Wednesday, August 31, 2005

HERE IN EUROPE, alleged sophisticates mock Bush precisely when he says things like this, but actually he is totally right:
Invoking the spirit of Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Bush on Tuesday cast the war in Iraq as the modern-day moral equivalent of the struggle against Nazi fascism and Japanese imperialism in World War II, arguing that the United States cannot retreat without disastrous consequences.

[...] "Now, as then, they are trying to intimidate free people and break our will, and now, as then, they will fail," Bush said to applauding sailors in white uniforms and Marines in camouflage. "They will fail, because the terrorists of our century are making the same mistake that the followers of other totalitarian ideologies made in the last century. They believe that democracies are inherently weak and corrupt and can be brought to their knees." But, he added, "America will not run in defeat, and we will not forget our responsibilities."

Reaching back into history, Bush repeatedly cited Roosevelt's steadfastness as the model for today's conflict, comparing the Japanese sneak assault on Pearl Harbor in 1941 to the al Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. Much as Roosevelt fought pre-Pearl Harbor isolationism, Bush urged against a return to what he called the "pre-9/11 mindset of isolation and retreat."

"He knew that it was the lack of democracy in Japan that allowed an unelected group of militarists to take control of the state, threaten our neighbors, attack America and plunge an entire region into war," Bush said of Roosevelt. "And he knew that the best way to bring peace and stability to the region was by bringing freedom to Japan."
These are truths that even such a tendentiously-written article as this one from the Washington Post cannot hide (barretina tip: JBW)

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I DON'T KNOW how one could even remotely consider the possibility that the Katrina disaster wasn't Bush's fault.

UPDATE. Glenn Reynolds has several links refuting the idiocy that global warming causes hurricanes.

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MORE THAN 600 DEAD in a stampede in Baghdad:
At least 635 people have been killed and 237 others injured in a stampede on a bridge near a Shiite mosque in northeastern Baghdad, police said.

According to witnesses, the panic started when someone screamed that a suicide bomber was in the crowd.

A railing on the bridge then collapsed under the crush of people, and hundreds fell to their deaths in the Tigris River about 30 meters (yards) below, CNN's Jennifer Eccleston reported.

According to police, some people were crushed to death but most drowned. Police expect the death toll to rise as they are still pulling bodies from the river.

The stampede took place at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday (3:30 a.m. EDT) near the Kadhimiya mosque.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

ANOTHER ROUNDUP of good news from Iraq by Arthur Chrenkoff (the 34th!); Alenda Lux has also his (or is it her?) own. Read'em both. As an antidote.

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WHAT AMERICA'S LABOR LAWS can teach Europe can be summarized in one word: flexibility. Or two: rigidity kills. Or three: USA is leading. Or four: Europe is losing badly. Or a few more if you read this superb article by Diana Furchtgott-Roth originally appeared in the Financial Times:
Over the past decade, European employment has grown by less than 10 per cent, while US employment has grown by 17 per cent, creating more than 2.2m jobs last year alone.

US figures last Friday showed continued growth in employment, with 207,000 payroll jobs created in July. The increase in payroll jobs for May and June went from a total of 250,000 to 292,000. The unemployment rate remained at a low 5 per cent, and an additional 450,000 people moved into the workforce. With such positive data, the US Federal Reserve will continue to gradually increase interest rates.

America grows while Europe stalls for many reasons, among them disparities in flexibility caused by employment laws. Europe will never recover until employment protection statutes are modernised and politicians restore flexibility to employers and workers.

The unsung story behind US job creation is the flexibility and turnover in American labour markets, which boost employment. Frequent job changes lead to better job matches and higher productivity. In 2004 there were 54m new hires and 51m job separations in a labour force of 147m. Over half these separations were voluntary - people who left jobs because of better opportunities. Younger baby boomers, born in 1957-1964, held an average of 9.6 jobs from age 18 to 36. This turnover is a leading cause of job creation.
Read the rest (barretina tip: blog in Spanish HispaLibertas)

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Monday, August 29, 2005

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS writes that Iraq's is a war to be proud of. It's a long, thoughtful text, so bringing just one or two paragraphs here would be useless; go read it all. Oh, and he doesn't spare Bush from criticisms.

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"What makes a good constitution?" asked National Review's Rick Brookhiser the other day. "Standoffs and horsetrades, frozen in time."

The English-speaking world's most significant and enduring constitutional settlements -- Magna Carta, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights -- were the compromises of rival power blocs: King John vs. England's barons, federalists vs. anti-federalists.

Brookhiser didn't add that the least enduring are those drafted by an ideologically homogeneous ruling class: This year's much ballyhooed European Union constitution, for example, was dead on arrival. By contrast, the constitution being hammered out in Baghdad reflects political reality. What the naysayers cite as the main drawback of Iraq -- it's not a real country, just a phony-baloney jurisdiction cobbled together to suit the administrative convenience of the British Colonial Office, never gonna work, bound to fall apart -- is, in fact, its big advantage: If you want to start an experiment in Middle Eastern liberty, where better than a nation split three ways where no one group can easily dominate the other two? The new constitution provides something for everyone:

The Shia get an acknowledgment that Islam is "the official religion of the state," just as the Church of England is the official church of that state -- though, unlike the Anglican bishops, Iraq's imams won't get permanent seats in the national legislature.

The Kurds get a loose federal structure in which just about everything except national defense and foreign policy is reserved to regions and provinces. I said in the week after Baghdad fell that the Kurds would settle for being Quebec to Iraq's Canada, and so they have.

The Sunnis, who ran Iraq from their days as Britain's colonial managing class right up to the toppling of Saddam, don't like the federal structure, not least because it's the Kurds and Shia who have the bulk of the oil. So they've been wooed with an arrangement whereby the country's oil revenue will be divided at a national level on a per-capita basis.

If you'd been asked in 2003 to devise an ideal constitution for Iraq's very non-ideal circumstances, it would look something like this: a highly decentralized federation that accepts the reality that Iraq is a Muslim nation but reserves political power for elected legislators -- and divides the oil revenue fairly.

And if it doesn't work? Well, that's what the Sunnis are twitchy about. If Baathist dead-enders and imported Islamonuts from Saudi and Syria want to make Iraq ungovernable, the country will dissolve into a democratic Kurdistan, a democratic Shiastan, and a moribund Sunni squat in the middle. And, in the grander scheme of things, that wouldn't be so terrible either.

In Iraq right now the glass is around two-thirds full, and those two thirds will not be drained down to Sunni Triangle levels of despair. There are 1 million new cars on the road since 2003, a statistic that no doubt just lost us warhawks that Sierra Club endorsement but which doesn't sound like a nation mired in hopelessness. A new international airport has been opened in the north to cope with the Kurdish tourist and economic boom. Faruk Mustafa Rasool is building a 28-story five-star hotel with a revolving restaurant and a cable-car link to downtown Sulaimaniya.

To be sure, we shouldda done this, and we shouldda done that. Yet nonetheless Iraq advances day by day. The real quagmire is at home, where the kinkily gleeful relish of defeatism manifested by Cindy Sheehan, Joan Baez, Ted Kennedy et al. bears less and less relationship to anything happening over there. Iraq's future is a matter for the Iraqis now -- which, given the U.S. media, Democrat blowhards like Joe Biden and Republican squishes like Chuck Hagel, is just as well.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Like most Texas reporters, I have made the pilgrimage to interview Cindy Sheehan and her anti war comrades parked in front of Crawford. One of the made-for-television signs held up behind Cindy during the news event I attended was particularly disturbing. "Iraq," read the sign held aloft by two prosperous looking white women,"is Arabic for Vietnam."

By holding this sign, I presume they would favor that the Iraq war end the same way the war in Vietnam ended. I also presume that this means they would not oppose the same fate for the people of Iraq that befell the people of Vietnam and Cambodia after the end of US involvement there, which was one of the more horrible in the sorry annals of twentieth century tyranny. But in 1975, we were told by the anti war crowd that, after all, they were only Asians, they probably couldn't understand democracy anyway, and knew it wouldn't work 'for them.' Its sad to see the same attitude repeated today, that its not worth the blood of white Americans like Casey Sheehan to win freedom and democracy for 'those people,' in this case, brown skinned Arab Muslims.

Even if you drink every last drop of the anti war Kool Aid, even if you are convinced that President Bush was ordered by the Chairman of Halliburton to start the Iraq war and that he intentionally lied to the American people about the existence of weapons of mass destruction, the simple fact is that today, there is demonstrably more freedom for the people of Iraq and for the people of Afghanistan, some 50 million brown skinned Muslims. Yes, there is dawdling over the drafting of an Iraqi constitution, but before April of 2003, metal shredders and rape rooms awaited any Iraqi who breathed the word 'constitution.' Yes, a brutal insurgency continues to threaten the Iraqi people, an insurgency which has killed some 25,000 Iraqi civilians since April of 2003. But Saddam Hussein, even by conservative estimates, butchered 1.5 million Iraqis during his 25 years in power (not counting the one million who died in the war he started with Iran). So Saddam and his goons killed an average of 60,000 people a year, while the insurgency has killed 25,000 in two and a half years. Despite the hand-wringing over the insurgency, the devil's arithmetic would indicate that life for the average Iraq is actually safer today than it was under Saddam. But they're brown skimmed Muslims, so not worthy of America's notice, let alone America's sacrifice.

President Bush is actually the greatest liberator of Muslims in history, considering that there weren't 50 million people in the entire MIddle East when Saladin beat back the Crusader hordes. But to the anti war activists, providing freedom from slavery, democratic and economic opportunity to brown skinned people isn't worth the sacrifice of white Americans. Good thing Cindy Sheehan wasn't around when Lincoln was drafting the Emancipation Proclamation.

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

ATTENTION BLOGLINES USERS, be very careful! After more that two years of being a Bloglines user -with only minor problems from time to time which were quickly solved- yesterday something truly devastating happened. Suddently, when trying to see my feeds I could only see this error message:
Your email address has not been confirmed yet, please reply to the email verification message that was sent by Bloglines. Click here to have another verification email sent to you, or click here to change your profile.
This was odd, since as I said I've been a user for years. I didn't want to follow through, since I feared that getting another verification email would mean that I'd lose all my subscriptions. So I just wrote them an email to ask what was going on.

This morning I got this reply:
We regret any inconvenience you may have experienced while signing up for Bloglines. We have taken the liberty of confirming your account for you. Please get back to us if you continue having problems.
Went to my subscriptions and my worse fears materialized: my subscriptions were all gone. All of them, and they're quite a few, email subscriptions included. And, although I do have a backup copy of the OMPL file, I have lost all the unread posts, some of them dating back quite a long time which I had saved for later reading. And worst of all, all the blog posts I had clipped were also vanished. They were hundreds of posts I had classified for saving, or just long, thoughtful posts I had saved for reading when I had some free time. I wrote them again, but haven't heard back from them yet.

So for the moment I'd just want to warn you in case you trust Bloglines for what they claim to be: a way to manage your blog-life.

UPDATE. Got several emails from readers asking, well, if you have the OMPL file backed up, what's the fuss? Well, the OMPL file has the mere subscriptions themselves only; that is, I can rebuild what blogs/news outlets I was subscribed to, but it doesn't backup what specific items in them are unread. Nor it keeps the email subscriptions, a theoretically interesting feature to sign-up to email-delivered information to the aggregator and to avoid spam; nor it does keep all the many individual blog posts I had saved for archive or for later reading.

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Friday, August 26, 2005

WORSE FOR THE MEDIA if they choose to be alarmists with the content of the Iraqi constitution's project, because then a blogger like Alenda Lux comes and explains everything.

UPDATE. Read David Brooks too.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

YES, PAT ROBERTSON really deserves to be one of those who inspired the term idiotarian; but, I can't help but being amazed at the gall of many of his critics -the ones on the left side of the spectrum, generally. Here's what Robertson exactly said:
We have the ability to take him out and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert-ops do the job and get it over with.
(you can watch the video here, if you prefer)

Why I'm saying this? Well, because Robertson's recipe was exactly what many on the anti-war camp said should be done with Saddam in Iraq ("yes, Saddam is a bad guy and deserves to be removed, but why not killing him in a covert-operation instead of going into a full fledged war?"). Well, at least the ones who didn't want to appear as if they were on his side, that is.

Besides, how many them have been fretting everytime a third-rate political figure (which is exactly what Robertson is), or some commentator in Venezuela, Spain or any other country, has advocated for Bush's assassination?

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GATEWAY PUNDIT thinks that Libya could just as well become the next Middle East democracy. I'm not sure if I'd go that far, but Ghadaffi regime's latest moves and US actions seem to indicate there's something going on. Let's hope so.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

NEXT TIME you read or hear a pundit or journalist warning that, because of the Iraq debacle (new Viet Nam, y'know) the US armed forces are running out of soldiers because no one, absolutely no one, want to enlist (or re-enlist) just consider one thing, and let him know if you can reach him.

It's a bold-faced lie:
* Every one of the Army's 10 divisions — its key combat organizations — has exceeded its re-enlistment goal for the year to date. Those with the most intense experience in Iraq have the best rates. The 1st Cavalry Division is at 136 percent of its target, the 3rd Infantry Division at 117 percent.

Among separate combat brigades, the figures are even more startling, with the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division at 178 percent of its goal and the 3rd Brigade of the 4th Mech right behind at 174 percent of its re-enlistment target.

This is unprecedented in wartime. Even in World War II, we needed the draft. Where are the headlines?

* What about first-time enlistment rates, since that was the issue last spring? The Army is running at 108 percent of its needs. Guess not every young American despises his or her country and our president.

* The Army Reserve is a tougher sell, given that it takes men and women away from their families and careers on short notice. Well, Reserve recruitment stands at 102 percent of requirements.

* And then there's the Army National Guard. We've been told for two years that the Guard was in free-fall. Really? Guard recruitment and retention comes out to 106 percent of its requirements as of June 30.
UPDATE (Aug 24): Well, apparently Peters' numbers weren't exact, as he has told himself.

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SEEING WHAT SCHROEDER is doing to promote his pacifi-anti-Americanism to score political points in a difficult campaign for an election he's bound to lose (it worked last time, but doubt it will in September), I can only imagine what Zapaterlain is going to do in a couple of years (or sooner if people who predict he'll call for early elections are right).

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IF YOU WERE as impressed as I was with Lisa Ramaci-Vincent's radio interview, well, just read how she slices and dices Juan Cole and his 'theories' on how her husband, Steven, was murdered in Iraq.

How I admire this woman.

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AB-SO-LU-TE-LY HILARIOUS (popup alert, though). Hadn't laughed so much for days.

(via blog in Spanish HispaLibertas)

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NOT ONLY IRAQ: Alenda Lux also picks Chrenkoff's Good News from Afghanistan rundup. Here's the latest.

UPDATE. Apparently it's All Things Conservative who seems to be Arthur Chrenkoff sort of official heir. Here's the latest Iraq Roundup. Actually it doesn't matter who's the appointed heir; the more people bringing up the news that the MSM wants to hide from us, the better!

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

VERY SENSIBLE comments by Camille Paglia. I just wish we had a left like this here in Spain but most, if not all of it, makes sound like bunch of pussies.

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Friday, August 19, 2005

SHUTTING UP LIKE A WHORE, that's what according to The Economist the Spanish media conglomerates do in a scenario of tight control by the Zapatero administration (subscription only, but you can read it in full here). For much less than this, Bush gets accused all over the world (and yes, also by Zapatero and his guys) for muzzling the independent voices in journalism:
SPANIARDS have a phrase to describe the attitude of the country's media giants as they await the government's decision on the allocation of digital television licences: “callarse como una puta”, to shut up like a whore. Why publish a report that may offend the Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, if it could jeopardise your share of the digital cake? This was what one journalist was told by his bosses when he asked why his report describing Tony Blair's lukewarm reception of Mr Zapatero's plan to cure the ills of Islamic radicalism through an “alliance of civilisations” had not been published.

In a country whose bestselling newspapers are mostly football-oriented, it is the all-powerful television that really matters. Mr Zapatero's government has caused considerable upset by appearing to lean too far towards the leftish Grupo Prisa, run by Jesús Polanco. The group, which owns the newspaper El País, runs the country's only analogue pay-television channel, Canal Plus, through its sister company, Sogecable (this monopoly arose from a licence given by a previous Socialist prime minister, Felipe González). Until the analogue shutdown and conversion to digital, planned for 2010, the government will allow Canal Plus to broadcast without the requirement for a set-top decoder, with the exception of a few high-value programmes such as football coverage.

The Socialist Party government will allocate digital television licenses. The People’s Party fears a monopoly by Grupo Prisa (which owns El País) and Sogecable (which runs Canal Plus).

[...] With the argument over digital television licences likely to remain live right up to the next election, due in three years' time, the media will continue to be cautious over criticising the government. And Mr Zapatero, like all his predecessors, will come to seem insincere in his stated ambition of eradicating government influence over the media.
Some of you will remember the PRISA media conglomerate as the one behind the agit-prop campaign between March 11 2004, the day of the terrorist attack in Madrid) and March 14, the day of the general election which put Zapatero in office. No wonder some think that he's just paying the unvaluable help he got.

(h/t: Mao)

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THERE WAS ONLY ONE WAY that the media would treat UNSCUM as what it really is: a mega-scandal. And that way has emerged, since Claudia Rosett (who deserves more than ever a Pulitzer for her pursuit of this subject) has discovered the involvement on the Oil-For-Food fraud of none other than... Enron!
Since the Oil for Food program came to an end in 2003, it has been described--accurately enough--as oil for palaces, oil for terror and oil for fraud. Now it turns out the U.N. relief program in Iraq was also oil for Enron.

Among the great scams of our time, there's a near-poetic inevitability to the convergence of the twain. When I first wrote about Oil for Food on these pages, almost three years ago, the analogy that came instantly to mind was Enron. Lo! Much scandal and many questions later, investigators for Rep. Henry Hyde's International Relations Committee have unearthed documents showing that shortly before Enron imploded in late 2001, the company, among its other deals, was shelling out millions, some of it into Swiss bank accounts, to buy Iraqi crude exported by Saddam under Oil for Food.

Not that Enron did business directly with Saddam's regime in violation of U.N. sanctions, or even did anything clearly illegal. Rather, the tale of its guest appearance in Oil for Food illustrates why in some ways the U.N. scandal dwarfs even Enron. Under cover of Oil for Food, Saddam's system of bribes, payoffs and kickbacks, ultimately totaling billions, ran through chains of often obscure middlemen in places such as Cyprus and Switzerland. Enron shows up on one of the outer spokes of Oil for Food's global web, dealing with a trans-Atlantic crew of companies and characters engaged not only in fraud, but allegedly linked to arms traffic, payoffs to the Kremlin and kickbacks to Saddam's regime. Along the way, this gang did its bit to comply via Oil for Food shipments with Saddam's policy of enforcing the Arab League boycott against Israel.

One of the most telling documents the Hyde committee investigators have come across is a fax addressed to Enron Reserve Acquisition Corp., dated March 27, 2001, and accompanied by U.N. approval papers needed to clear through U.S. customs two shipments of Iraqi oil, worth millions. Named on this fax are three companies that have in recent times become infamous on the Oil for Food investigations circuit: Russia-based Rosnefteimpex; Italy-based Italtech; and Bahamas-based Bayoil Supply and Trading Ltd., owned by a U.S. citizen, David Chalmers, who was also the sole shareholder of a Texas-based company, Bayoil (USA). The arrangement outlined in the fax shows that despite a mandate to minimize middlemen, U.N. Oil for Food officials had approved the sale of oil by Saddam's regime to Rosnefteimpex and Italtech. These companies in turn had sold their oil allocations to Bayoil, which was busy in this instance completing one of several onward sales to Enron.
Keep on reading.

UPDATE. The esteemed Cori Dauber and I had the same thought.

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

GATEWAY PUNDIT reports on the long queues at gas stations in China. Good ol' Jim thinks that it's because of the battle interlocking the Chinese government and its state-owned petrol companies, or something like that.

Nah. It's because of this:
Enterprising petrol stations in western China have taken service to new heights by offering sex with a tank of gasoline.

Some of the more than 1,000 filling stations in the region of Ningxia have been luring motorists with the services of a prostitute along with petrol and diesel oil, an industry publication said.

``Sometimes there is no clear dividing line whether the customers come for gas or sex, but the sex service is based on the condition that you have to buy petrol first,'' said China OGP, which is published by the official Xinhua news agency.

``The term no money, no honey has changed into no petrol, no honey,'' it said.
Gives the phrase "waiting to be served" a different meaning, eh?

UPDATE AUG. 19: Yes, I know the news item is from 1998; I just thought it could 'explain' it anyway.

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SUPERB PIECE by Mark Steyn summing what we already known about the Oil for Food fraud, otherwise known as UNSCUM (though others prefer UNSCAM, but a winner's a winner!). It's even more damning when you see it one bit after another, isn't it?
How many Annans does it take to change a light bulb? Well, if the replacement light bulb's being shipped to Uday Hussein's Iraqi Olympic Committee recreational basement as part of the UN Oil-for-Food programme, there's no telling how many Annans you'll need.

You'll recall that Kofi Annan's son Kojo - who had a $30,000-a-year job but managed to find a spare quarter-million dollars sitting around to invest in a Swiss football club - has been under investigation for some time for his alleged ties to the Oil-for-Food programme. But the investigators have now broadened their sights to include Kofi's brother Kobina Annan, the Ghanaian ambassador to Morocco, who has ties to a businessman behind several of the entities involved in the scandal - one Michael Wilson, the son of the former Ghanaian ambassador to Switzerland and a childhood friend of young Kojo. Mr Wilson is currently being investigated for suspected bribery over a $50 million contract to renovate the Geneva offices of the UN World Intellectual Property Organisation.

The actual head of the Oil-for-Food racket, Kofi sidekick Benon Sevan, has resigned, having hitherto insisted that a mysterious six-figure sum in his bank account was a gift from his elderly aunt, a lady of modest means who lived in a two-room flat back in Cyprus. Paul Volcker's investigators had planned to confirm with auntie her nephew's version of events, but unfortunately she fell down an elevator shaft and died. It now seems likely that the windfall had less to do with Mr Sevan's late aunt and more to do with his soliciting of oil allocations for another company.

Meanwhile, Alexander Yakovlev, a senior procurement officer for UN "peacekeeping" missions - and, if you're on a UN mission in Africa, no, he can't fix you up with a hot-looking eight-year-old from the local village; Mr Yakovlev apparently dealt with the non-child-sex aspects of UN procuring - anyway, Mr Yakovlev salted away just shy of a million bucks in kickbacks in his account in Antigua. He's just been arrested in New York and pleaded guilty to money laundering, wire fraud, etc.

Despite the current investigations into his brother, his son, his son's best friend, his former chief of staff, his procurement officer and the executive director of the UN's biggest ever programme, the Secretary-General insists he remains committed to staying on and tackling the important work of "reforming" the UN.

Unfortunately, his Executive Co-Ordinator for United Nations Reform has also had to resign. Officially, Maurice Strong, Under-Secretary-General, godfather of the Kyoto treaty and chief UN negotiator on North Korea, resigned because he'd put his step-daughter on the payroll - she's also quit - and because of his ties to Tongsun Park, a Korean businessman charged by the US Attorney's office with taking millions of dollars from Saddam to act as an unregistered foreign agent for Iraq. Mr Park allegedly invested a million of those Saddamite greenbacks in a business of Under-Secretary-General Strong's son - a now bankrupt Canadian petroleum company.

By happy coincidence, Under-Secretary-General Strong and Kojo Annan were both appointed, on the same day, to the board of a company called Air Harbour Technologies, a business registered in the Isle of Man and whose directors also included Michael Wilson, the guy under investigation for the UN office renovation contract in Geneva. It's a small world, at least at the UN. AHT was wholly owned by the son of Sheikh Yamani, the former Saudi oil minister. Yamani Jnr was putting together a $60 million oil deal with Saddam, and seemed to think the presence of UN officials and offspring on his board might help him.

But not to worry. To demonstrate his ongoing commitment to "reform", Kofi Annan has now put his Deputy- Secretary-General, Louise Frechette, another Canadian, in charge of the "reform agenda". In a February report by Mr Volcker's committee, Mme Frechette is said to have helped Mr Sevan block efforts to bring details of the Oil-for-Food boondoggle before the Security Council.
Steyn is right when he writes next that all this giant fraud could be uncovered only because of the Iraq war. No wonder Annan was so much against it, since he know that sooner or later someone would follow the thread. We'll also understand soon why some people were shouting, writing, "punditing" NO WAR.

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IF I'M the Barcepundit, this guy is the Barce-eater: a weblog about eating out -and drinking, I assume- in this city. Worth a look if you plan to come to town.

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¿ESCRIBE AZNAR en El País? ¿O es algún otro fachorro despendolao? Porque sólo así puede entenderse este editorial de hoy (via Leeuw):
[...] gran parte de las amenazas a la seguridad de nuestros ciudadanos se gestan en lugares remotos del globo en los que el nuevo terrorismo internacional ha establecido sus santuarios y bases, y donde tiraniza a las poblaciones locales. Ayudar a que se establezcan en esos Estados regímenes democráticos respetuosos con el derecho internacional es parte del esfuerzo necesario para una paz estable
El editorial acerta. De hecho acierta tanto que lo mismo que dice respecto a Afganistán es perfectamente aplicable a Iraq, aunque el propio texto intente desmarcarse de este último país y defienda la vergonzante retirada en base a una supuesta ilegalidad de la guerra que no era tal. Porque en contra del análisis propio de parvulario que ha dominado la discusión pública, la legalidad de una guerra no la determina el hecho de que se disponga o no de la autorización de la ONU (autorización que, por otro lado, no estaba explícitamente denegada); el organismo de la corrupción del programa Petróleo por Alimentos no es el dispensador oficial de permisos para guerras, como creen quienes ignoran los fundamentos del derecho internacional. Además, incluso para los juristas más opuestos a la guerra, desde el 16 de octubre de 2003 el organismo-tótem dio su beneplácito a lo que ocurría entre el tigris y el Éufrates. Seis meses antes de la retirada. Y aún más cuando en junio de 2004 aprobó la resolución 1583, también conocida como resolución-que-nunca-se-iba-a-aprobar.

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SPANISH COPTER crash in Afghanistan update:
Spanish investigators suspect an accident rather than an attack caused the military helicopter crash in Afghanistan that killed all 17 Spanish soldiers on board, officials said on Wednesday.

But the armed forces still were not completely ruling out that the helicopter may have been shot down on Tuesday, a spokesman in the prime minister's office said.

"Nothing has been ruled out, but the experts say that so far there is no evidence that it could have been neither attack nor friendly fire," the spokesman said. "There were very strong winds in the area," he said, reports Reuters.
Well, instead of experts, why not asking witnesses, the ones travelling on the second helicopter -the one which had to make an emergency landing-?
"We all felt a strong impact, like an explosion, and our helicopter began turning until it fell to the ground," said an unnamed soldier who was among the five injured, and who was interviewed by phone by the La Voz de Galicia newspaper.

"The others, the ones in front, must have been hit full blast," he was quoted as saying.

"When we came down, their aircraft was already burning."

Also in La Voz de Galicia, a parent of one of the dead soldiers was quoted as saying that they had received a call from the pilot of the second craft, informing them of the death of their son.

"Their helicopter was shot down. They were fired on from the ground, they were attacked," the pilot was quoted as telling the family.

The paper said that 10 of the 17 Spaniards who died in the incident were from Galicia, a region in the northwest of the country.

Most Spanish media meanwhile reported that only a few seconds before the crash, the pilots of the two craft were apparently unaware of any problems.

Six seconds before the incident, the pilots of the second helicopter asked the other over the radio how things were going.

"Great," replied the pilot of the aircraft which went down.
Which is not what one would expect to hear from someone who was low-flying a helicopter under strong enough winds that would ultimately bring the aircraft down.

Meanwhile, a top Afghan defense ministry official had another explanation:
"What is clear for us is that there was definitely no attack by militants," said Maj. Gen. Shar Mohammed Karimi. "We suspect one of the helicopters may have accidentally hit the other while flying. The other possibility is that the choppers had technical problems."
So that makes at least three different explanations. Some military officials I hear earlier today on the radio were doubtful that the crash was caused by the wind; seing the picture of the blast that was released by authorities, they say that an aircraft falling down because of winds doesn't leave a straight mark on the ground (see foreground in picture here; the copter in the background is a rescue team.)

Bono, Spain's defense minister, is clever enough to present it as an accident -which bodes better with a pacifist country that only participates in humanitarian missions- but just in case he doesn't rule out an attack.

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Serbian police have arrested one of the last outstanding suspects in the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people last year, Spain said on Wednesday.

Abdelmajid Bouchar, a 22-year-old Moroccan, was arrested in Belgrade for immigration violations and for carrying false Iraqi identification papers. Spain will seek his immediate extradition, the Interior Ministry said.

The suspect has been wanted on an international arrest warrant for more than a year.

Bouchar escaped from a suburban Madrid apartment three weeks after the bombings as police were closing in on a group of prime suspects, according to the judge leading the investigation.

Bouchar, a competitive distance runner, was taking out the trash when he noticed the police, yelled a warning to the others and fled, the judge said.

When police surrounded the apartment, seven suspects inside blew themselves up with a batch of the same stolen dynamite used to make the backpack bombs that were planted on four commuter trains on March 11, 2004, investigators said. The suicide blast also killed a police special agent.
What he has to say will be tremendously important, considering all the question marks surrounding this affair.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

THE LATEST IN SWIMWEAR for women who want to follow the Islamic rules (via Roger Simon)

Gee, these guys sure are liberalizing their societies! Whoa, color!

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IT IS A WELL KNOWN FACT that Bangla Desh's is one of the armies contributing with most forces to the theft of Iraq's oil and cultural treasures. Then it's just natural that there's retribution from the resistance:
At least two people have been killed and 50 others injured in a series of small bomb blasts across Bangladesh.

Officials say more than 300 explosions took place simultaneously in 50 cities and towns across the country including the capital Dhaka.

An outlawed Islamic group, Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, says it carried out the attacks.

Police say that more than 50 people have been arrested in connection with the blasts.

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LOVE this correction from Reuters:
In KABUL story headlined "At least 17 Spanish troops die in Afghan crash" please read in 3rd paragraph ...Spanish Defence Minister Jose Bono said... instead of ...Spanish Defence Minister Lose Bono said... (correcting first name to Jose).

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

EVEN THOUGH his line has been picked already, Arthur Chrenkoff's not done blogging yet, and I'm glad for it. He's done another roundup of good news from Iraq (it's the 33rd!) which, besides the usual loads of information, includes some very wise comments on the media bias and its negative impact in the public opinion.

More about this here, and on the links from there.

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APPARENTLY, that Steven Vincent was murdered because he was about to marry his Iraqi interpreter is just a rumor; he was happily married. Reader Debbie Krongard sends this Radio OpenSource interview with his widow, Lisa Ramaci-Vincent. Impressive.

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Spain confirmed the country's first troop fatalities in Afghanistan, saying that 17 troops died on Tuesday in what appeared to be an accidental helicopter crash, a spokesman in the Spanish prime minister's office told CNN.

The troops were serving under NATO command as part of a Spanish contingent of about 800 peacekeeping troops there. The spokesman said "a helicopter crashed" although he had no immediate further information on the circumstances of the accident.

The location of the crash is near the western Afghan city of Herat.

He said there was no indication that the helicopter was brought down by hostile fire, a major concern since fighting between U.S. and Afghan forces and Taliban militants has been raging during the runup to the Sept, 18 Afghan parliamentary elections.

But Herat is part of a region closer to Iran, an area that has not been plagued by the kind of fighting that has been raging along Afghanistan's eastern border.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, on vacation, has been informed and was in contact with Spain's Defense Ministry, the spokesman said.

Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono was expected to make a statement at 2 p.m. (8 a.m. ET).

A second helicopter, flying near the one that crashed, made an emergency landing and there were injuries on that craft, Spanish Defense Ministry spokesmen told CNN partner station CNN+.
No matter what one thinks about Zapatero's administration policies, what these guys are doing in Afghanistan (just as what they would have done in Iraq if they hadn't been irresponsibly pulled out from there) is an outstanding job.

May these seventeen heroes rest in peace. And may their deaths be spared of the disgusting, vomit-inducing politicization that happened with their coleagues who died in the Yak-42 accident.

Will be updating this entry with any new information regarding the cause of the accident.

UPDATE. Reuters has more. Defense minister Bono has appeared in a press conference and said that, while the initial impression was that it had been an accident, the fact that the crash occured in what was a mountain area, yes, but specifically in a plain in the middle of it, doesn't allow to rule out an outside attack. They've shown the first picture and it's true; the crashed helo is in the middle of a big plain. I guess we'll know more as soon as the soldiers flying on helicopter flying with the one that crashed tell what happened (they did an emergency landing themselves and this is why some of the occupants are slightly hurt; apparently when they saw the other one crashing they thought it was an attack and decided to land immediately. I'm not sure if this makes military sense; a layman like would think that landing in a place where an attack comes from is probably not a good idea. On the other hand, they probably didn't want to leave the guys in the crashed helicopter just like that.)

UPDATE II. Zapatero has read a statement and taken no questions from reporters. It's been a quite bland, topical statement, and wanting to be so empathic and thoughtful he has -if I'm not wrong, but it made me jump my chair so I don't think I am; anyway, I'll check with the transcript when it's available- slipped a real howler. Zapatero has said that "the 17 [dead] soldiers must know that they have the gratitude of all right-thinking people". Not their loved ones, not their friends, not their souls. Themselves. Sheesh. And they call Bush inarticulate. Maybe it's time for Slate to start a "Zapaterisms" section; I can send quite a few examples and we'll all laugh together and so.

UPDATE III. I just watched the statement in the nightly news on TV and I had it wrong: Zapatero was talking about the families and friends of the dead soldiers. My bad.

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Monday, August 15, 2005

SOMEONE IS FOLLOWING where Arthur Chrenkoff left it: Alenda Lux is picking up the Good News from Iraq roundup. Here's the first; worth reading.

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IRAN, IRAQ, it's just a letter, right?:
The U.S. Military's new nemesis in Iraq is named Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani, and he is not a Baathist or a member of al-Qaeda. He is working for Iran. According to a U.S. military-intelligence document obtained by TIME, al-Sheibani heads a network of insurgents created by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps with the express purpose of committing violence against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. Over the past eight months, his group has introduced a new breed of roadside bomb more lethal than any seen before; based on a design from the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hizballah, the weapon employs "shaped" explosive charges that can punch through a battle tank's armor like a fist through the wall. According to the document, the U.S. believes al-Sheibani's team consists of 280 members, divided into 17 bombmaking teams and death squads. The U.S. believes they train in Lebanon, in Baghdad's predominantly Shi'ite Sadr City district and "in another country" and have detonated at least 37 bombs against U.S. forces this year in Baghdad alone.

Since the start of the insurgency in Iraq, the most persistent danger to U.S. troops has come from the Sunni Arab insurgents and terrorists who roam the center and west of the country. But some U.S. officials are worried about a potentially greater challenge to order in Iraq and U.S. interests there: the growing influence of Iran. With an elected Shi'ite-dominated government in place in Baghdad and the U.S. preoccupied with quelling the Sunni-led insurgency, the Iranian regime has deepened its imprint on the political and social fabric of Iraq, buying influence in the new Iraqi government, running intelligence-gathering networks and funneling money and guns to Shi'ite militant groups--all with the aim of fostering a Shi'ite-run state friendly to Iran. In parts of southern Iraq, fundamentalist Shi'ite militias--some of them funded and armed by Iran--have imposed restrictions on the daily lives of Iraqis, banning alcohol and curbing the rights of women. Iraq's Shi'ite leaders, including Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, have tried to forge a strategic alliance with Tehran, even seeking to have Iranians recognized as a minority group under Iraq's proposed constitution. "We have to think anything we tell or share with the Iraqi government ends up in Tehran," says a Western diplomat.
There's much more if you keep on reading.

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

SO WE HAD already heard about Kojo Annan and, of course, Kofi the dad, in relation with the Oil-For-Food scam.

Ta-daaaa! Enter Kobina Annan, Kofi's brother:
THE official investigation into corruption in the £20 billion United Nations oil for food programme is now looking at the brother of Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general.

Kobina Annan, the Ghanaian ambassador to Morocco, is said by investigators to be “connected” to an African businessman at the centre of the scandal.

The oil for food programme was set up by the UN in 1995 to provide humanitarian supplies to Iraq, which was at the time prevented from trading normally with the rest of the world because of sanctions.

However, Saddam Hussein subverted the programme by taking kickbacks from companies involved and giving cut-price oil vouchers to influential individuals around the world.

Kobina is the second member of Annan’s family to be drawn into the scandal, which has led to the resignation of several senior UN officials.

The secretary-general has so far escaped censure, but the final verdict on his conduct will not be delivered by investigators until the autumn.

Kojo Annan, the secretary-general’s son who was involved with several companies seeking to profit from the programme, has been criticised and remains under investigation.

Inquiries into Kobina are at an early stage and he has not been interviewed.

However, investigators are understood to suspect that Michael Wilson, an African businessman, and Kobina had a business relationship at the time of the scandal.

A source close to the investigation said: “We believe Kobina Annan may be involved with Michael Wilson and Kojo Annan. We know there is a connection between Kobina and Wilson.”

The oil for food programme was the biggest humanitarian scheme undertaken. However, since the fall of Saddam allegations of corruption have surfaced forcing the UN to set up a commission, headed by Paul Volcker, the former head of the American Federal Reserve, to investigate it.

Saddam is alleged to have used valuable oil allocations to influence key figures around the world. Bribes were also demanded in return for oil, which were paid into a network of secret bank accounts.

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SO BUSH HAS CREATED a situation in Iraq which is rapidly heading towards a civil war between Shiites and Sunnies, while al-Qaeda is enjoying a growing popularity among the population up to a level like it hadn't reached before, eh?

Well, let's head towards Ramadi, one of the 'glorious resistants' strongholds, and see what's happening there:
Rising up against insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi, Iraqi Sunni Muslims in Ramadi fought with grenade launchers and automatic weapons Saturday to defend their Shiite neighbors against a bid to drive them from the western city, Sunni leaders and Shiite residents said. The fighting came as the U.S. military announced the deaths of six American soldiers.

Dozens of Sunni members of the Dulaimi tribe established cordons around Shiite homes, and Sunni men battled followers of Zarqawi, a Jordanian, for an hour Saturday morning. The clashes killed five of Zarqawi's guerrillas and two tribal fighters, residents and hospital workers said. Zarqawi loyalists pulled out of two contested neighborhoods in pickup trucks stripped of license plates, witnesses said.

The leaders of four of Iraq's Sunni tribes had rallied their fighters in response to warnings posted in mosques by followers of Zarqawi. The postings ordered Ramadi's roughly 3,000 Shiites to leave the city of more than 200,000 in the area called the Sunni Triangle. The order to leave within 48 hours came in retaliation for alleged expulsions by Shiite militias of Sunnis living in predominantly Shiite southern Iraq.

"We have had enough of his nonsense," said Sheik Ahmad Khanjar, leader of the Albu Ali clan, referring to Zarqawi. "We don't accept that a non-Iraqi should try to enforce his control over Iraqis, regardless of their sect -- whether Sunnis, Shiites, Arabs or Kurds.''

Iraqi Sunni tribal leaders and armed followers of Zarqawi have clashed before in the far west, and Sunnis and Shiites in western cities have sympathized with one another over what they have said are attempts by foreign fighters to spark open sectarian conflict. But Saturday's clash in Ramadi was one of the first times Sunni Arabs have been known to take up arms against insurgents specifically in defense of Shiites.
Some civil war and some popularity.

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

NOT THAT I'm surprised, but seeing someone boasting how he has fooled you makes one cringe. Or it should:
In an interview that aired on Iranian Channel 2 on August 4, 2005, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Hosein Musavian explains why they entered negotiations: to buy time to finish building the Esfahan nuclear processing facility.
You can see for yourself there (with English subtitles, phew!).

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THAT'S WHAT HAPPENS when you elect a German as Pope...

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Friday, August 12, 2005

STEVEN VINCENT, the freelance journalist and blogger murdered in Iraq a few days ago, wasn't killed as a retribution for his article denouncing the infiltration of terrorists in Basra's new security forces, as it was believed. His "crime"? He was going to marry his Muslim interpreter:
AN American journalist who was shot dead in Basra last week was executed by Shiite extremists who knew he was intending to marry his Muslim interpreter, it has emerged.

Steven Vincent was shot a week before the planned wedding to Nouriya Itais and had already delivered a $2,500 dowry to her family.

The disclosure casts new light on the grip of Islamic religious sects in the British-run south- east of Iraq - raising concern that they will take control once troops start to withdraw. Mr Vincent was abducted from his hotel three days after writing a piece in the New York Times accusing British officials of allowing religious parties to infiltrate the Basra police.

In America, his death was taken as retribution for his article. But in London yesterday, British officials pointed out that the police in Basra believed it was retribution for his affair.

(thanks to reader Tom Pechinski)

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

JUST ADDED to my blogroll, well, a weblog I just discovered vía Tim Blair written by someone who is not supposed to exist: a liberal supporting Bu$Hitler!

It's Phil Hendrie, has a radio show and doesn't mince words (in his blog, at least, though I suspect it's just the same on air, though I haven't had the chance of listening to him yet) A good reason to read his blog!

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

THE GREAT Thomas Sowell on the orgy of self-flagellation for Hiroshima and Nagasaki's 60th anniversary:
Winston Churchill once spoke of the secrets of the atom, "hitherto mercifully withheld from man." We can all lament that this terrible power of mass destruction has been revealed to the world and fear its ominous consequences for us all, including our children and grandchildren. But that is wholly different from saying that a great moral evil was committed when the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

What was new about these bombs was the technology, not the morality. More people were killed with ordinary bombs in German cities or in Tokyo. Vastly more people were killed with ordinary bullets and cannon on the Russian front. Morality is about what you do to people, not the technology you use.

The guilt-mongers have twisted the facts of history beyond recognition in order to say that it was unnecessary to drop those atomic bombs. Japan was going to lose the war anyway, they say. What they don't say is -- at what price in American lives? Or even in Japanese lives?

Much of the self-righteous nonsense that abounds on so many subjects cannot stand up to three questions: (1) Compared to what? (2) At what cost? and (3) What are the hard facts?
If you keep on reading, you'll know his answers.

UPDATE. More: Clive Davis, Max Boot and Austin Bay (two first links via Glenn Reynolds).

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ONLY A FEW HOURS after his arrest, Yakovlev has pled guilty for the charges against him related to the Oil For Food program:
NEW YORK --A former United Nations procurement officer pleaded guilty Monday to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from U.N. contractors, federal prosecutors said.

Alexander Yakovlev also admitted to soliciting a bribe under the U.N. oil-for-food program, making him the first U.N. official to face criminal charges in connection with the scandal-tainted program for Iraq.

He pleaded guilty to all three counts in the indictment -- wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering -- and could face up to 20 years in prison for each of the charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Yakovlev, who lives in the New York City suburb of Yonkers, was taken into custody and released later Monday on a $400,000 bond, with no new court date immediately set, said Megan Gaffney, a spokeswoman for David Kelley, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York.

"We decided that it's in the best interest of the client to enter such a plea," Yakovlev's lawyer Arkady Bukh told The Associated Press. "In term of sentencing we expect much better deal if we enter a guilty plea.
He entered the deal so quickly that Ed Morrisey wonders whether a part of this deal is to sign like a canary about the fraudulent scheme. If so, lots of people, starting with Annan, might be in big, very big trouble.


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Monday, August 08, 2005

FIRST HEADS rolling:
One of the targets U.N. Oil-for Food investigation, Alexander Yakovlev (search), was stripped of his diplomatic immunity Monday and taken into custody by federal authorities, a U.N. spokesman announced Monday.

The U.S. attorney's office took Yakovlev into custody hours after Paul Volcker (search), the man in charge of the U.N.-approved probe into Oil-for-Food, fingered Yakovlev as one of two main U.N. officials involved in the program's corruption.
On Sevan:
The report also accuses Benon Sevan (search), the one-time head of the Oil-for-Food program who severed his ties with the United Nations on Sunday, of taking kickbacks under the multi-billion dollar humanitarian operation aimed at easing the effects of sanctions on Iraqi civilians.

Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman, also said in releasing the report that Sevan should also lose his diplomatic immunity so he can be prosecuted for alleged crimes.

For the first time, the report gave a motive for Sevan's actions, saying his finances were "precarious" shortly before his alleged misdeeds.

Some critics have accused the United Nations of squandering millions -- and even billions -- of dollars in its mismanagement of the program. Yet Volcker's team found that Sevan appeared to have received kickbacks of just $147,184 from December 1998 to January 2002.

Volcker said Sevan had not responded to the IIC's efforts to contact him to get possible alternative explanations for that money.

[...] On Thursday, Sevan's lawyer Eric Lewis said the committee would find in its upcoming report that Sevan got kickbacks for steering contracts under Oil-for-Food to a small trading company called African Middle East Petroleum Co. Ltd. Inc. Lewis said it would also accuse Sevan of failing to cooperate with the investigation.

The report largely confirmed that, but went further. It described how Sevan and his wife repeatedly had overdrawn their bank accounts before Sevan first sought to steer oil allocations to AMEP.

It also found that two men helped Sevan: Fred Nadler, an AMEP director and brother-in-law of former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali; and Fakhry Abdelnour, the president of AMEP.

Volcker's team recommended that the United Nations assist in their possible prosecution as well.
And now the best part:
The report, which Volcker said was intended to tie up some "loose ends" in his panel's investigation, touched on topics other than Sevan. It dealt briefly with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his son, Kojo, and said more would be discussed in the committee's final report, expected in September.
(my emph)

Can't wait for that. Oh, and I hope they start soon with the international ramifications of the scandal...

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It's a well-known fact that there are people of different shapes and sizes. There are tall people, short people, fat people, thin people. So, try this as a thought experiment. You say, after seeing a couple of thin people in your garden, 'There are thin people in my garden.' Some other people object to your saying this; they reply, 'I am not a thin person', or 'You are a thin person', or 'Being a person is not in itself the same as being a thin person'. None of the other people who say these things to you meet your claim that there are thin people in your garden by trying to show that there are not any thin people there, or that the people there whom you took to be thin, though people, are fat, or though thin, aren't people, or are neither thin nor people, or even vice versa.

Wouldn't happen, right? No, it wouldn't, because the logical errors in responding in these ways are just too glaring. Somebody who affirms the presence of thin people in her garden hasn't denied the existence of other types of people and neither has she claimed that anyone is a thin person other than the two particular thin people she saw in her garden. If, in affirming the presence of thin people in her garden, she has even made it explicit that she knows there are other kinds of people than thin ones, such responses are doubly stupid.

Two weeks ago the Guardian ran a piece by me (adapted from this post) which said, about some of the commentary following the London bombings on 7 July, including in the Guardian itself, that 'there are apologists among us'. To this I had a large email response, slightly more than half of it negative (see here). Of the slightly more than half, if one leaves aside communications of the sort that I must obviously be looking for some form of preferment from Tony Blair, or that it was a mystery how a professor could hold the opinions I'd expressed, or that I must, in one or other variant, have fallen into a pit of political depravity, the great majority of these email responses were to the effect that they (the emailers) were not apologists for terrorism, or that I was an apologist for George W. Bush and/or Tony Blair, or that trying to understand the causes of terrorism isn't the same thing as condoning or offering an apologia for it. An adequate answer to all these responses is provided by the addition of a single word to the last of the just summarized claims: trying to understand the causes of terrorism isn't necessarily the same thing as condoning or constructing an apologia for it. Still, being a generous-hearted sort of a guy, I will offer more than the addition of that word.

He follows there, and then in a new post; don't miss this show of common sense and wisdom from my favorite Marxist!

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

IT'S BEEN A WHILE since John, the American ex-pat living in Barcelona and a good friend, hadn't fisked any article in the local press. Now he's at it again, but not just one, but two!

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

HIROSHIMA, 60 years later; the biempensants among us here in Spain (that is, virtually all the media and oped writers) are describing what happened back then, literally, as "one of history's biggest atrocities", as if it was just like, you know, the Holocaust or something like that (of course, not a few of them probably think that it's worse because, at least, the Japanese were innocent civilians, whereas those jooooooos...), but you can read some superb posts on this issue.

Erik Svane does a roundup of opinions and opines himself. Don't miss either this article by Richard Frank (via Austin Bay), nor this superb multi-post essay (via Glenn Reynolds).

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BAD NEWS from down under: Arthur Chrenkoff will stop blogging soon. Well, of course it's good news for him, since he stops as one of the conditions for his new job. But for the rest of us? We'll miss his posts, that's it.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

A HECTIC DAY today, so I had no time to blog. But if you want to read a really interesting thing, read this report (warning: pdf file) by the Brookings Institution, which tracks the progress in Iraq's security, economy, quality of life and political scenario since the beginning of the war.

It's 41 pages seem a lot, but they're not: it's all very readable charts with data making clear that, while obviously Iraq today is not like Switzerland, progress is clear and noticeable, unlike what the media and war critics have been trying to fixate in our minds.

(via my friend Josep Maria Fabregas of Nihil Obstat, a blog in Catalan.)

See you tomorrow!

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

MADRID BOMBINGS idelogues ID'd, reports the Associated Press:
Police have identified two Syrian-born Spaniards as the ideological mentors behind last year's Madrid train bombings, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

El Pais said a police report handed over in March to the judge investigating the attacks concludes that the two, Moutaz Almallah Dabas and his brother, Mohannad, were directly linked to al-Qaida. Both are in custody.

Both are in custody, and one of them was a member of Zapatero's Socialist party! (oh, how I love to be a little bit of a demagogue: it's far from clear that the Socialist party officials knew, but can you imagine if he had been a GOPer? For much less than this, look what they're calling Cheney and Bush).

Police and the Interior Ministry declined to comment on the report.

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THIS CAN'T BE! Michael Moore told us that it was Bush who was in bed with the Saudis but... it's Spain and not the US declaring an official day of mourning for king Fahd's death? I don't understand!

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A LITTLE OVER one month ago Niall Ferguson write a superb article arguing that victory in Iraq is a matter of numbers and of time. At the same time, he makes an impeccable example on how to do constructive criticism of Bush's administration strategy in Iraq:
"I think that this could still fail." Those words - uttered by a senior American officer in Baghdad last month - probably gave opponents of the war in Iraq a bit of a kick. Judging by the polls, a majority of Americans probably now share that view. According to Gallup, 57 percent of Americans say it was not worth going to war in the first place. Around the same percentage say things are going badly today.

Yet history strongly suggests that an American withdrawal from Iraq in the near future would be a disaster. As another U.S. officer told The New York Times recently: "If we let go of the insurgency ... then this country could fail and go back into civil war and chaos."

People in Lebanon need no reminder that failed American interventions can leave "civil war and chaos" in their wake. But what happened in Beirut in 1983 is part of a pattern going back to Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1970s, and forward to Haiti in the 1990s. To talk glibly of "finding a way out of Iraq," as if it were just a matter of hailing a cab and heading for Baghdad airport, is to underestimate the danger of a bloody internecine war after the American exit.

Already, a substantial section of the Sunni minority in Iraq is engaged in a campaign of violence designed to prevent a stable majoritarian regime from emerging. The Shiites are preparing to defend their newfound political power by force of arms. Meanwhile, many young Kurds are preparing to fight a war of independence. Indeed, it is not too much to say that civil war in Iraq has already begun, since the majority of people killed in this year's bombings have been Iraqis, not Americans.

Instead of throwing up their hands in an irresponsible fit of despair, Americans need to learn from the past: not just from their other premature departures, but also from earlier victories over insurgencies. For not all insurgencies are successful. Indeed, of all the attempts in the past century by irregular indigenous forces to expel regular foreign forces, around a third have failed.
Read the rest; that's where the real meat is.

UPDATE. Reader Jim Daly emails: "After reading Ferguson's article, I have to favor an immediate withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, starting this afternoon.

The conditions Ferguson lists as required for success in Iraq will never, never exist. A time frame of 30 years for the emergence of democracy in Iraq, hundred of thousands of additional American soldiers, these and all the rest of his requirements, if taken literally, are absurd and mean the US has already failed in Iraq; there is no reason to stay there any longer because there is no way we will ever do what Ferguson says is required to win. Seven American Marines were killed today and five more yesterday or Sunday--and for what? A cause that by Ferguson's own assessment must inevitably fail because there is no way, no way, the US can or will do what he says is necessary for success?

We must finally and once and for all time recognize that armed might can accomplish very little in Iraq or anyplace else for that matter where car bombing is the main tool of attack. Once all American military forces are home from Iraq and from the rest of this stinking world, I favor a reduction of the American military power by at least 75% and an American foreign policy of political and military isolationism. Ferguson is right. We have already failed in Iraq. Better to admit the facts, better to come home and stay home and let the new Dark Age begin. I say Dark Age because that is what Ferguson, in another article, predicted would happen if the US pulled out and became isolationist. I prefer isolation and a Dark Age to having American troops in Iraq get killed everyday for a cause that, by Ferguson's own assessment, we cannot possibly win."

Well, what I wrote is that the article was superb because it was reasoned and provided an excellent example of constructive criticism, but that didn't mean I agreed completely with it. In any case, conditions currently in Iraq may be harder than some expected (and easier than most critics anticipated, remember the millions of refugees? the famine, the humanitarian crisis? the whole Arab street on fire?) but Ferguson's case is not for withdrawal, so I believe Jim is stretching the argument a little. We can't expect everything to be perfect, and we have to deal with the cards we have on the table. The alternative (withdrawal and, per Jim's vision, isolationism and Dark Ages) is too terrible even to consider.

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IF ABCNEWS exclusive pictures of the London terror attacks' aftermath and unexploded bomb is like the last time they had a similar exclusive, namely after the Madrid train attacks of March 11, well, then I'll reserve my judgement.

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Monday, August 01, 2005

PAUL BELIEN sends me the link to, he says, "a great site in the Heart of Darkness", The Brussels Journal. Of course, being one of the writers I'd be surprised if he didn't think it's great! Anyway, the "About" description sounds actually cool:
“I believe in being free, acquiring knowledge, and telling the truth.”

The above quote from the legendary American journalist H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) sums it up pretty much. The Brussels Journal is a project set up by European journalists and writers to restore three values that are so lacking in the so-called “consensus-culture” of contemporary Europe: Freedom, the quest for Knowledge, and the Truth.

We defend freedom and, though we do not pretend to know the ultimate truth, we strive to acquire as much knowledge as possible by presenting facts and views that are hard to find in the “consensus-media” of Europe.

We are not an organisation; we are a coalition of individuals. Our contributors do not necessarily share every view represented in the articles of this website, but we know they all write with an earnest desire for the truth. What binds us is our defence of liberty and the conviction that the state exists to serve man and never the other way round.
So far I only had time to take a quick glance, but enough to think that it's worth a regular visit.

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After El Mundo editor and publisher Pedro J. Ramirez claimed the right not to reveal his newspaper's sources in its investigation of the March 11, 2004 bombings, and failed to turn over the evidence demanded by the court, Audiencia Nacional judge Juan Del Olmo recused himself from the case last week. Del Olmo justified his actions against Ramirez on the grounds of guarding the safety of protected witnesses, though he did not do the same thing when El Pais revealed official secrets in another case.
A way of retracting while saving face: even the two main judge associations had criticized del Olmo.

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IF IT'S MONDAY, it's turn for another take of Arthur Chrenkoff's roundup of good news from Iraq (the 32nd).

I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's worth your time not only because it's really interesting, but also reading it you'll realize how much information the MSM doesn't see fit for its audience. The reason why is obvious: if they reported on these developments, they couldn't say anymore that the war is botched, that Iraq is a failure and so on.

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KING FAHD of Saudi Arabia has died; though the succession was already decided, it will be a moment in which Osama bin Laden, a saudi himself, might want to have an impact in the process; after all, ending the rule of the Saud dinasty has been one of his longtime goals. Of course, it's more than likely that the man himself is pushing up daisies -or poppies, perhaps- but al-Qaeda guys may want to do it anyway since, after all, they'd be pretending he's alive all along. Or as a tribute, if he isn't.

I guess intel and security services all over the country and the region will be on high alert for quite some time.

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