Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain and immigration
on: March 20, 2007, 08:08:22 AM
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
Published: March 20, 2007
DES MOINES, March 17 — Immigration, an issue that has divided Republicans in Washington, is reverberating across the party’s presidential campaign field, causing particular complications for Senator John McCain of Arizona.
The topic came up repeatedly in recent campaign swings through Iowa by Mr. McCain and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, another Republican who, like Mr. McCain, supports giving some illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, a position that puts them at odds with many other conservatives. Both candidates faced intensive questioning from voters on the issue, which has become more prominent in the state as immigrants are playing a larger and increasingly visible role in the economy and society.
“Immigration is probably a more powerful issue here than almost anyplace that I’ve been,” Mr. McCain said after a stop in Cedar Falls.
As he left Iowa, Mr. McCain said he was reconsidering his views on how the immigration law might be changed. He said he was open to legislation that would require people who came to the United States illegally to return home before applying for citizenship, a measure proposed by Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana. Mr. McCain has previously favored legislation that would allow most illegal immigrants to become citizens without leaving the country.
Beyond whatever influence it has as the state whose caucuses kick off the presidential nominating contest, Iowa has become something of a laboratory for the politics of immigration. Not only is it a place where industries like meatpacking rely heavily on immigrant workers and where a once relatively homogenous population is confronting an influx of Hispanic residents, but the presidential candidates who are criss-crossing the state are also providing forums for Iowans to express their views and influence national policy.
On Saturday morning in Des Moines, Mr. Brownback stood for 30 minutes at a breakfast with Republicans as question after question — without exception — was directed at an immigration system that Iowans denounced as failing. “These people are stealing from us,” said Larry Smith, a factory owner from Truro and a member of the central committee of the state Republican Party.
Finally, Mr. Brownback, with a slight smile, inquired, “Any other topics that people want to talk about?”
“What are you going to do with illegal immigrants who come here and become criminals?” demanded Jodi Wohlenhaus, a Republican homemaker who lives outside Des Moines.
The debate on the campaign trail is both reflecting and feeding the politics of the issue in Washington. President Bush and the two parties in Congress have been engaged in a three-way negotiation that has pitted demands from many conservatives to concentrate first on improving border security against Mr. Bush’s call, backed by many Democrats, for a guest worker program that could include a right for some illegal workers to eventually get legal status.
The issue has become much more complicated as the presidential campaign has gotten under way, exposing the Republicans in particular to voters who are angry about what they see as porous borders, growing demands from immigrants on the social welfare and education systems and job losses that they link at least in part to a low-wage labor force coming over the border.
Mr. McCain, for example, appeared to distance himself from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat with whom he formed an alliance last year on an immigration bill that stalled in Congress.
“What I’ve tried to point out is we couldn’t pass the legislation,” Mr. McCain said. “So we have to change the legislation so it can pass. And I’ve been working with Senator Kennedy, but we’ve also been working with additional senators, additional House members.”
Mr. McCain focused instead on the proposal by Mr. Pence, a conservative. “Pence has this touchback proposal,” Mr. McCain said at a news conference. “I said hey, let’s consider that if that’s a way we can get some stuff.”
Mr. McCain’s aides said his identification with Mr. Kennedy accounted for much of his political problem on the issue with conservatives. One of his rivals for the nomination, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, has taken to attacking what he calls the McCain-Kennedy bill.
Mr. McCain has found himself particularly identified with this battle in no small part because he is from a border state that is deeply divided over immigration. The issue is not likely to recede, regardless of the outcome of the debate in Washington: The Republican field of presidential candidates includes Representative Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican who has based his campaign on an anti-immigration message and who will almost certainly participate in Republican presidential debates starting this spring.
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In a speech to conservatives in Washington two weeks ago, Mr. Romney said: “The current system is a virtual concrete wall against those who have skill and education, but it’s a wide open walk across the border for those that have neither. And McCain-Kennedy isn’t the answer.”
Mr. Romney did not always take that position. He was quoted in The Boston Globe in November 2005 describing Mr. McCain’s immigration initiatives as “reasonable proposals,” though he stopped short of endorsing them, the newspaper said.
A third major Republican contender, Rudolph W. Giuliani, former mayor of New York, has supported measures similar to the one Mr. McCain is pressing. Mr. Giuliani has yet to campaign in Iowa and has not been pressed on his views on immigration; he is scheduled to spend a week in Iowa at the beginning of April.
Mr. McCain’s aides said they were confident that he could overcome concerns among Iowa voters if he pointed to the enforcement mechanisms he supports, arguing that only about one-third of Republican primary voters have strong-line views on immigration. “How are we dealing with it?” said John Weaver, a senior adviser to Mr. McCain. “We’re facing it head-on. John’s position — and the president’s position — is widely supported by a vast majority of primary and caucus voters.”
Republicans have a tougher view than the general population on whether illegal immigrants should be deported, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted this month. In that poll, 49 percent of Republican respondents said illegal immigrants who had lived in the United States for at least two years should be given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for citizenship; 45 percent said they should be deported immediately. By contrast, among the general electorate, 59 percent said they should be allowed to apply for legal status, compared with 36 percent who said they should be deported.
The poll found that 31 percent of Republicans said immigration into the United States should be kept at its current level, 14 percent said it should be increased and a majority, 51 percent, said immigration should be decreased. Those figures were similar to the finding among the general population.
Other Republicans said they thought Mr. McCain’s identification with the push for easing immigration laws could prove to be among his greatest vulnerabilities. “Senator McCain will be hurt badly if he continues to support a bill like last time,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama. “I think he’ll have a hard time defending that piece of legislation. I think it would be important for him to demonstrate that his position on immigration is not defined by the bill that he introduced last time.”
Nowhere does that appear to be more the case than here, a state crucial to Mr. McCain’s hopes of winning his party’s nomination. A front-page article in The Des Moines Register after the first day of Mr. McCain’s bus trip here focused on his defending his efforts on changing immigration laws.
Mr. Smith, the Republican Party central committee member, said Mr. McCain’s views on immigration had eliminated him as a contender in the view of many state Republicans.
“I have a hard time appreciating McCain’s position at all on this issue,” Mr. Smith said. “I feel he’s been extremely weak.”
“When I go county to county visiting 29 counties in my area, I believe almost without exception that immigration is that issue that puts fire in their eyes,” he said. “They just really are livid that we have allowed this to happen to the point it has.”
Mr. Brownback was reminded of that throughout the day on Saturday, including during his march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade up Locust Avenue in Des Moines. “We need to build a fence,” Mike Clark, 38, a pig farmer, told Mr. Brownback as he walked alongside him. “We need to get them stopped.”
Mr. McCain’s suggestion that he might be open to Mr. Pence’s legislation requiring most workers to return home risks alienating business, a powerful constituency in the Republican Party.
“The business community has always been skeptical about any requirement to make workers leave the U.S. to obtain legal status,” said Laura Reiff, of the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, which represents service industries. “We haven’t ruled a Pence-like touchback completely out of the question, but it would need to be an efficient, functional process.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action
on: March 20, 2007, 08:03:59 AM
I admit to feeling considerable anger with President Bush over his failure to up the size of the military several years ago. In political terms he easily could have done so during the 2004 Presidential campaign when Sen. Kerry was calling for an increase of 40,000 IIRC. Now, three years later, the increase he finally is asking for will be much harder to achieve and the hardship on the troops has been considerable.
The following is from the today's NY Times, always a suspect source, but the gist of the piece does not contradict my impressions from elsewhere.
FORT POLK, La., March 14 — For decades, the Army has kept a brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division on round-the-clock alert, poised to respond to a crisis anywhere in 18 to 72 hours.
Deployments, Brigade By Brigade Today, the so-called ready brigade is no longer so ready. Its soldiers are not fully trained, much of its equipment is elsewhere, and for the past two weeks the unit has been far from the cargo aircraft it would need in an emergency.
Instead of waiting on standby, the First Brigade of the 82nd Airborne is deep in the swampy backwoods of this vast Army training installation, preparing to go to Iraq. Army officials concede that the unit is not capable of getting at least an initial force of several hundred to a war zone within 18 hours, a standard once considered inviolate.
The declining readiness of the brigade is just one measure of the toll that four years in Iraq — and more than five years in Afghanistan — have taken on the United States military. Since President Bush ordered reinforcements to Iraq and Afghanistan in January, roughly half of the Army’s 43 active-duty combat brigades are now deployed overseas, Army officials said. A brigade has about 3,500 soldiers.
Pentagon officials worry that among the just over 20 Army brigades left in the United States or at Army bases in Europe and Asia, none has enough equipment and manpower to be sent quickly into combat, except for an armored unit stationed permanently in South Korea, several senior Army officers said.
“We are fully committed right now,” said Col. Charles Hardy of the Forces Command, which oversees Army training and equipping of troops to be sent overseas. “If we had a fully trained-up brigade, hell, it’d be the next one to deploy.”
The 82nd recently canceled its annual Memorial Day parade because most of its 17,000 soldiers are overseas. When the First Brigade, which got the rotating assignment as the ready brigade in December, leaves for Iraq over the summer, the 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Ky., will take over responsibility for the ready brigade. But its soldiers are preparing to go to Iraq this year as well.
[Gen. Richard Cody, the Army vice chief of staff, told Congress in testimony on March 15 that with the demands of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army does not have the time or the resources to prepare for most of the other missions it could potentially face.]
Military officials say that the United States, which has more than two million personnel in active and reserve armed forces, has a combat-tested force that could still emerge victorious if another major conflict arose. But the response would be slower, with more casualties, and would have to rely heavily on the Navy and Air Force, they said.
Despite tensions with Iran and North Korea, another crisis requiring troops does not appear imminent.
If ground forces were needed urgently, Army commanders said they could draw units quickly from Iraq and send them wherever they might be needed, rather than relying solely on the ready brigade to provide a fast reaction force.
The Pentagon can also draw on 28 combat brigades in the reserves, several of which the military is making plans to mobilize later this year or early next to relieve some of the strain. But those units face even deeper problems than the active duty brigades because of equipment and training shortfalls.
Altogether, Army officials said 23 brigades, including one National Guard brigade, are now deployed overseas. Once the reinforcements called for by the White House are in place, 17 Army combat brigades will be in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, Army officials said, along with four more deployed in various locations, including as peacekeepers in the Sinai desert.
In effect, the Army has become a “just in time” organization: every combat brigade that finishes training is sent back to Iraq or Afghanistan almost immediately. Equipment vital for protecting troops, like armored vehicles, roadside bomb jammers and night vision goggles, is rushed to Iraq as quickly as it is made, officials say.
The 2007 Pentagon budget includes $17.1 billion to reset Army equipment, with a separate fund of $13.9 billion in emergency funds to replace or repair gear damaged in combat. Even so, units at home preparing to deploy are facing equipment shortages and have all but given up preparing for anything other than their next tour in Iraq or Afghanistan.
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[“We do have shortages in the nondeployed forces,” General Cody conceded in his unusually candid testimony to Congress. There were not enough vehicles, radios and night vision gear, and there are “spot shortages” in weapons, he said, noting that those units constituted the nation’s strategic reserve.]
Deployments, Brigade By Brigade Later this year, the Army will probably be forced to send its first brigades back to Iraq with less than a year at home resting and training, senior Pentagon officials said. Another alternative, they said, would be to lengthen the tours in Iraq to 18 months from a year.
Army officials said no soldiers were sent overseas without adequate training and equipment. And they point to continued strong recruiting and retention numbers as proof that morale remains high.
But after insisting for years that one year at home is a minimum amount of time necessary to prepare a unit to conduct counterinsurgency operations, commanders now say that, by speeding up equipment overhauls and compressing training, they can do the job in 10 months or less.
Over time, the shortened training schedules will inevitably begin to affect the performance of troops in the field, some officers said.
Senior Pentagon officials worry about those deepening strains. Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a secret report to Congress last month that upgraded from “moderate” to “significant” the risk of failing in its mission that the military faces this year in carrying out tasks in Iraq, Afghanistan and any other hot spots that might emerge.
[“We have the best counterinsurgency army in the world, but they’re not trained for full-spectrum operations,” General Cody said in his testimony.]
The Marines, which are also heavily engaged in Iraq, are facing similar strains.
Fort Polk is one of the last stops many combat units make before deploying to Iraq. During the cold war, the installation trained soldiers to fight the Soviets in Europe. The 82nd, based in Fort Bragg, N. C., used to parachute into Louisiana to keep its airborne skills sharp, but that tradition has been abandoned.
Now, even though the terrain bears little resemblance to Iraq’s desertlike conditions, the emphasis is solely on preparing infantry units to handle the chaotic sectarian conflict and random violence they are likely to encounter there.
Within the 82nd’s current First Brigade, about 4 soldiers in 10 have done previous tours in Iraq, making preparations to go back easier, said Col. Charles Flynn, the brigade commander. Last week, the brigade was spread out throughout the wooded training area at Fort Polk, in an exercise that featured simulations of the kind of Iraqi villages and roadside bomb attacks that many soldiers had actually experienced in previous deployments.
But almost all are in new jobs. Lt. Col. Michael Iacobucci, now a battalion commander, had served as a battalion executive officer in the 82nd when it was in Iraq in 2003. After coming home, Colonel Iacobucci, who is from Albany, had moved with his family to Australia as part of a three-year military exchange program.
He rejoined the 82nd in August, eager to go back to Iraq, he said while driving in a Humvee through the mock Iraqi villages. Before units were actually preparing to go into combat, their performance at Fort Polk would be graded only when the two-week exercise was over, said Lt. Col. Arthur Kandarian, a trainer. Now, the lessons are frequently spelled out as they happen, to get soldiers ready faster.
“It was treated as more of a test, and it was a closed-book test,” he explained. “Now it’s a coaching situation because we’re in a war.”
Training is being compressed at almost every stage, Army officers said. Soldiers who before 2003 spent months in specialized courses and on firing ranges now take compressed classes taught by so-called mobile training teams and hone their weapons proficiency on simulators, Army officers said.
“The biggest problem I’m seeing is unfamiliarity with equipment,” said Capt. Christian Durham, an instructor at Fort Polk, who sees all the units that rotate through before heading to Iraq.
Meanwhile, the Army is struggling just to keep up with current troop demands. The five additional combat brigades ordered by President Bush in January will raise the total American force level in Iraq to 160,000 troops, including combat and support troops, by June. That has forced the Army to take steps to supply troops faster to maintain the higher force levels.
Two Army brigades, one at Fort Riley, Kan., and another at Ft. Hood, Tex., that were not scheduled to return to the combat rotation until 2008 were ordered in December to speed up preparations so they will be ready to deploy by October, said Lt. Col. Christian Kubik, a spokesman for the First Infantry Division.
The Pentagon also informed the 172nd Stryker Brigade, which returned in December from a 16-month tour in Iraq, that it had to be ready for possible deployment between October and December, according to Maj. Michael Blankartz, a brigade spokesman.
Normally, a brigade is given half a year to overhaul its equipment, but the Alaska brigade, now part of the 25th Infantry Division, has only four months, he said. The timetable for preparing its troops is even more accelerated.
Roughly two-thirds of the brigade’s 3,300 soldiers are rotating to other units around the Army, as is customary after a deployment, Major Blankartz said. Their replacements are not scheduled to arrive until July and August, he said, leaving only one or two months before the Army wants the brigade prepared.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: March 20, 2007, 07:55:08 AM
Russia's shift on this is a most welcome development.
The matter of the anti-aircraft missiles that they have sent/will send? seems to have fallen off the radar screen. Does anyone know the current status of this matter?
Russia Gives Iran Ultimatum on Enrichment
By ELAINE SCIOLINO
Published: March 20, 2007
PARIS, March 19 — Russia has informed Iran that it will withhold nuclear fuel for Iran’s nearly completed Bushehr power plant unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment as demanded by the United Nations Security Council, European, American and Iranian officials say.
The ultimatum was delivered in Moscow last week by Igor S. Ivanov, the secretary of the Russian National Security Council, to Ali Hosseini Tash, Iran’s deputy chief nuclear negotiator, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because a confidential diplomatic exchange between two governments was involved.
For years, President Bush has been pressing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to cut off help to Iran on the nuclear power plant that Russia is building at Bushehr, in southern Iran. But Mr. Putin has resisted. The project is Tehran’s first serious effort to produce nuclear energy and has been very profitable for Russia.
Recently, however, Moscow and Tehran have been engaged in a public argument about whether Iran has paid its bills, which may explain Russia’s apparent shift. But the ultimatum may also reflect an increasing displeasure and frustration on Moscow’s part with Iran over its refusal to stop enriching uranium at its vast facility at Natanz.
“We’re not sure what mix of commercial and political motives are at play here,” one senior Bush administration official said in Washington. “But clearly the Russians and the Iranians are getting on each other’s nerves — and that’s not all bad.”
A senior European official said: “We consider this a very important decision by the Russians. It shows that our disagreements with the Russians about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program are tactical. Fundamentally, the Russians don’t want a nuclear Iran.”
At a time of growing tensions between Washington and Moscow, American officials are welcoming Russian support on the situation with Iran as a sign that there are still areas in which the two powers can cooperate.
Russia has been deeply reluctant to ratchet up sanctions against Iran in the Security Council, which is expected to vote on a new set of penalties against the country within the next week.
But American officials have been trying to create a commercial incentive for Russia to put pressure on Iran. One proposal the Bush administration has endorsed since late 2005 envisions having the Russians enrich Iran’s uranium in Russia. That creates the prospect of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in business for Russia, and a way to ensure that Iran receives only uranium enriched for use in power reactors, instead of for use in weapons.
Iran has rejected those proposals, saying it has the right to enrich uranium on its own territory.
The Russian Atomic Energy Agency, or Rosatom, is eager to become a major player in the global nuclear energy market. As Security Council action against Iran has gained momentum and Iran’s isolation increases, involvement with the Bushehr project may detract from Rosatom’s reputation.
In a flurry of public comments in the past month, Russian officials acknowledged that Russia was delaying the delivery of fuel to the reactor in the Iranian port city of Bushehr. It blamed the decision on the failure of Iran to pay what it owes on the project, not on concerns about nuclear proliferation.
But last month, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov informed some European officials that Russia had made a political decision not to deliver the fuel, adding that Russia would state publicly that the sole reason was financial, European officials said.
And then last week, a senior Iranian official confirmed in an interview that Mr. Ivanov had threatened Iran with an ultimatum: The fuel would be delivered only after Iran’s enrichment of uranium at Natanz was frozen.
Members of the Security Council are moving toward a vote this week on a draft resolution imposing further sanctions on Iran for its defiance of demands that it suspend enrichment activities and return to negotiations over its nuclear program.
The resolution focuses on the country’s arms exports, a leading Iranian bank and the elite Revolutionary Guards military force. It will reduce Iran’s access to foreign currency and isolate the bank, Bank Sepah, from international financing.
The United States State Department has granted visas to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and a retinue of 38 aides and security staff so that he can address the Security Council meeting.
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Throughout the negotiations, the Russians tried to water down the resolution, a reflection of both their desire to avoid a backlash in Iran and their strong skepticism about the effectiveness of sanctions.
The pending resolution follows a similar one passed in December that required four months of negotiations, in large part because of Russia’s resistance. Russia’s support came only after an initial proposal, which would have imposed curbs on Bushehr, was dropped.
Russian officials have gone out of their way to not publicly link the Bushehr project and the crisis over Iran’s decision to forge ahead with producing enriched uranium, which, depending on the level of enrichment, can be used to produce electricity or make weapons.
In remarks on Sunday, for example, Mr. Ivanov said there should be no linkage between discussions on Iran’s nuclear program and the Bushehr plant. “It is a separate issue,” he told a conference of Russia’s Foreign and Defense Policies Council. He added, “All the work being done is under strict control of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency based in Vienna.
He also cautioned against using possible nuclear sanctions for other purposes, saying, “We oppose attempts to use this issue as an instrument of pressure or interference in Iran’s internal affairs.”
But Mr. Ivanov also called on Iran to resolve outstanding questions with the agency about its nuclear program and to stop enriching uranium. The Russians have been pressing Iran to take some sort of pause in its uranium enrichment that might allow the Security Council sanction process to halt and bring Iran back to the negotiating table.
“The clock must be stopped; Iran must freeze uranium enrichment,” Mr. Ivanov said. “The U.N. Security Council will then take a break, too, and the parties would gather at the negotiating table.”
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has also called for a “pause,” noting that even a brief suspension of enrichment would be enough to get the United States to the negotiating table with Iran under an offer that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made in May.
The Bushehr nuclear project has a long history. For more than a decade, Russia has been working under a $1 billion contract to complete the plant, which began with Germany during the time of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. After the 1979 revolution, the project was halted; then the site was bombed by Iraq during its eight-year war with Iran. When Iran decided to complete the facility after the war ended, Germany, under pressure from the United States, refused to finish it, or even provide Moscow with the original blueprints.
The project — already eight years behind schedule — is now almost complete. Last year, Russia agreed to ship low-enriched fuel to the plant by March 2007 and start it in September, with electricity generation to start by November.
But in mid-February, Russia said Iran had not made the last two $25 million monthly payments after insisting that it be allowed to pay in euros instead of dollars. Russian officials cited a delay in the delivery of safety equipment from an unspecified third country as another reason for the decision.
Iranian officials denied that payments had been delayed. “Iran has had no delay whatsoever in making payments for the Bushehr nuclear power plant,” Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was quoted by Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA as saying after the Russian claim.
“We would be crazy at this late date to endanger the project by not paying,” the official said. “There is no financial problem. The Russians want to use this issue as a bargaining chip.”
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: June 2007 Gathering
on: March 20, 2007, 01:45:01 AM
In Dog Brothers lore, we speak of the founding of the Dog Brothers in Ramblas Park in San Clemente in 1988 (The Rumble in Ramblas). With one or two exceptions, everyone there fought about 7 fights a day for three consecutive days. On day one, it was hard sparring. By day three it was hard fighting. One fighter who showed up on the third day was definitely at a disadvantage. Salty has spoken of the importance of having a period where one does a lot of fighting and getting to the point where it seems normal.
Amongst the many things I have always admired about Top Dog was the number of fights he could take in a day. Back in 2001 in his seventh fight of the day he fought a very formidable man who had had only one easy fight.
Salty Dog too was capable of a very high number of fights in one day. He and Top Dog would go at it in Santa Fe NM or Long Beach CA for consecutive days. Very impressive.
For me, 4-5 was a good number, but this often dropped to 3 when Top and Salty were on sabbatical for several years and not only did I have to guide the Gathering (e.g. this group was feeling testy with that group, someone was sneaking videos, etc) but I was Ringmaster, coaching my students and fighting as the "name" fighter for the DBs.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion
on: March 19, 2007, 05:28:08 PM
A More Islamic Islam
By Geneive Abdo
Saturday, March 17, 2007; Page A19
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A small group of self-proclaimed secular Muslims from North America and elsewhere gathered in St. Petersburg recently for what they billed as a new global movement to correct the assumed wrongs of Islam and call for an Islamic Reformation.
Across the state in Fort Lauderdale, Muslim leaders from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Washington-based advocacy group whose members the "secular" Muslims claim are radicals, denounced any notion of a Reformation as another attempt by the West to impose its history and philosophy on the Islamic world.
The self-proclaimed secularists represent only a small minority of Muslims. The views among religious Muslims from CAIR more closely reflect the views of the majority, not only in the United States but worldwide. Yet Western media, governments and neoconservative pundits pay more attention to the secular minority.
The St. Petersburg convention is but one example: It was carried live on Glenn Beck's conservative CNN show. Some of the organizers and speakers at the convention are well known thanks to the media spotlight: Irshad Manji, author of "The Trouble With Islam," and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch parliamentarian and author of "Infidel," were but a few there claiming to have suffered personally at the hands of "radical" Islam. One participant, Wafa Sultan, declared on Glenn Beck's show that she doesn't "see any difference between radical Islam and regular Islam."
The secular Muslim agenda is promoted because these ideas reflect a Western vision for the future of Islam. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, everyone from high-ranking officials in the Bush administration to the author Salman Rushdie has prescribed a preferred remedy for Islam: Reform the faith so it is imbued with Western values -- the privatization of religion, the flourishing of Western-style democracy -- and rulers who are secular, not religious, Muslims. The problem with this prescription is that it is divorced from reality. It is built upon the principle that if Muslims are fed a steady diet of Western influence, they, too, will embrace modernity, secularism and everything else the West has to offer.
Consider the facts: Islamic revivalism has spread across the globe in the past 30 years from the Middle East to parts of Africa. In Egypt, it is hard to find a woman on the street who does not wear a headscarf. Islamic political groups and movements are on the rise -- from Hezbollah in Lebanon, to Hamas in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Even in the United States, more and more American Muslims, particularly the young, are embracing Islam and religious symbolism in ways their more secular, immigrant parents did not.
I traveled to Florida to serve as the keynote speaker at an annual convention hosted by CAIR. On my way to the event, I spoke with Imam Siraj Wahaj, a charismatic intellectual from the Masjid Al-Taqwa in Brooklyn who has thousands of followers here and abroad. His words summarized the aspirations of mainstream Muslims in the United States and around the globe: "What we need to do is borrow those attributes from the West that we admire and reject those that we don't. That is the wave of the future."
Already, signs support Imam Wahaj's words. Muslims living in the West and those in the Islamic world are searching for this middle ground -- one that fuses aspects of globalization with the Islamic tradition. For example, Muslim women have far greater access to higher education today than ever before. In Iran, there are more women than men in universities, a first in the country's history. But as increasing numbers of Muslim women become more educated, majorities are becoming more religious while also taking part in what are called Islamic feminist movements, which stretch from Egypt to Turkey and Morocco.
These women, who often wear headscarves to express their religiosity, have found this gray area between modernity and traditionalism. They are fighting for more rights to participate in politics and greater equality in "personal status" laws -- the right to gain custody of children or to initiate divorce -- but also view Islam as their moral compass.
Similarly, the political future of the Arab world is likely to consist of Islamic parties that are far less tolerant of what has historically been the U.S. foreign policy agenda in the region and that domestically are far more committed to implementing sharia law in varying degrees.
In Europe and the United States, where Muslims have maximum exposure to Western culture, they are increasingly embracing Islamic values. In Britain, a growing number of Muslims advocate creating a court system based upon Islamic principles.
What all this means is that Western hopes for full integration by Muslims in the West are unlikely to be realized and that the future of the Islamic world will be much more Islamic than Western.
Instead of championing the loud voices of the secular minority who are capturing media attention with their conferences, manifestos and memoirs, the United States would be wise instead to pay more attention to the far less loquacious majority.
Geneive Abdo is the author of "Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: March 19, 2007, 05:18:42 PM
All the TV camera lights will be focused on Capitol Hill this Wednesday when Al Gore arrives to testify on global warming. He will make one solo star turn in the morning before a House committee and then address Senator Barbara Boxer's Environment committee in the afternoon.
More and more Democrats are becoming convinced Mr. Gore is running for president -- by not running for president. "It makes perfect sense -- get credit for being a noble crusader on behalf of the environment, build up volunteer lists and wait to see if Hillary and Obama stalemate the race in the next few months," is how one Democratic consultant put it to me yesterday.
Indeed, Newsweek magazine concludes in its latest issue: "Gore isn't running, but he is." It quotes a longtime Gore adviser who notes that Mr. Gore has been working out every day he can: "He has lost a few pounds, and Hillary can read into that what she wants."
Mr. Gore's plans for the next few months indeed resemble a nascent campaign. He will mark Earth Day next month with a college tour that ends with a giant rally in Washington. That day he will also address by satellite the 1,000 "climate messengers" he has trained to take copies of his global-warming film to civic groups and add their own commentary. In May, Mr. Gore's new book, "The Assault on Reason," will be published accompanied by a major publicity splash.
If all this goes well, Mr. Gore is positioned to wait for the big event. This fall, many Gore aides are convinced he will win the Nobel Peace Prize for this global warming crusade. "If that happens, you can bet the roof will come off in terms of pressure from the Democratic base for him to run," predicts Rich Galen, a former GOP consultant who now writes Mullings.com. "He can then enter the race and say the people drafted him into it."
Opinion Journal WSJ
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The English Language
on: March 19, 2007, 04:52:32 PM
> The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to
> take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or
> changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year's
1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops
bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows
little sign of breaking down in the near future.
4. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of
5. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the
subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
6. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
7. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the
person who doesn't get it.
8. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
9. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.
10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off these bad
vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a
12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day
consuming only things that are good for you.
13. Glibido: All talk and no action.
14. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when
they come at you rapidly.
15. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after
you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into
your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in
the fruit you're eating.
And the pick of the literature:
18. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: March 19, 2007, 04:49:00 PM
PENTAGON: GITMO DETAINEE CONFESSES IN COLE BOMBING: Waleed bin Attash, a suspected key al Qaeda operative, confessed to plotting the bombings of the USS Cole and two U.S. embassies in Africa, according to a Pentagon transcript of a hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. More than 200 were killed in the simultaneous attacks on the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. And 17 sailors were killed and dozens injured when suicide bombers steered an explosives-laden boat into the guided missile destroyer Cole on October 12, 2000.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rescued Behind Enemy Lines
on: March 19, 2007, 04:48:03 PM
ELITE TEAM RESCUES TROOPS BEHIND ENEMY LINES: As a member of the U.S. Air Force's elite Combat Search and Rescue team, "Dan," a pararescueman, or PJ, is used to saving the lives of fellow U.S. and coalition troops in battlefield situations. But last month, he was the one in need of rescue. During a mission in southeastern Afghanistan, he was critically injured in a Chinook helicopter crash that killed eight service members, including U.S. Army Rangers and a fellow pararescueman. Before losing consciousness, Dan managed to give a medical assessment to a rescue team in another location.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: March 19, 2007, 04:25:38 PM
Iraq: The Fear Factor in Chlorine Bombs
Insurgents detonated three vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) packed with chlorine in Iraq's Anbar province west of Baghdad on March 16. The initial blasts, which U.S. officials blamed on al Qaeda in Iraq, killed at least six people, while at least 350 Iraqi civilians and six U.S. troops fell ill as a result of chlorine exposure.
Although the deaths were caused by the blasts rather than the chlorine -- as in similar attacks involving chlorine bombs earlier in the year -- these latest attacks clearly demonstrate al Qaeda's fascination with combining chlorine and explosives to create crude chemical weapons. Causing mass casualties with chemical VBIEDs is extremely difficult, though the fear incited by such attacks makes these kinds of bombs increasingly popular among insurgents. Moreover, as the insurgents gain experience with the devices -- and increase their lethality -- the tactic likely will spread beyond Iraq.
Chlorine bombs are relatively easy weapons for the Iraqi insurgents to make. The devices used in the latest attacks involved a pickup truck and two dump trucks loaded with chlorine tanks and rigged with explosives. One of the dump trucks reportedly carried a 200-gallon chlorine tank. One truck detonated at a checkpoint near Ar Ramadi, while another killed two Iraqi policemen in Al Amiriyah. The most devastating attack occurred three miles south of Al Fallujah when a dump truck targeted the reception center of a tribal sheikh who had denounced al Qaeda.
The use of chlorine in chemical VBIEDs is attractive to militants because the chemical is widely available in Iraq and around the world. The problem, as Iraqi militants are finding, however, is dispersing the chemical with a VBIED while maintaining an effective concentration of the gas. As a result, the chlorine bombs seen to date in Iraq have been tremendously ineffective in inflicting mass casualties, especially when compared with traditional car bombs, which do kill large numbers of people when detonated in populous areas.
Regardless of these bombs' effectiveness as mass killers, however, insurgents like them because the immediate chlorine odor incites fear. Witnesses of the Iraqi attacks, for example, reported nasty smells and a white plume of smoke that turned black and blue. Furthermore, these attacks are valuable to insurgents as tests for future operations elsewhere. Whether this method of attack is the fixation of a particular insurgent leader or it represents an emerging doctrine by al Qaeda in Iraq, the attacks will allow the insurgents to gain tactical expertise and learn to construct more effective chemical bombs. The attackers also could be conducting these attacks to gauge security weaknesses or to divert attention from a different location where an operation is planned.
Chemical VBIED attacks are likely to continue in Iraq and to spread as those responsible for them export the knowledge gained throughout the region and beyond. Al Qaeda units in other locations followed the lead of al Qaeda in Iraq as it increased its use of tactics such as employing roadside bombs and conducting beheadings -- and the use of chlorine bombs could be next.
The Iraqi insurgency has proven to be an effective training ground for foreign jihadists, much as the Afghan resistance was two decades earlier. Al Qaeda sprang from the Afghan conflict, and today foreigners from Saudi Arabia, Syria, North Africa and elsewhere are honing their insurgent skills on the battlegrounds of Iraq -- and are then returning home to spread jihadist tactics. This has been seen most recently in the Maghreb, where the regional al Qaeda arm is increasingly employing improvised explosive devices in attacks, especially against foreign energy workers.
Because chlorine is so common, movement of the chemical cannot be severely restricted. This is especially true in areas where the state already has a weak hold on the security situation. Therefore, Iraqi insurgents are likely to continue refining their technique -- and their allies and sympathizers beyond the state will start to adopt the tactic themselves.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: March 19, 2007, 10:12:53 AM
Fly Me to Tijuana
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
March 19, 2007; Page A12
As President George Bush and President Felipe Calderón were meeting on the Yucatán Peninsula last week to discuss the disequilibrium in the North American labor market, a low-cost Mexican airline was celebrating its first anniversary 35 miles north of the capital in the city of Toluca. The presidential confab got the press, but the story of the new airline and others that have followed it in the domestic air travel industry is far more relevant to the future of Mexicans.
A big reason the Mexican economy is not growing fast enough to create the one million jobs per year it needs to satisfy its young work force -- and why migrants go north -- is a lack of competitiveness. Key sectors of the economy are controlled by monopolies; without consumer choice, prices are high, service is poor, the economy is inefficient and there is not much innovation.
Editorial Page columnist Mary O'Grady explains how an upstart low-fare airline is set to make traveling easier for many Mexicans.The international symbol for making a killing through monopoly privilege is now a Mexican, telecom tycoon Carlos Slim. Mr. Slim, who is the world's third-richest man, bought Teléfonos de México (Telmex) from the government in 1991 and was supposed to face competition in 1997. But he has famously used court injunctions and his own influence to block competitors and rake in a fortune. Telmex still controls 95% of the fixed-line market.
Mr. Slim's power play has cost the country dearly. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development notes in a recent report that Mexico has some of the highest telecom charges among OECD countries, and one of the lowest rates of telephony density. Its broadband prices are the highest in the OECD. In energy, transportation and cement -- vital components of the infrastructure -- a similar non-competitive environment impedes productivity growth and harms investment.
Mexicans have been discouraged by the slow pace of competition reform, but there are some glimmers of hope. The North American Free Trade Agreement brought competition to the retail sector and now the domestic airline industry is beginning to change.
For decades Mexicans had only two choices for domestic air travel, AeroMéxico and Mexicana Airlines. Both companies, once state-owned, were privatized in the 1990s, failed and were reabsorbed by the government. Mexicana has been privatized again.
Privatization did nothing to bring down sky-high airfares. Flying from Mexico City to Tijuana ran about $250, far above what most Mexicans could afford. Taking the bus costs about $80 and in 2005 bus companies carried some 250,000 passengers on the 33-hour trip.
Last year four business partners identified those tortured bus passengers -- and many other Mexicans who dared not venture from home on such grueling journeys -- as potential airline customers. They teamed up to launch Volaris Airlines.
It is no small irony that Mr. Slim is one of the four investors and another is television mogul Emilio Azcarraga, also known for his monopoly privileges. Their experience in Volaris shows that both are capable of competing if the regulatory environment demands it and there is money to be made. Former Finance Minister Pedro Aspe's Protego Discovery Fund owns another 25% of Volaris. The fourth investor is Roberto Kriete's Grupo Taca, which owns the Central American carrier Taca Airlines.
Competition drives innovation and Volaris proves the rule. The company came up with a number of creative solutions to problems that probably would not even been considered in a protected market.
Mr. Kriete told me by telephone from San Salvador that the economies of scale come from the decision to purchase identical planes. Volaris saves money because its mechanics and pilots are qualified to handle all planes and sourcing parts is uniform.
Mr. Aspe expanded on that point when I interviewed him in Mexico City two weeks ago, stressing the advantages of the brand-new Airbus A-319 fleet, which is more reliable and more fuel efficient than the industry average. The company also gains competitiveness, he said, with labor contracts that tie 50% of compensation to productivity. Another cost saver is the Toluca hub. Passengers traveling from Mexico City check in at what Mr. Aspe calls "the virtual terminal" in the northern suburb of Santa Fe and then travel 35 miles by bus, courtesy of Volaris, to Toluca's lower cost airport. Overhead costs are held down because 65% of reservations are made over the Internet and 20% are made through call centers.
Competition has put pricing pressure on traditional carriers but Mr. Kriete doesn't expect convergence. Volaris is "really a different product," targeting a different demographic. He says that some travelers are willing to pay more for business class and perks such as frequent flier miles but Volaris is going after price-sensitive flyers and people who never flew before.
At the time of its startup one year ago, Volaris had two planes and by the end of the year it had six. This year it says it will invest $560 million to add another eight. It is also doubling the number of cities it serves and adding a route between Tijuana and Los Cabos on the tip of the Baja Peninsula, which has the potential to capture the southern California market. The company expects to triple its sales this year.
The beauty of Volaris is the beauty of the market. Both the airline and its customers are happy and business is booming. Last year Volaris carried more than 922,000 passengers on almost 8,700 flights at less than half the price that the traditional carriers were charging prior to competition. Bus passengers bound for Tijuana from Mexico City who switched to Volaris paid $100 and shaved 30 hours off their travel time.
A number of other low-cost carriers such as Avolar, Interjet and Alma have also entered the field. According to airport operator OMA, domestic air travel was up 22% at its 13 airports last year thanks to the low-cost carrier business.
It is worth noting that the Volaris story is not entirely a free-market exercise. Mexico still limits foreign ownership in airlines to 25%. Also, Volaris took a subsidized loan from the International Finance Corporation, an arm of the World Bank that is engaged in promoting development in poor countries. It is highly doubtful that Mr. Slim and his partners needed government assistance but IFC bankers are always pushing money out the door and good capitalists don't turn down such offers.
Still, the lesson holds. If Mr. Calderón wants his legacy to be about curing low Mexican living standards, there is no better remedy than competition.
Write to O'Grady@wsj.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters
on: March 19, 2007, 10:06:31 AM
Richard Posner is a very bright and thoughtful man and anything he writes deserves serious consideration.
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Time to Rethink the FBI
By RICHARD A. POSNER
March 19, 2007; Page A13
The FBI came under heavy criticism last week when it was reported that the agency had failed properly to supervise the issuance of national security letters, a form of administrative subpoena used in terrorist investigations. The bureau, it turns out, was unable even to determine how many such subpoenas it has issued.
Just weeks earlier, it was discovered that the FBI had been misreporting the statistics that it uses to track its intelligence activities. The bureau attributed that lapse to its continued struggle -- five and a half years after the 9/11 attacks -- to master modern information technology. The FBI also inflates its counterterrorist statistics by defining terrorism to include the acts of obnoxious but minor political criminals, such as white supremacists, animal-rights extremists and makers of idle (but frightening) phone threats.
Is it the case that the FBI is "incapable of effective counterterrorism," as an editorial in this newspaper wondered? Does the country need "to debate again whether domestic antiterror functions should be taken from the FBI and given to a new agency modeled after Britain's MI5"?
The answer to both questions is yes.
It is more than a decade since the then director of the FBI, Louis Freeh, tried to make the bureau take the terrorist threat to the United States seriously. He failed. His successor, the current director, Robert Mueller, has tried harder than Mr. Freeh, and has made some progress, but not enough. The cause lies deep in the bureau's organizational culture. The FBI is a detective bureau. Its business is not to prevent crime but to catch criminals. The Justice Department, of which the FBI is a part, knows only one way of dealing with terrorism, and that is prosecution. (Mr. Mueller is a former prosecutor.)
For prosecutors and detectives, success is measured by arrests, convictions and sentences. That is fine when the object is merely to keep the crime rate within tolerable limits. But the object of counterterrorism is prevention. Terrorist attacks are too calamitous for the punishment of the terrorists who survive the attack to be an adequate substitute for prevention.
Detecting terrorist plots in advance so that they can be thwarted is the business of intelligence agencies. The FBI is not an intelligence agency, and has a truncated conception of intelligence: gathering information that can be used to obtain a conviction. A crime is committed, having a definite time and place and usually witnesses and often physical evidence and even suspects. This enables a criminal investigation to be tightly focused. Prevention, in contrast, requires casting a very wide investigative net, chasing down ambiguous clues, and assembling tiny bits of information (hence the importance of information technology, which plays a limited role in criminal investigations).
The bureau lacks the tradition, the skills, the patience, the incentive structures, the recruitment criteria, the training methods, the languages, the cultural sensitivities and the career paths that national-security intelligence requires. All the bureau's intelligence operations officers undergo the full special-agent training. That training emphasizes firearms skills, arrest techniques and self-defense, and the legal rules governing criminal investigations. None of these proficiencies are germane to national-security intelligence. What could be more perverse than to train new employees for one kind of work and assign them to another for which they have not been trained?
Every major nation (and many minor ones), except the United States, concluded long ago that domestic intelligence should be separated from its counterpart to the FBI. Britain's MI5 is merely the best-known example. These nations realize that if you bury a domestic intelligence service in an agency devoted to criminal law enforcement, you end up with "intelligence-led policing," which means orienting intelligence collection and analysis not to preventing terrorist attacks but to assisting in law enforcement.
MI5 and its counterparts in other nations are not law-enforcement agencies and do not have arrest powers. Their single-minded focus is on discovering plots against the nation. Knowing that arrest and prosecution should be postponed until a terrorist network has been fully traced and its methods, affiliates, financiers, suppliers and camp followers identified, they do not make the mistake that the FBI made last year in arresting seven Muslims in Miami on suspicion of plotting to blow up buildings there, along with the Sears Tower in Chicago.
The bureau had been able to plant an informant in the group. Yet as soon as it had enough evidence to prove a criminal conspiracy, it pounced. Because the group had no money or backers (except the FBI's informant!) and no skills or experience, and had been penetrated, it was not an imminent threat, so there was no urgency about arresting its members. The group had wanted to get in touch with foreign terrorists but had been unable to do so.
The informant might have helped them do so -- might even have helped them become part of a serious terrorist network, enabling the bureau to ascertain the network's scope and membership, methods and tradecraft, even goals and specific plans. The opportunity to exploit the penetration in this fashion was lost by the arrests -- about which the Attorney General boasted to an extent that, given the ineptness of the defendants, evoked ridicule.
A senior Justice Department official said: "We can't afford to wait . . . [The suspects in Miami] were of significant concern, and we're not going to allow them to run into somebody who has the means to carry out what they were talking about."
That is the wrong attitude. Finding a "somebody who has the means" to carry out a terrorist attack is more important than prosecuting plotters who pose no immediate threat to the nation's security. The undiscovered "somebody" is the real threat. Small fry are easily caught, but upon their arrest any big shots who might be linked to them scatter. The arrests and prosecutions serve mainly to alert terrorists to the bureau's methods and targets, as well as to bolster its arrest statistics and provide fodder for its public affairs office.
Experts on terrorism, noting the fortunately thwarted terrorist plots of British and Canadian citizens (thwarted in major part through the efforts of the British and Canadian domestic-intelligence services), warn of the homegrown terrorist threat against the U.S. Against that threat, most of our security apparatus is helpless. When a foreign terrorist wants to strike us here, our security forces have three bites at the apple: seize him abroad, seize him at the border, and if all else fails, seize him inside the U.S. In the case of U.S. citizen terrorists, there is only the one bite; and the FBI does not have the right set of teeth.
Improving domestic intelligence is not a partisan issue. The critics of the FBI's performance include former members (among them the co-chairmen) of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission; the advocates of creating a separate agency include Democratic Congressman Rahm Emmanuel.
Civil libertarians worry about abuses of domestic intelligence. But an agency that had no powers of arrest or prosecution, and that conceived its primary role to be to prevent the alienation of Americans who have religious or family ties to nations that harbor terrorists, rather than to run up arrest statistics, would be less likely than the FBI to engage in the promiscuous issuance of administrative subpoenas.
In 2004, Congress created the post of Director of National Intelligence, hoping to plug the gaps in our multi-agency intelligence system. The biggest gap is domestic intelligence, yet the FBI director and his staff have largely ignored it. They have no background in domestic intelligence. No senior official is assigned full time to it. So turf wars between the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have been allowed to rage, and the nation's hundreds of thousands of local police have not been knitted into a comprehensive national system of domestic intelligence collection.
We need an agency that will integrate local police and other information gatherers (such as border patrol police, customs officials and private security personnel) into a comprehensive national intelligence network, as MI5 has done in Britain -- and as the FBI has failed to do here, in part because of deeply rooted tensions that have long inhibited cooperation between the bureau and the rest of the law enforcement community. The bureau does not want the local police to steal its cases, and vice versa. Moreover, it is a self-consciously elite institution whose stars -- the special agents -- look down on local police and are reluctant to share information with them. Lacking police powers or a law enforcement function, a domestic intelligence agency separate from the FBI would be an honest broker among all the institutions that gather information of potential significance for national intelligence.
The Director of National Intelligence has not evaluated the FBI's performance. Nor has he explored the feasibility and desirability of creating a separate agency. The FBI staggers and stumbles; the managers of the intelligence community are content to avert their eyes from the unedifying spectacle.
Mr. Posner, a federal circuit judge and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, is the author of "Uncertain Shield: The U.S. Intelligence System in the Throes of Reform" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues
on: March 19, 2007, 09:34:56 AM
In Defense of the Constitution
News & Analysis
010/07 March 19, 2007
Americans: We Were All on US Airways Flight 300
On 13 March, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced that six imams who had disrupted a US Airways flight by engaging in suspicious behavior, have filed a lawsuit against US Airways and the Minnesota Metropolitan Airport Commission (MAC) claiming a laundry-list of civil rights violations:http://www.cair.com/default.asp?Page=articleView&id=2615&theType=NR
In addition to suing the airline and the MAC, the "Magnificent Six" are going after unknown gate agents, other unknown employees of US Airways, and "John Does"; currently unidentified passengers who, according to the complaint, had the effrontery to dare to report the suspicious activities of the Magnificent Six to authorities:http://www.cair.com/pdf/usairwayscomplaint.pdf
The following was written by Katherine Kersten on 14 March and appeared in the StarTribune.com:
"The imams' attempt to bully ordinary passengers marks an alarming new front in the war on airline security. Average folks, "John Does" like you and me, initially observed and reported the imams' suspicious behavior on Nov. 20. Such people are our "first responders" against terrorism. But the imams' suit may frighten such individuals into silence, as they seek to avoid the nightmare of being labeled bigots and named as defendants."
"Ironically, on the day the imams filed their suit, a troubling internal memo came to light at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The memo revealed that our airport is at particular risk of terrorist attack because of its proximity to the Mall of America, its employment of relatively few security officers and other factors. The memo advised heightened vigilance to counter "this very real and deliberate threat." http://www.startribune.com/191/story/1055656.html
All non-Muslim Americans have been officially put on notice by CAIR that they report the suspicious activities of Muslims at risk of legal action.
However, what about the role of the federal and state governments, which routinely ask citizens to report "suspicious activity" even if they are not quite sure it is dangerous on the presumption that "it's better to be safe than sorry? Who do we listen to, an Islamist terrorist supporting "civil rights" group, or our governments?
Let us ask ourselves, what is the ultimate goal of this lawsuit? Could it possibly be to make citizens second-guess themselves when they witness a possible terrorist act or precursor probe and to err on the side of not reporting under threat of lawsuit? Why does CAIR apparently support the ending of this "first line of defense"?
One thing we are certain of: it has absolutely nothing to do with civil rights, Muslim or otherwise.
As this case moves to trial, we hope all Americans will stand in solidarity with the passengers, US Airways, and its employees who were terrorized that day.
When the trial opens, we should all remember that we were passengers on US Airways Flight 300 that day.because if the Magnificent Six win their case, what person in their right mind will want to travel by air within the United States, knowing that security personnel are under orders to ignore Middle Eastern passengers, no matter how suspicious their activities?
Opinion Journal WSJ
A Hitchhiker's Guide to Village Idiocy
In the opening chapter of Douglas Adams's "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," the protagonist, Englishman Arthur Dent, awakes to find bulldozers poised to knock down his home to make room for a highway bypass. An added irony, the Earth is about to be demolished by the Vogons to clear a path for a hyperspace bypass. In both instances, the agents of bureaucratic destruction defend their actions by claiming they had given ample notice to any who might want to lodge a challenge.
New Yorker Bill Brody must know how the fictional Mr. Dent felt. In the late 1990s, he purchased four buildings in the New York suburb of Port Chester. The village issued him permits to renovate the buildings, which he did, and filled them with business tenants. What the village didn't tell Mr. Brody at the time it issued the renovation permits was that it intended to take his property under the law of eminent domain, not for a highway or school, but to give to another private entity, G&S Investors, to build a convenience store and parking lot as part of a larger development plan that included a Costco and a multiplex.
Under state law at the time, government agencies were not required to notify property owners directly of their plans to seize their land. All that was required was for a legal classified ad to be published in a newspaper, which didn't even have to inform the potential victims that they would be waiving their rights to challenge the decision in court if they didn't file a lawsuit within 30 days of the ad's publication. (The state legislature has since amended the law, though New Yorkers still bear a heavy onus in defending their rights.)
Represented by the Institute of Justice, which has a history of defending property owners in eminent-domain cases, Mr. Brody struck a blow for property rights when the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in late 2005 that the Village of Port Chester had violated his 14th Amendment right to due process by condemning his property for private development without notifying him of his one opportunity to challenge the plan. That decision sent the case back to the district court where Mr. Brody can try to receive damages for the confiscated property that was demolished in 2004.
This week his case will be heard again in New York. Let's hope justice prevails for this real-life Arthur Dent.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: March 19, 2007, 09:13:15 AM
U.S.-financed Al-Hurra is becoming a platform for terrorists.
BY JOEL MOWBRAY
Sunday, March 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Fighting to create a secular democracy in Iraq, parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi had come to rely on at least one TV network to help further freedom: U.S. taxpayer-financed Al-Hurra.
Now, however, he's concerned. The broadcaster he had seen as a stalwart ally has done an about-face. "Until now, we were so happy with Al-Hurra. It was taking stands against corruption, for human rights, and for peace. But not anymore."
Stories that he believes cry out for further investigation, such as recent arrests of those accused of supporting the terrorists in Iraq, are instead getting mere news-ticker mentions at the bottom of the screen. And Arab voices for freedom, which used to have a home on Al-Hurra, are noticeably absent. "They're driving out the liberals," he complains.
Mr. Alusi is not the only one concerned about the recent changes at Al-Hurra. Ken Tomlinson, the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors--the congressionally-created panel charged with overseeing Al-Hurra, among other government-funded broadcasters--is currently demanding answers about the network's decision last December to broadcast most of a speech by Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah.
Sitting up straight and raising his index finger, he states emphatically, "It's the single worst decision I've witnessed in all my years in international broadcasting."
The airing of the Nasrallah speech is a sign of the network's new direction since it was taken over by a longtime CNN producer, Larry Register, last November. Launched in February 2004, Al-Hurra broadcasts three separate feeds: to Europe, Arab nations and one for Iraq. The network is supposed to be a key component of our public diplomacy to the Arab world. Its mission statement calls for it to showcase the American political process, and just as important, report on things that get little attention on other Arabic networks, such as human-rights abuses and government corruption.
Within weeks of becoming news director, Mr. Register put his own stamp on the network. Producers and on-air talent quickly understood that change was underway. Investigations into Arab government wrongdoing or oppression were no longer in vogue, and the ban on turning the airwaves over to terrorists was lifted. For those who had chafed under Mr. Register's predecessor--who curbed the desire of many on staff to make Al-Hurra more like al-Jazeera--the new era was welcomed warmly.
"Everybody feels emboldened. Register changed the atmosphere around here," notes one staffer. "Register is trying to pander to Arab sympathies," says another.
The cultural shift inside the newsroom is evident in the on-air product. In the past several months, Al-Hurra has aired live speeches from Mr. Nasrallah and Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, and it broadcast an interview with an alleged al Qaeda operative who expressed joy that 9/11 rubbed "America's nose in the dust."
While a handful of unfortunate decisions could be isolated, these actions appear to be part of Mr. Register's news vision. Former news director Mouafac Harb, a Lebanese-born American citizen, was not shy about his disdain for terrorists and had a firm policy against giving them a platform. But Mr. Register didn't wait long to allow Hamas officials on the air to discuss Palestinian politics.
At a staff meeting announcing the reversal of the ban on terrorists as guests, Mr. Register "bragged" about his personal relationship with Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, a top Hamas official, according to someone who was present. Contacted on his cell phone for comment, Mr. Register declined, indicating that he couldn't spare even two minutes anytime in the coming days.
Perhaps it is because Mr. Register is so casual in his attitude to terrorists that interviewers now toss softball questions to fiery anti-Western guests, while also taking digs at one of America's closest Middle Eastern allies, Israel.
The new Al-Hurra was on full display Feb. 9, when riots broke out following Israel's implementation of security measures that limited access to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
In roughly two hours of breathless live "breaking news" coverage--which outdistanced al-Jazeera by 30 minutes--Al-Hurra's Muslim guests vilified Israel, and one spun conspiracy theories about the Jewish state's "plans" to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque. No doubt the Islamic talking heads were egged on by the Al-Hurra anchors asking questions such as, "Do you think that the timing of these actions is as innocent as Israel pretends?" (Translations were provided by a fluent Arabic-speaking U.S. government official.)
This powder keg of a panel included Ikrima Sabri, imam of the Al Aqsa Mosque, who is best known for his tenure as Yasser Arafat's hand-picked mufti of Jerusalem. During the broadcast, Mr. Sabri accused Israel of firing guns and throwing bombs into the mosque, then refusing to allow medical care for the wounded.
Mr. Sabri's propaganda should not have come as a surprise. Just weeks before 9/11, Mr. Sabri delivered a passionate Friday sermon, broadcast nationally on official Palestinian Authority radio. He prayed for the destruction of Israel, Britain and the United States.
If anyone should be savvy about people like Mr. Sabri, it ought to be Mr. Register. With two decades of experience at CNN, including three years running the Jerusalem bureau, he should know that live TV is the wrong venue for firebrands or guests prone to outrageous commentary.
Complicating matters is that once someone is on Al-Hurra live, Mr. Register lacks the basic requirement to stay on top of unfolding coverage; he doesn't speak Arabic. Had Mr. Register been able to understand Mr. Nasrallah's Dec. 7 speech, perhaps he would have rushed to cut away early on. Before the five-minute mark, Mr. Nasrallah told the audience to stop their celebratory gun-firing, explaining, "the only place where bullets should be is the chest of the enemies of Lebanon: the Israeli enemy."
Former Broadcasting Board of Governors member Norman Pattiz understands the perils of turning over the airwaves to the likes of Mr. Nasrallah. Though he wouldn't comment on anything relating to recent months--he left the board last year, before Mr. Register's arrival--Mr. Pattiz said bluntly, "Simply handing a microphone over to a terrorist and letting them spew is not what I would call good journalism."
Though Mr. Pattiz is a well-known Democrat who feuded constantly with Mr. Tomlinson, a Republican, the two men had one area of agreement: Mr. Harb, Al-Hurra's original news director. Sounding remarkably similar to Mr. Tomlinson, Mr. Pattiz said, "The direction Al-Hurra launched in is the direction in which it should continue to go, because it was very successful."
Mr. Alusi, the Iraqi parliamentarian, agrees. "Al-Hurra should have the role of transporting democracy, and to help Iraqis understand freedom," he says. "If you have a good product, you must sell it in a good way. The United States is a very good product."
Mr. Mowbray is working on a book about the struggle for the heart of Islam in America.
Opinion Journal/WST yesterday
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: March 19, 2007, 01:52:43 AM
Pakistan: Musharraf on the Defensive
Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has condemned the March 16 police action against the office of GEO TV. This and related developments suggest the government has gone on the defensive as the controversy worsens over the government's suspension of the country's top jurist. Musharraf might not be the only casualty in this crisis; the military's hold on power could also be weakened once the dust settles.
Demonstrations continue in Pakistan against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's March 15 suspension of Pakistani Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, with ordinary citizens joining the legal community in protest. Significant clashes took place March 16 in the federal capital, Islamabad, and in the provincial capitals Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi. The most serious incident involved security forces raiding the office of private satellite television network GEO TV, ransacking the facility and physically assaulting employees.
Such was the gravity of the situation that many senior members of the Cabinet condemned the incident -- as did Musharraf, who publicly apologized for the raid. Appearing on the network's popular talk show "Capital Talk," Musharraf vowed to oversee personally the investigation of the attack and to take action swiftly against those found responsible. Musharraf also apologized personally to the show's anchor, Hamid Mir, who was manhandled by police officials during the incident.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Judicial Council, which is hearing the government's case against the chief justice, ruled that restrictions against Chaudhry be lifted.
These events have further exacerbated the crisis and have put the government in such a panic mode that various state agencies are starting to commit blunders. There seems to be a disconnect between orders given from above and how they are being handled by subordinates. After turning the legal community against it, the government has now angered the media. All the while, Musharraf's political opponents are trying to exploit the situation.
The Musharraf regime also is reportedly trying to cut a deal with the chief justice to resolve the matter. Any compromise, however, will not help the regime recover from this crisis. In fact, it will only make matters worse for Musharraf, since it will lead to the empowerment of the judiciary and opposition political forces, the cooperation of which Musharraf needs in order to defuse the crisis.
The growing sentiment against the military-dominated regime could force Musharraf into a corner, especially given that 2007 is an election year. Should Musharraf be forced to step aside, it is unlikely that his successors in the military would take over. A caretaker government would emerge and hold elections in three to six months, as one did when the last military ruler of Pakistan, Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq, was killed in plane crash in 1988.
In that case, even though a civilian government took power, the military establishment continued to control it from behind the scenes. This time around, it is unlikely that the military will be able to do that -- at least not to the degree it did in 1988. This is because the corps commanders and agency heads who would form a post-Musharrafian military hierarchy would be a group of young and inexperienced generals, the result of Musharraf's periodic reshuffling of the deck and frequent promotions.
Another Musharraf legacy is the rise of a relatively free media, especially the proliferation of private television networks. This is opening up the country's political culture and eroding the military's ability to control the political process.
There are too many moving parts in the current crisis to predict a likely outcome. One thing is clear, however: Once the dust settles, Musharraf will lose sovereignty, whether he continues to rule or not, and the military will be forced to share political power with civilian institutions.
PAKISTAN: Residents in Pakistan's South Waziristan agency said at least 10 people were wounded following fighting between al Qaeda-linked Uzbek militants and Pakistani tribesmen. Hundreds of foreign militants, including Uzbeks, Arabs and Chechens, have been hiding in Pakistan's tribal areas since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
PAKISTAN: Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said in an interview with television channel Geo News that general elections will be held on schedule. Despite the current crisis, Musharraf said he will not declare a state of emergency or bring in the army to quell riots.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: March 19, 2007, 01:49:17 AM
GENERAL SEEKS ANOTHER BRIGADE IN IRAQ: The top US commander in Iraq has requested another Army brigade, in addition to five already on the way, as part of the controversial "surge" of American troops designed to clamp down on sectarian violence and insurgent groups, senior Pentagon officials said yesterday.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues
on: March 19, 2007, 01:38:21 AM
WSJ online today:
Whose Ox Is Gored?
The media discover the former vice president's environmental exaggerations and hypocrisy.
Monday, March 19, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
The media are finally catching up with Al Gore. Criticism of his anti-global-warming franchise and his personal environmental record has gone beyond ankle-biting bloggers. It's now coming from the New York Times and the Nashville Tennessean, his hometown paper that put his birth, as a senator's son, on its front page back in 1948, and where a young Al Gore Jr. worked for five years as a journalist.
Last Tuesday, the Times reported that several eminent scientists "argue that some of Mr. Gore's central points [on global warming] are exaggerated and erroneous." The Tenessean reported yesterday that Mr. Gore received $570,000 in royalties from the owners of zinc mines who held mineral leases on his farm. The mines, which closed in 2003 but are scheduled to reopen under a new operator later this year, "emitted thousands of pounds of toxic substances and several times, the water discharged from the mines into nearby rivers had levels of toxins above what was legal."
All of this comes in the wake of the enormous publicity Mr. Gore received after his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" won an Oscar. The film features Mr. Gore reprising his famous sighing and lamenting how the average American's energy use is greedily off the charts. At the film's end viewers are asked, "Are you ready to change the way you live?"
The Nashville-based Tennessee Center for Policy Research was skeptical that Mr. Gore had been "walking the walk" on the environment. It obtained public records showing that for years Mr. Gore has burned through more electricity at his Nashville home each month than the average American family uses in a year--and his consumption was increasing. The heated Gore pool house alone ran up than $500 in natural-gas bills every month.
Mr. Gore's office responded by claiming that the Gores "purchase offsets for their carbon emissions to bring their carbon footprint down to zero." But CNSNews.com reports that Mr. Gore doesn't purchase carbon offsets with his own resources, and that they are meaningless in terms of global warming.
The offset purchases are actually made for him by Generation Investment Management, a London-based investment firm that Mr. Gore co-founded, and which provides carbon offsets as a fringe benefit to all 23 of its employees, ensuring that they require no real sacrifice on the part of Mr. Gore or his family. Indeed, their impact is also highly limited. The Carbon Neutral Co.--one of the two vendors that sell offsets to Mr. Gore's company, says that offset purchases "will be unable to reduce greenhouse gas emissions . . . in the short term."
The New York Times last week interviewed many scientists who say they are alarmed "at what they call [Mr. Gore's] alarmism on global warming." In a front-page piece in its science section, the Times headline read "From a Rapt Audience, a Call to Cool the Hype."
The Times quoted Don Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University, as telling hundreds of experts at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America that "I don't want to pick on Al Gore. But there are a lot of inaccuracies in the statements we are seeing, and we have to temper that with real data." Mr. Easterbrook made clear he has never been paid by any energy corporations and isn't a Republican.
Even James Hansen, a scientist who began issuing warning cries about global warming in the 1980s and is a top adviser to Mr. Gore, concedes that his work may hold "imperfections" and "technical flaws." Other flaws are more serious, such as Mr. Gore's depiction of sea level rises of up to 20 feet, which would cause Florida and New York City to sink below the surface.
Sober scientists privately say such claims are exaggerated. They point to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that released its fourth report on global warming last month. While it found humans were the main cause of recent global warming, the report also indicated it was a very slow-moving process. On sea levels, the U.N. panel reported its s best high-end estimate of the rise in sea levels by 2100 was three feet. The new high-end best estimate is less than half the previous prediction, which was still far below Mr. Gore's 20 feet. Similarly, the new report shows that the panel's 2001 report overestimated the human influence on climate change since the Industrial Revolution by at least one-third.
In an email message to the Times, Mr. Gore defended his work as fundamentally accurate. But it's increasingly clear that far from the "consensus" on global warming we are told exists, scientists are having a broad and rich debate on many aspects of it. Nearly two decades after Mr. Gore first claimed that "we face an ecological crisis without any precedent in historic times," we don't know if that is really true.
Then there is the Gore zinc mine. Mr. Gore has personally earned $570,000 in zinc royalties from a mine his father bought in 1973 from Armand Hammer, the business executive famous for his close friendship with the Soviet Union and for pleading guilty to making illegal campaign contributions during Watergate. One the same day Al Gore Sr. bought the 88-acre parcel from Hammer for $160,000, he sold the land and subsurface mining rights to his then 25-year-old son for $140,000. The mineral rights were then leased back to Hammer's Occidental Petroleum and the royalty payments put in the names of Al Gore Jr. and his wife, Tipper.
Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider claims the terms of the 30-year Occidental lease agreement gave the Gores "no legal recourse" to get out of it. She said the Gores never thought about selling the land and would not comment on whether they ever tried to void the lease. "There is a certain zone of privacy once people go into private life," Ms. Kreidler said. She said critics of the arrangement should realize it should be viewed in a "1973 context, not a 2007 context. . . . There was a different environmental sensibility about all sorts of things."
But what about a 1992 context? That is the year Mr. Gore published "Earth in the Balance," in which he wrote: "The lakes and rivers sustain us; they flow through the veins of the earth and into our own. But we must take care to let them flow back out as pure as they came, not poison and waste them without thought for the future." Mr. Gore wrote that at a time when he would be collecting zinc royalties for another 11 years.
The mines had a generally good environmental record, but they wouldn't pass muster either with the standard Mr. Gore set in "Earth in the Balance" or with most of his environmentalist friends. In May 2000 the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation issued a "Notice of Violation" notifying the Pasminco mine its zinc levels in a nearby river exceeded standards established by the state and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. In 1996 the mine twice failed biomonitoring tests designed to protect water quality in the river for fish and wildlife. "The discharge of industrial wastewater from Outfall #001 [the Caney Fork effluent] contains toxic metals (copper and zinc)," the analysis stated. "The combined effect of these pollutants may be detrimental to fish and aquatic life."
The Gore mines were no small operations. In 2002, the year before they shut down, they ranked 22nd among all metal-mining operations in the U.S., with total toxic releases of 4.1 million pounds. A new mine operator, Strategic Resource Acquisition, is planning to reopen the mines later this year. The Tennessean reports that just last week, Mr. Gore wrote SRA asking it to work with a national environmental group as it makes its plans. He noted that under the previous operator, the mines had, according to the environmental website Scorecard, "pollution releases from the mine in 2002 [that] placed it among the 'dirtiest/worst facilities' in the U.S." Mr. Gore requested that SRA "engage with us in a process to ensure that the mine becomes a global example of environmental best practices." The Tennessean dryly notes that Mr. Gore wrote the letter the week after the paper posed a series of questions to him about his involvement with the zinc mines.
Columnist Steven Milloy recalls talking with Mr. Gore in 2006 about the 1997 Kyoto Protocol he helped negotiate as vice president. "Did we think Kyoto would [reduce global warming] when we signed it? . . . Hell no!" said Mr. Gore, according to Mr. Milloy. The former vice president then explained that the real purpose of Kyoto was to demonstrate that international support could be mustered for action on environmental issues. Mr. Gore clearly believes that the world hasn't acted with enough vigor in the decade since Kyoto, which may explain his growing use of the global-warming hype that concerns many mainstream scientists.
Mr. Gore has called the campaign to combat global warming a "moral imperative." But Mr. Gore faces another imperative: to square his sales pitches with the facts and his personal lifestyle to more align with what he advocates that others practice. "Are you ready to change the way you live?" asks Mr. Gore's film. It's time people ask Mr. Gore "Are you ready to change the way you live, as well as the way you lecture the rest of us?"
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: March 19, 2007, 01:34:03 AM
WSJ oinline today
Lights, Camera . . . Candidacy?
Fred Thompson is shaking up the GOP presidential field. And he's not even running yet.
BY JOHN FUND
Saturday, March 17, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
NEW YORK--"Expect her to recount every moment of her ordeal," the savvy district attorney mused to his deputy. "There won't be a dry eye in the jury."
"That's a take!" says a director of the hit NBC series "Law and Order." With that, Fred Thompson, the former U.S. senator from Tennessee who has played "strict constructionist" prosecutor Arthur Branch for the past four years, walks back with me to his dressing room to talk about a new role he might soon be undertaking: surprise Republican presidential candidate.
It is a slightly surreal setting to be talking big-league politics. But not unprecedented. In 1965, Ronald Reagan held early strategy meetings on his nascent race for governor of California on the set of "Death Valley Days." In 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped off a plane from a world-wide publicity tour for his last "Terminator" film and immediately huddled with advisers on his own campaign for governor. Both men effectively used their celebrity status to completely transform the races they entered.
So too may Fred Thompson. When we meet on Thursday night, it's only been four days since he appeared on Fox News to merely announce he was "looking at" running. Chuck Todd, the political director of NBC News, notes in amazement how "a retired senator can show a tiny bit of interest and literally shake up the race overnight."
And he is shaking up the race. Every GOP candidate is nervously watching the reaction to his possible entry. J.C. Watts, an Oklahoma congressman from 1995 to 2003, has endorsed him: "I define Fred Thompson as AC, what's AC? All class."
Fan blogs for "Law and Order" note that since the show is especially popular among women, a Thompson race could help close the GOP's "gender gap." The most pithy comment is from Craig Hammond, a former mayor of Bluefield, W.Va. He told the Bluefield News: "He's the tall timber we've been waiting for. He's the total package. He can hold the red states and pick up a few blue ones along the way."
But Mr. Thompson appears serene about all the speculation swirling around him. "Those running are all good guys, and would be good presidents," he says leaning back in a recliner. "But there are truly vital issues--from the looming entitlement crisis to nuclear proliferation--I'm not afraid to talk about. Lots of people have such a low regard for politicians that they're open to a campaign that would be completely different."
So how would a possible Thompson campaign be distinctive? "Politics is now one big 24-hour news cycle, but we seem to spend less time than ever on real substance," he muses. "What if someone harnessed the Internet and other technologies and insisted in talking about real issues in more depth than consultants would advise? What if they took risks with their race in hopes that the risks to our children could be reduced through building a mandate for good policy?"
Children are a lot on Mr. Thompson's mind--especially his own. In 2002 he lost his daughter after she failed to come out of a drug-overdose-induced coma. Already frustrated with the Senate's endless maneuvering over minutiae, he decided to retire at age 60 only two months later and change his life. In June of that year he married his second wife, Jeri (his first marriage at age 17 ended amicably in divorce in 1985). In 2003 they had their first child (a second was born last November).
"Within the space of a year and a half, I experienced the ultimate tragedy and the ultimate happiness," Mr. Thompson sighs. "I count my blessings, and I have a real focused sense of purpose now."
That brings us to some of the knocks critics have about his possible parachute drop into the "Survivor 2008" competition. Bluntly put, Fred Thompson had a reputation for being lazy in wanting to do the political chores that come with office. People openly question if he has "the fire in the belly" to really make a serious race.
"They used to say I moved slowly," he chuckles. "But I move deliberately. I won every one of my races by more than 20 points in a state Clinton carried twice."
But what about his well-known reputation for dating up a storm as a bachelor senator in Washington in the 1990s? "I plead guilty," he says. "But everyone I knew is still a friend, and if somehow they aren't I guess we'd hear about it. I'm happy with my life partner and children now."
On issues, he addresses head-on the major complaints conservatives have about his record. He was largely stymied in his 1997 investigation of both Clinton-Gore and GOP campaign fund-raising abuses: Key witnesses declined to testify or fled the country, though evidence eventually surfaced of a Chinese plan to influence U.S. politics. He won't argue with those who say he showed "naiveté" about how he would be stonewalled in his investigation. He says he's wiser now.
Many on the right remain angry he supported the campaign finance law sponsored by his friend John McCain. "There are problems with people giving politicians large sums of money and then asking them to pass legislation," Mr. Thompson says. Still, he notes he proposed the amendment to raise the $1,000 per person "hard money" federal contribution limit.
Conceding that McCain-Feingold hasn't worked as intended, and is being riddled with new loopholes, he throws his hands open in exasperation. "I'm not prepared to go there yet, but I wonder if we shouldn't just take off the limits and have full disclosure with harsh penalties for not reporting everything on the Internet immediately."
Mr. Thompson has also been criticized for failing to back some comprehensive tort-reform bills because of his background as a trial lawyer. Here he insists his stance was based on grounds of federalism. "I'm consistent. I address Federalist Society meetings," he says, noting that more issues should be left to the states. For example, he cast the lonely "nay" in 99-1 votes against a national 0.8% blood alcohol level for drivers, a federal law banning guns in schools, and a measure limiting the tort liability of Good Samaritans. "Washington overreaches, and by doing so ends up not doing well the basics people really care about." Think Katrina and Walter Reed.
Indeed, the federal government's inability to function effectively would likely be a major theme of any Thompson campaign. "Audits have shown we've lost control of the waste and mismanagement in our most important agencies. It's getting so bad it's affecting our national security."
Mr. Thompson says that while a senator he was long concerned with U.S. intelligence failures. "The CIA has better politicians than it has spies," he says, referring to the internecine turf wars that have been a feature of the Bush administration.
A key problem, Mr. Thompson notes, is a general lack of accountability in government, where no one pays any price for failure. When asked about President Bush's awarding the Medal of Freedom to outgoing CIA Director George Tenet after U.S. intelligence failures in Iraq became apparent, he shakes his head: "I just didn't understand that."
The next president, according to Mr. Thompson, needs to exercise strong leadership "and get down in the weeds and fix a civil-service system that makes it too hard to hire good employees and too hard to fire bad ones." He doesn't offer specifics on what to do, but notes the "insanity" of the new Congress pushing for the unionization of homeland security employees only five years after it rejected the notion in the wake of 9/11. "Should we tie ourselves up in bureaucratic knots with the challenges we may have to face?" he asks in wonderment.
The challenges, he says, are numerous. On Iraq, he admits "we are left with nothing but bad choices." However, he says the "worst choice" would be to have Osama bin Laden proven right when he predicted America wouldn't have the stomach for a tough fight. The costs of Iraq have been high, but they could be even higher "if we have another stain on America like that infamous scene from Saigon 1975 in which our helicopters took off leaving those who supported us grabbing at the landing skids."
Mr. Thompson is especially worried about nuclear proliferation. He serves as chairman of the International Security Advisory Board, along with former Clinton CIA Director Jim Woolsey and former Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb. The board recently received an unclassified briefing that convinced him three or four countries in the Middle East are "on the cusp" of acquiring nuclear weapons should the Iranians carry through with their own weapons program.
He urges continued pressure on Iran, which he says has grave domestic problems. "Iran may fall of its own weight, and we can help that by offering vocal support to dissident groups and making effective use of the airwaves to reach its people."
On domestic issues, Mr. Thompson says a major reason Republicans lost last November was that they aided and abetted runaway government spending. Yet Democrats, he contends, are incapable of following through on their pledges to be fiscally prudent. "Their political coalition needs more revenue like a car requires gasoline," he laughs. "Reagan showed what can be done if you have the will to push for tough choices and the ability to ask the people to accept them."
But Mr. Thompson says those tough choices shouldn't include the tax increases contemplated in the new budget released by Senate Democrats this week. "The phony static accounting the government uses has obscured just how successful the 2003 tax cuts have been in boosting the economy," he says. "Lower marginal tax rates have proven to be a key to prosperity now by Kennedy, Reagan and Bush. It's time millionaires serving in the Senate learned not to overly tax other people trying to get wealthy."
I note that despite his humble background as the grandson of a sharecropper and son of a used-car salesman, Mr. Thompson himself is now quite wealthy. So how would he campaign against Democratic millionaires he used to serve in the Senate with, such as Hillary Clinton or John Edwards? He smiles and says he has plenty of zingers and points he would make but it's premature to discuss them.
Mr. Thompson says he can compete with Democrats in talking plainly about the anxiety many Americans have about the economy, despite good macro numbers. "Someone who is 18 today may well have 10 employers in their career," he says. "That's completely different from how their parents lived. I would address that insecurity and help people adapt without shooting ourselves in the foot with protectionism and income redistribution. I had 10 employers before I finished law school."
Fred Thompson clearly hasn't decided whether to run for president; and he underestimates just how much the traditional fund-raising he disdains may be necessary for his long-shot campaign. But he has assets that add up to an impressive portfolio.
As Republican counsel in the Watergate hearings, he began building a reputation as a straight-shooter. It was he who asked the question that forced a White House deputy to admit that Richard Nixon had secretly recorded his Oval Office conversations.
Later in the 1970s he played a key role in exposing a Tennessee cash-for-pardons scandal; his acting career began when he won the part of playing himself in the 1985 movie version of the story. Today, his national exposure is greater than ever with a dozen of his movies playing as TV repeats. All of this month he is substituting for radio legend Paul Harvey, whose show is heard on more than 1,200 stations.
Indeed, it is his need to wake up at 5 a.m. the next morning, so he can tape three Harvey segments before returning to the "Law and Order" set for a long day of shooting, that prompts Mr. Thompson to close out our chat. "With my current schedule I might have more time to myself if I gave all this up and did start a campaign," he says as he dons a sports coat and heads for his car.
So many voters remain unsold on any of the current GOP contenders that Mr. Thompson just might trade his TV sound stage for a campaign microphone. As this is the first truly open Republican nomination fight in decades, the party might as well revel in the competition it claims to cherish in other parts of life.
Mr. Fund is a columnist for OpinionJournal.com.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: March 19, 2007, 01:28:39 AM
WSJ on line, today
The European left makes common cause with the Muslim right.
BY BRET STEPHENS
Sunday, March 18, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
"It is a profound truth," declared the British Socialist Party in a 1911 manifesto, "that Socialism is the natural enemy of religion." Not the least of the oddities in the subsequent history of progressive politics is that today it has become the principal vehicle in the West for Islamist goals and policies.
Caroline Lucas, a member of the Green Party faction in the European Parliament, is a longtime activist in anti-nuclear, animal-rights and environmentalist causes, and not someone likely to describe herself as an anti-feminist. Yet in June 2004, she joined British MPs Fiona Mactaggart of Labor and Sarah Teather of the Liberal Democrats for a press conference in the House of Commons organized by the Assembly for the Protection of Hijab. The Assembly, better known as Pro-Hijab, is a pan-European organization formed "to campaign nationally and internationally for the protection of every Muslim woman's right to wear the Hijab in accordance with her beliefs and for the protection of every woman's right to dress as modestly and as comfortably as she pleases."
Once upon a time, feminists and socialists alike would have translated that as "subservience to the patriarchy." Now they seem to have rediscovered their roots as civil libertarians, at least when it's politically expedient. Consider the issue of the Armenian genocide. In 1998, the French-speaking wing of Belgium's Socialist Party (PS) co-sponsored legislation to criminalize denial of the Ottoman Empire's murder of an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, much as Holocaust denial is also against the law.
Yet for the past several years, the same PS has been blocking the process of criminalization it helped initiate, presumably in the service of free speech. "Additional legal and historical research," says Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx, remains to be done in ascertaining exactly what happened in Anatolia in 1915.
Progressives have also been remarkably mindful of civil liberties in matters of immigration. When the German state of Baden-Wüttemberg last year required applicants for citizenship to answer a series of questions regarding their personal views, the leader of the German Green Party, Renate Künast, denounced it as "immoral." "A country governed by law," she argued, "cannot ask questions about moral values." Among the questions: "Where do you stand on the statement that a wife should obey her husband and that he can hit her if she fails to do so?"
Curiously, however, Europe's progressives have been somewhat less tolerant on other issues concerning moral values and personal belief. Take "Islamophobia," which progressives often consider akin to racism and have, in some instances, sought to ban by legal means. In Britain last year, Tony Blair's government enacted the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, which criminalized "threatening" comments against religious persons or beliefs. Comedian Rowan Atkinson and author Salman Rushdie, among others, warned that the law undermined basic rights of speech. But for London Mayor Ken Livingstone it was not enough: He defined "Islamophobia" as "discrimination, intolerance or hostility towards Islam and Muslims," and regretted that criminal acts were not more broadly defined by the legislation.
Since coming to office nearly seven years ago, Mr. Livingstone has become a symbol of the marriage of the European left and the Islamist right. It's a marriage of mutual convenience and, at least on one side, actual belief. In the Netherlands, a recent study by the University of Amsterdam's Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies found that 80% of immigrants--the overwhelming majority of whom are Muslims--voted for the Labor party in recent elections, while the two main center-right parties received a combined 4% of the immigrant vote. In neighboring Belgium, the left-wing sociologist Jan Hertogen credits immigrants for "[saving] democracy" by voting as a bloc against the secessionist and anti-immigrant Vlaams Belang party.
For Muslim voters in Europe, the attractions of the Socialists are several. Socialists have traditionally taken a more accommodating approach to immigrants and asylum-seekers than their conservative rivals. They have championed the welfare state and the benefits it offers poor newcomers. They have promoted a multiculturalist ethos, which in practice has meant respecting Muslim traditions even when they conflict with Western values. In foreign policy, Socialists have often been anti-American and, by extension, hostile to Israel. That hostility has only increased as Muslim candidates have joined the Socialists' electoral slates and as the Muslim vote has become ever more crucial to the Socialists' electoral margin.
More mysterious, however, at least as a matter of ideology, has been the dalliance of the progressive left with the (Islamic) political right. Self-styled progressives, after all, have spent the past four decades championing the very freedoms that Islam most opposes: sexual and reproductive freedoms, gay rights, freedom from religion, pornography and various forms of artistic transgression, pacifism and so on. For those who hold this form of politics dear, any long-term alliance with Islamic politics ultimately becomes an ideological, if not a political, suicide pact. One cannot, after all, champion the cause of universal liberation in alliance with a movement that at its core stands for submission.
This is not, of course, the first time such a thing has happened in the history of the progressive movement, or in European history. On the contrary, it is the recurring theme. In the early 20th century, the apostles of Fabianism--George Bernard Shaw among them--looked to the Soviet Union for inspiration; in the 1960s the model was Mao; in the late 1970s, the great French philosopher Michel Foucault went to Iran to write a paean to Khomeini's revolution. In nearly every case, the progressives were, by later admission, deceived, but not before they had performed their service as "useful idiots" to a totalitarian cause.
But the stakes today are different. At question for Europeans is not the prevailing view of a distant country. The question is the shaping of their own. Europe's liberal democrats were able, sometimes with outside help, to preserve their values in the face of an outside threat. Whether they can resist the temptations of Islamosocialism remains to be seen.
Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Gay & Straight
on: March 15, 2007, 11:22:10 AM
Officials at Deerfield High School in Deerfield, Ill., have ordered their 14-year-old freshman class into a "gay" indoctrination seminar, after having them sign a confidentiality agreement promising not to tell their parents.
"This is unbelievable," said Matt Barber, policy director for cultural issues for Concerned Women for America. "It's not enough that students at Deerfield High are being exposed to improper and offensive material relative to unhealthy and high-risk homosexual behavior, but they've essentially been told by teachers to lie to their parents about it."
In what CWA called a "shocking and brazen act of government abuse of parental rights," the school's officials required the 14-year-olds to attend a "Gay Straight Alliance Network" panel discussion led by "gay" and "lesbian" upperclassmen during a "freshman advisory" class which "secretively featured inappropriate discussions of a sexual nature in promotion of high-risk homosexual behaviors."
"This goes to the heart of the homosexual agenda," Barber said. "The professional propagandists in the 'gay-rights' lobby know the method all too well. If you can maintain control of undeveloped and impressionable youth and spoon-feed them misinformation, lies and half-truths about dangerous, disordered and extremely risky behaviors, then you can control the future and ensure that those behaviors are not only fully accepted, but celebrated."
He said not only is forcing students to be exposed to the pro-homosexual propaganda bad enough, but then school officials further required that students sign the "confidentiality agreement" through which they promised not to tell anyone – including their own parents – about the seminar.
Barber said that also aligns with the goals of the disinformation campaign being run by those in the pro-homosexual camp. "That's what homosexual activists from GSA are attempting to do, and that's what DHS is clearly up to as well."
The situation, according to district Supt. George Fornero, was partly "a mistake."
He told CWA, the nation's largest public policy women's organization, that requiring children to sign the confidentiality agreement wasn't right and the district would be honest with parents in the future about such seminars. But CWA noted that even after the district was caught, parents still were being told they were not welcome to be at the "freshman advisory" and they were not allowed to have access to materials used in compiling the activist curriculum.
Barber noted the damage being done is significant.
"Until DHS and other government schools across the country are made to stop promoting the homosexual agenda, kids will continue to be exposed to – and encouraged to participate in – a lifestyle that places them at high risk for life-threatening disease, depression and spiritual despair," he said.
It's not the first situation where WND has reported on schools teaching homosexuality to children.
In Massachusetts after a school repeatedly advocated for the homosexual lifestyle to students in elementary grades, several parents sued, only to have the federal judge order the "gay" agenda taught to the Christians.
The conclusion from U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf found that it is reasonable, indeed there is an obligation, for public schools to teach young children to accept and endorse homosexuality.
Wolf essentially adopted the reasoning in a brief submitted by a number of homosexual-advocacy groups, who said "the rights of religious freedom and parental control over the upbringing of children … would undermine teaching and learning…"
David and Tonia Parker and Joseph and Robin Wirthlin, who have children of school age in Lexington, Mass., brought the lawsuit. They alleged district officials and staff at Estabrook Elementary School violated state law and civil rights by indoctrinating their children about a lifestyle they, as Christians, teach is immoral.
"Wolf's ruling is every parent's nightmare. It goes to extraordinary lengths to legitimize and reinforce the 'right' (and even the duty) of schools to normalize homosexual behavior to even the youngest of children," said a statement from the pro-family group Mass Resistance.
An appeal of that decision is pending.
The judge concluded that even allowing Christians to withdraw their children from classes or portions of classes where their religious beliefs were being violated wasn't a reasonable expectation.
"An exodus from class when issues of homosexuality or same-sex marriage are to be discussed could send the message that gays, lesbians, and the children of same-sex parents are inferior and, therefore, have a damaging effect on those students," he opined.
"Under the Constitution public schools are entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy," the judge wrote. "Diversity is a hallmark of our nation. It is increasingly evident that our diversity includes differences in sexual orientation."
And, he said, since history "includes instances of … official discrimination against gays and lesbians … it is reasonable for public educators to teach elementary school students … different sexual orientations."
If they disagree, "the Parkers and Wirthlins may send their children to a private school …[or] may also educate their children at home," the judge said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: March 15, 2007, 10:20:50 AM
Second post of the day-- also about Hillary. Its an interview where she gets much more specific about what she would do in Iraq. Apart from the merits vel non of what she proposes, there is the matter of how it will play in her campaign strategy. Although I loathe the woman and regard her as a tremendous threat to America's freedoms and well-being, I must say that on a political level what she says here is masterful political postioning.
WASHINGTON, March 14 - Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton foresees a "remaining
military as well as political mission" in Iraq, and says that if elected
president, she would keep a reduced military force there to fight Al Qaeda,
deter Iranian aggression, protect the Kurds and possibly support the Iraqi
If Elected ...
This is the first in a series of interviews with the 2008 presidential
candidates in both parties about how they would handle the issues they would
confront as president. Future articles will look at the positions of the
other candidates on Iraq and on other national security and domestic policy
In a half-hour interview on Tuesday in her Senate office, Mrs. Clinton said
the scaled-down American military force that she would maintain would stay
off the streets in Baghdad and would no longer try to protect Iraqis from
sectarian violence - even if it descended into ethnic cleansing.
In outlining how she would handle Iraq as commander in chief, Mrs. Clinton
articulated a more nuanced position than the one she has provided at her
campaign events, where she has backed the goal of "bringing the troops
She said in the interview that there were "remaining vital national security
interests in Iraq" that would require a continuing deployment of American
The United States' security would be undermined if parts of Iraq turned into
a failed state "that serves as a petri dish for insurgents and Al Qaeda,"
she said. "It is right in the heart of the oil region," she said. "It is
directly in opposition to our interests, to the interests of regimes, to
"So it will be up to me to try to figure out how to protect those national
security interests and continue to take our troops out of this urban
warfare, which I think is a loser," Mrs. Clinton added. She declined to
estimate the number of American troops she would keep in Iraq, saying she
would draw on the advice of military officers.
Mrs. Clinton's plans carry some political risk. Although she has been
extremely critical of the Bush administration's handling of the war, some
liberal Democrats are deeply suspicious of her intentions on Iraq, given
that she voted in 2002 to authorize the use of force there and, unlike some
of her rivals for the Democratic nomination, has not apologized for having
Senator Clinton's proposal is also likely to stir up debate among military
specialists. Some counterinsurgency experts say the plan is unrealistic
because Iraqis are unlikely to provide useful tips about Al Qaeda if
American troops end their efforts to protect Iraqi neighborhoods.
But a former Pentagon official argued that such an approach would minimize
American casualties and thus make it easier politically to sustain a
long-term military presence that might prevent the fighting from spreading
throughout the region.
Mrs. Clinton has said she would vote for a proposed Democratic resolution on
Iraq now being debated on the floor of the Senate, which sets a goal of
withdrawing combat forces by March 31, 2008. Asked if her plan was
consistent with the resolution, Mrs. Clinton and her advisers said it was,
noting that the resolution also called for "a limited number" of troops to
stay in Iraq to protect the American Embassy and other personnel, train and
equip Iraqi forces, and conduct "targeted counterterrorism operations."
(Senator Barack Obama, a rival of Mrs. Clinton, has said that if elected
president, he might keep a small number of troops in Iraq.)
With many Democratic primary voters favoring a total withdrawal, Senator
Clinton appears to be trying to balance her political interests with the
need to retain some flexibility. Like other Democratic candidates, she has
called for engaging Iran and Syria in talks and called on President Bush to
reverse his troop buildup.
But while Mrs. Clinton has criticized Mr. Bush's troop reinforcements as an
escalation of war, she said in the interview, "We're doing it, and it's
unlikely we can stop it."
"I'm going to root for it if it has any chance of success," she said of Mr.
Bush's plan, "but I think it's more likely that the anti-American violence
and sectarian violence just moves from place to place to place, like the old
Whac a Mole. Clear some neighborhoods in Baghdad, then face Ramadi. Clear
Ramadi, then maybe it's back in Falluja."
Mrs. Clinton made it clear that she believed the next president is likely to
face an Iraq that is still plagued by sectarian fighting and occupied by a
sizable number of American troops. The likely problems, she said, include
continued political disagreements in Baghdad, die-hard Sunni insurgents, Al
Qaeda operatives, Turkish anxiety over the Kurds and the effort to "prevent
Iran from crossing the border and having too much influence inside of Iraq."
"The choices that one would face are neither good nor unlimited," she said.
"And from the vantage point of where I sit now, I can tell you, in the
absence of a very vigorous diplomatic effort on the political front and on
the regional and international front, I think it is unlikely there will be a
stable situation that will be inherited."
(Page 2 of 2)
On the campaign trail, Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly vowed to bring the war to
a close if the fighting were still going on when she took office as
president. "If we in Congress don't end this war before January 2009, as
president, I will," she has said.
This is the first in a series of interviews with the 2008 presidential
candidates in both parties about how they would handle the issues they would
confront as president. Future articles will look at the positions of the
other candidates on Iraq and on other national security and domestic policy
In the interview, she suggested that it was likely that the fighting among
the Iraqis would continue for some time. In broad terms, her strategy is to
abandon the American military effort to stop the sectarian violence and to
focus instead on trying to prevent the strife from spreading throughout the
region by shrinking and rearranging American troop deployments within Iraq.
The idea of repositioning American forces to minimize American casualties,
discourage Iranian, Syrian and Turkish intervention, and forestall the Kurds'
declaring independence is not a new one. It has been advocated by Dov S.
Zakheim, who served as the Pentagon's comptroller under former Defense
Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Mr. Zakheim has estimated that no more than
75,000 troops would be required, compared to the approximately 160,000
troops the United States will have in Iraq when the additional brigades in
Mr. Bush's plan are deployed.
While Mrs. Clinton declined to estimate the size of a residual American
troop presence, she indicated that troops might be based north of Baghdad
and in western Anbar Province.
"It would be far fewer troops," she said. "But what we can do is to almost
take a line sort of north of - between Baghdad and Kirkuk, and basically put
our troops into that region, the ones that are going to remain for our
antiterrorism mission, for our northern support mission, for our ability to
respond to the Iranians, and to continue to provide support, if called for,
for the Iraqis."
Mrs. Clinton described a mission with serious constraints.
"We would not be doing patrols," she added. "We would not be kicking in
doors. We would not be trying to insert ourselves in the middle between the
various Shiite and Sunni factions. I do not think that's a smart or
achievable mission for American forces."
One question raised by counterinsurgency experts is whether the more limited
military mission Mrs. Clinton is advocating would lead to a further
escalation in the sectarian fighting, because it would shift the entire
burden for protecting civilians to the nascent Iraqi Security Forces. A
National Intelligence Estimate issued in January said those forces would be
hard-pressed to take on significantly increased responsibilities in the next
12 to 18 months.
"Coalition capabilities, including force levels, resources and operations,
remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq," the estimate noted,
referring to the American-led forces.
Mrs. Clinton said the intelligence estimate was based on a "faulty premise"
because it did not take into account the sort of "phased redeployment" plan
she was advocating. But she acknowledged that under her strategy American
troops would remain virtual bystanders if Shiites and Sunnis killed each
other in sectarian attacks. "That may be inevitable," she said. "And it
certainly may be the only way to concentrate the attention of the parties."
Asked if Americans would endure having troops in Iraq who do nothing to stop
sectarian attacks there, she replied: "Look, I think the American people are
done with Iraq. I think they are at a point where, whether they thought it
was a good idea or not, they have seen misjudgment and blunder after
blunder, and their attitude is, What is this getting us? What is this doing
"No one wants to sit by and see mass killing," she added. "It's going on
every day! Thousands of people are dying every month in Iraq. Our presence
there is not stopping it. And there is no potential opportunity I can
imagine where it could. This is an Iraqi problem; we cannot save the Iraqis
from themselves. If we had a different attitude going in there, if we had
stopped the looting immediately, if we had asserted our authority - you can
go down the lines, if, if, if - "
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: March 15, 2007, 09:06:40 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Judge's Ouster Causes an Uproar in Pakistan
An extraordinary meeting of Pakistan's military commanders will be held in the next few days, Pakistani daily The News reported Wednesday. Sources told the newspaper the meeting was called to discuss the crisis caused by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's March 9 suspension of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
Musharraf's move against the country's senior judiciary official was intended to help the president secure a second term in September. Musharraf likely was advised by close aides that Chaudhry, who has demonstrated a certain degree of independence since Musharraf appointed him in June 2005, cannot be relied upon to rule in Musharraf's favor should his opponents challenge his re-election bid in the highest court.
Acting on this advice, Musharraf suspended the chief justice on allegations of corruption, misconduct and other wrongdoings, and referred the matter to the country's highest judicial authority, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). The government expected that, like all of its previous decisions, Chaudhry's suspension would go smoothly. But the government was taken by surprise when the country's legal community sternly opposed the move. The chief justice himself has chosen to fight the decision in the SJC.
Meanwhile, declaring the suspension an attack on the judiciary, lawyers and judges are boycotting courts across the country and have staged demonstrations that police have violently suppressed. The government reportedly has tried to restrict media coverage of the controversy.
The crisis is quickly turning into the most serious challenge Musharraf has faced since coming to power in October 1999. Political opponents from across the ideological spectrum are trying to exploit the opportunity and force Musharraf from office. Chaudhry's lead attorney is Aitzaz Ahsan, a senior leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians and a current parliament member.
Though there is a consensus against the ouster of the chief justice, a grand strategy on how to use the crisis to generate enough unrest against the government to force Musharraf from power is still in the works; it is too early to tell just how the strategy will unfold. There also is dissent within ruling political circles, and many of Musharraf's senior civilian allies are critical of his decision to suspend Chaudhry.
Musharraf can do one of two things: He can have the SJC declare Chaudhry guilty and remove him from the post of chief justice. This would not be easy, given the current national uproar and the likelihood that the protests would intensify in the run-up to the September election. The government might be reluctant to take such a bold step when it has very little support on the matter. The second option would involve cutting a deal with the suspended chief justice whereby the SJC acquits him and restores him to his position. This would be in exchange for assurance that the chief justice would not move against Musharraf. This way, the president could demonstrate that he respects the law of the land and thereby undercut his opponents.
This second option, however, assumes that the sacked chief justice would be willing to negotiate. Musharraf also would be dealing from a position of relative weakness, which Chaudhry and his supporters could exploit. Given the adverse effects the chief justice's restoration could have on Musharraf's hold on power, the regime might not be inclined to move in that direction.
It is quite possible that the current situation will not create an immediate crisis of governance for Musharraf, but it could lead to more trouble as the country gets closer to election time. Increasing international pressure on Islamabad to more effectively contain the jihadists would complicate matters for Musharraf all the more.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues
on: March 15, 2007, 08:56:28 AM
While waiting for Doug's answer, here's this:
Today's NY Times
Push to Fix Ozone Layer and Slow Global Warming
By KEITH BRADSHER
Published: March 15, 2007
HONG KONG, March 14 — An unusual coalition of industrial and developing countries began pushing Wednesday for stringent limits on the world’s most popular refrigerant for air-conditioners, as evidence mounts that the refrigerant harms the earth’s ozone layer and contributes to global warming.
The use of HCFC’s is rising in China by as much as 35 percent a year, and the Chinese oppose any new curbs.
In a Test of Capturing Carbon Dioxide, Perhaps a Way to Temper Global Warming (March 15, 2007) The coalition is pitted against China, which has become the world’s leading manufacturer of air-conditioners that use the refrigerant, HCFC-22. Most window air-conditioners and air-conditioning systems in the United States use this refrigerant, as well.
International pressure has grown rapidly this winter for quick action. “We scientifically have proof: if we accelerate the phaseout of HCFC, we are going to make a great contribution to climate change,” said Romina Picolotti, the chief of Argentina’s environmental secretariat.
An accelerated phaseout of the refrigerant could speed up by five years the healing of the ozone layer of the atmosphere. It could also cut emissions of global-warming gases by the equivalent of at least one-sixth of the reductions called for under the Kyoto Protocol.
The United States joined Argentina, Brazil, Iceland, Mauritania and Norway on Wednesday in notifying the Ozone Secretariat of the United Nations Environment Program that they want to negotiate an accelerated phaseout of hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFC’s, at an international conference in Montreal in September.
The conference is tied to the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Montreal Protocol, which has reduced emissions of most ozone-depleting gases but left a loophole for HCFC-22 production by developing countries. China has repeatedly said it will honor all current rules of the Montreal Protocol but does not want to add new ones.
Recent studies have shown that steeply rising production of HCFC-22 by China, India and other developing countries has slowed the healing of the ozone layer, which protects humans, animals and vegetation from the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays.
A report last week by five American and European scientists found that sharp cutbacks in emissions of ozone-depleting gases since 1987 have been far more effective in combating global warming than the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement that was aimed directly at limiting climate change.
HCFC’s and other ozone-depleting gases are extremely powerful warming gases. Gram for gram, the ones used as refrigerants have thousands of times the global-warming effect of carbon dioxide. The ozone-depleting gases are released in far smaller quantities, though, than carbon dioxide, which is emitted when fossil fuels are burned by vehicle engines, power plants and other users.
The report by the European and American experts, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the Montreal Protocol had proved to be 5.5 times as effective as the Kyoto accord was intended to be in cutting emissions of global-warming gases. The Montreal agreement has been in force much longer and applies to developing and industrial nations alike, while the Kyoto Protocol has binding limits only for industrial nations.
The report has caught the attention of countries in the Pacific and Indian Oceans that fear that global warming will lead to a rise in sea levels and a significant loss of their limited land.
“As small island nations, our main concern is that whatever touches the climate has to be dealt with fairly quickly,” said Sateeaved Seebaluck, permanent secretary in the environment ministry of Mauritius, an island nation well east of Africa in the Indian Ocean.
Mr. Seebaluck said that a flurry of news reports about HCFC-22 this winter had been widely e-mailed among specialists and had led to greatly increased international interest in addressing the problem.
The Montreal Protocol currently allows developing countries to keep increasing their production of HCFC-22 until 2016, and then freezes production at that level until 2040, when it is supposed to be halted. But that schedule was devised in the early 1990s, when HCFC-22 was used mainly in industrial nations; developing countries were seen as too poor ever to afford much of the chemical.
The Kyoto Protocol then exempted HCFC-22 and other ozone-depleting substances from production and consumption limits on the grounds that the Montreal agreement had already addressed those matters.
Use of HCFC-22 has soared in the third world with the economic growth of China, India and other countries, along with the sharp drop in air-conditioner costs that has accompanied China’s growing skill in making them cheaply. Mr. Seebaluck said Mauritius’s use of HCFC-22 had risen more than 100-fold in the last six years because of a boom in hotel construction and the rapid expansion of the fishing industry, which uses a lot of refrigeration to preserve freshness.
The use in India and China, far larger markets, has been rising as much as 35 percent a year lately, with specialists predicting that similar growth could last through 2016.
Industrial nations are required to phase out HCFC-22 by 2020, but most are moving faster. The European Union phased it out in 2004. The United States will ban domestic production in 2010 and is considering whether to ban imports then, as well.
Push to Fix Ozone Layer and Slow Global Warming
Published: March 15, 2007
(Page 2 of 2)
China has begun making air-conditioners with more modern refrigerants for the European market. But by continuing to produce HCFC-22 for markets elsewhere, the Chinese have been able to claim hundreds of millions of dollars a year in payments from an obscure United Nations agency.
In a Test of Capturing Carbon Dioxide, Perhaps a Way to Temper Global Warming (March 15, 2007) The payments are to compensate Chinese chemical factories for incinerating a waste gas generated as part of the manufacturing process for HCFC-22. If the Chinese industry switches to modern refrigerants, it would no longer produce the waste gas and so would lose the credits.
India has a large and growing HCFC-22 industry that is also reaping a fortune in credits. But the Indian government has largely stayed on the sidelines in international talks, while China has called for industrial nations to pay even more for the incineration of waste gases from HCFC-22 production; China proposes to spend much of that to develop its renewable-energy industry.
A big problem is that no one has agreed what should replace HCFC-22. The chemicals requiring the fewest changes to air-conditioner designs avoid harm to the ozone layer but are still as potent, gram for gram, in terms of global warming.
Mack McFarland, chief atmospheric scientist at DuPont, which favors an accelerated phaseout of HCFC-22, said the company had developed a chemical that also has little effect on global warming. But the chemical is suitable only for vehicle air-conditioners, not the building air-conditioners that now rely on HCFC-22.
Environmentalists contend that chemical companies and air-conditioner makers are too slow to embrace other refrigerants, like ammonia or carbon dioxide, that may pose technical challenges but could be better for the ozone layer and global warming.
“Industry certainly is somewhat concerned about some of those chemicals because some of them don’t promise a lot of profits,” said Alexander von Bismarck, campaigns director of the Environmental Investigation Agency, a Washington advocacy group.
David Doniger, climate policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that even switching to new commercial refrigerants that are potent global-warming agents could help the environment. Air-conditioners designed for the new refrigerants tend to be more energy-efficient and often do not use as much refrigerant, he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Muslims, Nazis, and far right hate groups echo anti-semitisim
on: March 15, 2007, 06:15:51 AM
Poland honors woman who saved 2,500 Jews
Sendler, 97, was tortured by Nazis, but refused to disclose children's names
The Associated Press
Updated: 9:06 a.m. ET March 14, 2007
WARSAW, Poland - A 97-year-old woman credited with saving 2,500 Jews during the Holocaust was honored by parliament Wednesday at a ceremony during which Poland's president said she deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
Irena Sendler, who lives in a nursing home in Warsaw, was too frail to attend the special session in which members of the Senate unanimously approved a resolution honoring her and the Polish underground Council for Assisting Jews.
The group's members, mostly Roman Catholics, risked their own lives to save Jews from the Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Sendler was cited for organizing the "rescue of the most defenseless victims of the Nazi ideology — the Jewish children."
President Lech Kacyzinski said in an address to senators that Sendler is a "great hero who can be justly named for the Nobel Peace Prize."
Sendler led about 20 helpers who smuggled Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto to safety between 1940 and 1943, placing them in Polish families, convents or orphanages.
Tortured by Nazis
She wrote the children's names on slips of paper and buried them in jars in a neighbor's yard as a record that could help locate their parents after the war. The Nazis arrested her in 1943, but she refused — despite repeated torture — to reveal their names.
Anyone caught helping Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland risked being summarily shot, along with family members.
"I think she's a great lady, very courageous, and I think she's a model for the whole international community," Israeli Ambassador David Peleg said after the ceremony. "I think that her courage is a very special one."
In 1965, Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial awarded Sendler one of its first medals given to people who saved Jews, the so-called "Righteous Among the Nations."
She was given the honor in 1983, after Poland's Communist authorities finally agreed to allow her to travel abroad.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: March 15, 2007, 06:12:17 AM
This thread had languished for a while until yesterday's entry. Coincidentally enough, here's another entry today. I'm not sure I agree with every thing in it, but it does shed a lot of light on how things are done.
Gitmo's Guerrilla Lawyers
How an unscrupulous legal and PR campaign changed the way the world looks at Guantanamo.
BY DEBRA BURLINGAME
Thursday, March 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
He was the first American to die in what some have called "the real war." Johnny "Mike" Spann, the 32-year-old CIA paramilitary commando, was interrogating prisoners in an open courtyard at the Qala-I-Jangi fortress in Afghanistan when the uprising of 538 hard-core Taliban and al Qaeda fighters began. Spann emptied his rifle, then his sidearm, then fought hand-to-hand as he was swarmed by raging prisoners screaming "Allahu akbar!"
The bloody siege by Northern Alliance and U.S. forces went on for several days, only ending when 86 of the remaining jihadi fighters were smoked out of a basement where they had retreated and where they murdered a Red Cross worker who had gone in to check on their condition. Spann, a former Marine, is credited with saving the lives of countless Alliance fighters and Afghan civilians by standing and firing as they ran for cover. His beaten and booby-trapped body was recovered with two bullet wounds in his head, the angle of trajectory suggesting he had been shot execution style.
One of the committed jihadis who came out of that basement, wounded and unrepentant, was "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, now serving a 20-year sentence in a federal prison. Another who was shot during the uprising and pulled out of the basement along with Lindh was Nasser Nijer Naser al-Mutairi. Today, the 29-year-old is living somewhere in Kuwait, a free man.
The true story of Mr. Mutairi's journey, from the uprising in Qala-I-Jangi to Guantanamo Bay's military detention camp to the privileged life of an affluent Kuwaiti citizen, is one that his team of high-priced lawyers and the government of Kuwait doesn't want you to know. His case reveals a disturbing counterpoint to the false narrative advanced by Gitmo lawyers and human-rights groups--which holds that the Guantanamo Bay detainees are innocent victims of circumstance, swept up in the angry, anti-Muslim fervor that followed the attacks of September 11, then abused and brutally tortured at the hands of the U.S. military.
Mr. Mutairi was among 12 Kuwaitis picked up in Afghanistan and detained at Guantanamo Bay in 2002. Their families retained Tom Wilner and the prestigious law firm of Shearman & Sterling early that same year. Arguably, it is Mr. Wilner's aggressive representation, along with the determined efforts of the Kuwait government, that has had the greatest influence in the outcome of all the enemy combatant cases, in the court of law and in the court of public opinion. The lawsuit filed on their behalf, renamed Rasul v. Bush when three cases were joined, is credited with opening the door for the blizzard of litigation that followed.
According to Michael Ratner, the radical lawyer and head of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the center received 300 pieces of hate mail when the organization filed the very first Guantanamo detainee case in February of 2002. The shocking images of 9/11 were still fresh; it would be three more months until most human remains and rubble would be cleared from ground zero. There was no interest in Guantanamo from the lawyers at premium law firms.
But by 2004, when the first of three detainee cases was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, the national climate had changed. The country was politically divided, the presidential election was in full swing, and John Kerry was talking about treating terrorism like a criminal nuisance. The Guantanamo cases gave lawyers a chance to take a swipe at the president's policies, give heroic speeches about protecting the rights of indigents, and be a part of the kind of landmark legal cases that come along once in a lifetime. The Guantanamo Bay Bar increased from a lonely band of activist lawyers operating out of a run down office in Greenwich Village to an association of 500 lawyers. Said Mr. Ratner about the blue chip firms that initially shunned these cases, "You had to beat the lawyers off with a stick."
Mr. Wilner and his colleagues at Shearman & Sterling were the exception, although he has been exceedingly coy about the true nature of his firm's role. Unlike the many lawyers who later joined in the litigation on a pro bono basis, Shearman & Sterling was handsomely paid. Mr. Wilner has repeatedly stated that the detainees' families insisted on paying Shearman & Sterling for its services and that the fees it earned have been donated to an unspecified 9/11-related charity. According to one news report, the families had spent $2 million in legal fees by mid-2004. In truth, Kuwaiti officials confirmed that the government was footing the bills.
How did Shearman & Sterling get tapped for this historic assignment? Speaking at Seton Hall Law School in fall of 2006, Mr. Wilner recounted that he visited the facility at Guantanamo Bay in 2002, months before he met the Kuwaiti 12's families. What was Mr. Wilner doing at Gitmo more than two years before Rasul established the legal basis for lawyers getting access to detainees inside the camp? One of his Gitmo legal colleagues has said that Mr. Wilner was brought into the case by an oil industry client.
It turns out that Shearman & Sterling, a 1,000-lawyer firm with offices in 19 cities all over the world, has substantial business dealings on six continents. Indeed, Shearman's client care for Middle Eastern matters has established a new industry standard: The firm's Abu Dhabi office states that it has pioneered the concept of "Shariah-compliant" financing. In Kuwait, the firm has represented the government on a wide variety of matters involving billions of dollars worth of assets. So the party underwriting the litigation on behalf of the Kuwaiti 12--from which all of the detainees have benefited--is one of Shearman & Sterling's most lucrative OPEC accounts.
Shearman & Sterling did far more than just write legal briefs and shuttle down to Gitmo to conduct interviews about alleged torture for the BBC. In addition to its legal services, the firm registered as an agent of a foreign principal under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA) as well as the Lobbying Disclosure Act of 1995 (LDA) to press the Kuwaiti detainees' cause on Capitol Hill. Shearman reported $749,980 in lobbying fees under FARA for one six-month period in 2005 and another $200,000 under the LDA over a one-year period between 2005 and 2006. Those are the precise time periods when Congress was engaged in intense debates over the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act, legislation which Shearman & Sterling and its Kuwaiti paymasters hoped would pave the way for shutting down Guantanamo permanently and setting their clients free.
Mr. Wilner, a media-savvy lawyer who immediately realized that the detainee cases posed a tremendous PR challenge in the wake of September 11, hired high-stakes media guru Richard Levick to change public perception about the Kuwaiti 12. Mr. Levick, a former attorney whose Washington, D.C.-based "crisis PR" firm has carved out a niche in litigation-related issues, has represented clients as varied as Rosie O'Donnell, Napster, and the Roman Catholic Church. Mr. Levick's firm is also registered under FARA as an agent of a foreign principal for the "Kuwaiti Detainees Committee," reporting $774,000 in fees in a one year period. After the U.S. Supreme Court heard the first consolidated case, the PR campaign went into high gear, Mr. Levick wrote, to "turn the Guantanamo tide."
In numerous published articles and interviews, Mr. Levick has laid out the essence of the entire Kuwaiti PR campaign. The strategy sought to accomplish two things: put a sympathetic "human face" on the detainees and convince the public that it had a stake in their plight. In other words, the militant Islamists who traveled to Afghanistan to become a part of al Qaeda's jihad on America had to be reinvented as innocent charity workers swept up in the war after 9/11. The committed Islamist who admitted firing an AK-47 in a Taliban training camp became a "teacher on vacation" who went to Afghanistan in 2001 "to help refugees." The member of an Islamist street gang who opened three al-Wafa offices with Suliman Abu Ghaith (Osama Bin Laden's chief spokesman) to raise al Qaeda funds became a charity worker whose eight children were left destitute in his absence. All 12 Kuwaitis became the innocent victims of "bounty hunters."
A Montreal-based marketing firm was hired to create the families' full-service Web site which fed propaganda--unsourced, unrebutted and uninvestigated by the media--aimed at the media all over the world. Creating what Mr. Levick calls a "war of pictures," the site is replete with images meant to appeal to Americans: smiling Kuwaiti families wearing T-shirts and baseball caps, cute children passing out yellow ribbons.
After the Rasul decision, the PR momentum picked up speed and the Supreme Court became, in Mr. Levick's words, their "main weapon," a "cudgel" that forced more attention in what he calls the traditional "liberal" press. Dozens of op-eds by Mr. Wilner and the family group leader (described as a U.S.-trained former Kuwaiti Air Force pilot who cherishes the memory of drinking Coca Cola) were aimed at the public and Congress.
Mr. Levick maintains that a year and a half after they began the campaign, their PR outreach produced literally thousands of news placements and that, eventually, a majority of the top 100 newspapers were editorializing on the detainees' behalf. Convinced that judges can be influenced by aggressive PR campaigns, Mr. Levick points to rulings in the detainee cases which openly cite news stories that resulted from his team's media outreach.
The Kuwaiti 12 case is a primer on the anatomy of a guerilla PR offensive, packaged and sold to the public as a fight for the "rule of law" and "America's core principles." Begin with flimsy information, generate stories that are spun from uncorroborated double or triple hearsay uttered by interested parties that are hard to confirm from halfway around the world. Feed the phonied-up stories to friendly media who write credulous reports and emotional human interest features, post them on a Web site where they will then be read and used as sources by other lazy (or busy) media from all over the world. In short, create one giant echo chamber.
Mr. Mutairi's profile is the most brazen example of Mr. Levick's confidence that the media can be easily manipulated. The Web site describes him as a member of an apolitical and peaceful sect of missionaries, and that he went to Afghanistan in October of 2000 to "minister in the small mosques and schools" in the country's poorer regions.
Everything Mr. Levick did was in partnership with Tom Wilner and the law firm of Sherman & Sterling. It was their joint litigation-PR plan, with the Guantanamo lawsuits helping the PR messaging and the PR messaging helping the lawsuits. All of this may be legal, but it is hardly ethical.
Shearman & Sterling lawyers aren't hucksters crassly promoting a cheap product; they are sworn officers of the court volunteering to represent alien enemy combatants in a time of war, interjecting themselves in cases that affect how American soldiers on the battlefield do their job. It is one thing to take these cases in order to achieve the proper balance between due process concerns and unprecedented national security issues. It is another to hire PR and marketing consultants to create image makeovers for suspected al Qaeda financiers, foot soldiers, weapons trainers and bomb makers, all of which is financed by millions of dollars from a foreign country enmeshed in the anti-American, anti-Israel elements of Middle East politics.
Although a few mistakes were made when some of the Guantanamo detainees were taken into custody in the fog of war, others were indisputably captured with AK-47s still smoking in their hands. Any one of those who have been properly classified in Combat Status Review Tribunals as an unlawful enemy combatant could be the next Mohamed Atta or Hani Hanjour, who, if captured in the summer of 2001, would have been described by these lawyers as a quiet engineering student from Hamburg and a nice Saudi kid who dreams of learning to fly.
How we deal with alien enemy combatants goes to the essence of the debate between those who see terrorism as a series of criminal acts that should be litigated in the justice system, one attack at a time, and those who see it as a global war where the "criminal paradigm" is no more effective against militant Islamists whose chief tactic is mass murder than indictments would have been in stopping Hitler's march across Europe. Michael Ratner and the lawyers in the Gitmo bar have expressly stated that the habeas corpus lawsuits are a tactic to prevent the U.S. military from doing its job. He has bragged that "The litigation is brutal [for the United States] . . . You can't run an interrogation . . . with attorneys." No, you can't. Lawyers can literally get us killed.
We may never know how many of the hundreds of repatriated detainees are back in action, fighting the U.S. or our allies thanks to the efforts of the Guantanamo Bay Bar. Approximately 20 former detainees have been confirmed as having returned to the battlefield, 12 of them killed by U.S. forces. Of the eight detainees who were rendered back to Kuwait for review of their cases, all were acquitted in criminal proceedings, including Mr. Mutairi, who has given press interviews admitting that he was shot in the November 2001 uprising at Qala-I-Jangi.
Only one Kuwaiti, Adel al-Zamel, has been sent to prison for crimes committed before his work with al-Wafa in Afghanistan. A member of an Islamist gang that stalked, videotaped and savagely beat "adulterers," he was sentenced to a year in prison in 2000 for attacking a coed sitting in her car. These are some of the men Tom Wilner was talking about when he went on national television and said with a straight face, "My guys . . . loved the United States."
The guy who really loved the United States stood and fought to protect us from radical Islamists, rather than enable them. In his job application for the CIA, Mike Spann wrote, "I am an action person that feels personally responsible for making any changes in this world that are in my power because if I don't no one else will." We owe our unqualified support and steadfastness to the warriors who take personal responsibility when no one else will.
Allowing lawyers to subvert the truth and transform the Constitution into a lethal weapon in the hands of our enemies--while casting themselves as patriots--makes a mockery of the sacrifices made by true patriots like Mike Spann. If Sens. Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter, chairman and ranking members, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee succeed in their plan to turn enemy combatant cases over to the federal courts, we will sorely rue the day that we eliminated "lawyer-free zones."
Ms. Burlingame, a former attorney and a director of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, is the sister of Charles F. "Chic" Burlingame III, the pilot of American Airlines flight 77, which was crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: March 15, 2007, 05:57:16 AM
The LONDON TIMES ON HILLARY CLINTON
(Quite a devastating column follows. Bear in mind that this is the London Times, which certainly has no conservative partisan agenda to push. It was published Jan. 31st, 2007. Most interesting.)
Subject: Hillary Clinton's shameless political reconstructive surgery:
You can measure the scale of an American president's troubles by the number of skutniks he deploys during his State of the Union address.
Every year during his big set-piece speech to Congress, the president will digress from the main thrust of his remarks to offer fulsome praise to some member of the audience in the gallery. This person will have been carefully selected in advance by the president's speechwriters as an exemplar of some virtue and placed there for the purpose. The television producers will have been alerted in advance so that at the right moment, as the president talks about the heroics of this American Everyman, her she can rise self-consciously and receive the praise of a grateful nation.
This now obligatory part of a constitutional ritual is called a skutnik' after the name of the first person so honoured. One January evening in 1982, Lenny Skutnik, a government employee, dived into the freezing waters of the Potomac River to rescue a victim of a plane crash. Two weeks later, during his second State of the Union address, with the US mired in recession, Ronald Reagan had Mr Skutnik sit in the gallery and paid a moving tribute to his heroics.
This week, for his penultimate State of the Union, Mr Bush had a veritable galaxy of skutniks - soldiers, military people, firefighter. Whatever you might feel about the wisdom of Mr Bush's Iraq policy or the feasibility of his plans to wean Americans off petrol, you can't help but stand and cheer the good works of a decent person.
But there was something unusual about this year's constellation of ordinary American heroes, beyond the sheer numbers. Usually the skutnik is a presidential privilege. But so intense already is the competition for the 2008 presidential race that others have muscled in.
And so Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton had a skutnik of her own. She
arranged for the son of a New York policeman, sick with lung cancer to be there. As it happened, the man's father died that day, and the son's grief became a sad and very visible coda to the event. This little incident, the skillfully choreographed exploitation of a human tragedy, the
cynically manipulated deployment of public sympathy in service of a personal political end, offered a timely insight into the character of the politician who this week launched the most anticipated presidential election campaign in modern history.
There are many reasons people think Mrs Clinton will not be elected president. She lacks warmth; she is too polarising a figure; the American people don't want to relive the psychodrama of the eight years of the Clinton presidency.
But they all miss this essential counterpoint. As you consider her career this past 15 years or so in the public spotlight, it is impossible not to be struck, and even impressed, by the sheer ruthless, unapologetic, unshameable way in which she has pursued this ambition, and confirmed that there is literally nothing she will not do, say, think or feel to achieve it. Here, finally, is someone who has taken the black arts of the politician's trade, the dissembling, the trimming, the pandering, all the way to their logical conclusion.
Fifteen years ago there was once a principled, if somewhat rebarbative and unelectable politician called Hillary Rodham Clinton. A woman who aggressively preached abortion on demand and the right of children to sue their own parents, a committed believer in the power of government who tried to create a healthcare system of such bureaucratic complexity it would have made the Soviets blush; a militant feminist who scorned mothers who take time out from work to rear their children as "women who stay home and bake cookies".
Today we have a different Hillary Rodham Clinton, all soft focus and expensively coiffed, exuding moderation and tolerance. To grasp the scale of the transfiguration, it is necessary only to consider the very moment it began. The turning point in her political fortunes was the day her husband soiled his office and a certain blue dress. In that Monica Lewinsky moment, all the public outrage and contempt for the sheer tawdriness of it all was brilliantly rerouted and channelled to the direct benefit of Mrs. Clinton, who immediately began a campaign for the Senate.
And so you had this irony, a woman who had carved out for herself a role as an icon of the feminist movement, launching her own political career, riding a wave of public sympathy over the fact that she had been treated horridly by her husband.
After that unsurpassed exercise in cynicism, nothing could be too expedient. Her first Senate campaign was one long exercise in political reconstructive surgery. It went from the cosmetic - the sudden discovery of her Jewish ancestry, useful in New York, especially when you've established a reputation as a friend of Palestinians - to the radical: her sudden message of tolerance for people who opposed abortion, gay marriage, gun control and everything else she had stood for.
Once in the Senate, she published an absurd autobiography in which every single paragraph had been scrubbed clean of honest reflection to fit the campaign template. As a lawmaker she is remembered mostly, when confronted with a President who enjoyed 75 per cent approval ratings, for her infamous decision to support the Iraq war in October 2002.
This one-time anti-war protester recast herself as a latter-day Boadicea, even castigating President Bush for not taking a tough enough line with the Iranians over their nuclear programme.
Now, you might say, hold on. Aren't all politicians veined with an opportunistic streak? Why is she any different? The difference is that Mrs Clinton has raised that opportunism to an animating philosophy, a P. T. Barnum approach to the political marketplace.
All politicians, sadly, lie. We can often forgive the lies as the necessary price paid to win popularity for a noble cause. But the Clinton candidacy is a Grand Deceit, an entirely artificial construct built around a person who, stripped bare of the cynicism, manipulation and calculation, is nothing more than an enormous, overpowering and rather terrifying ego.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: March 15, 2007, 05:56:09 AM
Ondiep, a working class neighbourhood in the Dutch town of Utrecht, is in turmoil. After the death last Sunday of Rinie Mulder, a 54-year old indigenous Dutchman who was shot by a police officer, non-immigrant citizens went on a rampage, burning cars, looting shops and arsoning a community centre in “inverted Paris style riots.” According to our sources the police officer who killed Mulder is a woman of Moroccan origin.
The Ondiep residents have been complaining for months about harassment and intimidation by immigrant youths of Moroccan origin. The Dutch mainstream media do not go into much detail about what is going on. Most of them do not mention the ethnicity of the victim and the police officer, though the riots clearly have an ethnic nature.
Apparently Mulder intervened when Muslim youths harassed a pregnant native Dutch woman. He was able to grab the knife of one of the youths. When the police arrived Mulder was shot because he had raised the knife. Witnesses say Mulder was indicating to the police that he had called for them.
Locals claim the police has failed to protect them for years. They say the authorities are afraid of the immigrants and tolerate their criminal behaviour. After the death of Mulder the indigenous Dutch decided they had had enough and started riots which went on for two continuous nights. The police made 130 arrests: 60 of them are Ondiep residents. According to the mainstream media the others are mainly “football hooligans” from other parts of the country. Annie Brouwer-Korf, the Socialist mayor of Utrecht, has ordered Ondiep to be sealed off from the rest of town to keep non-residents out. She expressed some sympathy for the frustrated Ondiep residents. “I understand that residents are sometimes upset about the nuisance around their own house and neighbourhood. That does you no good whatsoever.”
The riots are no surprise. As I wrote last January:
The Netherlands are bracing themselves for more [Parisian style] incidents this year. An official report published last week states that the Government has seriously underestimated “tensions between various ethnic and cultural groups of youths.”
The report says that the Dutch authorities fail to grasp the gravity of the problem. If nothing is done the country will soon witness situations similar to the French riots of 2005 and 2006 which led to the police abandoning immigrant suburbs to gangs of Muslim youths. The result of the French ambivalence is that the same gangs have now taken over effective control of more than 750 French urban neighborhoods.
Ondiep is one of the Dutch urban neighbourhoods which seem to have been abandoned by the authorities. It is hardly a surprise that the natives are beginning to fight back. The same thing happened recently in Britain.
14 March 2007
AMSTERDAM – Seven of the people arrested on Tuesday in Utrecht will be brought before the court on Thursday. The other 128 will be released with a fine.
As the municipality braces for another night of disturbances, and police close off the neighbourhood of Ondiep for another evening, the question remains of why such violent riots broke out on Monday in response to a shooting by police on Sunday.
Several neighbourhood residents spoke to the Volkskrant on Tuesday.
It is clear that there is more going on than just rage and sadness over the death of Rini Mulder, the 54-year-old man shot dead on Sunday. "They just don't do anything about the creeps that are ruining this neighbourhood," says resident Ali Kwarten. "That is frustration number one."
That was the case on Sunday as well, says the man talking with Kwarten. He had been friends with Mulder for "almost 30 years." They were involved in a fight on Sunday against a group of 20 young Dutch-Turks that were hanging about the streets. Rini Mulder had left the house determined to "teach a lesson" to the group hanging out there, playing loud music and intimidating local residents.
He says Rini put his hand in the air when police finally arrived. "But he wasn't threatening them. He wanted to indicate that it was he that had called police."
The officer thought he was being threatened and shot Mulder in the chest. "He should have shot into the air, the bastard," says Kwarten.
"Those cops don't know what they're doing," says Mulder's friend. "They never come when you need them. Just call 112 if things get serious, they say. It's obviously too late then."
The neighbourhood of Ondiep, with a primarily native Dutch population, has been designated by the state as a disadvantaged neighbourhood and there are urban renewal plans in the works that will result in the demolition of most of the homes. Many of the area residents have already moved out.
The neighbourhood is not enthusiastic about the renewal plans. They complain that the new homes planned for the area will be unaffordable for them. "They want richer people here in the neighbourhood," says Willem de Graaf, another resident.
"The neighbourhood is at a difficult point in the renewal," says Rinda den Besten, alderwoman for the neighbourhood." "One in three houses is standing empty at the moment, soon that will be two in three. The situation is going to last for a few months."
Den Besten admits that the neighbourhood will be a mess in the meantime. There is little social control, precisely the kind of situation that plays into the hands of the group that was hanging about the intersection of the Boerhaavelaan and the Thorbeckelaan on Sunday.
The Utrecht neighbourhood of Ondiep is to be sealed off to outsiders for a second night on Wednesday, following two nights of clashes between youths and riot police, a city council spokesman confirmed.
The area has been ringed with fences which will be pulled across all roads later today, closing the area to non-residents. At least 130 people were arrested on Tuesday following a number of incidents in both in the city centre and on the fringes of Ondiep.
Police said the arrests included a number of football supporters from FC Utrecht, Rotterdam’s Feyenoord and Amsterdam’s Ajax who had come to the city looking for trouble. Some 60 people were arrested in Ondiep itself for breaking the ban on public gatherings.
The trouble began on Monday following the arrest of two people when youths went on the rampage after a 54-year-old man was shot dead by police. The police officer said he had felt threatened by the man who had a knife.
However, local residents told TV reporters that the man himself had called for police help after being harassed by a gang of youths.
Ondiep is a largely white, working-class neighbourhood and is the focus of the city council’s urban renewal efforts. Mayor Annie Brouwer is to meet local people again this afternoon.
A police spokesman told ANP that the area will probably be kept under tight control until after Thursday’s march (stille tocht) in memory of the dead man.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods
on: March 14, 2007, 07:59:23 PM
9/11 MASTERMIND CONFESSES IN GUANTANAMO:
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, confessed to that attack and a string of others during a military hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a transcript released Wednesday by the Pentagon.
Mohammed claimed responsibility for planning, financing, and training others for bombings ranging from the 1993 attack at the World Trade Center to the attempt by would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with explosives hidden in his shoes.
In all, Mohammed said he was responsible for planning 29 individual attacks, including many that were never executed. The comments were included in a 26-page transcript released by the Pentagon, which also blacked out some of his remarks.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Native Americans
on: March 14, 2007, 07:57:12 PM
Decorated American Indian Veteran Dies
Associated Press | March 12, 2007
HARTFORD, Conn. - Billy Walkabout, a native Cherokee whose actions in Vietnam made him among most decorated Soldiers of the war, died March 7, his stepdaughter said Sunday. He was 57.
Walkabout received the Distinguished Service Cross, Purple Heart, five Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars. He was believed to be the most decorated Native American Soldier of the Vietnam War, according to U.S. Department of Defense reports.
Walkabout, who lived in Montville, died of pneumonia and renal failure at a Norwich hospital, said his stepdaughter, Randi Johnson of Norwich. He had experienced complications related to his exposure to the Agent Orange defoliant used during the Vietnam conflict, she said, and he had been on a kidney transplant waiting list and undergoing dialysis three times a week.
Walkabout, a Cherokee of the Blue Holley Clan, was an 18-year-old Army Ranger sergeant when he and 12 other Soldiers were sent on an assassination mission behind enemy lines on Nov. 20, 1968, in a region southwest of Hue. However, they ended up in the enemy's battalion area and came under fire for hours, during which he was seriously wounded. Several of the other 12 men were killed at the scene, while the rest later died of their injuries. Walkabout's citation for the Distinguished Service Cross said he simultaneously returned fire, helped his comrades and boarded other injured Soldiers onto evacuation helicopters.
"Although stunned and wounded by the blast, Sgt. Walkabout rushed from man to man administering first aid, bandaging one Soldier's severe chest wound and reviving another Soldier by heart massage," the citation states.
In a 1986 interview with The Associated Press, Walkabout said his 23 months in Vietnam left him with disabling injuries and memories that refused to fade.
"War is not hell," Walkabout said. "It's worse."
He said he struggled with failed marriages, thoughts of suicide and years of self-isolation when he would spend six months at a time alone. Over the years, however, he found solace in the Native American powwows where he often was an honored guest.
At the time of his death, Walkabout and his wife, Juanita Medbury-Walkabout, lived in a portion of eastern Connecticut that is home to many American Indian tribal members. His family is in the process of requesting a military burial at Arlington National Cemetery, Johnson said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters
on: March 14, 2007, 07:36:21 PM
The Asghari Case: Defection and Damage Control
March 14, 2007 19 52 GMT
By Fred Burton
Ali Reza Asghari, a former Iranian deputy defense minister and Pasdaran commander, went missing from Istanbul several weeks ago. After his disappearance -- which Turkish authorities say could have been as long ago as December but was not reported to them by Iran until early February -- Arab newspapers began to insinuate that Mossad and the CIA were responsible for having had him abducted or killed. These claims were echoed by Iranian officials. Last week, however, the Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat independent newspaper reported that Asghari had defected to the U.S. government while traveling in Turkey. This report was confirmed by the Washington Post, which quoted a senior U.S. intelligence official March 8 as saying Asghari was cooperating voluntarily -- and fully -- with Western intelligence agencies.
The United States and Iran have been locked in a covert "intelligence war" that has been raging for some time now. And, as in the Cold War, this war likely will involve the use of tactics ranging from assassinations and clandestine operations to propaganda, disinformation and the use of military proxies. Defectors and agents of influence also have been a feature of such wars in the past -- which brings us back to the Asghari case.
The significance of Asghari's disappearance stems entirely from his background. Not only did he serve as Iran's deputy defense minister under former President Mohammed Khatami, but he also is a retired general who was a commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the 1980s and 1990s. Therefore, the Iranians clearly have worried that he might be providing Western intelligence agencies with a wealth of information on the capabilities of the Iranian armed forces, and possibly helping to improve their understanding of the relationship between the IRGC (or "Pasdaran," in Farsi) and Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Iraqi Shiite groups such as the Mehdi Army and the Badr Brigade. Given his background, he also would be in a position to shed light on the Pasdaran's clandestine abilities abroad and perhaps identify other Iranian intelligence officers. In other words, Asghari could prove an important (and timely) catch for U.S. intelligence, especially if he had been working with the United States as an "agent in place" for a long period.
In an intelligence war -- or just at routine levels of good old-fashioned espionage -- the defection of a figure like Asghari can prove useful in more ways than one. To understand this case and its potential twists and turns a bit better, let's take a look at the definitions and specific stages of the intelligence process surrounding defections: vetting, extraction and debriefings.
To begin at the beginning, a "defector" is a person who abandons allegiance to one country in order to serve another. Like other intelligence sources, there are two basic types of defectors: those who are sought, or recruited, and those who volunteer.
Sources who are recruited are approached by intelligence agencies because they are in a certain position in government or society and have access to what is deemed important information. They are people who can provide the information to satisfy key intelligence requirements. While some sources might leave their native countries soon after being recruited, there have been many cases when it was found, after defection, that the person had worked as either an agent in place or an "agent of influence" -- someone who can help to shape government policy, public opinion or even military decisions -- for the recruiting country. Such agents can stay in place for years before "coming in from the cold," or physically defecting, to the recruiting country.
Well-positioned agents in place provide unique insight into the thinking, mindset and planning of the leadership of the government on which they have been spying. They provide crucial insight that cannot be gathered through technical means. In other words, you can use technology to take a picture of a man or listen to his telephone conversations, but those things might not provide you with information or even very good clues about his thoughts and plans. That kind of information comes only from human sources with the right access.
The second type of defector, the one who volunteers, is called a "walk-in" -- because, frequently, they literally do walk into the embassy or consulate of a foreign country and volunteer their services. Walk-ins are problematic because they often appear when they are least expected; therefore, intelligence-gathering operations involving walk-ins are often hectic affairs that must be quickly conceived and implemented. Furthermore, if the person who walks in is not careful, their very presence at a foreign embassy can out them to the host country's counterintelligence forces (which can be expected to be monitoring the embassy). That makes it difficult to retain a walk-in as an agent in place, and adds to the challenges of getting him out of the country when needed for an in-depth debriefing. However, it can be done: CIA officer Aldrich Ames was a walk-in to the Soviet Embassy in Washington but the KGB (and its successor, the FSB) managed to work him as an agent in place for nearly 10 years before he was detected and arrested.
A highly placed source like Ames is a dream come true for an intelligence officer -- and the worst nightmare for a counterintelligence service.
Vetting the source -- to affirm whether he or she is genuine -- is an important part of all espionage recruitment operations, and defectors are not excepted from this rule. Many walk-ins turn out to be "fabricators," "dangles" (people sent into the embassy in an order to identify the nondeclared intelligence officers stationed there) or "double agents" (those who appear to be defectors but who actually are used to spread disinformation and to determine how the opponent's intelligence service functions). While there is not much danger of a source who is targeted for recruitment being a fabricator, there is a danger of that person being a dangle, or a double agent. Vetting of both the source and the information provided by the source is essentially a continuous process; the defector will be closely monitored (and subjected to polygraph exams) throughout his period of employment.
Once a spy has been identified, recruited and initially vetted -- and found to be of value -- the intelligence service must determine the best way to use that person. As noted, the source might be left in place to collect additional information, or whisked out of the country for a debriefing. Either way, the source must eventually be extracted from the country in a clandestine fashion. This extraction process is sometimes called an "exfiltration" -- the opposite of an infiltration.
While some extractions can be dramatic, not all of them are Hollywood productions involving submarines and special operations forces. Because such operations are not only dangerous but also costly, they are carried out only under extreme circumstances. Most extractions are intended to be far more low-key: Quite often, the sneakiest way to commit an operational act is to do it in a mundane fashion, in plain sight. Therefore, it is far more common for defectors to leave their home countries under the ruse of taking a vacation or, as with Asghari, for business reasons. (That said, people are still occasionally smuggled out of embassy parking garages in the trunks of a cars.)
Time is an important consideration in extractions: Generally, the more time one has to plan and execute an extraction, the smoother and more low-key it will be. Location is also critical. Getting a person out of an open society is much easier than getting them out of a repressive society with strict travel regulations.
Once a defector gets to a third country for "vacation" or to "attend a conference," they can be picked up and spirited away. But again, time is a critical factor: If a person is watched closely by his government and cannot stray far from a security officer, or "minder," those planning the extraction will have significantly less time to operate than they otherwise would. Once the defector is in custody, he can be furnished with false documentation and secreted away in much the same way a subject is in an extraordinary rendition. In fact, much of the U.S. government's expertise in handling renditions was derived from its operations to extract defectors.
It is even easier if the third country is friendly to the extracting country. For instance, in the Asghari case, Turkey is known to cooperate with U.S. intelligence and the presence of (heavily trafficked) U.S. air bases in the country would make it quite simple to get a defector from a third country out of Turkey without being detected.
Debriefing a defector can be a lengthy process that often involves specialists from a number of government agencies. In the case of Asghari, the team likely would include members from the Defense Intelligence Agency and Special Operations Command (given Asghari's military background), and the FBI and State Department, since he might have historical information regarding Iranian-sponsored attacks by Hezbollah and other proxies, and perhaps even information pertaining to future attacks.
During the course of a debriefing, the defector would be given a complete medical and psychological exam. The psychological team often can provide important guidance on the defector's psyche and on the best approaches to use in debriefing that person -- and, just as important, subjects to raise and pitfalls to avoid.
Vetting is as important during the debriefing as in other stages of the process. This not only helps to determine if the defector is a double agent, but also can be useful in determining when the defector has run out of useful information. (At this stage, many sources will begin to fabricate information in an effort to make themselves appear to be of lasting value.) The defector likely will endure several polygraph examinations during this phase. The host country's reaction to the defection also will be factored in to the vetting equation, and other sources will be tasked to determine whether he was a double agent.
Once the defector has been completely debriefed, he probably will be resettled and employed by the government as a consultant -- someone authorities can turn to in the future with questions about personalities and events relevant to his background. He also might lead training classes and seminars to teach U.S. and allied personnel about the organization and operations of his former agency.
Of course, given the value of an asset like Asghari, the intelligence services of numerous U.S. allies undoubtedly are clamoring for information from him, and even seeking access in order to conduct their own debriefings.
With the United States and Iran already engaged in an intelligence war, the defection of a figure like Asghari doubtless has provided Washington with a windfall of information regarding the Iranian defense establishment and Pasdaran. However, the Iranian reaction to the defection also could provide an opportunity to gather even more intelligence -- especially if Washington had the time to pre-position additional surveillance assets.
This, by the way, is very likely the reason Iranian authorities did not report Asghari's disappearance to the Turkish government for several weeks. Regardless of whether the defector was thought to be already in enemy hands, Tehran would have wanted to keep its reaction as low-key as possible and information about Asghari's disappearance away from a "hostile" (meaning U.S.-allied) intelligence service until Iranian officials had a handle on the situation.
From the U.S. perspective, the immediate follow-on questions and responses would have followed a set pattern. For instance, Washington would be monitoring Iranian diplomatic and intelligence traffic carefully. How was Asghari's disappearance reported internally? Who did the Iranians contact in Istanbul and Ankara? Were messages sent out to other Iranian missions in Europe or in New York? Have diplomats received any sudden recall orders?
Physically, the United States would use surveillance teams against the Iranian diplomats in Turkey to determine such things as: Who went looking for Asghari? Who in the Turkish government did the Iranians meet with? Did they mobilize any Iranian businessmen or students to assist their search? Such things could provide valuable insight into the Iranian intelligence network in Turkey.
In the wake of the defection, the United States and others doubtless have been watching for other sudden and unexpected departures of personnel from Iranian diplomatic missions worldwide. Such departures could indicate that an officer is with the Pasdaran or another intelligence agency that the leadership in Tehran believes might have been compromised by Asghari.
The Iranians will have to do a thorough damage-control investigation to determine every secret to which Asghari had access. They most assuredly will downplay the significance of Washington's intelligence score by making public claims that Asghari was of minimal importance and had no access to current information. However, in the end, the most crucial question Tehran will need to answer is, "How long has Asghari been working for the Americans?"
If the answer is "a long time," the damage to Iran's national security could be enormous.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: March 14, 2007, 07:33:29 PM
Iraqi Energy: What Might Work
A newly announced Royal Dutch/Shell consortium is likely to launch Iraq's first post-Hussein energy project.
Energy supermajor Royal Dutch/Shell announced March 14 that it has formed a consortium with a number of Turkish energy firms to bid on natural gas projects in Iraq, with the intent of building a natural gas line from Iraqi Kurdistan to Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan. With Iraq's new oil law edging toward realization, this Shell consortium will likely be the first to launch a successful major energy project in post-Hussein Iraq.
Of the many obstacles to an Iraqi energy renaissance, the most significant are:
The ongoing insurgency that attacks petroleum infrastructure. In the north those attacks cluster around the Sunni Arab city of Baiji, through which all energy output for the Kurdish regions flows.
Turkish opposition to anything that grants the Kurds additional power. Turkey fears that an economically viable, politically coherent Iraqi Kurdistan could spark separatist tendencies among its own -- and far larger -- Kurdish population.
The unwillingness of the world's supermajors to jump into an insurgent-wracked, politically shattered Iraq, where investment would exist in a legal vacuum.
Because it avoids two of these problems, the new consortium will most likely prove to be the first big success project.
First, the project does not aim to tap existing infrastructure but instead export natural gas -- not oil -- north to Turkey. Though the new pipeline will parallel the often-bombed Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline, it will only do so for the length that runs on Turkish territory. Shell and its partners will construct the line to avoid Baiji and take a more direct route to the Turkish border that runs exclusively through insurgent-free, and relatively well-patrolled, Iraqi Kurdistan. Incidentally, Saddam Hussein built the oil pipeline through Baiji specifically to frustrate any Kurdish efforts to attain autonomy.
Second, the Turks are involved from the get-go and at a state level. Turkey's energy minister himself has hinted that he has taken part in the negotiations and the most likely partners for Shell are two state companies: oil company Turkiye Petrolleri and pipeline firm Botas. This deal explicitly has involved Ankara directly in the decision making. Additionally, the natural gas will be flowing to Turkey directly, so not only will Turkey be economically benefiting from the deal, it will have legal, economic, political and geographic control over its success. Turkey might still consider grinding the Kurds into dust to be the best option, but barring that, full control over the Kurds' economic fortunes is a close second. Ironically, the deal paves the way for an awkward codependence between the Turks (who will use the natural gas) and the Kurds (who will sell it).
That just leaves the issue of supermajor tentativeness. With the first two issues addressed, Shell seems far more willing to take the plunge, and it certainly sports the technology, experience and capital to make the deal successful. Now the only obstacle remaining is for the Kurds and the rest of the Iraqis to hammer out a final oil law. Though that task is both gargantuan and complex and is not to be belittled, it does not diminish the likelihood that the Shell-led consortium will be Iraq's best bet for a successful and substantial energy project.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: March 14, 2007, 06:46:46 PM
Second post of the day:
AFGHANISTAN/RUSSIA: Afghanistan is interested in cooperating with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and in purchasing arms from Russia, RIA Novosti reported, citing CSTO officials. After completing a three-day trip to Kabul, members of the CSTO -- comprised of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- said representatives from Afghanistan spoke unanimously on cooperation and joint initiatives to stem terrorism and drug trafficking in the region.
I have often wondered what would happen to our strategy if Musharef were to fall/be killed. Do Pak's nukes/nuke tech fall into AQ/Taliban hands? Things are looking grimmer for Gen M. This piece from today's Financial Times of London looks at the situation more closely than the usual US enemedia.
This article from todays FT is pertinent to your discussion.
Pakistanis fall out of love with Musharraf
By Jo Johnson andFarhan Bokhari
Published: March 14 2007 02:00 | Last updated: March 14 2007 02:00
In the boardrooms of Karachi, Pakistan's commercial hub, multinationals
are grimly reassessing the "key man risk" line of their business plans.
Throughout the country's history, no military ruler has left power
General Zia ul-Haq died in a mysterious aircraft crash in 1988. Field
Marshal Ayub Khan was drummed out of office in 1969 by protests that
paralysed the country, as was General Yahya Khan after Pakistan's
humiliating defeat in the 1971 war with India.
General Pervez Musharraf, the current president, looks unlikely to be an
exception to the rule. Seven years after he seized power in a bloodless
coup, diplomats say he needs a credible exit strategy of his own.
The honeymoon that followed the 1999 coup, based on relief at an end to
venal party politics, is coming to an end.
Yesterday saw intensified nationwide protests against Gen Musharraf's
decisionto suspend Pakistan's chief justice. The move was seen as a
flagrant attempt to pack the Supreme Court with pliable allies ahead of
expectedlegal challenges to his plans to have himself re-elected
president-in-uniform later this year.
At the same time, US lawmakers have weakened Gen Musharraf by demanding
that aid to Pakistan be made conditional on his doing more to crack down
on Taliban forces sheltering in lawless tribal areas along the Afghan
border, and by pushing for democratic reform.
Analysts said that for Gen Musharraf to push troops back into Taliban
strongholds in tribal areas, from which they were withdrawn in a
controversial agreement with local leaders last August, could lead to
such bloodshed that the military might impose full martial law on Pakistan.
While the Pakistani street may be awakening, big business, for the
moment at least, remains overwhelmingly supportive of Gen Musharraf,
whose seven years in power have seen some of the fastest growth in the
"All governments in the past in Pakistan have spoken of privatisation,
but Musharraf has actually implemented it in a systematic way. It has
taken real political will," said H. Reza-ur-Rahim, JPMorgan's
Karachi-based head of investment banking in Pakistan.
"Investors want continuity and political stability. They do not want to
see too much change."
The head of a big international pharmaceutical group said: "The worst
outcome for Pakistan would be a situation where the political parties
exploit the situation and come out on to the street. The rhetoric from
the US in recent days has even alienated liberals in Pakistan.
"How can we have a longstanding relationship with the US based on them
threatening to take out a big stick? . . . No government can be seen as
weak externally and hope to command respect internally," he said.
Islamist politicians said much of their support was based on surging
anti-Americanism. The situation was made worse by Gen Musharraf's
"revelation" in his autobiography that Richard Armitage, the former US
deputy secretary of state, had threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the
Stone Age" if Islamabad failed to help avenge the September 11 2001 attacks.
"Musharraf is associated with America. For ourpeople, US policies are
anchored against Muslims in many countries," said Hafiz Hussain Ahmed, a
leader of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of six Islamist parties.
Analysts said that the MMA, which has a share in power in two of
Pakistan's four provinces, would find it easier to harness
anti-Musharraf and anti-US opinion if Pakistan's ruling generals
continued to refuse to allow Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, the
leaders of the two main opposition parties, to return from exile.
More destabilising for Gen Musharraf would be a decision by Washington
and its allies to take unilateral action against Taliban forces living
in Pakistani tribal areas.
Western diplomats said that such a scenario, which could trigger a
revolt against Gen Musharraf in the army, was "extremely unlikely".
"Slagging off Pakistan in public is not the best way to solve this
problem," said one western diplomat.
"The US needs Pakistanas a partner in fightingal-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Whatever they do, theywill be at great pains to doit with the support
Even though the temperature is rising in Islamabad, few expect Gen
Musharrafto leave the political scene soon. If he were to do so, the
line of succession, in the short term, seems clear.
General Ahsan Saleem Hayat, an officer with pro-western credentials who
has been the target of assassination attempts by militant groups, would
take over the military.
Mohammad Mian Soomro, chairman of the Senate, would become president.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People
on: March 14, 2007, 12:35:33 PM
Second Amendment Showdown
By TED CRUZ
March 14, 2007; Page A14
Last week's decision, striking down the District of Columbia's ban on guns as unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, flowed directly from the text, history and original understanding of the Constitution. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit's decision rejected the Ninth Circuit's "collective rights" theory and embraced instead the Fifth Circuit's holding that the Second Amendment protects individual rights. In so doing, the D.C. Circuit took a major step forward in protecting the rights of gun owners throughout the country.
In some ways, the decision should not be at all noteworthy or surprising. After all, the text of the Second Amendment explicitly protects "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms," and the D.C. gun ban amounted to a complete and total prohibition on citizens owning operational firearms in the District of Columbia. The challenged city ordinances prohibit the private possession of all handguns and also require that all long guns (i.e., rifles and shotguns) be disassembled or have trigger locks in place at all times. This latter requirement has no exceptions -- so that even if a violent crime is underway in your home, removing the trigger lock in self-defense or in defense of your family constitutes a crime.
No state in the union has a prohibition as draconian. Indeed, the constitutions of 44 states, like the federal Constitution, explicitly protect the individual right to keep and bear arms, and the legislatures of all 50 states are united in their rejection of bans on private handgun ownership. Forty-five states go even further, allowing private citizens to carry concealed handguns for self-defense.
So how is it that the District of Columbia could be so out of step with the rest of the nation and nonetheless arguably comply with the requirements of the Second Amendment? The answer that the federal district court seized upon -- like an earlier ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California -- is a theory popularized recently by several law professors and gun-control advocates: Because the Second Amendment refers to "a well regulated Militia," the Constitution protects only the "collective right" of the militia and not the individual right of any citizen.
This creative theory, useful for advancing the policy goals of its advocates, runs contrary to the text of the Constitution, to the debates and original understanding of the Framers, to Supreme Court precedent, and to the widespread understanding of state courts and legislatures for the first 150 years of our nation's history. At the time of the founding, the "militia" was understood to consist of all able-bodied males armed with their own weapons; indeed, the Militia Act of 1792 not only permitted individual gun ownership, it required every man to "provide himself with a good musket or firelock . . . or with a good rifle."
If the "collective rights" theory were to prevail, the result would be that no individual in the U.S. could ever claim any right under the Second Amendment, but rather that inchoate right would exist only collectively and amorphously for state militias. Such an outcome effectively reads out of the Constitution what respected law professor Sanford Levinson famously described as, from the perspective of anti-gun advocates, that "embarrassing Second Amendment."
Because the "collective rights" theory is unfaithful to the Constitution and undermines the individual rights of all Americans, Texas took the lead among the states in supporting the plaintiffs in the D.C. gun suit. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott assembled a collation of 13 states (Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah and Wyoming) who together supported the Second Amendment, and the amici states presented oral argument in the D.C. Circuit in the companion case to this one defending the individual right to keep and bear arms.
Notably, every state, including Texas, believes that some regulations on firearms are both permissible and advisable; for example, the states are united in supporting restrictions on violent felons owning guns. But all of the amici states are likewise united in the belief that the Second Amendment means what it says, that the individual right to keep and bear arms cannot be completely abrogated as under the D.C. gun ban.
The District of Columbia has pledged to appeal, and this case could well find its way before the U.S. Supreme Court. If so, Texas and the rest of the amici states stand ready once again to support the Second Amendment, and we are confident that the Court will in turn faithfully uphold the individual constitutional rights of all Americans.
Mr. Cruz is the solicitor general of Texas. He authored two briefs and presented oral argument for the amici states supporting the Second Amendment in the D.C. Circuit.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy
on: March 14, 2007, 12:33:30 PM
VLAD'S NEW BAD
By RALPH PETERS
March 14, 2007 -- AN old joke runs that even paranoids have enemies. But what can we make of the quasi-dictator of a middleweight state who insists on making enemies of those who'd hoped to be his country's friends?
Russian President Vladimir Putin reminds me of the old Soviet Inturist organization: Instead of figuring out how to make a thousand bucks from happy tourists tomorrow, Inturist went to absurd extremes to squeeze an extra fiver out of disgruntled visitors immediately.
Putin just can't wait to restore Russia's great power status. Good luck. Great powers don't exist in isolation. Rather than building useful alliances, Putin has frightened his neighbors into closer relations with NATO and the West, alienated Europeans who longed to hug him - and made even the most gullible Americans wary.
Putin is a classic bully who aches to beat the pocket money out of the class wimp, who judges the entire world by the size of its biceps. He just can't get beyond his KGB past. To him, strategy is a zero-sum game and everybody secretly wants to harm Russia.
In fact, no country in recent history enjoyed as much foreign good will as Russia did after the Soviet Union dissolved. And no country has made more stupid decisions that appalled those who sincerely wanted to help.
If he sees enemies everywhere (and he does), Putin's also impatient and clumsy, though he thinks he's wonderfully clever. For all his icy exterior, he's a calculating, short-sighted peasant out of Gogol. His recent rant at a defense symposium in Germany only reminded the Europeans that the United States really isn't all that bad.
Instead of waiting to completely addict Europe to Russia's natural-gas supplies, he turned off the flow to Ukraine and then Georgia in fits of political pique - interrupting European supplies in the first instance. And leftist posturing is one thing, but no French café philosopher or German professor wants his heat turned off in mid-winter.
Oh, and Russia's selling arms to Iran's mullahs, Syria's Baathists and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
Brilliant move, Vlad. You're really betting on the all-stars.
The Kremlin's also encouraging Serbia to take a hard line against formal independence for Kosovo. Belgrade's been there and done that, but Serbs, like Russian bureacrats, tend to be slow learners.
Thanks for getting the Balkans stirred up again, Vlad. Maybe Russian troops can replay the atrocity-riddled Chechnya war?
The only bright spot is that Russia has stopped supplying nuclear fuel for Iran's reactors. Officially, it's about Tehran's failure to make on-time payments, but it appears that somebody finally showed Vlad a map and pointed out that Russian territory lies within slingshot range of Iran. And Persians and Russians haven't always been pals.
Domestically, Putin has censored the media, staged purge trials of businessmen whose politics he didn't like, hounded out western investors, murdered journalists and dissidents (abroad, as well), done his best to turn the new Russia into a besotted, AIDS-ridden mockery of an Arab oil sheikhdom, moved to stifle academic freedom and generally made a joke of his country's fledgling democracy.
The latest phase in the Kremlin's campaign to restrict political freedom came in the build-up to last Sunday's regional elections. In an Orwellian move, Putin's henchmen built a tame opposition party, Fair Russia, that's allowed to politely criticize certain policies, but whose real purpose is to draw off votes from the old political left, especially the Communists, and to hasten the demise of the half-strangled liberal parties.
Putin does want a two-party system - with his cabal controlling both parties.
Conditioned to do what the czar desires, Russians went for it. Preliminary results show that Putin's United Russia garnered almost two-thirds of the vote, while Putin's Fair Russia finished about even with the Communists, undercutting their base.
Putin isn't a Communist - but, then, neither were any of his predecessors: Russia has always been ruled by autocrats, and one starts to suspect it always will be.
The dream of a free Russia is over. Vladimir Putin destroyed it as we watched, sucking our thumbs (to put it politely). The best for which we now can hope is that, once the Kremlin's done killing democracy, it won't start killing masses of human beings again.
Ralph Peters' latest book is "Never Quit The Fight."