Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

This website even plays Auld Lang Syne...

Israel Celebrates Hannukah--and Novi God...

Haaretz reports on Russian holiday celebrations influence in the Jewish State:
While diners at posh Herzliya Pituah eatery Odeon are sitting down to their New Year's feast of goose liver and quince, the Lesovoy family will be sitting around the table in Ashdod, enjoying traditional kholodetz (veal in aspic) and homemade salads. When the children get up in the morning, they will find presents under a decorated tree left by the Russian Santa Claus, Grandfather Frost, known as Ded Moroz.

The only thing these two celebrations will have in common is the champagne they plan to drink at midnight. For the children, 9-year-old Hanna, 7-year-old Lev and 3-year-old Ela, the new year couldn't arrive at a better time. A week after collecting Hanukkah gelt, they also get presents for Novi God, the Russian new year.

Tom Delay's Russian Connection

Today's Washington Post has this fascinating article about how democracy works in the US Capitol:
The U.S. Family Network, a public advocacy group that operated in the 1990s with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay and claimed to be a nationwide grass-roots organization, was funded almost entirely by corporations linked to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to tax records and former associates of the group.

During its five-year existence, the U.S. Family Network raised $2.5 million but kept its donor list secret. The list, obtained by The Washington Post, shows that $1 million of its revenue came in a single 1998 check from a now-defunct London law firm whose former partners would not identify the money's origins.

Two former associates of Edwin A. Buckham, the congressman's former chief of staff and the organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them the funds came from Russian oil and gas executives. Abramoff had been working closely with two such Russian energy executives on their Washington agenda, and the lobbyist and Buckham had helped organize a 1997 Moscow visit by DeLay (R-Tex.).

The former president of the U.S. Family Network said Buckham told him that Russians contributed $1 million to the group in 1998 specifically to influence DeLay's vote on legislation the International Monetary Fund needed to finance a bailout of the collapsing Russian economy.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Austria's Official Art Embarrasses Government

Pictures like this, part of an Austrian government-funded art project on billboards in Vienna, have been taken down after news about them embarrassed the nation's leaders in the context of Austria's presidency of the European Union.

To me the pose looks remarkably like Nazi propaganda--the targets after all are the USA, Britain, and France. At least we know what the Austrians really think...

First David Irving in jail, now these works of art removed from public places--where are Europe's free-speech, anti-censorship activists? (ht lgf)

Washington Post Publishes America's Secret Plan to Invade Canada

Peter Carlson has the story:
Invading Canada won't be like invading Iraq: When we invade Canada, nobody will be able to grumble that we didn't have a plan.

The United States government does have a plan to invade Canada. It's a 94-page document called "Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan -- Red," with the word SECRET stamped on the cover. It's a bold plan, a bodacious plan, a step-by-step plan to invade, seize and annex our neighbor to the north. It goes like this:

First, we send a joint Army-Navy overseas force to capture the port city of Halifax, cutting the Canadians off from their British allies.

Then we seize Canadian power plants near Niagara Falls, so they freeze in the dark.

Then the U.S. Army invades on three fronts -- marching from Vermont to take Montreal and Quebec, charging out of North Dakota to grab the railroad center at Winnipeg, and storming out of the Midwest to capture the strategic nickel mines of Ontario.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy seizes the Great Lakes and blockades Canada's Atlantic and Pacific ports.

At that point, it's only a matter of time before we bring these Molson-swigging, maple-mongering Zamboni drivers to their knees! Or, as the official planners wrote, stating their objective in bold capital letters: "ULTIMATELY TO GAIN COMPLETE CONTROL."

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Michael Crichton's State of Fear

I found this link to what looked like a PowerPoint presentation critical of the environmental science behind global warming on Roger L. Simon's blog today, and wondered if the Michael Crichton credited as the author was the same person as the best-selling novelist and Harvard Medical School graduate. So I followed the links until I ended up at the official Michael Crichton webpage, which told me that the conflict over global warming is one part of the argument of his new novel, State of Fear. Crichton has a link to a speech he gave called "Aliens Cause Global Warming," which I found really amusing--but there were so many copyright warnings, that I'm afraid to quote from it here, even though I believe I would be protected under "fair use" doctrine. So you'll have to click on the link in the headline to see for yourself.

Anyhow, it turns out that Crichton is among those who question the science behind global warming, and who argue that bad politics are driving scientific policy in dangerous directions. He compares the current global warming scare to American eugenics policy in the 1920s and Soviet Lysenko-ism in the 1930s.

I was a Crichton fan as a teenager, and so found this a fascinating--and unexpected--position for a Harvard alumnus and Hollywood producer and screenwriter to take. It's not something he's doing to become more popular. And he certainly doesn't need the money, so it is highly unlikely that he's some corporate shill. He must believe that the environmental lobby is on the wrong track when it comes to global warming.

If Crichton is right, then the evidence for the Kyoto protocol may be nothing more than another Y2K scare.

Belgravia Dispatch on Britain's Law Lords Rejection of Torture

There is sanity to be found in the torture debate in the UK, as Britain's Law Lords banned torture. Belgravia Dispatch has the decision and comments.

Konstantin's Russian Blog on Ukranian-Russian Gas Negotiations

Konstantin has a Russian perspective on the latest dispute between Russia and Ukraine. He seems to be saying now that Ukraine has left Mother Russia's embrace, the country will have to pay pay the price--some 3 billion dollars a year for Russian natural gas...

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Nicholas Sarkozy Podcasting From Paris

Yannick Laclau has the story. The more I hear about Sarkozy, the better I feel about France...

UPDATE: Here's a link to another video blog with Sarkozy's interview.

Central Asia's Second Chance by Martha Brill Olcott

Martha Brill Olcott's valuable new survey of Central Asia has appeared at a tricky time. Clearly, the study of Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan was started with an optimistic spirit. It looks like a guidebook that could have been used for businesspeople, academics, students, and even tourists to the region that fills the center of the Eurasian land mass, Mackinder's famous "pivot point" of world history.

The Andijan violence of 2005 has clearly been a pivot point for regional geopolitics, and perhaps for President Bush's Global War on Terror. In the aftermath of what the Uzbek government declared was a terrorist attack on a major population center, the US and EU condemned the government for "excessive force," demanding an international investigation. China and Russia, on the other hand, backed authoritarian leader Islam Karimov's decision to fire on armed demonstrators holding hostages, who had earlier seized several government buildings and set fire to movie theatres. To answer riot and rebellion with Napoleon's "whiff of grapeshot" seemed logical to the East, if not to the West.

This split had spillover effects. In its aftermath, Karimov ordered troops out of the US base in Uzbekistan and signed an alliance with Russia. It marked a geopolitical defeat for the United States, and the first instance where Bush's "democracy" policy took precedence over military requirements for the Global War on Terror. Deprived of its base in Uzbekistan, the US was then squeezed by Kyrgyzstan, which asked for some $200 million dollars to keep open Ganci airbase--100 times what the US had been paying previously.

Round One: Russia and China, by a knockout.

Olcott's book is fascinating, as much for what she does not say, as for what she does. For while she states that "Blame Lies with the Region's Leaders," (p.234), the data in her book equally support an alternative hypothesis which goes unstated: American policies have not only harmed Central Asia, they have damanged the strategic interests of the United States.

Evidence for this hypothesis can be found in remarks scattered throughout the text, like clues to a Sherlock Holms mystery. For example:
For a certain group of policy makers, those concerned with monitoring the democratic progress of these governments, the leaders in charge of these states have effectively become the enemy, men whose departure from political life was viewed as a good thing for their populations . . . The US foreign assistance strategy has led to much ill will on all sides, without substantially enhancing the capacity of either government or opposition to govern in a democratic fashion.(240)
Olcott's book seems to end suddenly--without a customary concluding chapter on p. 244. Instead of tying together loose ends, pages 245-387 present is a mass of raw data in appendices containing charts and graphs; footnotes with fascinating tidbits, and a valuable index.

This silence about her key message seems very Central Asian. If one digs through the data sets, one comes up with a picture of a region that is closer to the one presented by its authoritarian leaders than the one found in reports by NGOs such as Human Rights Watch or the International Crisis Group.

Central Asia is not poor. In fact, the region's economies are growing. There is considerable foreign investment, especially in oil, gas, and mining sectors.

Central Asia is not backwards. In fact, the countries enjoy literacy rates higher than the USA.

What is most striking is Oclott's evidence that Central Asian leaders have not invented the extremist Islamist threat in order to maintain power. The threat from extremism is real. Like Thailand during the Vietnam War, these countries have adopted authoritarian policies to prevent conflicts raging around them from exploding among their populations.

And Olcott almost says this--with caveats blaming Uzbek leadership failures--in a section called "Uzbekistan: Central Asia's Frontline State." Where she points out this little reported fact: "Uzbekistan was the only Central Asian state to join the US-led coalition that invaded Iraq, despite the fact that this damaged its relations with Russia and China."(177) In other words, attacks on Uzbekistan--including Andijan--were attacks on the US-led coalition.

There is more detail in Appendix 13, listing both official and unofficial Islamic organizations--some of which have documented ties to Al Qaeda in addition to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, for example the "Jamaat of Central Asia Mujahideen." This group, according to Olcott, "remains focused on terror acts in Central Asia." She also notes that Tajikistan's "Baiat" (covenant) has perpetrated terror attacks against both non-Muslims and "Muslim grops that it considers too moderate."

This is a book that I am sure to turn to again and again. It is a treasure trove of information that is useful to anyone attempting to understand why what is happening in small countries that are far, far away has relevance to the lives of ordinary Americans, and for improving chances for world peace.

Andrei Malaev-Babel as Isaac Babel

After last night's one-man show by Andrei Malaev-Babel as his grandfather, the legendary Russia writer Isaac Babel, audience members lined up for the actor's autograph. Malaev-Babel's performance of Babel: How It Was Done in Odessa took place in a very small room that was filled to the rafters with Russian teachers attending the national American Association of Teachers of European Languanges convention in Washington. The room was so full that I had to share a small shelf with a teacher from Boston, who told me she had flown down just for the show. As we were pressed into our little box, I thought of the old Russian saying: "Close together, but no offense."

The audience seemed a little disappointed that the main event was perfomed in English (due to a misunderstanding, apparently), though it certainly made it easier to follow with my basic/intermediate language skills. Malaev-Babel redeemed himself at the end with a short recitation in Russian, that was a big hit.

The stories in English were Di Grasso from Stories 1925-1938; How It Was Done in Odessa from The Odessa Stories; and Guy de Maupassant also from Stories 1925-1938. The final scened in Russian was set in a Jewish cemetery, and a meditation on death. It received warm applause.

Malaev-Babel's performance is a very Russian-style evening, evidence of his training at the Schukin School of the Vakhtangov Theatre Institute in Moscow. He takes Stanislavsky and Danchenko's commitment to artistic truth as his own. For some Americans, the style might seem a bit slow, but to this viewer it seemed just right--free of cheap theatrics and antics that clutter up too many stages nowadays. It was a classical rendering of a classic set of tales. The tragic fate of Babel, shot on Stalin's orders, was known to this audience, which gave the evening a poignant and soulful quality. And Babel's Jewish themes made for some appropriate Hannukah entertainment.

In the question and answer session afterwards, Malaev-Babel came across as a charming and thoughtful actor-director, dedicated to his art, his family legacy, and to truth. When asked how come he went into directing, he modestly answered that it was his teacher's choice. "You are too smart to be an actor," he was told, "actors are dumb." Malaev-Babel said he disagreed with that viewpoint, but he went ahead and became a director anyhow.

Next for Malaev-Babel's Stanislavsky Theatre Studio--Dostoevsky.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

My Phish Story

Over the Christmas holiday in Florida, I got "Phished." I never heard the term before, and learned it when I called American Express to notify them that I had--incredibly stupidly--given personal information on a fake eBay website, in response to what I quickly discovered was a phony eBay suspension letter. This is part of how they pull an identity theft. It turns out that when phony spam--called "spoof"--hooks a sucker, the sucker has been "fished". "Oh, I'm so sorry," said the operator, "you got fished." Who then told me about a new American Express identity protection insurance plan that I could get for six dollars a month, that would pay up to $15,000 in legal expenses.

I had notified eBay immediately, via a LiveAdvisor popup email exchange.And eBay were pretty good about it. They referred me to the eBay identity theft webpage. I stopped filling out the phony form before putting down my credit card numbers or bank accounts, but unfortunately did give out my social, driver's license, and some other personal info. To a fraudster! Ebay said they thought they may have wanted to use my account to order thousands of dollars of merchandise to someone else, and that they could be stopped without closing the account. We'll see. I got an email from their security office later, to confirm my report, very quickly. After all, their business surely would collapse if anyone could just steal anyone else's account...

So, I went down the eBay checklist. I notified the local police in Winter Park, in order to file a police report. When I called , they wanted to send a cop to our house, but it seemed to me that it might ruin the Christmas Cheer, so instead I went down to what I thought was the station house. Now, Winter Park, Florida is a classy place. So classy that the police station is unmarked. I drove around for a while until I realzed that it looks like an ordinary office building. It was nighttime, the front door was locked. So I picked up the phone by the door, and then got buzzed into the entrance. Where I sat and waited for about ten minutes in a nice Spanish-style office park lobby, until a patrolman emerged from somewhere. He didn't seem too excited. He said he used eBay himself. Told me not to cancel my eBay account, just change my password. And don't go crazy getting a new social or driver's license, either. The policeman, who didn't seem to feel my pain, said that until something was charged to my credit card, no big crime had really been committed. I told him that I thought that fraud had been committed, someone pretending to be eBay had gotten my personal information under false pretenses. He said anyone could get the information that I gave out from a number of places for $40 (I didn't know that...). So long as I didn't give out my credit card numbers, or bank accounts, which I didn't, they probably wouldn't be interested. Too much trouble, he indicated. I hoped he was right. He did agree to give me an "event number" but not to file a full police report. How would you find them anyway, he concluded, they're probably in the United Kingdom. Now, why he thought it was a British gang, I don't know, except that a local Orlando barber shop owner had just been arrested for wire fraud. They have a pretty laid-back attitude in Winter Park. But I guess at least so far, the policeman was right.

So, that's how I came to call American Express, and learn that I had been caught in a "phishing" scam.

In any case, when I got home, the people I were staying with laughed and laughed. They had heard about it on TV, someone had reported on a similar scheme with Pay Pal. And the person I was travelling with had already deleted her spam. And how did they get this information about you? my hostess asked. "I gave it to them." More laughter.

Of course, I went through the recommended eBay steps, notified the relevant parties, changed my passwords, and was sure to file a "fraud alert" with the credit agencies. That's so anyone trying to open a phony bank account, get a credit card, or buy something on eBay--"One guy bought a house with a phony identity," my AmEx operator told me--would be double-checked.

It may have been a coincidence, but when I got to the airport to take my flight home a couple of days later, I was pulled aside by security, who noted that my boarding pass had a big "S" for special search (not "sucker", I hoped). I was guided to a special area where a team went through my bags as I was patted down and frisked by a man with rubber gloves.

Locking the barn door after the horse is gone, here's a link to the Federal Trade Commission's helpful website How Not to Get Hooked in a Phishing Scam.

Hannukah in Santa Monica

From our Believe It or Not Department: Over Christmas, we heard Garrison Keillor sing this 1963Tom Lehrer classic on NPR. By some incredible coincidence, opening the mail at home today, I found that my father sent me Lerhrer's song (and some others) as a Hannukah present...Happy Hannukah, Dad!

You can find a complete collection of Tom Lehrer song lyrics at this website.

The American Thinker on Edward Rothstein on Stephen Spielberg

I read Edward Rothstein's excellent NY Times article dissecting Spielberg's Munich on the airplane yesterday, while flying home. He's nailed Spielberg--and collaborators such as "playwright" Tony Kushner (who once yelled at me at a sparsely attended pro-NEA rally when I tried to interview him)--dead to rights.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa!

We're taking off a few days for the holidays...

Happy Holidays!

Konstantin's Russian Blog on NGOs in Russia

He links to an article on NGOs in South Africa, and notes that the law is similar to Russia's--yet Russia is criticized, while South Africa is not. He also has an interesting defense of Putin's policies, in response to former American diplomat Richard S. Williamson's recent attack.

BBC: Nerve Gas Attack in Chechnya

This is a disturbing news report from Chechnya, if true, because it may mean that the genie is out of the bottle for terrorist nerve gas attacks.

Which makes the FBI failure to solve the 2001 anthrax attacks even more troubling.

And may make President Bush's failure to find WMD in Iraq even more of a problem--what if some dangerous chemicals were "handed off" to others?

Let's hope that it isn't nerve gas (but unfortunately, it was anthrax). One nerve gas attack in New York City at Christmastime, and Bush will be in deep voodoo, as his father used to say.

Intelligent Decision

Today's Washington Post has an excerpt from Judge John E. Jones III ruling in Pennsylvania's "intelligent design" case:
Since the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, "science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena," Jones writes, noting that the scientific revolution was explicitly about the rejection of "revelation" in favor of empirical evidence.

Since then, he writes, "science has been a discipline in which testability, rather than any ecclesiastical authority or philosophical coherence, has been the measure of a scientific idea's worth."

Anne Applebaum: Bush Mocks Rule of Law

Anne Applebaum is sometimes more anti-Russian than necessary (perhaps because her husband is Polish Defense Minister Radek Sikorski), but today's commentary on President Bush's undermining the rule of law in the US hits the mark. The bigger question coming from all the scandals swirling around the National Security Agency spying controversy is simple: How can the US have credibility urging rule of law for other countries while an American President shows contempt for the rule of law at home?

How About Those Redskins?

When the Washington Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys the other day, there was definitely joy in Mudville--at least inside the Beltway. As New York seems to decline, Washington appears to be on a roll. Metropolitan area population -- 4 million and growing. I've haven't seen so many fancy cars since I lived in Los Angeles. The other day I watched as a Rolls-Royce drove into the Mazza Gallery parking entrance. So far, no major strikes, either (let's hope it stays that way).

NYC's Transit Strike -- A Blast from the Past

To any native New Yorker (I was born in Manhattan), the news that NYC's MTA strike is now in its second day has a nostalgic ring. The clock has turned back to the pre-Giuliani way of life. For some 20 years, New York has been relatively strike-free. Mayor Giuliani cleaned up the city, and kept the unions in line. It was, it appears, like Camelot, doomed not to last. This strike is a sign that something is going wrong.

Another sign was Mayor Bloomberg's choice of Raymond Kelly as police chief--he was widely reputed to have turned the city into a crime disaster area under Mayor Dinkins, so why on did Bloomberg bring him back? Surely, there was someone else who could do the job.

We were in Manhattan not so long ago and the signs of decay were everywhere--garbage swirling in the wind, a hustler trying to pull a fast one on a Starbuck's cashier, menacing figures and homeless wandering the streets. This phenomenon has been noticed by others, including Taki in his Spectator column, and a another friend of ours just back from a visit.

As New York City's elevator operators used to ask: "Going down?"...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Daniel Pipes on America's War on Terror

...And other things, in this article. I agree with Pipes that things may be getting worse, especially vis-a-vis the Islamist issue. However, Pipes might need to bite the bullet and admit that one reasone is that President Bush has not exercised proper leadership in this or other fields (remember Hurricane Katrina and "Heck of a job, Brownie?". If things are going wrong, the buck stops (and should stop) with the President. He needs to stop saying "Trust me."

Top Spy Says US Bases Threaten Russia

Flash to Ambassador Fried! After your remarks rejecting Russian self-determination, according to the Moscow News, Russia wants to close US bases in the former Soviet Union because they may pose a threat:
Russia’s foreign spy chief said military forces from other countries deployed at bases along Russia’s periphery are a threat to the nation, the Associated Press news agency reported Monday.

In comments that appeared directed at U.S. forces deployed on bases in former Soviet countries, the agency quoted Sergei Lebedev, head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, as saying that Russia no longer had a “main adversary” like during the Cold War.

But “Russians cannot help but be concerned about new military bases and military contingents being deployed around our country,” he was quoted as saying.

Russia has watched warily as the United States deployed forces to the Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and strengthened military and political ties with Ukraine and Georgia. Also, the three Baltic nations of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania joined NATO in 2004 despite Moscow’s strong objections.

The War Against Christmas . . .

. . .is nothing new, nor is it particularly American, or anti-religious. It is at least as old as the Puritan movement, faith of New England's settlers--Christmas was banned in Boston for 22 years. Among other prominent anti-Christmas activists was the English Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, who outlawed it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

WSJ: Earthquake Aid Boosts US Image

It seems that actually helping people, instead of lecturing them, had made America better liked in Pakistan, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal:
Long a stronghold for Islamic extremists and the world's second-most populous Muslim nation, Pakistanis now hold a more favorable opinion of the U.S. than at any time since 9/11, while support for al Qaeda in its home base has dropped to its lowest level since then. The direct cause for this dramatic shift in Muslim opinion is clear: American humanitarian assistance for Pakistani victims of the Oct. 8 earthquake that killed 87,000. The U.S. pledged $510 million for earthquake relief in Pakistan and American soldiers are playing a prominent role in rescuing victims from remote mountainous villages.

A Measure of Media Bias

Today's Drudge Report had an item about this report by UCLA professor Tim Groseclose and Jeffrey Milyo of the University of Missouri. So I googled the link to their original article. Here's the abstract:
Abstract: We measure media bias by estimating ideological scores for several major media outlets. To compute this, we count the times that a particular media outlet cites various think tanks and policy groups, then compare this with the times that members of Congress cite the same groups. Our results show a strong liberal bias: all of the news outlets we examine, except Fox News’ Special Report and the Washington Times, received scores to the left of the average member of Congress. Consistent with claims made by conservative critics, CBS Evening News and the New York Times received scores far to the left of center. The most centrist media outlets were PBS NewsHour, CNN’s Newsnight, and ABC’s Good Morning America; among print outlets, USAToday was closest to the center. All of our findings refer strictly to news content; that is we exclude editorials, letters, and the like.
Now that there's a quantitative method to conduct such research, maybe the Corporation for Public Broadcasting might contract with Groseclose and Milyo as ombudsmen to scientifically study their entire program lineup on radio and television--instead of hiring Ken Tomlinson's political cronies, or retired journalists who may have axes to grind?

State Department Offcial Rejects Russian Sovereignty

In a December 14th appearance at the American Enterprise Institute, the assistant secretary, Bureau of European & Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State, appeared to challenge Russia's right to national self-determination (see boldface sentence in transcript below):
QUESTION: Thank you. I'm Vladimir Kara-Murza with RTVI Television, Russia. When you spoke about advancing democracy in the former Soviet region – Belarus, Kyrgyzstan – you didn't mention Russia. How does that – advancing democracy in Russia, is that an issue for the U.S. Administration, especially in terms of its relations with Putin?

And then just quickly, is the U.S. prepared to cooperate with the European Union investigation on the detainee issue?

AMBASSADOR FRIED: Well, we have to find a phrase other than former Soviet space. You know, the United States doesn't usually refer to itself as the former British Colonial space. (Laughter.) It's over, okay? It's over.[Editor's note: What about all the anglosphere stuff?]

Russian democracy – the time is gone when nations could simply wall off the world and say non-interference in internal affairs is an absolute condition of state sovereignty. The United States has every – every country in the world is interested in the internal affairs of the United States. [sic, Fried may have meant to say Russia, a Freudian slip?]
I think Fried may come to regret these remarks...

Exit Poll: Islamists Win Iraqi Election

According to Reuters:
A straw poll conducted after voting closed in Iraq's election on Thursday showed the dominant Shi'ite Islamist bloc retained a strong following, but was being challenged by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's secular list.

More than 500 interviews with voters by Reuters reporters across Iraq indicated strong support in Shi'ite areas for the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the senior partner in a ruling coalition with the Kurds.

The UIA says it has won 57 percent of the national vote for Iraq's first full-term parliament since Saddam Hussein fell.

More on UIA from Wikipedia.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Why Torture is Bad

The Washington Post seems to be on a roll today. Here's their Outlook section essay by Vladimir Bukovsky about the damage torture does--to torturers.
So, why would democratically elected leaders of the United States ever want to legalize what a succession of Russian monarchs strove to abolish? Why run the risk of unleashing a fury that even Stalin had problems controlling? Why would anyone try to "improve intelligence-gathering capability" by destroying what was left of it? Frustration? Ineptitude? Ignorance? Or, has their friendship with a certain former KGB lieutenant colonel, V. Putin, rubbed off on the American leaders? I have no answer to these questions, but I do know that if Vice President Cheney is right and that some "cruel, inhumane or degrading" (CID) treatment of captives is a necessary tool for winning the war on terrorism, then the war is lost already.

Inside America's Yemeni Democracy-Building Program

David Finkel has a fascinating front-page article in the Washington Posttoday, about the National Democratic Institute's program in Yemen headed by an American woman named Robin Madrid. Finkel hasn't yet informed us that, according to her NDI biography, Madrid was political director of the Arab American Institute, "where she developed and implemented programs to politically energize Arab Americans to participate fully in the 1998 and 2000 elections". The story is typically bureaucratic and absurd, and sadly one of the participants seems to have been killed in a tribal shootout that may have been connected.
On the first day, June 15, 2005, none of the 14 tribal sheiks who gathered in a conference room to meet with Madrid about her program had been followed by the internal police. None had been called by the police in the middle of the night. None had been summoned to the president's palace and told that Americans aren't to be trusted. And none had been hurt, killed or nearly killed, which would happen to one of the men on the 88th day of the program when he would be ambushed by three carloads of men with machine guns in an ongoing tribal war, the very thing that Madrid and the men hoped the program could end.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Jack Anderson, Remembered

By Murray Waas. (ht War and Piece)

By Howard Kurtz, in the Washington Post.

By John Roderick,also in the Washington Post.

More on USAID Support for Islamists

I found a link to this item I posted on on April 23rd, 2005, about a US News and World Report article that is evidence for the troubling theory that USAID has been supporting Islamists around the world -- whose goal is the defeat of the United States:
US News & World Report found an American University law professor who says USAID programs funding Islamic groups are not kosher.

U.S. taxpayer dollars going to Islamic radio, Islamic TV, Islamic schools, mosques, and monuments–no wonder some officials find the strategy controversial. USAID staffers argue that as long as they offer assistance to all groups and their grants are meant for secular activities, they are allowed to fund religious organizations. “We structure our programming to be in compliance with ‘establishment clause’ case law,” says Jeffrey Grieco, a USAID spokesman, referring to the First Amendment’s church-state divide. But some legal experts question whether America’s growing involvement with Islam is legal, given that American courts have found that tax dollars may not be used to support religion. “For us to be doing this is probably unconstitutional,” says Herman Schwartz, a constitutional law professor at American University. In 1991, Schwartz and the American Civil Liberties Union won a case against USAID to stop it from funding 20 Catholic and Jewish schools overseas.

It’s worth reading the whole thing, especially the section that indicates the CIA currently funds the Muslim Brotherhood, among other organizations . Here’s the money quote on that relationship:

Another strategy being pursued is to make peace with radical Muslim figures who eschew violence. At the top of the list: the Muslim Brotherhood, the pre-eminent Islamist society, founded in 1928 and now with tens of thousands of followers worldwide. Many brotherhood members, particularly in Egypt and Jordan, are at serious odds with al Qaeda. “I can guarantee that if you go to some of the unlikely points of contact in the Islamic world, you will find greater reception than you thought,” says Milt Bearden, whose 30-year CIA career included long service in Muslim societies. “The Muslim Brotherhood is probably more a part of the solution than it is a part of the problem.” Indeed, sources say U.S. intelligence officers have been meeting not only with the Muslim Brotherhood but also with members of the Deobandi sect in Pakistan, whose fundamentalism schooled the Taliban and inspired an army of al Qaeda followers.

* Here's a link to Todd Bullock's official US Government report aboutUSAID chief Andrew Natsios's October, 2005 Iftar dinner:
Washington -- Hosting the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) third annual iftar dinner October 20, USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios spoke of the affirmation of faith and compassion through Islam as well as the U.S. commitment to development throughout the world.

Natsios recognized the achievements of Muslim charitable organizations and reaffirmed the U.S. partnership with many of these organizations in helping improve the lives of those in need throughout the world.

"We are working actively in the Muslim world. Half of our $17 billion budget is spent in Muslim countries from Morocco to Indonesia and in Muslim countries in Africa and Central Asia," Natsios said. His audience consisted of U.S. Muslim civic leaders as well as members of the diplomatic corps in the meal that breaks the daytime fast during the month of Ramadan.

Offering the prayer to break the fast before the dinner, Imam Hisham Hussainy of the Karbala Institute in Dearborn, Michigan, said, "Fasting may be practiced around the world at different times for different reasons but God wanted us all to feel the need and hunger of those who suffer."

"In this time of compassion, we need to pray more and help one another. I am proud to be here at the time of the holy month of Ramadan with those who hold these values," Hussainy said.

"I think a person of faith cannot help but be moved when people of faith reaffirm their faith's connection to God and their commitment to fellow human beings," Natsios added.

He cited USAID's recent efforts to develop a free and responsible media in Afghanistan through the establishment of 29 locally owned and operated radio stations.

Natsios applauded the work of U.S. Sunni and Shi’a leaders who have traveled abroad and engaged audiences on Muslims' active participation in U.S. civil society.

The administrator also recognized the daily work and compassionate acts of USAID's non-U.S. staff around the world, which accounts for 4,966 employees out of USAID'S total staff of 7,193.

Several Muslim leaders also spoke of their successful partnerships with other faith-based organizations on humanitarian projects as well as gains in improving an understanding of Islam in the United States and abroad.

* And here's a link to an item from Militant Islam Monitor on USAID support for Arab terror.

* Finally, this quote on a US Government website from Natsios praising Iraq's constitutional pledge of allegiance to Islamic law:
With respect to Iraq in particular, Natsios said, “A law that reflects basic Muslim values is to be anticipated and welcomed under the new constitution as representing the authentic voice of the Iraqi people that Ba’athist ideology suppressed.”

With Natsios gone, would it be too much to ask Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to stop subsidizing Islamism, when she takes over USAID?

The Professor Rocks

Just met the Professor of Rock here in Washington, DC, who told me about his Golden Oldie radio show. After he told me about how he got into Oxford by talking about Rock and Roll in his interview, I said I'd put a link on my blog to his site. If you liked Buddy Holly and other pioneers of 1950s Rock and Roll, his webcast looks like it's just the thing . . .

Friday, December 16, 2005

Uzbek Islamist Links to Al Qaeda

Thanks to a mention on New by Nick, I read this very interesting interview with an Islamist terror cell leader in Uzbekistan in the Moscow News. It discusses Al Qaeda, and the May 2005 Andijan violence:
Did you take part in the Andizhan events?

No, it was probably the work of the Islamic Jihad of Uzbekistan: they pulled out of the IMU. They are even more radical and intransigent. They are mostly young men.

But are events of this type not coordinated, for example, by al-Qaeda?

Al-Qaeda translates as “foundation,” “base”. So we also began with a base, but now everyone is on his own. Information and instructions are issued via the Internet. There was an al-Qaeda camp adjacent to ours in Chechnya, but the two kept entirely separate from each other. We had mainly Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Kyrgyz, while they had Arabs and Europeans, but some recruits occasionally moved from one camp to the other. There was no rigid structure.

For example, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. He is portrayed as a bin Laden representative, but this is not so; he is on his own. We got in touch with him not very long ago, offering to help, but he refused. I met with Zarqawi two years ago. He did not stand out in any special way. At that time, I was higher within our hierarchy.

Are you acquainted with bin Laden?

Would not say acquainted, but I have met him on several occasions. He addressed us in Afghanistan in 2000. He said that he was pleased to see representatives from 56 countries there and that we should unite. Some people proposed a series of attacks in a number of countries, for example, blow up a dam near Tashkent or explode a “dirty bomb”. But he said that “we will have time to do that yet.” He asked whether there were any physicists among us.

Are you saying that al-Qaeda has a “dirty bomb”?

Yes, I think it does . . .

Hawaii Insider Trading Suit Hits AOL Mogul

AOL founder Steve Case is in Big Trouble on the Big Island, and so is his lawyer father. Their business venture has been sued for $750 million in compensatory damages and for punitive damages of $2 billion. Here's an excerpt from the article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin by Stewart Yerton:
The former shareholders of Grove Farm Co. Inc. allege that Case engaged in insider trading while negotiating the acquisition of privately held Grove Farm for $26 million, or $152 a share. The suit alleges that Case acted on information provided to him by his father, Dan, whose law firm, Case Bigelow & Lombardi, served as counsel to Grove Farm at the time of the acquisition.

The suit, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Honolulu, alleges that the elder Case represented his son during the acquisition and made information available to the younger Case that was not available to other parties interested in buying Grove Farm, a large Kauai landowner. The suit further alleges that shareholders were kept in the dark about information that was given to Case by his father and his father's law partners, who were representing the seller at the time...

...The suit alleges that Steve Case and companies affiliated with him were enriched by $750 million as a result of the alleged illegal trading. The suit alleges that the plaintiffs were damaged by the same amount, each in proportion to the amount of stock the plaintiff owned. The suit names 25 plaintiffs.

Steve Case could not be reached for comment yesterday.
A Bethesda, Maryland lawyer is representing the plaintiffs. Matthew Simmons's legal prowess is apparently so feared by Case's side that they unsuccessfully tried to have him excluded from the trial, according to this article:
Maryland attorney Matthew Simmons, an expert in securities, fraud, and corporate governance issues, will join local attorneys John McDermott and Richard Wilson in a suit alleging fraud over the sale of Grove Farm in 2000.

Despite opposition from lawyers representing Grove Farm and the other defendants, including Case's father Dan, Judge Kathleen Watanabe said there were no relevant reasons to stop Simmons from serving on the case.

This lawsuit, filed in 2002 by Wilson on behalf of many of the former shareholders of Grove Farm, is set for trial next October. Steve Case is not a named defendant in the 2002 suit, but Grove Farm is and so are board members of the company.

So, all you AOL stockholders--stay tuned.

UPDATE: More here.

Uzbek Minister Sued in Berlin

For crimes against humanity. Apparently, Germany allows legal action for crimes committed in other countries, according to this story in the Moscow Times.

Here is a link to the Human Rights Watch fact sheet on the case.

If this case goes forward,how much longer before similar torture charges over secret CIA prisons are brought in Germany against Donald Rumsfeld and George Bush, one wonders?

Haaretz Readers on Spielberg's Munich . . .

...a lot of them don't like it. Your can read the debate here.

Understanding Russian Popular Music

Johnson's Russia List tipped us off to this interesting post about Russian pop music from Russia Blog:
One of my co-workers asked me what a particularly sad song was about. And so I paid attention to the words, though I haven’t listened to it much since then. The song, Davai za Zhizn' (Let’s Drink to Life) by the very popular Russian band Lyube is about a soldier who is terribly wounded, and his comrades are promising him that everything will be ok, that they will all dance at his wedding, that he will hold his kids someday. However, the listener understands that they are just saying these things to comfort an 18 year old soldier who is bleeding to death. The chorus goes: “Let’s drink to us, let’s drink to the end, to the end of the war, to those who used to be with us.” The whole song has melancholy rock instrumentation. So, there’s some Russian rock’n’roll for you.

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Speaking of time in the slammer, conservative diva Ann Coulter's Christmas wish list apparently includes a visit to jail--she's asking to be arrested in her new column, believe it or not. Is she jealous of Judy Miller or Martha Stewart? Maybe Ann might think this thing over-- before somebody takes her up on it...

Life in a Kyrgyz Penal Colony

Felix Kulov, the current Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, a former Mayor of Bishkek and KGB officer, was sent to a Soviet-style penal colony by the country's former ruler, Askar Akayev. Now, he tells what life was like as a political prisoner. It reminded me of Natan Sharansky and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Kulov concluded that the prison experience made him sterner, but not crueler.
Ferghana.Ru: A question to a former policeman and an ex-prisoner. What did imprisonment teach you?

Felix Kulov: I have never thought about it. I do not think it changed me much. Why? Because I never lost touch with my friends beyond the prison walls. I had different sources of information, you know. This prison experience, I'd say that it gave me a lot. There were few hardened criminals behind the bars, you know. Most prisoners were ordinary men jailed for all sorts of reasons. Say, for tax-evasion... They all were different. For example, some prisoners were brilliant software specialists, others were businessmen. Different people. I mean, they were not the scum of society, you know. Just ordinary men... Sure, there were criminals as well, professional criminals. They went on stealing from others right there. Men like that, they cannot help it. Some were junkies. I saw them all. From the point of view of knowledge of life, it was really an experience. It was interesting as well from the point of view of proving oneself. What would I do under the circumstances? How would I behave? What am I?

As a matter of fact, I'm not ashamed for my behavior. I did not stoop. It was all very open and transparent there. Whether or not a man commanded respect and what treatment among other prisoners he got depended on the man himself. Do something venal, and you will be treated accordingly no matter who or what you were in the past life. You begin with scratch over there. I will only tell you that I commanded respect among my fellow prisoners.

There were 600 prisoners in all, including 50 or 60 who were what was termed "reds". That means ex-servicemen of the Internal Troops, former policemen, etc. The rest were the so called "blacks" and they all were divided into two categories. I was a political prisoner. "You are fighting for your truth, and we respect you for that," I was told by both camps or whatever they were. I had their respect but I never meddled in their affairs. They live by their own laws there. I did not set these laws and rules in the first place and knew enough to keep my distance.

As a matter of fact, that's an interesting subject. What is a penal colony? A territory fenced in, with watchtowers and soldiers on them, with people living inside that territory. It is absolutely deserted by night. Just two men somewhere on the tower, warrant officers on duty. They are unarmed, but have a radio to make their reports. A Soviet system, you know. A penal colony, not prison. In Western movies all cells open simultaneously, prisoners take their daily walk, and get herded back in later on. That's probably how things are done there, I do not know. It is different in our penal colonies. You get in, there is not one other prisoner around, you are on your own. Decades of the Soviet regime and this penitentiary system resulted in appearance of certain rules.

Say, a prisoner is not supposed to carry a knife openly. No fights are permitted. Whoever has to settle some issue in that manner, they have to go to the so called forbidden zone beyond the barbed wire. The survivor comes back. That's logical, or there will be endless fights. Sure, they occur too, but they always incur a punishment. A prisoner who got drunk should not show it because not everyone has access to booze. Prisoners do get drunk, but they are supposed to behave themselves. They'd have killed each other in no time at all otherwise. They are all "heroes" there, you know. Shortly speaking, it took many generations of prisoners literally decades to work out all these rules.

Some men become thieves by statute which elevates them to the highest status of the underworld hierarchy. It is they who see to it that these rules are observed and enforce them whenever necessary. Here is one of the rules. Whenever someone puts someone else on drugs, makes this someone else a needle-freak, then this man is in real trouble. He'll be beaten to the inch of his life, until he wishes he did not do it. Whenever it is done in that other life, beyond the barbed wire and fence, it's all right. In a penal colony it is forbidden.

There was not a single episode of rape when I was there. There were the so called "hurt" among the prisoners, and even some gays. Fifteen or so, they lived separately. So far as I know, only two were bona fide homosexuals. As for all others, most of them chose to be thought of and treated as such because, for example, they thought life would be easier. Well, these people did all dirty work - sweeping outdoors, cleaning lavatories...

Not one prisoner was taken by force. This practice is becoming history too - not because it is not "civilized" or something but because reasons must be grave and valid indeed. If the rules are not observed, the rapist will find himself in trouble. He may even get killed for it. That's risky.

I do not perceive any romanticism in all of that. It's just life as it is, life that forces its own rough laws on us. I cannot say that I liked absolutely all rules and laws. Say, all these so called "suits" - thieves, punks, workers, etc. There were episodes of crying injustice as well, and I even tried to do something about it every now and then because I just could not remain a disinterested observer. I had my share of enemies among junkies there. Well, life is life. Neither could I interfere directly. I had to come up with something, some device that would help whoever I was trying to help and at the same time concur with their rules and laws. It was not easy at all but I just could not keep silent.

Notre Dame Mosque: 2048 by Yelena Chudinova

This month's copy of Russia Profile had an interesting book review by editor Andrei Zolotov, Jr. of Yelena Chudinova's dystopian thriller about a possible Islamist conquest of France: Notre Dame Mosque: 2048.

You can't add it to your Christmas gift list, because it hasn't been translated into English yet. Notre Dame Mosque: 2048. has provoked a big splash in Russia, because of its plot--updating the story of the fall of Constantinople and combining it with the legendary French Resistance during WWII. Where Constantinople was once the heart of the Christian world, Paris is symbolizes the heart of the secular world today--brought about by Enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire.

In Chudinova's book, the fall of Paris to the Islamists means that in 2048, French who refuse to convert to Islam are locked in to ghettoes, farmers are stoned to death for producing wine, and women must wear the chador. As during WWII, there is a secular underground resistance that blows up bloodthirsty Imams, as well as a secret Catholic community living in catacombs beneath the city. When the liquidation of the non-Islamic ghettoes is announced, secularists and Christians join forces in an uprising the author calls "the Ninth Crusade." Notre Dame is reconquered, Mass is said, and then the Cathedral-turned-Mosque blown up by resistance fighters.

Zolotov concludes his review:
This is more of an ideological statement than a work of fiction. it is a fundamentalist Christian pamphlet in the form of a novel. The author says he main goal is to issue a warning to decrepit European civilization. She also deliberately violates every form of political correctness in her viruently anti-Muslim and anti-liberal stance.

The book, which marks the first inroad of Russia's nascent religious right movement into the realm of fiction, provoked a splash of often justified criticism. However, reading it against the backdrop of the recent French riots was certainly an eerie experience.
Chudinova's controversial novel has been discussed here where she is called Russia's Orianna Fallaci, as well as on this Armenian website and the website of the Union of the Council for Jews of the Former Soviet Union--twice.

If you read Russian, you can buy a copy online from Chudinova's Russian publisher, Lepta Press. Chudinova's Russian biography is online at the "literary cafe" section, under "authors."

You can read a brief English biography here.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

David Irving and the Islamist Threat

The arrest of David Irving in Vienna on charges of denying the Holocaust is an interesting development. In a Spectator column calling for his release, titled Let Irving Speak, Rod Liddle noted that there was an Anglo-Saxon free speech issue involved, and asked:
Are we agitating for his immediate release? Has Jack Straw summoned the Austrian ambassador for an explanation? You're having a laugh mate. What about Amnesty International UK? They do excellent work on behalf of prisoners of conscience, i.e., people who are put in prison simply for stating an opinion. Not a hope. Its spokesman told me that it would not be petitioning on Irving's behalf because his views could incite hatred. So sod the freedom of conscience stuff on this occasion then.
What I'd like to suggest is that by the David Irving standard, the US and US supported NGOs might consider dropping support for Islamist "prisoners of conscience" who espouse similar anti-semitic views. And that the US Government and US supported NGOs immediately stop their condemnation of governments that treat Islamists the way Austria treats David Irving.

Certainly the threat currently facing Austria is less great than in many other countries. Yet there apparently is a basis in law and history for their actions to circumscribe free speech.And the "international community" defers to Austria, rather than condemning their actions.

Yet, Austrians haven't acted on the basis of anti-semitic incitement for a couple of generations. But Islamist anti-semites have incited violence around the world. One prominent Holocaust denier who calls for Israel to be wiped off the map happens to be president of Iran--and is supporting global guerrilla movements and their front organizations. Given that there have been actual terrorists acts inspired by Islamist rhetoric little different from David Irving's it is strange that groups like Amnesty International apparently take a threat from David Irving seriously, but not the very real threat from Islamist organizations that celebrated the attack on the World Trade Center, the bombings and riots in London, Madrid, Istanbul, Bali, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, the Phillipines, India, Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Russia, France--and Israel, of course.

If David Irving is indeed a threat to Austrians in the view of human rights NGOs, then Western human rights groups might also consider that Islamist anti-semites and holocaust deniers are at least equally a danger -- and stop their vigorous defense of an obvious worldwide incitment to violence by Islamists that makes David Irving look tame by comparison.

Haaretz on the Palestinian Elections

Shmuel Rosner has an interesting analysis of how elections may lead to more terror in the Palestinian Authority controlled areas:
"Didn't you learn the lesson of Hezbollah?" an Israeli asked. "They participated in the Lebanese election, but it didn't stop them from continuing to score points with terror attacks. They didn't "integrate" into the political system, so why do you think it will be different with Hamas?"

The Americans listened carefully. They don't feel comfortable with the current situation, but the influence they have on the PA leadership is limited. Abu Mazen is weak, but there are no alternatives in sight. If it were up to Israel, no Palestinian elections would take place as long as the Hamas question is unresolved. "We will arrest anyone we think is a terror operative," an Israeli official told the Americans. "Make no mistake, elections will not stop us from doing what we think is necessary."

Musings on the Iraqi Election

I'm certainly no expert, but it seems to me that the focus on the Iraqi election may be misplaced. Democracy is about a lot more than elections. The Soviet Union had elections. Iran has elections today--and calls for wiping Israel off the map. Hitler was elected, after all. As were Bush nemeses Hugo Chavez and Robert Mugabe.

It may be that this Iraqi election turns out not to be all that important in the long run. It may be that what takes place in Iraq in the days, weeks, months and years following this election will make all the difference.

And about that--as Sam Goldwyn quipped-- it's hard to make predictions, especially about the future.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Could be the Next Google?

I discovered in a Google search of links to my website. They had put my article on Larry Markowitz's Uzbekistan talk on their Uzbekistan News page, while Google didn't have it as a news link. Decision: I tried it for "Russia" and found a few interesting blog items with news items. I like the decision not to segregate by kind--putting bloggers on equal footing with the NY Times is a good way to have real competition. So, I added it to my favorites--and will add it to my links column in a moment...

It's Official: Rice to Takeover USAID

On Fox News, via AP, today.

More on Putin's Political Agenda

In Russian Blog: My Political Credo.

This 'n That on the Death of Tookie Williams

This 'n That explains that Tookie Williams was a gambler until the end...

Casque d'Or

The other night we watched our third Jacques Becker film: Casque d'Or. Like La Trou and Touchez Pas au Grisbi, it was superb. This one had Simone Signoret as a really fatal femme fatale, and like the other two, a noirish plot set in the French underworld. Again there were twists and turns, bittersweet moments, and betrayals as well as solidarity. What more can I say other than add it to your Netflix queue? I gave it five stars...

Army v. Navy

So much has happened, that I didn't have a chance to blog about last week's Army-Navy game in Philadelphia. By now the world knows that Navy won, 42-23. The person I went with is from a Navy family, and my uncle served in Naval Intelligence during WWII in India. So we were supposed to root for Navy. We drove up I-95 surrounded by cars, vans, and buses with Navy flags.

But out of sheer contrariness, we were rooting for Army. I'm an honorary member of the WWII 6th Armored Division, and the father of the person I went with got a Purple Heart and Bronze Star as an infantryman in Korea. So we had some rights, there, too.

We got our tickets via StubHub and as a pleasant surprise, they were on the Army side, way up above the 15 yard line. We were surrounded by cadets in Dress Gray rather than Navy Blue. It gave us a good look at the Navy cheerleaders, and fans, from across the field. We saw the Navy goats as well as the army mules.

Unfortunately, Army didn't have what it took to win. Navy really had the better team, it's true. Their fans got happier and happier as our side got sadder and sadder. We stayed till the bitter end (or happy ending).

It was freezing cold. After Russia, the US Military Academy dress gray uniform looked way too thin and flimsy. Where were their fur hats? Brrrr... The spectacle was excellent. The exchange of prisoners at the start was exciting, especially the Navy cadets wearing posterboards reading "Beat Army". Army didn't have that kind of nerve. It was a sign of things to come. The Navy jets were excellent, as were the Army helicopters.

The spirit videos, many of them with Star Wars themes, were funny. The tribute to the troops who have been killed was touching. The half-time ceremonies featuring aging Army astronauts were nostalgic for the long-ago space age. The capper was a live link to the International Space Station, where America's current Army astronaut persuaded his Russian cosmonaut comrade to wear a "Beat Navy" tee shirt. It didn't help Army one bit.

From the spirited crowd at the game, I'd say that inter-service rivalry is alive and well, despite Donald Rumsfeld's transformation of the US Military. The great thing about the game was being with all the service families. Great people. A nice crowd, very much better behaved than a Redskins game I went to a few years ago.

One interesting sidlight was that the game showed the NY Times can't even be trusted for sports coverage. On game day the paper ran a long article on the front page of the sports section, explaining that Army had put together a competitive team and was expected to win by a comfortable margin. If we had put down any money, we would have lost it. Navy's victory was buried in the back pages the next day. No "correction" appeared. So, if that's how they cover West Point and Annapolis, I wouldn't rely on NY Times coverage of Iraq, either. If you can't cover sports, you can't cover news.

Which is why we're glad we saw the game for ourselves. We could be happy Navy won. And for Army, there's always next year...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Condoleezza Rice, Up Close and Personal

Just got back from The Heritage Foundation, where I heard Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speak about "International Support for Iraqi Democracy on the Eve of the December 15, 2005 Elections."

In person, the Secretary appears even slimmer than on television. She looked about 5'6" or so, and the lady sitting next to me said she guessed that Rice wore a size 4 dress, no more than size 6. Extremely elegant, poised, and polished in her presentation. She had a certain star quality, that's not hype. As Billy Crystal says, she looked marvellous. Rice also seems likeable, at least before a friendly Heritage Foundation audience.

The crowd was invitation-only, A-list conservatives--Heritage Foundation board members, former UN Ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick, former Newsweek editor Arnaud de Borchegrave, and international journalists from places like CNN, Germany's Stern magazine, and elsewhere. I honestly don't know how I got on the invitation list, and I'm grateful that somebody put my name into some database somewhere. The event was fascinating. The hall was full. And it was exciting. I had a seat in the second row, so was up as close as could be (the first was reserved for board members).

Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner beamed as Rice recalled meeting him at Camp David during the George H.W. Bush administration before the collapse of the Soviet Union (and subsequent collapse of the George H.W. Bush administration). She certainly has charisma.

The actual talk was pretty much Bush administration good news talking points--new US base in Romania, countries like Ukraine and Kazakhstan fighting alongside American soldiers in Iraq, Bush's vision for a new Middle East based on peace and democracy, the US doesn't torture but will use any legal method to fight terror, we can't afford to lose, Bush will never retreat, no stability without democracy, and so on.

There were. however, a few moments that seemed like something new.

First, and most striking, Rice asked for international help in prosecuting Saddam Hussein. She said the international community and human rights organizations ought to help hold Saddam accountable for his crimes against humanitiy. Given the trial has been going poorly so far in Baghdad, this sounded like a cry for help. It came across as perhaps even whiny. The US can't see to it that Hussein is convicted? I mean, Rudy Giuliani got John Gotti, for goodness sake. And given opposition to a permanent international criminal court--from conservatives at places like Heritage--it seemed to signal weakness. Bad sign.

Second, also noteworthy, Rice said that as a Soviet expert, she realized that America had faced strategic defeat after strategic defeat in the postwar era, yet went on to win the Cold War--citing the division of Germany, the Greek Civil War, the strong vote for Communist parties, the loss of China. Reminding Americans of those setbacks, and calling them defeats, raised the specter of defeat in Iraq. Rice actually used the "D" word in a talk about Iraq--not Howard Dean--which means there must be some contingency plans at the State Department. Visions of helicopters evacuating the American embassy swirled in my head instead of Christmas sugarplum fairies. If she's thinking about America's defeats, and America's coming back another day, perhaps she's thinking of running away? Another bad sign. Not to mention that Truman was booted out of office for failing to win in Korea, and the millions suffered for generations under communist dictatorships afterwards. Containment policies led to continuous Communist expansion until the election of Ronald Reagan.

Unfortunately, Rice was unable to directly grapple with the question of Islamist extremism, which she held was similar to Communism, although she alluded to it--and at one point, only one point, she actually used the term: "so-called jihad." America's enemies were labeled with euphemisms--"Saddamists" instead of Ba'athists; "Terrorists" instead of Islamists.

She is good at handling a Q&A, to a point. A difficult question from Ali Alyami, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudia Arabia about American cooperation with the Saudis, establishing six committees -- yet none dedicated to democracy -- was parried with disappointing skill. Rice responded that issues of democracy--supposedly President Bush's top priority in foreign affairs--would be covered for the Saudis in a committe on "human development." In other words, America can't even say the word "Democracy."

Despite Rice's winning rhetoric about truth and democracy, brave Iraqis and cowardly terrorists, Rice was never able to directly address the issue Ali Alyami (who told the audience that his son served in Iraq) raised: Saudi Arabia's continued support for Islamist extremists--including those who attacked the World Trade Center on 9/11 and attack our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to this day. Alyami told me after the event that he believed the Saudi Royal Family and Osama Bin Laden were two sides of the same coin. Until America acts decisively against Saudi Arabia, he said, Osama's support will continue to grow.

So far Rice's message is just not as good as Rice the messenger. The feeling remains that although there is a real jihad going on around the world against America by Islamist extemists, there may not be a real crusade against Islamist extremism by America.

The Heritage Foundation has a slogan: Ideas Have Consequences. Their website declares:
We believe that ideas have consequences, but that those ideas must be promoted aggressively.
It might be a good idea for Secretary of State Rice to take Heritage's message to heart for use in the war in Iraq as well as the larger Global War on Terror.

PS Nothing was said about USAID.

PPS Someone sitting a few seats down said she was going to President Bush's speech tomorrow at Washington, DC's Woodrow Wilson Center. Maybe he'll have something to say . . .

Monday, December 12, 2005

Chingiz Aitmatov Talks to Haaretz

The famous Central Asian author has an interview in the Israeli newspaper, linked on

Sunday, December 11, 2005

My Cousin on La Traviata

This is a nice post about some of what Opera means to my Israeli cousin.

Mark Steyn on Iran v. Israel

Steyn is in fine form today. He does a great job on US State Department spokesperson Adam Ereli's pathetically weak response to Iran's president:
So let's see: We have a Holocaust denier who wants to relocate an entire nation to another continent, and he happens to be head of the world's newest nuclear state. (They're not 100 percent fully-fledged operational, but happily for them they can drag out the pseudo-negotiations with the European Union until they are. And Washington certainly won't do anything, because after all if we're not 100 percent certain they've got WMD -- which we won't be until there's a big smoking crater live on CNN one afternoon -- it would be just another Bushitlerburton lie to get us into another war for oil, right?)

So how does the United States react? Well, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that the comments of Ahmadinejad "further underscore our concerns about the regime."

Really? But wait, the world's superpower wasn't done yet. The State Department moved to a two-adjective alert and described Ahmadinejad's remarks as "appalling" and "reprehensible." "They certainly don't inspire hope among any of us in the international community that the government of Iran is prepared to engage as a responsible member of that community," said spokesman Adam Ereli.

You don't say. Ahmadinejad was speaking in the holy city of Mecca, head office of the "religion of peace," during a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. There were fiftysomething other heads of government in town. How many do you think took their Iranian colleague to task?

Well, what's new? But, that being so, it would be heartening if the rest of the world could muster a serious response to the guy. How one pines for a plain-spoken tell-it-like-it-is fellow like, say, former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali? As he memorably said of Iran, "It's a totalitarian regime." Oh, no, wait. He said that about the United States. On Iran, he's as impeccably circumspect and discreet as the State Department.

Israel Charges EU Supports Terrorism

I'm not surpised by this Haaretz story:
The Foreign Ministry believes that the European Union has violated international law by talking to Hezbollah and by planning to make contact with Hamas. An internal ministry document obtained by Haaretz states that contact with representatives of these two groups is contrary to international law.

"Several countries have adopted a policy that includes entering into official talks with representatives of Hamas and Hezbollah, or refraining from taking harsh measures against their involvement in terrorism," the document states. "From a legal standpoint, such political considerations cannot justify activity that is contrary to international law."

The writers of the document based their comments on resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council, which outlaw active or passive support for bodies or individuals involved in terrorism.

I wonder if the US might also be in violation of international law in this regard, especially when it comes to Islamists active in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world?

Eugene McCarthy, Remembered

I'm not alone, certainly, to feel a twinge at the passing of Eugene McCarthy. I remember walking the hallways of my Bronx apartment building canvassing for McCarthy at the age of 12. For a long time afterwards, I kept my McCarthy button. I was part of the "children's crusade" against the Vietnam War which led me to other leftist political movements, then after Ronald Reagan's success (and interestingly, Reagan was endorsed by Gene McCarthy) like a pendulum to the right, before I settled into the independent middle-of-the-road where I hope to remain forever.

I crossed paths with McCarthy after I had achieved the age of reason. I was a student at Swarthmore College when McCarthy came to speak in the mid 1970s, in the cavernous Clothier Hall, that in those days resembled a Quaker gothic cathedral. McCarthy seemed depressed. He read some poetry and made sour comments about politics. I remember I asked a smart aleck question about him being a sore loser and letting down those who had believed in him when he quit the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and resigned from the Senate. It may have been the only hostile question. He didn't have much of an answer, and the audience gave me hostile glares. Now that I'm older, I guess I understand a better that maybe he wasn't a sanctimonious fraud, he just ran out of gas. It could have happened to anyone.

Still, if it hadn't been for Eugene McCarthy, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan never could have become Presidents -- evidence of, as the Russians like to say, the "irony of life."

State Department to Takeover USAID?

That's the gist of this Financial Times story linked on Free Republic.

It's not a bad idea, in principle. USAID obviously has more than one prostitution scandal in its multi-billion dollar budget. Not to mention my suspicion that it may possibly fund Islamist terrorists or their supporters. In any case, to lose an agency in Washington means that things are screwed-up inside worse than any oustsiders know. Worse than SNAFU. It's equivalent the death penalty for bureaucrats--some people might actually lose their jobs as well as their budgets.

Unfortunately the State Department is hardly the best-managed agency in the US Government. Maybe Condoleezza Rice will change that, but it certainly won't be easy. She's scheduled to make a speech about something at the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday, and I'll try to attend and see if she says something about USAID.

Until then, good night, and good luck...

The American Thinker on Iran v. Israel

I'm really beginning to like The American Thinker. I don't know who's behind it, but they sure have some interesting and intelligent articles, like this one on why Israel will have to blow up the Iranian nuclear program, just like they did in Iraq. This time, I hope, the US will veto any UN condemnation...

Plov Comes to DC

I had the good fortune to attend the Global Uzbek Council's Uzbek Festival at American University last night. Yes, there was plov and somsa. There was Uzbek dancing by Dilafruz Jabbarova and singing by Munojat Yulchieva. The American Silk Road Dance company strutted their stuff, and had the audience clapping and smiling--including some very serious Uzbek diplomats. In addition, there was a solemn lecture on Uzbekistan's history, impassioned speeches from Uzbek-Americans about their ancestral homeland, and because it is Washington, the presence of US State Department, Radio Free Europe, and some NGO and government types. But mostly, there were a lot of young and dynamic Uzbeks creating a new landsmanschaft society, in the best tradition of American immigrants--celebrating their cultural heritage on their way to entering the mainstream of American life. The event was nicely non-political, advertised on the website of the opposition Sunshine Coalition, while the famous plov was donated by the embassy of Uzbekistan. Finally, there were nice crafts and rugs on sale from East Site:Silk Road Plus and a Turkish-Uzbek restaurant owner, from Georgetown's Bistro Med, who said they will cook plov to order, and are thinking about adding an Uzbek night once in a while.
  • Yaxshi!
  • Dilafruz Jabbarova Dancing in DC

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    Roger L. Simon Remembers Richard Pryor


    Friday, December 09, 2005

    DeLay Winning Court Fight

    Ann Coulter, herself a pretty good lawyer, says a recent ruling by a Texas judge is a legal victory for Tom Delay (R-TX).

    Prostitution Scandal at USAID

    Maybe I missed this when it first came out in September, but it seems worth mentioning that George Soros's Open Society Institute is still suing USAID for requiring grant recipients to sign an anti-prostitution pledge (the case was mentioned at a recent American Enterprise Institute panel on NGOs):
    The Open Society Institute, along with its affiliate the Alliance for Open Society International, filed a lawsuit today against USAID to challenge its unconstitutional and dangerous policy of requiring grantees to sign a pledge opposing prostitution. Failure to endorse this loyalty oath means health workers across the world striving to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS could lose funding and be forced to abandon life-saving programs...

    ...AOSI is administering a government grant awarded in 2002 to implement USAID’s Drug Demand Reduction Program in Central Asia, where HIV/AIDS is spread overwhelmingly through injection drug use and left unchecked will have a devastating social and economic impact. Since sex workers are at increased risk of using drugs, they are a prime target for this program’s interventions.
    This is in the context of an October 6, 2005 complaint from Congressman Mark Souder to USAID official James Kunder about a US-funded NGO "called Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha (SANGRAM) that had retraffcked women back into a brothel after they had been rescued by a State Department financed group."

    In his letter, Souder charged that USAID administrator Andrew Natsios was aware of SANGRAM's record.

    The Montreal Intifada

    A Canadian acquaintance reminded me that there were riots at Concordia University in Montreal a few years ago that bore more than a passing resemblance to the recent outbreaks in Paris and Denmark. So I googled again, and came up with this article from CAMERA on the Montreal Intifada.

    The More We Know...

    ...the worse it looks for President Bush. Here's a story about the US warning Saudi Arabia three years before 9/11 that Bin Laden may have been planning to use planes to attack the US.

    If that's true, then how come Saudi Arabia didn't know that their citizens were taking flight training in the US to do exactly that? And how come the US was letting Saudis take those classes? And so on.

    The problem is that since Hurricane Katrina, Bush's credibility is zero. Only the stupidity and incomptence of the Democrats to date has saved him from impeachment for all his screw-ups before, during, and after 9/11.

    "Suicide by Cop"

    The tragic story at the Miami airport recalls the fact that mentally ill individuals are far more likely to be killed by police. I googled the topic, and found this website on the phenomenon of Suicide by Cop. How many more of our most vulnerable people may fall victim to trigger-happy air marshals?

    One reason for putting people in a mental asylum was to protect them from themselves--and others. It may be that the Global War on Terror will mean that America has to take a closer look at the way we treat the mentally ill, and make some changes in the way their cases are managed (or ignored), in order to protect them from those who might mistake them for terrorists.

    More on this story from Laura Rozen.

    Sudoku Fever!

    There's a classic Soviet film by Pudovkin titled Chess Fever!. The hero goes mad for playing chess.

    Well, someone I know is addicted to Sudoku, plays it day and night--in newspapers, online, wherever. And while I was at Borders today, I noticed a wall chock full of Sudoku books.

    Apparently, Sudoku is like a crossword puzzle, but with numbers in a sequence instead of witty word clues. And the puzzles are made by machines, instead of people.

    It seems to be as addictive as computer solitaire, too...

    The Google Story

    David Vise and Mark Malseed were at the downtown Washington Borders this afternoon to talk about their new book. Unfortunately, I missed their actual lunchtime talk because I was at an off-the-record Washington event. But I'm glad I dropped by Borders, because I got a chance to chat with co-author Mark Malseed--who turns out to have been Bob Woodward's researcher on his books about the Bush administration and the War in Iraq. He seemed pretty level-headed, and characterized Google as "pushing the envelope" not only in terms of technology, but also in terms of what's legal and ethical, common in successful businesses (anyone remember Bill Gates and a company called Microsoft?), when it came to a discussion of the Google Print copyrright controversy. He signed a book, and I bought a copy, which I'll read rather than scan or index, and may report back on later...

    Thursday, December 08, 2005

    L'Affaire Finkielkraut

    Thanks to a link from Roger L. Simon, I read this interesting posting on Bad Hair Blog about the latest intellectual fallout from the French Riots--L'Affaire Finkielkraut.

    Which led me to this quote on Solomonia, from Sarkozy:
    Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Sarkozy said: "Monsieur Finkielkraut is an intellectual who brings honor and pride to French wisdom ... If there is so much criticism of him, it might be because he says things that are correct."

    Here's an excerpt from the Haaretz article that touched off L' Affaire:
    What is its origin? Is this the response of the Arabs and blacks to the racism of which they are victims? I don't believe so, because this violence had very troubling precursors, which cannot be reduced to an unalloyed reaction to French racism.

    "Let's take, for example, the incidents at the soccer match between France and Algeria that was held a few years ago. The match took place in Paris, at the Stade de France. People say the French national team is admired by all because it is black-blanc-beur ["black-white-Arab" - a reference to the colors on France's tricolor flag and a symbol of the multiculturalism of French society - D.M.]. Actually, the national team today is black-black-black, which arouses ridicule throughout Europe. If you point this out in France, they'll put you in jail, but it's interesting nevertheless that the French national soccer team is composed almost exclusively of black players.

    "Anyway, this team is perceived as a symbol of an open, multiethnic society and so on. The crowd in the stadium, young people of Algerian descent, booed this team throughout the whole game! They also booed during the playing of the national anthem, the `Marseillaise,' and the match was halted when the youths broke onto the field with Algerian flags.

    "And then there are the lyrics of the rap songs. Very troubling lyrics. A real call to revolt. There's one called Dr. R., I think, who sings: `I piss on France, I piss on De Gaulle' and so on. These are very violent declarations of hatred for France. All of this hatred and violence is now coming out in the riots. To see them as a response to French racism is to be blind to a broader hatred: the hatred for the West, which is deemed guilty of all crimes. France is being exposed to this now."

    In other words, as you see it, the riots aren't directed at France, but at the entire West?

    "No, they are directed against France as a former colonial power, against France as a European country. Against France, with its Christian or Judeo-Christian tradition."

    Rumsfeld Declares War on Media

    In today's Wall Street Journal, Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld blames the American press for his failure to accomplish the mission in Iraq. The oped is titled: 'Do Some Soul Searching' Why aren't the media telling the whole story about Iraq? It's based on a talk he gave at Johns Hopkins' SAIS. But like Dick Cheney at AEI a little while ago, Rumsfeld has swung and missed the ball.

    Sure the press is biased. What else is new? Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot, and without the support of the mainstream media, in part because he was a great communicator. And it's hard to remember right now, but a few years ago Rumsfeld was a media darling. Today he's a bum.

    IMHO this change reflects Rumsfeld's own decisions.

    First and foremost was his decision to replace Tori Clarke as head PR honcho in the Pentagon. After Clarke left "to spend more time with her family," Rumsfeld's positive image began to sag. And there's nothing that Larry DiRita, a talented numbers-cruncher policy wonk who used to work on another floor of the Heritage Foundation when I was there, can possibly do to fix that. Good PR requires a good PR person in charge. He's just not a good PR person. And if your PR person isn't the best, what does that say about the rest of the operation? It's PR 101...

    So, instead of lashing out at the messenger, maybe Rumsfeld might show us that he's willing to do some soul searching himself...

    Wednesday, December 07, 2005

    Why Did USAID Chief Quit?

    According to whispers at the AEI this morning, it was because Condoleeza Rice forced him out. But why? A Democratic source has this today,according to Karen Finney of the Democratic National Committee, the reason may be that [sic] screwed up the reconstruction of Iraq:
    USAID Director Who Predicted Cheap Rebuilding In Iraq Quit. "The head of the government's overseas relief agency (Andrew Natsios) , the U.S. Agency for International Development, is leaving his job... 'Secretary Rice asked him to stay but he felt it was time for new challenges,' Rice senior adviser Jim Wilkinson said. In 2003 Natsios confidently predicted that U.S. taxpayers would not have to pay more than $1.7 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq, a job that is now expected to cost tens of billions of dollars. The Washington Post later reported that a transcript of Natsios' remark on ABC's Nightline was removed from the agency's Web site. 'The rest of the rebuilding of Iraq will be done by other countries who have already made pledges,' Natsios said on the television program. 'The American part of this will be $1.7 billion. We have no plans for any further-on funding for this.'" (Associated Press State & Local Wire, 12/2/05)

    Napoleon: An Intimate Portrait

    After a somewhat depressing NGO conference at the American Enterprise Institute, where the former general counsel of USAID reiterated that information about possible US money going to terrorists or terrorist supporters despite certification and regulation to the contrary is probably not available because it is classified, confidential, private, or still in the field rather than at headquarters (what ever happened to "transparency"?)--I had the good fortune to cross the street to see the National Geographic Society's exhibition Napoleon: An Intimate Portrait.

    The French Cultural attache had recommended seeing the largest private collection of Napoleonic relics in the world, and it was just fascinating. All the good and bad sides of the French general were on display. Maps, pictures, and charts from his ill-fated Egyptian campaign--"it's just like Iraq" said a woman at the glass case. His camp bed, the sleeve of his coat, his hat, a lock of hair. Busts, portraits, Empire-style decorative arts, plates, cups, and furniture. Pictures of Austerlitz, Moscow, and Ulm. His generals, his wives, his annulment and divorce. His descendants and his wife's--the ruling families of Norway, Denmark and Sweden still in place today are descendants of Josephine. And of course the story of Thomas Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase for $15 million.

    Napoleon modelled himself on Alexander the Great. And he was not shy of using force. He single-handedly saved the Directory in 1795, when Royalist mobs attacked the National Convention. Barras sent for Napoleon, who ordered his troops to fire point-blank on the crowd. Hundreds were killed or wounded, the streets were cleared--and the Revolution was saved, at least until it became an all Napoleon, all the time, French Empire...

    Barras' briefcase was in a glass case, with a note explaining that he introduced Josephine (his former mistress) to Napoleon. How he was betrayed, imprisoned at Elba, returned for the "100 days" and then faced his Waterloo and exile on St. Helena--where he died miserably either from poison or stomach cancer.

    Fascinating, and well worth a visit.

    Remember Pearl Harbor!

    Comparing FDR to George W. Bush may not be fair, but four years after Pearl Harbor the USA had crushed Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan. Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo were all dead. American troops occupied a peaceful and quiet Japan, Germany and Italy.

    Four years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still at large, Saddam Hussein is looking feisty, and Afghanistan and Iraq remain terrorist centers. Meanwhile, Paris burned after bombers struck Madrid and London.

    What's wrong with this picture?

    Tuesday, December 06, 2005

    The Perils and Possibilities of Strengthening the Rule of Law

    "Evidence From Uzbekistan" was Dr. Lawrence Markowitz's subtitle for tonight's talk (the title is above) on the role of the Prosecutor in Uzbekistan's legal system at Georgetown University's Intercultural Center, as the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies 2005 Nava'i Lecturer in Central Asian Studies.

    Dr. Markowitz was just plain "Larry" when I met him in Tashkent a few years ago. Boy, was I impressed in those days. He was on a Fulbright-Hays, and seemed to know more about every little "kishlak" in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan than any other American. Here, in the USA, as Dr. Markowitz, he seemed more careful about what he said.

    The audience seemed pretty high-powered, from the questions. At a reception afterwards, I spoke with someone from USAID, someone from a legal reform project who said she was a Supreme Court fellow, someone from the State Department, and someone who seems to have been on the Georgetown faculty and may have been a State Department official of some sort in Tashkent.

    What struck me was that no matter how much I pressed them and tried to provoke an answer, not one could say for certain that the US did not provide funds, indirectly, to terrorist groups or support groups in Uzbekistan. I was told that any relevant emails may have been erased, and although I could file a FOIA request, and although support for terrorist groups or supporters is against regulations, that the recipients of US dollars actually don't have to certify or track the money to guarantee that none of it reaches the wrong hands. Ostensibly, due to the difficulties of doing business in the country. So, for example, a terrorist or member of a banned organization could possibly be a supplier or contractor or employee of an American NGO or Uzbek organization receiveing American money...and no one in Washington would be able to tell. They don't do thorough background checks, apparently. And while I can file a FOIA request, I apparently cannot find out exactly who my American tax dollars ended up going to pay in Uzbekistan, or what banned parties they may have belonged to.

    The problem with such an answer, is that while it may be true, and perhaps understandable (I was told on another occasion that USAID had funded Shining Path guerilla leaders in South America), is that it cannot reassure the Uzbek government, which accused the US government of supporting Islamist terrorists responsible for the recent Andijan violence. Nor can such a non-answer reassure anyone that President Bush is very serious about his so-called "Global War on Terror."

    Ironically, such answers show American aid isn't "Strengthening the Rule of Law" in Uzbekistan at all. For if the US is supporting illegal Islamist organizations, either directly or via hiring individual members of those organizations, then the US is contributing to undermining the law in Uzbekistan. Supporters of Osama bin Laden, or those affiliated with them, make questionable champions for the American legal system.

    Ironically, based on these admittedly anecdotal, informal (and possibly unreliable) conversations over drinks with anonymous sources, I wonder whether lax administration and oversight of American aid programs by USAID and the State Department may have seriously harmed American interests in Central Asia--and cost our country a military base of some geopolitical significance...

    UPDATE: More on Markowitz's talk at and on the Sunshine Coalition website.