Thursday, December 31, 2009
By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN and MALKHADIR M. MUHUMED, Associated Press Writers Mohamed Olad Hassan And Malkhadir M. Muhumed, Associated Press Writers 1 hr 55 mins ago
MOGADISHU, Somalia – In a setback for U.S. investigators probing links to the attempted attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, a Somali official said Thursday that another suspect who tried to board a plane with chemicals already had been freed.
His release earlier this month will hamper efforts to learn if the incident in Mogadishu was linked to the attempted attack against the U.S.-bound plane on Christmas Day. Terrorism analysts had said the arrest in Somalia could prove highly valuable to the U.S. investigation.
Somali Police Commissioner Gen. Ali Hassan Loyan said a Somali court released the suspect Dec. 12 after ruling that officials hadn't demonstrated he intended to commit a crime. The man, whose name has not been released, said the chemicals were for processing camera film.
In light of the attempted attack on the Detroit-bound plane, Loyan said Somali authorities would share information and the confiscated materials with U.S. officials.
"Somalia's federal government affirms that it is ready to double its cooperation with the countries in the world, particularly with America, for it is clear that the incident that happened in Mogadishu and the one that happened in a region in America are similar," Loyan told a news conference in the Somali capital.
The Somali case drew little attention before the attempted attack on the U.S.-bound plane. The Homeland Security Department did not learn of the November incident at Mogadishu's international airport until Wednesday, when U.S. officials began investigating for links between it and the Detroit case.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said Wednesday that linking the case to the Christmas attack "would be speculative at this point."
A Nairobi-based diplomat, though, said the incident has similarities to the attempted attack on the Detroit-bound plane. The Somali was said to have a syringe, liquid and powdered chemicals — tools similar to those used by the Nigerian suspect on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.
The Somali suspect was arrested by African Union peacekeeping troops before boarding the Daallo Airlines plane bound for the northern Somali city of Hargeisa. The plane was then headed to Djibouti and Dubai. Officials on Wednesday said he was arrested Nov. 13; Loyan said he was arrested Nov. 6. The reason for the discrepancy wasn't clear.
A Somali security official involved in the Mogadishu arrest said the suspect had a 1-kilogram (2.2-pound) package of chemical powder and a container of liquid chemicals, items that Loyan displayed on Thursday.
A government-appointed expert concluded that the materials could not have brought down the commercial airliner. Loyan said the expert did conclude though that the materials were a danger to the aircraft.
For the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly hid explosive PETN in a condom or condom-like bag just below his torso. In the Somali case, the powdered material smelled strongly of ammonia.
Michael Stock, the president of Bancroft, an organization that advises AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping force in Mogadishu, said after officials discovered the chemical materials on the Somali suspect the materials were provided for analysis to Western embassy officials involved in supporting AMISOM.
U.S. investigators say Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian suspect held in the Detroit case, told them he received training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen, which Western officials say is a jumping-off point for foreign fighters slipping into Somalia. Large swaths of Somalia are controlled by an al-Qaida-linked insurgent group, al-Shabab.
Abdulmutallab is charged with trying to destroy an aircraft. U.S. authorities allege he tried to ignite a two-part concoction of PETN and possibly a glycol-based liquid explosive, setting off popping, smoke and some fire but no deadly detonation.
If the Somali suspect was planning anything similar, it wasn't known what his specific target might have been. Most passengers on Daallo's Mogadishu route are Somali. The carrier's Web site calls it the national airline of Somalia's neighbor, Djibouti.
Some 1,800 U.S. troops are stationed in Djibouti, while Dubai would offer the greatest range of West-bound flights along the route in question.
New research finds that the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide has not increased either during the past 150 years or during the most recent five decades, contrary to some recent studies.
(ScienceDaily (Dec. 31, 2009) —
Most of the carbon dioxide emitted by human activity does not remain in the atmosphere, but is instead absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems. In fact, only about 45 percent of emitted carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere.
However, some studies have suggested that the ability of oceans and plants to absorb carbon dioxide recently may have begun to decline and that the airborne fraction of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions is therefore beginning to increase.
Many climate models also assume that the airborne fraction will increase. Because understanding of the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide is important for predicting future climate change, it is essential to have accurate knowledge of whether that fraction is changing or will change as emissions increase.
To assess whether the airborne fraction is indeed increasing, Wolfgang Knorr of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol reanalyzed available atmospheric carbon dioxide and emissions data since 1850 and considers the uncertainties in the data.
In contradiction to some recent studies, he finds that the airborne fraction of carbon dioxide has not increased either during the past 150 years or during the most recent five decades.
The research is published in Geophysical Research Letters.
A 14-year-old boy in the tribal region of Bajaur, in north-west Pakistan, says he was detained by Taliban forces who tried to turn him into a suicide bomber. The boy is now in army hands.
He provided a detailed account to BBC correspondent Orla Guerin. His story cannot be independently verified.
There were five people who came after me from a place in Bajaur. They tricked me. They told me they were going to behead my father.
I went with them but my father wasn't there. They tied me up.
They said: 'You have two choices. We will behead you, or you will become a suicide bomber.' I refused.
There were two more guys of my age. They were also training to be suicide bombers. If we refused they would tie our hands behind our backs, blindfold us and start beating us.
They brainwashed us and told us we would go to heaven. They said 'there will be honey and juice and God will appear in front of you. You will have a beautiful house in Heaven'.
We used to ask them to let us out to pray. They would reply 'you are already on your way to heaven. You don't need to pray.'
They beat me hard for five days. I wasn't given any food. While they were beating me I agreed to become a suicide bomber. They separated me from the other boys.
They took me to a dark room and started giving me pills. I was handed over to Maulvi Fakir [the Bajaur Taliban commander]. After all this preparation they said I was to go and do the job in a mosque.
“ Before the Taliban came we used to enjoy freedom. We used to play, and go to our schools ”
It was an ordinary mosque but the cleric there used to talk against the Taliban, and they declared him their enemy. They told me the cleric was a non-believer, a non-Muslim.
They took off my shirt and put the jacket on my shoulders. There were two hooks on my chest. They told me that when you go there you say 'Allahu Akbar' [God is Great] and then you pull apart these two hooks. Then they took me there, showed me the mosque and went off.
I was drugged and I couldn't feel anything. I only came to my senses when I arrived in the mosque. I saw the peaceful kind face of the cleric, and I saw the mosque was full of holy books. I saw the people praying. And I thought, they are all Muslims. How can I do this? I decided not to and I came out.
I sat under a tree outside the mosque and waited for prayers to be over. After that I made my way back to the Taliban. Then they called me 'a son of a bitch' and asked why I had come back without doing it.
I told them I could not do it because they were carrying out body searches of all the people entering the mosque. They took off my vest and handed me over to Maulvi Fakir.
They tied me up but I told them to give me another chance and I would do it. They trusted me. I was roaming around with them for a couple of days. I got to the road, found transport and came home. They followed me to my house. They wanted to know if I was still there or had run somewhere else.
The Taliban had beaten me so harshly my back was scarred. When my parents saw that my mother started to cry, and told me not to go back to them. My father asked them why they were after his son. One day he took his weapon and went after them. But they wanted to kill him so he came back home and closed the door.
Before the Taliban came we used to enjoy freedom. We used to play, and go to our schools. There were no restrictions on us. Morning and evening we used to play games, and sit and chat with friends. We used to listen to music on our mobile phones. They banned that. They stopped us doing anything. They stopped us playing cricket and going to school. We felt like prisoners.
I want to join the army because they are the defenders of the land. They are fighting for the right cause. I want to fight against the Taliban. I have no other intention except to defend my country. The Taliban should be eliminated.
I want to tell the Taliban that they are cruel, and what they did to me was unjust. I can't kill innocent Muslims.
I am not afraid of them. I am only afraid of God. I am answerable only to Him.
(Hat tip: David's Medienkritik)
• Hostage released after two years• Shia cleric freed as part of deal• Aid money at heart of abduction
GuardianFilms has exclusively uncovered the story of what happened to the five Britons kidnapped in Iraq Link to this video
The five British men kidnapped in Iraq were taken in an operation led and masterminded by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, according to evidence uncovered during an extensive investigation by the Guardian.
The men – including Peter Moore, who was released today after more than two years in captivity – were taken to Iran within a day of their kidnap from a government ministry building in Baghdad in 2007, several senior sources in Iraq and Iran have told the Guardian.
They were incarcerated in prisons run by the al-Quds force, a unit that specialises in foreign operations on behalf of the Iranian government.
One of the kidnappers has told this paper that three of the Britons – Jason Creswell, Jason Swindlehurst and Alec Maclachlan – were subsequently killed after the British government refused to take ransom demands seriously.
Last night it emerged that part of the deal that led to the release of Moore involved the handing over of a young Shia cleric, Qais al-Khazali, a leading figure in the Righteous League, which emerged in 2006 and stayed largely in the shadows as a proxy of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's elite unit, the al-Quds forces. Khazali was last night handed over by the US military for release by the Iraqi government.
The year-long Guardian investigation can also reveal that:
• Moore was targeted because he was installing a system that would show how a vast amount of international aid was diverted to Iran's militia groups in Iraq.
• The bodyguards' bodies were eventually traded for the release of Iraqi prisoners.
• They had probably been dead for at least 18 months before three of their bodies were handed over earlier this year.
Moore, 37, a computer expert from Lincoln, and the four security guards were taken on 29 May 2007 from the Iraqi ministry of finance's technology centre in Baghdad. He had been a contractor working to install sophisticated software in the ministry to track down billions of dollars in international aid and oil revenues.
A group of up to 100 men entered the building and took the Britons, racing off into Baghdad traffic in a fleet of Toyota Land Cruisers. A sixth man – who the Guardian can reveal was Peter Donkin – was left by the kidnappers after he managed to hide under floorboards.
A former Iranian Revolutionary Guard member, speaking to this paper under condition of anonymity, said the extraordinary kidnap was masterminded by Iran. The man, a former major who worked for 14 years inside the Iranian organisation and claims to have taken part in kidnap operations himself, believes the hostages were held in two al-Quds camps in Iran – one known as Qasser Shiereen military camp, close to the Iraqi border crossing with Mehran, and a second camp known as the Tehran Pars, located near a salt lake north-east of Qom.
"It was an Iranian kidnap, led by the Revolutionary Guard, carried out by the al-Quds force," he said. "My contact works for al-Quds. He took part in the planning of the kidnap and he watched the kidnapping as it was taking place. He told me that they spent two days at the Qasser Shiereen camp. They then took them deep inside Iran."
This claim is backed up by a serving Iraqi minister with close links to Iran. "This was an IRG [Iranian Revolutionary Guard] operation," he said. "You don't think for a moment that those militia groups from Sadr City could have carried out a high-level kidnapping like this one."
A former intelligence chief at the Iraqi ministry of defence has also described to the Guardian how intelligence operatives followed the kidnappers as they took the hostages from a mosque in Baghdad's Sadr City to the Iranian border. "They were hooded and handcuffed, then the cars drove off in a new direction – they were headed towards the Iranian border," the intelligence chief said.
While the hostages were in Iran the kidnappers made sure those who took care of them were Iraqi nationals. "At all times they were surrounded by Iraqi voices. Everything was done to make sure they had no idea they were in Iran," said an Iranian source with knowledge of the kidnap.
The other Britons captured with Moore were all security guards. The bodies of Swindlehurst and Creswell were identified in June, followed by Maclachlan in September. McMenemy is also believed dead, although his body has not been returned. It is not clear where the men were killed. Their bodies were buried inside Iraq and information about their locations was traded for prisoner releases.
A Guardian report in July revealed evidence that Iraqi officials colluded in the kidnap of the five, and that one motive was to prevent millions of dollars of aid money from being tracked – including an estimated $18bn that had gone missing.
A former senior Iraqi intelligence chief claims the project Moore was working on would have laid bare exactly where all Iraq's money was going. He claims there was an Iranian link to the alleged financial cover-up. The Foreign Office said last night: "We have no evidence that the British hostages, including Peter Moore, were held in Iran. We are not in a position to say with any certainty where they were held during each and every single day."
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
The real situation in Iran is not the way it is being portrayed in the Western media. It is not a fight over ideology. Rather, it is a battle between rival economic elites, the old one led by the regime’s second most influential cleric, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and the emerging one led by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rafsanjani and his reformist allies (former President Mohammed Khatami, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and former Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi) have been losing ground to the Ahmadinejad camp, and their businesses have been suffering.
Rafsanjani has been using his vast network outside the country to counter the growing power of Ahmadinejad at home. Because of the 30-year-old sanctions, the regime has had to develop international partners to engage in trade overseas. All those contacts were developed by Rafsanjani and he continues to control them. Ahmadinejad, since he has come to power, has tried to develop his own contacts for doing business with the outside world. Rafsanjani, through his associates outside the country, has provided the information on the people and groups that Ahmadinejad has been working with to U.S. and British intelligence in order to block outside deals. In response, Ahmadinejad has made it difficult for his opponents to get loans from banks at home.
This is the real fight, and the old elites are trying to retain the special privileges they have enjoyed for years. Both sides need to be able to reach a compromise over who controls which monopoly (meat, sugar, rice, copper, iron, etc). But for this they need to be honest about the fact that both sides have economic interests they seek to protect, and must reach a negotiated settlement that entails a divvying-up of the control over resources. The problem is that they can’t admit this publicly because they would lose all credibility as the religious guardians of the Islamic republic.
By Joe Gimenez
Americans went on binges buying guns and ammunition in early 2009, worried that a radical leftist president and Democrat-dominated Congress would violate their Second-Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. The effects? Less murder, robbery, rape, and property crime, according to an FBI report released Monday. This gives the young president and Democrat Congress at least one proud but unintended accomplishment for which they'll never claim credit.
Indeed, gun buyers were out in droves in late 2008 and early 2009. While it's easy to infer that increased gun ownership figures align precisely with the drop in crime in the same calendar period, you won't see that headline in the New York Times, despite their penchant for such inferences about increases in crime coinciding with increasing "guns on the street."
The gun-buying started shortly before, and then took off after, Obama's election. The Toronto Star reported a 15% increase of 108,000 more FBI background checks in October 2008 than during the same month in 2007. People were already anticipating the dire consequences of an Obama victory. Then, in November 2008, the number of FBI background checks on applicants buying guns spiked 42% from the previous year. The FBI performed 12.7 million background checks in 2008, compared to 11.2 million in 2007, a 13% increase.
More evidence of rampant gun-buying loads up in the states. Through June 2009, the Texas Department of Public Safety received a monthly average of 12,700 applications for concealed handgun licenses, up 46% from the average in 2007. Even the New York Times noted how gun sales were up in 2009; in a June story, it focused on its less sophisticated neighbors in New Jersey. Even in liberal Massachusetts, gun permits surged 15% over the last two years (after falling several years before that).
While background checks and applications for concealed handgun licenses don't directly equate to the number of new guns on the street -- some applicants are refused, and applications can include multiple guns at the same time of purchase -- the numbers do indicate that more law-abiding Americans had new or enhanced arms in the first six months of 2009. Most criminals don't subject themselves to background checks.
(This is a good place to note that "new guns on the street" is just a liberal scare cliché we should not carelessly adopt. These statistics indicate the real dynamic: gun purchases and concealed licenses acquisitions are made predominantly by law-abiding citizens taking their guns home with them from the store, for self-defense, hunting, and target-shooting purposes.)
But shouldn't more guns equate to more murders and other violent crime? Only if you live in liberal never-never land.
That certainly has not been the case in early 2009. Guns are purchased so that good people can protect themselves against bad people. And moreover, self-protection is a basic human right, despite the fact that our new wise Latina Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor couldn't bring herself to acknowledge that this summer.
The newspapers west of the Hudson River are chock full of stories in which law-abiding citizens protected themselves by using guns. And these are just the incidents that are reported. The Armed Citizen blog does a great job of capturing these stories in their raw form, and every thinking American needs to make his own inferences about the value of guns in these situations: They prevent people from becoming statistics. Go through the news reports compiled on the Armed Citizen blog and make your own count of people who refused to become statistics.
For instance, in May, eleven students in Atlanta avoided becoming murder statistics thanks to the bravery of one among them who had a gun in his backpack. He used it to kill one robber and injure another. Chillingly, the news reports describe how the robbers were counting their bullets to make sure they had enough to kill their victims. One of the robbers was about to rape a woman as well. That's at least thirteen fewer violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery) that did not need to be included in the FBI's crime report for the first half of 2009.
As 2009 winds down, the Democratic Party deserves an off-handed "thank you" for inspiring more law-abiding citizens to purchase weapons and protect themselves from bad people, at least in the first half of the year.
But even while giving them that tribute, it's important to reflect that the only direct result of their gun control efforts in the past -- the Clinton administration's regulation forbidding U.S. military personnel from carrying personal firearms -- resulted in the deaths of thirteen people and an unborn infant in Fort Hood.
Sadly, those deaths will add to an increase in the second half of 2009's statistics -- and renewed calls for gun control legislation, to be sure.
By Susan Crabtree - 12/29/09 10:53 PM ET
The senior Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee wants no more Guantanamo Bay detainees released to Yemen in the wake of a Christmas Day terrorist attack hatched in that country.
“Guantanamo detainees should not be released to Yemen at this time,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “It is too unstable.”
The Obama administration is pushing back against calls to halt or delay closing the Guantanamo Bay prison in light of the failed Christmas Day terror attack, suggesting that shutting down the prison will undermine terrorist recruitment in the very network that claimed responsibility for last week's plot.
The Obama administration is pushing back against calls to halt or delay closing the Guantanamo Bay prison in light of the failed Christmas Day terror attack, suggesting that shutting down the prison will undermine terrorist recruitment in the very network that claimed responsibility for last week's plot.
Administration officials also assured lawmakers that they will use the utmost caution in transferring any detainees to other countries, following concerns that it's unsafe to send the dozens of Yemenis held there back to their home country -- which has emerged as a tinderbox of extremist activity.
Seniors officials told Fox News that nobody in the administration is reconsidering President Obama's plan to close Guantanamo Bay. Though the closure probably will not occur until 2011 due to a series of setbacks, officials said locking down Guantanamo is still in the "national security interest."
"The detention facility at Guantanamo has been used by Al Qaeda as a rallying cry and recruiting tool -- including its affiliate Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. As our military leaders have recognized, closing the detention facility at Guantanamo is a national security imperative," one senior official told Fox News.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight last week. Sources say suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab spent time in Yemen and may have been groomed for the mission there.
These developments, combined with Yemen's abysmal record on keeping terror suspects in prison, have led some lawmakers to urge Obama to rethink his Guantanamo plans or at least stop transferring prisoners to Yemen or other Arabian Peninsula countries.
"Given the security situation in Yemen and the failure of the Yemeni government to secure high-value prisoners in the past, we believe that any such transfers would be highly unwise and ill-considered," Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wrote in a letter to the president Tuesday. "The December 25 attack is only the latest in a growing list of terrorist plots that have been traced back to AQAP in Yemen."
The administration recently ordered six Guantanamo detainees sent back to Yemen. This raises concerns, since Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is led by two former Guantanamo detainees who reportedly were released to Saudi Arabia from Guantanamo in 2007 and were set free after completing a controversial "rehabilitation program."
All the suspects convicted of being involved in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole have also either been released by Yemeni authorities or managed to escape in a jailbreak.
But a senior administration official said Tuesday that it continues to review each prisoner's case with a "fine-tooth comb."
"Our policy is, as consistent with the law, that we'll make transfers, we'll notify Congress of the transfers, that we'll make transfers consistent with our national security interests. And we believe that each of those that we have done so far enhances our national security," the official said.
Fox News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.
Russia needs more weapons to punch through America’s new missile defence shield, Vladimir Putin said yesterday in blunt remarks that will complicate efforts to cut the nuclear arsenals of the former Cold War rivals.
The Russian Prime Minister, reasserting himself as the country’s real ruler, said that Moscow should press ahead with a new generation of weapons to stop the Americans doing “whatever they want”.
“To preserve the balance we must develop offensive weapons systems, not missile defence systems as the United States is doing,” he said during a visit to the naval port of Vladivostok on the Pacific coast.
Until now, it had seemed that Washington and Moscow were edging towards a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), despite failing to meet the original target of December 5.
Asked why the talks had failed to reach agreement on a new deal, Mr Putin said: “What is the problem? The problem is that our American partners are building an anti-missile shield and we are not building one.”
The Prime Minister was believed to be voicing the deeply held views of hardliners in the Russian military machine, but his forthright statement may also be linked to growing signs that he is preparing to announce his intention to seek a new presidential term in 2012.
International arms treaties are the remit of the president. Mr Putin, in staking out his position, was wading into the domain of Dmitri Medvedev, his chosen successor in the Kremlin after he stood down last year.
It has always been widely believed that Mr Putin was allowing President Medvedev merely to keep his seat warm while he was taking a break, as laid down by the Constitution. His return to the presidential office would signal a harder line.
President Obama’s reversal in July of plans to station the American missile defence shield close to Russia’s borders in Central Europe — and his vow to reset relations with Moscow — were warmly welcomed by Mr Medvedev. The thaw was expected to pave the way for an agreement on a new nuclear arms reduction package.
Now Mr Putin suggests that the American concessions are not enough. “If we are not developing an anti- missile shield then there is a danger that our partners, by creating such an umbrella, will feel completely secure and thus can allow themselves to do what they want, disrupting the balance, and aggressiveness will rise immediately,” Mr Putin said.
He made it clear that Washington should share its missile defence plans — based on sea and land-based interceptors in Europe — with Moscow if it wanted to ease Russian concerns. “Let the Americans hand over all their information on missile defence and we are ready to hand over all the information on offensive weapons,” he said.
Mr Putin’s intervention was seen by observers as an attempt to extract more American concessions on the defence shield while also allowing him to demonstrate that he remains the paramount voice in Russian politics.
“This is not his sphere but Putin is showing he is not weaker than Medvedev,” the defence analyst Aleksandr Konovalov said. Some will see it as the latest issue on which differences are emerging between the two players in the leadership of Russia.
Mr Putin continues to steal the limelight, as illustrated by his high-profile tour around the Far East of Russia at a time when most of the country is winding down for 11 days of holiday at the start of the new year and Orthodox Christmas. Recently he was filmed flooring members of the Russian national judo team.
The Start treaty was signed shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union 18 years ago. It led to significant cuts in Russian and American arsenals but expired on December 5. Both countries agreed to extend it while talks on a replacement treaty continue
No presidential statement or White House press briefing was held on it. In fact, all that can be found about it on the official White House Web site is the Dec. 17 announcement and one-paragraph text of President Obama's Executive Order 12425, with this innocuous headline: "Amending Executive Order 12425 Designating Interpol as a public international organization entitled to enjoy certain privileges, exemptions, and immunities."In fact, this new directive from Obama may be the most destructive blow ever struck against American constitutional civil liberties. No wonder the White House said as little as possible about it.
There are multiple reasons why this Obama decision is so deeply disturbing. First, the Obama order reverses a 1983 Reagan administration decision in order to grant Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, two key privileges. First, Obama has granted Interpol the ability to operate within the territorial limits of the United States without being subject to the same constitutional restraints that apply to all domestic law enforcement agencies such as the FBI. Second, Obama has exempted Interpol's domestic facilities -- including its office within the U.S. Department of Justice -- from search and seizure by U.S. authorities and from disclosure of archived documents in response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by U.S. citizens. Think very carefully about what you just read: Obama has given an international law enforcement organization that is accountable to no other national authority the ability to operate as it pleases within our own borders, and he has freed it from the most basic measure of official transparency and accountability, the FOIA.
The Examiner has asked for but not yet received from the White House press office an explanation of why the president signed this executive order and who among his advisers was involved in the process leading to his doing so. Unless the White House can provide credible reasons to think otherwise, it seems clear that Executive Order 12425's consequences could be far-reaching and disastrous. To cite only the most obvious example, giving Interpol free rein to act within this country could subject U.S. military, diplomatic, and intelligence personnel to the prospect of being taken into custody and hauled before the International Criminal Court as "war criminals."
As National Review Online's Andy McCarthy put it, the White House must answer these questions: Why should we elevate an international police force above American law? Why would we immunize an international police force from the limitations that constrain the FBI and other American law-enforcement agencies? Why is it suddenly necessary to have, within the Justice Department, a repository for stashing government files that will be beyond the scrutiny of Congress, American law enforcement, the media, and the American people?
President Obama’s favorite word is “unprecedented,” as Carol Lee of Politico pointed out. Yet he often seems mired in the past as well, letting his hallmark legislation get loaded up with old-school bribes and pork; surrounding himself with Clintonites; continuing the Bushies’ penchant for secrecy and expansive executive privilege; doubling down in Afghanistan while acting as though he’s getting out; and failing to capitalize on snazzy new technology while agencies thumb through printouts and continue their old turf battles.
Even before a Nigerian with Al Qaeda links tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet headed to Detroit, travelers could see we had made no progress toward a technologically wondrous Philip K. Dick universe.
We seemed to still be behind the curve and reactive, patting down grannies and 5-year-olds, confiscating snow globes and lip glosses.
Instead of modernity, we have airports where security is so retro that taking away pillows and blankies and bathroom breaks counts as a great leap forward.
If we can’t catch a Nigerian with a powerful explosive powder in his oddly feminine-looking underpants and a syringe full of acid, a man whose own father had alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, a traveler whose ticket was paid for in cash and who didn’t check bags, whose visa renewal had been denied by the British, who had studied Arabic in Al Qaeda sanctuary Yemen, whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list, who can we catch?
We are headed toward the moment when screeners will watch watch-listers sashay through while we have to come to the airport in hospital gowns, flapping open in the back....
Before he left for vacation, Obama tried to shed his Spock mien and juice up the empathy quotient on jobs. But in his usual inspiring/listless cycle, he once more appeared chilly in his response to the chilling episode on Flight 253, issuing bulletins through his press secretary and hitting the links. At least you have to seem concerned.
On Tuesday, Obama stepped up to the microphone to admit what Janet Napolitano (who learned nothing from an earlier Janet named Reno) had first tried to deny: that there had been “a systemic failure” and a “catastrophic breach of security.”...
In his detached way, Spock was letting us know that our besieged starship was not speeding into a safer new future, and that we still have to be scared.
Heck of a job, Barry.
The Obama administration is, in my view, on the wrong track in dealing with terrorism. Perhaps because the president is so eloquent, he seems to think that every problem can be dealt with by talk. Talk doesn't help in responding to terrorism. Probably he thought that his "address to the Muslim world," wherein he expressed his understanding, sympathy, compassion, concern, empathy, etc., would somehow build bridges, engage, and open a new era in which Islamic terrorism would no longer be directed at the United States. Events to date have proven him wrong, as there seems to be no let-up in the hatred of Islamic extremists for the United States, as witnessed by the Fort Hood massacre and the recent failed attempt to blow up an airline.
So, talk doesn't work. The Obama administration's other gambit is to de-escalate the "war on terror," to treat it as a matter of crimes and misdemeanors that can best be handled by our judicial system. No more rhetoric about a "war on terror," but instead a concerted effort to bring "criminals" to justice, to "hold them accountable" in our courts, as the president suggested in his statement from Hawaii yesterday.
So the crotch-bomber will be tried for a felony in a federal court, with all the rights and privileges of American citizens. So Khalid Sheik-Mohammed and his associates will be able to enlist an army of pro bono lawyers to defend their "constitutional rights," the same ones they tried to destroy, along with some 3,000 lives. So KSM and pals will get discovery proceedings, will demand a new venue, will insist that the U.S. produce witnesses to their alleged crimes, will inflict millions of dollars of unnecessary security costs on NYC (or any other host city) that might better be spent on schools.
In short, the Obama administration has woven a web of confusion, rhetoric, and illogic that will entangle it for years to come, as it attempts to defuse, de-escalate and minimize the terrorist threat. The reason this strategy is politically foolish is that the terrorist threat is real. It can't be assuaged by words or dissipated by turning the other cheek. No matter what the president says, no matter how many civilian trials he promotes, the terrorists are not going away. Sooner or later, they will get lucky, they will bring down a jetliner or blow up a rail terminal, and the American people will be very angry. They will see the strategy of de-escalation not as wise but as dangerous. Appeasement didn't work in the 1930s. It won't work now.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
I think the biggest and possibly scariest surprise would be Turkey joining the fight on the side of Iran. Turkey is a muslim country with an Islamist running it and has lately distanced itself from Israel and started to show signs of allying with Iran. Imagine if they have already agreed to military cooperation in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran? It's not so unthinkable. While the military may be relatively pro-west and pro-Israel the media will paint Israel as a troublesome aggressor and so the pro-western forces in the Turkish military might find their hands tied (if they haven't been purged already). Turkey has a modern, 1 million man military and while they don't border Israel, they could theoretically go through Syria and attack the Jewish state that way. They could also use their 900+ aircraft Air Force, which has F-16's, to challenge the Israeli Air Force for domination of the skies. And it gets worse. Remember, Turkey is in NATO. So if Turkey sides with Iran and Israel retaliates against Turkey, could the rest of NATO be drawn into the fight on Turkey's and Iran's side? I know that is far fetched but it could make for a messy situation. At the very least it would create a problem for American resupply of the Israelis in their hour of greatest need. How would they be able to supply Israel if it is also fighting a NATO ally?
Anyway, I'm probably just being paranoid, but it is something to think about. Losing Turkey to Islamists could be one of the greatest blunders in recent history.
My Republican friends often seem to miss the point in this debate: The so-called public option is not Page 3,079, Section (f), Clause VII. The entire bill is a public option - because that's where it leads, remorselessly. The so-called death panel is not on Page 2,721, Paragraph 19, Subsection (d), but again, the entire bill - because it inserts the power of the state between you and your doctor and in effect assumes jurisdiction over your body.
As the savvier Democrats have always known, once you've crossed the Rubicon, you can endlessly re-reform your health reform until the end of time, and all the stuff you didn't get this go-round will fall into place, and very quickly.
- ARTICLE 123. Equality of rights of citizens of the U.S.S.R., irrespective of their nationality or race, in all spheres of economic, state, cultural, social and political life, is an indefeasible law. Any direct or indirect restriction of the rights of, or, conversely, any establishment of direct or indirect privileges for, citizens on account of their race or nationality, as well as any advocacy of racial or national exclusiveness or hatred and contempt, is punishable by law.
- ARTICLE 124. In order to ensure to citizens freedom of conscience, the church in the U.S.S.R. is separated from the state, and the school from the church. Freedom of religious worship and freedom of antireligious propaganda is recognized for all citizens.
ARTICLE 125. In conformity with the interests of the working people, and in order to strengthen the socialist system, the citizens of the U.S.S.R. are guaranteed by law:
- freedom of speech;
- freedom of the press;
- freedom of assembly, including the holding of mass meetings;
- freedom of street processions and demonstrations.
- ARTICLE 127. Citizens of the U.S.S.R. are guaranteed inviolability of the person. No person may be placed under arrest except by decision of a court or with the sanction of a procurator.
- ARTICLE 128. The inviolability of the homes of citizens and privacy of correspondence are protected by law.
As you can see, it is our duty to enforce and defend the Constitution in order to keep it from being worth about as much as the paper this post is printed on.
3. Czech Republic
9. Great Britain
16. Saudi Arabia
18. South Korea
19. Trinidad & Tobago
21. Vatican City
Notice that Israel is nowhere on that list. Granted he can't visit every country but he did seem to visit every American ally around Israel and given how important it is, as an ally in the war on terror and how it is such a focal point to so many key foreign policy issues, you would think he could take the time. Maybe then he would stop throwing hissy fits about Israelis building apartments in their own capital or killing terrorists who murdered innocent civilians. Or maybe not. He doesn't seem to allow the facts to change any of his other policies.
The United States' recent request for a public clarification from National Security Adviser Uzi Arad following the IDF's killing of three wanted Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades terrorists in Nablus is unusual and raises questions.
Arad's reported need to explain to his US counterparts the defensive nature of the IDF operation several days after the Iranian-backed terror cell's murder of Rabbi Meir Chai, a father of seven, seems exceptional. This IDF operation was no different than hundreds of other actions against Palestinian terror groups that have murdered well over 1,000 Israeli civilians since the Palestinian Authority launched the Aksa war of terror in 2000...l
THIS IS where it seems more appropriate that the US issue clarifications to Israel. At least one of the Aksa Brigades commanders - Annan Sabuh, who was found with two M16 automatic rifles and two other firearms - had been part of the amnesty program for former Fatah-affiliated terror group commanders and operatives that was predicated on turning in all weapons. The amnesty program was implemented in no small part at the behest of the United States and its security reform program, which began under Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton in 2005.
The latest "ethics" scandal buzzing through the journalism blogs provides another reminder that the culture and norms of the traditional journalism guild are ill-suited to the new "FREE" era. But first, a bit of personal context.
Back in June, I got an email from Tim O'Brien, the editor of the NYT's Sunday business section, asking if I'd be interested in writing a monthly column called PROTOTYPE about "creativity and innovation in the business world." I appreciated the invitation and was tempted by the subject matter. But, after a quick calculation, I demurred.
"The subject is certainly an interesting one to me," I replied, a bit snarkily, "but unless the Times has significantly increased its freelance payments and decided that research budgets aren't a waste of money, it's probably not worth the time away from my book writing."
Given my immediate no, our discussions never got far enough to hit the deal-killer: I am, in fact, ethically ineligible to write about innovation for the NYT.
I occasionally do paid speaking for companies that might conceivably be sources for a column on innovation. (Those speaking engagements generally pay quite a bit better than writing for the Times.) As an old journalism pro, I naturally know enough not to take a speaking gig and then turn it into an article, at least not without getting my editor's OK and disclosing any potential conflict to readers. But that's no longer enough for the Times. Its ethics guidelines now prohibit freelancers from taking honoraria or even travel expenses from anyone who might, in some theoretical future state of the world, be a source. In October, "Critical Shopper" columnist Mike Albo, a freelancer, was canned for taking a travel junket that had nothing to do with his NYT gig.
This overly broad policy presents the Times with a major problem that is only going to get worse. The paper wants writers who take no money, including expense reimbursement, from anyone who might conceivably be a "current or potential news source," even on beats unrelated to their NYT writing. The traditional way to achieve this goal was to pay staffers full-time salaries and cover their expenses. But the Times is no longer willing to foot that bill. To save money, it wants to use freelancers with independent expertise, gained through research the Times didn't fund. Yet for well-understood reasons of supply and demand, writers who have independent expertise nowadays rely on in-person engagements (speaking and perhaps consulting) for most of their income. Any freelancer you'd be eager to read on innovation--Michael Schrage, say--is almost certainly someone who also gets paid to share that expertise in person.
To fill the PROTOTYPE slot, the Times turned, as it does increasingly for business and economics coverage, to someone who wouldn't care about its low article fees or nonexistent reporting expenses: a tenured professor with an academic research budget, in this case, Mary Tripsas of the Harvard Business School. She is an expert on innovation, but a journalistic innocent. And now she's in trouble.
Along with some other academics, she visited 3M's innovation center, with the company covering her travel expenses. On Sunday, she published a column about such centers, with 3M's featured in the lead and spotlighted in photos. Charges of ethics violations were soon flying. If Mike Albo lost his slot, media bloggers argue, she should lose hers.
I don't believe Professor Tripsas did anything remotely corrupt. The main value 3M gave her was, in fact, the same thing journalists are bought off with every day: access. The travel expenses were incidental and surely would have been covered by Harvard had 3M not picked up the tab. But she did violate the Times's extraordinarily strict guidelines--guidelines so broad that she arguably shouldn't even have quoted the work of a colleague at Harvard Business School, since she relies on that organization for her salary and benefits.
There is a middle-class tax time bomb ticking in the Senate’s version of President Obama’s effort to reform health care.
The bill that passed the Senate with such fanfare on Christmas Eve would impose a confiscatory 40 percent excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, which are popularly viewed as over-the-top plans held only by the very wealthy. In fact, it’s a tax that in a few years will hammer millions of middle-class policyholders, forcing them to scale back their access to medical care.
Which is exactly what the tax is designed to do.
The tax would kick in on plans exceeding $23,000 annually for family coverage and $8,500 for individuals, starting in 2013. In the first year it would affect relatively few people in the middle class. But because of the steadily rising costs of health care in the U.S., more and more plans would reach the taxation threshold each year.
Within three years of its implementation, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the tax would apply to nearly 20 percent of all workers with employer-provided health coverage in the country, affecting some 31 million people. Within six years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax would reach a fifth of all households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 annually. Those families can hardly be considered very wealthy.
Proponents say the tax will raise nearly $150 billion over 10 years, but there’s a catch. It’s not expected to raise this money directly. The dirty little secret behind this onerous tax is that no one expects very many people to pay it. The idea is that rather than fork over 40 percent in taxes on the amount by which policies exceed the threshold, employers (and individuals who purchase health insurance on their own) will have little choice but to ratchet down the quality of their health plans.
These lower-value plans would have higher out-of-pocket costs, thus increasing the very things that are so maddening to so many policyholders right now: higher and higher co-payments, soaring deductibles and so forth. Some of the benefits of higher-end policies can be expected in many cases to go by the boards: dental and vision care, for example, and expensive mental health coverage.
Proponents say this is a terrific way to hold down health care costs. If policyholders have to pay more out of their own pockets, they will be more careful — that is to say, more reluctant — to access health services. On the other hand, people with very serious illnesses will be saddled with much higher out-of-pocket costs. And a reluctance to seek treatment for something that might seem relatively minor at first could well have terrible (and terribly expensive) consequences in the long run.
If even the plan’s proponents do not expect policyholders to pay the tax, how will it raise $150 billion in a decade? Great question.
We all remember learning in school about the suspension of disbelief. This part of the Senate’s health benefits taxation scheme requires a monumental suspension of disbelief. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, less than 18 percent of the revenue will come from the tax itself. The rest of the $150 billion, more than 82 percent of it, will come from the income taxes paid by workers who have been given pay raises by employers who will have voluntarily handed over the money they saved by offering their employees less valuable health insurance plans.
Why don’t we see demonstrations against Islamic dictatorships in London, Paris, Barcelona? Or demonstrations against the Burmese dictatorship? Why aren’t there demonstrations against the enslavement of millions of women who live without any legal protection? Why aren’t there demonstrations against the use of children as human bombs where there is conflict with Islam? Why has there been no leadership in support of the victims of Islamic dictatorship in Sudan? Why is there never any outrage against the acts of terrorism committed against Israel? Why is there no outcry by the European left against Islamic fanaticism? Why don’t they defend Israel’s right to exist? Why confuse support of the Palestinian cause with the defense of Palestinian terrorism? An finally, the million dollar question:Why is the left in Europe and around the world obsessed with the two most solid democracies, the United States and Israel, and not with the worst dictatorships on the planet? The two most solid democracies, who have suffered the bloodiest attacks of terrorism, and the left doesn’t care.
And then, to the concept of freedom. In every pro Palestinian European forum I hear the left yelling with fervor: “We want freedom for the people!” Not true. They are never concerned with freedom for the people of Syria or Yemen or Iran or Sudan, or other such nations. And they are never preoccupied when Hammas destroys freedom for the Palestinians. They are only concerned with using the concept of Palestinian freedom as a weapon against Israeli freedom. The resulting consequence of these ideological pathologies is the manipulation of the press.
The international press does major damage when reporting on the question of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. On this topic they don’t inform, they propagandize. When reporting about Israel the majority of journalists forget the reporter code of ethics. And so, any Israeli act of self-defense becomes a massacre, and any confrontation, genocide. So many stupid things have been written about Israel, that there aren’t any accusations left to level against her. At the same time, this press never discusses Syrian and Iranian interference in propagating violence against Israel; the indoctrination of children and the corruption of the Palestinians. And when reporting about victims, every Palestinian casualty is reported as tragedy and every Israeli victim is camouflaged, hidden or reported about with disdain.
And let me add on the topic of the Spanish left. Many are the examples that illustrate the anti-Americanism and anti-Israeli sentiments that define the Spanish left. For example, one of the leftist parties in Spain has just expelled one of its members for creating a pro-Israel website. I quote from the expulsion document: “Our friends are the people of Iran, Libya and Venezuela, oppressed by imperialism, and not a Nazi state like Israel.”
In another example, the socialist mayor of Campozuelos changed Shoah Day, commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, with Palestinian Nabka Day, which mourns the establishment of the State of Israel, thus showing contempt for the six million European Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Or in my native city of Barcelona, the city council decided to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel, by having a week of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Thus, they invited Leila Khaled, a noted terrorist from the 70’s and current leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist organization so described by the European Union, which promotes the use of bombs against Israel. And so on and so on.
This politically correct way of thinking has even polluted the speeches of president Zapatero. His foreign policy falls within the lunatic left, and on issues of the Middle East he is unequivocally pro Arab. I can assure you that in private, Zapatero places on Israel the blame for the conflict in the Middle East, and the policies of foreign minister Moratinos reflect this. The fact that Zapatero chose to wear a kafiah in the midst of the Lebanon conflict is no coincidence; it’s a symbol.
Spain has suffered the worst terrorist attack in Europe and it is in the crosshairs of every Islamic terrorist organization. As I wrote before, they kill us will cell phones hooked to satellites connected to the Middle Ages. An yet the Spanish left is the most anti Israeli in the world.
And then it says it is anti Israeli because of solidarity. This is the madness I want to denounce in this conference.
First, White House aides downplay the notion that something may have gone wrong on their part. While staying out of the spotlight, the president conveys his efforts to address the situation and his feelings about it through administration officials. After a few days, the White House concedes on the issue, and perhaps Obama even steps out to address it.
That same scenario unfolded over the summer when Obama said Sgt. James Crowley, a white Cambridge, Mass., police officer, “acted stupidly” when he arrested Henry Louis Gates Jr., a black Harvard professor, in his own home. It happened in March when the public was outraged over AIG dishing out hefty bonuses. More recently the public witnessed the dynamic after a security breach at President Barack Obama’s first state dinner.
But the fact that the issue now is a terrorist incident - albeit an unsuccessful one - makes the stakes much higher, and the White House’s usual approach more questionable. That this test of his leadership comes while he’s on vacation in tropical Hawaii further complicates things.
After delivering his first public remarks Monday about a Nigerian man’s attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines jetliner over Detroit, the president motorcaded over to the golf course at a nearby country club. Optics aside, it had taken Obama three days to issue a statement on the incident, and the administration was left struggling to get control of the message.
Monday, December 28, 2009
- Everyone must stay seated one hour before landing on international flights. (This assumes, of course, that nothing happens at all while the plane is cruising.)
- No blankets or pillows or items in laps in the last hour of a flight. (Will baggy clothing, sweaters or hoodies be next?)
- No announcements from the cockpit about cities, landmarks or perhaps even when planes start to descend. (Some travelers may shout “hooray!” but most appreciate progress reports. Are we really thwarting terror by not knowing whether the city seen out the window is Kansas City or St. Louis. Hint: If it has a big river and arch, it’s St. Louis.)
- No route-tracking displays on international flights. (Anyone with a watch can, with simple calculations, roughly estimate where a flight is at any given time.)
- No laptop computer use in-flight. Some passengers reported this. Let’s hope it’s simply over-aggressive low-level TSA officials, air marshals or flight crews.
It seems pretty clear to anyone with a brain that these new rules will do nothing to actually stop terrorist attacks. I don't think that any terrorist will say "oh, I won't be able to track my flights progress so I better call off my attempt to blow the plane up". And what if a terrorist does get up 10 minutes before landing? What are they going to do? Shoot him? One would think in the time it takes the stewardess to get up from her seat and tell him to sit down, he would have already blown up the plane.
The new rules they should immediately implement are simple. Anybody in any of their "suspected terrorist" databases gets extra screening. Everybody. Given the full body scanning technology out there, it seems like it would be pretty quick to get those that require extra screening, screened without too much hassle. Even if the list is 500,000 people long, how many of those are flying at any given time?
There are reports that the terrorist got on the plane without a passport. Apparently the story given to the airline personnel was that he was a Sudanese refugee and that he didn't have a passport. While it is good that the personnel were only human and wanted to help, those rules are there after all for a reason and there should be little tolerance for their circumvention. Now I would understand if there was some leeway for Sister Mary Catherine on her way to a new church or someone who was clearly a retiree from Sarasota, Florida but a muslim paying for a ticket to the US in cash with only a small carryon and no passport? Doesn't that sound suspicious at all? Maybe you wouldn't circumvent the rules in that instance?
As usual government finds an idiotic way to try to fix the problem, promoting the illusion that "the system is working".
By Robin of Berkeley
I have been looking for God my whole life. I first recognized Him in the black foster parents I worked with who manifested Christ-consciousness.
I then found him four years ago, when my parents died three weeks apart and I was carried by a force stronger than myself. And more recently, as I've gone from left to right, I have discovered him in the many conservatives guiding me, such as AT readers.
Given my spiritual longing, I decided it was time to explore places of worship. Being a secular Jew, my first step should have been a temple. However, the synagogues around here are practically recruitment stations for Obama (aside from the Orthodox ones, but I don't speak a word of Hebrew). So I decided to experience church on Christmas Eve.
Checking out churches online, I found almost none that offered political neutrality. Most heralded their progressive credentials, welcoming the transgendered, but not conservatives.
I was pleased to find an Episcopal church whose website focused on religion, not ObamaCare. I left a message for the priest that I was looking for a church that didn't press a political agenda because I wasn't a liberal.
I received an icy reply from the priest, the Reverend Lucy, who said with barely-contained disgust, "I don't think you should check us out."
Her response left me shaken and angry. I understand that leftists despise conservatives. I have seen that creepy look of pure hatred when I naïvely told a leftist friend about my political conversion.
But an Episcopal priest rejecting me during the holiest time of year? Isn't anything or anyone sacred?
In shunning me, the Reverend Lucy exposed not only her own hypocrisy, but the duplicity of the left itself. She unveiled the left's dirty little secret -- that their doctrines are as bogus as global warming.
I used to believe it all. But when I removed one piece -- that the left protects women -- the whole house of cards came tumbling down.
Obama and his friends preach tolerance, but there is bigotry at their group's core. As displayed by the Reverend Lucy, this is a spiritually vacuous ideology. While they fashion themselves as human saviors, they clearly don't like people very much, and they despise conservatives.
Why do they hate us, even during the season to be merry? I think it's because we see right through their elaborate disguises.
We know who they are -- the Audacity of Obama. Dreams from his Marxist Father. Before us, the Emperor has no clothes. Even the left's priests are no true servants of God.
The left can easily dupe the masses who are still congratulating themselves for electing a biracial president. Obama sneers, glares, and gestures dismissively. He castigates Sgt. Crowley for supposed racism, pals around with dictators, and chuckles while millions are out of work.
Yet half the country is convinced that he's the nicest guy around.
There's a resonant story about Suzuki Roshi, the beloved 60s-era Zen master. A visiting teacher asked Suzuki Roshi whether his students had mastered a particular Buddhist scripture. Suzuki responded that he didn't know.
Aghast, the visitor demanded, "Then how do you evaluate the students' progress?"
Suzuki answered quietly, "I observe how they treat each other."
To know everything about the "progressives," just observe how people have been treating each other since Obama came on the scene. For one, the misogyny has been despicable.
Then there's the surge of attacks on law enforcement, from the murders of police officers in Seattle and Oakland to the slaughter of soldiers at Ft. Hood. Obama is sending out a "question authority" vibe -- everyone's authority, that is, except his.
In the Berkeley area, there appears to be a skyrocketing of black-on-white crimes. I'm hearing stories from clients of even more brazen street crimes and harassment.
I've written about two horrendous crimes at local schools the last few months: the gang-rape and beating of a teenage girl at Richmond High School and the stoning of a middle-school teacher during her class.
Just two weeks ago, there was another horrific assault at the same middle school: a fourteen-year-old boy raped a twelve-year-old girl during the school day. While the politically correct media refuses to tell, the word on the street is that these recent crimes have been racially motivated.
We are a country in rapid decline -- another red flag that leftist ideology is destructive. Not only is the value of the dollar sinking, but our moral fiber is unraveling before our eyes.
Gandhi taught that a civilization's greatness can be measured by how it treats its weakest citizens. So how are society's most vulnerable doing?
Medical care may be withheld from the elderly, children are being sexualized and "queered" in public schools, and conservative women are subject to degradation and rape threats.
Another measure of a nation: whether political opponents can speak freely. In Obama's America, prepare to be labeled a racist should you question "The Man." Find yourself ostracized by liberal friends, colleagues, and even churches should you not pass the political litmus test.
No wonder the left doesn't want us anywhere near their bully pulpits. We can see right through their media-orchestrated charade.
I decided to confront the Reverend Lucy about her un-Christian behavior and challenge her to do better. I e-mailed her the following:
I inquired about whether I would feel comfortable at your church because I am not politically liberal. You left me a message with barely contained hostility. You stated, "I don't think you should check us out."
The fact that you responded to me in such an uncharitable manner makes me terribly sad. Has politics divided people so much that even a minister will treat someone unkindly for having a different political ideology?
In this holiest of seasons, I wish for you a change of heart, an opening of the heart, to those who come to your door. Because when someone makes a phone call to you -- which isn't easy -- they are in need of God. Don't you, as a minister, have a sacred duty to respond with God's infinite love and mercy?
With the blessings of the season,
No, she didn't write back.
Second, Bibi has been trying very hard to get Kadima to join a national unity government. The question is why and why now? Bibi already has a 74/120 seat majority in the Knesset, which is a relatively comfortable margin in Israeli politics (although given the number of governments they have had, there might be no such thing as a truly comfortable margin in Israeli politics). Plus you had six Kadima MK's already signing on to leave Kadima and join the coalition. Based on Israeli electoral laws only 7 MK's need to leave a party in order to be considered a separate faction so Bibi is already on the cusp of getting 7 more seats in the Knesset, which would put him in control of 81/120, slightly more than 2/3rd of the seats. Since I believe any national unity government will likely be short lived due to the personalities involved, probably lasting little more than a year, the timing of this offer seems important. Bibi seems to think there will be a very good reason why he would want a national unity government in place in 2010. Note that Menachem Begin, who would only break Labour's stranglehold on the PM office in 1977, joined a national unity government on June 1, 1967. The Six Day War started on June 5, just 4 days later.
Something might be coming up.
MOSCOW (Reuters) – A former policeman who accused senior officers of corruption in a series of video blogs will himself face prosecution for abuse of office, Russian investigators said on Monday.
Former police major Alexei Dymovsky became a household name in Russia earlier this year when he used YouTube to appeal to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to tackle corruption in the police force.
A criminal case will be brought against Dymovsky for "fraud committed by a person using his official position," the Prosecutor-General's investigative committee said in a statement. It gave no further details.
Dymovsky said the charges were fabricated. "They want to silence me and gain revenge," he told Reuters by telephone.
Dymovsky, who worked for the police force in the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, appealed to Putin to rein in senior officers whom he accused of pressuring subordinates to charge innocent people to meet statistical targets.
He was fired after making the appeal, which received more than one million hits on YouTube. Regional police also conducted their own investigation after the videos were released, which they said did not back up Dymovsky's allegations.
"The main thing is that the people of Russia have seen the light. Others will follow me," Dymovsky said. "You can't jail the whole of Russia, it's not 1937 anymore," he added, in a reference to purges under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.
Corruption is endemic in Russian society and global surveys have repeatedly ranked the former Soviet state as one of the most corrupt in the world.
An off-duty senior officer killed three civilians in a shooting spree in Moscow in April, one of a series of scandals to hit the force this year.
(Reporting by Aydar Buribayev; Writing by Conor Sweeney; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)
Recent headlines seem lifted directly out of an Ayn Rand novel. President Obama decries the “fat cat bankers on Wall Street”. Harry Reid attacks insurance companies for making too much profit. House Democrat leaders call Tea Partiers “Racist, Nazi, Gun Nuts”. How about this nauseating statement made by Army General George Casey after the Muslim terrorist attack on Ft. Hood?
As great a tragedy as this was, it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well
Each of these headlines might well have been uttered by an Ayn Rand character. Rand, whose father’s pharmacy was confiscated by the Soviets during the communist revolution of 1917, and who came to America in 1926, seems uniquely able to speak to us about the inverted morality of our times. Virtue is to be apologized for. Depravity commands respect. Success is cast as evil and punished while failure is blamed on others and rewarded. Rand’s insights into the psychological state of collectivists—those who demand that we sacrifice our individual freedom and happiness for the sake of the state—explain what often seems incomprehensible to thinking people.
An epic demonstration of the inverted morality that Rand described was on display in Copenhagen last week as the world’s worst most evil dictators—Mugabe and Chavez—partnered with the world’s most visible and misguided progressives—Al Gore , Gordon Brown, Barack Obama—in an orgy of depravity. Sadly, even the Pope lent his moral support to the lunacy, saying, “Industrialized nations must recognize their responsibility for the environmental crisis, shed their consumerism and embrace more sober lifestyles.”
John Galt, the industrialist hero of Rand’s 1957 masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged, refers to those in power who stripped men of their minds, wealth and freedom, as mystics. The mystics of spirit were the religious leaders of centuries past who proclaimed that faith is superior to reason. Galt is no fan of these mystics but it is the mystics of muscle—the progressives who force us to submit to their version of the common good—that Galt despises.
And Barack Obama is a mystic of muscle in its purest form, able to corral the worshipping media, the always superficial Hollywood elites, America hating academics, state-sponsored capitalists (e.g., Goldman Sachs), and grant hungry “scientists” & environmentalists hoping to cash in on a trillion dollar loot of the American people called global warming. These are the pillars of deceit Obama used to get elected. This was how he convinced enough of us to give up our minds for the the mystical concept that Rand called the collective. True to form, Barack, master of the mystics of muscle, has used his power mightily to loot from the producers, and hand it to the parasites, crooks and undeserving (read; SEIU, ACORN, UN Climate Fund, General Motors).
John Galt leads a revolt by the productive class and outlines Rand’s philosophy in his 60-page radio address. Here, he explains how human beings—alone among life forms—can choose to be mindless:
A living entity that regarded its means of survival as evil, would not survive. A plant that struggled to mangle its roots, a bird that fought to break its wings would not remain for long in the existence they affronted. But the history of man has been a struggle to deny and destroy the mind.
Sad to say, for a movement powered by the mindlessness, there is plenty of fuel to sustain “hope and change”:
•Who but the mindless can believe that government run health care will reduce costs and improve care while covering more people?
•Who but the mindless can believe that this President is now serious about reducing the deficit after shattering spending records during his first year?
•Who but the mindless can take seriously the sham “jobs summit” held by a President whose every policy is a lesson in job destruction?
•Who but the mindless can believe Obama’s lie that “Cash for Clunkers” which cost taxpayers $24,000 per car was successful?
•Who but the mindless would not outraged that our government has reneged on its promise pay back the unused TARP fund to taxpayers?
•Who but the mindless would not question the morality that the world’s finest health care, which has extended and improved human life in unimaginable ways—conceived and produced by countless unsung heroes in the private sector—should magically be transformed by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi into a “human right”, taken over by the state and rationed out as they please?
The assault on reason by our President and Congress goes on ad infinitum. It is mindlessness that elected “hope and change” and mindlessness that sustains it. Ayn Rand recognized that the greatest struggle on earth is that between the individual and the collective, and to submit to the collective, the individual must lose his ability to think for himself. Howard Roark, hero of The Fountainhead explains;
The mind is an attribute of the individual. There is no such thing as a collective brain.
The last thing a mystic of muscle wants is for us to start using our minds to uncover their fraud. Galt gets to the heart of the evil of progressive demand that we all serve the state when he says,
By the grace of reality and the nature of life, man—every man—is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose.
CROWLEY: I'm sorry, but if he was not improperly screened or properly screened, and yet you want Americans to feel safe on the planes, and so if it was properly screened and he got on anyway with that, it doesn't feel that safe.
NAPOLITANO: Well, you know, it should. This was one individual literally of thousands that fly and thousands of flights every year. And he was stopped before any damage could be done.
But not by the Department of Homeland Security. And the fact that the terrorist was "one individual literally of thousands that fly" is supposed to make us feel safe? Ms. Crowley was sharp enough to see through that one:
CROWLEY: Let me ask you, because you are right, this was one individual, but that's really all it takes. If a plane explodes, it just takes one individual. So let me ask you about those watch lists. Here is someone whose father came to the U.S. embassy and said I am worried about his ties, I am worried that he is becoming increasingly militant. He is on a list, but somehow no one looks at him more closely, apparently, than any other passenger. Is there some way -- I mean, it seems to me there is all these computer lists, and this one has suspected ties, and that one -- and this is the no-fly list. Is there not some way to merge this information so that he would have popped up someplace?
NAPOLITANO: Well, there is no suggestion that -- he was on what's called a tied list, which has half-a-million-plus names on it. And there is no suggestion that that was not shared information. The issue was, was there enough information to move him to the more specific lists, which would require additional examination or indeed being on no-fly status. And to date, it does not appear that there was any such information to move him from that tied list, which was shared and everybody had it, but to a more specific list which would require different types of screening at the airport.
So we have a no-fly list, and if a suspected terrorist is on it, he can't board an airplane to the U.S. Beyond that, we may have a list that would lead to "different types of screening at the airport." Napolitano was vague about this. But evidently being a known terrorist sympathizer who has been barred from entering the U.K. isn't enough to invoke any questioning or search beyond that to which all air travelers are subjected. This, too, was a bit much for Crowley to swallow:
CROWLEY: So not even a father coming in, knowing what his son has been up to and reporting this to the U.S. embassy, is not enough? I mean, what puts you on the watch list if that is not enough?
NAPOLITANO: Well, indeed you can -- let's not get into that, because for one thing, we need to ascertain exactly who said what to whom and when.