"Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its only sure defense."
- Mark Twain

"Anyone who combines politics and baseball is an idiot, because everyone knows that ping-pong is the greatest sport. Oh, and I'm really a Communist who hates NASCAR and listens to Joan Baez in the dark.
-- Glenn Reynolds

About the author
Andre Vladimir Sebastian is a figment of your imagination. Honestly, you really could have done better than him, now couldn't you? Next time, put a little effort into it.

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R.I.P., Peerless Pat
Daniel Patrick Moynihan died on Wednesday, and thanks to the war, his passing and the assessments of his life and work that come with it are not receiving the attention they deserve. The most influential American politicians of the past half century were Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, and Patrick Moynihan. His brilliance, though he was wrong on many things, was unquestioned, and his charm, style, and wit were exactly what America lacked most in its politicians, save honesty. The annoying thing about him was that even though he talked a good game on welfare, race quotas, and other issues, he would reliably vote the Democratic Party line. He even balked on President Clinton's impeachment. Though his voting record was a waste, his writings, speeches, and intellecutal arguments helped move the country to the right on social issues. Since the 1960s he was possibly the most influential American politician who was not a president, and a good deal of that influence was positive.

Despite Moynihan's squishiness when it came time to cast his vote, I've always liked and respected him. I liked him, frankly, because he was so witty. When Sen. Buckley continually referred to him as a Harvard professor at the start of the 1976 Senate race, he quipped, "The mudslinging has begun!" I admired him because he was unafraid to say controversial things if he thought they were right, and he put a lot of effort into trying to determine what was right and what wasn't. He was also a rock-solid American patriot during the 1960s and '70s, when many Democrats and leftists had turned away from patriotism. His winning the Democratic Senate nomination in '76 over radical Bella Abzug, whom he trashed for her anti-Americanism, may have been a turning point for the party. For the loopy, anti-American Abzug to have had a platform as prestigious as the U.S. Senate from which to speak during the Carter years would have further damaged the party and American politics. He seemed boyishly gleeful when, as U.S. Representative to the United Nations, he got to be the one who vetoed Vietnam's application for membership, which infuriated the Soviets. He was unapologeticly anti-Communist, and as a liberal in the '60s, '70s, and '80s, that was something. He was a continually interesting guy, one of the handful of politicians I'd have loved to have had dinner with. Now that'll never happen (not that It was ever likely to in the first place), and that saddens me more than I'd thought it would. Not that he's a saint or an idol. But because he would have been one hell of a fun dinner companion for a schmo like me.

Below I've posted some good links about his life and work for anyone who's interested.

Moynihan's excellent Harvard commencement speech last year
NYT obit
Jay Nordlinger commentary
Asia Times

  posted by AVS @ 27.3.03


PC To The Core
Conservative MP Boris Johnson relates his experience getting edited by The New York Times op-ed page. It's a funny but kind of chilling tale of political correctness taken to absurd extremes. Picked this one up from Jay Nordlinger's National Review column.

  posted by AVS @ 26.3.03


Nature Abhors A Saddam
First the dolphins joined the fight (which they've done before), then the sandstorms, now the monkeys. It's like a bad science fiction movie, "The dolphin-king has sent reinforcements, all is not lost!" Actually, it looks like Mother Nature is trying to help us wipe the stain that is Saddam Hussein off her beautiful planet.

Some Iraqis think the storms were sent from Allah to slow down U.S. troops. Said one Iraqi to a Washington Post reporter, "The storm is from God," he said, looking out his trembling window. "Until the aggression started, never in my life did I see a storm like this. We all believe in God, we all have faith in God. And God is setting obstacles against the Americans." He's right about one thing. The storms were from God. Just not his God. The storms gave our troops a much-needed rest and allowed supply vehicles to catch up to front-line troops. Plus, we killed and captured several thousand Iraqis during the time immediately before and after the storms. Sounds to me like Mother Nature has it in for Saddam.

  posted by AVS @ 26.3.03

"We Go To Liberate, Not To Conquer"
Before UK troops crossed the Iraqi border last week, Lt. Col. Tim Collins of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment gave his men a pep talk. (Here's how the BBC covered the talk.) It's one of the best pre-battle speeches I've read. I think it exemplifies the ideals to which modern Western militaries aspire, as well as the character of the commanders leading this expedition. I post it below, complete and unedited.

"We Go to Liberate, Not To Conquer"
Lt. Col. Tim Collins

"We go to liberate, not to conquer. We will not fly our flags in their country. We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Show respect for them.

"There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly. Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send. As for the others, I expect you to rock their world. Wipe them out if that is what they choose. But if you are ferocious in battle, remember to be magnanimous in victory.

"Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread lightly there.

"You will see things that no man could pay to see and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis. You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing. Don't treat them as refugees, for they are in their own country. Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you.

"If there are casualties of war, then remember that when they woke up and got dressed in the morning they did not plan to die this day. Allow them dignity in death. Bury them properly and mark their graves.

"It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive, but there may be people among us who will not see the end of this campaign. We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back. There will be no time for sorrow.

"The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his nemesis and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction. There are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls and they are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam. He and his forces will be destroyed by this coalition for what they have done. As they die they will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no pity.

"It is a big step to take another human life. It is not to be done lightly. I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts, I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon them.

"If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law, and ensure that one day they go home to their family.

"The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.

"If you harm the regiment or its history by over-enthusiasm in killing or in cowardice, know it is your family who will suffer. You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest for your deeds will follow you down through history. We will bring shame on neither our uniform or our nation."

  posted by AVS @ 26.3.03

All Hail General Zod
Ever wonder what happened to General Zod from Superman III? I know, I know, who hasn't? Well, now we know. He's got his own Zod Web site.

  posted by AVS @ 25.3.03


War As Video Game
If you haven't seen CNN's animated battle scenarios, you might want to check them out. They give you a pretty good overview of the battle scenes, and they look like a Nintendo 64 game.

  posted by AVS @ 25.3.03

The Know-Somethings Vs. The Know-Nothings
Here's a good Reuters story illustrating my point in the post below. The people who know what's going on in Iraq are generally in favor of removing Saddam by force unless they are just rabid anti-Americans, and those who don't, aren't. Here's my favorite bit from the story: "'There is going to be continued direct action with arrests in San Francisco especially,' said Forrest Schmidt, 26, a construction worker who said he quit his job to volunteer in the antiwar effort." Now we know how where they get all these protesters during business hours.

  posted by AVS @ 24.3.03


How The Media May Have Unintentionally Aided Saddam
The wife and I were watching media coverage of the war all weekend, and we got to discussing how the anti-war protesters and the Western college kids who went to Iraq to be human shields could be so ignorant of Saddam's inhumanity? And if they were aware of it, how could they sit back and let it slide?

Taking the second point first, there are protesters who know Saddam's record but hate the United States and the West so much they are willing to ignore it. They are the same types who were perfectly aware of Stalin's, Mao's and Ho Chi Minh's atrocities, but believed in socialism so completely that they convinced themselves the problem was the individual leader, not the system. But these can't be a majority of the protesters. There has to be an explanation for the well-meaning schmucks who love baseball and puppies, but on Saturdays don peace buttons and join ranks with the Che Guevara Fan Club and believe they're really marching for peace instead of dictatorship. I think the explanation is that they are completely unaware of what has gone on in Iraq under Saddam's regime.

They are people like Daniel Pepper, a 23-year-old American living in London who went to Iraq in January to be a human shield. In a Sunday Telegraph op-ed (linked below), he explained how he first learned about the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime:

"I was shocked when I first met a pro-war Iraqi in Baghdad - a taxi driver taking me back to my hotel late at night. I explained that I was American and said, as we shields always did, 'Bush bad, war bad, Iraq good.' He looked at me with an expression of incredulity.

"As he realised I was serious, he slowed down and started to speak in broken English about the evils of Saddam's regime. Until then I had only heard the President spoken of with respect, but now this guy was telling me how all of Iraq's oil money went into Saddam's pocket and that if you opposed him politically he would kill your whole family.

"It scared the hell out of me. First I was thinking that maybe it was the secret police trying to trick me but later I got the impression that he wanted me to help him escape. I felt so bad. I told him: 'Listen, I am just a schmuck from the United States, I am not with the UN, I'm not with the CIA - I just can't help you.'

"Of course I had read reports that Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein, but this was the real thing. Someone had explained it to me face to face. I told a few journalists who I knew. They said that this sort of thing often happened - spontaneous, emotional, and secretive outbursts imploring visitors to free them from Saddam's tyrannical Iraq."

Here's a guy who had "read reports that Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein," but had no idea that "all of Iraq's oil money went into Saddam's pocket and that if you opposed him politically he would kill your whole family." How could he not know this?

I went to The Washington Post's online archives and did a search for "Saddam" and "brutality." I came up with only 13 stories in all of 2002, and that includes the last six months when everyone knew we were going to war, so the situation in Iraq was a hot topic. The same search for the year 2001 returned only five hits. One was a George Will column and one was a letter to the editor. The same search for 2000 also turned up 5 hits, four of which were from the opinion section (one was a George Will column). (You really do have to read George Will to know what's going on in the world.)

A search for "Saddam" and "torture" turned up 9 hits for 2000. All were in the opinion or review sections. The same search returned 8 hits for 2001, none a news story about Saddam. Doing the same search in The New York Times archives turns up 5 hits for 2000, 3 for 2001, and 28 for 2002. My little search is by no means complete. It's not as if the press never wrote about Saddam's brutality. They just didn't do it in a big, banner-headline kind of way until last year, and even then they did it in the context of the he said/she said tug of war over accusations between Bush and Iraq or Bush, Blair and France. By then it was too late to convince the hardcore left because the anti-war side had solidified its opposition and believed everything that came out of the White House or 10 Downing Street was pro-war propaganda. I also think it's very possible that some of the big news organizations purposefully stayed away from this story for fear of giving aid to Bush's war effort. Not that they intentionally tried to sabotage Bush (though some may have), but they wanted so badly to remain impartial that they may have refrained from doing hard stories that would have fanned the flames of war.

In the past, the big media in America have given us in-depth coverage of the horrors in South Africa, Bosnia, Rwanda, Southeast Asian sweatshops, and other places you wouldn't want to be. But where were they on Iraq, or Afghanistan? Where have they been on Saudi Arabia or the Palestinian Authority. Thinking back to where I learned what I learned about Iraq, it was mostly from the conservative press or from op-ed pages.

I know there is much more to the anti-war movement than ignorance of Saddam's horror. There's moral relativism, and the notion that dark-skinned, "oppressed" peoples are always in the right and America is always in the wrong, among other factors. But if the mainstream American media had devoted half as much time and effort to covering the real story of life in Iraq as The Boston Globe devoted to the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals, it's my bet that the anti-war effort wouldn't be nearly as large as it is.

The only good news is that now that we're already at war, some news organizations are finally jumping on the story. Even news sources that would never have touched such a story are leaping on it, as Sports Illustrated did with this report on Uday Hussein's torture and murder of Iraqi athletes. Maybe as we win this war and the newly freed Iraqi people spill forth with their first-hand accounts of life under Saddam's bloody thumb, the tale will finally be told in full and the support this war should have had in the beginning will come about in the end.

  posted by AVS @ 24.3.03

Webmaster Needed
This has to be the worst bank Web site in the country. At first sight it looks like they got hacked, but then you realize, that's how they wanted it to look.

  posted by AVS @ 24.3.03

Chicken Show!
If you happen to live near Wayne, Nebraska and are looking for some wholesome family fun this summer, be sure to stop at the Chicken Show. Looks like it'll be quite a hoot.

  posted by AVS @ 24.3.03

A Wild and Crazy Guy
Obviously Steve Martin didn't write his own jokes for the Oscars. But he did get off some good ones, like listing the great "diversity" among Hollywood movie stars and, getting to the category of politics, saying "they can be Democrats...." and moving on to the next category. His slap at Michael Moore was nice (see below), and he had several other good one-liners, like noting Halle Berry's Oscar last year as one that broke down barriers for unbelievably hot women, and saying he'd like to thank Stephen Spielberg because "it cant' hurt." Overall, though, it was an uninspired performance. When ad-libbing, he did very well, but his delivery on the canned jokes was flat. I doubt he'll be invited back. But he made up for the tasteless jokes and lackluster performance in the end when he dedicated the show to the troops overseas. Pretty shocking that he was the only one to dedicate anything to the troops.

  posted by AVS @ 24.3.03

Making A Statement
Of all the political statements made at the Oscars, here is my favorite. Everyone knows those preposterous dresses cost more than a million dollars a piece. I say good for Julianne Moore for showing her solidarity with the Iraqi people -- by buying her dress at Goodwill.

  posted by AVS @ 23.3.03


The Corey Hart Award For Biggest Dork In Hollywood...
Goes to Bono and Jack Nicholson! Who wears sunglasses at night anymore? Really, guys, you look ridiculous.

  posted by AVS @ 23.3.03

The Oscar for Best Propaganda Film Goes To...Michael Moore for his specious piece of anti-gun claptrap disguised as a documentary. Ironic that Boor, uh, I mean Moore, would claim to stand onstage representing "nonfiction" when he is, as John Fund called him this week, an "ideological con artist," and Bowling for Columbine is nothing but lies, distortions, and untruths. Really, though, who didn't expect Hollywood to make a tendentious political statement by giving Moore the Oscar?

His winning did provide the greatest moment of the night, however, when a very vocal portion of the audience roundly, loudly and sustainedly booed the chowderhead for his moronic and childish anti-George W. Bush speech. Whether they booed because they disagreed with him or because they had good taste, it was a proud moment for at least a small, classy segment of Hollywood. A tip of the hat also goes to the producer who decided to cut Moore's speech short by drowning him out with his exit music -- and to Steve Martin for a good joke at Moore's expense, which I don't remember verbatim. It went something like this... "You should see the scene backstage, it's sweet. The Teamsters are helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo." It got a hearty round of applause.

  posted by AVS @ 23.3.03

Congrats, Cooper
Chris Cooper is one of those excellent actors whose face you recognize but whose name you can never quite place. I haven't seen Adaptation yet, so I don't know how his acting in that film compared to the other nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. But I'm glad for him to get the recognition he's deserved for years. And was that the classiest peace speech ever, or what?

  posted by AVS @ 23.3.03

The Nominee.... Stinks!
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron was nominated for Best Animated Feature? You've got to be kidding. This bit from The New York Times review sums up the film quite well:

"The script by John Fusco (''Young Guns'') doesn't help to dispel the general drabness. Like Disney's 1995 film ''Pocahontas,'' ''Spirit'' is strangled by ideological preconceptions that require the Indian characters to be as insufferably saintly as the white invaders are unspeakably evil.

From two dimensions, the picture quickly dwindles to one. As images of natural life forces threatened with destruction by death-dealing ''civilization,'' Spirit and Little Creek end up functioning as metaphors for each other, which is to say, as pure clich├ęs"

  posted by AVS @ 23.3.03

Anti-war And Desperate
New blogger (he or she only has two posts) New York City Blog relates an odd sighting on the streets of the Big Apple -- the weirdest anti-war protest T-shirt in America.

  posted by AVS @ 23.3.03

Walking For Saddam
Liza Van Peski, an otherwise seemingly normal woman from Belfast Maine, has come to the conclusion that if she walks from Maine to Washington, D.C., she may be able to stop the liberation of Iraq. Says Mrs. Van Peski, "It sometimes feels as though no individual has much chance to influence our government. But there is nothing to do but to try, however we can." Mrs. Van Peski apparently doesn't vote, that being how individuals influence their government in the United States. The pesky Van Peski's web site is here. A Nashua Telegraph story about her trek is here.

  posted by AVS @ 23.3.03

Saddam Death Watch Update
Junkyard Blog has linked to this Daily Telegraph story Sunday reporting that British intelligence believes Saddam is alive but was seriously injured in the opening salvo of the war. Here's a scary scenario. What if Saddam has the physical stamina of the Black Knight?

  posted by AVS @ 23.3.03

Al Qaida Has Chem/Bio Weapons Capabilities
The Washington Post reported on Sunday that documents and computer hard drives siezed from Khalid Sheik Mohammed (my wife saw me typing this name and said, "Isn't he a basketball player? No, honey, he's the No. 2 or 3 guy in al Qaida.) contained formulas for botulinum, salmonella, and cyanide. They also contained nearly complete production plans for anthrax. Mohammed "was involved in anthrax production, and [knew] quite a bit about it," The Post quoted one U.S. official as saying. The documents also reveal that al Qaida has the physical components for botulinum, salmonella, and cyanide and may have already begun manufacture.

The Post reports:

"What is new in the recent documents is al Qaeda recruited competent scientists, including a Pakistani microbiologist whom the officials interviewed this week declined to name. The documents describe specific timelines for producing biochemical weapons and include a bar graph depicting the parallel processes that must take place between Days 1 and 31 of manufacture. Included are inventories of equipment and indications of readiness to grow seed stocks of pathogen in nutrient baths and then dry the resulting liquid slurry into a form suitable for aerosol dispersal."

The story also says the finding has made the military reconsider the significance of an apparent anthrax production facility in Afghanistan during the war there. Commanders shrugged it off at the time, but they now think the facility may have been producing anthrax before the war.

What strikes me about this story are three things. The first is the obvious point that al Qaida is still a very real and formidable threat. The second is the importance of removing the current Iraqi regime, whom al Qaida captives have named as the supplier of WMD know-how to their group, to cut off at least one of al Qaida's technology supply lines. The third is that when playing this cat-and-mouse game in which the civlized nations of the world are seeking to stop uncivilized elements from getting their hands on WMD, the slightest trace of evidence suggesting WMD capabilities should be enough to justify disarmament action. We're lucky to be finding out now, from Mohammed's document cache instead of from an outbreak of Anthrax in Washington, D.C., that al Qaida has these capabilities. Without the invasion of Afghanistan and the ongoing military and intelligence actions employed by Western governments, much of which has been opposed by the anti-war left, we would still be asking really nicely for Mr. Mohammed and his cronies to sit down for "dialogue," and Tom Ridge may already have had to oversee the decontamination of one or more American cities.

  posted by AVS @ 23.3.03

Screw The Iraqi People, Anti-War Blogger Says
Here is a blogger who says of the war in Iraq, "I opposed it before it started and will continue to do so even if WMD are found and/or the US and UK troops are welcomed into Baghdad by cheering crowds."

Why? "WMD and the iniquitous and unpopular nature of the Ba'athist regime (which I've opposed as long as I've been politically active, i.e. since 1976) are not the real issues in the war. The real issues are the attempt to set up a regime which is compliant with the US; that is, to secure US control over the second largest oil reserves in the world, and to have forces in place for when the welcome day when House of Saud is in Switzerland or on the lamp-posts of Riyadh. Control of oil, and strategic interest: that's what it's about, and that's imperialism."

Wow. Putting aside the wacky Marxist-style conspiracy theory behind this guy's position, which is the real motivating force behind all of the Western anti-war protests, what is horrifying is that he is willing to sacrifice the entire population of Iraq -- 24 million people (it would be 25 million, but Saddam is a maniacal murderer) -- just to keep America from having its way in the world. Having opposed Saddam's regime since the 1970s is no defense. Sitting at home and wishing Saddam would go away while voting and protesting against politicians who would make that happen is not "opposing" Saddam's regime. It is helping that regime stay in power.

  posted by AVS @ 23.3.03

Another "Human Shield" Converts
The Daily Telegraph of London on Sunday published this revealing essay from Daniel Pepper, a 23-year-old American who had traveled to Baghdad to be a human shield, then fled in horror from Saddam's regime. It is full of gems like this, "We on the bus felt like we were sympathetic to the views of the Iraqi civilians, even though we didn't actually know any. The group was less interested in standing up for their rights than protesting against the US and UK governments."

After fleeing Iraq in a taxi and arriving safely in Jordan, Pepper and his companions ask their Iraqi driver what he thinks about the coming American attack. The cabby responds, "Don't you listen to Powell on Voice of America radio? Of course the Americans don't want to bomb civilians. They want to bomb government and Saddam's palaces. We want America to bomb Saddam."

Pepper concludes with this. "Anyone with half a brain must see that Saddam has to be taken out. It is extraordinarily ironic that the anti-war protesters are marching to defend a government which stops its people exercising that freedom."


  posted by AVS @ 23.3.03

"Peace" Protesters Bring Homemade Bombs To SF Rally
The Volokh Conspiracy links to this KTVU TV story about police finding a backpack containing a dozen Molotov cocktails after an alleged march for peace in San Francisco. KTVU reports:

Police said the site where the devices were found was an area near 11th and Howard that had been traversed several times by a rather violent group demonstrators during Thursday's protests.

Police said they had obtained a security videotape showing two men throwing the backpack into bushes in the alley. They have given officers on the street photos of the two men and are hopeful they will be found in the crowds of protesters gathering on San Francisco's streets Friday night.

San Francisco police spokesman Dewayne Tully said officers had also discovered collection of rags, lighter fluid, and "other materials to make incendiary objects with" in front of the Four Seasons Hotel.

"What we suspect is that protesters were carrying these objects, knew they would be arrested at some point, and ditched them," he said.

  posted by AVS @ 23.3.03

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