Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Flying one last Mission

Fire of Liberty

I want to give a hearty salute to a true America Hero, General Robert Scott, who died this week at the young age of 97. If you ever want to show your children, grand-children about a soldier's soldier and a man of great integrity then this author of "God is My Co-Pilot" is indeed the man that you should look at. So General Scott, enjoy your journey into the wild blue yonder, you've earned it.

For more on this great American Hero read here, here, and here.

Friendly Ports

Fire of Liberty

Will Ball, former Secretary of the Navy, Assistant Secretary of State and White House aide in the Reagan Administration, has a good piece over at TCS Daily on how the sailors who man our various warships and ensure our security daily that our allies within the United Arab Emirates don't deserve the scorn and disdain that they have received during the most recent dust-up over the ports. I find it puzzling that the same folks that noted we should apply the policies of "soft-power" to our tool-box of foreign policy and embrace our allies in the Arab world seem to have left the dock now that an Arab ally of ours is thinking about buying out the managerial side of the ports that the British currently control. For me, it would make a heck of a statement and set a great example to the Arab world and the world in general that if you accept moderism and abscond from supporting Islamic extremism (and other types of extremism) then we welcome doing business with you. Better yet it shows our friends that if they team up with us, we're not going to spurn you because some folks feathers are rustled. Luckily, we have the good soldiers of the US Navy who realize how important it is to have the UAE batting for us in the region and we should have the same faith in our ally in this regard as well. Check out what our sailors experience in the UAE:
Perhaps the TR's returning sailors will be permitted to add their voice to the current debate over ports and dockside services. After all, sailors have been keen judges of harbors, their good and bad aspects, for centuries. And American sailors from the days of Decatur to Perry to Nimitz have called on practically every port there is, forming clear opinions as to the characteristics and qualities of each, from the view across the harbor to the view across the waterfront bar.

And on this point, our sailors could speak clearly and emphatically to the flip side of the debate on Capitol Hill. They could observe that after weeks of hard work at sea, the welcome given to them and their shipmates in Port of Dubai is just about as good as it gets. In a region of the world not previously known for "liberty ports" that compete with their Mediterranean and Western Pacific counterparts, the new Dubai is fine, fine indeed, according to the sailors of today. Harbormasters, citizens and yes, even port security officials there afford an especially warm welcome to American warships -- aircraft carriers in particular.

Our sailors today know the meaning of allies in the war on terror, and they know from the reception they receive time and time again when ashore in Dubai that the government and people there are on our side. A keystone of American foreign policy in the Gulf region since 1980 has been to strengthen ties and security relationships with the Gulf emirates, and the fruits of that successful engagement can now be seen readily in Dubai, Doha, Bahrain, and all along the coast of the Gulf. Following a quarter century of effective diplomacy and building on opportunities for strong ties in the region with all components of the U.S. military, Washington has opened doors with its presence for economic growth and development that has benefits extending far from the Gulf's shores.

Little heed has been paid to this dimension of how Dubai not only is an important player in the region strategically, but also how in a more basic way it is important to those who serve in uniform at sea, a long way from home.

Some in Congress who display an eagerness to vote against Dubai Ports World in the pending transaction will choose to ignore the facts that are relevant in an objective security and economic analysis.
Not bad, not bad at all.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Taking Academic Freedom out of Our Colleges

Fire of Liberty

I'd say that Gerard Baker pretty much sums up the state of the university/college system within the US and Europe with the following piece.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Ports of Concern?

Fire of Liberty
As I noted in an earlier post, I think the whole kerfuffel over the ports is more of a mole-hill than the mountain that our congressmen, senators and the MSM(excluding a select few like the WSJ and the Wash. Post)are making it out to be. Above all else, the ports will still be patrolled and policed by the US Coast Guard and the Custom and Border agents no matter which countries or how many owners who possess the deed to the property. The thing that bothers me about the whole matter is that the folks who keep saying that it's alright for the Brits or the Chinese to run our ports but it's not ok for a Muslim country like the UAE to run the show. Their main reason is that the UAE is a country that is far more likely to have people in the internal workings of the company or in other parts of the operation that might be playing ball with the radical Islamists and might find a way exact some horrific damage on our country via a bomb. Thankfully, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Jack Kelly(A big security minded fellow and not too slack on the White House when it comes to these issues)has put some deep thought into the matter not to mention wading through the hyperbole of both the left and right and has revealed in his most recent column that the deal doesn't effect our security one iota but is just another transaction in the global economy. Take a look:
Among Arab nations, we have no better friends than the United Arab Emirates. The government (which owns Dubai Ports World) sponsors a U.S. Air Force base, services U.S. Navy warships and is assisting in our efforts to shut down terrorist funding. (Dubai is the banking, and consequently the money laundering, center of the Gulf.)

Unlike Saudi Arabia, the UAE is a modern, tolerant country. The British Financial Times describes it as "the Singapore of the Gulf." The UAE is what we wish every Arab country were like. But we will not make more friends in the Arab world if we treat the friends we have as if they were enemies.

There are, of course, Islamists in the UAE. But not, so far as we know, in the management of Dubai Ports World, whose security record has been exemplary.

There are, as we have seen, Islamists in Toledo, too. And there are lots of Islamists in London, which is where Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company, the British firm Dubai Ports World bought, is headquartered. Not even Jack Cafferty has yet suggested we stop doing business with Ohio and Britain.
For me, if we allow the UAE service our warships, aircraft carriers, and supply ships and they provide a base for our military aircraft/spy-planes then they've got to be pretty darn safe. So maybe Sean Hannity and Representative King, Sens. Schumer and Clinton should calm their jets and realize that they're strutting around for looking stupid on this particular issue.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Don't Know Nothing 'Bout Birthing Babies

Fire of Liberty

According to this article in The Economist, the folks in Europe are experiencing some problems due to their inability to keep the birthrate at a point that is a sufficient to replace their aging populations. This decline or slow effort on behalf of the future parents in Europe seems to be based on the ever changing cultural and social attitudes that has been prevalent throughout the continent since the 1970's. Take a look:
When birth rates began to fall in Europe, this was said to be a simple matter of choice. That was true, but it is possible that fertility may overshoot below what people might naturally have chosen. For many years, politicians have argued that southern Europe will catch up from its fertility decline because women, having postponed their first child, will quickly have a second and third. But the overshoot theory suggests there may be only partial recuperation. Postponement could permanently lower fertility, not just redistribute it across time.

And there is a twist. If people have fewer children than they claim to want, how they see the family may change too. Research by Tomas Sobotka of the Vienna Institute of Demography suggests that, after decades of low fertility, a quarter of young German men and a fifth of young women say they have no intention of having children and think that this is fine. When Eurobarometer repeated its poll about ideal family size in 2001, support for the two-child model had fallen everywhere.

Parts of Europe, then, may be entering a new demographic trap. People restrict family size from choice. But social, economic and cultural factors then cause this natural fertility decline to overshoot. This changes expectations, to which people respond by having even fewer children. That does not necessarily mean that birth rates will fall even more: there may yet be some natural floor. But it could mean that recovery from very low fertility rates proves to be slow or even non-existent.
I guess until you see a movement amongst the people of Europe to preserve the cultural and national identities of their own countries you'll continue to see this slide in the birthrates. (We've seen what you get by choosing immigration as the solution. Anyone remember the riots in France last summer or the protests in certain European countries.)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Hillary's Jihad on Vouchers

Fire of Liberty

I'm guessing Sen. Clinton isn't a big fan of private-school vouchers(Or should I say NY's teacher's union lobby). See for yourself:
"First family that comes and says 'I want to send my daughter to St. Peter's Roman Catholic School' and you say 'Great, wonderful school, here's your voucher,'" Clinton said. "Next parent that comes and says, 'I want to send my child to the school of the Church of the White Supremacist ...' The parent says, 'The way that I read Genesis, Cain was marked, therefore I believe in white supremacy. ... You gave it to a Catholic parent, you gave it to a Jewish parent, under the Constitution, you can't discriminate against me.'"

As an adoring, if somewhat puzzled, audience of Bronx activists looked on, Clinton added, "So what if the next parent comes and says, 'I want to send my child to the School of the Jihad? ... I won't stand for it."
This is one quote and position that opposition researchers in the GOP and the Mark Warner camp love to hear from the junior senator of New York. You'd think someone who always talks about raising children out of the "cycle of poverty" would be more than willing to accept the usage of vouchers so inner city parents can take their children with the aid of a voucher (which is a percentage of the money that the taxpayers(parents) currently spend on their education) out of the failing public schools and move them to private, parochial schools(Catholic Schools) or in most cases with vouchers to better performing public schools. But when you believe that it really "takes a village to raise a child," then you detest parents having a choice in the education of their child. It's funny that folks like Hillary and Ted Kennedy are opposed to vouchers which let parents pull their kids out of the horrific public schools in places like D.C.'s especially after the fact that they also refused to send their kids to these schools as well.(They're for the "little man" only when it looks good.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Fishy Smelling Ports

Fire of Liberty

While I'm somewhat concerned about a company like Dubai Ports World from the UAE taking commercial control of 6 US ports from the UK's P&O company, I do know that there's a lot about the matter of security being raised by various politicians is unfounded. When you wade through the bluster you discover that the clearing on the sale went through extensive research and security checks by the various executive branch facilities, the US Coast Guard and Customs folks will provide the security, and the same workers will still be there to receive imports and ship out our goods. What's even more interesting is that while politicians like Clinton and Schumer are playing up the populist rhetoric about the pressing need for our ports to be 100% secure (Will they ever be 100%?) and free from the control of foreign entities they seem to be tripped up when you take a closer look at what's motivating this rhetoric. Thankfully, the good folks over at the New York Sun have done some good reporting to show that the folks making such a fuss about the whole port deal are motivated by much more than the security interests of our nation. Check out what's causing such bluster:
So what, one wonders, accounts for the sudden turnabout and interest of all these politicians in the UAE as a potential terrorist threat? The answer got a lot clearer yesterday afternoon when the International Longshoremen's Association, the AFL-CIO-affiliated union that represents workers at the six ports that would be affected by the Dubai deal, issued a statement praising the politicians complaining about the deal. The union's statement expressed "great concern" about the transaction. From there, it's easy to just follow the money - documented by The New York Sun's examination of Federal Election Commission records - from the political action committee of the International Longshoremen's Association into the pockets of the protesting politicians.

Mr. Schumer, the first to raise the alarm about the deal? He's collected $4,500 in campaign contributions from the trough of the Longshoremen. Rep. Peter King, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who was one of the first big-name Republicans to break ranks with the administration over the deal? The Longshoremen's political committee donated $5,500 to the King campaign. It turns out that nearly every politician who has been at the forefront of the opposition to the Dubai deal is on the receiving end of some Longshoreman largesse.

Senator Clinton's campaign took $4,500. Senator Dodd, $2,500. Congressman Fossella, $9,500. Senator Boxer, $6,000. Senator Lautenberg, $9,000. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York who is another outspoken critic of the Dubai deal, has accepted $22,500 from the Longshoremen since March of 2000. Senator Menendez, a leader of the opposition to the Dubai deal, has taken in fully $39,500 in campaign contributions from the Longshoremen's political action committee. It puts a different spin on the statement yesterday from the president of the International Longshoremen's Association, John Bowers, who said, "We echo United States Senator Robert Menendez who correctly notes that our ports are the front lines of the war on terrorism." It raises the question, for example, of whether the Longshoremen are echoing Mr. Menendez, or whether Mr. Menendez is echoing Mr. Bowers, who has been so generous to his campaign.
I'm betting the President wins this argument even if he gets banged around a bit.

Islam Looking Inward

Fire of Liberty

Reuel Marc Gerecht has a good article in the February 20, 2006 edition of the Weekly Standard that focuses on the fact that as long as leaders within the many governments of the West keeps on standing up a denouncing newspaper editors and others for printing images or writing something things critical of Mohammad and Islam they give shelter to the dictatorships and folks like al Qaeda who go after folks in their own religion who they deem infidels. As he notes, countries that have an Islamic culture needs to have their own form of a reformation within their religion or some move that allows them to talk freely about their religion and various aspects of it without fearing for their lives. In a way, Gerecht's ideas are very similar to the one in Bernard Lewis's timely book "What Went Wrong?" which is that instead of looking to the West or the Jews(Unfortunately some learned folks in the West keep on pushing this blame theory) as the root to their problems or pointing to some critical cartoons, Muslims societies of the world need to look inward and initiate some changes to their own society. While this is a really short synopsis of a great article, I thought I'd share with you one of the most clear-spoken but informative paragraphs out of the whole essay below:
And the controversy over the Danish cartoons could conceivably betray the most important, though least remembered, player in this controversy: the average Muslim in the Middle East. Far more than most Middle Eastern Muslims and politically correct Western scholars of the region and Islam would like to admit, Western standards for individual liberty, curiosity, personal integrity, scholarship, and the political relations among men have become the defining benchmarks for Muslims everywhere, however resented or admired. If our standards collapse and give way to fear, theirs in the long-term have no chance whatsoever. The psychology of victimization--surely one of the worst gifts the Western anti-imperialist left has given the Muslim world--can only be made worse by Westerners who treat Muslims like children unable to compete and to defend their religion.

In the Middle Ages, Christian theologians said vastly worse things about the Prophet Muhammad than the Danish cartoons implied. Back then, Muslims cognizant of what the Christians were writing usually took it in stride, not too perturbed by the ruminations and calumnies of a superseded faith. Non-Muslims living beyond the writ of Islamic law were not expected to respect a prophet not their own. That is, after all, what it means to be benighted infidels.

To be healthy, Muslim pride and political systems need to be based on real accomplishments, where the average believer can feel that he is participating in a larger, productive enterprise. (In the classical and medieval Islamic eras, when Muslim armies usually defeated their non-Muslim enemies, manifestly fulfilling the divine promise that Muslims were God's chosen people, maintaining both collective and individual pride was much easier.) Western indulgence of supposed Muslim outrage over these cartoon insults to the prophet is pretty demeaning. It can only fortify the destructive, self-pitying impulses that all too often paralyze Muslim conversations and thought. (One of the more bizarre facts of the modern Middle East is to see the ruling Muslim elites of these countries--men and women of considerable influence and privilege--bemoan their powerlessness owing to the hidden, omnipresent, all-powerful machinations of the West, in particular, the United States.)
I just hope some of the intellectuals and the "true democrats" who live in these societies(and some of our leaders/intellectuals) are able to read this great article and get some inspiration on what they can to turn themselves around.

Getting into al Qaeda's head

Fire of Liberty

If you want to learn more about the structure, philosophy, and internal workings of al Qaeda and its known associates then I recommend you check out this article in the Weekly Standard by Dan Darling of the Manhattan Institute. According to Darling's article, the brains at West Point's Combating Terror Center have produced a valuable analysis of the workings and weaknesses of al Qaeda due to the release of some 28 declassified documents from the HARMONY database, thus allowing the folks like you and me as well as the folks who are hot on the trail after these evil cretins. Though folks like Sen. Clinton keep on moaning about how we can't find the "tallest man in Afghanistan" or that the White House doesn't know what they're doing in this fight, I recommend they take a look at what our folks in the military are discovering about our enemy as proof positive that Bush and his folks actually know what's up. So enjoy the article and the report so you can see what we currently face and how to break their back once and for all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Spanish Breakup?

Fire of Liberty

It seems that Spain has been going down the tubes ever since PM Jose Maria Aznar retired and his fellow MP's of the center-right Partido Popular lost the Parliament to Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his fellow socialists of PSOE. According to this piece over at TCS Daily, the new PM has allowed the further decentralization of Spain and several regions like Catalonia to command great sovereignty over the current central government as a way to ensure that PSOE keeps the reigns of government. In fact this plan will only set a precedent for other groups and folks within the various regions within Spain and throughout Europe to argue for their own separate our autonomous region or zone. As Jose Maria Marco notes in his piece, this could snowball into the "Balkanization" of Europe into hundreds of groups based on ethnicity, race, religion, or any other way that you want to divide a nation or region. If you follow world politics and the history of Yugoslavia, then you know where this talk of autonomy or independence within a nation will get ya. This movement on behalf of Catalonia and the Basque Region might not erupt in a violent bloodbath like we saw in Bosnia or Kosovo in the 1990's but it could lead to something down the road. (Don't forget the Balkans problems has been rumbling for some 500 yrs ago who was pushed onward even more by the meddling of Wilson and the victors of WWI not to mention the horrific and brutal 35 year rule of Tito and the 10 years under Milosevic. I can still happen in Spain as well as Europe.) I just hope the PP of Spain will find some way to prevent this from occurring before the country of Spain falls apart. It makes me wonder what could Jose Maria Aznar could done if he ran and won a third term.

Rust appearing on Chavez's Revolution

Fire of Liberty

It seems that all of the bluster and bombastic rhetoric coming out of Hugo Chavez's mouth about the US planning to invade Venezuela or his continued threats to cut off oil to the US has a lot to do with the fact that his workers paradise or what he deems the "Bolivar Revolution" is turning out to be a for worse for the poor than what Chavez has promised. Though he has further consolidated his power by ceasing private property, removing generals to prevent coups, taking away press freedoms, packing the courts and efforts to amend the constitution to expand his tenure until 2013 (One can imagine that he'll crown himself "Leader for Life" pretty soon but claim its legit and under the "duly elected" mantle.) the folks that this left-of-center populist (who has billions of petro-dollars at his disposal) has failed to help or improve their lot these past eight years. I fact the Christian Science Monitor has a story out today that notes that there is a considerable amount of anger running through Chavez's base and they're speaking out. Let's hope the secret police and the supposed "20,000 doctors" from Cuba don't track down these folks and cause them to vanish. One thing I have learned from dictatorships and totalitarian states like Iran and Venezuela is that when their leaders start their saber rattling, they have some serious problems in the hinterland and want to divert the eyes of their people to avert disaster. Here's hoping the folks under Chavez's steel boot know more about what's going on in their nation and push El Jefe II out of his roost real soon. For the meantime, read the piece.

Monday, February 20, 2006

PC Police Strike Again

Fire of Liberty

Check out how the The PC police at the University of Washington have decided to target a Congressional Medal of Honor winner. Shame, Shame, Shame!!!

A Message of Modesty & Restraint

Fire of Liberty

As we celebrate George Washington's birthday today or what has been morphed into the generic President's Day (Remember I'm an originalist and favor the original focus of the day which is the first George W's birthday. If push comes to shove, I can make an exception to throwing Lincoln into the mix) I figured it would be nice to direct you to TCS Daily's columnist Lee Harris most recent column "The Father Without a Son" which points out that President Washington was aware that he would set some considerably historic precedents that would forever effect the state of this nation. One area that he made sure he set as a precedent was his term in office. While he could have gone on and become President for life, Washington understood that if the nation was going to survive as a republic then he had to point out by example that the executive branch was a post that had to be given up after a certain amount of time. So without further ado, I present you with my most favorite part of Harris's column, which is Washington's lasting act that would preserve our union (I might be stretching it a little but I think every little thing counts). Here it is:
Because Washington had no son, this danger did not arise. Yet Washington recognized the danger of a popular President, such as himself, getting re-elected over and over for the remainder of his life. Here again the Constitution provided no solution, so Washington had to devise a solution of his own. He would not die in office; instead, he would be elected for two terms, and then he would not run again. Furthermore, by his renunciation of power, Washington would set a precedent and an example that would check the ambitions of all Presidents for nearly a hundred and fifty years, thereby providing a kind of unwritten amendment to the Constitution.

Take the case of the popular Theodore Roosevelt. He had inherited the office of the President after the assassination of McKinley, and served out the remaining three years of McKinley's term. But when he was finally elected in his own right, he immediately issued a statement that he would honor the spirit of George Washington's example by not running again when his term of office was up, arguing that no President should hold office for more than the eight years that Washington had served. Here again, there was nothing in the Constitution to prevent Teddy Roosevelt from doing so; it was only Washington's example that inspired him to make his declaration—though, subsequently, Teddy Roosevelt came to regret his rash statement, and in 1912, he would form his own political party, the Bull Moose Party, and take another shot at the Presidency.

When his cousin Franklin Roosevelt ran successfully for his third term, he knew he was violating the unwritten law established by Washington's example. The result was an inevitable reaction that culminated in the passage of a Constitutional Amendment limiting all future Presidents to no more than two elected terms. As Washington clearly saw, the American people needed to be protected not only from their enemies, but from their popular heroes as well—indeed, perhaps especially from them.

Today we now call it President's Day, and no longer celebrate Washington's Birthday. This is a pity. For without the greatness, wisdom, and humanity of our first President, the office of the Presidency would almost certainly have become something radically different from what any of us are familiar with—indeed, it might well have become something that none of us would feel much like celebrating. It was not the written document called the Constitution that protected us from tyranny; it was the shining example of a single man.
I hope all Presidents strive to be like Washington. Enjoy the holiday.

A Rocky Road

Fire of Liberty

Well it seems the UK's House of Commons most recent approval and passage of the national I.D. cards as well as the ban on smoking in pubs and private clubs has rankled some nerves within the island nation. In an effort to get a proper gauge on how such laws have produced a considerable amount of ill sentiments amongst the everyday man in the UK, I thought you'd find it very interesting to read the thoughts of Theodore Dalrymple. (If you like Thomas Sowell then you'll love the apt observations of Dalrymple.) Here's a sample of what he wrote in his most recent op/ed in The Times:
The State is increasingly concerning itself with the individual'’s private habits, instituting a reign of virtue, chief among which is healthiness (we are approaching the situation of Samuel Butler'’s satire, Erewhon, a country where illness is a crime). Though not a single smoker is unaware of the dangers of smoking, and hasn'’t been for 30 years or more, he is now to be prevented from smoking in public, even when he is among other smokers only.

The pettiness of this official persecution of smokers (who are not prevented from paying a lot of tax) can hardly be exaggerated. The hospital in which I used to work instituted a no-smoking policy, so that smokers had to leave the building to smoke. To do this, one orthopaedic patient needed a wheelchair, but to hire a wheelchair he had to pay a £60 deposit, which he did not have. He grew so angry that he needed sedation.

Increasingly the citizen is asked to denounce his neighbour, for example if his neighbour is cheating social security. (Cheating it is the only rational response to so preposterous, impersonal and inhumane a system.) This official invitation to atomise society further by sowing mistrust among the population has not yet been entirely successful; but posters such as the one I saw last weekend in a bookshop "“Racism is a crime. Report it!"— engender a vague but nevertheless all-pervasive anxiety. After all, racism is a vague term, open to many interpretations, and there is an increasing tendency to treat complainants as if their complaints were self-justifying: you have been badly treated if you think you have been badly treated. Far from being a generous and compassionate principle, this attention to, or even encouragement of, complaint confers immense and often arbitrary powers on officialdom. It is not liberating, it is infantilising.
Let's hope this awakens the folks to this steady march down Hayek's famous road before it's to late.

Cutting Hamas Off

Fire of Liberty

This past Friday I listened to an episode of NPR's "All Things Considered" and they ran a piece on how Hamas looked like it could be a better government that we think because their new PM was more pragmatic and wasn't such a big advocate for violence as other folks seeking the post were. (I guess if you only cheered on your political party/terror organization and its policy of terror and the destruction of Israel but never participated or instructed folks to kill Israelis, you're a statesman.) The piece also noted that the West should be very cautious about cutting off support to the PA because of Hamas's victory due to the fact that they'll would force Hamas to go to folks like Iran and Saudi Arabia for money. (They still haven't sent the millions in cash that they promised to the PA years before.) Now the folks at NPR and other like minded folks throughout the world will go about promoting this lesser evil mumbo-jumbo if they will but as Charles Tannock, conservative foreign affairs spokesman in the European Parliament, points out in this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal (Subscription required) that during all those years of handing money to the likes of Arafat has only resulted in more Israeli deaths and more than likely this same benevolence would result in something far more violent if Hamas gets the money. Instead of reading my take on the piece, just read what Tannock had to say:
Some argue that making diplomatic relations and aid conditional on Hamas renouncing violence and recognizing Israel's legitimacy would not achieve the desired effect. They say such tactics might harden Hamas's position and lose the West influence in Palestine. But what influence did the hundreds of millions of euros Brussels sunk into the PA exactly buy? Did Arafat let up in his terror war or corruption? Fact is, EU money and "good diplomatic contacts" have singularly failed to achieve their aims for the past decade. It's time to try something new.

It is therefore deeply regrettable that Russia, in spite of its own problems with Islamic terrorism, has invited Hamas to Moscow. It is less surprising perhaps that French President Jacques Chirac and Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero -- each playing to his domestic gallery -- should endorse this move.

To frame this issue as some kind of terrible moral dilemma is absurd. Of course, we all want peace in the Middle East. Ordinary Israelis and Palestinians want it even more. But to accept Hamas as a legitimate negotiating partner would be to store up still more trouble for the future. I am as appalled as anyone at the poverty and hopelessness that characterizes the lives of so many Palestinians. As a matter of fact, in electing Hamas Palestinians have given vent in part to their own disgust. But if we sent so much as a penny to a PA led by an unreformed Hamas, we would be showing that we have learned absolutely nothing from our mistakes.

We should not kid ourselves that we owe it to the Palestinians to engage with Hamas just because of a democratic election. If Hamas were a political party in the EU, it would have been outlawed years ago. In its charter, Hamas calls for a global jihad -- like the suicide bombings last year in London, the city I represent. Hamas is not committed to democracy and human rights but to a theocracy under Shariah law.

What we do owe to the Palestinian people, though, is to tell them clearly that while we stand by them in their legitimate quest for statehood, we won't tolerate such a state being run by an Islamist terror regime.
As you can tell, I'm more inclined to Tannock's way of thinking with regard to providing funds and support to Hamas. If Austria can be sanctioned by the EU for electing Haider(praised the efforts of folks like fascists and most notably Hitler) as President then the US and who ever else gives money to the PA should have the right to cut off the spigot when they elect a party like Hamas. It's good to see others expressing the same thing and hopefully the view will become morprevalentnt in Europe most notably the European Parliament. (I can wish can't I.)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Principled Stand

Fire of Liberty

While we have imams here and here pledging millions for the person who kills the Dutch cartoonists who drew those 12 illustrations of Muhammad in Jyllands-Posten this past September, not to mention the various calls for tolerance(not at the Muslim protesters but towards the media of Europe) that has systematically sprouted up within the MSM after the angered mobs went to the streets and set things on fire, there are actually individuals like Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen who are standing up to such militants and defending the rights that we hold dear in a liberal democracy. In fact he gives a very good defense for this way of life in a recent interview in the German news magazine Der Spiegel. Take a look at what the PM had to say about the whole situation:
SPIEGEL: At the start of your term, you yourself announced a cultural renewal, indeed a cultural battle, in all social areas. Is this what you meant?

Fogh Rasmussen: That was a misunderstanding -- at the time, for me, it was about a discussion of values in Denmark. Consensus and dialogue have always played a significant role, especially in Danish society. Of course there are basic values that must be respected, but within this framework, we are a liberal and tolerant country where everyone can live as they desire and according to their tradition. That is the Danish way.

SPIEGEL: Now the Danish flag is in flames in Arab capitals and Danes must fear for their lives in the Islamic world.

Fogh Rasmussen: At home, Danes try to resolve their problems amicably so it's just surreal to see these violent pictures on TV. But as the prime minister, I can't be controlled by my emotions.

SPIEGEL: For the first time, your government is at the center of an unimaginable international crisis that spans from northern Africa to southern Asia.

Fogh Rasmussen: These protests are no longer about the 12 caricatures that were published by a free and independent Danish newspaper. Many groups with a vested interest in the Islamic world are now exploiting the situation for their own purposes.

SPIEGEL: Who do you mean exactly?

Fogh Rasmussen: Some countries such as Iran and Syria are using the commotion to distract attention from their own problems with the international community. The Palestinians, who have been deeply divided since their election, have found a common enemy in Denmark that unites them. Extremists and fundamentalists are exploiting the conflict to promote their radical agenda and win new members.
It's good that some folks are willing to stand on principle even when the world around you is set ablaze.

Overcoming a Twin Evil

Fire of Liberty

The Toronto Sun's veteran columnist Peter Worthington has an excellent review of Survival: A Refugee Life, which is a memoir of Fred Bruemmer's epic fight for survival under the dual menace of the Nazis and the Soviets who wreaked havoc on his native country Latvia and his family during WWII. What's wonderful about this book is that it's a testament that no matter how many problems or dangers are thrown before an individual they seem to find a way to persevere. So if you want a great book on this dual menace and a testament of an individual's ability to beat all the odds and survive to tell about it, then Survival: A Refugee Life is a good pick. So check it out.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Freedom from Tyranny

Fire of Liberty
The Wall Street Journal has a wonderful editorial (Freedom in Farsi) out today lauding the Bush administration and the State Department's request for some $85 million to promote democracy amongst the Iranian people and how it is one more way to tear the Persian carpet that the mullahs have wrapped tightly around their purely pro-American citizenry(Even if the regime tries to portray them otherwise.) Probably the best place that the funding is going towards is the increased devotion to VOA Radio and TV transmissions in Farsi to the folks of Iran. While the mullahs have been co-opting with the Cuban government to jam these broadcasts from the US as well as its many other efforts to stop such info from reaching the "true democrats," it seems that we're achieving great success in this venture. Now don't take my word for the gospel but just read what the editors at the WSJ editorial board had to say:
We are skeptics of most foreign aid, but the VOA's Farsi broadcasts have proved to be money well spent. "Next Chapter," a youth-oriented TV show that airs samizdat political videos, is a hit in Iran, as is the VOA's Radio Farda (meaning "Tomorrow"). Labor unions are also a potent source of political opposition in Iran, just as they were during the Communist era in Poland. The current Iranian bus drivers' strike has led to the arrest of hundreds of drivers, evidence of the regime's fear of where the strike might lead.

A larger dose of VOA programming won't solve the looming crisis over Iran's nuclear programs. But as we learned with the old Soviet Bloc, totalitarian regimes are often more brittle than they seem. Outside of Israel, the U.S. may have no better friend in the Middle East than the Iranian people. The more we make our voices heard over there, the likelier it is that they will someday have a chance to make their voices heard too.
No matter how we look at it, the mullahs are one of the last remaining totalitarian state in the world who know that knowledge and the truth are two things that will dissolve the locks on their chains that have shackled the people to the dictates of the Islamic state thus forever changing the nature of the regime. So let's keep on pumping the money into such efforts, the more the better.

A Change of Thought

Fire of Liberty

I'd have to say that Iran's most recent quest for the bomb has become a great concern within the European community especially when France's foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy starts doling out comments like this: "Today it is very simple: No civil nuclear program can explain Iran's nuclear programme. So it is a clandestine military nuclear programme." When members of the governments that have been closer friends with Iran since the fall of the Shah and have given them the benefit of doubt about the nature of their nuke project start having second guesses you know Iran is running out of friends in high places thus pushing them into the no-mans-land of an isolated state. I just hope our allies in Europe awaken to the fact that diplomacy with Iran is hanging by a very tiny but fraying string that will eventually break. It'll probably never make it past the vetoes of China and Russia in the UN Security Council but the time for dealing is about over and will have to be replaced with some kind of action liked targeted sanctions(Non-Economic at first). If we can get this done much like was done with South Africa in the later years of apartheid we'll probably help push through some change or give more umph to the real democrats within Iran who want the regime "blowin' in the wind." Let's hope the French and other nations follow through on such thoughts or are we just seeing a repeat of yet another twelve year drawn out battle in the Security Council like we did with Saddam. Time is more pressing due to the fact that the mullahs are very close to having a deadly arsenal of nuke aimed at Iraq, Israel, The US 5th Fleet in Bahrain (across from Iran in Persian Gulf), and most of Europe not to mention our troops stationed throughout the region. So get to cracking Europe.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bloggers for Freedom in Saudi Arabia

Fire of Liberty

Hopefully this piece by Stephen Schwartz is a sign that folks in Saudi Arabia are growing tired of the hard-liners pushing their virulent ideas of Wahabbism on them and have decided to express their dismay via the Internet. Now I know the Saudi people have a long way to go until they reach any semblance of a liberal democracy but at least there are some folks waking up to their masters and are saying enough is enough. Thankfully we have folks like Schwartz reporting such news out of the kingdom or you'd think they are all happy about their way of life or dislike the current administration call for democracy, which is what you generally hear from the MSM, CAIR, or ex Vice President Al Gore. I'd say that one more ray from the Fire of Liberty reaching yet another darkened corner of the world is pretty darn good. So cheers to the folks in Saudi Arabia who are fighting for a liberal democracy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ole Europe Syndrome?

Fire of Liberty

I have to say that this story in the Washington Times that our various NATO allies have had significant drops in the funding and force structure of the military is very troubling. Take a look:
A comparison of force structures in 2001 and 2005 showed countries such as Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Poland, Spain and Germany cut their active-duty forces, according to statistics compiled by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. At the same time, the United States increased its ranks from 1.37 million to 1.42 million.

More telling is the share of each countries' gross domestic product (GDP) that is devoted to defense expenditures. The U.S. share has gone from 3 percent to 3.7 percent since September 11, 2001, while other NATO nations collectively have dipped from 2.02 percent to 1.8 percent, according to the Pentagon. Twelve years ago, NATO, excluding the United States, devoted 2.5 percent of GDP to defense.
It's a little troubling to see loyal allies like the Brits cutting their military budgets and heading towards an "Old Europe" posture during these violent times especially due to the fact that they're side by side with us in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hopefully their new budget will show a change or Rumsfeld's talks will get them motivated. Though I'm not sure about the Brits, I'm confident that our allies in the nations of Poland, Canada, and Germany, who have newly elected center-right governments who have promised greater defense spending, will more than likely increase their defense spending and improve their numbers. We can't deal with the problems like Iran and other threats to our civilization if our allies don't bulk up at their own end. Let's hope the folks with such sagging numbers will find some way to get these numbers back up before things get too out of hand.

National Press Corps feathers Rustled over Cheney

Fire of Liberty

Wesley Pruden, editor in chief over at the Washington Times has a pretty good take on the whole kerfuffle within the Washington Press Corps over VP Cheney in his most recent edition of Pruden on Politics. In a nutshell, Pruden notes that while this was not really a national or pressing story(Due to the fact the VP had not been shot and his friend's health is far more important than giving a presser in the field.) but became one due to the fact that the story was given to a local media outlet thus wounding the egos of the city reporters, who lounge in the White House room waiting to disseminate their stories. I guess that old saying "Hell hath no fury like a women's scorn" applies to the covey of White House reporters as well. I think Pruden hit the target when he noted the following(I kind of like these paragraphs as well. Pretty darn funny):
But being calm is not what such worthies are paid to do, and this looked like the smoking gun, so to speak, that the pursuers of Dick Cheney have been looking for. Peter Baker, the White House reporter for The Washington Post, chatting online, tells how he and his fellows were "flabbergasted" by news of such titanic import breaking out on such a snowy day. Nothing so flabbergasting had happened to a vice president since Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in 1804, but that was in a duel "and that was actually intentional and in that case the victim died."

By day's end, some of the White House press worthies were trying to get a Texas sheriff to open an investigation. But Mr. Whittington is recovering, rotten luck, and making a murder charge stick would be difficult. (Only a corpse could give this story legs.) The Texas authorities are more bemused than interested, since such accidents are commonplace in bird-hunting country. Birdshot wounds are rarely serious, and many a good ol' boy has been peppered in an unmentionable place, climbing out of a lady's boudoir at 4 in the morning. Your best friend on that occasion is someone with a soft pillow and a pair of tweezers, but it smarts.
Hopefully the VP's interview with on Special Report with Brit Hume over at FoxNews will soothe the egos of the ninnies in the press corp but they're probably more pissed of because it was a private interview with FOX and not a live presser. Well you can't please them all.

Help is on the Way for folks suffering Under the Mullahs in Iran

Fire of Liberty
Well it looks like the folks at State and the White House have decided to follow the advice of Michael Ledeen, Iranian Dissidents, bloggers in Iran (Oh, and me) and have decided to help the folks in Iran to kick the mullahs out of their roost by providing the moral, political and economic support much like we did with Poland and other parts of the world during the Cold War. Now I wished the administration and State had taken this route sooner due to the continued march towards the bomb but at least we're heading in the right track. As I said before, we're probably more able to get things done by putting some termites into the foundations of the Islamic regime in Iran than if we go in with bombs a dropping (Now Don't throw the option out because it's still plausible especially if the nukes go hot and start firing off their nuclear tipped missiles on certain targets). After reading this article in the Financial Times, I'd say that the Bush administration has decided that they have had played enough games with the regime and now it's time to focus on the people and help them end their 27 year nightmare once and for all. You know the President and State are committed to supporting an internal "regime change" especially after reading this:
The Bush administration on Wednesday set out a tougher policy towards Iran, asking Congress for an extra $75m this year to support opponents of the Islamic regime and fund the first 24-hour official US television station broadcasting in Farsi.

"“The United States will actively confront the policies of this Iranian regime and at the same time we are going to work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom in their own country," Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, told the Senate foreign relations committee hearing.

Ms Rice, who will travel to the Gulf region next week to discuss Iran with its Arab neighbours, did not specifically use the words "“regime change"”. But her testimony revealed a dual policy of isolating Iran on the international front, including sanctions and interdictions of prohibited shipments, while seeking to weaken the clerical regime from within.
Though the regime is making our day much harder with recent events it's a move in the right direction that gets my approval and the folks of Iran. No matter what let's get er' done.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Dangerous Courtship

Fire of Liberty

John Hughes has a good piece in the Christian Science Monitor on the ever increasing chumminess between Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and the radical mullahs of Iran. I find it amazing that these emerging hardline socialists want to expand their empires in South America so much that they're actually teaming up with one of the greatest terror states in the world but then again take a look at who's yucking it up with Iran. Maybe someone in Southern Command or someone at Defense, State, NSC or the White House is taking note of this burgeoning coalition that seems to be brewing down South. (This isn't the kind of romance that one wants to hear about on Valentines Day let alone any other day).

The Original Presidents Day

Fire of Liberty

While I really appreciate the idea that Monday will be a day to hail and give three cheers to all the great men who have served this nation as President, I'm one of those orginalists who prefer to celebrate the birthdays of Lincoln and Washington and leave the others aside. So in an effort to celebrate this holiday in a traditionalists way (I know Abe's B-Day was Saturday(Feb. 12, 2006) but at least I'm making the effort) I want to share with you this great piece by Bloomberg columnist Andrew Ferguson on how various groups seem to celebrate the life of President Lincoln. Even after 197 years he seems to be on a pretty good run but when you save the Union I guess you've earned. So read the piece by Ferguson and find a book or some long essays on Lincoln and Washington an celebrate the original holidays as they were supposed to be which was the celebration of the birth of these American giants.

Book Recommendations:

Lincoln - Benjamin P. Thomas
Lincoln - David Herbert Donald
Crisis of the House Divided - Harry Jaffa

Founding Father - Richard Brookhiser
George Washington: The Founding Father - Paul Johnson
1776 - David McCullough
Washington's Crossing - David Hackett Fisher

Good Illustration

Fire of Liberty

The wonderful staff over at Lucianne.com has a pretty darn funny illustration of Dick Cheney that I really enjoyed. Check it out.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Wise Thoughts

Fire of Liberty

Check out this piece by Charles Krauthammer on the current mess created by various militant Islamists over the publishing of cartoons on Muhammad in Denmark. I particularly liked this part of the piece:
There is a ``sensitivity'' argument for not having published the cartoons in the first place, back in September when they first appeared in that Danish newspaper. But it is not September. It is February. The cartoons have been published, and the newspaper, the publishers and Denmark itself have come under savage attack. After multiple arsons, devastating boycotts and threats to cut off hands and heads, the issue is no longer news value, i.e., whether a newspaper needs to publish them to inform the audience about what is going on. The issue now is solidarity.

The mob is trying to dictate to Western newspapers, indeed Western governments, what is a legitimate subject for discussion and caricature. The cartoons do not begin to approach the artistic level of Salman Rushdie's prose, but that's not the point. The point is who decides what can be said and what can be drawn within the precincts of what we quaintly think of as the free world.

The mob has turned this into a test case for freedom of speech in the West. The German, French and Italian newspapers that republished these cartoons did so not to inform but to defy -- to declare that they will not be intimidated by the mob.

What is at issue is fear. The unspoken reason many newspapers do not want to republish is not sensitivity but simple fear. They know what happened to Theo van Gogh, who made a film about the Islamic treatment of women and got a knife through the chest with an Islamist manifesto attached.

The worldwide riots and burnings are instruments of intimidation, reminders of van Gogh's fate. The Islamic ``moderates'' are the mob's agents and interpreters, warning us not to do this again. And the Western ``moderates'' are their terrified collaborators who say: Don't worry, we won't. It's those Danes. We're clean. Spare us. Please.
Pretty good, I say.

Smarter Diversity: A Better Energy Policy

Fire of Liberty

Instead of heaping tons and tons of US taxpayer's money on subsidies for corn growers, sugar growers and switch grass farmers to produce ethanol or implementing restrictions on our car industries and factories to reduce our usage of gasoline, maybe the Bush administration would be wise to take Max Borders advice and present more diversity into our energy policy that appeals to a wider grouping than the greens. I'd say I'm in Border's camp on this one due to the fact that its much more possible to achieve.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Congressional Overstep

Fire of Liberty

As I listened to some of the Sunday morning news shows today and recall the madness that seems to be emerging from the continual hearings and media speculation about the President's asking the NSA to keep track of al Qaeda's communications with various individuals in this nation, I'm a little disheartened to see certain members of Congress are so upset that the President is leading our fight in this war and keeping them out of the loop(Well the Prez seems to backing down by expanding the need to know list from 8 to around 80 - anyone remember that saying about too many cooks or loose lips)that they're willing to erase all aspects of "secret" for their own egos and to be a white knight for the Civil Liberties crowd. The only problem is that the folks in Congress who are harping that they need greater control of the President's war-fighting abilities or want to hand it over to some judge need to turn towards Alexander Hamilton and The Federalist Papers and they'd realize that they don't have much authority in controlling his actions (during the GWOT) except maybe cutting off the money. Thankfully, Mackubin Thomas Owens, associate dean of academics and professor at the Naval War College, has a good piece over at National Review Online that pretty much sums up Hamilton's great understanding of the US Constitution. Take a look:
A crucial instrument of Hamilton's strategic sobriety was a government capable of taking action when confronted by a threat. He firmly believed that the Constitution could not logically become an instrument in its own destruction. Hamilton makes this point most clearly in Federalist 23:

These powers ought to exist without limitations, because it is impossible to be foreseen or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them. The circumstances that endanger he safety of nations are infinite and for this reason, no constitutional shackles can wisely be imposed on the power to which the care of it is committed. This power ought to be co-extensive with all the possible combinations of such circumstances; and ought to be under the direction of the same councils which are appointed to preside over the common defense.

. . . the means ought to be proportional to the end; the persons from whose agency the attainment of any end is expected, ought to possess the means by which it is to be attained.

The key to exercising the power described here is a strong executive. In Federalist 70, Hamilton wrote:

There is an idea, which is not without its advocates, that a vigorous Executive is inconsistent with the genius of republican government. The enlightened wellwishers to this species of government must at best hope that the supposition is destitute of foundation, since they can never admit its truth without at the same time admitting the condemnation of their own principles. Energy in the Executive is a leading character in the definition of good government.

Hamilton gives as his primary reason for this claim that "[the executive power] is essential to the protection of the community from foreign attacks."

Hamilton believed that the president, as the only official elected by the people as a whole, had not only the constitutional but the moral responsibility to act on their behalf — in the interest of the salus populi. Hamilton rejected the claim that republican government required the executive branch's "servile compliancy" to the legislative. The executive possesses his own constitutionally based power and is not, as some people seem to argue today, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Congress or at least "a kind of independent agency under the ultimate control of Congress."
For the sake of our nation, maybe the folks manning one of the three branches of government should read their constitution and copy of The Federalist Papers. Al Qaeda isn't going to call it quits anytime soon and we shouldn't help them out by removing one more tool from our arsenal.

A Fiscal Shepherd

Fire of Liberty

As we watch the folks in Congress spend countless billions of our tax dollars and of future tax payers by placing up to some 15,268 plus "earmarks" in various budget bills late at night just to deliver "the pork" back home to the people, there are some politicians like Oklahoma's Tom Coburn, that is willing to buck the system and return the Republican half of the Senate back to the fiscal responsible days of Ronald Reagan(Vetoed bill with 121 earmarks) and Dick Armey(1994- 4,126). If you want to learn about Tom Coburn and his efforts to return some sanity to the US Senate by reducing the size of government by eliminating wasteful spending then I'd recommend you read this wonderful piece by George Will . In fact I think you'll be proud to read about a Senator who is willing to stand on the principles that brought him where he is today and shies away from the hot air rhetoric and penchent for spending that some of his fellow colleagues seem to have perfected over the years. Better yet, just read what the fine Senator from Oklahoma has to say about the whole "earmark" mess in D.C. We just need more politicians like Tom Coburn than big spenders like Ted Stevens and Robert Byrd.

Defense of the West

Fire of Liberty

As I was catching up on my reading this weekend, I came across yet another great and thought provoking piece by Victor Davis Hanson (VDH) on why the Europeans seem to be turning towards our corner in this stage of the war with Islamic fascism. While Hanson (as well as I) have noted in the past that the European's seemed to be losing their way in confronting the fascists of Islam by believing that if you went to these groups and tried to deal with them via "Diplomacy" because they though they "Understand" what makes them (Islamic fascists) tick, he notes that after the bombings in Madrid, London, the murder of Theo van Gogh, deaths threats of Dutch parliamentarians (Because she was a Muslim who contradicted the claims of radical Islam), Islamic radicals threatening to install sharia law to Europe, the killing Rafik Harari, the elections of Ahmadinejad in Iran, Hamas in the Palestinian parliament, the riots over the cartoons from Denmark, the Europeans have seen enough and are trying to put a little bit of steel in their spines. I think VDH pretty much summed up the Europeans growing need for steel in their diets when he noted the following:
Two other developments better explain the warming in Atlantic relations and the Europeans’ sudden muscularity. First, the Bush administration wisely adopted a Zen-like strategy of keeping low and letting the ankle-biting Europeans take the lead in dealing with radical Islamists like the Iranian theocracy and Hamas. As we stayed silent and played the sullen bad cop, the good guys were sorely disappointed at learning that, yes, the Iranians want both the bomb and Israel destroyed, and that, yes, Hamas, is still intent on annihilating the Jewish state and expecting subsidies to realize that aim. Second guessing and cheap anti-Americanism are easy without responsibility, but the Europeans found very quickly that for all their subtlety and exalted rhetoric they did no better than George Bush in dealing with these anti-Western fanatics.

Second, the two most difficult hurdles are now past—the removal of the odious Taliban and Saddam Hussein. And thus the overblown caricature of Americans as war-mongering bombers has run out of gas. Europeans, of course, always wished both autocracies gone, but quickly learned they could admit that desire only in the first case.

But now that the Americans are doing the fighting and dying, the Europeans can still be against the war, but “for the peace” with the utopian rationale that “whether the war was right or wrong, Iraq must not become a failed state.” Even the most diehard leftists are beginning to see that the fascists who once threatened Salman Rushdie and now bully the Danish cartoonists are the same as those who blow up female school teachers and reformers in Baghdad.
So let's just say that if someone like the US can trailblaze their way into the radical wilds of Afghanistan and Iraq and bring about change like we are in the process of doing, not to mention the various events that occur throughout the world and Europe that provide a great demonstration of how Islamic fascists are a force you can't deal with, then one can see why the folks in Europe are indeed marching in this direction. I just hope they become more steely than they currently are so we can evaporate the threats to the freedoms that we in the West sometimes take for granted from time to time.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Free Speech has Its Limits

Fire of Liberty

I'd say that if more radical Islamists like cleric Abu Hamza were arrested and prosecuted for promoting young Muslim radicals to join in the jihad with fellow terrorists in al Qaeda or encourage them to strap bombs on their chests and go out and to kill all Jews, Christians, non-Muslims as well as Muslims who fail to follow his radical brand of Islam, then the folks in Europe and the rest of the world would be better off. This just goes to show you that with these most recent outbursts of violence with regard to the cartoons and the acts on behalf of Hamza that free speech in a liberal democracy has its limits and when you go too far you are held accountable for your actions. Maybe this is a lesson that we can all learn, especially the newly arrived immigrants to the West.

Also check out here and here for more on Hamza.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

An Assault on Western Values

Fire of Liberty

John O'Sullivan has a great column over at the Chicago Sun-Times on how the whole Muslim outrage over the cartoons that were published in Denmark have definitely been a one-sided attack against the West and its liberal values (classical liberal and not Jimmy Carter's version.). Take a gander at what O'Sullivan had to write:
For, contrary to much "responsible" commentary, Jyllands-Posten, the small regional Danish newspaper that first published the caricatures of Mohammed, did not do so from trivial motives. This was not the kind of avant garde "shock" tactics on show in "Piss Christ" or in the "Sensations" exhibition in Brooklyn that included a painting of the Virgin Mary splattered with elephant dung. It was a serious and justified protest against the fact that Danish artists had been frightened out of illustrating a children's book on Islam and Mohammed.

They feared for their lives -- and their fear was reasonable. In Holland last year the film-maker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a radical Islamist for his semi-pornographic film criticizing Islam as hostile to women. His collaborator, a Somali-Dutch feminist MP, is now under permanent police protection.

Nor were the Danish cartoons all as crude and pointless as some critics have alleged. One cartoon shows the Prophet with his turban evolving into a bomb. Insulting? Maybe. Blasphemous? Perhaps. Or maybe a perfectly fair comment on the arguments of radical Islamists that their religion justifies the murder of innocent bystanders, on the subsidies that Muslim governments give to suicide bombers, and on the thousands of Muslims baying for blood in response to a caricature.

Three cartoons were more harsh and insulting than the rest. But these had not been published originally in Jyllands-Posten. They were added by the radical Islamists who distributed the cartoons around the Muslim world. Vile though it is, this trickery by radical Islamists at least demonstrates the uselessness of appeasing their demands for censorship. If they are granted, our concessions will merely be the springboard for a further attack on Western liberty. And if we disobligingly refuse to furnish them with a pretext, the Islamists will manufacture one. We might as well fight in the first ditch rather than the last.
Check out the rest and you won't be disappointed. I just hope more folks take his words to heart because its sound advice.

Cartoon War in Review

Fire of Liberty

Here's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnists Jack Kelly's take on the whole "cartoon war" that has sparked amongst a large segment of the Muslim world against Denmark and its fellow democracies. It's pretty darn good, check it out.

Urgency for Quick Action

Fire of Liberty

Roger Kimball of the New Criterion has an interesting piece on the magazine's blog Armavirumque that notes that we face a lot of fierce and menacing enemies out in the world waiting to jump at the chance of attacking us that we should be more concerned about stopping them than rubbing our hands fretting that we're infringing on our "civil rights." I'm rather tired of blowhards in the US Senate going before cameras beating their chests saying the White House is looking into all of our lives or trying to turn the executive branch into some imperial post, when the enemies of our nation a laying in wait planning their next mission and changing their habits after learning how we track them. Time is not on our side, we've got to act and act now. Thanks to Roger Kimball for reminding us of this urgency.

A safe harbor in the Cartoon Storm

Fire of Liberty

The Wall Street Journal made a good point in today's editorial "Assad and the Ayatollah"(Subscription required) on how there are a group of folks in the Middle East like Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani who teach their fellow Muslims to reach for a path of moderation and on the other hand you have rabble-rousers like Syria's Assad (and the four imams from Denmark who went to the Middle East and distributed phony cartoons, that never appeared in the Danish paper, to start trouble which we currently have. (Oh those imams want to install sharia law in Denmark as well.) who prefer to see things of the West destroyed in a fit of rage to deflect from their evil ways. Take a look at what the editorial board had to say:
The Ayatollah has been a voice of sense and moderation throughout the conflict in Iraq, so his reaction now comes as no surprise. Compare that to the behavior of Bashar Assad's Syrian regime. In Damascus, "demonstrators" stormed and burned down the embassies of Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Chile without the Syrians lifting a finger in their defense. We put "demonstrators" in quotation marks because no real protest could last 15 minutes in that dictatorship without official sanction. It has also been reported that Syrian nationals played a role in the attacks on the consulates in Lebanon.

The assault in Damascus comes straight from the Middle East Autocrats' Playbook: Deflect popular discontent with your own misrule by directing hostility toward foreigners, especially Israel and the U.S. But it is a sign of cynicism and perhaps desperation that this Baathist and secular regime should now do so against European states -- traditionally neutral with respect to Syria -- and on behalf of a supposedly injured religion. In 1982, Mr. Assad's father inflicted a rather graver injury on Islam when he massacred 20,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood at Hama.

Another Baathist -- Saddam Hussein -- also tried to fly an Islamic banner in the waning days of his rule, so perhaps the Assad gang is running out of tricks. In the meantime, it's encouraging to know that in most places where democracy is taking root, voices of moderation are at least occasionally being heard.
You got to hand it to the folks at the WSJ for hitting it smack dab on the head with the current goings on.

Bits and Bytes of Islamic Terrorist Prevention

Fire of Liberty

Heather MacDonald, fellow of the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of City Journal, has a good piece in yesterday's New York Post on how the critics of the administration are wrong in implying that the White House or the NSA have infringed on our civil liberties through "domestic spying," due to the fact that the only thing doing the work of scanning telephone numbers and e-mail addresses are computers and not actual humans. Even worse is the fact that these critics continue to wave FISA in the administrations face with regards to the current NSA program that they are making it much more harder for the folks who are given the task to man the gates against Islamic terrorists to do their jobs. I recommend that you read the whole article to get a better understanding on what's going on with regards to the defense of the nation but for the shortness of time here's several paragraphs I find interesting:
The barriers to using our computer capacity grow even more daunting when the government wants to use computers to find Jihadist language in communications. Remember: A computer can't eavesdrop on a conversation because it doesn't "know" what anyone is saying, and a key-word detection program would exclude from computer analysis all conversations and all parts of conversations that don't use suspicious language. Nevertheless, such an insensate tracking becomes "surveillance" for FISA purposes.

Thus, to put a computer to work sifting through thousands of phone conversations or e-mail messages a day, the NSA must convince the FISA court that there is probable cause to believe that every U.S. resident whose conversations will be dumbly scanned is an agent of a foreign power knowingly and illegally gathering intelligence or planning terrorism.

That requirement is both unworkable and unnecessary. It is wrong to consider computer analysis a constitutional "search" of data that haven't been selected for further inspection. Only when authorities order a followup investigation on selected results should a probable-cause standard come into play.

FISA's probable-cause standard is a belated encroachment on national defense that contravened centuries of constitutional thinking. The Fourth Amendment's probable-cause requirement governs criminal prosecution - to ensure that the government's police powers are correctly targeted and do not unreasonably invade privacy.

But judges and criminal evidentiary standards should be irrelevant when the government is gathering intelligence to prevent an attack on the country. A federal judge has no expertise in evaluating the need for and significance of foreign intelligence information. And the standard for gathering intelligence on our enemies should be lower than that for bringing the government's penal powers to bear on citizens.

At the very least, we should not make matters worse by equating computer interception of large-scale data with "surveillance" under FISA. Requiring probable cause for computer analysis of intelligence data would knock out our technological capacity in the War on Terror almost as effectively as a Jihadist strike against NSA's computers.
Thankfully MacDonald can bypass the hot air of our politicians and the continued cloudy reporting on FISA and the NSA's terrorist watch and get down to the bare bones.

Some Moderation and Restraint

Fire of Liberty

While a lot of folks are going out in the streets of Europe and setting the Danish embassies on fire in several cities of the Middle East (Even Austria's got torched) thus causing the various Nordic and European nations to issue travel warnings and closing their embassies, there are some big name clerics like Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani calling for some restraint in the streets of the region.(I know he complained about the cartoons but what do you expect from a representative of a religion.) Here's what Breitbart.com (AP Newswire Service) had to report of Sistani:
In Iraq, the country's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, decried the drawings but did not call for protests.

"We strongly denounce and condemn this horrific action," he said in a statement posted on his Web site and dated Tuesday.

Al-Sistani, who wields enormous influence over Iraq's majority Shiites, made no call for protests and suggested that militant Muslims were partly to blame for distorting Islam's image.

He referred to "misguided and oppressive" segments of the Muslim community and said their actions "projected a distorted and dark image of the faith of justice, love and brotherhood."

"Enemies have exploited this ... to spread their poison and revive their old hatreds with new methods and mechanisms," he said.

The drawings were first published in September in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The issue reignited last week after Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Denmark and many European newspapers reprinted them this week.
Good for Ayatollah Sistani. It sure beats the stirring of the pot that the mullahs of Iran are contributing to the whole situation. Let's hope the folks of Iraq have their ears open and are more sensible that their fellow Muslim brethren. I'm still keeping my stand against the rabble-rousers calling for the death of Europeans and setting property of others on fire over some cartoons.

Hat Tip: Mickey Kaus of Kausefiles and Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Lost Highway

Fire of Liberty

As most folks know, I'm pretty much in the opposition camp when it comes to President Bush's admission last week that we've developed a severe "addiction to oil" and need to seek fuel like ethanol from switch grass, corn stalks, or sugar because I believe that its impossible and is yet another expensive boondoggle to appeal to "green" who would move to Sweden before voting for a Republican (let alone a conservative one.). Anyway, I want to direct you to this column by Thomas Bray of the Detroit News who notes similar regards but does it far more gracefully than I can. Here's a sample:
Of course America is addicted to oil, in the sense that it uses a lot of the stuff. But as Bush also pointed out, the American economy is the envy of the world. There is a close connection between the two things. North Korea doesn'’t use much oil, but would you want to live there? What Americans are addicted to is economic growth.

Let'’s get real, folks. Currently there is no alternative to oil, as much as the Sierra Club might like us to believe otherwise. America has lots of coal, but among other things coal requires lots of coal mines – and we have seen lately what can happen in a coal mine. America has lots of wind and sunshine, but what little power it provides only exists courtesy of fat subsidies that enlarge the national debt. Nuclear power? Not in my back yard!

True, more than half of our petroleum supply is imported, often from highly volatile places. But that is nothing new. America'’s "“dependence"” on foreign oil goes back half a century. It has been increasing in recent decades, thanks in part to the refusal of the environmental lobby to allow any drilling in the United States.

Yes, there is probably an entrepreneur out there who will come up with a better idea. But it won'’t happen because government is throwing billions at the problem. Government already has thrown billions at ethanol, but that has more to do with subsidizing corn farmers than seriously reducing dependence on oil. Even Greens are dubious about ethanol, which would require plowing up millions of acres to make a dent in petroleum use – or else require us to forego our addiction to food.
I hope folks get a good understanding of what would be in our near future if our government goes down the expensive avenue of alternative fuel once again. For G-d's sake, leave this in the hands of the private sector where innovating technologies and ideas always emerge. When was the last time a member of congress invented such things?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Musical Chairs with Iraq's WMDs

Fire of Liberty

Jack Kelly of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a good column out today that provides a large bevy of information on the fact that Saddam's WMD was probably trucked into Syria prior or during the war. So maybe those folks over at Moveon.org, Ramsey Clark's outfit and others who say want to start impeachment proceedings because President Bush lied us into war in Iraq might want to put things on hold for a little while.

Defending the Rights of Free Press & Assembly

Fire of Liberty

As I watch the Muslims of the world setting Danish embassies on fire in the Middle East, protesting in the streets of western capitals calling for the death of newspaper editors who dare to run cartoons that somehow defames Mohammed, I'm shocked at how violence prone some folks can be when someone makes some comment or reference about a group or religion. For us in the West, we are used to people offering some kind of editorial comment or poke some fun at a religion because we have something either written down in our constitutions or laid out in our laws that provides our citizens(even non-citizens) the right to freely express one's opinion about others. What's even better is that we also have well established rights to freely protest such comments in our streets through peaceful means. Unfortunately the folks who have taken to the streets and have set embassies on fire (Attacking an embassy is considered an act of War), issued bomb threats, or who walk around the Western capitals dressed like terrorists calling for the deaths of folks who print such cartoons or that another 9/11 is in store for the West(This pretty hurts the respectful Muslims who promote the "religion of peace" line) not to mention folks carrying banners like these:





they have crossed a barrier beyond free speech/expression/assembly and ventured into the incitement of violence and bodily harm to others. (Thank goodness no-one was killed in the torching of the Danish embassies.)I'd say that maybe the people who rally in the streets with as much energy and madness over some cartoons of their profit would use it against their fellow Muslims who strap bombs to their chest to kill innocents in Iraq, Israel and the rest of the world then Islam would be better off. I think London's Daily Telegraph summed the whole situation up best in the following paragraphs in today's leader(Op/Ed)(Registration needed)when they noted:
The problem is that militant Islam is not seeking a level playing field - equality before the law, for instance - but special treatment. Muslims expect, as they should, the benefits and protections of British pluralism but, in too many cases, baulk at the duties that are their corollary. One of those duties is to accept that, in a free society, there are occasions when each of us is bound to be offended. "Everyone is in favour of free speech," remarked Churchill. "Hardly a day passes without its being extolled. But some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like - but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage." There is no excuse for gratuitous offence, of course. But some Muslims might like to consider how insulting their own views on women's rights, theocracy and Western practices are to many non-Muslims. The offensiveness of these views is no reason to close British mosques or Islamic newspapers.

The abrasions of a modern, multi-faith society are constant and need to be negotiated calmly and diplomatically. The proper boundaries of speech, art and humour are matters for continuous democratic review and consultation. What is completely unacceptable is that this debate should be carried out in a climate of fear.

For let us not delude ourselves: it is violence, or the threat of violence, that has driven the decisions that have been made in the past week. At a time when reasonable dialogue is most needed, the supposed custodians of our democracy are allowing a gun to be held to its head.
I have no problem if a newspaper, magazine, book, blog, news-cast, or person writes or produces cartoons or commentary about any and all subjects as long as the next person is afforded the right to rebut you with similar tools or through a peaceful demonstration but what we're seeing before our eyes now is shear nonsense. Freedom is too precious of a thing to be poured down the drain just because someone is offended.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

An African Solution

Fire of Liberty

While the people who attended the 2006 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland listened to the constant speeches of experts calling for the expansion of broadband, less war more peace and condemn the governments of the West for not spending enough money to fight hunger, poverty and AIDS, there are several folks in Africa pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps and finding well working solutions to their nation or region's problems. One individual that seems to demonstrate this self dependency is Glynyns Chinkhuntha, a farmer from of Malawi who is featured in this article in the Christian Science Monitor, has found a way to build an efficient and healthy farm that produces ample amounts of food that is indeed the key to keeping 18 million folks in Africa well fed into the near future. As the ex-accountant notes, the folks of Africa need to pursue in attaining a good education but they also need to get back to farming the land and put Africa on a path to well being. In fact Chinkhuntha has laid out some pretty great prescriptions on what the folks in Africa should do to get the region back into the farming game and get themselves out of a bleak future:
First, the continent needs greater independence from western donors. "This is the way America developed," he says, referring to perseverance and innovation required to develop his farm. But by providing aid and free food, rich nations are "enticing us away from going through the same thing." It's a controversial stand in a region where so many depend on donor handouts. But he argues all the aid "is killing us, well-intentioned though it may be" by creating a culture of dependency.

Second, in farming - as in life - principles are key, he says. One he's stuck to would ring true for America's Depression-era generation: Never take out a loan. Debt "robs you of the freedom of the mind," he says. Instead of "thinking about developing your own small resources you're only thinking about how to repay."

Another rule of thumb: "We consume 25 percent of what we produce, and reinvest 75 percent." But this requires patience, he says with a grandfatherly smile - "an ability to defer gratification."
Maybe the folks who shuttle to Davos need to look at someone like Chinkhuntha before the offer up their tired ole solutions to the problems in Africa. Sometimes the locals know what they need and can do much better than such "big wheels" of the world.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Don't let Oranges Rot in Ukraine

Fire of Liberty

It seems that Ukraine's President Victor Yushchenko, who came to power after the people staged the "Orange Revolution" against the Russian backed and deeply entrenched Yanukovich(From the party that had ruled Ukraine since the fall of the USSR), is on the ropes and is talking about forming a coalition with his greatest foe Yanukovich due to the fact that he's fractured his ruling "Orange" coalition by firing Prime Minister Tymoshenko this past summer (Thus losing support in Parliament. According to this piece in the Financial Times, it seems that the embattled President could see his "orange Revolution" go up in smoke by handing the internal workings of Ukraine over to the Russian friendly Yanukovich. Take a look at what the FT noted on Ukraine's possibility of returning to the pre-Orange Revolution days with such decisions:
The president put out feelers to Mr Yanukovich, resulting in a temporary agreement for Mr Yanukovich's party to confirm Mr Yushchenko's new prime minister, Yuri Yekhanurov. Now there is talk in Kiev of the formation of a broad post-election coalition between Mr Yushchenko, Mr Yanukovich and some smaller parties.

Ms Tymoshenko referred to such a coalition as the "axis of security". She condemned plans for it as "an enormous mistake". Referring to the personalities of the cautious Mr Yushchenko and the aggressive Mr Yanukovich, she said it would be "clear who would dominate".

Ms Tymoshenko said the ideal solution would be to recreate her partnership with Mr Yushchenko before the polls but said a post-election coalition was a "realistic" option. She dismissed suggestions that Mr Yushchenko was in a strong position because he could play her off against Mr Yanukovich.

"Mr Yushchenko doesn't have a choice between me and Mr Yanukovich because a deal with Mr Yanukovich would be a total loss of power for him."

She said she agreed with Mr Yushchenko on his economic and foreign policies but had split over the problems left behind by Mr Kuchma such as powerful business groups and unsolved crimes.

Ms Tymoshenko warned westerners not to underestimate the strength of the reactionary forces in Kiev, represented by Mr Yanukovich, adding that democracy was still at risk and the risk was "not small".
For me and a lot of folks in Ukraine, the President should stay with the folks that brought him to the dance in the first place. Orange Juice with some pulp is far greater than being President but sitting on the outside of the power circle at the hands of your opponents.

Unemployment Rate Down to 4.7%

Fire of Liberty

In case you missed it during the STOTU hoopla and the pre-Super Bowl fuss on the TV, the US unemployment rate for the month of January has gone down to 4.7% from December's mark of 4.9%. So folks can jump up and down calling this a terrible or even horrific economy but with numbers like these, they need to reassess their thinking.

Sitting on a lot of Switch Grass.

Fire of Liberty

As the Department of Energy is given its directives to implement yet another "pie-in-the sky" alternative energy crusade that has been going on since the days of Nixon to find ways of replacing petroleum with ethanol, hydrogen(Does anyone remember the Hindenberg?) some new fangled battery, solar as well as wind technology to power our cars and industries, the President has started us down a road to yet another expensive boondoggle that will result in little or no results. We're bound to see this venture fail because of the simple fact that the White House is taking such research and development out of the private sector and is chunking it in the government sector where our tax payers (Us) to pay for such R&D thus meaning folks doing such research will be on the government teat. As we are all aware from things like AMTRAK and our current outlays in the forms of earmarks in the federal budget, the folks getting the taxpayer's money are not going to walk away from free money but will milk that gravy train and never accomplish anything related to what the President wants done. In fact, James Glassman of TCS Daily, makes similar points in this piece but he furthers the argument by noting that President Bush's comments that we have become "addicted" to oil is far more harmful to the US economy than the folks in the White House thinks. Take a look at what Glassman had to say about President Bush recent announcement on oil:
But maybe I should cut Bush a break. It's just rhetoric, right?

In this case, no. The use of the word "addicted" is dangerous. It could end up hiking prices by reducing supply.

How? Bush has signaled a new attitude from the White House. If this president can't defend the working of our almost-free market, then who will? If I were in the oil business myself, I would be extremely worried by this speech. One of my responses would be to hold back on planned research and development and capital spending. The three largest U.S. energy companies alone are projected to make capital expenditures of $43 billion this year, up from $33 billion in 2005. But does that make sense if Washington is considering windfall profits taxes, subsidies to alternative fuels and regulatory policies whose guiding principle is that fossil fuels are evil?

Instead of concentrating on increasing fossil-fuel supplies at home, the President used all of the energy section of his speech -- four paragraphs -- talking about such exotica as "revolutionary solar and wind technologies," "producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks, or switch grass," and "pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen." Of course, since these alternatives have no commercial viability, the government will have to subsidize them. The latest Carteresque concoction, announced in the speech: the "Advanced Energy Initiative."

Don't get me wrong. Alternatives are fine. No doubt they will substitute for current energy sources some day, when they become competitive on price -- without subsidies. But, as of 2004, wind, solar and geothermal accounted for less than one percent of energy consumption. Add hydroelectric and biomass (including ethanol) and you pick up another five or six percentage points. That's all. For there here and now, the best way to battle higher prices is to promote policies to boost supply.

There was no mention by the President, for example, of the importance of building new LNG terminals, which will allow the U.S. to import natural gas. This lack of terminals would have almost certainly been the source of blackouts if the winter had not been so mild. Bush might have talked about supporting legislation -- tied up by his former HUD secretary, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla) -- that would share oil-leasing revenues with states, thus discouraging them from blocking offshore drilling. He could have talked about making it easier to explore at home, in Alaska, the Rocky Mountains and vast federal lands now off limits. He could have supported less burdensome regulations on building or expanding refineries.

And the President might have been straight with his audience instead of pandering with terms like "our dependence on Middle Eastern oil." The truth is that the United States will never become energy independent. Even if we were, disruptions in the Middle East (or Venezuela or Nigeria) would still boost the price of oil -- which is a global price since energy is a global commodity.
Lets just say that President Bush might have opened a greater Pandora's Box with his conservative base with these four paragraphs on energy that his pollsters realize. We need this money to go towards our War on Terror effort and our military needs(A legitimate and constitutional role for the government) and let the private sector do this research free of taxpayer's money. As you can tell, I'm at odds with President Bush with this issue and from the looks of it, others are to.