Monday, October 16, 2006

The Dark Side to YouTube

YouTube is extremely addicting.
Here is another Silver Surfer episode: Return to Zenn-La.

Wonderful stuff. I can understand why Google wants to pay over a billion dollars for the company: it is easy to for users to add material, and its search interface is swifter and easier to use than those of rivals like RealPlayer. Indeed, they essentially have no rivals in this market.

However, there are two dark sides to the company: copyright infringement and political bias. Copyright is mostly a matter for Hollywood types to tackle, but the bias issue is discussed by Noel Sheppard over at The American Thinker. Sheppard points out that YouTube has a record of selectively removing and deleting conservative and anti-Islamofacist videos, and this problem is getting worse. One of Google's "senior advisors" and shareholders is Al Gore, and Google itself donates millions to lefty organizations like

As video blogging is the latest hot trend, we may be witnessing an institutionalized attempt to squelch conservative political commentary by controlling its distribution. Let's hope YouTube develops some competition, and fast!

Friday, October 13, 2006

The World's Most Clever Leader

As much as I support him, it isn't George W. Bush. No, the world's most clever leader is undoubtedly General Pervez Musharraf, the current President of Pakistan. He's certainly more clever than you or I. You don't rise up to the top of the military through the intelligence service and then depose your president just at the moment of your dismissal without great smarts and an even greater capacity for betrayal.

Musharraf is under attack by all sides, from within his country and from without, by both democrats and Islamofascists and many people in between. The Islamists want him dead. The West doubts his commitment to the Global War on Terror. Currently, he is being severely criticized for essentially surrendering the province of North Waziristan to the Taliban: the Taliban controls the area and in exchange it promises to kick out "foreign" militants and not to attack government troops.

Indeed, Pakistan is accused of supplying the Taliban itself:

Nato's report on Operation Medusa, an intense battle that lasted from September 4-17 in the Panjwai district, demonstrates the extent of the Taliban's military capability and states clearly that Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence (ISI) is involved in supplying it.

The predictable result of this apparent victory by and resupply of the militants is their immediate push to expand their area of control into nearby Afghanistan. But let's see how this push has developed so far:

Hundreds of Taliban reinforcements in pick-up trucks who crossed over from Quetta – waved on by Pakistani border guards – were destroyed by Nato air and artillery strikes...The Taliban repeatedly massed in large formations, and was destroyed at a ratio of 100 to 1

Let's re-write the story a bit: having failed to flush out the Taliban from their holes and fortresses in North Wazirstan, the Pakistani Army resorted to deception and channelled the Taliban into open fighting on the battlefield, where they were utterly decimated by NATO airpower and troops.

See how clever Musharraf is? He didn't even have to have his troops do any of the fighting. Did they report on Taliban movements? 100:1 kill ratios don't happen without effective military intelligence. Musharraf could always blame it on those magic Predator drones, right?

So is Musharraf on our side, after all? Yet Bill Roggio reports:
Al-Qaeda and the Taliban continue their campaign to eradicate any opposition to their rule in North Waziristan. Two more "spies" have been assassinated in North Waziristan...This is yet another violation of the Waziristan Accord.

and the Telegraph article points out
Nato is now mapping the entire Taliban support structure in Balochistan [south of Waziristan], from ISI- run training camps near Quetta to huge ammunition dumps, arrival points for Taliban's new weapons and meeting places of the shura, or leadership council

I can't be certain where this is going. The Global War on Terror is about defeating terrorists, and repeated defeats on the battlefield are an important element. Will Musharraf continue to push terrorists into the battlefield? Will Musharraf continue to support the domestic expansion of the Taliban and its allies? Will he eventually declare Waziristan and Baluchistan to be in revolt or even independent countries, and thus invite the West to invade and subdue his enemies? Only Musharraf knows, and maybe he hasn't yet decided these questions.

Or will Musharraf be assassinated, with effects unknown to all? That question alone is enough to make potential assassins hesitate. So Musharraf gets to live yet another day. A very clever man indeed.

Update, 11/1/06

So he did it - Musharaff's army supposedly attacked a madrassa in Bajaur province, reportedly killing 80 armed militants. However, the rumor on the street is that the U.S. did it with armed drones, and the government of Pakistan is only pretending it is responsible for the attack. Why am I not surprised?

For a little background on what these madrassas are like, read last year's blog entry on Holy Warrior Education - a visit to Taliban chief Mullah Omar's madrassa.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Sadr Paradox

As Iraqi politicians go, Muqtada al-Sadr is one of the baddies, though perhaps not the worst. U.S. forces fought his forces numerous times, and my understanding is that even Western news organizations know for sure that the death toll from the extra-judicial summary executions of his "Mahdi Army" number in the thousands.

Bill Roggio describes the plan to chop the tooth-deprived leader down to size. My comment:
So the strategy is to quietly deprive Sadr of his army and leave him hanging, unsupported. The problem with that is that he will not be discredited. He can then wait for a bit, claim that his militia dissolved because his intentions were peaceful all along, then secretly recruit once more and invent some pretext to send a new militia into action.

This fate can only be avoided if the idea of militias is discredited. As Islam puts a premium on leadership by armed action, how can that be possible unless more Iraqis value good government over the literal demands of their religion, and are willing to preserve it through armed action, if necessary?

I compute, then, that the Iraqi government itself must openly show more gumption in going after Sadr. Yet that can't happen without contradicting the current strategy, is that not so? Paradox.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Guantanamo Story for Erev Yom Kippur

Courtesy of Mother Jones, an interview with a totally innocent ex-prisoner from Guantanamo:
The Americans interrogated him about Al Qaeda. “They asked me what I knew about the terrorists,” he says. “Did I know where they were?” They asked if his passport was fake, and if he’d seen or met Osama bin Laden. “Of course, I’d heard about him on the radio and TV,” Umarov says. “But how would I, a student, know much about him if people who came from a powerful country like America did not know anything about him”...

When the questions were over, they locked him in a concrete room for 10 days. The room was three feet long and one and a half feet wide and insufferably hot. He wore iron handcuffs. It was impossible to stand up or move about. “All my thoughts were about how my life was going to end,” he says. He worried about his brother Ahliddin, about an unpaid debt to his neighbors, and about the times in his life when he had made people angry or upset...

“I was taken to the dark room,” he says. “The soldiers took all my clothes and left me there.” The room was made of iron; it measured three feet by five feet. At night, frigid air was pumped through a hole in its ceiling, and its small window was covered by Plexiglas so the air couldn’t leave. Two electric coils provided dim light, and during the day, they were turned up to heat the cell to a very high temperature....

(Sigh.) Although I have not a government official of any sort, I am a citizen of this democracy, a democracy engaged in fighting a war with an enemy who has the ultimate aim of destroying us or eliminating our liberty to be as free in our lives as we can be without hurting anyone else. I firmly believe that this country should keep fighting. But we Americans are not omnipotent, nor are we omniscient.

On Erev Yom Kippur, Jews ask for forgiveness from others. I cannot speak for anyone else, but for those out there who have been unjustly wronged by America, I would ask your forgiveness for any such act America has committed out of thoughtlessness, ignorance, or poor judgment. Sometimes we make our decisions are flawed, sometimes we have bad apples (and as Abu Gharaib shows, our system allows us to remove them from power when discovered), but we usually try to the the right thing for everybody.