Wednesday, November 30, 2005

How Not to Run the Internet

Courtesy of Friends of Cuban Libraries, this November 18th article from ZDNet makes it abundantly clear why retaining US control of the Internet is a necessity:

Cuba, Iran and African governments lashed out at the U.S. government this week, charging that the Internet permits too much free speech and that the way it is managed must be reformed immediately.

The U.S. and other Western nations "insist on being world policemen on the management of the Internet," Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who has been the country's leader since 1987, said at a United Nations information society summit here.

"Those who have supported nihilistic and disorderly freedom of expression are beginning to see the fruits" of their efforts, Mugabe said, adding that Zimbabwe will be "challenging the bully-boy mentality that has driven the unipolar world."

This is the same Robert Mugabe who has driven his country to the brink of famine through his Stalinist economic policies, only to then be invited to speak recently at a UN conference on hunger. Not an auspicious omen, to say the least.

Anyway, It's not just Comrade Mugabe, as the representative of Cuba's Maximum Leader had an equally enlightening contribution to make:

"Fidel Castro, the unflinching promoter of the use of new technologies," believes "it is necessary to create a multinational democratic (institution) which administers this network of networks," said the WSIS delegate from Cuba.

In Cuba, only people with government permission can access the Internet, owning computer equipment is prohibited, and online writers have been imprisoned, according to Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based free speech watchdog group.

Finally, let's see what Iran's delegate had to say:

Too often, the Internet is used for the "propagation of falsehoods," said Mohammad Soleymani, Iran's minister of communication and information technology.

Soleymani called for the elimination of the California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)--which approves new top-level domain names--in favor of United Nations control.

"Changing the current Internet governance to a participatory, legitimate and accountable system under an international authority is imperative," he said.

Somehow I suspect that what Mr. Soleymani would consider to be "a participatory, legitimate and accountable system" is drastically different from how most people would define that concept.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

CRS on China and Internet Censorship

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently released a report on China's efforts to censor Internet content. The document provides a good overview of the situation and discusses possible US policy options. Like many other CRS analyses, the report is freely available online courtesy of the State Department's Foreign Press Centers:

Internet Development and Information Control in the People’s Republic of China
(link in PDF)

More on Iranian Blogs

Courtesy of Norm Geras, here's a terrific overview from the Daily Telegraph of the struggle between Iranian bloggers and their country's repressive Islamist regime:

Iran is fighting a constant battle against dissenters who are using the internet to voice criticism of the Islamic Republic and to push for freedom and democracy.

With the closure of most independent newspapers and magazines in Iran, blogging - publishing an online diary - has become a powerful tool in the dissidents' arsenal by providing individuals with a public voice.

An Iranian blogger known as Saena, wrote recently: "Weblogs are one weapon that even the Islamic Republic cannot beat."

I certainly hope that proves true.

Lieberman on Iraq

Today's Wall Street Journal has a must read op-ed piece from from one of the Democratic Party's few remaining voices of reason, Senator Joe Lieberman. The article is a powerful antidote to the hysterical, unwarranted defeatism that seems to have gripped much of this nation lately:

I have just returned from my fourth trip to Iraq in the past 17 months and can report real progress there. More work needs to be done, of course, but the Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive, killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood--unless the great American military that has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn.

Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

There are many more cars on the streets, satellite television dishes on the roofs, and literally millions more cell phones in Iraqi hands than before. All of that says the Iraqi economy is growing. And Sunni candidates are actively campaigning for seats in the National Assembly. People are working their way toward a functioning society and economy in the midst of a very brutal, inhumane, sustained terrorist war against the civilian population and the Iraqi and American military there to protect it.

It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.

Our Troops Must Stay

"Correcting" the Classics

Last Thursday's Times of London weighs in on a ridiculous yet disturbing effort to revise a classic work of literature to avoid giving offense:

Self-censorship, while less abhorrent than imposed censorship, is none- theless deeply alarming. It is an unhealthy society in which people feel constrained about what they can and cannot say. Good taste certainly dictates that caution may occasionally be advisable. Free speech confers responsibility. But to rewrite 400-year-old texts because they may not perfectly reflect contemporary concerns is a dangerous precedent. It is therefore with a sense of unease that we report the tweaking of Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great in order to protect Islamic sensibilities.

The Times has it exactly right: rewriting classic works to conform to current notions of political correctness is an especially insidious form of censorship. This is not a precedent that needs to be set.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Islamist Assault on Free Speech

Three weeks ago, I linked to a terrific post by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at the Counterterrorism Blog. The post provided a detailed overview of radical Islamists' literally murderous assault on intellectual freedom. Gartenstein-Ross has now expanded his work into a must read article for the Weekly Standard web site:

LAST MONTH, Islamic radicals threatened to kill actor and Muslim convert Omar Sharif. Sharif had recently played St. Peter in an Italian TV film and spoke highly of the role, saying that he "seemed to hear voices" during filming and that "it will be difficult for me to play other roles from now on." Although Sharif's comments seem innocuous, they prompted a death threat. According to the Adnkronos International news agency, a message on a web forum which has been used by al Qaeda in the past linked to another website that threatened Sharif's life. The website containing the threat said, "Omar Sharif has stated that he has embraced the crusader idolatry. He is a crusader who is offending Islam and Muslims and receiving applause from the Italian people. I give you this advice, brothers, you must kill him."

This incident is relatively minor in the grand scheme of the war against radical Islam, but telling. It provides another glimpse into the Islamists' single-minded fanaticism and their willingness to punish any type of ideological non-conformity.

The Freedoms We Fight For

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Why Blogs Matter

Speaking again of Jack Stephens, he recently asked other librarian bloggers when they first published a post criticizing ALA President Michael Gorman. In my case, it was February 26, 2005, when Gorman made some derogatory comments about blogging that were so ridiculous that they even attracted the ire of mainstream bloggers such as Instapundit.

The following point was at the heart of my critique:

As far as Gorman's contempt for blogs, this too is cause for concern. No, blog discourse isn't always the most elevated. However, blogging has become a powerful vehicle for the free expression of ideas, to the point that certain repressive regimes have imprisoned people for doing it. You would think the head of an organization supposedly devoted to intellectual freedom would respect that.

Nowhere are blogs more important than in dictatorships such as Iran and China. In the former, according to Rachel Hoff:

Blogging has revolutionized dissent in Iran. By providing private citizens a public voice, blogs may be the most powerful tool in the dissidents' arsenal. As an Iranian blogger known as Saena wrote, "Weblogs are one weapon that even the Islamic Republic cannot beat."[7] As the cases of Arash Sigarchi and other imprisoned bloggers show, though, the Iranian regime is trying to crush these new outlets of democratic dissent. Throughout the Middle East, the race is on between journalists opening new websites and regimes such as the Islamic Republic trying to censor cyberspace. While Western governments have a stake in the bloggers' success, neither the White House nor the State Department have spoken out publicly in support of Sigarchi and his colleagues.

Meanwhile, in China, the New York Times reports that bloggers have become one of the biggest obstacles to Beijing's plans for a censored Internet:

So far, Chinese authorities have mostly relied on Internet service providers to police the Web logs. Commentary that is too provocative or directly critical of the government is often blocked by the provider. Sometimes the sites are swamped by opposing comment - many believe by official censors - that is more favorable to the government.

Blogs are sometimes shut down altogether, temporarily or permanently. But the authorities do not yet seem to have an answer to the proliferation of public opinion in this form.

When people exercise freedom, the results aren't always pretty. This is especially true of blogging. However, despite their faults, blogs are a powerful tool for fostering free expression and the open exchange of ideas. Mr. Gorman might not have realized this truth, but dictatorial regimes and their unhappy subjects certainly have.

The More Things Change...

Jack Stephens at Conservator brings word that the keynote speaker at next year's American Library Association/Democratic National Committee annual conference will be Madeleine Albright.

Nothing against Ms. Albright, whom I'm sure will be an interesting speaker, but this is par for the course. This will be the third straight year in which an anti-Bush partisan will deliver the keynote address at ALA Annual (Richard Clarke in 04, Barack Obama this year). There's really no need for me to repeat what I've already said here and in the Infamous Chronicle Article. I'll simply refer you to an article by Steven Bell that I referenced both on this site and in the Chronicle piece:

As a profession, does our hunger for recognition and positive reinforcement compel us to subject ourselves repeatedly to the same “you’re so special and yet so underpaid” spiel? Sitting through these politically overt keynote addresses feels eerily like listening to a Presidential State-of-the-Union address. Librarians stand, cheer, and clap wildly with every word of praise for our causes and every denouncement of conservative policies and practices. Obama barely had to work to get more standing ovations than a classic rock group giving their final reunion concert. Librarianship is supposed to be about balance, recognizing divergent viewpoints, and providing a platform for all sides of issues. But, given ALA’s reputation as a bastion of liberalism, I can’t imagine any conservative speaker (and please, let’s stop shuffling out Colin Powell as an example of our open-mindedness) daring to step into the ALA lion’s den. For what? A healthy chorus of boos, catcalls, and derision?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for your readership.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Iran's Attack on Intellectual Freedom

Under the leadership of recently "elected" president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's radical Islamist dictatorship is busily crushing any form of intellectual freedom. The newly appointed Minister of Culture, Mohammad-Hossein Saffar-Harandi, speaks proudly of his willingness to censor any book that offends the regime's "religious values":

He said that under his control, the ministry had also moved to ban a book on 2,500 years of Persian-Iranian monarchy, which had been approved under ex-president Mohammad Khatami. Iran's monarchy was ousted in 1979.

Movie censors were also criticized by the minister - appointed in August by Iran's new hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - for being too soft.

"These people did not want to accept that this country is the country of the 12th Imam and that the constitution does not approve of things against Islamic law," he said, adding that, "officials have been changed".

In an analysis for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Mehdi Khalaji provides additional information on Harandi:

In his position as deputy editor of the hardline Kayhan newspaper, Harandi wrote many articles condemning democracy as a Western model for governing, pluralism as an “effective weapon of the West to achieve their cultural invasion into Islamic world,” and freedom of speech as a way to destroy people’s religious beliefs. His background of attacks on liberal journalists and political activists strongly suggests that Ahmadinejad wants to suppress cultural freedom and to limit the freedom of information.

One manifestation of the regime's assault on intellectual freedom is a crackdown on literature:

The process of issuing permission to publish books of literature and the human sciences has practically ground to a halt. All books, even Qurans, must receive official permission for publication from the culture ministry. Writers and publishers say that the censorship regulations have become stricter since Harandi took over the ministry. The young writer Hossein Sanapoor, for example, opted not to publish his planned book of short stories because censors asked him to eliminate four stories that, taken together, represented the majority of the book.

With the ascension of Ahmadinejad, the Iranian dictatorship is now firmly in the hands of the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the regime's most radical elements. All vestiges of the relative liberalization of the 1990's are being swept away.

This is not just a problem for the Iranian people. At the same time as the Iranian dictatorship has attacked freedom at home, it has also called for the destruction of Israel, and almost certainly orchestrated lethal attacks on coalition forces in Iraq.

As history has shown, regimes motivated by a radical totalitarian ideology are often not content merely to oppress their own people, but also resort to external expansion. This is why the entire world has a vested interest in helping the Iranian people gain their freedom.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Origins of French Anti-Americanism

Many Americans seem to believe that French anti-Americanism arose with the coming of George W. Bush and his evil chimp-like smirk. A fascinating new review essay by Paul Berman, one of the foremost members of the anti-Islamist left, should end this delusion. Published in the November 28th New Republic, Berman's piece outlines the long and inglorious history of French anti-Americanism. The online version of the article requires registration, but it is well worth reading.

In the meantime, I'll offer a brief excerpt. Considering all the hysterical nonsense that has been uttered about the "new McCarthyism" and the "chill wind of censorship" in this country regarding the Iraq War, I found this passage about the intellectual climate in France to be especially relevant:

Even so, in writing about an oppressive and conformist intellectual atmosphere, Rigoulot in his L'Antiaméricanisme does describe something real--a pressure on writers and journalists in France to stand firm against American foreign policy and especially against the American campaign to overthrow Saddam. Whatever may be the complaints from American intellectuals and journalists about terrible pressures on them in the United States to conform to the Republican line, I am convinced, from hopping back and forth between France and the United States over these last years, that conformist pressures in France have been decidedly heavier. Rigoulot points out that not a single one of the big daily national or regional newspapers in France, nor any of the TV chains, supported the American overthrow of Saddam--a degree of unanimity that surpassed even the Germans on this issue.

Well-known independent writers were perfectly free to applaud the overthrow, if they wished to do so. But journalists at big institutions and writers who were younger and not so well-established had to think twice about expressing any such view, if only to protect their careers. During the height of the Franco-American crisis over Iraq, no fewer than three reporters at big national newspapers in France confessed to me, each reporter independently of the others, that the demand for conformity was becoming insupportable, and maybe emigration to some foreign land of freedom might be a good idea--which was yet another hyperbolic exaggeration, to be sure, since no one had the slightest intention of emigrating.

(Link courtesy of Watch)

Voices of Arab Reform

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies has released the latest issue of the Middle East Democracy Digest. The digest is a select compilation of the writings of Arab and Muslim reform advocates. It is a timely reminder that there are voices of democratic change in the Arab world, and that they can ultimately be successful, provided we don't abandon them to the jihadists and autocrats.

Setting the Record Straight on Iraqi Artifacts

Norm Geras links to a fascinating piece from Monday's Guardian on Marine Col. Matthew Bogdanos. Bogdanos was the officer in charge of retrieving antiquities looted from the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

In his interview with the Guardian, Bogdanos punctures many of the myths surrounding the museum incident. Considering how frequently Iraq war critics within the library profession have cited these myths, his comments are worth quoting:

He launches into a tirade against media reports of the looting (including the Guardian's account) which exaggerated the number of stolen objects, claiming 170,000 were missing. According to Bogdanos the figure was less than a tenth of that. And he is still infuriated by the suggestion that, as he puts it, "Coalition forces stood idly by as looters ransacked the museum." That, he insists, "is simply and undeniably factually inaccurate".

Between April 10 and 12 2003, when most of the thefts took place, Bogdanos says the museum was being used as a redoubt by Iraqi Special Republican Guard troops. "It simply could not have been secured without a battle that would have been devastating, or blood loss that would have been criminal on the part of the commander on the ground," he says.

(emphasis added-DD)

I eagerly await the international condemnation of Saddam Hussein's Special Republican Guard for standing by and allowing the looting to take place. I don't think I'll hold my breath while waiting, however.

Bogdanos is also critical of American units for not getting to the scene more quickly:

On the other hand, and with an equal measure of outrage, Bogdanos holds the US forces responsible for taking four days to arrive at the museum after the management's appeal for help on April 12. "It's not sinister. It's not evil. It's inexcusable," he says. In those four days, he says, the museum's Iraqi curators kept the thieves of Baghdad at bay themselves, but much of the damage had already been done.

Finally, Col. Bogdanos makes clear that many of the thefts were not the result of aimless looting:

Bogdanos believes there were three classes of robber at work: looters who cleared museum shelves at random; professionals who knew what they were looking for, perhaps taking orders from foreign dealers; and inside operators - employees or ex-employees who knew where particular treasures were hidden, using the chaos of the war as a cover to grab them.

The distinction between the second and third group is somewhat blurred, but Bogdanos presents compelling evidence that inside knowledge was involved. He followed the robbers' footprints into an underground storage room that had been bricked off from the rest of the museum, where an acrid stench suggested they had had to work in darkness, burning improvised torches. Somehow the thieves had found their way to a hidden set of keys and used them to open lockers containing a unique collection of ancient cylindrical seals. By some fluke, however, the keys had been dropped halfway through the heist and the thieves had been unable to recover them in the smoke-filled murk. They fled before they found the collection of gold coins, which survives almost intact.

Since the events of April 2003, Col. Bogdanos has worked tirelessly, and with some success, to retrieve the stolen artifacts. Hopefully, he can also help to dispel the myths that have arisen about how they were stolen.

UNESCO and Censorship

Candace de Russy has a good essay at National Review Online on the implications of UNESCO's recent "cultural protection" resolution:

The pact, disingenuously titled the "Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions," is larded with doublespeak, which columnist George F. Will has deciphered. Cutting to the quick, Will observes that the treaty in fact enables countries to " 'protect' their 'cultural expressions' against diversity arising from cultural imports that can be stigmatized as threats to social cohesion. . . ." Thus it gives the prestigious U.N. seal of approval to what Louise Oliver, the U.S. ambassador to UNESCO, cites as the "cultural exception" promoted in recent years by some nations: the notion that cultural goods can be exempted from free-trade agreements.

To justify such protectionism, the treaty declares that "cultural activities, goods and services" must not be viewed "as solely having commercial value." On a loftier note sounded by France's culture minister, as quoted in the Oct. 14 Wall Street Journal, "Works of art and the spirit must not be considered to be goods."

Of course the cultural goods actually targeted for exclusion are those of the culturally prolific, exuberant, and contagious U.S., and the agreement gives standing to nations to restrict or thwart competition from American cultural imports, such as movies, TV programs, CDs, print publications — or even such products as California wines.

But trade decisions based on cultural insecurity, xenophobia, and opportunistic metaphysics can cut any number of ways. All cultural hell — a chain reaction of retaliation and counter-retaliation involving multiple nations — could break loose. August French "works of the spirit" might not be considered worthy of import by, say, China or Iran. And what if the films, for instance, of Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese were forbidden in French and Chinese theaters? Why would the U. S. not counter with a blackout, on the American screen and cable TV, of the work of Olivier Assayas and Eric Rohmer, or Zhang Yimou and Wei Yuming?

Zut alors! The mind reels with the potential of a Planetary-Wide, Multi-Media Neo-"Book-Burning" to add fire to the flames of existing international conflict.

Cultural Buttinskis

The UNESCO agreement gives dictatorships a virtual license to engage in censorship, and makes a mockery of the rights of individuals to decide what they will choose to read or view.

MEMRI on Islamists and Intellectual Freedom

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has been an invaluable source of translations and analyses of the views of Arab and Islamic extremists. Today, they have published a new compilation documenting some of the violence and intimidation directed at writers and intellectuals in the Arab world:

The restrictions placed on intellectuals' freedom of expression in the Arab world and the death threats from Islamists are hampering the activities of reformist, secular, and moderate Arab intellectuals. Many of them have found asylum in Western countries, and are attempting to impact Arab and international public opinion from there. Some have stopped writing; others have been forced to request protection from the authorities.[1]

Recently, several reformist intellectuals have faced threats from both the Islamists and the Arab regimes. The following are a few examples of threats, and Arab media reactions to them:

Arab Intellectuals: Under Threat by Islamists

Launching a World Digital Library

Today, the Library of Congress announced an exciting new initiative, in partnership with who else but Google, to create a World Digital Library. This would be an openly accessible resource containing digitized versions of non-copyrighted books, manuscripts, letters, diaries, images, posters, and other primary source materials. The model for this project is LC's invaluable American Memory resource. Today's Washington Post has additional details.

This project sounds like a great idea. As I wrote in reaction to the infamous Google initiative, anything that increases the visibility of libraries and makes our collections more accessible is to be welcomed. Contrary to what many believe, the web environment has made libraries and librarians more essential than ever.

Monday, November 21, 2005

"But this is happening in Europe"

Courtesy of LGF, here's another excellent article, this time from The Australian, on the climate of fear that radical Islamists have managed to impose in the Netherlands:

At Leiden University law school, professor Afshin Ellian, an Iranian refugee who has called for reform of Islam and even suggested that comedians should make jokes about it, is hustled through the electronically locked doors to his office by two bodyguards.

"In The Netherlands, terrorists want to threaten not only the public ... they also want to kill public figures, such as artists, academics and politicians," he said. "It is not special in terms of Islam -- in Iran, it is normal to kill people who criticise Islam, as in Egypt and Iraq. It is legitimised by Islamic political theology, which says it is all right to kill someone if they are an enemy of Allah. But this is happening in Europe."

Muslim Fanatics Terrorise a Nation

Many have questioned whether the jihadists really do hate the freedoms inherent in liberal western democracy. One need only look at what is happening in the Netherlands for an answer.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

An Interesting Survey

Michael McGrorty, ALA Councilor and one of the many critics of my notorious Chronicle article, has posted the results of a very interesting survey at his blog. The survey (Word document) concerns what issues ALA Council should address. As Jack Stephens notes, war and foreign affairs were the issues that the respondents felt were least relevant to the work of the council.

Hopefully, these results will be taken to heart by Mr. McGrorty and his colleagues on ALA Council.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Zarqawi's Blowback

Dr Fouad Ajami has a superb piece in the November 16th Wall Street Journal on the implications of al Qaeda in Iraq's recent atrocities in Jordan. The essay is well worth reading:

In the drawn-out struggle over Iraq, Jordan is no innocent bystander. It was in Jordan, more than in any other Arab land, that Saddam Hussein was hailed as avenger and hero, a financial benefactor who practically starved the people in southern Iraq as he enriched sycophants and supporters in Amman. From the very beginning of his bid for regional primacy, Saddam had supporters aplenty in Jordan. He had rujula (manhood), he had money to throw around, and he held out the promise that the oil dynasties would be brought down and those borders that worked to Jordan's disadvantage would be erased in pursuit of a pan-Arab dream. A generation ago, it shall be recalled, the currents of Arab political revisionism--the envy of the poorer lands toward the oil states, the bitter sense that history had dealt the Arabs a terrible hand--converged in Jordan. It was that radicalism that forced King Hussein, in the course of the first American war against Saddam in 1990-91, to stay a step ahead of the crowd, breaking with the princes and the monarchs of the Peninsula and the Gulf, and with the United States, to side with Iraq.

Jordan never reconciled itself to the verdict of that war, and never took to the cause of the new Iraq. Sectarianism played its part--the animus against the Shiites of Iraq coming into their share of their country's power runs deep in Jordan's political class. So did pan-Arab nationalism, long ascendant in Jordan, the glue that bonded Jordan's native population with the Palestinians in the realm. From its inception as the unlikeliest of nation-states, Jordan has been the thing and its opposite--a realm ruled by a merciful dynasty and a population bristling under the controls, threatening to overrun the political limits and then pulling back from the brink out of a grudging recognition that the soft authoritarianism of the place was safer than the prospects of calamity. A stranger who encounters Jordan is always struck by that juxtaposition of stability and barely hidden rage. Waves of refugees have washed upon the kingdom: Palestinians who fled the wars of 1948 and 1967; hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their cocoon in Kuwait in 1990-91, when their rage at the Kuwaitis and the immoderation of Palestinian leaders put them on the side of Saddam's project of conquest and plunder; and then, of late, a huge influx of Iraqis. It is a wonder the dynasty, and the military-intelligence apparatus that forms the regime's backbone, has maintained the stability of the realm.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Saving the Internet, For Now

A deal reached at the World Summit on the Information Society will allow the US-based ICANN oraganization to retain control over the Internet's root server and domain names. Open Source Media has a good roundup of news and opinion.

This is clearly good news. Thanks to this deal, the Internet will continue to function as a tool of free speech and expression, instead of being controlled by a UN body influenced by the likes of Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

New Media Initiative

One of the great things about the web is that it has broken the strangle hold of elite media and empowered the free flow of information. One example is a brand new initiative called Open Source Media. In the words of its founders, bloggers Roger L. Simon and Charles Johnson:

OSM’s mission is to expand the influence of weblogs by finding and promoting the best of them, providing bloggers with a forum to meet and share resources, and the chance to join a for-profit network that will give them additional leverage to pursue knowledge wherever they may find it. From academics, professionals and decorated experts, to ordinary citizens sitting around the house opining in their pajamas, our community of bloggers are among the most widely read and influential citizen journalists out there, and our roster will be expanding daily. We also plan to provide a bridge between old media and new, bringing bloggers and mainstream journalists—more and more of whom have started to blog—together in a debate-friendly forum.

In the 1960’s, the medium may have been the message, but in the new century, it’s time for the medium to get out of the way. Call it the blogosphere, call it citizen journalism, or call it (we hope) Open Source Media—but the next phase in the democratization of ideas has begun. Stick around, read some blogs, and come back often. Our door will be open.

I wish the people at OSM full success.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Double Standards

Remember the howls of outrage from some quarters over the tremendously overblown reports of Koran desecration at Guantanamo Bay? I wonder how much outrage this story will spark:

A court sentenced a teacher to 40 months in prison and 750 lashes for "mocking religion" after he discussed the Bible and praised Jews, a Saudi newspaper reported yesterday.

Al-Madina newspaper said secondary-school teacher Mohammad al-Harbi, who will be flogged in public, was taken to court by his colleagues and students.

Inside Kim's Workers' Paradise describes a chilling videotape smuggled out of North Korea:

Images from video smuggled from North Korea show a public execution and what appears to be a concentration camp housing political prisoners, according to a CNN documentary set to air Sunday night.

In one clip, the residents of a village gather on a hillside to watch the firing-squad execution of a man accused of helping a defector cross into China.

North Korean dissidents shot the video, which they smuggled out of the country through a network of contacts into their communist neighbor to the north.

Especially horrifying is this passage:

Sarah McDonald, who produced and directed the documentary, "Undercover in the Secret State," said her crew interviewed a man who had been in a camp shown in the movie.

"What he described, we didn't put it in the film," she said Friday from London, England. "It is so appalling, you just can't imagine. He said that 95 percent of people who go into that prison die in the prison. Their whole motivation is to kill these people, but they won't let them die easily.

"They -- they torture them to death over a very long period of time."

The U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea has thoroughly documented how Kim Jong-Il has carried on the murderous legacy of Stalin and Mao. While eliminating North Korea's nuclear program is a top priority, the barbarous human rights record of Kim's regime must be addressed as well.

"My wings are closed and I cannot fly"

Afghanistan has made enormous progress in the four years since its liberation from the Taliban and al Qaeda. Unfortunately, the country still has a long way to go. This was demonstrated in horrifying fashion by the recent murder of female Afghan poet Nadia Anjuman. Yesterday's Sunday Times tells the story:

The 25-year-old Afghan had garnered wide praise in literary circles for the book Gule Dudi — Dark Flower — and was at work on a second volume.

Friends say her family was furious, believing that the publication of poetry by a woman about love and beauty had brought shame on it.

“She was a great poet and intellectual but, like so many Afghan women, she had to follow orders from her husband,” said Nahid Baqi, her best friend at Herat University.

Farid Ahmad Majid Mia, 29, Anjuman’s husband, is in police custody after confessing to having slapped her during a row. But he denies murder and claims that his wife committed suicide. The couple had a six-month-old son.

Anjuman's interest in poetry began under the Taliban, where she and other women in the city of Herat risked death by forming a secret literary society. Her loss is a tremendous blow both to Afghan literature and to the rights of women in that country.

The Taliban has been reduced to a small but still dangerous guerilla movement. The tribal culture that they sprang from, however, remains a powerful force. It will take a long, sustained commitment by America and the West to help the Afghan people overcome this legacy.

Good News from Egypt

Instapundit brings the welcome news that recently imprisoned Egyptian blogger Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman has been released.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Moral Bankruptcy at Trinity College

On November 3rd, the University Philosophical Society of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, debated the notion that "[t]his house believes that George W. Bush is a danger to world stability." The resolution passed, of course. Cliff May of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies was there as one of the few voices of common sense, pointing out that it was "stability" that allowed al Qaeda to plot the 9/11 atrocities undisturbed, and Saddam Hussein to murder up to 1,000,000 of his own people. Mr. May tells the entire depressing story in this column.

In case you think that Mr. May was perhaps overstating things, I refer you to the University Philosophical Society's November 10 debate topic:

"This house believes that 9/11 was a legitimate form of resistance of American pressure to the Islamic world."

Of course, the notions that the Bush Administration's foreign policy might be a "legitimate form of resistance" to the pressure of militant Islamism, or that it is the latter that poses a "danger to world stability", are clearly far too outlandish to be taken seriously by such an august body.

New Issue of Democratiya

Issue number 2 of the online review journal Democratiya has recently been published. The journal represents the viewpoint of the pro-democracy, anti-Islamist left, and makes for fascinating reading.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Help Build an Afghan Library

The Spirit of America charity is helping create a sorely-needed medical reference library in Afghanistan. Details are available on the SOA web site. Please take a look and consider giving to this extremely worthwhile cause.

Fear and Free Speech in the Netherlands

Today's Washington Post has a disturbing article on the extent to which radical Islamists have succeeded in intimidating public figures in the Netherlands into silence:

As Prof. Afshin Ellian arrived at Leiden University law school one day recently, two bodyguards hustled him through the entrance and past the electronically locked doors leading to his office. For the rest of the day, the men stood sentry outside those doors, scanning the hallways for any sign of the people who want him dead.

Ellian is one of a soaring number of Dutch academics, lawmakers and other public figures who have been forced to accept 24-hour protection or go into hiding after receiving death threats from Islamic extremists. In a country with a tradition of robust public debate and an anything-goes culture, the fear of assassination has rattled society and forced people such as Ellian to reassess whether it's worth it to express opinions that could endanger their lives.

"The extremists are afraid that if Dutch society becomes a safe haven for an intellectual discussion of political Islam, it will be very dangerous for them," said Ellian, an Iranian-born professor of social cohesion who escaped to the Netherlands two decades ago from Afghanistan after receiving death threats from communists there. "This is normal behavior in the Middle East, but not in Europe. They think it's their obligation to kill people they consider to be enemies of Islam."

In other European countries and in the United States, Islamic extremists have generally sought to spread terror with indiscriminate attacks -- bombing trains and hijacking airliners. In the Netherlands, however, radicals have embraced a different strategy: singling out individuals for assassination.

For Public Figures in Netherlands, Terror Becomes a Personal Concern

As the article makes clear, there is ample reason to take the Salafists' death threats seriously. Keep in mind that this is not Egypt or Saudi Arabia. This is the Netherlands, a stable western European democracy of long standing. Little by little, the Islamist campaign of creeping terrorism is threatening the freedom of the Dutch people, Christian and Muslim alike. If the Salafists are able to destroy liberty in the Netherlands, other European countries will be next.

The proper response is not to burn mosques and engage in mindless bigotry, as some shamefully did after last year's murder of Theo Van Gogh. No, what needs to be done is for all those in Holland who believe in liberal democracy and the right of free speech and expression to stand up for their beliefs. If the Dutch do not fight for their democracy, they will surely lose it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Veteran's Day

With Friday being Veteran's Day, I would just like to thank all those who have risked their lives on behalf of this country and our freedoms. I would also like to encourage all of my readers to please mark this day by making a donation to a military-related charity of your choice. In addition to the ones listed to the right, Armed Liberal at Winds of Change brings word of a great new venture called Project Valour IT.

I can think of no better way to conclude this post than by quoting an article from today's Christian Science Monitor that aptly lays out the courage and dedication of our men and women in uniform:

On a day when the warriors of America's past will talk of great sacrifices long remembered and old friends not forgotten, a new generation of soldiers deployed to the far corners of the Middle East is beginning to pencil in the first lines of its own story.

It is already obvious that this is a force unlike any America has sent to war - older, more diverse, and all volunteers. But gradually, the ways in which these wars spawned by Sept. 11 are shaping these troops are also becoming apparent.

In the midst of a war with no clear endpoint, the ultimate judgment of this generation of fighters must wait for Veterans Days to come. But if World War II veterans were perceived to be the greatest generation and Vietnam's conscripts a lost generation, then those who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan today could be called the dedicated generation - convinced of America's cause and determined to shepherd it through days of dust and destruction

Back to the 70's in Belarus

It's a couple months old, but this article from the September 23 Washington Post does a terrific job of describing the current state of affairs in Belarus. While most of the former USSR has made at least some strides towards freedom, Belarus's President, Aleksandr Lukashenko, has sought to take his country back to the heyday of 1970's Brezhnev-era totalitarianism.

As the Post article explains, Belarus's nascent democratic movement has likewise had to forego modern technology and emulate their Soviet dissident forefathers:

The authoritarian president has shut down so much of civic life that the opposition has been forced to use tools that are primitive in comparison with those of democratic movements elsewhere. Cell phones, satellite television, the Internet and instant messaging -- all of which played a role in popular uprisings in Ukraine, Lebanon and Georgia -- are too closely monitored by the government to be reliable, opposition figures said. The Belarusan upheaval, if it comes, will be built on printing presses, shoe leather and face-to-face campaigning, they added.

The article also makes clear the extent of the repression that the opposition is faced with:

"To have a printing press, you need special permission of the Ministry of Information and Press," said Bialiatski, who rushed to the Kishkurna home after hearing about the raid. "That machine was illegal in the best tradition of Soviet times."


No matter how many copies are printed, almost all opposition leaflets and newsletters carry the subscription figure 299 (any higher figure requires registration with the state), and often a false address. Police check for these details first and confiscate publications without them. Mailing is often done in small batches, at different post office branches, to avoid suspicion.

Independent newspapers, of which only a handful remain, struggle to work around a labyrinth of restrictions. They are forbidden to use any information from unregistered organizations. So polls and statistics that contradict the official numbers are attributed to partner organizations in Lithuania or Poland.

The papers are also forbidden to announce opposition political demonstrations, which are routinely banned by the authorities. "We announce their actions through 'subways,' " said one editor. They will mention the application for the permit, with the time and place, then mention that the permit has been denied, again with the time and place. "We've announced it twice," he said.

Hopefully, the Belarusan opposition will get all the support they need to overcome the Lukashenko dictatorship. I wish them well.

Happy Birthday USMC

Today is the 230th anniversary of the founding of the United States Marine Corps. At National Review Online, defense scholar and former Marine Mackubin T. Owens has a great column to commemorate the occasion:

On November 10, 1775, 230 years ago, the Continental Congress authorized the formation of two battalions of Marines. Tradition says that the earliest recruiting of Marines took place at Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, owned by Robert Mullan, who later became a Continental Marine officer. The Marines' first operation was a raid on a British base in the Bahamas. As I like to say, the Marine Corps was formed in a bar and then immediately went on a Caribbean cruise.

The Marine Corps has the reputation of being one of the finest fighting organizations in history. In his wonderful book First to Fight, Lt. Gen. Victor H. "Brute" Krulak recounts a discussion he had early in his distinguished career with a senior Marine NCO. To Krulak's query about how the Marines had come by their reputation, the old Gunny replied, "Well, lieutenant, they started right out telling everybody how great they were. Pretty soon they got to believing it themselves. And they have been busy ever since proving they were right."

They were proving it in Fallujah at this very time last year. And they are proving it again now in Al Anbar province. As Marine general Jim Mattis says, "The Marines: no better friend, no worse enemy."

The Marines@230

Thanks to the Marines for all your courage and sacrifice on behalf of this nation.

"This issue goes back to Salman Rushdie"

Today's Christian Science Monitor has a good article on the controversy in Denmark over the decision of newspaper editor Flemming Rose to publish satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed:

"This issue goes back to Salman Rushdie. It's about freedom of speech and Islam," says an unrepentant Rose, who feels a culture of fear and self-censorship has taken hold across Europe since Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered for criticizing traditional Islam's treatment of women.

As accusations of racism and discrimination fly amid the ongoing unrest in France, European countries are being pushed to pinpoint the causes of - and solution to - the social exclusion of their significant Muslim populations. A key ingredient to the dialogue, Rose says, is making room for a frank discussion of the compatibility of democratic principles such as free speech, and traditional Islam.

"Some Muslims are asking for an apology pointing to a lack of respect," he says. "They're not asking for respect; they're asking for subordination - for us as non-Muslims to follow Muslim taboos in the public domain."

Unfortunately, the reaction among some Muslims has only proved Mr. Rose's point:

Among those who attacked the newspaper's lack of sensitivity was prominent Copenhagen imam Raed Hlayhel, saying "I will not tolerate this. If this is democracy, we disagree with democracy."

But despite the barrage of criticism, Rose defends his decision, which coincided with the arrest of seven Danish Muslims two weeks ago for planning a terrorist attack - the first evidence of Islamic militancy among Denmark's 200,000 Muslims. As evidence of the Islamic pressure for censorship, he points to several events in the last month. The individual who translated a new book by Van Gogh's collaborator, Dutch MP Aayan Hirsi Ali, has requested anonymity. A London art gallery removed a modern art exhibit "God is Great," which featured a Koran, for fear of retaliation. While in Copenhagen, a delegation of Danish imams asked the prime minister to force Denmark's media to supply "more positive coverage" of Islam.

One encouraging sign is that many other Danish Muslims have supported Rose's paper and their right to run the cartoons. Hopefully, this is aa indication that his courageous decision will lead supporters of free speech and liberal democracy to defy the climate of fear and censorship created by radical Islamists.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Islamist Death Threat Watch

Cliff May at the FDD Blog points out the latest writer to be subjected to a death threat from Islamists: Tunisian Latif Lakhdar.

China Bans the Bible

Not content with having created the preferred model for a censored Internet, China's Leninist dictatorship shows that it's still willing to practice old-fashioned book banning as well. An article from today's Washington Times makes this abundantly clear:

Cai Zhuohua, 34, a Beijing underground church leader, was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison for distributing Bibles and other Christian materials.

His wife, Xiao Yunfei, got two years, and her brother Xiao Gaowen was sentenced to 18 months by the Haidian Lower People's Court in Beijing.

They were arrested September 2004, said the China Aid Association of Midland, Texas. They were accused of distributing 200,000 Bibles and other materials as part of an unregistered house church Mr. Cai oversaw for 10 years.

It is the latest in a long string of escalating arrests and harassment Chinese Christians have undergone in recent years.

The Beijing dictatorship is not merely violating the rights of Christians to free speech and conscience. As the article points out, Tibetan Buddhists and followers of the Falun Gong belief system are also subject to brutal oppression. This is just one manifestation of China's broader crackdown on free speech and dissent.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

An Imprisoned Blogger

Courtesy of Instapundit, the Committee to Protect Bloggers is promoting an online petition calling for the release of recently-arrested Egyptian blogger Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman. A small step, but it's important to at least take a stand on the right side of the issue. Please consider adding your signature.

The Islamist Answer to Free Speech

The latest example of radical Islamists' willingness to suppress free expression comes from Denmark. The November 4th Daily Telegraph provides the details:

A Danish experiment in testing "the limits of freedom of speech" has backfired - or succeeded spectacularly - after newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed provoked an outcry.

Thousands of Muslims have taken to the streets in protest at the caricatures, the newspaper that published them has received death threats and two of its cartoonists have been forced into hiding.

The newspaper's editor, Carsten Juste, was motivated to run the cartoons as an act of free expression:

Juste commissioned the cartoons after learning of the difficulties a children's writer, Kare Bluitgen, had in finding an illustrator for his book on the Koran and the Prophet's life. Bluitgen said all the artists he approached feared the wrath of Muslims if they drew images of Mohammed.

Many cited the murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by an Islamist as a reason for refusal.

Juste said he wanted to counter growing "self censorship" and see how many cartoonists would be "bold enough" to draw the Prophet.

Unfortunately, the record shows that death threats emanating from Islamists are not to be taken lightly. I have previously examined the efforts of Islamists to threaten and even kill those who express views that offend them. In a terrific post at The Counterterrorism Blog, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross goes into even greater detail on this subject. His post is a must-read, and I agree wholeheartedly with his conclusion:

Unfortunately, we in the West haven't always been vigilant about standing behind speech rights. In many of the above cases, many Westerners bent over backwards to make excuses for the Islamists who threatened free speech with death. I've also written recently about the spread of religious vilification laws in the West, which send the wrong message to Islamists by telling them that the slander of a religion can be punishable by law. Standing up for free speech in the face of religious fanaticism should be a no-brainer for anybody who understands the classical liberal principles that Western society was built upon. It seems that many Westerners either fail to understand these principles, or else fail to grasp the reality of the threat.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Guard Recap

For those readers who might be interested, here's a brief recap of my second official weekend as a citizen-soldier.

The highlight of Saturday was my introduction to the M16A2 automatic rifle. They did not, of course, give us loaded weapons. We were issued with borrowed, unloaded weapons, and taught some of the basics of aiming and shooting. The highlight was "firing" 10 single shots using a laser simulation system. This was second nature to many of my comrades. I, on the other hand, hadn't handled a firearm in over 20 years, and never a military weapon. At first, I couldn't even figure out how to aim through the sights. With the help of my ever patient recruiting sergeant, however, I soon learned how to use the sights, and managed to hit the target silhouette on 3 of 10 shots. Not great, but a decent start. Considering my lack of experience with weapons, I was glad to get the opportunity. We also had the chance to take apart and reassemble an M16, which was helpful.

Sunday emphasized physical training and marching. The day began with about 45 minutes of physical conditioning, built around a number of very intense stretching exercises. A great workout, but I'm still feeling it as I type. After lunch, we had Drill and Ceremony (D & C). This is where you learn how to march, form ranks, and do the various maneuvers such as About Face. This is where my natural clumsiness proved to be a bit of an obstacle. I'll just have to keep working at it.

The highlight of the day was a couple mile nature hike. We went through a wooded area, climbing over fallen tree trunks and dodging branches. The really fun part was when our NCOs made us go through a 15 foot wide pool of mud. At its deepest, the mud was calf high. Somehow, I managed to maintain enough forward momentum to make it through without getting stuck or falling over. A few others weren't so lucky. Of course my BDU (uniform), which I just had washed, will be going right back to the dry cleaner.

As during my first drill, I had fun and learned a great deal. Just as important, I was also reminded of what I still need to learn.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Week 2 of Drill

Tomorrow morning, I go off to my second weekend of pre-basic National Guard drill. Since there actually seems to be some interest in my Guard misadventures, I'll post a recap on Sunday. In the meantime, I'll leave you with the story of a 39 year old recent Army Reserve enlistee who puts my physical preparations to shame:

The recruiter, on the other hand, saw a different picture. He took one look at Evans and said, "You're just too big."

At 5 feet, 7 inches and 418 pounds, Evans could hardly disagree.

But instead of easing the rejection with his usual overdose of comfort foods, he went on a weight-loss crusade. Fueled by sheer willpower and a determination to join the military, the 36-year-old finally conquered a lifelong battle with his weight. Three years and 230 pounds lighter, Evans again saw a recruiter. This time, he was met with a much different reception.

"He had me come down to his office for a (fitness) test," said Evans, now 39 years old and a svelte 165 pounds. "I passed with flying colors and signed up for the Reserves on the spot."

VDH: The Spread of Jihadism

As is often the case, today's column by Dr. Victor Davis Hanson is a must-read:

Either the jihadists really are crazy or they apparently think that they have a shot at destabilizing, or at least winning concessions from, the United States, Europe, India, and Russia all at once.

Apart from the continual attacks on civilians by terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the West Bank, there have now been recent horrific assaults in New Dehli (blowing up civilians in a busy shopping season on the eve of a Hindu festival), Russia (attacking police and security facilities), London (suicide murdering of civilians on the subway), and Indonesia (more bombing, and the beheading of Christian schoolgirls). The loci of recent atrocities could be widely expanded (e.g., Malaysia, North Africa, Turkey, Spain) — and, of course, do not forget the several terrorist plots that have been broken up in Europe and the United States.

The commonalities? There are at least three.

The Real Global Virus

China, US Companies, and the Internet

Just days after a Chinese blogger named Wang Yi was nominated for the German radio network Deutsche Welle's freedom of expression blog award, his site was shut down by Chinese authorities. Sadly, this is just one example of how China's Leninist dictatorship has sought to suppress free speech on the Internet.

The worst part is that American companies have actively cooperated with Beijing in its efforts to censor the web. As the Washington Times noted on November 2:

China's continuing crackdown on the press and censorship of the Internet is being supported by U.S. companies and the transfer of U.S. technology, prompting advocates of a free press to demand a change in American foreign policy.

"There is a need for a U.S.-backed campaign to promote democracy in China, and the freedom of expression is the lifeblood of democracy," John J. Tkacik Jr., senior research fellow in China Policy, said at a Heritage Foundation conference yesterday.

"U.S. companies such as Yahoo and Cisco are helping the Chinese government [put reporters in jail]," said Lucie Morillon of Reporters Without Borders.

The Heritage Foundation event discussed in the article can be viewed here.

I have no problem with companies wanting to make money, but not at the expense of free speech. Yahoo, Cisco, and others need to change their business practices in China immediately. If this costs them contracts with the Chinese government, so what. That's still preferable to their earning profits by making a mockery of this country's ideals.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Van Gogh Murder: One Year Later

Links Updated: 11-4-06

Today marks the first anniversary of the horrific murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by jihadist fanatic Mohammed Bouyeri. Van Gogh was literally slaughtered on the streets of Amsterdam in broad daylight. At his trial, Bouyeri was unrepentant. He told Van Gogh's mother that "I cannot feel for you ... because I believe you are an infidel".

As I have written before, Van Gogh's killing was not a random crime; it was an act of blood-stained censorship. Van Gogh was an outspoken, controversial, sometimes over the top critic of Islam. He had recently made a short film on the treatment of women in the Muslim world called Submission.

At his trial, Bouyeri made it abundantly clear that he murdered Van Gogh as punishment for his views. His explanation of his crime was that "I was motivated by the law that commands me to cut off the head of anyone who insults Allah and his prophet."

The Van Gogh killing is just one example of radical Islamists' often murderous opposition to intellectual freedom. Just in the last several weeks, four people were killed in riots sparked by Islamists in Egypt over a play performed in Coptic Christian churches. Even more recently, a death threat was made against veteran actor Omar Sharif on a jihadist web site, after he portrayed St. Peter in a film for Italian television.

Sadly, according to an article from the Radio Netherlands web site, it appears that the Van Gogh murder has indeed had a chilling effect on free speech in the Netherlands:

One of the consequences of the murder of Theo van Gogh has been that many people in the Netherlands have become more cautious about making statements about subjects such as Islam. Fear of threats, or actual threats, have seen columnists, politicians and entertainers and satirists become more likely to exercise self-censorship. This restriction on the freedom of expression is therefore not government imposed but a response to the fear of violence.

(link via LGF)

Above all, the killing of Theo Van Gogh stands as a stark reminder that radical Islamists do in fact hate our freedom, and they will take it away if we let them.

Rewriting History

Frankly, I'm just not sure what to say anymore after watching the Senate Democrats embarrass themselves yesterday. I've already written a lengthy post back in the days of my obscurity debunking the nonsensical "Bush lied" meme. Suffice it to say, many of the same Democrats who now claim to have never heard of Saddam Hussein were adamant that something be done about the threat of Iraq's WMD while George W. Bush was still Governor of Texas. Glenn Reynolds, the fabled Instapundit, has a great post making precisely this point at

The anti-war fundraising base of the Democrats -- as exemplified by organizations like -- is powerful enough to require Democratic politicians like Harry Reid to pretend that all the WMD stuff began with President Bush. That is, not to put too fine a point on it, a gross and partisan lie.

As Robert Kagan noted in a terrific op-ed in the October 25 Washington Post, the media regularly ran stories from 1998-2000 on Saddam's WMD threat:

This was the consensus before Bush took office, before Scooter Libby assumed his post and before Judith Miller did most of the reporting for which she is now, uniquely, criticized. It was based on reporting by a large of number of journalists who in turn based their stories on the judgments of international intelligence analysts, Clinton officials and weapons inspectors. As we wage what the Times now calls "the continuing battle over the Bush administration's justification for the war in Iraq," we will have to grapple with the stubborn fact that the underlying rationale for the war was already in place when this administration arrived.

Concern about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was widely held and bipartisan years before George W. Bush became President. Investigating the overestimation of Iraq's WMD capability is one thing. But for the Democrats to now try to rewrite history is a shameful display of partisanship, and further proof of their utter lack of seriousness on issues of national security.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

An Open Letter to Michael Gorman

At the request of Robert Kent of Friends of Cuban Libraries, I gladly repost the following open letter from Mr. Kent to ALA President Michael Gorman:

Dear Mr. Gorman: October 20, 2005

On October 3 I made a telephone call to your office to request support for saving the life of an imprisoned Cuban librarian, Victor Rolando Arroyo, who was near death as a result of a prolonged hunger strike. The receptionist who answered the telephone was informed of the emergency nature of the call, and she tried without success to put the call through. But she did say you had promised to return my emergency telephone call.

Sadly, as of today, no return telephone call has been received. This effort to save the life of Victor Rolando Arroyo followed upon an earlier message sent to your e-mail address on September 27. The e-mail message did not receive an answer either.

Please read the rest.

ALA and Israel

One example of the leftist bias that exists in ALA is that organization's hostile attitude towards the state of Israel. In one particularly egregious incident from 1997, two ALA representatives met with that heroic statesman, Yasser Arafat. Courtesy of the Conservative Lib discussion group, this October 28th article from The Jewish Press gives a good overview of ALA's anti-Israel bias. The piece is well worth a read:

The very name of the American Library Association suggests to me an association, or group of people, involved in, employed by, and/or concerned with libraries and librarianship in the U.S. Thus, I assumed that ALA would be involved in furthering the visibility and the interests of the profession; that any political involvement would be primarily concerned with library employment, education and infrastructure, and ensuring that collections are balanced in perspective and accessible to all.

I did not expect to find that this professional organization had extended its purview beyond addressing issues directly relevant to the profession. Library staff who wish to be political activists should, by all means, enlist in any or many of the political organizations that are congruent with their beliefs and interests. This does not include bending a professional organization into a political arm of either the Liberal Left or the Reactionary Right.

Librarians Against Israel Revisited