Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ring in the New

As everyone summarizes things from 2011 this column on the media's handling of president Obama has to be in the top five.  Here's a snippet:
Indeed, the GOP hopefuls have been thoroughly queried on a laundry list of issues ranging from immigration problems to the faltering economy, Iran’s nuclear program to trade deficits with China, the intricacies of climate change to strategies to combat terrorism, exploding government regulations to skyrocketing public debt, plus some uncomfortable questions about their pasts and their personal lives.
Yet, during all that time, the man they hope to defeat next November has rarely been asked by news reporters about many of these issues. Since August, President Obama has held only one formal White House news conference. That came on Oct. 6, nearly three months ago. It lasted 74 minutes, shorter than any single Republican debate, and the president was asked 17 questions, most of them softballs on the economy and his latest legislative proposals to create jobs.
The piece was not written by some right wing blogger or party hack, but by Richard Benedetto, a former USA Today White House press corpse member and current professor of journalism teaching at both Georgetown and American U. He's not the only one to point it out, but is perhaps the only one to point it out who used to sit in the White House press room.  It's the reason I've called them the 'baby bird' media--instead of going after prey like normal journalists they wait for little droplings of 'food' to be sprinkled out by the mother bird, afraid to jump out of the nest (probably fearing the loss of access or a book deal). So the American public is left with nothing more than soft-ball questions and summaries of White House talking points, such as this supposed piece of journalism:
Obama continued to describe the year to come as a “make-or-break” moment for the middle class, explaining “the actions we take in the months ahead will help determine what kind of country we want to be, and what kind of world we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in.”
Granted, she was reporting on his weekly taped message, but is there any difference between that and a formal press conference?  Neither allow real follow-ups.   And granted there's an ideological perspective in play, but isn't this what a real press conference is supposed to look like....

(here's part 2, part 3, and part 4, and notice how the problems are similar then to now, including the Iranians and the Persian Gulf) 

Formal interviews aren't much better.  Recently Steve Kroft of CBS 60 Minutes did one and occasionally asked some tough questions and make some tough points, such as... Did you overpromise? Did you underestimate how difficult this was gonna be?  To which Obama was allowed to respond with..."I didn't overpromise. And I didn't underestimate how tough this was gonna be. I always believed that this was a long-term project; this wasn't a short-term project" (followed by a typical filibuster).  Kroft let all of it go despite Obama on tape after his election saying that if he didn't get things turned around by 3 years he might be a one-termer.  Guess only bloggers and Sean Hannity have access to that clip.

As you can see, there's no breaking news or cogent insight in this rant, just a summary of frustration. The new year is approaching, so allow me to agree with Obama in at least one area-- here's hoping 2012 is a great year.  But I hope it's great for ALL Americans, not just those of one 'class' or another.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Uh Oh..

Wow, look what Big Sis is up to now..
Simply using a word or phrase from the DHS's 'watch' list could mean that spies from the government read your posts, investigate your account, and attempt to identify you from it, acccording to an online privacy group. The words which attract attention range from ones seemingly related to diseases or bioweapons such as 'human to animal' and 'outbreak' to other, more obscure words such as 'drill' and 'strain'.
The DHS also watches for words such as 'illegal immigrant'. The DHS outlined plans to scans blogs, Twitter and Facebook for words such as 'illegal immigrant', 'outbreak', 'drill', 'strain', 'virus', 'recovery', 'deaths', 'collapse', 'human to animal' and 'trojan', according to an 'impact asssessment' document filed by the agency.
Ha ha, now the Daily Mail is on the spy list for repeating the key words! Wait, er.. Oh well, I guess we can't be too careful when dealing with bloggers and tweeters yakking about illegal immigrants and recovery and strains. Dang, did it again! Hey wait, 'recovery'?  'Strain'?  That implicates the White House itself.  Fishy!
When its search tools net an account using the phrases, they record personal information. It's still not clear how this information is used - and who the DHS shares it with.
Why Dick Cheney, who else? Let's see now, what's that quip about voting for McCain and such?

Double Barrel Assault  12/30/11 

While stories float around about the DHS snooping on regular peeps we have to worry about hackers with noble intent using their skills not to become the next Steve Jobs but to provide our credit card numbers to various geeks and Russian criminals:
“It’s time to dump the full 75,000 names, addresses, CCs and md5 hashed passwords to every customer that has ever paid Stratfor. But that’s not all: we’re also dumping ~860,000 usernames, email addresses, and md5 hashed passwords for everyone who’s ever registered on Stratfor’s site… Did you notice 50,000 of these email addresses are .mil and .gov?”
Sorry boys and gals, but if that's your MO it ain't noble, it's damn stupid. All you're doing is making it easier for politicians to declare the web is that much more dangerous and therefore must have tighter controls, while setting yourself up for an orange jump suit. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The New Iraq

George W. Bush often says, when asked about Iraq, "history will judge".   One has to wonder if that viewpoint is based on the condition of having a stabilizing presence of US forces nearby.  Obama failed to make a deal to keep any leftover forces in Iraq, quite unlike most areas where the US military has won engagements.  For instance, we still have forces in Kosovo.  Politically speaking Bush may now have an out card.

Meanwhile, AP is reporting that an al Qaeda group is taking credit for the recent bombings that killed scores in Baghdad..
"The series of special invasions (was) launched ... to support the weak Sunnis in the prisons of the apostates and to retaliate for the captives who were executed," said the statement in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq.
Nothing new; the Islamic State of Iraq has been operating in-country for years.  But having a group tying itself to AQ in the middle of Iraqi chaos might be problematic from a PR standpoint for a president who will soon be touting his tough-on-terrorists foreign policy as a reason for reelection while vowing to leave Iraq on its own.  Some may wonder whether any other AQ-affiliated groups are also now off the GWoT chess board.   

Or perhaps Obama doesn't think they are genuine AQ.  The presumed leader of the Islamic State is none other than our old friend Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, whom UPI last year predicted would be "the last man standing" in Saddam's old cabinet (despite being the most-wanted fugitive by al-Maliki's government):
Security officials note that the Sunni insurgents are probably responsible for most of the current surge in violence that has been widely attributed to al-Qaida and its alter ego, the Islamic State of Iraq.
Al-Duri's command of such a group seems like a neat trick, since he was recently reported to be clinically dead. Then again, he's been dead before, and has survived being captured every few years, including in 2010 right before he clinically died.  So al-Duri seems to have a cat-like ability to carry on..
"If anyone can bring off even part of the purported JRTN agenda, it is Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri," he wrote. "He has found a knack for keeping himself alive and relevant in Iraq's insurgent politics. "He boasts a bevy of special relationships with groups as diverse as Iraq's Sufis, Ansar al Islam (an extremist Islamist group), the tribes of north-central Iraq and nationalist militant movements such as Jaish al-Mujahedeen," Knights observed. "Having stayed in Iraq permanently since 2003, al-Douri is the last link to the Baath government and his insurgent credentials are rock solid compared to all the young pretenders in Iraq and the exiled Baathists outside."
Well yes, al-Duri was the appointed a sort of focal point by Saddam in their outreach to Islamists during the 90s, so maybe those contacts are the reason such a frail man has been able to escape a US and Iraqi dragnet all these years.  Then again, others believe it's because he has some kind of horrible deterrent in his hip pocket they are afraid of, while others believe the US wanted him around for some reason. 

Or maybe he's just lucky.  At any rate, he's a relative unknown in the US media--so unknown it's unclear as to whether he might have a famous relative.  One story in 2008 about the possible capture of his nephews now gives a 404 error.   Maybe things will change as Obama manages the blow-back of 'ending the war' but one thing is for sure--the US military will not be taking him into custody any time soon.  He's been left to the wolves.  So in a way UPI is correct, Izzat has indeed become the last man standing.  For how long, nobody knows.  Just be wary of initial reports of his demise.      

Paul in the Crosshairs

From this morning...
I know it's linking to a pseudo hit-job story by Republican David Frum but editors usually make headline decisions due to the impact they can have on readers.  Would editors at CNN ever allow something like, "Obama:  Marxist, Kenyan or more?".  

Paul used to be tolerated by the left-leaning press because they enjoyed the effect he had on fellow Republicans, knowing he never actually had chance to win anything.  But as his viability rises, so do the long knives--they know Paul is further right on the social issues than any other candidate.  Watching the spectacle of how the MSM vets GOP presidential candidates compared to Democrats has become fairly nauseating.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

Humanizing Spock

Have you noticed?  The man once described as cold, aloof, detached, and Spock-like has been getting a makeover of late.  Today on Drudge....

Those can be powerful images when combined with dead terrorists and a slightly improved economy.  A president's ability to 'connect' with normal life and people is paramount in marketing him to the masses, and Axelrod is definitely pushing that angle. They need to make Obama look more human.

So ask yourself this--since it's a given that a president needs to be seen as more than a wise man sitting in the Oval Office solving problems and barking orders, which current GOP contender has the PR skills to do the fluff stuff as well or better than Obama?   My answer: there are a few high-visibility GOP figures who could do it as well if not better, but they aren't running (it's not about competence, it's about getting elected).

Sunday, December 25, 2011


No hint of snow here, but we can't handle it anyway.  Meanwhile, in the spirit of the day, here's CNN exploring how other religions perceive Christmas:
Two days before Christmas, Imam Mohamed Magid, the executive director at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, preached about Jesus at Friday prayers. "We live in a country with a majority of Christians, where Christmas is a major holiday... It's a reminder we do believe in Jesus. Jesus' position in Islam is one of the highest prophets in Islam," Magid said, adding that Muslims view Jesus as a prophet on par with Abraham, Moses, Noah and Mohammad.
Often when he says the name of Mohammad or Jesus in conversation, Magid adds the Islamic honorific "Peace be upon him" after his name. "Jesus is a unifying figure, unifying Muslims and Christians," he said. The Quran, the Islamic scriptures, makes specific mention of Jesus and of his mother Mary. "It's very interesting that there are many places where the prophet (Mohammad) is quoting Jesus."
Which if nothing else seems to suggest AD 700 circa evidence of Christ's existence.  CNN continues...
Magid said Muslims believe many of the same things about Jesus that Christians do: Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, he lived a sinless life, he raised the dead, and he preformed miracles. He also said many Muslim scholars believe that Jesus will one day return to the earth, using the Christian vocabulary of "the Second Coming."
Well sure, if by "same things" they mean everything aside from the very reason we have a "Christianity"--the divinity of Christ.  Muslims believe Christ was just another prophet along the path to the 'one true prophet', Mohammad.   Their view of Jesus would be like a Christian person saying Mohammad was just a man who wrote a book and talked about Jesus, but wasn't the one true prophet chosen by Allah because Christ filled that role 700 years earlier and warned his disciples about false messiahs to come.  One might think the reaction could be a bit extreme.

If CNN really wanted to explore some differences between the faiths they could have explored this story out of modern day Iran in comparison to the Biblical story of the stoning of Mary Magdalene:
Authorities in Iran said Sunday they are again moving ahead with plans to execute a woman sentenced to death by stoning on an adultery conviction in a case that sparked an international outcry, but are considering whether to carry out the punishment by hanging instead.
Yes, Iran stoning this woman under Sha'ria law inspired by the Koran is about punishment, Jesus pardoning Mary was about forgiveness.  But the latter represents the very heart of Christianity.  Jesus was said to have died for the sins of mankind so we might all be saved.  His dying on the cross was to allow our entrance to heaven, even after sin.  On the contrary, forgiveness doesn't seem to be a central theme of Islam, whether they believe in Jesus or not.

And that leaves a chasm of brutal honesty nobody wants to acknowledge.  If indeed Islam does not accept Jesus as divine they are left to believe he was at worst a liar and at best misguided, rendering the entire religion based around his existence as a fraud.  After all, there's only one true prophet.  Nor can Christians believe there was anyone beyond Jesus of any religious significance, since Christ claimed to be 'the way, the truth, and the life', nobody coming to the Father but through Him.  That's fairly absolute.

CNN suggests that by recognizing Christ, Islam is the most ardent believer in monotheism of all religions. Not really.  Most Christians also believe Mohammad existed and formed Islam, they just believe he was at best misguided, or at worst, a liar.   Not somewhere they were likely to go--especially on Christmas--after all let's face it, the rationale behind the Belief Blog was likely not to create fatwas against Anderson Cooper but to create a vehicle for subtle condemnation of conservative Republican Christians on behalf of the one true leader.  But it's not something the Pope would admit either, on Christmas or any other day.   And as long as the divide exists, so will the trouble.  

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Side Tracks

I've posted this version before, but it's a favorite..

 And another..


 Merry Christmas to all. Thanks for reading.. 

Friday, December 23, 2011


As everyone buzzes over the strategy behind a measly 2 month FICA tax cut this story is bubbling around, making few waves:
The United States on Thursday established a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to Yasin al-Suri, accused of operating from Iran as a facilitator and financier for al-Qaida.
The bounty is the first offered for an al-Qaida financier and is aimed at disrupting a financial network that has operated from within Iran's borders since 2005, said Eytan Fisch, a senior Treasury Department official. Robert Hartung, a senior State Department official, said that under an agreement between al-Qaida and the government of Iran, al-Suri had helped move money and recruits through Iran to al-Qaida leaders in neighboring countries.
Bolded to help get this straight--the administration is casually releasing a news story that basically says Iran has been helping al Qaeda finance their operations--the same enemy who attacked us on 9/11 (and the one Obama claims Bush didn't go after hard enough)--since 2005.  Not only that, but a judge recently ruled that Iran was actually complicit in 9/11 itself, which predictably hasn't received saturation media coverage.  What will the president be doing in response?   Will anyone ask?  Scott RitterAnyone

Thursday, December 22, 2011

House "Recalcitrant"?

CNN is breaking news of a possible deal for the payroll tax cut by referring to the House as "recalcitrant".  Hmm.  Wasn't the House begging for someone to negotiate with over this deal?  Wasn't the House saying two months was putting a burden on the pencil necks?  Weren't they asking Obama to bring his dog up for a talk and asking Reid to invite his members to leave the bar early and come back to town to join a House-Senate conference?  Begging them to do business the way Congress has always done it?   And isn't the deal now better than it was a few hours ago?   

No, Boehner isn't the best Speaker ever and the House played their game.  But to suggest they and only they were players is to wax silly.  Only a person who just flew in from Neptune would be surprised by any of this back-and-forth because divided Congresses always fight like children, and we've got a fairly juvenile leader leading the playroom.   After the deal passes they'll all engage in a circular finger-pointing contest, with the media off to the side all pointing at Boehner with the exception of "Faux News", who will be pointing to Obama or at Bo the Dog's possible AF One trip back from Hawaii for prop duty.   In two months they'll all play musical chairs again without anyone leaving their chairs.    

MORE  12/22/11

The general consensus seems to be that Boehner just committed the biggest boo-boo in political history.  At least at the WaPo:
The agreement represented a remarkable capitulation on the part of House Republicans, who had two days earlier rejected such a deal with Democrats as the kind of half-measure that their new majority was elected to thwart. And it amounts to a Christmas gift for President Obama, who attempted to paint his Republican opponents as willing to raise taxes for millions of Americans. Such an image could have cost the party politically just as it is gearing up to try to take back the White House and Senate in 2012.
That's the brutal truth, whether it's the truth or not.  The WaPo bashes Boehner by admitting that Obama was prepared to go to the mat to save a 2 month tax cut when in reality he's spent his entire presidency trying to raise taxes on a certain class of people he thinks have made enough money already, who will NOT be getting an increase to pay for this tax cut.  It was so crucial he was willing to use democrat operatives disguised as people, pizza, and even his own dog to get it done!   What did the American people win again?

The Dems now get two months to smear the Keystone pipeline so Obama can deny it, or alternatively Obama gets two more months of campaign contributions from both evil capitalists and nutty environmental wackos trying to affect policy before he approves it, or maybe uses a magic trick to delay it again.  Meanwhile the payroll tax cut can be framed not as gutting Social Security, but as the only moral way to fund it, which will require more taxes from rich people who've made enough already.

Why McConnell felt the need to take Reid's deal then embarrass Boehner is the real mystery here. Scuttlebutt says he was afraid of losing seats or somesuch, but it sounds more like a pissing match or a backdoor way to bring down the hated Tea Party.  Or maybe it just all came down to a bunch of congressfolks and a president who were willing to go to any length to save their 3 week vacation. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Droning On..

The WaPo has a rather shocking article today about Obama's drone program, discussing it's overall secrecy and an overall lack of outrage by our formerly outraged world neighbors (who were outrageously outraged when Bush was doing secret stuff):
Senior administration officials say they deserve to be trusted on drones, in part because Obama kept his pledge to do away with the CIA’s secret prisons and the use of harsh interrogation techniques. At home, the drone program has escaped serious public questioning because it is widely perceived as successful in eliminating insurgent leaders, has not put U.S. personnel at physical risk and has taken place largely out of sight. Abroad, no other government has offered public support for the program. “If you sat around a cabinet meeting in my country and asked the attorney general what he thought of the administration’s legal reasoning, he would say we disagree,” said a senior diplomat from a European ally. But public concerns in his country, he said, are not loud enough to force a confrontation with Washington.
Not surprisingly, the WaPo writer failed to pick up on their own part of that equation, ie, the number of Pulitzers won during the Bushitler era for exposing secrecy. At any rate, that was then, this is now: the era of the 4th best, or possibly best president ever.  Things are different!

You see, this is a war on terrorism, not some police action, and we've gotta fight it like a war, including the use of drones on targets (picked by the no-longer-evil CIA) and indefinite detention at Gitmo, even for American citizens. The "battlefield" is the world, not some dusty dirt patch in South Asia.

In other words, Obama is now Hitler without the fanfare. Another way of looking at it--Bush was never Hitler, just a president trying to win a war after a massive attack who was demonized for political reasons so America would elect a guy like Barack Obama.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Side Tracks

As the comments section alludes, that's Joel Hoekstra, currently playing with Night Ranger

Judging Iran

Is this just another one of those hollow lawsuits finding a state sponsor of terrorism that will fly away with the dust, like one just a few weeks ago where a judge found Iran complicit in the African Embassy bombings? Or is it something more?
Janice Kephart, who authored a separate monograph on the terrorists’ travel for the Commission, told the court that travel facilitation was not just a coincidence. It was “like a military operation” and was “crucial military support” for the 9/11 plot, she said. Fleming and Mellon explained that Iran sent its top terrorist operative, Imad Fayez Mugniyeh, to Saudi Arabia and Lebanon on several trips to accompany eight to ten of the “muscle” hijackers back to Iran. This was critical, they said, because the hijackers needed to reach al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan for briefings on the 9/11 operation. But because they were traveling on new Saudi passports and either already had or intended to get U.S. visas, the U.S. might refuse them entry if they had Iranian or Afghan entry stamps. So without Iran’s decision to allow the future hijackers invisible passage to and from Afghanistan — without stamping their passports — the 9/11 attacks might never have occurred.
So it appears this judge will rule against the Iranians.  It's part of the same lawsuit posted about here, wherein the lawyers for a widow of one of the pilots of United 175 claimed that on the morning of 9/11 Atta's cellphone was dialed by an Iranian-born flight instructor who worked in Florida.

One has to wonder about the timing of this suit what with all the hoopla over Iran of late, including weird explosions and rumors of war and such, although it's doubtful the courts were trying to help or hurt Obama.  The government has been priming the pump since summer, after all.  Presumably the verdict was reached based on secret evidence the public won't be hearing, which seems to give it more credibility, although most of it seems to hinge on three defectors. And we've been there before with Iraq.   Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how 1) the elite press reacts, and if so, whether they'll pepper Jay Carney for a White House response, and 2) how Iran will react.

As to complicity, if true it would throw the entire Sunni vs Shia paradigm on its ear and also perhaps bring in other state-sponsor players, going back to the ra-ra cheerleading of Muslim leaders like Hassan Turabi of Sudan back in the 90s, who tried to bring everyone together in the fight against the west.  Who knows, maybe it worked.  After Khobar Towers--and perhaps TWA 800--it's possible the terrorists thought Iran was untouchable.  If it did, perhaps Bush's actions make more sense in trying to surround the Mullahs.  But if it did, the bigger question is what Obama is going to do about it. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Win, Lose or Draw in Iraq

The troops are almost home; the president has given a speech, and the final barbs are flying.  Should we have done it?  Many now say no, but studying some hypotheticals based on that pivotal decision point in 2003 might be worthwhile.  So here goes....

Had we not gone in a lot of troops and civilians would still be alive today.  Troops, most probably yes, civilians maybe--but it's hard to know how many the Butcher might have killed anyway.  And the troops figure is assuming Saddam would have stayed in his box. 

Had we not gone in Saddam would have probably stayed in his box.  With help from the American no-fly zones and UN sanctions, perhaps.  We also thought--knew--he had WMDs and/or know-how. The sanctions and no-fly zones were a major part of bin Laden's fatwa against America in 1998, by the way, since our planes were flying out of Saudi Arabia.  So remaining status quo would have continued to piss off the guy who attacked us on 9/11.     

The inspectors should have been allowed to do their jobs.   The only way they got UN inspectors back into the country in 2003 was massing several hundred thousand troops on their regional doorstep.  Saddam was also profiting handily from the UN's Oil for Food program, adding cash to his stash that presumably went into building more palaces, or other unknown bribery to eventually lower the sanctions.   Had Bush backed down after massing the troops that triggered the inspectors then Saddam would have undoubtedly pushed to have the sanctions dropped or laxed.  The Kay and Duelfer Reports both mentioned his ability to reconstitute.  America would have been humiliated in the international community after coming near war only to have Saddam claim he didn't have weapons.  The no-fly zones might have disappeared, leading to who knows what.
Saddam wasn't a threat to America or the Middle East.  Well yes, except when he was cutting checks to the survivors of suicide bombers in the Palestinian territories or harboring various terrorists.  It's true he was a "check" on Iran, but that's like saying Stalin was a check on Hitler.  As to his threat, it was well established and not all based on Chalabi or Curveball, even before the WoT.   Well before.  And the dabblings his intelligence service had with AQ, also established, have never been fully explained.   We killed Gaddafi for less. 

Had we left things alone the Arab Spring would have eventually come along and displaced Saddam. Would the "Arab Spring" have occurred at all with Saddam still in power?  Some folks took the fall of the statue as a seminal moment for persons under dictatorship; before the Arab Spring there was a Cedar Revolution in Lebanon.  Iraq was different than the other Sunni-dominated Arab countries due to its mixed sects, and was more ripe for a civil war than a revolution.  Besides, with Saddam still in power how would the Israelis have reacted to the ouster of Mubarak?  Imagine a world where the Muslim Brotherhood, Saddam, Assad, HAMAS and Hizballah surrounded Israel.

Of course none of these questions are knowable--we enter the future with the future we have, not the future we wanted.  It's possible Saddam would have stayed in his box and behaved himself and later died allowing a chaotic revolution but the way his regime was structured it would have been a long shot.  Even Curveball admitted as much.  It's also possible he would have passed on weapons knowledge to a terror group. We spent a lot of money and lost a lot of lives to make sure that didn't happen.  But it won't, at least with his regime.  Because he's dead.  

Ironically, and sadly, one of the highest-profile writers in favor of taking out Saddam has passed from us--RIP to Christopher Hitchens.  His wit, wisdom and insight will be missed, even if he missed the obvious signs of a universal creator.    He had a way to make both left and right think he was their man, when not being hated alternatively by both.  If only more of us could be as non-partisan.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Can't Win for Losing

Lowe's is under fire for pulling ads on a Muslim reality TV show.  Regardless of whether you think they were right or wrong in their justification, this type of reaction is the real story here
According to the Los Angeles Times, Lieu wrote a letter to Lowe's CEO calling the company's removal of ad spots from the program "bigoted, shameful and un-American," as well as "profoundly ignorant."
OK, that's fine. He has an opinion.  But soon he's on the ramp flying over the shark:
The senator also called for Lowe's to reinstate its advertising, along with an apology, or contend with legislative action.
In other words, Lowe's (or maybe the other 60+ advertisers who've pulled their ads since the show began) should have to continue buying ad time even if they choose not to.  If they refuse, a legislative body will punish them.  Most people would call that fascism.  How ironic the CNN story would follow that by quoting Russell Simmons as follows:
"This can't happen in America, [Lowe's] needs to fix this immediately...There are American principles at stake here," Simmons told Entertainment Weekly. "This country is built on religious freedom. This is the kind of hate that tears the country apart."
Yep, there are American principles at stake here, he's just confused about which ones.  The main one is a business' right to advertise as they see fit without government mandate so long as there are no laws being broken.  Maybe Lowe's shouldn't have pulled the ads if they were only about pressure from the Geller-backed group, but it's more likely they saw the storm coming and decided to pull the rip cord hoping nobody would notice.  Either way they lose.  This is why I don't like boycotts.

Ironically, this story amounts to a ton of free publicity for the show thanks to Lowe's.  Meanwhile the store will probably draw the attention of the non-partisan, non-religious, non-Obama supporting Obama backers of OWS.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Letters from the Supermax

The strange case of American Muslim convert Ismail Royer came back to light today via Scott Shane and the NY Times.  Shane is corresponding with Royer, who is currently incarcerated at ADX Florence, the same Supermax prison housing the Unabomber, Terry Nichols, Ramzi Yousef, and abortion clinic bomber Eric Rudolph.

It's strange because Royer was charged with arranging for some of his DC area paintball buddies to attend LeT training camps in Pakistan after 9/11--he claims to train for their fight against India (LeT was not considered a terrorist group by the USG at the time)--and for a traffic stop in September 2001 while driving in DC where an AK47 was found.  He was also affiliated with CAIR.   Reason magazine published this article in 2003, which failed to grasp a possible 20 year sentence, although some Islam critics like Daniel Pipes weren't too surprised.  Still, he wasn't attempting to kill his fellow Americans, so far as is known. 

No telling what Shane is really up to here.  The Times published several long letters by Royer from inside prison explaining his views of jihad and AQ, the latter of which he has been consistently critical.  He is very well read and articulate, and the letters do not advocate violence or overly blame the west for 9/11.  Fascinating reading, actually.  But in sifting through them it's hard to know for sure whether he's engaging in what fellow Supermax inmate Zacarias Moussaoui declared permissible at his own trial--lying for jihad. 

For instance, Royer was part of the same paintball team associated with one Ali al-Timimi, a computational biology professor at George Mason University who preached jihad to the paintball group.  Some have said Timimi had university access to leading biowarfare experts such as Soviet defector Ken Alibek.  He was charged and convicted via the rarely-used sedition statute while the FBI was still dangling Steven Hatfill as a person of interest in the anthrax mailings--ironically Shane has been the lead Times reporter on that case

Could this be why someone like Royer--himself prosecuted under the seldom-used Neutrality Act--ended up at the most secure prison in America?   History has shown that prosecutors have not been hesitant to use obscure statutes to justify getting someone they considered dangerous off the streets for a long time if they can't make a terrorism case.  Shane quotes some prosecutors as saying Royer was swept up in a show of force after 9/11 even though his public words were nowhere near as incendiary as others espousing violent jihad.  But if indeed a show of force can be used to explain his arrest and long sentence why did two members of the paintball team have their charges dropped?

Besides, Royer testified against al-Timimi as part of his deal.  Meanwhile al-Awlaki, whom Obama just droned to death, had interactions with some of the hijackers before 9/11 and was invited to the Pentagon to explain moderate Islam shortly thereafter.  He also may have had contact with al-Tamimi.  According to Shane, Royer's Baptist father is still befuddled:
“He loved his family,” the father said of his son. “Why would he put this cause ahead of his family? I still don’t really know what happened. I’m still trying to figure it out.”
Well, even devout Christians would agree that God comes before family and work, but at least in public Royer didn't preach violent jihad.  He did work to get some of the paintballers to LeT camps in Pakistan, and did get caught with an AK, but was that worth 20 years or were the Feds worried about something else?  Was it the two degrees of separation with Awlaki, or something worse? 

Meanwhile, parts of Royer's letters were redacted, whited out, presumably by the Bureau of Prisons (we assume the Times wouldn't do it).  Speculation for why could range from him mentioning the names of individuals all the way to spilling more details about something embarrassing that occurred between two of the higher-profile inmates.   Rest assured that Shane and the Times won't be developing much interest in that area anytime soon.   

I Betcha a Million Bucks

That the spin from Romney's ill-advised 10,000 dollar bet offer with Perry in last night's debate will end up being spun more as elitist than just generally stupid:
After trying so hard to prove to people that he is just a regular guy, multi-millionaire Romney "may have given his GOP rivals and President Obama a gold-plated gift in Saturday’s debate in Iowa," writes the LA Times. "Not a lot of 99%'ers are out there making $10,000 bets," tweeted a former Obama White House aide, adding, "If corporations were people, $10,000 bets actually wouldn't be that big of a deal."
Uh, which candidate in the race, or former candidate currently residing in the White House, isn't a 'multi-millionaire'? Had Romney used 5 dollars that would have been too small to back his claim.  Maybe he should have used a trillion, since that would have served to remind people of the debt and couldn't have been spun as couch cushion change in his den.

Thanks, Important GWoT Ally

Hard to figure if the Pakistanis are still our allies against terrorism or if two recent events are just more chapters in the greatest Hollywood act in the history of Hollywood acts.  One--they are threatening to shoot down drones that cross into their airspace (after closing a drone base inside the country in retaliation for their troops firing on our soldiers)--and just as Iran captured a drone we gave them.  Two, they are going to release UBL's three wives, including the 'hot' one.

It's like they're mad at us or something.  But that can't be! Obama just chastised a reporter who dared question his foreign policy successes by telling him to "ask bin Laden.." (maybe he should ask UBL's wives).  Meanwhile, if Pakistan is still bluffing they've just made it nearly impossible to attack and kill any more enemies in the tribal areas, so Obama's foreign policy success appears to be all stealth.  Or maybe Obama's next foreign policy move is to invade Pakistan.  Unless they are all bluffing.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Speaking of Cores

Who can forget what David Axelrod told the baby bird media just a few days ago:
U.S. President Barack Obama's chief campaign strategist Sunday slammed Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, saying he lacks a political core.
That's some high irony there. Even a few liberals searching valiantly for hope and change might agree. Well today Mr. Core defined his core for the first time since blundering it out to Joe the Plumber:
"I'm here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we're greater together than we are on our own," Obama said. "I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot. When everyone does their fair share. When everyone plays by the same rules."
There you go--socialist Obama.  Maybe next he'll invite Ayers to a campaign speech and call him comrade while praising OWS, then quote Jesus and advocate tax cuts in a photo-op conversation about college hoops with a redneck NASCAR fan at a Christmas lighting ceremony.

MORE  12/07/11

Gulp. The WaPo takes on Obama's Teddy Roosevelt impersonation and actually finds some "facts" lacking:
Inserting the words “for the wealthy” was interesting phrasing by the president, since he suggests these tax cuts were intended to benefit only the rich. The bulk of the 2001 tax cuts were marginal rate cuts, which extended to all taxpayers, while the 2003 tax cuts included a reduction in taxes on dividends and capital gains. But the 2001 tax cuts also included tax changes that benefited the middle class, such as a reduced marriage penalty and expanded tax credits, along with an instant tax rebate. Still, it is correct that most of the benefits of the tax cuts flowed to the wealthy (who, let’s not forget, pay the largest share of income taxes). Obama has said repeatedly he wants to keep the Bush tax cuts for people making less than $250,000; he wants to reinstate higher tax rates only for the wealthy. (In fact, he would retain about 70 percent of the overall tax cut.) But he should not suggest that the Bush tax cuts were aimed only at the wealthy, since that is not correct.
Nice of them to notice the part I bolded, after all this time and all those speeches.  But better late than never.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Women Drivers!

A lot of fur flew over the story about Saudi Arabia not wanting their womenfolk to drive over fears it could lead to adultery, homosexuality, porn use and a lack of earthly virgins (which could presumably put a dent in the heavenly virgin population):
In a report presented to the country's legislative assembly, the Shura Council, Subhi warns that letting women take the wheel will encourage pornography and prostitution, and lead to increased rates of divorce, homosexuality, and sex before marriage -- leading to a shortage of virgin brides.
People made appropriate fun, and moved on. But were the Saudis right?!
Former Miss USA Rima Fakih was busted on drunken driving charges, her lawyer said yesterday.
Exposing bare body to win an infidel beauty contest, and now drinking.  While driving.  Heavens.  Surely the fatwa has been prepared.

Were the Saudis right?  Of course  not.  But what better way to justify posting another photo(s) of Rima? 

OK, but...

Thomas Joscelyn points to a US court ruling this past week where a judge ruled that Iran was complicit in helping AQ pull off the African embassy bombings in the late 90s by offering bomb-making assistance through their Hizballah franchise...
Support from Iran and Hezbollah was critical to al Qaeda's execution of the 1998 embassy bombings. See Tr. Vol. II at 181. Prior to its meetings with Iranian officials and agents, al Qaeda did not possess the technical expertise required to carry out the embassy bombings. In the 1990s, al Qaeda received training in Iran and Lebanon on how to destroy large buildings with sophisticated and powerful explosives. Id. at 188; Tr. Vol. III at 314-15. The government of Iran was aware of and authorized this training and assistance.
Fine and dandy--as Joscelyn says, this isn't news. Yossef Bodansky wrote about Hasan al-Turabi's goal to bring together Shia and Sunni Arabs/Persians to fight the west before 9/11.  This little Sudan consortium also included Saddam and Iraq, who sent emissaries to Khartoum around the same time.  In the same year of the embassy bombings president Clinton retaliated by bombing a chemical plant in Khartoum, which was thought to be making VX with help of Iraqi scientists.  And yes, similar suits have been filed against Iraq for their alleged complicity.  But we must never go there, the conventional wisdom cement has dried. 

The timing of this story is certainly interesting based on the happenings with Iran and Syria, but there's seemingly an unanswered question left by the judgment:  the judge concluded that AQ didn't have the knowledge to create massive, shaped charge truck bombs before getting trained by Hizballah/Iran, so if true, where does that leave Ramzi Yousef?

Yousef's Ryder truck bomb in 1993 did massive damage to the innards of the World Trade Center and he was apparently not part of the Turabi group-hug, at one point even setting off a bomb inside Iran against a Shia mosque.  So where did Yousef learn his trade?   And if, as some believe, Murrah bomb planner Terry Nichols got truck bomb-making assistance from AQ during his trips to the Philippines in 1994, who was he talking to, and why couldn't UBL have tapped the same source thereby staying within the Sunni realm?  Besides, wasn't Yousef part of AQ?  Former terror czar Richard Clarke told the 9/11 Commission he was:
But the investigation, both the CIA investigation and the FBI investigation, made it very clear in '95 and '96 as they got more information, that the Iraqi government was in no way involved in the attack. And the fact that one of the 12 people involved in the attack was Iraqi hardly seems to me as evidence that the Iraqi government was involved in the attack. The attack was al-Qaida; not Iraq.

Of course this same guy told the Clinton bigwigs (during the time period of the embassy bombings) that UBL might "boogie to Baghdad" if they missed getting him in Afghanistan so take that Wiki page with the appropriate salt.  In reality it's likely that neither Yousef nor uncle KSM were associated with UBL in the early 90s when they were effectively blowing stuff up, so again, if they weren't associated with the apostate Shias and were "stateless" terrorists as the government contends, where did they get that truck bomb knowledge?  From this guy

Not to say the judge was wrong in deciding that AQ couldn't have created the truck bombs without Iran's help, but perhaps the confabs between AQ and Iran/Hizballah (and the Iraqi Mukhabarat) were more of a "we won't attack you and you don't attack us and we'll all attack the west" sort of thing than a bomb-making school.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Side Tracks

Eric Clapton covered this song on 461 Ocean Blvd, although many probably remember this song from that album..