Friday, April 29, 2005

Rice Calls for More Democracy

Now in Chile, the Secretary of State has redoubled democracy-builidng efforts, according to Yahoo! News: "In her seven-minute speech here, Rice said it is the historic duty of democrats 'to tell the world that tyranny is a crime of man, not a fact of nature.' 'Our goal must always be the elimination of tyranny in our world,' she said. Rice also called for the creation of a 'legitimate' U.N. rights body to replace the widely scorned U.N. Human Rights Commission, based in Geneva."

Mark Steyn Does it Again

This is pretty funny fromThe

Did you see that picture in the paper this week? It was the same day as the announcement that Sir Elton John was to wed Mr David Furnish, and just above it was a touching portrait of an obviously smitten younger man gazing soulfully into the eyes of a portly bespectacled older man as they strolled hand in hand through a field of blooming bluebonnets. Unfortunately for my blood pressure, the spooning couple were not Sir Elton and his betrothed but Crown Prince Abdullah and George W. Bush. The Saudi strongman was yet again visiting the Bush ranch at Crawford, which is bad enough, but this time the President couldn't keep his hands off him. The guy had barely touched down and Bush was purring, 'Hey, what say we step into the yard and shoot the big love scene for Michael Moore's next crockumentary'

At such moments, it's like September 12 over again. It's at least three years since I first argued that ranch breaks should be reserved for America's real friends -- Tony Blair, John Howard-- and not for a regime which has very successfully exported its civil war to the rest of the world. The Saudis are under a lot more pressure than they were back then -- hence Abdullah's feints towards faux 'reform'. Nonetheless, only the other day the chief justice and big Abdullah sidekick was captured on video urging Saudi men to go to Iraq and fight the Americans -- and still the Crown Prince gets ranch privileges from Bush. Someday his prince won't come, I hope. When I called for the President to give the Saudi royals the finger, this isn't exactly what I had in mind.

Agustin Blazquez on Estela Bravo

Blazquez calls this article about the showing of Bravo's 1992 'documentary' at the Havana Film Festival on April 18, 2004,'Miami-Havana' a Misguided Trip:

Estela had the right to make her documentary, and taxpayer-funded PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts had the right in 1993 to sponsor the POV broadcast and now this New York Times pro-Castro film festival in New York City to show it. But being free in the U.S., I also have the right to criticize this dishonest piece of pro-Castro political propaganda.

There is nothing like freedom. One day, not far in the future, I hope, Cubans will enjoy freedom in Cuba in spite of the efforts of collaborators like Estela Bravo.
Read the whole thing.

Putin: Trading Ukraine & Georgia for Israel & Palestine

That's the gist of this analysis on the not always reliable DEBKAfile, Putin's Mid East Visits Signpost Unfolding Russian Penetration. As Debka points out, Putin conversed freely with Palestinian leader Mohammed Abbas in Russian, since Abbas was educated in Moscow (and the PLO was set up by Moscow in the first place). What values do Moscow-educated Arab communists, Ba'athists, and former communists share with Israelis? A strong antipathy to Islamist fundamentialism, for one thing. Remember, the US, through the CIA and USAID is still trying to "make nice" with Islamist terrorist sympathizers in Chechnya, Central Asia, and elsewhere, continuing the pro-Taliban strategy employed in Afghanistan pre-9/11. This makes American enemies out of modernizers, socialists, communists, and the rest. The Russians can move to take back this traditionally pro-Moscow constitutency.

So stay tuned. If Putin's strategy works, the US may have gained Eastern Europe only to lose the entire Middle East, including Israel. Debka's conclusion is that Russia is being very cunning:
Put together, these connections add up to a quiet political and military Russian penetration of Middle East forces close to the fringes of power in a way that will not arouse too much attention in Washington, but will at the same time provide Moscow with an inside track to regional developments and jumping-off points for broader penetrations.

This careful balancing act was aptly illustrated just before the Putin trip in an announcement by foreign minister Sergei Lavrov that Russia would begin withdrawing its troops from Georgia by the end of the year. This step came after a long period in which the Kremlin ignored demands from Washington and Tbilisi to eliminate the Russian military base in the former Soviet republic. But, when combined with a Russian initiative to gain a stronger foothold in the Middle East, this step signaled a tit-for-tat deal whereby Moscow would pull back from a key Caucasian region in Washington's favor while pressing forward in the Middle East. This deal will most certainly figure high on the agenda of the Bush-Putin summit next month.

In the war on terror, cooperation between Moscow and Jerusalem is more sparing than Israel would like. The Russians command a rich fund of intelligence on the Arab world, the Palestinians and al Qaeda's activities in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf and Iraq. Moscow has cut Israel out of its counter-terror loop for a reason. Gone are the days of late 2001 and early 2002 when, in the aftershock of the 9/11 attacks, Putin collaborated fully with Bush on data that helped the American-led coalition successfully invade Afghanistan and defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda. These days, the Kremlin plays its cards very close to its chest. Jerusalem's bid for intelligence-sharing with Moscow was rebuffed in early 2004 when the Russians indicated they were open only to one-way traffic from Israel, but offered nothing of value in exchange.

Another important dimension of Putin's Israel visit comes from his attitude to the ex-Russian community. While most Israeli institutions and media treat Russian citizens as new immigrants to be absorbed in the overall fabric of society like all previous waves of newcomers, for the Russian president they are not ex-Russians but expatriates, exemplars of Russian culture, art, sport, language and education. Putin does not see a million Russian-speaking Israelis, but the largest Russian minority in the Middle East, which must be fostered, protected and sponsored. He is personally in regular contact with several Israel-Russian business figures and he rates these connections as highly as any political ties.

Putin is saying that only Russia can guarantee peace in the Middle East. If the US continues to make trouble in the former USSR, supporting Islamist terrorists who want to break up the country, then Russia can make trouble for the US in Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Palestine. Is this Debka analysis correct? I think so.

Actions speak volumes. It appears Putin isn't afraid to visit Israel, while Bush is, since the US President hasn't been in the Holy Land since 9/11. Perhaps it's time for Bush to drop in to Sharon's ranch, for a change?

So Many Enemies, So Little time

Just started reading Elinor Burkett's So Many Enemies, So Little Time: An American Woman in All the Wrong Places, which I ordered from Amazon after reading the author's stimulating NY Times oped about Kyrgyzstan's "Tulip Revolution." About 80 pages into it, Burkett's observations about her time in Bishkek track pretty closely with what I saw in Tashkent. Coincidentally, we were both Fulbrighters. Burkett's also one of David Horowitz's "Second Thoughts" people, and I used to work for David. Anyhow, her perspective on the situation in Central Asia seems about right, at least so far as I've read... Here's a section about an Afghan refugee couple she met in Bishkek:
After a friend was beaten because she'd exposed an inch of her wrist while checking the size of underwear in the market, Munvara decided that she'd had enough and headed up to Mazar-i-Sharif, beyond Taliban control, to find a way out of the country. "I vowed that I would not go back so long as there was a Muslim government in Afghanistan," Munvara said, her body taught with fury.

Her husband, also a refugee, put his hand on her knee, then turned to me and cracked, "Islam, Islam, Islam. You can't imagine how tired we are of hearing about Islam."

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Philip Morrison, RIP

A nice obituary forPhilip Morrison, 1915 – 2005, on

I met Morrison while in high school. He was really an inspirational figure. Our physics teacher, Mr. Burkhardt, was a fan, and took us to see him speak, I seem to remember, at both UCLA and Cal Tech. He talked about making the first atomic bomb, and about the search for intelligent life in the universe. He was really a charismatic guy, and after seeing him talk, and shaking his hand, I wanted to be a physicist. But, sorry to say, I somehow lost my math ability in college, and ended up studying television. While it was sad to read that he had died, it was good to see that I wasn't the only person to find him impressive and charismatic...

Federal Arts Bureaucrats Destroying Arts Education (Part I)

The "dumbing down" of America, thanks to federally-funded arts bureaucrats, continues relentlessly in the Bush administration, according to this fascinating account by Jackie Trescott in the Washington Post. Probably because they can't make any administrative overhead from grants for "arts education", administrators at the National Gallery of Art are going to put the wonderful volunteer docent guided tours for schoolgroups on "hiatus" (meaning cancellation, in the language of cowardly bureaucrats). Trescott should win a Pulitzer for her coverage of Washington, DC arts institutions and their stupid decisions. Here's here lede:
The National Gallery of Art is suspending its school tours for the next academic year as part of a general reevaluation of its educational programs. The guided tours served 34,000 students last year.

BTW, IMHO "Rusty" Powell, currently head of the National Gallery of Art, practically destroyed the Los Angeles County Museum of Art during his tenure there. So this kind of destructive decision by his staff isn't surprising. The only surprising thing is that there hasn't been more of an outcry from Congress on this one.

But of course, who in the "arts community" or the "education community" actually cares about DC-area school children learning about Renaissance Art?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Vladimir Putin: This Year in Jerusalem

Putin Makes Historic Visit to Israel is the headline on today's AP story. It's Russian Orthodox Easter and Jewish Passover (not Western Easter, significantly). Putin is in Israel, reviving the Russian-Israeli relationship that began in 1948. As Frank Sinatra might have said, "this could be the start of something big." Stay tuned, I think Russia may end up with the warm-water Mediterranean port she's been looking for for a long time. Reason--linguistic and cultural ties, business relations, and a common enemy: Islamist fundamentalism and terror. Plus Russian oil companies are competing with Arab ones right now, and the enemy of my enemy is...

Putin Blinks on Khodorkovsky

News from Moscow that Khodorkovsky's verdict will come down after V-E Day celebrations means Putin was afraid to convict him before Bush shows up--which means Bush has to give that Reaganesque speech on May 9th, linking WWII victory to Khodorkovsky's fate (Reagan got Sharansky out of jail, after he was convicted of spying): "Mr. Putin, Let Mr. Khodorkovsky go!" (Putin can collect any outstanding liabilities in civil court, Bush can add, if he likes...). It will help Russia, help business, help civil rights, and help America, too. Is Bush up to this? Ask Secretary of State Rice.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Latest on the Khodorkovsky Case

Verdict is due Wednesday. Here's a link - Press Center for Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

I still think Putin should let him go, before Bush's visit on May 9th, even if he's found guilty...

Outing the Bolton Haters (Cont'd.)

First, Colin Powell, now fashion diva Diana Vreeland's son Frederick, according to Powerlineblog. Who will be outed next?

Interestingly, Vreeland is apparently an Israel-hater as well as a Bolton-hater, according to Powerline's analysis of an article Vreeland published in the International Herald Tribune in 2003 (thanks to LittleGreenFootballs for the link):
So Frederick Vreeland's opposition to Bolton, which is being promoted as a non-partisan critique by a "former colleague," throws the issue of Bolton's nomination into stark relief. John Bolton stands for a certain set of opinons and values, which mirror those of President Bush: he doesn't think America is to blame for terrorist attacks; he doesn't think the U.N. is morally superior to the U.S.; he thinks the job of an American diplomat is to advance the interests of the United States, not other countries; and he sees neither virtue nor advantage in treachery toward American allies, especially Israel. Bolton's enemies hate him because of these values and opinions, not because he lacks the suave manners of the State Department clique that, for decades, has gotten everything wrong about the Middle East.

"White Trash" Culture Oppresses African-Americans

Today's Wall Street Journal has a really fascinating column by Thomas Sowell. He analyzes racial myths, and comes to the conclusion that African-American progress has been hindered by the acceptance of "redneck" cultural values which discount the importance of education. Sowell argues that what is currently presented as "authentically" African-American culture is nothing of the kind, rather the remnants of a "redneck" environment in the American South. Sowell's thesis is sure to be controversial, but it seems to me that he is onto something significant. It makes me curious to read his new book, Black Rednecks and White Liberals.

Here is a sample:
The culture of the people who were called "rednecks" and "crackers" before they ever got on the boats to cross the Atlantic was a culture that produced far lower levels of intellectual and economic achievement, as well as far higher levels of violence and sexual promiscuity. That culture had its own way of talking, not only in the pronunciation of particular words but also in a loud, dramatic style of oratory with vivid imagery, repetitive phrases and repetitive cadences.

Although that style originated on the other side of the Atlantic in centuries past, it became for generations the style of both religious oratory and political oratory among Southern whites and among Southern blacks--not only in the South but in the Northern ghettos in which Southern blacks settled. It was a style used by Southern white politicians in the era of Jim Crow and later by black civil rights leaders fighting Jim Crow. Martin Luther King's famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 was a classic example of that style.

While a third of the white population of the U.S. lived within the redneck culture, more than 90% of the black population did. Although that culture eroded away over the generations, it did so at different rates in different places and among different people. It eroded away much faster in Britain than in the U.S. and somewhat faster among Southern whites than among Southern blacks, who had fewer opportunities for education or for the rewards that came with escape from that counterproductive culture.

Nevertheless the process took a long time. As late as the First World War, white soldiers from Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky and Mississippi scored lower on mental tests than black soldiers from Ohio, Illinois, New York and Pennsylvania. Again, neither race nor racism can explain that--and neither can slavery.

The redneck culture proved to be a major handicap for both whites and blacks who absorbed it. Today, the last remnants of that culture can still be found in the worst of the black ghettos, whether in the North or the South, for the ghettos of the North were settled by blacks from the South. The counterproductive and self-destructive culture of black rednecks in today's ghettos is regarded by many as the only "authentic" black culture--and, for that reason, something not to be tampered with. Their talk, their attitudes, and their behavior are regarded as sacrosanct.

The people who take this view may think of themselves as friends of blacks. But they are the kinds of friends who can do more harm than enemies.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Putin: "Russia should continue its civilising mission..."

In his address to the nation, (online at, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin made a moral and intellectual case for Russia's equal partnership with the USA in the global war on terror, reminding the world of Allied victory in WWII (and silently contrasting that unconditional victory with the current uncomfortable stalemate Bush and the West currently faces in Iraq and against Al Qaeda).

Putin quoted from three Russian authors: Ivan Ilyin, Sergei Witte, and Lev Petrazhitsky. Kremlinologists might take note of the significance of these citations. All the authors are well-known to Russian intellectuals.

Ilyin is a renowned exiled Slavophile philosopher. Dmitri Trenin has an interesting study of Russian Pan-Slavism and territorial expansion on the Moscow Carnegie Center Website that discusses Ilyin's idea of Russia as a "living organism" that must grow or die. Ilyin is apparently popular today with a number of different political tendencies, ranging from Zhirinovsky's nationalists, to Zuganov's communists, to Russian liberals.

Count Witte was a brilliant yet tragic modernizer who built the Trans-Siberian Railway and negotiated the end of the Russo-Japanese War at the Portsmouth, NH peace conference sponsored by President Teddy Roosevelt. Appointed by Alexander III, after a number of ups and downs, this advocate of a parliamentary democracy was eventually moved aside by Nicholas II in 1906. The failed 1905 Revolution was his undoing.

Finally,Lev Petrazhitsky was mentor to Mikhail Reisner, a leading theorist of Soviet law, according to Sergei Golunsky & Mikhail Strogovich, in "The Theory of State and Law," He was an idealist, who believed " . . . law is only a psychic phenomenon. . . It exists only as spiritual experience -- emotions -- in the psyche of human beings. Legal norms themselves, statutes, etc., have no real existence; they are merely figments of imagination, fantastic notions, 'phantasmata' in Petrazhitsky's terminology".

Apparently Putin is calling upon both Russian and Soviet traditions here, to build a base for his own vision of Russian society--a democracy that still will be uniquely Russian--in a Russia that is tied closely to Europe and the West, splitting the difference between Tsarist and Soviet eras.

Some excerpts:
Very soon, on May 9, we shall celebrate the 60th anniversary of victory. This day can deservedly be called the day of civilisation’s triumph over fascism. Our common victory enabled us to defend the principles of freedom, independence and equality between all peoples and nations.

It is clear for us that this victory was not achieved through arms alone but was won also through the strong spirit of all the peoples who were united at that time within a single state. Their unity emerged victorious over inhumanity, genocide and the ambitions of one nation to impose its will on others.

But the terrible lessons of the past also define imperatives for the present. And Russia, bound to the former Soviet republics – now independent countries – through a common history, and through the Russian language and the great culture that we share, cannot ignore the general desire for freedom.

Today, with independent countries now formed and developing in the post-Soviet area, we want to work together to correspond to humanistic values, open up broad possibilities for personal and collective success, achieve for ourselves the standards of civilisation we have worked hard for – standards that would enable us to build a common economic, humanitarian and legal space.

We will stand up for Russia’s foreign political interests, but we also want our closest neighbours to develop their economies and strengthen their international authority. We would like to achieve synchronisation of the pace and parameters of reform processes underway in Russia and the other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. We are ready to draw on the genuinely useful experience of our neighbours and also to share with them our own ideas and the results of our work.

Our objectives on the international stage are very clear – to ensure the security of our borders and create favourable external conditions for the resolution of our domestic problems. We are not inventing anything new and we seek to make use of all that European civilisation and world history has accumulated.

Also certain is that Russia should continue its civilising mission on the Eurasian continent. This mission consists in ensuring that democratic values, combined with national interests, enrich and strengthen our historic community.

We consider international support for the respect of the rights of Russians abroad an issue of major importance, one that cannot be the subject of political and diplomatic bargaining. We hope that the new members of NATO and the European Union in the post-Soviet area will show their respect for human rights, including the rights of ethnic minorities, through their actions.

Countries that do not respect and cannot guarantee human rights themselves do not have the right to demand that others respect these same rights.
Let's see how Bush answers Putin's offer on May 9th.

Putin & Bush Celebrate Allied Elbe Anniversary

No doubt Condoleeza Rice worked on this statement. Could it signal the rekindling of a beautiful friendship?

MOSCOW, April 25 (RIA Novosti) - Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush made a joint statement on the 60th anniversary of Soviet and US troops meeting on the Elbe, Germany, toward the end of World War II, reports the Kremlin press service.We are offering an unabridged text of this statement by the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States of America. "Soviet and American troops met on the Elbe river sixty years ago this day, April 25, 1945. "The two nations will ever remember epoch-making handshakes on the Elbe, which came among the most spectacular symbols of our countries' martial fraternity as they were together fighting Nazi tyranny, oppression and aggression.

We bow to the feats of martial valor performed by Allied soldiers. We shall never forget the sacrifices they made for the sake of Allied victory.

"The sixty years since that day have seen reconciliation in Europe, overcoming the Cold War aftermath, the fall of barriers that used to divide countries and nations, the increase of affluence, and progress of liberty and democracy.

"The century starting now has seen new challenges to our countries' security, terrorism and mass destruction weapon proliferation among them. However, the chances are building up to achieve lasting peace based on the law and on shared values of freedom and democracy. Russia and the United States are working for ever-closer partnerly ties. In this situation, the meeting on the Elbe reminds us of the vast benefits we can provide to our two countries and to the whole world, when we are at one in the face of global challenges to use our newfound opportunities for progress and partnership."

Celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Italian Liberation

at Harry's Place.

Bill Kristol: "Only girlie men need apply..."

President George W. Bush can't afford to fold on Bolton without becoming, in the analytic of George F. Will, an instant "lame duck." Kristol expands on the political significance of the Bolton fight in The Weekly Standard:

But it is ridiculous to spend time dealing with these charges. Indeed, I suspect even the anti-Bush Doctrine Republican senators on the Foreign Relations Committee will ultimately be too embarrassed to hang a "No" vote on such flimsy scaffolding.

And do the Democrats--the party of Richard Holbrooke and Madeleine Albright--really want to have as a new standard for exclusion from high office whether an official has ever lost his or her temper? For future government jobs, perhaps the Democrats should add to the job description: Only girlie men need apply.

But to dismiss the assault on Bolton as farcical and inconsequential is to miss its real meaning, and its impact if successful. True, if Bolton is not confirmed, another Bush-doctrine believer will be nominated for U.N. ambassador, and, under Condoleezza Rice's direction, the Bush foreign-policy caravan will move on.

But that's not all this fight is about. Bolton's accusers want to send the message that it's okay, perhaps, to agree with a conservative president's policies--but it's a career-ender if you take on the bureaucracy or the establishment aggressively on behalf of the president.

Internet Haganah

Today's Washington Post had a cover story on Aaron Weisbrud, the blogger who tracks down pro-terrorist websites.
Weisburd, 41, a half-Irish, half-Jewish New Yorker, said that like other Americans he was deeply affected by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He wanted to enlist in the military, but his age and health issues made that impossible.

Then, about a year later, he saw a news story about a Web site that showed what appeared to be a kindergarten class in the Gaza Strip acting out terrorist attacks. He was outraged and went to his computer to do some research, eventually discovering the name of the company hosting the site. He e-mailed the owner of the Web-hosting company at 6 a.m. By 8 a.m. the site was down.

From that success, the former philosophy major from George Washington University set up "Internet Haganah,"-- the latter word in Hebrew means "defense" and was the name of the underground Jewish militia in British-controlled Palestine from 1920 to 1948. The site, dedicated to fighting back against Islamic terrorist sites, has more than 30,000 unique visitors each month.

On another morning that same week in early April, Weisburd called up an e-mail informing him that someone on a Yahoo bulletin board was soliciting donations to go on a "jihad" somewhere. Within a few minutes, Weisburd is able to find three of the messages and trace their origin -- from cable modems at someone's home and at a New England school district. He hit the forward button and sent the information off to a law enforcement contact.
For some reason, Post editors didn't seem to want to put a link to the site in their story's lede, so, here's a link to Internet Haganah (

Still More Pathetic Bolton Charges

From The Sydney Morning Herald:

In her letter, Ms Finney said she was a lawyer-adviser working on policies when Mr Bolton called her into his office in late 1982 or early 1983. She wrote that he asked her to persuade delegates from other countries to vote with the US to weaken World Health Organisation restrictions on marketing of formula in the developing world.

She said she refused because improper use of the formula can be deadly. Mr Bolton then 'shouted that Nestle [one of the biggest producers of formula] was an important company and that he was giving me a direct order from President Reagan'.

'He yelled that if I didn't obey him, he would fire me,' she wrote. 'I said I could not live with myself if even one baby died because of something I did ... He screamed that I was fired.'

The State Department would not comment. But on Friday, a spokesman said once the allegations were explored, it would lead to the 'inescapable conclusion that Mr Bolton would be an excellent ambassador'.

Guess what? Once again, Bolton didn't fire her because he couldn't fire her. All he did was move her to another office...

We really will need a full set of hearings to decide this question. Fairness to Bolton and Bush means the nominee must have a chance to face his accusers publicly.

Art of Afghanistan in Washington, DC

Now on display at the Freer Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, a show of Afghan treasures from the Timurid dynasty. The show got a rave review from Paul Richard in today's Washington Post. Exhibits include artifacts from Iran and Uzbekistan, as well as Afghanistan. The collection will be on display until August.

My Dream Seder

Reality meets the dream in Cousin Lucy's Spoon's story of this year's Passover celebration in Israel.

China's Role in Crushing the 1956 Hungarian Revolt

An interesting analysis of Chinese accounts of the 1956 Hungarian revolt has been posted on Far Outliers. It is based on Chinese sources, and reveals that Krushchev had been quite ambivalent about the 1956 Hungarian revolt. At one point, he was willing to let Hungary go. Only after consulting the Chinese, and reportedly at their urging, did Moscow send tanks into Budapest to preserve Russia's grip on Eastern Europe. The article sort of puts Tienamien Square into historical perspective.

Vladimir Vladimirovich on the New Pope and Condi Rice

The Moscow Times runs a pretty funny satire of the Putin lifestyle from Vladimir Today it is all about Putin's reaction to Condi Rice's visit and the election of a new Pope.

Is This The Future of the Movie Business?

Roger L. Simon's link to JibJab's comedy Matzah short led me to explore the Atom Films website, which seems to have a selection ranging from porno to drama to comedy for downloading. And I wondered, is this the future? What Blogging has done for news and idea junkies, what Napster and iTunes have done to the music business seems almost here for visual communication. I think I understand all the excitement about the Grokster case. The long-awaited merger of the PC and TV may be closer than we think.

BTW, there is a link to the P2P lobby's website (yes, Virginia, there is a P2P lobby...) here at P2P United.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Pioneer Publisher Donald E. Herdeck Remembered

Matt Schudel published this interesting obituary of Washington, DC publisher Donald E. Herdeck, founder of Three Continents Press, in today's Washington Post:
Donald E. Herdeck, 80, whose small Washington publishing house brought worldwide attention to dozens of Third World writers, including two winners of the Nobel Prize for literature, died April 20 of congestive heart failure at his home in Pueblo, Colo.

A onetime State Department diplomat, Dr. Herdeck was on the faculty of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service when he decided that the easiest way to obtain the books he wanted to teach in his classes would be to publish them himself. He launched Three Continents Press in 1973 and found his greatest acclaim 15 years later when one of his authors, Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz, was awarded the Nobel Prize.
Donald Herdeck's Three Continents Press published the works of two Nobel Prize winners.

Despite scant critical attention and little commercial demand, Dr. Herdeck had published Mahfouz's works in small editions since the 1970s. But the Nobel proved to be a mixed blessing for Three Continents, which had just one employee beside Dr. Herdeck.

The entire stock of Mahfouz's novels, translated into English from Arabic, sold out in one day, and it took weeks to reprint them. Dr. Herdeck received a call at home from an angry bookseller, who scolded him for being "a terrible businessman."

He recounted the conversation to The Washington Post's David Streitfeld: " 'Here you have this wonderful Nobel Prize winner, this wonderful author, and you don't have copies of his books! What's wrong with you?'

"Herdeck responded with something like this: 'And where have you been for the last 12 years, when we had thousands of these books sitting in our warehouse and they sold only in trickles? What was wrong with you?''"

Mark Steyn on John Bolton

This column too good to pass up (thanks to LittleGreenFootballs for the link):
The weak bromides touted by the Dems in lieu of a policy -- a legalistic approach to the war on terror, greater deference to the U.N. and America's ''friends'' -- were defeated at the polls. Since then, they've been further discredited: The failure of terrorist prosecutions in Europe underlines how disastrous John Kerry's serve-'em-with-subpoenas approach would be; the sewer of the Oil-for-Food scandal and the attempts by Kofi Annan to castrate the investigation into it demonstrate yet again that there is no problem in the world today that can't be made worse by letting the U.N. have a hand in solving it; and America's ''friends'' -- by which Kerry meant not allies like Britain and Australia but the likes of France and Canada -- turn out to be some of the countries most implicated in the corruption of U.N. ''humanitarianism.''

Republican voters understand this. Why don't Republican senators? The rap against John Bolton is that he gets annoyed with do-nothing bureaucrats. If that's enough to disqualify you from government service, then 70 percent of citizens who've visited the DMV in John Kerry's Massachusetts are ineligible. Sinking Bolton means handing a huge psychological victory to a federal bureaucracy that so spectacularly failed America on 9/11 and to a U.N. bureaucracy eager for any distraction from its own mess. The Democrats' interest in derailing Bush foreign policy is crude but understandable. But why would even the wimpiest Republican ''moderate'' want to help them out? Who needs capuchin monkeys in the Senate when GOP squishes are so eager to tap-dance for Democrat organ grinders?

Russian for Americans

The Russian Dilettante has a pretty interesting explanation of differences between American and Russian mentalities. The same word can have different meanings, which may be an obstacle to better Russo-American understanding, as seen during Secretary of State Rice's recent visit:
Confusion over words

American media are good at parrotting key words to the whole world but bad at exporting concepts. Part of the problem is linguistic and cultural flippancy. Two words spelled almost the same in two languages do not have to have the same meaning in both. When ideology-peddlers ignore this well-known fact, absurdity ensues.

Take "individualism." To its Anglospheric proponents, it means taking responsibility for one's actions and well-being. To many Russians, the word embodies a different worldview: "I want it all for myself. I don't give a sh*t about you guys." In Russia, Dillinger would be called an individualist but Bill Gates' one-word description would more likely be smart, risk-taking, enterprising, lucky. He might as well turn out an "individualist," but not necessarily.

"Collectivism" to many American freedom-preachers is being told what to do by a group one happens to belong to. Often enough in Russia, it means team spirit, helping one's friends, pulling resources to achieve a common goal.

To be properly understood in Russia, one has to use "responsibility" to convey the notion of individualism, and I can't think of a good word to describe the "bad" variety of collectivism. For its totalitarian extremes, the first thing that comes to mind is what the good old Vladimir Zhirinovsky (yes, the one who seems an ultrachauvinistic clown) said when he announced his support for Yeltsin in 1996: "Communists got into every Soviet citizen's bed."

Remembering the Armenian Massacres

The Guardian's editorial today is called "Forgotten holocaust".

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Bush Must Push Bolton Through

So say the The Editors of National Review:
This offers an opportunity for Bolton defenders to try to get the debate back where it belongs, on the substantive merits of his nomination rather than the sideshow disputes over whether he has occasionally spoken sharply to people and the 11-year-old off-the-wall allegation of abuse by the founder of the Dallas chapter of ?Mothers Opposing Bush.? Bolton has been nominated not to ?serve? the United Nations, as liberals have it, but to serve the president of the United States and the goals of his foreign policy there. He is such a superb choice partly because there is as little chance of him being captured by the U.N. bureaucracy as there was of him being captured by the State Department bureaucracy. We would expect and hope that at the end of Bolton's tenure at the U.N. he will have earned just as much enmity from recalcitrant bureaucrats at Turtle Bay as he did at Foggy Bottom.

This was at the root of Bolton's dispute with Powell. Since he has no strong philosophical moorings himself, Powell quickly became the servant of the permanent State Department establishment, for whom Bush's post-9/11 reorienting of U.S. foreign policy was discomfiting at best. Bolton was not just a believer in Bush's foreign policy, but regarded it as his professional duty to represent it in a building where he knew it wouldn't make him popular. Yes, this occasionally meant clashes with bureaucratic underlings. This was sometimes necessary ? it is President Bush's appointees who are supposed to be setting the direction of the U.S. government, not bureaucrats with their own agendas. But it mostly meant that Bolton was routinely disagreeing with Powell and Armitage, who are now bent on exacting their revenge in a campaign marked by Powell's trademark underhanded style.

Sharon's Pesach Interview

From Haaretz , this interview with the Israeli Prime Minister: "Sharon likes to talk about the Bible, about the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, about the connection to the land and to working the land. But it's hard not to get the impression that religion and tradition are foreign to him. That he feels no attachment to the spiritual, faith- inspired side of the settlement movement. 'I'm not a religious person, but I'm a Jew,' he says. 'I didn't grow up in a religious family. I grew up in a non-religious family. My grandfather, whom I don't remember, was traditional, but not Orthodox.'

"Do you fast on Yom Kippur? Eat matza on Passover? 'I fast every Yom Kippur. In the shape I'm in, it's not that hard, and on Passover I eat only matza.'

"This Passover, Sharon is seeking conciliation with the settlers and talking about healing the rifts in the nation. He is trying to distance himself from his statement in the interview he gave NBC, in which he said that the atmosphere in Israel is like 'the eve of civil war.' When we asked him about it, he gave an embarrassed laugh. 'I'm making every effort to make the disengagement process as peaceful as possible, and even though it is a very, very painful thing, and very, very difficult, I'm trying hard to see that things are done through consent.' His readiness to consider postponing the evacuation until after Tisha B'Av - a decision he says is not yet final - and to support the Gush Katif settlers' request to move en masse to Nitzanim derives, he says, from his desire to preserve inner unity 'on the day after.' There are many other national missions to be accomplished, says Sharon. 'I'm very concerned about what will come afterwards. We must settle in the Galilee, in the Negev and in the Jerusalem area. There will be security problems, too. We won't be able to sit around and rest on our laurels.'
Sharon praises the settlers - 'In the last generation, they have been the leading group in settling the land, in pioneering and volunteerism, and in security,' he says, adding that their feeling of rejection 'won't serve Israel's objectives.' He rejects the argument that the disengagement only proves that the vast settlement project in the territories was a waste. 'The statements that are coming from the left, that it was all for nothing, and that our economic situation and the losses suffered are a result of the settlement enterprise, and also what you hear from settler leaders who talk about total destruction and the ruin of Zionism - they're doing this, of course, in order to heighten opposition, but I say to them that this is a very grave thing because the objectives and missions have not ended"

President Bush's Passover message

Jewish News Weekly of Northern California has this message from President Bush:

I send greetings to those observing Passover, beginning at sundown on April 23. This celebration marks the historic Exodus of the Israelites from Pharaoh's oppression more than 3,000 years ago. During Passover, Jews around the world gather with family and friends to share the story of God's deliverance of the Israelites from slavery to freedom. Through songs and prayers, they remember the blessings and mercy of a just and loving God. By passing this story from generation to generation, they teach the triumph of faith over tyranny and celebrate God's promise of freedom.

The lesson of this story is timeless and reminds us that even in the face of struggle, hope endures. As we work to bring hope to the oppressed, we recall the words of the Psalmist, which are read at the seder meal:

'This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.'

Laura and I send our best wishes for a joyous Passover.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Powell v. Bolton: Round 1

Today's Washington Post reveals the man behind the curtain in John Bolton's difficult confirmation saga to be former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Now that he's been "outed," perhaps it is time for Powell to come forward and tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a public hearing what he told certain Senators in off-the-record briefings, in order to give Bolton a chance to respond? Bolton might want to line up some heavy-hitters on his side, like George Schulz and Henry Kissinger, as well as the current Secretary of State, to respond to Powell's charges.

Such a public debate on higher-level questions as the role of the US in the UN, sparked by the Bolton nomination battle, might be a very good thing, and be the silver lining to the pathetic cloud of accusations piling up against Bolton.

Far Left Merger with Far Right: The Soros-Norquist Alliance

Bull Moose says the George Soros - Grover Norquist relationship bears watching: "...seriously, this lefty conspiracy is now infiltrating the Central Committee of the Right Wing Conspiracy - the Wednesday Grover Norquist meeting..."

Ecuador Upheaval A Defeat for Democracy

Miami Herald editors think the latest change of government south of the border isn't exactly a "Rose Revolution":
Now, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called for a restoration of order. Fine, but where was U.S. diplomacy when the Gutierrez government began making a mockery of democracy months ago? It's hard to see how the chaos in Ecuador promotes the Bush administration's goal of furthering democracy around the globe. The democratic charter of the Organization of American States is tailor-made to aid countries in trouble like Ecuador, but with the secretary-general's seat vacant and U.S. leadership missing, the OAS predictably failed to respond. There are no winners amid this wreckage except foes of democracy like Fidel Castro, who was quick to boast that Mr. Gutierrez lost out because he was ''too close to the empire,'' his epithet for the United States. He must be chortling with glee as he watches the chaos in Ecuador and takes note of the weakening commitment to democracy in one of the most volatile regions of the hemisphere.

Is Russia Doing OK?

Nicholas Gvosdev thinks Andrei Shliefer's new book makes the case that Russia is moving in the right direction, the economy is on track, and that liberalization is moving forward. He says there are larger cultural issues that prevent people from realizing how well off they really are, and refers to the American controvery over outsourcing as a parallel.

In one sense, Gvosdev is right. Russia is obviously richer than it has ever been before. And I agree with this statement: "I think a strong case might be made for Russia's economic troubles having stemmed in large part from values and worldview -- precisely the types of stimuli to which politicians respond."

But am I convinced that Russia is on the right track? Not unless Putin lets Khodorkovsky go...

Condoleeza Rice Analyzes Vladimir Putin

From an interview with Fox News, she had this to say about her meeting with the Russian president:
QUESTION: You met yesterday with President Putin. Have your perceptions of him, what kind of man he is, what kind of leader he is, how committed to democracy he is, at all changed over time?

SECRETARY RICE: I believe that this is a strong leader for Russia. He is someone who cares deeply about his country. He's actually quite easy to talk to. He is willing to talk about difficult subjects and does it without being defensive. And he is someone who obviously wants his country to succeed. We haven't always agreed about the future course of Russia, but there is no doubt that this man is a patriot, he cares deeply about his people, deeply about his country, and I think is trying to do his best to take Russia into a better future.

QUESTION: What percentage of Russian nuclear materials does the United States consider to be securely under lock and key?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm not able to go into numbers here. Let's just say that we have worked hard since the collapse of the Soviet Union to secure as much Russian nuclear material as possible. We --

QUESTION: Is even 50 percent?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, James, I;m not going to go into numbers. I will say that we have been working as hard as possible and as quickly as possible and accelerated the timeline in the Energy Department programs to secure nuclear materials, not just in Russia but in general in the space that was created by the former Soviet Union. We have very active programs to do that. And we and the Russians have been working on this problem, but I don;t want to go into specific numbers.

QUESTION: So you can't even assure me that even half of the nuclear arsenal of that country is under lock and key?

SECRETARY RICE: James, I’m not going to get into numbers. I don’t think that people should believe that we have a huge problem with a lack of security of nuclear material. We do have concerns that in the post-Soviet period and up till now that are being met through the programs that we have for trying to secure those materials.

One interesting cross-cultural note. It seems that Rice's visit to Moscow may have produced a different reaction among Russians than among Americans. For example, last night my Russian teacher criticized Rice for going on the air with Echo Moscow radio without a translator. He thought it was bad that she made mistakes. Where my attitude, as an American, was that it was good that she was trying to speak Russian. We say, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." But, in Russia, mistakes have often been fatal...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A pro-Khodorkovsky Website

Found a link to Russia in Focus on the Wall Street Journal site, and it has some interesting articles about Russia, from a pro-Khodorkovsky perspective.

I still think Putin should let Khodorkovsky go before May 9th V-E Day celebrations....

Wall Street Journal on the Bolton Nomination

OpinionJournal has an interesting editorial that sees the Bolton case as a "tipping point" for the Bush administration. I agree with their perception that Senator Lugar has been less than enthusiastic about Bolton. The question remains: Why?

Townsel Accuses Bolton of Harrassment in Moscow

Bolton's situation is looking a little bit like Clarence Thomas', according to today's interview with Melody Townsel in USATODAY:

Townsel says she is a 'vocal, outspoken Democrat,' the mother of a 5-year-old daughter and a member of Mothers Opposing Bush, a national group that opposed President Bush's re-election. Townsel says she was not active in politics prior to the election and spent more than a decade working overseas, from 1987 to 1999. She said she sent the letter to the committee on April 8 'at the urging of friends.'

She alleged that Bolton harassed her in 1994 when she was working as a contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on an advertising campaign supporting privatization in Kyrgyzstan, then a newly independent former Soviet republic.

Townsel had written a letter to USAID complaining about a lack of funds and personnel from the main contractor, International Business and Technical Consulting Inc. (IBTCI). Bolton, then a private attorney for the company, was sent to make her retract her complaint, she said.

'The fact that I didn't immediately do what he wanted me to do put a real burr in his saddle,' Townsel said. 'He threw a folder across the desk at me' during their first meeting, at the Aerostar hotel in Moscow. In a subsequent meeting, 'he threw a plastic tape dispenser at me.'

When Townsel would not withdraw her complaint, she says, Bolton spread rumors that she had stolen money and also referred disparagingly to her weight and hinted that she was a lesbian. 'When he didn't get his way, he was going to smear me,' she said.

In a letter to the committee, IBTCI President Jayant Kalotra denied that Bolton had been asked to contact Townsel. 'It is difficult to understand how Ms. Townsel could make such accusations with any veracity,' he wrote. Kalotra provided a copy of the letter to USA TODAY.

Kirby Jones, a Washington consultant, said Townsel told him of Bolton's behavior at the time. Jones, who was then executive vice president of the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, hired Townsel in late 1994 to work on projects in the former Soviet Union. Townsel told him that Bolton had accused her of stealing money. Bolton's employers, Jones said, 'were upset that she had reported them to (USAID), which was quite appropriate and proper to do. IBTCI and Bolton went after her in a vicious way.' Jones added that Townsel 'was terrific and did great work' for him.

I hope that the Senate has full hearings into this matter and that the USAID files are opened up for all to see, especially so we can figure out how Kyrgyzstan's democratic transition got messed up by USAID and its contractors (whatever happened here, it looks like something nasty might have been covered up, and not necessarily by John Bolton). Last month's Bishkek riots may have had their roots in Bolton's hotel confrontation...

You Can Say That Again...

Secretary of State Rice tried to answer listener phone calls in Russian on Echo Moscow, but soon got into trouble, as many Americans do. Luckily,The Moscow Times reports, she warned her hosts: "'You understand it will be very difficult because I am out of practice, and in your language there are these awful cases!' she continued. 'It's very difficult for us, and it is very difficult to talk without making mistakes.'"

Reaction to Russia's New Cossacks

On the letters page of The Moscow Times, Nikolai Butkevich writes: "I fully realize that most Cossacks are normal people who want to reconnect to their pre-Soviet traditions; in some ways they are the equivalent to Civil War re-enactors in the U.S. However, there is a definite lunatic fringe within the movement defined by extreme racist and anti-Semitic views and a propensity to solving problems through the use of force. The passage of this law, I fear, will only inspire more interethnic violence."

Roger L. Simon on the UN Scandal

Roger L. Simon writes:

Well, I am sorry Mr. Goldstone but I am actually amazed you would put your name publicly to such nonsense (next time I would advise speaking, as did your female cohort from the committee, on 'condition of anonymity' or some such). Why am I so sure this is nonsense? Because I have known personally about Parton's disaffection from the committee for over a month - that is long before the committee made its interim report and therefore long before Parton, Duncan or anyone else had 'completed their work.' Indeed, I had learned some time ago that somewhere around or about March 11 Parton had already tried to resign, but then was presumably persuaded to stay on or talked out of it by other members of the committee. What promises were made to him at that time about the 'thoroughness' of the investigation I do not know, but I strongly suspect they were trashed within weeks or even days after having been made.

And I would be willing to testify about what I do know under oath. How about you, Mr. Goldstone? Oh, I'm sorry again., You were only testifying as to your 'understanding.' You're safe behind your weasel words. Smear Parton and Duncan. Smear Mouselli. Smear anybody you want to defend kleptocracy at the United Nations. Just don't expect the rest of us to believe you. Or believe your committee's final report. We would be idiots.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Rice on Echo Moscow Radio

The transcript of her interview is online at MOSNEWS.COM. Here's an interesting question and answer about American support for democratic revolutions in the former USSR:
ECHO MOSKVY: What is better, the export of democracy, or the export of socialist revolutions? You probably know that at the beginning of the last century there was a concept of exporting revolutions from the USSR. Now is the United States exporting democracy?

RICE: No, there are very serious differences, historical differences, and from the practical point of view there is no necessity to export democracy. The people themselves feel that they want to have those freedoms that you get from democratic development. If you ask people whether they want to be able to say what they want to say, whether they want to practice whatever religion they chose, whether they want the freedom to educate their children, girls and boys, whether they want to be free from that knock on the door from the secret police, the people will say, yes, of course we want this. And that is why there is no need to export democracy or to implement democracy from above. People must be given the opportunity to freely express their wishes. And they will choose democracy, and so here I think the old terminology about exporting democracy has gotten old.

ECHO MOSKVY:Then what is the role that the U.S. plays in the processes we witness now on the former Soviet territories, I mean the so-called velvet revolutions in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine? Did the U.S. play any role there? What was it?

RICE: The U.S. role only involved us saying that people have a right to control their future, that democracy should develop worldwide and that the U.S. and the EU supported civil society and NGO’s in those places. But the people of these countries took steps towards freedom deliberately, this is important, and I hope the Russian people will see that the U.S. does not want to restrict Russian influence in these countries. We actually see the situation not as a game where someone loses and someone wins, but as a game where everybody can win, when flourishing and economically developed countries evolve around Russia. I think this is a game with no losers.

ECHO MOSKVY:There is an opinion that Ukraine, Georgia and now Azerbaijan, where you are for some reason establishing military bases, have become areas where Russian and U.S. interests collide. The U.S. have arrived where the USSR, Russia, the Russian Empire used to have its interests. This is seen as a challenge.

RICE: I’d like to point out what I see as a difference between a 19th and 21st century view of these regions. We know about your historic, cultural, economic contacts of the Soviet period and earlier that of the Russian Empire. But a modern pattern of interaction is based on mutually beneficial contacts — in trade, economy, politics. There is no reason for Russian influence in these regions to diminish, if it’s based on transparent and beneficial contacts. What’s more, we do not regard ourselves as a country that wants, as you said, to take Russia’s place. We are not trying to overtake a zone of Russian influence, what we want is a free economic and trade development zone. Both the U.S. and Russia should maintain good relationships with these countries. And considering the geographical factor, Russia is bound to maintain a very close relationship with them.

Ann Coulter's Family Album

You can't read the article without paying Time, but a slide show of Ann Coulter's family album is available to the public at TIME: Right From the Start Photo Essay. It's pretty interesting to look at family photos from New Canaan, Connecticut as well as high school and college portraits. It shows that Ann is really a nice girl--but she is too thin, and now it's time for her to settle down, get married and raise some kids (look at the expression her eyes in the snapshot of Ann with her mother Nell).

More on Putin's New Cossacks

...correcting an earlier post here, from The Russian Dilettante's Weblog:
Not only did Bolsheviks abolish the Cossack estate, which was natural as the old, antiquated estate system had to be put to rest. They literally abolished -- killed that is -- a large number of Cossacks (with help from the poorer Red Cossacks); many others were resettled. This policy was known as 'De-Cossackization' (raskazachivanie); it peaked during the Civil War and the Collectivization.

'Cossacks' once described communities of those who had moved out or escaped from Muscovy and Poland-Lithuania to live a life of robbing and farming in the huge steppe area in-between the sedentary agricultural Ruthenia and its various neighbors, including the unpleasant steppe nomads. Russians slowly but surely colonized the steppe and closed in on their troublesome neighbors in the South and the South-East, leaving less space for the Cossacks' highwaymanship. The Russian Cossacks then stroke a bargain with Moscow, promising to perform military service, as frontier guards in particular, in return for a degree of self-government. Turns out I have written about them before. But keeping in mind the Civil War of 1918--1922 and the Collectivization, I doubt if many of the inhabitants of Russia's traditionally Cossack areas are descended from pre-1917 Cossacks. Are we going to see a new Cossack estate emerge when Russian rebels and misfits stream down south and all the way to the Far East, Russian borders in need of protection more than ever since 1700?
In any case, I still think Putin's New Cossacks might present a p.r. problem for a country that is supposed to be moving forward into the modern, democratic, era. Sounds like a throwback to the days of the Tsar...

Power Line on the Bolton Controversy

Thanks to Roger L. Simon's interesting discussion of the Bolton affair, where he compares the pathetic charges against Bolton--getting big play in major media--with serious charges against the UN--being downplayed in major media--I clicked on Powerline's analysis, called Senate Slanderfest to Continue.

Yes, it is like Clarence Thomas, and yes, for Bolton to be confirmed the Republicans will need to stop trying to rush the nomination through and instead make time their ally. Each charge certainly can be fully discussed--and each witness against Bolton fully discredited. What I've seen so far is only lukewarm support from Republicans on the committee, while Democrats have been in attack-dog mode. The Republicans employ a disgruntled former staffer for Bolton on the Senate Foreign Relations committee--which may indicate something. Lugar simply has been offering weak support, not strong support. Why? We don't know. He may have some problems with Bolton himself.

The point is, Bolton may or may not be a jerk, but many effective trial lawyers are jerks, and if they are good in the courtroom, nobody cares if they scream at people or throw things.

BTW, Bill Clinton and Hilary are both notoriously difficult to work for. Henry Kissinger was a notorious "serial abuser" of his employees (to use lobbyist Carl Ford's term). Dick Armitage himself has a reputation for being high-strung.

Perhaps the Senate Foreign Relations Committee might take a look at the entire corporate culture at the State Department--and read all the grievance reports filed in the last year into the Congressional testimony, to put the charges in Bolton's office into some perspective.

Finally, I hope we hear the whole story about the USAID grant dispute which got Bolton into the Kyrygyzstan fray. How does it come about that a "Republican" political consulting firm like Black, Manafort hires the head of the Dallas chapter of "Mothers Against Bush" on a project? Let's open up the USAID grant process in democracy-building (obviously a failure in Kyrygzstan, given recent events) to public scrutiny--in the interests of transparency and good government. It might prove embarrassing to the Republicans who got the USAID contracts in question, but such a fresh look might prove useful in fixing some of the very serious problems the US is facing with public diplomacy around the world.

We're in a Global War Against Terror, aren't we?

Jewish Leaders Untroubled by Pope Benedict XVIth's Nazi Past

According to Haaretz : "[Rabbi David] Rosen believes that Ratzinger's German background has shaped his attitude toward Israel and the Jews. "It is a significant factor in his understanding of the evil and danger of anti-Semitism," he says. "It is certainly a factor in his positive commitment to Catholic-Jewish relations. He is conscious of the burden of history."

[World Jewish Congress chairmain Israel] Singer, who is also chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), dismisses fears that have been expressed in some quarters - in Israel and in the Jewish world - over Ratzinger's membership, as a boy, in the Hitler Youth. 'At that time, every child was forced to be a member of the Hitler Youth,' says Singer, who recently met Ratzinger at the funeral for Pope John Paul II."

Rice to Keep an Eye on Khodorkovsky

Reuters reports on the Putin-Rice meeting: "Rice, on her first visit to Moscow as Washington's top diplomat, also said the United States would be watching the outcome of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky's trial 'to see what (it) says about the rule of law in Russia'. A Moscow court is to hand down a verdict in Khodorkovsky's fraud trial on April 27."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Kyrgyzstan Story Delays Bolton Confirmation

Democrats on the committee said they were continuing to receive fresh allegations of Bolton behavior that was imperious or worse.

Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the panel, read from what he said was a letter from a U.S. Agency for International Development worker in Kyrgyzstan who alleged Bolton harassed her - not sexually - while he was in private practice representing a company.

'She's prepared to provide an affidavit. The letter she sent in, and I'm going to just take a second here, it says, `When I was dispatching a letter to AID, my hell began. Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel, throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door, and genuinely behaving like a madman. I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton then routinely visited me to pound on the door and shout threats.''

The committee's delay was a surprise, coming after the White House expressed fresh support for Bolton and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid all but conceded the nomination would be cleared for a floor vote.

Handicapping Bolton's chances of confirmation in advance, Reid said it was possible Democrats would try to block it if Republicans pushed ahead with their plans.
The committee's decision left the timetable unclear, but a two-week delay seemed to be the minimum that could be expected.

Well, let's get this out in the open and have some hearings of the "He said, she said," kind--Kyrgyzstan in the news again. From the letter, I'd say it doesn't really look like Bolton did anything terribly bad--but who knows? The hearings might be the "Tulip Revolution" meets "Anita Hill." I hope that at the hearing we'll find out exactly what the alleged crime Bolton's accuser allegedly might have gone to prison for, relating to USAID contracts, really was...

We might remember that Clarence Thomas was confirmed after far more embarrassing charges had been levelled.

New Pope's Books Now Bestsellers

Book sales soar for new pope reads the headline in the San Diego Union. You can click on the link for some of his titles...

10 Years After Oklahoma City

A decade later, the bombing of the Oklahoma CIty Federal Building seems a trial-run for the terrorist attacks that were to strike New York and Washington a few years later. At the time, those who sought to connect Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols's actions to Middle Eastern terrorists were dismissed as fantasists--although one of these individuals was one of McVeigh's lawyers. (Here's the preface from Stephen Jones' book, OTHERS UNKNOWN: TIMOTHY MCVEIGH AND THE OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING CONSPIRACY.)

Over time, eyewitnesses to "John Doe Number 2" were discredited, links between Elohim City and Arab terrorism were ignored, and President Clinton went so far, at the time, to blame talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh for a "climate of hate" that motivated McVeigh and Terry Nichols--even though McVeigh declared the proximate cause of his attack was Clinton's own seige of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, as well as his sympathy for Iraqi victims of American bombing during the Gulf War.

One thing is perfectly clear, as President Richard M. Nixon used to say: Timothy McVeigh did not become a terrorist because of a lack of democracy in the United States. Those who argue that Bush's democracy revolution will stop terrorism might ask themselves--why didn't American democracy stop McVeigh and Nichols?

They could have written letters to their congressmen. Instead, they blew up innocent men, women, and children. That's why the events of April 19, 1995 might be seen as a dress rehearsal for the dreadful terror attacks of September 11, 2001...

Who Was Pope Benedict XV?

Why did the new Pope choose the name Benedict? Perhaps because he wanted to link himself with this predecessor. You can find some information about Pople Benedict XV, who led the Vatican during WWI, at this website. As a German, from Bavaria, Ratzinger is no doubt well-aware of the after-effects of the collapse of the Habsburg Empire due to the Great War...

Victor Davis Hanson on the Papacy

From VDH's Private Papers::A Pope for All Seasons: "A strong pope--as in the case of John Paul II, who boldly opposed Soviet totalitarianism--can provide a bulwark for an agnostic European culture at large increasingly adrift. A caretaker pontiff will only worsen the continent's disturbing lack of confidence in its own origins and once hallowed values.Apart from his political skills, language fluency and vitality, the pope was a man of letters who still believed in what he could not prove by physical evidence. Thus he reminded all of us that reason and faith are not incompatible but are symbiotic and were always at the heart of our very culture. So John Paul II was a powerful reminder that intellectuals can pray, while churchgoers should cultivate the mind. And at this late age, at this troubled time, he was thus a rare gift out of the long past to a now increasingly uncertain West.

"Atque in perpetuum, pater, ave atque vale."

Rice in Russia

According to this story by Peter Lavelle, Rice will be conciliatory towards Russia during her visit to Moscow this week. That's bad news for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Americanizing businessman who faces 10 more years in jail -- unless Bush pressures Putin to release him.

Lavelle says Rice is a "dove" when it comes to Russia, while Bush is a "hawk." On the other hand, he says Bush will defer to Rice's experience when it comes to Russian policy.

Based on my Moscow experience, it sounds like a fair description of what's going on. Though, according to, Rice has already raised issues of press freedom and democracy:
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed concern over press freedom in Russia.

En route to Moscow for negotiations with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, she said the Kremlin’s tightening grip on power and Russia’s pliant media are “very worrying,” Reuters reported.

“Trends have not been positive on the democratic side,” Rice told reporters. “The centralization of state power in the presidency at the expense of countervailing institutions like the Duma (parliament lower house) or an independent judiciary is clearly very worrying. The absence of an independent media on the electronic side is clearly very worrying.”

Earlier, Reporters Without Borders asked Rice to raise the question of press freedom in Russia during her negotiations. In an open letter to Rice, the organization noted serious threats to press freedom in Russia. Journalists in Russia are being subjected to a rising spiral of violence with many suffering brutal attacks, the letter said.

So maybe she'll remember to say something about letting Khodorkovsky go... My real hope for improved relations depends on whether the Russians manage to persuade the Secretary of State to play some Tchaikovsky piano concerti for Putin.

Bad News on Afghan Radio

Also in The Moscow Times, this Reuters report: "KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan's Taliban guerrillas launched a clandestine radio station on Monday, broadcasting anti-government commentaries and Islamic hymns from a mobile transmitter. Called 'Shariat Shagh,' or Voice of Shariat, after the station the Taliban ran while in power, the broadcast can be heard in five southern provinces, including the former regime's old power base of Kandahar. 'We launched the broadcast today through a mobile facility,' said Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi, speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location."

Personal Diplomacy in St. Petersburg

The Moscow Times reports that the American Consul in St. Petersburg has donated his collection of African art to a Russian museum,
...saying that he wanted to give treasures from his days in Cameroon and Burundi to a city where he had experienced his happiest professional moments.

U.S. Consul General Morris Hughes, 59, who is set to retire and leave his post Tuesday, delivered his African collection to the city's Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, or Kunstkamera. 'These things are a part of my life in diplomacy,' he said at a ceremony marking the donation. 'And I'm glad that this part of my home will belong to the museum.'

Hughes gave the museum about 50 objects of everyday African life, such as a drum, a vessel for beer and a mask. He said he had collected the objects during his six years of diplomatic service in Cameroon and Burundi.

Michael Rubin on Iraq

Writing in Middle East Forum, Michael Rubin says the US Government is turning the Iraqi government--and people--against us; continuing to occupy Saddam Hussein's palaces, taking sides in local political disputes, as well as turning a blind eye to stealing by Allawi's cronies...

Monday, April 18, 2005

Putin's Challenge for Russia

Leon Aron analyzes the Russian leader's strategy for his nation:
Whatever else history's verdict on the Putin presidency may be, his regime has proved an important diagnostic tool for uncovering, or confirming, several systemic illnesses of Russia's body politic--as well as its healthy segments capable of withstanding the centripetal pressures.

Some of the institutional deficiencies and vulnerabilities that provided targets of opportunity for the authoritarian project stem from constitutional ambiguities and incomplete or absent laws, including those governing elections to both chambers of the federal assembly and regional governorships. In other cases, such as the post-Soviet legal system, the laws are explicit and adequate, yet they are ignored and subverted because of society's indifference or the absence of effective mechanisms of societal control over implementation.

At the same, although often weakened, restricted, and subverted by the authorities, a number of institutions bequeathed by the 1991 revolution have proved resilient. They include relative freedom of speech, press, and demonstrations, and a general tolerance of opposition and dissent--all of which have proved indispensable in the last sixteen months for the victorious pro-democracy mobilizations in the proto-authoritarian societies of Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. In Russia's case, these liberties are rooted in the 1993 constitution, which, although in obvious need of clarifying amendments, is nevertheless far from outliving its usefulness.

In the end, an institutional analysis of Russian politics reveals a contradictory system engaged in a dangerous balancing act. Such incoherence cannot be sustained for long. Either the regime must evolve toward full-blown 'classic' authoritarianism that succeeds in dismantling all the key democratic structures--or there will be a reaffirmation and renewal of the revolutionary legacy of the division of powers, freedom of all media, judicial independence, and the separation of power and property.

Will Bolton's Kyrgyzstan Past Bring Him Down?

A former USAID worker, Melody Townsel, knows Bolton from Kyrygyzstan--and doesn't like him, either. Here's her letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as found on the Daily Kos.:
I'm writing to urge you to consider blocking in committee the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the UN.

In the late summer of 1994, I worked as the subcontracted leader of a US AID project in Kyrgyzstan officially awarded to a HUB primary contractor. My own employer was Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly, and I reported directly to Republican leader Charlie Black.

After months of incompetence, poor contract performance, inadequate in-country funding, and a general lack of interest or support in our work from the prime contractor, I was forced to make US AID officials aware of the prime contractor's poor performance.

I flew from Kyrgyzstan to Moscow to meet with other Black Manafort employees who were leading or subcontracted to other US AID projects. While there, I met with US AID officials and expressed my concerns about the project -- chief among them, the prime contractor's inability to keep enough cash in country to allow us to pay bills, which directly resulted in armed threats by Kyrgyz contractors to me and my staff.

Within hours of sending a letter to US AID officials outlining my concerns, I met John Bolton, whom the prime contractor hired as legal counsel to represent them to US AID. And, so, within hours of dispatching that letter, my hell began.

Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel -- throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction from my company and from US AID, John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats.

When US AID asked me to return to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in advance of assuming leadership of a project in Kazakstan, I returned to my project to find that John Bolton had proceeded me by two days. Why? To meet with every other AID team leader as well as US foreign-service officials in Bishkek, claiming that I was under investigation for misuse of funds and likely was facing jail time. As US AID can confirm, nothing was further from the truth.

He indicated to key employees of or contractors to State that, based on his discussions with investigatory officials, I was headed for federal prison and, if they refused to cooperate with either him or the prime contractor's replacement team leader, they, too, would find themselves the subjects of federal investigation. As a further aside, he made unconscionable comments about my weight, my wardrobe and, with a couple of team leaders, my sexuality, hinting that I was a lesbian (for the record, I'm not).

When I resurfaced in Kyrgyzstan, I learned that he had done such a convincing job of smearing me that it took me weeks -- with the direct intervention of US AID officials -- to limit the damage. In fact, it was only US AID's appoinment of me as a project leader in Almaty, Kazakstan that largely put paid to the rumors Mr. Bolton maliciously circulated.

As a maligned whistleblower, I've learned firsthand the lengths Mr. Bolton will go to accomplish any goal he sets for himself. Truth flew out the window. Decency flew out the window. In his bid to smear me and promote the interests of his client, he went straight for the low road and stayed there.

John Bolton put me through hell -- and he did everything he could to intimidate, malign and threaten not just me, but anybody unwilling to go along with his version of events. His behavior back in 1994 wasn't just unforgivable, it was pathological.

I cannot believe that this is a man being seriously considered for any diplomatic position, let alone such a critical posting to the UN. Others you may call before your committee will be able to speak better to his stated dislike for and objection to stated UN goals. I write you to speak about the very character of the man.

It took me years to get over Mr. Bolton's actions in that Moscow hotel in 1994, his intensely personal attacks and his shocking attempts to malign my character.

I urge you from the bottom of my heart to use your ability to block Mr. Bolton's nomination in committee.

Respectfully yours,

Melody Townsel
Dallas, TX 75208

The atmosphere of the USAID project sounds right, but it's not clear who's to blame, either. Apparently, from her own account, Townsel got another job in Kazakhstan, in a "leadership position," so her career doesn't seem to have suffered from the confrontation. But still, any time Central Asia is in the news, it's interesting. I wonder why Bolton reportedly said Townsel was headed to prison and then nothing happened? From this and other stories it is beginning to look like Bolton's bark may be worse than his bite...

Who is Bolton's accuser? I googled "Melody Townsel" and came up with this from KERA, the PBS station in Dallas: "Melody Townsel is a single mother of a four-year-old girl, and an entrepreneur who runs Townsel Communications, an independent communications consulting firm. Townsel is a native Texan who has lived and worked as a journalist and a public relations executive in 22 countries." (Why does there always seem to be a PBS connections?)

Here's The NY Times account of Towel's charges:
Ms. Townsel, identified as active in a group opposed to President Bush, was interviewed by the committee last week, but it was not clear how much the committee would try to make of her charges. Responding to her accusation, Edwin Hullander, who was executive vice president of International Business and Technical Consultants Inc., the firm that employed Mr. Bolton as counsel, said he had not heard of any such incident happening until Ms. Townsel's recent accusation. He said he had checked with two people who were there at the time who were also unaware of it, and who said they believed they would have heard about a confrontation if it had occurred.

And here's The New York Sun version :
The latest accusations of abuse aimed at the president's nominee to be America's ambassador to the United Nations come from a self-described "liberal Democrat" who in 2004 helped organize the Dallas chapter of "Mothers Opposing Bush."

BTW, take a look at this long list of IBTCI's current projects around the world. It still seems to be a big USAID contractor.

New Plays from Ancient Greece

The Independent reports that Oxford scientists using infra-red technology have opened up the "Oxyrhynchus Papyri," a collection of ancient Greek plays, previously unreadable. They've already translated four scripts, and more are in the pipeline. Authors include Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod, Lucian, Archilochos.

Some serious competition for Tony Kushner and his kind, just in time, IMHO. The Independent wonders if this discovery might lead to "a second renaissance." More here and here. (Thanks to for the tip)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Mark Steyn on John Bolton's "Disloyalty to His Subordinates"

In The Chicago Sun-Times: "If the Senate poseurs and the media wanted to mount a trenchant critique of Bolton's geopolitical philosophy, that would be reasonable enough. But there's not even a pretense of any of that. Instead, his opponents have seized on one episode -- an intelligence analyst in a critical position with whom Bolton and others were dissatisfied -- and used it to advance the bizarre proposition that every junior official should be beyond reproach, and certainly beyond such aggressive ''body language'' as putting one's hands on hips. Or as Peter Beinart, editor of the New Republic, complained to the BBC the other night: Bolton was ''disloyal to his subordinates.''
It's been obvious for three years now that the torpid federal bureaucracies -- the agencies that so comprehensively failed America on 9/11 -- are resistant to meaningful reform, but Beinart, in demanding that the executive branch swear fealty to the most incompetent underling, distills the ''reform'' charade to its essence: We'll talk reform, we'll pass reform bills, we'll merge and de-merge and re-merge every so often, we'll change three-letter acronyms (INS) to four-letter acronyms (BCIS) just to show how serious we are, and a year or four down the line we may well get real tough and require five-letter acronyms.
But in the end we believe underperforming bureaucrats in key roles should be allowed to go on underperforming until retirement age. And, if you happen to show you're just the teensy-weensiest bit upset with one of them, we'll blow it up into a month of hearings on TV." (Thanks to Roger L. Simon for the link...)

Safe Driving Tip: Buy a Silver Car

The New Scientist reports that studies show silver cars are twice as safe as the average automobile, while black, brown or green vehicles have twice the number of accidents.

Was Heritage Foundation Chief on the Take?

In fallout from the Tom DeLay investigation, Tom Edsall, in today's Washington Post reports that payments to a Hong Kong based consulting firm co-founded by Ed Feulner, Heritage's president, led to a change in thinking about Malaysia at the Washington think-tank. The story appears to be based on documents from the Jack Abramoff Indian tribes investigation:

For years, the Heritage Foundation sharply criticized the autocratic rule of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, denouncing his anti-Semitism, his jailing of political opponents and his 'anti-free market currency controls.'

Then, late in the summer of 2001, the conservative nonprofit Washington think tank began to change its assessment: Heritage financed an Aug. 30-Sept. 4, 2001, trip to Malaysia for three House members and their spouses. Heritage put on briefings for the congressional delegation titled 'Malaysia: Standing Up for Democracy' and 'U.S. and Malaysia: Ways to Cooperate in Order to Influence Peace and Stability in Southeast Asia.'

Is think-tank work funding-driven across the political spectrum? You betcha. On the other hand, this story is interesting because it implies personal business ventures affected policy priorities for a non-profit.

Agustin Blazquez on Senator Dodd's Cuban Connections

by Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

"Senator Dodd is not concerned about the hardship of the Cuban people, he is just interested in business." This quote does not come from the Cuban American exiles but from the Human Rights Lawton Foundation in Havana last May 11, 1999, after Christopher Dodd's visit to the communist ruled island.

In a document replying to Senator Dodd‚s recommendations for the lifting of the US embargo signed by Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Migdalia Rosado Hernandez and Rolando Muñoz Yyobre addressed to the people of the US --but not reported in the US media -- the directors of the human rights foundation expressed their consternation about Dodd's statements.

The document says "the lifting of the embargo has to be conditioned to respect the human rights of the Cuban people, the freedom of all political prisoners, a multi-party system and free elections, because these principles must take precedence over business."

What the Lawton Foundation expresses is the overwhelming desire of all pro-democracy organizations inside Cuba and the majority of the Cubans, as well as the exiles not only in the US but in other countries.

While opinions differ as to the means to achieve the goal, it is unquestionable that the vast majority of Cubans are united in their democratic desires. After all, four decades ago Castro stole what many believed to be a renaissance of democracy in Cuba.

Cubans in general --based on their first hand experience--are better informed about the Cuban reality and can make a better assessment than a foreigner who, quite naturally, is not as well acquainted with the history and the mechanisms at work within Castro's Cuba. The opinion of the ordinary Cubans should be the primary consideration before adding mistakes to the many already made by the US during this 40-year example of the failure of communism.

According to the Lawton Foundation and the judgement of better-informed Cuban sources, Senator Dodd twisted the Cuban reality to favor US businessmen who are willing to exploit the cheap semi-slave labor that Castro is offering in order to enrich themselves. They stated that Dodd's intention as well as the ones of other US politicians recalls those of the "Nazi-communist pact signed by Ribbentrop and Molotov."

Dodd said that the lifting of the US embargo would be "good business" for Americans. But the human rights foundation says, "Christopher Dodd and his followers are showing their disdain for the principles of freedom. The communist system is the origin and cause of the dire situation of the Cubans."

Echoing what others on the island have been saying for years, the Lawton Foundation states, "the humanitarian aid donated to relieve the Cuban people is being sold at the stores and pharmacies for US dollars only," to benefit Castro‚s regime.

"The Cuban people are hostages of the Castro-communist dictatorship," and they urge the "support and solidarity of the American people and the international community." The document points out that "Castro voted in favor of the embargo against the government of South Africa," and question, "Why lift the US embargo of Castro while in Cuba there reigns an ethnic, political, economic, social and informational apartheid?"

The Lawton Foundation document was not newsworthy to the US media, and was obviously ignored by Dodd and his followers who treat Cubans as a nuisance to be dismissed.

Senator Dodd - who later claimed he only was responsible for the reservation of the room - was involved in the reception to honor Maria de Ia Luz B‚Hamel, the Director of Trade Policy for North America from Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Trade and Igor Montero Britto, the Vice President and Chief Commodity Buyer for ALIMPORT, both agencies of Castro's regime. This "people-to-people" contact with Castro's cronies was shamefully held on July 21, 1999, at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill and was sponsored by the anti-US embargo Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy, the American Farm Bureau Federation and several grain commodity groups.

This inflammatory action by Senator Dodd and the American farmers prompted protests from Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Bob Menendez, the three Cuban American members of the House of Representatives and a demonstration championed by Cuban Americans in front of the Dirksen Senate Office Building held on July 21, 1999.

The peaceful demonstration was organized by Israel Moya of and the Mothers & Women Against Repression for Cuba (M.A.R.) based in Miami. A delegation of women dressed in black for the event flew from Miami, headed by its president, Sylvia G. Iriondo. Also present were members of the Alliance of Young Cubans.

What is phony about the rush to establish business arrangements with Castro‚s regime at the end of the Clinton Administration is that the ordinary Cubans are left out. This is not free enterprise. Ordinary citizens are forbidden to participate in business ventures with foreigners.

The supposedly non-governmental companies in Cuba that are authorized to make business are front companies owned and operated by Castro's regime and his cronies from the army and security forces. in charge of repressing the people. Therefore, all business that Dodd and his followers want to do in Cuba directly benefits Castro's regime helping him to stay in power against the will of the people. In fact, they would be supporting a tyranny. Ordinary Cuban citizens stand to gain more repression from these business deals. Nothing more.

Anybody who really knows the mechanisms at work in Castro's Cuba knows that fact. But Dodd and his followers apparently are playing with the ignorance of the misinformed American people. And who is responsible for this ignorance? The US media, who for decades has been avoiding to expose the reality of Castro's regime. Cubans and their suffering seem to be inconsequential to many.

Rolando Muñoz Yyobre, one of the signatories of the Havana-based Human Rights Lawton Foundation‚s document says, "The embargo is not against people, but against the government." Also Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet added that, "the embargo is one of the arms of non-violent civic resistance" against Castro's tyranny.

On June 7, 1999, Dr. Biscet and five others began a 40-day hunger strike "one for each year of tyranny" at Migdalia Rosado Hernandez‚ humble apartment at Tamarindo 34 in Havana asking for the respect of human rights and the liberation of all political prisoners in Cuba. Hundreds of people throughout Cuba and abroad joined in that effort.

Unfortunately, silence was the rule of the US media and Cubans once more were deprived of the solidarity that would have helped to make a difference. Also, the publicity would have served to alert Dodd and his followers that business with Castro‚s Cuba would not be morally acceptable. Those politicians and businessmen who play in the uncharted muddy waters with the tyrant, eventually will pay a price.

© 2005 ABIP Agustin Blazquez is producer/director of the documentaries COVERING CUBA, CUBA: The Pearl of the Antilles, COVERING CUBA 2: The Next Generation & COVERING CUBA 3: Elian presented at the 2003 Miami Latin Film Festival and the 2004 American Film Renaissance Film Festival in Dallas, Texas and the upcoming COVERING CUBA 4: The Rats Below and Dan Rather--60 Minutes:an inside view.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

A Sign of Hope in Northern Virginia

A Surprise Russian Landing in Manassas (
As science star Ricky Yezzi took the stage in the Osbourne Park High School auditorium yesterday morning, 400 of his schoolmates cheered and whistled as if he had just come home victorious from a big game. The shaggy-haired 18-year-old quelled the noise long enough to introduce his two new acquaintances: one of Russia's premier cosmonauts and a top Russian space scientist.

For the next 90 minutes, Yury Usachev and Alexander Martynov talked about the U.S.-Russian partnership on the international space station, a possible manned mission to Mars and the physics of doing somersaults in space. The rare in-school field trip was made possible by Yezzi.

The Man Who Brought Down President Nixon

Justice really is blind. The man who brought down President Richard M. Nixon was William Reckert, a blind federal transcriber who discoverd the 18 1/2 minute gap in the Watergate tapes that led to Nixon's impeachment. Here's Reckert's obituary from today's Washington Post.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Another Pathetic Attack on John Bolton

Today The Washington Post actually made fun of his haircut and glasses. No, they're not Daniel Ortega's Ray-Bans...

Britain's Music Manifesto

In my Russian class last night, the instructor talked about how important music is to Russian culture and education--and how backwards the West can seem in comparison. Then he noted that Tony Blair is a convert to this view, and announced a movement to bring music education to the center of British education. I googled the reference, and found there's actually a whole movement in the UK, centered around this Music Manifesto.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

William Kristol on "Pathetic" Attacks on John Bolton

Kristol says he's not even a "screamer." From The Weekly Standard:

THE ASSAULT ON JOHN BOLTON--a collaborative effort of Senate Democrats, the liberal media, and some quasi-Republicans resentful of his success--has now degenerated from an earnest (if misguided) critique of his views to a pathetic attempt at character assassination.

I worked with John Bolton in the first Bush administration. I know many people who have worked with him and for him in this administration. Carl Ford's characterization of Bolton as a 'kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy' is disingenuous. No, let's call a spade a spade--it's dishonest.

John Bolton is no 'kiss-up.' Quite the contrary. Over the last four years, he was famously willing to challenge his bosses, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary Richard Armitage, at the daily 8:30 State Department senior staff meeting. He paid a price for this, especially by earning the enmity of Armitage. Carl Ford, the former State Department intelligence chief, was a close associate of Armitage.

Nor is Bolton a 'kick down sort of guy.' In fact, Bolton has always had a reputation as a straight shooter, a good boss, and not a screamer--unlike, say, Armitage. (Not that Armitage's screaming should disqualify him from a future appointment, either. Lots of able public officials have been screamers.) The fact is, John Bolton lost trust in a subordinate of Ford who had tried an end run around him and then asked, according to the subordinate's immediate boss in the intelligence shop, only that he be "moved to some other portfolio."