Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy opines that Bill and Hillary Clinton's position on torture and interrogation are a lot more vague than that of attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey.

As is the senator's [Hillary Clinton's] wont (see, e.g., myriad positions on Iraq, Iran, illegal immigration, etc.), she has since flipped from this flop — just in time for a candidates' debate before a base inherently hostile to such flashes of common sense. But she clearly made the remarks. It was thus jarring to find her announcing opposition on Monday to Judge Michael Mukasey's nomination to become the next attorney general because, as Sen. Clinton explained, "I am deeply troubled by Judge Mukasey's continued unwillingness to clearly state his views on torture and unchecked Executive power."

As it happens, Judge Mukasey's views on torture and "unchecked Executive power" are a lot clearer than Hillary Clinton's.

...So Judge Mukasey has essentially said that waterboarding might be torture and would, in any event, be illegal in all but the most dire emergencies. Senator Clinton, to the contrary, has said a president could order not just waterboarding but torture, despite a congressional statute and treaty obligations that brook no exceptions. Yet, Democrats are questioning Mukasey's fitness even as they trip over themselves to hop aboard Clinton's bandwagon.
Read the rest. The Democrats' hypocrisy on intelligence and surveillance know no bounds.

In addition, McCarthy highlights Bill Clinton's recent comment to "permit the president to make a finding [a torture warrant]," and that Clinton's Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick testified to Congress in 1994 that "the president [Bill Clinton] has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes."

So remember the rule. Democrats can torture and spy without warrants to protect national security. But Republicans are criminals if they attempt to do the same.

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Here's a reaaaaally pathetic display of mainstream media bias, courtesy of James Taranto: Both The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle reported deaths of servicemembers not serving in Iraq as Iraq War dead. In one particularly egregious example, the papers counted two victims of a love-triangle murder-attempted suicide in Bahrain as part of their Iraq war death accounting!

If [serviceman] Jackson dies of his [attempted suicide] wounds, will the Times and the Chronicle list him as another casualty of the "Iraq war" rather than of his own twisted rage?
Magic 8 Ball says: You can bet on it.

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Here's a great roundup of past predictions of apocolypse that didn't pan out. In short: more free markets, less Al Gore.

[Investors Business Daily] In 1798, a country parson named Thomas Malthus published a book in which he calculated that human populations were growing faster than the world's ability to feed them. It wouldn't be long, he reasoned, before the world would be afflicted with " sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague." In short: mass death.
He was, of course, spectacularly wrong.

True, population did increase, geometrically even. But it didn't lead to misery. Far from it. Today, we are wealthier, healthier, better-housed, better educated than ever — thanks not to U.N. bureaucrats, but to our ability as free men and women to think clearly about problems, and solve them.

Yet, according to the U.N.'s new "Geo-4 Report," our environmental problems, a result of unchecked population growth and wealth, are so extensive that, as the London Times put it, "they must be treated as a top priority if they are to be solved."

Check your wallets and your freedom at the door. For this is the old line used by environmental extremists of all types: Things are so bad we can no longer put off what must be done. Of course, you'll have to give up some income and freedom — and maybe even your right to bear children — but, hey, the environment's at stake.

Excuse us, but this seems like another attempt to foist centralized, global control over the prosperous, dynamic and fast-growing economies of the world — an attempt to shake us down and radically alter Western lifestyles, to get us out of our deluxe cars and designer clothes and onto bicycles and into bearskins.

It's a bad idea that just won't go away. In the 1960s, biology professor Paul Ehrlich revived Malthus with his best-selling "The Population Bomb." "In the 1970s," he warned, "the world will undergo famines — hundreds of million of people are going to starve." His solution: Immediate population control, mandated by law.

Ehrlich was followed by the Club of Rome's "Limits To Growth," and by President Carter's equally alarmist "Global 2000" report. They, too, were utterly wrong. Yet, they influenced a whole generation of green activists who came to think of humanity as a disease — a "cancer," in Ehrlich's word — that had to be cut out.

Unfortunately for them, far from despoiling the world and leading lives that are "nasty, brutish and short," we're thriving. As the late economist Julian Simon noted, people are the ultimate resource. More people means more brains — more problem-solvers for humanity's ills. Population isn't a curse; it's an opportunity.

This is why the Malthusian view of the world is so wrong. And why Simon and his followers are right to say not only is the world not getting worse, but by virtually any measure it's getting better.

In "The Improving State of the World," for instance, scientist Indur Goklany notes that worldwide life expectancies have more than doubled — from 31 years to 67 — in just the past century. In poor countries, the share suffering from chronic hunger plunged from 37% in 1970 to 17% in 2001, even as population soared 83%.

Even the definition of "poor" has changed, because average annual incomes in poor countries have more than tripled in real terms since 1950. Just since 1981, the share of the world's population living in poverty has been halved, from 40% to 20%.

Yes, we have social and environmental problems. But the alarmists would have us don straitjackets and then force-feed us solutions under the rubric of "sustainable growth" — a kind of friendly fascism that leads to greater poverty and loss of liberty.

We prefer what's worked before: free markets, free minds and free people, working democratically under the rule of law.

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Nathan Ritzo, a Reservist with the 478th Civil Affairs Battalion on his second tour in Iraq, and a member of the Baghdad Provincial Reconstruction Team, reports that as with Ahbar province, there is too an "awakening" in Tajj.

The reconciliation of Sunnis and Shi'ites across Iraq in a national movement to reject al-Qaeda is an example of this and was made possible by the troop surge. The reconciliation movement is evident in an area north of Baghdad called Taji. Tom Burke, the team leader for the Taji Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team, or EPRT, calls this reconciliation the "Taji Awakening."

"(The Taji Awakening) involves all the sheiks (in Taji), both Sunni and Shi'a. Over the period of four weeks now, it has gathered momentum," Burke said. "The movement here has become dynamic."

He said that the largest gathering of Sunni and Shi'a sheiks in Iraq occurred on Aug. 20 in the Taji area and that the terrorist forces in the area are now "on the run" because of the sectarian reconciliation. As a result, the overall quality of life in rural North Baghdad Province has improved, with marketplaces "flourishing" and critical infrastructure needs being met, according to Burke.

Col. Mike Bridges, who heads up the governance section of the EPRT, concurs with Burke that progress has been made, but specifies that the reconciliation starts at the local level. "It really did start with our brigade commander's philosophy in engaging the senior tribal sheiks," said Bridges. He added that the brigade commander tired of his soldiers getting hurt and of good local people being terrorized when they tried to make changes in their community. The changes in Taji began with a simple outreach program using fliers to promote the idea of Iraqi national unity against terrorism with the support of Americans.

Col. Bridges said that the sheiks realized this year that they really were neighbors who have lived together for a very long time. They are now using their traditional roles to bring about the sectarian reconciliation.

"It's been building momentum," he said. "More and more of them are saying 'Hmm. (Al-Qaeda in Iraq) is just a few guys. This is our home.' They're coming together and are looking for some kind of means to make this legitimate. The first (reconciliation meeting) I went to was only a dozen sheiks. The next one was 120. I didn't go to the next one, but our boss, Mr. Burke, did, and there were 1,000 Sunni and Shi'a tribal leaders together under one tent. Their family members were wearing T-shirts that said 'One Iraq, Stop Sectarianism, Stop the Violence.'"

Col. Bridges finished by saying that the troop surge is essential to the reconciliation of the Iraqi Sunni and Shi'a communities. According to Bridges, before the surge, soldiers would visit communities and then leave, whereas now they are embedded in the communities, empowering them to fight terrorism in Iraq.

"The surge has only been really in effect for two months," Bridges says. "It took all that time in the spring to get all the surge troops on the ground. They had to get oriented to the communities and neighborhoods that they were operating in. You have to give them time to affect the surge."

"In that two months that they've been able to operate, the security situation has changed dramatically, the reconciliation (has begun). Well, gee. Wouldn't it be better if they had six months, a year to operate at that level? Think of the difference," says Bridges. "I believe (the Iraqis) mean it. I see it in their eyes, I hear it in their voices, I feel it when I see them when they come and say, 'Thank you. We needed this opportunity.'"

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recently chided the president for his complaint that Congress was muckracking via a "constant stream of investigations" that have turned up nothing, and "endless series of failed votes to pull our troops out of Iraq." Pelosi's response was typical hypocrisy: "The president calls congressional oversight that has uncovered tens of billions of dollars in waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq a 'waste of time.' We call billions spent in no-bid contracts to Halliburton a waste of money."

The irony here is that it is Pelosi's House colleague, Rep. Jack Murtha, a self-appointed troop smearer, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, who is most guilty of "wasting" billions of dollars of taxpayer money. Murtha, after all, was caught in the 1980 FBI undercover Abscam sting. How's that for the fox charged with the henhouse.

According to a timely piece in today's Wall Street Journal (albeit not timely for Mrs. Pelosi), Jack Murtha's committee will oversee "$459 billion in military spending this year." Physician, investigate theyself.

It gets better.

"Mr. Murtha has steered more taxpayer funds to his congressional district than any other member."

Johnstown's [Mr. Murtha's district] good fortune has come at the expense of taxpayers everywhere else. Defense contractors have found that if they open an office here and hire the right lobbyist, they can get lucrative, no-bid contracts. Over the past decade, Concurrent Technologies Corp., a defense-research firm that employs 800 here, got hundreds of millions of dollars thanks to Rep. Murtha despite poor reviews by Pentagon auditors. The National Drug Intelligence Center, with 300 workers, got $509 million, though the White House has tried for years to shut it down as wasteful and unnecessary. Another beneficiary: MTS Technologies, run by a man who got his start some 40 years ago shining shoes at Mr. Murtha's Johnstown Minute Car Wash.

A review by The Wall Street Journal of dozens of such contracts funded by Mr. Murtha's committee shows that many weren't sought by the military or federal agencies they were intended to benefit. Some were inefficient or mismanaged, according to interviews, public records and previously unpublished Pentagon audits.

One Murtha-backed firm, ProLogic Inc., is under federal investigation for allegedly diverting public funds to develop commercial software, people close to the case say. The company denies wrongdoing and is in line to get millions of dollars more in the pending defense bill... Mr. Murtha has steered at least $600 million in earmarks to his district in the past four years, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan Washington group. The nonprofit group estimates he's sent $2 billion or more to the district since joining the appropriations committee.

Well, well. If there be "waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq" it sounds like Democrats, under Mr. Murtha's leadership, have been quite complicit -- $2 billion alone just from Murtha!

The remainder of the article details how Murtha has instigated the second life of contractors who were long ago found wasteful and incompetent. For example, "Even before the [Johnstown's National Drug Intelligence Center] center opened, the General Accounting Office had called it a waste of money because it duplicated drug-intelligence gathering in Washington and at a center on the Texas-Mexico border."

The article concludes that the FBI is currently investigating the firm of Pro-Logic, which Murtha now floods with earmark taxpayer dollars.

ProLogic was subpoenaed last year as part of a broader Federal Bureau of Investigation probe of earmarks granted by Rep. Alan Mollohan, a West Virginia Democrat, whose district includes ProLogic's headquarters. Both the congressman and company have denied wrongdoing. More recently, FBI and Defense Criminal Investigative Service agents have begun looking into the alleged illegal diversion of earmarked funds to a commercial ground-radar software project, people close to this inquiry say.

One approach squeezes even more value from earmarks. James Ervin, a retired lieutenant colonel, lobbyist and longtime friend of the congressman, helped found a venture-capital fund, Four Seasons Ventures, that invests in companies that have gotten earmarks and federal contracts. In a confidential document for prospective investors reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Four Seasons says its principals include people with "long and proven expertise in government acquisitions and appropriations." The firm doesn't disclose its investors.

According to the Four Seasons Web site, portfolio companies include PharmaThene Inc., a biodefense research firm, and Raydiance, a laser maker. Both received Murtha-backed earmarks and are lobbying clients of Mr. Ervin. Mr. Ervin declined to comment.

There's no evidence that Mr. Murtha personally profits from the hometown spending he rams through Congress. He ranked No. 333 in net worth among the 435 members of the House in a 2005 analysis by the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics. But his campaign coffers have risen since he became chairman of the defense-spending panel. In the first nine months of this year, Mr. Murtha's campaign committees have reported contributions of more than $1.05 million.

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Via Pat Dollard:

BAGHDAD - The monthly toll of U.S. service members who have died in Iraq is on track to being the lowest in nearly two years, with at least 34 troop deaths recorded as of Tuesday.At least 34 American service members have died so far in October, nearly a third from non-combat causes.

It is the lowest number since 32 troops died in March 2006 and the second-lowest since 20 troop deaths in February 2004, according to an Associated Press count based on military figures. Only two months in 2003 were also lower, June and September at 30 each. This makes October the fourth lowest of the entire war.

That would be the second consecutive drop in monthly figures, after 65 Americans died in September and 84 in August. In all, at least 3,840 members of the U.S. military have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to the AP count.

Maj. Winfield Danielson, a military spokesman in Baghdad, pointed to a number of likely reasons for the decline, including a U.S. security push that has driven militants out of former safe havens and a change in strategy that has placed troops closer to the population. That, in turn, has caused a rise in the number of tips from residents about roadside bombs and other dangers.

He also singled out the cease-fire call by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who in August ordered his fighters to cease attacks against U.S.-led forces and other Iraqis for up to six months. Danielson said Iraqi forces also were increasingly taking charge of security operations.

"Have we turned a corner? It might be a little too early to say that," he said. "It's certainly encouraging."

Yes, it is encouraging, which is why you won't hear a peep about it from our mainstream media.

Along those lines, the two largest tribes in Iraq's Diyala province (Tamimi and Jibouri tribes, Shiite and Sunni, respectively) signed a friendship and cooperation pact this week. So I guess they won't be engrossed in that civil war every pessimist-defeatist Democrat promised for the past few years.

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[Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Studies] Unless a dramatic and historical flurry of activity occurs in the next 9 weeks, 2007 will rank as a historically inactive TC year for the Northern Hemisphere as a whole. During past 30 years, only 1977 has had less activity to date Jan 1-Oct 30.

*Previously, I shortchanged 1983 by Super Typhoon Abby. The continuing inactivity during the past week has moved 2007 behind 1981. See above image...

For the period of June 1 - TODAY, only 1977 has experienced LESS tropical cyclone activity than 2007. For the North Atlantic basin, Tropical Storm Noel is currently too weak to impact any of these results. However, one should always be prepared for late-season developments since hurricane season ends on November 30.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Congressional Democrats and media cronies want to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to their criticism and potential blocking of the nomination of Michael Mukasey as attorney general:

The irony here is that Congress has twice had the chance to ban waterboarding, or simulated drowning, but has twice declined to do so. In both the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Congress only barred "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment. While some Members have said they believe waterboarding is banned by that language, when given the chance to say so specifically in a statute and be accountable for it, they refused.

As usual, Congress wants it both ways. The Members want to denounce what they call "torture," but the last thing they want is to be responsible if some future detainee knows about an imminent terrorist attack but the CIA can't get the information because Congress barred certain kinds of interrogation. So they toss their non-specific language into the lap of the executive, and say "You figure it out."

Yet they still object because the Justice Department has since tried to interpret that language by providing some practical, specific guidelines to the CIA. According to several news reports, the CIA rarely uses waterboarding but believes it can be useful against the very hardest cases.

Even better, why don't either Congress or Mukasey volunteer to be waterboarded -- akin to how military trainees are tear gassed or how police officers often are tazered during training? Glenn Reynolds points out that FOX News' Steve Harrigan volunteered for just that last year.

Another columnist whose name I forget recently -- perhaps influenced by Alan Dershowitz -- noted that some could define capital punishment, which requires an executor warrant, as torture. If that be so, perhaps the application of a waterboarding or similar act should require a warrant just as a capital punishment would. Otherwise, we're the symbol for liberty if we execute a criminal for proven capital offenses but we're a mockery of liberty if merely waterboard them? That doesn't really work for me. (And, yeah, the true blue lib would say that we should do neither).

Some would counter that torture (whether we term it that or something else) is not reliable, as people will admit to anything under pain. But will they if they know you'll come back and punish them should they admit to something they didn't do? And will the confession prove unreliable if you can validate their interrogation with that of other collaborators? The point: one cannot definitively state that torture works or that torture doesn't work. It could. But sometimes it might not.

And what is torture? Some go so far as to define the presence of barking dogs or any mental or physical discomfort as torture. This isn't some glib comment. It's an important point. No doubt waterboarding is uncomfortable, perhaps even miserable.

But is it torture if "stress positions" were legally found not to be? So, the interrogation method of "stress position" is legally acceptable, but a "stress position" with water added (i.e., waterboarding) is torture?

With what version of calculus do the lawyers extrapolate that position?

Many ask, what's the difference between us and them if we commit waterboarding? Well, for one thing, we "simulate the act of drowning," whereas they actually, you know, drown you.

What is torture? Like art, I guess you know it if you see it.

I honestly don't know what the answer is. But it's arguable that the waterboarding has worked, and that breaking terrorists bent on mass destruction will require more than just sleep deprivation or the other "five techniques." So, after 6 years of finger pointing and soapbox standing, the leaders of our respective parties better figure it all out.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

(Most of the following came via links from embed Pat Dollard, second only to Michael Yon in war reporting in my opinion.)

The LA Times reports that the once hyper-dangerous city of Ramadi is so quiet that the US Marines there have declared a "war on trash." I kid you not. The Shiite warlord Muqtada al-Sadr, once considered as dangerous as al Qaeda in Iraq, is asking his followers to disarm. And the leaders of the Anbar province, once another dangerous hotspot, are making a trip to the US in order to promote investment in Iraq and "learn how individual states work within the larger U.S. federal system." And from INDC Journal, for the first time since the war began in March 2003, there wasn't one military casualty, either US or Iraqi, in Anbar.

[INDC Journal] Maybe most significant was that last week there was not a single military casualty - Iraqi or U.S. - in Anbar, said Maj. Gen. Richard Sherlock, a Joint Chiefs spokesman. It is apparently the first time since March 2003 that could be said.
Godspeed boys.

Now imagine if our 24-hour news services promoted these stories with saturation coverage instead of all the negative crap they pump out!

We'll start with the Marines War on Trash.

It would be an understatement to say that [Lt. Sayce W.] Falk has a passion for picking up trash. Like the other Marines in his infantry unit, the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Falk sees trash pickup as the key to maintaining security in Ramadi, where a decision last year by Sunni Arab tribal leaders to turn against insurgents has brought calm to the once-violent capital of Anbar province.

Falk is one of several members of the unit who were in Ramadi in early 2006, when U.S. convoys raced down the main drag at 65 mph to dodge insurgent gunfire. Every patrol risked hitting buried bombs or being caught in a gun battle.

The situation had changed by the time the unit returned in April. Marines trained as snipers, tank experts and riflemen found those skills unnecessary here. Instead, they became masters of municipal mess, working under the theory that the way to keep the Iraqi city from going back to the insurgency was by improving the quality of life, from the fetid ground up.

Now, instead of worrying about roadside bombs, they worry about puddles.

..."This is the fight -- sewage, water and trash," Lt. James Colvin said as he showed the landfill to a visitor. "I was a poor math major in college. I come here and they tell me: 'OK, fix the sewage system!' " said Colvin, remembering how shocked he was to return to Ramadi and find that he could walk down streets that he once dreaded crossing in an armored vehicle. "But there's no enemy to hunt down now, so this is our line of attack."

Yep, General David Petraeus becomes the war hero we expected. And defeatist Democrats like Harry Reid are exposed as the true "Betrayers."

Next, if the al-Sadr disarmament pans out it's a very, very big deal. It equates to Shiites accepting their role in a cooperative government and a nail in the coffin of that "Iraq is a Civil War" myth that never played out.

Baghdad, Oct 25, (VOI) - Moqtada Al Sadr's bloc's political board on Thursday urged its followers to abandon all arms throughout Iraq.

"We issued strict instructions to al-Mahdi army to abandon all armed forces throughout Iraq and to not deal with weapons or use them under any condition, even under the pretext of self defense," the political board said in a statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr decided on August 31 to freeze his Mahdi Army militias for six months, labeling the step as a "chance" for all militias in Iraq to follow suit. "We call on our brothers in al-Mahdi army to commit to our leadership's instructions," the statement added.

Sounds like Sadr has acknowledged the "strong horse."

And finally, I love that we've got Iraqis thinking like capitalists:

RAMADI, Iraq - Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha, who took over as leader of anti-al-Qaida Sunni tribes after his brother was assassinated, said he will leave Thursday for a two-week trip to the United States.

Abu Risha's younger brother, Sheik Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, was largely credited with bringing a measure of peace to Iraq's vast and western Anbar province by uniting tribal forces and siding with the U.S. military against the terror network. The Sunni stronghold, which shares borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, was among the most violent in Iraq a year ago.

The Anbar Awakening Council founder was killed Sept. 13 in a bombing, just 10 days after he met with U.S. President George W. Bush in Anbar. Bush hailed the Sunni leader's courage and pledged to help rebuild the province.

Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha, who took over the movement, told The Associated Press in an interview this week that he will leave Thursday and will visit Vermont, New York, Texas and Washington, D.C., where he hopes to meet Bush, although his itinerary was not fully determined.

"I will not come back to Anbar if I don't meet with President Bush. If he doesn't meet with me, I'll go to the Democrats and see what they have to say," he said, laughing.

The sheik said he wanted to learn how individual states work within the larger U.S. federal system. He hoped to attract investors to Anbar to provide jobs.

"We defeated al-Qaida, but what then? People need jobs," said Sameer Rashid, Abu Risha's assistant and translator.

The only reason these guys have the luxury of talking economics and employment is due to the success of the Petraeus surge. Period.

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SAN'A, Yemen (AP) - Yemen has set free one of the al-Qaida masterminds of the USS Cole bombing in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors, a senior security official said Thursday.

Jamal al-Badawi, who is wanted by the FBI, was convicted in 2004 of plotting, preparing and helping carry out the USS Cole bombing and received a death sentence that was commuted to 15 years in prison. He and 22 others, mostly al-Qaida fighters, escaped from prison in But al-Badawi was granted his freedom after turning himself in 15 days ago and pledging loyalty to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The official said police were told by the government to "stop all previous orders concerning measures adopted against al-Badawi."

...Yemen does not have a law that criminalizes Jihad, or holy war. Detainees remain in prison until they either renounce their commitment to Jihad or are released under pressure from family and human rights groups. Since the suicide attack in July that killed eight Spanish tourists visiting an ancient Yemeni temple, President Saleh has said in several interviews with local papers that al-Qaida had reached a truce with the government.

If there's an argument against rendition it's this -- the host country might just free the terrorist, in part with thanks to "human rights groups." And, tell me, what of the "human rights" of the 19 American sailors murdered from al-Badawi's bombing? I guess their rights don't matter.

Yemen's deal with the devil also underscores the myth of noncooperation between religious fanatics and "secular" Middle East royal families and autocrats. "Oh, no, these groups are enemies who would never cooperate with one another," we're told incessantly by our self-absorbed, narrow-minded media and so-called experts. They apply their Western mindsets to Eastern philosophy, and are wrong every time. They seem to think all our problems from Iraq to Iranian proliferation to terrorism to North Korea, and so on, will miraculously disappear on January 20, 2009.

They are in for quite the rude awaking. Islamic fanatics don't ask to see your party affiliation card before they cut your head off. They just cut your head off.

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[NY Sun] A report by Secretary-General Ban links a Qaeda-affiliated group in Lebanon to Syrian intelligence.

The information, included in a report released yesterday, is based largely on a letter to Mr. Ban written by Prime Minister Siniora of Lebanon. The letter draws upon information gathered during the interrogation of captured leaders of a group known as Fatah al-Islam, and from data found in a Palestinian Arab refugee camp in northern Lebanon, Nahr el-Bared, where the group mounted a rebellion against Lebanon's government in the summer.

To this Thomas Smith explains the relevance of the Syrian "war room," or council of "Syrian intelligence operatives in Lebanon, elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (also in Lebanon), and Lebanon-based Hezbollah," all under the domain of legendary Islamic terrorist leader Imad Fayez Mugniyah, whom according to Stratfor:

Notorious Hezbollah leader Imad Fayez Mugniyah has been tasked by the Iranian government to organize cells of Shiite operatives in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to carry out attacks in the event of war against Iran, a source reported Oct. 25. Without any guarantees that potential negotiations with the United States over Iraq would result in a comprehensive agreement, Iran needs a variety of levers to demonstrate to its Arab neighbors that cooperating in a U.S. attack against Iran comes with risks.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

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N.I.M.B.Y... an acronym for Not In My Back Yard. Everybody wants more power, but nobody wants the unsightly powerplant built next to their home. Everybody wants their garbage hauled away, but not if the dump lies next door. You get the picture.

Here's the tale of an environmental activist and director of the California Chaparral Institute, Richard Halsey, who began a fight to protect the chaparral plant back in 2003. So adamant was Mr. Halsey in protecting the environment that he took a typically conceited attitude towards those whose homes were dangered by the plant's overgrowth... that is, until his own home was put in danger this week.

On Tuesday, Mr. Halsey found himself standing on the roof of his century-old home, garden hoses at the ready, as wildfire spread across the chaparral and torched houses a quarter-mile away. The Witch Fire, as the conflagration was named, was bearing down on his town of Escondido, Calif., just northeast of San Diego, feeding off the bushes Mr. Halsey has fought to save.

In the 15 or so wildfires that have ravaged hundreds of square miles in Southern California in the past few days, chaparral has been the primary fuel. Whipped by strong winds, the fire has spread across this vegetation, consuming some 1,500 homes along the way.

Chaparral has long bedeviled local fire planners. A key to fire prevention, Mr. Halsey and fire officials agree, is clearing such brush from around homes and other buildings to keep flames from jumping from brush to home.

But some fire-management officials have proposed more aggressive measures, including clear-cutting strips of chaparral to create fire breaks, or conducting controlled burns to combat overgrowth to minimize the potential of destructive wildfires.

Mr. Halsey takes the opposite view: Allow the chaparral to grow, and let nature take its course. "Our landscape is being misrepresented and condemned," he wrote in an essay on his Web site. "We need to come to its defense."

Mr. Halsey began his chaparral crusade in 2003, when he set up a Web site after the area's devastating Cedar fire, which started four years ago today. Mr. Halsey says he was appalled that the public criticized San Diego fire departments for not doing enough to battle the fires. But he also didn't like the bum rap the plants were getting.

"The problem is not the chaparral," he said this week. "The problem is people and the way they decide to place houses." He adds: "When you put a flammable structure in a flammable corridor it's like putting a bowling pin in a bowling alley -- ultimately, it's going to get taken out."

...This week's fires have led Mr. Halsey to do some soul-searching. When he moved to the area in 1982, he says, "I knew there were brush fires, but I had no idea about any of the real dangers."

His house was built in 1909 and he has no desire to lose it to a chaparral-fueled firestorm. And while he has made significant efforts to fire-proof it -- including a fire-resistant roof -- he admits it still contains some highly flammable old wood.

As the fire roared into Escondido on Tuesday, Mr. Halsey ignored the mandatory evacuation order. Along with teams of firefighters, he and a handful of other residents used hoses to soak buildings and extinguish flying embers that sought footholds on patio furniture, inside roof vents and under eaves.

"Embers are why a lot of these structures got taken out," says Mr. Halsey. "The only way to get rid of the embers is to get rid of the vegetation."

He remains opposed to controlled burns or clear-cutting vegetation in the wild. But from now on, he says, in his speaking engagements he will put much more emphasis on keeping the chaparral away from homes and other buildings.

"My passion and my bias is to favor the environment and the natural habitats," Mr. Halsey said yesterday afternoon as he walked by several burned-out homes. But after this fire, he says, "I have a greater appreciation now for the impact of vegetation near structures than I did before."

Mr. Halsey has no plans to overhaul his Web site to give it an anti-chaparral viewpoint. But he might add first-hand stories about fireproofing homes near chaparral. "I'll definitely add a line on the Web site that clearly says, 'Chaparral presents a real fire risk.'"

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John Christy of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (co-recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize) responds to questions by CNN anchor Miles O'Brien:

O'BRIEN: I assume you're not happy about sharing this award with Al Gore. You going to renounce it in some way?

CHRISTY: Well, as a scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, I always thought that -- I may sound like the Grinch who stole Christmas here -- that prizes were given for performance, and not for promotional activities.

And, when I look at the world, I see that the carbon dioxide rate is increasing, and energy demand, of course, is increasing. And that's because, without energy, life is brutal and short. So, I don't see very much effect in trying to scare people into not using energy, when it is the very basis of how we can live in our society.

O'BRIEN: So, what about the movie ["An Inconvenient Truth"]; do you take issue with, then, Dr. Christy?

CHRISTY: Well, there's any number of things.

I suppose, fundamentally, it's the fact that someone is speaking about a science that I have been very heavily involved with and have labored so hard in, and been humiliated by, in the sense that the climate is so difficult to understand, Mother Nature is so complex, and so the uncertainties are great, and then to hear someone speak with such certainty and such confidence about what the climate is going to do is -- well, I suppose I could be kind and say, it's annoying to me.

O'BRIEN: But you just got through saying that the carbon dioxide levels are up. Temperatures are going up. There is a certain degree of certainty that goes along with that, right?

CHRISTY: Well, the carbon dioxide is going up. And remember that carbon dioxide is plant food in the fundamental sense. All of life depends on the fact carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere. So, we're fortunate it's not a toxic gas. But, on the other hand, what is the climate doing. And when we build -- and I'm one of the few people in the world that actually builds these climate data sets -- we don't see the catastrophic changes that are being promoted all over the place.

For example, I suppose CNN did not announce two weeks ago when the Antarctic sea ice extent reached its all-time maximum, even though, in the Arctic in the North Pole, it reached its all-time minimum.

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Technology is a blessing, but unfortunately, also for those who wish us harm:

Palestinian militants are using Google Earth to help plan their attacks on the Israeli military and other targets, the Guardian has learned.

Members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a group aligned with the Fatah political party, say they use the popular Internet mapping tool to help determine their targets for rocket strikes.

"We obtain the details from Google Earth and check them against our maps of the city centre and sensitive areas," Khaled Jaabari, the group's commander in Gaza who is known as Abu Walid, told the Guardian.

And if the least technical and funded terrorist groups can do it...

Here's something you may not know, I forgot until only recently reminded from the 9-11 Commission Report: Ziad Jarrah purchased a portable GPS in Miami, and Mohammed Atta purchased three more, possibly even visiting the WTC on September 10, 2001, for a final reading.

Cheap technology (and a little imagination) goes a long way to killing thousands, which is why it's so very important we use our advantages in hi-tech surveillance, intelligence and interrogation methods, and not hamstring the police and agents trying to stop those who would kill us.

It's why I personally get so frustrated when I read about some foolish (good intended or not) politico attempting to turn the US Constitution into a suicide pact.

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[LA Times] WASHINGTON -- A senior State Department official, toughening the administration's line on Iran, said Tuesday that there was no doubt the top leaders in Tehran were directing Iranian forces that the administration is holding responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. troops in Iraq. Senior Iraq advisor David Satterfield said "there is no question in our minds whatsoever" that Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops "are very much under the direction and command of the most senior levels of the Iranian government. Full stop."

The administration has repeatedly charged that Iranian troops and agents are shipping sophisticated explosives into Iraq, training Iraqi militants and taking other actions counter to American goals. However, U.S. military officials have released no conclusive evidence that Iranian weapons and training were supplied by top authorities in Tehran, and have been careful not to say whether they believe senior or lower-level government officials are involved.

...Bruce Riedel, a former CIA and White House official, said Satterfield's comments reflected "the growing frustration the administration is feeling about this" because officials believe Tehran has not heeded warnings to scale back its alleged activities in Iraq.

And indeed, why would they when you've got every Democrat presidential candidate shouting how they'll never allow Bush to use force against Iran. Since Iran knows Bush would never have the political capital to take military action against them they have no need to negotiate, whether on the issue of killing US troops in Iraq or on nuclear proliferation!

Bush will be gone soon. American presidents come and go. But the Iranian Ayatollah and Supreme Council, pursuing the 12th Imam, will always be present.

Which brings us to Iran's new nuclear negotiator. He's a buddy of Ahmadinejad, a former member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Force - recently officially designated a terrorist organization - and of Hezbollah - long ago designated a terrorist organization, and Holocaust denier. But of course!

[Wall Street Journal] In appointing Saeed Jalili as Iran's top nuclear negotiator with the West, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad chose a close ally whose views on many issues -- from Iran's right to build nuclear energy facilities to the Holocaust -- mirror his own.

While a flurry of prominent Iranians have criticized Mr. Jalili as a political lightweight, the midranking bureaucrat has a record of loyalty to Mr. Ahmadinejad and to the Islamic regime. He clearly stated his views on the regime's nuclear ambitions before being appointed: "Under no circumstances should Iran give up its absolute right to nuclear energy," Mr. Jalili said in an interview recently with Iran's Fars News Agency.

Many analysts believe Mr. Jalili's appointment suggests Iran is taking a less-compromising stance in the negotiations, with the new chief negotiator far less likely than his predecessor, pragmatic conservative Ali Larijani, to push Tehran toward a deal.

Mr. Jalili, 42 years old, is a graduate of the elite Imam Sadegh University, where the regime has long groomed its most senior managers and officials. Established after the revolution, it is a hybrid educational institution where theological studies are taught alongside scientific classes. Mr. Jalili fought in the Iran-Iraq war as an officer in the Revolutionary Guard Force, losing his right leg in battle. At age 24, he entered the Foreign Ministry, part of a quota of appointees from Iran's ultra-conservative Hezbollah movement. He climbed the bureaucracy there and had a stint as director of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's office. He is the author of a book titled, "Foreign Policy of (the) Prophet of Islam."

Mr. Jalili has also recently echoed one of the president's most controversial views -- that the Holocaust may not have happened. "Why won't they allow an investigation into this matter? The questions that our president has raised about this issue are all in line with human-rights discussions," he told Fars News.

Well, we do what we can: By 2012 the US starts delivery of the Joint Strike Fighter to Israel, which, according to one US official, "This plane can fly into downtown Teheran without anyone even knowing about it since it can't be detected on radar."

Let's hope it never comes to that, but the Democrats have clearly forgotten a Cold War lesson -- It wasn't until Reagan supplied Europe (amid mass protests) with the Pershing II ballistic missiles that the Soviets came to the arms negotiation table. Enemies respect strength, and walk all over talk.

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Before we get to a more complete transcript of bin Laden's latest speech, check out what's going to be termed Iraq's "civilian surge." It's pretty good stuff, if it continues to pan out.

BAGHDAD — The recent surge of troops and Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (EPRT) to Iraq is providing unprecedented opportunity for Iraqi citizens, a Coalition commander said today.

"It really wasn't until the EPRT, the 'civilian surge' … and the surge forces arrived that we began to make what I will call measurable progress along our lines of operations," Army Col. Mike Garret told online journalists and "bloggers" during a conference call from Forward Operating Base Kalsu, south of Baghdad, shortly after he provided a televised operational update via satellite.

...By enabling small groups of Iraqi citizens to become self-sufficient, Garret said, EPRT members form a crucial link in a chain that reaches from tiny agricultural communities all the way up to the capital of Baghdad.

"One of the purposes of the EPRT was to increase capacity at the local level and then try to link the local to the provincial levels of government," Garrett explained. "And then the provincial reconstruction teams, which are located throughout Iraq, had the mission of linking the provincial levels of government with the local level and national levels of government."

While Garrett and his team had facilitated economic development programs like a small business training class taught by an Iraqi professional, he said EPRT members have kicked off many other imperative initiatives such as micro-grants for Iraqi entrepreneurs.

"What they've done is taken it to the next level," Garrett said. "The EPRT has been very, very important to us, and they've made a very big difference in terms of our ability to make progress in the governance and economic lines of operations."

That's something you won't hear on CNN, NPR, etc.

It also, along with our military surge success, explains why bin Laden feels al Qaeda is definitely losing Iraq, says Bill Roggio.

Recent report from US commanders in Iraq have stated al Qaeda in Iraq has been set back by a combination of the latest offensive and the willingness of local Iraqis to turn on the terror group. Based Osama bin Laden's latest audiotape, al Qaeda central command agrees that the fight against the US and the Iraqi government is not going well.

A clearer picture of Osama bin Laden's view on the state of jihad in Iraq emerges after the release of the full transcript of Osama bin Laden's latest audiotape, Not only does bin Laden admit errors in the Iraqi leader's ability to unite the tribes and Sunni insurgent groups, he views the situation in Iraq as dire for al Qaeda. Bin Laden accuses his foot soldier of "negligence" for failing to properly employ IEDs, laments the unwillingness of Iraqis who do not wish to attack their brothers in the police and army, and closes his statement by saying "the darkness [in Iraq] has become pitch black."

Read the rest.

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Two professors, John Lott, economist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Kevin A. Hassett, the Institute's director of economic policy studies, looked at newspaper articles on the economy. They wrote, "We found that newspaper headlines reporting economic news on unemployment, gross domestic product (GDP), retail sales and durable goods tended to be much more frequently negative when a Republican was in the White House. And this was true even after accounting for the economic numbers on which the stories were based and how those numbers were changing over time." So bad economic news becomes less bad economic news with a Democrat sitting in the White House. With a Republican in the White House, however, good economic news becomes less good, and bad becomes even worse.

The Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism surveys journalists annually. Their report, "The State of the News Media 2007," found more than one-third (34 percent) of national journalists identified themselves as liberal, as compared to one-fifth (20 percent) of the general public. Only 7 percent of the national press self-identified as conservative, compared with 33 percent of the general public. The press and the public are widely divided on social issues and values, as well. For example, while 58 percent of Americans think belief in God is necessary to be moral, only 6 percent of national journalists agree.

The Pew Center report only covers what journalists admit about themselves. And while 59 percent of this pool of national reporters couldn't think of a single news organization that was liberal, a whopping 82 percent said they could think of conservative news coverage. Even so, 64 percent of national journalists admit that criticism about the blurring of reporting and commentary is valid.

Here's a typical example of how the media shapes moods. Support for the Iraq war increased from 22 to 30 percent -- a 36 percent increase -- right before Iraq operations commander Gen. Petraeus testified before Congress. MSNBC described this as an "uptick." Meanwhile, a major paper described a 36 percent increase in home foreclosures as a "surge."
-- Larry Elder

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What was I just saying about media legacy? Add Beauchamp to that. Hardly a surprise though.

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When it comes to reporting of the California fires, did you know that police have killed one arson suspect, and arrested another, or that the FBI has recovered possible evidence of arson? You wouldn't know it from our broadcast media, that's for sure.

No, instead all we've heard is global warming and global warming. Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) stated but quickly recanted that global warming is responsible for the latest round of deadly forest fires in California.

Columnist Hugh Hewitt justifiably calls Reid "a witless opportunist."

Reid may have wanted to blame the fires on global warming before he got called on it and ran away, but I'd be hard pressed to be persuaded that global warming caused arsonists to start several of these fires, or that global warming knocked down a power line in Malibu starting that fire, or that global warming caused a couple of construction workers to work with an arc welder in high winds, showering the local brush with sparks.
But then again, Reid was simply sounding off in the liberal echo-chamber. Both NBC News and CBS News have this week used the fires as evidence of a climate change problem. CNN too.

If one is seeking cause-effect proof of forest fires they need look no further than a short history lesson, courtesy of Junk Science's Stephen Milloy. It's the environmentalist lawsuits, stupid!

"Our forests are detonating like napalm bombs. We need to remove dead and dying bug-killed timber," said Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif.

Is this Monday-morning quarterbacking spurred by the wildfires now raging in California? Hardly. Rep. Herger uttered those words in August 1994 as part of his demand that Congress declare a state of emergency in federal forests to permit quick removal of dead trees, fallen branches and other debris that fuel wildfires -- like those that burned 3 million Western acres and killed 14 firefighters that year.

A spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council ( search) responded at the time by calling Rep. Herger's demand "a pretext for accelerated logging in the Sierra Nevada." Nine years later, though, Rep. Herger's demand is looking pretty prescient.

...As the Western forests burn -- and people die and homes are destroyed -- environmentalists and their political allies in Congress only seem concerned that some "old growth" trees may be cut in the process of thinning the nation's tinder traps. Their nonsensical opposition to thinning only makes it easier for wildfires to spread out of control. That's positively cuckoo.

"We need to do some active management to prevent unnatural fire" that occurs as a result of dense underbrush and trees built up over decades, U.S. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth says. "If that means cutting a 14-foot [diameter] Sequoia, that's reasonable [to do to] prevent fire."

Amen, brother.

These opinions aren't just relegated to conservative columnists based in Washington D.C., nor are they new. Here's another prescient opinion by the Denver Post from March:

We use more paper and wood every year, happily importing these products from Canada and other countries instead of harvesting trees in our backyard.

We want fires suppressed, loggers barred, our forests undisturbed. But the forest needs disturbance, says Ron Cousineau, assistant district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service. "Now we are seeing disturbance on a landscape scale."

You got that right, fella.

Worse, in this article from 2004, it's made pretty clear that the environmentalists' aims aren't so much about "protecting" anything as they are about politics.

Groups like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace believe America has already started down that slope and vow to use lawsuits and peaceful protests to stop the slide.

Greenpeace's strategy includes what sound like SWAT teams. "Forest rescue stations," made up of a mobile lab and tents, will be set up at the site of controversial timber sales to monitor activity. The first one opened this month in southern Oregon. "That's where the rubber's meeting the road," says Greenpeace spokeswoman Celia Alario.

Charles Wilkinson, a University of Colorado law professor who advised the Forest Service during the Clinton administration, considers that grandstanding by environmentalists "searching for a mission."

Mechem, the industry spokesman, notes "it's an election year" and that "many people feel President Bush is vulnerable on the environment."

Wilkinson is also skeptical that the timber industry will go back into national forests in a big way because it now has vast private tree farms in the Southeast. Mechem echoes that view, noting the industry gets just 3 percent of its fiber from public lands.

Hmmm. What are we in right now? That's right, another election cycle. Expect to see the mainstream media, Harry Reid Democrats, and environmentalists alike push their "global warming causes forest fires" message in the next year.

But where the rubber meets the road is this: To stop the forest fires you must stop the lawsuits and environmentalist radicalism. Oh, yeah, and the arson too.

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Given the amount of violence I have witnessed in Iraq in 2005 and early 2007, it's strange to think that under Saddam, since the year 1980 at least, there might have been an average of perhaps twice as many people killed per year. (The victims were just different people, such as Kurds, Iranians, and Iraqis who mostly were not in cities like Baghdad. And there was the invasion of Kuwaiti – and the burning of the oilfields.) It's difficult to imagine with this war that Iraq might be more "peaceful" today than during Saddam's reign.

Violence is plummeting. But much of Iraq is a complete mess, a horrible mess. Now is the time to put the foot on the gas. The battalion commanders are not "fishing" for the Iraqi leaders, nor are they "teaching the fisherman to fish." Iraqis can run their own country again. We only must facilitate the fishermen by helping them with the reconciliation, the infrastructure and economy. But it is imperative that we not stop now; it's clearly starting to work.

-- Michael Yon

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Osama bin Laden has released a purported second audio tape within as many months, and reactionary analysis seems to be a consensus that al Qaeda is worried it is losing the War in Iraq.

The best collection is offered by Weekly Standard's Mike Goldfarb, first noting that counterterrorism guru Richard Clarke, now an advisor to Barak Obama, is in line with that of Sen. John McCain.

McCain: "But bin Laden's return to the airwaves to beg for unity in al Qaeda's terror campaign in Iraq is evidence of our success in Iraq, where we have effectively driven al Qaeda from Anbar province, and have them on the run elsewhere. That is a great credit to General Petraeus and the brave Americans he has the honor to command. Evidently, bin Laden has concluded what surge opponents Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the leading Democratic presidential candidates seem incapable of acknowledging: Our troop surge has put al Qaeda on the defensive and security in Iraq -- which bin Laden's top lieutenant calls al Qaeda's central battlefront -- has improved. We will succeed if we don't lose our resolve."

Boy, gotta say, despite my previous misgivings with McCain on interrogation, climate change kowtowing and that abysmal campaign finance act, he's wooed his way back in my favor because he's so concise, morally clear and undeterrable on foreign policy and the war.

Anyway, here's Richard Clarke: "It's always good news when they are divided. It's reflective that U.S. tactics are having some success."

Well, don't strain yourself, Richard.

Read the rest of the posts yourself, but the conclusion is spot on:

The direct involvement of Osama bin Laden in the leadership issues with al Qaeda in Iraq speaks volumes on the problems the terror group is facing in Iraq. Violence is down 70 percent since June and al Qaeda is being chased from its stronghold. Over the past several days a clash between the Islamic Army of Iraq and al Qaeda near Baghdad resulted in 60 dead. Al Qaeda's much touted Ramadan campaign resulted in the death of the leader of the Anbar Awakening, killed dozens of Sunni and Shia leaders in Diyala, and missed its targets in Salahadin. But the attacks failed to break the movement, and even served to strengthen the will of the leadership and followers.

...[one reader writes to Goldfarb] "The major shift in this tape that no one is noting yet is that UBL is publicly admitting that mistakes were made regarding the conduct of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). He also more or less admits that AQI screwed things over there. This is a major shift in his rhetoric and I think reflects two things: 1) He's well-established enough that he can start admitting mistakes and 2) The situation in Iraq is not going as planned and he needs to get at the forefront of that to start revising history in real-time. Look for Zarqawi (who is safely deceased and hence unable to comment) to play the role of the scapegoat. To which our friend Michael Tanji responded: "I'm sorry did you just say 'Usama Lied, Jihadists Died'?"

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The story would be shocking were it not for the legacies of the Duke rape case or Dan Rather's "fake but accurate" documents.

Via Michelle Malkin, the Christian Science Monitor has published a full debunking of the Jena 6 story.

The media got most of the basics wrong. In fact, I have never before witnessed such a disgrace in professional journalism. Myths replaced facts, and journalists abdicated their solemn duty to investigate every claim because they were seduced by a powerfully appealing but false narrative of racial injustice.

I should know. I live in Jena. My wife has taught at Jena High School for many years. And most important, I am probably the only reporter who has covered these events from the very beginning.

The reason the Jena cases have been propelled into the world spotlight is two-fold: First, because local officials did not speak publicly early on about the true events of the past year, the media simply formed their stories based on one-side's statements – the Jena 6. Second, the media were downright lazy in their efforts to find the truth. Often, they simply reported what they'd read on blogs, which expressed only one side of the issue.

The real story of Jena and the Jena 6 is quite different from what the national media presented. It's time to set the record straight.

Myth 1: The Whites-Only Tree. There has never been a "whites-only" tree at Jena High School. Students of all races sat underneath this tree. When a student asked during an assembly at the start of school last year if anyone could sit under the tree, it evoked laughter from everyone present – blacks and whites. As reported by students in the assembly, the question was asked to make a joke and to drag out the assembly and avoid class.

Myth 2: Nooses a Signal to Black Students. An investigation by school officials, police, and an FBI agent revealed the true motivation behind the placing of two nooses in the tree the day after the assembly. According to the expulsion committee, the crudely constructed nooses were not aimed at black students. Instead, they were understood to be a prank by three white students aimed at their fellow white friends, members of the school rodeo team. (The students apparently got the idea from watching episodes of "Lonesome Dove.") The committee further concluded that the three young teens had no knowledge that nooses symbolize the terrible legacy of the lynchings of countless blacks in American history. When informed of this history by school officials, they became visibly remorseful because they had many black friends. Another myth concerns their punishment, which was not a three-day suspension, but rather nine days at an alternative facility followed by two weeks of in-school suspension, Saturday detentions, attendance at Discipline Court, and evaluation by licensed mental-health professionals. The students who hung the nooses have not publicly come forward to give their version of events.

Read the other 10 myths at the links.

There's a full chronological order of events at The Jena Times.

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Pat Dollard, another great embedded journalist and Hollywood film maker, has a post on his site to remember the 24th anniversary of the Iranian-Hezbollah bombing of our US Marine barracks base that murdered 241 US servicemen. Islamic extremism and terrorist proxy wars were with us long before September 11, 2001. It just took us a while to realize that. And, sadly, many still don't.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

A former member of Bill Clinton's National Security Council, Daniel Benjamin, debunks several myths promoted in large part by Hollywood's latest movie titled "Rendition."

With hearings in Congress, legal cases bouncing up to the Supreme Court and complaints from Canada and our European allies, the issue of rendition is everywhere. There's even a new, eponymously titled movie in a theater near you, starring Reese Witherspoon as a bereft wife whose innocent husband gets kidnapped and Meryl Streep as the frosty CIA chief who ordered the snatch. Like most covert actions and much of the war on al-Qaeda, the practice is shrouded in mystery -- and, increasingly, the suspicion that it's synonymous with torture and lawlessness.
In fact, the term "rendition" in the counterterrorism context means nothing more than moving someone from one country to another, outside the formal process of extradition. For the CIA, rendition has become a key tool for getting terrorists from places where they're causing trouble to places where they can't. The problem is where these people are taken and what happens to them when they get there. As a former director for counterterrorism policy on the National Security Council staff, I've been involved with the issue of rendition for nearly a decade -- and some of the myths surrounding it need to be cleared up.

1. Rendition is something the Bush administration cooked up.

Nope. George W. Bush was still struggling to coax oil out of the ground when the United States "rendered to justice" its first suspect from abroad. In 1987, President Ronald Reagan authorized an operation that lured Lebanese hijacker Fawaz Younis to a boat off the coast of Cyprus, where FBI agents arrested him. (Younis had participated in the 1985 hijacking of a Jordanian plane and was implicated in the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, which left a U.S. Navy diver dead.) President George H.W. Bush approved the kidnapping in 1990 of Mexican physician Humberto Alvarez Machain, who was believed to be involved in the torture and killing of a Drug Enforcement Administration official. Nothing says that renditions can involve only suspected terrorists; Israel's abduction of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960 could be called a rendition, though the term was not yet in use.

Beginning in 1995, the Clinton administration turned up the speed with a full-fledged program to use rendition to disrupt terrorist plotting abroad. According to former director of central intelligence George J. Tenet, about 70 renditions were carried out before Sept. 11, 2001, most of them during the Clinton years.

2. People who are "rendered" inevitably end up in a foreign slammer -- or worse.

Actually, that's not a foregone conclusion. Alvarez was brought to the United States. So was Mir Aimal Kansi, who killed two CIA employees in their cars outside the agency's Langley headquarters in 1993, and Ramzi Yousef, the architect of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Both were apprehended in Pakistan, whose leaders decided that the nation would rather not have those two -- folk heroes to some -- sitting in jail, awaiting extradition. Pakistan's leaders feared that cooperating with the United States would be dangerously unpopular, so they wanted the suspects out of the country quickly. For many pro-U.S. Muslim leaders, that concern has only deepened as anti-Americanism has soared.

By my count, most renditions since 1995 have involved moving individuals from one foreign country to another -- not grabbing someone in Washington and carting them off to North Africa, as happens to Witherspoon's onscreen husband. Such operations typically occur in secret because, again, Muslim leaders (especially in the Arab world) want to shield their cooperation with Washington from their anti-American publics. The CIA has acted as a go-between, arranging the transfers and providing transportation. Usually those being rendered are not brought to the United States because, while the U.S. government may have an abundance of intelligence showing their malfeasance, it doesn't have enough courtroom evidence. There's a big difference between the two.

One other safeguard: During the Clinton years, the United States required the country that received a rendered person to have some kind of legal process against the suspect -- an arrest warrant or indictment, for example. It's not clear whether that is still the case. Perhaps Michael Mukasey, President Bush's attorney general nominee, can check.

3. Step one of a rendition involves kidnapping the suspect.

The individual may feel as though he's being kidnapped, but that's not usually what's going on. Most of the time, the person is detained by the authorities of the country he is in. They will then hand him off to the CIA, which will fly him to his destination.

In rare cases when the country of residence is a hostile one, an "extraordinary rendition" can be carried out: a covert effort to abduct the suspect and spirit him out of the country. The CIA put considerable time into efforts to capture Osama bin Laden this way from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s. Had it worked, it would have been an extraordinary rendition -- and Americans would have cheered.

4. Rendition is just a euphemism for outsourcing torture.

Well, not historically. The guidelines for Clinton-era renditions required that subjects could be sent only to countries where they were not likely to be tortured -- countries that gave assurances to that effect and whose compliance was monitored by the State Department and the intelligence community. It's impossible to be certain that those standards were upheld every time, but serious efforts were made to see that they were. At a minimum, countries with indisputably lousy human rights records (say, Syria) were off-limits. Another key difference: Renditions before Bush were carried out to disrupt terrorist activity, not to gather intelligence or to interrogate individuals.

Now, though, the Bush team seems to have dramatically eroded such safeguards. The administration has apparently sent someone to Syria, and Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen, was evidently grabbed in Macedonia and interrogated in Afghanistan in a manner that sure sounds like torture. In light of this and other revelations, the criticism that the administration has "defined down" torture looks pretty persuasive. It's probably a good bet that Congress or the next administration will reform the program, or abolish it outright.

5. Pretty much anyone -- including U.S. citizens and green card holders -- can be rendered these days.

Not so, although the movie "Rendition" -- in which Witherspoon's Egyptian-born husband gets the black-hood treatment and is yanked from a U.S. airport and taken to a North African chamber of horrors -- is bound to spread this myth. A " U.S. person" (citizen or legal resident) has constitutional protections against being removed from the country through rendition, and there have been no incidents to suggest the contrary. In fairness, though, the ghastly case of Maher Arar -- a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who convincingly says he was detained at New York's JFK Airport, handed off to Syria and tortured -- is way too close for comfort.

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Michael Yon has frequently been labeled the Ernie Pyle of the Iraq War. Pyle, you'll recall, was the quintessential war reporter during the Second World War -- no other journalist was as respected or beloved by the American troops as Pyle.

Yon today, however, faces an environment the exact opposite of what Pyle faced -- perinnial negativism and disinformation, which Yon terms "Bizarro World," in reference to a universe from comic books where all was reversed.

Here are the latest observations from Yon, first on the overall disconnect, followed by a specific disconnect between British and American reporting that Basra had spiraled to high chaos versus what is truly the reality of Basra:

"All describe the bizarro-world contrast between what most Americans seem to think is happening in Iraq versus what is really happening in Iraq. Knowing this disconnect exists and experiencing it directly are two separate matters."

"...No thinking person would look at last year's weather reports to judge whether it will rain today, yet we do something similar with Iraq news. The situation in Iraq has drastically changed, but the inertia of bad news leaves many convinced that the mission has failed beyond recovery, that all Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, or are waiting for us to leave so they can crush their neighbors. This view allows our soldiers two possible roles: either "victim caught in the crossfire" or "referee between warring parties." Neither, rightly, is tolerable to the American or British public.

"No one who's actually been to this area [Basra] in the last month could honestly claim it was swarming with violence. I've been with the Brits here for more than two weeks, during which time there have been only a few trivial attacks that could easily have been the work of an angry farmer with extra time on his hands and a mortar in his backyard. As to serious attacks on British forces, in the last eight weeks, there have been exactly zero. So, any stories that make it sound like Basra is in chaos are shamefully false.

..."But it wasn't until I spent that week back in the States that I realized how bad things have gotten. I believe we are witnessing a conspiracy of coincidences conflating to exert an incomprehensibly destructive force on the free press system that we largely take for granted. The fact that the week in question also happened to be when General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker were delivering their reports to Congress makes me wonder if things are actually worse than I've assessed, and I returned to Iraq sadly convinced that General Petraeus now has to deal from a deck clearly stacked against him in both America and Iraq.

Clearly, a majority of Americans believe the current set of outdated fallacies passed around mainstream media like watered down drinks at happy hour. Why wouldn't they? The cloned copy they get comes from the same sources that list the specials at the local grocery store, and the hours and locations of polling places for town elections. These same news sources print obituaries and birth announcements, give play-by-play for local high school sports, and chronicle all the painful details of the latest celebrity to fall from grace.

..."As I travel around the world, I see that even many of our close allies have a false impression of American soldiers as brutally oppressive towards people. Even our great friends in Singapore and the United Kingdom, and the pro-American people on the island of Bali, Indonesia, think we are savaging people. This loss of moral leadership will be costly to Americans on many fronts for many generations to come.
The only antidote for this toxic press is a steady dose of detailed stories about the amazing men and women who serve in the United States military. People like Lieutenant Jeffrey Pettee, Iraqi Army Captain Baker, USMC SSG Rakene Lee, and LTC Fred Johnson. Each of these soldiers is a credit to every human being.

It is important that Americans let their best and clearest voices be heard around the world. If the world contained only twenty people, only one would be American. We represent about 5% of the world population. What those other nineteen people think about America is truly very important to each one of us. We cannot afford to let the media around the world continue promulgating so many recycled misconceptions about our soldiers and the character of our nation."

Thank God for honest embedded journalists like Michael Yon.

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Last week Benazir Bhutto returned to promote a power-sharing arrangement with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Because Bhutto is 1) a woman, and 2) not an Islamic fanatic she was greeted with a bombing that killed 136 Pakistanis. Shame on the Islamic militants who committed murder, right? Oh, no! Not to Ann Curry of NBC's Today Show.

Instead, Ms. Curry took Bhutto to task with hysterical browbeating for daring to return to her country's politics. The "interview" Ann Curry conducted with Benazir Bhutto was mostly accusatory rhetoric and is both shameful and a telling statement about our mainstream media. I'm not exactly sure what Curry's point was. Mark Finkelstein opines that Curry's tone was "an over-the-top emotionalism that had the show's news anchor lurching from shouted accusations to the verge of tears."

CURRY: If you had not returned, these women would have their husbands, they would have their children. These 140 people [Curry's voice breaking] would be alive, these 500 people would not have been wounded. Do you regret coming back now, seeing what has happened? You knew it was going to happen.

BENAZIR BHUTTO: I knew an attempt would be made.

CURRY: So, you knew that people would be at risk!

BHUTTO: I knew that people would be at risk.

CURRY [shouting]: So was it worth that risk, given what has happened?

...CURRY: This was a very slow-moving motorcade, surrounded by millions of people. Did you make the right choice [pause for dramatic effect, then shouting again] TO COME BACK IN THIS WAY?

BHUTTO: Ann, I find this question very uncomfortable.

CURRY: Of course you do, it's a painful question.

BHUTTO: I'll tell you why. It means that terrorists can dictate the agenda.

I guess Ms. Curry's point is if we would just elect a bunch of illiberal, theocratic extremists who dictate Islamic Sharia-law to every aspect of our life we'd finally have the "peace" all the left-wing appeasers have been dreaming about since the death of their last utopia called Communism. But wait... last time I checked the Palestinians did just that and these days Islamic radicals from Hamas are killing Islamic radicals from Fatah... never mind then.

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Some rare balance courtesy of Newsweek:

Nearly three years after the Clinton Library opened—and more than 21 months after its trove of records became subject to the Freedom of Information Act—barely one half of 1 percent of the 78 million pages of documents and 20 million e-mail messages at the federally funded facility are public, according to the National Archives. The lack of access is emerging as an issue in Hillary's presidential campaign: she cites her years of experience as First Lady as one of her prime qualifications to be president. Like other Democratic candidates, she has decried the "stunning record of secrecy" of the Bush administration; her campaign Web site vows to bring a "return to transparency" to government. But Clinton's appointment calendar as First Lady, her notes at strategy meetings, what advice she gave her husband and his advisers, what policy memos she wrote, even some key papers from her health-care task force—all of this, and much more documenting her years as First Lady, remains locked away, most likely through the entire campaign season. With nearly 300 FOIA requests pending for Clinton documents, and only six archivists at the library to process them, Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper says it is "really hard to predict" if any of this material will be released before the election.

Bill Clinton has tried to cast blame for the backlog on the Bush White House. "Look, I'm pro-disclosure," Clinton said in a testy exchange with reporters during a recent press conference. "I want to open my presidential records more rapidly than the law requires and the current administration has slowed down the opening of my own records." But White House spokesman Scott Stanzel tells NEWSWEEK the Bush White House has not blocked the release of any Clinton-era records, nor is it reviewing any. (Under the 1978 Presidential Records Act, the former president and the current president get to review White House records before they are disclosed. Either one can veto a release.) Ben Yarrow, a spokesman for Bill Clinton, says the former president was referring "in general" to a controversial 2001 Bush executive order—recently overturned, in part, by a federal judge—that authorized more extensive layers of review from both current and former presidents before papers are released. (Hillary's campaign didn't respond to requests for comment.)

But documents NEWSWEEK obtained under a FOIA request (made to the Archives in Washington, not the Clinton library) suggest that, while publicly saying he wants to ease restrictions on his records, Clinton has given the Archives private instructions to tightly control the disclosure of chunks of his archive.

Read the rest.




The Wall Street Journal summarizes some long-term problems with the recent FISA-surveillance compromise between Congressional Democrats and President Bush. In short, the conspiracy-nut and otherwise privacy-extreme wings of the Democrat party lost big time, but the executive branch loses equally in other ways for every president going forward.

Worse for Presidential authority, the Administration has agreed to let the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court pass judgment after the fact on its overseas wiretap findings and procedures. This is an expansion of judicial power from the 1978 FISA law, which applied to domestic wiretaps. No President has ever conceded that his ability to eavesdrop on a foreign enemy abroad could be second-guessed by judges. And no court has found that the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful searches apply to foreigners working out of Karachi. This bill creates a bad precedent on both counts.

The bill even requires the executive to present the FISA court (and Congress) with a semi-annual review of the surveillance program and its procedures. Since when do courts, which operate under the limits of Article III of the Constitution, have the power to oversee such executive operations? Judges lack the expertise to make intelligence judgments, and in any case are accountable to no one if they object to some executive process and then order it halted.

The great irony here is that, in the name of checking "secret" Presidential power, Congress is giving enormous authority to judges who will also make decisions in secret and never have to answer to the voters. In our view, this entire process is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. The President is allowing more judicial micromanagement of war decisions in order to please Congress, which prefers to pass the buck to the courts rather than take responsibility itself for overruling Presidential war decisions.

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The Science and Public Policy Institute finds not a mere 9 factual errors in Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth, but 35.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

"For decades, we've seen successful strategies to ride antitax sentiment in this country toward tax cuts that favor wealth, not work."
-- John F. Kennedy

Supply siders are batting 100 percent. The Bush tax cut passed in 2003 is the fourth in four historical example where a massive reduction in the progressive tax rate created simultaneous economic growth and record tax revenues. Previously, Calvin Coolidge, JFK and Ronald Reagan all did the same.

But how do you create record tax revenue if you're cutting taxes? The same way Best Buy rakes in the cash when selling televisions at miniscule markups: It's the volume, stupid!

Cut the taxes and all people both spend and invest more, so the IRS can make gains via volume. As one recent article explained, "A study by former Treasury Department economist Gary Robbins has found that from 1946-1998, about 90% of the returns to capital investment accrued to workers in the form of higher wages, because when workers have more tools like computers, forklifts and robotic equipment, they produce more."

No kidding? Yeah, I seem to remember an economist named Adam Smith saying this, oh, about 250 years ago...

Thus, the US budget deficit has dropped to a 5-year low to just 1.2 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product, less than the average of the last 40 years. This figure was $81 billion lower than previously projected by government offices, which is, you know, reason 1001 one should never trust government economic projection figures, which measure statically instead of dynamically. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office has been off in their estimates by geometric proportions for 5 straight years (off $13 billion, $55 billion, $90 billion, $131 billion and finally $147 billion this year). Notice a trend that would get you or me a quick pink slip were our job economic prognostication?

Addtionally, the government has been growing like a fat cow: "Americans coughed up a record $2.568 trillion in taxes to the IRS in 2007, or 6.7% more than in 2006. This means federal receipts have climbed by $785 billion since the 2003 investment tax cuts, the largest four-year revenue increase in U.S. history." Also, "Individual income-tax receipts grew 12% to $1.163 trillion and corporate tax receipts were up 4.6% to $370.2 billion. Employment taxes rose 4.3% to $824.3 billion."

Remember, we could have had this growth much sooner but back in 2002 the Democrats in Congress demanded that Bush phase the tax cuts in over 10 years.

The problem is, however, in additon to the phase-in demand, the tax cut "sunsets" in 2010, which basically means that the tax rates will automatically increase to their high pre-2003 rates next year. Raise the taxes and people will both spend and invest less, much less, and the IRS can gain less.

Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation president Steve Entin elaborates on the damage this sudden tax increase will cause: "Consider precedent. Lyndon Johnson pushed a 10% war surtax on income through Congress in April 1968. It was the primary trigger for the 1969-1970 recession. Congress rushed to end it early in 1970. Investment spending crashed by 7%, and rebounded after the surtax was history. That surcharge had a fraction of the impact on the service price of capital that would occur if the Bush tax cuts expire."

Most mind-boggling of all? The very people who will be slammed by a Charlie Rangel proposed tax hike are donating in record numbers to the Democrats!

Stephen Moore explains.

Why does corporate America go along? The standard excuse is that this is the way the game is played. They've made a calculated decision that Democrats are going to sweep in 2008. Republicans rightly object that corporate interests are making this a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When Republicans took over Congress, the labor bosses didn't climb into bed with them. Unions like the Communications Workers of America and Service Employees International Union have a long track record of giving more than 90% of their dollars to Democrats and have spent millions more on independent campaigns to pound Republicans. Labor seems to understand what corporate America doesn't: It's a policy war, stupid.

So why won't business groups go to the mat for their friends and spend whatever it takes to defeat their enemies? Former Republican House majority leader Dick Armey explains that "the business groups are simply not ideological givers. They give to buy access and to minimize risk."
He's undoubtedly right. And so, if Democrats run the table in 2008, they will have corporate America to thank. But business is living in a fantasy world if they believe this will spare them from what is likely to be one of the most anti-growth agendas that Washington has seen in many decades. Nor should they be spared. When you sell the rope to the hangman, you deserve to have a noose around your neck.

Agreed. However, unfortunately, that hangman's noose will be distributed down to the people companies can no longer afford to have on the payroll.

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