August 22, 2003

A Fair and Balanced Judge

Al Franken easily beats Fox.

A federal judge on Friday slammed Fox News' trademark infringement lawsuit against humorist Al Franken and his publisher Penguin Group and refused to stop the sale of the satirist's new book that pokes fun at Fox and host Bill O'Reilly.

Fox charged that Franken had violated its trademarked phrase "fair and balanced" by including it on the cover of his book entitled "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them." Fox is owned by News Corp and Penguin is a unit of Pearson . The book went on sale on Thursday.

"There are hard cases and there are easy cases. This is an easy case," said U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, who added that the motion for an injunction was "wholly without merit."

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:33 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

August 21, 2003

What Must Be Said

Joe Katzman is one of my favorite conservatives in the blogosphere. No. Wait. I shouldn’t put it that way.

Joe Katzman is one of the best writers in the blogosphere.

How many other Jews after September 11 dedicate every single Sabbath to finding and writing something good about Islam?

How many others are as kind and respectful toward those he does not agree with?

He’s Canadian, so maybe that explains it. Yes, I’m kidding, but I’m only half kidding.

Seriously, though. Because he is conservative he is able to say some things that I am not able to say. Or, perhaps I could say them but I cannot have the same impact.

This is a painful post to write, but it needs to be written. I hate the U.N. too, but some of the posts out there in the wake of the Baghdad bombing crossed a very important line.

This post by Emperor Misha I, and a few of the comments associated with it, are probably the most widely publicized. Regrettably, in the comments section of this Winds of Change.NET post, team member Trent Telenko wrote in one of his comments:

"Too bad the Al-Qaeda didn't use a bigger bomb (August 20, 2003 02:56 AM)."

What we have here, is a failure to communicate. Not theirs - they communicated all too well. So perhaps it's mine. Brothers, listen. Carefully.

Please go read the rest.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:07 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Blaming America First

Jessica Stern in the New York Times says every problem in Iraq is our fault.

Yesterday's bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad was the latest evidence that America has taken a country that was not a terrorist threat and turned it into one.
Ah, yes. Here we go again. Baathist or Islamist terrorists kill UN humanitarian workers, and it’s America’s fault. We made them do it. Everything is our fault, from hot weather in France to terrorism in the Middle East. Sigh. Big sigh.

Not to mention the fact that Saddam Hussein was the patron and armorer of international terrorists long before we got there. And the fact that he is no longer means Iraq is less of a terrorist threat than it was. At least the threat is different. It certainly isn’t brand new.

Also, for the most part, terrorists in Iraq and those who sneak in from elsewhere now resort to impaling themselves on American soldiers rather than on civilians. That is exactly what we should want.

Of course, we should be glad that the Iraq war was swifter than even its proponents had expected, and that a vicious tyrant was removed from power.
At least she gets that much right.
But
There is always a “but”
the aftermath has been another story. America has created — not through malevolence but through negligence — precisely the situation the Bush administration has described as a breeding ground for terrorists: a state unable to control its borders or provide for its citizens' rudimentary needs.
See. Again. We created the miserable state of Iraq. Not Saddam. Not the Baath Party. We did that. Says she.
As the administration made clear in its national security strategy released last September, weak states are as threatening to American security as strong ones.
True enough, again.
Yet its inability to get basic services and legitimate governments up and running in post-war Afghanistan and Iraq — and its pursuant reluctance to see a connection between those failures and escalating anti-American violence — leave one wondering if it read its own report.
Obviously there is a connection between anti-American violence and the failure to get services up and running. The Baathists keep cutting the power lines. And, not coincidentally, they are the same people who kill American soldiers. Anyone who watches the news or reads the paper knows this, but she thinks the Administration doesn’t know it? Please.
For example, the American commander in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, has described the almost daily attacks on his troops as guerrilla campaigns carried out by Baathist remnants with little public support. Yet an increasing number of Iraqis disagree: they believe that the attacks are being carried out by organized forces — motivated by nationalism, Islam and revenge — that feed off public unhappiness.

According to a survey this month by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, nearly half of the Iraqis polled attribute the violence to provocation by American forces or resistance to the occupation (even more worrisome, the Arabic word for "resistance" used in the poll implies a certain amount of sympathy for the perpetrators). In the towns of Ramadi and Falluja, where many of the recent attacks have taken place, nearly 90 percent of respondents attributed the attacks to these causes.

A quick Google search reveals that the towns of Ramadi and Falluja are in the small Sunni triangle, the hotbed region of Baath Party support. A poll from these towns does not in any way represent Iraqi opinion. It took me literally fifteen seconds of Internet research to figure this out. Readers of the New York Times deserve better thinking and reporting than this.

It is noteworthy that writers who like to dwell on America’s supposed failures do not mention public opinion in northern Iraqi Kurdistan where the vast majority of the population supports America to the hilt.

Why would ordinary Iraqis not rush to condemn violence against the soldiers who liberated them from Saddam Hussein? Mustapha Alani, an Iraqi scholar with the Royal United Services Institute in London, gave me a possible explanation: even in the darkest days of the Iran-Iraq war, most Iraqis (other than Kurds and Marsh Arabs) did not have to worry about personal security. They could not speak their minds, but they could count on electricity, water and telephone service for at least part of the day. Today they fear being attacked in their bedrooms; power, water and telephones are routinely unavailable. As Mr. Alani put it, Iraqis today could could care less about democracy, they just want assurance that their daughters won't be raped or their sons kidnapped en route to the grocery store.
The Iraqi regime had an official job description called “Violator of Women’s Honor.” That title no longer exists. And the regime no longer kidnaps anyone on the way to the grocery store. Those who posed the primary threat to the well-being of the Iraqi citizenry have been dramatically weakened by regime-removal. Iraqis may still live in fear, but they live in fear of the very same people who tortured and imprisoned them for decades in the first place. It is not American soldiers who kidnap and rape; it is other Iraqis.

And the reason that ordinary Iraqis do not rush to condemn the terrorist violence is because they fear Saddam will come back, and because “collaborators” have been killed by the Baath Party remnants.

Instead of mentioning any of this, she quotes a person in London who says Iraqis (other than those who were the victims of genocide, as if that’s only a footnote) were previously kept safe and sound by the regime. As if it looked out for their welfare. As if we do not.

Blaming the violence on isolated Baath loyalists was perhaps more plausible when the violence was centered in the Sunni heartland. But the recent riots in the southern Shiite city of Basra, and the sabotage of a major oil pipeline in the Kurdish north, make clear that other regions may not be peaceable indefinitely.
The violence is still centered in the Sunni triangle. Rioting in Basra apparently had little to do with the Baath Party, but it certainly isn’t terrorism. Every country experiences rioting, even the United States.

And so what if a pipeline in the Kurdish north has been sabotoged? If the act was committed by Kurds, it was almost certainly committed by the almost universally loathed Ansar Al Islam, Al Qaeda’s arm in Iraq. It does not mean that we suck. It means there are still enemies, the hated enemies of the people of Iraq, that we need to root out.

Shiites widely supported the operation to remove Saddam Hussein, but they are furious about what they see as American incompetence since the war.
Let them be furious. That does not make them terrorists. They have every right to be furious, and I mean that in both senses of the word “right.” There are problems, and there is cause to be angry. More importantly, they now have a right to be mad. We won’t run steamrollers over them or make them drink gasoline because they’re upset. Nor will we put them in meat grinders or cut out their tongues. Don’t think the Iraqis don’t welcome the right to be angry for once in their lives.
This set the stage for religious extremists.
Come off it. Iraq is an overwhelmingly Muslim country. In the 21st century, that sets the stage for religious extremists. We have plenty of our own religious extremists, and we certainly did not create that impulse from scratch in a Middle Eastern country.

(Skipping ahead, the article is a long one…)

As bad as the situation inside Iraq may be, the effect that the war has had on terrorist recruitment around the globe may be even more worrisome. Even before the coalition troops invaded, a senior [unnamed, -ed.] United States counterterrorism official told reporters that "an American invasion of Iraq is already being used as a recruitment tool by Al Qaeda and other groups.”
Of course this is true, but so what? A primary feature of Al Qaeda’s propaganda before September 11 was that the United States was a paper tiger, that we were weak and would not fight back as the Soviets did in Afghanistan, that defeating us would be easy. You won’t hear that in the recruitment tapes anymore. I'll gladly make that trade.

Her conclusion is more reasonable.

The goal of creating a better Iraq is a noble one, but a first step will be making sure that ordinary Iraqis find America's ideals and assistance more appealing than Al Qaeda's.
But the shoddy thinking throughout is unfortunate. Terrorism is blamed on America. Religious extremism is blamed on America. Sabotage is blamed on America. Every problem is blamed on America.

The same sort of thinking during World War II would have blamed Nazism and Japanese Imperialism on America, and probably on Winston Churchill to boot. Nazi atrocities would have been blamed on America because taking them on made them mad.

Her resume is impressive. She has studied this subject much more than I have.

Therefore she has no excuse.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:37 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

August 20, 2003

Right-Wing Terror Apologism

Via Andrew Northrup I find this nasty little screed about yesterday's terror attack in Baghdad from Emperor Misha (in his own comments section), who likes to think of himself as an "anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler."

I am not "condoning" the attack, I'm merely stating what should be obvious to most people, in my ever so arrogant opinion:

When you play with hyenas (and the UN has being doing nothing BUT that ever since it hobbled out of the swamps), don't come fucking whining to me when the mangy, rabid beast turns around and bites you.

Excuse me, Mr. Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler. But you did just make excuses for terrorism.

Let's rerun this and replace just a single small letter.

I am not "condoning" the attack, I'm merely stating what should be obvious to most people, in my ever so arrogant opinion:

When you play with hyenas (and the US has being doing nothing BUT that ever since it hobbled out of the swamps), don't come fucking whining to me when the mangy, rabid beast turns around and bites you.

Worse than Noam Chomsky. At least Chomsky's language is clinical.

Most of Emperor Misha's audience seems to agree with him, judging by the comments thread. How charming.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:02 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

August 19, 2003

Unhinged in Paris

Europeans used to blame Jews when people got sick. That same impulse still thrives on the continent.

Howard Fineman in Newsweek:

The blame-America attitude gets silly at times. For example, you might have wondered what caused the suffocating heat wave that has blanketed Europe recently. I found out the moment we arrived in Rouen. There, on the front page of the newspaper Le Monde, was a cartoon: an oppressive sun, with eyes made of dollar signs, smoking a cigar/factory with dollar signs, sending out thunderbolts of heat that pierced a prostrate Europe. In Paris, I asked a young businessman about the cartoon. “Well, of course,” he said as if I were an idiot. “Your President Bush did not sign the Kyoto Accord.” In other words, America was at fault because it had not signed a treaty that will not go into effect for years.
This is beyond silly. It is contemptible. And it is retarded.

It is not contemptible because Le Monde is wrong about the facts. It is contemptible because Le Monde and the young businessman in Paris even think such nonsense is plausible. What, too hot for ya? Well, it must be because of those filthy greedy Americans. That's the first thing that pops into their heads when something annoys them.

We’re a cross between Klingons and the Ferringhi to them, apparently.

They really will find a way to blame us for everything. What's next? Really. What's next? Because you know as well as I do that something will be next.

As the French blog Merde in France reported recently:

Remember Americans, you are hated here. Hated more than the worst terrorists and murderers.
It’s one thing to have crypto-racist fantasies about Americans. And it’s another thing altogether to ratchet it up at a time when genocidal fanatics promise to turn America into a sea of deadly radiation because they think we’re a bunch of Satanic infidels. It’s even worse to behave this way and then pretend to be our friend and ally who deserves respect and consultation.

Shelly and I visited France a year and a half ago and we had a great time. Everyone was nice to us, despite their reputation for rudeness with tourists. The French as individuals are fine people, honest to gosh they really are. Politically, as a collective, they’re becoming unhinged. Maybe they think the same about us. I’m sure, in fact, that they do. But I have yet to see anti-French American sentiment come even close to the craziness exhibited by our counterparts over in Paris.

It’s been hot as hell here in Portland this summer. And not a single person thinks the cause is anything other than weather. If anyone thought to blame the French or the Jews or the Arabs or anyone else they would be regarded like a deranged person yelling at cars in the streets.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:49 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Target: UN

The Baathist "resistance" hit the UN headquarters in Baghdad with a truck bomb.

The top UN envoy to Iraq was killed.

These attacks are not a cry for help. They are committed by Saddam’s goons determined to kill their way back into power. Camouflage helmet, blue helmet, it doesn’t matter. If you get in their way, you’re dead.

Now that the UN has been hit, the fact-resistant might finally understand that these are the bad guys.

UPDATE: Kimmitt in the comments says I am intellectually bankrupt. That's fine, he's entitled to his opinion. But I would like to make something clear.

"The resistance" is a loaded term, and I know very well what it means to people in left-wing circles. It implies justice and right, especially when juxtaposed with "the occupation." And most in the media use this term to describe Baathist and terrorist hit squads.

It will be interesting to see if thugs who kill UN envoys will be called "the resistance" or if they will get a new name.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:08 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

August 18, 2003

The State of Serial Killers

In David Fincher’s nightmarish film Seven, Kevin Spacey plays John Doe, mad Bible man and the creepiest on-screen killer since Hannibal Lector. John hated sinners and he set out to kill seven, one victim for each of the Deadly Sins; Gluttony, Pride, Envy, Lust, Anger, Greed, and Sloth.

johndoe.jpg

Now Iran has its own flesh-and-blood version.

When the drought ended and the rains came, Saeed Hanaei believed that it was a sign from God that his killing spree had divine approval. "I realised God looked favourably on me. That he had taken notice of my work," Hanaei said. With 12 prostitutes already dead by his hands, Hanaei carried on his "work" and strangled at least four more women after luring them to his house in the Iranian city of Mashhad.
You can imagine if this guy were American what the media would say about him.

But he isn’t American. He is Iranian. And the Iranian media, controlled by the state, aren’t so sure he’s even a bad guy.

The case provoked a debate between reformers who condemned the authorities for failing to catch him earlier and some conservatives who shared the killer's disgust with a rise in prostitution.

"Who is to be judged?" wrote the conservative newspaper Jomhuri Islami. "Those who look to eradicate the sickness or those who stand at the root of the corruption?"

It’s not surprising that the mullahs can’t quite come out against him. He is not so different from them; self-righteous, psychotic, intolerant, fundamentalist, and murderous. The only difference between him and the state is his freelancing.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:03 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

One is Enough

Andrew Northrup (aka The Poor Man) has a short succinct post explaining why the US doesn't need an American Guardian.

There are a lot of complaints one might make about the American media - there are a lot of complaints one might make - but I don't think you could count "being insufficiently obsessed with Israel" as one of them.
Read it all. The whole thing is good.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 6:54 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

August 17, 2003

What I Did During the Blackout

We didn’t get a blackout here in the Pacific Northwest, but Shelly and I wanted one. So we went “camping” this weekend at a long narrow lake in a canyon in the central Oregon desert.

Proper camping is when you hike at least an hour to a remote place in the sticks, preferably near a lake at the foot of a volcano, humping a pack stuffed with fifty pounds of provisions; camp stove, dehydrated chicken and rice, water filter, MacGyver knife, sleeping bag (no pillow), tent (no frills), waterproof matches, and beef jerky.

“Camping” is when you pitch your tent next to the car in a “campground” where you can listen to the ballgame on the radio of the guy in the parking space next to you.

We pulled into the so-called campground just after dark and took the last tent space. We hardly needed a flashlight to pitch the tent. The place was lit up like a parking lot at a sports stadium. Every campsite had at least one lantern on the picnic table. The people across from us had five.

So the tent thing was easy. Then I lay back to look at the moonless night sky and listen to the crickets. I needed those crickets. Only they could unwind the coil of urban stress in my back. Then I could melt into the shimmering sky and rest.

But it was not to be.

The family to our left had five kids, all of ‘em fighting over who got to play with the dump truck.

Near as I could tell, the oldest person in the five-lantern family across from us was fifteen years old. There were at least eight of them, and every one had a case of the giggles. The girls in the tent swatted each other with pillows, and the boys outside played cards and slapped their hands on the table.

The family to our right had two and a half kids, all of them boys. “Get up and help your mother with the pots and pans.” “But, Dad, I don’t want to do anything right now.” (I could relate.) “You’ve spent all of fourteen years not doing anything. Now move.”

People are not supposed to behave this way in the woods after dark. Especially not in a canyon that amplifies sound.

Our “campsite” was on the path to the bathrooms. The path is a street, mind you, paved with asphalt and slathered with gravel. Every kid under twelve who walked by insisted on scraping his feet. Shloomp shloomp shloomp. Their mothers always seemed to be yelling.

It was just like the city without any walls. It wasn’t nature. It was a tailgate party minus the beer.

I couldn’t enjoy the crickets, so I figured I’d just go to sleep. It was all I could do to shut off the racket.

In the middle of the night I woke to Shelly squeezing my hand. She sat bolt upright in her sleeping bag and cocked her head sideways.

Something’s happening. Something’s out there.

We heard munching sounds. An animal was eating our food. And it wasn’t a raccoon or a chipmunk. It was too loud, surely a large mammal. A deer? A bear? Then I heard feet scrape past our tent. Shloomp shloomp shloomp. Human. Some dipshit eating our Cheeze-Its in our camp at 2:00 in the morning.

Shelly unzipped the tent. Heavy feet clomped away in the darkness.

She wanted to walk to the bathroom but didn’t want to wander around alone, not with the Cheeze-It Killer on the loose. So we both went. The canyon walls were awash with a spooky gray moonlight. The band of the Milky Way was bright as a celestial grow lamp. Mars shimmered above us, as close to Earth as the planet has ever been. It was quiet for once, and it was finally dark. The lanterns were out, the yammering silenced. Every third tent we passed vibrated with snoring, but at last I could listen to the crickets.

Then the horror show started. First one then at least a dozen coyotes howled at the moon, then at each other.

If you’ve never heard coyotes you have no idea what I’m talking about. It is the sound of a hundred madmen stabbing babies with scissors. High-pitched, piercing, feral, bloodthirsty, and mad.

They are harmless animals, but not everyone knows it. Most people don’t get the chance to hear them, especially not those who treat the great outdoors like a suburban block party on the Fourth of July.

The hysterical shrieking ricocheted off the canyon walls. We were surrounded. The tent-snoring stopped. A hundred pairs of eyelids snapped to attention, and no one dared giggle or make a ruckus.

For the first time that night, everyone understood where they were and what was expected of them.

We’re not in Portland anymore. We’re in the hinterland, in the desert. There are things out there and they don’t like the blazing light and the racket.

I climbed into bed and was lulled back to sleep by the chirping of crickets.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:43 PM | Permalink | Comments Off
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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