Friday, November 30, 2007

An American diplomat in Iraq:

I don't know if this blog entry makes people more enthusiastic about joining the FS [Foreign Service] or coming to Iraq. At this point, it is just a lot less exciting in Iraq - and less dangerous - than people back home think, or than it was just a few months ago. Iraq is like any post or any place else. You can travel thousands of miles, but you always have to take yourself along. It is up to you to get a life and make it a good one not matter where you are. Living in the dust of Iraq just makes that clearer.
Mr. Matel has a nice article in the State Department's blog, Dipnote. But check out his personal blog, Matel-in-Iraq, for some fascinating accounts and neat photos. I particularly was taken by his delicate description of "breaking bread" in Iraq (Goat Grab), since, my experience has been that the eating process is reminiscent of another era.

Italian Carabinieri train Iraqis at Camp Dublin:

Does CAIR care? Where is the feminist outrage?

Bigotry "...a British schoolteacher gives the world a lesson on Western cowardice and Muslim intolerance and how Islamic fundamentalists who commit atrocities are afraid of teddy bears."

Global warming by the numbers...

A friend reports:

Dr. John Brignell, a British engineering professor, runs a website called numberwatch. He has compiled what has to be the most complete collection of links to media stories ascribing the cause of everything under the sun to global warming.

He has already posted more than six-hundred links. The site's stated mission is to expose all the "scares, scams, junk, panics and flummery cooked up by the media, politicians, bureaucrats and so-called scientists and others that try to confuse the public with wrong numbers"
For example, if you click on "rape wave" you discover that Sweden is undergoing the worst rape wave in Scandinavian history thanks to the weather!

Rule of law is beginning to take roots in Iraq...

From Reporters Without Borders: "Reporters Without Borders is astounded and angry to discover that a journalist’s claim that 11 of his close relatives were murdered last weekend is false. Amman-based Iraqi journalist Dia al-Kawwaz had claimed on 26 November that 11 members of his immediate family were shot by gunmen the previous day in Baghdad."

From Gateway Pundit: "Iraqi-American Haider Ajina informs me that according to Barutha News the Iraqi Government (Interior Ministry) has requested and recieved an arrest warrant for Dia al-Kawwaz (Dhia Alkoozi).

Haider adds: "What a change. What a change. All thanks to our men and women serving in Iraq and the Iraqis who are getting a taste of human dignity and human rights and the rule of law...." "

Muslim anti-terror rally in front of Saudi Arabian Embassy in Germany.

Hat Tip: Gateway Pundit.

For more photos of the event (and to read about it in Arabic), go here.

Asi No!

"The student movement in Venezuela is today the Latin version of the Prague spring of 1968."

For the latest news on Venezuela's anti-Chavez march go to Venezuela Views and News.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"We want you to stop destroying our neighborhood," he told the man...

"Do you know who you are talking to?" said the White Lion, getting out of his car. "I am Al Qaeda. I will destroy even your own houses!"

He pulled out his pistol and shot at Abul Abed. The gun jammed. He reloaded and fired again. Again, the gun jammed.

By this time, Abul Abed said, he had pulled his own gun. He fired once, killing the White Lion.

UPDATE: Shoot-out between Saddam’s spy and al-Qaeda brings life back to streets.

The dominance of the Western world can largely be attributed to the sexual revolution initiated by Judaism and later carried forward by Christianity.

Dennis Prager has a provocative article on Judaism, sexuality, and Western Civilization. Excerpt:

To a world which divided human sexuality between penetrator and penetrated, Judaism said, “You are wrong — sexuality is to be divided between male and female.” To a world which saw women as baby producers unworthy of romantic and sexual attention, Judaism said “You are wrong — women must be the sole focus of men's erotic love.” To a world which said that sensual feelings and physical beauty were life's supreme goods, Judaism said, “You are wrong — ethics and holiness are the supreme goods.” A thousand years before Roman emperors kept naked boys, Jewish kings were commanded to write and keep a sefer torah, a book of the Torah.

In all my research on this subject, nothing moved me more than the Talmudic law that Jews were forbidden to sell slaves or sheep to non-Jews, lest the non-Jews engage in homosexuality and bestiality. That was the world in which rabbis wrote the Talmud, and in which, earlier, the Bible was written. Asked what is the single greatest revelation I have derived from all my researches, I always respond, “That there had to have been divine revelation to produce the Torah.” The Torah was simply too different from the rest of the world, too against man's nature, to have been solely man-made.

The creation of Western civilization has been a terribly difficult and unique thing. It took a constant delaying of gratification, and a re-channeling of natural instincts; and these disciplines have not always been well received. There have been numerous attempts to undo Judeo-Christian civilization, not infrequently by Jews (through radical politics) and Christians (through anti-Semitism).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The pathetic leader of the Anglican Church...

From historian Victor Davis Hanson:

I suggest that the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams read a little history about the British experience in India before he offers politically-correct but historically laughable sermons like the one he gave to a Muslim "lifestyle" magazine:

It is one thing to take over a territory and then pour energy and resources into administering it and normalising it. Rightly or wrongly, that's what the British Empire did - in India, for example. It is another thing to go in on the assumption that a quick burst of violent action will somehow clear the decks and that you can move on and other people will put it back together - Iraq, for example.
ONE, who is clearing the decks and moving on? And who are the "other people" putting Iraq back together? Iran? Saudi Arabia? China? The British in Basra? First, we read from the anti-war Left that the US is wasting a trillion dollars and thousands of its lives in Iraq, and yet now that we are clearing the decks and not putting it back together? Which is it?
Read it all here.

And for how some in the US feel about what he had to say, check out the comments in Free Republic.

Christmas ideas for deployed soldiers...

don't know what to send? Then go to American Soldier and read about it here.


Friday, November 23, 2007

The Red Balloon.

I watched this beautiful and lyrical movie when I was 6.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

This day, in history:

US President Kennedy was assassinated 44 years ago. Here's an interesting video clip of the news on that day, and the anchor's comments on hate ring true 44 years later...

"Man" never ceases to amaze...

The stunning temples secretly carved out below ground by 'paranormal' eccentric.

Giving Thanks to God for all our Blessings...

On this special day, I think of the Johnson Family, and their terribly trying times.

"Give thanks for noisy houses, healthy children and overflowing company. Give thanks for bounteous tables, rambunctious friends and neighbors, life and limb. And give thanks for those who give of themselves — in service to our nation, in civic duty and in answer to His call — all year ’round.
That is all."

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation.

Proclamation of Thanksgiving



The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed,

Done at the city of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth


By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation - 1789.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor -- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks -- for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation -- for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility [sic], union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed -- for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions -- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed -- to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York
the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

American Thanksgiving.

"On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract, that established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible," and this is what's not taught. This is what's left out. "The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example. And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work. But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford's detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves. And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims -- including Bradford's own wife -- died of either starvation, sickness, or exposure.

"When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper! This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments. Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well." They were collectivists! Now, "Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives.

"He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace. ... Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn't work! Surprise, surprise, huh? What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation! But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years -- trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it -- the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild's history lesson," every kid gets. "If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future." Here's what he wrote: "'The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing -- as if they were wiser than God,' Bradford wrote.

"'For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense...that was thought injustice.'" That was thought injustice. "Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen? The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford's community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result?" 'This had very good success,' wrote Bradford, "for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been." Bradford doesn't sound like much of a Clintonite, does he? Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980s? ... In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves. ... So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians.

"The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. And the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the 'Great Puritan Migration.'"

Source: Rush Limbaugh.

The lost lesson of Thanksgiving.

In The Tragedy of the Commons, John Stossel writes

Every year around this time, schoolchildren are taught about that wonderful day when Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the fruits of the harvest. "Isn't sharing wonderful?" say the teachers.

They miss the point.

Because of sharing, the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn't happen.
When the Pilgrims first settled the Plymouth Colony, they organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share everything equally, work and produce.

They nearly all starved.

Why? When people can get the same return with a small amount of effort as with a large amount, most people will make little effort. Plymouth settlers faked illness rather than working the common property. Some even stole, despite their Puritan convictions. Total production was too meager to support the population, and famine resulted. Some ate rats, dogs, horses and cats. This went on for two years.
The people of Plymouth moved from socialism to private farming. The results were dramatic.

Because of the change, the first Thanksgiving could be held in November 1623.

What Plymouth suffered under communalism was what economists today call the tragedy of the commons. But the problem has been known since ancient Greece. As Aristotle noted, "That which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it."
What private property does -- as the Pilgrims discovered -- is connect effort to reward, creating an incentive for people to produce far more. Then, if there's a free market, people will trade their surpluses to others for the things they lack. Mutual exchange for mutual benefit makes the community richer.

Secure property rights are the key. When producers know that their future products are safe from confiscation, they will take risks and invest. But when they fear they will be deprived of the fruits of their labor, they will do as little as possible.

That's the lost lesson of Thanksgiving.
Read the whole article here.

More on the Iraqi refugees coming home...

Read more about it here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Iraqi refugees are coming home...

a sign that not only has the violence in Iraq decreased dramatically, but refugees are betting on Iraq's economic and political future.

Iraqi refugees are returning home in dramatic numbers, concluding that security in Baghdad has been transformed. Thousands have left their refuge in Syria in recent months, according to some estimates.

The Iraqi Embassy is organising a secure mass convoy from Damascus to Baghdad on Monday for refugees who want to drive back. Embassy notices went up around the Syrian capital yesterday, offering free bus and train rides home.

Saida Zaynab, the Damascus neighbourhoods once dominated by many of the 1.5 million Iraqi refugees, is almost deserted. Apartment prices are plummeting and once-crowded shops and buses are half empty.

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was scrambling to assess the transformation last night. An interim report is expected today. “There is a large movement of people going back to Iraq. We are doing rapid research on this,” a spokesman said.
Read more about this here and here.

48,000 Send Thanksgiving Text Messages To Troops [Please read and pass on]

US Military ^ November 22, 2007 Pacific Stars and Stripes Jeff Schogol

ARLINGTON, Va. — More than 48,000 people have sent text messages since Saturday as part of an effort to show their support for U.S. troops this Thanksgiving, said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for internal communications and public liaison.

The effort is run by America Supports You, a Defense Department program that gives publicity to nonprofit groups that support U.S. troops, which falls under Barber’s purview.

Under the “Giving Thanks” campaign, people can send their text messages thanking the troops by texting 89279, she said.

The messages will be tallied on the America Supports You Web site and shown on a crawl on the Pentagon Channel on Thanksgiving, Barber said.

Beginning on Thanksgiving and running through the Monday football games, American Forces Network also will run commercials saying how many text messages have been sent, she said.

The program is not a joint effort with Stars and Stripes, but it is covered under an America Supports You contract that is held by Stars and Stripes.

The Defense Department Inspector General’s Office is conducting an audit of Stripes expenditures for America Supports You.

The newspaper was not involved with funding the “Giving Thanks” campaign, Barber said Tuesday.

For more information on the "Giving Thanks" campaign, go to:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) explained.

I just read the best explanation for PTSD from someone who has experienced it himself. It's a "must read", especially if you know someone who has returned from a place of conflict. Here's an excerpt:

What you need to know, first and last, is that so-called PTSD is not an illness. It is a normal condition for people who have been through what you have been through. The instinct to kill and war is native to humanity. It is very deeply rooted in me, as it is in you. We have rules and customs to restrain it, so that sometimes we may have peace. What you are experiencing is not an illness, but the awareness of what human nature is like deep down. It is the awareness of what life is like without the walls that protect civilization.

Those who have never been outside those walls don't know: they can't see. The walls form their horizon. You know what lays beyond them, and can't forget it. What we're going to talk about today is how to come home, back inside those walls: how to learn to trust them again.

There is a sense that combat changes people, but it really doesn't. It brings out parts of yourself that were always there, but that you hadn't encountered directly. Those parts are in everyone else as well. No one has clean hands. No one is different from you. That is important, so let me repeat it. Everyone around you is just like you. They don't know it, but they are. You are not sick; you are not broken. Everyone else is just the same.
Read it all.

Pistol-toting Pope!

That is, Pius XI. Check it out here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A slice of Americana with a twist!

I never knew that the world's first cloned sheep, Dolly, was named after Dolly Parton, since it was cloned from a mammary cell!

From The Economist:

Dolly Parton's father was a semi-literate sharecropper, and she grew up in a one-room shack with ten siblings and no indoor plumbing. Yet by the time she was in her late 20s, she was in a position to tell Elvis Presley to get stuffed. The King wanted to cover one of her songs, “I Will Always Love You”. His agent demanded the usual terms, which included signing over half the rights to the tune itself. Ms Parton said
no; a bold snub that made her millions. Her composition was a global smash. Whitney Houston's cover alone sold more than 10m copies. Saddam Hussein used an Arabic version as a campaign song in 2002, though it would be unfair to blame Ms Parton for his victory, since there was no one else on the ballot.

For us ze war is over by tea time ja! Part 2.

For a German perspective on the report that Germans are not pulling their weight in Afghanistan, read the Der Spiegel article here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

For us ze war is over by tea time, ja!

A NATO ally's performance in Afghanistan: "THEY are on the front line of the war on terror, but German pilots facing the Taliban are insisting they stop at tea time every day to comply with health and safety regulations.

The helicopter pilots, who provide medical back-up to Nato ground troops, set off for their base by mid-afternoon so they can be grounded by sundown.

Their refusal to fly in the dark is hampering Operation Desert Eagle, an allied offensive, which involves 500 Nato-led troops plus 1,000 Afghan troops and police."

Read more here.

The man behind Peanuts.

Stefan Kanfer has written a wonderful book review about Charles Schulz.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Diplomacy: a conversation with Kissinger.

Shrewd commentary on the US, Europe, NATO, the Middle East, and the UN.

...Mr. Kissinger pointed out that, in the immediate post-war period, "Europe was far weaker than today, but still prepared--with leaders like Adenauer, Schuman and Monnet, to conduct a real and assertive foreign policy--even if under the American security blanket and with a modicum of trans-Atlantic discord."

But today, fundamental philosophical differences divide the U.S and Europe across a range of key foreign policy issues. Europeans and Americans, I suggested, disagree as to both means and ends--especially the legitimacy of the pre-emptive use of force without an explicit blessing from the Security Council, as well as in their basic assessment of the gravity of the threats posed by transnational terror networks, which cannot be either bargained with or deterred.

The real difference, Mr. Kissinger interjected, lay in "what government[s] can ask of their people." It is because "European governments are not able any more to ask their people for great sacrifices," he argued, that they have so readily opted for a "soft power" approach to so many foreign policy issues. This will, of necessity, make it harder for Europe to reach a consensus with the U.S.

What you won't read about in the regular press:

Progress in Iraq: "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing 541 projects valued at $2 billion in a range of areas in Iraq, including renovating hospitals and schools, installing new water and sewer lines, electrical generation, new water and wastewater treatment plants, bridges and road paving."

Read about it here.

Thank You, on this Thanksgiving week!

Support our brave troops: Send your text message of thanks (for free) to 89279 (TXASY) between November 17th and 22nd.

Muslims sending a message to their Christian friends and neighbors:

“Come back to Iraq. Come home.”

Michael Yon writes about it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Meet the near-tarpans of Poland:

"In 1879, pursued by humans, the last wild, pure tarpan mare fell down a crevasse in Ukraine and died; the last captive died eight years later in a Moscow zoo.

At that point the species officially became extinct, just one more chapter in the annals of life on earth. Yet in Bialowieza, a forest straddling the border between Belarus and Poland, tarpans apparently still graze.

Bialowieza (pronounced bya-woe-VYE-zha) is the only fragment of primeval lowland forest preserved in all of Europe, an ecosystem Poles call a puszcza, a word evoking ancient woodlands undefiled by man or woman. Historically, it served as a hunting retreat for kings and czars (who kept an ornate lodge there), but by World War II, it had fallen under the purview of scientists, politicians and poachers. The rapid decline of the largest land animals in Europe—European (or "forest") bison—helped to kindle Poland's conservation movement after the war.

In a small reserve at the edge of the woods, time seems to evaporate as a herd of horses graze on marsh grass beneath colossal pine trees and a dazzling blue sky. On frosty mornings, they browse inside bubbles of steam and leave a sweet leathery odor behind them, invisible clouds above jumbled hoofprints. Spring through fall, the horses live unaided by humans, wading in the ponds and grazing on bushes, tree branches, algae and grass. In winter, they paw the snow to find dry grass or rotting apples, and rangers of the mounted Horse Guard sometimes provide hay and salt; well-muscled, the horses have little fat to insulate them, so they grow shaggy, easily matted coats. It is then that they most resemble the horses painted on the cave walls at prehistoric sites throughout France's Loire Valley.

They're strikingly beautiful creatures: dun with a black stripe down the back and a dark mane. Although they have long ears and large, thick necks, they are lightly built and fast. Unlike more domestic horses, their coats lighten in winter, just as those of ermine and arctic hares do, blending in with the landscape. Then ice clots like marbles in their manes and tails. Still, they thrive on harsh weather and poor diet; and, although the stallions battle fiercely, with bared teeth and thwacking necks, they heal quickly.

How did these lost-in-time animals get here?"

To find out, go read the article in The Smithsonian Magazine.

Commentary: What Kind of War Are We Fighting, and Can We Win It?

Commentary magazine has an interesting symposium addressing the following questions:

1. Do you accept the term “World War IV,” or the idea behind it, as an apt characterization of the West’s battle with Islamic extremism, and do you, like Norman Podhoretz, see Iraq as a crucial early theater in that conflict?

2. Six years after 9/11, how would you assess our progress? What would you like to see happen next?

3. On the specific issue of the spread of democracy—a linchpin of the Bush Doctrine and a point of acute controversy between foreign-policy realists and neoconservatives—do you agree or disagree with Podhoretz that “democratization represents the best and perhaps even the only way to defeat Islamofascism and the terrorism it uses as its main weapon against us”?

4. Turning to the political climate at home, do you think the Bush Doctrine has a chance of surviving the elections of 2008, and if so in what form?

The religion wars of the 21st century...

From The Economist: "The religion that invades the public square most overtly is Islam: it affords secular power the least respect, teaching that the primary unit of society is the umma, the international brotherhood of believers. At its most theocratic, it forces people to follow sharia laws, sometimes with barbaric penalties. Yet Islam can clearly co-exist with a modern liberal state. For all its failures in the Arab world, democracy has taken root in Malaysia and Indonesia. America's Muslims worship freely and respect its secular constitution—a success the United States should make more of in its foreign policy. But the test case will be Turkey, a secular state currently ruled by Islamists whose progress is being watched with nervous attention."

Check out the Economist's lengthy "special report".

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

President Sarkozy's speech to the United States Congress.

Renewing the French-American Alliance
November 07, 2007
By Nicolas Sarkozy

Madam Speaker, Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen of the United States Congress, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The state of our friendship and our alliance is strong.

Friendship, first and foremost, means being true to one's friends. Since the United States first appeared on the world scene, the loyalty between the French and American people has never failed. And far from being weakened by the vicissitudes of History, it has never ceased growing stronger.

Friends may have differences; they may have disagreements; they may have disputes.

But in times of difficulty, in times of hardship, friends stand together, side by side; they support each other; and help one another.

In times of difficulty, in times of hardship, America and France have always stood side by side, supported one another, helped one another, fought for each other's freedom.

The United States and France remain true to the memory of their common history, true to the blood spilled by their children in common battles. But they are not true merely to the memory of what they accomplished together in the past. They remain true, first and foremost, to the same ideal, the same principles, the same values that have always united them.

The deliberations of your Congress are conducted under the double gaze of Washington and Lafayette. Lafayette, whose 250th birthday we are celebrating this year and who was the first foreign dignitary, in 1824, to address a joint session of Congress. What was it that brought these two men--so far apart in age and background--together, if not their faith in common values, the heritage of the Enlightenment, the same love for freedom and justice?

Upon first meeting Washington, Lafayette told him: "I have come here to learn, not to teach." It was this new spirit and youth of the Old World seeking out the wisdom of the New World that opened a new era for all of humanity.

From the very beginning, the American dream meant putting into practice the dreams of the Old World.

From the very beginning, the American dream meant proving to all mankind that freedom, justice, human rights and democracy were no utopia but were rather the most realistic policy there is and the most likely to improve the fate of each and every person.

America did not tell the millions of men and women who came from every country in the world and who--with their hands, their intelligence and their heart--built the greatest nation in the world: "Come, and everything will be given to you." She said: "Come, and the only limits to what you'll be able to achieve will be your own courage and your own talent." America embodies this extraordinary ability to grant each and every person a second chance.

Here, both the humblest and most illustrious citizens alike know that nothing is owed to them and that everything has to be earned. That's what constitutes the moral value of America. America did not teach men the idea of freedom; she taught them how to practice it. And she fought for this freedom whenever she felt it to be threatened somewhere in the world. It was by watching America grow that men and women understood that freedom was possible.

What made America great was her ability to transform her own dream into hope for all mankind.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The men and women of my generation heard their grandparents talk about how in 1917, America saved France at a time when it had reached the final limits of its strength, which it had exhausted in the most absurd and bloodiest of wars.

The men and women of my generation heard their parents talk about how in 1944, America returned to free Europe from the horrifying tyranny that threatened to enslave it.

Fathers took their sons to see the vast cemeteries where, under thousands of white crosses so far from home, thousands of young American soldiers lay who had fallen not to defend their own freedom but the freedom of all others, not to defend their own families, their own homeland, but to defend humanity as a whole.

Fathers took their sons to the beaches where the young men of America had so heroically landed. They read them the admirable letters of farewell that those 20-year-old soldiers had written to their families before the battle to tell them: "We don't consider ourselves heroes. We want this war to be over. But however much dread we may feel, you can count on us." Before they landed, Eisenhower told them: "The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you."

And as they listened to their fathers, watched movies, read history books and the letters of soldiers who died on the beaches of Normandy and Provence, as they visited the cemeteries where the star-spangled banner flies, the children of my generation understood that these young Americans, 20 years old, were true heroes to whom they owed the fact that they were free people and not slaves. France will never forget the sacrifice of your children.

To those 20-year-old heroes who gave us everything, to the families of those who never returned, to the children who mourned fathers they barely got a chance to know, I want to express France's eternal gratitude.

On behalf of my generation, which did not experience war but knows how much it owes to their courage and their sacrifice; on behalf of our children, who must never forget; to all the veterans who are here today and, notably the seven I had the honor to decorate yesterday evening, one of whom, Senator Inouye, belongs to your Congress, I want to express the deep, sincere gratitude of the French people. I want to tell you that whenever an American soldier falls somewhere in the world, I think of what the American army did for France. I think of them and I am sad, as one is sad to lose a member of one's family.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The men and women of my generation remember the Marshall Plan that allowed their fathers to rebuild a devastated Europe. They remember the Cold War, during which America again stood as the bulwark of the Free World against the threat of new tyranny.

I remember the Berlin crisis and Kennedy who unhesitatingly risked engaging the United States in the most destructive of wars so that Europe could preserve the freedom for which the American people had already sacrificed so much. No one has the right to forget. Forgetting, for a person of my generation, would be tantamount to self-denial.

But my generation did not love America only because she had defended freedom. We also loved her because for us, she embodied what was most audacious about the human adventure; for us, she embodied the spirit of conquest. We loved America because for us, America was a new frontier that was continuously pushed back--a constantly renewed challenge to the inventiveness of the human spirit.

My generation shared all the American dreams. Our imaginations were fueled by the winning of the West and Hollywood. By Elvis Presley, Duke Ellington, Hemingway. By John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth. And by Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, fulfilling mankind's oldest dream.

What was so extraordinary for us was that through her literature, her cinema and her music, America always seemed to emerge from adversity even greater and stronger; that instead of causing America to doubt herself, such ordeals only strengthened her belief in her values.

What makes America strong is the strength of this ideal that is shared by all Americans and by all those who love her because they love freedom.

America's strength is not only a material strength, it is first and foremost a spiritual and moral strength. No one expressed this better than a black pastor who asked just one thing of America: that she be true to the ideal in whose name he--the grandson of a slave--felt so deeply American. His name was Martin Luther King. He made America a universal role model.

The world still remembers his words--words of love, dignity and justice. America heard those words and America changed. And the men and women who had doubted America because they no longer recognized her began loving her again.

Fundamentally, what are those who love America asking of her, if not to remain forever true to her founding values?

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today as in the past, as we stand at the beginning of the 21st century, it is together that we must fight to defend and promote the values and ideals of freedom and democracy that men such as Washington and Lafayette invented together.

Together we must fight against terrorism. On September 11, 2001, all of France--petrified with horror--rallied to the side of the American people. The front-page headline of one of our major dailies read: "We are all American." And on that day, when you were mourning for so many dead, never had America appeared to us as so great, so dignified, so strong. The terrorists had thought they would weaken you. They made you greater. The entire world felt admiration for the courage of the American people. And from day one, France decided to participate shoulder to shoulder with you in the war in Afghanistan. Let me tell you solemnly today: France will remain engaged in Afghanistan as long as it takes, because what's at stake in that country is the future of our values and that of the Atlantic Alliance. For me, failure is not an option. Terrorism will not win because democracies are not weak, because we are not afraid of this barbarism. America can count on France.

Together we must fight against proliferation. Success in Libya and progress under way in North Korea shows that nuclear proliferation is not inevitable. Let me say it here before all of you: The prospect of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons is unacceptable. The Iranian people is a great people. It deserves better than the increased sanctions and growing isolation to which its leaders condemn it. Iran must be convinced to choose cooperation, dialogue and openness. No one must doubt our determination.

Together we must help the people of the Middle East find the path of peace and security. To the Israeli and Palestinian leaders I say this: Don't hesitate! Risk peace! And do it now! The status quo hides even greater dangers: that of delivering Palestinian society as a whole to the extremists that contest Israel's existence; that of playing into the hands of radical regimes that are exploiting the deadlock in the conflict to destabilize the region; that of fueling the propaganda of terrorists who want to set Islam against the West. France wants security for Israel and a State for the Palestinians.

Together we must help the Lebanese people affirm their independence, their sovereignty, their freedom, their democracy. What Lebanon needs today is a broad-based president elected according to the established schedule and in strict respect of the Constitution. France stands engaged alongside all the Lebanese. It will not accept attempts to subjugate the Lebanese people.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

America feels it has the vocation to inspire the world. Because she is the most powerful country in the world. Because, for more than two centuries, she has striven to uphold the ideals of democracy and freedom. But this stated responsibility comes with duties, the first of which is setting an example.

Those who love this nation which, more than any other, has demonstrated the virtues of free enterprise expect America to be the first to denounce the abuses and excesses of a financial capitalism that sets too great a store on speculation. They expect her to commit fully to the establishment of the necessary rules and safeguards. The America I love is the one that encourages entrepreneurs, not speculators.

Those who admire the nation that has built the world's greatest economy and has never ceased trying to persuade the world of the advantages of free trade expect her to be the first to promote fair exchange rates. The yuan is already everyone's problem. The dollar cannot remain solely the problem of others. If we're not careful, monetary disarray could morph into economic war. We would all be its victims.

Those who love the country of wide open spaces, national parks and nature reserves expect America to stand alongside Europe in leading the fight against global warming that threatens the destruction of our planet. I know that each day, in their cities and states, the American people are more aware of the stakes and determined to act. This essential fight for the future of humanity must be all of America's fight.

Those who have not forgotten that it was the United States that, at the end of the Second World War, raised hopes for a new world order are asking America to take the lead in the necessary reforms of the UN, the IMF, the World Bank and the G8. Our globalized world must be organized for the 21st century, not for the last century. The emerging countries we need for global equilibrium must be given their rightful place.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to express one last conviction: Trust Europe.

In this unstable, dangerous world, the United States of America needs a strong, determined Europe. With the simplified treaty I proposed to our partners, the European Union is about to emerge from 10 years of discussions on its institutions and 10 years of paralysis. Soon it will have a stable president and a more powerful High Representative for foreign and security policy, and it must now reactivate the construction of its military capacities.

The ambition I am proposing to our partners is based on a simple observation: There are more crises than there are capacities to face them. NATO cannot be everywhere. The EU must be able to act, as it did in the Balkans and in the Congo, and as it will tomorrow on the border of Sudan and Chad. For that the Europeans must step up their efforts.

My approach is purely pragmatic. Having learned from history, I want the Europeans, in the years to come, to have the means to shoulder a growing share of their defense. Who could blame the United States for ensuring its own security? No one. Who could blame me for wanting Europe to ensure more of its own security? No one. All of our Allies, beginning with the United States, with whom we most often share the same interests and the same adversaries, have a strategic interest in a Europe that can assert itself as a strong, credible security partner.

At the same time, I want to affirm my attachment to NATO. I say it here before this Congress: The more successful we are in the establishment of a European Defense, the more France will be resolved to resume its full role in NATO.

I would like France, a founding member of our Alliance and already one of its largest contributors, to assume its full role in the effort to renew NATO's instruments and means of action and, in this context, to allow its relations with the Alliance to evolve.

This is no time for theological quarrels but for pragmatic responses to make our security tools more effective and operational in the face of crises. The EU and NATO must march hand in hand.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to be your friend, your ally and your partner. But a friend who stands on his own two feet. An independent ally. A free partner.

France must be stronger. I am determined to carry through with the reforms that my country has put off for all too long. I will not turn back, because France has turned back for all too long. My country has enormous assets. While respecting its unique identity, I want to put it into a position to win all the battles of globalization. I passionately love France. I am lucid about the work that remains to be accomplished.

It is this ambitious France that I have come to present to you today. A France that comes out to meet America to renew the pact of friendship and the alliance that Washington and Lafayette sealed in Yorktown.

Together let us be worthy of their example, let us be equal to their ambition, let us be true to their memories!

Long live the United States of America!

Vive la France!
Long live French-American friendship!

Muslims and Christians together in Baghdad.

Michael Yon: "I photographed men and women, both Christians and Muslims, placing a cross atop the St. John’s Church in Baghdad. They had taken the cross from storage and a man washed it before carrying it up to the dome."

Check out the story here, and also, read his incredible dispatches.

British anti-Semitism.

Melanie Phillips has a must-read piece in the City-Journal regarding the ugly resurgence of anti-Semitism:

The misrepresentation of Israeli self-defense as belligerence, suggesting that Jews are not victims but aggressors, implicitly provides Europeans with the means to blame the destruction of European Jewry on its own misdeeds. As one influential left-wing editor said to me: “The Holocaust meant that for decades the Jews were untouchable. It’s such a relief that Israel means we don’t have to worry about that any more.”

It is no accident that Jews find themselves at the center of Britain’s modern convulsion. Today’s British prejudices rest on a repudiation of truth and a refusal to defend Western moral values. And it was the Jews who first gave the West those moral codes that underpin its civilization and that are now under siege.

Responding to US diplomats who vented anger and frustration at the State Department's decision to force foreign service officers to take jobs in Iraq:

"If these guys at the town hall meeting do not want to come to Iraq , that is okay with. I would not want that sort out here with me anyway. We have enough trouble w/o having to baby sit. BUT they are not worldwide available and they might consider the type of job that does not require worldwide availability."

Source: Dipnote (the US State Department blog).

Instapundit: "WHY IS THE WORLD MORE CONCERNED with Musharraf's coup than with Hugo Chavez's emerging dicatatorship? Because enemies of the United States, like Chavez, get a pass."

Soldiers bend down to kiss American soil.

Go here to read the story.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"What was your first thought when you came to freedom? How not to lose my trousers!"

Excerpts from a Wall Street Journal interview with Natan Sharansky:

...democracy is a dirty word these days. ...So Mr. Sharansky is lonely too, bounced out of Israeli politics and out of favor. He, Vaclav Havel and other former Eastern European dissident faces of the freedom agenda are dismissed as Cold War naïfs, pernicious Utopians, or worse--men whose moral Manichaeism has no business in the "complex Middle East."
[Sharansky's] bigger concern is the West's own weak stomach. This is a familiar theme for Mr. Sharansky and others who waged the Cold War battle on the other side of the Wall. Prosperous, stable societies can lack, by these lights, moral clarity and courage and are prone to cynical compromises or gullibility. Under totalitarianism the challenge is to fight evil (he paraphrases the British writer Melanie Phillips), and in free societies it is to see evil.
"The more the free world enjoys their freedom the more they will be reluctant to support any freedom [for others]. I saw it in my personal life [in the Soviet Union], I see it to this day. They say the Arabs are not capable of this--such a strong racist statement." He pauses. "That's interesting. It's politically uncorrect [sic] to be a racist, but it's so politically correct now to say that promoting democracy is a bad idea."
In his view, the West's so-called Russia experts misjudged Mr. Putin's aspirations and political talents, particularly his ability "to use the right language in Russia." Once, when the Russian president went on an anti-Western tirade, Mr. Sharansky recalls that Secretary Rice, one of those experts, noted that Mr. Putin was ruining his image abroad. "I told her, 'He looks stupid to you but the most important thing is how he looks in Moscow, and in Moscow he looks like a hero!' "

Read more about dissidents and Sharansky here.

How to prepare children for war:

To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose, under heaven:

Here is a "time for war". Click the picture for the rest of the story:

and here is "a time for peace":

Thanks to LGF and Iowahawk.

Terrorists Deceive and Exploit Young Recruits.

According to a United Nations report published in September 2007, the Taliban has been “recruiting” children from poor and uneducated households by abducting young boys or by promising gifts such as motorcycles and cell phones.

Terrorists also recruit those who do not fully understand that the mission they are being sent on is a suicide attack. A young Saudi, Ahmad al Shayea, was tricked into becoming a suicide bomber by al-Qaida when they asked him to deliver a tanker truck which they had rigged with a bomb.


The Taliban tried to coerce six-year-old Juma Gul into being a suicide bomber by telling him the vest he was wearing “would spray flowers” when he pressed the detonator. Afghan President Hamid Karzai pardoned a 14-year-old boy caught wearing a suicide vest on his way to assassinate a provincial governor. The boy had crossed the border from Pakistan and intended to kill Arsala Jamal, governor of Khost province. July 2007Source: RFE/RL .

The Taliban tried to trick six-year-old Juma Gul into being a suicide bomber by telling him the vest he was wearing “would spray flowers” when he pressed the detonator. When he realized it was a bomb, Juma notified Afghan soldiers. June 2007 Source: Telegraph .

A 15 year old al-Qaida suicide bomber helped drive a truck loaded with explosives into a military barracks in the eastern Algerian city of Dellys in an attack that killed 30 people and injured 47. September 2007 Source: Monsters and Critics .

Ahmad al Shayea, from Saudi Arabia, was tricked into becoming a suicide bomber by al-Qaida when they asked him to deliver a tanker truck, which they had rigged with a bomb to explode outside the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad in 2004. He survived, but was badly burned and has since renounced terrorism and returned to Saudi Arabia. Today he works to convince would-be terrorists to give up their deadly ways. July 2007 Source: MSNBC .

Terrorists used a handicapped child as one of the suicide bombers who launched attacks on voters in Baghdad on Election Day. January 2005 Source: MSNBC .
In his first public speech, the Director-General of MI5, Jonathan Evans, states that al-Qaida is actively recruiting kids as young as 15 years old for suicide missions in the UK.

Read his full speech.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The oldest creature:

A 410 year old clam "nicknamed Ming after the Chinese dynasty in power when it was born, was in its infancy when Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne and Shakespeare was writing plays such as Othello and Hamlet."

All about the skin.

Here's a very useful site to see pictures and read about skin conditions.

How to make the world like the US of A.

"The world will shine all the brighter when it’s unburdened by American arrogance and banality. Let’s return to our roots. Good ole’ American isolationism. America, first, now and forever. Return our fleets in the Pacific and Persian Gulf to our shores. Get our troops out of Korea, Germany, the Emirates, wherever. There’s plenty to do here at home. Leave nation building to the Europeans who worked wonders and did their thing in the 20th century. Our beloved land will once again bask in the world’s approval. George McGovern lives, ‘Come Home America.’ To paraphrase the immortal words of one of my fellow artists, we can hold hands, open a Coke and say, “They like us, they really like us.”" Ron Silver has 6 basic steps. Read it all.

Culture and poverty.

Read Robert Samuelson's article on Gregory Clark's new book regarding why some countries are poor and others are not. Excerpt:

"...history's most important event was the Industrial Revolution -- more important than the emergence of monotheism, which produced Judaism, Christianity and Islam; or the invention of the printing press around 1450, which spread knowledge; or the American Revolution, which promoted democracy.

Before 1800, says Clark, most societies were stagnant. With some exceptions, people lived no better than their ancestors in the Stone Age. Economic growth was virtually nonexistent. Then England broke the pattern, as textile, iron and food production increased dramatically. Since 1800, English income per person has risen by a factor of 10. Much of Europe and the United States followed.

Almost everything that differentiates the modern era from the preceding millennia dates from this point: the virtual end of hunger in advanced societies; the expectation that living standards will constantly rise; the creation of the welfare state to redistribute income; the destructiveness of contemporary warfare; industry's environmental spoilage. But why did the Industrial Revolution start in England?

It's Clark's answer that convinces him of the supremacy of culture in explaining economic growth. Traditional theories have emphasized the importance of the Scientific Revolution and England's favorable climate: political stability, low taxes, open markets. Clark retorts that both China and Japan around 1800 were about as technically advanced as Europe, had stable societies, open markets and low taxes. But their industrial revolutions came later.

What distinguished England, he says, was the widespread emergence of middle-class values of "patience, hard work, ingenuity, innovativeness, education" that favored economic growth. After examining birth and death records, he concludes that in England -- unlike many other societies -- the most successful men had more surviving children than the less fortunate. Slowly, the attributes of success that children learned from parents became part of the common culture. Biology drove economics. He rejects the well-known theory of German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) that Protestantism fostered these values."