Thursday, March 30, 2006

Musical set in North Korean prison camp strikes a chord with many in Seoul

The musical "Yoduk Story" is stirring passion in some South Koreans as it runs at a small Seoul theater. Set in a prison camp, the play tells of an ill-fated love affair between a dancer, whose family was thrown into the prison, and the camp's commander. The director, Jung Sung San escaped North Korea in 1994 after he jumped from a truck carrying him to prison. He fled to China. Jung says South Korean government officials tried to pressure him not to open "Yoduk Story," and his investors bailed out at the last minute. Jung literally agreed to put a kidney up as collateral to open the play. Following the gesture, more than enough investors came forward to get Jung's play opened. Conservative South Korean politicians hail the play. Others see it as a great educational opportunity since South Korean schools do not teach of conditions in North Korean camps.

Beautiful weather at a price

I love the weather we've experienced since January. I've been in Lake Daniel Park every day this week and I'm looking forward to the expected rise in temperatures for the weekend. I'm afraid we're slowly paying a price for the balmy winter climate. NC Governor Mike Easley reported that 21 NC counties are approaching severe drought conditions. Guilford is included on the list. Long-range forecasts predict a dry April as well. Still loving the weather, especially when I realize there's little I can do about it.

News from the fight we left

Strategypage reports that Islamic courts in Somalia are gaining popularity as many grow tired of the rule of the warlords. A week of fighting recently ended left 300 casualties. The Somalian situation has not risen above anarchy since international troops, including the US, pulled out of the East African nation in 1993.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Polling the Democratic primary...

...for the NC House. I got a chuckle out of this today. A Democratic candidate for the NC House of Representatives had a professional poll conducted in his district. It showed him with a whopping 10% lead over his intra-party rival. Chris Mintz wasted no time in declaring his seizing of the momentum in the race. The poll showed him holding a 21%-11% lead over his opponent, Ty Harrell. About 68% of likely Democratic voters polled as undecided. I'm sorry, this gives me no confidence in improved governance in Raleigh. At the legislative level, these guys need to get out and press the flesh. That's the only poll they need. BTW, the winner of the Mintz/Harrell clash will take on five-term GOP incumbent J. Russell Capps.

McCain and the mainstream media

I don't blame Lorie Byrd at Polipundit for touting her prescience today. Earlier, she predicted the mainstream media would end its honeymoon with John McCain. It looks like she may be right.

Johnston County students leave school to protest illegal immigration legislation

Around 30 mostly Hispanic students walked out of class today at Smithfield-Selma HS to protest illegal immigration legislation being discussed in Congress. The students left in spite of a warning of suspensions from school administrators. The students staged a march down US 301 and were joined by others. I heard a Johnston County Schools spokesperson on a WPTF report say the students would be disciplined for their actions.

Update: Here's a more lengthy article posted by the N&O today. It includes quotes from students. The vice president of La Raza called the walkout a good civics lesson.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Deciphering Iraqi politics and the raid against Sadr's guys

Don't look for a quick-read guide to understand the dynamics playing inside the struggle to create a new Iraqi government. Also, don't dismiss the idea that getting Muqtada Sadr and his Mahdi Army out the way would improve the situation.

Read Bill Roggio's post to get a rundown of apparent struggles inside the most powerful bloc, the religious Shi'a's United Iraqi Alliance (UIA). Currently four figures have aligned their religious parties to create the largest chunk of officials elected last December. Current PM Ibrahim al-Jafaari's al-Dawa, Abd al-aziz al-Hakim's Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Nadim al-Jabiri's Islamic Virtue Party (al-Fadhila) and Sadr head the alliance. Jafaari and Sadr are allies and it appears the threat of further unleashing the Mahdi Army keeps Jafaari in power. Roggio points out that there appears to be strain between Hakim and Sadr. He adds further that Sadr seems to have become the favorite of Iran. A complete split between Hakim and Sadr potentially would pit the two largest Shi'a militias against each other.

A Sunday raid on a "prayer room," which contained weapons, killed 37 Sadr supporters. Omar at the Iraq the Model says the best evidence that members of the Mahdi Army occupied the room was provided by a Sadrist member of parliament in his decrying of the attack. Omar writes that the cries of outrage over the attack are coming from Jafaari and Sadr allies.

Roggio sees the raid as part of the political struggle to create a new government. He also writes that it appears the Iraqi army was heavily involved in the action.

Zeyad at Healing Iraq posted on the raid just after it happened and detected attempts at spin to make it look like an American massacre.

It's a complicated situation and a daunting task to sort it out, but Sadr will be no help in making it less so. I hope Roggio's right and this is the beginning of a crackdown on Muqie and his Mahdi. Jafaari needs to go too.

BTW, Zeyad has some funny photos of Sadr. I'm not sure, but he might be in danger of doing or already have done something sinful with his right hand. These pics show why Sadr and the Mahdi is not an option.

Duke pres suspends lacrosse season

This Duke lacrosse episode is ugly. University President Richard Brodhead just announced the season is suspened until a "clearer resolution" is reached concerning the dark legal cloud hanging over the team. It's late in the season too. They've got a big mess on their hands and winning an NCAA title is the least of their worries.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Secret Service returns computer to Mars Hill student

The Secret Service returned a computer to a Mars Hill College freshman it had seized earlier this month. Government agents took the computer after Tim Willis altered song lyrics to describe a violent death for GW Bush and posted it on myspace.com. The government determined Willis had no intentions to act on his technological trick. Willis says lesson learned:

“I’m going to be a lot more careful about what I put on there,” said freshman Tim Willis. “I’m going to try to look at it from other people’s perspective instead of just mine.”

Not the swiftest of moves and not the best way to learn a lesson on the federal government in action.

Dylan, Haggard to appear in Asheville

For those interested in hearing legendary musicians perform live or just looking for an excuse to go to Asheville, Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard will appear at the Civic Center May 6. I caught the Dylan show last summer at the new ball park. I wasn't impressed. Haggard would be worth a listen. Anything's usually a good reason to go to Asheville.

Update: No, I'm not giving you hot tips on tickets. I just listened to live versions of "Like a Rolling Stone" by Hendrix and the Stones respectively. I'd much rather hear live covers of popular Dylan tunes. Sam Bush does a good live version of "Girl of the North Country." Prefer the Dylan studio versions on the late '70s and early '80s material.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Abdul Rahman free, but circumstances too legalistic

An Afghan court released accused apostate Abdul Rahman from jail today. The court cited legal problems as the reason for the release. Rahman, a Christian convert, faced the death penalty under the charges.

While I'm very glad that Rahman's is free, I'm still troubled by the details of his release. By pointing to legal problems, it looks like the court is hanging on to its right to try Afgahns on charges of apostasy. I admire Hamid Karzai, but it looks like he played a weak hand in putting a stop the human rights violation at least for now. I appreciate the tough position he's in, but he faces a crucial moment in promoting the evolution of democracy in Afghanistan. It also will be interesting to see if the ayatollahs in Iran try stir up outrage similar to the cartoon wars if this doesn't go the way of those determined to persecute or kill Rahman.

It goes to show that the more we learn about Islam, the less we know about Islam. It's unfair to indict all Muslims for a Medieval view of apostasy, but it seems a majority of the clergy, at least in the heart of Islam, are determined to see it enforced. They seem to see backing down on this issue as the equivalent of denying God. Islam does not seem to face salvation as the other great religions do. The others may tell you of the doom you'll face for forsaking the religion of your birth, but in the end it's your decision with which to live.

RIP

Buck Owens died of an apparent heart attack yesterday in his Bakersfield, CA home. I liked him on Hee Haw, even if the show did appeal to the wrong demographics in the early '70s, and enjoy listening to his music know. Owens and his band, the Buckaroos, put a lot of rock in country music. You can hear a little Buck Owens in Lynard Skynard and the Allman Brothers, especially the Dickie Betts tunes. Many may not think of California as a breeding ground for country music legends like Owens and Merle Haggard. However, I've at least stopped on the outskirts of Bakersfield just off I-5, (had my only unpleasant Indian dining experience there), and it's country. Love that red, white and blue guitar. The Fender Telecaster looks good too.

The Greensboro urban hike

I've been enjoying long walks around town the last few weekends. Greensboro in spring is certainly worth the stroll. A good deal of spring color is out. Last weekend I saw the first blooming azaelas (I hope they got through the cold nights this week.) Caught the first glimpse of blooming tulips today. We even got caught in a petal shower along Benjamin Parkway. It's a good workout, but I feel the urge more than ever to get into the hills. It's going to happen soon.

Batting .500 on Final Four picks

At least I know I'll do no worse than bat .250 on my Final Four picks. Don't get too impressed. I only started picking from the Elite Eight.

I called the slugfest right in Texas/LSU, but I got the winning team wrong. Big Baby Glen Davis and company will do something Pistol Pete Maravich and Shaq never got to do at LSU, play in a Final Four. The Tigers reach the national semi-finals for the first time since the Dale Brown days.

By keeping me from wearing the collar yesterday, UCLA will tie a Carolina record when it plays in Indianapolis next week. The Bruins shut down Memphis to earn the school's record-tying 16th Final Four appearance. I say the John Wooden karma still lives. Bill Walton looked happy too.

Both of yesterday's games turned convential wisdom on its ear. Two young hard-nosed defensive teams shut down sleek, veteran squads. It won't be a shocker if their game next Saturday doesn't make it out of the 40s.

I made the call for George Mason and Villanova to win today. It's about time to see if I've got another hit in my bat. Please forgive me for intertwining sports, but opening day is a week away.

Update: It feels good to follow your heart.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Sweet 16 dreaming; some of it literal

I've barely the time to make this post before the commencement of the Elite 8 games, and since I plan to make a few predicitions, I better get to it.

I made the effort to get through the Sweet 16, but sleep had its way. I watched the Duke/LSU game with friends at East Coast Wings. There were some distractions, so I didn't stayed glued to the game, but Duke's painful struggle couldn't be ignored. LSU reduced the game to an ugly slugfest, which exposed Duke's lack of depth. It's been the Devils' downfall since winning the title in '01.

Back home, I intended to watch the Texas/West Virginia game. I didn't make it too far into the second half. I awoke with about 15 seconds left in the game. Texas failed to nail it down on the foul line and Pittsnogle nailed an awesome fade away three to tie it only to have Paulino win the game for the Horns with a cold-blooded shot at the buzzer. I'm not a big Texas fan, but that's what winners do when it's all on the line. CBS made the switch to UCLA/Gonzaga and I attempted to finish out. The last thing I remember is a UCLA bucket and timeout with the Zags leading 69-62. The next thing I see is Adam Morrsion collapsing on the floor pulling his jersey over his face.

I made it through the BC/Villanova game and it was about the best game I've watched the entire tourney. It was classic Big East hoops. I thought BC got hosed on a couple of calls, but Nova deserves credit for an impressive comeback that turned the tide of the game into their favor. Losing a game on a goal-tending call is a heartbreaker. Nonetheless, if the toughness of this BC team continues through the years, they'll be a great addition to the ACC. I also had the George Mason/Wichita State game pulled up on the computer. Mason controlled it throughout. I made the effort to watch UConn/Washington. The last I remember Washington looked good to go, but then I had these in and out visions of the game in overtime. UConn marches on.

What happens next? I'll go mystical with my UCLA/Memphis pick. I believe the Wizard of Westwood must still have some zap in the magic wand and the Bruins make it to another Final Four. Texas/LSU is a hard pick. When they get it running, Texas looks as good as anybody. However, LSU seems to know how to disrupt the rhythm of the ballet turning it into heavyweight boxing match where both fighters hold on to each other more than they punch each other. I'll go with the Horns to survive a slugfest.

Moving to Sunday, it's hard to doubt UConn. They have the mark of an elite team. They've been in trouble all three tourney games so far, but they've been very strong at the end each time. On the other hand, I've been convincing myself that George Mason is another version of the '77 UNCC team. They don't have a Cornbread Maxwell, but they have a solid team, good coach and green and gold uniforms. They may very well run out of gas against UConn, but I think it's time for another Texas Western/UNCC type Final Four breakthrough. I'll go with my heart and take Mason. I'll go with Villanova over Florida. It's hard to beat the type of guard play Nova gets, especially at tourney time.

Sticking to your guns

Jonah Goldberg takes the Bush administartion to task for not strongly defending its decision to invade Iraq over WMD. He contends that the WMD issue has wrongly become a legalistic argument, something that is absurd where foreign policy is concerned:

And that's the point Thomas et al don't want to understand. For reasons that still baffle me, the WMD threat — never the sole reason to invade Iraq — not only became the only argument, it became a thoroughly legalistic one, as if foreign policy has rules of evidence and procedural due process. After 9/11, that kind of foreign policy by lawyers looked ridiculous, and rightly so.

He also writes that Saddam's bluff on WMD justified his removal:

The fact that Hussein turned out to be bluffing about WMDs isn't a mark against Bush's decision. If you're a cop and a man pulls out a gun and points it at you, you're within your rights to shoot him, particularly if the man in question is a known criminal who's shot people before. If it turns out afterward that the gun wasn't loaded, that's not the cop's fault.

I agree with Goldberg's take. Saddam did not want the rest of the world to know the status of his WMD programs. He bluffed with a pair of nines, while we held three kings. It looks like it turned out to be his final bluff.

The local blogosphere; changing minds on Iraq and original thinking

David Boyd created a bit of a stir earlier this week on the local blogosphere when he announced that he now believes the Iraq War to be a mistake. The decision did not catch me totally by surprise. I could tell that Boyd had some second thoughts when he linked to William F. Buckley's declaration that the US mission in Iraq had failed. Even though I disagree with Boyd's current assessment, I appreciate the fact that he reached the decision as his own man just as I believe he did when he wrote posts in favor of the war.

Which brings up the reaction of some of the local blogosphere to Boyd's decision. It seems some local bloggers think that as of March 20, '06, Boyd finally stands on his own concerning the Iraq War.

Ed Cone mentioned the decisions in a couple of posts. In the first he writes that Boyd "has lost his taste for Kool-ade." In the second, he commends "Boyd for his honesty and courage."

In the comments section of Boyd's post explaining his thinking, Roch Smith writes in part, "At the very least, perhaps you'll respect yourself for being your own man, making your own decisions and not being a slave to ideology."

Patrick Eakes also posted on the change of heart and wrote, "David Boyd has my respect for reconsidering his public position about Iraq with honesty and maturity, rather than continue to sing a party line most people do not believe."

I don't doubt the sincerity of Cone, Smith and Eakes. However, if the trio had a change of heart on Iraq, I hope I wouldn't post on their courage and honesty. I already believe they argue honestly. On thinking for ourselves, how many of us sitting here in Greensboro can legitimately argue that we've arrived at our positions on Iraq through truly original thinking? I think both sides are greatly influenced by what we read and hear from the talking heads, and whether we care to admit it or not, our political ideologies played and continue playing a part in shaping our views on the war.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Count your lotto winnings as you get a lap dance

For those who would like more to their lottery experience than waiting in line at the local handy pantry, go to Charlotte. The state has approved the Paper Doll, "the Grandaddy" of Charlotte strip clubs to sell lottery tickets. The Doll's owner sums it up:

"We're the only [strip]club that has it," said Chris Falls, owner of the Paper Doll Lounge. "And I also have something the convenience stores don't."

I guess for some it'll beat the PTA bake sale as way to support the local school.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Taiwan: Israel of the Asian Pacific

Proving that it won't be rolled over without a fight, Taiwan has developed its own smart weapons. According to Strategy Page, after losing access to certain US weapon systems, the Taiwanese developed their own version of a weapon capable of destroying Chinese anti-aircraft defenses:

Taiwan has been building their own version of the American JSOW (Joint Stand Off Weapon) Also called the AGM-154A, the Taiwanese version is called the Wan Chien. Taiwan recently made a very public announcement about Wan Chien, which was another way of sending a "don't attack us" message to China.

I like the name Wan Chien as much as I like the moxy of Taiwan. It reminds me very much of Israel. Much of the rest of the world wishes it would just go away and quit causing such angst for the Red Chinese, but the Taiwanese seem resolved to hold their hard-earned place in the world. They're not going to wait for the US to bail them out militarily. They would have a hard time beating China, but the Chinese would know they'd been in a fight. Long live Taiwan.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Giuliani rides high in Fox poll

A Fox News poll released today shows Rudy Giuliani as the favorite in the 2008 presidential race. Giuliani outpolled John McCain 29%-22% among Republican voters. Hillary Clinton won a landslide among Democrats, receiving 43% support, her closest follower at 12%, Al Gore has already announced he will not run in '08. Giuliani and McCain both easily topped Clinton in head to head polls at 51-39 and 50-39 respectively. The All Stars discussed the poll with Brit Hume tonight. Mara Liason and Mort Kondracke attributed Giuliani's strong showing to name recognition and see him as an unlikely GOP nominee because he holds too many socially liberal positions. Fred Barnes takes Giuliani seriously, but conceded that he had more negatives to overcome than does McCain among Repubs.

I think a Giuliani candidacy would go over well. As Barnes noted, he'll have some explaining to do and may not prove able to pull it off. He would certainly bring a broad base with him. On the other side, Hillary has some work to do.

The return of Chef and other South Park news

Trey Parker and Matt Stone will waste no time addressing the Isaac Hayes spat in the new season of South Park. Tomorrow night's season preimere will focus on the mysterious reappearance of Chef. A brief synopsis:

Details on the episode were scarce as of press time — Chef returns to town, but his erratic behavior worries Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny — though Comedy Central did confirm that contrary to previous reports, Hayes will provide the voice for Chef, however all his lines will be taken from previously recorded material.

I'll be waiting.

I also just read on Captain's Quarter that a charge is out that Isaac Hayes did not issue the statements attributed to him during his highly-publicized resignation from South Park. The article by Fox News' Roger Friedman uses an unnamed source saying that Hayes is still resting following a January stroke. The source went on to say that Hayes loved the show and appreciated the attention he got throught the Chef character at his own shows. Also, in an article published early this year, he defends the show as well as Parker and Stone. It looks like this story may not die.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The shifting sands of Iraq War opposition

Wretchard at the Belmont Club detects the scent of a new meme as we breath the air of a third spring of the Iraq War, Act III.

As the Iraqi inurgancy has managed to alienate almost every Iraqi to the point of seeing it as a tiresome act, the specter of civil war hangs over the country. Or does it? The BC sees the civil war talk as the latest vigil around a smoking volcano. Will it erupt or will it not? Who knows? But it gives justification to vent doomsday fears:

Instead of insurgency the talking points have changed to how Sunnis might soon become victims of an ethnically hostile Iraqi army in a Civil War. Going from a boast of conquest to a portrayal of victim is usually an indicator of something. In my view, the shift of meme from the "insurgency" to a "civil war" is a backhanded way of admitting the military defeat of the insurgency without abandoning the characterization of Iraq is (sic) an American fiasco. It was Zarqawi and his cohorts themselves who changed the terms of reference from fighting US forces to sparking a 'civil war'. With any luck, they'll lose that campaign too.

We don't know if a civil war will or will not commence in Iraq. Our military delivered a solid and lethal whipping to the insurgency. The insurgents know it and so do the Iraqi people. We'll see if it makes any difference in the coming days and months.

George Mason deja vu

Watching the Carolina/George Mason game yesterday seemed eerily familiar. Way back in November, Wake Forest hosted the Patriots in the second round of the Coaches against Cancer tournament. The Deacs raced out to a big lead only to lose it. Worse than the Heels, Wake lost the lead late. Mason extended the defense, chipped away offensively, eventually caught up and forced overtime. They helped turn Justin Gray into a turnover machine and kept the ball out of the lane. Thanks to the homecourt advanage, Wake survived in overtime. Despite losing, George Mason exposed most of the weaknesses that plagued the Deacs throughout the season.

Back to the UNC tourney loss, George Mason extended the defense and shut down Carolina's inside game. Tyler Hansbrough couldn't pull the Heels through because he couldn't get the ball low, and when he did, Mason's D was ready for him. After the second Duke game, I thought Carolina was the best team in the ACC. It looks like they may have peaked because none of their subsequent games matched the quality of play displayed against the Devils. Nonetheless, a good run this year for the Heels.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Al-afif al-Akdahr; a heroic voice among Muslims

Haaretz posts a feature on Tunisian-born intellectual Al-afif al-Akhdar, a powerful voice for reform in the Muslim and Arab world. A man marked for death by Tunisia's radical Islamist group Al-Nahdha, Akdahr lives in a poor Paris neighborhood and just a few years ago found himself on the brink of starvation. I found the interview a great lesson in history and how it applies itself to the modern world. Among the highlights:

*Akhdar favors treating Islamic terrorists as war criminals. Currently he is considering whether to pursue legal action against Al-Nahdha leader Sheikh Rashed al-Ghanousi, who issued a fatwa against him for a book he did not write.

*The recent cartoon war only served the needs of the Arab dictators and extremists, not the ordinary Muslim.

*Akdahr explains the divisions in the teachings of Mohammed. In Mecca, Akdahr points out that the Prophet developed a Christian-like Islam based on teachings of peace and love. After his exile to Medina, Mohammed developed the concept of jihad to justify the use of violence to return to Mecca. Today, proponents of the Medina teachings of Islam dominate the religion and use it to warrant the drive to eliminate all other religions and Muslims who would prefer to practice the Mecca scriptures.

*Akdahr maintains that Israel is not the root cause of Islamic extremism. Al Qaeda and Hamas both use Israel to provide slogans enabling them to recruit masses to the cause of implementing worldwide sharia.

*Hamas did not want to win recent Palestinian elections. Hamas is now in a position where it must forgo its charter and seek to negotiate with Israel. In doing this it risks being foresaken by the Palestinian people. However, Akdahr adds that Hamas will not give up power through a democrtic election because it would be heretical.

Voices like Akdahr's must be heard. It would help if the West adopted his cause instead of all the self-flagellation that seems more preferable than standing up to true totalitarianism.

Friday, March 17, 2006

RIP

College basketball coaching legend Ray Meyer died today. Meyer coached the Blue Demons from 1942-1984. It almost seems appropriate that one of the legends exits stage left at the onset of March Madness. He had a good long run, dying at 92.

Wall to wall ball; better have your head on a swivel

A couple buddies and I checked out March Madness at JP Looney's last night. I love NFL Sunday at Looney's, but I'd never checked out the NCAA Tourney with my head on a swivel until last night. It left me nothing but impressed. I found it almost as much fun as football. Every game could be found on a tube somewhere in the building. The only glitch came when CBS switched away from the UNC-Wilimington/George Washington game and only came back after the GW comeback.

It was an interesting crowd. You got a good idea who had big bucks in a tourney pool and there were more pretty women than I expected to see, but it's hard not see them in Greensboro.

A big group of Xavier fans from the Cincinnati area sat to our left. It turns out that they've made a ritual of taking an annual trip to a first-round tourney site. This year they chose Greensboro. However, they had to take a break from the live action at the coliseum to catch the Xavier/Gonzaga game. They experienced the gut-wrenching frustration that comes with watching your team lead the entire game until the final minutes. The X just couldn't hold off head-banging Adam Morrison and the Zags. I don't know if the fact they watched the game on the big screen reserved for Pittsuburgh Steelers' games during the regular season generated any bad karma or not. Despite the tough loss, they were ready to head back to the coliseum and looked forward to taking in Greensboro for the rest of the weekend.

To our right sat three alums of Wichita State. They drove to town from Tampa without tickets. They scored tickets and got to see the Shockers rout Seton Hall. They plan to stick around and get lucky with tickets for the Tennessee game tomorrow. They had nothing but good things to say about Greensboro.

The end of the UNCW/GW game had the place hopping and I pulled for Wilmington as hard as I do for the Deacs. I hate the Seahawks lost, especially after building an 18-point lead. A Duke/UNCW matchup would have made tomorrow even better.

I give Looney's a big thumbs up for Big Dance viewing and, as always, for the wings. It also looks like Greensboro does too for being a great Tourney Town. I thought Tourney Town sounded cheesy at first, but I'd like to hear it every March.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Iranian mischief in Argentina

The Bush Administration is urging Argentinian prosecutors to indict high ranking Iranian leaders in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires. The bombing killed 85 people and wounded more than 300. A trial of Agrentinian suspects resulted in aquittals. However, prosecutors have said they are determined to pursue indictments of Iranian and Hezbollah figures they believe were involved in the attack:

The Argentine case has a tortured history. In March 2003, Galeano issued an indictment against "elements of the Iranian leadership" and Tehran's proxy Lebanese militia, Hezbollah. He also issued warrants asking for the arrest of 12 Iranian officials, including former intelligence minister Ali Fallahian. After Galeano's probe into the bombers' local support network ended in acquittals, his successors vowed that the so-called international trial charging Tehran and Hezbollah for the bombing would go forward. No new official indictments have been issued, however.

Read it in the Forward.

Steyn on the proposed Iraq Study Group

Hugh Hewitt and Mark Steyn brought us their weekly take on the world and the proposed Iraq War study commission came up. Steyn summarizes it as well as anyone:

HH: .... Let's turn to international affairs, but beginning in the domestic side. Yesterday, there came word, Mark Steyn, that the Iraq Study Group had been formed. Now I cannot find the statute that authorized this, and I suspect it's a John Warner/Frank Wolfe gambit. But it's got James Baker and Lee Hamilton, and a bunch of the usual suspects to study the war. I can't believe we're going to do the 9/11 Commission again. What's your reaction to the formation of this group?

MS: Well, the 9/11 Commission is the...I mean, you know me. I'm a foreigner, but I'm pro-American. And yet I must say, the 9/11 Commission is everything I loathe about the United States, in that its legalistic, retrospective, showboating blowhards, pompous people going on TV round the clock. And in effect, it becomes something in and of itself. It's not just commenting on something like a play by play guy is, but it actually changes the course of the something its commenting on. And that's what's bad about this. You know, Iraq isn't a Broadway play in previews. The show has opened, and it's on now. So it's too late to have arguments about this little weak spot in the first act, and we should get it re-written. The show has opened, and the responsibility of these people involved in this, James Baker, Lee Hamilton, Rudy Giuliani, all these people, is that they should now be saying let's win it, and then have the arguments.

It is perplexing that we're a nation that thinks a study group will suddenly bring clarity to every issue. We're at war. It's a messy business. Once in the middle of one, it's hard to see a need to debate whether we're right or wrong to be mixed up in it. Let's win it first and then we can debate all we want to. The key is to win it.

US may talk with Iran about Iraq

Threats Watch reports today that the US is willing to consider holding narrow talks with Iran about Iraq. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the talks would only concern the situation in Iraq and would not address the topic of Iranian nukes. Iraqi Shi'a leader Abdul Aziz al Akim called for the talks yesterday. Hakim, who is a major player in the current talks in forming a new Iraqi government, heads the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Hakim also commands SCIRI's militia, the Badr Brigade. US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad would likely be the key player in any talks. Threats Watch has confidence in Khalilzad to more than hold his own in any talks with the Iranians:

All things considered, if the United States is going to engage in any direct talks with the Iranians, that Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad will be at the epicenter is very reassuring. American interests with regards to Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan could lie in no more capable hands. Any other point man would be cause for concern.

I'll agree with that assessment.

It was bound to happen sooner or later on High Street

Authorities in Winsted, CT say there is nothing illegal with marijuana leaves painted on a residence located on High Street. Christopher Skeens painted the cannibis mural on his home after his arrest on marijuana charges late last year. The neighbors don't appreciate the artistic protest, but for now they'll have to accept that their street is a caricature of its name.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

"The Love of Liberty Brought us here"

The first elected female president of an African nation addressed a joint session of Congress today. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf briefly discussed the connection of the two countries, but spent the majority of her speech thanking the US for helping bring democracy to her beleaguered homeland:

But our ties greatly exceed the historical connection. I stand before you today, as the first woman elected to lead an African nation, thanks to the grace of Almighty God; thanks to the courage of the Liberian people, who chose their future over fear; thanks to the people of west Africa and of Africa generally, who continued to give hope to my people. Thanks also to President Bush whose strong resolve and public condemnation and appropriate action forced a tyrant into exile and thanks to you - the members of this august body - who spurred the international effort that brought blessed peace to our nation.

Trying to promote democracy abroad is perilous at best and bloody at worst. However, stories such as Liberia's show that long-oppressed people will embrace it if given the chance. Let's hope the good stories keep coming out of Liberia.

Read the text of Sirleaf's speech here.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sports and money, political money that is

The accbasketblog has a great link to a list of political contributions made by athletes, coaches, owners, sports executives and sports media personalities. The list is broken down into giving to Democrats, Republicans and special interests. The contribution amounts vary widely.

A few surprised me, most notably Muhammad Ali and John Daly. I guess if Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim and Dean Smith sat around a table together, an argument over politics probably wouldn't break out, but Lute Olson better not show up. The NFL, MLB and NASCAR seem to lean Repub, while the NBA and boxing lean Dem. I'm surprised more of these guys don't spread around the money a little more.

Check it out.

Slobodan and the invasion of Iraq

David Aaronovitch takes readers through his personal transformation in viewing the Western response to the 1990s butchery in the Balkans. He uses this moment of Slobodan Milosevich's death to show how he created the blueprint for the current invasion of Iraq:

What I want to do, however, is to chronicle how the Serbian leader was responsible for the invasion of Iraq. Along a line of logic that runs, crudely, no Slobbo, no Bosnia, no Kosovo, no fashion for intervention, no Iraq.

This is the only time Aaronovitch mentions Iraq in his piece.

Aaronovitch believes the plight of Muslims in the former Yugoslavia changed the way many on the left looked at foreign intervention on behalf of oppressed people. At first, like many others he viewed Wesern intervention in the situation in Bosnia skeptically. He believes this view only made the unthinkable a reality. It created what Aaronovitch sees as a Munich parallel, leading many like himself determined not to stand by as innocents are slaughtered. He concludes that military action in the Balkans divided the left:

Slobodan Milosevic, more than anyone else, caused a division within the Left and Centre Left, dividing the pacifists, anti-imperialists and anti-Americans from the anti-fascists and the internationalists. He reminded too many of us that inaction can be as toxic and murderous as action. He prepared us — for weal or woe — for the new world. RIP Slobbo.

Read it.



Judge slaps patch on Black's eye bill

Parents of North Carolina's next kindergarten class won't have to reach for their wallets to get eye exams for their kids, that is, unless they want to. A Wake County judge issued an injunction delaying the implementation of a state law requiring eye exams for all pre-K children planning to enroll in a public school.

NC Speaker of the House Jim Black, an optometrist himself, quietly pushed the bill creating the law through the General Assembly by attaching it to other legislation. Wide public notice of the bill happened only after it became law. Several NC school boards and a Wake County parent filed suit to have the law overturned. The ruling delays the law until July 2007.

I heard a spokeswoman for the state school board association on WPTF this afternoon. She said her group hopes legislators will spike the law during its short session, which starts in late spring. She also mentioned that several members of the NC Senate seem willing to consider the possbility.

I believe this law seems as those fuzzy letters I see on the wall when I go to the optometrist's office for an exam. I believe the number of children it would save from a school career filled with learning disabilities would be negligible. If Speaker Dr. Black and the state's other optometrists want to open their doors and give complimentary exams to supplement the eye screenings NC students already receive, they may get a bow from me.

Jim Black Must Go doen't have much on this story yet, but there's plenty of other Black tidbits, including a good breakdown on contributions Dr. Speaker steered Mike Decker's way.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Charlotte-Raleigh media axis in the works?

The $6.5 billion purchase of Knight Ridder Inc. by McClatchy Company will place the Carolina's three largest newspapers in the same family. The Charlotte Observer and Columbia's The State will join Raleigh's News and Observer in the McClatchy chain. The Myrtle Beach Sun Times will also be owned by McClatchy. Currently the CO ranks sixth in circulation out of Knight Ridder's 32 newsapers, while The State is tenth.

Observer editor Rick Thames says he looks forward to working with his Capital City rival:

"When you look at Raleigh and you look at Charlotte, there's so much that each of us does in ways that we don't compete, to be able to assist each other in those areas, I'm looking forward to that," said Thames, who added that McClatchy vice president for news Howard Weaver echoed Pruitt's vow of no layoffs in a Monday telephone conversation.

BTW, the new McClatchy will tilt toward the Sunbelt as 12 KR publications will not stay with the company. These papers are located in cities not considered as growing markets and includes the largest-circulation KR sheet, the Philadelphia Inquirer. The other newspapers McClatchy intends to sell are the Philadelphia Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel, the Monterey (Calif.) Herald, the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, the Akron Beacon Journal, the Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Times Leader, the Aberdeen (S.D.) American News and the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald.

McClatchy will hang onto bigshots the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star and Fort Worth Star-Telgram. McClatchy currently owns the Sacramento Bee, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Rock Hill Herald among others.

Manute Bol; one hell of a man

The current Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel features a Frank Deford piece on former NBA giant Manute Bol. A 7'6" Dinka tribesman from Sudan, Bol made a splash during his pro career. However, Bol's story doesn't end on the court.

Bol spent almost his entire NBA fortune assisting Sudanese rebels fighting against the Islamist ruling regime. During the early to mid 90s, Bol and a cousin spent countless hours lobbying for aid to the cause of their people and warning Washington of the threat posed by Islamic extremism at a time most Americans paid it little attention.

In 1996, he moved to Uganda to more closely monitor the Sudanese situation. In 1997 he accepted an offer from the Sudanese government to help establish a peace-coalition government. He soon found he was duped. The Arabs in charge wanted the rebel forces to join with government troops to fight their own people and also insisted that Bol convert to Islam. He refused and found himself placed under a type of house arrest. The government would not allow him to leave. By 2001, he managed to bribe his way out of Sudan and landed in Egypt just in time for the 9/11 attacks. In Egypt he endured beatings for being a black Christian and was arrested when his visa ran out. He eventually made it back to the US as a refugee.

Once back, he encountered domestic trouble and also suffered severe injuries in a taxi accident. He lay in a coma for a few weeks and ended up with among other injuries three broken vertabrae in his neck. The ordeal left him owing $200,000 in medical bills. Some old NBA friends covered for him by putting together a fantasy basketball camp to raise the money. Since then, Bol has encountered legal troubles over more domestic disputes.

I hope Bol can get things straightened out. He stands out as a great man in my perspective. You may not call him one hell of a basketball player, but you can call him one hell of a man.

Here's a transcript from a 2002 ESPN "Outside the Lines" feature on Bol. Here's an interesting post wishing Bol well after the accident. Of all places it's the blog of hockey reporter Eric McErlain. Bol appeared at a party to help McErlain raise money for Sudanese refugees in Canada. The Round Mound of Rebound Charles Barkley voices his admiration for Bol in both posts.

Update: I got a comment from McErlain pointing out that Bol helped out on behalf of Jim McCarthy, who posted the link above on McErlain's blog.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

You got the mix Charlie, you got the mix, but love, it's a..

I know Mick Jagger sings "you got to mix it child, you got to fix it," but I used to think he paid tribute to drummer Charlie Watts in this line from "Bitch." Last month I posted on how I liked the Stones Super Bowl show even though I didn't hear much of it over the noise of the crowd. One of the reasons I liked it was the way Charlie Watts pounded the drums. I like to mix song runs and I like this one from the Stones. It kicks off with "You Gotta Move" and "Bitch." I don't like "You Gotta Move" on its own, but a buddy of mine talked me into leaving it on because it leads into "Bitch" on Sticky Fingers. It's a good contrast. The stoned out blues cover leads into the pulsating butt kicker. Follow it with a live cover of Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," from the Stripped LP. There's a good harmonica solo by Mick and Chuck Leavell is cooking on the organ. Finish it off with "Jigsaw Puzzle" from Beggar's Banquet. I've read it's the only autobiographical song written by the band. I know for sure you hear Mick sing the word "shattered" as he refers to Charlie in this one.

March Madness; the perfect solution at least for today

The Duke/BC tipoff approaches, but I can't help myself from anticipating the unveiling of the brackets this evening. I'm still filled with anticipation even though my team, Wake, won't be included. I've heard the talking heads debate among themselves the exclusion of mid-level power conference teams from the Big Dance. Jay Bilas, for one, seems to think the snubs prevent the tournament from having the strongest field. I even heard Mike Gminski bring up the fact that some are calling for a 128-team field.

Going to an extra round is not appealing to me. However, I came to a solution on my walk back from the Bog Garden this morning. I wouldn't be surprised if it's already been proposed, but I haven't read about it yet. Thirty conferences receive automatic bids. At least half of these wind up as a one-game gigs. Take the 16 teams with the worst RPI and have them play an extra round. The eight winners would then match up against the number one and two seeds in each regional. This would allow for eight more at-large bids and expand the field to 72. The formula may make for tougher non-conference schedules among the power teams, who play too many record padders against the Sacred Hearts and Longwoods. It may make no sense or too much sense, but there it is.

The Duke/BC game will have to be a good one to keep me inside on a beautiful 70+ degree day.

Update: I need to fire my research assistant. There are already 65 teams in the tourney and 31 conferences get automatic bids. My formula would create seven additional at-large bids. Looks like a good dance. I'm a little surprised Carolina doesn't get to play in Greensboro.

Public school teachers the thinnest-skinned of all

That's according to Ruben Naverette, who writes a column based on the reaction of many teachers to a previous post on the No Child Left Behind Act. He writes that he received over 100 angry e-mails following his first column, which included criticism of public schools for having low expectations for minority students. Naverette says that most teachers attacked him along the lines that since he didn't set foot in a classroom everyday, his opinion matters not.

On teachers, I don't refute Naverette's claim that teachers are thin-skinned when it comes to No Child Left Behind. I've often found that if I bring it up around school, I usually see rolling eyes and instant launches into Bush-bashing. Personally, I have mixed opinions about NCLB, but I do think its insistence on accountability is necessary.

Beyond education, I found Naverette's column an interesting examination into the art of criticism and who has the right to express it:

I'm also intrigued by this idea of having to hold your tongue unless you've walked in someone else's shoes. By that standard, the next time we're confronted with police misconduct, we can't criticize those who wear badges unless we've worn one. We can't scrutinize the work of doctors unless we've practiced medicine. We can't criticize immigrants unless we're foreign-born. Come to think of it, my critics couldn't blast away at me unless they've worked as journalists and they've been responsible for turning out a regular column. ..Now we're getting somewhere...On second thought, what fun would that be? We all have jobs to do, and others are free to challenge how well we do them. Newspaper columnists and football coaches know that better than anyone. Who knows? We might even learn from the criticism and improve our performance.

Qualified or unqualified, the critics will always be among us. Would we really want it any other way?

SC has a chance to purchase flags captured by Tarleton durng America's first civil war

The state of South Carolina will have to bid in a Sotheby's auction this summer if it hopes to claim three regimental flags captured by British commander Banastre Tarleton during the American Revolution. Tarleton's troops took the flags in the Battle of the Waxhaws near Lancaster, locally known as Buford's Massacre. The British opened fire on unarmed Americans after Tarleton had his horse shot out from under him after the Patriot troops had approached under a flag of truce.

The Flag Day auction is expected to fetch between $3 and $6 million for Tarleton's heirs, who have kept the trio of regimental colors in the family since Banastre Tarleton brought them home after the war. Many in SC want the flags. They are strongly considering creating a deal that will allow the state to share the banners with Virginia, which wants them because the regiment was from the Old Dominion.

The story fascinates me because I've always considered the Revolution in the South as America's first civil war. This one did not pit north against south, but Carolina neighbor against Carolina neighbor. The action in the Waxhaws represents just a fraction of the hostility the war unleashed in these parts. It also helped me remember that the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse approaches this week. Tarleton was there and fought well.

Arrested former white house aide has long political ties to NC

During the morning web surf, I made the connection of Claude Allen to NC. Last week Maryland authorities charged Allen, a Raleigh native, with ripping off department stores for around $5,000 in an exchange scam. Allen resigned as the White House's top domestic policy advisor last month.

After reading a News and Observer post this morning, I recall seeing Allen a great deal as Jesse Helms's top campaign spokesman. He worked on the Senate Foreign Relations as well. He got his start in politics in 1982 as spokesman for Bill Cobey's successful run for a congressional seat. A phi beta kappa graduate of UNC, he also earned a law degree from Duke. Cobey said he usually talks to Allen at least once a year and he never indicated anything that would serve as a warning sign for his unusual behavior.

Being the same age, Allen impressed me during the mid 1980s. He spoke clearly and forcefully on behalf of Helms. He certainly was on an upward arc. Who knows what makes the human mind take the twist and turns that lead it to such bizarre behavior as Allen's. I hope he gets things straightened out.

Update: John Podhoretz has more on reaction he received from those on the left concerning a column he wrote on the Allen situation.

A great morning in the bog

I just got back from a nice long walk from the Sunset Hills condos to the Bog Garden and back. It proved great exercise and attitude adjustment. The weather felt more like mid to late April and I didn't complain one bit. I don't get to the Bog Garden often enough. I got my first look at the work they've done beside Northline. You can tell it's manmade, but that doesn't take away from the serenity. A great education every time I go in there.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Butcher of the Balkans dies in his bed

Former Yugoslavia presdient Slobodan Milosevic died in his prison bed at the Hague. Authorities discovered his body this morning and ruled that he died of natural causes. Milosevic's trial had been delayed due to this frequent complaints of fatigue and ill health. According to the AP report of his death:

Milosevic's death will be a crushing blow to the tribunal and to those who were looking to establish an authoritative historical record of the Balkan wars.

American hostage found dead

Iraqi Interior Ministry officials reported finding the body of American peace activist Tom Fox. American forces picked up Fox's body late Thursday. Fox's daughter attended Guilford College. The News and Record has a post today with rememberances of Fox by family and friends.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Outbreak of the ostrich flu

Today I've read posts by two people with whom I rarely disagree on the Mohammed Tehari-azar SUV attack. Via Ed Cone, I read Glenn Reynolds's Instapundit post giving the mainstream media a pass on downplaying the Islamic angle to the story. Reynolds maintains that this approach is responsible in that it may prevent copycat attacks. Cori Dauber at Ranting Profs agrees with Reynolds and adds that if Tehari-azar's brand of terrorism reflects the threat we face, "then we've won the war."

I can't travel down their path. I do agree that the details of the attack are not newsworthy at the moment. Most people on the Carolina campus seem quite comfortable being out and about. Also, the first court hearing has passed and we'll wait to see what happens in the judicial system, something for which I'm quite happy to wait. They lose me on the incompetence argument. Personally, I'm glad Tehari-azar proved an inept terrorist. However, other than his al Qaeda connection, why is the would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid sitting in a federal prison serving a life term? He couldn't even save himself from a butt whipping from fellow passengers. A female flight attendant thwarted his first attempt and another one took him on after he pushed the first one to the floor. Finally, other passengers took him out. Don't get me wrong. The al Qaeda connection is enough for me, but in the words of the famous pop philosopher Tom Petty, "Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes." If that happens, affiliation or non-affiliation with a terrorist outfit won't matter.

On to the target of my headline. I refuse to respect the downplaying of this event by the News and Record. The newspaper has a full-time reporter in Raleigh. He's a good one, but the N & R only relied on wire reports in its coverage. I shouldn't have expected anything else considering the high-toned rationalization made for not publishing the Danish cartoons and the self-defensive response to the Rhino Times stepping into the void. To me the local daily has shown it has no stomach to tackle the debate on radical Islam. What will the paper do for big stories if Greensboro's next Bill Agapion turns out to be a Muslim extremist?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Liked ESPN's ACC Tourney intro; it made G'boro look good

I enjoyed ESPN's intro to its ACC Tourney coverage tonight. They made Greensboro look like the college basketball Mecca it is. Accompanied by a scratchy version of John Sebastian's "Welcome Back,' it was a retrospective of great ACC Tournament's past intertwined with the ACC present. Liked the shot of Lenny Bias cutting down the nets. I thought the take of an exhausted Randolph Childress stretched on the floor after one of the most amazing tourney runs was too brief, but hey I won't complain since they showed the clip of him calling out Jeff McInnis just before nailing a three. It was good for Greensboro, making us look like the natural home of the tournament we are.

WaPo poll reveals increased negative view of Islam among Americans

A Washington Post/ABC poll released today shows a plurality of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Islam. Of the 1,000 polled, 46% claimed they had an unfavorable view of Islam while 43% looked at Islam favorably. The WaPo's poll story included comments from liberal and conservative thinkers who maintained negative media coverage and of events fomented by Muslim extremists and recent political rhetoric led to the poll result.

Juan Cole from the left:

..Americans "have been given the message to respond this way by the American political elite, mass media and by select special interests."

Michael Franc from the right:

..said the survey responses "seems to me to be a real backlash against Islam" and that congressional leaders do not help the problem by sometimes using language that links all Muslims with extremists.

The Opinion Journal claims the poll result comes from the negative press coverage of the Iraq War:

Our sense is that the media's antiwar bias is feeding the public's anti-Muslim bias. By relentlessly focusing on the bad news in Iraq and playing down the good, journalists perpetuate an image of the Muslim world as a hostile, uncivilized place.

I found the quotes from some of those polled more interesting, including this Chicago school bus driver:

As a school bus driver in Chicago, Gary McCord, 65, dealt with many children of Arab descent. "Some of the best families I've ever had were some of my Muslim families," he said in a follow-up interview. "They were so nice to me." He now works for a Palestinian Christian family, whose members he says are "really marvelous." But his good feelings do not extend to Islam. "I don't mean to sound harsh or anything, but I don't like what the Muslim people believe in, according to the Koran. Because I think they preach hate," he said.

I'm sure that some Americans are influenced by media coverage, but I think the results are more complex. I believe a significant number of Americans view Islam negatively, but do not care to have the country confront the extremists. They would rather retreat into Fortress America and let the extremists have at it by themselves, hoping we can get on with business as usual, undisturbed by the turmoil overseas. A shortsighted and unrealistic view in my opinion.

The Post link also includes video of an interview with Claudia Deane, its assistant polling director. Hat tip to the TV station for correcting the spelling of her name mid-interview.

Dubai port deal dead

DP World of the United Arab Emirates has withdrawn its plan to take over operation of several major US ports. For the moment, it looks like DP World has done GW Bush a favor, saving him from a bruising political fight he stood little chance to win. Senate Republicans sound relieved too, as they were facing pressure to act on the deal after a resounding bipartisan vote to kill it in the House yesterday.

Looking at the polls, there was little chance that Bush could pull off the deal he strongly favored. In the end, the administration deserves the blame for not getting what it wanted. They have done nothing to prepare the American public for doing this type of business with Arab countries. Overall, I thought the deal had plenty of upside, but we won't find out now.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Punjabi kite wars

According to a provincial official, kite flyers in the Punjab province of Pakistan may lose their allotted 15 days per year of flying if they get carried away with their hobby.

Apparently in Punjab when someone mentions flying a kite, they don't envision a kid having fun in the park or someone kicked back in a meadow watching a kite sail high into the sky. Punjabi kite flying means war. Combatants fly kites attached to string dipped in a glaze made of melted glass and metal. The object is to knock your opponent out of the sky. Apparently, it's war with collateral damage:

Every year, Pakistani media report dozens of deaths and injuries caused by kite flying, mainly of children and motocyclists whose throats are sometimes cut by metal or glass-coated string.

Ouch.

A good idea from Berkley?

I don't usually read too much about good ideas coming out of Berkley, CA. I've visited there several times and have found it mostly pleasant. It doesn't take long to catch on to why some call it Berserkly, but the wackiness comes across as more charming than alarming.

Today I read in the Christian Science Monitor about the Berkley schools using locally-grown produce and meat in its cafeterias. The hope is to encourage healthier eating habits among children. Serving this menu means higher labor costs because using fresh foods requires a great deal of prep work. The food services director maintains that the local product is cheaper to buy than the ready to eat processed foods most school cafeterias use. She says this savings should offset labor costs. (At my school, we have to start lunch at 10:30 in order to have the cafeteria staff off the clock by 2:00. ) I like the idea. The marinara sauce sounds tastey.

N&O columnist calls UNC attack terrorism

Rick Martinez writes in the News and Oberver this morning that last Friday's attack on UNC students by Mohammed Tehari-azar was an act of terrorism. Martinez writes that it is hard not to reach that conclusion:

Just because Taheri-azar is incompetent when it comes to killing people doesn't make him any less a cold-blooded terrorist. Nor does his rational smile, his polite manner, his bookish glasses or his deceivingly calm voice on the 911 call. That soft voice screamed his terrorist intentions, and they do not seem to be the ramblings of a crazy or deranged person. This is a man who is smart enough to have graduated in December from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Martinez also takes UNC Chancellor John Moeser to task for his reluctance to label Tehari-azar's actions as terrorism:

Yet the reluctance of UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser to call the act and the man what they are is either political cowardice or yet another disturbing display of the special politically correct protection the Muslim faith enjoys at his campus.

Read it.

House GOP breaks with Bush on ports deal

House Republicans just voted to defy GW Bush on UAE port deal. The move is seen as a strong repudiation of Bush in an election year.

I believe this reaction is too quick. I don't like the way the adminsitration allowed the issue to pop up out of the blue, but that's not reason enough to kill the deal right now. Perhaps the deal could be used to eventually leverage a recognition of Israel from the UAE or to stop the duplicity of condemning terrorism in public while playing the three monkeys when local fanatics spout their hateful rhetoric about Israel and the west.

On the political angle, House Repubs won't have to look to Pennsylvania Avenue if they lose their majority in November. They've put themselves in this position by failing to resist the temptations of power.

Costs outweigh benefits says global warming skeptic

For those of you feeling guilty that you've not done enough to curb greenhouse emissions, relax. That is if you agree with one of the country's leading global warming skeptics, Robert Balling, who appeared before NC's Legislative Commission on Global Climate change earlier this week. Balling said any action NC might take would have no impact good or bad on global warming:

“By no means do I lay in bed tonight believing that by riding my bicycle to school every day, I’m helping to fight global warming,” Balling told the state’s Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change on Tuesday...“With all respect, you could announce today that North Carolina is about to vanish from the face of the Earth, and we’ll never see it on this diagram [plotting global temperatures],” said Balling, a professor in the climatology program at Arizona State University. “Or you could announce tomorrow that we’re going to buy everyone in North Carolina their own SUV and have everyone double their amount of coal burning, and it just doesn’t show up on the diagram.”

One panel member asserted that passing state legislation aimed at curbing global warming ultimately would be seen as too costly:

Balling’s ideas drew interest from some panel members. “My take on what you said is for North Carolina to do anything significant in terms of what happens here would be all cost and no benefit,” said Edward Erickson, an economics professor from North Carolina State University...Balling agreed with that assessment. “Of course, there can be benefits of having technology that’s cleaner,” he said. “North Carolina can benefit a thousand ways from great ideas of the group. But to sell the idea that you’re fighting global warming becomes absurd.”

There were also skeptics of the skeptic on the panel. Read it all at the Carolina Journal.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tehari-azar disappointed more targets weren't available

Today authorities released the search warrant used to comb through the Carrboro apartment of Mohammed Reza Tehari-azar, who faces nine counts of attempted murder for driving through students at UNC. According to the warrant, Tehari-azar had been contemplating some type of attack for two years to avenge US treatment of Muslims overseas. He also allegedly said he was disappointed there were not more people to hit with the Jeep Cherokee he rented for his attack.

As more information continues coming forth, a cold and methodical plan of attack shows through. This is the most difficult type or terrorism we face. It doesn't have to be hatched by a cell. A plan that calls for more than one person, can lead to loose lips and a treasure chest of leaks on which authorities may pounce. Tehari-azar was a one-man cell. If he is straight up about mulling this over for two years, there is no indication that anyone else knew about it. Nothing justifies the anarchic way Tehari-azar sought to defend his religious faith. For that alone, he deserves a stiff sentence that sends a message to anyone who wants to contemplate future lone wolf acts of terror in NC.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Just one whiff of the air tells me it's ACC Tourney Week

I'm all too willing to submit to my ACC Tournament geekdom. It's another one of those things I've always remebered. There's usually the feel of spring in the air by tournament time, but we've had them during snowstorms too. I'm still excited about it even though my team, Wake, doesn't have a prayer this year. For what it's worth, here's a ranked rundown of the five ACC teams I expect to go dancing beyond the event that should be played in Greensboro every year.

1) Carolina--The ACC's number one with a bullet. A stumble in the tourney shouldn't hurt too much, but they're on such a roll that they may win it in spite of themselves. I don't think it would be too shocking to see them among the last dancers left on the floor.

2) Duke--Number 2 based on reputation. The Devils appear dog tired right now, just the same as this time last year. However, I won't sell Coach K short. You can't ignore the sense of ownership that emmanates from the BDs when scrapping for the Tourney Crown and they may prevail once again. They should still reach the Sweet 16, but beyond that we'll have to see how roused up K can get the boys.

3) BC--Right now I don't think the Eagles are too far behind Duke. I wish they had rematches with Carolina and Duke during the regular season. We may get at least one of these return bouts this weekend. Two solid all-ACC players and a talented supporting cast makes BC hard to beat. They look Sweet 16 capable.

4) Florida State--Some are still skeptical of the 'Noles. They certainly have a devastating one-two punch, but it remains to be seen if the rest of the troops can hold the scorched ground left to them by Al Thornton and Alexander Johnson beyond the early rounds. They're due for a little more success in the ACC Tourney. As a Wake fan, I wanted Miami to beat them yesterday.

5) NC State--The Pack is tired and beaten up. They should get their usual 5-8 seed in the dance.

6-12) Any of these guys will have to cut down the nets Sunday to get an invite unless Maryland gets two solid wins which may attract a last-minute date.

Let the hoops holiday month commence.

Taheri-azar court appearance top story on Fox Report

Fox News led off its 7 o'clock newscast reporting on the first hearing of Mohammed Tehari-azar since his attack of UNC students with a Jeep Cherokee last Friday. A clip of one of Jonathon Serrie's reports can be seen here. An hour earlier, Brit Hume also had a segment of Serrie interviewing Orange County DA Jim Woodall about terrorism charges. Woodall seemed uneasy with the question and said he would leave the question of terrorism charges to others. Serrie also interviews a UNC College Republican who wants the university to recognize the event as an act of terrorism. Undoubtedly, you're likely to get a variety of student opinions on how to classify the event.

UNC's own Ranting Profs is not ready to call it terrorism, but sees the scales tipping in a particular direction.

Why don't they like to tell this Katrina story?

Joe Guarino has a good post on the re-introduction of Hurricane Katrina to the top of the news cycle. Guarino sees the entire coverage skewed toward pouncing on the federal response. I agree, but I wouldn't expect it to be any other way.

A group of guys who have not received a well-deserved dose of publicity are the sportsmen of Louisiana. When it was apparent that New Orleans and the surrounding area faced the real deal, they were among the first to spring into action, throwing their fishing boats into the water and heading out to retrieve the stranded. Navigating a fishing boat in rising floodwater to rescue others is a heroic act. The sportsmen kept coming with their boats until the deteriorating security situation turned them back. Thus spake one sportsman:

“That’s just how we are in Louisiana,” Prairieville’s Ken Sherman said after spending hours Aug. 30 motoring through the Canal Boulevard area of Metairie. “The law of God is to do unto others as you would have done unto you, and if you live by that law, you have to help in situations like this.”

I really don't feel a need to jump all over any of the three levels. This is the most catastrophic natural disaster I can recall and the US government showed more than its share of ineptitude. However, the lack of preparation at the state and local levels contributed to mightily to the quagmire. As all this occurred, I chatted with a friend and co-worker about the mess. He was in the National Guard during Hurricane Floyd in '99. He said Jim Hunt had them activated before Floyd struck. The forecast predicted a bad storm packing gallons of rain would strike the big country down east. I'm sure Hunt's compotence helped make the situation more manageable even though it didn't avert all tragedies such as the washout of Princeville.

Some of them boys sure love to hunt

I just came across this photo of a hunter bringing his quarry home on his bike. If the comment attached is any indication, it's not an unknown sight. Also posted is a photo of an albino white tail fawn. The Urban Legends website can't make a call one way or the other. Found it on the Billings Gazette Outdoors blog.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Is Rudy Ferguson's Gladstonian answer?

Two articles seemingly unrelated, but quite related in another way illuminated the monitor today.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, historian Niall Feguson says the US is ripe for a Gladstonian moment. Ferguson refers to William Gladstone's 1878 campaign to recapture Downing Street by pounding home the severe shortcomings of the foreign policy of his archrival Benjamin Disraeli.
While believing George Bush fights for the right cause in the Middle East, Ferguson claims the president has failed to bring his theory to practice due to his incompotent game plan. Democrats should not start planning '08 victory celebrations because according to Ferguson:

...it is highly unlikely that the next Democratic contender for the presidency will be in a position to deliver a modern version of Gladstone's Midlothian speech. Why? For the simple reason that, unless it is collectively stark raving mad, the Republican Party will select a candidate to replace President Bush who subscribes to every single one of Gladstone's principles. The challenge for those who aspire to the Republican nomination will be to create as great a distance between themselves and Mr Bush as it is possible to do without explicitly disavowing him.

Turning to a second article, this one penned by Newsweek's Howard Fineman, Rudy Guiliani looks like a presidential candidate by not looking like a presidential candidate. Reading past the horse race issues, Giuliani comes to mind as a plausible American Gladstone in the Ferguson mold. Along with current top contender John McCain, Giuliani represents a candidate voters trust as very compotent and strong on national security. Who can doubt Giuliani's devotion to the Bush foreign policy vision? GWB had no greater support from a politician than that he received from Rudy Giuliani in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. There is no indication that he will lose that faith. It's hard to find fault with McCain here too, but I think Giuliani's personality ultimately makes him a much more likeable candidate, a huge factor in presidential campaigns.

BTW, skeptics who want to immediately write off Giuliani as a non-starter for conservative Republicans because of some of his liberal social views, Fineman quotes Ralph Reed, arguably the country's most successful conservative political strategist, who sees Rudy as more than able to win conservative support:

Ralph Reed, a godfather of religious conservatives, thinks Giuliani's charisma may help him overcome his social-issues liberalism in the Bible belt. "He can take control of a room better than any politician I've seen," said Reed.

We'll see how it plays out.

Update: Orrin Judd doesn't think as much of Rudy's chances.







Taheri-azar held in Central Prison in lieu of bond

Authorities are holding Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar in Raleigh's Central Prison in lieu of a $5.5 million bond. An Orange County magistrate charged him with counts nine counts of attempted first-degree murder and other charges related to his plowing through a group UNC students with a Jeep Cherokee. The Charlotte Observer and News and Observer post stories today with interviews of people aquainted with the suspect. Both contain the typical "I thought he was a nice, but quiet guy" type of observations.

Ed Cone has a long line of comments on the topic. He asked whether Taheri-azar's actions represent terrorism of nutjobbery. I vote for both.

1,000,000th bmer rolls off SC assembly line

While thinking of the auto industry may evoke pain in its rustbelt heartland, the same thoughts in the sunbelt seem to radiate with the warmth of the winter of '06. A blue Z4 roadster rolled off the line at BMW's Greer, SC plant earlier this week, the millionth vehicle assembled there. Opened in 1994, the operation has grown from 600 to 4,500 employees and has doubled its facility size. It was reported that all employees at the plant lined up to get one touch of the roadster as it made its way to the outside world.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Maybe it just won't work without the sheets and swastikas

Building a diverse grassroots movement can be a challenge and pain in the rear for anyone, but imagine trying to do that with your white-supremacist organization. Such is the plight of Jared Taylor, editor of the American Renaissance magazine and founder of a biennial conference of the same name. In spending nearly two decades building his movement, Taylor has worked successfully in bringing aboard white-supremacist Jews of European origin. Needless to say, that leaves some of the traditional base of white supremacists uneasy. In taking another dive into the theater of the absurd, America's best-known, anti-semitc, Islamofascist-loving former Grand Dragon, David Duke, showed up at this year's conference. Duke's appearance provided more drama than a Hollywood screenplay could hope to produce:

The events Saturday, February 25, passed without major incident. But then, late Sunday morning, none other than former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke approached the microphone on the floor during the question-and-answer session for French writer Guillaume Faye. After congratulating Faye for stirring remarks that "touched my genes," Duke asked if there weren't an even more insidious threat to the West than Islam.

"There is a power in the world that dominates our media, influences our government and that has led to the internal destruction of our will and our spirit," Duke said.

"Tell us, tell us," came a call from the back of the room.

"I'm not going to say it," Duke said to rising laughter.

But Michael Hart, a squat, balding Jewish astrophysicist from Maryland, was not amused. He rose from his seat, strode toward Duke (who loomed over him like an Aryan giant), spit out a curse — "You f...ing Nazi, you've disgraced this meeting" — and exited.

Touching David Duke's genes, hmm. Well, there you have it. Just when you've convinced yourself you've figured out this place called America, you read this. Enjoy the entire article posted this week by The Forward.

Predicting with the sky

I just walked the dog through Lake Daniel Park. If the sky in any way offers insight to the outcome of ACC hoops, it looks good for Carolina. However, the game is tonight. As a non-fan of both teams, I have to begrudingly admit that it's always a big game. Tonight though, is really a big game. The winner can lay claim to being the ACC's strongest squad. No matter what you want to happen, the accbasketblog has all the pre-game coverage you could care to peruse.

I do have a bone to pick with Birkel at the basketblog. Yesterday in expressing sympathy for the plight of my Deacs, he compared this season to the "Anthony Teachey- bad days" at WFU. Sympathize with, mock or ignore Wake in '06, but you can't compare this team to any Teachey played for during the early '80s. Very few players developed as impressively as Teachey over four years at Wake. Teach never played on a losing team during any of his four seasons. Along with Danny Young, Kenny Green and Delaney Rudd, he helped lead the Deacs to retire Ray Meyer at Depaul during the '84 big dance. (A freshman named Tyrone "Mugsy" Bogues only saw limited playing time on that team.) Teachey led the ACC in rebounding the same year, and if not the leader, he also finished near the top in field goal percentage. To top off a strong year, he made it to the final cut of an Olympic team that eventually fielded a couple of guys named Jordan and Barkley. I left Birkel a comment, but I've yet to receive satisfaction. He at least helped fire me up as I'll be in stands at the Joel this afternoon to watch Big E and Justin Gray play together one last time. Do it for yourselves and Teach guys.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Judge rocks school bureaucracy again

This afternoon Wake County Superior Court Judge Howard Manning issued an order calling for state officials to crack down on low-performing high schools. Schools that fail to achieve a 55 percent pass rate on state tests over a five-year period must change principals or close their doors. Manning's order affects 44 high schools in NC. According to one education equity advocate, today's action is the most far-reaching of its kind in the country:

Although nearly 30 states have faced similar lawsuits, no judge has gone as far as Manning in threatening to close schools or demanding new principals, said Molly Hunter of the Campaign for Educational Equity, part of the Teachers College at Columbia University.
"That's the kind of thing a legislature might say, a state education department might say," Hunter said. "It'll be very interesting to see how this plays out."


Indeed, it will interesting to watch this play out. It points out the problems bureaucratized public education faces in trying to meet the diverse needs of North Carolina students from a structure better-suited to implement a one-size-fits-all type policy.

Update: The Observer has excerpts from the letter Manning released yesterday. This quote shows little wiggle room for schools:

There must be a serious consequence for continued poor performance in high schools. Reduced to essentials, superintendents and principals have run out of room and run out of time. The State is clearly and ultimately legally responsible for these high schools and all other schools.

Here's the News and Observer coverage.

Driver plows through crowd at UNC

A former UNC student drove a Jeep Laredo through a crowd in front of the student union at the University of North Carolina. After leaving the scene, the driver, Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, called 911 and waited for authorities to arrest him. Six people were injured, none of them seriously. The News and Observer has some quotes from witnesses to the incident.

Update I: The FBI evacuated the Carrboro apartment complex where the driver lived. The feds said the driver had apparently made statements in the past concerning the American treatment of Muslims:

According to the Associated Press, the FBI joined the case because Taheri-azar, a native of Iran, "allegedly made statements that he acted to avenge the American treatment of Muslims. The ongoing investigation will work to confirm this," said Special Agent Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman in Washington.

Update II: The News and Observer has some biographical info up on the susupect Taheri-azar. He graduated with two degrees last December. Apparently, he has also lived in Charlotte and has a record of reckless driving:

In August 2003, Taheri-azar was convicted of unsafe movement after being charged with driving left of center and failing to obey a traffic officer in Orange County, according to police records. ..A month later, he was convicted of reckless driving to endanger for speeding and reckless driving, also in Orange County. ..His address both times was listed as 3125 English Sparrow Lane in Charlotte. Neighbors there say they knew the family as the Taheris and believe Taheri-azar lived with his mother and younger sister. The family has since moved away. ..In July 1999, a Mohamed Dhahran Taheri of the same address was charged with reckless driving to endanger and driving without a license in Mecklenburg County.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Teacher's rhetorical question lands NC in sights of enemy attackers

At the beginning of Jay Bennish's lecture, (link posted below), you hear him criticizing the US's involvement in the Colombian drug wars, including chemical eradication of crops. He asks his students to name the most-abused drug in the world. The answer is cigarettes. He goes on to test his student's geographical knowledge about where this scourge is produced. He tells the class the answer is in a place "mostly known as North Carolina," and identifies Durham as the capital of this evil weed empire. He then goes on to ask if coutries such as Peru, Iran and China don't have a right to "drop chemical weapons over North Carolina to destroy the tobacco plants that are killing millions?" As a resident of what is mostly known as North Carolina, I find his rhetorical flourish a riot. Inadvertent or not, thanks for the laugh Mr. Bennish.

Anti-Bush remarks land Colorado teacher a suspension

An Aurora, Colorado high school social studies teacher finds himself suspended based on a student-recorded lecture. During a class at Overland High School, teacher Jay Bennish compared GW Bush to A. Hitler. He does go on to say that he doesn't think Bush is the same as Hitler. Sean Allen, a student in the class, taped the lecture and released it. Over 100 Overland students held a demonstation today protesting the suspension.

I'm a teacher myself. I don't like to think of a fellow teacher facing the loss of his job because of what he said in the classroom. If his situation is similar to mine, he's not sitting around lighting his cigars with five dollar bills. Also, I enjoy a lot of autonomy in my classroom and I wouldn't want to advocate someone else losing some of his. On this one though, I believe Bennish pushed it beyond the bounds of what defines a balanced presentation in a high school classroom.

You can listen to Allen's tape of the lecture here. The portion of the lecture that gets Bennish in the most hot water comes in a series of quotes starting with this question: "Who is probably the single most violent nation in the world?" After a few inaudible student comments, Bennish answers the question himself or confirms a student's answer. "The United States," declares the teacher. He then goes on to equate Bush's language in the State of the Union speech to Adolf Hitler's. After interpreting Bush's words as a claim that "America should be the country that dominates the world," he rattles off a list of other examples. He then offers that "it sounds a lot like the things Adolf Hitler used to say."

After listening to the tape, my first criticism is that he is preaching a partisan interpretation of current history to his students. I'm sure most teachers do some preaching. However, I try to limit mine to subjects such as behavior. Second, it offends me personally that he would compare a president of the United States to Hitler in front of a very impressionable audience. You can hold a Bush = Hitler sign at a protest rally no matter your occupation. That's your right. But you cross the line when you use your platform as teacher to basically say the same thing to your students. Some of the world's greatest historians have never tried to claim they understand what Hitler was all about, much less compare the behavior of any postwar leader to the progenetor of one of the world's darkest moments. My impression is that Bennish is a good teacher and I hate that he's been suspended, but I'll leave the details to the folks in Aurora, CO.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Confronting my own old fogeyism

Today was opening day for my school's baseball team. A kid in my homeroom got the nod to start at catcher. I asked him something along the lines of his planning to be the next Johnny Bench. I was greeted with an open-mouth look of I have no clue as to what the hell you are talking about. One of his teammates redeemed the youth of today by saying, "Oh yeah he played for the Reds." I hope I'm aging gracefully.

You might as well call ugly, ugly

The Danish manifesto signed by Salmaan Rushdie and others isn't the only sign that free-thinking secular Muslims are willing to stand their ground.

The Agora blog reprints a letter signed by 11 Canadian Muslims yesterday calling for the West to stand up for freedom and against the forces of fear:

A curtain of fear has descended on the intelligentsia of the West, including Canada. The fear of being misunderstood as Islamophobic has sealed their lips, dried their pens and locked their keyboards...With hundreds dead around the world in the aftermath of the now infamous Danish cartoons, Canada’s writers, politicians and media have imposed a frightening censorship on themselves, refusing to speak their minds, thus ensuring that the only voices being heard are that of the Muslim extremists and the racist right.

Also, a commenter on a post I did last night left me a link to an al-Jazeera interview last week with Arab-American psychologist Wafa Sultan. During a televised debate with a Muslim cleric, who is not identified in this particular clip, Sultan claims that what the world faces today is not a clash of civilizations, but among other things, a clash between the Middle Ages and the 21st Century. She blames the antagonism on the teachings of Islam. Claiming she is not a Muslim, but a secular person who does not believe in the supernatural, she showed respect for other religions. She maintained that Jews "forced the world to respect them through their knowledge, not terror." After reaching the Memri page, scroll down to # 1050 to view the entire clip.

This is what the world needs to hear. You cannot stand by and expect those who want through whatever means necessary to impose their views on others to respect your passivity. It only has the opposite effect.