I haven't been feeling well today and I've got a lot to do tomorrow. Hopefully posting will resume Tuesday.
This Drudge story has seriously disturbed me.
Active duty soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are upset over being forced take part in a military repatriation ceremony today for remains believed to be those of the non-military brother of presidential candidate Howard Dean, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
"His brother will receive full military honors...flag over the coffin and all!" fumes one soldier, who asked not to be named.
Governor Dean is set to visit to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the repatriation of his brother to Hickam AFB, Hawaii.
The brother's remains were recovered in Laos by a JPAC recovery team this past month. JPAC's mission is to search, recover, and identify remains of US service members who were killed in previous wars.
During the Vietnam War, Dean's brother and an Australian friend treked into Laos as civilians -- and were captured by the Vietcong and killed.
JPAC was pressured to not only recover his brother's remains, but to bump Dean's recovery over numerous other MIA's who actually died fighting for their country, a well-placed military source tells the DRUDGE REPORT.
Read the rest. I can't express how mad this makes me.
I'm about to leave for Thanksgiving. Turkey, dressing, pie, family, and cute little kids will fill most of the next few days. I'll be back home on Saturday evening. I won't be posting in the meantime unless I'm REALLY bored.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
The nation of Nigeria has it's share of problems, not the least of which is a Sharia court that sentences women to death for being raped. But you've got to give credit where credit is due, so 3 cheers to Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo who refused to invite mass-murderer and Thief-in-chief Robert Mugabe to the latest Commonwealth summit.
Unfortunately not all world leaders are this enlightened when it comes to Mugabe. To bee fair, Chirac's not the only one to cuddle up with Mugabe, but he is the one whose done so most prominently.
The larger context of this passage involves Paul's admonition not to engage in activities you do not beleive to be sinful if you know that someone else does believe the activity is sinful and also have reason to believe that your actions might cause that person to follow your lead. In those circumstances, you might not hve done anything wrong per se, but you would have contributed to someone else violating their conscience.
That is not what I want to talk about now. Instead, I want to talk about why it's so bad to violate your consceience, or even just to do something you find morally questionable.
Paul makes no secret, especially in Romans, of the concept that everyone has within themselves sufficient knowlege to discern right and wrong. That moral sense may not be as refined as what you would find in the Torah, but it is still there. We typically call that your conscience and Paul referst to people having the, "law written on their hearts."
As I said, our conscience is not as refined as the Torah or other explicit definitions of God's law. Consequently, it would not be fair to say that if you don't feel something is wrong, then it's OK. It would be accurate to say that if you thinik something is sinful, then for you it is.
Paul actually takes this one step further in Chapter 14. He tells us that everything we do is to be an act of faith in God. Therefore any act we commit which we are not sure, through our faith in Christ, is what God would have us to do, is sin. This is not because the action was wrong per se, but because the motivation was wrong.
Any act, no matter how noble, not performed is an act of faith is sin. This has two implications. The first is that there are no grey areas. If we are not sure we are doing the right thing, then we aren't. The first is more far reaching: In God's eyes morality is not just a set of rules, it is the expression of our relationship with God. Seen in that light it becomes obvious that obeying the law is the minimum, not the maximum, requirement for avoiding sin.
Truly living a sin-free life requires a total reordering of our lives and our priorities. I wonder if we really take that as seriously as we should. I know I often don't.
So under this theory, was 9/11 a really bloody IPO?
BERLIN - Emerging details of last week's Istanbul suicide bombings support the idea that al Qaeda is becoming more of a terror "consultancy" and less of a direct actor, security analysts say.
"Al Qaeda has moved to a 'second generation' of structures and operational capability," said David Claridge, managing director of Janusian Security Risk Management in London.
"There clearly is some remaining (organisational) core, but that core is no longer involved in operations at the sharp end."
Some see it as an international terror "university" or consultancy; others liken it to a franchising operation, endorsing approved operations around the world with the cachet of its feared global "brand".
"The old, damaged military organisation of al Qaeda has undergone a transformation to terror sponsor. That means Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri (his deputy) and others are more active today in the sense of franchising terrorism," said Berndt Georg Thamm, a German writer on security issues.
"Al Qaeda has very successfully managed to create the conditions under which it can unleash these groups, either directly or indirectly," Claridge said.
"By committing the September 11 attacks, in particular, it significantly radicalised and demonstrated to a whole range of groups around the world that they can have impact if they shift their focus away from immediate domestic concerns towards international concerns."
Keep reading. I don't know how good a theory of al-Qaeda's operations this is, but it's sure worth thinking about.
Initial reports that two soldiers killed in Mosul had had their throats slit and bodies mutilated appear (thankfully) to be incorrect.
Confusion swirled Monday as a United States military official retracted his earlier report that the throats of two American soldiers had been slashed during an attack on Sunday in the northern city of Mosul.
The official, who said he was receiving his information from written military records, said the two soldiers had died of gunshot wounds to the head, and that their bodies had been pulled from their car by Iraqis and robbed of their personal belongings. He said that, contrary to initial accounts on Sunday from Mosul, the bodies of the men had not been mutilated or pummeled with rocks.
The initial reports were seized upon by cable news channels and tabloid newspapers as a virtual replay of the 1993 attack in which the bodies of American soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. That attack, depicted in the popular movie "Black Hawk Down," was seen as one of the principal reasons the United States quit its military operation intended to bring order to the Somali capital.
The New York Times reported in its Monday editions that the throats of the two soldiers had been slashed, quoting the same military official.
In his revised account, the military official said the victims, both of the 101st Airborne Division, were not set upon by a mob but were shot by unidentified gunmen who stopped their car in front of the Americans' car, forcing it to halt. The assailants got out and fired at the Americans through the windshield.
Of course, their deaths are no less lamentable for being shot instead of mutilated, but the original description of the attack was particularly disturbing.
There's one other part of this story that bothers me:
Despite Monday's statements, important questions remained about the incident. One was why the men were traveling through the streets of Mosul alone. Military rules in Mosul and other parts of Iraq prohibit troops from traveling outside their bases except in a convoy. The Americans who were killed were traveling in an unarmored sport utility vehicle without an escort.
I'm sure a lot of time is going to be spent trying to figure out why these soldiers were violating orders. As this event makes evident, those orders were in place for a good reason.
That's probably the families reaction as well.
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, convicted of detonating a Pan Am flight above Lockerbie Scotland, thereby killing 270 people, has been sentenced to 27 years in prison. As the families of some of the victims have pointed out, that's less than a month per victim.
The Lord Advocate has 28 days to decide if he wants to appeal the decision. This is a decision that cries for appeal.
Toby Helm talks about some of the problems involved in hosting a French President:
Yet French presidents are made of less sentimental stuff. At a press conference amid the splendour of the Long Room at Lancaster House, M Chirac remained studiously, gloriously above it all.
M Chirac offered a lecture about how to be a good European. The key, he said, was to show respect to those who really mattered.
And they were the original founder members of the European Community - a team of six which includes France, but not Britain.
Despite this, it was not conceivable, M Chirac said, to imagine Europe moving forward without Britain. "It would be Europe that would be missing something," he said. It was just that Britain had to know its place.
Yeah, there's more.
... employee, that is.
Eric Pfeifer has an excellent story about the last remaining employee in the Iraqi embassy in Washington.
There's one part of this story that really bothers me.
For the last seven months he's been the sole contact for 300,000 Iraqi citizens living in the United States, attempting to manage the embassy's affairs from the confines of his Alexandria home. "I couldn't do anything," he says. "I didn't have authorization from the State Department. The Iraqi community wants passports. These people have visas that need to be renewed and I can't help them. They can't return to their families and they can't establish themselves here. They are stuck."
State has arranged for three Iraqi diplomats to serve in the embassy when it re-opens. Two of the diplomats will come from Iraqi embassies in Algeria and Vietnam, the third will be from Baghdad. Alkaissy has brokered an agreement with the Algerian government to sponsor Iraq's embassy until its assets are no longer frozen.
While I applaud the Algerians for their noble decision, I wonder why the US isn't paying for this. We are, after all, the ones who started this.
I'm being taken out of context!
The phrase, "I'm being taken out of context!" is a refuge for villains and scoundrels. That's not to say that everyone who says their quotes have been taken out of context is a villain or a scoundrel. Indeed, the fact that many have legitimately been taken out of context, and because of that been severely slurred, is what makes it so dangerous when the scoundrel says the same thing.
How many times have you heard someone say, "I was taken out of context," and gone on to read what they said and found that they were taken out of context. Personally I'm sure that I've seen that hundreds of times. (And I'm not even going to start on Dowdification.) After you've seen it happen enough times, you start to become dubious of any accusation if the accused claims to have been taken out of context; after all, you've seen it happen so often that it's natural to start giving credence to that defense every time you hear it.
It's become so prevalent that the immediate reaction anytime someone sees themselves quoted in public in an unfriendly light is to claim that they were taken out of context. However, it's not always true. Some times the falseness of such a claim is easier to spot than others. For instance:
UT student Sukhmani Singh Khalsa complained in an editorial that the students’ Issues Committee, which brings speakers to campus, was devoid of ideological diversity. "I don't think that a lot of parents would be happy if they knew they were paying this group $90,000 to have their country slandered and their values dragged through the mud," he wrote.
Following the appearance of the article, Justin Rubenstein, a member of the Issues Committee, told fellow members of the panel in an e-mail that if they "see one of those ragheads, shoot him right in the [expletive] face."
I'm having trouble conjuring up a context that justifies calling for the murder of someone who criticized (or anyone who looks like him) your choices of campus speakers.
The next time you hear someone use the out-of-context defense, remember that sometimes the context just doesn't matter at all. Sometimes people are just mean, vicious, or predjudiced (or all of the above) and have to be called on it.
Democrats are whining about the new RNC ad:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle is demanding that Republicans stop showing their first television ad of the 2004 presidential race, which he called "repulsive and outrageous." The 30-second ad, featuring clips of Bush during his State of the Union address last January, portrays the president as a fighter of terrorism as Democrats retreat from the fight.
"It's wrong. It's erroneous, and I think that they ought to pull the ad," Daschle told NBC's "Meet the Press" program on Sunday.
"We all want to defeat terrorism," the South Dakota senator said. But "to chastise and to question the patriotism of those who are in opposition to some of the president's plans I think is wrong."
The Republican National Committee has no plans to honor Daschle's wishes.
"We have no doubt that Sen. Daschle and others in his party who oppose the president's policy of pre-emptive self-defense believe that their national security approach is in the best interests of the country," RNC spokeswoman Christine Iverson said. "But we also have no doubt that they are wrong about that, and we will continue to highlight this critical policy difference as well as others."
I'm getting so sick of this "questioning our patriotism" nonsense. Get over it.
Yeah, this is hardly surprising, but:
BAGHDAD In the end, after the secret investigations, the middle-of-the-night arrests, the obsequious genuflections to Saddam Hussein, a common passion drove these members of Iraq's Baath Party to excel at their special occupation. It was all about the money.
Just as soon as any of them apprehended a malefactor and saw to his execution, or immediately after rounding up an army deserter, amputating his ears and arranging to have food rations denied his family, Baath Party functionaries filled out forms in triplicate and forwarded them to headquarters with a note asking: please send my bonus. That is one finding from a review of documents among 2.5 million pages of records taken from underground vaults beneath the Baath Party national headquarters here - much of the documentary record of the party's work over a decade or two.
The records show that party functionaries often regarded the party as if it were a rich uncle. In December 2000, Yousef Mahmoud wrote to Baath headquarters, saying, "I am passing through difficult times. I just got married and have lots of debts. Please send 250,000 dinar," or $125. A short time later, the records say, he got a check for $75. Kanan Makiya, a Brandeis University professor and author, said he stumbled upon these records last summer while trying to save a monument to the party's founder, Michel Aflaq, that was scheduled for demolition. A few years ago, the United States gave Makiya custody of another trove of Iraqi documents seized in Kuwait and northern Iraq after the Gulf war in 1991, and so he won permission from the occupation authorities to take custody of the new papers as well.
Makiya intends to share them with the public by opening a museum and archive that he is calling the Memory Foundation. The Americans plan to give him some of the financing for the project, and he is soliciting the rest.
The Baath Party was Saddam's political base, but it grew to be much more. The party was one element of a three-sided security apparatus that kept Iraqis cowed. The other two were the army and the Mukhabarat secret service.
If the files are to be believed, party members investigated ordinary citizens, and party apparatchiks won promotion based on the number of political enemies they arrested and punished. The former Communists of the Soviet bloc used similar systems of control, and delving into the issue of who was spying on whom has produced tensions in countries as records have been unearthed and made public. In Iraq, many people have aggressively tried to find records of the Saddam era. But their goal, generally, is to learn the fate of missing family members - not necessarily to implicate individual Baathists.
Keep reading. Very enlightening.
(Note: When I originally posted this, I somehow grabbed a lot more of the IHT story than I intended. Some of it twice. That and the line breaks got erased. Sorry.)
That doesn't sound good.
Britain is preparing to dramatically step up it's anti-terror defenses in response to what appears to be rather disturbing intelligence:
MINISTERS are preparing to place the UK on ‘red alert’ in an unprecedented peacetime move that would see the streets of Britain flooded with armed police.
The plan to step up to the highest possible security state follows last week’s devastating terrorist attacks on British targets in Turkey and growing fears that a direct assault on the UK is inevitable.
The nationwide alert would result in tougher security checks across the country and give intelligence agencies and police emergency powers to increase surveillance, phone-tapping and the detention of terror suspects on the basis of intelligence reports.
Fears of "martyrdom operations" by terrorists against targets in Britain were heightened last night after it emerged that a possible poison attack in London was thwarted last year. A terror group attempted to buy half a tonne of toxic chemicals from a UK firm which was suspicious about the quantities needed and reported the matter to police.
It was also claimed last night that security services are hunting two al-Qaeda cells they believe are preparing to carry out "spectacular" terrorist attacks on Britain.
Up to 10 terrorists from north Africa and Saudi Arabia have reportedly mounted surveillance operations on vulnerable commercial targets such as big banks and shopping centres, and even made "dummy runs" to practise suicide car-bombings against the premises.
MI5 director-general Eliza Manningham-Buller was last night reported to have warned ministers of the potential for attack, and told senior MPs of the threat posed by al-Qaeda "sleepers" based in Britain.
Blunkett, who yesterday said he was "sick and tired" of people pretending there was not a threat from terrorists, has held talks with senior intelligence and security advisers about the likelihood of cranking up defences still further.
Britain’s top policeman, Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir John Stevens, has warned an attack in London is both imminent and inevitable.
This sounds very disturbing and I hope they're able to stop whatever appears to be in the works. Part of me is tempted to think that they're overreacting. On the other hand, as long as they don't keep these measures in place indefinitely, I'd rather them overreact than underreact.
Jalal Talabani, President of the Iraq Govering Council has an article on OpinionJournal.com about things that need to happen in Iraq. Among other things, he argues that we need to get to the points where the Iraqis themselves are able to lead the fight against the Baathists and terrorists in Iraq.
Interestingly, despite his belief that Iraqis need to do more of the fighting, Talabani states that it was absolutely not a mistake to disband the Iraqi army.
Second, the new Iraqi army, police and intelligence services must be trained by the coalition and dedicated to defending democracy. Resurrecting the former Iraqi army is not an option. The Iraqi army had a record of internal repression and external aggression. L. Paul Bremer, the coalition's administrator, demonstrated great wisdom when he formally wound up the Iraqi army. Like the Allied decree in 1946 that dissolved Prussia, the edict abolishing the Iraqi army struck at the roots of the Arab nationalist militarism that plagued Iraq even before Saddam.
Those advocating the recall of the former Iraqi army are propounding the "stability first" policy that President Bush rejected with his Nov. 6 speech. The Iraqi peoples were victims of the "stability" imposed by the Iraqi army. All patriotic Iraqis were heartened when Mr. Bush said that "60 years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe--because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty."
I suspect that part of this discconect comes from the fact that we in the West, sitting thousands of miles away, just aren't capable of understanding the emotional reaction that ordinary Iraqis have towards Saddam's army. The army is the ultimate symbol of all that Saddam did to his people. Bringing back Saddam's army, minus his generals, to help secure the country sounds very tempting as a way to more quickly bring things out of control. But I suspect that asking the Iraqi people to accept Saddam's army under new leadership is simply not practical. Starting over from scratch may be frustrating, but I believe the long-term rewards will be worth it
(Besides, all large organizations have a "corporate culture." The only way to change such a culture completely is to dump pretty much everyone and start over. Let's be honest here: Do we really want the new Iraqi army to have the same culture as the old one? I think not.)
Make Dean look good?
The latest assault came Sunday in a speech in Cedar Rapids in which Rep. Dick Gephardt, in a pitched battle for Iowa's labor vote in January's caucuses, said Dean was too eager to cut social programs for the disabled and funding for children in poverty during his 12 years as Vermont's governor.
"Time after time, when faced with budget shortfalls, Howard Dean's first and only instinct was to cut," Gephardt said. "This is the measure of the man who would be president. I believe in a very different approach from Howard Dean."
Shoot, I wish I could accuse Bush of being a compulsive budget cutter. I haven't seen enough to make me think Gephardt is doing anything more than blowing smoke. I suspect this tells us a lot more about the audience Gephardt is playing to than it does about Dean.
Eduard Shevardnadze has resigned:
TBILISI, Georgia - Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, under increasing pressure for weeks over fraud in parliamentary elections, resigned Sunday, opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili said.
The Interfax news agency meanwhile quoted Shevardnadze as confirming the resignation, saying "I consider that it is necessary to do this."
News of the reported resignation sparked roars and cheers and excited dancing among the tens of thousands of opposition supporters gathered outside the parliament building, which the opposition seized a day earlier, forcing Shevardnadze to flee the building as he attempted to open the first session of the new parliament elected in the widely denounced Nov. 2 voting.
"The president has accomplished a courageous act," Saakashvili said in remarks shown on Georgian television. "By his resignation, he avoided spilling blood in the country ... History will judge him kindly."
"Velvet Revolution" appears to have been more than just words. In matter of 3 weeks the opposition was able to force Shevardnadze's resignation without firing a shot. I'm still not sure what to make of their political objectives, but their insistence on doing this nonviolently has got to be commended. Likewise, the opposition leaders made perfectly clear that they didn't want a personal vendetta against Shevardnadze and now that he's resigned they seem to be very gracious about it.
It remains to be seen whether this will be good for Georgia or not, but the fact that very little violence was done and very little property was destroyed gives them a good head start.
At the end of this story, I saw some new details (at least new to me):
Pro-government lawmakers were thrown out of parliament -- and Shevardnadze was hustled out of the chamber by bodyguards. "I will not resign," he vowed outside the building as he boarded a vehicle and was driven off, escorted by troops in riot gear.
He later went on national television, surrounded by uniformed officers of the internal security forces and declaring a 30-day state of emergency. "Order will be restored and the criminals will be punished," he vowed.
While the interior minister -- who is in charge of police -- vowed loyalty, there were signs of dissent elsewhere in the security services.
Georgia's top security official, Tedo Dzhaparidze, acknowledged Friday that the election had been fraudulent and said he favored a new parliamentary vote.
On Saturday night, independent Rustavi-2 television broadcast a statement from a military commander who said he would not obey if ordered to move against protesters.
It's looking more and more like there really is going to be a farily bloodless revolution.
Tory membership numbers have started rising dramatically since Michael Howard was elected party leader.
Since Michael Howard took over the Conservative Party 17 days ago, 6,000 members have been recruited, party officials said yesterday. The surge in membership was the biggest since the early days of Margaret Thatcher's government, they claimed.
Liam Fox, the party's joint chairman, said: "We are beginning to experience the kind of increase in membership we haven't seen since the early 1980s. People are saying that at last there is an alternative party that has got its act together."
Tory membership had fallen by more than 20,000 to about 300,000 under Iain Duncan Smith. The influx, some of whom are former members, comes as Labour's membership is believed to have slumped from a peak of more than 400,000 in 1997 to below 280,000, close to where it stood when Tony Blair became leader with the promise to create a mass party.
Now as long as the Conservatives remember that they're supposed to be, well, conservative we might be seeing the dawning of a brighter day across the pond.
They seem to have a vendetta against native born Asians who have moved to the US. They've been detaining a lot of them. Here's another disturbing story:
09/11/2001 - Updated 07:59 AM ET Lawyer: Businessman held illegally in China hospital
BEIJING (AP) — A U.S.-based Chinese businessman has been held for almost five weeks in a hospital in violation of Chinese law, his American lawyer said Tuesday.
Liu Yaping, 46, was moved from jail to a hospital Aug. 7 during a U.S. Senate delegation's visit to Beijing, said lawyer Jerome Cohen. Liu, a permanent U.S. resident, is being held in the northern city of Hohot in the Inner Mongolia region.
Liu is guarded around the clock and barred from making phone calls, though he was released under a form of supervision that was supposed to let him move freely within the city, said Cohen.
Cohen, a New York University law professor and expert on Chinese law, has advised the families of several Chinese-born U.S. citizens and permanent residents detained recently in China.
Liu has a life-threatening brain aneurysm but has been refused treatment even though his family is being charged $25 a day for his hospital stay, Cohen said.
Liu was first detained in March, reportedly on charges of tax evasion and fraud. His lawyers say he is innocent and is a victim of a local power struggle in Hohot.
"Every day the authorities tell him that some leader will be back to handle his case and that something good will happen," Cohen said by telephone from New York. "It's a blatant violation of Chinese criminal law."
Read the rest; it ain't pretty.
I've seen something of a mini feeding frenzy about this New York Times story about Dean's back condition. While I admit that it seems odd that Dean got out of serving with a medical condition that didn't keep him from sking moguls, I just don't see what it is that people think he did wrong. He certainly didn't take the most honorable optoin, but he doesn't appear that he gamed the system or broke the law.
I'm all for piling on Dean, but this just isn't a big deal.
It occurs to me that the opposition in Georgia seems to be managing the news pretty well. (I don't mean that in an authoritarian way.) That may be why the government is trying to shut down the media.
The Georgian government has accused the opposition of an, "armed coup d'etat." However none of the reports I've seen have mentioned the protestors being armed and their hasn't been any real violence. In fact, many of the opposition leaders have made a big deal about their seizure being bloodless.
The claim of armed violence seems to be nothing more than crass propoganda. I'm becoming more suspicious of the Georgian govermnet all the time. That's probably not good news for the government as I want to believe they're in the right, but that's becoming harder all the time.
Update - In a realted story, opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze has urged her followers to protect the physical safety of President Shevardnadze. Does that sound like an armed coup?
A police officer pulls a man over for driving the wrong way and finds the guy is nude from the waist down. And that's just the beginning:
After pulling the man over, Sgt. Don Woods discovered the man was naked from the waist down as he downloaded images on a laptop computer of a young girl involved in a sex act with an adult.
Investigation showed the man had hooked into a wireless computer network at a nearby house to gain access to a resident's Internet connection and download images from child pornography websites.
The scheme, known as "war driving," allows a computer with wireless Internet capability to tap into a wireless home network and access the World Wide Web, usually without fear of discovery.
"We have never laid a (war driving-related) charge before," Det.-Sgt. Paul Gillespie said yesterday.
"And I'm not aware of any similar charges being laid in Canada," Gillespie said.
Walter Nowakowski, 36, of Delhi, is charged with possession of child pornography, accessing child pornography, distributing child pornography, making child pornography and theft of telecommunications.
Police who searched Nowakowski's home say they, "have been exposed to some of the worst child pornography they've ever seen. "
So a simple traffic stop ends up netting a guy whose committed acts of public leqdness, internet piracy, and engages in child pornography. This is part of why I couldn't be a cop. I don't think I could take this kind of stuff.
The Georgian government is now apparently in the process of shutting down TV stations.
Print Email Last Update: Sunday, November 23, 2003. 7:49am (AEDT) Georgia's Govt TV channel off air: report Georgia's Government controlled television station has gone off the air and an opposition station said the authorities were trying to shut it down.
"We don't know what's going on. We just went off the air," a worker at the Government channel told AFP.
Meanwhile, the country's most popular station, Rustavi-2, which has backed opposition protest against President Eduard Shevardnadze, said on air that armed men were heading towards its headquarters to turn it off.
Yeah, this ain't good.
Steve Den Beste has been talking about what it means to be an American and why Europeans just don't get us:
I'm afraid that one of the reasons there are problems of communication and diplomacy right now across the Atlantic is the incorrect European assumption that "the US is essentially a European country". It's true that America is more like Europe than anywhere else on the planet, but it would perhaps be more accurate to say that the US is less unlike Europe than anywhere else on the planet.
Someone pointed out a critical difference: European "nations" are based on ethnicity, language or geography. The American nation is based on an idea, and those who voluntarily came here to join the American experiment were dedicated to that idea. They came from every possible geographic location, speaking every possible language, deriving from every possible ethnicity, but most of them think of themselves as Americans anyway, because that idea is more important than ethnicity or language or geographical origin. That idea was more important to them than the things which tried to bind them to their original nation, and in order to become part of that idea they left their geographical origin. Most of them learned a new language. They mixed with people of a wide variety of ethnicities, and a lot of them cross-married. And yet we consider ourselves one people, because we share that idea. It is the only thing which binds us together, but it binds us as strongly as any nation.
Indeed, it seems to bind us much more strongly than most nations. If I were to move to the UK, and became a citizen there, I would forever be thought of by the British as being "American". Even if I lived there fifty years, I would never be viewed as British. But Brits who come here and naturalize are thought of as American by those of us who were born here. They embrace that idea, and that's all that matters. If they do, they're one of us. And so are the Persians who naturalize, and the Chinese, and the Bengalis, and the Estonians, and the Russians. (I know that because I've worked with all of those, all naturalized, and all of them as American as I am.)
You're French if you're born in France, of French parents. You're English if you're born to English parents (and Welsh if your parents were Welsh). But you're American if you think you're American, and are willing to give up what you used to be in order to be one of us. That's all it takes. But that's a lot, because "thinking you're American" requires you to comprehend that idea we all share. But even the French can do it, and a lot of them have.
He's absolutely right about this. I had a friend in college whose family had immigrated from China when he was about 7. He learned English and completely immersed himself in what it means to be an American. While he was in college he got his US citizenship. This was a huge deal for him and for those who knew him.
From that day on, he wasn't Chinese, he was American. Several times after that I remember someone referring to him as Chinese (I even slipped once and did it myself.). The response was always the same: Someone around him would say, "Not anymore. He's an American now."
And he was. Just as surely as I am, he's an American.
(You should really read the rest of Den Beste's post. It's really enlightening.)
Turkey's Prime Minister says four of the recent Islamokazes were Turkish citizens:
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Four suicide bombers who killed more than 50 people in Istanbul over the past week were Turkish citizens, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan says, as some in Turkey turned their anger on the United States.
Speaking at the funeral of two police officers killed in attacks on Thursday, Erdogan said it was a matter of shame for Turkey that its own citizens were responsible.
Erdogan also reaffirmed Turkey's belief that the bombers had links with foreign groups.
Groups linked to al Qaeda have claimed responsibility for two attacks on synagogues last Saturday that killed 25 people and two further bombings on the British consulate and HSBC bank on Thursday in which at least 27 people died.
That Turkish citizens were willing to blow up their fellow Turks is bad enough. The rest of the story reveals an even bigger problem. (And yeah, it's from the Reuters "news service", but that means its slanted not fictional. The fact that there are Turks thinking like this is a problem.
Several thousand Turks gathered in Istanbul on Saturday and other cities to protest against the bombs and what some said was the underlying cause of the attacks -- the United States and NATO member Turkey's close links with the world's only superpower.
"People think what's happened in Istanbul was a result of America's policies in the world," said one demonstrator in Ankara who asked not to be named. He said it was dangerous for Turkey to be close to the United States, whose invasion of neighbouring Iraq was deeply opposed by most Turks.
A placard carried by a demonstrator in Istanbul read "We know who the murderers are" under pictures of U.S. President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
That's right, radical Islamic terrorists carry out suicide bombings on Turkish soil, but whose to blame? Why Bush and Blair of course! Those meanies made al Qaeda mad and they just couldn't help themselves; the only possible reaction was to blow up innocent Turks.
Not only does play right into al Qaeda's hands, but it strikes me as a peculiar type of bigotry. You usually see this type of bigotry flowing from Western Leftists, but it's especially disturbing to see Muslims endorsing the idea about themselves.
Here's what I'm talking about, when people blame Bush and Blair's policies for terrorist groups carried out my extremist Muslim groups, their is a line of thinking that is implicit in these accusations:
1. The foreign policy of Britain and the US embarrasses/angers/humiliates Islamic radicals.
2. The radicals are only capable of one type of reaction: killing people.
3. Ergo, the bombings that followed were an entirely predicable reaction to the foreign policy decisions of Bush and Blair.
4. Therefore, Bush and Blair caused the attacks. (Just as surely as if they'd ordered them.)
It's as if the people making these arguments believe that Islamic extremists lack free will; people talk as if the Islamists are a force of nature rather than living, breathing people who have the ability to choose their reactions. As a result people talk about Bush and Blair's decision to fight the terrorists in the same way you'd expect to hear people talk about villains who blew up a dam knowing that the resulting flood would destroy towns down stream. Just like you wouldn't blame the river for the resulting deaths, those making these arguments refuse to blame the terrorists.
This is a deeply disturbing way of thinking, especially when Islamic nations begin thinking it about themselves.
Protestors in Georgia have stormed Parliament:
Opposition supporters broke into Georgia's Parliament on Saturday, scuffling with officials and forcing President Eduard Shevardnadze to flee the chamber as thousands of protesters outside demanded his resignation.
Opposition leader Mikhail Saakashvili led hundreds of his supporters as they shoved their way into the chamber, overturning desks and chairs and leaping onto the podium, just after the president officially convened the body.
While I can't say for sure, the protestors appear to have legitimate concerns regarding the elections. Be that as it may, political turmoil in Georgia is bad for everyone as there's quite a bit of evidence that terrorists have been taking shelter their. The Georgians have been doing their best to fight them, but this isn't helping. If Shevardnaze's people did fix their election, I hope he does get run out of the country on a rail. However, this needs to be handled peacefully (for the Georgian's sake) and quickly (for everyone's sake).