19 August 2010

The same box

Those with the best reputations seemed to me nearly the most deficient…while others with more paltry reputations seemed to be men more fit in regard to being prudent.
-Socrates, Apology of Socrates

When the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box.

Obama hits new polling low
President Barack Obama's approval rating has dipped to a new low. Obama's 44 percent average approval in Gallup's daily tracking polls last week marks the weakest level of support he has registered since taking office.

Obama, the one-term president
Honest to goodness, the man just does not get it. He might be forced to pull a Palin and resign before his first term is over.

I am not saying Obama is not smart; he is as smart as a whip. I am just saying he does not understand what savvy first-term presidents need to understand:

You have to stay on message, follow the polls, listen to your advisers (who are writing the message and taking the polls) and realize that when it comes to doing what is right versus doing what is expedient, you do what is expedient so that you can get reelected and do what is right in the second term. If at all possible. And it will help your legacy. And not endanger the election of others in your party. And not hurt the brand. Or upset people too much.

It is far better for a president to do nothing than to choose a side. Even if the side he chooses is the right one from an ethical or moral perspective, it is a “blunder” politically because inevitably it will upset some people.

The problem for Obama is that he appears to have taken seriously all the “change” stuff he promised during his campaign. And he has been unable to make the transition from candidate to president.

You can go back to the mid-1800s and find a lot of legislators saying that Abraham Lincoln should stop lecturing people about ending slavery and listen to them about keeping it.

And there were plenty of lawmakers who said President Dwight D. Eisenhower was “disconnected from the mainstream of America” when he ordered the 101st Airborne Division to go down to Little Rock, Ark., to make sure some black kids could go to school with white kids.

Both decisions may have been “off-message,” which is about the worst sin you can commit in Washington. But what’s so wrong about being off-message if you are right about the issue?

And what’s the point of doing the right thing if your party is going to lose seats because of it?

Maybe Obama is disconnected. After all, as a former professor of constitutional law, he actually knows what the Constitution says.

31% of Republicans believe Barack Obama is Muslim
Nearly a third of all Republicans believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim, according to an astonishing new poll released overnight.

During the presidential campaign, Obama — whose father was raised as a Muslim — repeatedly found his faith questioned, most often in smear e-mails that suggested he was born in Kenya, not Hawaii, and harbored a secret Islamist agenda.

Obama confronted the rumors head-on during a debate in January 2008. "Let's make clear what the facts are: I am a Christian,” he said then. “I have been sworn in with a Bible. I pledge allegiance and lead the Pledge of Allegiance sometimes in the United States Senate when I'm presiding."

Still, more than a year into Obama’s presidency, his faith remains a mystery for many. Only 34 percent of Pew’s respondents identified Obama as Christian — down 14 percentage points since last year. And 43 percent said they don’t know what Obama’s religion is.

Either way, only a relatively small minority of Americans believe Obama is relying too much on his religious views as he does his job. Eleven percent of Pew’s respondents said Obama relies too much on his religious beliefs, while 48 percent said he relies on them the right amount and 21 percent said he relies on them too little.

Last US combat brigade leaves Iraq
The last US combat brigade has withdrawn from Iraq, more than seven years after the US-led coalition invaded the country in a war that has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 US troops.

The brigade left the country in the early hours of Thursday morning, two weeks before an August 31 deadline for the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom pledged by President Barack Obama upon taking office.

Many Iraqis have mixed feelings about the troop pullout fearing more violence.

About 50,000 US troops will remain in the country in an advisory capacity, helping to train Iraqi forces in a new mission codenamed Operation New Dawn, which will run until the end of 2011. "They will, however, have the right to defend themselves against attacks if they are targeted," our correspondent said. "But they will not be stepping in, they will not be conducting any military operations per say, unless they are specifically called on to do so by the Iraqi government."

The war, which began when a US-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003 and overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein, has proven costly to America both in terms of dollars and human life. Operation Iraqi Freedom has cost more than $900 billion and seen 4,415 US troops die.

Concerns have been raised that the US is pulling out of the country too soon, most notably by Lt Gen Babaker Zebari, Iraq's most-senior army officer, who warned last week that his forces would not be ready to take control of security until 2020.

Afghan ban on contractors could spark 'chaos'
The behaviour of some of these trigger-happy soldiers for hire has gone so much out of control that Hamid Karzai, the president, recently accused them of "being thieves during the day and terrorists at night".

A presidential decree is calling for these companies to be shut down within four months. The Afghan government says that they constitute a parallel force and are a cause of instability.

Boxer and Burr launch Military Family Caucus
Sens. Barbara Boxer and Richard Burr announced the creation of the Senate Military Family Caucus Wednesday to improve conditions for families of those in the armed services.

Mosque a long shot to be built
When President Barack Obama turned the battle over a planned New York Islamic center into a national debate over religious freedom, he unwittingly allied himself and his party with an ill-planned, long-shot development project described by one of its most prominent allies as “amateur hour.”

The efforts to launch the $100 million Cordoba House (now dubbed Park51) two blocks north of the World Trade Center site have been an uphill battle from the start, and not just because of controversy. And even as the “Ground Zero Mosque” emerges as a hotly debated national symbol, New York government officials and real estate insiders are privately questioning whether the project has much chance of coming to fruition.

The Cordoba Initiative hasn’t begun fundraising yet for its $100 million goal. The group’s latest fundraising report with the State Attorney General’s office, from 2008, shows exactly $18,255 – not enough even for a down payment on the half of the site the group has yet to purchase.

The group also lacks even the most basic real estate essentials: no blueprint, architect, lobbyist or engineer — and now operates amid crushing negative publicity. The developers didn't line up advance support for the project from other religious leaders in the city, who could have risen to their defense with the press.

For all its problems, the project does have a solid chance of accomplishing one thing: further embarrassing the president.

Heh! Bush ‘Miss Me Yet’ T Shirts More Popular on Martha’s Vineyard than Obama Shirts
Rumor has it that George W. Bush is now more popular than Obama. I guess people stopped listening to his speeches, when he never fails to mention the mess he inherited. Even his trip to Martha’s Vineyard hasn’t generated enough buzz for vendors to sell to many Obama T-shirts. But George Bush T-shirt sales are quite brisk.

Wear wristwatch? Use e-mail? Not for Class of '14
For students entering college this fall, e-mail is too slow, phones have never had cords and the computers they played with as kids are now in museums.

The Class of 2014 thinks of Clint Eastwood more as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry urging punks to "go ahead, make my day." Few incoming freshmen know how to write in cursive or have ever worn a wristwatch.

Remember when Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Dan Quayle or Rodney King were in the news? These kids don't.

Ever worry about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.? During these students' lives, Russians and Americans have always been living together in outer space.

15 August 2010

This plague-spot of civilization...

…that worst outcrop of herd life, the military system, which I abhor... This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism -- how passionately I hate them!
-Albert Einstein

US helps Russia tackle wildfires
The first US air force planes have arrived in Russia loaded with equipment to help tackle wildfires that have been raging across vast areas of the country for weeks.

Valery Shuikov, the deputy head of the international department of the Russian emergencies ministry, welcomed the assistance. "We will always remember this gesture, this arm that was extended to us at a very difficult time," Shuikov said.

Obama mosque dispute: In backing plans, he parts with many Americans
"Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground," Obama told attendees at the second annual White House Ramadan dinner Friday night. "But let me be clear: As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable."

While Obama and George W. Bush before him have urged Americans to distinguish between Islam and violent jihadism and to step carefully around Muslim sensitivities, the Cordoba House represents for many Americans less a religious-liberties issue and more a lack of respect for those who died on 9/11.

Prayer hall or provocation?
The project is popularly called the "Ground Zero mosque", perhaps a slight misnomer on two counts. It will not be located at Ground Zero, but rather at 45-47 Park Place, two city blocks (200 metres) north of the World Trade Centre site. The buildings currently at that location were damaged during the September 11 attacks.

Nor is it only a mosque: Planners will spend up to $100 million to build an Islamic community centre called Cordoba House, which will house a mosque, an auditorium, a swimming pool and a bookstore.

Critics say it would be inappropriate to build a mosque on the "hallowed ground" of Ground Zero. Yet there is already a mosque two blocks north of the Cordoba House site, Masjid Manhattan, which has been open since 1970. As several commentators have pointed out, there is also a strip club - New York Dolls - just one block north of the mosque site. No one has complained about that profaning of the sacred.

"My job is not to vet clergy in this city," Bloomberg said. "Everyone has a right to their opinions. You don't have to worship there... [this country] is not built around only those religions or clergy people that we agree with. It's built around freedom."

Russia to finish Iran nuclear plant but won't deliver missiles
Russia's state nuclear agency, Rosatom, announced that in one week's time it will load nuclear fuel into Bushehr's Russian-made reactor, which is the first step to making it fully operational. "The fuel will be charged in the reactor on 21 August. From this moment, Bushehr will be considered a nuclear installation," said Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov, in a terse announcement. "This will be an irreversible step."

In recent months, Kremlin insiders who favor better relations with the United States and a more Westernized course for Russian foreign policy have gained the upper hand, analysts say.

Russia's acceptance of the new sanctions compels it to shelve a lucrative contract to provide advanced S-300 air defense systems, roughly comparable to the US Patriot missile, under an $800-million contract that was signed between Moscow and Tehran in 2005, but repeatedly delayed by the Kremlin for apparently diplomatic reasons.

Obama signs $600m US-Mexico border bill
US President Barack Obama has signed into law a $600m bill providing increased security along the US-Mexico border. The funds will mostly be directed to activities on the south-west border, such as hiring 1,000 border patrol agents. Money will also pay for surveillance technology, including unmanned drones. A further 250 immigration and customs enforcement agents will also be funded by the bill.

Some Republicans appear unsatisfied though, with Senator Jeff Sessions calling the bill "a small measure" which "if it is not followed by strong, sustained action, it is yet another gesture without consequence".

The $600m will be paid for by raising fees on some foreign work visas.

13 August 2010

The Stimulating Assertion

In management, it’s the stimulating assertion, not the tested hypothesis, that grabs folks.
-Up in the Air

We must be honest with ourselves. No nation, no matter how powerful, can prevent every threat from coming to fruition.
-John Brennan

The Obama presidency increasingly resembles a modern-day Ancien RĂ©gime: extravagant and out of touch with the American people
The First Lady’s ill-conceived trip to Marbella and the complete disregard for public opinion and concerns over excessive government spending is symbolic of a far wider problem with the Obama presidency – the overarching disdain for the principles of limited government, individual liberty and free enterprise that have built the United States over the course of nearly two and a half centuries into the most powerful and free nation on earth.

There is however a political revolution fast approaching Washington that is driven not by mob rule but by the power of ideas and principles, based upon the ideals of the Founding Fathers and the US Constitution. It is a distinctly conservative revolution that is sweeping America and is reflected in almost every poll ahead of this November’s mid-terms. It is based on a belief in individual liberty, limited government, and above all, political accountability from the ruling elites. The Obama administration’s mantra may well be “let them eat cake”, as it continues to gorge itself on taxpayers’ money, but it will be looking nervously over its shoulder as public unease mounts.

Obama as border cop: He's deported record numbers of illegal immigrants
In 2009, the United States deported a record 387,790 people – a 5 percent increase over 2008. Nearly two months before the end of the 2010 federal fiscal year, the deportation rate is down slightly from 2009, but the number of removals is still likely to be more than triple what it was in 2001.

We have never, ever deported so many people from the country as we are doing now,” says Douglas Massey, an immigration expert at Princeton University in New Jersey.

Hispanic media turn on President Obama
Latinos are tired of the speeches, disillusioned by the lack of White House leadership and distrustful of the president.

“He has a credibility problem right now with Latinos,” Ramos said. “We’ll see what the political circumstances are in a couple of years, but there is a serious credibility problem.”

Words matter”...“Words are not enough”...“Obama came up short”...“Cheap and easy rhetoric

“When you have a Univision and a Telemundo taking an aggressive and active role pointing to the White House inaction, it calls attention,” said Jose Cancela, president of the media consulting firm Hispanics USA. “It is not helping the administration at this point in time.”

Obama vs. Obama On Endless Wars: Who Wins?
Back in early 2007, when the Bush administration was insisting that its military intervention in a faraway land was not open-ended, Senator Barack Obama wasn't buying it.

Senator Obama was particularly skeptical about the administration's alleged "benchmarks" for success. He wanted to know exactly what they were -- and what would happen if they weren't met. And he wanted to know the answer to this question: "At what point do we say: 'Enough'?"

Three and a half years later, that's an excellent question for President Obama, about Afghanistan. But he doesn't have an answer.

Wars and Retardation
US engineer sold military secrets to China
A jury in Hawaii has convicted a former US engineer of selling military secrets to China. Noshir Gowadia, who helped design the propulsion system for the B-2 bomber, was found guilty on multiple counts - including conspiracy and money laundering.

The case is one of a series of major prosecutions targeting alleged Chinese spying in the US. According to prosecutors, Gowadia helped China to design a stealth cruise missile. It involved an exhaust nozzle that would evade infrared radar detection and US heat-seeking missiles.

Iraq army 'not ready' until 2020
Iraq's most senior military officer has said that his security forces will not be able to secure the country until 2020 and that the US should delay its planned withdrawal.

Lieutenant General Babaker Zerbari said that his forces - particularly the air force - were not ready to take over. He said the planned withdrawal will create a "problem" and increase instability in Iraq. "At this point, the withdrawal is going well, because they are still here," Zerbari told the AFP news agency on Wednesday. "But the problem will start after 2011 - the politicians must find other ways to fill the void after 2011. If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: the US army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020."

Mullen says US has Iran strike plan, just in case
The U.S. military has a plan to attack Iran, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday, although he thinks a military strike is probably a bad idea.

Not long after Adm. Mike Mullen's aired on a Sunday talk show, the deputy chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guard was quoted as saying there would be a strong Iranian response should the U.S. take military action against his country.

"I think the military options have been on the table and remain on the table," Mullen said on "Meet the Press" on NBC. "It's one of the options that the president has. Again, I hope we don't get to that, but it's an important option and it's one that's well understood."

Gates seeks to trim US military
The US defence department has unveiled a series of initiatives to reduce overhead, duplication and excess that will shed thousands of jobs and shut down an entire military command.

The cost-cutting initiatives include scaling back the number of generals across the US military and slashing funds for defence department contractors by 10 per cent each year for the next three years – a potentially massive reduction involving thousands of people.

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, said on Monday he hoped the shakeup will show congress that the Pentagon will spend wisely during tough economic times and address long-standing concerns about wasteful expenditure. He however warned against cutting down on overall defence budget, which stands at nearly $700bn including war spending.

"My greatest fear is that in economic tough times that people will see the defence budget as the place to solve the nation's deficit problems," Gates said. "As I look around the world and see a more unstable world, more failed and failing states, countries that are investing heavily in their militaries ... I think that would be disastrous."

Iran 'digging mass graves for US troops' in case of invasion
Iran has dug mass graves in which to bury US troops if America attacks the country, a former commander of the elite Revolutionary Guard has said.

The digging of the graves appears to be a show of bravado after the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said last week that the US military had a contingency plan to attack Iran, although he thought a military strike was probably a bad idea.

"Iran will have no choice but to strike the American bases in the region," he said. "The heavy costs of such a war will not be just on the Islamic Republic of Iran. America and other countries should accept that this would be the start of an extensive war in the region."

American boy plans NKorea trip to pitch peace idea
A 13-year-old American plans to visit North Korea this week and perhaps meet leader Kim Jong Il to pitch his idea for a "children's peace forest" in the demilitarized zone.

Jonathan said he expects to meet with North Korean officials and will propose the children's peace forest, "one in which fruit and chestnut trees would be planted and where children can play."

The DMZ that has separated North and South Korea for more than a half-century is one of the most heavily guarded areas in the world. Combat-ready troops stand guard on both sides, and the land is strewn with land mines and laced with barbed wire.
Is this kid a peacenik or a sadomasochistic deviant who is devising a master plan to condemn the playground bullies that stole his lunch money to a certain death by inviting them to play in a forest laced with land mines and barbed wire?

13 June 2010

Humanity does not ask us to be happy

Humanity does not ask us to be happy. It merely asks us to be brilliant on its behalf. Survival first, then happiness as we can imagine it.
-Mazer Rackham, Ender’s Game

Did Reuters Crop a Photo to Remove a Peace Activist's Weapon?

Another Cropped Reuters Photo Deletes Another Knife - And a Pool of Blood

Turkey flays Israel over killings
Turkish leaders have criticised Israel further over their deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip, in which nine Turkish activists were killed.

"I am speaking to them in their own language. The sixth commandment says "thou shalt not kill". Did you not understand? I'll say again. I say in English "you shall not kill". Did you still not understand? So I'll say to you in your own language. I say in Hebrew 'Lo Tirtzakh'."

Those troublesome Jews
The blockade is not just perfectly rational, it is perfectly legal. Gaza under Hamas is a self-declared enemy of Israel -- a declaration backed up by more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilian territory. Yet having pledged itself to unceasing belligerency, Hamas claims victimhood when Israel imposes a blockade to prevent Hamas from arming itself with still more rockets.

Oh, but weren't the Gaza-bound ships on a mission of humanitarian relief? No. Otherwise they would have accepted Israel's offer to bring their supplies to an Israeli port, be inspected for military materiel and have the rest trucked by Israel into Gaza -- as every week 10,000 tons of food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are sent by Israel to Gaza.

Why was the offer refused? Because, as organizer Greta Berlin admitted, the flotilla was not about humanitarian relief but about breaking the blockade, i.e., ending Israel's inspection regime, which would mean unlimited shipping into Gaza and thus the unlimited arming of Hamas.

As sanctions loom, is Iran sending peace signals to the US?
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei declared on Monday that countries around the world “thirst” for Iran’s message of “values, humanity and deliverance of nations from the grip of domineering powers.”

As viewed from Tehran, positive Iranian steps in recent weeks include Iran’s decision to embrace a nuclear fuel swap deal – a plan to export 1,200 kg of Iran’s homemade low-enriched uranium. Iran rejected a similar plan last October, when it was backed by the US and the UN, but accepted it last week after intense mediation with Turkey and Brazil.

But Washington’s “answer,” as described by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was that the permanent five UN Security Council members had agreed on “strong” sanctions package against Iran.

Iran sanctions cripple the UN
Most commentators agree that Resolution 1929 is so watered down - as a result of Chinese and Russian efforts - that it will have little or no impact on Iran’s nuclear energy programme or Iranian trade and economic development.

To the great majority of the people of Iran and the wider world, the UN Security Council is growing increasingly irrelevant and biased.

The US' games have in effect crippled the UN.

South Carolina head scratcher: More curiosities in election of Alvin Greene

[Cool or fraud? His winning on mostly-military absentee ballots doesn't necessarily indicate fraudulent activity considering his background, but it does sound pretty shady...]
Is he a working class hero, proof that anyone can make it in politics? Or did someone put Alvin Greene up to it, paying his way to sabotage the Democratic statewide primary to take pressure off South Carolina Republican incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint?

As calls for an investigation into Mr. Greene's surprise election widened on Saturday, more irregularities cropped up as details emerged about a US Senate race that, in essence, pitted a well-known candidate, Charleston County Council member Vic Rawl – who logged nearly 17,000 miles on the campaign trail – against a jobless guy who lives with his dad and who described his own campaign as "nothing fancy." Greene came away with 59 percent of the vote, to Rawl's 41 percent.

So far, there are far more questions than answers in the curious case of Alvin Greene, the Senate candidate with $114 in his campaign chest.

Obama's National Security Strategy: Is 'I'm not Bush' ending?
President Obama’s first National Security Strategy, to be unveiled by the administration this week, is being summed up in some circles as a repudiation of President Bush’s reliance on “unilateral” American power.

“Every presidency starts off defining itself by trumpeting the opposite of whatever its predecessor did, and that’s been true in spades going from George W. Bush to Obama,” says Robert Lieber, a professor of government and international affairs at Georgetown University in Washington. “But at a certain point that gets old, and we’re at a point where the overplayed ‘we’re not Bush’ mantra is raising anxieties among friends and allies in Asia and the Middle East.”

GOP: No notice on tanning tax?
When the IRS made about $40 billion in tax credits available for small businesses in accordance with the health care overhaul, it sent out 4 million postcards informing likely participants about the credit.

Now, Republicans are asking why a similar campaign isn’t in the works to inform tanning salons and customers that they’re about to get hit with a 10 percent tax on their services.

“Every tanning salon or other business that offers separately-priced tanning services will be forced to administer this new tax and every consumer receiving services subject to this new tax will be required to pay it, regardless of their income levels or other characteristics,” Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), ranking Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote Friday to IRS commissioner Douglas H. Shulman. “Please describe what similar measures (e.g., mailing postcards) the IRS plans to take to notify potentially affected businesses and consumers about this new $2.7 billion tax.”

Report: WHO overstated H1N1 threat

[While I have no doubt that they trumped it up, I will definitely tell you that it is not a complete sham. IT IS REAL! And the symptoms are NOT "mild..."]
A joint report into the handling of the H1N1 outbreak has found that some scientists who advised governments to stockpile drugs, had previously been on the payroll of big drug companies.

Laboratory tests have confirmed more than 18,000 deaths from H1N1 infection, according to WHO figures, but the virus has turned out to be less deadly than feared.

A report by the Council of Europe, also released on Friday, accused the WHO of a lack of transparency over the pandemic announcement - saying it wasted huge sums of money and provoked "unjustified fears".

S Korea seeks UN action over ship
South Korea has filed a formal complaint with the UN Security Council over the March sinking of one of its warships in disputed waters in an incident it has blamed on North Korea.

"If we are to once again tolerate North Korea's blatant act of violence, then I believe that will not promote but endanger the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and that of Northeast Asia.

Russia terror attack kills six, wounds dozens in North Caucasus
An explosion killed at least seven people and wounded more than 40 others Wednesday evening in Stavropol, a southern Russian city that had seemed immune from growing violence in the north Caucasus.

The explosive used in the attack appeared to be homemade, reports Russian video news outlet RT, and was packed with shrapnel. A 12-year-old girl was among those killed.

22 May 2010

A debt to democracy, a date with destiny. . .

You have just made the change from peacetime pursuits to wartime tasks - from the individualism of civilian life to the anonymity of mass military life. You have given up comfortably homes, highly paid positions, leisure. You have taken off silk and put on khaki. An all for essentially the same reason - you have a debt and a date. A debt to democracy, a date with destiny. . .
-COL Oveta Culp Hobby

Obama and the curse of moderation
What Obama desperately needed to do was radical, but it was and remains achievable: to build credibility through offering tangible support for the peoples rather than the leaders of the region.

He hinted at significant change in his famous Cairo speech of one year ago with his call for a "new beginning" based on "tolerance and dignity," but his rhetoric has turned out to be just more smoke and mirrors.

Not only does his administration continue to "tolerate" dictators and systematic human rights violations, he has sought to continue and in some cases even extend policies that violate constitutional norms and/or US law.

Obama's moderation has not only failed as a foreign policy making principle. It has not worked domestically either.

The tragicomedy of Iran sanctions
It is this kind of international 'leadership' that grabs defeat from the jaws of victory for the non-proliferation agenda.

It has also reaffirmed the fears of many regarding US intentions: the administration of Barack Obama, the US president, remains every bit as unilateralist as that of George Bush, his predecessor, and it displays equal disdain for multilateral negotiations despite the new rhetoric.

Peace appears to be a non-option for the Nobel Peace Prize winner. And with such 'leadership', the UN security council sinks further towards irrelevance or perhaps even self-destruction.

...[T]he 2007 US sanctions against Iranian banks ironically ensured Iran's immunity from the global financial crisis that was about to explode.

Iran was among the few major economies in the world not to be severely affected by the crisis.

Obama campaigning against Bush--again
President Barack Obama is trying to ride the wave of anti-incumbency by taking on an unpopular politician steeped in the partisan ways of Washington.

It doesn’t matter that George W. Bush left office 16 months ago.

The White House’s mid-term election strategy is becoming clear – pit the Democrats of 2010 against the Republicans circa 2006, 2008 and 2009, including Bush.

It’s a lot to ask an angry, finicky electorate to sort out. And even if Obama can rightfully make the case that the economy took a turn for the worse under Bush's watch, he's already made it - in 2008 and repeatedly in 2009.

It’s not clear that voters still want to hear it.

Guantanamo forever?
Two days after his inauguration in January 2009, Barack Obama, the US president, signed an executive order promising to close the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba within one year.

But the deadline was missed, and today some 180 men are still being held at Guantanamo.

Now many worry Guantanamo may not even close in Obama's first term, and might even stay open far into the future.

05 May 2010

We are unhappy if American troops lose their lives...

Every fighter gets knocked down. A bad fighter doesn’t get up. A good fighter jumps right back up and starts swinging. A great fighter gets up on one knee, takes an eight count, clears his head, thinks about what he’s going to do next, then stands up and starts fighting again with a plan to survive.
-Mike Denton, Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms

Founding Amateurs?
Actually, our founders were not all that new at it: the men who led the revolution against the British crown and created our political institutions were very used to governing themselves. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams and John Adams were all members of their respective Colonial legislatures several years before the Declaration of Independence. In fact, these Revolutionaries drew upon a tradition of self-government that went back a century or more. Virginians ran their county courts and elected representatives to their House of Burgesses. The people of Massachusetts gathered in town meetings and selected members of the General Court, their Colonial legislature.

Somali fighters seize coastal town
Heavily armed fighters from Somalia's Hizbul Islam group have seized a town used by pirates in the country's north, residents said.

"Senior officials of the group told us they will build a local government in the city to stabilise their presence there."

Haradheere is one of the main bases for Somali pirates, who are believed to be holding at least three hijacked vessels in the town's port at the moment, Andrew Mwangura, the co-ordinator of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme, said.


A conversation with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
"Because of the humanitarian vision we have, we are unhappy if American troops lose their lives there as well."

"How can a government come up with documents that are not credible enough to accuse another country of things that don't happen?"

"Every single body human body fallen in Iraq is as if an Iranian had fallen in Iraq."

"Our proposals were very solid ones. We said that we should establish a trilateral security committee for Iraq's future to fight terrorism. Those were very good proposals but the politicians in the United States lost the moment and their opportunity to engage us on that front."

Iran to stage new Gulf 'war games'
The Iranian navy plans to hold more than a week of war games in the Gulf, just days after the Revolutionary Guards wrapped up another round of military exercises.

Iran routinely conducts war games in the Gulf, but it has stepped up its demonstrations over the last few months in what analysts say is a push to deter US or Israeli strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.

I was there:

US suspect 'admits' to NY bomb plot
Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born US citizen, was charged on Tuesday with terrorism and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in Saturday's botched attack.

According to the government's legal complaint, Shahzad, 30, confessed to buying a four-wheel-drive vehicle, rigging it with a homemade bomb and driving it to Times Square, where he tried to detonate it.

"Based on what we know so far, it is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country," Eric Holder, the US attorney-general, said in Washington.

Who Decides if Terrorist Claims of Responsibility Are Real?
The NCTC evaluates claims based on what is known about the groups' competence, track record, and operating methods and assigns their statements one of five levels of credibility: likely, plausible, unknown, unlikely, and inferred. "Inferred" refers to attacks in which there is no claim but a particular group's responsibility can be assumed based on the "attack signature" -- factors such as timing, location, and methods used.

The NCTC generally only releases more credible claims to the public, but keeps all of them in a classified record -- even the most dubious -- in case new information comes to light that prompts a re-evaluation.

22 April 2010

Let us readopt the Declaration of Independence…

Our republican robe is soiled and trailed in the dust. Let us turn and wash it white in the spirit, if not the blood, of the Revolution…Let us readopt the Declaration of Independence…Let north and south, let all Americans…join in the great and good work.
-Abraham Lincoln, 1854

Fights aren’t won in the ring; they’re won by running hundreds of miles in the early-morning darkness.
-Mike Denton, Bare Knuckles and Back Rooms

In Afghanistan war, a kinder, gentler night raid?
Gen. Stanley McChrystal has issued new rules designed to make night raids less invasive, as part of the broader Afghanistan war strategy to win over the population. Some soldiers say it’s hamstringing their ability to nab Taliban militants.

According to the new regulations, Afghan security forces must [be] in the front of every raid, ritually impure animals – such as dogs – are banned, and village elders must be warned “wherever possible.” Soldiers can only barge into compounds after exhausting other options and have proof that the inhabitants inside are not cooperating.

US soldiers, however, have complained that Afghan security forces are at best lax and often brutal; dogs are essential in sniffing out explosives; and village elders sometimes end up tipping off the Taliban. This gives insurgent fighters a head start to mask their bombmaking activities or blend into the population.

I think America has fallen into a trap. It is acting as PR for Bin Laden.

TM: You are saying that America has over-stretched itself?

SF: America has the material resources to extend its influence everywhere but it lacks the ideological and moral fiber to sustain this kind of domination.

TM: Why not? American culture is becoming increasingly universal. America, in any single year, exports hundreds of billions of dollars of cultural products to all corners of the globe.

SF: This is the problem with your understanding of culture. You are trying to calculate culture.

TM: Quantifying it….

SF: Yes! Culture is too precious to be quantified. We have to admit that power in the world is wielded by Western capitalism and secularism which tends to dominate by force. Its leadership is in America. Conversely Islam is power-less from a conventional perspective. However Islam has the devotion and a rich stable text...

French president backs veil ban
Sarkozy told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the veil "hurts the dignity of women and is not acceptable in French society".

"We're legislating for the future. Wearing a full veil is a sign of a community closing in on itself and a rejection of our values," he said.

Race factors into evaluation of Gerhart
When NFL scouts look at Gerhart, they see a 6-foot, 231-pound power back who ran for 1,871 yards and 27 touchdowns last season, getting edged out by Alabama’s Mark Ingram in the closest Heisman vote in history. When they look at Gerhart’s numbers from the NFL scouting combine, they see that he ran a 4.50-second 40-yard dash and registered a 38-inch vertical leap, both impressive numbers for a player his size.

Yet they also see a white guy trying to make it in the league as a feature back, something that has become increasingly rare in this era.

Race shouldn’t be an issue, of course, but Gerhart can’t help but believe that it has colored the opinions of at least some potential employers.

“One team I interviewed with asked me about being a white running back,” Gerhart says. “They asked if it made me feel entitled, or like I felt I was a poster child for white running backs. I said, ‘No, I’m just out there playing ball. I don’t think about that.’ I didn’t really know what to say.”

One longtime NFL scout insisted that Gerhart’s skin color will likely prevent the Pac-10’s offensive player of the year from being drafted in Thursday’s first round.

20 April 2010

Their heroes are the Shaheeds, the martyrs

"Let me read the al Qaeda Internet strategy. I find it quite fascinating the way this organization – which is strongly against globalization and modernization – use the most modern techniques. This was posted on an al Qaeda website:"
Due to the advances of modern technology, it is easy to spread news, information, articles, and other information over the Internet. We strongly urge Muslim Internet professionals to spread and disseminate news and information about the jihad through email lists, discussion groups, and their own websites. If you fail to do this and our site closes down before you have done this, you may be held to account before Allah on the Day of Judgment. This way, even if our sites are closed down, the material will live on with the grace of Allah.

“You know Jerry, I’m convinced that teenagers are teenagers the world around.” I said, “How do you mean?” And he responded, “Well, you go into a pizza parlor here and the kids are talking about their favorite team, the New England Patriots. Their hero is Tom Brady, the quarterback. And some day when they grow up, they want to be an NFL player like their heroes. Well, it’s the same thing in the refugee camps. Only their favorite team is Hamas. Their heroes are the Shaheeds, the martyrs.” They actually have Shaheed trading cards, just as we do here for baseball. “And when they grow up – which they won’t – they want to be a Shaheed, like their heroes.”
-Jerrold Post and Ariel Merari

Chavez hosts regional allies
Recently acquired Chinese K-8 jets and Russian Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft flew overhead and special forces troops shouted "anti-imperialist socialist" slogans during the celebrations in Caracas on Monday.

Soldiers from Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Libya and Nicaragua joined those on the ground.

Flanked by Raul Castro, the Cuban president, and Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, Chavez joined military generals in praising his socialist revolution.

"More than ever, Venezuela will not be a "yankee" colony, nor a colony of anyone. The time for our true independence has come, 200 years on", Chavez said.

19 April 2010

We want peace; we want Taliban and Islam

Fascinating texts of enemy propaganda broadcasts in Afghanistan:

Note: All of the below attack claims were posted in English on a variety of different terrorist and extremist cyber locations and were signed “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”
Military Operations March 22
-6 Puppet Army Terrorists Killed, 3 Vehicle Destroyed In Mujahideen's Attack In Kunar As many as 6 Afghan terrorists were killed and about a dozen wounded on Monday, Mar. 22, 2010, as Mujahideen rocket strikes hit three of the enemy's vehicles in Kunar's Shigal district.

In Marjah, U.S tank destroyed More than 7 puppet Afghan and U.S terrorists were killed while on a combined patrol mission, on Friday, Mar. 19...

Taliban takes over Afghan valley
The Taliban is claiming victory in eastern Afghanistan's Korengal Valley following the withdrawal of US forces from the remote outpost.

US officials, however, say the withdrawal in Kunar province was "a repositioning of forces" following a decision by General Stanley McChrystal, head of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, to concentrate resources on urban areas.

"We don't want Americans, we don't want Germans or any other foreigner. We don't want foreigners, we want peace. We want Taliban and Islam - we don't want anything else."

Hyperbole and Dissatisfaction:
Rage against government
Three out of four Americans are either “frustrated” or “angry” with the federal government – and nearly a third of the public views government as a “threat to their personal freedom"

The survey shows an increasing number of Americans are distrustful both of Washington and the elected officials who populate it. Only 22 percent of those polled said they can trust the federal government “almost always” or “most of the time,” which Pew says is “among the lowest measures in more than half a century.” Moreover, 65 percent hold an unfavorable view of Congress – the worst congressional approval rating Pew has seen in a quarter-century. The last year has seen public approval of Congress plummet from 50 percent in April 2009 to 26 percent this month.

Today's eerie similarities to Oklahoma City
There are striking similarities between the tenor of that political discourse and today.

Again, we have a relatively liberal president who is despised and feared by the far right. Again, we have controversial legislation described in apocalyptic terms by some mainstream conservatives.

Those who say their words are only words, or say their hyperbole is justified to make their message heard, cannot pretend that they play no role in inciting the actions that follow.

We protect free speech. Yet that does not mean those whose speech precedes bloodshed are free from blame.

13 April 2010

Hypocrisy...has seemingly become the coin of the realm

Hypocrisy and the end of empires
Hypocrisy has always been an important denomination of political currency, but today it has seemingly become the coin of the realm.

In the US, the vitriolic Republican-corporate attacks on healthcareand other much needed reforms in the name of protecting the rights of individual citizens, reflect an increasingly toxic political culture and the power of the right to manipulate deep-seated fears and prejudice for its own ends.

However, the continuities in US foreign policy between the Obama and Bush administrations reflect a more systemic hypocrisy whose negative consequences have global implications.


Al Qaeda Chemical Weapons Tests

Dirty bomb: How real is the risk?
"Two decades after the end of the Cold War, we face a cruel irony of history - the risk of a nuclear confrontation between nations has gone down but the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up,'' Obama said on Tuesday.

"Nuclear terrorism is unfortunately a realistic possibility. Though terror groups themselves may not have the technical knowledge or equipment to produce highly enriched uranium [HEU] or plutonium, it would nevertheless be possible for them to obtain these materials from poorly guarded nuclear facilities," said MJ Gohel, a terrorism specialist at the Asia Pacific Foundation, an independent intelligence think-tank based in the UK.

Tea Parties
Obama's 'tea party' complex
First there were the "bitter-clingers," then Scott Brown's truck. Now President Obama has taken on tea party protesters, saying he's "amused" by their failure to see that the average American's tax burden has lessened under his stewardship.

"You would think they'd be saying thank you, that's what you'd think" the President said.

A New York Times/CBS News poll says only two percent of tea party protesters realize that their taxes have likely gone down this year (compared to 22 percent of the general population who understand that). Given college tax credits, making work pay, college loan relief, and home buyer credits, 90 percent of Americans got a tax break this year. The average tax refund is 10 percent larger than last year.

"The rise of the Tea Party at time when taxes are literally at their lowest in decades is really hard to understand," William Gale of the Brookings Institution told Political Hotsheet.

But to distill the tea party message down to simply an argument over this year's 1040 form, critics say, isn't only a failure to understand the tea party's DNA, but also factually questionable given recent analyses showing that the tax burden on Americans is likely to rise in coming years.

What's more, tea party protesters aren't just worried about taxes, but the rising federal debt and creeping entitlement programs they say threaten individual liberty as defined by the Constitution.

Tea Party Crash fizzles out
After several days of hype and hand-wringing about liberal plans to infiltrate Thursday’s tea party rallies, the great 2010 Tax Day Tea Party Crash did not produce much of a bang in Washington.

To be sure, a handful of obvious crashers engaged in some mostly non-confrontational back-and-forth with tea party activists at a Thursday evening rally that drew thousands to Washington’s National Mall near the Washington Monument. And some less overt crashers subtly mocked activists from amidst their ranks at both the evening rally on the Mall and an earlier event at Freedom Plaza near the White House. And there could have been other infiltrators who evaded immediate detection.

A group of five American University students, who were on average probably at least 25 years younger than most attendees at the FreedomWorks rally, waded through the crowd with signs ranging from the direct and challenging (“Embrace the state”) to the satirical (“I have a sign” and “Loud noises”) to the malapropically mocking (“No $ 4 educatoin. I don’t wnt it”).

Kurt Beyer, a 21-year-old student at Pennsylvania’s Muhlenberg College attended with two of classmates and held aloft a sign reading “Palin 2010. One people. One Nation. One Leader.” Not only is Palin not running for anything in 2010 (she’s rumored to be considering a presidential bid in 2012), but the slogan is a translation of one used by Adolph Hitler in 1938.

A self-described infiltrator at the afternoon rally, who dressed as a monk and carried a sign reading “God Hates Taxes,” said many tea partiers lauded him for his sign.

Brooks Alexander, a 23-year-old Olney, Md., hotel worker and Obama supporter who wore an Obama t-shirt to the evening rally, said infiltrators were being disrespectful.

They’re doing a disservice not only to themselves, but to the people who are here trying to express their views,” said Alexander, who is African American and said he traveled to the rally to verify for himself liberal accounts blasting the tea party as racist.

“All my friends told me I was crazy to come down here in an Obama shirt,” he said. “Obviously I have political disagreements [with the tea party], but I cannot lie. I cannot say that people have been anything but nice to me. They have been shaking my hand. One guy told me I had a lot of [guts] for coming down here. I will definitely walk away from this with a new understanding of the tea party.”

Iran demands US troop withdrawal
"The region has no need for alien troops and they should return home and let the regional states take care of their own affairs," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech marking the country's annual Army Day on Sunday.

"They must leave the region and this is not a request but an order, and the will of the regional nations," he said.

"This is the will of the regional nations that after 60 odd years, the root of this corrupt microbe and the main reason for insecurity in the region be pulled out," Ahmadinejad said.

He said that except the "Zionist regime (Israel)," Iran considered all other countries as "friend and brother" with whom the Islamic state wanted peaceful co-existence.

Ahmadinejad flexes military muscle as news of secret Gates Iran memo ripples
A secret memo from US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned the White House in January that the US lacks a long-term plan to deal with Iran, according to reports. News of the Gates Iran memo is causing a stir in Washington.

“On Iran, we are doing what we said we were going to do. The fact that we don’t announce publicly our entire strategy for the world to see doesn’t mean we don’t have a strategy that anticipates the full range of contingencies — we do,” [said Gen. Jones].

"I didn’t need a secret memo to know we didn’t have a coherent policy," Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona said." "That’s pretty obvious."

On Sunday, Ahmadinejad went a step further, vowing to respond with “all [Iran’s] military potential” in the face of armed aggression, reports Al Jazeera.

The remarks came on Iran’s Army Day when the nation showcases its military technology. The Iranian president also added that the US must withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, where he says the presence of US forces has only “increased insecurity in both countries.”

Obama's Press
Anon. WH reporter confesses to saving info for book
Media observers are no doubt familiar with the debate over whether it's appropriate for journalists to save nuggets of news for books they plan on writing later. The purists argue that journalists are simply looking to cash in on their beats and, in the process of doing so, depriving the public of valuable information. Other authors more inclined to save scoops for later are reluctant to admit to doing it, but they'd still argue that a) oftentimes those scoops are only offered under the condition that they not be used until later; b) news takes some time to leak out; and c) there's something to be said for the long view in journalism. And so on and so on...

Press airs grievances to Gibbs
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs met with a delegation from the White House press corps for 75 minutes on Thursday in an effort to improve frayed relations between the two sides.

The immediately precipitating event for the meeting was an April 10 incident in which President Barack Obama left the White House complex to attend one of daughter’s soccer games at 9:20 a.m., without being accompanied by the usual traveling press pool, which had been told to show up by 11:30 a.m. About fifteen minutes after his departure, press officials scrambled to assemble a partial pool that departed at 9:43 a.m. But the pool did not catch up, and the president got back to the White House 10 minutes before the reporters.

At the time, Gibbs apologized to NBC News, the network assigned to the travel pool that day, and said it was an “unintentional … oversight” — a miscommunication between the president and his staff.

During the meeting, Gibbs did not to promise that such an instance would never happen again, but pointed out it was the first time in 15 months, attendees said.

The White House official told POLITICO: “Our percentage [of including the press] is pretty damn high, and we expect it to stay that way."

12 April 2010

Tragedy is likely to result...

I make no effort to discern the intended meaning of the authors because authors do not control the meaning of their own words once they are uttered in public.
-Ted Hopf, Social Construction of International Politics

Something in human nature causes us to start slacking off at our moment of greatest accomplishment. As you become successful, you will need a great deal of self-discipline not to lose your sense of balance, humility and commitment.
-H. Ross Perot

Congress sees no budget rush
Congress is poised to miss its April 15 deadline for finishing next year’s budget without even considering a draft in either chamber.

Unlike citizens’ tax-filing deadline, Congress’s mid-April benchmark is nonbinding. And members seem to be in no rush to get the process going.

Indeed, some Democratic insiders suspect that leaders will skip the budget process altogether this year — a way to avoid the political unpleasantness of voting on spending, deficits and taxes in an election year — or simply go through a few of the motions, without any real effort to complete the work.

The practical consequences of failing to produce a federal budget for next year are about the same as they are for a family that doesn’t set a plan for income and spending: Congress doesn’t need a budget to tax or spend, but enforcing discipline is harder without one.

Understanding the Russian Military
The Russian military is often dismissed offhand based on perceptions with outdated roots in the mid-1990s and the turn of the century. In truth, the Russian military has seen very significant improvements since that time, and the Kremlin’s net military capability exceeds the Western perception of it.

Western analysts have already begun to pick apart the Russian invasion of Georgia, citing details that they argue denigrate the performance of the Kremlin’s military. But something very different is going on. Where they see failures based on modern Western standards of military performance (inappropriately applied to today’s Russian and yesterday’s Soviet militaries alike), we see the effective exercise of military force. When the moment came, the Russian military achieved the Kremlin’s objectives without suffering unreasonable losses. Though widely touted as a failure, this is the essence of any successful military operation. They are never pretty. But by the above measure, the Georgian operation was a success — tactically, operationally and strategically — for Russia.

Former Russian President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is an intelligence officer, and the cultivation of false perceptions is an inherent part of the skills he learned and the trade he plied as a professional. Furthermore, he has long understood the value of technology-focused espionage.

Russia’s net military capability exceeds the perception, and that is no accident. The perception is carefully cultivated by Russia and compounded by a tendency in the West to judge Moscow by Western military standards.

Working through the US jobs crisis
To be unemployed in the US – to lose your identity as a consumer in an economy where 70 per cent of all activity is consumption – is in some way to inhabit another country.

In fact, if you count all the unemployed, underemployed, and those who have given up looking for work in the US, you have a population of almost 30mn – a country about the size of Canada.

The political future of Barack Obama's presidency may hinge on his ability to bring the unemployment rate down. So the question that immediately comes to mind is why he has not yet proposed a single big idea or bold plan commensurate with the scope of the crisis.

Follow the chain of command
Rules of engagement are designed to manage risk. The more they are calibrated to minimise the risk to one's own troops, the greater the potential risk to innocents. Equally, the more one takes precautions to avoid collateral casualties, the greater the potential risks to one's comrades.

McChrystal, aware of the importance to the overall political struggle of avoiding civilian casualties, has decreed that in such circumstances, unless those in the building pose an immediate and direct threat to deployed troops, the compound cannot be attacked.

It does suggest, however, that if ill-prepared and impressionable personnel are armed with loose rules of engagement in a non-traditional conflict zone, where most of those on at least one side of the conflict do not wear uniforms, tragedy is likely to result - and that those responsible for allowing such circumstances to come together might well stand justly accused of criminal negligence.

Were Confederate soldiers terrorists?
When you make the argument that the South was angry with the North for "invading" its "homeland," Osama bin Laden has said the same about U.S. soldiers being on Arab soil. He has objected to our bases in Saudi Arabia, and that's one of the reasons he has launched his jihad against us. Is there really that much of a difference between him and the Confederates? Same language; same cause; same effect.

If a Confederate soldier was merely doing his job in defending his homeland, honor and heritage, what are we to say about young Muslim radicals who say the exact same thing as their rationale for strapping bombs on their bodies and blowing up cafes and buildings?

We can't on the one hand justify the actions of Confederates as being their duty as valiant men of the South, and then condemn the Muslim extremists who want to see Americans die a brutal death. These men are held up as honorable by their brethren, so why do Americans see them as different from our homegrown terrorists?

09 April 2010

The fundamental obligation of the executive to protect the American people trumps the basic right to life of that individual...

Anwar al-Awlaki: Is it legal to kill an American in war on terror?
Anwar al-Awlaki is an American hiding in Yemen. Tied to the Fort Hood shooting and Christmas Day bomber, he is thought to be plotting attacks on the US. In fighting the war on terror, the Obama administration has put him on the kill-or-capture list.

The Obama administration says it will use lethal force against Anwar al-Awlaki, an American hiding in Yemen who is thought to be plotting terrorist attacks against the US.

Awlaki is a proven threat,” a US official told Reuters news agency. “He’s being targeted.”

A report Wednesday in The New York Times indicated that what triggered US officials putting the Muslim cleric on the kill-or-capture list was their determination that he was not only inciting attacks against the US but also “participating” in them.

“By making that declaration, the administration has at least admitted the possibility that the fundamental obligation of the executive to protect the American people trumps the basic right to life of that individual,” says Mr. Newton.

CBO chief says debt 'unsustainable'
The nation’s fiscal path is “unsustainable,” and the problem “cannot be solved through minor tinkering,” the head of the Congressional Budget Office said.

Elmendorf noted a recent CBO report that pegged an increase in the public debt from $7.5 trillion at the end of 2009 to $20.3 trillion at the end of 2020 if President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget were to be implemented as written. As a percentage of gross domestic product, the debt would rise from 53 percent to 90 percent, CBO forecasted. The last time the percentage was that high was right after World War II.

“If at the end of the day we need to raise taxes, we should raise taxes,” Volcker said.

“These choices are difficult, and it always seems easier to put them off — until the day they cannot be put off anymore,” Bernanke said.

New era for Russia-U.S. relations
Like so many people around the world, including Americans after 9/11, we Russians are now painfully reminded of our common vulnerability when confronting a ruthless cause that has no respect for human life.

06 April 2010

Relax, We’ll Be Fine

Relax, We’ll Be Fine
The United States already measures at the top or close to the top of nearly every global measure of economic competitiveness. A comprehensive 2008 Rand Corporation study found that the U.S. leads the world in scientific and technological development. The U.S. now accounts for a third of the world’s research-and-development spending. Partly as a result, the average American worker is nearly 10 times more productive than the average Chinese worker, a gap that will close but not go away in our lifetimes.

In sum, the U.S. is on the verge of a demographic, economic and social revival, built on its historic strengths. The U.S. has always been good at disruptive change. It’s always excelled at decentralized community-building. It’s always had that moral materialism that creates meaning-rich products. Surely a country with this much going for it is not going to wait around passively and let a rotten political culture drag it down.

Karzai's Taliban Threat: Afghan Leader TWICE Said He Might Join Insurgency
Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened over the weekend to quit the political process and join the Taliban if he continued to come under outside pressure to reform.

Lawmakers dismissed the latest comment as hyperbole, but it will add to the impression the president – who relies on tens of thousands of U.S. and NATO forces to fight the insurgency and prop up his government – is growing increasingly erratic and unable to exert authority without attacking his foreign backers.

Russia Islamist network takes shape as Caucasus hit by another terrorist attack
Five terrorist attacks that killed almost 60 people in a single week have left Russians deeply shaken.

Some experts worry that an Islamist insurgent network led by Chechen "emir" Doku Umarov, who took responsibility for the suicide bombings that killed 40 people at two Moscow metro stations a week ago, may be preparing to launch a new wave of assaults against Russia's heartland.

01 April 2010

America cannot and will not win

“Whoever does not have the stomach for this fight let him depart. Give him money to speed his departure since we wish not to die in that man’s company.”
-Henry V

Bin Laden issues new threat in tape
Osama bin Laden threatened in a new message released Thursday to kill any Americans al-Qaida captures if the U.S. executes the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks or other al-Qaida suspects.

"It's the height of absurdity for anyone associated with al-Qaida to even suggest that now, at long last, they're going to start treating captives badly," said the counterterrorism official.

"They may have forgotten Danny Pearl and all the others they've slaughtered, but we haven't."

Anwar al-Awlaki: A Call to Jihad
[from the Imam that handled MAJ Hassan and the Christmas Day bomber]
To the American people, I say: remember the days when Americans were enjoying the blessings of security and peace? When the word terrorism was rarely invoked and when you were oblivious to any threats? I remember a time when you could purchase an airline ticket from the classified section of your local or college newspaper and use it even though it was issued to a different name because no one would bother asking you for an ID before you boarding the plane. No long lines, no elaborate search, no body scans, no sniffing dogs, no taking off your shoes and emptying out your pockets. You were a nation at ease.

...America has not been safe. Nine years after September 11 - nine years of spending and nine years of beefing up security - you are still unsafe...

If America failed to win when it was at its pinnacle of economic strength, how can it win today with a recession at hand? The simple answer is that America cannot and will not win.

How many more bodybags are American families willing to receive? How much more can the US treasury handle?

For how long can the US survive this war of attrition?

We will fight to the last man against whoever stands in our way. We, the Muslims, do not have an inherent animosity towards any racial group or ethnicity. We are not against Americans for just being American; we are against evil. And America, as a whole, has turned into a nation of evil. What we see from America is the invasion of two Muslim countries, we see Abu Ghraib, Baghram, and Guantanamo Bay; we see cruise missiles and cluster bombs...we cannot stand idly in the face of such aggression.