Wednesday, October 24, 2007

CAIR acts as a foreign agent, so it should register as one

Think about this for a moment: Foreign Agents Registration Act

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was enacted in 1938. FARA is a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities. Disclosure of the required information facilitates evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons in light of their function as foreign agents. The FARA Registration Unit of the Counterespionage Section (CES) in the National Security Division (NSD) is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Act.

Is that clear in your mind? Good. Now keep it in mind as you read this press release from CAIR (with a tip-o'-th'-hat to Little Green Footballs):

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group today called on Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani to drop a campaign advisor who offers rhetorical support to a group designated as "terrorist" by the U.S. government.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Daniel Pipes, who recently signed on to Giuliani's campaign as a foreign policy advisor, is a vocal supporter of the terror group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). Earlier this year, Pipes even participated in a foreign rally for MEK leader Maryam Rajavi.

Shouldn't CAIR be required to register as a foreign agent under FARA?

Good thing Netflix doesn't operate in Gaza

Otherwise these people would be renting The Great Escape or Stalag 17 to learn how it's done: Hamas operative dies while digging tunnel.

A Hamas operative was killed Wednesday while digging a tunnel between the Gaza Strip and Israel, Palestinian News agencies reported.

The operative, 21-year-old Muhammad Salakh, was a member of a "tunnel unit" belonging to Hamas's Izzadin al-Kassam Brigades.

Hamas reported that Salakh was killed early Wednesday during a "special Jihad mission."

Three weeks ago, a Hamas operative was killed and two more were injured when a tunnel they were digging collapsed. Hamas's military wing also reported then that the operative was killed during a "Jihad mission."

Friday, October 5, 2007

Oh, say, can you see...?

Senator Barack Obama won't wear an American flag lapel pin, because it's not "true patriotism" to do so. Read his explanation, and then learn what it really means:

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he doesn't wear the American flag lapel pin because it has become a substitute for "true patriotism" since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Asked about the decision Wednesday in an interview with KCRG-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Illinois senator said he stopped doing so shortly after the attacks and instead hoped to show his patriotism by explaining his ideas to citizens.

"The truth is that right after 9-11 I had a pin," Obama said. "Shortly after 9-11, particularly because as we're talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for I think true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security.

"I decided I won't wear that pin on my chest," he said in the interview. "Instead, I'm going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testament to my patriotism."

If wearing a lapel pin is not an expression of true patriotism, why did Obama wear one "right after 9-11"? Because 9-11 was the defining moment for Progressives and Liberals: it was finally okay to love America, because America was a wounded victim.

Victimhood is the only basis for holding the moral high ground in the minds of American Leftists. Only the weak and oppressed deserve sympathy, admiration and solidarity. All others are oppressors, who deserve to be despised.

The classic example of this phenomenon is Israel. The Left felt sympathy and admiration for Israel when the perception was that Israel was comprised of victims of white European oppression. The Six-Day War changed things: ever since, Israel has been an outpost of white European oppression against the noble and long-suffering Arab and Muslim peoples of the Middle East. (Never mind that a large number of Israelis or their parents fled the nations neighboring Israel to escape Muslim oppression.)

So, too, has the United States fallen from grace in the eyes of Progressives and Liberals. They mourn the fact that President Bush had the audacity and short-sightedness to strike back at our enemies, thus "robbing America of its moral authority" and "squandering the goodwill of the world." Their oft-repeated lament, that "after 9-11, the whole world was on our side," tells you what they truly believe: they are ashamed of an America that isn't weak, wounded and helpless. They also completely misunderstand the nature of America's enemies, for rather than feeling remorse or shame at the 9-11 attacks, our enemies felt emboldened, invigorated and thirsty for more American blood.

This is why Obama says, "I'm going to try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great" -- not, "I'm going to try to tell the American people what I believe makes this country great." For Obama and the other Progressives and Liberals, America ascendant and victorious in military battle is the opposite of a great country, and only an America that bows and scrapes to its enemies -- and subordinates its own national interests to the "greater good" defined by those enemies -- can be truly great. They love this country so much that they want to see it destroyed in order to become the ultimate morally admirable victim.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Palestinian civil war in the refugee camps of Lebanon

The Hamas-Fatah internicine war that divided the Palestinian government into a Gaza Hamas administration and a West Bank Fatah one is now playing itself out in the Palestinian refugee camps in other countries. Here is an example from Lebanon.

The clash erupted in the Miyeh Miyeh camp near the main southern coastal city of Sidon at about 1 am (2200 GMT Wednesday) and raged for about 90 minutes before calm was restored, a Palestinian source said.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's secular Fatah faction has been in open conflict with Hamas since the Islamist movement's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in June.

The fighting broke out over a dispute between a Hamas militant and a Fatah rival over electricity supplies to a sector of the camp, the source said.

"It was an isolated incident that was rapidly brought under control," said Munir Maqdah, the Palestine Liberation Organisation's official in southern Lebanon.

"We don't want the events of Gaza to happen in the Lebanese camps."

Abu Mahmud, a Hamas official in Miyeh Miyeh, accused Fatah of "provocation" saying its supporters had ripped up posters of the late Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his successor Abdel Aziz Rantissi, who were both assassinated by Israel.

The two injured men, who suffered bullet wounds, were identifed as a Fatah militant and a Lebanese who lives next to the camp.

After the events at the Nahr al-Bared camp, the Lebanese are in no mood to continue hosting Palestinian refugees if the camps are going to break out into open civil war.

Suicidal tendencies

A strange suicidal madness is spreading: FOX News Poll: Nearly 1 in 5 Democrats Say World Will Be Better Off if U.S. Loses War.

Nearly one out of every five Democrats thinks the world will be better off if America loses the war in Iraq, according to the FOX News Opinion Dynamics Poll released Thursday.

The percentage of Democrats (19 percent) who believe that is nearly four times the number of Republicans (5 percent) who gave the same answer. Seven percent of independents said the world would be better off if the U.S. lost the war.

Click here for results of the poll.(pdf)

Overall, 11 percent of Americans think the world would be "better off" if the U.S. lost the war, and 73 percent disagree.

Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from Sept. 25 to Sept. 26. The poll has a 3-point margin of error.

My question for those affirmative respondents is, better off how, exactly?

Congressional water torture

Not that there is any credible evidence that the Bush Administration has authorized torture, but key Democrats in Congress are demanding that the Bush Administration turn over "alleged" directives authorizing torture.

House Democrats demanded Thursday that the Justice Department turn over two secret memos that reportedly authorize painful interrogation tactics against terror suspects — despite the Bush administration's insistence that it has not violated U.S. anti-torture laws.

Spokespeople for the White House and the Justice Department said a memo written in February 2005 on this subject did not change an administration policy issued in 2004 that publicly renounced torture as "abhorrent."

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers and Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., promised a congressional inquiry into the two Justice Department legal opinions that reportedly "explicitly authorized the use of painful and psychological tactics on terrorism suspects."

"Both the alleged content of these opinions and the fact that they have been kept secret from Congress are extremely troubling, especially in light of the department's 2004 withdrawal of an earlier opinion similarly approving such methods," Conyers, D-Mich., and fellow House Judiciary member Nadler wrote in a letter Thursday to Acting Attorney General Peter D. Keisler.

It's wonderful to see that Democrats have their priorities straight. No matter what the threat to the lives and safety of Americans, the real thing they keep first and foremost in their minds is not being unduly mean to terror suspects.

"The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security," Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said in a statement. "We must do whatever it takes to track down and capture or kill terrorists, but torture is not a part of the answer — it is a fundamental part of the problem with this administration's approach."

Here's the fundamental question for Obama, Nadler and Conyers: how many Americans are you willing to let die to keep to your anti-torture principles? If "torture is not part of the answer," excluded from "whatever it takes" to defend America from terror attacks, then you must state explicitly that America must never torture any terror suspect, no matter how many American lives are lost by foregoing the information that suspect has. Tell us that you truly believe that the human rights of the terror suspect to be exempted from torture outweigh the rights of American civilians to be exempted from being murdered.

Friday, September 28, 2007

UK letter bomber "a confused young man" angry at Government security measures

A British letter bomber, responsible for injuring eight people, was "a confused young man" angry over the development of the British surveillance state.

Cooper had for years harboured a seething resentment over what he perceived as the growing threat to Britain's civil liberties.

The increase in surveillance cameras, anti-terrorist measures and "overbearing" Government control were a constant source of frustration. He had campaigned peacefully against identity cards and the treatment of anti-nuclear protesters, but it was getting him nowhere.

The catalyst for his change in tactics came in 2003 following the decision to hold on record the DNA of his father, Clive, despite his being cleared of an allegation of assault.

Cooper, a confused young man who had difficulty forming social relationships, suddenly had a cause to channel his anger.

The hate rhetoric of the Left, the seething over its impotence in changing security and defense policy, is more than the expression of inchoate rage. It's the seedbed for this type of domestic terrorism. Watch for the "Kos Kidz," the readers of The Daily Kos blogsite, to start falling into this practice in the not-distant future.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pogroms in Gaza

Palestinian Christians in Gaza are experiencing pogroms carried out by their Muslim Palestinian neighbors. An 80-year-old woman was a recent victim:

Tarazi said a masked man dressed in black clothes had knocked on her door late at night and demanded all her money.

"He was carrying a club and a sharp tool," she said. "As soon as I opened the door, he pushed me inside and shouted: 'Where is the money, you infidel?' I shouted back: 'I'm not an infidel - I'm a proud Palestinian Arab.'"

Tarazi said the assailant had beaten her on her hands with the club, demanding that she hand over all her money and jewelry.

"I was so terrified that I gave him two golden bracelets, a cellphone and a few hundred shekels," she said. "But the man said this was not enough and hit me hard on the head with a tool he was carrying until I started bleeding." He then locked her in her bedroom and started searching the house for money and valuable items, she added.

This wasn't an isolated incident of petty crime. Churches and Christian schools have been attacked and desecrated:

The assault on the elderly Christian woman is the latest in a series of attacks against Christians over the past few months. Since the Hamas takeover, a Christian school and a church have been targeted by Muslims.

Father Manuel Musalam, leader of the small Latin community in the Gaza Strip, said masked gunmen torched and looted the Rosary Sisters School and the Latin Church.

"The masked gunmen used rocket-propelled grenades to storm the main entrances of the school and church," he said. "Then they destroyed almost everything inside, including the cross, the holy book, computers and other equipment."

Musalam expressed outrage over the burning of copies of the Bible, adding that the gunmen destroyed all the crosses inside the church and school.

"Those who did these awful things have no respect for Christian-Muslim relations," he said.

So much for Islam's respect for other Peoples of the Book....

Monday, September 24, 2007

Buddhist monks leading Burma protests

Crowds estimated at 50,000 to 100,000, led by Buddhist monks, are marching through Burma to demand an end to repression and a return to the path to democracy.

Some monks' representatives had called for the entire country to join them in their campaign to overthrow the government, which began eight days ago.

Monday saw marches in at least 25 towns and cities, including Mandalay, Sittwe and Pakokku.

Turnout estimates in Rangoon, Burma's biggest city, range from 50,000 to 100,000.

In doing so, they're putting their lives on the line.

Burma's ruling military junta has warned it is ready to "take action" against Buddhist monks leading mounting protests, state media have reported. Brig Gen Thura Myint Maung, minister for religion, warned them not to break Buddhist "rules and regulations" as Rangoon saw the largest march yet.

He blamed the protests on "destructive elements" opposed to peace in Burma.

The military government has so far showed restraint against the protests.

Monks are highly revered in Burma and correspondents say any move by the junta to crush their demonstrations would spark an outcry.

But there are fears of a repeat of 1988, correspondents say, when the last democracy uprising was crushed by the military and some 3,000 people were killed.

The regime in Burma has shown itself to be highly resilient and resistant to outside influence. One hopes that this uprising will finally shame the junta into reform.

The mace of social justice in Saudi Arabia

Brave women: Saudi woman sprays religious police agents with tearing irritant.

Two Saudi women called agents of the feared religious police terrorists and one sprayed the men with a tearing irritant after the agents stopped them because they did not conform to the kingdom's strict dress code, the religious police said Monday in a statement.

One of the women filmed the incident, which took place in the Eastern Province on Thursday, the statement quoted Muhammad bin Marshoud al-Marshoud, head of the Eastern Province branch of the Commission for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice as saying.

The commission employs the police unit that enforces the kingdom's strict Islamic lifestyle. The police patrol public places to ensure women are covered and not wearing make up, the sexes don't mingle, shops close five times a day for Muslim prayers and men go to the mosque and worship.

Wonder what their life expectancy has been adjusted down to.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

When is an act of war an act of war?

So the US military catches a member of the Iranian military -- the "elite" Revolutionary Guards Quds Force -- in Iraq, in the process of smuggling sophisticated explosively-formed projectiles into the country to murder Americans and Iraqis.

An Iranian officer accused of smuggling powerful roadside bombs into Iraq for the elite Quds force was arrested Thursday, the military said.

The suspect - a member of the Quds Force, an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards - was detained in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah, the military said.

He was allegedly involved in transporting roadside bombs, including armor-piercing explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, into Iraq, according to a statement. It said intelligence reports also indicated he was involved in the infiltration and training of foreign fighters in Iraq.

At what point do we call this activity what it is -- an act of war?

Same question for the Lebanese, who saw another anti-Syrian lawmaker assassinated by car bomb.

Beirut - The Assassination of Phalange Party MP Antoine Ghanem on Wednesday was widely condemned by the various factions and blamed by the March 14 majority alliance on Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

MP Saad Hariri, leader of the parliament majority , blamed the killing on the "cowardly" Assad regime which "retaliated by killing Lebanese after Israeli jet fighters raided Syria."

"I haven't in my life known a more cowardly regime than that of Bashar Assad," a sad-looking Hariri told reporters.

He said the "enemies of Lebanon killed Antoine Ghanem (picture) today because they want to prevent the presidential elections … they want to kill Lebanon."

"We will not permit the criminals to kill Lebanon.. The presidential elections will be held … the presidency belongs to the Lebanese people," Hariri vowed.

He said the international tribunal that would try suspects in the 2005 slaying of his father former PM Rafik Hariri and related crimes, "would also try the cowardly killers and those who are blocking the presidential elections."

Democratic Gathering leader Walid Jumblatt also charged the Assad regime of architecting the Ghanem killing by a booby-trapped car explosion to "strike at the parliamentary majority and the Lebanese People which is struggling for its independence, sovereignty and freedom."

The situation in Iraq and Lebanon would be much calmer if the situation in Iran and Syria were much hotter.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nationalized health care is politicized health care

Another reason why nationalized health care ain't such a great idea: Hamas arrests prominent doctors and Fatah sympathizers.

Hamas forces on Tuesday arrested two ousted officials of Gaza's largest hospital after they entered the building to talk to their former colleagues - the latest sign of Hamas' heavy-handed tactics against supporters of the rival Fatah movement.

Dr. Hazaa Abed, who was dismissed as director of Shifa Hospital last month, was detained along with Dr. Jomma al-Saqa, another ousted hospital official, colleagues and al-Saqa said.

"We were visiting Shifa to greet our colleagues for Ramadan," al-Saqa said in a telephone interview from a police station. "We were asked by the Hamas Executive Force to leave. When we asked why, they put us in a jeep and took us here. I don't know why."

Hamas officials were not immediately available for comment.

Hamas fired Abed and al-Saqa early last month. Both say the dismissals were because of their affiliation with Fatah.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in June after five days of battles against Fatah forces. Since then, Fatah officials say, Hamas has harassed, fired or detained many Fatah officials and installed Hamas sympathizers in key positions. A Hamas supporter was recently named the new director of Shifa.

Al-Saqa also was briefly arrested last month, leading Gaza doctors to launch a slowdown that crippled the coastal strip's medical system. Doctors suspended the slowdown on Monday out of respect for the current Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

While promising to bring law and order to Gaza, Hamas has shown little tolerance for dissent - violently breaking up protests by Fatah supporters in recent weeks.

For all of you who wish for a single-payer system in the USA, reflect on this: The "single payer" will be tempted to institute a political loyalty test for its employees -- you know, to weed out the ones that might disrupt efficient patient care.

You play with nerve gas, you're going to get sprayed

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bunch of fellas: 'Dozens died in Syrian-Iranian chemical weapons experiment'

Proof of cooperation between Iran and Syria in the proliferation and development of weapons of mass destruction was brought to light Monday in a Jane's Magazine report that dozens of Iranian engineers and 15 Syrian officers were killed in a July 23 accident in Syria.

According to the report, cited by Channel 10, the joint Syrian-Iranian team was attempting to mount a chemical warhead on a scud missile when the explosion occurred, spreading lethal chemical agents, including sarin nerve gas and VX gas.

The factory was created specifically for the purposes of altering ballistic missiles to carry chemical payloads, the magazine report claimed.

Reports of the accident were circulated at the time, however, no details were released by the Syrian government, and there were no hints of an Iranian connection.

The report comes on the heels of criticism leveled by the Syrains at the United States, accusing it of spreading "false" claims of Syrian nuclear activity and cooperation with North Korea to excuse an alleged Israeli air incursion over the country this month.

According to Global, Syria is not a signatory of either the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), - an international agreement banning the production, stockpiling or use of chemical weapons, or the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Syria began developing chemical weapons in 1973, just before the Yom Kipper War. Global cites the country as having one of the most advanced chemical weapons programs in the Middle East.

Or maybe it could've -- say, when these two charmers were on a site inspection....

Monday, September 17, 2007

"OK, we'll report the good news, but you can't make us like it"

Here's a bit of good news from Northern Iraq: U.S. military: al-Qaida in Iraq emir, 2 foreign militants killed in Mosul.

MOSUL, Iraq: Iraqi soldiers killed a top al-Qaida in Iraq leader along with two militants from Saudi Arabia and Libya in a gunbattle in western Mosul, the U.S. military said Sunday.

Residents contacted Iraqi police to report activity by suspected al-Qaida operatives in the area, and U.S. and Iraqi forces launched the raid around noon Saturday, said. Lt. Col. Eric Welsh, commander of the U.S. Army's 2nd battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

The suspected militants had pulled their cars up alongside one another and were meeting at an intersection on the city's west side, Welsh said. When about 100 Iraqi soldiers arrived, the suspects fled into a neighboring residential area, he said.

Going after them, Iraqi soldiers stopped two suspicious vehicles. The driver of one of the cars got out and tried to approach the soldiers, then detonated an explosives vest hidden under his clothes — killing himself but no one else, Welsh said.

Iraqi soldiers then engaged the three occupants of the second car, and a gunbattle ensued, he said. All three passengers were killed, and there were no Iraqi casualties, Welsh added.

The victims ["Victims"?!?] were later identified as the al-Qaida in Iraq emir of western Mosul, and two other al-Qaida fighters — one Libyan and one Saudi Arabian, he said.

You can find this Associated Press story at the International Herald Tribune, the Jerusalem Post, and a few other places. But one place you won't find it is at the website. Lots of other Iraq stories are available there, though:

Blackwater Guards Accused of Past Deaths

NEW YORK (AP) -- In the past year, employees of the Blackwater USA security firm have been involved in other incidents in which they were accused of killing civilians and security forces in Iraq....

Contractor Shooting Incidents on Iraqis

A look at some of the incidents involving private contractors firing on Iraqi civilians:...

U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq at 3,780

As of Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007, at least 3,780 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 3,086 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers....

Progress Slow As Iraqi Politics in Flux

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Muqtada al-Sadr's decision to withdraw from the Shiite bloc is the most dramatic sign of the transformation in Iraqi politics. Old alliances are fraying, new ones are forming....

Thousands March in D.C. War Protest

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Several thousand anti-war demonstrators marched through downtown Washington on Saturday, clashing with police at the foot of the Capitol steps where more than 190 protesters were arrested....

U.S. Expands Anbar Model to Iraq Shiites

KUT, Iraq (AP) -- American commanders in southern Iraq say Shiite sheiks are showing interest in joining forces with the U.S. military against extremists, in much the same way that Sunni clansmen in the western part of the country have worked with American forces against al-Qaida....

WHO: Cholera Cases in Iraq Keep Rising

BAGHDAD (AP) -- The number of suspected cholera cases in northern Iraq continues to rise, with 16,000 people now showing symptoms, the World Health Organization said Friday....

Few See an End in Sight to Iraq War

Outside a Brooklyn art gallery, Kristy Knight threw her arms in the air in exasperation when she was asked about the war in Iraq, which has her angry, frustrated and flatly disbelieving President Bush....

Alcohol Business Dangerous in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (AP) -- The three men glanced left and right before cautiously entering a liquor store on Saadoun Street, one of two areas where alcohol is publicly sold in the Iraqi capital. Inside, they pointed to a bottle of champagne....

Report: Iraqis Losing Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Religious freedom has sharply deteriorated in Iraq over the past year because of the insurgency and violence targeting people of specific faiths, despite the U.S. military buildup intended to improve security, a State Department report said Friday....

Notice a pattern there? (Here's a hint: how many of these stories tell of positive developments or hope, and how many paint a bleak picture of disease, despair, destruction and death?)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The world's smallest oud 2: the woes of Hamas

Gosh, the Hamas people seem to be having a lot of problems.

They're miffed that neither Egypt nor Saudi Arabia want to talk to them.

Sami Abu Zuhri, Islamic Hamas movement's spokesman in Gaza, slammed on Saturday some Arab states for being prejudiced to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abu Zuhri made the criticisim in his comment on a Kuwaiti newspaper's report on Friday, which quoted a Hamas official, who spoke in condition of anonymity, as saying that two Arab countries, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, refused to receive Hamas leader Khaled Masha'al.

The daily said that Egypt and Saudi Arabia refused to receive Masha'al unless he apologizes to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and promise to end Hamas control of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas took control of all Gaza in mid June.

In a statement, Abu Zuhri denied the Kuwaiti daily report, saying "these reports are untrue. The Mujahed (holy fighter) Khaled Masha'al did not ask to visit those countries and he isn't interested to visit those countries because it represents the American views."

He, meanwhile, accused "those countries" of being prejudiced to President Abbas, saying "they are working on normalizing the Arab and Islamic worlds with the culture of the parted peace."

They think Fatah is trying to blow them up.

Hamas forces on Sunday said they discovered a bomb next the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza City and accused the rival Fatah movement of planting the device.

Islam Shahwan, spokesman for Hamas' paramilitary Executive Force, said the 33-pound bomb was defused after it was discovered at about 5 a.m.

"It's a dangerous escalation," he said. "We believe that some elements in Fatah, based in Ramallah, are behind this and other attacks," he said. No arrests were made.

It's making them want to just... kill... each other.

Two Palestinians were wounded in what appeared to be an internal Hamas gunfight in the Gazan town of in Deir el-Balah on Saturday night, Israel Radio reported. One of the wounded is a member of the group's special forces.

According to Fatah media outlets, one of the men is a confidant of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and the other is an associate of Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar.

Zahar denied reports last week that he had threatened Haniyeh after he announced that he was ready to renew talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

That last thing, the killing each other? Yeah, good luck with that.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The mantle of victimhood

Gary Kamiya writes in Salon of how ashamed he is of America. Ashamed, that is, in the same sense as Professor Carrington was ashamed of his fellow humans when trying to get The Thing from Another World to understand that humans are intelligent, rational beings, and not just gun-happy apes -- of course, Carrington didn't understand that to The Thing, humans were only fertilizer.

Bush's, and America's, response to 9/11 was fundamentally flawed for two reasons: It was atavistic and instinctive, and it was based on a distorted, ignorant and bigoted view of the Arab/Muslim world. These two founding errors are qualitatively different: The first involves emotions, the second ideas. But mixed together, they created a lethal cocktail. The grand justification of "spreading democracy in the Middle East" merely provided a palatable cover for vengeance and racism.

Bush's America responded to 9/11 by lashing out. We chose vigilantism over justice, instinct over reason. Bush demanded that America play the role of the angry, righteous avenger, and America followed him. But we were not taking vengeance on the guy who attacked us but on somebody standing on the corner. The war was like the massacre in Haditha on a global scale.

There's a reason why Americans responded to Bush's demand and why Democrats have been afraid to challenge it. It's biological hard-wiring -- after you're hit, your instinct is to hit back. For conservatives, this instinct is not only natural but necessary. Hence the endless right-wing denunciations of war critics as wimps, girly-men and appeasers.

Kamiya reveals in his 9/11 anniversary essay what it is that persuaded the Left to wave the American flag in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and what they've since lost: the mantle of victimhood, the only source of moral authority the American Left recognizes.

This is made starkly plain in Kamiya's discussion of how Israel makes America do bad, stupid things:

The angry bigotry that drove the war rings out loud and clear in the right-wing battle cry: "They attacked us, so we had to attack them." The recent TV ads run by war supporters repeat this theme: "They attacked us," a narrator says as an image of the burning World Trade Center appears. "They won't stop in Iraq." The key word here, of course, is "they." Just who is "they"? For Bush's die-hard supporters, "they" simply means "Arabs and Muslims." Cretinous rabble-rousers like Ann Coulter and Michael Savage play to this crowd, demanding that we nuke the evil ragheads. For the establishment, "they" is not quite so explicitly racist. "They" refers not to all Arabs and Muslims, but only to the "bad" ones. The "bad" guys include al-Qaida, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the militant Palestinians. And, of course, it used to include Iraq (and may again). Anyone who makes this list is eligible for attack by the U.S.

What makes these wildly disparate entities so evil and so threatening that we're prepared to attack them without cause? Simply that they reject the U.S.-Israeli writ in the Middle East -- and that they're Arabs or Muslims. They are clearly not on our side, but they pose no significant military or economic threat to the U.S. In realpolitik terms, they are no more beyond the pale than many other dubious countries we do business with, from Venezuela to Nigeria to Russia to Saudi Arabia. No one would dream of suggesting that if Cuba attacked the U.S., we should respond by invading Venezuela. But we play by different rules in the Middle East.

America's anti-Arab, anti-Muslim prejudice has several causes. One of them derives from America's powerful identification with the one state that has always been at war with the Arab-Muslim world: Israel. For the establishment, it is axiomatic that America's and Israel's interests are identical, and that enemies of Israel must be enemies of the U.S. America has always identified more with Israel, the plucky underdog and home to Holocaust survivors, than with the Arabs and Muslims who threaten it. Since this view is held by right and left, Democrat and Republican alike, and criticizing it leads to accusations of anti-Semitism, it is difficult to challenge it. This is the reason why there has been almost no discussion in Congress over Bush's saber-rattling with Iran: Iran is Israel's most dangerous enemy, and that fact trumps all other considerations.

America's Israel-centric stance has helped determine the way we see the Arab-Muslim world, but it isn't the only factor. The rise of radical Islam, with its cult of martyrdom and terrifying terrorist attacks, exacerbated America's existing prejudices, flattening out the Arab-Muslim world into a monolithic entity. Our almost complete ignorance of Arabs and Islam, their history and the actual grievances that they have against the West, contributed to this flattening. Oil plays a role. But perhaps the most potent explanation of all is simply the fear of the Other: Islam is not in our cultural tradition, it stands apart, it's mysterious and ominous, and it is all too easy to project our fears on it.

(It's worth pointing out that in days when racism in America was truly rampant, like the 1920s, Americans embraced the image of Rudolph Valentino as 'The Sheik.' The Thief of Baghdad, Tales of the Arabian Nights, Kismet, even the adoption of the rituals of the Shriners showed that Americans didn't start regarding the Arab world as the "ominous Other" until the PLO started hijacking planes and killing Americans, and that was the work of secularists themselves opposed to Islam.)

The Left lost its love of Israel in the wake of the 1967 Six-Day War because Israel showed that it was no longer a precarious perch for Holocaust victims under constant threat from Arab armies that could wipe it off the map at will, but rather a military might that could defend itself against far more numerous but far less capable and motivated enemies. Those enemies showed that Soviet patronage, armaments and ideology were fairly useless in combat. The 1973 Yom Kippur War drove home the point even more effectively, as American support for Israel turned the tide of the war in its favor. Over the last four decades, the Left has come to see Israel as devoid of any moral authority because its struggle is merely to live without fear, as opposed to the struggle of its enemies to escape oppression. (That their oppression is essentially of their own making and of the making of their supposed allies and patrons is not significant to the Left’s thinking.)

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, American Leftists could proudly stand up and say, “See? We’re victims, too!” (Of course, a lot of them went on to say, “Just like our Muslim brothers, we’re victims of American Imperialism, whose chickens have finally come home to roost.”) However, the military conquest of Afghanistan went too quickly, and the defeat of Saddam Hussein resulted in too few American casualties, and so the mantle of victimhood was destroyed as the Bush Administration and the American military proved that neither the Taliban, nor Saddam’s armies, nor al-Qaida could prevail in combat.

This is the vital distinction between the Left and the normal folks in America: normal folks take pride in America’s victory over its enemies, while Leftists see America’s victory as replacing their pride in victimhood with the shame of the oppressor.

What the Bush Administration has accomplished in the Arab world

Those who yearn for the days of "American engagement" in the Middle East during the Clinton Administration, those who deride President's Bush's vision of a new Middle East, should consider the actual, observable behavior of Arab nations today. Syria claims that Israel mounted an aerial assault deep in its territory, but more disturbing to the Syrians than the Israelis' ability to penetrate its air defenses is the total lack of support, or even interest, from other Arab nations, as described in this Jerusalem Post report:

Issam Dari, the editor-in-chief of the Tishrin daily, one of the Syrian government's mouthpieces in Damascus, said he was more worried by the Arab reactions than the Israeli "aggression."

The Arabs remained silent in the face of the Israeli piracy, he said, adding, "They are pretending as if this happened on Mars or Jupiter."

A Jordanian academic in Amman said many Arab governments were unhappy with Syria's role in Lebanon and Iraq, as well as its close ties with Iran.

"The Syrians are still meddling in the internal affairs of Lebanon by killing anti-Syrian figures," he told The Jerusalem Post. "They are also seen as supporting al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists in Iraq."

The academic said the Syrians should be the last ones to expect the backing of the Gulf countries.

"Syria is a close ally of Iran, which is still regarded as a major threat to stability in the Gulf," he said. "[Syrian President] Bashar Assad has placed himself on the wrong side by forging an alliance with Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah."

An Arab diplomat in Cairo said the failure of the Arab world to voice strong support for Syria "should be seen as a message to the rulers in Damascus that they must revise their policies." He said Assad "needs to realize that the Arab world has changed and become less tolerant toward dictatorships. Many Arab governments are angry with Syria because of its support for Hamas and Hizbullah."

Even Arab autocrats understand that their people seek greater political rights. They see Syria not as a champion of the old Arab order, but as an impediment to the new era of Arab reform. As with Soviet perestroika, the opening of cracks in Arab autocracies' political systems will lead to an accelerating process of change: chalk this up along with the North Korean nuclear retreat as major foreign policy victories for George W. Bush.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Who blinked: Karzai or the Taliban?

Reuters reported yesterday that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is panicking:

Afghanistan's Karzai urges Taliban talks after scare
Sun Sep 9, 2007 6:14AM EDT
By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai renewed a call for talks with Taliban insurgents on Sunday, shortly after a security scare forced him to cut short a commemoration speech when gunshots were fired outside the venue.

However, today we get a different picture, from AFP via the News of Australia.

Taliban says it is 'ready for talks'
By Nasrat Shoaib in Kandahar
September 10, 2007 09:20pm
Article from: Agence France-Presse

THE Taliban said today it was ready for talks with the Afghan Government after President Hamid Karzai offered negotiations in a bid to end the rebels' nearly six-year bloody insurgency.

Mr Karzai made the offer yesterday, with the insurgency spiralling to its highest level this year, saying peace could not be achieved without dialogue.

"For the sake of national interests ... we are fully ready for talks with the Government," senior Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi said.

"Whenever the Government formally asks for negotiations, we are ready," he said. The movement had a "limited" number of conditions for a meeting, he added without elaborating.

Ahmadi said the Taliban could hold talks with the Afghan Government as they had with South Korean officials over 21 hostages whom the hardliners freed last month after several meetings.

"As we did hold negotiations with the South Korean Government, we can hold talks at an even higher level with the Government," he said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

So who blinked? Well, here's a bit more from the Reuters story:

Karzai has repeatedly offered talks with the Taliban, but the guerrillas have refused.

Hmmmm... sounds like Karzai hasn't changed his position at all.

Then there's this from the AFP story:

Ahmadi said it was not clear if Mr Karzai's offer was genuine. "Our understanding is the Government, which terms the Taliban as terrorists, would not ask for negotiations," he said.

Mr Karzai has regularly offered talks with the Taliban, which was in government between 1996 and 2001, and there have been rumours that contact has already been made.

He denied yesterday that "formal negotiations" were under way with the militants but said he was ready to start such dialogue if he could find the "address for the Taliban."

Ahmadi said: "If they want our address - we're among the people. If they're honest for talks, we're ready for it."

Asked for a reaction to the Taliban yesterday, Mr Karzai's spokesman Homayun Hamidzada said the "government's doors are open to anyone who agrees to obey the constitution and other laws of the country to join peace."

It sounds a lot more like the Taliban are tired of getting nowhere with their insurgency. Yes, they set off a lot of suicide bombs but these kill a lot of innocent civilians (183 so far this year) and are generally ineffective against Coalition troops (only 10 killed in suicide bombings this year). In combat operations, the Taliban are losing many times more fighters than they are costing the Coalition. Despite the recent tapes from al-Qaida extolling the purity of jihad, the Taliban may be yearning for the relative quiet of politics.

Of course, if all you had to go on were Reuters' reports, you'd never know it.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Does the AP hire these guys on purpose?

An Associated Press writer named Omar Sinan analyzes a message from Abu Yahia al-Libi, a Libyan al-Qaida leader who escaped from U.S. custody in Afghanistan. Note the incredible statement about the resurgence of the Taliban since the 2001 U.S. invasion:

Al-Libi, wearing a white traditional Arab robe and a black turban, also ridiculed the U.S. for its troubles in Iraq and Afghanistan, claiming the country's power and prestige was in decline.

"America, which is one of the major evil spirits of the age, was only a few years ago bragging about its power and boasting of its army and materiel, at a time when everyone was subordinate to it and submissive to its resolutions," said al-Libi, whose nom de guerre means "the Libyan" in Arabic.

"But today, where is America? Where is the vanity and arrogance of the American army and its policymakers?" he added. "And moreover, where is the value of the American soldier whose killing used to make headlines in all the media but who today is dragged in the streets of Baghdad, hung on the bridges of Fallujah, rolled on the rocks of Afghanistan and burned to coals in the middle of its capital, Kabul."

Al-Libi praised the resurgence of Taliban militants in Afghanistan, who have made a comeback following a U.S.-led invasion in 2001 that ousted them from power.

It might have been worth noting that at the start of 2007, the Taliban were promising a spring offensive to drive the infidels from Afghan soil, and at the end of summer 2007, the Taliban have suffered massive losses and inflicted only minor damage on Coalition forces and the Afghan government. al-Libi, al-Zawahiri and bin Laden can make grandiose claims in Webcasts from undisclosed locations, but they don't seem to be able to match their words with deeds.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

How was this not entirely predictable?

The San Diego Women's Film Foundation was forced to issue a somewhat embarrassing apology on Sept. 5:


A statement was given by the San Diego Women's Film Festival Director in support of the Boycott of Israeli films. The San Diego Women Film Foundation and Festival would like to apologize to all in the community - we are embarrassed and horrified to learn such a position was taken without our knowledge or consent. It is the personal view of the Festival Director and not the view of the San Diego Women Film Foundation and we in no way support, sponsor or condone their statements. Furthermore, the mission of the San Diego Women Film Foundation is to empower, promote and mentor young women and women filmmakers by developing opportunities to expose the art of filmmaking and to tell women's stories to broad and diverse audiences. We do not promote or take a position with any political or religious issues.

For the record, the San Diego Women Film Foundation and Festival is NOT boycotting Israeli films. We are hopeful that filmmakers from the Israeli community will continue to submit films. Actions regarding the Festival Director will be dealt with internally. Again, our deepest and most sincere apologies.

- San Diego Women Film Foundation Board of Directors

Apparently the director of the San Diego Women's Film Festival, Jennifer Hsu, took it upon herself to announce a boycott of Israeli films, and the American Jewish Committee (among other groups) brought her action to the attention of the Foundation.

The American Jewish Committee today expressed appreciation to the San Diego Women Film Foundation and Festival (SDWFF) after it reversed a ban that the festival director had unilaterally imposed against showing Israeli films during the October event.

"We are pleased that the Film Foundation recognized the Festival Director's errant behavior and has moved expeditiously to correct the injustice of excluding Israeli filmmakers," said Tad Seth Parzen, president of AJC's San Diego Chapter.

The Foundation's apology was posted on the SDWFF website, after AJC's San Diego Chapter made a number of inquiries earlier today about the Festival's posture regarding Israeli filmmakers.

My question is, how was this episode not entirely predictable, therefore avoidable? Jennifer Hsu's position on freedom of expession for Israeli artists is a matter of public record. Here's her bio from Alternate Focus, an organization who says "its three founding directors, a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim, are working together for peace and justice by offering the American public media which shows another side of Middle Eastern issues."

Jennifer Hsu

Jennifer Hsu is currently the Festival Director for the San Diego Women Film Festival, and a video documentary-maker. She has an activist art media focus that pervades her work, and she works in the name of feminism, Arabism and the civil liberties movement. Her most recent video project, a collaboration with her partner, Jeremy Taylor, centers on Palestinian and Iraqi refugees living in Yarmouk, a refugee camp in Damascus, Syria. Jennifer has also worked extensively with Women in the Director's Chair Film Festival, TV show "UpFront with Reverend Jesse Jackson", and the University of Chicago Center for Urban School Improvement.

I guess we know what side Alternate Focus focuses on.

Ms. Hsu is also a signatory to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. That makes her just exactly the kind of impartial advocate of women in the arts that you want to run a women's film festival, because we all know that Israel is unique among Middle Eastern nations in its oppressive treatment of women... or maybe not.

Monday, September 3, 2007

British sailor stopped cold: Not enough global warming

British yachtsman Adrian Flanagan wanted to sail solo from the Pacific Ocean across the Russian Arctic to Europe. He ran into an obstacle: Ice blocks British solo sailor.
The 46-year-old entered the eastern end of the treacherous sea route that stretches from Asia to Europe across northern Russia in late July.

He had hoped that his 11m reinforced yacht would be able to get all the way to Europe due to lighter ice conditions observed in recent years, thought to be a result of global warming.

But after making his way through the Chukchi, East Siberian and Laptev Seas, Flanagan has been forced to a halt by heavy ice at the most difficult point in the route, the Vilkitsky Strait.

Darn that lack of global warming.

Sadly, this probably gets him a lot of Democrat votes

Dennis Kucinich is in the category of "useful idiot" for the enemies of America -- it might be worse than that, actually, in that he may really favor the defeat of America by its enemies as a necessary purgative of reactionary ideas like capitalism, private property, patriotism, religious belief... but in any event, he's willing to use his political capital to whitewash some of the most evil dictators and terror supporters in the world. The latest is Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

Kucinich's own campaign trumpets his visit to Syria with fulsome praise for the boy dictator as a visionary man of peace:

DAMASCUS, Syria, Sept. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a meeting today with Dennis Kucinich, US Democratic Presidential candidate, Syrian President Bashar Assad said that Syria would be willing to participate in a multinational conference and peacekeeping force to help Iraq to manage its transition from occupied country to sovereign nation.

Assad made these assurances and other observations in a two-hour meeting with Kucinich, who traveled to Syria to discuss a peace initiative which has arisen out of his anti-war work in the House of Representatives. President Assad agreed with Kucinich that various US demands for the privatization of Iraq's oil and partition of Iraq would mean a continuation of war.

"We must stand for strength through peace, for a sovereign and unified Iraq. President Assad is willing for Syria to play a significant role in assisting in the stabilization of Iraq," said Kucinich. "President Assad knows that an international peace keeping and security force must be organized and ready to deploy in order to facilitate the end of the occupation. He understands that the US cannot leave a vacuum in Iraq, but that at the present time the US occupation is fueling the insurgency. He is recommending a parallel political process involving an Iraqi national conference, the disarming of militias, and the building up of an Iraqi army which would eventually takeover from international peace keepers."

Kucinich said the fact that Syria, a nation of just 20 million people, has both welcomed and is providing free health care and education to the million and a half Iraqi refugees is evidence of Syria's vital role in the region. "The international community must recognize and appreciate that Syria has at its own great cost provided a lifeboat to millions who suffer from the humanitarian crisis which the war in Iraq has created."

Late last night Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth visited a neighborhood of Damascus which was teeming with Iraqi refugees. "People are desperate. They have lost loved ones in the war. They have nothing but the clothes on their back, but they have their lives, thanks to President Assad's willingness to open Syria to the Iraqi refugees. This is a profound humanitarian gesture, since it has significantly increased the population of Syria. Now we must help Syria provide for these refugees," Kucinich said.

Kucinich told President Assad that he will take up the refugee matter with the UN Secretary General and the US Congress.

Kucinich and Assad discussed a wide range of other matters including building relations between Syria and the United States, the role of the European community in negotiations between Syria and Israel, hopes for a national unity government in Lebanon, conditions affecting Pakistan and Assad's desire for a peace agreement with Israel hinging on resolution of matters relating to Golan.

After the meeting Mrs. Kucinich met with British born Mrs. Assad to discuss their mutual interests and work in community economic development, education and the welfare of refugees.

Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth visited the ancient holy site of Notre Dame de Saydanaya, where today fully veiled Muslim women worship together with Christians. "This is the one of the few places in the world that I have witnessed such profound coexistence, and harmony," Mrs. Kucinich said. "In this time of religious strife it is important to bear witness to places which show the way of peace."

This evening Kucinich spoke to over 150 academicians, journalists and politicians in Damascus where he presented his new security doctrine. "Strength through Peace turns the neoconservative doctrine of Peace through Strength on its head. The neo-cons' Peace through Strength, has led to unilateralism, military build up and illegal war." Kucinich told the packed audience, "Strength through Peace favors the upholding of international law, treaties and direct engagement, which is why I am here" Kucinich added.

"I believe that through direct communication there is new hope for peace," he said. "The world is ready to fall in love with America again. It is important that America reaches out to show our true values, our compassion and our willingness to work for peace."

The trip is continuing with a visit to Lebanon.

SOURCE Kucinich for President 2008

Kucinich politely doesn't mention that the reason Assad was able to open his country to so many Iraqi refugees is because he's opened his country to terrorists who infiltrated into Iraq and committed horrific acts that created the refugee crisis.

Kucinich is continuing his trip into Lebanon. One wonders what his Lebanese hosts will say to him about Syria's helpfulness in their country. If Kucinich talks to the Lebanese president, he'll get the pure pro-Syrian, pro-Hezbollah line; if he bothers to speak with the Lebansese prime minister, he may get an earful about the real intentions and actions of Syria.

Amazingly, even the People's Daily of Communist China has a more balanced report of the Syrian-Lebanese situation than Kucinich's press release:

Visiting U.S. Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich on Sunday underlined the important role of Syria in boosting security and stability in the region, the official SANA news agency said.

"My visit to Syria comes from my conviction that it plays an important and constructive role in the region," Kucinich was quoted as saying in a lecture at the al-Assad library in the Syrian capital.

"I believe in the necessity of holding direct contacts with Syria in order to realize peace," he added.

Kucinich, a U.S. presidential candidate, praised Syria's role to host more than 1.5 million Iraqi refugees, calling upon the UN to help it in bearing part of the burdens resulted from such a situation.

Kucinich, currently on a fact-finding tour in the region, held talks earlier in the day with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said SANA.

U.S.-Syrian relations, strained since 2003 as the Arab country strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, witnessed a remarkable tension after the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri in Feb. 2005.

Washington has been accusing Damascus of doing little to stop alleged anti-U.S. militants and weapons from crossing into Iraq and of being involved in Hariri's killing, both of which are denied by Syria.

The United States, unilaterally imposing economic sanctions against Syria in 2004, withdrew its ambassador to Syria right after Hariri was killed, but still maintains a lower-level diplomatic mission in the Syrian capital.

The People's Daily story is confirmation that Kucinich believes that assassinations play an important and constructive role in the Middle East.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Victory in Lebanon

For the past three months, the Lebanese Army has been battling an al-Qaida-affiliated militant group holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon. The Lebanese Army has finally achieved victory -- at a cost of 158 troops in those three months. Proportionate to their relative national populations, 158 Lebanese troops represent the same percentage loss as 11,850 troops would be to the USA.

Camp falls & the Lebanese are celebrating victory at last
Sunday, 2 September, 2007 @ 5:06 PM

Beirut - Eyewitnesses have reported that the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon has fallen and the army appears in complete control and is now chasing the fleeing militants.

There are conflicting reports about the whereabouts of Shaker el-Absi the leader of the militant Fatah al-Islam terrorist organization. One eyewitness reported that he was captured by the army, but other eyewitnesses reported that he was able to escape.

Salim Taha, the last known spokesman of Fatah al-Islam has already surrendered to the Lebanese army according to army sources. Many other militants were captured according to the same sources.

The latest reports revealed that the army today killed 32 militants , but lost five soldiers to sniper fire, raising to 158 the total number of troops killed in the conflict.

Currently there is a huge traffic jam north of the camp. The Lebanese troops have set up road blocks for checking the vehicles for fleeing Fatah al-Islam militants.

Even in the Lebanese capital Beirut, over an hour's drive to the south, officials searched vehicles at military checkpoints set up on major streets. Other checkpoints went up along the coastal highway linking the north with Beirut, causing traffic jams.

State television reported that Lebanese residents of nearby villages, armed with guns and sticks, fanned out to protect their houses and prevent militants from melting into the local population. Smoke billowed from a field near the camp where residents said the army set fire to bushes to deny militants a hiding place.

The Lebanese residents in north Lebanon are celebrating the victory of the army. Fireworks are everywhere in north Lebanon in celebration. Troops were showered with roses and rice , in appreciation of their courage and sacrifices.

As we publish this article Lebanese are firing celebration shots in the air at news that the army finished off Fatah al-Islam, while others are waving the Lebanese flags and chanting as convoys of cars honk their horns.

The army was not ready yet to formally declare an end to fighting in the camp, large parts of which have been destroyed by army bombardments in the siege.

Fighting between the army and Fatah al- Islam militants broke out on May 20 and the Lebanese have been anxiously waiting for this day to celebrate victory.

Update - 6:00 PM Beirut time:
Army sources have reported that the troops were able to capture additional 24 militants of Fatah al Islam this afternoon. This raises the number of militants that were captured today to 40.

Update - 6:10PM Beirut time:
The Lebanese army has issued an appeal to the Lebanese citizens urging them not to fire any shots( in celebration of the victory ) to show respect to the Lebanese army troops that fell victim during the fight.

The army has also called on the Palestinians to stay away from the Nahr el Bared camp and not totry to return to it under any condition, since it is totally destroyed and will be rebuilt by the Lebanese government as soon as possible . Similar appeals were made by the Palestinian leadership in Lebanon.

Update - 6:25PM Beirut time:
The National News Agency has reported that the army has captured Shaker el-Absi the fugitive leader of the militant Fatah al-Islam terrorist organization. There were many conflicting reports about the whereabouts of Absi and many have reported that he was able to escape.

Picture: Lebanese soldiers flash the "V" for victory signs as they patrol an area near the besieged Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared in northern Lebanon. The Lebanese army has taken full control of the refugee camp where it has besieged Islamist militants for the past three months

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Jane, stop this crazy thing!

The Moeller Flying Saucer and its big brother, the Skycar.

Capable of vertical take-off and landing, the craft hovers like a helicopter up to 10ft off the ground. Any higher and the driver would need a pilot's license.

It is the brainchild of Dr Paul Moller, an aeronautics engineer who envisions a "highway in the sky" which he believes could cut conventional commuter traffic in half.

"We have this wonderful natural resource above us," Dr Moller told the BBC.

"Look at the sky above us - how many aircraft do you see? It's a great space that is not being utilised. That is what we plan to use. Cars are finished as a means of getting around. It's only a matter of time."

The flying saucer is powered by eight engines which can run on petrol, diesel or even ethanol.

Dr Moller and his team have already conducted more than 200 test flights and say the flying saucer could prove useful to rescue teams as well as landowners.

It will sell for about $90,000 (£44,700) and the only question now surrounds licensing arrangements.

Moller International has yet to establish which US agency - the Federal Aviation Administration or the Department of Transport - will authorise its use.

It sees the flying saucer as a precursor to the M400 - otherwise known as the "Skycar" - which looks a bit like the Batmobile, also boasts vertical take-off and landing, and can be driven on the road as well as flown through the sky.

By the time the Skycar goes into production - probably in about six years time - it will be capable of climbing 6,000ft a minute and travelling at up to 400 miles an hour.

See it fly here.

Democrats want to protect America from the War on Terror

The Washington Post has a remarkably candid news story on the deep divisions in the Democratic Party between those who see terrorists as a threat to America and those who think that measures to oppose terrorism are an even greater and more pernicious threat: Terrorism Policies Split Democrats -- Anger Mounts Within Party Over Inaction on Bush Tactics.

The American Civil Liberties Union is running Internet advertisements depicting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) as sheep.

"Bush wanted more power to eavesdrop on ordinary Americans, and we just followed along. I guess that's why they call us the Democratic leadersheep," say the two farm animals in the ad, referring to Congress's passage of legislation granting Bush a six-month extension and expansion of his warrantless wiretapping program.

Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), who leads a newly created House select intelligence oversight panel, lamented, "Democrats have been slow to recognize they are in the majority now and can go back to really examine the fundamentals of what we should be doing to protect democracy."

Actually, maybe the division isn't between those who think the terrorists are our biggest enemy versus those who think George W. Bush is, but rather those who think that standing up for terrorists just to oppose Bush is political suicide versus those who don't care so long as they take out the Bush War on Terror:

Reid and Pelosi promised last week that they would at least confront the president next month over his wiretapping program, with Pelosi taking an uncompromising stand in a private conference call with House Democrats. When lawmakers return in September, Democrats will also push legislation to restore habeas corpus rights for terrorism suspects and may resume an effort to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But conservative Democrats and some party leaders continue to worry that taking on those issues would expose them to Republican charges that they are weak on terrorism. And advocates of a strong push on the terrorism issues are increasingly skeptical that they can prevail...

"The most controversial matters are the ones that people use to form their opinions on their members of Congress," said Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), who voted for the administration's bill. "I do know within our caucus, and justifiably so, there are members who have a real distaste for some of the things the president has done. But to let that be the driving force for our actions to block the surveillance of someone and perhaps stop another attack like 9/11 would be unwise."...

"If you just say you're standing up for civil liberties, the American people are with you, but if you say terrorism suspects should have civil liberties, it stretches Americans' tolerance," said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), who along with [Florida Democratic Rep. Alcee] Hastings represents Congress on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, a human rights monitor. "It's a tough issue for us."

One of the most interesting things about this article is that it quotes and names so many Democrats (and one Republican, if in name only) as favoring habeas corpus rights for terrorists, shutting Guantanamo Bay, and restricting the ability of intelligence services to monitor international communications of terror suspects:

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.)
  • Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.)
  • Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.)
  • Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (Va.)
  • Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.)
  • Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.)
  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)
  • Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.)
  • Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee
  • Rep. Silvestre Reyes (Tex.), chairman of the House intelligence committee
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)
  • Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)
  • Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee
  • Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus

  • And it closes with the most telling quote of all:

    "We can do this, but you have to keep in mind Republicans care more about catching Democrats than catching terrorists," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. "They have spent years taking Roosevelt's notion that we have nothing to fear but fear itself and given us nothing but fear."

    Monday, August 27, 2007

    A sign of hope in Jenin

    Palestinian Authority police rescued a uniformed Israeli Defense Forces officer from a mob in Jenin.

    The Israeli army said the officer entered Jenin, a town known as a stronghold of militants, by mistake and he was evacuated by Palestinian security forces in cooperation with the army.

    Israeli TV stations broadcast video showing Palestinian security officers surrounding the soldier and hustling him away from the crowd, while reassuring him in Hebrew. It was not clear who took the video.

    Islamic Jihad militants were disappointed that the IDF officer didn't end up in their hands, presumably to be a bargaining chip like Gilad Schalit.

    "We were successful in trapping a uniformed Israeli officer," a statement released by the group read. "We were surprised when [PA security forces] thwarted our efforts by surrounding us and taking control of the soldier. In a matter of minutes, four IDF jeeps arrived at the scene and were given the soldier."

    The Islamic Jihad statement further condemned the PA security forces, saying that they should work to protect the "Palestinian people instead of soldiers of the Occupation."

    A lieutenant colonel in the IDF observed that the PA seems to have responded positively to recent gestures by the Israeli government, which themselves were in response to the ouster of Hamas from the PA government.

    Atilee praised the PA police's quick and responsible response. Atilee added that he had received a phone call at 12:30 p.m. that an IDF officer - unarmed and in uniform - was in Jenin.

    "We began coordinating his rescue with the PA and at the same time sent large forces to the city in the event that we would need to save him," he recalled, adding that the quick coordination between the IDF and the PA was made possible due to the recent change in Israeli policy vis a vis the Palestinian government in Ramallah led by Salaam Fayad.

    "There is better coordination today due to the change in Israeli policy and the Palestinians did what they needed to do," he said. "They also did what was in their interest."

    Perhaps there is now reason to hope that so-called "confidence-building measures" may actually build some mutual trust -- at least a little bit.

    Saturday, August 25, 2007

    John Lewis marched to be counted -- now his party's disenfranchising a whole state

    See with what passion Rep. John Lewis (D.-GA) wrote in Newsweek of the 2000 elections and how the U.S. Supreme Court "disenfranchised" Black voters in Florida: We Marched to Be Counted:

    As we crossed the Pettus Bridge, we saw a line of lawmen. "We should kneel and pray," I said to Hosea, but we didn't have time. "Troopers," barked an officer, "advance!" They came at us like a human wave, a blur of blue uniforms, billy clubs, bullwhips and tear gas; one had a piece of rubber hose wrapped in barbed wire. Televised images of that day—on ABC, they broke into the network premiere of "Judgment at Nuremberg"—led President Johnson to declare, "At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama."

    As I watched election night 2000 turn into this controversy over counts and recounts, my mind went back to that day on the bridge. What's happening in Florida and in Washington is more than a game for pundits. The whole mess reminds African-Americans of an era when we had to pass literacy tests, pay poll taxes and cross every t and dot every i to get to be able to vote. You had black men and women, graduates of the best universities in the country, failing literacy tests. A man was once asked how many bubbles were in a bar of soap. For all the political maneuvering and legal wrangling, many people have missed an important point: the story of the 2000 election is about more than George W. Bush and Al Gore. It's about the right to vote. And you cannot understand the true implications of this campaign and the subsequent litigation without grasping how deeply many minorities feel about the seemingly simple matter of the sanctity of the ballot box.

    Pretty stirring stuff. I wonder what Rep. Lewis has to say about his party's decision to disenfranchise all of the Democratic voters of Florida in the 2008 primary elections:

    Florida party officials said they originally opposed the early primary date, which covers both the Democratic and Republican primaries. The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the change and the GOP governor signed it into law in an effort to give the state a more prominent voice in national politics.

    But Florida Democratic leaders now are committed to the state-run election because voter participation would drop drastically if Democrats held an alternative contest after Jan. 29.

    Members of the Democratic National Committee's rules panel expressed skepticism that Florida Democrats did enough to stop the change and they approved the harshest penalty. Every member voted against Florida except for the state's representative on the panel, Allan Katz.

    Refusing to seat the delegates would set a "terrible situation for Florida and a very bad situation for the Democratic Party," Katz said.

    Party rules say states cannot hold their 2008 primary contests before Feb. 5, except for Iowa on Jan. 14, Nevada on Jan. 19, New Hampshire on Jan. 22 and South Carolina on Jan. 29.

    The calendar was designed to preserve the traditional role that Iowa and New Hampshire have played in selecting the nominee, while adding two states with more racial and geographic diversity to influential early slots.

    Several DNC officials said before the vote that they wanted to take the strong action against Florida to discourage Michigan, New Hampshire and other states that were considering advancing their contests in violation of party rules.

    Garry Shay, a rules committee member from California, said allowing Florida to move forward "would open the door to chaos."

    DNC committee member Donna Brazile also argued for a strong penalty, saying, "I hesitate to see what happens if we show somehow some wiggle room in our process."

    Somehow, I doubt we'll see any impassioned analogies between the DNC and Bull Connor:

    Terrie Brady, a DNC member who helped present Florida's case, said the party's denial of delegates disenfranchises Florida voters. Rules committee members objected to the term, saying Florida's votes would be counted if they followed the rules.

    "I find your use of the word disenfranchisement to be an overstatement," said committee member David McDonald, who is from Washington state.

    Apparently the word "disenfranchisement" rankles DNC members when it's applied literally and properly.

    Wednesday, August 22, 2007

    Are the folks at Comedy Central cowards, bigots, hypocrites... or all of the above?

    Comedy Central infamously refused to air an image in the "Cartoon Wars" episode of South Park that included a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad -- at the time, the rumor was that Muhammad was returning a "fish helmet" to Peter Griffin of Family Guy. (As the Season 10 DVDs are out, this information may now be able to be verified or debunked.)

    During the moments that the Muhammad/Griffin exchange were to be seen, Comedy Central instead put up a title card: "Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network."

    Here's how they explained their decision at the time:

    Dear Viewer,

    Thank you for your correspondence regarding the “South Park” episodes entitled “Cartoon Wars.” We appreciate your concerns about censorship and the destructive influence of outside groups on the media, entertainment industry and particularly Comedy Central.

    To reiterate, as satirists, we believe that it is our First Amendment right to poke fun at any and all people, groups, organizations and religions and we will continue to defend that right. Our goal is to make people laugh and perhaps, if we’re lucky, even make them think in the process.

    Comedy Central’s belief in the First Amendment has not wavered, despite our decision not to air an image of Muhammad. Our decision was made not to mute the voices of Trey and Matt or because we value one religion over any other. This decision was based solely on concern for public safety in light of recent world events.

    With the power of freedom of speech and expression also comes the obligation to use that power in a responsible way. Much as we wish it weren’t the case, times have changed and, as witnessed by the intense and deadly reaction to the publication of the Danish cartoons, decisions cannot be made in a vacuum without considering what impact they may have on innocent individuals around the globe.

    It was with this in mind we decided not to air the image of Muhammad, a decision similar to that made by virtually every single media outlet across the country earlier this year when they each determined that it was not prudent or in the interest of safety to reproduce the controversial Danish cartoons. Injuries occurred and lives were lost in the riots set off by the original publication of these cartoons. The American media made a decision then, as we did now, not to put the safety and well being of the public at risk, here or abroad.

    As a viewer of “South Park,” you know that over the course of ten seasons and almost 150 episodes the series has addressed all types of sensitive, hot-button issues, religious and political, and has done so with Comedy Central’s full support in every instance, including this one. “Cartoon Wars” contained a very important message, one that Trey and Matt felt strongly about, as did we at the network, which is why we gave them carte blanche in every facet but one: we would not broadcast a portrayal of Muhammad.

    In that regard, did we censor the show? Yes, we did. But if you hold Comedy Central’s 15-year track record up against any other network out there, you’ll find that we afford our talent the most creative freedom and provide a nurturing atmosphere that challenges them to be bold and daring and places them in a position to constantly break barriers and push the envelope. The result has been some of the most provocative television ever produced.

    We would like nothing more than to be able to look back at this in a few years and think that perhaps we overreacted. Unfortunately, to have made a different decision and to look back and see that we completely underestimated the damage that resulted was a risk we were not willing to take.

    Our pledge to you, our loyal viewers, is that Comedy Central will continue to produce and provide the best comedy available and we will continue to push it right to the edge, using and defending the First Amendment in the most responsible way we know how.

    Comedy Central Viewer Services

    Odd, since a 2001 South Park episode ("Super Best Friends") depicted the Prophet Mohammed, along with Moses, Buddha and a few other religious figures:

    However, more recently, Comedy Central's show Li'l Bush included images of God Almighty.

    Apparently the Comedy Central people don't quite get the notion that the reason certain Muslims abhor images of Muhammad is that they wish to avoid any appearance of idolatry in violation of the Second Commandment. A depiction of God (Allah Himself!) is no less offensive -- and is in fact more so, since all Muslims agree that images of Allah are idolatrous, even those Muslims who tolerate images of Muhammad as being of a man and not a God.

    This brings up an interesting series of questions.

    1) Did Comedy Central refuse to air the image of Muhammad for fear of offending the religious sensibilities of Muslims? Clearly not -- and, in fact, the South Park episode in question included an image of Jesus Christ defecating on George Bush and the American flag, an image that was aired by Comedy Central without comment.

    2) If Comedy Central is unconcerned with offending Christians and Jews, why would it show concern over offending Muslims? The executives of Comedy Central are simply afraid of violent retaliation by offended Muslim fundamentalists. But if that's the case, why not have the same fear of Christian and Jewish fundamentalists? After all, the official position of the politically correct is that fundamentalists of all religious stripes are equally violent and equally to blame for the chaos and terrorism afoot in the world today. Look at Christiane Amanpour's "God's Soldiers" on CNN for a perfect example of this reasoning.

    3) Yes, the executives at Comedy Central are cowards, afraid that airing an image of Muhammad will mark them and their families as targets for for suicide bombers. But only Muslim suicide bombers, apparently -- and thus they are also bigots who assume that Muslims are prone to violence and murder whereas Christians and Jews are prone to peaceful protest and reasoned argumentation.

    4) Because Comedy Central has made its reputation on its proclaimed willingness to "speak truth to power" and "hold nothing sacred," its executives are hypocrites in the extreme. The courage to speak truth to power -- to change society through a willingness to poke fun at its shibboleths -- must necessarily include the courage to stand up to those who use violence for censorship. The cowardice to shrink from doing so is worse than the mere failure to act: it is an act of emboldening, strengthening and empowering the enemies of free speech and free thought. Put another way: the willingness to hide from Muslim violence may one day encourage the rise of Christian or Jewish violence, because that willingness has proven how effective violence is as a tool of censorship.

    EU develops time machine

    The BBC reports that the European Union urged Texas to declare a moratorium on capital punishment, and that the Governor of Texas in response urged the EU to stick it where the sun don't shine.

    The statement from the Portuguese presidency of the 27-nation bloc said: "The European Union strongly urges Governor Rick Perry to exercise all powers vested in his office to halt all upcoming executions and to consider the introduction of a moratorium in the state of Texas."

    It continued: "There is no evidence to suggest that the use of the death penalty serves as a deterrent against violent crime and the irreversibility of the punishment means that miscarriages of justice, which are inevitable in all legal systems, cannot be redressed."

    But Robert Black, a spokesman for the Texas governor, told the BBC News website: "Two hundred and thirty years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination.

    "Texans long ago decided the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens.

    "While we respect our friends in Europe ... Texans are doing just fine governing Texas."

    Let's examine this EU assertion more closely: "There is no evidence to suggest that the use of the death penalty serves as a deterrent against violent crime and the irreversibility of the punishment means that miscarriages of justice, which are inevitable in all legal systems, cannot be redressed."

    Is the EU representative actually saying that an undeserved prison sentence can be reversed after it is served? Prison deprives the prisoner of something as ephemeral as life itself: time.

    Indeed, the blase attitude toward prison reflected in the EU's statement is the reason that Death Row inmates have a much greater probability of having their cases reviewed and scrutinized in every last detail than do inmates sentenced to prison terms, however long. For some reason, the nature of the death penalty itself is presumed to make the Death Row inmate more deserving of this sort of extraordinary legal assistance -- while across the United States, far more man-years are robbed from innocent men wrongly convicted but sentenced to ordinary prison terms.

    If the EU really has a time machine that can give a wrongfully convicted prisoner back the years he's lost, they should share it with Texas. I bet the high-tech wizards in the Austin corridor could figure out how to jury-rig the thing to give murder victims back their lives.

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    The "they're going to anyway" fallacy

    Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times takes Hillary Clinton to task for pandering to a Black audience (specifically National Association of Black Journalists conventioneers) by lamenting the "black male crisis":

    I can't say with certainty that Clinton doesn't ever mention "It takes a village to raise a child" when addressing white audiences, but the African proverb is usually tossed out at least once when she's speaking to a black one.

    In fact, the speech she delivered during what was billed as "A Conversation with America's Candidates" was Clinton's urban manifesto.

    The former first lady lamented the crisis of 1.4 million young black males between the ages of 16 and 24 "who are out of school and out of work and too often out of hope," and pointed out that nearly one out of every three young African-American men are not "earning legal wages or learning marketable skills.

    "They grow up without fathers, wind up in prison, or end up losing their lives, or taking lives due to guns and violence," Clinton said. "We've been wringing our hands and listening to this exact same conversation for years. Well, I reject that conversation. I reject a conversation that paints with a broad brush 1.4 million young men as a threat, as a headache, or as a lost cause. I reject it as a string of disappointments, failures, casualties of a broken system. It is not who they are and not what they can be. I think it is time we shifted the conversation."

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    This is a conversation that should be shifted to the white establishment across America where jobs, resources and political clout are controlled.

    Both Mrs. Clinton ("it take a village") and Ms. Mitchell ("the white establishment") look for explanations outside the African-American community for crime in that community, which is overwhelmingly Black-on-Black crime. Mrs. Clinton fails to understand that the programs of the Great Society have stripped many of the the "villages" in the African-American community of their male elder role models and left their female elders to deal on their own with feeding and raising the young folks. Ms. Mitchell, for her part, thinks that Black folks can't help themselves when "the white establishment" controls jobs, resources and political clout: she desperately needs to re-read Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington.

    But it's obviously that Ms. Mitchell thinks that Mrs. Clinton's shame ought not to lie in her reliance on tired old liberal slogans rather than effective programs to combat crime in the Black community. No, Ms. Mitchell blames Mrs. Clinton's husband for making the laws unfair.

    So it was pandering on Clinton's part to show up and paint herself as the possible savior of 1.4 million lost black souls. Because the truth of the matter is the root of the "black male crisis" can be traced back to the Clinton era.

    In a rare private interview with a group of black columnists from across the country, Clinton was reminded that the explosion in the prison population -- which has led to a whole host of social ills in the black community -- was spawned, in part, by Bill Clinton's decision to sign a bill that created the wide disparity in the way people are punished for crimes involving crack cocaine, compared to those who are prosecuted for powder cocaine.

    This is a classic illustration of the "they're going to anyway" fallacy. Since young Black men are going to deal crack cocaine anyway, why punish them disproportionately to powder cocaine dealers, if not out of sheer racism?

    The truth is, something that incurs severe penalties generally is practiced less than if it incurred light penalties, or none. If young Black men are somehow culturally prone to dealing crack cocaine, then subjecting crack dealing to Draconian penalties ought to disproportionately benefit the Black community by getting its young men away from the crack trade.

    But are all the young Black men in U.S. prisons there for crack dealing? What about murder?

    The U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that murder rates -- victims and perpetrators -- vary greatly between whites and Blacks.

    In 2005, homicide victimization rates for blacks were 6 times higher than the rates for whites.

    In 2005, offending rates for blacks were more than 7 times higher than the rates for whites

    The race distribution of homicide victims and offenders differs by type of homicide
    For the years 1976-2005 combined -

    Black victims are over represented in homicides involving drugs. Compared with the overall involvement of blacks as victims, blacks are less often the victims of sex-related homicides, workplace killings, and homicide by poison.

    Race patterns among offenders are similar to those among victims.

    From 1976 to 2005 --

    86% of white victims were killed by whites
    94% of black victims were killed by blacks

    Stranger homicides are more likely to cross racial lines than those that involve friends or acquaintances
    For homicides committed by --

    -- a friend or acquaintance of the victim, less than one-tenth (8%) were interracial
    -- a stranger to the victim, one-quarter were interracial

    You know what related aspect of the criminal justice system shows a racial disparity? Capital punishment, according to the BJS.

    Of persons executed in 2006:
    -- 32 were white
    -- 21 were black

    Of persons under sentence of death in 2005:
    -- 1,805 were white
    -- 1,372 were black
    -- 31 were American Indian
    -- 34 were Asian
    -- 12 were of unknown race.

    Let's see. Black perpetrators made up 52.2% of all homicide perpetrators from 1976 to 2005, but represent only 42.2% of Death Row inmates and about the same percentage of persons executed. Since most Black murderers killed Black victims (as most white murderers killed white victims), the prima facie conclusion would be that juries and judges just don't sentence the killers of Black people to death as often as they do the killers of whites.

    Maybe if Black victims got the same degree of justice -- that is, prosecutors seeking the death penalty in their murders as often as in the cases of white victims -- the rate of homicide of Blacks would drop. Again, that might result in fewer Black men going to prison -- unless you believe that Black men are going to kill people anyway, regardless of consequences.

    Sunday, August 12, 2007

    But 'chutzpah' IS a Jewish concept

    Quick question for Ehud Barak: if it's a bad idea to negotiate peace with the Palestinians today, why was it a good idea to offer them essentially the same deal at Camp David in 2000?

    A peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will not be reached for at least three to five years; Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak as saying.

    Yedioth Ahronoth said on Friday that in private conversations, Barak said the idea of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians anytime soon was a "fantasy".

    He also said that Israel would not withdraw from the West Bank before finding a solution to Palestinian rocket attacks, "which will take between three to five years".

    Barak said he would not approve the removal of roadblocks from the West Bank, despite assurances given this week by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that some of the hundreds of checkpoints would be removed.

    Olmert's meetings with Abbas would not lead to a final peace accord, the defense minister said.

    "What will determine the situation in the end is if Abu Mazen (Abbas) and (Palestinian Prime Minister) Salam Fayyad are capable of implementing anything in the West Bank," Barak was quoted as saying.

    Apparently Barak is prone to falling under the Svengali-like influence of Jimmy Car-- oops, I mean, Bill Clinton.