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Politics & Religion / Anti-Globalization Global Crime Haven
« on: November 14, 2007, 05:59:04 AM »
Hugo Chavez's criminal paradise

Under the anti-globalization president, Venezuela has become a haven for global crime.
By Moises Naim
November 10, 2007
While President Hugo Chavez has been molding Venezuela into his personal socialist vision, other transformations -- less visible but equally profound -- have taken hold in the country.

Venezuela has become a major hub for international crime syndicates. What attracts them is not the local market; what they really love are the excellent conditions Venezuela offers to anyone in charge of managing a global criminal network.

A nation at the crossroads of South America, the Caribbean, North America and Europe, Venezuela's location is ideal. Borders? Long, scantly populated and porous. Financial system? Large and with easy-to-evade governmental controls. Telecommunications, ports and airports? The best that oil money can buy. U.S. influence? Nil. Corrupt politicians, cops, judges and military officers? Absolutely: Transparency International ranked Venezuela a shameful 162 out of 179 counties on its corruption perception index. Chavez's demonstrated interest in confronting criminal networks during his eight years in power? Not much.

While this situation has so far been rather invisible to the rest of the world, it is patently clear to those in charge of fighting transnational crime. Anti-trafficking officials in Europe, the United States, Asia and other Latin American countries are paying unprecedented attention to Venezuela. These officials are not particularly interested in Venezuelan politics or in Chavez's policies. All they care about is that the tentacles of these global criminal networks are spreading from Venezuela into their countries with enormous power and at great speed.

The numbers speak volumes: About 75 tons of cocaine left Venezuela in 2003; it is estimated that 276 tons will leave the country this year. Before, the main destination was the United States; now, Europe is increasingly the target. Italy and Spain are two new important and lucrative end-user markets, and earning in euros is undeniably better than getting paid in dollars these days.

A senior Dutch police officer told me that he and his European colleagues are spending more time in Caracas than in Bogota, Colombia, and that the heads of many of the major criminal cartels now operate with impunity, and effectiveness, from Venezuela. The cartel bosses aren't exclusively Colombians -- there are Asians (especially Chinese) and Europeans too. Caracas' most posh neighborhoods are home to important kingpins from around the world, including some from Belarus, a country that Chavez notably has visited several times.

Venezuela appears near the top of lists compiled by the anti-money-laundering authorities as well. Money moves in and out, and not just through electronic inter-bank transfers. The combination of private jets, suitcases full of cash and diplomatic immunity has opened up new possibilities. Recently, one Venezuelan member of the boliburguesía -- the new mega-rich -- was caught carrying at least one suitcase full of money. He was discovered by a customs officer in Buenos Aires but not arrested. Turns out he was traveling on an executive jet with senior members of the government of Argentina's president, Nestor Kirchner.

In Uruguay, an outraged legislator dropped this bombshell a few weeks ago: A group of Venezuelans had engineered the sale of Iranian arms and munitions to his country, using Venezuelan companies as a cover to bypass the U.N. embargo on Iran's arms trade. Likewise, the guerrillas in Colombia seem to have no trouble acquiring weapons -- many of which come through Venezuela-based arms dealers.

Diamond traders are doing equally well. "Venezuela is allowing massive smuggling of diamonds," stated a recent report by Global Witness and Partnership Africa, two respected nongovernmental organizations. They recommended that Venezuela be expelled from the Kimberley Process, the U.N.-sponsored mechanism designed to combat the smuggling of "blood diamonds" -- the gems sold to fund military conflicts around the world.

And as if diamonds, guns, drugs and tainted money weren't enough, human traffickers have made their way to Venezuela as well. The country has become a haven for human traffickers because its laws offer so little protection to their victims, especially women. It is also a major stopover for illegal immigrants from China, the Middle East and other parts of Latin America who are on their way elsewhere. They can obtain a Venezuelan passport in a matter of hours.

The great paradox of this terrible story is that, despite Chavez's constant denunciations of globalization, he hasn't protected Venezuela from its worst consequences. His nation has been globalized -- by criminal gangs. And they import and export corruption, crime and death. And that may be more critical in shaping Venezuela's future than any of Chavez's political experiments.

Moises Naim is the editor of Foreign Policy magazine and the author of "Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats Are Hijacking the Global Economy.",0,1470504.story?coll=la-opinion-center

The starving children in Asia, Africa, Europe etc. who were used to goad me to clean my plate when a child appear to have been replaced:

Spurning leftovers may hurt climate

Published: Nov. 3, 2007 at 5:45 PM

LONDON, Nov. 3 (UPI) -- British Environment Minister Joan Ruddock has warned citizens that by not eating leftover food, they are effectively causing climate change.

Ruddock said that through food waste and excessive shopping, British citizens were paying a significant cost in both environmental and financial terms, The Independent reported Friday.

"At this rate we will not have a place to live which is habitable if we don't address climate change globally and the U.K. has to make its contribution," she said of such social problems.

The minister for climate change said that by eating leftovers and shopping more efficiently, British citizens could begin to help in the global fight against climate change.

Ruddock's comments come in the wake of a study by the Waste & Resources Action Program that found that one in every three bags of purchased food was essentially wasted by citizens.

To help citizens reach the lofty goal, Ruddock and the group launched the "Love Food Hate Waste" campaign Friday for more effective shopping and cooking tips.

Politics & Religion / Disenfranchise the Religious Right to Kill
« on: November 06, 2007, 09:45:08 AM »
Orson Scott Card: Civilized Religion
The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC ^ | November 01, 2007 | Orson Scott Card

There are those who would like to tell you that no religion is civilized, but these tend to be people whose ignorance of history is so profound as to appear deliberate.

Human beings sometimes do terrible things, and when they do, they invariably find reasons to invoke their belief system, whatever it is, to excuse their bad behavior.

Thus Communists have committed their barbarities in the name of "the good of the people," just as Christians and Muslims and practically everybody else, when they decided certain people needed killing or oppressing, found a way to excuse themselves in the name of whatever they thought gave them superior authority.

In most cases, though, religions – particularly those with gods – also offer a mitigating force against violence and barbarity. While the conquistadors busily planted crosses wherever they decided native Americans needed enslaving, there were in fact Catholic priests who labored mightily – and with much success – to prevent as much mistreatment of the native people as they could, and to preserve what they could of their culture.

No one could seriously argue that the conquistadors conquered because of their purported Christian faith. But the fact that in almost every place the Spanish conquered, large populations of Indians survived, can be credited to Christianity.

That's because Christianity, like other civilizing religions, has an ideology that attempts to suppress warlike behavior and personal violence. So even though hypocrites could violate Christian doctrine and claim to be Christians while doing it, there were always Christians to openly contradict them, and the plain language of Jesus was on the side of those who abjured violence.

Sometimes, though, religion itself (whether or not it has any gods) becomes the actual cause of instead of the excuse for the barbarity. That is, the tenets of the religion promote rather than try to suppress violence and conquest.

It happens that at this moment we are at war with a worldwide terrorist conspiracy whose slaughters are excused by an appeal to actual doctrines in the religion of Islam.

That is, the plain language of the Quran justifies warfare and killing, and long tradition within Muslim culture takes those tenets literally. There are those who will claim that "Islam is a peaceful religion" and that jihad – holy war – is really about "personal struggle." I rejoice that some Muslims choose to take these passages in the Quran figuratively – but the language is there, and Islamofascist murderers of al Qaeda, Hamas, the Taliban, Hezbollah, and the theocratic government of Iran take it very literally.

Large portions of the people professing Islam believe that God has given them, not just the right, but the duty to kill people who, by their doctrines, "deserve" to die.

Freedom of Religion

The US Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and while that has recently been twisted into an instrument of oppressing and suppressing American Christianity, it still stands as an American ideal.

Whatever dark deeds are in Christianity's past, the fact remains that with a few ugly exceptions, America has been a place where the various sects of Christianity and all other civilized religions have declared a truce.

Surely we can say that the essence of our freedom of religion is that every individual in the United States has the right to change his religion whenever and however he wants.

Except Muslims. Because it is the belief of Muslims throughout the world that it is the duty of good Muslims to kill any Muslim who converts to a different faith.

Now, most American Muslims would probably be outraged by that sentence. "I don't believe in killing people who convert away from Islam," they would insist. "We don't kill anybody."

But they cannot deny that the doctrine is widespread and openly taught throughout the Muslim world, and any American growing up Muslim is likely to be taught that doctrine at some point, by someone. And the more fundamentalist they become, the more likely they are to believe they have the duty to kill apostates – those that break the faith.

And this religion operates inside the United States, invoking the protection the Constitution provides to religions within its borders. Similarly, Islam operates in European nations with similar protections for religion.

To threaten to kill anyone who leaves an organization is one of the hallmarks of organized crime: Once you have joined the Mob, you don't leave it alive. Only with Islam, most of its members are born into it – they never had a choice. Yet if they decide they believe something other than Muslim doctrine, there will be Muslims who think it is their duty to kill them.

This brand of Islam denies its members any freedom of conscience.

No matter how moderate many American Muslims might be, there are among them many others who believe that no Muslim has the right to change religions. A "former Muslim" who is still breathing is an offense to them. So even the moderate Muslims who may believe in freedom are not free. They run the serious risk, if they ever leave Islam, of being murdered by one of the not-so-moderate Muslims.

So the question is: Does a religion that believes in denying freedom of religion to others deserve the same protection as religions that uphold freedom of religion?

No Constitutional Right Is Absolute

It is an established principle of constitutional law that none of the rights granted in the Constitution is absolute. Freedom of speech, for instance, has its limits. Civil libertarians may have struck down obscenity laws, thus legalizing four-letter words like f– and s– and c–; but the very same people enacted hate-speech and hate-crime laws, as well as laws against work-place discrimination, that in effect illegalize other words, like n– and k– and s– and w– and ... you get the idea.

Everybody knows that words are not just words, they are also actions, and some actions, even if they consist of words, can and should be banned by law.

The same is true of the right to freedom of assembly. You have to have a parade permit before you can obstruct traffic with your demonstration. And somehow the Supreme Court decided that it is constitutional to ban kneeling and praying too close to an abortion clinic.

Freedoms come with limitations and responsibilities, and the law recognizes this.

When it comes to freedom of religion, Mormons like me are keenly aware of the fact that there are well-established limits to what religions can do. Back in the 19th century, when the Mormon Church promoted the practice of polygyny (one man, multiple wives), the church tried and failed to get the Supreme Court to protect that practice under the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution.

The Supreme Court held on that occasion that the Constitution did not allow religions to engage in practices that were grossly offensive to the moral standards of the rest of the country. You can gather and preach and teach, but the moment you engage in a practice that offends public decency, limitations kick in.

How did the government enforce the anti-polygamy laws? The Mormon Church was disincorporated, its property seized (including church meetinghouses and temples), and its leaders arrested or driven into hiding.

States also got in the act. Idaho, with a large Mormon population, forbade anyone to vote or hold public office who believed in "celestial marriage" – in those days a doctrinal code-word for polygamy. Utah, in order to be admitted to the union, had to have a state constitutional ban that could never be amended, forbidding the practice of polygamy.

The Mormon Church capitulated with a manifesto in 1890 professing that we no longer taught or condoned plural marriage.

Still, there was a widespread perception that the Mormons would only pretend to adhere to the law, while secretly preaching and practicing polygamy. There were even Mormons who thought it was all a smokescreen to fool the outside world. But by 1907, it was clear to everyone that the church leadership was serious about eliminating polygamy as a practice and a teaching in the Church.

For the past hundred years, the fastest way to get kicked out of the Mormon Church is to preach or practice plural marriage. When TV shows like the ludicrous Big Love give the impression that the Mormon Church really condones polygamy, it is a lie.

Even when the Mormon Church goes into countries where polygamy is legal – many nations in Africa, for instance – polygamous converts to the church are required to separate from (while still providing support for) all wives except the first.

In order to be credible in our claim to have abandoned polygamy, we had to become the most anti-polygamist church in America – in the world. And we did, even if we still don't get much credit for it.

That's how a religion that is adjudged to be barbaric goes about civilizing itself to be worthy of the protection of the US Constitution.

Civilizing American Islam

Personally, I'm glad my church gave up polygamy long before I was born. But when I compare the Mormon practice of polygamy with the Muslim doctrine of killing apostates, I think it makes polygamy look a lot milder, don't you?

It is dangerous in the extreme for America to tolerate, as a religion, a group of people who openly preach – including to children and adolescents – that it is their unique right to kill those who leave their religion, and also unbelievers who act against their religion.

It's perfectly all right for a religion to preach and believe that someday their believers will cover the whole earth. A lot of Christians believe that, and so do a lot of Muslims, and that's fine – as long as you believe that this is to be accomplished either by voluntary religious conversion or by divine intervention.

People of one faith can coexist with people of any other faith as long as they all agree that each has the right to offer membership to anyone who comes to believe their doctrine, and to actively solicit such conversions.

You can hate it when someone converts away – you can hold a funeral for the person who converted. What you can't do is make the funeral literal rather than symbolic.

Right now, because the Church of Political Correctness is the established church of the American elite, Islam has had extraordinary tolerance for these dangerous, violent, anti-American doctrines that are frequently taught among them. Mostly they are in denial, pretending that American Muslims don't teach these things.

But even if only five percent of the imams are preaching the right-to-kill doctrine, it poses a direct danger to American citizens, since this is precisely the doctrine that justifies terrorist massacres as well as individual terrorism against Muslims who wish to leave that religion.

I bet that a significant number of American Muslims – maybe even most of them – would very much like to separate themselves from that doctrine and those who preach it.

But there are several reasons why this is very, very hard to do.

First, the Wahhabists of Saudi Arabia send enormous amounts of money to America and other countries all around the world, in order to support the teaching of their particular brand of Islam – which specifically teaches this dangerous, barbaric doctrine.

Second, Islam is not, strictly speaking, an organized religion. Since Islam has long asserted the right to govern and there is no separation of church and state, Muslim governments have been the only authorities that could determine what was and was not tolerable belief and practice. So in America and Europe, where Islam is not the governing power (yet), there is no authority that can say that this Muslim teacher or group is legitimate and that one is not.

It's Time for Islam to Organize

Let's suppose that the American government wakes up to the danger of extending the protection of the Constitution to all Muslims. Let's suppose a law was enacted stating that the laws respecting freedom of religion apply only to religions that allow freedom of conversion. If you do not allow any of your members age 18 or older to change religions without loss of life, liberty or property, then you get no protection from the Constitution.

We could go farther, and say because the government has a monopoly on the power (within constitutional limitations) to deprive citizens of life, liberty or property, then any religion that claims such rights, whether or not it can be proven to have acted on that claim, does not qualify as a religion when it comes to constitutional protections.

Nobody will be locked up or thrown out of the country just for being Muslim or believing or preaching Muslim doctrine.

But any Muslim congregation that has not rejected the right-to-kill doctrine must pay full taxes on its property and its members get no tax deduction for their contributions.

And those that actively taught the right to kill could be treated, like the Mormon Church once was, as a subversive organization, to be disincorporated, its property seized and its funds blocked.

Furthermore, the FBI will not be barred from observing and tracking members of congregations that have not rejected the right-to-kill doctrine as if they were members of subversive organizations – since they would be.

However, when such laws are enacted, there would be a grace period of a year in which American Muslim religious communities could join one or more national or regional certifying groups, rather like the various Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and other national sectarian groups or conventions.

All the member congregations would attest that they would not tolerate any teaching of the right-to-kill doctrine in their mosques or among their membership – just the way the Mormon Church had to give up its practice of polygamy and stop teaching it anywhere in the church in order to be legally recognized.

Is This Un-American?

I can hear civil libertarians screaming: This is the government trying to dictate what people believe!

But it is nothing of the kind. It is the government declaring that its hands-off treatment of religion only applies to religions that also have a hands-off policy toward people who belong to or join with other religions.

It doesn't interfere with Muslims' right to convert other people to their faith, just with their ability to teach that Muslims have a "right" to kill people who convert away from Islam or who otherwise offend Muslim sensibilities.

There's no test oath, no spying on people's consciences. But American Muslim organizations have to have as their stated policy a repudiation of the widespread Muslim doctrine of a right or duty to kill infidels of any kind.

Nor would this target Islam specifically. Let this law apply to all religious groups equally: any religion that insists on teaching a right to kill would lose its legitimacy as a religion.

And don't kid yourself – we already have the IRS actively deciding what qualifies as a church when it comes to tax deductions. You can't just declare your home a religious meetinghouse and therefore exempt from property taxes. The IRS will insist that you meet certain (vague) standards.

This standard will be clear and universally applied, and any religion that can't sign it does not qualify as a civilized religion anyway.

But now I'll tell you the law that Muslims would like to have in force: No one can proselytize for any religion except Islam, under the severest penalties. That's the law in most Muslim countries.

If America enacts a law simply requiring Muslims (and all other religions) to reject any claim to have a right to kill unbelievers, you can bet there will be bloody riots all over the Muslim world. That's because, worldwide, Muslims believe that no one has a right to restrict them in any way, while they have the right to restrict everybody else right up to and including the death penalty.

This one-sided view is the opposite of the American way. It is the opposite of religious freedom. And any Muslims who claim the right to restrict others while accepting no restrictions themselves are a danger to every free society on earth.

It's Good for Islam, Too

The irony is that the right to kill is the doctrine that guarantees the corruption of Islam from the start. If people are only Muslims under fear of the death penalty, then how do we know there are any real Muslim believers at all?

Only when people are free to leave a religion can you take their claim to be true believers seriously.

So if America enacted such a law, then only in America would Islam exist in any kind of purity, because only in America would you be sure that anyone claiming to be Muslim really meant it and wasn't saying it for fear of some other Muslim killing him.

Remember when Salman Rushdie was put under a death penalty by the Iranian ayatollahs? I remember that people were shocked when one-time rock star Cat Stevens, a convert to Islam, publicly stated that of course Muslims had a duty to kill apostates like Rushdie.

But Cat Stevens was merely speaking the openly taught doctrine. And because he had freely converted to Islam, he apparently didn't mind.

But we should mind, not as Christians or Jews, but as Americans – and as civilized people. We believe that the only people who should have the power to take life, deny liberty, or seize property are those who have been certified by governments elected by the majority of citizens.

Right from the beginning, Islam has been a barbaric force in the world – invading "infidel" nations and oppressing unbelievers in every land they conquer. There is no such thing as a Muslim nation that was not forcibly converted in the first instance. Islam has been anti-freedom from the start. Its famous "tolerance" of Jews and Christians would be regarded as vile intolerance if anyone proposed such policies today, in a free Western country.

It is time for Islam to join the civilized world – the world where people can preach for and believe in and join with, argue against and doubt and quit any religion they want. Freedom of religion is a recent and hard-won concept, so it would be absurd to criticize Islam for being a few hundred years behind the West on this issue.

However, the time has come, with people committing barbaric crimes around the world in the name of the Muslim right-to-kill doctrine, for the peaceful majority of Muslims to commit to their opposition to that doctrine – and to organize themselves so that they can excommunicate (disqualify as Muslims) any Muslim who does not reject that teaching.

Up to now, the only way that Muslims could kick a Muslim out of the Muslim faith was to kill him. It's time for them to set up an authoritative mechanism to allow them to excommunicate those who make all Muslims look barbaric.

Then, when Muslims themselves are able to excommunicate the barbarians and forbid them to call themselves legitimate Muslims, the religion of Islam can be accepted and trusted as another civilized religion, worthy of the protections of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, however, it is time for us to stop extending the protection of the Constitution to those who, under the guise of religion, are actively promoting the right to deprive Americans of their civil rights – including the right to continue breathing.

Politics & Religion / Time for Islamofascist Apologists to take Offense
« on: November 04, 2007, 11:46:19 AM »

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Surgery Wait Times in Canada
« on: November 04, 2007, 11:36:54 AM »
Wait times for Canadians needing surgery hit an all time high of more than 18 weeks in 2007
Release Date: October 15, 2007
CALGARY, AB—A typical Canadian seeking surgical or other therapeutic treatment had to wait 18.3 weeks in 2007, an all-time high, according to new research published today by independent research organization The Fraser Institute.

“Despite government promises and the billions of dollars funneled into the Canadian health care system, the average patient waited more than 18 weeks in 2007 between seeing their family doctor and receiving the surgery or treatment they required,” said Nadeem Esmail, Director of Health System Performance Studies at The Fraser Institute and co-author of the 17th annual edition of Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada.

The survey measures median waiting times to document the extent to which queues for visits to specialists and for diagnostic and surgical procedures are used to control health care expenditures.

“It’s becoming clearer that Canada’s current health care system can not meet the needs of Canadians in a timely and efficient manner, unless you consider access to a waiting list timely and efficient,” Esmail added.

The 2007 survey found the total median waiting time for patients between referral from a general practitioner and treatment, averaged across all 12 specialties and 10 provinces surveyed, increased to 18.3 weeks from 17.8 weeks observed in 2006. This is primarily due to an increase in the first wait, between seeing the general practitioner and attending a consultation with a specialist.
Total wait times increased in six provinces: Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland. This masked the decreased wait times in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Total Waiting Time

Ontario recorded the shortest waiting time overall (the wait between visiting a general practitioner and receiving treatment), at 15 weeks, followed by British Columbia (19 weeks) and Quebec (19.4 weeks). Saskatchewan (27.2 weeks), New Brunswick (25.2 weeks) and Nova Scotia (24.8 weeks) recorded the longest waits in Canada.

The First Wait: Between General Practitioner and Specialist Consultation

The waiting time between referral by a GP and consultation with a specialist rose to 9.2 weeks from the 8.8 weeks recorded in 2006. The shortest waits for specialist consultations were in Ontario (7.6 weeks), Manitoba (8.2 weeks), and British Columbia (8.8 weeks).

The longest waits for consultation with a specialist were recorded in New Brunswick (14.7 weeks), Newfoundland (13.5 weeks), and Prince Edward Island (12.7 weeks).

The Second Wait: Between Specialist Consultation and Treatment

The waiting time between specialist consultation and treatment—the second stage of waiting—increased to 9.1 weeks from 9 weeks in 2006. The shortest specialist-to-treatment waits were found in Ontario (7.3 weeks), Alberta (8.9 weeks), and Quebec (9.4 weeks), while the longest waits were in Saskatchewan (16.5 weeks), Nova Scotia (13.6 weeks), and Manitoba (12.0 weeks).

Waiting by Specialty
Among the various specialties, the shortest total waits (between referral by a general practitioner and treatment) occurred in medical oncology (4.2 weeks), radiation oncology (5.7 weeks), and elective cardiovascular surgery (8.4 weeks). Patients waited longest between a GP referral and orthopaedic surgery (38.1 weeks), plastic surgery (34.8 weeks), and neurosurgery (27.2 weeks).
Between 2006 and 2007, large increases occurred in the waits for internal medicine (additional 4.9 weeks), gynaecology (additional 2.1 weeks), urology (additional 1.9 weeks), and otolaryngology (additional 1.8 weeks). Smaller increases were noted in the wait times for radiation oncology (up by .7 weeks) and elective cardiovascular surgery (up by .4 weeks). These increases were offset by improvements for patients receiving treatment in neurosurgery (4.5 week decrease), ophthalmology (2.5 week decrease), orthopaedic surgery (2.2 week decrease), medical oncology (.7 week decrease), plastic surgery (.6 week decrease), and general surgery (.5 week decrease).

Waiting for Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technology
As in past years, patients also experienced significant waiting times for various diagnostic technologies across Canada: computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound scans.

The median wait for a CT scan across Canada was 4.8 weeks. British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia had the shortest wait for CT scans (4 weeks), while the longest wait occurred in Manitoba (8 weeks). The median wait for an MRI across Canada was 10.1 weeks. Patients in Ontario experienced the shortest wait for an MRI (7.8 weeks), while Newfoundland residents waited longest (20 weeks). The median wait for ultrasound was 3.9 weeks across Canada. Alberta and Ontario displayed the shortest wait for ultrasound (2 weeks), while Prince Edward Island and Manitoba exhibited the longest ultrasound waiting time (10 weeks).

Number of Procedures for Which People are Waiting
Throughout Canada, the total number of procedures for which people are waiting in 2007 is 827,429, an increase of 7.4 per cent from the estimated 770,641 procedures in 2006. The number of procedures for which people waited rose in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland. Assuming that each person was waiting for only one procedure, this means 2.54 per cent of Canadians waited for treatment in 2007, which varied from a low of 2.02 per cent in Ontario to a high of 5.01 percent in Saskatchewan.

 “The promise of the Canadian health care system is not being realized. A profusion of research shows that cardiovascular surgery queues are routinely jumped by the famous and politically connected and low-income Canadians have less access to health care,” Esmail said.

“This grim portrait is the legacy of a medical system offering low expectations cloaked in lofty rhetoric. It’s one defended by special interest groups with a stake in maintaining the status quo. The only way to solve the system’s most curable disease – lengthy wait times that are consistently and significantly longer than physicians feel is clinically reasonable – is for  substantial reform of the Canadian health care system.”


- 30 -

The Fraser Institute is an independent research and educational organization based in Canada. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute’s independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research.

Contact: Nadeem Esmail
Telephone: (403) 216-7175 ext 222

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pathological Science
« on: November 03, 2007, 07:51:13 PM »
Having read today in an ever so earnest piece the global warming has caused a declining rate of circumcision in an area of Africa, I figured it was time to start a topic where rank foolishness cloaked in the gauze of pseudo "science" is exposed. This piece inaugurates the topic.

November 02, 2007
'Global Warming' as Pathological Science

By James Lewis
Trofimko Lysenko is not a household name; but it should be, because he was the model for all the Politically Correct "science" in the last hundred years. Lysenko was Stalin's favorite agricultural "scientist," peddling the myth that crops could be just trained into growing bigger and better. You didn't have to breed better plants over generations, as farmers have been doing for ages. It was a fantasy of the all-powerful Soviet State. Lysenko sold Stalin on that fraud in plant genetics, and Stalin told Soviet scientists to fall into line --- in spite of the fact that nobody really believed it. Hundreds of thousands of peasants starved during Stalin's famines, in good part because of fraudulent science.

There is such a thing as pathological science. Science becomes unhealthy when its only real question ---  "what is true?" --- is sabotaged by vested interests, by ideological Commissars, or even by grant-swinging scientists. Today's Global Warming campaign is endangering real, honest science. Global Warming superstition has become an international power grab, and good science suffers as a result.

Freeman Dyson, one of the great physicists alive today, put it plainly enough in his autobiography:
"...all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. ... I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. ... They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in."
When the scientific establishment starts to peddle fraud, we get corrupt science. The Boomer Left came to power in the 1970s harboring a real hatred toward science. They called it "post-modernism," and "deconstructionism" --- and we saw all kinds of damage as a result. Scientific American magazine went so far as to  hire a post-modern "journalist" to write for it. John Horgan became famous for writing a book called The End of Science, but never seemed to learn much about real science. It was a shameful episode.   

The explosive spread of AIDS occurred when the known evidence about HIV transmission among Gay men was suppressed by the media. The medical science establishment did not speak up. HIV is most easily transmitted through anal intercourse, because the anus bleeds far more easily than the vagina. So one Gay man simply passes blood products straight on to the next.  Sexually transmitted plagues have been studied scientifically ever since syphilis arose several centuries ago. We know how to limit their spread, but many Gay men have died as a result of political suppression of scientific medicine. The spread of AIDS was partly a self-inflicted wound.

Pathological science kills people and ruins lives. Such fake science is still peddled by the PC establishment in Europe and America. Global Warming is only the most recent case. Rachel Carson's screed against DDT caused malaria to re-emerge in Africa, killing hundreds of thousands of human beings.  Those human-caused disasters have never been discussed honestly in the media, and rarely if ever in science journals. The DDT scandal is still suppressed.

In Britain, much of the alarmism about Mad Cow disease was never justified scientifically. It was pure, math-model-driven science fiction, just like Global Warming. But it was pushed very vigorously by the British science establishment, which has never confessed to its errors, and is therefore likely to make the same ones again. In politicized science, public hysteria actually builds careers; in real science, it tends to ruin careers. Years after the Brits realized that Mad Cow was a false alarm, the French admitted that Oui, Messieurs, we had ze Mad Cow, naturally, but we are not hysterique, comprenez vous?  Besides, cow brains are a great delicacy, and one only lives once. Vive la France!  Right across the Channel in Britain, farmers were required by law to destroy and bury hundreds of thousands of sheep and cows. It was an economic disaster, and all because of wildly alarmist science.

Britain is even more vulnerable to politicized science than we are, because medicine is controlled by the Left. That is a huge chunk of all science in the age of biomedicine.  But the British Medical Journal and even the venerable Lancet are no longer reliable sources. Their political agenda sticks out like a sore thumb. It was The Lancet that published a plainly fraudulent "survey" of Iraqi civilian casualties a few years ago --- the only "survey" ever taken in the middle of a shooting war. As if you can go around shell-shocked neighborhoods with your little clipboard and expect people to tell the truth about their dead and wounded: Saddam taught Iraqis to lie about such things, just to survive, and the internecine fighting of the last several years did not help. The whole farce was just unbelievable, but the prestigious Lancet put the fake survey into the public domain, just as if it were real science.  It was a classic agitprop move, worthy of Stalin and Lysenko. But it was not worthy of one the great scientific journals. Many scientists will never trust it again.

Pathological science has erupted most often in the last hundred years in the field of education, where "whole-word reading" fraud undermined the reading abilities of whole generations of American kids. Young adults can no longer tell the difference between "it's" and "its," even though their grandparents learned it in grammar school. The field of education is gullible and fad-prone, and is very unhealthy as a result. That's why new teachers are taught to peddle PC --- ideology is all they have.

Pathological science has erupted in fields like psychology and medicine, but not often in the hard sciences. In physics, Cold Fusion claims were discredited very quickly. Now, Global Warming is a fraud simply because climatology is not a hard science. That's what Freeman Dyson, who knows what physics can do, meant by saying that the models "do not begin to describe the real world that we live in."

The climate is not "just basic physics," as some people claim. Basic physics is great for understanding CO2 in lab jars and planets in space, but it has no complete accounting for a wooden kitchen chair, because wood is far too complex a material. Nobody has a complete physical understanding of wood --- there are too many different cellular layers, molecules, and unknown interactions, all produced by a genetic code that is just beginning to be understood. We only know the genomes for a few plants, and we don't know how their genes are expressed in cells and proteins.  So forget about applying basic physics and chemistry to kitchen chairs. Plants and trees are hypercomplex, like the climate.

Modern science fraud seems to come from the Left, which makes it especially weird because the Left claims to be all in favor of science. Marxism itself was a scientific fraud, of course. In 1848 Marx and Engels claimed to have a "scientific" (wissenschaftlich) theory of history. They predicted that communism would first arise in England, because it was the most advanced capitalist nation. (Not) They predicted that centralized planning would work. (Not) They predicted that the peasants and workers would dedicate their lives to the Socialist State, and stop caring about themselves and their families. (Not).  They predicted that sovietization would lead to greater economic performance. (Not). And then, when seventy years of Soviet, Chinese, Eastern European, and North Korean history showed Marx's predictions to be wrong, wrong and wrong again, they still claimed to be "scientific." That's pathological science --- fraud masquerading as science.

(Current Marxists are more anti-scientific, because they've finally figured out that the facts don't support them, but they still haven't given up their fantasy life. Millenarian cults never give up, even when the facts go against them.)

Scientists love to cite the historic "martyrs of science" --- like Galileo Galilei, a great genius who was forced late in life to recant his views on the solar system by Pope Leo X. Or Giordano Bruno, who was actually burned at the stake.   But the scientific establishment itself can be easily seduced by power, just like the Church was in Galileo's time.  Science is just done by human beings. So we get plainly political editorials in magazines like Scientific American and Science. They jumped on Global Warming superstition before the facts were in.

Last year MIT Professor Richard Lindzen published an amazing expose in the Wall Street Journal editorial Page. It is called "Climate of Fear: Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence."  Why are real scientists not speaking up enough against the Global Warming fraud? Well, some have been fired from their jobs, and others are keeping their heads down:
"In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions."
If scientists were totally honest, they would memorialize Trofimko Lysenko just like they celebrate Galileo. In some ways, Lysenko's name should be as well-known as Galileo, as a stern warning of what can so easily go wrong.  There are wonderful scientists, who must be honest, or they will fail. And then there are some corrupt scientists who are not honest. It's really that simple. Scientists can be demagogues, too. We should not pretend that all are what they should be. They're not. Fortunately, healthy science has all kinds of built-in checks and balances. Pathological science circumvents those.

Some scientists rationalize this corruption of their vocation by saying that people can lie for a good cause. The record shows otherwise. Fraudulent science and science journalism has led to AIDS going out of control; to DDT being banned and malaria gaining a new lease on life in Africa; to decades of famines in Russia; to children being badly mis-educated on such basics as reading and arithmetic;  to end endless slew of unjustified health scares, like Mad Cow;  and to a worldwide Leftist campaign cynically aiming to gain international power and enormous sums of money, based on a simple, unscientific  fraud.

When the truth-tellers in society begin to sell out and tell lies for some ideological goal, people end up dying.

James Lewis blogs at

Page Printed from: at November 03, 2007

Politics & Religion / Taliban/Al Qaida Split?
« on: November 03, 2007, 07:31:07 PM »
November 02, 2007
Al Qaeda's Taliban Troubles

By Ray Robison
The signs of al Qaeda's downward spiral are accumulating. If the media were as anxious to find signs of victory as signs of failure in our war with al Qaeda, the incipient crumbling of its support in South Asia would already be noted. But of course that would require giving credit to the Bush Administration's war policies.

Already beleaguered in Iraq, where tribal leaders have turned against it, al Qaeda faces a crumbling of its tribal alliances in the Afghanistan/Pakistan borderland regions. New reporting reaffirms my belief that substantial portions of the Taliban, a tribal entity which is under the influence of the Maulana Fazlur Rahman, have turned against al Qaeda. To be sure, not every Taliban leader is going to turn, but a significant portion of them will.

The Maulana is already a target of al Qaeda, and he is working against them.

President Mushareef finally showed the will to act against the Maulana and his jihadists with a raid on a mosque a few months back, letting him know there is pressure. In addition, Mushareef is now sending forces -- which have been getting trounced by Taliban and tribal forces so far -- into tribal lands.

Enter back into the Pakistani political mix former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazeer Bhutto. She worked closely with the Maulana when she was PM. He was then and is still the political leader of the militant Islamic faction in Pakistan. Bhutto will help bring him back into the inner circle. Though he will not act by proclamation and his changes will be covert, he will affect the Taliban by internal political maneuvering within his jihad-centric political parties.

Al Qaeda has targeted the Maulana. Undoubtedly the U.S. is applying more than a little bit of pressure on him, and his former foreign sponsors Saddam and Qaddafi are no longer pumping millions to his jihad groups. The new Bhutto/Mushareef alliance leaves him divided from the military and democratic political interests of Pakistan. He is increasingly isolated.

But Bhutto also gives the Maulana an escape valve; a chance to earn a powerful ally. The Maulana is no fool and he sees the weakness of al Qaeda and the end of the current incarnation of its international jihad just around the corner. Already his vitriol against the United States has lessened.

He is positioning the Taliban to start making peace agreements.

Faced with the looming conflict with the Maulana, Al Qaeda is concentrating its forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The New York Times describes a new influx of foreign fighters into Pakistan and Afghanistan. As always, the Times spins the hollowest analysis to portray defeat for the United States. But there are some questions the Times didn't bother to ask or answer, beyond the usual "the U.S. made them do it" tripe anyway. Chiefly, "why are they coming to Afghanistan"?

As the Times notes, many of these new foreign fighters in Afghanistan are being placed in leadership positions within the Taliban, usually under newer, younger Taliban commanders. The article even notes that this is a somewhat "new" vs. "old" battle for Taliban leadership. The Times fails to realize the obvious, that these are al Qaeda fighters, and instead refers to them as new Taliban recruits. But the timing of this "new phenomenon" makes the reality self-evident.

These fighters were meant for Iraq but the core al Qaeda leadership has realized that the war there is lost. They are no longer sending the new recruits in large numbers. In the current environment, only small teams can go unmolested in the Iraqi lands al Qaeda used to control. Since al Qaeda can no longer send large numbers of fighters to Iraq and since their Taliban support base is slipping away at home they have one option left to them.

Al Qaeda is attempting a hostile takeover of the Taliban.

And that signals the end of al Qaeda in Pakistan/Afghanistan just as it did in Iraq when they tried to take over from local chieftains.

Other tribal leaders are also reported to be turning against AQ.  The Telegraph reports: [H/T Larwyn/Prairie Pundit]
The Daily Telegraph has learned that the Afghan government hopes to seal the deal this week with Mullah Abdul Salaam and his Alizai tribe, which has been fighting alongside the Taliban in Helmand province.

Diplomats confirmed yesterday that Mullah Salaam was expected to change sides within days. He is a former Taliban corps commander and governor of Herat province under the government that fell in 2001.

Military sources said British forces in the province are "observing with interest" the potential deal in north Helmand, which echoes the efforts of US commanders in Iraq's western province to split Sunni tribal leaders from their al-Qa'eda allies.
Older Taliban commanders are flipping to our side. In response, al Qaeda is seeking out young leaders to take over with the support of al Qaeda fighters. Now we know that UBL's latest statement was about more than just the split of his jihadists in Iraq. It is about the coming crumbling of the Taliban in Southern Asia.

You can bet that Taliban commanders like Mullah Salaam would not be making deals if they didn't have the support of the major players in Pakistan, namely Maulana Fazlur Rahman. If this "new" vs. "old" stew with al Qaeda stirring the pot comes to a boil, the fighting will resemble the Iraqi sectarian fighting, except this time is will be all Taliban and al Qaeda fighters killing each other in an all out war. And here is the bad news for The New York Times. When that happens, we win.

In fact, al Qaeda is now engaging in a propaganda effort to conceal its' Achilles heal of fractionalization. The Times of India is now reporting that a significant Taliban leader has just released a rare video reaffirming his commitment to al Qaeda:
A top Taliban commander has said his group maintains good relations and military cooperation with the Al-Qaida insurgents not only in Afghanistan but in Iraq as well.

"We have good and strong relations with Al-Qaida mujahideen in Iraq, provide them with our expertise and share with them military information," Taliban southern commander Dadullah Mansoor on Wednesday said in a video produced by Al-Qaida's media production wing, as-Sahab .
How very interesting that al Qaeda is so concerned about the jihadist split that it is running videos from sympathetic Taliban commanders to refute it.

Hold on to your seats, things are about to get messy in South Asia. A war is shaping up between New Taliban backed by al Qaeda on one side and Old Taliban backed by Fazlur Rahman/Mushareef/Bhutto on the other side. The first shot came with the bombing of Bhutto's motorcade, which killed over a hundred.

When these murders are fully targeting on each other instead of innocents they will kill thousands of their own fighters.

Ray Robison is proprietor of Ray Robison: Pointing out the Obvious to the Oblivious.
Page Printed from: at November 03, 2007 - 10:27:11 PM EDT

Politics & Religion / The Al Qaeda Reader
« on: November 03, 2007, 07:18:59 PM »
The Al Qaeda Reader: A Review

By Gary H. Johnson, Jr.
A review of
The Al Qaeda Reader
Raymond Ibrahim, Editor/translator.
$15.95, 282 pp.

Recently, Raymond Ibrahim edited and translated into English a decade's worth of public releases by al Qaeda's leadership.  Published by Broadway Books, with partial proceeds donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Ibrahim's The Al Qaeda Reader is not only a timely fountainhead for the United States citizenry's understanding of our Jihadi enemies, it is also a necessary release for all Muslims living under secular governments to grapple with in the coming years.

The text focuses on the prepared statements of both Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leading authority figures of the Al Qaeda forces, which coordinated and carried out the devastating attacks of 9/11/2001.   Since Muhammad's definition of war is "deceit", and al Qaeda has declared war against America, we can only assume that these al Qaeda releases hold a two-fold purpose:  to provide sound, doctrinal justification for terrorism; and to gather popular support for their cause. 

Raymond Ibrahim tackles these angles admirably well by splitting the releases into the broader sections:  Theology and Propaganda.  This revealing text brings forth the Doctrines of Loyalty and Enmity, Jahaliyya, Taqiyya, in jihadi context for the Western witness.  It also sheds light on the source blood of the modern Islamist mentality in terms of ibn Taymiyya as well as the pivotal battle of Taif eight years after Muhammad's celebrated Hegira to Medina.

Part 1, Theology, begins with a thesis entitled, "Moderate Islam is a Prostration to the West".   What is obvious from this essay is that Osama bin Laden feels betrayed by the Muslim Intellectuals (particularly of Saudi Arabia) who would seek to stamp out extremism by helping President Bush in his "Crusade" against Islam.  Bush's actual statement was made on September 16th, 2001: "This Crusade, this war on terror, is going to take a while."  Regardless of President Bush's intent, the slip was made, and Osama bin Laden berates these "Moderate Muslims" for not including into their dialogue, with the Western Crusaders, three central elements of the Islamic Faith:  the doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity; the necessity of jihad; and the bounds of Sharia.

Osama bin Laden chides the moderates for seeking the UN's concept of equality, freedom, and justice, which differ from the Islamic Notions, of the same, in the sunna tradition.  This train of thought rolls like a juggernaut into its culmination on page 43 when Osama places down the cornerstone of Al Qaeda, the Koranic ayat (sign/verse) 60:4, in which Allah via his Messenger, Muhammad, summarizes the Muslim-Infidel relation as plainly exampled by Abraham, when he states
"We disown you and that which you worship besides Allah.  We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us--till you believe in Allah alone."
Bin Laden lays the brick with ease, stating,
"Battle, animosity, and hatred - directed from the Muslim to the infidel - is the foundation of our religion.  And we consider this a justice and kindness to them."  [emphasis added]
Osama is vexed by the pesky Moderates, since they don't uphold Islam while dealing with the West.  After all, he notes that,
"Muslims are obligated to raid the lands of the infidels, occupy them, and exchange their systems of governance for an Islamic system, barring any practice that contradicts the sharia..."
It is as if bin Laden is saying, if only these moderates had simply invited the West to submit to Islam; but, instead, by cooperating with the West, they have become apostates, denying the ultimate truth of Islam its rightful place above the Infidel, who has only three options when confronted with the Islamic faith: conversion to Islam, paying the Jizya tax, or death.

Part 1 continues with a Treatise by Ayman al-Zawahiri entitled "Loyalty and Enmity", in which he expounds upon Osama bin Laden's efforts.  The controversial topic of Taqiyya is broached in which it is permissible for Muslims to associate with infidels to dissemble rather than befriend.  Taqiyya basically states that if forced to deal with infidels, lie and smile, remain secure in faith, knowing you are not helping the enemy.  Loyalty comes first, for all Muslims must heed ibn Taymiyya when he states,
"...he is obligated to befriend a believer - even if he is oppressive and violent toward you, while he must be hostile to the infidel - even if he is liberal and kind to you." 
Al-Zawahiri confirms that all Muslims are ordered to wage jihad against infidels, apostates, and hypocrites by the consensus of the ulema (jurists of accepted hadith).

It is in this vein that ibn Taymiyyah's power is demonstrated in the line of Islamic jurists, for repulsing an invading force is second only to faith in Allah as a duty to Islam.  Ibn Kathir then shows his value by verifying that unquestioning obedience to the will of the ulema is the right path of submission to Allah, while doubt and refusal to adhere is caused by fear.

But by far the most striking feature of this lengthy treatise comes when he notes those leaders that Al Qaeda has targeted, "that clique of rulers who, while domineering over the lands of Islam, oppose sharia."  Al-Zawahiri proceeds to enumerate the Arabian Peninsula, Gulf Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan as the secular clique of governments that aid the Crusader armies against the Mujahidin. 

He goes on to state that anyone who joins the UN is not a true Muslim, calling them Henchmen of the Crusaders.  He takes aim at the cowards who oppose sharia out of fear that the Crusaders will hurt them.  And al-Zawahiri then pounds on the Northern Alliance Muslims who are aiding the American cause in Afghanistan.  This juristic wrangling is the establishment of a purge to come.  One can only wonder what type of purge is in store for these apostates should Al Qaeda win or become desperate.  And if you doubt the purge to come, consider that the Tawhid (Oneness) of God, demands Submission to Allah and Fear of Allah, alone; yet, in this treatise's conclusion, al-Zawahiri states,
"We warn our umma against falling to defeatism and ignoring the dangers that oppressively lie atop our chests.  Behold! the Crusader-Jewish military machine...  It gears its aggression against us through a network of submissive rulers."
What happens to apostates again?

Part 1 culminates with two shorter treatises by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the first of which is entitled "Sharia and Democracy" and is simply an extract from his 1991 release, Bitter Harvest: The Muslim Brotherhood in Sixty Years.  The importance of this section is in the simplicity with which democracy is labeled as the defining difference between Muslims and infidels, namely, Muslims submit to God, while infidels submit to men.  Al-Zawahiri takes the consensus view of seven different jurists of the ulema, the source of Sharia Law, to explain why democratic government, created by the whims of men and nations is "a motley set of contrived rules".

Not only that, democracy is a primitive form of religion in comparison to faithful submission to Allah's Sharia.  As proof for this rationale, Zawahiri examines Seven Islamic Jurist opinions, including those of the sheik of Islam, Ibn Taymiyya, and the father of radical Islam, Sayyid Qutb, all of which consider the rules of men to be a jahiliyya initiative, which is an attempt to bring mankind back to the time of man's law, before the Divine Koran was delivered, before the time of Muhammad, when true Sovereignty was ordained to Allah, by Allah himself.

This section is a revealing legalist perspective on why democracy is idolatry, the earmark of infidelity, and punishable by death.  But, the most startling outburst in this treatise comes as a response to the "equality" to be had under democratic institutions, raging that there isn't anything more blasphemous than a society that does not limit apostasy (with death), abolishes jihad against infidelity, abolishes the protection tax and second-class dhimmi status of infidels, and (to top it off) abolishes man's dominion over women.  But in order to understand the impact of these ruminations on the Islamic community, one must trace back to Sayyid Qutb, who provides the just definition of democracy as a religion.  Without this linchpin, the argument just sounds like raving lunacy and an attack on reason.

The Second of the minor treatises, "Jihad, Martyrdom, and the Killing of Innocents" is actually al-Zawahiri's master stroke of blending ulema doctrines in order to justify his chief weapon of deception in his war on America:  the suicide bomber.  For thirty odd pages, he examines suicide and "proves" that the intent of the suicide determines whether it is a sin or an act of martyrdom.  But by far the most striking element in this treatise is the examination of accidental killing of innocents or fellow Muslims, which culminates in Ibn Tamiyya's statement,
"Based on the consensus of the ulema, those Muslims who are accidentally killed are martyrs; and the obligatory jihad should never be abandoned because it creates martyrs."
This is the logic that America needs to understand.  America must come to grips with the fact that the jihad is obligatory to the Islamic faithful.  Thus, with a sweep of historic citations, Ayman al-Zawahiri, utilizes the sheik of Islam, Ibn Taymiyyah, whom all Muslims adhere or respect, to define defensive jihad as second only to faith in Islam, and at the same time justifies suicide bombing in the measure of antiquity... via ijma, or parallels, to Muhammad's battle of Ta'if.

Part 2, Propaganda, is a hodgepodge of shorter releases, aimed at specific groups, and documented in order to seek popular support for methods and aims as well as provide the righteous sword of reciprocity for all to see.   Strangely, in "Why are We Fighting You", Osama bin Laden begins listing reasons for Al Qaeda's war with the West, and ironically claims that the clique of secular Islamic governments give true Muslims "...a taste of humiliation, placing us in a large prison of fear and submission."

In "Your Fate is in Your Hands Alone," Osama bin Laden tells the touching story of tragedy in the 1982 occupation of Lebanon by Israel, with American support, which filled his heart with nebulous ideas concerning occupation and repelling the oppressor regimes of Islam, and lo! a freedom fighter was born.   But it is not until bin Laden offers a truce to America that we see plain the intentions of al Qaeda for the long run, when he states,
"You have occupied our lands, transgressed against our manhood and dignity, spilled our blood, plundered our wealth, destroyed our homes, dislocated us, and played with our security -- and we will give you the same treatment."
Words like these seem to give weight to President Bush's notion that if we tuck tail and run in Iraq (a process called redeployment in some circles), the terrorists will follow us home, especially when you take into account a previous promise of bin Laden:
"...this has not been because of a failure to break through your security measures.  The operations are under preparation and you will see them in your own homes once they are readied."
Bin Laden hints at possible future targets in his "To the Muslims of Iraq", when he defines the countries most in need of liberation:  Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.   But as far as recent news is concerned, the five releases under the theme heading, "The Youth of Islam" basically state that men over 25 are busy building families, and those under 15 are still dependent on parents, while those Muslims between 15 and 25 are strongly urged to join ranks with Al Qaeda.  This call virtually  demands that "profiling" be implemented in all transit areas on men between 15 and 25, especially since the 2007 July Pew Report of Islam in America notes that "26 percent of Muslims [in America] age 18 to 29 believe that suicide bombing can be justified" (Newsweek Special Report, July 30, p. 31).  To attempt to view the issue in any other way is suicide by denial.

The purpose of revolutionary propaganda is to gather popular support, to justify the righteousness of the cause, to generate outrage and fervor in its proponents, and to demonstrate why victory is inevitable for the righteous few.  Part 2 of Ibrahim's text, Propaganda, demonstrates these purposes well; however, it is the Soviet paradigm of victory which is the least convincing.  The key element in this battle according to both Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri is Patience.  The element is woven through every treatise and release. It is the belief that like Soviet Russia while fighting with Afghanistan, America will, through its "War on Terror" grow politically fractured, will eventually go bankrupt and will split apart, by the grace of Allah. 

It would be hubris to say that America can't go the way of the dodo. Yet, while the opinions in this country are divided almost 50-50 on every issue, it is this freedom to have a polarity of opinion that differentiates America from both the communism of Stalin and Khrushchev and the rigid, puritanical Islam of al Qaeda.  And, in the end, the resilience of capitalism's inequalities compared with the desperate equality of communism promises only the inevitability of exhaustion for al Qaeda, hence its call for Muslim youth to dedicate their lives to Jihad.

In full, Raymond Ibrahim's text The Al Qaeda Reader provides the world of English-speakers many lessons that we may choose to learn or dismiss.  Chief among these lessons is that in Islam there is no separation between Mosque and State.  For years, since the fall of the Twin Towers, moderate Muslims have claimed their religion had been hijacked by fundamentalists, literalists, radicals, and extremists; and, now the West has been apprised of the twisted view of two of these hijackers.

Is this message of hate the literalist perspective of Islam laid bare for the world to see?  And if it is, what does it teach the World of English-speakers about the Koran's content, intent, and merit?  The fact is, all Muslims believe the Koran to be the literal, uncorrupted word of Allah, written in the celestial language of Arabic.  Moving past the arrogance necessary to declare to the world that any language is that of God, what does this text teach us about the original words of the Islamic God?  Has the God of Islam, Allah, demanded His followers to wage jihad on all infidels in a quest to force the entire planet to convert, pay alms, or die?  And if the Koran is the literal, uncorrupted, Word and Warning of Allah; then, why would we, infidels, ever consider "Peaceful" a religion which promises our demise as sovereign states in one form or another, following obligatory genocidal purges, inquisitions, enslavements, indoctrination, trials of apostasy, and the death of the very idea of American Freedom, and the death of every value held as heroic in the West?  For the West's concepts of equality, justice and freedom do not hold parallel with the Koran's or Sharia's view of the same.

In full, Raymond Ibrahim's release The Al Qaeda Reader is a necessary addition to the scholarship of jihad.  The text begs the question: does the doctrine proclaimed by al Qaeda's leadership, now widely known among the world's Muslims,  guarantee a state of perpetual war against the whole of humanity?  And if so, what is the process of eradication of these elements from the Ulema consensus in order to defuse this ticking bomb of world-wide genocide?

Page Printed from: at November 03, 2007 - 10:04:23 PM EDT

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Lasers as Internal Antiseptics
« on: November 03, 2007, 04:42:54 PM »
Revolutionary Laser Technique Destroys Viruses And Bacteria Without Damaging Human Cells

ScienceDaily (Nov. 2, 2007) — Physicists in Arizona State University have designed a revolutionary laser technique which can destroy viruses and bacteria such as AIDS without damaging human cells and may also help reduce the spread of hospital infections such as MRSA.

The research, published on Thursday November 1 in the Institute of Physics' Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter, discusses how pulses from an infrared laser can be fine-tuned to discriminate between problem microorganisms and human cells.

Current laser treatments such as UV are indiscriminate and can cause ageing of the skin, damage to the DNA or, at worst, skin cancer, and are far from 100 per cent effective.
Femtosecond laser pulses, through a process called Impulsive Stimulated Raman Scattering (ISRS), produces lethal vibrations in the protein coat of microorganisms, thereby destroying them. The effect of the vibrations is similar to that of high-pitched noise shattering glass.

The physicists in Arizona have undertaken experiments to show that the coherent vibrations excited by infrared lasers with carefully selected wavelengths and pulse widths do no damage to human cells, most likely because of the different structural compositions in the protein coats of human cells vis a vis bacteria and viruses.

Professor K. T. Tsen from Arizona State University said, "Although it is not clear at the moment why there is a large difference in laser intensity for inactivation between human cells and microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses, the research so far suggests that ISRS will be ready for use in disinfection and could provide treatments against some of the worst, often drug-resistant, bacterial and viral pathogens."

Femtosecond lasers could find immediate application in hospitals as a way to disinfect blood supply or biomaterials and for the treatment of blood-borne diseases such as AIDS and Hepatitis.

Politics & Religion / American KIA 1774-1991
« on: November 03, 2007, 09:47:44 AM »
Interesting piece of comparative data regarding American military deaths over the past 200+ years can be found here:

ETA: Whups, scrolled down further and found plenty of interesting data through 2007.

Politics & Religion / What Does the Syria Attack Bode for Iran?
« on: October 28, 2007, 07:23:39 PM »
October 27, 2007

Trying to Prevent World War III

By Caroline Glick

It goes without saying that if and when a decision is made in Jerusalem or Washington to carry out an attack against Iran's nuclear installations the public will only learn of the decision in retrospect. All the same, over the last few weeks, it has been impossible to miss the fact that the Iranian nuclear program has become the subject of intense and ever increasing international scrutiny. This naturally gives rise to the impression that something is afoot.

Take for example the head of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency Muhammad elBaradei's recent remarks on the subject. Speaking to ,i>Le Monde on Monday, elBaradei asserted that it will take Iran between three to eight years to acquire a nuclear arsenal. Consequently, he argued, there is no reason to consider conducting a military strike against Teheran's program. There is still plenty of time for diplomacy, or sanctions or even incentives for the ayatollahs, he said.

ElBaradei's statement is only interesting when it is compared to a statement he made in December 2005 to the Independent. Back then Baradei's view was that Iran was just "a few months" away from producing atomic bombs. But then too he saw no reason to attack. As he put it when he warned that Iran was on the precipice of nuclear weapons, using force would just "open Pandora's box." "There would be efforts to isolate Iran; Iran would retaliate, and at the end of the day, you have to go back to the negotiation table to find the solution," elBaradei warned.

Given that the IAEA's Egyptian chief has been unstinting in his view that no obstacle should be placed in Iran's path to nuclear bombs, what makes his statements from 2005 and today interesting is what they tell us about his changing perception of the West's intentions. At the end of 2005, he was fairly certain that the West - led by the US - lacked the will to attack Iran. By making the statement he made at the time, he sought to demoralize the West and so convince it that there was nothing to be done to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Now, when faced with a real possibility that the US or Israel or a combination of states are ready and willing to attack Iran's nuclear installations, elBaradei seeks to undermine them by questioning the salience of the threat.

ElBaradei's statement of course was not made in a vacuum. It came against the backdrop of an increasing unanimity of opinion among top Bush administration members that Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons. Last Thursday, President George W. Bush said that a nuclear armed Iran would foment World War III.

The next day, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who until recently was known to oppose military action against Iran and to minimize the danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would constitute to the US, said at a press briefing that a nuclear-armed Iran would likely spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and was liable to foment a major war. Gates added that in light of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's stated desire to destroy Israel, "Washington couldn't trust that Iran would handle nuclear weapons responsibly." Standing next to Gates last Thursday was Admiral Michael Mullen, the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen rebuffed assertions that the US campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have strained military resources to the point that the US today cannot mount an effective campaign against Iran. As he put it, "From a military standpoint, there is more than enough reserve" to mount an attack against Iran's nuclear installations.

While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice continues to champion negotiations with the mullahs, in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday Rice acknowledged that "the policies of Iran constitute perhaps the single greatest challenge for American security interests in the Middle East and possibly around the world." And then there is Israel. It appears that both the IDF and the government are earnestly preparing for the possibility of war. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's sudden visits to Moscow, Paris and London, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak's trip to Washington this week were all devoted to the Iranian nuclear project.

One of the main things that we have learned from these reports about the September 6 Israeli strike against the North Korean nuclear installation in Syria is that Israeli intelligence on nuclear proliferation is more comprehensive, and at least in certain areas, superior to US intelligence. According to media reports of the strike, the US approved the Israeli operation after Israel brought the US incontrovertible evidence of the threat posed by the nuclear site.

In light of Israel's apparent intelligence prowess, it seems reasonable to assume that Olmert and Barak did not fly to those foreign capitals empty-handed. Indeed by some accounts they brought with them new and incriminating information regarding the current status of Iran's nuclear program.

Then there is Iran's neighbor Turkey to consider.

This week Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdogan paid a sudden visit to London. There he met with Olmert, who was also in the city that day. The meeting took place less than two weeks after Turkey's Foreign Minister Ali Babacan visited Israel. In an analysis this week in The Asia Times, M.K. Bhadrakumar, India's former ambassador to Turkey tied Turkey's pro-Hamas government's sudden interest in speaking to Israel to the tension between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. Bhadrakumar noted that Israel has close relations with Kurdish President Massoud Barzani. He hypothesized that the intensification of high-level discussions likely signals that a deal is being crafted which involves Turkey's position on Iran, and Iraqi Kurdistan's position on Turkey and the PKK. His view is buttressed by the fact that Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Bush at the White House on November 5.

Finally it is important to note Barak's crash-program aimed at purchasing and deploying missile defense systems capable of covering all of Israel as quickly as possible, and last week's media reports that US, British and Australian commandos are fighting Iranian forces inside of Iran close to the Iran-Iraq border by Basra.

Assuming that all of these developments do in fact mean that the day is quickly approaching where Iran's nuclear installations come under attack, a discussion of some of the likely outcomes of such a strike seems in order. How would Iran respond? What would be the long-term effect of such a strike? Until Israel attacked the North Korean nuclear installation in Syria last month, according to the foreign reports, most analysts assumed that Iran will retaliate against such a strike with as much force as it is able to muster, and that a successful attack against Iran's nuclear sites will push back Iran's nuclear program for approximately five years.

As this scenario has it, Iran will direct a counter-strike against Israel that will include a ballistic missile attack carried out jointly by Iran, Syria and Hizbullah in Lebanon. Furthermore, Iran will direct Hizbullah terror cells throughout the world to carry out attacks against Jewish and American targets.

But again, as bad as it may be, there is no comparison between an Iranian missile and terror offensive and Armageddon. By pushing back Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons by several years, a strike against Iran gives the world the opportunity to bring down the regime through non-military means by fomenting an internal revolution of Iranians.

This outcome remains the most likely scenario. And it is because it remains the likeliest consequence of an attack that Barak is keen to get a missile defense system up and running. And it is because this is the likeliest scenario that most analysts have suggested that Israel will have to attack Syrian and Hizbullah missile sites at the same time as Iran's nuclear sites are under attack, But the Israeli strike on Syria also points to other possible scenarios - for better and for worse. In an interview with the British Spectator, a senior British governmental said of the Israeli operation: "If people had known how close we came to World War III that day there'd have been mass panic." According to reports in the Washington Post and the Sunday Times, in the days before the attack IDF commandos collected soil samples which indicated the presence of fissile materials at the site. That together with intelligence regarding the transfer of nuclear materials, perhaps even a nuclear warhead from North Korea some three days before the attack, leads to the conclusion that far from being the start of a long-term undertaking, the site in Syria was advanced and nearly operational. Given the strategic nature of the installation that Israel attacked, perhaps the most astounding aspect of the operation is Syria's decision not to respond.

Syria's non-response may be telling something very optimistic about the consequences of an attack against Iran. It is possible that what we learn from Syria's decision not to respond is that under certain circumstances Iran too may opt not to react to a strike against its nuclear installations.

On the negative side, the Israeli strike on Syria brought a harsh reality into full view. The nature of the target and subsequent reports make clear that the nuclear collaboration between Syria, Iran, North Korea and perhaps other states is close, active, deep and strategic. In an article published in last Saturday's Wall Street Journal, the ranking Republican members of the House Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees, Peter Hokstra and Ileana Ros-Lehiten - who both received classified briefings on the Israeli strike - emphasized the threat arising from this close collaboration. Their article complemented a report in Jane's Defense Weekly from last month. According to that report, Syrian and Iranian engineers were killed when a North Korean Scud-C missile they were attaching a mustard gas warhead to exploded accidentally. The explosion took place at a Syrian military depot near Aleppo on July 26.

What this is liable to mean is that even if an attack against Iran's nuclear installations inside of Iran were completely successful, there is a possibility that Iran's nuclear capabilities will not be significantly downgraded. What the Syrian operation indicates is that Iran's program may be dispersed in Syria, North Korea, and in Pakistan which transferred nuclear technologies to Iran and North Korea, (as well as Libya and Egypt). In other words, there is now a distinct possibility that Iran is not the only country that will have to be attacked to prevent Iran and its allied rogue states from acquiring nuclear weapons.

And yet, when one looks at Iran, and sees the genocidal fanaticism not merely of Ahmadinejad but of the regime as a whole, one understands that whatever the cost, Israel and all who wish to prevent a massive worldwide conflagration cannot allow Iran to become a nuclear power. Everything must be done everywhere to prevent Teheran from acquiring the wherewithal to foment a new world war and destroy the State of Israel.

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Health Huckster Moore
« on: October 28, 2007, 12:29:18 PM »
October 28, 2007
Quack Michael Moore has mad view of the NHS
Minette Marrin

The fourth estate has always had a bad name, but it seems to be getting worse. Journalism should be an honest and useful trade, and often still is. But now that journalism has more power than ever before, it seems to have become ever more disreputable. In recent years it has been brought lower and lower by kiss-and-tell betrayals, by “reality” TV, by shockumentaries and by liars, fantasists, hucksters and geeks of every kind, crowing and denouncing and emoting in a hideous new version of Bunyan’s Vanity Fair.

Outstanding among these is Michael Moore, the American documentary maker. He specialises in searing indictments, such as Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine, and has, without a doubt, a genius for it. Although his films are crude, manipulative and one-sided, he is idolised by millions of Americans and Europeans, widely seen as some sort of redneck Mr Valiant-for-truth.

Nothing could be further from the truth. His latest documentary, Sicko, was released in cinemas last week. Millions of people will see it and all too many of them will be misled.

Sicko, like all Moore’s films, is about an important and emotive subject – healthcare. He contrasts the harsh and exclusive system in the US with the European ideal of universal socialised medicine, equal and free for all, and tries to demonstrate that one is wrong and the other is right. So far, so good; there are cases to be made.

Unfortunately Sicko is a dishonest film. That is not only my opinion. It is the opinion of Professor Lord Robert Winston, the consultant and advocate of the NHS. When asked on BBC Radio 4 whether he recognised the NHS as portrayed in this film, Winston replied: “No, I didn’t. Most of it was filmed at my hospital [the Hammersmith in west London], which is a very good hospital but doesn’t represent what the NHS is like.”

I didn’t recognise it either, from years of visiting NHS hospitals. Moore painted a rose-tinted vision of spotless wards, impeccable treatment, happy patients who laugh away any suggestion of waiting in casualty, and a glamorous young GP who combines his devotion to his patients with a salary of £100,000, a house worth £1m and two cars. All this, and for free.

This, along with an even rosier portrait of the French welfare system, is what Moore says the state can and should provide. You would never guess from Sicko that the NHS is in deep trouble, mired in scandal and incompetence, despite the injection of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.

While there are good doctors and nurses and treatments in the NHS, there is so much that is inadequate or bad that it is dishonest to represent it as the envy of the world and a perfect blueprint for national healthcare. It isn’t.

GPs’ salaries – used by Moore as evidence that a state-run system does not necessarily mean low wages – is highly controversial; their huge pay rise has coincided with a loss of home visits, a serious problem in getting GP appointments and continuing very low pay for nurses and cleaners.

At least 20 NHS trusts have even worse problems with the hospital-acquired infection clostridium difficile, not least the trust in Kent where 90 people died of C diff in a scandal reported recently.

Many hospitals are in crisis. Money shortages, bad management, excesses of bureaucrats and deadly Whitehall micromanagement mean they have to skimp on what matters most.

Overfilling the beds is dangerous to patients, in hygiene and in recovery times, but it goes on widely. Millions are wasted on expensive agency nurses because NHS nurses are abandoning the profession in droves. Only days ago, the 2007 nurse of the year publicly resigned in despair at the health service. There is a dangerous shortage of midwives since so many have left, and giving birth on the NHS can be a shocking experience.

Meanwhile thousands of young hospital doctors, under a daft new employment scheme, were sent randomly around the country, pretty much regardless of their qualifications or wishes. As foreign doctors are recruited from Third World countries, hundreds of the best-qualified British doctors have been left unemployed. Several have emigrated.

As for consultants, the men in Whitehall didn’t believe what they said about the hours they worked, beyond their duties, and issued new contracts forcing them to work less. You could hardly make it up.

None of these problems mean we should abandon the idea of a universal shared system of healthcare. It’s clear we would not want the American model, even if it isn’t quite as bad as portrayed by Moore. It’s clear our British private medical insurance provision is a rip-off. I believe we should as a society share burdens of ill health and its treatment. The only question is how best to do that and it seems to me the state-run, micromanaged NHS has failed to answer it.

By ignoring these problems, and similar ones in France’s even more generous and expensive health service, Moore is lying about the answer to that question. I wonder whether the grotesquely fat film-maker is aware of the delicious irony that in our state-run system, the government and the NHS have been having serious public discussion about the necessity of refusing to treat people who are extremely obese.

One can only wonder why Sicko is so dishonestly biased. It must be partly down to Moore’s personal vainglory; he has cast himself as a high priest of righteous indignation, the people’s prophet, and he has an almost religious following. He’s a sort of docu-evangelist, dressed like a parody of the American man of the people, with jutting jaw, infantile questions and aggressively aligned baseball cap.

However, behind the pleasures of righteous indignation for him and his audience, there is something more sinister. There’s money in indignation, big money. It is just one of the many extreme sensations that are lucrative for journalists to whip up, along with prurience, disgust and envy. Michael Moore is not Mr Valiant-for-truth. He is Mr Worldly-wiseman, laughing behind his hand at all the gawping suckers in Vanity Fair. Don’t go to his show.

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Chess
« on: October 27, 2007, 09:45:15 AM »
Back when I was chess champion of Alan B. Shephard jr. high, that was called a stalemate.

Politics & Religion / More on Beauchamp's Bogus Reporting
« on: October 26, 2007, 02:32:17 PM »
Shattered Diarist
Ask Peter Arnett for advice next time.

By James S. Robbins

It was nice to see the Scott Thomas Beauchamp/New Republic scandal back up on the radar screen yesterday. There was never a satisfactory conclusion to the story; it just faded out over the summer. Now it is back in a big way, with the Drudge Report releasing internal Army documents related to the case, and a very revealing transcript of a conversation between Beauchamp, various luminaries from The New Republic, and Beauchamp’s TNR-supplied lawyer.

TNR’s first response to the release was typical of the tone-deafness with which they have approached the entire affair — denouncing the selective leak of official documents. It is always suspect when journalists take a principled stand against leaks. It might be more convincing if TNR pledged never to use leaked information in its reporting ever again, maybe then they’d have some credibility. As it happened, the Army report recommended releasing the findings to the media, while TNR was frantically trying to get Beauchamp to cancel all his press interviews. TNR Editor Franklin Foer said that Scott owed it to the magazine to talk only to them to let them “control the way the story proceeds.” I suppose because they were doing such a great job of controlling it thus far.

The Beauchamp affair should be taught in journalism schools as a case study of how not to conduct damage control. When it quickly became obvious that there were serious problems both with Beauchamp’s “diaries” and with the author himself, TNR should have cut bait. The magazine could quite reasonably have made a statement that they were taken advantage of by someone they trusted, who was married to someone on their staff who presumably vouched for him, and retracted the stories. It would have been embarrassing, but the matter would have concluded. Instead TNR stood by Beauchamp, tying the magazine’s credibility to his, and suffering accordingly. Rather than admitting error and moving on, they invested time, money, and apparently a degree of political capital in fighting a clearly losing cause with no discernable upside even if they had prevailed. It is mystifying — like Dan Rather defending those bogus National Guard documents, or Peter Arnett sticking to the story of the U.S. conducting Sarin gas attacks against captured American troops in Vietnam. How can people who are so successful make such astonishing errors in professional judgment?

Maybe TNR didn’t think there was much there. Unlike the above-mentioned stories the “atrocities” Beauchamp claimed to have documented were unremarkable. Killing dogs? There are justifiable reasons for doing so in combat conditions — if a dog with a backpack is approaching your AFV you had better take it out quickly. As well, packs of vicious or rabid dogs roaming civilian areas need to be controlled. Playing around with a skull from a mass grave? I can see bored privates doing that briefly until their platoon sergeant barked at them to knock it off and keep digging. But the thing that should have given the TNR editors pause if they had any understanding at all of military culture was the tale of mocking a disfigured woman in a mess hall in Iraq (later changed to Kuwait, but whatever, just details, right?) No solider would publicly mock a woman wounded in an attack unless he was looking for a serious ass kicking. This is not how our troops behave. The fact that this alleged incident did not raise a red flag to the TNR editors demonstrated how out of touch they are with the military — or how willing they were to believe the worst about our fighting forces.

The Army’s report on the Beauchamp incident is good reading and confirms what was widely believed, namely that Scott either made up or wildly exaggerated the events he described. It is a shame that all we got to see was the report itself and not the supporting documentation, especially the statements of other soldiers in Beauchamp’s unit. Maybe the next leak won’t be as selective. But the real gold is the transcript of the telephone call, which reveals TNR was in much closer contact with Beauchamp throughout the controversy than they were willing to admit.

Poor Scott comes across as pitiable. He found out that there is a major difference between publishing sophomoric anti-military musings on his sparsely viewed blog and impugning the American Solider in a national opinion journal. “[T]his whole thing it’s…it’s…spun out of control and mutated into something that’s it’s just like…it’s not something that…it’s just insane,” he said. “I’m basically saying, like, I basically want it to end.”

Beauchamp could certainly have ended it by just admitting that his stories were fake. TNR executive editor Peter Scoblic — who went out of his way to mention that he was “not around the office” when the stories were edited and published (did he know this was being taped?) — gave Scott ample opportunity. He pointed out that the magazine stood up for Scott while they have been dragged through the mud, and nevertheless if “certain parts of the story are bullshit, then we’ll end it that way.” He just asked Beauchamp to summon up some personal responsibility and be straight with them.

But why start being responsible now? Beauchamp masterfully avoids giving direct answers. He isn’t talking to anyone about the articles any more. He wants to concentrate on being a Soldier. He won’t talk to the media — TNR included. He has an excuse for everything. He can’t get the copies of the investigative documents TNR wants because he’s busy. “Time is different from time where you are,” he states. If people think his stories aren’t true, well, people will view what he wrote in a lot of ways, that can’t be helped. But are they true or not? “I’m not commenting on the stories,” Beauchamp said. “That’s what I’m saying…I’m not discussing them at all. Um, which is not an admission of anything.” Um, right.

It is amusing to see TNR on the receiving end of Beauchamp’s dissembling. Did they expect gratitude? Forget it. Scoblic’s frustration is evident — he points out that TNR really went to the mat to defend Beauchamp and now he was lumping them in with the rest of the media. TNR did a variety of things for Beauchamp, including “making sure you were okay via a number of pretty high level channels.” (How high? Through whom? Interesting story there I’ll bet.)  When Beauchamp sloughs it all off by saying he is a Soldier and not a writer, he’s going to focus on his duty to his comrades in arms, the next line from Scoblic is “(Unintelligible.)”  Fill in the blank yourself.

It is hard to see how TNR can continue to stand by Beauchamp, or why they should. He certainly cares little about them, and the findings of the official report, leaked or not, give the magazine an opportunity to publicly recant. That is, if they can stomach agreeing with the Army. Or they could stick with the type of tactics that have brought them to their current state of disrepute; denounce the report, say the testimony was coerced, that the Soldiers involved were threatened with reprisal, that Beauchamp is too intimidated to speak, and so forth, which might find an audience with the hard-core conspiracy minded, but will only serve to keep the issue festering until the next revelation.

The bright side of the case study is in illustrating the power of the web to police reporting — to act as a watchdog over the watchdogs. In particular it reconfirms the critical role of the milbloggers. A prescient, award-winning essay by Army Major Elizabeth Robbins (relation by marriage) pointed out that if members of the military were prevented from blogging, this corner of the information domain would be left to the Beauchamps of the world, where they could indulge their biases unchecked. “To silence the most credible voices — those at the spear’s edge — and to deny them this function is to handicap the Army on a vital, very real battlefield,” Robbins writes. “The Army’s reputation is maintained on many fronts, and no one fights harder on its behalf than our young Soldiers. We must allow them access to this fight.” Had milbloggers not intervened, who knows what absurd, fantastic, vicious and wholly contrived events Beauchamp’s fourth and fifth “diary” entries would have contained? And how many people would have believed them?

 — James S. Robbins is the director of the Intelligence Center at Trinity Washington University , senior fellow for national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council, and author of Last in Their Class: Custer, Picket and the Goats of West Point. Robbins is also an NRO contributor.

National Review Online -

Politics & Religion / Re: Russia
« on: October 25, 2007, 09:42:01 AM »
October 25, 2007, 7:45 a.m.

Red Army Dreams
You’re getting colder.

By Michael Ledeen

If you were Vladimir Putin, what would you think of Iran? You’d worry a lot about it, that’s what. Your own Russia is losing Russians, due to the usual grim demography that characterizes most of Europe. And, like the others, you’ve got a Muslim problem, with surging birthrates both within Russia and all along its borders, from Chechnya to the ‘stans. Lots of those Muslims are under Iranian sway. You know that well, having been trained in, and elevated by, the KGB, which was horrified to see radical mullahs and imams receiving money, Korans, and even weapons from the Islamic Republic. When Osama bin Laden claims that the defeat of the Soviet Empire was an Islamic victory, there’s a certain element of truth to his words, and you know that the Iranians want to build on that foundation to extend their power deeper into your domain.

You therefore want to see this regime destroyed. The last thing in the world that you want is a gigantic Chechnya, armed with nuclear weapons, launching waves of fanatical terrorists against infidels like you.

But you don’t have much of an army any more, and anyway you don’t want a war with the mullahs. Direct attack is not your way; you prefer cunning. You’d rather have someone else do your dirty work for you. Someone like Israel, or better yet, the United States. And best of all would be to get the Americans to do it in such a way that the whole world condemns them for it.

The first step is to convince the Iranians that you’re their most reliable ally and their smartest friend. So you stand up for them in the big assemblies of global public opinion, you decry the sanctions aimed against them, and you — whose country after all has provided the Iranians with nuclear technology ever since Clinton and Gore approved it — swear up and down that there is no evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran. You organize regional conferences to flatter the mullahs, you even fly to Tehran to meet with the Supreme Leader, thereby elevating his status. And all the while, you whisper to them that they are strong while the Americans are weak, that they can do anything they wish to the West, for the West has no stomach for further confrontation. You famously sell them an advanced air defense system with which they can protect their nuclear facilities in the event the Israelis or the Americans lash out.

You assure them of your unqualified support, and urge them on to intensify their war against the Americans. This is not just a matter of diplomatic tactics.  Unlike the Americans, your people have long operated inside Persian borders. Some of those bearded and beturbaned fanatics depend on you for money and opium, and for the blonde haired women in your embassy and consulates. You have real influence, and you use it to advance the careers of the most fanatical zealots, people like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, people who do not want to charm the Americans, but antagonize them. Ali Larijani was too charming, and you managed to move him out to be replaced by the monotonous Jalili, renowned for his lack of elegance and his aggressive strategy of enlisting Latin American leftists to encircle the Americans.

Since you want the mullahs destroyed, you take care to sell them defensive systems that will not really defend them against either the greater or the lesser Satan. Since you do not want them to have a workable atomic weapon, you manage to have your Tehran-based nuclear physicists repeatedly find new problems. You know that the Iranians will eventually build the accursed thing, but there, too, you have a stratagem. You will find a way to provide your great admirer, Condoleezza Rice, with the hard evidence so that she and her president will do your dirty work for you before they head back to California and Texas, leaving you with new challenges in Washington.

To be sure, life being what it is, there are problems. The Persians are clever; they have been practicing deceit far longer than your people, and their long memories include centuries of Russian exploitation and trickery. They do not trust you, and they are constantly alert to signs of your treachery.  The Israeli attack on Syria in September was therefore a serious blow to you, because it exposed the hollowness of your vaunted anti-aircraft defense system, the same one deployed across Iran. The mullahs were alarmed, and not entirely assuaged by your assurances that their system was far better than the outmoded stuff you dumped on the Arabs. Your remonstrance to the supreme leader — “if you’d only told us about this secret plan of yours, we’d of course have made sure it was invulnerable to the Israelis” — had good effect, but many of the ruthless men around Khamenei and Ahmadinejad may suspect the truth. Not that they have anywhere to go, as you happily chuckle to yourself.

Your complicated stratagem can easily derail. You want the sanctions to fail, because you want the Americans to face the choice so elegantly stated by Sarkozy and Kouchner: Iran with the bomb, or bomb Iran. Sanctions deflect the momentum driving Washington and Paris toward that fateful choice, thus delaying the day of reckoning. But many good things may well happen en route to decision day. The mullahs are licking their wounds from the turnaround in Iraq, and may try something melodramatic to show that their vaunted “insurgency” is still a potent force. On the other hand, even if that happens they may well have preserved credible deniability, in keeping with their mastery of deception.  Perhaps they will instead strike in Afghanistan, but there too they would have to show themselves, and even so the Americans have shown amazing restraint. What does it take to galvanize the Americans? A nuke in Las Vegas?

At such times, you wryly remind yourself of something a KGB station chief once told you: “We’re supposed to tell the Kremlin what the Americans are going to do next. But it’s impossible to know that, since the Americans don’t know themselves.”

It’s not easy to manipulate the world. All in all it was easier when there was a Red Army.

National Review Online -

Agriculture is in big trouble, too.

You can start with nitrogen fertilizer, which is a critical component of all agricultural activity. Unfortunately, it produces large amounts of nitrous oxide, another so-called greenhouse gas that must be radically curtailed in California.

The wine industry is also in for a shock. Fermentation of wine occurs when a molecule of glucose in the grapes is converted into EQUAL PARTS of alcohol and Carbon Dioxide.

But the biggest agricultural impact is the administration’s mandate for heavily subsidized use of ethanol fuel. Ethanol is produced in exactly the same way as the alcohol in wine: the glucose in corn is converted into equal parts of ethyl alcohol and CARBON DIXOIDE.

Following AB 32, the governor’s appointees on the California Air Resources Board imposed a requirement that ALL gasoline sold in California within THREE YEARS, must be comprised of at least TEN PERCENT ethanol, doubling the current mandate.

Now think about this: an acre of corn produces about 350 gallons of ethanol. There are 15 billion gallons of gasoline used in California each year. In order to meet the ten percent requirement in three years, it means converting 4.3 million acres of farmland to ethanol production. Now that’s a lot of farmland, considering that we have a total of 11 million acres producing any kind of crops.

Current ethanol mandates are already producing serious shortages in other parts of the world, as farmland that had been producing food shifts to ethanol to chase hundreds of millions of dollars of government subsidies coming out of your pocket. There were riots in Mexico earlier this year in response to spiraling tortilla prices.

And we’re seeing this across the board – including commodities like milk and beef that are responding to increased prices for corn feed. And as you see your grocery prices rise as a result of this policy, just be glad you’re not in the Third World. Food is a relatively small portion of the family incomes in affluent nations, but they consume more than half of family earnings in third world countries.

So when the global warming alarmists predict worldwide starvation, they’re right. They’re creating it.

While we’re on the general subject, you may have noted that Interstate Bakeries announced last month that they are completely withdrawing from the Southern California market – they are shutting down four bakeries, 17 distribution centers and 19 outlet stores – and throwing 1,300 employees out of work. They’re the makers of Wonder Bread, Roman Meal Bread, Home Pride and Baker’s Inn.

If you’re a fan of those breads, you’d better stock up now – they’ll be gone by the end of October.

They cited the high cost of doing business in California, but I believe had they stayed they would have faced an even thornier problem: bread is only bread because of the carbon dioxide produced by yeast. It’s the same chemical process we’ve been talking about, although in this case, the central ingredient IS the carbon dioxide. That pleasant smell of baking bread is the ethyl alcohol oxidizing as those gases are vented during baking.

Electricity prices are also taking a heavy hit. California already suffers the highest electricity prices in the continental United States, but that situation is about to worsen.

A companion measure to AB 32 was SB 1368 that prohibits the importation of electricity produced by coal – even state-of-the-art plants thousands of miles from California that meet all EPA requirements.

Truckee became the first victim of this law. Truckee was about to sign a 50-year contract for electricity produced by a new coal fired plant in Utah. They were forced to back off because of AB 1368. They just announced the new contracts to replace that lost power. Instead of paying $35 per megawatt hour, Truckee electricity consumers will now be paying $65 per megawatt hour.

It gets worse. Last month, the chairwoman of the Air Resources Board – which was given virtually unlimited power by AB 32 – announced that they will TRIPLE the number of AB 32 regulations this year.

The radical laws now in place in California are having a dramatic impact on energy production, agriculture, manufacturing, wine-making and construction, just to name a few sectors of our economy.

We are already seeing the economic impact in California.

Nationally, the unemployment rate is stable at 4.6 percent. Until last year, Californian’s unemployment rate tracked with the national figures, but since January – while the national rate has remained stable at about 4.6 percent, California’s unemployment rate has skyrocketed from 4.8 percent to 5.5 percent.

I was struck by the Governor’s speech to the United Nations last week. He said:

“Last year in California, we enacted groundbreaking greenhouse gas emission standards. “We enacted the world’s first low carbon fuel standard. “Do I believe California’s standards will solve global warming? No. “What we’re doing is changing the dynamic, preparing the way and encouraging the future...”

So even the individual most responsible for this economically catastrophic public policy ADMITS that it’s not going to solve global warming. He just wants to set an example.

I believe he is going to set an example, all right.

Responding to the enormous new burdens imposed on our economy, our state’s revenues have taken a dramatic turn for the worse. On June 30th, we closed the books on the biggest deficit in California’s history – more than $6 ½ billion.

We just got the first quarter revenue numbers for this new fiscal year. State revenues needed to grow TWICE as fast this year as they did last year to avert an even bigger deficit.

In the first quarter, though, our revenues are actually shrinking. Last year at this time, we had $1 ½ billion in the bank – we now have a bank overdraft of $7 ½ billion that’s being covered entirely by internal borrowing.

That’s a NINE BILLION DOLLAR DIFFERENCE. And that’s the measure of our actual year-over-year deficit spending.

Combined with the growing budget deficit projection for next year, we could be facing a two-year gap of $20 billion by May – and we don’t have the money to cover it.

There is one other thing that strikes me on this issue, and that is how puny is the amount of carbon dioxide produced by human enterprise, compared to simple, natural processes.

The AB 32 mandate is to reduce man-made carbon dioxide emissions by 170 million metric tons per year. That’s what all this tremendous economic dislocation is about.

Now let me mention one other man-made source of carbon dioxide that they don’t count.

Every one of us in this room will produce about 2.2 pounds of carbon dioxide today – by breathing. That’s over 800 pounds of carbon dioxide per year. If anyone brought a pocket calculator, pull it out and stay with me here.

There are 6.6 billion of us on this planet. That comes to 5.3 trillion pounds or 2.4 BILLION metric tons of carbon dioxide – simply through the process of human respiration. And that’s before you count up all the cats and rats and elephants.

So all of this economic dislocation is over a tiny fraction of natural carbon dioxide emissions.

The only good news I can offer is that perhaps we’re all wrong. Perhaps the unprecedented burden now imposed upon our commerce will produce a wave of new investment and innovation and environmental purity as the Governor has so loudly promised. Perhaps the unprecedented levels of deficit spending will send our economy into paroxysms of prosperity. Perhaps.

But there’s another possibility. There’s a possibility that we’re right, and that the inevitable economic realities of these outrageous regulations are already beginning to destroy California’s once-vibrant economy in a dark and miserable example of human folly.

And we must be prepared for that possibility. In normal times, citizens don’t pay a lot of attention to public policy, and that’s why democracies occasionally drift off course. But when a crisis approaches, that’s when you see democracy engage. One by one, citizens sense the approach of a common danger and they rise to the occasion. They focus – they look beyond the symbols and rhetoric – and they begin to make very good decisions. Political majorities can shift very quickly in such times. Polls can reverse themselves almost overnight in such times. And I believe that day is now rapidly approaching.

People ask me all the time: “What can I do?” And the only answer I can offer is the answer the great abolition leader Frederick Douglass offered to a young protégé. He said, “Agitate. Agitate. Agitate.”

We have greater tools with which to communicate with our fellow citizens than ever before. The Internet and talk radio have given us powerful new ways to organize and reach people. And we have something else that’s even more important: truth and common sense.

We have based our entire form of government on the assumption that when democracies engage, they make very good decisions. The radical policies now imposed on California are already beginning to impact the economy, and will have an increasingly negative effect as they proliferate in coming days. As the impact of these policies is felt, people will begin paying close attention to policy making and the policy makers responsible, and then they’ll begin exercising something that the majority of California’s public officials have so completely lacked: simple common sense.

And at that moment, we will see a new political awakening and a new political realignment in California, and before you know it, we’ll be living once again in Reagan Country.

Speech was given on October 12, 2007 in Newport Beach.

You have extended me a very dangerous invitation tonight – to speak to a gathering of political conservatives on the day that Al Gore has received the Nobel Peace Prize for discovering that the earth’s climate is changing.

I’ve heard that he’s going to contribute half of his prize money to environmental causes and use the other half to pay his electricity bill. And anything left over will come in handy to help pay for the fleet of private jets that allow him to travel around the world to tell us that you and I need to ride our bikes to work.

You have to admit, there is a certain Helmslyesque quality to it all – “We don’t conserve – only the little people conserve.”

Of course, for those in the liberal elite who jet to environmental conferences in Gulfstream Fives and drive around in Hummers singing the praises of hybrids and bicycles, the Left now sells indulgences – you can actually calculate your sins on-line and they’ll gladly tell you how much money to send them (all major credit cards accepted) to assuage your conscience.

These indulgences will be used for such activities as planting more trees to absorb carbon dioxide. After all, young trees absorb an enormous amount of this “greenhouse gas” – far more than old trees. But isn’t replacing old-growth timber with young-growth timber what lumber companies used to do until the radical environmentalists shut them down?

They’ve also forbidden the clearance of flammable brush from around your home in areas like Lake Tahoe – that’s an affront to Mother Nature. You’re supposed to either let it burn – and your home along with it – or just let it sit and rot because those are the two best ways for Nature to release lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Apparently natural carbon dioxide is a good thing and man-made carbon dioxide is a bad thing.

That’s also why we’re supposed to do away with chemical fertilizer and replace it with natural compost, because replacing man-made greenhouse gases with natural greenhouse gases is the wave of the future.

So are electric cars and trains. But this also gets a little complicated, because there are only two ways of generating vast amounts of clean electricity: hydroelectricity and nuclear power. But there’s no faster way to send one of these Luddites into hysterics than to mention that inconvenient truth.

The politically correct replacement is solar energy – roughly 17 times more expensive than either nuclear power or hydroelectricity – meaning, of course around 17 times LESS electricity to run electric cars and trains.

Energy conservation, then, is the answer, which is why we’re being told only to use energy efficient fluorescent lights rather than the warm and fuzzy incandescent bulbs. But wait – didn’t we just ban the disposal of fluorescent lights with your trash because of the extreme environmental hazard they pose in our landfills?

So I approach the subject tonight with an admitted level of confusion as to what these people are thinking.

And I also approach it with a certain degree of trepidation. After all, at Al Gore’s rally to save the planet in New York in July, no less an authority than Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said that those of us who still have some questions over their theories of man-made global warming are “liars,” “crooks,” “corporate toadies,” “flat-earthers” and then he made this remarkable statement: “This is treason and we need to start treating them now as traitors.”

Ah, the dispassionate language of science and reason.

In a speech in New York several months ago, our own governor called those who question the religion of global warming “fanatics” and vowed our political extinction.

I certainly don’t want to die a traitor’s death or be run out of town on a rail. So I want the record to be very clear: I believe that the earth’s climate is changing and that our planet is warming.

I actually figured that out in grade school in the 1960’s when our third grade class took a field trip to the Museum of Natural History and saw the panorama of dinosaurs tromping around the steamy swamps that are now part of Wyoming. They were right next to the exhibit of the Wooly Mammoths foraging on the glaciers that were also once the same part of Wyoming.

And I never got a Nobel Prize for that discovery. In fact, I later found out that my third grade teacher never even nominated me!

Then I got to high school in the 1970’s and learned from the Al Gores of the time that we foolish mortals were plunging ourselves into another ice age. All the scientists agreed.

By the way, you may have seen the Washington Times story a few weeks ago about the researcher who recently stumbled upon a lurid story in the Washington Post dated July 9, 1971. It included the scary headline: “U.S. Scientist Sees New Ice Age Coming.”

The scientist based this on a scientific climate model developed by a young research associate named James Hansen. They warned that continued carbon emissions over the next ten years could trigger an unstoppable ice age.

This is the same James Hansen who is one of the gurus of the current global warming movement. And it is the same James Hansen who, just three months ago, published a paper claiming that continued carbon emissions over the next ten years could trigger a run-away greenhouse effect.

Let me begin by asking three inconvenient questions.

First, if global warming is caused by your SUV, why is it that we’re seeing global warming on every other body in the solar system? For the last six years, the Martian south polar ice cap has conspicuously receded. Pluto is warming – about two degrees Celsius over the past 14 years. Jupiter is showing dramatic climate change by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Even Neptune’s moon, Triton, has warmed five percent on the absolute temperature scale – the equivalent of a 22 degrees Fahrenheit increase on Earth – from 1989 to 1998.

If you have any doubt, just Google “Pluto Warming” or “Mars Warming” or whatever your favorite planet might be.

Meanwhile, solar radiation has increased a measurable .05 percent since the 1970’s.

Is it possible that as the sun gets slightly warmer, the planets do too?

This would be a little scary in its own right, except for the second inconvenient question: If global warming is being caused by your SUV, why is it that we have ample historical records of periods in our recent history when the planet’s temperature was warmer than it is today?

During the Medieval Warm Period, from about 900 to 1300 AD, we know that wine grapes were thriving in northern Britain and Newfoundland and that the temperature in Greenland was hot enough to support a prosperous agricultural economy for nearly 500 years.

That period was brought to an end by the Little Ice Age that lasted from 1300 until 1850. We know that during colonial times, Boston and New York Harbors routinely froze over in winter and during Elizabethan times, an annual Winter Festival was held ON TOP OF the Thames River, which froze solid every year.

And finally the third inconvenient question: If global warming is caused by YOUR SUV, why is it that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide always follow increases in global temperatures by several hundred years, indicating that CO2 is a byproduct of increasing temperatures – not a cause.

Is it possible that this is the reason Al Gore won’t debate the subject? You’ve seen the “Inconvenient Truth.” In it, he portrays himself as an indefatigable, lonely sentinel (who should have been President of course) wandering the planet trying desperately to awaken the world to the danger it faces. “I’ve given this speech a thousand times,” he says about a thousand times.

But according to the Chicago Sun Times this pious paragon of truth – who assures us he’s willing to go anywhere and talk to anybody to save us from our mortal folly – is strangely UNwilling to take up the Heartland Institute’s publicized offer to organize an international debate on the subject. The Institute has challenged our new Nobel Peace Prize laureate of the left to debate any one of three internationally recognized authorities who dispute his claims, and it’s willing to front all costs – at Oxford University, no less, and in a format of Gore’s own choosing.

After all, Gore’s new book extols the importance of science and reason in the public policy debate, so what better way to deliver the coup de grace to the “skeptics” than to expose their fallacies in front of an international audience?

And yet, Al Gore, who has given his speech “a thousand times,” won’t give it just once more in a forum where it might be questioned by a knowledgeable authority.

We’re told that the debate is over and that all scientists agree. Call this the Emperor’s New Clothes argument. But it’s simply not the case.

The ISI Web of Science is one of the most comprehensive collections of peer-reviewed scientific papers in the world. A recent survey of all papers on the subject of climate change that were published between 2004 and February of 2007 found that only SEVEN percent explicitly endorsed the position that man-made carbon dioxide is causing catastrophic global warming. SIX PERCENT explicitly rejected it and a majority of the remaining papers were neutral.

In fact, another directory of peer-reviewed scientific papers explicitly refuting the theory of human-induced catastrophic global warming lists over 500 leading climate scientists. The survey itself was conducted by a team that included Fred Singer, author of “Unstoppable Global Warming – EVERY 1,500 YEARS”, whose qualifications include being the founding director of the National Weather Satellite Service.

I believe it was Ogden Nash who wrote:

“The ass was born in March “The rains came in November “Such a flood as this, he said, “I scarcely can remember.”

But now I would like to address myself to a grim subject: the actual threat that global warming poses to our planet – and most specifically to California. And that threat is very real and it is devastating.

I speak specifically of the radical policies that the global warm-mongers are now enacting.

Last year, in the name of saving the planet from global warming, California adopted the most radically restrictive legislation anywhere in the nation, including AB 32, which requires a 25 percent reduction in man-made carbon dioxide emissions within 13 years.

To put this in perspective, we could junk every car in the state of California RIGHT NOW – and not meet this mandate.

Californians just approved $40 billion of bonds that California’s political leaders promised would be used for highways, dams, aqueducts and other capital improvements. They are desperately needed.

But at the same time, those same political leaders have imposed a 25 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Now here’s the problem. Building highways, dams and aqueducts requires tremendous amounts of concrete, the principle ingredient of which is cement.

How is cement produced? It is produced by taking limestone and super-heating it into a molten state – it comes out the other side as a compound called clinker. Clinker is about 2/3 the weight of the original limestone. The missing 1/3 of that weight is carbon dioxide. And when you include the emissions required to superheat the limestone, it turns out that for every ton of cement, a TON of carbon dioxide is released. It’s the third biggest source of carbon dioxide in all human enterprise.

But now we have a law that specifically forbids us from doing so. That was the essence of the Jerry Brown lawsuits against new highway projects that were part of the summer budget impasse.

Citing AB 32, Brown argued that unless the counties could show how they would build highways without using earthmoving equipment or concrete – and that once built, that people would not drive automobiles on them – the only legal use of the funds would be to promote mass transit, transit villages – and I’m not making this up – pedestrian trails and bicycle paths.

So much for construction.

Politics & Religion / Religiously Sanctioned Antisemitism, Part III
« on: October 18, 2007, 04:58:45 PM »
Currently the invocation of Koranic references to the Jews as apes and pigs pervades Muslim (especially Arab Muslim) religious and political discourse in print, audio, video, and internet venues. Young children are targeted with these messages, and even encouraged to repeat them by approving adults during additional media coverage. Menachem Milson recently warned that repeated invocation of these motifs cannot be “dismissed as mere vulgar invective”, or “primitive magical thinking”. Rather, these recurring expressions need to be understood as a form of dehumanization serving as a pretext for the destruction of Jews. Given the murderous historical legacy of Muslim societies that invoked these Koranic motifs (i.e., in Granada, Baghdad, and Touat, Morocco) his concern is not alarmist. 
The Islamization of European Antisemitism**
On Thursday, September 7, 2006, an All-Party Parliamentary Enquiry into Antisemitism issued its finding that anti-Jewish violence had become endemic in Britain, both on the streets and university campuses. A major surge of attacks had accompanied—and followed—the summer 2006 conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, and the report held a “minority of Islamic extremists” responsible for “inciting hatred toward Jews.” As a press report noted, The Parliamentary Enquiry’s results are consistent with data recently published in The Journal of Conflict Resolution by Yale University biostatistician Dr. Edward H. Kaplan, and Dr. Charles A. Small of the Yale Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism.

Drs. Kaplan and Small examined the views of 5004 Europeans, roughly 500 individuals sampled from each of 10 European Union countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom). The authors’ main publicized results confirmed their (rather commonsensical) a priori hypothesis: anti-Israel sentiments strongly and independently predicted the likelihood that an individual was Antisemitic in a graded manner, i.e., the more anti-Israel (on a scale of zero to 4), the more a person was likely to be Antisemitic. But perhaps an even more striking finding in light of the burgeoning Jew hatred now evident in Europe’s Muslim communities, received much less attention: in a controlled comparison to European Christians (as the “referent” group), European Muslims were nearly eightfold (i.e., 800%) more likely to be overtly Antisemitic. [emphasis added]. Furthermore, in light of the Pew Global Attitudes Project data on Muslim attitudes toward Jews in Islamic countries, the Yale study likely underestimated the extent of Antisemitism amongst Europe’s Muslim communities, had more poorly educated, less acclimated European Muslims been sampled. Pew’s earlier international survey indicated,
In the Muslim world, attitudes toward Jews remain starkly negative, including virtually unanimous unfavorable ratings of 98% in Jordan and 97% in Egypt. Muslims living in Western countries have a more moderate view of Jews - still more negative than positive, but not nearly by the lopsided margins that prevail in Muslim countries.
The clear excess virulence of the Antisemitism in Europe’s Muslim versus Christian populations, combined with the evidence that globally, Muslims in Islamic countries exhibit even more fanatical Jew hatred than their European co-religionists, defies the “conventional wisdom” regarding the ultimate origins of Muslim Jew hatred in Western Europe, and beyond. This very flawed construct—that  Muslim Jew hatred is merely a loose amalgam of re-cycled medieval Christian Judeophobic motifs, calumnies from the Czarist Russian “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, and standard Nazi propaganda—continually ignores both empirical contemporary observations, and primary, uniquely Islamic components of Jew hatred, both past and present. When the late 23 year-old Parisian Jew Ilan Halimi was being tortured to death in February 2006, his Muslim torturers, as Nidra Poller wrote in the Wall Street Journal “…phoned the family on several occasions and made them listen to the recitation of verses from the Koran, while Ilan's tortured screams could be heard in the background.” In the heart of Western Europe, Ilan Halimi’s torturers/murderers did not invoke any non-Islamic sources of anti-Jewish hate, only the Koran.
Islam Über Alles—The Convergence of Jihad, Islamic Jew-Hatred, and Nazism**
Thirty-fours years ago (1973/74) Bat Ye’or published a remarkably foresighted analysis of the Islamic Antisemitism resurgent in her native Egypt, and being packaged for dissemination throughout the Muslim world. The primary, core Antisemitic motifs were Islamic, derived from Islam’s foundational texts, on to which European, especially Nazi elements were grafted.
The pejorative characteristics of Jews as they are described in Muslim religious texts are applied to modern Jews.  Anti-Judaism and anti-Zionism are equivalent—due to the inferior status of Jews in Islam, and because divine will dooms Jews to wandering and misery, the Jewish state appears to Muslims as an unbearable affront and a sin against Allah. Therefore it must be destroyed by Jihad. Here the Pan-Arab and anti-Western theses that consider Israel as an advanced instrument of the West in the Islamic world, come to reinforce religious anti-Judaism. The religious and political fuse in a purely Islamic context onto which are grafted foreign elements. If, on the doctrinal level, Nazi influence is secondary to the Islamic base, the technique with which the Antisemitic material has been reworked, and the political purposes being pursued, present striking similarities with Hitler’s Germany.
That anti-Jewish opinions have been widely spread in Arab nationalist circles since the 1930s is not in doubt. But their confirmation at [Al] Azhar [University] by the most important authorities of Islam enabled them to be definitively imposed, with the cachet of infallible authenticity, upon illiterate masses that were strongly attached to religious traditions.
Nazi academic and propagandist of extermination Johannes von Leers’ writings and personal career trajectory—as a favored contributor in Goebbel’s propaganda ministry, to his eventual adoption of Islam (as Omar Amin von Leers) while working as an anti-Western, and Antisemitic/anti-Zionist propagandist under Nasser’s regime from the mid-1950s, until his death in 1965—epitomizes this convergence of jihad, Islamic Antisemitism, and racist, Nazi Antisemitism, as described by Bat Ye’or.  Already in essays published in 1938 and 1942, the first dating back almost two decades before his formal conversion to Islam while in Egypt, von Leers produced  analyses focused primarily on Muhammad’s interactions with the Jews of Medina. These essays reveal his pious reverence for Islam and its prophet, and a thorough understanding of the sacralized Islamic sources for this narrative, i.e., the Koran, hadith, and sira. von Leers provided this reverent summary characterization of Muhammad’s activities in Mecca, and later Medina, which is entirely consistent with standard Muslim apologetics, in 1942:.
[Mecca] For years Muhammad sought in Mecca to succeed with his preaching that there was only one God, the sole, all-merciful king of Judgment Day.  He opposed to the Christian Trinity the unity of God, rejected the Christian doctrine of original sin and salvation, and instead gave every believer as a guiding principle the complete fulfillment of the commands of the righteous, given by a compassionate and just God, before whom every individual person had to account for his acts.
[Medina] September 622 he left Mecca for Medina, where he took up residence. Here he encountered the Jewish problem for the first time.  He believed in the victorious power of good in the world, he was firmly convinced that the religion of the one and only God, with its easy, practical, reasonable, basic laws for human life was nothing other than the original religion.  He wanted to take mankind out of the current turmoil and lead it toward the original, clear vision of God.  But since he had to deal with people who had been influenced by both Christianity and Judaism, he said that it was the religion in which Abraham (Ibrahim) had already believed, and which Christ and Moses had proclaimed, only each time it had been distorted by human beings.  He said that this had been revealed anew to him by God.  He wanted to make the path easy to follow for both Christians and Jews; thus at first he allowed his followers to pray facing toward Jerusalem.  He repeatedly emphasized that he only wanted to purify the existing religions, to establish the restored, newly revealed faith.  At the same time he was a skilled statesman.   When the Arab tribes were unified, the Jews became a minority in Medina.  Muhammad provided them with a kind of protectorate agreement: they were to retain their administration and their forms of worship, help the faithful defend the city, not ally themselves with Muhammad's opponents, and contribute to the faithful’s wars. The Jews could have been satisfied with this.  But they began a general hate campaign against Islam, which proclaimed a pure conception of God…
Citing (or referring to) the relevant foundational text sources (i.e., Koran 13:36; 8:55-58; 59:1-15; the sira and canonical hadith descriptions of the fate of individual Jews such as Abu Afak and Ka’b ibn Ashraf, and the Jewish tribes Banu Qaynuqa, Banu Nadir, Banu Qurayzah, as well as the Jews of the Khaybar oasis), von Leers chronicles Muhammad’s successful campaigns which vanquished these Jews, killing and dispersing them, “…or at most allow[ing] them to remain in certain places if they paid a poll tax.” Von Leers further describes the accounts (from the hadith, and more elaborately, the sira) of Muhammad’s poisoning by a Khaybar Jewess, and also notes the canonical hadith which records Caliph Umar’s rationale for his putative expulsion from northern Arabia of those remaining Jews who survived Muhammad’s earlier campaigns.
On his deathbed Mohammed is supposed to have said:  “There must not be two religions in Arabia.” One of his successors, the caliph Omar, resolutely drove the Jews out of Arabia.
And von Leers even invokes the apocalyptic canonical hadith which 46 years later became the keystone of Hamas’ 1988 charter sanctioning a jihad genocide against the Jewish State of Israel.
Ibn Huraira even communicates to us the following assertion of the great man of God: “Judgment Day will come only when the Moslems have inflicted an annihilating defeat on the Jews, when every stone and every tree behind which a Jew has hidden says to believers: ‘Behind me stands a Jew, smite him.’”
Von Leers’ 1942 essay concludes by simultaneously extolling the “model” of oppression the Jews experienced under Islamic suzerainty, and the nobility of Muhammad, Islam, and the contemporary Muslims of the World War II era, foreshadowing his own conversion to Islam just over a decade later:
They [the Jews] were subjected to a very restrictive and oppressive special regulation that completely crippled Jewish activities.  All reporters of the time when the Islamic lands still completely obeyed their own laws agree that the Jews were particularly despised…
Mohammed's opposition to the Jews undoubtedly had an effect—oriental Jewry was completely paralyzed by Islam.  Its back was broken.  Oriental Jewry has played almost no role in Judaism's massive rise to power over the last two centuries.  Scorned, the Jews vegetated in the dirty alleys of the mellah, and were subject to a special regulation that did not allow them to profiteer, as they did in Europe, or even to receive stolen goods, but instead kept them fearful and under pressure.  Had the rest of the world adopted a similar method, today we would have no Jewish question—and here we must absolutely note that there were also Islamic rulers, among them especially the Spanish caliphs of the House of Muawiyah, who did not adhere to Islam's traditional hostility to Jews—to their own disadvantage.  However, as a religion Islam has performed the immortal service of preventing the Jews from carrying out their threatened conquest of Arabia and of defeating the dreadful doctrine of Jehovah through a pure faith that opened the way to higher culture for many peoples and gave them an education and humane training, so that still today a Moslem who takes his religion seriously is one of the most worthy phenomena in this world in turmoil.
And even earlier, in a 1938 essay, von Leers further sympathized with, “the leading role of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in the Arabians’ battles against the Jewish invasion in Palestine.” He observes that to the pious Muslim, “…the Jew is an enemy, not simply an ‘unbeliever’ who might perhaps be converted or, despite the fact that he does not belong to Islam, might still be a person of some estimation.  Rather, the Jew is the predestined opponent of the Muslim, one who desired to bring down the work of the Prophet.”  Thus, von Leers continues, “how shocked and angry the Muslims of today are…when the Jews are once again introduced into Palestine by a European nation against all historical common sense, and set up as a ruling class!” He then proclaims, “For the pious Muslim, this is nothing other than a manifestation of the enthroning of Satan!”  von Leers concludes by warning that,
The British political policy here is not paying sufficient attention to the true realities of spiritual history.  They would do better to free themselves from the Jew-friendly teachings of liberalism and to listen closely to the cry of the anger of Islam…
Until his death in 1965 von Leers remained unrepentant about the annihilationist policies towards the Jews he helped advance serving Hitler’s Reich. Indeed he was convinced of the righteousness of the Nazi war against the Jews, and as a pious Muslim convert, von Leers viewed the Middle East as the succeeding battleground to seal the fate of world Jewry. His public evolution over the course of three decades illustrates starkly the shared centrality to these totalitarianisms—both modern and ancient—of the Jews as “first and last enemy” motif.  Finally, an October 1957 US intelligence report on von Leers’ writings and activities for Egypt and the Arab League confirmed his complete adoption of the triumphalist Muslim worldview, desirous of nothing less than the destruction of Judeo-Christian civilization by jihad:
He [Dr. Omar Amin von Leers] is becoming more and more a religious zealot, even to the extent of advocating an expansion of Islam in Europe in order to bring about stronger unity through a common religion. This expansion he believes can come not only from contact with the Arabs in the Near East and Africa but with Islamic elements in the USSR. The results he envisions as the formation of a political bloc against which neither East nor West could prevail.
Fifty years later ignorance, denial, and delusion have engendered the sorry state of public understanding of this most ominous conversion of hatreds, by all its potential victims, not only Jews. This lack of understanding is little advanced by the current spate of analyses which seek “Nazi roots” of the cataclysmic September 11, 2001 acts of jihad terrorism, and see Nazism as having “introduced” antisemitism to an otherwise “tolerant”, even philosemitic Islamic world beginning in the 1930s. Awkwardly forced, and ahistorical, these analyses realign the Nazi cart in front of the Islamic steed which has driven both jihad and Islamic antisemitism, since the 7th century advent of the Muslim creed, particularly during the last decade of Muhammad’s life.

Even if all vestiges of Nazi militarism and racist antisemitism were to disappear miraculously overnight from the Islamic world, the living legacy of jihad war against non-Muslim infidels, and anti-Jewish hatred and violence, rooted in Islam’s sacred texts—Koran, hadith, and sira—would persist. The assessment and understanding of the uniquely Muslim institution of jihad, and Islamic antisemitism, begins with an unapologetic exposure of both the injunctions sanctioning jihad war, and the anti-Jewish motifs contained in these foundational texts of Islam. Yet while the West has engaged in self-critical mea culpa, acknowledging its own imperialistic past, shameful role in the slave trade, and antisemitic persecution, and has taken steps to make amends where possible, the Islamic nations remain in perpetual denial. Until Muslims acknowledge the ugly realities of jihad imperialism, and anti-Jewish persecution in their history, the past will continue to poison the present, and there will be no hope of combating resurgent jihadism, and Islam’s unreformed theological hatred of Jews in modern times, from Morocco to Indonesia, and within Muslim communities living in Western, and other non-Muslim  societies across the globe.
**All adapted from Andrew G. Bostom’s forthcoming, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, 2007, on Prometheus Books.

Politics & Religion / Religiously Sanctioned Antisemitism, Part II
« on: October 18, 2007, 04:58:08 PM »
The centrality of the Jews’ permanent “abasement and humiliation,” and being “laden with God’s anger” in the corpus of Muslim exegetic literature on Koran 2:61 (including the hadith and Koranic commentaries), is clear. By nature deceitful and treacherous, the Jews rejected Allah’s signs and prophets, including Isa, the Muslim Jesus. Classical Koranic commentators such as Tabari (d. 923), Zamakshari (d. 1143), Baydawi (d. 1316), and Ibn Kathir (d. 1373), when discussing Koran 5:82 (“Thou wilt surely find the most hostile of men to the believers are the Jews and the idolaters; and thou wilt surely find the nearest of them in love to the believers are those who say 'We are Christians'; that, because some of them are priests and monks, and they wax not proud.”), concur on the unique animus of the Jews towards the Muslims, which is repeatedly linked to the curse of  Koran 2:61. For example, in his commentary on 5:82, Tabari writes,
In my opinion, [the Christians] are not like the Jews who always scheme in order to murder the emissaries and the prophets, and who oppose God in his positive and negative commandments, and who corrupt His scripture which He revealed in His books.
Tabari’s classical interpretations of Koran 5:82 and 2:61,  as well as his discussion of the related verse 9:29 mandating the Jews payment of the jizya (Koranic poll-tax), represent both Antisemitic and more general anti-dhimmi views that became, and remain, intrinsic to Islam to this day. Here is Tabari’s discussion of 2:61 and its relationship to verse 9:29, which emphasizes the purposely debasing nature of the Koranic poll tax:
…“abasement and poverty were imposed and laid down upon them”, as when someone says “the imam imposed the poll tax (jizya)on free non-Muslim subjects”, or “The man imposed land tax on his slave”, meaning thereby that he obliged him [to pay ] it, or, “The commander imposed a sortie on his troops”, meaning he made it their duty.…God commanded His believing servants not to give them [i.e., the non-Muslim people of the scripture] security—as long as they continued to disbelieve in Him and his Messenger—unless they paid the poll tax to them; God said: “Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden—such men as practice not the religion of truth [Islam], being of those who have been given the Book [Bible]—until they pay the poll tax, being humble” (Koran 9:29).. The dhimmis [non-Muslim tributary’s] posture during the collection of the jizya- “[lowering themselves] by walking on their hand, …reluctantly
…Ibn Zaid said about His words “and abasement and poverty were imposed upon them”, ‘These are the Jews of the Children of Israel’. I said: ‘Are they the Copts of Egypt?’ He said: “What have the Copts of Egypt to do with this? No, by God, they are not; but they are the Jews, the Children of Israel.…By “and slain the prophets unrightfully” He means that they used to kill the Messengers of God without God’s leave, denying their messages and rejecting their prophethood.
Indeed the Koran’s overall discussion of the Jews is marked by a litany of their sins and punishments, as if part of a divine indictment and conviction process. The Jews wronged themselves (16:118) by losing faith (7:168) and breaking their covenant (5:13). The Jews (echoing an ante-Nicaean, Marcionite polemic) are a nation that has passed away (2:134; repeated in 2:141). Twice Allah sent his instruments (the Assyrians/or Babylonians, and Romans) to punish this perverse people (17:4-5)—their dispersal over the earth is proof of Allah’s rejection (7:168). The Jews are further warned about both their arrogant claim that they remain Allah’s chosen people (62:6), and continued disobedience and “corruption” (5:32-33) Other sins, some repeated, are enumerated: abuse, even killing of prophets (4:155; 2:91), including Isa [Jesus] (3:55; 4:157), is a consistent theme. The Jews ridiculed  Muhammad as Ra’ina (the evil one, in 2:104; 4:46), and  they are also accused of lack of faith, taking words out of context, disobedience, and distortion (4:46). Precious few of them are believers (also 4:46). These “perverse” creatures also claim that Ezra is the messiah and they worship rabbis who defraud men of their possessions (9:30). Additional sins are described: the Jews are typified as an “envious” people (2:109), whose hearts are as hardened as rocks (2:74). They are further accused of confounding the truth (2:42), deliberately perverting scripture (2:75), and being liars (2:78). Ill-informed people of little faith (2:89), they pursue vague and wishful fancies (2:111). Other sins have contributed to their being stamped (see 2:61/ 3:112 above) with “wretchedness/abasement and humiliation,” including—usury (2:275), sorcery (2:102), hedonism (2:96), and idol worship (2:53). More (and repeat) sins, are described still: the Jews’ idol worship is again mentioned (4:51), then linked and followed by charges of other (often repeat) iniquities—the “tremendous calumny” against Mary (4:156), as well as usury and cheating (4:161). Most Jews are accused of being “evil-livers” /“transgressors” /“ungodly” (3:110), who, deceived by their own lies (3:24), try to turn Muslims from Islam (3:99). Jews are blind and deaf to the truth (5:71), and what they have not forgotten they have perverted—they mislead (3:69), confound the truth (3:71), twist tongues (3:79), and cheat Gentiles without remorse (3:75). Muslims are advised not to take the Jews as friends (5:51), and to beware of the inveterate hatred that Jews bear towards them (5:82). The Jews’ ultimate sin and punishment are made clear: they are the devil’s minions (4:60) cursed by Allah, their faces will be obliterated (4:47), and if they do not accept the true faith of Islam—the Jews who understand their faith become Muslims (3:113)—they will be made into apes (2:65/ 7:166), or apes and swine (5:60), and burn in the Hellfires (4:55, 5:29, 98:6, and 58:14-19).

A general guiding principle of the hadith for Muslims is khalifuhum, which means, “do not do like them.” As Georges Vajda demonstrated, however, this seemingly banal principle which covers matters ranging from daily customs and practices (such as basic grooming and dress practices to avoid), is laden with anti-Jewish animus which only intensifies when the hadith deal with more profound subjects such as eschatology.

Even sanctioned Muslim practices of onanism/masturbation, and bestiality, in particular with slaves whom the Muslims wished to avoid impregnating, became a source of friction vis a vis the Jews, who were revolted by these practices. The customs to be observed at funerals, the matters of burial plots and tombs, and more decidedly, Muhammad’s view of the fate of buried Jews, also illustrate anti-Jewish animus. For example, public lamentation over the dead became forbidden to the Jews (and Christians). The hadith further condemn certain physical gestures for being specific to Jews.

The hadith also portray the Jews’ hatred and jealousy of Muhammad: despite being convinced of the authenticity of Mohammed’s divine mission, the Jews did not become votaries of Islam due to pride in their birth and appetite for domination. (These charges became a recurrent theme in later Muslim polemics.) A related commonplace charge in the hadith is that Jews altered their sacred texts deleting Muhammad’s name and precise description. Another series of hadiths elaborate on Koran 3:93, and associated Koranic exegeses, which accuse the Jews of misrepresenting their alimentary prohibitions, most notably camel’s flesh, as in fact described in the Torah. Vajda observes, “distrust must reign” in Muslims relations with Jews—Muslims must especially beware of asking them for information of a religious kind because, “…the Jews…are rebels to the solicitations of Islam and keep their religious traditions in a way liable to lead Muslims into error.”

Striking evidence of Jewish perfidy in the hadith is illustrated by their continual, surreptitious cursing of the Muslims while ostensibly offering proper greetings. Other traditions attribute evil spells to the Jews.

Following the Muslims’ initial conquest of the Jewish farming oasis of Khaybar, one of the vanquished Jewesses reportedly served Muhammad poisoned mutton (or goat), which resulted, ultimately, in his protracted, agonizing death. Ibn Sa‘d’s biography emphasizes the conspiratorial nature of this poisoning as plotted by Jews, and insists that the offending Jewess who poisoned Muhammad was put to death. Thus the Koranic curse (verse 2:61, repeated in 3:112) upon the Jews for (primarily) rejecting, even slaying Allah’s prophets, is updated with perfect archetypal logic in this canonical hadith.

Muslim eschatology, as depicted in the hadith, highlights the Jews’ supreme hostility to Islam. Jews are described as adherents of the Dajjâl—the Muslim equivalent of the Anti-Christ—or according to another tradition, the Dajjâl is himself Jewish. At his appearance, other traditions maintain that the Dajjâl  will be accompanied by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan wrapped in their robes, and armed with polished sabers, their heads covered with a sort of veil. When the Dajjâl is defeated, his Jewish companions will be slaughtered— everything will deliver them up except for the so-called gharkad tree. According to a canonical hadith—repeated in the 1988 Hamas Charter (in section 7)—if a Jew seeks refuge under a tree or a stone, these objects will be able to speak to tell a Muslim: “There is a Jew behind me; come and kill him!” Another hadith variant, which takes place in Jerusalem, has Isa (the Muslim Jesus) leading the Arabs in a rout of the Dajjâl and his company of 70,000 armed Jews. And the notion of jihad “ransom” extends even into Islamic eschatology—on the day of resurrection the vanquished Jews will be consigned to Hellfire, and this will expiate Muslims who have sinned, sparing them from this fate.

Stubborn malevolence, however is the Jews defining worldly characteristic: rejecting Muhammad and refusing to convert to Islam out of jealousy, envy and even selfish personal interest, lead them to acts of treachery, in keeping with their inveterate nature: “...sorcery, poisoning, assassination held no scruples for them.” These archetypes sanction Muslim hatred towards the Jews, and the admonition to at best, “subject [the Jews] to Muslim domination,” as dhimmis, treated “with contempt,” under certain “humiliating arrangements.”

Hartwig Hirschfeld’s  study of the sira and their depiction of Muhammad’s interactions with the Jews of Medina concludes that “mutual disappointment” characterized their relationship, with predictably disastrous consequences for the Jews. During his attempts at proselytization, Muhammad’s misunderstanding (or sheer ignorance) of Jewish doctrine was ridiculed by rabbis and Jewish poets. Ibn Ishaq, author of the earliest Muslim biography of Muhammad, accuses them of “hostility…, envy, hatred, and malice because God ha[d] chosen his apostle from the Arabs.” Regardless, the Jews’ stubborn refusal to convert to Islam altered, decisively, the trajectory of Muhammad’s religious thinking. Following the Battle of Badr—which established the power of nascent Islam—Muhammad initiated a campaign of political assassinations of Jewish (or presumptively Jewish) poets and leaders. Ibn Ishaq recorded these telling words of one of Muhammad’s Muslim assassins, “Our attack upon God’s enemy cast terror among the Jews, and there was no Jew in Medina who did not fear for his life.”  Such fear proved to be well founded, as on the very morning after one political assassination (i.e., of Ka’b b. al ‘Ashraf), Muhammad encouraged the Muslims to slay Jews indiscriminately, according to Ibn Ishaq:
The apostle said, “Kill any Jew that falls into your power.” Thereupon Muhayyisa b. Mas'ud leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him.
These murders of individual Jews were followed by the siege, expropriation, and expulsion of the Medinan Jewish tribes B. Qaynuqa and B. Nadir, and the subsequent massacre of the Jewish men of the B. Qurayza whose wives, children, and possessions were then seized as booty by the Muslims. Muhammad subsequently prepared for his campaign against Khaybar—a farming oasis and the last Jewish stronghold in Northern Arabia, where survivors (most notably, the B. Nadir) of the Muslims earlier attacks on Medinan Jewry had also sought refuge—with two further political assassinations. Bloody assaults by the Muslims which ensued shortly afterwards resulted in the complete subjugation of the Jews of Khaybar, the survivors becoming dhimmis. The theological animus which motivated Muhammad’s political subjugation of the Jews, specifically, became an indelible part of Muslim attitudes toward Jews across space and time. It also defined eternal parameters in which Jews would be permitted to live as humiliated Muslim dhimmis, the Jews of Khaybar—who, according to the hadith and sira, were eventually expelled from Arabia by Caliph Umar—being the prototype.

And a  profoundly anti-Jewish motif occurring after the events recorded in the hadith and sira,  put forth in early Muslim historiography (for example, by Tabari), is most assuredly a part of “the birth pangs” of Islam: the story of Abd Allah b. Saba, an alleged renegade Yemenite Jew, and founder of the heterodox Shi’ite sect. He is held responsible—identified as a Jew—for promoting the Shi’ite heresy and fomenting the rebellion and internal strife associated with this primary breach in Islam’s “political innocence”, culminating in the assassination of the third Rightly Guided Caliph Uthman, and the bitter, lasting legacy of Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian strife.

As noted previously, consistent with Islam’s theological Jew-hatred, S.D. Goitein’s seminal analyses of the Cairo Geniza materials from the high Middle Ages  (~ 950-1250), reveal that Jews living a millennium ago were already experiencing an indigenous Muslim Antisemitism in the Middle East and North Africa. The intensity of this Muslim Jew-hatred motivated Jews of the era to coin two unique Hebrew words: sin?th for Muslim Antisemitism, and s?n? for the Muslim haters who promulgated it. Moreover, two independent Muslim observers writing in the mid-9th century (the polymath al-Jahiz, and the Sufi theologian al-Muhasibi) suggest the most plausible sources of such anti-Jewish animus among the Muslim masses were Koran 5:82, and the sira accounts of Muhammad’s interactions with the Jews of Medina. Nearly a thousand years later in mid-19th century Egypt, E.W. Lane also attributed the Jew hatred he commonly witnessed among ordinary Muslims to their understanding of Koran 5:82. 

Although Antisemitic Islamic motifs from the Koran, hadith, and sira were much more commonly employed in daily life as a form of chronic discrimination against Jews, they have also been used to incite, more extensive persecutions, including mass violence against Jewish communities.

Rigid conformity to a motif in the hadith (and sira) based on the putative death bed wish of Muhammad himself, as recorded by Umar (the second Rightly Guided Caliph), “Two religions shall not remain together in the peninsula of the Arabs,” had tragic consequences for the Jews of Yemen. (The hadith and sira further maintain that Umar did eventually expel the Jews of Khaybar.)  Thus a pious 17th century Yemenite ruler,  Al-Mahdi wishing to fulfill the mandate of this hadith in Yemen,  as well, in 1679-1680, expelled the entire Jewish population of Yemen – men, women and children— deporting them to the inhospitable wastelands of the plain of Tihama. This expulsion was accompanied by the destruction of synagogues, desecration of Torah scrolls, and inducements for conversion to Islam. Three-quarters of the thousands of Jews  expelled perished from exposure to the intense daytime heat (and evening cold),  absence of potable water, and the subsequent spread of epidemic disease. The major Yemenite Jewish community in San’a experienced a 90 percent mortality rate from this catastrophic exile—of about 10,000 persons exiled, only about one tenth, i.e., 1,000, survived.

References to the Jews transformation into apes (Koran 2:65 and 7:166), or apes and swine (Koran 5:60)—perhaps the most striking Koranic motifs for the Jews debasement, which have always transcended any mere application to “Sabbath breakers”—have been exploited in polemical incitement against Jews, or odes celebrating their having been disgraced and slaughtered. Here again, the sacralized prototype is clear: right before subduing the Banu Qurayza and orchestrating the mass execution of the adult males from the besieged Medinan Jewish tribe, Muhammad addressed these Jews with hateful disparagement, as “You brothers of monkeys.” Some 3000 to 4000 Jews were massacred in the 1066 Granada pogrom, inspired in part by an anti-Jewish ode containing the line, “Many a pious Muslim is in awe of the vilest infidel ape,” referring to the Jewish communal leader, the vizier Joseph b. Samuel Naghrela. More Jews were killed in this one pogrom than in the Crusaders’ much more infamous ravages through the Rhineland 30 years later. Anti-Jewish riots and massacres by Muslims accompanied the 1291 death of Jewish physician-vizier Sa’d ad-Daula in Baghdad—the plundering and killing of Jews, which extended throughout Iraq (and likely into Persia)—were celebrated in a verse by the Muslim preacher Zaynu’d-Din ‘Ali b. Said, which begins with this debasing reference to the Jews as apes: “His name we praise who rules the firmament./These apish Jews are done away and shent [ruined].” Referring to the Jews as “brothers of apes”, who repeatedly blasphemed the prophet Muhammad, and whose overall conduct reflected their hatred of Muslims, the Moroccan cleric Al-Maghili (d. 1505) fomented, and then personally lead, a Muslim pogrom (in ~ 1490) against the Jews of  the southern Moroccan  oasis of Touat, plundering and killing Jews en masse, and destroying their synagogue in neighboring Tamantit. Each of these massacres was incited and/or celebrated by depictions of Jews as apes in verses by popular clerics—in the case of Touat, the “composer” of such a verse al-Maghili (d. 1505), an important Muslim theologian whose writings influenced Moroccan religious attitudes towards Jews into the 20th century—led the pogrom himself. Maghili also declared in verse, “Love of the Prophet, requires hatred of the Jews.”

Politics & Religion / Religiously Sanctioned Antisemitism, Part I
« on: October 18, 2007, 04:57:05 PM »
This piece contains a lot of formatting and links I'm too lazy to replicate. Link provided at the end of Part III

The First and Last Enemy

-- Jew-Hatred in Islam*

by Dr. Andrew G. Bostom (Oct. 2007)

(* Text of a speech delivered at the “Counterjihad”  conference in Brussels, Belgium, October 18, 2007

Fawaz Damra, the former Imam of the Islamic Center of Cleveland was convicted in 2004 for lying to immigration officials about his links to the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and subsequently deported. Yet Damra was touted as a promoter of  interfaith dialogue even after evidence of his participation in fundraising events for the PIJ, was produced, along with a videotape of the Imam telling a crowd of Muslim supporters in 1991 that they should aim “…a rifle at the first and last enemy of the Islamic nation, and that is the sons of monkeys and pigs, the Jews.”

As I will demonstrate, Imam Damra’s blatant Jew-hatred was fully sanctioned by—indeed he was merely paraphrasing, and quoting directly from—the core religious texts of Islam. And the historical treatment of Jews in Muslim societies has been consistent with this sacralized religious bigotry. Sheer ignorance of such theology and history, combined with craven denial, allowed Damra’s words to go unchallenged for more than a decade. However the Damra affair is pathognomonic of a much larger and more dangerous phenomenon: the complete, often willful failure to examine and understand the living legacy of Islam’s foundational anti-Jewish animus.
Islamic Antisemitism = Islamic Jew-Hatred**
Although Jew-hatred is an uncompromisingly clear term, in both common and scholarly usage, the synonymous “Antisemitism,” (which should never be written with a hyphen!), predominates. Robert Wistrich has emphasized the problematic nature of the term “Antisemitism”, derived from a group of cognate “Semitic” (i.e., stemming from the Biblical Shem, one of Noah’s three sons) languages—Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Ethiopic—and applied, inappropriately, to a pseudo-scientific racial designation by the German journalist Wilhelm Marr, in the 1870s. Regardless, for the past century, as Wistrich notes,
…the illogical term ‘antisemitism’…[w]hich never really meant hatred of ‘Semites’ (for example, Arabs [emphasis added in original]) at all, but rather hatred of Jews, has come to be accepted in general usage as denoting all forms of hostility towards Jews and Judaism throughout history.
But perhaps the strongest evidence that antisemitism was never meant to be directed at Arabs (or Muslims, or any non-Jews) comes from the perpetrators of genocidal antisemitic violence, the Nazis. During a November, 1942 press conference, a Berlin Foreign Ministry spokesman, as reported in the New York Times, took “great pains” to assure Arabs that Nazi antisemitic policies were directed at Jews, exclusively. The spokesman elaborated:
The difference between Germany’s attitude toward Jews and Arabs has been clearly shown in the exchange of letters between the former Prime Minister of Iraq, Rashid Ali, and the German Institute for Racial Problems. We have never said the Arabs were inferior as a race. On the contrary, we have always pointed out the glorious historic past of the Arab people.
Moreover, in the specific context of the Arab Muslim world during the high Middle Ages (circa 950-1250 C.E.), S.D. Goitein’ s seminal analyses of the Geniza documentary record employed the term anti-Semitism,
…in order to differentiate animosity against Jews from the discrimination practiced by Islam against non-Muslims in general. Our scrutiny of the Geniza material has proved the existence of ‘antisemitism’ in the time and the area considered here…
Goitein cites as concrete proof of his assertion that a unique strain of Islamic Jew hatred was extant at this time (i.e., up to a millennium ago)—exploding the common assumption of its absence—the fact that letters from the Cairo Geniza material,
…have a special word for it and, most significantly, one not found in the Bible or in Talmudic literature (nor registered in any Hebrew dictionary), but one much used and obviously coined in the Geniza period. It is sin’?th, “hatred”, a Jew-baiter being called s?n?, “a hater.”
Incidents of such Muslim Jew hatred documented by Goitein in the Geniza come from northern Syria (Salamiyya and al-Mar‘arra), Morocco (Fez), and Egypt (Alexandria), with references to the latter being particularly frequent.

Despite all of the following—clear historical evidence of specific Islamic antisemitism, from the Geniza record of the high Middle Ages (including the coinage of  a unique Hebrew word to characterize such Muslim Jew hatred, i.e., sin’?th), published in full by Goitein as of 1971; important studies of foundational Muslim sources detailing the sacralized rationale for Islam’s anti-Jewish bigotry, including Hartwig Hirschfeld’s mid 1880s essay series on Muhammad’s subjugation of the Jews of Medina; George Vajda’s elegant, comprehensive 1937 analysis focusing primarily on the hadith (the putative words and deeds of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, as recorded by pious transmitters); and much more recently, Haggai Ben-Shammai’s concise 1988 study of key examples of Jew hatred in the Koran and Koranic exegesis—conventional academic (and journalistic) wisdom continues to assert that Muslim Jew hatred is entirely a 20th century phenomenon, a mere by-product of the advent of the Zionist movement and the protracted Arab-Israeli conflict over the lands comprising the original 1922 Mandate for historical Palestine (i.e., modern Israel, Jordan, Judea, Samaria, and Gaza). Such thinking also contends that this strain of Jew hatred is a loose amalgam of re-cycled medieval Christian Judeophobic motifs, calumnies from the Czarist Russia “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and standard Nazi propaganda. A prototypical assessment of this ilk was written by the journalist Lawrence Wright in his widely acclaimed investigative account of the events leading to the cataclysmic acts of jihad terrorism on September 11, 2001.
Until the end of World War II…Jews lived safely –although submissively—under Muslim rule for 1,200 years, enjoying full religious freedom; but in the 1930s, Nazi propaganda on Arabic-language shortwave radio, coupled with slanders by Christian missionaries in the region, infected the area with this ancient Western prejudice [antisemitism].  After the war, Cairo became a sanctuary for Nazis, who advised the military and the government.  The rise of the Islamist movement coincided with the decline of fascism, but they overlapped in Egypt, and the germ passed into a new carrier.
Wright’s statement was not accompanied by documentation—this was the accepted wisdom after all. And in its essence, Wright’s views are entirely consistent with those of the more elaborate prevailing scholarly analyses summarized quite accurately by Esther Webman in 1994:
Antisemitism did not exist in the traditional Islamic world…Antisemitism is, in fact, a relatively new phenomenon in the Arab world, gaining ground particularly since the eruption of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the mid-twentieth century. Nazi-style antisemitic books and publications have been produced openly. For example, there are at least nine different Arabic translations of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, which was translated into Arabic for the first time in the 1920s…The development of European-style antisemitism in the Arab countries is related to three major factors: first penetration during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries of a variety of European ideologies and concepts into the Arab world, among them antisemitism; second, the collapse of traditional political systems and of the loyalties and practices associated with them, giving way to the emergence of nationalistic government structures less tolerant in their treatment of religious, ethnic, and ideological minorities; and third, and most crucial, the development of the conflict over the domination of Palestine, beginning with Jewish resettlement in the late nineteenth century, followed by the establishment of the State of Israel and the ensuing Arab-Israeli conflict…Themes borrowed from European Christendom were adapted by incorporating references in them.
But this very flawed construct ignores primary, uniquely Islamic components of Muslim Jew hatred, both past and present. Indeed, for the Muslim masses, basic Islamic education in the Koran, hadith, and sira (earliest Muslim biographies of Muhammad) may create an immutable superstructure of Jew hatred on to which non-Muslim sources of Jew hatred are easily grafted.

The uncomfortable examination of Islamic doctrines and history is required in order to understand the enduring phenomenon of Muslim Jew hatred, which dates back to the origins of Islam. We can no longer view Muslim Jew hatred as a “borrowed phenomenon,” seen exclusively, or even primarily, through the prism of Nazism and the Holocaust, the tragic legacy of Judeophobic Christian traditions, or “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” from Czarist Russia. For example, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi wrote these words in his 700 page treatise rationalizing Muslim Jew hatred, Banu Isra’il fi al-Koran wa al-Sunna [Jews in the Koran and the Traditions], originally published in the 1970s, and then re-issued in 1986/87:
[The] Koran describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah, corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness…only a minority of the Jews keep their word….[A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims, the bad ones do not. (Koran 3:113)
Tantawi was apparently rewarded for this scholarly effort by being named Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University in 1996, a position he still holds. These are the expressed, “carefully researched” views on Jews held by the nearest Muslim equivalent to a Pope—the head of the most prestigious center of Muslim learning in Sunni Islam, Sunnis representing some 85% of the world’s Muslims. And Sheikh Tantawi has not mollified such hatemongering beliefs since becoming the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar as his statements on the Jews as “enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs”, the legitimacy of homicide bombing of Jews, or “dialogue” with Jews (just below), make clear.
…anyone who avoids meeting with the enemies in order to counter their dubious claims and stick fingers into their eyes, is a coward.  My stance stems from Allah’s book [the Koran], more than one-third of which deals with the Jews… wrote a dissertation dealing with them [the Jews], all their false claims and their punishment by Allah.  I still believe in everything written in that dissertation. [i.e., from above, in Banu Isra’il fi al-Koran wa al-Sunna]
Tantawi’s case illustrates the prevalence and depth of sacralized, “normative” Jew hatred in the contemporary Muslim world. Even if all non-Muslim Judeophobic themes were expunged from the Islamic world, the living legacy of anti-Jewish hatred, and violence rooted in Islam’s sacred texts—Koran, hadith, and sira—would remain intact. The assessment and understanding of Islamic antisemitism must begin with an unapologetic analysis of the anti-Jewish motifs contained in these foundational texts of Islam.
Jew Hatred in Islam’s Sacred Texts: From Theory to Practice**
The essential nature of the Koranic “revelation,” as understood by Muslims, was elaborated in 1891 by Theodore Nöldeke (whose seminal 1860 Geschichte des Qorans remains a vital tool for Koranic research):
To the faith of the Muslims…the Koran is the word of God, and such also is the claim which the book itself advances…
And to this day, for the Muslim masses, as Ibn Warraq notes,
…the Koran remains the infallible word of God, the immediate word of God sent down, through the intermediary of a “spirit” or “holy spirit” or Gabriel, to Muhammad in perfect, pure Arabic; and every thing contained therein is eternal and uncreated. The original text is in heaven…The angel dictated the revelation to the Prophet, who repeated it after him, and then revealed it to the world. Modern Muslims also claim that these revelations have been preserved exactly as revealed to Muhammad, without any change, addition, or loss whatsoever…the Koran remains for all Muslims, and not just “fundamentalists” the uncreated word of God Himself. It is valid for all times and places; its ideals are, according to all Muslims, absolutely true and beyond any criticism. [emphasis added]
Thus, the Jews’ traits as characterized in the Koran are deemed both infallible and timeless. Unfortunately, as a central anti-Jewish motif, the Koran decrees an eternal curse upon the Jews (Koran 2:61/ 3:112) for slaying the prophets and transgressing against the will of Allah. This motif is coupled to Koranic verses 5:60 and 5:78 which describe the Jews transformation into apes and swine (5:60), having been “…cursed by the tongue of David, and Jesus, Mary’s son” (5:78). The related verse, 5:64, accuses the Jews—as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did in a January 2007 speech, citing Koran 5:64—of being “spreaders of war and corruption”, a sort of ancient Koranic antecedent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Politics & Religion / Four Factors
« on: October 17, 2007, 12:25:42 PM »
October 17, 2007, 4:00 a.m.

Listen to the Enemy
The stakes.

By Jack David

The nation vociferously debates Iraq: We have lost the war, Iraq’s government is not doing its part, the surge is working, the surge is not working, we need to cut our losses, we need to stay till the job is done. Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden is telling us that Iraq now is al Qaeda’s main battleground and that the only way forward for the United States is for every American to convert to Islam. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad advises us to solve the problem of our Iraq involvement by turning that nation over to Iran.Debate participants, in proposing their nostrums, pay virtually no heed to either Osama or Mahmoud.

Watch the enemy and listen to him, and four factors emerge as central to any analysis of what is at stake for the U.S. in Iraq:

First, Iran and al Qaeda both want to establish Islamofascist rule in the Middle East and hope to extend it everywhere else.

Second, their leaders have made it clear that control over Iraq is central to their plans.

Third, the Middle East produces the lion’s share of the world’s oil and control over Iraq goes a long way toward controlling all of it.

Fourth, as both al Qaeda and Iran have said over and again, directly and indirectly, nothing less than total victory will cause them to abandon their goals and their methods.

Although these factors indicate that we have no choice in the matter of allowing control of Iraq to fall to Iran or to al Qaeda, they are virtually ignored in the current debate.

The Iranian government’s ambitions for hegemony are evident from its actions. Force and intimidation are the methods it is using to extend its dominion. It already is engaged in an undeclared war with its neighbors, with others in the region and with the West. It uses force indirectly through terrorist proxies: Hezbollah and al Qaeda-linked Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon, Hamas, and Jihad Islami in Gaza and Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias in Iraq. It uses proxies to kill Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan and to kill adversaries elsewhere. It is conserving its own forces for later in the fight. It is developing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles that already can reach Europe and soon will be able to reach North America. It beats, tortures, and murders its own people for engaging in conduct that is ordinary in the West.

Al Qaeda also has told us repeatedly that its goal is to reestablish the caliphate. Osama tells us to convert. Al Qaeda differs from Iran in that it doesn’t have a secure geographic and population base and in that it wants to create a homogenized Sunni caliphate while Iran seeks a Shiia-led Islamist empire. Al Qaeda uses terrorism directly, has sought WMD and already has initiated attacks in the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Indonesia and elsewhere. Plainly, if it gains control of Iraq, that country will become a secure base for launching terror operations around the world.

The ambitions of al Qaeda and Iran and the means they use to pursue them are an existing threat to the United States and its allies. Since al Qaeda and Iran are at war with us and make it clear that nothing less than the victory they seek will satisfy them, we have no choice but to oppose them, to do what we can to diminish the chance that either will succeed and to reduce the ultimate cost to us of whatever we need to do to assure that they are not victorious. The questions of whether the U.S. should stay in Iraq and what its goals there should be ought to be discussed in this context.

So why is control of Iraq important to al Qaeda and to Iran? Control of Iraq would go a long way toward giving al Qaeda or Iran control over most of the world’s supply of oil, not only because of Iraq’s own reserves, but also because it would provide al Qaeda or Iran with overland access to both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The threat of further aggression would be a powerful weapon and control of the oil would be yet another weapon to use in advancing their goals. The results would be catastrophic. Terrible personal suffering for countless millions, and even war would result.

We cannot wish away the wars al Qaeda and Iran are waging against us. Preventing Iran and al Qaeda from gaining control of Iraq is a vital U.S. interest and a central near-term objective in those wars. Those who think otherwise have not listened to the enemy.

— Jack David, a member of the Committee on the Present Danger, served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for combating weapons of mass destruction and negotiations policy from 2004 to 2006.

National Review Online -

Politics & Religion / Death as a Positive Feedback Mechanism
« on: October 13, 2007, 03:20:00 PM »
The NHS wins when its patients die

By Charles Moore
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 13/10/2007

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Florence Nightingale's famous Notes on Nursing, published in 1859, state that "the greater part of nursing consists in cleanliness". In my edition, the foreword points out that much of Miss Nightingale's writing, excellent though it is, is now out of date. In particular, the need for cleanliness is well understood. That foreword was written in 1946.

Now it is 2007, and we learn that nurses in the hospitals run by the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust told patients suffering from diarrhoea to "go in their beds". Between 2004 and 2006, 90 patients treated in those hospitals died from Clostridium difficile, and the disease was a factor in the death of a further 241.

Were it not for bad nursing, bad medical attention and bad administration, none of these patients need have died. Indeed, they would not have contracted C. difficile at all unless they had gone into hospital. So, after 150 years' advance of education, technology, prosperity and science, we have lost what Florence Nightingale taught.

It was the distressing subject of diarrhoea, indeed, that provoked Miss Nightingale to one of her most trenchant footnotes. She gave the example of how, if a bedpan with a lid were changed only once a day ("As well might you have a sewer under the room"), by a maid rather than a nurse, the problem might go undetected. he bedpan must be changed frequently, inspected, and all of it, including its lid, properly cleaned.

I notice that the Healthcare Commission's report on Maidstone says that stool charts, i.e. recorded inspections of the diarrhoea, were made in fewer than 15 per cent of cases.

Florence Nightingale adds: "If a nurse declines to do these kinds of things for her patient, 'because it is not her business', I should say that nursing is not her calling." It is a "waste of power", she says, for nurses to do things such as scouring floors, but if it needs doing, they must do it: "the true nurse-calling" puts "the good of their sick first, and second only the consideration what is their 'place'?".

The testimony of the families from the Maidstone area is that their relations who died were often humiliated, left in filth, and ignored. The weakest — the old — were treated the worst. It was a failure of systems, yes, but also of individual professionals and of common humanity.

Every year, as a journalist, I go to party conferences and hear politicians of all parties make speeches about how wonderful the National Health Service is. Gordon Brown got all weepy this year about how it saved one of his eyes.

Last year, David Cameron said that where Tony Blair had spoken of three words — "Education, education, education" — he would emphasise three letters — "N-H-S".

The point our leaders are constantly making is not medical, but moral. It is that the NHS embodies organised altruism. It proves that we, as a nation, care for one another. It makes us "the envy of the world", and it makes us good.

One naturally wants to agree. We all like to think that matters of life and death are well looked after. And most of us will have direct experience of NHS nurses and doctors who have treated us with great kindness, care and skill.

Nevertheless, the basic proposition is not true. The National Health Service is not, morally, or in any other way, the best system of healthcare in the world. Indeed, it is morally defective at its very root, because it does not — cannot — put the sick first. Until this is recognised, it cannot be reformed.

The NHS is, with our state school system, the last major survival in this country of the idea of the 1940s that government can decide what is best for us and make sure that it is done. Aneurin Bevan, who invented the thing, once said that not a bed-pan (that object again) should fall to the ground without the minister knowing about it.

A colleague of mine, who investigated alternative healthcare systems when the extreme dirtiness of many British hospitals first became an issue, went to France to compare. In hospital after hospital, he found floors so clean that you could have eaten your lunch off them. Did the Health Minister order them to clean them, he asked an administrator.

He was met with a look of incredulity. "Of course not. We run ourselves. Patients have a choice of hospital. If they do not choose us, we get no money. No hospital can survive if it is not clean."

Two weeks ago in Bournemouth, Gordon Brown was on to the subject of C. difficile, babbling about ordering "deep clean" and more than doubling the number of hospital matrons to 5,000.

"Bring back matron" has become a party conference cry, like "Bring back the rope" used to be. But matron will be only a name so long as Mr Brown (or whoever is Prime Minister) ultimately decides who should have what where.

We all know that a Minister for Industry could not possibly decide how many computers we produce or how many investment banks we should have. We all know that a Minister for Food could not wisely decree what vegetables should be sold in which shops.

But we cling to the idea that a single organisation employing 1.4 million people, with the GDP of an entire Scandinavian country, run by politicians, can meet our health needs.

Suppose Sainsbury's cold meat counter was found to have helped kill more than 300 people, would the company survive? Yet the NHS sails on, dealing death. According to a report four years ago by Professor Karol Sikora, we could save 10,000 deaths a year from cancer, just by hitting the European average; but we don't, and nobody takes the blame.

The boyfriend of the chief executive of the death-dealing Maidstone trust tells the press: "No way is she going to talk to you. Why should she?" The trust has arranged her severance pay of £250,000.

We all complain about the "target culture" that made administrators in Maidstone ignore actual human suffering before their eyes. But if you have a top-down system of healthcare, targets are the inevitable response to whatever is the latest disaster.

In this case, one of the targets was to cut waiting times in Accident and Emergency to four hours (four hours! You wouldn't put up with that to buy a cinema ticket, yet we have been brainwashed into thinking that it's not too bad for your child with a broken arm). In this world without choice, each claim of need jostles against another: either faster A&E, or cleaner bed-pans, but not both.

This is all, morally, wrong. It turns the patient from being the entity for which the service exists into a nuisance. Each new patient is just an added cost and each dead patient is an administrative convenience.

Under systems of social insurance, such as exist in Germany, Belgium or France, many problems remain, but this most basic one disappears. Money goes with each patient, who can choose who treats him. Therefore every doctor, hospital and nurse wants patients.

Our system also turns the nurse and doctor away from their duty, and therefore attacks their moral sense. It tells them to ignore "the habit of observation", which, said Florence Nightingale, was the key skill of nursing, in favour of through-put or targets or — for human nature reasserts its worse side when badly led — sneaking off home exhausted and disillusioned.

The NHS is run from top to bottom, and therefore, from top to bottom, it is bad.;jsessionid=5BRUDBCNSKWZ5QFIQMGCFFOAVCBQUIV0?xml=/opinion/2007/10/13/do1302.xml

Politics & Religion / Bumbling Bedfellows
« on: October 13, 2007, 09:19:30 AM »

Guevara: Iranians silence Che's daughter.

October 12, 2007 -- ANXIOUS to create what they call "a global progressive front," Presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela are sponsoring projects to underline "the ideological kinship of the left and revolutionary Islam."

The theme - hammered in by Ahmadinejad during his recent visit to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia - inspired a four-day seminar organized by his supporters at Tehran University last week (partly financed by Chavez).

The hope was that the conference would produce a synthesis of Marxist and Khomeinist ideologies and highlight what the Iranian leader has labeled "the divine aspect of revolutionary war." But the event itself proved rather embarrassing.

The conference title was "Che Like Chamran," a play on words designed to emphasize "the common goals" of Marxism and Islamism. It honored Mostafa Chamran on the 26th anniversary of his death, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of the death of the Cuban-Argentine guerrilla icon Che Guevara.

Chamran was a Khomeinist militant of Iranian origin who became a U.S. citizen in the '60s before traveling to Lebanon, where he founded the Amal guerrilla group. He entered Iran in 1979 and helped the mullahs seize power. Appointed defense minister by Khomeini in '81, he died in a car crash a few months later.

The conference had three guests of honor: Mahdi Chamran, a brother of Mostafa and an Ahmadinejad associate, and Che's daughter Aleida and son Camilo.

Aleida, a pediatrician who lives in Havana, wore the mandatory Khomeinist hijab, while her brother had grown designer stubble to please the hosts. Also attending were an array of aging European and Latin American "Guevaristas" and Lebanese Hezbollah cadres.

At first, the conference was all clear sailing as participants agreed that the sole source of world evil was America and its "earth-devouring ambitions."

The Khomeinists were pleased to hear their European and Latin American guests denounce "America's criminal plans to attack the Islamic revolution," and insist that Iran had every right to develop its nuclear capabilities. The aging Guevaristas were equally pleased as their hosts praised the dead T-shirt poster boy as "a fighter for universal justice."

Mahdi Chamran claimed that Ahmadinejad, Chavez and "the leaders of the revolution in Nicaragua and Bolivia" belong to the same family of "strugglers for universal justice." Another Khomeinist speaker, Mortaza Firuzabadi, invited all anti-American forces to accept the leadership of Ahmadinejad's revolutionary regime. "Our aim is to free the downtrodden humanity and restore the violated rights of all nations," he said. "In this global jihad, we recognize no frontiers."

Things went pear-shape thanks to one keynote speakers, Hajj Saeed Qassemi, whose title is "coordinator of the Association of Volunteers for Suicide-Martyrdom." Praising the late "Che" as "a true revolutionary who made the American Great Satan tremble," he "revealed" that Guevara had been "a truly religious man who believed in God and hated communism and the Soviet Union."

"Today, communism has been consigned to the garbage can of history as foreseen by Imam Khomeini," Qassemi said. "Thus progressists everywhere must accept the leadership of our religious, pro-justice movement."

Demanding the right to respond, Aleida Guevara told the conference that Qassemi's claim might be based on a bad translation: "My father never mentioned God," she said as the hall sighed in chagrined disbelief. "He never met God."

The remarks caused a commotion amid which Aleida and her brother were whisked away, led into a car and driven to their hotel under escort.
Qassemi returned to the podium to unleash an unscripted attack on "godless communists." He called on "the left in Latin America and elsewhere" to clarify its position. He claimed that Guevara and his "Supreme Guide Fidel Castro" had decided to hide their religious beliefs in order to secure Soviet support."

"Both were men of God and never believed in socialism or communism," he asserted. "The Soviet Union is gone," he emphasized. "The leadership of the downtrodden has passed to our Islamic Republic. Those who wish to destroy America must understand the reality and not be clever with words."

A few hours after the incident, the Guevara siblings attended another meeting, this time organized at Amir-Kabir University by a group called the Mobilization of the Downtrodden Militia. Camilo Guevara confirmed his sister's earlier remarks but insisted that "progressists everywhere" focus on fighting America rather than probing each other's personal beliefs.
By the end of the day, the two Guevaras had become nonpersons. The state-controlled media, which had given them VIP billing, suddenly forgot their existence. The anniversary of Guevara's death was mentioned in passing with no reference to his Marxism.

The Islamic Republic bans all non-Khomeinist ideologies, but two are specifically punishable by imprisonment or death: socialism and liberal democracy.
The two Guevaras, who left the Islamic Republic in some haste, managed to anger some Iranian progressists. The siblings refused to mention the mass arrest of workers' leaders throughout Iran in the last few months or condemn the current wave of repression against trade unions, women's organizations, teachers and farm workers.
"These people don't give a damn about the toiling masses," says Parviz Jamshidi, a lawyer for imprisoned trade unionists. "To them workers represent nothing but an abstraction, an excuse for appearing left and chic. They don't see that the Khomeinist regime is at war against the poorest sections of our society."

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Climate Audit Rocks!
« on: October 13, 2007, 07:58:18 AM »
As someone who works with a band of sometimes guerrilla, often self-taught cave scientists, Steve McIntyre and his Climate Audit project strikes many notes that resonate with me. Funded by PayPal contributions and doubtless tangetial associations with Big Oil we'll hear about soon, Steve goes out and conducts straighforward experiments meant to audit the findings of the far better funded climate apocalypse crowd. His finding are often eye-opening and always amusing.

In this instance Steve goes out and resamples tree core samples that, gosh darn it, were too expensive and to hard too get to for the folks getting the big grants these days. Despite the tree's distance from Starbucks, Steve somehow managed to obtain samples anyway. It will be interesting to track his findings.

A Little Secret

By Steve McIntyre

Don’t you think that someone on the Team might have been a little curious as to what bristlecone ring widths have done during the past 25 years? For this, we have the classic excuse of Michael Mann and the Team for not updating bristlecone and proxy records is that it’s not practical within the limited climate budgets:

While paleoclimatologists are attempting to update many important proxy records to the present, this is a costly, and labor-intensive activity, often requiring expensive field campaigns that involve traveling with heavy equipment to difficult-to-reach locations (such as high-elevation or remote polar sites). For historical reasons, many of the important records were obtained in the 1970s and 1980s and have yet to be updated.

From the first moment that I got involved with paleoclimate, it seemed obvious to me (as it is to anyone not on the Team) that, if the classic “proxies” are any good and not merely opportunistic correlations, that there is an ideal opportunity to perform out-of-sample testing of the canonical Team reconstructions by bringing the proxies up-to-date. I wrote an Op Ed in February 2005 for the National Post entitled “Bring the Proxies Up to Date”, where I expressed the view that this was really the first order of business in Team world. While the addition of new proxies is also important and nice, this is not the same thing as out-of-sample testing of the proxies used in MBH99, Crowley and Lowery etc - especially the bristlecones.

I’ve continued to satirize this failure pointing out that several of Graybill’s classic bristlecone sites were easily accessible from UCAR world headquarters in Boulder and that no heroic expedition was required to update, for example, the Graybill sites to the west of Colorado Springs.

To get to these sites from UCAR headquarters in Boulder, a scientist would not merely have to go 15 miles SW of Colorado Springs and go at least several miles along a road where they would have to be on guard for hikers and beware of scenic views, they would, in addition, have to go all the way from Boulder to Colorado Springs. While lattes would doubtless be available to UCAR scientists in Colorado Springs, special arrangements would be required for latte service at Frosty Park, though perhaps a local outfitting company would be equal to the challenge. Clearly updating these proxies is only for the brave of heart and would require a massive expansion of present paleoclimate budgets. No wonder paleoclimate scientists have been unable to update these records since Graybill’s heroic expedition in 1983.

Pete Holzman (Mr Pete), who lives in Colorado Springs, agreed with this satire and this led to what I’ll call the Starbucks Hypothesis: could a climate scientist have a Starbucks in the morning, collect tree rings through the day and still be home for dinner?

To make a long story short, last summer, when my wife and I visited my sister in Colorado Springs and I thought that it would be rather fun to test the Starbucks Hypothesis and I gave a bit of a teaser report in late July, promising some further reports in a few weeks, but I got distracted by the Hansen stuff. At the time, I mentioned that, together with CA reader Pete Holzmann and his wife Leslie, we visited some bristlecones in the Mt Almagre area west of Colorado Springs.

But I have a little secret which I’ll share with you as long as you promise not to tell anyone: our objective was to locate the precise site sampled by Graybill. Not just that. Prior to the trip, I obtained a permit from the U.S. Forest Service to take dendrochronological samples from bristlecones on Mount Almagre and we did more than look at pretty views; we obtained up-to-date bristlecone samples. I only went up Almagre on the first day. Our permit lasted a month and Pete and Leslie spent two more days on Almagre, finally locating and sampling tagged Graybill trees on the third day.

Altogether (and primarily through the efforts of Pete and Leslie), our project collected 64 cores from 45 different trees at 5 different locations on Mount Almagre. 17 Graybill trees were identified, of which 9 were re-sampled. All the cores are currently at a dendrochronological laboratory, where sample preparation and scanning steps have been completed. Cross-dating is now taking place. For the most part, we tried to sample non-stripbark trees in keeping with NRC recommendations, but some stripbarks were sampled to reconcile with Graybill. Of the tagged Graybill trees, assuming that the identifications match correspond to the ones at WDCP, only 6 of the 17 tagged Graybill trees were included in the measurement data archive; and only 2 of the 9 re-sampled trees have matching IDs. Why is this? I have no idea.

We will archive at WDCP detailed information on the location of all samples (current spreadsheet is here) , which has already been sent to the U.S. Forest Service. Photographs of each tree are shown gallery here. Here’s a fun presentation that Pete prepared of our Day 1 itinerary. Here is a Google Earth tour. If you run it and when Google Earth comes up, go to Tools — Play Tour , you’ll have some fun.

Some expenses have been incurred for this expedition. Leaving aside travel expenses (which were vacation expenses that I was going to incur anyway), the jeep got a bad scratch on the first day and cost about $500 to repair; it’s going to cost a few thousand at the dendrochronology laboratory for the sample prep, scanning and cross-dating as this has been done on a contract basis. I’ve submitted an abstract to Rob Wilson’s divergence session at AGU and would like to present these results (and to cover Pete’s expenses if he can come). This has been a Climate Audit project so I’d like readers who contribute to the top jar to think about a special contribution for the bristlecone sampling. Maybe Martin Juckes, James Hansen and Michael Mann will contribute as well - I’m sure that they are all anxious for the results.

I’ll add some more information later in the day. Right now I’m off to visit the dendro lab and see how things are coming along. In 2002, Malcolm Hughes sampled bristlecones at Sheep Mountain and nothing has been reported or archived from this study. In 2003, Lonnie Thompson sampled ice cores at Bona-Churchill and we’ve heard nothing about it. One might guess that 20th century dO18 levels were not high as, at the nearby site of Mount Logan, 20th century dO18 levels were lower than earlier levels, attributed to regional changes in circulation rather than temperature.

I’ve obviously been very critical of what appears to be opportunistic reporting of results. With my experience in mining speculations, I fully understand how much temptation that there is to delay reporting of “bad” results in the hope that later drill holes in the program will salvage things. But you don’t have any choice in the matter - you’re obliged to report the results. Plus investors are smart enough to now that delayed results are virtually never good results.

Right now I have no idea what the sampling will show - maybe it will show a tremendous response by the bristlecones in the past 20 years - perhaps due to CO2, nitrate or phosphate fertilization, perhaps due to temperature increases. Maybe they won’t go up and we’ll hear more about the divergence problem. I don’t expect these particular measurements to settle anything. But jeez, doncha think that someone would have tried to find out?

Anyway I promise one thing: the measurements are going to be made public as soon as I get them. Just like a mining project. No waiting for 5 or 10 or 25 years like certain people. No losing the data like other people. Whatever they show. As soon as I get the cross-dated measurement data, we will immediately send it to the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology (which I expect to take place within a few weeks.) I hope that this will set an example to the trade as to the type of turn-time which is practical.

I’m visiting the dendro lab today to say hello and I wanted this to be on the record before my visit. I’m not sure how far along they are, but I think that they’ve finished sample prep and scanning and have started cross-dating. I don’t expect any results, but they may be far along enough so that I’ll have an impression of what the result growth will have been. So I wanted to be on the record on the planned schedule prior to my knowing anything about the results, just in case I get an impression today of what the recent growth has been.

UPDATE 2 pm. OK, I’m back from the dendro lab in Guelph. They are further along than I expected. The longest core is 883 years (Tree 30A). This had a Graybill tag 84-55, but if you go to the archived measurement data
and look for ALM55 (which would presumably be the match), there are no corresponding measurements; there is obviously a sequence ALM01, ….; there is an ALM53 and an ALM60. Is there an alter ego somewhere or is it missing? Right now we don’t know.

After sanding the core is scanned. The measurement of ring widths is semi-automatic. For these bristlecones, earlywood and latewood was easy to distinguish. Using a magnified version of the scan, each ring is picked out (with the computer recording the pick). The computer then yields back the measurements. I’ve posted up a couple of print-screens showing the most recent widths for 30A and the widths in the mid-19th century.

Below is a print screen showing the 30A ring widths from 1124 to 2007. I’ll post up a re-plot at some point with a legible x-axis. For orientation in the absence of a scale, the upspike on the left is 1174; there are low values from 1353 through the early 1400s; there is a 1690 spike; 1865 and 1880 are upspikes; 1941 is a small upspike.

According to the Team hypothesis of a positive linear relationship between temperature and ring widths, the warm 1990s and 2000s should have yielded the widest ring widths in history. What do you think? This is only one tree, but my quick impression was that recent growth was not elevated. So this looks like a Divergence “Problem”. If CO2 or other fertilization has been a factor, then I hate to think what the growth would have been without the fertilization. Remember the NAS panel saying that the Divergence Problem only affected high-latitude sites? Maybe they should have done some testing before they opined on this.

BTW while I’m critical of how the Team uses dendro information, I think that it is well worth supporting the collection of dendro information, even if it’s meaning is not clear right now. It has the advantage of being well-dated - and when you see the problems with dating ocean sediments, it’s nice to have some records that are well dated. There’s a role for it; so please - no posts dumping on dendrochronology. The dendrochronologists who’ve been doing this work (and who I will credit in due course) are excellent people.

Science, Culture, & Humanities / The UK's Medical Monopoly
« on: October 12, 2007, 11:35:30 AM »
October 11, 2007
The madness of feeding this ravenous NHS
Camilla Cavendish
Whatever you made of the Chancellor’s various sleights of hand on Tuesday, lurking beneath his Budget plans was one inescapable fact. The hungry maw of the NHS is swallowing more and more resources, at the expense of virtually everything else. The defence budget is at its lowest since 1930, despite our dwindling troops being dotted across three continents. Prison overcrowding is at such record levels that Jack Straw will have to release even more inmates early in a few weeks’ time. But the health service marches relentlessly on, having hoovered up two thirds of the increase in public spending in the past five years.

Even “enterprise” – once one of Mr Brown’s favourite words – has been tapped. This week’s new taxes on small business seemed unwise, given the fragility of the economy. They were also wholly avoidable, had the NHS been awarded the 3 to 3.5 per cent spending settlement that was expected. But a 4 per cent annual rise for the NHS, raising its budget from £90 billion to almost £110 billion by 2010, seemed to have become a political imperative.

Why? Well, 4 per cent is a nice round number. It is also more than half the 7 per cent annual increases that the service has got used to. But it is also simply very hard to row back once you’ve built an expanded State. This applies to all public services – which is why I wonder whether Messrs Darling and Brown will actually meet their lower spending targets – but it is particularly acute in health.

The NHS is Britain’s last big state monopoly. It is the largest employer in the developed world. Its 1.4 million staff outnumber the private and public healthcare workforce of Germany, a country with 25 per cent more people and better health outcomes. Its powerful unions view any slowdown in spending growth as a “cut”. And cut is a deadly word in political terms. The Government had its chance, when it was flush with cash, to demand reform as a quid pro quo for more money. But it did not go far enough.

£1bn extra to go on more GP care
Leaner times provide a healthy shock to the system
Sticking Plaster
NHS may be sick, but this won’t cure it
In the 1990s it was possible to argue that the NHS was starved of cash. But not any more. Britain is now spending at about the European average, but lags behind too many other European countries in terms of results. Far too many cancer patients, babies and stroke victims are still dying needlessly. Far too many patients, particularly the elderly, are treated with a callousness bordering on brutality. Almost everyone I know who has had a baby recently has been told by the nurses to bring their own Jif, and not to set foot in an NHS shower without scrubbing it. World-class that isn’t.

Sir Derek Wanless, Gordon Brown’s former health guru, reported last month that almost half of the extra £45 billion that has been spent in the past five years has gone on pay and price inflation. The NHS generates its own inflation as though it were a country in its own right. But the slowdown in government spending is not, sadly, due to a realisation that there are diminishing returns to spending in a monolithic health service. It is merely the Government running low on cash.

The real issues are repeatedly obscured by homilies about the NHS being the envy of the world. The latest to fall into this trap is Lord Darzi of Denham, the eminent surgeon who is supposed to be reviewing the structure of the NHS. Thank heavens he is still practising on Thursdays and Fridays. For his interim report last week was little more than an advert for the Government’s two populist priorities: extending GP opening hours and tackling MRSA. Until then, the greatest worry about the Darzi review had been that it might delay progress towards much needed reforms. No one had dreamt that he would be coopted into a propaganda exercise. We do not need a top surgeon to tell us to wash our hands. Nor to invent another centralised “Innovation Council” to champion change, a snip at £100 million. The NHS badly needs more innovation. But you cannot impose it. You can only nurture it, by liberating doctors and by introducing competition.

If this simple fact is not obvious to ministers by now, then all is lost. For the limited moves that the last Blair administration made to introduce competition have paid off handsomely. Letting independent providers carry out some procedures has slashed waiting lists for hip replacements, cataracts and heart operations, and has raised the standard for what can be achieved. Payment by results and the NHS tariff have helped to make costs more transparent and to give a wake-up call to poor performers. Giving the best hospitals more freedom as foundation trusts, under a savvy regulator, has injected a new sense of financial rigour.

Yet ministers have always been embarrassed to claim credit for these achievements, which are loathed by the unions. They are in the strange position of presiding over some brave reforms while having to bloviate about minor issues: free health checks (didn’t we used to get those at the doctor?) and expanded GP opening hours (which was the norm, until ministers decided to pay them more to do less).

Ministers are too easily persuaded that the battle is between public and private provision. They are ashamed to endorse the private. But the real battle is between those who want to protect their monopolies – including many private hospitals – and those who want competition. Many NHS insiders who believe most fervently in the service are those who are fighting for competition. But they are still an endangered species. It is of no help to them when ministers send ambivalent signals.

No one is quite sure yet how committed the new Prime Minister is to market-based reforms. The opposition parties will not ask him. Labour’s largesse has boxed them into a corner. Neither Conservatives nor Liberals dare to make the case for proper reform.

That is the real price of having built a bloated State. No one dares speak the truth, because there are so many vested interests to offend. But the writing is on the wall: a tax-funded free healthcare system is looking ever less sustainable. Politicians always fear the “popularity” of our health service. But that popularity will wane if the NHS comes to be seen as the enemy of every other public service.

— Camilla Cavendish will be speaking on child protection at the Battle of Ideas on Saturday, October 27. More details at

Politics & Religion / Mark Daily, RIP, Part II
« on: October 11, 2007, 07:10:24 PM »
In his other e-mails and letters home, which the Daily family very kindly showed me, he asked for extra "care packages" to share with local Iraqis, and said, "I'm not sure if Irvine has a sister-city, but I am going to personally contact the mayor and ask him to extend his hand to Dahok, which has been more than hospitable to this native-son." (I was wrenched yet again to discover that he had got this touching idea from an old article of mine, which had made a proposal for city-twinning that went nowhere.) In the last analysis, it was quite clear, Mark had made up his mind that the United States was a force for good in the world, and that it had a duty to the freedom of others. A video clip of which he was very proud has him being "crowned" by a circle of smiling Iraqi officers. I have a photograph of him, standing bareheaded and contentedly smoking a cigar, on a rooftop in Mosul. He doesn't look like an occupier at all. He looks like a staunch friend and defender. On the photograph is written "We carry a new world in our hearts."

In his last handwritten letter home, posted on the last day of 2006, Mark modestly told his father that he'd been chosen to lead a combat platoon after a grenade attack had killed one of its soldiers and left its leader too shaken to carry on. He had apparently sounded steady enough on the radio on earlier missions for him to be given a leadership position after only a short time "in country." As he put it: "I am now happily doing what I was trained to do, and am fulfilling an obligation that has swelled inside me for years. I am deep in my element … and I am euphoric." He had no doubts at all about the value of his mission, and was the sort of natural soldier who makes the difference in any war.
At the first chance I got, I invited his family for lunch in California. We ended up spending the entire day together. As soon as they arrived, I knew I had been wrong to be so nervous. They looked too good to be true: like a poster for the American way. John Daily is an aerospace project manager, and his wife, Linda, is an audiologist. Their older daughter, Christine, eagerly awaiting her wedding, is a high-school biology teacher, and the younger sister, Nicole, is in high school. Their son Eric is a bright junior at Berkeley with a very winning and ironic grin. And there was Mark's widow, an agonizingly beautiful girl named Snejana ("Janet") Hristova, the daughter of political refugees from Bulgaria. Her first name can mean "snowflake," and this was his name for her in the letters of fierce tenderness that he sent her from Iraq. These, with your permission, I will not share, except this:

One thing I have learned about myself since I've been out here is that everything I professed to you about what I want for the world and what I am willing to do to achieve it was true. …
My desire to "save the world" is really just an extension of trying to make a world fit for you.
If that is all she has left, I hope you will agree that it isn't nothing.

I had already guessed that this was no gung-ho Orange County Republican clan. It was pretty clear that they could have done without the war, and would have been happier if their son had not gone anywhere near Iraq. (Mr. Daily told me that as a young man he had wondered about going to Canada if the Vietnam draft ever caught up with him.) But they had been amazed by the warmth of their neighbors' response, and by the solidarity of his former brothers-in-arms—1,600 people had turned out for Mark's memorial service in Irvine. A sergeant's wife had written a letter to Linda and posted it on Janet's MySpace site on Mother's Day, to tell her that her husband had been in the vehicle with which Mark had insisted on changing places. She had seven children who would have lost their father if it had gone the other way, and she felt both awfully guilty and humbly grateful that her husband had been spared by Mark's heroism. Imagine yourself in that position, if you can, and you will perhaps get a hint of the world in which the Dailys now live: a world that alternates very sharply and steeply between grief and pride.

On a drive to Fort Knox, Kentucky, and again shortly before shipping out from Fort Bliss, Texas, Mark had told his father that he had three wishes in the event of his death. He wanted bagpipes played at the service, and an Irish wake to follow it. And he wanted to be cremated, with the ashes strewn on the beach at Neskowin, Oregon, the setting for his happiest memories of boyhood vacations. The first two of these conditions had already been fulfilled. The Dailys rather overwhelmed me by asking if I would join them for the third one. So it was that in August I found myself on the dunes by an especially lovely and remote stretch of the Oregon coastline. The extended family was there, including both sets of grandparents, plus some college friends of Mark's and his best comrade from the army, an impressive South Dakotan named Matt Gross. As the sun began to sink on a day that had been devoted to reminiscence and moderate drinking, we took up the tattered Stars and Stripes that had flown outside the family home since Mark's deployment and walked to his favorite spot to plant it. Everyone was supposed to say something, but when John Daily took the first scoop from the urn and spread the ashes on the breeze, there was something so unutterably final in the gesture that tears seemed as natural as breathing and I wasn't at all sure that I could go through with it. My idea had been to quote from the last scene of Macbeth, which is the only passage I know that can hope to rise to such an occasion. The tyrant and usurper has been killed, but Ross has to tell old Siward that his boy has perished in the struggle:

Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier's debt;
He only lived but till he was a man;
The which no sooner had his prowess confirm'd
In the unshrinking station where he fought,
But like a man he died.
This being Shakespeare, the truly emotional and understated moment follows a beat or two later, when Ross adds:
Your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end.

I became a trifle choked up after that, but everybody else also managed to speak, often reading poems of their own composition, and as the day ebbed in a blaze of glory over the ocean, I thought, Well, here we are to perform the last honors for a warrior and hero, and there are no hysterical ululations, no shrieks for revenge, no insults hurled at the enemy, no firing into the air or bogus hysterics. Instead, an honest, brave, modest family is doing its private best. I hope no fanatical fool could ever mistake this for weakness. It is, instead, a very particular kind of strength. If America can spontaneously produce young men like Mark, and occasions like this one, it has a real homeland security instead of a bureaucratic one. To borrow some words of George Orwell's when he first saw revolutionary Barcelona, "I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for."
I mention Orwell for a reason, because Mark Daily wasn't yet finished with sending me messages from beyond the grave. He took a pile of books with him to Iraq, which included Thomas Paine's The Crisis; War and Peace; Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (well, nobody's perfect); Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time; John McCain's Why Courage Matters; and George Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984. And a family friend of the Dailys', noticing my own book on Orwell on their shelf, had told them that his own father, Harry David Milton, was "the American" mentioned in Homage to Catalonia, who had rushed to Orwell's side after he had been shot in the throat by a Fascist sniper. This seemed to verge on the eerie. Orwell thought that the Spanish Civil War was a just war, but he also came to understand that it was a dirty war, where a decent cause was hijacked by goons and thugs, and where betrayal and squalor negated the courage and sacrifice of those who fought on principle. As one who used to advocate strongly for the liberation of Iraq (perhaps more strongly than I knew), I have grown coarsened and sickened by the degeneration of the struggle: by the sordid news of corruption and brutality (Mark Daily told his father how dismayed he was by the failure of leadership at Abu Ghraib) and by the paltry politicians in Washington and Baghdad who squabble for precedence while lifeblood is spent and spilled by young people whose boots they are not fit to clean. It upsets and angers me more than I can safely say, when I reread Mark's letters and poems and see that—as of course he would—he was magically able to find the noble element in all this, and take more comfort and inspiration from a few plain sentences uttered by a Kurdish man than from all the vapid speeches ever given. Orwell had the same experience when encountering a young volunteer in Barcelona, and realizing with a mixture of sadness and shock that for this kid all the tired old slogans about liberty and justice were actually real. He cursed his own cynicism and disillusionment when he wrote:

For the fly-blown words that make me spew
Still in his ears were holy,
And he was born knowing what I had learned
Out of books and slowly.

However, after a few more verses about the lying and cruelty and stupidity that accompany war, he was still able to do justice to the young man:

But the thing I saw in your face
No power can disinherit:
No bomb that ever burst
Shatters the crystal spirit.

May it be so, then, and may death be not proud to have taken Mark Daily, whom I never knew but whom you now know, and—I hope—miss.
Christopher Hitchens is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.

Politics & Religion / Mark Daily, RIP, Part I
« on: October 11, 2007, 07:09:47 PM »
A Death in the Family

Having volunteered for Iraq, Mark Daily was killed in January by an I.E.D. Dismayed to learn that his pro-war articles helped persuade Daily to enlist, the author measures his words against a family's grief and a young man's sacrifice.

by Christopher Hitchens November 2007

I was having an oppressively normal morning a few months ago, flicking through the banality of quotidian e-mail traffic, when I idly clicked on a message from a friend headed "Seen This?" The attached item turned out to be a very well-written story by Teresa Watanabe of the Los Angeles Times. It described the death, in Mosul, Iraq, of a young soldier from Irvine, California, named Mark Jennings Daily, and the unusual degree of emotion that his community was undergoing as a consequence. The emotion derived from a very moving statement that the boy had left behind, stating his reasons for having become a volunteer and bravely facing the prospect that his words might have to be read posthumously. In a way, the story was almost too perfect: this handsome lad had been born on the Fourth of July, was a registered Democrat and self-described agnostic, a U.C.L.A. honors graduate, and during his college days had fairly decided reservations about the war in Iraq. I read on, and actually printed the story out, and was turning a page when I saw the following:

"Somewhere along the way, he changed his mind. His family says there was no epiphany. Writings by author and columnist Christopher Hitchens on the moral case for war deeply influenced him … "

I don't exaggerate by much when I say that I froze. I certainly felt a very deep pang of cold dismay. I had just returned from a visit to Iraq with my own son (who is 23, as was young Mr. Daily) and had found myself in a deeply pessimistic frame of mind about the war. Was it possible that I had helped persuade someone I had never met to place himself in the path of an I.E.D.? Over-dramatizing myself a bit in the angst of the moment, I found I was thinking of William Butler Yeats, who was chilled to discover that the Irish rebels of 1916 had gone to their deaths quoting his play Cathleen ni Houlihan. He tried to cope with the disturbing idea in his poem "Man and the Echo":

Did that play of mine send out
Certain men the English shot? …
Could my spoken words have checked
That whereby a house lay wrecked?

Abruptly dismissing any comparison between myself and one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, I feverishly clicked on all the links from the article and found myself on Lieutenant Daily's MySpace site, where his statement "Why I Joined" was posted. The site also immediately kicked into a skirling noise of Irish revolutionary pugnacity: a song from the Dropkick Murphys album Warrior's Code. And there, at the top of the page, was a link to a passage from one of my articles, in which I poured scorn on those who were neutral about the battle for Iraq … I don't remember ever feeling, in every allowable sense of the word, quite so hollow.

I writhed around in my chair for a bit and decided that I ought to call Ms. Watanabe, who could not have been nicer. She anticipated the question I was too tongue-tied to ask: Would the Daily family—those whose "house lay wrecked"—be contactable? "They'd actually like to hear from you." She kindly gave me the e-mail address and the home number.
I don't intend to make a parade of my own feelings here, but I expect you will believe me when I tell you that I e-mailed first. For one thing, I didn't want to choose a bad time to ring. For another, and as I wrote to his parents, I was quite prepared for them to resent me. So let me introduce you to one of the most generous and decent families in the United States, and allow me to tell you something of their experience.

In the midst of their own grief, to begin with, they took the trouble to try to make me feel better. I wasn't to worry about any "guilt or responsibility": their son had signed up with his eyes wide open and had "assured us that if he knew the possible outcome might be this, he would still go rather than have the option of living to age 50 and never having served his country. Trust us when we tell you that he was quite convincing and persuasive on this point, so that by the end of the conversation we were practically packing his bags and waving him off." This made me relax fractionally, but then they went on to write: "Prior to his deployment he told us he was going to try to contact you from Iraq. He had the idea of being a correspondent from the front-lines through you, and wanted to get your opinion about his journalistic potential. He told us that he had tried to contact you from either Kuwait or Iraq. He thought maybe his e-mail had not reached you … " That was a gash in my hide all right: I think of all the junk e-mail I read every day, and then reflect that his precious one never got to me.

Lieutenant Daily crossed from Kuwait to Iraq in November 2006, where he would be deployed with the "C," or "Comanche," Company of the Second Battalion of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment—General Custer's old outfit—in Mosul. On the 15th of January last, he was on patrol and noticed that the Humvee in front of him was not properly "up-armored" against I.E.D.'s. He insisted on changing places and taking a lead position in his own Humvee, and was shortly afterward hit by an enormous buried mine that packed a charge of some 1,500 pounds of high explosive. Yes, that's right. He, and the three other American soldiers and Iraqi interpreter who perished with him, went to war with the army we had. It's some consolation to John and Linda Daily, and to Mark's brother and two sisters, and to his widow (who had been married to him for just 18 months) to know that he couldn't have felt anything.

Yet what, and how, should we feel? People are not on their oath when speaking of the dead, but I have now talked to a good number of those who knew Mark Daily or were related to him, and it's clear that the country lost an exceptional young citizen, whom I shall always wish I had had the chance to meet. He seems to have passed every test of young manhood, and to have been admired and loved and respected by old and young, male and female, family and friends. He could have had any career path he liked (and won a George C. Marshall Award that led to an offer to teach at West Point). Why are we robbed of his contribution? As we got to know one another better, I sent the Daily family a moving statement made by the mother of Michael Kelly, my good friend and the editor-at-large of The Atlantic Monthly, who was killed near the Baghdad airport while embedded during the invasion of 2003. Marguerite Kelly was highly stoic about her son's death, but I now think I committed an error of taste in showing this to the Dailys, who very gently responded that Michael had lived long enough to write books, have a career, become a father, and in general make his mark, while their son didn't live long enough to enjoy any of these opportunities. If you have tears, prepare to shed them now …

In his brilliant book What Is History?, Professor E. H. Carr asked about ultimate causation. Take the case of a man who drinks a bit too much, gets behind the wheel of a car with defective brakes, drives it round a blind corner, and hits another man, who is crossing the road to buy cigarettes. Who is the one responsible? The man who had one drink too many, the lax inspector of brakes, the local authorities who didn't straighten out a dangerous bend, or the smoker who chose to dash across the road to satisfy his bad habit? So, was Mark Daily killed by the Ba'thist and bin Ladenist riffraff who place bombs where they will do the most harm? Or by the Rumsfeld doctrine, which sent American soldiers to Iraq in insufficient numbers and with inadequate equipment? Or by the Bush administration, which thought Iraq would be easily pacified? Or by the previous Bush administration, which left Saddam Hussein in power in 1991 and fatally postponed the time of reckoning?

These grand, overarching questions cannot obscure, at least for me, the plain fact that Mark Daily felt himself to be morally committed. I discovered this in his life story and in his surviving writings. Again, not to romanticize him overmuch, but this is the boy who would not let others be bullied in school, who stuck up for his younger siblings, who was briefly a vegetarian and Green Party member because he couldn't stand cruelty to animals or to the environment, a student who loudly defended Native American rights and who challenged a MySpace neo-Nazi in an online debate in which the swastika-displaying antagonist finally admitted that he needed to rethink things. If I give the impression of a slight nerd here I do an injustice. Everything that Mark wrote was imbued with a great spirit of humor and tough-mindedness. Here's an excerpt from his "Why I Joined" statement:
Anyone who knew me before I joined knows that I am quite aware and at times sympathetic to the arguments against the war in Iraq. If you think the only way a person could bring themselves to volunteer for this war is through sheer desperation or blind obedience then consider me the exception (though there are countless like me).… Consider that there are 19 year old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics.

And here's something from one of his last letters home:

I was having a conversation with a Kurdish man in the city of Dahok (by myself and completely safe) discussing whether or not the insurgents could be viewed as "freedom fighters" or "misguided anti-capitalists." Shaking his head as I attempted to articulate what can only be described as pathetic apologetics, he cut me off and said "the difference between insurgents and American soldiers is that they get paid to take life—to murder, and you get paid to save lives." He looked at me in such a way that made me feel like he was looking through me, into all the moral insecurity that living in a free nation will instill in you. He "oversimplified" the issue, or at least that is what college professors would accuse him of doing.

Politics & Religion / Cut and Paste Smear Points
« on: October 11, 2007, 06:49:28 PM »
Hmm, I'm overcome by a sense of déjà vu: dubious talking point snippets lifted from dubious sources are used in an ad hominen fashion to dismiss an author by attacking him or her, rather than speaking to the points they made. I know I've seen this somewhere before. . . .

October 11, 2007
Radical Islam's Willing Bloggers
By Patrick Poole

The burgeoning left wing smear industry, set up to manufacture attacks on conservatives, has its own radical Islam sector. I know this by personal experience.

Earlier this week I reported that a known HAMAS operative was scheduled to speak at the Ohio State Capitol later this month (see Thomas Lifson's related blog entry). Within hours, a leftist attack blogger affiliated with the Ohio Democratic Party had published an ad hominem broadside in response parroting talking points prepared by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

Lenin used to crow about the West's "useful idiots" -- politicians, intellectuals and journalists who were either ideologically blinded or just plain stupid to not take Soviet Communism's drive to conquer the world seriously. But in the present war against Islamo-Fascism, some on the Left are more than duped, they appear to be in service to the radical Islamic agenda.

My article published Monday concerned the appearance of Anisa Abd El Fattah (her nom de jihad; lit. "Anisa, servant of the conquest") at an "interfaith" forum to be held in the Ohio Statehouse atrium on October 28th. Fattah previously headed an organization called the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), which one convicted terrorist leader admitted was "the political command for HAMAS in the United States."  UASR was also founded by HAMAS deputy political director and Specially Designated Global Terrorist Mousa Abu Marzook. Fattah also co-authored two books with current HAMAS spokesman Ahmed Yousef, one of her former colleagues at UASR who fled the US in 2005 and immediately reappeared as part of the HAMAS leadership. She was also a paid consultant for more than a decade to convicted terrorist leader Abdurahman Alamoudi's American Muslim Council.

With breakneck speed, an attack piece posted by blogger Brian Guilfoos of Plunderbund appeared launching into a number of supposedly damning personal tidbits about me. Since I am such an evil character, Guilfoos argued, everything I said about this HAMAS operative must be false and driven by rampant Islamophobia. Classic ad hominem.

But there were two curious elements to this leftist attack blogger's post. The first is that all the information Guilfoos cited was contained in a dossier complied by CAIR and circulated by CAIR national vice-chairman Ahmad Al-Akhras (a Columbus-area resident). Al-Akhras and his associates have been circulating the CAIR dossier, which has gone through several editions, with a significant amount of personal information about me, including personal financial details, work history, and even information on my family members, to Ohio and Franklin County Democratic Party operatives and establishment media representatives. After I exposed an Al-Akhras business partner sitting on the county's Homeland Security oversight board, a position his associate was forced to resign from, Al-Akhras hired a student intern on a 90-day project to do nothing but opposition research on me (Al-Akhras solicited prospective candidates on a closed email list of local Islamic extremists, an email I obtained from an anonymous dissenting member of the list).
One amusing highlight taken from the first version of the CAIR dossier, dated July 24th and bearing Al-Akhras' name, is this insightful discovery:

A Hilliard, Ohio resident and a 1986 graduate of Hilliard Davidson High School. Patrick S. Poole is a self-described "writer" who is "single, straight, Protestant, a smoker and a drinker". [fn19]...On his MySpace, Mr. Poole has a total of ten "friends".
The fact that I'm overweight, balding, and wear glasses didn't make the dossier's final editor's cut, but there is allegedly much to be discerned by the fact that I have ten "friends" on MySpace (perhaps I need to accept more of those friend invites from "Candy", "Misty", and "Lula"?), and that I occasionally both drink and smoke. What escaped CAIR's notice, however, is that sometimes I smoke and drink at the same time! How deep does my infidelity run! I seriously wonder why Mr. Guilfoos didn't expound further on these stunning findings in CAIR's razor-sharp psychological profile of yours truly.

The other curious element to both Guilfoos' attack piece is that taxpayers may be footing the bill for his political blogging and for Al-Akhras to circulate CAIR's dossier. Most of Guilfoos' blog posts, all political-related, appear during business hours, when one might assume he should be tending to his job as systems analyst for the Ohio Supercomputer Center. Unless he works the graveyard shift, perhaps.

And emails I obtained through an Open Records Act request finds that CAIR's Ahmad Al-Akhras has been emailing copies of their dossier to political operatives during work hours when one might assume he was supposed to be tending to his job as assistant director of transportation for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC). Another graveyard shift employee?

Both the Ohio Supercomputer Center (a division of the Ohio Board of Regents) and MORPC are publicly-funded institutions. Maybe someone should look into that? If someone does, they also might want to look into the multiple anti-Israel rallies Al-Akhras has organized and led at the Federal Courthouse in Downtown Columbus during business hours. Where can I get a job like that?

So what damning information did Guilfoos supposedly uncover about me? Did he obtain copies of my cancelled paychecks from the global Zionist conspiracy? Did he publish those much-rumored pictures of me wearing a dog collar and leash crouching at Mistress Ann Coulter's high-heeled feet? No such luck.

Apparently, my grave crime for which anything I say should immediately be deemed categorical lies is that I'm a Christian. And since I'm a Christian that takes my faith seriously, I must be a Christian Reconstructionist, and therefore want to overthrow the government and install a Christian theocracy, Guilfoos implies. He couldn't even be bothered to identify something I had actually said, but rather, connected me to something someone I know said 25 years ago, and concluded that "it is reasonable to believe that (they) share a number of opinions" without providing any evidence of this alleged agreement. And according to Guilfoos, I'm also connected to Sun Myung Moon by eight degrees! What further proof is needed?

He didn't even mention that I once worked for someone who worked for a major Christian Reconstruction writer three decades ago, though he's now a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, which otherwise might ruin the narrative, except they can expand the conspiracy connecting me to both Sun Myung Moon and Pope Benedict! And to cap it all off, someone once spent 3,000 words describing how I was personally connected to the Illuminati conspiracy. How that didn't get included in CAIR's dossier and Guilfoos' attack piece is anyone's guess.

The problem with this CAIR-fed narrative is that I've been among the most active and public critics of Christian Reconstruction 2.0, known as "Federal Vision" theology. I've even gone so far as creating and editing for several years a website dedicated to challenging this most recent incarnation of Christian Reconstructionism. Furthermore, my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), of which I am an ordained officer, was the first to explicitly reject this theology in the 1980s, and just a few months ago overwhelmingly adopted a report harshly criticizing its newest manifestation.

It must be disappointing to Ahmad Al-Akhras and CAIR that after so much money they've spent researching my background and so much time spent poring through hundreds of my articles and blog posts, this is the best that they can come up with to attack me.

But with an immediate crisis at hand (my revealing of Fattah's appearance at the State Capitol), sometimes you have to go with what you've got. Fortunately, they have bloggers available on stand-by like Brian Guilfoos, who will present this "research" as their own.

Other leftist bloggers, such as the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Jill Miller Zimon have taken Guilfoos' story and embellished it further. Zimon comments that my reporting of the HAMAS operative appearing at the Ohio Statehouse is "baiting and particularly he uses Jews and Judaism and Israel in a way that many Jews never would". Like Guilfoos, she doesn't provide any evidence, of course, and I the only mention of "Jews and Judaism and Israel" were comments made by Fattah herself, but who needs evidence?

Patrick Poole is an occasional contributor to American Thinker, and also the Executive Director of Central Ohioans Against Terrorism.

Politics & Religion / The Anti SLAPP
« on: October 11, 2007, 06:06:21 PM »
A SLAPP Against Freedom
Judith Miller

Attorneys have an effective new way to defeat Islamic groups’ libel suits.

Nothing gets a journalist’s attention like a subpoena. While authoritarian regimes silence critics by murdering or jailing them, journalists (and other critics) in the United States face gentler, but still effective, intimidation: libel lawsuits. Over the last few years, Islamists have tried silencing reporters, scholars, and citizens by suing them for defamation, often successfully. But recent legal cases in California, Massachusetts, and Minnesota suggest that the tactic may finally be backfiring, at least in the United States, if not in Britain, where libel laws overwhelmingly favor plaintiffs. The American lawsuits’ outcomes—poorly covered by the media—represent victories for the free expression and public participation that the First Amendment guarantees.

The latest victory came in August, when an Islamic charity, KinderUSA, and its board chairman, Laila Al-Marayati, dropped the libel suit they had filed in April in California state court against former Treasury Department official Matthew Levitt, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (which now employs him), and Yale University Press. In 2006, Yale published Levitt’s book on Hamas, which Washington says supports terrorism. Levitt never mentioned Al-Marayati in his book, but he did assert that KinderUSA, founded to raise money for Palestinian children, had ties to terrorist groups.

Al-Marayati and KinderUSA charged that Levitt had made “false and damaging” charges that caused “irreparable harm to its reputation,” and they sought at least $500,000 in damages, a public retraction, and a halt to the book’s distribution. But Levitt and his codefendants stood by his claims. In June, they filed a motion against the charity and its chairman, seeking to quash the libel suit and demanding that the plaintiffs pay all legal fees. They cited a California law that bans “SLAPP”—or “strategic litigation against public participation”—suits, which aim not at winning in court, but at intimidating into silence a group or a publication raising issues of public concern. “California enacted anti-SLAPP legislation to get rid of inappropriate lawsuits like this one,” they wrote in a 15-page brief.

Less than six weeks later, Al-Marayati and KinderUSA dropped the suit. Todd Gallinger, who represented the plaintiffs, insisted that the charity had sued not to intimidate or silence Levitt, but rather to force him to correct charges that it still considers libelous. “They were trying to suppress the charity’s legitimate activities,” he said. But KinderUSA underestimated the costs involved, he acknowledged, and the defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion was a factor in its decision to drop the suit.

“Anti-SLAPP laws are a very powerful tool,” agreed Roger Myers, an attorney who specializes in using the law to defend journalists in libel claims. “There has been a fairly dramatic decline in the number of libel cases being filed here in California.”

Levitt’s case isn’t unique. Last May, the Islamic Society of Boston dropped its suit against the Boston Herald, a local Fox news channel, journalist Steven Emerson, and 14 others. The Society had accused the defendants of libel and of infringing its civil rights by claiming that it had funded terrorist organizations, received money from Saudi Arabia, and bought land for a mosque below market value from the City of Boston.

Though Massachusetts’s anti-SLAPP law does not cover media firms, ten of the non-media defendants filed a motion to quash the Society’s suit. When a state judge rejected the motion, a legal discovery process got under way while the defendants appealed. Bank records and other documents revealed that, contrary to its claims, the Society had raised over $7 million from Saudi and other Middle Eastern sources and had funded two groups that the Bush administration has designated terrorist entities: the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and the Benevolence International Foundation. Records also showed that Society directors had deleted all e-mails about the Society’s land purchase. Finally, discovery revealed that the deputy director of the Boston city agency in charge of negotiating the land deal not only was a Society member whom it had paid to raise money in the Middle East, but also secretly advised the group about obtaining the land cheaply—a clear conflict of interest.

On May 29, soon after the state appellate court heard arguments on the anti-SLAPP appeal, the Society abandoned the suit. Though its lawyers did not respond to requests for comment and its website tried to put a good face on the surrender, Jeff Robbins, who represented several defendants in the complex lawsuit, expressed their belief that the Society had caved, fearing the prospect of paying what could have been millions of dollars in court and legal fees. “The anti-SLAPP motion clearly played a role,” said Robbins, who represented two clients for free because First Amendment issues were involved. Another factor, he said, was the Society’s fear that the court would order it to answer questions under oath and release information that it had tried to keep secret, such as the names of its donors. The case shows that while anti-SLAPP legislation makes it somewhat easier, cheaper, and faster for those accused of libel to fight back, “it doesn’t solve the problem entirely,” said Jeff Hermes, a lawyer for the Boston Herald. “Media companies are not covered by our state’s statute, and defendants in such cases still need to prepare a full defense.”

In Minnesota, a third lawsuit didn’t involve journalists or SLAPP statutes, but it did threaten citizens’ right to petition or warn the government on public safety issues. It also prompted Congress to protect people retroactively who report suspicious behavior. The defendants were anonymous citizens whose complaints about what they considered suspicious behavior by six Muslim imams on a flight in late 2006 led US Airways to remove the clerics from the plane. In a 2007 federal lawsuit claiming discrimination, the imams sued the airline, the Minneapolis airport, and several of the passengers who had complained.

But in August 2007, the “flying imams” dropped all claims against the passengers after Congress approved legislation to protect passengers from retaliatory lawsuits for reporting potentially terror-related activity. Under the measure, as in an anti-SLAPP law, if the plaintiffs cannot prove that a passenger lied in his complaint to the government, they can be held responsible for all court and legal fees. “The imams saw the handwriting on the wall,” said Representative Peter King, the New York Republican who promoted the bill. Gerry Nolting, a lawyer who represented a passenger, also without a fee, said that the imams might never have filed their suit if Minnesota had on its books an anti-SLAPP law like California’s.

However intimidating and expensive defamation lawsuits remain in the United States, the challenge is far greater in Britain, where journalists must prove that their allegations are true. Rachel Ehrenfeld, a New York–based terrorism researcher and the author of Funding Evil, is among more than 30 writers and publishers whom Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz sued for libel in England for accusing him of ties to terrorist groups, a charge he denies. But rather than give him the apology, retraction, and $225,000 in fees that a British court ordered, Ehrenfeld, whose book was never even published in England, fought back. In 2004, she countersued bin Mahfouz in New York, asking the federal court here to declare the judgment against her unenforceable in America and contrary to the First Amendment protections that Americans enjoy.

In June, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, overturning a lower court ruling, asked the state’s highest court to determine whether bin Mahfouz should be subject to New York jurisdiction. If it rules affirmatively, Ehrenfeld would be able to obtain considerable information about his finances in preparing for a trial. If he then failed to cooperate, he might have difficulty doing business in America.

Ehrenfeld’s effort comes none too soon, says Andrew McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, for bin Mahfouz no longer needs to sue to intimidate his critics. After he merely threatened Cambridge University Press with a libel suit this spring, the prestigious publisher agreed to apologize on its website, pay his legal costs and unspecified damages, and stop distributing Alms for Jihad, a book written by J. Millard Burr, a former State Department analyst and relief coordinator, and Robert O. Collins, a former University of California history professor, which outlines bin Mahfouz’s alleged financial support for terrorism. Cambridge also asked libraries to remove the book from their shelves. On its website, Cambridge states that it took such steps because “under English libel laws, we simply did not have a defensible case.” A court victory for Rachel Ehrenfeld, and more anti-SLAPP statutes—only some 20 states have enacted such laws—would help curb the pernicious “libel tourism” so inimical to the free flow of information on which an informed citizenry and effective counterterrorism depend.

Judith Miller, a contributing editor of City Journal, is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who writes about national security issues. She has written or coauthored four books, including Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War.

Politics & Religion / Interesting Intelligence Bedfellows
« on: September 18, 2007, 09:19:27 AM »
Israeli Space-Based Radar Set for Indian Launch

Sep 16, 2007

By Craig Covault
Military space reconnaissance capabilities are proliferating. This week, the U.S., Israel, India, China and Brazil could advance their commercial, technological and strategic interests with new milsats set to be launched.

Once aloft, the satellites will look into each other’s backyards and try to steal each other’s customers. And they all will be watching Iran.

The missions—scheduled for Sept. 17-20—have been developed by a diverse set of companies and thousands of engineers and technicians whose efforts will benefit their respective military programs beyond the intelligence operations the spacecraft will support.

The programs show how military space is maturing around the world and, with it, the growing capability of nations to make their own decisions based on in-house space intelligence data—not massaged information from the major space powers—the U.S., Russia and China.

In a unique flight scheduled for liftoff from India Sept. 17-20, Israel’s first “Polaris/TecSat” military imaging radar satellite is to be launched along with India’s first military recon spacecraft. They will be fired into an approximately 600-km. (372-mi.) polar orbit atop the same powerful Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

The mission, from India’s launch site on an island in the Bay of Bengal, will also inaugurate major military space cooperation between India and Israel.

If successful, the Israeli space-based radar will put Israel among the small list of nations with imaging radar reconnaissance satellites able to distinguish camouflaged vehicles from rocky terrain, for example, and to see at night and through clouds and foliage.

The launch of Polaris 1 will also provide Israel with a new capability that will be focused heavily on Iran, including obtaining data for a potential Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.

Although largely classified, the Israeli spacecraft’s electronically steered, synthetic aperture radar has 1-meter resolution and differing spot, mosaic and strip modes (see diagram, p. 31). These modes provide a multitude of different radar aspect angles from which to illuminate targets on the ground.

The Polaris modes should provide space-based radar imaging intelli gence products that are similar in quality to the multimode U-2’s Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar 2A sensor, according to Jeff Grant, vice president for business development at Northrop Grumman.

That will enable its products to be used in connection with change-detection software and imagery that can be overlaid with diverse data from other Israeli space or UAV systems.

The other satellite on the PSLV/Polaris mission—the Indian Cartosat 2A spacecraft—remains secret, but carries a powerful panchromatic camera. India is already highly accomplished in the development of remote-sensing spacecraft and should be able to step up easily to higher resolution military imaging satellites.

And India is also interested in purchasing the Polaris imaging radar satellite design from Israel for its own military reconnaissance operations, which are focused heavily on Pakistan, China and, increasingly, the U.S., according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Northrop Grumman officials hope a recently signed teaming arrangement that would allow it to coproduce a modified Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) version of the Polaris/TecSat radar satellite will lead to financing from the U.S. government in the Fiscal 2009 budget.

Such spacecraft “could provide an early, though basic, capability to the Pentagon long before its massive Space Radar system reaches orbit,” says Grant (AW&ST Apr. 16, p. 26).

Within 48 hr. of the PSLV flight, the emphasis will shift to Vandenberg AFB, Calif., where the U.S. DigitalGlobe WorldView-1 spacecraft is set for liftoff Sept. 18 on board a United Launch Alliance Delta II. This will be a commercial flight with a unique quasi-commercial recon-related spacecraft.

WorldView 1 was built by Ball Aerospace, ITT and DigitalGlobe with $500 million from the Defense Dept.’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to provide imagery for specific Defense Dept. medium- to high-resolution needs. It will have up to half-meter resolution, more than 50% better than the 1 meter previously allowed for spacecraft not built as top-secret superresolution systems designed by the National Reconnaissance Office.

Then, on Sept. 19, China is to launch its joint mission with Brazil. The new CBERS 2B imaging satellite will be an upgraded version of the previous two China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellites. It will be fired into polar orbit by a Long March 4 from the Taiyuan launch site south of Beijing.

Although important for commercial remote sensing, the CBERS program is giving China and Brazil extensive data and experience with digital imaging and economic intelligence as well as military reconnaissance. It’s used heavily by the People’s Liberation Army.

The Israeli radar satellite launch follows the June 11 flight of another new Israeli imaging reconnaissance spacecraft, Ofeq-7. It has multispectral as well as higher resolution sensors. The success of Ofeq-7, and hoped-for success with the radar, would mark a major comeback for Israeli space intelligence operations. Ofeq-7 and the new radar satellite flight come almost exactly three years since a Shavit booster failure that destroyed Ofeq-6.

However, Ofeq-7, with its roughly half-meter resolution, has much greater capability than previous Israeli recons. “With this launch, we have improved Israel’s operational capabilities by dozens of percent,” says Brig. Gen. Haim Eshet, director of space programming at Israel’s Defense Research and Development Directorate.

“The intensified Israeli space drive comes amid increasing concern about Iran’s nuclear development program, Syria’s contradictory intimations toward peace talks or war, and the support both nations provide to Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist groups,” says Israeli military analyst David Eshel on the Defense Update web site.

“One of the prime targets for Israel’s space intelligence is the growing threat posed by the Tehran regime,” he says.

“The Israeli defense ministry has placed the highest priority on detailed monitoring of Iranian efforts to obtain data on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, as well as long-range delivery systems. High-resolution space imagery has become one of its major intelligence and reconnaissance assets,” Eshel states in Defense Update.

Israel says it’s using the 145-ft.-tall four-stage Indian booster because the PSLV can fire the 600-lb. Polaris spacecraft into a true polar orbit, which is not achievable from Israel’s Shavit booster launch site at Palmahim AB.

However, Israeli critics of the decision disagree, saying the launcher choice is based more on strengthening military ties with a major power other than the U.S.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) provided background information on the Polaris radar spacecraft to the Jerusalem Post.

“This new satellite will be a major leap for the IDF and its operational capabilities,” a senior Israeli defense official told the Post. “This will enhance our intelligence-gathering capabilities, and its successful launch will place Israel as one of the leading countries in the world in satellite development.”

The spacecraft’s radar was developed by IAI’s Elta group. It is to fly in a 400 X 800-km. orbit powered by solar arrays generating about 1,000 watts at the start of a five-year orbital lifetime.

Other IDF officials noted that although some imagery from the spacecraft over areas other than the Middle East will be marketed, the Israeli government will limit what imagery can be sold. Restrictions also will apply for licensing the Polaris/TecSat radar technology to India, and possibly also to the U.S., Israeli officials said.

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Buy Belgium on eBay?
« on: September 18, 2007, 08:48:39 AM »
Someone Tries to Sell Belgium on eBay   

Sep 18 10:23 AM US/Eastern
Associated Press Writer   

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - Hidden among the porcelain fox hounds and Burberry tablecloths on sale at this week was an unusual item: "For Sale: Belgium, a Kingdom in three parts ... free premium: the king and his court (costs not included)."
The odd ad was posted by one disgruntled Belgian in protest at his country's political crisis which reached a 100-day landmark Tuesday with no end in sight to the squabbling between Flemish and Walloon politicians.

"I wanted to attract attention," said Gerrit Six, the teacher and former journalist who posted the ad. "You almost have to throw rock through a window to get attention for Belgium."

Six placed the advertisement on Saturday, offering free delivery, but pointing out that the country was coming secondhand and that potential buyers would have to take on over $300 billion (euro220 billion) in national debt.

Like many of Belgium's 10 million citizens, Six is exasperated that the power struggle between the county's French- or Dutch-speaking political parties has left Belgium in political limbo since June 10 elections.

Demands for more autonomy from the Dutch-speaking Flemish are resisted by the French-speaking Walloons, making it impossible to form a government coalition and triggering concern the kingdom is on the verge of a breakup.

Six decided to vent his frustration through the Internet ad.

"My proposal was to make it clear that Belgium was valuable, it's a masterpiece and we have to keep it," he told Associated Press Television News. "It's my country and I'm taking care of it, and with me are millions of Belgians."

Six' idea got a mixed reaction on the streets of Brussels.

"Very funny, typical Belgian humor," said Anne Graux. "It's ridiculous," snapped Nathalie Ginot, a Brussels resident who had her own pragmatic solution to Belgium's woes. "We think it would be good to split Belgium into the three and make Brussels a tax-haven, a capital exempt from all taxes," she said hopefully.

Six vaunted Belgium's attractions to potential buyers from art nouveau architecture to the headquarters of NATO and the European Union and some great beers. But he also warned of the pitfalls of taking on the cacophonous mix of Flemish nationalists, Walloon Socialists and the mayors of all 19 Brussels' boroughs.

EBay was happy to take Six' advertisement.

"It was a really fun listing made by a Belgian," Peter Burin, PR manager of eBay Belgium. "This person, in a very funny way, reminded the Belgians what a great country Belgium actually is and it would be a shame to sell it."

However, the company decided to pull the add Tuesday after receiving a bid of euro10 million ($14 million)

"We decided to take it down, just to avoid confusion," he told APTN.

Politics & Religion / West v. Middle East; A Historical Continuum of Combat
« on: September 17, 2007, 04:36:31 PM »
When Muslim armies won
Lessons from yesteryear's jihadi victories

When terrorists or insurgents in Iraq detonate a roadside bomb to draw out our forces in response, or when they stage a small ambush to lure us into a larger one, they're pursuing a Middle Eastern way of war more than two millennia old, with roots in the techniques of tribes from the steppes. What's surprising isn't that the old lure-and-ambush technique is still in use, but that, after many centuries of Western experience with this particular hook, we remain prone to taking the bait.

While doing research for a history project, I was struck both by the enduring characteristics of jihadi warfare — even though yesteryear's triumphant Muslim armies have been replaced by terrorist cells and irregular bands — as well as the specific military lore the Islamic world lost. Much of what Arab, Seljuk or Ottoman armies did in bygone campaigns to annihilate their enemies is now the intellectual inheritance of Western commanders — although cultural flaws that led medieval Christian armies to defeat remain with us, as well.

The use of atrocities to break an enemy's will, the power of fanaticism and charismatic leaders, the value of surprise — even the need to defeat armored forces (in the form of mounted knights) were all there a thousand years ago. Lighter Muslim forces dealt with heavy armor above Alexandria, at Nicopolis and in countless other battles and skirmishes by drawing the armored vehicles of the day onto unfavorable ground where the knights could not maneuver or escape — much as our opponents attempt to do today in the alleys of Iraq.


The greatest advantage the better Arab and all Seljuk or Ottoman armies enjoyed over their Byzantine or European enemies was unity of command — along with a strategic unity of purpose and will. In countless Crusader encounters and Balkan battles, what undid the Western forces (often equal in size to their opponents) was a consistent inability to accept and obey a single commander: When the going got tough, the tough went every which way. Patchwork Western armies behaved centrifugally, while the better Muslim forces acted centripetally.

In the West, centuries of feudalism and chivalric codes (the ruggedest form of rugged individualism) reinforced local and protonational rivalries: The French argued with each other; they argued with the Burgundians; the Burgundians and French quarreled with the English and Germans; no one from Flanders would obey a Hungarian king, and nobody trusted the Venetians; while the Christian Byzantines were regarded as heretics — and this was the situation not in royal or ducal courts but in war councils on the eve of battle.

Today, Western militaries recognize the importance of unified command — although national contingents in coalitions often stipulate limits on their use. Nonetheless, in serious combat, the quibbling tends to stop. And within 21st-century Western armies, chains of command are clear and acknowledged. The West's dilemmas today lie at the political level, where disunity and rivalries continue to hamper unified responses to Islamist threats as absurdly as they did in the Middle Ages — if with blessedly fewer consequences thus far. (From the early 16th century onward, the French generally aligned politically with the Ottomans to weaken the Habsburgs; plus ça change ...)

For its part, the Muslim world has lost (or at least misplaced) this principle of unity of command for the direction of campaigns or even battles. Despots, such as Saddam Hussein, enforced a hollowed-out caricature of unity of command, but we are fortunate in the degree of inter- and intra-factional quibbling among our enemies in Iraq and elsewhere. Even charismatic figures such as Osama bin Laden enjoy a limited ability to command, because the cellular nature of terrorist forces, as well as geographic dispersion, makes him more of a figurehead and instigator than a field marshal. Arab terrorists praise him — then do whatever they want.

Even in the conventional-warfare realm, late-20th-century Arab armies were faction-ridden internally and suspicious of allies (whom they routinely tried to deceive, as in the 1967 and 1973 wars with Israel). This inability to pull together to achieve and sustain battlefield synergies has granted Western armies a signal advantage — and the one development in this sphere that should worry us has been Hezbollah's ability to combine a cellular organization with discipline and unity of purpose — enabled by Hassan Nasrullah's appreciation of the value of mission-type orders.

Terrorists do have a strategic unity of purpose — to kill as many Westerners, Israelis and liberal Muslims as possible — but the diffuse, essentially anarchic manner in which the goal is pursued leaves it, to be frank, a dramatic annoyance, not an existential threat.

By contrast, yesteryear's Muslim armies were, indeed, existential threats to Europe, and given the long European genius for doing exactly the wrong thing in war, it should astonish us that the caliphate did not extend at least to the Shetland Islands.

When it comes to destructive rivalries and military incompetence, the Middle East and the West have changed places.


Another factor that empowered Ottoman armies, especially, was their superior organization, from unit design to logistics. A comparatively sophisticated sense of logistical needs helped Saladin's Arab armies defeat overconfident Crusaders, but it was the Ottomans who first displayed a genius for organizing logistical feats that helped them crush European armies in battle — and take Constantinople. Whether hauling ships over hilltops, deploying disciplined artillery on the battlefield (a daunting undertaking in the days before true field guns), or sustaining enormous armies on the march, the Ottoman sultans in the century that included Mehmet the Conqueror and Suleyman the Magnificent harnessed the resources of their empires through effective administration and achieved logistical successes far grander than, and pre-dating those, credited to Wallenstein a hundred years later. Suleyman's triumphant campaign that destroyed the Hungarian kingdom at the Battle of Mohacs was an organizational masterpiece.

In one of history's not fully explicable twists, the Ottoman Empire lost its suppleness by the second half of the 16th century, calcifying and falling behind a rapidly developing Europe. Ottoman organization was more effective in the 15th century than in the 17th (perhaps the empire's sprawl explains at least part of the decline). In a sense, the rise of Europe was the triumph of the clerks, as the once-lagging continent's accounting and organizational procedures improved exponentially as they were forced to cope with the opening of the New World. In 1526, the Ottomans fielded the best-organized, best-trained and best-disciplined (and, arguably, the best-led) army in the world. A hundred years later, all of the Turkish gears were in reverse.

Today, logistics weaknesses plague all Muslim armies (a situation exacerbated by corruption), but terrorist organizations appear to have made an intellectual breakthrough, returning, in a sense, to their ancient nomadic roots, when traveling light and exploiting local resources was a life-and-death necessity. The ability of terrorists (and insurgents) to pluck the West's common technologies, from cell phones to passenger jets, from cars transformed into bombs to the Internet, places them firmly in the raiding tradition of their ancestors, if in a post-modern form. This guerrilla force without a heavy logistics tail — but with great mobility — also represents a rejection of the Western way of war, to which Arab states had signed on in the 1800s. For two centuries and more, Muslim rulers attempted to copy the West's military forms, only to fail with a 100 percent consistency. Now we may be witnessing, between Hezbollah and al-Qaida, a new synthesis of tradition and technology suited to the cultural environment in which our enemies operate.

We're the masters of conventional logistics. Our enemies reject the conventions and pick up whatever they need at the local bazaar.


One lesson Middle Eastern Muslim forces, regular and irregular, have never forgotten is the value of surprise. Another legacy of their ancient raiding heritage, calculated surprises, gave Arabs, especially, their few glimmers of triumph in recent decades, whether speaking of the opening phases of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, or simply the detonation of an IED along a roadway in Iraq.

Surprise is almost always effective — initially. But there's a disconnect between the effects of surprise at the tactical vs. the operational or strategic level. It's extremely difficult to recover when surprised tactically (although our well-trained forces do as well as any troops could), and the surviving victims are usually left bloodied, furious and frustrated. At the strategic or operational level, though, surprise lends only an initial advantage, as at Pearl Harbor or the Battle of the Bulge in our own military history, or, in the Arab case, the 1973 crossing of the Suez Canal or Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Short, sharp tactical engagements can be decided by who shoots first (although, of course, that's not always the case). But at the levels of campaigns and wars, residual strength and resources tell, as long as the victim of the initial surprise doesn't simply surrender.

Today, surprise remains a primary tool in the Arab arsenal (as well as in other Muslim cultures), and the raid remains the model of Arab warfare. On the other hand, Muslim forces, regular or terrorist, in the greater Middle East tend to fare badly when they are themselves surprised. Although our disciplined forces can often recover, even at the tactical level, surprised Muslim forces usually fold, whether we speak of a successful dark-of-night raid in Iraq or the campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Discipline and trust tell, and our troops are remarkably disciplined, and they trust each other and their leaders. Terrorist cells may have their peculiar forms of discipline, but, beyond that, Arab and other regional security forces and militaries are poorly disciplined in the conventional sense and are plagued by internal religious, tribal and ethnic rivalries: When things go badly, the fingers (and sometimes the weapons) start pointing internally.

Of course, there are exceptions. The Egyptian infantry has sometimes proven remarkably tenacious on the defense, and the Jordanian military includes genuinely professional elements. But the Islamic art of war seemed to have died with the Ottoman Empire, with the region returning to either a reliance on mass (as in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's wave attacks during the Iran-Iraq War) or post-modern forms of raids (the Madrid bombings or the attacks on police stations and recruiting centers in Iraq today).

In the past, surprise was connected to an instinct for choosing advantageous battlegrounds. That connection may remain, despite our superiority on most forms of terrain. The modern choice of terrain, the city, is really about the exploitation of masses of human beings (what I termed "human terrain" in an essay about urban operations a decade ago). Although urban warfare is a new phenomenon for Muslim warriors, they've taken to it with a facility that should worry us. We're familiar with the hackneyed phrase "the urban jungle," but the cities of the Middle East may have become urban steppes, where tribes of raiders appear out of nowhere to strike and disappear again.

A last advantage yesteryear's Arab and Turkic armies enjoyed over their Byzantine or European opponents was superior campaign intelligence. Although Byzantine armies deployed practiced scouts (and spies) and prized good intelligence during their centuries of glory, by the time of the Seljuk victory at Manzikert in 1071, the Byzantine military system was in decline and even the veteran emperor-general, Romulus IV, neglected to push scouting parties deep into enemy territory. The result was a disaster.

Acute intelligence is, of course, crucial to achieving surprise or luring an enemy onto a particular killing field. By the Ottoman era, the great sultans (and the grand viziers serving the lesser ones) exhibited a much more sophisticated understanding of the exploitable weaknesses, composition, order of march and disposition of Western armies than the Europeans managed to achieve until the late 17th century. Careful to remain aware of the location and rate of advance of their antagonists, the Ottomans were able to move at much higher speeds (even with larger forces) and to fight effectively from the line of march (as at Mohacs in 1526).

Today, our enemies within the Muslim world, from the Nile to the Indus, display bifurcated capabilities in intelligence collection and, especially, analysis. At the tactical level, terrorists and insurgents are often quite good at identifying units and their behavior patterns, from the quirks of specific commanders to the movement discipline of a particular platoon. Obviously, they face an easier time of it than we do, because they generally operate in a familiar environment that's profoundly foreign (and often unwelcoming) to us. All things considered, it's impressive how much progress our tactical intelligence personnel have made since we arrived, goggle-eyed, in Iraq in 2003. But the home-court advantage still tells.

Terrorist intelligence performance at the strategic level is another story entirely. Identifying targets isn't hard — the West offers plenty — but Islamist terrorists become psychologically imprisoned by their fervor, in their belief in the inevitability of their triumph. While such emotional intensity gives them deep reserves of will, it's disastrous when they make intelligence estimates. The notion that the 9/11 attacks would bring the U.S. to its knees, the conviction that Washington was too cowardly to send forces into Afghanistan, or just the assumption that Iraqis would embrace their medieval version of Islam have all proven catastrophic for al-Qaida — and it isn't just the terrorists who get it wrong. Saddam was certain that we wouldn't invade in 2003, and the Turks utterly misjudged our conventional and logistical capabilities, as well as our determination. The penchant for power fantasies that Fouad Adjami captured so succinctly in the title of his (splendid) book, "The Dream Palace of the Arabs," has left both Muslim terrorist cells and general staffs inept at conducting strategic appreciations on the eve of war or in the prelude to a major terrorist strike.

Certainly, our own strategic intelligence performance has been mixed, at best (and occasionally susceptible to fantasies of our own); nonetheless, our culture of empiricism, our functional pragmatism and our internal self-criticism win through in the end: We may convince ourselves of stupid things, but we don't stay convinced when the evidence shows overwhelmingly that we were wrong (certain political leaders excepted). Our enemies cling to their fantasies with a positively Rumsfeldian obliviousness.


None of the observations above offers a checklist for defeating our enemies. This brief historical analysis is meant only to provoke thought and, perhaps, an occasional shock of recognition. Moreover, the insights on offer apply to the situation today, in the summer of 2007. After centuries of inertia and ineptitude, we're seeing the first glimmers of a new Islamic competence at alternative forms of warfare. The large field armies of the Middle East remain less than the sum of their ill-maintained parts, but innovative approaches to fielding combatant forces — exemplified on the high end by Hezbollah and on the lower by terrorist cells in Iraq — have posed unexpectedly solution-resistant challenges to English-speaking militaries, as well as to the Israeli Defense Force.

For centuries, Europe failed to adapt to the Muslim way of war, persistently clinging to doomed warfare techniques. Then the Islamic world took its turn at calcification, as a rejuvenated Europe leapt ahead for long centuries and, more recently, the U.S. fielded conventional forces impossible to defeat in a set-piece battle. Now, it appears that the Muslim world is adapting at last, pursuing innovative organizations, tactics and strategies, while brushing aside our insistence on the "laws of land warfare." We cling to the rules we know and value, while our enemies ignore them.

That's exactly what the Ottoman Empire did — by refusing to adapt to new battlefield conventions — as it slipped into its long decline and ultimate fall.

Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and author of the new book "Wars Of Blood And Faith: The Conflicts That Will Shape the 21st Century."

Politics & Religion / Sudden Jihadi Syndrome Interuptus?
« on: September 15, 2007, 08:21:20 AM »
Michigan Man Remains in Custody After Entering Park With AK-47

Friday , September 14, 2007

A 26-year-old man accused of carrying an assault rifle in a Michigan park remained in custody Friday on a $1 million cash bond.

Houssein Zorkot, of Dearborn, Mich., was arrested on Sept. 8 after witnesses called police to complain about a man with an AK-47, dark clothes and blackened face walking around a park.

"We don't know exactly what his intent was or what he was intending on doing," Dearborn Police Chief Michael Celeski told

Police responded to the scene and approached the vehicle Zorkot was driving. Zorkot attempted to flee and was not cooperative with police, Celeski said.

"At one point, he was reaching to a lower area of the vehicle and the other officer at the scene was able to determine there was a weapon on the floorboard," Celeski said.

Officers then took Zorkot into custody and charged him with one count of carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent, one count of possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle and one count of felony firearm. If convicted on all three counts, Zorkot faces 9 years in jail.

Zorkot was arraigned on Tuesday. A preliminary examination is scheduled for Sept. 21.

Politics & Religion / The Depravity of Dog Ownership
« on: September 15, 2007, 06:50:29 AM »
Iran: Tehran Officials Begin Crackdown On Pet Dogs

Dogs are taken from their owners and kept at a detention center
(Courtesy Photo)

In an unprecedented move, Iran's police have created a dog "prison" in Tehran. The move is part of a crackdown on what officials describe as immoral and un-Islamic behavior, during which thousands of young men and women have been detained or received warnings about the way they are dressed. Radio Farda reports that Tehran pet-owners are now also among those under pressure from the authorities.

September 14, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Since the creation of the Islamic republic in Iran in 1979, the acceptability of dog ownership has been debated by the authorities.

Iranian officials say that according to Islam, dogs are considered to be dirty animals, and people who own dogs are viewed as being under Western influence. Some conservative clerics have denounced dog ownership as "morally depraved" and say it should be banned.

Friday prayer leader Hojatoleslam Gholamreza Hassani, who is known for his hard-line stances, was quoted a few years ago as saying that all dog owners and their dogs should be arrested.

In the past, dog owners have received warnings or were forced to pay fines for having a pet dog. Despite such harassment, dog ownership has increased over the years, especially among young people in Tehran.

One of them is 23-year-old Banafshe, whose dog was recently detained in Tehran for 48 hours and then released on bail. Banafshe says she was walking her young puppy, Jessica, when Iranian police snatched the dog and took her to a dog "jail." The dog's crime was "walking in public."

Banafshe claims the police insulted her, but out of fear for her dog, she didn't protest. She said she told the police that Allah says in the Koran that nothing bad has been created in this world.

"They said, 'We want to get rid of Western culture,'" Banafshe said. "They said, 'You live in an Islamic country, it's not right to have dogs. Are you not Islamic? Why does your family allow you to own a dog?' They insulted me, they even told me that they hope my dog will die. But there was nothing I could do but cry. You can't imagine how badly I was insulted."

'The Police Must Be Laughing'

The new clampdown on dogs follows a recent order by the head of Tehran's security forces, Ahmad Reza Radan, who said it is against the law for dogs to walk in public. The order has left many people baffled.

Nadja, whose sick dog was arrested right after it had surgery, considers the clampdown on dogs ridiculous. "One day it's dogs, the next day it's [crime prevention], tomorrow they have to catch birds. The police themselves must be laughing at this," Nadja said.

Another dog owner in Tehran, who did not want to be named, said that instead of detaining dogs, officials should concentrate their efforts on improving the country's economy and other important issues.

Some say they see the move as government interference in their lives.

All detained pets are taken to a newly created detention center. Radio Farda reports that some dogs are housed amid piles of garbage and debris. Others reported that a very large dog was confined to a cramped cage within the dog "prison."

Dr. Javid Aledavud, the head of Iran's Society to Defend the Rights of Animals, told Radio Farda that conditions at the center are very poor and unsuitable for pets. He says there are no passages in the Koran about dogs being dirty.

He adds that sniffer dogs are being used in Iran in the fight against drug trafficking.
Iranian security forces say the ban against walking dogs in public is meant strictly to fight Western influences.

Reza Javalchi, the secretary of the Society to Defend the Rights of Animals, says dog ownership, more common in the West, is considered by Iranian officials to be a sign of Western influence. "But that is not the case," he said. "If we want to speak about symbols of Western civilization then maybe wearing a suit is also Western. These are issues that have become part of human life. Based on our research, domestic dogs were kept in Iran for hunting and guarding maybe long before it became widespread in the West."

Last month, a young person was arrested in Tehran for posting ads of his lost dog.

According to Mehdi Ahmadi, a spokesman for Tehran's police force, such ads spread depravity by encouraging dog ownership.

Activists say that officially no legal prohibition exists in Iran against keeping dogs as pets. But that is little solace to the dozens of dogs that kept in the detention center, or their owners waiting for the return of their beloved pets.

(Radio Farda's Mohammad Zarghami, Keyvan Hosseini, and Azadeh Sharafshahi all contributed to this report.)

Politics & Religion / Quit Smoking if you want that Bone Set
« on: September 14, 2007, 11:33:14 AM »
Doctors refuse to fix builder's broken ankle unless he quits smoking
By CHRIS BROOKE - More by this author »Last updated at 07:40am on 14th September 2007
 Comments (18)

A man with a broken ankle is facing a lifetime of pain because a Health Service hospital has refused to treat him unless he gives up smoking.

John Nuttall, 57, needs surgery to set the ankle which he broke in three places two years ago because it did not mend naturally with a plaster cast.

Doctors at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro have refused to operate because they say his heavy smoking would reduce the chance of healing, and there is a risk of complications which could lead to amputation.

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FUMING: John Nuttall was refused ankle operation because he smokes

They have told him they will treat him only if he gives up smoking. But the former builder has been unable to break his habit and is now resigned to coping with the injury as he cannot afford private treatment.

He is in constant pain from the grating of the broken bones against each other and has been prescribed daily doses of morphine.

Mr Nuttall, of Newlyn, Cornwall, broke the ankle in a fall in 2005. Initially he refused surgery because he had caught MRSA at a different hospital four years earlier, and was terrified of history repeating itself.

He hoped the fractured bones would knit together with a standard plaster cast to immobilise his ankle.

But six months and three plaster casts later, it became clear that an operation to pin the bones was the only solution.

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PAIN: John Nuttall was given morphine as treatment

However, the hospital told Mr Nuttall, who no longer works because of smoking-related chest problems, that he would have to give up smoking before an operation could be carried out.

Mr Nuttall said: '"I am in agony. I have begged them to operate but they won't. I have tried my hardestto give up smoking but I can't. I got down to ten a week at one point but they said that was not good enough.

"I spent 12 months trying to give up and used patches and everything, but nothing works.

"I have smoked for over 40 years and it's not going to happen.

"We were brought up at a time when cigarette advertisements were everywhere and there were no warnings.

"I want to warn other smokers that they could be denied medical treatment and there is nothing we can do about it.

"I have paid my dues as a taxpayer-and now the NHS won't treat me."

Mr Nuttall, who is single, uses a walking stick to get around and fears his bones will now be so 'calcified' that an operation would not work even if he were allowed to have it.

"It is very painful," he said. "If I walk more than a few steps I can feel it grinding."

A spokesman for the hospital trust said: "Smoking has a very big influence on the outcome of this type of surgery, and the healing process would be hindered significantly."

Politics & Religion / Don't Show the Enemy your Cards
« on: September 12, 2007, 06:48:01 AM »

September 12, 2007
Iraq as Qaeda Bait
By James Lewis

The Left thinks Iraq is a killing field for Americans. Actually, it is a killing field for our enemies, at a very great but vitally important sacrifice. That reflects a grand strategy, tailored to the peculiar nature of the global terror threat.

You don't shoot poisonous fire-ants with a BB gun; you just set an ant trap. Ant colonies are highly "distributed" biological societies, much like the world-wide web. They can't be killed with a BB or a pressure hose; even pouring flaming gasoline on an ant hill won't work.

Instead, you destroy ant colonies by attracting hungry ants to a chemical bait, and then kill them all in one small place. Ant traps work. 

That's the Bush strategy in Iraq. Al Qaeda isn't centralized, with big cities or steel industries like Nazi Germany. So you can't destroy the enemy by hunting them one by one.  Rather, you bait a trap -- provoke them to come to you, and make sure they don't get out alive.

Iraq is a trap for Al Qaeda. Our mere presence in the heart of the Osama's Caliphate-To-Be draws them like ants to sugar. General Petraeus just reported that
" the past 8 months, we have considerably reduced the areas in which Al Qaeda enjoyed sanctuary. We have also neutralized 5 media cells, detained the senior Iraqi leader of Al Qaeda-Iraq, and killed or captured nearly 100 other key leaders and some 2,500 rank-and-file fighters. Al Qaeda is certainly not defeated; however, it is off balance and we are pursuing its leaders and operators aggressively." 
Most of the Qaeda fighters come from Saudi Arabia and other breeding grounds. Now that the Sunni tribes are turning against them, they are more exposed and hunted than ever before. Wars are fluid and unpredictable, but no one can imagine that Al Qaeda is happy with its victories since 9/11.

In Afghanistan, they have been on the run since 2003, although the Pakistan border regions continue to supply new recruits. But in Afghanistan they are being destroyed before ever reaching the cities. Add that to a sizable numbers neutralized in Pakistan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and more. Add to that the cells pinpointed in Europe and America, the Philippines and Indonesia. We are wiping out the fire ants wherever they can be found.

At that attrition rate, every single year we stay in Iraq, we could get rid of another couple of thousand AQ fighters. Yes, we pay a high price -- but nothing like the price that baddies running loose and attacking us at home would exact.

We are demonstrating who is the strong horse, and who is the weak horse. When the message is finally driven home, the enemy will come to his own conclusions.

In addition to Al Qaeda, other jihadi militants, like Iranian Quds officers and Shiite militants, are being caught in Iraq.  A top Hezb'allah operative was just captured there -- and Hezb'allah has been killing Americans ever since they blew up the Marine barracks in Lebanon. As the President said when our perverse press pointed out that the terrorists might hit us in Iraq: Bring them on.  That was not an idle boast, but just a statement of the bait and kill strategy. The many critics of that statement simply do not understand or do not want to understand the strategy.

Now take a look at the map of Iran,  and notice where our military are today. To the west is Iraq, where American forces move and attack freely. To the east is Afghanistan, where the same is true. South and south-west are Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and the Gulf itself; those Sunni countries now consider Iran to be their biggest threat.

We therefore have hundreds of thousands of military surrounding the next biggest problem, Tehran: to the east and west, and on naval vessels in the Gulf, the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean. We just had joint maneuvers with the Indian Navy, the Japanese and the Aussies. In Qatar we have major bases. We just sold another 20 billion dollars worth of military equipment to Saudi and Oman, including anti-missile defenses. Farther away, Egypt and Jordan are American clients -- within limits. So, of course, is Israel. In sum, Tehran can be struck from most points of the compass by our air and missile forces. The Israeli Air Force just struck Iranian weapons located in the eastern corner of Syria, right next to Iran.

Iran is a rising threat, and no one knows how that scenario will play out. But would you really want to be Ahmadi-Nejad today? Every time he makes another wild boast, more people become convinced that he cannot be allowed to get nukes. The German government has just been reported as giving up on the European negotiation effort to stop Iranian nukes. Instead, German officials
"gave the distinct impression that they would privately welcome, while publicly protesting, an American bombing campaign against Iran's nuclear facilities."
It can't be comfortable to be a regime supporter in Tehran today.

Or would you want to be a Baathist general? A few years ago they were at the top of the heap.

The fact is that we are drastically weakening or destroying our terror-supporting enemies: Saddam is dead, Al Qaeda is being degraded, the Taliban are hemorrhaging, and the Mullahs are surrounded.

Yet all the know-nothings think there is no strategy for Iraq.

There's even a clever ironic twist in terms of domestic politics, because our liberals are constantly screaming Defeat! Defeat! Defeat!  That message of weakness and vulnerability inspires more and more of our enemies to come to Iraq and join in the bloody slaughter of Americans.

But when they get there, they discover they've been suckered. It's not the Americans who are taking a beating, but the jihadis who fell for the headlines and who listen to the American Left.  So even our malicious liberals end up encouraging the enemy to go to Iraq to die.

As President Harry Truman did, George W. Bush recognized the stakes, set in place the right strategy, and was vilified by critics as stupid. But good poker players like Harry S. Truman and George W. Bush know that you don't show your cards too soon, just to make people think you're smart.

James Lewis blogs at

Politics & Religion / Israel Probes Syrian Air Defense?
« on: September 12, 2007, 05:26:32 AM »
US confirms Israeli air strike on Syria

By Tim Butcher in Tel Aviv
Last Updated: 2:26am BST 12/09/2007

A US official has confirmed that Israeli warplanes carried out an air strike "deep inside" Syria, escalating tensions between the two countries.

Israel considers retaliation in Gaza
The target of the strike last Thursday remained unclear but Israeli media reported that a shipment of Iranian arms crossing Syria for use by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon was attacked.

Israeli army Merkeva tanks on the Golan Heights
Syria first reported the incident on the day, saying its air defences had engaged five Israeli planes, but did not say what their target was. Israel remained uncharacteristically silent, pointedly refusing to deny that its warplanes were involved in an operation. The closest it came to acknowledging the affair happened was when it made an undertaking to Turkey to investigate how an Israeli long-range fuel tank was dropped on Turkish territory near the Syrian border.

Another theory gaining ground yesterday was that Israel was deliberately attacking the Russian-made Pantsyr air defence system recently bought by Damascus. The sale includes provision for the Pantsyr system to be shipped on to Iran and it is possible the Israeli attack was co-ordinated with America to probe the effectiveness of the system. It is believed that Iran would use the Pantsyr system to defend its nuclear facilities.

Syria has sought to keep the incident in the public arena, saying yesterday that it had complained formally to the United Nations, accusing Israel of unjustified aggression.

Syria and Israel have fought major wars on three occasions, in 1948, 1967 and 1973, as well as numerous other skirmishes. The two nations remain formally at war although an uneasy calm has largely held for the past three decades. Meanwhile, Israel was contemplating a retaliatory strike on Gaza last night after a Palestinian qassam rocket injured 69 of its soldiers, five seriously, at the Zikim army base. Many of the Israelis were hit by shrapnel as they slept under canvas.


While the rocket was fired by members of the Islamic Jihad party, Israel said it would hold Hamas accountable because the group is the main authority in the Gaza strip since it drove out its Fatah rivals in June.

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, convened an emergency meeting yesterday with military and security commanders to discuss a response to the attack.

Politics & Religion / This Could get Interesting
« on: September 12, 2007, 05:22:51 AM »
Reports: Putin Dissolves Government
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

DEVELOPING STORY: Russian news agencies cite the Kremlin as saying that President Vladimir Putin dissolved the government Wednesday.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov asked the Kremlin to dissolve his government, Russian news agencies reported, with less than three months remaining before parliamentary elections.

• FOX Facts: Russia's Government

Fradkov made the decision based on "the approaching major political events in the country and a desire to give the president full freedom in making decisions, including personnel," Fradkov was quoted by ITAR-Tass as saying. A Kremlin spokesman could not immediately comment on the report.

Politics & Religion / VDH on 9/11
« on: September 11, 2007, 05:34:03 AM »
Lessons in War
Reflections on 9/11, six years later.

By Victor Davis Hanson

On that day, we watched tape of the doomed in suits diving head first from the burning floors, hoping to splatter on roofs rather than crush and kill incoming firefighters — as some tragically did.

I remember reading about the last hours in the stairwell of the Cassandra FBI agent John O’Neill, who chose to go back into the inferno. His year-long, near solitary race to save us against the evil of the al Qaeda planners Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh came to an end that day — and with it O’Neill himself.

And I remember reading the accounts of a smiling bin Laden, fresh off from buying his fifth wife for $5,000 (a 15-year-old girl no less). At that very moment in Afghanistan, always the inveterate liar, he was haughty after his recent cowardly murder of the far better fighter Massoud.

That day bin Laden snickered to the radio reports of his 9/11 jihadists, now holding up a finger for each plane’s impending crash to his adoring acolytes in Afghanistan — and soon to be alternately denying culpability in his fear, then boasting of it in his hubris.

Then there were the incomprehensible statements of our own that followed — of Michael Moore, the later darling at the Democratic Convention, claiming that a Democratic city’s blue-state, anti-Bush voters ipso facto should have won an exemption from the killers’ target list.

We heard too from the now apparently warped novelist Norman Mailer, at last relieved that his aesthetic skyline was cleared of the bothersome looming towers (“two huge buck teeth”) — and with them, for Ward Churchill at least, the ashes of the “Little Eichmanns,” of his “technocrats of empire.”

We remember the firemen and police who went up into the towers even as they came down. And always there were the nightlong, lit-up scenes of the construction and rescue workers who brought a majestic dignity to the macabre task of sifting for hundreds in the detritus of lower New York.

We keep thinking as well that if there had not been a Todd Beamer and a few kindred brave souls on United Flight 93, there would have been no more Capitol at all, its century-old dome instead reduced to smithereens like that of the golden mosque of Samara. It perhaps would now still be sitting there, six years later, a quarter rebuilt amid scaffolds, its restoration unfinished as it was during the Civil War — and its smoldering skeleton plastered on every poster in Gaza, in DVDs sold in all the bazaars of Pakistan.

September 11 was not the first and won’t be the last terrorist assault on our citizens and culture. And the subsequent factionalism and left/right bickering over the proper course to defeat the jihadists — whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, the courts, at the Hague, or the United Nations — did not originate solely after 9/11.

But the day reminded us that for a near-quarter century prior, only luck and the impotence — not the intent — of radical Muslims had prevented the murder of Americans on such a horrific scale. It re-taught to us, as would surely a second or third such attack, that in war there aren’t really good choices. Instead, once the fighting breaks out, only the bad choices either of incurring casualties and expense to prevent greater such losses to our civilization in the future, or (far worse) of inaction in hopes of searching for reason or decency where they are not to be found, remain.

Bin Laden’s killers tore off a great scab on September 11; at once they exposed to billions the evil of radical Islam and with it the Western world’s shock, fright, and difficulty in confronting it and defeating it. That uncertainty ultimately does not arise from our enemies, but from within ourselves — this strange disease of thinking we fight back too much when we often do too little.

It was the particularly evil genius of bin Laden to see not that we are militarily weak as he alleged — indeed the United States is more powerful than ever — but that we are apologetic over the source of our bounty and the reasons for our success, to the point of a collective stasis.

The more we push for democratic change abroad, the more the democracy-hating terrorists slander us that we do not. The more we accommodate the religion and culture of detainees, the more the beheaders and bombers cry to the world that we are savage while musing among themselves that we are weak. The more that we tolerate the great asymmetry of reciprocity between Islam and the West; the more we are supposed to apologize for just that tolerance and liberality. The more we pay for outrageously priced oil, the more we are to concede that we are stealing it.

Our shock, and again their insight, is not that they level such absurd charges, but that they do so in such utter confidence that they will find a receptive audience in the West, an audience that has the desire and ability to curtail the American response.

We laugh that on this sixth anniversary a clownish Bin Laden, in dyed chin-whiskers no less, urges us from a cave in Waziristan to read more Chomsky and Scheuer. We laugh that radical Islam hates us for global warming, corporate profits, and high-priced mortgages. We laugh that its jihadists, as a result of these American “sins,” were forced to kill us for the Neocons, and Richard Perle, and Hiroshima, and the 19th-century Indian wars, and all the other American crimes that Hollywood and the universities have globally peddled into a lucrative industry. But the laugh is not that fascists would so clumsily crib our Left to justify their killing, but that they are convinced that they could do so in such amateurish fashion to such great effect.

So is the joke on them or on us?

Bin Laden and his evil Rasputin Dr. Zawahiri were confident on September 11 that such guilt and self-loathing in our hearts could be seasoned, and that it could then be harvested through their own arts of revisionism, victimization, and lies. And consequently within a brief six years of his murdering, our own voices — indeed the very elites of the West — in the luxury of calm before the next attack, are often emboldened to proclaim that the government of America, not the terrorists abroad, is the real danger.

The great lesson of September 11 was not that the jihadists ever believed that they could kill us all. Rather, they trusted that enough of the West and indeed enough of us here in America, might at the end of the day declare that we had it coming.

In this long war, that belief was — and is — far deadlier even than an unhinged murderer at the controls of an airliner.

—Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson fellow in military history and classics at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. This September he is teaching at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan as the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History.
National Review Online -

Politics & Religion / Lott on the DC SCOTUS Case
« on: September 08, 2007, 04:12:10 PM »
Article published Sep 7, 2007
D.C.'s flawed reasoning

September 7, 2007

By John R. Lott Jr. - In asking the Supreme Court to let the District of Columbia ban handguns, the city has a simple argument: Whatever one thinks of the Second Amendment, banning handguns is a "reasonable regulation" to protect public safety. The problem for the city is that anyone who can look up the crime numbers will see that D.C.'s violent crime rate went up, not down, after the ban.

D.C. notes that criminals like to use handguns to commit crimes. We all want to disarm criminals, but, as long as one recognizes the possibility of self defense, at best the city's claim can only be part of the story. As with all gun-control laws, the question is ultimately whether it is the law-abiding citizens or criminals who are most likely to obey the law. If law-abiding citizens are the ones who turn in their guns and not the criminals, crime rates can go up, not down.

The city's brief focuses only on murder rates in discussing crime in D.C. Yet, in the five years before Washington's ban in 1976, the murder rate fell from 37 to 27 per 100,000. In the five years after it went into effect, the murder rate rose back up to 35. But there is one fact that seems particularly hard to ignore. D.C.'s murder rate fluctuated after 1976 but has only once fallen below what it was in 1976 (that happened years later, in 1985). Does D.C. really want to argue that the gun ban reduced the murder rate?

Similarly for violent crime, from 1977 to 2003, there were only two years when D.C.'s violent crime rate fell below the rate in 1976. These drops and subsequent increases were much larger than any changes in neighboring Maryland and Virginia. For example, D.C.'s murder rate fell 3.5 to 3 times more than in the neighboring states during the five years before the ban and rose back 3.8 times more in the five years after it. D.C.'s murder rate also rose relative to that in other similarly sized cities.

Surely D.C. has had many problems that contribute to crime, but even cities with far better police departments have seen crime soar in the wake of handgun bans. Chicago has banned all handguns since 1982. Indeed, D.C. points to Chicago's ban to support its own ban. But the gun ban didn't work at all when it came to reducing violence. Chicago's murder rate fell from 27 to 22 per 100,000 in the five years before the law and then rose slightly to 23. The change is even more dramatic when compared to five neighboring Illinois counties: Chicago's murder rate fell from being 8.1 times greater than its neighbors in 1977 to 5.5 times in 1982, and then went way up to 12 times greater in 1987.

Taking a page from recent Supreme Court cases, D.C. points to gun bans in other countries as evidence that others think that gun bans are desirable. But the experience in other countries, even island nations that have gone so far as banning guns and where borders are easy to monitor, should give D.C. and its supporters some pause. Not only didn't violent crime and homicide decline as promised, but they actually increased.

D.C.'s brief specifically points to Great Britain's handgun ban in January 1997. But the number of deaths and injuries from gun crime in England and Wales increased 340 percent in the seven years from 1998 to 2005. The rates of serious violent crime, armed robberies, rapes and homicide have also soared.

The Republic of Ireland banned and confiscated all handguns and all center fire rifles in 1972, but murder rates rose fivefold by 1974 and in the 20 years after the ban has averaged 114 percent higher than the pre-ban rate (never falling below at least 31 percent higher).

Jamaica banned all guns in 1974, but murder rates almost doubled from 11.5 per 100,000 in 1973 to 19.5 in 1977, and soared further to 41.7 in 1980.

Evidence is also available for other countries. For example, it is hard to think of a much more draconian police state than the former Soviet Union. Yet despite a ban on guns that dated back to the Communist revolution, its murder rates were high. During the entire decade from 1976 to 1985 the Soviet Union's homicide rate was between 21 and 41 percent higher than that of the United States. By 1989, two years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, it had risen to 48 percent above the U.S. rate.

Even if D.C.'s politicians want to keep arguing for a ban based on public safety, hard facts must eventually matter. If they can't see that gun-control laws have failed to deliver as promised, may be the Supreme Court can point it out for them.

John R. Lott Jr., author of "More Guns, Less Crime" and "Freedomnomics," is a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland.

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hansen Releases his Source Code
« on: September 08, 2007, 04:01:48 PM »
It's not science is the results can't be replicated, and things can't be replicated unless the methodology is available, which makes Hansen's grudging release of the algorythms he uses to derive his sky-is-falling conclusions all the more astounding. Anyone like to make a little wager on whether his methods survive peer review?

Hansen Frees the Code
By Steve McIntyre
Hansen has just released what is said to be the source code for their temperature analysis. The release was announced in a shall-we-say ungracious email to his email distribution list and a link is now present at the NASA webpage.

Hansen says resentfully that they would have liked a “week or two” to make a “simplified version” of the program and that it is this version that “people interested in science” will want, as opposed to the version that actually generated their results.

Reto Ruedy has organized into a single document, as well as practical on a short time scale, the programs that produce our global temperature analysis from publicly available data streams of temperature measurements. These are a combination of subroutines written over the past few decades by Sergej Lebedeff, Jay Glascoe, and Reto. Because the programs include a variety of
languages and computer unique functions, Reto would have preferred to have a week or two to combine these into a simpler more transparent structure, but because of a recent flood of demands for the programs, they are being made available as is. People interested in science may want to wait a week or two for a simplified version.

In recent posts, I’ve observed that long rural stations in South America and Africa do not show the pronounced ROW trend (Where’s Waldo?) that is distinct from the U.S. temperature history as well as the total lack of long records from Antarctica covering the 1930s. Without mentioning or myself by name, Hansen addresses the “lack of quality data from South America and Africa, a legitimate concern”, concluding this lack does not “matter” to the results.

Another favorite target of those who would raise doubt about the reality of global warming is the lack of quality data from South America and Africa, a legitimate concern. You will note in our maps of temperature change some blotches in South America and Africa, which are probably due to bad data. Our procedure does not throw out data because it looks unrealistic, as that would be subjective. But what is the global significance of these regions of exceptionally poor data? As shown by Figure 1, omission of South America and Africa has only a tiny effect on the global temperature change. Indeed, the difference that omitting these areas makes is to increase the global temperature change by (an entirely insignificant) 0.01C.

So United States shows no material change since the 1930s, but this doesn’t matter, South America doesn’t matter, Africa doesn’t matter and Antarctica has no records relevant to the 1930s. Europe and northern Asia would seem to be plausible candidates for locating Waldo. (BTW we are also told that the Medieval Warm Period was a regional phenomenon confined to Europe and northern Asia - go figure.]

On two separate occasions, Hansen, who two weeks ago contrasted royalty with “court jesters” saying that one does not “joust with jesters”, raised the possibility that the outside community is “wondering” why (using the royal “we”) he (a) “bothers to put up with this hassle and the nasty e-mails that it brings” or (b) “subject ourselves to the shenanigans”.

Actually, it wasn’t something that I, for one, was wondering about it all. In my opinion, questions about how he did his calculations are entirely appropriate and he had an obligation to answer the questions - an obligation that would have continued even if had flounced off at the mere indignity of having to answer a mildly probing question. Look, ordinary people get asked questions all the time and most of them don’t have the luxury of “not bothering with the hassle” or “not subjecting themselves to the shenanigans”. They just answer the questions the best they can and don’t complain. So should Hansen.

Hansen provides some interesting historical context to his studies, observing that his analysis was the first analysis to include Southern Hemisphere results, which supposedly showed that, contrary to the situation in the Northern Hemisphere, there wasn’t cooling from the 1940s to the 1970s:

The basic GISS temperature analysis scheme was defined in the late 1970s by Jim Hansen when a method of estimating global temperature change was needed for comparison with one-dimensional global climate models. Prior temperature analyses, most notably those of Murray Mitchell, covered only 20-90N latitudes. Our rationale was that the number of Southern Hemisphere stations was sufficient for a meaningful estimate of global temperature change, because temperature anomalies and trends are highly correlated over substantial geographical distances. Our first published results (Hansen et al., Climate impact of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, Science 213, 957, 1981) showed that, contrary to impressions from northern latitudes, global cooling after 1940 was small, and there was net global warming of about 0.4C between the 1880s and 1970s.

Earlier in the short essay, Hansen said that “omission of South America and Africa has only a tiny effect on the global temperature change”. However, they would surely have an impact on land temperatures in the Southern Hemisphere? And, as the above paragraph shows, the calculation of SH land temperatures and their integration into global temperatures seems to have been a central theme in Hansen’s own opus. If Hansen says that South America and Africa don’t matter to “global” and thus presumably to Southern Hemisphere temperature change, then it makes one wonder all the more: what does matter?

Personally, as I’ve said on many occasions, I have little doubt that the late 20th century was warmer than the 19th century. At present, I’m intrigued by the question as to how we know that it’s warmer now than in the 1930s. It seems plausible to me that it is. But how do we know that it is? And why should any scientist think that answering such a question is a “hassle”?

In my first post on the matter, I suggested that Hansen’s most appropriate response was to make his code available promptly and cordially. Since a somewhat embarrassing error had already been identified, I thought that it would be difficult for NASA to completely stonewall the matter regardless of Hansen’s own wishes in the matter. (I hadn’t started an FOI but was going to do so.)

Had Hansen done so, if he wished, he could then have included an expression of confidence that the rest of the code did not include material defects. Now he’s had to disclose the code anyway and has done so in a rather graceless way.

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues
« on: September 07, 2007, 07:36:05 AM »
As I understand it, in the free market we assume people to be the judges of what is best for them in their lives.  If they freely enter into a voluntary exchange it is because it is because they believe it is the best option.

Furthermore, as a general principle I think it generally sound to bring market pricing mechanisms to bear on determining who/what gets to make the pollution.

In its loathing for liberals, this article seems to forget these two fundamental points.

I understand the points, but think they neglect a couple factors. "Pollutants" like carbon dioxide are being offset. I'm not willing to cede that CO2 is a pollutant, and if it is, it's only a pollutant at certain concentrations and I've not seen a compelling argument defining what that concentration is while the geologic record demonstrates it's been all over the map. What free market model achieves efficiencies based on false premises and junk science?

Second, are these third world folk freely entering into the exchange? The enviro-hucksters swooping in making an offer they can't refuse could instead offer diesel generators, mechanical sh*t shovelers, efficient pumps, and so on. Instead, again based on a skewed "understanding" of the issues, they present a single offer the indigenous aren't in a position to walk away from.

These conscious-purging carpetbaggers, moreover, are selling a solution with the same shelf life as the medieval indulgences the Catholic church use to peddle. What happens to their little corner of the free market when that bottom falls out? And then let's stipulate that these schemes do succeed, and that the folks foisting 'em don't manage to carbon neutral the planet back into a third world existence; how are the sh*t shovelers descendants going to feel about having useless technologies and dubious ends foisted on their forbearers?

Bottom line is that I don't see an enduring commencialism emerging from schemes based on false premises and embrace of inefficient technologies and hence have a hard time imagining them providing any long term benefit for anyone. If it ain't adding real value over the long term, then it ain't a market based solution.

Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sh*t Shoveling Eco-Enslavement
« on: September 06, 2007, 09:26:39 AM »
Monday 3 September 2007
Is carbon-offsetting just eco-enslavement?
In offsetting his flights by sponsoring ‘eco-friendly’ hard labour in India, David Cameron has exposed the essence of environmentalism.
Brendan O’Neill

If you thought that the era of British bigwigs keeping Indians as personal servants came to an end with the fall of the Raj in 1947, then you must have had a rude awakening last week.

In a feature about carbon offsetting in The Times (London), it was revealed that the leader of the UK Conservative Party, David Cameron, offsets his carbon emissions by effectively keeping brown people in a state of bondage. Whenever he takes a flight to some foreign destination, Cameron donates to a carbon-offsetting company that encourages people in the developing world to ditch modern methods of farming in favour of using their more eco-friendly manpower to plough the land. So Cameron can fly around the world with a guilt-free conscience on the basis that, thousands of miles away, Indian villagers, bent over double, are working by hand rather than using machines that emit carbon.

Welcome to the era of eco-enslavement.

The details of this carbon-offsetting scheme are disturbing. Cameron offsets his flights by donating to Climate Care. The latest wheeze of this carbon-offsetting company is to provide ‘treadle pumps’ to poor rural families in India so that they can get water on to their land without having to use polluting diesel power. Made from bamboo, plastic and steel, the treadle pumps work like ‘step machines in a gym’, according to some reports, where poor family members step on the pedals for hours in order to draw up groundwater which is used to irrigate farmland (1). These pumps were abolished in British prisons a century ago. It seems that what was considered an unacceptable form of punishment for British criminals in the past is looked upon as a positive eco-alternative to machinery for Indian peasants today.

What might once have been referred to as ‘back-breaking labour’ is now spun as ‘human energy’. According to Climate Care, the use of labour-intensive treadle pumps, rather than labour-saving diesel-powered pumps, saves 0.65 tonnes of carbon a year per farming family. And well-off Westerners - including Cameron, and Prince Charles, Land Rover and the Cooperative Bank, who are also clients of Climate Care - can purchase this saved carbon in order to continue living the high life without becoming consumed by eco-guilt. They effectively salve their moral consciences by paying poor people to live the harsh simple life on their behalf.

Climate Care celebrates the fact that it encourages the Indian poor to use their own bodies rather than machines to irrigate the land. Its website declares: ‘Sometimes the best source of renewable energy is the human body itself. With some lateral thinking, and some simple materials, energy solutions can often be found which replace fossil fuels with muscle-power.’ (2) To show that muscle power is preferable to machine power, the Climate Care website features a cartoon illustration of smiling naked villagers pedalling on a treadle pump next to a small house that has an energy-efficient light bulb and a stove made from ‘local materials at minimal cost’. Climate Care points out that even children can use treadle pumps: ‘One person - man, woman or even child - can operate the pump by manipulating his/her body weight on two treadles and by holding a bamboo or wooden frame for support.’ (3)

Feeling guilty about your two-week break in Barbados, when you flew thousands of miles and lived it up with cocktails on sunlit beaches? Well, offset that guilt by sponsoring eco-friendly child labour in the developing world! Let an eight-year-old peasant pedal away your eco-remorse…

Climate Care has other carbon-offsetting schemes. One involves encouraging poor people who live near the Ranthambhore National Park, a tiger reserve in Rajasthan, India, to stop using firewood for their stoves, and instead to collect cowpats and water and put them into something called a ‘biogas digester’, which creates a renewable form of fuel that can be used for cooking and the provision of heat. One of the aims of this scheme is to protect the trees of the national park, as tigers are reliant on the trees. It seems that in the carbon-offsetting world, beast comes before man.

In these various scandalous schemes, we can glimpse the iron fist that lurks within environmentalism’s green velvet glove. ‘Cutting back carbon emissions’ is the goal to which virtually every Western politician, celebrity and youthful activist has committed himself. Yet for the poorest people around the world, ‘reducing carbon output’ means saying no to machinery and instead getting your family to do hard physical labour, or it involves collecting cow dung and burning it in an eco-stove in order to keep yourself warm. It is not only Climate Care that pushes through such patronising initiatives. Other carbon-offsetting companies have encouraged Kenyans to use dung-powered generators and Indians to replace kerosene lamps with solar-powered lamps, while carbon-offsetting tree-planting projects in Guatemala, Ecuador and Uganda have reportedly disrupted local communities’ water supplies, led to the eviction of thousands of villagers from their land, and cheated local people of their promised income for the upkeep of these Western conscience-salving trees (4).

The criticism of these carbon-offsetting schemes has been limited indeed. Since The Times revealed the treadle pump story last week, many have criticised carbon offsetting on the rather blinkered basis that it doesn’t do enough to rein in mankind’s overall emissions of carbon. Some talk about ‘carbon offsetting cowboys’, as if carbon offsetting itself is fine and it’s only those carbon-offsetting companies who go too far in their exploitation of people in the developing world who are a problem. In truth, it is the relationships that are codified by the whole idea of carbon offsetting - whereby the needs and desires of people in the developing world are subordinated to the narcissistic eco-worries of rich Westerners - that are the real, grotesque problem here.

More radical eco-activists argue that carbon offsetting is a distraction from the need for us simply to stop flying and producing and consuming. They claim that carbon-offsetting gives people in Western societies the false impression that it’s okay to emit carbon so long as you pay someone else to clean it up for you. They would rather that we all lived like those treadle-pumping, shit-burning peasants. A group of young deep greens protested at the Oxford offices of Climate Care dressed as red herrings (on the basis that carbon offsetting is a ‘red herring’), arguing that: ‘Climate Care is misleading the public, making them believe that offsetting does some good.’ (5) The protest provided a striking snapshot of the warped, misanthropic priorities of green youthful activism today: instead of criticising Climate Care, and others, for encouraging poor Indians to stop using machinery and to burn cow dung, the protesters slated it for giving a green light to Westerners to continue living comfortable lives.

Carbon offsetting is not some cowboy activity, or an aberration, or a distraction from ‘true environmentalist goals’ - rather it expresses the very essence of environmentalism. In its project of transforming vast swathes of the developing world into guilt-massaging zones for comfortable Westerners, where trees are planted or farmers’ work is made tougher and more time-consuming in order to offset the activities of Americans and Europeans, carbon offsetting perfectly captures both the narcissistic and anti-development underpinnings of the politics of environmentalism. Where traditional imperialism conquered poor nations in order to exploit their labour and resources, today’s global environmentalist consensus is increasingly using the Third World as a place in which to work out the West’s moral hang-ups.

The rise of the carbon-offsetting industry shows that a key driving force behind environmentalism is self-indulgent Western guilt. It is Western consumers’ own discomfort with their sometimes lavish lifestyles - with all those holidays, big homes, fast cars and cheap nutritious foods - that nurtures today’s green outlook, in which consumption has come to be seen as destructive and a new morality of eco-ethics and offsetting (formerly known as penance) has emerged to deal with it (6). It is no accident that the wealthiest people are frequently the most eco-conscious. British environmental campaign groups and publications are peppered with the sons and daughters of the aristocracy, while in America ridiculously super-rich celebrities (Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt) lead the charge for more eco-aware forms of consumption and play. The very nature of carbon offsetting - where the emphasis is on paying money to offset one’s own lifestyle, in much the same way that wealthy people in the Middle Ages would pay for ‘Indulgences’ that forgave them their sins - highlights the individuated and self-regarding streak in the Politics of Being Green.

Carbon-offsetting also shines a light on the dangerously anti-development sentiment in environmentalism. As the British journalist Ross Clark has argued, the success of carbon-offsetting relies on the continuing failure of Third World communities to develop. Clark writes: ‘Carbon-offset schemes…only work if the recipients [in the Third World] continue to live in very basic conditions. Once they aspire to Western, fossil fuel-powered lifestyles, then the scheme is undone.’ Delegates to the G8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland in 2005 offset the carbon cost of their flights by donating to a charity that replaced the tin roofs of huts in a shantytown in Cape Town with a more insulating material, thus reducing the level of heat that escapes and protecting the environment. It sounds good, but as Clark points out: ‘The carbon emitted by delegates’ flights will only continue to be offset for as long as the occupants of the huts carry on living in shantytown conditions.’ If they were to improve their lives, and replace their insulated shacks with ‘much more power-hungry bungalows’, then the carbon-offsetting scheme will have failed, says Clark. The shantytown-dwellers will have reneged on their side of the bargain, which is to remain poor and humble so that wealthy Western leaders can fly around the world in peace of mind (7).

Again, this is not ‘cowboyism’ - it is mainstream environmentalism in action. From the increasingly hysterical attacks on China for daring to develop, to the emphasis on ‘fair trade’ and ‘sustainable development’ in the work of the myriad NGOs that are swarming around the Third World, the green message is this: poor people simply cannot have what we in the West have, because if they did the planet would burn. The treadle-pump scandal revealed in The Times only shows in a more direct form the way in which today’s environmentalist agenda forces the poor of the developing world to adapt to poverty, accommodate to hardship, and effectively remain enslaved for the benefit of morally-tortured Westerners.

It is time to end this eco-enslavement, and put forward arguments for progress and equality across the globe. I would never pick up shit and use it to warm my home, or spend hours on a treadmill in order to raise water. Would you? Then why should we expect anyone else to do such things, especially in the name of making some rich snots feel better about themselves?

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked. Visit his website here.

(1) To cancel out the CO2 of a return flight to India, it will take one poor villager three years of pumping water by foot. So is carbon offsetting the best way to ease your conscience?, The Times (London), 28 August 2007

(2) See the Climate Care website here

(3) See the Climate Care website here

(4) The inconvenient truth about the carbon offset industry, Guardian, 16 June 2007

(5) To cancel out the CO2 of a return flight to India, it will take one poor villager three years of pumping water by foot. So is carbon offsetting the best way to ease your conscience?, The Times (London), 28 August 2007

(6) See Live Earth: a global pulpit of pop sanctimony, by Rob Lyons

(7) The great global warming swindle, Spectator, 11 August 2007

reprinted from:

Politics & Religion / Transexual Convert to Isalm
« on: September 03, 2007, 03:56:21 PM »
Oh. My. Goodness.

'You're a woman, because you're not a man'
Karima's dual 'conversion'

by Karima Idrissi and Michel Hoebink*

Karima Tieleman's first 'conversion' was from male to female; six years later she converted to Islam. However, the acceptance she hoped to find has also proved to be sadly absent among her fellow believers. She believes it is her fate to be misunderstood and rejected for the rest of her life. Although she says she's happy with her life, she also admits that she sometimes tires of having to fight all the time.

Karima Tieleman, her blushing Dutch face ringed by a black chador, speaks softly and is a little shy. It took her a while and much thought before she consented to tell her story.

Psychiatric clinic
Now aged 31, Karima realised she was a female in a male body when she was around eight years old, but waited until puberty to tell her parents. They were extremely shocked and took her to a doctor. In the 1980s, transsexuality was still a taboo in some circles. She was admitted to a psychiatric clinic at a hospital in Utrecht.

She then fell into the depths of misery. She failed at senior school - she wasn't accepted by her fellow students - and attempted suicide twice. The only person that understood her was her younger sister.

As a man
When she was 17, she decided not to fight the world any more and to go through life as a man. She went to work in the horticultural sector, going to discos in the evening where she'd gaze at girls who she didn't find at all attractive.

She managed to maintain this charade for three years before realising it wasn't going to work. Finally, she chose for her own truth. She went to the gender clinic at the Free University Hospital in Amsterdam and found the expertise and support she needed. It was here, that for the first time in her life, she heard that it was okay and that she could prepare to live her life as a girl. A couple of years later, now aged 24, she underwent the final operation to become a woman. She started working in a shoe shop in Rotterdam. "After that last operation, I really started living".

Always rejected
However, it wasn't an easy life. New friends disappeared as soon as they heard her story and she didn't have much luck with relationships either. Her greatest love betrayed her, and later turned out to have been married all along. Since then she's come to the conclusion that she will always be rejected and no longer wants to have a relationship.
Her second 'conversion' took place last year. Many of the customers in the shoe shop were Moroccan women and she got on well with them. Young headscarf-wearing women told her about Islam. She felt accepted by those women in a way that was totally new to her. That is exactly what makes Islam so attractive to her: "In Islam you are accepted just as you are". She eventually decided to convert. She went to a local mosque and said the Shahadah, or profession of faith.

She now has an Arabic name,  Karima and lives as a Muslim. In fact, she's become a woman who makes her choice of religion very clear indeed in her choice of dress. Her body - which, after so much anguish, she had altered to reflect the way she truly felt inside - is now fully covered by a black hijab, with only her face left exposed. Even her hands are covered with black gloves.

Rejection continues to follow Karima, only now she is regularly the target of verbal abuse because of her strict Islamic style of dress: "You wouldn't believe all the kinds of insults that get hurled at you", she comments.

However, she also faced resistance from her fellow believers. At the mosque where she first converted to Islam, neither the women nor the men wanted to pray together with her. The imam, who she had won over to a certain extent with her story, came up with a solution: he reserved a special place for her separate from both the women and the men. I kind gesture on his part, yet one that made Karima sad because the place he chose for her was only accessible through the male entrance to the mosque.

100 percent
She then decided to go to a different mosque and to keep her story to herself, but rumours about her were already flying after she had been going there for just a week. Then she was summoned by the imam who came straight out and asked her whether she still had male genitalia. "No", she exclaimed, "I'm 100 percent a woman, it even says so in my passport!."

The imam's response was to say that she was welcome in the mosque and to allow her to pray with the women. They, too, welcomed her in their midst. "You are a woman, because you are not a man," was their reasoning, and that was an end to the matter, or so it seemed. After a while, Karima noticed a growing absence of other women around her when she attended the mosque. It turned out that the women were staying away because their men folk had forbidden them to go to the mosque… because of her. Once again, she decided to stop going to the mosque.

Karima embraced Islam because she felt that it was a faith that accepted her, but now she finds herself rejected and even hounded by her fellow believers. How is that possible? Karima has thought about it a lot and has come to the conclusion that there is a difference between Islam as a religion and Islamic culture. The Islamic faith forgives and accepts her, but when it comes to  Islamic culture there's a great deal that's wrong.

When non-Muslim Dutch people speak to her about Islam and she's asked to explain terrorism carried out in the name of Islam, she follows the same line of reasoning: "You'll find rotten apples everywhere. But that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. Islam in fact says that we are not allowed to do such things."Happy but tired
Karima now prays in a number of mosques in The Hague and Amsterdam, which means she can stay one step ahead of any opposition to her presence. Despite her problems with the faithful, her relationship with Allah continues to be a good one. Sometimes she spends hours in the mosque talking to Allah. She can understand that people may have a problem with her, but that doesn't make things any easier for her.

"I am - praise be to God - happy with my life. But sometimes it makes you tired; it's a daily battle."

Politics & Religion / In the Original Language w/ Context
« on: September 03, 2007, 03:16:45 PM »
“Out Of Context,” Or, How To Argue With A Muslim

by Ibn Warraq (Sept. 2007)
It is quite common to hear two arguments from Muslims and apologists of Islam, the language argument, and that old standby of crooked, lying politicians, “you have quoted out of context.”

Let us look at the language argument first. You are asked aggressively, ‘do you know Arabic?’ Then you are told triumphantly, ‘You have to read it in the original Arabic to understand it fully’. Christians, even Western freethinkers and atheists are usually reduced to sullen silence with these Muslim tactics; they indeed become rather coy and self-defensive when it comes to criticism of Islam; they feebly complain “who am I to criticise Islam? I do not know any Arabic.” And yet freethinkers are quite happy to criticise Christianity. How many Western freethinkers and atheists know Hebrew? How many even know what the language of Esra chapter 4 verses 6-8 is? Or in what language the New Testament was written?

Of course, Muslims are also free in their criticism of the Bible and Christianity without knowing a word of Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek.

You do not need to know Arabic to criticise Islam or the Koran. Dr. Paul Kurtz, founder of the Center for Inquiry, and Prometheus Books, does not know Arabic but he did a great job on Islam in his book The Transcendental Temptation [1]. You only need a critical sense, critical thought and skepticism. Second, there are translations of the Koran by Muslims themselves, so Muslims cannot claim that there has been deliberate tampering of the text by infidel translators. Third, the majority of Muslims are not Arabs, and are not Arabic speakers. So a majority of Muslims also have to rely on translations. Finally, the language of the Koran is some form of Classical Arabic [2] which is substantially different from the spoken Arabic of today, so even Muslim Arabs have to rely on translations to understand their holy text. Arabic is a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Aramaic, and is no easier but also no more difficult to translate than any other language. Of course, there are all sorts of difficulties with the language of the Koran, but these difficulties have been recognized by Muslim scholars themselves. The Koran is indeed a rather opaque text but it is opaque to everyone. Even Muslim scholars do not understand a fifth of it.

Let us now turn to “you have quoted out of context”. This could mean two things: first, the historical context to which the various verses refer, or second, the textual context, the actual place in a particular chapter that the verse quoted comes from. The historical context argument is not available, in fact, to Muslims, since the Koran is the eternal word of God and true and valid for always. Thus for Muslims themselves there is no historical context. Of course, non-Muslims can legitimately and do avail themselves of the historical or cultural context to argue, for instance, that Islamic culture as a whole is anti-woman. Muslims did contradict themselves when they introduced the notion of abrogation, when a historically earlier verse was cancelled by a later one. This idea of abrogation was concocted to deal with the many contradictions in the Koran. What is more, it certainly backfires for those liberal Muslims who wish to give a moderate interpretation to the Koran since all the verses advocating tolerance (there are some but not many) have been abrogated by the later verses of the sword.

Out of Context Argument Used Against Muslims Themselves:

Now for the textual context. First, of course, this argument could be turned against Muslims themselves. When they produce a verse preaching tolerance, we could also say  that they have quoted out of context, or more pertinently, first, that such a verse has been cancelled by a more belligerent and intolerant one, and second, that in the overall context of the Koran and the whole theological construct that we call Islam ( i.e. in  the widest possible context), the tolerant verses are anomalous, or have no meaning, since Muslim theologians ignored them completely in developing Islamic Law, or that, finally, the verses do not say what they seem to say.

For instance, after September 11, 2001, many Muslims and apologists of Islam glibly came out with the following Koranic quote to show that Islam and the Koran disapproved of violence and killing: Sura V.32 : “Whoever killed a human being shall be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind”.

Unfortunately, these wonderful sounding words are being quoted out of context. Here is the entire quote: V.32 :

    “That was why We laid it down for the Israelites that whoever killed a human being , except as a punishment for murder or other villainy in the land , shall be looked upon as though he had killed all mankind; and that whoever saved a human life shall be regarded as though he had saved all mankind.
    “Our apostles brought them veritable proofs: yet it was not long before many of them committed great evils in the land.
    “Those that make war against God and His apostle and spread disorder shall be put to death or crucified or have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be banished from the country.”

The supposedly noble sentiments are in fact a warning to Jews. Behave or else is the message. Far from abjuring violence, these verses aggressively point out that anyone opposing the Prophet will be killed, crucified, mutilated and banished!

Behind the textual context argument is thus the legitimate suspicion that by quoting only a short passage from the Koran I have somehow distorted its real meaning. I have, so the accusation goes, lifted the offending quote from the chapter in which it was embedded, and hence, somehow altered its true sense. What does “context” mean here? Do I have to quote the sentence before the offending passage, and the sentence after? Perhaps two sentences before and after? The whole chapter? Ultimately, of course, the entire Koran is the context.

The context, far from helping Muslims get out of difficulties only makes the barbaric principle apparent in the offending quote more obvious, as we have seen from Sura V.32  just cited. Let us take some other examples. Does the Koran say that men have the right to physically beat their wives or not? I say yes and quote the following verses to prove my point:

Sura IV.34 : "As for those [women] from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge [or beat] them.”

This translation comes from a Muslim. Have I somehow distorted the meaning of these lines? Let us have a wider textual context:

Sura IV.34  : “Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. God is high, supreme.”

If anything, the wider textual context makes things worse for those apologists of Islam who wish to minimize the mysogyny of the Koran. The oppression of women has divine sanction; women must obey God and their men, who have divine authorisation to scourge them. One Muslim translator, Yusuf Ali, clearly disturbed by this verse adds the word “lightly”  in brackets after “beat” even though there is no “lightly” in the original Arabic. An objective reading of the entire Koran (that is the total context) makes grim reading as far as the position of women is concerned.

Finally, of course, many of the verses that we shall quote later advocating killing of unbelievers were taken by Muslims themselves to develop the theory of Jihad. Muslim scholars themselves referred to Sura VIII.67, VIII.39, and Sura II.216 to justify Holy War. Again the context makes it clear that it is the battle field that is being referred to, and not some absurd moral struggle; these early Muslims were warriors after booty, land and women not some existential heroes from the pages of Albert Camus or Jean-Paul Sartre.

Let us take another example: Sura IX.

Here I have tried to use where possible translations by Muslims or Arabophone scholars, to avoid the accusation of using infidel translations. However, many Muslim translators have a tendency to soften down the harshness of the original Arabic, particularly in translating the Arabic word jahada, e.g.  Sura IX verse 73.  Maulana Muhammad Ali, of the Ahmadiyyah sect, translates this passage as:

Sura IX.73 : “O Prophet, strive hard against the disbelievers and the hypocrites and be firm against them. And their abode is hell, and evil is the destination.”
In a footnote of an apologetic nature, Muhammad Ali rules out the meaning “fighting” for jahada.

However the Iraqi scholar Dawood in his Penguin translation renders this passage as:

Sura IX.73  “ Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fate.”

How do we settle the meaning of this verse? The whole context of Sura IX. indeed makes it clear that “make war” in the literal and not some metaphorical sense is meant.

Let us take another verse from this Sura:

Sura IX.5  “Then, when the sacred months have passed away, kill the idolaters wherever you find them…” These words are usually cited to show what fate awaits idolaters.

Well, what of the context? The words immediately after these just quoted say, “and seize them, besiege them and lie in ambush everywhere for them.”  Ah, you might say, you have deliberately left out the words that come after those. Let us quote them then, "If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful”. Surely these are words of tolerance, you plead. Hardly, they are saying, only if they become Muslims then they will be left in peace. In fact the whole sura which has 129 verses (approximately 14 pages in the Penguin translation by Dawood), in other words the whole context, is totally intolerant, and is indeed, the source of many totalitarian Islamic laws and principles, such as the concepts of Jihad and dhimmitude, the latter proclaiming the inferior status of Christians and Jews in an Islamic state. All our quotes from the Arabic sources in Part One also, of course, provide the historical context of raids, massacres, booty, and assassinations, which make it crystal clear that real bloody fighting is being advocated.

First the idolaters, how can you trust them?  Most of them are evil doers (IX. 8); fight them (IX. 12, 14); they must not visit mosques (IX. 18); they are unclean (IX. 28); you may fight the idolaters even during the sacred months (IX. 36). “It is not for the Prophet, and those who believe, to pray for the forgiveness of idolaters even though they may be near of kin after it has become clear they are people of hell-fire” ( IX. 113).  So much for forgiveness! Even your parents are to be shunned if they do not embrace Islam: IX.23 "O you who believe! Choose not your fathers nor your brethren for friends if they take pleasure in disbelief rather than faith. Whoso of you takes them for friends, such are wrong-doers.” In other words if you are friendly with your parents who are not Muslims you are being immoral.

The theory of Jihad is derived from verses 5 and 6 already quoted but also from the following verses:

IX. 38-39: Believers, why is it that when it is said to you: ‘March in the cause of God’, you linger slothfully in the land? Are you content with this life in preference to the life to come? Few indeed are the blessings of this life, compared to those of the life to come.
       If you do not fight, He will punish you sternly, and replace you by other men.
IX. 41: Whether unarmed or well-equipped, march on and fight for the cause of God, with your wealth and with your persons.
 IX. 73: Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal harshly with them.

The word that I have translated as fight is jahid. Some translators translate it as go forth or strive. Dawood translates it as fight, as does Penrice in his Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran, where it is defined as: To strive, contend with, fight –especially against the enemies of Islam. While Hans Wehr in his celebrated Arabic dictionary translates it as “endeavour, strive; to fight;  to wage holy war against the infidels”.[3]

As for the intolerance against Jews and Christians, and their inferior status as dhimmis we have IX verses 29 –35:

“Fight against such of those to whom the Scriptures were given as believe neither in God nor the Last Day, who do not forbid what God and His apostle have forbidden, and do not embrace the true faith, until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued.
      “ The Jews say Ezra is the son of God, while the Christians say the Messiah is the son of God. Such are their assertions, by which they imitate the infidels of old. God confound them! How perverse they are!
    “They make of their clerics and their monks, and of the Messiah, the son of Mary, Lords besides God; though they were ordered to serve one God only. There is no god but Him. Exalted be He above those whom they deify besides Him!….
     “It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true Faith to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters may dislike it
   “O you who believe! Lo! many of the Jewish rabbis and the Christian monks devour the wealth of mankind wantonly and debar men from the way of  Allah; They who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah, unto them give tidings of painful doom …”

The moral of all the above is clear: Islam is the only true religion, Jews and Christians are devious, and  money-grubbing, who are not to be trusted, and even have to pay a tax in the most humiliating way. I do not think I need quote any more from Sura IX, although it goes on in this vein verse after verse.

[1] P.Kurtz , The Transcendental Temptation , Prometheus Books , Amherst ,1986
[2] There seems to be some controversy as to  what the language of the Koran really is , see my introduction to  What the Koran Really Says ., Prometheus Books , Amherst , 2002.
[3] Hans Wehr , A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic , Lebanon , Reprinted , 1980 , p.142

Science, Culture, & Humanities / How Poor are the Poor in the US?
« on: September 02, 2007, 12:55:15 PM »
Executive summary of a lengthy, well annotated piece that can be found here:

August 27, 2007
Executive Summary: How Poor Are America's Poor? Examining the "Plague" of Poverty in America
by Robert E. Rector
Executive Summary #2064

Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau counts the number of "poor" persons in the U.S. In 2005, the Bureau found 37 million "poor" Americans. Presi dential candidate John Edwards claims that these 37 million Americans currently "struggle with incredible poverty."[1] Edwards asserts that America's poor, who number "one in eight of us…do not have enough money for the food, shelter, and clothing they need," and are forced to live in "terrible" cir cumstances.[2] However, an examination of the living standards of the 37 million persons, whom the government defines as "poor," reveals that what Edwards calls "the plague"[3] of American poverty might not be as "terrible" or "incredible" as candi date Edwards contends.

But, if poverty means (as Edwards asserts) a lack of nutritious food, adequate warm housing, and clothing for a family, then very few of the 37 million people identified as living "in poverty" by the Cen sus Bureau would, in fact, be characterized as poor. Clearly, material hardship does exist in the United States, but it is quite restricted in scope and severity.

The average "poor" person, as defined by the government, has a living standard far higher than the public imagines. The following are facts about persons defined as "poor" by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:

Forty-three percent of all poor households actu ally own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Cen sus Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.

Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

Only 6 percent of poor households are over crowded; two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.

The typical poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, Lon don, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the averagecitizens in foreign countries, not to those classi fied as poor.)

Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.

Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.

Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.

Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.
Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrig erator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry, and he had suf ficient funds in the past year to meet his family's essential needs. While this individual's life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.

Of course, the living conditions of the average poor American should not be taken as representing all of the nation's poor: There is a wide range of liv ing conditions among the poor. A third of "poor" households have both cell and landline telephones. A third also have telephone answering machines. At the other extreme, approximately one-tenth of fam ilies in poverty have no telephone at all. Similarly, while the majority of poor households do not expe rience significant material problems, roughly a third do experience at least one problem such as over crowding, temporary hunger, or difficulty getting medical care.

Much poverty that does exist in the United States can be reduced, particularly among children. There are two main reasons that American children are poor: Their parents don't work much, and their fathers are absent from the home.

In both good and bad economic environments, the typical American poor family with children is supported by only 800 hours of work during a year—the equivalent of 16 hours of work per week. If work in each family were raised to 2,000 hours per year—the equivalent of one adult working 40 hours per week throughout the year—nearly 75 percent of poor children would be lifted out of offi cial poverty.

As noted above, father absence is another major cause of child poverty. Nearly two-thirds of poor children reside in single-parent homes; each year, an additional 1.5 million children are born out of wedlock. If poor mothers married the fathers of their children, nearly three-quarters of the nation's impoverished youth would immediately be lifted out of poverty.

Yet, although work and marriage are reliable lad ders out of poverty, the welfare system perversely remains hostile to both. Major programs such as food stamps, public housing, and Medicaid con tinue to reward idleness and penalize marriage. If welfare could be turned around to encourage work and marriage, the nation's remaining poverty could be reduced.

While renewed welfare reform can help to reduce poverty, such efforts will be partially offset by the poverty-boosting impact of the nation's immigration system. Each year, the U.S. imports, through both legal and illegal immigration, hun dreds of thousands of additional poor persons from abroad. As a result, one-quarter of all poor persons in the U.S. are now first-generation immigrants or the minor children of those immigrants. Roughly one in ten of the persons counted among the poor by the Census Bureau is either an illegal immigrant or the minor child of an illegal. As long as the present steady flow of poverty-prone persons from foreign countries continues, efforts to reduce the total number of poor in the U.S. will be far more dif ficult. A sound anti-poverty strategy must seek to increase work and marriage, reduce illegal immigra tion, and increase the skill level of future legal immigrants.

Robert Rector is Senior Research Fellow in Domestic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

Politics & Religion / China's Military Build Up
« on: August 31, 2007, 04:12:44 PM »
Analysis: Military imbalance in the Taiwan Strait
HONG KONG, Aug. 31
Column: Military Might
During the past seven to 10 years China's rapid buildup of military power has tipped the balance in the Taiwan Strait strongly in its favor.

    Since 1999, when former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui announced his "two states" theory -- daring to say that the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China are two different states, precipitating the PRC's aggressive stance against the island's independence -- there have been drastic changes in the balance of military power on the two sides. This includes the navies, air forces, and strategic campaign missiles, or ballistic missiles.

    The Taiwanese air force has not added a single new combat aircraft since 1999. It still has 148 F-16 Block 15 MTU, 58 Mirage2000-5 and 130 IDF fighters in service. The total number of its third generation fighters has remained around 336 over the past seven years. On the sea, the navy has added only four Kidd-class DDGs, the largest arms procurement since the Democratic Progressive Party came to power in 2000.

    In terms of the buildup of ballistic missiles (surface-to-surface missiles, or SSMs), China has achieved a great leap forward both in the number of SSMs in its arsenal and in their overall quality. In addition to its DF-15 and DF-11 SSMs, which have been upgraded continuously over the years, television footage released by the official Chinese media shows there are at least one or two new types of short-range ballistic missiles now in operational service.

    As far as the quality of the Chinese SSM is concerned, the export version of its B611M ballistic missile is now equipped with a GPS/GLONASS satellite positioning system, giving it a strike accuracy of around 50 meters (164 feet).

    China's improved position in the air is evidenced by the changes in the quantity and quality of its third generation combat aircraft from 1999 to 2007. In 1999 it had only 48 Su-27SK, two J-11 A/B, a few Su-27 UBK and five J-10A aircraft. In 2007 the figures are 48 Su-27SK, 95 J-11 A/B, 28 additional Su-27 UBK, 100 Su-30 MKK/MK2, 64 J-10A, at least 24 JH-7A, 4 KJ-2000 and at least two KJ-200.

    Based on these figures, the number of third generation combat aircraft in the fleet of the People's Liberation Army Air Force was only a modest 55 in 1999, while in 2007 the number has jumped to 369. In 2008 it will further surpass Taiwan's fleet.

    With the import of Su-30 MKK fighters, China's inventory of H-59ME and H-29TE TV-guided air-to-surface missiles, or ASMs; 1,500-pound Russian TV-guided bombs; H-31A anti-ship missiles; and H-31P anti-radiation missiles has also increased steadily over the last seven years. China has imported more than 1,000 RVV-AE active radar-guided air-to-air missiles, or AAMs, from Russia, while the number of AMR AAMs in the Taiwanese air force is no more than 120 now.

    In addition, China continues to import a substantial number of RVV-AE AAMs every year. The critical change here is that in 1999, the PLAAF did not even have the capability to use such advanced AAMs as the PL-12RVV-AE AAM and the precision guidance land-attack weapons that they have now.

    Given another two to three years, all the pilots of the PLAAF's 369 third generation fighters will have accumulated flight time of more than 1,000 hours. Around 2009 or 2010, the overall quality of the military personnel ready to take to the air over the Taiwan Strait will be fundamentally reversed, in favor of the PLA Air Force.

    In 1999, the PLAAF did not have the capability to engage in aerial early warning operations. In 2007, there are already four plus two AWACS/AEW&C aircraft in operational service. Although these AWACS aircrafts have encountered such problems as electromagnetic disturbances and their training activities are less frequent than before, the PLA at least has the airborne warning and control system. The number of AWACS platforms currently operational in the PLAAF is equivalent to the number in Taiwan.

    The PLAAF also has two refitted Y-8 electronic warfare aircraft, and other supporting electronic reconnaissance and countermeasure aircraft are under development. By contrast, the Taiwanese air force has had only one refitted C130 EW aircraft for years.

    Since 1999, the PLA Navy has prioritized and sped up the building of surface battleships over 4,000 tons, nuclear-powered submarines and conventional diesel submarines. In 1999 the navy had one 7,000-ton class 956E/EM DDG, one 6,000-ton class 051B DDG, four Kilo 887/636 SS and one 039A SS. The 2007 numbers are at least one 094 SSBN, at least two   093 SSNs, four 7,000-ton class 956E/EM DDGs, one 6,000-ton class 051B DDG, two 7,000-ton class 051C DDGs, two 052B DDGs, two 053C DDGs, four 054/A FFGs, 12 Kilo 887/636 SS, and at least 10 039A SS.   

    The most remarkable change is that the PLAN had only one type 051B and one type 956E missile destroyers (DDG), in 1999 that had a full-load displacement of more than 6,000 tons, whereas in 2007 it has 11 large surface battleships with a displacement of more than 6,000 tons, and two type 054A missile frigates (FFG) with a respective full-load displacement of more than 4,000 tons. By contrast, the only surface battleships in the Taiwanese navy with full-load displacement of more than 7,000 tons are the four Kidd-class DDGs.

    In terms of its range of anti-ship missiles, the PLAN is also edging ahead of the Taiwanese navy. The PLAN's stockpile of anti-ship missiles with a range of over 200 kilometers (125 miles) has increased steadily, including the YJ6-2 and 3M-54E anti-ship missiles with respective ranges of 280 kilometers (175 miles) and 220 kilometers (around 135 miles). Those missiles give the PLAN the capability to launch long-range attacks on the sea and underwater as well. Besides, the PLAN has widely deployed the 180-kilometer-range YJ8-3 SSM on its surface battleships.

    The PLAN's RIF-M, HQ-9 long range and HQ-16, Shtil-1 middle range ship-to-air missiles are also already in service. This means the overall range of ship-to-air missiles of the Taiwanese navy can no longer match that of the PLAN.

    Unlike the PLA Air Force's aircraft, however, most of the new battleships of the PLA Navy have only recently gone into operation, and may encounter difficulties in combat applications. For instance, the delivery of 8 Kilo 636 submarines started only in 2005, and the type 052C "Chinese Aegis" DDGs have remained anchored at the Sanya military port for most of this year. This indicates that these new battleships may have encountered problems.

    Particularly, the PLAN has not established an integrated combat system at sea. As for its Type 054A FFGs, they are still under construction, and two Type 054 FFGs were newly delivered in 2005.

    It will take time for China to resolve the problems with its new defense equipment. Nonetheless, the military power balance in terms of quantity and quality of weapons between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait continues to tilt markedly toward the side of the PRC.


    (Andrei Chang is editor-in-chief of Kanwa Defense Review, published in Hong Kong.)

Politics & Religion / Iraq WMD Found in UN Storage & Other Absurdities
« on: August 31, 2007, 12:51:22 PM »
This piece could be filed under a dozen or more topic headings. Utterly amazing.

August 31, 2007, 8:00 a.m.

Closet Case
The U.N.’s worldwide inventory problem.

By Claudia Rosett

Talk about skeletons in the closet. The United Nations weapons inspectors once tasked with tracking Saddam Hussein’s arsenal have just discovered that for more than a decade they’ve been storing vials containing one of Iraq’s chemical-weapons concoctions — phosgene — in a cabinet in their own New York office. Removed from Iraq’s Al Muthanna chemical-weapons facility in 1996, the phosgene apparently sat unnoticed in the UNMOVIC office until last week.

This discovery was presented by the U.N. at a press briefing Thursday as the sort of mistake anyone could make, even if — as one of the U.N. weapons experts explained — opening the containers would mean “a couple of people would be dead.” Phosgene is an irritant, widely used as a weapon in World War I, which causes people to choke to death.

Officials from the U.N.’s Iraq weapons-inspections office, known as the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), explained that it was an “accident” that the phosgene had ever been brought from Iraq to New York. “This kind of material should certainly not have come here,” said UNMOVIC spokesman, Ewen Buchanan.

UNMOVIC officials said the quantities found were small, with all the vials able to fit inside a container the size of a Coca-Cola can. As soon as the substance had been tentatively identified, the vials were further sealed and isolated. The U.N. then invited agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to come remove them from UNMOVIC’s offices, which are across the street from the main U.N. headquarters building in midtown Manhattan.

Thursday afternoon, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s office issued a statement that UNMOVIC believes “There is no immediate risk or danger to the public” and that a sweep of the office “revealed no further potentially dangerous materials.”

Glad that’s settled. But phosgene sitting unnoticed for years in a U.N. office in midtown Manhattan is just the latest symptom of a growing danger that one might politely call the U.N.’s worldwide inventory problem. In some cases the reason is sheer sloppiness, in others it can be deliberate, involving fraud, theft, or worse. But whatever the local specifics, the U.N., with its diplomatic immunity, secrecy, slipshod internal controls, inadequate auditing, buck-passing, and $20 billion-per-year system moving people, money, and goods around the globe, has become a cauldron of threats to the global security it is supposed to promote.

Take, for example, the problems for U.S. security posed by something that sounds on the face of it a lot less alarming than phosgene: U.N. stationery. This summer, U.S. federal agents arrested a Russian official working at the United Nations in New York, Vyacheslav Manokhin, who is alleged in the federal complaint to have been part of a scheme misusing the U.N. and UNDP letterhead to help “numerous non-United States citizens” fraudulently enter the U.S. At least some of these letters were signed in the names of U.N. officials who did not exist. A pretext for entry to the U.S. was to attend conferences, many of them at the U.N. in Manhattan. (Manokhin has pled not guilty).

Also in New York, federal investigations into corruption in the U.N. procurement department have led to a guilty plea and two jury-trial convictions over the past two years from U.N. officials — including the conviction this March of the former head of the U.N. budget oversight committee, Vladimir Kuznetsov, for conspiring to launder kickbacks on procurement deals. Some of those funds were moved through a bank branch located for the convenience of United Nations staff inside the U.N. headquarters complex.

And this March, we learned that the U.N. Development Program, without alerting U.S. authorities, had been keeping a stack of counterfeit $100 bills for more than a decade in its North Korea office safe (having tried without success to return them to the North Korea state bank from which they were obtained, according to a UNDP spokesman). This news emerged as part of a still-spreading scandal in which U.S. officials have alleged, based on confidential U.N. documents, that the UNDP had been funneling hard cash, and possibly weapons-related goods, to the rogue, nuclear-bomb-building North Korean government of Kim Jong Il.

Then there was the mother of all U.N. inventory fiascoes, the 1996-2003 Oil-for-Food program for Iraq, in which abysmally deficient U.N. oversight provided cover that was exploited by U.N.-sanctioned Saddam — under the noses of U.N. inspectors and authenticators and overseers and monitors and managers — to bust sanctions, bank billions, and buy weapons via a worldwide network of smuggling and corrupt deals.

In the U.S., Oil-for-Food has by now led to a series of guilty pleas, one jury-trial conviction, and nine pending cases. But however hard U.S. prosecutors might labor to mop up the U.N. mess, the U.N. is a global operation, sprawling far beyond U.S. jurisdiction. Scores of U.N. member states — including such major players as Russia and China — have done nothing to pursue leads unearthed in a slew of investigations. The former head of Oil-for-Food, Benon Sevan, who ran Oil-for-Food for six years out of U.N. headquarters in New York, and was indicted in New York federal court this past January, has had no trouble retiring to a perch safely beyond reach of U.S. extradition, on his native Cyprus (he says he is innocent).

On a perhaps lighter note, it seems the U.N. can’t even keep track of paperwork done in the name of the top boss. The organization has never disclosed what became of any U.N. documentation that should have been generated when Kofi Annan’s son, Kojo Annan, availed himself of the help of the UNDP office in Ghana to import a Mercedes duty-free in 1998 under false use of the senior Annan’s name and U.N. diplomatic perquisites. The UNDP seal was on the import documents finally released in 2006 by Kojo’s lawyer. Either at the U.N. or UNDP, there should have been some U.N. record. Was it lost? Perhaps misfiled, somewhere near the wayward phosgene in the UNMOVIC office?

We must at least credit UNMOVIC officials who, having discovered the phosgene, came forward swiftly and in public to disclose that they had botched their inventory control (perhaps it concentrates the mind to discover chemical-weapons samples on the premises). But there are a lot of questions still unanswered. Who brought the phosgene to New York? And how? And why over the course of more than a decade did UNMOVIC never get around to a full stock-taking in its own office?

Anyone unfamiliar with the U.N. bureaucracy might also wonder why, four years after the overthrow of Saddam, UNMOVIC still exists at all. Actually, the real surprise is that UNMOVIC is finally in the process of closing its doors — thanks to an absurdly delayed decision by the Security Council, which finally voted this June to shut down the operation. It was in the course of archiving material, in preparation for shutting down, that UNMOVIC staff came across the phosgene.

If shutting down a U.N. operation is what it takes to provoke a full housecleaning, there’s a great case by now for closing down the entire U.N. system, immediately. There’s no chance of that. But back in January, when the North Korea Cash-for-Kim scandal first broke, Ban Ki-moon, in a statement released by his office, promised “an urgent, system wide and external inquiry into all activities done around the globe by the U.N. funds and programmes.” It never happened. While the FBI busies itself in Manhattan hauling away UNMOVIC’s lethal office trash, and U.S. prosecutors toil to stop the U.N.-related fraud, bribery, money-laundering, and other escapades that have become such a staple of the U.N. landscape, the least Ban could do is redeem his broken promise and deliver a full, independent inquiry into whatever the U.N.’s global empire might still have stashed in its nooks, crannies, safes, cabinets, and closets.

— Claudia Rosett is a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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Politics & Religion / Wait for a Humiliated Theocracy?
« on: August 31, 2007, 12:43:55 PM »
Don’t Bomb, Bomb Iran
For now, we should avoid a smoking Tehran.

By Victor Davis Hanson

There’s been ever more talk on Iran. President Bush — worried about both Americans being killed by Iranian mines in Iraq, and Tehran’s progress toward uranium enrichment — is ratcheting up the rhetoric.
But so mirabile dictu is French president Nicolas Sarkozy. He suddenly, in the eleventh hour of the crisis, reminds the world that bombing Iran is still very possible (and he doesn’t specify by whom):

An Iran with nuclear arms is, to me, unacceptable, and I am weighing my words…And I underline France's full determination to support the alliance's current policy of increasing sanctions, but also to remain open if Iran makes the choice to fulfill its obligations. This policy is the only one that will allow us to escape an alternative, which I consider to be catastrophic. Which alternative? An Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran.
Note especially the French president’s reference to “us” and the logic of his syllogism: Iran can’t and won’t have the bomb; one catastrophic remedy is bombing; therefore someone must increase sanctions or someone will bomb Iran, as the least bad of two awful alternatives. He can say all that — without the global hatred that George Bush would incur had he said half that.

Mohamed Ahmadinejad is still ranting, but with more a sense of false braggadocio than ever: Iran will inherit the mantel of Middle East hegemony; America is running from Iraq; our policies have already failed in Iraq — blah, blah, blah.

So what exactly is the status of the crisis?

Recall the current U.S. policy — which, I think, so far remains bipartisan except for a few unhinged calls for full diplomatic engagement with this murderous regime:

Show the world that Americans tried the European route with the EU3 (Britain, France, German) negotiations that have so far failed; let the U.N. jawbone (so what?); help Iranian dissidents and democratic reformers; keep trying to stabilize Iran’s reforming neighbors in Afghanistan and Iraq; persuade Russia, China, and India to cooperate in ostracizing Iran; galvanize global financial institutions to isolate the Iranian economy; apprise the world that an Iranian nuclear device is unacceptable — and hope all that pressure works before the theocrats have enough enriched uranium to get a bomb and, as Persian nationalists, win back public approval inside Iran.

The degree to which Iran has neared completion of bomb-making will determine to what degree all of the above has hurt, helped, or had no effect.

But there are subtle indications that U.S. policy is slowly working, and that a strike now on Iran would be a grave mistake, in every strategic and political sense — not to mention the humanitarian one of harming a populace that may well soon prove to be the most pro-Western in the region.

It is surreal, after all, that a French president would confess that Iran getting the bomb is “unacceptable.” Sarkozy seems to recognize that a nuclear Iran won’t be happy with bullying neighboring oil producers and carving up Iraq, but will be soon blackmailing Europe on issues from trade to war.

So finally a French leader seems to allow that if the Europeans would just cease all financial relations with Teheran, freeze their assets, and stop sending them everything from sniper rifles to machine tools, then the crippled regime would start to stagger even more. And because France has been the most obstructionist in the past to U.S. efforts in the Middle East, its mere rhetoric is nearly beyond belief.

We have no leverage with China and Russia, of course. Their general foreign policy is reactive, based on the principle that anything that disturbs the United States and diverts its attention is de facto a positive development — excepting perhaps having another nuclear nut in Asia to go alongside North Korea and Pakistan.

Still, the recent humiliating disclosures about China’s 19th-century “Jungle”-type industry, and the growing anger at what Mr. Sarkozy called Russia’s “brutality,” show that neither country has earned much respect, and that either could pull in its horns a bit concerning Iran, with deft Western diplomacy.

There are other symptoms of progress. The Sadr brigades have purportedly announced a cessation of military operations — no doubt, because they are losing the sectarian kill-fest. But it may also be because Shiite animosity against them is growing. Perhaps too they are learning that Iran’s interest in Iraq is not always theirs, but simply fomenting violence of any kind that persuades the U.S. military to leave, including arming their enemies, both Sunni and Shiite.

Every Shiite gangster should note that Iran’s envisioned future is not one of coequal mafias, but rather a mere concession in the south that takes orders from the real bosses in the north. The jury is still out on whether it is true that Arab Shiites are Shiites first, and Arabs second or third. But at some point someone will start to figure out that Iran also gave arms and aid to al Qaeda to kill Iraqi Shiites.

No one knows quite what is going on in Iraq. Yet news that the surge is working and that violence is declining is also bad news for Tehran. Its worst nightmare is that Sunni tribes are no longer aping al Qaeda, but helping Americans. That will only turn attention back to Iranian-back killers. Meanwhile Sunni masters in the region — arming themselves to the teeth — are reminding their kindred Iraqi tribesmen that Iran, not America, is the real enemy of the Arab world.

And what is our stance? The United States calmly continues to arrest and “detain” Iranian agents inside Iraq — acts, of course, that enrage a kidnapping Iran. Apparently the only thing galling to an Iranian hostage-taker is the very idea that someone else would try such a thing openly and publicly and within the bounds of the rules of war. And by labeling the Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization, the United States is finally institutionalizing what the world already knows: Iran is a criminal state whose government and terrorists are one and the same.

There is also the ever-present, ever-unreliable news out of Iran itself of gas rationing, strikes, and a deteriorating economy. If all that good for us/bad for them news is true — with oil prices still sky-high, and sanctions as yet weak and porous — then it suggests that should financial ostracism be stepped up and become really punitive, and oil recede in price by even a few dollars, the regime would face widespread disobedience.

It would help things if Western elites started seeing Iran as Darfur. Teheran has butchered thousands of its own, kills the innocent in Iraq, and has stated that it would like to see the equivalent of a second Holocaust — all surely some grounds for at least a dig from Bono or a frown from Brad Pitt.

It doesn’t help Ahmadinejad that his supposedly successful, rocket-propelled proxy war against Israel a year ago, not only was not followed up by a round-two jihad this season, but seems on careful autopsy to have been a costly blunder that nearly destroyed the infrastructure of his southern Lebanese allies. No Iranian in gas line wants to learn that his scrimping went to pay for rebuilding the atomized apartment buildings of Arabs in Lebanon.

The oddest development of all is Iranian outrage at the U.N. — a sentiment almost impossible to entertain for any such corrupt, anti-American regime. But Iran’s chief delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ali-Ashgar Soltanieh, keeps screaming about international monitoring. He threatens this and that, which can only mean Iran fears the global humiliation of having inspectors expose the fact that puritanical, live-by-Koran clerics are serial liars.

Of course, there is no reason yet to believe that Iran’s megalomaniac plans are stalled. There is much less reason to think that the world is galvanizing fast or furiously enough against the loony Ahmadinejad. But there are some positive signs that Iran is not nearly as strong as it thinks, and the general winds of the world are blowing against it, ever so slowly — and thanks in large part to careful U.S. policy and the innately self-destructive tendencies of Iranian theocracy.

Note that the loud Democratic 2008 candidates have ceased calling for direct talks with Iran (the inexperienced Obama, the exception proving the rule). They can offer no policy other than the present one. For all the dangers, the spectacle of Ahmadinejad has been a great gift to the Western world — loudly embodying, in its raw, pure form, the evil which Iranian theocracy inevitably produces.

So we should continue with the present path — and not bomb or have surrogates bomb Iran. That option is still down the road. For as long as it is possible, the best-case scenario is not a smoking Iran, but a humiliated theocracy that slowly implodes before the world, displaying in their disgrace what the mullahs did to themselves — and perhaps a small reminder of those helpful shoves from us.

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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