Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science
on: July 04, 2008, 05:15:01 PM
- Pajamas Media - http://pajamasmedia.com
Iran Wielding ‘Soft Power’ Against America
July 4, 2008 - by Lee Smith
“If each Muslim throws a bucket of water on Israel,” said the late Ayatollah Khomeini, “Israel will be erased.” This immortal sentiment, and surreal image, captures the essence of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s public diplomacy campaign these last four years, one of the most effective uses of “soft power” in recent memory.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threats to destroy Israel have so captured the hearts and minds of the Arab masses that they are too distracted to understand that the Persians are primarily coming after them. And the princes and presidents-for-life who rule the Arabs dare not speak the truth since they have promised for sixty years now to rectify the historical error that led to the establishment of the Zionist entity. With the reflexive Arab humiliation at the failure to annihilate a UN member state, the Khomeinists offer at least hope: if you can’t throw Israel into the sea, then take the sea to Israel — and bring your bucket.
So, while Ahmadinejad — the regime’s dark sorcerer, carny barker, and bearded lady rolled into one — has talked of making Israel disappear, he has effectively dropped his cloak over the rest of the Middle East to hide it from view. Even Washington doesn’t seem to have noticed that Iran has pulled a three-card monte trick with a vital American interest — the Persian Gulf.
To be sure, Ahmadinejad is a messianic obscurantist whose vicious threats should not be taken lightly. But Israel is not the main issue here, nor for that matter is the regime’s nascent nuclear program. For these are merely aspects, albeit important ones, of Iran’s project for the entire Middle East, a revolutionary putsch against the established order. And since Washington for over half a century has underwritten that order, from the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, which Martin Kramer has called an “ American lake,” the Iranian project by definition means to drive the U.S. from the region. And that’s the main event: not Israel, which has a nuclear deterrent, but the Gulf Arabs, who don’t, and their oil, a vital American interest.
Just as it would be ignoble for the world’s superpower to  assign an attack on Iran’s nuclear program to the Israelis, neither should Washington leave it up to Israel to counter Ahmadinejad’s rhetorical onslaught. It is the prerogative of a superpower to formulate strategy, tasks that Washington has so far botched. Consider Annapolis, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s redundant effort to convince the Arabs and Israelis of the obvious — that they have a common foe in Iran — and then reward Arab inaction by demanding concessions from Israel on the peace process.
Not surprisingly, the Israelis are confused and frustrated and the Arabs are hardly more impressed. Indeed Arab regime confidence in Washington’s ability to stop the Iranians seems to be at an all-time low. Four years ago U.S. ally King Abdullah of Jordan was stirring up the sectarian hornet’s nest by warning of a Shia crescent; today Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah is hosting unprecedentedly Shia-friendly interfaith conferences in order to pave the way for an accommodation between the Sunnis and those who are awaiting the return of the twelfth imam, a comity that does not need Washington as a guarantor.
And there is no American clarity on the horizon either, for so far neither U.S. presidential candidate has indicated that he will be any more effective than the Bush administration.
Senator Obama says that he’s the man who would speak with the Iranians — apparently ignorant of the fact that every man who has sat in the Oval Office since the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran has tried to engage the IRI. While this puerile boast richly merits the derision of his opponents, the fact is that Senator McCain has not shown that his Iran policy consists of much more than proving that he is a steadfast friend of Israel. Is it possible that the two men running for this country’s highest office do not know what is at stake?
Perhaps, but it seems likely that policymakers won’t talk about Gulf energy resources because it is one place where the Republicans are as vulnerable as the Democrats are to the inanities of the left. What can the slogan “no blood for oil” possibly mean in the real world? That we won’t lift a finger to ensure that foodstuffs and other essential items are moved in a timely and inexpensive manner from one part of this large country to another? That we’ll just roll over and play dead if our geographic and therefore our social mobility is circumscribed by fuel prices set by Iran? That we won’t fight at all since the fact that all of American life, society, culture, and commerce is organized around the free flow of the affordable energy resources that also sustain global markets is of absolutely no consequence to those of pure conscience?
The question then is not what the next president of the United States intends to do about Iran, but which candidate will treat the American electorate like adults and speak plainly, maybe something like this:
“We have been at war for over five years now with one goal of our fight being to bring freedom to other nations and peoples around the world. But now it is time to speak of our freedoms and our way of life, and how we intend to preserve them.
“I would not be running for this office if I did not have full faith and confidence not only in the strength and resilience of the American people but also in our native genius and creative energy, a living tradition that you and I must stand in awe of as it reaches from Bill Gates back to Benjamin Franklin and thus ties us to our roots in our forefathers, the founders of our great nation. This is our vivid legacy and thus I have no doubt that in due course we will develop a reliable and affordable substitute for fossil fuels. Who knows but that inventors are not already on the verge of a breakthrough? But perhaps we are not so close; maybe the talent who will usher in a new age of cheap and clean energy has just gone off to summer camp with her friends — in a school bus consuming diesel fuel at more than $5 a gallon. That is to say, there are yet harder times ahead for all of us, and surely some will only find warm consolation in the prospect of our children reaping the great benefits of their parents’ courageous sacrifice in relinquishing our position in the Persian Gulf.
“That, my fellow Americans, is one option before us. The other is to do whatever it takes to secure and sustain the privilege won and bargained for by President Franklin D. Roosevelt some sixty years ago and asserted and exercised by every American government since that time — our position in the Persian Gulf. This hard choice will almost certainly mean some form of military action against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Losing the Persian Gulf to a fanatical, terror-supporting regime that threatens all its neighbors, Israeli and Arab alike, would do untold damage to the U.S. economy and world markets; and by paving the way for nuclear proliferation in an extremely volatile part of the world where states typically use terrorist organizations to advance their strategic goals, our exit would entail a major threat to U.S. national security. The costs of relinquishing our position in the Gulf would be virtually indistinguishable from losing a world war.
Article printed from Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com
URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/iran-wielding-soft-power-against-america/
URLs in this post:
 American lake: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/mesh/2008/06/the_myth_of_linkage/
 assign an attack: http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/mesh/2008/06/assign_iran_to_israel/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: July 04, 2008, 07:24:25 AM
Obama Flips and Flops
Friday, July 04, 2008
WASHINGTON -- You'll notice Barack Obama is now wearing a flag pin. Again. During the primary campaign, he refused to, explaining that he'd worn one after 9/11 but then stopped because it "became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism."
So why is he back to sporting pseudo-patriotism on his chest? Need you ask? The primaries are over. While seducing the hard-core MoveOn Democrats that delivered him the caucuses -- hence, the Democratic nomination -- Obama not only disdained the pin. He disparaged it. Now that he's running in a general election against John McCain, and in dire need of the gun-and-God-clinging working-class votes he could not win against Hillary Clinton, the pin is back. His country 'tis of thee.
In last week's column, I thought I had thoroughly chronicled Obama's brazen reversals of position and abandonment of principles -- on public financing of campaigns, on NAFTA, on telecom immunity for post-9/11 wiretaps, on unconditional talks with Ahmadinejad -- as he moved to the center for the general election campaign. I misjudged him. He was just getting started.
Last week, when the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the District of Columbia's ban on handguns, Obama immediately declared that he agreed with the decision. This is after his campaign explicitly told the Chicago Tribune last November that he believes the D.C. gun ban is constitutional.
Obama spokesman Bill Burton explains the inexplicable by calling the November -- i.e., the primary season -- statement "inartful." Which suggests a first entry in the Obamaworld dictionary -- "Inartful: clear and straightforward, lacking the artistry that allows subsequent self-refutation and denial."
Obama's seasonally adjusted principles are beginning to pile up: NAFTA, campaign finance reform, warrantless wiretaps, flag pins, gun control. What's left?
Iraq. The reversal is coming, and soon.
Two weeks ago, I predicted that by Election Day Obama will have erased all meaningful differences with McCain on withdrawal from Iraq. I underestimated Obama's cynicism. He will make the move much sooner. He will use his upcoming Iraq trip to acknowledge the remarkable improvements on the ground and to abandon his primary season commitment to a fixed 16-month timetable for removal of all combat troops.
The shift has already begun. Thursday, he said that his "original position" on withdrawal has always been that "we've got to make sure that our troops are safe and that Iraq is stable." And that "when I go to Iraq ... I'll have more information and will continue to refine my policies."
The flip is almost complete. All that's left to say is that the 16-month time frame remains his goal but he will, of course, take into account the situation on the ground and the recommendation of his generals in determining the ultimate pace of the withdrawal.
Done. And with that, the Obama of the primaries, the Obama with last year's most liberal voting record in the Senate, will have disappeared into the collective memory hole.
Obama's strategy is obvious. The country is in a deep malaise and eager for change. He and his party already have the advantage on economic and domestic issues. Obama, therefore, aims to clear the deck by moving rapidly to the center in those areas where he and his party are weakest, namely national security and the broader cultural issues. With these -- and most importantly his war-losing Iraq policy -- out of the way, the election will be decided on charisma and persona. In this corner: the young sleek cool hip elegant challenger. In the other corner: the old guy. No contest.
After all, that's how he beat Hillary. She originally ran as a centrist, expecting her nomination to be a mere coronation. At the first sign of serious opposition, however, she panicked and veered left. It was a fatal error. It eliminated all significant ideological and policy differences with Obama -- her desperate attempts to magnify their minuscule disagreement on health care universality became almost comical -- making the contest entirely one of personality. No contest.
As Obama assiduously obliterates all differences with McCain on national security and social issues, he remains rightly confident that Bush fatigue, the lousy economy and his own charisma -- he is easily the most dazzling political personality since John Kennedy -- will carry him to the White House.
Of course, once he gets there he will have to figure out what he really believes. The conventional liberal/populist stuff he campaigned on during the primaries? Or the reversals he is so artfully offering up now?
I have no idea. Do you? Does he?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science
on: July 04, 2008, 03:37:01 AM
Set America Free
CSP Decision Brief | May 19, 2008
by Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
Q. What do the following recent events have in common?
The President of the United States has prostrated himself for the second time in five months before the King of Saudi Arabia, pleading for more oil. Despite Mr. Bush’s inducements – an array of advanced, offensive arms; the promise of nuclear technology with which the Saudis can expect (like the North Koreans, Iranians, Pakistanis, etc.) to acquire the ultimate weapons; and U.S. help securing Saudi Arabia’s borders (something the President has declined to do at home) – the American plea was spurned. The contempt felt by the House of Saud was captured in its oil minister’s quip, “If you want more oil, buy it.”
The Senate rejected, by a vote of 56-42, an initiative offered by Republicans that called for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska and some offshore waters now closed to exploration and exploitation of their substantial oil reserves.
In addition, that chamber’s appropriations committee refused by a similar party-line vote to lift its moratorium on oil-shale production in Colorado. It seems that, if we want more oil, we will have to buy it at ever increasing prices from the Saudis and others even more unfriendly to this country’s national security and economic interests – like Venzuela’s Hugo Chavez or Russia’s Vladimir Putin, perhaps even Iran’s Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
One thing the Senate and House did agree upon, by overwhelmingly bipartisan majorities, was suspending purchases of oil to fill the remaining three percent of the capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserves. This action will have negligible (if any) impact on energy prices. But it will ensure that less oil will be available to us than would otherwise have been the case in the event, for example, the next terrorist attack on the Saudi oil infrastructure succeeds where others have failed and seriously disrupts world supplies.
Then there is the newly formed coalition, ostensibly spearheaded by the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association, that has launched a multi-million dollar lobbying effort aimed at discouraging the development of one alternative to oil: domestically produced or imported ethanol. Wrongly asserting that producing this transportation fuel from corn is largely responsible for rising food prices and the attendant global shortages, this instant grassroots (read, “astroturf”) coalition appears to want America to remain essentially dependent on oil. Wonder where the money for this campaign is coming from?
A. These actions – taken against the backdrop of soaring energy prices and the attendant hemorrhage of U.S. petrodollars to, among others, people who wish us ill – represent the sort of behavior in which only a nation utterly unserious about energy security could indulge.
The truth of the matter is that, no matter what we do, we are going to need oil for the foreseeable future. As a result, we should do our utmost to find it and exploit it in places that are either under our control (for example, near where the Cubans and Chinese are getting it off the coast of Florida) or at least friendly to us (notably, Canada, Mexico and Brazil).
It is equally axiomatic that, no matter what we do, we are almost certainly going to have less oil than we need, certainly at prices we can afford. The question is: Are we going to do something to meet the shortfall? Or are we simply going to allow the economy and security of the United States to bleed-out at the hands of the Saudi-led OPEC cartel?
The Set America Free Coalition – an initiative launched several years ago by unlikely array of national security-, environmental- and energy-minded people and organizations from across the political spectrum – is advancing practical, near-term alternatives to that unappetizing and unacceptable prospect.
At the moment, the Coalition is mounting its own campaign aimed at achieving in the immediate future, a simple yet far-reaching goal: Ensuring that each of the 17 million new cars added to America’s highways each year is capable of being powered by ethanol (from whatever source), methanol (ditto) or gasoline (or some combination thereof).
There are already some 6 million of these Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) on our roads today. Most of these are American-made (name another technology in which Detroit has a competitive advantage?) It costs less than $100 per car to equip new cars with this feature.
Ask yourself, and your elected representatives and would-be Presidents: As each of these cars will last, on average, roughly 17 years, do we want any more of them to be built the old way – namely able to use only gasoline? Can we responsibly continue for another generation to lock our transportation sector (the principal, and most profligate, consumer of imported oil) into dependence on oil substantially imported from unfriendly places?
Dr. Robert Zubrin – a leader of the Set America Free Coalition and author of the terrific new book, Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil – observes that at today’s oil prices, we are allowing the Saudis and their friends to impose the equivalent of a 40 percent income tax at a cost of approximately $3300 on every man woman and child in this country. We literally cannot afford to allow such lunacy to continue.
Sooner or later, Congress will adopt an Open Fuel Standard requiring every new car sold in America to be an FFV. The effect will be, in short order, to create an immense and highly competitive market for alternative, “Freedom Fuels” that we can make here or buy from friends. That, in turn, will set America free by beginning to end its cars’ present addiction to oil. Why wait any longer?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science
on: July 03, 2008, 06:04:57 PM
World oil market in fear of terror attack in Saudi Arabia
3 Jul, 2008, 0812 hrs IST, AGENCIES
PARIS: An attack -- or even an attempted attack -- by Islamic extremists on Saudi Arabia's oil sector would have disastrous consequences on the world market and the price per barrel, analysts warn.
Of more than 700 people arrested in the course of the last six months in Saudi Arabia, dozens had been part of cells charged with preparing attacks against oil sites, according to authorities in Riyadh.
With the price per barrel rising constantly and the capacity to increase global production almost non-existent, apart from in Saudi Arabia, the world market has never been so vulnerable to an offensive by Jihadists in the kingdom, they said.
High food prices make oil sheikhs turn to farming
Reasons to love costly oil
Oil will not fall below $100 a barrel: Morgan Stanley
Tips to offset the effect of fuel price hike
Oil prices overvalued by at least 40%: EU
Michael Klare, head of the University of Massachusetts's peace and world security programme and author of the book "Resource Wars", said that even if an attack caused little damage, the impact would still be enormous.
"There would be a tremendous psychological effect because the market is already prepared to expect terrorist events like this. It would have an immediate effect on prices," he said.
"And if an attack actually damaged production or exploration, the effect would be even greater. The rise would be astronomical," he added.
Klare believes that a less significant attack would result in a price hike of no more than ten dollars a barrel.
"(But) if they managed to destroy a major refinery or a major loading facility and cut production that would have a dramatic impact. Prices would go to 200 dollars a barrel," he said.
The Saudi oil sector, which spends considerable sums on security, has been an Al-Qaeda target for years.
Osama bin Laden in December 2004 called on followers in an audio message to "aim your operations at oil production in Iraq and in the Gulf."
In February 2006 assailants using two booby-trapped cars tried to enter the huge Abqaiq complex, the biggest in the world, in the east of the kingdom.
When challenged they detonated the explosives, killing themselves and two guards.
Francis Perrin, editor-in-chief of Arab Oil and Gas magazine, said the current price of oil revealed the concern over the fragility of world supplies and the danger that in future supply will no longer satisfy demand.
"In such a context, an attack against oil installations in Saudi Arabia would have a considerable impact," he said, adding that Saudi Arabia played a unique role in the world market which was on a "knife-edge."
"It is the country possessing a bit less than a quarter of the reserves, it is the leader at the heart of OPEC (the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), the number one in terms of unused capacity... It's the only country in the world of capable of producing more in the short term, in weeks," he said.
If an attack was carried out against minor installations, the impact would be significant, he said. But if an attack succeeded against more important installations, "the effect would be absolutely incalculable in terms of price," added Perrin.
Against this background Israeli threats of an air offensive against Iranian nuclear installations only add to the market's nervousness, said Klare.
"If such an attack is conducted, I think the Iranians will try to engineer terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain. They would do everything they can to create chaos in the international oil market... Prices would skyrocket," he said.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What would you have done?
on: July 02, 2008, 02:32:55 PM
Inmates' Threat: No Segregation, No Peace
Some Fear Court-Ordered Integration May Trigger Racial Violence Among Inmates
By ALEX STONE
July 1, 2008—
When an inmate who is not black enters Will Williams' cell for the first time at San Quentin State Prison in Northern California, one of the last forms of legalized segregation will come to an end.
In a case that went as high as the U.S. Supreme Court, California's prisons must begin racially integrating their cells this month. Integration goes against an unwritten code of conduct among San Quentin inmates, which says they must never communicate with other races.
Click here to listen to a radio report by ABC News' Alex Stone about the San Quentin integration.
Inmates and guards admit they are nervous about the changes because so much of the violence inside the walls of the prison, which sits on the rocky shore of the San Francisco Bay, is caused by racial tensions.
"I just don't think it's going to really work because everybody is so against it," said Williams, who has been locked up at San Quentin for 35 years on a kidnapping and robbery conviction. "The whites are saying they don't want blacks, and the blacks are saying they don't want whites."
Until now, most California prisons, including San Quentin, have been segregated in order to keep the peace. Guards say nearly every inmate in the prison is in a gang. The gangs only recruit their own races, and when the races meet it can often result in deadly violence.
It is hard for outsiders to understand the gang lifestyle inside the prisons.
"We have the whites and they're not even allowed to talk to blacks," said Officer Jamie Allejos, who watches over inmates in San Quentin's B Block. "We've got guys who get beat up just for talking to another race or sharing food with another inmate."
The integration is the result of a 1995 lawsuit filed by a black inmate in California who claimed being segregated infringed upon his rights. The case eventually made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which handed it down to a federal mediation court. Both sides agreed to integrate the cells.
Allejos made it very clear that he believes integrating the cells will lead to increased violence.
"The guys who are making these decisions don't know nothing about prison. I think the people who are making these decisions should come here for six months and find out the conditions in here," Allejos said.
Some California prisons will begin integrating this month, but the races will not be fully integrated inside San Quentin until next year because racial issues are so complex at the prison housing California's only death row.
On the fourth floor of one of the prison's cell blocks, Scott Williams, who is known to inmates and guards as "Speedy," studies his law books alone in a cell. Williams used to be what other inmates have dubbed a "shot caller" -- essentially a gang leader who directs members of the Aryan Brotherhood. Guards claim Williams has killed two inmates himself.
Speaking through bars and fencing, Williams explained to ABC News how he would have directed his members to attack other races if they were ever put in the same cell.
"There's many rules that people have to follow in prison, and to integrate these people who have been fighting each other for so long is going to be an extreme problem," Williams said.
Despite the negative views about integration among some inmates and guards, experts point to Texas as an example of where the practice has been successful. That state's prisons integrated in the 1990s and, in time, violence was reduced within the lockups.
When the integration begins in California, it will not be blind. Even though race will no longer be a factor in deciding which cells inmates live in, the California Department of Corrections will evaluate a number of other factors, including street gang affiliation, mental stability, age and size.
California Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton said her staff is prepared for the integration and she does not expect any major problems.
"Some inmates are going to be restricted to their own race because they were either the perpetrator or victim of a racially motivated incident," Thornton said.
If inmates refuse to integrate, they will be penalized. In most cases those who will not mix with other races will be sent to solitary confinement for 90 days. Some inmates, like David Glover, who has been at San Quentin for four months on a burglary conviction, said they would rather be penalized than be forced to integrate.
"Not because I have a problem with other races, but because every race has a shot caller and you have to obey the rules," Glover said.
But not all inmates believe they have the option to refuse integration. Will Williams is trying to get parole and if he does not allow an inmate of another race into his cell, he fears he will lose his chances at parole.
"Going home is the most important thing," Williams said. "Regardless of whatever else happens, that's first, so if I have to put up with somebody coming into the cell who's a different race, if that's what I have to do to get out of here, hey, at least maybe I'll be going home."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops
on: June 30, 2008, 01:07:10 PM
Blind Special Forces soldier: determined to serve
By KEVIN MAURER, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 34 minutes ago
When Capt. Ivan Castro joined the Army, he set goals: to jump out of planes, kick in doors and lead soldiers into combat. He achieved them all. Then the mortar round landed five feet away, blasting away his sight.
"Once you're blind, you have to set new goals," Castro said.
He set them higher.
Not content with just staying in the Army, he is the only blind officer serving in the Special Forces — the small, elite units famed for dropping behind enemy lines on combat missions.
As executive officer of the 7th Special Forces Group's headquarters company in Fort Bragg, Castro's duties don't directly involve combat, though they do have him taking part in just about everything that leads up to it.
"I am going to push the limits," the 40-year-old said. "I don't want to go to Fort Bragg and show up and sit in an office. I want to work every day and have a mission."
Since the war began in Iraq, more than 100 troops have been blinded and 247 others have lost sight in one eye. Only two other blind officers serve in the active-duty Army: one a captain studying to be an instructor at West Point, the other an instructor at the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Castro's unit commander said his is no charity assignment. Rather it draws on his experience as a Special Forces team member and platoon leader with the 82nd Airborne Division.
"The only reason that anyone serves with 7th Special Forces Group is if they have real talents," said Col. Sean Mulholland. "We don't treat (Castro) as a public affairs or a recruiting tool."
An 18-year Army veteran, Castro was a Ranger before completing Special Forces training, the grueling yearlong course many soldiers fail to finish. He joined the Special Forces as a weapons sergeant, earned an officer's commission and moved on to the 82nd — hoping to return one day to the Special Forces as a team leader.
Then life changed on a rooftop outside Youssifiyah, Iraq, in September 2006.
Castro had relieved other paratroopers atop a house after a night of fighting. He never heard the incoming mortar round. There was just a flash of light, then darkness.
Shrapnel tore through his body, breaking his arm and shoulder and shredding the left side of his face. Two other paratroopers died.
When Castro awoke six weeks later at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., his right eye was gone. Doctors were unable to save his left.
The Blinded Veterans Association estimates 13 percent of all combat hospital emergency procedures in Iraq have involved eye injuries and more than half of the soldiers with traumatic brain injuries also suffer some visual impairment. That makes them the third most common injury — behind post traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries — in Iraq.
"What he is doing is a strong example that blind individuals can lead exciting and meaningful careers," said Thomas Zampieri, director of government relations for the association.
After 17 months in recovery, Castro sought a permanent assignment in the service's Special Operations Command, landing duty with the 7th Special Forces Group. He focuses on managerial tasks while honing the group's Spanish training, a useful language for a unit that deploys regularly to train South American troops.
"I want to support the guys and make sure life is easier for those guys so that they can accomplish the mission," he said.
Though not fully independent, he spent a weekend before starting his job walking around the Group area at Fort Bragg to know just where he was going. He carefully measured the steps from car to office.
"Obviously, he cannot do some things that a sighted person can do. But Ivan will find a way to get done whatever he needs to get done," Mulholland said. "What I am most impressed with, though, is his determination to continue to serve his country after all that he's been through."
Castro works out regularly at the gym and runs, his legs powerful and muscular. And though he has a prosthetic right eye and his arms are scarred by shrapnel, his outsized personality overshadows his war wounds: Nobody escapes his booming hellos, friendly banter and limitless drive.
He ran the Boston marathon this year with Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command. Last year it was the Marine Corps Marathon. He wants to compete in the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii and graduate from the Army's officer advanced course, which teaches captains how to lead troops and plan operations.
Mulholland said Castro, who was awarded a Purple Heart like others wounded in combat, will always be part of the Special Forces family.
"I will fight for Ivan as long as Ivan wants to be in the Army," Mulholland said.
Married and the father of a 14-year-old son, Castro still needs help getting to the gym. He recently needed an escort to the front of the headquarters company formation, where he promoted a supply clerk.
Once in front, Ivan took charge.
Affixing the new soldier's rank to his uniform, Castro urged the soldier to perform two ranks higher. In the Special Forces, he said, one has to go above and beyond what is asked — advice he lives by.
"I want to be treated the same way as other officers," Castro said. "I don't want them to take pity over me or give me something I've not earned."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: June 30, 2008, 10:23:58 AM
|**If you see a story with a Seymour Hersh byline, assume that it's weakly sourced and has been spun like cotton candy to fit his very obvious agenda.**http://michellemalkin.com/2008/06/29/are-we-doing-cloak-and-dagger-stuff-in-iran/
Are we doing cloak and dagger stuff in Iran?
By see-dubya • June 29, 2008 03:14 PM
Well, DUH, I hope so. But it’s not like they tell everybody this stuff, you know. It’s supposed to be a secret.
Seymour Hersh, however, would have us believe a whole bunch of anonymous military, intel, and political people are eager to confirm to him that we’re doing something new and secret over there.
You could read the whole New Yorker article, but why bother? Hersh says a lot of nutty things–usually things that can’t be proven and are never proven. Here’s a Fox News summary instead, and I like this White House response:
The White House did not comment on the article. And one administration official, who asked not to be identified, dismissed the piece: “We’ve declined comment on Hersh’s quarterly articles. You can almost tell time by them.”
The thing about Hersh’s rambling is that if Iran believes it, they could crack down on those minority groups and dissidents that Hersh claims we’re funding. And Iran isn’t exactly bound by Boumediene v. Bush in their interrogations, you know?
For that matter, if there is any truth to what Hersh has written, it may compromise operations enough that we have to go to Plan B.
I hope it was worth it, Sy.
UPDATE: More on “Plan B” at Israel Insider.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: June 30, 2008, 09:35:45 AM
Obama's Dodge on Handguns
By Robert D. Novak
Monday, June 30, 2008; A11
After months of claiming he had insufficient information to express an opinion on the District of Columbia's gun law, Barack Obama noted with apparent approval Thursday that the Supreme Court ruled that the 32-year ban on handguns "went too far." But what would he have said had the high court's 5 to 4 majority gone the other way and affirmed the law? Obama's strategists can only thank swing Justice Anthony Kennedy for enabling Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion to take the Democratic presidential candidate off the hook.
Such relief is typified by a vigorous supporter of Obama who advised Al Gore in his 2000 presidential campaign. Believing that Gore's gun control advocacy lost him West Virginia and the presidency, this prominent Democrat told me: "I don't want that to happen with Obama -- to be defeated on an issue that is not important to us and is not a political winner for us." He would not be quoted by name because he did not want abuse heaped on him by gun control activists.
This political reality explains the minuet on the D.C. gun issue that Obama has danced all year. Liberal Democrats who publicly deride the National Rifle Association privately fear the NRA as the most potent conservative interest group. Many white men with NRA decals on their vehicles are labor union members whose votes Obama needs in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. That is why Obama did not share the outrage of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, an Obama supporter, over the Supreme Court's decision.
What may be Obama's authentic position on gun rights was revealed in early April when he said at a closed-door Silicon Valley fundraiser that "bitter" small-town residents "cling" to the Bible and the Second Amendment. That ran against his public assertion, as a former professor of constitutional law, that the Constitution guarantees rights for individual gun owners, not just collective rights for state militias. But his legal opinion forced Obama into a political corner.
Arguments before the Supreme Court defending the D.C. handgun ban were based entirely on the view that the Constitution's rights applied only to state militias. During oral argument March 18, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked whether the Second Amendment has "any effect today as a restraint on legislation," since such militias no longer exist. Walter Dellinger, a former solicitor general representing the District of Columbia, replied that "it doesn't," and added, "You don't make up a new use for an amendment whose prohibitions aren't being violated."
Obama's dilemma was that his reading of a Second Amendment that "means something" made it difficult for him to say the D.C. law was constitutional. His public pronouncements were so imprecise that the Associated Press mistakenly reported that he "voiced support" for the handgun ban at a February news conference in Milwaukee.
In March and April, I tried for weeks to get a simple yes or no from Obama on the D.C. law's constitutionality. When the question was put to him directly for the first time at ABC's presidential debate in Philadelphia on April 16, he answered, "I confess I obviously haven't listened to the briefs and looked at all the evidence." On National Public Radio on April 21, the day before the Pennsylvania primary, Obama said, "I don't know all the details and specifics of the D.C. gun law." He had not been asked and had not volunteered his opinion before Thursday's decision.
The issue will return when Chicago's handgun ban, modeled after the Washington law, is challenged in the courts. As a Chicago lawyer, Obama can hardly plead ignorance as he did concerning the D.C. ban. But with the case wending its way back to the Supreme Court for the next year, Obama will not have to answer the question before November.
While Scalia's opinion for now saves Obama from defending a court that had emasculated gun rights, one inconvenient truth confronts the candidate. He has made clear that as president he would nominate Supreme Court justices who agree with the minority of four that the Second Amendment is meaningless. Would he want a reconstituted court to roll back the D.C. decision when the Chicago case gets there?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: June 30, 2008, 09:28:11 AM
How stupid is Wesley Clark?
POSTED AT 8:31 AM ON JUNE 30, 2008 BY ED MORRISSEY
After decades in the news business, Bob Schieffer may have thought he’d heard it all — until yesterday on Face the Nation, when he interviewed Wesley Clark. Clark came as a surrogate for the Barack Obama campaign and attacked John McCain’s military service, saying that he was “untested and untried”. After Schieffer pointed out that McCain commanded the largest naval air squadron, had honorably endured over five years of torture as a POW in Vietnam, and had been on the Senate Armed Services committee since Obama was in college, Schieffer asked how Clark could claim that McCain was “untested and untried”. Clark stunned him with this answer:
Because in the matters of national security policy making, it’s a matter of understanding risk, it’s a matter of gauging your opponents and it’s a matter of being held accountable. John McCain’s never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands of millions of others in the armed forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee and he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn’t held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded wasn’t a wartime squadron. He hasn’t been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn’t seen what it’s like when diplomats come in and say, `I don’t know whether we’re going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it publicly?
At which point, Schieffer — after a stunned moment — pointed this out to Clark:
SCHIEFFER: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean…
Let’s point out a few things about Barack Obama:
In “the matter of national security policy making.” Barack Obama hasn’t ever done anything.
In the matter of gauging your “opponents”, Obama wants to meet with them without preconditions despite having no national-security, military, or diplomatic experience.
Barack Obama hasn’t been on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Barack Obama hasn’t had any executive experience.
Barack Obama hasn’t commanded anything, in wartime or not.
Barack Obama hasn’t dealt with diplomats in any capacity at all.
Barack Obama hasn’t ordered the bombs to fall, although to be fair, he has associated himself with someone who has — William Ayers.
Not only can every argument Clark made get applied more to Obama than to McCain, he has now made it clear that the Obama strategy is to demean and belittle McCain’s military service — and by extension, military service in general. This will undoubtedly play very well among Obama’s nutcase fringe supporters as well as idiotic fired commanders of NATO, but that’s a mighty thin list of voters. The rest of the nation will hear these attacks and stand aghast at the dishonorable and outrageously stupid disparagement of a lifetime of service to this nation and understand with crystal clarity the radical nature of Barack Obama and his team.
Nor is this the first such attack on McCain’s service. Democrats have belittled it on several occasions now. In May, it was Bill Gillespie, another Obama backer in Georgia and a candidate for the House. In the same month, Senator Tom Harkin questioned McCain’s mental state for having willingly served in the military. In April, Jay Rockefeller accused McCain of being more or less a coward for being a military pilot, and again in May the New York Times quoted unnamed Senate colleagues of McCain suggesting that he didn’t understand the Vietnam War because he didn’t fight on the ground and spent most of it lounging around Hanoi in a POW camp.
John McCain put his life on the line for his country. Barack Obama has not. While I have never thought that military service was a prerequisite to public office, it certainly gives one a lot more experience and is an asset for the presidency. And as a bottom line, a candidate whose campaign denigrates military service shows himself as unfit for the role of Commander in Chief.
Wes Clark has done Barack Obama no favors, and as the record shows, it’s not just Wes Clark. The Democrats plan on attacking the military throughout this campaign. Obama cannot expect anyone to buy his claims of “a new kind of politics”, unless Obama means that he plans to plumb new lows in class and intelligence in 2008.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What would you have done?
on: June 30, 2008, 09:15:39 AM
I don't think that means people won't help anyone but their own families. Every individual has their own personal moral paradigm. Some people might feel that if it's not their family, it not their problem, others are more willing to engage despite not having any direct connection to the situation.
Any confrontation with another person or persons may escalate into deadly force, just because your have good intentions doesn't mean you won't be killed or crippled as a result of the fight. If your motives are pure and you win, doesn't mean you get a pat on the back and a key from the city.
If you seriously injure or kill another person in a fight, you will almost always be arrested not matter how justified it might be. Depending on the laws and political orientation of the jurisdiction, you may well be charged even if your act was reasonable and legal. Having gotten through the criminal side, you also face civil litigation, especially if you have any assets worth going after.
Something else to consider, to the majority of the jurors that might judge you, knives are the weapons of bad guys. Hannibal Lecter, Jason from Friday the 13th and Freddy Kruger use edged weapons. John Wayne carried guns. They don't know FMA from TWA.
Having said all that, i'm not saying don't act. I just want people to go into this with their eyes open.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: June 30, 2008, 07:20:50 AM
Lieberman: U.S. May Be Attacked In 2009
WASHINGTON, June 29, 2008
(CBS) In describing the reasons he believes the Republicans' presumptive nominee for president would be better prepared than the Democrats' to lead the nation next January, Sen. Joe Lieberman said that history shows the United States would likely face a terrorist attack in 2009.
"Our enemies will test the new president early," Lieberman, I-Conn., told Face The Nation host Bob Schieffer. "Remember that the truck bombing of the World Trade Center happened in the first year of the Clinton administration. 9/11 happened in the first year of the Bush administration."
Lieberman nonetheless distanced himself from remarks by McCain chief strategist Charlie Black, who came under criticism for suggesting in an interview that McCain's election chances would be improved if a terrorist attack occurred before November.
"Sometimes even the best of them say things that are not what they intended to say," Lieberman said. "Certainly the implications there I know were not what Charlie intended. And he apologized for it. Senator McCain said he didn't agree. And, of course, I feel the same way.
"But here's the point. We're in a war against Islamist extremists who attacked us on 9/11. They've been trying to attack us in many, many ways since then."
A former Democratic nominee for vice president, Lieberman endorsed McCain for president because, he says, the Democratic Party he joined in the early 1960s is not reflected by the party's current leadership.
He also said that he feels McCain is better prepared to be commander in chief than Barack Obama. "[McCain] knows the world," Lieberman said. "He's been tested. He's ready to protect the security of the American people."
Lieberman also assailed Obama and fellow Senators who called for a timetable of withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and opposed the "surge" of additional U.S. forces pushed forth by President Bush.
"It's now working," Lieberman told Schieffer. "If we had done what Senator Obama asked us to do for the last couple of years, today Iran and al Qaeda would be in control of Iraq. It would be a terrible defeat for us and our allies in the Middle East and throughout the world. Instead, we've got a country that's defending itself, that's growing economically, where there's been genuine political reconciliation, and where Iran and al Qaeda are on the run. And that's the way it ought to be."
However, McCain's readiness was disputed by retired General Wesley Clark, who is backing Obama for president, despite McCain's storied military experience in Vietnam. "Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president," he said.
"I think Joe has it exactly backwards here," Clark told Schieffer. "I think being president is about having good judgment. It's about the ability to communicate. And what Barack Obama brings is incredible communication skills, proven judgment. You look at his meteoric rise in politics and you see a guy who deals with people well, who understands issues, who brings people together, and who has good judgment in moving forward.
"And I think what we need to do, Bob, is we need to stop talking about the old politics of left and right, and we need to pull together and move the country forward. And I think that's what Barack Obama will do.
“Because in the matters of national security policymaking, it's a matter of understanding risk. It's a matter of gauging your opponents and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service … But he hasn't held executive responsibility."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What would you have done?
on: June 30, 2008, 07:16:13 AM
On average, more law enforcement officers are killed every year responding to domestics than armed robbery in progress calls. If off duty, I were to see a violent domestic happening, i'd most likely be a good witness and dial 911 under most scenarios.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: June 29, 2008, 03:55:10 PM
Christianity is flourishing in China
José M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune
Zhang Ming-Xuan speaks at a church in Shandong province that sued the government for shutting it down. The ruling Communist Party is officially atheist.
The religion, long repressed and often outlawed in the communist nation, appeals to citizens seeking a moral framework amid the chaotic rise of capitalism.
From the Chicago Tribune
June 28, 2008
BEIJING -- The Rev. Jin Mingri peered out from the pulpit and delivered an unusual appeal: "Please leave," the 39-year-old pastor urged his followers, who were packed, standing-room-only on a Sunday afternoon, into a converted office space in China's capital. "We don't have enough seats for the others who want to come, so please, only stay for one service a day."
A choir in hot-pink robes stood to his left, beside a guitarist and a drum set bristling with cymbals. Children in a modern playroom beside the sanctuary punctuated the service with squeals and tantrums. It was a busy day at a church that, on paper, does not exist.
Christianity -- repressed, marginalized and, in many cases, illegal in China for more than half a century -- is sweeping the country, swamping churches and posing a sensitive challenge to the officially atheist ruling Communist Party.
By some estimates, Christian churches in China, most of them underground, have roughly 70 million members, about as many as the party itself. A growing number of those Christians are in fact party members.
Christianity is thriving in part because it offers a moral framework to citizens adrift in an age of Wild West capitalism that has not only exacted a heavy toll in corruption and pollution but also harmed the global image of products labeled "Made in China."
Some Chinese Christians say their faith is actually a boon for the party, because it shores up the economic foundation that is central to sustaining communist rule.
"With economic development, morality and ethics in China are degenerating quickly," prayer leader Zhang Wei told the crowd at Jin's church as worshipers bowed their heads. "Holy Father, please save the Chinese people's soul."
At the same time, Christianity is driving citizens to be more politically assertive, emboldening them to push for more freedoms and testing the party's willingness to adapt. For decades, most of China's Christians worshiped in secret churches, known as "house churches," that shunned attention for fear of arrest on charges such as "disturbing public order."
But in a sign of Christianity's growing prominence, in scores of interviews for a joint project of the Tribune and PBS' "Frontline/World," clerical leaders and worshipers from coastal boomtowns to inland villages publicly detailed their religious lives for the first time.
They voiced the belief that the time has come to proclaim their place in Chinese society as the world focuses on China and its hosting of the 2008 Olympics in August.
"We have nothing to hide," said Jin, a former Communist Party member who broke away from the state church last year to found his Zion Church.
Jin embodies a historic change: After centuries of foreign efforts to implant Christianity in China, the growing popularity of the religion is being led not by missionaries but by evangelical citizens at home. Where Christianity once was confined largely to poor villages, it's now spreading into urban centers, often with tacit approval from the regime.
It reaches into the most influential corners of Chinese life: Intellectuals disillusioned by the 1989 crackdown on dissidents at Tiananmen Square are placing their loyalty in faith, not politics; tycoons fed up with corruption are seeking an ethical code; and party members are daring to argue that their religion does not put them at odds with the government.
The boundaries of what is legal and what is not are constantly shifting. A new church or Sunday school, for instance, might be permissible one day and taboo the next, because local officials have broad latitude to interpret laws on religious gatherings.
Overall, though, the government is allowing churches to be more open and active than ever, signaling a new tolerance of faith in public life. President Hu Jintao even held an unprecedented Politburo "study session" on religion last year, in which he told China's 25 most powerful leaders that "the knowledge and strength of religious people must be mustered to build a prosperous society."
This rise, driven by evangelical Protestants, reflects a wider spiritual awakening in China. As communism fades into today's free-market reality, many Chinese describe a "crisis of faith" and seek solace from mystical Taoist sects, Bahai temples and Christian megachurches.
Today, the government counts 21 million Catholics and Protestants -- a 50% increase in less than 10 years -- though the underground population is far larger. The World Christian Database's estimate of 70 million Christians amounts to 5% of the population, second only to Buddhists.
At a time when Christianity in Western Europe is dwindling, China's believers are redrawing the world's religious map with a growing community that already exceeds all the Christians in Italy.
And increasing Christian clout in China has the potential to alter relations with the United States and other nations.
But much about the future of faith in China is uncertain, shaped most vividly in bold new evangelical churches such as Zion, where a soft-spoken preacher and his fervent flock do not yet know just how far the Communist Party is prepared to let them grow.
"We think that Christianity is good for Beijing, good for China," Jin said. "But it may take some time before our intention is understood, trusted, even respected by the authorities. We even have to consider the price we may have to pay."
Researcher Xu Wan contributed to this report.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct
on: June 28, 2008, 04:06:34 AM
CAIR's Traitorous Cop Ally
By Paul Sperry
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, June 25, 2008
If the Taliban catches an American spy, they slit the informer's throat. If we catch a pro-Taliban spy, he gets a slap on the wrist after getting a letter from a Muslim pressure group urging leniency. Who says we're winning this war?
Last month, Taliban fighters claimed to have killed a "female U.S. spy" for helping American forces in Afghanistan. Once all the evidence against the alleged spy was gathered, they slit her throat with a knife.
Compare that with the kid glove treatment of Sgt. Muhammad Weiss Rasool, a Muslim cop in the nation's capital who tipped off the target of an FBI terrorism investigation into a pro-Taliban mosque.
Despite his arrest, confession and recent conviction in federal court, Rasool, an Afghan immigrant, will do no jail time and will continue to collect a paycheck from taxpayers pending the results of an internal-affairs probe by the Fairfax County Police Department outside Washington.
Rasool took an oath to protect this country several years ago when he joined the FCPD, which is the largest force in Virginia and a key partner with the FBI in investigating major terror cases in the Washington area, including the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.
But Rasool put his religion ahead of his adopted country when he alerted a fellow member of his mosque that he was under federal surveillance. At his Muslim brother's request, he searched a police database and confirmed that FBI agents were tailing him.
When agents went to arrest the target early one morning, they found him and his family already dressed and destroying evidence. They knew they had a mole and worked back through the system to find Rasool.
That's when agents discovered the police sergeant had breached their database at least 15 times to look up names of other contacts, including relatives, to see if they showed up on the terrorist watch list. (As part of post-9/11 data-sharing, local police now have access to classified federal case files on terrorists maintained within the NCIC, or National Crime Information Center system.)
Rasool's actions "damaged the integrity of the NCIC system and jeopardized at least one federal investigation," U.S. prosecutors said in court papers filed last month. "The defendant's actions could have placed federal agents in danger."
Rasool, 31, at first claimed he didn't know the terrorist target. He confessed only after hearing a recording of his message for the suspect, who was a cleric in his local Taliban-sympathizing mosque. Rasool finally pleaded guilty to illegally searching a federal database.
Despite his subsequent conviction, however, Fairfax County has left him on the force, pending the outcome of an internal investigation. The leniency afforded Rasool is unprecedented, given how he copped to the crime – and not just any crime, but one that betrayed his fellow officers and country.
It also contrasts starkly with the recent handling of other Arab and Muslim government employees caught breaching classified databases.
The city of Rochester, N.Y., for example, summarily fired a Muslim 911 operator, Nadire Zenelaj, well before she was formally charged last month with illegally searching the names of hundreds of friends in the terrorist watch list. And as part of a federal plea deal, Lebanese national Nada Prouty resigned from the U.S. government after confessing she accessed a restricted FBI database to see if relatives were being investigated for terrorist activities.
Unlike these alleged spies, however, Rasool has a powerful patron in Washington -- the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which lobbied on his behalf during his prosecution.
"I have always found Sgt. Rasool eager to promote a substantive relationship between the Fairfax County Police Department and the local Muslim community," wrote CAIR Governmental Affairs Coordinator Corey Saylor in a letter to the federal judge, who ended up denying prosecutors the jail time they requested for Rasool. (He got off lightly with a fine and two years probation.)
Indeed, Rasool acted as CAIR's representative on the police force, and even worked with the group to kill a successful counterterror-training program within the department.
Rasool and other Muslim officers tied to CAIR claimed the course taught by the respected Higgins Center for Counter Terrorism Research portrayed Islam in a bad light. CAIR phoned Fairfax County Police Chief David Rohrer to complain, and the chief canceled the training in 2006.
That same year, Rohrer spoke at CAIR's annual fundraising dinner in Washington, crediting the group with "helping police departments to better understand the Muslim community."
But the chief was being used -- by the Islamist enemy. It turns out his aggrieved sergeant at the time was under federal investigation for aiding and abetting terrorists. And so was CAIR -- the group from whom Rohrer was accepting phone calls and on whom he was conferring legitimacy. In fact, U.S. prosecutors at the time were adding CAIR to a list of co-conspirators in a terror scheme to funnel more than $12 million to Hamas suicide bombers and their families.
Yet CAIR and Rasool teamed up to persuade the politically correct Rohrer to nix the anti-terror training, which included counterintelligence measures to help police guard against the very infiltration from terror supporters and facilitators that has taken place on Rohrer's watch.
Sadly, the chief appears more concerned about protecting the force from charges of "Islamophobia" than Islamist penetration.
Rasool, still on paid leave, says he hopes to be permanently reinstated. If so, it would mark a humiliating defeat in our battle against the growing Islamist 5th column in America. Rasool has a dangerous religious conflict, and should never wear the uniform again.
Paul Sperry is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington. He can be conacted at Sperry@SperryFiles.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena
on: June 27, 2008, 03:46:19 AM
Obama’s repositionings are legion — and make even the Clintons look scrupulous.
By Charles Krauthammer
To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies. — Obama spokesman Bill Burton, Oct. 24, 2007
That was then: Democratic primaries to be won, netroot lefties to be seduced. With all that (and Hillary Clinton) out of the way, Obama now says he’ll vote in favor of the new FISA bill that gives the telecom companies blanket immunity for post-9/11 eavesdropping.
Back then, in the yesteryear of primary season, he thoroughly trashed the North American Free Trade Agreement, pledging to force a renegotiation, take “the hammer” to Canada and Mexico, and threaten unilateral abrogation.
Today, the hammer is holstered. Obama calls his previous NAFTA rhetoric “overheated” and essentially endorses what one of his senior economic advisers privately told the Canadians: The anti-trade stuff was nothing more than populist posturing.
Nor is there much left of his primary season pledge to meet “without preconditions” with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There will be “preparations,” you see, which are being spun by his aides into the functional equivalent of preconditions.
Obama’s long march to the center has begun.
And why not? What’s the downside? He won’t lose the left, or even mainstream Democrats. They won’t stay home on Nov. 4. The anti-Bush, anti-Republican sentiment is simply too strong. Election Day is their day of revenge — for the Florida recount, for Swift-boating, for all the injuries, real and imagined, dealt out by Republicans over the last eight years.
Normally, flip-flopping presidential candidates have to worry about the press. Not Obama. After all, this is a press corps that heard his grandiloquent Philadelphia speech — designed to rationalize why “I can no more disown (Jeremiah Wright) than I can disown my white grandmother” — then wiped away a tear and hailed him as the second coming of Abraham Lincoln. Three months later, with Wright disowned, grandma embraced and the great “race speech” now inoperative, not a word of reconsideration is heard from his media acolytes.
Worry about the press? His FISA flip-flop elicited a few grumbles from lefty bloggers, but hardly a murmur from the mainstream press. Remember his pledge to stick to public financing? Now flush with cash, he is the first general-election candidate since Watergate to opt out. Some goo-goo clean-government types chided him, but the mainstream editorialists who for years had been railing against private financing as hopelessly corrupt and corrupting, evinced only the mildest of disappointment.
Indeed, the New York Times expressed a sympathetic understanding of Obama’s about-face by buying his preposterous claim that it was a pre-emptive attack on McCain’s 527 independent expenditure groups — notwithstanding the fact that (a) as Politico’s Jonathan Martin notes, “there are no serious anti-Obama 527s in existence nor are there any immediate plans to create such a group” and (b) the only independent ad of any consequence now running in the entire country is an AFSCME-MoveOn.org co-production savaging McCain.
True, Obama’s U-turn on public financing was not done for ideological reasons, it was done for Willie Sutton reasons: That’s where the money is. It nonetheless betrayed a principle that so many in the press claimed to hold dear.
As public financing is not a principle dear to me, I am hardly dismayed by Obama’s abandonment of it. Nor am I disappointed in the least by his other calculated and cynical repositionings. I have never had any illusions about Obama. I merely note with amazement that his media swooners seem to accept his every policy reversal with an equanimity unseen since the Daily Worker would change the party line overnight — switching sides in World War II, for example — whenever the wind from Moscow changed direction.
The truth about Obama is uncomplicated. He is just a politician (though of unusual skill and ambition). The man who dared say it plainly is the man who knows Obama all too well. “He does what politicians do,” explained Jeremiah Wright.
When it’s time to throw campaign finance reform, telecom accountability, NAFTA renegotiation or Jeremiah Wright overboard, Obama is not sentimental. He does not hesitate. He tosses lustily.
Why, the man even tossed his own grandmother overboard back in Philadelphia — only to haul her back on deck now that her services are needed. Yesterday, granny was the moral equivalent of the raving Reverend Wright. Today, she is a featured prop in Obama’s fuzzy-wuzzy get-to-know-me national TV ad.
Not a flinch. Not a flicker. Not a hint of shame. By the time he’s finished, Obama will have made the Clintons look scrupulous.
— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist.
© 2008, The Washington Post Writers Group
National Review Online - http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=YWJlOWU0Y2I4YTI0M2JmMTljM2Q4OGRkMjllZDc5MWQ=
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
on: June 26, 2008, 09:05:13 AM
|**Their troops in action?**http://www.nationalterroralert.com/jd_interviews.mp3http://www.nationalterroralert.com/ma1.pdfhttp://www.nationalterroralert.com/ma2.pdfhttp://www.nationalterroralert.com/ma3.pdfhttp://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2008/06/23/20080623abrk-homeinvasion0623-ON.html
Man killed in home invasion; drugs suspected
by Ali Pfauser - Jun. 23, 2008 04:34 PM
Six men with guns and body armor ambushed and killed a man in his Phoenix home Sunday, firing over one hundred rounds into the house.
No one else was injured. Investigators believe the house was being used to sell marijuana and the shooting was not random. Nevertheless, the large amount of ammunition alarmed authorities.
"We have seen an increasing amount of these type of violent crimes in the past five months," Phoenix Police Sgt. Joel Tranter said. "We want the public to realize that these types of crimes will not be tolerated in Phoenix."
Phoenix police officials gave the following details about the case: Special Assignments Unit detectives were near the area of 83rd Avenue and Encanto Boulevard when they heard gunshots coming from a neighborhood. The detectives began to drive toward the gunshots where they were directed by neighbors to a nearby house.
Once inside the home, detectives discovered the body of Andrew Williams, 30, shot numerous times, Phoenix Police Detective Cindy Scott said.
As police searched the gunshot-riddled house they determined over 100 rounds of various calibers of ammunition were used.
Police also recovered marijuana and body armor from the house.
As more investigators came to help, they noticed a red Chevrolet Tahoe driving suspiciously in the neighborhood. Detectives followed the vehicle to 7th Street and Coronado Road where Daniel Garcia-Saenz, 24; Manual Garcia-Trejom, 25; and Rodolfo Madrigal Lopez, 19, jumped out and ran from the vehicle before being apprehended by authorities.
All three suspects were wearing law-enforcement-like body armor. Helmets and various weapons were recovered from the suspect's vehicle.
Police believe there are three more suspects still outstanding in the case, Scott said.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Phoenix Police Department at 602-262-6141 or 480-WITNESS.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread
on: June 25, 2008, 11:06:52 PM
CCP I certainly didn't count all the rights married couples have compared to non-married couples' It is likely they were very generous in how they counted.
Another huge lack between partnership and marriage is immigrations rights for your partner. I have a friend that was thinking of leaving the country to be with his boyfriend but thankfully the boyfriend got a green card.
**So, some discrimination is ok then?** I guess it has do with my definition of marriage. I think marriage is life partnership between two people. A child is not yet old enough to consent and polygamous marriage is not an equal partnership***So, you are falling back to this nation's moral and legal definitions when it suits your purpose.***
**So those that act in a manner that you find morally unacceptable should face punitive acts by the legal system?**
It has nothing to do with my finding it morally unacceptable. If a man or a woman makes a partnership with a spouse and he/ she does not live up to his/her end of it he/she should face punitive acts by the legal system in case of divorce especially in something so basic to the marriage as sexual fidelity.
***Again, when it suits your purpose then legal discrimination is acceptable, right?*** GM
**Would a Boy Scout troop leader that engaged in heterosexual wife-swapping, group sex and sadomasochistic bondage and domination be more or less acceptable to you than a openly gay troop leader? If not, why not?**
I don't see the connection between homosexual sex and what you mentioned. Do you see the connection between those things and interracial marriage because that use to be common. http://www.vtfreetomarry.org/pfds/Arguments_Against_Interracial_Marriage_and_Equal_Marriage.pdf I personally have no interest in discussing the pros and cons of wife swapping, bondage, nambla, incest etc. If you think they are worth discussing go right ahead but I will not be participating. ***Because you can't defend your point. This is why you won't defend it. Homosexual conduct is commonly defined as sexually deviant behavior in traditions judeo-christian morality, as are the other sexual acts that you don't want to defend. "Gay marriage" is imposed on us by judicial imperialism by activist judges because it doesn't win in the legislatures and ballot initiatives. Your core argument seems to be "It should be legal because I know some gay people and they are nice."*** Crafty_ Dog
Rachel, forgive my martian linearity wink but this is not the question presented. The question presented is whether
a) the Consitution compels the State to make it a crime or civil offense
b) the State should make it a crime or civil offense A.I'm sorry -- I don't feel capable of answering that question
B. The short answer is yes for actions not thoughts ( sexual orientation should have the same protections for that we do for gender, age, disabilities, etc) but the long answer there would be exceptions. For example religious organizations should be able to discriminate. ( I didn't think that was a question I was avoiding -- I thought I had answered it
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: June 25, 2008, 05:38:49 PM
Not only did the Times give America a fraudulent picture of the Soviet Union in the 1930s; its coverage of the Holocaust in the next decade suggests a determination both to maintain an appearance of impartiality and to preserve an illusion that Hitler’s regime was not as monstrous as it really was. Hitler’s destruction of the Jews was so blatantly evil that to write about it in a civilized and responsible manner meant taking sides; but that was apparently too much for the Times to ask of itself. Though it was already well established by 1942 that the Nazis intended to exterminate European Jewry, as Laurel Leff notes in her 2005 book Buried by the Times, the newspaper’s European correspondents “would not be the ones to disclose this information.” Though the Times (then as now) prided itself on covering even relatively minor international news, it managed not to report the decimation of the Jewish populations of whole cities and countries. When the State Department confirmed the murder of approximately two million Jews in German-occupied areas, the Times ran the story on page ten. When the Times did run stories about the Holocaust, moreover, it deliberately obscured the fact that the victims were being killed because they were Jews. It even avoided using the word “Jews,” routinely referring to the victims as “refugees” or identifying them by nationality. And it repeatedly served up the fiction that they had been killed because they were opponents or perceived opponents of the Nazi regime.
Leff’s exhaustive account of this ignominy makes it clear that the Times considered it more important to seem objective than to tell the whole truth about Nazi genocide. In a letter written at the time, Sulzberger explained that he had to remain “disassociated from active participation in any movement which springs from the oppression of the Jews in Germany” so as not to compromise “the unprejudiced and unbiased position of the Times.” In other words, he was holding up as a journalistic ideal a neutral stance toward the extermination of millions. Amoral though this insistence on “objectivity” was, however, even it seems to have been largely a cover for something else — namely a simple failure of institutional courage. Reading Leff’s book, one gathers that if those in power at the Times chose to systematically mute the facts about the Holocaust, it was largely for no more profound reasons than that they, like their counterparts today who sugarcoat Islam, didn’t want to endanger their position in the cultural elite, or even risk, say, a modicum of discomfort at the occasional dinner party. It was more important to them to maintain their own status, not to mention the newspaper’s reputation, than to fully and honestly report the facts about a historically unprecedented act of monstrous evil.
One also has the impression that the Holocaust-hiders then, like the whitewashers of European Islam now, felt that, all in all, it was best to soft-pedal horrors — almost as if denying the terrible truth, or at least drastically diminishing it, would somehow make it less real or less horrible. Michael Marrus (quoted by Leff) speaks of reporters’ “unwillingness to break established patterns to help the Jews” — which strikingly echoes an observation by Harrison Salisbury (quoted by Taylor) that Duranty was “incapable of reporting something that broke the pattern he had established.” Indeed, it can seem that for the Times, when it comes to the very biggest and most disturbing stories, the “news that’s fit to print” was, and is, often the news that best fits the paper’s pre-existing picture of the world. In this sense, the Times is not a liberal newspaper at all, but deeply conservative, determined above all to provide its largely comfortable and affluent readers with a consistent, predictable picture of the world that doesn’t challenge their own worldview in any significant way or make them feel obliged to deal with things they’d prefer not to deal with. Certainly a loyalty to “established patterns” is a factor in the refusal by the Times and other media today to report honestly on the dramatic changes in European society wrought by the continent’s ongoing Islamization.
At both the Holocaust-era and present-day Times, one senses a dread over appearing to take the side of European Jews — whether the Jews are being exterminated by Germans (as they were then) or tormented by Muslims (as is the case today). Leff’s conclusion is striking: “When confronted with the facts of mass murder, journalists reacted as if they had no understanding of what those facts meant.” She quotes an observation by Saul Friedlander about “the simultaneity of considerable knowledge of the facts and of a no less massive inability or refusal to transform these facts into integrated understanding.” This is a remarkably apt description of the Times’s approach to Islam in the West today: the facts, the anecdotes, the statistics, all add up to a clear, coherent picture of what some of us have called cultural jihad or soft jihad; but the Times, and the innumerable news organs around the world that follow its lead and/or share its mindset, categorically decline to add the pieces up. In the 1940s, reporters recognized the reality of the Holocaust even as they refused, or on some level were unable, to accept it; a similar psychological process seems to be in operation today with regard to Islam. As Seth Lipsky noted in a cogent review of Leff’s book, its importance “is in helping us to understand what happened so that we can…avoid the same mistakes now that a new war against the Jews is under way and a new generation of newspaper men and women are in on the story.”
One should also mention, in this context, the very special relationship between The New York Times and Fidel Castro. William F. Buckley, Jr., put it memorably: Fidel Castro got his job through the The New York Times. To be more specific, he got it through the Walter Duranty of mid-century, Herbert Matthews, who fell head over heels for Castro much as Duranty did for Stalin. Glenn Garvin put it this way in Reason in March 2007: “Matthews was the first American reporter to interview Fidel Castro and the last to recognize the man as a ruthless and slightly mad totalitarian murderer.” At the time when Matthews was portraying him as a romantic guerrilla hero who enjoyed broad popular support and represented a serious threat to the government of Fulgencio Batista, Castro was in reality a washout with a ragtag group of no more than eighteen followers; but Matthews’s landmark front-page article of Sunday, February 24, 1957 (in which he called the revolutionary “overpowering,” a “man of ideals, of courage, and of remarkable qualities of leadership”), gave him a new lease on life and established the still potent Castro myth.
As was the case with Duranty and Stalin, moreover, Matthews’ articles and private confidences strongly influenced State Department views of Castro; and his rhapsodies about the Cuban, like Duranty’s hymns to the Georgian, were echoed throughout the Western media. Matthews insisted repeatedly that Castro was not a Communist, and he smeared reporters (just as Duranty had smeared Gareth Jones) who disagreed. As Duranty had excused Stalin’s crimes with the blithe sentiment that “you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs,” so Matthews justified Castro’s abuses by saying that “A revolution is not a tea party.” And though Castro’s victory, in which Matthews was proud to have played a part, led to the murder of countless Cubans by firing squads, the reporter was ready to play down such uncomfortable details, excuse them, and even misrepresent them — in the same way that Duranty had done with the Ukraine famine. Just as Duranty defended Stalin’s show trials and the executions that followed, so Matthews dismissed Castro’s post-Revolution bloodbaths, calling Cuba “the happiest country in the world” (a lie that has lived on for decades in PC circles). In one editorial, Matthews referred to Castro as a “friend”; Castro, in a personal note professing his “deep and lasting affection,” addressed Matthews as “Mi Querido Amigo.”
And with Matthews, as with Duranty, the Times was a willing accomplice. In 1959, when Castro visited the Times offices in New York to “thank the Times for its role in the revolution” — as Matthews’s biographer, Anthony DePalma, put it – Sulzberger was there to “welcome” him, and “Castro thanked Sulzberger and several editors profusely.” (Castro would visit the Times’ offices twice more, in 1995 and 2000.) In a memo written shortly after the revolution, Matthews told Sulzberger that Castro “really wants advice and guidance and constructive criticism from sources he knows to be friendly, such as The New York Times.” Eventually, the Times stopped running Matthews’s pieces on Cuba — not because they were too heavily slanted toward Castro, but because Matthews was so public about his friendship with the dictator. What mattered to the Times, in short, was not maintaining objectivity but preserving an illusion thereof. “It is bad enough,” Buckley later wrote, “that Herbert Matthews was hypnotized by Fidel Castro, but it was a calamity that Matthews succeeded in hypnotizing so many other people, in crucial positions of power, on the subject of Castro.” Indeed. The lingering influence of Matthews’s idolization of Castro — who executed political rivals and put homosexuals in concentration camps — could be observed, as Garvin notes, in such nauseating spectacles as Dan Rather’s chumminess with the dictator in a 60 Minutes interview, Barbara Walter’s hosting a dinner party for him, and Diane Sawyer’s greeting him with a kiss.
This overview would not be complete without at least a brief mention of Times Indochina correspondent Sydney Schanberg, who was immortalized by actor Sam Waterston in the film The Killing Fields. In a 1975 article, Schanberg looked forward to the fall of the Lon Nol government in Cambodia, writing that “for the ordinary people of Indochina . . . it is difficult to imagine how their lives could be anything but better with Americans gone.” This line was quoted in 2003 by Myron Kuropas, who went on to cite Schanberg’s backhanded defense of the genocidal Khmer Rouge:
Was this just cold brutality: a cruel and sadistic imposition of the law of the jungle which only the fittest will survive? Or is it possible that, seen through the eyes of the peasant soldier and revolutionaries, the forced evacuation of the cities is a harsh necessity? Perhaps they are convinced that there is no way to build a new society for the benefit of the ordinary man, hitherto exploited, without literally starting from the beginning; in such an unbending view people who represent the old ways and those considered weak or unfit would be expendable and would be weeded out.
The weasel words “harsh” and “unbending” aside, this passage amounts to a reprehensible attempt to justify pure evil on what we would today call multicultural grounds. Similar language was used to defend Stalin and Hitler. Indeed, to read Duranty, Matthews, Schanberg, and the Times’ Holocaust-era European correspondents is to be struck by how much alike they all sound. Whether they were in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Castro’s Cuba, or Pol Pot’s Cambodia, these reporters evinced the selfsame fascination with tyrants and offered the selfsame justifications for tyranny. This mentality is still on view today in the pages of the Gray Lady, as one after another of Duranty’s heirs continue to try to sell the line that Islam is a religion of peace, that “jihad” means spiritual struggle, that only a minuscule minority of Muslims in the West want to exchange democracy for sharia, and that the only real problem with Islam in Europe is European racism.
The Times should have learned a valuable lesson or two from its past. But it’s making exactly the same mistakes today with Islam in the West that it did with Stalinism and Hitlerism, ignoring and discrediting the testimony of honest observers while giving legitimacy to tyranny’s sympathizers and apologists. The Times’s power is such that it might play an immensely positive role in educating its readers about the situation before them and helping them to recognize where their own responsibilities lie. Instead it’s pursuing an editorial policy that bids fair to be every bit as disastrous as was its approach to Stalin, the Holocaust, and Castro. And a large segment of the mainstream Western media is following its example.
Article printed from Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com
URL to article: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/the-times-it-ain%e2%80%99t-a-changin%e2%80%99/
URLs in this post:
 new piece: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/22/magazine/22wwln-lede-t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine&pagewanted=p
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: June 25, 2008, 05:37:42 PM
- Pajamas Media - http://pajamasmedia.com
The Times, It Ain’t a-Changin’
June 25, 2008 - by Bruce Bawer
Just imagine the world picture of somebody whose primary — or even (God forbid!) sole — source of news is the New York Times.
In particular, imagine that person’s image of Islam — and of the problems and issues surrounding the growing presence of Islam in the West today. At the Times — as at other important news organizations — the slant on Islam has been shaped almost exclusively by apologists like Karen Armstrong (author of Muhammed: A Prophet for Our Time) and John Esposito (director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University). In March, the New York Times Magazine published a long essay by another major apologist, Harvard law professor and Times Magazine contributing writer Noah Feldman, who took (shall we say) an exceedingly generous view of sharia law and its proponents. Last Sunday, the magazine ran a  new piece by Feldman, arguing that Muslims are Europe’s “new pariahs” and that the only real problem related the rise of Islam in Europe today is — guess what? — European racism.
It’s a familiar claim, to put it mildly, and Feldman served up the usual rhetoric, conflating the nationalist bigots of Belgium’s Vlaams Belang party with people like the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders, whose views on the Islamization of Europe are rooted in liberal values. Feldman dismissed as “prejudice” concern about first-cousin marriages among Muslims — never mind that almost all such marriages are forced, that the overwhelming majority involve rape and abuse, and that those who have campaigned hardest against them are not “racists” but women’s rights advocates. Feldman deep-sixed the catastrophic rise in rape, gay-bashing, and other crimes by young European Muslim males, the extensive abuse of European welfare systems that is helping to destroy them, and the broad-based cultural jihad which ultimately seeks nothing less than the replacement of democracy with sharia. Feldman insisted that “a hallmark of liberal, secular societies is supposed to be respect for different cultures, including traditional, religious cultures — even intolerant ones.” That’s easy to say about things happening on the other side of an ocean from your Ivy League office. I’d like to see Feldman tell this to gay people in Amsterdam, where ten years ago they felt safer than anyplace else on earth and where Muslim youths now beat them up in broad daylight in the middle of town. Or why doesn’t he try this line on Jewish children in France, who according to a French government report can no longer get an education in that country because of severe harassment (and worse) by Muslim classmates? Feldman further equated Islamic and Roman Catholic views of gays and women — as if the Church’s “rejection of homosexuality and women priests” could be compared to the execution of gays and the wholesale subordination of women to the will of men. Feldman scored Europeans for failing to treat immigrants “as full members of their society” — yet while such prejudice does indeed exist, somehow immigrants from places like Vietnam and Chile nonetheless persevere and thrive (in the U.K., Hindus are more economically successful than the average Brit), while Muslims don’t. The difference has to do not with European prejudice but with Islam.
Since 9/11, the kind of brazen sugarcoating of Islam that Feldman served up last Sunday has become a convention in the Times and other mainstream media. Routinely, news organizations suppress, downplay, or misrepresent developments that reflect badly on Islam; they go out of their way to find stories that reflect (or that can be spun in such a way as to reflect) positively on it; and they publish professors and intellectuals and “experts” like Feldman, who share the media’s determination to obscure the central role of jihadist ideology in the current clash between Islam and Western democracy and to point the finger instead (as Feldman does) at European racism.
Yet while a number of media consumers are wise to this policy regarding Islam, relatively few realize that it’s a fresh variation on a well-established tradition. This tradition — which may be fairly characterized as one of solicitude, protectiveness, and apologetics when reporting on totalitarian ideologies, movements and regimes — involves habitual practices that can be attributed partly to institutional stasis, passivity, and timidity, partly to a desire to maintain access to this or that tyrant, partly to profound failures of moral insight and responsibility, partly to inane notions of “fairness” and “balance,” partly to an unwillingness to face aspects of the real world that need to be acknowledged and dealt with, and partly to an inability to grasp (or, perhaps, to face the fact) that the status quo has changed.
To get an idea of what I’m talking about, let’s examine some highlights from the history of the Times — not only America’s most famous newspaper, but the one from which the nation’s media have, to an extraordinary extent, taken their lead for generations. These highlights do not even begin to tell the whole story of the Times’s treatment of totalitarianism over the decades, of course, but they point to something chronic, unhealthy, and dishonest at the heart of the Gray Lady’s editorial sensibility that has yet to be effectively addressed - and that has its counterparts in countless less prominent media on which the Times has long exerted a major influence.
First case in point: Walter Duranty, the Times’s Moscow correspondent during much of the Stalin era. The celebrated British author Malcolm Muggeridge once commented that “no one…followed the Party Line as assiduously” as Duranty did; Tim Rutten, in a 2003 Los Angeles Times article, called Duranty “an active agent of Soviet propaganda and disinformation - probably paid, certainly blackmailed, altogether willing.” Author of a novel, One Life, One Kopeck (1937), that was pure Communist cant and a non-fiction book, The Kremlin and the People (1941), that another old Moscow hand, Louis Fischer, described as a “Song of Praise” for Stalin, Duranty was an unswerving Kremlin apologist: he praised a 1932 law that forbade peasants to leave their collective farms, insisted (to Trotsky’s consternation) that the false confessions extracted at Stalin’s show trials were true, and condemned the Berlin Airlift. It was Duranty who coined the term “Stalinism” and who, rationalizing Stalin’s brutality, first said “You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.” Duranty claimed to want to bring about “Russian-American…understanding” — which is to say that he used the word “understanding” in exactly the same way that it’s often used now vis-à-vis Islam. (What’s being encouraged, of course, isn’t understanding at all but its opposite — a determination not to understand, see, or acknowledge certain facts. In the 1930s, Britons who were desperate to avoid war with the Nazis also spoke about “understanding” in this way - refusing to recognize that there are some things that, once properly understood, must be actively resisted and destroyed.)
Duranty’s position afforded him immense power to shape the American public’s image of the Soviet Union. As Muggeridge biographer Ian Hunter put it in 2003, Duranty was “the most influential foreign correspondent in Russia,” a man whose articles were “regarded as authoritative” and “helped to shape U.S. foreign policy.” While Stalin was shipping people to the Gulag, Duranty’s rosy dispatches were taken by many American leftists as confirmation that the USSR was indeed a veritable workers’ paradise.
His crowning disgrace was his reporting on the Ukraine famine of 1932-33. It began when Stalin, out to forestall a counter-revolution, forced Ukrainian peasants onto collective farms, seized the 1932 crops, confiscated food, grain, and livestock, made it a crime to supply villages with food, and put grain supplies under armed guard while children starved nearby. The historian Robert Conquest has described the Ukraine during this period as “one vast Bergen-Belsen”; in the end, the famine — which many experts and governments, including America’s, officially regard as an act of genocide — killed about a quarter of the Ukraine’s population. (Most estimates of the death toll range from seven to ten million.) Yet Duranty denied that Ukrainians were starving. Reports he filed from the region appeared under such headlines as “Soviet Is Winning Faith of Peasants” and “Abundance Found in North Caucasus.” His biographer, S.J. Taylor, has summed up his spin as follows: “He spoke of happy workers, plentiful harvests, congenial conditions. Any talk of famine, he said…was ‘a sheer absurdity.’” Though in a few articles he came somewhat closer to telling the truth (apparently having seen conditions so horrible that even he felt, if only momentarily, the pull of conscience), he soon reverted to full denial mode. That his colossal misrepresentations were deliberate is proven by records of a private conversation he had with a British official in 1933, in which he admitted that “as many as 10 million people may have died directly or indirectly from lack of food in the Soviet Union during the past year.”
While Duranty presented Soviet lies about the Ukraine as the unvarnished truth, others risked life and limb to get the facts out. A 1932 report by Andrew Cairns outlined in detail the catastrophe Stalin had brought about, but Stalin’s supporters on the British Left made sure it was never published. Arthur Koestler, who spent the winter of 1932-33 in the Ukraine, described entire villages that perished of starvation; and Muggeridge’s own admiration for Stalin dissolved in the face of what he described in the Guardian as “one of the most monstrous crimes in history, so terrible that people in the future will scarcely be able to believe it ever happened.” (The result of Muggeridge’s exposés? Thanks to Stalinists in high places, he was unable to find work in Britain.) Perhaps most intrepid of all was a young Welshman, Gareth Jones, who published at least twenty articles in the U.S. and Britain about the famine. Because, unlike Duranty, he had no impressive institutional credentials, Jones’s articles drew little notice; yet one of them, which appeared in the Manchester Guardian, so unsettled the Kremlin that the Soviet Press Censor, Constantine Oumansky, gathered together all the Western correspondents in Moscow and persuaded them — apparently with little difficulty — to write articles calling Jones a liar. Duranty came through like a trouper: in a piece headlined “Russians Hungry, But Not Starving,” he savaged Jones’s reportage. Taylor calls Duranty’s mendacity about the famine “the most outrageous equivocation of the period. Yet the statement seems to have pacified almost everyone.”
Duranty’s Moscow dispatches add up to an appalling legacy, and the Times was intimately implicated in every last bit of it. A State Department document that was declassified in 1987 revealed that in 1931 Duranty admitted to a U.S. embassy official in Berlin that “in agreement with The New York Times and the Soviet authorities,” his articles consistently reflected “the official opinion of the Soviet regime.” Throughout his long tenure at the Times, there were critics — most but not all of them marginal (Time Magazine decried him as “the No. 1 Russian apologist in the West”) — who pilloried the Times for printing Duranty’s disinformation. Yet Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger dismissed all criticism of what he called Duranty’s “faithful and brilliant work at Moscow.” Sulzberger’s successors, moreover, while acknowledging the validity of the criticism, have invariably done so in tame, vague, and thoroughly inadequate terms. To this day, moreover, the Times has stubbornly resisted calls to return the Pulitzer that Duranty won for a 1931 series of articles singing the praises of the economic policies that laid the famine’s foundations.
Indeed, just as Duranty not only lied about the famine but slandered those who told the truth about it, so Times editor Bill Keller, in a remarkably callous 2003 response to a Ukrainian group that sought to have Duranty’s Pulitzer rescinded, compared the petitioners to the dictator who had slaughtered so many millions of their people, suggesting that revoking the award “might evoke the Stalinist practice to airbrush purged figures out of official records and histories.” When a member of Gareth Jones’s family wrote to Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., in 2003, asking him to return Duranty’s award, Sulzberger — whose family’s newspaper had been instrumental in airbrushing Jones from history — didn’t even bother to reply. And when the Pulitzer board decided that same year not to rescind the prize, Sulzberger released a statement alluding to “defects” and “lapses” in Duranty’s work — weak language indeed to describe the covering up of a holocaust — and offering a few feeble, euphemistic words of “sympathy” for “those who suffered as a result of the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine.”
In the end, as Taylor has written, “fewer words were actually published” in the Western press about the Ukrainian famine “than the number of men, women, and children who had perished.” The New York Times and its man in Moscow deserve an enormous share of the responsibility for this, given the extent to which the American press followed the Times’s lead. (Indeed, many U.S. papers’ Soviet coverage consisted largely or entirely of syndicated Times articles.) Since the U.S. and British governments exerted little or no pressure on Stalin to end the Ukrainian famine, frank and vivid reporting about the famine in the Times might have forced their hands. Taylor notes that of all those who witnessed “the greatest man-made disaster ever recorded,” only Duranty “had sufficient prestige and prominence to exert an influence”; had he “spoken out loud and clear…the world could not have ignored him.” Andrew Stuttaford, writing in National Review in 2001, agreed: “Had he told the truth, he could have saved lives.”
Yet the obloquy is not Duranty’s alone. Sulzberger and his editors understood very well what kind of game their man in Moscow was playing. It was a game of access and of influence. The Times, to be true to its image of itself, simply had to be assured that if, for example, Stalin wanted to give an exclusive interview to only one Western newspaper, he would choose the Times; and in order for the Times to retain that predominant position, it had to play ball (just as CNN, decades later, would play ball with Saddam’s regime in order to be able to keep operating out of Baghdad). Sulzberger and company knew, too, that for the Times to retain its authoritative image on the American Left, it couldn’t challenge the Left’s image of Russia too aggressively. What’s more, they may have thought they were serving a cause they perceived as greater than truth — namely, the cause of peace and solidarity between Russia and the West. Similar motives appear to shape the relationship of the Times and other media today to the complete truth about Islam and to the contemporary Gareth Joneses who have sought to tell it. Duranty endeavored to cover his bases on Stalin, moreover, in the same way that many journalists today seem to be trying to cover their bases on Islam. As Muggeridge explained it, Duranty attempted to write in such a manner that, whether “the famine got worse and known outside Russia” or, alternatively, “got better and wasn’t known outside Russia,” he would be able in either case to point to what he’d written at the time and claim that he’d gotten the story right. In short, he embodied cautious, cynical careerism at its worse.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes
on: June 24, 2008, 11:39:40 AM
"Fresh Start or False Start?--
Identity Theft in Bankruptcy Cases"
By Jane E. Limprecht (1)
Executive Office for U.S. Trustees
Washington, D.C. (2)
Janet Doe (3) received an official-looking letter addressed to her son John. She opened the letter and discovered that it directed John to appear at a meeting of creditors convened as part of his Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. Janet was shocked at this notice, because she knew John had never filed for bankruptcy. John was five years old. Janet sought help from the nearest United States Trustee field office. She suspected that John's father--her estranged husband--filed the case to stay an impending foreclosure of the family home. The father had filed for bankruptcy twice before, and his second case had been dismissed less than three months earlier.
Ruth Roe's employment regularly took her away from home for extended periods of time. At some point, another woman began to impersonate Ruth, using Ruth's name, Social Security number, and educational and professional licensing information to take out loans for real property and vehicles in Ruth's name, and even to obtain a professional license and employment in Ruth's field. The woman failed to repay the loans, and ultimately filed a Chapter 13 petition using Ruth's name and SSN. Ruth found out about the long-standing fraud when she returned from her work assignment and discovered that her credit record was severely damaged.
One of Beth Boe's friends asked if she could transfer her house into Beth's name because she had some "tax problems." Beth also co-signed a mortgage note on her friend's house. After falling behind on the mortgage payments, the friend filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Beth's name. The friend actually made payments on "Beth's" Chapter 13 plan for several years. Beth found out about the bankruptcy when she applied for a vacation loan. The loan was denied because of the bankruptcy filing and large home loan listed on her credit record.
At the request of her landlord, eighteen-year-old Martina Moe signed some documents the landlord needed to "help him own property." Martina did not understand that the documents named her as a co-owner of an apartment building guaranteed by a Federal Housing Administration loan. Some time later, Martina was denied credit because she had two bankruptcy filings listed on her credit record. She discovered that her landlord had filed for bankruptcy in her name to stay foreclosure on one of his rental properties. In fact, he had filed multiple bankruptcy cases in the names of numerous current or former tenants and employees. The U.S. Trustee, the Chapter 13 trustee, and an employee of the Bankruptcy Clerk had flagged the petitions as unusual; they were all filed on behalf of pro se debtors by a bankruptcy petition preparer who had previously used a false SSN, and none attempted to discharge anything but real property debt.
New Law; Federal Initiatives
Each of these cases represents a variation of identity theft--the use of another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. Historically, the "victim" of identity theft was considered to be the creditor who was deceived into extending goods or services; the person whose identity was actually appropriated had little legal recourse. In October 1998, Congress enacted theIdentity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, 18 U.S.C. §1028 ("Identity Theft Act") to ameliorate this situation. The Identity Theft Act made it a crime to "knowingly transfer or use, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law."
To assist wronged victims, the Identity Theft Act designated the Federal Trade Commission as the federal clearinghouse for receiving and processing identity theft complaints, providing information to consumers, and referring consumers to the appropriate agencies for investigation of their complaints. (4) In July 2000, an FTC official testified before Congress that the agency's Identity Theft Hotline, in operation since November 1999, was already receiving more than 800 calls per week. (5) About two-thirds of these calls were from consumers who suspected they were victims of identity theft.
Violations of the Identity Theft Act are investigated by agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Secret Service, for bank and credit card fraud; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, for mail fraud; the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General, for fraud relating to Social Security benefits; and the Internal Revenue Service, for tax fraud. The Justice Department handles the prosecution of cases under the Identity Theft Act. To help coordinate identity theft investigation and prosecution, the Justice Department created a working group that includes members from Justice components such as the U.S. Trustees, the FBI, and the Criminal Division; from other federal entities including the FTC, Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS, and Social Security Administration; and from state and local governments.
Federal agencies scheduled three identity theft workshops for the fall of 2000. These workshops were designed to build upon the Treasury Department's March 2000 identity theft "summit meeting," which brought together federal, state, and local government representatives, consumer advocacy groups, credit organizations, and others in the private sector to develop a public/private partnership to prevent identity theft and help its victims. On October 23-24, the FTC hosted a public workshop focusing on assisting victims of identity theft, which included a presentation by U.S. Trustee staff. On October 25, the Social Security Administration held a second public workshop to address means to prevent identity theft. On December 6, the Justice Department's Criminal Division and the Secret Service will host a workshop on law enforcement, with attendance limited to representatives of law enforcement agencies.
Identity Theft and Bankruptcy
A significant number of identity theft cases are related to bankruptcy in some way. The U.S. Trustee Program's primary role on the Justice Department's identity theft working group is to outline the various ways in which identity theft intersects with bankruptcy, and to explain how the Program can assist law enforcement as it monitors the integrity of the bankruptcy system.
The cases described earlier in this article merely hint at the range of actions that may constitute bankruptcy-related identity theft. Forms of bankruptcy-related identity theft include, without limitation:
Filing for bankruptcy using the name and/or SSN of another known person, such as a parent, sibling, child, or other relative; a spouse, ex-spouse, "significant other" or ex-significant other; a current or former business partner, co-employee, cosigner on a debt, friend, neighbor, or fellow student; or even a deceased person.
Incurring debt under a false name and/or Social Security number and then filing for bankruptcy, using that name and/or number, to discharge the debt. Sometimes this debt is owed to the government, via a farm loan, small business loan, student loan, or similar obligation.
Transferring property into the name of a relative or friend, and then filing for bankruptcy using that person's name and/or SSN to avoid foreclosure. Typically the transferee agrees to the transfer "to help out," but does not understand the legal ramifications.
Filing for bankruptcy using a false name and/or SSN that was apparently randomly chosen, because it does not belong to a person known to the perpetrator.
Transferring a fractional interest in real property into the name of an innocent person whose bankruptcy case is pending. The pending case stays foreclosure on the perpetrator's real property once the innocent debtor is listed as a partial owner.
Using a false SSN when identifying oneself as a bankruptcy petition preparer.
In many instances, it appears that bankruptcy cases are filed under a false identity solely to obtain the benefit of the automatic stay, primarily to delay foreclosure or eviction. In such cases, the filer fails to appear at the Section 341 meeting of creditors and the case is dismissed. A record of the filing remains, however, in the court record and on the victim's credit record.
In extreme cases of identity theft, a perpetrator may wholly co-opt another person's identity--obtaining driver's and professional licenses, obtaining employment, applying for apartments, taking out home and automobile loans, applying for credit cards, and even receiving traffic tickets and warrants under the false identity. Illegal immigration rings have used this method to create identities for illegal aliens. The false name and SSN are initially used to obtain employment, and subsequently to establish credit; ultimately, the illegal alien files for bankruptcy using the false name and SSN to discharge the debt incurred. Whatever the circumstances surrounding such a "total identity steal," the bankruptcy filing is only part of a complex scheme of impersonation, which often collapses only when the victim discovers the fraudulent bankruptcy cases listed in his or her name.
Typically, a fraudulent bankruptcy filing comes to the attention of bankruptcy professionals when the victim contacts the U.S. Trustee's office to inquire why he or she has received notice of a Section 341 meeting in the mail, or why a bankruptcy is listed on his or her credit record. There are other warning signs, however, to which bankruptcy professionals and lenders should be alert. They include:
A client's failure to bring a purported joint debtor to meet with bankruptcy counsel. One debtor wife asked her bankruptcy attorney to let her take the bankruptcy petition home for her husband to sign, because he was too busy to come with her to the attorney's office. In fact, she forged her husband's name on the joint petition and filed it without his knowledge.
A debtor's failure to appear at the Section 341 meeting. In the case described above, the debtor wife appeared at the meeting of creditors with a man who falsely claimed to be her spouse and falsely testified that he had signed all of the documents. It is much more common, however, for the fraudulent filer not to appear at the Section 341 meeting. In such a case, the bankruptcy petition may have been filed solely for the purpose of temporarily avoiding foreclosure or eviction, without the knowledge of the true holder of the name and SSN.
The same real property listed in different bankruptcy cases. This may indicate that a perpetrator is filing serial cases in multiple false names to avoid foreclosure on the property.
Bankruptcy petitions, filed serially in the same or neighboring jurisdictions, that contain the same debtor's name but different SSNs; the same names with different middle initials; or slightly different forms of the same name.
Cases of suspected bankruptcy-related identity theft should be reported to the nearest U.S. Trustee field office (6). In addition to harming the victim, identity theft clearly impairs the integrity of the bankruptcy system. U.S. Trustee employees may, if appropriate, pursue various civil enforcement remedies.
By statute, the Program is a neutral party that represents the public interest. Thus, U.S. Trustee staff cannot directly represent the victim, who would be well advised to obtain private counsel to address the specific problems caused by the identity theft. Nonetheless, civil enforcement remedies that promote the integrity of the bankruptcy system often benefit the identity theft victim as well, and staff often work with the victim to obtain information necessary for enforcement actions. Depending upon the circumstances of the case and the procedures preferred by the Bankruptcy Courts in the local jurisdiction, actions by U.S. Trustee staff may include:
Moving to dismiss a pending case in which the bankruptcy filer used a false name and/or SSN. In some cases the U.S. Trustee also seeks a specific court finding that the named person did not file the case or authorize the filing, and that the signature was a forgery.
Moving to expunge or void a pending or closed case. The U.S. Trustee seeks expungement from the case docket as well as the court's automated system, and in some cases seeks to have the hard copy of the case file sealed.
Moving to correct the debtor's SSN in the bankruptcy court record.
Moving to have the discharge revoked or the discharge date extended until the SSN is corrected.
Moving for an in rem order for relief from the automatic stay with respect to all real property interests in the debtor's name.
Moving to vacate the order for relief.
Placing the burden upon the debtor to amend the petition to correct the SSN; to obtain a court order that the true holder of the number did not file the bankruptcy case or authorize it to be filed; and to serve that order upon the three major credit reporting agencies.
As in any other case of suspected criminal bankruptcy fraud, assisting law enforcement by helping to obtain relevant information and documents, advising on bankruptcy law, providing expert testimony at trial, and generally providing expertise on bankruptcy law and procedure.
New Identification Procedure
Over the last few years, a number of U.S. Trustee offices and private trustees have introduced procedures to better detect the use of a false name and/or SSN in bankruptcy cases. In some districts, for example, the U.S. Trustee requires photo identification or notarized verification of SSN for Section 341 meetings conducted by tele-conference. In other districts, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 trustees require debtors to produce photo identification and proof of SSN.
The U.S. Trustee Program has begun work to initiate, in 19 districts, a pilot program that will require identification at the Section 341 meeting. The pilot program is modeled after the Program's first region-wide debtor identification procedure, launched by Region 11 U.S. Trustee Ira Bodenstein in the fall of 1999. All Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 debtors who file in the region--which consists of Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, with headquarters in Chicago--are now required to provide the panel trustees and standing trustees with proof of identity and SSN at the Section 341 meeting.
Region 11 adopted this policy after uncovering a substantial number of instances of incorrect SSNs on bankruptcy petitions. While some of these were typographical errors, others were instances of Social Security and/or identity fraud that were referred to the U.S. Attorney's office for prosecution.
Region 11 initiated the identification procedure in September 1999 with the Chapter 7 panel trustees in Chicago. By mid-November 1999, all panel trustees and standing trustees in the region were requiring all debtors to comply. In general, implementation proceeded smoothly, and practitioners in the region now routinely inform their clients that proof of identity and SSN will be requested at the Section 341 meeting. Acceptable forms of identification include a driver's license, state identification card, or passport. Proof of SSN may be provided through documents such as a driver's license, Social Security card, or payroll check stub.
If a debtor fails to provide adequate proof of identity and SSN at the Section 341 meeting, the trustee automatically continues the meeting to the trustee's next date for meetings. If the debtor provides an SSN different from the one listed on the petition, the trustee asks the debtor to explain the discrepancy, reports the matter to the U.S. Trustee field office, and continues the Section 341 meeting; the debtor's attorney is expected to file an amended petition with the correct SSN before the continued meeting date. The debtor's attorney may be required to notify the three major credit reporting agencies that the SSN was used erroneously.
If debtor's counsel does not file the amended petition, the trustee delays the filing of the no-asset report and/or seeks dismissal of the case. Before the continued Section 341 meeting, the U.S. Trustee field office investigates whether the incorrect SSN was used intentionally or inadvertently, using a proprietary public records search data base. If it appears that the use was intentional, the U.S. Trustee or the private trustee files a motion to dismiss the case or deny discharge, and the matter is referred to the U.S. Attorney for criminal prosecution.
Typographical errors in SSNs have declined noticeably since this identification procedure was instituted in Region 11, resulting in a more reliable official record. In addition, the new policy has helped to maintain the accuracy of innocent victims' credit records, by identifying incorrect use of an SSN long before the victim might otherwise have learned of the error.
Clearly, this identification procedure will not catch all instances of bankruptcy-related identity theft. Some filers will fail to attend the Section 341 meeting; others may produce false identification at the meeting. As the nationwide pilot program takes shape, however, the identification procedure will be fine-tuned--with input from the bankruptcy community--to improve its efficiency and effectiveness within each pilot location. Taken as a whole, the Section 341 meeting identification procedure, the civil enforcement remedies pursued by U.S. Trustee staff and private trustees, and the Program's continuing participationwith concerned public and private groups will help fight bankruptcy-related identity theft.
1. All views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, the United States Department of Justice or the United States Trustee Program.
2. The author wishes to thank the United States Trustee Program employees who provided information for this article. For more information about bankruptcy-related identity theft, see "'What Do You Mean, I Filed Bankruptcy?' or How the Law Allows a Perfect Stranger to Purchase an Automatic Stay in Your Name," Maureen Tighe (United States Trustee for Region 16) and Emily Rosenblum, 32 Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review 1009 (June 1999).
3. These examples of identity theft are based on cases reported to the United States Trustees, but the names of all individuals have been changed.
4. To help disseminate information to the public, both the Justice Department and the FTC have developed web sites containing a wealth of information about identity theft. The Justice Department web site is www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fraud/idtheft.html
. The FTC web site is www.consumer.gov/idtheft
5. Testimony of Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, before the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information (7/12/00).
6. Contact information for United States Trustee field offices is available at www.usdoj.gov/ust
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: June 24, 2008, 11:34:11 AM
1516 Hours: Secure ID Violation at Dallas-Forth Worth (DFW)
. . . 1556 Hours: Explosive Detection Alarms at Los Angeles (LAX)
. . . 1653 Hours: Suspicious Individual at Newark (EWR)
. . . 1727 Hours: Suspicious Checked Baggage at John Wayne (SNA)
. . . 1924 Hours: Disruptive Passenger Atlanta (ATL)
. . . 2115 Hours: Passenger Arrested at Las Vegas (LAS)
"The guy in L.A. is a doper!" a voice calls from the Watch Floor.
"Where?" Chan says, turning to Denny. "Who are you talking to?"
"Los Angeles. The guy was nervous about flying, so he smoked pot," says Denny. "No apparent nexus to terrorism."
"Stand down!" Chan tells his officers.
The L.A. passenger was a 21-year-old African American. He had been smoking marijuana. It evidently made him paranoid.
Chan orders a text page: CLOSE OUT LAX; suspicious male pax arrested on charges of Public Intoxication and Fleeing a Checkpoint.
Chan takes another deep breath. So do his agents. The events in Miami and Los Angeles are not related.
As the afternoon dims into evening, Chan eats soup from a vending machine at his desk and calls Kathy at home. "We thought we had something today," he tells her. "How's Jamie?"
Chan's shift winds down with minor incidents in Dallas, Los Angeles, Newark, Santa Ana, Atlanta and Las Vegas. Earlier incidents close out. The Charlotte-Indianapolis passenger was not on a terrorist watch list after all. There had been an error in spelling his common Muslim name. He did, however, appear on a visitors list for a radical prisoner.
It took hours to resolve the case of the Lebanese man in Miami, who had leapt from the parking ramp and broken his arm. "That guy made me almost mess my pants today," Chuck says. "I'd throw him off the parking ramp myself."
Law enforcement officials pulled the Lebanese man's two companions off their flight and found 10 credit cards and three cashier's checks totaling more than $1 million. The carry-on bag the Lebanese man had abandoned contained cocaine.
He told police he fled because he was "having a bad day, and was nervous that he would miss his flight."
2336 Hours: Suspicious Individual in Custody at Santa Clara County (RHV)
Chan is listening to jazz instrumentals as he drives home in the dark. After eight hours of monitoring terrorism traffic, he doesn't want to hear any words. He reviews his day: "Did I call the right people? Get the right agents involved?"
It is 10:40 p.m. Up in the woods on Bull Run Mountain, in a small house on a gravel road, Chan's floor partner, Chuck, is already asleep, wearing his Marine medallion. Chuck will be on the Watch Floor again by sunrise. Before sinking into his dreams, Chuck cuddled with his Rottweiler and his wife, who share a king-size bed.
"Good night, Mom," Chuck said, to his wife.
"Good night, baby," Chuck said to the dog, who sleeps between them. Chuck pampers his pet even more since she's been diagnosed with lymphoma.
In the basement, hang Chuck's Marine uniforms: the dress blues, the green service alphas, the camouflage utilities. The closet is left open. Chuck tells people that being a Watch Floor command duty officer is like being a Marine, "same fight, different uniform." He tells himself, or tries to, that the work is satisfying: "Isn't that sad to say, at 50 you're washed up? Fortunately, we find a place we feel useful."
But then at night, when the truth seeps like vapors under his door, Chuck dreams that there's a national emergency. The Marines call him back into active duty, into real combat. He has the dream once a week; he's sorry to wake up.
"What's the dream?" Chuck says later. "That somebody needs you." Then Chuck stops talking, because he starts to cry. When he cries, sometimes, the Rottweiler licks his tears.
At 11 p.m., Chan's boss, Kent, is still awake, taking calls from the Watch Floor. Sitting in his family room, in his easy chair, feet up, all he wants to do is watch "Dancing With the Stars" and crash. But Kent answers the phone again and again, summoning his brisk, work voice: "Jefferies." It might be a call about the pilot who accidentally fired off a round in the cockpit. Or the three men on USAirways, kicking one another over a seat assignment. Or maybe it's the passenger who strapped a baby alligator to his leg and was caught when the screener saw his pants wiggle. (Kent: "It begs the question, which way was the alligator's head facing?")
Kent's response to the watchmen is always cool, but more than anyone, he absorbs the Floor's considerable heat. "Everyone wants to be the big boss, but it's not so great," Kent says. "Back in the day, I used to run with the president. I used to do a lot of things. I used to make fun of people like me." Now Kent has no time to exercise. Every quarter, he takes a government physical and a doctor checks his blood pressure, "to make sure I'm not going to croak."
During a break in the calls, Kent goes to bed. His dental night guard, he notices, is worn out. Since he's come to TSA, he has started clenching his jaws. He sometimes pulls back his lips, and examines the flat, black crack where his upper and lower bite meet. The iceman's teeth are ground even.
At 11:20 p.m., Chan drives up to Kathy's house. Inside, he checks on Jamie, who is sleeping on her back, holding her raggedy yellow blanky to her cheek.
"She has no idea," Chan thinks, looking at the little girl, "how drastic the world is." He closes Jamie's door carefully, trying not to disturb her.
When Chan opens Kathy's bedroom door, he is happy to see that she isn't asleep. Her red hair is spread out on her pillowcase. Her eyes are half-closed. She is wearing his aunt's antique diamond engagement ring.
"Are you serious?" Kathy had said last week, when Chan finally found the courage to propose.
Kathy had married young, been hurt hard and, after that, closed up. But an elderly man at the Freedom Center told her, "You deserve to have a nice guy to treat you right." After years of watching Chan bumble past, it occurred to her -- maybe the nice guy was Chan.
Now they would be married: Chan Browne and Kathy White. "We'll change our name to Tan," she joked.
"There actually is love," Chan said to her. "I'd stopped looking."
"I'd stopped looking," Kathy replied.
At 11:30 p.m., Chan lies down next to Kathy. He kisses her. He looks at her. He looks back at his day -- "Did I do everything right?" -- one last time. Then he falls asleep, at peace. Five minutes later, the BlackBerry on his bedside table vibrates.
A Secret Service agent in Santa Clara reports: A man in custody for theft and check fraud with possible "mental disabilities" said that in 2005, he took a flight from San Francisco to Dulles. He had planned to hijack the plane, and crash it into the White House.
Laura Blumenfeld is a Magazine staff writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: June 24, 2008, 11:32:14 AM
1510 Hours : Passenger Arrested After Behavior Detection Officer Referral at Los Angeles (LAX)
"The exact situation just happened in L.A.," says Andrew, Kent's deputy, pulling Kent aside. "A passenger took off."
Fifteen minutes had passed since the Lebanese man in Miami had fled. Now, a man in Los Angeles had been referred to secondary screening for suspicious behavior. The man dropped his bag on the X-ray conveyor belt and ran.
The tiniest of frown lines pinches Kent's brow. "Was he Lebanese?
"Jeanne Meserve is going to go live on CNN about it."
"Was he Lebanese?" Kent's frown line deepens.
On the white board at the front of the room, the incident unscrolls: LOS ANGELES LAX SUSPICIOUS PASSENGER IN TERMINAL 1 CHECKPOINT . . .
"Was he Lebanese or not?" Kent asks.
"I don't know," says Andrew. "See if he has grape leaves."
Chan orders another blast notification page, this time about L.A. In his mind, he is "bleeding between Code Orange and Red." Security directors from Newark, Connecticut and airports across the East Coast bombard the Freedom Center with questions. At La Guardia Airport in New York City, TSA employee Robert DeFrancesco, fires off an e-mail:
What about Miami, is there a connection?
Kent, whose motto is "connect the dots," contemplates this: "Major airports on either coast, large aircraft like 9/11. Is it a probe, or is this an actual attack?"
"Get back on the phone with L.A.," Chuck orders the officer who took the L.A. report. Chuck's tremendous hands are flying. He stuffs them into his pockets so he doesn't accidentally whack someone. "Don't let them off the phone till I say so. Tell L.A. we want to compare facts: If he's a hundred-year-old Chinaman or a 12-year-old Mexican, we can take a step back."
Chan's investigator, Mike, clatters away at nine systems on five screens, racing to link the men in Miami and L.A.: Warrants? Border crossings? Did they share a PO box? Rent an apartment together? Mike's face turns warm. Then it gets hot. The Miami man has a fake California driver's license. Mike presses his cold Deer Park bottle to his burning cheek and forehead.
Kent's supervisor, Don Zimmerman, is called, who in turn -- "a few hairs up on the back of my neck" -- calls his supervisor at TSA headquarters in Arlington. Deputy administrator Gale Rossides looks at her caller ID: "URGENT-DonZ."
She steps out of a meeting.
"We have a situation here," Don tells her. "Actually, it's two situations."
On the Watch Floor, the usual murmur is gone. Chan has stopped pacing; he has to take a breath. With "two, simultaneous, 9/11-like activities" going on, he needs a few seconds to focus. "Don't overreact. Don't underreact," Chan tells himself. He doesn't want his agents to see him scared.
But when Chan looks up at the electronic U.S. map, at the Charlotte-to-Indianapolis flight pulsing across state lines, he thinks that armed terrorists might be on board, that the checkpoint running might be a diversion, that the terrorists have companions on other flights, and that any minute the entire map could light up with tiny, white planes.
It's like that dream Chan sometimes has: "I've been at work. It's faded and foggy. It's like you're a cop and in a foot chase. You never catch the guy. You're making all the right calls. Despite all your efforts, it's the realization that something bad is going to happen. And it drops off, like you're falling off the bed."
As Chan stands on the Watch Floor, he feels that same sinking in his stomach. The words flash through his mind, "Here we go again." The terrorist attack he expected. Then another flash: his past shortcomings and failures.
But seared in deep, beneath those fears, behind his own history, burn the faces of the 19 hijackers. He can see them, their eyes, their gaze, mental sketches of the men of 9/11: "three rows of five, and one row of four people. The steadfast, committed-to-their-mission look. Stoic, deliberate and tuned into their job."
Chan has seen that look before, that look of dedication -- in American police officers in uniform. And in him.
If there is going to be another strike, a second chance, "I hope it's me that gets to deal with it."
Chan takes a breath and tells one of his agents, Denny Spencer, in a calm, authoritative voice: "Alert all federal marshals transiting Miami and L.A."
Chan's next step would be to broadcast an emergency message to all air marshals in the United States and overseas; Chuck would dial into DOD's classified red-switch network to contact the U.S. Northern Command (Northcom) and NORAD.
"I'm on it," says Denny, catching the unwavering look in Chan's eyes. He flashes Chan a thumbs up.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: June 24, 2008, 11:30:21 AM
1425 Hours: Suspicious Passenger at Charlotte (CLT)
... 1442 Hours: Passenger Arrested After Travel Document Checker Referral at Miami (MIA)
At the Freedom Center, Chan rolls past a guard, the concrete abutments and a black metal fence, trimmed with three rows of barbed wire. Inside, he buzzes himself beyond the "SECRET" sign. Kathy works in another room, but Chan isn't thinking about love just now. His eyes tighten. The Watch Floor hums, windowless and dim, high-ceilinged and air-conditioned in a haze of radiant heat. Along one wall, digital clocks glow red, ticking in 10 time zones.
Kent's deputy, Andrew Hosey, sums up the day: "Vanilla."
Chan knocks wood.
The law enforcement databases keep logging off, idle. The air smells of microwaved popcorn. Kent teases Chan's partner, command duty officer Chuck Phucas, who is scanning CNN.com: "Hey, Chuck, what's the matter, nothing going on?"
"Nothing," says Chuck, a retired Marine. Chuck has 26 guns in his basement, forearms as thick as thighs and a 105-pound Rottweiler he loves because "I don't want a rug rat that's good for 30 yards, if you kick 'em right." Every night, as Chuck leaves work, he calls his wife because "who knows who's watching the building?" They have a code word, "in case there's trouble. If I use 'cupcake,' she calls the police."
Chuck had served as a master sergeant in counterintelligence. "We're still fighting the same fight," says Chuck, who is about to turn 50. "We stand in the breach." No one will hurt Americans, "not on my watch, not while I'm standing here."
Chuck is sitting in a polo shirt in front of seven phones with speed-dial buttons to every commercial airline, the White House Situation Room, the Coast Guard Operations Center and the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon.
Chan settles in beside Chuck at the head of the pod. Chan runs the research and law enforcement side. Chuck receives incoming reports and speaks for the Watch Floor on the Domestic Events Network, an interagency, perpetual conference call with the FAA.
It is quiet. "Too quiet," says their boss, Kent, hovering behind them.
Then, a call comes in from USAirways, area code 704. A passenger on Flight 1736, Charlotte to Indianapolis, said he saw a weapon on another passenger.
"I checked him," says Mike Jimenez, hurrying over to Chan with a notepad. Mike, an investigator with the fastest fingers on the Watch Floor, says he often has two minutes -- no more -- to determine if a person is an immediate threat. "He's on a watch list for terrorists. Short, 55, 170 pounds, possibly Muslim."
The profile fits a potential threat, except for one thing. The man on the watch list, Mike says, is, "the man who said he saw the weapon."
Chan stands up. Chuck does, too.
"What kind of weapon?" Kent says. "Hand grenade? Knife? Gun?"
"The butt of a gun," says Chuck, who is getting details from a watch officer. "In a passenger's pocket."
The air traffic controllers had released the plane for takeoff. "They let the bird go," says Chuck. He tells an officer: "Put it up on the tracking board."
USAirways 1736 blips white across the computerized U.S. map. A systems search reveals that the pilot is armed. Ground agents in Charlotte had screened the two passengers, but, even so, Chan's officer calls the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force to meet the plane at the gate when it lands in Indianapolis. Mike, Chan's investigator, gulps water from a Deer Park gallon bottle, as he scours government, law enforcement and commercial databases for clues.
Then, a call comes in from a TSA official, area code 305. "A man ran away at a checkpoint," Chuck says, relaying the notes from the officer who took the call.
"Where?" says Kent.
"Probably an illegal immigrant," says Kent.
"That doesn't excite me," says Kent. "We've had people bolt away cause they can't take their $40 lip gloss. My daughter said, 'Dad can't you do anything about the lip-gloss rule?' "
"He was tackled by law enforcement," says Chuck.
"Oh, they tackled him?" Kent grimaces and smiles. "That's hard on the knees."
"He was Lebanese."
"What?" says Kent.
"Lebanese! Lebanese!" Chuck cracks his knuckles.
"How do you know?" Kent says, stepping back. A recent intelligence brief had highlighted the Lebanese group Hezbollah, noting: "Tactics include hijacking commercial aircraft and in-transit ambushes."
In Miami, the Lebanese man had presented a fake U.S. passport with a Hispanic name. The guard was suspicious and referred him to secondary screening. When the secondary screener reached for the man's bag, the suspect snatched his passport and ran.
"Create a file, mark it 'hot,' " Chuck says.
"We have two things now," Kent says, ever cool: a passenger in Charlotte who says he sees a gun; a passenger in Miami who flees. Are they related?
"Start a white board," says Chuck.
An officer named Lee starts typing, black letters crawling across a large white screen at the front of the room: "MIAMI SUSPICIOUS LEBANESE PASSENGER, CHECKPOINT/SECONDARY SCREENING. HE DISAPPEARED --"
"Hey, Lee!" Chuck barks. "He didn't 'disappear.' They tackled him! He left behind a bag."
As partners, Chuck and Chan know each other's tension ticks. Chuck gets loud; Chan gets quiet. Chuck slashes the air with his powerful arms, pointing. Chan paces like he's "on a dog run."
The two men are starting to slash and pace.
Chan's investigator, Mike, pulls up a picture of the 42-year-old suspect online, along with his real passport from Lebanon. He discovers in a commercial database that the suspect had bought his American Airlines ticket as well as tickets for two other men. Like him, the two men were flying from Miami to Los Angeles that afternoon, though, notably, on a different airplane.
Chan's agent pulls up a diagram of the Miami airport. Something about the police chase bothers Chan. The Lebanese man had fled the terminal, dashed outside. As the Miami-Dade County Police approached him, the man jumped from a second-story parking ramp. He hit the pavement and shattered his arm. Yet even with a broken limb, the suspect continued to struggle.
"Why jump?" Chan wonders. "Why so extreme?" He'd seen a lot before, but "we never have people running away." Abandon a bag? Leap off a ramp?
Chan says to an agent, "Send out an alert notification page."
The agent begins to type: MIA suspicious male pax ran from ckpt . . .
The text message blasts out to all American airports, federal air marshals, TSA employees and federal security directors, in case -- though very unlikely -- something similar is happening, somewhere.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: June 24, 2008, 11:27:09 AM
On this Tuesday morning, Chan finishes his run around the neighborhood, his shirt soaked, his breath short, his calves burning, his thoughts scrolling over incidents from the day before: a suspicious golf bag at the Savannah airport causes delays; a box cutter is found in Phoenix on a Southwest jet, wedged between seats 2F and 2E ... As stressful as being an air traffic controller had been, this job is more so.
Chan stops at Kathy's front door and looks up at the sky. At any given moment, 6,000 planes are soaring overhead, crisscrossing America. As a boy, even one -- airborne -- seemed like a miracle. As a man in midlife, Chan wrestles with the dread of even one going down.
"This is like a second life for me. I get a chance to make redemption for the mistakes I made," he says. "I get a do-over, so I can tell Kathy's daughter I did it right."
1125 Hours: Suspicious Selectees on Flight to Las Vegas (LAS)
... 1133 Hours: Disruptive Passenger on Flight Arrested at Philadelphia (PHL)
... 1204 Hours: Firearm Detected During Checkpoint Screening at Birmingham (BHM)
... 1225 Hours: Passenger Arrested After Behavior Detection Officer Referral at Minneapolis (MSP)
Chan takes a quick shower -- "I don't have any hair to wash" -- while his BlackBerry vibrates on Kathy's television stand.
In Northern Virginia, meanwhile, at the Freedom Center, Chan's boss, Kent Jefferies, rises from his desk.
"Excuse me, Kent," Bruce Brown says, poking his head through the door. "Anomalous radar target coming up the Potomac."
Bruce is the division chief for the National Capital Region Coordination Center, which monitors the airspace over Washington. The NCRCC staff, including a liaison to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) wearing an Air Force flight suit, occupies a pod on the Watch Floor. The men stare at radar feeds on three giant screens from the FAA, DOD and DHS. They scrutinize the green, glowing rings for incursions into the forbidden circle. Every month, there are 20 to 30.
Kent considers Bruce's report. A pair of Customs and Border Protection Black Hawk helicopters swept the area; the pilots found nothing. Still, supervisors at the White House are raising their vigilance to "condition yellow."
"Sometimes computers do weird things," Kent says, spinning the wedding ring on his finger, as his thoughts go round.
"Do we want to put out a page?" Bruce asks. A notification page alerts TSA officials.
"No. You could start a war 'cause you're reading it on your BlackBerry and get only half of it -- 'radar anomaly,' " Kent says. "A lot of times, it's a flock of birds."
Kent is the iceman of the Watch Floor. As the special agent in charge, his blood pumps slower, and chillier, than the shift workers he oversees. "The folks on watch are on and off. I am never off, so I have a higher threshold," Kent says, confident. "I'm supposed to be that person, a step back from the action."
Stepped back, and yet Kent is always there. At home on a recent Saturday, he was on an emergency conference call for so many hours that he switched to speakerphone and painted his teenage daughter's bedroom. When the phone rang on Christmas Eve, he recalls with a laugh, "my wife said, 'If you answer that, I'll divorce you.' " He answered.
Kent is a former Secret Service agent who drove Amy Carter to school, jogged with George H.W. Bush ("That man was as cool as a cucumber; he could shower and stop sweating and be dressed in five minutes. He always beat us."), and trailed Ronald Reagan horseback riding ("In Santa Barbara, he wanted male company. He said, 'Nancy's talking to Patti, and I can't get a word in edgewise.' "). At 52, Kent looks like a paunchier version, with reading glasses, of one of his Secret Service nicknames: Ken Doll.
"I've been 'doing' bad guys for 34 years," says Kent, who can still drive -- hands free -- with his left knee, though he is no longer limber enough to make turns. When his daughter calls him at work, he answers, "Hi, I'm saving the world!" On this Tuesday morning, Kent strides tall, tight and precise out of his office, toward the Watch Floor.
"Bad guys want to launch multiple attacks," Kent says, while walking. "I'm looking for a second or third incident, to tie it together, to link things." Kent looks up at a huge electronic map of the United States. "What are we tracking Delta 39 for?"
Three white flight lines cut across the map. One blip marked "AF2," is Air Force Two, the vice president's aircraft. Another digital white line indicates the path of "suspicious selectees," members of a swim team flying to Las Vegas. The airplane in question is "DL39."
Has the pilot "gone Nordo," short for no radio contact? A common occurrence, and yet each time -- keeping in mind 9/11 -- the watchmen rip though a checklist: Cockpit secure? VIPs on board? Air marshals? Hazardous cargo? Size and weight of the plane? Screening anomalies at airport of origin?
"Delta 39 --" says the command duty officer. "Drunk passenger, making passes at flight attendants."
"Oh, geez," Kent says, noting the flight path over the Atlantic. "From England?"
The bawdy traveler, in Watch Floor parlance, is a "disruptive passenger." On this day, another disruptive passenger, a man with leg cramps in an aisle seat flying to Philadelphia, threatens the crew. An all-time favorite disruption: a young woman on her way to a party in Fort Lauderdale who burst out of the lavatory naked and ran down the aisle.
"You always think the disruptive passenger is a diversion, 'cause you don't know how many bad guys he's traveling with," says Paul Ross, a former USAirways pilot, who works on the Watch Floor. The man flying to Tucson who refuses to lower the volume on his laptop? He is possibly, in the eyes of the watchmen, a mass-murdering terrorist.
Passengers creating diversions to hijack an airplane is one scenario that Chan plays out in his head as he gets ready for work. Chan likes to test himself, a mental exercise he calls "the pregame warmup."
"We cannot be wrong. We have to be right," is Chan's grave cheer.
At Kathy's house, Chan towels off and walks into her closet where for five months now, he has been keeping his things, and where he hopes, against the odds, they are here to stay. Chan hadn't dated for 14 years. And Kathy has, as she puts it, "trust issues ... a hard exterior" from a marriage to a high school sweetheart, by whom she felt betrayed.
Along came Chan, who ran out of gas on their first date, who wore a visor and burned his scalp on their second date, who tried to propose at a recent dinner at Olives in Washington but got so nervous that he dropped his keys, his fork, his water glass and his money clip, sending him crawling and groping under another table.
"You're a mess," Kathy had said.
"All along, I'm thinking, 'I'm going to mess this up,' " Chan recalls. "This is my second chance. Actually, my only chance, at love."
In Kathy's closet, Chan passes her clothes on the way to his. They comfort him. Kathy's gray business suits, her tennis dress, the rust-orange blouse she wears with his favorite brown slacks. He buries his face in her blouse and inhales. He smells coconut lotion, and Kathy.
Chan knots his tie, gets into his car. Hypothetical threats unfold in his mind as he drives. He checks his BlackBerry: A firearm is confiscated in Birmingham; a suspicious man with no travel documents in Minneapolis says he is "hanging around the airport ... wanted to leave the country, but was unable to decide where." A background check reveals that the man is wanted for assault in Chicago.
We cannot be wrong. We have to be right.
Scenarios, real and imagined, diverge, veer off and circle back to the same shaky place:
What would I do in a crisis?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: June 24, 2008, 11:26:01 AM
The Flight Watchmen
Nearly seven years after 9/11, Americans may feel like safe is normal again. But, to the counterterrorism experts who scour the nation's airspace, safety is hard-earned every minute of every day
By Laura Blumenfeld
Sunday, June 22, 2008; W10
0645 Hours: Peanut Butter and jelly, or ham and cheese?
Chan Browne is standing in his girlfriend's kitchen, making a sandwich for his girlfriend's daughter's lunch. He wants to get it right. Strawberry jelly, not grape, creamy peanut butter, not crunchy, spread thin, not thick, on wheat bread, not Italian, cut in rectangles, not triangles. The crusts are trimmed.
It is dark out still, but Chan's girlfriend, Kathy, has left for work. Chan, a thickly built federal air marshal from Alabama, an expert marksman wearing flip-flops and jeans, picks up a pen: Jamie, Have a good day. Do well in school and mind your manners. Mom and Chan. He folds the note and closes the 7-year-old's Hannah Montana lunchbox. He hopes it's good enough. He hopes he's good enough. He opens the lunchbox and adds Oreos.
For Chan, it has been nine months of second-guessing, of tucking in his shirt, of checking his tie, nine months of dating Kathy White. He has dated pretty women before. In high school he went out with the entire cheerleading team, one set of pom-poms at a time. But his enchantment with Kathy is unlike anything he's known, more exciting than her spark-red hair, more soothing than her Irish cream skin. When she walks into the room, his palms sweat.
Chan first saw Kathy three years ago at work, rushing past him in the hall. At the Freedom Center, a counterterrorism compound in Northern Virginia where Chan is an assistant special agent in charge, the employees always seem to rush. They hurry from the Huddle Room to the Emergency Conference Room, to the coffee refill room, to the Pentagon rubble memorial of 9/11 at the entrance, to the signs on the double door -- "Restricted Area," "Authorized Personnel Only" -- leading to the Watch Floor.
It is here that the officers stand watch round-the-clock with one assignment: Stop another 9/11.
From the time Kathy blurred past Chan until their first drink, two years had gone by. "It was boy sees girl. Boy wants to ask girl out. Boy's too nervous and doesn't," Chan recalls. He felt thrown by her, tumbling back to adolescence. Once, he wandered back to her office, pretending to look for a file. He had planned to ask for a date. When she looked up at him, though, with those clear, blue-sky eyes, he froze. "I almost felt like writing her a note: 'I like you. Do you like me? If so, check yes.' " But Chan is 44 now, achy-kneed, balding and divorced, his days and nights punctuated by the vibrations of a BlackBerry issued by the Department of Homeland Security.
Standing in Kathy's kitchen at dawn in Charles Town, W.Va., glancing at his BlackBerry on the counter, enveloped by the aroma of Jamie's toasting cinnamon Pop-Tart, he thinks about how much harder it is to fall in love a second time.
"You've got all the knowledge of your past failures," he says. You're always on alert. When the first time ends in disaster, the second time you have to do everything right.
Chan's BlackBerry begins to dance, vibrating across the counter. Something is wrong.
0650 Hours: Improper Selectee Screening at Chippewa (CIU)
On a runway at Chippewa County International Airport in northern Michigan, on Mesaba Airlines Flight 3042 to Detroit, a man is sitting in seat 4C, waiting for takeoff. He shouldn't have been allowed on the plane.
The man is a selectee, a person flagged by the government as one who might pose "a direct threat to U.S. civil aviation," according to Greg Alter, a DHS spokesman. The selectee's boarding pass had been printed with a special mark. At the checkpoint, a guard was supposed to divert the man for additional screening. The guard missed the mark.
For Chan and the others who work the Watch Floor, the passenger at Chippewa in 4C triggers the first adrenaline uptick of the day. Chan is at home, about to wake Jamie, who is snuggled upstairs with her yellow blanky. Chan's shift doesn't begin until 2 p.m., but he is tracking alerts and incidents on his BlackBerry because in a few hours they will be his.
Every security breach across eight modes of transportation collects and dumps on the Watch Floor. The unmarked building, originally called the Transportation Security Operations Center, opened in August 2003. It responds to threats to mass transit, bridges, railways, vehicles and roads, pipelines, postal and cargo shipping, maritime matters and ports, and, above all, aviation. One minute, a report comes in about a mysterious truck abandoned on railroad tracks in Delaware. The next, a note is discovered on a ferry in North Carolina: There are bombs on this boat. Do not run. Only a warning. The next, a 78-year-old Egyptian woman in a wheelchair is trying to board a plane from Nashville to JFK with $9,800 in cash and eight boxes of razor blades in her bra.
"You treat every incident, like --" says Chan's boss, Kent Jefferies, bracketing his eyes as if his hands were blinders on a horse, "-- is this the next 9/11? No? Good. Move on."
One lesson of al-Qaeda's simultaneous strikes in 2001 is the importance of communication. Though run by DHS, the Watch Floor houses representatives from the Department of Defense, Department of Transportation, Secret Service, Capitol Police, FBI and FAA. Data from more than 450 federalized airports and 19,000 general aviation airfields feed into the Watch Floor. Analysts try to connect seemingly unrelated -- and unusual -- events as they unfold across the country, to spot trends, to stop an emerging attack. In the fall of 2005, for example, over the course of two weeks, passengers on three different flights stood up in the aisles and fainted. Was it a probe? Were terrorists testing emergency preparedness on airplanes, or were the serial faintings a coincidence?
"You always hope it's going on somewhere, that the military is talking to the FAA, is talking to law enforcement, is talking to the airlines," says Alter. "You hope somehow, some way, those folks are talking, in case something goes bad."
If things do go bad, or at least seem to, men in Air Force uniforms take action. "We're scrambling now!" an officer said on a recent afternoon, running across the Watch Floor. Scrambling fighter jets. The classified radar had picked up an unidentified Cessna in restricted airspace over Washington. As Fox News reported the evacuation of the North Lawn at the White House and broadcast a live shot of people spilling out of the Capitol, a pair of F-16s roared toward the errant Cessna
"We are not sentries. It's more activist than that," says Kip Hawley, administrator of DHS's Transportation Security Administration, which manages the center. "Our job is not to sit and watch, but to stand and fight."
Over his 13 months in the job, Chan has developed a sense about the threats, when they're routine blunders or world-class crazies, and when they might be real. At Chippewa, a flight attendant escorted the selectee out of seat 4C, for additional screening. The guard who missed the special selectee mark spent the rest of his shift in remedial training. TSA at Chippewa reported: "There was no media attention." And on this quiet Tuesday, Chan isn't alarmed. Not yet, anyway. His biggest concern at 8:30 a.m., is getting Kathy's daughter to the bus on time.
"How's your day going to go?" he asks Jamie as they hurry along.
Chan is never sure. Kathy, a former travel agent who now makes reservations for air marshals, is the optimist. Chan has "a doomsday outlook," he says. "There's an underlying, unknown anxiety and stress in those of us who deal with terrorist threats. We know we're getting farther away from 9/11 and closer and closer to the next attack. It's only a matter of time." When Chan sends Kathy's
7-year-old girl out into the world, he worries.
At the bus stop, Jamie is the last kid in line. She steps up, and right before she disappears through the bus door, she always turns around. Chan looks at her: the sandy hair he has brushed and smoothed back with Jamie's favorite lime green headband, the freckles across her nose, the blue eyes. Chan waves. He calls it "that last reassurance wave."
He gives it to her every day.
0847 Hours: Passenger Arrested After Firearm Detected During Checkpoint Screening at Memphis (MEM)
Ready. Set. Jet. That is ExpressJet Airline's motto. Not for one passenger, though, on this sunny Memphis morning. The man tries to board Flight 2704 to Houston Intercontinental carrying a .32-caliber Kel Tec pistol loaded with seven rounds -- one chambered. He says that he "forgot the firearm was in his bag."
Every day, on average, American airport screeners find two guns.
As the Memphis police descend on the passenger with the pistol, Chan is changing into sweatpants in Kathy's bedroom. "Normal business," Chan thinks, clicking the "FIREARM DETECTED (MEM)" message on his BlackBerry. He laces up his sneakers and goes out for a run before his eight-hour shift, "to bleed-off the pent-up anxiety and work frustration." He jogs up and down the hills of Charles Town, searching the sky for the cottony contrail ribbons that unspool from aircraft. As much as aviation bedevils him, Chan loves airplanes.
He was born in a two-room hospital in Alabama, to a petite saleswoman and to a farmer he never met, and never could conjure beyond "a shadow on a tractor." Chan's stepfather, a 6-foot-3 slab of man, helped raise him, urging Chan to follow his example and excel at football. Chan drank a gallon of milk a day; he prayed each night he'd wake up six inches taller. But the slight, blond boy with light moss eyes never cleared 5-8.
That left airplanes. "It was another way to keep the bond with my stepfather," Chan recalls.
Chan's stepfather would park for hours near the end of the runway at the local airfield. "It always bewildered me, that these heavy airplanes can stay airborne," Chan says. "It's an amazing puzzle." Chan sat on the hood of their 1968 yellow Dodge Coronet, eating bags of roasted peanuts, as his stepfather pointed out the jets and the propellers.
"You'd feel the roar in your whole body," Chan recalls. "It wasn't frightening. It was comforting." Sometimes it rained. But Chan felt happy as he imagined the planes navigating the same wet winds that nipped his chin and fingers. He felt, he says, "connected. I thought: 'I belong in that. I'm connected to that. I belong in that airplane.' "
Chan became an Air Force air traffic controller. At age 19, his commander nominated him for the Air Force Academy preparatory school, a step toward his dream of pilot training. But Chan had met a woman in the Air Force. The academy accepted only prospective cadets who were single. Forced to choose, he pursued married life instead of his wings. In 1984, as a controller, he was honored by the Air Force Association as one of 12 Outstanding Airmen of the year, for his "superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements." Up in the control tower, where Chan rose to supervisor, he felt "wonderment that you could talk to the planes, having that connectivity through the radio." He enrolled in the FAA's air traffic academy and was assigned to Forth Worth.
Then his marriage of 10 years began to fail. So did his performance in the control tower.
The personal turmoil distracted him. "I couldn't memorize the airspace and what altitude restrictions apply," Chan recalls. Soon he found himself divorced and out of a job.
Chan shambled back, defeated, humiliated, to Alabama where he worked for the state police. It took 9/11, eight years later, to bring him back to the skies. He applied for a job as a federal air marshal. Flying under cover, he told fellow travelers he was in "mortuary affairs"; they looked at him and believed it.
Last year, Chan was promoted to a supervisory position on the Watch Floor. Every day, when he crosses the lobby at work, a twisted steel girder salvaged from the 72nd floor of the World Trade Center's North Tower reminds him of the cost of another failure.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes
on: June 24, 2008, 10:55:13 AM
I once assisted in an investigation of an LA based interstate financial fraud ring that racked up more than a million dollars in losses. This was back when a million was real money. One of the tasks I had was putting the real identity of the perps to their dozens of false identities and trying to link all the other players associated with the scheme. Also, at a million plus in losses, it was still too small for the feds to be interested and was left up to the local DA to prosecute.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes
on: June 24, 2008, 09:54:30 AM
April 29, 2008
Mortgage Fraud Now An Organized Crime Staple
by Broderick Perkins
Mortgage fraud has become a staple in today's organized crime circles.
Fraud associated with home loans first cashed in on the greed that came with the previously booming housing market, when some buyers would do anything to own a home.
The cons used falsified applications, inflated appraisals and other techniques to get home loans approved on the home buying end.
Now, mortgage fraud is taking advantage of vulnerabilities that come with the housing market's down cycle, including homeowners, down on their luck, who face losing their homes and would do anything to avoid losing their homes.
FBI Director Robert Mueller recently testified before the U.S. Senate Appropriations panel that the "tremendous surge" in mortgage fraud investigations has been so great he has diverted agents and resources from other areas of white collar crime.
Suspicious activity reports the FBI reviews for potential mortgage fraud have grown from 3,000 in fiscal year 2003 to 48,000 in fiscal year 2007. In 2008, the FBI is on track to receive more than 60,000 such reports.
The subprime crisis will only aggravate matters, Mueller testified.
"I'm not sure at this point we can see the extent of the surge," he added.
Fraud that once primarily used inflated appraisals, "flipping" schemes and identity theft ruses to target home buying and home equity growth is now muscling in on foreclosures, reverses mortgages and subprime loans.
The FBI says known organized crime syndicates, terrorists and recognized political activists are not currently associated with mortgage fraud, but the crime does come with the hallmarks of what is considered organized crime -- collusion, conspiracy, insider cooperation and now, identity theft, one of the newest growth sectors in organized crime recognized by the FBI.
"We are investigating more than 1,300 individual mortgage fraud matters. Perhaps more importantly, we have identified 19 corporate fraud matters related to the subprime lending crisis -- cases that may have a substantial impact on the marketplace," he said.
The racketeers are also using insider trading violations connected to risky loans and the investments spun off of those loans.
On the consumer level, one of the latest cons is a bold one called "House Stealing". A con artist assumes the identity of a homeowner and transfers the deed into the con's name or sells the home outright -- even while the owner is still living there.
A variation on House Stealing includes the con artist preying on homeowners having mortgage troubles. The con promises to refinance the mortgage, but instead buys the home using a fake identity.
Mortgage fraud hotspots include California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, and Utah.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes
on: June 24, 2008, 09:35:37 AM
In this country, robbing a bank or store will net you a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and you risk a long prison stretch, especially if a weapon is involved. On the other hand, financial crimes can net you millions of dollars and much lower risk of serious incarceration since it's not a violent crime and the ultimate victims tend to be faceless financial entities that eat the loss. Only the key problem is that they really don't suffer the loss, as it's passed onto we the consumers. We all end up paying a "crime tax" to various criminal entities that impact this country's financial infrastructure.