Archive for December, 2006
31 Dec 2006

We Arrest Them; They Release Them

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The Washington Post reports:

Two senior Iranian operatives who were detained by U.S. forces in Iraq and were strongly suspected of planning attacks against American military forces and Iraqi targets were expelled to Iran on Friday, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials.

The decision to free the men was made by the Iraqi government and has angered U.S. military officials who say the operatives were seeking to foment instability here.

“These are really serious people,” said one U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They were the target of a very focused raid based on intelligence, and it would be hard for one to believe that their activities weren’t endorsed by the Iranian government. It’s a situation that is obviously troubling.”

More details here:

Two Iranians detained by U.S. forces in Iraq were senior members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and had coordinated attacks against coalition troops and Iraqi civilians, the head of an Iranian opposition group said Thursday.

The White House said earlier this week that U.S. troops had caught a group of Iranians in a raid on suspected insurgents in Iraq. Two of the men had diplomatic immunity and were released them to Iran, but the other two were kept in custody.

Maryam Rajavi, who heads the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NICR), an anti-regime umbrella group based in Paris, said the two men being held were senior members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods force and were responsible for sectarian attacks in Iraq.

She cited the group’s intelligence officials as the source of the information.

It was not possible to independently verify Rajavi’s claim, but the group has provided relatively accurate information on developments in Iran over the past several years, including details on the country’s secretive nuclear program.

In Washington, a Pentagon official said Thursday that U.S. forces had found “indications and evidence that all of the people rounded up, including the two Iranians, are involved in the transfer of IED technologies from Iran to Iraq.”

IED stands for improvised explosive devices, or small bombs that are commonly used in attacks in Iraq.

The U.S. military has confirmed that troops found documents, but it was not clear if any actual explosives were found.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information has not yet been made public, said that U.S. forces are currently working out ways to turn over the Iranians to the Iraqis, but that has not been resolved as yet.

In Baghdad, a spokesman for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Monday that the two detained Iranians were in the country at his invitation.

But U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell confirmed Thursday that the detained men were part of a group of 10 suspects taken into custody after the raid on Dec. 21. They were being interrogated by U.S. intelligence, he said.

U.S. officials have charged that Iran provides training and other aid to Shiite militias in Iraq, including equipment used to build roadside bombs. Tehran denies this and says it only has political and religious links with Iraqi Shiites.

There is good reason to suppose that significant Shi’ite elements of the Iraqi government are working with Iran, but why is the Kurdish President of Iraq inviting Iranian agents provocateurs into the country to organize acts of terrorism? So much for naive Wilsonianism.

31 Dec 2006

Which Super Hero Are You?

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My results:

You are Superman

You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.

QUIZ

30 Dec 2006

Top Geek Quotes

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If at first you don’t succeed; call it version 1.0

I would love to change the world, but they won’t give me the source code.

A Life? Cool! Where can I download one of those?

link

30 Dec 2006

Proposed Resort Hotel Songjian, China

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China is planning to build a 400 room resort-hotel in a water-filled quarry in Songjiang. Atkins Architectural Group won the international design competition.

Hat tip to Andy G.

29 Dec 2006

Rightwing Shrinks, Who Would Have Imagined Such a Thing?

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Before the blogosphere came along, I would never even have suspected that such a thing as a skeptical, rational, freedom-loving, Republican-voting alienist existed.

But I read Dr. Sanity and Shrinkwrapped regularly, who certainly thoroughly discredit my former naive assumptions that anyone associated with, or trained in, any form or species of the social sciences simply has to be some kind of leftist.

Dr. Joy Bliss, over at Maggie’s Farm, has a larger list than my own of the non-collectivist psychologically-inclined to which she has added a meditation on freedom and the psyche.

It has been a wonder to me that so many folks in the mind and soul-treating professions are so non-freedom-minded, when these professions are designed to free people from their inner demons which restrict their taking on life freely, cheerfully, and energetically, in the way they see fit, and taking their own chances and making their own choices – in free societies. Freedom is what they are all about, and why psychoanalysis and psychotherapy are never permitted in totalitarian states.

I need to keep an eye on this lady’s postings, and I believe I am going to arrange a new Psychology link category.

29 Dec 2006

Celebrating the New Year With a Sardine

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The Boston Globe reports on some cities with more colorful approaches than New York’s.

As the 1,070-pound Waterford crystal ball begins its descent in New York’s Times Square on Sunday night, a few hundred souls in Eastport , Maine, 570 miles to the northeast, will lift their eyes and watch their own harbinger of the New Year: a 22-foot-long sardine.

The sardine is a symbol for the easternmost city in the United States, where canneries were once a booming industry. The canneries are gone, and Eastport is known as an artsy seaside community with galleries and a quaint downtown. But the sardine is a new New Year’s Eve tradition.

“We thought it was intriguing enough, bizarre enough, that it might catch some interest,” said Hugh French , director of Eastport’s Tides Institute & Museum of Art , which will lower the sardine on Sunday night.

Eastport is not alone. Across the country, enterprising civic cheerleaders have come up with all manner of local versions of the Times Square countdown.

In North Carolina, Brasstown drops a live opossum in a cage from the top of a country store.

In Pennsylvania, Lebanon drops a massive bologna.

In Florida, Key West boasts three drops within a mile of one another — a conch shell, a woman dressed as a pirate wench, and a drag queen named Sushi, generally ensconced in a red high-heeled shoe.

29 Dec 2006

10 Downing Street

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Telegraph article

virtual tour

29 Dec 2006

Victor’s Justice

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Saddam Hussein was a pertinacious enemy of the United States, a notorious sponsor of international terrorism, and had the effrontery to attempt the assassination of a president of the United States. He brought his own downfall upon himself by persisting in violating the ceasefire agreement which ended the Gulf War.

If the US general in command of the unit which captured Saddam had promptly hailed him before a drumhead courtmartial, stood him up against a wall, and shot him at dawn, I don’t see how anyone could complain of the injustice of US actions.

Turning the vanquished dictator, however, to the petty political opponents he had always previously defeated to be hanged after a show trial is a policy unworthy of a great power. The 19th century was usually more civilized. Napoleon was exiled to St. Helena. Even Mexico’s Santa Anna was accorded refuge in New Jersey, where he repaid America’s clemency by introducing Americans to chewing gum.

The United States finds itself divided at home over the war in Iraq. Surely Saddam could be useful in clearing up Americans’ confusion about his role in terrorism and about those missing WMDs, and in elucidating his own plans for the current insurgency. Why not offer the condemned prisoner a deal?

In return for Saddam agreeing to testify fully and frankly about his regime’s relationship with Islamic terrorist groups, possible ties to the 9/11 conspiracy, about his WMD programs, and the evacuations to Syria, if he discloses pre-invasion plans for the current insurgency, and calls for Ba’athists generally to make peace with the new parliamentarty regime, we could offer him clemency and asylum in exile. The information he could provide would be a lot more valuable than the pathetic spectacle of his execution.

28 Dec 2006

Lonely in Iraq

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Scott Hennen received the above photo of John Kerry at breakfast from a friend in Iraq.

This is a true story…..Check out this photo from our mess hall at the US Embassy yesterday morning. Sen. Kerry found himself all alone while he was over here. He cancelled his press conference because no one came, he worked out alone in the gym w/o any soldiers even going up to say hi or ask for an autograph (I was one of those who was in the gym at the same time), and he found himself eating breakfast with only a couple of folks who are obviously not troops.

Hat tip to Michelle Malkin.

28 Dec 2006

Fate of Confederate Heroes Uncertain at University of Texas

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A common tragic reality of our time is that positions of power and responsibility typically go to the mediocre conformists who successfully climb the greasy pole of life, one finger cautiously raised in the air at every level of ascent. In a better world, the president of the University of Texas would be a gentleman of sound principles and liberal education, capable of feeling a sense of loyalty to his state and region’s history, courageous enough to withstand the divisive demands of rabblerousers and demagogues, and dignified enough to dismiss the unseemly impulses of fashion.

William C. Powers, the current president of the University of Texas, is not such a man.

he plans to form an advisory committee to study whether something should be done about numerous campus statues honoring the Confederacy.

The statues have in recent history become a topic of debate among students, professors and administrators.

They include four bronze figures on the South Mall honoring Confederate leaders such as Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States, and Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Powers said he plans to appoint a committee of advisers early next year, probably including faculty and students.

“The whole range of options is on the table,” Powers said.

And when the wheel turns, and the most vulgar political fashion requires a different outrage, like Germany’s 1930s removal of books by Jewish authors from university libraries, the likes of President Powers will be again appointing committees made up of the most ideologically-infected and trendy students and faculty to decide the university’s course of action. And the decision will always be in favor of the bonfire.

28 Dec 2006

The Grinches (Who Didn’t Get a Free Notebook) Spoil Xmas

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Those jolly little elves at Microsoft and AMD handed out to a number of bloggers (but not this one, alas!) as Xmas presents for review purposes brand new Acer Ferrari notebook computers, retailing for $2,299.

But, predictably enough, jealous grinches (who obviously didn’t get theirs) started accusing the elves of Redmond of bribing bloggers, forsooth.

APC

Slashdot

So, inevitably, the elves got nervous and upset, decided it was safer to turn Indian-giver, and send the fortunate bloggers the following request:

Just to make sure there is no misunderstanding of our intentions I’m going to ask that you either give the pc away or send it back when you no longer need it for product reviews.

Hat tip to Techmeme.

28 Dec 2006

Stradivari’s Secret Discovered?

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The Houston Chronicle reports that Joseph Nagyvary, a biochemist at Texas A&M University, thinks he has.

A starter violin costs about $200. A finely crafted modern instrument can run as much as $20,000. But even that’s loose change when compared with a violin made three centuries ago by Antonio Stradivari.

His 600 or so surviving violins can cost upward of $3.5 million.

For more than a century, artists, craftsmen and scientists have sought the secret to the prized instruments’ distinct sound. Dozens have claimed to have solved the mystery, but none has been proved right.

Now, a Texas biochemist, Joseph Nagyvary, says he has scientific proof the long-sought secret is chemistry, not craftsmanship. Specifically, he says, Stradivari treated his violins with chemicals to protect them from wood-eating worms common in northern Italy. Unknowingly, Nagyvary says, the master craftsman gave his violins a chemical noise filter that provided a unique, pleasing sound.

28 Dec 2006

Could the US Have Won?

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Mumin Salih thinks the US has already lost:

Who can forget the scenes of jubilant Iraqis in the streets of Baghdad in 2003? Who can forget the cheerful Iraqis around the falling statue of Saddam, symbolising the fall of the dictator’s regime?

Indeed, the majority of Iraqis were supportive to the efforts of liberating Iraq from the tight grip of Iraq’s worst dictator. That includes the vast majority of Kurds (about 20% of the total population) and the Shia (about 60% of the total population) as well as many sunni Arabs (about 20% of the total population). All these groups had suffered badly and sadly at the hands of Saddam’s Baath regime. They considered the war as a liberation war, rather than an occupation of Iraq. The American and British forces fought skilfully and won an easy military victory with minimal losses. Although Saddam and his Baath regime collapsed having provided minimal resistance, the jubilation soon started to fade away as the situation deteriorated rapidly. With so many killed, kidnapped and so many scandals spreading around, even the most sincere supporters of the war had to reconsider their positions and admit that Iraq is in a miss. But did it have to be?

But he believes a firmer approach would have worked better.

Let us make a hypothetical assumption that the control of post war Iraq was given to a ruthless general, say one with an Arab mentality similar to any Arab dictator like the late Hafez Al Asad of Syria or Saddam Hussein himself. Let us call that hypothetical personality General Ruthless and, based on the past experiences of the Middle East, let us see how he would have handled the post war Iraq.

From the outset, General Ruthless would make it clear he doesn’t tolerate any leniency in the liberated country. He would enforce a curfew for the first few days while his forces establish their hold on the country, he might give his forces the power to capture or even shoot looters and others who do not comply with law…

The outside world would only know very little about what is happening because General Ruthless would impose complete censorship on reports coming out of the country. Any leaks of bad news would be strongly denied.

Suicide bombing, kidnappings and other terrorists’ activities that flourished in real life, would become harder to carry out and would not get the wide publicity they enjoyed in the real war scenario. Lack of reporting would deny the terrorists of an important source of information and feedback. The few terrorists’ activities that do get through would go largely unnoticed and unreported, therefore have little influence on public opinion inside and outside the country. People would perceive a sense of reasonable stability, which encourages more people to turn to work confirming the sense of stability even further. On the other hand, terrorists would get frustrated because the lack of media coverage denies them an important communication tool with regard to the full impact of their activities. It becomes even harder for them to recruit young Iraqis.

General Ruthless might even take steps to deny the terrorists any access to the Internet or satellite television, denying them of their most important weapon- propaganda. After all, the Internet is an American property.

General Ruthless’ harsh measures would undoubtedly result in angry criticism from various groups inside and outside America, but nothing in the scale of criticism we have seen in the real life scenario, stability of Iraq would silence many fierce opponents. Such heavy handed approach would undoubtedly result in considerable loss of lives but, again, nothing on the scale we saw in the real life scenario.

America started losing the war before it even started, the slow build up to the war that preceded the military operations only played in the hands of the anti-war groups worldwide. General Ruthless wouldn’t allow this to proceed in the way it did. It was clear, then and now, that the secular Baath regime started to make alliances with the Islamic radical groups and actively sought the destruction of American targets by all means, therefore it has become a serious threat. America has the right to defend its people and its interests. Playing polite and trying to make it a legal war was like a joke and led America to nowhere. How many wars in history we agree to be legal wars? ..

I am afraid even the ruthlessness of General Ruthless would have scored more success and caused less damage than the Americans had done. This purely hypothetical assumption only exposes the weaknesses of the West more than it reflects the wisdom of our hypothetical ruthless General. If America cannot win this war then it is hard to believe it can win any war. America’s failure in Iraq may leave a long lasting scar, but the Americans have can only blame themselves before blaming the others.

27 Dec 2006

How the West Could Lose

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Daniel Pipes notes that contemporary vulnerabilities could possibly cancel out the West’s advantages in military forces and technology.

After defeating fascists and communists, can the West now defeat the Islamists?

On the face of it, its military preponderance makes victory seem inevitable. Even if Tehran acquires a nuclear weapon, Islamists have nothing like the military machine the Axis deployed in World War II, nor the Soviet Union during the cold war. What do the Islamists have to compare with the Wehrmacht or the Red Army? The SS or Spetznaz? The Gestapo or the KGB? Or, for that matter, to Auschwitz or the gulag?

Yet, more than a few analysts, including myself, worry that it’s not so simple. Islamists (defined as persons who demand to live by the sacred law of Islam, the Sharia) might in fact do better than the earlier totalitarians. They could even win. That’s because, however strong the Western hardware, its software contains some potentially fatal bugs. Three of them — pacifism, self-hatred, complacency — deserve attention.

Pacifism: Among the educated, the conviction has widely taken hold that “there is no military solution” to current problems, a mantra applied in every Middle East problem — Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, the Kurds, terrorism, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. But this pragmatic pacifism overlooks the fact that modern history abounds with military solutions. What were the defeats of the Axis, the United States in Vietnam, or the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, if not military solutions?

Self-hatred: Significant elements in several Western countries — especially the United States, Great Britain, and Israel — believe their own governments to be repositories of evil, and see terrorism as just punishment for past sins. This “we have met the enemy and he is us” attitude replaces an effective response with appeasement, including a readiness to give up traditions and achievements. Osama bin Laden celebrates by name such leftists as Robert Fisk and William Blum. Self-hating Westerners have an out-sized importance due to their prominent role as shapers of opinion in universities, the media, religious institutions, and the arts. They serve as the Islamists’ auxiliary mujahideen.

Complacency: The absence of an impressive Islamist military machine imbues many Westerners, especially on the left, with a feeling of disdain. Whereas conventional war — with its men in uniform, its ships, tanks, and planes, and its bloody battles for land and resources — is simple to comprehend, the asymmetric war with radical Islam is elusive. Box cutters and suicide belts make it difficult to perceive this enemy as a worthy opponent. With John Kerry, too many dismiss terrorism as a mere “nuisance.”

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