Sunday, November 28, 2004

WiFi in Moscow

I'm blogging from the Amerikanski Bar and Grill near Mayakovsky Metro station, a five-minute walk from our house. Moscow is really a study in contrasts. This place has an 11 Mbps WiFi connection c/o Yandex (a Russian Yahoo) and IBM. But they only seem to be found in restaurants--not the many coffee shops (no Starbucks here yet) where it might be more convenient.

From our house we only have a dialup connection, via RussiaOnline, at 44 k,and only a pulse dial phone, no touch tone.

Two realities at one time--modern Western and old Soviet.

As far as the Ukraine goes, it dominates the news here.Since the Kievan Rus founded Russia, and the TV has had coverage going back to the time of Mazeppa (an opera in repertory here), so the perspective on events there differs a little from the BBC world news coverage.

Lots of talking heads about America wanting a puppet state, western agression, a replay of same script used in Yugoslavia, Georgia, etc. The geopolitical angle looms large, rather than the fraud allegations made by the BBC. It is taken for granted that the Western powers are backing the nationalists. Also not forgotten are the scars from WWII, when Ukranian nationalists sided with the Nazis against Russia.

So stay tuned, there may be some twists and turns in the days ahead...

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Mission to Moscow

Am in Moscow, teaching American Studies at Russian State Humanitarian University until March, have to use an internet cafe, since the free internet concept for students and faculty hasn't yet arrived here, so blogging will probably be more hit-and-miss. It costs about $2.00/hour.

With the falling dollar, and rising ruble, Moscow is much more expensive than Washington, DC, at least so far. There are lots of shops, but there still seems to be a strong Soviet legacy. A film about Stalin was on TV the night we arrived. Karl Marx's statue is still in Revolution Square. Marx, Engels and Lenin's bas-reliefs are still on buildings. And there is a familiar Soviet quality recognizable from Tashkent. We went to Red Square. It was depressing, as was the GUM, which is now modernized and full of empty boutiques with high-fashion clothes and shoes. We walked by Lubyanka prision, still forbidding.

On the other hand, there are lots of shops, newspapers, people seem very free and open, lots of laughter, fashion, noise and about a million casinos and strip clubs. Robert Venturi's "Learning from Las Vegas" seems to have been the inspiration for many "New Russians." Many restaurants, some like theme parks,including one near our university split between an Uzbek theme and a Jewish shtetl theme (downstairs Uzbek, upstairs, Jewish). Big supermarkets,department stores, even an IKEA...

We arrived on Revolution Day (still a holiday) and yesterday was Militia Day (celebrating the police). Spectacles on TV, of course.

More later...

Sunday, November 07, 2004

And The Oscar Goes To...

Team America World Police!

Saw it last night, and all we can say is that it is the best comedy Hollywood has ever made about terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11. Seeing it restores one's faith in America.

The members of Team America are high-tech, foul-mouthed, Keystone Kops, who save the day only because the bad guys are worse. Writers Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Pam Brady stick it to action heros, dictators, terrorists and peace activist actors, along with psychics, women who value their friendships, and America's intelligence community. Those who call the picture right-wing propaganda don't know what they are talking about.

I grew up on Thunderbirds, a 60s-era British ITV serial, which looked sort of like this: marionettes flying jet airplanes to defeat evil villains. Of course, Team America is 100 time better. Maybe 1,000 times better. Maybe even 2,318 times better. What is really incredible in this picture is that the puppets show more emotion than the Holllywood stars the filmmakers parody. They are better actors, I guess.

Team America has another moral, delivered by an old coot in a bar when our hero, Gary Johnson, hits rock bottom. In case you don't get it the first time, it is repeated at the very end, after a recovered Johnson saves the day from a crazed Kim Jong Il, by out-acting Alec Baldwin. Pure genius.

Seeing Team America was particularly satisfying because, like Team America's Gary Johnson, I had to debate Alec Baldwin in the 1990s, while he was spokesman for the National Endowment for the Arts's lobbying efforts (though we never shared a stage, as the puppet Baldwin does with Team America's Johnson at the North Korean Peace Conference). I also interviewed Michael Moore early in his career. So it was very nice to see the makers of Team America got both of them exactly right.

For chutzpah, imagination and their sense of humor, the makers of Team America World Police deserve the Academy Award.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Frank Luntz on Why Bush Won

From The Washington Times:

"Some will claim that Mr. Bush won on Tuesday because he waged a campaign of fear. The exact opposite was the case. Americans turned to him precisely because they saw him as the antidote to that fear. Polling over the past few months and the results on Election Day itself illustrated an essential principle of electoral success: It is no longer enough to say no. Voters need someone who will say yes. Mr. Kerry became a symbol for voters opposed to the president's policies and procedures, but not much else. Conversely, Mr. Bush became the vehicle for those who wanted an affirmative, proactive, preventative approach to homeland security. Americans will tell you that it was Mr. Bush, not Mr. Kerry, who offered the hope that personal security could be restored. And in this election, hope won. When it came to the war on terror, Americans knew where their president stood and exactly what he believed. They simply did not share the same level of confidence in Mr. Kerry. The events and aftermath of September 11 may not have changed everything, but they certainly changed the outcome of the 2004 presidential race. In the end, principle trumped polish."

Van Gogh Murder: "Find the expert on Islamic law..."

From an interview with Professor Hans Jansen on Radio Netherlands:

"... I think they should look for the accomplices much closer to the home of the murderer. I mean, Muslim assassins that kill in the name of Islam usually consult a Muslim lawyer - a Mufti or legal specialist of Islamic law - and ask him for his advice and for his opinion. Because otherwise, it would mean that the commands of the Koran to fight the unbelievers would simply boil down to one believer killing an unbeliever, which of course would not work - it would create chaos and total idiocy."

"No, you can only wage Jihad, engage in holy war, or whatever expression you prefer, once this has been analysed and permission is given by competent Muslim legal scholars."

"The Amsterdam prosecutor said on Friday that  the charges against the seven suspects arrested on Tuesday included "participation in a criminal organization with terrorist aims" and "terrorist  conspiracy" for the murder of Van Gogh as well as plans to kill liberal politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali "and others"."So, when you look at it from the outside, it would be against the laws of Islam - and the laws of Islam are very strict – to act against this. Now, this man wants to pose as a super-Muslim, so he probably obeyed the laws of Islam. Accordingly, it's really very important to find the expert on Islamic law who gave him permission to commit this act. Because this expert is of course as guilty as the murderer himself."

US State Department on Bush's Victory

From The Diplomad:

"One of our Diplomads has burrowed deep within the bureaucracy at HQS back in Washington and sends us the following emailed report on reactions to the Bush win. We have edited out anything that might give the enemy information to identify our agent:

I was telling a friend who voted for Kerry my theory as to why so many State Dept weenies (Note: a technical term) have it in for Bush.

Most State types, deep inside, believe that the primary purpose of American
diplomacy is not to advance our country's geo-strategic interests, but to provide for them a prestigious career in which their unusual talents (e.g. foreign languages) and interests (foreign lands) are properly valued and appreciated (Note: there's precious little demand in the real world for experts on the history of Venezuelan political parties). This is a mindset that makes too many diplomats contemptuous of most ordinary Americans, who, in their view, are narrow-minded and boorish. You see the looks of bemused disbelief around the conference table - especially an AID one - whenever anyone suggests that a policy decision should be governed by the interest of the American taxpayer.

So, we were all minding our business one fine day, when one of these very boors - from Texas, no less - turned our little world upside down. It's not that Bush is a Republican, or conservative, or overly aggressive. It's that he's NOT a member of the club of Those of Us Who Understand These Things. As such, he had no right to redefine our foreign policy and security doctrine overnight. Certainly not without first commissioning many feasibility studies and blue-ribbon panels informed, of course, by Us. As a result 'all our allies' hate us, and our international relations have been set back years.

Now look at the "mess" he's made in Iraq and Afghanistan! Too many junior officers at post, not enough from PD (note: Public Diplomacy) and worst of all - the DOD (Note: Department of Defense) people aren't even under Chief of Mission authority! On the home front, Bush's misadventure has completely screwed up the assignments and promotions system, damn him! And we have "the military" speaking up at all sorts of interagency policy discussions where they simply don't belong. In essence, to the career diplomat, Bush's crime was in being an outsider who refused to stay in his place - outside. None of our esteemed colleagues who holds this view would articulate it this way. But it's there. They express it in euphemisms, when they think the audience (their peers) is receptive. It's in the snide remarks, the rolling eyes, the upturned noses. And yesterday, in the gnashing teeth...

Dutch Blog's Summary of van Gogh Murder News

Interesting news roundup at Zacht Ei - Doorbakken kan altijd nog:

Suicide squads?
The same article from De Telegraaf that mentions the hit lists also contains the following sentence: 'The Netherlands are threatened by an Islamic martyr brigade, consisting of youths who have been trained to commit suicide attacks.'
10:30 uur
Reactie(s) (0)

Islamist hit list made public
According to populist broadsheet De Telegraaf, there's a radical Islamist hit list which contains the names of other prominent Dutch that should fear for their lives.
They are:
• Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dutch M.P., a former Muslim and a vocal critic of radical Islam
• Geert Wilders, Dutch M.P., also critical of radical Islam
• Rita Verdonk, secretary of Immigration
• Job Cohen, the Jewish mayor of Amsterdam
• Ahmed Aboutaleb, the Moroccan vice mayor of Amsterdam
I've writen about Aboutaleb here. He's a courageous guy who dares to criticize his fellow Muslims.
Hirsi Ali and Wilders spent the night in heavily guarded 'safe houses', according to De Telegraaf.

[Thanks to LittleGreenFootballs for the link]

Thursday, November 04, 2004

More Details on van Gogh Murder

From Guardian:

"Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner said Thursday the note, stuck to the body with a knife, contained a ``direct warning'' to the screenwriter, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born member of parliament who has outraged fellow Muslims by criticizing Islamic customs and the failure of Muslim families to adopt Dutch ways. She had been under police protection before the slaying.

"Donner said the way the five-page letter ``was presented indicates that it is not from one person, but a movement.'' It was neatly typed and written in Dutch and Arabic. A testament found in the suspect's pocket was titled ``Drenched in blood'' and ``these are my last words.''

"The letter is titled ``Open Letter to Hirsi Ali'' and threatens a holy war against infidels, America, Europe, the Netherlands and Hirsi Ali. ``Saifu Deen alMuwahhied,'' or ``the unifying sword of religion'' is written at the bottom of the last page, apparently as a signature.

"``It is worrying because it gives the impression it is not the message of an individual, but a wider organization,'' Donner said. Security has been increased for individuals considered possible targets, including Hirsi Ali and members of her party, he said.

"The letter read that Islam would ``be victorious through the blood of martyrs.'' It contained apparent quotes from the Quran, and verses of poetry. ``Only the death will separate the truth from the lies,'' it said."

Ann Coulter on Bush's Victory


"Bush won the largest popular vote in history with a 3.5 million margin. Indeed, simply by getting a majority of the country to vote for him – the left's most hated politician since Richard Nixon – Bush did something "rock star" Bill Clinton never did. Bush maintained or increased his vote in every state but Vermont. Republicans picked up seats in the House and Senate, and continue to dominate state governorships. Also making history of a sort, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle lost his election, marking the first time in half a century a Senate leader has been defeated.

"To Michael Moore, George Soros, Terry McAuliffe, Dan Rather, Al Franken and the whole gang at Air America Radio – you were great, guys! Thanks for the help! We couldn't have done it without you!"

Mark Steyn on the Election Results

From The Australian:

"Bush hatred flopped big on Tuesday. That's not a problem for The Guardian's editors, who have to sell papers in Britain, but it is for a Democratic Party that has to sell itself in the US. Michael Mooronification damages everyone who gets it.

"Look at the recently resurrected Osama bin Laden. Three years ago he was Mr Jihad, demanding the restoration of the caliphate, the return of Andalucia, the conversion of every infidel to Islam, the imposition of sharia and an end to fornication, homosexuality and alcoholic beverages. In his latest video he sounds like some elderly Berkeley sociology student making lame jokes about Halliburton and Bush reading My Pet Goat.

"The lesson of Moore's underwear, P.Diddy's 'Vote or Die', Bruce Springsteen's 'Rock the Vote' and all the other celebrity props of the Democratic Party is very simple: having the most popular figures in popular culture on your side does nothing for your popularity. Every time Kerry was seen cavorting with Hollywood A-listers, he was alienating the Z-listers -- the American people."

Who Was Behind the Phony Exit Polls?

Michael Barone thinks it was the Democratic Party...

Is Yasser Arafat Dead?

From today's White House Press Conference:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I know you haven't had a chance to learn this, but it appears that Yasser Arafat has passed away.


Q And I was just wondering if I could get your initial reaction? And also your thoughts on, perhaps, working with a new generation of Palestinian leadership?

THE PRESIDENT: I appreciate that. My first reaction is, God bless his soul. And my second reaction is, is that we will continue to work for a free Palestinian state that's at peace with Israel. "

Is Bush President Seabiscuit?

From The Weekly Standard:

"Bush and Seabiscuit both had patrician forebears, (Man o' War was Seabiscuit's grandfather), but each seemed a little less elegant, a little more common, a bit less refined. Bush was called a cowboy, as a term of derision; Seabiscuit was called a cow horse. Bush and Seabiscuit both had troubled youths, marked by bad attitude and self-destructive behavior. Both were turned around in the nick of time, Seabiscuit by his owner, his trainer, and jockey; Bush by God and by Laura. Afterwards, both of them burned up the track. Al Gore and John Kerry may have lacked the pizzazz of War Admiral, the magnificent Triple Crown winner whom Seabiscuit beat by four lengths in a match race, but they had all the arrogance of his unpleasant owner, a pillar of the eastern racing establishment who felt himself demeaned and degraded by having his horse run on the same track as this upstart from nowhere.

Once he achieved greatness, Seabiscuit was forced to run under great weights in handicap races. In the 2004 cycle at least, Bush
was forced to race under the weight of the entire media complex--the New York Times, all of the glossies, Michael Moore, Linda Ronstadt, 60 Minutes, CBS, and Dan Rather (with their multiple hit jobs and forgeries), Time, Newsweek, and countless others. Seabiscuit had a habit of trying to taunt other horses, slowing down on purpose during races and workouts, giving other horses the chance to think they could beat him, before dashing off in a spurt.

Don't Bury the Mainstream Media: They're Not Dead Yet...

Instapundit, the Wall Street Journal, Little Green Footballs, and other websites have been commenting on the death of the mainstream media. As evidence, they cite the results of this election. But it seems to me that they are alive and kicking. Dan Rather is still on the air, despite losing some 3 million viewers since his last election coverage. They managed to avoid declaring a winner--because it was Bush, no doubt--until John Kerry conceded. Then they cast doubt on the legitimacy of Bush's win. Last night, on PBS's Newshour, Margaret Warner indicated that the Democrats could have challenged the Ohio results in court. The problem is, Ms. Warner, that such a challenge would have been tossed out and Kerry would have not only looked like a sore loser, but an idiot who couldn't do the math. Because John Kerry lost Ohio by a decisive margin. He didn't have the votes.

Until major media outlets report the Republican victory as a sweep--which it was, with gains in the House and Senate even more dramatic than Bush's close Presidential margin (indicating more doubts about Bush than about Republicans in general)--it indicates that the media has not only not given up, they will continue to snipe and sabotage the administration, like the "insurgents" in Iraq.

If Bush doesn't want this media insurgency to spread, he needs to move more quickly than he did in Iraq.

For example:

* Demand the retirement of Dan Rather from CBS, today.
* Investigate the exit poll scandal by NEP and Mitofsky Associates, paid for by AP and major media, that led to "rumors" of Kerry winning Florida and Ohio. Begin civil action for fraud against the perpetrators.
* Put media critics like Tim Graham of the National Review on the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting--to put an immediate stop to stunts like Bill Moyers' claim, on PBS's Charlie Rose show, that Republicans wanted a "coup."

Otherwise, two years from now, Bush could be facing a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate, and possible impeachment.

Dutch Police Investigate Al Qaeda Links to van Gogh Murder


"AMSTERDAM — Police are reportedly investigating a possible connection between the man suspected of killing Dutch filmmaker and columnist Theo van Gogh and the terror network al-Qaeda.

"The Netherlands-born suspect — identified as Mohammed B., 26, holding Dutch and Moroccan nationality — also had contact with eight other men arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of terrorist activities.

"The arrests were made as police raided B.'s house in Marianne Philipsstraat in Amsterdam-Slotermeer and four other homes in the Dutch capital on Wednesday. Police seized computers, videos and literature."

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Dutch Arrest 8 Suspects in Van Gogh Murder

From Yahoo! News:

"AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Dutch police have arrested eight suspected Islamic radicals as part of the investigation into the brutal slaying of outspoken filmmaker Theo van Gogh, prosecutors said Wednesday."

Extremist Murders Dutch Filmmaker Theo Van Gogh

From Reuters:

"AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The suspect arrested for the killing of a controversial Dutch filmmaker had ties with Islamic extremists and was a friend of a terrorist suspect, Dutch newspapers said on Wednesday. Amsterdam police declined to comment on the information or their investigation. 'He is under arrest, but I can't say where he is or what we are doing,' a spokesman said.
Filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who had been accused by Muslims of ridiculing their religion, was shot dead on his bicycle on Tuesday. Two knives were left in his body, one pinning a note to his chest.

"The Volkskrant newspaper said the 26-year-old suspect, who has dual Dutch and Moroccan nationality, was known to national security services but was not among a group of 150 Muslims the AIVD security service is monitoring. De Telegraaf paper said the suspect was a friend of Samir Azzouz, whose arrest in June provoked a national 'terror alarm' after detailed maps of buildings and weapons were found in a house search.

"A picture on the front page of De Telegraaf showed the body of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh lying on the street with two knives sticking out. Police had no comment on the note pinned to his chest. Dutch media said on Tuesday it contained lines from the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

"Van Gogh, 47, a great grandson of the brother of 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, had stirred controversy with newspaper articles, books and films voicing his contentious views on Islam after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States."

Bush Won

Bush won Ohio. It is statistically impossible for Bush to lose, with 120,000 vote margin of victory and 51-49 percent division.

Martin Walker on Europe and the US Election

From UPI:

"Any visitor to the capitals of Europe from the United States these days can expect to be interrogated hard on the prospects of the American presidential election. The questions come from politicians and government officials, from business people and casual acquaintances in hotel lobbies and bars, from friends and family. And they all want to know whether they have to expect four more years of President George W. Bush The Europeans read the opinion polls avidly. They know the difference between red and blue America, between safe Democratic states like New York and Bush's solid South. They can distinguish between battleground states like Ohio, which went for Bush last time, and Pennsylvania, which went for Al Gore."

Latest from Ohio

From The Columbus Dispatch - Election:

"Locked in a state-by-state drama early this morning, President Bush inched toward a second term as he and Sen. John F. Kerry awaited the outcome of a historic election that set a new standard for America's participatory democracy.

"The Ohio result -- and the election nationally -- could come down to provisional, military and overseas ballots, which aren't counted for at least 10 days amid eligibility and other issues.

"As Ohio and a handful of other crucial states continued to tally votes past 2:30 a.m., the outcome remained uncertain in an epic battle transformed by a massive voting surge in a politically engaged and deeply divided nation at war.

"With 88 percent of the nation's precincts reporting, Bush held a comfortable 3.5 million popular-vote lead -- an ironic turnabout from 2000 when he lost the popular vote -- but neither candidate had collected the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

"Ohio's crucial 20 electoral votes hung in the balance, although at least two television networks projected Bush would win the state. Bush held a 126,000 vote lead in Ohio with 96 percent of the state's precincts counted, forging a narrow 3 percentage-point lead, 51-49."

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Did Carter's Foreign Policy Lead to 9/11?

Amir Taheri argues in The New York Post that US support for Islamism began in the Carter administration with Zbigniew Brzezinski, who favored Ayatollah Khomeni as an anti-Soviet ally. He sought the "creation of a string of Islamic allies that, for religious and political reasons, would prefer the United States against the 'godless' Soviet empire."

Taheri notes, "The second stage in Brzezinski's grand strategy was to incite the Muslim peoples of the Soviet Union to revolt against Moscow and thus frustrate its global schemes."

Taheri concludes:

The slogan "America cannot do a damn thing" became the basis of all strategies worked out by Islamist militant groups, including those opposed to Khomeini.

That slogan was tested and proved right for almost a quarter of a century. Between Nov. 4, 1979, and 9/11, a total of 671 Americans were held hostage for varying lengths of time in several Muslim countries. Nearly 1,000 Americans were killed, including 241 Marines blown up while sleeping in Beirut in 1983.

For 22 years the United States, under presidents from both parties, behaved in exactly the way that Khomeini predicted. It took countless successive blows, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, without decisive retaliation. That attitude invited, indeed encouraged, more attacks.

The 9/11 tragedy was the denouement of the Nov. 4 attack on the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

[link via Instapundit]

Monday, November 01, 2004

Osama Bin Laden Un-Censored

From Al Jazeera, the complete text of Osama Bin Laden's recent videotape.

Yes, he says he can't deal with the Bush administration, and threatens to punish states that do the wrong thing. Reads almost like a Kerry endorsement... [thanks to Tim Blair for the link].

Mark Steyn on the US Election

In The Spectator he declares:

"If Bush goes, I go."