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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Terrorists Continue to Target Diplomats

What do you do when your terrorist forces haven’t managed to deter coalition military forces or even forced an artificial deadline for withdrawal of forces? How about when you can’t manage to completely stifle the political advance in Iraq--having erroneously thought that your rebellion would be so widespread that even forming a government would have been impossible? (And, as an aside, where is New York Times headline decrying the terrorists’ miscalculation in the run up to war and after the war in assuming that they could stop the progress and force a coalition withdrawal? Anyway...)

When faced with a losing situation, you have to find a new way to win. Punishing the Iraqis for working with Americans didn’t work as well as they thought it would (although, Allah bless them, they certainly do continue to try, don’t they, what with all of their intentional bombing of children lately--that’s a way to win a few extra hearts and minds, don’t you think?). Targeting diplomats for daring to recognize and begin to work with the new government of Iraq is the new fashion in terrorist circles.

The top Algerian diplomat in Iraq, Ali Balarousi, and a colleague have been kidnapped in Baghdad.

Police say the two were seized outside a restaurant in the western Mansour district by attackers in two cars.

Fellow diplomat Abdel Wahab Fellah said he saw the kidnapping - which he called well-planned - but could not stop it.

The capture follows the abduction and killing earlier this month of Egypt’s ambassador-designate in Iraq, which insurgents say they carried out.

The only thing left to see is whether this will be more effective than their other, failing tactics.

The terrorists are fighting against Iraq at this point, not the coalition and not America. They don’t want anything that smells like democracy or liberalism dirtying the clean, crisp air of theocracy in the desert. They no longer want to chase us out of Baghdad because the coalition is so offensive, but because they want the freedom to tear down the beginnings of a representative democracy.

They are fighting against the legitimacy and viability of the Iraqi government. In my mind, that’s an interesting distinction, although I’m sure it’s of no comfort to the family of the people who continue to be murdered throughout Iraq (and, indeed, throughout the world) in the name of a very narrow view of Islam.

Read the story.

Grand Theft Auto and the Meaninglessness of Ratings

When Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was just given the Adult Only rating and pulled off the shelves of some big stores because of the hidden porn scene or two, I had to laugh. Apparently the game was acceptable with the murder, mayhem, destruction, and theft encouraged throughout the game. In fact, I believe that it has always been possible to pick up whores, too.

Add a little cartoonish, pixelated sex and suddenly the game is garbage unsuitable for the shelves of your local big-box retailer.

The game is no worse (nor is it any better) than it was before some enterprising game hacker sifted through the game to find the boobies. The game did not ship in a way where it was possible for a normal player to ever see the hidden content; my guess is that some game programmer put the stuff in to make himself giggle at his own cleverness.

But what one computer geek hides, another computer geek will find--that is the way of the world.

During regular game-play, on the other hand, the player is urged to go on killing sprees, rewarded for committing violent acts, rewarded even further for managing to outwit the cops, and given more than ample opportunity for punching, shooting, and smacking other characters about the head with tire irons. This game has never been suitable for kids, will never be suitable for kids, and parents really shouldn’t be letting their 12 year olds play it--regardless of whether they might run across a stray breast or not.

As for me, I’ll be buying the game at some point. Even if I didn’t find the last installment to be utterly engrossing, the fact is that I hate the hypocrisy that surrounds the ratings system and that people like Hillary Clinton are making this into a story that is far bigger than it deserves.

To be certain: the game is reprehensible. It wasn’t the rogue sex scenes that made it objectionable, though--it was well in the gutter before that little skeleton traipsed out of the closet.

Read the story.

Lunch Time Hunger

It’s time for lunch and I’m sad. I’m sad because there is nowhere that I know of in Denver that serves a good Italian beef. I’m sitting here wishing I had an Italian beef--dripping in juices, spiced perfectly, messy as hell--from somewhere like Portillo’s in Chicago.

Instead, I’ll eat my SimplyAsia Spicy Kung Pao Noodle Bowl, microwaved to perfection.

On the plus side, at least the noodle bowl is vegan. I’m sure I’m doing my heart a favor by going with the low fat, lower calorie food.

But my taste-buds are pissed.

Thanks

Thanks to Kate Mackenzie for including RSong in her Financial Times blog roundup. It is, indeed, always gratifying to see something you’ve written (no matter how small) quoted on a site like that.

Another Terrorist Strike in London

This time, though, it looks like it wasn’t nearly as serious.

Three London Underground stations were evacuated at midday Thursday, and the London police commissioner confirmed that four explosions occurred in the subway and on a bus. The Fire Brigade was investigating a report of smoke at one station.

Emergency services personnel were also responding to some sort of incident on a bus in the Hackney neighborhood.
[...]
Some witnesses said they heard gunshots at the Warren Street stop but according to Sky News, police believe those noises were actually detonators going off for bombs that didn’t explode

While there are obvious superficial similarities, the apparent, consistent failure of the bombs to do as much damage as the 7/7 attacks raises a question: copycat? Is this a case of some unaffiliated group that took the last attack as inspiration in launching their own coordinated assault? That the explosives failed--again, consistently--speaks of a less skilled bomb maker.

Of course, if that speculation is wrong, and this was the work of the same organization, then the footage and the remainders of the unexploded devices could provide a wealth of knowledge as well as living “martyrs” to track down.

Either this was a failed copycat attempt or, potentially, a huge miscalculation on the part of a terrorist organization. (A toast to their failures!)

Either way, London must be feeling a bit twitchy this morning; attacks using similar tactics coming two weeks after the original attacks must leave people feeling a bit underprotected.

Read the story.

Quick Update: Now, having read down all the way to the bottom of the article I had just linked, I note this as the very last paragraph:

The concern among U.S. officials in these situations is whether there would be legitimate follow-up attacks by the same group responsible for the July 7 bombings, or “copy cat” incidents, of lesser severity and effectiveness.

Second Update: The sense that this isn’t the same group seems to be shared by quite a few people. For example, read this that I found through Michelle Malkin’s roundup of reactions.

Further Updates: I do hope that the people captured will provide useful information. And Europhobia has a collection of good links on the story.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

He’s Dead, Jim

Okay, I wanted to write something nice and thoughtful about Scotty (James Doohan) passing away. But lines from Star Trek kept running through my head.

Rest in peace, Mr. Doohan. It’s not everyone that becomes a lasting part of a culture’s iconography. You will be well remembered.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Signs of the Bushpocalypse, Part 1

The end must be near when a Hillary Presidency starts making sense.

(Just kidding.)

Thanks to my friend Bob for sending the link.

Good Luck and Well Wishes to Judge John G. Roberts

Everything I’ve read so far (admittedly, not a huge amount, although I intend to correct that in the near future) indicates that Judge Roberts will make a good Supreme Court Justice. Here’s hoping that his confirmation goes painlessly and his time with the court will be laudable.

Congratulations on the nomination, and good luck, sir.

Ahem…

...Ouch.

That’s gotta hurt.

Thanks, Shawn.

Operation Murambatsvina: Clinton’s Wise Words

Operation Muarambatsvina
Yeah, you read that right: Clinton’s wise words.

Former President Bill Clinton is taking a trip through Africa, and the words he had yesterday were spot on. The message, although it centered around Robert Mugabe’s Operation Murambatsvina, was meant for neighboring nations who have been slow to criticize Mugabe’s rule. The operation to “clean up the trash” has left, at the very least, hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans homeless.

“If you want credibility you have to fight for basic freedoms. You can’t have credibility if no-one speaks out against ploughing up neighbourhoods,” Clinton told guests at the function, which was not attended by Mandela who spent his birthday in south-eastern South Africa with his family.

“Democracy is more than just majority rule. It is also about minority rights and minority participation. I entertained Robert Mugabe at the White House and tried my best to impress this on him,” said Clinton.

“If you want to build a modern and credible continent you have to speak out against the sort of thing Mugabe is doing,” he added.

What is most disturbing is the parallel that might be drawn between Pol Pot’s forced ruralization of Cambodia and Mugabe’s attempt to “clean up trash.” While Pol Pot emptied the cities en masse--sending citizens to lives as slave labor on farm collectives cum prison camps--Mugabe is moving in smaller, slower ways. But the goal is the same: complete control of the economy, food production, food distribution, and the political process.

While it would be hard to imagine Mugabe mimicking the purges and wanton destruction of Pol Pot’s murder of millions, the self-destructive nature of the oppression will have dire results. There will be famine, there will be rampant disease, there will be a nation whose slow collapse finally reaches the bottom--and, frankly, I doubt that the Chinese government will prove to be the salvation that Mugabe is looking for.

If Zimbabwe’s neighbors can’t muster up a bit of public outrage and pressure in this instance, then they are a long way from responsible, adult governments. As Clinton noted, the first step toward credibility for leaders like Thabo Mbeki is stepping up to injustice in their own neighborhoods.

Read the story.

Picture from ZWNews.com.
For more information about Operation Murambatsvina.
For general news about Zimbabwe.

Remembering the Seventies (In Tiny Little Bits)

Foul Play, a neglected gem from way back in 1978 should be on everyone’s Netflix queue. How could anyone resist a lightweight murder mystery starring a delightfully bra-less Goldie Hawn, a smarmy and klutzy Chevy Chase, and a perverse and hilarious Dudley Moore. For more fun, enjoy the soundtrack featuring Barry Mannilow without even the teeniest bit of irony, the insane fashion errors of the seventies, and a dash of Burgess Meredith.

Goofy, light-hearted fun.

Minor Addiction of the Day

It’s hard to make music pretty. Or, at least, it is with Sonic Wire Sculptor Draw your music while it spins slowly in 3D space, reacting to the speed, placement, and arc of your lines. After a few moments, it will start playing your piece of art.

What tremendous fun, and pretty much sure to creep out your cube-mates with it’s surreal sounds.

And in other news, dark chocolate.

Yes, dark chocolate.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Goodbye…

Goodbye, General Westmorland.

Our country asked a lot of you, and you always answered with a soldier’s spirit. Your name will always bring images of Vietnam, but your service was much greater than that one conflict.

Godspeed.

Fractures

African-American history in America isn’t something that should be treated as separate from American history; it is a part of our common heritage and it deserves to be treated as such. No glossing over the difficult and shameful parts and no forgetting to celebrate the struggle for equality. These are all parts of what it means to be American--not just black in America or white in America or hyphenated in our heritage.

Teaching the history of blacks in America as something removed from our general history only leads to a feeling of dissociation--that black kids and leaders aren’t as American as the rest of us. That simply isn’t acceptable.

The ideal of the great melting pot is still a beautiful one. It wasn’t an argument for homogeneity, it was an argument that we could come together as one people--Americans--with a healthy respect for our past that added flavor and spice to our culture. But that we were all still, first and foremost, Americans dedicated to justice and liberalism (in the best sense of the word), accepting the various forms of worship, celebration, and living that comes from such a great diversity of people.

Pushing wedges in those cracks that remain between the races is just a way to fracture our society as a whole. It’s a way to slowly chip away at what it means to be an American--which is a far more complex thing than most people credit.

I can’t say that I’m angry, really. I’m just sad at the loss of an opportunity to build community instead of building roadblocks.

Read the story.
H/T to Michelle Malkin.

More from Kimberly Swygert, DC Thornton and Michael King.

Just 100?

When Bernard Goldberg settled down to write his book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America: (and Al Franken Is #37), keeping the honor down to 100 had to have been a tough job. But, frankly, any list that has both Michael Savage and Michael Moore on it has to be worth looking into.

I went on my monthly book buying binge this weekend, so I won’t be able to pick it up this billing cycle. Next month, though, this one moves to the top of the list.

Read an interview with Goldberg on NRO.

And This is Important

The number of idiots on the road per mile driven seems to be rising lately. Maybe it’s summer bringing the tourists. Maybe the hot weather has collectively broiled the brains of Denver drivers. Maybe everyone is just distracted by the summer dresses.

Whatever it is, here’s an important message: turn on your brain and focus when you drive.

To the little old lady going 15 mph in a 40 mph zone. I realize that from your diminished vantage point, it’s probably hard to see the road. I realize that your reflexes, eye site, motor control, and will to accelerate aren’t what they used to be. I realize these things and I do sympathize.

But maybe it’s time to give up the old drivers license. Your wandering across lanes and your ridiculously slow rate of travel are going to cause an accident. It will happen in slow motion (unless you mistake the accelerator for the brake some day--and then very bad things will happen).

To the guy driving a silver Jimmy with Kansas plates down the frontage road onto I-70 this morning, you should know that stopping at a green light in the far left lane to make a right hand turn across traffic is never a good idea. If ever there were an argument for road rage, you just shared it with the class.

Doing it once made you an ass. Doing it twice made you an asshole.

Just so you know.

It’s just lucky that forward mounted rocket launchers aren’t actually legal in this state.

Set it Up and Knock it Down

Nancy Pennington--animal rights activist, old lady, and slayer of straw men--wants you to know that she isn’t a terrorist. She wants you to know that she engages in boycotts, leaflet drives, and volunteer work, but none of that makes her a terrorist.

Which is, you know, painfully obvious to anyone who isn’t so blinded by their own sense of self-importance that they don’t realize that no one is calling her a terrorist. There is no general concensus saying that the animal rights people are terrorists--at least, not those who confine their activities to legal methods that don’t involve breaking and entering, destruction of private property, or the vandalism of same. It would be a surprise to Nancy to learn that the term terrorist isn’t a term that is tossed around just because a person or group disagrees with the current administration.

Terrorism takes acts of violence designed to inspire terror in the greater populace in a hopes of forcing acceptance of a political agenda.

Just because I care about the welfare and fate of animals doesn’t make me a terrorist. It makes me an animal activist, if you will, or an animal advocate or simply a decent, compassionate person.
[...]
This has taken the form of protests, letter writing and phone calls, volunteer work, political action, boycotts and education. I’ve never hurt any living creature, yet I am reviled for simply trying to make the lives of animals better.

I’m sure she isn’t reviled because she wants to make the lives of animals better. She’s reviled because she’s an overwhelming prig who is probably a serious downer at parties. She’s a self-righteous grandma with a persecution complex, imagining that the Evil Administration of the Bushpocalypse is calling her bad names.

A serious newspaper wouldn’t give such drivel a platform. Fortunately, at least for goofy entertainment value, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer isn’t what I would consider a serious newspaper.

Read the story.

2:39 a.m. Still not sleepy, darnit.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Forty-One Cents

Somebody sued American Express and all I got was this lousy check for forty-one cents. Somewhere out there, after the class action suit was settled, is a much wealthier law practice and, probably, millions of people who got unexpected checks for paltry sums in the mail this week.

I can’t speak to the merit of the suit and I have no idea how the figure of forty-one cents was arrived at, but I can tell you this: class action suits like this are a joke. For the lawyer, it’s a way to make a tidy pile of money while anyone who was “wronged"--whether they actually noticed the wrong or not--is sent a tiny little bit of change to make them feel that justice has been done. I have personally received checks for as much as $14.99 and, now, as little as $0.41. There have been four such checks and only one that I was aware of before the check arrived (the $14.99 CD settlement).

Between the printing, the paper, and the mailing costs, the AMEX settlement check must have been more expensive to send than it represents in actual money. I can’t even buy a can of Coca Cola for that amount of change.

And, yet, when I go to cash a few other checks this week, I’ll be cashing that one, too. My face will be red, I’ll feel the urge to explain myself to the cashier, and I’ll feel like an idiot, but I am going to cash the check. See, it offends me that there will be hundreds of thousands of people that don’t cash the smaller checks--they won’t see it as worth their time. After January of next year, that money will no longer by mine, and will funnel instead to some other group of people (perhaps the lawyers themselves, although that is purely speculation) that will split up another healthy chunk of money.

Screw that. They filed a lawsuit in my name (sort of), they made a deal to which I was not privy nor did I assent, and they tossed me a few lousy pennies for some reason or other. That entire process irritates me and I’ll be damned if they’ll split up my lousy check. Of course, they won’t notice my act of rebellion; the act is as small as my part of the settlement.

But I’ll know.

Update: He gets an ultrasound and all I get is someone’s spare change? I so got ripped off…

Friday, July 15, 2005

What I’m Feeling Right Now

Aside from the impending Bushpocalypse, disdain for the idiots at MTV’s Rock the Vote, and a minor irritability brought on by a software upgrade gone bad, here is what I am feeling:

Serious ink fever. Very serious ink fever.

So, while I ponder the question of what bit of art to add to my smallish collection of tattoos, I was thinking that all of the tattooed masses who read RSong should share with the class: what ink do you have on your body? Are you planning to get more? Why and how did you get your tatts? Any regrets?

Tell me tales of your inky skin.

The More I Hear About Valerie Plame…

...The more I think that the only thing that Rove did wrong was to dissemble about his role in casually answering a question from Novak.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty bad in my book.

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