January 31, 2004

Fallen Star


This cartoon was created the day of the Columbia Shuttle disaster. It appeared on Little Green Footballs and other Web sites.

Last year, Capitalism Magazine posted two op-eds about Columbia. The Spirit of the Space Shuttle Columbia: The Essence of the American Soul by Robert Garmong.

The ground of east Texas trembled with the horror overhead. The shock waves spread as the worst fears were confirmed: space shuttle Columbia had turned from a high-precision machine into a lifeless meteor, its crew lost. Americans were hit with a degree of shock not equaled since September 11. [...] Only something that struck uniquely close to the American soul could have caused the degree of shock and horror with which we have responded to the Columbia disaster.

And Hail Columbia by Nicholas Provenzo.

Those of us who remember the loss of the Challenger and the Apollo fire before then, are reminded that great leaps often entail great risks. Yet we should be loath to say that the heroes of Columbia died for space flight. They lived for it, and that included the real risk that they might die. They turned space into a new frontier; a frontier that speaks to our every potential as a species.

The New York Post recently reported: Star-Log Miracle. (Via LGF)

Disintegrating pages of a diary that an Israeli astronaut wrote during the doomed Columbia space shuttle mission were miraculously found in Texas, it was disclosed yesterday. Ilan Ramon, an Israeli air force combat pilot, recorded his thoughts about the mission, starting from takeoff, in the handwritten journal. But no one knew of its existence until a Native American scouring Texas fields for debris after the shuttle crash spotted the charred first page.

UPDATE Feb. 1: Columbia Astronauts Remembered at Space Center.

NASA workers who launched Columbia into orbit, volunteers who rummaged the fields for the shuttle's remains, everyday supporters of the space program, even hardcore football fans are uniting on this first anniversary of the catastrophe — to mourn and to remember.

Posted by Forkum at 07:59 AM

January 30, 2004

Campaign Trailing


Fox News reported yesterday: Dean Machine Tries to Work Out Kinks.

Howard Dean needs to win at least one primary in the next two weeks to keep from becoming political toast, political experts said Thursday. The former Vermont governor is trying to get his floundering campaign back on track after twin losses in Iowa and New Hampshire -- races he was expected to win handily only a few weeks ago. [...]

Dean named longtime Al Gore associate Roy Neel as his new campaign CEO on Wednesday and veteran campaign manager Joe Trippi resigned.

Capitalism Magazine features a good Larry Elder op-ed (along with a collection of our Dean cartoons): When Did The Howard Dean Meltdown Really Begin?

Only a little over one month ago, national polls gave Dean a commanding 20 percentage-point lead over his closest Democratic rival, yet he staggered to a third-place finish in Iowa. Talk about a meltdown. If Dean continues to under-perform, his campaign ends, and the blame game begins. Expect his supporters to say the overreaction of the media and the pundits to Dean's, uh, rallying cry, brought him down.

Really? Maybe it began when Dean, on National Public Radio, mentioned a "theory" that President George W. Bush possessed prior knowledge of 9/11, yet took no steps to halt it. Two days later, he said that no, he didn't believe the theory. And a couple of days later, he called the theory "crazy."

Or maybe the meltdown began when Dean called himself an anti-war candidate, yet supported a resolution called Biden-Lugar, which authorized military action in Iraq without the need for the president to seek another resolution. Or maybe...

Posted by Forkum at 05:49 AM

January 29, 2004

The Oligarchs


CNN reported Monday: Powell presses Putin on democracy.

In a front-page article published Monday in the major Russian daily Izvestia, Powell said Russian politics were not sufficiently subject to the rule of law and made clear there were limits to the U.S.-Russian relationship without shared values. [...]

"Russia's democratic system seems not yet to have found the essential balance among the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government," Powell added. "Political power is not yet fully tethered to law."

Though he did not mention him by name, Powell's comments may have been an allusion to the October arrest of Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose prosecution is widely seen as politically motivated.

The cartoon above is for the cover of the January issue of The Intellectual Activist. Robert W. Tracinski writes in the cover story:

What makes [the] prosecution [of Khodorkovsky as a corrupt businessman] arbitrary is the fact that every successful businessman in the early 1990s was required to become involved in corrupt dealings in order to operate in a corrupt economy. Thus, if prosecutors look closely enough, they can find charges to file against every major figure in the Russian economy. When widespread corruption is tolerated and even required by the policies of the government, prosecutors have unlimited latitude to single out political opponents for special punishment. Indeed, if the purpose of Russian prosecutors was only to clean up corruption, Khodorkovsky was precisely the wrong target. In recent years, he has led the way in bringing the accounting practices of Russian companies up to Western standards by opening up his company's books and ownership structure. [...]

The slogan used to justify these attacks is the smear that describes Russian businessmen as "oligarchs" -- a smear that is used, not to condemn the corrupting influence of a mixed economy, but to justify the growing power of Russia's real oligarchs: the siloviki. The siloviki -- a term derived from the Russian word for "power" -- is the unofficial name for the clique of former KGB men gathered around Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB officer.

Posted by Forkum at 12:24 AM

January 28, 2004

Looking South


ABC News reported Monday: Forget the South?.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is discounting notions that any Democratic candidate would have to appeal to Southern voters in order to win the presidency, calling such thinking a "mistake" during a speech at Dartmouth College. [...]

"Everybody always makes the mistake of looking South," Kerry said, in response to a question about winning the region. "Al Gore proved he could have been president of the United States without winning one Southern state, including his own."

As Glenn Reynolds noted: "Um, no. Al Gore proved that he couldn't win the United States without carrying one Southern state, including his own."

The ABC News article concludes with a brief history of Democratic candidates and Southern states:

Whether or not Democrats should cede the South for the November 2004 election and focus resources elsewhere has been fiercely debated privately in many Democratic circles. History is not on the side of those who would argue in favor of doing so.

The last three Democratic presidents -- Bill Clinton from Arkansas, Jimmy Carter from Georgia, and Lyndon Johnson from Texas -- were from the South. The last four Democratic presidential nominees to not win one Southern state -- Sen. George McGovern in 1972; former Vice President Walter Mondale in 1984; Gov. Mike Dukakis in 1988; and Gore in 2000 -- lost. Former Vice President Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and Carter in 1980 were able to win one Southern state apiece, though in the end they lost to Republicans nationwide. Of the victorious Democrats, Carter won 10 Southern states in 1976, and Clinton won four in both 1992 and 1996.

Posted by Forkum at 12:00 AM

January 27, 2004

What Goes Around...


FoxNews reported yesterday: Federal Judge Dismisses Slave Reparations Case.

A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought by descendants of slaves against corporations they say profited from slavery, saying the plaintiffs had established no clear link to the companies they targeted.

This cartoon is from March 2002 and is in our book, Black & White World.

Posted by Forkum at 07:28 AM

January 26, 2004

Atomic Touch, Part II


FoxNews reported back in December: Food Aid Program Sending U.S. Stocks to North Korea.

The donation of 60,000 tons brings the total of U.S. contributions for the year to 100,000. The Bush administration has said it keeps consideration of North Korea's humanitarian needs separate from differences with the reclusive regime on its weapons programs. A second round of arms negotiations has been postponed with no date set.

Capitalism Magazine recently posted this comment by Alexander Marriott:

This is a clear example of supporting our enemies and keeping them alive, even a purported member of the "Axis of Evil" such as North Korea. We'll never win against any of these countries if we keep them alive with 100,000 metric tons of food. They wanted Communism, let their workers paradise produce their own food.

In April 2003, we posted the cartoon below (Atomic Touch). An article at the time noted: "North Korea continued to try to ratchet up the pressure and is believed to want economic aid in exchange for concessions." Unfortunately for us, such black mail is allowed to work. For it is the hostile dictatorship that ultimately benefits from such aid, not the millions being used as political pawns and slowly starved to death.


Posted by Forkum at 07:40 AM

January 24, 2004

Oh Captain, My Captain


FoxNews reported yesterday: Captain Kangaroo Dies at 76

John Cox writes: "Bob 'Captain Kangaroo' Keeshan (1927-2004) was my first TV hero. He created a place of unlimited creativity and laughter that still inspires me. Along with Mr. Green Jeans, the Town Clown, Grandfather Clock and Tom Terrific, I'll always cherish the warmth he exuded in those precious 30-minute visits to my childhood.

"I dearly hope that the Captain is in a place surrounded by children's laughter and the heart-felt love he generously bestowed on his adoring, baby-boomer audience."

Posted by Forkum at 08:21 PM

January 23, 2004

White House Alert


Dean's Iowa Shriek (Via Little Green Footballs)

UPDATE: Mark Steyn on : How the Hulk exploded in Iowa. (Via Inoperable Terran)

But on he roared, jabbing his fingers and screwing up his face: ‘AND THEN WE’RE GOING TO WASHINGTON, DC!!!!! TO TAKE BACK THE WHITE HOUSE!!!!!!’ And then he made a monster-type noise — ‘EEEAAARRGHRRR!!!!!!!’ — such as the Hulk makes when he picks up a tank, rips off its turret, and tosses what’s left over a distant mountain range. But the berserker howl was pitched somewhere in Charlotte Church’s upper register and it was hard not to notice that he hadn’t exploded into a big green monster. If anything, he seemed to be shrinking.

Posted by Forkum at 12:00 AM

January 22, 2004

Infant Terrible


We have previously commented on the grave mistake of allowing Islamic law into the new Afghanistan Constitution (see Taliban Lite and Faith in Politics).

An overly optimistic CNN report from yesterday further indicated the problem:

A low point of the [constitutional] convention occurred when the chairman of the convention, Sibghatullah Mujaddedi -- who is considered a moderate -- reportedly told women delegates, "Don't try to put yourself on a level with men. Even God has not given you equal rights, because under his decision two women are counted as equal to one man." (Mujaddedi was referring to a contested provision of Islamic law that says that the testimony of two women is equivalent to that of one man in some cases.)

And despite President Bush's recent praise of the new Constitution for "providing fundamental rights to women," let's not forget this BBC report. Just days after the adoption of the new Constitution, the Afghanistan Supreme Court reacted to a woman singing on TV:

"We are opposed to women singing and dancing as a whole," Judge Manawi told Reuters. "This is totally against the decisions of the Supreme Court and it has to be stopped."

Apparently Lady Liberty is not welcome in the new Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Posted by Forkum at 07:30 AM

January 21, 2004

Mission Priorities


FoxNews reported yesterday: Analysts Debate Costs of Bush Space Vision.

Now, I love the idea of space exploration as much as the next nerd. But there are at least two problems with President Bush's proposal to put men on Mars. The most important is, as the cartoon suggests, that the government is already charged with a crucial mission: the War on Terrorism. Just think how far $1 billion would go toward equipment and weapons that make our soldiers safer and more effective. This is not just a matter of quibbling over who should get government largess. It's a matter of what is appropriate for the government to do, and protecting us from our enemies should be its only priority -- particularly after 9/11.

The second problem with Bush's plan is that it is a basically socialism for space companies. A mission to Mars should be a private venture. If there are enough investors for such an idea, then it will not need government handouts. Certainly a private initiative would be more efficient than a government one. For an examination of how a private, capitalistic Mars venture might work, see Ron Pisaturo's op-ed Mars: Who Should Own It.

It has often been said, even by vocal proponents of free enterprise who claim to hate government subsidies, that while private citizens are good at settling or homesteading, the government is good at exploring. They argue that we have always needed the government to do the exploring, to pave the way for the private settlers. My reply is: Recognize private property for exploring, and you will see that private citizens make better explorers than do government employees. [...]

As a capitalist and a lover of technology, I judge the Nasa space program and a Nasa mission to Mars to be morally a far better government expenditure than welfare-state programs such as Medicare, public housing projects, etc. At least NASA is creating something of value that benefits all Americans, instead of just taking money from producers and giving it away to non-producers. And I idolize American astronauts and NASA engineers for their heroic achievements. But we will never know what these same heroic achievers would have accomplished if NASA had been a private company with a chance to own the moon -- and if all the money the government spent on NASA had remained in the hands of private citizens and had been invested in other equally heroic ventures that we will never know about; we will never know about these other ventures because they were not allowed to happen -- because the money needed to finance them was taken from their rightful owners.

Posted by Forkum at 07:55 AM

January 20, 2004

And They're Off


FoxNews reports: Kerry Wins Iowa, Edwards Takes Second.

Posted by Forkum at 12:00 AM

January 19, 2004

Faith in Politics


The Washington Post reports: Women in Iraq Decry Decision To Curb Rights: Council Backs Islamic Law on Families. (Via LGF)

For the past four decades, Iraqi women have enjoyed some of the most modern legal protections in the Muslim world, under a civil code that prohibits marriage below the age of 18, arbitrary divorce and male favoritism in child custody and property inheritance disputes. Saddam Hussein's dictatorship did not touch those rights. But the U.S.-backed Iraqi Governing Council has voted to wipe them out, ordering in late December that family laws shall be "canceled" and such issues placed under the jurisdiction of strict Islamic legal doctrine known as sharia. [...]

The order, narrowly approved by the 25-member council in a closed-door session Dec. 29, was reportedly sponsored by conservative Shiite members. The order is now being opposed by several liberal members as well as by senior women in the Iraqi government.

The council's decisions must be approved by L. Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, and aides said unofficially that his imprimatur for this change was unlikely. But experts here said that once U.S. officials turn over political power to Iraqis at the end of June, conservative forces could press ahead with their agenda to make sharia the supreme law.

Hopefully this Islamist move by the council will be struck down by the U.S. But even if it is, there's still reason for concern considering that the new Afghanistan Constitution was allowed to be based on "sacred Islam."

Commenting on Afghanistan but with no less applicability to Iraq, David Holcberg of The Ayn Rand Institute was recently quoted at Capitalism Magazine:

The United States should demand that the new Afghan constitution include an explicit separation of state and religion. It makes no sense to have gone to war to overthrow one tyrannical Islamic theocracy just to replace it with another one. But to do that would require the current administration to identify Islamic fundamentalism as our ideological enemy and to recognize that the separation of state and religion is a crucial requirement of freedom not only in Afghanistan, but also here in America.

This is not very likely with President Bush. Just this weekend he spoke approvingly of the Afghan constitution in his radio address, and last week he renewed his push for faith-based initiatives, federal programs that would subsidize religious charities with taxpayer money.

"My attitude is, the government should not fear faith-based programs -- we ought to welcome faith-based programs and we ought to fund faith-based programs. Faith-based programs are only effective because they do practice faith. It's important for our government to understand that," [Bush] said.

The point here is not that Bush will some day force American women to wear burqas. But if he can't see the importance of separating religion and state in America, why should we believe he can see it in Iraq and Afghanistan?

(For more on this topic, see Robert W. Tracinski's America: The Secular Republic and Dare Balogun's A Stable Of Arabian Nightmares.)

Posted by Forkum at 07:26 AM

January 16, 2004

Iranian 'Democracy'


This Guardian article is typical of the major media's take on this issue: Reformists scent victory in Iranian parliament row.

Reformists in Iran's parliament said yesterday that they were encouraged by "positive" signs from the theocracy's supreme leader [Ali Khamenei], but would continue their daily sit-ins in the parliament building until a sweeping ban on moderate electoral candidates was lifted. [...]

Adopting a more subdued tone after several days of angry speeches, the [reformist Members of Parliament] are waiting to see how the conservative Guardian Council carries out the supreme leader's orders.

But is it really some kind of epic battle of democracy between moderate "reformists" and extremist "conservatives"? Amir Taheri, writing in the National Post, says that it isn't: Iran: A "Sort" of Democracy.

[W]hat are the key points of difference between the two sides? The short answer is: not much.

For purposes of simplification, the Western media refer to the two sides in Iran as "reformists," supposedly led by President Mohammad Khatami, and "conservatives" whose leader is identified as another mullah, Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Republic's "Supreme Guide."

The terms "reformist" and "conservative," however, mean little, if anything, in the current context of Iranian politics.

The supposedly "reformist" bloc has controlled the presidency for the past six years and the parliament for the past four years. And yet, it has implemented absolutely no reforms of any significance. Nor has it even proposed such reform.

For its part the "conservative" faction bases its ideology not on the need to conserve anything, but on the necessity of exporting the Khomeinist revolution first to other Muslim countries, and then to the entire world. [...]

What is happening in Iran today is a power struggle between two factions within the same Khomeinist establishment.

The so-called "reformist" faction is not objecting to the principle of vetoing candidacies by the "guardian angels" [i.e., the Council of the Guardians of the Constitution, which is a 12-man, mullah-dominated organ appointed by the "Supreme Guide" and answerable to him.] It is objecting to the fact that its own members are vetoed.

A Wall Street Journal editorial identified Iran's Real Reformers.

Beyond this scrum between competing factions, it's worth noting that the ground under the feet of Iran's ruling mullahs appears increasingly unstable. In June they faced student demonstrations demanding reforms to separate mosque and state, and in November the world discovered the mullahs had been lying about their nuclear program for 18 years. Last month the Bam earthquake took thousands of lives, and left the country's backwardness and the slowness of relief exposed for all to see.

Iran's under-30-year-olds -- who comprise a majority of the population -- have been leading the calls for a more liberal Muslim society. These are Iran's real reformers. But there is as yet no sign that their voices are being heard.

If we want to protect ourselves from future 9/11s, the U.S. should at least help the dissidents to render harmless the world's worst sponsor of terrorism.

(Thanks to 'Free Iran' News for the heads-up on both articles. Be sure to check out their site and their merchandise.)

Posted by Forkum at 07:42 AM

January 15, 2004

Motherly Hate


FoxNews reported yesterday: Homicide Bomber-Mom Kills Four at Gaza Border.

A Palestinian homicide bomber -- and mother of two -- blew herself up Wednesday at the main crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, killing four people and injuring seven, emergency officials said.

Authorities believe this was the first mother to act as a homicide or suicide bomber. She was identified as Hamas member Reem Al-Reyashi, 22, of Gaza. Family members said she had a 3-year-old boy and 1-year-old girl. [...]

The Islamic militant group Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, issued a joint claim of responsibility, according to Lebanon's Al-Manar satellite television station.

The two groups said they worked together to carry out this attack.

Hamas said it sent a woman for the first time because of growing Israeli security "obstacles" facing its male bombers, Reuters reported. Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin said the use of a female bomber was unique, but added that holy war "is an obligation of all Muslims, men and women." [Emphasis added]

UPDATE: I forgot to pull these two quotes from the story above:

Smiling at times in a videotape that showed her cradling a rifle, Al-Reyashi said she had dreamed since she was 13 of "becoming a martyr" and dying for her people.

"It was always my wish to turn my body into deadly shrapnel against the Zionists and to knock on the doors of heaven with the skulls of Zionists," said Reyashi, wearing combat fatigues with a Hamas sash across her chest.

This quote and the woman's actions illustrate the ultimate ends of altruism. As Ayn Rand explained in Philosophy: Who Needs it:

What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice -- which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction -- which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of good.

Then there's this quote from the Palestinian Authority leadership:

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia declined to condemn the bombing, saying continued Israeli attacks and restrictions on the Palestinians are leading "to more escalation on both sides."

Qureia, Arafat and their ilk need the self-sacrifice of Palestinians to achieve their political ends. That's why they do not condemn such terrorism. That's why they systematically preach self-sacrifice to children, so that as 13-year-olds they dream of becoming human shrapnel for the Palestinian people. In For The New Intellectual, Ayn Rand wrote:

It stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there's someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master.

Posted by Forkum at 07:35 AM

January 14, 2004

T-Shirt: Dean RetrAction Figure


Here's our latest t-shirt design, which is available [no longer available -- see update below] for purchase at ThoseShirts.com. The idea was inspired last week by news that Howard Dean was having to explain yet another controversial statement (Dean: I Didn't Understand the Iowa Caucuses). Dean has put his foot in his mouth on topics ranging from confederate-flagged pickups to 9/11 conspiracy theories involving Bush (Dean vs. Dean by Bob Chandra collects a long list of contradictory Dean quotes). Since President Bush has his own action figure, we decided Governor Dean deserved one, too. Well, at least a t-shirt anyway.

UPDATE Jan. 22: Due to an insufficient number of orders, this t-shirt has been removed from our production list. We're sorry for any inconvenience to those who did place orders (if you haven't already, you'll be getting a full refund).

Posted by Forkum at 12:08 AM

January 13, 2004

PLO ‘Democracy’


Reuters reported on Saturday: Palestinians Insist on Right to Declare State. (Via LGF)

"The Palestinian leadership, in line with international legitimacy and signed agreements...has the right to declare an independent democratic Palestine on all the territories that were occupied (by Israel) since 1967," said a statement released after a Friday meeting [of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization].

This cartoon is from May 2002 and is in our book, Black & White World. We post it as a reminder of what kind of "democratic" state the PLO aims to establish.

Posted by Forkum at 07:45 AM

January 12, 2004

Minority Retort

FoxNews reports: Dems Debate Minority Issues as Race Tightens.

"You keep talking about race," the former street activist [Al Sharpton] chided Dean when he had a turn to ask a question. He said that not one "black or brown held a senior position, not one...It seems as though you've discovered blacks and browns in this campaign," he said.

Dean bristled at that and said it was untrue. He said he had had "senior members" of his staff who were minorities, but Sharpton cut him off and said he was asking about his Cabinet, which has fewer members.

"No, we did not," conceded Dean, whose state has a population that is nearly 98 percent white.

Posted by Forkum at 07:33 AM

January 09, 2004

Taliban Lite


The New York Times reported this week: Afghan Council Gives Approval to Constitution. (Via Allah Pundit)

In a carefully balanced wording, the country will be renamed the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, combining democracy and religion. There is to be a system of civil law, but no law will be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of Islam.

This is a "balance" that can only exist on paper. There are plenty of Western ideas in the new Constitution -- e.g., recognition of some property rights, prohibitions on torture, equal rights for men and women, etc. -- but most of them are qualified in some way, often with the phrase "in accordance to provisions of law." Sounds like the "rule of law," but what does the document hold as the foundation of this law? A Final Draft of the Constitution (pdf) can be found here (via Daniel Wisehart of HBL), and it contains the following explanation :

Article Two: The religion of Afghanistan is the sacred religion of Islam. Followers of other religions are free to perform their religious rites within the limits of the provisions of law.

Article Three: In Afghanistan, no law can be contrary to the sacred religion of Islam and the values of this Constitution.

It's not difficult to guess which of the two -- Islam or the Constitution -- will eventually be favored in legal conflicts, for Islam is given the most moral significance by its very inclusion within the Constitution.

"Freedom of expression is inviolable," reads the Constitution, so long as citizens do so "in accordance with the law," which by implication means in accordance with "the sacred religion of Islam." Unlike the U.S. Constitution, there's no absolute protection of free speech based on individual liberty.

"Liberty is the natural right of human beings," reads the Afghanistan Constitution -- but this is immediately followed by a qualification: "This right has no limits unless affecting the right of others or public interests, which are regulated by law." If the individual is held subordinate to the "public interests" of the Islamic state, then there is no reason to expect that criticisms of the Islamic state will be tolerated. If the application of the law ultimately becomes Islamist clerics decreeing what is in the state's "public interests" or in the interests of "sacred Islam," then Afghanistan will again be under the "rule of men" not the "rule of law."

There are many socialist aspects -- from "free" medical care to "free" schooling with a state-dictated religious curriculum to appeals to the U.N. -- which are bad enough for a nation starting from scratch. But perhaps the worst aspect is the failure to create a politically secular nation. They didn't even shy away from using a name identical to the world's worst Islamic theocracy: Iran.

Yesterday we quoted an Iranian dissident who expressed a sentiment that should serve as a warning to Afghans: "I'm looking for [a] free Iran, without religion. People, they can have religion as a private thing. But in a political way, we are looking for a free country."

The new Afghanistan Constitution represents at least a temporary improvement over the tyrannical rule of the Taliban, but it will not established a truly free country, only the veneer of a free country. By enshrining Islam as a political force, the new Constitution has laid the groundwork for another Taliban.

Whose fault is this? Certainly Afghans should have learned from the negative examples of the Taliban and Iran. But just as certainly, President Bush and his administration -- as the leaders of the occupying military force -- had great influence on the issue but apparently chose not to exert it. We can only hope that we aren't forced to return one day to depose yet another Islamist regime.

UPDATE Jan. 14: Reader Simon Ward brought to our attention this BBC article that perfectly illustrates our point: Woman singer angers Afghan judges.

Afghan women singers have not been seen on state TV since 1992, when they were banned for being un-Islamic. The mujahideen government and the Taleban -- each of which controlled Kabul for part of the 1990s -- did not approve of women performing in public or appearing unveiled.

Monday's footage marked the latest liberalisation effort by the moderate administration of President Hamid Karzai.

Afghanistan's Supreme Court has often accused media in the country of violating Islamic principles.

The proliferation of Indian movies and cable television have been heavily criticised in the past. The appearance of Salma on state TV led to the first criticism of the media by the supreme court since a new constitution was adopted earlier this month. The new constitution declared Afghanistan an Islamic republic in which women enjoy equal rights to men.

The controversial part of Monday evening's broadcast consisted of one song lasting about five minutes, shown at peak time.

"We are opposed to women singing and dancing as a whole," Judge Manawi told Reuters. "This is totally against the decisions of the Supreme Court and it has to be stopped." [All emphasis added]

Posted by Forkum at 07:35 AM

January 08, 2004

Charlie Hustle


Baseball great Pete Rose recently admitted to years of lying about his baseball gambling. This big news was apparently timed to coincide with the release of Rose's new book, "My Prison Without Bars". John Cox, the baseball fan among Cox & Forkum, offers the above cartoon as a possible explanation for Rose's mea culpa. Meanwhile, FoxNews reported yesterday: Pete Rose's Former Cohorts Say He's Still Lying.

Baseball's hits king finally acknowledged that he bet on baseball while he managed the Cincinnati Reds, but insists that he never placed wagers from his office.

Not true, say two of his reputed bet runners.

"Of course Pete bet from the clubhouse," former house mate Tommy Gioiosa, a New Bedford, Mass., native, said Tuesday in a phone interview. "It would be nice if he came clean with everything, just let it rip."

SPECIAL UPDATE REGARDING IRAN: 'Free Iran' News has brought to our attention a PBS documentary that airs tonight, Jan. 8th, on Frontline: FORBIDDEN IRAN. It looks to be an excellent exposé of atrocities committed by the Iranian theocracy against dissidents. Here are excerpts from the Web site:

At a peaceful demonstration at the Iranian Embassy in London, [journalist Jane] Kokan meets a young leader of the Independent Student Movement, Iman Samizadez. "I'm looking for [a] free Iran, without religion," Samizadez tells Kokan. "People, they can have religion as a private thing. But in a political way, we are looking for a free country."

In London, Kokan uncovers photographs documenting the bloody aftermath of a raid on a student dormitory in Tehran in the summer of 2003. The raid was carried out by vigilantes armed with machetes, metal pipes, chains and butcher knives.

Kokan also learns that some 4,000 Iranian student activists were arrested after protests in Tehran and other cities in June 2003 and at least 500 remain in prison for their democratic beliefs. Amir Fakhravar, a student movement leader and hero, is among the men and women Kokan will attempt to make contact with while in Iran. Punished for writing a book promoting democracy and free speech, Fakhravar is serving an eight-year prison sentence at Qasr Prison in Tehran. In a video recorded before he went to prison last year, Fakhravar prepares his mother for his execution, which he believes is imminent. "I don't [want] you to have that sad face. I want [you] at that moment they're hanging me, to stand proudly and say, 'I'm proud of my son,'" he says. In prison, Fakhravar has suffered regular beatings and torture. [Emphasis added]

A streaming video of FORBIDDEN IRAN will be available at the Web site on Jan. 12.

We posted the cartoon below on July 10, 2003, after the planned strike against the mullahs was suppressed by government thugs.


Posted by Forkum at 07:27 AM

January 07, 2004

Leftist Math


FoxNews reported yesterday: Ad Comparing Bush to Hitler Gets Heat.

MoveOn.org is "using the memory of that genocide as a political prop," American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, referring to the Holocaust. "President Bush has shown us leadership in Iraq, and our troops have liberated a people who were oppressed by another murderous dictator … comparing the commander-in-chief of a democratic nation to the murderous tyrant Hitler is not only historically specious, it is morally outrageous," Rosen continued.

Mark Da Cunha has pics and a roundup of links at Capitalism Magazine.

In an interview with the Washington Post, George Soros in November of 2003 stated that "America, under Bush, is a danger to the world ... When I hear Bush say, 'You're either with us or against us,' it reminds me of the Germans ... My experiences under Nazi and Soviet rule have sensitized me." Far from condemning such an ad one could conclude that the premier Moveon.org sponsor -- anti-capitalist, billionaire George Soros -- advocates its message.

Posted by Forkum at 07:36 AM

January 06, 2004

Earthquake Diplomacy


Iran Van Jahan has a number of good links related to the Bam earthquake. Here are a few:

On Jan. 2, AP reported: Hardliners Criticize U.S. Aid.

"We hate the arrogance of the Americans and we are sure that they haven't come for humanitarian reasons, but for other things like spying," said Abdullah Irani, a mullah from Qum, the main center for Shiite clerics in Iran.

Two days later, Reuters reports: Iranian People Cheer U.S. Warming After Bam Quake.

Ordinary Iranians are cheering a warming of diplomatic ties between Tehran and the United States brought on by the Bam quake, and hope an end is in sight to a quarter century of isolation from a country many openly admire.

Even though conservative Tehran newspapers may rail at "earthquake diplomacy" by George W. Bush, many average Iranians on the capital's streets Sunday said they welcomed the American president's overtures that may rebuild severed ties.

"I was overjoyed when I first heard America planes were going to fly in to help Bam," said Hassan Tayebi, 51, a retired civil servant, referring to the Dec. 26 earthquake that destroyed the southeastern city. "I really like Americans. They are really kind people and I hope the aid offer leads to better relations."

Many Iranians show a more favorable attitude to the United States than their own government does.

Michael Ledeen explains this difference in reaction and what it means to America's self-defense: Aftershocks: The West must read the meter in Bam and Tehran

[A]s we are reminded every day by the wonderful dentist in Baghdad who bravely blogs away at www.healingiraq.com, in the words of Jonathan Swift, "It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into." The regime in Tehran is not reasonable, it is fanatical. It has waged war against us for a quarter century and it intends to destroy us. It claims to act in the name of all Islam, and views us as the greatest Satanic force on earth. It will not come to terms with us, because its very essence is hatred of us and of everything we represent. Knowing that the vast majority of its own people hate the regime and loves America, it murders, tortures, and oppresses them. When the mullahs appear to be acting reasonably and tell us they wish to help us fight terrorism, it is a deception, not an expression of their real desires.

Yet many of our leaders, fine men and women all, continue to believe that the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan suffice to let us return to diplomacy as usual, even as the entire Western world ties itself in knots to protect against the next assault from the terror masters. [...]

Look at the many reports on the awful degradation of Iranian society, now leading the region in suicide and teenage prostitution, its standard of living a pitiful shadow of what it was before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, its infrastructure in tatters, its armed forces distrusted by the country's leaders, its students under virtual house arrest, its newspapers and magazines silenced, its talented moviemakers and writers and scientists and artists fleeing to the West whenever they see a crack in the nation's walls. Look at the damning human-rights reports. Read the harsh condemnation of the mullahs' relentless censorship from Reporters sans Frontières," which calls Iran the world's greatest predator of free press. And listen to the cries of the Bam survivors as they ask why this had to happen, why no help arrived until long after the disaster struck, and why the mullahs preferred to see thousands of them die, rather than accept humanitarian assistance from the Jews.

And then ask our leaders what in the world we are waiting for, and why we insist on believing that a regime so demonstrably evil deserves to have good relations with the United States, and why a people so demonstrably on our side, and so demonstrably worthy of freedom, does not deserve our full support.

And Thomas Sowell contrasts the recent earthquake in California to the one in Bam: Two Earthquakes And Their Results Under Two Different Social Systems (via Capitalism Magazine).

The deaths in Iran have been counted in the tens of thousands. In California, the deaths did not reach double digits. Why the difference? In one word, wealth.

Wealth enables homes, buildings and other structures to be built to withstand greater stresses. Wealth permits the creation of modern transportation that can quickly carry people to medical facilities. It enables those facilities to be equipped with more advanced medical apparatus and supplies, and amply staffed with highly trained doctors and support staff.

Those who disdain wealth as crass materialism need to understand that wealth is one of the biggest life-saving factors in the world. As an economist in India has pointed out, "95 percent of deaths from natural hazards occur in poor countries."

UPDATE Jan. 7: Martin Lindeskog has a number of good links relating to the Bam quake.

Posted by Forkum at 07:31 AM

January 05, 2004

Mars Attacks!


FoxNews reports: NASA Awaits Color Photos From Mars and Rivals Target Front-Runner Dean in Iowa Debate.

Posted by Forkum at 07:39 AM

January 02, 2004

The Moderate Mahdis


This is the cover we created for the December 2003 issue of The Intellectual Activist. To demonstrate the danger of certain so-called "moderate" Muslims, the cover article by Robert W. Tracinski analyzes a recent speech by retiring Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed.

The Madhi [of Sudan in the 1880s] was a wild-eyed fanatic who, the encyclopedia notes, "moved from orthodox religious study to a mystical interpretation of Islam." But his vision was essentially the same as that offered by Mahathir: to strike back at the West and expel the "colonialist" infidels, restoring the original might of the Islamic empire.

Mahathir is, in effect, offering his vision for a new, modern, "moderate" Mahdi -- in the form of a business-suited autocrat seeking battleships, ballistic missiles, and nuclear bombs.

And that is precisely what makes Mahathir and his ilk all the more dangerous. The "extremists" like the Taliban doom themselves to insignificance by the very fact of their consistent adherence to their religious philosophy. But those who can make compromises with the demands of this world -- those who embrace the same moral and religious precepts, but implement them in a more reasonable, practical form -- are much more dangerous. They give their irrationalist philosophy some degree of power in the world.

But the biggest threat to the West is not the moderate Mahdis. It is the failure of our leaders to identify the malevolence of the Muslim "moderates" and see them as a threat.

Posted by Forkum at 07:35 AM

January 01, 2004



New Year's Eve in Baghdad was marred by a terrorist attack that murdered five Iraqis. Here in the states, we celebrated yet another safe New Year's Eve.

Regular readers of this blog know that we've been very critical of the War on Terrorism to the extent that states like Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia are not being forced to stop sponsoring terrorism. Regime changes in those countries will do far more to protect us from terrorism than hiring more airport security in this country. But this is not meant to diminish the protective services provided by those here in the states. From the F-16 pilots in the sky to the cops on the ground, our hats are off to all those helping to give us a safe New Year.

UPDATE: FoxNews reports: Death Toll Rises in Baghdad Blast. And CNN reports that fighter jets escorted a British Airways flight from London into Washington.

Posted by Forkum at 07:35 AM