Saturday, March 01, 2003

Mommy, Daddy! Are we there yet?
(Via Silent Running) It's time for an outing with Mark Steyn:
I was interested to see this week that Berlin will soon be getting a "GDR Fun Park", giving Germans the chance to re-live life in the old East Germany, complete with officious bureaucrats, a drab block of flats and shops with nothing to buy in them. It's apparently the latest example of "Ostalgi'' - nostalgia for the Communist east. So I asked my old friend, travel consultant Vera Surly, whether she could recommend any other nostalgia theme parks.

"They're the new thing," she explained. "What with all this war and terrorism, people want to get back to simpler, stress-free times. This one's just your bag." She passed me a picture of a man in a crimplene safari jacket next to a big sign saying, "Welcome to PilgerWorld."
Nostalgia for Thugs
'He's still with us':
In his palace in Baghdad, increasingly isolated from the rest of the world as war looms, Saddam Hussein is said to seek inspiration on his bookcase -- from the many volumes he treasures that contain the writing of another infamous mustached dictator.

Joseph Stalin, the legend goes, is one of the few people Mr. Hussein looks up to. He sees his own story as linked to the former Soviet leader's -- Stalin survived famine and war and accusations that he was killing his own people to remain in power until the day he died.

Half a world away in North Korea, as the sabre-rattling Kim Jong Il pushes his country toward a confrontation with the West, the Dear Leader basks in the constant adulation of his citizens -- a cult of personality consciously built on the Stalinist model. He has gone much further in his hero worship than erecting a few statues; since assuming power in 1994, Mr. Kim has imitated everything from Stalin's labour camps to his penchant for nuclear brinkmanship.

It's perhaps no surprise that Mr. Kim, famously linked to Mr. Hussein in George W. Bush's "axis of evil," looks up to Stalin. His father was installed by Moscow in 1945.

In her two-room Moscow apartment, 85-year-old Galina Ionova hugs a book praising the man she says saved the Motherland, and explains why she thinks that Stalin is still having an impact five decades after his death.

"Stalin was a genius. None of us common people can understand what he was guided by," the retired history professor says, eyes glowing with an almost religious fervour.
Well, Galina, it's a tossup between vodka and the voices in his head.
Truly Amazing!
Mark MacKinnon reports in the Globe and Mail that Russian stalling could kill Kyoto consensus:
Russia has delayed ratification of the international Kyoto Protocol on climate change, and two of its top scientists have begun to question the science underpinning it, developments that environmentalists say could kill the painstakingly crafted deal.
No, it's not amazing that they discovered the whole thing was a mare's nest. It's amazing that they would turn down the cash they stood to make off the "true believers":
Most scientists worldwide believe that signing the accord could prove greatly beneficial to the Russian economy, since the collapse of industry at the end of the Soviet era means Russia has already met its target of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2010. Russia will likely be well below those levels, meaning it could make billions of dollars selling emission "credits" to countries that exceed their allotted amounts.
Of course, without the USA falling for the con, the profit potential was substantially reduced.
Don't be shy, tell us what you really think!
Once again, Julie Burchill puts the hammer down in the Guardian:
Working on the law of averages, I'm sure that there must have been a whole lot of decent, intelligent people among the three-quarters of a million souls who marched in favour of the unchallenged continuation of Saddam Hussein's reign of terror over the people of Iraq the other weekend. Though, as ever, Christopher Hitchens pretty much hit the nail on the head when he summed it up as "the silly... led by the sinister".
But what really brought a tear (of mirth) to the eye, and a tide of vomit to the throat, was the en masse presence of professional entertainers. And for every thespian, hoofer, crooner, dressmaker, TV doctor, ex-boxer, presenting prannet and It Girl who turned up for the march, a dozen more have added their voices to the "anti-war" chorus.
But now, it seems the testimony of a jester is automatically worth twice that of what Liz Hurley so charmingly called "civilians" (ie, people who do something other than raiding the dressing-up box for a living).

What is most extraordinary about this unique level of celebrity bum-sucking in a global conflict - as opposed to a haircut - scenario is that it's being most frantically touted by the Mirror, a newspaper that only last year declared war on the cult of, um, celebrity. So, to sum up, their position would seem to be: Celebrities = silly show-offs when going about their usual business of attending premieres and getting on the telly. But, on the other hand, Celebrities = seers and sages who must be listened to when pronouncing on war and peace.
Nice to know that Liz thinks of the rest of us as "civilians". One can only hope that her "service" wasn't too arduous.

Friday, February 28, 2003

What he said!
The Dixie Flatline says Blah:
This has been a difficult day for me. To wake up and see Hans Blix, grinning like a moron, happy stupor induced by Hussein's promise to began thinking about the possibility that he might consider the process by which an unspecified number of Al Samoud missiles may be destroyed, once Iraq, with the UN's help, figures out how to break something as robust as a theater ballistic missile.

Although, given Iraqi quality control, we probably don’t have to worry about the Al Sammys. The only reason the Patriot was considered such a success was that Hussein’s jerry-rigged Scuds fell apart once they began their dives. A country that can’t paint a decent picture of their dictator probably doesn’t have rocket science down cold.
I don't really know what to make of Hans. Is he simply an idealist, so committed to a peaceful resolution that he cannot help but be blinded to the nature of Iraqi "promises"? This is the charitable view, and most likely the correct one. The alternative is that he's feeble-minded, a man-child so stupid can sit down with the Iraqis and not realize they're playing him for a fool, half-Chamberlain, half-Carter, all jackass.
I'm voting for the jackass.
Needless to say, we destroyed the Super Gun in Gulf War I. Hard not to, really, with a target like that. I wonder how much Hussein spent on that thing, how hard his engineers worked to assemble it? They could have been building bridges, or hospitals, or schools. Countless alternatives. But instead, Hussein thinks: I want to spend several million dollars on a giant gun. A really big-ass gun, the kind of gun Stalin would have spent money on, if he was a total moron.

And so he builds the Gun, and we blow it up. I wonder if Hussein, in his idle moments, thinks about the Gun with a sense of poignant regret. Perhaps the Al Samouds are just his way of reclaiming the glory of those halcyon days when he had the world's biggest gun. Or maybe he's just an asshole.
I'm voting for the asshole. A vicious, poor impulse control kind of asshole.

Much more by following the link.
Your government at work!
Suzanne Herel amuses in the SF Chronicle with Bureaucrats get EBay fever - State sells penknives confiscated at airports at online auction:
That pocketknife you surrendered to airport security screeners might now be tucked away in someone else's pocket -- someone who bought it on EBay.

Under the handle CaliforniaGold2000, the state is using the Internet auction house to convert scores of confiscated items to cash.

So far, $16,281 has been made selling objects taken from passengers at Oakland and Sacramento airports -- the only ones in Northern California to participate in the state program.

Among the oddest items confiscated and sold were at least three circular saws, hatchets, curtain rods and a little girl's baton, said Robb Deignan, spokesman for the surplus property disposal program, a division of the California Department of General Services.

Also sold: 5,364 pocketknives, 350 pounds of scissors, 594 corkscrews and 309 leatherman tools.

The Transportation Security Administration, which employs most airport screeners, allows airports to decide how to get rid of the mountains of items collected, said spokesman Nico Melendez.

They are too numerous to return to their owners, Deignan said.
Hmm, kind of like taxes.
"They don't own it. They took it away -- that doesn't mean you relinquish ownership," he said. "I don't want to use the word 'theft,' but it starts smelling like it."
Even more like taxes!

Follow this link to check out their auctions. It looks like they are selling the knives in large lots.
Sick Joke of the Day Alert!
The weather apparently got to Thomas Hibbs at NRO as he penned Abolish Winter Break!, but his first paragraph called to me:
In last fall's Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign, the Republican candidate and eventual victor, Mitt Romney, endured all sorts of attacks for his wealth and upper-class status. Coming from a state Democratic party whose power is concentrated in the Kerry-Heinz fortune and the royal family of Kennedy, these assaults seemed a trifle disingenuous. (Some years ago, the Boston Globe actually ran an op-ed piece in which John Silber argued that Ted Kennedy had earned the right not to debate political rivals.)
Good thing Teddy can't turn around too fast or John Silber's nose would be seriously at risk, wedged where it is.

Through the looking glass
(Via On the Third Hand) Charles Krauthammer describes A Costly Charade At the U.N.:
America goes courting Guinea, Cameroon and Angola in search of the nine Security Council votes necessary to pass our new resolution on Iraq.

The absurdity of the exercise mirrors the absurdity of the United Nations itself. Guinea is a perfectly nice place and Guineans perfectly nice people. But from the dawn of history to the invention of the United Nations, it made not an ounce of difference what a small, powerless, peripheral country thought about a conflict thousands of miles away. It still doesn't, except at the Alice-in-Wonderland United Nations, where Guinea and Cameroon and Angola count.

For a day.
Which reminds me, I'm real thrilled at the news report that
The United Nations and Iraq said Friday the dismantling of Baghdad's al-Samoud 2 missiles could start Saturday.
and Hans Blix is
saying it's hard to understand why some Iraqi cooperation that is taking place right now couldn't have been started earlier.
Silly me, I thought the minuet was dead!
"The INS is dead, long live the INS"
Frequent readers know that one of my favorite targets is the dangerous and scandalous incompetence of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the immigration "court" system. Well today is the last day for the INS, but I'm not having a party.
The mere mention of its acronym -- INS -- frightens foreigners, angers conservatives, and embarrasses government officials.

Beset by huge backlogs and bad record keeping, the Immigration and Naturalization Service came to symbolize government inefficiency. In the past, it has underestimated the number of illegal immigrants living in the country by 5 million, and granted tourist visas to 13 of the 19 terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But after tomorrow, the 112-year-old agency will cease to exist, its job divided among three new agencies. In a private ceremony held in the nation's capital yesterday, officials handed the furled blue-and-white INS flag to an archivist, forever retiring its name.

Though few tears are likely to be shed for the end of INS, critics are saying the old problems will resurface in the new system.

INS ''was an extremely dysfunctional agency and I don't see anything in the works to make the new structure less dysfunctional,'' said Joan Friedland, immigration policy lawyer at the National Immigration Law Center, a policy organization based in Los Angeles. ''The changes take effect March 1 and there's still no clear indication of how it's going to work.''

A major reconstitution is underway, affecting INS' 37,000 employees and the millions of people the agency serves. Its job will be done by three bureaus of the new Department of Homeland Security.
Here's the new plan:
The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services will handle services such as citizenship applications, asylum claims and employment petitions.

Enforcement of the laws will be divided between two new agencies. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection will assume the INS function at the airports and ports, as well as customs duties. This also will include patrolling the border.

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement will handle the internal enforcement, including deportations and investigations of smuggling rings.
Swell - BCIS, BCBP, and BICE. Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic won't keep the ship from going down.

Coincidentally, a NYC official testified yesterday before Congress about a brutal rape case that I mentioned in December:
Red tape at the Immigration and Naturalization Service is preventing police from reporting illegal immigrants who commit crimes, a New York City official said Thursday.

The result has been that criminals who could be deported have been allowed to remain in the country, and in some cases, go on to commit violent crimes.

New York City's Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt testified Thursday before a House subcommittee on immigration to answer questions surrounding the rape of a woman in a park in the borough of Queens in December.

Four of the five men charged in the case were found to be illegal immigrants, and three of those had been previously arrested.

Feinblatt said the INS is hard to reach whenever a New York police officer tries to refer a suspected illegal immigrant to them.

He presented an internal INS memo showing the agency requires any such referrals to be submitted in writing, by a high-ranking police superior, and instructs INS employees to inform the requesting officer of the numerous costs of jailing and transportation that could be incurred by the local department if they persist with their request.
Well that's an incentive! But last time I checked, local police departments weren't responsible for guarding the borders. Why are they footing the bill for criminal illegals? Why are local governments footing any bill for illegal aliens at all beyond a phone call to the nearest INS BICE office to arrange a pickup?

From Andrea Peyser's opinion piece on the testimony in today's NY Post:
"If I had a choice between root canal and dealing with INS, it's a coin toss," a law-enforcement source familiar with this case told me.

He added, "The INS don't want to be notified, and the police don't want to notify them. There's plenty of blame to go around." Has terrorism taught us nothing? We can no longer allow criminals to hide behind the protected status of illegal aliens.
While prevention of terrorism is a good argument, there is no reason why the citizens of the USA should be burdened by illegal aliens, period.
You don't say!
From the NY Post:
February 28, 2003 -- WASHINGTON - The Pentagon yesterday bluntly warned TV networks and newspapers to get reporters out of Baghdad pronto - because it will be "a real, real bad place to be" if there's an Iraq attack.
On the other hand, the subhuman shields ought to hurry up.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Nosiree, no WMD here!
The Telegraph reports We will gas you when US bombs fall, Kurds told:
If war comes to Iraq, the Kurds of Kifri will be right in the line of fire. Iraqi officials have threatened that the moment the first American bomb lands, they will reply with a chemical assault on the town.
Kifri is barely two hours' drive from Baghdad and at the southern tip of Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq. For years, the town has lived under the shadow of Saddam Hussein's forces. From its southern edge, a big Iraqi military base dominates the skyline. On the left, Baghdad's tanks are dug in and, to the right, is a missile silo.
The town's misery has been dragged out for more than a decade. In 1991, its residents were forced to flee for the mountains when Iraqi troops rolled into town. Five years later, the Iraqis returned and they fled again. Mr and Mrs Nasir slept rough for 10 days.

In one vicious attack since then, the Iraqis used phosphor bombs that left victims horribly burnt.

"What can we do?" asked Mr Nasir, who earns a living as a petrol trader. "I would gladly give a month's salary for a gas mask, but there are none. The mountains are our only chance."
"The Iraqis have said they will overrun us when the fighting starts," said one. "We are brave, but we can't do much against tanks and missiles."
Ever notice how dictators love to beat up on unarmed civilians? And the "human shields" will make the scene in Kifri right about the time that Hell freezes over.
All aboard!
James Taranto has the following gem:
"Spiritualist" Deepak Chopra on how to resolve the Iraq crisis: "The creative solution now would be to get the Pope, the Dalai Lama, celebrities and a few who have a voice all over the world to sit and act as human shields so we can avoid a lot of death and destruction. I would love to go with them."
I'm willing to give the Pope and Dalai Lama a pass, but Deepak, please round up the celebrities and hit the road to Baghdad now! Before it's too late!

Bye Bye!

I'm so excited! I can hardly wait for the next episode where Deepak visits Uday and meets Mr. Thumbscrew, Mr. Red Hot Poker, and Mr. Nutcracker!
News you can use!
State Farm Won't Replace Car In Case Of Nuclear Attack!
Ruh Oh!
Driver Falls Asleep At Controls Of Japanese Bullet Train:
A passenger train service in Japan says it's apparently a first -- the driver of a bullet train falling asleep at 170 mph.

West Japan Railway says the train with 800 passengers on board was on autopilot and came to a stop about 300 feet short of where it was supposed to.

When station officials went to see what had happened, they found the driver sound asleep.

Nobody was hurt, but local police say the bullet-train driver might have violated some sort of railway law.
Hmm, time for my nap!
It's the Frenchies again!
Tim Luckhurst in The Spectator warns Poles Apart?
In Warsaw last Tuesday the French defence minister, Michelle Alliot-Marie, continued her President’s ham-fisted strategy of offering patronising advice to Eastern European nations on course to join the European Union. ‘It was better to keep silent when you don’t know what’s going on,’ she declared. Poland’s deputy foreign minister, Adam Rotfeld, resented the lecture. ‘France has a right to its opinion and Poland has the right to decide what is good for it,’ he told an interviewer. Then, addressing himself directly to Ms Alliot-Marie’s boss, ‘I would prefer it if he expressed himself more politely.’ Another East European diplomat said Chirac had spoken in a tone that even Moscow would have been reluctant to use with its Warsaw Pact clients.
More in the article on the uncertainty that Poland will vote to join the EU. Smart move, considering the personality of the gal from Welcome Wagon.
What's the frequency, Kenneth?
Imus: Rather's Saddam Sit-down Was 'Treasonous':
But after watching his friend's sit-down with the Iraqi dictator, Imus announced, "Here's all you need to know about Dan Rather: When he interviewed the first President Bush, he picked as fight with him. When he interviewed Saddam Hussein, he spent an hour kissing his ass."
Dan's merely a whore.
Fuzzy Mindedness Alert!
A Methodist pastor from New Jersey has some second thoughts about being a "human shield":
The Iraq Peace Team, part of Voices in the Wilderness, returned from Baghdad on Tuesday, Boyle said. It reported growing anti-American tension among civilians there now that another resolution is on the table at the United Nations. The word on the streets of Amman is that the shields are getting the best hotel rooms in Baghdad, three meals a day and computers.

"But there has been absolutely no word about them getting out or no word about where they are placed. They are just placed," said Boyle, who was told that one group is staying next to an army base.

"While I didn't want to believe the cynical things the Bush administration was saying about the shields and how they might be used when I first heard it, I'm starting to see those things may be true. That has me worried for those folks. They really don't have a lot of independence."
No excrement, Sherlock! Somehow I get the feeling that he's led a rather sheltered life.

But it isn't stopping the Rev. - he's still off to Baghdad to be a "shield". Maybe he'll get to guard one of the swanky palaces?

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

West Wing Alert! (sorta)
From Rich Acello, The "West Wing" Defends America:
It's a beautiful day in Washington. President Martin Sheen is reflecting on his recent appointment of Barbra Streisand to the Supreme Court, while thumbing through Bill Clinton's memoir, "How I Won the War Against Terror and Still Found Time to Play Twister."

Suddenly, a knock at the door. An aide enters.

Aide: Sorry to interrupt, sir, but a bomb has blown up New York City. Looks like it might be the work of Middle Eastern terrorist extremists!

Pres. Sheen: In all fairness, we don't actually know if it was Middle Eastern terrorists, do we? I mean, the bomb didn't actually say "Made in Iraq" or "Greetings from Osama" on it, did it?

Aide: Gee, sir, you're right.

Pres. Sheen: Call a meeting of the United Nations immediately. We'll draft a resolution. Remember that Beatles song, "Say, you want a resolution, we all want to save the world?"

Aide: Yes, sir, but there might be a logistical problem, since the U.N is in New York, and ....
More by following the link.
Randy Shughart and Gary Gordon
(Via the Curmudgeon) Dorothy Rabinowitz in the WSJ Opinion Journal Media Log:
It does not require reference to Medal of Honor recipients to certify the U.S. military's courage and tenacity. Still, now is not a bad time to remember what happened when an outnumbered, underequipped force, hamstrung by superiors more concerned with appearances than success, was sent into Somalia--and to reflect on the nature of men impelled to acts of valor and selflessness, deeds that seem, still, to shine forth from that darkness.
Yeah, that was Bubba's doing, but I hope that this time the politicians and the political generals have the spine to see it through. The leftist whiners, the UN, the jihadists, and the Euroweenies want us to fail - their advice is less than worthless.
Brian Blomquist and Deborah Orin in the NY Post - Iraq: Oops! We Have a Bio Bomb:
Iraq yesterday claimed it suddenly found a biogerm bomb. U.N. weapons inspectors hailed that as "cooperation," but President Bush said Saddam Hussein is just trying "to fool the world one more time."

The United States notes the R-400 biogerm bomb Iraq declared is one of 400 it was known to have in the 1990s. The rest are unaccounted for at present. Until now, Iraq has claimed it had no chemical or biological weapons.
"My wife made me clean out the garage and look what I found! The dog must have hid it back there!"
Chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said Iraq, in a letter, reported finding two R-400 aerial bombs "including one that was likely to be filled with biological stuff." Blix said that was one of six letters with new information on weapons and called it "cooperation on substance."
Zzzzz - the Blixter's clue phone is still off the hook.
And Speaking of Pond Scum
Dana Hull in the San Jose Mercury News reports that Anti-war Activists Plan to Disrupt Daily Activities If War Breaks Out:
If U.S.-led forces attack Iraq, anti-war activists in the Bay Area and around the world have "emergency response"' plans to immediately blockade federal buildings, shut down commuting arteries and disrupt the financial districts of major cities with massive protests and non-violent civil disobedience.

Many organizers have kept their intentions under wraps so that police and officials at U.S. military bases and large corporations will be caught off-guard. But drafts of some plans have already appeared on Web sites, and intensive training sessions covering everything from "non-violent blockades" to "jail solidarity" tactics are under way.
Some disruptions have already started: eight anti-war protesters were arrested in Seattle last week after blocking the eastbound lanes of Highway 520, which ground the morning commute to a halt.

In California, dozens of protesters plan to infiltrate the Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central coast, hoping to disrupt military work. A Bay Area collective called Direct Action to Stop the War plans to blockade the Transamerica Pyramid, the Pacific Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve in San Francisco.

In San Jose, Los Angeles and Chicago, activists have spread the word to converge at federal buildings.

In Britain, trade-union leaders have warned there will be national strikes. Irish activists plan to blockade a civilian airport where U.S. military planes regularly stop to refuel. Activists have already sneaked onto the tarmac of Ireland's Shannon Airport and hammered on a U.S. Navy hangar, spray-painted peace signs on a KC-130 military transport plane and chopped up pieces of the runway before being arrested.
Saboteur wannabes - Saddam would be proud.
During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, protesters shut down the Bay Bridge for two days in a row, creating major traffic jams for local commuters. This time, the focus is primarily on federal and military buildings and large corporations that activists believe have a financial interest in a war with Iraq.
Still whining the same old tune. And still just as smart:
The San Francisco police and many downtown businesses have heard about the so-called "day of" plans and are discussing how to respond. One building that has been listed as a possible protest target is the historic Shell building on Bush Street.

But property manager Susan Santiago says Shell Oil has not had offices there for decades. Building officials plan to hang a sign stating that the Shell building is not affiliated with the oil company if crowds gather.
The article has more about police and saboteur tactics. In this neck of the woods, the police would be hopping to keep the locals from administering a drubbing to these wingnuts, which is why they won't show up here. My sympathies to city folks.

An earlier report was posted here.
Pond Scum
James Taranto reveals Great Moments in Public Education:
Bloggers Joe Katzman and Trent Telenko pick up on a disturbing report from WABI-TV in Bangor, Maine (video is here), that children of Maine National Guardsmen who've been deployed to the Gulf have found themselves facing schoolyard taunts--not from fellow students but from "antiwar" teachers.
Most of the children involved, WABI reports, are between seven and nine years old.
There are times when an ass-kicking just isn't enough.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Captain Dan the News Man
As always, has the scoop on everyone's favorite newshawk, Dan Rather, and his interview with Saddam:
CBS acknowledged the help of a prominent anti-war activist in getting the interview, who, according to the Associated Press, "put in a good word for Rather." The activist who assisted was former Attorney General Ramsey Clark. The AP reported on Monday that "the Iraqi president praised Clark for his role in the anti-war movement in the United States" when the former JFK and LBJ official met with Hussein on Sunday.
Dan, Ramsey, and Saddam - now there's a trio to conjure with!

Hmmm, I wonder if Dan is going to do as good a job as Tony Benn?
Reischstag Fire Alert!
James Anderson of the AP seems a tad confused in Blasts Raise Terrorism Fears in Venezuela:
CARACAS, Venezuela - Powerful explosions just minutes apart devastated the Spanish and Colombian diplomatic missions Tuesday, injuring four people and raising fears that Colombian-style terror has reached next-door Venezuela.

The attacks in Caracas came two days after President Hugo Chavez denounced Colombia and Spain, among other nations, for allegedly interfering in Venezuelan affairs. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blasts.
The difference, Jim, is that in Venezuela the head terrorist lives in the presidential palace.
Leaflets supporting Chavez's "Bolivarian Revolution," a political movement loosely based on the writings of 19th century independence hero Simon Bolivar, were found outside both missions. But Chavez's government dismissed the papers as a "ridiculous" plant and said no one should jump to conclusions.

"We will find those responsible for this crime," vowed Deputy Foreign Minister Arevalo Mendez.

Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel repudiated the attacks as "a form of terrorism never seen in Venezuela," and suggested Chavez opponents may have been involved.

He said an anti-terrorism task force would be created and offered condolences to the Colombian and Spanish people.
And only opponents of Thug Hugo will be arrested. Hey, the old tricks are the best tricks.

Meanwhile at the UPI, Owain Johnson has a backgrounder, Letter from Caracas: Troubled seas ahead:
President Hugo Chavez once famously noted that Venezuela and Cuba are sailing together in the Sea of Happiness. This might well be true. Certainly, all the signs are that Venezuelans might want to brush up their raft-making skills.

Chavez's leftist government and the opposition remain at odds despite intensive international mediation efforts. Meanwhile, 90 percent of Venezuelans told a recent poll they believe that the economic situation is "grave," and 43 percent said it will worsen still further.

Those 43 percent are the smart ones. The prospects for the oil-rich country, once nicknamed Saudi Venezuela, are so awful that some businesses are even looking to relocate to Colombia. Despite being in the midst of a brutal 39-year civil war, many business owners now believe Colombia is actually more stable and business-friendly than Chavez's Venezuela.

"I know there are some companies that are already on three-month standby notice to leave the country," said Danay Zoppi, the president of the Association of Chemical Producers. "Businesses have cut salaries by as much as 30 percent and many are working four-day weeks."

Venezuela used to be a magnet for economic migrants from Colombia and nearby Caribbean islands, but the giant lines outside the American, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese embassies show Venezuela now as a country of would-be emigrants.

(Admittedly, the long line has disappeared at least briefly at the Spanish embassy, which was bombed Tuesday by attackers who identified themselves as members of the Simon Bolivar Urban Militia Coordinator and the Bolivarian Liberation Force. Leaflets found at the scene of the embassy and the Colombian consulate, the other target, accused the two countries of intervening in Venezuelan affairs -- comments similar to those made by Chavez on Sunday. Government supporters blamed the attacks on opposition groups trying to poison world opinion against Chavez.)
Don't worry folks, Hugo says it's all a plant.
The president has also said that his government has allowed the opposition to set the political agenda for far too long. In recent speeches, Chavez has told supporters that 2003 will be the decisive year for his "Bolivarian revolution" in favor of the poor.

"We have stopped being on the defensive and now we are going on the attack," Chavez said in a recent speech. "Every Venezuelan should keep this powerful idea, this powerful belief in their heart: this will be the victorious attack of the Bolivarian offensive."
Last one out, turn off the lights.
Yet another challenge alert!
From Rantburg:
Saddam Hussein Challenges Bush to Debate

Saddam Hussein has challenged President Bush to a debate on live television, according to interview excerpts being aired Tuesday, and indicated he won't heed U.N. orders to destroy his Al Samoud 2 missiles. In the three-hour interview in the Iraq capital, CBS television quoted Saddam as calling for the debate via satellite linkup. The White House said the debate offer wasn't serious.
Back in October, the Iraqis suggested a duel, presumably to the death. A year before, the Taliban challenged Bush and Blair to meet Mullah Omar with Kalashnikovs at 30 paces...
Fellas, the challengees get the choice of weapon. We pick JDAM's from 20,000 feet. You don't have any? Well, life's surely a bitch, ain't it?
He's off his medication again!
Bobby Mugabe was on a tear at "the summit of the 116-member Non-Aligned Movement in Malaysia, which is expected to pass a resolution calling for an end to sanctions on Zimbabwe".
"The United States, awakened to the implications of being the sole superpower, joined by Britain as a born-again colonialist, and other Western countries have turned themselves into fierce hunting bulldogs raring to go, as they sniff for more blood, Third World blood," Mr Mugabe said.
But he's still got that cute little 'stache! Hmm, I wonder how the shopping is in Malayasia?
Reasoned discourse alert!
The BBC stuns with America's Cup terror warning:
Counter-terrorism police are investigating three threatening letters, including one containing cyanide, which were sent to the US Embassy and the British and Australian High Commissions in the capital, Wellington.

Assistant Police Commissioner for Counter-terrorism, John White, said the identical letters were intercepted and "secured" at the Auckland Mail Centre after staff noticed some white powder.

"A small quantity of cyanide (was) in one of the letters," Mr White said.

"It's quite a serious situation and we wouldn't want to take it lightly," he said.

He said the threats related to "terrorist acts" that could occur during the final races of the America's Cup in Auckland if there was an escalation in the Iraq crisis.
I wonder which one of the many groups devoted to "peace" they came from?
Decisions, decisions!
Over at Gweilo Diaries, Conrad is torn between re-upping with the 99th Air Refueling Squadron or shielding Lan Kwei Fong. Hey, they're both tough jobs, but someone has to do them.
They're after his Lucky Charms!
Rich Hailey is having a contest of mass detection:

Grand Prize is $100.

The rules are simple.

1. Somewhere in the nine county Knoxville Metro area, I have stashed a money order for $100. As weapons inspectors, your job is to find it. Whoever finds it, keeps it.
But there are more "rules" and "conditions". Dang, where's the Blixter when you need him?
Ignore the man behind the curtain!
My apologies to my long suffering commenters, but I am trying out a new commenting system from The previous backBlog system, while fast, had some mechanical properties that I found awkward.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Your Tax Dollars At Work
Carl Limbacher and the NewsMax crew wax lyrical about Multimillionaire Musicians Want You to Fund Grammy:
The filthy-rich limousine liberals who attend the yawn-inducing Grammy Awards want you and other taxpayers to fund the Grammy Foundation. But Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., opposes the $800,000 Grammy subsidy that someone sleazed into the Omnibus Appropriations Bill for 2003, recently signed into law.

"The mission of the Grammy Foundation is certainly noble," said Flake, "but why is an organization affiliated with thousands of multimillionaire musicians and record executives receiving taxpayer money?"
Can you say pork barrel? I knew you could!
Here's My Entry!
For the Four Horseman of the Ablogalypse contest. Yeah I'm off topic. And I also left off Charles Johnson, but he needs to get some more photos to work with!

Blog Matrix

Sunday, February 23, 2003

For gentlemen only!
We aim to please.

It's a looney!I'm very concerned about this!
Over at Disordered Affections, Karen Hall tries to figure out the Hollywierdos:
I caught a little bit of Susan Sarandon and Mike Farrell on Face the Nation. Here's the gist of it, as I understand it:

There is absolutely, positively, all the really's in the world, no evidence that Saddam Hussein has any links to terrorists. And we should not bomb Iraq, because it will inflame the terrorists to whom he has no links, and they will attack us with the weapons of mass destruction that they are absolutely not getting from Saddam Hussein.

They are also worried that Saddam Hussein is going to do nasty things to our troops, with the chemicals and bioweapons that they are absolutely sure that he doesn't have.

And Susan thinks we should "bring those boys back home and let them protect the homeland." (Read: To hell with those innocent civilians in the middle east, just keep terrorists out of Brentwood!) Protect the homeland from what? All those chemicals and bioweapons that Saddam doesn't have, in the hands of the terrorists to whom he has no links?
More by following the link.
Road Trip!
As I've mentioned numerous times before, the power shopping reports are the best part of Bobby Mugabe and his toadies leaving the long-suffering citizens of Zimbabwe behind and heading for the developed world. For Bobby's latest trip to the French suck-a-thon, Matthew Campbell does the honors in the Sunday Times in Mrs Mugabe - let them eat Chanel:
THE sleek limousine drew to a halt and out stepped Grace Mugabe, wife of the Zimbabwean dictator. After a distracting morning of official engagements in Paris she was eager to get back to what she enjoys best: conspicuous consumption. She had come to the right place. The Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré is not only where President Jacques Chirac and the British and French ambassadors live, but some of the grandest names in fashion.

For a woman with an Imelda Marcos-like reputation for profligacy, it was an opportunity too good to miss. With an entourage of bodyguards and female companions, she headed straight for Salvatore Ferragamo, the Italian clothes, shoe and handbag designer, where she was ushered into a glass lift.
"Oh I really like these," she purred. When told moments later that they were not available in her size, 8A, a cloud settled over her features and those of her female companions.

It is, perhaps, the moment that her Zimbabwean associates fear most, for Grace, a former secretary to Mugabe who married him after the death of his first wife, Sally, in 1996, is as used to getting her way as he is.

The shop assistant, however, had not yet recognised this customer. "Do you live here?" she inquired. "We’ll be able to get you a pair in your size."

Grace considered this for a moment. "Send me the reference numbers for all of these," she said, taking in the entire stock with an imperious wave of her hand.

When Grace was back in the lift, the shop assistant gave a Parisian shrug: "We had another African leader’s wife in here yesterday who bought a lot of shoes in that size. That’s why we don’t have any left."
Uh Oh! Gracie has competition in the shopping derby!
While their countrymen faced ruination, hunger and despair, the couple had taken up residence in a luxury hotel on the Avenue Montaigne, another shoppers’ paradise not far from the Champs Elysées.
Even in a city used to displays of opulence, Grace’s shopping expeditions have gone down in legend. It is rumoured that the hiring of a special plane was required to take home her last haul from Paris. Today she has her own DC-9, known as Big Bunny because it was once owned by Playboy’s Hugh Hefner.

Last week she was determined, it seemed, to do better.
More by following the link, including a brief "interview" with Gracie.
One of her female retinue urged the photographer to stop taking pictures: “Do you not know this is the wife of a head of state?”
And I thought she was merely a gangster's moll.

By the way, Bobby had two children by Gracie while his first wife was dying of cancer. Hmm, looking at the wedding snap of the virginal bride in the previous link reminded me that Gracie has bulked up a bit since the nuptials in 1996. Those pesky starvation rations must be high starch!
What Would Jesus Eat?
Charles Laurence amuses in the Telegraph with Doctor calls on Jesus to deliver USA from the hamburger:
Jesus has been called upon to help Americans in their eternal struggle with obesity with a diet dubbed "the healthiest ever devised by man".

Drawing on the inspiration of loaves, fishes, water and wine, a doctor from Florida has published a self-help manual, What Would Jesus Eat?, and a companion volume, the What Would Jesus Eat Cook Book.
Gag me with a spoon.