Monday, August 31, 2009

New Jersey Beats Libya in Round One

Fox News reports:
MYFOXNY.COM - New Jersey Congressman Steve Rothman says five-days of phone calls between his office and the Libyan government finally came to an end on Friday when Libya said its leader would not visit the town of Englewood.

Rothman told Good Day NY's Greg Kelly that the Libyan government told him it never intended to pitch a Bedouin tent in front of Libyan property in the northern New Jersey town.

Reports in the last few weeks indicated Moammar Qadaffi planned to stay in the tent while he attended the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September.

"Qadaffi is a financier of international terrorism. He has the blood of Americans on his hands," Rothman told Good Day NY.

According to Rothman, the State Department told him Qadaffi would not be allowed to stay in Englewood.

Back in the 1980s, Rothman worked to help change the rules governing residences of foreign nations in the United States. Rothman says those rules would not permit Qadaffi to stay at the house.

Sunday Times (UK): Britain Traded Pan Am Bomber for BP Libyan Oil Deal

Jason Allardyce published excerpts from official letters in yesterday's Sunday Times:
Two letters dated five months apart show that Straw initially intended to exclude Megrahi from a prisoner transfer agreement with Colonel Muammar Gadaffi, under which British and Libyan prisoners could serve out their sentences in their home country.

In a letter dated July 26, 2007, Straw said he favoured an option to leave out Megrahi by stipulating that any prisoners convicted before a specified date would not be considered for transfer.

Downing Street had also said Megrahi would not be included under the agreement.

Straw then switched his position as Libya used its deal with BP as a bargaining chip to insist the Lockerbie bomber was included.

The exploration deal for oil and gas, potentially worth up to £15 billion, was announced in May 2007. Six months later the agreement was still waiting to be ratified.

On December 19, 2007, Straw wrote to MacAskill announcing that the UK government was abandoning its attempt to exclude Megrahi from the prisoner transfer agreement, citing the national interest.

In a letter leaked by a Whitehall source, he wrote: “I had previously accepted the importance of the al-Megrahi issue to Scotland and said I would try to get an exclusion for him on the face of the agreement. I have not been able to secure an explicit exclusion.

“The wider negotiations with the Libyans are reaching a critical stage and, in view of the overwhelming interests for the United Kingdom, I have agreed that in this instance the [prisoner transfer agreement] should be in the standard form and not mention any individual.”

Within six weeks of the government climbdown, Libya had ratified the BP deal. The prisoner transfer agreement was finalised in May this year, leading to Libya formally applying for Megrahi to be transferred to its custody.

Is It the Kennedy Coverage?

Or something else? This just in:
Hi, Laurence Jarvik.

British Embassy, USA (UKinUSA) is now following your tweets on Twitter.

A little information about British Embassy, USA:

412 tweets
following 2775 people

You may follow British Embassy, USA as well by clicking on the "follow" button on their profile.You may also block British Embassy, USA if you don't want them to follow you.

The Twitter Team

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Senator Kennedy's Funeral at Arlington

Here's some footage I took of Senator Kennedy's funeral procession approaching Arlington on Saturday. Someone I know and I stood there for couple of hours. The crowd was smaller than I had expected, dotted by the roadside, only one deep. But the event was moving, nonetheless...reminding one of Dealey Plaza, Dallas, 1963 and the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, 1968. It struck me that both Jack and Bobby were victims of terrorism...before we called it that. The 9/11 connection was there, somehow, as people waved flags, and the flag-draped coffin went by in the hearse. Earlier that morning the widow of a passenger on Pan Am 103 told me that Senator Kennedy personally called Lockerbie survivors, offered to help, and was instrumental in working out the original deal in which Libya turned al-Megrahi over for prosecution under Scottish law. (She added that there are plans for an anti-Ghaddafi protest when the Libyan dictator comes to New York to address the United Nations, featuring both Pan Am 103 and 9/11 family members). So, Kennedy was certainly aware of the connection.

One curious sight was the family waving from opened windows of funeral limousines and from the front windows of the buses-- about as many Kennedys as one could possibly see in a lifetime. So while sad, the procession had a Last Hurrah feel, of one last campaign, especially as buses passed by. Is that Caroline? Is that Victoria Reggie? Is that Teddy, Jr. Is that William Kennedy Smith?

Also interesting was that letter to the Pope read at the graveside, not just a personal matter, IMHO, for Senator Kennedy said he had asked for a "conscience objection" covering Catholic hospitals in any health care legislation. I'd say that the abortion, and indeed euthanasia, question should be settled by that note.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, campaigning, politicking and dealmaking to the very end--and beyond...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Admiral Mullen's Controversial Article on "Strategic Communication"

From Joint Forces Quarterly, the article that made such a splash in today's newspapers...and Admiral Michael G. Mullen gives serious cause to worry about our military strategy in Central Asia, if he really has fallen for the self-serving promotional pablum Greg Mortensen has peddled to gullible customers with such success in his best-sellers:
I’m a big fan of Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. In fact, I had the opportunity this summer to help him open up a new school for girls in the Panjshir Valley. Greg believes that building relationships is just as important as building projects. “The enemy is ignorance,” he told me, “and it isn’t theirs alone. We have far more to learn from the people who live here than we could ever hope to teach them.”

He’s right. We are only going to be as good as our own learning curve. And just the simple act of trying, of listening to others, speaks volumes all by itself.
Mullen certainly doesn't sound much like another Admiral Nimitz, Halsey, or Spruance.

The official US Navy photo above, from the Joint Chiefs of Staff website, shows Admiral Mullen "showerd (SIC) gifts and flowers from grateful villagers at the opening of the Pushghar Village Girls School, Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan, July 15, 2009. The school located in a remote valley 60 miles north of the capitol (SIC) Kabul was built by "Three Cups of Tea" author Greg Mortenson to promote and support community-based education, especially for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan."

I hope Greg Mortenson and Admiral Mullen--and their schoolteachers--spell better than US Navy webmasters (or the private contractors who work for them).

MEMO TO ADMIRAL MULLEN: As General Colin Powell said in Powell's Rules: "8. Check small things."

Englewood, NJ v Libya, Round One

From the Associagted Press:
"If the U.S. State Department won't shut this down, we will," Englewood Mayor Michael Wildes said. "New Jersey's governor, its two U.S. senators and its U.S. congressmen are all on board on this."

Libyan intelligence is widely believed to have orchestrated the 1988 attack on Pan American flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed all 259 aboard — including 38 people from New Jersey. Gadhafi, who has worked to try to rehabilitate his image in recent years, provoked a backlash last week by helping secure the release of the only man arrested in the bombing from a Scottish prison. Television cameras captured Gadhafi giving Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the convicted bomber, a warm greeting as a cheering crowd welcomed him back to Libya.

Already, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, U.S. senators and representatives from New York and New Jersey have protested Gadhafi's plan to stay at the sprawling estate in the upscale community when he addresses the UN next month. Gadhafi is expected to pitch a ceremonial Bedouin-style tent on the grounds, after a request to erect it in Manhattan's Central Park was rejected, according to officials.

The Libyan government, which bought the property in 1982, is renovating the property extensively. Wildes said mansion workers have violated numerous city ordinances by tearing down trees and part of a neighboring fence and expanding the mansion's pool without proper permits. He said they may also have violated state environmental rules by encroaching upon a stream that runs through the 5-acre property.

The city previously sought to slow the renovation via a stop work order, which allowed the imposition of fines. The Libyans have ignored the order. The injunction will allow Wildes to send Englewood police onto the property to halt work. The city plans request an injunction Friday from Bergen County Superior Court Judge Robert Contillo. Wildes said he expects a decision from Contillo in the next few days.

U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, whose district includes Englewood, has promised there will be "hell to pay" if the U.S. State Department lets Gadhafi stay in Englewood.

Sen. Jim Webb Calls for Opening to Myanmar

On last night's PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer:
And, by the way, another piece of this is, I'm not saying lift sanctions immediately. I'm saying we need to proceed immediately toward a formula where we can do that. By cutting off the United States and the European Union from Myanmar, as China is so heavily investing in the country, and we're seeing Myanmar now tilt away from our national interest. There's got to be a different way to do this.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, one of the leading pro-democracy in Burma groups says the U.S. should not offer the benefits of trade and investment to Burma, to Myanmar, until it takes real steps to open up its political system, that otherwise the U.S. would be just selling democracy down the river. What do you say to that?

SEN. JIM WEBB: I say, I share their objectives of moving toward a more open system. The question is how you get there.

And one of the interesting historical examples in that case is Vietnam itself. I was very strongly opposed to lifting sanctions on Vietnam after the Communists took over and how they treated the people who were with us.

But as other countries lifted their sanctions against Vietnam, it became more logical for us to do so, and, quite frankly, looking back on it, I think that was a key moment, in terms of beginning the process of opening up Vietnam.

The dissident groups that say you should have democracy first, really, I understand their frustrations, but they need to look at it a different way. Take what you can get and move toward democracy. That's the way you can bring change in Asia.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

CQ: US Pan Am Libyan Bomber Case "Still Open"

After all, why should the US government be cooperative with a British government that has used the Pan Am 103 bomber case to get BP a leg up on US-based Occidental Petroleum, among others, in a bidding war for Libyan oil and gas concessions?From Jeff Stein's CQ "Spy Talk" column:
The release of Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi from a Scottish jail has opened cash spigots from Tripoli to London, but a Justice Department spokesman says the Libyan Pan Am 103 bomber could be arrested again, along with other unnamed conspirators.

"There remains an open indictment in the District of Columbia and an open investigation," Richard Kolko, an FBI agent and Justice Department spokesman, told SpyTalk Thursday.

It could not be learned whether the "red notice" Interpol posted when Megrahi was indicted in 1991, alerting its members to the U.S. warrant for his arrest, remained open.

Megrahi was held under house arrest in Libya until 1998, when he was handed over to Britain. A special Scottish court held in the Netherlands convicted him in 2001.

Interpol spokeswoman Latonya N. Miller could not immediately say whether the red notice has been taken down, or a new one issued, since Megrahi was released Aug. 20.

But "the normal practice when someone is 'arrested,' even if we (the FBI) do not arrest them, is to remove the warrant from NCIC (National Crime Information Center)," said Richard Marquise, the FBI agent who headed the Pan Am 103 Task Force, "and I would assume the red notice would be removed as well."

But the prospect of Washington putting renewed vigor into arresting Megrahi, who was given a hero's welcome when he arrived home in Tripoli last week, has to be considered slim

Western investment, including from the U.S., has been pouring into Libya since the Muammar Qadaffi renounced nuclear weapons and last year paid off the remaining claims of victims of Libyan terrorism, which also included survivors and relatives of American soldiers killed in a 1986 West German discotheque bombing.

Libya, meanwhile, "is preparing to pour millions of pounds into the London property market in the latest sign of burgeoning business links between the two countries," the Guardian newspaper reported.

"The Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), which manages the country's $65bn (£40bn) oil wealth, has bought two buildings in recent months worth a combined £275m and instructed real estate advisers to look for more."

The paper also said "the Tripoli-based LIA, a so-called sovereign wealth fund which looks after long-term state reserves, is looking to open its first branch in London - paving the way for billions of dollars worth of investment to be channelled through the City."

"Existing British investments in Libya," The Guardian said, "have raised questions about whether business interests are dictating the pace of diplomatic detente."

"Official and unofficial British government contacts with Libya have been extensive," veteran BBC anchor Andrew Neil also reported Thursday.

"Last night we learned that three government ministers have made trips to Tripoli in the last 15 months: the then-trade minister Digby Jones (May 2008), Health minister Dawn Primarolo (November 2008) and Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell (February 2009).

"We do not know what was said in any of these Tripoli talks. But remember this: Saif Qudaffi, the Libyan dictator's favourite son and a key figure in the bomber's release, has averred that "in all commercial contracts for oil and gas with Britain, Megrahi [the now-released bomber] was always on the table." So it's reasonable to assume the ministers had their ears bent."

Neal also noted that "In 2004 Prime Minister Tony Blair flew to a tent outside Tripoli to do his so-called "deal in the desert" with Colonel Qaddafi which led to a broad rapprochement with Libya, a significant part of which was a prisoner transfer agreement which Qaddafi always saw as a means of bringing back his bomber."

Prince Andrew, who acts as Britain's special trade representative, has also visited Libya three times in the past year.

"It's a cast of characters that would do justice to a Bond film," Neal added.

Joseph McBride: Costs of Pan Am Bomber Release "Yet to be Determined"

From a Times of Trenton op-ed by a father of a Pan Am 103 bombing victim:
The important lesson from the response to the Scottish government's perplexing and apparently politically motivated move is that the emotional wounds of terror are not easily healed. This group of families had worked tirelessly to push both the U.S. and Scottish governments to find the culprits and waited for years until Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi agreed to release the suspects for trial in the Netherlands. The trial took place in 2000, 12 years after the bombing. The conviction was welcomed by most of the families.

The families waited 12 long years for justice, enduring shabby treatment by the airline and the state department; years of dealing with successive administrations, some more responsive than others; and embarrassing treatment by the Pan Am corporation during litigation. Finally, one person was convicted of this heinous crime. Perhaps there are others, but the evidence pointed to this man and his co-patriot, who was acquitted. Now, just eight years later, al-Megrahi is set free to enjoy his remaining days as a hero in his country.

Death by terrorism is unique in that the victims are random, cut down in the daily activities of life. They are not soldiers, but ordinary citizens. For the family members, the grief process, extensive and intensive, becomes even more complicated by the political realities of the day. Despite the setbacks, they as a group have made a significant impact on making the way we all fly safer. They worked the halls of Congress to pass legislation and to bring the Libyan government to release the suspects and provide compensation. Many of them later responded to the victims of 9/11, providing the comfort of those who have walked in their shoes.

In the face of these terrible events, a false expectation arises that the powers that be will do the right thing. Living through the last 20 years, many family members shared with me their bitter disillusionment with the people they thought were there to protect and care for them in their time of need. The recent example of the revelation that the Bush administration manipulated the terror levels for its own political gain provides no better example of the impact of politics. Imagine the emotional stress on Americans, in particular the victims of 9/11 and Pan Am 103, to hear that another attack was possible when, in reality, no such threat existed.

It is heartening to see the outrage of people across the world in response to al-Megrahi's release. It raises legitimate questions regarding what impact his release will have on future terrorists, the role of oil and big business and the realties of the Scottish government. The costs of this move are yet to be determined.

Happy Birthday, FOIABlog

The informative Freedom of Information Act website is now three years old:
The FOIA Blog Celebrates its Third Birthday
Three years ago today the FOIA blog was born. I'd like to thank each and every one of you for stopping by either on a time basis or regularly to read my posts about the Freedom of Information Act. I hope this blog has been informative, and I look forward to the fourth year of the blog.

If you don't know anything about me, I'm an attorney in Washington D.C. practicing FOIA and other government disclosure laws. My law firm website can be found here.

And don't forget the FOIA blog fan page on Facebook. There is a link on the left top of the blog.

Edward M. Kennedy, R.I.P.

Everyone in Washington seems to have a Teddy Kennedy story, and this is mine. I never met him, but I saw him speak. It was the summer of 1993, when someone I know and I went up to the Massachussets Institute of Technology on for a June conference on the future of the National Endowment for the Arts featuring speeches by critic Robert Hughes and Senator Edward M. Kennedy. We sat smack in front of the senator, in the middle of the audience as Senator Kennedy gave his keynote address. It was a real tub-thumper of a speech, political oratory at its finest. He was handsome and eloquent, and yes, "charismatic." He was a little fatter than I had expected, though full of energy. As someone who came of age in the aftermath of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, it was a moving experience. Senator Kennedy was indeed impressive. He actually attacked the arts crowd for screwing up by funding smut, although newspapers didn't report it and no one in the arts world had a public comment. In fact, he didn't say too much with which I could disagree. It was a pleasant surprise for me, but probably not for the arts bureaucrats. I wrote about it for David Horowitz's magazine, COMINT (v.4 n. 1), which covered the National Endowments and Public Broadcasting at that time:
Not surpisingly, Senator Kennedy began his keynote address with an attack on [acting NEA Chair Anne] Radice for refusing MIT's grant for the "Corporal Politics" show. Kennedy said of Radice's rejection:

Incredibly, the Acting Chairman of the Endowment subverted her agency's own procedures. She ignored the recommendation of the National Council on the Arts and the peer review system, steps established by statute to avoid just this type of political intrusion into the Endowment's deliberation. A national conference like this is an appropriate forum to state and restate some fundamental principles and avoid a repetition of distressing incidents like that.

But after Kennedy genuflected to the left, he giant-stepped to the right with an attack on obscenity. It was, he indicated, a sin the NEA better think twice now about committing. This was very different from Jane Alexander's 1990 Congressional testimony about NEA-funded obscenity. On that occasion she said it was not appropriate to "try to regulate or judge what is obscene." Said Kennedy:

Obscenity is the place to draw the line. Federal dollars should not be spent on any project that is obscene. Current law explicitly prohibits funding for such projects. If funds are awarded for such purposes, they must be refunded.
I saw that Senator Kennedy was a class act, a principled politician as well as a charismatic one. May he rest in peace.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Charles Crawford on Britain's Al-Megrahi Libya Deal

The former ambassador to Sarajevo, Belgrade and Warsaw explains diplomatic factors behind the furor on his Blogoir:
A youthful Crawf asks me what I make of the sending to Libya of the 'Lockerbie bomber'.

Very difficult to say, because it's a fiendishly long and complicated story about which I know next to nothing on the inner detail.

My only professional diplomatic encounter with Libya came on the night in 1986 when US planes bombed Tripoli (in response to clear evidence linking the Libyan leadership to anti-American terrorism) after taking off from airfields in the UK to do so. I was the FCO Resident Clerk fielding a torrent of angry calls from the public. One of my first blog postings described the experience.

Two years later came the destruction of Pan Am 103 which crashed on and around Lockerbie. The finger of suspicion pointed at Libya. Sanctions were imposed.

Over the following years it all slowly changed.

The Cold War ended. Colonel Gadhafi's eccentric if not narcissistic Arab nationalism started to look a bit limp and self-indulgent compared to Islamist violence. Heavy sanctions on Libya took some sort of toll.

Then 9/11. President Bush gets tough. Very tough. Saddam is toppled then arrested and put on trial.

All this gave Colonel Gadhafi a lot to think about. Gadhafi decided that that the time had come to try something new.

A very private message was conveyed to a senior MI6 officer... Here is a vivid and well-sourced account of the whole story as seen from the US perspective.

The elements of a Big Deal emerged.

If Libya accepted responsibility for the destruction of Pan Am 103 and paid out compensation to the families of the victims, plus stopped playing with weapons of mass destruction, sanctions could be lifted and everything normalised. Why, Colonel Gadhafi could be respectable again.

And, basically, this is what has happened.

The Libyans wrote a letter to the UN Security Council in 2003 which, while carefully drafted, got as close as such a text is ever going to get to accepting responsibility for the atrocity. Sanctions were lifted, in stages.

And, in due course, Prime Minister Blair visited Libya. Relations were normalised and smoothed out, even if the colour scheme and rug weren't:

As a significant extra element in this story, two Libyans were surrendered to the British and put on trial for the bombing. One was convicted.

An exhaustive and exhausting expert blog by Professor Robert Black pores over the issues surrounding the less than satisfactory conviction of that man, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi.

My view(s)?

1 The decision made in Edinburgh to send a dying Al-Megrahi back to Libya falls, just about, within the scale of what is reasonable. But I would not have voted to do so, broadly for the reasons given by Liam Murray. Michael Binyon makes some trenchant points too.

2 The idea that London/HMG had nothing to do with the decision (ie that it was Scotland's alone to take) is obviously phoney. Hence the row now developing. No decision such as this would be taken in Scotland without a closely coordinated eye being kept in London on the manifold foreign policy aspects for the UK as a whole. See the Observer yesterday, not least this:

Meanwhile, details emerged of a second letter written by the Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis to the Scottish justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, confirming that there were no legal reasons not to let Megrahi go and concluding: "I hope on this basis you will now feel able to consider the Libyan application."

3 If Al-Megrahi did not do it, there is now simply no chance of identifying, arresting and successfully prosecuting those who did. And in any case the really guilty terrorists were the people up the hierarchy in Libya (and/or elsewhere) who ordered the bombing, or gave a sly wink to those lesser villains who might do it.

4 Ignominious, embarrassing, perfidious or whatever you want to call it, maybe the whole thing is for the best, all things considered:

We and the Americans used a powerful and sustained policy of carrot and stick to bring Libya to accept responsibility for this horror, and pay compensation, and also renounce its weapons of mass destruction.
This is one of the biggest Western foreign policy achievments of our times (compare North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan and so on ), and a huge step forward towards making Northern Africa a partner, not a foe.
Where Diplomacy meets Reality?

The Telegraph (UK): Britain Protecting Accused Saudi Bomber From US Trial

The current Pan Am 103 bomber case may be the tip of an iceberg for British protection of accused terrorists, according to the Daily Telegraph:
More important, the American security services are re-examining their relationship with their counterparts in Scotland and England, since the decision to release Megrahi is only the latest thumb in their eye. The British Government has refused on human rights grounds to extradite six suspected terrorists wanted by American authorities, including a Saudi sought in connection with bomb attacks on US embassies. Remember: this is the same Government that raised no objection when British businessmen were extradited to face trial in the United States on various charges. Apparently, the Scottish desire to show compassion to a mass murderer is matched by a British desire to keep suspected terrorists from facing justice in US courts.

Martin Kramer on Yale University Press & Danish Mohammed Cartoons

From Martin Kramer's Sandbox:
Muna AbuSulayman is also Alwaleed's point person for his academic programs. "I used to work with him at Kingdom Holding, I was head of strategic studies, and I was given the assignment of doing the first centers in the U.S. I guess I did such a good job that he actually offered me the foundation." You can see her in this photo of Alwaleed with Georgetown's president, and in this one of Alwaleed with Harvard's provost (she's the one with the hijab). AbuSulayman continues to monitor the Alwaleed centers; in March, she convened their directors in London for their first joint planning meeting. (In this photo, she's surrounded by the directors of the endowed centers, including Georgetown's John Esposito and Harvard's Roy Mottahedeh. Look carefully for strings attached.)

Now it gets interesting. In April, Yale named Muna AbuSulayman a "Yale World Fellow" for 2009. This isn't some honorific, and she'll reside from August through December in New Haven. (Her Facebook fan page, August 16: "I need help locating a Town House/condo for short term leasing near Yale University... Anyone familiar with that area?") Can you imagine a better way to set the stage for a major Alwaleed gift? Hosting for a semester the very person who structured the Harvard and Georgetown gifts, and who now directs Alwaleed's charitable foundation? A stroke of genius.

Imagine, then—and we're just imagining—that someone in the Yale administration, perhaps in President Levin's office, gets wind of the fact that Yale University Press is about to publish a book on the Danish cartoons—The Cartoons That Shook the World. The book is going to include the Danish cartoons, plus earlier depictions of the Prophet Muhammad tormented in Dante's Inferno, and who-knows-what-else. Whooah! Good luck explaining to people like Prince Alwaleed that Yale University and Yale University Press are two different shops. The university can't interfere in editorial matters, so what's to be done? Summon some "experts," who'll be smart enough to know just what to say. Yale will be accused of surrendering to an imagined threat by extremists. So be it: self-censorship to spare bloodshed in Nigeria or Indonesia still sounds a lot nobler than self-censorship to keep a Saudi prince on the line for $20 million.

Yale has seen its endowment suffer billions in losses, and its administration has the mission of making the bucks back. Yale's motto is lux et veritas, light and truth, but these days it might as well be pecunia non olet: money has no odor—whatever its source. Still, that isn't the mission of Yale University Press, which seeks to help authors of exceptional merit shed full light on the truth. More than three years ago, I warned against "the deep corruption that Prince Alwaleed's buying spree is spreading through academe and Middle Eastern studies." If this is what caused Yale University to trespass so rudely against the independence of its press, then the rot has spread even further than I imagined. I've been a reader for Yale University Press, which I think publishes a more interesting list in Middle Eastern studies than any university press. But if editorial decisions are to be subjected to vetting and possible abortion by Yale's money collectors, why bother?

Ignore all the denials, and watch for a hefty gift from Arabia, perhaps for another Alwaleed program in Islamic apologetics. Fat endowments speak louder than words—or cartoons.

An Open Letter from Ali Alyami to His Royal Highness, Prince Khalid, Governor of Makkah, the Saudi Kingdom

His Royal Highness, Prince Khalid,
Governor of Makkah, the Saudi Kingdom
First, let me congratulate you for this splendid initiative. It takes a lot of courage to open one's self to unfiltered questions, especially from a population who has a lot to say, but who understandably lives in a constant fear from autocrats who control all power, money and decision-making processes?
The following are some of my guarded questions which I hope you will answer candidly and your paper, Alwatan, will publish for all to see.
1, When will women be allowed to feed themselves, drive their children to schools and be free from the denigrating male guardian system?  2, When will religious minorities be free to practice their rituals as they wish? 3, When will there be accountability, transparency, power sharing, independent and non-sectarian judicial system where the rule of law replaces the whims of judges who consider women, Shia and non-Muslims heretics and inferior?
4, When will the Shura Council be elected and accountable to the people instead of the king? 5, When will Jeddah have a sewage system? 6, When will water and electricity be sufficient so people don't die from heat and thirst in a country that should have the best public service in the world? 7, Incidentally, why does not Saudi Arabia have the best public services in the world, given its small population and huge revenues? 8, Are things mismanaged as some people say or is it just a big lie to defame the ruling family? 9, Are religious police really religious or they use religion to terrorize and humiliate people?
The most important question your Royal Highness is:  When will people be free to think for themselves and criticize the squandering of public wealth without being rounded up and sent to the basement of  Prince Naif’s Ministry of Interior for an unforgettable physical treatment or as some say be fed to wild animals?

Ali H. Alyami, Ph. D.
Executive Director, Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
1050 17 St. NW Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 558-5552; (202) 413-0084; Fax: (202) 536-5210 ;

The Strange Case of Fethullah Gülen

In a deposition (full transcript posted on Bradblog) for a case before the State of Ohio's Election Commission, former FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds discussed Fethullah Gülen, founder of a chain of Turkish schools in Central Asia. What she had to say was of interest, as his schools had been closed down by the Uzbek government shortly before I arrived for my Fulbright year. :
7 Q Can you tell me what practices and
8 policies that you were referring to that were
9 inimical to American interests?
10 A There's several. One is practices
11 and operations implemented from mid-1990s at
12 least until towards end of 2001 in Central
13 Asia and Caucasus, and these operations and
14 practices included Islamization of certain
15 segments of those Turkic nations, Uzbekistan,
16 Turkmenistan, Tajikistan. There are so many
17 of them in that -- in that area, and setting
18 up madrasahs and bringing in, helping bringing
19 -- at the time they were not referred to as
20 al-Qaeda until 2001, September 11th. They
21 were referred to as mujahideens from
22 Afghanistan and Pakistan into Central Asia,
Page 90
1 then to Turkey to give them passports, and
2 then funnel them in 1997, 1998 to certain
3 Eastern European countries and the Balkans.
4 And also -- and it's very broad I
5 can go on for a long time about what practices
6 and why they were -- they were against the
7 security and the interests of the Americans
8 and the lives.
9 Q Okay. Well, I don't want to
10 burden you too much, but I would like as
11 complete an answer as you can give us in terms
12 of what you were referring to.
13 A Those operations when until -- at
14 least until September 2001, and again, for
15 those operations, they corroborated and worked
16 with certain U.S. persons who were involved in
17 these operations...

(p. 94)
...14 Q Are you familiar with a person
15 named Fetullah Gulan, G-u-l-a-n?
16 A Yes.
17 Q Can you tell us who that is?
18 A My information is mainly about his
19 activities and issues that were, again, done
20 from late 1990s until I left, and then after
21 that it will be known activities here in the
22 United States. He shortly -- he was the
Page 95
1 religious activist figure in Turkey, and he
2 landed on Turkish government's wanted list and
3 was going to be persecuted for wanting to
4 throw Turkish secular government -- replace it
5 with Islamic shariah kind of type of
6 government.
7 And when he was wanted in Turkey
8 for that and he was going to go to jail, he
9 actually got on the plane and came to the
10 United States, and he was given immediately
11 visa to stay in the United States, and he has
12 been in the United States until now as far as
13 I know.
14 He has since established more than
15 300 madrasahs in Central Asia and what he
16 calls universities that have a front that is
17 called Moderate Islam, but he is closely
18 involved in training mujahideen-like militia
19 Islam who are brought from Pakistan and
20 Afghanistan into Central Asia where his
21 madrasahs operate, and his organization's
22 network is estimated to be around $25
Page 96
1 billion.
2 He has opened several Islamic
3 universities in the United States. As I said
4 it's being promoted under Moderate Islam. It
5 is supported by certain U.S. authorities here
6 because of the operations in Central Asia, but
7 what they have been doing since late 1990s is
8 actually radical Islam and militizing
9 (phonetic) these very, very young, from the
10 age 14, 15, by commandoes they use, and this
11 is both commandoes from Turkish military,
12 commandoes from Pakistani ISI in Central Asia
13 and Azerbaijan, and after that they bring them
14 to Turkey, and from Turkey they send them
15 through Europe, to European and elsewhere.
16 Up until 1999, the Turkish
17 government, also paramilitary units in Central
18 Asia, they operated under the groups that call
19 themselves Gray Wolves, ultra-nationalists,
20 and their method was, you know, assassination
21 of certain leaders in the Central Asian
22 countries, and militizing, but not through
Page 97
1 Islam.
2 But after this scandal that took
3 place in Turkey, Susurluk scandal
, they were
4 no longer supported by certain segments in the
5 United States, and instead some of our people
6 involved in foreign policy, they supported the
7 Islamic movements of Gulan in the Central
8 Asian countries in order to counter Russia as
9 far as the energy sources are concerned in
10 those countries.
11 Q How is it, if you know, or how is
12 it that Gulan is allowed to be in the United
13 States?
14 Let me ask a different question.
15 A Okay.
16 Q I'm sorry. Is that an individual
17 based on what you've told me that you would be
18 -- that you would consider a threat to U.S.
19 interests?
20 A One hundred percent, absolutely.
21 Q And if you know, how is it that
22 he's allowed to be in the United States?
Page 98
1 A Because part of what he has in
2 terms of the deal with certain segments in the
3 United States is furthering the interests of
4 the people who are interested in the energy
5 sources in Central Asia, and that is the --
6 whether it's oil or whether it's natural gas,
7 and basically it's a fight.
8 The best way to describe it is
9 Cold War is not over. It's a continuation of
10 Cold War over those nations, and what we did
11 in Afghanistan in early 1980s with mujahideen,
12 we have been joined now in Central Asia by
13 using Islam and extremism and these madrasahs,
14 and Pakistani and Afghani elements to build
15 (unintelligible) and staff in terms of those
16 resources towards certain business interests.

17 Q Did you say that Gulan had set up
18 schools in the United States as well?
19 A Yes.

Jay Mathews: The Lesson of Jonathan Keiler

In the Washington Post yesterday, Jay Mathews told the story of Jonathan Keiler, who gave up a legal career to teach--only to find himself persecuted by the educational establishment.
It is difficult to argue that Keiler, 49, is anything but one of his county's best teachers. He is the only member of the Bowie High faculty with National Board Certification, having passed a competitive series of tests of his classroom skills that has become a gold standard for American educators. He has a bachelor's degree in philosophy and history from Salisbury University and a law degree from Washington and Lee University. He served four years as an Army Judge Advocate General officer, then was a partner in a private law firm in Bethesda until, as he puts it, he "got sick of law and became a social studies teacher at my alma mater."

He teaches a survey course called Practical Law, as well as Advanced Placement World History and AP Art History. More students signed up for his classes this year than he had periods to teach them. He coaches Bowie's Mock Trial team, the most successful in the county. He has published articles on military history and law in several magazines.

He hates the education school courses teachers must take to be certified and qualify for pay increases. He says they "are generally no more useful or interesting than watching paint dry." But he dutifully accumulated three credit hours at Bowie State University, six through the county's continuing professional education program and three for going through the National Board process. That was more than enough, he was told, for his standard certification.

Then earlier this month, the county's teacher staffing and certification office informed him that previous officials counted his credits wrong. If Keiler didn't somehow produce three extra credits by the end of September, he would be decertified and any pay increases he received associated with certification would be retroactively revoked.

Also, he was told, don't try to claim any more for that law degree. For years, the school system gave him zero credential credit for his three years at Washington and Lee, one of the nation's top law schools, even though he teaches a course on law and coaches Mock Trial. Eventually officials said he could claim three credit hours for the constitutional law course he took and get some extra pay, but that was it.

Keiler's drama unfolded in a way familiar to schoolteachers and other employees of large, easily distracted public agencies. He was told he needed to apply for an Advanced Professional Certificate, something required of 10-year teachers whose only discernible purpose, according to Keiler, is "to keep headquarters people employed." He sent in his paperwork. Weeks passed. He was told it wasn't enough. He needed 36 credits. He explained that because of his National Board status, he needed only 12. The staffing and certification office said that was news to them, but they would check. More weeks passed. He was told his National Board credits weren't certified. He sent in the certification from the American Council of Education. He was told they still wouldn't count unless he paid a college or university to certify them. And, whoops, suddenly he didn't have enough credits for even a standard certification.

"They are essentially firing me," Keiler told me, "because they do not understand their own rules and procedures, which of course are idiotic in the first instance, but at least they should know them. . . .This is typical of the thoroughly unprofessional way teachers are treated despite all the blather about professionalism, and also indicative of the cemented, regimented and unenlightened concept of teaching that is so engrained in the education establishment."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Observer (UK): British PM Made Pan Am Bomber Deal With Gaddafi at Italian G20 Summit

This Observer story (ht Drudge) indicates that the Obama administration gave a private green-light to the Libyan deal, despite subsequent "condemnations." (Observer photo)
Downing Street released the text of a cordial letter sent to the Libyan leader on the day that Abdulbaset al-Megrahi was released, asking that the event be kept low key because a "high-profile" ceremony would distress his victims and their families.

But critically the letter also refers to a meeting between the two leaders six weeks earlier at the G8 summit in Italy, adding that "when we met [there] I stressed that, should the Scottish executive decide that Megrahi can return to Libya, this should be a purely private family occasion" rather than a public celebration.

Previously officials have said that the two men's conversation in Italy at the beginning of July was brief and that, while the Lockerbie case was raised, Brown merely stressed the matter was one for the Scottish government to decide.

However, the new letter, addressed to "Dear Muammar" and signed off by wishing him a happy Ramadan, suggests that the decision was well enough advanced and Brown well enough briefed to set terms for a homecoming – albeit unsuccessfully. A jubilant Libyan crowd, some waving Scottish flags, greeted Megrahi at the airport.

Meanwhile, details emerged of a second letter written by the Foreign Office minister Ivan Lewis to the Scottish justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, confirming that there were no legal reasons not to let Megrahi go and concluding: "I hope on this basis you will now feel able to consider the Libyan application."

Although the Foreign Office said it was not intended to make representations either way, the leaking of the letter suggests the SNP-led administration may be starting to fight back.

Tonight the shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, redoubled calls for the government to release official records of conversations about the release, as Gaddafi increased the embarrassment by publicly thanking "my friend Brown, his government, the Queen of Britain, Elizabeth, and Prince Andrew who all contributed to encouraging the Scottish government to take this historic and courageous decision".

The scale of fury in America was laid bare in a vitriolic letter from the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller – who as a justice department lawyer led the investigation into the bombing – describing the release in a scathing letter to MacAskill as a "mockery of the rule of law" and of the victims' grief.

However, the Scottish government last night responded defiantly, insisting the US had made clear in discussions that, while it opposed Megrahi's release, it regarded freeing him on compassionate grounds because of his terminal cancer as "far preferable" to a prisoner transfer deal that would have seen him in custody.

Fears that the US could retaliate against the British government were eased when Whitehall sources disclosed that the White House had made no complaint to Downing Street, reserving its ire for the Scottish administration.
The official statement released by the Libyan leader makes clear the involvement of the British Prime Minister, as well as Libya's continuing support for terrorism:
Tripoli, 22.08.2009 (JANA)

Tripoli-22.8.2009(JANA) In front of his steadfast home, the Leader of the Revolution received last night Abd al Basset al Megrahi, his family members and a crowd of his relation.

The Leader made the following statement in which he addressed a message to friends and those who objected to these friends:
"At this moment I want to address a message to our friends in Scotland , the Scottish National Party, the Scottish Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister to congratulate them all for their courage, that they have proven to be independent inspire of all unnecessary and unacceptable pressure they faced..but they made the right, courageous and humane decision.

"I say to my friend Brown, the British Prime Minister, his government, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Andrew who against all odds encouraged this brave decision."

"This step is in the interests of relations between the two countries Libya and Britain and in the interests of personal friendship between me and them, and will positively affect exchange between the two countries.

As for the other side, we would like to tell them:

When Libya took up the responsibility and commuted the death sentence against the Bulgarian medical team to life imprisonment, and I took up the responsibility in response to my friend President Sarkozy, and for France we turned the team that is convicted of mass murder to serve life imprisonment in Bulgaria.

However, the world was stunned that the team, convicted of the hideous crime, was pardoned even before landing at the airport in Bulgaria, the President of Bulgaria was at the forefront of those to greet them, they were greeted as heroes, since they killed 400 innocent Libyan children and infected them with the AIDS virus.

Then, unfortunately, the European parliament welcomed the convicted team with a standing ovation, as if they were heroes.
We haven't we heard any protests on the exoneration of the convicted team? And why there was no talk that this would hurt the feelings of the families of the Libyan victims?

As for now with the release of Abdelbaset from prison, unfortunately illogical voices were raised, saying this hurts the feelings of families of the Lockerbie victims!!

Are we without any feelings, and they have feelings?!...Are we donkeys and they are humans?!

This is the double standard politics, this is an encroachment, this is arrogance and contempt for other nations, of their public opinion and humanity.

This is what brings about injustice and the terrorism they are now facing.

Terrorism is a phenomena that has justifications, which is the double standard politics.

Herein, we are extending a message to friends and to those who objected the friends.

During this reception several popular poems that express congratulations to the leader , his honorable family and the Libyan people on the occasion of 40th anniversary of Great al-Fatah Revolution and on start of the blessed month of Ramadan and the return home of brother , Abdel Basset el-Meghrahi .

These poems hailed the giant moral and material gains of al-Fatah Revolution for the Libyan people since its outbreak in 1969.

The poets reaffirmed their commitment and loyalty to the leader of the Revolution generation after generation .
/ JANA /
More reaction at
From the very beginning we have advocated the boycott of British Petroleum and other major British companies that have been lobbying for closer trade relations with Libya. As the news continues to unfold, more and more evidence is mounting regarding BP's role in this affair, as well as that of other major British industries seeking a foothold in the increasingly lucrative Libyan market. It has now become clear that the release of al-Megrahi was a concession made towards this end.

Charles B. Hall Honored in His Indiana Hometown

Dorian Trent Anderson, a retired two star general, was and is the first and only African American to receive an appointment to West Point from Brazil, Indiana. He was the guest speaker at the ceremony honoring Charles B. Hall in his hometown on Saturday as reported on This 'n That:

Charles B. Hall was the first Tuskegee Airman to shoot down a German fighter plane during World War II over Italy. His home town of Brazil, Indiana paid special tribute to him today with an unveiling ceremony of a memorial constructed in his honor. Mr. Hall died in 1971 at the age of 51 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His daughter and son were in attendance...

For Kelli Ann Hall Jones, Saturday's ceremony was very special.

"It's so important," Jones said Saturday following the dedication ceremony for the Charles B. Hall Memorial in front of Brazil City Hall.

Jones is the youngest of Hall's children and lives in Oklahoma City, Okla.

"This was a chance for me to come to his hometown," Jones said. "I'd never been here. It's a lovely town."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Happy Ramadan!

London Times: UK Traded Pan Am Bomber for BP Oil Deal

According to the London Times, Scotland's "compassionate release" was about British access to Libyan oil:
Supported by a walking stick, and wearing clothes that hung off his clearly diminished frame, Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi did not look like the biggest mass murderer in British history as he boarded the flight yesterday that would take him home.

The Libyan known to the world as the Lockerbie bomber returned to his native country a free man after being granted compassionate release by the Scottish government, a decision that some believe has its roots in a deal made between Tony Blair and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi more than two years ago.

The notorious “deal in the desert” was a significant step towards Libya’s rehabilitation among world leaders after it was held responsible for the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988, and also helped to clear the way for BP to invest £450 million in exploring Libya’s vast untapped reserves of oil. The prisoner transfer arrangement that the leaders agreed was also the first indication that al-Megrahi could one day return home.
Here's the Daily Mail version of the story:
Tony Blair has been accused of agreeing a 'blood money' deal involving the Lockerbie bomber with Colonel Gaddafi just hours before BP unveiled a £500million oil contract.

The then Prime Minister laid the foundations for the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi during a meeting with the Libyan leader in a desert tent two years ago.

The pair thrashed out a controversial prisoner transfer deal just before BP chairman Peter Sutherland announced the firm was investing $900million - about £545million - to search for oil in Libya. If the firm strikes rich, it could be worth £13billion.
Sounds plausible to me, as the British are rather cold-blooded and need some money fast right now. However, instead of empty statements from the administration "condemning" the release, the US government has some more substantive options, since BP does plenty of business here in the good old USA...some of it with the US government.

Congress could investigate these allegations, holding committee hearings after Labor Day. Then, if it turns out they are true, all US government contracts with BP should be cancelled immediately--Surely, there are some oil companies not in bed with mass murderers which might like to take over BP's US business?

Secondly, the families could begin their own public relations and advertising campaign to keep the matter alive--both as a public relations problem for BP (Perhaps with an ad campaign such as: "Fight Terrorism--Boycott BP") and as an issue in the 2010 congressional races. In fact, they were not the only victims of Libyan terrorism--just the most directly affected. Every US citizen was a victim of the attack on Pan Am 103. It was an attack on the United States of America (as well as Great Britain, but that's not our problem). It also set the stage for 9/11, in a "can you top this?" for terrorism kind of way.

I believe there is no statute of limitations on murder, especially mass murder. Therefore, the Justice Department may have the option of indicting Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi on some fresh charges, and asking for his extradition from Libya to face trial in the United States.

So, the silver lining of this scandal is that it presents an opportunity to let the world see just how serious anyone is about bringing terrorists to justice--without rendition, without Guantanamo, and without torture.

BTW, Here's the official Libyan position on the release--not a word about compassion or cancer--but a "hostage" no doubt traded for ransom, therefore consistent with the London Times account:
Libya Consistent Position That El Megrahi Was Political Hostage According to All International Norms is Crowned by His Return Home Today

Tripoli-20.8.2009(JANA) The Position that Libya has maintained all along that Abd al Basset al Megrahi, who was convicted in Lockerbie case, was a political hostage according to all international norms was today crowned by his release and return home from Scotland.

El Megrahi arrived in Mi'tiga International Airport accompanied by Seif al Islam Gaddafi, Chairman of Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation where he was received by his family, friends and a number of citizens.

The position of the Jamahiriya that El Megrahi should be released since he was a political hostage has attracted widespread international support ..since 2001 consecutive summits of the Arab League, African Union and the Non-aligned Movement always had the issue of El Megrahi on their agenda.

All summits have stressed repeatedly that continuous detention of El Megrahi would be considered as a political hostage in accordance with all international norms.
More background at The Lockerbie Case Blog. Still more from AFP at
The release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi was linked to trade deals with Britain, Seif al-Islam, the son of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, said in a interview broadcast Friday.

Just found this neat website via Wikipedia:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Visit to Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard

From Deneen L. Brown's article, in today's Washington Post:
Oak Bluffs still encompasses one of the country's oldest circles of black wealth and power. Edward M. Brooke, the first black senator elected since Reconstruction, and Martin Luther King Jr. summered here. Spike Lee owns a house here. White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett summers here, as does Vernon Jordan, former adviser to President Clinton.

It is a destination of the rich, whether they call it that or not. Most people just say it is a magical island with down-to-earth people from all walks and tsk-tsk at all the talk about the black elite. You wonder whether that isn't New England modesty. Because, in reality, anybody who makes it here has to have reached a certain status in life and has the luxury of leisure time in a recession, can take weeks to vacation by the sea, might have at least two houses even if it's a house a grandmother bought generations ago when she arrived as a domestic. Each generation produced children who climbed into another social class -- the daughters of maids became teachers, the children of teachers became doctors and lawyers. The Obamas have rented an estate in Chilmark, about 12 miles up the island from Oak Bluffs. They are scheduled to arrive Sunday. It is assumed the Obamas will pay a visit to Oak Bluffs.

Old Money
There is a social stratification here that is hard to discern in the salt air.

But it's here just as sure as the water is cold.

It was a place where beautiful black people vacationed. The women with red lipstick and Lena Horne hair looking out from old photographs, each woman more striking than the next. The men in pinstripe suits. Adam Clayton Powell, "King of the Cats," with his hair tossed back.

Here you can watch gradations of class. A subtle thing. Unspoken.

It is a place where summer becomes a verb, as in: "Where do you summer?" And by inference, winter becomes a verb as you politely ask, "Where do you winter?" And they answer, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. The answers are clear and precise.

Not like that of the man on the bus back in Providence who explains life on the other side of the water with regular folks: "I don't roll like that," says Michael Lucas, 43. "I have to summer and winter in the same place just to keep my lights on."

On the Vineyard, you know people who arrive here have arrived. "You don't get it when you first meet them," says Donna-Marie Peters, a sociology professor at Temple University, who has come here since she was a child. "But when you do, it will be subtle. A coded word. I live on such and such street. There are many echelons of middle class. There are the new elite and the old elite."...


...This community holds a confluence of old upper class and new upper class and those who straddle between. The unwritten rules you can't break because they are unwritten.

There are subtle questions that get asked here. Class can be distinguished in a matter of seconds with the right questions about family and ownership.

Lawrence Otis Graham explained this kind of social stratification in his book, "Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class." "All my life, for as long as I can remember," Graham wrote, "I grew up thinking that there existed only two types of black people: those who passed the 'brown paper bag and ruler test,' " meaning lighter skin and straight hair, "and those who didn't. Those who were members of the black elite. And those who weren't. . . . There was us and there was them. There were those children who belonged to Jack and Jill and summered in Sag Harbor; Highland Beach; or Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard, and there were those who didn't."

Oak Bluffs, Sag Harbor, Idlewild in Michigan -- which was called the "Black Eden" -- and Highland Beach are historically black vacation resorts built during the era of racial segregation. Highland Beach, in Maryland, was created by Frederick Douglass and members of his family.

"A lot of very early African American property owners in Oak Bluffs were apparently domestic servants of whites who vacationed in the areas. They had been exposed to the area. They liked the area and they bought land there," said Portia James, curator of "Jubilee: African American Celebration," an exhibit at the Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum.

"There was a time when those cottage owners who were black numbered less than a dozen -- indeed it was a gala summer when that number was achieved," Dorothy West wrote in 1969 in the Vineyard Gazette. "Their buying power made almost no ripple in the island's economy, and they, themselves, had no wish to make waves. But they had importance as forerunners. These early vacationists from Boston were among the first blacks anywhere to want for themselves and their children the same long summer of sun and sea air that a benevolent island provided to others who sought it. These first blacks made later generations vacation-minded and island-oriented."

Charles Crawford v David Miliband on Terrorism and Apartheid in South Africa

The former Ambassador to the former Yugoslavia takes on the British Foreign Minister and his recent statements on the BBC in praise of ANC terrorism and the former Communist Party's leader in South Africa:
On the Miliband/terrorism point, the FS was either simply wrong or missed a key point.

It is not whether terrorism is 'morally justifiable'. It is whether those who use terrorist methods to win power are more likely than not to use terror to stay in it.

Insofar as South Africa has emerged from apartheid 'peacefully' and today is in not too bad shape, it is because the ANC/SACP did not use terrorism (other than against fellow Africans which as we know did not count) on any great scale.

On the whole (and wisely, albeit at great cost) the South African masses did not rise up violently against apartheid, but let unrelenting pressures and contradictions of different shapes and sizes erode it.

In fact, if there was an ANC/SACP armed struggle at all it was against other African groupings (PAC/AZAPO/Inkatha). Which is why some 30,000 Africans and almost no 'whites' were massacred in South Africa's legendary Peaceful Transition to Democracy.

Plus the ANC/SACP/UDF in the mid-1980s had a clear policy of unleashing 'the worse, the better' revolutionary terror in the townships, with necklacings and other horrors being perpetrated by groups of demonic school-children. Hence, 20+ years later, South Africa's amazing violent crime rate.

In short, ANC/SACP terrorism did not 'blow down' apartheid. P W Botha's heart attack and the collapse of Communism in Europe did.

The BBC link to the interview coyly describes Joe Slovo as a 'leading member of the ANC and the first Housing Minister in Nelson Mandela's government'. The point, of course, is that Slovo was the leading South African communist and formal head of the 'military wing' of the ANC/SACP alliance. Slovo was at the heart of ANC/SACP policy-making for years, plus a close suck-up of Moscow and vigorous apologist for Communism anywhere he found it.

So here we have the ghoulish spectacle of British Foreign Secretary David Miliband extolling the merits of this dark character, a great friend of his own Marxist father Ralph Miliband.

Slovo by the usual standards of Communists was something of a moderate and pragmatist. He had to be. Years of exile forced him to grasp that the South African masses were not to be mobilised for a brisk, amazingly violent surge aimed at toppling apartheid. And he seems to have been avuncular in large doses, chatting over Marxist ideology with assorted Milibands. What a great life indeed!

Yet Slovo has to bear a significant responsibility for the carnage inflicted by the SACP/ANC in the townships in its drive for sole power as apartheid ended, and the calamitous crime-rate thereafter. Not an issue I suspect the Miliband family has given much thought to, such is the Labour Party's fevered admiration for the ANC/SACP.

Plus, while Slovo was devoted to the cause of freedom for South Africans, he was openly and shamefully against freedom for those trying to cast off communism.

See how the SACP urged Moscow to suppress the pro-freedom movement in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Slovo later claimed to have had personal doubts about this, but fealty to Moscow was a prerequisite for leadership in the anti-apartheid struggle. And that was what counted, not some higher principle of real empowerment and freedom for all.

His ideological writings were ghastly beyond description. His famous piece Has Socialism Failed written in 1990 is a cracker of the genre. It agonizes over the ruin which has come to the classic Communist project as the Berlin Wall crashed, and meanders in a jargonised pseudo-logical way towards a purported condemnation of the 'Stalinism' which Slovo had championed for most of his life.

Avuncular Joe scratches for nuggets of Marxist hope in the wreckage:

The transformations which have occurred in Poland, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria are revolutionary in scope. With the exception of Romania, is there another example in human history in which those in power have responded to the inevitable with such a civilised and pacific resignation?

We should remember De Gaulle's military response in 1968 when ten million workers and students filled the streets of Paris. It is not difficult to forecast how Bush or Thatcher would deal with millions in their streets supported by general strikes demanding the overthrow of their system of rule.


Of course for Slovo Communism in fact did quite well in lots of respects:

Among other things, statistics recently published in The Economist (UK) show that in the Soviet Union - after only 70 years of socialist endeavour in what was one of the most backward countries in the capitalist world - there are more graduate engineers than in the US, more graduate research scientists than in Japan and more medical doctors per head than in Western Europe. It also produces more steel, fuel and energy than any other country (The World in the 1990s; Economist publication).

How many capitalist countries can match the achievements of most of the socialist world in the provision of social security, child care, the ending of cultural backwardness, and so on? There is certainly no country in the world which can beat Cuba's record in the sphere of health care.

Lies and/or specious drivel.

It was all just a mistake:

We believe, however, that the theory of Marxism, in all its essential respects, remains valid and provides an indispensable theoretical guide to achieve a society free of all forms of exploitation of person by person.

The major weaknesses which have emerged in the practice of socialism are the results of distortions and misapplications. They do not flow naturally from the basic concepts of Marxism whose core is essentially humane and democratic and which project a social order with an economic potential vastly superior to that of capitalism.

My own abiding personal memory of Slovo comes from 1990, a huge rally organised by the ANC/SACP in Jo'burg soon after they were unbanned. Slovo was the final speaker. The crowd had been brought to life by the late Chris Hani leading rounds of cheery Kill the Boer chants and dancing.

Slovo at last rose to speak. Perhaps the proudest moment of his career to date.

And as he started droning on, the Africans started to go home in their droves. Who was this boring old white man anyway?

Slovo on centre-stage could see for himself what was happening. The South African masses were at last voting freely, albeit with their feet. And not for him!

The more impassioned his voice as he glorified the SACP/ANC, the faster people left. It was really remarkable. By the time he finished he was almost shouting, but to desultory applause - the stadium was close to empty.

All the pro-ANC media and its white Leftist elite of course ignored this astonishing spectacle in reporting the event. It was not just appallingly embarrassing for themselves in their self-proclaimed intellectual leadership roles. Worse, far worse, it did not fit the Narrative.

Was Slovo's a 'great life'? In its own tenaciously dogmatic, blinkered, selfish blood-flecked way, perhaps it was.

Does he deserve a fawning BBC piece led by a British Foreign Secretary?


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dr. Howard Dean's Prescription for Health Care Reform

News of Dr. Howard Dean's book tour in the Washington Post. He's proposing his own solution to the health-care mess:
Dean did take a few shots at the Obama administration's handling of the current debate. "I think that there's a very mixed message coming out of the administration," he said. "What I'm selling is something that's really clear."

What Dean is selling is his latest book, or at least the proposal outlined in it. "Not to shill for my own book, but if you have $12.99 or whatever it is to spare, 'Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform' actually explains all this in plain English in about 130 pages, and you can get through it in a good afternoon," he told the Poland Spring crowd.
Why the former Vermont governor, DNC chair and practicing physician wasn't named HHS Secretary by President Obama, I'll never figure out. In any case, here's his prescription:
Much has been made of the 48 million Americans who don’t have health insurance. Their stories are heart-rending, and it’s a scandal that in the wealthiest nation on earth, we do not cover everybody. No other industrial democracy in the world puts up with this embarrassment. But the debate on healthcare reform—which is coming to a peak once again—should also focus on the fact that many Americans who do have health insurance don’t find out that it doesn’t adequately cover them until them until it is too late.

What’s the real issue?

The real issue in the debate over healthcare reform is not whether we should have “socialized medicine” or not. It’s whether we should continue with an extraordinarily inefficient system that today features a private insurance industry that takes large amounts of money out of the healthcare system for shareholders, administrators, and executives, while denying people the basic coverage they have paid for.

How to frame the debate.

The debate about healthcare reform is not a debate about how much a role the government should play. Instead, the debate should focus on this simple question: Should we give Americans under 65 the same choice we give Americans over 65? Should we give all Americans a choice of opting out of the private health insurance system and benefiting from a public health insurance plan? Americans ought to be able to decide for themselves.

What Americans Should Demand of Real Healthcare Reform.

Choice: Everyone should be able to choose between a public health insurance option—like Medicare— or a private health insurance option.
No forced moves: If you like the health insurance coverage you have, you should be able to keep it.
Coverage options for small business: Very small businesses should have the option of handing over health insurance coverage for their employees to a public or private plan subsidized by the government.
Everybody in, nobody out: Public and private health insurance plans should turn no one away based on illness, pre-existing conditions, or other criteria.
Similar premiums for everyone: Despite age or illness, all Americans should be able to opt into a public or private healthcare without wide discrepancies in cost based on age or previous illness.
More options, not less: Healthcare reform should expand Americans’ healthcare choices, not reduce them.
Financial protection: A public health insurance option is more affordable because it’s more efficient. This protects families’ financial health.
Fewer of your healthcare dollars spent on overhead: A public health insurance option is much cheaper to operate and will help reduce non-health-related overhead costs.
Universality: Everyone other than those already covered by Medicare or Medicaid should have the option to join a public plan.
Portability: A public health insurance plan should cover you no matter how many times you move, no matter who you work for, and no matter where you live.
More at and in this YouTube clip (sure wish they didn't have that distracting flag in the background, though...):

FBI Had 600-Page File on Michael Jackson

The existence of Michael Jackson's FBI file was unearthed by a FOIA request from blogger Michael Petrelis (ht FOIABlog):
When I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for any records they may have in their archive on Michael Jackson, I expected the agency would reply saying they didn't locate any such records, or that there were only a handful on pages on the late entertainer. I was wrong.

A letter from the FBI yesterday informs me they've located close to 600 pages on him. As I've learned from years of filing these sort of FOIAs, it's going to be a while before anything is released, and, when pages are eventually provided to me, they could be quite mundane.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

England v Britain

An interesting account of the present state of the age-old ethnic conflict, in the light of Scottish Prime Minister Gordon Brown's attempts to come up with a national ideology for Great Britain (apparently being subjects of Her Majesty is no longer sufficient identity, as a member of the EU), can be found on the Britology blog. (ht Charles Crawford)
2) Don’t say ‘England’, or – if you have to – marginalise it: In order for Englishness to be re-presented as Britishness in this way, Brown needs to suppress or marginalise all references to England. This is because the thing he has to avoid at all costs is referring to the real political history of Britain, which is that the British state has been predominantly driven and moulded by English national and economic interests; and that England could once again develop a national consciousness that, this time, could see its interests as being better served outside the UK, rather than inside. This marginalisation is evident in the above-quoted reference to “our nurturing Scottish, Welsh, Irish and English identities and sensibilities”: putting ‘English’ last in line after the smaller nations, as if England were only one and – by implication – almost the least important driver of British identity; well, the least distinctive element in Brown’s Britishness, that’s for sure.

Another example is a quite ludicrous passage referring to the recent financial crisis:

“I believe a debate on Britishness is well timed, because of its relevance to the recent financial crisis. When it struck, no one questioned the British state standing behind banks headquartered in Scotland [yes, they bloody well did!]. No one discussed what a Wales-only response might be to the selling of sub-prime mortgages, or wondered how Northern Ireland might find its own solution to changing global conditions”.

Yes, this is where the discussion ends. ‘What about England, you f***er?’ was literally my response on reading this (well, OK, without the asterisks, if you see what I mean). The point being that people did question whether England would be better off weathering the financial crisis on its own: that it wouldn’t have been so s***ing awful in the first place, and then we wouldn’t have had to mortgage the future of the next generation of English kids and NHS patients to prop up the Scottish banks (and Chancellors) that had been foremost in getting us into the mess in the first place. (While on the subject of the NHS, you’ll love the lyrical passage about how it is an example of our fairness and unity as a ‘nation’. What a load of absolute tosh: there are four NHS’s thanks to Brown and New Labour, and the English one gets the smallest per-capita funding of them all – really united and fair!)
Of course as every Scot knows, the Irish, Welsh and Scots are the native Britons--the English are of course historically Germanic and Norman invaders from across the Channel who first drove them out of their homeland...then out of Scotland to Canada and Ireland to the USA and Australia. The Welsh had been penned in by Offa's Dike.

Happy Birthday, Central Asian Bloggers!

Nathan Hamm and Joshua Foust's Central Asia Blog has just turned six...

Also, Happy Birthday to! Russia's Central Asian News website, edited by Daniel Kislov, which recently turned ten.

Pop Culture is a Lagging Indicator

Just a thought, inspired by dinner last night with a "public diplomacy" official who asserted that because the world mourned for Michael Jackson, it indicated that the world was looking to America for leadership rather than, for example, China.

Someone I know at the dinner suggested that, to the contrary, cultural influence follows on the heels of economic, political, and military power--that culture, especially pop culture, is a lagging rather than leading indicator. Which means that countries with a low profile culturally--for example, again, China--would become culturally dominant globally after achieving primacy in other spheres. The argument is simple. French became the language of diplomacy in the 19th Century not only because of the appeal of French artists, writers, and composers, but because Napoleon had conquered most of Europe. To understand and communicate with the French, one needed to know French. After the Franco-Prussian War, with the rise of German military and scientific might, German became the culture to know, and everything from Beethoven to Thomas Mann to Richard Wagner to goose-stepping soldiers de rigueur. Viz., Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories. With the crushing of Germany in World War II, English came to replace French as the language of diplomacy and German as the language of science. Widepread Anglophilia was a reflection of the fact that the sun never set on the British Empire. With the collapse of that Empire and assumption of the mantle by the USA, dressing for dinner and memorizing Keats and Shelley were abandoned in favor of blue jeans, country-western music, and Michael Jackson. Likewise one may chart the rise and fall of interest in Russian culture according to the ups and downs of the Cold War.

In this model of cultural dominance, the spread of a particular cultural icon's image around the world is dependent on base of military, economic, and political supremacy.

In sum, the continuing spread of American culture, and indeed American values, depends upon military victory, economic prosperity, and political dynamism. To the extent to which other nations are victorious, prosperous, and dynamic, their cultural influences should follow.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thant Myint-U: Talk to Burma

Senator Jim Webb seems to be following Thant Myint-U's advice in yesterday's Washington Post:
Last winter the Obama administration announced a review of Burma policy. I hope it will reconsider the United States' long-standing reliance on sanctions. It's not just that they don't work, but that they've been hugely counterproductive, taking away the one big force -- American soft power -- that could have played a role in reshaping the landscape.

Asia has experienced many successful democratic transitions, and none came about because of the sanctions and lectures that Western powers and advocacy groups seem to think will work in Burma. Generals don't negotiate away their power in the face of threats. You have to change the ground beneath them.

Engagement is not just about talking -- it's about dealing with the powers that be enough to get a foot in the door and create new facts on the ground, especially through economic contacts with the Burmese people. Nor is it based on the notion that economic development will automatically produce democracy, but that we must tackle simultaneously Burma's political and economic ills.

Many in America and worldwide are again outraged by goings-on in Burma. But without new thinking, 20 more years will pass and the dream of a prosperous, democratic Burma will be more distant still.

Julie & Julia: A Movie About Coping With 9/11?

Yesterday someone I know and I went to see Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia at our neigbhorhood Avalon theatre.

I have to admit bias. I interviewed Julia Child briefly at a PBS convention, and wrote about her shows for my book PBS: Behind the Screen. She was indeed very tall, very jolly, and peered down at me, hunched over, like a crane. So it seems that Meryl Streep certainly got her right.

I didn't mind the alternating story as much as some people. It seemed to illustrate an important and recurring theme: the failure of the Lower Manhattan Development Commission to rebuild the World Trade Center after 9/11. The picture repeatedly returns to the wasteland where the Twin Towers once stood, as well as repeatedly shows the "cube farm" where calls from the public were answered by people who could do nothing to help. So, I thought to myself, this explains the intensification of the "foodie" pheonomenon that swept New York. It was a displacement of rage, a form of dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder by fulfilling some primal drives--to eat good food, for example. Okay, it seemed the message of the film came through, if one can't rebuild the World Trade Center, at least one can cook Boeuf Bourguignon...

It gave the film a very sad, almost tragic, least on this viewer. How pathetic that the young people of New York, the "best and the brightest" (Julie Powell had been, in the film at least, editor of the Amherst literary magazine), are unable to deal directly with the attack on their city. Instead, the drive to accomplish something meaningful--such as the defeat of Al Qaeda and its allies--had been sublimated in the face of an unresponsive and incompetent bureaucracy. This turning away from the world of work resembled, in a sense, the "inner emigration" described by Anti-Nazi Germans during World War II, or the victims of Stalinist repressions. Since nothing can be done about politics or society, just bake a tasty chocolate cake for your family and friends.

In addition to overwhelming sadness in the film, there is evidence of this phenomenon in posts on Julie Powell's blog:
Maps - I'm sorry you feel that my book expresses no compassion for the families of 9/11 victims,because that was not my intent at all. I merely wanted to show that being faced with that suffering - and with the various complaints of everyday New Yorkers who seemed to feel that their irritations with, say, the memorial design or some such, equating the agonies and traumas of those who had actually suffered in that horrible event - took a toll on me personally, as a secretary with no power to truly help, and overwhelmed by bureaucratic nonsense. I could have written a varnished pretty version of my experience, all sweetness and light, but to me that is what would have been dishonest and disrespectful to those who have truly suffered so much.

Also - I'm not a government drone anymore, and the Ritz-Carlton is on Sony's tab.
She certainly doesn't say that it filled her with pride to be part of a vital and patriotic effort to rebuild New York. And her callers in the film say that they "hate" what the government is doing.

(So do I, as you can see from my post of July 8, 2008: "Rebuilding what your enemies destroy is War Propaganda 101--it's what the British did after the Nazis flattened the Houses of Parliament...and the Pentagon did after 9/11. The dithering and unseemly fighting over the money surrounding the World Trade Center project sends a very bad signal of weakness and disarray to America's adversaries. The empty lot is a victory for Terrorists. Putting something else there would be a victory for Al Qaeda ('Look Mom, we blew it up.'). It signals fear...")

The subtext of Julie and Julia is a terrible commentary on New York's--and America's--response to the greatest attack on our soil since Pearl Harbor. It merits expansion into another film of its own....

Friday, August 14, 2009

Another Uzbek Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Protester Hospitalized

( photo)

Nothing so far in US media about continuing protests and a hunger strike against RFE/RL by Uzbek dissidents--but Russia's has the story:
Isokzhon Zokirov, another active member of the Birdamlik opposition movement, is placed in hospital. It is worth mentioning that on August 10, the representatives of the Birdamlik opposition movement declared open-ended hunger strike, demanding the abolishment of the censorship of Uzbek service – Radio Ozodlik – and offer the tribune to all the leaders of Uzbek political opposition, residing both in Uzbekistan and abroad. The hunger strike is taking place in front of RFE/RL headquarters in Washington, DC.

Doctor are providing medical aid to Zokirov
Bakhodir Choriev, the leader of the Birdamlik movement, informed Ferghana.RU that on the fourth day of the event Isokzhon Zokirov flaked out and at about 2 pm, local time, he was placed in hospital. Zokirov is in grave condition.

Zokirov on the way to hospital
This is the second member of the movement, placed in hospital. Ferghana.Ru reported earlier that on the third day of the hunger strike, the oldest participant 73-year old human rights activist Yadgar Turlibekov felt sick and the protesters had to call for ambulance. Today, Mr. Turlibekov is in one of the hospitals in DC and feels better.
"So far none of RFE/RL representatives inquired about our health condition either personally or by phone. This is sad that after two participants were placed in hospital there is still no reaction from RFE/RL management – Choriev notes. – We will continue the hunger strike and whatever happens to us will be on RFE/RL’s head..."

Charles Crawford on the Future of Bosnia

From the World's First Diplomatic Blogoir:
Bosnia is a sulky donkey with three bickering heads, unimpressed by the EU's remote carrots and unmoved by sharp smacks on its rump from successive High Representatives.

Hopeless? No. I'd go for a New Deal. A fast-track EU membership with visa-free travel for all Bosnians, in return for a new constitution. This would create three regions, each dominated by one community but with substantive responsibility for its own affairs, all with light but real central powers and a push to make Bosnia the least regulated economy in Europe. A fair, coherent structure which rewards responsibility and private initiative.

Alas, to reach there things will have to get notably worse, to bring all concerned in Bosnia and Brussels to agree that, finally, there is no alternative. A future Foreign Secretary will need strong nerves.

Bosnia is, of course, a remarkable example of diplomatic action for all sorts of reasons. It is a small country whose population is half the size of London's, in Europe, literate and so on. If we can't fix that, what can we fix?

Bosnia shows how if the foundations of policy are illogical and incoherent, the results will be so too, far into the future.

And it reminds us that having launched an unsatisfactory project the 'international community' then must not be surprised when it takes on new exotic life-forms of its own which, by virtue of being in some way 'organic' and legitimised over time are damn difficult to change later without serious breakdown.

My ideas, such as they are, are to give Bosnia a constitution which roughly corresponds to reality and is coherent in itself, something the current one concocted in huge haste at Dayton to help B Clinton get re-elected is not.

The main problem with a sort of 'three Entity' arrangement is that the largest group (Bosniacs/Muslims) hanker after a 'one Entity' outcome, which necessarily suits them as the largest group.

But that, I think, is not now achievable, or fair. In part because the Bosniacs themselves have refused to contemplate 'ethnic disarmament'.

Former President Izetbegovic put this to me in so many words: "we won't accept ethnic disarmament for fifty years". His argument was that the Bosniacs at some two million people had to build their strength for many years to come, as they were surrounded by some 15 million dangerous Serbs and Croats.

So be it. By insisting on maintaining their ethnic weapon stockpiles, maybe for plausible reasons, the Bosniacs now will do well to be part of a BH that actually works and starts to get richer, which means a BH rearranged to function sensibly.

But someone will have to do very heavy lifting to achieve anything like that, when attentions are on even more ghastly problems further East...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Cousin, the Hero Nominee

My cousin, Rabbi Ben Tzion Kravitz, has been nominated as a hero of the Jewish Community of Los Angeles.
Tell us about your nominee. Why should he or she be recognized as a Jewish Community Hero?

Rabbi Kravitz is the founder of Jews for Judaism. Through his work he has brought a tremendous amount of people closer to Judaism

What problem did your nominee identify in the community that needed to be solved? How has your nominee's efforts made a difference for others?

Rabbi Kravitz's work has helped dampen the lure to other religions. Jews for Judaism is the only full time worldwide organization that combats deceptive proselytizing that targets the Jewish community.
If you feel like it, you can see other nominees and vote, at this website.