January 30, 2005

Iraqis Vote


From CNN: Iraqis vote amid violence.

Millions of Iraqis braved the threat of attacks Sunday to cast ballots in the nation's first free elections in half a century -- a vote hailed by officials as a success in the face of an insurgency. ...

Insurgents had vowed to wash the streets with "voters' blood," and more than a dozen attacks killed more than two dozen people and wounded 71 others.

But authorities said extensive security measures prevented more widespread car bombings and other attacks that many had feared would mar the elections.

After the voting, President Bush said the balloting was a "resounding success" and praised Iraqis who "have taken rightful control of their country's destiny."...

Many voters proudly displayed their ink-stained fingers in defiance of the insurgency. Each person who voted dipped his or her finger in ink to prevent people from voting twice.

UPDATE I -- February 2: This cartoon appeared in yesterday's (Tuesday's) The Detroit News.

UPDATE II - February 4: From The New York Times: Shiite Coalition Takes a Big Lead in Early Vote Count in Iraq.

Preliminary election returns released Thursday by Iraqi authorities showed that 72 percent of the 1.6 million votes counted so far from Sunday's election went to an alliance of Shiite parties dominated by religious groups with strong links to Iran. Only 18 percent went to a group led by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite who favors strong ties to the United States. Few votes went to Sunni candidates. ...

Election officials emphasized that the results were preliminary, and pleaded for caution in extrapolating from them. ...

The strong showing by the religious group, the United Iraqi Alliance, appeared especially in the partial returns for Baghdad, home to 6 million of Iraq's 28 million people and counted as a province in itself. Although Baghdad is a cosmopolitan city, with large populations of Sunnis and Kurds as well as Shiites, the religious alliance took 61 percent of the early vote in the capital, against about 25 percent for Dr. Allawi's group, known as the Iraqi List.

Only one other party took more than 1 percent of the first votes counted in Baghdad and the southern provinces, and that was another group with Shiite religious ties.

The group, the National Independent Elites and Cadres, which has strong links to Moktada al-Sadr, the young cleric who twice last year led uprisings against American forces, had 1.5 percent of the votes counted so far. In Baghdad, where the Sadr City neighborhood is Mr. Sadr's main bastion, the group took nearly 2 percent.

More on the subject of a possible Islamic theocracy in Iraq here and here.

UPDATE III -- February 7: The New York Times has two stories on Iraq and theocracy: From yesterday, Leading Shiite Cleric Pushing for Islamic Constitution in Iraq, and from today, U.S. Officials Say a Theocratic Iraq is Unlikely. "Unlikely" is not exactly reassuring.

Posted by Forkum at 08:19 PM

January 27, 2005

The Iraq Election


This cartoon is from March 2004 and is in our book, Black & White World II.

This weekend, Iraqis will brave death just to vote. Our hope is that no more Iraqis or coalition forces are harmed trying to exercise a freedom that we take for granted.

We also hope that the election results will not be favorable to the Shiite religious parties. Politically secular candidates are in the running and competitive, including interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. President Bush should never have allowed the possiblity of a democratically established theocracy, but that's the reality.

As we noted earlier this week, though the Shiite parties announced that their platform for governing Iraq would be secular and not an Islamic theocracy, there is reason to doubt their claims. For instance, the United Iraqi Alliance includes candidates who are followers of Moktada al-Sadr, the Islamist cleric who declared that 9/11 was "miracle from God" and whose militia killed American soldiers in Najaf. Other major parties in the Alliance are ruling Basra in a manner reminiscent of the Taliban.

But the above article also reports that some Iraqis see that Islamists are not the answer to Saddam:

"Don't listen to what people tell you -- look at what they do on the ground," said Anwar Muhammad Ridha al-Jabor, 40, director of Al Nahrain Radio in Basra.

She believes, based on her call-in radio show and polling conducted by her station, that people in the southern provinces are fed up with authoritarian rulers and are not impressed with a year and a half of Islamist rule.

"People just got rid of Saddam," she said. "Now they want to be free, and not be threatened by anyone, including the Islamic groups."

We're rooting for Iraqis like Anwar. Here are more Iraqis who'll be speaking out as the election take place this weekend:

-- Friends of Democracy: Ground-level election news from the people of Iraq
-- Iraq the Model
-- Democracy in Iraq

UPDATE -- January 28: This editorial by Amil Taheri explains why the issue of theocracy (among others) will remain an issue after the election: Iraq Votes: The Issues. (Via TIA Daily)

Mosque and State: Some radical Shiite and Sunni groups want Islam declared to be not only the official state religion, but also the sole source of legislation. This is opposed by others across the political spectrum. The terror campaign has prevented fundamentalist Sunni groups from forging an alliance with their Shiite counterparts in a common quest for an Islamic government. And the bitter anti-Shiite tone of the insurgency has prevented Shiite fundamentalists from advertising their true colors in the campaign. ...

Women's Rights: Thanks to U.S. pressure, all electoral lists consist of 30 percent women candidates; at least a quarter of the seats in the Assembly are likely to go to women. Most Islamist parties and some tribes oppose this, and the quotas imposed in favor of women in government departments. Even more serious is their objection to giving women equal rights in matters of marriage, divorce and child custody. Secularist parties, however, believe the measures must go further in favor of women. Reviewing the laws on such issues of private life will be one of the early tasks of the new parliament. While many fear that new laws will be more reactionary, women's organizations and secularist parties are determined to fight any such backtracking. ...

Foreign Policy: Always a hot topic in Arab politics, it will be even more so in Iraq in this period of transition. Some want Iraq to withdraw from the Arab League and even OPEC and to seek a special relationship with the U.S.-led NAFTA. Others want to seek the leadership of the Arabs with a message of democratization. Some want Iraq to recognize Israel; others strongly oppose that move. Tehran's mullahs, operating through their clients and sympathizers inside Iraq, will do all they can to goad Iraq towards a "third-worldist" and anti-American posture. The United States and its allies, meanwhile, will work hard to persuade the new Iraq that it is in its best interest to jettison the prejudices and misconceptions that have passed for Arab foreign policy over the past five decades.

Posted by Forkum at 10:32 PM

January 26, 2005

Open Season


From AP: Senate Confirms Rice As Secretary of State. (Via Little Green Footballs)

Condoleezza Rice won easy confirmation Wednesday to be President Bush's new secretary of state, despite strong dissent from a small group of Democrats who said she shares blame for mistakes and war deaths in Iraq. ...

The Senate vote showed some of the partisanship that delayed Rice's confirmation vote by several days. Twelve Democrats and independent James Jeffords of Vermont voted against Rice. The Democrats included some of the Senate's best-known members such as Massachusetts Democratic Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry, who was the party's presidential candidate in last year's election. Thirty Democrats voted for her. ...

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., suggested Democrats are sore losers. Rice had enough votes to win confirmation, as even her Democratic critics acknowledge, McCain said.

"So I wonder why we are starting this new Congress with a protracted debate about a foregone conclusion," McCain said. Since Rice is qualified for the job, he said, "I can only conclude that we are doing this for no other reason than because of lingering bitterness over the outcome of the election."

Posted by Forkum at 10:04 PM

January 25, 2005

Secular Face


The Los Angeles Times reports today that this weekend's Iraq election is looking up for interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Allawi has taken advantage of his incumbency and name recognition, his image as a strongman and his Shiite ethnicity, presenting his slate as a secular alternative to the religious Shiite parties.

The competing Shiite parties have taken notice of Allawi's secular appeal. The New York Times reported yesterday:

With the Shiites on the brink of capturing power here for the first time, their political leaders say they have decided to put a secular face on the new Iraqi government they plan to form, relegating Islam to a supporting role.

The senior leaders of the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition of mostly Shiite groups that is poised to capture the most votes in the election next Sunday, have agreed that the Iraqi whom they nominate to be the country's next prime minister would be a lay person, not an Islamic cleric. ...

"There will be no turbans in the government," said Adnan Ali, a senior leader of the Dawa Party, one of the largest Shiite parties. "Everyone agrees on that."

This should be great news -- after all, we certainly don't want to replace Saddam's regime with a theocracy. But the article goes on to indicate that the new "secular face" of the Shiite parties may be more political expediency than political enlightenment.

Shiite leaders say their decision to move away from an Islamist government was largely shaped by the presumption that the Iraqi people would reject such a model. But they concede that it also reflects certain political realities -- American officials, who wield vast influence here, would be troubled by an overtly Islamist government. So would the Kurds, who Iraqi and American officials worry might be tempted to break with the Iraqi state.

Can these parties be trusted to truly reject theocracy? Just how Islamist were they before yesterday? Besides the Dawa Party, the United Iraqi Alliance also includes the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, Iraq's main Shia political party. This report from The Telegraph raises suspicion about SCIRI's new secular position:

For a party that was set up in Iran in the 1980s to promulgate Islamic revolution in Iraq but now says it upholds secular values, dealing with the changing winds of fortune have become part of a careful political act.

"We want to appeal to the broadest number of Iraqis. We need to build a consensus between parties to rule this country," said Mr Imarah, a 42-year-old educated in Iran. "Only that way will be able to get elected."

Not only does the list containing SCIRI have the largest Shia parties, it also has the approval of the most revered Shia spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Mr Imarah insists that the involvement of Ayatollah Sistani in the election does not undermine the secular platform on which SCIRI and other Shia parties are standing. "We represent a very broad front," he insisted.

However, many outside the Shia south believe SCIRI is only playing with secularism. Once in power the mask will fall away and the party will return to its core set of Islamic beliefs, they say. Many fear that Ayatollah Sistani will be supplanted in the organisation by clerics with closer ties to Iran.

Still other reports indicate that concern about the Shiite parties "playing with secularism" is justified. From a Boston Globe report on campaign posters in Iraq:

...[O]n the streets of Baghdad, politics and religion freely mix in glossy posters and tattered fliers.

"Your support for this list is support for the faithful, national Islamic march," read one poster for the Islamic Dawa Movement. The movement "declares its appreciation of the role of the clerics and the great religious authorities," read another statement.

A poster for the United Iraqi Alliance, the group that has the tacit support of al-Sistani, bears the image of Islam's cubic Kaaba shrine in Mecca, along with that of the Shiite cleric and an Iraqi flag.

"Not participating in the elections means your candidates won't be able to defend your religious and worldly affairs," it read.

But another report in The Boston Globe is even more damning. According to the story, SCIRI and Dawa have worked together before -- to rule the town of Basra after the U.S.-led invasion. The resulting political environment is, to say the least, less than secular.

More than any other city in Iraq, Basra is a living test lab of Islamic rule in Iraq. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, two Islamic parties have controlled the provincial government: the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Islamic Dawa Party. Both are traditional Islamist parties that fought the Baathist regime from bases in Iran.

When the Baathist ruling class fled Basra after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, Islamic parties quickly came to power on a popular wave of belief that religious parties would be less corrupt and power-hungry than secular political parties.

The provincial governor is a veteran of the Badr Brigade, the military wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, who spent years in exile in Iran.

Traditional Islamic values have reshaped the dynamics in Basra, which a decade ago hosted a decadent array of bars, casinos and brothels that attracted visitors from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, where drinking, gambling and prostitution are major crimes.

On the streets now almost no women are visible. Those who venture out are covered head to toe in black.

Basra's liquor stores all closed down last summer when vigilantes began firebombing them.

Openly, the fiercest power struggle is between two kinds of Islamists -- the established exiles in the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and Dawa versus the young followers of the firebrand cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who are thought to be responsible for the liquor store attacks. [Emphasis added]

President Bush left the door open for the establishment of an Islamic theocracy in Iraq rather than impose a free government. In his inaugural address, Bush reiterated his stance: "Our goal, instead, is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom and make their own way." One of those voices is that of terrorist Moktada al-Sadr, the same al-Sadr whose thugs are thought to have firebombed liquor stores in Basra. The same al-Sadr who referred to 9/11 as "miracle from God" and whose militia killed American soldiers in Najaf. The same al-Sadr who has 14 followers running as candidates in the United Iraqi Alliance.

But there are other voices in Iraq. From the above report:

"Don't listen to what people tell you -- look at what they do on the ground," said Anwar Muhammad Ridha al-Jabor, 40, director of Al Nahrain Radio in Basra.

She believes, based on her call-in radio show and polling conducted by her station, that people in the southern provinces are fed up with authoritarian rulers and are not impressed with a year and a half of Islamist rule.

"People just got rid of Saddam," she said. "Now they want to be free, and not be threatened by anyone, including the Islamic groups."

We can only hope that the attitude above wins election day.

Posted by Forkum at 11:49 PM

January 24, 2005

Zarqawi's Vote


From The New York Times: Tape in Name of [Zarqawi] Declares 'All-Out War' on Iraq Elections and Democracy.

"We have declared an all-out war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology," said the speaker, identified on the tape as Mr. Zarqawi. Renewing warnings by Zarqawi-linked groups to attack voters, election workers and polling stations, as well as journalists and election monitors, he added, "Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it." ...

Just as much, as Sunday's tape showed, the elections have become a defining moment for the insurgents. The man identified as Mr. Zarqawi, who has claimed responsibility for many of the insurgency's most brutal attacks, including dozens of bombings causing mass casualties as well as kidnappings and beheadings, railed against democracy, saying supplanting the rule of God with that of a popular majority was "infidelity itself." The fit punishment for any Muslim "apostates" joining in, he said, was death.

From FoxNews: Iraqis Nab Top Zarqawi Aide.

Iraqi security forces have arrested the "most lethal" top lieutenant of Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq -- a man allegedly behind most of the car bombings in Baghdad since the U.S.-led invasion, including the 2003 assault on U.N. headquarters that killed 22 people, the prime minister's office said Monday.

Also from FoxNews: Car Bomb Explodes Near Allawi HQ.

The suicide bomber struck at a police checkpoint on the road leading to Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord offices in central Baghdad, shaking the city center with a thunderous explosion. The wounded included eight policemen and two civilians, said Dr. Mudhar Abdul-Hussein of Yarmouk Hospital.

Al Qaeda's wing in Iraq said in a Web posting that "one of the young lions in the suicide regiment" carried out the attack against the party office of Allawi, "the agent of the Jews and the Christians."

Posted by Forkum at 08:04 PM

January 23, 2005

Balancing Act


While there were good ideas in President Bush's second inaugural address, as is often the case with Bush, many of the good ideas were undermined by bad ones. I got the impression that Bush hoped to balance the ideas that might be viewed as "harsh" (personal economic independence, control of one's own destiny, ending tyranny) with ideas that that might be viewed as "compassionate" (service to others and a greater cause, helping other countries achieve democracy).

In the Jan. 20 edition of TIA Daily, Robert Tracinski provided a good analysis of the philosophical contradictions: Altruism vs. Liberty at the Inauguration.

The good part of the "Forward Strategy of Freedom" is Bush's recognition of the connection between tyranny and war. Nations that murder and enslave their own citizens always seek to export those evils outside their own borders. So it is true that America's long-term interests come from the spread of liberty across the globe.

But the primary problem with Bush's theory is that he regards liberty as a causeless "yearning of the human heart" implanted there by God, which therefore requires no intellectual or cultural foundation. Notice that in Bush's speech the lack of freedom is regarded as the "deepest source" of terrorism -- while "ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder" are regarded as mere by-products, as movements that opportunistically  take advantage of the "simmering resentment" caused by tyranny.

And so, for example, Bush believes that deposing Saddam's regime and holding elections is all that is required to promote the spread of liberty in the Middle East. No Western institutions or ideas are needed -- and indeed, he says later in the speech, "America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way." That is the root of everything that is wrong with his administration's management of the occupation of Iraq.

But Bush's "compassionate" ideas did nothing to forestall fears that his speech signaled a new aggressiveness in ending foreign tyranny. The administration, and even Bush's father, felt compelled to reassure critics that we would maintain the status quo. (Joe Gandelman has more.) And that is too bad, because it is exactly a new aggressiveness that is needed.

On domestic issues, particularly in regard to Bush's Social Security reform, the contradictions were more glaring. Tracinski wrote:

The "broader definition of liberty" endorsed by Bush is the same view of freedom promulgated by Franklin Roosevelt, complete with the worst of Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms": "freedom from want." Bush explicitly endorsed the welfare-statist view that freedom means a social guarantee of prosperity, to be provided by the state.

Thus, in proposing a semi-privatization of Social Security, Bush is not promising to lift the heavy hand of government out of our lives and reverse the disastrous legacy of the New Deal welfare state. No, he presents his reforms as a continuation and extension of Roosevelt's legacy, only in a newer, more practical form.

It gets worse in the next paragraph, where Bush makes liberty conditional on religious belief and altruism. ... Bush advocated freedom -- but within the constraint that we are our brothers' keepers.

There is no "freedom" for the government to force one generation to be the keeper of another. There is no "freedom" for a country to democratically establish an Islamic theocracy. Until Bush grounds the concept of "freedom" to individual rights, he will be unable to effectively fight for freedom at home or abroad.

UPDATE -- January 24: Another excellent observation from Robert Tracinski regarding the inauguration: The Protests Against Representative Government: Anti-Inauguration Protests Reflect the Left's Hostility to Liberty.

Posted by Forkum at 10:16 PM

January 19, 2005

Dissenting Votes


From CNN: Senate panel approves Rice for secretary of state.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday voted 16-2 in favor of confirming Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state. ... Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and John Kerry of Massachusetts were the two dissenting votes on the committee.

Charles Johnson has some good observations on Kerry (Dems Show Their Irrelevance at Rice Hearing) and Boxer (The Difference Between Grandstanding and Lying).

UPDATE -- January 26: This cartoon appears in yesterday's (Tuesday's) The Detroit News.

Posted by Forkum at 08:14 PM

January 18, 2005

Aid and Abet


From The New York Times: U.N. Panel Urges Doubling of Aid to Cut Poverty.

An international team sponsored by the United Nations proposed a detailed, ambitious plan on Monday that it says could halve extreme poverty and save the lives of millions of children and hundreds of thousands of mothers each year by 2015. ... The report advocates reforms to ease trade barriers and sweeping investments in health, education, rural development, road building, housing and scientific research.

Apparently only one person involved with the plan voiced well-founded misgivings:

But its approach was viewed by some critics as utopian overreaching. At least one economist involved, Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development in Washington, said she worried that it put too little emphasis on the need for poor countries to make deep political and social changes to reduce poverty.

That's an understatement. These countries need more economic freedom not more socialism.

Posted by Forkum at 09:55 PM

January 17, 2005

Third Rail


An individual should have the right to fully control his retirement plans, so steps toward privatizing the government-enforced Ponzi scheme known as Social Security are welcome. What little is known of President Bush's partial-privatization proposal is encouraging if modest. But a growing chorus of criticism at the very idea of privatization already has some Republicans scared.

From the Star Tribune (free registration): Republicans wary as Bush forges ahead.

A week into President Bush's renewed campaign to overhaul Social Security, many Republicans are wary of signing on to any plan that could have political costs in 2006. ...

Democrats, sensing blood in the water, are charging that the White House plans to trade lower guaranteed benefits for future retirees for personal savings accounts with possibly higher but uncertain rates of return. They hope that idea will prove politically toxic in the run-up to the midterm congressional elections next year.

With the AARP, the powerful senior lobby, siding with the Democrats in the early rounds, some Republicans are urging the Bush administration to come out quickly with a clear formulation of the problem -- and then a plan that they can defend.

But I doubt there's any plan that these Republicans would be eager to defend, because what they probably fear most is the moral battle underlying a fight to de-socialize Social Security. Do Republicans have the guts to stand up for the right of an individual who creates his own wealth to invest it as he sees fit? Are Republicans willing to say that it's wrong to force one generation to pay for the livelihood of another? I hope so, but it's not likely judging by the pragmatic attitudes expressed in the above article. Such moral issues are what make Social Security the "third rail" of American politics. And it looks like Republicans have already forfeited the high ground to Democrats.

UPDATE I -- January 18: Our typo in the cartoon has been fixed. Thanks goes to Thomas O. Miller, who is not only a good speller but an excellent designer and sci-fi/fantasy illustrator. Be sure to check out his work at Atomic Art.

UPDATE II -- January 19: This cartoon appears in today's (Wednesday's) Investor's Business Daily.

Posted by Forkum at 09:44 PM

January 16, 2005

Serpentine Diplomacy


From Financial Times: 'Furious' Abbas to meet Hamas after attack.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, has ordered an inquiry into an attack in the Gaza Strip last week that killed six Israelis and derailed his plans to reopen peace talks, security officials said on Sunday.

Mr Abbas, elected a week ago, met his security chiefs at the weekend and told them he was "furious" about Thursday night's attack in which gunmen blasted their way though the main Gaza-Israel cargo terminal at Karni. He demanded to know how the militants succeeded in reaching the attack site without being detected, according to a senior security official.

Mr Abbas is due to hold ceasefire talks with Hamas and other militants in Gaza this week. ...

Although he refuses to outlaw the militants, he won the backing of the leadership of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation yesterday in urging it to halt its attacks.

Refusing to outlaw the terrorist gangs is bad enough. But the Times article fails to mention that the "other militants" include the terrorist arm of Abbas's own Fatah Party. From a report last week: "Three Palestinian militant groups claimed joint responsibility for the attack, including Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- a faction of Abbas's Fatah movement -- Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees."

And it isn't just Israelis that Fatah is murdering. The Jerusalem Post reported this weekend that Fatah vigilantes executed two Palestinians considered to be Israeli "collaborators". (Via Little Green Footballs)

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cut ties with Abbas following the attack. Bush should do the same.

UPDATE I -- January 17: CNN reports: Abbas orders Palestinian security forces to crackdown on militants. This is a continuation of the farce. Hamas has already declared that it would not comply with the order. But here's the real indication that Abbas is merely posturing:

Abbas also ordered that Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades be integrated into Palestinian security forces ...

Did you get that? The terrorist gang that in the last few days murdered Israeli civilians and executed Palestinian "collaborators" is being made a part of the very Palestinian security forces that are supposed to be hunting down the terrorists. Some "crackdown"...

UPDATE II -- February 4: From The Jerusalem Post: Abbas, Qurei dispute new PA cabinet. (Hat tip Barry Rab.)

A sharp dispute between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei is preventing the formation of a new cabinet, senior PA officials in Ramallah disclosed Tuesday.

According to the officials, Abbas and Qurei have been at loggerheads since Abbas announced two weeks ago his intention to replace at least six ministers. ...

"It's a serious crisis," [an] official said. "It looks more like a power struggle between the two men. We hope we won't return to the same power struggle that we had under [Yasser] Arafat."

Posted by Forkum at 09:59 PM

January 15, 2005

And the Winner is...


It's official: The readers of Little Green Footballs have finally bestowed a Fiskie Award upon Michael Moore.

Posted by Forkum at 03:40 PM

January 13, 2005

Caveman Diet


And now for something completely different ... This cartoon was inspired by an AP report on the new USDA dietary guidelines: Gov't: Calories, not carbs, make you fat.

Cave men lived a healthy lifestyle: Their calorie intake stayed low because food was hard to find, and they exercised regularly to bring home the bacon. The government wants Americans to follow that approach. Today, however, food is at their fingertips, driving has replaced running and people are fatter than ever.

The USDA guidelines sound healthy enough, and there's no reason to doubt that cavemen, to put it lightly, were physically active and had a limited calorie intake. But to say cavemen "lived a healthy lifestyle" drops a little context, such as that life expectancy was extremely short due to disease, starvation, and "biggie sized" mammals.

UPDATE -- January 18: This cartoon appears in today's (Tuesday's) Investor's Business Daily.

Posted by Forkum at 10:01 PM

January 12, 2005

Yellow Journalism


From Jonathan V. Last at The Daily Standard: It's Worse Than You Thought. (Via Little Green Footballs)

After all of his examinations, [the panel's typewriter expert] Peter Tytell had reached exactly the same conclusion as [independent expert Dr. Joseph] Newcomer. And, like Newcomer, Tytell's judgment to the panel could not have been more forthright. The panel reports, "Tytell concluded that the Killian documents were generated on a computer." ...

So how did Thornburgh and Boccardi [the panel] manage to walk away from their own expert's decisive verdict? The answer is hidden in footnote 16 on page 7 of Appendix 4:

Although his reasoning seems credible and persuasive, the Panel does not know for certain whether Tytell has accounted for all alternative typestyles that might have been available on typewriters during that era.

Leave aside the "no political bias" finding; leave aside the kid-glove treatment of Dan Rather and Andrew Heyward. This abdication of responsibility by the panel in the face of their own expert's conclusions is so startling that it legitimately calls into question -- by itself -- everything else in the report.

As RatherGate.com noted earlier this week, anchorman Dan Rather has also refused to acknowledge that the memos are fakes. Quoting from the Panel's report:

Rather informed the Panel that he still believes the content of the documents is true because "the facts are right on the money," and that no one had provided persuasive evidence that the documents were not authentic.

No "persuasive evidence"? Dr. Newcomer's evidence is beyond persuasive; it's conclusive: The Bush "Guard memos" are forgeries. (The link is via Charles Johnson, who also has a long list of related posts here.)

Reporting the truth is obviously not a priority at CBS. They seem to be afraid of it in this case. Which is too bad for them; completely exposing and acknowledging the facts, no matter how damning, was the only way for the network to salvage its journalistic credibility.

Posted by Forkum at 03:03 PM

January 11, 2005

Uphill Battle


This cartoon was originally posted in June 2004 and is one of 450 cartoons in our new book, Black & White World II, available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com and Quent Cordair Fine Art.

FoxNews reports: Allawi Warns on Vote Safety.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Prime Minister Ayad Allawi publicly acknowledged for the first time Tuesday that parts of Iraq probably won't be safe enough for people to vote in the Jan. 30 elections, and he announced plans to boost the size of the country's army from 100,000 to 150,000 men by year's end.

Violence persisted, with at least 16 Iraqis killed in two bombings and the seizure of trucks carrying new Iraqi coins. A U.S. soldier was killed in action in Iraq's volatile western Anbar province, the military said.

The attacks this month have killed more than 100 Iraqis, mostly Iraqi police and security forces, who are seen by the militants as collaborators with the American occupiers.

Allawi discussed preparations for the election by telephone with President Bush on Tuesday, and both leaders underscored the importance of going ahead with the vote as planned, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Posted by Forkum at 09:02 PM

January 10, 2005

What Agenda?


CNN reports: CBS ousts 4 over Bush Guard story.

According to a CBS statement, an independent panel appointed by the network concluded that CBS News failed to follow basic journalistic principles in putting together the piece, which aired September 8. That failure was compounded with a "rigid and blind" defense of the report, the statement continued.

"The combination of a new '60 Minutes Wednesday' management team, great deference given to a highly respected producer and the network's news anchor, competitive pressures, and a zealous belief in the truth of the segment seem to have led many to disregard some fundamental journalistic principles," the report said, according to the CBS statement.

The panel, which was led by former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and former Associated Press President Louis Boccardi, added that -- despite accusations of political bias against CBS -- "[the panel] cannot conclude that a political agenda at '60 Minutes Wednesday' drove either the timing of the airing of the segment or its content."

Still, "the bottom line is that much of the September 8 broadcast was wrong, incomplete or unfair," Les Moonves, co-president of CBS parent Viacom Inc., said in a statement announcing the firings. [Emphasis added]

In the report, the "independent panel" bends over backward to avoid accusing CBS of political bias, but it has no qualms accusing blogs who broke the fake-memo story of having a "conservative agenda". Further, Dan Rather told the panel that the faked memos are authentic.

Maybe we need an investigation of the investigation.

For more, see InstaPundit, Jeff Jarvis, RatherBiased.com, and RatherGate.com.

UPDATE I -- January 11: From John Podhoretz the The New York Post: Box In By Bias. (Via TIA Daily)

But here's the thing. It doesn't matter whether CBS executives met in a room, twirled moustaches and gave each other high-fives about getting George Bush. What matters is that they turned their airwaves over to someone [Mary Mapes] who was clearly in the grip of an obsession.

And here's the other thing. They were able to do such a thing because they did not see her obsession as an obsession -- because, no doubt, most of them wanted it to be true, too.

That's what happens when you're blinded by bias. Thornburgh and Boccardi [CBS's independent panel] didn't want to say so. The world doesn't need them to say so. The world knows the truth.

UPDATE II -- January 13: This cartoon appears in today's (Thursday's) Investor's Business Daily.

UPDATE III -- January 18: This cartoon appears in today's (Tuesday's) The Detroit News.

Posted by Forkum at 05:53 PM

January 09, 2005

Embalm the Vote


This one goes out to Washingtonians -- particularly the readers and bloggers at Sound Politics -- including Bill Swan, Rich Chandler, and Brian Crouch. Sound Politics is the place to go for the latest news regarding the controversial election results for the governor's race in Washington state, which includes, among many other irregularities, votes by dead people. Graige McMillan at WorldNetDaily.com provides a good overview of the shenanigans: Ghostly election victory hurts all of us.

It's difficult to understand how governor-elect Christine Gregoire feels she can represent Washington state's citizens when the ballots that elected her were cast by ... well ... ghosts. That's right. In the heavily Democratic Interstate 5 corridor along Puget Sound in western Washington, some 8,400 of the ballots cast don't seem to belong to anybody. But they were counted.

You don't have to live downwind to know that this election stinks well beyond the borders of Washington state. What's at stake here is the disenfranchisement of an entire state's citizens by phantom voters who show up only on Election Day, cast "provisional" ballots that are never verified, and live at the elections offices in King County and other public buildings. Amazingly enough, as John Fund reports in Political Journal -- over 300 of these phantom voters actually share the same handwriting!

UPDATE -- January 10: From John Fund at The Wall Street Journal: Don't Count Rossi Out: A stolen election in Washington? Not if bloggers can help it.

Posted by Forkum at 07:57 PM

January 06, 2005

Zionist Enemy


From Knight Ridder: Israel called 'Zionist enemy'.

Palestinian interim leader Mahmoud Abbas yesterday called Israel the "Zionist enemy" after an Israeli tank killed seven Palestinians, four of them young brothers, in a northern Gaza strawberry field.

The violence and Abbas' increasingly harsh words raised questions on both sides about whether the presidential election on Sunday, which Abbas is widely expected to win, will lead to a resumption of peace talks. Abbas' image has been as a moderate peacemaker.

As Charles Johnson has repeatedly noted, Abbas is not a "moderate"; he is a holocaust denier and advocate of Palestinian terrorism. The list of atrocities by Palestinian terrorists is long, but we learn today that they have increased the use of women and children in terrorist attacks.

There was a substantial increase in the use of Palestinian women and children to carry out terror attacks in 2004, the Israel Security Agency said on Wednesday. And while suicide bombings were down, mortar and rocket attacks rose. The number of people killed in terror attacks dropped 45 percent, but a report issued by Israel's intelligence service said that's not for lack of motivation on the terrorists' part. ... The ISA credited the controversial security fence as a key tool in thwarting terror attacks.

If Abbas is elected president of the Palestinian territories this Sunday, it will be a continuation of Yasser Arafat's horrible legacy of war against the free state of Israel.

UPDATE -- January 7: A must-read op-ed from Charles Krauthammer: Time to Vote. (Via LGF)

Has no one learned anything?

On Sept. 13, 1993, I was on the White House lawn watching the signing of the Oslo accords. I also watched the intellectual collapse of the entire Middle East intelligentsia -- journalists, politicians, "experts'' -- as they swooned at the famous handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin and refused, that day and for years to come, to recognize what was obvious: that Arafat was embarking not on peace but on the next stage of his perpetual war against Israel, this one to be launched far more advantageously from a base of Palestinian territory that Israel had just suicidally granted him.

Why was this so obvious? Because Arafat said so -- that very night (in an Arabic broadcast to his own people on Jordanian television) and many times afterward. The Middle East experts refused to believe it. They did not want to hear it. Then came the intifada. Thousands of dead later, they now believe it. The more honest ones among them even admit they were wrong.

Now Arafat is dead, Mahmoud Abbas is poised to succeed him, and the world is swooning again. Abbas, we are told, is the great hope, the moderate, the opponent of violence, the man who has said the intifada was counterproductive.

The peacemaker cometh. Once again, euphoria is in the air. Once again, no one wants to listen to what is being said.

Posted by Forkum at 10:01 PM

January 05, 2005



From FoxNews' "Junk Science" columnist Steven Milloy: Environmentalists Surf Tsunami Tragedy.

Environmental activists are shamelessly trying to exploit last week's earthquake-tsunami catastrophe in hopes of advancing their global warming and anti-development agendas.

Two days after the tragedy, the executive director of Greenpeace UK told the British newspaper The Independent, "No one can ignore the relentless increase in extreme weather events and so-called natural disasters, which in reality are no more natural than a plastic Christmas tree." [Emphasis added]

Friends of the Earth Director Tony Juniper told the same British newspaper, "Here again are yet more events in the real world that are consistent with climate change predictions." ...

Efforts to invoke supposed global warming as the culprit for this week's death and destruction are patently absurd as the multiple tsunamis were not a "weather event" in the slightest. The tsunamis were caused by an earthquake, which, by the way, is a real, not a "so-called," natural disaster. ...

It's bad enough that environmentalists continually try to advance their agendas based on what can only be described as comically wrong information. But what's really troubling is that they seem hell-bent on denying poor nations the opportunity to develop economically so as to pull themselves out of their abject poverty.

But just how anti-human can environmentalism get? Vanity Fair contributing editor James Wolcott gave us a peek behind the mask in September: An Ignoble Confession.

I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong -- Mother Nature's fist of fury, Gaia's stern rebuke. Considering the havoc mankind has wreaked upon nature with deforesting, stripmining, and the destruction of animal habitat, it only seems fair that nature get some of its own back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own.

UPDATE -- January 7: Well, they're not going to "keep it down" after all. Peter Mork at Economics With A Face sent this news item that illustrates the anti-human sentiment in the cartoon: Tsunami Reverts Beaches to Natural State.

Many believe the tsunami that devastated this tourist hotspot and killed thousands had one positive side: By washing away rampant development, it returned the beaches to nature.

Greg Ferrando glistened with sweat and sea water as he went for a barefoot jog up the immaculate white sand beach, where the tsunami has wiped away almost all signs of humanity.

"This whole area was littered with commercialism," said the 43-year-old from Maui, Hawaii. "There were hundreds of beach chairs out here. I prefer the sand." ...

"They were just building and building and building. It was too much. You couldn't even walk around," said Moriel Avital, a 24-year-old Israeli who lived on the island for four months.

"It was all gone in one wave -- it's telling people not to mess with nature," she said. "Paradise should be paradise and should not become this civilized."

Unfortunately, Wolcott is not alone.

Posted by Forkum at 10:34 PM

January 04, 2005

Tsunami-Relief Art Auction

Cox & Forkum is auctioning the original art for the cartoon below to raise money for tsunami and earthquake relief efforts in South/Southeast Asia.

The winning bidder must make a donation equaling the winning bid amount to Direct Relief International. DRI is an apolitical, non-government organization (NGO) that allows contributions to be designated to the tsunami relief. According to their Web site, they are concentrating their effort on sending specifically requested medical supplies to facilities in the region (click here for a list of what they've accomplished so far).

Bidding takes place in the comment section below. There is no minimum bid. Winning bidder must contact us immediately after the auction ends (contact -- at -- coxandforkum.com) for donation instructions. Artwork will be shipped at no cost after confirmation of the donation.

Bidding closes this Friday, January 7th at noon CST.


The artwork is drawn in India ink on a 7" x 11" acid-free bristol board, and the image is approximately 6" x 9". Unlike the image above, the original will be signed by both John and me and will not include our Web site or logo. The cartoon was first posted last week to highlight the tragic loss of life among children in South Asia. On December 31, the cartoon was published in Investor's Business Daily.

If you want publicize this auction on your blog, please use this direct link. (We held a similar auction last April for Spirit of America.)

Consider donating whether or not you happen to get the winning bid. Our thanks to all who participate.

UPDATE -- January 5: CNN reports: Parents search for children swept away.

PHUKET, Thailand (CNN) -- Anders Ericsson still remembers the last words his 2-year-old son, Ragnar, spoke before being washed away in the waves of Thailand's tsunami.

"Daddy, I'm scared. Please help." Ericsson's voice breaks as he tells of the tragedy. ... Ragnar was torn from his father's grip.

UPDATE -- Jan. 7 -- AUCTION CLOSED: A big congratulations and thank you to David M for placing the winning donation bid of $870.00. We're grateful to everyone who participated in the bidding and helped make the donation drive a success. Thanks also to Direct Relief International and their private donors -- individuals and corporations -- for their tsunami relief efforts.

Posted by Forkum at 10:35 PM | Comments (14)

January 03, 2005

Annus Horribilis


This cartoon was partly inspired by a comment from Glenn Reynolds regarding this New York Times article: Frank words for Annan in effort to revitalize UN. From the article:

UNITED NATIONS, New York -- The crisis meeting of veteran foreign policy experts in a Manhattan apartment one recent Sunday was held in agreed-upon secrecy.

The high profile guest of honor came unaccompanied by his usual retinue of aides and without the knowledge of most of his closest advisers. The mission, in the words of one participant, was clear -- "to save Kofi and rescue the UN." ...

The secret gathering came at the end of a year that Annan has described as the organization's "annus horribilis," a year in which the United Nations faced charges of corruption in the way it ran the oil-for-food program in Iraq, evidence that blue-helmeted peacekeepers in Congo ran prostitution rings and raped women and teenage girls and formal motions of no confidence in the organization's senior management from staff unions.

Posted by Forkum at 06:54 PM

January 02, 2005

PA Ballot


AP reports: Palestinian Leader to Shield Militants . (Via Little Green Footballs)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that he wants to shield Palestinian militants from Israel and indicated he has no plans to crack down on gunmen after upcoming presidential elections.

UPDATE -- January 4: This cartoon appears in today's (Tueday's) Investor's Business Daily.

Posted by Forkum at 06:54 PM