Tuesday, January 30, 2007

When Soldiers Speak for Themselves

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When Soldiers Speak for Themselves

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Dark Side of Ethanol

Tortilla shortages.

Mexico is in the grip of the worst tortilla crisis in its modern history. Dramatically rising international corn prices, spurred by demand for the grain-based fuel ethanol, have led to expensive tortillas.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Dinosaur Death Throes

The old media has slashed more than 43,000 jobs in the last 6 years. And, it's getting worse.

U.S. media job cuts surged 88 percent in 2006 from the previous year, a downsizing trend expected to continue this year, a survey said Thursday.

The media industry slashed 17,809 jobs last year, a nearly two-fold increase from the 9,453 cuts in 2005, outplacement consultancy Challenger Gray & Christmas said.

Remember that when you read stories like this.

The Case for War, Part I

World War II in Europe should have ended on March 7, 1936. On that day Adolph Hitler committed his most flagrant violation of the Treaty of Versailles to date. Since assuming the office of chancellor, Hitler made it his goal to transgress the treaty article by article. Against the advice of his officer corps, who argued correctly that the German army was far too feeble to defend the territory if challenged, Hitler ordered his army into the Rhine River Valley. He firmly believed that whatever superiority the French possessed in men and materiel would be cancelled by a deficiency in French courage.
The Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I inflicted humiliating terms on Germany. The French and their allies did not believe that a strong Germany could ever be trusted as a good neighbor. The treaty required that this borderland with France be kept as a demilitarized buffer zone. The treaty obligated Britain and France to enforce that provision.
Hitler considered that article an infringement upon Germany’s national sovereignty. And he also recalled that previous actions by France and Britain to enforce the treaty had been condemned by the international community and had created worldwide sympathy for Germany. Hitler believed that international pressure would combine with crumbling allied resolve and allow him to scrap the treaty entirely.
Hitler’s generals nervously complied with Hitler’s order, but privately agreed to abandon the Rhineland when the first French bayonet appeared over the hill. But Hitler’s estimation of the Allies was vindicated. They lacked the will to keep the peace. Hitler’s grip on power was secured and the ensuing war consumed at least 44 million lives.
Hitler himself declared that, "The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had marched into the Rhineland, we would have had to withdraw with our tail between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even a moderate resistance."
Hitler won his first direct confrontation with the Allies, not because of superior forces, but because of superior will. The most modest gesture by the allies would have ended the Nazi reign.
We have a similar circumstance today. Radical, fundamentalist Islam lacks even a fraction of the resources to needed defeat Western civilization militarily. But, just as Hitler considered the WWI alliance too flabby to defend itself, radical Islam sees the West as a decadent giant that lacks the resolve to defend its own existence.
Radical Islam took heart from the United States’ retreat from Lebanon after the 1983 suicide truck bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut and from our Somalia retreat a decade later as proof of American moral frailty. For all of its technological backwardness and military weakness, Middle Eastern Islamists believe firmly in their cause and are convinced that their tenacity can outlast any western material strength.
Unfortunately, as was the case with Hitler in 1936, the Islamists seem to have the measure of their foes. A recent Fox News poll found that 34% of Democrats did not want America to succeed in Iraq, and another 14% were uncertain. Even among Republicans, 11% favored failure. Overall 22% of Americans are rooting for their own country’s defeat and another 15% are uncertain where their loyalties lie. This is precisely the moral erosion that Osama Bin Laden, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian dictator Bashir Assad and other tyrants are counting on.
The mood of the Congress is to surrender. The chairman of the House Democrats’ 2006 campaign declared in no uncertain terms that his party is counting on military reverses to bolster its own electoral success in 2008.
Has anybody really considered the consequences of defeat in Iraq? How will the future look if Bin Laden and Ahmadinejad can claim victory over America in Iraq? When the next front in this war of civilizations opens, who would trust us as allies if we prove to the world that we lack the stomach to win?
For the entire span of its 15 century history, Islam has been at war with its neighbors, trying to spread its religion by the sword. Unless we wish this conflict to continue indefinitely, we must succeed in this opportunity to change history. History has handed us the opportunity to alter its course. We would be fools not to accept it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Kofi's Not in Charge Anymore

And, apparently, that means that the UN will be more honest.

After the US State Department discovered theft of UN funds by North Korea,
A representative speaking for Ban Ki-Moon announced Friday that in response to the allegations regarding North Korea and the UNDP, the secretary-general has called for "an urgent, systemwide and external inquiry into all activities done around the globe done by the U.N. funds and programs."

Hat tip to the blogfather.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Jamil Hussein - International Man of Mystery?

A few weeks ago in this corner, I asked the question: Who is Jamil Hussein? Here is a part of the answer. Between April and November of 2006, the Associated Press cited police captain Jamil Hussein as its sole source for 61 stories. In forty of those stories, the tales credited to Jamil Hussein were uncorroborated by any other news organization. On April 24, Captain Hussein told the Associated Press that 20 Iraqis had been killed by car bombs that day. On April 29, Hussein was quoted as saying that 6 dead Iraqis had been found who appeared to have been tortured. Three days later, according to Jamil Hussein, 3 more Iraqis were found in a similar condition. On May 14, six Shiite shrines were bombed and 18 Iraqis were killed.
And so it went. The stories that Captain Jamil Hussein told generally conformed to the media template that Iraq is a country descending into total chaos. For 7 months Captain Jamil Hussein’s word was authoritative, until November 25, 2006 when the Associate Press repeated Jamil Hussein’s allegations that Shiite militiamen burned six Sunnis alive on the street under the watchful and approving gaze of Iraqi soldiers. Hussein also reported that 4 Sunni mosques were burned the same day.
But the camel’s back broke after this last story. The Iraqi Police said that, not only did the events described not happen, but that there was no such person on the Iraqi police force named Jamil Hussein. The United States military also denied the events described ever took place.
The Associated Press remained steadfast.
Bloggers got involved and created a blogstorm around the Associated Press and Jamil Hussein. Bloggers demanded that the Associated Press prove Jamil Hussein’s existence by presenting him for an interview. The Associated Press ignored this and simply disparaged the blogosphere. Bloggers also noticed that Jamil Hussein seemed to be everywhere. His reports indicated a nearly unlimited jurisdiction. The suspicion arose that Jamil Hussein was an imaginary or composite figure to whom rumors could be attributed to give them more authority.
One blogger, Eason Jordan, who was once the president of the CNN news division until he was caught up in a blogstorm for accusing the United States military of deliberately targeting journalists, expressed his own doubts about the existence of Jamil Hussein. Jordan suggested that the Associated Press follow the CBS example and appoint an independent panel to investigate.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, the Associated Press crowed that the Iraqi Interior Ministry confessed that yes, there was a captain Jamil Hussein, and then the AP cast doubt on the ministry’s honesty.
“Khalaf offered no explanation Thursday for why the ministry had initially denied Hussein's existence, other than to state that its first search of records failed to turn up his full name. He also declined to say how long the ministry had known of its error and why it had made no attempt in the past six weeks to correct the public record.”
The problem might have been that the Associated Press’s version of events is not quite accurate.
Bill Costlow, spokesman for the U.S. Civilian Police Assistance Training Team (CPATT) says that isn’t quite the truth. The man whom the Associated Press has been identifying as their source is named Jamil Hussein Gulaim. The Interior Ministry said that there is a police captain named Jamil Ghdaab Gulaim, which is one of at least three different names that the AP has given to their source since their own credibility was questioned. Jamil Ghdaab Gulaim denies ever being the AP’s source.
Incidentally the Associated Press’s values and principles statement specifically forbids the use of pseudonyms.
As of last fall, there were fewer than a dozen reporters currently embedded with the US military. Only one was from the Associated Press. And so the Associated Press, along with most other news sources, have come to rely upon “stringers” as sources. Exactly how a stringer’s reliability is verified is not clear, but it’s likely that a stringer whose reports conform to the organization’s preconceptions is judged more honest than one whose reports conflict with what the organization just knows is true.
In the meantime, Jamil Hussein has not been heard from. Since his story about the six Sunnis burned alive, the Associate Press has not cited police captain Jamil Hussein as a source.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Kozmos Part Deux (or something like that)

And now we wrap up the annual Kozmo Awards, where we honor those special contributions to our nation’s history by those who believe they should direct it.
I don’t recall if a single year has gone by when the senior senator from Massachusetts did not reap a rich harvest of Kozmos. This year is no exception. With the Hero of Chappaquiddick, the difficulty is in sifting through Kennedy’s utterances and separating the chaff from the other chaff to find the most deserving chaff. Ted Kennedy wins the Don’t-Know-Much-About History Kozmo for his recollections about the 1964 presidential election. When Samuel Alito was nominated to the United States Supreme Court, Ted Kennedy declared that: "This nominee was influenced by the Goldwater presidency. The Goldwater battles of those times were the battles against the civil rights laws."
Not only did Kennedy forget that Lyndon Johnson won the election that year, but his math was bad too. Samuel Alito was 14 years old in 1964. No wonder Teddy had to cheat in college.
Nancy Pelosi is now claiming a mandate to do whatever she wants after her party won the mid-term elections. But, before the vote, she wouldn’t even go on the record with an agenda for her party. "I'm even hard put to say what our agenda will be when we win," she told The Hill, a monthly magazine of national politics.
Interesting now isn’t it, that she claims that the voters endorsed views she lacked the courage to articulate before the election. And so, Nancy Pelosi wins, The Vision Thing Kozmo.
The Chutzpah Kozmo goes to the New York Times. After a year when the Times undermined the war on terror through its leaks, in one instance exposing a program it had previously advocated, the Time lectured President Bush on the correct pre-conditions for declassifying secrets. After the Times published selectively leaked fragments of a National Intelligence Estimate, Bush released it all and exposed how dishonest was the Times’ cherry picked partial leak. The Times didn’t like that and scolded the president in an editorial.
“To declassify an intelligence document, officials have to decide whether disclosing the information would jeopardize the sources that provided it or the methods used to gather it.”
If only the Times would adhere to that standard.
Saint Jimmy Carter grows more sanctimonious by the minute. The worst president in my lifetime is neck and neck with Cindy Sheehan in the no-blood-for-oil sweepstakes. And so, it’s worth looking back at the words of the only president who in my lifetime expressly threatened to shed blood for oil.
In his 1980 State of the Union address, speaking to the Soviet Union, he saber rattled, “Let our position be absolutely clear: An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”
And so, for the body of work he has assembled again this year, Jimmy Carter earns the Sanctimony Kozmo, and it wasn’t even close. Jimmy’s in a class all his own.
And finally, we cannot call it a year without recognizing the Grand Supremo Kozmo, reserved for the most nonsensical effort of the year. And this year, it’s hard to find anything dumber than Duke University. Duke is notorious for its political correctness and is well known for scouring the country looking for the next Ward Churchill or Stanley Fish. As such, Duke reacted quite reflexively against the privileged white males who were accused of rape by a black stripper at a lacrosse team party. The university condemned the team, suspended the season and expelled the accused. They were found guilty, not just of rape, but of being white boys.
Unfortunately for Duke, there are two huge problems here. The first is the well-documented problems with the accuser’s credibility. But also troublesome is the fact that without spoiled rich white kids, there would be no Duke University. It costs parents about $40,000 per year to send their kids to Duke. And after seeing Duke’s institutionalized hostility toward their children, many parents have chosen to send their children elsewhere. And now, Duke is begging for applicants and has even asked forgiveness of the students Duke threw under the bus. Just desserts.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Annual Kozmo Awards, Part One

As is the custom of this column, we celebrate the New Year with a look back at the old. There exists in this country a largely self-anointed class of people who firmly believe that they are qualified to tell the rest of us what to think and how to live. They are in Hollywood, the halls of government and on the editorial boards of newspapers, among other places. These elitists so completely believe in themselves that they rarely hesitate to pontificate at us, even when they would be far better served by a closed mouth. As someone wiser than myself once advised, it is better to keep silence and be thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.
Fortunately, they find such advice thoroughly indigestible and do not possess even half that wisdom. We couldn’t be happier as we wouldn’t be able to have nearly so much fun mocking them. And so, we take a little time and column space to remove any last shreds of doubt you might still hold and recognize their utterances with the Zinc Kozmos.
The latest presidential shoe-in from the Democratic Party is the callow junior US senator from the state of Illinois. Barack Obama, or as Ted Kennedy once called him, “Osama Obama,” warned his fellow presidential aspirants to stay away from what he considers his home turf – the black church: "Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith: the politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps off rhythm to the gospel choir."
And so, the White-Men-Can’t-Jump Kozmo goes to the fellow that I predict will in two years win the Howard Dean Flameout Kozmo.
The Kozmos are generally reserved for domestic recipients, but our brethren to the north so distinguished themselves in their blind political correctness that we had to go international this year. In fact we have a toss up in the Head-In-The-Sand Kozmo. After a terrorist cell was broken up in Toronto, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Toronto Star professed ignorance about what might have motivated the men.
“They represent the broad strata of our community,” said the RCMP. “Some are students, some are employed, some are unemployed.”
The Toronto Star had this to say: “Aside from the fact that virtually all are young men, it’s hard to find a common denominator.”
I’ll leave it up to you to guess at a motive. By the way, the names of the accused are, Fahim Ahmad, 21, Zakaria Amara, 20, Asad Ansari, 21, Shareef Abdelhaleen, Qayyum Abdul Jamal, 43, Mohammed Dirie, 22, Yasim Abdi Mohamed, 24, Amin Mohamed Durrani, 19, Abdul Shakur, 25, Ahmad Mustafa Ghany, 21, and Saad Khalid, 19. Oh, and one other thing they had in common – they all attended the same mosque, although I’m certain that’s a coincidence.
The Michael Richards Memorial Komedy Kozmo goes to the last man the Democrats deemed the best qualified to carry their party’s banner as a presidential candidate, John Kerry. Addressing a group of students Kerry cracked this knee slapper: “You know, education, if you make the most of it, if you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, uh, you, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”
Man he is funny!
The Kerry Memorial Komedy Kozmo goes to U.S. Representative and military draft proponent, Charles Rangel D-NY who followed Kerry’s act with his own zinger: “If a young fellow has an option of having a decent career or joining the Army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq. Those who have the least opportunities at this age find themselves in the military, as I did when I was 18 years old... No young, bright individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment.”
That Charlie! He’s hilarious! What? You mean, he wasn’t joking?
And finally, for this week anyway, the Algore Hot Air Kozmo goes to the Polar Thin Ice Expedition to the North Pole to study global warming. They didn’t make it. According to Reuters they encountered, "unusually heavy snow and ice."
More next week! It was a busy year.