Friday, February 24, 2006

The Rally For Denmark

In D.C. today, Christopher Hitchens organized a rally for freedom at the Embassy of Denmark.

Glenn Reynolds has a ton of links as well as some pictures here and here.

This event deserves attention, and the MSM could provide it with that attention by relaying the story to a national audience. However, I would not be terribly surprised if we didn't see any coverage of this event by any of the major networks or newspapers.

As Glenn notes, if the story is not widely reported, it will be a poor reflection on MSM. Not covering this rally essentially makes the statement that the only way to get press coverage for a rally at an embassy is to fire to it.

As of 11:00pm, via multiple Google searches, none of the major papers' or networks' websites had any mention of the pro free speech rally. As I've noted many times before, the MSM is hesitant to report stories that don't reflect poorly on the administration, and I can't see journalism's elite changing their habits anytime soon.

All this being said, we must remember that the rally was advocating freedom of speech; something we all hold dear. It was not advocating the publication of the offensive cartoons, but merely the right to do so. This is a key distinction that I've made before, and my thoughts about the cartoons haven't changed.

But the key thing to take away from this is the importance of this peaceful rally in the face of all the violent protests witnessed throughout Europe and the Arab nations of the Middle East, and the MSM's resistance to reporting an event very deserving of it.

Avoid The Civil War

Today President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the Iraqi people to be calm and cooperative, and continue their efforts to form a unified government.

Bush praised Iraq's political and religious leaders who have taken steps to halt the unrest, and told the Iraqi people that they are at a "moment of choosing":

"We can expect the coming days will be intense. Iraq remains a serious situation," Bush said in a speech to The American Legion. "But I'm optimistic, because the Iraqi people have spoken, and the Iraqi people made their intentions clear. ... They want their country to be a democracy."

Bush spoke of "stunning acts of violence" and counseled that "difficult and exhausting" days ahead would require patience as both bloodshed and political conflict continue. Rice called this "an extremely hard and extremely delicate moment," acknowledged the violence was "a strike against Iraqi unity" and said "people's nerves are a bit on edge."

"There will be undoubtedly some period of time in which it is hard to have a completely unified response to what has happened, because it is very terrible," said Rice, traveling back to Washington from a tour of Arab capitals.

In Washington, Bush said, "We'll do everything in our power to help the Iraqi government identify and bring to justice those responsible for the terrorist acts."

"This is a moment of choosing for the Iraqi people," he said.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Iran's Propaganda Machine

Today the president of Iran blamed the U.S. and Israel for yesterday's shrine bombing:

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Western powers like the United States and Israel that they would face the wrath of Muslims following the devastating bombing of a Shi'ite Muslim shrine in Iraq.

Echoing Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ahmadinejad pinned the blame for Wednesday's Samarra shrine bombing on "Zionists" and foreign forces in Iraq.

"These heinous acts are committed by a group of Zionists and occupiers that have failed. They have failed in the face of Islam's logic and justice," Ahmadinejad said in a speech broadcast live on state television.

"But be sure, you will not be saved from the wrath and power of the justice-seeking nations by resorting to such acts," he said to cries of "Death to America" "Death to Israel" from a crowd of thousands of supporters in central Iran.

Given his history of outrageous statements, this isn't terribly surprising.

It is, however, a very damaging charge. Though it is entirely untrue, and radical, western-culture-hating insurgents are to blame for the bombing, there are plenty of people in the Arab world who may not get this information, let alone radical Islamists who would gladly believe Ahmadinejad's lies rather than accept the truth.

I expect a swift counter-statement from the rest of the World's leaders, but I only hope that the message gets to those who matter.

Civil War In Iraq Not Likely

The destruction of the dome of the Golden Mosque Samarra, which I posted on yesterday, has convinced the MSM that Iraq is on the verge of a civil war.

Not so fast, says Bill Rogio:

By all indications, the situation in Iraq is tense, and the threat of continued violence is real. The possibility of a full-scale civil war is quite real as emotions are running high over the destruction of the revered Shiite shrine and the retaliation against Sunni mosques.

But the media has not asked or answered the following question: what exactly are the leading indicators for a full blown civil war - meaning the political leadership of the main Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties no longer wish cooperate, and an open and organized battle between the parties ensues?

After this intro, Bill offers a list containing the main lead indicators that a full scale civil War in Iraq is underway, and concludes that Iraq has not yet experienced any of the indicated symptoms of civil war.

He notes:

The Sunni led Iraqi Accordance Front has suspended talks to form a government, but have not withdrawn from the political process. The Iraqi Security Forces have taken appropriate measures and suspended all leaves, but there are no indications they are cooperating with militias or abetting the violence in any way.

So while the situation in Iraq remains tense, I would be very hesitant to subscribe to the rushed conclusions offered by the MSM.

Patience and cooperation by the Sunni and Shiite factions in Iraq will calm the unrest and solve the problem, allowing Iraq to regain its focus and get solidly back on track in its progress towards democracy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Avian Flu In India

Reminiscent of the movie Outbreak, a small town in India has been sealed off to prevent spreading of the bird flu:

Officials in India's Maharashtra state have begun sealing off an entire town where bird flu has been discovered.

No-one will be allowed in or out of Navapur, which has a population of nearly 30,000, or 19 nearby villages.

The measures come after reports that blood samples from people in hospital have tested positive for bird flu. Health officials deny the reports.

Hundreds of thousands of birds are being culled after deadly H5N1 bird flu was found in Navapur last week.

This kind of a report begs the question: What happens if the epidemic reaches the United States?

Hugh Hewitt interviewed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist yesterday asking essentially the same question. Specifically, Hugh's interview deals with who is in charge if the H5N1 virus reaches America, as well as what implications this has for response and relief efforts. An excerpt:

HH: Now Senator Frist, give me your understanding. It's spreading like wildfire right now, and in Indonesia and China, today, this very day, there are massive kills underway of poultry, wild and domestic. Who has the authority, should the bird flu in birds get to the United States, to order these kind of poultry kills, which will obviously impact our economy a great deal. Whose got that right?

BF: Well, your point is very well taken. Ultimately, the Secretary of Health and Human Services is going to make the call. But it very quickly falls over into the agriculture, farming community, because that is where one of the first steps will be taken, the actual quarantining, telling people to stay at home, advising people from a public health standpoint will go through the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary Leavett.

HH: But is there a federal law that authorizes federal authorities...I'm thinking after Katrina, we did this dance with the locals where they didn't want us in, and as a result, the feds got blamed. Is there a federal statute on the books that says the Director of HHS operaing pursuant to Presidential authority, can take control of neighborhoods and of poultry farms, and things like that, and order sequestration and anything else that needs to happen?

BF: There's specific provisions for things like what we just talked about, in terms of manufacturing, vaccine manufacturing, protection from the use of anti-viral agents, and dictating the use of anti-viral agents. State law, in most states, are either addressing or have addressed, although about half of them have not yet addressed the actual quaratining commands. And that will come from the state level, and it will be upon advice from the federal level, but ultimately from the state level.

The Avian Flu is a very serious issue, and it becomes more and more so with every day that passes.

It is especially important that state and local governments develop a plan of action in the case that the H5N1 virus arrives, and the federal government must also create an appropriate chain of command response system that will enable the crisis to be properly dealt with.

A Crucial Moment In Iraq

Insurgents in Iraq are doing their best to provoke a Sunni-Shiite civil war:

Insurgents posing as police destroyed the golden dome of one of Iraq's holiest Shiite shrines Wednesday, setting off an unprecendented spasm of sectarian violence. Angry crowds thronged the streets, militiamen attacked Sunni mosques, and at least 19 people were killed.

With the gleaming dome of the 1,200-year-old Askariya shrine reduced to rubble, some Shiites lashed out at the United States as partly to blame.

These are the kinds of tactics that can spoil the great potential of the Iraqi democracy. Attacks like this are specifically designed to instigate infighting among otherwise peaceful Iraqi civilians. Deranged insurgents whose sole reason for opposing Iraq's new government is based on their hatred of the United States and of western culture can not be allowed to disrupt the implementation of a free society in Iraq.

This is a crucial time in Iraq where cooperation and collaboration are needed to ensure the freedom of the Iraqi people and the survival of the Iraqi democracy. The world's leaders realize this:

Many leaders called for calm. "We are facing a major conspiracy that is targeting Iraq's unity," said President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd. "We should all stand hand in hand to prevent the danger of a civil war."

President Bush pledged American help to restore the mosque after the bombing north of Baghdad, which dealt a severe blow to U.S. efforts to keep Iraq from falling deeper into sectarian violence.

"The terrorists in Iraq have again proven that they are enemies of all faiths and of all humanity," Bush said. "The world must stand united against them, and steadfast behind the people of Iraq."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair also condemned the bombing and pledged funds toward the shrine's reconstruction.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, called the attack a deliberate attempt to foment sectarian strife and warned it was a "critical moment for Iraq."

Patience and calm must be the attitudes of the moment. It is crucial that Sunnis and Shiites in positions of power pass this message along to their average Iraqi followers, and do all they can to prevent a fragmented civil war.

Acknowledging that these attacks are the work of insurgent zealots is the first step in curbing their influence, and keeping Iraq on track in its path towards a stable, free democracy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cancel The Port Deal

It goes without saying that selling the operations of six U.S. ports to a firm owned by another country is an unintelligent move. Giving control of some of the United State's major access points to a foreign nation has many unsavory implications for national security, and very serious consequences.

So it is no wonder why the governors of two of the states most affected by the ports deal --New York and Maryland-- are not very happy about it:

Two Republican governors on Monday questioned a Bush administration decision allowing an Arab-owned company to operate six major U. S. ports, saying they may try to cancel lease arrangements at ports in their states.

New York Gov. George Pataki and Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich voiced doubts about the acquisition of a British company that has been running the U.S. ports by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates...

"Ensuring the security of New York's port operations is paramount and I am very concerned with the purchase of Peninsular & Oriental Steam by Dubai Ports World," Pataki said in a news release.

"I have directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to explore all legal options that may be available to them in regards to this transaction," said the New York governor, who is still in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy.

Ehrlich, concerned about security at the Port of Baltimore, said Monday he is "very troubled" that Maryland officials got no advance notice before the Bush administration approved an Arab company's takeover of the operations at the six ports.

The two governors are correct in comign out publicly in opposition to this deal, especially given that the United Arab Emirates is a country that has an active al Qaeda organization.

Giving control of U.S. ports to a country, even if it is our ally, with these kinds of connections can be seen as nothing other than a serious threat to national security. It would be one thing if the ports were U.S. operated but on foreign soil. However, it is a completely different situation when we are talking about domestic U.S. ports with direct access to American soil.

How long would it take for the UAE's al Qaeda oraganization and its affiliates to pursue a terrorist attack via these ports? Probably not long. This kind of direct access to the United States is the kind of thing al Qaeda spends all of its time trying to find, and if we just hand over the ports to the UAE, it will make that search a whole heck of a lot easier.

Even if you want to completely discount the al Qaeda angle, it seems silly at best to grant control of a domestic port to a foreign country. There are just too many security risks involved, not to mention the complete forfeit of control of a major American shipping port.

I'm not sure how the Bush administration got involved in this idea, or how it is even considering the deal. It would be a very wise move to back away from the deal as sson as possible, and avoid unnessecarily giving up control of America's borders.


Senator Majority Leader Bill Frist weighs in on the issue, and offers some similar commentary:

News that a Middle-East based firm is seeking to purchase the operating rights to several U.S. ports - from New York to New Orleans - raise serious questions regarding the safety and security of our homeland.

Post 9/11 prudence warrants - at the very least - a more extensive review of this matter. As Ronald Reagan used to say: 'trust, but verify.' And that's what we need to do. The simple fact is, there's no such thing as being 'too careful' in a post 9/11 world.

As of today, I'm requesting briefings on this deal. If the Administration does not put the deal on hold, I will introduce legislation doing so ... to ensure that this decision gets a more thorough review.

Common sense warrants it; our national security requires it.

I expect to be discussing this issue in greater detail this evening when I appear on Hannity & Colmes. I hope you will tune in. Much more to follow in the days ahead...

But Senator Frist is the only one speaking out against the port deal. Criticism is coming from both sides of the aisle.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Avian Flu and Other Mutating Viruses

The Avian Flu is among a number of viruses that have crossed over from animals to humans recently:

At least one new disease is jumping the species barrier from animals to human beings every year, exposing people to emerging germs at a rate that may be unprecedented.

The first work to catalogue the range of germs capable of infecting people has disclosed that 38 new human pathogens have emerged in the past 25 years. Three quarters of these, including Aids, avian flu, Sars and new variant CJD, originated as animal diseases.

The survey, led by Mark Woolhouse, of the University of Edinburgh, has identified more than 1,400 pathogens that can cause disease in human beings, at least 800 of which crossed the species barrier from animals.

While it is not known whether the rate at which diseases are jumping species is accelerating, Dr Woolhouse said it was impossible that human beings had been exposed to so many new pathogens so quickly through most of history.

Keep an eye on this story as it develops, it could prove crucial in dealing with the Avian Flu if it ever arrives in the states.

Meanwhile, here's an update on the Bird Flu:

Indian health officials went door-to-door Monday searching for people sickened by the deadly bird flu strain, while hundreds of German troops disposed of dead wild birds in a desperate attempt to contain the fast-moving disease in Europe.

In Brussels, Belgium, European Union agriculture ministers discussed ways to combat bird flu --such as by vaccinating poultry-- as the disease spread to half-a-dozen EU nations.

Malaysia announced the deaths of 40 chickens from the lethal H5N1 strain, the first reported cases of the virus in the country in more than a year.

In Hong Kong Tuesday, a dead magpie found near a street flower market was confirmed to have been infected by the H5N1 virus, the government said. It was the latest in a spate of bird deaths from the strain in recent weeks.

With India conducting a mass slaughter of birds for a second day Monday, plumes of black smoke filled the air as farmers burned dead chickens in the now-deserted poultry farms around Navapur, more than 250 miles northeast of Bombay.

Local officials near the affected area reported that a 27-year-old poultry farm owner died of bird flu-like symptoms, though tests had yet to determine the cause of death. Samples from at least eight other people hospitalized for flu-like symptoms near Navapur also were being tested, and results were expected later this week.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Minnesota Politics

Power Line continues its coverage of the Democratic Party's efforts to suppress two advertisements supporting the Iraq War, which John Hinderaker first wrote on here.

Basically, prominent Dems in Minnesota are stricly oppposed to the message of the ads (you can watch the two ads here), and so they attempted to keep the ads from ever reaching the air. When a massive email campaign urging Democratic Party members to tell the networks not to air the ads failed, and the ads made it to television, the Dems quickly decried the ads and attacked their legitimacy.

Case in point: Brian Melendez, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic Party:

[On] Thursday Melendez called a press conference and condemned the first of the two advertisements -- the one featuring the veterans -- as "un-American, untruthful and a lie."

I hope that Mr. Melendez doesn't represent the views of his party. Anyone calling war veterans "un-American" clearly does not have his head on straight. It is an outrage not for these ads to be published, but for the Minnesota Democrats to disgrace war veterans and seek to oppress opposing views.

This story should be regarded as one of the most important stories of the past week, and it deserves to be widely reported. However, the MSM agenda journalists might have a problem covering a story that puts their party in a bad light.