Does McCain Need A Young Catholic Running-Mate?
Does John McCain need to pick a fairly young Catholic as his running-mate? Let’s take the affirmative case.
Barack Obama is vulnerable amongst numerous demographics.White, working-class males
--as Hillary Clinton has recently made clear. McCain has much less vulnerability here.Seniors
. McCain should have no problem there.Catholics
. This one is key. The Rev. Wright controversy and Obama’s lack of experience have many Catholics still unsure of him. McCain has made inroads amongst Catholics
. And Catholics have backed Clinton heavily in the primaries.Hispanics
. McCain has a good base here, and many Hispanics are also Catholic and/or Independents. Hispanics are also a key voting demographic in places like New Mexico.Independents
. This one is also key. Many Independents are Catholic and make up significant percents of the electorate in key states like Pennsylvania and Virginia.Women
. But only if McCain can legitimately appeal to them, and not with just a token female running-mate.Swing States
. This is where it all comes together; where the above-mentioned groups often determine which way the state goes.
Let’s look more in depth at Catholics.
Catholics helped propel Clinton
to victory in Pennsylvania. Clinton won overwhelmingly amongst Catholic Democrats in Ohio
. She won them handily in New Mexico
as well, when Bill Richardson was on the ballot.
“Catholic voters, partisan or not, have been a swing group in American elections for quite some time, but in Virginia, they have remained fairly conservative. According to exit polls, Virginia Catholics voted for Bush in 2000 by a 24-point margin when overall results in the state had an 8-point margin and in 2004 gave the president a 27-point margin compared to the 9-point margin he earned statewide.
It will be interesting to watch whether their shift towards Webb in 2006 holds or if they return to the Republican party in 2008. “ (Washington Post)
These are “Reagan Democrats”. Potentially, these are McCain Democrats and McCain Independents.
If McCain can gain and maintain seven to ten more points or more of headway amongst a mix of Catholic and independents--something he is well poised to do, this will make him very tough to beat in November.
McCain also needs someone young, but preferably more experienced than Barack Obama, so as to balance out McCain's age but not undercut one of the key arguments against Obama.
I can’t think of anyone who fits both criteria though. A young George Pataki, a Bobby Jindal with more experience, a John Boehner with less baggage. John Hoeven, apparently the long-serving Governor of North Dakota, is a fairly young Catholic who seems similar in policy to McCain
, but whom no one has ever heard of. Oh, and he’s got to lose the mustach.
Perhaps another combination of demographics would yield more or more promising results but still bring John McCain as close to victory?
Melissa Hart is a young, Catholic Republican with strong credentials, who has shown strong leadership in the House of Representatives, and was the first woman in history to represent Pennsylvania at the federal level.Wikipedia
has the following to say about Hart:
“Hart herself was described in media accounts as a "rising star" in Republican politics, who had never lost an election and who had demonstrated a unique ability to appeal to non-conservative voters even while maintaining a generally conservative voting record.”
No name recognition, but...???
Democrats Should Lead From the Front
Democrats say that, since the Iraqi government has only completed or made progress on 7 out of 18 (that's 39%) of the benchmarks on its agenda (here
), we should pull our troops out of Iraq. They have also suggested that the political leaders in Iraq should either resign or be removed for their "failure".
I say: Democrats have only met or made progress on 4 of the 9 (that's 44%) items on the agenda
that they got elected on in 2006 (add "ending Iraq War" as agenda item #9)--if one estimates generously rather than literally. Democrats should lead by example. Or, as we say in the military, Lead From the Front.
Democrats should pull out of Congress.
By the way, according to the latest poll, the "current national government of Iraq" and Prime Minister Maliki have a higher approval rating
than the Democratic-led U.S. Congress
Foresaking Our Interests to Please the "International Community"
As is well known by now, the Clinton administration had at least three chances to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. The country of Sudan had captured him and even offered to hand him over to us. Now we know, from a recent New York Times article, that the Bush Administration too failed to capture or kill Bin Laden and his 2--Ayman al-Zawahiri--when he had the chance. Why in the name of Allah would we keep letting America's Most Wanted get away (with murder)?
For now, I'll spare you the lesson on the lengths to which the World Workers (Communist) Party and organizations like it are behind most U.N. treaties and international law as a whole, the farce that is international law--an attempt at world governance that any freedom loving person should take pause at, and the intentions of nations like China, France, Russia (permanent members of the U.N. Security Council), Iran, and others to weaken the U.S. by discrediting it, ensnaring it in a web of international law aimed at undermining U.S. law and the U.S. Constitution (here)
, so that those nations can take what they believe to be their rightful place at the head of the world stage.
If you want to know about things like that, you can start by reading what China's own Colonels have to say about how to defeat America (here)
or about France's claim to world power status (here)
or Russia's (here)
or Iran's (here)
Suffice it to say that Bin Laden is still free because we continue to succumb to anti-Americanism and criticism and have bent to the will of those who say we must do as the "international community" (much of whom seeks our unraveling for their own benefit) says we must do.
Sound like a heavy charge? It doesn't seem as such if we consider the logic and the history.
"....George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and even Thomas Jefferson were not utopians. They were well versed in the realities of international politics. They could play by European rules when circumstances permitted and often wished they had the power to play the game of power politics more effectively. But they were realistic enough to know that they were weak, and both consciously and unconciously they used strategies of the weak to try to get their way in the world. They denigrated power politics and claimed an aversion to war and military power, all realms in which they were far inferior to the European great powers.... They appealed to international law as the best means of regulating the behavious of nations, knowing well they had few other means of constraining Great Britain and
France. They knew from their reading of Vattle that in international law "strength or weakness....counts for nothing. A drawf is as much a man as a giant is...." ....Two centuries later, Americans and Europeans (and others) have traded places-and perspectives. This is partly because in those two hundred years, and especially in recent decades, the power equation has shifted dramatically: When the United States was weak, it practiced the strategies of indirection, the strategies of weakness.... Now [the Europeans] (and others) see the world through very different eyes. These very different points of view have naturally produced differing strategic judgements, differing assessments of threats and of the proper means of addressing them, different calculations of interest, and differing perspectives on the value and meanining of international law...." -Robert Kagan, Of Paradise and Power
International law, in other words, is to a great degree merely a means for those who do not for some reason have a great effect on world affairs to act in concert to constrain the more powerful for their own benefit.
Do you think France and its corrupt
President--who was being bribed by Saddam and seeking billions of dollars in contracts in Iraq once France convinced the U.S. to lift sanctions on Iraq (Germany-same story)--bashed the U.S. in the halls of the UN in the run-up to the Iraq War on "principle"?
France, along with Russia, would seem to have the most to lose from the OFP investigations. A permanent member of the Security Council and a U.S. "ally," it opposed the Iraq War.
Many French companies were contracted under the OFP, and many French names surfaced on al Mada's list of 270 recipients of oil allocations. Politicians and businessmen close to President Chirac were identified. -Friends of Saddam
And that is to say nothing of the domestic politics these "leaders" were pandering to. The President of France and Prime Minister of Germany used anti-American tirades in their re-election campaigns--and both got re-elected. Or the fact that France and Germany--leaders of the EU--threatened that EU and prospective EU nations could be barred from participation in the European Union if they sided with the U.S. in the Security Council. Or the fact that the French and Germany economies have had an average of 11% unemployment and their economies have been stagnant for almost a decade, to the point that France and Germany violated the very EU rules on deficit spending it had insisted on before to keep their economies affloat by subsidizing them. That was not a good long-term strategy though. Economic relations, bought and paid for in bribes, kickbacks, and other under-the-table deals, with the Saddam regime in Iraq though, was a more long-term strategy they sought to pursue.
And do you think the near dictator and dictator respectively of Russia and China opposed the Iraq War on "principle"? And Iran?
Hardly. All of these nations believe they deserve greater world power and all saw an unprecedented chance to take the U.S. down a peg. Take France and Germany for example.
"Last year, France was indulging its illusion that it could galvanize all the antiwar, anti-U.S. sentiment to make itself the great global Uncola to America's Coca-Cola — the new balancer to America. It would be a win-win for President Jacques Chirac. He would enhance his political stature at home by opposing America and make France the supreme power in Europe, marginalizing Britain.
A year later, France was not only unable to stop the war, but it paid a big price in Europe. "It turned out to be lose-lose for France," remarked Peter Schwartz, head of the Global Business Network. By going to such lengths to oppose the U.S., and by denouncing those Europeans who sided with America, France drove pro-U.S. Europeans, like Poland and Spain, deeper into the U.S. camp, noted Mr. Schwartz. This, in turn, gave Poland and Spain more backbone to resist German and French demands for greater control over E.U. affairs.
France was not quite the elephant it thought it was, and the winds of anti-Americanism couldn't carry it any farther than its real economic and military weight. Thud.
"What we have here are not friendships regained but lost illusions," says Josef Joffe,
editor of Germany's Die Zeit. "With the Bush administration politely asking the U.N. for help in Iraq, Gulliver now realizes that . . . the most important interests require legitimacy and cooperation, especially in Iraq. The French and Germans learned that by trying to make the giant stumble, they ended up splitting Europe. So now you have this teeth-gnashing effort at rapprochement.
It is a sobering up and a rethinking of power on both sides of the Atlantic — and no one is having fun doing it. . . . The Bush team has not really been converted to a more generous view of diplomacy, and the Europeans still have their fears and own agenda."
In short, gravity has moderated everyone's behavior, but big disagreements about how to order the world still lurk beneath this surface calm." New York Times
Are their actions really that difficult to comprehend in this larger context?
Rather than take Bin Laden from the Sudan, Clinton insisted we didn't have a strong enough case under "international law" to hold him. Rather than kill Bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 90s, Clinton used cruise missles because he didn't want to overly upset the "government"--aka the Taliban--of Afghanistan. That would disrupt "international peace and stability". That might "destabilize the region".
Yeah, about like a 747 will destabilize a skyscraper, right?
And now, rather than get Osama Bin Laden "dead or alive" as Bush said he would, the administration in 2005 called off an operation to do just that because they didn't want to cause Pakistan any grief.
"A secret military operation in early 2005 to capture senior members of Al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas was aborted at the last minute after top Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan, according to intelligence and military officials.
The target was a meeting of Qaeda leaders that intelligence officials thought included Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's top deputy and the man believed to run the terrorist group's operations. " New York Times
It doesn't get much clearer.
Perhaps we need better diplomacy, greater international cooperation, and the like. Indeed, I believe we do.
But the next time Ted Kennedy or John Kerry or Hillary Clinton or some whinny Frenchman complains about how mean the evil U.S. is and how we shouldn't do anything without the U.N.'s approval, we should ask oursevles: What price are we willing to pay to keep those whinny babies from crying?
And ask yourself, what would most benefit those who seek to replace or destroy us? You will notice, quite often, that handcuffing the U.S. to the U.N. and "multilateralism" is often the best way for others to undermine the U.S., and most often the course of action they "insist" we take. This is not coincidence.
Remember also of course that the war in Iraq has acted to a significant degree as a breeding and training ground for new and more terrorists. And a magnet for them.
The fact is there is never a zero-sum solution. More likely, we're damned if we do, damned if we don't. It's a balance. Finding that balance is the challenge before us. Our enemies know that as well, and they seek to push us in the direction which will benefit them most, while others do the same from other directions. So read up, think clearly and for yourself, and hope we get it right.
Deconstructing Matthew Rothschild
in The Progressive,
by Matthew Rothschild, reeks of instantaneous band-wagon argumentation - the type that liberals cling to as soon as an argument sees light because for so long they've been lacking any argument at all.
As with most of these instantaneous band-wagon arguments, Matthew Rothschild's quickly falls apart under scrutiny. And as with most instantaneous band-wagon arguments, and many liberal "arguments" in general, his is easily deconstructed even by his own so-called "logic".
First, Rothschild says that Bush has failed to secure airports and ports and that, worse, Bush's policies have increased the ranks of terrorist groups.
What’s more, you can tighten security all you want but if you keep manufacturing terrorists, at some point they’re going to succeed.
What Rothschild either fails to mention or simply is ignorant to is that fact that the "cut and run" strategy - or whatever variation he might claim to approve of - has had no different effect. It was in fact Bin Laden himself who boasted that the United States' retreat from Somalia, under President Bill Clinton, embolded him and his followers to further pursue terrorist action against the United States. The retreat from Somalia, according to Bin Laden, emboldened terrorists to the point that they believed that, should they strike the U.S., the U.S. would coil in upon itself rather than respond decisively.
What better recruitment technique is there than the assurance of victory, which is what Bin Laden and his elk garnered from the retreat from Somalia?
Rothschild accuses President Bush of contributing to the ranks of terrorism via his "stay the course" strategy, but says nothing of the contribution that President Clinton's "cut and run" strategy" had to the ranks of terrorism. Rothschild's omission reveals either ignorance or deceit.
Next, Rothschild tries to implicate Bush's support of Israel vs. Hezbollah in the recruitment of terrorists.
And that’s what Bush’s policies have been doing, especially the Iraq War and the U.S. support for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
That Mr. Rothschild concludes that the war in Iraq and the U.S.' support of Israel has led to an increase in recruits for terrorist organizations is not the central issue though. That supposition is in fact a valid one. It is Mr. Rothschild's implication that an opposite course would yield an opposite or more favorable result which bears scrutiny.
Mr. Rothschild appears to be attempting to relegate the root causes of terrorism to reaction against "occupation". This, of course, is not the case. Terrorism does, will, and always has existed regardless of occupation. Terrorism, at its root, has nothing to do with occupation, though occupation is admittedly a catalysing factor at times.
Again, Bin Laden himself has stated that it was the U.S.' failure to engage in decisive action in Somali that very much inspired him and his followers to pursue significant action against the U.S., under the assumption that the U.S. would not react in any meaningful way.
The implication of Mr. Rothschild's statement is that, had the U.S. refrained from invading Iraq and supporting Israel, terrorism would not exist, or at least would not be so prevalent. Mr. Rothschild will, however, have a difficult time defending any such position. For terrorism existed long before the war in Iraq (i.e. the Iran Hostrage Crisis, 9/11, etc) and will exist long after it. The reason is that terrorism has much more to do with a sort of cult of death and destruction leading to gifts in the afterlife than it does with vengance of any sort.
If Mr. Rothschild means to imply something other than the above, he does not make that clear, and he should if he wishes to claim any credibility as a commentator on the issue of terrorism.
Next, Mr. Rothschild engages in perhaps the least credible, and most incriminating, of arguments.
After surveying the scene in Qana, he wrote: “A terrible thought occurs to me - that there will be another 9/11.”
Critics of the West and appeasers of terrorists (not one in the same, necessarily) have often latched onto Western-orchestrated "massacres" such as Qana to explain why "so many people hate America". Not coincidentally though, this position has tended to be an untenable one which reveals more about the bias and anxiousness of commentators and extremists to side against the West/U.S. or with the terrorists than it does about reality.
As we now know, the "Jenin Massacre" - bally-hooed by liberals as a catalyst and even a justification for Palestinian-based terrorism - was almost a complete fraud, repleate with staged media incidents, and the works. It is becoming increasingly clear now that the "Qana massacre" - again trumpeted by liberals and the media with zealous enthusiasm - was much the same.
Time after time, events latched onto by the liberal press for the purpose of decrying actions of the West (i.e. Israel) have proven to be exagerations to say the least - fabrications at large. Deaths tolls amongst civilians are consistently revised downward, and still with little to no mention that those civilians were purposely being used as shields by terrorists in violation of international law and moral sensibility. In the eyes and publications of the media, the blood of innocents is always on the hands of Israel, and never on the hands of the terrorists, except for "good reason", such as occupation or staged "massacres".
Lastly, Mr. Rothschild repeats his flawed logic succinctly, proposing that the policies of Bush and Blair are "reinforcing the creed of the fanatic".
But Bush and Blair have been playing the part Osama bin Laden assigned to them.
They are brutally occupying one Arab country. They are supporting the invasion of another by Israel. And they continue to let Israel inflict collective punishment on the Palestinians in Gaza. By so doing, Bush and Blair have been reinforcing the creed of the fanatic. That won’t make us any safer here at home.
Once again, Mr. Rothschild displays a complete lack of historical perspective with regards to the issue which he apparently believes he has so much to say about - and so many answers to.
He claims that it is the policies of Bush and Blair which have encouraged Bin Laden and reinforced the zealousness of fanatics, implying quite clearly that they alone have provided the catalyst.
Again, it is not Mr. Rothschild's implication that Mr. Bush and Blair's policies have lead to an increase in terrorist recruits that is in question, but his implication that an opposite course has or might lead to a different outcome.
The fact is that President Clinton played the part Osama Bin Laden had hoped for and reinforced the beliefs of the fanatics - that they can achieve victory against a decadent, complacent, and corrupt Western society - by retreating from Somalia and emboldening extremists and terrorists in doing so, just as much, if not more so than Bush and Blair's policies have.
Indeed, it could reasonably be argued that other terrorist states and organizations - Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran, Syria - have been restrained in their actions because of Bush and Blair's "go get 'em" policies. As Lybia's leader Qadafi has conceded, and as Pakistan's president Musharaf and Saudi Arabia's rulers have discovered, it is no longer safe to assume that one can massively and openly support terrorist organizations without grave consequences. Even Iran appears to understand that it is in its own interest to restrain its terrorist proxies to some extent, lest it invoke the ire of the U.S. and the West.
No such concerns plagued Middle East leaders while Clinton was in office. Indeed, the likes of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and Al Qaida gathered their greatest strength during Clinton's presidency. It is only now that President Bush and Prime Minisiter Blair have embarked upon a course for democracy in the Middle East and the defeat of terrorism that the strength and influence of such terrorist organizations have been cast into jeopardy.
P.S. Please forgive any ramblings on in this post. I am just returned from quite a night on 6th Street. :)
****UPDATE**** The NYT is Full of 'it
As I discussed in yesterday's post, New York Times editor Bill Keller, in his editorial
in defense of aiding in the leaking of highly classified information, lamented that the NYT was not critical enough of the Bush Administration's case for war in the beginning, and cited this as one compelling reason to publish the leak/article (despite seemingly overwhelmingly compelling reasons not to).
In Bill Keller's editorial, he laments that,
"Some of the reporting in The Times and elsewhere prior to the war in Iraq was criticized for not being skeptical enough of the Administration's claims about the Iraqi threat."
today in the Weekly Standard gives quite a compelling reason for this. The reason? Quite ironic actually. It turns out that the willful publishing of highly classified information by the NYT contributed to the failure of the NYT (not to mention U.S. intelligence) to be able to gather the best and most accurate intelligence on Iraq.
Gabriel Schoenfeld of the Weekly Standard explains:
"In waging the war on terrorism, the United States depends heavily on cooperation with allied intelligence agencies. But when our own intelligence services demonstrate that they are unable to keep shared information under wraps, international cooperation grinds to a halt. This is a matter not of idle conjecture but of demonstrable fact. During the run-up to the Iraq war, the United States was urgently attempting to assess the state of play of Saddam Hussein's program to acquire weapons of mass destruction. One of the key sources suggesting that an ambitious WMD buildup was underway was an Iraqi defector, known by the codename of Curveball, who was talking to German intelligence. But Washington remained in the dark about Curveball's true identity, and the fact that he was a serial fabricator.
Why would the Germans not identify Curveball? According to the Silberman-Robb WMD Commission report, they refused "to share crucial information with the United States because of fear of leaks." In other words, some of the blame for our mistaken intelligence about Iraq's WMD program rests with leakers and those in the media who rush to publish the leaks."
Oh, when the chickens come home to roost................
Bill Keller claims to take seriously into consideration the national security of this country before publishing highly classified material. Perhaps this crystal clear revelation of the consequences of his ignorant actions will make him think twice next time.
But I wont hold my breath on that one.
Thanks again for nothing, Bill.
Disecting Bill Keller's Lame Defense
It has been business as usual at the NYT's this month. More slanted news reporting, more national security secrets leaked (read: federal crimes aided and abetted), more half-assed, nearly insulting lectures on the First Amendment (which the press believes it is the utmost authority on), and more insistence from its editors that they don't see what the big fuss is all about. At least in the cases of the Bay of Pigs, Watergate, the Iran-Contra Affair, the NSA eavesdropping program and others, the NYT has had been able to plausibly claim whistleblower status. In this case, however, that is not so.
Bill Keller's admits as much in his recent editorial
in defense of publishing details of a highly classified government program in which the U.S. government, through its intelligence agencies, tracks the international financial transactions of terrorists and those suspected of terrorism, even going so far as to admit that "the program helps catch and prosecute financers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far." These admissions are about the only solid statements in Keller's editorial though.
Let's examine the editorial, attempting to ignore the more gratuitous parts of the editorial, such as Keller's jaded attempt to stake a moral high-ground by blaming criticism of the NYT story on "the angry words of conservative bloggers and TV or radio pundits who say that drawing attention to the government's anti-terror measures is unpatriotic and dangerous", as if they don't have a point in saying so. Indeed, Keller admits later in the editorial that those questions are legitimate ones, but that "It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective". How convenient.
(Note to readers: This is a somewhat lengthy post. I'll highlight the more substantive points for those with less time or patience.)
From the top then. Keller asks, again in a way wherein he attempts to take a moral high-ground by using obviously exaggerated wording, and then tries to cloak himself in the "besides, everyone else is doing it" argument,
"Who are the editors of The New York Times (or the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and other publications that also ran the banking story) to disregard the wishes of the President and his appointees?" And yet, few have suggested that the press not "disregard the wishes of the President and his appointees". In fact, what the American public, and indeed much of the press having been saying, is that the NYTs should not disregard the national security of this nation or its laws. Keller tosses out this straw man though to deflect as much attention as possible from those bedrock issues, instead pitting the himself and the noble press corps against the always-to-be-feared government.
"And yet the people who invented this country saw an aggressive, independent press as a protective measure against the abuse of power in a democracy, and an essential ingredient for self-government. They rejected the idea that it is wise, or patriotic, to always take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish."Here, Keller attempts to use the "checks and balances" argument. That is, that the Founding Fathers intended for the press to be a check on government, just as the legislative branch is intended to be a check on the executive branch, and vice versa. However, while it is certainly true that the Founding Fathers intended that, this may be Keller's weakest argument (though it is the one the press most commonly relies on - it makes them sound patriotic and informed at the same time, plus, their liberal professors taught them that this is gospel). What this argument reveals though is precisely the press' attitue of self-importance and its consistent double-standards.
The press considers itself - often, it insists that it is - as important a check on the government as the various branches of government are on each other. Hence, the press is often considered the "fourth branch of government" (for example, here, The Progressive calls the press the "fourth estate"). Yet, the press will be the first to scream bloody murder when any member of the government (well, any conservative member) so much as pushes the envelope with regards to its Constitutional authority to execute their oath of office or to provide a check or balance on another branch of government.
Two examples from the front pages of the NYT illustrate this: the NSA wiretapping program, and the comments of Senators such as Tom Delay regarding the federal judiciary. In both cases, the NYTs took an almost unflinchingly negative view of these actions, all but insisting that the represented a breach of Constitutional authority. Yet, criticism and even threats by members of the Senate toward the judiciary do not come nearly as close to breaking the law or breaching the Constitutional checks and balance of powers as does the "Newspaper of Record" exposing a legal, effective, and highly classified national security program during a time of war.
But alas, the press not only holds itself as equal to the government, but considers itself far above it, all the while defending such hubris with the same Constitution which gives such broad powers to each of the actual branches of government.
And again, in the last sentence above, Keller attempts to diminish the argument into "the Press vs. the President". Keller implies that critics expect the press to "surrender to government the important decisions about what to publish", which is of course ridiculous. No one - and I'm fairly sure that a damn-near-accurate statistic - wants the press to do any such thing, and no one to my knowledge is saying so. Again, the critics are not asking the NYT to "surrender" (big-bad-scary word!) its decisions to the big-bad President, but instead to give more care to the laws and national security of this nation. After all, as one of the "four branches of government" (legislative, executive, judicial, and the press), they of all people should take care to guard this nation, its people, and its laws, should they not?
Instead, the press consistently wraps itself in the First Amendment, in essence claiming that the laws of society, government, common sense, and decency don't apply to them. Meanwhile, they call blunt politicians "scare-mongers", "extremist" and "zenophobic", label frank academics and university presidents "sexist", consider honest Americans who only voice their reasoned opinions "homophobes", all while decrying any who dare imply - or give the appearance of possibly implying if even by the Nth degree of seperation - that they may be "unpatriotic" or "a danger to national security".
"The responsibility of it weighs most heavily on us when an issue involves national security, and especially national security in times of war."
Here, one cannot help but wonder if the NYT seems so careless with our national security because it does not in fact consider us to be in a time of war. After all, it seems rather certain that much of the NYT staff does not consider the Afghanistan war to be ongoing (they hardly cover this war anymore - not enough death and sectarian strife to raise ad revenues I suppose), but they also consider the Iraq War to be illegitimate, and many consider it and the War on Terror in general to be more harmful than good, if they consider the War on Terror to be a war at all (some clearly do not).
But I digress.
Next, Keller manages to be both patronizing and insulting, in entirely opposite ways, in less than two paragraphs. In the first, he claims that,
"Editors start from the premise that citizens can be entrusted with unpleasant and complicated news, and that the more they know the better they will be able to make their views known to their elected officials."
In the next, he says,
"Forgive me, I know this is pretty elementary stuff — but it's the kind of elementary context that sometimes gets lost in the heat of strong disagreements."So, are Mr. Keller and the NYT entrusting citizens with complicated material, or elementary material?
Or are they - one must wonder....if they're thinking - entrusting elementary citizens with elementary material? Certainly, Bill Keller's cookie-cutter defense of the leaking of this vital national security program is elementary.
Keller next proceeds to all but hang himself with his own rope. First, he says,
"We have sometimes [withheld information of significance], holding stories or editing out details that could serve those hostile to the U.S. But we need a compelling reason to do so."
And then he goes on to admit that,
"It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosecute financers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far. A reasonable person, informed about this program, might well decide to applaud it." [emphasis added] One would think that since the program appears 1) fully legal, 2) highly effective, and 3) lacking unsavory aspects such as abuses of power, and therefore that the program is not only a highly classified matter of national security, but is greatly and legally contributing to our national security, that that would be "compelling reason" enough not to publish it for all the world's terrorists to see. Indeed, Keller even goes onto say that that has been no evidence that bankers or other governments involved with or who have knowledge of the program seem to mind it at all.
None of them bothered to print an editorial or news article about the program either.
Next, Bill Keller goes onto lament that,
"Since September 11, 2001, our government has launched broad and secret anti-terror monitoring programs without seeking authorizing legislation and without fully briefing the Congress." Far more prudent then would have been for the NYT to send a letter to key members of each party of Congress - or hell, even all of Congress - regarding the program before publishing it. Though Keller acts as if Congress was kept in the dark on this program and that that provided a key motivation for the publishing of this information, he makes no mention of having revealed this report to members of Congress prior to publishing it. He mentions only "Administration officials and The Times, not only the reporters who wrote the story but senior editors, including me....national security experts not serving in the Administration."
If Bill Keller and the NYT were so concerned with the possibility that Congress was in the dark about this program, why didn't they inform them themselves, before informing every terrorist on the planet?
Alas, the NYTs appears far more concerned with besmerching the Bush Administration than with the security of this nation, its own role in safeguarding this nation, or....well, anything else for that matter.
Indeed, perhaps the NYTs' obsession with harming the Bush Administration stems at least partly from a form of self-punishment for supposedly "not being skeptical enough of the Administration's claims about the Iraqi threat." Since WWII, Germany has taken drastic actions to prevent another Holocaust, enacting laws that we as Americans would consider gross violations of our Bill of Rights. Perhaps the NYTs is wallowing in self-flaggelation over not having prevented the war, or Bush's re-election, or Blair's, or Howard's.... Not that that's an excuse.
But again, I digress.
The last part of Bill Keller's editorial proves the most lazy, not to mention nauseating. In the last two substantive - and I use that word for lack of a better one - paragraphs, Keller feigns having no knowledge that the NYTs actions in revealing other highly classified programs have in any way degraded the effectiveness of those programs or influenced America's enemies to alter their tactics, techniques or procedures in any way.
He says that, "to the best of our knowledge the eavesdropping program continues to operate much as it did before", as if he had any idea, especially after having already compromised the program and undoubtedly resulting in a significant clamp-down on any outside knowledge of it. Indeed, this seems little more than the literary incarnation of Keller's lame attempt at helping himself sleep better at night, assuming that is even an issue for him.
His next argument is even more contorted and forced than the last.
"A secondary argument against publishing the banking story was that publication would lead terrorists to change tactics. But that argument was made in a half-hearted way. It has been widely reported — indeed, trumpeted by the Treasury Department — that the U.S. makes every effort to track international financing of terror. Terror financiers know this, which is why they have already moved as much as they can to cruder methods. But they also continue to use the international banking system, because it is immeasurably more efficient than toting suitcases of cash. " Here, Keller means to say, in so many words, that even his actions weren't any worse than anyone else's (in this case the Treasury Dept's); he implies that terrorists already were aware of everything anyway; and that well, even if they weren't, it wont matter that much anyway.
As a former military intelligence analyst who worked on the ground in Iraq for 16 months on two different tours, I can confidently say that, if Bill Keller truly believes the above, he is either greatly lacking in knowledge or perspective, is a complete idiot, or is spinning a lie. Terrorists not only react - very evidently - to reports from the world's leading newspapers, they react to work of mouth on the streets and markets of large cities and small tribal communities.
Not only do terrorists react as individuals, but as organizations.
An Al Qaida pamphlet found in Pakistan discusses and discourages the use of cell phones (here
). Not long before I left Iraq for the second time, in November of 2005, the Al-Qaeda in Iraq network issued a nation-wide fatwa banning the use of cell phones by members of the organization. They even went so far as to destroy a number of cell phone towers in NW Iraq in an attempt to prevent their members from being able to use cell phones, knowing that U.S. forces could monitor their usage. It is unlikely that Bill Keller's work at the NYT directly contributed to either of those instances, but to suggest that revealing highly classified national security programs in a major world-wide newspaper is harmless is akin to every person in the U.S. believing they shouldn't bother voting because their vote doesn't really matter.
To borrow from one of our Founding Fathers, Keller's final justification provides a perfect illustration of what Thomas Jefferson called "an apathy unfavorable to every hope".Lastly, Bill Keller claims that this information was published because it was deemed to be in the "public interest". Leaving aside that it is also in the public's interest to have a strong national defense, a robust intelligence capability, and an advantage over those who wish to kill us both at home and abroad....What is the public's interest in having this information, and in what way does it outweigh the other public interests involved?
Is it in the public's interest for anyone - press or not - to reveal to the entire world highly classified, highly effective, perfectly legal national security programs? I think not.
Is it in the public's interest for such programs, if controversial, to be discussed first in the halls of government, before being revealed to every terrorist and criminal in the world? Probably.
Would it be in the public's interest if someone decided that the existence of Bill Keller on this earth were not in the public's interest? Well, its debatable, but to borrow from Mr. Keller, who are we to make such a judgement?
Borrowing from Mr. Keller again, isn't it plausible that the American people already knew - or at the very least suspected - that the U.S. government was doing, or were certainly capable of doing, such things as tracking the international transactions of terrorists? Haven't Hollywood, the Discovery Channel, and The Learning Channel, to name a few, already made it quite evident to the American public that our government is capable of just about anything? And as Mr. Keller freely admits, hasn't the Treasury Dept already hinted at as much?
What then is the public interest in doing no more than going further by revealing specifically classified details of a specifically classied program, even naming the specific banking conglomerates and institutions involved?
Was the public interest not served enough when both the 9/11 Commission recommended, the President and Congress promised, and the Treasury Department confirmed that actions such as the tracking of the financial transactions of terrorists would be pursued? I certainly have never met a single American so naive as to believe our government wasn't engaged in such actions. So was it necessary to give the public, and the terrorists, the finite details?
Thanks for nothing, Bill.
Boycott the Chinese Censors
Final Update: 7/26/2006
After reading a number of very well-reasoned articles, blogs, etc, I have decided to recant my statement about banning the "Chinese Censors". I guess you could chalk it up to the premise that providing tainted food to the starving is better than giving them nothing at all.
Yes, boycott the censors I say! All of them.
First it was Microsoft, Yahoo, and Cisco
bowing to China's demand that they censor all internet traffic into China to prevent the people there from hearing about such 'threatening' topics as democracy, the Tiannamen Square massacre, and the real legacy of Mao
. Now Google
has jumped on the 'oppress the Chinese people under a totalitarian communist dictatorship' band waggon.
Yes, yes. This is the same Google which was founded by anarchists and whose corporate motto is 'Don't Be Evil'. (Telegraph
) It seems that even mockeries are made in Chinese sweat shops.
Yahoo even went so far as to turn over information on a Chinese journalist, after which he was imprisoned, sentenced to 10 years! (CSM
Each of the companies, in turn, has defended their blatant aiding and abetting of the supression of the Chinese people by its own government. (Example
) Maybe none of this should seem suprising, since corporations have a history
of ties with dictators - benign or not. (Non-professional link, but common knowledge for the most part). But then, maybe we should've learned our lesson by now.
I had hoped Google, of all companies, would have been less anxious to be corraled into the Great Berlin FireWall of China. I even hoped they might make a statement. Alas, neither them, nor Yahoo, nor Time's Person of the Year
have had the guts to stand up to one of the greatest dictatorships in history. Maybe its because they each fell seperately. Maybe they'd be stronger in numbers. Unity, solidarity, and all that other stuff that is actually allowed to pierce through the communist sensors.
So, in that vein, I call for a two-front boycott.
First. The American people could boycott Google, Yahoo, and MSN. Even a full-out boycott wouldn't be necessary to send a message. If the American people (the #1 internet market on the earth) refused to use any of those companies' search engines, mail services, or websites for two weeks, I imagine it would make a decent statement, if for no other reason than the lack of traffic to their sites would spook advertisers who pay big bucks to advertise on those sites. (Money seems to be their utmost concern, so its worth a shot).
An even better step would be to cancel your MSN or Yahoo internet services and switch to another company - and let them know why. The American people should also contact members of Congress and the companies themselves, express their dissatisfaction, and urge action.
Second. All three companies should boycott China. Why the three have not already made a joint stance, or even a joint attempt ala the still-limp EU3, to get China to ease up on three of their major cash cows.
China is now the #2 internet market in the world, and one of the fastest growing economies. A significant amount of that is the result of the business that these three internet giants have brought to China, the ever-important broad access to information they enable, etcetera. To be sure, shutting off all of these companies' links to China for a couple weeks would place the international media and political spotlight directly on the government of China. The people of China, devoid of so many of their most widely used internet services, would become increasingly irritated to say the least, and its a safe bet who they'd point the finger at.
These actions could be timed to coincide with the (supposedly) upcoming Congressional hearings
on U.S. internet business dealings in China.
So. Let's see just how powerful the internet really
is, shall we?
I just did a Google search (I'm such a hypocrit!) for "Boycott the Chinese Censors" - unfortunately I didn't see my blog - and I found this article on Bloomberg which also calls for a boycott. Sweet! Read all about it!
Then I found this on-line petition
for boycotting Yahoo!, run by this blog: BooYahoo!
Busy Busy Busy Busy
Sorry everyone. Been really bogged down again lately, getting ready for school and getting a job and such. All apologies for having, like, the sparsest blog ever. I attempt - probably feebly - to make up for the lack of quantity with quality. Thanks for staying faithful, readers.
**UPDATE**: Earthquake Relief in Pakistan
In a previous post, I called for the U.S. to do everything it could to help earthquake victims in Pakistan. I said it would improve the image of the U.S. in the nation whose madrasas
birthed the Taliban and whose population is general radicalized and anti-American - i.e. an ideal breeding ground for terrorists. Indeed, persons involved in the London bombings were linked to Pakistan.
Well, this is another, "I told you so."
U.S. helicopters have flown 2,500 sorties, carried 16,000 passengers and
delivered nearly 6,000 tons of aid. Just as importantly, the Chinook has become
America's new emblem in Pakistan, a byword for salvation in an area where until
recently the U.S. was widely and fanatically detested. Toy Chinooks (made in
China, of course) are suddenly popular with Pakistani children. A Kashmiri imam
who denounced the U.S. in a recent sermon was booed and heckled by worshippers.
"Pakistan is not a nation of ingrates," a local businessman told me over dinner
the other night. "We know where the help is coming from."
The extent of the U.S. military's assistance, well-known to Pakistanis,
barely registers on the radar screens of most Western news outlets. That's a
pity, because it overlooks one of America's most significant hearts-and-minds
successes so far in the Muslim world. The assistance also illustrates
another frequently overlooked fact: When it comes to foreign aid, the Department
of Defense is one of the biggest contributors, and what it provides is something
no other country can replicate. (WSJ)
**UPDATE**: U.N. Investigation of Hariri Murder
offers a scathing indictment of the U.N.'s dovishness regarding Syrian interference in Lebanon. The article begins:
Syria is getting away with murder in Lebanon, and the United Nations Security Council is letting it happen. (NYT)
This is the part where I say, "I told you so."
Might Liberals Someday Wake Up to the Perils of Global Governance?
For decades now, conservative activists and libertarian-types (and some liberals) have been the primary voices of caution against the dangers to national sovereignty posed by global governance. Time and time again people like Thomas Sowell
, Tom DeWeese
, Cheryl Chumley
, (all fine folks at Capitalism Magazine
), and Alex Jones
- to name just a few - have warned us about the often subversive encroachment of the New World Order.
Yes, much of the howling about world governance is laced with paranoia and shrill rhetoric. (In that case, its a wonder such warnings haven't been more commonplace in America's newspapers and on the 24-hour news channels.) Nevertheless, it can only be said that wanton negligence, purposeful tunnel-vision, and selective opportunism have allowed things to get as far
as they have.
Might liberals be coming around now, or might they in the future?
Hilariously (IMO), it is Wal-Mart that ignited their fires recently.
Union leaders, politicians and anti-globalization activists have used the courts and zoning laws to keep big-box stores like Wal-Mart out of their neighborhoods.
This week, those retailers will head to Hong Kong to try to persuade negotiators to fashion a trade pact that would make it more difficult for governments to restrict foreign-owned stores, banks and telecommunications companies.
These retailers say they are not making a back-door attempt to undo various countries' laws.....But critics, who include state Sen. Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont) and Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, call the move a stealth attack on grass-roots democracy. They fear that the proposals to change the WTO's 1994 General Agreement on Trade in Services would make it easier to attack dozens of U.S. laws designed to restrict the growth of big-box retailers. (emphasis added) (LAT)
Sounds awfully similar to the complaints issued in the articles that I linked to above doesn't it?
The Global Compact Center and its Responsible Investment Initiative are
thinly veiled attacks against capitalism that, left unchecked, will result in a
ceding of private and sovereign national oversight and regulatory powers to the
global government. (CapMag)
Ironically, even environmentalists - who are among those most
responsible for the massive growth in world government over the last few decades - are not lamenting the incursion of global governing institutions across national and local boundaries.
Campaigners today delivered a petition to the World Trade Organization Director Pascal Lamy during trade talks taking place at the Hong Kong Convention Centre.
Through the petition citizens ask the WTO not to undermine the right of individual countries, in this case European countries, to take appropriate steps to protect their farmland, environment, and consumers from the risks posed by genetically modified food and crops.
Ronnie Hall, Friends of the Earth International's trade campaigner and one of the report's authors said, "The myth of unfettered free trade as a solution to poverty needs to be exploded. Regional and bilateral trade agreements running in parallel are as untransparent and harmful as the WTO." (emphasis added) (ENS)
Unfortunately though, it seems that liberal tunnel-vision on the issue of global governance is not likely to abate any time soon. (As untransparent and harmful as world government is more like it). While I agree with Mr. Hall's statement entirely, it seems liberals still do not recognize global governance itself as a problem, but only global capitalism as they see it. The opposite though might also be said of conservative free-traders who support the WTO but lament organizations like UNESCO.
"What we need now is a halt to trade liberalization negotiations and an urgent review of the impacts of international trade rules on poor people and the environment," Hall said. (ENS)
Like I said, selective opportunism.
I will end this post with a quote from Cheryl Chumley:
The idea of ceding authority to the global government is never one that should be taken lightly..... (CapMag)
Letter to an American Soldier
Be sure to read this letter from Vasko Kohlmayer, an American citizen who defected from communist Czechoslovakia at the age of 19 and now works in London.Letter to an American Soldier
(Hat tip: The American Thinker
U.N. Must Broaden Its Investigation Into the Hariri Murder
In a way, two of today's top international headlines define a major part of the legacy of the United Nations - that of too much talk and too little action.
While the U.N. "wrestles" with whether or not to broaden its inquiry (NYT
) into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (Scottsman
), the people of Lebanon are mourning the death of yet another murdered Lebanese politician who made a name for himself by speaking out against the Syrian occupation of and interference in Lebanon (AlJazeera
). This week's assassination marks at least the fourth believed to be linked to Syria since Syrian troops pulled out of Lebanon this Spring (RCP/NYP
Now more than ever, the U.N. must
broaden its investigation into the murder of Rafik Hariri, and into the damaging role that Syria almost certainly continues to play in Lebanon today. If it doesn't, Syria will have little motivation to keep its bombs out of Lebanese politics.
As of 12/15, the U.N. has extended its investigation into the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, but denied Beirut's request to broaden
the probe. (ABC
Hope Keeps Progress Going in Iraq
There are a number of things that are essential to maintaining progress in Iraq - economic development, improved security, and so on. Economists, politicians, and polemicists can measure these those things day in and day out, make speeches about them, and lobby for more and more of them. In the end though, none of that would be enough.
There is something else. Something less tangible, something incalculable, that drives Iraqis to contiue to vote en masse
in the face of threats to their life and leads patriotic men to daily return to the recruiting line outside of a police station that only yesterday was the sceen of death and mayhem.
It is something that did not exist in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, and indeed, that Saddam knew must be eliminated in its entirety for him to maintain his death-grip. In doing so, Saddam managed to subdue, for almost 40 years, a nation of 25 million people who I can attest are some of the most intelligent, determined, and hard-working people on Earth.
It is something I witnessed first-hand on the road to Baghdad, April 20th, 2003. We had stopped our convoy on the side of the highway so everyone could grab a bite to eat. Slowly, the locals had gathered all around us, almost crowding us, anxious to speak to an American soldier or maybe just to see if we were really human. (Prior to the war, rumors were spread that U.S. GIs were robots or machines of some sort.)
An old man, probably in his 60s, joined a group of younger men huddled around our Humvee. I'll never forget the look in his eye, his shaking hands, or the words he said. "I love Bush!" he said. "I hate Saddam. With Saddam, no freedom. Now, we have freedom."
His English was limited and broken, and his statement obviously topical and simplistic to some degree. It was those last two sentences though that I can't forget. "With Saddam, no freedom. Now, we have freedom."
It occured to me that this man probably could not remember a single day of freedom in his life. As I stared at the frail old man, I imagined he might not live much longer. I wondered to myself, "If he and I both died tomorrow, would it have been worth me coming to Iraq?" Then I imagined living, myself, having never known a day of freedom. And it was then I felt that, if that old man and I had both died the next day, his one day of freedom would have been worth my dying for.
Two articles reminded me of that story and reminded me of what it is that truly drives Iraqis to get up every day and risk their lives on the chance that they might find something worth getting up for the next day.
It is hope.
Hope for a better tomorrow. Hope for a better future for their children. Hope, now that the Butcher of Baghdad is no more.
This hope was most recently reflected in an ABC poll of Iraqis in which:
7 out of10 feel their lives are going well, 2/3rds believe life in"To Saddam's prisoners, U.S. abuse seems 'a joke'" - The Daily Star of Lebanon"Defying terror to vote for future" - The Boston Globe
Iraq will improve in the next year, 76 percent of Iraqis said they were
"confident" the vote would produce a "stable government".
However, only 44 percent of Iraqis said they believe things are going well
in their country, while 52 percent said they felt the country was "doing badly."
In February 2004, 39 percent of Iraqis said they believed the U.S.
invasion was wrong, but that number has risen to 50 percent. Accordingly, the
percentage of Iraqis who now oppose the U.S. presence jumped from 51 percent to
65 percent. (UPI)
"Hands Off Our Water" Say Great Lakes States
Here's a doozy for ya.
Recently, the 8 Great Lakes States, along with two Canadian provinces, signed an agreement that would prevent all other states in the U.S. from having access to the water in the Great Lakes, which holds 90% of the U.S.' fresh water. (Forbes
The governors of the states are of course playing this up as an issue of 'conservation' and 'environmental protection', but one can't help but detect a hint of stinginess here.
I'm not saying I disagree with their actions - I'm undecided - but its no more ethical to wrap one's self in environmentalism than it is to wrap one's self in the flag, if that is indeed what they are doing. To do either on dubious terms cheapens those legitimate causes.
The Great Lakes have always been the concern of the Environmental Protection Agency. Worth noting is that there are already at least 140 federal programs to protect the Great Lakes - programs paid for by ALL U.S. TAXPAYERS, not just those of the Great Lakes states. On top of that, the Great Lakes states are now asking U.S. taxpayers to ante up another $300 million in new spending on the Great Lakes. (NYT
U.S. Paying for Good News in Iraq?
There has been a big stink recently about the U.S. allegedly paying Iraqi newspapers
to print news stories about the positive things U.S. Forces are doing in Iraq.
So I wondered to myself.... If paying Iraqi newspapers to recognize the positive achievements of U.S. Forces in Iraq is not acceptable, how else might we get this important message to the people of Iraq?
My first thought was to simply import U.S. newspapers into Iraq.
Then, alas, I came to my senses and realized what a stupid idea
Texas Longhorns in the Big XII Championship
What the hell are you doing reading this blog right now!?
You should be watching the Texas Longhorns whoop up on the Colorado Buffalos in the Big XII Championship game on ABC right now! www.mackbrown-texasfootball.com
Progress for Democracy in the Middle East
Two recent headlines highlight the progress of democracy in the Middle East of late.
In Saudi Arabia, women were permitted to vote and run in elections for the first time. Two women were elected to the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce board - the first elected female officials in Saudi Arabia's modern history. (Los Angeles Times
Egypt has also held historic elections, though the elections were tainted by violence and allegations of fraud as was expected. (BBC
And now, the president of the United Arab Emirates has announced plans for that country's first elections. (BBC
Congress Shuts Out its Veterans
I'm a little upset about this one, and I think most of you will back me up on this one.
For more than 50 years, the leaders of veterans groups have met with a joint session of Congress to discuss legislation regarding our military's veterans, such as the GI Bill, healthcare, and so on. But this week, The Congress has decided that it no longer wishes to hear from its military veterans each year. Read more about it HERE.
I spoke with the head of the American Legion in Austin, Tx today and he has confirmed all of this and has stated that veterans organizations and some members of Congress are taking action on this matter as we speak.
Please join me in writing to your Congressperson and expressing that it is not acceptable for Congress to shut its ears to the veterans who have served and continue to serve this country in various ways every day, especially at a time with this country is relying on its military more and more.
It will only take you two minutes. All you have to do is go to THIS WEBPAGE, type your message in (or copy and paste the one I sent, which I've pasted below), and hit send. You can also help by forwarding this email to your friends so that they too can write their Congresspersons. Thanks everyone!
Sir or Ma'am
I recently received word that the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-Ind) recently announced that veteran’s service organizations will no longer have the opportunity to present testimony before a joint hearing - a tradition that dates back to the 1950's.
I can hardly believe my ears.
At a time when this country is calling on its troops - volunteer troops - more than ever before, it seems inconceivable to me that Congress would close its collective ear to the veterans who have served and continue to serve this country faithfully. (Meanwhile, the likes of Pat Robertson receive complimentary conference calls from top Administration officials!)
From the war on terrorism, to humanitarian relief efforts at home and abroad, this nation's troops have never been a more important or vital part of American life.
On behalf of myself and other veterans, I insist that this action by the Veteran's Affairs Committee is unacceptable to the vast community of this nation's veterans and should be rectified immediately.
Thank you for your time. I sincerely hope that this country's veterans can rely on your support in this matter.
The House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer (R-Ind) recently announced that veteran's service organizations will no longer have the opportunity to present testimony before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees, a tradition of legislative presentations by veteran's service organizations that dates back to the 1950s. The joint hearings have been held each year to allow the elected leaders of veterans groups to discuss their organization's legislative agenda and foremost concerns with the lawmakers who have jurisdiction over federal veterans programs. Senators and Representatives who serve on those committees also get the opportunity to address the hundreds of constituent members from these organizations' who make the annual pilgrimage to Capitol Hill. How do you feel about this action? Let your public officials know how you feel!
Rice in Russia - Handing Out Carrots....For Free
Condoleeza Rice traveled to Russia this week to seek its support for referring Iran to the UN Security Council over its apparent attempts to build nuclear weapons, and also to seek its support in pressuring Syria on a number of issues, amongst other things. Russia flatly refused
her on the issue of Iran.
Russian support on the Iran issue was the U.S.' top priority by far. Why then did Condoleeza Rice promise Russia that the U.S. would not open any new bases in Central Asia
- the issue Russia was most concerned with. Russia, with the aid and encouragement of China
, wants the U.S. out of Central Asia period. Both countries feel that they are now in a position to be regional power-houses again, and see the U.S. as the biggest hinderance to that. The issue is both geopolitical
Why then would Condoleeza Rice - and the Bush Administration for that matter - give Russia and China its biggest strategic victory over the U.S. in decades, but get nothing in return? The issue of U.S. presence in Central Asia was one of the U.S.' biggest carrots. By ceding that issue to Russia (and China by default), the U.S. - by all appearances - will now have very few major incentives left to offer Russia and China in return for support on the UN Security Council.
From a geopolitical/strategic standpoint, I cannot see why we (the U.S.) have made this move? Maybe someone can point me toward a good reason.
**UPDATE**: The Media is Missing
The mainstream media has finally begun to pick up on the OU suicide bomber story. They take a cautious but pretty balanced approach, which is probably best for now.The Wall Street JournalCNN
Backtrack: The Media is Missing
Stopping Sleeper Cells
Recent events in Oklahoma
and New York City
have again focused the public eye on frightening possibility of another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Indeed, it seems quite plausible
that we only narrowly escaped a major attack recently, when an engineering student named Joel Hinrichs blew himself within eye-sight of the University of Oklahoma's football stadium where 84,000 fans had gathered to watch their team take on Kansas State. While the mainstream media has been painstakingly slow to grasp the reality of that event and the local, state, and federal officials have stone-walled the press, the blogosphere has been pursuing the story vigorously. However, the great investigative work done by bloggers has the significant advantage of hindsight.
While law enforcement officials seemingly had some evidence that Hinrichs was more than just a struggling college student, most of the evidence up until now was circumstantial - not enough for to warrant an arrest or probably even a phone tap. For example, we know that Hinrichs met a number of criteria common amongst terrorists. He was a young, middle class, educated male who apparently had grown a beard (a sign of devout Muslim belief); he reportedly frequented an Islamic mosque or community center (though there are conflicting reports); and he was living with a young Pakistani male. Some sources have said that Hinrichs was already known to authorities
, probably for previous illegal or suspicious activity. But even combined with the possibility of a previous criminal record, such "life-style indicators" do not necessarily indicate terrorist activity themselves. After all, that could be the description of any college student.
This fact makes it very difficult for law enforcement personnel to meet the often strict criteria required by law to investigate a suspicious individual, even if an officer's gut instinct tells him or her that something is awry. The question then is what can we do, as a nation, to better protect ourselves against the threat of sleeper cells?
In general, sleeper cells are impossible to spot by the naked eye. Their members go to great lengths to blend into their surrounding environments by getting jobs and going to college, or adopting other life-style habits not dissimilar from the norm. To make matters more difficult, Al Qaida and other groups have made it one of their top priorities to recruit young 2nd and 3rd generation males (and even females) who already live in the countries they seek to target, and therefore have already adapted to their cultures. Despite the subversive and well-disguised nature of sleeper cells though, there are many steps along the road to a terrorist attack where law enforcement agencies have distinct opportunities to intervene and disrupt them.
First, and perhaps most importantly, most terrorists must begin by infiltrating into the target country. There are three reasons for this. The first is that it is often extremely difficult to recruit native operatives. Secondly, high-level terrorist cells put themselves at a greater risk of exposure by doing so, because recruiting a person in a completely different country requires an increased level of communications that could be detected by law enforcement agencies. And third, it is far more difficult to find local recruits who have the skills, and training, required to carry out a terrorist operation. Most of those who do are current or former members of law enforcement agencies or the military, and are more likely to turn over the terrorists than to support them. So, terrorist groups generally benefit most by infiltrating well-trained and reliable operatives into the target country. For this reason, adequate border security and the expedient enforcement of immigration and Visa laws are essential in preventing terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Our commitment to our borders and to our laws is our first line of defense.
Secondly, terrorists often resort to criminal activity to run their operation. They often acquire fraudulent forms of identification, or acquire them under false pretenses; they sometimes steal or launder money for funding; and at some point they come into possession of illegal, often stolen materials and equipment such as explosives and vehicles intended to be used in the attack. Additionally, data shows that a significant number of terrorists have prior criminal records, whether it be arrests, misdemeanor offenses such as a traffic ticket, or immigration violations - including some of those who were involved in the 9//11 attacks. In most cases though, the terrorist is simply fined, jailed temporarily, or released and order to appear in court at a later date. Like most illegal immigrants/aliens though, the terrorists never show up for their court date. Law enforcement agencies must do a better job at identifying possible terrorists during these critical encounters. We must continue to tear down walls between intelligence agencies which prevent information sharing, work within our country and with our neighbors to better coordinate terrorist watch lists, streamline our policies on the deportation of illegal immigrants/aliens, and we should seriously consider ways in which local and state agencies can better assist in the enforcement of the nation's immigration laws. That would be a good start at least, and improving in those areas would have broader benefits.(See Wikipedia's page on the Ahmed Ressam - also discussed at length in the 9/11 Commission Report - which discusses how the "Millennium Bomber" managed to infiltrate the U.S. and Canada from Algeria by using a fake passport, over-staying his Visa, and failing to show up to court hearings on his immigration status.)
Third, almost all terrorist attacks are preceded by some degree of surveillance. This is particularly true of U.S. targets, which usually have some measure of security. For one, terrorists must determine the point at which striking the target would result in the most damage or greatest loss of life by examining the structure and patterns of human activity in and around the target. They also need to know the roads and buildings surrounding their target and the strengths, vulnerabilities, and patterns of security personnel. Surveillance equipment such as a camera is not always necessary, but without them, terrorists are forced either to work from memory or to surveil the target frequently, placing themselves at greater risk of being discovered. In general, the surveilling operative will have a camera or a note pad on which to write notes. Target surveillance can be a lengthy process and therefore provides another significant opportunity for security personnel and law enforcement officials to disrupt terrorist operations. However, it is often difficult to spot a terrorist surveilling a target without prior knowledge of what target the terrorists plan to attack. This is simply because of the possibility that any area frequented by large numbers of people can make a good terrorist target, and because terrorists are very good at disguising their activities by blending into their environments. It is not impossible though. Vigilance and alertness on the part of security and law enforcement personnel as well as the public is essential in these instances.
Lastly, electronic transmissions are vital to any terrorist operation. These transmissions can include money transfers between various entities used to fund the organization, as well as computerized and telephonic communications between cell members and between the sleeper cell and the senior terrorist leader(s) directing the group from overseas. Senior operatives must communicate with the sleeper cell constantly. First, to order the group into action; later to assist in the acquisition of financial and other resources; and if necessary to coordinate communications with other sleeper cells; to "refine the target package"; and to ensure that various sets of instructions are followed throughout the course of the operation. Electronic transmissions are a critical capability for any terrorist organization, and therefore it is critical that we do everything in our ability to better enforce our laws which prevent fund-raising by dubious "non-profit organizations", and to seek out and exploit the platforms and networks of communication used by terrorists.
Sleeper cells are notoriously difficult to identify, disrupt, and indict, but all three are well within our capabilities as a nation. It should go without saying that the activities that terrorists engage in habitually is already illegal, yet sadly they often carry out their actions unhindered, and the consequences are often deadly. The best method for thwarting terrorist plots before they come to fruition is also one of the most basic principles of this nation: we must enforce the laws of this country. In order to do so, tough and tedious decisions must be made, red tape must to be cut, and some bureaucracies will have to go on a diet, while others must expand. These things will also require funding. Perhaps most importantly though, adequately addressing the threat of terrorism to the United States requires an intelligent and steadfast leadership commitment to doing what is best for the American people.
……You may now commence with kissing your rear-end good-bye.
October 09, 2005
Sorry So Slow
Sorry I haven't posted in the last couple of days folks!
I just found out that I'll probably be leaving Iraq to head back to the States in about two weeks, so I've been spending most of my time making arrangements rather than reading the news and all.
Leaving country and getting settled back in takes a bit longer than one might imagine, but once I do, I intend to spend a good deal more time working on the blog.
But then again, who knows!? Life is crazy!
Don't forget about me though! Keep checking back regularly, and I'll do my best in the coming weeks to keep this thing rockin'! Take care!
**UPDATES**: Iraqi Constitution; Earthquake; and NYC Terror Threat
The Wall Street Journal today discusses what the U.S. is doing to help the victims of the earthquake in Pakistan this week.
With the consent of the Pakistani government, the U.S. has jumped in with a $50 million pledge, an amount that may increase, according to Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. The large initial response contrasts with the early days of the tsunami, when the U.S. was criticized for being slow to pledge aid. Yesterday, five U.S.-military heavy-lift helicopters ferried in emergency supplies such as tents and blankets, and flew out causalities. The U.S. military also is bringing in bulldozers and tractors to help with recovery and reconstruction.
The U.S. is consulting with Pakistan about being part of the longer-term reconstruction, Mr. Crocker said. Along with medical supplies, the U.S. may help bring into the Kashmir region prefabricated houses that can be set up quickly and fare better than tents in the coming winter. (Wall Street Journal - 12 Oct 2005)
UPDATE: NYC Terror Threat
And the Washington Post reports that the terror threat to NYC might have been a hoax.
The alleged threat that led to heightened security on New York subways last week may have been a hoax on the part of an Iraqi informant attempting to get money in exchange for information, U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials said yesterday.
The informant has since disappeared in Iraq, and the Defense Department has not been able to locate him, city and federal officials said.
U.S. troops in Iraq captured three suspects south of Baghdad who the informant said were involved in the alleged plot. But none of the suspects, including two who were given polygraph examinations, corroborated the informant's allegations or appeared to have any connection to a terrorist plot, according to intelligence officials. (Washington Post)
**UPDATE**: Earthquake in South Asia - U.S. Should Help
A columnist for the National Review also thinks the U.S. should do all it can to help
the people hit by the devastating earthquake that hit Pakistan this week, and sees an opportunity to improve the U.S.' image in the region by doing so.
Let's face it: we can probably do more to improve the U.S.' image in the Muslim world by aiding in this disaster than Karen Hughes
- President Bush's undersecretary of state for public dimplomacy - could probably do in four years. That's not a swipe at her. Rather, there's still something to be said for that old adage that "actions speak louder than words".
Besides, its not as if Muslim countries are all that open to what the U.S. has to say anyway. That's unfortunate, but its a reality we've got to deal with if we are going to win this war on terror. We have an opportunity in this disaster to make a change public opinion of the U.S. in the heartland of one of the central fronts of the war on terror. The U.S. should do all it can to help
That the battered people of Kashmir — some of the most beautiful and peace loving on Earth — were forced to accept the loss of everything material during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of sacrifice, seemed incomprehensibly unjust.
But from every injustice and tragedy also arises opportunity to correct what has gone wrong before. This is one time the opportunity should not be lost. There is a global need to correct how governments manage humanitarian crises caused by natural disasters; there is a regional need for Pakistan and India to engage each other in a way that for once genuinely benefits the people of Kashmir by using the humanitarian crisis as the face-saving cover to resolve their half-century old feud; there is an opportunity nationally for Pakistan’s government to redefine its commitment to provide for its disaffected citizens, and there is a grand opportunity for America to redefine itself as the caring and supportive nation it has always been, but that nobody in the Muslim world seems to see. (National Review Online)
Possible Political Breakthrough in Iraq
Prime Minister Ibrahim al Jafar's government has up to this point bungled the job of political reconciliation between the three main factions in Iraq - Kurds, Shi'ites, and Sunnis - and that fact has only prolonged the mostly Sunni insurgency. Today's events may be the first sign of a substantive political breakthrough in Iraq since its government was elected into office in January.
In a crucial compromise, Iraq's leaders agreed to insert a provision into the Constitution which would allow Iraq's parlaiment, to be elected in December, to make substantive changes/amendments to the Constitution.
This is important because the Sunnis were only scarcely represented in Iraq's government when the Constitution was written, due to the fact that they boycotted the January elections. However, the majority of Iraq's Sunni leaders have come to regret the boycot and are supremely interested in increasing their representation in the government during December's elections, and it is very likely that they will.
The current Constitution, to be voted on by all Iraqis on October 15th, stipulates that no changes can be made to the majority of the document for at least 8 years. The Sunnis - who make up the vast majority of the insurgency, were staunchly opposed to it and intended to vote NO. However, the new provision would allow the National Assembly to make changes as soon as next year. This has major significance for two reasons.
First, this gives the Sunnis a much greater stake in the December elections; they will want to come out in full force. This in turn serves to further exacerbate the rift between Sunni insurgent and Zarqawi's terrorist types who are threatening to kill anyone who votes and have proclaimed to democracy to be anathema to Islam.
Second, the new compromise reached today would allow key issues of the Constitution to be decided by an Iraqi government that is much more representative of its population.
Some Sunni leaders have indicated that they may be more inclined to encourage their people to vote in favor of the Constitution given today's compromise.
U.S. officials have pushed the three days of negotiations between Shiite and Kurdish leaders in the government and Sunni Arab officials, that concluded with marathon talks at the house of President Jalal Talabani late Tuesday.
The sides agreed to a measure stating that if the draft constitution is passed, the next parliament will be able to consider amendments to it that would then be put to a new referendum next year, Shiite and Sunni officials said.
A top Sunni negotiator, Ayad al-Samarraie of the Iraqi Islamic Party, said that if the current parliament approves the measure, "we will stop the campaign rejecting the constitution and we will call on Sunni Arabs to vote yes."
Some other major Sunni parties were not present at the negotiations and it was not clear if they too would be willing to reverse their "no" campaigns.
But the announcement was the first break in the ranks of Sunni Arab leaders, who have been campaigning hard to defeat the constitution at the polls. (Yahoo News)
**UPDATE**: Altering U.S. Strategy in Iraq
In my post, "A Conservative Argument for Leaving Iraq
", I primarily addressed U.S. military/security strategy in Iraq. Something I have not yet addressed though is the political strategy.
The fact is that bringing the Sunnis into the political circle is the only long-term solution to a secure and stable Iraq. The problem
is that the U.S. currently has very limited options for affecting the decisions made by the Iraqi government, which has been ineffective under Prime Minister Jafari. The Prime Minister has in fact done more since being in office to alienate the Sunnis than he has to include them - for example, by ramming the Iraqi Constitution through Iraq's parlaiment against overwhelming Sunni disaproval, making a hasty security and economic arrangement with Iran soon after being elected, and scheduling Saddam's trial for two days after a Constitutional referendum that the Sunnis will vote NO at - and his actions have led directly to continued attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces in Iraq.
So what can the U.S. do to improve the political situation in Iraq without inducing the ever-more vomit-inducing and hypocritical whaling of the "international community" and the far-left about "imposing Western values on Iraq"? (Since when did universal human rights stop being universal; since when were they only applicable to Western humans? Does this mean the left no longer believes in the U.N.?)
We should "Use Our Leverage: Troops", says Senator Carl Levin, and he's got a damn
good point. Senator Levin is in fact right on target when he says that Iraqi leaders do not want U.S. forces to withdrawl completely and he proposes a smart strategy for using that as leverage to coax the power-hungry Shi'ites and Kurds into a more accomodating and unifying political solution.
None of the Iraqi groups wants U.S. troops to leave precipitately. The Shiites want us to stay until Iraqi security forces are strong enough to deal with the insurgency on their own. The Kurds want us to remain for the impending future. And the Sunni Arab leaders want us to stay as a deterrent to those who might seek revenge against them for the actions of Saddam Hussein.
We must use that leverage -- the possibility of an American withdrawal -- to achieve the broad-based political settlement that is essential for defeating the insurgency.
I believe that if the Iraqis fail to reach a political solution by the end of the year we must consider a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces. This does not mean setting a date now for departure. It simply means conveying clearly and forcefully to Iraqis that the presence of our forces is not indefinite and that our staying there requires them to come together politically, since Iraqi unity offers the only hope of defeating the insurgency. (Washington Post)