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.