Thursday, December 30, 2004

Al Yanukovych

If we aren't careful we might end up feeling like soul mates with the Ukrainians, when one of them feels that when the election doesn't go his way that a nice lawsuit is a morally OK option.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Iraqi Blogger

Totten is asking us to link to this new Iraqi Blogger. So I will. His name is Ali, he lives in Bagdad, and he desperately wants the freedoms he is enjoying now to remain long term.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

SE Asia coastline change

At the Tsunami News and Help website I noticed a reference to an article telling about how satellite photos are showing massive coastline damage and change due to the tsunami. I wish I could find some of those pics, but the article only mentions them.

Update: Totten noted in the LA Times that the earthquake moved the entire island of Sumatra about 100 feet to the southwest.
Mike said: Whoa!
I say: Yikes!
Bart says: Eye Carumba!

Monday, December 27, 2004

Local voices on Earthquake

Via Instapundit, visit these sites to get information on what's happening from people who are there.

Malaysian blogger Rajan Rishyakaran is posting numerous updates, with links to bloggers from around the region. And here's more from Indian blogger Nitin Pai.

UPDATE: Historical perspective, from Amit Varma, who remembers the Maharashtra quake of 1993. And Malaysian blogger Jeff Ooi has more, and a huge roundup of links to other bloggers in the region. Fellow Malaysian blogger Peter Tan is posting regularly, too, with reports from the affected areas.

World events

Many of you are following the Ukrainian elections, and it seems that, unlike the past couple of U.S. elections, Victor Yushchenko has overwhelmingly won the election. Like the past couple of U.S. elections, the spectre of lawsuits looms over Yushchenko's victory.
The Russian reaction is mixed. Here are the Russians:
One communist newspaper, Pravda, says the result means "the complete loss of our gas and oil export routes to the USA or the European Union". It also voices the fear that Mr Yushchenko's election means "Russia no longer exists as a world-class power". Pravda blames Washington for this.
However, other Russian Centrists ponder the effects of this election on Russia itself.
A writer for business publication Kommersant claims the outcome of Ukraine's political crisis means "the Orange Revolution virus will now spread to Russia".
He writes: "It will not take long to dismantle the new Russian totalitarianism".
Hat tip to Instapundit on the quotes, which are from the BBC.

A giant 9.0 earthquake hit the southeast asian countries this weekend, sending 33 foot tidal waves into many surrounding countries. If any of you don't know what 33 foot tidal waves can do just look at some of the pictures. Tidal waves are not just like bigger versions of the waves you see surfers cruising over. They are longer and the wave might be 33 feet high (think three story building) but also can be thousands of feed wide, so that they just keep coming after the initial hit. I'll try and find some good maps of the devistated area.
Update: Glenn Reynolds has some perspective on Catastrophes, including possible asteroids colliding with the earth. He also has this link-fest for more on the Tsunami and it's after affects. He includes links to agencies that are accepting donations.

Israel released 159 Palestinian Prisoners in an effort of good faith toward the elections that the Palestinians are about to have. Sharon is putting his eggs on an Abbas presidency and possible future peace in that region. They also released some Egyptians in an agreement designed to ease tension with Egypt as well.
This could all fall down like a house of cards if we get into another round of Terrorist bombings and Israel return strikes, so lets hope it doesn't happen and the Abbas can truly lead his people in the creation of a true Palestinian nation. With borders.
There has been some critisizm that the prisoners who have been released are only short timers and would have been released within a year or two anyway as their sentences finished out. That leaves all the long term prisoners, whom Israel fears may be a threat to them, still in prison indefinitely. I am skeptical that Israel needs to release any of these prisoners in order to commute good faith. Those guys ARE a threat to cause violence and derail the whole process. If Abbas is elected and the Palestinians form something of a stable government, then there will be room to talk about releasing other prisoners.

Pakistan and India are moving as slowly as ever on talks about the region of Kashmir. It seems that, although Pakistan has made a lot of talk about compromise, that India is steadfast in it's insistance that it controls the whole of Kashmir and will not change it's mind. I would welcome some perspective that would indicate that India is not the obstinate brat in the room this time.

And, hey, it's just over a month until Iraqi elections. Put your seatbelts on. Trays in locked and upright position. Seatbacks up. Here we go.

Out for Christmas

Sorry about the lack of posting to this blog. I have been reading blogs and the news, but haven't had the time to create anything. Christmas is always a busy time, and this year was no exception. In fact it was one of the busier runs up to Christmas I can remember. It was the actual week before the big day that we finally started to calm down.
Anyway, there is too much in the news for me not to link some and make some comments. Peace be with you all.

Friday, December 17, 2004

In California

Once again the bloggin has been light. I am on business in Fort Bragg, California. If you have never been to this part of the coast I recommend it. The shoreline is rocky and the water breaks hard against the shoreline. This is a part of the coast where the Great Redwoods grow. If you want to see giant redwoods, you need to be a little further north. Fort Bragg is timber country. Georgia Pacific and Menocino Redwood Co have operated here for years, and Fort Bragg was the home to a large GP saw mill for decades. The saw mill is now closed and the land is owned by the Hawthorne Timber co, but the timber culture remains. It is mixed together with a young environmentalist (almost hippy, but that's just because there are still some comunes in the hills) culture that moved up from San Francisco in the 60s. The bars are tucked up next to the health food stores. It's interesting.
But the coast line is some of the most beautiful I know.

In Defense of the Blog

I have a friend who I have been back and forth on recently about politics and Iraq. He is fairly liberal and very Democrat. I am generally conservative, with some liberal leanings, but not very Republican. In one of his letters he lambasted me for using a link to a blog, as if I was linking to the National Enquirer or something. Many articles and posts have defended the blog over time. I even had one with a link to a great article in Foreign Policy online.
Here is his diatribe:
OK. . . I'm sending you a longer response before the weekend is out. . . but I would like to propose a really important GROUND RULE in all future conversations:
NO F***ING BLOGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
Blogs are not reliable sources of information. I don't consider them evidence of anything other than somebody having access to the internet. I want sources with some credentials and a way of verifying what they say. Admittedly, major journalistic outlets fall down on this front sometimes, but at least they try.
Here is my answer to him. Although I now think that it is sooo incomplete.
1. I do read the news, mostly Google, but often Yahoo, Oregonian, Wall Street Journal, but reading the news will only get you part of the way to understanding. For one thing articles are generally written these days to give you a snapshot into what's going on, not the broader context. Also, a lot of the time the articles leave out very important information, be it on purpose or not. I don't think that this is a particularly new development, but rather has been more transparent, partially due to all the independent journalists and writers of the blog world.
I find that blogs, when used properly (and discerningly) are pretty much like reading any columnist in the op-ed. They are not there necessarily to find all the fact and present them, as journalists are supposed to do, but they are there to collect them all and provide context and perspective. I don't find big media columnists any more reasonable or accurate in giving perspective to the situation than most of the bloggers that I read.
2. I don't just listen to any hack (please excuse the Vodkapundit reference, it was an interesting perspective, but I don't read him regularly). Most of the guys I listen to are either journalists (like James Taranto of WSJ, Andrew Sullivan, Mickey Kaus at Slate, Michael Totten writes for Tech Cen station, and sometimes Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly just for Dem perspective), law professors (Glenn Reynolds is a law prof at U of Tenn. Eugene Volokh is a constitutional prof at UCLA), or political gurus and economists (Dan Drezner is prof of political science at U of Chicago). Please don't think that I'm listening to jethro in his Wi-Fi enabled outhouse.
Again, there's so much more to be said about that, and I'm sure I will. In the mean time, if you didn't read the Foreign Policy essay, take the time.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Jihad against Poppies

Afghan President Karzai declares war on drugs.
"Opium cultivation, heroin production is more dangerous than the invasion and the attack of the Soviets on our country, it is more dangerous than the factional fighting in Afghanistan, it is more dangerous than terrorism," Karzai said. "Just as our people fought a holy war against the Soviets, so we will wage jihad against poppies."

Friday, December 03, 2004

Democrat's Next Move

I have been avoiding this issue, mostly because I'm getting bored with it. But this article is getting a lot of attention and so I read it.
It is so worthwhile. It is more of an essay really, by Peter Beinart, editor of The New Republic. He spends lots of time comparing the liberal response to 9/11 to the liberal response to communism in the 1940s and 1950s. What he found is that liberals 50 years ago confronted the issues and redefined what they were about. They didn't give up their ideals, but they recognized that the Soviets and worldwide expansion of dictatorial communism was something they needed to fight. (And no.. values was not the defining issue that won the election for Bush)
There are so many good quotes from the article, I can't possibly take the space to put them all here. I'll just leave you with the summary paragraph and let you know that if you are interrested in what the Democrats need to do to find themselves again this article is a MUST READ.
Of all the things contemporary liberals can learn from their forbearers half a century ago, perhaps the most important is that national security can be a calling. If the struggles for gay marriage and universal health care lay rightful claim to liberal idealism, so does the struggle to protect the United States by spreading freedom in the Muslim world. It, too, can provide the moral purpose for which a new generation of liberals yearn.
Oh, yeah, and there are two pages, so when you get to the bottom of this one find the "2" link for the second page.

Armed Liberal points out this part of the article:
Like the softs of the early cold war, MoveOn sees threats to liberalism only on the right. And thus, it makes common cause with the most deeply illiberal elements on the international left. In its campaign against the Iraq war, MoveOn urged its supporters to participate in protests co-sponsored by International answer, a front for the World Workers Party, which has defended Saddam, Slobodan Milosevic, and Kim Jong Il. When George Packer, in The New York Times Magazine, asked Pariser about sharing the stage with apologists for dictators, he replied, "I'm personally against defending Slobodan Milosevic and calling North Korea a socialist heaven, but it's just not relevant right now."
And then points out that the democratic party is "They are also mobilizing a base of activists and functionaries - really the bones of the party - who are consciously taking the party to a place where it will be unable to speak intelligently about defense for a generation." And he quotes some comments from liberal blogger's websites to prove it, by noting that some of the readers of those sites claim that there is no war on terrorism at all.
The Dems are going to have to solve this in the next 4 years or the result might be the same.

Open letter to UNSC

This is amazing.
Also from Iraq the Model comes this reference to an open letter from liberal Arabs and Muslims to the UN Security Council recommending that a tribunal be established to try terrorists. Particularly Islamic religious leaders that declare fatwas encouraging terrorist and murderous acts.
This has been impossible because it's just not going to happen that a Muslim country will prosecute a religious leader or Imam or something like that. The international community walks on glass on this issue too. I'd be shocked to see the UN actually create a tribunal like this.

Iraq the Model

I have recently been spending more time reading this Iraqi blogger to get a feel for what's going on and see if my impressions of what news is coming back are close to the truth or not. They may not represent all of Iraqis, but they are native and a better guide than probably our own troops or any imbedded journalist.
I found this quote by one of them very telling as to how ordinary Iraqis may feel about American troops in their country.
We all turned to see what he was pointing to, and we regained some of our confidence as we saw a convoy of several Hummer vehicles patrolling the area.
"They're not as cautious and afraid as we thought they would be. Here are they moving confidently" the driver said. "I don't think they'll stay here after sunset. The terrorists will take over the area at night" another passenger added.
I smiled and thought "we fear our countrymen while we feel safe when the foreigners are moving around! Who's the occupier? Who are the bad guys here?"
My emphasis.
We were also surprised to see that they took positions over the roofs of the near by buildings which made me say "they don't seem to be leaving after sunset, these are fixed stations". It was relieving also to see all the death slogans of the terrorists have been erased and replaced with the slogans of the real heroes, I saw slogans like:
"The terrorists destroyed the bridge and we have rebuilt it""
"Death to terrorism…long live the peace"
"Long live the heroes of the ING, the loyal sons of Iraq"
His emphasis.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Environmentalist Two-step

My political and social philosophy is what is commonly known these days as conservative. It goes without saying (or it should) that this is not absolute and I never agree fully with all conservatives, but agree with most things they espouse.
However there was a time when my views were far more liberal and I was much more likely to vote for a Democrat than a Republican, when I was a member of one or more green-type clubs and organizations. I was even a member of the Young Democrats when I was in college.
A number of things have influenced my opinion over the years. Mostly I would say I just grew up, but getting married, having kids and accepting Christ as my lord and savior had much to do with it.
Working for a timber management company certainly has enabled me to view the other side of things as well.

Now, I have not renounced all of my environmentalist ways. I don't think that I'm anywhere near alone among conservatives when I say that I do care about the environment, recycle regularly (in fact I get pretty uptight when I can't find an appropriate recepticle for cans or paper around) and try not to be wasteful. I enjoy the federal forest and park lands and am glad that there are places where I can walk for 10 hours and not see a single other person.

Which is why many serious environmentalists truly drop the ball and set the whole movement backwards when they use junk science to promote some pet peeve they have. If you think belief in Jesus Christ as God is a stretch, you need to understand that some of the things in the environmentalists' dogma is based on pure faith in the unknown, because the science is just not there.
This happens even on issues that are legitimate, but are handled by the environ community so badly that many people have a hard time accepting anything they say.

It's even harder to move the beaurocracy when real science is involved because the faithful are blind to reason. For example, we have terrible trouble with the State of Washington DNR on the issue of Spotted owls. It is incredibly hard to de-list an owl location on your industrial forest land, even if the owl has not been anywhere near there in years. The Spotted owl in on the decline in Washington, but not because of people. The Barred Owl is moving into Washington from Canada and driving the Spotted owls out, but the DNR refuses to recognize this and instead is pushing for tougher regulations. This is a natural extinction folks.

Anyway, all this came up in my head because of an post that RoguePundit wrote after reading an issue of National Wildlife magazine recently. He is upset by the overtly political nature and bad scientific support of the material these days, as opposed to its roots of, as he puts it, "oustanding efforts that allow one to revel in the beauty and intricacy of nature." The Rogue Pundit critisizes 5 articles in one issue.
This is consistent with material I see from the Audobon society and other big environmental organizations. I once poked through a book published by the Audobon showing large pictures of the ravages of clearcutting in California. I happened to be sitting next to a forester who had worked in California and recognized some of the pictured areas. Many of the cleared areas being used as examples in the book were actually fire ravaged or happened to be natural clearings in the forest. It occurs to me that urban environmentalists probably don't have very good aerial photo skills regarding terreign they don't spend that much time in.

I honestly worry about the state of the environment all the time. But I can't trust those who pop themselves out of a truffula tree and call themselves Lorax until their use of science to back up their positions comes back into the realm of responsability.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Africa updates

Say what you will about my roundups, like the one below. Winds of Change, with their army of contributers, does far more in depth roundups from a wider variety of sources. Check out this weeks Africa Briefing.
And while you are there, check out their East Asia briefing and Dan Darling's series on the Elephant in the Room, talking about Iran's role in Iraq.

UN Scandal and Kofi Annan roundup.

(Update below)
Other bloggers have been following the Ukrainian issue in great detail, or at least constantly linking to people who are, so I don’t feel the need to spend lots of time on that.

Daniel Drezner has some great posts here and here and here and here.

Instapundit has regular updates with links to European and Ukrainian bloggers. I find the whole thing very fascinating and important on a global scale.

However I have wanted to follow the UN scandals with more aplomb. So here you go.

<>Via Instapundit, here’s a link to tomorrow’s WSJ article by Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn) who heads the senate committee investigating the UN Oil for Food program. And also a link to an Asia Times article discussing the politics of Annan, including a mention that he wooed the Kerry team pre-election in the hopes that if Kerry won, he could run for a third term as Sec. General.

Alan Dowd of American Enterprise Online has an article analyzing Annan’s response to all of this turmoil. Kofi appointed a special panel to propose reforms in the UN. Dowd describes it as “Given the UN’s systemic problems, the reform plan is akin to shuffling the chairs on the deck of the Titanic—or perhaps better said, adding chairs to the deck.”

I’ve seen other articles on this panel and their recommendations. The titles of the articles and the content, i.e. what they picked out of the 101 recommendations t talk about, tells a lot about where they are coming from.

There’s the Washington Times, a relatively conservative paper, fronting it as: “UN Panel backs pre-emptive force.” The Voice of America calls it a “Sweeping Reform Proposal.” Some articles note that the panel was hard on America due to the Iraq invasion.

Despite all of this, most of what Alan Dowd referred to covers most of it. The panel couldn’t decide on a change in the membership of the Security Council, which probably means that the divided UN SC and the full membership probably won’t agree on a change there either.

The changes proposed in both recommendations were to add members to the Security Council. Is that really wise? The council has enough trouble deciding things as it is, adding more voters will only complicate that. The real debate should have been who do we add AND who do we remove from permanent positions on the council. The permanent seats on the council are basically the major allies from WW2: US, Britain, France, Russia and China. Of those I can think of one who is not a democracy (China), one who does not exist as the same entity it was during the 1940s and is currently drifting toward autocracy (Russia), one who is economically, militarily, and governmentally (and morally) challenged and is now accused of taking bribes from Saddam under the Oil for Food scandal (France). Shouldn’t these players get re-evaluated as permanent members of the SC?

On military intervention, the panel was obtuse and vague at best. At one point the report says that there are times when force is justified “preventively and before a latent threat becomes imminent.” What the hell does that mean. That sounds like exactly what the USA did almost two years ago. Really the UN and the EU gets on America’s case for invading without a UN mandate, but the only countries that were blocking that invasion were France and Russia. Two countries that had much to lose from us opening that can of worms.

Which brings us to the point that much of what the panel’s report suggests is only slight changes, if not totally cosmetic, to what the UN’s original charter said that it was supposed to do.

In a related article, Japan is not cool with the proposals in the report, all of which state that there will be no countries added to the group that has veto power on the security council. Which means that if Japan gets a permanent seat on the council, which they deserve, they will not have equal voting rights to, say, France.

Legal Affairs online has an interesting debate by Frederick Rawski and Ruth Wedgewood looking at the successes and failures of the UN, and the challenges to reform that exist within. Frankly I think they are both being a little too easy on the UN. Many of the successes they talk about have other problems after the cameras turn off. Reports are coming in like wildfire in places where the blue helmeted troops of the UN run prostitution rings, abuse citizens and don’t really get countries to that nice point where they can run themselves without some fascist taking over and starting this all up again. Let’s just say their nation-building skills have yet to produce much success.

Anyone who thinks that the UN has the moral high ground, or isn’t a weenie when it comes to aggressive nations should read this.

Glenn Reynolds in the WSJ on replacing Kofi with Vaclav Havel.

William Safire is very hard on Kofi, and says that his resignation will only be the end of the beginning of the scandal.

And lastly, here is a post from Winds of Change called, “If you see blue helmets, RUN!

Update: Story at ABC news' website implicates former Clinton pardonee Marc Rich as accepting millions from Saddam in suspect oil deals, and might have bribed Iraqi officials in order to get future oil contracts. Not one of Clinton's greater moments in office.