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.

    Apparently 'chutzpah' is not an exclusively Jewish concept

    Bad, bad Schalit family, making Islamic terrorists keep their son Gilad in captivity. Why don't they love their child?

    The Popular Resistance Committees blames captive IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit's family for keeping him in jail, PRC spokesman Abu Mujad said Sunday.

    According to Abu Mujad, Schalit's parents have not put enough pressure on the diplomatic echelon in Jerusalem to secure their son's release, Army Radio reported.

    Abu Mujad appealed to the Schalit family, saying, "You are neglecting your duty to your son, and your government has left him in the field - not freed him."

    Nevertheless, Abu Mujad expressed optimism that Israel would "soften" its stance.

    I guess this just proves how heartless Jews are -- they won't even lift a finger to save their own children (if by 'lifting a finger' one means 'making one's government release a thousand murdering terrorists').

    Thursday, August 9, 2007

    Somehow I doubt CAIR cares about this case

    So a convert to Islam decided she wasn't entirely down with the multiple wives thing....

    Myra Morton, 47, turned herself in Thursday to face murder and related charges in the death of Jereleigh Morton, 47, who was shot in his bed early Sunday morning in his million-dollar home outside Philadelphia.

    The killing happened just hours before Jereleigh Morton was to travel to Africa to try to conceive a baby with his second wife, prosecutors said.

    Myra Morton had reluctantly agreed to the second marriage and even traveled to Morocco to sanction it under Islamic law, authorities have said. She told police that an intruder had come into the bedroom and shot her husband, but police found no signs of a break-in.

    I am betting that CAIR doesn't lift a finger to help this woman. I mean, defending the civil rights of Muslims is allegedly CAIR's thing, but I bet they draw the line at a disobedient Muslim wife who doesn't respect her husband's right to multiple spouses.

    Wednesday, August 8, 2007

    Watch the Iranian missiles fly off to kill US troops in Iraq

    What more do you need to declare war on a country?

    Dramatic video produced by Iraqi insurgents and captured in a raid earlier this week by U.S. troops clearly shows a battery of sophisticated Iranian-made rocket launchers firing on American positions east of Baghdad, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

    The video, captured during a raid on Monday by the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment in northeast Nahrawan, shows insurgents setting up and carrying out an attack on Sunday, as well as an attack on July 11 that killed one soldier and wounded 15 others, officials said. The raid last month appeared to involve 34 launchers firing 107 mm Iranian-made rockets.

    It would be nice to reduce Iran's stockpiles of military materiel to dust.

    Criminals or combatants?

    From James Taranto's Best of the Web on, a scathing analysis of a stupid op-ed by Wesley Clark and Kal Raustiala of the Burkle Center.

    Here is their argument:

    Since 9/11 the Bush administration has sought to categorize members of Al Qaeda and other jihadists as "unlawful combatants" rather than treat them as criminals. . . .

    Treating terrorists as combatants is a mistake for two reasons. First, it dignifies criminality by according terrorist killers the status of soldiers. . . .

    Critics have rightly pointed out that traditional categories of combatant and civilian are muddled in a struggle against terrorists. In a traditional war, combatants and civilians are relatively easy to distinguish. The 9/11 hijackers, by contrast, dressed in ordinary clothes and hid their weapons. They acted not as citizens of Saudi Arabia, an ally of America, but as members of Al Qaeda, a shadowy transnational network. And their prime targets were innocent civilians.

    By treating such terrorists as combatants, however, we accord them a mark of respect and dignify their acts. And we undercut our own efforts against them in the process. Al Qaeda represents no state, nor does it carry out any of a state's responsibilities for the welfare of its citizens. Labeling its members as combatants elevates its cause and gives Al Qaeda an undeserved status. . . .

    The more appropriate designation for terrorists is not "unlawful combatant" but the one long used by the United States: criminal.

    This is so vapid, it does not even rise to the level of sophistry. The authors argue that the U.S. should "designate" terrorists as "criminals" rather than "unlawful combatants" for purely rhetorical reasons: because calling someone a "criminal" implies less "respect" and does not "dignify" him.

    Clark and Raustiala assert, “Al Qaeda represents no state, nor does it carry out any of a state's responsibilities for the welfare of its citizens.” This is false: from Al Qaeda’s point of view, they are the official government of the Caliphate-to-be, a state that currently exists in exile from its claimed national territory of the area between al-Andalus, occupied by the Spanish, to those Sultanates currently occupied by the Philippines. It is akin to the Free French and Free Dutch of World War II, claiming to represent the legitimate national governments of their occupied lands. They have declared war as a state on the nations of the West and on the occupation governments of Muslim lands (e.g., the House of Saud), but they refuse to abide by the internationally-agreed conventions and laws of warfare.

    Taranto continues:

    The criminal justice system is fundamentally punitive, not preventive. The purpose of declaring someone a combatant is to keep him off the battlefield, thereby weakening the enemy's ability to attack in the future. The justice system can do nothing about a ‘crime’ that has not yet been [committed].

    His latter two sentences are spot on, but I take issue with the sentiment of the first. In my view, the criminal justice system uses punitive measures as preventive deterrents. The operation of the criminal justice system is based on the fact that most members of a civilized society are willing to stay within the limits of the law and need only the occasional reminder that transgressors face punishment to be deterred from wrongdoing.

    In warfare, the combatants are by definition unconcerned with the societal norms of the people they are attacking. However, lawful warfare draws a line at targeting civilians and torturing or summarily executing captives. Combatants on one side may be deterred from violating the laws of war, attacking certain classes of targets, or using certain types of weapons for fear of retaliation in kind.

    Fanatical terrorists do not recognize any such limits in their conduct of warfare. As a consequence, punitive measures drawn from the criminal justice system’s model of deterrence are useless in that context. Even retaliation in kind is ineffective against terrorist combatants who do not fear consequences in the temporal world because they are supremely confident of rewards in the next world. Thus the only means to prevent their evil acts are to detain them or to kill them.

    Clark and Raustiala can't even get their argument straight, however. In a segment not quoted by Taranto:

    The federal court held that while the government can arrest and convict civilians, under current law the military cannot seize and detain Mr. Marri. Nor would it necessarily be constitutional to do so, even if Congress expressly authorized the military detention of civilians. At the core of the court’s reasoning is the belief that civilians and combatants are distinct. Had Ali al-Marri fought for an enemy nation, military detention would clearly be proper. But because he is accused of being a member of Al Qaeda, and is a citizen of a friendly nation, he should not be treated as a warrior.

    Cases like this illustrate that in the years since 9/11, the Bush administration’s approach to terrorism has created more problems than it has solved. We need to recognize that terrorists, while dangerous, are more like modern-day pirates than warriors. They ought to be pursued, tried and convicted in the courts. At the extreme, yes, military force may be required. But the terrorists themselves are not “combatants.” They are merely criminals, albeit criminals of an especially heinous type, and that label suggests the appropriate venue for dealing with the threats they pose.

    Which is it, gentlemen? Are al-Qaeda terrorists civilian criminals, against whom it is improper to deploy military forces? Or are they soldiers of a non-territorial nation in exile, and therefore just targets of military action? The Clark-Raustiala position would seem to make NATO's operations in Afghanistan illegal, given that neither al-Qaeda nor the Taliban are legally-constituted armies. We should send the FBI and Interpol to round them up, not NATO troops in APCs and aircraft.

    And we will close with this gem of wanton stupidity from Clark & Raustiala:

    Labeling terrorists as combatants also leads to this paradox: while the deliberate killing of civilians is never permitted in war, it is legal to target a military installation or asset. Thus the attack by Al Qaeda on the destroyer Cole in Yemen in 2000 would be allowed, as well as attacks on command and control centers like the Pentagon.

    "Allowed"? Well, yes, in that those attacks would be deemed to be within the legitimate scope of military targeting. However, this overlooks two important details. First, even though al-Qaeda did issue a formal declaration of war against Western governments (even though it wasn't taken seriously by those Western governments), this doesn't make their attacks on the USS Cole or the Pentagon "allowable" from the perspective of the United States: the U.S. Armed Forces would have been well within their rights to kill all of the attackers before the attacks succeeded. And the reason that the sailors on the USS Cole and the U.S. forces in and around the Pentagon did not in fact repel those attacks brings up the second point: al-Qaeda does not conduct its warfare according to international conventions and the laws of war. Its soldiers do not wear distinguishing uniforms, they do not recognize the rights of civilians not to be targeted, they do not accord captives the rights of prisoners of war. Perhaps the best way to describe them is that they are more than ordinary criminals, they are war criminals.

    Tuesday, August 7, 2007

    Russia edging over the brink in Georgia

    From smaller things have great wars arisen.

    Georgia has appealed for urgent international support against Kremlin "aggression" after Russian fighter jets reportedly attacked a village close to the capital Tbilisi.

    The missile strike, responsibility for which was quickly denied by Moscow, dramatically worsened already tense relations between the ex-Soviet neighbours.

    Farmers examine what is claimed to be a motor from the missile

    The Georgian foreign ministry summoned Russia’s ambassador to Tbilisi and handed him a formal protest note that condemned the attack as "undisguised aggression and a gross violation of the country’s sovereignty."

    Vano Merabishvili, Georgia’s interior minister, told The Daily Telegraph that two Sukhoi attack aircraft entered Georgian airspace from Russia at 7.30 pm on Monday night and fired at least one air-to-surface missile at the village of Tsitelubani, 40 miles west of Tbilisi.

    The missile left a 16-foot crater in a field but failed to detonate. Sappers later defused the missile, fragments of which bore Cyrillic markings.

    "We now have incontrovertible evidence that these aircraft travelled more than 80 km into Georgian airspace and fired a 1,000-kg precision guided, Russian-made missile," said Georgia’s foreign minister, Gela Bezhuashvili. The Georgian government later led Western diplomats on a tour of the site.

    Officials also handed over evidence in the form of photographs and radar data to experts at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

    Georgia has complained of repeated violations of its airspace and claimed in March that Russian helicopter gunships opened fire on the country’s remote Kodori Gorge, close to the Moscow-backed breakaway region of Abkhazia.

    A United Nations investigation ruled, however, that there was insufficient evidence to blame Russia conclusively. With the latest attack considered a greater provocation because of its proximity to the capital, Georgia is keen to ensure that there are no such doubts this time.

    "We believe the muted international response after the Kodori incident acted as a green light for Russian adventurism," Mr Bezhuashvili said. "We now appeal to the international community to stand up for its principles and condemn this aggressive behaviour against us."

    Why would the Russians want this conflict? According to an analysis in The Daily Telegraph of London, there are two possible reasons: Russian nationalist politics and the corruption of local Russian military officers.

    There is no doubt how serious is the rift between the two countries since Mikhail Saakashvili, the westernizing president, was swept to power in the Rose Revolution of 2003.

    Russia has deeply resented its loss of influence in the country of Stalin's birth and is determined to halt Mr Saakashvili's ambitions for Nato and EU membership.

    Moscow showed its displeasure by banning exports of Georgian wine and mineral water, vital sectors of an economy still heavily dependent on Russia.

    Tensions erupted last September after Georgia expelled four Russian officers it accused of espionage. The Kremlin's excessive reaction raised eyebrows around the world. Moscow withdrew its diplomats from Tbilisi, severed trade, transport and postal links and deported thousands of Georgians living in Russia.

    With a fierce anti-Georgian campaign being waged in the Russian press, some commentators suggested that a group of Kremlin hardliners were intent on provoking a military confrontation to provide an excuse to change the constitution and allow Vladimir Putin to stay in power.

    The president is due to step down next March after completing his second term.

    Alexei Malashenko, an expert on the Caucasus at the Moscow Carnegie Centre, said it was possible that this faction had ordered the firing of a dummy missile in a bid to fuel the crisis.

    But he and other analysts said it was more likely that the missile attack could have been carried out by local Russian army units without the knowledge of the Kremlin.

    The location of the air strike was close to South Ossetia, another Moscow backed breakaway region. Georgia and Russia have been at loggerheads over the tiny region — which is about the size of Suffolk — for years.

    Tbilisi has accused Moscow of arming the rebels and firefights between separatists and Georgian soldiers have increased since 2004.

    There have been signs, however, that Russia is finally willing to negotiate a settlement. Moscow has opposed the West's backing for independence of Kosovo, arguing that Serbia's territorial integrity should be inviolable and has threatened to veto a UN resolution that backs Pristina's position.

    As a result, the Kremlin has had to temper its support for Georgia's breakaway regions or risk being accused of hypocrisy. But for Russian military units stationed in South Ossetia as peacekeepers and their commanders across the border in southern Russia, a peace accord would be highly undesirable.

    As it has descended into lawlessness, South Ossetia has become a haven for smugglers and counterfeiters. According to western diplomats, a significant proportion of the fake dollar bills in circulation on America's east coast were manufactured here.

    According to analysts, those profiting the most are Russian officers — many of whom hold posts in the South Ossetian administration.

    If Georgia had already realized its goal of becoming a NATO member, this attack could have obligated the rest of NATO to meet its joint defense obligations. The Russians -- whether their motives are national or local -- are playing a most dangerous game.

    A child's garden of explosives

    The only glimmer of light in this horrific story is that the Palestinians aren't trying to present this as an IDF attack on civilians.

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - A large explosion in northern Gaza on Tuesday killed an 8-year-old boy and his 6-year-old sister and injured five other children, Palestinian health officials said.

    Witnesses said a group of children stumbled upon a homemade rocket or a mortar shell and began playing with it. The device exploded, injuring all seven children, two of whom died later of their wounds.

    Moaiya Hassanain, a Palestinian health official, said the explosion occurred in the village of Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip, and the wounded were evacuated to hospital.

    If the Palestinian rejectionists continue to teach their youngest children to adore armaments and killing, there is scant hope for the future of the Palestinian people.

    Monday, August 6, 2007

    Starbucks may have stretched a bit too far

    Here's an example of happy-happy touchy-feely do-goodism in my e-mail in-box. (Link here.) Perhaps a tad too far for a company that exists to import a luxury good from the farthest reaches from the globe to provide neo-yuppies with opportunities for self-indulgence.

    Maybe Starbucks should take a leaf from Elizabeth Edwards’s position on tangerines and declare that their stores will no longer sell coffee that isn’t grown within a 50-mile radius of the selling store location.

    Friday, August 3, 2007

    Gosh, I hope nobody was hurt

    Somebody's toys seem to have gotten broken.

    Breaking news: 4 explosions at PFLP-GC base in Lebanon's Bekaa
    Friday, 3 August, 2007 @ 9:33 AM

    Beirut - 4 huge explosions rocked the Qussaya base of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command , in the eastern Bekaa valley east of Beirut.

    The explosions shook the whole region.

    PFLP-GC is based in Syria but has bases in Lebanon. Its chief Ahmad Jibril served in the Syrian army

    The Qussaya base of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command is about 2 kilometers from the Syrian borders.

    There are no details available yet on causes of the explosions , damages or casualties. Ya Libnan will provide updates as we obtain more details.

    Let's keep our fingers crossed that everything turns out all right in this incident. (I'm not sure the PFLP-GC would agree with what I think "all right" would be, though.)

    UPDATE: Ron Dellums goes for the surge

    Apparently Mayor Dellums isn't willing to declare defeat and redeploy out of Oakland. Instead, he has adopted a surge strategy.

    (08-03) 09:00 PDT OAKLAND -- Police, SWAT teams and bomb units from throughout Alameda County detained more than a dozen suspects after raids at Your Black Muslim Bakery on San Pablo Avenue and three related locations this morning, police said.

    The people are being held in connection with murder, kidnapping, assault and robbery investigations, Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan said. San Pablo Avenue was cordoned off for several blocks near the bakery at 5832 San Pablo Ave.

    Police said the North Oakland raids are part of an ongoing probe of businesses related to prominent Black Muslim leader Yusef Bey, who died in October 2003. They served search and arrest warrants on officials associated with the bakery, according to a news release from Oakland police.

    It was not immediately clear whether the raids are directly connected to the Thursday slaying of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey, who was investigating the bakery and its related businesses.

    KTVU Channel 2 reported that Yusef Bey IV was among those detained, and that police also found a stash of shotguns, other weapons and ammunition.

    Hey, Harry Reid! Maybe you can learn something from this episode: a liberal (make that Progressive) politician can still understand the need for victory over terrorists.

    Thursday, August 2, 2007

    It's a civil war -- we can't win, so let's just pull out

    This from today in Oakland, California:

    OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The outspoken new editor of the Oakland Post was shot to death Thursday near a downtown courthouse in what police suspect was a deliberate hit.

    Chauncey Bailey, 57, was killed around 7:30 a.m., Oakland Police spokesman Roland Holmgren said. Witnesses told police a man wearing a mask shot Bailey multiple times and then fled.

    Police had no motive for the killing but said it did not appear to be random. Holmgren said investigators would look into any possible connections with Bailey's work.

    The terror elements in Oakland have graduated to silencing the free press, and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, the former Congressman who took over for Jerry Brown when the ex-governor was elected California's Attorney General, is at a loss for what to do.

    Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said Bailey will be missed.

    "It is a tragedy when any person loses his or her life by an act of violence. The crime and violence on Oakland streets presents me with the most painful and difficult challenge I've ever faced," Dellums said in a statement.

    Come on, Mr. Mayor, if you were still in Congress, you'd know exactly what to do: declare defeat and call for a redeployment to, say, Montclair (the affluent hill neighborhood of Oakland). Or perhaps Oaklanders could seek asylum in Piedmont, the upscale bedroom community (though a separate city, it is completely encricled by Oakland proper).

    Maybe Mayor Gavin Newsom in San Francisco should consider the same strategy. Gang warfare in his city is spilling over from the slums and housing projects into the heart of the downtown shopping district.

    Street fire: San Francisco's drug wars rose to a dramatic new level with a gangland-style slaying in broad daylight that was within earshot of the Powell Street cable car turnaround, one of the city's biggest tourist magnets.

    Police said the shooting might have been a battle in a turf war between San Francisco and East Bay gangs for control of the Tenderloin. If so, it played out before an audience unaccustomed to such sights -- about a dozen diners at Puccini & Pinetti, a fashionable restaurant at Ellis and Cyril Magnin streets, who dove for cover when the occupant of one car began shooting at another car with a semiautomatic rifle at 4:40 p.m. Monday.

    When it was over, two people in the target car had been wounded. One of them, 20-year-old Charles Rollins of Contra Costa County, later died. The shooter's car drove off and got away.

    Bad as it was, it could have been worse. Three bullets hit the restaurant, including one that smashed a window right where two patrons had been drinking just moments before.

    It was the second shooting of the afternoon in the tourist-laden area. Two hours earlier, a man was shot in the foot at Turk and Mason streets and made it to Fifth and Market before collapsing.

    Police don't believe the two shootings were related, but that doesn't make anyone feel much better.

    U.S. out of California! Support our local police -- send them home!

    Gosh, it's too bad Terry Schiavo isn't around for this

    Isn't this exactly what the loved ones of patients in comas and persistent vegetative states mean when they say they'll never give up hope?

    A man who spent six years unable to talk, eat or walk as a result of severe brain damage has made a remarkable recovery thanks to a revolutionary implant of electrodes deep in his brain.

    How the procedure works: Click to enlarge

    The 38-year-old had been written off by one doctor as a vegetable but he is now able to talk, laugh, drink, chew and carry out simple tasks such as brushing his teeth.

    The man had been left in a “minimally conscious state” after being beaten up and robbed. He was unable to speak audibly and could only communicate by a nod, or tiny eye or finger movements.

    He was also unable to chew or swallow, and had to be fed through a tube. His eyes mostly remained shut.

    But after two electrodes delivered pulses of electricity to arouse his brain, he can now use words and gestures, respond reliably to requests, eat normally, drink from a cup, and carry out simple tasks such as brushing his hair, though his muscles have wasted and contracted so it is uncertain he will ever walk again.

    The American patient’s family has requested that he not be identified, but speaking today his mother said: “I prayed for a miracle The most important part is that he can say 'Mummy and pop, I love you'. God bless those wonderful doctors. I still cry every time I see my son, but it is tears of joy.”

    It's just too bad that Terry Schiavo's parents didn't have the opportunity to give their daughter this chance at a partial recovery. One might have thought that her husband, too, would have wanted to wait for a medical breakthrough of this type. Guess not.

    "We just heard screams of pain and the sounds of beatings. Then the screams stopped."

    An Israeli soldier told Israel's Channel 10 that he witnessed Egyptian troops killing four Sudanese attempting to reach asylum in Israel from the Sinai.

    According to the soldier, female IDF troops operating night vision devices identified several refugees approaching the border in an attempt to infiltrate Israel and alerted other soldiers who arrived after a few minutes in an army jeep.

    However, Egyptian troops who also discovered the refugees, fired upon them, immediately killing two and wounding a third. A fourth refugee ran towards the fence and an IDF soldier stretched out his hands, trying to help him cross.

    At that point, the soldier recalled, two Egyptian soldiers arrived and started pulling at the refugee's legs.

    "It was literally like we were playing 'tug of war' with this man," the soldier said. The soldier eventually loosened his grip on the man, fearing the Egyptians would shoot him.

    "They were aiming loaded weapons straight at us, I was afraid they were going to shoot us," he said.

    The Egyptians then carried the man several meters away from the border fence, and proceeded to beat him and another wounded refugee to death with stones and clubs.

    "What happened there yesterday was a lynch. These are not men, they're animals. They killed him without even using firearms," the soldier said. "We just heard screams of pain and the sounds of beatings. Then the screams stopped."

    The IDF apparently has this incident on videotape. It will probably never allow it to be seen for fear of creating embarrassment for Egypt.

    But there is something horribly, hideously wrong when Egyptian troops, who for so long have let smugglers move weapons and explosives into Gaza with relative impunity, go out of their way to kill four unarmed persons -- Muslim persons, at that -- seeking asylum. Perhaps they hope that other Sudanese will hear of this incident and decide not to try to cross Egypt to reach the safety of Israel.

    Isn't the Islamic world supposed to be one ummah, where all Muslims are brothers?