Saturday, April 02, 2005


Coloradans debate interspecies marriage

According to Jim Hughes of the Denver Post,
A Loveland Republican on Thursday warned that same-sex marriage could one day lead to interspecies marriage, if the state fails to ban gay nuptials.

"Where do you draw the line?" Rep. Jim Welker asked. "A year ago in India, a woman married her dog."

Well, Jim, I believe it should depend on the size of the dog. Some breeds are just not suitable.

Welker's comments were made at a news conference called by Rep. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, to promote Lundberg's proposal for a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Rep. Angie Paccione, D-Fort Collins, who attended to decry the idea as a throwback to long-discarded laws criminalizing interracial marriage - she grew up in a biracial family - reacted strongly to Welker's comment. She ran toward the podium.

"Come on, Jim, that's not the same. Come on, man!" she yelled.

"A guy in Boulder tried to marry his horse a couple years ago," Welker said.

I loved a palomino once. I believe he would have married me if I'd asked.


I have a feeling we're not in Disney World anymore: Florida goes "Wild West"

National Rifle Association officials are ecstatic about a new bill expected to be signed by Governor Jeb Bush next week. Well, they ought to be—the NRA wrote it!

Marc Caputo and Gary Fineout of the Miami Herald report,

A man's home is his castle. And, if the Florida Legislature has its way, the sidewalk or the grocery store could be his castle, too, if he shoots someone he thinks might seriously harm him.

The proposal, preliminarily approved Thursday by the full House of Representatives, was written by the National Rifle Association and is aimed at expanding and clarifying the centuries-old "Castle Doctrine."

Currently, the doctrine presumes that a person can use deadly force when someone unlawfully invades his home because the resident is presumed to have his back "against a wall." If not at home, a person generally has a duty to retreat from a confrontation. The doctrine is not fully enshrined in law.

But the proposed law says that a person who is lawfully in any place has "no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm."

This is great! I could have popped two people in the past 12 months.

A few Democrats have been willing to buck the bill and speak out against Republican "sanctity of life" hypocrisy—

Rep. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, a Miami Democrat, said she saw an irony in the fact that Republicans such as Baxley have repeatedly talked about Christian values and the need to preserve the sanctity of life during the debates about Terri Schiavo, whom Baxley called a "martyr" Thursday.

"If we're not careful," Bendross-Mindingall said, "it's going to be a duel at the OK Corral or the Wild, Wild West. We need to preserve life, and I know having been here for the last two or three weeks, that's all they've talked about: Preserving life. But this, I believe, is sort of speaking with a forked tongue."

Despite some Democratic speechifying against the bill in the Florida Senate, every one of them caved in to make the Senate vote unanimous.

Democrats in the Florida Senate, such as Steve Geller of Hallandale Beach, also objected to the Wild West aspects of the bill but joined Republicans in unanimously supporting it. Geller later said the proposal would have unfairly made Democrats look too "soft on crime" if they opposed it. [emphasis added]

Now the Democrats don't look "soft on crime." They just look "soft," as in "soft in the head."

A Democrat in the House worried about the grocery checkout line—

Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs, questioned whether the law would lead to death over even the most frivolous disagreements, such as trying to check out 15 items in a supermarket's 10-items-or-less lane.

If one person in line challenges another, and they get in a heated argument that escalates to threats, he asked, what could happen? "Can I then pop a cap on him, proceed to check out with my 15 items and then ask for cleanup on aisle three?" Porth, a prosecutor, asked.

Of course, that's just being silly. In real life the checkout clerk would feel threatened and blow them both away.

In any case, if you're planning a visit to Florida, be sure to pack your gun.

Meanwhile, out in Colorado they're having their own home-protection problems.

According to the Denver Post,

Thornton police officers shot and killed a city employee at his home late Friday after the employee pulled a gun on an officer, authorities said.

Police went to the residence to contact the employee regarding city administrative business, said Thornton police Cmdr. Steve Ritter.

When the employee did not respond, the officers went into the house to check on him.

Once inside, one officer was confronted by the employee, who pointed a weapon at him.

The employee was shot and taken to Denver Health Medical Center, where he died at 5:55 p.m.

This is the point that gun-control advocates keep making—that armed citizens are no match for criminals and only increase the likelihood of harm to themselves.

Friday, April 01, 2005


Pope jokes

Almost everyone visiting Simply Appalling today seems to be in search of Pope jokes. I don't have any, but here's what happened to someone who did.

Saudi princess misbehaving (updated)

A Saudi princess, Hana Al Jader, has been led away in shackles from her home in Winchester, Massachusetts, by the Feds. It seems she has been keeping her servants a little too close to home.

According to J.M. Lawrence and Franci Richardson of the Boston Herald,

Federal prosecutors claim Jader threatened her maids, identified in court papers as "Tri" and "Ro," with "serious harm or physical restraint" if they did not obey, and she paid each woman $75 per week while telling immigration officials they earned $375 per week.

Neighbors told the Herald the two maids wore mint green smocks and were spit upon by Jader's five sons, who would arrive home from school and toss their backpacks in the garden for "Tri" and "Ro" to fetch. The children are 11 and older.

"I asked them, 'Why do you treat them so bad?' And they said because they are women," one neighbor said.

The AP reports that—

Al Jader paid the women $300 a month and forced them to work long hours, authorities said. However, to obtain visa extensions for the women, she allegedly provided U.S. immigration officials with fake contracts that said the women were earning $1,500 a month and working only eight hours a day.

... U.S. Magistrate Joyce London Alexander ordered her held without bail pending a detention hearing Friday.

"She has a serious risk of flight," prosecutor Theodore Merritt said.

Al Jader's lawyer, James Michael Merberg, said Saudi consulate officials from New York and Washington, D.C., plan to travel to Boston for Friday's hearing.

Well, if this isn't a fine kettle of fish. The U.S. lets the Saudis fly home after 9/11, but now won't even let a princess out of jail — and just because she's acting in a manner to which she's become accustomed. We may be on the verge of a spike in oil prices.


According to the Boston Globe, on Saturday the princess was granted bail of $1 million and ordered to turn over her passport, plus the deeds to two residences and a business. The court was packed with "an overflow crowd of supporters."

By the time she reached the bail hearing the princess had aged a year and is now 40, as earlier accounts had placed her at 39. I'm completely sympathetic. I was 39 for a number of years myself.

Follow-up post
A bracelet for the princess (4/29/05)


Quote of the Day

... the human rights movement has an enormous stake in the success of multilateralism and the future of the UN in particular. We all feel the frustration of impotence in the face of mass human rights violations in conflict situations which can be addressed only by international intervention. Yet we feel a mistrust of the exercise of military power. The only escape from that feeling and frustration lies in principled multilateral action. The human rights movement has the principles and the impartiality to contribute to the definition of criteria for legitimate intervention, and it must work to develop the effectiveness of the UN and regional organizations in mounting and fully controlling such interventions.
—Ian Martin, Secretary General, Amnesty International (1986-1992), speaking at Harvard Law School

Tasmania touched by angels in UFOs

American law enforcement officers know down to their tippy-toes what really, really works—force. And the more the better. It's "Shock and Awe" on the local level. For the less threatening miscreants—the elderly and school children—the taser is employed. For everyone else the SWAT team—the police equivalent to the military's "special forces"—must be called in.

But this reliance on yang over yin is hardly confined to the Homeland. In fact, it's so universal that when an exception occurs, we must invoke a Higher Power to explain it. Such an event occurred in Tasmania this past week.

According to The Australian,

Not every police siege ends in a street party, but this is Tasmania and this week's siege in New Norfolk – the longest in the state's history – was far from typical. Police opted for patience rather than firepower to resolve the stand-off, which involved a couple armed with guns and a bomb. Groceries and even pizza were allowed past the police barricades in exchange for concessions from the outlaws holed up in their unit. The softly, softly strategy worked – after 68 hours the couple gave themselves up, no doubt out of boredom. Now the local constabulary is throwing a free street barbecue tonight for neighbours inconvenienced by the stand-off. "A lot of residents helped the police, bringing out food and drinks, so this is our way of saying thank you," a spokesman for the Rodneys said.

Thursday, March 31, 2005


Terror in Sydney Australia

I just can't let go of that explosion at a pizza and kebab cafe in Sydney that I wrote about on Tuesday. Why so little coverage? And why do we not see the words "terror" or "terrorism" associated with it, even speculatively?

I thought, "Well, maybe bombs are so common in Sydney that it's a little like Baghdad. Who cares?" So I've been googling for mention of other bombings in Sydney. I've only been able to find two references,1 and I'm happy to report that the only other actual detonation of a bomb involved something that the press refers to as "chlorine bombs." They were also referred to as "improvised explosive devices" (IEDs), just like they have in Iraq.

The "chlorine bomb"

It seems that at the end of February there were four days of rioting in a poor section of Sydney. The riot was set off by the deaths of two teenagers who crashed their stolen car while being chased by police. In the midst of all this, a "bomb" exploded.

The accounts (and there are a number of them) are somewhat garbled. Some say the "bombs" were thrown; others that they were placed beneath a police car.

Here for your delectation is the strangest account of a bombing that I've ever read—

Police attacked with chlorine bombs
By Paul Carte, AAP
March 01, 2005

FOUR youths were being questioned after a home-made bomb exploded near a police vehicle parked outside a Sydney police station.

Two bombs, which witnesses say contained chlorine, were thrown at the vehicle outside Macquarie Fields police station, but only one went off, a police spokeswoman said.

"Four local males aged between 13 and 15 were arrested running from the scene after two small improvised explosive devices were set off outside the police station under a police RBT van," the spokeswoman said.

"Only one of them actually went off and the youths are currently being interviewed.

"They were arrested about 5.40pm (AEDT)."

Witnesses said they saw two boys aged about 12 approached the van on bikes before throwing the soft-drink containers filled with the chemical mix.

"It was a chlorine bomb - you could smell it," said a resident, who did not want to be identified.

"A couple of kids were going to put them under the truck when someone yelled out 'oi' and they pegged them. The police ended up catching them."

Police established a crime scene and removed one of the unexploded bottles, which lay under the front wheel.

About five metres from the van a white splatter on the road marked the spot where one of the bombs exploded.

As best I can tell, two young teenagers threw two soft-drink bottles full of bleach at a police van. One bottle didn't break and rolled under the wheel of the van. News of the attack made it all the way to India.

The terrorist trial

Finally, I found the words "terror," "bomb" and "Sydney." Zeky (Zak) Mallah, now 21, was the first person charged under Australia's new antiterrorism laws. Here's an account from March 21—

Terror accused 'planned suicide bomb'

The New South Wales District Court today began hearing the trial of Zeky "Zak" Mallah, 21, who has pleaded not guilty to charges under Australia's counter-terror laws.

He is accused of plotting to carry out a suicide attack on the Sydney offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) or the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), in late 2003.

The Crown claims he planned to kill ASIO or DFAT officers in the attack.

He also pleaded not guilty to offering to sell a video tape, typed statement and photograph of himself to an undercover police officer whom he thought was a journalist, between November 2003 and December 2003.

Crown Prosecutor Desmond Fagan SC today told the court the tape and statement related to the planned attacks, and Mallah also told the undercover officer he wanted to kill commonwealth officers.

Mr Fagan said Mallah planned the attack after DFAT refused him a passport in mid-2002.

"As a result of that refusal he developed a hostility to that department and ASIO", Fagan said.

The trial continues.

The trial may have continued, but the coverage didn't. And it's obvious why. This case is a complete fizzle if you want to promote talk of "terrorism."

Here's the only subsequent report from March 22.

A man accused of plotting to launch terror attacks on Australia's top spy agency and senior government officials was angry after being refused a passport but never planned to carry out the assaults, a court was told Tuesday.

Zeky Mallah, a 21-year-old supermarket worker, pleaded innocent in the New South Wales state Supreme Court to planning a rifle attack on the Sydney offices of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, or ASIO, or on foreign affairs officials in late 2003.

Prosecutors allege Mallah, a Muslim of Lebanese descent, planned to seize hostages and execute them.

Mallah's trial is the first under the government's tough new counterterror legislation. He faces a possible life sentence if convicted.

But his lawyer, Phillip Boulten, said Mallah never intended to kill anybody and only hatched the plan to attract media attention. "He was not a sleeping terrorist waiting to jump," Boulten told the court.

"He was a young dreamer, dreaming as it were of his moment in the spotlight," he added. Boulten described the plan as "bravado" and "nonsense."

He said Mallah was depressed at the government's refusal to give him a passport, which meant he could not go to Lebanon to meet his potential bride or make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

News media had reported Mallah's battle to have the government reverse its decision to refuse him a passport.

"He was receiving some relief from his depressed state from the buzz that the media was finding him attractive," Boulten said.

Mallah was also angry that the government never explained why he was refused a passport.

The court has heard that Mallah's phone calls were tapped by police, which prompted a raid on his Sydney apartment.

Police found a .22-caliber rifle, a note in which Mallah outlined his plans for the attack and an application form to become an ASIO agent, the court heard.

It just so happened that on March 21, the very day Mallah's trial began, the following appeared in the Sunday Times

Top police push for court of terrorism
By Martin Chulov

AUSTRALIA'S top police anti-terrorism experts are lobbying for the establishment of a new court to deal exclusively with terrorist trials.

Senior police figures believe a partial switch to a civil law system like the one used in France, where cases are decided through judicial interrogation, would be more effective than trials.

On the eve of the nation's second trial of an alleged terrorist, in which Zeky Mallah will face the NSW Supreme Court, police have suggested lowering the onus of proof needed for a successful prosecution for some terrorism-related offences.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty has backed the police bid for reform but argued that a terrorist court should be taken offshore and given to an international body to administer.

"Just as some countries have introduced drug courts to deal with the global expansion of drug-related crime, perhaps it is time to consider an international court with special powers to deal with terrorism," Mr Keelty said. [emphasis added]

Let's review

(1) Okay. Let's go back to the kebab shop, owned by a Kurd. The explosion occurred at the front of the building. The police have ruled out a gas main explosion. The blast was large enough that the building must be torn down and that surrounding shops were damaged.

Nowhere can you find the word "terror" associated with this. In fact, you can scarcely discover that it happened. Yet this is the only instance of a (likely) real bombing that I can find through the press that has occurred in Sydney in recent times.

(2) Two boys throw some bleach and the police were "bombed." The news makes it to India.

(3) Australia passes "antiterror" legislation (the Australian Patriot Act) and before you know it a Middle Eastern terrorist turns up. The terrorist had wanted to get a passport, and before his arrest his effort to obtain a passport had been well covered in the media.

So our terrorist goes to someone whom he believes to be a reporter and announces his plan to kill agents of the government. Oh, and he wants to join the Australian intelligence service. Hmmh.

(4) On the day our terrorist's trial begins top police announce the need for a "terrorism court." The motion is seconded by the head of the Australian federal police (their FBI, you know), who adds that he would prefer that the court be offshore.


If you think you're going to get some kind of cockamamey conspiracy theory out of me, you're just wrong. The idea that the Australian media and government should be in cahoots to promote the destruction of civil, judicial and human rights by manipulating the news is patently ridiculous. That's the sort of thing you might expect of the Iraqis under Saddam ... or perhaps the Americans and British ... but surely not the Australians.

The bombing of a Middle Eastern cafe was probably conducted by some disaffected youths just out to have a little fun. No harm in that.


1 I had to exclude "firebombings." Firebombings are apparently a dime a dozen. Aside from attacks on mosques, synagogues and churches, they have also been employed in football rivalries. None of this falls under the heading of "terrorism." [back]

Previous post
Brownshirt terrorism in Australia?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


It's getting hotter than Iraq for Sanchez

Mark Kraft of Insomnia had the "Post of the Day" yesterday. After noting the memo by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez that was released yesterday by the ACLU, in which Sanchez authorized "29 interrogation techniques, including 12 which far exceeded limits established by the Army’s own Field Manual," Kraft realized that Sanchez has most likely perjured himself during the Senate hearing on Iraq prison abuse.

Senator Jack Reed sounded suspicious at the time. From the testimony [emphasis added]—

REED: Thank you.

General Sanchez, today's USA Today, sir, reported that you ordered or approved the use of sleep deprivation, intimidation by guard dogs, excessive noise and inducing fear as an interrogation method for a prisoner in Abu Ghraib prison.

REED: Is that correct?

SANCHEZ: Sir, that may be correct that it's in a news article, but I never approved any of those measures to be used within CJTF-7 [Coalition Joint Task Force] at any time in the last year.

REED: Excuse me. Because I want to get back to this.

It may be correct that you ordered those methods used against a prisoner. Is that your answer?

SANCHEZ: No, sir, that's not what I said. I said it may be correct...

REED: Well, I didn't hear; that's why I want...

SANCHEZ: ... that it's printed in an article, but I have never approved the use of any of those methods within CJTF-7 in the 12.5 months that I've been in Iraq.

REED: What level of command produced this slide?

SANCHEZ: Sir, my understanding is that that was produced at the company commander level.

REED: How could the company commander evolve such a specific list? How could the company commander then turn around and said some of these things would require your permission without any interaction between your command? It seems to me just difficult to understand.

SANCHEZ: Sir, it's difficult for me to understand it. You have to ask the commander.

REED: Now, this is the company commander that you relieved and gave him a letter of admonition.

SANCHEZ: No, sir.


Mark also notes that "Rumsfeld had previously approved the interrogation methods for Guantanamo, which the methods in Sanchez' memo were based upon."

Related post
The smell of fear (3/25/05)


"That woman is no criminal; she's just twisted"1

My cousin Dandy Niews has been considering the launch of another blog—Simply Appealing—where readers of Simply Appalling may go for R&R to recover from the depression into which they are inevitably plunged. While producing a steady diet of sweetness and light is probably beyond the capacity of any of my relatives, Dandy hopes to offer at least a glimmer of hope, or as W.H. Auden put it, "ironic points of light ... wherever the Just exchange their messages."

I've agreed to let Dandy try his hand here first so long as he keeps it brief and doesn't spoil the tone.

A novel presentation of Denver street-walkers has garnered sympathy for their plight and led to the creation of some diversionary programs that are a welcome alternative to jails.

Amy Herdy reports

Seeing the same faces shuffle through the system on prostitution charges, the undercover vice detective began to collect them.

He placed arrest photo after photo of each woman in sequence, so someone could study the first innocuous picture, skim through the middle and be riveted on the last: the one that shows the ravages of living on the street, where eyes tell tales of pain and despair, anger and desperation.

He placed the photos in a black binder, and on the first page he typed, "Look at this and ask yourself if prostitution is really a victimless crime."

Now, a Denver county judge keeps a copy in his courtroom to show first offenders as he oversees a new jail-diversion program for prostitutes. The proposal for that program was written in part by a Denver official who was stunned by the photos.

A City Council member, sickened after viewing the pages, is renewing her efforts to fund a treatment program for prostitutes in Denver.

And police officers use the book in training to raise the awareness of those who believe that prostitution is only about crime.

"There's no way you can look at those photos," the undercover detective, whom department officials asked not to be identified, told The Denver Post, "and not see the victimization involved."

Last month, [Denver County Judge] Marcucci began overseeing Project Chrysalis, a new drug court program funded by the Department of Justice designed solely as a jail diversion program for prostitutes with multiple arrests.

When critics of the justice system tell him to toughen his sentences on prostitutes, Marcucci said, "I show them the book. Then they say, 'Oh, my God, we have to get these women some help."'

Thank you, Dandy. That's quite enough.

Now if we could only do something for poor Guckert/Gannon....


1 Lily Tomlin, as Lucille the rubber freak [back]


The goose and the gander want to break some eggs

Last Friday the Washington Post interviewed Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The previous day Colorado University's Chancellor Phil DeSteffano released the preliminary report, authored by him and two deans, of their investigation into Ward Churchill, the Ethnic Studies professor who has put academic freedom to the test by writing an article in which he used "the term 'little Eichmanns' in the 9/11 Essay to refer to the victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks."

Since Churchill's "Eichmann" statement is clearly protected by the First Amendment, CU has had to look elsewhere for a line of attack. The Chancellor's committee therefore considered whether other of Professor Churchill's writings and speeches exceeded "the boundaries of a public employee's constitutionally protected speech" and looked at portions of four statements. Here are two of them [emphasis added]—

  • In an interview published in the April 2004 edition of Satya magazine, Professor Churchill spoke of the elimination of the United States government:
  • If I defined the state as being the problem, just what happens to the state. I've never fashioned myself to be a revolutionary, but it's part and parcel of what I'm talking about. You can create through consciousness a situation of flux, perhaps, in which something better can replace it. In instability there's potential. That's about as far as I go with revolutionary consciousness. I'm actually de-evolutionary. I don't want other people in charge of the apparatus of the state as the outcome of a socially transformative process that replicates oppression. I want the state gone: transform the situation to U.S out of North America. U.S. off the planet. Out of existence altogether.

  • In an essay written in 2001, Professor Churchill stated: "Those committed to achieving fundamental change rather than cosmetic tweakings of the existing system are thus left with no viable alternative but to include the realities of state violence as an integral part of our political calculus."

The Chancellor's report found that—

While some of his [Churchill's] statements advocate violence as a means to a political end in an abstract way, they do not rise to the level of inciting imminent and concrete violence as that line has been drawn by the United States Supreme Court. Therefore, the nature and content of Professor Churchill's speech does not exceed the boundaries of a public employee's protected speech.

Condoleeza Rice has been thinking about "the state" along lines in some ways similar (and in other ways not so similar) to Ward Churchill's—

Q: Is there any country in the region in which you worry about things progressing too rapidly, or what could happen if the lid came off too fast?

SECRETARY RICE: I really believe that once these things are in motion it is not possible to try and almost thermostat-like dial them up and back. They take on a life of their own.

Q: So you're not concerned about a rapid rise of Islamic fundamentatalism in many of these countries, particularly Saudi Arabia or even as Iraq that started out?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh sure. Nobody wants to see the rise of greater fundamentalism or greater – let me use extremism. But it is really as opposed to what at this point? It isn't as if the status quo was stable the way that it was. What we really learned on September 11 as you really started to look underneath what was going on there, is that the Middle East is a place that's badly in need of change, ... but when you recognize that you can say, all right well now I'll try and design the perfect counter to that. Or you can say, the United States is not going to be able to design the perfect counter to that; the only thing the United States can do is to speak out for the values that have been absent, liberty and freedom there, and it will have to take its own course.

And then you have to have some confidence that democratic institutions and people's desire not to live in violence and not to be kind of constantly sending their children off to be suicide bombers, is going to have a moderating effect on the region.

Can we be certain of that? No. But do I think there's a strong certainty that the Middle East was not going to stay stable anyway? Yes. And when you know that the status quo is no longer defensible, then you have to be willing to move in another direction.

I also think there's some argument to be made that America's association with the freedom deficit was a problem for the United States in the region.... And, of course, they were right because this was the decision that stability trumped everything, and what we were getting was neither stability nor democracy.

As reported by Jonathan Wright of Reuters, Condi's radicalism has upset more than a few—

"This a very dangerous scheme. Anarchy will be out of control," said Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University and an advocate of gradual change.

A liberal Arab diplomat, who asked not to be named, said: "They seem to be supporting chaos and instability as a pretext for bringing democracy. But people would rather live under undemocratic rule than in the chaotic atmosphere of Iraq, for example, which the Americans tout as a model."

Mohamed el-Sayed Said, a liberal who has challenged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to his face over authoritarian government, said Arab societies were too fragile for the kind of rapid and unchecked change that Rice appears to welcome.

Apart from the danger of extremists coming to power, the Arab world would face the threat that societies and states could collapse completely, he told Reuters.

Wright explains how essential this view is to the U.S.' policy in the Middle East—

The Bush administration has argued that political violence and hostility to the United States in the Middle East are the result of internal repression, rather than of U.S. policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the main Arab grievance.

That argument is at the core of President Bush's campaign for domestic political change in Arab countries, which has had a mixed reception even among Arab liberals.

But where could Condi be getting such ideas?

Helena Cobban, a writer on Middle East affairs based in the United States, said: "She (Rice) reveals a totally cavalier attitude to the whole non-trivial concept of social-political stability in Middle Eastern countries."

"So it looks as though Arc of Instability may now actually be the goal of U.S. policy, rather than its diagnosis of an existing problem," she added.

Mohamed el-Sayed Said said Rice's approach appeared to have links with a trend in right-wing Israeli thinking that favors destabilising Arab governments and societies.

"We see an emphasis on destruction and we see that Israel is willing to push Arab societies to the abyss without caring for stability. We suspect these ideas came from Israel," he added.

Perhaps we should refer Dr. Rice's statements to a committee.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Quote of the Day

The problems and questions that arose as a result of the James Guckert affair are many. Mainly, the White House facilitated a fake journalist’s entry into the White House and, by doing so, perpetrated a fraud against the American people. And since that time has participated in a cover-up. The National Press Club, by not taking a stronger and more vocal position in the matter acted as an accomplice after the fact. Their latest action can only be described as pandering, in the truest sense of the word, i.e. pimping.
—George Henson in letter to Romenesko concerning the National Press Club decision to include Guckert/Gannon in a panel on blogging

Brownshirt terrorism in Australia?

Yesterday as I was scanning Australian headlines, I came upon "Sniffer dogs help fire investigation," with a lede that mentioned a "kebab cafe." Sensing that "kebab" might be code for Middle Eastern, I decided to take a look. Sure enough. A shop located in a section of Sydney and owned by a Kurd has most likely been bombed. I waited until today for more coverage, but I needn't have bothered. There ain't none.

Basically two stories have been written—one simply states the facts of the event and the other contains an interview with the owner. That's it. Nada. And neither story has moved beyond the Australian press.

Can you imagine that a cafe were bombed in Israel without full coverage on CNN, Fox, the AP, the NY Times and the Washington Post?

Here is the initial report—

A cafe in Sydney's south-west has been destroyed by a large, loud explosion overnight.

The blast happened just after midnight at a Panania pizza and kebab cafe on Anderson Avenue.

It sent the cafe's roller door flying into the air and shattered many nearby shop windows.

No one was injured as the cafe was closed at the time, however there was a group of six people in a small flat at the back of the building.

New South Wales Fire Brigade Superintendent Ian Krimmer says it was a massive blast.

"As a result of the incident there was a subsequent fire which threatened to spread to several adjoining buildings," he said.

"Fire crews were on scene within eight minutes - they had quickly contained the fire to the building origin."

He says the explosion damaged buildings 50 metres away.

"There is a fair amount of debris and bricks that have fallen onto the roadway in front of this particular shop," Supt Krimmer said.

The cause of the explosion is yet to be determined.

Police are asking people who own businesses in the vicinity of Panania Post Office to contact Bankstown or Revesby police about securing their property.

A slightly different version gives this—

Witnesses told reporters a man was seen running from the rear of the building shortly before the explosion, reports said.

NSW Police and NSW Fire will jointly investigate the blaze and a crime scene has been established at the site.

Larrissa Cummings' interview with the owner produced this—

The owner of a Sydney takeaway cafe ripped apart by a powerful blast suspects he may have been the target of a bomb attack.

Auburn businessman Max Polat, told The Daily Telegraph yesterday he was still coming to terms with the destruction of the Darling Cafe in Panania, which he bought from another local kebab shop owner about 15 months ago.

And he revealed that he had been viciously abused by racist youths a few weeks ago.

Although Mr Polat could recall no specific "enemies" he said he was almost forced to call the police last month when the gang began swearing at him and behaving violently in the cafe.

"They were angry that I had an Australian flag hanging up, when I am Kurdish," he said.

"They asked me what nationality I was and I told them I have great respect for the Australian flag and people and then they started swearing and one of them tried to attack me."

Mr Polat said he did not know the youths and had not seen them since the incident.

Fire investigators yesterday revealed Sunday's explosion was not caused by a faulty gas main, as first suspected.

Inspector Paul Bailey said an initial inspection found the main intact - indicating the blast was caused by something else.

He said the outward force of the blast suggested the flashpoint was somewhere near the front of the cafe, however a full-scale investigation and clean up would not be possible until insurance company inspectors visited the site today.

Imagine that! No police investigation until the insurance company can get there!

The blogger-journalist David Neiwert of Orcinus has been pointing out terrorist acts from the right for quite some time. As it happens, yesterday was no exception. He quotes from a report in Congressional Quarterly

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not list right-wing domestic terrorists and terrorist groups on a document that appears to be an internal list of threats to the nation's security.

And then Neiwert notes—

Here's a reality check for the Department of Homeland Security: After the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995, through Jan. 1, 2000, there were over 40 serious cases of domestic terrorism -- some of it realized, some of it thwarted -- committed by right-wing extremists.

These were not petty or mere property crimes. They included the bombing of the Atlanta Olympics and abortion clinics by Eric Rudolph; a plan to attack a gathering of military families in the Midwest; and a plot to blow up a California propane facility. In every instance, the planned or perpetrated act involved serious violence in which potentially many people could be killed or injured.

Neiwert concludes—

The report also makes clear that this apparently is only a draft version of the list of apparent threats. But if it emerges that this in fact is the DHS view of domestic terrorism, then it should be clear there is something seriously wrong with its priorities.

And then, perhaps, we should begin asking some of the uncomfortable questions that naturally arise, to wit: Does this administration's heavy rightward political tilt have any role in its failure to recognize right-wing extremists as the serious security threat that they objectively are?

Australians may need to ask that question of their media and their government.

Follow-up post
Terror in Sydney Australia

Monday, March 28, 2005


Cracking your 256-bit encryption

Brian Krebs of the Washington Post takes us inside the Secret Service's efforts to decrypt encrypted material. It boils down to two things: The encryptor must use a non-random password to the key and the Secret Service must use a lot of computer power.
"In most cases, there's a greater probability that the sun will burn out before all the computers in the world could factor in all of the information needed to brute force a 256-bit key," said Jon Hansen, vice president of marketing for AccessData Corp, the Lindon, Utah, company that built the software that powers DNA.

Yet, like most security systems, encryption has an Achilles' heel -- the user. That's because some of today's most common encryption applications protect keys using a password supplied by the user. Most encryption programs urge users to pick strong, alphanumeric passwords, but far too often people ignore that critical piece of advice, said Bruce Schneier, an encryption expert and chief technology officer at Counterpane Internet Security Inc. in Mountain View, Calif.

"Most people don't pick a random password even though they should, and that's why projects like this work against a lot of keys," Schneier said. "Lots of people -- even the bad guys -- are really sloppy about choosing good passwords."

But I already knew that. So why do I keep using "cryptographer"?

But what's interesting is that they're using the distributed network techniques made famous in the search for extraterrestrial life, where online users were invited to participate by allowing the project to use their computers.

Unlike other distributed networking programs, such as the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence Project -- which graphically display their number-crunching progress when a host computer's screen saver is activated -- DNA works silently in the background, completely hidden from the user. Lewis said the Secret Service chose not to call attention to the program, concerned that employees might remove it.

"Computer users often experience system lockups that are often inexplicable, and many users will uninstall programs they don't understand," Lewis said. "As the user base becomes more educated with the program and how it functions, we certainly retain the ability to make it more visible."

On the other hand, they retain the ability to extend the program beyond their employee base.


DC's Rainbow Unit

Anne Hull of the Washington Post has a lengthy Page 1 story on the DC Metropolitan police's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.
They are butch, feminine, black, white, straight, gay, campy, bitchy, bourgie and fully armed. They can see, really see, what other officers cannot or will not. If what they see sometimes is the darker side of gay life, it's because they aren't spending time at Target watching gay people buy towel racks. They're on the receiving end of 911.
I've been wondering where gay people were getting their towel racks.

In case you were wondering who is really behind Guantánamo

The Australian government is reported to be getting antsy about David Hicks, an Australian citizen held at Guantánamo for over three years. Though Hicks has finally been charged by a U.S. military tribunal—one of the few—the Aussie government isn't sure that means anything. Here's why—
The [Australian] Federal Government would be deeply embarrassed if Hicks was released without facing trial.

The Sydney man Mamdouh Habib was freed from Guantanamo after 3 years in prison, despite public US assurances he would face trial and the Government's insistence he had trained to be a terrorist bomb-maker.

The Sydney Morning Herald cites a Washington Post story

Murat Kurnaz, a German Islamic missionary, was ruled by a military tribunal to be an enemy combatant even though US and German security agencies found there was no evidence of links to al-Qaeda or terrorism, the paper said. US military intelligence even concluded he had been arrested by mistake.

Instead, the paper said, the tribunal discarded this finding and focused on a short memo from an unnamed official saying he was a terrorist and had been unco-operative. That stance was criticised by Judge Joyce Green of the US Federal Court, who reviewed the case.

Mr Kurnaz remains at Guantanamo Bay more than three years after he was incarcerated. [emphasis added]

But you already knew all that about the ways of the American government, didn't you?

But determination of who is responsible for this sorry, unconstitutional and illegal state of affairs is harder to pin down. Nominally, of course, it would be George Bush. But I hope that no reader of Simply Appalling seriously believes that George could be responsible for anything other than, perhaps, an odor of corruption and thievery. The reins of government lie firmly in other hands—

Citing US military and government officials, The New York Times said the Pentagon was circulating a 232-page draft manual for the tribunals that would usher in "substantial changes" that would strengthen the rights of defendants, establish more independent judges and disallow confessions obtained by torture.

However, it also reported that the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney, was vehemently opposed to any changes and their adoption was by no means certain.

Related post
George Bush: Cheerleader-in-Chief of Social Security "reform"


Sealed with a fish

Princess Nori of the Japanese royal family has become betrothed. According to Deborah Cameron of the Sydney Morning Herald,
Film of two whopping sea bream laid out as though beached on a table inside the Imperial Palace made for riveting viewing as the lead item on weekend news bulletins. Cameras also hovered over two bolts of fabric and three bottles of sake, also given as part of the royal betrothal rite.
In a reversal of the usual fairy-tale ending, upon her marriage the princess will become a commoner, albeit a wealthy one.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


Quote of the Day

This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy. There are going to be repercussions from this vote.
—Christopher Shays, Republican Representative who voted against the Terri Schiavo bill

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