Sunday, March 28, 2010

George Will Cites the "Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995’’

I had forgotten all about this law, until today's episode of ABC News' This Week with Jake Tapper...PUBLIC LAW 104–45, which is, as George Will stated, "the law of the land." It was sponsored by Senator Bob Dole, had 76 co-sponsors, and was signed by President Bill Clinton.
...The Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Each sovereign nation, under international law and
custom, may designate its own capital.

(2) Since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital
of the State of Israel.

(3) The city of Jerusalem is the seat of Israel’s President,
Parliament, and Supreme Court, and the site of numerous
government ministries and social and cultural institutions.
(4) The city of Jerusalem is the spiritual center of Judaism,
and is also considered a holy city by the members of other
religious faiths.

(5) From 1948–1967, Jerusalem was a divided city and
Israeli citizens of all faiths as well as Jewish citizens of all
states were denied access to holy sites in the area controlled
by Jordan.

(6) In 1967, the city of Jerusalem was reunited during
the conflict known as the Six Day War.

(7) Since 1967, Jerusalem has been a united city administered
by Israel, and persons of all religious faiths have been
guaranteed full access to holy sites within the city.
(8) This year marks the 28th consecutive year that Jerusalem
has been administered as a unified city in which the
rights of all faiths have been respected and protected.
(9) In 1990, the Congress unanimously adopted Senate
Concurrent Resolution 106, which declares that the Congress
‘‘strongly believes that Jerusalem must remain an undivided
city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group
are protected’’.

(10) In 1992, the United States Senate and House of Representatives
unanimously adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution

113 of the One Hundred Second Congress to commemorate
the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, and
reaffirming congressional sentiment that Jerusalem must
remain an undivided city.

PUBLIC LAW 104–45—NOV. 8, 1995 109 STAT. 399

(11) The September 13, 1993, Declaration of Principles
on Interim Self-Government Arrangements lays out a timetable
for the resolution of ‘‘final status’’ issues, including Jerusalem.

(12) The Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho
Area was signed May 4, 1994, beginning the five-year transitional
period laid out in the Declaration of Principles.

(13) In March of 1995, 93 members of the United States
Senate signed a letter to Secretary of State Warren Christopher
encouraging ‘‘planning to begin now’’ for relocation of the United
States Embassy to the city of Jerusalem.

(14) In June of 1993, 257 members of the United States
House of Representatives signed a letter to the Secretary of
State Warren Christopher stating that the relocation of the
United States Embassy to Jerusalem ‘‘should take place no
later than . . . 1999’’.

(15) The United States maintains its embassy in the functioning
capital of every country except in the case of our democratic
friend and strategic ally, the State of Israel.

(16) The United States conducts official meetings and other
business in the city of Jerusalem in de facto recognition of
its status as the capital of Israel.

(17) In 1996, the State of Israel will celebrate the 3,000th
anniversary of the Jewish presence in Jerusalem since King
David’s entry.


(1) Jerusalem should remain an undivided city in which
the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected;
(2) Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the
State of Israel; and

(3) the United States Embassy in Israel should be established
in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.

(b) OPENING DETERMINATION.—Not more than 50 percent of
the funds appropriated to the Department of State for fiscal year
1999 for ‘‘Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad’’ may
be obligated until the Secretary of State determines and reports
to Congress that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem has
officially opened.


(a) FISCAL YEAR 1996.—Of the funds authorized to be appropriated
for ‘‘Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad’’ for
the Department of State in fiscal year 1996, not less than
$25,000,000 should be made available until expended only for
construction and other costs associated with the establishment of
the United States Embassy in Israel in the capital of Jerusalem.

(b) FISCAL YEAR 1997.—Of the funds authorized to be appropriated
for ‘‘Acquisition and Maintenance of Buildings Abroad’’ for
the Department of State in fiscal year 1997, not less than
$75,000,000 should be made available until expended only for
construction and other costs associated with the establishment of
the United States Embassy in Israel in the capital of Jerusalem.


Not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this
Act, the Secretary of State shall submit a report to the Speaker
of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign


109 STAT. 400 PUBLIC LAW 104–45—NOV. 8, 1995

Relations of the Senate detailing the Department of State’s plan
to implement this Act. Such report shall include—

(1) estimated dates of completion for each phase of the
establishment of the United States Embassy, including site
identification, land acquisition, architectural, engineering and
construction surveys, site preparation, and construction; and

(2) an estimate of the funding necessary to implement
this Act, including all costs associated with establishing the
United States Embassy in Israel in the capital of Jerusalem.


At the time of the submission of the President’s fiscal year
1997 budget request, and every six months thereafter, the Secretary
of State shall report to the Speaker of the House of Representatives
and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate on
the progress made toward opening the United States Embassy
in Jerusalem...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Meanwhile, Things Heating Up in Korea...

Whatever sunk that South Korean destroyer today (strange that S. Korea and the US won't say), according to AFP the North Koreans have just made an explicit threat to use nuclear weapons in any coming conflict with the US:
SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea's military accused the United States and South Korea Friday of trying to topple the Pyongyang regime and said it was ready to launch nuclear attacks to frustrate any provocations.

The military General Staff cited a South Korean newspaper report as evidence of "desperate moves of the US imperialists and the South Korean puppet warmongers" for regime change.

"Those who seek to bring down the system in the DPRK (North Korea)... will fall victim to the unprecedented nuclear strikes of the invincible army," a General Staff spokesman told the official Korean Central News Agency.
IMHO, they're not bluffing...

BTW, The Heritage Foundation has published this report on Iranian-N. Korean ties:
Unknown #2: How extensive is Iranian-North Korean nuclear cooperation?

North Korea and Iran share a common hostility to the United States and have a long history of military and economic cooperation. Iran's ballistic missile force, the largest in the Middle East, is largely based on transferred North Korean missiles and weapon designs. North Korea has also sold Iran conventional weapons, including rocket launchers, small arms, and mini-submarines. The two countries are known to have close intelligence ties and to exchange intelligence regularly.[34]
The extent of North Korean cooperation with Iran on nuclear issues remains unknown. However, both are known to have received help from A. Q. Khan's proliferation network.[35] Iran helped to finance North Korea's nuclear program in exchange for nuclear technology and equipment, according to CIA sources cited in a 1993 Economist Foreign Report.[36] Increased visits to Iran by North Korean nuclear specialists in 2003 reportedly led to a North Korea-Iran agreement for North Korea either to initiate or to accelerate work with Iranians to develop nuclear warheads that could be fitted on the North Korean No-Dong missiles, which North Korea and Iran were developing jointly.[37]

North Korea has also threatened to transfer a nuclear weapon. According to Michael Green, former Senior Director for Asia at the National Security Council, the head of the North Korean delegation to the nuclear talks confirmed in March 2003 that North Korea had a "nuclear deterrent" and threatened that North Korea would "expand," "demonstrate," and "transfer" the deterrent if the United States did not end its hostile policy.[38] Senior U.S. officials warned the North Koreans that transfer would cross a red line, but Pyongyang evidently brushed aside the warning and cooperated extensively with Syria in building a nuclear reactor, which could have advanced a nuclear weapons program. Green noted that the al-Kibar reactor site, which Israel bombed on September 6, 2007, provided ample evidence of North Korean collusion on nuclear proliferation: "U.S. intelligence officials later confirmed that the reactor was being built on North Korean specs, with North Korean technicians on-site."[39]

Since Pyongyang risked nuclear cooperation with Syria, similar nuclear cooperation with Iran is easy to envision given their much closer ties. The Syrian nuclear project also may have involved Iran, which could greatly benefit from secret facilities located outside its own territory. Der Spiegel reported that North Korean and Iranian scientists were working together at the Syrian reactor when Israel bombed it. Some of the reactor's plutonium production was reportedly designated for Iran, which perceived the Syrian reactor as a "reserve site" to produce weapons-grade plutonium to supplement Iran's production of highly enriched uranium.[40] In late February, Western officials leaked the fact that before the nuclear reactor was attacked North Korea had delivered 45 tons of unenriched uranium concentrate known as "yellowcake" to Syria and that the North Koreans subsequently moved the material to Iran via Turkey.[41]

Another worrisome link between North Korea and Iran involves illegal arms transfers. In August 2008, the U.S. invoked the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) to convince India to prevent the overflight of its country by a North Korean flight from Burma to Iran. Although not a member of the PSI, India complied and blocked the flight.[42] What the cargo plane was carrying is not known, but the PSI applies only to missiles and nuclear weapons (e.g., components, technology, and materials). Any North Korean attempt to transfer such items would violate U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1695 and 1718.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

First Things: Obama's Anti-Israel Strategy Rooted in US-Iran Deal

Writing in First Things, David P. Goldman says there's method to the Obama administration's anti-Israel madness. The US has switched sides, tilting towards Teheran and against Jerusalem in order to be able to exit from Iraq and Afghanistan:
“We” have known it all along. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former Carter National Security Advisor Zbignew Brzezinski proposed to enlist Iran’s help in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan in a 2004 report for the Council on Foreign Relations:

From the perspective of U.S.interests,one particular issue area appears particularly ripe for U.S.-Iranian engagement:the future of Iraq and Afghanistan.The United States has a direct and compelling interest in ensuring both countries’security and the success of their post-conflict governments.Iran has demonstrated its ability and readiness to use its influence constructively in these two countries, but also its capacity for making trouble.The United States should work with Tehran to capitalize on Iran’s influence to advance the stability and consolidation of its neighbors. This could commence via a resumption and expansion of the Geneva track discussions with Tehran on post-conflict Afghanistan and Iraq. Such a dialogue should be structured to obtain constructive Iranian involvement in the process of consolidating authority within the central governments and rebuilding the economies of both Iraq and Afghanistan.Regular contact with Iran would also provide a channel to address concerns that have arisen about its activities and relationships with competing power centers in both countries. These discussions should incorporate other regional power brokers,as well as Europe and Russia—much like the “Six Plus Two”negotiations on Afghanistan that took place in the years before the Taliban were ousted. A multilateral forum on the future of Iraq and Afghanistan would help cultivate confidence and would build political and economic relationships essential to the long-term durability of the new governments in Baghdad and Kabul (p. 45).

Obama is following Gates’ and Brzezinski’s recommendation to the letter, but also the point of absurdity. It is the stupidest, most reckless, and most destructive foreign policy action the United States has taken in my lifetime.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ann Coulter--Victim...

She's planning to take a Canadian academic before the Human Rights tribunal, as an alleged victim of his "hate speech."
Boy, has the world turned upside down:
I've given more than 100 college speeches, and not once has one of my speeches been shut down at any point. Even the pie-throwing incident at the University of Arizona didn't break up the event. I said "Get them!", the college Republicans got them, and then I continued with my rambling, hate-filled diatribe -- I mean, my speech.

So we've run this experiment more than 100 times.

Only one college speech was ever met with so much mob violence that the police were forced to cancel it: The one that was preceded by a letter from the university provost accusing me of hate speech.

(To add insult to injury, Francois didn't even plan to attend my speech because Tuesday is his bikini wax night.)

If a university official's letter accusing a speaker of having a proclivity to commit speech crimes before she's given the speech -- which then leads to Facebook postings demanding that Ann Coulter be hurt, a massive riot and a police-ordered cancellation of the speech -- is not hate speech, then there is no such thing as hate speech.

Either Francois goes to jail or the Human Rights Commission is a hoax and a fraud.
I guess she studied the applicable Canadian laws, as Houle recommended in his letter. Using "hate crime" laws against extremists sounds like a pretty reasonable strategy...

Obama Strategy Revealed: Blame Israel for America's Problems

J Street lobbyist Jeremy Ben-Ami spilled the beans in this CNN column--the Obama administration has decided upon a "Blame the Jews" public relations campaign (shades of James Baker in the first Bush administration!):
A growing, and public, consensus is emerging among top military officials both in the United States and in Israel that the lack of a two-state solution poses a strategic threat to both Israeli and American vital national security interests.

In widely discussed testimony on Capitol Hill last week, Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander overseeing the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, stated that "enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance [American] interests" in the Middle East.
Hmmmm...Didn't President Obama himself make this declaration on June 4, 2008?
Let me be clear. Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper — but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.
That's one reason I voted for him, and I bet I'm not the only American voter to have believed what he said.

Interestingly, General Petraeus seems now to have taken on the historic role of General George C. Marshall, who opposed Israeli independence in 1948. Richard Holbrooke, of all people, wrote about it in the Washington Post:
Truman blamed "third and fourth level" State Department officials -- especially the director of U.N. affairs, Dean Rusk, and the agency's counselor, Charles Bohlen. But opposition really came from an even more formidable group: the "wise men" who were simultaneously creating the great Truman foreign policy of the late 1940s -- among them Marshall, James V. Forrestal, George F. Kennan, Robert Lovett, John J. McCloy, Paul Nitze and Dean Acheson. To overrule State would mean Truman taking on Marshall, whom he regarded as "the greatest living American," a daunting task for a very unpopular president.

Beneath the surface lay unspoken but real anti-Semitism on the part of some (but not all) policymakers. The position of those opposing recognition was simple -- oil, numbers and history. "There are thirty million Arabs on one side and about 600,000 Jews on the other," Defense Secretary Forrestal told Clifford. "Why don't you face up to the realities?"
Guess what? Marshall was wrong, Truman and Clifford were right, and as a result of staunch support for Israel some 60 years later the US had both Arab and Israeli allies in the Middle East.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Netanyahu's AIPAC Speech

Members of the Obama Administration,
Members of Congress,
Defense Minister Ehud Barak
Minister Uzi Landau
Ambassador Michael Oren,
Howard Kohr, David Victor, Lee Rosenberg Leaders of AIPAC,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As the world faces monumental challenges, I know that Israel and America will face them together. We stand together because we are fired by the same ideals and inspired by the same dream - the dream of achieving security, prosperity and peace.

This dream seemed impossible to many Jews a century ago.

This month, my father celebrated his one-hundredth birthday. When he was born, the Czars ruled Russia, the British Empire spanned the globe and the Ottomans ruled the Middle East. During his lifetime, all of these empires collapsed, others rose and fell, and the Jewish destiny swung from despair to a new hope - the rebirth of the Jewish state. For the first time in two thousand years, a sovereign Jewish people could defend itself against attack.

Before that, we were subjected to unremitting savagery: the bloodletting of the Middle Ages, the expulsion of the Jews from England, Spain and Portugal, the wholesale slaughter of the Jews of the Ukraine, the pogroms in Russia, culminating in the greatest evil of all - the Holocaust.

The founding of Israel did not stop the attacks on the Jews. It merely gave the Jews the power to defend themselves against those attacks.

My friends,

I want to tell you about the day when I fully understood the depth of this transformation. It was the day I met Shlomit Vilmosh over 40 years ago. I served with her son, Haim, in the same elite unit in the army. During a battle in 1969, Haim was killed by a burst of gunfire.

At his funeral, I discovered that Haim was born shortly after his mother and father had been freed from the death camps of Europe. If Haim had been born two years before, this daring young officer would have been tossed into the ovens like a million other Jewish children. Haim's mother Shlomit told me that though she was in great anguish, she was proud. At least, she said, my son fell wearing the uniform of a Jewish soldier defending the Jewish state.

Time and again the Israeli army was forced to repel attacks of much larger enemies determined to destroy us. When Egypt and Jordan recognized that we could not be defeated in battle, they embraced the path of peace.

Yet there are those who continue the assault against the Jewish state and who openly call for our destruction. They seek to achieve this goal through terrorism, missile attacks and most recently by developing atomic weapons.

The ingathering of the Jewish people to Israel has not deterred these fanatics. In fact, it has only whetted their appetite. Iran's rulers say "Israel is a one bomb country." The head of Hizbullah says: "If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide."

My friends,

These are unpleasant facts, but they are the facts.

The greatest threat to any living organism or nation is not to recognize danger in time. Seventy-five years ago, many leaders around the world put their heads in the sand. Untold millions died in the war that followed. Ultimately, two of history's greatest leaders helped turn the tide. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill helped save the world. But they were too late to save six million of my own people.

The future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.

Today, an unprecedented threat to humanity looms large. A radical Iranian regime armed with nuclear weapons could bring an end to the era of nuclear peace the world has enjoyed for the last 65 years. Such a regime could provide nuclear weapons to terrorists and might even be tempted to use them. Our world would never be the same. Iran's brazen bid to develop nuclear weapons is first and foremost a threat to Israel, but it is also a grave threat to the region and to the world.

Israel expects the international community to act swiftly and decisively to thwart this danger. But we will always reserve the right to self-defense.

We must also defend ourselves against lies and vilifications. Throughout history, the slanders against the Jewish people always preceded the physical assaults against us and were used to justify these assaults. The Jews were called the well-poisoners of mankind, the fomenters of instability, the source of all evil under the sun.

Unfortunately, these libelous attacks against the Jewish people also did not end with the creation of Israel. For a time, overt anti-Semitism was held in check by the shame and shock of the Holocaust. But only for a time. In recent decades the hatred of the Jews has reemerged with increasing force, but with an insidious twist. It is not merely directed at the Jewish people but increasingly at the Jewish state. In its most pernicious form, it argues that if only Israel did not exist, many of the world's problems would go away.

My friends,

Does this mean that Israel is above criticism? Of course not. Israel, like any democracy, has its imperfections but we strive to correct them through open debate and scrutiny. Israel has independent courts, the rule of law, a free press and a vigorous parliamentary debate - believe me, it's vigorous.

I know that members of Congress refer to one another as my distinguished colleague from Wisconsin or the distinguished Senator from California. In Israel, members of Knesset don't speak of their distinguished colleagues from Kiryat Shmona and Be'er Sheva. We say - well, you don't want to know what we say. In Israel, self-criticism is a way of life, and we accept that criticism is part of the conduct of international affairs.

But Israel should be judged by the same standards applied to all nations, and allegations against Israel must be grounded in fact. One allegation that is not is the attempt to describe the Jews as foreign colonialists in their own homeland, one of the great lies of modern times.

In my office, I have a signet ring that was loaned to me by Israel's Department of Antiquities. The ring was found next to the Western wall, but it dates back some 2,800 years ago, two hundred years after King David turned Jerusalem into our capital city. The ring is a seal of a Jewish official, and inscribed on it in Hebrew is his name: Netanyahu. Netanyahu Ben-Yoash. That's my last name. My first name, Benjamin, dates back 1,000 years earlier to Benjamin, the son of Jacob, One of Benjamin's brothers was named Shimon, which also happens to be the first name of my good friend, Shimon Peres, the President of Israel. Nearly 4,000 years ago, Benjamin, Shimon and their ten brothers roamed the hills of Judea.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel cannot be denied. The connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem cannot be denied. The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today.

Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital.

In Jerusalem, my government has maintained the policies of all Israeli governments since 1967, including those led by Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin. Today, nearly a quarter of a million Jews, almost half the city's Jewish population, live in neighborhoods that are just beyond the 1949 armistice lines. All these neighborhoods are within a five-minute drive from the Knesset. They are an integral and inextricable part of modern Jerusalem. Everyone knows that these neighborhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement. Therefore, building in them in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution.

Nothing is rarer in the Middle East than tolerance for the beliefs of others. It's only under Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem that religious freedom for all faiths has been guaranteed. While we cherish our homeland, we also recognize that Palestinians live there as well. We don't want to govern them. We don't want to rule them. We want them as neighbors, living in security, dignity and peace. Yet Israel is unjustly accused of not wanting peace with the Palestinians. Nothing could be further from the truth.

My government has consistently shown its commitment to peace in both word and deed. From day one, we called on the Palestinian Authority to begin peace negotiations without delay. I make that same call today. President Abbas, come and negotiate peace. Leaders who truly want peace should sit down face-to-face.

Of course, the United States can help the parties solve their problems but it cannot solve the problems for the parties. Peace cannot be imposed from the outside. It can only come through direct negotiations in which we develop mutual trust.

Last year, I spoke of a vision of peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state. Just as the Palestinians expect Israel to recognize a Palestinian state, we expect the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state.

My government has removed hundreds of roadblocks, barriers and checkpoints facilitating Palestinian movement. As a result, we have helped spur a fantastic boom in the Palestinian economy (coffee Shops, restaurants, businesses, even multiplex theaters). And we announced an unprecedented moratorium on new Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria.

This is what my government has done for peace. What has the Palestinian Authority done for peace? Well, they have placed preconditions on peace talks, waged a relentless international campaign to undermine Israel's legitimacy, and promoted the notorious Goldstone report that falsely accuses Israel of war crimes. In fact, they're doing right now in the UN in the grotesquely misnamed UN Human Rights Council.

I want to thank President Obama and the United States Congress for their efforts to thwart this libel, and I ask for your continued support.

Regrettably, the Palestinian Authority has also continued incitement against Israel. A few days ago, a public square near Ramallah was named after a terrorist who murdered 37 Israeli civilians, including 13 children. The Palestinian Authority did nothing to prevent it.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Peace requires reciprocity. It cannot be a one-way street in which only Israel makes concessions. Israel stands ready to make the compromises necessary for peace. But we expect the Palestinians to compromise as well. But one thing I will never compromise on is our security.

It is hard to explain Israel's security predicament to someone living in a country 500 times the size of Israel. But imagine the entire United States compressed to the size of New Jersey. Next, put on New Jersey's northern border an Iranian terror proxy called Hizbullah which fires 6,000 rockets into that small state. Then imagine that this terror proxy has amassed 60,000 more missiles to fire at you. Wait. I'm not finished. Now imagine on New Jersey's southern border another Iranian terror proxy called Hamas. It too fires 6,000 rockets into your territory while smuggling even more lethal weapons into its territory. Do you think you would feel a little bit vulnerable? Do you think you would expect some understanding from the international community when you defend yourselves?

A peace agreement with the Palestinians must include effective security arrangements on the ground. Israel must make sure that what happened in Lebanon and Gaza doesn't happen again in the West Bank.

Israel's main security problem with Lebanon is not its border with Lebanon. It is Lebanon's border with Syria, through which Iran and Syria smuggle tens of thousands of weapons to Hizbullah.

Israel's main security problem with Gaza is not its border with Gaza. It's Gaza's border with Egypt, under which nearly 1,000 tunnels have been dug to smuggle weapons. Experience has shown that only an Israeli presence on the ground can prevent weapons smuggling. This is why a peace agreement with the Palestinians must include an Israeli presence on the eastern border of a future Palestinian state.

If peace with the Palestinians proves its durability over time, we can review security arrangements. We are prepared to take risks for peace, but we will not be reckless with the lives of our people and the life of the one and only Jewish state.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The people of Israel want a future in which our children no longer experience the horrors of war. We want a future in which Israel realizes its full potential as a global center of technology, anchored in its values and living in peace with all its neighbors.

I envision an Israel that can dedicate even more of its creative and scientific talents to help solve some of the great challenges of the day, foremost of which is finding a clean and affordable substitute for gasoline. And when we find that alternative, we will stop transferring hundreds of billions of dollars to radical regimes that support terror.

I am confident that in pursuing these goals, we have the enduring friendship of the United States of America, the greatest nation on earth. The American people have always shown their courage, their generosity and their decency. From one President to the next, from one Congress to the next, America's commitment to Israel's security has been unwavering. In the last year, President Obama and the U.S. Congress have given meaning to that commitment by providing Israel with military assistance, by enabling joint military exercises and by working on joint missile defense.

So too, Israel has been a staunch and steadfast ally of the United States. As Vice President Biden said, America has no better friend in the community of nations than Israel. For decades, Israel served as a bulwark against Soviet expansionism. Today it is helping America stem the tide of militant Islam. Israel shares with America everything we know about fighting a new kind of enemy. We share intelligence. We cooperate in countless other ways that I am not at liberty to divulge. This cooperation is important for Israel and is helping save American lives.

Our soldiers and your soldiers fight against fanatic enemies that loathe our common values. In the eyes of these fanatics, we are you and you are us. To them, the only difference is that you are big and we are small. You are the Great Satan and we are the Little Satan. This fanaticism's hatred of Western civilization predates Israel's establishment by over one thousand years.

Militant Islam does not hate the West because of Israel. It hates Israel because of the West - because it sees Israel as an outpost of freedom and democracy that prevents them from overrunning the Middle East. That is why when Israel stands against its enemies, it stands against America's enemies.

President Harry Truman, the first leader to recognize Israel, said this: "I have faith in Israel and I believe that it has a glorious future - not just as another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization."

My Friends,

We are gathered here today because we believe in those common ideals. And because of those ideals, I am certain that Israel and America will always stand together.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Scott Hodes: Proposed Senate FOIA Fix Won't Work

On LLRX, attorney Scott Hodes says proposed Senate legislation to fix FOIA won't do the job (ht FOIABlog):
Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT.) and John Cornyn (R-TX) have introduced a bill establishing a committee of citizens to make recommendations on improving FOIA performance. A similar version of this bill was introduced in 2005 and went nowhere fast.

I think the bill is nonsense. While getting recommendations on how to improve the Freedom of Information Act is a worthy goal, it can be done without legislation, without going through any bureaucratic red-tape that will ensue in establishing the proposed committee, and even better, it can be done now.

Many, in fact too many to mention here, have offered suggestions to improve FOIA operations. I've offered a number of suggestions (which have gone nowhere), such as the direct funding of FOIA operations by Congress and time limiting the use of certain exemptions (such as deliberative process privileged material). Further, if the Senate is interested in passing improvements in the FOIA, they could hold actual hearings asking participants for their views. The Senate staff could then follow up and research these issues. Then Senators Leahy and Cornyn could take these suggestions and the work of their staffs, and craft them into a bill--and better yet, this bill improving FOIA operations could be done this legislative session!

I really can only think of one advantage that the proposed bill has over the option I have presented. A legislatively mandated committee would likely have an easier time getting access to agency FOIA professionals. However, these agency FOIA professionals are subject to Congressional hearing subpoenas so I'm not convinced that this access really makes the proposed committee necessary.

The tools for improving FOIA performance are already here. I suggest that Senators Leahy, Cornyn and any others interested in the issue use them now.
On the other hand, Senators Leahy and Coryn, I'm willing to serve on the committee...

Health Care Reform Passes...

Without a single Republican vote. If people like it, it could actually mean gains for Democrats in 2010 Congressional elections. If they don't...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Happy Navruz!

Persians call it Norooz, but since I experienced the Persian New Year festival for the first time while living in Uzbekistan, it's still Navruz to me...Here's a link to Radio Javan's Norooz streaming web broadcast and link to local celebrations.

Friday, March 19, 2010

John Bolton: Obama Administration Abandons Israel

Former UN Ambassador John Bolton says that President Obama would defend Iran against an Israeli attack on nuclear sites, as unbelievable as that may sound:
Mr. Netanyahu's mistake has been to assume that Mr. Obama basically agrees that we must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But the White House likely believes that a nuclear Iran, though undesirable, can be contained and will therefore not support using military force to thwart Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

What's more, Mr. Obama is also unwilling to let anyone else, namely Israel, act instead. That means that if Israel bombs Iranian nuclear facilities, the president will likely withhold critical replenishments of destroyed Israeli aircraft and other weapons systems.

We are moving inexorably toward, and perhaps have now reached, an Israeli crisis with Mr. Obama. Americans must realize that allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons is empowering an existential threat to the Israeli state, to Arab governments in the region that are friendly to the U.S., and to long-term global peace and security.

Mr. Netanyahu must realize he has not been banking good behavior credits with Mr. Obama but simply postponing an inevitable confrontation. The prime minister should recalibrate his approach, and soon. Israel's deference on Palestinian issues will not help it with Mr. Obama after a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear program. It would be a mistake to think that further delays in such a strike will materially change the toxic political response Israel can expect from the White House. Israel's support will come from Congress and the American people, as opinion polls show, not from the president.

Mr. Obama is not merely heedless of America's predominant global position. He is also embarrassed enough by it not to regret diminishing it. In fact, we have achieved pre-eminence not simply to preen our American ego, but to defend our interests and those of like-minded allies. Ceding America's role in world affairs is not an act of becoming modesty but a dangerous signal of weakness to friends and adversaries alike. Israel may be the first ally to feel the pain.

Thursday, March 18, 2010 US Now Supports Palestinians Against Israel

Well, although it doesn't make sense to me to side with those who danced for joy on 9/11 against those who stood with America, apparently General Petraeus's incredible propaganda claim that US support for Israel hurts the US war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan (so why did Kabul and Baghdad fall so easily?) wasn't a line he came up with all on his own. reports that the US has now offered to shield Palestinians against Israeli military action--and that Gen. Petraeus is repeating Obama administration "Dump Israel" talking points:
Netanyahu tried offering the Obama administration a number of compromise proposals, such as the suspension of construction in East Jerusalem and the city's outlying Jewish suburbs until September, but they were rejected, as was an offer to prohibit further Jewish purchases of land and buildings in Jerusalem's Arab districts during peace negotiations.

Obama and Clinton made it clear they would brook no departures from their three demands, which Israel is required to treat as an ultimatum.

Neither party to the difference has mentioned the US administration's fourth condition for resuming normal relations: an Israeli commitment to refrain from attacking Iran's nuclear program without prior US consent. Because that commitment has not been offered, administration officials are continuing to hammer Israel in every possible arena. Indeed, the gloves are now off in earnest for insinuations that Israel's settlement policy is the root-cause of Iran's drive for a nuclear bomb and of the conflicts endangering American lives in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Vice President Joe Biden launched this drive, when he reportedly attacked Netanyahu for the announcement of 1,600 new homes in East Jerusalem by saying: "What you are doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan."

A much-admired American military figure, CENTCOM chief, Gen. David Petraeus, was the next US official to put this linkage into words. In his briefing to a Senate panel, he said Wednesday, March 16: Clearly the tensions on these issues [with Israel] have enormous effect on the strategic context in which we operate in the Central Command's area of responsibility."

The general denied he had as yet formally asked for the Palestinian territories to be transferred to his command, but added: "In fact, staff members at various times have discussed asking for the Palestinian territories to be added to CENTCOM's turf."
DEBKAfile's military sources explain that, if approved, this step would be tantamount to providing the Palestinians with an American military umbrella against Israel.
This feels like the 1956 Suez crisis to me, somehow....while Daniel Pipes goes further. He argues America is creating a Palestinian Army --similar to US policy that split the former Yugoslavia by US support for a Kosovo Liberation Army and Croatian army:
Shortly after Yasir Arafat died in late 2004, the U.S. government established the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator to reform, recruit, train, and equip the PA militia (called the National Security Forces or Quwwat al-Amn al-Watani) and make them politically accountable. For nearly all of its existence, the office has been headed by Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton. Since 2007, American taxpayers have funded it to the tune of US$100 million a year. Many agencies of the U.S. government have been involved in the program, including the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the Secret Service, and branches of the military.

The PA militia has in total about 30,000 troops, of which four battalions comprising 2,100 troops have passed scrutiny for lack of criminal or terrorist ties and undergone 1,400 hours of training at an American facility in Jordan. There they study subjects ranging from small-unit tactics and crime-scene investigations to first aid and human rights law.

With Israeli permission, these troops have deployed in areas of Hebron, Jenin, and Nablus. So far, this experiment has gone well, prompting widespread praise. Senator John Kerry (Democrat of Massachusetts) calls the program "extremely encouraging" and Thomas Friedman of the New York Times discerns in the U.S.-trained troops a possible "Palestinian peace partner for Israel" taking shape.

Looking ahead, however, I predict that those troops will more likely be a war partner than a peace partner for Israel. Consider the troops' likely role in several scenarios:

No Palestinian state: Dayton proudly calls the U.S.-trained forces "founders of a Palestinian state," a polity he expects to come into existence by 2011. What if – as has happened often before – the Palestinian state does not emerge on schedule? Dayton himself warns of "big risks," presumably meaning that his freshly-minted troops would start directing their firepower against Israel.

Palestinian state: The PA has never wavered in its goal of eliminating Israel, as the briefest glance at documentation collected by Palestinian Media Watch makes evident. Should the PA achieve statehood, it will certainly pursue its historic goal – only now equipped with a shiny new American-trained soldiery and arsenal.

The PA defeats Hamas: For the same reason, in the unlikely event that the PA prevails over Hamas, its Gaza-based Islamist rival, it will incorporate Hamas troops into its own militia and then order the combined troops to attack Israel. The rival organizations may differ in outlook, methods, and personnel, but they share the overarching goal of eliminating Israel.

Hamas defeats the PA: Should the PA succumb to Hamas, it will absorb at least some of "Dayton's men" into its own militia and deploy them in the effort to eliminate the Jewish state.

Hamas and PA cooperate: Even as Dayton imagines he is preparing a militia to fight Hamas, the PA leadership participates in Egyptian-sponsored talks with Hamas about power sharing – raising the specter that the U.S. trained forces and Hamas will coordinate attacks on Israel.

The law of unintended consequences provides one temporary consolation: As Washington sponsors the PA forces and Tehran sponsors those of Hamas, Palestinian forces are more ideologically riven, perhaps weakening their overall ability to damage Israel.

Admittedly, Dayton's men are behaving themselves at present. But whatever the future brings – state, no state, Hamas defeats the PA, the PA defeats Hamas, or the two cooperate – these militiamen will eventually turn their guns against Israel. When that happens, Dayton and the geniuses idealistically building the forces of Israel's enemy will likely shrug and say, "No one could have foreseen this outcome."

Not so: Some of us foresee it and are warning against it. More deeply, some of us understand that the 1993 Oslo process did not end the Palestinian leadership's drive to eliminate Israel.

The Dayton mission needs to be stopped before it does more harm. Congress should immediately cut all funding for the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator.
Just hope that, as a result of this incredibly stupid policy, President Obama doesn't end up ordering the US Air Force to bomb Tel Aviv...although that might indeed be popular with the very Taliban leaders General Petraeus hopes to "flip."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

AFP: US Seeking Israeli "Regime Change"

From Agence France Presse:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration's row with Israel over settlements has prompted some analysts to wonder whether it seeks "regime change," a new government that can make peace with the Palestinians.

However, the analysts doubt that President Barack Obama's administration, which has made Arab-Israeli peace a national security priority, will achieve anything if it has indeed adopted such a strategy.

In unusually harsh words, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday that his right-wing government's plans to build new settler homes in east Jerusalem sent a "deeply negative signal" about Israel's ties to its top ally.

"Is this about regime change, or is it about (Israeli) behavior modification?" asked Aaron David Miller, a Middle East peace negotiator in past Republican and Democratic administrations.

"Because either way, it's going to be a rocky ride," Miller told AFP.

"If it's the former, then I think we're naive in the extreme in thinking that we will be able to produce and somehow manage that," said Miller, now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Who Insulted Whom on Biden's Israel Visit?

President Biden with Palestinian President Abbas (White House photo)

Despite the conventional wisdom that Vice-President Biden was insulted by Israel's announced building of 1600 apartment units in Jerusalem--a curiously minor governmental action for the US State Department to "condemn," considering the un-condemned Saudi sponsorship of military and financial support for Taliban killing American soldiers in Afghanistan and Sunni militias killing American soldiers in Iraq--a moment's thought reveals that perhaps this crisis presents an opportunity for a reality check. Who was really insulted here?

In fact, Israelis are suffering from their own attempt at politeness. It was pointed out to me this morning that Biden's visit itself was an insult to the Israelis. For President Obama himself has made it a point to visit the Arab and Muslim capitals of Cairo and Istanbul--and has announced a forthcoming visit to Jakarta. However, since his election, President Obama has declined to visit Israel, despite invitations to do so. Thus, in diplomatic terms, the visit of Vice-President Biden, rather than a head of state, was an insult. Especially coming on the heels of Secretary of Defense Gates' visit to Afghanistan at the same time as the Iranian president. The message: Israel is not as important to the United States as the Muslim world. Rather than protest this demotion to second-tier status symbolized by Biden's visit, the Israelis kept quiet.

Taking silence as a sign of weakness, the US government was clearly emboldened to embarrass and humiliate Israel further--seizing on a pretext, a zoning decision for 1600 apartments, and blowing it up into an international incident. The motivation is probably to destabilize Netanyahu as Prime Minister, in order to bring in a possibly more malleable Tzipi Livni (herself charged with war crimes by Palestinians in London!). This is, as Yogi Berra once said, "deja vu all over again." President Bill Clinton ousted Netanyahu in favor of Ehud Barak when he was President. Since the Obama administration has failed in its policy of "regime change" in Iran, Plan B appears to be a resurrection of President Clinton's failed "peace process."

Step one: Regime change in Jerusalem.
Step two: Heat up the "intifada."
Step three: Israel unable to attack Iran to knock out nuclear missiles aimed at Tel Aviv--by a country that has announced its intention to wipe Israel off the map.

One Israeli alternative to reliance on an increasingly anti-Israel and pro-Islamist US administration (one fighting two wars in Muslim lands!), at this point, would be to seek a better relationship with an increasingly disgruntled and rising China, which also has considerable leverage on well as continuing to improve relations with Russia and France--and hope that the next US administration is better. Israel should try to be friends with the US, but any friendship must be based on truly mutual respect.

Otherwise, Israel may find itself in the same position the Shah of Iran did under President Carter, when US support for Islamists helped spawn the Frankenstein international movement that still stalks the world...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Last Days of Leo Tolstoy by Vladimir Chertkov

Just saw The Last Station starring Dame (and what a dame!) Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer. Liked the acting, sets, and costumes. Didn't like the script or direction--or the two youthful leads (why waste screen time on their sex scenes in order to turn Tolstoy into a "supporting" role?). The film lacked a certain tension and ambiguity. Secondary characters were cutouts at best. IMHO, director Michael Hoffman would have done better had he hired a talented screenwriter, so that he would have had an A picture instead of "Classics Illustrated." And he might have hired another director, too. Some of the scenes reminded me of UCLA film school... Though Plummer and Mirren were terrific scenery-chewers. I never read Jay Parini's novel--and won't now--but did find this account on the internet from Vladimir Chertkov, the film's heavy, played like Snidely Wiplash by Paul Giamatti. Still, I liked the film. It was a "good bad movie." Germany doesn't look exactly like Russia, and I missed seeing snow, troikas, and big fur coats (Tolstoy died in November). It's no Dr. Zhivago, but still worth seeing.

BTW, Wikipedia informs me that Michael Hoffman's picture is a remake of the 1912 Russian silent film Departure of a Grand Old Man. IMDB lists a few more films about Tolstoy, including a 1964 Soviet biopic by Gerasimov... Anyhow, here's the link to Chertkov's "The Last Days of Leo Tolstoy"

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Open Government Czar Close-Mouthed About Regulatory Reform...

Apparently, I wasn't the only one struck by former Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard University and long-time University of Chicago Law School icon Cass Sunstein's lack of substance at this afternoon's Brookings Institution talk (which event also drew a protester dressed up like Oscar the Grouch and a woman singing "I Love Ash"--referring to a coal industry toxic waste issue that apparently has something to do with the Paperwork Reduction Act, if that makes any sense...).

In any case, here's what the Federal Times Fedline Blog has to say:
Sunstein said surprisingly little about regulatory reform — his chief area of responsibility as the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
Aside from quoting President Obama, John Rawls, Federalist 1 and Aristotle, Sunstein did little but regurgitate boilerplate talking points in favor of open-goverment, transparency, accountability, and "the wisdom of crowds" (though not mob rule, I guess). To say I was disappointed was an understatement. He deflected questions about his previously published positions by saying something that sounded distinctly odd to this listener-- that his academic publications were written by "somebody else" with the same name.

Wikipedia claims the former Supreme Court clerk (Thurgood Marshall) is named after Lewis Cass, a former US Secretary of State. From the Wiki photos it looks like there may be a family resemblance. Notably, the glamorous Samantha Power (of Hillary Clinton "is a monster" fame) appeared to be sitting in the first row--according to Wikipedia, she's his wife, as well as director for multilateral affairs in the Obama administration's National Security Council--so if she was at the lecture, who's dealing with Iranian nukes?

Among the odd topics that Sunstein was willing to discuss with the audience was their 10-month old child, Declan Power-Sunstein (according to Wikipedia). Sunstein stressed the importance of information about child safety seats being made available to the public on the web.

The Starbucks coffee and free cookies were good. Perhaps the transcript will reveal some hidden DaVinci-code like messages upon further study...

Another IBEW Suit Against Goldman Sachs...

Over allegedly fraudulent mortgages, from 2008. I don't know what, if anything, came of it...

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

IBEW Union (Philadelphia Local 98) v Goldman Sachs!

(ht Huffington Post) Here's the story from Pensions and Investments Online:
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 Pension Fund, Philadelphia, filed suit against Goldman Sachs Group, accusing it of overpaying its executives while underpaying its shareholders and damaging its stock price.

The suit, filed March 8 in Delaware Court of the Chancery in Wilmington by the $562 million pension fund, seeks to stop Goldman Sachs from allocating 47% of its 2009 net revenues to compensation.

Also, the suit seeks to require that Goldman Sachs management bear the cost of the $500 million the firm pledged in November for philanthropic and lending support for small business as an “apology for taking enormous bonuses.” It also wants management to be responsible for paying any fees imposed by the government on banks in reaction to their excessive compensation practices.

Also named as defendants are Lloyd C. Blankfein, chairman and CEO; the other 11 Goldman Sachs directors; and two non-director executives, David A. Viniar, executive vice president and CFO, and J. Michael Evans, vice chairman.

“Goldman’s employees are unreasonably overpaid for the management functions they undertake, and shareholders are vastly underpaid for the risk taken with their equity,” the suit states.

The pension fund is a Goldman Sachs shareholder. The number of shares it owns wasn’t available.

Russia TV on Geert Wilders

(ht Diana West)

Friday, March 05, 2010

School Reform for Dummies: "Race to the Top" Evaluation Form Published

Education Week has put the form used by the Department of Education to evaluate "Race to the Top" applications online, here. There's an interesting article explaining the politics behind the contest, which raises serious questions about the fairness and validity of the process, here.
More about this topic on Valerie Strauss's Washington Post Blog.

Providence Journal: Obama's "Race to the Top" Really a Race to the Bottom

Rhode Island attorney and law professor Monica Teixeira de Sousa writes:
public services.

The U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, placed Rhode Island in an untenable position with the “Race to the Top”: forgo an opportunity for much-needed resources or compete for funds by dismantling public education. This is one race in which it behooves us to walk, not run.

The heart of the Central Falls community was torn apart as almost 100 educators, the entire staff of the city’s sole high school, were let go. Duncan was quick to support the termination of the teachers, which he did without bothering to speak to them. Had he done so he would have learned that some are local success stories: the kids who made it and later returned as educators and role models. They now face unemployment.

It’s ironic that this joblessness is the result of actions prompted by Rhode Island’s effort to curry favor with Secretary Duncan, since the terminations were prompted by the decision to compete for federal “Race to the Top” funds. The $4.35 million initiative — a grab-bag of harsh and unproven strategies that include closing schools and wholesale dismissals of personnel — is itself funded through the economic stimulus package that was supposed to produce jobs.

By applying the Race to the Top’s “turnaround model” in Central Falls, calling for the termination of all staff and the rehiring of no more than 50 percent, our state is harming the very children that it hopes to help. It has been shown that the results of these draconian actions make it harder to attract new dedicated and well-qualified teachers while doing nothing to address the numerous socioeconomic problems that impede children’s progress.

Critics who point to low student test scores fail to put them in the context of concentrated poverty. The community’s many woes include some of the state’s highest rates for student mobility, children testing positive for lead poisoning, and childhood asthma hospitalizations. In Central Falls 41 percent of families have incomes below the federal poverty line. A median family income below $23,000 must contend with an average yearly rent greater than $11,000. Rather than addressing these root causes of failing schools in disadvantaged cities and towns like Central Falls, it’s more politically expedient and far less expensive to blame schools, blame teachers, and propose privately run charter schools as solutions.

But the events in Central Falls highlight the limitations of the reform strategies promoted by Secretary Duncan. The “school closure model” is not feasible because it assumes that there are high-performing schools within the district to which students may be reassigned. There is only one high school in Central Falls.

Under the “restart model,” Central Falls High School would become a charter school. Supt. Frances Gallo explored this option with no success. The Journal reported that no charter was interested in running a failing secondary school. This is not surprising, given that, with only one high school, the charter school would lose its “magic bullet,” the ability to cull students.

Transparent House's History of Apple Computers

(ht Huffington Post)

Anatomy of Apple Design from Transparent House on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Malvina Hoffman, American Sculptress

While in Cedar Rapids a while back, someone I know and yours truly saw an interesting exhibition of sculptures by Malvina Hoffman, Rodin's last student and sole sculptress for the "Hall of Man" exhibition at the Chicago World's Fair sponsored by Marshall Field, later displayed in the Field Museum of Natural History. They were removed from Chicago in 1968, and some ended up on display in Grant Wood's home town. Perhaps someone will bring them to Washington, someday. In the meantime, if you find yourself in Iowa, a visit to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is highly recommended.

Chile Earthquake Person-Finder from Google

Found this app when downloading Google Earth. Perhaps one of our readers might find it useful, in a tragic situation:

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Wartime Contracting Commission: State Department Response "Unacceptable"

(ht Huffington Post) During questioning by Cong. Michael Thibault of Ambassador John Herbst, coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization, representing the US State Department:
I'd like to offer it to poor staff work. In other words, staff should be monitoring—you know, so many communications come across, but I don't know because, as of late last week,—we didn't have a response, and no response was acknowledged.

So Ambassador Herbst, I tried to give you a heads up on this—in fairness—but what's going on, and where's the response, and why hasn't someone worked with your secretary to—you know, you report directly to the secretary—your office does. So you must sit in staff meetings where they talk about the most important things, and contracting and coordination, and a contingent environment is pretty powerful today.

Where's this response?

Certainly, coordination is a very important issue, but I'm afraid I could just tell you that this is being looked at and given serious consideration, and a response will be forthcoming.

OK. Well, my time is almost up, but I'll just have to make this statement. I am the Democrat in this bipartisan group, but in this particular case, I am compelled to say that's unacceptable. And I would ask you to go back and say—because I think the Secretary of Defense has been much more diplomatic than I have here by saying it's unacceptable, but I think I have to call it like it is.
Earlier, Cong. Thibault had noted conclusions of an earlier hearing:
Our witnesses agreed that there are serious gaps and defects in interagency coordination of reconstruction and stabilization projects and that these shortcomings can put huge sums of money at risk of waste and undermine our efforts to improve the lives of people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These concerns apply not only to U.S. government agencies, but to operations conducted by our coalition partners, non-government entities and international organizations like the World Bank and the United Nations.

Dutch Election Victory for Geert Wilders

From Radio Netherlands:
The anti-Islam party of far-right politician Geert Wilders has made major gains in local elections held in the Netherlands. The party took part in two cities and has become the largest party in Almere and the second largest in the Hague.

Votes are still coming in but it is clear that the Freedom Party has taken around 20 percent of the vote. Geert Wilders told Dutch TV that it was fantastic day for his party.

"This is a springboard for the vote on June 9," said Wilders refering to the forthcoming national elections.

An opinion poll held earlier in the wake of the local vote showed that national Wilders'Freedom Party had the most support in the Netherlands and would be the biggest party nationally, another poll put them as the third biggest party a few seats behind the established political parties.

Diane Ravitch: Obama Picks Worse School as Rhode Island Model

From the Huffington Post. To be fair, perhaps they didn't teach the President how to make valid comparisons when Obama attended the private Punahou School in Hawaii (tuition $17,300 per annum), private Columbia University (tuition $18,735) or private Harvard Law School (tuition $39,325).
President Obama thought it was wonderful that every educator at Central Falls High School was fired. At an appearance before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on March 1, the President applauded the idea of closing the school and getting rid of everyone in it. At the same meeting, President Obama acknowledged Margaret Spellings, who was President George W. Bush's Education Secretary, because she "helped to lead a lot of the improvement that's been taking place and we're building on."

Well, yes, the President is right; his own education reform plans are built right on top of the shaky foundation of President Bush's No Child Left Behind program. The fundamental principle of school reform, in the Age of Bush and Obama, is measure and punish. If students don't get high enough scores, then someone must be punished! If the graduation rate hovers around 50%, then someone must be punished. This is known as "accountability."

President Obama says that Central Falls must close because only 7% of the students are proficient in math, and the graduation rate is only 48%. Sounds bad, right?

But the President has saluted a high school in Providence, Rhode Island, called "The Met" whose scores are no different from the scores at Central Falls High School. At Central Falls, 55% of the kids are classified as "proficient readers," just like 55% at The Met. In math, only 7% of students at Central Falls are proficient in math, but at The Met--which the President lauds--only 4% are proficient in math. Ah, but The Met has one big advantage over Central Falls High Schools: Its graduation rate is 75.6%.

But figure this one out: How can a high school where only 4% of the students are proficient in math and only 55% are proficient readers produce a graduation rate of 75.6%? To this distant observer, it appears that the school with lower graduation standards rates higher in President Obama's eyes.

Rhode Island's Mass Teacher Firings Drive Cost Obama Union Support

The Providence Journal reports on the crisis at Central Falls High School:
The wildfire of national debate over the mass firings at Central Falls High School spread further Tuesday, when the executive council of the AFL-CIO unanimously condemned the removal of all 93 teachers, support staff and administrators at the city’s only high school.

The executive council said its members were “appalled” that President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan had endorsed the terminations in recent comments, and said the firings will not help the 800 students at the high school, which is one of the poorest and lowest-performing schools in Rhode Island.

“We stand in support of the Central Falls Teachers Union in its fight to improve teaching and learning … preserve the rights of its members and keep the teachers where they belong,” the council said in a statement. “We call on the Central Falls administration to return to negotiations … and seek, in good faith, a collaborative path to proven reforms that provide students with the opportunity to succeed.”

A few hours later, Central Falls Teachers Union president Jane Sessums offered an alternative reform plan for the troubled school, which closely resembled a set of conditions proposed by Supt. Frances Gallo that the two sides failed to agree on during negotiations last month. Money was the main sticking point.

Tuesday, Sessums said the high school teachers would agree to a longer school day for students; providing more support for students; and submitting to rigorous evaluations — three conditions in Gallo’s proposal. She also said the teachers want a “research-based high school reform program” they believe will achieve good results.

“This proposal is a start, and we know that more can and should be done,” Sessums said. “We are ready to collaborate with the district and work toward changes that will ultimately give our students the education they deserve.”

Gallo said she had not been contacted by the union and was learning of the proposal for the first time Tuesday evening. “I have no comment at this time,” she said.

On Monday, the union filed three unfair labor practice charges against the school district, the union’s first move to appeal the mass firings.

Marcia Reback, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, which represents the Central Falls teachers, said the local union filed three charges against the district: failure to negotiate; refusal to provide information to the union and terminations in retaliation for the teachers’ union activities.

“The primary reason [for the filings] is that we want to secure the jobs of the Central Falls teachers themselves,” Reback said. “But we also know this situation is a national situation. If what happened in Central Falls is upheld, it will set a precedent across the United States.”
According to the Central Falls High School website, the school has at least one celebrity alumna. The school is Alma Mater to actress Oscar Nominee Viola Davis (Best Supporting Actress, Doubt).
More here.

Joshua Foust on the Battle of Marja

In today's New York Times, Registan blogger Josh Foust calls for the US military to set up what sounds like an Afghan version of the US Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency's price support program, in which farmers are paid not to grow certain crops, to reduce opium production in Afghanistan:
Good government will matter little, though, if the local economy is in a shambles. Marja’s agricultural base relies primarily on opium, and any new counternarcotics policies will wreak havoc; arresting or killing the drug traffickers will ultimately be the same as attacking local farmers. The timing of the offensive could not be more damaging: opium is planted in the winter and harvested in the spring, which means those who planted last year cannot recoup their investment.

In Helmand, opium is the only way farmers can acquire credit: they take out small loans, called salaam, from narcotics smugglers or Taliban officials, often in units of poppy seed, and pay back that loan in opium paste after harvest. If they cannot harvest their opium, they are in danger of defaulting on their loan — a very dangerous proposition.

Western aid groups distributed wheat seeds last fall, but there was little follow-up and it seems few farmers used them. This year, the aid workers should be prepared to pay farmers compensation for any opium crops they are unable to harvest as a result of the fighting, and the Western coalition should help the groups develop a microcredit system.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Speaking of The Hurt Locker...

Author Mark Monday recently sent this email to members of the National Press Club's Book & Author committee, about his work on an "Ambush Field Manual" for the US Military, available to the American public from under the title Killing Zone: A Professional’s Guide To Preparing Or Preventing Ambushes:
Being a writer you may appreciate the thrill of penning some scribblings that can potentially save the lives of our soldiers. Pardon my post, but now that I am effectively out of journalism there are few people, other than those of you with me on the Book and Author Committee at the National Press Club, with whom I can share my euphoria. Few people, usually only other writers, fully understand the experience of writing.

Although most American troops killed in the decades from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq have died in ambushes of one kind or another, including explosive IED ambushes, the U.S. military has not published an ambush field manual since the 1950s. Troops had to find mentions of ambushes in other manuals, five pages here, three pages there and perhaps two pages somewhere else. In 1994 Gary Stubblefield, a former Navy SEAL commander, and I tried to fill the gap. A publisher friend agreed to put the book on his list. Our book, Killing Zone, provided extensive basic instruction in the area. The book was never designed to be on the New York Times bestseller list; it certainly met its design. But we found out later to our satisfaction, that Killing Zone was being used by U.S. military instructors as a supplementary text when training troops. LTC Joshua Potter, a Green Beret now on his fourth tour of duty in Iraq, was one of the Special Forces members trained using Killing Zone. Josh and I met in 2008 at a government conference on complex operations. A year ago he told me had been trained with Killing Zone and had used the knowledge successfully in the war zone. But, he cautioned, much of it was outdated by new equipment and techniques. He was thinking of handing out a sheaf of update papers along with the book when teaching his own troops. I suggested we ask the publisher to allow us to revise the book—if Josh would lead the effort. Josh agreed. The publisher agreed. Over the last year LTC Potter and I have been reviewing and revising the original version to create a book that you, and most Americans, will never have any interest in reading. That revision, Ambush! was formally published this week.

There is a corollary to this: Shortly before LTC Potter revised the book, writers whom I had worked with—writers doing a manual for Navy SEALs—phoned to ask if they could include parts of Killing Zone in the new manual they were writing. Since the original idea of Killing Zone was to help our service personnel I immediately gave permission. But I was curious to see what part they found useful enough to plug into their manual. I asked. The reply was “we can’t tell you what we want to use. It’s classified.” But both Killing Zone and Ambush! are easily accessible by troops, unlike the SEAL manual.

As Richard Danzig, the former Secretary of the Navy and an advisor to the Obama campaign, wrote in his foreword to the new version – Ambush! – “For those who are smart enough not just to read it, but to study and apply it, this manual will save lives.”

Of all the words I’ve ever penned, the ones in this book probably have the best potential of saving lives of our Soldiers. I cannot think of a higher compliment to LTC Potter’s work, his dedication to protecting his troops by educating them about the most prevalent enemy tactic, or his efforts to improve their own offensive operations than Secretary Danzig’s words: “this manual will save lives.” I’m thrilled to have a small part in this project.

Mark Monday