Monday, April 30, 2007
On this day:

Taming Anbar

General Petraus's counterinsurgency strategy is showing real signs of progress in Iraq's Sunni heartland. According to the New York Times:
RAMADI, Iraq — Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat.

“Many people are challenging the insurgents,” said the governor of Anbar, Maamoon S. Rahid, though he quickly added, “We know we haven’t eliminated the threat 100 percent.”

Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. With the tribal leaders’ encouragement, thousands of local residents have joined the police force. About 10,000 police officers are now in Anbar, up from several thousand a year ago. During the same period, the police force here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, has grown from fewer than 200 to about 4,500, American military officials say.

At the same time, American and Iraqi forces have been conducting sweeps of insurgent strongholds, particularly in and around Ramadi, leaving behind a network of police stations and military garrisons, a strategy that is also being used in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, as part of its new security plan.

By all means, read the whole thing.

NR's Rich Lowry comments here. Andrew Sullivan has posted an e-mail from a U.S. Marine who was recently on the ground in Anbar Province and who confirms that the new approach is working - here.

Monday, April 23, 2007
On this day:

Shower Shock

What will they think of next?
LONDON - Inventors have created a soap infused with caffeine which helps users wake up in the morning.

The soap, called Shower Shock, supplies the caffeine equivalent of two cups of coffee per wash, with the stimulant absorbed naturally through the skin, manufacturers say.

“Tired of waking up and having to wait for your morning java to brew? Are you one of those groggy early morning types that just needs the extra kick?” ask the makers,

Scented with peppermint oil, each bar is designed to provide a stimulant boost within five minutes for a clean buzz.

You can buy a bar or two here, but you may want to stop by the bank first.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007
On this day:

AL Democratic Party Blog: Sessions not held in high regard

Did you know that Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions is short and hangs out with "no lipped white boys?" That observation was made last year by liberal blogger Wonkette, and one Alabama Democratic Party blogger (echoing Trent at now cites it as evidence that Sessions is "not held in high regard" as a Senator.

The reason I'm bringing this up and wasting precious Blogger-bytes by linking to the ADP web site is this:

This particular ADP blogger seems to view a person's physical characteristics (including those that are directly linked to his race) as valid and appropriate considerations in judging his fitness to serve in Congress. While that line of thought runs deeply through the long history of the Alabama Democratic Party, I had been under the impression that today's crop of Democrats were a bit more progressive. Apparently, I was mistaken.

This is nothing that a few hours of sensitivity training couldn't cure, of course.

I can see it now:
Sensitive instructor: "Now students, can you see how calling people 'no-lipped white boys' might be hurtful?"

Insensitive ADP bloggers: "No. We were referring to Republicans. They have no feelings."

Sensitive instructor: "True, but some Democrats would fit that description, as well."

Insensitive ADP bloggers: "Yes, but no-lipped white boy Democrats love pain. They are Democrats, after all. They welcome the opportunity to suffer for their role in oppressing non-Anglo peoples."

Sensitive instructor: "But what if you had substituted 'thick-lipped black boys' for 'no-lipped white boys?' That could have been quite hurtful, right?"

Insensitive ADP bloggers: "That would be projecting a harmful racial stereotype onto an underrepresented and historically oppressed minority, and it would be wrong. Whites are not underrepresented nor have they been historically oppressed. We can call them whatever we want."

Sensitive instructor: "But, what if they don't like that?"

Insensitive ADP bloggers: "Then they must be Republicans. What do we care?"

Sensitive instructor: "You know? I think you're right. Class dismissed."

Yes, there are Two Americas

Those who find it perfectly acceptable to shell out $1300 of other people's money for two haircuts and a couple of sessions at the day spa, and those who don't.

Anniston Star: It's time to grieve: Save the debate for later

Here are the Anniston Star's editors on yesterday's tragedy at Virginia Tech:

When lives are lost, especially when lost in a hail of bullets fired in unexplainable anger, the basic human necessity to grieve is critical. We need the proper time to mourn, to remember those gone, to seek a higher understanding.

If ever there is a time to mourn, it is now. ...

It is natural, of course, to re-evaluate procedures and debate issues after cataclysmic events. There is nothing wrong with critical reassessment.

But there is a fundamental problem if interest groups co-opt the grief that hovers over Blacksburg and use it for timely gain. That should not happen now. Not while the pain remains so severe. Not while it’s so difficult to think objectively.

Now, here are the Star's editors, just a couple of short breaths later:
Re-evaluating where America rests on critical issues such as gun control and school violence should occur. If the Blacksburg deaths lead to true reform and progress, that at least would be a positive to emerge from such horror.
Interesting how the pain subsides so swiftly.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007
On this day:

Professor Liviu Librescu, RIP

What an extraordinary man.
(YNetNews) WASHINGTON – Prof Liviu Librescu, a senior researcher and lecturer at Virginia Tech, is among the 32 people who were killed during a shooting rampage at the university Monday. ...

One of Prof Librescu's students, Alec Calhoun, who was with him at the classroom when the shooting started, told AP that at about 9:05 am, he and classmates heard "a thunderous sound from the classroom next door, what sounded like an enormous hammer."

When students realized the sounds were gunshots, Calhoun said, they started flipping over desks for hiding places. Others dashed to the windows of the second-floor classroom, kicking out the screens and jumping from the ledge of the room.

Calhoun said that just before he climbed out the window, he turned to look at the professor (Librescu), who had stayed behind to block the door.

Librescu's wife drove him to work on Monday, and he was killed about an hour later. His daughter-in-law Ayala, who is married to his son, Joe, told Ynet: "I heard he blocked the door of the classroom he was teaching… he must have realized that the murderer was approaching. He saved his students and was killed by gunshots." ...

Prof Librescu and his wife are both Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Israel from Romania in 1978.

Librescu was an accomplished scientist in Romania, and the Communist regime had tried to prevent him from making aliyah to Israel. He was allowed to leave the country only after the Israeli prime minister at the time Menachem Begin appealed the matter to President Nicolae Ceausescu.

Several years later, Librescu left for a sabbatical in the United States and has remained there since. ...

"I understand from friends that my father was a hero," the son Joe told Ynet. "In fact, by blocking the door with his body he saved all the students who were in the classroom."

Joe said that his parents were very happy in the United States, where they have been living since 1984. "He and my mom led a simple life, at a pastoral place in West Virginia, between hills and mountains, and he loved the school in which he taught."

"He is scientist who did not work for money, but for the pleasure he got from his occupation," he added.

More from the Associated Press here:

Librescu, 76, had known hardship since his childhood.

When Romania joined forces with Nazi Germany in Second World War , he was first interned at a labour camp in Transnistria and then deported along with his family and thousands of other Jews to a ghetto in the Romanian city of Focsani, his son said.

According to a report compiled by the Romanian government in 2004, between 280,000 and 380,000 Jews were killed by Romania's Nazi-allied regime during the war.

"We were in Romania during the Second World War, and we were Jews there among the Germans, and among the anti-Semitic Romanians," Marlena Librescu told Israeli Channel 10 TV on Tuesday.

After the war, Librescu became a successful engineer under the postwar communist government and worked at Romania's aerospace agency. But his career was stymied in the 1970s because he refused to swear allegiance to dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's regime, his son said, and he was later fired when he requested permission to move to Israel.

After years of government refusal, according to his son, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin personally intervened to get the family an emigration permit. They moved to Israel in 1978.

Librescu left Israel for Virginia in 1985 for a year sabbatical, but eventually made the move permanent, said Joe Librescu, who himself studied at Virginia Tech from 1989-1994. The elder Librescu, who was an engineering and math lecturer at the school, published extensively and received numerous awards for his work.

"His work was his life in a sense," his son said.

In Romania, the academic community mourned Librescu's death.

"It is a great loss," said Ecaterina Andronescu, rector of the Polytechnic University in Bucharest, where Librescu graduated in 1953. "We have immense consideration for the way he reacted and defended his students with his life."

So do we. So do we.

Blessed is the man you discipline, O Lord,
the man you teach from your law;
you grant him relief from days of trouble,
till a pit is dug for the wicked.

- Psalm 94: 12-13

Thursday, April 12, 2007
On this day:


According to Google, it looks like I may be the first blogger to use that term.

I realize that this means that the PC-police may try to track me down and force me to listen to the Beaches soundtrack 24-7, but since I already own it (don't ask!), that should only be a minor inconvenience. Reading the the Life and Times of Bella Abzug may be a little more torturous, though.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007
On this day:

Bud Cramer: "I was for a deadline for defeat before I was against it"

On March 23, Rep. Bud Cramer (D.-Huntsville) added his vote to a razor-thin 218-212 House majority in favor of a supplemental appropriations bill that would force the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by September, 2008. He defended his vote at the time by stating: "...we need to start looking at turning Iraq back to the Iraqis and this bill allows that to begin."

If only it were that simple. The major problem with the House bill is that it would impose a strict deadline for the unilateral withdrawal of American troops from Iraq with little consideration for whether such a scheduled retreat would serve the nation's interests. There are many reasons why it wouldn't, and Sen. John McCain hit on just about every one of them in a speech he delivered today at the Virginia Military Institute. Quoting from Sen. McCain:
America has a vital interest in preventing the emergence of Iraq as a Wild West for terrorists, similar to Afghanistan before 9/11. By leaving Iraq before there is a stable Iraqi governing authority we risk precisely this, and the potential consequence of allowing terrorists sanctuary in Iraq is another 9/11 or worse. In Iraq today, terrorists have resorted to levels of barbarism that shock the world, and we should not be so naïve as to believe their intentions are limited solely to the borders of that country. We Americans are their primary enemy, and we Americans are their ultimate target.

A power vacuum in Iraq would invite further interference from Iran at a time when Tehran already feels emboldened enough to develop nuclear weapons, threaten Israel and America, and kidnap British sailors. If the government collapses in Iraq, which it surely will if we leave prematurely, Iraq’s neighbors, from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Egypt, will feel pressure to intervene on the side of their favored factions. This uncertain swirl of events could cause the region to explode and foreclose the opportunity for millions of Muslims and their children to achieve freedom. We could face a terrible choice: watch the region burn, the price of oil escalate dramatically and our economy decline, watch the terrorists establish new base camps or send American troops back to Iraq, with the odds against our success much worse than they are today.

To enumerate the strategic interests at stake in Iraq does not address our moral obligation to a people we liberated from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. I suspect many in this audience, and most members of Congress, look back at America’s failure to act to prevent genocide in Rwanda with shame. I know I do. And yet I fear the potential for genocide and ethnic cleansing in Iraq is even worse. The sectarian violence, the social divisions, the armaments, the weakened security apparatus of the state — all the ingredients are there. Unless we fight to prevent it, our withdrawal will be coupled with a genocide in which we are complicit. Given our security interests and our moral investment in Iraq, so long as we have a chance to prevail we must try to prevail. As General Petraeus has repeatedly stated, it will be several months or more before we know with any confidence whether we can turn this war around. Elements of the new civil-military strategy are still being drafted, almost half of the additional troops have yet to arrive, and many of the new civilians have yet to take up their posts. We are off to a good start, but significant results will take time.
Fortunately, Rep. Cramer seems to have come to his senses. Having had a few weeks to hear from the folks back home, now he's talking compromise. From the Huntsville Times:
If President Bush vetoes a wartime supplemental spending bill, there probably won't be enough votes in Congress to override him, U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer said Tuesday.

"No, I don't think there are enough votes now," Cramer, D-Huntsville, said at the Huntsville International Airport after a meeting with Tennessee Valley economic leaders. "We need to find a way around that and work together to resolve this and break the gridlock on this issue." ...

Because of its importance in funding troops, Cramer said, a compromise between leaders in Congress and Bush is essential. "There's not been much cooperation from the White House on this either. They have refused to give and take," he said. "Both sides need to put their differences aside and sit down at the table so we can govern.

"We need to come to a compromise over this bill." ...

Cramer is not in favor of a rigid timeline for pulling troops out of Iraq, he said.

"I voted for the bill as it is now because I'm willing to endure a timeline, but we need to give the commander-in-chief the ability to lead without the restraint of a date," he said. "We need to work toward a withdrawal date, but realistically that can't be set in stone as one day."

Cramer voted for the House supplemental bill, but said the vote "was a tough one."

"People in this district are torn over the war," he said. "They have expressed their concerns about it, but still support our military." ...

"This war turned out to be more than the (Bush) administration planned for, but we are all stuck with it now," Cramer said. "We can't just pull out. It's not that simple."

If Rep. Cramer had had this same attitude three weeks ago when he voted in favor of the "rigid timeline" that he now concedes to be unrealistic, then the current "gridlock" might have been avoided. He knows as well as anyone that the only thing standing in the way of funding the troops is the intransigence of the liberals in his own party who assume that America has already been defeated in Iraq and who therefore insist on setting a date of our surrender.

If Cramer and other Blue Dogs had stood up to the Nancycrats on this crucial vote, things could have been very different. What good is a Blue Dog if he's been neutered?

Saturday, April 07, 2007
On this day:

Happy Easter!

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

- John Donne (1572-1631)

Thursday, April 05, 2007
On this day:

ABC News: In parts of Baghdad, surge is working

Watch the video.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007
On this day:

While we're on the subject of Al-Kee-Hall

The Gourmet Beer Bill failed on a procedural vote in the Alabama House today, so it is likely that Alabama beer connoisseurs will have to wait at least another year before they are able to buy beers with higher alcohol content than the current limit of 6%.

The mechanics of this vote were kinda interesting. In accordance with Amendment 448 to the Alabama Constitution (called the Budget Isolation Amendment), the legislature is required to give special priority to the two budget bills that it has to pass each year. These bills allocate revenues from the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund, respectively.

In order to even consider a non-budget bill in either house before both budgets have been presented to the Governor, a special budget isolation resolution (BIR) for that bill has to be passed. As their sole purpose is to allow exceptions to the "budgets-first" rule, BIR's require a supermajority vote, which according to the Constitution must be no less than three-fifths of the members present. (The House rules pertaining to BIR's may be even stricter; the AP article linked above says a two-thirds vote was needed for the Beer Bill BIR.)

Since the budgets haven't been passed yet, today's House vote was on the budget isolation resolution to allow consideration of the Beer Bill; it was not a vote on the Beer Bill itself. When the roll was called, there were 49 in favor, 39 against, 1 abstention, and 16 not voting - five short of three-fifths and eleven short of two-thirds (assuming that "not voting" means "not counted in the total members present").

Dan at Between the Links has more here, here, and here. He's not too happy about it. Neither is Danner at Free the Hops, but he's still optimistic about the bill's prospects:
Realize that our House bill was not killed. It can still be put back on the calendar and we can get another shot. If we can convince a handful of today's "NO" votes to abstain or vote yes, this is worthwhile. We are FAR from finished this year. ...

Our House bill was not killed today; it simply did not make the floor for a vote. Our Senate bill is still very alive. Our local bills are still very alive. We just have a lot of work to do, me especially. And the result will be over 6% beer hitting the shelves somewhere in Alabama in 2007. We are FAR from finished this year.
If memory serves me correctly, this is the first year that the Beer Bill has even made it out of committee. Assuming that those who voted for the BIR in the House today can be counted on to vote for the actual bill, today's vote is clearly a good sign for its supporters. So, kudos to all the folks at Free the Hops for their hard work and determination. Keep it up, guys.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007
On this day:

"Had a little too much to drink tonight, have we?"

Neigh, occifer, neigh.