Monday, March 21, 2005

I haven't said a whole lot about Terri Shaivo, ever. I've lived in Pinellas/Tampa for years so it's hardly a new story for me. So, here's some things after years of pondering.

Were she a Guantanamo Bay terrorist wounded and become a mental vegetable because of injuries sustained in a gunfight escape attempt with American soldiers, and the Pentagon decided to remove feeding tubes from said brain-dead terrorist, every liberal activist would be outraged and labeling our government and military as thugs no different than the terrorist they wounded. "How can we say we fight for human rights and liberty," they would cry, "if we starve this terrorist to death, and deny him basic human liberties?" The moral equivalency would pour from their eyes in buckets.

And, were this a Panda bear on life support -- due to complications after giving birth to the latest set of Ying-Yang Panda babies, or whatever the hell they're called -- can you imagine how animal rights activists would be protesting all day and night outside the zoo as park administrators wrung their hands over whether or not to shut down Mommy Yang's life support?

Mr. Shaivo claims that he is fighting for Terri's rights. Fine. But her parents are too. People say it's sad that they're so desperate to hold onto her baby. I say it's human. People say this is not what Terri Shaivo would have wanted for herself, but I gotta believe that neither would she want her parents in this living hell.

Is she aware, is she not? Who knows? Does it matter anymore what she wanted especially when we don't know for sure what she wanted? At this point Terri's husband and parents hate one another. I ask you if that's what she would have wanted?

It's always seemed odd to me that her husband would be so adamant about her dying that he would pursue this to the bitter end knowing what it was doing to her parents. Everyone dies eventually, Terri Shaivo included. What is the price that Mr. Shaivo is willing to pay for an early termination to inevitable mortality that befalls us all? I'm not a betting man, but I'd place my marks that in the afterlife Terri Shaivo is not going to say, "Thanks for fighting for me, honey," as much as she's going to slap him and say, "I cannot believe what you put my parents through, I was going to die one day anyway."

And were she so adamant about not living on life support, and if we are to believe that she would be just fine and dandy with her husband sticking her parents in the ribs, then I have to believe she would have taken better precautions... if it really mattered so very much.

People will still say to me, "Would you want this to happen to you? What if you were Terri Shaivo?" I guess my answer is: what the hell do I care, I'm a freaking vegetable, right? And if I'm not, then you can't very well argue that I should be starved to death, can you?

So let me be honest about what I would want: If I become a vegetable I don't give one flying squirrel's hind quarters what my family does with me just so long as they don't hate each other from arguing about it for a decade, not to mention give all their retirement and child-college money to slick-haired lawyers who always, always make theirs. (In fact the universe could stop spinning tomorrow but rest assured the trial lawyer would live on.) Starve me, keep me alive, or stuff me with cotton balls and bring me out during Gator games. I don't care. Just don't destroy your lives fighting over mine.

As far as Terri Shaivo: It matters not now. At this point it's all one big political F.U.B.A.R. and we all know how it's going to end. The court battles will be drug out for so long that she'll starve to death first. Then again, I've seen crazier things happen -- like activists fighting for the liberty of terrorists even though those terrorists would gladly slice their necks open without blinking.


[Update: I'm keeping this post bumped up high so people who may have not heard -- all three of you -- know I'm taking a break, even if I did get suckered in by the Terri Shaivo affair.]

It's been five [well, 11] days since I posted anything and I didn't think it would be so long. But to tell you the truth maybe I needed that break and then some. So, I'm not sure what is to come of this site. I still like to follow current events and give you my useless opinion of them, but the truth be told I think after 5 years straight I was getting tired. At the same time I have a new position at my job which requires all my attention, and am looking for a house -- heck, that latter is so frustrating that I could start a blog just on that topic!

What I'm saying is one of these days I'll just feel the urge and fire it up again but for now I think I need this break. How long is "this break"? A week? A month? Well, I'm not exactly sure yet. Probably not a whole month though.

Anyway, I won Bush the election (twice, plus the congressional race in 02), what else do you want? Plus, I had all of four hits today and I'd bet good money I could come close to naming all four.

Regardless, I appreciate your patience during my mid-life crisis.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

For the Kook watch:

A woman became a road rage victim Tuesday not because of the way she drove, but because of how she voted in the last presidential election. It happened in Tampa and the entire drama was recorded during a 911 call.

Officers say Nathan Winkler, 31, saw a Bush-Cheney bumper sticker on Michelle Fernandez's car and showed her a sign of his own.

"He drove up next to me, with his, he has a sign hanging from his windshield, passenger window that says something about the war in Iraq," Fernandez said during her call to 911. "And he literally tried to run me off the road. And I'm just trying, I'm just getting away from him right now, but I mean I'm shaking like a leaf."

Fernandez stayed on the phone with the 911 operator as Winkler allegedly tried to hit her.

"Oh, here he is again, here he is again," Fernandez screamed. "I have my kids in the car. He's running after my car. He's in the middle of the street."

When the 911 operator asked, "Was that him blowing his horn at you," Fernandez responded, "No, I was just blowing a horn at somebody because I'm running stoplights and everything else to get away from him."

The 911 operator tried to convince Fernandez to drive to a police station, but she was afraid to stop.

"Will they be ready for me?" asked Fernandez. "Because, I've got kids in the car and everything else."

Fernandez eventually got away by hiding in a park. Officers traced Winkler's license plate to his Tampa home, where they found his handwritten message still inside the car.

It said, "Never forget Bush's illegal oil war murdered thousands in Iraq." Winkler is facing one count of aggravated stalking. He was released from jail Wednesday on $2,000 bond.

Yea, murdered thousands of terrorists and created 20 million democratic capitalists. Sheesh - I guess this what the Radical Left - unhinged in all its glory - considers free speech.



BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Lebanon's pro-Syrian prime minister, who was forced to resign last week by opposition protests, was virtually assured of being asked to form the next government after a majority of lawmakers backed him Wednesday.

An unofficial count gave Omar Karami more than half the votes in the 128-member legislature. A formal announcement by President Emile Lahoud, who consulted with legislators, may be made as early as Wednesday night or Thursday.

Opposition lawmakers only sent two representatives and did not put forward a name when they met with Lahoud. Instead, they reiterated their demands for the new government: the complete withdrawal of Syrian troops and intelligence officials from Lebanon, the resignation of Lebanese security officials they deem as negligent and a thorough investigation into the Feb. 14 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Is it just me or does it seem like the Lebanese opposition leaders are baiting the pro-Syrian faction to piss off the population some more?

Seriously, we'll see, but one hopes that Syria has another thing coming if they think they can just reappoint without consequence the same headpiece.



Given all his support for the war in Iraq, for the US and Bush Administration, and for just not being one of your typical European elites who make trashing America their hobby, you've got to like Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi. That's why when it comes the shooting of intelligence agent Nicola Calipari it's so hard for me to conclude that Berlusconi is full of it.

It's coming to a bit of a head, even as both the US and Italy try to keep things cordial. The problem is that we've got two very conflicting stories. Italy claims that they informed the US military of the rescue - of which we're not even sure it was a rescue because of ransom allegations - while the US military and White House claim there was no advance knowledge of the plot.

But there are several things which lead me to believe there's no reason to distrust our version of events.

[Wa. Post] But in his first major address since Friday's shooting strained relations between the United States and Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told lawmakers the car carrying the intelligence agent Nicola Calipari and journalist Giuliana Sgrena was traveling at a slow speed and stopped immediately when a light was flashed.

Berlusconi said Calipari had notified an Italian liaison officer, waiting at the Baghdad airport along with an American officer, that they were on their way.

However, he added, "I'm sure that in a very short time every aspect of this will be clarified."

Name the agent. Name the contact. To date the US military, to its highest levels, has said there is no information, so at this point Berlusconi is beyond making Ran Ratheresque references to mystery sources.

Secondly, Berlusconi and the Italian version of events - which rely heavily upon the reporting of admittedly Communist biased reporter Giuliani Sgrena - simply don't mesh with the evidence.

"We have a duty to demand the maximum collaboration to obtain the truth and determine who is responsible," Berlusconi said in an address to the senate on the killing. ...Berlusconi, like his foreign minister Gianfranco Fini in a speech to parliament the day before, directly contradicted the US account of the shooting, which said the Italians' car had ignored warning shots and signals by the US patrol. He told senators the vehicle had braked immediately and come to a stop within a few yards after a light was flashed. "In that moment there was a burst of firing which lasted 10-15 seconds".
Unfortunately for Berlusconi the damage to the car - it's windshield still completely in tact - hardly matches the damage that would have occurred from 15 seconds of automatic rifle fire at point blank range. Instead it meshes with checkpoint soldiers who reported that they were forces to fire towards the engine block because the car would not slow down, and its driver ignored warning signs.

Here's a little more (from Jawa Report) on Sgrena's exaggerations, of which Italian politicians might want to think twice before citing:

From her report to the BBC: "We were on our way to the airport when the tanks started to strike against us and he tried to cover me and he was shot. He died and, me, I was safe but he was dead."

Tanks, eh?

From her report to Il Manifesto: "They told me that we were less than a kilometer away...when...I only remember fire. At that point, a rain of fire and bullets hit us, shutting up forever the cheerful voices of a few minutes earlier...The Americans shone a flashlight at the car and then fired between 300 and 400 bullets at if from an armoured vehicle."

Again, tanks. Oh, and 350 bullets. To quote Glenn Reynolds, "If U.S. troops were firing as much as Sgrena claims, they should all be sent back to the shooting range to requalify." Indeed!

Yet the American report, which matches the evidence of vehicular damage, is the same every time: "The 3rd ID issued a press statement last week saying the car was racing toward the checkpoint when they signaled it to stop, fired warning shots and finally shot the engine block of the car. The shots killed one and wounded two, including the journalist."

And: "The Army's 3rd Infantry Division, which last week resumed command of Baghdad operations after participating in the 2003 invasion, said the soldiers had warned the approaching car repeatedly before opening fire. According to the division, the patrol attempted to warn the driver to stop by hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots in front of the car."

Add to that, that by her own admission Sgrena wrote that the car was traveling fast enough to "almost losing [lost]control to avoid" puddles, adding "Losing control of the car in a street full of water in Baghdad and maybe wind up in a bad car accident after all I had been through would really be a tale I would not be able to tell." If the car was really traveling at only 40km/hr would it have been in danger of losing control?

Meanwhile, "A senior U.S. military official tells ABC News he believes the investigation into the fatal shooting of an Italian intelligence officer by U.S. troops in Iraq will ultimately prove the officer's car was traveling in excess of 100 mph." The ABC News report matches Sgrena's admission of a near loss of control: "The driver almost lost control several times before the shooting as the car hydroplaned through large puddles, the official told ABC News. The car had not gone through any previous checkpoints, the source added."

Yet Berlusconi and Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini say that there were no warning shots, the car wasn't speeding, the US was informed, and paint our checkpoint soldiers generally as trigger happy. Just one very big problem: They weren't there. The US military, it's soldiers, were.

[Wash Post] In Washington, Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. general in Iraq, said an investigation of the shooting had been ordered. But Casey said he had been unaware Friday that Italian officials had entered Iraq to rescue Sgrena and said he had heard nothing since to indicate the Italians had informed U.S. forces of the route her car would take.
We will see, won't we. But right now it's not looking so hot for the Italian government.



Were I a betting man I'd wager that the White House will offer Berlusconi enough saved face to protect him. An ambiguous finding will be made where both parties take blame for a lack of communication, where the soldiers aren't shown to be trigger happy, but the US military will nonetheless offer a heavy and lengthy study into their checkpoint procedures.

The reason our Italian allies are playing this tough is because they have no choice. Remember the Madrid bombings and how the opposition party used a terrorist attack to win elections and pull out of Iraq. The Italians, and no doubt the White House, quietly fear such a scenario coming about should they fail to keep this incident from boiling over.

I'm waiting for the inevitable low-level scapegoat who was informed by Italian agents but failed to alert the proper superiors.



It's official. Giuliana Sgrena is a first rate kook. Thanks to Jawa for the following article which Sgrena wrote following the US incursion into Fallujah - a lair of terrorists:

We buried them, but we could not identify them because they were charred from the napalm bombs used by the Americans». People from Saqlawiya village, near Falluja, told al Jazeera television, based in Qatar, that they helped bury 73 bodies of women and children completely charred, all in the same grave. The sad story of common graves, which started at Saddam’s times, is not yet finished. Nobody could confirm if napalm bombs have been used in Falluja, but other bodies found last year after the fierce battle at Baghdad airport were also completely charred and some thought of nuclear bombs.
Nuclear bombs? Yep, that's what she wrote - that the US had used nuclear bombs in Baghdad. I've heard of mini-nukes but that one must have been about the size of a grain of sand. Anyway, Jawa has a bunch more, you can read it there.

Speaking of kooks, a former US Marine who claims to have participated in the raid to get Saddam Hussein told a Saudi daily that the event was staged.

Ex-Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh, of Lebanese descent, was quoted in the Saudi daily al-Medina Wednesday as saying Saddam was actually captured Friday, Dec. 12, 2003, and not the day after, as announced by the U.S. Army.

"I was among the 20-man unit, including eight of Arab descent, who searched for Saddam for three days in the area of Dour near Tikrit, and we found him in a modest home in a small village and not in a hole as announced," Abou Rabeh said. "We captured him after fierce resistance during which a Marine of Sudanese origin was killed," he said.

He said Saddam himself fired at them with a gun from the window of a room on the second floor. Then they shouted at him in Arabic: "You have to surrender. ... There is no point in resisting." "Later on, a military production team fabricated the film of Saddam's capture in a hole, which was in fact a deserted well," Abou Rabeh said. Abou Rabeh was interviewed in Lebanon.

Interesting how Mr. Rabeh felt it necessary to go to the den of all conspiracy theories - the Arab media - to out his story. I'm sure the Enquirer would have paid good money.

Finally, former UN weapons inspector turned conspiracy theorist Scott Ritter claims that the Iraq vote was staged:

Claiming he was vindicated when the U.S. failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Ritter insisted that the election results were changed using a "secret recount" held three days after the vote. "It's as obvious as anything," the former weapons expert told WWRL Radio's Steve Malzberg and Karen Hunter.
Ritter claims that Allawi won only 4 percent of the vote, not 13. How he knows this is never explained. Nor why the US would bother to cook a vote that would produce the same outcome as expected -- a Shiite majority. Allawi may have won 13 percent but he and the Sunnis still came in third, they still lost, and he's still expected to eventually lose his post. Sheeesh - shouldn't a conspiracy theory have a point.

By the way, Ritter claimed to have been vindicated because we "found" no WMD in Iraq, yet it was Ritter who once professed there were such weapons. That's convenient amnesia. Ritter also accepted cash from a pro-Saddam financier to produce a "documentary" on Iraq. Ritter currently works for that monument to biased conspiracy journalism, Al Jazeera.



You may have read the Drudge-linked ABC News claim that a secret FBI report concludes that "To date, we have not identified any true 'sleeper' agents in the US." From this ABC News concludes first it contradicts previous sleeper cell descriptions such as the one busted up in Lackawanna, NY, and that the sleeper cell threat may be "overblown."

"Limited reporting since March indicates al-Qa'ida has sought to recruit and train individuals to conduct attacks in the United States, but is inconclusive as to whether they have succeeded in placing operatives in this country," the report reads. "US Government efforts to date also have not revealed evidence of concealed cells or networks acting in the homeland as sleepers."

It also differs from testimony given by FBI Director Robert Mueller, who warned in the past that several sleeper cells were probably in place.

"Our greatest threat is from al Qaeda cells in the United States that we have not yet been able to identify," Mueller said at a Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing in February 2003. "Finding and rooting out al Qaeda members once they have entered the United States and have had time to establish themselves is our most serious intelligence and law enforcement challenge."

When the secret report was issued last month, on Feb. 16, Mueller testified at a hearing before the same committee that the lack of evidence concerned him. "I am concerned about what we are not seeing," he said.


Well, it's all in how you term a sleeper cell. If some organized, all-knowing crack espionage unit sent by Osama bin Laden, like those on 24, the ABC News conclusions are likely right on. However, it must be reminded to all that of the 19 9-11 hijackers only a handful knew the full details of the plot. Bin Laden himself bragged that the strongarms did not know of their fate even as the planes were heading towards their targets. It must also be remembered that often these sleeper cells are truly dynamic in authority, operating independently often two or three steps away from Al Qaeda leadership. Those Lackwanna militants whom ABC News would downplay as threats did train in Afghanistan. Likewise, James Ujaama, who started his own cell in Bly, Oregon, trained under the tutelage of Abu Hamza of the Finsbury Park mosque. Hamza also radicalized "Shoebomber" Richard Reid and "20th hijacker" Zacharias Mossoaui. If ABC News considers these men exaggerated sleeper cell threats it makes one wonder exactly what ABC News would consider a threat.



The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow -- and they will win.
-- Michael "Can I get another glazed donut?" Moore, 4/14/2004

BAGHDAD, March 9 -- The bodies of at least 39 people, some beheaded and many handcuffed and shot, were found at two separate locations in Iraq, security officials said Wednesday, and a suicide bombing outside a major hotel in Baghdad wounded 30 American contractors... In the deadliest incident, U.S. forces found the bodies of 26 Iraqis, all dressed in civilian clothes, in a remote area outside the desert town of Qaim, about 200 miles west of Baghdad and 10 miles from the Syrian border... The victims had been blindfolded, handcuffed behind their backs and shot in the back and head... Later in the day, at least 13 bodies, many of them headless, were found in the town of Latifiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad in a dangerous region known as the "triangle of death," according to an Interior Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said the dead "were presumed to be members of the National Guard" or Iraqi army... In an interview with the Reuters news agency, Iraqi Capt. Sabah Yassin said 15 headless bodies were found in a building at an abandoned army base. He said that the dead comprised 10 men, three women and two children and that some of them may have been part of a group of Iraqi soldiers kidnapped in the area two weeks ago.
Cutting off kid's heads. Those are some minutemen. If there's an afterlife I'd like to think Sam Adams is going to beat the snot out of Michael Moore.



[WND] While University of Colorado officials defend controversial professor Ward Churchill in the name of free speech, an evangelical Christian professor at the school claims he's about to be dismissed for religious or political reasons.

Professor Phil Mitchell, who has a doctorate in American social history from the university, says he recently was informed his contract would not be renewed after this year because "his teaching was not up to the department standards," according to Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi.

Mitchell, winner in 1998 of the prestigious SOAR Award for teacher of the year, told the columnist he has wondered how long he would last.

Harsanyi said Mitchell, who has taught at the Hallett Diversity Program for 24 straight semesters, upset the head of the department by presenting a diverse opinion.

After quoting respected black intellectual Thomas Sowell in a discussion about affirmative action, Mitchell was berated as a racist.

"That would have come as a surprise to my black children," said Mitchell, who has nine children, two of them adopted African-Americans.

Then, says Harsanyi, the professor used a book on liberal Protestantism in the late 19th century.

Harsanyi writes: "So repulsed by the word 'god' was one student, she complained, and the department chair fired him without a meeting."

The columnist points out that unlike Churchill's case, there was no protest by faculty and students.

Mitchell later was reinstated, Harsanyi said, but never was able to teach in the history department again.

"People say liberals run the university. I wish they did," Mitchell told the Denver columnist. "Most liberals understand the need for intellectual diversity. It's the radical left that kills you."
By the way, would the Colorado staff consider
Thomas Sowell racist as well given his anti-affermative action stance? That would be interesting considering, well, Sowell is a black man.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Yesterday the White House named current Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and surprise, surprise, Democrats plan to contest the nomination because Bolton is a long time critic of the thieving, irrelevant, oligarchy of third-world thugs called the United Nations.

The post requires Senate confirmation, and Democrats immediately signaled they would wage a spirited confirmation battle. Forty-three Democrats voted against his nomination as undersecretary for arms control four years ago; even some Republicans privately expressed dismay at Bolton's elevation yesterday.

Some U.N. diplomats said they were surprised. European officials said they were puzzled at how the appointment meshed with the administration's recent efforts at consultative diplomacy.

Spirited Democrats, surprised UN diplomats, puzzled Europeans, lions, tigers, bears, oh my!

So what's their beef with Bolton? Well, in addition to being a long-time defender of Israel's right to exist and against the International Criminal Court, he, "was the force behind Bush's Proliferation Security Initiative, a coalition designed to halt trade in nuclear materials that bypassed the United Nations," and "pressed the administration's unsuccessful campaign to deny a third term to Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency."


On the eve of six-nation talks over North Korea's nuclear ambitions two years ago, Bolton traveled to Seoul and denounced North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in highly personal terms. He labeled Kim a "tyrannical dictator" who had made North Korea "a hellish nightmare" -- which prompted the North Korean government to call him "human scum and bloodsucker."

Bolton also frequently riled European allies with his uncompromising stands -- and his disdain for their fledging efforts to secure an agreement with Iran to end its nuclear programs.

Democrats acknowledge that Bolton is highly intelligent, but they have questioned his judgment. "My problem with you over the years is that you've been too competent," Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) told Bolton four years ago. "I would rather you be stupid and not very effective."

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called the nomination "a disappointing choice and one that sends all the wrong signals."

Wrong signals? To whom? Illiberal regimes in China, Iran and North Korea? And why should we give a damn? Biden would admittedly rather have an incompetent idiot (perhaps Ted Kennedy?) and Reid - the voice of the Democrats as Senate minority leader - is "disappointed"?

Makes you wonder what side the Democrats are on, doesn't it? They're more concerned that Bolton labeled Kim Jong Il a tyrant and North Korea hell on Earth, but what part of Bolton's characterization isn't true? Why are Democrats more concerned with Bolton than a failing effort by appeasing Europeans to keep Iran non-nuclear? Why are Democrats more liable to attack Bolton than ElBaradei, a man who continues to give a lifetime of second chances to any dictator lying to his agency's face? And by opposing Bolton are Democrats saying they don't support Israel but do prefer an International court could use political agenda to target American soldiers and statesmen?

Makes you wonder how they got the term "liberal," taken from the word "liberty." Because they sure don't seem to be for it, unless, that is, it's liberty for third-world kleptocrats to proliferate and oppress while foreign courts prosecute Americans fighting to keep them safe.



Blogger Charles Johnson has posted from the Italian newspaper La Repubblica pictures of the vehicle which Italian agents used to evacuate communist reporter Giuliana Sgrena to safety. The pictures, however, don't quite match up with Sgrena's description of American checkpoint guards firing upon it. For a supposed "rain of fire" from tank and of which newspapers erroneously spread the report that "between 300 and 400 bullets" hit it the car is in remarkably good shape (the windshield is still intact for crying out loud). Indeed, if this is the car, it would underscore the American version of events that only a few bullets were shot at the car, primarily at the engine block.

There are still some discrepancies, however, since previous Italian reports claim that Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari had commandeered a pickup, not this vehicle in the pictures.

But what do American-bashing Europress need with Facts? They need pictures of the car to make their judgment.

Meanwhile the Washington Times has uncovered a Pentagon Memo complaining that Italian forces failed to inform or communicate with their US counterparts.

The memo says checkpoint soldiers are trained to deal with erratic speeding vehicles whose drivers ignored warnings -- a profile that matches the Army's version of events in Friday night's shooting.

The memo says more than 500 American troops have been killed on the streets and at checkpoints in Iraq. Mistaken shootings of civilians resulted in "few deadly incidents" since the U.S. started checkpoints in March 2003, according to the memo.

...A U.S. official said that of all the cars that passed through the checkpoint that night, the reporter's vehicle was the only one fired upon.

"Something that car did caused the soldiers to fire," said the official, who asked not to be named.

The shooting occurred at night at a checkpoint on a notoriously dangerous road that links Baghdad to the international airport.

The incident has put a spotlight on "friendly fire" episodes that occur with some regularity in Iraq when motorists fail to heed warnings to stop at roadside checkpoints and are fired on by American troops who fear that the vehicle might be a weapon. Cars and trucks are a common weapon in suicide bombings and drive-by shootings.

The soldiers did not know that Miss Sgrena and Italian agents were headed in their direction on the way to the airport for a flight back to Italy.

An internal Pentagon information memo states, "This is war. About 500 American service members have been killed by hostile fire while operating on Iraqi streets and highways. The journalist was driving in pitch-dark and at a high speed and failed, according to the first reports, to respond to numerous warnings. Besides, there is no indication that the Italian security forces made prior arrangements to facilitate the transition to the airport."

The left-leaning Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported yesterday that Mr. Calipari decided not to use available escort protection from the elite commandos who protect Italy's Baghdad embassy.

Instead, he rented an inconspicuous pickup trick to recover Miss Sgrena, wrote La Repubblica's top investigative reporter, Giuseppe D'Avanzo.

"In Iraq, the United States makes the rules and the Italian ally also must respect them. If it wants to break them, it must do so with a double game and some crafty tricks," Mr. D'Avanzo wrote.

Italian magistrates have opened an inquiry into the killing and are arranging for the truck to be flown to Italy for examination by ballistic experts, judicial sources said. The magistrates also have obtained from the U.S. military the cellular phone that Mr. Calipari was carrying when he was shot.

Analysis of calls logged on the cellular phone might allow investigators to determine the speed at which the vehicle was traveling when U.S. troops opened fire on it, the sources say.

...Robert Maginnis, a retired Army officer and military analyst, said Rome should have done a better job coordinating Miss Sgrena's exit once the Italians negotiated her release.

"It seems to me that the Italian secret service considers this a James Bond movie in Baghdad," Mr. Maginnis said. "They're driving around at night picking up a journalist who has been kidnapped and pretending they can get through a phalanx of checkpoints along the deadliest road in all of Iraq without being detected, much less shot up."

The Army's 3rd Infantry Division, which last week resumed command of Baghdad operations after participating in the 2003 invasion, said the soldiers had warned the approaching car repeatedly before opening fire.

According to the division, the patrol attempted to warn the driver to stop by hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots in front of the car."

Bottom line. The Italians didn't communicate and lost an agent because of it.



Ralph Kinney Bennett considers the ramifications of the terrorist group Hezbollah on the eve of Syrian pullout:

Hezbollah, remember, is the 800-pound terrorist gorilla in the Lebanese living room. Heavily financed by Iran at its birth in the early 1980s, this guerrilla group is now thinly disguised as a political party and even has 13 members in the Lebanese Parliament.

But if you want to get some perspective on Hezbollah as a political party (or "Lebanese faction" as the New York Times called it), think Nazi party in the German Reichstag in the early 1930s.

Hezbollah is the only Lebanese political party that has 25,000 men under arms. This is a disciplined militia, heavily armed with heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, some artillery and a little armor.

All the other "factions" in Lebanon, Christian, Druze or Muslim, were formally disarmed when Syria moved into Lebanon at the end of the bloody civil war.

But Hezbollah, under Syria's control, has been allowed to swagger around Lebanon, stage theatric marches of ski-masked fighters for bored TV newsmen, and continue its war of hatred against Israel with few restraints.

This war has been carried on under the flimsy camouflage of a "resistance movement" defending Lebanon from Israel. Nasrallah is assiduously peddling that resistance movement stuff these days because he thinks it gives him some kind of legal cover against the UN resolution, which also calls for disarming Hezbollah.

As it is, Hezbollah can stage a significant "spontaneous" demonstration with its troops alone, and their "families and friends." But it has other extras in the wings. It has also created a large constituency of supplicants in the poorer sections of southern Beirut, where it is headquartered, through the provision of food, medical care and other services (remember the Black Panther breakfast programs?)

In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of Shiites in Lebanon who apparently support Hezbollah in its continued "defense" of the country. Some of them share business interests with members of the Syrian government who have profited handsomely from "investments" in Lebanon -- a bright relief from the dysfunctional socialist Syrian economy.

Thus, it should not to be hard for Hezbollah to flex its muscles and turn out a big crowd in the streets of Beirut. For the media covering it, the challenge will be to spot the signs of coercion and "party discipline," and gauge how genuinely representative the sentiments will be.

Will there be counterdemonstrations? Or will fear -- fear of the terror Syria's armed client, Hezbollah can unleash -- win out?



First off I'll say I do feel sympathy for the Italians injured and for the agent killed, Nicola Calipari. They were just doing their job and deserve our respect.

But what I'm most disappoint about is this: Just when you thought you could count on your friends we learn the Italian government paid anywhere between a reported $10 to $13 million ransom for the release of Giuliana Sgrena, an Italian reporter for the Communist paper Il Manifesto. What are the insurgents to do with such money? Naturally, they'll kidnap more Italians, oh and buy more guns and killers for the insurgency. How do you say sellout in Italian?

While I'm asking, how do you say incompetent in Italian?

ROME -- Italian agents likely withheld information from U.S. counterparts about a cash-for-freedom deal with gunmen holding an Italian hostage for fear that Americans might block the trade, Italian news reports said yesterday.

The decision by operatives of Italy's SISMI military intelligence service to keep the CIA in the dark about the deal for the release of reporter Giuliana Sgrena, might have "short-circuited" communications with U.S. forces controlling the road from Baghdad to the city's airport, the newspaper La Stampa said.

That would help explain why American troops opened fire on a car whisking the released hostage to a waiting airplane, wounding Miss Sgrena and killing the Italian intelligence operative who had just negotiated her release.

Brilliant, guys, just brilliant. Ho hum, it's just another opportunity for the Leftists to accuse the US, not the villainy who kidnap and kill people for money, of war crimes.



You can always count on a Leftist not to let facts get in the way their ideological feelings. Case in point is Giuliana Sgrena, who used her "rescue" - if that's what Italy wants to call paying thugs several million dollars - as an opportunity. Sgrena said: "I think that the happy end to the negotiations may have bothered them. The Americans are against this type of operation. For them, war is war. Human life is worth little."

Well, actually, it's the Italian government who put a price on life - apparently no more than $13 million - not the US. As far as human life is concerned one must wonder how an espouser of Communist values measures the worth of life oppressed by decades of Communist rule? No wonder they oppose the war in Iraq - to them war is war: that is, war to keep people oppressed is the same as war to free them.

[Australian] The US version of events is that its soldiers fired on a car that came speeding towards their checkpoint, ignoring warnings to stop. "A patrol in western Baghdad observed the vehicle speeding towards their checkpoint and attempted to warn the driver to stop by hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots in front of the car," the US military said a statement issued from Baghdad.

"When the driver didn't stop, the soldiers shot into the engine block, which stopped the vehicle, killing one and wounding two others."

But the occupants of the Italian car tell a different story. Sgrena, interrogated by Italian investigators for two hours on her return on Saturday, insisted the Italians were driving no faster than 40km/h, and that the Americans had fired without warning.

"The gunfire wasn't justified," she said. "We weren't going very fast, given the circumstances.

"It wasn't a checkpoint, but a patrol that opened fire straight after it shone a beacon on us.

Considering the circumstances? Not only is she a leftist but she's stupid too. What circumstances would those be? Oh, how about being in a freaking war zone? How about Italian intelligence not bothering to coordinate with the US? How about these soldiers being under threat of suicide car bombers on a daily basis reacting to a car that refuses to stop? Would those be the circumstances?

Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, has some additional thoughts which I thought were right on target:

...if she [Sgrena] were "targeted for assassination" by the U.S. military, she'd be, well, dead, instead of serving as an anti-American celebrity. I suspect that, beyond the accidental parts, this story is about as genuine as the Jenin "massacre." Was it shocking that she was fired at? By her own admission just before it was fired on at the checkpoint the car was going so fast that it nearly lost control. "The car kept on the road, going under an underpass full of puddles and almost losing control to avoid them. We all incredibly laughed. It was liberating. Losing control of the car in a street full of water in Baghdad and maybe wind up in a bad car accident after all I had been through would really be a tale I would not be able to tell."

Of course, she also claims that she was fired on by tanks. Amazing that there's anything left. . . One needn't engage in mystery-novel speculation to be suspicious of this story, and I am. As Jeff Goldstein notes: "Who is Giuliana Sgrena that the US would care enough to attempt to assassinate her? A foreign reporter with a well-known leftwing political agenda that would color any story she told anyway? Why is she important? Why would she be targeted? Why?"

Why, indeed? One suspects that a lot of people are happy to have a story they can use to take some of the bloom off events in Iraq, regardless of what liberties have to be taken with the truth.

The answer is obvious: she's not important. She was a nobody until she was kidnapped. She'll use her 15 minutes to smear America (business as usual), and then be forgotten.

Yet as we go about freeing the Islamic world we're already smeared as mindless killers - but must we now be painted incompetent too? No, the truth is that if the US military wanted Mrs. Sgrena dead she'd have been cut into about 100 different pieces from the shells of a 50 caliber gun.



[Wa. Post] The deadly shooting of an Italian intelligence officer by U.S. troops at a checkpoint near Baghdad on Friday was one of many incidents in which civilians have been killed by mistake at checkpoints in Iraq, including local police officers, women and children, according to military records, U.S. officials and human rights groups.

U.S. soldiers have fired on the occupants of many cars approaching their positions over the past year and a half, only to discover that the people they killed were not suicide bombers or attackers but Iraqi civilians. They did so while operating under rules of engagement that the military has classified and under a legal doctrine that grants U.S. troops immunity from civil liability for misjudgment.

Human rights groups have complained that the military's rules of engagement for handling local citizens at checkpoints are too permissive. The groups have accused U.S. forces of making inadequate efforts to safeguard civilians and to comply with laws of war that prohibit the use of excessive or indiscriminate force and permit deadly action only when soldiers' lives are clearly threatened.

Now imagine had instead of this accidental shooting occurred an insurgent driving a suicide bomb-laden car detonated at an American checkpoint, or perhaps detonated amongst a group of civilians after successfully passing an American checkpoint? What would the headline and opening paragraphs have read then?

US Failure To Halt Suicide Bomber A Weary Sign! US Unable to Prevent Suicide Car Bombings! Insurgent Suicide Bombers Unstoppable, Admit Check Point Soldiers!

It's not a bunch of smelly-footed-birkenstock-wearing so-called human rights activists putting their lives on the line every day to help Iraqis live in peace. It's our soldiers. So if they're going to be criticized regardless I'd rather they take the shot.



[Chicago Tribune] The prophet pro tem of the world's spreading freedom movement is Walid Jumblatt, the influential patriarch of Druze Muslims in Lebanon. He has long been a critic of the U.S. and Israel, but of late has been a thorn to the occupying Syrians. Since he spoke to a Washington Post columnist on Feb. 23, his assessment--heresy to many listeners--has resonated around the globe:

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."

On the same evening Jumblatt spoke, a hitherto unthinkable headline--it, too, continues to ripple around the world--erupted on the Web site of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel: "Could George W. Bush be right?"

Beneath that radical thought, writer Claus Christian Malzahn likened Bush's then pending visit to Germany to President Ronald Reagan standing before the Brandenburg Gate in 1987: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

In January, setting the tone of his second term, Bush had told reporters: "I believe democracy can take hold in parts of the world that have been condemned to tyranny. And I believe when democracies take hold, it leads to peace."

The response in Der Spiegel: "Bush's idea of a Middle Eastern democracy imported at the tip of a bayonet is, for [German liberals], the hysterical offspring of the American neo-cons. Even German conservatives find the idea that Arabic countries could transform themselves into enlightened democracies somewhat absurd. ... Europeans today--just like the Europeans of 1987--cannot imagine that the world might change. ... We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow."

In a follow-up article posted Friday, Der Spiegel asked, "How quickly can the virus of democracy spread?"

That is the question for other despots as they contemplate the likely fate of Saddam Hussein. They're trapped in their own spider holes. No longer can they survive solely by stoking public hatred of the Great Satan. As citizens who witness democracy in neighboring Iraq and upheaval in Lebanon ask, "Why not us?" the enemy of the tyrant becomes not so much the United States, but the aspirations of his own people.

No movement has only one catalyst: Palestinians, for example, needed to be free of Yasser Arafat before independence could emerge as an option. But Washington's muscular diplomacy unarguably is playing a crucial role throughout the Mideast. For one repressive regime after another, the sight of American soldiers at long last enforcing United Nations resolutions--and bestowing democracy on a subjugated people--surely must concentrate the mind.

History written in headlines can reverse course just as fast. We are a long way from knowing whether the still unfinished liberation of Iraq helps transform a troubled region. But for the foes of freedom, the Mideast must feel like a suddenly smaller place.



Ouch. George Will takes Justice Anthony Kennedy to task for his flip-flop now opposing the death penalty for minors, calling him a "would-be legislator, a dilettante sociologist and a free-lance moralist, disguised as a judge."

Last Tuesday Kennedy played those three roles when, in yet another 5-4 decision, the court declared it unconstitutional to execute people who committed murder when they were under 18 years old. Such executions, it said, violate the Eighth Amendment proscription of "cruel and unusual" punishments because. . . . Well, Kennedy's opinion, in which Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens joined, is a tossed salad of reasons why those five think the court had a duty to do what state legislatures have the rightful power and, arguably, the moral responsibility to do.

Although the court rendered an opposite decision just 16 years ago, Kennedy says the nation's "evolving standards of decency" now rank such executions as cruel and unusual. One proof of this, he says, is:

Of the 38 states that have capital punishment, 18 bar executions of those who murder before age 18, five more than in 1989. So he constructs a "national consensus" against capital punishment of juvenile offenders by adding a minority of the states with capital punishment to the 12 states that have decided "that the death penalty is inappropriate for all offenders."

But "inappropriate" is not a synonym for "unconstitutional." Kennedy simply assumes that those 12 states must consider all capital punishment unconstitutional, not just wrong or ineffective or more trouble than it is worth -- three descriptions that are not synonymous with "unconstitutional."

While discussing America's "evolving standards of decency," Kennedy announces: "It is proper that we acknowledge the overwhelming weight of international opinion against the juvenile death penalty." Why is that proper when construing the U.S. Constitution? He is remarkably unclear about that. He says two international conventions forbid executions of persons who committed their crimes as juveniles. That, he thinks, somehow illuminates the meaning of the Eighth Amendment.

Kennedy evidently considers it unimportant that the United States attached to one of the conventions language reserving the right "to impose capital punishment . . . for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age." The United States never ratified the other convention Kennedy cites. Kennedy the roving moralist sniffily disapproves of that nonratification as evidence that America is committing the cardinal sin of being out of step with "the world community."

Kennedy the sociologist says "any parent knows" and "scientific and sociological studies" show that people under 18 show a "lack of maturity" and an "underdeveloped sense of responsibility" and susceptibility to "negative influences" and a weak aptitude for "cost-benefit analysis." All of this means, he says, that young offenders "cannot with reliability be classified among the worst offenders."

Well. Is it gauche to interrupt Kennedy's seminar on adolescence with some perhaps pertinent details? The 17-year-old in the case the court was considering bragged about planning to do what he then did: He broke into a woman's home, put duct tape over her eyes and mouth, wrapped her head in a towel, bound her limbs with electrical wire, then threw her off a railroad trestle into a river where, helpless, she drowned.

Justice Antonin Scalia, joined in dissent by Justices William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas (Justice Sandra Day O'Connor dissented separately), deplores "the new reality that, to the extent that our Eighth Amendment decisions constitute something more than a show of hands on the current Justices' current personal views about penology, they purport to be nothing more than a snapshot of American public opinion at a particular point in time (with the timeframes now shortened to a mere 15 years)."

Kennedy occupies the seat that 52 Senate Democrats prevented Robert Bork from filling in 1987. That episode accelerated the descent into the scorched-earth partisanship that was raging in the Senate Judiciary Committee at the very moment Tuesday morning that Kennedy was presenting the court majority's policy preference as a constitutional imperative. The committee's Democrats were browbeating another appellate court nominee, foreshadowing another filibuster.

The Democrats' standard complaint is that nominees are out of the jurisprudential "mainstream." If Kennedy represents the mainstream, it is time to change the shape of the river. His opinion is an intellectual train wreck, but useful as a timely warning about what happens when judicial offices are filled with injudicious people.

Speaking of Will, he also lambastes Sens. Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a treo of Democrats hoping to use the Count Every Vote Act to permit felons the right to vote. Be damed with federalism to boot.

So let me see if I've got this straight - don't execute murderers, just give them the right to vote?


Friday, March 04, 2005
As you may have seen I've been few and far between on posts. This is due to a myriad of issues in my work and personal life (house hunting is a full time job in itself). For now, there appears little break in sight. So, for a while posting on GN will likely not be on a daily basis. Thanks for reading. -Greg


According to former CNN journalist Peter Arnett, Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, was just hours away from overthrowing his father when the US began the war in Iraq. Oh! If only Uday could have ruled! I mean, really, is that the message that the champion of biased liberal media is going to make?

Uday Hussein, known for his ruthlessness and flashy lifestyle, had won the support of the leadership of his father's Fedayeen militia to overthrow Saddam's 35-year rule, according to an advance copy of the April edition of Playboy obtained by AFP.

The controversial reporter, who was fired by the US NBC television network in 2003 after suggesting that the US war plan in Iraq had failed, made the claim following an 18-month investigation in which he says he gained access to Uday Hussein's inner circle.

Wooo, wooo, wooo! Stop right there! He was fired why? Because he suggested the war plan was a failure? Well, that he did, but CNN AND National Geographic fired him because Arnett used his credentials with both media companies to go onto state-controlled Iraqi television to, not report, but express his personal antiwar views. Arnett became a willing pawn to spread Saddam's propaganda at the very time American soldiers were dying to try and topple the regime. It's not like Arnett wrote a column against the war - 1000 different American columnists did just that, and didn't get fired. But, what do expect from a French news wire? Certainly not facts.

The article cited a letter from Saddam Fedayeen commander General Maki Humudat, dated March 26, 2003, in which he swore allegiance to a new Iraqi government under the control of Fedayeen chief Uday Hussein.

"According to your direction and command to form a new government under the leadership of your Excellency (Uday), we have informed all the senior officers of the Saddam Fedayeen of your desire to appoint them as your candidates for office in your government," the letter said.

Uday had planned to announce his seizure of the crumbling reins of power later the same day, but was thwarted when US jets bombed his Youth TV studios in Baghdad, according to Arnett.

The ambitious heir had even formed a shadow government on the outskirts of Iraq's capital, Baghdad that was disguised under the cover of his powerful Olympic committee and funded by murky oil deals, he said.

According to Arnett, the oldest son of the Iraqi dictator had long been chafing under his father's iron fisted rule and blamed his father for the punishing international sanctions on the country.

"Though it has not been reported until now, Uday Hussein was the biggest proponent of regime change inside Iraq," Arnett wrote.

And stop again. Boy, if I didn't know any better I'd swear that Arnett was trying to paint Uday Hussein - a guy who personally tortured Iraqi Olympic athletes for failing to medal - as some kind of coulda-been savior who might have prevented the war. Someone needs to inquire of Arnett just what is the point of regime change if we're just going to hand the reigns to a guy who's just as brutal, just as wicked, just as dictatorial, but 30 years younger.

No thanks, Pete.

You might want to take this story with a gain of salt, because if you don't recall Peter Arnett falsely propagated a story back in 1998 claiming that the US had used nerve gas during Vietnam. CNN later fired two of Arnett's associates and reprimanded him. Guess they should of just fired him back then too. It would have saved them some trouble five years later.


On Senate Floor Senator Robert Byrd Compares the Republican Party to Nazis. Wait, wait, Robert Byrd, West Virginia Democrat? That Robert Byrd? Pop quiz: Who's the only person in the US Senate to have been a member of the Ku Klux Klan? Why none other than Robert Byrd. It seems to me a guy in a racial purity group would know a thing or two about fascism himself, eh?

WASHINGTON - Sen. Robert Byrd's description of Adolf Hitler's rise to power was meant as a warning to heed the past and not as a comparison to Republicans, a spokesman for the West Virginia Democrat says.

Nonetheless, two Jewish groups and a pair of GOP politicians chastised the senator on Wednesday, including one who recalled Byrd's Ku Klux Klan membership as a young man. Byrd's comments, which he made Tuesday in the Senate, came during his speech criticizing a Republican plan to block Democrats from filibustering President Bush's judicial nominees.

Byrd: No, no, I didn't call you a bunch of Nazis! I said you were like a bunch of Nazis.

Well, here's Byrd's speech in full. Within he makes what in the inner circles of Congress must only be known as a hat trick - a trifecta reference to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the Founding Fathers, and Nazis! Criminy, I think a sixth grader could write a more original speech. But, on to the point - slither around he may but Byrd most certainly did make the comparison:

We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men. But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler’s dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that "Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact." And he succeeded.
So, ya see! Simple math: Majority + vote + Republicans = Must be Nazis! Now when the shoes on the other foot it's a different story, of course.

Byrd is referencing what is come to be known as the "nuclear option," or what I would call, "Actually defending themselves from Democrats who have warped the advise-and-consent clause of the Constitution into a way of side-stepping being the minority party." The founders intended that presidential judicial choices would be qualified in experience and ethics, but not as a litmus test on ideology. That is exactly what Democrats have done for four years - a perpetual filibuster. Furthermore, the option would simply allow a nominee to receive their fair up or down vote in the Senate. The way the Democrats have been operating they get to decline a nominee without ever voting them down. That's not just warping the Constitution, but it's chickensh*t too.

Anyway, a Klansman calling the other side fascists? What's next, China criticizing the US on human rights?



BEIJING, March 3 -- China accused the United States on Thursday of using a double standard to judge human rights in other countries, adding to a list of nations suggesting that the government that produced the Abu Ghraib prison abuses has no business commenting on what happens elsewhere.

"No country should exclude itself from the international human rights development process or view itself as the incarnation of human rights that can reign over other countries and give orders to the others," Premier Wen Jiabao's cabinet declared, three days after the State Department criticized China in its annual human rights report.

Is it really worth commenting upon? Well, moral equivalency these days is so rampant you have no choice. You see, by China's logic, because the US used interrogation tactics on terrorist bombers in order to save the lives of both innocent Iraqi civilians and its troops fighting for democracy in a land that had none and of which China has used on any of its citizens who simply dared say something like "Hey, can we try that democracy thing some time?" China feels that we're both cut of the same cloth.

China wasn't alone. Other illiberal regimes known for suppressing freedoms of speech, assembly and press, such as Russia and Venezuela, joined in. Turkey and Mexico made it a point to also highlight what they consider to be hypocrisy. But were I to march downtown in Ankara shouting "Freedom for the Kurds" would I be hassled by state police? Because I wouldn't in DC. The Mexican criticism, meanwhile, was almost comical:

Jose Luis Soberanes, president of Mexico's Human Rights Commission, also said the United States lacked moral authority to pass judgment on others, citing U.S. treatment of Mexicans who sneak across the border into the United States. He compared Washington's criticism of Mexico's record to "the donkey talking about long ears" -- the Spanish-language equivalent of "the pot calling the kettle black" -- "because the United States violates human rights, especially those of our countrymen."
Would your countrymen be those crossing our borders illegally? Just curious, Senor.



Here's Justice Antonin Scalia's comment to Erwin Chemerinsky, an activist attempting to remove a reference to the Ten Commandments at a Texas court (Scalia, and the other Supremes, sit right beside a statue of Moses and those very Ten Commandments):

Justice Antonin Scalia saw a different problem in the court's precedents, noting that they effectively force governments to adopt nonreligious pretexts for what should be unabashed religious displays.

The Commandments, he told Chemerinsky, are "a symbol that government authority comes from God, and that's appropriate." When Chemerinsky objected that "it is a profoundly religious message," Scalia responded: "It is a profoundly religious message, but it's shared by the vast majority of the people. . . . It seems to me the minority has to be tolerant of the majority's view."

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy seemed to agree, chiding Chemerinsky for "an obsessive concern with any expression of religion."

Even the liberal court members are troubled by this. By what manner of hyperactive illusion can someone take the clause "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" to mean that any government - federal, state or local - is forbidden to make any religious message? Congress is still Congress, right? Establishing religion is still establishing religion, right? I mean if the court was ordering you to pray at gunpoint that'd be a little different, right?

But Scalia nails it on the head: 'Referencing religion? Yeah, so what.' And how is it that a handful of law-educated activists can write the agenda for the rest of us 300 million? Pardon me, but I think that's exactly what the founders wished to avoid.



JAKARTA, Indonesia, March 3 -- The acquittal Thursday of the radical cleric Abubakar Baasyir on the most serious terrorism charges against him represented the second major setback for officials seeking his conviction as the alleged spiritual leader of an underground organization linked to al Qaeda.

An Indonesian court sentenced Baasyir, 66, to 2 1/2 years in prison for conspiracy in connection with the 2002 bombings of two Bali nightclubs.

But the five-judge panel ruled that prosecutors had failed to prove that the white-bearded preacher ordered the Bali attacks, which killed 202 people, or had been involved in the bombing of the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta a year later, which left 12 people dead.

"Neither the defense witnesses nor the prosecutors' witnesses said the defendant has planned or provoked other people to commit the bombings," said Judge Mahmud Rochimi, reading the verdict.

...In convicting Baasyir on the lesser charge, the judges said he had approved plans to attack the nightclubs in the heart of Bali's entertainment strip. The judges cited a 2002 meeting in the Javanese city of Solo at which two activists, later convicted of involvement in the bombings, allegedly asked Baasyir for his opinion before the attack and he responded that they should do what they thought best.

Baasyir was the Far East's Osama bin Laden. No maybe he didn't deal in the details of the attack. All he did is head the religious movement that ordered it. All he did was give it his spiritual blessing. We're dealing with religious fanatics. No blessing, no go, because there's no virgins at the end of the road. He kills 200 people, the judges know he met with terrorists (oh, excuse me, "activists"), know he approved plans to attack civilians at nightclubs, but give him two years?

In all this talk about multilateralism let me ask a simple question: what's the damn point of multilateralism if the multis are just going to acquit terrorists so we have to round them up again?

If I'm the PM of Australia I send a special forces team to take that scum out before he can step a foot in his hate-preaching mosque.



VIENNA Iran is using reinforced materials and tunneling deep underground to store nuclear components - measures meant to make the facility resistant to "bunker busters" and other special weaponry in case of an attack, diplomats said Thursday.
The next time some Democrat questions why the Pentagon wants to pursue a new era of mininuke bunker busting bombs I hope Rumsfeld slaps them.

The IAEA also said Iran was ignoring calls to scrap plans for a heavy water reactor and continuing construction. Commenting on that Thursday, a diplomat said satellite imagery had revealed that work in the city of Arak had progressed to the point where crews "were pouring the foundations."

Spent fuel from heavy water reactors can yield significant amounts of bomb-grade plutonium.

Asked for details on the tunnel, a diplomat familiar with Iran's dossier said parts of it would run as deep as nearly one kilometer, or about half a mile, below ground and would be constructed of hardened concrete and other special materials meant to withstand severe air attacks.

The IAEA also said Iran was ignoring calls to scrap plans for a heavy water reactor and continuing construction. Commenting on that Thursday, a diplomat said satellite imagery had revealed that work in the city of Arak had progressed to the point where crews "were pouring the foundations."

Spent fuel from heavy water reactors can yield significant amounts of bomb-grade plutonium.

Asked for details on the tunnel, a diplomat familiar with Iran's dossier said parts of it would run as deep as nearly one kilometer, or about half a mile, below ground and would be constructed of hardened concrete and other special materials meant to withstand severe air attacks.

...Earlier, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the IAEA, said outside the meeting that the "ball is very much in Iran's court to come clean" by cooperating to clear lingering suspicions about possible nuclear weapons ambitions. Still, the agency has not been able to support U.S. assertions that Iran's programs are aimed at making nuclear weapons.

Not able to support... well, besides perpetually lying to the UN, running a covert program for 18 years, lying about blueprints, then lying about the actual components, and now caught trying to fortify the program. Yeah, other than those things we have no reason to suspect Iran isn't on the level with us.

But they'll go on blaming everything but Iran. It's the US! It's Israel! It's Global Warming! But, no, never will they distrust Iranian intentions, even when the mushroom cloud is lifting over Tel Aviv.



To me, there are two really dumb things a politician can do: The first is covering yourself in baby oil and streaking down Pennsylvania Avenue while shouting out racial epitaphs and accepting gifts from Osama bin Laden.

The second is attacking Alan Greenspan.

Enter Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader.

Asked Thursday his reaction to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's insistence this week that Social Security must be transformed, preferably along lines urged by Bush, Reid replied:

"I'm not a big Greenspan fan. ... I voted against him two times. I think he's one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington," Reid said on CNN's "Judy Woodruff's Inside Politics."

Keep yapping your gums, Democrats. I love it. Rule number one when in a hole (losing three national elections in a row) is to stop digging. But Reid is passing out shovels.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Just four weeks after the Iraqi election of January 30, 2005, it seems increasingly likely that that date will turn out to have been a genuine turning point.
-- William Kristol, read the rest.



If, in a discussion of Iraq, you listen to one of your ranting antiwar coworkers or visit the local college campus long enough inevitably you'll hear stated matter of factly that the war in Iraq "created" terrorism, or more terrorism, or bred more terrorists, or some similar blather. It's silly, to me, and akin to saying that catching bank robbers will just anger the other bank robbers, who will rob more banks, but more to the point there is an antithesis to their juvenile argument: Even if true, the war in Iraq also created 12 million democrats. And those just the ones who voted. And their numbers are growing.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - More than 2,000 people demonstrated Tuesday at the site of a car bombing south of Baghdad that killed 125 people, chanting "No to terrorism!"... More than 2,000 people held the impromptu demonstration on front of the clinic, chanting "No to terrorism!" and "No to Baathism and Wahhabism!"

Wahhabism is a reference to adherents of the strict form of Sunni Islam preached by Osama bin Laden, while the Baath party was the political organization that ran Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

The demonstrators also demanded that interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi step down.

Think the Baathist and Jihadist terrorists blasting civilians are "minutemen," as that fat horse's behind Michael Moore once quipped? Think again. The popular movement isn't wearing black masks and beheading people - they're exercising their freedom of speech and assembly.



According to a follow up by NBC News terrorists were not successful in murdering the judge presiding over the trial of Saddam Hussein. NBC Nightly News began its broadcast with that report, but quickly recanted, although not before the broadcast ended and not before it hit the Drudge Report, among other Web outlets. The victim was, however, a member of the Hussein tribunal.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the person killed by unidentified gunman was not Ra’id Juhi, the 35-year-old chief investigative judge of the special tribunal set up to try Saddam and senior officials, but was another judge working for the tribunal. The officials did not immediately identify the victim.

The killing came a day after the tribunal announced that five former members of Saddam's regime — including one of his half-brothers — will go on trial for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in retaliation for a failed attempt to kill the former dictator.

At this point one might note that UK Independent and apologist extraordinaire Robert Fisk should be exhaling a sigh of relief, but frankly a guy like Fisk is so far wacked out, and so inclined to justify anything anti-America that he'd relish the opportunity to play the role of the self-depricating, guilt-ridden Westerner. Why? If you don't remember it was none other than the walking piece of filth Fisk who assisted in outing Juhi in the first place. At the time Fisk defended himself arguing that some other Arab outlets had already done so. So Fisk's message was that it's okay to aide terrorists so long as you do it third.



[Newsday] What happened in Lebanon this week, analysts say, is the beginning of a new era in the Middle East, one in which popular demand pushes the momentum for democracy and people's will can no longer be disregarded.

Television stations broadcast Beirut's protests live into homes, coffee shops and clubs across the Middle East, with the dramatic images of Lebanese youths wearing red-and-white scarves and waving the country's red, white and green flag as they handed out roses Monday to troops who had been ordered to block them. The coverage, lasting all day with hardly a break on some stations, culminated with the Syrian-backed government's resignation.

Inevitably, it raised the question among many spectators: What about here?

"I wish this could happen in Yemen," Ahmed Murtada, an unemployed Yemeni, said in San'a. "But here, tanks would prevail."

But would they? Yemeni government, while a typical Arab stronghold, is certainly no harsher than Syria.

Anas Khashoggi, a 46-year-old management consultant in the Saudi city of Jiddah, said he followed Monday's events from beginning to end. "I wanted ... to see how the government reacts to the will of the people," he said.

Was he disappointed? "Not at all," he said.

The scenes from Lebanon come as Saudis are having their first -- albeit small -- taste of democracy. In the second round of the country's first nationwide elections ever, Saudi men go to the polls Thursday in the kingdom's east and south to choose municipal councils. The monarchy has been promising reform, but going slowly.

Newspapers in Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- authoritarian nations where the state heavily influences the press -- did not shy away from showing the protests.

"The Lebanese street joins the opposition," read the banner headline across the front page of the Saudi daily Okaz, along with photos of the Lebanese protest tents and a banner in Arabic reading, "We want the truth."

In Syria, however, the state-controlled media was largely silent. It reported on the resignation of Prime Minister Omar Karami but did not mention -- much less show pictures -- of the protests. State TV aired none of the dramatic footage the few Syrians with satellite dishes could see with a flick of the channel.

Syria has kept a firm hand on its small reform movement. But it had a rare instance of civil violence last year, when riots in March between Kurds and police spread to parts of northeastern Syria and killed at least 25 people in unrest sparked by a soccer brawl but fueled by Kurdish resentment.

"What happened in Lebanon conforms with our hopes for every Arab country," said Michel Kilo, a Syrian intellectual. "It was a rehearsal for a peaceful popular movement that unfolded right before our eyes."

The protests in Lebanon -- triggered by the assassination of the popular former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on Feb. 14 -- come on the heels of a string of democratic steps in the Arab world, including elections in Iraq and by the Palestinians, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's promise to allow multi-candidate presidential elections.

Perhaps Harari would have pushed democracy on his own to the point where the Syrian government, or a militant Islamic group tolerated by Syria, would have had him murdered. But I think not. His death was not in a vacuum. It was directly the result of successful elections in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. It was on the heels of the Ukrainian revolution and Saudi local elections, and amid a climate of optimistic democratic movements embracing Egypt.



I must admit in recent years my support for the death penalty has diminished. Not from a moral standpoint - I don't think we become like the killers by killing them or any of that nonsense. No, from a scientific and more practical standpoint - we need to be damn sure we're killing someone who's truly guilty. We can undo a life sentence should DNA or similar evidence prove the convict innocent, but we can't undo anything if we've killed them.

Having said all that I just don't get this:

The Supreme Court abolished capital punishment for juvenile offenders today, ruling 5 to 4 that it is unconstitutional to sentence anyone to death for a crime he or she committed under the age of 18.

In concluding that the death penalty for minors is cruel and unusual punishment, the court cited a "national consensus" against the practice, along with medical and social-science evidence that teenagers are too immature to be held accountable for their crimes to the same extent as adults.

The court said its judgment, which overturned a 1989 ruling that had upheld the death penalty for 16- and 17-year-old offenders, was also influenced by a desire to end the United States' international isolation on the issue.

"From a moral standpoint, it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor's character deficiencies will be reformed," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the opinion for the court. "Our determination," Kennedy added, "finds confirmation in the stark reality that the United States is the only country in the world that continues to give official sanction to the juvenile death penalty."

Kennedy was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

So, let me get this straight -- if you're a few days shy of your 18th birthday and you decide to rape and murder a couple of girl scouts you get life imprisonment (or better), but if a few days after that birthday you get the death penalty. If you're 17 1/2 the death penalty is "cruel and unusual," but once you hit 18 it's not?

I just don't follow that logic. Yes, I understand that we need to make a line somewhere, and we can't be executing 10-year-olds who bizarrely strangle some kid and leave him on the railroad tracks, and yes, I understand that a true minor's mind isn't necessarily developed in terms of ethics or morality (or is it?), but you'll never convince me that something that now isn't "cruel and unusual" was so just a few days younger.

And, of course, when the founders wrote the Eighth Amendment they certainly practiced the death penalty. So I think it's hard to argue that the penalty itself is cruel and unusual - less so is how it's done - when the authors using it didn't define it as such. They certainly had ample opportunity. These were also the same founders who decided that a jury, not the state, would determine both guilt and, when necessary, capital punishment. So if it's not cruel and unusual how can that basis be used by 5 judges imposing their will on every state and every citizen in the union?

I guess my argument is that the state and a jury can better decide capital punishment on a case-by-case basis than 5 old farts in downtown DC.



This really irks me (same article):

In saying that this strong expression of international sentiment "provide[s] respected and significant confirmation for our own conclusions," Kennedy lengthened the recent string of decisions in which the court has incorporated foreign views -- and decisively rejected the arguments of those on the court, led by Justice Antonin Scalia, who say the court should consider U.S. law exclusively.

There were actually six votes in Kennedy's favor on that point today, because in her dissenting opinion, O'Connor said that she agreed with Kennedy that international trends should be considered when determining the meaning of "cruel and unusual punishment" in modern times.

Would either Justices Kennedy or O'Conner care to inform us exactly what section of the US Constitution asks that our legislative and judicial branches consider "international trends"? That document - the Constitution - is the only freaking thing of which they should be concerned, not how the French - or the Iranians for that matter - do it. Seriously, by what bizarre alchemy do these judicial proponents of "but that's how the rest of the world does it" come to that conclusion?

If they want to make an argument against the death penalty, whether vis-a-vis minors or not, then by all means make it; but let the Constitution do it, not feelings or world opinion.



Here's an international trend and headline for the US Supreme Court: U.N. fears peacekeepers commit sex abuse worldwide

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.N. officials fear the sex-abuse scandal among peacekeepers in Africa is far more widespread and appears to be a problem in each of the global body's 16 missions around the world.

As the world body seeks to crack down on the abuse, it could bar countries from participating in missions if they fail to prosecute offenders, even though the U.N. is hard-pressed to find contributing nations, the officials said on Friday.

Rocked by widespread abuse of women and girls, including gang rape, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations also has found sexual exploitation cases in at least four other missions -- in Burundi, Liberia, Ivory Coast -- as well as more recently in Haiti, they added.

Chalk it up as reason number 503 why the UN is useless - not only can they not conduct their core missions with any moral authority or practical execution, but they can't even punish those who warp and betray the supposed core principles of human rights!

But what does the UN expect when it gives such power to a bunch of banana republics - illigitimate, illiberal republics that enjoy membership and legitimacy from the UN but not from their own populations. Dictatorships all, the UN even allots them the same voice as those nations practicing liberal democratic government.



During the Reagan years, the revolution began on the periphery of the major conflict, in Iberia. Following 9/11, the revolution was brought violently to the periphery of the Middle East, in Afghanistan. It swept through Iraq, taking time to liberate Ukraine (against whose independence Bush the Elder spoke so shamefully), and now threatens Syrian hegemony over Lebanon, if not the Syrian regime itself, and has forced the Egyptian and Saudi regimes to at least a pretense of democratic change.

While most of the revolutions have been accomplished with a minimum of armed force, military power has been used on several of the battlefields, and not only in the recent cases of Afghanistan and Iraq. It is often said that the Cold War was won without firing a shot, but that is false; there was fighting in Afghanistan, and in Grenada, and in Angola. The repeated defeats of Soviet proxies (Angola, Grenada) and the Red Army itself (Afghanistan) were important in shattering the myth that the laws of history guaranteed the ultimate triumph of communism. Once that myth had been destroyed, the peoples of the Soviet Empire lost their paralyzing fear of the Kremlin, and they risked a direct challenge.

In like manner, the defeats of the fanatics in Afghanistan and Iraq, followed by free elections in both countries, destroyed two myths: of the inevitability of tyranny in the Muslim world, and of the divinely guaranteed success of the jihad. Once those myths were shattered, others in the region lost their fear of the tyrants, and they are now risking a direct challenge. The Cedar Revolution in Beirut has now toppled Syria's puppets in Lebanon, and I will be surprised and disappointed if we do not start hearing from democratic revolutionaries inside Syria — echoed from their counterparts in Iran — in the near future.

Many of the brave people in the suddenly democratic Arab streets are inspired by America, and by George W. Bush himself. It should go without saying that we must support them all, in as many ways as we can. Most of that support will be political — from unwavering support by all our top officials, to support for radio and television stations, and tens of thousands of bloggers, who can provide accurate information about the real state of affairs within the Middle Eastern tyrannies, to financial assistance to workers so that they can go on strike — but some might be military, such as hitting terror camps where the mass murderers of the region are trained. We are, after all, waging war against the terrorists and their masters, as is proven by the daily carnage in Iraq and Israel, and the relentless oppression and murder of democrats in Iran.

The president clearly understands this, but, in one of the most frustrating paradoxes of the moment, this vision is rather more popular among the peoples of the Middle East than among some of our top policymakers. For anyone to suggest to this president at this dramatic moment, that he should offer a reward to Iran for promising not to build atomic bombs, or that we should seek a diplomatic "solution" to Syria's oft-demonstrated role in the terror war against our friends and our soldiers, is a betrayal of his vision and of the Iranian, Israeli, Lebanese and Syrian people. Yet that sort of reactionary thinking is surprisingly widespread, from leading members of congressional committees, from the failed "experts" at State and CIA, and even some on the staff of the National Security Council.

Our most lethal weapon against the tyrants is freedom, and it is now spreading on the wings of democratic revolution. It would be tragic if we backed off now, when revolution is gathering momentum for a glorious victory. We must be unyielding in our demand that the peoples of the Middle East design their own polities, and elect their own leaders. The first step, as it has been in both Afghanistan and Iraq, is a national referendum to choose the form of government. In Iran, the people should be asked if they want an Islamic republic. In Syria, if they want a Baathist state. In Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Libya, if they want more of the same. We should not be deterred by the cynics who warn that freedom will make things worse, because the ignorant masses will opt for the fantasmagorical caliphate of the increasingly irrelevant Osama bin Laden. Mubarak and Qadaffi and Assad and Khamenei are arresting democrats, not Islamists, and the women of Saudi Arabia are not likely to demand to remain shrouded for the rest of their lives.

Faster, please. The self-proclaimed experts have been wrong for generations. This is a revolutionary moment. Go for it.

-- Michael Ledeen.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt -- In differing variations all are experiencing progressive, democratic change. While not part of the Middle East one could also add in the Ukrainian elections. The point is, we're witnessing some remarkable history, and if you're someone who doesn't support the rule of thuggish monarchies, tyrannical strongmen or oligarchies of extremist religious beheading faction then you should be encouraged by it.

Today's surprising announcement that the Syrian-backed prime minister of Lebanon suddenly resigned amid massive protests in Beirut was nothing short of Tiantamenesque. As the heat of the protests have increased since the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the response by the Lebanese-Syrian block has been measured. Prime Minister Omar Karami originally called for a parliamentary vote of confidence on his government - a vote he was expected to easily pass because the Lebanese legislature is so controlled by Syria. Karami, however, must have seen the writing on the wall as far as the consequences of not taking the protesters seriously. By the end of the day, he was leaving power.

"I am keen that the government will not be a hurdle in front of those who want the good for this country," said Karami, as more than 20,000 demonstrators who had gathered throughout the day on nearby Martyrs Square erupted in cheers and chants. "I declare the resignation of the government that I had the honor to head. May God preserve Lebanon."

...But his resignation before the vote reflected the bitterness of Monday's session and the passions of the crowd outside, who are engaged in what they describe as the red-and-white revolution against the Syrian-backed government and Syria's deep-seated presence in Lebanon. Hariri, a secular Sunni Muslim whose wealth and competence made him a favorite of the international community and many Lebanese, died in a bomb blast Feb. 14 as his motorcade traveled along Beirut's fashionable waterfront. Sixteen others died in the attack, now under investigation by a U.N. committee.

...After Karami's announcement Monday evening, demonstrators began chanting: "[President Emile] Lahoud, you're next."... On the streets Monday, demonstrators held up banners reading, "We Want Our Freedom," and, to the Lebanese government, "Puppets: The Show Is Over."

"The battle is not over," Faris Saeed, an opposition member of parliament, told the screaming crowd. "It is just beginning. We want to know who killed Prime Minister Hariri."

Well, I'm sure Syria and their cronies in Lebanon are just shuddering at the thought of a UN investigation. All jest aside, one can wager their next paycheck with confidence that the Syrian government is sweating profusely. Assuming guilt, the Syrian assassination of Harari is possibly the biggest miscalculation since Osama bin Laden ordered 19 schmucks to hijack four planes. Even if not directly responsible, Syria has used Lebanon as a bastion for extremist terror recruitment and training - Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and to a lesser extent Hamas are all harbored there by protective governments in Syria and Iran. If one or some of their monsters got out of hand it is only poetic justice that they be held directly responsible by the invigorated Lebanese masses.

In any event, Harari was obviously murdered because he represented the biggest threat to the status quo of Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah control of Lebanon and what it represents. To whit: a gateway to the Middle East more likely to embrace Iraqi democracy and (possibly) an end to the Israeli-Palestinian war. These are things that both the Islamic extremists and the so-called secular Arab dictatorships cannot allow. Dictators react predictably, violently so, even when they fail to foresee the consequences... or perhaps I should say especially when.



[Jerusalem Post] Delegations from the Israeli defense establishment embarked Monday to Washington, Paris and London, in order to present intelligence information which Israel has collected against Syria revealing its role in the deadly bombing in Tel Aviv Friday night, which killed five people.

Israel said Sunday that it would use intelligence information to prove Syria was behind Friday night's suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the cabinet Sunday.

What the two called irrefutable evidence to this effect has been sent to the US and select European allies. The evidence, based on intelligence information, will be presented by IDF Intelligence chief Aharon Ze'evi Farkash in a briefing on Monday at the Foreign Ministry for ambassadors from European Union countries and the UN Security Council.

..."We have intelligence information that the orders came from the Islamic Jihad in Syria," a senior source close to Sharon said. "We know where the orders for the attack were issued, we know where they were sent, and we know Syrian intelligence was involved and provided logistical support."

Mofaz told the cabinet that an Islamic Jihad cell in Jenin recruited the bomber from Tulkarm under orders from Damascus. Mofaz said that Israel had arrested Islamic Jihad operatives in Tulkarm, but both Mofaz and Sharon emphasized that the PA had taken no action yet against the group, even though Israel had given the PA names of wanted Islamic Jihad operatives.

I've said it before (and apparently this is a day for that), the notion of peace in the Middle East presupposes that all sides want peace. But what of those that don't? What of those that fear this peace because for decades they have used the conflict to turn their people's attention away from the true cause of their oppression - their own governments, as opposed to a government of Jews occupying a sliver of territory in a region filled to the rim with Arabs.

Iran, Syria, and their minions in Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad (among others) have no interest in peace. So, even when Israel is on the verge of unilaterally pulling out of Gaza and the West Bank, these parties up the violence in the hopes that Israel will overreact with brute force. And the war goes on, and status quo means these thugs rule for another day in an age where the tyrant is diminishing.


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