Archive for May, 2006

Haditha

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

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From The Guardian, a report from August last year:
Under US noses, brutal insurgents rule Sunni citadel

The executions are carried out at dawn on Haqlania bridge, the entrance to Haditha. A small crowd usually turns up to watch even though the killings are filmed and made available on DVD in the market the same afternoon.
One of last week’s victims was a young man in a black tracksuit. Like the others he was left on his belly by the blue iron railings at the bridge’s southern end. His severed head rested on his back, facing Baghdad. Children cheered when they heard that the next day’s spectacle would be a double bill: two decapitations. A man named Watban and his brother had been found guilty of spying.

With so many alleged American agents dying here Haqlania bridge was renamed Agents’ bridge. Then a local wag dubbed it Agents’ fridge, evoking a mortuary, and that name has stuck.

A three-day visit by a reporter working for the Guardian last week established what neither the Iraqi government nor the US military has admitted: Haditha, a farming town of 90,000 people by the Euphrates river, is an insurgent citadel.

That Islamist guerrillas were active in the area was no secret but only now has the extent of their control been revealed. They are the sole authority, running the town’s security, administration and communications.
. . .
DVDs of beheadings on the bridge are distributed free in the souk. Children prefer them to cartoons. “They should not watch such things,” said one grandfather, but parents appeared not to object.

One DVD features a young, blond muscular man who had been disembowelled. He was said to have been a member of a six-strong US sniper team ambushed and killed on August 1. Residents said he had been paraded in town before being executed.

The US military denied that, saying six bodies were recovered and that all appeared to have died in combat. Shortly after the ambush three landmines killed 14 marines in a convoy which ventured from their base outside the town.

Twice in recent months marines backed by aircraft and armour swept into Haditha to flush out the rebels. In a pattern repeated across Anbar there were skirmishes, a few suspects killed or detained, and success was declared.

In reality, said residents, the insurgents withdrew for a few days and returned when the Americans left. They have learned from last November’s battle in Falluja, when hundreds died fighting the marines and still lost the city.

Blue Star Chronicles has more.

CNN’s Arwa Damon knows Haditha.

Riehl World View has several posts on the subject. Michelle Malkin and Red Hot Cuppa Politics have interviews with survivors of the attack.

Haditha and My Lai: An instructive comparison?

The Scouts win one; noxious carbon emissions and today’s food articles from Maria

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

The Scouts win one
Supreme Court rejects appeal in Boy Scout case: Atheist father asked court to bar recruiting in public schools

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal Tuesday from an atheist father over Boy Scout recruiting at his son’s public school.

John Scalise had asked the court to bar public schools from opening their doors to Boy Scout recruiters and promoting membership, arguing that the group discriminates against nonreligious boys and parents by denying them membership if they don’t swear to religious oaths.
. . .
A Michigan appeals court said that Mount Pleasant schools allowed other organizations to use class facilities, including a hospital group, an Indian tribe, a Baptist church, and a hockey association.

Scalise argued that his son, Benjamin, was taunted by classmates and humiliated by a Boy Scout recruiter in front of other students. Benjamin Scalise is now 17.

The Supreme Court’s last Boy Scout case was in 2000. Justices ruled 5-4 at the time that the Boy Scouts can bar gays from serving as troop leaders. The ruling was written by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who died last year.

Davao City in the Phillipines is hosting the International Urban Scout Jamboree this week.

More noxious carbon emissions
from Al, via Kesher Talk.

As for the poison ivy story, Michael Fumento correctly points out that

there’s no special relationship between CO2 and poison ivy. Increases in CO2 make all plants grow faster and healthier. So yes, poison ivy and poison oak and kudzu all benefit from increased atmospheric C02. But so do rain forests, fruit trees, crops, and flowers. Indeed, as we’ve seen from previous warm periods such as the medieval one, global warming directly benefits crops by extending growing seasons and allowing crops in places previously to cold to even allow them.

While on the subject of noxious fumes, Chomski continues to spout off.

At the blogs
The Daily Ablution writes about Johann Hari’s disgraceful contempt for Bjørn Lomborg.
In the same post, commenter Nigel links to a CNN story where the wounded CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier admitted that

“I can’t go out and hunt a story. I’m having to wait for it to come to me, or I’m having to train Iraqi translators to go out and be my eyes, be my ears, ask the questions that I would ask if I could.”

If you go to my sidebar links, the three Michaels, Michael Fumento, Michael Totten, and Michael Yon have been reporting directly from Iraq, and not one of them sat in their hotels “having to wait for it to come to me”. Michael Fumento even has a photo of the Al Rasheed hotel, where journalists hole up while their stringers gather the news (photo #8 of the slide show).

Another darn thing you didn’t want to know about Prince Charles

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Sex Offender Visitation Case, ACLU Disappointed.

All Things Beautiful ponders a ‘Deadly Charm’ Offensive

On a lighter subject, Petite woman of the world,unite! You have nothing to lose but your dowdy, ill-fitting dresses

North Korean concentration camps, and today’s articles from Maria
Via Maria, a horrifying story: North Korea’s grisly arms tests on babies

Flights to US at risk after secrecy ruling

Despicable, in absolute terms.

New Jersey Anti-Tax Rally June 24th

Today’s food articles from Maria
Significant increase diabetes prevalence in US. You heard it from me before, you’ll hear it from me again: cut back on starches and give up sugary foods.

The Flavour Point Diet: Taste not waist

Bacterial Evolution in the Yogurt Ecosystem.

Today’s video
Via Annika, behind the scenes in Star Wars.

Princeton Township budget now over $30 million:

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

The Township just approved its $30,900,000 budget. This means the budget has increased

2006 8.2%
2005 11.3%
2004 8.8%

If that’s not bad enough, bear in mind that routine maintenance is not included in the budget:

The Township will typically put certain projects — roads, infrastructure — to bond

And they have the nerve to talk about a “surplus balance”.

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The "youths" are back

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

About 100 youths wielding baseball bats have fought French police in a Paris suburb

Via ¡No Pasarán!, Mayor targeted as youths fight police near Paris:

Montfermeil borders Clichy-Sous-Bois, where last year’s riots began after two youngsters died while apparently fleeing police. In the three weeks of rioting that followed in poor suburbs around France, some 9,000 vehicles and dozens of public buildings and businesses were torched.

HERE WE GO AGAIN

Latin America: Media games

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

While ABC News swallowed whole the charismatic-leader-helping-the-poor-offering-free-health-care-education-adult-literacy-and-job-training-initiatives-that-help-millions-of-VenezuelansTM crap and would like us to believe that Venezuela’s President Uses Oil Money for Health Care and Aid for the Poor, the nearly as sympathetic Toronto Star manages to mention Hugo’s hubris: Poor are fed by Chavez’s vanity: Clinics, cheap food boost support, but poverty remains high in Venezuela.

You would think that by now ABC could manage to do a puff piece without actually using the very words from the Venezuelan government ad that ran last year?

Hugo Chávez has a new role in Hollywood,

not as an Oliver-Stone conspiracy hero, but as a videogame villain.

The media games continue as Chavez supporters deem Mercenaries 2 “a justification for an imperialist aggression”.

FrontPage Magazine (which incorrectly believed Hugo’s lie about the Oliver Stone movie), in its article Chavez’s Incredible Shrinking Revolution, notices that

When you strip away the red from Hugo Chavez’s rhetoric and the dishonest propaganda glorifying him from the world’s left-wing press, the naked Chavez turns out to be little more than an old-fashioned Latin American military dictator like Pinochet, a prating megalomaniac Caudillo propped up mostly by secret police and stolen oil money. Even the New York Times, if only to save its own waning credibility, has begun to report Chavez’s defects and decline.

José Enrique Idler points out that, while Castro has managed to keep Cuba as a prison,

The world is more interconnected, and Latin America is no exception. Globalization has become the norm and governments increasingly play by the rules of investment and economic exchange. Brazil’s president, Lula, recently cited economic stability as one of his triumphs, declaring that the future “will be built on strong investment in education and training, with tax relief to encourage new investment, notably in science and technology.” Additionally, Peru and Colombia have now struck free-trade agreements with the U.S — and Ecuador and Panama may be next.

In Thursday’s Wall Street Journal front page article, Bolivia Marching To Chávez’s Beat, Evo Morales refers to Hugo as Bolivia’s “godfather.” (Nice choice of words, Evo!) Not everybody likes that:

As his power and influence grow, Mr. Chávez and his tactics are running into limits in a region where most people resent outside interference — be it Spanish rule centuries ago or U.S. intrusion in recent decades. Support for Mr. Chávez has become a political flashpoint in races in Mexico and Peru.

Mr. Chávez’s support of Bolivia’s decision to kick out foreign energy companies this month and nationalize its natural-gas reserves has also put him in direct confrontation with Brazil, South America’s largest economy. Brazil depends on Bolivia for half its natural gas, and Petrobras, Brazil’s state oil company, is the biggest foreign investor in Bolivia’s energy industry.

Mr. Chávez also may face stiffened opposition at home. Although he is still highly popular, his overseas spending makes growing numbers of Venezuelans angry. Despite high oil prices, problems like street crime and poverty have continued to loom large under his rule.

But Hugo’s money – along with the ever-present Cuban “doctors” – is going a long way towards buying Evo much needed popularity among the underclass:

Mr. Morales has also adopted many of Mr. Chávez’s social programs, including the use of Cuban doctors and teachers in poor neighborhoods. An estimated 708 Cuban doctors and volunteers have set up six clinics that offer, among other things, free eye consultations. At a Santa Cruz clinic, 200 Bolivians recently stood in a line that snaked around the block, waiting in the hot sun to get appointments for an eye examination. The clinic performs 100 free cataract operations daily. Some patients spent the night sleeping on the steps of the clinic. “It’s a miracle,” said Juan Alvarez, 56, an upholsterer awaiting surgery on an eye that clouded up three years ago after an injury.

Literacy classes are also a big hit. In a cramped classroom on the wind-swept plateau above La Paz, a few dozen Aymara Indian women and men gathered around a television set recently to learn the alphabet. At the end of the day’s session, Hugo Chura, the Bolivian official in charge of the program, stood up to give a pitch. “Previous governments here never cared about you,” he said in the Aymara language. “But the new president does. And he has friends like Fidel Castro and the Venezuelans who care about you, too.” The class broke out in applause.

Thanks to such programs, Mr. Morales’s approval ratings now hover above 80%. That will come in handy in early July, when the country votes to elect a new assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Understandably, Some are worrying Bolivia has sold soul to Venezuela, for a lot of money, as Chavez plans 1.5 billion dollar energy, mine investments in Bolivia as part of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA).

If you think any of the investments will yield wealth to the poor, you are mistaken: The Wall Street Journal has an article today, Chávez Pushes Boliva, Cuba Trade, which points to ruinous politically-driven command economies:

Some of the basics of ALBA trade have yet to be worked out. When Bolivian entrepeneurs asked Mr. Aguirre [a merchant at a trade fair last week] for his Venezuelan-made paper, he said he didn’t know yet. “We have nothing concrete on that”, he said. In the background of his booth was a poster of Mr. Chávez, his arm draped around Mr. Morales, while in the background a smiling Mr. Castro looked approvingly on both men.

Elsewhere Bolivian Indian women in traditional bowler hats met with Cuban trade officials and Venezuelan entrepeneurs, who encouraged them to sell alpaca sweaters and embroidered shawls in Cuba and Venezuela, although neither country is known for cold weather.
. . .
It was tough going, acknowledged Rina Zeballos, president of the 1,200-trong Movement of Indian Women of the Kollasuyo, a weaver’s cooperative. “We are producing these shawls, but we don’t have a market”

No amount of Hugo’s money can change the weather. Maybe his buddy Red Ken should help him market some sweaters in the UK instead of in the tropics. But Hugo and Evo are talking confederation, so odds are they won’t be sweating the alpaca marketing details.

Either way, the propaganda continues, with the WaPo claiming that Chavez Educates Masses at a University in His Image (via Elephants in Academia)

The vast majority of students at the three-year-old university grew up in poverty. Now they are recipients of a tuition-free education. They are also part of a massive underclass that Chavez aims to empower through the social programs that have fed his domestic popularity. The school, the cornerstone of those programs, is aimed at educating millions and promoting the sort of social activism that Chavez says can help Venezuela’s poor majority to overcome decades of oppression by the rich.

The Bolivarian University of Venezuela, a large-scale, PR excercise rich in propaganda, is not quite as the WaPo makes it. Instead, according to a first-hand account (via email),

The story is baloney. When I was in caracas, I put on the red t-shirt and checked this stupid thing out. Teaching at it were old grussies from the 1960s, long gray hippie-haired idiots who had been in the cold too long, wretched miserable, meritless “academics” who had
always formed the hardcore left in vz society and were too fanatical and extreme to ever fit in at a real university. Think “professional protestor” and you will get the picture. They knew nothing. One got up and did a spiel on atomic energy, showing a drawing of the famous atom star and explained that this was proof chavismo worked. It was that nutty, that meritless. And they were heavy rum drinking drunks, who ernestly played guitar after every class. Gee groovy.

As for the people in it, none were there because they wanted to be. They were there because of the govt check it involved. I was wondering why mom, pop and ghetto baby in head-to-toe red were all there, why young college students were there, and then i looked at the sign in sheet – it was everyone saying they were associated with some chavista schooling program. It was the checks that made them listen to the indoctrination, nothing more.

Hugo’s hosting this week’s OPEC meeting. Venezuela’s oil minister said Caracas would back any move to curb the cartel’s output, which naturally would drive up prices.

That’s this week. Last week Tony Blair scored high,

The Prime Minister claimed that he had not been treated this way since the school, AFP quoted.

“The only thing I could tell about President Chávez is that he has the best line of insults among world leaders.”

Yesterday Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo asked the Organization of American States (OAS) on Monday to give a ruling on Venezuela’s interference in Peru’s election. Via Publius Pundit, Hugo threatens that if front-runner Alan Garcia wins, Venezuela would not have diplomatic relations with Peru. Saturday’s London Times predicts Defeat looms for Chavez’s allies in Peru, and the bottom line is,

Chavez may in any case be obliged to concentrate on problems at home. Despite bumper revenues from high oil prices, Venezuela’s central bank said last week that it had lost $142m (£76m) in the first four months of this year, largely because Chavez’s administration had overspent.

Former Peruvian intelligence chief and now jailbird Vladimiro Montesinos has written a book where he claims that presidential candidate Ollanta Humala, is a product of Cuban and Venezuelan intelligence (link in Spanish).

I’m sure Hugo’s not too pleased with Uribe’s landslide win in Colombia:

Uribe is Washington’s chief ally in a region where the Bush administration is not popular.

“We want a modern democracy with security, freedom, transparency and respect for all institutions,” Uribe told supporters in Bogota after the results were read out.

Venezuela News and Views has some Random thoughts on Colombia.

Aleksander Boyd is Walking for democracy in Venezuela.

The media games continue. The stakes are high.

Update Ummm…

Update 2: Because it isn’t imperialism unless the yankis are involved: Hugo talked up his first draft of the Bolivian constitution during his latest Alo, presidente show. Spanish article here.

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Today’s articles from Maria

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

At the blogs
Google’s Tribute to Memorial Day and Google’s choice on Memorial Day.
Via Maria, World Net Daily also noticed. Anheuser Busch had a much better idea, as did SmadaNek.

Murtha’s Memorial Day Tribute: Accusing U.S. Military Of “A Coverup”.

Coming attractions at Iran TV. I bet they won’t be showing any of the protests on TV, which the American MSM seems to ignore, too.

Today’s articles from Maria
Azerbaijan ‘flattened’ sacred Armenian site

Fears that Azerbaijan has systematically destroyed hundreds of 500-year-old Christian artefacts have exploded into a diplomatic row, after Euro MPs were barred from inspecting an ancient Armenian burial site.

The predominantly Muslim country’s government has been accused of “flagrant vandalism” similar to the Taliban’s demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.

The claims centre on the fate of rare “khachkars”, stone crosses carved with intricate floral designs, at the burial ground of Djulfa in the Nakhichevan region of Azerbaijan, an enclave separated from the rest of the country by Armenia.

Obit from The Telegraph, Major-General Frantisek Perina,

Major-General Frantisek Perina, who has died aged 95, escaped from Czechoslovakia to become one of the leading fighter pilots with the French Air Force in 1940, and then joined the RAF; when the Second World War ended, he returned to his homeland but had to flee again when the Communists took power.

Keep the Internet Free from Govt Regulation

EVEREST MIRACLE: LEFT-FOR-DEAD CLIMBER FOUND DAZED, DANGLING, and half-undressed?

Dining in Moscow got better. Just don’t take the tunnel.

President defies most Republicans on immigration

Health news from Maria
Vaccine to Cut Risk of Shingles in Older People Is Approved

Wear your sunblock

Aging: Hit the Health Club: Offset Dementia’s Onset, or at least some think so.

More blogging later. I’m back.
More from Maria,
The EU’s version of eminent domain: take the family farm and give it to the fishies. Speaking of fishes, Richard writes about how EU fishing vessels were stripping the waters off Africa.

Ex-dean says Harvard run like day care
Video: City of David

and one more item,
Iraq Less Violent than Washington, D.C

“It’s 45 violent deaths per 100,000 in Washington, D.C.,” King told Crowley.

Other American cities with higher violent civilian death rates than Iraq include:
Detroit – 41.8 per 100,000
Baltimore – 37.7 per 100,000
Atlanta – 34.9 per 100,000
St. Louis – 31.4 per 100,000

The American city with the highest civilian death rate was New Orleans before Katrina – with a staggering 53.1 deaths per 100,000 – almost twice the death rate in Iraq

Heartfelt thanks,

Monday, May 29th, 2006

on this Memorial Day to every person who has served our country.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day (for decorating the graves of the Civil War dead, which decimated over 600,000 Americans, nearly 2% of the total population of the Union and Confederacy), but at the turn of the 19th century it was designated as Memorial Day.

Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868. In 1971 its observance was extended to honor all soldiers who died in American wars. At Arlington National Cemetery a wreath is placed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and each grave is decorated with a small American flag.

Today let us all join in thanks to those who continue to serve our country.

Update Via Maria, Victor Davis Hanson writes about Iraq, A war to be proud of.

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The Da Vinci Gym

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

Yesterday at Barnes and Noble they had a huge table of Da Vinci Code hype materials, among them not only the several versions of Dan Brown’s books, but also a few books on the Louvre, Leonardo, and jigsaw puzzzles of the Last Supper.

And the latest on Da Vinci hype:

It made me wonder, what’s next?

Since I was pressed for time, I didn’t check the details, but I can envision Dan Brown starting a franchise of gyms, The Da Vinci Gnostic Health Clubs (“Your pain is our gain”), where instead of yoga you hear him drone on about all Catholic-related conspiracy theories, and where all the personal trainers are crazed albinos chasing after you with a whip.

(My apologies to all crazed albinos.)

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Not commencement, no.

Friday, May 26th, 2006

com·mence·ment:

1. A beginning; a start.

2. A ceremony at which academic degrees or diplomas are conferred.
The day on which such a ceremony occurs.

Via Gateway Pundit,

graduation day at Deathcult U: Dozens say they will die for Islam and Iran. More pictures here.

“Peace only unto those who follow the true path.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Iran. . .

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X-Men III, Richard III, and more serious matters

Friday, May 26th, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand opens this weekend, and much to my surprise Bryan Singer didn’t direct it. This is probably a big mistake.

No matter.

I’ll go to any movie that has Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in it.
Today’s video is Hugh‘s interview. After that, scroll down and watch Patrick Stewart’s interview.

BTW, even after decades of going to Broadway plays, the one most extraordinary stage performance I’ve had the privilege of seeing was Patrick Stewart when he gave a lecture at Princeton University some 11 years ago. And, as my friend said, “for a 60-yr old short bald guy, he’s really hot!”
Hugh’s easy on the eyes, too.
(clarification: At approx. 5’8″, Patrick Stewart’s not really short. He’s just shorter than I. Hugh’s 6′+)

On more serious matters, on to the cartoons,
The genius of a good cartoonist is that with a good cartoonist, like a good poet, brevity is the soul of wit.

Throw Hastert from the train. And while you’re at it, throw Murtha, too:

(via Darleen)

Shakespeare’s Richard III,
whose quote, Talk’st thou to me of ‘ifs’? Thou art a traitor: Off with his head! comes to mind when one reads about poisonous bunch-back’d toad Galloway (via Allah).

. . . The Prisoner,
(via Instapundit).

and yet more movies, this time for propaganda,
Al Gore documentary rekindles political career. Or maybe not.
Al should take his pseudo science and put it in his lockbox. That way it won’t get wet when the water rises.
Update: Al now says he went to Cannes when he was 15 to study the existentialists – Sartre, Camus. What a crock of hooey.

Not that Cannes is known for its philosophical depth, but as Betsy asks,

Is that what it takes to win over a red state, the goal of any victory-seeking Democrat in 2008? I doubt it.

Today’s other articles from Maria
Hamas looking to fly planes into buildings: Terror leader details goal to carry out 9-11-style attacks, ‘possibly against skyscraper’. Meanwhile, back in NYC, Fleet Week air stunt freaks out New Yorkers.

For your inner X-men geek fantasy: Being invisible ‘a possibility’.

Researchers: Anti-virus software has flaw.

Feds cut off phone tax after 108 years. Of course, they have another tax at the ready. Speaking of taxes,

THE BILL

Taxpayers are responsible for more than $500,000 per household for unfunded financial promises made by federal, state and local governments. How the debt breaks down:

Program Liability per household

Medicare $263,377

Social Security $133,456

Federal debt $42,538

Military retirement benefits $25,443

State-local debt $16,395

Federal employee retirement benefits $14,256

State-local retirement benefits $13,257

Other federal $1,956

Total $510,678

Take my advice and plan accordingly because you can’t expect any kind of retirement benefit to come from the government.

The recipe of the week.

At the blogs,
friend of this blog Philomathean posts on A House Divided, where a physicist found out that

there are not many shades of gray in the political blogosphere,

which you probably knew, but what makes this finding interesting is that he studied a huge network. Read all of Philomathean’s post.

At Barcepundit,

NOW IT SEEMS that for the AP, the fact that Iraqis laugh at their government is bad news.

I’m not the only former ACLU supporter who has turned against them. As Jay said, what better time than Memorial Day weekend to get behind this cause?

As always, All Things Beautiful has a great post.

The Anchoress is underwhelmed by the prospect of The Vaginal Speculum Spectacular and other such things.

At times, we live in a world that increasingly resembles a Salvador Dali painting.

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