Monday, April 25, 2011

Chinese Credit Ratng Agency Downgrades USA

Read report here.

Document of the Week: Wikileaks Guantanamo Files

Read them here. From the introduction:
Mohammed al-Qahtani (ISN 063), a Saudi regarded as the planned 20th hijacker for the 9/11 attacks, was subjected to a specific torture program at Guantánamo, approved by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. This consisted of 20-hour interrogations every day, over a period of several months, and various other "enhanced interrogation techniques," which severely endangered his health. Variations of these techniques then migrated to other prisoners in Guantánamo (and to Abu Ghraib), and in January 2009, just before George W. Bush left office, Susan Crawford, a retired judge and a close friend of Dick Cheney and David Addington, who was appointed to oversee the military commissions at Guantánamo as the convening authority, told Bob Woodward that she had refused to press charges against al-Qahtani, because, as she said, "We tortured Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture." As a result, his numerous statements about other prisoners must be regarded as worthless.

Abd al-Hakim Bukhari (ISN 493), a Saudi imprisoned by al-Qaeda as a spy, who was liberated by US forces from a Taliban jail before being sent, inexplicably, to Guantánamo (along with four other men liberated from the jail) is regarded in the files as a member of al-Qaeda, and a trustworthy witness.

Abd al-Rahim Janko (ISN 489), a Syrian Kurd, tortured by al-Qaeda as a spy and then imprisoned by the Taliban along with Abd al-Hakim Bukhari, above, is also used as a witness, even though he was mentally unstable. As his assessment in June 2008 stated, "Detainee is on a list of high-risk detainees from a health perspective ... He has several chronic medical problems. He has a psychiatric history of substance abuse, depression, borderline personality disorder, and prior suicide attempt for which he is followed by behavioral health for treatment."

These are just some of the most obvious cases, but alert readers will notice that they are cited repeatedly in what purports to be the government's evidence, and it should, as a result, be difficult not to conclude that the entire edifice constructed by the government is fundamentally unsound, and that what the Guantánamo Files reveal, primarily, is that only a few dozen prisoners are genuinely accused of involvement in terrorism.

The rest, these documents reveal on close inspection, were either innocent men and boys, seized by mistake, or Taliban foot soldiers, unconnected to terrorism. Moreover, many of these prisoners were actually sold to US forces, who were offering bounty payments for al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects, by their Afghan and Pakistani allies -- a policy that led ex-President Musharraf to state, in his 2006 memoir, In the Line of Fire, that, in return for handing over 369 terror suspects to the US, the Pakistani government “earned bounty payments totalling millions of dollars.”

Uncomfortable facts like these are not revealed in the deliberations of the Joint Task Force, but they are crucial to understanding why what can appear to be a collection of documents confirming the government's scaremongering rhetoric about Guantánamo -- the same rhetoric that has paralyzed President Obama, and revived the politics of fear in Congress -- is actually the opposite: the anatomy of a colossal crime perpetrated by the US government on 779 prisoners who, for the most part, are not and never have been the terrorists the government would like us to believe they are.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Let Bradley Manning Go!" Singers Disrupt Obama Event

They sang this song:
Dear Mr. President we honor you today sir

Each of us brought you $5,000

It takes a lot of Benjamins to run a campaign

I paid my dues, where's our change?

We'll vote for you in 2012, yes that's true

Look at the Republicans -- what else can we do?

Even though we don't know if we'll retain our liberties

In what you seem content to call a free society

Yes it's true that Terry Jones is legally free

To burn a people's holy book in shameful effigy

But at another location in this country

Alone in a 6x12 cell sits Bradley

23 hours a day (and) night

The 5th and 8th Amendments say this kind of thing ain't right

We paid our dues, where's our change?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Michael Maren on Greg Mortenson's Unworthy Cause

From Michael Maren's blog:
A lot of the hand wringing over the Greg Mortenson scandal has been a lament over the damage he has done to the “worthy” cause of building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  But the cause is crap, and the faster Greg and his foundation disappear the better.

What the 60 Minutes piece made clear is that what The Central Asia Institute does primarily is build buildings.  Call them schools. Call them warehouses. Call them what you want, but a building is NOT a school. A building is a monument. A building gives you something made of stones to show your donors.  But you don’t need a building to have a school. 

You need teachers. You need books. You need a community’s dedication to educating its children. If a community does not have the resources to build a school in the first place, it will not have to resources to maintain it. As the empty school buildings attest, CAI was not paying for teachers and administrators to run the schools.  They were paying for bricks and mortar — They were investing in their own fund raising.

For a school or any development project to be successful, it must evolve from the strong desires of a community. The community must be able to dedicate the resources necessary to carry out the project. Of course, these communities can’t build school buildings, but they hire a teacher and buy a few books. The evolution process is slow. It requires a huge shift in attitudes and priorities. Placing a building in a community doesn’t accomplish any of this.

Plopping a building into a community doesn’t change anything except the landscape. It makes donors feel good. It gives the charities something to photograph for their brochures.  But in the end it’s all just a pile of rocks. Good riddance Greg Mortenson and your self-serving, self rightous crusade.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bill Black: Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum (Let Justice be Done, Though the Heavens Fall)

Bill Black: Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum (Let Justice be Done, Though the Heavens Fall)

William Black on the Financial Crisis

From Marketplace:
RYSSDAL: Well then to the question I think a lot of people have, and especially after reading the piece in The Times today: Why hasn't anybody gone to jail?

BLACK: Well little people have gone to jail. And of course the answer is they haven't looked.

RYSSDAL: They, regulators?

BLACK: Well, good point. They, the regulators and they, the FBI, have not investigated, which is why this trifecta was necessary. If you go back to the savings and loan crisis, when we had the inevitable national commission to look at the causes, they had available to them in the public records, a thousand successful felony prosecutions, several thousand successful enforcement actions, and about 800 successful civil suits. And that provided all kinds of facts. Nothing like that exists

RYSSDAL: What about the argument, though, that the financial system is so fragile still, and these cases so complicated, that we can't really tear things apart with substantive investigations and prosecutions because it will all fall apart again?

BLACK: Yeah, that's an excellent point. We should leave felons in charge of our largest financial institutions as a means of achieving financial stability.

RYSSDAL: See, that's funny because I was expecting you to come back with -- I don't know, JPMorgan earned $5 billion last quarter. How shaky can they be?

BLACK: Well, they didn't earn $5 billion. What we did was change the accounting rules to hide the losses and then we did an amazing amount of off-budget sheet stuff through the Fed. But if you note, you'll see that most of the recent earnings were because they reduced their loss reserves, which is exactly how they created fictional income during the run up to the crisis.

RYSSDAL: What do you think, though, of the Dodd-Frank financial reform regulations out there?

BLACK: Well it wasn't designed to deal with the causes of the crisis. It doesn't deal with causes of the crisis. It won't prevent future crises.

RYSSDAL: So have we wasted this crisis?

BLACK: Yes, in the sense that you're supposed to learn from them. We're not learning the right lessons. In fact, we're learning the wrong lessons. And that kind of failure to learn is almost always due to ideology getting in the way of facts. We've got to get back to American pragmatism, use what works. And boy, this current system does not work.

RYSSDAL: William Black teaches law and economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Thanks a lot.

Jon Krakauer's Three Cups of Deceit, about Greg Mortenson

A new e-book, available for download from

Happy Passover!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Michael Maren: Is 3 Cups of Tea a Fraud?

Michael Maren writes:
The feel-good foreign aid story of the decade may be an elaborate hoax. The man whose best selling book has been required reading in grade schools around the country appears to be a liar, liar, pants on fire con artist. (Two years ago my son’s entire school read the book.)

“Significantly, Mortenson’s origin story — of being saved by a remote village in Afghanistan and promising to build a school for them — appears to be a fabrication.”

The man who Mortenson identified as one of his Taliban captors is in fact a research director of a respected think tank in Islamabad.

“And according to “60 Minutes,” Mortenson’s charity, the Central Asia Institute, has spent more money in the the U.S. talking about education in Pakistan and Afghanistan than actually building and supporting schools there.”

If even some of these allegations are true, Mortenson’s transgression makes James Frey’s fabrications look like piddling inaccuracies. In the end, who cares if Frey made up his story? Oprah had her feelings hurt and a lot of inspiration-seeking readers of memoir were tricked into reading a novel. I expect that Mortenson will argue, eventually, that he’s done a lot of good for the people of Afghanistan, that his ends justify his means. But now, even his ends need to be called into question.

And in any case, the ends don’t justify the means. And it does matter if his we-are-the-world take on the helping impoverished people is a fiction. Because there are real people out there with real needs and the world has a moral obligation to do something about it, not just get the warm and fuzzies over a self-created hero of charity like Greg Mortenson.

LATE BREAKING: From Mortenson “I stand by the information conveyed in my book,” … “and by the value of CAI’s work in empowering local communities to build and operate schools that have educated more than 60,000 students.”

Dear Greg, and what’s your message to the millions of American students who read your book? It’s okay to lie and make up stories to turn yourself into a hero?

In addition: Mortenson was slated to win the $100,000.00 Grawemeyer Education prize from the University of Louisville in September.

Time Mag: “Looks like Mortenson’s writing has the potential to be shattered into a million little pieces.”
BTW, I wrote about Greg Mortenson and his relationship with the US military in Afghanistan, personified by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen, in July 2009. I said at the time:
Admiral Michael G. Mullen gives serious cause to worry about our military strategy in Central Asia, if he really has fallen for the self-serving promotional pablum Greg Mortensen has peddled to gullible customers with such success in his best-sellers...
For some reason, 60 Minutes failed to mention Mortenson's funding by the US Department of Defense.

Latino Veterans React to Proposed Ken Burns PBS Vietnam Show

Defend the Honor
April 16, 2011
Defend The Honor Advisory on Ken Burns/PBS

Attention Latino and Latina Vietnam War veterans, families and extended community

Yes, we know - our loyal Defenders of the Honor have been sending us messages about Ken Burns and PBS reaching out to Latino and Latina Vietnam War veterans. Unlike the 2007 Ken Burns/PBS WWII documentary debacle that left out the Latino and Latina experience, this time they might have a different interest in filming a documentary on the Vietnam War. Many of our Defenders of the Honor are rightfully outraged that Burns, who had a track record of excluding Latinos in his work long before the 2007 WWII documentary, is still being allowed to document an important event in American history. Many feel that he has failed repeatedly and that he should never again be trusted. (He still thinks the protests of 2007 were a "misunderstanding" on our part. And one high-placed public broadcasting official called it a "dust-up" - an indication that she still does not get it.) They also question the sincerity of PBS' commitment to diversity, after the disastrous handling of The War.

Defend the Honor welcomes attempts to include stories of Latinos and Latinas in our nation's historical narrative. However, DTH also believes that those who choose to collaborate with Florentine Films, Burns' production company-- or with any others-- should proceed with caution.  

Here is the back story: On March 28, 2011, the Associated Press reported "PBS said the 10-12 hour film by Burns and longtime partner Lynn Novick will be broadcast in 2016. Burns said his film will tell the human stories of Americans and Vietnamese affected by the war, along with those of Americans who protested against it.  He said that four decades after the war's end, most people have opinions about it but few truly know its history."

It remains to be seen if the "human stories of Americans" will follow the same path as THE WAR film.  In his funding request proposals for the 2007 WWII film, Burns is specific on what the film would focus on.  His proposal stated: "The series will celebrate American diversity, telling the stories of ordinary Americans (from our four chosen towns) of many different ethnic and racial backgrounds, individuals who are both representative and singular. In doing so, the film will demonstrate the war's indisputable impact on the transformation of America into a more perfect union, while at the same time acknowledging the difficult challenges faced by ethnic minorities in a segregated society."  Until Defend the Honor and others protested the exclusion of Latinos, Ken Burns did not find Latino and Latina WWII veterans to be "ordinary Americans" who fought in the war, much less helped in the "transformation of America into a more perfect union."  In the end, in response to the protests, other than several minutes of pasted on images of Hispanics, Burns left our community out of his final public/corporate funded film.  The accompanying book had no mention of Latinos. 

Knowing of Burn's history of omitting our rightful place in history relative to  our military service record in wars and military conflicts around the world, will our "American" Latino and Latina Vietnam War veterans and their families,  respond to Ken Burns/PBS?  Maybe yes, maybe no. 

The questions, concerns and reservations surrounding Ken Burns venture into the Vietnam War are many, especially when it comes to the "human stories" of Latino and Latina veterans who served during the Vietnam War era, as well as those involved in the Chicano movement who protested the war.

We must never forget that over 170,000 Latinos and Latinas served or fought in Vietnam, of which, more than 3,070 made the ultimate sacrifice. Thousands more were wounded, exposed to Agent Orange and/or suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

The toll taken on our Vietnam veterans and their families continue to be felt to this day.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas where veterans have been demanding the building of a veteran hospital.  The absence of a veteran hospital forces veterans to travel 250 miles to San Antonio for medical treatment.

We have thousands of Vietnam War stories that need to be told by filmmakers, writers, playwrights and ordinary Latinos and Latinas who are interested in remembering our warriors.

We encourage everyone concerned with any and all facets of the Vietnam War and its impact on the Latinos and Latina community to voice their opinions, personal stories and documentation on family members who were directly or indirectly impacted by this war.

We issue the following cautions:

·         All material written by individuals about the Vietnam War should be copyrighted before it is released to Ken Burns, PBS, businesses or corporations seeking to represent our Latino and Latina veterans and families in books, film or other media.
·         Do not enter into a relationship with the above mentioned entities without a formal contract that specifies ownership of intellectual property associated with any and all material related to the Latino and Latina Vietnam War experience. 
·         Do not allow your material or personal story to be placed in a secondary role in any Vietnam War film production as was done with Latinos by Ken Burns The WAR. His excuse was that he had "artistic license" to do whatever he pleased.
·         Review your material and interest in sharing your stories with existing Latino and Latina veteran's organizations, filmmakers and book authors so that they may assist and guide you with information and resources related to your Vietnam War experience.
·         Communicate openly with your state or national legislative representatives if you feel your material on the history, courage and sacrifice of our Latino and Latina Vietnam War veteran is not being treated with respect and dignity by a public funded entity.

Defend The Honor encourages all Latinos and Latinas to write and document as many Vietnam War stories as possible so that no one can deny our existence or service to our country. 

Furthermore, we express our profound thanks to those few who have written books, archived stories, produced films and theater productions on the experiences of our Latino and Latina Vietnam War veterans.


Gus Chavez and Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, co-founders and co-chairs, Defend theHonor 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why I Don't Believe Thomas Friedman

On February 26, 1999, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman published an article hyping Lyle Bowlin of Cedar Falls, Iowa as an alternative bookseller. Friedman declared:
Well, if you really want to be ''concerned'' about the levels of some of these profitless Internet stocks, such as, you should pay less attention to Mr. Greenspan and more attention to what's going on in a small house in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

There, a single Iowa family, headed by Lyle Bowlin, is re-creating in a spare bedroom. I tell you this not because they're an immediate threat to, but to underscore just how easy it is to compete against, and why therefore I'm dubious that Amazon and many other Internet retailers will ever generate the huge profits that their stock prices suggest.
Luckily, in 1999. I was a satisfied Amazon author, and a satisfied Amazon customer. So I bought some stock. This was contrary to Friedman's advice:
Because his profit margins are razor-thin, Mr. Bowlin, like Amazon, needs repeat buyers. Amazon gets them by offering useful information about books. Mr. Bowlin does it by offering any government-certified nonprofit organization a donation of 10 percent of the purchase price of any book that any nonprofit or its members buy through him.

So the next time your broker tells you that this or that Internet retailing stock is actually worth some crazy multiples, just think for a moment about how many Lyle Bowlins there already are out there, and how many more there will be, to eat away at the profit margins of whatever Internet retailer you can imagine. It only costs them $150 a month and they can do it as a hobby!

Or think about it like this: For about the cost of one share of, you can be
I was among those who posted comments on the NY Times website taking issue with Friedman's analysis. He had so many complaints that the Times published a follow-up on March 9, 1999:
I recently wrote a column about Lyle Bowlin, who, for about $150 a month, had managed to put together a Web site that could compete with for selling books. Mr. Bowlin was underselling Ama (and making a profit!) while running the whole operation out of a spare bedroom in his home in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Well, the column elicited the usual range of skeptical responses from experts, who argued that Mr. Bowlin's operation was just a fluke, or that he wasn't calculating his costs properly, or that would soon crush him and all other would-be little-guy competitors.

Well, to all of you I say: YOU'RE WRONG.
Lyle Bowlin's internet bookshop, hyped by Friedman (reportedly a family relation of some kind) went out of business. But Amazon didn't. It's trading today at $179 per share. Amazon not only dominates the book business, it is a major player in the rapidly growing cloud computing field. Amazon is currently valued at approximately $80 billion.

One title you won't see on a Thomas Friedman book, I imagine: Money Talks, B.S. Walks.

outside the box: michelle rhee: a glossarhee, 2nd edition

outside the box: michelle rhee: a glossarhee, 2nd edition: "Rheewrite:  to write something again in order to embellish or falsify an existing document. Rheelay:  to receive and pass on misinfo..."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Agustin Blazquez at Emory University

Here's my friend, the leading Cuban-American documentary filmmaker you've never heard of, presenting CHE: The Other Side of an Icon to Dr. Mary Grabar's class on March 16th.

His film is now on sale on DVD at
Here's my review:
When working as an actor in the Cuban film industry as a young man, filmmaker Agustin Blazquez met Che Guevara personally. The revolutionary legend had come to shake hands with the cast and crew of his film, and Blazquez was among those granted an audience. Not too long afterwards, Guevara was dead in the jungles of Latin America...and Blazquez subequently fled as a political exile--a story I hope he will one day tell on film, as it is as gripping as any novel. So he knows about Che, both as a Cuban culture worker for the revolution, and later as a refugee from Communism.

For his seventh documentary on Cuba, his beloved homeland, Blazquez compares the legend of Che with the reality of his legacy. Although Cuban-American audiences have been exposed to this side of Che before, much of it was new and surprising to me, a non-Cuban viewer.

Blazquez traces Che's route from Argentine leftism, to Cuban guerilla warfare, to execution of prisoners, to international terrorism. Underlying the film is a convincing case that Che Guevara is a spiritual father to Osama bin Laden. As evidence, Blazquez documents a foiled Guevara plot to bomb New York City in the 1960s, that had it succeeded, would have been America's first 9/11.

The film is powerful, compelling, and should be seen by anyone interested in Cuba, international terrorism--or the terrible power of an iconic image.

Cisco Stock Chart After Flip Death Sentence

From Yahoo! Finance, this snapshot of market reaction to Cisco CEO John Chambers' decision to kill the Flip camera:

Mobile Opportunity: The Real Lesson of Cisco's Billion-Dollar Flip Debacle

Mobile Opportunity: The Real Lesson of Cisco's Billion-Dollar Flip Debacle:
Cisco is an outstanding company, and an excellent place to work. But it screams respectable enterprise hardware supplier. To someone from a funky consumer company, going there would feel like having your heart ripped out and replaced with a brick.

Then there were the business practices to contend with. As an enterprise company, Cisco is used to long product development cycles, direct sales, and high margins to support all of its infrastructure. A consumer business thrives on fast product cycles, sales through retailers, and low margins used to drive volume. Almost nothing in Cisco's existing business practices maps well to a consumer company. But it's not clear that Cisco understood any of that.

The transition to Cisco management happened at a terrible time for Flip. Just when the company's best people should have been focused obsessively on their next generation of camera goodness, their management was given new responsibilities, and Cisco started "helping out" with ideas like using Flip cameras for videoconferencing -- something that had nothing to do with Flip's original customers and mission.

If Pure Digital had remained independent, would it have innovated quickly enough? Maybe not; it's very hard for a young company to think beyond the product that made it successful. But merging with Cisco, and going through all of the associated disruptions, probably made the task almost impossible.

I'm sure that as the Flip team members get their layoff notices, we'll start to hear a lot more inside scoop. But in the meantime, this announcement by Cisco looks like a classic case of an enterprise company that thought it knew how to make consumer products, and turned out to be utterly wrong.

That's not an unusual story. It's almost impossible for any enterprise company to be successful in consumer, just as successful consumer companies usually fail in enterprise. The habits and business practices that make them a winner in one market doom them in the other.

The lesson in all of this: If you're at an enterprise company that wants to enter the consumer market, or vice-versa, you need to wall off the new business completely from your existing company. Different management, different financial model, different HR and legal.

You might ask, if the businesses need to be separated so thoroughly, why even try to mix them? Which is the real point.

The other lesson of the Flip failure is that we should all be very skeptical when a big enterprise company says it's going consumer. Hey Intel, do you really think you can design phones? (link) Have you already forgotten Intel Play? (link)

I'll give the final word to Harry McCracken (link): "You can be one of the most successful maker of enterprise technology products the world has ever known, but that doesn’t mean your instincts will carry over to the consumer market. They’re really different, and few companies have ever been successful in both."

Flip Video Camera Founder on Cisco's Death Sentence

Jon Kaplan, former Flip CEO, interviewed by Kara Swisher, of from a link on the Wall Street Journal Venture Capital Blog. Kaplan says a high point for Flip was when President Obama's daughters used his camera at the inauguration in 2009:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Congressional Budget Deal Fully Funds NPR

From Current Blog:
As expected, CPB lost digital funding, recession aid to stations and radio interconnection money in the budget agreement for the remainder of the fiscal year, finally hammered out last week on Capitol Hill. The bill, H.R. 1473, zeros out $25 million in station "fiscal stabilization" grants and $25 million for replacement and upgrade of the radio infrastructure, and reduces digital spending from $36 million to $6 million. There's also a small — .2 percent — across-the-board trim for all non-defense discretionary spending. Main appropriation for FY11, $445 million. One reported sticking point in the contentious negotiations was a provision to prohibit federal funding for NPR; the Democrats managed to kill that.

Although I predicted this would happen on KCRW's "To the Point" radio program hosted by Warren Olney on February 15, 2011, I'm disappointed to have been proven right.

DOCUMENT OF THE WEEK: Glenn Greenwald on Bradley Manning & Barack Obama

For that reason, as The Guardian reports this morning, a letter signed by "more than 250 of America's most eminent legal scholars" that "includes leading figures from all the top US law schools, as well as prominent names from other academic fields" -- featuring "Laurence Tribe, a Harvard professor who is considered to be America's foremost liberal authority on constitutional law"; who "taught constitutional law to Barack Obama and was a key backer of his 2008 presidential campaign"; and "joined the Obama administration last year as a legal adviser in the justice department, a post he held until three months ago" -- not only denounces Manning's detention but also the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner's personal responsibility for it:

[Tribe] told the Guardian he signed the letter because Manning appeared to have been treated in a way that "is not only shameful but unconstitutional" as he awaits court martial in Quantico marine base in Virginia. . . . Tribe said the treatment was objectionable "in the way it violates his person and his liberty without due process of law and in the way it administers cruel and unusual punishment of a sort that cannot be constitutionally inflicted even upon someone convicted of terrible offences, not to mention someone merely accused of such offences".

The harsh restrictions have been denounced by a raft of human rights groups, including Amnesty International, and are being investigated by the United Nations' rapporteur on torture. . . .

The intervention of Tribe and hundreds of other legal scholars is a huge embarrassment to Obama, who was a professor of constitutional law in Chicago. Obama made respect for the rule of law a cornerstone of his administration, promising when he first entered the White House in 2009 to end the excesses of the Bush administration's war on terrorism. . . .

The protest letter, published in the New York Review of Books, was written by two distinguished law professors, Bruce Ackerman of Yale and Yochai Benkler of Harvard. They claim Manning's reported treatment is a violation of the US constitution, specifically the eighth amendment forbidding cruel and unusual punishment and the fifth amendment that prevents punishment without trial.

In a stinging rebuke to Obama, they say "he was once a professor of constitutional law, and entered the national stage as an eloquent moral leader. The question now, however, is whether his conduct as commander in chief meets fundamental standards of decency."

Professor Benkler, echoing the point that I've repeatedly emphasized as I believe it to be the most important one, said "Manning's conditions were being used 'as a warning to future whistleblowers'." Indeed, Manning's treatment lacks even a pretense of justification; it -- just like the Obama administration's unprecedented war on whistle-blowers -- is clearly meant to threaten and intimidate future individuals of conscience who, like Manning, might consider exposing government deceit, corruption and illegality: one of the few remaining avenues for learning what the Government does.

Aside from what conduct like this reveals about Obama, it also severely undermines the ability of the U.S. to exercise any shred of moral leadership in the world.
Text of the letter, as published in the New York Review of Books, below:
Private Manning’s Humiliation
APRIL 28, 2011
Bruce Ackerman and Yochai Benkler

Bradley Manning is the soldier charged with leaking US government documents to Wikileaks. He is currently detained under degrading and inhumane conditions that are illegal and immoral.

For nine months, Manning has been confined to his cell for twenty-three hours a day. During his one remaining hour, he can walk in circles in another room, with no other prisoners present. He is not allowed to doze off or relax during the day, but must answer the question “Are you OK?” verbally and in the affirmative every five minutes. At night, he is awakened to be asked again “Are you OK?” every time he turns his back to the cell door or covers his head with a blanket so that the guards cannot see his face. During the past week he was forced to sleep naked and stand naked for inspection in front of his cell, and for the indefinite future must remove his clothes and wear a “smock” under claims of risk to himself that he disputes.

The sum of the treatment that has been widely reported is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against punishment without trial. If continued, it may well amount to a violation of the criminal statute against torture, defined as, among other things, “the administration or application…of… procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.”

Private Manning has been designated as an appropriate subject for both Maximum Security and Prevention of Injury (POI) detention. But he asserts that his administrative reports consistently describe him as a well-behaved prisoner who does not fit the requirements for Maximum Security detention. The brig psychiatrist began recommending his removal from Prevention of Injury months ago. These claims have not been publicly contested. In an Orwellian twist, the spokesman for the brig commander refused to explain the forced nudity “because to discuss the details would be a violation of Manning’s privacy.”

The administration has provided no evidence that Manning’s treatment reflects a concern for his own safety or that of other inmates. Unless and until it does so, there is only one reasonable inference: this pattern of degrading treatment aims either to deter future whistleblowers, or to force Manning to implicate Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in a conspiracy, or both.

If Manning is guilty of a crime, let him be tried, convicted, and punished according to law. But his treatment must be consistent with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. There is no excuse for his degrading and inhumane pretrial punishment. As the State Department’s P.J. Crowley put it recently, they are “counterproductive and stupid.” And yet Crowley has now been forced to resign for speaking the plain truth.

The Wikileaks disclosures have touched every corner of the world. Now the whole world watches America and observes what it does, not what it says.

President Obama was once a professor of constitutional law, and entered the national stage as an eloquent moral leader. The question now, however, is whether his conduct as commander in chief meets fundamental standards of decency. He should not merely assert that Manning’s confinement is “appropriate and meet[s] our basic standards,” as he did recently. He should require the Pentagon publicly to document the grounds for its extraordinary actions—and immediately end those that cannot withstand the light of day.

Bruce Ackerman
Yale Law School
New Haven, Connecticut

Yochai Benkler
Harvard Law School
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Additional Signers: Jack Balkin, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Alexander M. Capron, Norman Dorsen, Michael W. Doyle, Randall Kennedy, Mitchell Lasser, Sanford Levinson, David Luban, Frank I. Michelman, Robert B. Reich, Kermit Roosevelt, Kim Scheppele, Alec Stone Sweet, Laurence H. Tribe, and more than 250 others. A complete list of signers has been posted on the blog balkinization.
UPDATE: While Human Rights Watch has condemned other countries and leaders for similar types of torture and confinement, it has not to date condemned the Obama administration for Manning's treatment; instead, HRW has merely and meekly issued this press release asking for an explanation:
The US government should publicly explain the precise reasons behind extremely restrictive and possibly punitive and degrading treatment that Army Private First Class Bradley Manning alleges he has received while detained at the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, said Human Rights Watch.
Better call it "Human Rights Don't Watch."

Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing

Just finished reading Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing, which contains the 1973 essay of the same name--an essay written at least one year before Robert Pirsig's application of the Koans to motorcycle maintenance.

I thought it holds up very well, especially Bradbury's main points: Don't write for money, don't write for critics, don't write for friends--write for yourself. Don't try to be highbrow, don't try to be crassly commercial--take the middle path. And do channel your emotions and personality and memories and imagination and obsessions and compulsions onto the page. When writing a story, let your characters drive the plot, not vice-versa. And listen to them, rather than tell them what to do. That's the Zen aspect, the conscious letting go that makes writing flow.

Finally, a word about discipline. Read a poem every day. And write every day. Bradbury wrote 1,000 words a day since he was in his twenties. He's now in his 90s. That's millions of words, hundreds of stories, and dozens of books.

Plus, he wrote the script for Melville's Moby Dick, directed by John Huston, in in a way, that makes Bradbury yet another Irish bard.

As Bradbury explains his technique: ""Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a land mine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now, it's your turn. Jump!""

Inspirational, simple, and fine. You can buy the book from Amazon, here:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Upstairs, Downstairs Returns to PBS

Upstairs Downstairs returned to PBS, on last night's Masterpiece Classic (the series formerly known as Mobil Masterpiece Theatre), as if to provide evidence for the widely-held belief that American public broadcasters have not had an idea in 30 years. But at least this had been a good idea originally, in the 1970s, and it withstood the test of time.

Upstairs Downstairs is likeable nostalgia, full of proper people doing the proper thing in the face of those who would do the unthinkable. Though not as good as the original ITV production, or ITV's Downton Abbey, this BBC sequel is still worth watching. Perhaps the broadcast might spark a revival of the classic serial form on American television. First go-round led to a number of American miniseries on commercial networks, many of which were pretty darn good...from ROOTS to NORTH AND SOUTH to WINDS OF WAR.

Ratings were high for the new Up Down in England, when broadcast this past Christmas, and I'm pretty sure PBS enjoyed a nice bump last night, as well. (UPDATE from TV by the numbers: "Arlington, VA, April 12, 2011 – PBS’ MASTERPIECE audience has increased by nearly 45% over last year. In addition,PBS’ most anticipated highlight of MASTERPIECE’s 40th season, 'Upstairs Downstairs,' was watched by an estimated 6.4 million viewers,based on Nielsen data from 53 metered markets.") Perhaps it could give network and cable programmers some ideas.

The theme music was familiar, but the set somewhat different, the cast somewhat different, the plot somewhat different, and the family completely different--the Hallam family, as opposed to the Bellamys. But this Son of The Forsyte Saga continues to draw, even with marked changes.

The current producers are no John Hawkesworth, whose deft and subtle touch was missed. The young leads were a little too gross in their behavior for this now older viewer to enjoy, but the seasoned troupers--Eileen Atkins & Jean Marsh from Upstairs, Downstairs (the original)--were hanging in there, chewing the scenery and providing a jolly good time for one and all. Art Malik makes a nice addition to the rep company, though the addition of Solomon the monkey may be gilding the lily, somewhat.

The little things seem to have been covered. Nice table settings, kitchen equipment, trays, sideboards, teapots, automobiles, and the like; as well as costumes--pornographic details that thrill Anglophile American audiences, and were a mainstay for Masterpiece Theatre.

I certainly felt a tingle of nostalgic longing when the theme music from Upstairs, Downstairs welled up on my television set in last night's production.

The script is not up to the original, but if it had been 13 episodes instead of 3, the writers would have had time to get up to speed. Miniseries tend to evolve over time.

The only off-putting note for this viewer was Laura Linney's introduction, which claimed that Upstairs, Downstairs almost didn't make it on the air at PBS in the 1970s because it dealt with the lives of upper-class and working-class Britons, which were thought not to interest American audiences. Complete rubbish!

Why PBS executives decided to raise their own sorry history, complete with a phony cover story, is beyond me. It detracted from my enjoyment of the show. Alistair Cooke would never have gone along with such a clumsy scheme...

In fact, I wrote about the case of the original Upstairs, Downstairs in my book, Masterpiece Theatre and the Politics of Quality (Scarecrow Press, 1999). PBS was opposed because they felt the series would be too popular, because it was too commercial. Here are the details:
Mobil bought Upstairs, Downstairs after chairman Rawleigh Warner--to whom the series was reportedly personally recommended by the Duchess of Bedford at a dinner party in London--suggested to [Mobil vp] Herb Schmertz that he consider the series for Masterpiece Theatre. Schmertz looked at it, liked it, and wanted to put it on the air. Frank Marshall, in his role as television consultant, also screened the series. He recalls recommended the series as "brilliant." Yet, Marshall says that getting the program broadcast on PBS was "a lot of work" because public television executives "had no confidence in the program." Richard Price--the salesman who represented London Weekend Television--said he had trouble because "CPB and PBS were extremely worried about the situation that commercial television programing was going to go into Masterpiece Theatre." [Producer] Christopher Sarson of WGBH was one of the doubters. When WGBH balked, Mobil dealt directly with Price and London Weekend Television to get around opposition within the Boston Station.

Herb Schmertz remembers WGBH refused "on principle"--because it would drive up the cost of other imports--to pay LWT [London Weekend Television] salesman Richard Price's asking price of $25,000 an episode. "I took care of Richard," he says. "GBH didn't know that. I took care of Richard because I thought he was getting screwed. That's true, I was willing to pay 25 [thousand], and GBH balked and said, "We can't. That'll screw up a lot of things." For them. Not me. So I said, "OK." But then I took care of Richard. I made a side deal with him."

There's more detail in my book, including copies of original documents from Mobil and PBS.

But aside from the shock of hearing Laura Linney's bright shining lie--which was part of PBS's filler and not really Upstairs Downstairs after all--I enjoyed the production thoroughly...

James Huffman: Disclosing Donors Destoying American Politics

From Today's Wall Street Journal:
The reality is that public disclosure serves the interests of incumbents running for re-election by discouraging support for challengers. Here's how it works.

A challenger seeks a contribution from a person known to support candidates of the challenger's party. The potential supporter responds: "I'm glad you're running. I agree with you on almost everything. But I can't support you because I cannot risk getting my business crosswise with the incumbent who is likely to be re-elected."

Sometimes he adds that he has matters pending before a federal agency. Or that she has been working with the incumbent on legislation that will benefit their company. Or that he has a government grant pending.

I heard these responses literally dozens of times in my campaign in Oregon. Sometimes I was told that someone on my opponent's staff had called with a reminder that supporting me was not a good idea. Once the call came while I was having lunch with the person from whom I was soliciting support.

A few people went on to say that they would find some way to get a check to my campaign, perhaps through an employee or a member of their board. I have no way to know if they did.

Disclosure makes threats possible, and fears of retribution plausible. Within weeks of a contribution of $200 or more, the contributor's name appears on the public record. Contributors know this, and they know that supporting the challenger can, should the challenger lose, have consequences in terms of future attention to their interests. Of course no incumbent will admit to issuing threats or seeking retribution, but the perception that both exist is widespread.

The reality of that perception alone should give us pause about disclosure requirements. And it would be naïve to believe that the perceptions have no basis in reality.

Twenty-five years ago in Buckley v. Valeo, the Supreme Court concluded that disclosure requirements are constitutional if they provide relevant information to voters, prevent corruption, and facilitate data collection to enforce election restrictions. None of these ends is served by existing disclosure requirements. With individual contributions capped at $2,400, it is hard to make the case that the names of individual contributors are helpful or relevant to voters. Given the fears of retribution, disclosure does more to facilitate corruption than to prevent it. And enforcement of election restrictions can be accomplished by the less burdensome means of mandating reporting without public disclosure.

The only clear case for requiring public disclosure of contributions in the small amounts permitted by federal law is that, like many other features of our election laws, it promotes the re-election of incumbents. Regrettably, that means it will be difficult, if not impossible, to change. But take it from one who knows: The disclosure requirement makes the mountain to be climbed by most challengers even steeper.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Leslie Gelb on Humanitarian Intervention

From The Daily Beast (ht Martin Kramer):
Let me be clear: I don’t question the sincerity of the humanitarian interventionists’ motives. I question their moral superiority, their priorities, and their carelessness about facts.

The humanitarian interventionists think their worries trump everyone else’s. They think their morality excuses their willful ignorance and carelessness—their unwillingness to address tough questions about what we know and don’t know in Libya. They say that if the U.S. doesn’t get rid of Col. Gaddafi, it would represent the death of America’s core values and beliefs. I think American values will survive. I think we are doing enough now in a supporting role. I believe we are facing but not addressing first-order problems in the Mideast and at home. To me, both Americans and Libyans will survive Col. Gaddafi, but Americans will not survive a failure of their leaders to devote top priority, attention, and resources to Mideastern turmoil and to America.

Shutdown Blame Game: Tell DC Government to Pick Up Trash--or Else

It's pretty clear, living in Washington, DC, that the Obama administration has decided that a shutdown would help Democratic chances in 2012, because an angry electorate would blame Republicans for the inconvenience. To that end, in Our Nation's Capital, the city has announced that no trash would be collected during a shutdown, since it would not be considered an essential service. No doubt the White House thinks piles of garbage would make a charming visual on the TV news...

IMHO, this type of punish the public p.r. campaign is outrageous and irresponsible. It hurts innocent members of the public to score partisan political points. It is a cheap trick that must be turned against those who would attempt to use it.

So, someone I know has suggested that the Republicans on the House Oversight Committee responsible for the District headed by Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) tell Mayor Gray to pick up DC trash--or else, no appropriation for the District of Columbia in 2011. I'd suggest raising the matter as well of a bill to end DC home rule, on the basis of hearings that lay out the city's history of corruption and failure to provide essential services to its citizens.

Pictures of large piles of uncollected garbage should help make a convincing case on C-Span...

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

More on the Muslim Brotherhood-Nazi Connection

Herbert Eiteneier reviews Djihad und Judenhass: Über den neuen antijüdischen Krieg, by Matthias Küntzel, on the Jewish Center for Public Affairs website:
Küntzel also discloses the widely unknown fact that it was the Mufti who first made overtures to Nazi Germany, which at first was reluctant to accept them for fear of offending the British. The German Foreign Office only began to respond after the Peel Commission's plan made a Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine seem possible, something it sought to prevent at all costs. Subsequently, the Mufti prevailed, first by fomenting terror in Palestine, then by broadcasting propaganda to the Arabs from Berlin, setting up a Muslim SS division, and opposing leniency toward the Jews by countries that belonged to the Axis but were not under direct Nazi rule such as Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Italy. When he could, he also sabotaged all attempts at rescue, including children.

Also not widely known are the lasting effects of the Nazi ideology in the Middle East. Nasser had strong sympathies for Nazi Germany, as did many of his compatriots in the Egyptian military. After World War II, as mentioned, Egypt welcomed Nazis who continued their war against the Jews. They helped distribute anti-Semitic writings and broadcasts to foster hatred not only of Israel, but all Jews, using and supplementing the language and thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood. One such achievement was the translation of Mein Kampf into Arabic.

Depicting the manifold relationships between leading members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and political as well as terrorist leaders of the Middle East, Küntzel demonstrates that the ideological origins of present-day terrorism were in Egypt - not in Saudi Arabia, as many now believe. It was in Egypt that the Brotherhood laid the groundwork for today's Islamist movement. Despite changes in strategy - from fighting mainly the "infidel" Arab establishment since the mid-1950s to switching priority to the "Zionist entity" and the United States since the 1990s - one aim always prevailed: extermination of the Jews. This was not linked to Israeli policies but to the very existence of the Jewish state in what Islamists believe is an integral part of the House of Islam.

Küntzel also points to the ties between the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and major political and military figures of the Palestinian movement, and notes that today's Palestinian leaders' genocidal attitudes are identical to those of Arab leaders in the past. Thus, both for Yasser Arafat and Sheikh Yassin, Oslo was only an interim stage toward Israel's destruction. Palestinian maps, including in textbooks, do not show Israel at all; Palestinian sources omit the Mufti's role in Nazism and deny the Holocaust, while viewing jihad as the only means to defeat Israel. A mostly overlooked point is the Palestinian Authority's explicitly authorizing the dissemination of the 1999 edition of Mein Kampf, whose preface by the translator declares that Hitler was one of the few great men in history and that National Socialism did not die with its founder.

German Misperceptions

Although relating to the subject throughout the book, Küntzel devotes the last chapter to German perceptions about the Middle East. In Germany, the Left as well as the extreme-Right and neo-Nazi camps support terror against Israel and the United States as a struggle for freedom. The Left - and increasingly, mainstream groups - mistakenly view Islamist terror as expressing the frustration and desperation of a progressive anticapitalist movement. They do not seem to grasp that an anticapitalist mass movement could be of a fascist character, instead ignoring or denying the blatantly fascist aspects. In reality, common fascistic and anti-Jewish themes led neo-Nazi groups to embrace Islamists as brothers-in-arms against the "Jewish world conspiracy." Küntzel shows how both Left and Right embrace anti-Semitism by supporting Islamism without understanding its aspirations to world dominance.

Although Küntzel's study is well documented, he demonstrates what is not esoteric, but denied: that the Islamist mass movement must be understood in a societal context, not in terms of political and economic postulates. Küntzel's special contribution is to provide this context that is missing from the perceptions both of Germany's ideological fringes and its mainstream.

John Loftus' Primer on the Muslim Brotherhood, Nazis & Al Qaeda

For background on the Muslim Brotherhood groups being brought to power in the Middle East with American help, this 2006 article by John Loftus is still relevant:
Let me give you an example. This year a friend of mine from the CIA, named Bob Baer wrote a very good book about Saudi Arabia and terrorism, it's called Sleeping with the Devil. I read the book and I got about a third of the way through and I stopped. Bob was writing how when he worked for the CIA how bad the files were.

He said, for example, the files for the Muslim Brotherhood were almost nothing. There were just a few newspaper clippings. I called Bob up and said, "Bob, that's wrong. The CIA has enormous files on the Muslim Brotherhood, volumes of them. I know because I read them a quarter of a century ago." He said, "What do you mean?"

Here's how you can find all of the missing secrets about the Muslim Brotherhood -- and you can do this, too. I said, "Bob, go to your computer and type in two words into the search part. Type the word "Banna," B-a-n-n-a. He said, "Yeah." Type in "Nazi." Bob typed the two words in, and out came 30 to 40 articles from around the world. He read them and called me back and said, "Oh my gosh, what have we done?"

What I'm doing today is doing what I'm doing now: I'm educating a new generation in the CIA that the Muslim Brotherhood was a fascist organization that was hired by Western intelligence that evolved over time into what we today know as al-Qaeda.

Here's how the story began. In the 1920s there was a young Egyptian named al Bana. And al Bana formed this nationalist group called the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Bana was a devout admirer of Adolph Hitler and wrote to him frequently. So persistent was he in his admiration of the new Nazi Party that in the 1930s, al-Bana and the Muslim Brotherhood became a secret arm of Nazi intelligence.

The Arab Nazis had much in common with the new Nazi doctrines. They hated Jews; they hated democracy; and they hated the Western culture. It became the official policy of the Third Reich to secretly develop the Muslim Brotherhood as the fifth Parliament, an army inside Egypt.

When war broke out, the Muslim Brotherhood promised in writing that they would rise up and help General Rommell and make sure that no English or American soldier was left alive in Cairo or Alexandria.

The Muslim Brotherhood began to expand in scope and influence during World War II. They even had a Palestinian section headed by the grand Mufti of Jerusalem, one of the great bigots of all time. Here, too, was a man -- The grand Mufti of Jerusalem was the Muslim Brotherhood representative for Palestine. These were undoubtedly Arab Nazis. The Grand Mufti, for example, went to Germany during the war and helped recruit an international SS division of Arab Nazis. They based it in Croatia and called it the "Handjar" Muslim Division, but it was to become the core of Hitler's new army of Arab fascists that would conquer the Arab peninsula from then on to Africa -- grand dreams.

At the end of World War II, the Muslim Brotherhood was wanted for war crimes. Their German intelligence handlers were captured in Cairo. The whole net was rolled up by the British Secret Service. Then a horrible thing happened.

Instead of prosecuting the Nazis -- the Muslim Brotherhood -- the British government hired them. They brought all the fugitive Nazi war criminals of Arab and Muslim descent into Egypt, and for three years they were trained on a special mission. The British Secret Service wanted to use the fascists of the Muslim Brotherhood to strike down the infant state of Israel in 1948. Only a few people in the Mossad know this, but many of the members of the Arab Armies and terrorist groups that tried to strangle the infant State of Israel were the Arab Nazis of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Britain was not alone. The French intelligence service cooperated by releasing the Grand Mufti and smuggling him to Egypt, so all of the Arab Nazis came together. So, from 1945 to 1948, the British Secret Service protected every Arab Nazi they could, but they failed to quash the State of Israel.

What the British did then, they sold the Arab Nazis to the predecessor of what became the CIA. It may sound stupid; it may sound evil, but it did happen. The idea was that we were going to use the Arab Nazis in the Middle East as a counterweight to the Arab communists. Just as the Soviet Union was funding Arab communists, we would fund the Arab Nazis to fight against. And lots of secret classes took place. We kept the Muslim Brotherhood on our payroll.
Here's a video of John Loftus, from The Military Channel website:

Robert Spencer on Koran-Burning and Free Speech

From Human Events:
Obama found the burning of the Koran, and the burning of any book, distasteful, as do I. But that was why he should have stood up for Terry Jones. Speech that is inoffensive needs no protection, and those in power can all too easily use “hate speech” codes to restrict speech they find politically inconvenient or challenging. Obama could have said: "While I disapprove of this Koran-burning, in America we believe that freedom of expression is a fundamental bulwark against tyranny and the hallmark of a truly free society, and it requires us to put up with things we don't like without responding with violence."

He could, in short, have used Jones’ barbecued Koran as a teaching tool to demonstrate why free societies are preferable to sharia states. But instead, Obama and the media are effectively reinforcing the principle that violent intimidation works: They knew that somewhere in the world Muslims were going to behave like rabid dogs because of the burned Koran, and instead of telling them to grow up and act like civilized people, they are demanding that free people change the way they behave to adjust to this case of rabies.

Obama could and should be telling these rioting Afghans and Pakistanis, and those who are defending them, to realize that if someone burns a Koran in Florida, it doesn't harm them, or the Koran, or Allah, or Muhammad. He could and should tell them that to respond with irrational violence against people who are not involved with the burning (or even against the people who are involved with it) is just savagery.

People like Obama and Seaton have forgotten, if they ever knew, that one's response to someone else's provocative action is entirely one's own responsibility. If you do something that offends me, I am under no obligation to kill you, or to run to the United Nations to try to get laws passed that will silence you. I am free to ignore you, or laugh at you, or to respond with charity, or any number of reactions.

Everyone in the world is so busy condemning Terry Jones that they have forgotten about freedom of expression, and why it is so important to reinforce even when we find the expression detestable—indeed, especially in such cases. And so, if we continue down this path, one thing is certain: That which is not understood or valued will not be protected, and so it will be lost.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Mark Steyn on Lindsey Graham

From National Review Online:
Andrew, ever since I ran into a spot of bother in Canada, I’ve found myself giving speeches in defense of freedom of expression in Toronto, London, Copenhagen, etc. I did not think it would be necessary quite so soon to take the same stand in the land of the First Amendment against craven squishes of the political class willing to trade core liberties for a quiet life. I have no expectations of Harry Reid or the New York Times, but I have nothing but total contempt for the wretched buffoon Graham.

A mob of deranged ululating blood-lusting head-hackers slaughter Norwegian female aid-workers and Nepalese guards — and we’re the ones with the problem?

I agree with the Instaprof: Lindsey Graham is unfit for office. The good news is there’s no need for the excitable lads of Mazar e-Sharif to chop his head off because he’s already walking around with nothing up there. And, as for his halfwitted analogy with World War II, he’s too ignorant to realize it but he’s singing the dhimmi remake of an ancient Noel Coward satire.

The reason we’re losing this thing is because of a lack of cultural confidence, of which the fetal cringe of this worthless husk out-parodies anything Coward could have concocted. When I’m speaking on this subject, I often get asked to reprise the words I quote in my book, from Gen. Sir Charles Napier in India explaining to the locals his position on suttee — the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. General Napier was impeccably multicultural:

You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.

In the absence of cultural confidence overseas, we are expending blood and treasure building an Afghanistan fit only for pederasts, tribal heroin cartels, and the blood-soaked savages of Mazar e-Sharif. In the absence of cultural confidence at home, we are sending the message that the bedrock principles of free, pluralist societies will bend and crumble in a vain race to keep up with the ever touchier sensitivities of the perpetually aggrieved. Claire Berlinski has it right: The real “racists” here are not this no-name pastor and his minimal flock but Reid, Graham, and the Times — for they assume that a significant proportion of Muslims are not responsible human beings but animals no more capable of rational behavior than the tiger who mauled Siegfried’s Roy. If that is true, certain consequences follow therefrom. The abandonment of the First Amendment is not one of them.

In Trafalgar Square, there is a statue of General Napier. I would urge any visitors to London to see it before it’s taken down, as it surely will be one day soon. Imagine what our world would look like if it were Lindsey Graham up on that plinth. A society led by such “men” cannot survive, and does not deserve to.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

West Backs Mass Murderer in Ivory Coast

From the Telegraph (UK):
Charity workers who reached Duekoue said it appeared the killings had taken place in a single day, shortly after the town fell to troops loyal to Alassane Ouattara, the man internationally-recognised as having won last year’s presidential election.

The apparent massacre came despite the presence of United Nations troops and - if confirmed - will cast a shadow over Mr Outtara’s assumption of the Ivory Coast’s presidency after a four-month battle to oust Lawrence Gbagbo, the former president who lost the November election but refused to step down.

William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said he was “gravely concerned” by the violence and loss of life in Ivory Coast and added: “I am determined that all alleged human rights abuses... must be investigated and those responsible held to account.

The International Committee for the Red Cross said its staff discovered more than 800 bodies of people who were clearly local civilians. They were mainly men who had been shot and left where they fell, the organisation said, either alone or in small groups dotted around the town, which lies at the heart of Ivory Coast’s economically crucial cocoa producing region.
Patrick Nicholson, a spokesman for the Catholic charity Caritas, said his team had counted 1,000 bodies, adding that some had been hacked with machetes. The UN said that it already logged 430 killed in Duekoue and was still investigating reports of more dead in the town.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Eliyho Matz: The Last Bergson Boy

Profiled in The Jewish Week by Lehman Weichselbaum:
Telling his story, Matz pauses for the occasional customer. A woman, thwarted in her request for use of the shop’s broken copying machine, is consoled by the gift of three manila envelopes. “Don’t tell anybody I did this,” says Matz. It’s a pet line.

At some point in the conversation Matz produces a small, self-published book with a cover portrait sketch of Peter Bergson against a white background. “Who Is An Israeli?” which features interviews and articles by Bergson, along with an account of Matz’s own brief career in the Israeli army. There are musings on the obsolescence of the Law of Return, the purported role of the legendary Khazars in the making of the Passover Haggadah and the real secret — Bergson’s promotion of an American-style constitutionalism — behind President Harry Truman’s support to the nascent State of Israel.

Though Bergson himself reportedly called his life’s work a failure, Matz grandly calls him “the most important Jew of the 20th century.” To spread the gospel, Matz couples his slim paperback, which he sells or gives away to All-Boro customers and new acquaintances, with a string of e-mail broadsides streamed to a select list of politicians, fellow historians and State Department officials.

In previous years Matz had landed articles in journals of influence like Midstream, placed letters to uncountable editors and contributed research to David S. Wyman’s iconoclastic study of the Holocaust, “The Abandonment of the Jews.”

Harsh backlash killed prospects for further publication, Matz contends, ultimately bringing him to his current role of hunkered-down polemicist and his wholesale-stationery day job (“I needed the money”).

Matz’s wife Barbara fills in as the shop’s bookkeeper. The couple has a son, David, a filmmaker. Another son, Michael, given “Bergson” as a middle name, died of cancer in 2008.
After a term in the Knesset in the 1950s, a frustrated Bergson left Israel for permanent settlement in New York, making a small fortune in the commodities market. Yet if anything, claims Matz, the recent turmoil sweeping the Arab world opens a tempting door to reconfigured relations between Israel and its neighbors, proving Bergson’s vision more vital now than even in his day.

“Ironically, both Egypt and Jordan have constitutions,” he says. Lacking a similar road map, he asserts, “Israel can’t figure out how to deal with the Palestinians and its own Arabs. How can it find a peaceful way to deal with the Egyptians and others?”
He stresses that other proposed constitutions have not, like Bergson’s version, carved out a secular foundation.

“What is Israel today?” scoffs Matz, who like Bergson calls himself a “pragmatic centrist.” “Kibbutzim, yeshivas and goats. They built themselves a ghetto bigger than anything in Europe,” says Matz, flouting the prevailing view of Israel as a vibrant if flawed society.

University of Wisconsin Releases Cronon Emails

Here's a link to the lawyer's letter...

The The Chronicle of Higher Education has more:
The university's response could set up a battle over what public records it must divulge.

The open-records request made by Mr. Thompson and a similar request directed at Michigan's three largest public universities by the free-market-oriented Mackinac Center for Public Policy are being denounced by the American Association of University Professors and others in academe as likely to chill academic freedom. But the phrase "academic freedom" appears nowhere in any state's list of allowable reasons for public colleges to turn down records requests, according to a database maintained by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Citing a need to protect "academic freedom" is, in itself, unlikely to help the universities avoid complying with requests for e-mails under state open-records laws, according to several national experts on academic freedom and records laws contacted this week by The Chronicle.

Although federal law prevents the disclosure of much information on individual students contained in such e-mails, and many states' records laws have exceptions for e-mails that are purely personal in nature or deal with unpublished research, closed meetings, or personnel decisions, there are no blanket exceptions intended to protect faculty members from efforts to obtain the sorts of e-mails covered under the Wisconsin and Michigan open-records requests.

April Fool's!