Day By Day

Thursday, March 31, 2005


Martin Peretz over at the New Republic has a MUST READ article on Bush's role in history and theDemocratic response to his accomplishments. Some excerpts:
If George W. Bush were to discover a cure for cancer, his critics would denounce him for having done it unilaterally, without adequate consultation, with a crude disregard for the sensibilities of others. He pursued his goal obstinately, they would say, without filtering his thoughts through the medical research establishment. And he didn't share his research with competing labs and thus caused resentment among other scientists who didn't have the resources or the bold--perhaps even somewhat reckless--instincts to pursue the task as he did. And he completely ignored the World Health Organization, showing his contempt for international institutions. Anyway, a cure for cancer is all fine and nice, but what about aids?

No, the president has not discovered a cure for cancer. But there is a pathology, a historical pathology, that he has attacked with unprecedented vigor and with unprecedented success. I refer, of course, to the political culture of the Middle East, which the president may actually have changed. And he has accomplished this genuinely momentous transformation in ways that virtually the entire foreign affairs clerisy--the cold-blooded Brent Scowcroft realist Republicans and almost all the Democrats--never thought possible. Or, perhaps, in ways some of them thought positively undesirable. Bush, it now seems safe to say, is one of the great surprises in modern U.S. history.... [Most American liberals] are not exactly pleased by the positive results of Bush's campaign in the Middle East. They deny and resent and begrudge and snipe. They are trapped in the politics of churlishness.

The achievements of Bush's foreign policy abroad represent a revolution in the foreign policy culture at home....

What the Bush administration gradually came to realize was that fighting the Muslim terrorist international could not be done in a vacuum. If the Islamic and Arab orbits were to continue to revolve around sanguinary tyrannies, there would be no popular basis in civil society to rob the cult of suicidal murder of its prestige. So, rather than being a distraction from the struggle against the armed rage suffusing these at once taut and eruptive polities, confronting their governments was actually intrinsic to that struggle. The Bush administration recognized that removing the effect means removing the cause....

History has never traveled in the Middle East as fast as it has during the last two years. In this place where time seems to have stopped, time has suddenly accelerated.... Whatever the proper historical and cultural analysis of the past, however, the fact is that democracy did not begin even to breathe until the small coalition of Western nations led by the United States destroyed the most ruthless dictatorship in the area....

The fine fruits of the Bush administration's indifference to international opinion may be seen now in Lebanon, too.... Suddenly, the elections in Iraq, Bush's main achievement there, exhilarating and inspiring, sprung loose the psychological impediments that shackled the Lebanese to Syria....

None of this happened by spontaneous generation. Yes, there were lucky breaks: Yasir Arafat died, Syria conspired somehow to have former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri assassinated. And yes, the new directions are young, and the autocratic-theocratic political culture of the Middle East is old, and it is once again too early to proclaim that the mission has been accomplished.... But the mission is nonetheless real, and far along, and it is showing thrilling accomplishments....

So the situation is certainly complex. But complexity is not a warrant for despair. The significant fact is that Bush's obsession with the democratization of the region is working....

One does not have to admire a lot about George W. Bush to admire what he has so far wrought. One need only be a thoughtful American with an interest in proliferating liberalism around the world. And, if liberals are unwilling to proliferate liberalism, then conservatives will. Rarely has there been a sweeter irony.
There is much more in the article. Read the whole thing here.


Pat Sajak, one of the more intelligent figures in show biz, has a nice take on Peretz' article in Human Events Online. He thinks that the article "could [possibly] lead to a major shift in American political discourse."

Sajak writes:

It seems to me we have been in a rhetorical arms race in this country, with each side unwilling to lay down its weapons for fear -- usually justified -- the other side would beat them to a pulp. The idea of giving credit where credit is due has gone out of fashion.

It’s obviously too soon to announce a new dawn in the world of political debate, but if we can restore even a bit of civility and common sense, we will be better and stronger for it. And we can tip our hats to Martin Peretz.
Read it here.

Not bad for a showbiz guy, eh? If you are interested in more of his writings check out this site.

Zimbabwe -- after the polls close

Reuters: Counting Votes in Zimbabwe -- A final official count is not expected for forty eight hours but local returns should be reported much more quickly. Posted by Hello

Zimbabwe -- Mobilizing the Masses?

Voters went to the polls in Zimbabwe today to choose members of that nation's parliament. There was a widespread presumption that the election has been rigged in favor of President Mugabe's ZANU-PF [Zimbabwe African National Union -- Patriotic Front] Party. Nonetheless some members of the opposition MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] Party were hopeful that they could wrest control from the dictator.

Past elections have been marred by widespread violence and fraud that have allowed Mugabe to remain in power for a quarter of a century despite growing opposition. There was widespread expectation that this election would be no different. There were several reports going into the election of intimidation of voters and poll workers, violence, and even abduction of candidates. Mugabe's declaration a few days ago that his opposition consisted of "traitors" was an ominous sign. Similar declarations had preceded earlier violent episodes. Mugabe's decision to use his police as poll watchers heightened fears of violence and intimidation. So far, though, AP reports the polling has been relatively peaceful.
Under international pressure to produce a credible result, Mugabe's government and party ratcheted down the bloodletting that has plagued previous elections in this southern African country. [here]

The MDC has little hope of winning. Even if they win a majority of the election contests Mugabe will appoint one fifth of the members of parliament, virtually assuring ZANU of a majority. And, in the case of a close and contested election, Mugabe reserves the right to dissolve parliament and to rule by decree. There is also the fact that Mugabe refuses to allow western observers to certify the election, raising the expectation that he will engage in massive fraud. The US has branded Mugabe's tactics "despicable."

Reuters reports:
The United States and European Union have attacked the validity of the election, which follows polls in 2000 and 2002 marred by bloodshed and charges of fraud and voter intimidation. Washington says Mugabe has exploited food shortages for electoral advantage, a frequent charge by opposition supporters but denied by the government.

"Our understanding is that ruling party candidates have given out government owned food to draw voters to rallies. And that is, frankly, a despicable practice,"State Department spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters. [here]

Voting has now concluded and ballot counting has begun. Official results will not be announced for forty-eight hours, however there is little question as to who will be proclaimed the winner -- ZANU.

Now the real contest begins:

Earlier this week Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo called for massive popular demonstrations modeled on those in Ukraine and Lebanon in the case of a ZANU victory. Today New Zimbabwe reports:
Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ...has hinted that it would mobilise widespread street protests should it lose the elections.

"We are not going to court this time -- that proved futile in 2000 and 2002," the MDC's secretary general Welshman Ncube said. "It is clear to us that the answer lies in the mobilisation of the masses."

The party accuses Mugabe's Zanu PF of intimidation and points to the widely condemned voters' roll as evidence that the elections are a fix. The party says it has unearthed evidence that 800 000 names on the voters' roll are of dead people.

Read the article here. The site also has a discussion forum that is tracking the election results here.

Will there be protests? If there are, how will Mugabe respond? This is crunch time for democracy. This is a very dangerous situation. Stay tuned....

I have blogged the runup to the election extensively. Just scroll down.
Publius Pundit is also blogging the elections and has some good commentary here.
Sokwanele is posting regular updates on the election and its aftermath here.

Once again the limits of democratic reform are being tested by people who are demanding the substance rather than just the forms of democracy.


Reuters reports:

Officials and an independent monitoring body said tens of thousands of voters were turned away from polling stations across the country for a variety of reasons.

Foreign critics led by the United States and the European Union dismissed Thursday's parliamentary vote as a sham, echoing opposition charges that Mugabe, 81, has used repressive laws, intimidation and even vital food supplies to engineer victory. "Generally we'd say that the campaigning took place in an atmosphere of intimidation," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in Washington.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the poll was fundamentally unfair, but remained upbeat as voting closed.

"We are happy because our supporters heeded our call to go early to vote ... we also expect a massive rural turnout," the MDC's acting director of elections, Lucia Matibenga, said.

Read it here.

So far, so good. No violence yet. Stay tuned...

Zimbabwe policeman and poll watcher -- how can you not have confidence in this guy? Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Obscurity of Sartre -- All that remains is hate...

Sign and Sight notes:

The fact is that on his 100th birthday, no one in France is interested in Jean-Paul Sartre any more, says Martina Meister. His theatre is dead, his philosophical and literary work is no longer studied at universities. "What remains 100 years later are above all the old animosities. The ideological split seems to have remained intact between those who would rather be wrong with Sartre and those who were right with Raymond Aron, Sartre's bourgeois sociologist adversary who at the time was just as famous as Sartre, but whose 100th birthday went by almost unnoticed. As if the intellectual Cold War were still going on.
Read the whole thing here.

How far we have come in half a century! When I was young Sartre was lionized everywhere. Now he is only remembered by the ideologues of the right [who hate him still] and of the left [who hate the right with eternal and perfect hatred].

When I was sixteen I found his ideas interesting. Now there is only..., nausea.

Amazing Online Images

The Howard Schickler Fine Art Gallery in Brooklyn has some of the best photo images available online. There are galleries of Russian photography [some great historical references here]; the history of golf; space exploration and astronomy; and much more. This is a MUST SEE SITE!!!!!

Check it out here. Go ahead and do it! You'll be glad you did!

For all you cultists out there...

iPod Lounge has issued their Buyers Guide 2005 -- a "free guide to all things iPod".

Check it out here.

Profs Gone Wild -- Iowahawk's Spring Break

Check out Iowahawk as he and Snoop hit the spring break party scene. Warning! May be laugh inducing.

Check it out here.

Islamic Women

I have often noted that one of the beneficial consequences of President Bush's democracy initiative has been a greater emphasis on the plight of women in Islamic societies. Here's a blog that focuses specifically on such issues. It's called "I Could Scream".

Check it out here.

Los Negritos March

A parade of penitents in Seville, Spain -- the name of the organization? Get ready for this..., "Los Negritos" Brotherhood! Go figure! [AFP photo] Posted by Hello

The New York Times Changes Its Spots, Or Does It?

Gregory Djerejian over at Belgravia Dispatch claims to have found a major discrepancy in NYT coverage of the democratic revolution.

After going to extraordinary lengths to deny that the Bush administration deserves credit for the wonderful things going on around the globe, the NYT now points to a US role in promoting democratic change in Kyrgyzstan. Programs to promote society, largely funded by the US, the NYT admits, "played a crucial role in preparing the ground for the popular uprising that swept opposition politicians to power."

Nice catch, Greg, but the NYT really hasn't conceded much. It wraps US contributions into a larger context of western aid:
In addition to the United States, several European countries - Britain, the Netherlands and Norway among them - have helped underwrite programs to develop democracy and civil society in [Kyrgyzstan].
And, it locates the primary source of aid in the "Freedom Support Act, passed by Congress in 1992 to help the former Soviet republics in their economic and democratic transitions."

Dubya, you see, had little to do with it. The program was passed long ago by a Democrat Congress, was implemented for eight crucial years by the Clinton administration, and now is just part of a general western aid package for which Europe deserves much credit. The most that can be claimed for the current administration is that Freedom House helped to disseminate information.

So goes the story at the NYT. No inconsistency there -- just the usual dirty pool. They don't call her the "gray lady" for nothing.

Greg's larger point, though, is certainly valid. He points to a US role in promoting democracy in Georgia, Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine in addition to Kyrgyzstan. In all those places the US deserves some credit for the reform imperatives currently playing out before our eyes.

Read Greg's post here.
Read the NYT article here.

Hopeful Developments in Kyrgyzstan [and Lebanon]

In Kyrgyzstan, like Lebanon, matters seem to be moving toward a peaceful resolution. Just one day after the announcement that Lebanon's pro-Syria prime minister, Omar Karami, was resigning comes news [from Radio Free Europe] that Kyrgyzstan's old Parliament has resigned opening the way for the newly elected Parliament to take over. Additionally, BBC reports that former Kyrgyzstan President, Askar Akayev, has announced that he is prepared to resign if he is given "guarantees" [presumably against prosecution]. It's always risky to get your hopes up but it appears that people power will soon chalk up two more victories to go with those in Georgia and Ukraine.

On Lebanon see my previous post here.
On Kyrgyzstan see here and here.
CBC is reporting:

EU set to approve Wolfowitz as World Bank head
CBC News

BRUSSELS - European ministers gave their endorsement to Paul Wolfowitz as
the next president of the World Bank after he affirmed his commitment to making
the fight against povery his main goal.

Read the whole thing here.

This was never really in doubt. Once Bush made his choice Wolfowitz' appointment was a done deal. Still for the sake of appearances he had to jump through the hoops and give his critics a chance to howl. What still puzzles me is why did Bush wait so long to make the announcement? Supposedly the decision had been made months earlier.

Hopeful Developments in Lebanon


Lebanon's pro-Syrian prime minister said Tuesday he would resign, unable to put together a government, and the head of military intelligence stepped aside in new signs the anti-Syrian opposition was gaining momentum in the country's political turmoil.

Prime Minister Omar Karami's decision comes amid a deadlock over forming the government, which must be completed before parliamentary elections can be held. Elections are scheduled for April and May, and the opposition - which is expected to win them - is eager to see them held on time.

It was unclear whether the resignation would end to the standoff.

It could delay the ballot because it means the process of finding a leader for the government must start again from scratch. But it could also be a signal that the pro-Syrian leadership is ready to bend to opposition demands, which would clear the way for the quick formation of a new cabinet and the organizing of elections.

Read the whole thing here.

Is it another delaying tactic, or is the ice finally breaking? Time will tell.

Stay tuned....


Reuters reports:

By Irwin Arieff
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Syria said for the first time on Tuesday that it would withdraw all its military and intelligence forces from Lebanon before elections due to be held there in May.

Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara made the pledge in a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan dated Tuesday.

The letter said that longtime close cooperation between Syria and Lebanon had enabled Syria to decrease its troop levels to 10,000 from 40,000, "coupled with the full withdrawal of these troops before the forthcoming elections in Lebanon."

I don't want to get my hopes too high -- things could fall apart catastrophically at any time, but this is certainly encouraging.

Read it here.

The New York Times Does Zimbabwe

Here, for what it's worth, is the NYT take on the democratic reform in Zimbabwe. Not much information here. It follows a woman activist around and talks about her involvement. She drew some of her inspiration, it insists, from the American Civil Rights movement of mid-century. It quotes a Stanford University professor who assures us that George Bush had absolutely nothing to do with the spread of democratic reforms. That's it.

Go ahead and read it, if you must, here.

Nip and Tuck -- the early episodes

Cosmetic surgery is nothing new. This is a plate from De curtorem chirurgia per insitionem, by Gaspare Tagliacozzi, published 1597.

Tagliacozzi was an Italian surgeon who pioneered plastic surgery. He was the first to repair noses and ears lost in duels or through syphilis (which was rife in the 16th century). He took flaps of skin from the arm and grafted them into place. The plate show the instruments and methods used.

Tagliacozzi was condemned by the Church for interfering with God's creation; his body was exhumed and reburied in unconsecrated ground.

Image and description from UCL Library Services, Special Collections.
Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Volcanos, Slugs and Comets

Natalie Bennett over at Philobiblon pointed me to this. It's one of her "Net Nuggets." A link to an online exhibition of items from University College London's special collection. Some amazing things here. Check it out here! It's well worth your time.

And if you have an interest in women's history, check out Natalie's blog. Lotsa neat stuff there.


Protesters in Beirut demanding an international investigation into Harari's assassination. Note the "Enough!" -- illustrating a phenomenon recently noted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Kifaya [enough] has become the name of a movement and the buzzword of what
some Western commentators are calling the "Arab Spring" - the rise of democratic
expression around the region. In rallies from tiny Bahrain to Egypt,
demonstrators are shouting kifaya to dictators, kifaya to corruptions, and
kifaya to the silence of Arabs eager for change.

Read the article here.

Hat tip to Ramzi at Lebanese Blogger Forum. And, of course, note the protest babe. Posted by Hello

The Second Dissolution of the Soviet Empire?

The Christian Science Monitor traces the repercussions of the Kyrgyzstan revolt:

BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN – The shock waves from Kyrgyzstan's lightning revolution are spreading around the former Soviet Union - and into the heart of Russia - leading analysts to wonder which regimes might be next to face the peoples' wrath.

Recent days have seen a spate of copycat protests launched by opposition groups that were perhaps hoping their own local authorities might fold and flee under pressure, as did Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev when demonstrators stormed his Bishkek complex last week.

About 1,000 people rallied last Friday in the capital of Belarus, where President Alexander Lukashenko runs the last Soviet-style dictatorship in Europe, to demand his resignation. Police quickly dispersed the crowd and dispatched the ringleaders to prison.

Two Russian ethnic republics, Ingushetia and Bashkortostan, have seen mass street demonstrations this week directed against Kremlin-installed leaders. Even in remote Mongolia, the former USSR's Asian satellite, hundreds of protesters gathered last week to "congratulate our Kyrgyz brothers" and demand a rerun of last June's disputed parliamentary polls.
The spread of the democratic reform initiative is truly breathtaking. But is it really "democratic." The Monitor notes:

Common features of the regimes potentially under siege include systemic corruption, nepotism, and political appointments based on personal fealty rather than professionalism.
The implication is that the real issue is corruption, not democracy. We are going to hear a lot more of this kind of argument, especially from the left, which will not accept as legitimate any democratic movement that is not specifically based in class antagonism.

The article also notes that the protest movements are undermining what remains of Russian authority throughout much of Eurasia.

"Every situation is different, but a single process is unfolding," says Valentin Bogatyrov, a former Akayev adviser and director of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in Bishkek. "Kyrgyzstan is a kind of trigger that will spread this unrest to our neighbors, and beyond. We are witnessing the second breakup of the Soviet Union."
One of my former professors long ago argued, in Soviet Russian Imperialism, that the Soviet state was in many ways a reincarnation of the old Tsarist empire. If this is true we are witnessing the dissolution of the last of the great European empires, a process that began nearly a century ago.

Finally the article notes that:

Ironically, the post-Soviet countries that have so far been rocked by revolution
have been among the most liberal and relatively democratic in an admittedly
tough region.
It has been remarked elsewhere, and rightly so [I don't remember the source], that popular movements are possible only if mechanisms that can legitimate protest are available -- an existing, if weak opposition, a popular charismatic feature, institutions imbued with moral authority, etc. These are not totalitarian states such as flourished in the middle of the twentieth century. They are corrupt thugocracies, similar to what the Soviet Union had become by the time of its collapse. They had neither the power nor the legitimacy to effectively suppress mass uprisings.
Orrin Judd once wrote, The rubbish heap of history is littered with regimes that thought they could allow a little democracy, not realizing that it would show just unpopular they were. [Hat Tip Timothy Goddard]

Does that mean that if the Romanoffs had not instituted liberal reforms late in the nineteenth century we might have been spared the Cold War?

There's a lot to chew on in this article.

Read the whole thing here.

Mongolian Democracy Demonstrators Posted by Hello

Democratic Protest in Mongolia!

The Democratic Reform Imperative keeps spreading into unlikely places.

The BBC reports:
Activists in Mongolia are calling for fresh elections and have demanded an end to official corruption.

They held protests outside parliament in the capital Ulan Bator on Friday, and say they have more planned.

The action appears to have been inspired by the situation in nearby Kyrgyzstan, where the government has been ousted by a popular uprising.

This is the way the dominoes fall -- one successful revolution sparks another, and another, and another.
During Friday's protest in Liberty Square in Ulan Bator, demonstrators waved flags and chanted: "Let's congratulate our Kyrgyz brothers for their revolutionary spirit. Let's free Mongolia of corruption."
Not catchy, but it gets the message across...

It's hard to say just how significant this is.
One report says as many as 5,000 protesters gathered, but other eyewitnesses say the demonstrators numbered only a few hundred.

Even if it was only a few hundred, it's remarkable, and worth keeping an eye on.

Read about it here.

Zimbabwe -- it's crunch time for democracy

In the matter of a few months democratic reform movements have spread across the globe, emerging in a number of unlikely spots, but so far only in Georgia, Ukraine and possibly Kyrgyzstan have they resulted in peaceful regime change. Elsewhere there have been threats of violence and some violent incidents, and in Belarus established authorities successfully suppressed democratic protests.

It seems that every week brings a new crisis. This week's is Zimbabwe where for a quarter of a century Robert [Mad Bobby] Mugabe has dominated the political scene. This Thursday Zimbabwe will have parliamentary elections. In the past Mugabe has used violence, intimidation, and outright fraud to maintain his control of the nation. Nobody expects this election to be any different.

Two things, however, have changed since the last major elections in 2000. First the economy has tanked. Mugabe's lunatic blend of socialism and racism has destroyed the agricultural sector to the point where Zimbabwe, once an exporter of grain, can no longer feed itself. There is widespread starvation and the government controls access to food. Mugabe's party, ZANU-PF is reportedly using this control to starve his political opponents. Supposedly only supporters of ZANU can eat. [I have previously blogged this subject see here, here and here.]

The second change has been the emergence of a democratic movement inspired by the people-power demonstrations in Ukraine and Lebanon. Opposition to Mugabe's lunatic reign have organized as the Movement for Democratic Change and have been holding mass demonstrations throughout the country. But Mugabe has begun to crack down. After Sunday's MDC protests in Harare, which attracted 20,000 people more than 200 demonstrators were arrested. There have been widespread threats of violence. Just yesterday Mugabe declared the opposition to be "traitors."

"All those who will vote for the MDC are traitors," state radio quoted Mugabe as saying to a ruling ZANU-PF party rally Monday at Mutoko, 90 miles northeast of Harare. Similar comments by the president in the past have encouraged ruling party and youth militia's to take violent action against opposition supporters and candidates.
Read the whole thing here.

Nobody expects Thursday's elections to be fair -- they never have been so in the past -- and they are unlikely to be decisive. Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube has called for massive non-violent protests if Mugabe wins through fraud. If this occurs, Mugabe will likely unleash massive violence against the protesters.

Mugabe rose to power as a revolutionary guerrilla, ruthlessly employing violence to take control. For a quarter of a century he has maintained control through violence and intimidation. There is no reason to believe that he will do otherwise now. In Zimbabwe, as earlier in Belorus, peaceful democratic reform may well have reached its limits.


Norm Geras over at Normblog has a firsthand account of electioneering in Zimbabwe. A taste:
[W]e are tired and [absolutely] fed up of living like this. When we vote on Thursday it will be for food, clean water, affordable schools for our children, hospitals which have drugs and leaders who will respect us and our universal rights of speech, movement and association. I have a picture in my head of a man on a horse trailing a yellow banner in the middle of this weeks revolution in Kyrgyzstan. That image from the other side of the world in a country whose name I cannot even pronounce, gives me hope.

Hope, Pandora's gift, is moving mountains around the world, but Mount Mugabe will not move easily. Read the whole thing here.

Zimbabwe -- an assessment

Martin Sieff [UPI], writing in New Kerala, asks the question I've been pondering in recent posts -- just what are the limits of the Democratic Revolution? One arena where those limits will be tested is Zimbabwe.

On Thursday that nation will hold parliamentary elections pitting President Mugabe's ZANU-PF party against a coalition of opposition groups, the Movement for Democratic Change, headed by Morgan Tsviangirai. Last Sunday the MDC held a mass rally in Harare after which several people were arrested. Things are turning ugly. "[T]here is virtually unanimous agreement that the votes will be fixed to arrange yet another victory for Mugabe...," Sieff writes.

Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo has called for massive demonstrations, like those of Ukraine, to protest Mugabe's rule, hoping for a peaceful overthrow of the government. But, Sieff notes:
Zimbabwe is not post-Soviet Ukraine or Georgia, or even central Asian Kyrgyzstan.

All three of those countries had peaceful, revolutions with ether no -- or in Kyrgyzstan's case last week -- minimal bloodshed.

But the Orange Revolution of Ukraine could turn blood red...if it was applied to Zimbabwe.

That is because Mugabe is a veteran revolutionary leader who won power through a ruthless, no-holds-barred guerrilla war and is determined to keep it...; [he] has reveled in repression and paranoia and continues to do so....

The democratic revolution spread with lightning speed over much of the globe in recent months, appearing in many unlikely places. But only in a handful, Georgia, Ukraine, perhaps Kyrgyzstan, and [hopefully] Lebanon, has the process been relatively peaceful and successful. Last week the democratic movement was suppressed in Belorus. This weeks test will be Zimbabwe.

Stay tuned.

A member of the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe, the major opposition to Zimbabwe's President, Mad Bobby Mugabe, gives the MDC hand salute at an election rally.  Posted by Hello

A supporter of Zimbabwe's President, Mad Bobby Mugabe, gives the ZANU-PF hand salute at an election rally. Now I ask you; who would you vote for -- ZANU or the other guy? Posted by Hello

Folding Clothes

This was a big hit with "She Who Shall Not Be Named" -- a demonstration of a very simple and effective way of folding clothes. I keep wondering, why couldn't I have figured this out myself.

Check it out here.

Now wasn't that neat?

Hat tip to Rich Lowry -- a guy who obviously folds his own shirts.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Stem Cells, Mao, and Breast Implants

The debate over stem cell research is now concluded. The left has won. There is no way religious conservatives can win against this stuff....

The New Zealand Herald reports:

by Sophie Goodchild

A revolutionary technique using stem-cell research could soon allow women to choose breast enhancements made of living tissue instead of silicone. Scientists who have been able to grow human fat cells in the laboratory for the first time say the breakthrough means that patients could, in effect, grow their own implants....

The living tissue implants would not "wear out". And because they are derived from the patient's own stem cells, there would not be a problem of tissue rejection that can arise with tissue from a donor. "The technique is also applicable for other soft tissue, including facial tissue such as the lips." he said.

Of course there are potential problems. The article points out:
There are, however, a number of issues yet to be resolved. One is the question of how the mass of living cells can develop a blood supply to keep it alive once it is implanted. Another is how to stop the cells from continuing to replicate once the operation is complete.

Hmmmm... gotta think about that one.

Should we be concerned that the scientist spearheading this effort is "Doctor Mao"?

And there is this fascinating/horrifying historical account:
Materials such as ivory and sponge were inserted to enhance shape and size in the 19th century, and by the 1940s breasts were being directly injected with paraffin and silicone derivatives. Silicone gel implants were introduced in the early 1960s. Health fears circulated after a US study found that up to 70 per cent of silicone implants ruptured. In 1998 in the UK, a Government review found no evidence that silicone presented any greater risk than other implants. Many women switched to versions using soya oil, discontinued in the UK in 1999 over leak worries, and saline.

Ivory and sponges, directly injecting paraffin and silicone, ruptures, leaks. Women have put up with all this in the quest for big or shapely breasts! See what I mean about the debate over stem cells having entered its final stage? The issue has been decided!

Read it all here.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Limits of Reform -- Mad Bobby Mugabe Cracks Down

Zimbabwe president Robert [Mad Bobby] Mugabe has begun to crack down on his opposition. In a previous post I noted that he was attemping to starve opposition centers and to inimidate, expel and even incarcerate, hostile journalists. In response to foreign pressures Mugabe had, for the past few weeks, allowed some opposition rallies to take place. The Guardian describes one such rally:

dancers in black jeans and white trainers shimmied to a hip-hop soundtrack in a dusty park. Opposition speakers implored voters to turn out in huge numbers.

"That's the only way we can stop this election being rigged," said one.

As he spoke, a Nissan minivan converted for use as a commuter bus zoomed into the clearing. Youths leaped out raising their hands in the MDC's trademark gesture, an open palm. They taped a campaign poster to the back of their van, then zoomed off, to cheers from the crowd.

Read it here.

Today that came to an end. Michael Hartnack reports:
Police on Sunday arrested nearly 200 opposition supporters after a rally in the capital, Harare, the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change said in a statement.
In response to this intimidation, AP reports:
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) - One of Zimbabwe's most outspoken church leaders called Sunday for a peaceful uprising against President Robert Mugabe's autocratic rule, just days before a parliamentary election that rights groups say is already tainted from years of violence and intimidation.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube, of Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, said he was willing to put on his vestments and lead a march to Mugabe's residence himself, but feared: "If I do it, I do it alone."

"The people are so scared," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "You are not going to get that where people are so cowardly."
Read it here.

Some points to note:

1) Several of the stories on these rallies quote participants to the effect that they were inspired by Ukraine and Lebanon.

2) Opposition leaders do not expect to be able to beat Mugabe's ZANU - PF in the elections.

3) As in Egypt, an authoritarian ruler was willing to bend to foreign pressures and to allow opposition protests only so long as those protests were clearly marginal.

4) So far as I can tell, there are no pictures of hot protest babes, but I'm still looking.


Douglas Rogers has a piece in the latest LA Times on the human consequences of Mugabe's madness.

He writes:
The government has become increasingly corrupt, violence is endemic, human rights violations are among the worst in the world. Despite all this, race relations are surprisingly good. Most whites and blacks tend to see the wild rantings of the regime for the cheap opportunism they are.
The opposition has been virtually silent since [2000], its leaders beaten and jailed. Four newspapers have been closed since 2002, a dozen journalists expelled. And there's no reason to expect this week's parliamentary elections to be any less corrupt than those that have gone before.

Read the whole thing here.

Mongolian Protest!!!

Gateway Pundit links to this:
Ulan Bator - More than one thousand people marched in front of the Mongolian seat of government here demanding more democracy in a protest inspired by the revolt in Kyrgyzstan, witnesses said on Saturday.

However the Friday protest, organised by the Just Society-Civic Movement (JSCM), was forced back by a strong police presence amid cries of "the struggle by protestors in Kyrghyzstan led to the victory."
Witnesses said the protestors dispersed calmly but vowed to hold further demonstrations on April 7.

Read the whole thing here.

Once again we see the widespread repercussions of successful democratic reform in Georgia and Ukraine. And, as in Egypt and Belorus, we see a strong response from authorities to the democratic challenge. And, as in those cases, the final outcome of the contest is far from clear. Stay tuned....

The Limits of Reform -- Egypt Cracks Down

Dan Murphy, writing in the Christian Science Monitor reports:
CAIRO – President Hosni Mubarak's statement last month that Egypt's next election will involve multiple candidates - instead of being simply a referendum on his rule - unleashed a rush of opposition activity here.

Demonstrations by largely secular and left-wing groups have become commonplace, as have press attacks on the president and his family. But Sunday, with the outlawed but politically powerful Muslim Brotherhood set to join the fray, the regime sent a clear signal on the limits of dissent.

Starting at dawn, the government arrested about 70 members of the Brotherhood in Cairo and three other cities....

Mr. Mubarak has allowed unlicensed protests in recent months by Kafaya. But an emboldened Brotherhood, which has offices in every province and is the country's largest opposition organization, was too much for the government to take.

"The reason for the escalation by state security is the difference in size and influence between the Muslim Brotherhood and the other opposition groups," says Ahmed Ramy, a Brotherhood member.

Read the whole thing here.

There are several important points to note here.

1) After the first shock of democratic revolutions authoritarian regimes in Egypt and elsewhere are beginning to toughen up and to systematically respond to democratic challenges.

2) Egypt has been under intense pressure from the United States to liberalize its political system and has responded by tolerating protests from marginal groups. The fact that demonstrations by only marginal groups were tolerated indicates the limits of US influence. Pressure from the west cannot instigate meaningful democratic reform.

3) There has been a lot of excitement in the West [and particularly in the blogosphere] regarding the mounting reform demands of groups like the Kafaya (Enough) movement, which the CSM describes as "a range of secular organizations with limited grass-roots support." We should temper our enthusiasm with the realization that secular elites do not a mass movement make.

4) The Muslim Brotherhood is a real mass movement, and it has at last roused itself with demands for democratic reform, but this, as the CSM admits, does not reflect an acceptance on the Brotherhood's part of western liberal traditions. The Brotherhood is strongly anti-western and anti-US and does not accept as legitimate the secular protest movements upon which so much western attention has been lavished.

The Limits of Reform -- Belarus cracks down

Gateway Pundit links to a report from the Human Rights Center Viasna to the effect that,
Belarusian authorities use more and more violent, ruthless and provocative methods of struggle with their opponents

Human Rights Center Viasna is extremely concerned with the intensification of repressions against representatives of democratic opposition during the last months. Well-known public and political activists of Belarus are put behind bolt and bar for the reasons that are invented or provoked by the authorities.

Read the whole thing here. This is the first case in which democracy protestors have encounted strong and effective resistance. If Belarusian authorities are successful in squelching the democracy initiative it will certainly not be the last.

It is quite possible that the early success of the global democracy movement was less revealing of the strength of democratic aspirations than the fragility of the authoritarian regimes that were toppled.

Kyrgyzstan update -- The Limits of Reform, or Too Much, Too Soon?

Christian Lowe reports:

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan's new rulers sought Sunday to avert a split in their ranks after their lightning coup, but tension remained high with fresh warnings of possible civil war in the impoverished Central Asian state.

Thursday's revolt left the ex-Soviet republic with two rival parliaments and clear strains among opposition leaders, united only by the desire to get rid of veteran President Askar Akayev.

Felix Kulov, the new security chief who has persuaded police to return to work and ordered them to open fire on looters, suggested he would not run against acting president Kurmanbek Bakiev in a June 26 presidential vote.

The renewed police presence appeared to bring calm overnight in the capital Bishkek that was hit by a looting rampage after Akayev was swept from power by mass protests.
Unlike groups that swept to power in the other ex-Soviet states of Georgia and Ukraine, the Kyrgyz opposition lacks a unifying figure. [a point I made in an earlier post]

It embraces many former allies of Akayev -- himself now in refuge in Russia. But they are divided by personal and regional clan rivalries, traditional for the mainly Muslim nation of 5 million.
Analysts say popular resentment against poverty was the main catalyst for the protests that led to Akayev's ouster.

Feuding to fill the power vacuum has already broken out in parliament, where deputies of the outgoing chamber and those elected in discredited parliamentary elections vied for legitimacy in competing sessions....

Not too encouraging is it? Of course this is a Reuters report and therefore it emphasizes the negative. Still we might be seeing the limits of democratic reform in the region.

There are two hopeful observations buried in the report.

Lowe reports:
The new leaders have survived an initial challenge from an ousted interior minister, Keneshbek Dushenbayev, who tried to lead a mass march to Bishkek against the coup Saturday.
Although Kyrgyzstan has a history of ethnic bloodshed, confessional, ethnic or regional rivalries have so far played little role in the crisis.
As in so many things, the future is clouded and all we can say right now is...., keep tuned.


The WaPo suggests that much of the trouble resulted from the speed of the revolution. Nobody was prepared to see the government crumble as quickly as it did and when the protesters found themselves in control they didn't know what to do next. The result has been confusion and disorder.

Read it here.

Bahrainis on the March Posted by Hello

And Now Bahrian!

The Democratic Revolution keeps on spreading:

Reuters reports:
Mass march urges reforms in Bahrain

MANAMA (Reuters) - Tens of thousands have marched in one of Bahrain's largest opposition demonstrations to demand democratic reforms in the pro-Western Gulf Arab state.

Friday's peaceful march, called by the Shi'ite-led opposition, follows unsuccessful talks with the government onconstitutional reforms to give greater powers to parliament's elected assembly, which is on an equal footing with a state-appointed chamber.

Bahrain, the Gulf's banking hub and home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has introduced some reforms, but the opposition, led by the country's majority Shi'ite Muslims, want more rights in the small Sunni-ruled island state.

The article also notes that the Bahraini Minister of the Interior has called for legal action against the marchers. Small beer compared to some of the other recent responses. Belorus has not yet become a model for response to democratic demands and that is good news.

UPDATE: [Hat Tip to Publius Pundit]

Maybe I spoke too soon. Publius posts an article from al Jazeerah stating that:
Bahrain has warned it will take unspecified measures against the Gulf state’s main Shia opposition group after it organised a mass demonstration in defiance of a government ban.

Still not Belorus, but a move in the wrong direction.

Publius also links to this site with lots of pictures.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

The Limits of Reform -- bad news from Kyrgyzstan and Belarus

The early stages of the democratic revolution went amazingly well. Tyrannical regimes were toppled by people-power in Georgia and Ukraine, by force in Iraq. Another was in retreat in Lebanon. Then Kyrgyzstan fell. Those were heady days and the democratic reform imperative seemed to be irresistable. But I kept worrying. Eventually some of the repressive regimes are going to respond by, well..., repressing the reformers. That is where we will begin to see the limits of the reform imperative.

We are at that stage now. In Belarus democratic protesters were met by force. Gateway Pundit links to the story and pictures here.

This is disturbing because several of the conditions that characterized earlier successful revolts have been met in Belarus. A central figure has emerged to challenge the government around whom diverse factions can unite. His name is Alexander Kozulin and you can read about him at Publius Pundit here. Publius also notes the strong support for democratic reform from the West. The EU has formally declared that Belarus is a dictatorship and has frozen government assets. The US has passed the Belarus Democracy Act, and Condi Rice has branded Belarus an "outpost of tyranny."

But this time the government has not rolled over in the face of protest. It is fighting back, so far successfully. It is in the coming struggle that we will test the limits of the reform imperative. Stay tuned....

Meanwhile the seemingly successful revolution in Kyrgyzstan is running into trouble. The protests themselves resulted in widespread looting and chaos and now thousands of people are marching to protest the newly-installed reform regime.

Michael Steen writing for Reuters reports:

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (Reuters) - Kyrgyzstan's ousted interior minister led thousands of demonstrators toward the capital on Saturday to protest against the coup that overthrew President Askar Akayev, warning there was a risk of civil war.

The new leadership, which swept to power in the lighting coup Thursday after mass protests, declared it was firmly in control of the mountainous ex-Soviet state.

But acting President Kurmanbek Bakiev had to switch the venue of a news conference because officials heard word of a possible plot to kill him.

Read the whole thing here.

Things are not looking good. Enthusiasm for the reform government is falling. The reformers are now acting like the old repressive regime, threatening to take action against protesters. There is talk of civil war. The reformers have appealed for outside economic aid because they cannot feed the people.

Stay tuned.....

Neanderthal Update -- Victims of Free Trade

It is always interesting for an historian to view the shifting state of theory in fields of study where evidence is sparse and entire theoretical structures must be built mainly on inference and surmise. Such a discipline is physical anthropology, particularly that which deals with culture-bearing forms of humanity, such as Neanderthal Man.

I have only been blogging for less than three months, but already in that time I have posted on four or five distinct theories, published in the lay press, regarding Neanderthals and their relation to Homo Sapiens Sapiens. What is fascinating is the extent to which theoretical constructs mirror the day's social and cultural concerns. Witness this speculation on why Neanderthals were displaced by Modern Humans.

Newswise reports a study by economists out of the University of Wyoming arguing that "free trade" drove Neanderthals to extinction.
Creating a new kind of caveman economics in their published paper, [the economists] argue early modern humans were first to exploit the competitive edge gained from specialization and free trade. With more reliance on free trade, humans increased their activities in culture and technology, while simultaneously out-competing Neanderthals on their joint hunting grounds, the economists say.
So we're back to competition for scarce resources again -- this time with the contemporary twist of "free-trade" imagery. Read the whole thing here.

Whatever you think of the article's conclusions, it does make an important point. Economic functions such as trade and specialization of labor did operate in and influence the development of all human societies, however ancient.

Zimbabwe Update

In an earlier post I speculated that the democracy imperative currently toppling regimes in the Middle East and Central Asia might reach as far as Mad Bobby Mugabe's terror state in Zimbabwe. Read it here.

Parliamentary elections are scheduled there at the end of this month.

Yesterday's Times reported on some of the extraordinary measures Mugabe has been taking to ensure that his party, Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), wins.

Read my post here. In it I noted that despite predictions that ZANU would sweep the elections Mugabe's all-out and somewhat zany efforts indicated that he feared otherwise.

Yesterday's Scotsman made a similar point, noting that a unified opposition was forming and was polling well. Read it here.

Today the Independent reports:
Starve the voters: the human cost of Mugabe's election

By Meera Selva in Bulawayo, Matabeleland
26 March 2005

Four million people are starving in Zimbabwe, a quarter of the population, and thousands of Robert Mugabe's political opponents are being turned away empty-handed from emergency food stations, The Independent can reveal.

Only five days before a crucial general election, the embattled president is deliberately starving opposition supporters in a desperate bid to prop up his discredited Zanu-PF Party. What little food is available is being ruthlessly used in a cynical food-for-votes policy to force people to vote for the pariah president.
Read the whole horrifying thing here.

We should also probably note that the subsistence crisis was wholly created by Mugabe's government. Before he instituted his insane brand of racist socialism Zimbabwe was an exporter of food. Now it cannot feed its own people.

The Movie Star, the Madam, and the Whizzinator

AFP Reports:
US movie star Tom Sizemore has been sentenced to 21 months in jail after repeatedly failing drug tests while on probation for beating notorious Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss.

But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Antonio Barreto allowed Sizemore to remain free pending an appeal of his 2003 conviction for domestic violence involving his ex-girlfriend Fleiss.
Read the whole thing here.

What the story didn't tell you is that Sizemore failed five times to pass the drug test and that the last two failures involved the use of a fake penis called the Whizzinator [available on the internet].

I originally blogged the story back in February. Read the post here.

Ah Hollywood..., the boulevard of broken dreams!

Friday, March 25, 2005

The Good News Keeps on Coming

The ripples of revolution are spreading widely.

Interfax reports:

Unauthorized rally underway in Minsk

MINSK. March 25 (Interfax-West) - Members of Belarussian opposition parties and movements and entrepreneurs have joined an unauthorized rally in downtown Minsk to show their support for previously arrested opposition activists and entrepreneurial movement leaders, an Interfax correspondent reported.

Minsk special-operations police force head Yury Podobed has estimated the number of people rallying on Minsk's Oktyabrskaya square at from 300 to 400.
Read it here.

Well, that didn't take long...

Publius Pundit reports:

Belarusian demonstrators tried to rally outside the office of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko on Friday to demand his ouster in a self-declared attempt to emulate a popular uprising in Kyrgyzstan, but they were beaten back by riot police swinging truncheons.
Showing he will not tolerate demonstrations like those that drove the presidents of Georgia, Ukraine and now Kyrgyzstan from power, Lukashenko sent police into the streets Friday to disperse an estimated 1,000 protesters who chanted “Down with Lukashenko!” and “Long Live Belarus!”

Police chased demonstrators along the streets of the capital, beating some with the night sticks. Minsk police spokesman Oleg Slepchenko said 34 protesters were detained for participating in an unsanctioned rally.

Read the whole thing here.

Gateway Pundit also reports on the demonstrations and has pictures: Read him here.

And in Moldova...

Novostri reports:

(RIA Novosti)-A fortnight after the elections in Moldova, it is still uncertain whether pro-western or pro-Russian forces have won, as both the incumbent authorities and opposition are claiming victory. The role of the breakaway Transdniestria is crucial in this environment not only for a settlement inside Moldova, but also for Russia's future authority in the former Soviet republics, writes a weekly magazine, Kommersant-Vlast.

The balance of forces in the region shifted after the "orange revolution" in Ukraine. If the previous Ukrainian leadership supported Russia and, accordingly, tacitly sponsored Tiraspol, the capital of Transdniestria (because Ukrainians, like Russians, form a significant part of Transdniestria's population), the new Ukrainian government apparently supports Chisinau. Wedged between the two clearly unfriendly states, the breakaway republic's leaders are seeking a way out and are trying to build bridges with the new Ukrainian government and the West. Igor Smirnov, the president of the unrecognized republic, even described a settlement with Chisinau as a top priority.

Neither the West nor Ukraine seems willing to compromise, though. This probably means the former is hoping to reenact the successful Georgian and Ukrainian scenarios to replace Smirnov with a more palatable figure.
Read the whole thing here.

Even in Mad Bobby Mugabe's terror state the effects are being felt.

The Scotsman reports:

Polls show Zimbabwean opposition is gaining strength

LATEST opinion polls from Zimbabwe show President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party as only slightly in the lead with less than a week remaining before the country goes to the polls.

Some 40 per cent of Zimbabweans questioned say they intend voting for Mr Mugabe’s party, the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).
Another 34 per cent will choose the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in next Thursday’s parliamentary elections, a survey of 7,000 voters carried out by Joseph Kurebwa, a University of Zimbabwe political lecturer, showed.

The study contradicts predictions of a landslide victory for ZANU-PF and suggests that the MDC, led by the former trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai, may yet be able to overcome months of intimidation to retain many of its parliamentary seats. Parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe in 2000 were won by ZANU-PF by only a small margin. Mr Mugabe’s party took 62 seats against 57 for the MDC.

Read it here.

And to cap it off, Claudia Rosett reports in the New York Sun:

Syrian Dissidents Find Their Voice As Lebanon Provides a Megaphone

She surveys recent writings in Syria and discerns,

glimpses of seething discontent under the totalitarian regime of Mr. Assad. They also suggest that inside Syria there is a dynamic right now in which the regime is becoming weaker, and the dissidents bolder.
A mixed bag so far. Clearly the inspirational examples of Ukraine, Georgia and Iraq are having global effect. What is not clear, however, is how the affected regimes will respond. Attempts at resistance failed in Kyrgyzstan, but so far have been successful in Belarus. Mad Bobby is almost sure to unleash massive violence if organized opposition emerges in the current election cycle, and there still is a real question as to what Assad will do in Lebanon and Syria.


Once again massive demonstrations have broken out in Iran. Regime Change Iran reports:

Reports are coming in of demonstrations taking place all over Iran (Tehran, Esfhan, Tabriz, Abadan, and others) against the regime, using the soccer victory over Japan as an excuse to go into the streets. The victory is an excuse for people to go into the streets. The people can claim the are celebrating their victory while those in their midst demonstrate against the regime.

The reports say that the demonstrations are dispersed in neighborhoods all across Iran. The streets are being jammed with traffic and thousands are gathering in the center of each of these demonstrations. These traffic jams are apparently protecting the demonstrators. The reports further state that those in the center of these demonstrations can be heard making statements against the regime.

In a new development, there are calls for "armed resistance" and some are raising guns (a capital offense against the regime).

Due to the extremely high volume of traffic in the streets, the regime’s security forces are unable to send reinforcements to those areas where the demonstrations are getting more out the regime's control. Some are reporting that the security forces in many areas are frightened by the increasing size of the crowds.

Read the whole thing here.

So far the Iranian regime has been successful in containing the recurrent demonstrations that have been taking place there for several months. The size and frequency of the protests, though, seems to be increasing lately. The calls for "armed resistance" are disturbing.

There is so much potential here for dramatic results, both positive and negative. We have not yet seen the limits of the reform imperative or the scale of resistance to it. These are times of peril, but also of unbounded hope. I am an historian and can call to mind many scenarios drawn from the past. But none of them, I think, fits the current situation well. All I can do right now is to stay tuned....

Iraq Update -- It's All Over But the Shouting, Or Is It?

The Financial Times reports: [hat tip to Instapundit]

Iraq's insurgents ‘seek exit strategy'
By Steve Negus in Baghdad

Many of Iraq's predominantly Sunni Arab insurgents would lay down their arms and join the political process in exchange for guarantees of their safety and that of their co-religionists, according to a prominent Sunni politician.

Sharif Ali Bin al-Hussein, who heads Iraq's main monarchist movement and is in contact with guerrilla leaders, said many insurgents including former officials of the ruling Ba'ath party, army officers, and Islamists have been searching for a way to end their campaign against US troops and Iraqi government forces since the January 30 election.

“Firstly, they want to ensure their own security,” says Sharif Ali, who last week hosted a pan-Sunni conference attended by tribal sheikhs and other local leaders speaking on behalf of the insurgents.

Insurgent leaders fear coming out into the open to talk for fear of being targeted by US military or Iraqi security forces' raids, he said.

Sharif Ali distinguishes many Sunni insurgents, whom he says took up arms in reaction to the invasive raids in search of Ba'athist leaders and other “humiliations” soon after the 2003 war, from the radical jihadist branch associated with Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Unlike Mr Zarqawi's followers, who are thought to be responsible for the big suicide bomb attacks on Iraqi civilian targets, the other Sunni insurgents are more likely to plant bombs and carry out ambushes against security forces and US troops active near their homes.

Sharif Ali said the success of Iraq's elections dealt the insurgents a demoralising blow, prompting them to consider the need to enter the political process.

The stated goal of both the Bush administration and the interim authority is to bring the Sunni "insurgents" back into the political process. I don't think a deal will be too hard to effect. And, with Iraqi civilians increasingly willing to rat out the jihadis in their midst a peaceful outcome is becoming increasingly likely.

Maryland Politics -- Back in the Gutter Again

Charges and counter-charges are flying again in Annapolis. Gov. Ehrlich has responded to Democrat charges that one of his aides had been spreading false rumors about the Mayor of Baltimore's sex life with charges that a disgruntled former employee has been trying to blackmail him. Blackmail, adultery, tampered photos... it's starting to get juicy. Ah, Maryland..., my Maryland!

Read the WaPo story here.

Anger and Frustration at AIM -- More Bellecourt Follies

Now this is just plain stupid! WaPo reports:

Native Americans across the country -- including tribal leaders, academics and rank-and-file tribe members -- voiced anger and frustration Thursday that President Bush has responded to the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history with silence.

Three days after 16-year-old Jeff Weise killed nine members of his Red Lake tribe before taking his own life, grief-stricken American Indians complained that the White House has offered little in the way of sympathy for the tribe situated in the uppermost region of Minnesota.

"From all over the world we are getting letters of condolence, the Red Cross has come, but the so-called Great White Father in Washington hasn't said or done a thing," said Clyde Bellecourt, a Chippewa Indian who is the founder and national director of the American Indian Movement here...."

Let's get this straight. A deranged Chippewa Indian kid shoots up a school, and the tribe want's a call from the President and is offended when it doesn't come. Not just the tribe, but "Native Americans across the country." Come on people -- get a life!!!! This kind of seventies style politics of outrage and exquisitely tuned sensibilities was insane when it was in its heyday -- today it's just pathetic.

You could see just how incredibly lame this "anger and frustration" is when "academics" are among the outraged.

Poor Cici. Having to write up crap like this with a straight face.

Read the whole silly thing here.

Oh, and for the feminists out there, catch the uber-patriarchal "Great White Father" statement from AIM. Maybe he was just being sarcastic, but even if he is, it's a hopelessly dated reference
and it just makes him look silly.

Amazing Reportage from Kyrgyzstan

Nathan and his friends over at are a wonderful source of information on what is happening in Kyrgyzstan. Today they post a first-hand account by Elnura Osmonalieva of Bishkek, complete with pictures [including one definitely hot babe]. Check it out here.

But let's not get too excited yet. Captain Ed has some cautionary observations here. The opposition leaders do not come to the table with completely clean hands. He notes that Felix Kukov, the Interior Minister in the new government taking shape, was formerly the head of the Kyrgyz version of the KGB and is closely associated with Putin. He fears that Putin might be trying to influence the new government -- to which I say, "so what?"

This doesn't bother me as much as it does the Captain and many other people. There are many reasons for the new Kyrgyzstani government to seek close relations with Moscow -- not the least being an aggressively expansionist China to their east. Putin's embrace of the new government could be nothing more than accommodation to circumstances he cannot control. And, regarding the intelligence background of some members of the new government -- let's not forget that George H. W. Bush was once the head of the CIA.


The Economist asks:
DOES three make a trend? Kirgizstan has become the third post-Soviet republic in which disgruntled voters, unwilling to accept a fraudulent election, have taken matters into their own hands.
My answer: Why yes..., yes it does!

The article goes on to estimate the liklihood of regime change in Kyrgyztan's neighbors. It reports:

Events in Kirgizstan are unlikely to have much effect in Turkmenistan, a North Korea-style dictatorship in the region. But Kirgizstan’s other neighbours, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, may feel tremors. In Kazakhstan to the north, the president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, has doled out money and favours (from the country’s mineral wealth) to keep himself in power. But there is a visible and lively, if so far unsuccessful, opposition. Tajikistan, which is poorer and endured a civil war in the 1990s, could be shakier. Recent elections, criticised by international observers, strengthened the party of the president, Imomali Rakhmonov. Might he be the next to succumb to Central Asia's new-found people power?
Read the whole thing here.


Jeremy Page reports for Reuters on the downside of "people power."
After the triumph, the looting: 'It's not a revolution, it's chaos'

From Jeremy Page in Bishkek

GUNFIRE echoed across Bishkek last night as Kyrgyzstan’s new leaders tried to quell looting that erupted after President Akayev was ousted in the third revolution in a former Soviet republic in 18 months.

Police and civilian vigilantes fired shots in the air and fought running battles with crowds of drunk young men beginning a second night of looting in the Kyrgyz capital.

“The city looks as if it has gone mad,” said Felix Kulov, the opposition leader released from prison on Thursday and appointed as security chief of an interim government.

“It’s an orgy,” he said. “We have arrested many people; we are trying to do something, but we physically lack people.”
“Bastards!” he said. “This not a revolution, this is just chaos!” Mr Akayev issued a statement from a secret location saying that he was still the President of Kyrgyzstan and would return. “A bunch of irresponsible adventurers and conspirators has taken the path of seizing power with force,” he said in the statement sent by e-mail to Kabar, the Kyrgyz news agency. He denied reports that he had resigned and urged those who had supported the “anti-constitutional coup” to restore constitutional order.

The chaos in Bishkek and Mr Akayev’s defiant words threatened to derail what opposition leaders have compared to the peaceful revolutions in Ukraine last year and Georgia in 2003.
In an earlier post I had suggested that Kyrgyzstan might define the limits of reform. At first this last week's events seemed to dispute that assessment. Now I'm not so sure.


BBC reports that,
the US state department said the US and Russia would work together to promote a "sense of order" in Kyrgyzstan.

Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had spoken on the telephone and "saw eye-to-eye on the situation", said state department spokesman Adam Ereli.
Both the US and Russia have military bases in Kyrgyzstan and the means to project influence there. Their agreement to promote order is crucial to the success of the new government. It greatly increases the possibility of a decent outcome to the struggle.

The Enola Gay

That's Right. The Enola Gay! Posted by Hello

The Mother Ship

And if that wasn't geeky enough for you check this out. Recognize it? That's right! It's the mother ship from "Close Encounters." My expert guide was a bit miffed that a movie prop would be displayed alongside the real stuff, but I didn't mind. I sorta liked it. Goes to show you just how geeky I can be [and remember I used to teach "Film Studies"]. "She Who Shall Not Be Named" was not impressed. Neither was "Da Niece". Ahhh, it is a proud and lonely thing to be a geek. Posted by Hello


Geek Heaven! Spent this afternoon at the new Smithsonian Air and Space Museum out by Dulles. I had never been there before and was blown away by the exhibits. Yes! That is the ENTERPRISE! I was also fortunate enough to be accompanied by an engineer/administrator who had been involved in the development of some of the items on display. His commentary was fascinating. As I left the building I vowed, "I shall return!" [and soon.] Posted by Hello

Mugabe Update

In Georgia, Ukraine, Krgyzstan, Lebanon, and elsewhere democratic reformers have used the occasion of national elections to mount powerful challenges to corrupt and oppressive regimes. Zimbabwe will be holding Parliamentary elections at the end of this month. There is no more corrupt and oppressive regime in the world than that of Robert Mugabe. Will the upcoming elections provide yet another opportunity for reform?

Mad Bobby Mugabe is running an incredibly perverse campaign, described in the Times.

FORGET about education. Forget about job creation, even though unemployment is running at 80 per cent. The 2005 parliamentary election in Zimbabwe is all about the threat posed by a middle-aged man living thousands of miles away.

President Mugabe, who since 2000 has made no secret of his contempt for Britain, has dubbed next week’s vote the “anti-Blair election”. Demonisation of the Prime Minister has become the central platform of the ruling Zanu (PF) party’s campaign.

Yesterday on page 3 of the government-run Herald newspaper, the country’s biggest, a full-page advertisement declared: “Bury Blair, Vote Zanu PF.” In bullet points, the British Prime Minister was blamed for everything from “racist factory closures” to “politically motivated price increases” and sanctions.

Nearly every Zanu (PF) campaign speech contains angry references to Mr Blair, whom Mr Mugabe accuses of financing the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Mugabe is pulling out all the stops:

...Zanu (PF)’s campaign is designed to woo, or rather scare, rural voters by suggesting that if the opposition wins, Zimbabwe will became a de facto colony of Britain once more, and that land will be returned to white farmers.
All electronic media are government-controlled, despite a ruling by the Supreme Court five years ago that such a monopoly was unconstitutional.

In rural areas, where more than 60 per cent of people rely on radio for their information, they are fed a daily diet of Zanu (PF) propaganda....

Dozens of local journalists have been harassed, and a few weeks ago three journalists working for foreign media — including the Times correspondent, Jan Raath, who had lived here for 30 years — were forced to leave the country after being accused of spying....
Read the whole thing here.

What is significant here is not that Mugabe is a racist thug -- he's always been that -- or that he rigs elections -- nothing new there -- but that he feels the need to exert himself so much in this election cycle. Could he be hearing footsteps?

If protests arise in Zimbabwe there is little doubt how Mugabe will react and if violence breaks out how will the West react? Economic sanctions are out of the question. Zimbabwe is already starving.

Stay tuned.

Gay Jihadi Orgies!

Steve Negus and Dhiya Rasan, writing in the Financial Times report:

Say theword mujahid- or holy warrior - these days and many inhabitants of Baghdad are likely to snigger.

An appellation once worn as a badge of pride by anti-American insurgents has now become street slang for homosexuals, after men claiming to be captured Islamist guerrillas confessed that they were holding gay orgies in the popular Iraqi TV programme Terror in the Hands of Justice....

For Iraqis opposed to the predominantly Sunni Islamist insurgency, Terror in the Hands of Justice, which airs twice daily on Iraqi public television, has broken the mystique of a force that used to strike terror into the hearts of anyone working with the Americans or the new government.

Read the whole thing here.

In an earlier post I related a description by Omar of Iraq the Model of the most popular TV program in Iraq. It consists of broadcast interrogations of captured "insurgents". Not only does it provide fascinating information on the people who are fighting the "insurgency" but also it goes a long way toward demystifying the romantic image of the "holy warriors."

From this article, it would seem that the show is doing a lot more than that. No terrorist organization can stand up to widespread sniggering.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Kyrgyz protest babe. Well, maybe I was too quick to dismiss the protest babe theory after all. Posted by Hello

Churchill Report Released

UC has released their review on the Churchill affair. Robert Hayes at Blogger News Network covers it. The report concludes:
Professor Churchill has outraged the Colorado and national communities as a result of profoundly offensive, abusive, and misguided statements relating to the victims of the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks on America.

As repugnant as his statements are to many in the University community, however, they are protected by the First Amendment.

Allegations have been made that Professor Churchill has engaged in research misconduct; specifically, that he has engaged in plagiarism, misuse of others' work, falsification and fabrication of authority.

These allegations have sufficient merit to warrant referral to the University of Colorado at Boulder Standing Committee on Research Misconduct for further inquiry in accordance with prescribed procedures. The research misconduct procedures afford Professor Churchill an opportunity to review and to respond to the allegations before any determination is made. If the Committee determines that Professor Churchill engaged in research misconduct, the Committee is to make recommendations regarding dismissal or other disciplinary action.

Also referred to the Committee is the question of whether Churchill committed research misconduct by misrepresenting himself to be American Indian to gain credibility, authority, and an audience by using an Indian voice for his scholarly writings and speeches.

Other issues brought to the attention of the reviewers, such as teaching misconduct, were not found to warrant action.

Read the report here.

This is a reasonable, but not entirely satisfactory, position for the University to take. Churchill's rhetoric was strenuously denounced and the University dissociated itself from his positions as well it should. Churchill will not be punished for his speech, and that too is right and proper. His falsification of his record and charges of research and publication misconduct will be considered, and that too is proper. If he is to be demoted or dismissed that is where the charges will be filed.

I have trouble, though, with the charge of "fabrication of authority." This assumes that ethnic heritage in and of itself confers a special authority on a scholar, and that there is something like a distinctive "Indian voice" that has a preferred place within the universe of scholarship. These points are arrant nonsense. Just the fact that the university takes them seriously indicates that there are still serious institutional and intellectual deficiencies at CU.

Kyrgyzstan's "Pink" revolution. Once again the references to Ukraine's "Orange" and Georgia's "Rose" revolutions are clear. Posted by Hello

Kyrgyzstan Update -- The pot is boiling

Things have gotten very tense in Kyrgyzstan over the past couple of days. Violence broke out in Bishkek, where protesters stormed and took over the presidential compound. is all over this one. Excerpts:
The rally today began peacefully, with thousands gathering in the central square to renew calls that Akaev step down.

But the demonstrations turned violent after apparent Akaev supporters clashed with the protesters.
“The police forces, which are probably several hundred, managed to move toward the center of the square and repel the protesters, and it looked like the police forces had the upper hand for about two minutes. And then, after two or three minutes, the protesters managed to repel the police forces, and this is exactly the moment when the clashes broke out,” [an observer] said.
demonstrators chased away riot police who had ringed the building after a tense standoff that turned violent at times.
most of the people demonstrating on Alatoo [central square of Bishkek] crossed the metal barriers surrounding the ‘White House’ and entered the government building. Many citizens forced their way through the police lines at the checkpoint outside the building and went in,” [another observer] said.
"A bit scary at times - I saw people beaten, ambulances carrying away the injured, cars stoned, window being broken and a Kyrgyz flag being flown from the top floor of the White House. Apparently it was after the people were charged by the horse guards and did not retreat that the militia began to leave the scene." [another observer]
Officials could be seen leaving through a side door, protected by Interior Ministry troops. Some camouflage-clad troops were leaving the building, and none appeared to be confronting the protesters.

Exciting stuff... Read the whole thing here.

And there is more at Gateway Pundit here.

And more at Ben Parrmann and Christopher Schwartz here.

Latest from Registran:
I am in the central square. People are saying ‘freedom, liberty.’ Now they are celebrating but half an hour ago it was quite tense. […]

Usually people wear orange, pink, but today for the first time, they were all wearing multi-coloured, silk scarves - rainbow colours. This is very symbolic because various political factions - each of them has their own colour - yellow, pink, red, blue, green. […]

There are at least 20,000 people altogether - about 200-300 got inside the presidential palace. They were throwing out papers and portraits.

The opposition leaders eventually asked the protesters to leave the building because the situation was not controllable.

The leaders of the opposition have entered into the talks with the remaining government officials.

I have seen other reports to the effect that some government ministers have been taken prisoner by protesters.

And more at Publius Pundit here.

HERE IS THE PLACE TO START: Nathan's "Kyrgyzstan Coverage: All in One Post"

We should note a few things about this protest:

1) It clearly shows the inspiration of earlier protests in Georgia and Ukraine and Lebanon. These, far more than Iraq, have provided templates for protest.

2) The authoritarian governments so far challenged, both in the Middle East and in Central Asia have been remarkably inept in their responses. Except in Iraq the levels of violence have been surprisingly low. So many times in the past troops have just moved in and quashed uprisings. Why is it different this time?

3) The hot babe theory of successful revolution doesn't seem to apply here. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.


AP reports:

By STEVE GUTTERMAN, Associated Press Writer

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan - President Askar Akayev and his family left Kyrgyzstan's capital by helicopter Thursday evening, the Interfax news agency reported, hours after protesters seized government headquarters in Bishkek and claimed control of state broadcasting facilities.

Read it here.


Russia is not happy..., not happy at all. Gateway to Russia argues:

progressive forces do not lead the opposition movement, rather extremists, criminal leaders and drug dealers with an interest in stirring revolt and criminal chaos.

And they charge that the US is behind this whole thing:

Those looking on with alarm detect an American finger in the pie. The city of Osh endured clashes and armed conflict in Soviet times. But the current opposition acts under a different scenario, that of spontaneous mass protest. Kyrgyzstan is the first country, among those where revolution has swept, with a U.S. military base on its territory. There’s a U.S. trace also behind the move of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, known for pro-American sentiment, who proposed his being a mediator.

Why was Askar Akayev chosen as the victim of revolutionary enthusiasm? Experts say the reason is Akayev being not a pro-western person.

Ah, yes, "the experts say..." Read the whole thing here.

Cold War habits of thought are hard to break, aren't they?


AP reports:

Condi Rice has said that the US generally supports the Kyrgyz reformers, but deplores violence.

The United States would not confirm media reports that Kyrgyzstan's president has fled the country following street demonstrations, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld cast doubt on those reports.

"The intelligence reports do not verify what you cited," Rumsfeld answered when asked directly about reports that President Askar Akayev had fled.

Stay tuned....