Sunday, March 30, 2008

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I don't know if the website Obamamessiah is a promotion of Barack Obama as a religious figure or a subtle criticism of those who seem to be promoting Obama as just that -- but in any event it's chocked full of creepy examples of liberals and "progressives" (i.e., fascism by another name) who view Obama as something more than just another politician.

One such example comes from television and soccer-mom magnate Oprah Winfrey.

It isn't enough to tell the truth, Winfrey said. "We need politicians who know how to be the truth. I do believe, I do today, we have the answer to Miss Pittman's question – it's a question that the entire nation is asking – is he the one?" Winfrey said. "South Carolina – I do believe he's the one
Oh, really?

What's creepy about this isn't so much regarding Obama, but his followers.

As we've just started to discover - because of the main-stream media only now doing its job and covering Obama more critically - through the Tony Rezko link, or through Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is that Obama is a politician no different than any other.

Today's Washington Post: Regarding Obama's claim that his "very existence" can be traced to the Kennedy family "the key details are either untrue or grossly oversimplified."

In other words, Obama isn't one who tells "the truth" but just another politician who will exaggerate for influance sake. Politics is defined as the art of influancing people. Obama isn't the "New Testament," as NBC's Chris Matthew's labeled him (shamelessly, given he's "objective" reporter, right?), he's just another guy running for president.

Contrary to Obama's claims in speeches in January at American University and in Selma last year, the Kennedy family did not provide the funding for a September 1959 airlift of 81 Kenyan students to the United States that included Obama's father. According to historical records and interviews with participants, the Kennedys were first approached for support for the program nearly a year later, in July 1960. The family responded with a $100,000 donation, most of which went to pay for a second airlift in September 1960.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton acknowledged yesterday that the senator from Illinois had erred in crediting the Kennedy family with a role in his father's arrival in the United States. He said the Kennedy involvement in the Kenya student program apparently "started 48 years ago, not 49 years ago as Obama has mistakenly suggested in the past."

...In his speech commemorating the 42nd anniversary of the Selma civil rights march, Sen. Obama linked his father's arrival in the United States with the turmoil of the civil rights movement. Although the airlift occurred before John F. Kennedy became president, Obama said that "folks in the White House" around President Kennedy were looking for ways to counter charges of hypocrisy and "win hearts and minds all across the world" at a time when America was "battling communism."

"So the Kennedys decided 'we're going to do an airlift,' " Obama continued. " 'We're going to go to Africa and start bringing young Africans over to this country and give them scholarships to study so they can learn what a wonderful country America is.' This young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country. He met this woman whose great-great-great-great-grandfather had owned slaves. . . . So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born."

A more accurate version of the story would begin not with the Kennedys but with a Kenyan nationalist leader named Tom Mboya, who traveled to the United States in 1959 and 1960 to persuade thousands of Americans to support his efforts to educate a new African elite. Mboya did not approach the Kennedys for financial support until Obama Sr. was already studying in Hawaii.

Read the rest.

Will the Kool-Aide drinking Obama acolytes begin to see their leader as a politician, not a savior?

Don't count on it.

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Here's a continuation of a post below regarding Democrat's odd and inaccurate insistence that we differentiate between al Qaeda versus other Islamic terror groups, differentiate between Sunni versus Shiite jihadists. When it comes to us, Amir Taheri explains, they make no differentiation in their hatred of Western civilization... nor do their bombs.

For more than a quarter century, Tehran has been host to the offices of more than three dozen terrorists organizations, from the Colombian FARC to the Palestinian Hamas and passing by half a dozen Trotskyite and Leninist outfits. It also finances many anti-American groups and parties of both extreme right and extreme left in Europe and the Americas. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has bestowed the Muslim title of "brother" on Cuba's Fidel Castro, Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega. Communist North Korea is the only country with which the Islamic Republic maintains close military-industrial ties and holds joint annual staff sessions.

George Ibrahim Abdallah, the Lebanese maverick who led a campaign of terror in Paris in the 1980s on behalf of Tehran, was a Christian. So was Anis Naqqache, who led several hit-teams sent to kill Iranian exile opposition leaders. For years, and until a recent change of policy, Tehran financed and offered shelter to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a Marxist movement fighting to overthrow the Turkish Republic. Why? Tehran's displeasure with Turkish membership of NATO and friendship with the U.S.

Yes, Mr. Obama might ask, but what about Sunni-Shiite cooperation?

The Islamic Republic has financed and armed the Afghan Sunni Hizb Islami (Islamic Party) since the 1990s. It's also financed the Front for Islamic Salvation (FIS), a Sunni political-terrorist outfit in Algeria between 1992 and 2005.

In 1993, a senior Iranian delegation, led by the then Islamic Parliament Speaker Ayatollah Mehdi Karrubi, attended the Arab-Muslim Popular Congress organized by Hassan al-Turabi, nicknamed "The Pope of Islamist Terror," in Khartoum. At the end of this anti-American jamboree a nine-man "Coordinating Committee" was announced. Karrubi was a member, along with such Sunni eminences as Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mr. Turabi and the Algerian Abdallah Jaballah. The fact that Karrubi was a Shiite mullah did not prevent him from sitting alongside Sunni sheikhs.

In 1996, a suicide attack claimed the lives of 19 American servicemen in Al Khobar, eastern Saudi Arabia. The operation was carried out by the Hezbollah in Hejaz, an Iranian-financed outfit, with the help of the Sunni militant group "Sword of the Peninsula."

In 2000, Sunni groups linked to al Qaeda killed 17 U.S. servicemen in a suicide attack on USS Cole off the coast of Yemen. This time, a Shiite militant group led by Sheikh al-Houti, Tehran's man in Yemen, played second fiddle in the operation.

In Central Asia's Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, Tehran has for years supported two Sunni movements, the Rastakhiz Islami (Islamic Awakening) and Hizb Tahrir Islami (Islamic Liberation Party). In Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, Tehran supports the Sunni Taleshi groups against the Azeri Shiite majority. The reason? The Taleshi Sunnis are pro-Russian and anti-American, while the Shiite Azeris are pro-American and anti-Russian.

There are no Palestinian Shiites, yet Tehran has become the principal source of funding for radical Palestinian Sunni groups, notably Hamas, Islamic Jihad and half a dozen leftist-atheist minigroups. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh refuses to pray alongside his Iranian hosts during his visits to Tehran. But when it comes to joining Khomeinist crowds in shouting "Death to America" he is in the forefront.

With Arab oil kingdoms no longer as generous as before, Iran has emerged as the chief source of funding for Hamas. The new Iranian budget, coming into effect on March 21, allocates over $2 billion to the promotion of "revolutionary causes." Much of the money will go to Hamas and the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah.

In Pakistan, the Iran-financed Shiite Tehrik Jaafari joined a coalition of Sunni parties to govern the Northwest Frontier Province, until they all suffered a crushing defeat at last month's parliamentary elections.

The fact that the Sunnis and Shiites in other provinces of Pakistan continued to kill each other did not prevent them from developing a joint, anti-U.S. strategy that included the revival of the Afghan Taliban and protection for the remnants of al Qaeda. Almost all self-styled "holy warriors" who go to Iraq on a mission of murder and mayhem are Sunnis. And, yet most pass through Syria, a country that, as already noted, is dominated by a sect with a militant anti-Sunni religious doctrine.

Next month, Tehran will host what is billed as "The Islamic Convergence Conference," bringing together hundreds of Shiite and Sunni militants from all over the world. The man in charge, Ayatollah Ali-Muhammad Taskhiri, has described the goal of the gathering to be delivering "a punch in the face of the American Great Satan."

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MTV’s antiwar picture, Stop-Loss, bombed at the box-office, taking in only $1.6 million on its opening day. This comes in spite of near universal fanfare and loads of free-media. A studio exec dismisses the poor showing anyway, saying, "No one wants to see Iraq war movies." That’s not quite right. What people don’t want to see are preachy antiwar movies about how awful their country is. At least not while we have 150,000 troops in Iraq.

During World War II, plenty of war-films did extremely well, and they did so by telling inspiring stories about the very best our country and allies had to offer. Hollywood’s most talented directors made films about U.S./British moral superiority, not its equivalence. One of my favorites is William Wyler’s Mrs. Miniver, which Winston Churchill called, "propaganda worth 100 battleships." After completing the film, Wyler even enlisted despite being eligible for an exemption. Mrs. Miniver reached the screen in the same year as Casablana.

Even the Vietnam War, which inspired some great work, can be distinguished from Stop-Loss and the like. The antiwar movies of that era--most notably, Apocalypse Now, Born on the Fourth of July, The Deer Hunter, Full Metal Jacket, Good Morning, Vietnam, and Platoon--all followed the conclusion of hostilities. What we’re seeing today, with Hollywood actively tearing this country down from within, is quite unique.

-- Jaime Sneider

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury says the introduction of sharia is inevitable in the United Kingdom, which is a tough break not just for those Brits who believe in quaint concepts like common law, but also for Muslims who left their moribund homelands in search of free societies unencumbered by Islamic jurisprudence.

-- Mark Steyn

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

There's been a lot of hair splitting lately vis-a-vis Saddam Hussein's relations with Islamic terrorism as reported by a new Pentagon report.

Most recently, there's criticism of Vice President Dick Cheney for the following statement: "Now, was that a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda? Seems to me pretty clear that there was."

But it's the administration's hair splitting opponents, such as The Miami Herald's Carl Hiaasen, who are engaging in some bait and switch:

True to form, the vice president repeated his dark assertion that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had close ties with al Qaeda, a claim discredited and rejected by every U.S. intelligence agency.
Note the language: "close ties." But those are Hiaasen's words, not Cheney's. Cheney only said there was "a link."

And, indeed, reading the Pentagon report, that's exactly what they reported -- most notably, that Iraq had provided funding and training for, among others, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ).

Here's the rub: EIJ was headed by none other than Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Thus, Iraq was providing money and support to Ayman al-Zawahiri. If that's not "a link," I don't know what the Hiaasens of the would would consider a link!

All the talk of "no smoking gun" is equally ridiculous! In the world of intelligence and spycraft there never is a smoking gun. That's Hollywood crap, like those last minute Perry Mason courtroom confessionals.

And, to show just how deceptive Hiaasen's take was, here's the whole statement by Cheney, from which Hiaasen extrapolated his own half truth:

[Cheney] Well, this is no operational link. But there was, as I recall from looking at it, extensive links with Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Egyptian Islamic Jihad was the organization headed by Zawahiri, and he merged EIJ with Al Qaeda when he became the deputy director of Al Qaida, Osama bin Laden’s number two. Now, was that a link between Iraq and Al Qaeda? Seems to me pretty clear that there was.

But it’s a question — I would urge you to go read the report. I know ABC reported on it. If you dig into the report in depth, I think you may find that there was an extensive relationship with a broad range of terrorist groups, that he was a state sponsor of terror. And I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.

Again, there's absolutely nothing untrue with Cheney's statement when matched to the Pentagon report. And he doesn't ever use the words "close ties," Mr. Hiaasen.

Zawahiri just this week, by the way, urged his followers to "attack the interest[s] of the Jews and the Americans."

And that's the point that fools like Hiaasen don't seem to get, no matter how often you knock them upside the head: Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda... Islamic terrorists don't split hairs over who's a card carrying member of al Qaeda and who's just an Islamic fundamentalist ready to kill some civilians for the cause, whether or not their financial support comes from a true believer or a Middle Eastern despot.

Should Hiaasen's plane be hijacked by boxcutter wielding Islamists will he really be releived if they turn out to be neck-cutting EIJ members, not neck-cutting al Qaeda members?

Finally, here's a blast from the past -- an ABC News report from 1999 (thanks to Pat Dollard) highlighting Saddam's links to al Qaeda. I guess ABC News and Cheney are in on it together, eh Carl?

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Every once in a while - okay, every one to two years - President Bush can actually hit one out of the park. Here's a great comment from his address today:

The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around -- it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror. For the terrorists, Iraq was supposed to be the place where al Qaeda rallied Arab masses to drive America out. Instead, Iraq has become the place where Arabs joined with Americans to drive al Qaeda out. In Iraq, we are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology, and his murderous network. And the significance of this development cannot be overstated.
The rest of the speech is good too. The opportunity still exists, in the long run, to do with Iraq and through Iraq exactly what we set out to do with it in 2003 - overturn 60 years of promoting stability over liberty.

Of course, the problem for Bush is that he's so hated that even when he speaks reason people close their ears.

That's an advantage McCain still has for now. He's become not just the last choice for conservatives, but the only choice.

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Judge the surge by the decline of Moqtada al-Sadr. Great op-ed. Read the whole thing.

Whatever Happened to Moqtada?
March 20, 2008; Page A19

"I have failed to liberate Iraq, and transform its society into an Islamic society."
-- Moqtada al-Sadr, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper, March 8, 2008

Moqtada al-Sadr -- the radical cleric dubbed "The Most Dangerous Man in Iraq" by a Newsweek cover story in December 2006 -- has just unilaterally extended the ceasefire he imposed on his Mahdi Army militia last summer. And on the eve of the Iraq War's fifth anniversary, Sadr also issued a somber but dramatic statement. He not only declared that he had failed to transform Iraq, but also lamented the new debates and divisions within his own movement. Explaining his marginalization, Sadr all but confessed his growing isolation: "One hand cannot clap alone."

Ismael Roldan
What happened? Over the past five years, Sadr has been one of the most persistent and insurmountable challenges for the U.S. Leveraging his family's prestige among the disaffected Shiite underclass, he asserted his power by violently intimidating rival clerics, agitating against the U.S. occupation, and using force to establish de facto control over Baghdad's Sadr City (named after his father, and home to two million Shiites on the east bank of the Tigris) and large swaths of southern Iraq.

The story of his rise, and fall, illustrates the complex relationship between security and political power that drives the fortunes of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

Sadr's postwar ascent caught the U.S. Government completely off-guard. Iraqi society was impenetrable in the 1980s and 1990s. Neither our intelligence community nor our diplomats, who had left Iraq in 1990, knew anything of significance about Sadr. The western press and punditry had never reported on him before the war (a Nexis search reveals not a single news article mentioning Sadr's name in the year leading up to the war). The oft-cited "Future of Iraq Project," produced by the State Department, failed to warn about Sadr in its thousands of pages of projections and scenarios. Few knew he existed, let alone anticipated the influence he would one day wield.

That influence was vast: Moqtada al-Sadr came very close to establishing a state within a state inside Iraq, much like Hezbollah had done in Lebanon.

It began in 2003, when Sadr's followers orchestrated the murder of Majid al-Khoie, a moderate Shiite cleric whom the U.S. government had hoped could play a pivotal role in building a democratic Iraq. It continued with a series of armed uprisings across the south in April 2004, which took the lives of scores of American troops, and led to the collapse of Iraq's fledgling security forces. These culminated in a dramatic standoff against the Iraqi government and U.S. forces at the Holy Shrines in August 2004. In 2005 and 2006 Sadr expanded his territorial reach, using his militia to expel Sunnis from their Baghdad neighborhoods and massively infiltrating the Iraqi police forces.

In areas under his control, Sadr set up extrajudicial Sharia courts to administer justice against Iraqi Shiite "heretics." Large numbers of citizens found guilty were punished by death. The Mahdi Army militia also established its own security checkpoints in Baghdad and across the south -- supplanting Iraq's weak national army and lightly deployed U.S. forces.

This militia took over petrol stations, skimming funds to finance its own operations. And it had practically halted many of the civic society initiatives launched by the coalition, NGOs, and many Iraqis in Shiite towns. For example, in 2004 our U.S. colleagues Fern Holland, Robert Zangas and their Iraqi translator, Salway Oumaishi were assassinated by Shiite militiamen, just as they had courageously helped a group of Shiite women to build a successful program to train them in advocacy for their rights.

The principal reason for Sadr's ability to augment his power during these years was the absence of security in Baghdad. This vacuum left the Shiite community completely vulnerable to an unrelenting wave of terror attacks from the Sunni insurgency and al Qaeda. With the U.S. Government's failure to engage in serious counterinsurgency and make it a priority to provide basic safety for Iraqi civilians, Sadr and his Mahdi militia moved quickly to fill the void.

As one Sadrist militant told the International Crisis Group last year: "The Mahdi Army's effort to conquer neighborhoods is highly sophisticated. It presents itself as protector of Shiites and recruits local residents to assist in this task. In so doing, it gains support from people who possess considerable information -- on where the Sunnis and Shiites are, on who backs and who opposes the Sadrists and so forth." By the end of 2006, U.S. military officials had concluded that sectarian violence by Shiite militants had surpassed al Qaeda and the insurgency as the principal threat to Iraqi stability.

In retrospect, that assessment marked the high point of Sadr's influence. While his empire had expanded, it had generated its own resentments. Ordinary citizens chafed at the harsh version of Islamic law imposed by Sadr's lieutenants, not to mention the corruption and brutality of functionaries manning checkpoints and patrolling the streets. Sadr's hold on the broader Shiite community was actually quite tenuous, cemented chiefly by fear of the insurgency and al Qaeda.

In 2007, the U.S. military shifted approach, putting in place for the first time a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy backed by a surge of troops to support it. The new strategy paid large dividends against al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents, as attacks dropped to 2005 levels and Iraqi deaths due to ethno-sectarian violence declined 90% from June 2007 to March 2008. As Sunni attacks against Shiite civilians declined, so did the rationale for Sadr's authority.

As the International Crisis Group concluded, one "net effect" of the surge "was to leave the Sadrist movement increasingly exposed, more and more criticized and divided, and subject to arrest."

Other factors also contributed to Sadr's marginalization. But the increased security provided by more U.S. forces was essential in removing an underlying rationale for the Sadrist movement. Newsweek's 2006 profile had predicted that "the longer the American occupation lasts, the less popular America gets -- and the more popular Sadr and his ilk become." But as a recent ABC News poll of Iraqis makes clear, Shiite support for local militias has plummeted over the past year. The full implementation of the surge helped weaken Sadr, not make him more popular.

To be sure, Sadr's diminished capacity to stir up trouble may not last forever. While he has not appeared in public in close to a year, he still has his family name and a base of support among the Shiite underclass, particularly in Baghdad. He may be biding his time, hoping a U.S. withdrawal will leave him with a weaker opponent in the fledgling Iraqi security services. And as this week's deadly suicide bombing of a Shiite shrine in Karbala indicates, the security threats that enabled the Mahdi Army's rise to power have not yet been fully defeated.

So while the progress made against Sadr has been remarkable, it may also be fragile. Sustaining it means recognizing that political progress depends fundamentally on security. This basic insight of counterinsurgency warfare -- which has driven our progress against Sadr's militants, the Sunni insurgency, and al Qaeda over the past year -- is the central lesson America has learned in its five years of war in Iraq.

Messrs. Senor and Martinez were foreign policy advisers to the Bush administration. They were based in Baghdad in 2003 and 2004.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Update by Thomas Joscelyn here.

So John McCain committed a political gaffe this week because he seemed to confuse Sunni with Shiite extremists in Iraq, and also which one or the other is receiving support from the government of Iran?

The criticism is ignorant on several counts:

First, if true that Iran is sponsoring and training *only* Shiite extremists but not Sunni, how is that a good thing? And why isn't the scandal that liberals seem to have no issue with this rather than a supposed mix-up by McCain?

Second, Obama pounced and further belittled McCain as one who "[claims he] will follow Osama bin Laden to 'the gates of hell' but refuse to follow him where he actually goes." This opens the door to attack on Obama -- Is Obama (once again) claiming he'll invade the Afghan-Pak border? And, if he feels Iraq is lost, how does Obama think we could ever win in the Afghan-Pak border where the terrain is twice as formidable?

Finally, there are many examples of Shiite and Sunni collaboration.

Khobar Towers, 1996: 13 Sunni Saudis helped Shiite Hezbollah, the Iranian backed terror group, detonate explosives to kill 19 U.S. servicemen.

Saif al-Adel, the Sunni Muslim and Egyptian mastermind of the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, was trained by Shiite Hezbollah. Indeed, the late Imad Mugniyah, a Shiite Muslim, of Hezbollah personally tutored Osama bin Laden, a Sunni Muslim. Thus, Sunni-Shiite relations have no issue with cooperation when murdering Americans is the topic.

And, one wonders, have the media critics and members of the Obama campaign ever bothered to read the 9-11 Commission report?

[The 9-11 Commission Report, p61] In late 1991 or 1992, discussions in Sudan between al Qaeda and Iranian operatives led to an informal agreement to cooperate in providing support-even if only training-for actions carried out primarily against Israel and the United States. Not long afterward, senior al Qaeda operatives and trainers traveled to Iran to receive training in explosives. In the fall of 1993, another such delegation went to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon for further training in explosives as well as in intelligence and security. Bin Ladin reportedly showed particular interest in learning how to use truck bombs such as the one that had killed 241 U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983.The relationship between al Qaeda and Iran demonstrated that Sunni-Shia divisions did not necessarily pose an insurmountable barrier to cooperation in terrorist operations. As will be described in chapter 7, al Qaeda contacts with Iran continued in ensuing years.
I guess not. But who needs facts when one has saturation coverage. Iran will cooperate with anyone so long as it undermines the US.

And while we split hairs on which extremist is which they just kill us.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I fully agree with Michael Goldfarb below. A good summary.

My personal observations: Not only did Obama throw his grandmother under a bus by morally equating her (a private citizen who makes no effort to opine division) to Rev. Wright (a man who by profession willing takes the pulpit to opine division), but he places blame for all our ills at the feet of the number one liberal boogeyman: corporations.

In a word: yawn.

Barack Obama has staged one of the most remarkable campaigns in American history, all on the basis that he, and he alone, could transcend race. That he was looking forward, rather than back. And that the past could be overcome. Today, Obama put all that behind him:

Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy--particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.
Actually, it wasn't Obama's critics who were saying that--it was his surrogates, his supporters, and Obama himself. He would frame this election not as a choice "between regions or religions or genders. It's not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white. It's about the past versus the future." It was, as Bill Clinton might say, a fairytale.

This election was no different than any other, and it turns out that Barack Obama is really no different than any other conventional liberal candidate for the presidency. He blames America, racism, and the past for the problems of today:

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Really? That's certainly the view of Reverend Wright. And it's probably the view you'd get from any professor of African American studies. So it's not even the slightest bit controversial in conventional liberal circles.

The controversial speech that would have saved Obama's campaign is here, and it was delivered on the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education by a man who really has transcended race. On that day, Bill Cosby said, "Brown Versus the Board of Education is no longer the white person’s problem." He said "We cannot blame white people." And he spoke about a culture of accountability as the only path to success for Black America.

If Obama had said those things, perhaps he would have won 88 percent of the Black vote instead of 90 percent, but he would have laid this whole controversy to rest. Instead, he started the speech with "we the people." You can't go any further back in American history than those words. Obama just overturned the whole rationale for his campaign, and I don't think he solved any of the problems that his association with Reverend Wright has exposed.

Will the speech matter?

Hard to say. His supporters certainly loved it, but the Wright videos did nothing to alienate them in the first place. Among the moderates he's trying to court it could hurt him, as youtube videos have far more staying power than political speeches by long-winded candidates.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Same old, same old. Thanks to the gents over at Weekly Standard for debunking the latest in the 'Saddam had no ties to terror' myth. It's amazing the lengths the MSM go to split hairs between al Qaeda terrorism versus just plain Islamic-extremist terror. Okay, so Saddam didn't have have tea parties with bin Laden and Zawahiri, but he nonetheless had no problem fully supporting or funding persons and terror organizations cut from the same cloth.

A new Pentagon report on Iraq and Terrorism has the news media buzzing. An item on the New York Times blog snarks, "Oh, By the Way, There Was No Al Qaeda Link." The ABC News story that previews the full report concludes, "Report Shows No Link Between Saddam and al Qaeda."

How, then, to explain this sentence about Iraq and al Qaeda from the report's abstract: "At times, these organizations would work together in pursuit of shared goals but still maintain their autonomy and independence because of innate caution and mutual distrust"? And how to explain the "considerable overlap" between their activities which led not only to the appearances of ties but to a "de facto link between the organizations?" (See the entire abstract below.)

And what about this revelation from page 34? "Captured documents reveal that the regime was willing to co-opt or support organizations it knew to be part of al Qaeda -- as long as that organization's near-term goals supported Saddam's long-term vision." (The example given in the report is the Army of Muhammad in Bahrain, a group the Iraqi Intelligence Service describes as "under the wings of bin Laden.")

And there is this line from page 42: "Saddam supported groups that either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, led at one time by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri) or that generally shared al Qaeda's stated goals and objectives."

Really? Saddam Hussein "supported" a group that merged with al Qaeda in the late 1990s, run by al Qaeda's #2, and the New York Times thinks this is not a link between Iraq and al Qaeda? How does that work?

Here's a little more from Michael Goldfarb -- it's also another case where our intelligence agencies and thinktanks produce executive summaries (the only thing the media reads) that directly contradict the body of these reports:

The Iraqi Intelligence documents discussed in the report link Saddam’s regime to: the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (the “EIJ” is al Qaeda number-two Ayman al Zawahiri's group), the Islamic Group or “IG” (once headed by a key al Qaeda ideologue, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman), the Army of Mohammed (al Qaeda's affiliate in Bahrain), the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (a forerunner to Ansar al-Islam, al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq), and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (a long-time ally of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan), among other terrorist groups. Documents cited by the report, but not discussed at length in the publicly available version (they may be in a redacted portion of the report), also detail Saddam’s ties to a sixth al Qaeda affiliate: the Abu Sayyaf group, an al Qaeda affiliate in the Philippines.

Both the EIJ and the IG were early and important core allies for Osama bin Laden as he forged the al Qaeda terror network, which comprises a number of affiliates around the world.

More by Eli Lake of the NY Sun, here.

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I’m not a believer in guilt by association, or the campaign vaudeville of rival politicians insisting this or that candidate disassociate himself from remarks by some fellow he had a 30-second grip’n’greet with a decade ago. But Jeremiah Wright is not exactly peripheral to Barack Obama’s life. He married the Obamas and baptized their children. Those of us who made the mistake of buying the senator’s last book, The Audacity of Hope, and assumed the title was an ingeniously parodic distillation of the great sonorous banality of an entire genre of blandly uplifting political writing discovered circa page 127 that in fact the phrase comes from one of the Reverend Wright’s sermons. Jeremiah Wright has been Barack Obama’s pastor for 20 years — in other words, pretty much the senator’s entire adult life. Did Obama consider God Damn America as a title for his book but it didn’t focus-group so well?

Ah, well, no, the senator told ABC News. The Reverend Wright is like “an old uncle who says things I don’t always agree with.” So did he agree with goofy old Uncle Jeremiah on September 16th 2001? That Sunday morning, Uncle told his congregation that the United States brought the death and destruction of 9/11 on itself. “We nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye,” said the Reverend Wright. “We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards.”

Is that one of those “things I don’t always agree with”? Well, Senator Obama isn’t saying, responding merely that he wasn’t in church that morning. Okay, fair enough, but what would he have done had he happened to have shown up on September 16th? Cried “Shame on you!” and stormed out? Or, if that’s a little dramatic, whispered to Michelle that he didn’t want their daughters hearing this kind of drivel while rescue workers were still sifting through the rubble and risen from his pew in a dignified manner and led his family to the exit? Or would he have just sat there with an inscrutable look on his face as those around him nodded?

All Senator Obama will say is that “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” And in that he may be correct. There are many preachers who would be happy to tell their congregations “God damn America.” But Barack Obama is not supposed to be the candidate of the America-damners: He’s not the Reverend Al Sharpton or the Reverend Jesse Jackson or the rest of the racial-grievance mongers. Obama is meant to be the man who transcends the divisions of race, the candidate who doesn’t damn America but “heals” it — if you believe, as many Democrats do, that America needs healing.

Yet since his early twenties he’s sat week after week listening to the ravings of just another cookie-cutter race huckster.

...[Read the rest]

-- Mark Steyn

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All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country… And while Rev. Wright's statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States.”
Barack Obama had a bad weekend, dropping seven points in a Rasmussen poll.

In some cases, such as the above, Obama does the right thing, the smart thing politically, and without hesitation condemns these vitriolic statements by Wright.

Just a few problems:

Wright has a long history, apparently years worth of material, of saying these things, so they're hardly new. Indeed, Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, is titled after a Wright sermon he called "Audacity to Hope." Obama can condemn these statements all he wants but he's going to have a far more difficult time convincing people that he has not been influenced by his longtime minister and friend, especially when until this weekend the reverend was the head of Obama's "spiritual advisory committee." Throw in Michelle Obama's 'first time I've been proud to be an American' fiasco a few weeks ago and it's clear that Obama - among moderates and classic liberals (i.e., not Kool-Aid drinking Daily Kos readers) - has a P.R. problem.

[MSNBC] “I strongly condemn” Wright’s statements, but “I would not repudiate the man,” Obama said. “He’s been preaching for 30 years. He’s a man who was a former Marine, a biblical scholar, someone who’s spoken at theological schools all over the country.
Wright's "preachings" include comparing Hiroshima and Nagasaki to terrorism, and claiming that AIDS was invented as "a means of genocide against people of color."

So what Obama lists as a defense - 30 years of "preaching" - is actually the problem: Wright doesn't sound much different than your run of the mill Jew-hating, 9-11 conspiracy peddling Imam in Saudi Arabia.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

I have to agree with Roger Simon: "As we all know, we don't choose our family, but Obama chose this racist demagogue as his pastor for decades. It's not funny." Simon was wondering if Obama will condemn Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his pastor of 20 years, for the outlandish statements ABC News published today.

[ABC News]An ABC News review of dozens of Rev. Wright's sermons, offered for sale by the church, found repeated denunciations of the U.S. based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans.

"The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America.' No, no, no, God damn America, that's in the Bible for killing innocent people," he said in a 2003 sermon. "God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human. God damn America for as long as she acts like she is God and she is supreme."

What an odd display of paranoia. Actually, strike that, it's exactly the kind of vitriol we've come to expect of the extreme left-wing. If the government wanted to really kill an entire segment of minorities it wouldn't waste its time with some complicated and ridiculous drugs to prisons to legislation scheme -- it would just round them up and kill them, as governments are doing right now in Sudan and North Korea, even as "reverends" such as Wright are notably silent.

It's because Rev. Wright is an American, unfortunately, that he can vocalize such dribble with impunity. It is because of America that two-thirds of our presidential candidates are minorities. How many Pakistanis will make it this far in even a UK prime minister candidacy? Let alone how many women will ever become "president" of Iran.

Rev. Wright's serving of irrationality gets worse:

In addition to damning America, he told his congregation on the Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001 that the United States had brought on al Qaeda's attacks because of its own terrorism.

"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," Rev. Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001.

"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost," he told his congregation.

Speaking of ignorance, if there's one place where the "everybody hates America" rule isn't true, it's Africa. And if the Palestinians are victims it's because of their enablers in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt, who long ago gave up fighting Israeli democracy directly in lieu of using Palestinians as their suicide bombing proxies.

On to the next slur: Never batted an eye over the bomb? I'd say the 418,000 American casualties batted an eye. I'd say the casualty estimates to the alternative of using nukes (invading Japan), between 250,000 to one million men, made Truman bat an eye.

And that wasn't hogwash, either. Indeed, just two months prior to the Hiroshima bombing the US suffered 58,000 casualties in the invasion of Okinawa, which was to be the last step prior to invasion of Japan's mainland. Combine that with 26,000 US casualties three months before, at Iwo Jima, and rational people understand just how bloody that invasion would have been. I guess Truman figured 418,000 was enough. And good thing for the Japanese people we did. Because we would have quintupled or more their dead.

In fact, I'm getting real sick and tired of uber-liberal revisions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as "terrorism" or "war crimes."

The Allies warned Japan to surrender in The Potsdam Declaration, saying, "The inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland" was their alternative. The Japanese made their bed. Recall too that Japan continued air strikes on US war ships after the first bomb was dropped! Hardly the acts of "victims" wanting to surrender.

Meanwhile, terms like "Bushido code," "Death March to Bataan," "Rape of Nanking," or "Korean comfort women" never enter the vocabulary of the Wrights of the world when they discuss the demise of Imperial Japan.

That makes Rev. Wright either ignorant or a biased fool, or both.

The question is, what is Obama? Does he share this irrational logic?

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

[WSJ] Mr. Spitzer coasted into the Governorship on the wings of a reputation as a "tough" public prosecutor. Mr. Spitzer, though, was no emperor. He had not merely arrogated to himself the powers he held and used with such aggression. He was elected.

In our system, citizens agree to invest one of their own with the power of public prosecution. We call this a public trust. The ability to bring the full weight of state power against private individuals or entities has been recognized since the Magna Carta as a power with limits. At nearly every turn, Eliot Spitzer has refused to admit that he was subject to those limits.

The stupendously deluded belief that the sitting Governor of New York could purchase the services of prostitutes was merely the last act of a man unable to admit either the existence of, or need for, limits. At the least, he put himself at risk of blackmail, and in turn the possible distortion of his public duties. Mr. Spitzer's recklessness with the state's highest elected office, though, is of a piece with his consistent excesses as Attorney General from 1999 to 2006.

He routinely used the extraordinary threat of indicting entire firms, a financial death sentence, to force the dismissal of executives, such as AIG's Maurice "Hank" Greenberg. He routinely leaked to the press emails obtained with subpoena power to build public animosity against companies and executives. In the case of Mr. Greenberg, he went on national television to accuse the AIG founder of "illegal" behavior. Within the confines of the law itself, though, he never indicted Mr. Greenberg. Nor did he apologize.

In perhaps the incident most suggestive of Mr. Spitzer's lack of self-restraint, the then-Attorney General personally threatened John Whitehead after the former Goldman Sachs chief published an article on this page defending Mr. Greenberg. "I will be coming after you," Mr. Spitzer said, according to Mr. Whitehead's account. "You will pay the price. This is only the beginning, and you will pay dearly for what you have done."

Jack Welch, the former head of GE, said he was told to tell Ken Langone -- embroiled in Mr. Spitzer's investigation of former NYSE chairman Dick Grasso -- that the AG would "put a spike through Langone's heart." New York Congresswoman Sue Kelly, who clashed with Mr. Spitzer in 2003, had her office put out a statement that "the attorney general acted like a thug."

These are not merely acts of routine political rough-and-tumble. They were threats -- some rhetorical, some acted upon -- by one man with virtually unchecked legal powers.

Eliot Spitzer's self-destructive inability to recognize any limit on his compulsions was never more evident than his staff's enlistment of the New York State Police in a campaign to discredit the state's Senate Majority Leader, Joseph Bruno. On any level, it was nuts. Somehow, Team Spitzer thought they could get by with it. In the wake of that abusive fiasco, his public approval rating plunged.

Mr. Spitzer's dramatic fall yesterday began in the early afternoon with a posting on the Web site of the New York Times about the alleged link to prostitutes. The details in the criminal complaint about "Client-9," who is reported to be Mr. Spitzer, will now be played for titters by the press corps. But one may ask: Where were the media before this? With a few exceptions, the media were happy to prosper from his leaks and even applaud, rather than temper, the manifestly abusive instincts of a public official.

Where were the media before this..? Indeed! Had Spitzer had a capital R after his name rather than a capital D, no doubt would have learned his name long ago.

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So much for the reforming party...

[Wall Street Journal] Mr. Spitzer had registered under the name "George Fox," according to a person briefed on the situation, using his own Fifth Avenue Manhattan address. Mr. Fox, a hedge-fund consultant, is a longtime friend and supporter of the governor's. A person close to Mr. Spitzer said Mr. Fox had no involvement in the matter.

At around 9:30 p.m., the woman, who used the name Kristen, entered Room 871, as designated by the client, the complaint says. Shortly after midnight, Kristen reported to her boss that the appointment with Client-9 went well and she collected $4,300, partly as a deposit for future trysts, it says. "I'm here for a purpose. I know what my purpose is," it quotes Kristen as saying after the encounter.

Mr. Spitzer's opponents barely bothered to conceal their joy at his demise, saying the governor himself never showed sympathy for his targets.

Mr. Spitzer spent yesterday afternoon in his New York City apartment with his wife, daughters and other family members. His brother, Daniel Spitzer, a neurosurgeon, said: "If men never succumbed to the attractions of women, then the human species would have died out a long time ago."

The account of Client-9's appointment is part of a larger case that broke last week when federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged four people with organizing and managing an international prostitution ring, known as the Emperors Club VIP.

According to the complaint and the sworn statement, the Emperors Club arranged connections between wealthy male clients and more than 50 prostitutes in locations from New York and Washington to Paris and London. The club's Web site showed photographs of prostitutes' bodies, with their heads hidden, and ranked the women with a "diamond" system. Fees varied by rank, from $1,000 an hour to more than $5,500 an hour.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's inquiry began in October 2007, when it was triggered at least in part by a bank that filed "suspicious activity" reports on the New York governor with the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, according to a federal law-enforcement official and a lawyer involved in the matter. Suspicious activity reports are filed with the Internal Revenue Service when banks detect something unusual either through their tellers or software, including transfers of large amounts of cash, unknown counterparties, or the use of known tax havens and money-laundering centers.

The bank was concerned that Mr. Spitzer might have been engaged in "structuring," a money-laundering technique in which transactions are kept beneath $10,000 to avoid federal reporting rules, the official said. There has been a massive federal crackdown on money laundering in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and banks have been extremely diligent in filing such reports. Those reports often include details of transactions done by innocent people.

The suspicious transactions by Mr. Spitzer are a major part of the investigation, the federal official said, confirming a report by ABC News. It isn't clear if federal investigators were engaged in a crackdown on the prostitution ring when Mr. Spitzer entered their sights as an alleged client of the ring, or whether Mr. Spitzer's transactions helped trigger a probe of the prostitution operation.

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The archbishop [of Canterbury, Rowan Williams,] omitted a cardinal fact from his address [suggesting the UK adopt certain aspects of Muslim law], because he was either not honest or not perceptive enough to notice it: namely, that in all the talk of transformative accommodation, it was not necessary to mention the Sikhs, the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Confucians, the Bahais, the Jains, and the Orthodox Christians, to say nothing of the Jews, of whom altogether there are many hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in Britain. This fact alone, if he were a man of the slightest understanding, should have given him pause.

-- Anthony Daniels

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Meanwhile... when they're not killing puppies (see below) I guess they're busy being heroes saving lives.

Jeff Jamaledine is a German citizen, born in Berlin to a German mother and a Gambian father. He now lives in Germany after having served two tours in Iraq and having been wounded twice. The second wound was nearly fatal--he was shot in the face at close range in a battle that claimed the lives of two Americans and at least 27 jihadists.

It's really one of the most remarkable stories I've read of action in Iraq. When Jamaledine was shot, there were no medevac helicopters in the area. There were Apaches. But the Apache is a two seater--no room for cargo, or wounded. When the call went out--by a soldier who was himself wounded--that Jamaledine needed to be evacuated immediately, one of the Apaches landed on the scene and had him strapped in. This meant the co-pilot had to "hang on outside" for the trip back to the base. Both of the crew were risking their jobs, but they got Jemaldine out. The Apache's crew then rejoined the battle, with the co-pilot sitting in a pool of blood for the rest of the night.

Not puppy killers. Heroes.

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ABC News has attained an alleged video of a US Marine tossing a puppy off a cliff and then laughing alongside his buddies once the dog hits the ground dead. Naturally, ABC News then spends the next couple dozen paragraphs compiling psycobabble from various "experts" to rationalize that the behavior is simply a natural consequence of the War in Iraq.

I've got two words: Scott Beauchamp.

Until this is verified I've got no reason to believe it's true. Indeed, we have EVERY reason to believe this is nothing more than a fabrication that our "willing-idiots" media will gladly promote without further investigation -- See, Beauchamp or Stephen Glass or Jayson Blair or Hassan Fattah or Adnan Hajj or Eason Jordan (a CNN bigwig at that) and so on and so on.

Here's some of the illogical bile which ABC News peddles as science:

The motivation for such an act, if it did indeed occur, may be as complex and deep as the U.S. war that has dragged on for more than four years, experts told Chief among them: Having to live with the constant fear of being injured or killed might have led this Marine to take his aggression out on a defenseless animal, several psychologists said.

..."They're on such a power trip about what they're doing that it doesn't dawn on them how disgusting it is," said Stanford's Siegel. "A person can get set to such levels of psychological arousal that ordinary life can seem kind of drab, and the only way to keep yourself feeling kind of good is to do things that are dangerous or anti-social." ..."One of the horrible problems is that we have men and women coming [home] who have participated in horrendous violence," said Stanford's Spiegel. "They've crossed the line [of violence] once, and it makes it easier to cross the line again."

Blah, blah, blah. Pass the sick bag. They call these people experts?

Maybe it's because the Marines were shot at the other day... or, if the story is even true, maybe they're just sick punks who happened to join the military.

Someone needs to remind Mr. Siegel that we had an entire generation of war veterans who saw plenty of combat, "lived in constant fear," etc., and indeed had experiences (Normandy's first 12 hours for example) when we suffered more combat dead in one day -- IN ONE DAY! -- than during the entire War in Iraq.

Thus, if war automatically made such monsters, as Siegel Psychobabble implies, then we've got to believe that the Greatest Generation should have been filled with puppy killers.

Just one problem... it wasn't.

And it seems to me that there are plenty of sickos right here at home -- old men shooting up people at Wendy's -- that were never even in war.

The reasoning being peddled is a pile of garbage. It's an insult to common sense blanketed in the comfy fabric of the all-knowing academic. It's an agenda to undermine our troops. Having failed to end the war through logic or argument, having failed in the marketplace of ideas, the reactionary Left (so often employed as journalits, academics, etc.) will simpy make stuff up.

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I suppose I might eat the words but were I a betting man I'd wager that one day we'll group Jeremy Hall and Scott Beauchamp in a single breath. I don't buy Spc. Hall's claim either.

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"A guy that's got a flat tire outside a nuclear facility in one location means nothing," said Thomas E. Bush III, the FBI's assistant director of the criminal justice information services division. "Run the guy and he's had a flat tire outside of five nuclear facilities and you have a clue."

In a paper called "Intelligence-Led Policing: The New Intelligence Architecture," law enforcement authorities working with the Justice Department said officers " 'on the beat' are an excellent resource for gathering information on all kinds of potential threats and vulnerabilities."

"Despite the many definitions of 'intelligence' that have been promulgated over the years, the simplest and clearest of these is 'information plus analysis equals intelligence,' " the paper said.

That's from an article in the Washington Post highlighting a computer networked intelligence sharing system for domestic law enforcement called "National Data Exchange, or N-DEx." Privacy advocates will no doubt issue their reactionary warnings of big brother, but data mining it itself is something every computer website, credit card and marketing companies do already.

"Law enforcement and federal security authorities said these developments, along with a new willingness by police to share information, hold out the promise of fulfilling post-Sept. 11, 2001, mandates to connect the dots and root out signs of threats before attacks can occur."

Oh, yeah. Remember that whole 9-11 thing? Remember so many outraged citizens wondering how this wasn't stopped. Connect the dots? Either we're serious about it or the next time we lose 3,000 people in a terror attack we'll have deserved to become such easy targets.

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In 1977, Jimmy Carter told Americans to get over their "inordinate fear of communism." This year, expect to be told to get over your "inordinate fear" of terrorism.

Among politicians, the case is still being made sotto voce. When Barack Obama lists the "common threats of the 21st century" as "nuclear weapons and terrorism, climate change and poverty, genocide and disease," the suggestion is that Islamist terrorism is one of many problems, and not, as John McCain insists, the "transcendent issue of our time."

Among policy experts, however, the argument is being stated more baldly. "The fear of terrorism has reached the bogeyman threshold," writes Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist formerly with the CIA. His new book, "Leaderless Jihad," is worth reading if only because it makes the best of a bad case.

This case has been made before. "Americans are bedeviled by fantasies about terrorism," wrote Larry Johnson, a former State Department counterterrorism official, in a New York Times op-ed. "They seem to believe that terrorism is the greatest threat to the United States and that it is becoming more widespread and lethal. They are likely to think that the United States is the most popular target of terrorists. And they almost certainly have the impression that extremist Islamic groups cause most terrorism. None of these beliefs are based in fact."

Unfortunately for Mr. Johnson, his op-ed appeared in July 2001, two months and a day before 9/11. Mr. Sageman is a more sophisticated observer. He takes the terrorist threat seriously and understands that the U.S. is the chief target. He rubbishes most of the pop-sociological explanations for terrorism, including poverty, sexual frustration and so on. And he argues that, having mainly vanquished the old al Qaeda in Afghanistan, we are now faced with a "third generation" of jihadis who are disconnected from any kind of central organization and therefore harder to detect and thwart.

In Mr. Sageman's account, this third generation is mostly a byproduct of Muslim anger about the U.S. invasion of Iraq. "The sight of U.S. soldiers fighting Muslims around the world triggers moral outrage and inspires sympathizers to join the movement," he writes. "The sight of Muslims fighting back provides a heroic model to emulate." By erasing the U.S. footprint in Iraq, "demilitarizing" the fight against terrorism, working toward a settlement for the Palestinians and otherwise assuaging Muslim sensibilities while making terrorism "uncool," Mr. Sageman believes the air can slowly be let out of the jihadist balloon.

Implicit in this argument is the notion that, when it comes to fighting terrorism, doing less is more. As a political prescription, it fits nicely with the idea that the war in Iraq has only made our terrorism problem worse and that we can better address the threat as a criminal justice issue rather than as a "war" (as the U.S. mostly did during the Clinton administration). Mr. Sageman's one caveat is that we cannot allow terrorists to regain the territorial sanctuaries they enjoyed prior to 9/11.

That caveat, however, turns out to be broad enough to drive a truck bomb through. Mr. Sageman believes the third generation of jihadis only came into existence with the near-destruction of the first two, achieved by force of arms in Afghanistan and maintained by the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. and NATO troops in the country. He insists that the war in Afghanistan did not have a galvanizing effect on the third generation, and that the sanctuaries that still remain to Osama bin Laden in the Pakistan hinterland don't provide a particularly useful base for global jihad.

Really? Even before the U.S. toppled the Taliban, Yusuf Qaradawi, the most influential cleric in the Sunni world, took to the airwaves to insist that "Islamic law says that if a Muslim country is attacked, the other Muslim countries must help it, with their souls and their money, until it is liberated." As for the Pakistani sanctuaries, a National Intelligence Estimate from last summer noted that al Qaeda had "regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safe haven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas, operational lieutenants, and its top leadership." Those capabilities are now making themselves felt through suicide terror in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

No doubt the invasion of Iraq did spur a younger generation of jihadis to new fits of apoplexy, particularly in Europe. Yet when Mohammed Bouyeri murdered Theo Van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam, he was reacting to Mr. Van Gogh's film "Submission," which uncharitably depicts the treatment of women in Islam.

Similarly, when mobs burned down the Danish embassy in Beirut, the "rage" turned on a dozen or so offending cartoons. The threshold for jihadist violence, it turns out, falls below whatever levels are set by current U.S. foreign policy to include what used to be known as free speech.

Then, too, for all the anger over Iraq, it's curious that it is Europe -- with its hostility to the Bush administration and its longstanding Palestinian sympathies -- that has borne the brunt of "third generation" terror. Mr. Sageman's explanation rests on America's habits of assimilation and the greater economic opportunities for Muslims here. But that merely suggests that one solution to third generation terror lies in more accommodative labor market and immigration policies in Europe, not U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

On the contrary, if recent experience in Iraq demonstrates anything, it's that nothing is likelier to deter future terrorists than the defeat of existing ones. In letters captured by U.S. forces in Iraq late last year, al Qaeda "sheikhs" lament how the flow of foreign suicide bombers has dried up as the likelihood dims that their "martyrdom" will result in anyone's death other than their own. There is, said one of these sheikhs about his dwindling minions, "panic, fear and an unwillingness to fight" ever since U.S. and Iraqi troops went on the offensive.

Which brings us back to the 39th president. Two years after he expressed a merely ordinate fear of communism, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. "History teaches, perhaps, very few clear lessons," Mr. Carter said in his response. "But surely one such lesson learned by the world at great cost is that aggression, unopposed, becomes a contagious disease." Mr. Carter learned that the hard way. Let's hope Mr. Obama won't have to learn the same lesson, the same way.
-- Bret Stephens

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Meanwhile, we are watching the American elections closely along with the rest of the world. The Russian ruling elite is rooting for Hillary Clinton, who represents a known and predictable entity compared to Barack Obama. John McCain has been outspoken on behalf of democratic rights abroad, including Russia. Regardless of the doubts about Mr. McCain's conservative credentials at home, the thought of him in the White House strikes fear into authoritarian leaders everywhere.
-- Garry Kasparov

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A central tenet of capitalism, so often misunderstood, is its built-in tendency to correct itself. This commentary is a little dated but it's just as relevant today than a month ago. Reagan was right, the scariest words indeed are, "We're from the government and we're here to help." That's good advice during the housing crash.

[WSJ] Borrowers acted rationally in response to market forces and incentives during the bubble: Buy a house because prices always go up; you can't lose. Many are acting rationally now: Mail the keys back and un-borrow the money, because prices are sinking fast while the debt isn't. When the house was purchased not as a first home but as a rental investment, the decision is even easier.

Imagine: Politicians keep saying that Americans need protection from their big, bad lenders -- but that protection is already there.

Of course, there's a price. Mortgage "walkers" will take a hit to their personal credit rating. Yet this once-forbidding punishment may be discounted. That's because, just as when markets change their behavior, people change, when people change their behavior, markets change also.

If hundreds of thousands of people with decent work histories are going to have less-than-stellar credit because of foreclosures this year and next, they won't suffer so much as in the past. Many walkers are going to want to buy houses again some day; and when they do, lenders are going to want to make money lending them money to do so (hopefully requiring a good down payment). Investors searching for yield likely won't bypass what could be a large pool of borrowers.

This rapid transformation shows that the continuing political hand-wringing over what to do about failed mortgages isn't needed. It's beginning to dawn on lenders and their agents -- who assumed that borrowers who could afford to do so would make payments no matter what -- that they could be stuck owning hundreds of thousands of houses at a minimum. This realization will pressure the companies administering those mortgage loans to renegotiate more quickly with borrowers in cutting loan balances. Thus, some version of the "Paulson plan" would have happened without Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's pressure on the capital markets in December.

Nobody is going to debtors' prison. Nobody is going to have to toil for 30 years and sacrifice their kids' future to pay off burdensome loans that they're stuck with forever because they overreached. (Even if banks and mortgage administrators pursue judgments for post-foreclosure loan balances, there's always bankruptcy as a last resort.)

As for Sen. Hillary Clinton and her proposed "moratorium on foreclosures": She may soon find that borrowers, not just lenders, are screaming to let them act within their contractual rights.



Monday, March 03, 2008

With thanks to James Taranto for noting it -- Another example of journalist slant getting in the way of objectivity or fact checking:

[Associated Press] Obama criticized Clinton expressly for failing to read the classified National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's weapons capabilities, a report available at the time of her October 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq war. "She didn't give diplomacy a chance. And to this day, she won't even admit that her vote was a mistake - or even that it was a vote for war," Obama said.

"When it came time to make the most important foreign policy decision of our generation the decision to invade Iraq Senator Clinton got it wrong," Obama said.

He said that Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a fellow Democrat from neighboring West Virginia, had read the intelligence estimate as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and had voted against the war resolution.

Rockefeller, who is now chairman of that committee, endorsed Obama on Friday and campaigned with him on Saturday.

Just one problem with that assessment, notes Taranto: Senator Rockefeller voted for the war in Iraq. Worse, Rockefeller -- who received the same intelligence briefs on Iraq WMD that Bush did -- fully believed Saddam Hussein a threat who had WMD.

With a 30-second Google check this sorry excuse for a reporter could have found that out. Or was it something deeper? Why let facts get in the way of Obamamania!

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Along those lines, via John Fund -- funny how Obama isn't getting the same press scrutiny on his campaign finance problems that both Clinton and McCain receive.

On Tuesday, Barack Obama may well wrap up the Democratic nomination. Yet how he rose so quickly in Chicago's famously suspect politics -- and who his associates were there -- has received little scrutiny.

That may change today as the trial of Antoin "Tony" Rezko, Mr. Obama's friend of two decades and his campaign fund-raiser, gets under way in federal court in Chicago. Mr. Rezko, a master fixer in Illinois politics, is charged with money laundering, attempted extortion, fraud and aiding bribery in an alleged multimillion dollar scheme shaking down companies seeking state contracts.

John McCain's dealings with lobbyists have properly come under a microscope; why not Mr. Obama's? Partly, says Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, because the national media establishment has decided that Chicago's grubby politics interferes with the story line of hope they've set out for Mr. Obama. Former Washington Post reporter Tom Edsall, who now teaches journalism at Columbia University, told Canada's Globe & Mail that "reporters have sometimes allowed themselves to get too much caught up in [Obama] excitement." Then there are Chicago Republicans, loath to encourage the national party to pounce because some of their own leaders are caught in the Rezko mess.

For its part, the Democratic Party may once again nominate a first-time candidate they haven't fully vetted politically. Democrats flocked to Michael Dukakis in 1988, ignoring Al Gore's warnings about Willie Horton; later they were blindsided by revelations about Bill Clinton after he was elected president.

This year, Hillary Clinton made a clumsy attack on Mr. Rezko as a "slum landlord" during one debate. But her campaign has otherwise steered clear -- at least until last Friday, when Howard Wolfson, a top Clinton aide, suggested to reporters on a conference call that "the number of questions that we don't know the answers to about the relationship between Mr. Rezko and Mr. Obama is staggering." Mr. Obama's campaign told me they have answered all questions about Mr. Rezko and have no plans to release any further records.

Mr. Obama has admitted that the 2005 land deal that he and Mr. Rezko were involved in was a "boneheaded" mistake, in part because his friend was already rumored to be under federal investigation. The newly elected Mr. Obama bought his $1.65 million home on the same day, June 15, that Mr. Rezko's wife bought the plot of land next to it from the same seller for $625,000. Seven months later she sold a slice of the land to the trust that Mr. Obama had put the house into, so the senator could expand his garden.

Mr. Obama has strenuously denied suggestions that the same-day sale enabled him to pay $300,000 under the house's asking price because Mrs. Rezko paid full price for the adjoining lot, or that he asked the Rezkos for help in the matter. Both actions would be clear violations of Senate ethics rules barring the granting or asking of favors.

Still, there are anomalies. Mr. Obama admits that he and Mr. Rezko took a tour of the house before it and the adjoining plot were sold. Financial records given to federal prosecutors a year later show Mrs. Rezko had a salary of only $37,000 and assets of $35,000. In court proceedings at that time, to explain how much his bail should be, Mr. Rezko declared that he had "no income, negative cash flow, no liquid assets."

So where did the money for Mrs. Rezko's $125,000 down payment -- and the collateral for her $500,000 loan from a local bank controlled by Amrish Mahajan, like Mr. Rezko a Chicago political fixer -- come from?

The London Times reports that, three weeks before the land transactions, Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi billionaire living in London, loaned $3.5 million to Mr. Rezko, who was his Chicago business partner. Mr. Auchi's office says he had "no involvement in or knowledge of" the property purchase. Mr. Auchi is a press-shy property developer (estimated worth: $4 billion) who was convicted of corruption in France in 2003 for his involvement in the Elf affair, the biggest political and corporate fraud inquiry in Europe since World War II. He was fined $3 million and given a 15-month prison term that was suspended provided he committed no further crimes.

Mr. Auchi was also a top official in the Iraqi oil ministry in the 1970s. He has for years vigorously denied charges he had dealings with Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War. However, an official report to the Pentagon inspector general in 2004 obtained by the Washington Times cited "significant and credible evidence" of involvement by Mr. Auchi's companies in the Oil for Food scandal and illicit smuggling of weapons to the Hussein regime.

In 2003, Mr. Auchi began investing in Chicago real estate with Mr. Rezko. In April 2007, after his indictment, Mr. Auchi loaned another $3.5 million to Mr. Rezko, a loan that Mr. Rezko hid from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's office. When Mr. Fitzgerald learned that the money was being parceled out to Mr. Rezko's lawyers, family and friends, he got Mr. Rezko's bond revoked in January and had him put in jail as a potential flight risk.

In court papers, the prosecutor noted that Mr. Rezko had traveled 26 times to the Middle East between 2002 and 2006, mostly to his native Syria and other countries that lack extradition treaties with the U.S. Curiously, Mr. Auchi has also lent an unknown sum of money to Chris Kelly, who, like Mr. Rezko, was a significant fund-raiser for Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (himself under investigation by a federal grand jury as an alleged beneficiary of the Rezko shakedowns). Mr. Kelly is himself under indictment for obstructing an IRS probe into his activities.

Mr. Obama says he has "no recollection" of meeting Mr. Auchi during a 2004 trip the billionaire made to Chicago, and no one believes he knew of his background. While his name will come up in the trial as a beneficiary of Rezko donations (since donated to charity), Mr. Obama will not be called to testify.

There may be nothing more in Mr. Obama's dealings with Mr. Rezko beyond an "appearance of impropriety." Still, Mr. Obama does have an obligation to explain how he fits into Chicago politics. David Axelrod, Mr. Obama's Karl Rove, is a longtime spoke in the Daley machine that's dominated Chicago for a half century. Gov. Blagojevich, also part of the machine, shared key fund raisers with Mr. Obama.

"We have a sick political culture, and that's the environment Barack Obama came from," Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, told ABC News. He notes that, while Mr. Obama supported ethics reforms as a state senator, he has "been noticeably silent on the issue of corruption here in his home state, including at this point, mostly Democratic politicians."

Mr. Obama will eventually have to talk about Illinois, if only to clear the air. After John McCain last month was attacked for cozy ties to lobbyists, he held a news conference and answered every question. Hillary Clinton held a White House news conference on Whitewater and her cattle futures. Mr. Obama must do the same for questions about Mr. Rezko and "the Chicago way" of politics. If he doesn't, they may increasingly haunt his candidacy.

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Great "read the whole thing" commentary by Alan Dershowitz.

Sally Field, et. al., take note please. It's a similar theme to the film Death in Gaza, which I reviewed a couple years back.

Zahra Maladan is an educated woman who edits a women's magazine in Lebanon. She is also a mother, who undoubtedly loves her son. She has ambitions for him, but they are different from those of most mothers in the West. She wants her son to become a suicide bomber.

At the recent funeral for the assassinated Hezbollah terrorist Imad Moughnaya -- the mass murderer responsible for killing 241 marines in 1983 and more than 100 women, children and men in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994 -- Ms. Maladan was quoted in the New York Times giving the following warning to her son: "if you're not going to follow the steps of the Islamic resistance martyrs, then I don't want you."

Zahra Maladan represents a dramatic shift in the way we must fight to protect our citizens against enemies who are sworn to kill them by killing themselves. The traditional paradigm was that mothers who love their children want them to live in peace, marry and produce grandchildren. Women in general, and mothers in particular, were seen as a counterweight to male belligerence. The picture of the mother weeping as her son is led off to battle -- even a just battle -- has been a constant and powerful image.

Now there is a new image of mothers urging their children to die, and then celebrating the martyrdom of their suicidal sons and daughters by distributing sweets and singing wedding songs. More and more young women -- some married with infant children -- are strapping bombs to their (sometimes pregnant) bellies, because they have been taught to love death rather than life. Look at what is being preached by some influential Islamic leaders:

"We are going to win, because they love life and we love death," said Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah. He has also said: "[E]ach of us lives his days and nights hoping more than anything to be killed for the sake of Allah." Shortly after 9/11, Osama bin Laden told a reporter: "We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the big difference between us."

"The Americans love Pepsi-Cola, we love death," explained Afghani al Qaeda operative Maulana Inyadullah. Sheik Feiz Mohammed, leader of the Global Islamic Youth Center in Sydney, Australia, preached: "We want to have children and offer them as soldiers defending Islam. Teach them this: There is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid." Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech: "It is the zenith of honor for a man, a young person, boy or girl, to be prepared to sacrifice his life in order to serve the interests of his nation and his religion."

How should Western democracies fight against an enemy whose leaders preach a preference for death?

The two basic premises of conventional warfare have long been that soldiers and civilians prefer living to dying and can thus be deterred from killing by the fear of being killed; and that combatants (soldiers) can easily be distinguished from noncombatants (women, children, the elderly, the infirm and other ordinary citizens). These premises are being challenged by women like Zahra Maladan. Neither she nor her son -- if he listens to his mother -- can be deterred from killing by the fear of being killed. They must be prevented from succeeding in their ghoulish quest for martyrdom. Prevention, however, carries a high risk of error. The woman walking toward the group of soldiers or civilians might well be an innocent civilian. A moment's hesitation may cost innocent lives. But a failure to hesitate may also have a price.

Late last month, a young female bomber was shot as she approached some shops in central Baghdad. The Iraqi soldier who drew his gun hesitated as the bomber, hands raised, insisted that she wasn't armed. The soldier and a shop owner finally opened fire as she dashed for the stores; she was knocked to the ground but still managed to detonate the bomb, killing three and wounding eight. Had the soldier and other bystanders not called out a warning to others -- and had they not shot her before she could enter the shops -- the death toll certainly would have been higher. Had he not hesitated, it might have been lower.

As more women and children are recruited by their mothers and their religious leaders to become suicide bombers, more women and children will be shot at -- some mistakenly. That too is part of the grand plan of our enemies. They want us to kill their civilians, who they also consider martyrs, because when we accidentally kill a civilian, they win in the court of public opinion. One Western diplomat called this the "harsh arithmetic of pain," whereby civilian casualties on both sides "play in their favor." Democracies lose, both politically and emotionally, when they kill civilians, even inadvertently. As Golda Meir once put it: "We can perhaps someday forgive you for killing our children, but we cannot forgive you for making us kill your children."

Civilian casualties also increase when terrorists operate from within civilian enclaves and hide behind human shields. This relatively new phenomenon undercuts the second basic premise of conventional warfare: Combatants can easily be distinguished from noncombatants. Has Zahra Maladan become a combatant by urging her son to blow himself up? Have the religious leaders who preach a culture of death lost their status as noncombatants? What about "civilians" who willingly allow themselves to be used as human shields? Or their homes as launching pads for terrorist rockets?

The traditional sharp distinction between soldiers in uniform and civilians in nonmilitary garb has given way to a continuum. At the more civilian end are babies and true noncombatants; at the more military end are the religious leaders who incite mass murder; in the middle are ordinary citizens who facilitate, finance or encourage terrorism. There are no hard and fast lines of demarcation, and mistakes are inevitable -- as the terrorists well understand.

We need new rules, strategies and tactics to deal effectively and fairly with these dangerous new realities. We cannot simply wait until the son of Zahra Maladan -- and the sons and daughters of hundreds of others like her -- decide to follow his mother's demand. We must stop them before they export their sick and dangerous culture of death to our shores.

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I consider myself pretty edu-macated on government and civics, and not prone to be caught up in populism, but Charles Krauthammer reminds us in his column today that when we hop on the "banish lobbying" bandwagon we're actually calling for the shredding of the First Amendment. How so? Read on.

Everyone knows the First Amendment protects freedom of religion, speech, press and assembly. How many remember that, in addition, the First Amendment protects a fifth freedom -- to lobby?

Of course it doesn't use the word lobby. It calls it the right "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Lobbyists are people hired to do that for you, so that you can actually stay home with the kids and remain gainfully employed rather than spend your life in the corridors of Washington.

To hear the candidates in this presidential campaign, you'd think lobbying is just one notch below waterboarding, a black art practiced by the great malefactors of wealth to keep the middle class in a vise and loose upon the nation every manner of scourge: oil dependency, greenhouse gases, unpayable mortgages and those tiny entrees you get at French restaurants.

Lobbying is constitutionally protected, but that doesn't mean we have to like it all. Let's agree to frown upon bad lobbying, such as getting a tax break for a particular industry. Let's agree to welcome good lobbying -- the actual redress of a legitimate grievance -- such as protecting your home from being turned to dust to make way for some urban development project.

There is a defense of even bad lobbying. It goes like this: You wouldn't need to be seeking advantage if the federal government had not appropriated for itself in the 20th century all kinds of powers, regulations, intrusions and manipulations (often through the tax code) that had never been presumed in the 19th century and certainly were never imagined by the Founders. What appears to be rent-seeking is thus redress of a larger grievance -- insufferable government meddling in what had traditionally been considered an area of free enterprise.

Good lobbying, on the other hand, requires no such larger contextual explanation. It is a cherished First Amendment right -- necessary, like the others, to protect a free people against overbearing and potentially tyrannical government.

What would be an example of petitioning the government for a redress of a legitimate grievance?

That's the teaser. Click the link. There's more.



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