Sunday, February 29, 2004

KERRY PLEASES AV! For the record: I'm more than satisfied with Kerry's rhetoric on Afghanistan. Kudos to whoever wrote it.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

A BIG THANKS: A big thank you to the nice folks of the International Medical Corps who are trying to improve childbirth odds in Afghanistan, slowly and steady.

TALIBAN OUTREACH PROGRAM: Take a look at what Hamid Karzai said this past Thursday on the prospect of him meeting with former Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil (whose name is incorrectly transcribed as "Makital").

Q: Quick question for Mr. Karzai: Any plans being made in meeting with Makital?

Karzai: On meeting with Makital, we have daily approaches by the Taliban leaders both those that were in Afghanistan, and those that were in Pakistan who want to come back and stay in Afghanistan who recognize that Afghanistan is now a better place for all of us to live in, and they want to benefit from this opportunity provided by the new Afghanistan. Like Makatil, there have been other approaches that have come to us from various leaders of them. Mr. Makatil sent us a letter about six months ago or five months ago, and we asked some people from the Afghan government to meet with them. In that letter, Mr. Matakil has asked to meet with me. I have not yet considered that, but we are thinking of how we should deal with these matters. We have had a number of meetings in the National Security Council. Generally, I should tell you that all those Taliban who were not involved in al Qaeda or terrorism and who have not committed crimes in Afghanistan or elsewhere in the world are free to return to their country and live a normal life. The ones that have linkages to terrorism and al Qaeda, or are members of al Qaeda and have committed crimes, they are not welcome, and that number is very limited. The rest of them are welcome to back to their country. Thank you very much.
Obviously, Karzai hasn't decided yet whether he will meet with Muttawakil or not and his statement is in synch with what he said a couple of days ago. The new revelation seems to be that other Taliban leaders--and not just disaffected footsoldiers--have switched sides. If that's true, it's another battle won.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

QUREI FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY: An unnamed senior Bush administration official (Condi Rice, is that you?) talks to the Times’ Steven Weisman. Take a look at the important part of the story:

"The withdrawal is a good idea," said the official, in an interview, adding that it presented an opportunity for "an enormous and historic change" in Israel's relations with its neighbors comparable to the 1967 war, the withdrawal from Sinai and the peace accord with Egypt in the 1970's.

[…]

Mr. Bush, many American officials say, would also like to hold a joint session with Mr. Sharon hailing what seems to be progress as a way of defusing Democratic criticism that he has been passive on the search for peace.
The message here is very simple: we’re not going to engage the peace process, but can point to Sharon’s withdrawal and the meeting we had with him as progress. The rest of the article describes how magically wonderful it would be if Israel would involve its Arab neighbors. But then again, we’re not actually going to involve ourselves. Lot’s of talk (and good suggestions), but no action.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

THE WRATH OF THE EAGLE: Glenn Reynolds debunks a rather comical but bogus verse from the Qu'ran.

TALIBAN OUTREACH PROGRAM: In an interview with a Pakistani television station, Hamid Karzai hinted at an formal meeting with former Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil. Karzai said:

"Mullah Wakil Ahmed has written me a very nice letter. He has explained what he is thinking of the future of Afghanistan, which is quite reasonable. He has asked to meet with me. I have sent some of my people to talk to him twice, and I will probably also consider meeting with him or not in the coming days. There are the thousands of others who are from this country, who are part of the society, who are like any other Afghan, who have committed no wrong. It is their home. They are welcome to stay, go to their villages, do business, make a life. Under [Mullah Omar’s] thousands of Afghans were murdered. Life became hell. Afghanistan was held back, Afghanistan was turned into a country in the Middle Ages. For me [Omar and bin Laden] are criminals and they have to be arrested and they have to face justice."
Until now, Karzai has only sent personal liaisons to talk with Muttawakil to bring him, and through him other Taliban insurgents, over on Karzai’s side. I’m highly skeptical on whether he can sway some Taliban leaders, since Mufti Abdul Latif Hakimi, Mullah Omar’s spokesperson, has already denounced hum and has said that “the only people who can speak on behalf of the Taliban are those assigned by Mullah Omar.”

THE BLAME GAME: A troubling report on one of Afghanistan’s most troubled provinces. Brian Ulrich has some additional news.

AV GETS WONK'D: Check out Wonkette:

Andrew Card and wife getting into a Georgetown restaurant on 36th and O [Feb 20] evening. Just happened to pass by after a screening of the movie "Osama" by the Afghan Embassy at Georgetown U.
Hmm... who might that have been? Heh.

AHMED’S HONESTY: As opposed to others, I actually appreciate Ahmed Chalabi’s frankness and straightforwardness. Chalabi and the INC were witty enough to dupe the folks over the Pentagon, especially those obsessed about Iraq over at the Pentagon. Amongst those duped, the most prominent is Paul Wolfowitz, who’s unusual fascination with Saddam Hussein has left me somehow clueless.

Now, my question is: has Wolfowitz realized that his trust in Chalabi and the INC was mistaken or is he that ideological?

Monday, February 23, 2004

IT’S ALL IN THE FAMILY? Aren’t you wondering who the authors are of the new interim constitution being considered by the Iraqi Governing Council? Faisal Istrabadi and Salem Chalabi. In case you were wondering…

Friday, February 20, 2004

MUST-READS: If you have some time to kill and if you trust my jugdement, than you should some solid pieces that have appeared in the Washington Post. Yes, that's right. Pamela Constable has been ordered back to Afghanistan! (She was moved to Baghdad in early January.)

Her first story was on the battle between the out-of-touch mullahs and Karzai's administration over whether performances of female singers should air on TV. Her second story was on a 14-year old boy (although he looks much older) who spent a year at Guantanamo and is now back with his faimly. Sure, he'll hate America for the rest of his life, but at least he's back with his family. Her third story, reduced to the Style section (Style?), is on everyday life in the southern province of Helmand. Mostly Taliban-free, but "far from prosperity."

She's currently looking for another teenage boy who spent time in Guantanamo and was recentely released.

SPOTTED! Spotted White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and wife getting into a Georgetown restaurant on 36th and O. I was just passing by after seeing a screening of the movie "Osama" organized by the nice people of the Afghan embassy over at Georgetown University.

UPDATE: An AP wire piece on the screening is up.

SPOTTED WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF Andy Card and wife getting into a restaurant on 36th and O in Georgetown. I guess Bush does go to bed early.

Also attented an screening of the movie "Osama" at Georgetown University organized by the Afghan embassy. The crowd was mostly Afghan (embassy staff plus the good folks from the Voice of America) except for some State Department people. A quick note: if you don't speak Farsi, the most comical moments will be missed. For the rest, I'm not sure if it's Golden Globe-worthy although Powell was right in saying that the movie "[will] sear your soul" as Powell said. The movie opened today in D.C.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

DISPERSING FAST! The movie “Osama” is a tide that's sweeping the nation’s capital:

The buzz started when first lady Laura Bush screened it at the White House on Jan. 28 and blurbed it for this column as a "disturbing" must-see for anyone interested in Afghan women's rights. Then her husband watched the Golden Globe-winning movie, about a little girl's survival under Taliban rule. He promptly advised Cabinet members to see it. The studio sent cassettes to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell liked it so much that the State Department is working with MGM/UA to get the movie to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"This movie will sear your soul," Powell said in a blurb, er, statement yesterday. "It will show you where evil lives and how it dominates human life. It will make you hurt. But in the end it will teach you why President Bush is right about waging the war on terrorists until there are no more of them."

Hillary Clinton sponsored a screening last week with fellow Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Maybe their blurbs will get it reconsidered for an Oscar.
It’s spreading faster than sars!

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

INEPTITUDE AND INCOMPETENCE AT THE NYT: Today’s front-page story, written by Leslie Wayne, on the magical way Arab-Americans have raised money for Bush is noteworthy for two reasons. The first point is fairly obvious. How is it possible that Bush is receiving significantly more money from Arabs when his support among that group has been waning ever since September 11? Wayne’s article doesn’t make any conclusion but it’s pretty obvious that the war in Iraq is the issue that has convinced many Arabs
.
The second striking point of the article is the headline: “Arabs in U.S. Raising Money to Back Bush”. Wayne uses several examples of Arabs raising money. The first:

The fund-raisers are people like Mori Hosseini, the Iranian-born chief executive of ICI Homes, a home builder in Daytona Beach, Fla. Mr. Hosseini is a Ranger, gaining the top designation after raising $200,000 from his family and acquaintances.
And the second one:
Fred Pezeshkan counts himself among the Republican hard core. For the past 25 years, Mr. Pezeshkan has lived in Naples, Fla., where he is president of the Krate Construction Company. He is also a first-time Ranger, having raised $200,000 for Mr. Bush. In previous years, except for voting Republican, the Iranian-born Mr. Pezeshkan was not politically active.
Anything stand out? Maybe it’s the fact that both Mr. Hosseini and Mr. Pezeshkan are Iranians. Yet the headline is clear: “Arabs in U.S. Raising Money to Back Bush”. (In addition, the first name “Fred” makes clear that Mr. Pezeshkan is either a very integrated Iranian or isn’t a first generation-immigrant.) This is another case where all stereotypes (Middle-Eastern-origin, Muslim religion, Arabic language) are represented by one term: Arabs. Iranians are not Arabs, they are Persians. They don’t speak Arabic, they speak Farsi. It would be akin to calling Turks European, when they’re clearly.. Turkish.

The Times surely isn't the only first and last to commit this sin, but for it's own sake I hope Mr. Okrent reads my e-mail.

UPDATE: Jack Shafer beats me by 3 hours.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

EID MUBARAK: A bit late, but it still counts.

FOLLOWING THE VIRGINIA PRIMARY: Just came back from a John Edwards rally at George Mason University in Fairfax. There was a huge crowd and to put it simply, it was an thrilling experience. He truly is an eloquent and an amazing public speaker. He's passionate, gritty and has a sense of humor. He began by saying: "Did you know the economy is just fine? And did you know that a White House representative told us - this is a news bulletin - that outsourcing jobs is a good thing for America? What planet do they live on?" It was followed by laugther and loud applause.

I'm certainly happy that I managed to convince an aunt and two of my cousins to vote for him (Afghan politics and all) tomorrow. Again, all the polls I have seen in the past few days showed Kerry leading very solidly.

Will Virginia Governor Mark Warner be John Kerry's running mate? Kerry and Warner were kickin' it on Sunday when they watched Meet the Press together and they've been friends for a while now. But than again, it's only one of the numerous rumors heard in the past two days (but if I'm right, I deserve to be credited!). Oh, and Kerry is having his primary night party at... George Mason University. I hope I'll make it there.

FOLLOWING THE VIRGINIA PRIMARY…: A poll done, from last Monday, by local ABC affiliate WJLA shows Kerry leading with 32%, followed by both Clark and Edwards trailing with 17%; Dean runs at 14%. So is Kerry the front-runner in Virginia too? Perhaps. It’s only one poll and it’s from before the 7 primaries were held on February 3rd. Both Clark and Edwards see a Virginia win as crucial to keeping their campaigns alive. But if Kerry wins Virginia (too), he’s essentially got the nomination on lock.

Virginia gives away 82 delegates and has a Democratic governor. Northern Virginia is known for its D.C. suburbanites, a roaring high-tech sector, defense contractors galore and top-flight universities. It’s highly educated and generally liberal. The rest of Virginia consist of a substantial African American population and is essentially rural and conservative.
I saw Dean campaigning in one of 2003’s hot summer days in Northern Virginia’s Falls Church, but apparently he’s not competing here and hasn’t any scheduled appearances. Clark spent about half a million dollars in Northern Virginia’s notoriously pricey TV-market; his ads aren’t running anymore because of money problems. Kerry is now running very few and targeted ads. But than again, that’s in Northern Virginia. I don’t know about the things going on south from here.

I’m still sticking to my original prediction but now without adding that Kerry is definitely competing. Virginia and Tennessee may be do or die for Clark and Edwards.

UPDATE: Here’s what Terry Neal wrote on Washingtonpost.com:

This is big. Big state. Big implications. And if Edwards wins, as he's predicting he will do, it could give him big momentum. Or at least keep him in the game. Losing the state just north of his home state could prove devastating. So Edwards is going all out, running ads and campaigning hard here. A Kerry win here could nullify Edwards's claim to be the candidate most appealing to southerners. The race is thought to be between these two candidates. Clark's military background could be appealing to many voters here, and he has advertised heavily as well. But political analysts are not sensing much vitality in his campaign.
Last Thursday’s Post story on the Virginia primary said that both Clark and Edwards would be “put[ting] up television advertising in multiple media markets.” Edwards has planned to be “in Virginia until the primary.”

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

SPENDING CUTTING SPREE: A 7% cut in environmental spending, housing vouchers cut by $1.6 billion, a $316 million cut in job training programs (although the $250 million to community colleges promised in the State of the Union stays) and ending benefits for workers affected by NAFTA-policies. But what about that 10% increase for homeland security? The first responders—police and firefighters—are cut by 32% and 33% respectively. The worst part? It won’t even put a dent in the deficit.

No wonder Bush is running on 9/11. Domestically, the only constituency he has are the rich.

CHRIS AND THE JEWS: Allow me to quote from Christopher Hitchens' last Vanity Fair piece regarding Mel Gibson's movie. Sit tight.

If Christian orthodoxy is valid, then Judaism is futile: A pointless hanging-about for the arrival of the Messiah, who has already shown up. "Why not just admit this, instead of whining with Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League about negative stereotypes and all the rest of the self-pitying babble. If the Jewish leadership had any guts, it would turn on those who taunt it with 'Christ-killing' and say, 'Yeah, all right, since you keep mentioning it, we did you a favor. Judas, too. Where would your faith be without us?'
Sorry to say, that advice would be rather unappealing to Jews I suppose.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

A TRAGEDY: 244 Muslim pilgrims die during a stampede at a stone-throwing ritual. It's a tragedy, pure and simple. Yes, it has always been a dangerous tradition. Of the billion Muslims in the world, less than 2 million come to make the hajj. The Saudis have set quotas to limit the amount of visitors to prevent these kinds of things. And no, we don't particularly prefer the Saudis as our hosts especially if they don't take responsibility.

You may be uninformed, or not knowledgeable. But Andrew Sullivan and James Taranto are neither. After reading their respective responses, the suggestion that they're just dim-witted might not sound crazy. In fact, it may sound like a mild reply in response to this erroneous and seditious kind of thinking.

Is it culturally insensitive to ask whether there isn't something profoundly awry about a religion that sends so many to their deaths as part of a religious duty?
Does this question merit a response? Neh.

Monday, February 02, 2004

A TALE OF AN DISHONEST BRIT: We hereby resume our blog-stalking of Christopher Hitchens. From his latest piece in Slate:

The case for a thorough purge of the CIA would have been easier to make if the antiwar liberals had not gone on parroting the Langley line, which was to underestimate on some things and to overstate on others. The booby prize here goes (again) to Maureen Dowd, who in her column on David Kay on Jan. 29 said that the agency was "probably relying too much on the Arabian Nights tales of Ahmad Chalabi, eager to spread the word of Saddam's imaginary nuclear-tipped weapons juggernaut because it suited his own ambitions—and that of his Pentagon pals." As everyone with the slightest knowledge is well aware, the CIA was smearing and sabotaging Chalabi until the week of the fall of Baghdad and continues to do so. It remains, within the institutions of the U.S. government, the most devout opponent of regime change with the arguable exception of the Department of State.
Glenn Kessler and Walter Pincus in yesterday's Washington Post:
The NIE, according to declassified portions made public last year, firmly stated that "Baghdad's UAV could threaten Iraq's neighbors, U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf and if brought close to, or into, the United States, the U.S. homeland."

But the NIE included a dissent to this conclusion that, after the war, would be considered correct: The Air Force intelligence arm, the expert on UAVs in the U.S. government, strongly argued that the primary role of these aircraft was reconnaissance, "although CBW delivery is an inherent capability." Air Force officials have said this last phrase was added during negotiations in crafting the NIE, though they viewed the possibility as highly unlikely because the drones would be inefficient delivery vehicles.

Powell and his team stuck with the consensus position of the other intelligence agencies [therefore the CIA] -- some of which were relying on information from Iraqi expatriates and defectors to bolster their case on the drones -- because a decision had been made that his speech should reflect the best judgment of the intelligence community.
Christopher Hitchens: still useless, still dishonest and still a hack.

ALOOF YOU SAY? John Kerry is described as "aloof" not once, but twice in one article--and by two different people!From Howard Kurtz's (rather boring) piece in the Post's Style section:

Former Boston Globe columnist David Nyhan, who has known Kerry for 30 years, disagrees. "The knock on Kerry as aloof and distant has been fostered by the conservative media here," he says.
Nyhan himself isn't callling him aloof himself but the use of the word just amazes me. Later on:
Everyone gets their turn in the barrel in this business if they're successful," says Myers, who worked for Bill Clinton when he was hammered 12 years ago over Gennifer Flowers, the draft and Whitewater. The press, she says, will be digging through Kerry's record and complaints "that he doesn't connect with people, that he's aloof, that he's arrogant. It's part of the phenomenon of build-'em-up, tear-'em-down. It's not fair. Is what happened to Howard Dean fair? No."
I'm personally not that excited about a Kerry-candidacy and yes, he may be arrogant or aloof. But it's all about public perspective.

The prospect of a Kerry or Dean candidacy may not have filled me with joy, but the fact that we've got P. Diddy on our side has! According to U.S. News' whispers section, Diddy met with homeboy Terry McAuliffe and agreed to participate in campaigns aimed at the hip-hop youth.

NOTE TO ED GILLESPIE: Calling Kerry more liberal than Ted Kenney or labeling him a "Massachusets liberal" won't do. I know you can do better than that. How about the fact that his wife isn't born American? Or the fact that he's taller than Bush! (Ha!)

MORE ALOOFNESS: Slate's Kevin Arnovitz was nice enough to let his 80-year old grandfather know that there are candidates besides Joementum Lieberman. In his conclusion, we find this description:
Leon has been leaning Edwards since Iowa. He likes the way the local boy articulates and handles himself, finds him alive where Clark seems sleepy and Kerry, on occasion, aloof. That hasn't changed. Leon recognizes the lousy format and insists that Edwards made lemonade out of lemons.

PROMISE: More people being quoted as calling Kerry "aloof." (Plus: a definition of "aloof" for the less informed.)

Sunday, February 01, 2004

FOLLOWING THE VIRGINIA PRIMARY: An aging Mason-Dixon poll found in the Hampton Roads Daily Press. Dean with 21%, Lieberman with 13%, Clark with 11% and the undecideds at 28%.

Interesting note: Clark has a house Fairfax County (my country). He's likely to live in McLean.

FOLLOWING THE VIRGINIA PRIMARY: As you may or may not know, the state of Virgina will host the Democratic primary on February 10th. Some interesting facts: Wes Clark has 5 offices with 30+ staffers here; John Kerry very recently opened an office in Falls Church, where Dean has had his office for almost a year. Edwards' people are located in Alexandria, while Lieberman has people in Arlington.

The only one who has commercials running on television has been Clark (and LaRouche, but he doesn't count). No polls yet, but I'm sensing a three-way race between Dean (early campaigning), Clark (DC-Democrats living in VA) and Kerry (momentum). I predict a Clark win here, with Dean coming in second. Hoping for an Edwards insurgency.