Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hitch-22: Action Hero

I first met Christopher Hitchens some thirty years ago, in the offices of The Nation magazine. Hitchens was working with Hamilton Fish, then the publisher, whom I had arranged to meet for lunch to talk about a documentary film project. Hitchens was standing next to Fish, by his desk in the office, when I arrived. I'm sure he doesn't remember meeting me...but I remembered him as the personification of the stereotypical a dashing young Englishman, thin, with hair, voluble, and full of energy. He was much shorter than Fish. But already well-known as a Nation writer, for his leftist rallying cries. "I just saw Christopher Hitchens," I thought to myself.

The next time we met was in Washington, DC, at a "Stand Up For Denmark!" rally he had helped organize in front of the Danish Embassy in 2006.  This was during the Mohammed Cartoon Crisis. He was more florid, balder, fatter and older--but still voluble, full of energy, and dashing. The rally was small, and he nodded hello to everyone, including me.

Over the years,  I had heard rumors about Hitchens--about alcoholism, (contested) discovery of Jewish roots, divorce and remarriage to a young heiress. Closer to home, one of my father's deathbed wishes was that I read Hitchens' athiest manifesto: god is Not Great.  He sent me a copy that I had to discuss with him during one of our last visits together.

So it was with considerable interest that I read Hitch-22. What was most interesting, it seemed, was Hitchens' attempt to paint his self-portrait as a literary man, a man of letters, a serious writer, an artist--rather than a political journalist, pamphleteer, and promoter. It appeared to be his attempt at his own Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The book reads like one last gasp of Modernism. In that sense, Hitchens has shown himself to be a traditionalist--product of his public school days reading of The War Poets, his time as a literary editor at the New Statesman, and his hanger-on approach to the likes of Martin Amis, apparently hoping some of the "literary" quality he so admired would rub off.

Why didn't Hitchens write novels or plays or poetry? George Orwell and Arthur Koestler, two of his admired predecessors, did. He says in this memoir that he couldn't--but that sounds like a cop-out. My guess is that he would have liked to--but would have had to deal with the uncomfortable modernist ambiguity, ambivalence, and alienation that suffuse almost every page of Hitch-22. To do so would have made it increasingly difficult to pursue his political blasting operation, attacking Kissinger, Mother Teresa, and God.

The nuance, subtlety, and sensitivity Hitchens shows flashes of, when he writes about the painful double suicide of his mother or the stoic alcoholism of his father, is a far cry from the posturing provocateur that is his public face. Here is a writer who it seems would rather have been D.H. Lawrence.

It is this hidden Hitchens, the no longer enfant, no longer terrible, who emerges from the pages of this carefully-constructed memoir (others have noted the omissions). Hitchens tries to show himself not as a political propagandist or adventurer, rather as a sensitive person...one who has grown. Just as the young Joyce of Dubliners was not the later Joyce of Ulysses, the young Orwell of The Road to Wigan Pier not the later author of 1984.  Hence, the level of excruciating and embarrassing detail, his public school "crushes," his sordid lifestyle.

Of course, given the news of Hitchens' recent cancer diagnosis, reading the memoirs of this particular engage British intellectual has a special impact.  One wonders, if he manages to beat the odds, would he turn away from politics altogether...towards introspection-- or silence, exile, cunning?

Which brings one to the odyssey of Hitchens' political life. If anything, this is the least satisfying part of the book. He clings to some politically correct shibboleths--anti-Zionist, pro-Socialist--while abandoning others--Saddam Hussein's Iraq, multi-culturalism. Reading of Hitchens evolution from Trotskyite to Neo-conservative fellow traveller (not such a change of colors, perhaps, for weren't a number of founding neo-conservatives themselves Trotskyites?) one is struck by a lack of reflection. In contrast to his personal life, where there is constant angst, Hitchens' political life is one in which there is constant action.

Such a commitment to action, documented in photographs as well as text, gives Hitchens' life interest and piquancy straight from a boy's adventure novel--he fights with neo-Nazis in Beirut! he travels to Cuba for the Revolution! he leads anti-war demonstrations in England!

And it explains, likewise, his shift to Bush defender post-9/11--he goes to Iraq with Paul Wolfowitz!

For, in the end, it is action rather than ideology that matters, or at least once mattered, to Hitchens.

That's why he can write fulsomely about friendship with Saddam Hussein apologist Edward Said at the same time he describes the horrors of Ba'athist Iraq--Said was where the action was in New York literary circles.

That's the hitch, in Hitch-22.

The fashionable intelligence that radiates from this book (from a contributor to Vanity Fair, after all), as well as the evidence of a philosophical change of gears in his serious attention to mother, father, and schooldays--not to mention Jewish traditions--make it all the sadder that Hitchens may not be able to develop into the writer of poems, plays or novels that he seems to devoutly wish to be.

After reading Hitch-22, I'm very glad that I didn't lead his life. But I'm very glad he has shared it with his readers.

Now, I'll join those praying for a miracle...

Monday, August 30, 2010

Eliyho Matz on Washington's Israeli-Palestinian Summit

Received this analysis just in time for Wednesday's summit meeting:
PUTTING PIECES OF THE PUZZLE TOGETHER: PEACE TALKS IN WASHINGTON, 2010
by Eliyho Matz


In the coming weeks, participants in the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort will include the United States and its President Barack Obama. The USA is a constitutional democracy cemented by laws that bind the Americans with a President of African-American and White-American heritage who is committed to law and peace. Being the first African-American President is not easy. However, Obama’s positive look at events and practical approach should help in this Mid-East peace effort.

President Obama is not the first African American to handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ralph J. Bunche, a career diplomat, helped negotiate the 1948-9 agreements between Israel and its neighbors. So we have historical precedent. However, when speaking about history, one should be conscious of several facts: Franklin D. Roosevelt, after becoming fully knowledgeable about the Holocaust, preferred not to do a thing to save Jews [see my article “An Episode: Roosevelt and the Mass Killing” (Midstream: Aug/Sept 1980)]. Harry S. Truman, recognizing the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust, helped to create the Israeli nation in 1948 -- as he saw it, a democratic state, not a theological one (thus “Judistan” or “Jewcratic”). So Barak Obama has a lot to analyze. Of course, peace and stability in the region of the Middle East is in the national interest of the United States. The Israeli nation established in 1948 with great difficulties and trepidations has evolved a bit since 1948 to become not so democratic and more theological. Leaders of this nation have never written a constitution for the Israelis, but insist on its being the Jewish State for all Jews, meaning a nation that is extraterritorial -- an interesting idea but not a practical one. Israel claims itself to be “Jewish,” but nobody can define exactly what “Jewish” is. Israel’s claim to be a democracy is false because it does not have a constitution, or even, like the British, a body of laws stretching more than a thousand years to govern the nation. I don’t think Biblical law should be considered here. No wonder the Israeli Supreme Court is bombarded with legal questions and is unable to enforce law and order in the land. As a result of the historical failure to write a constitution in 1948-9, Israel has found itself in national /international trouble. According to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli goal is to be a Jewish nation (when in reality no one can define who is a Jew), and a democracy (when the law of the land is not exactly democratic but rather ad hoc law). Considering the creation of an Israeli republic with a written constitution for the Israelis is essential to the process of peace.

Another participant, President Mubarak of Egypt, will bring with him more than 30 years of experience, experience in ruling alone the Egyptian Republic, which has a constitution but as a nation has failed to rule with it. So it has had one political party and one President for the past 30 years. The King of Jordan, a monarch of Bedouin descent, will bring with him the experience of ruling a nation with a constitution, but as King he knows that not even his own Bedouins can be trusted, and therefore his personal bodyguards are comprised of Circassians. The other nations to consider, which will not be represented in Washington during this upcoming peace effort, include Syria, a dictatorship ruled by the Alawites sect; Lebanon, a republic of many political groups which are constantly at war with one another; Saudi Arabia, a monarchy ruled by the laws of Islam and its Saudi king -- a unique and very powerful nation, it has huge reserves of oil and is a quintessential ally of the U.S., if not exactly a progressive or democratic nation. The Turkish Republic, too, has recently entered into the thick of Middle East politics. When the Turks ruled the whole region under the Ottoman Empire, they mostly did not contribute much to the region, which eventually led to their leaving it to the more sophisticated British. However in 2010 the Turkish Republic has proven itself to be a regional democratic society. Turkey in my opinion is currently the most vital power in the region because of its potential to provide leadership, and most important to initiate the creation of a regional Middle East political-economic block that would compete with the European, American, Chinese and Russian blocks. If correctly done, Turkey’s involvement should be that of a pacifier.

Not to be forgotten, the last (but not least) of the participants at the conference are the Palestinians. Their suffering has no words…. In the past few years they have shown leadership in writing a constitution, in developing their own economic base, and in devising a process for cooperation with the help of the U.S. This should be seen by their archenemies all mentioned above as a threat, but with good will they will become great conciliators and facilitators of a new Middle East block.

Good luck Mr. President, Barack Obama….

Friday, August 27, 2010

Glenn Beck's Lincoln Memorial Rally Website...

For those curious to see what's going on in our nation's capital, he's streaming the "Restoring Honor" rally live, tomorrow, on this website.

Wikileaks: US Exports Terrorism

According to a CIA "Red Cell" report posted on the Wikileaks website August 25th, 2010...:
This CIA "Red Cell" report from February 2, 2010, looks at what will happen if it is internationally understood that the United States is an exporter of terrorism; 'Contrary to common belief, the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon, nor has it been associated only with Islamic radicals or people of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian ethnic origin. This dynamic belies the American belief that our free, open and integrated multicultural society lessens the allure of radicalism and terrorism for US citizens.' The report looks at a number cases of US exported terrorism, including attacks by US based or financed Jewish, Muslim and Irish-nationalism terrorists. It concludes that foreign perceptions of the US as an "Exporter of Terrorism" together with US double standards in international law, may lead to noncooperation in renditions (including the arrest of CIA officers) and the decision to not share terrorism related intelligence with the United States.
You can download the full CIA report in PDF format from Wikileaks, here. Here's the money quote:
Contrary to common belief, the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon, nor has it been associated only with Islamic radicals or people of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian ethnic origin. This dynamic belies the American belief that our free, open and integrated multicultural society lessens the allure of radicalism and terrorism for US citizens.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Three Theories of Faith, by Dr. Terry A. Hinch

My good friend and fellow professor at the Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland University College Dr. Terry A. Hinch died last Friday night of a heart related illness. While looking over some of his writings, I came across this essay, which he published in The Idler, Volume III, Number 38 on 19 February 2001. Terry had originally written it for a church talk. I think it captures something of his outlook on the meaning of life, scholarship, and faith.
THREE THEORIES OF FAITH
By Terry A. Hinch

Today I want to talk about Faith, the first of the four principles of the gospel.

I came to Washington, DC over twenty years ago to work for a US Senator, and like so many others, I have stayed on.

My wife Paget is a daughter of a Marine Corps pilot, a colonel. To me the most impressive thing about this is that her father was the Commanding Officer at El Toro Marine Air Base when President Nixon flew there to visit his home in San Clemente, CA. As a child of a Marine, she has lived all over the country and also in Italy. She also attended parochial schools in France during this time.

I met Paget in 1980. She had come to Washington to work on President Reagan's first campaign. I met her at a church dance as part of the Discovery conference for singles that was held each year.

She was recovering from Hodgkin's disease, which she had found about only a month before. Her girlfriends had dragged her to the dance -- she didn't really want to be there and neither did I.

I was the organizer of the dance, and I turned the whole thing over to a couple of my students, who fairly much engineered and ran the whole thing. We had a date two weeks later, and by that time I pretty much knew that this girl would play a big part in my life. I think she thought the same thing. The only hurdle was to either jump in and swim with this or try to find some good reason to get out of it. We didn't get out of it.

We became engaged at President Reagan's first Inaugural Ball. The Chevy Chase ward newsletter later reported that we became engaged before God, angels and the Osmonds, who were performing that evening.

Almost eight years ago Paget suffered a major stroke after having surgery. She suffered another about five years ago.

Needless to say the challenges for all of us have been enormous, but overcoming them has been very gratifying. It is for this reason that I choose to talk about Faith today.

For without Faith we probably would not have made it as a family.

I don't want to forget our son Clayton. He was born seventeen years ago and we wanted him very much. He has a kind sprit and has developed a huge patience while helping his mother recover from her myriad of illnesses and hospital stays. He recently completed requirements for his Eagle Scout award, which was the product of not only much hard work, but much discussion and angst in our family. We are all glad that it is finished.

Now to Faith.

Some of the most boring talks I have ever heard in church have been on Faith, and I don't want to add to the list. I have some thoughts in my head that have been trying to get out. And I think this is the time.

If you think about it Faith is the virtual force that propagates the gospel. Faith is what keeps us doing what we do, not only in church activities, but in all of life's activities. It is impossible to rationalize or prove that the gospel is true, conversely, it is impossible to prove that it isn't. We can have faith in either direction.

When I speak of Faith, I am speaking not only of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but also of faith in oneself and also, faith in others.

There is no tangible, concrete evidence of the existence of God, or the divinity of the Master in the legal sense, but not all inquiry for truth results in proof by real evidence. It is fallacious to argue that because there is no demonstrative evidence of the existence of God, He does not in fact exist. In the absence of real evidence our search may take is into the realm of circumstantial evidence. We could spend hours describing the wonders of nature and never be able to conclude anything.

Suppose that all things could be proven by demonstrative evidence. What then would become of the element of faith? There would be no need for faith and it would be eliminated. There is a divine reason why all things cannot be proven by concrete evidence.

There is a little book that I used as a textbook in school while studying journalism. It is entitled Four Theories of the Press: The Authoritarian, Libertarian, Social Responsibility, and Soviet Communist Concepts of What the Press Should Be and Do by Siebert, Schramm, and Peterson.

As the title suggests, the book describes four different approaches to how information is disseminated in a mass communication context. It also dates itself by including the Soviet communist theory. It does not judge the theories per se, but instead describes and demonstrates strong and weak points in all four of the theories.

Obviously the Authoritarian theory is more restrictive, allowing only information cleared by a central government to be disseminated. It also explains that while constitutionally the press in the United States might be under the Libertarian theory, we might seek to operate under the Social Responsibility theory, which clearly the contemporary press fails to completely understand.

But I did not come here today to talk about governments and the press, but rather some thoughts about that I have had about faith. I have structured these thoughts into what I will call The Three Theories of Faith. I think you will find some truth in these theories. Keep in mind that there are elements of all three theories in each one.

In my three theories of faith I am seeking to explain some thinking and behaviors and to place in perspective what faith means to me. These are, of course, my own thoughts. I am not seeking to say that one theory is better that another, or that one would assume his faith should or even must fall into one of these theories. I am only using them as a device for explanation. For most of us, our faith will vacillate across all three theories, depending on how we feel and what kind of life experiences we have had.

The first of the three theories is the Acceptance theory of faith.

In the Acceptance theory, faith is based more on inclinations than study or knowledge. The person whose faith is under this theory accepts the gospel as truth, usually based on what he/she has heard from others. This person has likely not attempted to gain any extra knowledge and probably prefers not to, lest his faith be diminished. There is no real depth of thought in this theory, since those embracing it have not seriously studied the scriptures or have pondered any elements of the gospel. All internal messaging by the church is considered true, while external messages about the church are dismissed as false, without any consideration, leaving nothing to discuss. This theory might be embraced by a new convert, who has had little chance to study and to pray about different elements of the gospel.

The Acceptance theory is not bad. It keeps many of us coming to church and practicing the gospel. The danger is that in the Acceptance theory, beliefs are largely based on those of others. Faith in oneself and to make decisions for oneself is low, to almost a childlike degree. This person will likely be vulnerable to anything that might challenge his faith, because lack of study and true consideration have not allowed for much balanced thinking. Certainly children practice in the only way they know how, through their parents. Thank heavens for acceptance -- it keeps many of us going.

Second is the Searching or academic theory of faith.

This theory allows for study and consideration of all messaging, both internal and external. In fact those who embrace this theory are avid readers and students. They attempt a balanced knowledge of the gospel, taking into consideration all of the esoteric facts that have been learned through years of study and consideration. This theory of faith assumes a broad and deep knowledge of the gospel, and church history that would likely bother those whose faith is based on acceptance.

This person might consciously or unconsciously be trying to find faith through fact or rationalization Since we know that this isn't possible, this person is sent into a cycle of continually searching for the one fact that might satisfy his academic need to know. Following the precepts of the gospel becomes a problem, because each commandment must be examined deeply for the intent, history and consequences. In the Searching theory the gospel is not an all pervasive phenomenon, but rather a cafeteria in which the person picks and chooses what works for him.

This person likely has near equal parts of faith in himself and also faith in others -- others who might enlighten him with further knowledge. The danger in the Searching theory is that the person is continually searching, always in flux, not landing on any final conclusion about his beliefs. With each newly found fact or new opinion faith ebbs and flows. Of course many of us are searching for answers, the problem is that all of the answers will not be known for now.

Those who are searching might be looking for a sign that they might believe. This brings me to the third theory which is what I call the theory of Complete faith.

This Complete faith brings in the other two in a large part. It assumes that the person has studied, prayed, and considered all messaging about the gospel and the church. Through all of this a spiritual confirmation has been reached. Knowing that the gospel cannot be rationalized, this person is confident and solid in his belief in the gospel. Outside messaging is heard and considered, but does not affect any of the underpinnings of his faith. This person lives the gospel in an all-pervasive sense. The light of Christ lives within him and he conducts his life through it.

In the Complete theory of faith, the concept of keeping the commandments puts commandments in a comprehensive unit, rather that in separate parts from which to pick and choose. This faith is attained through personal study and personal witness. Other people may be important, but in this theory, faith is not based upon what someone else says. This theory assumes that faith is continually being fed.

As I said before, most of us will vacillate across all three theories. Since faith is dynamic for most of us, it is necessary to feed and augment it as often as possible.

Thus, faith becomes the first step in any action and must be the first step in understanding the gospel. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ brings us to acknowledge the reality of his atoning sacrifice. We have an ongoing need to be taught and to understand this principle.

In the closing two verses of Matthew is given the account of the final appearance of the Master to the eleven disciples on the mountain in Galilee. His parting words give emphasis to the importance of his teachings and confer the great commission to others to teach all persons, in these simple, understandable words:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (Matt. 28:19-20.)

When my own faith has approached being complete, I feel as if anything is possible. Small things don't bother me, because I know that heavenly Father is at my side. I have a spiritual witness of this through dealing with the adversity that has affected my family in recent years. May the faith of each of us be strengthened by conscientious effort, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
For the information of those readers of this blog who knew him and might like to pay their respects, Dr. Terry A. Hinch's Memorial Service will be held this Friday, 27 August, at 4:00 pm. Location:

Chevy Chase Chapel
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
5460 Western Avenue
Chevy Chase, MD

Hall phone: 301-654-1595

Note: The building is a five-minute walk from the Friendship Heights Metro Station (on the red line). From Wisconsin Avenue, walk East on the north side of Western Avenue two blocks.



The full text of an academic article by Terry Hinch and yours truly, "CBS, Dan Rather and the Blogosphere: Anatomy of a Corporate Crisis," published in the 2005 Proceedings of the European Association for Business Communication, can be found at this link.

Monday, August 23, 2010

University of California Presidential Mansion Rent Row

A fellow UCLA alumnus sent me an SMS with news of this article about the controversy over rent payments for the UC presidential manse:
The tenant was Mark G. Yudof, president of the University of California. His midnight move was the latest chapter in a two-year housing drama that has cost the university more than $600,000 and has drawn senior U.C. officials into an increasingly time-consuming and acrimonious ordeal over the president’s private residence.

The effort to resolve Mr. Yudof’s housing problems has taken place while the U.C., the nation’s largest and most prestigious public university system, struggles with one of the worst financial crises in its history, including layoffs, student protests and tuition increases.

After six years as chancellor at the University of Texas, Mr. Yudof arrived here in 2008, vowing to bring fiscal responsibility to the 10-campus U.C. system. He chose not to live at university-owned Blake House, the traditional presidential mansion, which the university estimates requires $10 million of renovations and repairs.

Instead, Mr. Yudof, 65, moved with his wife into a 10,000-square-foot, four-story house with 16 rooms, 8 bathrooms and panoramic views. He said he needed the house, which rented for $13,365 a month by the end of the lease and was paid for by U.C., to fulfill his obligation to host functions for staff members, donors and visiting dignitaries.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Coming Soon... CHE: The Other Side of An Icon

You can order this new feature-length documentary by Agustin Blazquez DVD from Cuba Collectibles.com. Update from Agustin Blazquez:
My seventh documentary of my series COVERING CUBA, Che: The Other Side Of An Icon opens in Miami on October 8, 9 & 10 at the Tower Theater.  Featured: Abel Morales, Agustin Ayes, Antonio de la Cova, Armando Lago, Barbara Rangel, Blanca Rojas, Emilio Izquierdo, Ernesto Betancourt, Enrique Encinosa, Enrique Ros, Felix Ismael Rodriguez, Gustavo Mata, Humberto Fontova, Jaime Suchliki, Javier Souto, Jorge Beruff, Margot Menendez, Pedro Corzo, Roberto Bismarck, Rolando Castaño, Roberto Martin Perez & Sergio Muñiz.  Narrated by GUSTAVO REX.  Ending song by STEVE PICHAN.

Proceeds from this new documentary will be for the Uncovering Cuba Educational Foundation (UCEF), a non-profit organization [501 (c)(3).

Bret Stephens: Bloomberg Ground Zero Mosque Debate Recalls 1993 Nothern Virginia Mosque Controversy

From The Journal Editorial Report, hosted by Paul Gigot:
Gigot: All right, Bret, we've got 30 seconds.


Stephens: OK, very briefly: 1993, look it up in the Washington Times, there is a mosque in northern Virginia. Neighbors want to close it down. They don't like it--they don't like this mosque. it becomes a story that the Muslims of the community are claiming bigotry. This is what later became the--called the 9/11 mosque, where two of the 9/11 hijackers worshipped. So did Maj. Hasan and the imam al-Awlaki, the imam now in Yemen.
UPDATE: More links to Virginia's notorious "9/11 Mosque" on JihadWatch:
If you're looking to bolster your "moderate" credentials for public consumption, including in your project a founder of what has arguably been the single most problematic mosque in America is probably a bad idea. Probably.

"Ground Zero mosque modeled after notorious 9/11 mosque?" from WorldNetDaily, August 22:

The New York imam behind the Ground Zero mosque has struck a partnership with the founder of the so-called 9/11 mosque in the Washington suburbs that gave aid and comfort to some of the 9/11 hijackers, WND has learned.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf counts the lead trustee of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center among partners in his Cordoba Initiative, which features a 13-story mosque and a "cultural center" for his project to bring shariah, or Islamic law, to America.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Document of the Week: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf Starts US Government-Sponsored Tour

From AOL News (ht JihadWatch):
(Aug. 20) -- The Muslim cleric behind the planned "Ground Zero" Islamic center is in the Middle East, sent by the State Department on a trip intended to smooth relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world while adding to the uproar back home.

A day after arriving in Bahrain, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf told The Associated Press today that he hopes his tour would draw attention to the need for America and the Middle East to battle fundamentalism together.

"This issue of extremism is something that has been a national security issue -- not only for the United States but also for many countries and nations in the Muslim world," he said after leading Friday prayers at a mosque in Bahrain's capital Manama. "This is why this particular trip has a great importance, because all countries in the Muslim world -- as well as the Western world -- are facing this ... major security challenge."

Hasan Jamali, AP
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, executive director of the Cordoba Initiative, greets worshippers inside a Muharraq, Bahrain, mosque. Rauf, the imam leading plans for an Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York, is on a U.S.-funded outreach tour to Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to talk about religious tolerance in America.

Rauf also plans stops in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Details about the imam's plans in each country have not been released by the State Department, although spokesman P.J. Crowley said Rauf would be giving a series of lectures on religious co-existence and life as a Muslim in America. He added that the imam might also discuss the Islamic cultural center that the cleric's organization, the Cordoba Initiative, plans to build in lower Manhattan, two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he talks about the ongoing debate within the United States, as an example of our emphasis on religious tolerance and resolving questions that come up within the rule of law," Crowley said.

Rauf's government-funded trip has come in for intense criticism from opponents of the so-called Ground Zero mosque. Earlier this week, Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Peter King of New York expressed outrage that the State Department was funding a figure they consider to be a radical. (Rauf has been criticized for refusing to openly condemn the Palestinian extremist movement Hamas).

"It is unacceptable that U.S. taxpayers are being forced to fund Feisal Abdul Rauf's trip to the Middle East," their statement read. "The U.S. should be using public diplomacy programs to combat extremism, not endorse it."

However, this isn't the imam's first government-sponsored tour of the region. He traveled twice to the Middle East during the George W. Bush administration and once earlier this year. "This [trip] was scheduled before the issue of the religious center in New York came up," Crowley said. "He obviously volunteered to participate in this program. We value his participation."

In an attempt to curb further controversy, only local media will be allowed to meet with the imam throughout the trip, The New York Times reported. "I think they are worried that whatever he says will be taken out of context," said Mansoor Al-Jamri, editor of the Bahraini daily Al-Wasat, which is scheduled to interview the cleric during his four-day stay on the island kingdom.

However, that move could backfire, as it appears to undermine the message of openness and tolerance the imam is preaching.

The State Department also tried to dismiss concerns that Rauf might use the tour to raise funds for the mosque. "This is what we tell anyone who participates in one of our expert trips: They're there to provide perspective on behalf of the United States, and they're not to engage in personal business as part of the program that they're participating in," said Crowley. "He has agreed to that."
A few observations:

1. The US Government has endorsed censorship and subverted the principle of freedom of speech with the restriction that "only local media will be allowed to meet with the imam throughout the trip." The US taxpayer has paid for the imam's work, and the US public has a right--IMHO a duty--to keep an eye on what he says. The announced media guidelines reported by AOL are on their face undemocratic and un-American.

2. Whether or not Rauf asks directly for money, his trip certainly promotes construction of the mosque. The timing and destinations speak for themselves. There is an appearance of impropriety, despite State Department denials. Actions speak louder than words. How dumb do the people the the US State Department think American citizens are?

3. The reported budget for the trip, $16,000, sounds quite high. Is the imam flying First or Business Class? Is he staying in four or five star hotels? Eating at expensive restaurants? If so, the American taxpayer has a right to know. Why is an imam on a government trip not getting a US government rate on airfare and lodging? I'd be interested to see the budget and expense vouchers, as well as per diem accounts (is he keeping any of it for himself?)

4. The State Department has reportedly not released details of the imam's schedule. On what possible grounds? My interpretation is embarrassment, shame, and cowardice. Heck of a way to win hearts and minds!

5. Other sites note that this imam is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has some sort of connection to the Aspen Institute. Eugene Robinson said on the PBS Newshour that he also works for the Washington Post. The photo in this post was taken at the Davos World Economic Forum, the "billionaire's club." Given that these are "establishment" institutions, it is highly likely that this trip was planned with the blessing of top officials in the US State Department (indeed, signs indicate that Rauf may be working as an unofficial "rent-an-imam"). Did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sign off on the imam's visit? If not, as she no doubt used to ask about President Nixon during Watergate days: "What did she know, and when did she know it?"

IMHO, the State Department should have postponed the imam's trip when the Bloomberg Ground Zero Mosque controversy reached the Presidential level. This trip won't help US-Islamic relations, won't help Secretary of State Clinton, won't help President Obama, and won't help the people of the United States of America.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Howard Dean Opposes Bloomberg's Ground Zero Mosque

From the NY Post (ht JihadWatch):
Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, in a surprise move Wednesday, became the second high profile Democrat to come out against the building of a cultural center and mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero.

“This is something that we ought to be able to work out with people of good faith," Dean said in an interview with WABC radio.

"We have to understand that it is a real affront to people who’ve lost their lives, including Muslims.

"That site doesn’t belong to any particular religion … So I think a good reasonable compromise could be worked out without violating the principle that people ought to be able to worship as they see fit.”

Dean, one of the more liberal members of the party who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 before serving as head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), suggested the mosque should be moved.

“Well I think another site would be a better idea, again -- but I would look to do that with the cooperation of the people who are trying to build the mosque,” Dean said.

Dean became the second high profile Democrat to come out against the building of the mosque just blocks from Ground Zero.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: How to Win the Clash of Civilizations

From today's Wall Street Journal:
The greatest advantage of Huntington's civilizational model of international relations is that it reflects the world as it is—not as we wish it to be. It allows us to distinguish friends from enemies. And it helps us to identify the internal conflicts within civilizations, particularly the historic rivalries between Arabs, Turks and Persians for leadership of the Islamic world.

But divide and rule cannot be our only policy. We need to recognize the extent to which the advance of radical Islam is the result of an active propaganda campaign. According to a CIA report written in 2003, the Saudis invested at least $2 billion a year over a 30-year period to spread their brand of fundamentalist Islam. The Western response in promoting our own civilization was negligible.

Our civilization is not indestructible: It needs to be actively defended. This was perhaps Huntington's most important insight. The first step towards winning this clash of civilizations is to understand how the other side is waging it—and to rid ourselves of the One World illusion.
One editor's note for Ayaan Hirsi Ali--It's not just the Saudis. For decades, the US government has been subsidizing Islamist, fundamentalist, extremist ideology in the former Soviet Union, former Soviet bloc, China and elsewhere. To learn more, read Ian Johnson's A Mosque in Munich to learn how the CIA hired Tariq Ramadan's grandfather and sponsored Muslim Brotherhood operations around the world...so Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's US State Department sponsored trips to raise funds for the NYC Bloomberg Ground Zero Mosque are in line with a long tradition of Islamism as official US policy. Just take a look at the US-approved constitutions of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Iraq. The US put the Islam in...IMHO, if only to keep communism out.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Has CIA Paid for Bloomberg's Ground Zero Mosque?

After reading this column by Andrew McCarthy in National Review, and the light of Ian Johnson's book A MOSQUE IN MUNICH, about a CIA-funded 1950s mosque, one wonders if there might be some CIA money that has made its way to Cordoba House?
In recent years, the government, finally, has officially acknowledged that the CIA’s cut-out in Afghanistan was Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). We prosecutors were forbidden to admit as much at the blind shiekh’s 1995 trial, even though U.S. aid to the Nicaraguan contras was probably a better-kept secret. The stipulation read to the jury — after 18 months of sealed litigation — conceded only that the United States had provided economic and military support to the mujahideen “through a third-country intermediary”; it did not identify our abettor. Years later, with the intelligence community feeling intense heat over its dismal pre-9/11 performance, the CIA could no longer afford to be so stingy. The 9/11 Commission thus disclosed that the “United States supplied billions of dollars worth of secret assistance to rebel groups in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet occupation. This assistance was funneled through Pakistan: the [ISI] helped train the rebels and dis tribute the arms.”

ENDOWING THE JIHADIST HARVARD
Moreover, with not only the intelligence community but our nation under international criticism for having reared the terror network that has now matured into a worldwide threat, the State Department got into the act. In 2005, it issued a press release categorically denying that the U.S. had “created Osama bin Laden.” But this denial — reasserted in May 2009 — answers the wrong question. It’s not whether we “created” bin Laden; it’s whether we materially helped him and his network grow and evolve into what they became.

State tried to do the impossible: hold the CIA blameless but explain what actually happened. It dutifully reprised the story about how Afghans and Arabs despised one another, such that helping the former in no way facilitated the latter. Its impressive array of expert witnesses on this point included Dr. Sageman and Milt Bearden, who, like Devine, had helped run the CIA’s Afghan operation. In offering Bearden’s summation, State relied on an excerpt from Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden, by CNN’s terrorism analyst, Peter Bergen:

CIA official Milt Bearden, who ran the Agency’s Afghan operation in the late 1980s, says, “The CIA did not recruit Arabs,” as there was no need to do so. There were hundreds of thousands of Afghans all too willing to fight, and the Arabs who did come for jihad were “very disruptive” . . . The Afghans thought they were a pain in the ass.

Yes, we’ve heard: They couldn’t stand being in the same jihad together. Again, though, the question is not whether the CIA recruited Arabs. In fact, to listen to Dr. Sageman, even al-Qaeda doesn’t recruit Arabs. As terrorism analyst Lorenzo Vidino observes in Al Qaeda in Europe — The New Battleground of International Jihad:

The studies on recruitment for jihad undertaken by Marc Sageman, a former CIA official and an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, have revealed that al-Qaeda carries out no top-down recruitment; instead, spontaneously formed clusters of young radicals naturally team up with recruiters, who select those who have the skills and dedication that can be useful to the cause. “It’s actually very much like applying to Harvard,” says Sageman, pointing out that al-Qaeda’s problem is selection, not recruitment.

Exactly: The issue is not recruitment, but whether the CIA endowed the jihadist Harvard. Was the agency like today’s university donors who contribute huge sums but then disavow any responsibility for what’s being taught in the schools? Did the agency knowingly foster an atmosphere in which these spontaneously arriving clusters of Arab jihadists could easily — and quite foreseeably — find the opportunities, the trainers, and the means to become more effective, more networked terrorists? Did the agency do so knowing virulently anti-Western jihadists were finding each other? The answers to those questions are palpable.

Ironically, it is the State Department that gives up the ghost. In its angst to shift to Pakistan the blame for al-Qaeda’s rise, State inadvertently destroys the CIA’s fairy tale. Again, its expert source is Peter Bergen:

The United States wanted to be able to deny that the CIA was funding the Afghan war, so its support was funneled through Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI). ISI in turn made the decisions about which Afghan factions to arm and train, tending to favor the most Islamist and pro-Pakistan. The Afghan Arabs generally fought alongside those factions, which is how the charge arose that they were creatures of the CIA.

Put aside State’s remarkable candor in conceding that the CIA went through the ISI precisely in order to maintain deniability. This admission acknowledges that some of those purportedly peaceful Sufi Afghans turn out to have been . . . Islamists. In truth, the CIA well knew that there were Islamist-oriented Afghan factions, and that those factions were favored by the Pakistanis. Armed with this knowledge, the agency passed funding and arms to the Pakistanis, knowing a goodly share of it would go to anti-American Islamists, such as Hekmatyar, who had close ties to the Arabs. Hekmatyar, as Bergen relates, was (and is) an “Islamist zealot,” yet his Hizb party received fully 20 percent of the U.S. contribution — i.e., about about $600 million of the $3 billion total, and that’s without counting the considerable Saudi aid that came his way (the Saudis having matched U.S. aid dollar for dollar).

To be clear, it was not the CIA’s purpose to promote Islamism. Our government wanted to get assistance into the hands of the factions that would be most effective in combating the Soviets (though how effective Hekmatyar’s was in that regard is hotly disputed). It is just preposterous, though, to maintain that the fallout of this effort — the fueling of jihadism — did not happen. It happened in spades, and we did nothing meaningful to account for it.

Pamela Geller: Harvard Sells Out Israel

According to Pamela Geller, Harvard University has just sold off all its Israeli investments:
Look at how far we have sunk. America's once leading institution for higher learning pimps for jihad. We knew that these institutions like Harvard, Georgetown, etc., would unashamedly dance on demand when those Saudi 20 million dollar gifts began rolling in. Middle Eastern Studies departments are hotbeds of radicalism. Jewish students are persecute, harassed and physically threatened on these campuses.

If these institutions of higher learning get federal taxpayers dollars, is this not against the law? It's one thing when jihadist frenemies violate the Arab boycott of Israel. We expect that from these players, they lie and are incapable of being honest merchants. When Saudi Arabia joined the World Trade Organization, they promised to end their participation in the Arab boycott of Israel, but they have not done so.

But this is Harvard. It is wrong, outrageous, that these tools of the stealth jihad are supported by your taxpayer dollars and private endowments (many from Jewish families). The whole moral structure is disintegrating before our very eyes. These whorehouses do not deserve one thin dime from public or Jewish coffers. This is getting very ugly. I expect Tariq Ramadan will be offered the Edward Said chair at Columbia in no short order.

This is pure antisemitism. Where is the boycott of Sudan, Iran, Congo, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the 56 Muslim countries that brutally violate the rights of women, non-Muslims, Christians, Jews, dhimmis? .......The list is endless.

Harvard University fund sells all Israel holdings
No reason for the sale was mentioned in the report to the SEC. 15 August 10 17:15, Hillel Koren

In another blow to Israeli shares, the Harvard Management Company notified the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday that it had sold all its holdings in Israeli companies during the second quarter of 2010. No reason for the sale was mentioned. The Harvard Management Company manages Harvard University's endowment.

Harvard Management Company stated in its 13-F Form that it sold 483,590 shares in Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq: TEVA; TASE: TEVA) for $30.5 million; 52,360 shares in NICE Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: NICE; TASE:NICE) for $1.67 million; 102,940 shares in Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) for $3.6 million; 32,400 shares in Cellcom Israel Ltd.(NYSE:CEL; TASE:CEL) for $1.1 million, and 80,000 Partner Communications Ltd. (Nasdaq: PTNR; TASE: PTNR) shares for $1.8 million.

Harvard Management Company's 13-F Form shows some interesting investments. Its two largest holdings, each worth $295 million, are in iShares ETFs, one on Chinese equities, and the other on emerging markets. Harvard also owns $181 million in a Brazilian ETF.


UPDATE: Trusted sources are saying that this has nothing to do with hating Israel, but is simply due to Israel's economic progress. The Harvard fund invests in emerging markets, but since Israel is a developed country, Harvard has shifted its money to less developed nations. And while I trust these respected sources, I'm not sold, because the timing is too advantageous to the Jew-haters, who will crow about it -- and Israel is so isolated, she needs all the help she can get.
More related to this topic in Andrew McCarthy's National Review Online article: "American Taxpayer: Financial Jihadist."
Moreover, given that Islam is not merely a religion but a comprehensive social system that rejects the separation of the spiritual realm from secular matters, SCF [Sharia Compliant Finance] is necessarily a political mission. Hayes and Vogel state without apology that “the surge in Islamic banking and finance is part of the much larger phenomenon of Islamic reassertion.” SCF is “an assertion of religious law in the area of commercial life, where secularism rules almost unquestioned throughout the rest of the world.” It quite intentionally challenges both “the presumption that modern commercial mores are per se more efficient or otherwise superior” and “the secular separation of commerce from consideration of religion and piety.”
That is a big problem for AIG under Uncle Sam’s management. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause has been construed to bar government action (including government underwriting of action) that is “pervasively sectarian.” Under our jurisprudence, the state is forbidden to act if its “secular purposes” are “inextricably intertwined” with a “religious mission,” as the Supreme Court put it in Bowen v. Kendrick (1988). SCF is Islamic proselytism, and our law prohibits the “active involvement of the sovereign in religious activity” — so said the high court in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971).

The Thomas More Law Center has filed a lawsuit against Secretary Geithner and the Treasury Department, seeking to shut down AIG’s SCF business while that business is owned by the taxpayers. In response, the Obama administration has hilariously denied that SCF is really an “Islamic religious activity.” Someone will need to break that news to Professor Hayes, the guy who wrote that “the raison d’etre for the practice of Islamic finance is undeniably religious.” When the Treasury Department co-hosted a Harvard SCF seminar less than two years ago, it chose none other than Hayes to preside.

Treasury also counters that the public money used for AIG’s SCF programs is trivial. That is specious. Geithner has committed $70 billion of our money to AIG. Of this amount, the lawsuit has demonstrated that nearly $1 billion was poured directly into AIG’s SCF businesses, and billions more are available for diversion. How much public money is actually promoting sharia finance may be impossible to say with certainty. AIG jointly operates many of its branch offices, using consolidated accounting and non-segregated bank accounts. Neither the government nor AIG has ever issued any regulations or created any firewalls to prevent American taxpayer money from underwriting SCF activities.

The Obama administration could have suspended AIG’s promotion of sharia finance in order to protect constitutional norms. But, of course, if it were interested in constitutional norms, it would neither be running private companies nor embracing Islamists and their law. So congratulations: You get to fund the jihad, while the jihad gets to target you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wikileaks Founder Wins Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence

From Ray McGovern's column on Antiwar.com:
Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) is a group of former CIA colleagues and other associates of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power.

Sam did precisely that, and in honoring his memory, SAAII confers an award each year to a lamp lighter exemplifying Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth – no matter the consequences. The Washington, D.C., presentations are held in the fall, usually before a large university audience; Dan Ellsberg, a charter member, is usually with us.

Sam Adams Annual Award recipients:

Coleen Rowley of the FBI; in Washington, D.C.
Katharine Gun of British intelligence; in Copenhagen, Denmark
Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; in Washington, D.C.
Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; in New York City
Sam Provance, former sergeant, U.S. Army, truth-teller about Abu Ghraib; in Washington, D.C.
Frank Grevil, major, Danish army intelligence, imprisoned for giving the Danish press documents showing that Denmark’s prime minister disregarded warnings that there was no authentic evidence of WMDs in Iraq; in Copenhagen, Denmark
Larry Wilkerson, colonel, U.S. Army (retired), former chief of staff to Secretary Colin Powell at the State Department, who has exposed what he called the “Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal”; in Washington, D.C.

In April, the SAAII nominating committee decided unanimously to give this year’s award to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. Stay tuned for information on time and place for the presentation. Or check with Geoff Morrell, who is likely to know as soon as we decide.

Top USAID Afghanistan Contractor Faces Corruption Investigation

According to the The Telegraph (UK), the New Jersey based Louis Berger Group (LBG), with a reported $2 billion or so in US government contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been named in court documents alleging corruption in contracting...
Court papers filed in the US said there were criminal and civil investigations into allegations that Louis Berger "defrauded the United States Agency for International Development".

The investigation details only emerged when Derish M Wolff, chairman of the parent company Berger Group Holdings, sued the US government last week.

He complained he had been forced into resignation by the government as part of a negotiation to settle the three-year-long probe.

The company said it could not comment directly on the overcharging accusations and added: "Louis Berger Group has and will continue to co-operate fully with the US Government throughout the process as we work toward a resolution."

Details of the inquiry emerged as Hamid Karzai's government and its international backers continued to trade accusations of corruption and bribery.

London and Washington have repeatedly demanded Mr Karzai rein in his administration's graft and bribe-taking.

Senator John Kerry, chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, told a US newspaper last week that corruption was "the biggest single recruitment tool for the Taliban and the biggest single factor undermining [Afghan] government support".

Kabul has often retaliated that most corruption stems from foreign companies who handle lucrative aid work.
More at NorthJersey.com.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Russian Military Analyst: US Expands Central Asian Forces

From RIA Novosti, Alexander Shustov's analysis:
Now Pentagon is not going to confine itself with Kyrgyzstan and plans to build military facilities on the territory of five states of the region. It implies the redeployment of part of military infrastructure of the US from Afghanistan to the former Soviet Central Asia and Kazakhstan and also the construction of NATO facilities there.

According to “EurasiaNet” (an internet-portal financed by George Soros), US Central Command’s counter-narcotics fund was to allocate more than $40 million for the construction of military training centers in the cities of Osh (Kyrgyzstan) and Karatoga (Tajikistan), a canine center and helicopter hangar near the city of Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan) as well as for the strengthening of border check points in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Pentagon estimates the construction of each border check point at $5-10 million. The location of the US border check point in Uzbekistan is not disclosed out but the location of the check points in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan is quite remarkable. The Serahs check point (Turkmenistan) is on the border with Iran and the Kyrgyz check point (where the modernization of electricity supply and water supply and sewerage system is planned) – near Batken. Both check points are of geo strategical importance - first in case of a war between the US and Iran and second - in case of destabilization of the political situation in this part of the Fergana Valley like it was in 1999-2000 during the invasion of Islamic movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).

In Kazakhstan the US plans to build a new helicopter hangar near the city of Alma-Ata, a canine center and a center for inspection of transport vehicles, with the total construction costs amounting to $10 million. In Tajikistan the Americans plans to build a military training center in Karatoga (not far from the capital of Dushanbe) for Tajik servicemen. There they plan to practice combat actions in city conditions of a city and to train sharpshooters/spotters. The construction costs are estimated at $10 million. A similar center worth $ 5.5 million for practicing different kinds of combat actions in the course of border and counterterrorist operations should be built in the Kyrgyz city of Batken.

It has been known about the US plans to strengthen its military presence in Central Asia since last autumn when the Northern supply route through Russia began to function alongside with the transport route from Pakistan. It is known that Pentagon is working on the plan to deploy elite units of its special troops in Central Asia namely four battalions of the 3rd Special forces (airborne) group which has a long experience of fighting in Afghanistan.

In addition to Central Asia the US plans to deploy its forces in Southern Caucasus - in particular early warning radars in Georgia. It is expected that besides the radars Pentagon may locate a land military base and a naval base in Georgia with 25,000 servicemen.
Finally Pentagon is to build a special operations complex in Afghanistan near the Uzbek border worth $100 million. The complex with the area of 6 hectares will be located in Mazar-i-Sharif, 275 km north-west from Kabul and 56 km south from the Uzbek city of Termez. In 18 months the Americans are to build a united operational center, residential blocks, a communication hub, a center for tactical operations, storage facilities, a training center, a medical center, repair facilities a center for logistics, a canteen, recreation facilities and a doghouse. They plan to put the complex into operation in late 2012 early 2012. In longer perspective 2012-2016 the US Central Command plans to allocate another $3.8 billion on the construction of military facilities in the countries of the Middle East and Central Asia.

Even a brief look at the deployment of the US military objects shows that it almost fully repeats the geography of “the Eurasian Balkans” of Z. Brzezinski, who gave this geopolitical region a decisive role in fighting Russia on “the Grand Chessboard”. By locating its special troops, surveillance equipment and other forces in Central Asia and in the Caucasus after the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan in 2011 the US will ensure its military presence right besides Russia’s “belly” near the northern border of Iran and the western border of China. Here the Americans plan to deploy an intelligence network which will ensure control over the situation in the most important points of Eurasia.

Washington Examiner: Don't Build Ground Zero Mosque

From the Washington Examiner of August 13th:
New York City is known for rigidly regulating the location and specifications of buildings within its jurisdiction. But officials of the City That Never Sleeps have suddenly turned into extreme libertarians about protecting the religious and property rights of the prospective owners of the Ground Zero mosque. That's the $100 million, 15-story mosque scheduled to be built one block from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. The city's Landmark Preservation Committee eagerly approved the GZM application, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has dismissed as religious bigots all who disagree with that decision.

Could these same defenders of every Muslim man's right to build a mosque wherever he owns property be the same ones who previously had no qualms about seizing private property to redevelop Times Square, condemning small businesses for a $6.3 billion expansion of Columbia University, or confiscating another parcel on Sixth Avenue to make way for Bank of America? Is this the same Bloomberg who led the successful opposition to a recent state legislative proposal to limit local officials' ability to use eminent domain against private property owners? Surely it was a different Bloomberg who claimed that the Empire State Development Corp. should be able to force the sale of property for any "civic purpose."

Can there be a higher civic purpose than preventing construction of a Muslim propaganda and recruiting center so close to the murder site of 3,000 Americans? The initially proposed name of the mosque -- Cordoba House -- undermines claims that it will be used to promote interfaith peace and understanding. Evidently Bloomberg wasn't listening in history class when they talked about the bloody Muslim conquest of Cordoba, Spain, in 711.

The New York Times, whose Eighth Avenue headquarters sits on land forcibly seized by the city from 55 business owners, argued in a 2005 editorial entitled "The Limits of Property Rights" that the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo decision was "a welcome vindication of cities' ability to act in the public interest . ..." Yet the Gray Lady now insists that kowtowing to GZM was "not just the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do."

That's utter nonsense. Local governments everywhere in America routinely regulate location and construction of religious facilities without impinging on the First Amendment right to worship. There are also volumes of federal, state and local historic preservation laws that could be invoked to force GZM to a different site. We hope Bloomberg accepts Newt Gingrich's invitation to debate this issue. Maybe then the mayor will explain why he disdains historic preservation of the area immediately around the site of the worst domestic attack in American history.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Aland Mizell on Fethullah Gülen's Islamist Movement

From KurdishMedia:
In May 2010 media outlets and blogs spots across the Internet discussed Bill Gates’ Ten million dollar donation to the Gulen Movement’s publically funded charter schools in Texas whose agenda is to spread his version of Islam. Did the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation not do their homework? Did they know about Gulen’s revolution? In the past Islamic groups have tried methods to impose their authority over people and take charge, but they mostly use force or violence to accomplish that goal. This kind of method gave Fethullah Gülen’s missionaries the advantage to grow fast as an alternative to these seemingly more radicalized Islamic groups...

...Why does America support Gülen’s missionaries in Central Asia and around the globe and even in the US? After the collapse of the Soviet Union the balance of power in the world changed, and more than 15 countries got their independence from the Soviet Union. There was a gap in power in the region seeking to be filled; additionally, most of these newly independent countries such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan were rich with the underground resources of oil, gas, gold, and other materials. However, a void for religion developed as well, so there was a competition among an Iranian brand of Islam, a Saudi Arabian version of Islam, and Gülen’s missionaries to fill the void. The US government gave its support to Gülen, because it mistakenly believed that Gülen‘s missionaries were less harmful compared to the Iranian Islamic movement Hezbollah, Saudi‘s brand of Islam Wahhbism, or other fundamentalist groups. The US thought that Gülen’s movement could be managed in the right way by using it to suit America’s purposes. Because many naively believe that Gülen’s preaches nonviolence and dialogue between the western and Muslim worlds, they let their guard down and fail to see behind his proclaimed agenda. They fail to understand that he is incrementally moving toward a return of the Islamic state such as the Ottoman Empire undertook. That is why when Gülen applied for a green card, he could not get it. Then some ex-CIA officers gave him reference letters for his application to demonstrate that he was a safe immigrant. Prior to this attempt, when Gülen could not get a green card the first time, he was looking for a place to go; if the US did not grant him a visa, he would have gone to China to continue his undercover operation. Gülen’s missionaries are trying to build the same platform as he used in Central Asia in the US by opening many NGOS, charter schools, Turkish cultural houses, and interfaith dialogue forums. In addition, he brings students from Central Asia as graduate students to teach in universities or to obtain official positions, opens TV channels and newspapers, organizes trips to Turkey, establishes Rumi forums, and holds conferences so that soon he will exert more influence in the US as well. Because he is wearing a moderate Islamic mask and because he is using education, he is perceived as less dangerous and therefore as an alternative to fundamentalism, but let’s see how long this honeymoon lasts between Gülen and America. America fails to understand that in the Middle East Gülen’s missionaries will be a future threat to the American national interest. Presently they do not have enough power to stand against America, but when they gain power, they will make their true intent known. They will be a threat to the American national interest; it is just a matter of the right time and power. The difference between Gülen’s missionary group and other Islamic groups is its focus on education and technology. By using the platform, they ensure that those who join them are wholeheartedly pledging their allegiance to the man and his cause and thereby avoiding direct conflict and arguments between the state and themselves. In the meantime the movement has placed its loyal members in various government agencies. Gülen and his followers are thirsty for power, because with that power, they will be able to do anything and to accomplish their objectives. They will not publically condemn or praise the other fundamental groups who use force to gain power. Because they know they are competing with the various powers first to gain a presence in the US and then to augment their influence, the movement enjoys being seen as the rational alternative to the overtly radical groups. However, simultaneously as Gülen extends his command in the US, he looks to enlarge his movement across the globe and to give an alternative to the West and to America to support his movement rather than those that use force to advance their cause. Gülen knows the West and America cannot be an enemy with Islam because of the world’s political climate, but that they want some kind of modern Islam that will embrace peace and not violence. But what the West’s leaders do not understand is that Gülen’s missionaries are one of the most dangerous forces against world peace. In 1999, in his speech, he advised his missionaries not to act until gaining all the power of every constitutional organization in Turkey and continues to his methodical plan there under the current Turkish administration. Now he is advancing this strategy in the West and in America.

But with his undercover methods, his leadership mostly avoids violence or direct confrontation with governments. One of Gülen’s methods of indoctrination is to focus on how to keep secrets and not to tell the truth, because Gülen’s missionaries teach that followers have to know the truth, but they cannot tell the truth anywhere or anytime, which means that his followers cannot tell their real goal. They can deny their actual purpose, and they do not tell that they are missionaries or that they disseminate Islam. For example, many of his followers did not wear the headscarf in Central Asia when they first went there because people would not be as attracted to them; consequently, Gülen ordered his female followers not wear the headscarf. Another example is that when the students were asked if they prayed five times a day, they would deny it, and they will not pray in front of their students. Now they are advancing their movement in Europe and in the US with different methods but still lie about their main objectives. They openly read Gulen’s and Said Nursi’s books, but do not reveal the plan to return to the Ottoman’s Quranic law. They believe Islam allows them to lie because they are in Dar al- Harb (at war) with infidels since Islam does not dominate in the region until they acquire enough power. Like a Trojan horse, they surreptitiously enter the territory but still act completely in the interest of the missionaries in order to help take over the agencies they are working inside of. In the beginning of the early 1970s, Gülen’s missionaries begin their undercover operation and over time made a significant breakthrough, so that his missionaries have taken over significant arenas in Turkey. Gülen’s agenda is not limited only to Turkey, but he aims to conquer the whole world. During the early time of Islamic history, Mohammed ordered all Muslims to have a good relationship with Jews because in that time Jews were in charge of commerce and were powerful, but after he got enough power, then he fought with them to establish an Islamic domain. Before that shift Muslims were praying toward Jerusalem, but then later when they got power, Mohammed changed the direction of prayer to Mecca.

Today Turkey is increasingly polarized between Turkey’s Islamic ruling party of Islamic Muslim missionaries (Gülen’s movement), the country’s old elites and the secular military. Secularists are trying to keep religion and politics entirely separate. His administration engages in ongoing battles to take control of the media, police, judiciary, and key government actors and remove them from the control of the secularists and military power...

US Military Strategy, Not Wikileaks, Placed American Allies At Risk in Afghanistan and Iraq

I've been reading some really incredible--that is, unbelievable--comments about Wikileaks on the internet, to the effect that it is not journalism, that it is irresponsible, that it has placed US allies at risk, etc. Not exactly the response to Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers...

It made me realize the phenomenon of displacement and projection at work. Wikileaks should be applauded for exposing the failures of the US military--including the inability of the military to keep secrets, such as the names of sources. Why were any names in any cables? What happened to calling sources "Agent XYZ"?

In any case, Wikileaks is obviously journalism by any definition. The Wikileaks website meets every definition of journalism--because it is a journal of leaks published online, with additional commentary adding value and perspective to the published information. If that's not journalism, nothing is. The Wikileaks website is an online journal.

Second, when the Washington Post published its series about CIA contractors, titled "Top Secret America," critics charged that the Washington Post put American lives at risk, as well as turning locations into potential terror targets. So, what's the difference? None whatsoever, IMHO.

Third, the Wikileaks controversy points out that US military strategy has placed our allies in danger--not Wikileaks. It still boggles my mind that nine years after the attacks of September 11, 2001 Osama bin Laden has not been captured either "dead, or alive." The US government, it is documented, has provided money, equipment and ammunition to the Taliban (and presumably Al Qaeda operatives) in Afghanistan, through protection rackets as well as Pakistani government ISI-subsidy and material support. US-funded NGOs routinely pay protection to the enemy, as do US contractors hauling fuel and supplies.

Guess what? This is "trading with the enemy." It is illegal under existing US law. Yet no one seems to have been prosecuted. No firms have been blacklisted. And attacks on US soldiers, sailors and marines--not to mention charity workers--funded by the US Government, continue unabated.

Instead of cutting off all aid and assistance to the enemy, a US "hearts and minds strategy" (which lost the Vietnam war) has been redoubled. That is, the US is paying to be defeated, paying to send a fundamentalist imam to raise funds for a victory mosque in lower Manhattan, paying tribute to every enemy and potential enemy of the United States--in exchange for more attacks.

The US government admits that we cannot protect our allies by attacking Wikileaks...what kind of "credible deterrence" is that? The answer should be: Let the Taliban or Al Qaeda try to harm our friends. Any attack on a US ally will be met by the complete destruction of a Taliban village. They should be more afraid of us than we are of them, the names of US allies should be considered a "roll of honor," and Ronald Reagan's "make my day" should be the attitude.

Instead, the response from the Pentagon on down has been one of cowardice, fear, and whining. No wonder we are losing in Afghanistan. We are more afraid of the Taliban, than they are of the USA. That is why Wikileaks has done a great public service to the American public--the document release has finally made clear that the US government, and US military, is endangering the lives of US soldiers, US allies, and indeed, American civilians at home and abroad--through a policy of appeasement and capitulation to the forces of Islamist fundamentalist terrorism and extremism that destroyed the World Trade Center on 9/11.

When Wikileaks made public details of this incredibly dangerous, ill-conceived, and unwise strategy, American powers-that-be, including mainstream media outlets that should pursue further investigations of US government failures, instead turned on the messenger and attacked Wikileaks for doing the job they have manifestly failed to do.

After nine years of war, expenditure of trillions of dollars, and deaths of thousands of soldiers, friends of America should be the pride of Afghanistan--not forced to cower in shadows, because America plans to abandon them to their enemies.

If the US can't protect our sources, we don't stand any chance of victory. It is the complaints against Wikileaks which undermine the war effort. The correct response would have been: "No problem, we can protect our guys."

The worst response yet is in an email that I received from "Reporters Without Borders." Whatever credibility this organization might once have had, they have now lost in my mind, by sending out a fatuous, stupid, craven, cowardly, dishonest, shameful email that reads like something composed by a GS-9 level federal civil servant attempting to CYA:
United States

Open letter to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange: “A bad precedent for the Internet’s future”

Julian Assange
Founder
Wikileaks

Dear Mr. Assange,

Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom organisation, regrets the incredible irresponsibility you showed when posting your article “Afghan War Diary 2004 - 2010” on the Wikileaks website on 25 July together with 92,000 leaked documents disclosing the names of Afghans who have provided information to the international military coalition that has been in Afghanistan since 2001.

Wikileaks has in the past played a useful role by making information available to the US and international public that exposed serious violations of human rights and civil liberties which the Bush administration committed in the name of its war against terror. Last April’s publication of a video of the killing of two employees of the Reuters news agency and other civilians by US military personnel in Baghdad in July 2007 was clearly in the public interest and we supported this initiative. It was a response to the Obama administration’s U-turn on implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. The White House broke its word in May 2009, when it defied a court order and refused to release photos of the mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But revealing the identity of hundreds of people who collaborated with the coalition in Afghanistan is highly dangerous. It would not be hard for the Taliban and other armed groups to use these documents to draw up a list of people for targeting in deadly revenge attacks.

Defending yourself, you said that it was about “ending the war in Afghanistan.” You also argued that: “Principled leaking has changed the course of history for the better; it can alter the course of history in the present; it can lead us to a better future.” However, the US government has been under significant pressure for some time as regards the advisability of its military presence in Afghanistan, not just since your article’s publication. We are not convinced that your wish to “end the war in Afghanistan” will be so easily granted and meanwhile, you have unintentionally provided supposedly democratic governments with good grounds for putting the Internet under closer surveillance.

It is true that you said that “a further 15,000 potentially sensitive reports” were excluded from the 25 July mass posting, that they were being “reviewed further” and that some of them would be released “once it was deemed safe to do so.”

Nonetheless, indiscriminately publishing 92,000 classified reports reflects a real problem of methodology and, therefore, of credibility. Journalistic work involves the selection of information. The argument with which you defend yourself, namely that Wikileaks is not made up of journalists, is not convincing. Wikileaks is an information outlet and, as such, is subject to the same rules of publishing responsibility as any other media.

Reporters Without Borders has for years been campaigning for a federal “shield law” protecting sources, one that would apply not only to the traditional media but also to the new Internet media without exception. This is why we condemn all forms of harassment of Wikileaks contributors or informants – such as the recent arrest of Wikileaks researcher Jacob Appelbaum – by government agencies and immigration officials. We also condemn the charges brought against US army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who is suspected of leaking the video of the Baghdad killings. However, you cannot claim to enjoy the protection of sources while at the same time, when it suits you, denying that you are a news media.

The precedent you have set leaves all those people throughout the world who risk their freedom and sometimes their lives for the sake of online information even more exposed to reprisals. Such imprudence endangers your own sources and, beyond that, the future of the Internet as an information medium. A total of 116 netizens are currently in prison in a dozen countries because of the comments they posted online. Can you image the same situation in the country of the First Amendment?

Wikileaks must provide a more detailed explanation of its actions and must not repeat the same mistake. This will mean a new departure and new methods.

We look forward to your reply,

Sincerely,

Jean-François Julliard
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general

Clothilde Le Coz
Reporters Without Borders representative in Washington DC

Lucie Morillon
Responsable du bureau Nouveaux médias
Reporters sans frontières
internet@rsf.org
tel : +33 1 44 83 84 71
Skype : rsfnet
Twitter : luciemorillon
Memo to Jean-Francois Juilliard or Reporters Without Borders: There are NO "RULES OF PUBLISHING RESPONSIBILITY" in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Freedom of the press is exactly that, freedom of the press.

You have demolished your credibility entirely. You just don't know what you are talking about. So, please remove me from your email list.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Memo To The US State Department: Use Spell-Check On Official Email!

Actual spelling in header on an email received today from "U.S. Department of State" (emphasis mine):
South and Central Asia: India's Independance (sic) Day
Thu, 12 Aug 2010 09:28:48 -0500

India's Independance (sic) Day


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
August 12, 2010

How To Tell If Someone Is Lying

From Pamela Meyer's new book LIESPOTTING: You can buy a copy from Amazon.com:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Document of the Week: Department of Justice FOIA Training Schedule

Here's the Department of Justice FOIAPost about their 2011 Freedom of Information Act Training Schedule (ht FOIABlog):
FOIA TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES: FISCAL YEAR 2011

The Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy, in conjunction with the Department’s Office of Legal Education, will be offering five different training programs on the Freedom of Information Act for the upcoming fiscal year. These courses will be supplemented throughout the year by specialized conferences held by OIP on topical issues related to improving transparency.

The regularly scheduled training programs for Fiscal Year 2011 are as follows:

The Freedom of Information Act for Attorneys and Access Professionals

This two-day program is designed for attorneys, FOIA specialists, and other FOIA professionals with limited previous experience working with the FOIA who are now or soon will be working extensively with the Act. This program provides an overview of the FOIA including a discussion of the President’s FOIA Memorandum and the Attorney General’s FOIA Guidelines. This course also provides specialized workshops on the various FOIA exemptions and on procedural issues, as well as a discussion on proactive disclosures and FOIA fees and fee waiver requirements.

November 30 - December 1, 2010, Washington, DC
February 22-23, 2011, Washington, DC
May 3-4, 2011, Washington, DC
July 12-13, 2011, Washington, DC
August 16-17, 2011 (Seattle, Washington)

Advanced Freedom of Information Act Seminar

This seminar is designed for FOIA professionals and legal advisors of all federal agencies. It provides advanced instruction on selected topics under the FOIA, including up-to-date policy guidance and views from the FOIA requester community. This program also serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas useful in dealing with problems that commonly arise in administering the FOIA.

April 6, 2011

Freedom of Information Act Administrative Forum

This program is designed for agency FOIA professionals who have several years of experience with the FOIA and are involved in the processing of FOIA requests on a daily basis. It is devoted almost entirely to administrative matters arising under the FOIA -- such matters as record-retrieval practices, multi-track queue usage, backlog management, affirmative disclosures, and automated record processing. Designed to serve also as a regular forum for the governmentwide exchange of ideas and information on matters of FOIA administration, this program brings together veteran FOIA processors from throughout the government and encourages them to share their experience in administering the FOIA.

June 8, 2011

Introduction to the Freedom of Information Act

This half-day program provides a basic overview of the FOIA for agency personnel who do not specialize in access law. It is designed for those who either work with the FOIA only occasionally or need only a general familiarity with the FOIA in order to recognize and handle FOIA-related problems that may arise in other areas of agency activity.

March 22, 2011, Washington, DC

FOIA Litigation Seminar

This course is designed for agency attorneys and FOIA professionals and focuses on the issues that arise when FOIA requests become the subject of litigation. The seminar will provide guidance on successful litigation strategy and will address in detail the preparation of Vaughn Indices and declarations.

November 17, 2010, Washington, DC

To find further information about these seminars, including application requirements and enrollment information, go to the Office of Legal Education, http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/eousa/ole/, select “OLE Course Calendar,” then select “Description of courses,” and scroll down to the name of the seminar in which you are interested. For enrollment information, return to “OLE Course Calendar” and select “Procedures to attend a course.” (posted 08/09/2010)
What can one say? Training has become a substitute for action, IMHO. Much of this information could be put in a handbook accessible on the internet. After the FOIA officers take the training, what sort of supervision, incentives, or sanctions would be put in place to improve FOIA performance?

I attended one of these type of events at the Department of Justice, addressed by Attorney General Holder. So far as I could tell, it was about a capella singing and speechmaking. I didn't see any improvement of the handling of my FOIA requests. In fact, my pending request with the US State Department has been handled worse than a similar FOIA request made during the Bush administration.

IMHO, It would be far better for DoJ to start disciplinary action through the Merit Systems Protection Board to remove recalcitrant FOIA officers, than to hold "seminars."

A case in point: Washington, DC's WAMTA Metro held numrous "leadership training" programs for managers over the last few years. The predictable result has been the complete collapse of management and, indeed, the Metro system itself. Ten dead, at least in part due to spending on training seminars instead of track repair. A shambles where teenagers brawl on station platforms at night.

Action now, not training holidays in South Carolina, is needed from the Department of Justice to make FOIA more than just window-dressing, IMHO...

More State Department SNAFUs: Turkish and Azeri Ambassadors Blocked in Senate

I don't know why this isn't getting more press here in the USA. At a time of supposed "Muslim outreach," the Obama administration has nominated two ambassadors--to Turkey and Azerbaijan--who have been blocked in the Senate. No US ambassador in two majority Muslim countries next door to Iran? What message does that send? IMHO, not good.

What kind of vetting process did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton undertake before this debacle? She's a former Senator herself, so should have known how to find acceptable candidates who could have been approved by unanimous consent--unless she's picking a battle for ideological reasons (though Ricciardone and Bryza look more like technocrats than Democratic party political loyalists, at least on paper).

Obama should find and nominate acceptable replacements, ASAP.

Here's the story from Panorama, an Armenian website:
In a major embarrassment for the Obama Administration, Senators took an unprecedented action last week, blocking the President’s ambassadorial nominees for both Azerbaijan and Turkey!

The Administration showed a total lack of experience and poor judgment by ignoring warnings that Matthew Bryza and Francis Ricciardone, the nominees for Baku and Ankara, would meet strong opposition in the Senate.

The White House, State Department, and the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had agreed in advance to rush the two nominees through the confirmation process, before the Senate went into recess until mid-September. Bryza was so confident of assuming his post in Baku in early August that he had even made arrangements to have his house in Washington rented!

Contrary to published reports, the Armenian-American community did not oppose Bryza’s nomination because of self-serving concerns. The larger question raised by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) was whether Bryza could represent U.S. interests in Azerbaijan in an objective manner. The nominee’s rough sailing in the Foreign Relations Committee was due to numerous allegations of conflict of interest involving both him and his Turkish-born wife’s employer, The Hudson Institute. The Bryzas were criticized for being "too cozy" with Azeri and Turkish officials, having received gifts from them on the occasion of their Istanbul wedding.

Matt Bryza’s evasive and unsatisfactory answers to Senators’ questions during his confirmation hearing prompted Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to ask Committee Chairman Sen. Kerry to postpone his confirmation until mid-September. Meanwhile, U.S. officials and others would have ample opportunity to fully review all issues raised during the Senate hearing. Should Senators judge that the allegations against Bryza are not serious enough to merit rejection, he could then be confirmed as the next Ambassador to Azerbaijan. However, if evidence of wrongdoing exists, it would be far better that it surfaces now rather than after he is posted to Baku, sparing the Obama Administration from scandalous disclosures and embarrassment.

On the other hand, Francis Ricciardone, the nominee for Turkey, seemed to be a perfect choice on paper. He is a 32-year veteran of the Foreign Service who served as deputy ambassador in Afghanistan, as well as the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, and is fluent in Turkish.

Unfortunately, Ricciardone carries a major liability that the Obama Administration unwisely ignored. There were loud complaints from neoconservatives that during his tenure as Ambassador to Egypt, from 2005 to 2008, Ricciardone had failed to support Bush Administration’s flawed efforts to promote democracy and human rights in that country. When neoconservatives realized that the Administration was turning a deaf ear to their objections, they sought to block his nomination. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) placed "a hold" on Ricciardone, after his confirmation by the Foreign Relations Committee, effectively blocking his approval by the full Senate.

Foreign Policy magazine reported that Ricciardone's critics believe "his strong personality and often blunt speaking style are the wrong mix for the current task at hand -- and that he has a tendency to get too close to his foreign interlocutors." The magazine also quoted Danielle Pletka, Vice President of the American Enterprise Institute, as stating: "Now is not the time for us to have an ambassador in Ankara who is more interested in serving the interests of the local autocrats and less interested in serving the interests of his own administration."

Blocking the confirmation of the Ambassadors to Azerbaijan and Turkey has attracted considerable attention in Washington, Baku, and Ankara. Major American, Azeri, and Turkish newspapers accused the Armenian-American community and the ANCA of undermining Bryza’s nomination. The Washington-based influential "Politico" journal reported that Bryza had ran into "opposition from the Armenian National Committee of America, a lobbying group." The AzerNews Weekly blamed Bryza’s problems on "the Armenian Diaspora," and Hurriyet, one of Turkey’s largest newspapers, reported that Bryza’s nomination was postponed "in response to pressure from Armenian lobby groups."

According to some press reports, the Obama Administration may not be willing to use its political capital to save either nominee. Lincoln Mitchell, an expert on the South Caucasus at Columbia University, told RFE that he does not believe the Administration is going to fight Senators from its own party to save Bryza. A similar assessment was made in Foreign Policy magazine by an aide to a Republican Senator about the Administration’s unwillingness to rescue Ricciardone.

The prolonged absence of U.S. Ambassadors from Baku and Ankara comes at a time of heightened tension in the relations between these two capitals and Washington. Given the Obama Administration’s multiple domestic and international crises on the eve of crucial elections in November, it is doubtful if it could afford to vigorously pursue the confirmation of its ambassadorial nominees for Azerbaijan and Turkey!

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier