Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ann Althouse on the State of the Union

Ann Althouse:
A nice, vigorous speech. Full of optimism and courage. Ack! Now the NBC commentators come on and talk first about the "deep divisions" in the room. The Republicans applauded a lot more than the Democrats. Isn't that disturbing? "We just plain disagree on every fundamental issue that is confronting this country," Tim Russert says in a dire tone. What can Bush get done? Very little! Hey, forget your damned optimism and get depressed fast, people.

Enough for me. I'm switching over the the TiVo'd "American Idol."


Listening to Bush's State of the Union speech, according to the New York Times written by my old contact at the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Bill McGurn (better than the average Bush speech, Bill!), the word switchgrass sounded strange.

Luckily, Jim Lehrer, who is from Texas, explained it to David Brooks on PBS afterwards, and I looked it up. Yep, it's a biomass fuel that can be made into pellets or ethanol and burned for energy instead of oil, coal, or gas. There's more at this University of Kentucky website

How do I invest?

Jill Carroll Still Alive

According to this CNN report, she's been shown crying and pleading on Al Jazeera television, asking for more Iraqis to be released in exchange for her life.

It's painful to watch . . .

James Na on Google's China Deal

The Asianist has some harsh words for the search engine giant's Chinese censorship plan, along with a link to this stinging animated cartoon by Mark Fiore

New Twist in Abu Hamza Case: Judge's Home Burgled, Laptop Stolen

And according to this story in the Daily Mirror, the laptop contained the judges' case-notes on Abu Hamza. Accordig to the Glasgow Daily Record, the judge maintains the theft is not related to Abu Hamza's case. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is investigating.

Montgomery, Alabama Mourns Coretta Scott King

From the Montgomery Advertiser:
Montgomerians of all ages and races mourned Mrs. King, both as a neighbor in the late 1950s and as a leader advancing the cause of civil rights for decades after her husband’s death.

Thomas McPherson, vice-president of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Foundation, said he was saddened by Mrs. King’s death, but glad for the work she’s done.

“I’m proud of the fact that Mrs. King, in her own right, has left a legacy that will serve as a guide and a motivator in the continuing struggle for equality,” McPherson said. “She was a woman of true character, of commitment and of loyalty to her husband.”

The Rev. Michael F. Thurman, pastor of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, recalled Mrs. King as a woman of incredible strength.

“My first meeting with Mrs. King was 25 years ago when I was in college at Morehouse in Atlanta, her husband’s alma mater,” Thurman said. “She was a very stately woman, very poised. I remember thanking her for the contributions she had made, the sacrifices she had made for this nation.”

Thurman said Americans will remember Mrs. King for her leadership in her years after her husband’s death and for the dignity she showed during her husband’s funeral.

“The footage from the funeral is etched in the nation’s mind,” he said.

Thurman said Mrs. King was left to pick up the pieces when her husband was assassinated.

“We failed to realize that his family paid a price. He was taken from his family at the age of 39. They had a dad and a husband who was the victim of a crime, who sacrificed his life. I’m sure his family endured a feeling of ‘Why us? Why did my family have to be the chosen one?’ For Mrs. King, it meant that she was left to rear her children as a single parent. She showed incredible strength to not only tackle the task of being a single parent but in the course of tremendous grief, she was able to make a contribution to further her husband’s vision, to continue to give life and meaning to his values.”

Danish Boycott Crisis Grows

According to this BBC report, the Danish paper in question has now apologized for offending Muslims, while defending its right to free speech. Here's the text of the apology (ht lgf):
Honourable Citizens of The Muslim World

Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten is a strong proponent of democracy and freedom of religion. The newspaper respects the right of any human being to practise his or her religion. Serious misunderstandings in respect of some drawings of the Prophet Mohammed have led to much anger and, lately, also boycott of Danish goods in Muslim countries.

Please allow me to correct these misunderstandings.

On 30 September last year, Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten published 12 different cartoonists' idea of what the Prophet Mohammed might have looked like. The initiative was taken as part of an ongoing public debate on freedom of expression, a freedom much cherished in Denmark.

In our opinion, the 12 drawings were sober. They were not intended to be offensive, nor were they at variance with Danish law, but they have indisputably offended many Muslims for which we apologize.

Since then a number of offensive drawings have circulated in The Middle East which have never been published in Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten and which we would never have published, had they been offered to us. We would have refused to publish them on the grounds that they violated our ethical code.

Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten attaches importance to upholding the highest ethical standards based upon the respect of our fundamental values. It is so much more deplorable, therefore, that these drawings were presented as if they had anything to do with Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten.

Maybe because of culturally based misunderstandings, the initiative to publish the 12 drawings has been interpreted as a campaign against Muslims in Denmark and the rest of the world.

I must categorically dismiss such an interpretation. Because of the very fact that we are strong proponents of the freedom of religion and because we respect the right of any human being to practise his or her religion, offending anybody on the grounds of their religious beliefs is unthinkable to us.

That this happened was, consequently, unintentional.

As a result of the debate that has been going on about the drawings, we have met with representatives of Danish Muslims, and these meetings were held in a positive and constructive spirit. We have also sought in other ways to initiate a fruitful dialogue with Danish Muslims.

It is the wish of Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten that various ethnic groups should live in peace and harmony with each other and that the debates and disagreements which will always exist in a dynamic society should do so in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

For that reason, Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten has published many articles describing the positive aspects of integration, for example in a special supplement entitled The Contributors. It portrayed a number of Muslims who have had success in Denmark. The supplement was rewarded by the EU Commission.

Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten takes exception to symbolic acts suited to demonise specific nationalities, religions and ethnic groups.

Sincerely yours
Carsten Juste
My own two cents is, why such sensitivity to hurt feelings over a Danish newspaper cartoon--but none to sermons in mosques, fatwas against Americans and Jews, and articles and cartoons in the Islamist press making all sorts of offensive statements? Is this a one-way or a two-way street? Does Denmark, or the US, or Israel, now have a right to demand that Saudi Arabia muzzle its imams, and censor Arab media? If so, when will this sensitivity begin to show itself?

Or, is the Danish case really more about an imposition of submission and craven kow-towing to Islam? In which case, it is not only a violation of freedom of speech, it is also a violation freedom of religion--the right to live free from Islamic law.

UPDATE: Here are the cartoons in question, from Samizdata.net:(ht AndrewSullivan.com)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Jeff Jacoby: Bush is Delusional

About Hamas' victory in Palestinian elections, says Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe (ht lgf):
Some of that delusion was on display at the White House on Thursday, when President Bush painted the Palestinian election as a ''healthy" exercise in civic reform:

''Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo," Bush explained. ''The people are demanding honest government. The people want services. They want to be able to raise their children in an environment in which they can get a decent education and they can find healthcare. And so the elections should open the eyes of the old guard there in the Palestinian territories. . . . There's something healthy about a system that does that."

Spare us, Mr. President. If a slate of neo-Nazi skinheads swept to power in a European election, would you say that the voters were seeking ''honest government" and ''services"? Palestinians are not stupid, and it insults their intelligence to pretend that when they vote to empower a genocidal organization with a platform straight out of ''Mein Kampf," what they're really after is better healthcare. Islamist extremism isn't needed to fix Palestinian hospitals any more than fascism was needed to make Italian trains run on time in the 1920s. If Palestinians turned out en masse to elect a party that unapologetically stands for hatred and mass murder, it's a safe bet that hatred and mass murder had something to do with the turnout.

By the same token, Hamas's new duties are not going to turn it into a moderate group of diligent civil servants. When violent Islamists win political power, their brutality and zealotry do not diminish. (See Khomeini, Ayatollah and Taliban, Afghan). The notion that Hamas now has ''a choice to make" is just another example of the delusional thinking that is so pervasive when it comes to the Palestinian Authority.

Konstantin: Punish Ukraine , Georgia for Supporting Dictators!

Konstantin's Russian Blog takes Anthony Robinson's anti-Gazprom Prospect Magazine article to task for supporting Turkmenbashi and Iran's Ayatollahs over Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin:
Gazprom’s compromise with Ukraine came at the expense of central Asia, whose gas can only reach western Europe through Gazprom’s Russian pipelines. While Russia is no longer subsidising Ukraine, the Turkmens and Kazakhs are.

Hold on, Anthony! Do you mean now that Ukrainian democratic government is helping dictators like Turkmenistan’s Saparmurat Niyazov remain in power as you stated in the previous passage? Shouldn’t the civilized world punish Yushchenko for his support of dictators? Should we condemn Saakashvili the Georgian for buying natural gas from Iran?
Interestingly, last time I checked, Stalin was more popular in Georgia than in Russia . . .

Support Free Speech--Buy Danish!

Little Green Footballs has suggested a "Buy Danish!" campaign to offset a threatened Islamist boycott against Danish goods. Fundamentalists objected to a published newspaper cartoon depicting Mohammed. The newspaper refused to apologize, citing freedom of the press and free speech principles. Next thing you know, reports came in that Saudi Arabian supermarkets were blacklisting Danish goods. Here's a link to an Arab News story about the boycott.

Meanwhile, I feel like joining the Buy Danish! campaign started by some contributors to the History News Network.

John Zimmerman is right. The Muslim countries have chosen to pressure liberal little Denmark in order to teach the media and governments, which stand by them, a lesson which does not bode well for free speech or satire. Kuwait has joined the Saudi boycott (the Saudi market alone is worth 1.2 billion) and I suspect the rest will follow. So, here is a plea from my Danish friends:

"If you Americans look with this great sympathy on our case, couldn't you then raise a consumer support of DK in the US? The opposite of a boycott. A movement of: "Buy Danish!" Please?

You can easily eat and digest all our famous Danish cheese at your millions of breakfast-tables from Seattle to Atlanta. Then the boycott (which is escalating fast down there now) will be harmless.

Well, we can and should. In fact the idea immediately occurred to the readers of Charles of LGF who was kind enough to post the news about the Saudi boycott on his popular site. They recommended you buy not only the always delicious Danish butter cookies but also:

Danish Havarti cheese

Carlsberg and Tuborg Beers.

Arla owns White Clover Dairy, a Wisconsin company so buy that brand. It comes under White Clover and Holland Farm.

Danish Crown hams ( DAK (sold at Sam clubs)... baby back ribs, because they come from Denmark.

You shop online at The Danish Foodshop and Danish Deli Foods.

You can also buy gorgious Danish porcelain and LEGO for the kids.

Gevalia coffee

So, I'll think I'll buy Carlsberg beer and Havarti cheese next time I'm in the supermarket. And LEGO makes a nice gift for children. To help out finding Danish products, here's a link to New York's Danish-American Chamber of Commerce for information about big-ticket items, if any of our readers have their own businesses and want to help the Danes out (Maersk shipping comes to mind)...

30 Years In The Making . . .

Ruth Caplin's new film Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, starring Joan Plowright, has just opened in Washington, some three decades after the writer first started work on her screenplay, based on a novel by Elizabeth Taylor (the British writer, not the actress). Moral of this story: Persistence does pay off.

Smithsonian To Choose National Museum of African American History Site

And in today's Washington Post, Jacqueline Trescott makes a very strong case for a museum on the National Mall:
In 1863, Philip Reid, a slave, finished supervising the bronze casting of the statue "Freedom" for the U.S. Capitol. When it was hoisted atop the dome, a 35-gun salute rattled across Capitol Hill.

A hundred years later on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. declared that black citizens should be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. Hundreds of thousands cheered.

The vast ribbon of grass between the majestic Lincoln and the marble Capitol has been a public stage for all Americans, but African American history especially has played out on and around the Mall in scenes that are symbolic, salutary and shameful.

Everywhere on the Mall are echoes of marching feet, slaves' cries, market peddlers' calls, children's laughter and the singing of black men at the Million Man March.

But there never has been a place there to commemorate the African American story. Today, more than 42 years after King's triumphant moment, that history is expected to find a home. The Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution is scheduled to meet this morning to select a site for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Of the four spots under consideration, two are on the Mall and two are nearby.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Blog From Finland...

Nettipäiväkirja is the name of this blog, which links to this site--in Finnish!

Neal Sher: AIPAC's Saudi Connection

A former AIPAC executive charges in The Jewish Week that the Bush administration may be prosecuting the American Jewish lobby in order to appease the Saudis--and AIPAC might be too scared to fight back...
Moreover, there are reports from the Executive Committee meeting held during the conference that AIPAC leadership displayed near total deference to the administration. Former AIPAC President Melvin Dow apparently took the lead in killing any proposed policy that might step on toes at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Now, evidence that its agenda may have been compromised can be found in AIPAC’s total failure to pursue The Saudi Arabia Accountability Act — one of the most important pieces of national security/anti-terrorism and pro-Israel legislation pending before Congress:

Proposed by Sen. Arlen Specter in June 2005, the bill aims to halt “Saudi support for institutions that fund, train, incite, encourage, or in any other way aid and abet terrorism, and to secure full Saudi cooperation in the investigation of terrorist incidents, and for other purposes.” When introduced, it had bipartisan support across the ideological spectrum.

The legislation is bolstered by the work of many serious experts — both in and out of government — who for years have been alerted U.S. authorities to the dangerous and deadly activities of Saudi entities, many of which are part of or directly controlled by the government in Riyadh. The legislation’s text cites evidence, for example, that Saudi entities furnish at least 50 percent of the current operating budget of Hamas.

Predictably, the Bush administration opposes the legislation; it has no intention to take on the Saudis, despite overwhelming evidence of their heavy involvement in financing, supporting and advocating terror and anti-American and anti-Israel hatred.

But AIPAC’s failure even to acknowledge the legislation (check its Web site — not a word) let alone push for passage, is inexcusable. Can there be a more quintessential example of pro-Israel legislation? So, what’s the problem?

It’s hard not to conclude that AIPAC’s timidity is directly linked to the predicament in which it finds itself. This is no time, AIPAC leaders undoubtedly are thinking, to challenge and upset an administration that already has demonstrated that it is ready, willing and able to play hardball. Having given in on Rosen and Weissman, AIPAC has sent clear signals that it is willing to pull punches, if that’s what it takes, to preserve “access” and “influence.”

But political clout and financial resources are not ends unto themselves. The pro-Israel community has worked long and hard to build a strong and wealthy lobby. It has a right to expect — indeed, demand — from AIPAC leadership an organization with not just brains and brawn, one with the guts to take on, when the cause so dictates, even those they otherwise consider to be friends.

The very last thing the community needs are leaders acting as though they are guests in their own country.
One wonders, will Bush and Cheney be prosecuted for sharing American war plans with Prince Bandar (as Bob Woodward documented in Plan of Attack)--or does the Bush administration consider Saudi princes who permit Saudi suicide bombers to cross into Iraq to kill American soldiers and civilians to be more trustworthy than Israelis?

Russian Military Hazing Causes Draftee's Double Amputation

Ronald Reagan played a victim of a double amputation in King's Row, uttering his favorite movie line (and title of his autobiography), "Where's the rest of me?" when he woke up from the anasthesia. Now, a real-life case has occurred in the Russian military, where a young draftee was beaten, tortured, and had his legs amputated. It is a major scandal in Russia, protests have broken out, military officers have been fired, TV news has broadcast graphic accounts, as well a a phone number to make donations to the victim. Strangely, not too much press here in the USA, although the biggest news in Russia...

Here's an excerpt from the Reuter's story:
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian officers must face punishment over the case of a young conscript who was beaten so badly that his legs and genitals had to be amputated, the soldier's sister demanded on Saturday.

She spoke as demonstrators in Moscow angrily called for the dismissal of Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov after the brutal bullying incident in which the victim's suffering was made worse because medical treatment was delayed.

Andrei Sychev, 19, was tied up and beaten for hours by drunken soldiers over the New Year holiday at a tank academy in Chelyabinsk, in the Ural mountains.

Ivanov said Moscow wasn't told about the attack for 25 days and sought to stem outrage by dismissing the general in charge of the tank academy, Russian state television reported.

Some soldiers and officers at the academy have been arrested on suspicion of being involved in the violence -- known as 'dedovshchina' -- that older conscripts dole out to fresh soldiers.

"I consider they are all guilty as they were in charge and should have stopped this 'dedovshchina' or at least not allowed it to get this far," Sychev's sister, Marina Muffert, told Reuters by telephone.

"I hope they find those who are guilty for this and that they are punished," she said.

"He can't speak because of the oxygen tube but he can croak a few words and he could take some liquid food today."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sam Donaldson Celebrates Mozart's Birthday

Last night we went to the Kennedy Center, to see the National Symphony Orchestra under maestro Leonard Slatkin's production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio. It was a lot of fun, Douglas Fitch's staging was cute, the orchestra and singers were all great, especially Osmin. The cherry on top of the confection was an appearance by ABC's veteran Washington correspondent Sam Donaldson in the role of Pasha Selim, the Ottoman Emperor--in whose harem the action takes place. He had some outstanding dialog (his role was spoken, not sung), ranging from "My dungeons are filled with people who don't like me..." to, "If they cannot be won by love and kindness, let them go..."

It was a whole lot of fun, and a great way to pay tribute to the musical genius -- in a quite inside-the-beltway fashion. There's another performance tonight, if you have nothing else to do, and are near Washington.

Happy Year of the Dog!

It's Chinese New Year (also celebrated in Russia), and this is the year of the dog:
People born in the Year of the Dog possess the best traits of human nature. They have a deep sense of loyalty, are honest, and inspire other people¡¦s confidence because they know how to keep secrets. But Dog People are somewhat selfish, terribly stubborn, and eccentric. They care little for wealth, yet somehow always seem to have money. They can be cold emotionally and sometimes distant at parties. They can find fault with many things and are noted for their sharp tongues. Dog people make good leaders. They are compatible with those born in the Years of the Horse, Tiger, and Rabbit.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Was Mozart Really Like "Amadeus"?

Mozart's 250th birthday seems like the right time to link to this essay on the Mozart Project website by A. Peter Brown discussing how the composer's life differed from its portrayal in Amadeus:
Amadeus the play and movie, as well as the books by Hildesheimer and Carr, derived their success from the unquestionable fascination Mozart holds for us today. Without the name of Mozart, the deep interest in these artifacts of our own culture would not exist. For those who want letters, memoirs, and other primary sources in order to make their own interpretation, these are readily available, but they cannot be taken as "just the facts," for nearly every writer of letters and memoirs, as well as the purveyors of rumors, had his own agendas and beliefs. It is from the documents themselves and their interpretation that the Mozartean mythologies flourished.

Why does Mozart command so much attention? Perhaps it stems from the eternally misguided effort to understand the man behind the music. Although Mozart's music is often recognized as universal, it has received varying interpretations of its essential meaning. For example, critical opinion of the Symphony No. 40 in G Minor K. 550 is one of total admiration, but its character has remained elusive. Robert Schumann found it classical in the strict sense, full of Grecian "lightness and grace." Alfred Einstein thought it a "fatalistic piece of chamber music." Jens Peter Larsen believed it was not the expression of a private mood. Robbins Landon stated that it belongs to a series of works revealing the downside of Mozart's manic tendencies, while Jack Westrup found in it the spirit of opera buffa. Probably no work of the symphonic canon elicits such a wide range of affective reactions from knowledgeable critics. But perhaps it is this variety of reactions to his music that explains the varied interpretations of the person. Perhaps it is only in this sense that the biographies with their explanations of the man parallel the receptions of the music. While one can attempt to set the historical record straight, Shaffer's and Forman's Salieri had it right on one count: the phenomenon of Mozart transcends explanation.

Daniel Pipes: Hamas Hoisted Bush With His Own Petard

Daniel Pipes analyzes implications of the Hamas victory:
In brief, elections are bringing to power the most deadly enemies of the West. What went wrong? Why has a democratic prescription that's proven successful in Germany, Japan and other formerly bellicose nations not worked in the Middle East?

It's not Islam or some cultural factor that accounts for this difference; rather, it is the fact that ideological enemies in the Middle East have not yet been defeated. Democratization took place in Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union after their populations had endured the totalitarian crucible. By 1945 and 1991, they recognized what disasters fascism and communism had brought them, and were primed to try a different path.

That's not the case in the Middle East, where a totalitarian temptation remains powerfully in place. Muslims across the region – with the singular and important exception of Iran – are drawn to the Islamist program with its slogan that "Islam is the solution." That was the case from Iran in 1979 to Algeria in 1992 to Turkey in 2002 to the Palestinian Authority this week.

This pattern has several implications for Western governments:

Slow down: Take heed that an impatience to move the Middle East to democracy is consistently backfiring by bringing our most deadly enemies to power.

Settle in for the long run: However worthy the democratic goal, it will take decades to accomplish.

Defeat radical Islam: Only when Muslims see that this is a route doomed to failure will they be open to alternatives.

Appreciate stability: Stability must not be an end in itself, but its absence likely leads to anarchy and radicalization.

Returning to the dilemma posed by the Hamas victory, Western capitals need to show Palestinians that – like Germans electing Hitler in 1933 – they have made a decision gravely unacceptable to civilized opinion. The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority must be isolated and rejected at every turn, thereby encouraging Palestinians to see the error of their ways. (Emphases mine)
I'll believe Bush is serious about winning only when Daniel Pipes is given a powerful public position...

Maryland Buys Uncle Tom's Cabin

Hamil Harris had an interesting story in the Washington Post yesterday about Uncle Tom's Cabin, which the state of Maryland has purchased as a historical monument. Not only did the cabin really exist, Harriet Beecher Stowe's book was inspired by the autobiography of Josiah Henson, a slave who escaped to Canada and worked on the Underground Railroad:
Henson later returned to Maryland in hopes of buying his freedom, but Riley [his owner] refused to grant it. As a result, he returned to Kentucky to get his wife, and they escaped to Canada to freedom. Henson became a minister and founder of a Canadian settlement called Dawn.

In 1849, Henson wrote his autobiography. Stowe read it after they met in Massachusetts. Three years later she published "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

Marion Joyce, spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Planning Board, said that one of her favorite stories about Henson is about his return to Montgomery County after he had earned his freedom and Riley had died.

"When he knocked on the door, Mrs. Riley asked who it was, and he said Sy, which was his nickname, but she didn't believe him," said Joyce, adding that Riley's wife knew how to tell if it was really Henson because he had broken his arm protecting her husband in a fight.

Henson's arm was deformed, and Riley's wife asked to touch it.

"Sy, it is you. You are a gentleman now," the woman reportedly commented. Henson responded, "Mrs Riley, I always was a gentleman."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Mark Steyn on Hamas's Win

Steyn spoke about the Palestinian election on Hugh Hewitt's radio show:
They won a landslide. And you know, I don't want to make a frivolous comparison, but in a sense, this is a kind of Joel Stein vote. I mean, they're basically saying that the Fatah line, which is that we believe in a two-state solution, but at the same time, we subsidize and glorify terrorism and suicide bombers. They're saying to hell with that humbug hypocrisy line. Let's vote for the party that says we don't believe in a two-state solution, where what we are, we want to drive every last Jew into the sea. And in that sense, this is a less hypocritical expression of where the Palestinian people are at, than supporting Fatah was. Also, I would say that of course, Fatah was incredibly corrupt. Basically, they were in the tenth year of the five year parliament. I mean, you can imagine if the Bush administration says don't worry, folks, we're going to stick around until 2013. And Fatah had spent most of the last ten years taking all the money from the European Union, and basically salting it away in their Swiss bank accounts. That's...eventually, that's going to catch up with you.

HH: The other thing that comes to mind that my friend, Dennis Prager, made very obvious, no honest person can deny now that the Palestinian people want Israel destroyed.

MS: No, and that's right. And I think you're much better knowing honestly and truly where people stand. And often times, particularly in the Middle East, the West has gotten into trouble because its believed leaders who have come up with a form of words that plays well in English language media, and that is not what they tell their own people, or where their people are. And the great thing about Hamas is they're perfectly open. They want to destroy Israel, they don't want it there. That's their bottom line. And I think that's very clarifying.

HH: Let's be cold and clear-eyed about this, Mark Steyn. I believe this means there is an inevitable war out there between Israel and Palestine, because Hamas is going to have to deliver to its constituents what it wants, doesn't it?

MS: Well, I don't think it will...I don't actually think it will be a war. In a sense, I think in the immediate future, what it does is it gives Israel a greater leeway to secure itself with the wall. Nobody's going to argue when you're living next to Hamas that you don't have the right to build a wall. That argument, which the Europeans and other people have made, looks absolutely stupid now. But I think what it does tell you is that in the end, the Palestinians are the most comprehensively wrecked people on the face of the Earth. Every city you go to...you go to New York, you go to London, you go to Paris, you meet talented, energetic Palestinian doctors and lawyers and accountants. All the talent got out of there in the late 1940's and early 50's. You imagine people, third, fourth generation, the people who stuck around because of this insane dream that they're going to get some olive grove of their great-grandfathers back one day, can you imagine what kind of idiot is going to stick around for sixty years for that? So it's the absolute worst of the Palestinian people who are in Gaza, and in the West Bank. And it's a terrible tragedy for them. But it is the fact that they've been wrecked by being essentially mollycoddled by the U.N. and world opinion for sixty years.
Steyn also discussed his belief that Saddam did have WMD in Iraq, with host Hugh Hewitt:
I want to switch, if I can, to Saddam, and his general who is running around the United States with a new book saying that they shipped airplane loads of WMD out of Iraq and into Syria. Mark Steyn, he can make his own case, but if a ranking Saddamite had come forward and said there were no WMD's, do you think he would be getting what? 5, 10, 100 times the publicity that this fellow is?

MS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I don't think...the fact of the matter is, when you look at the regime's behavior, they behaved as if they had WMD. When you're in that, what you call the Syrian Desert, which is...sort of spreads over Syria, Jordan and Iraq, when you're in that part of the world, you stumble across these huge bases that just have numbers and letters. They're all called H-2 and H-3. And these things go on for mile. And you drive in them, because when I was there, the gates had all been sort of torn down. And you think, well, what the hell is this? It's not an airfield or anything. What was he keeping here? And then you go up to the Syrian border, and you see it's basically just a line in the sand. There was all kinds of stuff that disappeared over there, because essentially, the United States and the United Nations chose to give Saddam effectively a year to get the stuff out of the country.

World Economic Forum Magazine Calls for Israel Boycott

Roger L. Simon tipped us off to this story about anti-Israel propaganda, calling for a boycott of Israel, in the World Economic Forum magazine distributed in Davos, Switzerland. Davos organizer Klaus Schwab apologized, and pulled the story off his website. But I'd suggest it's not enough.

Actions speak louder than words. If Schwab is truly sorry, here's a suggestion for Professor Dr. Schwab to reall demonstrate he's not an anti-semite or anti-Israel:

Move next year's World Economic Forum meeting to Jerusalem, Haifa or Tel Aviv...

Haaretz: Hamas Win Is Victory For Netanyahu

Haaretz's analysis today makes some sense--Benjamin Netanyahu may regain Israel's top job, thanks to Hamas. And they may strike a peace deal:
Rabin brought Arafat. Arafat brought Benjamin Netanyahu and Sharon to power. Sharon brought Hamas. And Hamas will yet bring back Netanyahu - and the lion shall lie down with the lamb.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How Harvard Lost Russia

Author David McClintick, writing in Institutional Investor, details the intricate web of corruption, fraud, and abuse, paid for by the US government through USAID, that eventually cost America Russia's friendship--an NGO called the Harvard Institute for International Development (ht Johnson's Russia List):
Since being named president of Harvard University in 2001, former U.S. Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers has sparked a series of controversies that have grabbed headlines. Summers incurred the wrath of African-Americans when he belittled the work of controversial religion professor Cornel West (who left for Princeton University); last year he infuriated faculty and students alike when he seemed to disparage the innate scientific abilities of women at a Massachusetts economic conference, igniting a national uproar that nearly cost him his job; last fall brought the departure of Jack Meyer, the head of Harvard Management Co., which oversees the school's endowment but had inflamed some in the community because of the multimillion-dollar salaries it pays some of its managers.

Then, in quiet contrast, there is the case of economics professor Andrei Shleifer, who in the mid-1990s led a Harvard advisory program in Russia that collapsed in disgrace. In August, after years of litigation, Harvard, Shleifer and others agreed to pay at least $31 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. government. Harvard had been charged with breach of contract, Shleifer and an associate, Jonathan Hay, with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.

Shleifer remains a faculty member in good standing. Colleagues say that is because he is a close longtime friend and collaborator of Summers.

In the following pages investigative journalist David McClintick, a Harvard alumnus, chronicles Shleifer's role in the university's Russia Project and how his friendship with Summers has protected him from the consequences of that debacle inside America's premier academic institution.

ff duty and in swimsuits, the mentor and his protégé strolled the beach at Truro. For years, with their families, they had summered together along this stretch of Massachusetts' famed Cape Cod. Close personally and professionally, the two friends confided in each other the most private matters of family and finance. The topic of the day was the former Soviet Union.

"You've got to be careful," the mentor, Lawrence Summers, warned his protégé, Andrei Shleifer. "There's a lot of corruption in Russia."

It was late August 1996, and Summers, 42, was deputy secretary of the U.S. Treasury. Shleifer, 35, was a rising star in the Harvard University economics department, just as Summers had been 15 years earlier when he had first taken Shleifer under his wing.

Summers' warning rose out of their pivotal roles in a revolution of global consequence -- the attempt to bring the Russian economy out from the ruins of communism into the promise of Western-style capitalism. Summers, as Treasury's second-in-command, was the architect of U.S. efforts to help Russia. Shleifer's involvement was more intimate. Traveling frequently to Moscow, he was directing key elements of the reform effort under the banner of the renowned Harvard Institute for International Development.

Working on contract for the U.S., HIID advised the Russian government on privatizing its economy and creating capital markets and the laws and institutions to regulate them. Shleifer did not report formally to Summers but rather to the State Department's Agency for International Development, or AID, the spearhead of the U.S.'s foreign aid program.

Personal affection as much as official concern prompted Summers' admonition. He had come to know that Shleifer and his wife, Nancy Zimmerman, a noted hedge fund manager, had been investing in Russia. Though he didn't know specifics, he understood just enough to worry that the couple might run afoul of myriad conflict-of-interest regulations that barred American advisers from investing in the countries they were assisting.

Summers did not restrict his warnings to Shleifer.

"There might be a scandal, and you could become embroiled," Summers told Zimmerman. "You should make sure you're clear with everybody. People might want to make Andrei a problem some day. The world's a shitty place."

Summers' warnings proved at once prophetic and ineffectual. Even as Shleifer and his wife strove to reassure their friend, they were maneuvering to make an investment in Russia's first authorized mutual fund company. Within eight months their private Russian dealings, together with those of close associates and relatives, would explode in scandal -- bringing dishonor to them, Harvard University and the U.S. government. The Department of Justice would deploy the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston to launch a criminal investigation that would uncover evidence of fraud and money laundering, as well as the cavalier use of U.S. government funds to support everything from tennis lessons to vacation boondoggles for Harvard employees and their spouses, girlfriends and Russian pals. It would, in the end, be an extraordinary display of an overweening "best and brightest" arrogance toward the laws and rules that the Harvard people were supposed to live by.

Says one banker who was a frequent visitor to Russia in that era, "The Harvard crowd hurt themselves, they hurt Harvard, and they hurt the U.S. government."

Mostly, they hurt Russia and its hopes of establishing a lasting framework for a stable Western-style capitalism, as Summers himself acknowledged when he testified under oath in the U.S. lawsuit in Cambridge in 2002. "The project was of enormous value," said Summers, who by then had been installed as the president of Harvard. "Its cessation was damaging to Russian economic reform and to the U.S.-Russian relationship."

Reinventing Russia was never going to be easy, but Harvard botched a historic opportunity. The failure to reform Russia's legal system, one of the aid program's chief goals, left a vacuum that has yet to be filled and impedes the country's ability to confront economic and financial challenges today (see box, page 77).

Harvard vigorously defended its work in Russia, but in 2004, after protracted legal wranglings, a judge in federal district court in Boston ruled that the university had breached its contract with the U.S. government and that Shleifer and an associate were liable for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Last August, nine years after Summers and his protégé took their stroll along that Truro beach, Harvard, Shleifer and associates agreed to pay the government $31 million-plus to settle the case. Shleifer and Zimmerman were forced to mortgage their house to secure their part of the settlement.

Russia's struggles today certainly don't result entirely from Harvard's misdeeds or Shleifer's misconduct. There is plenty of blame to share. It is difficult to overstate the challenge of transforming the economic and legal culture, not to mention the ancient pathologies, of a huge, enigmatic nation that once spanned one sixth of the earth's land surface, 150 ethnicities and 11 time zones. The Marshall Plan, by comparison, was simple.

Summers wasn't president of Harvard when Shleifer's mission to Moscow was coming apart. But as a Harvard economics professor in the 1980s, a World Bank and Treasury official in the 1990s and Harvard's president since 2001, Summers was positioned uniquely to influence Shleifer's career path, to shape U.S. aid to Russia and Shleifer's role in it and even to shield Shleifer after the scandal broke. Though Summers, as Harvard president, recused himself from the school's handling of this case, he made a point of taking aside Jeremy Knowles, then the dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, and asking him to protect Shleifer.

Months after Harvard was forced to pay the biggest settlement in its history, largely because of his misdeeds, Shleifer remains on the faculty. No public action has been taken against him, nor is there any sign as this magazine goes to press in late December that any is contemplated.

Throughout the otherwise voluble university community, there has been an odd silence about the entire affair. Discussions mostly have taken place sotto voce in deans' offices or in local Cambridge haunts, such as the one where a well-connected Harvard personage expressed deep concern, telling II: "Larry's handling of the Shleifer matter raises very basic questions about the way he governs Harvard. This is fraught with significance. It couldn't be more fraught."

The silence is now beginning to break, thanks to the leadership of academic worthies like former Harvard College dean Harry Lewis, who is finishing a book about the university to be published in the spring by Perseus Public Affairs. Lewis agreed to show II the manuscript, in which he asserts, "The relativism with which Harvard has dealt with the Shleifer case undermines Harvard's moral authority over its students."

As Glenn Reynolds says, read the whole thing . . .

Mark Steyn on Canada's Conservative Revolution

Mark Steyn is crowing about the Candian election, in The Australian
A SAD day for Michael Moore. In the event of a terrible tragedy, the corpulent anti-corporate crusader is wont, like the Queen and Kofi Annan, to issue a formal statement to the world. And his "Michael Moore Statement On Canadian Election" made distressing reading: "Oh, Canada - you're not really going to elect a Conservative majority on Monday, are you? That's a joke, right?"

Well, no. In a very Canadian kind of revolution, we rose up yesterday and threw the bums out but gave them a soft, fluffy landing, nevertheless installing in office a minority government that somehow managed to get itself elected despite having the word "Conservative" in its name.

Daniel Pipes Endorses Hamas

Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. Daniel Pipes has taken sides against the US-subsidized Palestinian Authority and the Fatah party, (weakly) endorsing Hamas:
Fatah is dubbed moderate and Hamas extremist; or, in the even more dramatic terms of an Associated Press headline today, "Palestinians choose between pursuing peace or confrontation with Israel." In fact, the differences between them are merely tactical; a more accurate headline would be "Palestinians choose between pursuing more overt or more covert destruction of Israel." Basically, Hamas speaks its mind and Fatah dares not. And Hamas provides the social services that Fatah cannot because its honchos have stolen the funds.

Ironically, this means that there is some reason to prefer Hamas to Fatah, for it prompts a more negative response from Israelis, Europeans, Americans, and others. But the New York Sun has already made this point for me a couple of days ago, in a house editorial titled "Recipe for Trouble":

a victory by Hamas, evil though the organization is, might not be all bad. At least then it would be clear to everyone what Israel is facing, an enemy committed to its complete destruction. … With Hamas in power, the Palestinian Authority could be seen, even by the American state department, for what it is, a terrorist state with the aim of destroying a free and democratic American ally. It would join the ranks of Iran and Syria as a rogue state that America would seek to isolate and roll back rather than subsidize with taxpayer dollars.

So, while I do not wish Hamas well in any manner at all (an article of mine appearing today in USA Today calls for it to be destroyed), there will likely be some benefit in having it complicit in the Palestinian Authority.

The American Thinker on Iran v. Israel

Writing in The American Thinker, J.R. Dunn says Israel can't afford to wait until Iran attacks with nuclear weapons:
An acute observer might well think that everyone involved was trying to ease the way for a strike to be carried out – by the U.S. or Israel or both. It really wouldn’t matter so long as the EU and the UN were not involved. (The French nuclear threat only highlights this point – it’s best read as a statement intended to direct Iranian intentions elsewhere.) Israel, after all, does have a history of the coup de main, the all-or-nothing strike such as occurred in 1956, 1967, and 1981.  Look at the situation from Israel’s point of view to grasp how far it may be forced to go. This is the state founded in the shadow of the Holocaust, as a lifeboat for oldest surviving nation on Earth. The only people the world ever consciously tried to destroy.

To the Israelis, a hostile Middle Eastern state gaining nuclear weapons renders the level of risk effectively infinite. They will be facing not defeat, not humiliation, but effective annihilation. Under these circumstances, any level of response is justified. In the past week, two prominent Israelis, Benjamin Netanyahu and chief of staff Lieutenant General Dan Halutz, have both publicly stated that “the threat to Israel is existential.” On January 21st Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz went even further: the Iranian people face “havoc and destruction” if their government fails to stand down. They should be taken as meaning what they say.

Those words may be the only warning anyone ever gets.  There was a point during the Yom Kippur War of October 1973 when it appeared that the Egyptians had broken though Israeli lines in the Sinai at the same time the Syrians were about to drive across the Golan. Although never verified, it’s been reported on some authority that Moshe Dayan placed the Israeli nuclear strike force on full alert, the planes at the ends of the runways with their engines hot, their weapons armed, ready to head for their targets.

The “go” phrase was, “The Temple has fallen for the third time.” It didn’t happen then. And I think it can taken as a given that the Temple will not fall this time either. Apart from that, everything else is up in the air. Except for the jets – and they’re always ready to go.

Kofi Annan's Role in Sudan's Suffering

Roger L. Simon objects to the Washington Postproviding editorial space for the UN Secretary-General to posture on Sudan, without mentioning Kofi Annan's responsibility for the unfolding tragedy.

Monday, January 23, 2006

British Spy Scandal 'Rocks' Moscow NGOs

Tony Blair didn't deny Russian charges that British spies have used high-tech rocks as electronic mail drops in a spy scandal that threatens to envelope Western-supported NGOs--through British funding and contacts, some of whom have been named as accused spies. Here's RIA Novosti's version:
The program also alleged that Marc Doe, a first secretary at the British Embassy in Moscow, had been authorizing regular payments to Russian non-governmental organizations. Several documents signed by him were shown as evidence of cash payments to NGOs operating in Moscow, including 23,000 pounds (about $40,000) to the Moscow Helsinki Group, and 5,719 pounds ($9,700) to the Eurasia Foundation.

Another document signed by Doe, a 27-year-old graduate of Durham University, contained information on cash payments for an obscure project for establishing schools of public inspectors in remote areas of Siberia and Russia's Far East.

FSB spokesperson Diana Shemyakina said earlier that thousands of NGOs were working in Russia, although only 92 were officially registered by the Justice Ministry. Most of them were founded and provided with funds by the U.S. government and public organizations, and by its NATO allies, she said.

Non-governmental organizations with financing from other countries are thought to have played a major role in the "revolutions" that have swept former Soviet states in recent years, prompting some Russian politicians to raise concerns that similar activities were being carried out in Russia. Parliament passed a bill restricting the operation of NGOs at the end of last year.

Apart from Doe, the Rossiya program said embassy employees Christopher Pirt, 30, and Paul Cronton, were also involved in espionage, as was 32-year-old researcher Andre Fleming.
On the other hand, this Guardian story from Britain is more amusing, sort of "Get Smart" meets "Austin Powers."
An x-ray of the box, shown on Russian state television, showed four big batteries and a radio transmitter-receiver tightly packed together - a device of such crude simplicity it would have made Q, James Bond's technical wizard, shudder.

"First the Russian asset would walk past the stone," Nikolai Zakharov, deputy spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB), as the KGB is now known, told the Guardian. "He would send information to the stone from his palmtop, and later the embassy employee would pass by and collect it from another palmtop."

He said the device, a 21st century version of the "dead letter drop", had a range of up to 20m and could send and receive coded signals to or from small palmtop computers, almost identical to those available on Britain's high streets. It enabled British diplomats to communicate indirectly with their alleged Russian agents: it meant they never had to be in the same room as them. Four members of the British embassy staff were identified by the Russians and accused of being part of a spy ring. The four were all still at their posts last night.

Interfax, the Russian news agency, reported that the FSB had fanned out across Moscow to check other potentially suspicious rocks. Sergei Ignatchenko, chief spokesman for the FSB, told the agency that a second device had been spotted but was retrieved by British agents.

The echoes of Ian Fleming and John le Carré will raise a smile in Britain and elsewhere. But there is serious side to this, and not only for the alleged Russian agent being held in Moscow accused of handling state secrets. Though old cold war enemies - such as Britain and Russia - have set up procedures to cooperate quite closely on counter-terrorism, they still indulge in a mutual spying game. The second oldest profession is as alive and as well as the oldest.
But on another level it is troubling. For if the British are guilty, they have threatened the work of NGOs, by crossing the line between democracy-building and espionage. And that may mean big trouble for democracy-builders everywhere...

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Thieves of Baghdad

Last night a friend was talking about this book at dinner, and mentioned a really nasty review in today's Washington Post. When I saw the review myself, of this new book about the search for the art looted from the Baghdad Museum in today's Washington Post, I understood her excitement. The reviewer, Post critic Philip Kennicott, complained that the author sounded hostile to journalists, bureaucrats, and ivy-leaguers. He called him a "Marine snob." The Post's message, it's a good read--but don't read it!

So I thought: This book by William Bogdanos--a US Marine who tracked down the treasures and discovered the looting of the Iraq museum was an "inside job"--must be REALLY interesting.

After I get a copy, I may have some more to say....

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Moscow's Ismailovsky Flea Market in 360 Degrees

I really love these 360-degree panoramas...

Kanan Makiya on European Racism on Iraq

From an interview in on Democratiya.com(ht War and Piece):
People like myself, those of us who went into Iraq after April and March 2003 as part of the effort to transform this country, have felt betrayed by Europe as a whole. We were attacked by the media of all the surrounding countries, countries utterly hostile to the sort of values on which Europe rests. Satellite stations distorted what was going on. The silence in Europe at that moment gave enormous sustenance to all those forces struggling against the transformation of Iraq. It enabled the Jihadis, the Ba'athists, the extreme Arab nationalists, and the Arab regimes, to say 'Look at the hostility of Europe to what the United States has done!' Europe made it possible to isolate not just the United States but everything that is represented by the west. Europe gave strength to the argument that it was a traditional colonist land grab or oil grab, which was nonsense, of course.

I would say that much of the strength of the hostility of the Jihadi movement, and of the forces that have made life so horrible in Iraq, came from the silence of Europe. Europe has a lot to answer for. It's not even that it was half-hearted. They fell in completely with the language of the non-democratic Arab regimes. They bought their line and they seemed to stand for the same things. They undermined entirely the values of the operation. Europeans knew that the United States was not going to permanently occupy Iraq. Deep down the smarter Europeans must have known it wasn't just about oil. It was - rightly or wrongly - a way of changing the traditional western attitude towards the Arab Muslim world. It was an end to the support for autocratic and repressive governments. It was a new view that if we are going to succeed in this war against terror then we are going to have to be viewed by the populations of this part of the world in a totally different way. Now Europe might not have thought it was the right time. Europe might have thought it should be done differently. But Europe should never have been seen to be undermining the argument itself.

Europe was justifying and supporting the foundations on which these repressive regimes stood. It had acquiesced so fully in that relativist language it had no views of its own that it thought could be shared. More: it looked racist because it looked like the democratic values it enjoyed were not possible for Arabs and Muslims to enjoy. All of a sudden the shoe was on the other foot entirely. It was not the Americans who were the imperialists or racists. It was the Europeans who, by sitting back, were saying 'you Arabs and you Muslims really can't do any better than this, so why mess around with this thing in the first place?'

Abu Hamza's Website

Also from Internet Haganah, this link to Abu Hamza's website: Shareah.org.. A sample Q & A:
Are Suicide attacks Haram?


Are Suicide attacks haram? In our country some Alims says that suicide attack leads you to jahhannam (Hell fire).


Asalaam 'alaikum

If (the operation) is done for (the sake of) suicide just so that the person can die and run from his difficulties then it is haram (unlawful) of course.

But if it is done as a tactic of war because there is no other strong mean to resist the enemies then it is of course one of the highest and noblest form of shahadah (martyrdom).

Wasalaam 'alaikum

Shaykh Abu Hamza Al-Misri

Ann Coulter on the Alito Hearings

Ann says it was important:
Sam Alito marks the final purging of the Bork experience.

All the Democrats could do was scream about his inactive membership — back in the '70s — in CAP, Concerned Alumni of Princeton, which had a magazine called Prospect, which once ran an article, apparently satirical, complaining about Princeton admitting co-eds. In my mind, the only potentially disqualifying aspect of Alito's record was that he wasn't a more active member of CAP, a group opposed to quotas, set-asides and the lowering of academic standards at Princeton.

Then this week, we found out Sen. Teddy Kennedy still belongs to an organization that doesn't admit women. Oh — also, he killed a girl.

I'm fairly certain I've mentioned that before — I don't recall, Mr. Chairman — but I don't understand why everyone doesn't mention it every time Senator Drunkennedy has the audacity to talk about how "troubled" and "concerned" he is about this or that nominee. I bet Mary Jo was "troubled" and "concerned" about the senator leaving her in trapped in a car under water while he went back to the hotel to create an alibi.

It's not as if Democrats can say: OK, OK! The man paid a price! Let it go! He didn't pay a price. The Kopechne family paid a price. Kennedy weaved away scot-free.

Is Spielberg's 'Munich' Based on a Fabrication?

I found this interesting posting on The Internet Haganah website, following links from the Jawa Report story below. It seems they have found an item published in the Guardian that throws the credibility of Spielberg's 'Munich' into question:
Israeli Yuval Aviv, who teamed up with Canadian George Jonas to write Vengeance, the bestseller on which Spielberg's "Munich" is based, never served in the Mossad or any Israeli intelligence organization. His nearest approximation to spy work was as a lowly gate guard for the airline El Al in New York in the early '70s. The tale he had woven was apparently nothing more than a Walter Mitty fabrication.

Jawa Report Tip Leads to Conviction

Little Green Footballs tipped us off to this interesting story of bloggers catching a would-be terrorist in the midwest, thanks to a lead from The Jawa Report.
It turns out that "Ahmed" was really Jordanian born Mohammed Radwan Obeid. Obeid had fraudulently immigrated to the United States by marrying an American woman, and then having the marriage annuled. Obeid was working as a cashier in Dayton, Ohio last year and living with his girlfriend in a nearby town. It was from the Troy branch of the Miami (Ohio) County public library that he began to seek out fellow jihadis.

Obeid's posts at jihadi forums was noticed by more than those anti-terrorist crusaders who monitor them. Obeid's posts about nuclear weapons and gun silencers was somehow noticed by reference librarian Laura Girolamo. Ms. Girolamo contacted the FBI who, using their newly found powers under the Patriot Act, were able to confirm the librarians suspicions.

At about the same time, a Jawa Report reader from Virginia, David Vazquez, began e-mailing Obeid. Obeid was under the false impression that Vazquez was a fellow jihad supporter. Obeid, he says, was now trying to recruit him for a terrorist cause.

Obeid told David Vazquez in e-mails that "we are starting a big operation that will make 9/11 nothing but a little bit of headache."

According to Vazquez, "I was very alarmed at the words (Obeid) was saying." He contacted the FBI.

Armed with the knowlege provided them by their ability under the Patriot Act to monitor public library computers, and by David Vazquez's saved e-mail conversations, the FBI picked up Obeid on March 28th for 'immigration violations'.

When asked about whether or not the e-mails were his, Obeid denied that they were. Since he was asked under oath, Obeid's denials amounted to knowingly and willfully making a false material representation.

A Federal immigration judge ordered Obeid's deportation in September. Obeid was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in October. He pleaded guilty to the felony charge of lying to Federal investigators.

James Taranto on Uncle Salvador's Escape to Turkey

This is a great story, by James Taranto in Friday's Wall Street Journal:
Working for a newspaper, I often feel as though I'm observing history from a ringside seat. When I visited Istanbul a few years ago, my favorite uncle, Salvador Taranto, told me the story of a direct encounter with history--an encounter in which history might easily have swallowed him up.

It was late December 1942. Salvador, my father's elder half-brother, was a 25-year-old Turkish citizen living in Marseilles, in the south of France, which the German army had occupied the month before. He was also a Jew. (When I tell people my last name, they often ask if I'm Canadian, since the English pronunciation is similar to "Toronto." In fact, Taranto is of Italian origin and is a common Jewish name in Istanbul, where my father was born and raised.)

The Nazis were not yet deporting Jews from Marseilles, but Salvador wisely decided to leave. "I wrote a letter to the Ministry of Interior [in Vichy, the occupation capital], telling that I am a Turkish citizen of Jewish religion, and, as you don't want foreigners and Jews in France, I would like to receive my exit visa."

Salvador was called to the local prefecture and asked to present his passport. He complied, though he feared it would be confiscated. But the news was good. "OK, you have an exit visa from France," a local bureaucrat told him. "But you have to leave within three or four days." There were no passenger ships to Istanbul, Salvador recalled, so the only way to get there was by rail. "The next day, I took the train--I left."

He traveled overnight to Milan and went to the Consulate of Croatia, a nominally independent fascist puppet state. There he made the mistake of saying he was Jewish. "After half an hour, they told me, 'Sorry, you cannot have a Croatian visa.' " He waited outside, and when the consul left for lunch, Salvador confronted him to demand an explanation. "I know that you are [a] Jew," the diplomat told him, "so I cannot give the visa."

Salvador proceeded to the Turkish Consulate, where he was advised to travel on. Aboard the train, a passport-control officer told him that before he even got to Croatia he would need a German visa to travel through another portion of occupied Yugoslavia. He got off in Trieste, Italy, and went to the German Consulate, where he applied the lesson he had learned in Milan. The Germans asked his religion, and he said "Musulman"--French for Muslim. They asked his parents' names. He said his mother was "Aisha," a common Turkish name, "instead of Rebecca," because, as he told me, "Rebecca is a name [that is] 100% Jew." His father's first name, Vitali, was Italian, so it didn't arouse suspicion. He got a visa, valid for 24 hours.

Then came the most unnerving part of the journey. A border guard at the Italian city of Postumia (now Postojna, Slovenia) turned him back, saying his visa was valid only at Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia), some 50 miles away. To get there before the visa expired, he had to hitch a ride on a freight train. When he crossed into German-occupied territory, a Nazi officer wearing a swastika armband was waiting to greet him.

"He told me, 'Welcome.' He brought me to a wooden house: 'You will sleep here.' " It was dinnertime, and the train onward would not come until morning. In the officers' mess, a large portrait of Hitler hung on the wall, looking down on Salvador. After a meal of soup and bread, it was on to the guesthouse. "I didn't undress, because . . . I thought they were looking at what I was doing. . . . I didn't sleep, because I was afraid." In the morning one of the Nazis summoned him when the train arrived. In an act of kindness that today is hard to fathom, the Nazi gave him "a big piece of bread" to tide him over for the trip.
There's more, and it is worth reading the whole article.

Jill Carroll's Father Offers Deal

On Arab television, Jim Carroll told his daughters' kidnappers:
As a father, I appeal to you to release my daughter for the betterment of your cause," Carroll said. "Allow her to be your voice to the world. Her life as a reporter will better serve your purpose than her death."
I seem to remember similar self-abasing statements during pleas offered in the Daniel Pearl case. While they are understandable under such pressure, it was distressing to hear them then, and I am distressed to see them now--because they sound like surrender and submission to terrorist demands.

BBC: Abu Hamza Launches Defense

The BBC has an eyewitness account of Abu Hamza's defense as his trial in London continues:
For the defence, Edward Fitzgerald QC's opening had been simple.

"Mr Hamza is probably the most frequently abused and ridiculed figure in this country," he said.

"Certain sections of the press delight in having a go at him. They call him 'Hook' and 'Hookie';

The Ox Bow Incident

Tim Dirks lists this 1943 William Wellman western melodrama, starring Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn, Henry Morgan, Dana Andrews, and Jane Darwell, among his picks for the greatest films on his his FilmSite devoted to Hollywood classics.

I couldn't agree more. We saw it on a Netflix DVD, watching it on a laptop, and it holds up on the small-screen very well. A post at the IMDB page discussed the relevance of the film's message to today's debates over torture, Guantanamo, "rendition," "enemy combatants", and NSA eavesdropping. The original intent of the film's producers was to make a statement about Nazism and how it took root. What makes the film a classic is that it actually has withstood the test of time beautifully. It could equally have been about McCarthyism or accusations of sexual harrassment.

What is the difference between a legitimate posse and a lynch mob? That is the question posed by screenwriter Lamar Trotti and director William Wellman. The answer is: due process.

In the Ox Bow incident, three innocent men are hanged because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rather than go through a cumbersome trial and the law's delay, the mob kills first and asks questions later. Seven men oppose the mob, but are unable to stop the travesty of justice. In that sense, the film is a tragedy. Among the protesters are Henry Fonda and Henry Morgan. They are in the minority, they are out-voted, and they are right. The hot-headed majority, baying for blood instead of justice, is wrong. They compound their crime when it turns out that the man they thought had been killed was merely wounded, and has recovered--and the perpetrators found elsewhere.

Tragic irony. Deeply moving. Brilliantly filmed and acted.

A reminder why it is important to determine who is guilty by trial by jury in open court--not to protect terrorists but to protect the rest of us from becoming what we are fighting against.

Only respect for rule of law is differentiates a posse from a lynch mob--or band of terrorists. In this film, Henry Fonda embodies that deeply American value.

Yes, you can add it to your Netlfix queue.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Konstantin on Russian Winter

Konstantin's Russian Blog waxes eloquent about Russia's "General Winter":
A couple of years ago I talked with one British intellectual about WWW2. As almost all British intellectuals younger than 50 he soon started talking about General Frost that saved Soviets from imminent catastrophe. I asked him, “What about Admiral Channel? If England were not separated from the Continent by English Channel it would’ve taken German tanks only a couple of weeks to roll over streets of Glasgow.” He went mad. Totally mad. He started raving about British patriotism, bravery, tenacity, professionalism, superb command, etc. etc. Admiral Channel saved Hitler, he said, as it also prevented Brits from rolling over Berlin in a week or so.

People who talk about General Frost somehow forgot that Russians are not superhuman and suffer from frost exactly the same way as Germans. Only Russians know Russians winters are cold but Germans (and French and Swedish before them) somehow forgot about it. It speaks a lot about German military professionalism.

Text of Bin Laden Message

Text from BBC Monitoring:
My message to you is about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the way to end it.

I had not intended to speak to you about this issue, because, for us, this issue is already decided: diamonds cut diamonds.

Praise be to God, our conditions are always improving, becoming better, while yours are the opposite.

However, what prompted me to speak are the repeated fallacies of your President Bush in his comment on the outcome of US opinion polls, which indicated that the overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of the forces from Iraq, but he objected to this desire and said that the withdrawal of troops would send the wrong message to the enemy.

Bush said: It is better to fight them on their ground than they fighting us on our ground.

In my response to these fallacies, I say: The war in Iraq is raging and operations in Afghanistan are on the rise in our favour, praise be to God.

The Pentagon figures indicate the rise in the number of your dead and wounded, let alone the huge material losses.

To go back to where I started, I say that the results of the poll satisfy sane people and that Bush's objection to them is false.

Reality testifies that the war against America and its allies has not remained confined to Iraq, as he claims.

In fact, Iraq has become a point of attraction and recruitment of qualified resources.

On the other hand, the mujahideen, praise be to God, have managed to breach all the security measures adopted by the unjust nations of the coalition time and again.

The evidence for this are the bombings you have seen in the capitals of the most important European countries of this aggressive coalition.

As for the delay in carrying out similar operations in America, this was not due to the failure to breach your security measures.

Operations are in preparation and you will see them on your own ground once the preparations are finished, God willing.

Based on the above, we see that Bush's argument is false.

However, the argument that he avoided, which is the substance of the results of opinion polls on withdrawing the troops, is that it is better not to fight the Muslims on their land and for them not to fight us on our land.

We do not object to a long-term truce with you on the basis of fair conditions that we respect.

We are a nation to which God has disallowed treachery and lying.

In this truce, both parties will enjoy security and stability and we will build Iraq and Afghanistan which were destroyed by the war.

There is no defect in this solution other than preventing the flow of hundreds of billions to the influential people and war merchants in America, who supported Bush's election campaign with billions of dollars.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the full text via the AP and NY Times, which has this tidbit:
Don't let your strength and modern arms fool you. They win a few battles but lose the war. Patience and steadfastness are much better. We were patient in fighting the Soviet Union with simple weapons for 10 years and we bled their economy and now they are nothing.

In that there is a lesson for you.
IMHO, this is indeed the Bin Laden strategy, though I don't know that if he has calcuated his endgame as carefully as the Russians, who are now in comeback mode...

Muscovites Enjoy -30 Degree Weather

At least, according to the Moscow Times...

Iraq Blog Count

In my googling for the Jill Carroll story, I found this interesting blog about Iraq blogs--Iraq Blog Count.

Al Jazeera on Jill Carroll

Al Jazeera reports kidnapped American freelancer Jill Carroll was "anti-occupation":
Muthana Harith al-Dhari, head of the influential Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), condemned and denounced all violent acts that expose innocent citizens – regardless of their identities – to danger.

Al-Dhari told Iraqi television: "Regarding the recent kidnapping of the American journalist [Jill Carroll] ... This journalist is one of the anti-occupation journalists. Indeed, she wrote many articles that explain the negative signs of the occupation. Also, in a recent story, she focused on the violations performed by government security forces against civilians.

"So, [its possible] that the occupiers might not be far removed from responsibility for this event. But if it was done by some anti-occupation forces then this is a message from us to make them understand the situation and release her in order to allow her to go back to work and participate in uncovering the real reasons for the American occupation in Iraq and the violations against its people."
Interestingly, I heard Jackie Spinner of the Washington Post on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer on PBS tonight say that Carroll had no agenda. And the Committee to Protect Journalists has called Carroll "a neutral observer." So who is to be believed in this case: Al Jazeera's Iraqi source, or the Committee to Protect Journalists and a Washington Post correspondent?

Here's a link to an interesting 2005 article with Carroll's byline, from American Journalism Review, A Grim Foreshadowing.

Here's a different sort of Blogger's reaction...a Christian Blogger's response here...an Iraq Blogger here...and a tribute to her translator, Alan, here (scroll down to "Thanks for the Music").

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Brooks Boliek on Jill Carroll's Kidnapping

I got to know Brooks Boliek a decade ago, when he covered PBS for the Hollywood Reporter. Here's his remembrance of supervising Jill Carroll as a reporter for States News Service.

Here's a link to a digest of Jill Carroll's war reporting. And here are some no longer active links from Google to Katy Carroll's defunct blog Lady of Arabia:
Holiday Tradgedy in Iraq

31 Aug 2005 by Katie
I got this email from Jill today in response to the stampede in Baghdad today.
She also sent me these great pictures of her making a traditional dish for the
religious holiday today. Jill's the one in the black abaya. ...
Lady of Arabia - http://ladyofarabia.blogspot.com

Jill at the Khadamiya Shrine

26 Aug 2005 by Katie
I got this great email from Jill today. Just to give you an idea of what she's
up to. Not sure if she went for fun or for a story, but here it is:. "... This is
a picture of where I was today. I was sitting in the shrine in the middle ...
Lady of Arabia - http://ladyofarabia.blogspot.com

UPDATE: According to the LA Times, Carroll was a friend of the late Marla Ruzicka, who was killed in Iraq. Here's a link to Carroll's tribute to Ruzicka in the Christian Science Monitor.

Al Jazeera editor Natasha Tynes has posted a tribute to her friendship with Jill Carroll,here and on her weblog.

Central Asian Dining Hits New York City

Julie Moskin's NY Times article today about Central Asian restaurants in "Regostan" (Rego Park, Queens) and Brighton Beach brought back some fond memories of living in Tashkent. I hope the food Julie Moskin found is a little less greasy and the restaurants don't use cottonseed oil in the plov. On the other hand, I'd really miss the fresh lepioshka (aka Non)...

Human Rights Watch: Torture Deliberate US Policy

From Kenneth Roth's introduction to Human Rights Watch's 2005 Annual Report:
President Bush continued to offer deceptive reassurance that the United States does not “torture” suspects, but that reassurance rang hollow. To begin with, the administration’s understanding of the term “torture” remained unclear. The United Nations’ widely ratified Convention against Torture defines the term as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person.” Yet as of August 2002, the administration had defined torture as nothing short of pain “equivalent…to that…associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure, or permanent damage resulting in a loss of significant body function will likely result.” In December 2004, the administration repudiated this absurdly narrow definition, but it offered no alternative definition.

The classic forms of torture that the administration continued to defend suggested that its definition remained inadequate. In March 2005, Porter Goss, the CIA director, justified water-boarding, a sanitized term for an age-old, terrifying torture technique in which the victim is made to believe that he is about to drown. The CIA reportedly instituted water-boarding beginning in March 2002 as one of six “enhanced interrogation techniques” for selected terrorist suspects. In testimony before the U.S. Senate in August 2005, the former deputy White House counsel, Timothy Flanigan, would not even rule out using mock executions.

Moreover, President Bush’s pronouncements on torture continued to studiously avoid mention of the parallel prohibition of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. That is because, in a policy first pronounced publicly by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in January 2005 Senate testimony, the Bush administration began claiming the power, as noted above, to use cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment so long as the victim was a non-American held outside the United States. Other governments obviously subject detainees to such treatment or worse, but they do so clandestinely. The Bush administration is the only government in the world known to claim this power openly, as a matter of official policy, and to pretend that it is lawful.
Here's the introduction's topic links:

Torture and Inhumane Treatment: A Deliberate U.S. Policy

A Compromised U.S. Defense of Human Rights

British Complicity with Torture

Canada’s Ambivalent Position


Counterterrorism as an Excuse for Silence

The European Union

The Nefarious Role of Russia and China

Darfur and the African Union

International Justice

The United Nations


Notice anything missing?

I'll clue you in: There is no chapter heading devoted to threats to human rights from Arab or Islamic countries, organizations, or terrorist groups. While I agree the US should stop torturing prisoners, it is clear from the emphasis of this Human Rights Watch report that the authors believe human rights are under greater threat from the US, UK, Canada, the EU, Russia, and China than from Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

HRW's manifest priorities undercut the historic struggle for progress in human rights, just as George Bush's defense of torture does, by missing the real threat to human rights today--the organizations, religious leaders, and countries that don't even pay lip service to Enlightenment principles underlying the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

What Roth is doing rhetorically in his introduction, it seems to me, is a bit like criticizing President Lincoln for abolishing Habeus Corpus during the Civil War--and not mentioning a threat from Southern Slavery or the firing on Ft. Sumter. After all, John Wilkes' Booth shouted 'Sic Semper Tyrannis!' after shooting Lincoln. Was Booth a 'terrorist,' or a 'freedom fighter,' driven to rebellion by Lincoln's repressive rule?

Think carefully...

More on London's Abu Hamza Trial

Here's the latest story from London's Telegraph, about incitement to suicide bombings directed at tourists:
Abu Hamza, the Muslim preacher, promised his followers "72 beautiful women in paradise" if they became suicide bombers and called on them to target tourists.

The Old Bailey heard Hamza, preaching in a video tape made at Finsbury Park Mosque in north London. He said the aim of jihad (holy war) was to humiliate non-believers and convert them to Islam.

He added: "Now look at the suicide bombs. Does it fulfil all these purposes? Yes, all of them."

Hamza, 47, is accused of nine counts of soliciting to murder, four counts of using threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour and two further counts of possessing abusive recordings with a view to distribution and possession of a document useful to preparing terrorism.

He praised the mujahideen (holy warriors) and added: "You tell me by Allah, what other obligation in Islam, when the person dies have these kind of things that he will be shahid [martyr], he will have the mercy of Allah, no fear upon him, 72 beautiful women in paradise. These given to him as the first gift."

He was asked by a member of his audience: "I was wondering whether suicide bombing is allowed?"

Hamza replied: "It's not called suicide, it's called Shahid operation. Suicide, this is what people call it to put people off it.

"Because if the only way to hurt the enemies of Islam is by taking your life, then it is allowed."

Hamza added: "When these things happening to the disbelievers, Allah shake them, shake their hearts. Why?

"Because they become terrified. 'These people, what can we do? They're crazy, they're crazy, what can we do?'"

He said tourism was haram (forbidden) and tourists were the shaitan (satan) of all countries.

Sabbah's Blog has another view of the trial.

John LeBoutillier on America's Coming Political Revolution

I hope this John LeBoutillier article is about New York's Rudy Giuliani running for President:
The ‘playing field’ is being ‘prepped’ as if according to a pre-determined script:

A) An increasingly unpopular war with no seeming end - based on questionable evidence of WMD - and supported by both political parties’ establishment;

B) Rising gas prices - (which rise at the drop of a hat) - and home heating fuel - all of which inject worry and cynicism into the body politic;

C) A series of scandals sweeping Washington DC - and which are infecting both political parties;

D) A burgeoning mess for senior citizens who suddenly cannot get their life-saving prescriptions filled - owing to the new Medicare Prescription Drug Program - a product of both political parties;

E) A so-called Mainstream Media which is increasingly shown to be full of fraud and bias and mis-reporting;

F) A corrupt business environment symbolized by Enron, World Com and so many others;

G) The Pentagon’s inability to get life-saving body armor for our troops in Iraq - until someone leaks the internal results of a Pentagon study and then, with 5 days, a shamed Pentagon announces a new shipment of the armor to Iraq;

H) The increased national debt and tragic trade deficit;

I) And the biggest scandal of all: the flood of illegal immigrants across our borders - a scandal which both parties happily turn their cheek to.

This list could go on and on.

It symbolizes the decay of our political leadership - and of character in America.

Today, our celebrity-driven culture idolizes the wrong traits: excessive pride, bragging, rudeness, greed and disgustingly brazen behavior.

And our leaders - in both parties - have shown themselves for what they are: more interested in being somebody instead of doing something.

Yes, all of this decay is ‘prepping the battlefield’ for something long predicted in this space: the inevitable successful run for the White House by an Independent Third Candidate who runs against both political parties for being corrupt co-conspirators in the internal decay of our once-great nation.

Ross Perot in 1992 was leading in all polls going into June of an election year - over an incumbent President Bush and Democrat nominee Bill Clinton. But Perot was strange, didn’t really want to win (he just wanted payback on Bush for a slight in the 1980's) and when he saw that he might indeed win he dropped out of the race. Then, a few months later and starved for attention, he re-entered the race, performed well in the presidential debates and won a respectable 19% of the popular vote.

Now, 16 years later, American has changed. All of the problems listed above have driven up the cynicism level. More and more voters express dismay over the political establishment. And we still have 3 long years to go!

Who will this Independent Third Candidate be?

Will he be some celebrity kookball like Donald Trump? If so, he will be lucky to garner 5 % of the vote.

But if this candidate has legitimate political credentials, is good on TV and can ‘connect’ with the voters, then he can win.

And his victory will be the beginning of something we desperately need in our country: a new political revolution.

Taliban Comes Back in Afghanistan

The BBC is reporting a resurgence of the Taliban:
The US envoy to Nato has said that a British-led military force due to move into southern Afghanistan must be ready to fight resurgent Taleban militants.

The American Thinker on The New York Times

Roger L. Simon tipped us off to this item about phony anti-American propaganda published on the NY Times's website:
So the formerly authoritative New York Times has published a picture distributed around the world on the home page of its website, using a prop which must have been artfully placed to create a false dramatic impression of cruel incompetence on the part of US forces. Not only did the editors lack the basic knowledge necessary to detect the fake, they didn’t bother to run the photo past anyone with such knowledge before exposing the world to it.

There is an old saying in journalism about stories which editors really want to run: “too good to check.” It is plainly clear that the New York Times thought this story was too good to check. Their standard of “good” is painfully obvious to all.

Without the internet and blogosphere, probably they would have gotten away with it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Daniel Pipes Corrects the Pope

Daniel Pipes obviously has chutzpah. He doesn't accept the doctrine of infallibility. Today he argues that Pope Benedict is mistaken about the nature of Islam:
I must register my respectful disagreement. The Koran indeed can be interpreted. Indeed, Muslims interpret the Koran no less than Jews and Christians interpret the Bible, and those interpretations have changed no less over time. The Koran, like the Bible, has a history.

For one indication of this, note the original thinking of the Sudanese theologian Mahmud Muhammad Taha (1909-85). Taha built his interpretation on the conventional division of the Koran into two. The initial verses came down when Muhammad was a powerless prophet living in Mecca, and tend to be cosmological. Later verses came down when Muhammad was the ruler of Medina, and include many specific rulings. These commands eventually served as the basis for the Shari'a, or Islamic law.

Taha argued that specific Koranic rulings applied only to Medina, not to other times and places. He hoped modern-day Muslims would set these aside and live by the general principles delivered at Mecca. Were Taha's ideas accepted, most of the Shari'a would disappear, including outdated provisions concerning warfare, theft, and women. Muslims could then more readily modernize.

Even without accepting a grand schema such as Taha proposed, Muslims are already making small moves in the same direction. Islamic courts in reactionary Iran, for example, have broken with Islamic tradition and now permit women the right to sue for divorce and grant a murdered Christian equal recompense with that of a murdered Muslim.

As this suggests, Islam is not stuck. But huge efforts are needed to get it moving again.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Killer Bait aka Too Late for Tears

Another Netflix goodie: Killer Bait (1949). Lizabeth Scott is a really bad femme fatale, a true sociopath, so convincing in her lies that I believed every one she told--as she killed again and again. Dan Duryea is bad, but not quite as bad as Scott. The rest of the cast is awfully good in this low-key, slow-paced thriller that builds to a tremendous Tosca-like operatic climax. The cops are fools, and only an angry man with a grudge, a mysterious stranger played by Don DeFore can save the day. Add it to your queue.

The Meaning of the Martin Luther King Holiday

Coretta Scott King explains:
The Holiday commemorates America’s pre-eminent advocate of nonviolence --- the man who taught by his example that nonviolent action is the most powerful, revolutionary force for social change available to oppressed people in their struggles for liberation.

This holiday honors the courage of a man who endured harassment, threats and beatings, and even bombings. We commemorate the man who went to jail 29 times to achieve freedom for others, and who knew he would pay the ultimate price for his leadership, but kept on marching and protesting and organizing anyway.
Every King holiday has been a national "teach-in" on the values of nonviolence, including unconditional love, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation, which are so desperately-needed to unify America. It is a day of intensive education and training in Martin’s philosophy and methods of nonviolent social change and conflict-reconciliation. The Holiday provides a unique opportunity to teach young people to fight evil, not people, to get in the habit of asking themselves, "what is the most loving way I can resolve this conflict?"

On the King holiday, young people learn about the power of unconditional love even for one's adversaries as a way to fight injustice and defuse violent disputes. It is a time to show them the power of forgiveness in the healing process at the interpersonal as well as international levels.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is not only for celebration and remembrance, education and tribute, but above all a day of service. All across America on the Holiday, his followers perform service in hospitals and shelters and prisons and wherever people need some help. It is a day of volunteering to feed the hungry, rehabilitate housing, tutoring those who can't read, mentoring at-risk youngsters, consoling the broken-hearted and a thousand other projects for building the beloved community of his dream.

Dr. King once said that we all have to decide whether we "will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. Life's most persistent and nagging question, he said, is `what are you doing for others?'" he would quote Mark 9:35, the scripture in which Jesus of Nazareth tells James and John "...whosoever will be great among you shall be your servant; and whosoever among you will be the first shall be the servant of all." And when Martin talked about the end of his mortal life in one of his last sermons, on February 4, 1968 in the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, even then he lifted up the value of service as the hallmark of a full life. "I'd like somebody to mention on that day Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others," he said. "I want you to say on that day, that I did try in my life...to love and serve humanity.

We call you to commemorate this Holiday by making your personal commitment to serve humanity with the vibrant spirit of unconditional love that was his greatest strength, and which empowered all of the great victories of his leadership. And with our hearts open to this spirit of unconditional love, we can indeed achieve the Beloved Community of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.