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April 30, 2004

No, it's not okay to shoot at children...

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies' weekly newsletter highlighted an illuminating exchange between Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and an unidentified reporter.   Here is the transcript from Armitage's press conference on April 16th in Mumbai, India:

QUESTION: -- about human rights in Iraq. There have been civilian casualties, women and children, in Fallujah. How can you promote democracy in the Middle East when you're sending out a message that it's okay to shoot at children and --

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Oh, stop. Stop. Shame on you. I hope you were screaming about human rights during the time of Saddam Hussein. I didn't hear many in the region.

We are the most humane military in the world. We punish our people when they exceed bounds, and we do it transparently. We regret every single civilian life which is lost, and we do our utmost, even putting our soldiers at risk, to prevent those.

It is true that there are civilian casualties and it is true that these scenes are shown over and over, particularly on our Arab friends' television networks. Now we spend enormous amounts of time and put our soldiers and Marines at risk in order to try to prevent it.

War is dangerous and it is difficult times, but when you ask that question, I would hope that you'd reflect on your own writing over the past, say, 30 years and see what you've said about human rights in Iraq.

April 30, 2004 at 09:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 29, 2004

The Attack of the Rogue Locksmiths

One of the disadvantages of owning a brownstone in NYC is that you don't have the insulating presence of doormen and superintendents to mediate your interaction with urban reality.    When it snows, you have to shovel the sidewalk.    When there is no hot water at 6am, you have to figure out who to call to get it fixed, etc.

Rasty Nir's sticker A particularly obnoxious problem that is unique to New York City (at least I believe it to be so) is the practice of locksmiths putting adhesive stickers on building doors advertising their "24-hour emergency service".    The stickers never have the name of a business on them and if you call to complain about the stickers, they refuse to identify themselves and tell you to go to hell.  Even more annoying, it was (until this past April 15th) perfectly legal.

Fortunately, The New York Association of In-house Locksmiths has developed a very useful web page that allows a building owner to identify the individual responsible for the sticker.    I found out from this site that the miscreant responsible for putting stickers on my front door (and who refused to identify himself when I called) was a fellow by the name of Rasty Nir, 707 West 171st St., New York, NY 10032 (212) 353-1420.    When I called back and asked for Mr. Nir, he agreed to stop putting stickers on my door.    We'll see if it lasts.

(By the way, the Department of Consumer Affairs, who license all locksmiths in NYC, had never heard of Mr. Nir and had no record of a licensed locksmith at that address.)

April 29, 2004 at 06:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Want to know what's really happening in Fallujah?

Read this post at the Belmont Club.

April 29, 2004 at 12:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2004

Like the man said: it's about valor, honor and respect

Blackfive reprints a moving story of the final journey of one of the brave young soldiers who gave their lives in Iraq.   Read it.

April 28, 2004 at 11:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Weird 'n Creepy

This is kind of gross.

April 28, 2004 at 07:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

More on the Damascus blasts

There is still only very sketchy news out of Syria on the attacks.   However, having learned more about the events on the ground, I think it is unlikely to have been Al Queda.   (Not enough casualties, for one thing.)

One interesting development, however, was the BBC's approach to covering the story.   Since they (like most news agencies) don't have anyone stationed in Damascus, they asked local witnesses to email them their reports and then posted them on their web site.   I don't recall ever seeing this done before, but it seems like a good idea.

April 28, 2004 at 06:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Weird stuff left on motorcycle seat...

From Craig's List's Missed Connections section.   (It's when they leave a horsehead that you have to worry.)

April 28, 2004 at 04:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

UNSCAM Update

Claudia Rosett (who should be awarded a Pulitzer for her work on this story) has an interesting column in today's Opinion Journal.   Here's an excerpt:

In a world beset right now by terrorist threats--which depend on terrorist financing--it's time to acknowledge that the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food program was worse than simply a case of grand larceny. Given Saddam's proclivities for deceit and violence, Oil-for-Food was also a menace to security. By letting Saddam pick his own business partners and draw up his own shopping lists, by keeping the details of his contracts and accounts secret, and by then failing abjectly to supervise the process, the U.N.--through a program meant to aid the people of Iraq--enabled Saddam to line his pockets while bankrolling his pals world-wide. In return, precisely, for what?

April 28, 2004 at 01:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Shanghai: A Magical Paradise

Very funny dissection of a boosterish assessment of Shanghai by the liberal blog Talkleft posted at Gweilo Diaries.   I was particularly amused that Talkleft decided to close its comments and delete critical posts due to "comment spam".   Also, I'd never realized that Shanghai had built a "Magic Levitation Train".   Very impressive.

I wonder what the folks at Talkleft think of China's decision to rule out direct elections in Hong Kong?

April 28, 2004 at 01:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

What is an AC-130 Gunship?

Over the last couple of days in Iraq, insurgents in Falluja, Kufa and Najaf have been pounded by aerial assaults from AC-130 gunships.   For those who don't know, the AC-130 is a modified cargo plane that carries a fearsome arsenal of precisely targeted weapons, including a crew-served 105mm howitzer (normally used as field artillary by the Army and Marines), an auto-loading 40mm cannon and a 25mm Gatling gun capable of firing 1,800 rounds per minute.  To see it in action, check out this gun camera videotape from Afghanistan taken sometime (I believe) during 2002.   (High resolution (5.5 MB) or low resolution (0.3 MB).

This remarkable footage is being hosted at the blog Killing Time, which also has more information about the AC-130U Spectre gunships.   I had posted a link to this video last year, but the link soon died (probably due to its tremendous use of bandwidth).

What I found impressive about the AC-130 in operation was its ability to precisely locate (and target) individual soldiers or vehicles even under low light conditions using its thermal television system.   This precision targeting allows commanders to use the AC-130 in populated areas where it is imperative to only target specific buildings, vehicles or people while avoiding nearby civilians.   Watching this aircraft in action almost makes you feel sorry for those insurgents in Iraq.   (The key word being almost.)

April 28, 2004 at 10:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack