Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

All good wishes for 2009, to all our readers...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Here's Barack Obama's Christmas Message:
Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama
Holiday Radio Address
December 27, 2008

Good morning. This week, Americans are gathering with family and friends across the country to celebrate the blessings of Christmas and the holiday season.

As we celebrate this joyous time of year, our thoughts turn to the brave men and women who serve our country far from home. Their extraordinary and selfless sacrifice is an inspiration to us all, and part of the unbroken line of heroism that has made our freedom and prosperity possible for over two centuries.

Many troops are serving their second, third, or fourth tour of duty. And we are reminded that they are more than dedicated Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guard – they are devoted fathers and mothers; husbands and wives; sons and daughters; and sisters and brothers.

This holiday season, their families celebrate with a joy that is muted knowing that a loved one is absent, and sometimes in danger. In towns and cities across America, there is an empty seat at the dinner table; in distant bases and on ships at sea, our servicemen and women can only wonder at the look on their child’s face as they open a gift back home.

Our troops and military families have won the respect and gratitude of their broader American family. Michelle and I have them in our prayers this Christmas, and we must all continue to offer them our full support in the weeks and months to come. .

These are also tough times for many Americans struggling in our sluggish economy. As we count the higher blessings of faith and family, we know that millions of Americans don’t have a job. Many more are struggling to pay the bills or stay in their homes. From students to seniors, the future seems uncertain.

That is why this season of giving should also be a time to renew a sense of common purpose and shared citizenship. Now, more than ever, we must rededicate ourselves to the notion that we share a common destiny as Americans – that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper. Now, we must all do our part to serve one another; to seek new ideas and new innovation; and to start a new chapter for our great country.

That is the spirit that will guide my Administration in the New Year. If the American people come together and put their shoulder to the wheel of history, then I know that we can put our people back to work and point our country in a new direction. That is how we will see ourselves through this time of crisis, and reach the promise of a brighter day.

After all, that is what Americans have always done.

232 years ago, when America was newly born as a nation, George Washington and his Army faced impossible odds as they struggled to free themselves from the grip of an empire.

It was Christmas Day—December 25th, 1776 – that they fought through ice and cold to make an improbable crossing of the Delaware River. They caught the enemy off guard, won victories in Trenton and Princeton, and gave new momentum to a beleaguered Army and new hope to the cause of Independence.

Many ages have passed since that first American Christmas. We have crossed many rivers as a people. But the lessons that have carried us through are the same lessons that we celebrate every Christmas season—the same lessons that guide us to this very day: that hope endures, and that a new birth of peace is always possible.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hannukah!

No shoe-throwing at President Bush's Hannukah reception this year, I'm sure, even though he held it a little early--December 15th, at the White House. The pictures look nice.

He said some nice things, too:
The story of Hanukkah recalls the miraculous victory of a small band of patriots against tyranny, and the oil that burned for eight nights. Through centuries of exile and persecution, Jews have lit the menorah. Each year, they behold its glow with faith in the power of God, and love for His greatest gift -- freedom.

This Hanukkah we celebrate another miraculous victory -- the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. When President Harry Truman led the world in recognizing Israel in May of 1948, many wondered whether the small nation could possibly survive. Yet from the first days of independence, the people of Israel defied dire predictions. With determination and hard work, they turned a rocky desert into fertile soil. They built a thriving democracy, a strong economy, and one of the mightiest military forces on earth. Like the Maccabees, Israel has defended itself bravely against enemies seeking its destruction. And today, Israel is a light unto the nations -- and one of America's closest friends.

This evening, we have the great privilege of celebrating Israel's 60th anniversary and Hanukkah in a very special way. Thanks to the generosity of the Truman Library, we are fortunate to light the menorah presented to President Truman in 1951 as a symbol of friendship by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.

A decade after President Truman received this gift, he visited Prime Minister Ben-Gurion for one of the last times. As they parted, Ben-Gurion told the President that as a foreigner he could not judge President Truman's place in American history, but the President's courageous decision to recognize the new state of Israel gave him an immortal place in Jewish history. Those words filled the President's eyes with uncharacteristic tears. And later, Ben-Gurion would say he rarely had seen somebody so moved.

And so tonight I'm deeply moved to welcome the grandsons of these two great men -- Clifton Truman Daniel and Yariv Ben-Eliezer -- to light the Truman menorah together.

Laura and I wish all the people of Jewish faith a happy Hanukkah and many joyous Hanukkahs in the years ahead. Thank you. (Applause.)

More International Problems From Clinton Donor List

The mainstream American media may be turning a blind eye to the smoking guns in the Clinton donor list--but they are paying attention in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon). Here's a report from the Sunday Leader about problems at The Stassen Group:
Stassen Group cited in list of donors to Bill Clinton

The Stassen Group of Companies headed by tycoon Harry Jayawardene has donated between US$ 100,000 to 250,000 to the William J. Clinton Foundation, it is revealed.

Former US President Clinton last week released a list of donors to his charity, The William J. Clinton Foundation following an assurance given he would do so on the nomination of his wife Senator Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State designate in President Elect Barack Obama's new Administration.

The 'Stassen Group' is named in the list of donors having contributed between US$ 100,001 to US$ 250,000.

Jayawardene is currently embroiled in a legal battle with fellow directors of the Stassen Group which is expected to turn nasty.

It is learned,Clintons detractors will trace the source of all monies received by the Foundation including whether they have come through the proper financial channels of the respective countries.

Who's Lying About Clinton Donor List?

Indian mogul Amar Singh or Bill Clinton? According to Indian website, somebody is not telling the truth:
New Delhi: Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh on Friday denied contributing any money to the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, which has listed him as one of the top donors on Thursday.

“I am denying it,” he told Mint in an interview. “I cannot react to media speculations. Anything can be written about anybody and I do not think I should react to it.”

“Let me add that I feel privileged to be on the list of friends (former US president Bill and wife Hillary) Clintons have,” Singh added. “It is a matter of happiness that I am friends with the Clintons.”

As part of a deal that cleared the way for Hillary Clinton to be nominated by US President-elect Barack Obama as the next secretary of state, Bill Clinton released a list of 205,000 donors on the foundation’s website. A list of top donors, those who gave $100,000 (about Rs47 lakh today) or more, reported by The Wall Street Journal shows Singh as having given between $1 million and $5 million."
This story has already caused controversy in India, according to the Economic Times of India:
Impressive, indeed! But also as intriguing, as Mr Singh's total declared assets, as per the affidavit filed along with his nomination papers for election to the Rajya Sabha, are no more than Rs 37 crore. So, did the SP leader bring alive the Mahabharata hero Daanveer Karna when he decided to donate up to more than two-thirds of his wealth to the Clinton Foundation?
Imagine, if this is how Hillary Clinton begins a term as Secretary of do you think it would end?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Washington Post: Clinton List Means "Heap of Potential Trouble"

The paper pulls its punches by suggesting that there is a way out for the Clintons with a revised agreement with Obama--but in fact the logic of the case dictates that there isn't any possible agreement that a convicted perjurer and impeached former President may reasonably be trusted to follow. The Clinton list should signal the end of Hillary's bid for Secretary of State. If not, Obama's promise to change the culture of Washington should prove D.O.A. on January 20th, 2009. A self-inflicted wound that would haunt his entire administration.

From Sunday's Washington Post editorial:
But however worthy the cause or uncontroversial the foreign government, it strikes us that such fundraising by the former president presents an unavoidable conflict. What is the standard for the ethics official to apply? Doesn't spurning a proffered donation from a foreign government risk creating its own diplomatic problems? What happens when Secretary Clinton, visiting Country X to press for, say, a climate change agreement, is informed by the prime minister that he's just written her husband a $10 million check for that cause? What about gifts from foreign governments seeking trade concessions or approval to purchase military equipment? Even if Ms. Clinton is not influenced by gifts to her husband's charity, the appearance of a conflict is unavoidable. The better approach would be to allow existing commitments to go forward but to forswear any new ones.

Moreover, the memorandum of understanding does not appear to contemplate any prior review of contributions by foreign individuals or corporations, or by U.S. companies or individuals with overseas entanglements. So consider -- because it already happened -- the case of a wealthy investor who is seeking business opportunities in, say, Kazakhstan. He gives millions to the Clinton foundation, visits the country with the former president and obtains the sought-after contract. No one in the Obama administration will vet such a gift in advance; the public will learn of it only with the yearly disclosure. The new administration is buying itself a heap of potential trouble with this arrangement.

Wall Street Journal: More Dirt From Clinton Foundation List

This sort of story would compromise Hillary from the get-go, were she to be confirmed as Secretary of State. From today's Wall Street Journal:
The Nigerian-born Mr. [Gilbert] Chagoury, whose family is Lebanese, has also been a financial supporter of Christian politicians and religious leaders in Lebanon, another potential diplomatic hot spot, say people familiar with that nation's political scene.

Mr. Chagoury and representatives for Mr. Clinton have repeatedly declined to comment on the two men's relationship. Following Thursday's disclosures by the Clinton Foundation, a spokesman for President-elect Barack Obama said Mr. Obama wouldn't be commenting on any of the donors.

Mr. Chagoury's ties to Mr. Clinton apparently began in the mid-1990s. The Clinton administration was being urged by human rights-activists and others to put severe sanctions on Nigeria because of the Abacha regime's practice of jailing and executing political opponents.

In August 1996, President Clinton dispatched then-Rep. Bill Richardson to Nigeria to lay out the U.S. government's concerns. In an interview earlier this year, Mr. Richardson, currently New Mexico's governor and President-elect Obama's nominee for commerce secretary, said that after a meeting with the dictator, he was taken to see Mr. Chagoury, who supposedly "had a lot of influence with Abacha." During an hour-and-a-half discussion over pizza at Mr. Chagoury's home, the businessman seemed sympathetic to U.S. complaints but noncommittal, Mr. Richardson said.

A few weeks later, prior to the 1996 U.S. presidential election, Mr. Chagoury contributed $460,000 to a tax-exempt voter-registration group connected to the Democratic National Committee. A 1997 Washington Post article said that Mr. Chagoury subsequently received an invitation to a White House dinner for Democratic Party supporters. He also met with Clinton administration officials on Nigeria and later talked privately about his efforts to influence U.S. policy toward that country, says a person familiar with the matter.

Over the years, business deals Mr. Chagoury has been involved with have been the subject of government investigations into suspected bribery by Western companies that do business in Nigeria, according to news reports. In 2004, Mr. Chagoury was among those whom Nigerian investigators sought to question about a gas-terminal deal, according to news reports. He hasn't been accused of wrongdoing in any of the investigations.

Despite any controversies, Mr. Chagoury has steadily built ties to Mr. Clinton. In 2003, he helped organize a Caribbean trip where the former president was paid $100,000 for a speech. Mr. Clinton has made over $40 million giving speeches around the world. According to news reports, Mr. Chagoury attended Mr. Clinton's 60th birthday bash two years ago in New York. He also joined the former president at the gala wedding celebration in France last year of Mr. Clinton's top aide, Douglas Band, say people who were there.

During the just-completed election campaign, a Chagoury relative, Michel Chaghouri of Los Angeles, was listed in campaign records as someone who raised at least $100,000 for Mrs. Clinton's presidential campaign. Campaign records also show that Mr. Chaghouri raised money from a number of individuals named "Chagoury" or "Chaghouri" or "Chamchoum" -- Chamchoum is the maiden name of Gilbert Chagoury's wife. Several gave the federally allowed maximum of $4,600 each. Mr. Chagoury's name doesn't appear as a donor. As an apparent foreign national, Mr. Chagoury would generally be barred from giving to a U.S. presidential campaign.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Georgetown Journalism Students Sue CIA, FBI Over Daniel Pearl Death Documents

So much news that I almost forgot to post this item from yesterday's Washington Post about another FOIA case against the CIA --and FBI, among eight government agencies named-- to access documents relating to the death of Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. Inquiring minds want to know: Why isn't the Wall Street Journal also on this case? I'm not holding my breath for Mssrs. Gigot, McGurn and Taranto... Anyway, here's an excerpt from the Post:
For more than a year, a group of Georgetown University students has been poring over documents, searching for cellphone numbers of suspected terrorists and calling Pakistani police in the middle of the night. Now their class project has come to this: They're suing the CIA and the FBI.

The students' assignment was to find out who killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and why. Although the class ended last spring and many of the students graduated, they're still trying to write that last paper.

Pearl disappeared while reporting in Pakistan in 2002. A video delivered to the FBI showed him being beheaded.

Yesterday, the group, known as the Pearl Project and now attached to the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court asking for the release of records by the CIA, FBI, Defense Department and five other federal agencies.

Members of the group are seeking, among other things, FBI files on convicted terrorist Richard Reid. Pearl was reporting a story about Reid and his Pakistani handler when he disappeared. They hope the lawsuit will unearth documents or new sources in time for them to finish their final paper late this spring.

"It's not only a really personal story . . . but a story really pertinent to current events and, well, to humanity," said Rebecca Tapscott, a 2008 graduate.

The idea for the class began in summer 2002, after four men were convicted in Pakistan in connection with Pearl's death. Pearl's longtime friend, Asra Nomani, with whom Pearl was staying when he disappeared, suspected that more people were involved. She knew, for example, that a man who led police to Pearl's body, which was found outside Karachi, was allegedly one of the guards who had held him. But he was never charged.

Nomani, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and Barbara Feinman Todd, an associate dean at Georgetown, created a journalism seminar in 2007 to investigate Pearl's death and write the story that he was reporting when he was kidnapped. They also wanted to learn more about terrorist cells, counterterrorism efforts and the complicated relationship between the United States and Pakistan.
More on the Pearl Project can be found at the Center for Public Integrity website.

FOIABlog comments on the case:
This Washington Post article discusses a FOIA lawsuit filed this week by students in a Georgetown University journalism class. The suit is related to records various government agencies have about those involved in the death of Danny Pearl, including shoe bomber, Richard Reid, who Pearl was trying to interview before his kidnapping.

I believe Richard Reid, and others like him, have very limited privacy rights. They are not U.S. Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents, thus they have no rights under the Privacy Act. There is a huge public interest in these records and as such, agencies should not send out letters asking for these people's signatures before they will process records relating to them. This is not a new issue as years ago, the DEA turned down a request by Terry Anderson for information on those who kept him hostage--and didn't relent until Anderson was forced to sue. Hopefully, the new administration will find compentent people to oversee FOIA Offices at these agencies so that the courts are not clogged with these types of matters.

Wonkette on Clinton Foundation Donor List

THE SAUDIS OWN EVERYTHING: Clinton Foundation’s List Of Foreign Influence-Buyers Is Quite Long And Sinister

Approximately 1400 million years ago in the Paleozoic era, when Hillary Clinton was running for President instead of Secretary of State, she was asked repeatedly if the Clinton Foundation would release its donor list. She always said, “Well, you’ll have to talk to my husband about that,” which was liberal doublespeak for “Fuck no.” Now after repeated threats from the Chicago mobster Barack Obama, the Foundation has released its donor list, which is over TWO THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED PAGES LONG. (Maybe that is why the Web page takes so frigging long to load?) Let’s see how many foreign governments were extorted by Bill Clinton to buy him blow jobs on Ron Burkle’s jet!

Holy zowie wow!

Saudi Arabia … the Cheneyite breakaway republic of Blackwater … also the notorious rogue nations of Norway, Italy, and Jamaica … plus the Dutch national lottery. This explains why Bill Clinton is always talking, in Dutch, about how a lottery “isn’t really gambling.”

Madoff Bad for Jewish Charities and Investors, Not Bad for the Jews...

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency published a roundup of losses reported so far in the Bernard Madoff scandal...including an interesting graphic showing charity victims. But IMHO, while this may be bad for Madoff's investors, it is not so bad for the Jews. Madoff showed that Jews are just like everybody else--not at all stereotypical "Yids" who cheat "Goyim," instead as rather trusting and gullible American investors who could fall for a con man as easily as anyone...

Paul Weyrich, 66

The Washington Post ran an interesting and surprisingly respectful obituary of Paul Weyrich on the front page this morning. He certainly deserved the coverage. Weyrich was a real Washington "character," like someone out of a fifties Otto Preminger film, the first actually pear-shaped person I'd ever met. He was an obvious train buff, and for a while had his own television network, on which I appeared a couple of times on TV shows hosted by him and Newt Gingrich to talk about the National Endowment for the Arts. This controversy was important enough to him to have been mentioned in his Post obituary:
"Look at the National Endowment for the Arts as a prototype," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Here's a piddling little organization -- about $100 million budget out of a $2 trillion budget -- and rather inconsequential in national significance. Republicans surely could have been able to shut that down given the fact that it had offended many, many people with the kind of art it had subsidized.

"But the culture overwhelmed the political process," he added. "Why? Because upper-crust, suburban Republican women in the districts of Republican congressmen defended the filth."
Actually, he was pretty successful by Washington standards. Congress voted to zero out the NEA...and even George Bush hasn't dared try to restore NEA appropriations to the high levels of the 1990s. That's thanks to Weyrich, I'm sure.

His TV network began on satellite, then some cable channels--until Republicans drove him out of business due to his on-air criticism of them. He kept going, regardless. Weyrich had an old-fashioned stick-to-his guns quality, and an obvious eccentricity, that was unusual in button-down, carefully worded, and too-often cowardly Washington, DC. As the obits mentioned, he was one of the founders of the Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority. He set up the Free Congress Foundation as his own bailiwick. More recently, he helped nurture Jihad Watch, where Robert Spencer has posted a tribute:
Paul Weyrich's impact on the national stage is well known. In 2007 when I was doing research on the so-called "Christianists" for my book Religion of Peace?, I found paranoid Leftist writers referring to him as the "most powerful man in America." He wasn't, but his influence in advancing the wisdom of protecting individual freedom and limited government in an age of encroaching statism and collectivism cannot be calculated.

Paul Weyrich was also one of the first and foremost American public figures to see through the "Islam is a Religion of Peace" deception that spread through the nation from President Bush and others after 9/11. In 2002 he named me an Adjunct Fellow of the Free Congress Foundation and asked me to write a series of monographs on Islam: An Introduction to the Qur'an; Women and Islam; An Islamic Primer; Islam and the West; The Islamic Disinformation Lobby; Islam vs. Christianity; and Jihad in Context. The perspective I expounded in them was just as unpopular with the conservative (and of course liberal) mainstream then as it is now, but Paul was undeterred by that; he was determined to defend the West and present the truth. He even arranged for me to address the Council for National Policy in New York, where fantasies and deceptions arising from political correctness and realpolitik usually rule the day.

Paul Weyrich taught me a great deal, by word and by example -- about how to deal both personally and professionally with the slanders and smears that are a daily aspect of this work (although I've not always lived up to his example in this); about how to avoid discouragement and keep on fighting no matter what the odds are, and about much more. He was an extraordinarily kind and genial man, a stark contrast in person to the vicious caricatures of him purveyed by those who feared and hated him.
I think one reason the Post gave Weyrich good play was that he was what he was...he was also good copy. Washington will miss him.

Clinton Donor List Disqualifies Hillary for State Department Post

It's like putting a "For Sale" sign on the Secretary of State. The disclosed 2000-plus name Clinton Foundation donor list is one big appearance of conflict-of-interest...not to mention appearance of corruption, bribery, and influence-peddling. It is an invitation for prosecution, not a recommendation for disinterested public service.

Just one example, this item from Bloomberg News:
Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian investor Victor Dahdaleh, facing a U.S. federal probe of allegations that he helped Alcoa Inc. defraud a Bahrain government-controlled metals company, is among donors who gave as much as $5 million to former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation.

The U.S. Justice Department in March said it was investigating claims in a lawsuit by Aluminum Bahrain BSC, which said Dahdaleh acted as a middleman for bribes that helped Alcoa overcharge the Bahrain company by as much as $975 million for alumina, used in aluminum manufacturing.

Dahdaleh’s dispute with Bahrain -- home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and an anti-terrorism ally -- shows how entanglements by Bill Clinton’s financial backers may pose headaches for Hillary Clinton as the New York senator seeks confirmation as President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of state.

“It certainly creates a couple of extra hurdles for the Obama administration,” said Joel Rosenthal, president of New York’s Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

Mark Helprin on Bush's Ghastly Legacy

From today's Wall Street Journal:

The administrations of George W. Bush have virtually assured such a displacement by catastrophically throwing the country off balance, both politically and financially, while breaking the nation's sword in an inconclusive seven-year struggle against a ragtag enemy in two small bankrupt states. Their one great accomplishment -- no subsequent attacks on American soil thus far -- has been offset by the stunningly incompetent prosecution of the war. It could be no other way, with war aims that inexplicably danced up and down the scale, from "ending tyranny in the world," to reforging in a matter of months (with 130,000 troops) the political culture of the Arabs, to establishing a democracy in Iraq, to only reducing violence, to merely holding on in our cantonments until we withdraw.

This confusion has come at the price of transforming the military into a light and hollow semi-gendarmerie focused on irregular warfare and ill-equipped to deter the development and resurgence of the conventional and strategic forces of China and Russia, while begging challenges from rivals or enemies no longer constrained by our former reserves of strength. For seven years we failed to devise effective policy or make intelligent arguments for policies that were worth pursuing. Thus we capriciously forfeited the domestic and international political equilibrium without which alliances break apart and wars are seldom won.

The pity is that the war could have been successful and this equilibrium sustained had we struck immediately, preserving the link with September 11th; had we disciplined our objective to forcing upon regimes that nurture terrorism the choice of routing it out with their ruthless secret services or suffering the destruction of the means to power for which they live; had we husbanded our forces in the highly developed military areas of northern Saudi Arabia after deposing Saddam Hussein, where as a fleet in being they would suffer no casualties and remain at the ready to reach Baghdad, Damascus, or Riyadh in three days; and had we taken strong and effective measures for our domestic protection while striving to stay within constitutional limits and eloquently explaining the necessity -- as has always been the case in war -- for sometimes exceeding them. Today's progressives apologize to the world for America's treatment of terrorists (not a single one of whom has been executed). Franklin Roosevelt, when faced with German saboteurs (who had caused not a single casualty), had them electrocuted and buried in numbered graves next to a sewage plant.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Austin Powers Shoe-Throwing Prefigured Iraqi Incident

(ht Joe Garofoli,

Cheney Misses Meaning of Iraqi Shoe-Throwing

In an interview with Jonathan Karl of ABC News, the Vice President provided evidence that the Bush administration simply does not understand how to conduct public diplomacy:
KARL: What did you think when you saw that shoe flying at the President?

CHENEY: I thought the President handled it rather well. He had some good moves, the way he ducked and avoided the shoe. And then what was his response -- that it was a size 10. I guess he could see that as it went by. No, I think it was an incident where an Iraqi reporter threw shoes at the President -- I don’t attribute any special significance to it.
Here's a link to some recent significance in Latin America: Latin Leaders Joke About Bush Shoe Attack:
COSTA DO SAUIPE, Brazil (Reuters) - Latin American leaders meeting in Brazil this week couldn't resist poking fun at U.S. President George W. Bush over his recent shoe-throwing incident in Iraq.

"Please, nobody take off your shoes," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva joked to reporters at the start of a news conference on Wednesday.

An Iraqi journalist had hurled his shoes at Bush at a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday, calling him a dog.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

VOA Promotes Iraqi Shoe-Thrower, Saudi Offer of $10 Million, Anti-US Website

Here's some incredible VOA coverage. Instead of demanding that the Saudi government arrest the millionaire as an accomplice to an assault on the President of the United States (btw, where is the Secret Service in all this?), VOA treats the story as a joke--and then plugs a website where viewers can throw shoes at a virtual President.

Shame on the VOA, shame on James Glassman, author of Dow 36,000 and America's Top Propagandist, and shame on President Bush for letting things come to this low state. Maybe they should change the name of the broadcaster to the Voice of Anti-America?

I hope Obama will be more on the ball when it comes to anti-Americanism:
A Saudi Arabian man has offered $10 million for the shoes of an Iraqi journalist hurled at U.S. President George Bush in Baghdad Sunday.

Middle Eastern news agencies reported on Mohamed Makhafa's offer Wednesday. He is quoted telling Cairo's al-Safwa Television that the footwear hurled at the U.S. president's head is the "shoe of dignity" with high "moral value."

Meanwhile, Reuters news agency reports that an Egyptian man is offering his 20-year-old daughter in marriage to the shoe-thrower, Muntazer al-Zaidi.

Reuters reports the young woman Amal Saad Gumaa said she likes the idea of being attached to a man she finds so honorable.

Thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets in support of Zaidi, who has achieved something of a folk hero status since the incident.

The shoe-tossing has also inspired an online game ( that lets players throw brown laced-loafers at Mr. Bush. The site says more than 17 million cyber-shoes have struck the president's virtual head as of Wednesday.

Bernard Madoff's Political Contributions

From the FEC Website:
Presented by the Federal Election Commission
Individual Contributions Arranged By Type, Giver, Then Recipient
Contributions to Political Committees

NEW YORK, NY 10021

06/29/1998 -300.00 20020161719

NEW YORK, NY 10021

02/18/2004 1000.00 24020260913

03/25/2003 2000.00 23020191985
03/25/2003 2000.00 23020191985

NEW YORK, NY 10021

10/18/2004 250.00 24991330031

NEW YORK, NY 10021

08/24/1999 1000.00 20020031614

NEW YORK, NY 10021

10/15/2004 250.00 24981483366

NEW YORK, NY 10022

08/26/1998 -500.00 98033513368

NEW YORK, NY 10022

03/31/1998 300.00 98020080361

12/20/1999 2000.00 20035043217
12/20/1999 2000.00 20035342406
11/03/2000 2000.00 20036554275

NEW YORK, NY 10022

08/04/1998 500.00 98033513348

NEW YORK, NY 10022

01/13/2000 1000.00 20020140293

NEW YORK, NY 10022

04/24/2008 2300.00 28020233434

NEW YORK, NY 10021

10/15/2004 250.00 24981593976

NEW YORK, NY 10021

05/09/2005 25000.00 25020223064

NEW YORK, NY 10021

04/08/2002 1000.00 22020572030
04/08/2002 1000.00 22020572029
08/18/2004 1000.00 24020682386
08/18/2004 1000.00 24020682387

NEW YORK, NY 10021

09/23/2003 2000.00 23992120817

NEW YORK, NY 10021

03/10/2000 1000.00 20035482353

NEW YORK, NY 10021

04/20/2000 1000.00 20035843717

NEW YORK, NY 10021

05/15/1998 1000.00 98033264489

NEW YORK, NY 10021

06/17/2004 2000.00 24961871421
06/17/2004 2000.00 24961871421

NEW YORK, NY 10021

09/21/1998 1000.00 98020221244

NEW YORK, NY 10022

05/05/1998 1000.00 98033280117

NEW YORK, NY 10022

05/22/1998 1000.00 98020153371
05/22/1998 1000.00 98020153371

NEW YORK, NY 10022

10/23/1998 1000.00 98034023088

NEW YORK, NY 10022

09/30/2006 25000.00 26020872891

NEW YORK, NY 10022

05/04/2007 25000.00 27020190980
09/12/2008 25000.00 28020611133

NEW YORK, NY 10021

09/22/2005 5000.00 25971371439
10/17/2006 5000.00 26950709195

05/24/2007 5000.00 27990166821

NEW YORK, NY 10021

07/08/2004 5000.00 24962139131

NEW YORK, NY 10021

12/05/2007 -2300.00 28990305541

NEW YORK, NY 10021

07/10/2007 2300.00 27931355510

NEW YORK, NY 10022

08/30/2001 1000.00 22991228121

NEW YORK, NY 10021

08/20/2008 5000.00 28933110755

NEW YORK, NY 10021

04/26/1999 1000.00 20990130846

Total Contributions: 161050.00

Joint Fundraising Contributions

These are contributions to committees who are raising funds to be distributed to other committees. The breakdown of these contributions to their final recipients may appear below

NEW YORK, NY 10021

10/30/1998 1000.00 98020270881

NEW YORK, NY 10021

07/20/2007 300.00 27931343375
07/20/2007 2300.00 27931343375
07/20/2007 5000.00 27931343376

Total Joint Fundraising: 8600.00

Recipient of Joint Fundraiser Contributions

These are the Final Recipients of Joint Fundraising Contributions

NEW YORK, NY 10021

10/30/1998 1000.00 98020270462

NEW YORK, NY 10021

07/20/2007 300.00 27020400524
07/20/2007 2300.00 27020400525

Recipient Total: 3600.00


Will Obama Throw Rahm Emanuel Over The Side?

Today's Chicago Sun-Times reports 21 contacts between Rahm Emanuel and Blagojevich over Valerie Jarrett as well as other candidates for Barack Obama's Senate seat. They also ran this photo of Blago with Rahm. Which means Rahm Emanuel is now on the "hot seat."

If Obama is unable to keep a lid on the scandal, the price for this screw-up may be the withdrawal of Congressman Emanuel as the next White House least until things blow over.
President-elect Barack Obama's incoming chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, was pushing for Obama's successor just days after the Nov. 4 election, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Emanuel privately urged Gov. Blagojevich's administration to appoint Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett, and the Sun-Times learned Tuesday that he also pressed that it be done by a certain deadline.

Jarrett was initially interested in the U.S. Senate post before Obama tapped her to be a White House senior adviser, sources say.

The disclosure comes days after Obama's camp downplayed Jarrett's interest in the post.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Unlike The Wall Street Journal Editors, Asharq Alawsat Understands Shoe-Thrower

From Tariq Alhomayed's column in Asharq Alawsat:
If the Iraqi man who threw his shoes at US President George W Bush on Sunday was just an ordinary citizen who took such action on one of Baghdad’s streets then perhaps it could be argued that he simply has no decency. But for a television reporter to take such action is a matter that should be condemned.

The reporter could have asked the American president a difficult or uncomfortable question as Bush stood next to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, but instead he chose to use shoes over words, forgetting that journalism does not debate and communicate using violence and vulgarity.

What we saw in the press conference was nothing but an insult to the profession of journalism and an indicator that the nature of journalism has been misunderstood. A journalist is not a Mujahid nor is he a fighter; he is the one who communicates information...

The Wall Street Journal Editors Miss Shoe Assault's Meaning

Today's Wall Street Journal editorial celebrates the violent attack on the US President during a news conference:
On Sunday, as everyone in the world now knows, a young Iraqi TV reporter named Muntander (sic) al-Zaidi took the opportunity of a press conference to throw his shoes at George W. Bush and call the President a "dog." Congratulations, Iraq: You really are a free country...
Earth to Paul Gigot, Bill McGurn, James Taranto and other Journal editors: Throwing shoes at people is not a sign of freedom, any more than rioting or looting.

It is a violent act, it incites further disorder, it is disrespectful to the peaceful exchange of ideas, and it undermines the democratic process.

Not to mention that the Baghdad shoe-throwing has diminished American prestige globally.

In addition, as pointed out in a post below, it is a federal crime punishable by a fine and up to ten years prison time in the United States.

Do Journal editors really believe that the US is not a free country? Or have Journal editors not realized what freedom of speech means? What part of "speech" don't you understand? For example, "fighting words" are not protected speech anywhere in the USA--much less throwing things at people. That's not speech--that's violence. Look at the velocity behind those thrown shoes in the video. Luckily, President Bush has good reflexes. But throwing those shoes was no different from throwing a couple of punches.

There is a world of difference between words and things.

Are Journal editors seriously suggesting reporters start throwing things at Barack Obama? How do you think the Secret Service would react if the Journal's Washington Bureau Chief threw his shoes at the President-Elect at a press conference?

My own "Golden Rule" for Journal editorial writers: Don't advocate that others do things you would not do yourselves....

BTW, Journal editors might note that the shoe-thrower reportedly was inspired by Che Guevara, not known for his love of a free press:
Alternatively described by sources as a leftist, and a nationalist, his brother said, “Muntazer is a nervous guy especially, whenever he sees violence and Iraqi people dying, but he calms down very fast afterwards. “We as a family hate occupation in all of its forms. And Muntazer hates it too. We all have the same attitude regarding the American forces occupying Iraq. I think that Bush did destroy Iraq and he did kill Iraqis.”

With pictures of Che Guevara hanging in his bedroom, Al-Zaidi’s mom told France24 that it was always her son’s dream to hit Bush with a shoe, “and he did fulfill his dream in the end,” she said.

Dirgham says that what his brother did gave back a sense of dignity to all Iraqis who had been affected by the U.S. occupation. “The behaviour of my brother was very spontaneous. It reveals what all the Iraqi people want, which is to humiliate the tyrant. My brother hates everything that has to do with American occupation as a fact and the Iranian occupation as a concept.”

Another source that did not want to reveal his name, and worked with Muntazer at a local Iraqi channel called Al Diar, said that Zaidi promised a lot of journalist friends that he was going to throw a show at Bush when he had a chance. But no one believed him.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Corruption 101 at the University of Chicago

Here's David Henderson's explanation of the distinction between what George Washington Plunkitt called "honest graft" and Gov. Blagojevich's case, with regard to administrative staff promotion at the University of Chicago (ht Arnold Kling):
In 2005, shortly after her husband became a U.S. Senator, Michelle Obama was promoted to vice-president of the University of Chicago Hospitals, with a salary increase from $121,910 to $316,962. One of her bosses said she was "worth her weight in gold." In 2006, Obama requested a $1 million earmark for his wife's employer. How upset have people got about this? But take away the explicit exchange and the crass language and she and her husband did what he Illinois Governor did. Yet where's the outrage?

Technorati's State of the Blogosphere 2008


Siberian Computer Geek Crowned Miss World 2009

Russian computer science student Kseniya Sukhinova was crowned in South Africa, according to Moscow News:
Tutors at the university in northwest Siberia where the new Miss World studies praised her academic record on Monday, happily complaining that the news of her victory almost disrupted classes.

Sukhinova is a fifth-year student studying cybernetic systems in the Oil and Gas University in Tyumen, a center of the region's oil and gas industry located over 2,000 kilometers from Moscow. She is one of only five women in the 27-student group.

"It is a very difficult discipline, but Sukhinova's grades are all A's and B's," university deputy president Veronika Yefremova said.

Arianna Huffington on the Meaning of Madoff's Ponzi Scheme

Arianna says Madoff's downfall reveals the whole Bush era has been one big Ponzi scheme:

Ignoring warning after warning is an essential element of the "Who Could Have Known?" excuse, as are rewriting history and shamelessly disregarding the foresight shown by those who sounded the alarm bells.

We're seeing the same ingredients in the Madoff affair. "We have worked with Madoff for nearly 20 years," said Jeffrey Tucker, a former federal regulator and the head of an investment firm facing losses of $7.5 billion. "We had no indication that we...were the victims of such a highly sophisticated, massive fraudulent scheme." It's a sentiment echoed by Arthur Levitt, the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission: "I've known [Madoff] for nearly 35 years, and I'm absolutely astonished."

Who Could Have Known?

Well, Harry Markopolos, for one. In 1999, after researching Madoff's methods, Markopolos wrote a letter to the SEC saying, "Madoff Securities is the world's largest Ponzi Scheme." He pursued his claims with the feds for the next nine years, with little result.

Jim Vos, another investment adviser who had examined Madoff's firm, says: "There's no smoking gun, but if you added it all up you wonder why people either did not get it or chose to ignore the red flags."

The answer comes from Vos's cohort Jake Walthour Jr., who told HuffPost blogger Vicky Ward: "In a bull market no one bothers to ask how the returns are met, they just like the returns."

Hasn't the "Who Could Have Known?" excuse been exposed as a sham enough times to render it obsolete?

Apparently not. Here come the Bush Legacy Project's revisionists expecting us to believe that everyone thought Saddam had WMD -- even though many were on record saying he didn't.

In the wake of 9/11, Condi Rice assured us nobody "could have predicted" that someone "would try to use an airplane as a missile." Except, of course, the government report that in 1999 said, "Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House."

Madoff Ponzi Scandal a Shonda for American Jewish Community

Bloomberg reports that victims of Bernard Madoff's scheme reportedly include a number of prominent Jewish charities, in addition to Palm Beach machers who could afford to lose millions:
The Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation in Salem, Massachusetts discontinued operations on Friday because it invested with Madoff. This year the nonprofit sent 124 local teens to Israel.

Elie Wiesel’s Foundation

Madoff appeared to handle all the investments of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, the foundation of the 80-year-old Nobel Prize winner and Auschwitz survivor, according its 2006 tax return. The foundation sponsors an annual ethics contest and after-school programs for Ethiopian Jews in Israel, among other programs. Treasurer Elisha Wiesel, Wiesel’s son, didn’t return a call.

The Madoff fiasco will pummel Jewish causes and education. Yet all nonprofit sectors may feel the strain. Last year, the $19 million Madoff Family Foundation donated $50,000 to New York’s Public Theater, where Madoff’s 44-year-old son, Mark, is a trustee. The year before, it gave $30,000 to the Robin Hood Foundation, a charity popular on Wall Street, according to the Madoff’s foundation tax return.

A Public Theater spokesman didn’t return an e-mail from Bloomberg News. Mark Madoff didn’t return a call or respond to an e-mail. Robin Hood Executive Director David Saltzman declined to comment.

Less to Give

“Will it affect my philanthropy?” said Joyce Z. Greenberg, a retired financial adviser in Houston who had money with Madoff for two decades. “It will.”

Greenberg is a donor to the Jewish Heritage Program of the World Monuments Fund, which has supported conservation in 20 countries. Greenberg and others are waiting for an accounting of how much, if any, of their investments they’ll salvage.

SAR Academy, an orthodox Jewish school in Riverdale, New York, which extends from kindergarten through high school, had over a third of its $3.7 million endowment with Madoff, according to an e-mail circulated by the school.

Did Senator Chuck Schumer Destroy Wall Street?

The New York Times seems to think so:
“He is serving the parochial interest of a very small group of financial people, bankers, investment bankers, fund managers, private equity firms, rather than serving the general public,” said John C. Bogle, the founder and former chairman of the Vanguard Group, the giant mutual fund house. “It has hurt the American investor first and the average American taxpayer.”
As Reverend Jeremiah Wright once said, "America's chickens...are coming home to roost."

Bush Reaction to Shoe-Throwing Assault Betrays Democracy

Australia's The Age carried this headline:
"Bush hails shoe attack as win for democracy"
Bush's first reaction to the Iraqi journalist's assault upon him--and the USA he represents--reminds one of Donald Rumsfeld's response to the looting of Baghdad in 2003:
"...recognize that you pass through a transition period like this and accept it as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom."
Rumsfeld's statement was symptomatic of a misunderstanding of the nature of freedom and transition--since neither the US nor any civilized country permits rioting as a price of freedom.

Likewise, President Bush obviously does not understand the significance of the shoe assault upon him in Baghdad. The Age reported that he treated it as a joke:
The US President laughed off an incident in Baghdad on Sunday when he was nearly hit by an angry Iraqi reporter's shoes.

The journalist, Muntather al-Zaidi, 28, a correspondent for the Iraqi station al-Baghdadia, shouted in Arabic: "This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog!" He then threw a shoe at Mr Bush, who ducked and narrowly avoided it.

Zaidi then threw his other shoe, shouting in Arabic: "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq!" Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's security agents jumped on Zaidi and hustled him out of the room. He was detained on unspecified charges.

Mr Bush tried to brush off the incident. "All I can report is it is a size 10," he said. He also called the incident a sign of democracy in the country, saying, "that's what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves", as Zaidi's screaming was heard outside.
Bush is wrong about both the principle and the facts at issue. People in a free society--such as the USA--are not permitted to throw shoes at the President. In the USA, assaults on the President are a federal crime under US Code, Title 18, Ch. 84, Sec. 1751:
(e) Whoever assaults any person designated in subsection (a)(1) [the President or Vice-President] shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than ten years,
or both.
Bush's feckless and thoughtless response to the Iraq attack reveals, as did Rumsfeld's 2003 remarks, the underlying conceptual failures that have doomed his "democracy promotion" efforts around the world. For, unfortunately, President Bush himself clearly does not understand that the journalist who threw his shoes at Bush had also attacked democracy.

Meanwhile, according to the BBC, Iraqi supporters of al-Zaidi are demonstrating in Baghdad in support of his shoe assault on the US Presdient, using Bush's own comments;
Officials at the Iraqi-owned TV station, al-Baghdadiya, called for the release of their journalist, saying he was exercising freedom of expression.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Time for US Public Diplomacy Heads to Roll...

Can't afford to wait for the Obama inaguration. Whoever set this up, made up the guest list, and allowed the reporter to throw shoes at President Bush needs to be publicly humiliated him-and/or herself--everyone involved from top to bottom, and that includes JAMES GLASSMAN, author of Dow 36,000 and America's Top Propagandist.

Yes, the Fox anchor is right--Bush did a good duck, impressive even. But this never should have happened in the first place... (plus why didn't a Secret Service agent throw him/herself in front of the President?). Bush comes out OK in the reflexes department, not so OK in the intelligence, planning and information department. He's lost some face...and unfortunately, so has the USA. Bloomberg reported:
“This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq,” shouted the man, later identified by the Associated Press as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi- owned station based in Cairo, Egypt.
...And according to TBS Journal:"Baghdadia TV is considered a moderate Sunni channel..."

More on the station from Eye Raki :

Today, there are over a dozen Iraqi sattelite channels that are broadcasting from inside and outside Iraq. We have all sorts of channels, some that broadcast only a few hours a day, others 24/7. Some that are funded by the US, others that condemn American presence and even show footage of attacks on American soldiers. Some that represent ethnic groups in Iraq, others sects. Some broadcast from Iraq, others from outside.

I dont generally spend much time watching most of these channels, but i do flick through them every now and then. The other day I was watching the "news" on Al-Baghdadiya, a channel that broadcasts from Egypt. It was showing Iraqi's in Ramadi complaining about the American seige on the city (that started about 3 weeks ago). It was the funniest thing i have ever seen on an Iraqi channel, of course the conditions that the people in that city are living in are nothing to laugh about, but what was comic was the fact that the people being interviewed were being coached to say what the reporter wanted them to say. You can even hear the reporter saying "say there is no government" and an old women then says "There is no government here, they dont care about us", then the reporter says "petrol"...and the women says "we dont have petrol here in the city, its hard to get around'. The reporter then says "American occupation" and the women than rants about the Americans who are besieging the city.
The official mission statement I found via LinkTV's website makes Al-Baghdadiya sound like something that a US government agency or supported NGO might be funding:
In addition the channel aims at: Educating tolerance, helping to re-establish a healthy Iraqi society and environment, emphasizing the Iraqi identity through the cultural and social heritage, helping to improve and modernize Iraqi society besides respecting spiritual and social values, staying up to date with scientific developments worldwide, and improving the aesthetical values of broadcasting.
Inquiring media studies scholars want to know: How does throwing shoes at President Bush "improve the aesthetical values of broadcasting?"

More on the shoe-throing reporter's possibe motivations from MEB Journal :
Kidnapped. Muntadhar Al Zaidi, correspondent for the independent Al Baghdadiya television station, said he spent more than two days blindfolded, barely eating and drinking, after armed men forced him into a car as he walked to work in an area of central Baghdad. He never learned the identity of the kidnappers, who beat him until he lost consciousness – and then questioned him closely about his work, but did not demand a ransom. Al Baghdadiya broadcasts from Cairo and is often critical of the government and U.S. military presence in the country.

Why American Democracy Promotion Failed

I heard part of this panel on CSPAN radio yesterday, and found the papers online at the Hudson Institute website. Zeyno Baran raised a question that Michael McFaul, Carl Gershman, Larry Diamond, and other so-called "democracy experts" didn't seem able to answer;
I think the biggest mistakes took place in the broader Middle East region. I was at first very confused about some of the policies; now I understand that the US simply does not understand Islamism, even though it has been an active and increasingly powerful counter-ideology over at least three decades. Islamism is not compatible with democracy; Muslims can be democrats. There is a huge difference.

The prevailing view—that Islamists should be co-opted into existing political systems—simply will not work.
The fallacy in this policy of appeasement lies in assuming that an individual or group that sounds moderate in fact is moderate. Often, Islamists are willing to make superficial concessions while continuing to hold an uncompromising worldview.

The academics, analysts and policy makers who argue that a movement like the Muslim Brotherhood today is “moderate” seem to disregard its ideology, history, and long-term strategy. They even seem to disregard the Brotherhood’s own statements. It is true that most affiliates of this movement do not directly call for terrorist acts, are open to dialogue with the West, and participate in democratic elections. Yet this is not sufficient
for them to qualify as “moderate,” especially when their ideology is so extreme. Turning a blind eye to the Brotherhood and its ideological extremism—even if done for the sake of combating violent extremism and terrorism—is a direct threat to the democratic order.

Unfortunately, since 9/11, the US has alienated many of its allies and strengthened enemies in the Muslim world. This is one of the reasons why the US lost the support of the secular movement within Turkey, which is traditionally the domestic constituency most closely allied to the West. It (correctly) perceives US policy as promoting a “moderate Islamist” government in their country—one that can serve as a model for the Muslim world. Yet even the current political leadership coming from an Islamist past opposes to be called “moderate Islamist” and instead prefers “Muslim
democrat” as a description.
Shilbey Telhami also made a clear point:
One would think that since we have so much power and influence to persuade governments in the region even to go along with wars they don’t like, we can also persuade them to reform themselves out of power. This is a naive view. First, for us, the promotion of democracy will always be only a part-time job; for the regimes in the region, staying in power is their full time job—and they know far more about their surroundings than we will ever be able to learn. That alone is a challenge. But there is a far bigger challenge when we are engaged in two demanding wars for the conduct of which we need all the help we can get.

When you are at war, your military and intelligence considerations trump the aid that USAID provides, or the talking points about democracy that your Ambassadors will go through with usually un-empowered subordinates of powerful autocratic rulers. In the war on terrorism, for which good intelligence is paramount and our own capabilities have been demonstrably low, cooperating with the intelligence services in the countries we are trying to reform is essential. Sometimes we can tell good intelligence form bad, but at other times we cannot see that regimes use the relationship to target their own opposition groups. Our military needs the cooperation of the regional military forces for transit, special operations, and basing of forces. In other words, when you are fighting two wars and have over 220, 000 troops to protect, your biggest institutional allies in every country in which you operate are the intelligence and military services—the very backbone of the authoritarian regimes that we are trying to weaken. In other words, our heavy military feet always trump our waving democracy hands.

This suggests that our efforts for transformative reform in the region are not likely to succeed so long as we are at war and have heavy military presence. But we can do more to shrink the gap between public opinion and governments as a prelude to incremental reform. This can only be done by putting forth a new vision for a broader and credible foreign policy that addresses regional concerns beyond democracy itself. It starts with reforming ourselves and restoring our credibility particularly of issues of human rights. It proceeds by working with international institutions to uphold commonly accepted norms and demanding compliance across the board. It pushes for credible reform in which the public can trust, concentrating on areas in which governments in the region may have incentives to cooperate, even if reluctantly. And it ends with the recognition that the power of our example must be restored as one of our greatest assets when it comes to inspiring democracy and human rights around the world.
I had to chuckle when moderator George Stephanopolous asked McFaul and others what the US should do if Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak (characterized by Larry Diamond with the Islamist epithet "Pharonic") placed his son into the Egyptian presidency--during the reign of George Bush the Second, while Joseph Biden has admitted placing a temporary replacement into his Senate seat to keep it warm for his son, after Barack Obama has nominated Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State (not to mention Chicago's current Blagojevich scandal) NY sportscaster Warner Wolf used to say: "Give me a break..."

iPhone's App Store Gold Rush

From Newsweek:
Apple won't say how much money the App Store is taking in, nor will it say how many of the 300 million downloads were free apps and how many were apps that cost money (most apps are free; the others cost anywhere from a buck to $10). Apple gets a 30 percent cut of any revenue generated by apps. But for Apple right now the money isn't the point. The big thing is the race to become the dominant mobile-computing platform, the way IBM-standard PCs running Microsoft operating software—first DOS and then Windows—came to dominate personal computing in the 1980s and early 1990s. The mobile-computing space looks a bit like the early days of personal computers, when different operating systems were competing to be king. A half-dozen smartphone platforms compete in the market, including Symbian (used by Nokia), Windows Mobile, the BlackBerry and Google's Android. Yet another is on the way from Palm, maker of the Palm Pilot and the Palm Treo. Next year Palm will introduce an entirely new operating-system platform for mobile computing. Whichever platform draws the most developers will likely rule the market. Right now "it's a 100-yard dash and Apple is already 75 yards down the track while the other guys are still trying to get out of the blocks," says Ken Dulaney, analyst at researcher Gartner in San Jose.

Half the fun of owning an iPhone is trying out all the cool new apps you can put on it, and developers are cranking things out at a feverish pace. "It's kind of a gold rush," says Brian Greenstone, who runs a tiny outfit (it's just him and a few freelancers) called Pangea Software in Austin, Texas, that has created several hit games for the iPhone, including Cro-Mag Rally and Enigmo. Greenstone, 41, has been writing games for Apple's computers for 21 years. But he says he's never seen anything like the iPhone apps phenomenon, which this year will deliver $5 million in revenue for him. "It's crazy. It's like lottery money. In the last four and a half months we've made as much money off the retail sales of iPhone apps as we've made with retail sales of all of the apps that we've made in the past 21 years—combined." Business is so good that Greenstone won't even bother writing for the Mac anymore. Besides, Greenstone says, iPhone apps are easy to create: some get cranked out in just two weeks by a single developer. "Some kid in his bedroom can literally make a million bucks just by writing a little app," Greenstone says.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Borat Didn't Tell You About Kazakhstan...

It has Ghengis Khan as an ancestral ruler--and a film industry developed by the USSR. They combine in Mongol-- a slow but memorable epic and coming-of-age story, directed by Sergei Bodrov that someone I know and yours truly watched the other night. Somehow the scenes of young Temujin (Ghengis Khan's boyhood name) communicating with wolves and dogs went deep into the unconscious. Well worth getting from Netflix. A bit too much "ultra-violence" for the videogamers out there, but I fast-forwarded through that stuff. On the other hand, lots of beautiful horses, landscapes, costumes, Asian actors (from Japan, China, & Kazakhstan) as well as yurts. Plus, the film seems to be in Mongolian, which is not something one hears everyday...

Camille Paglia on Hillary Clinton

From Salon:
As for Obama's appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, what sense does that make except within parochial Democratic politics? Awarding such a prize plum to Hillary may be a sop to her aggrieved fan base, but what exactly are her credentials for that position? Aside from being a mediocre senator (who, contrary to press reports, did very little for upstate New York), Hillary has a poor track record as both a negotiator and a manager. And of course both Clintons constantly view the world through the milky lens of their own self-interest. Well, it's time for Hillary to put up or shut up. If she gets as little traction in world affairs as Condoleezza Rice has, Hillary will be flushed down the rabbit hole with her feckless husband and effectively neutralized as a future presidential contender. If that's Obama's clever plan, is it worth the gamble? The secretary of state should be a more reserved, unflappable character -- not a drama queen who, even in her acceptance speech, morphed into three different personalities in the space of five minutes.

Given Obama's elaborate deference to the Clintons, beginning with his over-accommodation of them at the Democratic convention in August, a nagging question has floated around the Web: What do the Clintons have on him? No one doubts that the Clinton opposition research team was turning over every rock in its mission to propel Hillary into the White House. There's an information vacuum here that conspiracy theorists have been rushing to fill.

Daniel Pipes on Mumbai Attacks

If terrorism ranks among the cruelest and most inhumane forms of warfare, excruciating in its small-bore viciousness and intentional pain, Islamist terrorism has also become well-rehearsed political theater. Actors fulfill their scripted roles, then shuffle, soon forgotten, off the stage.

Indeed, as one reflects on the most publicized episodes of Islamist terror against Westerners since 9/11 – the attack on Australians in Bali, on Spaniards in Madrid, on Russians in Beslan, on Britons in London – a twofold pattern emerges: Muslim exultation and Western denial. The same tragedy replays itself, with only names changed.

Muslim exaltation: The Mumbai assault inspired occasional condemnations, hushed official regrets, and cornucopias of unofficial enthusiasm. As the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center notes, the Iranian and Syrian governments exploited the event "to assail the United States, Israel and the Zionist movement, and to represent them as responsible for terrorism in India and the world in general." Al-Jazeera's website overflowed with comments such as "Allah, grant victory to Muslims. Allah, grant victory to jihad" and "The killing of a Jewish rabbi and his wife in the Jewish center in Mumbai is heartwarming news."

Such supremacism and bigotry can no longer surprise, given the well-documented, world-wide acceptance of terror among many Muslims. For example, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press conducted an attitudinal survey in spring 2006, "The Great Divide: How Westerners and Muslims View Each Other." Its polls of about one thousand persons in each of ten Muslim populations found a perilously high proportion of Muslims who, on occasion, justify suicide bombing: 13 percent in Germany, 22 percent in Pakistan, 26 percent in Turkey, and 69 percent in Nigeria.

A frightening portion also declared some degree of confidence in Osama bin Laden: 8 percent in Turkey, 48 percent in Pakistan, 68 percent in Egypt, and 72 percent in Nigeria. As I concluded in a 2006 review of the Pew survey, "These appalling numbers suggest that terrorism by Muslims has deep roots and will remain a danger for years to come." Obvious conclusion, no?

Western denial: No. The fact that terrorist fish are swimming in a hospitable Muslim sea nearly disappears amidst Western political, journalistic, and academic bleatings. Call it political correctness, multiculturalism, or self-loathing; whatever the name, this mentality produces delusion and dithering.

Nomenclature lays bare this denial. When a sole jihadist strikes, politicians, law enforcement, and media join forces to deny even the fact of terrorism; and when all must concede the terrorist nature of an attack, as in Mumbai, a pedantic establishment twists itself into knots to avoid blaming terrorists.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Politico: Valerie Jarrett Was Blagojevich's Senate Bargaining Chip

Ben Smith reports on the Obama advisor's role in the fall of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich:
The transition hasn't yet responded to questions about Rod Blagojevich's indictment, but the key question is whether the transition was talking to prosecutors, whether Obama and Valerie Jarrett knew that Blagojevich had offered her the Senate seat in exchange for a labor job, and how she, the transition, or SEIU handled the solicitation of a bribe. (The existence of a transcript suggests that the SEIU official -- Andy Stern, the president, had met with Blagojevich just before the election on the subject, though nobody is identified in the complaint -- was wearing a wire.)

One piece of speculation: Jarrett's abrupt withdrawal from consideration for the Senate seat suggests Obama's circle aware of the investigation.

It is clear from the complaint that Obama refused to offer Blagojevich anything for appointing Jarrett.

"ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but 'they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. F*** them,'" says the complaint.

Arianna Huffington on Bush's Reverse Darwinism

From today's Huffington Post:
Among its myriad failings, the Bush administration has repeatedly gotten it wrong when it comes to getting it right. Over the last eight years, there has consistently been no penalty for those who have gotten things - even the most important things - wrong, and no reward for those who have gotten things right.

Call it Bush Darwinism: survival of the unfittest.

Over the weekend, Barack Obama made an encouraging move to reverse that unintelligent design by appointing retired General Eric Shinseki to be the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. While having had a long and distinguished career, Shinseki is most famous for getting it right when it came to Iraq - and for suffering the consequences typical in the Bush administration for getting it right: being shown the door.

Monday, December 08, 2008

"Separate but Equal" in American Higher Education?

Mark S. Langevin teaches political science at the University of Maryland's University College. He published an oped in today's Baltimore Sun arguing that adjunct faculty are part of a "separate but equal" system in American higher education:
In some ways, UMUC is similar to the East Louisiana Railroad car that Homer Plessy boarded on June 7, 1892. Just as railroads served to propel the U.S. toward progress in the 19th century, UMUC plays a key role in creating a future of global opportunities for thousands of adult students in Maryland and throughout the world, offering bachelor's and master's programs, a doctoral program and a multitude of certificate programs and numerous online offerings. Last year, UMUC enrolled more than 90,000 students in three continents. UMUC could grow by 50 percent in the next decade, by far the largest increase in the University System of Maryland. Unfortunately, the burden of such expansion will fall upon those least able to afford it: students and faculty.

UMUC resident students pay 400 percent more toward their educational expenses than the state's share. At College Park and Frostburg State, students pay only 80 percent of what state taxpayers do. Multiplying the inequality, only 33 percent of UMUC undergraduates receive financial aid, compared with a majority of students enrolled at peer institutions. It gets worse. UMUC has no tenured faculty, only a tiny team of full-time professors with short-term contracts lost among the legions of part-time faculty. More than 80 percent of UMUC faculty are contracted one course at a time.

UMUC's faculty model doubles down on inequality by forcing students to the back of the higher-education bus along with their part-time professors who earn only a third of what full-time professors at peer schools in Maryland earn for comparable work.

Shinseki Good Choice for VA

The Chicago Sun-Times explained why in its lede:
The very man rejected by the Bush administration for warning that Iraq would be no cakewalk is President-elect Barack Obama's choice to be Veterans Affairs secretary.

Eric Shinseki, 66, was Army chief of staff when months before the Iraq war was launched, he warned that several hundred thousand troops would be needed -- more than the Bush administration planned.

He also warned that ethnic rivalries would break out and that American troops would face a long, difficult clean-up afterward. Bush administration officials repudiated Shinseki's remarks.

But on Sunday, Obama said, "He was right."
My guess this appointment might indicate that Shinseki may be in line for the Defense Secretary job, when Gates steps down...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Yet One More Reason Hillary Should Not Be Secretary of State

Today's story in the NY Times about Bill Clinton's recent $200,000 speech for a suspicious Malaysian businessman embroiled in controversy and legal problems:
Mr. Clinton promoted the Petra Group’s new deal on Friday, telling the audience, “One of the biggest rubber shoes and boots manufacturers, Timberland, is replacing the soles of its shoes it makes with this man’s green rubber technology.”

Mr. Clinton often praises companies that pay him to speak. In 2001, he received $125,000 from an Illinois management consulting company called International Profit Associates. It was later revealed that the Illinois attorney general was investigating accusations of deceptive marketing tactics by the company.

After a start-up Web search site named Accoona donated $700,000 worth of stock to his foundation, Mr. Clinton praised the company at a corporate event in December 2004.

“I hope you all get rich,” he told Accoona executives, “but, remember, you are doing something good for humanity as well.”

Friday, December 05, 2008

Another Reason Hillary Should Not Be Confirmed as Secretary of State

From the AP, this story of what looks like a corrupt practice:
The Clintons plan a New York City fundraiser this month, which will give donors a final chance to buy some face time with the future secretary of state.

Aides said the New York senator will try to avoid doing anything that suggests she is leveraging her new post for fundraising advantage. But the appearance of a conflict of interest is always possible when people give campaign money to politicians.

"If nothing else, there's the embarrassment element," said Brad Smith, a former Federal Election Commission chairman. "A secretary of state trying to raise campaign money is kind of ugly."

Obama's team sent an e-mail Friday, signed by Vice President-elect Joe Biden, asking supporters to help Obama fulfill a pledge to whittle Clinton's campaign debt."
This story reminds one of the continuing scandal surrounding Hillary fundraiser Norman Hsu reported in November by the San Jose Mercury News:
A state appeals court Tuesday upheld a three-year prison term for disgraced political donor Norman Hsu, whose hefty campaign contributions to prominent politicians amid a life on the lam at one point thrust his name into last year's presidential primary campaign.

In a unanimous ruling, the San Francisco-based 1st District Court of Appeal rejected Hsu's bid to overturn his fraud conviction and sentence, which dated back to a 1992 San Mateo County criminal case involving a $1 million investment scam. A San Mateo County judge sentenced Hsu to the three-year prison term in January, prompting the appeal.

Hsu's troubles came to light after news reports revealed he was a fugitive on the San Mateo County charges, skipping bail in 1992 after pleading no contest to the fraud allegations. Hsu had been a major fundraiser for prominent Democrats, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, and his plight attracted nationwide attention. Many of the politicians who received contributions from Hsu returned the money or gave it to charity after the revelations.

Is Afghanistan Lost?

Just found this announcement for an upcoming Harvard University seminar in my inbox
Is Afghanistan Lost?
A panel discussion on Afghanistan: Development, Human Rights and Security

Date: December 8, 2008
Time: 1:30-3:00pm
Malkin Penthouse, 4th Floor
Littauer Building
Harvard Kennedy School
79 John F. Kennedy St.
Cambridge, MA. 02138


Samantha Power, Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership
and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School


Steve Coll, President, New America Foundation, author of Ghost Wars:
The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the
Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001, which won a Pulitzer Prize in
2005 and The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century

Mark Garlasco, Senior Military Analyst, Human Rights Watch

Maleeha Lodhi, Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics,
former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S.

Barnett Rubin, Director of Studies, Center for International Conflict,
New York University, author of The Fragmentation of Afghanistan: State
Formation and Collapse in the International System and The Search for
Peace in Afghanistan: From Buffer State to Failed State

Sponsored by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Carr Center for
Human Rights Policy, the University Committee on Human Rights, Harvard
Law School Human Rights Program, and the Initiative on contemporary
state and society in the Islamic world.
More from Dawn:
PARIS, Dec 4: France has invited a dozen states to a conference on Afghanistan on Dec 14 to enlist the support of neighbouring countries in a stepped-up effort for peace, officials said on Thursday.

“Apart from Afghanistan and its immediate neighbours (Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan), India and China have been invited as countries from the region,” said a French foreign ministry spokesman.

The United Nations special representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, has been invited to the informal ministerial meeting along with representatives of the United States, Britain and Russia, he said.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana was also due to attend the Paris talks, six months after a donors’ conference in France, which currently holds the EU presidency, raised $20 billion for reconstruction in Afghanistan.

French officials see Pakistan, alleged to be the staging ground for Taliban attacks, as key to stabilising Afghanistan, which remains mired in poverty and violence more than six years after US-led forces drove the extremist militia out of Kabul."

Caroline Kennedy for US Senate

ABC News has reported speculation that NY Governor Patterson may appoint Caroline Kennedy to Hillary Clinton's Senate Seat. Sounds good to me (this blog recommended her for VP). Full disclosure: Caroline danced with a schoolmate of mine at a mixer about 35 years ago...he said she was very nice. (ht Huffington Post)

This just in...

Google just let me know about this item on Courthouse News Service from October:
CIA Info On Uzbek Massacre Demanded

WASHINGTON (CN) - Conservative culture critic Laurence Jarvik sued the CIA in a federal FOIA complaint demanding information on Uzbekistan's massacre of protesters on May 13, 2005, and events before and after the slaughter.

After wrangling over fee waivers, Jarvik says he agreed to pay the fees, but the CIA refuses to cough up any documents. Jarvik, known as a critic of the Public Broadcasting System, is represented by Matthew Simmons of Bethesda, Md.

EU Human Rights Court Upholds French Secularism

According to this report from the Irish Times(ht Althouse):
Europe's human rights court today threw out a complaint by two French Muslim girls who were expelled from their school for refusing to remove their headscarves during sports lessons.

France, which takes secularism in state schools very seriously, passed a law in 2004 banning pupils from wearing conspicuous signs of their religion at school after a decade of bitter debate about Muslim girls wearing headscarves in class.

"The court observed that the purpose of the restriction on the applicants' right to manifest their religious convictions was to adhere to the requirements of secularism in state schools," the European Court of Human Rights said.

The two girls were 11 and 12 when they were expelled in 1999. After French courts ruled against them, they complained to the European court that their school had violated their freedom of religion and their right to an education.

The court, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg, rejected both complaints by a unanimous ruling of seven judges.

Putin Offers Olive Branch to Obama

During his annual call-in TV show:
OLEG BELAN: Good afternoon, Mr Putin. Nenets Autonomous Area. I am Oleg Belan and I am a deputy of the regional assembly.

Do you think our relations with the United States will change after the election of Barack Obama as President? Will they become more pragmatic and constructive? Thank you.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: The question should be directed first and foremost to the new US Administration. Usually, when there is a change of power in any country, especially such a superpower as the United States, such changes do take place. We very much hope that the changes will be positive.

We see these positive signals. What are they? Look at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers: both Ukraine and Georgia have been denied a Membership Action Plan. We already hear at the level of experts, the people who are close to the President elect and the people around him, his aides, that there should be no hurry, that relations with Russia should not be jeopardised. We already hear that the practicability of deploying the third position of missile defence in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic should be considered once again.

We hear that the relations with Russia should be built with respect for our interests. If these are not just words, and if they are translated into practical policies, then of course we will react in kind and our American partners will immediately feel it.