Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Friday, August 22, 2003

I haven't posted in a long time, I know. But this was too tempting to pass up. What a bunch of self-important, slogan chanting empty headed ignoramuses.

Along with Hanks, pot-loving actor Woody Harrelson is set to join the fight against Schwarzenegger. "Woody is diametrically opposed to Arnold Schwarzenegger's political positions," a spokesman for Harrelson told PAGE SIX. "He does not support the candidacy."

So, that means Woody is against decriminalization, anti-gun control, anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage? Nice to know.

Oft-arrested protester Martin Sheen told "Access Hollywood" Schwarzenegger got his marching orders from the Bush administration. "The California recall is an effort to grab the state for the Republicans," Sheen said. "I suspect this came out of the White House. Frankly, it makes perfect sense after Florida."

What a boob. For one thing, if the White House was so in control McClintock and Simon wouldn't be in the race. And maybe Martin should let us know from whence come his marching orders. And who was it that took the election to court in Florida? And what the hell does this have to do with it?

...Cybill Shepherd is freaked out by the prospect of the Austrian-born action hero in the executive mansion. "That would be the worst tragedy in the history of California," Shepherd hyperventilated to "Access Hollywood."

"I think that we are the laughing stock of the world, with Arnold Schwarzenegger running [for] governor," Shepherd said. "I think he's a real hypocrite. I think he has a past that is going to come out, and I'm not going to mention what it is, but it's not going to be pretty."

All those earthquakes and the thousands dead from it? The $38 BILLION deficit? Nothing compared to Governor Arnold. Does she actually think it will be worse than Reagan? Wonder if she ever called Davis any names for being so blatantly corrupt? Wonder if she thinks Clinton is a hypocrite?

Do any of these idiots think before opening their mouths? Do they even compare the words spilling out of their mouths with the reality on the ground? Of course the above is perfect evidence that they do not. But, still someone should ask them.

< email | 8/22/2003 01:27:00 PM | link

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Welly Welly Well. Last week was full of fun and fly fishing in Vermont and Maine and this week I have returned but have begun in a new position here at work. I can't say when blogging will commence again but I will try sometime this week.

< email | 7/29/2003 10:14:00 AM | link

Friday, July 18, 2003

Off to Vermont for the weekend. Posting should resume on Tuesday.

< email | 7/18/2003 01:54:00 PM | link

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Nort Korea again threatens DOOM AND ANNIHILATION. But it was in response to some pretty idiotic statements.

North Korea has warned Japan that it is headed for "final ruin" while criticising a senior Japanese politician's comments that downplayed Japan's war history and insulted other Asian nations.

Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency was sharply critical of the comments of senior ruling Liberal Democratic Party member Takami Eto, who called most illegal immigrants "thieves and murderers".

Mr Eto also insisted that Japan's annexation of Korea in 1910 was "unconditionally approved by the United Nations".

North Korea says the "provocative" remarks were part of a bid to turn Japanese society to the right and push forward moves for militarisation and fascism, to launch a reinvasion of Asia.

Pyongyang's criticism followed a small protest in Hong Kong over Eto's comments on the Nanjing massacre, which he denounced as a "lie".

The veteran politician says claims that 300-thousand civilians were butchered in the 1937 Rape of Nanjing, were baseless.

That's right, absolutely baseless, never happened.

< email | 7/17/2003 03:43:00 PM | link

Another Palestinian protest against the armed killers in their midst.

About 500 people rallied in downtown Nablus, demanding an end to the virtual immunity from prosecution or punishment for crimes ranging from robbery to murder.

The violence came to a head on Wednesday.

Three gunmen went into a pharmacy to abduct another man. On the way out, witnesses said, one of the gunmen fired randomly on the street, killing Amnah Abu Hiljah, 36, who was holding her 2- month-old baby.

In the second incident, a 14-year-old boy was killed when a bomb he was playing with exploded, security officials said, adding that the device was like those planted on West Bank roads against Israeli vehicles.

After the woman's funeral, Palestinians held banners that read, ``stop the killers.''

A protester who identified himself only by his first name, Hassan, said: ``The people must rise up against them, because all of them are responsible for the mess in this city.''

The governor of the Nablus region, Mahmoud Aloul, said random violence is widespread. He said the Palestinian Authority is weak and some people exploit this to ``commit crimes under the title of the national struggle.''

This is an interesting add on at the end.

In three years of violence, armed militants have gained strong influence in Nablus and other West Bank cities, especially in places where Israeli raids and restrictions have forced Palestinian police off the streets.

I would like to know how many of those involved in the thuggery are Palestinian police.

< email | 7/17/2003 03:23:00 PM | link

Hey Jacques has a great innovative idea to fight AIDS. C'mon. I'm sure you can guess what it is.....RAISE TAXES.

French President Jacques Chirac has suggested countries impose new taxes to help increase the coffers of the agency set up to head the charge against the AIDS pandemic.

Mr Chirac has made the call to help the "Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria" in a speech at closing ceremonies at a major AIDS conference in Paris.

< email | 7/17/2003 03:06:00 PM | link

A column by Oswaldo Paya the head of the Varela project in Cuba.

Cuba finds itself in a grave crisis. In the past few years, thousands of its citizens have participated in what's known as the Varela Project, overcoming a culture of fear and calling for a national referendum on civil rights, the peaceful evolution of freedom and reconciliation. But now a cloud of terror hangs over that quest for change.

Since March 18, Cuban state security has detained dozens of human-rights activists, independent journalists and opposition leaders. Nearly 80 people have been locked away after summary trials, accused of collusion with the U.S. government. Their families have been terrorized and their homes ransacked — without turning up the evidence of weapons or violent plots that the government claimed it would find.

The crackdown is an act against civil society, against fundamental rights and against the Varela Project. Among those detained are almost the entire executive leadership of the Christian Liberation Movement, which gave birth to the project. More than half of the detainees are project coordinators.

< email | 7/17/2003 02:32:00 PM | link

Well, that's somewhat good news. The New Zealander in charge of the NZDF mission in Afghanistan is very experienced in this sort of thing.

Colonel Neville Reilly, aged 54, received a gallantry award in the 2000 Queen's Birthday honours list for his actions in East Timor between June and September 1999.

He was responsible for the security of the United Nations mission and was "inspirational" when the UN compound in Dili came under seige following the outbreak of violence after the Indonesian province voted for independence.

Colonel Reilly also served in Bosnia in the mid-1990s with the UN.

He is described as one of the most highly decorated people in the Defence Force, but he is modest.

He says many others going to Afghanistan with the NZ provincial reconstruction team (PRT) have as much peacekeeping experience as he has had.

The main role of his unit, to be based in the province of Bamiyan, will be to help the Government extend its authority.

< email | 7/17/2003 02:19:00 PM | link

Teddy and Kerry and Krugman and Kristof and all the rest must be right Saddam agrees with them.

What will the liars Bush and Blair tell their people and mankind, what will the chorus of liars that backed them say, and what will they tell the world after they wove a scenario of lies against Iraq and its leadership?

"What will they do after it became clear that what they said were lies and that this was known to the president of the United States and the prime minister of Britain when they decided to wage war and aggression?" the voice asked.

"In order to save themselves," Bush and Blair were now "trying to blame others" for those lies, the voice said.

< email | 7/17/2003 01:43:00 PM | link

And in case you somehow forgot. Saddam murdered a lot of Iraqis.

U.S. military in Iraq say its troops have uncovered a mass grave near the northern city of Mosul where as many as 400 people, probably Kurds, may be buried.

A military statement said about 25 human remains -- all women and children with bullet holes through the skull -- were uncovered in a valley at al-Hatra town, some 300 km (170 miles) north of Baghdad.

Residents estimate that between 200 and 400 people could be buried there, the statement said, adding the find had been made by the 101st Airborne Division and that Army pathologists had arrived on site on Monday.

"It is believed the people were Kurdish," it added. "Two pieces of clothing were found at approximately six-feet (metres) deep."

< email | 7/17/2003 01:38:00 PM | link

The head of Bechtel's operation in Iraq talks about the job ahead.

Saboteurs continue to target the nation’s infrastructure, with the power sector a primary target of looters. Mumm says 13 towers of a 400-kv transmission line extending from Baghdad to the north were down when Bechtel crews first surveyed the line. Earlier this month, the number jumped to 65. Looters are "harvesting the copper" that they strip from the transmission lines.

This looting is not easy, says Mumm. Looters chop the wires by hand and burn off the insulation to obtain the copper. Several substations also have been destroyed.

Mumm says that "point security," which includes a barrier around a site or facility with a security guard, is helpful to secure a site. But looting and other damage tends to occur at facilities that cannot be protected by point security, such as transmission lines, or when work is finished and the security moves on.

Still, Bechtel is moving on a primary task of putting Iraqis back to work. Bechtel has teamed with the Iraq Housing Ministry to repair 1,400 schools and clinics before the start of the school year on Sept. 15. Workers are primarily patching walls and tiles and installing plumbing fixtures and ceiling fans, says Mumm. It’s not technical work but there is a lot of volume, he says. The damage was not a casualty of the war, but of looters afterward. "Schools were looted like everyplace else," he says.

Bechtel maintains now, as it did after receiving the rebuilding contract in April, that it intends to subcontract out about 90% of the work. "Our goal is to put the maximum amount of work with Iraqi contractors," Mumm says. This will help achieve the top USAID priority of getting the Iraqi economy back on track.

As of July 14, Bechtel has awarded 46 subcontracts, 16 of which went to 14 different Iraqi companies, according to Bechtel spokesman Howard N. Menaker. Bechtel regularly updates its subcontract award list, which can be viewed at https://supplier.bechtel.com/bni/usaid/PortalSubcList.xls.

< email | 7/17/2003 01:33:00 PM | link


Mrs. R.D. Hawkins' utility payment took a long route - to Iraq and back.

The Gautier woman's bill arrived at the Pascagoula city clerk's office in an envelope decorated with a hand-drawn stamp - and a message from Iraq apologizing for the late delivery.

Hawkins had mailed her $49.36 natural gas bill to neighboring Pascagoula in April. It arrived at the city clerk's office on Wednesday.

"Please forgive the lateness of this bill," an American serviceman who identified himself only as Spc. Fifield had scribbled on the back of the small envelope. "It had to go all the way around the world to Operation Iraqi Freedom due to a computer error.

"I am Spc. Fifield and enjoy my time here in Iraq, and so do the Iraqis," the soldier wrote. "Thank you for supporting your troops."

< email | 7/17/2003 01:30:00 PM | link

Is Iran holding Abu Gaith? Kuwait is saying yes.

Kuwait has acknowledged for the first time that al-Qaida spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a former Kuwaiti citizen, is in Iranian custody, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported Thursday on its Web site.

There had been earlier unconfirmed reports that Iran was holding Abu Ghaith, but on Thursday, Kuwait's official news agency, Kuna, confirmed to the BBC that the Kuwaiti government had turned down an offer by Iran to extradite him to Kuwait.

Kuwaiti Interior Minister Sheikh Nawaf al-Sabah was quoted as saying his country didn't want to take charge of Abu Ghaith. He said his Kuwaiti citizenship had been withdrawn after the Sept. 11 attacks.

< email | 7/17/2003 01:13:00 PM | link

New technology that was used in the war.

Not a lot has been written about new products from Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works during the last couple of years, but aerospace officials say the advanced projects company has produced prototypes of a classified, unmanned aerial vehicle--built strictly as an intelligence-gathering aircraft--that "has been used" operationally over Iraq.

The aircraft is described by a U.S. Air Force official as a derivative of the "DarkStar" (Tier 3-minus) program that was canceled after the demonstration aircraft was test flown and then declared operationally unsuitable. The new Lockheed Martin UAV is "highly reliable," in part because of a much improved flight control system, the Air Force official said. "It's the same concept as DarkStar, it's stealthy, and it uses the same apertures and data links," he said. "The numbers are limited. There are a couple of airframes, a ground station and spare parts."

The classified UAV's operation caused consternation among USAF U-2 pilots who noticed high-flying aircraft operating within several miles of their routes over Iraq, a distance they considered too close for comfort. The mysterious aircrafts' flights were not coordinated with those of the other manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft, they said.

"It has the hull form of the DarkStar, only it's bigger," agreed a U.S. Navy official. "It's still far from a production aircraft, but the Air Force wanted to go ahead and get it out there. They have to determine if the intelligence they can gather from it is worth paying several times more than the cost of the [non-stealthy] Global Hawk."

< email | 7/17/2003 12:59:00 PM | link

Very nifty story about some lost Rubber Duckies.

A floating flock of the bathtub toys — along with beavers, turtles and frogs — is believed to be washing ashore somewhere along the New England coast, bleached and battered from a trans-Arctic journey. Oceanographers say the trip has taught them valuable lessons about the ocean's currents.

The toys have been adrift since 29,000 of them fell from a storm-tossed container ship en route from China to Seattle more than 11 years ago.

From a point in the Pacific Ocean near where the 45th parallel meets the international date line, they floated along the Alaska coast, reaching the Bering Strait by 1995 and Iceland five years later. By 2001 they had floated to the area in the north Atlantic where the Titanic sank.

"Some kept going, some turned and headed to Europe," says Curtis Ebbesmeyer of Seattle, a retired oceanographer who's been tracking the toys' progress. "By now, hundreds should be dispersed along the New England coast."

< email | 7/17/2003 11:20:00 AM | link

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

There is something deeply troubling about this.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), spies from the Australian Secret service and the intelligence department of Singapore are helping Indonesian authorities crack down on madrassah’s (religious schools), refugee camps and remote areas of the country allegedly in search for "fundamental Muslims", a source close to the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI) charged Wednesday, July 16.

The MMI source contacted IslamOnline.net correspondent to report the arrest of several Indonesian Muslims working in local "pesantren" and "Markaz," names given to religious schools and small Islamic community centers in Indonesia.

The MMI member, who leads a group of Muslims that provide aid to other fellow Muslims in refugee camps in Madura, Aceh, Maluku, Nunukan and East Timor, said his people spotted foreign spies disguised as tourists or aid workers in these regions.

"These people were asking about Muslims who professes fundamentalism and who want to press the Megawati Sukarnoputri regime to change the secular constitution into an Islamic constitution," said the MMI member who identified himself as Abu Sufian.

In statements to IOL a week ago, the MMI charged that the CIA had "planted" its operatives, sometimes disguised as Muslim women, wearing Hijab, to do the spying jobs.

"The CIA has also recruited locals and Arabs of non-Muslim faith, who speak good Arabic and sometimes very good Malay or Javanese languages to infiltrate the religious centers in Indonesia," said Sufian.

"They may have infiltrated local political parties, the MMI itself and other organizations in the country in a bid to bring down the movement for Islamization in Indonesia, it is clear that if Islam is made an official religion here, it will not be of interest to the Zionists in particular," he stressed.

Even is such a far-away place as Indonesia, Zionists are behind every plot and hiding in every shadow. See those people dressed like tourists and aid workers? They're CIA and Mossad agents. Not too much of incitement or rationalization for killing foreigners and even Muslim women who may say or think the wrong thing.

< email | 7/16/2003 02:26:00 PM | link

I repeat, there is no anti-Semitism in France.

The phone message is one of 10 waiting for Sylvain Zenouda at the local office of the Jewish Community Council of greater Paris: A gang of 15 North African teenagers, some of them wielding broom handles, had invaded the grounds of a Jewish day school on Avenue de Flandre in northeast Paris the previous evening. They punched and kicked teachers and students, yelled epithets and set off firecrackers in the courtyard before fleeing.

Zenouda is a commandant and 30-year veteran of the Paris police, but on this day, he is performing a different role: coordinator for the Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, a volunteer group. He phones the school, makes certain the principal has called the authorities and has insisted that the attack be recorded as a hate crime in the police report, then scribbles the details of the attack in his own battered blue notebook and on a red-and-white declaration form for the Jewish Community Council's burgeoning file of anti-Semitic assaults.

Elsewhere on this steamy July afternoon, he will meet with a businessman whose kosher restaurant was torched recently, a young man assaulted for wearing a Star of David necklace and a congregation of frightened synagogue-goers, some of whom are talking seriously of emigrating to Israel.

The file grows almost daily: 309 incidents in the past 15 months in the Paris region, according to Jewish council officials, and more than 550 since the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, broke out in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in September 2000. The National Consultative Committee on Human Rights, a government-funded body, reported a sixfold increase in acts of violence against Jewish people and property in France from 2001 to 2002.

Many incidents involve verbal assaults -- a taxi driver making an anti-Jewish remark to a passenger, a student harassed at school -- but nearly half involve violent acts of some kind. Most of the perpetrators are not the ultra-rightists and neo-Nazis who once were responsible for anti-Semitic acts, but young North African Arabs of the banlieues, the distant blue-collar suburbs where Muslims and Jews live and work in close proximity. Many of the victims are Sephardic Jews who themselves originally came from North Africa.

< email | 7/16/2003 01:34:00 PM | link

I assume the outrage that comes from media sources around the world will be deafening.

A top Iranian government official admitted that an Iranian-Canadian photo-journalist who died after her arrest here last month had suffered a "brain haemorrhage caused by a beating".

Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a reformist, also made the dramatic claim that the death of 54-year-old Zahra Kazemi was linked to wave of arrests carried out by regime hardliners seeking to undermine the embattled pro-reform camp.

"She died of a brain haemorrhage caused by a beating," Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi told reporters after Wednesday's cabinet meeting, giving the preliminary result of a government probe.

"We have witnessed a kind of comprehensive attack," added Abtahi, a close ally to embattled reformist President Mohammad Khatami, pointing to a wave of arrests of dissidents and journalists "and even the death of Zahra Kazemi".

Nothing to hide here, right?

Health Minister Massoud Pezeshkian also said the cause of death was a brain haemorrhage, but added only that the investigation was ongoing.

"I examined the body myself and there were no bruises or cuts of the face. We are going to examine the corpse again and I will view the report, and I have appointed a medical team to look into this case," he told reporters.

And he angrily rejected demands by Canada to examine the body.

"We are knowledgeable enough to examine the body and find out the cause of her death, so we will not allow foreign teams to investigate," the minister said.

He was backed by Interior Minister Abdolvahed Moussavi-Lari, who argued that "since she is an Iranian citizen it has nothing to do with Canada."

And government spokesman Abdollah Ramazanzadeh said "no foreign country has the right to say anything on this matter," although he did vow, "We will definitely deal with anyone who has anything to do with her death".

RSF has gone after the Iranian Ambassador in France.

Reporters Without Borders today demanded that the body of Canadian-Iranian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi be exhumed to find out exactly how she died after being arrested last month for photographing Teheran's Evin prison. She died in police hands on 11 July.

The Iranian ambassador to France, Seyed Sadegh Kharazi, told a delegation from the press freedom organisation today that she had been buried in Iran on either the 13 or 14 July but he could not say where. Yesterday however, the Iranian embassy in Canada said a government commission of enquiry set up by President Mohammad Khatami had ordered her not to be buried until the investigation was complete.

Nothing from HRW.

Amnesty International is calling for an independent inquiry.

Amnesty International added its voice today to the calls made by Iran's Islamic Human Rights Commission and other international human rights organizations in calling for an independent and thorough investigation into the death in custody of 54-year-old photojournalist Zahra Kazemi on 12 July 2003.

"Iran's obligations under international human rights treaties require the establishment of an independent and impartial judicial inquiry to determine the causes of Zahra Kazemi's death," Amnesty International said.

< email | 7/16/2003 01:26:00 PM | link

Was Saddam testing bio and chem weapons on prisoners?

What haunts the former Iraqi intelligence officer most about the men he helped kill in 1987 wasn't their numbed silence or their defeated gazes. It was the strange cloud that seemed to come from nowhere, the cloud that killed them.

It was misty white, he said, and it blossomed above the gulch near the Iranian border where he and his security men had deposited 10 truckloads of political prisoners. Hours later, waiting at a nearby roadblock, he watched the trucks return. They were piled with dead bodies. Civilian technicians accompanying the grim convoy angrily ordered him to keep his distance.

"That's when I realized this was no ordinary execution," said the officer, a retired colonel with the Iraqi Second Army Corps who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The government was using prisoners to test its chemical weapons."

And what regime's tactics does this sound like?

Still, interviews with former intelligence officials and U.N. documents obtained by the Chicago Tribune suggest that scores of hapless prisoners may have been sacrificed to such secret testing in Iraq. And the evidence stretches back decades, to the earliest days of rule by Iraq's Baath Party.

"Everyone knows it started back in 1972, even before Hussein took power," said a senior chemical weapons engineer who worked for seven years at the Al-Muthanna State Establishment, a notorious weapons lab that U.S. planes bombed to rubble in the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

According to the engineer, who like many of those closely involved in Iraq's weapons programs refused to be identified by name, prisoners jailed at the Al-Sha'emiya Prison southeast of Baghdad were selected by the Internal Security Directorate - the forerunner of Saddam's dreaded secret police - for crude experiments with home-brewed mustard gas.

"My colleagues were trying out dosages and recording the prisoners' reactions," he said, hastening to add that he only used rabbits in his experiments. "The facilities were crude - just some brick laboratories inside the prison."

Throughout their frustrating years of cat-and-mouse searches, the U.N. inspection teams stumbled across several chilling clues that hinted at human testing projects in Iraq.

According to Spertzel, inspectors found two "aerosol test chambers" discarded in rubbish heaps outside Al-Muthanna and Salman Pak, Saddam's two main WMD laboratories. The chambers were human-sized, and were designed to test chemical and biological agents, Spertzel said. The Iraqis said they were used on donkeys.

In an unrelated case, inspectors went to Salman Pak in 1994 to investigate a series of mysterious trenches that had been dug at night and hastily refilled by the Iraqis during the gulf war. Officials told Spertzel the holes contained bodies.

"I rather suspected these might have been Kuwaiti POWs," he said. "But they might have been test subjects."

The Iraqis blocked access to the site, claiming it was "holy," Spertzel said. The government later flooded the area with water from the Tigris River.

The most compelling case involved alleged biological weapons tests carried out on Shiite political prisoners by a mysterious Unit 2100, a U.N. inspection team document shows.

According to the document, at least 50 prisoners from Abu Gharib prison west of Baghdad were rounded up in 1995 and sent to a secret testing facility in Al-Haditha, a remote community in Iraq's western desert.

"Unit 2100 was subordinate directly to the Ministry for Military Industry ... which was headed by Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamil," states the document, which is based on intelligence supplied by a senior Iraqi defector.

"The unit conducted experiments on human subjects using chemical and biological warfare agents," the document goes on. "Prisoners who were sent to Unit 2100 did not return."

As for the Iraqi army intelligence officer who claims to have witnessed the test gassing of hundreds of prisoners at an open-air site in the desert near Jalula, on the Iranian border, he asserted that the bodies he saw also were unmarked.

"It was like they were asleep," he said with lingering awe.

Informed that the Americans had probed the mass grave of the alleged chemical test victims and turned up nothing, the officer seemed unfazed. Instead, he produced a colleague, a lieutenant in the Iraqi Second Army Corps that purportedly oversaw the operation, who confirmed the broad outlines of his story.

"The Americans," the officer insisted, "have a lot more digging to do."

< email | 7/16/2003 11:07:00 AM | link

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

I’ve not made any comments on gay marriage yet. Mostly because it is not something that affects me. But, also, because as a conservative leaning Constitutionalist I thought it should be pretty straight forward. I haven’t read the FMA, it is not the details that I want to get into. I really don’t need to because it is the idea of such a thing is completely abhorrent to me. It is a complete inversion of the governmental values that Conservatives espouse.

Let’s start with this whole idea of a “slippery slope”. They argue that should gay marriage be legalized soon we will have group marriages, legal incest, bestiality end pedophilia. And then marriage itself will be destroyed as an institution. First of all that seems a bit of a stretch to me. And if you think that the “gay agenda” will harm the institution, then what exactly do you think Congress and the Supreme Court will do with it once we sign away the ability of states to address this issue? Once we give it the status of a Constitutional Amendment that would be in the exclusive domain of our government to set the rules of and to interpret as they please? For a good idea of what we can expect take a good look at the evolution of affirmative action under the 14th Amendment. Yet here are the Republicans asking the government to rule on one of the most intimate aspects of our lives.

Further, this whole idea of a “slipper slope” on this issue seems to be invoked as a diversionary tactic. Yes, Stanley Kurtz over at National Review has pointed out that there are suits out there right now looking to try and capitalize on “gay marriage” to further their own causes (be it group marriage or three parent families), but to try and shut down those sincere and honest seekers of gay marriage, like Andrew Sullivan because some will attempt to abuse the right seems to be pretty dishonest. It is the same argument that the anti-gun advocates make. Some bad people use guns to kill so we should ban them. Now the Republicans want to deny the right to those gays who are sincere because some are not sincere.

This is a call to regulate how we go about our daily lives. Proponents of the FMA are standing up and asking the government to regulate and rule on how we carry out our daily lives. Something they are against when it comes to guns, taxes, freedoms of speech association and religion. I know Jonah Goldberg has argued that at times hypocrisy is defensible but I just don’t see an honest case for it here.

It seems that the whole idea of the FMA is an exercise in the tyranny of the majority. Rather that take on the issue person by person. Rather than accepting personal responsibility for our marriages and the necessity for parents and families and communities and churches to support the institution of marriage Republicans want Congress and the Supreme Court to tell us what marriage is, along with any little additions or tinkering they may see fit at a later date. We piss and moan and bewail the imposition on our liberties when the government takes power unto itself yet here they are offering up the central pillar of our everyday lives. Rather than address the actual issues, go into our communities and try to strengthen marriage and parenthood, we can just make a Constitutional Amendment and everything will be fine. End of debate, shut up you!

Surely, there are some who are waiting in the wings to use gay marriage to further their own harmful causes and people like Sullivan need to take them on. But, to say the solution is to just shut them up and keep them in their place, whatever that is, goes against the very arguments we are making against things like affirmative action. We are making gays a lumped together group, while ignoring the sincere voices out there. I think this attempt to just shut them up by legislation will only backfire in the long run. And the rationalization that polls are against gay marriage is just plain lazy. That is not a good enough reason to turn your back on honest people like Sullivan.

To wash away the need for honest debate and personal responsibility by just passing a law or Amendment to put the onus on someone else to be responsible for the problem. Smoking, fatty foods, health care, prescription drugs, parenthood, education, guns, political speech, affirmative action and now marriage. Bah! A pox on all those, Left and Right, who think we can just legislate away the problems in America today.

< email | 7/15/2003 08:38:00 PM | link

It is time for the reformist politicians in Iran to do something more than write open letters. They have totally discredited themselves in the eyes of true reformists by constantly crying wolf. Every few months they threaten a walkout if there are not changes in the government. While they talk and write letters, students are arrested and beaten, independent newpapers are shut down, independent media people are threatened and jailed, Iranians in the street are harassed by government militias. That is why the students have been calling for Khatami's head in the past year. If he is not with the ruling Ayatollahs he has proven too weak to counter them.

Even the EU is beginning to realize that open efforts have just been met with more stonewalling.

"There is a degree of major frustration. There is a chink of light on the nuclear issue, total immobility on human rights, some movement but not much on terrorism and nothing at all on the Middle East peace process," said one Tehran-based European ambassador.

The EU has been at the forefront of pressure on Iran to allow tougher International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of its suspect nuclear programme, something that Iran has resisted but will nevertheless continue discussing with the IAEA in the coming weeks.

But its verbal efforts to reassure the world that it is not using an atomic energy programme as a cover to acquire nuclear weapons have to some extent been undone by an announcement just two days ahead of a visit by IAEA director Mohammad ElBaradei that it had conducted a successful final test of a ballistic missile capable of hitting Israel.

"Iran claims to have peaceful intentions but that doesn't mean a thing," Germany's Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said earlier this month.

He was followed up by Britain's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who on a visit here bluntly warned that no tougher IAEA inspections meant no trade deal.

"The first consequence, obviously, if they fail to sign up, is that they fail to make progress on a host of other issues on which they do want progress, for example on a trade and cooperation agreement," he said.

On human rights, the EU has watched Iran's elected reformist camp - with whom it is engaging - show its powerlessness when it comes to defending the right to peaceful protest against a crackdown by unelected hardline institutions.

"To be honest, the only real concession on human rights we've seen is a temporary suspension of executions by stoning. But when you see 4,000 people arrested for protesting, it's a case of one step forward, two steps back," noted one EU troika diplomat engaged in the talks here.

On terrorism, where the United States has accused Iran of harbouring and not arresting fugitive al-Qaeda members, the Europeans also appear deeply frustrated. Some diplomats accuse Iran of attempting to use al-Qaeda detainees - some of whom are believed to be senior - as bargaining chips.

And on the Middle East crisis, EU appeals that Iran tone down its anti-Israeli rhetoric have been quickly followed up by the praising of Palestinian suicide bombers at Friday prayers here.

"The clock is ticking as far as the European approach is concerned, and the warning signs have been hoisted," a European ambassador said.

< email | 7/15/2003 04:43:00 PM | link

wonder why Iran wouldn't want to talk to the Special Rapporteur with the UN Commission on Human Rights?

The United Nations expert on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression today postponed his mission to Iran at the request of that country's government.

Ambeyi Ligabo, a Special Rapporteur with the UN Commission on Human Rights, had been scheduled to travel to Iran on Thursday for 10 days of meetings with senior government officials and magistrates. He was also scheduled to meet with representatives of the UN system, civil society, media and academics.

Mr. Ligabo gathers relevant information on discrimination, the use of violence and harassment directed at persons seeking to exercise the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Could it have to do with student leaders looking to talk to Mr Ligabo about the thousands of students being arrested, jailed and beaten?

< email | 7/15/2003 04:35:00 PM | link

The Massachusetts Legislature spit in the faces of voters yesterday. And of course the 68% that voted for an end to bilingual education will turn around in the next election and put these same arrogant bastards back in office. And this is not the first time they have done it (clean elections, which I disagree with), nor will it be the last. We voted for Mitt as our Governor so he could fix the budget. Well, they did away with any chance of reducing the deficit yesterday, too.

My daughter is an ESL (English as a Second Language) student and let me start by saying that "bilingual" is a code word for teaching Spanish to every schoolkid. See, my daughter is a native Indonesian speaker, and let me tell you her "bilingual education" consists of English and English. Which is just fine with me and has done wonders for her. When she got here in 2000 she spoke no English at all. Now people are shocked when they find that out. Did she get that way because she was learning in English and Indonesian at the same time? Not bloody likely and to assume that children can only learn that way is pretty demeaning. She picked up English in class, on the playground, from TV, from friends (within 3 months she was having friends over and was chatting with them in English) and from me at home (and, for the record, I am a fluent Indonesian speaker). But, most of all she learned English from her teachers (who did not hold up the class for her, by the way) in her regular English classes. She finds her ESL classes boring and feels they do not give her more than her regular classes. If she had the choice, she would drop the ESL classes and just concentrate on her regular classes.

The emotional, two-hour House debate featured several immigrant lawmakers giving speeches in languages other than English, leaving their colleagues scratching their heads.

House Education Chairman Marie St. Fleur rattled through comments in French, French Creole and Spanish, then bellowed: ``What you just experienced is exactly what our children experience who do not speak a word of English when they come into our school system.''

Screw you and your diversionary tactics you bellowing sow (I could have done the same in Indonesian, Malaysian, Arabic and Spanish). My wife and daughter could do the same to you and then both would turn around and tell you that while here they speak English. These politicians are trying to bludgeon with emotion rather than actually debate the issue. These people sell children short by assuming that they just can't possible learn English. Does Ms. St Fleur think that she could be the House Education Chairman if she came out of school barely speaking English but speaking fluent French, French Creole and Spanish? But she would exile thousands of children to such a purgatory. Never fluently picking up English, never owning a single language, instead doomed to going through life of almost semi-literacy. But at least she'll "care" and she'll never lose her seat because she will keep the semi-literate masses dependent on her and demagogues like her.

The only way we can see to it that measures voted on and adopted by the voters can be implemented is by putting out of office those who use their elected post in a manner more appropriate for unelected royalty that rules by divine right with no need to submit to the will of mere common voters. We should all know the voting records of those we vote for. If you do not approve of your Legislator's record, vote against them. Send them packing, once that happens a few times we will have politicians who represent and reflect the values of those who put them in office.

< email | 7/15/2003 04:14:00 PM | link

Hey, something nice to say about France.

- Irritated by a Cuban crackdown on opposition groups, France loaded its Embassy's National Day guest list with dissidents this year. Cuban officials stayed away en masse.

The July 14 celebration is usually a notable date on Havana's social calendar, a place for officials — sometimes even President Fidel Castro (news - web sites) — to hobnob with diplomats and foreign businessmen and sip French wines.

In a sign of continued tension between Cuba and the European Union (news - web sites), guests said they saw no Cuban officials at all during the embassy reception on Monday, though many were invited. A handful turned up at the front gate before the event to turn in their invitations and then walk away.

Instead, an unprecedented number of dissidents turned up. Most, smiling broadly, said it was the first time they had been invited to the event.

Of course, when the US praises these brave dissidents they are scorned as stooges. But, if France is going to start recognizing thier efforts, good for them.

< email | 7/15/2003 02:57:00 PM | link

Uh-oh, don't let the food-nannies find out.

Check your doubts about American plans for nation building in Iraq at the counter of the Burger King takeaway where 40 soldiers sizzle in the midday heat for a flame-broiled Whopper with lettuce, tomato and cheese.

The odour of grease testifies to the Pentagon's belief that air conditioning, fast food, compact disc players and Coca Cola are essential to the survival of young soldiers far from their native soil.

"It's amazing what this stuff does for these kids," says Marie Cliff from Army Airforce Exchange Services (AAES), the Defense Department branch managing the military-controlled Baghdad international airport's Burger King and one-stop shopping center.

If June saw a spike in ambush-style attacks against Americans, it also witnessed the army open its first Burger King and beef up the merchandise at its shopping centre to provide soldiers with the creature comforts of home.

"We're a quality-of-life support group," says Cliff at this central hub of traffic for troops from the 1st and 3rd infantry divisions, all of whom make shopping and French fry runs. The Burger King claims to sell at least 6,500 burgers per day.

< email | 7/15/2003 12:46:00 PM | link

Monday, July 14, 2003

50 years after being captured a South Korean soldier returns home with some pretty horrifying stories.

On Sept. 24, 2001, the South Korea army's ''Tiger'' Division gave Sgt. Kim an honor-guard ceremony, officially discharging him after counting him as killed in action for half a century.

''I couldn't tell whether it was a dream or not,'' says Kim, 75, a slight, wrinkled man with a shy smile.

For Kim, it was a long journey home. When he escaped North Korea in 2001 after five decades of captivity, he was one of the last Korean War prisoners to return home from the communist North.

South Korea believes at least 400 POWs from the South may still be alive in the North. Their fate, like the war that ended in an armistice signed 50 years ago next Sunday, is unresolved.

As for American servicemen who may still be in North Korea, the U.S. government has never asserted publicly that there are any, although in 1996 a Pentagon analyst wrote in an internal report that 10 to 15 ''possible POWs'' probably were in communist captivity.

Kim's unit was guarding South Korea's westernmost front line when communist invaders poured over the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950. Kim found himself ''on my own, tumbling down the hills.''

After the 1953 cease-fire, 8,341 South Korean POWs and 3,748 U.S. soldiers were traded for 83,000 North Koreans and Chinese.

But North Korea refused to return thousands of other South Korean prisoners, calling them ''liberated soldiers'' who wanted to stay in the North. Kim knew that to ask to go home could invite punishment.

And so, he says, ''I spent my next 50 years toiling at a brick kiln.''

Kim and his North Korean wife talked to The Associated Press on condition that only their last names be released, and not the name of their town, fearing for the seven children they left in the North.

When famine struck in the mid-1990s, thousands fled, including 40 POWs.

In 1995-96, 20 to 30 people died of hunger daily in Kim's neighborhood of 20,000 people and society appeared to be breaking down. Several people were publicly executed for slaughtering orphaned children for their flesh.

''A man found human carcasses hanging from the ceiling of a neighbor's second-floor apartment,'' Kim said.

In March 2001, a man came to Kim and said, ''You are from the South and I know a way to get you there.''

So-called ''brokers'' smuggle people out of North Korea, bribing border guards and getting help from human rights activists and sometimes South Korean government intelligence agents, according to defectors. Seoul doesn't acknowledge a role.

Kim's brother in Seoul financed his escape. Kim received nearly $300,000 from the South Korean government in back pay and pension, and spent about $42,000 to bring his wife out of North Korea in December.

< email | 7/14/2003 04:47:00 PM | link

Big oil find in Iran.

Iran has made a major new oil find containing estimated reserves of more than 38 billion barrels, making it one of the world’s biggest undeveloped fields, a senior oil official was quoted as saying Monday.

But, they really need those nuclear reactors for 'peaceful' purposes.

< email | 7/14/2003 03:38:00 PM | link

Interesting that in the Reporters sans frontieres report on the death, while in Iranian detention, of Zahra Kazemi doesn't make any mention of the claims that she was beaten by Iranian police while in custody. They have no fear of speaking out about America or even Castro, yet here they completely fail to include the all too possible scenario that Kazemi was in a coma as a result of abuse at the hands of Iranian security forces.

< email | 7/14/2003 03:29:00 PM | link

Heh. I don't know. Something tickles the old irony bone when I see this.

German general heads Bastille Day parade

< email | 7/14/2003 03:12:00 PM | link

Hey, you rule a country oppressed by tyrants? I love tyrants. You're looking to build a nuclear arsenal? We love selling nuclear capability, no questions asked. Hey you hate Israel and the Jews? Many of my people hate Israel and the Jews, too. And thus began a budding love affair.

President Mohammad Khatami in a message to his French counterpart Jacques Chirac on Sunday congratulated him, his
government and the French people on the celebration of Bastille Day.

Khatami has expressed satisfaction over the growth of Tehran-Paris relations in recent years, stressing that any mutual struggle to boost ties would reinforce the affinity between the people of Iran and France.

He also stressed that Iran and France can use the vast capacity in their relations to expand their bilateral cooperation, adding that Tehran and Paris can have an effective role in helping to resolve regional crises and to promote world peace.

Of course the "world peace" that Iran would bring over a prostrate France would involve a world free of Jews (hey, France is with them so far) and anyone else who wouldn't submit to rule by Sharia but, let's not let that get in the way of our effusive praise of the "democracy" in Iran, right Mr Armitage?

< email | 7/14/2003 02:53:00 PM | link

Good pic of Lance nearly crashing into the fallen Beloki.

< email | 7/14/2003 02:43:00 PM | link

New find in Egypt.

Egyptian and German archaeologists have discovered a 2,000-year-old priest settlement in southern Egypt, the Supreme Council for Egyptian Antiquities announced.

Buried in the desert sand in Tuna el-Gebel, some 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Cairo, the elaborate dwellings belonged to the priests who worshipped the god Thoth in the form of ibis and baboons.

And apparently the priests were not averse to a little recreational activity.

"Added to the walls of the chapel complex there was also a special room, a kind of casino or recreational area. We found numerous game pieces, dices, figurines made of clay, and drinking cups.…. It is the first time that we have the archeological proof for the meeting points of a religious community, consisting of chapel and the meeting room — a kind of modern tea room, where the small community assembled daily," Kessler said.

< email | 7/14/2003 02:27:00 PM | link

Andy Garcia compares Castro and Nicolae Ceausescu.

Cuban-born U.S. actor Andy Garcia, filming in Romania, said Saturday he was struck by the parallels between the regimes of late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

"Cuba is under the same kind of totalitarian dictatorship that Romania was," Garcia told The Associated Press in an interview.

Garcia, 47, said he had talked with Romanians who witnessed the revolution while he was on the set at the Buftea studios, a village 12 miles north of Bucharest. He also met with President Ion Iliescu, a key figure in the revolt.

"As a Cuban, I am looking forward to that day when (Cuba) comes out of the dictatorship," he said.

And this from an interview that is linked on the same page

WHITFIELD: It looks like it is going to be real funny, and a good time to see that one. Now you also, in addition to being very creative as a producer and also as an actor, you also find yourself being rather politically involved as well. Many of us remember seeing how you took a stand in the Elian Gonzalez case, and now I'm wondering if you have any particular opinions about Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura making his four-day trip to Cuba, in part it kind of, you know, pump for American food and products, agricultural products and an exchange of gifts in that way there. Do you have any real opinions about his trip?

GARCIA: Well, you know, the problem is that the real problem with the American -- the real embargo in Cuba is really the embargo that Fidel dell has over his own people. He has an embargo of human rights over the people of Cuba. The people of Cuba are not able to participate in a free society. The entire world trades with Cuba. They always seem to blame the economic situation in Cuba on the United States, but the realty is they trade with the entire world, but the people of Cuba do not benefit from that trade. And I think Mr. Ventura will find that there is no real business relationship that you can have with if Fidel Castro's government, because basically they don't pay their bills.

< email | 7/14/2003 01:46:00 PM | link

Another dot in the big picture of how so many ideologically different terrorist groups work together.

Israel yesterday arrested a suspected bomb-maker said to be a former member of the Irish Republican Army in the West Bank and was questioning him on the extent of his contact with Palestinian militants, Israeli security sources said.

British and Irish newspapers had reported earlier that a manhunt was underway for a former IRA man suspected of training Palestinian militants in the West Bank.

These reports said he entered Israel on a British passport and slipped into the West Bank. The Israelis are on the alert for foreign elements in the Palestinian militancy after two British Muslims blew themselves up in Tel Aviv.

Palestinian links with Northern Ireland go back to the early days of the 30-year conflict between Catholic republicans fighting to end British rule and Protestant loyalists committed to maintaining it.

The Israeli security services believe a West Bank sniper who killed 10 Israeli soldiers and settlers in March, 2002, may have been an IRA-linked mercenary.

In Catholic districts of Belfast it is common to see pro-Palestinian slogans on walls, while in Protestant areas Israeli flags are sometimes flown.


Israel is to release Northern Irish journalist and pro-Palestinian activist John Morgan, who was arrested near Ramallah on Saturday in the mistaken belief that he was a member of the Real IRA who had travelled to the region to train Palestinian
militants in bomb-making.

It was apparently a case of mistaken identity. The fact does remain that there have in the past been connections between the IRA and Palestinian terrorist groups. The IRA is also notorious for giving training to South and Central American terrorist organizations. Specifically in the area of bomb-making.

< email | 7/14/2003 11:39:00 AM | link

The media and Leftist establishments have been trying since last year to pooh-pooh claims that Saddam had no al-Qaeda ties. In the typical attempt to pretend that the past just doesn't exist (why do you think history is so unimportant to the Left? WHen it doesn't exist they can feed you made up history, leaving out the bits that don't support their claims). Here, in an AP report, is a good round-up of the accusations.

In the weeks and months before the war, Bush and administration officials repeatedly said Saddam had ties to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups that could provide a pathway for weapons of mass destruction to find their way to terrorists. U.S. forces have not found any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons in Iraq so far.

"Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaida," Bush said in his January State of the Union speech.

"Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own," Bush said.

At the time, many terrorism experts criticized the claim. They noted that Saddam's secular regime was just the kind of Arab government bin Laden's Islamic extremists want to replace. Critics also pointed out the lack of hard evidence of links between Saddam and bin Laden.

The administration's case apparently was persuasive. In a poll conducted last month by Knowledge Networks, 52 percent of those questioned said they thought the United States found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam was working closely with al-Qaida -- although no such evidence has been found.

And here is how they obfuscate. See, before Cowboy Bush came along nobody ever suspected Saddam and al-Qaeda of working together. Problem is, such a claim is an outright lie. It requires ignoring what has been reported for years. Since at least the WTC bombing in 1993 there have been credible claims that Iraq has cooperated with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups but, to admit and delve into this would deny a chance to smear the present Administration and the War on Terror.

< email | 7/14/2003 11:31:00 AM | link

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