while revenue from petroleum destined to be refined into gasoline for SUVs is deposited directly into al Qaeda’s Swiss bank account. Even more recently, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that SUVs had an unacceptable level of rollover fatalities and would need to be far more strictly regulated. True, SUVs rollover more often than cars with lower centers of gravity, but they’re still safer overall. And adding more steel to the roofs (to keep rollover accidents from crushing the occupants) would increase their weight, thus making them even less fuel-efficient – the main complaint of the cast of characters just described. There seems to be no way out, unless you consider the radical proposition that people should be allowed to drive whatever cars they want. Consider it a modest proposal.


It’s a slender thread of hope in a world full of Iraqi intransigence and North Korean psychosis to learn that the run of The Simpsons has been extended by Fox through May 2005. That will leave Ozzie and Harriet in the dust as longest-running sitcom of all time, and rightly so. Even in its 14th season, The Simpsons is currently the highest-rated Sunday night show for viewers between 18 and 49. For people 50 and over there’s always 60 Minutes.


Monday, January 20, 2003

Nightmares from the Dark Continent

Maybe exploitation by First World imperialists isn’t the only reason the nations of sub-Saharan Africa remain in desperate poverty and general backwardness. Ignorance and superstition seem to have a lot to do with it as well, as illustrated by the ongoing wave of vampire attacks in Malawi. Many people have been attacked on suspicion of themselves being, or being in league with, vampires. A Malawian court recently threw out charges against a radio DJ who violating President Bakili Muluzi’s order against spreading rumors of Anne Rice-style goings on by claiming to have been attacked by a vampire. He is vowing to continue his expose of the phenomenon. And the good people of Malawi aren’t alone in suffering from occult influence – Kinshasa, capital of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is battling as many as 20,000 pre-teens witches. Thousands of children, some under ten years old, have been driven from their homes by their families after being held responsible for ill fortune such as a family member dying of losing his job. Their culpability, of course, lies in the fact that they are witches and maliciously caused the assorted cases of disease/death/unemployment.


Sunday, January 19, 2003

At Least They Don’t Have to Deal with Plan Colombia

Economic conditions in Venezuela are degenerating at a rapid pace thanks to the general strike that is now almost two months old. Not only has OPEC member Venezuela had to begin importing gasoline, but President Chavez has begun seizing food and beverages from private suppliers and warehouses in order to keep Venezuelans fed. Chavez has vowed to stay in office at least until an August referendum on his leadership, but events promise to spiral out of control long before that.


Saturday, January 18, 2003

The Fringes Collide

This weekend, during which tens of thousands of people will assemble here in Washington to protest plans for war in Iraq, is an example of activists of varying interests coming together to present a united front. Everyone from anti-globalization socialists to anti-imperialist libertarians will be singing songs and carrying signs together. The city, however, will also feature a very different clash of activist group interests. Those clever kids at PETA are at it again, attacking the gay leather pride enthusiasts gathered at the Washington Plaza Hotel this weekend for their fetish-wear of choice. “Wear fake for the animals’ sake,” reads one placard, competing for cleverness with the imperative “Pleather yourself.” At least both groups can probably agree that the U.S. shouldn’t bomb Iraqi widows and orphans.


Tuesday, January 14, 2003

The Hon. Mekwli T. Motamba Has a Business Offer For You

Whenever I get an email from a former Nigerian Oil Ministry official promising to let me in on a multi-million dollar tax scam, I wonder, does anyone ever fall for this? Would anyone with enough money to interest the scammers be stupid enough to get ripped off? I would have though no, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle, I’d be wrong. The Secret Service went after 250 individuals last year for pulling the "Nigerian advance fee scheme" on victims whose losses totaled over $85 million. That’s a lot of greedy, stupid people with money to burn.


Thursday, January 09, 2003

You Can Take Your Cover and Shove It

The White House alleged missed out on making Time magazine’s People of the Year cover this year by refusing to grant access to the magazine’s staff. It seems Time wanted to feature the Bush-Cheney partnership as its People of the Year, but WH flaks wanted George W. to have the glory, and cover photo, all to himself. Not getting the insider view they wanted, the magazine’s editors ditched the Bush-Cheney feature for the super-hero montage of corporate/FBI whistleblower chicks. The Washington City Paper is presenting this as the story of a White House that got uppity when it should have been grateful, but it seems that for once a politician’s political handlers exercised a little restraint and dignity. Why should the President be expected to kowtow to the editorial brainstorming of a handful of magazine editors? It is as if Time is offended that the White House didn’t immediately discard their reservations when the Person of the Year honor was dangled before them. The editors seem to have come regard the POY as some sort of media-controlled Nobel Prize. It’s nothing of the kind, and hopefully being spurned by the Commander-in-Chief has given them a little perspective. Let’s not forget after all, the elite fraternity that this year’s honorees are joining – Adolf Hitler (1938), Joseph Stalin (1938 and 1942), Nikita Khrushchev (1957) and the Ayatollah Khomeini (1979), to name just a few. Besides which, Bush already belongs to the POY club – he was, as the bitter partisans would say, "(s)elected" in 2000.


Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Pettier Than Thou

The damage to the Republicans from the Trent Lott racism fiasco is not going away anytime soon, but the least people could do is let the issue slowly fade from memory rather making lame attempts to find a Democratic victim for the same sort of outrage, as a group of black Republicans did this week with Sen. Robert Byrd. We all know that Byrd, everyone’s favorite exemplar of stately senility, was in the Klan. It’s a matter of public record, going back to the days when a history of KKK membership was actually a political asset in places like West Virginia. If his 1941-43 stint in the Klan hasn’t warranted a sit-in in his office for the last several decades, one wonder why it deserves one now. The anti-Byrds say they’re angry that the Senator is portraying a Confederate general in the upcoming film Gods and Generals, though when you think about it, what could be more fitting? If he was playing William Lloyd Garrison I could understand the objection.


Saturday, January 04, 2003

Download the Candles and Cake

Happy Birthday, belatedly, to this great network or ours. The 133t among us say that January 1, 2003 qualifies as the Internet’s 20th anniversary. So have some festive fun, mumble a prayer to your Vinton Cerf icon and remember the one key force that would go on to transform a little-known government research project into the massive force that bestrides the planet like an ancient statue.

And Forget About Those Accident Victims on the Florida Highway

In case anyone wasn't aware, the PETA publicity machine is tenacious and inventive. They manage to be able to hang their message on almost any famous personality or news event, whether it’s Rudi Guliani’s prostate cancer diagnosis or the Trent Lott racism scandal. Now they’re joining the group of people examining Sen. Bill Frist’s professional record, asking him to formally apologize for medical experiments he did on cats while in medical school. It turns out that then-med student Frist decided the number of animals he was provided with through school weren’t sufficient in order for him to get enough surgical practice, so he went to animal shelters to “adopt” some abandoned felines which he then operated on. There were no survivors. The expertise Frist gained in part from those animal experiments has, of course, enabled him to save the lives of many otherwise terminally ill patients during his years as a transplant surgeon. But for PETA, as always, the price of a handful of unwanted cats was too high.