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December 29, 2002


Amanuensis, Artificer, Bluestocking, Boniface? I stumbled across a cool list of old occupation names here.

December 29, 2002 at 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 27, 2002

Holiday spirit

We had about a foot of snow on Christmas Day here in Columbia County and (after the usual present opening) I spent a good part of the day plowing and re-plowing our driveway. Today a neighbor brought over a couple of snowmobiles for us to play with, and a great time was had by all. With all of this motorized fun (not to mention the adventure pulling the plow truck out of a ditch late last night after a novice and slightly inebriated un-named relative veered off the road during the height of the blizzard), my blogging has been sporadic. Well, it is Christmas...

December 27, 2002 at 03:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Rummy to the rescue

Seymour Hersh (the investigative reporter who made his reputation by breaking the "My Lai" story) has an interesting article in last week's New Yorker. While Hersh seems to be straining to find fault with Rumsfeld's strategy of working to decapitate Al Queda, he paints a fascinating picture of the conflict between Rumsfeld and a "Clintonized" and all-too-conventional military leadership in the Pentagon.

Hersh's reporting on some of the early failures in seeking to eliminate (i.e. capture or kill) "high value targets" in the war against terror is backed up by an excellent piece in Tuesday's WaPo by Barton Gellman. While the main focus of Gellman's article is the indefensibility of Washington D.C. (or any other major terror target), he does have some interesting details of the early days of the CIA's recent efforts in Afghanistan and stories of Agency frustration with the delays and caution of the military chain of command.

December 27, 2002 at 01:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 25, 2002

Merry Christmas, all!

In the spirit of "peace on earth, goodwill to men", I received this email forwarded by a friend who had received it from The American Jewish Committee:

December 24th, 2002 New Islamic Ruling Calls for Nuclear Weapons Armament

The Islamic Ruling Committee in Al-Azhar is considered to be the highest religious ruling authority for Sunni Muslims. On 23 Dec. 2002, the committee determined that the Islamic nation must acquire nuclear weaponry. "The acquirement of modern nuclear weaponry is a religious obligation."

According to a member of the Islamic Ruling Committee, Sheikh Ala A-Shanawi "The Islamic nation has to recognize the enemy, and to prepare itself accordingly." In answer to a question sent to Sheikh Ala A-Shanawi, he wrote, "Allah's messenger [the prophet Muhammed] would have prepared himself with all the resources possible in order to deal with the enemy. Therefore, if the Islamic nation is not equipped with the desired weaponry needed, it will be forced to suffer the consequences, and will be blamed for negligence."

Sheikh Ala A-Shanawi emphasized, "All Islamic nations are required to seize nuclear weaponry, giving the nation the utmost respect. We see how far behind our nation is as a result of not being prepared as well as it should be, while the enemy has equipped itself with the best weaponry there is, which it will use to harm and destroy Muslims." wrote A-Shanawi.

Head of Islamic Ruling Committee in Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ali- Abu Al-Hassan, spoke in reference to the recent ruling that all Islamic nations are to acquire nuclear weaponry to better deter the enemy from offensive intentions.

In an interview to the "Islam Online" website on 23 Dec. 2002, Hassan said, "Getting to know the enemy and realizing the different ways to deal with it is a religious obligation. If a neighboring country is known to posses a nuclear weapon, then we must do all in our power to do the same."

The article appeared to originate from the Israeli Defense Forces' website. However, I was unable to find it.

Turning to the Islam Online website, I searched their nifty "Fatwa Bank" and found a religious ruling in response to this question:

Is it permissible for Muslim countries to use nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction to defend themselves? Is it also permissible for them to possess and manufacture such weapons in Muslim countries?

Please answer me as fast as possible. Jazakum Allah Khayran.

The fatwa appeared to be the one mentioned in the email. However, the full text is not as strident as the IDF summary would suggest. (The commentary on the fatwa, at least, seems to emphasize self defense, and the need for all nations to renounce weapons of mass destruction.) However, my question is who the hell is asking this question and why does he need an answer as fast as possible?

December 25, 2002 at 08:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 24, 2002

Some peaceful thoughts from our friends in the DPRK...

From the official North Korean news agency:

Japan urged not to act rashly

Pyongyang, December 22 (KCNA) -- To put unreasonable pressure upon the DPRK under the pretext of its nuclear issue is a very irresponsible deed to push the situation to military confrontation. Japan's taking an active part in such dangerous campaign is little short of committing a suicide such as jumping into fire with faggot on its back. Minju Joson today says this in a signed commentary.

It continues:
It is the ulterior intention of the U.S. and the Japanese reactionaries to isolate and stifle the DPRK under the pretext of its nuclear issue.
Japan's perfidy to the DPRK-Japan Pyongyang declaration and the DPRK is the most base and dirty act that cannot be justified in any case.
To take a prudent stand and attitude rather than acting rashly by following the U.S. in the Korean problem is more beneficial to Japan's existence and security.

(Minju Joson is the official government newspaper in the DPRK. Not that there are any unofficial or non-government newspapers in the country. However, this is the elite paper used for official announcements of government policy, etc.)

December 24, 2002 at 01:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 23, 2002

And you think your job is tough...

From today's LAT article on North Korea's decision to begin re-processing its spent nuclear fuel rods:

The rods are stored in canisters in a cooling pool and until this weekend were under 24-hour camera surveillance monitored by two IAEA inspectors who live at the site to ensure compliance with the '94 accord.

"If they lift the seals on these canisters," Biden said, "they're going to be able to build four to five additional nuclear weapons within months if they begin that reprocessing operation — that's within a year."

The inspectors reported that the seals attached to the locks at the sites had been broken and that the cameras had been turned away and covered, said Mark Gwozdecky, the chief spokesman for the agency. However, the inspectors themselves had not been asked to leave. They were in regular contact with the Vienna headquarters.

I wonder what those guys do for fun when they finish a hard day of watching those cooling pools? And what did they ever do to deserve this posting?

December 23, 2002 at 12:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Teach your children well...

Today's New York Sun reprints excerpts from a preliminary report on Saudi schoolbooks released by the Middle East Media Research Institute, which specializes in providing translations of Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew media. The full text of the preliminary report is here. One of the choice tidbits translated from a new (published in 2000) Saudi textbook is the following:

"There is a Jew Behind Me, Come and Kill Him!" 

A schoolbook for the 9th grade on Hadith introduces a famous narration known by the name, "The Promise of the Stone and the Tree."It tells a story about Abu Hurayra, one of the Prophet's companions who quoted the Prophet as saying: "The hour [the Day of Judgment] will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.A Jew will [then] hide behind a rock or a tree, and the rock or tree will call upon the Muslim: 'O Muslim, O slave of Allah! there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him!' - except for the gharqad tree, for it is one of the trees of the Jews."[27]

The Hadith is accompanied by a number of statements:

  1. "It is Allah's wisdom that the struggle between Muslims and Jews shall continue until the Day of Judgment."
  2. "The Hadith brings forth the glad tidings about the ultimate victory, with Allah's help, of Muslims over Jews."
  3. "The Jews and the Christians are the enemies of the believers.They will not be favorably disposed toward Muslims and it is necessary to be cautious [in dealing with them] ."

The book asks questions for class discussion:

  1. "Who will be victorious in the Day of Judgment?"
  2. "With what types of weapons should Muslims arm themselves against the Jews?"
  3. "Name four factors leading to the victory of Muslims over their enemies."[28]

[27] Al-Hadith for 9th grade (2000), p. 122.
[28] Ibid. p. 123.

If this is the kind of tripe they are teaching in government-controlled schools (and exporting throughout the Islamic world through their madrasses), who should be suprised that 15 of the 19 murderers of 9/11 were Saudi subjects?

December 23, 2002 at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Lileks licks...

Any column containing the following passages must be read in its entirety.

Mrs. Williams, a 33-year-old Women's Studies student at the University of Victoria, You know, if every "Woman's Studies" department was closed, and the student loans were used to create businesses that hired women instead of studied them like tragic butterflies impaled on the patriarchal pin, we might be better off. Granted, we'd be without PhDs theses like "Rape Symbolism and Beatrix Potter: A Rake's Progress," but the culture would survive; the only noticeable effect at all would be a 17% decrease in Frieda Kahlo poster sales, and a 50% decrease in 33-year old college students.

. . . and her husband, a 37-year-old aeronautical engineer,

I have the feeling this is a charitible description of his lifelong ambition to prove that pigs can fly.

. . . are on a campaign against what they see as the rampant consumerism and religious exclusivity of Christmas.

Oh, it goes on, and on, and on. Every year we hear from these people. They're Scrooges and Grinches in a play with no third act. If they'd written "A Christmas Carol" the story would have ended with the appearance of Marley, because we'd have to spend the rest of the play opening up that sad shade's spectral cashboxes, unpacking the miseries he accumulated as a misspent capitalist. Meanwhile, Scrooge dozes unmolested; the Ghosts attend to other sinners, and Marley takes the spotlight to urge everyone to sing the new anthem for a more enlightened age. Shall we all join in?

Lenin the bald-head Marxist
Had a very nasty foe
He was opposed by royalty
So of course they had to go (bang bang bang)

All of the evil bourgeois
Used to sneer and call him mad
They never let poor Lenin
Put in place his strategy for implementing a nationwide struggle to wrench the means of production from the parasites' grasp and thrust it into the proud, eager hands of the proletariat to build a future in which all were equal and rhymes were the forgotten legacy of a debauched capitalist system! (Sung very quickly, with great anger)

Then one snowy October
Hist'ry came to say
Lenin with your theories great
Won't you seal our cent'ry's fate?

Then all the masses loved him
As they shouted out with glee
Lenin the bald-head Marxist
You'll save us from Christ - mas - Treeeees!

December 23, 2002 at 01:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 21, 2002

House training the "Dear Leader"

My old friend from grad school (and the NYT's best columnist by a country mile IMHO) Nick Kristof has an interesting column on North Korea in yesterday's NYT.

To those of you who haven't been paying attention, the heredity divine right dictatorship of Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il has recently 'fessed up to having a program to develop nuclear weapons.  Now this is a problem, not only because of the DPRK's track record of bizarre aggressive actions in the past (a partial list of which includes blowing up most of the South Korean cabinet during a state visit to Burma in 1983, snatching people off the beach in Japan and holding them captive to train their secret agents in Japanese customs, placing a bomb on South Korean civilian airliner in 1987, attempting in land a submarine full of commandos on assassination missions in South Korea in 1996, allowing their own people to starve while spending an estimated 14% of GDP on their armed forces,etc.) but also because they have the uranium and plutonium needed to actually build warheads.  To make matters even worse, they also have intermediate range ballistic missile technology that would allow them to target not only South Korea but also Japan and parts of Alaska.

Nick's column implies that the Bush administration is wrong to be seeking military action against Iraq at a time when North Korea poses a much more serious and proximate threat to our security.  As he more elegantly put it:

President Bush finally turns out to have a clear, forceful plan to deal with North Korea's defying the West by restarting its nuclear warhead assembly line.

The plan is to invade Iraq.

The White House is trying to play down the crisis on the Korean Peninsula so that it can focus public attention on Iraq instead. But North Korea raises risks that Iraq does not -- because it already has a couple of nuclear weapons, as well as artillery and missiles that can dump nerve gas on American military bases in Asia, and Taepodong missiles that can drop nuclear warheads on Alaska and, soon, the lower 48 states.

Now to be fair, Nick does qualify his criticism by his astute observation that there are really no good policy options when it comes to dealing with Kim Jong Il's hermit kingdom.

Perhaps it's a cheap shot to complain about North Korea policy, because the North is a country made for pundits here in the peanut gallery -- it's possible to write with withering scorn about any alternative the administration could choose. All our options regarding North Korea are hideous, and those responsible for making policy on North Korea must have committed mortal sins in previous lives for God to torture them so. To his credit, Mr. Bush has so far shown a most un-Bushian patience in reacting to North Korean provocation.

We now find ourselves with three choices. First, we can negotiate with North Korea, which shows some signs of seeking the same kind of tentative opening to the West that China pursued in the late 1970's. The downside is that negotiation would reward bad behavior, and so Mr. Bush has ruled out this option.

Second, we can ignore North Korea, focus on Iraq and hope that economic pressure brings the Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, to his senses. That's what Washington is trying now, but it's not working. In fact, North Korea's economy is doing better than in the 1990's, and if it were pinched, North Korea could always raise cash by, say, selling smallpox virus to Al Qaeda. And even if we succeeded in squeezing North Korea economically, we would be bothered much more than the Dear Leader as tens of thousands of Koreans died of famine and disease.

Third, we can launch a military strike on the Yongbyon reactor. But North Korea would probably respond by turning South Korea (and American bases there) into what it describes as "a sea of flames."...
These are three terrible choices, but a president's job is to pick the least awful. And hands down that's the first one, negotiation.

As is often the case, I find myself agreeing with large parts of Nick's analysis, but disagreeing with his conclusions.

I believe that the administration's policy towards North Korea is both more forceful and more nuanced than Nick's description suggests.  Current US policy towards the DPRK has four main prongs:

  1. Penalizing the DPRK for violating its treaty obligation to stop development of WMD's by ending shipments of free oil (and repudiating the "Clinton doctrine" of rewarding bad behavior),
  2. Diplomatically isolating North Korea by working closely with its neighbors (China, Russia, Japan and South Korea) to put diplomatic pressure on the North to observe its treaty obligations,
  3. Allowing time for these diplomatic and economic efforts to bear fruit, and, finally,
  4. Making an object example of Saddam Hussein to show what happens to countries (and their leaders) who threaten the world with WMD's and refuse to disarm.

Of course, there is no guarantee that this policy will peacefully resolve the issue of North Korean WMDs.  But there are several important issues at stake:

First, it is in our national interest that President Bush be perceived as credible and determined by our adversaries.  When the President addressed the UN General Assembly and said that "...the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable"; the obvious implication was that we were committing ourselves to a course of action.  We must follow through or risk being seen as unreliable.

Second, while we are the world's only super power, there are limits to our military capabilities.  Over the past decade we have (perhaps not unwisely) reduced the size of our armed forces and the pace of our expenditures on new equipment acquisitions.  While on paper, we remain capable of simultaneously fighting two regional wars, no one in the Pentagon is eager to put this to the test.

Third, the DPRK does not currently have missiles capable of targeting the continental U.S.  By 2004, the U.S. will have a limited ABM capability deployed in Alaska.  By the middle of the decade, we should also have enhanced ABM capabilities that could be forward deployed from Aegis class cruisers to defend our Asian allies against missile attack from Korea.

Finally, while eccentric dictators with WMD's and the delivery systems to use them are a serious concern, there are 3,000 civilians who were murdered here in North America at the hands of Islamist terrorists, and another 200 where were killed recently in Bali.  These religiously motivated fanatics are an imminent threat to all of us, and must be our first priority.  Taking the fight to them, first in Afghanistan, and now in Iraq, will, I believe, reduce their fervor to embrace martyrdom. 

This is not to say that I believe that there has been a link between al Queda and the Iraqi regime.  While Saddam may have given support to al Queda in the past (and try to give more significant support to them in the future), the linkage between the Islamofascists and Iraq has more to do with making the point that the U.S. (and western civilization in general) are not paper tigers.  I know it seems quaint, but middle eastern culture respects strength. It would be hard to think of a more deserving target for a demonstration of our strength than Saddam Hussein.  Liberating the Iraqi people from the disastrous leadership of Saddam and creating a secular, multi-ethnic state in that country, would do a lot to take the wind out of Islamofascism's sails.

December 21, 2002 at 11:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 20, 2002

Great Peggy Noonan piece on Lott

The often very insightful Peggy Noonan has an interesting column on why Lott should resign as Majority Leader in today's Opinion Journal. For those of you too lazy to click on the link, here are some highlights:

Q: Do you think he's more sincere because he got caught?

A: Yes. We're all more sincere when we get caught.

Q: Well, if he apologized and you think he's sincere, isn't that enough?

A: No. Look, to be human is to feel sympathy for the guy at the bottom of the pile-on. Mr. Lott is going through a special kind of torture, the torture of the modern media age, which entails humiliation in front of an entire nation. In front of the world. So I feel sympathy, and I'm not kidding. But he should step down as a congressional leader of a great party, recede deeper into the woodwork of the Senate, and accept the price we all pay one way or another, in public or in private, when we do something destructive.

Q: Is this story about other things, though? Isn't some of it about Mr. Lott being an ineffective leader, so people are moving against him because they want a change of leadership anyway?

A: In some cases that's probably true. People often have mixed motives. It's hard to know someone else's motives; it can be hard to fully know your own. But in general I don't think this is about Mr. Lott's flaws or virtues as a leader, I think it's about America and race and what it is acceptable to say.

Q: But isn't there a double standard here? Democrats get slapped on the wrist for using racial and religious epithets, but Republicans lose their jobs over it. It's not fair.

A: Maybe it isn't fair, but think of it this way: The history of the Republican Party on race is mixed. Yes, that's true of the Democrats too, but Democrats are perceived today as sympathetic to the movements for freedom that have marked the past century, and Republicans are not. This has some implications. It means Republicans have to go out of our way to show that our hearts are in the right place. But there's another thing that is even more important. If we are tougher on ourselves, maybe that's good. Why shouldn't we be tougher on ourselves?

If the Democrats all too often treat race as if it were a card to be played in a game, and if the Republicans in contrast attempt to struggle through the issue and be serious and go out of their way to expunge the last vestiges of the old racial ways, isn't that something we should be proud of? History is watching. It will know what we did. What will history think if it sees a new seriousness on race from the Republican Party? I think it will say: Good. And I think that matters.

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that used to (ok, it was many years ago) think that Noonan was just a speachwriter and Reagan groupie. I was wrong. We should hear more from her than her once-a-week gig with the online-only Opinion Journal.

December 20, 2002 at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack