Global News Category

Campaign sign for Jane Prentice, Member of the Australian House of Representatives for Queensland's Ryan electoral division, seen in front of a home in Toowong, Brisbane, Queensland.

I recently returned from a business trip to Brisbane, Australia, my first visit south of the equator, and, for the second time in two years, an overseas visit coincided with a general election. Radio, TV, and newspapers were dominated by coverage of the election, but billboard ads and yard signs are rare. (Last March in Israel, political yard signs and billboards were everywhere.)

All 150 seats in the Australian House of Representatives and all 76 seats in the Australian Senate (12 each for the six states, plus 2 each for the two territories) are up for election on July 2, 2016. As in the UK, the party or coalition that controls a majority of the lower house forms the government. The current government is a center-right coalition of the Liberal Party and the National Party which won election in 2013. Tony Abbott, as leader of the Liberals at the 2013 election, became PM, but was ousted last year, just like Margaret Thatcher in 1990, in what the Aussies call a "leadership spill." The new leader of the party and the new PM is Malcolm Turnbull. The principal opposition is the Australian Labor Party, the local manifestation of socialism, and led by Bill Shorten, who took over party leadership after Labor's defeat in 2013. The House serves a maximum three-year term, but the PM can call for a dissolution prior to that time. Ordinarily, half of the 76 senators are elected along with the whole House.

The 150 seats in the House are allocated among the states by population. Within each state, electoral division boundaries are drawn so that each division's population is within 10% plus or minus of the ideal value (population / allocated seats). With a population of 22,793,303, each house member represents about 151,955 constituents. (A U. S. Congressman, on average, represents almost five times as many -- 744,320, as of earlier today.) Even with the smaller population per district, some of the districts are vast. Durack, in Western Australia, is 1,629,858 sq. km., just 5% smaller than Alaska. The smallest division, Grayndler, in the inner suburbs of Sydney, is only 32 sq. km., smaller than Jenks.

This map of the current electoral divisions shows how lopsided Australia's population distribution is: 118 of the 150 divisions are in a swath along the coast between Brisbane and Adelaide. The two most populous states, New South Wales and Victoria, can outvote the rest of the country, with 84 seats in the House between them.

The 2013 results map likewise reveals the lopsidedly urban focus of support for Labor (pink). The ruling center-right Coalition is represented by blue (Liberal Party), green (National Party), purple (Queensland's Liberal National Party, where the two coalition parties have merged), and tan (Northern Territory's Country Liberal Party). Currently, three seats are held by minor parties and two by independents. Representatives are elected using instant runoff voting, so in the rare case where candidates from both the Liberal Party and National Party are on the ballot, supporters of one can give second preference to the other and deny a victory to Labor.

Australia-2013_Election_Result_Map.png

The Senate voting system is strange, and I still haven't got my mind quite wrapped around it. You can vote preferentially for party groups "above the line" or for individual candidates "below the line." I haven't quite grasped how these two types of votes are combined. Preferential ballots are counted using the single transferable vote (STV) system, which produces a proportional result. Consequently, minor parties have a bigger voice in the Senate, where the Coalition currently holds 33 seats, Labor holds 25, the Greens hold 10, five minor parties hold one seat each, and there are three independents. The Coalition needs support from six senators of other parties to get their legislation passed.

And when that doesn't happen -- when the party of government cannot get its legislation through the Senate -- the PM can call for a "double dissolution" in which all senators are up for election. Presumably the new election will either give the ruling party the majorities in needs in both houses or will deliver an unequivocal victory to the Opposition, but either way the logjam will be cleared. A double dissolution requires that some bill has passed the House and been voted down in the Senate twice with at least three months between attempts. Three specific bills involving the construction industry and labor unions were cited by Turnbull in his letter to the Governor-General (Sir Peter Cosgrove, Queen Elizabeth's viceroy in Australia) requesting a double dissolution.

If the newly elected parliament should fail to pass one or more of the bills cited for the double dissolution, the PM can request a joint sitting to consider only those bills, creating a temporary 226-member unicameral legislature, in which the Senate comprises about a third of the total membership. A joint sitting has happened exactly once, in 1974, when Labor sought to enact socialized health care.

You may be heartened to know that an election in Australia is just as susceptible as an American election to turn on some silly non-issue. During my stay, the political world was in an uproar over Labor leader Bill Shorten's remark that mothers handle most of the childcare in the country. This was in connection with his announcement of a US$2.25 billion subsidy for childcare. In response, PM Turnbull and scoffed at Shorten's "sexist" gaffe and pledged allegiance to feminism.

I follow Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Facebook page. While he often addresses grave matters like terrorism, many of his posts are about happier events relating to his responsibilities. For example, today he wrote about his speech celebrating the launch a plan to build 32,000 new housing units in the growing city of Ashkelon.

Netanyahu_Ashkelon-20151030.png

Netanyahu spoke about his vision to build stronger links between the different regions of Israel:

My vision is simple. My vision is to - to a great extent - cancel the term 'periphery' and link everything into one vibrant bloc. What I said several weeks ago, that my vision is to see Be'er Sheva with 500,000 residents in 12 years, I say to you Itamar, and to all of you, Ashkelon will be a city of at least 250,000 residents within 12 years. This is not only possible, it is happening before our eyes. It is a very great thing that is happening here. Of course this depends on many things. What we are doing today is essential. The transportation link, not just to Ashkelon, but in the south and throughout the country, is to link up everything, from Dan to Eilat, without a single red light. It won't be a two lane road but a multi-lane highway, and trains. Now from Ashkelon we are 50 minutes by train to Tel Aviv and to Be'er Sheva, and we will yet reduce this.

Most of the comments were supportive and celebratory, but one hostile comment stood out. It was from a Facebook user whose profile picture showed the Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian flag:

Mohammad Erdem

Masjid Al-Aqsa is a holy place of worship for the Muslims
Iranian army liberate the Al-Aqsa.
Jerusalem will be the capital of a future Persian Empire.
We are going to murder all 7 million Jews in Israel!!!!!
https://www.facebook.com/100010517441764/videos/117658968594684/


The post was timestamped at Thursday, October 29, 2015 at 4:02 pm CDT.

Religion_of_Peace-20151030.png

The video shows a soldier in camouflage fatigues suiting up, with close up cuts to putting on unit insignia, placing a book (a Qu'ran?) in one pocket and a handgun in another. Dramatic music plays in the background. The production values remind me of a commercial for the U. S. Army. The final scenes shows a growing mass of soldiers overlooking Jerusalem's Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock, and the al-Aqsa mosque. I'm curious to know what the words at the end of the video say. Is this an official Iranian government message?

I have reported the comment to Facebook as hate speech. As of this writing it has not been removed.

I am late getting this put together, late taking my own time to remember the events of 14 years ago.

Take a moment to remember University of Tulsa and Memorial High School graduate Jayesh Shah, who worked on the 103rd floor of the north tower for Cantor Fitzgerald, and to pray for his family, who deeply miss their brother, son, husband, and father. This 2002 story from the Houston Chronicle tells about Jay's family and their desperate search through the streets of New York for hopeful news that never came. Jay's family returned again to New York today to honor his memory and the memory of all who perished that day.

Many of the links from previous years are reprised below, as they remain excellent resources for refreshing our collective memory and, I hope, rekindling our resolve. Here are a few new items worthy of note:

On Facebook, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote:

Government and people of Israel stand with the United States of America in marking 14 years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

As we remember those who perished, we remain committed to fighting the forces of militant Islam that have caused so much death and destruction both before and since that terrible day. Our commitment is matched only by our conviction that we will prevail.

Bookworm Room quotes at length from a Charles Krauthammer column on the Iran deal, which notes that, not only do we have to allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, and to allow them access to funds to continue to destabilize the Middle East, America is obliging itself to defend Iran against efforts, like the Stuxnet computer virus, to sabotage Iran's development of nuclear weapons.

Here Is New York has added a site called Voices of 9/11, video interviews with 500 eyewitnesses, recorded in 2002 and 2003.

Le Figaro has a montage of amateur video taken in lower Manhattan the morning of 9/11, including a clip of the first plane hitting the North Tower. The images and language are unfiltered and may be disturbing. This clip comes via Ace of Spades HQ. Ace writes:

I'm linking it because this pulls no punches. It is not sanitized. It includes screaming in horror, and f-bombs, and blasphemies (the "JFC!" one), from people recording the attacks on their cell phones.

I'm linking it just because it's something we don't see much in American media, where things tend to be sanitized, Because Backlash.

Bookworm Room reminds us why we need to remember:

Last year on 9/11, my remembrance post looked at how our political class, led by Barack Obama, seemed to have forgotten every lesson learned from 9/11. Under his aegis, I pointed out, our borders were meaningless, the always dangerous Middle East was a swirling mass of chaos, and ISIS was cutting a bloody swath through that benighted land. This year, things are worse.

Obama's Middle Eastern policies -- policies that systematically destabilized Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt, and that enabled anarchy in Syria and ISIS's rise -- have led to the largest migrant crisis since Rome's downfall....

The worst irony of today's 9/11 anniversary, though, is that yesterday, the fourteenth anniversary of the day before the world changed forever, the Obama-led Democrat party took steps to ensure that 9/11, rather than seeing the peak of Islamic terrorism, will begin to look like a dry run, just as the 1993 World Trade Center attack was a dry run....

With every passing year, 9/11's emotional resonance lessens, with September 11 becoming nothing more than a sad story rather than both a national tragedy and a wake-up call. Even worse, too many of the younger generation don't even have a textbook acquaintance with 9/11. Our continued survival as a free nation demands that we remember 9/11 in a way that enables us to understand the lessons it teaches about the nature of evil and about the evil nature of radical Islam, whether it emanates from Sunni or Shia Islamists.

Ben Domenech, writing at The Federalist, calls 9/11 the day America forgot. Far from producing change in attitudes and behaviors, nothing much changed after a month or so of bipartisanship and resolve.

From news.com.au: 30 pictures of 9/11 that show you why you should never forget.

A year after the attacks, an exhibit of photos showing the aftermath, recovery efforts, and the indomitable spirit of New Yorkers toured the nation and is still online: Here Is New York.

The History Channel has moved its 9/11 content. There used to be an interactive site on the 9/11 attacks here, but it seems no longer to be on the web, and the archived version appears to be incomplete.

The ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11 told the story of the events, beginning with the 1993 World Trade Center attack, that led to the 9/11/2001 attack. Because it put certain American politicians in a bad light, it has not been rebroadcast in the US, and the original version is hard to find, but not impossible for the tech savvy. You can watch a documentary about the political pressure that led to the censorship of the mini-series, "Blocking the Path to 9/11," on the Internet Archive.

The Telegraph: 9/11: How the drama unfolded aboard Air Force One, inside the White House bunker and at the Pentagon

Some personal recollections of the day:

Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer offers his account of 9/11 with President Bush aboard Air Force One, and the threat that the president's plane might itself be compromised by terrorists.

In 2009, HotAir blogger Allahpundit tweeted his memories of the day. He lived in downtown Manhattan, not far from the World Trade Center.

Ron Coleman was in midtown Manhattan when the planes hit. He writes of the confusion of the day and his journey, by foot and ferry, back to his home in New Jersey.

Gerard Vanderleun was watching from Brooklyn Heights when the towers fell, recording his observations online: "Lower span of Brooklyn Bridge jammed with people walking out of the city, many covered with white ash. Ghosts. The Living Dead. BQE empty except for convoys of emergency vehicles."

Here is Robert N. Going's diary of four weeks as a volunteer in a respite center at Ground Zero.

My personal recollection of the day and the weeks that followed.

Rusty Weiss says, "9/11 saved my life," shocking him out of complacency as a responsibility-shirking young man.

Robert Spencer lists ten things we should have done since 9/11 to defeat Islamism, but we haven't because of political correctness. Number 4 rings a bell:

It is remarkable that thirteen years after 9/11, not a single mosque or Islamic school in the U.S. has any organized program to teach Muslims why the al-Qaeda/Islamic State understanding of Islam is wrong and should be rejected. Yet they ostensibly reject this view of Islam, so why don't such programs exist? Even more remarkable than their absence is the fact that no government or law enforcement authorities are calling upon Muslims to implement them.

Such programs must be instituted, and made transparent and open to inspection, so as to ensure their sincerity and thoroughness.

Tulsans know what happens when a Muslim does speak out and explain that Islamists aren't good Muslims.

Vivat Regina!

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Today, Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning British monarch, surpassing her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Elizabeth acceded to the throne on the death of her father, George VI in 1952. She has been described as an "accidental queen," advancing to heir presumptive when her uncle Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936 and her father, Prince Albert, the Duke of York, became King George VI.

The birth of Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor on April 21, 1926 was a relatively minor event for a world teetering between two world wars and just three years away from the Great Depression.

The curly-haired "Lilibet" was destined for marriage, not the throne.

But after reigning for just 325 days, her childless uncle Edward VIII abdicated in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American.

Princess Elizabeth's father inherited the crown as George VI and she suddenly became heir to the throne.

When the young Elizabeth and her sister Margaret had to move to Buckingham Palace she asked her nanny: "What, you mean forever?"

On her 21st birthday she vowed to spend her life serving her country....

Queen Elizabeth's first prime minister was Winston Churchill, a man who had served in the army of her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

By the time the current holder of that job, David Cameron, was born in 1966, she had already been monarch for 14 years.

"The first time she saw [Cameron] he was playing a rabbit in a school production in which her son Prince Edward was taking part," royal historian Hugo Vickers said.

"He is the man from whom she now takes formal advice."

Mark Steyn takes the occasion to reflect upon the nature of monarchy and the increasingly monarchical presidency:

There have been moments in the last 63 years when one might have wished for a little more imagination from the Queen. But in an undeferential and unmonarchical age she has played a difficult hand very shrewdly. The picture at top right was taken by my beloved daughter during the Diamond Jubilee year. My little girl has met many celebrities, from Macaulay Culkin all the way to Lindsey Graham (at the local fair last month), but she thought the Queen was very "cool" in the way she didn't feel the need to work the room. What I liked that day was the way she didn't bother with the 40-car motorcade - just a vehicle in front of a couple of coppers, and one behind with another copper and a lady-in-waiting, all of whom would take a bullet for her, which I cannot reliably say of those Secret Service guys cavorting with their Cartagena hookers. At any rate, my daughter got within a foot of the Queen, which she'll never do with Obama or Hillary when they're conveyed by their motorcades to a simulacrum of a visit to an ice-cream parlor on Martha's Vineyard and the surrounding streets are closed and vacuumed of all non-credentialed persons. The citizen-executive has become, as Adams proposed, His Mostly Benign Highness: a distant, all-powerful sovereign -- but kindly, and generous with his food stamps, if merciless with his IRS audits.

Monarchy is not to everyone's taste, of course, least of all the pundit class in Fleet Street. But it's interesting to note that their main objection to the Royal Family these days is not that they are an affront to the masses in a democratic age, but that they're way too popular. This is republicanism as class marker: Apparently, the only argument against an anachronistic, out-of-touch hereditary family ruling by divine right is that they appeal to the basest instincts of the proletariat. I remember, years ago, being told by a Hampstead intellectual that the problem with the Queen was that she was too middle class. Today, for Britain's elites, monarchy is simply too, too common. For most of the rest of us, by comparison with all the alternatives, Elizabeth II has been for 63 years about the least worst person to have to live under.

Steyn reprises his column to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, pondering the success of Elizabeth's realms among the community of nations. For she is also the monarch of Canada, Australia, New Zealand,

In the 2012 Heritage Foundation rankings of global economic freedom, eight of the top ten nations are current or former realms of the Crown, including the top four: Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand. So are about half of the 20 economies with the highest GDP per capita, and for large countries with populations over 20 million the top three is an Anglosphere sweep: Australia, Canada, the United States. Three-sevenths of the G7 are nations of British descent, and so are two-fifths of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. Of course, no record is unblemished, and in the fringes and fag-ends of empire lurk Gaza, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Nevertheless, from South Africa to India, today the key regional powers in almost every corner of the globe are British-derived -- and, even among the lesser players, as a general rule you're better off for having been exposed to British rule than not: Why is Haiti Haiti and Barbados Barbados? Whatever part of the map you find yourself in, the surest guide to comparative rankings is which territories have been under the British Crown and which haven't.

The Queen could say all this, in one almighty blow-out Christmas message to remember, but it's not her style.

Is the monarchy anything to do with the unrivaled record of the Britannic inheritance? Working for the Free French in London during the war, Simone Weil found herself pondering why, among the European powers, only England had maintained 'a centuries-old tradition of liberty'. She was struck by the paradox of the Westminster system -- that ultimate power is vested in one who cannot wield it in any practical sense. Endowing the sovereignty of the nation in an absentee monarch -- as Australia does -- is an even more exquisite refinement of the Weil theory: vesting power in its literal rather than merely political absence.

What Malcolm Turnbull objects to most -- she doesn't live here! -- is what I find most appealing. A minimalist monarchy is perhaps the most benign form of government one could devise -- except that no hyper-rationalist would ever 'devise' such a thing at all.

Yet another grim commemoration.

Stella Morabito, granddaughter of survivors, writes in The Federalist: 1.5 million Armenian Christians were systematically slaughtered by the government of the Ottoman Empire. It was jumpstarted on April 24, 1915, when hundreds of Armenian community leaders and intellectuals were rounded up in Constantinople, arrested, and killed.

The goal was to exterminate every Armenian Christian, whether child, woman, or man. The killings themselves often included all manner of butchery, torture, and humiliation. My grandmother lamented the crucifixion of her father, who was known in the village as a holy man.

Another part of this extermination program involved deportations that forced Armenians out of their homes and basically put them on death marches into the Syrian Desert. Many died of starvation and exhaustion on these caravans. Others succumbed to diseases like typhus in lice-infested camp conditions. Young Armenian women who were not raped and killed could end up Islamified and taken in as wives or concubines. My grandmother's younger sister was taken into a harem....

The starting point was April 24, 1915, with the arrests of community leaders in Constantinople. The killings continued after the war, and included destruction from the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922--which my grandparents also survived. Tens of thousands of Armenians and Greeks lost their lives in that fire and the Armenian and Greek sections of the city were utterly destroyed. By 1923, the killing relented. A chronology of the genocide is here.

Raymond Ibrahim, writing for PJ Media points out that the Ottoman purge included all Christians, not just Armenians:

Today, April 24, we remember how exactly 100 years ago the last historic Muslim caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, tried to cleanse its empire of Christian minorities -- Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks -- even as we stand by watching as the new caliphate, the Islamic State, resumes the genocide.

And in both cases, the atrocities were and are being committed in the name of Islam.

In November, 1914, during WWI, the Ottoman caliphate issued a fatwa, or Islamic decree, proclaiming it a "sacred duty" for all Muslims to "massacre" infidels -- specifically naming the "Christian men" of the Triple Entente, "the enemies of Islam" -- with promises of great rewards in the afterlife.

The same Koran verses that the Islamic State and other jihadi outfits regularly quote permeated the Ottoman fatwa, including: "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them -- seize them, besiege them, and be ready to ambush them" (9:5) and "O you who have believed! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are but friends of each other; and whoever among you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them" (5:51) -- and several other verses that form the Islamic doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity....

As happens to this very day, the Muslims of the Ottoman caliphate, not able to reach or defeat the stronger infidel -- the "Christian men" of Britain, France, and Russia -- satiated their bloodlust on their Christian subjects. And they justified the genocide by projecting the Islamic doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity onto Christians -- saying that, because Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks were Christian, they were naturally aiding the other "Christian men" of the West.

As happens to this day under the new caliphate -- the Islamic State -- the Ottoman caliphate crucified, beheaded, tortured, mutilated, raped, enslaved, and otherwise massacred countless "infidel" Christians. The official number of Armenians killed in the genocide is 1.5 million; hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Assyrians each were also systematically slaughtered (see this document for statistics).

(Although today marks the "Armenian Genocide," often forgotten is that Assyrians and Greeks were also targeted for cleansing by the Ottoman caliphate. The only thing that distinguished Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek subjects of the caliphate from Turkish subjects was that the three former were Christian. As one Armenian studies professor asks, "If it [the Armenian Genocide] was a feud between Turks and Armenians, what explains the genocide carried out by Turkey against the Christian Assyrians at the same time?")

Armenia was the first nation to become officially Christian, in the 3rd century AD. The regions that were later incorporated into the Ottoman Empire included the Holy Land itself, the cradle of Christianity, and the lands through which the apostle Paul journeyed and planted churches. The southwestern part of modern-day Turkey is the site of the seven cities of the Roman Province of Asia to whose churches Christ directs letters in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. It was in the same region that many of the ecumenical councils of early Christianity were held. The lands were part of the Christian Byzantine Empire until their gradual conquest by Muslims.

It's interesting to note that this religious purge began not under the dictatorial rule of the sultan, but during the "Second Constitutional Era," under a democratically elected reformist party.

Stella Morabito concludes:

If we corrupt the language so that we do not acknowledge genocide when it happens--as President Obama just did--then we feed into the expectations of all potential perpetrators that they can easily get away with murder. So we are liable to see genocide and other forms of mass slaughter repeated. No true civilization can afford to falsify the historical record or corrupt the language.

Inscribed on one of the walls of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a stark lesson in this. It is a statement by Adolph Hitler, who rationalized mass slaughter and expected people simply to avert their eyes and forget: "Who, after all, today speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

What follows is my blog entry from the 10th anniversary. My wife and I had visited the memorial a few days before, when we were in town for the Oklahoma Republican Convention. I don't think I can improve upon what was written by those who were there. I've updated links where I could.

Much has been written by those who were in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Rather than try to improve on their work, or even try to meaningfully excerpt it, I'll send you their way. They are all must-reads.

Jan, the Happy Homemaker was picked up by a friend and they went to volunteer at University Hospital. She ended up carrying equipment to the triage site and was overwhelmed by what she saw there.

Don Danz felt the explosion four blocks away, then went with a coworker to look for her dad, who worked in the Murrah Building. Don has a map showing damaged buildings as distant as a mile away.

Mike's Noise has a series of posts: His memories of the day of the bombing, a gallery of links, photos he took in the days and weeks following the bombing, profiles of the perpetrators, and unanswered questions -- what about John Doe No. 2, stories of multiple bombs and multiple explosions, and rumors of advance warning of an attack.

Charles G. Hill links to his reaction to media coverage on the first anniversary of the bombing, and on the 10th anniversary his thoughts on what the perps intended to teach us, and what Oklahoma Citians learned instead about themselves. In a separate entry, Charles links to several other first-person accounts, including this one by Chase McInerney, who was on the scene as a working journalist.

Downtown Guy was there, too:

I was there on April 19th. No, thank God, I wasn't a victim, and I wasn't in the buildings when the blast went off. But I was out there soon after. Without risking letting out who I am, let's just say I was out there serving the public. I saw horrible things I never thought I'd see. I saw a person die. And with all the hype out there right now, the image is haunting me again.

I didn't know how much the bombing effected me until the second anniversary. A procession of victims marched through downtown. I watched. I started sweating. My head felt like it was about to explode. I rushed to an alley next to the old library. I threw up in the weeds.

I remember the initial reports, speculating about a natural gas main explosion, then the suggestion that this might be linked to foreign terrorism (remember, it was just two years since the first attack on the World Trade Center), rumors that some Middle Eastern man had been apprehended at the Oklahoma City airport. They found a part of the bomb truck, tracked the VIN back to a rental outlet in Junction City, Kansas, and before long we had sketches of two John Does. It wasn't much longer with John Doe No. 1 was apprehended near Perry, driving a car without a license plate.

I visited the site three weeks later, just after my second nephew was born a few miles away at Baptist Hospital. The building still stood there, agape, awaiting demolition. Teddy bears, flowers, photos, and other tokens of remembrance lined the chain link fence.

Mikki and I visited the memorial on Sunday [in April 2005]. I am not fond of the memorial. I don't think we know how to build memorials any more, and I don't have high hopes for what will be built at Ground Zero in New York. It's too big, too grand, too sleek, too clean. But there are a few things about it, mainly small, simple, untidy things, that touch the heart:

  • Among the Field of Chairs, 19 chairs aren't as big as the others.
  • The Survivor Tree -- an elm that once stood in the middle of an asphalt parking lot across the street from the blast is now the focal point and the symbol of the memorial. It's the one spot of shade and shelter at the memorial.
  • The graffito, spraypainted on the Journal Record building by a rescue worker: "Team 5 / 4-19-95 / We search for the truth. We seek Justice. The Courts Require it. The Victims Cry for it. And GOD Demands it"
  • The fence -- it's still there, still hung with memories of lives cut short, beautiful young women, bright-eyed kids, moms and dads. It must have driven the memorial's designer nuts to know that this garden-variety chain link fence and its jumble of sentimental trinkets would continue to stand next to the sleek and stark gates.

Two neighboring churches have built their own small memorials across the street. St. Joseph's Old Cathedral has a statue of Jesus, weeping, facing away from the building and toward a wall with 168 niches. A message from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Oklahoma, Eusebius Beltran, explaining the significance of the statue and the design of the memorial, is posted nearby. First Methodist Church built a small open-air chapel shortly after the bombing as a place for prayer and worship for those visiting the site. These two simple shrines far better capture the Spirit that drew rescue workers and volunteers from across the state and the nation to comfort the dying, tend the wounded, search for the lost, clear away the debris, and begin to put a city back together again.

MORE:

Here is Charles G. Hill's reflection on the 20th anniversary of the bombing.

The Oklahoman profiles Frank and Donna Sisson, caretakers for almost 20 years of the open-air Heartland Chapel at First Methodist.

Reporter Jayna Davis has written and updated a book on her investigation of the identity of "John Doe No. 2" and the possible connection to hostile regimes and factions in the Middle East: The Third Terrorist: The Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing. Here is a 2011 article by Davis about the declassified 2005 FBI interrogation of convicted bomber Terry
Nichols
:

During the interview, the convicted bomber unleashed a startling admission: John Doe 2 exists. The FBI report states, "Nichols advised that John Doe 2's name had not been mentioned during the (FBI) investigation, and therefore, he feared for his life and his family's well-being should it become public."

The late McCurtain County Gazette journalist J. D. Cash pursued the bombers' connections to the white-supremacist movement. Cash and his work were profiled by Darcy O'Brien in The New Yorker in 1997. On Cash's death in 2007, Mike McCarville wrote:

His writings about the Oklahoma City bombing first gained attention because they included interviews with an undercover IRS operative who maintained that she had warned the government of the plans of right-wing extremists to attack federal buildings in 1995. Cash went on to delve deeper and deeper into Tim McVeigh and others who had lived or visited Elohim City, the religious compound in eastern Oklahoma. Using the Freedom of Information Act, he was able to make a case that the FBI had McVeigh and other members of a gang of Midwest Bank robbers under investigation prior to the 1995 bombing of the Murrah building.

Israel 2015 elections

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Polls in Israel closed about two hours ago, 3 p.m. Tulsa time. Actual vote counts are trickling in, but, as in the United States, the focus is on exit polling, which shows the current leading party, Likud, and their left-wing rivals, Zionist Union (which includes the Labor Party), each winning 27 seats in the new Knesset.

You can find the current semi-official tally on the Central Election Commission website. If I read it correctly (it's in Hebrew), it shows 285 out of 47,679 polling stations reporting, and Zionist Union with a narrow lead. (UPDATE: I read it incorrectly. The number of polling stations is closer to 42,000.) You can also find, at the top of the page, links to results by city and results by polling station. There are also downloadable CSV files, but they seem to use an encoding other than Unicode.

To help you decode that site, they have a list of the competing parties, in English and showing the Hebrew abbreviation used as their ballot designations.

UPDATE:

Just as in the US, the exit pollsters were way off.
Likud has a comfortable lead over Zionist Union, and it seems clear that Netanyahu will be able to form a new majority with breakaway conservative parties Kulanu, Beit Yehudi, and Yisrael Beitenu, and religious parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Jerusalem Post has an English language live blog of the election and the formation of a new government. There's also this geographical analysis of the result -- which parties were strongest in which cities and regions.

Ted Belman of Israpundit has a good overview of Israel's political evolution since Bibi's return to power in 2009: "Netanyahu was the author of both his near defeat and his great victory." In a nutshell, Netanyahu froze construction of new neighborhoods and towns around Jerusalem and in the West Bank under pressure from President Obama, alienating his own electoral base. He repeated the mistake and as a bonus mistake released 100 Palestinian terrorists at US prompting. Conservative Israelis began to look to other parties for leadership, and Israel's proportional representation system is favorable to forming new parties.

Making matters worse, Netanyahu's neighborhood construction freeze exacerbated the housing crisis -- too few homes and too expensive, particularly in and around Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where the jobs are.

ADDED at the top because of its valuable info:

Thomas F. Madden reviews The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam by Jonathan Riley-Smith

On September 11, 2001, there were only a few professional historians of the Crusades in America. I was the one who was not retired. As a result, my phone began ringing and didn't stop for years. In the hundreds of interviews I have given since that terrible day, the most common question has been, "How did the Crusades lead to the terrorist attacks against the West today?" I always answered: "They did not. The Crusades were a medieval phenomenon with no connection to modern Islamist terrorism."

That answer has never gone over well. It seems counterintuitive. If the West sent Crusaders to attack Muslims throughout the Middle Ages, haven't they a right to be upset? If the Crusades spawned anti-Western jihads, isn't it reasonable to see them as the root cause of the current jihads? The answer is no, but to understand it requires more than the scant minutes journalists are usually willing to spare. It requires a grasp not only of the Crusades but of the ways those wars have been exploited and distorted for modern agendas....

It is generally thought that Christians attacked Muslims without provocation to seize their lands and forcibly convert them. The Crusaders were Europe's lacklands and ne'er-do-wells, who marched against the infidels out of blind zealotry and a desire for booty and land. As such, the Crusades betrayed Christianity itself. They transformed "turn the other cheek" into "kill them all; God will know his own."

Every word of this is wrong. Historians of the Crusades have long known that it is wrong, but they find it extraordinarily difficult to be heard across a chasm of entrenched preconceptions. For on the other side is, as Riley-Smith puts it "nearly everyone else, from leading churchmen and scholars in other fields to the general public." ...

Riley-Smith describes the profound effect that Sir Walter Scott's novel The Talisman had on European and therefore Middle Eastern opinion of the Crusades. Crusaders such as Richard the Lionhearted were portrayed as boorish, brutal, and childish, while Muslims, particularly Saladin, were tolerant and enlightened gentlemen of the nineteenth century. With the collapse of Ottoman power and the rise of Arab nationalism at the end of the nineteenth century, Muslims bound together these two strands of Crusade narrative and created a new memory in which the Crusades were only the first part of Europe's assault on Islam--an assault that continued through the modern imperialism of European powers. Europeans reintroduced Saladin, who had been nearly forgotten in the Middle East, and Arab nationalists then cleansed him of his Kurdish ethnicity to create a new anti-Western hero. We saw the result during the run-up to the Iraq War, when Saddam Hussein portrayed himself as a new Saladin who would expel the new Crusaders.

Christianity Today: The Real History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden

So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already be said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression--an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.

Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity--and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion--has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.

With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed's death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt--once the most heavily Christian areas in the world--quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.

That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.

Gov. Jindal on the President's comparison of modern-day ISIS to the Crusades of the 11th through the 13th centuries:

Bobby Jindal on Friday released a statement responding to the president's remarks on Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast in which he cautioned Americans from getting on a "high horse" when taking a stance against radical Islam because people have committed "terrible deeds" in the name of Christianity, too.

"It was nice of the President to give us a history lesson at the Prayer breakfast," Jindal said. "Today, however, the issue right in front of his nose, in the here and now, is the terrorism of Radical Islam, the assassination of journalists, the beheading and burning alive of captives. We will be happy to keep an eye out for runaway Christians, but it would be nice if he would face the reality of the situation today. The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today."

Ace on the intellectual depth of Obama's National Prayer Breakfast comments:

But Obama doesn't deliver that; Obama delivers the same low-IQ, trite, Marxism for Dummies sh** that all glittering mediocrities like himself traffic in, for they can not manage any better.

Charles Krauthammer makes this point, mostly, when he says Obama's remarks were simultaneously "banal and offensive," and says further that these remarks are "adolescent."

Indeed. These are the Deep Thoughts of the Fourteen Year Old.

But I would go one step further. All fourteen year olds are not alike; some are clever and bookish and and full of interesting ideas (if not yet any wisdom).

And some are rather dull-witted and just want to sound like they may be clever. And these slow-witted 14-year-olds tend to just repeat, in a twittering high pitched pre-pubescent voice, a dumbed-down version of Recieved Wisdom they've heard from "Cool Adults."

All the "Cool Adults" the adolescent Obama knew were radicals and communists, and he has done far more pot than thinking since he heard these banal cliches, so what you're hearing is Obama straining to remember, through a pottish haze, what his dull 14-year-old boy brain heard from his communist benefactors in the late sixties and early seventies.

Tattoo photos in the Facebook profile of someone calling himself Jah'Keem Yisrael matches tattoos named in the Department of Corrections record of Alton Alexander Nolen, the man eyewitnesses say beheaded a worker at a food processing plant in Moore, Oklahoma, on Thursday.

A number of websites uncovered the profile and suggested that it belonged to Nolen. Like Nolen, Yisrael graduated from Idabel High School and went to Langston University for college. The "selfies" in the profile strongly resemble the Oklahoma Department of Corrections mugshots of Nolen. But there has been some doubt, because the the profile uses "alton.threadgill" in the custom URL.

The Facebook profile shows an intensifying interest in Islam over the last year or so, praises Osama bin Laden, includes a cover photo of heavily armed Taliban, and praises sharia law and beheading.

But a photo in Jah'Keem Yisrael's August 15, 2010, Facebook post shows a man (apparently the owner of the Facebook profile) with arm tattoos that match the DOC's records for Nolen. (Click to see full size.) The left forearm shows the word "JUDAH" in script capitals. The right forearm shows a tattoo of praying hands.

The DOC record for Alton A Nolen, DOB 08/16/1984, lists the following "Body Marks":

TAT ABDOM: NCIC AS-SALAAMU ATAIKUM
TAT CHEST: NCIC JESUS CHRIST
TAT L ARM: NCIC RIP LIL KRIS, JUDAH
TAT R ARM: NCIC PRAYING HANDS

The gaps in Jah'Keem Yisrael's Facebook timeline match up with the DOC record. No posts from September 20, 2010, until August 23, 2012, when he writes, "Feelin So Gud 2 B N Da City At Da Halway House....At dis moment im walkin round wit my shirt off n boi boi lol Yeh jst got thru job untin and she said sho my chest." The tone of his posts is in that vein until April 3, 2013, when he posts, "Allahu Aikbar Allahu Aikbar....." After about October, the posts are almost exclusively Islamic-themed.

Another confirmation of the tattoo: In a February 5, 2014, post, Jah'Keem Yisrael writes that the Twelve Tribes of Israel are today black Africans, Latin Americans, and American Indians and says in a comment (evidently responding to someone whose comments are not visible to the public),

The true jews that's here in Amerika today known as the black man was sold to the white man by the Africans because we weren't from there. Were from Israel. The Roman persecution put an end to the biblical jews known as the tribe of Judah which is tatted on my left forearm lol.

Among the more alarming recent Facebook entries:

On March 7, 2014, Jah'Keem Yisrael posted a set of three photos, writing:

Sharia Law will takeover (aka) Allah swt Law -Matthew 5:30 Cut the hands off the thieves, Deuteronomy 22:23-24 Stone to death the adulters, Any woman showing her hair in public must be shaved off 1st Corithians 11:5-7.. If your against the Sharia Law your against God. Now you know what freedom u guys are fighting for.

Islam is the true religion
****InfoFromAMuslim****

The photos include a man holding a newspaper headline, "Islam will dominate the world / Freedom can go to hell", a graphic photo of a decapitation, and a photo of a woman in white middle-eastern dress being whipped in public by a hooded figure in black. (Click the links to view a screenshot of these photos posted to Facebook. WARNING: Photos are graphic.) The caption embedded in the decapitation photo reads,

Thus do we find the clear precedent that explains the peculiar penchant of Islamic terrorists to behead their victims: it is merely another precedent bestowed by their << Prophet >>:

"I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them." Qur'an 8:9-13

On the same date, he posted two more photos, one showing two boys prostrating themselves in prayer, the other showing four young boys in white head-coverings firing handguns.

He wrote:

If Allah (swt) Blesses me with an child, This for sure will be his status!!!!!!!

On March 30, 2014, he posted a salute to Osama bin Laden, writing:

"Do not say that those slain in the cause of God are dead. (They are alive, but you are not aware of them)" (2:154).

Osama Bin Laden (Salayi Wa Alayi Salaam Ameen)
****InfoFromAMuslim****

The phrase in parentheses seems to be some form of the Arabic phrase meaning "Peace Be upon Him," a phrase often used in connection with Muhammad and other prophets.

Polls are now closed in Scotland, but it will be several hours until all the votes are counted in the referendum to decide whether its 307-year-old membership in the United Kingdom will be dissolved in favor of independence. The question on the ballot is simple: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Paul Monies, a Scotsman and British subject who reports on energy news for the Oklahoman, offers a summary of the arguments for and against and offers his own opinion and prediction:

Scotland's vote Thursday on a referendum for independence has been cast as a choice between the head and the heart.

The heart says the nation of 5.3 million people is strong enough and confident enough to dissolve the 307-year-old union it has with England and the rest of the United Kingdom. The head says the economic risks are too great for a small country in the global economy....

The No campaign, which calls itself "Better Together," says breaking up a political and monetary union will be messy, and the Yes campaign hasn't offered enough concrete details on how it will happen. Pensions, splitting up the U.K.'s national debt and how an independent Scotland will continue to use the pound as its currency are among the issues to be negotiated if Scots vote Yes.

Results will be tabulated and reported by each of Scotland's 32 local government areas. I don't think individual polling place results will be reported. According to Oliver O'Brien's map of estimated declaration times, first results are expected at 2 a.m. BST (8 p.m. Tulsa time) from Perth & Kinross, Moray, North Lanarkshire, East Lothian, the Western Isles, and the Orkneys. The big cities will declare a result at 5 a.m. BST.

You can listen to BBC Radio 4's coverage of the Scottish referendum results live online starting at 4 pm Thursday Tulsa time.

#indyref is the Twitter hashtag.

MORE:

Cute bit of satire: The USA writes an open letter, calling on Scotland to show a "decent respect for the opinions of mankind."

Peter Hanraty, vice president of Oklahoma's constitutional convention and mining safety activist, was an immigrant from Scotland.

The Telegraph has a series of photos of Scottish referendum demonstrations and campaign activities:

Former Labour PM Gordon Brown campaigns for maintaining the union. He looks more than a bit like the late comic actor Tony Hancock. "Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?"

London mayor Boris Johnson pleads in Latin: "Londonienses amamus Caledoniam! Nolite nos relinquere!""

This young man had the best protest sign: "My dad made me come here!"

Take a moment to remember University of Tulsa and Memorial High School graduate Jayesh Shah, who worked on the 103rd floor of the north tower for Cantor Fitzgerald, and to pray for his family, who deeply miss their brother, son, husband, and father. This 2002 story from the Houston Chronicle tells about Jay's family and their desperate search through the streets of New York for hopeful news that never came.

From news.com.au: 30 pictures of 9/11 that show you why you should never forget.

A year after the attacks, an exhibit of photos showing the aftermath, recovery efforts, and the indomitable spirit of New Yorkers toured the nation and is still online: Here Is New York.

Here is the History Channel's interactive site on the 9/11 attacks.

The ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11 told the story of the events, beginning with the 1993 World Trade Center attack, that led to the 9/11/2001 attack. Because it put certain American politicians in a bad light, it has not been rebroadcast in the US, and the original version is hard to find, but not impossible for the tech savvy. You can watch a documentary about the political pressure that led to the censorship of the mini-series, "Blocking the Path to 9/11," on the Internet Archive.

The Telegraph: 9/11: How the drama unfolded aboard Air Force One, inside the White House bunker and at the Pentagon

Some personal recollections of the day:

Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer offers his account of 9/11 with President Bush aboard Air Force One, and the threat that the president's plane might itself be compromised by terrorists.

In 2009, HotAir blogger Allahpundit tweeted his memories of the day. He lived in downtown Manhattan, not far from the World Trade Center.

Ron Coleman was in midtown Manhattan when the planes hit. He writes of the confusion of the day and his journey, by foot and ferry, back to his home in New Jersey.

Here is Robert N. Going's diary of four weeks as a volunteer in a respite center at Ground Zero.

My personal recollection of the day and the weeks that followed.

MORE:

Rusty Weiss says, "9/11 saved my life," shocking him out of complacency as a responsibility-shirking young man.

Robert Spencer lists ten things we should have done since 9/11 to defeat Islamism, but we haven't because of political correctness. Number 4 rings a bell:

It is remarkable that thirteen years after 9/11, not a single mosque or Islamic school in the U.S. has any organized program to teach Muslims why the al-Qaeda/Islamic State understanding of Islam is wrong and should be rejected. Yet they ostensibly reject this view of Islam, so why don't such programs exist? Even more remarkable than their absence is the fact that no government or law enforcement authorities are calling upon Muslims to implement them.

Such programs must be instituted, and made transparent and open to inspection, so as to ensure their sincerity and thoroughness.

Tulsans know what happens when a Muslim does speak out and explain that Islamists aren't good Muslims.

You'll be touched and encouraged by two very different stories linked by a common theme: People who are serving as God's hands to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.

The Folds of Honor Foundation's cottage at Crosstimbers Marina, dedicated Memorial Day weekend, welcomes its first guests this weekend, the widow and children of Technical Sergeant Jason Norton. They will enjoy the peaceful atmosphere on the shore of Skiatook Lake free of charge as guests of the Owasso-based foundation, which also provides scholarships to military children. Our family attended the dedication of the Folds of Honor cottage on Memorial Day weekend; it is a beautiful setting.

Crosstimbers Marina, with the help of countless volunteers and donors, built the cottage for military families to enjoy.

"The vast majority of this $350,000 furnished cottage all came from donations, and so Green Country is a wonderful place," said Ron Howell, of Crosstimbers Marina....

"Psychological problems have always been a difficulty of war, but this one has been a particularly horrific one to go through," Howell said.

The honor cottage is intended to help military families who've lost loved ones, or injured military men and women and their families, to enjoy a peaceful, relaxing setting, while getting their minds off what they've been through.

"Not so much about war and the terrors of war, but more about there is a normal world again, and here's a way to return to it," Howell said.

TSgt Norton was killed in the line of duty in 2006 while escorting a convoy in Iraq, giving his own life for the protection of others.

A view of Skiatook Lake from the Folds of Honor Cottage at Crosstimbers Marina

In Philadelphia last week, Dawn Eden, author of My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, spoke at the graduation of Project Dawn Court, an alternative justice and rehabilitation program that aims to break women free from the chains of prostitution and enmeshment in the criminal justice system. The program involves substance-abuse and sexual-trauma counseling. Her speech was a follow-on to a talk she gave at the women's jail in Philadelphia. She learned from the public defender that women in prostitution are often the victims of childhood sexual abuse and that homelessness is often the deciding factor that turns an abuse victim into a prostitute.

Dawn spoke about her own experience of childhood sexual abuse and about the power of God that has worked healing in her life, a healing that extends to painful memories:

I used to think that the only way I could heal from the pain of my past was by simply blocking out my memories of the past. But I found that if I tried to block out the past completely, it would come back in painful ways - through flashbacks, or nightmares. What I have learned over time, and what I want to share with you, is that memory is not the enemy.

The key to healing is not to forget your past, but to find moments in your past when someone did something kind for you, when someone protected you, when someone smiled at you, when someone performed an act of love for you without expecting anything in return. If you cannot find a moment when another human being showed you kindness or love, find a moment where you could have lost your life - but you didn't. And when you remember that, know that it was no accident that your life was saved. Your being alive today is no accident. God loves you, and God has sustained you all your life, even in the midst of evil, because He wanted to bring you to this beautiful new day.

So find those good memories, and build your identity upon them. Because your identity is as a beautiful and beloved daughter of God. Thank you and God bless you.

I'm reminded of the verse Dawn used in the dedication of her first book (The Thrill of the Chaste), referring to those who worked for her firing from the New York Post, Genesis 50:20: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Her next-to-last paragraph echoes a Hebrew blessing to which she introduced me many years ago, Shehecheyanu.

Blessed art Thou, Lord Our God, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and brought us to this day.

TAKE ACTION:

You can support Folds of Honor Foundation, helping them to provide scholarships to the children of fallen American servicemen and servicewomen and to build and furnish more cottages and havens for these families.

Dawn Eden is working toward a doctorate with the aim of teaching theology at the collegiate level. Earlier this year she completed the first step in the process, a Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree. She accepts PayPal donations to fund travel to give talks like the one she gave at the Project Dawn Court graduation. If you'd like to fund her ministry, you can donate here.

This afternoon, at Cross Timbers resort on Skiatook Lake, a cottage was dedicated for the use of the families of fallen and disabled veterans who are affiliated with the Folds of Honor Foundation. The cottage is to be a retreat for relaxation and recuperation for our wounded warriors and their families.

IMG_3965.JPG

Folds of Honor, based here in Owasso, provides "scholarships and other assistance to the spouses and children of soldiers killed or disabled in service to our country." It was founded in 2007 by Maj. Dan Rooney, a professional golfer, golf course owner, and decorated F-16 pilot who did three tours in Iraq.

Today's dedication was MCed by Cross Timbers developer Ron Howell and featured remarks by Col. Michael Teague, Commander and District Engineer of the Tulsa District of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, Suntex Marinas CEO Johnny Powers, Folds of Honor vice president Maj. Ed Pulido, golf course designer Robert Trent Jones Jr., actor Craig T. Nelson, and Folds of Honor scholarship recipient, Spec. B. J. Jackson. John Gibson Miller led the crowd in the national anthem. Rev. David Nahlon offered the invocation. Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, and her husband Ladd were on hand to meet guests and to give signed copies of her cookbook to Folds of Honor families.

Spec. B. J. Jackson, surrounded by his wife and children, speaks at the dedication of the Folds of Honor cottage on Skiatook Lake

The cottage, which sits on a wooded hillside on the shore of Skiatook Lake, was designed by SGA Design Group and built by Hunter Homes.

Johnny Powers of Dallas, principal and CEO of Suntex Marinas, spoke of his intentions to have a Folds of Honor "floating cottage" for the use of veterans' families at his company's marinas across the country. Ron Howell mentioned that the next Folds of Honor cottage would be a "floating cottage" on Keystone Lake. The use of marina space will allow Folds of Honor families access to lakes where building on the shore is impossible or impractical.

Robert Trent Jones, Jr., the designer of the new Patriot Golf Club course east of Owasso near the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, is also a poet, and he read his poem, "Memorial Day."

IMG_3974.JPG

MORE: Monday, May 27, 2013, is the fourth annual Patriot Cup golf tournament, a fundraiser for the Folds of Honor Foundation, featuring seven major-tournament winners -- Rich Beem, Tom Lehman, Larry Mize, Corey Pavin, Craig Stadler, Scott Simpson, and Bob Tway. Following the tournament, Dierks Bentley will give a performance benefitting Folds of Honor at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Catoosa at 8:30 p.m.

Noteworthy news, comment, and reflection:

MIT's student newspaper The Tech reports on the memorial service for campus police officer Sean Collier.

MIT Police Chief John Difava recounted the events of last Thursday night. He was pulling out of Stata around 9:30 p.m. and saw a cruiser idling, which turned out to be Collier. "I asked him what was going on, and he gave me that famous grin," said DiFava, "and said 'just making sure everybody's behaving, sir.'" An hour later, Collier would be shot.

DiFava also spoke about all of Collier's qualities, stories of which have been pouring from the community this week: He was a gentle and caring man, and police work was his calling. Sean wanted to be a police officer from the age of 7, said DiFava, and paid his way through the police academy with no promise of employment, waiting for a department with an opening. "That lucky department would be us."

The LA Times spoke to neighbors and acquaintances of the (alleged) bombers, including members of a mosque where they worshipped, the Islamic Center of Boston mosque in Cambridge. Some told of a recent, angry outburst by the older brother.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was thrown out of the mosque -- the Islamic Society of Boston, in Cambridge -- about three months ago, after he stood up and shouted at the imam during a Friday prayer service, they said. The imam had held up slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of a man to emulate, recalled one worshiper who would give his name only as Muhammad.

Enraged, Tamerlan stood up and began shouting, Muhammad said.

"You cannot mention this guy because he's not a Muslim!" Muhammad recalled Tamerlan shouting, shocking others in attendance.

He returned to the service later without further incident, and other mosque members say he wasn't thrown out so much as taken aside and calmed down.

(Interesting contrast between this situation and a Tulsa man who said he was intimidated by leaders at his mosque and effectively kicked out because of an op-ed he wrote condemning violence in the name of Islam.)

A week ago, Judicial Watch found that bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev's 2009 arrest (not conviction, but the arrest by itself) for domestic violence was sufficient justification to have had him deported. That article also links to other documents about al-Qaeda's involvement in Chechnya.

Ace of Spades HQ has a lengthy analysis of the decision to read a Miranda warning to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who immediately stopped talking. Ace notes that if may be worth sacrificing the ability to use the suspect's statements against him in a court of law in order for a greater purpose -- finding out who else still out there may have been involved.

Ace also links to this: In Paris this week, a rabbi and his son were slashed and wounded by a man wielding a box cutter and shouting "Allah-u-akbar!"

In the Telegraph, columnist Brendan O'Neill wonders why American liberals seem to be more worried about the reaction of some Americans to a radical Muslim motivation behind the bombing than about the bombing itself.

Todd Stewman, a church planting pastor in Austin, Texas, was at the finish line just minutes before the attack and not long after his wife had finished running the marathon. He reflects on the providence that had him away from the finish line and around the block when the bombs went off, while others were killed and maimed. He asks, "Where was God on Boylston Street?" Where is God in suffering?

Jesus, more than anyone in human history, suffered as an innocent.... God's hand was on him through it all. Jesus was perfectly at the center of the Father's will, even when he was suffering. What does this mean for us? It means that suffering does not indicate the absence of God. It means that God is with us in the midst of suffering. Jesus is the fulfillment of Psalm 23:4, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me." The only reason we can know for sure that God is with us through evil and suffering is that the Son of God waded into a broken world, experienced suffering himself, and overcame it. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ does not eliminate all suffering now, but it does guarantee that suffering will one day be eliminated ultimately when he comes again. The death and resurrection of Jesus tells us that God has not ignored evil and suffering, but that he has done something decisively about it. God has dealt a final blow to death by raising Jesus from the dead, and one day there will be no more death and suffering.

So, if I had died or been badly injured on Monday, God would no less have been with me. My safety and security are gifts from God, for which I am most certainly thankful. But my safety and security are not the litmus test of his presence and goodness. His presence and goodness are evidenced by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who "took up our pain and bore our suffering (Isaiah 53:4)."

Julie R. Neidlinger ponders how we respond emotionally to a far-away tragedy -- our rebellion against the thought that we aren't really in control, our desire to express care and concern to the victims without the means to do so in substantial ways, and how blind we can be to those who are within the reach of our help. There's so much insight here, it's tempting to quote the whole thing:

We post sad sentiments and outrage and images on social media. We like and share them and hope it changes the future so that it will never happen again. What else can we do to banish this bad thing? And then politicians mistakenly think their reason for existence is to legislate something so the human condition of pain and suffering doesn't rear its ugly head again.

"If something terrible ever happens to me, " I told my friend, "I don't want to be the excuse for bad legislation. I don't want to be memorialized as a victim. I didn't live 40 years on this planet to be remembered for a few final ugly moments and a fight in some elected political body in an attempt to make human nature illegal."

Tragedy and evil are not completely within our control. We make lots of noise and pretend it isn't so....

We're an ephemerally-connected world. We have a strange problem of being instantly connected to the news of what's happening but unable to do anything substantially. We can give money. Post to Facebook. Tweet. Use emoticons. Click "like".

But grief is best handled in person by people close to those affected, in actual physical proximity, and I can't do that on Facebook....

When something bad happens in the world, I realize I don't want to be able to weep huge tears for hurting people across the country and not feel anything for the actual people God put in my life.

The best thing I can do now is show my family and friends love.

I can let the people in my life know my thoughts are with them by sending a card or a bouquet of surprise flowers or talking on the phone even when I have work that I need to do. Little things are big things; they accumulate. Thinking kind thoughts are of little use if the person doesn't know you, and doesn't know you're thinking about them.

The best thing we can do when tragedy strikes elsewhere is make sure love happens here. Make the small world you're a part of better as a fight against the spreading darkness.

Back on Monday, April 22, 2013, Rob Port reported that U. S. Senator Frank Lautenberg is proposing black powder control in response to the Boston Marathon bombing. Port notes two possibly unintended consequences: (1) Restrictions on gunpowder hinder reloading of spent ammunition, which was one way around ammunition shortages. (2) Unable to get professionally-made black powder, some may resort to manufacturing their own, which will be lower quality and potentially more dangerous:

Here's the thing: Building explosives isn't hard. You can find recipes for making black powder and other explosives/incendiaries in library books. Of course, the problem with home-made black powder is that it's not very good. It'll go boom, just not as reliably.

By restricting access to professionally-made black powder, we're probably doing more to ensure more accidents with people trying to make powder at home than preventing the sort of terrible but, thankfully, rare attacks such as the one in Boston.

(UPDATE: See-Dubya calls my attention to this: One of the bombers bought a couple of large reloadable mortars with 24 shells at a fireworks store across the border in New Hampshire. The store's owner estimates he might have been able to harvest 1.5 pounds of black powder by dismantling the shells. Lautenberg's proposal wouldn't have caught a purchase like this.)

Writing at Next City, MIT urban planning student Andy Cook writes about the eerie quiet on the streets of Boston during the "shelter-in-place":

It was a strange walk studded with realizations of what my neighborhood looks like without the faces that usually draw my attention. There were things I pass everyday that I had never seen before. A cluster of low-slung row houses that had been standing for the last 100 years. Another home being built across the street -- how had I missed the gap that must have been there before? There were flowers, of course, everywhere, and the cashier that sold me a jar of ground coffee gave me the sweetest, saddest smile I've seen in a long time. The only sound I heard as I walked home was wind in the trees, and my own footsteps. My neighborhood was peaceful.

Further on in Cook's article, though, I get the distinct impression of "mission creep" in the realm of urban planning (see Neidlinger above about legislating to abolish human nature):

Many of us came to the department with a do-gooder mentality. We were motivated to pursue planning because we thought it could address the inequity we saw in the world. We felt (and feel) that structural inequality is at the root of societal problems we face on a daily basis, violence and despair among them. Planners are uniquely poised to bring a holistic approach to cumbersome and intractable issue....

More likely, [as professional planners] we'll have to make decisions about policies and resource allocations that help some and hurt others. The challenge of this is two-fold: To understand the complex systems well enough to plan for unintended consequences, and to make sure the consequences won't cause disruption or disenfranchisement that might lead a population to turn to violence as a means of protest, retribution or survival...

Deciphering the "why" behind the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt will be a long and contentious task. For some, it will begin and end with the biography of the bombers themselves. But we should press further, and follow with a close examination of the global systems that foster inequality, breeding hatred and violence internationally. We as Americans and as planners especially must never stop considering the unintended consequences of the systems we live by. We must measure impacts and decide when and how to retool those systems that are broken, that allow for days like Monday to occur.

Those of us who are Christians know that the ultimate brokenness is in the human heart. We can and should work to mitigate the effects of evil, and city planning can be a means to do so, but we will not be able to eradicate evil in this world.

Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher at the White House

A world-changer has left this world for a better one. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died today at age 87.

I don't remember when I started paying attention to British politics; sometime in the mid-'70s, I imagine. I had a shortwave radio, and I loved tuning in to hear the BBC World Service.

I remember news stories about strikes paralyzing the country and the inevitable decline of Britain from superpower to third-rate backwater. Britain's decline was part of a broader sense of decline and malaise throughout the western world. Communism was on the march abroad, and the socialist ratchet was at work at home, moving us toward a "new normal" -- less prosperous, less free, less secure.

The Conservative Party's victory in 1979, under Margaret Thatcher's leadership, was a harbinger of hope. Here was a leader unafraid to challenge the status quo of decline and despair in her own country and around the world. If Thatcher could win and govern successfully in Britain, there was hope of a conservative resurgence in America, too.

Pondering Thatcher's resolve to dispel the gloom of the 1970s with the light of liberty ought to encourage us that it can happen again, if we will persevere as she did.

Thatcher and President Reagan were willing to identify the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire and oppose it as such. Just a bit more than 10 years after Thatcher's first election, the Berlin Wall fell and European Communism collapsed. They were not ashamed of Anglo-American exceptionalism. The world needed the principles of liberty under law that were rooted at Runnymede.

There are many tributes to Thatcher on the web, beginning with the obituary from the Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Last January, when the Hollywood movie about her life came out, I put together a collection of videos and quotations of the real Margaret Thatcher. Conservative Home's Tory Diary has a running collection of tributes to Thatcher as does the Telegraph.

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan does a fine job of summing up Thatcher's transformational achievements, contrasting them with his own childhood memories of pre-Thatcher Britain:

I'm not sure you can appreciate the magnitude of Margaret Thatcher's achievement without some knowledge of the calamity that immediately preceded it.... What I do recall, though, was the sense of despair. Again and again, I would hear adults casually say "Britain is finished"....

These were the years of the three-day week, of prices and incomes policies, of double-digit inflation, of constant strikes, of power cuts. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the United Kingdom had been outperformed by every European economy. "Britain is a tragedy - it has sunk to borrowing, begging, stealing until North Sea oil comes in," said Henry Kissinger. The Wall Street Journal was blunter: "Goodbye, Great Britain: it was nice knowing you".

Margaret Thatcher, almost alone, refused to accept the inevitability of decline. She was determined to turn the country around, and she succeeded. Inflation fell, strikes stopped, the latent enterprise of a free people was awakened. Having lagged behind for a generation, we outgrew every European country in the 1980s except Spain (which was bouncing back from an even lower place). As revenues flowed in, taxes were cut and debt was repaid, while public spending - contrary to almost universal belief - rose.

In the Falklands, Margaret Thatcher showed the world that a great country doesn't retreat forever. And, by ending the wretched policy of one-sided détente that had allowed the Soviets to march into Europe, Korea and Afghanistan, she set in train the events that would free hundreds of millions of people from what, in crude mathematical terms, must be reckoned the most murderous ideology humanity has known.

Hannan notes, too, the prescience of the principled stand that led to her ouster:

Still, it can't be repeated too often: the immediate cause of Margaret Thatcher's toppling was that she opposed Britain's membership of the euro. Who called that one right?

Historian Paul Johnson, writing in the Wall Street Journal, focuses on Thatcher's effect on British business:

The 1970s marked the climax of Britain's postwar decline, in which "the English disease"--overweening trade-union power--was undermining the economy by strikes and inflationary wage settlements. The Boilermakers Union had already smashed the shipbuilding industry. The Amalgamated Engineers Union was crushing what was left of the car industry. The print unions were imposing growing censorship on the press. Not least, the miners union, under the Stalinist Arthur Scargill, had invented new picketing strategies that enabled them to paralyze the country wherever they chose.

Attempts at reform had led to the overthrow of the Harold Wilson Labour government in 1970, and an anti-union bill put through by Heath led to the destruction of his majority in 1974 and its replacement by another weak Wilson government that tipped the balance of power still further in the direction of the unions. The general view was that Britain was "ungovernable."...

Johnson describes the legislation Thatcher passed to rein in the unions' destructive behavior, simplify the tax code and reduce tax rates, and returning inefficient state-owned industries to the private sector, reforms that echoed around the world.

More important than all these specific changes, however, was the feeling Thatcher engendered that Britain was again a country where enterprise was welcomed and rewarded, where businesses small and large had the benign blessing of government, and where investors would make money.

MORE:

Andrew Roberts draws lessons from Thatcher's legacy for today

The Telegraph has a video reel of Thatcher's most memorable House of Commons appearances.

Thatcher's Soviet counterpart, Mikhail Gorbachev, remembers his old adversary and her role in ending the Cold War.

The Tablet notes Thatcher's support for the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, a relationship that began when she was 12, working with her older sister raise money to help a Jewish girl escape Austria in 1938 and continued through her 33 years representing the Jewish entrepreneurs of Finchley.

Via Jim Geraghty, video of Thatcher in 1984 with actors Paul Eddington and Nigel Hawthorne, stars of the political series, "Yes, Minister," performing a sketch she wrote.

At a Conservative party conference in 1989, Thatcher compares the Liberal Democrats' new bird-like symbol to... a dead parrot:

Columnist Mark Steyn writes Thatcher thought Britain was worth fighting for, but worries that her time in office was only "a magnificent but temporary interlude in a great nation's bizarre, remorseless self-dissolution."

In Britain in the Seventies, everything that could be nationalized had been nationalized, into a phalanx of lumpen government monopolies all flying the moth-eaten flag: British Steel, British Coal, British Airways, British Rail ... . The government owned every industry - or, if you prefer, "the British people" owned every industry. And, as a consequence, the unions owned the British people. The top income tax rate was 83 percent, and on investment income, 98 percent. No electorally viable politician now thinks the government should run airlines and car plants and that workers should live their entire lives in government housing. But what seems obvious[ly wrong] to all in 2013 was the bipartisan consensus four decades ago, and it required an extraordinary political will for one woman to drag her own party, then the nation, and, subsequently, much of the rest of the world, back from the cliff edge.

Michelle Malkin remembers Margaret Thatcher with some lengthy excerpts from her 1975 speech to the Conservative Party conference, following her selection as leader of the party.

The Hope for America blog has eight great moments from Margaret Thatcher's career from which modern American conservatives should learn. Here she is in 1987, after her third general election victory, recalling those who said in 1975 that such a feat was impossible for a conservative.

Mr. President, 12 years ago, I first stood on this platform as leader of the Conservative Party. Now one or two things have changed since 1975. In that year, we were still groaning under Labour's so-called social contract. People said we should never be able to govern again. Remember how we'd all been lectured about political impossibility. You couldn't be a conservative and sound like a conservative and win an election, they said. And you certainly couldn't win an election and act like a conservative and win another election. And this was absolutely beyond dispute: You couldn't win two elections and go on acting like a conservative and yet win a third election.

THE TRIBUTES CONTINUE:

Oleg Atbashian, proprietor of the People's Cube, tells his personal story of encountering Thatcher's words as a young man in Ukraine, listening to the BBC and Voice of America on his shortwave set -- when the Soviets weren't jamming the broadcasts. He explains how news of Thatcher's reforms shattered his state-sponsored illusions about the west.

Gradually, the news sank in: if Britain was indeed a socialist state, then everything we were told about the outside world was a lie. And not just any lie -- it was an inconceivably monstrous, colossal lie, which our Communist Party and the media thoroughly maintained, apparently, to prevent us from asking these logical questions: if the Brits also had free, cradle-to-grave entitlements like we did, then why were we still fighting the Cold War? And what was the purpose of the Iron Curtain? Was it to stop us from collectively surrendering to the Brits, so that their socialist government could establish the same welfare state on our territory -- only with more freedom and prosperity minus the Communist Party?

The next logical question would be this: if Great Britain wasn't yet as socialist as the Soviet Union, then didn't it mean that whatever freedom, prosperity, and working economy it had left were directly related to having less socialism? And if less socialism meant a freer, more productive, and more prosperous nation, then wouldn't it be beneficial to have as little socialism as possible? Or perhaps -- here's a scary thought -- to just get rid of socialism altogether?

And wasn't it exactly what Margaret Thatcher was doing as a prime minister?

Atbashian designed an "IRON" poster with Thatcher's photo (a parody of the Obama Hope poster); the museum in her hometown of Grantham, Lincolnshire, is using it now to raise funds to build a statue of Thatcher. He notes that Thatcher succeeded in politics without the benefit of the kind of cult of personality that President Obama enjoys:

And yet she exerted great influence over people. She did it merely by being who she was: informed, unwavering in the face of adversity, brave in defending the truth, and confident in her belief that the free markets are a force for good, while socialism is a force for evil. A few Western leaders may have agreed with her in private, but they didn't have the courage to say it openly in the twisted moral climate brought on their countries by the false promise of socialism.

What Thatcher showed to these men is that when one has no fear of speaking the truth and possesses enough moral conviction to push back, miracles happen. Britain's resurrection as an economic powerhouse was one of them.

Her message came through despite all the hostile efforts to jam it around the world, shattering not just the Western establishment's media filters, but the Iron Curtain itself.

It still resonates; if only today's leaders could listen.

UPDATE 2013/04/17:

The Telegraph reports that Thatcher planned her funeral service to be an expression of her Christian faith, choosing the readings and hymns and excluding a political eulogy:

Cynical detractors who expect Lady Thatcher's funeral to be used for the Conservatives' political gain may be surprised (and perhaps disappointed privately) to learn that there will be no political eulogy. Although the occasion has been code-named Operation True Blue, the sole object of worship will be God, not free market ideology. Lady Thatcher is said to have been concerned that her funeral would become the subject of political debate. The woman who relished an opportunity for confrontation was, for once, resolved to avoid it. Her funeral would not be Conservative; it would be Christian.

The service included the hymns "To Be a Pilgrim" and "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," the anthem, "Thou Knowest, Lord, the Secrets of Our Hearts," by Henry Purcell, and the patriotic hymn, "I Vow to Thee, My Country." Prime Minister David Cameron read from John 14 ("In my Father's house there are many mansions") and granddaughter Amanda Thatcher read from Ephesians 6 ("Put on the whole armor of God").

abigaillitle.jpgTen years ago today, I awoke to radio news reports of a bus bombing in Haifa, Israel, killing 17 and injuring 53, including many school children. To us it was more than a report of a distant tragedy: Dear friends from MIT, working for the Baptist denomination in Israel, lived there with their five children.

Later in the day we got the terrible news that our friends' 14-year-old daughter, Abigail Litle, was one of those murdered when a 20-year-old Palestinian man boarded the bus she was on and detonated a shrapnel-laden vest.

The massacre got little attention in the American media, despite the fact that an American citizen was a victim, as if Palestinian mass murder was so ordinary as not to be newsworthy. But two weeks later, the media went nuts over the death of Rachel Corrie, a foolish young American woman who stood herself in front of a bulldozer to protect the infrastructure of the Palestinian murder machine.

The anti-Israeli terrorist group Hamas took credit for the Haifa massacre, and it was later learned that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein sent $25,000 as a reward to the family of the murderer.


In a just world, anyone involved a plot to massacre innocent civilians would be food for vultures. But in 2011, two of plotters of the Haifa bus mass murder, serving life sentences, were among those to be released in a prisoner exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Fadi Muhammad al-Jabaa, sentenced to 18 life sentences for plotting the suicide bombing of a Haifa bus in 2003, in which 17 passengers were murdered, will be released and deported to Gaza. The list also includes Maedh Abu Sharakh, also convicted of plotting the Haifa bus bombing.

These men walk free, but the United States could prosecute them and others complicit in the murder and maiming of American citizens. A group called the Parents Forum for Justice (PFJ), American citizens whose children are victims of Palestinian terrorism in Israel, have called on Attorney General Eric Holder to enforce the 1990 Anti-Terrorism Act and related laws against using explosives to harm American citizens overseas:

Fadi Muhammad al-Jaaba, Maedh Abu Sharakh and Majdi Muhammad Amr, sentenced to multiple life terms for planning a 2003 Haifa bus bombing that claimed the lives of 17 people, among them 14-year-old American schoolgirl Abigail Leitel, were also let go in the deal and should be indicted by the US, the PFJ letter said.

"[Since their release] we have had to endure the sight of these unrepentant killers not only walking free but also being embraced as heroes, celebrated and honored by the communities to which they have now returned, and by the US-funded Palestinian Authority."

The group says that despite US anti-terror laws and assurances that authorities are investigating their cases, the Department of Justice has so far failed to indict or prosecute a single terrorist.

This is telling: According to Nathan Lewin, a former official in the US Department of Justice, the DOJ has extradited and prosecuted terrorists under these laws -- just not Palestinian terrorists who murdered Americans in Israel:

Prosecutions have been brought in American federal courts against individuals responsible for bombings that killed Americans in the Philippines, Colombia, Kenya, and Tanzania. Many of the individuals accused of these crimes were brought here for trial following their extradition, on the request of the United States, from foreign countries. American prosecutors have not, however, charged the Hamas perpetrators of bombings in Israel such as the 2001 and 2003 bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa, even though American citizens were murdered in these attacks. They have relied on the Israeli legal process to arrest and punish the perpetrators.

Tamimi, al-Jabaa, Sharakh, Amr, and Dar Musa were prosecuted and convicted in Israeli courts. They and other perpetrators of these murders received either multiple sentences of life imprisonment or long prison terms. Until they were released by Israel's government under duress in order to bring Gilad Shalit home, they expected to spend the rest of their lives in Israeli prisons. They are now free in Jordan or Gaza.

The Department of Justice should now indict, extradite, and put to trial in United States courts, under American law, these killers of American citizens.

Don't hold your breath. The U. S. federal bureaucracy seems institutionally hostile to Israel's right to existence and self-defense. I would like to say that things are better under Republican administrations, but that's not true. An op-ed in the Jerusalem Post noted that the State Department's 2004 report on human rights didn't name any of the victims of Palestinian terrorism in the previous year:

Of course, it duly notes that the PA security services have themselves conducted terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Yet aside from condemning every action Israel has taken to combat terrorism and thereby equating actions aimed at protecting Israeli citizens with terrorism, the report does something even more offensive.

The report very sensitively gives the names of a dozen or so Palestinian children who died during Israeli assaults against Palestinian terrorists who used these children for cover. Yet, grotesquely, while the names of Palestinian children are listed, the report provides not one name of any Israeli victim of Palestinian terrorism. Not the Ohayon children, not 14-year-old Abigail Litle who was murdered on a bus on her way home from school and not the names of hundreds of other Israeli men, women and children who were murdered last year.

By naming Palestinian victims while not giving names of Israeli victims, the State Department report follows in the path of the general climate that has gripped us for the past 40 months. This general climate is characterized by the dehumanization of Israelis and Jews by the international community.

Last year Rachel Corrie's family sued the Israeli Defense Forces. In the run-up to the trial, the US State Department told Corrie's family "that the Israeli government has not been thorough or credible in their investigation of her death" and expressed its condolences over the dismissal of the family's suit.

Maybe this attitude is a carryover from the 1940s, when the State Department was riddled with Communists working to keep America on the sidelines as their Stalinist and Maoist comrades enslaved hundreds of millions of eastern Europeans and Chinese. Their modern counterparts must want to see Israel pushed into the sea, since at every opportunity they push for Israel to appease terror groups like Hamas and they express sympathy with the murderers and their allies. The continued existence of Israel and the Jewish people, testifying to the sovereignty of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, must be terribly offensive to leftists who want us all to worship government as our god.

What of the Litle family? About a year ago, freelance journalist Nicole Schiavi interviewed the Litles for Charisma magazine:

Now, almost nine years removed from the tragedy that tore one of their children from them, the Litles have further settled in Israel rather than return to the relative safety of America.

The family's grieving and healing process included entrenching themselves in the land they call home. The family applied for residency--a right due them as victims of terrorism; Heidi trained to be a medic and volunteered with the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross; their children all have joined the army.

Josiah, the oldest, joined a combat unit. Hannah serves in Israel's navy. Elishua took up fencing and duels with an Israeli national team. He and Noah, the youngest, will be drafted in the next few years.

"They all want to serve," Heidi says. "They all think it's the right thing to do."

After losing one child to a war not their own, it wasn't easy for the Litles to watch their children volunteer for the army--mandatory for citizens, but not incumbent upon residents. Despite that, Philip believes it is part of the family's responsibility of living in Israel.

"I've enjoyed the protection of the state of Israel the whole time I've been here," he says. "My children feel very much that they have enjoyed that and that it's the right thing to serve what they see is their country. If other children serve to make me safe, then my children have no special privileges."...

The Litles counted the cost before they crossed the Atlantic, yet no one could have imaged that cost would be Abigail, the second child and eldest daughter, who was 7 months old when they arrived in Israel.

"We felt called to come here, called to tie our lives to the people. Abigail's death is a part of the struggle," Philip says. "It is something to be expected when you choose to identify with a people and live your life for their benefit."

In a 2009 interview, Heidi Litle, Abigail's mother, spoke about how their Christian faith gave them the hope they needed to stay together after the tragedy. She also answered a question about the ongoing attacks from Palestinian terrorists:

I guess I'm not convinced that the political issues are the real issues involved, that it's really an issue of people's hearts. When hatred is being sown in people's hearts, nothing can come from it but war.... I think that Israel should be allowed to defend herself from the hatred that's being poured out on her.

Please keep the Litle family and the families of other victims of Palestinian terrorism in your prayers, and work and pray for the defeat of those who are sowing hatred in the hearts of young Palestinians.

MORE:

Remembering Abigail Litle, a victim of hate: My March 2003 column on the Haifa massacre.

Remembering Abigail Litle, a victor in faith: The reflections of Philip Litle, Abigail's father, on her death and funeral from April 2003.

BatesLine post on the fifth anniversary, with links to other commentary.

Giuliano Meiotti includes Abigail Litle in a long list of victims of Palestinian violence who had been actively working to promote peace and coexistence. Abigail was part of the "Children Teaching Children" program which brought together students at Israeli and Arab schools.

In March 2003, former Middle East correspondent Tom Gross reviewed the New York Times coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and found a blind eye to Palestinian attacks on civilians that impedes prospects for peace:

On the next day (March 5), another American Baptist, 14-year-old Abigail Litle, was among 16 people killed by a suicide bomber on a bus in Haifa, Israel. The story and photo caption in the March 6 Times, tucked at the bottom corner of page 1, made no mention of Abigail's name. Neither the headline nor the photo caption indicated that an American had died, or that the suicide bomber had deliberately chosen a bus packed with schoolchildren, or that a majority of those killed had been teenagers....

The lack of prominence given to Litle's death is one small example of what has become a familiar pattern at the Times. The paper downplays Israeli suffering, and de-emphasizes Yasser Arafat's responsibility for the suffering of Israelis and ordinary Palestinians alike.

On March 21, 2003, Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Oregon) mentioned Abigail Litle in his speech in support of the Koby Mandell Act (S. 684, 108th Congress), creating an Office for Overseas Victims of Terrorism in the Department of Justice.

My blogpal Angel Clark is riding out Hurricane Sandy in Sussex County, Delaware, not far from the Atlantic Ocean. No internet where she is, but she was able to set up a blog entry with a collection of photos of Sandy damage along the Delaware shore -- Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach, South Bethany, and Fenwick Island.

If you were wondering how to calm your cat before a hurricane, Angel has the answer.

Delaware's beaches were a favorite destination of my wife's family during her childhood, we visited as a family just this summer, and I took several day-trips to the shore during some job-related trips to the state the year before, so it's amazing to see familiar scenes transformed dramatically by wind and water. Dune breaches have covered Delaware Route 1 -- the main coastal road -- with sand and water. Streets are flooded in every town along the coast.

For the latest updates, follow Angel on Twitter at @SussexAngelC or like the Angel Clark Show on Facebook. When the power and the internet are on, you can hear the Angel Clark Show every day from 4 pm to 6 pm Central time at angelclark.us.

It's a week old now, but here's Bret Baier's report on the deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on 9/11/2012. The timeline begins with the revolution to topple Moammar Ghadafi in 2011 and moves through the months that followed, including an assassination attempt on the British ambassador in June 2012. Those on the ground discuss the efforts to convince higher-ups to keep the same levels of security in Libya, as security incidents increased. The report continues through the Obama administration's response over the following weeks.

It ought to make you very angry.

Since this report, it's emerged that there may have been American close air support nearby to take out the forces attacking Americans in Benghazi. A ground laser designator was used to identify a target for destruction by US firepower in the air, such as an AC-130U gunship. Requests for help were denied.

20120127-Coburn-Levin-PSIhearing.jpgA Senate subcommittee staff report just released says that state and local fusion centers, backed by "somewhere between $289 million and $1.4 billion" in federal funds, "have been unable to meaningfully contribute to federal counterterrorism efforts" and that the U. S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) "does not adequately oversee its financial support for fusion centers." Many centers, the report states, "didn't consider counterterrorism an explicit part of their mission, and federal officials said some were simply not concerned with doing counterterrorism work."

The report is the result of a two-year-long bipartisan probe into federally-funded fusion centers instigated by Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, prepared jointly by the majority and minority staff of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The report will be released Wednesday morning, October 3, 2012, on the subcommittee's website.

The investigation looked at "more than a year's worth of intelligence reporting from centers, conducting a nationwide survey of fusion centers, and examining thousands of pages of financial records and grant documentation." Despite combing through 13 months of fusion center reporting, the "Subcommittee investigation could identify no reporting which uncovered a terrorist threat, nor could it identify a contribution such fusion center reporting made to disrupt an active terrorist plot.

The report cites money wasted on SUVs, televisions, and surveillance equipment unnecessary to the mission, non-existent fusion centers that nonetheless are funded by DHS, and worthless "intelligence reports" that waste the time of DHS counterterrorism analysts, including some that, contrary to law, reported on U. S. citizens lawfully exercising their 1st Amendment rights.

Worse yet, "senior DHS officials were aware of the problems... but did not always inform Congress of the issues, nor ensure the problems were fixed in a timely manner." DHS conducted two assessments of fusion centers, in 2010 and 2011, finding "widespread deficiencies" and "ongoing weaknesses." When the Senate subcommittee requested a copy of the 2010 assessment, "DHS at first denied it existed, then disputed whether it could be shared with Congress, before ultimately providing a copy."

Fusion centers are funded by DHS through Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant programs and provides support services through its State and Local Program Office (DLPO). While fusion centers may be useful for state, local, and tribal governments to pursue traditional criminal investigations, the purpose behind federal support for fusion centers was because of their potential value in supporting DHS's counterterrorism efforts, by spotting threat information to be shared with and analyzed by DHS.

MORE: G. W. Schulz of the Center for Investigative Reporting has been covering stories of wasteful Homeland Security spending for years. Schulz and fellow CIR reporter Andrew Becker have an analysis of the Senate report on fusion centers.

The nation's vast network of anti-terrorism "fusion centers" for law enforcement have produced shoddy, untimely and often useless intelligence reports that have done little to keep the U.S. safer, a scathing U.S. Senate report concludes.

The 141-page report, a copy of which was obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting, identified problems with nearly every significant aspect of the Department of Homeland Security's more than 70 fusion centers, which were designed for law enforcement to coordinate their intelligence gathering.

The report marks one of the most blistering indictments to date of the Department of Homeland Security's domestic intelligence operation. The department, investigators conclude, "has not attempted to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the value federal taxpayers have received for that investment."

(Tulsa readers will no doubt recall the very thorough features and investigative stories that Schulz produced for Urban Tulsa Weekly as the paper's city reporter about seven years ago.)

I don't remember exactly what I was doing this morning at 7:46 a.m. Central time, eleven years to the minute after Islamic radicals flew a large commercial jetliner into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, but I was probably scrambling to find a working copier to copy the quiz over the definite article, first declension masculine nouns, and the imperfect tense to give to five students who likely had no idea where they were when the first aircraft hit the North Tower or the second aircraft hit the South Tower or the third aircraft hit the Pentagon or the fourth aircraft plowed up a field in southwestern Pennsylvania.

I knew where one of my five students had been at that moment, because he had been riding in the backseat of my car, excited about another day of school -- his third ever -- as we drove south on Yale toward 51st and heard Michael DelGiorno, then the host on KTBZ (The Buzz, in its brief incarnation as a news-talk station), report a plane hitting one of the World Trade Center tower -- surely a bizarre accident. By the time I picked my son up from school at noon, it had all unfolded, and but I kept the radio off, trying to shield his ears from the news, trying to enjoy a visit to the zoo on a cloudless September day.

In retrospect it would have been appropriate for me to deviate from Attic grammar for a few minutes at the beginning of class today to talk about what happened, to describe the fear and the worry we felt in Tulsa, far from New York and Washington but only 100 miles from what had been until that moment the worst terrorist attack on American soil, to tell some of the stories told by New York friends of the chaos of that day, to tell of a family's anxious search through New York for former Tulsan Jayesh Shah, the sad conclusion to that quest, and the grieving wife, mother, children, and brother he left behind. I should have told them about the touching memorial service a month later and showed them the model of the Twin Towers and Pentagon -- a remembrance from Jay's family.

My students and their peers need to know that the attack was no historical abstraction. It involved Americans like themselves, their parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, who were merely going about their business on 9/11/2001 when terrorists took their lives in the name of Islam.

My students need to know that the hijackers fueled their hate by listening to radical Islamist preachers right here in the United States and that the demands of political correctness led authorities to turn a deaf ear to the sermons of hate. They need to know that the hijackers used the infrastructure of illegal immigrant day labor to acquire the fake IDs that got them aboard the planes.

They need to know that a Muslim in their own city who wrote an op-ed condemning terror in the name of Islam was harassed and threatened at his place of worship. They should know that in 2008, at a Burger King two miles away from their school, a State Trooper tackled and disarmed a man with a Glock who was praying to Allah for strength to carry out his mission.

They need to know that what happened 11 years ago was the culmination of an Islamist war on America that dates back at least as far as the 1979 Iranian assault on the American Embassy in Tehran. They need to know that the assault continued today as mobs attacked the American Embassy in Cairo and the American Consulate in Benghazi under the watchful eyes of newly installed Islamist-friendly governments in Egypt and Libya. And they need to know about our government's weak and apologetic response and clumsy cleanup.

My students and their peers need to understand that we cannot take a holiday from history, as much as we might wish we could. We're training them to be leaders of the future. They need to understand the world in which they must lead.

As Michelle Malkin wrote in 2003, we need remembrance, resolve, and action to deal with the inconvenient, frightening realities today's leaders all too often seem all too afraid to face.

MORE:

My post on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, with links to first-hand accounts of the day and its aftermath.

David French: 9/11: The Case for Controlled and Sustained Rage

Britain's Channel 4 cancels screening of "Islam: The Untold Story" under threat of violence

Victor Davis Hanson: Ripples of 9/11

The chant of the Egyptian mob that attacked our embassy: "Obama! Obama! There are still a billion Osamas!"

James Lileks blog entry on the day after

James Lileks' 2009 reflections

And finally this: A brief debunking of the "9/11: A Conspiracy Theory" video making the rounds on Facebook today. Follow the links for a more detailed rebuttal.

STILL MORE:

Karol Markowicz on the impulse behind trooferism, both old and new:

It's much easier to continue hating George W. Bush -- to focus on bogus charges that he sat back and did nothing while his country was attacked -- than it is to understand nameless, faceless people who still want us dead today.

Both types of truthers want something else to be the reality. They want someone safe to blame, someone who didn't chop off Daniel Pearl's head and doesn't blow himself up to advance a cause we find bizarre.

The government, and the Bush administration specifically, is that safe target. Better to insist that the Bushies just screwed up than to acknowledge that we remain under threat, that (even with those restrictions on cooperation removed) our government may not be able to stop some future attack.

That truth is just too scary to face.

Julie Neidlinger was traveling by Amtrak on September 11, 2001, a journey planned as part of a vacation. She recalls the sense of isolation from the news, but feeling the impact through all the accidental tourists using Amtrak to replace cancelled business flights.

STILL MORE:

On the first anniversary of the attacks, my wife and I sang as part of a choir of 65 voices, members of the Coventry Chorale, the Tulsa Opera, Tulsa Oratorio Chorus, Holland Hall School Concert Chorus, accompanied by members of the Tulsa Philharmonic. The event was part of a worldwide "Rolling Requiem" to perform Mozart's Requiem in every timezone, beginning at the time of the attacks in each timezone, so that this musical remembrance of the dead would roll around the world for 24 hours. In his blog, James Watts, arts critic of the Tulsa World, remembers the event:

While I -- as do most Americans -- remember where I was and what I was doing on Sept. 11, 2001, what I prefer to remember on this day is where I was on Sept. 11, 2002....

At the conclusion of the Requiem, the powerful notes of "Quia pius es (For You are merciful)," the crowd rose to its feet and applauded for as long as it took for the singers and musicians to exit the sanctuary -- an ovation of nearly three minutes.

And as the crowd made its way outside the church, the bell at Trinity Episcopal began to sound. It would continue to sound at 12-second intervals throughout the day, until it had tolled 3,043 times: one for each victim of the Sept. 11 attacks.


White House photo: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, 1988

There's this new movie with Meryl Streep as Maggie. I'm not sure why one would bother paying $10 to see a fake Thatcher, when you can find so much on the web about the real Iron Lady. Here's the real deal, in a video produced by the Heritage Foundation:

In 1960, at home with her two children, following her maiden speech in the Commons:

More videos from over the course of her political career up to her final public speech, a eulogy for President Reagan, after the jump.

The Margaret Thatcher Foundation's website includes thousands of Thatcher's speeches and statements, major and minor alike, from 1945 to the present.

A U. S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) money-laundering and forfeiture complaint filed Thursday, December 15, 2011, in U. S. District Court for the Southern District of New York lists a Tulsa company, Ace Auto Leasing, Inc., as the recipient of over $20 million in wire transfers from Lebanese financial institutions with links to Lebanese terrorist group Hizbollah ("The Party of God").

The DEA news release describes the alleged money-laundering scheme:

DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara announced today the filing of a civil money-laundering and in rem forfeiture complaint (the "Complaint") alleging a massive, international scheme in which Lebanese financial institutions, including a bank and two exchange houses linked to Hizballah, used the U.S. financial system to launder narcotics trafficking and other criminal proceeds through West Africa and back into Lebanon. As part of the scheme, funds were wired from Lebanon to the United States to buy used cars, which were then transported to West Africa. Cash from the sale of the cars, along with proceeds of narcotics trafficking, were then funneled to Lebanon through Hizballah-controlled money laundering channels. Substantial portions of the cash were paid to Hizballah, which the U.S. Department of State designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997. As alleged in the Complaint, the Hizballah-linked financial institutions involved in the scheme include the Lebanese Canadian Bank ("LCB") and two Lebanese exchange houses - the Hassan Ayash Exchange Company and Ellissa Holding - and their related subsidiaries and affiliates.

The two exchange houses are listed as defendants, and their assets, along with the assets of 30 used car dealers in the United States (including Ace Auto Leasing, Inc.), are named as defendants in rem.

A New York Times graphic from Tuesday, December 13, 2011, depicts the complex flow of money in the alleged money-laundering scheme. Funds from car sales in west Africa and profits from European drug sales wound up in Benin, where the funds were shipped to exchange houses in Lebanon. Some of those funds went to Hizbollah, some money went back to the US via the Lebanese Canadian Bank to buy more used cars, which were shipped to west Africa for sale.

According to page 49 of the DEA complaint (75-page PDF), Ace Auto Leasing Inc. received 219 wire transfers totalling $20,241,183, with the following breakdown by originator:

Hassan Ayash Exchange 4
$418,641
Mohamad Hassan Hammoud 42
$5,101,035
Fadi Hammoud 5
$454,300
Fadi Star 43
$5,030,006
Khodor Fakih 6
$688,974
Ali Fakih 4
$289,704
Fakih for General Trade 11
$694,266
Others
104
$7,564,257

Pages 34-35 of the complaint explain what the Hassan Ayash Exchange is:

E. Hassan Ayash Exchange Company

46. The Hassan Ayash Exchange Company is a money exchange based in Beirut, Lebanon. The Hassan Ayash Exchange is owned and controlled by Mahmoud Hassan Ayash ("Hassan Ayash") and his son, Hassan Mahmoud Ayash. The exchange's principal office is located adjacent to the Caesar Park Hotel in Beirut, which is owned by Ayman Joumaa.

47. Wire transfers originating from the Hassan Ayash Exchange Company totaling approximately $141,522,091 were sent to United States accounts for the purpose of purchasing or shipping cars between in or about January 2007 and in or about January 2011.

48. Hassan Ayash and the Hassan Ayash Exchange Company facilitate bulk cash transfers and money laundering by, among others, Ayman Joumaa and Joumaa's narcotics trafficking and money laundering network.

49. Hassan Ayash has stated that he has family ties to Hizballah, including Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizballah. Hassan Ayash has further stated that his connections to important people in Lebanon help him provide services for clients of the Hassan Ayash Exchange. Hassan Ayash requires that an existing client of the Hassan Ayash Exchange Company vouch for a prospective client before the prospective client can establish an account with the exchange to transfer large amounts of money.

Here's what pp 47-48 of the complaint states about the other names mentioned above:

c. Khodor Fakih is a Hizballah member from Kafra, Lebanon, who now works in the car business in Cotonou, Benin. Khodor Fakih and Ali Fakih are believed to own and control Fakih for General Trade. From approximately January 2007 through early 2011, Khodor Fakih, Ali Fakih, and Fakih for General Trade wired approximately $2,589,325 to the U.S. relating to buying and shipping cars.

d. Fadi Hassan Hammoud and Mohammad Hassan Hammoud own and operate Fadi Star, a shipping company in Cotonou, Benin. Mohammad Hammoud is a Hizballah supporter from Kafra, Lebanon, and has done business with Khodor Fakih. From approximately January 2007 through early 2011, Fadi Star, Mohammad Hassan Hammoud, and Fadi Hassan Hammoud wired approximately $11,382,906 to the U.S. relating to buying and shipping cars.

KTUL seems to be the first local news outlet to pick up this story. They interviewed DEA Agent Derek Maltz:

He says the investigation is still ongoing and it's questionable whether or not the dealership owners knew they were helping Hezbollah.

"We do not have detailed specific information on what these car dealership owners knew we will investigate it jointly with our partners in the United States and hopefully we will shut them down," says Maltz.

While we again mourn the dead and recall the shock of 9/11/2001, we mustn't forget the path that led to 9/11 -- the Islamist preachers and philosophers who inspired the attacks, the jihadis who carried them out, and the mixture of immigration laxity and political correctness that enabled the attacks to succeed.

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of spending most of the morning with See-Dubya, a sometime guest blogger for Michelle Malkin. After breakfast, See-Dubya pointed out a number of landmarks in the Falls Church area. See-Dubya pointed out the Dar al-Hijrah mosque, where Anwar al-Awlaqi preached hatred against America and Nidal Hasan (the Ft. Hood gunman) sat under his preaching. It tells you something about this area that a restaurant named Al-Jazeera Garden could stay in business for any length of time.

SD001122

(The restaurant in question is Yemeni, the name means "The Island", and it appears they've since relocated elsewhere in Falls Church under a slightly different English transliteration of the name.)

One of the landmarks See-Dubya pointed out, just a tenth of a mile away from the above photo, is a 7-Eleven convenience store on Leesburg Pike. Today, in a special appearance on MichelleMalkin.com, See-Dubya explains the connections between 9/11 and this particular 7-Eleven, a haven for day laborers less than a mile down the road from Dar al-Hijrah.

This particular 7-11 (you can see the sign, and the workers, in the background, through the monsoon) is in Falls Church, Virginia, on the Leesburg Pike, just down the road from the Dar al-Hijrah mosque. Ten years ago, a charismatic imam named Anwar al-Awlaki manned the pulpit there, and a U.S. soldier named Nidal Hasan listened to his sermons in the congregation.

In fact just a little over ten years ago a couple of worshipers from Dar al-Hijrah drove up to this particular 7-11. They weren't really interested in hiring the day laborers so much as getting someone to help them acquire forged identification. That turned out to be a fellow named Luis A. Martinez-Flores, himself an illegal immigrant, and he walked the two Arabs, Hani Hanjour and Khaled Almidhar, through the process of getting Virginia ID cards--after which they returned to this particular 7-11, withdrew $100 from the ATM, and handed it to Mr. Martinez-Flores....

Hanjour and Almidhar and three other young Arab men used those fake IDs (and three more derived from them) to board American Airlines Flight 77, hijack it, and fly it into the Pentagon.

See-Dubya writes that the 7-Eleven, still operating and in use as an unofficial day-labor center (check out Google Street View) is a monument to America's failure to recognize the connections between our lax enforcement of immigration laws and our vulnerability to terrorist attacks:

You would think the first thing that the newly-formed Department Homeland Security would have done would be to raid this particular labor market, frequented by illegal aliens and the document fraudsters that enable them to feign legitimacy, and shut it down for good. This is the site of our immigration policy's greatest, most shameful failure, after all. Of course, ten years on, it's just business as usual and the shame and failure continue unabated. There's no marker to commemorate what happened there. You'd never know anything historically significant had happened there ten years ago.

You'd have no indication at that particular 7-11 what a petty, commonplace, wretched little conspiracy was committed, and what a dreadful, monstrous crime was thereby abetted. That was where and when our self-deception about the illegal labor market and the security risks it presents caught up to us. Everyone should know this place. Everyone should vow that what happened there will never be permitted to happen again.

It's somewhat surprising that there hasn't been a civil action against the owner of this store for tolerating (if not harboring) the illegal activity that made one of the 9/11 attacks possible. For what it's worth, the Fairfax County property database lists as owner:

LIDE BEVERLY SMITH
CARE SOUTHLAND CORP
P O BOX 711
DALLAS TX 75221

which suggests that it's corporate-owned, not a franchise. The last sale recorded was 12/31/1966.

MORE:

The Path to 9/11, a miniseries dramatizing the events that began with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing leading to September 11, but grounded in documented facts, aired on ABC on the fifth anniversary in 2006, but despite public demand, it has never been released on DVD. According to the program's writer, Cyrus Nowrasteh, the problem is political:

The normal time frame from broadcast to DVD for miniseries and movies is approximately four months. Originally I was told by ABC that the DVD release date of Path would be in January [2007]. January came and went, and I was told June was the new release date. Then July. Now ABC's official statement is, "We have not decided on a release date at this time." No further explanation.

But privately, I was told by an ABC executive that "If Hillary weren't running for President, this wouldn't be a problem." The clear message is that ABC/Disney isn't eager to reopen the wound or feel the pressure again from politicians anxious to whitewash their legacy. They would rather just let the miniseries die a quiet death. Executive Producer Marc Platt, a well-known Hollywood Liberal, even had to finance the limited Emmy campaign himself because Disney/ABC refused to do so (which is unheard of for such a high-profile production). This passive self-censorship is just as effective as anything Joseph Stalin or Big Brother could impose; the result is the same, the curbing of free speech and creative expression, and the suppression of a viewpoint that may be an inconvenient truth for some politicians....

The issue is that corporate timidity is preventing millions of Americans from finding The Path to 9/11 on DVD - though other politically controversial movies are readily available, such as Loose Change, which argues that the Bush administration targeted American citizens for death in an elaborate and sinister plot; or Michael Moore's unabashedly biased Fahrenheit 9/11. These highly-charged movies, which don't even offer a pretense of balance, and others can be found online or in retail outlets and DVD rental stores across the country - and so they should be, just as The Path to 9/11 should be.

The documentary is being screened at a theater in Los Angeles today but is otherwise unavailable to the viewing public. (If you do some searching, however, you might find a torrent (ahem) of information about The Path to 9/11.) A documentary called Blocking the Path to 9/11 describes the pressure placed on ABC to cut certain scenes and dialogue and includes some of the deleted scenes.

Remembering 9/11: Ten years

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Take a moment to remember University of Tulsa and Memorial High School graduate Jayesh Shah, who worked on the 103rd floor of the north tower for Cantor Fitzgerald, and to pray for his family, who are there at Ground Zero for today's commemorations. This 2002 story from the Houston Chronicle tells about Jay's family and their desperate search for some hopeful word.

Links, thoughts from myself and others:

Hot Air's Allahpundit was in his downtown Manhattan apartment when the planes hit the towers. Two years ago he serialized his memories on Twitter; Lori Ziganto put them in order and posted them on her blog for posterity. [Fear not: Despite her blog's name, it is entirely safe for work.]

Gerard Vanderleun watched events unfold from across the East River in Brooklyn Heights. He had been online on a message board, posting his reflections; these are his contemporaneous notes of the attack and aftermath.

Ron Coleman was in midtown Manhattan when the planes hit. He writes of the confusion of the day and his journey back to his home in New Jersey.

Robert N. Going went to Ground Zero as a volunteer at a respite center in November 2001. He has reposted his diary of four weeks there.

Also on Robert's site: The reflections of legendary baseball player Buck O'Neil, then 90, on the first anniversary of the attacks:

America was asleep. We were all sleeping. We had seen these kinds of men before with bombs tied to their bodies, killing people in Israel and Ireland and other places. These men were heroes to their people. They were martyrs to their families. Their mothers and fathers were proud of them for killing, you understand? We all knew what was happening over there.

But that was over there. We thought it would always be over there. We were fast asleep. And what happened? We took these murderers in. We taught them how to fly. We are such a trusting country. Yes, you can see how it happened.

Here Is New York: A photographic witness to the events of 9/11 by thousands of amateur photographers. (We had the privilege of seeing this powerful exhibit in person when it was shown in Tampa in fall 2002.)

The Telegraph: 9/11: How the drama unfolded aboard Air Force One, inside the White House bunker and at the Pentagon

History Channel: Witness to 9/11: 102 minutes that changed America: Videos from eyewitnesses around New York City.

From 2010: Remembering 9/11: Where I was when I heard: My personal recollections of the day and the weeks following.

As on each previous anniversary of the September 11, 2001, jihadi attacks on America, Trinity Episcopal Church, 5th and Cincinnati, will mark the day with a choral requiem, beginning at 8:46 a.m., the time when the north tower of the World Trade Center was hit. This year, the Trinity Choir will perform Gabriel Faure's Requiem as part of the service of Holy Communion. (On September 11, 2002, Trinity was one of hundreds of venues worldwide to take part in the "Rolling Requiem," performing Mozart's Requiem in each time zone at 8:46 a.m.)

Floral Haven, 6500 S. 129th East Ave., Broken Arrow, offers a quieter remembrance:

Floral Haven will pay tribute to those who died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11 with a special remembrance on September 11, 2011. This solemn memorial will take place on the grounds of the funeral home between the main building and 129th East Avenue

This memorial remembrance will include:

  • A Bronze Memorial, honoring those who died, which will later be permanently placed in our Family Center.
  • Three panels, which will include:
    1. The names of the people killed in the World Trade Center North and South Towers, the Pentagon and on American and United Flights 11, 175, 77 and 93.
    2. A list of the First Responders who died in this tragedy.
    3. The timing of the four major events of September 11th.
    4. A list of the other nations who lost citizens in this attack
  • Eight large flags, each representing one of the distinct groups of people killed
  • A display of 2976 smaller American Flags, each bearing the name of a victim killed on September 11th.
  • A guest book to sign in remembrance
  • This memorial will be on display on September 11, 2011 for the entire day.

This will be a solemn and silent remembrance. There will be no formal program or speakers. Just as the Oklahoma City National Memorial pays a beautiful and silent tribute to those killed in the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995, so will this one day remembrance pay a quiet and solemn tribute to those killed on September 11, 2001. Those attending will be invited to read the panels, walk among the flags and reflect on this attack and the lives that were so senselessly ended.

It is only right and proper that on the 10th Anniversary that we take a moment of time and reflect, not only on those who were lost, but also one how all of our lives were forever changed by this event.

This last Thursday would have been the 111th birthday of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. The Queen Mum died on Easter Saturday 2002, having lived through the entire 20th century and a year of the 21st.

Margaret Rhodes, daughter of the Queen Mother's older sister, has written a new book, The Final Curtsey, about life with her aunt and her cousin, Queen Elizabeth II. The Daily Mail has run several excerpts from the book along with photos of the royal family from Mrs. Rhodes' personal collection.

The Queen and I: Mrs. Rhodes' years as her aunt's lady-in-waiting. I was fascinated by the presence of Tupperware or some competing brand of plastic self-sealing container in the photos of the royals eating outdoors at Balmoral in the 1980s.

Mrs. Rhodes writes of her childhood: adventures with her cousins, growing up in a noble house, learning of "Uncle Bertie's" ascent to the throne, and sneaking out of Buckingham Palace with Princess Elizabeth on VE and VJ day.

I was 20 in 1945. VE Day was a euphoric moment. I was still at the Palace and that evening we had a huge party. My eldest brother, John, who had been a prisoner of war, was there and a gang of us, including the two Princesses, were given permission by the King and Queen to slip away anonymously and join the rejoicing crowds on the streets.

This sort of freedom was unheard of as far as my cousins were concerned.

There must have been about 16 of us and we had as escort the King's Equerry, a very correct Royal Navy captain in a pinstriped suit, bowler hat and umbrella. No one appeared less celebratory, perhaps because he took his guardian responsibilities too
seriously.

Princess Elizabeth was in uniform, as a subaltern in the Auxiliary Transport Service - the ATS. She pulled her peaked cap well down over her face to disguise her much-photographed image, but a Grenadier among the party refused to be seen in the company of another officer, however junior, who was improperly dressed.
My cousin didn't want to break King's Regulations and so reluctantly she agreed to put her cap on correctly, hoping that she would not be recognised. Miraculously she got away with it.

London had gone mad with joy. We could scarcely move; people were laughing and crying; screaming and shouting and perfect strangers were kissing and hugging each other. We danced the conga, a popular new import from Latin America; the Lambeth Walk and the hokey-cokey, and at last fought our way back to the Palace, where there was a vast crowd packed to the railings.

In the final installment, Mrs. Rhodes writes about her marriage and that of her cousin.

In a brief interview about strikes by public sector unions Labour Party leader Ed Miliband answers each question using different permutations of the same set of talking points:

I've had more intelligent conversations with a See-n-Say.

Damon Green of ITV News was the pool reporter. Green posted a lengthy account of his attempted interview with Miliband and considers how this sort of behavior by a politician harms representative government:

If news reporters and cameras are only there to be used by politicians as recording devices for their scripted soundbites, at best that is a professional discourtesy. At worst, if we are not allowed to explore and examine a politician's views, then politicians cease to be accountable in the most obvious way. So the fact that the unedited interview has found its way onto YouTube in all its absurdity, to be laughed at along with all the clips of cats falling off sofas, is perfectly proper.

Charlie Brooker, in the Grauniad, notes two other recent examples of this type of political interview, explains why this happens, and offers a hopeful solution:

The reason for the Speak-and-Spell tactic is obvious: in all three cases (Miliband, Osborne, Darling) the PR handler responsible must have figured that since the interview would be whittled down to one 10-second soundbite for that evening's news bulletins, and since they didn't want to risk their man saying anything ill-advised or vaguely interesting, they might as well merely ignore all the questions and impersonate an iPod with just one track on it....

Clearly an intervention is necessary. Next time you pass an MP being interviewed on the street, set off a party popper. Jump in and shriek. Get your bum out. Anything. Just to prompt some kind of authentic human reaction from either side.

And if you don't get an authentic human reaction, you might get something more spectacular:

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has declined to issue the executive order necessary to reauthorize the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council, according to a story in the Oklahoman.

Fallin had 90 days after she took office in January to decide whether to extend the life of the councils, which were formed by executive orders issued by two earlier governors; Democrat Brad Henry formed the ethnic-American council and Republican Frank Keating formed councils dealing with Hispanic and Asian-American affairs.

Fallin deserves credit for taking the right step, given the predictable backlash from CAIR and their allies. The misleadingly named group, supported with state funds, was not about all ethnic groups or even all Middle Eastern cultures. Middle Eastern Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Baha'i were not given a seat at the table.

GEEAC would have been more accurately called the Governor's Islamic PR Council. In May 2007, the chairman of GEEAC sought an on-air opportunity to respond to the public TV series America at a Crossroads:

The Governor's Ethnic-American Advisory Council requested a chance to set the record straight after previewing the series before it ran on the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority from April 15 through 20.

"We thought there were a couple of segments that did not put Islam in a positive light," said Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour, the council's chairman.

Later in 2007, GEEAC (an agency of the State of Oklahoma, remember) offered a special centennial edition of the Koran to legislators; legislators who politely refused were publicly excoriated. An story on the Koran controversy by Brian Ervin included quotes from GEEAC chairman that confirmed the group's purpose -- advocating for Islam in Oklahoma.

"The name wasn't of my choosing, but we were happy with it. You'd have to ask the Governor why we're called that," she said.

She offered her best guess, though.

"The thing is, Islam is not limited to the Middle East--there are Muslims of West African descent and other nationalities from around the world," said Seirafi-Pour.

"If it had been called the 'Middle Eastern American Advisory Council,' it would have limited membership to Muslims of Middle Eastern descent," she added.

Seirafi-Pour was as clear on the purpose of GEEAC as Governor Henry was deliberately obtuse.

Thanks to Gov. Fallin for disbanding this inappropriate and deceptive use of taxpayer dollars and government imprimatur. Thanks to blogs like zTruth and columnists like Diana West for helping to shine a light and keep the pressure on. Thanks to legislators like State Rep. Mike Reynolds and former State Rep. Rex Duncan helping to shine the light on GEEAC's activities. And thanks to all the BatesLine readers who took action, turning reports on these pages into a positive result at the State Capitol.

NewsRealBlog has a piece by David Yerushalmi titled "4 Rebuttals to Critics of Oklahoma's Anti-Sharia Law," a defense of the thinking behind the constitutional amendment adopted by an overwhelming majority of Oklahoma voters on November 2 as State Question 755.

Yerushalmi says that SQ 755 was poorly drafted (and explains why in detail), but the purposes of the amendment are legitimate, and he sets out to rebut four claims by critics: (1) that SQ 755 is a response to an irrational fear of something that poses no realistic threat to Oklahomans; (2) that the amendment was "driven only by a fear-mongering anti-Islamic narrative," a "cottage industry of Islamophobia"; (3) that outlawing sharia endangers other religious courts; (4) that "sharia" has no concrete meaning, making a ban meaningless.

Especially valuable is his explanation of the mechanisms by which sharia can become a real threat to American liberties under existing law:

Specifically, there are at least three ways for sharia to find its way into our courts and legal system in ways which would deprive Oklahomans of their federal and state constitutional liberties: comity, choice of law issues, and choice of forum/venue determinations. We will touch upon each of these in brief.

In dealing with comity, Yerushalmi explains why legislative action against sharia matters:

State courts are asked to recognize and enforce foreign judgments and private arbitral awards all of the time. This procedure for recognizing another juridical body's decision as binding is called granting comity to the foreign judgment. For our purposes, a private arbitral award is like a foreign judgment because it does not arise from a state court action.

Granting comity to a foreign judgment is mostly a matter of state law. And, almost all state and federal courts will grant comity unless the recognition of the foreign judgment would violate some important public policy of the state. This doctrine is called the Void As Against Public Policy Rule and has a long and pedigreed history....

Unfortunately, because state legislatures have not been explicit about what their public policy is relative to sharia, the courts and the parties litigating in those courts are left to their own devices to first know what sharia is, and second, to understand that granting a sharia judgment comity is ipso facto offensive to our way of life and the principles underlying our constitutional republic.

And, indeed empirically, we find published judicial opinions which accept comity for sharia-based foreign judgments and arbitral awards. And these published judicial opinions quite obviously only represent the tip of the iceberg since courts render these kinds of judgments all of the time through unpublished orders rather than published opinions.

While there are also published opinions where the courts have rejected the application for comity precisely on the grounds that sharia is offensive to Due Process and Equal Protection, the courts have ended up all over the map precisely because the state legislatures have not taken the time to carefully articulate their respective public policies on the recognition of sharia-based judgments. That the people of Oklahoma have chosen to do so, even if clumsily, is hardly grounds for criticism.

Yerushalmi has drafted a model uniform act called "American Laws for American Courts" and offers a free CLE course (an online, 40-minute, narrated PowerPoint) on the proposal and the problem it seeks to address.

The draft law appears to address the heart of the matter: We don't want the state's police power used to enforce judgments made under any system of law that does not include all the rights, privileges, and liberties guaranteed under our Federal and state constitutions. While waiting for the federal courts to address SQ 755, our Oklahoma legislators should consider passing the American Laws for American Courts act in some form as a substitute if SQ 755 is overturned or a clarification otherwise.

During the all-too-brief Thanksgiving weekend, I actually did unwind a bit. We had Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house, along with my sister and her family, and we celebrated my birthday (belated) and my dad's (early). I took the 14-year-old to the Friday night late showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. The whole family watched The Sound of Music. We played a game of Clue: While everyone was getting very close to a solution, the four-year-old and I got there first: Miss Peacock, in the theater, with the dumbbell.

One of my birthday gifts was Dancing under the Red Star by Karl Tobien. It's the story of the author's mother, Margaret Werner Tobien and is told as a first-person narrative. I started reading it Thanksgiving night and finished it late Friday afternoon. It is a powerful but accessible story about life in Stalin's USSR and the experience of an American citizen who found herself a political prisoner, a resident of the gulag for 10 years.

Margaret "Maidie" Werner was born in Detroit in 1921. In 1932, her father, a committed socialist, decided to move his family of three to Gorky (Nizhni Novgorod) as part of a large group sent by the Ford Motor Company to help set up an automobile factory there. In 1938, Maidie's father was arrested as an enemy of the state, taken from his home in front of his wife and daughter, never to be seen again. Maidie and her mother survived as best they could, dealing with the privations of the war. In late 1945, Maidie herself was carried off by the NKVD, charged with espionage for Britain (because she had asked two British airmen to find out what they could about her father's fate), treason (because she had asked them to help her get out of the country), and propaganda against the state (because she told friends what life had been like in America). After months of interrogation at Gorky's prison and at Lubyanka, she was sentenced to 10 years hard labor and five years internal exile. During her time in the camps, she is assigned to a "cultural brigade" -- a troupe performing theater and dance for the prisoners of her own camp and nearby camps. Eventually, she makes her way to East Germany, escapes to the west (before the Berlin Wall), and returns to the United States, almost 30 years after she left.

The book is vivid with detail about daily life -- not only the hardships, but also the small mercies that kept hope alive and the ways prisoners found to make the best of their bleak circumstances. There are especially touching details -- Maidie's loud refusal to denounce her father in school; how people in the towns where the prison train stopped en route to the death camps would push cigarettes, candy, bread, fruit, and sausages into the ventilation slats for the prisoners; how Maidie managed to meet her mother very briefly, near the camp, in extremely unpleasant surroundings. The betrayals are striking, too. The Soviet system rewarded treachery. "Under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you, and you sold me."

I was fascinated by this book, and I recommend it. It would be suitable for teens and older; while it touches on some mature subject matter, it does so in a delicate way (as you would expect from a story told by a septuagenarian lady born in the 1920s).

MORE:

Reviews on Amazon, including a detailed synopsis
Reviewed on Blogful of Books
Reviewed on Small World Reads
Reviewed on Curmudgeonalia

TSA grope-gate

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Links on the TSA's "enhanced pat-downs," the "alternative" to the scanner that shows you naked.

boingboing: Man at San Diego airport opts out of porno scanner and grope, told he'll be fined $10K unless he submits to fondling. The man got cellphone video of his encounter with TSA officers. (Here's a transcript of the first of three segments.)

PNC-Minnesota Bureau: Rape Survivor Devastated by TSA Enhanced Pat Down (NOTE: The link leads to the "Pagan News Collective" website, and the rape survivor quoted below is a Wiccan; thus the "Goddess" reference.)

"He started at one leg and then ran his hand up to my crotch. He cupped and patted my crotch with his palm. Other flyers were watching this happen to me. At that point I closed my eyes and started praying to the Goddess for strength. He also cupped and then squeezed my breasts. That wasn't the worst part. He touched my face, he touched my hair, stroking me. That's when I started crying. It was so intimate, so horrible. I feel like I was being raped. There's no way I can fly again. I can't do it."

If you dress modestly, your modesty will be violated. This woman (a commenter on the previous article) was willing to go through the scanner, but the TSA didn't like her choice of clothing:

I was pulled aside for a pat down in Phx's Sky Harbour Airport in October. They pulled me aside because I was wearing an ankle-length skirt. The agent told me that the TSA cannot specifially tell people what they can and cannot wear, but they will do pat downs on every person wearing ankle-length skirts on planes. The female agent told me I had two choices: I could go to a room and strip NAKED in front of a TSA officer, or they could pat me down in full view of the other passengers. She said the pat down would require her to touch my genitals. Well, gosh - be groped in public or naked alone in front of a stanger? Such options. When I said neither option was great, she said I wouldnt be escorted from the airport if I didnt comply. Duress much? I have to give you my full name, my birthdate, my gender and now I HAVE to let you humiliate me in public (or oogle my naked body in provate)?? Wow. This cant be the only way.

If only she had worn a burka, she'd have been left alone.

Melissa Clouthier tells of a harrowing TSA encounter from 2002, when unfeeling TSA agents separated her from her baby daughter in a stroller and her two-year old autistic son with a tendency to roam:

My son was walking away from me, looking after the direction his dad went and wanting to follow. He was about twenty five feet away from me, when I tried to go get him, the TSA agent restrained me and said,"Ma'am you need to stay here."

When I tried to explain about my son, she would have none of it. I was reduced to yelling to him to stay, don't go anywhere.

Hysteria rose in my throat. At this point, being felt up by the female agent mattered little to me. My children were separated from me, my son shuffling around, my daughter sitting 20 feet away in a stroller, hundreds of people milling through the Houston airport and I was terrified that someone would grab one or both of my children and I would be helpless to stop it.

And the TSA agents did not care. As I write this, my heart is pounding....

The TSA regulations make average citizens miserable while the real medicine-an Israeli-type profiling would actually make a security difference. But no. Security placebos for Americans.

I share this story to provide additional evidence of the overreach of the TSA. It's time for Congress to clip back these inane regulations.

It's time for Americans to resist this tyranny. When average Americans have more to fear from their government than from some radical Muslim terrorist jerk, the balance has been tipped.

I have managed to avoid flying very much this year, despite a lot of travel, although I haven't been able to avoid it entirely. I actually like being up in the air, and I get a window seat as often as possible so I can watch the scenery and try to deduce our location. But I hate the process of getting from the ticket counter (actually quite painless these days) to the plane. For all the restrictions and all the advanced technology, you have to get even more undressed and undone now for the nekkid scanners than you do for the X-ray machines. I have to pack once to get my stuff to the airport, repack and rearrange to get through security in an efficient manner, and then rearrange again, particularly if it's a small plane and the roll-aboard has to be gate-checked.

We have a pretty good idea of the sort of person who would try to blow up a plane while on board. While we might still need X-rays and metal detectors to deter the old-fashioned kind of hijacker that just wanted a free trip to Cuba, the new-fangled suicide hijacker should be more easily detected. Offer every male passenger between the ages of 18 and 45 a pulled-pork sandwich or a beer; if you won't consume either one, you get the special scope-and-grope. (Some non-yeasty alcohol would be provided for Passover.)

Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris is "going ghost" -- "moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity" at the insistence of the FBI, according to a story a September 15, 2010, story in the Seattle Weekly. (Via GWSchulzCIR on Twitter.)

She will no longer be publishing cartoons in our paper or in City Arts magazine, where she has been a regular contributor. She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program--except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab. It's all because of the appalling fatwa issued against her this summer, following her infamous "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" cartoon.

The fatwa came in July from Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born imam based in Yemen who has been linked to "misunderstanders of Islam" (Robert Spencer's tongue-in-cheek phrase) who have attempted and successfully carried out terror attacks in the U. S., including Fort Hood, Times Square, Fort Dix, and Northwest Airlines (the Pantybomber).

Here is what Awlaki allegedly wrote about Norris in Inspire, an English language magazine allegedly produced by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula:

A cartoonist out of Seattle, Washington, named Molly Norris started the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day". This snowball rolled out from between her evil fingers. She should be taken as a prime target of assassination along with others who participated in her campaign. This campaign is not a practice of freedom of speech, but is a nationwide mass movement of Americans joining their European counterparts in going out of their way to offend Muslims worldwide. They are expressing their hatred of the Messenger of Islām صلى الله عليه وسلم through ridicule. The large number of participants makes it easier for us because there are more targets to choose from in addition to the difficulty of the government offering all of them special protection. But even then our campaign should not be limited to only those who are active participants.

The article goes on to implicate the entire Western political system with its guarantees of free speech:

The main elements in this system are the laws that make this blasphemy legal. Because they are practicing a "right" that is defended by the law, they have the backing of the entire Western political system. This would make the attacking of any Western target legal from an Islāmic viewpoint. The entire Western system is staunchly protecting and promoting the defamation of Muĥammad صلى الله عليه وسلم and therefore, it is the entire Western system that is at war with Islām. Assassinations, bombings, and acts of arson are all legitimate forms of revenge against a system that relishes the sacrilege of Islām in the name of freedom.

The FBI took the threat seriously enough to tell Norris to drop out of sight. No doubt authorities took the threat more seriously after the explosion in a Copenhagen on September 11, 2010. Based on a map found in the hotel room, the bomb may have been intended for the offices of Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that published cartoons depicting Mohammed in 2005 in a protest against Western self-censorship to appease radical Muslim sensibilities.

From the New York Daily News story from July:

David Gomez, the FBI's assistant special agent in charge of counterterrorism in Seattle, said Norris and others were warned of the "very serious threat."

"We understand the absolute seriousness of a threat from an Al Qaeda-inspired magazine and are attempting to do everything in our power to assist the individuals on that list to effectively protect themselves and change their behavior to make themselves less of a target," Gomez said.

I wish Molly Norris all the best in her new life, but it's unacceptable that American citizens should have to "change their behavior to make themselves less of a target" in order to avoid getting killed by a self-appointed divine hit squad because of a rather gentle bit of satire, aimed more at the sensibilities of Islamofascists than at the prophet himself.

How should, how can, a freedom-loving nation respond to such threats? Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch writes that at the very least the President of the United States should denounce the threats:

This is the sort of case that the President of the United States should be talking about. Instead of wringing his hands about the prospect of Muslim rioting over Qur'an-burning, the President should go on television and give a brief lesson about how freedom of speech is a foremost bulwark against tyranny and a cornerstone of any society that respects the dignity of the human being. He should say that the idea that Molly Norris would have to live in hiding because of a cartoon, or series of cartoons, is unconscionable, and tell the Islamic world that neither Muslims nor their prophet are harmed by cartoons depicting him, and that their violent rage over such depictions is the only thing that makes people care to draw him in the first place. He should say that to threaten people with death and to kill people over cartoons of Muhammad is sheer madness, and is a form of violent irrationality that is destructive to free societies -- and as such, it is something that the U.S. will do everything it can to resist. Molly Norris and others who are threatened will be given full round-the-clock protection, and if violent protests and riots over cartoons or Qur'an-burning break out in areas where American troops are deployed, those troops will put down those riots and protect the innocent to the fullest possible extent.

Maybe in January 2013 we will have a president who will see the need to do such things, and move to protect and defend Western culture and civilization.

Meanwhile, cases of "Sudden Jihad Syndrome" continue to occur (even in Tulsa), but are reported in ways that downplay the connection to radical Islamism. (For example, the apparent assassination attempt targeting Missouri governor Jay Nixon.) The reluctance of our nation's leaders and mainstream media to name the enemy that seeks the destruction of our liberty has inspired the subtitle of a documentary produced by Newt Gingrich, "America at Risk: The War with No Name."

I had thought that perhaps there would be a service nearby at the Pentagon today, and there will be, but it's a private service, so the memorial there will be closed until noon. So am taking time here at the hotel room desk to remember the events of that day, to remember why they happened, and to remember my friend Jayesh Shah, a graduate of Tulsa Memorial High School and TU, who was working at Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center north tower that day.

I don't have anything profound to say today; just some personal memories of the day, the aftermath, and the very ordinary times that were interrupted. Before I get to those, here are some reflections and first-hand accounts of the attacks from other bloggers:

Gerard Vanderleun was watching from Brooklyn Heights when the towers fell, recording his observations online: "Lower span of Brooklyn Bridge jammed with people walking out of the city, many covered with white ash. Ghosts. The Living Dead. BQE empty except for convoys of emergency vehicles."

Juliette Ochieng remembers the architect of the towers, Minoru Yamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. (Yamasaki also designed Tulsa's Bank of Oklahoma Tower and Performing Arts Center.)

Robert N. Going had been to New York City the day before the attacks to drop a foreign visitor off at the airport, pausing on the way for the guest to snap a photo of the skyline. He volunteered at Ground Zero, and he met the man who found the steel cross in the ruins of Building 6.

The Other McCain calls us to remember with the Falling Man documentary.

Midnight Blue Says remembers Cantor Fitzgerald employee Marcello Matricciano and uses clips from that day's morning news shows to remind us what was on the national mind before the towers were hit an hour later.

Now for my memories of the day (click continue reading if you're on the home page)...

The BBC World Service has aired a two-part series, Useful Idiots, about Western intellectuals and journalists who were and are apologists for evil regimes. (The title is a phrase of Lenin's.) Part one focuses on the Soviet Union, Stalin, and his defenders, like George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, and Walter Duranty, who won a Pulitzer Prize while withholding his knowledge of Stalin's murderous famine from his New York Times readers. Part two is about recent examples of useful idiots:

From Mao's China, General Pinochet's Chile, Apartheid-controlled South Africa, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, to President Ahmadinejad's Iran, why - and how - have so many supposedly intelligent people been manipulated by dictators into saying good things about bad regimes?

Via Ace of Spades HQ, which has direct links to downloadable MP3 files of the broadcasts. Ace notes that part 1 includes the quote "something so stupid only an intellectual could believe it."

NOTE: There's some question about the provenance of the document that was previously linked here, regarding the connection between the Democratic Socialists of America and the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I am looking into it and will let you know what I find out.

An e-mail from a friend called my attention to this widely-circulated 2006 essay by Canadian blogger Paul E. Marek: "Why the Peaceful Majority Is Irrelevant." The title refers to the supposition that most Muslims are peace-loving, in contrast to the radicals who call for jihad against the West. Marek counters the idea by citing numerous examples from history where a peace-loving majority in a nation failed to stop a violent and radical minority from imprisoning and murdering millions.

The essay opens with Marek recalling a conversation with a German of noble birth:

"Very few people were true Nazis" he said, "but, many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories."...

We are told again and again by "experts" and "talking heads" that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unquantified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam. The fact is, that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history....

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points. Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by the fanatics. Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awake one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun. Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Bosnians, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others, have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late. As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

I encourage you to read Marek's entire essay. Regular BatesLine readers will recall what happened in Tulsa to a peace-loving Muslim named Jamal Miftah after he published an op-ed column denouncing terrorism in the name of Islam.

In 2009, Marek wrote a second essay, expanding on the theme: Why the Peaceful Majority Might Be Dangerous. He tells the story of two Canadian Muslim young women who, though raised in the west, opted for the strictures of sharia:

Both Hardi and Mubarka present us with a perplexing conundrum because they are members of what has become known as the "peaceful" Muslim majority. They don't have a violent bone in their bodies, and are clearly law abiding and productive members of Canadian society. But, they are also both part of a very small minority within Canada where they and their fellow Muslims have very little effect on Canadian politics or on the evolution of Canadian cultural norms. What if though, Hardi and Mubarka were part of a Muslim majority where they and their co-religionists held the power?

Both women are Muslims first and Canadians second. No matter how much respect one may have for either woman's character, there is little doubt where either would place her loyalty if faced with choosing between the Canadian traditions of liberty for all, or Sharia. There is also little doubt that if they were part of a majority, they would acquiesce to the demands of the Muslim clerical class and choose Sharia for all Canadians.

It is therefore irrelevant in the grand scheme of things whether or not Hardi or Mubarka are "good" people; most people on the planet are, no matter their religion, race, or culture. What matters in the greater sense, is that as parts of the Muslim collective, neither woman would set aside her Muslim beliefs in order to safeguard and protect the full rights of non-Muslims to live as they choose. What's even more disturbing, is that both women have experienced the gender freedoms afforded them in Canada, yet both have voluntarily resigned themselves to the greater Muslim collective.

As long as each woman is part of a small minority within Canada, she offers Canada much; but once she becomes part of a significant minority, or heaven forbid, a majority, she becomes dangerous. Why? Because Muslims wherever they form a majority choose Islamic norms over the broader more tolerant standards of the West. If given a chance, as has been clearly demonstrated the world over, they would unravel hundreds of years of hard fought human rights gains and replace them with the medieval practices of their faith. As such, both Hardi and Mubarka are simply bit players in a monstrous and destructive Muslim vortex that would drag civilization backwards hundreds of years.

Jazz ambassadors

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Benny Goodman in Red Square, 1962While waiting for my son, who was rehearsing with a small orchestral ensemble at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in Tulsa's old Union Depot, I had time to look over the exhibits, in particular a traveling collection of photos and posters called "Jam Session: America's Jazz Ambassadors Embrace the World". It's about an interesting bit of history where music met Cold War politics. From the 1950s to the 1970s, famed American jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, and Dave Brubeck traveled the world as cultural ambassadors for the USA.

Up until the mid-'50s, America had been sending out our own ballerinas and symphony orchestras to try to counter the classically-oriented cultural outreach of the USSR. According to the exhibit, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., suggested to President Eisenhower that America should capitalize on the distinctly American art form of jazz, a type of music that the Soviet Union condemned as decadent.

Eventually, under Khrushchev, American jazz musicians made it to Moscow, and one photo in the exhibit is accompanied by a charming anecdote about Benny Goodman:

For his part, Goodman surprised the Soviets with an impromptu solo clarinet performance in Red Square. The New York Times noted that he became a visiting "Pied Piper" for curious children who swarmed around him in the shadow of the Kremlin. When Benny saw a squad of soldiers marching stiffly by to relieve the guard at the Lenin Mausoleum, the temptation was too much for him and he broke into a rendition of Pop Goes the Weasel. He then "caught the rhythm of the passing boots and the King of Swing kept time with the Red Army."

"Jam Session" will be at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame through July 9, 2010. Admission is free; donations are accepted. Exhibit hours are Tuesdays through Fridays, 10am to 5pm; Saturdays, 11am to 4pm;
Sundays, 2pm to 5pm (before the Summer Concert series shows). It's an interesting and heartwarming exhibit, well worth your time to see, and particularly valuable for those born after the end of the Cold War.

MORE: The official website of Jam Session: America's Jazz Ambassadors.

Man of the West looks at the Leftist track record and wonders why America's leftists "champion the same policies that have brought whole nations to their knees and criticize their opponents for their alleged insensitivity to the poor--the poor that leftist policies indisputably create in massive numbers!" He also offers the short and painful truth about taekwon-do.

Mikhail Gorbachev was just as callous a despot as his less-polished predecessors, according to once-secret Soviet documents. There's a treasure trove of documents about the USSR from the last years of the Cold War, smuggled out at great risk, but they've yet to find an English translator or publisher.

Ever read about a head of state's snub of Jesse Owens after his triumph at the 1936 Olympic Games? Owens said the snub wasn't from Hitler but FDR. (Via Kathy Shaidle.)

It's like Mystery Science Theater 3000 for the funny pages: The Comics Curmudgeon. (I had no idea how depressing Funky Winkerbean had become.)

C. Michael Patton (the theologian from Edmond, not the recycler from Tulsa) writes about the day he quit believing in God.

Brandon Dutcher offers a Father's Day anecdote from a recent Weekly Standard cover story about Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Lori Bongiorno, the Conscious Consumer, says it's wasteful to rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

Brace Books -- a great independent bookstore in Ponca City (with a coffee bar, too) -- passes along a parent's recommendation of John Grisham's book for pre-teens: Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.

I just visited with a customer, who is the mom of a 10-year-old son, about this book. She and her son have read it......and she said it's a good read, a page-turner like Grisham's courtroom books, and very appropriate for kids.

Barbara Hollingsworth, local opinion editor of the Washington Examiner, critiques plans for high-density, transit-oriented development in Tysons Corner, Virginia:

It will cost billions of dollars to transform Tysons Corner, but the fact is that the county simply doesn't have the money. Instead of asking the landowners to pick up the slack, county leaders are proposing a series of general countywide tax increases -- on meals, real estate sales, vehicle registration, rental cars, hotel rooms and car repairs.

This means that average Fairfax County residents and businesses, whose property taxes have doubled during the past decade, will be taxed even more to pay for redevelopment in Tysons Corner --over and above the estimated $100 million a year they will be charged for the Silver Line's operating costs. In the current economic climate, there's no guarantee taxpayers will get a return on their forced investment.

Gene Healy examines the structural damage done to federalism by the passage of the 17th Amendment:

"Let the state legislatures appoint the Senate," Virginia's George Mason urged at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, lest a newly empowered federal government "swallow up the state legislatures." The motion carried unanimously after Mason's remarks.

So it's probably fitting that it's a George Mason University law professor, Todd Zywicki, who has done the best work on the 17th Amendment's pernicious effects.

Zywicki shows that selection by state legislatures was a key pillar of the Constitution's architecture, ensuring that the Senate would be a bulwark for decentralized government. It's "inconceivable," Zywicki writes, "that a Senator during the pre-17th Amendment era would vote for an 'unfunded federal mandate.' "

And finally, Mark Merrill offers a simple set of Rules of the House.

A team of 11 officials from Third World countries observing last Thursday's British election called the UK's approach to voting "corruptible," too dependent on trust. The observers came from countries where election fraud has often been a problem, with methods that include ballot box stuffing, voter intimidation, voter impersonation, and ballot theft.

Ababu Namwamba, an MP from Kenya, said he found the system "almost casual" in the way the whole process was so calm and so civil. He said: "While it may not be corrupt, it has elements that could be regarded as corruptible."

The Kenyan said he was surprised that more checks were not carried out to check the identities of voters. Instead clerks in the polling booths trusted the person who is voting to tell the truth.

He said: "That little detail is susceptible to abuse. It [the system] is admirable but it is open to abuse. This country has opened up to many people coming in.

"While the culture of trust may have worked in the past, your culture is changing. These details need to be tightened up."

Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh, an MP from Bangladesh, suggested that staff in polling stations should demand to see photographic identification from voters.

This would ensure that people do not impersonate someone else when they voted. "It should move to a more foolproof system," he said.

Note the obvious but politically incorrect point made by the Kenyan MP: Immigration brings in many people who don't share a nation's culture. If they come in large enough numbers and are not inculcated with the values of their new home, institutions that depend on those values will founder.

This even applies to different political cultures within the United States: There are big cities where election cheating is proverbial and there are rural areas where such a thing is unthinkable. Imagine a small North Dakota town invaded by a critical mass of folks accustomed to Chicago-style machine politics.

(It should be said that many immigrants come to a country like Britain or the United States precisely because they prefer their new country's cultural assumptions to those of their homelands.)

It was fascinating to watch the results roll in. Polls closed at 10 pm in Britain and it wasn't until early the next morning before the result was mathematically certain, confirming the exit polls from the night before: No party would have a majority of the 650 seats in the House of Commons. The Conservatives won the most seats (306) and received the biggest share of the vote (36.1%), but it wasn't enough. The incumbent Labour Party dropped 6 points (to 29%) and a net 91 seats from the 2005 election (to 258). The Liberal Democrats won 23% of the vote, one percentage point better than last time, but finished first in only 57 seats, a net loss of 5.

Usually, one party wins a majority of seats. If the incumbent party doesn't win, the sitting prime minister and cabinet resign, the Queen invites the leader of the winning party to be prime minister and form a government, appointing other party leaders as cabinet ministers (usually those who served as "shadow" minister during the party's time in opposition).

But no party has a majority, so what now? Gordon Brown, the incumbent prime minister, gets first shot at forming a governing coalition. He remains prime minister until he resigns or there's a successful vote of no confidence. (The last successful attempt was in 1979, which the Labour government of James Callaghan lost by one vote. This led to the dissolution of Parliament, a general election, and the victory of Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives.) To stay on, Labour would need the backing of the LibDems and the nationalist parties from Wales (Plaid Cymru), Scotland (SNP), and Northern Ireland (SDLP). That would likely require a coalition government, with LibDem leaders given several key seats in the cabinet. But LibDem voters are likely to feel betrayed if their party goes into government with the bunch they wanted out.

If Labour can't hang on, the Queen would call upon Conservative leader David Cameron to form a government, because his party is closest to a majority. He's already in talks with the LibDem leader Nick Clegg, but he doesn't necessarily need LibDems to agree to a coalition. It would be enough for them to agree not to support a no confidence motion. The Tories have enough votes to survive as a "minority government" if the Liberal Democrats abstain from a vote of no confidence.

The Tories could also try to form a governing coalition with the support of the Welsh and Scottish nationalists, which would be unlikely, since the Conservatives are Unionists and historically have opposed devolution as well as independence.

The final option would be another election, right away, or after one of the above scenarios limps along for a few months. A second election could result in a clearer outcome. Yesterday's vote would give tactical voters enough information to elect their least worst option. A supporter of a candidate that finished third or lower might choose their preferred option among the top two finishers in their constituency.

One of the arguments in favor of continuing the First Past the Post method of deciding elections -- most votes wins the seat, no matter how tiny the percentage of the total vote -- is that it turns even a slim plurality of the popular vote into a decisive majority of seats. That didn't work this time, with three very evenly balanced parties. Using the Alternative Vote (also known as Instant Runoff Voting) would likely have produced a decisive outcome. My sense is that there would have been fewer seats for Labour and more for the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, as supporters of both parties would have preferred the other to another term for Labour.

The outcome will cause financial turmoil and international uncertainty, but for us political junkies it's heavenly.

MORE:

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called a general election for Thursday, May 6, 2010, just a few weeks shy of the fifth anniversary of the previous election. This will be the first election in which Brown will carry the Labour Party's banner; Labour won the 1997, 2001, and 2005 elections with Tony Blair as leader.

The Conservative Party, under David Cameron's leadership, has a good chance of winning a majority for the first time since 1992, a close victory for John Major who, like Brown, took over as PM in between elections and followed a charismatic long-serving leader -- Major succeeding Margaret Thatcher, Brown succeeding Blair. After floundering in opposition for many years, the Tories have performed very well in recent elections for local councils and the European Parliament, regaining ground in parts of the UK thought forever lost to Labour.

Complicating the picture are a number of other parties, including the Liberal Democrats, the product of a late 1980s merger of the historic Liberal Party and a dissident group of Labourites who had formed the Social Democratic Party. There are nationalist parties in Wales (Plaid Cymru) and Scotland (Scottish National Party). The UK Independence Party favors withdrawal from the European Union and has done well, ironically, in European Parliament elections (which are elected by proportional representation), but holds no seats in the House of Commons, where MPs are elected by plurality -- "first-past-the-post." In 2005, Labour won a solid majority of seats in the House of Commons with only about 36% of the national popular vote.

Northern Ireland is its own world politically, with parties representing the cause of ongoing union with Britain and reunion with the Republic of Ireland. It's been many years since one of the UK-wide parties has won a parliamentary seat in the province. The Democratic Unionist Party, founded by the Rev. Ian Paisley, has the fourth largest delegation at Westminster, with 8 seats.

A British general election is like a presidential and congressional election combined. Like a congressional election, control of the government depends on aggregate of the results in each constituency (district). But like a presidential election, national issues almost always outweigh local concerns; British voters are choosing a party as much as they are a Member of Parliament.

Some British election links:

This Wall Street Journal story left me scratching my head. A French politician, Dominique de Villepin, who served briefly as the final prime minister of Jacques Chirac's presidency, plans to split from President Nicholas Sarkozy's party and form a new "center-right" party with the aim of challenging Sarkozy when he's up for reelection in 2012.

Here's how the story contrasts de Villepin's views with those of Sarkozy:

A comeback by Mr. de Villepin could complicate the president's efforts to push through unpopular measures, such as raising France's retirement age, during the remaining two years of his mandate....

Mr. Sarkozy has reduced some taxes, hoping this would help energize France's economy. But Mr. de Villepin called Thursday for higher income and corporate taxes to help narrow the gap between rich and poor. While Mr. Sarkozy is cutting civil-service jobs, saying France needs to slim down its bulging state sector, Mr. de Villepin said the French need more state nurses, teachers and policemen....

Mr. Sarkozy has proposed anchoring France's secular values by banning the head-to-toe burqa worn by some Muslim women. Mr. de Villepin said it was dangerous to stigmatize a particular community....

His tenure as prime minister from 2005 to 2007 was marred by a failed attempt to pass a bill aimed at easing the entry of young people into the job market with a contract that would make it easier to hire and fire people. The proposal caused such a popular uproar that then-President Jacques Chirac dropped the bill.

But Mr. de Villepin said Thursday that he had changed his mind, and no longer believed loosening labor laws would help create jobs. "If we want French people to accept taking risks, we must provide them with guarantees," he said....

(Emphasis added.)

So, if I'm reading this correctly, this "center-right" politician wants to raise taxes, grow government, and surrender to political correctness and creeping sharia. He wants to make it harder for employers to get rid of dead-weight employees and hire young people. He wants to allow the ratio of retirees to productive workers to continue to grow as life expectancies grow. (The official retirement age in France is 60.) And he caps it all off with the nonsensical idea of providing citizens with guarantees so they feel safe in taking risks.

Granted that labels on the political spectrum are relative, but how does someone get labeled "center-right" when his economic program is indistinguishable from socialism?

The Associated Press reported Sunday on a new development concerning the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for surveillance tapes from buildings near Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. After a long wait, four tapes were released, but Trentadue says there are missing sections on each tape just prior to the truck bomb blast that killed 168 people.

The tapes turned over by the FBI came from security cameras various companies had mounted outside office buildings near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. They are blank at points before 9:02 a.m., when a truck bomb carrying a 4,000 pound (1,815 kilogram) fertilizer-and-fuel-oil bomb detonated in front of the building, Trentadue said.

"Four cameras in four different locations going blank at basically the same time on the morning of April 19, 1995. There ain't no such thing as a coincidence," Trentadue said.

He said government officials claim the security cameras did not record the minutes before the bombing because "they had run out of tape" or "the tape was being replaced."

"The interesting thing is they spring back on after 9:02," he said. "The absence of footage from these crucial time intervals is evidence that there is something there that the FBI doesn't want anybody to see."

MORE:

Former KFOR-TV investigative reporter Jayna Davis, who continued to pursue leads relating to a third terrorist involved in the bombing, provided blogger Bob McCarty with a summary of information about the security cameras that were in the area of the Murrah Building, which views of the lead-up to the bombing exist, and which views have been released to the public.

Counterterrorism investigative reporter Erick Stakelbeck has some thoughts on the terror arrests in North Carolina. It's a disturbing situation:

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this North Carolina jihad cell is that it was apparently made up of mostly white converts to Islam. Indeed, Daniel Patrick Boyd looked like your typical good 'ol boy. He ran a drywall business with his family. Neighbors frequently observed him walking his dog (and here I thought that dogs were haram among jihadis) and so far have portayed him as a pretty unassuming guy. Frankly, Boyd had the perfect cover. Let's face it: a predominantly white, Christian rural area outside of Raleigh, NC is the last place you would suspect an Islamic terror cell to set up shop. And you probably wouldn't look twice at lily white Daniel Boyd if he were walking through airport security.

Stakelbeck's report includes a number of links to earlier stories jihad training and support in flyover country, including right here in Tulsa.

I've added the feed for Erick Stakelbeck's blog to my BatesLine blogroll headlines page -- check it out for the latest headlines from the blogs I follow.


Two must-read articles for today, the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, when the Chinese army, under orders from the Communist government, crushed a peaceful protest for democracy and liberty, killing hundreds.

Claudia Rosett of the Wall Street Journal was there in the pre-dawn hours of June 4 when the tanks rolled in to Tiananmen Square:

Tiananmen was -- and is -- important because that spring of 1989 was the only time in the despotic, 60-year history of the People's Republic of China that the people themselves enjoyed the chance to speak, debate and assemble freely. What they did with that freedom, by the millions, was call peacefully for China's government to institutionalize those rights. They called for democracy and marched under banners bearing exactly that word. They asked for the right to choose their leaders and hold them to account.

When China's Premier Li Peng declared martial law on May 19, just over two weeks before the actual crackdown, the people of Beijing set up bus and truck barricades and camped out in the streets to block any army advance. More whimsically, they created obstacle courses of noodle carts and potted plants. They were looking not for violence but for liberty. In the words of one white-collar worker, typical of many who helped man the barricades, "I think the most important thing for China is democracy and freedom."

And when China's rulers finally ordered the army to open fire and move in, these protesters tried desperately to hold their ground. Behind me as I ran into Tiananmen Square in those early hours of June 4 was a huge crowd -- ordinary citizens, not students -- who had poured into the streets, trying to stop the soldiers from reaching Tiananmen....

Near [the Statue of Democracy], which China's rulers had labeled "an abomination," I watched a handful of young doctors working out of a makeshift medical tent -- themselves in the line of fire -- trying desperately, in blood-stained smocks, to treat demonstrators hit by bullets. During a half hour there, I saw seven wounded rushed in. Then I moved away, fearing it was too dangerous. Before I left, I asked one of the doctors if he had expected the army would open fire. He answered, "Of course."

If you were watching in 1989, you recall the remarkable scene of a young man, carrying shopping bags, standing in the path of a column of tanks. When the tanks tried to go around him, he moved to block them again, eventually climbing up on the lead tank before being captured and led away. No one knows who he is or what happened to him.

Four western photojournalists who got shots of the confrontation from a nearby hotel provided reminiscences to the New York Times. They had to go to some lengths to get the film out of China. Charlie Cole, who was there for Newsweek, writes:

After taking the picture of the showdown, I became concerned about the PSB's surveillance of our activities on the balcony. I was down to three rolls of film, with two cameras. One roll held the tank encounter, while the other had other good pictures of crowd and PLA confrontations and of wounded civilians at a hospital.

I replaced the final unexposed roll into the one of the cameras, replacing the tank roll, and reluctantly left the other roll of the wounded in the other camera. I felt that if the PSB searched the room or caught me, they would look even harder if there was no film in the cameras.

I then placed the tank roll in a plastic film can and wrapped it in a plastic bag and attached it to the flush chain in the tank of the toilet. I hid my cameras as best I could in the room. Within an hour, the PSB forced their way in and started searching the room. After about five minutes, they discovered the cameras and ripped the film out of each, seemingly satisfied that they had neutralized the coverage. They then forced me to sign a confession that I had been photographing during martial law and confiscated my passport.

Stuart Franklin of Magnum:

The film was smuggled out in a packet of tea by a French student and delivered to the Magnum office in Paris.

Jeff Widener of the AP:

I had earlier accomplished my mission of photographing the occupied Tiananmen Square so I gave all my rolls of film to Kurt/Kirk who smuggled it back to the A.P. office in his underwear. The long-haired college kid was wearing a dirty Rambo T-shirt, shorts and sandals. Security would never suspect him of being a journalist.

Another photo, never before published, taken at street level just before the standoff, has surfaced. You can see it here.

The Communists are still in charge, still repressing freedom. A Google.com search for images of Tiananmen Square will turn up several pictures of "Tank Man" and other photos from the massacre. The same search at google.cn turns up standard postcard-style shots -- no hint of what happened there 20 years ago.

China is blocking access to blog sites like blogspot.com and wordpress.com, certain search engines, Twitter and Flickr. Dissidents are disappearing. Participants in the protests 20 years ago still suffer economic deprivation:

In recent days, the government has detained a number of political dissidents seen as threats to public order during the anniversary period, including one who had released an open letter complaining about economic hardship visited on former Tiananmen demonstrators who were jailed after the crackdown.

The dissident, Wu Gaoxing, was seized Saturday at his home in Taizhou, a coastal city south of Shanghai, according to the New York advocacy group Human Rights in China. Mr. Wu was among five men, all once jailed for their roles in the Tiananmen movement, who released a letter last weekend charging that former prisoners have been singled out for economic hardship long after their prison terms ended.

Human Rights in China said Mr. Wu was taken away and his computer confiscated about an hour after the letter, addressed to President Hu Jintao and other senior leaders, became public....

"In this society that claims to be harmonious, we have become 'citizens of the three have-nots waiting to die': we have no regular jobs, no pensions, and no health insurance; if we get sick, we can only wait to die, and all this just because 20 years ago we were sentenced for political reasons," the letter says.

The men, among them a former Communist Party member and a factory worker, said they had been denied pensions, health care and regular employment since taking part in local rallies that were inspired by the protests in Beijing.

When the government controls health care, banks, and industry, the government can punish dissidents by withholding access to jobs, medicine, and money -- something to keep in mind here at home. The Romans had a name for it: aquae et ignis interdictio -- deprived of fire and water.

Gao Zhisheng, a Chinese civil rights lawyer who won praise as an opponent of local government corruption but was persecuted for standing up for Falun Gong and other religions, is still missing after communist Chinese officials took him away from his home four months ago today. During previous detentions he was tortured with electric batons, starved, and beaten beyond recognition.

Pray for China. Pray for prisoners like Gao Zhisheng and Wu Gaoxing and their families. Pray for the persecuted church in China.

Some Americans complain about politics and partisanship and wish that dissidents and political opposition would shut up and go away so that our leaders can take care of the people's business. We need only look across the Pacific Ocean to see what that kind of society is like. I'll take liberty and democracy, thank you, bickering and all.

More than 80 Chinese Christian leaders, most of them involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest movement, released a statement today calling for "forgiveness, repentance, truth, justice, and reconciliation." They call upon all Chinese Christian churches, in China and overseas, "to pray between May 12 - the anniversary of the Sichuan Earthquake and June 4 - the anniversary of the massacre. They urge churches to make May 12 and June 4 'Pray for China' days and to hold special prayer meetings during that time."

The Tiananmen Square Massacre, known in China as the "June 4th Incident, " was the tragic end to a movement of students and intellectuals calling for free media and formal dialogue between authorities and student-elected representatives. Between April 15 and June 4, approximately 100,000 Chinese citizens, the majority of whom were university students, led peaceful protests in Beijing's famous Tiananmen Square. On June 4, the Chinese government sent in armored tanks and, as the world watched, killed hundreds of the demonstrators. According to the Chinese government, the official death toll was 200-300. However, the Chinese Red Cross estimated that the actual deaths were between 2,000 and 3,000. More than 10,000 Chinese citizens from all over China who were involved in the movement were sentenced to death by the government as retribution. June 4, 2009 will mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre.

Bob Fu, president and founder of ChinaAid, was one of the student leaders in the Tiananmen Square movement. "The fact that this tragic massacre happened 20 years ago and is still not allowed to be commemorated in China by the Chinese government, should remind the international community that the road toward true freedom for the Chinese people is not an easy one, " Bob Fu stated. "We are encouraged that the persecuted Chinese church and church leaders are awakened to repent for their silence regarding the massacre and to move forward toward true justice and reconciliation."

Note to smug, pop-musician hipsters: If you want to use your clothing to proclaim your opposition to oppression and your love of freedom, forgo the bloody * hammer and sickle and wear a T-shirt with this image, instead:

89-63_tank_man_-_web.jpg

* Meant literally. With whom do you stand, Michael Ivins? The man courageously blocking the tanks? Or the Chinese Communist leaders who ordered the tanks to smash a peaceful protest for freedom?

Liu Xiaobo, a writer and outspoken advocate for freedom of expression in Communist China, was honored by PEN yesterday with its 2009 Freedom to Write award. Liu has been "in and out of jail" since his active involvement in support of the Tienanmen Square protests nearly 20 years ago.

His most recent incarceration began nearly five months ago:

On December 8, 2008, Liu Xiaobo was arrested again, this time for his involvement in Charter 08, a declaration he co-authored calling for political and human rights reforms in his country. He has since been held under "residential surveillance" at an unknown location and is reportedly being investigated for "inciting subversion of state power."...

Liu was arrested in that foreign policy dead zone between President Obama's election and his inauguration, when the news was dominated by dire reports about the U.S. economy; China's leaders surely knew they could count on a few months of American indifference. But they must have been as delighted as human rights supporters were shocked when Hillary Clinton, in her first visit as Secretary of State in late February, not only did not publicly protest Liu Xiaobo's detention, but announced that human rights concerns would take a back seat to economic issues in the new administration.

In 2006, Liu wrote an essay calling the internet "God's present to China," recounting the many ways the network without borders has allowed Chinese dissidents to bypass the constraints of the Communist Chinese government's totalitarian rule:

With the censorship here, my essays can only be published overseas. Before using the computer, my handwritten essays were difficult to correct and the cost of sending them was high. To avoid the articles being intercepted, I often went from the west side of the city to the east side where I had a foreign friend who owned a fax machine.

The internet has made it easier to obtain information, contact the outside world and submit articles to overseas media. It is like a super-engine that makes my writing spring out of a well. The internet is an information channel that the Chinese dictators cannot fully censor, allowing people to speak and communicate, and it offers a platform for spontaneous organisation....

Chinese Christians say that although the Chinese lack any sense of religion, their God will not forsake the suffering Chinese people. The internet is God's present to China. It is the best tool for the Chinese people in their project to cast off slavery and strive for freedom.

I've read comments in recent days saying that Communism is just another ideology, just a competing way of organizing an economy, a failed system, but not evil per se. These people draw a moral equivalence between Communist countries and the West.

Total social control, even more than economic control, is the heart of Communism, and it has been under every Communist leader from Lenin to the present. However much economic freedom the Communist Chinese government allows, they still deny the fundamental freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights. There is no freedom of the press, no freedom of religion, no freedom of association. Any organization -- no matter how apolitical its purpose -- is viewed by the Communists as a potential rival that must be crushed. Say the wrong thing, worship in an unapproved place, form an organization without the Communist Party's approval and control, and you may be detained, beaten, tortured, possibly even killed.

Pray for Liu's release and act: PEN asks you to sign a petition to the Communist Chinese government asking for Liu Xiaobo's release.

Isn't the slogan "Free Liu Xiaobo" more worthy of T-shirt space than the symbol of the evil organization imprisoning him?

jwesleybush.com

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J. Wesley Bush, a long-standing friend of this blog, has launched a new website to bring together his world-ranging interests in one place. Bush is "an immigration historian, Russian linguist and East European area specialist," and as you might expect, his blog covers immigration policy and developments in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, particularly Ukraine and Russia. He also brings a conservative perspective to political and cultural issues. Here's a sampler of his recent work:

J. Wesley Bush is no newcomer to blogging. He was in Kiev in 2004, serving at the time as a Presbyterian missionary, and provided indispensable on-the-scene coverage of Ukraine's Orange Revolution, blogging at Le Sabot Post-Moderne. He was missed during his blogging hiatus, and it's great to have him back in the blogosphere in a big way.

Tulsa Teachers Credit Union, one of the area's largest thrift institutions, has been running radio ads lately about their humble origins -- a cigar box in the desk drawer of a Central High School teacher, as teachers pooled funds to help one another meet their financial goals.

In the US, the cigar box approach to finance is long gone, and it's hard to tell credit unions apart from banks these days, but the idea of mutual finance on a small scale is alive and well in the developing world, and it's being used to lift people out of poverty in a way that's sustainable over the long run. The idea is called microcredit, and it's just one of the economic development tools being researched and taught by an organization called the Chalmers Center for Economic Development, which is affiliated with Covenant College and the Presbyterian Church in America. (The PCA is one of the Presbyterian denominations that still believes that Jesus is the Son of God and rose from the dead and that the Bible is the Word of God.)

The Chalmers Center's director, Brian Fikkert, spoke this morning at Christ Presbyterian Church (CPC) about the work of the center. The organization is not a charity or a missions agency; rather, it researches best practices in the realm of sustainable economic development and then trains missionaries and church leaders in their application, by means of seminars, distance learning, and literature. The aim is to help the church to help the poor to help themselves, without creating dependency.

(For the OK-SAFE folks who are freaking out because I used the word "sustainable," this has nothing to do with the environment. We're talking about an approach to economic development that becomes self-perpetuating, unlike anti-poverty programs that require continued massive infusions of money from the outside.)

For example, about a year ago, CPC funded a Chalmers Center training course for Pentecostal pastors in Uganda, so they could start microcredit and micro-business development courses through their congregations. A Chalmers-trained woman is working for the Anglican Church in Rwanda; the archbishop wants every parish to begin one to three rotating savings and credit associations (RoSCAs) in the next year. So far they're on track to have 80,000 families involved in a RoSCA by the end of 2009. A group of 50 HIV-positive Kenyans, rejected by their families and living in a slum in Nairobi, have been meeting weekly as a RoSCA. After a year or so, not only have they been able to build capital for their own needs, nearly every member has started one or more RoSCAs on their own.

Here in the US, the Chalmers Center is training churches to teach jobs preparedness and financial literacy and to set up Individual Development Accounts, to help the poor build wealth toward lump-sum expenses -- a home, a car, education, equipment for a small business, resources to handle emergencies.

I hope to tell you more about what I learned this morning. It strikes me that these techniques may become more and more useful in the US and the west as our massive banking infrastructure falters. Going back to small groups, with mutual trust and accountability, pooling money to lend to one another, may be the way to escape the credit crunch.

This evening (Sunday, March 8, 2009) from 5 to 8:30 at Christ Presbyterian Church (51st St, between Lewis and Harvard), Fikkert will lead a Christian Economic Institute seminar on these topics. There's no charge to attend or for dinner, which will be served during a break. If you're interested in how to help the poor both here and abroad, please come.

Crosshairs City

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Dawn Eden has been posting extensively of late about the under-reported story of the eight years of rocket attacks by Palestinian terror group Hamas against civilian targets in southern Israel. She has a special interest in the story: Her brother, his bride, and their unborn child live in Beer-Sheva. 40 missiles have struck in or near that city since December 30.

Her most recent entry has video of a May17, 2007, Qassam rocket attack on Sderot, just across the border from Gaza City. The rocket hit a synagogue which was in the midst of celebrating the completion of its new Torah. Miraculously, the rocket did not detonate, and no one was injured. This was home video that was being taken of the celebration in the synagogue and a procession through the streets (interesting for that aspect alone), prior to capturing the aftermath of the rocket's impact on the synagogue.

The video was edited, annotated, and posted by the Sderot Media Center, a citizen journalism organization. I was struck by their use of crosshairs in the logo of the website, which exists to help the world understand what it is like to live at all times in the terrorists' sights.

The Sderot Media Center is an organization of citizen journalism that also serves as a news agency.

The Center was founded with the purpose of uncovering and publicizing the voices of a population marginalized by the conflict: the residents of Sderot and the Western Negev who suffer daily from the terror of Kassam attacks.

We give trips to members of the media, diplomats and students with the goal of spreading awareness of the situation in Sderot, and the routine of everyday life for people living with the reality of impending Kassam attacks.

As Dawn says in her headline, this is "news you won't see on CNN."

In a previous entry, Dawn has video from the Israel Defence Forces of a weapons cache in a Gaza mosque, an illustration of the way Hamas uses schools, mosques, and the Palestinian people as shields for their attacks on Israeli civilians.

She links to the website of Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva, which is trying to raise funds to help them protect their students, serve their community, and do their best to continue their mission while dealing with incoming rockets on a daily basis. Their list of needs will give you an idea of what Israeli civilians must cope with. Here are just a few:

  • Installing a supplemental alert system to insure that warning sirens are heard in every corner of BGU's three Beer-Sheva campuses.
  • Purchasing additional equipment to fight fires and carry out possible rescue operations on campus.
  • Adapting facilities to safeguard flammable and combustible materials and supplies used in University laboratories and by University services.
  • Hiring and training security personnel to manage the movement of people and equipment in the event of a direct missile strike....
  • Adapting the University sports center for soldiers on leave, providing them a place to sleep, shower and briefly refresh themselves -- for many while they are visiting wounded comrades at the University-affiliated Soroka hospital.

Dawn asks for prayers for her brother and his family and for peace in the Holy Land. I'll add to that a request for prayers for friends who live at the other end of the country, in an area that has been targeted by Hezbollah rocket attacks in the past; they have a son in the IDF.

Pray for peace. Pray that the Hamas war-makers, the mis-leaders of the Palestinian people, will be defeated utterly.

MORE: Backyard Conservative links to Alan Dershowitz's column about Hamas' "dead baby strategy" and adds this cartoon that says it all:

babywar.gif

From the Tulsa World:

About 160 people protested in Tulsa on Friday afternoon over the fighting between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.

Muslim Iman Arthur Farahkhan said the nonviolent protest was by "people of conscience" who want to help "stop the violence and cease all fire."

"I couldn't have a good weekend knowing people in the conflict won't have one," Farahkhan said during the protest at the intersection of 71st Street and Memorial Drive.

He said he wants the United States to intervene in the ongoing clash.

"We're here to say, 'Please, President (George W.) Bush, stop the massacre,'?" Farahkhan said.

Israel unleashed its bombs Dec 27 in a bid to halt weeks of intensifying Palestinian rocket fire directed at Israel from the Gaza Strip....

(I think "Iman" should read "Imam" for that is Mr. Farahkhan's title.)

So that's one week of counterattack by Israel following "weeks of intensifying Palestinian rocket fire" -- rockets fired from within Israel's own sovereign territory, territory that it granted to allow Palestinian self government and that has now fallen under the control of a terrorist group whose goal is the destruction of Israel. Hamas has been launching rockets at civilian targets. (Hamas has also long been involved in suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians -- for example, the March 2003 bomb attack on a city bus in Haifa which killed Abigail Litle.)

Israel has responded by taking out Hamas' headquarters building and other facilities used by Hamas as part of its military infrastructure -- targeted attacks aimed at destroying Hamas' capability to attack Israeli citizens.

I find it ironic to read at the end of the story that, "Palestinian protester Houssam Soueissi said, 'We're here to stop the killing of women, children and civilians.'" That's exactly what the Israeli Air Force is trying to do: Protect women, children, and civilians by eliminating an evil organization that has been attacking women, children, and civilians for decades. If Soueissi and the others were serious about their desire to end violence in the Holy Land, they'd be holding up signs saying, "Go IAF! Death to Hamas!"

Does that protester's name ring a bell? Houssam Elsoueissi was one of several men who Jamal Miftah says angrily confronted him in November 2006 after services at the Islamic Society of Tulsa's mosque. Here's Miftah's story as it appeared in my December 13, 2006 column in Urban Tulsa Weekly:

On Nov. 18, Miftah was attending prayers at the mosque. After prayers, Miftah says he was chatting with friends when he was confronted by the imam (prayer leader) of the mosque, Ahmad Kabbani.

Kabbani told Miftah that he should be ashamed of himself for writing the article, saying bad things about Muslims in front of non-Muslims. After Kabbani called Miftah "anti-Islamic," Miftah walked away from the confrontation into the corridor.

There Miftah says he was confronted by the president of the mosque's operating council, Houssam Elsoueissi (also known as Abu Waleed). In a loud voice, Elsoueissi called Miftah "anti-Muslim" and a "traitor" for writing against Muslim organizations.

Miftah defended the accuracy of his article. During the confrontation, 10 to 15 Arab men gathered around in a threatening way, some of them waving shoes and cursing him. A friend of Miftah's stepped in and rescued him from the confrontation.

Miftah says there are witnesses and security cameras that will corroborate his version of events.

In our conversation last week, Miftah explained that there is an implied threat in the label "anti-Muslim." In some parts of the Muslim world, apostates, those who abandon Islam, are deemed worthy to be put to death....

The next day at the mosque, Elsoueissi told one of Miftah's friends that he had obtained a restraining order prohibiting Miftah from returning to the mosque unless he were to apologize in front of Friday congregation.

Miftah says he was told that on Nov. 20, after the final prayer service of the day, Elsouessi discussed Miftah's article, which he said contained "anti-Islamic things."

Elsouessi announced to the assembled faithful that there was a restraining order against Miftah and anyone who saw him in the mosque should call the police.

Elsoueissi is a defendant in Miftah's lawsuit against IST and several other leaders and members of the mosque, for assault and battery, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, relating this incident. (A scheduling conference in the case is set for January 26.)

So there appears to be some consistency here between a willingness to show solidarity with Hamas terrorists and to condemn Israel's efforts to defeat the terrorists, while publicly condemning (allegedly, I have to add) a Muslim who condemns terrorism in the name of Islam.

It happened on September 5, but only recently did it make the news.

Last Thursday, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Sheldon Robinson was honored by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority as Trooper of the Month for his quick thinking and action in subduing a man in who had come into the Burger King at 41st and Memorial in Tulsa with the apparent intent of shooting the place up.

On Sept. 5, Robinson dropped his wife and two children off at the Burger King restaurant at 41st Street and Memorial Drive and was pulling into an auto dealership across the street for an oil change when his cell phone rang.

"My spouse told me there was a man inside with a gun, saying he was going to kill everybody," said Robinson, an 11-year veteran of the highway patrol who is assigned to the Creek and Muskogee turnpikes.

Robinson turned around in time to see people fleeing the building, including his wife, who grabbed the couple's two children and hid in a nearby trash container area, closing the doors behind her.

Robinson went in, saw the man with a .40 caliber Glock and a box of ammo beside him, and blindsided him while the man's hand was off his gun, wrestling him to the ground to try to cuff him.

Pay close attention to this next sentence (emphasis added):

"It was one of those deals of being in the right place at the right time," Robinson said. "I believe he would have loaded up that gun and gone to town because he was praying for Allah to help him carry out his mission."

The man with the Glock was Jerome Norvell Denson, described in the jail population report as a 24-year-old black male, 5'11", 230 lbs. Court records give an address in the Normandy Apartments, a Section 8 complex just west of Sheridan on 36th St. He was booked into jail by Tulsa Police on Nov. 24 at 5:25 pm. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 24. He has been charged with planning, attempting, or conspiring to perform act of violence, and possession of a firearm while in the commission of a felony.

Given Trooper Robinson's report that Denson invoked Allah, it's worth mentioning for the benefit of non-Tulsans that Denson's place of residence is a little over a mile north from the Islamic Society of Tulsa mosque. The Burger King where the incident occurred is a half-mile south and a mile east of Denson's address.

So what happened between the incident on Sept. 5 and when he was booked into jail on Nov. 24? Court records show that he was originally charged with the two felony counts on Sept. 11.

There's an interesting note in the docket report for Oct. 6:

CARLOS CHAPPELLE: DEFENDANT PRESENT IN CUSTODY REPRESENTED BY CLAY IJAMS. STATE REPRESENTED BY KIM HALL .CASE CALLED FOR INTIAL APPEARANCE. STATE DECLINES DEFENDANT BASED ON CHARGES AND PAST HISTORY/DANGER TO COMMUNITY. DEFENDANT OBJECTS TO STATE'S DENIAL INTO PROGRAM. DEFENDANT DECLINED ; DEFENDANT SET FOR PRELIM 10/22/08 AT 9:00 AM ROOM 344. BOND TO REMAIN. DEFENDANT REMANDED TO CUSTODY .

I'm wondering what is meant here by "state declines" and "program."

The original charges were dismissed at the state's request on Oct. 29, and then he was charged again on November 7 and back in custody on the 24th. Here's the OCIS docket report on the new charges.

The only other time Jerome Denson shows up in court records is for failure to pay an ambulance bill four years ago. He doesn't turn up on Google, except in reference to this incident.

The incident didn't make the news when it happened in September. TPD public affairs office sends a daily e-mail update to the press with information on significant occurrences in the previous 24 hours. I don't seem to have received a Sept. 6th report, but there were numerous e-mails on Sept. 5, all pertaining to Neal Richard Sweeney, who had been shot the day before and had died that morning. That probably explains why TPD didn't mention Denson's arrest in their news releases: An actual murder trumps a prevented murder, although the situation at the Burger King was certainly dramatic enough.

We'll keep an eye on this case. I'd welcome any information you may have on Jerome Norvell Denson or this case.

(Via Jihad Watch.)

UPDATE: On June 15, 2009, Denson pled nolo contendere on two counts, PLAN/ATTEMPT/CONSPIRE TO PERFORM ACT OF VIOLENCE and POSSESSION OF A FIREARM WHILE IN THE COMMISSION OF A FELONY. He was sentenced by Judge Clancy Smith to five years in prison with credit for time served.

Wow.

Since July 17, the British pound sterling has dropped a quarter of its value against the U. S. dollar -- from $2.00 per pound to $1.48 yesterday. The pound was just under $2 when my son and I visited Britain last year. That's the most favorable rate for the dollar in many years.

The U. S. dollar has strengthened against the Euro, the Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand dollars, and the Swiss Franc as well. The Euro went from a high of $1.60 on July 15 to a current value of $1.25. The Loonie fell from par in mid-July to a current value of 80¢. The Swiss Franc slipped from just under par (99¢) to 83¢. The Australian dollar fell from 97¢ (again, mid-July) to 64¢. The Kiwi buck fell by 30%, from 77¢ in mid-July to 56¢ yesterday.

Most of the currencies began a steady decline in late July, but the Loonie and the Mexican peso continued to hover just below those summer highs until late September before making a steeper drop to their current levels. (The peso also fell by about 25% -- from 10¢ to 7.5¢.)

Among major currencies, only the Japanese yen has improved against the dollar. 100 yen were worth 90¢ in August; today they're worth $1.07.

Good time to be an American tourist. Not such a good time to be an American manufacturer.

"Lord Michael Bates," the e-mail began.

I was pretty sure at that point I had received it in error. I read on:

Sir,

You are cordially invited to the ceremony of His Excellency President Mohamed Nasheed taking the oath of office, on the 11th of Nov. 2008, at 10:00 am at Dharubaaruge, Male, Maldives.

The Secretariat
Office of the President Elect
Hilaaleege,
Male'
Rep. of Maldives.

I was even more certain that the message had been misdirected, and even if it hadn't, making travel arrangements to an island nation halfway around the world on such short notice would be expensive.

But as it happens, I know a Lord Michael Bates, although he had yet to be ennobled when I met him in June 2007. This last summer, he was "raised to the peerage as Baron Bates, of Langbaurgh in the County of North Yorkshire." In addition to his duties at Westminster, he is deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and project director of Campaign North, the effort to rebuild the Conservative Party in the north of England, where Labour has long been dominant.

So I forwarded the message to Lord Michael, and from his reply I learned the inspiring story behind the mysterious message.

The Republic of the Maldives had been under authoritarian rule since its inception in 1968. One man had been president since 1978, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. He was a typical kleptocrat, crushing opposition, and using his power for his personal enrichment.

Mohamed Nasheed, 41, known by the nickname Anni, had been imprisoned and tortured several times for political dissent over the course of a dozen years, before going into exile in 2003. He founded the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and returned to his homeland in 2005 to register the party. Later that year, he was once again arrested and imprisoned.

Growing dissent in the Maldives and external pressure led to the first free elections in the Maldives this year. From this Wikipedia article, it appears that the Internet, mobile phones, and text messaging all played a role in allowing dissenters to organize and disseminate information. While the official media were pretending the protests weren't happening, the new media was getting the word out. (You can read about the history of political censorship in the Maldives on the IFEX website.)

In the first round of the election, Anni finished in second place to the 30-year incumbent dictator Gayoom. In the runoff, Anni secured the support of all the other opposition candidates and won with 54 percent of the vote, making him the first democratically elected president of the Maldives.

The Conservative Party in the UK has been supportive of the MDP since its inception. Anni is said to be a good friend of William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary and former Tory leader.

One of Anni's campaign promises is to turn his predecessor's lavish presidential palace into the nation's first university.

Congratulations to President Anni and to the people of the Maldives. I only wish, on this chilly, rainy Tuesday (my 45th birthday and the Maldives' 40th), that I could be in sunny, tropical Malé to celebrate with you.

Sen. Joe Biden has predicted that the callow youth at the top of his ticket would be tested by a "generated" international crisis, which, just as John F. Kennedy, whose obvious weakness gave Khrushchev the all-clear to wall off Berlin and plant missiles in Cuba, did, Obama will royally screw up.

(As Rush Limbaugh was saying today, isn't the whole world supposed to love us again if we elect Obama? Why should anyone expect him to be challenged by the bad guys, since there aren't any bad guys in the world, just people who are understandably enraged that America has yet to overthrow Chimpy McBushitler?)

Biden mentioned four or five scenarios, which inspired Gov. Sarah Palin to imagine what those five crises might be:

(Video after the jump.)

Why are Asian investors keeping their money in America? According to Asia Times columnist Spengler, it's because of Sarah Palin.

Or rather, it's because of a political culture that allows concerned citizens like Palin to emerge to challenge and expose corruption.

You need to read the whole thing. There are too many quotes worth requoting here. There is so much more to the success of America and the rest of the Anglosphere than the governmental structures that are common to democracies. There are legal and cultural traditions that create a level of trust and self-determination.

A selection of the best quotes:

What does America have that Asia doesn't have? The answer is, Sarah Palin - not Sarah Palin the vice presidential candidate, but Sarah Palin the "hockey mom" turned small-town mayor and reforming Alaska governor. All the PhDs and MBAs in the world can't make a capital market work, but ordinary people like Sarah Palin can. Laws depend on the will of the people to enforce them. It is the initiative of ordinary people that makes America's political system the world's most reliable.

America is the heir to a long tradition of Anglo-Saxon law that began with jury trial and the Magna Carta and continued through the English Revolution of the 17th century and the American Revolution of the 18th. Ordinary people like Palin are the bearers of this tradition....

Palin really did take on the American oil companies and turn the scoundrels out of office. Her predecessor, Frank Murkowski, appointed her to the state oil and gas commission in the apparent belief that a small-town mayor and former beauty queen would rubber-stamp corrupt deals between the state and the Big Oil companies.

Shades of Jimmy Stewart in Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Palin ran against Murkowski and took his job. That does not qualify her to be president, to be sure, but it does show cunning and strength of character. Palin is qualified for high office by temperament if not by education, and is preferable to candidates whose education has made no improvement on their characters....

One doesn't see demonstrations by wronged peasants in the small towns of America. There never were peasants - American farmers always were entrepreneurs - and the locals avenge injury by taking over their local governments, which have sufficient authority to make a difference. At the capillary level, school boards, the Parent Teachers' Association, self-administered religious organizations and volunteer organizations incubate a political class entirely different from anything to be found in Asia. There are tens of thousands of Sarah Palins lurking in the minor leagues of American politics, and they are the guarantors of market probity....

It is true that Asian economies depend on American consumers and an American recession is bad for Asian currencies. But why don't Asians consume what they produce at home? The trouble is that rich Asians don't lend to poor Asians in their own countries. Capital markets don't work in the developing world because it is too easy to steal money. Subprime mortgages in the US have suffered from poor documentation. What kind of documentation does one encounter in countries where everyone from the clerk at the records office to the secretary who hands you a form requires a small bribe? America is litigious to a fault, but its courts are fair and hard to corrupt.

Asians are reluctant to lend money to each other under the circumstances; they would rather lend money in places where a hockey mom can get involved in local politics and, on encountering graft and corruption, run a successful campaign to turn the scoundrels out. You do not need PhDs and MBAs for that. You need ordinary people who care sufficiently about the places in which they live to take control of their own towns and states when required. And, yes, it doesn't hurt if they own guns.

I was also intrigued by this aside (emphasis added):

China's 30 million students of classical piano are one of the two great popular movements in the world today: the other is the House Church movement in Chinese Christianity. Children who play hockey will grow up to get coffee for children who study piano. As a pool of talent, nothing compares with the educated segment of the East Asian population that has embraced and mastered Western culture.

It's a bit startling to these American eyes to see two Chinese trends described as "the two great popular movements in the world today," but as a Christian, I'm gladdened to read that the Chinese House Church is one of those two movements.

(Via Crunchy Con.)

My oldest son and I attended Tuesday night's speech by Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, sponsored by sixthirtyone, TU's conservative student association and newspaper. The speech was well attended. There were no protesters. Four Tulsa police officers were there to keep an eye on things.

Pipes's speech, "Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy and Helping the Moderate Muslim Ally," was a clear and concise identification of the enemy in the global war on terror. The enemy isn't terrorism -- terrorism is a tactic. The enemy isn't Islam -- to say so is ahistorical, turns friends into enemies, and leaves the US with no policy options. Pipes pointed out that the current threat is only a few decades old.

The enemy is a terroristic, extreme, totalitarian form of Islam: Islamism, which like Fascism and Communism before it, sees America as an obstacle to its goal of worldwide hegemony.

Following the speech, Pipes took questions from the audience.

After the speech my son and I spoke to several of the other attendees, including some professors from ORU, and then joined several of the students from sixthirtyone at Kilkenny's. It was a pleasure to get to know these bright and energetic young conservatives. I've asked them to keep me informed about their activities and future dates in their lecture series.

I attended the second PLANiTULSA workshop this afternoon as a participant (having been a facilitator Monday night). I found the experience exhausting, even a bit frustrating. Even having a clear idea about what to expect from Monday night's session, it was still hard to get all the ideas on the map in the allotted time. Happily, I saw a lot of good ideas that our table missed on other tables' maps.

On my Flickr account, I've posted photos of Monday night and Tuesday afternoon's PLANiTULSA sessions, including closeups of the maps from my tables.

My oldest son and I also attended tonight's speech by Daniel Pipes, sponsored by sixthirtyone, TU's conservative student association and newspaper. The speech was well attended. There were no protesters. Four Tulsa Police officers were there to keep an eye on things.

Pipes's speech, "Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy and Helping the Moderate Muslim Ally," was a clear and concise identification of the enemy in the global war on terror. The enemy isn't terrorism -- terrorism is a tactic. The enemy isn't Islam -- to say so is ahistorical, turns friends into enemies, and leaves the US with no policy options. Pipes pointed out that the current threat is only a few decades old.

The enemy is a terroristic, extreme, totalitarian form of Islam: Islamism, which like Fascism and Communism before it, sees America as an obstacle to its goal of worldwide hegemony.

After the speech my son and I spoke to several of the other attendees and then joined several of the students from sixthirtyone at Kilkenny's. It was a pleasure to get to know these bright and energetic young conservatives. I've asked them to keep me informed about their activities and future dates in their lecture series.

I took video of Pipes's speech and the Q&A, but I'm trying to get it compressed to a reasonable size before uploading it.

Middle East expert Daniel Pipes is speaking tonight at 7 p.m. at the University of Tulsa's Alan Chapman Activities Center (ACAC). The title of his speech is "Vanquishing the Islamist Enemy and Helping the Moderate Muslim Ally."

(Naturally, the TU Muslim Students Association sought and was granted permission to protest this speech.)

From Pipes's biography:

Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University....

He received his A.B. (1971) and Ph.D. (1978) from Harvard University, both in history, and spent six years studying abroad, including three years in Egypt. Mr. Pipes speaks French, and reads Arabic and German. He has taught at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, the U.S. Naval War College, and Pepperdine University. He served in various capacities in the U.S. government, including two presidentially-appointed positions, vice chairman of the Fulbright Board of Foreign Scholarships and board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace. He was director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in 1986-93....

Pipes is the author of 12 books including Militant Islam Reaches America (2002), The Rushdie Affair (Birch Lane, 1990), In the Path of God (Basic Books, 1983), and Slave Soldiers and Islam (Yale University Press, 1981).

I received this notice from the parent of a TU student who was concerned that the number of protesters would outnumber the attendees.

This is an opportunity to gain insight into Islamism from a world-renowned scholar and at the same time provide some support and encouragement to the TU conservative student group that is sponsoring Pipes's appearance.

MEMRI needs money

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The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has been hard at work for over a decade, translating political speeches, popular music, news reports, children's programming, and other media content from Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Urdu, and other languages of the Middle East. MEMRI makes it possible for us to know when Middle Eastern leaders are saying one thing in English to the world and something very different in their own languages to their own people. Government agencies, scholars, think tanks, news outlets, and blogs all depend on MEMRI's translations to inform their understanding of the Middle East.

MEMRI's online offerings include a frequently updated blog, the MEMRI TV video site, and the Islamist websites monitor project. It was MEMRI that called worldwide attention to a death-obsessed children's program on a Palestinian TV station featuring a Mickey Mouse knockoff called Farfour and a militant Hamas bunny named Assud who pledged to finish off the Jews and eat them.

MEMRI needs financial support to continue their work. Giving is quick and easy, and MEMRI's work is vital to clear thinking and honest debate about politics, culture, and religion in the Middle East.

The presidential campaign and city politics churn along, but it's important to take time to remember what happened seven years ago today: The tragic deaths of the innocent, trapped in buildings and in airplanes, the heroic efforts of police officers, firefighters, and the men of Flight 93, the family members and friends they left behind. We need to remember the attack that (too briefly) woke America from its complacency. On that crisp, beautiful late summer's Tuesday, we learned that there were millions of radical Islamists who hated us, hated our freedom, hated our prosperity, and were plotting to destroy us.

To help us remember the day as we should, the History Channel has a special section on its website, including "102 Minutes That Changed America," unedited video of the attack on New York, taken from 10 locations around the World Trade Center. The History Channel will run a commemorative program tonight at 8 p.m. Central time.

A photographic exhibit called "Here Is New York" captures the day through the lenses of hundreds of cameras.

Personal recollections can help us to remember the shock of that day. Ron Coleman was in his law office in midtown Manhattan. In a five-part series, he tells of hearing the news of planes crashing into the towers, monitoring the net and the radio for developments and hearing of the towers' collapse, encountering those fleeing the Financial District -- "like a midday, impromptu, white-collar parade of the dumbstruck", walking west, trying to find a way back to New Jersey and home, and climbing the stairs up the side of the Palisades to get back to his car, his home, and his family.

Finally, take a moment to remember Jayesh Shah, a graduate of Memorial High School and the University of Tulsa, who was working for Cantor Fitzgerald / eSpeed on the 103rd floor of the North Tower. This Houston Chronicle story from the first anniversary of the attacks tells of his family's desperate search for him after the attacks and their grief at the realization that he did not survive. Read it and remember those whose lives were lost and those who were left behind.

Four years ago today, I wrote:

...it is important to remember why we are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and may find ourselves fighting in other places that harbor and sponsor terrorists. Although we desire to live at peace with all men, governments have a divine commission to use force to oppose evil. We cannot hope to enjoy peace as long as there are those who would seek our deaths for the crime of being alive and free.

Let's take time today to refresh our memory, to think and to feel, to relive the pain, to refresh the resolve we had on September 12.

On my way down to the Xcel Center from Cathedral Hill, I came across a rally of about 50 red-shirted folks gathered around the Grand Army of the Republic monument, carrying American flags and placards saying:

"Support our troops AND their mission!"

"VICTORY over Terrorism -- Let Our Soldiers WIN!"

"Home of the FREE because of the BRAVE"

"Some HEROES wear capes. Mine wear COMBAT BOOTS."

and the classic:

"How about rooting for our side for a change, you moonbats?"

The rally in support of the troops began at 10 a.m., as anti-war protesters gathered a few blocks away at the Minnesota State Capitol for a protest march down to the Xcel Center.

The familes' rally was organized by Families United for our Troops and Their Mission. Marrilee Carlson, the president of the group, led the event, which began with the National Anthem, sung a capella with a few notes on the trumpet, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.

Marilee Carlson is a Gold Star mom -- the mother of Army Sergeant Michael "Shrek" Carlson:

During a night mission, his platoon was assigned to cordon off and take out of commission, two bomb-making factories. As the Bradley they were driving was going over a culvert in the roadway, the culvert gave way and the vehicle rolled over backwards into the water. Seven soldiers were in the Bradley; five died, including Michael. A rescue unit was able to save two other soldiers, in large part because before he died, Michael was able to partly pry open the hatch in the vehicle.

Mrs. Carlson read from a "credo" that her son wrote while in high school:

When I am on my deathbed, what am I going to look back on? Will it be thirty years of fighting crime and protecting the country of all enemies, foreign and domestic? I want my life to account for something... I only have so much time. I want to be good at life; I want to be known as the best of the best at my job. I want people to need me, to count on me... I want to fight for something, be part of something that is greater than myself. I want to be a soldier...

Here are some of Mrs. Carlson's remarks:

Gold Star mom Debbie Lee spoke about her son, Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Alan Lee, a Navy Seal killed in Iraq just over two years ago. Mark was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star with Valor, and Purple Heart:

Lee, 28, was killed Aug. 2 in a fierce firefight while on patrol against insurgents in Ramadi, Iraq. An aviation ordinanceman and a member of a Coronado, Calif.-based SEAL team, Lee was one of the first members of the elite group to be killed in Iraq.

U.S. Navy officers told Debbie Lee that her son died after single-handedly holding off enemy fighters as his team rescued a wounded soldier from a rooftop. During the two-hour battle, Marc Lee fired 100 rounds against insurgents, they told her.

A base in Iraq is named in Lee's memory.

Mrs. Lee read from her son's last e-mail from Iraq, a meditation on the nature of glory, self-sacrifice, and generosity:

It is not unknown to most of us that the rest of the world looks at us with doubt towards our humanity and morals. I am not here to preach or to say look at me, because I am just as at fault as the next person. I find that being here makes me realize the great country we have and the obligation we have to keep it that way.

The 4th has just come and gone and I received many emails thanking me for helping keep America great and free. I take no credit for the career path I have chosen; I can only give it to those of you who are reading this, because each one of you has contributed to me and who I am.

However what I do over here is only a small percent of what keeps our country great. I think the truth to our greatness is each other. Purity, morals and kindness, passed down to each generation through example. So to all my family and friends, do me a favor and pass on the kindness, the love, the precious gift of human life to each other so that when your children come into contact with a great conflict that we are now faced with here in Iraq, that they are people of humanity, of pure motives, of compassion. This is our real part to keep America free!

Here are some of Mrs. Lee's remarks:

Mrs. Lee said that God redeployed Marc to heaven, because he'd "successfully completed his mission," but she told the families that they are only halfway through their deployment, and they have a job to do -- to stand for the troops, to write their congressmen, to write letters to the editor, to let their friends and neighbors know what's really going on in Iraq. She spoke of her visit to Iraq, and the Iraqis she met who expressed gratitude for America's presence.

A special surprise speaker emerged a few minutes later. Actor Jon Voight addressed the families. He recalled with regret his anti-Vietnam War activities and expressed thanks for living long enough to change his ways, while saluting the troops who made such a difference in such a short time on this earth.

I said in a little op-ed in the Washington Times, that the great patriotism that is represented by our troops and this generation of young people is really lifting our nation altogether. And thank God for them, for your children and what they have meant to all of us, to fix our minds in the proper direction....

I'm 69 years old. I've had a lot of life. I've needed a lot of life to get my priorities straight.... I got a little wayward at the end of the '60s, with celebrity -- it does something to your mind. It drops your IQ.... It distracts you from the truth.... I got into this antiwar stuff in the late '60s and early '70s, and I pray to God everyday that he would forgive me for that nonsense....

I am in awe of the young people who stand for this country....

Here are Voight's remarks:

MORE: Families United also rallied across from an antiwar protest in Denver a week ago. Looking at the Left has photos.

As See-Dubya says, "Whom to root against?"

The worst reactionary impulses of the seventh century, or the engines of postmodern degradation? A pox on both their houses.

That's in reference to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint filed by the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK) on behalf of an 18-year-old Tulsa woman who was refused employment in the Abercrombie Kids store at Woodland Hills Mall because she, a Muslim, wears a hijab. The girl alleges that the store manager told her that the headscarf doesn't fit Abercrombie's image.

This ought to be laughed out of court. Of course a company ought to have the freedom to hire whom it pleases and to consider its public image in whom it hires to deal directly with the public. Freedom of association is a fundamental First Amendment right which is meaningless without the freedom not to associate.

Anyway, this is not about religion, it's about clothing and appearance. The hijab is not mandated by religion; it is mandated by culture, and its use and appearance varies from one Islamic country to another. The zTruth blog pointed out, regarding a CAIR hiring complaint against McDonald's in Dearborn, Michigastan:

Muslims insist this is a obligatory dress code, which I contend is not. I've only read in the Quran that women should dress modestly and cover their breasts. Nowhere have I read in the Quran that hair and/or the face is to be covered up but, perhaps, I missed it.

See-Dubya notes the strangeness of the situation:

This plaintiff is fighting to preserve her modesty while going to work for a company that's injected more soft porn into our cultural bloodstream than Cinemax?

I have to wonder if the choice of Abercrombie and Fitch was deliberate on CAIR-OK's part: Send a young Muslim woman in a hijab to apply for a job at a company that has been the subject of protests from conservative Christians for its skanky catalogs and advertising. Perhaps CAIR thought that they could build an alliance with conservative Christians by making A&F their target.

I won't defend A&F's "image," but that isn't what's under attack. It's the right any organization -- whether a Christian bookstore or a vintage clothing consignment shop or a church or a school -- should have to set dress standards in line with the organization's purpose.

Noting the Jamal Miftah case, See--Dubya says, "This is radical Islam asserting itself yet again in the heartland." Left-wing politicians in Oklahoma aren't offering any resistance. Gov. Brad Henry set up a special state commission to promote Muslim concerns, but disguised its purpose with the name "Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council." The zTruth blog reported last November that State Sen. Andrew Rice, the Democratic nominee for U. S. Senate, was the main speaker at CAIR-OK's fundraising banquet in Tulsa, praising CAIR's work, despite the organization's connections with radical groups Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans are keeping a close eye on the activities of groups connected with radical Islamist groups. On July 30, Sen. Tom Coburn joined Arizona Republican Sen. Jon Kyl in writing Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to object to Federal funding of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA):

Earlier this year, it came to our attention that at least two State Department grantees were funding Muslim outreach programs operated by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an unindicted coconspirator in a recent terror financing trial, and a leader of the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS). The Muslim Brotherhood, whose radical and violent agenda has been extensively documented, is an Islamist organization opposed to Western liberal democracy and considers both entities part of its U.S. network....

Despite the Muslim Brotherhood link to these entities, in December 2007, a grant of nearly $500,000 was awarded by the U.S. State Department to the University of Delaware which employs a leader of the AMSS, Muqtedar Khan, to manage the grant. The grant is meant to foster dialogue between the U.S. and clerics in Muslim countries.
In 2006 and 2007, the National Peace Foundation received State Department grants of $466,000 and $499,999 to conduct similar programs in partnership with ISNA.

Staff from the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Governmental lnformation, Federal Services, and International Security met with State Department officials from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs which manages these grants. When explaining the vetting procedures used for these grantees, your staff admitted that they do not vet the grantees used to implement these Muslim outreach programs. Instead, they rely on the grantees to vet themselves. Accordingly, the Slate Department is funding organizations without having a proper understanding of their membership, affiliation or whether they may be pursuing an agenda that is at odds with
U.S. policy -- to wage a war of ideas against the extremist ideology that inspires terrorism around the world, including here in the United States.

Even more troubling, the decision to award the grant managed by Mr. Khan of AMSS was based on a recommendation letter from the International Institute of Islamic Thought (lIIT), another unindicted coconspirator in the terror financing trial referenced above. Like ISNA and AMSS, the Muslim Brotherhood considers lIIT part of its U.S. network through which it wages a "civilization-jihadist process" to destroy Western civilization....

When Senator Coburn first learned that the State Department was funding Islamist entities, he requested a meeting with Goli Ameri who, at the time, was the nominee to become the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and would manage the bureau that issues these grants. During the discussion of her nomination, Ms. Ameri promised Senator Coburn that the State Department would stop funding these entities once she was confirmed.

Unfortunately, sometime after Ms. Ameri was confirmed, ISNA announced new sub-grant funding from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to carry out a new Muslim outreach program. An ISNA press release stated that these federal funds paid for a U.S. delegation to meet with Dr. Ali Goma, the Mufti of Egypt. In 2003, Ali Goma was
quoted in Egypt's "AI-haqiqa" newspaper defending terrorist acts in Israel....

We are sure that you would agree that Americans should not have to fund their enemies in the form of misguided "outreach" efforts. To that end, please provide a response to the following questions by August 9, 2008:

(I) By what date will all funding to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations (including organizations identified in the attached Muslim Brotherhood memorandum) through grants, cooperative agreements. fellowships, contracts or any other funding vehicle, be curtailed?

(2) By what date will you establish Department-wide, standardized procedures to prevent funding from being provided to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations (including organizations identified in the attached Muslim Brotherhood memorandum)?

That memo was linked from the home page of Steven Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism. Emerson testified recently to the House Terrorism Subcommittee about the State Department's misdirected outreach funding. Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs calls it the "State Department of Islam": "Frightening in its failure .............. deadly in its implications. The damn thing must be scrapped. Top to bottom, starting with Condhimmi."

(Read about Emerson's first encounter with radical Islamism, right here in the heartland, in Oklahoma City on Christmas Day 1992.)

ISNA is the owner of Tulsa's al-Salaam Mosque and is one of the defendants in Jamal Miftah's lawsuit against those who assaulted and defamed him as anti-Muslim for speaking out against terrorism in the name of Islam.

MORE:

zTruth, Islamization Watch, and Overlawyered are also following the Tulsa A&F story.

Rick Moore calls the lawsuit "one of those 'Iran-Iraq War' kinds of disputes in which you wish both sides could lose, but only after a long, bloody and costly serious of battles."

Sharp Right Turn notes this story and news of Tyson Foods' decision to cancel Labor Day as a paid holiday at its Shelbyville, Tenn., plant in favor of Eid al-Fitr.

Tod Robberson at the Dallas Morning News opinion blog challenges readers to justify the hijab as a religious matter:

Religious custom is not the equivalent of religious belief or religious doctrine. I contend that the headscarf has evolved as a custom and expectation in Islam, but it is by no means a requirement for women who adhere to Islam to wear it.

And in case you missed it, CAIR sued Mission Foods earlier this year for requiring its workers to wear pants:

Fatuma Hassan and five of her Muslim co-workers lost their jobs at Mission Foods tortilla factory last month after they said that wearing a new uniform with pants violated their Islamic beliefs.

''For me, wearing pants is the same as being naked,'' said Hassan, 22. ''My culture, my religious beliefs, are more important than a uniform.''...

The Mission Foods clash has also led to a lawsuit. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a civil rights group, filed a religious discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Mission Foods had implemented the new dress code for factory workers and said the traditional Muslim clothing was too loose-fitting and posed a safety hazard near machines.

STILL MORE:

jedijson at Kick the Anthill is another conservative Christian (and a Tulsan, too, apparently) pulling for A&F in this situation:

No, I'm not hip on a company that puts out soft-porn pictures as their advertisements to entice my children into their stores, but still. Whenever a special-interest group tries to overstep a company's policies, it just rankles me to no end.

It's a long rant, but worth reading.

On Wednesday, July 23, District Judge Linda Morrissey denied motions by the Islamic Society of Tulsa, Mujib Cheema, and the North American Islamic Trust to dismiss Jamal Miftah's lawsuit against them. Miftah is suing Cheema, IST, and NAIT, as well as several other individual leaders in IST for assault and battery, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Earlier this year, Judge Gordon McAllister granted several motions to dismiss, but gave Miftah's attorneys 20 days to present an amended petition. It was this amended petition that was the subject of the latest motions to dismiss, which were denied.

We will keep you posted on developments. Here is a link to BatesLine's Jamal Miftah category, where you can catch up on the dispute between Miftah and IST regarding IST expelling him over his op-ed condemning terrorism in the name of Islam.

DOCUMENTS: Here are some of Jamal Miftah's court filings in this case:

  1. June 22, 2007: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Original Petition
  2. October 30, 2007: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Response to Motion for Dismissal
  3. April 2, 2008: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Amended Petition
  4. May 15, 2008: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Motion for Continuance
  5. June 9, 2008: Jamal Miftah v. Islamic Society of Tulsa et al. - Response to Motion for Dismissal

Reading the amended petition, item 3 above, will get you up to speed on the incident that prompted the lawsuit. The response to the motion to dismiss the amended lawsuit, item 5 above, is the plaintiff's explanation for why the mosque and the national entities that own it have been named as defendants in the suit.

TRACKBACKS:

See-Dubya updates readers at Michelle Malkin's blog, with a reminder of some of the threats that have been made against Miftah. Readers there have posted some words of encouragement for him in the comments.

See-Dubya links to this Hot Air video report about Miftah by counterterrorism reporter Erick Stakelbeck, from February 2007.

Howie at My Pet Jawa links the story, too.

Gates of Vienna has excerpts from the amended petition summarizing what happened to Miftah as the result of his op-ed. The excerpts also speak of Miftah and other members of the mosque raising concerns, earlier in 2005, about the lack of transparent accounting practices at IST, involving cash payments to outside organizations. The Gates of Vienna blogger writes: "It's good to know that someone is using one of ISNA's preferred weapons against them."

Memorial Day

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I can't mark the day better than Ron Coleman has, who recites two stanzas of the Navy hymn, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save," and calls us to remember those who placed themselves in mortal peril on sea and land and in the air, to free us from fear of "the peril that our ancestors, in whatever place they were, lived with at every moment in their own homes -- the perils of tyranny, of arbitrary violence and of comprehensive destruction of their entire worlds."

This Memorial Day we are morally obliged to thank them, to remember them, and no less the God that has given so much victory and might to their hands and to ours; and to live our lives to and demand of our civilization a standard of moral and civic quality that merits the bestowing of such grace today and tomorrow.

Reader Ted King writes to tell me about a film well worth seeing. It's showing at Tulsa's Circle Cinema through May 15.

It's called The Singing Revolution, and it's about Estonia's struggle for independence in the late 1980s, and the role that patriotic songs played in that successful overthrow of Soviet rule. From the film's website:

Most people don't think about singing when they think about revolution. But song was the weapon of choice when Estonians sought to free themselves from decades of Soviet occupation. "The Singing Revolution" is an inspiring account of one nation's dramatic rebirth. It is the story of humankind's irrepressible drive for freedom and self-determination.

You may find yourself getting choked up watching the trailer. I did.

Here are the remaining showtimes at the Circle Cinema:

Friday, 5/9: 2:00pm, 5:45pm
Saturday, 5/10: 4:00pm
Sunday, 5/11: 2:00pm, 5:45pm
Monday, 5/12 & Tuesday, 5/13: 3:30pm, 7:15pm
Wednesday, 5/14: 5:15pm
Thursday, 5/15: 3:30pm, 7:15pm

Circle Cinema is located at Admiral and Lewis in Whittier Square, an area on the upswing. Just next door to the Circle is a soon-to-open French coffeehouse called Alisée MoMo. It looks very cool.

(Happily, the dirty bookstore on the opposite corner is gone.)

My wife and I both laughed out loud this morning when we heard 1170 KFAQ's Chris Medlock relate that when he was a kid his mother sent him to school on St. Patrick Day wearing orange to make a political statement. (And you wondered where his contrary streak comes from.)

Way back in the mid-'90s, B.C., (before children) we took a couple of trips to Ulster, spending time both in Northern Ireland and in County Donegal, part of the Republic of Ireland. My maternal ancestors were Presbyterian Ulster Scots who came to America from the eastern part of County Donegal, a region called the Laggan, in 1769. My great-grandfather on my father's mother's side came from Irish Roman Catholic stock in county West Meath. Family lore says his parents intended for him to go into the priesthood. Instead, he came to America, made his way to Kansas and married a girl 21 years his junior.

During our trips, we saw first-hand the two cultures that exist in that region -- the Irish Roman Catholic culture and the Protestant Ulster Scots culture, planted in Ulster by King James of England and Scotland in the early 17th century. The Irish flag was designed to represent both cultures -- green for the Roman Catholics, orange for the Protestants, and the white band in the middle to keep them apart, or so the legend goes. The color orange became identified with Protestants in Ireland because it was William III of England, Prince of Orange, a Protestant, who defeated James (II of England, VII of Scotland), a Roman Catholic, at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

But St. Patrick belongs to Protestant and Roman Catholic Irish alike, and indeed to all with roots in the British Isles. Patrick was a Briton who grew up near what is now Glasgow, Scotland. Sold into slavery in Ireland, he returned to the Christian faith of his family. Upon his return to Britain, he was called of God to go back to the land of his captors and preach the gospel to them. He is said to be buried at Downpatrick in Northern Ireland, and Armagh in the north is the seat of two St. Patrick's Cathedrals -- one Roman Catholic and one Church of Ireland (Anglican).

There's no need to wear orange today to show solidarity with Loyalists and Protestants. Patrick belongs to us too. (Save the orange wear for the 12th of July. Or the next OSU home game.)

George Grant has a post today about Patrick's conversion and zeal for missions:

Of his conversion he later wrote, "I was sixteen years old and knew not the true God and was carried away captive; but in that strange land the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes, and although late I called my sins to mind, and was converted with my whole heart to the Lord my God, who regarded my low estate, had pity on my youth and ignorance, and consoled me as a father consoles his children. Every day I used to look after sheep and I used to pray often during the day, the love of God and a holy fear of Him increased more and more in me. My faith began to grow and my spirit was ardently stirred. Often, I would pray as many as a hundred times in a single day--and nearly as many at night. Even when I was staying out in the woods or on the mountain, I would rise before dawn for prayer, in snow and frost and rain. I felt no ill effect and there was no slackness in me. As I now realize, it was because the Spirit was maturing and preparing me for a work yet to come."...

Thus, Patrick returned to Ireland. He preached to the pagan tribes in the Irish language he had learned as a slave. His willingness to take the Gospel to the least likely and the least lovely people imaginable was met with extraordinary success. And that success would continue for over the course of nearly half a century of evangelization, church planting, and social reform. He would later write that God's grace had so blessed his efforts that "many thousands were born again unto God." Indeed, according to the early church chronicler Killen, "There can be no reasonable doubt that Patrick preached the Gospel, that he was a most zealous and efficient evangelist, and that he is entitled to be called the Apostle of Ireland."

Grant has also posted the text of the great prayer known as St. Patrick's Breastplate, which includes these lines:

I bind unto myself today The power of God to hold and lead, His eye to watch, His might to stay, His ear to hearken to my need. The wisdom of my God to teach, His hand to guide, His shield to ward; The word of God to give me speech, His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

RELATED: Manchán Magan says that the Irish language is disappearing from Ireland. He tried to use it all over the country and was greeted with incomprehension at best, rudeness at worst.

I left Dublin with renewed hope. Outside the capital, people were more willing to listen to me, though no more likely to understand me. I was given the wrong directions, served the wrong food and given the wrong haircut, but I was rarely made to feel foolish again. Even in Northern Ireland, on Belfast's staunchly British-loyalist Shankill Road, I was treated with civility, though warned that if I persisted in speaking the language, I was liable to end up in hospital. In Galway, I went out busking on the streets, singing the filthiest, most debauched lyrics I could think of to see if anyone would understand. No one did. Old women smiled, tapping their feet merrily as I serenaded them with filth. In Killarney, I stood outside a bank promising passers-by huge sums of money if they helped me rob it, but again no one understood.

(Via Hot Air.)

Julie Dermody of Collinsville has a brother in the National Guard who just returned to Oklahoma from Iraq. Through him, she became aware of a need for hospitalized troops in Iraq, something very basic and very inexpensive that would be very much appreciated: pajama pants.

No one likes wearing hospital gowns. Not only are they hard to put on, with the ties in back, they don't do an adequate job of covering what needs to be covered. Julie writes:

When soldiers are wounded in Iraq, they are taken to the hospital where their clothing is removed and they are given a hospital gown. (The kind that is slit up the backside) The trek to the hospital does not include stopping and getting an extra set of clothing ~ so our Heroes are left standing around with their bare bottoms playing peek-a-boo with every step they take.

You know how demeaning hospital gowns can be ~ Remember walking down a crowed hallway, feeling a cold draft up your backside? Then remembering...oops the world is able to see my derriere? Our brave men and women deserve better. With your help, we can give them a little dignity as they recover from injuries sustained in IRAQ.

Our goal is to collect 5,000 sleep pants and t-shirts. We will package a set in 2 gallon Ziploc bags with a card wishing them rapid recovery and letting them know since they've got our backs its time for us to step up and cover their's!

She's asking for new (NOT used) t-shirts and sleep pants with no words or writing on them. She'd like to collect all 5,000 sets by the end of March.

If you'd like to help, call Julie Dermody at 918-232-3796 or send her an e-mail at jjdermody03@sbcglobal.net. You can follow the project's progress at her GI Pajama Party blog.

abigaillitle.jpg

Five years ago, on the afternoon of March 5, 2003, a Palestinian suicide bomber stepped onto a city bus in Haifa, Israel, and detonated the shrapnel-laden bomb strapped to his body. 17 people were killed by the explosion, 53 were wounded. This was a bus filled with young people. Of the 17 fatalities, 9 were under 18, and only two were over the age of 27.

I knew one of the young people killed on that bus, 14-year-old Abigail Litle, the daughter of dear friends of mine from college. Here's an excerpt of something I wrote shortly after the attack:

Just one week earlier Abigail and Juval [Mendelevich] had gone on their first field trip with their school's "Children Teaching Children" program, designed to bring Arab and Jewish teenagers together, in hopes of tearing down the wall of prejudice between the two communities. At an Arab-Israeli school, Abigail befriended an Arab girl. They were to meet again the following Monday.

But a hate-filled murderer got on the bus that Juval and Abigail were riding. Right after Juval's dad heard his son say, "I love you," Mahmoud Hamdan Kawasme detonated an explosive package filled with nails, killing 16 innocents and maiming many more. Mahmoud left behind a note praising the 9/11 attacks. Later that week, Mahmoud's mother threw a party celebrating his "martyrdom" and told the press she was proud of her son.

Abigail's parents are friends of mine from college. Phil and Heidi Litle were three and two years ahead of me at MIT, respectively. Phil and Heidi are possessed of a deep and abiding Christian faith, and they influenced a generation of Christians at MIT to pursue a closer walk with Jesus. They first came to Israel when Abigail was a baby and her older brother Josiah was a toddler, so that Phil could pursue a graduate degree at Technion, Israel's most prestigious engineering school. They fell in love with Israel and its people, and so they stayed and had three more children there. Phil took a position as an administrator with the Baptist denomination, serving the small evangelical Christian community in the country. The Litles worship as part of a congregation led by an Israeli Arab, side by side with Jewish, Arab, and Gentile followers of Jesus.

Abigail had all the hopes and dreams of a typical American 14 year old. She wasn't some agent of "the Zionist entity" seeking to "oppress" the Palestinians. She was a bridge across ethnic and religious divides. She saw people as individuals, not as racial stereotypes. And two weeks ago, she was murdered, she and Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, by a Palestinian who had been indoctrinated by official Palestinian media and by official Palestinian schools to believe that killing Jews is honorable and blessed by God. Abigail's life was gone in an instant.

On this fifth anniversary of her death, I ask you to join me in remembering her life, in celebrating her victorious faith in Christ, in praying for her family, and in recommitting to the long struggle against terrorism. Here are links to some articles about her and about the terrorist attack.

A month after the bombing, Abigail's father wrote a letter about Abigail's life and character, about the events of March 5, and about her funeral.

A couple of weeks after the bombing, I wrote the piece excerpted above about the bombing and the false parallels being drawn between Abigail Litle and Rachel Corrie. Corrie died defending tunnels that Palestinian terrorists used to smuggle weapons into Israel.

This blog entry, from a year later, includes a description by Abigail's father of the first anniversary memorials and has links to an account of Abigail's faith and an editorial by the spokesman for Israel's Chicago consulate.

On the third anniversary of the bombing, Angela Bertz remembered the nine children killed on that bus in light of the Academy Awards' celebration of Palestinian terrorism:

This year, to the horror of anyone with a moral conscience, the movie "Paradise Now" was rewarded with an award by the Golden Globes. This abhorrent movie attempts, with a somewhat warped mixture of humour and mawkish sentiments, to turn mass murderers into the same breathing, caring individuals as their intended victims.

It follows the trail of 2 young Palestinian men, not much older than the victims of the #37 bus, culminating in one of the mass murderers detonating an explosive belt on a crowded Tel Aviv bus.

It seems that Palestinian mass murder is not only popcorn flavour of the month with the Golden Globes, but with the Academy Awards looming, this horrific epic to nothing more than Palestinian terrorism is about to come up trumps again.

One can only look in amazement as this respectable organization will read out the names of this year's nominations, which include "Paradise Now". This is tantamount to declaring that the event of 3 years ago and the murder of 9 innocent children (+ eight more innocent people) at the hands of a Palestinian homicide bomber, is of no more consequence than the death of a couple of luckless cows who were killed to provide the hotdogs for anyone who considers this a movie of any merit.

The Academy, if it had any moral fiber, would throw out this nomination. The mass murderers fulfilled their senseless ambition in life when they murdered these innocent children and many other innocent victims. They will no doubt be a light to their non-existent nation of Palestine, shining brightly under some street sign in Gaza named after them, or grinning from the pages of a Palestinian textbook, who will revere them as heroes for the next generation of Palestinian children who long to emulate them. Their mothers, like that of the 37 bus bomber will talk with pride of their child's deed.

The children on the #37 bus, who never had the chance to fulfill their ambitions in life, which certainly never included mass-murder, are the real stars. Their light will shine brighter than any Golden Globe or Oscar, in the memories of not only all those that knew and loved them personally, but to everyone who has had the privilege of knowing them in some small way through websites dedicated to their memory.

Just after the second anniversary, Deroy Murdock wrote about the importance of the language we use in talking about terrorism, terrorists and their victims. (Emphasis added.)

When speaking about those who are killed by terrorists, be specific, name them, and tell us about them. Humanize these individuals. They are more than just statistics or stick figures.

I have written 18 articles and produced a Web page, HUSSEINandTERROR.com, to demonstrate that Saddam Hussein did have ties to terrorism....

To show that Saddam Hussein's support of terrorism cost American lives, I remind people about the aid and comfort he gave to terrorism master Abu Nidal. Among Abu Nidal's victims in the 1985 bombing of Rome's airport was John Buonocore, a 20-year-old exchange student from Delaware. Palestinian terrorists fatally shot Buonocore in the back as he checked in for his flight. He was heading home after Christmas to celebrate his father's 50th birthday.

In another example, those killed by Palestinian homicide bombers subsidized by Saddam Hussein were not all Israeli, which would have been unacceptable enough. Among the 12 or more Americans killed by those Baathist-funded murderers was Abigail Litle, the 14-year-old daughter of a Baptist minister. She was blown away aboard a bus in Haifa on March 5, 2003. Her killer's family got a check for $25,000 courtesy of Saddam Hussein as a bonus for their son's "martyrdom."

Is all of this designed to press emotional buttons? You bet it is. Americans must remain committed -- intellectually and emotionally -- to this struggle. There are many ways to engage the American people. No one should hesitate to remind Americans that terrorism kills our countrymen -- at home and abroad -- and that those whom militant Islam demolishes include promising young people with bright futures, big smiles, and, now, six feet of soil between them and their dreams.

Never forget.

RELATED: The mother of Abigail Litle's murderer threw a party in her son's honor a few days after the killing. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz asks how we fight a culture where mothers urge their sons to prefer martyrdom to life.

"We are going to win, because they love life and we love death," said Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah. He has also said: "[E]ach of us lives his days and nights hoping more than anything to be killed for the sake of Allah." Shortly after 9/11, Osama bin Laden told a reporter: "We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the big difference between us."

"The Americans love Pepsi-Cola, we love death," explained Afghani al Qaeda operative Maulana Inyadullah....

How should Western democracies fight against an enemy whose leaders preach a preference for death?...

The traditional sharp distinction between soldiers in uniform and civilians in nonmilitary garb has given way to a continuum. At the more civilian end are babies and true noncombatants; at the more military end are the religious leaders who incite mass murder; in the middle are ordinary citizens who facilitate, finance or encourage terrorism. There are no hard and fast lines of demarcation, and mistakes are inevitable -- as the terrorists well understand.

We need new rules, strategies and tactics to deal effectively and fairly with these dangerous new realities....

(Thanks to Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton for calling this article to my attention.)

... and hoist it in honor of St. David's Day, the national day of the Principality of Wales, with a rousing rendition of "Men of Harlech."

Here it is again, in Welsh and English, sung by Charlotte Church with the London Welsh Male Voice Choir:

Finally, the hymn "Cwm Rhondda" ("Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah") and "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau," the Welsh national anthem:

Why a leek?

The connection between Wales and the leek is obscure. Most authors trying to trace the link come up with one or other of the legends that show it was used by the Welsh as a cap badge in battle to show friend from foe

One version is that St David advised the Britons on the eve of a battle with the Saxons, to wear leeks in their caps so that they could easily distinguish friend from foe. This apparently helped to secure a great victory.

Another version has the same thing happening at the Battle of Agincourt, when Welsh archers fought with Henry V against the French. The leeks in their caps distinguished them from their enemies

In any event the leek is firmly associated with the Welsh today. Leeks are worn on St David's Day. It is still a surviving tradition that soldiers in the Welsh regiments eat a raw leek on St David's Day.

Appropriately enough, the daffodils are just about to bloom here in Tulsa.

If you don't know about the case of Ezra Levant, you should. Here is his account of when he was called before the Alberta Human Rights Commission to respond to complaints from radical Muslim leaders that he had published the controversial Danish cartoons of Mohammed in his magazine two years ago.

I told [human rights officer Shirlene McGovern] that the complaint process itself was a punishment. Even if I was eventually acquitted, I would still lose -- hundreds of hours, and tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills. That's not an accident, that's one of the tools of these commissions. Every journalist in the country has been taught a lesson: Censor yourself now, or be put through a costly wringer. I said all this and then Officer McGovern replied, "You're entitled to your opinions, that's for sure."

But that's not for sure, is it? We're only entitled to our opinions now if they don't offend some very easily offended people.

One of the complainants against me is someone I would describe as a radical Muslim imam, Syed Soharwardy. He grew up in the madrassas of Pakistan and he lectures on the Saudi circuit. He advocates sharia law for all countries, including Canada. His website is rife with Islamic supremacism -- offensive to many Canadian Jews, gentiles, women and gays. But his sensitivities -- his Saudi-Pakistani values -- have been offended by me.

And so now the secular government of Alberta is enforcing his fatwa against the cartoons.

It's the same for Mohamed Elmasry, the complainant against Maclean's magazine for publishing an excerpt from Mark Steyn's book, America Alone. Egyptian-born Elmasry has publicly said that any adult Jew in Israel is a legitimate target for a terrorist attack, a grossly offensive statement.

Both the Canadian and B.C. Human Rights Commissions are now hearing his complaints against Maclean's.

Here's the ironic part: The laws that the Muslim extremists are exploiting to suppress criticism of Islam by a publisher who is Jewish were put in place at the urging of the Canadian Jewish Congress, who intended the laws to target people Levine describes as "invariably poor, unorganized, harmless neo-Nazi cranks and conspiracy theorists."

Levine says that Soharwardy tried to have him arrested three times; the police refused, but the human rights commission was happy to take up the case.

What a strange place Canada is in 2008, where the police care more about human rights than the human rights commissions do, where fundamentalist Muslims use hate-speech laws drafted by secular Jews, and where a government bureaucrat can interrogate a publisher for 90 minutes, and be shocked when he won't shake her hand in greeting.

You can see clips of Levant's appearance before the human rights interrogator and more information about the situation on his website, ezralevant.com.

UPDATE: iowahawk has captured the situation with this spoof of Thought Crime Commissar McGovern's report of the interrogation of Levine.






This may sound like an urban legend, but it's the real deal.

From now through Thanksgiving Day (November 22), AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile customers can send a text message of thanks to American troops abroad, free of charge.

Just text your message of thanks to 89279, and it will be delivered to an American serviceman overseas. You'll get an acknowledgment that your message was received, and you may even get a few replies. You can see some of the recent messages others have sent above.

Learn more by visiting AmericaSupportsYou.mil. I first read about this in Amanda Carpenter's recent column on TownHall.

In case you missed it from Monday's KFAQ Mornings with Gwen Freeman and Chris Medlock, here's an MP3 of their interview with former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton. Bolton is discussing his new book, Surrender Is Not an Option.

About UN reform, Bolton said that efforts at marginal reform will never work, and the only way that wholesale change will occur is if UN contributions are made voluntary. Instead of a mandatory assessment funding all UN activities, which creates "an entitlement mentality" in the UN bureaucracy, nations would be able to pick and choose which UN programs are effective enough to deserve funding.

Bolton also discussed Iran's nuclear threat -- could be several years away, could be less than a year. Bolton says regardless, he doesn't believe in "just-in-time non-proliferation" -- ruling out the military option until Iran is on the verge or actually has nukes. He didn't use this phrase, but his counsel could be summarized as Barney Fife's watchword: "Nip it in the bud."

Medlock asked which is the greatest nuclear threat, Iran or North Korea. Bolton believes its the Norks and mentioned Israel's September 6th air strike on a site in Syria that may have been a joint North Korea-Syria nuclear project. Iran he described as the "world's central banker for terrorism."

In response to the idea that we could use deterrence to keep Iran in check, as we did with the Soviet Union during the Cold War: "You have people who prize life in the hereafter more than life on earth, they're not subject to classic theories of deterrence."

Bolton also discussed the Bush Administration's push for a Palestinian state, and the dangers of an administration's eighth-year search for a Legacy: "That's a dangerous period, because you can achieve a 'legacy' by giving away the store."

About Pakistan, Bolton said that America's priority has to be the security of Pakistan's nuclear stockpile. A revolution or even a period of chaos could put nuclear weapons in the hands of Al Qaeda. It's not a case, he said, of white hats for democracy vs. black hats in the military. He pointed out that Benazir Bhutto, head of the largest party in Pakistan, has the title "chairperson for life."

Regarding Iraq, Bolton said that an early pull-out would send the wrong message to both our adversaries and our allies.

Regarding the presidential campaign, it's his hope that his book will help keep national security issues in the forefront. He doesn't see anyone saying anything sensible on the Democratic side. He thinks all the top tier Republican candidates have demonstrated good judgment on foreign policy.

Gwen and Chris did a great job with the interview, and Bolton, contrary to his fierce reputation, was relaxed and pleasant to listen to.

I received an e-mail from Nageena Shahnaz Miftah, the wife of Jamal Miftah, responding individually to the seven people who spoke at the recent "press conference" (really a rally) held at the Islamic Society of Tulsa for the purpose of denouncing State Rep. Rex Duncan and other legislators who declined to receive a Koran from the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council. The seven speakers were there to condemn Duncan and the others as intolerant and bigoted.

Jamal Miftah was confronted at IST's mosque in a threatening way, called anti-Islamic, and then expelled from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's mosque, all because of an op-ed piece he wrote condemning those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam. The incident took place a year ago Saturday on November 18, 2006.

I suspected that the Miftah family would find it sadly ironic that this mosque would be the site of a condemnation of bigotry, and that turned out to be true.

I've added Mrs. Miftah's comments to my earlier entry about the press conference and about the latest information about the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council. Click that link to read what she has to say.

Urban Tulsa Weekly reporter Brian Ervin digs deeper into the controversy over the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council (GEAAC) and its gift of a special centennial edition of the Koran to state legislators. As BatesLine first reported back in May, the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council was created by executive order of Governor Brad Henry. Its meetings are held in state office buildings and its activities are supported by taxpayer-funded employees of the state's Office of Personnel Management. Unlike the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which offered centennial editions of the Bible to legislators, the GEAAC is a government agency, not a private religious group.

Ervin provides, for the first time in print, the full text of the e-mail from GEAAC chairman Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour to legislators offering "the holy book of Quran." He also provides the full text of State Rep. Rex Duncan's response, also for the first time in print. (Chris Medlock had it online previously.)

Ervin saved the biggest news for last. After Henry's spokesman denied knowing whether the GEAAC was exclusively Muslim -- "I do not know if all members are Muslims because we do not ask appointees to any board to disclose their religious affiliation." -- and denied knowing the reason that Henry chose the awkward name for the group, Ervin asked Seirafi-Pour about the reason for the name:

"The name wasn't of my choosing, but we were happy with it. You'd have to ask the Governor why we're called that," she said.

She offered her best guess, though.

"The thing is, Islam is not limited to the Middle East--there are Muslims of West African descent and other nationalities from around the world," said Seirafi-Pour.

"If it had been called the 'Middle Eastern American Advisory Council,' it would have limited membership to Muslims of Middle Eastern descent," she added.

MORE: There are videos on YouTube of the press conference held at the Islamic Society of Tulsa (IST) in response to the centennial Koran controversy. The user who posted them has disabled embedding so you'll have to follow the links below to watch the video.

It was more of a rally than a press conference. No questions from the press were allowed. Speeches were given by representatives of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance (the anti-evangelical lobby group), the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, the Oklahoma Conference for Community and Justice, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR, the PR arm of the Wahhabi lobby in the United States), Say No to Hate, the Islamic Society of Tulsa, and the Jewish Federation of Tulsa.

Here is part one and here is part two.

From their remarks, it seemed that none of the speakers had read Rep. Duncan's complete e-mail, despite it being only three sentences long.

It's interesting that the OCCJ spokesman acknowledged that the GEAAC was "made up of American Muslims of Middle East countries," a fact that was omitted by mainstream coverage of the press conference. (That's about 20 seconds into part 2.)

I imagine Jamal Miftah finds it ironic to hear all these people talking about tolerance at the Islamic Society of Tulsa.

UPDATE: Jamal Miftah's wife, Nageena Shahnaz Miftah, sent me an e-mail with her reaction to the Islamic Society of Tulsa press conference, with a message to each of the participants, including one from her daughter to Allison Moore, a leader in IST who had been her daughter's Sunday school teacher prior to Jamal Miftah's expulsion from IST. (I've added some identifying notes in square brackets for the speakers she addresses.)

Here is my message to all the participants of this drama; Please come and talk to us and find out why my husband was declared anti-Islamic, anti Muslim in the very same place (the so called Al Salam Mosque) where Mr. Duncan and his fellows are now being condemned for refusing to accept Q'uran because of the passiveness shown by the Muslim leadership when it comes to condemn terrorism or take practical steps to stop terrorist activities.

My responses to each of the speakers is as under:

1- Mrs. Sandra Rana is probably the same lady, who didn't even had the courage or decency to speak truth about my husband's situation to a fellow Christian, Mr. James Mishler back in 2006.

2- Mr. Marlin Lavanhar [of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry]: Please investigate to find out about the unapologetic bigotry of IST, CAIR and ISNA toward my husband. The way the leadership of these organization reacted (or remained silent) to my husband's op-ed piece condemning terrorism is suggestive of their real objective which appears to be promotion of violence and siding with terrorism.

3- Mr. [Keith] McArtor [of Tulsa Interfaith Alliance] please; who are you giving all these good lessons to?! the IST leadership? Please find out what they did to my husband when he had come peacefully to offer his prayers to the so called peace mosque on November 18th, 2006.

Sir, they have two faces: one is when they want to fool American people with beautiful faces and voices of people like Sheryl Siddiqui, Sandra Rana, Allison Moore etc. The other one is for their own members where they use the street gang sort of tactics through other leaders of the so called mosque to suppress the voices of moderate muslims against terrorism like the one of my husband.

4- Now to Justice Waidner, Say No to Hate. Ma'am you are in the wrong place and with the wrong group. Please don't waste your time on their face saving maneuvers. Come talk to me.

5- Mr. [Oliver] Howard [of Oklahoma Conference on Community and Justice], although me and my family are saddened with Mr. Duncan's refusal to accept the gift of Quran, we understand the obvious reason; hypocrisy of muslims' leaders around the world in the west and the US and especially within the leadership of IST, CAIR and ISNA.

5- Mr. [Razi] Hashimi [of Council on Islamic American Relations], where were you hiding when my husband Jamal Miftah was expelled from the so called Al Salam Mosque where you are lectuing on peace. what was his fault? Condemning Terrorism!

6- Mr. David Bernstein [of Jewish Federation of Tulsa], you are in the wrong place you should have come here and heard the prayers for destruction of Jews and Christians by the then Imam of this so called Mosque, Ahmad Kabbani, during the period of war between terrorist of Hizbullah and Hamas with Israel. When my husband refused to participate and agree with those prayers, the said Imam single him out in an attempt to ridicule him.

7- Now for Allison Moore, my daughter Syeda Mufleeha Miftah who used to go to Sunday school to her classes prior to November 18th, 2006:

"Ms. Moore, I was very disappointed when I heard from my friends that you lied about my father's article by saying that he has written in his article that Tulsa mosque is supporting terrorism. This was in fact a misinformation campaign about my dad started by IST leaders to which you were a party. Why are you now complaining about misinformation? What you sow so shall you reap."

The reason that my husband was expelled from Tulsa mosque is he was not giving the IST leadership the free hand to work in gray areas by laws of the land and laundering money to people/organizations of dubious credentials for which he has documentary evidence besides letters sent to the IST leadership during the year 2005 through certified mail. He would not let them use the mosque to preach hatred to the community members and has always condemned terrorism by his words and deeds.

Would all the speakers, minus the hypocrites, come and talk to us?

Sincerely,
Nageena Shahnaz Miftah

On Wednesday Karol Sheinin of Alarming News participated in a debate, speaking against the proposition that the government knew in advance about 9/11. Shawn Macomber was there and reviewed the debate for the American Spectator blog:

Suffice to say, Karol speaks for herself better than I could summarize her, but I will confirm she is a smart, well-spoken young woman whose best attributes were definitely on display during the debate.

Sander Hicks presented the "Yes" position, which wasn't based on any theories I'd heard previously from 9/11 Truthers. Hicks pegs Pakistani intelligence as a major participant, and said his lack of adherence to some 9/11 Truth dogma has led many in that movement to label him, despite his belief that the government let the attacks happen, as an agent. (Sheinin parodied this as a kind of conspiracy-theories-are-all-crazy-except-for-mine attitude.)

Karol has posted the text of her remarks, and I'm impressed not only by how well she argued against the specifics of her opponent's position, but how clearly she articulated the characteristic flaws of the conspiracy-theory mindset. Here are some of her quotable quotes.

On why people might feel more at ease believing 9/11 was a government conspiracy rather than an Islamist offensive:

It isn't a complicated network of Islamist terrorists that want to kill you, it's George W. Bush. And really, which would you prefer as an enemy? The people who would chop off your head and send it to your mother or the guy who mispronounces nuclear and falls off his Segway?

On the proliferation of competing conspiracy theories:

Most conspiracy theorists subscribe to their favorite theory and generally discount the rest. In fact, Anthony Luppe who wrote the forward to Sander's book laughs at the people who believe in some of the more outlandish theories like that there were no airplanes or that there were missiles on the planes and essentially accuses the people who believe in conspiracy theories other than the ones described in this particular book as possible government plants who want to deliberately spread disinformation so that we don't find out the truth.

On the malleability of conspiracy theories:

Some conspiracy theorists, particularly the ones who profit off of their nuttiness simply adjust their perspective when one of their theories gets discredited. With every new video they produce, they just edit out the old information that they can no longer support.

On the selective skepticism of conspiracy theorists:

Sander writes "the official story from the FBI is that Atta was a fundamentalist Muslim who hated America and led the 9/11 attacks. In real life, however, Atta seemed to be something of an Egyptian double agent who fell in love with an American ex-stripper and did a lot of coke." Again, assuming this is accurate, which, again, I doubt, my opponent can believe that the US government was ok with killing 3000 of its people and the CIA is in Pakistan's pocket, but the idea that this one guy could live a hypocritical life is just beyond his imagination.

I actually laughed out loud when my opponent talks about one of his main sources Randy Glass, who my opponent describes as "a jewelry conman turned FBI informant", that Glass revealed more every time they spoke. It never crosses my opponent's mind that he was making it up as he went along.

Why she agreed to participate in the debate:

When I agreed to do this debate, I had so many people ask me why I would do something like this. They felt I was giving legitimacy to what they consider a crackpot segment of our population. I'm not doing this for the people in the "Investigate 9/11" shirts, I'm not trying to change their minds, if they've got the shirt I guess they're pretty committed. I'm also not doing this so that people who agree with me can nod their heads. I'm doing it so there can be a record of opposition to the people that support these conspiracy theories, lest they somehow find their place into our history books.

For her willingness to speak the truth to troof, and for doing it so ably, Karol deserves our thanks and admiration. (And congratulations for winning the vote at the end of the debate.)

State Rep. Mike Reynolds is putting the focus in the recent Centennial Koran uproar where it belongs: Why did Gov. Brad Henry create a state agency devoted promoting the interests of the Muslim religion, and why does it exist under a misleading name? I refer, of course, to the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council.

Reynolds has called on Henry to modify the membership or scrap the board, according to the McCarville Report Online:

"Governor Henry, why would you have an 'Ethnic Advisory Council' that includes members from only one ethnic group?" asked Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. "The council should either be reformed to reflect its apparent mission or preferably disbanded."

Actually, I think they do have multiple ethnic groups, although not reflective of the diversity of ethnic groups in Oklahoma. There are members from Pakistan and Iran as well as Arabs of various countries of origin. What they all seem to have in common is religion. We're still waiting on Gov. Henry to identify any of the members of this group who are Christians or Jews, despite the presence of many Jews and Christians of Middle Eastern or Near Eastern origin in Oklahoma.

Reynolds is wondering, too, about the reaction from GEEAC chairman Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour to legislators who declined the Korans:

Seirafi-Pour has complained that some lawmakers were rude, he noted, when they declined the Quran: "I don't understand why she rushed to the media and acted outraged that we turned her down," Reynolds said. "What was the point of asking us if we wanted a copy? I contacted her last week and she could not provide me with any mean-spirited responses. In fact she agreed to forward all of the e-mails on Saturday, but I have yet to receive them.

"I know that I have nothing to hide," Reynolds said."Apparently, that's more than the members of the Ethnic American Advisory Council can say. Why else would they and the Governor choose a name that disguises their Muslim identify?"

In related news, Rod Dreher has a story about a group who protested Six Flags over Texas sponsoring a special Muslim day at the theme park in conjunction with the Islamic Circle of North America. A Muslim legal group is suing the protest organizer for defamation:

Khalil Meek, board president of the Muslim Legal Fund of America, said the Muslim groups support the protesters' right to voice their opinions. What they object to, he said, is their allegation that the Muslim organizations, and therefore Six Flags, support terrorism.

The groups have filed a lawsuit accusing the protest organizer, Joe Kaufman, of defamation and slander and have obtained a temporary restraining order that prohibits him from harming, threatening or inciting violence against them.

From that same story, the city council of Carrollton, a Dallas suburb, deleted from a list of board appointees the name of a man who participated in the protest. Paul Kramer was denied appointment to the Construction Advisory and Appeals Board because he was visible in a newspaper photo of the protest.

Dreher notes that lawsuits have been used in other American cities against critics of Islam, pointing to a 2006 column by the Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby. The Islamic Society of Boston sued a Muslim reformer, along with "journalists, a terrorism expert, and the founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group, plus the Episcopalian lay minister and the Jewish attorney who together with [Ahmed] Mansour [the Muslim reformer] formed the interfaith Citizens for Peace and Tolerance in 2004." Doesn't exactly sound like a group of fire-breathing Islamophobes, does it? But they were sued by the Islamic Society of Boston for calling attention to their connections with terrorism advocates and other extremists, for reporting on the presence of hate-filled Arabic literature at the ISB's mosque in Cambridge, and for raising questions about the city's selling land for the society's mosque at a bargain basement price. While the lawsuit was dismissed, it served the purpose of harassing and intimidating critics of extremist Islam.

You need to read that Jacoby column. Ahmed Mansour calls himself a progressive Muslim, and he suffered for his opinions back in his native country of Egypt:

He had learned the hard way that Muslim reformers who speak out against Islamist fanaticism and religious dictatorship can indeed end up in prison -- or worse. It had happened to him in his native Egypt, which he fled in 2001 after receiving death threats. He was grateful that the United States had granted him asylum, enabling him to go on promoting his vision of a progressive Islam in which human rights and democratic values would be protected. But would he now have to fight in America the same kind of persecution he experienced in Egypt?...

He holds three degrees from Cairo's Al-Azhar, the foremost religious university in the Islamic world, where he was appointed a professor of Muslim history in 1980. He would probably be there still if his scholarship hadn't gotten in the way. The deeper Mansour delved into the history of Islam, the clearer it became to him that the faith had been perverted into a ''false doctrine of hate" -- a doctrine that has been spread across much of the Muslim world and that has fueled great cruelty and bloodshed.

His mounting opposition to Wahhabist radicalism drew the wrath of the powerful Al-Azhar sheiks, who removed him from his classroom and tried him in a religious court. For two years, he says, he was pressured to recant. In 1987 he was fired. Then the Egyptian government imprisoned him for two months.

Undeterred, Mansour continued to write and speak out against radical Islam. He has authored 24 books and more than 500 articles, many of them denouncing as heretical any Muslim creeds that ''persecute and kill peaceful humans and violate their human rights." The real infidels, he has argued, are those who share ''the traits of Osama bin Laden and his followers." Before fleeing for his life, he worked with Egypt's leading human-rights activists, promoting democratic values, funneling assistance to persecuted Christians, and advocating for the reform of religious education.

This is the Islamic Society of Boston's idea of an anti-Muslim conspirator? Then what, one wonders, is its idea of Islam?

We've been asking the same question here about the Islamic Society of Tulsa, whose leaders called Jamal Miftah anti-Muslim for expressing in a newspaper op-ed sentiments similar to those expressed by Mansour about those who persecute and kill in the name of Islam.

(You can read more about the ISB lawsuit here, here, and here.)

After dismissal of the ISB lawsuit, Jacoby wrote:

What the lawsuit was really about, it seems to me, was intimidation -- intimidation of anyone inclined to raise questions or express concerns about the Islamic Society's leaders and their connections to radical Islam. Libel suits have become a favorite tactic of Islamists, who deploy them to silence their critics. In yet another document produced during discovery, the head of the Islamic Center of New England advises Abou-allaban to "thwart" Fox 25 with a lawsuit. "If Fox is being sued for this story," he writes, "it stands to reason that they will be prevented from reporting on the story further while the case is in court."

Sad to say, such legal intimidation works. Once the lawsuit was filed, Fox 25 and the Herald essentially ended their investigative reporting into the Islamic Society's radical connections.

So while the Islamic Society's lawsuit was without merit, that doesn't mean it was without effect. Serious questions remain about the Saudi-funded mosque going up in Boston. Will journalists, public officials, and concerned citizens insist on getting answers? Or will they choose instead to look the other way, unwilling to run the risk of predatory litigation and bad-faith accusation?

Dreher points out that many states have anti-SLAPP laws, which can be used to block such predatory litigation designed to shut down public debate, and links to a Judith Miller column in City Journal explaining how such laws have been deployed in situations like the ISB lawsuit.

The common theme: The use of lawsuits and other means to shut down criticism or scrutiny of the activities and associations of Wahhabist Islamic organizations in America.

In the Washington Times, columnist Diana West considers the press reaction to the
decision by a growing number of legislators not to accept a Koran from the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council (GEAAC):

Of course, it's the rejection of the Korans that's making headlines, not their state-sealed if privately funded distribution. No one asks what the Koran has to do with Oklahoma's centennial, for Pete's sake; or why a government organization is proselytizing about "the exact words" of Allah; or how those words in that book sound to non-Muslims leery of Islam's age-old message to convert, submit or die. In our weird world, it's not the Islamic message that's branded hateful or even insensitive; it's the person who rejects it. This is the technique that usually shuts people up.

In digging into the GEAAC, West covers much of the same ground I did (see "GEAAC is back" (from last week) and "Is there only one kind of Ethnic American in Oklahoma?" (from May), but West also found this in the Islamic Society of Tulsa's October newsletter -- the quote is on page 9, but the story that contains it begins at the bottom of the front page.

Meanwhile, local Muslim advocates display utter bewilderment that anyone could construe Islam as anything but "very peaceful, very inclusive." To enlighten them, someone might bring up the key Koranic concept of jihad, or maybe ask a Muslim "apostate" in fear of his safety for leaving Islam, or a persecuted Christian or Jew in fear of his safety living under Islam, to explain.

Or, to keep things local, someone might ask Allison Moore, an Oklahoma Muslim quoted in recent stories, for elaboration. Why? Ms. Moore works on a newsletter published by the Tulsa Islamic Center. I downloaded the October issue and read an article that compares consorting with lax Muslims, ex-Muslims and non-Muslims -- "people of religious innovation and misguidance, those who abandon the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and advocate other beliefs" -- to nothing short of "doom itself" and "taking poison."

The article continues: "A man with any intellect should not sit in their assemblies nor mix with them. The result of doing so will either be the death of his heart, or, at the very best, its falling seriously ill." This is... how shall I put it?... not very inclusive.

Meanwhile, Chris Medlock is exposing the distortions in the way the media has been covering what State Rep. Rex Duncan said and did regarding the Commemorative Centennial Koran and the way they haven't been covering Rex Duncan's background.

zTruth is a blog, evidently based here in Tulsa, that focuses on Islamic organizations in the West and the spread of dhimmitude, homeland security, and immigration enforcement. Here's a recent entry with a stunning insight into attitudes of the leadership of the Islamic Society of Tulsa:

On August 25th, The Council of American Islamic Relations, CAIR of Oklahoma, and the Islamic Society of Tulsa honored 25 non-Muslims. Three of the evening awards went to Joe Picorale, John Fanning and Jim Robinson who were honored along with 22 other honorees for their contribution in promoting peace, goodwill and a greater understanding of mainstream Muslim beliefs.

Who are Joe Picorale, John Fanning and Jim Robinson? They are the three founders of TulsaTruth who believe, among other things, that there was a controlled demolitions of the WTC on 9/11 and that it was a conspiracy to frame the Muslim world. They also believe there is no proof Osama Bin Laden was involved in 9/11. I guess his videos that play the martyr wills of the men who flew the planes into the World Trade Center aren't good enough.

Read the whole thing to read the praise offered to the three "Truthers" by Allison Moore, who nominated them for the honor.

Here's a description of the awards evening from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's September 2007 newsletter (large PDF download):

On August 25th, the Islamic Society of Tulsa and the Council on American Islamic Relations co-sponsored a gala evening to reinforce our relations with people of extraordinary goodwill in our state. These non-Muslims supported Muslims through hard times, defended Muslim's rights and promoted our causes. At the event, they were recognized with a plaque, candies, corsages and boutonnieres and their remarkable actions were retold to the audience. The evening ended with the honorees walking down the red carpet with lines of applauding Muslims on both sides.

The PDF includes a list of the honorees (including former Mayor Susan Savage and Deputy Mayor Tom Baker) and photos of the event, including the very attractive plaques that were given to each honoree.

It's a noble thing for a community to honor outsiders who have been especially kind of helpful to them. But what does it say about the Islamic Society of Tulsa that its leaders would choose to honor these people who deny that radical Islamists killed 3000 people on September 11, 2001, but banned a man like Jamal Miftah, a Muslim who wrote an op-ed condemning terrorism in the name of Islam?

It still comes in pints!

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The European Union has given up trying to force Britain to conform to metric measurement:

Britain's citizens are now free to buy their ale and milk by the pint and their bananas and potatoes by the pound, then measure the distance they drive back home in miles -- all without threat of interference from the European Union.

The Brussels-based European Union, evidently exasperated, announced yesterday that Britain could carry on indefinitely using its centuries-old system of imperial measures.

Here's a link to the statement by EU Vice-President Günter Verheugen, Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, who seems to be saying that it was all a big misunderstanding, that it was the British government, not the EU, pushing for metrication. And there's some truth to that.

This announcement follows years of "metric martyrs" -- British shopkeepers being penalized for selling certain items using imperial measures. Many imperial measures were still in use -- miles for road travel and imperial pints for beer -- but were due to be banned as many already had been.

It is a fundamental conservative instinct to prefer systems and customs that have evolved over time to those that are artificially constructed and imposed from above, no matter how elegant and theoretically perfect. A conservative believes there is wisdom in tradition that may not be easily articulated or quantified. There are hidden interdependencies that a wholesale change to a system may unwittingly disturb or destroy. (See "Urban Renewal.")

George Orwell was able to articulate the benefits of traditional units of measure, as See Dubya notes:

In 1984, there's a passage about Socialist metricization being an extension of demoralizing mind control. I remember it concerned an old prole lamenting, over his beer, that a half liter was too little, and a liter was too much, and that he missed his old comfortable pints which had been just right. That's it exactly. Feet and inches are a likewise a useful, human scale. NOTHING is a meter long. (Or are we supposed to switch to one-third-meter hot dogs at ballgames?)

Another example: almost everyone is between one and two meters in height. Centimeters are too small. But five feet six versus six foot two is a useful gradation of measurement, and those gradations have survived because they are part of a system that describes the everyday world and its usual proportions pretty well.

One could say the same thing for acres for land, hands for horses, yards for cloth, and teaspoons and cups for cooking. One useful traditional unit that the British use but which isn't common in America is the stone (14 pounds) as a measure of adult weight. To those used to the system, it's a very natural way of classifying people by weight. For the weight-watcher, measuring in stone gives a plus or minus seven pounds range of fluctuation without inducing anxiety.

Even the European Union acknowledged the intuition of standard quantities appropriate to a given item, although they did it in their usual heavy-handed way. The EU requires (or required) certain products only to be sold in authorized sizes, for example, 330 ml cans of soda and 236 ml containers of fruit cocktail.

The about-face is a happy one, and Simon Heffer suggests it could be the first shot in a revolt against an oppressive and untouchable multinational regime:

Fired up by this victory on metrication, we should all realise how vulnerable this mendacious enterprise is to sheer, relentless opposition.

The question of Europe also has the power to destroy governments, and it could well do so again.

Whatever they believe caused it, the Conservatives are in their 11th year in opposition because of John Major's treachery at Maastricht and his dishonourable behaviour after our eviction from the ERM on Black Wednesday.

The anger Europe stirs up reminds us why Mr Brown wants to avoid a referendum on the new EU treaty, a document unacceptable to this supposedly free and democratic nation.

It should also, though, remind him why he should have one, to get the issue out of the way so he can get on with being Prime Minister. If I were in his shoes I wouldn't hang around, either.

Many more of these "pointless" interferences in our way of life, and much more evidence of our impotence at the hands of the international unelect, and it won't be a referendum on the treaty that we will be calling for. It will be one on whether we want to stay in this oppressive and unsavoury club at all.


As Churchill said, Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.:

A military cargo plane carrying three senators and a House member was forced to take evasive maneuvers and dispatch flares to avoid ground fire after taking off from Baghdad on Thursday night.

The lawmakers said their plane, a C-130, was under fire from three rocket-propelled grenades over the course of several minutes as they left for Amman, Jordan.

"It was a scary moment," said Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., who said he had just taken off his body armor when he saw a bright flash outside the window. "Our pilots were terrific. ... They banked in one direction and then banked the other direction, and they set off the flares."

Sens. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and James Inhofe, R-Okla., as well as Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Ala., were also on the plane.

Cramer and Martinez said they had just begun to relax about five or 10 minutes after the plane took off under darkness.

Crew members apparently communicated to the pilots as they saw the initial RPG fired from the ground, Cramer said. After the first burst, the pilots maneuvered aggressively and set off flares used for drawing incoming fire away from aircraft.

Once the flares lit up the sky, lawmakers said, two more RPGs were fired as the pilots continued maneuvering.

Thomas Sowell aims his laser-like brain at the situation in Iraq and how political decisions led to the current messy situation and how stateside political pressures are about to make things worse.

Here's the heart of the column:

Nations cannot be built.

You can transplant institutions from one country to another, but you cannot transplant the history and culture from which the attitudes and traditions evolved that enable those institutions to work.

It took centuries for democracy to evolve in the Western world. Yet we tried to create democracy in Iraq before we created the security — the law and order — that is a prerequisite for any form of viable government.

Having made democracy the centerpiece of the reconstruction of postwar Iraq, Americans have been hamstrung by the inadequacies of that government and the fact that our military could not simply ignore the Iraqi government when its politicians got in the way of restoring law and order.

People will support tyranny before they will support anarchy. Both can be avoided by creating an interim government based on competence, rather than on its being an embodiment of democratic ideals.

Sowell gives several examples of nations that weren't at all democratic 50 years ago but are there now or are at least headed in that direction.

Hong Kong under British rule is an example of how a society can have freedom and stability without democracy. Hong Kong was ruled from London, and the residents of the Crown Colony had no say in their laws or leaders at all until the last few years before the handover to China. But life, liberty, and property were protected by due process of law. If you entered into a contract, you knew it could be enforced. Economic activity was generally free from heavy-handed regulation. The colony thrived and was an enclave of liberty.

It was a mistake for US politicians to hold elections and create a new Iraqi government as quickly as it did. And before anyone blames the neo-cons, the idea that free and fair elections are all you need to create a free society has a long pedigree, going all the way back to Woodrow Wilson. The notion that occupation should be brief, and that elected locals should be put in charge as soon as possible, is an article of faith in Western foreign policy that dates back to the decolonization movement that followed World War II.

What we should have done is to treat Iraq and Afghanistan as trust territories -- not owned like a colony, to be exploited for its resources, but held in trust for the peoples of those nations, governed by the US with a view to their long-term interests. Democracy would come eventually, but not until the rule of law was well established.

Sowell's assessment of the problems with too quickly reestablishing a democratic form of government doesn't mean that he supports leaving now, and he makes a pointed diagnosis of the intentions of some members of Congress:

What has gone right is that the Iraq war is already over. Our troops won it. But our politicians may once more lose the peace — and with disastrous consequences for us and for the world.

Peace has not been achieved in Iraq, though pacification continues — always at a cost in American lives — and shows signs of progress, much to the dismay of those who have bet their political future on an American defeat.

Defeatists have not yet had the courage to directly ensure defeat by cutting off the money to continue military operations in Iraq.

That would be taking responsibility for the defeat. What would serve their political purpose better would be to legislate preconditions for the spending of military appropriations that would make defeat inevitable, but let it be seen as Bush’s defeat, not theirs.

Along the Del Rio sector of Texas's border with Mexico, the Customs & Border Patrol is actually prosecuting illegals who immigrate for economic reasons, and they're finding it makes it easier to spot and deal with those who immigrate for nefarious purposes. According to Chief Agent Randy Hill:

“Our number one priority is protecting our border from terrorists, then criminal aliens, and third drug interdiction. What Operation Streamline has done is removed the ‘clutter’ of economic refugees from our primary mission. When we relieve ourselves of dealing with a large influx of economic refugees, it allows us to concentrate on border security priorities,” he said.

“Economic refugees” in the Del Rio sector are mostly Mexican and “Other Than Mexican” or OTMs, illegally entering the country looking for better paying jobs and opportunity. The CBP uses the term “economic refugee” to differentiate between a unarmed, non-dangerous illegal alien and what they call a “criminal alien,” or an illegal alien with a criminal rap sheet in the U.S. or some other country. Operation Streamline has reduced the flow of economic refugees to almost a trickle. Apprehensions for the Eagle Pass area of the sector are down a whopping 77 percent this fiscal year. Across the sector, apprehensions are down 61 percent this year.

Illegal entry comes with a sentence of two to four weeks in jail, followed by deportation. Re-entry after deportation is a felony and could bring a sentence of up to two years. Those arrested are fingerprinted, and a background check is done. They appear before a Federal judge within three days of arrest.

You're probably wondering what I was wondering -- you mean that wasn't already being done? Here's the typical sequence of events prior to Operation Streamline:

  1. Apprehension in the field.
  2. In-process at CBP field office.
  3. Suspect given a future court date for removal purposes and the defendant signs a promise to appear. Defendant released on own recognizance into the U.S. if OTM. Most Mexican nationals were transported and released in Mexico. Most OTM defendants were never seen again.
  4. Prosecution was reserved for violent offenders, gang members, suspected narcotics smugglers, and those with a history of repeated immigration offenses.

(Via MamaAJ in the comments at Hot Air.)

Jamal Miftah, who in November 2006 was angrily confronted, called "anti-Islamic," and expelled from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's al-Salam mosque over his op-ed condemning those who commit terror in the name of Islam, filed suit today against the Islamic Society of Tulsa, the national Islamic organizations who own and operate the mosque, and certain mosque leaders as individuals, as well as two mosque members who were involved in the confrontation.

KOTV has transcribed the text of the complaint, which alleges assault, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The paragraphs that make up the last count may help you understand what Jamal and his family are going through:

24. The acts of Defendants, individually and jointly, are outrageous in that Defendants knew that if they labeled Jamal Miftah a “traitor… anti Muslim and anti Islamic” his life would be forfeit should he be found in a Muslim Country and labeled apostate and that he would live in constant fear and dread of vigilante “justice” from certain Muslims in the United States. 25. The acts of Defendants are the proximate cause of severe emotional distress in that Jamal Miftah is now labeled as apostate, forced along with his wife and four children to attend to prayers in their home, apart from the fellowship of other Muslims, prevented from traveling to any Muslim Country, including his homeland of Pakistan and robbed of his peace of mind and right to speak freely against those he believes have brought his faith into disrepute via attacks on his adopted homeland and other acts of terrorism.

Please pray for their protection and for the protection of their attorney, B. Kent Felty, who has shown a lot of courage in taking on this lawsuit.

(You may recall that Felty represented 52 Indian men in a civil rights case against the J. J. Pickle Co., which had confined them to the factory and forced them to work for less than minimum wage. Federal district court handed down a $1.2 million judgment against the company.)

UPDATE: See Dubya reminds us of a couple of anonymous comments posted from a Pakistani IP address which underline the seriousness of the threat implicit in the label "anti-Islamic." And he notes that the discovery process in this lawsuit "turn up all kinds of interesting information about how Islam is planned and directed in North America."

The magazine Insight is reporting on an effort to identify mosques in America which are promoting radical Islam, specifically the establishment of shari'a law and the imposition of Islam on the nation:

“Our initial investigation has concluded there are between 400 to 500 radical Islamic centers in the U.S.,” said David Gaubatz, the director of counterintelligence and counterterrorism for the Society of Americans for National Existence. “In those places, they preach an extreme version of Islam that says America and the West is the enemy. They espouse violence, hatred and the need for terrorism.”

Gaubatz is a former senior U.S. intelligence official, who now works for the Mapping Shari’a in America Project (www.mappingsharia.com), which is supported by SANE, a national non-profit group devoted to investigating the 2,300 Islamic centers in the U.S. for extremist activity.“...

Gaubatz maintains that he and his team of field workers at the Mapping Shari’a in America Project are not only focusing on major metropolitan areas. Although there is plenty of Islamist activity in cities such as Detroit, Dearborn, Michigan and Washington, he says radical Muslims are also establishing education and religious centers in small towns.

“They’re branching out and teaching the Jihadist ideology in small towns across America, especially in rural areas in places like Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina,” Gaubatz said.

I learned about this on a blog entry which expresses hope that the mapping project will take a look at the Islamic Center of Tulsa, given its ties to national Wahhabi organizations and its treatment of Jamal Miftah, who was angrily confronted and banned for a time from the Islamic Center of Tulsa's mosque after publishing an op-ed critical of those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam. Mosque leaders were especially upset with Miftah because he called attention to the fact that some American mosques had been involved in supporting terrorism.

That same blog entry has an interesting item about the struggle for control of a Trenton, N. J., mosque. The mosque was founded in 1981 as a place of prayer for all Muslims, regardless of their sect, and preaching of the Friday sermon was rotated. Now a group aligned with Salafism has gained control, and the mosque's founders are trying to regain control.

Erick Stakelbeck's latest report on Hot Air is an interview with Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. Jasser, a cardiologist living in the Phoenix area, was born in Wisconsin and served 11 years as a Navy medical officer. He believes faithful Muslims are freer to practice their faith in America than in any other country on earth and that Islam is not incompatible with American notions of liberty.

In his interview with Stakelbeck, Jasser discusses the "flying imams" and their lawsuit against the "John Does" -- the passengers who alerted the crew to the strange behavior of the Muslim clerics. Jasser's organization is helping to fund the defense of the "John Does" in a lawsuit brought by the imams. One of the imams leads the largest and oldest mosque in Phoenix, and Jasser used to attend Friday prayers there, but was offended by the imam's use of the pulpit to preach his political opinions. Jasser believes the imams' lawsuit against those who blew the whistle on them is an attempt to stop our "front line of defense in the war on terror." "We need to find a way to immunize our citizens to reporting things because we need their eyes and ears."

Jasser also addresses the compatibility between Islam and a free and open society and discusses the film "Islam vs. Islamism."

It's encouraging to know that there are voices like Jasser's out there opposing the use of Islam to achieve political ends. It's in the country's best interests to give attention to organizations like AIFD and to people like Jasser and Tulsa's Jamal Miftah as a rallying point for American Muslims who object to the politicization of their faith.

And before you argue that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim or that moderate Muslims aren't true to their faith, please read this article by Jasser, in which he argues that anti-Islamist Muslims are key to winning the War on Terror:

Whether many pious Muslims acknowledge it or not, non-Muslims who believe that ‘the religion of Islam is the problem’ are growing in numbers. I can either dismiss their arguments as “Islamophobic” as so many do, including the Islamists, or I can begin to address some of the central issues raised positively in the spirit of understanding, logic, and most importantly in the spirit of American security....

Most should understand that strategically, identifying ‘Islam as the problem,’ immediately alienates upwards of one quarter of the world’s population and dismisses our most powerful weapon against the militant Islamists -- the mantle of religion and the pulpit of moderate Muslims who can retake our faith from the Islamists. The majority voices in the middle, the non-Islamist and anti-Islamist Muslims who understand the problem, have to be on the frontlines. They cannot be on the frontlines in an ideological battle being waged, which demonizes the morality of the faith of Islam and its founder, the Prophet Mohammed. We cannot win this war only on the battlefield. Political Islam has a viral recurrence in the form of an infection which needs a Muslim counter-jihad in order to purge it. Thus, we cannot win this ideological war without the leadership of Muslim anti-Islamists....

It is important to be academic about this assessment and not assume that what appears to be the silence of the majority of Muslims equates to agreement with the Islamist leadership who exerts a stranglehold over the community. We are doing our national counterterrorism efforts and Muslims a disservice if we assume that the ‘lowest hanging fruit,’ which comprise all currently Islamist organizations (CAIR, MPAC, or ISNA - to name a few) and their proportionally limited membership speak for all American Muslims. Their silence on the need for reformation and the need for Muslims to lead an anti-Islamist effort from within our faith community represents their own Islamist agenda of the members and donors but does not represent the general Muslim population.

MORE: From the perspective of Britain, Christopher Hitchens explains the problem with governments recognizing and validating radical Islamic leaders while ignoring moderates like Jasser.

It means that they find, to their annoyance, that the most extreme elements in their community are being recognized as interlocutors instead of themselves. I've heard a lot of secular Pakistanis complain that the cops, when they think we better go talk to the community, walk straight past them and head for the imam at the mosque, assuming that he's the one they want to talk to. Which means, of course, pretty soon these are the people who'll be handing out the welfare payments. They'll become the go-to people. Because they'll have a grant from the taxpayers, and they'll be the administrators of it. They will become the reps. It's a big, big mistake. We're going to regret it hugely.

That quote is from an interview given in conjunction with Hitchens's article "Londonistan" in Vanity Fair, about the growth of Islamic radicalism in the British capital.

The Judge Report passes along this news item:

Democrat John Edwards Wednesday repudiated the notion that there is a "global War on Terror," calling it an ideological doctrine advanced by the Bush administration that has strained American military resources and emboldened terrorists.

Mr. Going's response: A photo he took of the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center. And video of John "F-Troop" Edwards on the O'Reilly Factor from October 2001. In response to O'Reilly's question about how Democrats would respond if the war widens to "maybe Libya, maybe Syria, maybe the Sudan, maybe even Iraq," Edwards pledged that Democrats would be "united with the President throughout this war on terrorism."

Meanwhile, former Oklahoma Rep. Kevin Calvey is happy that Congress has voted to feed him and his colleagues in Iraq for a few more months:

Very decent of Congress to let us serving here in Iraq have bread and bullets, don't you think?

Looks like the Democrats in Congress are not so principled about the war as they previously claimed.

If they really think the war is immoral, then why cave in on the war funding bill?

The answer is that for many of them, this is all a big political game.

More Edwards:

SATIRE: Scrappleface reports on Edwards' plan for Universal Hair Care.

NOT SATIRE: Edwards denies involvement in $400 haircut: “Other people arrange these things, and I wasn’t personally involved in it.”

Joel Henry Hinrichs III, the OU student who blew himself up outside a packed football stadium on Oct. 1, 2005, was apparently not the only one in his family with violent tendencies. From the Nov. 23, 2006, Colorado Springs Gazette:

Thomas Carlisle Hinrichs, a 25-year-old Pikes Peak Community College student, says he thinks federal officers have harassed him since the Oct. 1, 2005, suicide of his brother, Joel, according to court documents.

He allegedly considered waiting at the FBI office to ambush an agent and also thought about killing his father and high school principal.

Hinrichs was arrested Nov. 15 at Pikes Peak Community College's Rampart Range campus with a Romanian-made assault rifle, bulletproof vest, military helmet, hunting knife and ammunition in the trunk of his car, according to Colorado Springs police.

The arrest came after his father, Joel Henry Hinrichs Jr., told police that Thomas had assaulted him and that he feared his son, whose mental health had deteriorated in the past year, would kill him.

This is not a new story, but I don't remember reading about it at the time. Big hat tip to Tulsa Chiggers for catching it.

Julia Gorin has been keeping a close eye on the story of the Fort Dix Six, the young Muslim Albanian men who were plotting an attack on the New Jersey army base. She has also been reminding her readers of some forgotten and unpleasant realities about U. S. support for a Muslim terrorist organization with ties to Osama Bin Laden.

It's not Julia's usual stock in trade, and here's how she explains her interest:

People often ask me how a comedian embarked on a Balkans-watching odyssey. When I woke up on March 24th to hear that the United States of America was dropping bombs on Europe on behalf of Muslims claiming oppression — in order to keep the conflict from spreading — it struck me as funnier than any joke I could write. When you help Muslims with their wars, it doesn’t keep the conflict from spreading. It spreads Islam. And it spreads to you.

Her sketch of the history of American involvement in Yugoslavia (from the same entry) deserves to be quoted at length:

I am sorry to report that, while Bill Clinton delivered the death blows to Yugoslavia, we started on this path with George Bush Sr., whose ambassador Warren Zimmerman flew to Sarajevo in 1992 to advise Izetbegovic to remove his signature from the Lisbon Agreement that all three parties signed precisely to avoid the civil wars that ensued. Zimmerman assured Izetbegovic that the U.S. would have his back if he wanted an independent Muslim Bosnia.

The rape, slaughter and dismemberment of Yugoslavia was a bipartisan enterprise from Day One, and it remains so. What makes the Clinton administration’s role more nefarious is that the first Bush administration was still operating on a Cold War mentality, in which any vestige of Communism was still a target — and Yugoslavia stayed fatally comfortable with the apparatchik system too long. Meanwhile, Islam wasn’t yet known to be the biggest international threat.

By 1999, however, the Islamic threat was a known entity and there were already two international warrants out for Osama bin Laden, including for the bombing of the U.S. embassiess in Africa. This is also why reasonable comparisons between our unholy alliance in Kosovo and our 1980s alliance in Afghanistan fall short. The Soviet Union was in fact an enemy and an international menace; the Serbs aren’t and never were — but Islamic terrorism was and is.

As well, while George H. W. Bush bumbled through the confusion that is the Balkans, Bill Clinton knew exactly what he was doing. He knew that his numbers of dead and displaced in Kosovo were a fabrication, but he needed a vanity war in his last two years in office so that the word “Lewinsky” wouldn’t be the last thing associated with his presidency. Outrageously, he, his wife, Wesley Clark, Madeleine Albright, Richard Holbrooke and other Clintonistas continue, even eight years later, to boastfully lie to Americans that we “prevented a genocide” in Europe with our “successful war” in Kosovo, where not a single American life was lost.

It helps when you’re fighting for the enemy.

Read all of Julia Gorin's May 2007 and April 2007 archives for more on this topic.

MORE: Political correctness almost discouraged the Circuit City clerk from tipping off authorities about the terrorist training video tape he converted for the Fort Dix Six:

When the teen and another employee went into a back room and began the conversion of the tape, they saw a group of bearded men wearing "fundamentalist attire" and shooting "big, f-ing guns," the teen later told co-workers.

Throughout the 90-minute-long tape, above the booming gunfire at a Pennsylvania target range, the jihadists could be heard screaming "God is great!"

The two employees "freaked out," their co-worker recalled.

At first, the teenage clerk didn't know what to do, his pal said.

"Dude, I just saw some really weird s-," he frantically told his co-worker. "I don't know what to do. Should I call someone or is that being racist?"

The fellow employee tried to calm his friend and told him that if what he saw terrified him so much, he should tell the police.

(Via Michelle Malkin.)

Karol remembers two of the Fort Dix Six:

When Elvis and Dritan Duka, two of the three brothers arrested on terrorism charges in Fort Dix, were kids, they were neighborhood bullies. When they got a little older, they became drug dealers.

How do I know? They grew up in my neighborhood, my brother and his friends used to brawl with them on a fairly regular basis. My brother's best friend's mom was friends with their mom. Then they moved to New Jersey and became Jihadis. Of all possible paths for the Duka kids, that one didn't seem the most likely.

They had been in the country illegally for 23 years, and despite numerous traffic citations, they were never detected, much less deported:

A federal law enforcement source confirmed to FOX News that the three — Dritan "Anthony" or "Tony" Duka, 28; Shain Duka, 26; and Eljvir "Elvis" Duka, 23 — also accumulated 19 traffic citations, but because they operated in "sanctuary cites," where law enforcement does not routinely report illegal immigrants to homeland security, none of the tickets raised red flags.

The brothers entered the United States near Brownsville, Texas, in 1984, the source said, which would put their ages at 1 to 6 when they crossed the border.

The source said there is no record of them entering by way of a regular border crossing, so they are investigating whether they were smuggled into the country.

So the folks who swim Rio Bravo near Brownsville aren't just Mexicans on their way to roof houses in Jenks. Some of them are Albanian Muslims from Yugoslavia who wind up living in Brooklyn and plotting attacks on U. S. Army facilities.

Julia Gorin asks why the media -- even right-wing columnists -- are so squeamish about saying that these alleged terrorists are Albanian Muslims, and she answers her own question:

The answer is that the Balkans narrative MUST remain what it is: Serbs=bad. Muslims=victim.

The pro-Muslim mainstream media aside, even conservatives jumped onto the anti-Serb bandwagon starting in the 90s -- because conservatives are often accused of being anti-Muslim. So the one bone they can toss the Muslims is to take the typical bombastic and outraged stance about what was supposedly done to Muslims in the Balkans. (Recall “Hannity & Colmes” condemning the “evil on display” in the widely circulated execution video of six Bosnian fighters by Bosnian-Serb paramilitary. Of course, you won’t recall the far more graphic images of dead Serbs -- for those are never shown.)

Never mind that the aforementioned executions were precipitated by mutilated, burned, decapitated, dismembered Serbs of all ages, whose bodies were stuffed down wells near Srebrenica, the site of “the worst atrocity since the Holocaust.” And that’s not even mentioning the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo for decades, as was reported in The NY Times, Christian Science Monitor and Washington Post throughout the 80s.

If you want to know more precisely what these Albanian Muslim illegal immigrants were up to, Michelle Malkin has an excerpt of the complaint against the Fort Dix Six, and a link to a PDF of the full complaint.

UPDATE 5/17/2007: Newsweek reports that the INS knew that the Duka family was here illegally for 16 years and did nothing:

As a result, for nearly two decades, American authorities were aware that members of the family were inside the United States, and that they had probably come here illegally. While the asylum application was under consideration, the government effectively suspended any effort to deport family members as illegal aliens, the source familiar with their immigration history said…

However, another official familiar with the Duka case history said that the family asylum claim got stuck for 16 years at INS because of a bureaucratic paperwork backlog of more than 100,000 asylum applications. The official said asylum claims routinely sat in “filing cabinets” for a decade or more.

(Hat tip: Hot Air.)

A few days ago I wrote about OETA's scheduled program "Islam in Oklahoma," which aired Friday night, and about whether the people invited to participate in the discussion would provide a balanced and complete view of the topic. (Because of unexpected family schedule complications, I didn't get to see the show.)

A reader contacted OETA to raise the question directly and got a reply that began:

Thank you for sharing your concerns about Islam in Oklahoma. Please note that OETA worked with the Oklahoma Governor's Council on Ethnic Diversity to select the panelists and to ensure a balanced panel.

I assumed from the name that this council had representatives from the Hispanic-, Asian-, African-, and other hyphenated-American communities. Oklahoma has had influxes of many different ethnic groups over a century of statehood: Lebanese, Russian Jews, Czechs, Italians, Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Hmong, to name just a few.

In Googling for mentions to "Islam in Oklahoma," I found this reference on the Oklahoma Women's Network blog

As a followup to PBS' recently aired "America At A Crossroads" series, OETA has taped a program featuring Oklahoma Muslim leaders. I urge you to watch this program on Friday, May 4th at 9:00 p.m on your OETA channel....Two of the many outstanding women leaders in Oklahoma's Muslim community are Sheryl Siddiqui, Director of Community Relations and American Outreach with the Islamic Society of Tulsa, and Marjan Seirafi-Pour, Chairperson of the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council.

That's interesting, I thought. I knew who Sheryl Siddiqui was, and that she was slated to be a panelist on the program, but I'd never heard of Marjan Seirafi-Pour. And I thought it was interesting that a Muslim leader was the head of this Ethnic American Advisory Council, given the relatively small number of Muslims in Oklahoma compared to other ethnic groups.

So I Googled Marjan Seirafi-Pour and hit this agenda for the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council from August 2005. Here is the list of council members:

Dr. Sandra Kaye Rana, Chair
Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour, Vice-Chair/Secretary
Dr. Riaz Ahmad
Malaka A. Elyazgi
Mohammad Farzaneh
Dr. Basel S. Hassoun
Dr. Mohammad Karami
Karen E. Bak
Dr. Fayyaz H. Hashmi

The membership doesn't seem very diverse or very representative of Oklahoma's ethnic heritage. Where are the Czechs from Prague, Italians from Krebs, and Russians from Hartshorne? Where are the Greeks and Filipinos?

According to the Governor's web page about the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council (GEAAC), the monolithic membership is intentional. "Ethnic" appears to be a euphemism for something different:

On May 27, 2004, Governor Brad Henry issued Executive Order 04-21, which created the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council. The purpose of the Council, which is to be made up of from five to 15 representatives of Ethnic Americans of the Middle East/Near East community of the state of Oklahoma, is to:

1. Provide advice and assistance to the Governor on the development and implementation of policies, plans, and programs relating to the needs and values of the Ethnic American community;

2. Provide advice and assistance to the Governor in matters involving civil liberties, equal rights protection and freedom of religion of the Ethnic American community;

3. Develop, coordinate and assist other public and private organizations with understanding problems concerning the Ethnic American community;

4. Conduct training programs for community leadership;

5. Cooperate with the Department of Education in advising and assisting school districts concerning Ethnic American issues; and

6. Secure appropriate recognition of Ethnic American accomplishments and contributions to the state of Oklahoma.

All Council members are appointed by the Governor.

Here is the current list of members:

Chair
Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour

Vice-Chair / Secretary
Vacant

Members
Dr. Riaz Ahmad
Malaka A. Elyazgi
Mohammad Farzaneh
Dr. Fayyaz H. Hashmi
Dr. Basel S. Hassoun
Dr. Mohammad Karami
Dr. Sandra Kaye Rana
Wes Salous

Let's strip away the silly "Ethnic American" euphemism and take the detailed information at face value. The council is to be "made up of from five to 15 representatives of Ethnic Americans of the Middle East/Near East community of the state of Oklahoma." If they really mean Middle East/Near East, there should be some Oklahomans of Israeli heritage -- Israel is in the Middle East -- perhaps some Armenian Christians, Lebanese Christians, Coptic Christians from Egypt, maybe someone from an old-line Lebanese merchant family like Bayouth or Beshara or Coury or Elias or Saied. The French teacher from my high school is Jewish and from Morocco and has lived in Oklahoma for at least 30 years. Wouldn't he be a good pick for such a council?

I may be wrong, and I haven't checked every name on the list, but I'd be willing to bet every one of the board members is a Muslim. Here are a couple who are for sure. I'll check the other names and add info here as I find it.

Dr. Riaz Ahmad, a biology professor at University of Central Oklahoma, is quoted in a departmental newsletter: "We have also been to Mecca, Saudi Arabia twice to do pilgrimage."

Malaka A. Elyazgi's husband Mohamed was quoted as a spokesman for the mosque in Norman following the October 1, 2005, suicide bombing on the OU campus. He was a business partner in a small shop in Oklahoma City with Mufid Abdulqader, who was indicted as a fundraiser for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, of which Abdulqader's half-brother is the supreme political leader.

(Abdulqader's story is frightening. He was a civil engineering student at OSU, worked at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and then went to work as an engineer with the City of Dallas. In his spare time, his rock band performed at Hamas fundraisers, where he sang lyrics like, "With Koran and Jihad, we will gain our homes back, hey, hey, hey! My precious eyes are for Palestine, the agony of death is precious, killing Jews . . . Death to Jews, is precious. Jews will not fear threats, only action. So Hamas, hit them with the shoe bottoms of Islam and Hamas!")

So why would Gov. Brad Henry issue an executive order to set up a special council for Muslims, giving it a name designed to hide its true purpose?

Some further Googling turns up a story in Wednesday's Oklahoman explaining why OETA is airing "Islam in Oklahoma," and suggesting that I'm right in my assumption that the GEAAC is really all about Islam:

State Muslims challenge TV show
By Judy Gibbs Robinson
Staff Writer

Oklahoma Muslim leaders will respond this week to what they say were some inaccuracies in the recent public television series "America at a Crossroads."

The Governor's Ethnic-American Advisory Council requested a chance to set the record straight after previewing the series before it ran on the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority from April 15 through 20.

"We thought there were a couple of segments that did not put Islam in a positive light," said Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour, the council's chairman.

OETA Director John McCarroll agreed to let council members preview the series and gave them 30 minutes of air time starting at 9 p.m. Friday to respond.

"They were concerned there might be a backlash in Oklahoma because most of it did deal with Islamic extremists," McCarroll said.

Feedback to discussion

The station invited viewers to submit questions and comments and got about a dozen each day, McCarroll said. Those responses will form the backbone of a panel discussion by Sheryl Siddiqui of Tulsa, Imad Enchassi of Oklahoma City and David R. Vishanoff of Norman. OETA's Gerry Bonds will moderate.

Siddiqi is director of outreach/community relations for the Islamic Society of Tulsa. Enchassi is president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City. Vishanoff is a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Oklahoma.

The series

The Public Broadcasting Service series "America at a Crossroads" consisted of 11 documentaries exploring challenges confronting the United States in a post-9/11 world. Topics included the war on terrorism, conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the experience of American troops serving abroad and the struggle for balance in the Muslim world.

(Hat tip to American Infidel.)

The story has GEAAC speaking on behalf of the Islamic faith. GEAAC "requested a chance to set the record straight," because they "thought there were a couple of segments that did not put Islam in a positive light."

Next Friday night at 9, OETA, Oklahoma's public television network, will air "Islam in Oklahoma":

Oklahoma is home to more than 30,000 Muslim Americans. Join leaders from Oklahoma's Muslim community as they address the questions and issues raised by America at a Crossroads, Friday May 4 at 9 p.m.

(Is it just me, or does the background of that title image look more like Hebrew than Arabic?)

OETA says more panelists will be announced, but for now they only list Sheryl Siddiqui, a leader in the Islamic Society of Tulsa, Imam Imad Enchassi, Ph.D., president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, and Dr. David Vishanoff, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Oklahoma.

The facilities of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City and of the Islamic Society of Tulsa are owned by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which is part of a network of Saudi-funded organizations working to extend the influence of Wahhabism in the US. (There's more detail about NAIT and its related organizations -- the Wahhabi lobby -- in this post I wrote some months ago.)

There's a name that ought to be on that list of panelists discussing Islam in Oklahoma -- Jamal Miftah. His name belongs on the list for his eloquent condemnation of terror in the name of Islam. But it also belongs there because of the response that he received from the leaders of the Tulsa mosque, who confronted him angrily in the prayer hall and in the corridor of the mosque, saying that because of his column he was anti-Islamic, a label that could be heard by others as a thinly veiled incitement to violence against him.

Just this week, two more threatening comments targeting Miftah were posted from a Pakistan IP address at JunkYardBlog, simply because he condemned those who use their religion to justify their acts of violence.

If OETA spends an hour talking to two leaders of Wahhabi-connected mosques, without hearing any other Muslim voices, viewers will not get the complete story of Islam in Oklahoma. If you agree, drop a line to info@oeta.tv. OETA says they want input on the show's content, so let 'em (politely) have it.

UPDATE: A reader sent the following note to OETA:

I have always thought of OETA as an educational channel that was fair. However; regarding the upcoming program on “Islam in Oklahoma”, Oklahomans deserve an unbiased discussion. If OETA has two leaders of Wahhabi-connected mosques on the discussion panel without hearing any other Muslim voices, viewers will not get the complete story of Islam in Oklahoma. Please do the right thing in providing a fair and balanced program by inviting other Muslims such as Jamal Miftah.

Oklahomans are not stupid, please don’t portray us as such.

Here's the reply from OETA public information manager Ashley Barcum:

Thank you for sharing your concerns about Islam in Oklahoma. Please note that OETA worked with the Oklahoma Governor’s Council on Ethnic Diversity to select the panelists and to ensure a balanced panel.

We do have a non-Muslim academic on the panel, Dr. David Vishanoff, who is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He will be on hand to provide an objective viewpoint. Due to the short time of the program, the producers would like to keep the panel limited to the three panelists, which includes Dr. Vishanoff.

Please note the panel discussion will primarily involve a discussion of the experience of Muslims in Oklahoma. What the program intends to do is provide a look at the local experiences of those practicing one of the state’s minority religions. It is an ongoing conversation sparked by the recent PBS series America at a Crossroads.

In addition, the program will be moderated by Gerry Bonds, a veteran broadcast journalist.

Please let me know if you have additional questions or concerns.

Why, that makes it all better, doesn't it? The governor says these two Muslims are representative of the diversity of Oklahoma Muslims so it must be so. Never mind the ethnic diversity within Islam -- Arab, Pakistani, Indonesian, Turkish, North African. Never mind that there are other views than the Wahhabi view, even if those other views aren't as well funded.

And how can you have a panel discussion about local experiences of practicing Muslims while ignoring a very local, very recent experience of an Oklahoma Muslim that made national news?

Notice that the website statement that there would be additional panelists has been contradicted by Barcum, who now says that those three are it.

MORE about "America at a Crossroads," the PBS series to which "Islam in Oklahoma" is a follow-up: Okie on the Lam had this entry on April 9 about PBS's decision to suppress one of the films in the series. The film was called “Islam vs. Islamism: Voices From The Muslim Center.” It was one of 34 proposed films for this series selected for a research and development grant by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Here's the description in the list of grant awards:

Islam vs. Islamism (Martyn Burke, Frank Gaffney and Alex Alexiev, ABG Films Inc., Los Angeles) will explore how Islamic extremists are at war with their own faith, and how the consequences of their ambitions and policies devastate the socio-economic potential and well-being of the Muslim world. The filmmakers will follow the stories of several Muslims who have been victimized by the radicals and who are fighting back.

Sounds like a story that needs to be told, right? The CPB thought so, because it then selected the film for one of 20 production grants -- the money needed to get the film made.

But now PBS is refusing to broadcast the film. One of the film's executive producers, Frank Gaffney, explained why in an April 12 Washington Times op-ed:

As it happens, I was involved in making a film for the "America at a Crossroads" series that also focused on, among others, several American Muslims. Unlike Mr. MacNeil's, however, this 52-minute documentary titled "Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center," was selected through the competitive process and was originally designated by CPB to be aired in the first Crossroads increment.

Also unlike Mr. MacNeil's film, "Islam vs. Islamists" focuses on the courageous Muslims in the United States, Canada and Western Europe who are challenging the power structure established in virtually every democracy largely with Saudi money to advance worldwide the insidious ideology known as Islamofascism. In fact, thanks to the MacNeil-Lehrer film, the PBS audience soon will be treated to an apparently fawning portrait of one of the most worrisome manifestations of that Saudi-backed organizational infrastructure in America: the Muslim Student Association (MSA). The MSA's efforts to recruit and radicalize students and suppress dissenting views on American campuses is a matter of record and extremely alarming.

In an exchange with me aired on National Public Radio last week, however, Robert MacNeil explained why he and his team had refused to air "Islam vs. Islamists," describing it as "alarmist" and "extremely one-sided." In other words, a documentary that compellingly portrays what happens to moderate Muslims when they dare to speak up for and participate in democracy, thus defying the Islamists and their champions, is not fit for public airwaves -- even in a series specifically created to bring alternative perspectives to their audience.

The MacNeil criticism was merely the latest of myriad efforts over the last year made by WETA and PBS to suppress the message of "Islam vs. Islamists." These included: insisting yours truly be removed as one of the film's executive producers; allowing a series producer with family ties to a British Islamist to insist on sweeping changes to its "structure and context" that would have assured more favorable treatment of those portrayed vilifying and, in some cases, threatening our anti-Islamist protagonists; and hiring as an adviser to help select the final films an avowed admirer of the Nation of Islam -- an organization whose receipt of a million dollars from the Saudis to open black Wahhabi mosques is a feature of our documentary. The gravity of this conflict of interest was underscored when the latter showed an early version of our film to Nation of Islam representatives, an action that seemed scarcely to trouble those responsible for the "Crossroads" series at WETA and PBS.

You can read an independent perspective on the dispute here. The film may yet air, but there are no guarantees.

The trouble with Theodore Dalrymple is that he writes so beautifully and clearly about such a tragic topic, the decline of English character. His insight in this piece showing how Prime Minister Tony Blair both reflects and has shaped the nation, particularly the public service of Britain:

I recently met a public servant who had risen up the ranks and had about him a triumphalist air, as of a successful revolutionary. He had arrived in bureaucratic heaven. He travelled to London on the train first class every week (a ticket costs the equivalent of an annual working class holiday in the sun), and attended sumptuous functions there attended by others such as himself, under the impression that by so doing he was working. Had he been a little boy recounting a visit to Father Christmas in a department store, it would have been disarming: as it was, I found it profoundly alarming.

Here was the voice of militant mediocrity, who expressed himself even in private in the language of Health Service meetings, believing that his large salary and high living at public expense were all for the good of those who paid for them. Just as the countries of Eastern Europe once had their little Stalins, so every department of every branch of the British public service has its little Blairs.

Such a development could not have taken place overnight. My wife, who is French, was attracted to the culture of this country because, as late as 1979 or 1980, the people, including administrators in hospitals, were obviously upright, whatever else their failings might have been. A quarter of a century later, all that has changed; deviousness, ruthlessness, an eye fixed on the main chance, sanctimony in the midst of obvious wrongdoing, toadying and bullying have become the ruling characteristics of the British people, or at least those of them who are in charge of something. The old virtues - stoicism, honesty, fortitude, irony, good humour and so forth - can still be found, but only in people who are of no importance, at least in the public administration. If I may put it very strongly, good people are like a defeated class in this country.

Go read the whole thing. The disease is not peculiar to Britain; it can be found in bureaucracies at every level of government, the social services, and academia here in America.


N. Z. Bear at Victory Caucus has put together an easy-to-navigate view of the Senate version of the emergency supplemental appropriations bill, S. 965. On the left sidebar, you'll see a list of projects stuffed into the bill. (For example, "Provision that extends the availability by a year $3.5 million in funding for guided tours of the Capitol. Also a provision allows transfer of funds from holiday ornament sales in the Senate gift shop.") You can click on each one, and it will take you to the actual language of the Senate bill.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) intends to force a vote on removing several of the provisions which are clearly not unanticipated emergencies, disclosing any earmarks pertaining to the bill, and . According to his office, he has filed the following amendments to the bill:

648 Strike emergency funding for the 2008 political party conventions
649 Strike University of Vermont earmark
656 Public disclosure of all reports provided to the appropriations committees by this Act
657 Offset Ag emergency funding

The $100 million in funding for the 2008 political party conventions is to reimburse cities and states for the cost of security for events that are over a year away. This emergency appropriation is supposed to be for the current fiscal year, which ends September 2007. Coburn said there was no place for convention security in a bill funding military activities. "Members will have to make a difficult choice between booze and balloons or body armor and bullets."

National conventions are a lot of fun. They are a great opportunity for party activists, donors, elected officials, and consultants to renew acquaintance every four years. They are a great way to kick off the final push for the general election. But they don't serve a national purpose and they shouldn't be subsidized with tax dollars.

If the absence of money for security means that some big names stay away and only C-SPAN covers the conventions on TV, so be it. If it means that the parties have to scale down the conventions to be able to afford to hold them, that would be grand. Perhaps national conventions will once again be meetings where party business is transacted, rather than four-day telethons.

I don't expect Coburn to get a majority on any of these votes, but I'm glad he's at least trying, and I hope he manages to get his colleagues on the record.

Dubai-ous business

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Lincoln Allison doesn't care for Islam, but he loves traveling to Muslim countries, particularly Dubai, in which he sees hopeful signs for the future:

Is the future of East-West relations to be understood from Iraq or Iran or Algeria? Or is the real clue to be found in Dubai, a place that writers of fiction would not dare make up and academics have great difficulty in theorising. It is the non-society society where religion, ethnicity, culture, nationality are private matters, where more than 90% of the population come from somewhere else. It has the world's fanciest mosques, but also the headquarters of the International Cricket Council and the venues for global events in motor racing, horse racing, golf and rugby. It is the afterthought to empire, duplicating British Indian and Ottoman pluralisms and ethnic divisions of functioning: the Pakistanis do the work, the Brits do the organising and the Arabs collect the rent.

Ex-pats compare it to Hong Kong under the Cultural Revolution and Portugal during the war, a neutral territory where people find that pressing their normal ideological positions does not serve their interests. Rumours talk of protection money going to Al Qaeda, of Osama Bin Laden being treated in the American Hospital and of the property boom collapsing like a burst balloon if there is a single terrorist bomb.

It is a place that everybody ought to see to understand their own era - like Manchester in the 1840s or New York in the 1890s. Where will it all be in 50 years time? Globalisation will stand or fall with Dubai? I would want it to stand because I like the idea of a society where commerce is a higher reality than religion. Most people want it to stand and believe it is going to, judging from the numbers of Westerners who are buying property there, as in other Arab countries. East-West pluralism certainly works better there than it does in Burnley. But there can be no pretense that commerce and religion can be kept entirely apart: witness the recent legal nightmares which occur when the owners of real estate (fully allowed to foreigners only this century) die and their wives cannot inherit under Muslim law!

Commerce doesn't trump deep-seated anti-Israel attitudes either, as Dick Morris reports in his latest column:

But don't be fooled. Dubai, which is one of the seven princedoms of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is anything but tolerant and progressive.

To put it bluntly: They don't like Jews.

In fact, Dubai, like the rest of the UAE, is blatantly anti-Semitic. It bars all Israeli citizens from ever setting foot in the country. People from other nations whose passport have stamps indicating they've even visited Israel must notify Dubai immigration authorities of the stamp before entering.

Dubai is also actively involved in the Arab boycott of Israel: It bans all products made in Israel and even ones with parts made in Israel.

Dubai is engaged in a massive PR push to attract Western investment. One result was attracting the world HQ of Halliburton. A key agent in their PR campaign is Der Schlickmeister himself:

Dubai's PR machine went into high gear after 9/11 - in part to distract attention from the extensive use the terrorists made of the emirate. More than half of the hijackers traveled to the United States via Dubai. The 9/11 Commission noted that $234,500 of the $300,000 wired to the hijackers and plot leaders in America came via Dubai banks.

Several months after 9/11, Dubai's newest best friend began his public association with the country. In January 2002, Bill Clinton gave his first Dubai speech (for $300,000). He' been legitimizing the country ever since.

Clinton was the rainmaker who introduced the emir to his friend and employer, Ron Berkle, the owner of Yucaipa companies and a major fund-raiser for Bill and Hillary.

Last year, Yucaipa and the emir formed a new company, DIGL, for their joint ventures. So Bill Clinton is now an adviser and member of the board of directors of a company that is in partnership with the anti-Israeli government of Dubai.

The Clintons won't reveal how much the former president pocketed for setting up this deal, except to report on Hillary's Senate disclosure form: "more than $1,000."

A lot more. According to San Francisco Examiner columnist P.J. Corkery, Clinton makes $10 million a year from Yucaipa.

Morris doesn't let prominent Republican retirees off the hook either -- George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, and John Sununu are mentioned as helping to legitimize the country in the U. S.

Perhaps Dubai is in transition and modernization will encourage them to drop their anti-Israel stance. But it will probably take some pressure in that direction, some encouragement from the Emir's friends in America to make that happen.

Just posted on FrontPage magazine is an in-depth interview with Jamal Miftah, the Tulsa Muslim who last fall wrote a bold guest opinion condemning terrorism in the name of Islam and was expelled from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's mosque.

The interview fills in some fascinating details about Miftah's background in Pakistan -- some things that he hinted about in earlier stories and in my conversations with him. He talks about his life in Pakistan before coming with his family to the United States in 2003. Living in the North-West Frontier Province in Pakistan, on the border with Afghanistan, he saw the harm done to ordinary Pakistani Muslims by militant misleaders who led them into battle against U.S.-allied forces across the border.

After the fall of Taliban regime, the leaders of TNS started coming back into Pakistan along with the groups of ordinary people who had gone with them to fight. During the course of time, ordinary people including myself realized that all the leaders made it back to their homes safe and sound, whereas a number of the ordinary men never returned. They either got killed or were held for ransom by Afghans and possibly the Taliban.

The interview also delves into his views on his faith and on the global war on terror. Miftah doesn't believe that Osama bin Laden is running an independent terrorist organization:

During the Soviet-Afghan conflict, many warlord groups, including that of Osama bin Laden's group, were receiving American money and equipment to fight the Soviet Union. After the fall of the Soviet Union, some of those groups joined hands to start the campaign for removal of American forces out of Saudi Arabia. They attempted to mobilize support within the Muslim world for their cause by misguiding the Muslims that the presence of 'infidels' in 'the land of pure' was a great sin and should therefore be prevented by Jihad. The campaign was supported by the inflow of petro dollars and was the joint agenda of Osama bin Laden and the then Crown Prince (the present King) of Saudi Arabia. He, during Clinton's earlier era, was very vocal about the removal of American armies from Saudi Arabia. Afghanistan was thus used as a launching ground for the campaign by the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia and their most trusted family friend Osama bin Laden who was to lead the campaign and the proxy war for the Saudi Kingdom.

The interviewer, FrontPage managing editor Jamie Glazov, challenged Miftah on his belief in a "silent majority of the peace-loving Muslims around the world":

Upon what evidence do you base this view that the “majority” are peace-loving? For instance, do the majority of Muslims in the world reject the teachings of their own religion -- which mandates war against non-Muslims? (i.e. The Verse of the Sword, Sura 9:25, 9:29, etc.) Do the majority reject the imperative to subjugate the world under the rule of Islamic law – which is a mandate deeply embedded within Islamic teaching and tradition? (i.e. Sura 9:29, Sahih Muslim 4294; and a host of other evidence from all the Sunni madhahib and Shi’ite sources as well).

Miftah explains how he and many other Muslims interpret those verses:

Let me first clarify the misconception about the teachings of Islam or for that matter any other religion. The Qur’an was revealed over a period of 23 years. The revelation, as such, was during times of war, peace, oppression and rule of Muslims. Each verse, as such, has to be read in context of the conditions prevalent at the time of revelation and also the conditions of the Arab Society at that time.

In response to this and to Miftah's quoting of several verses from the Qur'an, Glazov pretty much says (as politely and graciously as he can), "No, you're wrong," and quotes a number of Islamic scholars down through the years who reject the moderate Muslim hermeneutic, including Sayyid Qutb. Miftah is not deterred and explains why he and many other Muslims reject the teachers that Glazov cited.

If you're a Christian, put yourself in Jamal's shoes for a moment. Someone who isn't a Christian comes along and tells you that you don't really follow the Bible because you don't agree with the method of interpretation used by Charles Taze Russell or Tony Alamo or David Koresh or Felix Manalo. Can you see how offensive that would be?

Glazov seems to shift his argument to say that there isn't any "sect of Islam or a school of Islamic jurisprudence that is generally regarded as orthodox and does not teach the subjugation of unbelievers." He creates a sort of circular argument. Why are the sects or schools who don't teach the subjugation of unbelievers considered unorthodox? Is it because they don't teach subjugation of unbelievers or is it for some other doctrinal reason? Or is it because they aren't backed with Saudi petrodollars?

It's a variation of the old "no true Scotsman" fallacy: "No true Muslim believes in peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims." Jamal Miftah says, "I am a true Muslim, and I believe in peaceful coexistence with non-Muslims." The response -- "Well, then, you must not be a true Muslim."

Aren't we working against our own safety and security to recognize the violent wackos as normative and to treat Muslims like Jamal Miftah as marginal?

To his credit, Glazov asks Miftah what can be done to support moderate Islamic voices. Miftah's response:

Unfortunately, the majority of the mosques in the U.S. and in West are under Wahabi control. The Muslims living in those parts of the world should particularly be vigilant towards the activities going on in places of worship (mosques) and should rise up against the self-imposed leadership in such places, if they witness any suspicious activities. They have a responsibility to the societies they live in, raise and educate their kids and therefore should not tolerate any activity which is aimed at causing harm to the countries they live in.

(Yesterday, JunkYardBlog linked to the story of a Newcastle, Australia, mosque that was taken over by university students who follow Wahhabism. The students "evangelized" members of the mosque, then won elections to control the board.)

Miftah goes into detail about his expulsion from the mosque in November, setting out a clear time line. He draws this conclusion about the actions of the mosque's leadership:

In my case, it was a very daring attempt by the leadership of the mosque, who first tried to silence me by scaring me with the word “anti-Islamic,” which carries a lot of repercussions and finally made me an example for other Muslims by expelling me out of the mosque. It now makes me believe, from the kind of response and the treatment that I received, that there are elements within the mosque leadership who have sympathies for terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda. To root out and expose such elements we need moral support from organizations like yours and also legal help to prosecute such rogue elements.

Miftah sought the help of the ACLU in pursuing legal action against the mosque, but the ACLU said they didn't have the resources. (Glazov notes that the ACLU has plenty of money for other projects. A couple of examples: defending the pederasts at NAMBLA or working with an accused terrorist operative to develop a curriculum for teaching Islam in the public schools.)

If you're an attorney and can assist Jamal with his case, please e-mail him at jamalmiftah@sbcglobal.net.

MORE on moderate Muslims:

Rod Dreher responds to a reader who emails about the notion of banning Muslim immigration, thinking about the demographic differences between Muslim immigrants to parts of Europe and those who come to America.


The point here is that the situation can be a lot more complicated than simply saying, "It's Islam's fault." And if you make a blanket indictment of Islam itself, as my friend points out, you risk marginalizing good people, solid citizens. But on the other hand, when you look at poll data of British Muslims, for example, you find shocking levels of support for Islamic law (versus British civil law). Whatever the root causes of this state of affairs, it's frightening.

I am reminded by all this of how little, really, we know about the Muslims who live in the West. Or at least in America. I know the kinds of Muslims I've interacted with professionally here in Dallas, and it's not encouraging to me as someone who would welcome truly moderate Muslims here. On the other hand, I've been told by Muslims and non-Muslims, people who know a lot more about this stuff than I do, that the leadership in mosques and Islamic institutions in the US has been bought by Saudis, and that ordinary Muslims don't dare object.

Dreher links to a National Review article he wrote about the al-Farooq mosque in Brooklyn, home to the first World Trade Center bombers and investigated for continuing to fund terror organizations. Dreher wrote about the fear non-Muslims in Brooklyn had about saying anything remotely critical of their Muslim neighbors.

If it's too dangerous for Arab Christians to speak out against Islamist neighbors, what is it like for dissenting Muslims? A senior terrorism analyst with The Investigative Project, which specializes in monitoring Islamic radicalism, insists that Muslims of goodwill believe, with reason, that standing up to Islamist thugs will get them killed. "Fundamentalists are the ones who have the drive. For non- fundamentalists, speaking out against them is not worth their life," explains TIP's Evan Kohlmann.

Kohlmann says that Islamic radicals get away with their activities both by stifling dissent within Muslim communities and by "turning any criticism into a civil-rights and a humanitarian issue. They know that by appealing to our sense of diversity and humanity, they evade scrutiny." Indeed, many non-Muslims in the liberal neighborhoods flanking the al-Farooq mosque would consider it racist and McCarthyite to question the loyalty of their Muslim neighbors.

Finally, Dinesh D'Souza wrote a four-part series in National Review Online calling on conservatives to work with "traditional Muslims" to oppose radical Islam. (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV.)

MORE: A moderate American Islamic organization is offering to defend any of the passengers who might be targeted in a lawsuit by the "flying imams" against US Airways:

Lawyers and a Muslim group say they will defend at no cost airline passengers caught up in a lawsuit between a group of imams and U.S. Airways if the passengers are named as "John Does" and sued for reporting suspicious behavior that got the Muslim clerics booted from a November flight....

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Phoenix-area physician and director of American Islamic Forum for Democracy -- a group founded in 2003 to promote moderate Muslim ideas through its Web site (http://www.aifdemocracy.org) -- told The Washington Times his group will raise money for legal fees for passengers if they are sued by the imams.

"It's so important that America know there are Muslims who understand who the victims are in air travel," said Dr. Jasser. "But I hope it doesn't get to that point because the backlash will be even greater when Americans see Islamists trying to punish innocent passengers reporting fears."

From AIFD's press release:

4. It is our hope as Americans and as Muslims that U.S. Airways stand firm in its defense of its actions to have the gentleman removed for concerns regarding their behavior after entering the plane. This is not about race or religion. It is about the privilege to fly securely.

5. The constant exploitation of America's culture of political correctness especially in this setting of what is the most dangerous environment of air travel is out of touch with America's priorities. Such misguided priorities by Muslim activist organizations like CAIR will make the legitimate defense of our civil rights far more difficult when more serious complaints of racism and discrimination are involved. America is quickly becoming numb to their constant refrains and the polls demonstrate the profound ineffectiveness of their tiring campaigns.

6. The organized Muslim community should instead be working on developing a strategic plan to counter militant Islamism within the Muslim community. That would do a lot more to change public opinion than suing the airlines who are trying to keep Americans who travel safe.

(Via JunkYardBlog.)

Northern Ireland, the part of the island of Ireland which remained in the United Kingdom after the 1922 partition, held an election for its assembly earlier this week and the results are in. The Democratic Unionist Party won the most seats, followed by Sinn Fein. The last time we traveled to Northern Ireland, in 1995, these two parties were the also-rans, the hard-liners for their respective views -- unionist (Northern Ireland should remain a part of the UK) and republican (the Six Counties should be reunited with the Republic of Ireland). The DUP was and is led by its founder, Ian Paisley, who is also founder of his own Presbyterian denomination. But for the DUP's hard-line unionist views, it has never been allied with a terrorist group. Sinn Fein has. Sinn Fein is the political wing of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, which has engaged in terror attacks on civilians and police officers and in Mafia-like organized crime within its own community.

The more conciliatory expressions of unionist and republican views, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Social Democratic and Labour Party, respectively, have fallen from favor with the electorate. David Trimble and John Hume, the leaders of the two parties, won the Nobel Peace Prize, but the agreement that won them that honor has not lived up to its promise.

Six members of the assembly are elected from each parliamentary constituency, using the "single transferable vote" method. This is similar to instant runoff voting in that each voter ranks the candidates in order of preference. The difference is that the counting in a way that elects multiple candidates, rather than a single candidate. I had hoped to point you to results that shows the count as it progresses, but I can't find that the detailed results on the web anywhere. The BBC has the final results and the first preference counts (how many voters chose a candidate as first choice), but not the detailed count-by-count results. This is a good method for picking representatives when you have widely divergent views mixed together in a single region. It ensures that widely-held perspectives have a seat at the table, but it allows the voters to choose which individual candidates will represent them, rather than leaving the pick to party bosses (as the party-list system of proportional representation does).

Under the rules for the Northern Ireland Assembly established by the British Parliament, the head of the first place party will be First Minister of Northern Ireland, while the head of the second place party will be his Deputy. The two leaders -- Ian Paisley of the DUP and Martin McGuinness of SF -- will have to come to agreement over which assembly member will fill each cabinet position. This is likely to work as well as that movie in which Ray Milland's head is grafted on to Rosey Grier's body.

The alternative to successfully forming a government? Control over local matters will continue to be wielded by a Minister for Northern Ireland handpicked by Tony Blair.

(I should have many more links, but I'm in a bit of a rush. Check Wikipedia to learn more.)

According to a real-time test performed through the website greatfirewallofchina.org, BatesLine is blocked from viewing in China by the Communist government. I'm in good company: So are amnesty.org, cato.org, Drudge Report, Instapundit, Harvard, Princeton, the BBC, the New York Times, myspace, CNN, and the White House, among many others.

(CORRECTED -- I had .com instead of .org, which is what I get for looking at a website on one computer and blogging about it on another one.)

A few weeks ago, CBN News anti-terrorism analyst Erick Stakelbeck visited Tulsa to talk to Jamal Miftah, the Pakistani Muslim who was kicked out of the mosque of the Islamic Society of Tulsa for his guest opinion condemning those who commit acts of terror in the name of Islam. Stakelbeck also interviewed me during his visit.

The story will air tomorrow (Tuesday) on "The 700 Club," seen on the ABC Family Channel (Cox Cable channel 37) at 8:00 a.m. Central time, and again at 10:00 p.m. The story should also appear on the cbnnews.com website after it airs.

Click here to see Stakelbeck's earlier, brief report about Miftah on Hot Air.

UPDATE: Here is a link to the text and the video of Stakelbeck's report on Jamal Miftah.

I came across a very interesting piece setting out the U. S. military's eleven-point plan for victory in Iraq. Point 10 was surprising:

Electoral Reform: The old system of national parties selecting candidates for positions was believed to have unfairly tipped the balance in favor of the Shiites and led to too many Pro-Iranian, Pro-Achmedinejad candidates ( like the nutbag terrorist Al Sadr ) receiving too many seats in the parliament. A new system of local candidates simply stepping forward and adding their name to the ballot will instead prevail.

A commenter elaborates on the problem, which exists for all party-list proportional representation systems:

As someone who’s been involved with the Iraqi electoral process, I cannot stress enough just how bad the present system is.

Iraq currently has a fully proportional representation system for Parliamentary elections. Meaning, if your party (or coalition) gets 33% of the vote, you get 33% of the seats. This ensures that sectarian interests are represented in Parliament in roughly the same number as their population. Even small groups like the Yezidi or Sabeans get 1 or 2 members. This sort of ability to be “representative” is WAY big in the Islamic world.

If you want an electoral system that consolidates power in the hands of a few sectarian party bosses and prevents any representative from appealing to any population outside his narrow sectarian constituency - this is the perfect system. If you want an electoral system that makes representatives responsible to the actual people they serve, PR is very much the *worst* system you could possibly imagine that can still be called democratic.

This is because PR works by having the parties put forth “lists” of candidates. For instance “555″ (the shia coalition) puts together a list of 275 candidates (275 seats in Parliament.) They got, i think, 131 seats. That means the first 131 candidates on the list get seats in Parliament. Who determines your placement on the list? The party bosses! So you can be #12 on the list or #176 - depending on how loyal you are to the party leader. Obviously, since being an MP brings with it many perks including cash and immunity - you want to be up high on that list. Conversely, whether or not your constituents are happy with you is irrelevant, because your placement on the list is wholly dependent on the party leaders.

However, were Iraq to develop a system based on geographic constituencies (based on a census) and adopt a “first past the post” system, sectarian groupings would be represented unevenly and some groups would never be represented at all. However, the representatives elected would be forced to be much more responsive to their voters in their geographic constituency. This is because they’d need to provide their voters with enough reason to vote for them and build enough coalitions among the electorate to get to 50% +1 vote. As a result, the ability of a small group of party leaders to dictate policy would be greatly reduced.

Unfortunately, adopting this type of syetm requires two things:

1) It relies on the party leaders, who now control the legislative/constitutional process, to voluntarily put into place a system that will dilute their power. Once PR is put in place as a representational system, it is notoriously difficult to change because it is not in the interests of the power brokers.

2) It will require significant changes in the current constitution. Given that the Parliament is paralyzed over constitutional amendments of an even less divisive nature (oil revenue sharing, etc.) the chances that the Iraqi Council of representatives will puch through such an electoral change is unlikely.

A sound system of representation will allow voters to select the individual who will represent them, rather than centralized party bosses, so that the representative is directly responsible to his constituents. It is possible to provide a degree of proportionality and minority representation while retaining geographical representation and without resorting to party lists. Ireland does this with constituencies electing three to five members each (based on population), using the single-transferable vote method.

Too bad Iraq wasn't encourgaed to take this approach in the first place. As the commenter notes, once a party-list system is in place, it is almost impossible to dislodge.

Iraq news feeds

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To help me (and you) keep up with what's happening on the ground in Iraq, I've added several Iraq-related blog feeds to my Newsgator page: Calvey in Iraq, the blog of former Oklahoma State Rep. Kevin Calvey, news releases and daily reports from the official Multi-National Force Iraq website, the blog of the Victory Caucus, and Iraq the Model, the perspective of two Baghdad residents.

As these blogs post new entries, you'll see them pop up on the Newsgator page.

Today's "Vent" video on Hot Air features Erick Stakelbeck of CBN News reporting from Tulsa about Jamal Miftah, who was expelled from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's al-Salam mosque for his op-ed condemning those who commit terror in the name of Islam. If you haven't heard about this situation, this is a good overview.

UPDATE: I'm disappointed at most of the comments on this entry about the Stakelbeck report, comments that are dismissive of Miftah's courage, arguing that there's no such thing as a moderate Muslim.

Michelle Malkin's Hot Air has added a new correspondent to its roster: Erick Stakelbeck, a terrorism analyst for CBN News. In Stackelbeck's first Hot Air report, he gives an overview of Iran's 28 years of hostilities against the US and reports that Iran is now sending its own agents to work against Israel from Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria, rather than relying on local proxies.

You can read more from Stakelbeck on his blog at the CBN website.

On at least 10 occasions in the '90s, Osama bin Laden was within the grasp of U. S. operatives, but the Clinton White House (specifically Sandy "Padded Pants" Berger) refused to give the order to act. The situation was dramatized in a scene that was ultimately cut from the ABC mini-series, "The Path to 9/11":

(Video link via Danny Carlton.)

If you want to read what the 9/11 commission had to say about the Clinton administration's half-hearted pursuit of bin Laden, here's a link to Chapter 4, "Responses to Al Qaeda's Initial Assaults."

Policymakers in the Clinton administration, including the President and his national security advisor, told us that the President’s intent regarding covert action against Bin Ladin was clear: he wanted him dead.This intent was never well communicated or understood within the CIA.Tenet told the Commission that except in one specific case (discussed later), the CIA was authorized to kill Bin Ladin only in the context of a capture operation. CIA senior managers, operators, and lawyers confirmed this understanding.“We always talked about how much easier it would have been to kill him,” a former chief of the Bin Ladin unit said.

In February 1999, another draft Memorandum of Notification went to President Clinton. It asked him to allow the CIA to give exactly the same guidance to the Northern Alliance as had just been given to the tribals: they could kill Bin Ladin if a successful capture operation was not feasible. On this occasion, however, President Clinton crossed out key language he had approved in December and inserted more ambiguous language. No one we interviewed could shed light on why the President did this. President Clinton told the Commission that he had no recollection of why he rewrote the language.

It's a depressing read: Over and over again, you see the people on the ground reporting a solid opportunity to act, and the people at the upper echelons tell them to stand down. In May 1999, there were three opportunities in two days, but none of them were acted upon:

Replying to a frustrated colleague in the field, the Bin Ladin unit chief wrote:“having a chance to get [Bin Ladin] three times in 36 hours and foregoing the chance each time has made me a bit angry. . . . [T]he DCI finds himself alone at the table, with the other princip[als] basically saying ‘we’ll go along with your decision Mr.Director,’ and implicitly saying that the Agency will hang alone if the attack doesn’t get Bin Ladin.”

Evidently, Bill Clinton's motto -- "The Buck Never Even Got Here" -- was taken to heart by his cabinet and chief advisers.

The message board moderators on the BBC website are banning all entries that link to articles on Little Green Footballs, a blog that focuses on the activities of Islamic extremists and anti-Semitic groups around the world.

Here is the message that is replacing the deleted posts:

This posting has been temporarily hidden, because a member of our Moderation Team has referred it to the Hosts for a decision as to whether it contravenes the House rules in some way. We will do everything we can to ensure that a decision is made as quickly as possible.

The rule in question appears to be this one:

[We reserve the right to fail messages which] Contain links to other websites which break our Editorial Guidelines

The applicable guideline on unsuitable links:

A web page is unsuitable if it contains, or directly links to, anything which is... offensive... Hate sites (on grounds of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation)

Some of the anti-LGF members of the BBC board claim that if LGF were in print, it couldn't legally be published in the UK.

One poster sees this ban as part of a larger pattern at the BBC:

That the BBC does not allow a link to LGF will come as little surprise to those of us familiar with the BBCs output and editorial tone. What has come as a surprise to me, a relative newcomer to the 'blogosphere', is the degree to which the news the BBC chooses to present to us is filtered and censored. Whole stories that cause a sensation on the blogosphere and are of undoubted public interest are either mentioned in passing or not mentioned at all by the BBC.

Towards the end of last year I saw a BBC news report on the continuing anarchy in the Paris suburbs with protests by French police against the increasing number of attacks they were coming under. This was around three weeks after the same story first began circulating on the blogs.

By now all of us will have familiarised ourselves with the anodyne Mohammed cartoons that provoked such controversy last year - not through the MSM but through the blogosphere. Would any of us know about last years riots in Windsor, the Reuters fauxtography scandal or the home office ordering 12,000 nuclear protection suits for the Met over Christmas if it wasn't for the blogs? Do you know what one of the main uses of Polonium-210 is? Look it up on the internet because the recent Panorama programme didn't tell us.

And more recently have you heard about last week's conference in London hosted by the Mayor where Ken Livingstone was debating with Daniel Pipes on the topic of 'A World Civilisation or a Clash of Civilisations'? No? Didn't you hear about it on the BBC? Odd that, particularly since the debate was chaired by the Beebs own Gavin Esler.

However if you do rely on the BBC for your news coverage you will today know which Archbishop turned down an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother and that a photo of David Beckham slaying a dragon is on display at Disneyworld. You will also no doubt recall the story of motorists caught on CCTV driving into traffic bollards in Manchester and of the pelican that swallowed a pigeon.

Increasingly it isn't going to matter to the likes of Little Green Footballs whether or not the BBC links to them. The more pertinent question, in the not too distant future, is whether Little Green Footballs will allow links to the BBC.

Little Green Footballs was one of the blogs that inspired me to start my own. Blogger Charles Johnson has succeeded in calling attention to stories that are overlooked or deliberately ignored and in debunking stories that the mainstream media has gotten wrong. What's got Auntie Beeb's knickers in a twist is that the stories he posts interfere with their pro-radical-Islam, anti-Israel, anti-Western Civilization world view.

There are times when I'm torn between the urgency to write about a topic and the fear of not doing the topic justice. This is especially true when, because of family and work demands and home chores, I don't get to sit down to write until it's late, and I'm tired and distracted. It's even more true when doing a topic justice has an impact on someone's life and reputation. The difficulty is that, in this case, not writing about a matter also has an impact on someone's life and reputation.

In late December, someone tried to post a comment on my entry about Jamal Miftah, the Tulsa Muslim who published an op-ed piece in the Tulsa World condemning those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam. You'll recall that, for his trouble, Miftah was the target of an angry confrontation after prayers, and it was communicated to him that he was not welcome to come back. I wrote several entries about Miftah, and made the controversy the subject of my column in the December 13 Urban Tulsa Weekly.

The comment, posted from a Tulsa IP address by someone named Riaz Noor, accused Miftah of being guilty of murder and immigration fraud. Specifically, Noor claimed that his sister was Miftah's wife and that Miftah had murdered her, then used a visa obtained in the dead woman's name to bring his second wife to the United States.

By e-mail, I asked Miftah to respond to the accusations, and I asked some very specific questions of Noor, and both responded by e-mail. I had no way of verifying the claims, and I chose not to publish Noor's comment or to say anything about it.

In the meantime, Noor continued to publish the same accusations, verbatim, on seemingly every web page that mentioned Miftah. Miftah phoned me and asked if we could meet, as he wanted to show me some documentation that would rebut Noor's claims. We met a week ago, on New Year's Day.

Miftah told me that he had indeed been married to Noor's sister back in Pakistan, and that she died in Karachi in May of 1987. It was an arranged marriage, and Miftah never accepted her as his wife. He decided to send her back to her village. The morning of her death he was at work, and she phoned to plead with him to allow her to stay, but he refused. Sometime later he got a phone call that his sister-in-law had been gravely injured and had been taken to the hospital. But when he arrived, he learned that it was his wife who was there -- she had tried to kill herself. Two surgeries were performed to try to save her, but without success.

In a comment on In the Bullpen (one of the blogs where Noor's accusations appeared), Miftah wrote:

The fact of the matter is that at the time when [Riaz Noor's] sister attempted suicide, his other sister (Shahida) was there along with others. They took her to Jinnah Hospital in Karachi and after struggling with life for more then 10 hours and two major surgeries to save her life; she died on the night of May 21, 1987 (which can be verified from Hospital record).

So he knows how his sister died and that’s why never challenged her suicide before.

Miftah showed me a faxed statement from a specific Karachi police station setting out the police record in the matter.

It was a year and a half later, during a visit to Pakistan by his sister, who lived in Tulsa, that Miftah and his new wife went with his sister to the American consulate to apply for an immigration visa to the U.S. Miftah showed me the stamped and dated receipt from the consulate, establishing that the visa was obtained for his second wife. The document makes Riaz Noor's claim -- that Miftah obtained the visa for his first wife, then fraudulently used it for his second wife under his first wife's stolen identity -- an impossible scenario. The timeline doesn't work.

Miftah showed me other documents and provided me with some additional information. There is another thread to the story, a fascinating thread, but it will have to wait for another day. From what I was shown, and from what I was able to verify independently, I believe Jamal Miftah is an honest man and is telling the truth.

Phyllis Schlafly's latest column makes the claim that high-tech companies are engaged in a conspiracy against American workers by pushing the Federal government to allow more engineers to come to America under H-1B visas.

Like all visas, the H-1B visa is temporary permission to be in the United States, specifically to allow college-educated foreign nationals to work in "specialty occupations" such as engineering and architecture. I've worked side-by-side with engineers who are here on H-1B visas, and while I'm not prepared, with an early morning ahead of me, to make a detailed case in support of the program, I do want to respond to some of the things she says.

First, Schlafly denies that there is a labor shortage in high-tech fields and claims to know the hidden reasons behind the push to double the number of H-1B visas:

Three reasons motivate the tech giants to use their political clout and political action committee contributions to increase H-1Bs:

1. Cost-cutting: H-1B visa holders are paid much less than Americans.

2. The influx of H-1B visa holders depresses the "prevailing wage" for all computer techies and engineers.

3. The hiring of H-1B visa holders prevents potential competition from Americans who might choose to work for other firms or start companies of their own.

Reason 1 is false, and reasons 2 and 3 are dependent on reason 1. H-1B visa holders must, by law, be paid comparably to or better than American workers. Companies have to post notices listing the salary, job title, and experience of H-1B employees to allow other employees to verify that the visa holders aren't driving out American workers by accepting a low wage. The companies I have worked for have complied with this requirement. She goes on:

H-1B visas are not for entrepreneurs or executives. They are for employees who are tied to the company that imports them, much like indentured servants, and are supposed to depart from the United States after a few years....

H-1B visa holders cut industry costs but do nothing to improve innovation. Most innovators are Americans, and the successful immigrant entrepreneurs the industry brags about did not come here as guest workers on H-1B visas, but entered as children and were educated in U.S. universities.

Most H-1B visa holders I've known are using it as a first step to qualify for permanent residency and eventual citizenship. And the companies I've worked for are not going to Bangalore and Karachi to scout for employees, the way baseball scouts scour San Pedro de Macoris for new talent. Instead, international students who are earning advanced degrees at places like Oklahoma State University or the University of Kansas look for job opportunities that will allow them to work in their profession and stay in the US. They are not tethered to the first employer that hires them.

They may not all be entrepreneurs, but many of them are innovators. The hydraulic digital control loading and motion system -- the system that provides realistic control feel and motion sensations for pilot training -- used on hundreds of FlightSafety simulators worldwide was developed here in Broken Arrow by a Jordanian with a doctorate from OSU, assisted by a Finn who was a grad student at OSU at the time. The development of the new all-electrical version of the same system was led by the same Jordanian national, with the help of both Americans and other foreign nationals. Their contributions have made FlightSafety a world leader in the manufacture of flight simulators, enabling it to compete effectively against rivals based in Canada and France.

And these engineers are not going to steal our technology and take it back home. They love living here, their kids have grown up here, and they are here to stay. Even if they wanted to go back, "back home" doesn't have the capital to provide a place where they can do the challenging level of work they can do here.

This statement of Schlafly's just floored me:

Much of the Compete America discussion involved blaming the U.S. educational system and the fact that fewer U.S. students are going into math and computer sciences. Yes, U.S. students have figured out that our engineers have a bleak employment future because of insourcing foreigners and outsourcing manufacturing.

Isn't this the same Phyllis Schlafly who has been telling us what a bad job our schools are doing of educating our children in the fundamentals of reading, writing, and arithmetic? So now falling math scores and a decline of interest in the hard sciences are not the fault of goofy curriculum fads and too much focus on social engineering, but because engineers have a "bleak employment future"?

One of the things that makes America strong and prosperous is that the smartest people in the world want to live here, because we offer freedom, peace, and prosperity. When they come, they bring their own brains and then they sire brainy children. They buy homes here and spend their high salaries in our malls and supermarkets. They pay the same taxes (or even more) than we pay. They are building the intellectual capital of the United States of America. It's not so good for their home countries, but it's great for us.

Two more points, and then I really should call it a night:

(1) At a time when states like Oklahoma worry about a brain drain to places like Silicon Valley, talented foreign engineers help to fill the gap here in the heartland, as they're often happy just to be in the United States. Many find the slower pace and more conservative way of life here more like home and better for raising a family.

(2) Schlafly seems to think that engineering degree programs and computer programming courses automatically churn out the kind of engineers American companies need, and as long as Americans get that piece of paper they ought to be able to get a job. We do have to have a certain number of people who can do basic programming and simple engineering, but to stay ahead of the rest of the world we need people with agility of mind, with the ability to solve problems that haven't been solved before. That's a gift, a gift which can be refined and improved by education, but which can't be educated into existence. We can use all of those minds that we can find anywhere in the world.

Mosque of peace?

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This week's column in Urban Tulsa Weekly is about Jamal Miftah and his treatment by leaders of the Islamic Society of Tulsa's al-Salam ("Peace") mosque over his guest editorial in the October 29 Tulsa World. (Here's a link to the text of his op-ed.)

The same issue has another letter from Miftah, in which he makes the case from the Qu'ran that the Holy Land belongs to the Jews, and that means that Palestinian attacks on Israel cannot be justified as jihad. (It's on a page with the rest of the letters, so scroll down once you click to it.)

In the story I link to eteraz.org, a blog and web community for progressive Muslim activism. Ali Eteraz interviewed Jamal Miftah and has written several more articles about the situation. Another site of interest is the Free Muslims Coalition:

The Free Muslims Coalition is a nonprofit organization made up of American Muslims and Arabs of all backgrounds who feel that religious violence and terrorism have not been fully rejected by the Muslim community in the post 9-11 era.

The Free Muslims was created to eliminate broad base support for Islamic extremism and terrorism and to strengthen secular democratic institutions in the Middle East and the Muslim World by supporting Islamic reformation efforts.

The Free Muslims promotes a modern secular interpretation of Islam which is peace-loving, democracy-loving and compatible with other faiths and beliefs. The Free Muslims' efforts are unique; it is the only mainstream American-Muslim organization willing to attack extremism and terrorism unambiguously. Unfortunately most other Muslim leaders believe that in terrorist organizations, the end justifies the means.

Here's an interesting piece from their blog about the two faces of Saudi Arabia -- is it friend or foe to the West?

So is the Saudi Arabian government a friend of the United States or does Saudi Arabia propagate hate and intolerance among American Muslims and Muslims world wide? The answer to both of these questions is yes. The Saudi Arabian government is a great friend to the United States and at the same time many in Saudi Arabia, including some who receive government funding propagate hate and intolerance against anyone who does not share their Wahabi inspired ideology. The answers to both these questions may seem inconsistent and counter intuitive but these seemingly inconsistent answers reflect the complexity of modern day Saudi Arabia.

By now everyone has heard of the historic compact between the Saudi Royal Family and the fanatical Wahabi religious establishment. According to this agreement, the Saudi Royal family deals exclusively with matters of state while the Wahabi religious establishment deals with issues of morality which includes substantial control over the education system and the substantive interpretation of Islam. It is this division of power that produces the two faces of Saudi Arabia.

As long as my column is this week, I've got much more material that I didn't use, particularly from my interview with Jamal Miftah, and I have more research to do on Saudi funding of Islamic organizations in the West. I hope to get this material out here on BatesLine or in UTW.

Jamal Miftah was on Fox News talking about the confrontation at the Islamic Society of Tulsa over his op-ed condemning terror in the name of Islam. Ms. Underestimated has video.

In the video Miftah makes it clear that it was not some back-pew parishoner who confronted him in the prayer hall, but it was Ahmed Kabbani, the imam of the mosque. And it was the head of the operating council of the mosque, Houssam Elsoueissi, who confronted him in the hallway. Both called him "anti-Islamic" for what he wrote in the article, and he regards that an implied death threat, as it is considered a meritorious act to kill an apostate Muslim.

A little over a week ago, Ali Eteraz of the progressive Muslim online community Eteraz.org interviewed Tulsan Jamal Miftah about the anti-terrorist column he wrote and the backlash he experienced.

Eteraz published a follow-up after the Tulsa World's story last Friday, December 1, including Miftah's response to the story (also published here at BatesLine). In the conclusion, Eteraz urges his readers to urge two national organizations to get involved -- the Islamic Society of North America and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Then, last Saturday, Eteraz defended Miftah on the point of his op-ed which seems to have generated the most controversy:

Even mosques and Islamic institutions in the U.S. and around the world have become tools in [terrorists'] hands and are used for collecting funds for their criminal acts. Half of the funds collected go into the pockets of their local agents and the rest are sent to these thugs.

Noting the complaint of the Islamic Center of Tulsa that Miftah has accused IST of being such a mosque, Eteraz writes:

The thing is, Miftah didn't say what the IST is saying he did. He didn't say "American mosques support terrorists." He said "even" American mosques have been subverted in the past. Just because the IST does not know of any that have been so subverted does not mean that Miftah becomes wrong. He is right to call them liars.

It's an interesting perspective, and interesting, too, to read the comments.
Since it's a month old, Miftah's op-ed has passed into the Whirled's archives, but I found the complete text here.

UPDATE: Eteraz has posted some further thoughts, seeing some lessons for Muslim reformists, and he also posted an e-mail from Miftah:

Think about forming an Alliance of like-minded Muslims, and let's begin our Jihad (struggle) against such rogue leadership of the so called Islamic institutions, who, in the name of Islam, are misguiding the ordinary simple Muslims and continuously causing a bad name for our pious religion.

In Miftah's e-mail, there's an interesting comment about forgiveness which stands in contrast to Christianity: Jesus taught, in Matthew 6 in connection with His model prayer, that God's forgiveness of us is dependent on our forgiveness of those who have wronged us. In Islam, divine forgiveness for a transgression against someone is dependent on the forgiveness of the victim of the transgression. In other words, if I steal from you, I must gain your forgiveness before God can forgive me.

I met Jamal Miftah a couple of days ago, and we spoke at length. It was very interesting, and some of the thoughts he expressed to me about the nature of his faith are reflected in the e-mail that Eteraz has published.

At long last, the Tulsa World has printed a story about Jamal Miftah's expulsion from the Islamic Society of Tulsa's (IST) al-Salam mosque. You'll recall that it was an op-ed by Miftah that was published by the Whirled that triggered the situation. The story made local TV in Tulsa and Oklahoma City last Friday and immediately attracted attention around the blogosphere. I wrote about it here on Sunday, and the story was discussed on KFAQ Monday and Tuesday.

So it's curious timing: the Whirled seems to have waited until they had something to report that put IST in a positive light:

Local mosque lifts ban on outspoken member

By BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
12/1/2006

The governing board of Tulsa's Al-Salam mosque ruled Wednesday night that a Pakistani native who had been banned from the mosque can return.

Houssam Elsoueissi, president of the operating council at the mosque, said he would announce at Friday's service that Jamal Miftah is free to attend services as long as there is no disturbance, and that no one at the mosque should confront him.

Miftah was banned last week after a confrontation at the mosque over a guest commentary he wrote that appeared Oct. 29 in the Tulsa World.

Let's look at the timeline:

On Friday, November 24, KOTV reporter Omar Villafranca reported on the incident and Miftah's expulsion. Miftah describes how he was confronted and threatened at the mosque and says he had filed a police report about the confrontation.

Miftah says several Muslims told him he is no longer allowed at the mosque. He says leaders told him there is only one way he can come back to worship.

[Miftah:] "There are two members of the community who spoke to them [mosque leaders] and they have said, 'Well, he has to apologize. He has to take his article back, and that is the only way we can let him come back into mosque.'"

Villafranca concluded his story with this:

Now, I did speak with one of the leaders of the mosque and he has a different version of the story. He told me that Miftah was being loud in the prayer hall and that's why he was asked to leave. The leader also told me Miftah can come back to the mosque if he apologizes for being loud in the prayer hall. He also added that the apology does not have to be public. And, Terry, he also says that he does not have to apologize for that column.

(I have been unable to find the story on KOTV's website.)

Tag to the same story on Oklahoma City's KWTV (Here is a direct link to KWTV's Flash video and a backup link to YouTube):

And we spoke with one of the leaders of the mosque, he told us Miftah was being loud in the prayer hall and that is why he was asked to leave. He also said Miftah can come back to the mosque, if he apologizes.

So although Miftah and this unnamed mosque leader differ about why he had been asked to leave and what he has to do to be re-admitted, both agree that he was expelled and that there was a condition placed on his return.

On Wednesday, November 29, this message from Jim Mishler, executive director of Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry, was posted as a comment on an earlier entry. In the message, Mishler reported a conversation with Dr. Sandra Rana, whom Mishler identified as a member of the mosque's governing board. Note how the story has changed, and note how it conflicts with the Whirled's reporting.

She reports the following::
  • First, the blog is incorrect in its most important statements. The mosque did not "expell" the man and he has not been told he can return only following an apology for the article.The Shura has not taken any official position on the article nor on censuring its author. In addition, the Islamic Society of Tulsa has strict rules about and is very careful in who it gives money. Only organizations on the USA approved list are given contributions from IST.
  • Then, about the incident. The man was physically removed from the mosque's prayer center by the Tulsa Police Department after a discussion about the article became an argument which ended with the author cursing, threatening to hit someone and refusing to leave when requested. The building supervisor called the police at that time. A restraining order was filed but was ended after 2-3 days by request of the mosque's leadership. He can attend prayer services at the mosque without restriction as long as he acts in an appropriate manner during prayers.

(I posted a comment responding to this. In short -- Miftah believes that is the reason for his expulsion and the condition for his return, and he did not make any claim about IST's contributions.)

There's also a conflict between what Rana is reported as saying about a restraining order and what mosque council president Elsoueissi is quoted as saying in today's paper:

Elsoueissi said he talked to police about getting a restraining order against Miftah to prevent further incidents at Tulsa the mosque.

Did they get one and drop it, or did they just talk about getting one?

Miftah e-mailed me with this response to the reported comments of Dr. Rana:

As regards Dr. Sandra Rana's response or contradiction, I have to make the following submission: - I believe I have met Dr. Rana a couple of times in meetings of IST. - I feel sorry that Dr. Rana preferred to misrepresent facts or has been misinformed about the events of the night of November 18th, 2006, and made the conclusions without any fact finding. I am also surprised as to why she volunteered to provide clarification on financial matters relating to IST without being asked by Jim Mishler or challenged by me in my article. - She claims that the man was physically removed from mosque prayer center by Tulsa Police Department. It is too shallow a claim to comment on. I would just request you to please contact Tulsa Police Department and find out for yourself the name or names of police officers who escorted me out of the mosque.

- As regards my behaviour at the time of discussion or argument or claim that I was becoming violent, speaks of the truth it self. How can a man with my physique and age can dare to become violent against a group of 10 to 15 Arabs waving the boots at his face. I was rescued out of the mosque by a fellow Pakistani living in Tulsa for the last 40 years. Last but not the least, the incident occured inside the mosque hallway which remains under survellance camera 24/7. You may please request her for video of the incident and judge for yourself what was going on and how I was rescued out of the mosque.

- Also why was the restraining order filed in the first place and then withdrawn by mosque leadership, as per her claim, in 2 to 3 days?

- The fact is that after Isha congregation (the last prayer of the day) on November 20, 2006, two days after the incidence, my article was discussed in depth by mosque administration and the faithful were informed about decision by mosque leadership of banning me from mosque until such time that I agree to apologise in front of Friday's congregation (preferrably on November 24th, 2006). This decission was conveyed to me earlier on Sunday through Khan Muhammad Zareef, which was refused by me. I asked him to convey to mosque leadership that I intended to sue them for threats, intimidation, and expulsion from mosque and if they were courageous enough then they can come and say in front of judge and jury that I was expelled from mosque for being anti-Islamic and if they did that, then I will accept whatever they say including my submission to OBL [Osama Bin Laden].

I can go on and on on the subject, but to what point. You can not win from liars. I again feel sorry for Dr. Rana, she should have done some fact finding before levelling any allegations. I invite her to talk to Mohammad Zareef Khan, she knows the guy very well, and she knows that he never lies and once she ascertains the truth, then I am sure she would owe me and Jim Mishler an apology for misrepresenting the facts.


The IST leaders quoted in the Whirled story said their only disagreement with Miftah's op-ed was with this statement:

Even mosques and Islamic institutions in the U.S. and around the world have become tools in their hands and are used for collecting funds for their criminal acts. Half of the funds collected go into the pockets of their local agents and the rest are sent to these thugs.

Here's the section of the Whirled story reacting to that statement:

"We agree with most of his article, except the one statement that American mosques support terrorists.

"Our mosque does not, and I don't know of any that do," [mosque spokeswoman Sheryl Siddiqui] said.

Tulsan Mujeeb Cheema, executive director of North American Islamic Trust, said Miftah's views on bin Laden were "mainline views among American Muslims."

However, he said, "I was surprised that a person who has been in the U.S. for only three years, and not part of any national Muslim organization, would speak so confidently about Islamic institutions in the U.S."

Who is Mujeeb Cheema? As I outlined in an earlier entry, he is a leader in several prominent national Muslim organizations which are said to be a means of extending the influence and control of the extremist Wahhabi sect of Islam over the Islamic community in the United States. In 2004, Freedom House released a report about the hate-filled Wahhabist literature funded by the Saudi government which has become prevalent in American mosques. (Here is a link to a PDF of the full 95-page report.)

Earlier today, Jamal Miftah copied me on a reply he sent to the Tulsa Whirled in response to the claims made by IST leaders in the story. Here it is in full:

Dear Sir, I am perturbed and disappointed by the comments made in this publication of Tulsa World by Houssam Elsoueissi (Abu Waleed), president of the operating council of IST mosque, and Mr. Mujeeb Cheema, Executive Director of North American Islamic Trust. I will first take Mr. Houssam's comment.

While attempting to appear very generous for having agreed to make the following announcement on Friday services (that is today): "Mr. Jamal Miftah is free to attend services as long as there is no disturbance and that no one at mosque should confront him."

Is it a conditional permission?

From the tone of his language it appears that permission is conditional and that they have no remorse or regrets for the incident.

Is he implying that I was responsible for causing disturbance, if any, in the mosque, while confronted by ordinary Muslims in the mosque?

He is trying to create the impression that I was responsible for causing disturbance. So far as this allegation goes I was only responsible to the extent of writing the article which was published in Tulsa World on October 29, 2006. Any subsequent disturbance or excessive actions were initiated by Mr. Kabbani, Imam (leader) of the mosque, and Mr. Houssam Elsoueissi himself. The accused me of being traitor, anti-Muslim, and threaten me while inciting others to rise against me on the night of November 18, 2006.

I am also surprised why office bearers of IST are so defensive about channeling funds to illegitimate organizations by them. My article does not say anything to that effect by IST mosque in Tulsa, rather it was reference to the mosque in Brooklyn (Al-Farooq Mosque), New York, California, Albany, New York, Bridgeview, Illinois, Allentown, Pennsylvania, and one in Texas, and the result of investigation on the London bombing plot, leading its trails to funneling of earthquake donations collected in Britain to the terrorists involved. I have not yet made any allegation about IST on this count, yet some of their activities that I am aware of and have evidence certainly create doubts about legality of some of their activities.

Now to Mr. Mujeeb Cheema’s following assertion: “I was surprised that a person who has been in US for only three years and not part of any national Muslim Organization would speak so confidently about Islamic Institutions in US”.

Is he implying that for a Muslim, three years is too short a period to form an opinion and then in order for him to be confident, he has to be a member of national Muslim organizations to have knowledge of any illegal activities!

Mr. Cheema, I was not born three years ago. I have been a reader of the Times, Newsweek, and World Economist since 1980. There was, of course, a small break during 2003 and 2004, when I was in the process of settling in US. I am very well informed about what’s going on around the world and in the US, and especially with the internet revolution since 1990’s, events around the world are only a click away. The current state of affairs of the Muslims around the world is a result of the typical psychology of the leaders of so-called Muslim organizations where they are barred from expressing their views, as the leaders of such organizations for the fear of being exposed keep those voices suppressed by accusing them of being un-Islamic or Anti-Islamic when they speak or protest, and that’s what exactly happened during the shameful incident at IST’s mosque in Tulsa.

After going through the current ordeal, I feel and believe that the majority of the office bearers of IST that I have dealt or experienced are unfortunately liars, and I would prefer to boycott them and rather say my prayers on my own instead of saying it after a hypocrite like Mr. Ahmad Kabbani, the Imam of Tulsa mosque.

Thank you very much Mr. Houssam and Mr. Cheema!

I, however, thank Madam Sheryl Siddiqui from the depth of my heart for her honest efforts to diffuse the situation, but her efforts seem to have faded with the comments made by the others. She has also tried to communicate the wrong impression by relating my expulsion from the mosque by suggesting that it was as a result of disturbance. If at all any one was to be expelled from mosque for causing disturbance, then it should have been Mr. Ahmad Kabbani and Mr. Houssam and the group of 10 to 15 Arabs incited by them against me on the night of November 18th, 2006, and in all fairness not me.

More as it develops.

Yesterday I received a nice note from Jamal Miftah, the Pakistani immigrant who wrote a bold op-ed piece condemning al-Qaeda and terrorism in the name of Islam, and has suffered expulsion from the local mosque as a result:

I am Jamal Miftah and the unfortunate writer of an article against activities of Al Qaida. I still am unable to to give a rational reason to the unrational behaviour of the office bearers of Islamic Society of Tulsa, which amounted to gross vandalism in this civilized society and country. They have no shame or remorse todate and are constantly lying and shifting their position on the unfortunate occurance all the time. I can only pray for them and hope that their hearts will soften one day so that they can realize the pain and the suffering they have given to me and my family in the last 9 or 10 days. I thank you all for the much needed moral support.

I plan to continue to dig into this story and will keep you informed.

RELATED: Ali Eteraz, who posted an interview with Miftah which I linked, complains that no one in the "Rightosphere" is interested in staying with the story:

The rightosphere was all over the news about Jamal Miftah, the guy in Oklahoma who wrote an article condemning bin Laden and then subsequently got kicked out of his mosque. Good for the rightosphere.

But once the rightosphere had done their celebratory dance about how there are no "moderate" Muslims, it went along on its merry way. Meanwhile, I went and talked to Miftah. You think the rightosphere would want to follow up on it since they are so serious about empowering moderates.

Not quite. I gave it a day and a half to see if any of the big boys — hell, even little boys — would pick up my conversation with Miftah. Plenty of my readers went out and touted it. Nada. Oh look its me, having to do it all by my effing self, yet again.

He has a point. A Technorati search turned up only two links to the interview. (Technorati seems to have missed my link.)

Blogger Ali Eteraz has posted an interview with Jamal Miftah about his banning by the Islamic Society of Tulsa (IST). (See my previous entries on the topic here and here.)

(Eteraz describes his website, eteraz.org, as "the first interactive blog for Positive Muslim Activism." "Eteraz is an online forum whose goal is to mobilize people of conscience throughout the world to identify, discuss, and take action on political and religious issues involving Islam and the Muslim world. Eteraz seeks a humanist vision of Islam for the future and looks to illuminate the wisdom and spirituality that made Islam a great religion historically by creating community, promoting informed opinions and more than anything else, moving its members to real world action." In Urdu, the word "eteraz" means "heartfelt disagreement." The site's structure is similar to that of RedState.org, where anyone can start a diary, and editors can choose to elevate certain diary entries to the main blog. In recent entries readers are encouraged to be thoughtful about where they give end-of-year zakat (alms), voting is opened for awards to honor the best of the Islamic blogosphere, and a call to write letters to the Tulsa Whirled in support of Jamal Miftah.)

In the interview, Miftah says that he doesn't fear reprisals from the Muslim community for his op-ed, but he does fear al-Qaeda sympathizers. He mentions the verses from the Koran which he cited in the original draft of the op-ed, but which he removed at the insistence of the Whirled. He talks about his relationship with the IST's leadership and gives some insight into the internal workings of the mosque, and he talks about his feelings and his plans:

Nor is Miftah excessively bitter. He certainly feels betrayed and angered by the fact that he was called numerous names by the IST and pushed out. However, instead of taking any aggressive actions, he has simply reiterated to the mosque leadership that he is not going to rescind his article; he is not going to apologize for what he said; and in fact, he is going to wait for them to apologize to him for mistreating him. What troubles him most is that he enjoys going to the mosque and feels the right to worship has been taken unfairly from him. "There's just one mosque. There's no place for me to go to say my prayers. A mosque is Allah's house and no one has the power to take that." When I asked what would happen if he was never welcomed back, he stated that he hoped enough funds could be raised for a smaller mosque that he could attend.

Eteraz draws a couple of lessons from the interview, including one about mosque leadership style:

It is clear from what Miftah described to me, that the Islamic Society of Tulsa does not elect its leaders; it merely appoints them. In those situations, dissent and disagreement, can only be dealt with in an authoritarian manner, namely, banning. The Islamic Society of Tulsa needs to consider its own democratic reform.

Eteraz is hopeful that CAIR will encourage such reform in American mosques. I wonder if knowing that one of the Tulsa mosque's leaders is a CAIR board member would cause his hope to dwindle.

I wonder, too, whether the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT)'s ownership of the IST property contributes to its authoritiarian style of governance. See Dubya at JunkYardBlog notes that the Episcopal Church USA uses centralized ownership to enforce conformity with its liberal "orthodoxy" -- defy the hierarchy and lose your church building. (You can ask the good folks of Tulsa's Church of the Holy Spirit how that works. They're now meeting in a converted house on 41st east of Garnett.)

(The Presbyterian Church USA is doing the same thing, using centralized building ownership to prevent dissenting (Bible-believing) churches from leaving the denomination. In fact, one PCUSA presbytery is even allowing the sale of a church building to be used as mosques, evidently to make sure it doesn't fall into the hands of evangelicals.)

This entry is a work in progress, a place to summarize links and information for later analysis, by me or other bloggers.

The story of Jamal Miftah, the Muslim who was banned from the Islamic Center of Tulsa for writing an op-ed critical of al-Qaeda and those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam, has attracted the attention of Little Green Footballs, the premier blog on radical Islamism.

The comments on the LGF entry express shock and dismay that radical Islam appears to have a foothold in the American heartland. Although I know a few local Muslims, mainly co-workers at my old job, I don't know much about the Muslim community in Tulsa, so I've begun to do some digging.

In my searching, I came across the name of Mujeeb Cheema. Below is a summary of the references I've found so far. I'm not meaning to suggest anything suspicious about him, but his name crops up in a lot of places, and by following that name around the Internet, I'm learning about connections between Islamic organizations in America.

UPDATE: Here are some additional facts gleaned from the Tulsa Whirled's archives:

  • December 15, 2002: Cited as a national board member for National Conference for Community and Justice
  • February 2, 2003: Cited as a trustee of the Tulsa Community College Foundation.
  • September 27, 2003: Cited as a spokesman for IST in a story about the mosque's new imam.
  • October 4, 2003: Story about his hiring as executive director of NAIT. The story also says: "The titles to Tulsa's Al-Salam mosque and Peace Academy school properties are held by NAIT, [Cheema] said."

What is this NAIT that lists Cheema as executive director? The NAIT website says (emphasis added):

The North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) is a waqf, the historical Islamic equivalent of an American trust or endowment, serving Muslims in the United States and their institutions. NAIT facilitates the realization of American Muslims' desire for a virtuous and happy life in a Shari'ah-compliant way.

NAIT is a not-for-profit entity that qualifies as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. NAIT was established in 1973 in Indiana by the Muslim Students Association of U.S. and Canada (MSA), the predecessor of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). NAIT supports and provides services to ISNA, MSA, their affiliates, and other Islamic centers and institutions. The President of ISNA is an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees of NAIT.

NAIT holds titles to mosques, Islamic centers, schools, and other real estate to safeguard and pool the assets of the American Muslim community, develops financial vehicles and products that are compatible with both the Shari'ah (Islamic law) and the American law, publishes and distributes credible Islamic literature, and facilitates and coordinates community projects.

Frank Gaffney, Jr., had this to say about NAIT and ISNA in an August 2005 column about Bush White House adviser Karen Hughes' plans to speak to an ISNA gathering:

[T]he Islamic Society of North America is a front for the promotion of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi political, doctrinal and theological infrastructure in the United States and Canada. Established by the Saudi-funded Muslim Students Association, ISNA has for years sought to marginalize leaders of the Muslim faith who do not support the Wahhabists’ strain of Islamofascism, and, through sponsorship of propaganda and mosques, is pursuing a strategic goal of eventually dominating Islam in America.

ISNA provides indoctrination materials to about 1,100 of an estimated 2,500 mosques on the North American continent. Through its affiliate, the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) – a Saudi government-backed organization created to fund Islamist enterprises in North America – it reportedly holds the mortgages of between 50 and 79 percent of those mosques. Through this device, ISNA exerts ideological as well as theological influence over what is preached and taught in these institutions and their schools.

In December 2003, the chairman and ranking Democrat of the Senate Finance Committee, Senators Charles Grassley and Max Baucus, respectively, listed ISNA as one of 25 American Muslim organizations that “finance terrorism and perpetuate violence.”

This Chicago Tribune feature story recounts a battle over a mosque that was founded in the 1950s by Palestinian immigrants, but taken over by newcomers and deeded to NAIT in the 1980s, over the objections of long-time members.

Stephen Schwartz, an academic, a journalist, and a follower of Sufism, testified in 2003 before the Senate Homeland Security subcommittee about the spread of Wahhabi influence in the American Muslim community:

Wahhabi-Saudi policy has always been two-faced: that is, at the same time as the Wahhabis preach hostility and violence against non-Wahhabi Muslims, they maintain a policy of alliance with Western military powers — first Britain, then the U.S. and France — to assure their control over the Arabian Peninsula.

At the present time, Shia and other non-Wahhabi Muslim community leaders estimate that 80 percent of American mosques are under Wahhabi control. This does not mean 80 percent of American Muslims support Wahhabism, although the main Wahhabi ideological agency in America, the so-called Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has claimed that some 70 percent of American Muslims want Wahhabi teaching in their mosques.1This is a claim we consider unfounded.

Rather, Wahhabi control over mosques means control of property, buildings, appointment of imams, training of imams, content of preaching — including faxing of Friday sermons from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — and of literature distributed in mosques and mosque bookstores, notices on bulletin boards, and organizational solicitation. Similar influence extends to prison and military chaplaincies, Islamic elementary and secondary schools (academies), college campus activity, endowment of academic chairs and programs in Middle East studies, and most notoriously, charities ostensibly helping Muslims abroad, many of which have been linked to or designated as sponsors of terrorism.

The main organizations that have carried out this campaign are the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which originated in the Muslim Students' Association of the U.S. and Canada (MSA), and CAIR. Support activities have been provided by the American Muslim Council (AMC), the American Muslim Alliance (AMA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences, its sister body the International Institute of Islamic Thought, and a number of related groups that I have called "the Wahhabi lobby." ISNA operates at least 324 mosques in the U.S. through the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT). These groups operate as an interlocking directorate.

In a 2002 Q&A with National Review, Schwartz had this to say about Wahhabist influence over American mosques (emphasis added):

Unfortunately, the U.S. is the only country outside Saudi Arabia where the Islamic establishment is under Wahhabi control. Eighty percent of American mosques are Wahhabi-influenced, although this does not mean that 80 percent of the people who attend them are Wahhabis. Mosque attendance is different from church or synagogue membership in that prayer in the mosque does not imply acceptance of the particular dispensation in the mosque. However, Wahhabi agents have sought to impose their ideology on all attendees in mosques they control.

Cold War ruins

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Not too many farmers own an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launch control facility, but the Neidlinger family of Hampden, North Dakota, does. When the Grand Forks Air Force Base Minuteman missile field was decommissioned about a decade ago, they bought back the site of the E-0 launch control center. A few days ago, Julie Neidlinger's dad took her for a look inside the building:

It was an eerie experience, walking through the disasterous mess that still didn't hide the evidence of a system dismantled in the name of peace. Today was windy, like all North Dakota days, the wind blowing in hard and cold from the west, whistling through the ventilation system in the kitchen. The darkened interior, only lit by my dad's flashlight and the periodic flash of my camera, mixed with the windy wail.

"It's kind of ghostly in here," dad said. I agreed. I'd been thinking that myself, feeling as if I was walking through some cold war graveyard being overrun by the animals who were already busy reclaiming an area of the country where the people were few and the space was great. I felt as if I was on the set of a horror or disaster movie. It wasn't The Day After. It was The Decade After.

In a re-run entry from summer '05, Julie tells of a tour of the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex near Nekoma, N. D., an anti-ballistic missile complex briefly operational in 1976:

Though not as large as its still very much functioning counterpart at the Cavalier Air Station, whose pyramid is monstrous with a radar so sensitive in cataloguing space debris that it once overloaded Cheyenne Mountain, Nekoma's pyramid rises from the plains like a prairie iceberg. Most of it's cyclopic structure is buried below ground, leaving only the tip to poke through and be seen. According to our tour guide, one of the few men still taking care of the abandoned site, the interior of the structure has been stripped bare, but is so huge and cavernous that many of the hallways and passages deep inside have their own atmosphere. He told of how, on certain days, some hallways have fog rolling about inside. There is also much water, particularly since the water table in the region has been high since about 1993.

Just to the north of the radar pyramid are bunkers and a flat area of weedy concrete with two types of white hatches. Housed here were the Sprint and Spartan missiles. These missiles functioned as interceptors, one long-range (Spartan) and the other in case the Spartan failed.

Both entries have photos of the facilities and links to information about the North Dakota missile facilities. Beyond the technical details, Julie provides a sense of how North Dakotans felt about having nuclear missiles in their backyards, and how they feel now that those days are gone:

The people in the towns of both Nekoma, and especially Langdon, still talk about the glory days of the missile site. You can hear it during meetings, when someone will carelessly refer to a past event with the tag "that was back when the missiles came."

I still hear of how nice the county road became when a Minuteman went in along it. Good roads are gold here, and to some, if it brought about good roads, there wasn't much to complain about.

For some reason, as I try to motivate you to read these blog entries, I keep thinking about Stuckey's. We spotted a couple of former Stuckey's and Nickerson Farms buildings on our way back to Tulsa on Sunday. These roadside businesses went hand-in-hand with the spread of the interstate highway system. (On trips down the Turner Turnpike, Dad preferred the Stuckey's near Wellston and Bristow, because they served real Coke, not Ho-Jo Cola.) They were modern in the '60s, and who would have imagined a long car trip without spotting a dozen or more along the way? Today, most of the old Stuckey's locations are closed (although Stuckey's is still in business as a franchised convenience store chain), Nickerson Farms is long gone, and the buildings have been "repurposed" as antique malls, pr0n shops, and, mostly, ruins.

In the same way, in the '60s and '70s, it was hard to imagine a world without two nuclear superpowers aiming massive numbers of nuclear missiles at each other, a world in which a good defense was considered an offense against peace, a world in which billions of dollars were devoted to maintaining a sufficient deterrent against a ruthless totalitarian regime that threatened our liberty and our existence. Today, some of that infrastructure for deterrence may be repurposed as a place where trees and vegetables may be grown, unmolested by deer. Today, America can't muster the political will to protect our borders and project power against another ruthless totalitarian movement which threatens our liberty and our existence.

If you lived through the Cold War, or especially if you didn't, read these two articles.

Ever wonder why more Muslims don't speak out publicly against terrorism and violence committed in the name of Islam? Ever wonder why you don't read more op-eds by Muslims like this?

Because of lack of knowledge of Islam, Muslim youth are misguided into believing by the so-called champions of the cause of Islam that the current spate of killings and barbarism, which has no equal in the recent civilized history, is jihad in the name of Islam. They are incited, in the name of Islam, to commit heinous crimes not pardonable by any religion and strictly forbidden in Islam....

Even mosques and Islamic institutions in the U.S. and around the world have become tools in [Al-Qaeda's] hands and are used for collecting funds for their criminal acts. Half of the funds collected go into the pockets of their local agents and the rest are sent to these thugs.

They are the reason for branding the peaceful religion of Islam as terrorism. The result, therefore, is in the form of Danish cartoons and remarks/reference by the Pope.

I appeal to the Muslim youth in particular and Muslims of the world in general to rise up and start jihad against the killers of humanity and help the civilized world to bring these culprits to justice and prove that Islam is not a religion of hatred and aggression.

I appeal to the Muslim clerics around the world that, rather than issuing empty fatwas condemning suicide bombing, they should issue a fatwa for the death of such scoundrels and barbarians who have taken more than 4,267 lives of innocent people in the name of Islam and have carried out more than 24 terrorist attacks on civilian installations throughout the world. This does not include the chilling number of deaths because of such activities in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is well over 250,000.

I appeal to al-Zawahri and his band of thugs to hand themselves over to justice and stop spreading evil and killing innocent humans around the world in the name of Islam. Their time is limited and Muslims of the world will soon rise against them to apprehend them and bring them to justice.

Jamal Miftah wrote those words in an October 29, 2006, Readers' Forum op-ed in the Tulsa Whirled. In "thanks" for his bold writing against Islamic terrorism, he has been expelled from the Islamic Center of Tulsa, the mosque which owns the old Stevenson Elementary School building north of 51st between Yale and Sheridan. He also says that he has been he subject of threats of violence. He has been told that he cannot come back to the mosque unless he takes back what he wrote. Oklahoma City's KWTV News 9 has the story.

In his op-ed, Miftah mentioned that he, his wife, and their four children came to the U. S. in 2003 from Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border. He lost a dear friend who chose to follow al-Qaeda and fight against the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. Please keep the Miftah family in your prayers for safety. The Muslim engineers that I've known and worked with in Tulsa are much more like Jamal Miftah than those who ejected him from the mosque. These Muslims love America, they love the American way of life, and they are apologetic for the terrorism done in Islam's name. To them, jihad is the inward struggle to subdue the passions, not conquering the land of the infidel.

What he says about American mosques collecting aid for terrorism may well be true. For years, Irish social clubs in America collected money which, whether the donors knew it or not, went to fund the operations of Irish nationalist terrorist groups. Certainly the opposite is true: many American mosques have received capital and operating funds from Arabic Muslim groups who hold to strict Wahhabi Islam.

(Via See Dubya, who pointed me to the story on Atlas Shrugs and Isaac Schrödinger, where you can read further comments.)

Fifty years ago today, Imre Nagy, Prime Minister of Hungary, declared his country's withdrawal from the Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact. This marked the high point of a brief period of independence which had begun 11 days earlier and which would end three days later when Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest. Nagy was tried, executed, and buried in secret. It was only after the 1989 revolution, when Hungary finally and completely threw off the Soviet yoke, that Nagy was given the honor due him.

Freedom Fighter 56 Oral History Project presents the stories of 56 Hungarians who were there and remember that time.

Although the Revolution of '56 was shortlived, it left a deep impression on someone who would have a significant role in Hungary's ultimate liberation, remembered by economist János Horváth:

I became acquainted with Ronald Reagan in 1974 when he was Governor of California. At the time I was head of the Department of Economics at Butler University in Indianapolis. Governor [Ronald] Reagan came to Indiana repeatedly during the early months of that year to help in the Republican primary election campaign his friend and colleague, Governor Edgar Whitcomb, who aspired to become a U.S. Senator. I was Chairman of Economic Advisors for Governor Whitcomb, and in that capacity I accompanied the two men on many campaign trips throughout the state....

[After fielding questions at a campaign stop], when we were riding in the automobile or sitting in a restaurant munching on a sandwich, I would meticulously elaborate on the theoretical as well as the institutional background of the question. Reagan repeatedly redirected the conversation to other topics. Almost always he reached back to the 1956 Hungarian revolution and fight for freedom, and he revealed a surprising acquaintance with the details.

Governor Reagan during those months repeatedly questioned me about the events and circumstances of the 1956 revolution. Frequently, he interrupted my explanation of economic matters with an unexpected question. “János, you were there. Tell me about the demonstrations on the Parliament Square. Who brought the the 300,000 people to the square? Why did the ÁVO open fire on the crowd on October 25th when it hadn’t on the 23rd? Is it really true that the demonstrators did not possess weapons initially?” And he had further questions regarding the Kilián barracks and the heroic resistance at Széna tér (Haymarket Square)....

I asked questions of Governor Reagan, too. I asked why he knew so much about the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Was it because he was contemplating the future outlook of the Soviet Union? What would he do in the role of making foreign policy? From his responses and comments it became crystal clear that he was quite close to the position that had evolved during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, namely, that the Soviet Union and communism in general were not as stable as they had appeared to be.

In another account, Andrew P. Fodor, then a Hungarian Army cadet, remembers a scene of resistance that would be repeated 33 years later, half a world away:

I peeked through the factory gate. I could hardly believe my eyes. Across the street, in the dark, shadowy doorway of a rundown building, a fellow cadet from my school was standing armed to the teeth, aiming his weapon at something. But at what? I peeked out again; there was a lone Soviet tank standing about two blocks away.

Again, I looked across the street, for I thought he was going to fire at the tank - and he did. The tank immediately replied. Across the street, the whole doorway collapsed and part of the building disappeared. István and I hurriedly retreated to the basement again.

I cannot forget this cadet's face. It was partly lit by a weak, autumn sun after a rainy day, on a sad, very sad November day in Budapest. His fight was futile and hopeless, yet he was a real patriot. When István and I finally left the factory, I crossed the street and wanted to put some flowers where he stood, but there were no flowers around. I reached into the pocket of my workman's overall, where I carried my military cap and slowly placed it on the shattered plaster pieces, which were all that remained of the doorway where he stood before.

As the years passed, his image faded in my memory, but once in a while his desperate act still haunts me. The last time I remembered him vividly was when I saw the picture of a lone Chinese student in Beijing trying to stop a long column of Chinese army tanks going to Tiananmen Square…

I found this via Robert N. Going's Judge Report. Going remarked on the effect of the uprising and its suppression on the West:

First, it reminded us at just the right time that, as Dr. Fred Schwarz used to say, you can trust the communists to be communists.

We were in the early years of the post-Stalin era and, as we've heard so many times since, a new enlightened leadership was at the helm. Nikita Kruschev had denounced Stalin and his terror and all the usual suspects (who had ignored Stalin's terror while it was happening) proclaimed the age of peaceful cooperation. Anti-communism in the United States had run its course following the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954, and we were back on the road to blissful ignorance.

I wasn't around in '56, but somewhere along the way I remember hearing about an after-effect of the events of October and November -- the December 6 water polo match between Hungary and the USSR at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia:

By the start of the Olympics, the uprising had been brutally dealt with, and many of the players saw the Olympics as a way to salvage some pride for their country. "We felt we were playing not just for ourselves but for our whole country" said Zador after the match. By this time, the international community had become aware of the full brutality of the Soviet response to the Hungarian uprising and the Hungarian Olympic team was cheered wherever it competed. The "Blood In The Water" match was played out in front of a partisan crowd bolstered with expatriate Hungarians, many of whom had been in the boxing arena a few days before to see Laszlo Papp win his third gold medal.

From the start, the match was a very physical encounter with kicks and punches being exchanged. Star Hungarian player Zador scored two goals to the cheers of the crowd. Leading 4–0 going into the final minutes, Zador was forced to leave the pool after being punched by Valentin Prokopov. Zador's injury was the final straw for a crowd which was already in a frenzy. To avoid a riot breaking out, the match was abandoned with 1 minute to go and police entered the arena to shepherd the crowd away. Pictures of Zador's injuries were published in the press around the world leading to the "Blood in the Water" name, although reports that the water did actually turn red were probably an exaggeration.

The Hungarians went on to beat Yugoslavia 2–1 in the final and win their fourth Olympic gold medal. Following the Olympics, half of the 100-member Hungarian Olympic delegation defected.

Zador went on to coach American Olympic champion Mark Spitz, who is narrator of a just-released film about the match, Freedom's Fury.

(Unrelated except chronologically, Going has a sweet personal reminiscence about being a five-year-old budding contrarian in 1956.)

Karate and war

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You need to read Dan Paden's latest entry, Karate Ni Sente Nashi. The phrase means, "There is no first attack in karate," but it's a phrase that is easily misunderstood. Dan uses an anecdote about two karate brown belts to illustrate what it means to recognize and respond to the first attack, whether in self-defense or national defense.

It's been on my mind all day, but I'm only just now getting the chance to sit down and collect my thoughts about the events of September 11, 2001.


Hot Air has clips of CNN's coverage from the morning of 9/11. There's something about seeing a repeat of the live news coverage -- it strips away the 20/20 hindsight and lets us remember the confusion and shock of the moment.

The third clip on that page deserves your attention, especially if you've been hearing the wild claim that no plane hit the Pentagon. It features a phone interview with a pilot who had a view of the Pentagon crash from his high-rise Arlington apartment building. Later in the same clip, CNN reporter Jamie McIntyre describes the debris on the scene. These are contemporaneous eyewitness accounts of the crash and its aftermath.


I watched the beginning of ABC's "The Path to 9/11" last night, up through the explosion of Ramzi Yousef's lab in Manila. Very powerful, very well organized and presented -- it reminded me of Ron Howard's Apollo 13 in that regard. I don't normally get riled up watching TV -- it's a "cool" medium, after all -- but the opening sequence showing the terrorists checking in for their flights and going through security made my blood boil.

I can't be the only Oklahoman who was struck by several things in the section about the 1993 World Trade Center bombing: the rented Ryder truck, the type of explosive used, and the central clue, the discovery of a bit of the frame showing the vehicle identification number of the otherwise vaporized truck. The Oklahoma City bombers also filled a rented Ryder truck with a fertiliser and fuel oil bomb, and it was a piece of the axle that allowed law enforcement to track the truck back to a rental location in Junction City, Kansas.


Two years ago I wrote about one of the victims of the 9/11 attack, Jayesh Shah. Jay was a native of India, but he and his younger brother Niloy went to Memorial High School and then on to the University of Tulsa. I met the Shah brothers through Hal O'Halloran's "Sports Night" talk show on KXXO 1300, sometime around 1979 or 1980. They were fierce competitors in Hal's weekly trivia contests. I remember Jay as the quieter of the two, but he had a mischievous streak. In the late '80s, post-college, the two brothers made a number of trips with others in our circle of friends to play blackjack in Las Vegas. Both brothers wound up in Houston with their families, working for Amoco. I'd see them on holiday visits to Tulsa.

When I heard that the World Trade Center towers had been hit and then that they had collapsed, I had no idea that I knew anyone who might have been in there. It was only later that day that I learned that six months earlier, Jay had left Houston to take an executive position with a division of Cantor Fitzgerald. His office was in the north tower, on the 103rd floor. Niloy had tried to call Jay as usual that morning, but hadn't been able to reach him. Niloy and family left Houston for to New York as quickly as they could and began days of searching for Jay, hoping that somehow he had made it out. I remember scanning survivor's lists online and the moment of false hope when someone with the same name turned up on one of them -- but it wasn't him. (Here is a note that was sent out sometime around September 20, 2001, about the status of the search for Jayesh and plans for a prayer service.)

As part of a worldwide effort to remember the victims of the attack as individuals, not just a number, nearly 3,000 bloggers are each remembering one of them. Judge William of Right Indignation has posted this rememberance of Jayesh Shah.

It's not God's party

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The terrorist organization that has been in the news for its attacks on Israeli civilians and for using Lebanese civilians as human shields is called Hezbollah, sometimes spelled Hizballah, sometimes there's an apostrophe -- Hizb'allah. It's Arabic for "Party of God."

My friend Redsneakz has decided that Hizb'shaitan is a more accurate title. (You can decode that, can't you?) I agree and intend to follow his example.

Although, given their devotion of sacrificing their own children and the children of others in the name of their false god, Hezb'moloch would be appropriate, too.

Castro death watch

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It is reported that Fidel Castro has "temporarily" stepped aside as misleader of Cuba because of health problems.

Babalu Blog is the place to be to follow Castro's demise and the succession as it unfolds.

From the Wall Street Journal:

[Mexico City] was voting to fill six seats, including that of the president and the mayor. Voters presented identification cards and were handed six large ballots, one for each open office. The names of candidates were also color-coded to assist the illiterate. Voting booths were small, waist-high writing tables enclosed by hanging plastic sheets printed with the reassuring words, "The vote is free and secret." Voters emerged from the booths, folded the ballots and slid each one into the box corresponding to the contested seat. To complete the process, thumbs were marked with indelible ink and ID cards were returned. Observers from each party monitored the flow.

In Oklahoma, parties are not allowed to have observers at polling places, ID cards are not required, and no effort is made to mark voters to prevent them from voting at multiple locations. These simple steps would be inexpensive and unobtrusive and would not present an obstacle to any voter. While they wouldn't eliminate the potential for intentional voter fraud and unintentional voter irregularities -- aspects of the registration process would still need to be addressed -- they would make a positive difference.

Belarus rising

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Another election in a former Soviet satellite, another win by a slim margin for the status quo, while foreign observers report that the election wasn't on the up-and-up. Protesters spend long, cold nights on the main square. That was Ukraine in December 2004; that is Belarus in March 2006.

Ivan Lenin, a native of Belarus, is blogging about the situation in Minsk, translating into English the live blogging being done by those on the scene, and adding his own perspective, such as this entry explaining why he doesn't want Belarus to follow the path of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. (You may remember Ivan as V. I. Lenin in the Communists for Kerry satirical protests in 2004. The same group is responsible for The People's Cube website.)

Keep Belarus in your prayers.

(Hat tip to Alarming News.)

Helping Susan Cowsill

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This is going to be a departure from BatesLine's usual content, the sort of thing that Mister Snitch calls a long-tail post. Google seems to treat this blog pretty favorably, so I'm hopeful that this entry will be found by Cowsills fans as they search the net.

In the linkblog a few days ago, I made mention of the woes that have recently befallen The Cowsills, a the late '60s pop band that also happened to be a family. The band consisted of four brothers, their mom, and their little sister Susan.

(Hollywood saw the TV potential of the group, but after the fashion of the time that potential was translated into a situation comedy based on their story, featuring professional actors miming to music. Nowadays, the Cowsills would have been made the stars of their own reality series.)

The Cowsill family has lost a lot in the last few months, starting with Hurricane Katrina. Barry Cowsill, in New Orleans when the storm hit, was missing until January, when his body was identified.

Susan Cowsill and her husband made it out of New Orleans in time, but with nothing but their pets and the clothes on their back. Their priceless family archives were lost to the storm.

Then, a week ago, as family and friends gathered in the family's hometown of Newport, R.I., to remember Barry, they learned that oldest brother Billy had died at his home in Calgary.

Susan Cowsill has a connection to Tulsa. Susan sang backup and harmony vocals with Dwight Twilley's band, going back to the '80s, and she lived in Tulsa for a time. She was here last August performing with Twilley, not long before Katrina hit.

(YouTube has a music video, "Some Good Years," a song the regrouped Cowsills recorded in the early '90s. The video was part of a tribute to Barry, and it features clips from the Cowsills' American Dairy Association commercial, a 1967 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and TV appearances with Dean Martin, Johnny Cash, Buddy Ebsen, and Mike Douglas. Even if you aren't a fan, if you fondly remember variety shows of the era, you'll enjoy the trip down Memory Lane. Hat tip to the Dawn Patrol.)

Susan Cowsill could use your help in a couple of ways. She and her husband lost everything to Katrina. Back in September Dwight and Jan Twilley began collecting funds to help with basic needs, and in an e-mail a couple of days ago, Jan Twilley confirmed to me that there is still a need and they are still accepting donations. You can send donations to:

Susan Cowsill
c/o Jan Twilley
4306 S. Peoria Suite 642
Tulsa, OK. 74105-3924

The Cowsill family also hopes to replace some of the memorabilia that was lost to the storm. Through the Cowsills Archive Project, the family is asking for fans to share their Cowsills memorabilia by uploading photos and scans. They would also welcome any memorabilia you can bear to part with to help rebuild the family's collection.

I only learned about The Cowsills in the last year or so, so I can't claim to be a longtime fan, but I was touched by this story of loss upon loss -- and its contrast to the happy innocence you'll see in that video -- and I wanted to let people know how they can help. I'm hopeful that Cowsills fans will come across this entry, spread the word, and help in any way they can.

Right Wing and Right Minded has a seven-question interview with Lt. Col. Brett Perry, husband of Hooah Wife Greta Perry. He is with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and was a part of the reconstruction effort in Iraq, which is the focus of the interview.

Also, the Perrys' seven-year-old son is up for a Weblog Award -- Best of the Rest. You can vote once a day, every day between now and the 15th.

Discoshaman is back

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Discoshaman, who thrilled us a year ago with live blogging from the Orange Revolution in the streets of Kiev, has been on hiatus for a while, but is back blogging at Le Sabot Post-Moderne and at a new blog, Religion of Peace?, which has the subhead, "Ignore the corpses behind the green curtain." It's also described as "One-stop shopping for War on Terror news." Here's his introductory post.

A report from my friend Dave in south Florida:

Hurricane Wilma has left South Florida a real mess. We don't have water pressure (!) or electricity. We do have a phone line, which I am using for dial up, and I can recharge my laptop battery using a power inverter and our minivan (until it runs out of gas...).

Pray for water to come back on, for school to start up again (so our girls will have something to do!), and for gas stations. If we can get these, we can fake the rest.

Praise God no one was hurt here. Our patio screen was half ripped away; when it went, it took a gutter and fascia with it. Other than this, and one cracked roof tile, our house is OK. There is major damage in our neighborhood, many houses with significant roof damage and some major tree roadblocks.

Ruth is bailing water out of the swimming pool to flush toilets. Now we really feel like Beverly Hillbillies!!

Could have been much worse, but no water pressure is no fun.

UPDATE: Dave was excited to report that he could run his DSL modem off of the power inverter, too. No running water, no electricity -- but he has broadband!

Raise New Orleans?

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On my list to read later: An article from American Heritage's Winter 1990 issue about the raising and rebuilding of Galveston following the 1900 hurricane that destroyed the town.

Hat tip to David Sucher of City Comforts Blog, who has an entry about using structural fill to raise part of the sub-sea-level portions of New Orleans. There are a lot of interesting comments on that entry, including the idea of making New Orleans an urban Venice, dealing with the continued setting of the city, and learning from other raised cities, like Seattle.

Life of Reilly

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Shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I started reading John Kennedy Toole's hilarious novel A Confederacy of Dunces, set in New Orleans in the early '60s. (It's on the bookshelf at Double Shot Coffee.) The protagonist, Ignatius J. Reilly, is an unforgettable character, a medievalist out of place in modernity who records his blasts against his times in crayon on Big Chief tablets, and as I read the novel I felt sure that if the book were set in our time, Reilly would be a blogger. (This is pretty close to how I'd imagine a Reilly blog would read.) I could imagine Reilly being evacuated from New Orleans and winding up in the planned refugee housing at Falls Creek Baptist Assembly in southern Oklahoma and blogging about his encounters with this strange culture. It's even funnier to imagine Reilly, rad-trad Catholic that he is, taking refuge at Beal Heights Presbyterian Church in Lawton, and encountering its Truly Reformed blogging pastor, John Owen Butler. (His blog is called "OK Calvin" with good reason.)

Finally someone with some imagination (not to mention theology and geometry) has provided us with Ignatius J. Reilly's reaction to the disaster. Matt Evans of the Morning News has discovered a letter from Reilly to President Bush, proposing that he take over as head of FEMA:

Sir, I must reprove you now with sharpness!

You have allowed matters here to degenerate most abysmally in the watery wake of the Hurricane named Katrina. The levees are broken and our cities washed away. We have, as I once wrote in Working Boy, gone from the vortex to the whirlpool of despairNew Orleans, a [once] comfortable metropolis which has a certain apathy and stagnation which I find inoffensive, now stagnates in putrescence. The air is filled with the puling of women and children. Degenerates and drug addicts rule the day.

Worse, the statue my fellow citizens once erected on Canal Street in my honor now languishes begrimed and deliquesced from the dark floodwater onslaught!

He has some proposals for action which may be of interest. I notice he doesn't say anything about all those waterlogged buses. He had a bad experience on a bus once and would be only too glad to tell you about it. In excruciating detail.

John Butler, pastor of Beal Heights Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lawton, has a report on the church's hosting of over four dozen refugees from Hurricane Katrina, starting on September 1. The church has had an agreement with the Red Cross to serve as a disaster shelter, and within less than 12 hours, with the help of church members and Red Cross volunteers they were able to get Sunday School rooms and the Fellowship Hall set up to serve as dormitories and dining room. The report tells you how the refugees ended up in Lawton, how their needs were met, and what their plans are for the future.

There's also this underreported item about the situation at Keesler AFB on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the hurricane.

John also has an update from his son Josh, who is serving with the Army in Baghdad.

Operation Eden

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Moving words, moving pictures: Photographer Clayton James Cubitt (aka Siege) returns to what once was Pearlington, Miss., and to the mud-filled remains of the little trailer his mom called her Eden.

Read the whole thing.

(Via Mister Snitch!)

Jeremy Hall, a National Guardsman from Tulsa, has been deployed to New Orleans since September 3. Tulsa blogger Joel Blain has been speaking to Jeremy by phone regularly and updating Jeremy's blog with the news. Jeremy was able to get to an internet connection recently and uploaded some photos of his service in New Orleans.

Little Green Footballs posted a link to the entry and there are a lot of interesting comments there, including identification of some of the locations in the pictures. A friend of Jeremy's commenting at LGF wrote about his reaction to what he's seen in New Orleans: "He just keeps saying it looks like something out of the Bible mixed with a Romero zombie movie."

UPDATE: State Rep. Kevin Calvey is in New Orleans, too, and writing about it in his weekly update.

Help Ville Platte

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Ken Wheaton, Louisiana-born and Brooklyn-based blogger, had been encouraging donations to help refugees in St. Landry Parish, and the blogosphere has responded generously. Today he alerts us to the need in Ville Platte, Louisiana, a town of about 8,000 people north of Lafayette, which is housing a number of refugees in hotels, private homes, and at a state park. The effort isn't being coordinated by the Red Cross, and for the most part the locals are providing this assistance on their own. The refugees there don't need clothes, but they do need canned goods and non-perishable food items, small disposable diapers, and cleaning supplies. The best way to help might be by sending Wal-Mart gift cards, which can be used for all of the above, plus gas. Visit Ken's blog for details on how to help.

The Map Room links to a map showing oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and the paths of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Jonathan Crowe's comment: "Now you know why hurricanes disrupt oil production."

Roemerman back from Gretna

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Steve Roemerman is back from helping with Hurricane Katrina recovery in Gretna, Louisiana, and he's posted some photos.

Here is a remarkable set of 107 photos taken in New Orleans over the last week, showing the good news and the bad news as the water level drops and the recovery continues: food being stored in the same warehouse as Mardi Gras floats, a man cooking a big vat of red beans and rice on a street corner in the French Quarter, the mosaic patterns left by the toxic mud as it dries and cracks, cars destroyed by the storm, Humane Society workers rescuing abandoned animals from houses. (Hat tip to Vidiot.)

Groovy Threads, a vintage clothing store on Cherry Street in Tulsa, has been collecting items to help people who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Here's a letter from Valerie Stefan, owner of Groovy Threads, which she sent to fellow business owners about what she's trying to do to help and the obstacles she's encountering:

9-13-05

Dear Friend,

As of September 1, 2005, Groovy Threads started a clothing drive for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. To date we have collected thousands of items, including: clothing (new & gently worn) toothbrushes, hair products, food, childrens items & other basic essentials.

Our original plan was to work in coalition with a specific local charity to get these greatly needed items to the evacuees on the coast & around the nation.

As of September 12, 2005, the charity that we had hoped to work closely with has become overwhelmed with donations & has gently refused our items.

Our new plan of action is to get a coalition of local businesses to make monetary donations of any amount so that we can cover the price of Uhauls & gas to get these much needed items to the people so greatly affected by this disaster.

Our plan is to take items to evacuees in Oklahoma first & then make a trip to Houston & possibly Mississippi.

Please consider helping us, as we continue to take in much needed donations for these unfortunate people who have lost everything.

We will not quit taking donations. We will continue to do our best to accommodate all items until we have the funds to personally deliver the donations to the specified areas.

For more information I can be contacted at Groovy Threads 588.1970. Email address: valeriestefan@cox.net

Thank you for your time & consideration,

Valerie Stefan

Owner Groovy Threads Vintage

Valerie is hoping to take supplies to the Slidell, La., area on October 2, if she has the means to get herself and the supplies down there. If you can help make the trip possible, please contact her at the above phone number or e-mail address.

(The title is just a bit of fun. I'm pretty sure that Valerie is taking ordinary 21st century clothes to the hurricane victims, not her store's normal stock in trade.)

(I am a bit disturbed that a vintage clothing store would boast of having the "Best '80s music in town!" 1880s, surely! Why, I was in college in the 1980s. Nothing vintage about the 1980s, he said, shaking his grey head in dismay.)

Katrina recovery latest

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Steve Roemerman has an update on the situation in Gretna, Louisiana. There's still an incredible amount of work to do in clearing felled trees and doing temporary roof repairs.

"Interdictor," liveblogging as part of the Directnic team working to keep that downtown New Orleans hosting provider alive, is rotating out of New Orleans and plans to start his own disaster-preparedness consulting firm. The blog will continue to document Directnic's involvement in the recovery. Directnic has been back on power since Monday, basements are being pumped out, things are beginning to come back to life. Access on major routes into New Orleans is blocked by dirt berms, except for a military checkpoint on the River Road. You'll want to read an account by Robert LeBlanc, who volunteered last week running a boat into the flooded area and pulling people off of roofs and out of the water.

This item's a bit dated, but I just found it: A Directnic customer, Something Awful, raised $30,000 for hurricane relief through Paypal. Then Paypal froze the account. Read what happens when the terms of service you so blithely click through actually come into play. (Hat tip to Sean Gleeson.)

Back on Tuesday, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry notified the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma that Falls Creek would not be needed to house refugees. The efforts won't go to waste -- some donated items will be taken to refugees at Camp Gruber and some will be taken with Baptist disaster relief crews to the New Orleans area.

The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management is opening two disaster resource centers in the state to help refugees who are in Oklahoma. The Tulsa center will be open at Crosstown Church of Christ, just east of Harvard on Admiral, from 9 to 5 tomorrow.

Remember the New Orleans city and school buses that weren't used to evacuate residents? Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu blames LazeeCiteeWurkors:

Mayor Nagin and most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out of the city in front of a hurricane.

It's Bush's fault for not providing sufficient funds for mass transit, you see.

The Political Teen has the video. (He always does.) Hat tip to Mister Snitch for the link.

Roemerman Louisiana update

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Steve Roemerman arrived yesterday in Gretna, Louisiana, with a group from his church to be a part of relief efforts there. True-blue blogger that he is, Steve has found his way to Internet access and has posted an update on the situation there. It was interesting to read the very different impact the hurricane had on a city just across the river from New Orleans. Keep checking Roemerman on Record for updates as Steve has opportunity, and continue to keep him in your prayers.

I was cheered to learn a few days agothat Oklahoma's Southern Baptists would be hosting Hurricane Katrina refugees at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, southwest of Davis, Oklahoma. (Here's a Google satellite photo centered on the church camp.) This was the plan, according to a September 5 press release from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which quotes Anthony L. Jordan, executive director-treasurer for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO), and Roy Sanders, Ray E. Sanders, spokesman for the BGCO:

"Oklahoma Southern Baptist churches are sending volunteers to welcome survivors to Falls Creek," Jordan explained. "Once our guests from the Gulf Coast walk off the bus they will be welcomed with a warm Oklahoma smile and a Bucket of Blessing, a care-package type bucket full of essential items, snacks, books and toys, all prepared by our church members. Our members will also prepare linens on over 3,000 beds and escort our new friends to their dormitory style cabin upon arrival."

"We have a variety of activities planned for children and adults, including movies, crafts, recreation and relaxation," said Sanders. "Within the coming days we fully expect school-age children to be back in an educational setting with a variety of learning experiences available for adults as well. Medical facilities will be available on the grounds for those who need medical attention and the state mental health department will make counseling available for those needing assistance."

In short, the BGCO was planning to welcome the refugees to their place and care for them. According to a first-hand (but pseudonymous) report by "Valhall", FEMA is running the show at Falls Creek, and refugees certainly won't be pampered, and they won't be able to come and go as they please. Valhall, her parents, and kids packed up a couple of cars full of clothes, toiletries, and food to take to the cabin owned by her church.

I'm extremely depressed to report that things seem to only be getting sadder concerning the people so devastatingly affected by Katrina last week. Two car loads of us headed over to Falls Creek, a youth camp for Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma that agreed to have its facilities used to house Louisiana refugees. I'm afraid the camp is not going to be used as the kind people of the churches who own the cabins believe it was going to be used. ...

At their church's cabin, they talk with the cabin's FEMA host about what can and can't be left. (She says that FEMA has assigned local civilians to reside in each cabin.)

We then started lugging in our food products. The foods I had purchased were mainly snacks, but my mother - God bless her soul - had gone all out with fresh vegetables, fruits, canned goods, breakfast cereals, rice, and pancake fixings. That's when we got the next message: They will not be able to use the kitchen.

Excuse me? I asked incredulously.

FEMA will not allow any of the kitchen facilities in any of the cabins to be used by the occupants due to fire hazards. FEMA will deliver meals to the cabins. The refugees will be given two meals per day by FEMA. They will not be able to cook. In fact, the "host" goes on to explain, some churches had already enquired about whether they could come in on weekends and fix meals for the people staying in their cabin. FEMA won't allow it because there could be a situation where one cabin gets steaks and another gets hot dogs - and...

it could cause a riot.

It gets worse.

He then precedes to tell us that some churches had already enquired into whether they could send a van or bus on Sundays to pick up any occupants of their cabins who might be interested in attending church. FEMA will not allow this. The occupants of the camp cannot leave the camp for any reason. If they leave the camp they may never return. They will be issued FEMA identification cards and "a sum of money" and they will remain within the camp for the next 5 months.

My son looks at me and mumbles "Welcome to Krakow."

My mother then asked if the churches would be allowed to come to their cabin and conduct services if the occupants wanted to attend. The response was "No ma'am. You don't understand. Your church no longer owns this building. This building is now owned by FEMA and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. They have it for the next 5 months." This scares my mother who asks "Do you mean they have leased it?" The man replies, "Yes, ma'am...lock, stock and barrel. They have taken over everything that pertains to this facility for the next 5 months."

The report has a lot of photos -- I can testify that they really are photos of Falls Creek. There are over 150 replies that have been posted.

That report was posted on September 6. This news story from late that evening says that Falls Creek was put on standby:

Major Mike Grimes, Oklahoma Highway Patrol, announced to nearly 400 volunteers and state personnel that the decision had been made by the Governor and other state officials to scale back operations at Falls Creek.

"The good news is that it appears those who needed our help have been taken care of for now," Grimes explained. "We will scale back to a skeleton crew for now, but none of our facilities will be compromised. There will be troopers present 24 hours a day at Falls Creek as we evaluate the need on a 12, 24, 36 and 48 hour basis. Falls Creek has been and will continue to be ready within a 10 to 12 hour window in the event that the conference facility is still needed." While disappointment was evident on the faces of many, appreciation for the Falls Creek operation was recognized with a round of applause.

A September 8 news release from the BGCO says that Falls Creek will remain on standby through Tuesday, September 13, with 1,200 volunteers around Oklahoma ready to return on 12 hours notice.

Part of the reason I'm posting all this is because I see a lot of blog entries linking to Valhall's report, but not to any follow-up information.

It could just be that FEMA and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol think it's best to start out strict. Once the refugees have arrived, and they see how things go, they can loosen things up.

It could also be that we're seeing a heavy-handed FEMA takeover aimed at turning Falls Creek into some sort of black-helicopter-infested New World Order detention camp. This actual retouched photo of the new amphitheater at the camp would seem to support that theory:

Cancerman goes to camp

The Truth Is Out There.

Megarefinery, meet megatornado

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Mel at Engine of the Future commends our public officials for their concern about refinery capacity, but he thinks their proposals need a little (ahem) refining.

Regarding Congressman John Sullivan's Cushing megarefinery proposal, Mel likes the idea of a Cushing refinery, but it shouldn't be the only one:

If we were dependant on one megarefinery anywhere as our lone reserve capacity, I can imagine one megatornado, causing megadamage, leading to another megacrisis in energy. Megabad idea in my opinion.

With respect to our energy infrastructure, if Katrina is to teach us anything, it is this: We must diversify the locations and their capabilities.

I do applaud Congressman Sullivan though, at least hes thinking along the right path.

Regarding Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode's proposal to provide tax incentives for increasing refinery capacity, Mel says tax breaks won't budge oil companies who are quite happy with reduced capacity.

By the way, of Tulsa's two refineries, only the Sinclair Refinery produces gasoline. The Sun Refinery produces lubricants, waxes, and aromatic oils for industrial uses.

Katrina gleanings

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Keeping up with the latest commentary on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

Mister Snitch! has several more informative links today, including one to a "fingerpointing-free timeline of the Katrina response" by Rick Moran. Moran lists what actions were taken, by whom, and when, and avoids questions of what might have been done but wasn't. Snitch's entry has the Readers' Digest version, and a link to a masterful Mark Steyn column on the culture of passivity and New Orleans' response to Katrina.

Louisiana native and New York resident Ken Wheaton compares the situation and leadership in New York on 9/11 with the situation and leadership in New Orleans now. He says that unlike NYC in 2001, NO lacks "a functioning political system," and he thinks what happened may wind up improving the lot of many of the poorest New Orleans residents:

I don't think any human on the face of the earth could have busted up New Orleans slums and fixed the city, not even Rudy G. And, as harsh as this may seem, I think this natural disaster may have served as a radical chemotherapy for one of the last big malignant tumors of extreme poverty in this country. Free from a useless government, predatory criminals, lack of employment options, and a barely-there-but-still-addictive social net, I expect a lot of those evacuated will indeed move up in life.

Oklahoma City's Downtown Guy notes that the city has a large supply of vacant housing in public hands and suggests fixing it up and making it available at a nominal cost to hurricane refugees. Some of the comments echo Ken Wheaton's sentiment, for example, this from "PapaJack2":

My experience with New Orleans indicates a lot of the evacuees wanted to get out of New Orleans, but lacked the means to do so. Many will never return. A friend of mine at Express Personnel said they were contacted by evacuees as early as last Friday looking for jobs in OKC. People with that kind of initiative are always welcome.

Speaking of personal initiative, Charles G. Hill links to Baseball Crank, who writes that Katrina proves there's a lot to be said for having the means to move yourself to safety.

The lesson here is that anybody who can afford a car is crazy not to have one, the dreams of bicycle-riding environmentalists and central planners the world over to the contrary. In addition to its other virtues, a car can get you out of harm's way without having to depend on the government in a time of crisis.

There's an interesting (and, for Dustbury, unusually heated) comments thread on Charles's entry, in response to his closing remark:

And there remain those who are anxious to point out that poor people don't have all these options. This is, of course, one of many reasons why it sucks to be poor, and if you have any ambition and any sense, you'll reorient your life so at some point you become not poor. (Waiting around for the government to do things for you, incidentally, is neither ambitious nor sensible.)

Oklahoma Baptists are ready to welcome 3,000 refugees at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center near Davis, but the refugees haven't arrived, and there's no word on when they're likely to show up. Yesterday the highway patrol had to turn away volunteers, who drove from all over the state to help.

Finally, the intrepid DirectNIC crew has more news and photos from the heart of New Orleans, where they have been keeping a data center operating through the entire crisis. They're offering to help those who have fled but have an office in their building or nearby -- they will check on your office or even try to hook up your computers into their network to allow you to access your data.

I'm happy to see that Oklahoma Baptists have taken the initiative to welcome and house refugees from Hurricane Katrina at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, near Davis in south-central Oklahoma, home to one of the largest church camps in the country. Falls Creek has a cafeteria, a conference center, and a hundred or so "cabins" owned by local churches, most of them air conditioned, each housing between 20 and 200 campers. It should be a pretty comfortable situation.

Mister Snitch! links to the fascinating Survival of New Orleans blog, written by someone with DirectNIC, a New Orleans ISP which has managed to remain running and connected to the net since Katrina struck. He also links to Brendan Loy, who wrote about the impending disaster as the hurricane bore down on NO, and who says it could have been much worse.

Lance Salyers notes that Dennis Hastert wasn't the first to question the wisdom of rebuilding NO after the devastation of a hurricane. The first was a city official. (UPDATE 10/25/2005: Had to remove the link, as Lance has taken down his blog and the URL has been hijacked by a spammer.)

David Warren is optimistic about New Orleans' future:

If I may be so insensitive as to continue looking on the bright side, the experience of Katrina was just what was needed, to reconsider the city's environmental defences. After the expenditure of a few more billion dollars (the kind of government spending in which I exult), it ought to be possible to make the whole levee and pumping system good to withstand Category Five. It is an engineering challenge, the sort of thing Americans love, and can afford....

Indeed, one of the things that makes great disasters so exciting is the prospect of recovery -- of restoring what was best and building what is better. It is a moment in which the cost-benefit analysis swings out of view, and in which we confront the elements with what is elemental in ourselves.

Vanderleun of American Digest Modestly Proposes that America take a year off from helping the rest of the world to rebuild itself.

Amidst all the finger-pointing about the mismanagement of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the blogosphere is digging for the facts.

Don Singleton has been tracking down the emergency response plans, and the timeline of official actions and responses. I haven't had time to wade through it all, but he's put it together here. Bottom line is that New Orleans wasn't prepared to execute and didn't execute its own plan.

Don links to JunkYard Blog, whose site has maxed out its bandwidth. JunkYard Blog has aerial and satellite photos showing hundreds of New Orleans school buses that were abandoned to the flood waters, rather than being used to evacuate NO residents before the hurricane hit, as the hurricane plan called for.

Since JYB's site is down, I'll point you to the key photos. This is a photo of the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority's bus facility, less than a mile from the Superdome, with 146 buses, enough to ferry at least 9,000 passengers out of the city before the hurricane, if city officials had followed the evacuation plan.

40095357_f294b1cff7_o.jpg

This photo is of 255 New Orleans school buses, a site that's been dubbed the Mayor Ray Nagin Memorial Motor Pool. There are enough buses here to have carried 13,000 to 17,000 passengers out of New Orleans (depending on bus capacity) prior to the hurricane.

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JunkYard Blog has maxed out its bandwidth, but you can find the information in Google's cache for now.

UPDATE: Be sure to read W.'s comment on why the buses weren't used.

Refugee. What a strange word to apply to Americans. Refugee is a word for people in Ethiopia or Bangladesh. It's for people who have had to leave their homes behind because of war, famine, or natural disaster, and they may never be able to return.

There may be as many as a million refugees from the New Orleans area alone. Their homes are gone or uninhabitable. Their jobs are gone. If they aren't out of money already, they will be soon enough. These people will need to start over in some other part of the country -- find a place to work, find a place to live. In the meantime, they need places to stay and food to eat.

The Presbyterian Church in America's Mission to North America is seeking volunteers and financial contributions to help with the recovery effort. The Southern Baptist Convention have deployed feeding units in cooperation with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army. Oklahoma Baptists have a feeding unit deployed to Baton Rouge.

Glenn Reynolds has a long list of relief organizations recommended by bloggers, including the two mentioned above.

UPDATE: Bumped the date to keep this at the top of the page.

Lafayette, they are there

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Ken Wheaton has posted a lengthy report from his friend Felicia, who has been talking with New Orleans refugees at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana. She relates one story from a man who watched National Guard troops drive away, rather than assist New Orleans police in a fight with looters. This same man tells of a private initiative to get people out of the city that was thwarted:

The man who witnessed this from his windows also stated that the owner of the Montleone Hotel charted 10 buses and paid $25,000.00 out of his own pocket to get the people out of hotel because he was getting no assistance. The witness was offered a ride and packed up. He said that when the buses got there, he looked out of his open window and watched as a Guard walked up to the owner and asked what the buses were for. When the owner explained and asked for assistance in getting the guests onto the shuttles, the guard laughed and said no. They confiscated the buses. The witness didn't even get a chance to get down to the street and they were gone. Where they went he didn't know. He immediately went back upstairs and bolted himself in. He's still up there.

Hurricane damage links

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Just getting in on the tail end of Katrina Blog Relief Day:

Here are some links that have helped me understand the extent of the damage caused in New Orleans and the central Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina.

Referring to the city's distinct accent, New Orleans writer John Kennedy Toole called New Orleans "that Hoboken near the Gulf of Mexico." Hoboken, New Jersey, local-blogger Mister Snitch! has a good round up of links, including links to charities working in the area and to a slideshow of aerial images of flooding in New Orleans. He links to an affecting personal account on Slate, "Mourning My New Orleans" by Josh Levin. Levin writes:

As the endlessly looping aerial footage shows little more than a giant lake with highway overpasses peeking out, I'm glad I wasn't there and terrified I never will be again. A friend from high school told me he took the scenic route out of town on Sunday morning so he could remember the places he needed to remember: Molly's at the Market, the Warehouse District, the Uptown JCC, the corner of St. Charles Avenue where he drank his first beer. I squint at the screen, searching for some kind of landmark to say goodbye to, but the only thing that's recognizable is the Superdome, which now looks like a potato with the skin peeled off to reveal the rotten insides.

Mister Snitch! also has a well-researched and level-headed article asking who's to blame for the flooding of New Orleans. Is it because the levees haven't been maintained? Is it because the levees are there at all? Is global warming to blame for the apparent increase in higher-intensity hurricanes?

The Truth Laid Bear has a special page set up to track blogging about Katrina and relief efforts.

Here's a blog devoted to reporting on damage around Slidell, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

The Times-Picayune has evacuated the city, but they're still publishing online. Here's their special Katrina section. The paper also maintains a blog-like breaking news column.

Can New Orleans be rebuilt? Should it? In his weekly "Vent" column, Charles G. Hill responds to the idea of abandoning the site:

New Orleans is there, not because of some accident of fate that plopped it down in a suboptimal location, but because, over the years, millions of people have wanted it there. And one of the great privileges of living in this land is being able to live just about anywhere you want.

Jessica of The New Vintage says that federally-subsidized flood insurance encourages people to buy homes in high-risk areas.

Areas where insurance only costs a couple of hundreds dollars from the feds should be costing closer to a couple of thousands from a privately owned insurance company. So now cheap insurance is causing more people to move into high risk areas which ends up costing even more money for the government in a disaster's aftermath which ends up coming out of whose pockets?

Ken Wheaton, a Cajun transplant to New York City, has a collection of useful links to insurance companies' catastrophe information and to FEMA. He's got much more news and commentary.

Ken links to Slate's Explainer: What is sea level and how did New Orleans get built below it?

Overblown

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I took down the entry called "Overblown Coverage," which linked to David Szondy's satire of news network hurricane coverage. Although the target of the satire is the news media, not the victims of the hurricane, it seemed insensitive to leave it up.

MeeCiteeWurkor has an entry about how you can help the hurricane victims.

It appears that the problem with tracking "recently updated" blogs isn't going to be fixed anytime soon, so in order to encourage you (and me) to vary your blog diet, I've reconfigured my main blogroll to display in random order.

So for the first time in a while, I visited the blog of the Social Affairs Unit, a British non-profit that "addresses social, economic and cultural issues with an emphasis on the value of personal responsibility." Their blog features long-form analysis and critiques of popular culture from that perspective.

Often the articles there paint a bleak picture of modern British culture, particularly the violently dysfunctional multigenerational welfare class documented by Theodore Dalrymple, but one essay from about a week ago was hopeful and heartwarming and gave me goosebumps. It's an account of an afternoon, two days after the July 7th London bombings, at a "living history" museum in London's St. James Park, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. The exhibit featured re-creations of an encampment in Burma and a performance of wartime popular music.

S. J. Masty writes that the crowd that day was as interesting as the exhibit -- young families and WW II veterans, but "no sign of the English youth that one grows so accustomed to seeing in London nowadays, none of the slovenly, the slouching, the surly, the ill-mannered, the dead-eyed."

I don't want to spoil the essay for you, but it was touching to read. I had heard that patriotism in Britain is dead, deconstructed along with the monarchy and the nobility, the Established Church, and hunting to hounds. I had heard that British traditions are regarded as quaintly embarassing and are being overwhelmed by cultural influences from America and Europe. But it appears there is a remnant who are still proud to sing of their country's glories and blessings, and perhaps the terror attacks of last week, which were attacks on a culture with a heritage of liberty, have given them the confidence to cherish their country openly and unabashedly.

As I said, I got goosebumps when I read this. I am a sap when it comes to patriotic songs -- even those of other nations, particularly the UK. (For the full lyrics and a MIDI file of the song which is the focus of the essay, click here.)

Adyos, Cardinal Sin

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Via Manuel L. Quezon III, I learned of the passing of Jaime Cardinal Sin, the retired Archbishop of Manila, who died early Tuesday morning.

Cardinal Sin was the de facto leader of the opposition in the Philippines during the autocratic rule of Ferdinand Marcos, who declared martial law in 1973 and remained in power until forced from office and the country in 1986. Under Sin's leadership, the Catholic Church in the Philippines was a safe haven for those working for democracy and in opposition to human rights abuses.

Following [Benigno] Aquino's assassination [in August 1983], Cardinal Jaime Sin, archbishop of Manila and a leader of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, gradually shifted the hierarchy's stance from one of "critical collaboration" to one of open opposition [to the Marcos regime].

A prominent Catholic layman, Jos Concepcion, played a major role in reviving the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) with church support in 1983 in order to monitor the 1984 National Assembly elections. Both in the 1984 balloting and the February 7, 1986, presidential election, NAMFREL played a major role in preventing, or at least reporting, regime-instigated irregularities. The backbone of its organization was formed by parish priests and nuns in virtually every part of the country.

That's an excerpt from a web article called "From Aquino's Assassination to People's Power." The article goes on to mention Sin's behind-the-scenes role in uniting the opposition to fight Marcos's February 1986 "snap election":

Cardinal Sin, an astute negotiator described by one diplomat as "one of the best politicians in the Philippines," arranged a political alliance of convenience between Corazon Aquino and Salvador Laurel, who had announced his own candidacy but agreed to run as Aquino's vice-presidential candidate. Aquino had immense popular support and Laurel brought his superior organizational skills to the campaign. Their agreement to run together was arranged just in time for the deadline for submission of candidacies in early December. The church hierarchy gave its moral support to the opposition ticket. Cardinal Sin, realizing that poor people would not refuse money offered for votes and that the ethic of utang na loob would oblige them to vote for the briber, admonished the voters that an immoral contract was not binding and that they should vote according to their consciences.

After massive voter fraud was uncovered, pressure mounted for Marcos to step aside. When Marcos's Minister of Defense and the head of the national police force called for his resignation and garrisoned themselves near Manila, Cardinal Sin used a Catholic-run radio station to call on Filipinos to support the rebel officers and obstruct any effort by Marcos to attack them. Within a few days, the Marcoses had left the country, and Corazon Aquino took her rightful place as president.

Sin's leadership illustrates a key difference between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes. In an authoritarian country like the Philippines under Marcos, strong, independent institutions are still permitted to exist and to operate with a free hand. Under totalitarian rule, such institutions are decimated and brought under control of the regime if not abolished outright. Under the right kind of leadership, an independent institution can provide protection for dissidents and can engage in some degree of direct criticism. Jaime Cardinal Sin was the right kind of leader.

During my summer in the Philippines (1983), the archbishop's name was fodder for many bad puns, and it didn't help that the hit movie of the summer was a locally-produced "bold" film called "Mortal Sin." (The Cardinal's brother, perhaps?) Through his leadership in the People Power Revolution of 1986, his name became associated in my mind with courage rather than comedy.

Some may criticize the Cardinal for using his position of spiritual leadership to wield political influence, but he used it sparingly and wisely to defeat injustice and oppression. I imagine he saw that God had placed him, like Esther, in that position "for such a time as this," to help his people, despite the risk -- how could he refuse to act?

Ave atque vale.

UPDATE: MLQ3 has links to coverage of Sin's death in the Philippine press.

The end of a three-centuries-long era: Reuters is moving its head office from London's famed Fleet Street to the Docklands. Reuters was the last major news organization headquartered there, once home to all of London's newspapers, broadsheets and tabloids alike. Former editor Bill Hagerty remembers the Street of Shame in its heyday. Mostly he remembers the pubs:

I spent around a quarter of a century in and around Fleet Street; 25 years roaming a film set of a workplace stocked with larger than life characters and larger than average drinks in The Stab in the Back or The Cock Tavern or El Vino.

Outside the buildings where the production of newspapers filled some 22 hours of most days of the year, The Street was one great watering hole, which, if you walked fast enough, could be traversed pub-to-pub during a rainstorm without getting very wet. ...

Features chief sub Des Lyons, cigarette ash tumbling down the front of his worn blazer, was another Stab pianist, especially on Thursday evening "Nights of Magic" when songs were sung, insults and sometimes punches exchanged and marriages crumbled in the heady atmosphere of booze, news and nothing-to-lose.

Hat tip for that item to Manuel L. Quezon III, who files the news in the Sic Transit Gloria Mundi department. He's covering a scandal involving another Gloria -- Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, under pressure to resign after the release of a tape that implicates her in voter fraud. (That's what I gather, anyway. I'm still working my way through his archives and trying to sort out what's happening.) Blogs have played a role in exposing the tapes to the widest possible audience. I think it'll be worth keeping an eye on Mr. Quezon's blog as the story develops. For that, and also because he was kind enough to add me to his rotating overseas blogroll (Maraming salamat!), you'll find Manuel L. Quezon III on mine.

One more quick link -- double-checking if I remembered that bit of Tagalog correctly from 22 years ago (I did!), I found this handy website on the Tagalog language.

UPDATE: Here's the Wikipedia article on the 2005 Philippine Election Crisis. Note the disclaimer at the top of the article -- what you find when you go to that link may be quite different than what I'm seeing right now.

Over the weekend, French voters defeated a referendum to ratify the 300-page European Constitution, and yesterday the Netherlands voted no by an even larger margin, about 62%-38%. In both countries, nearly all major political parties and civic organizations supported passage. Instapundit linked to Netherlands-based, English language blog Zacht Ei, for results and commentary. Looking back through entries before the vote, I find this one, expressing optimism that not only will the Dutch defeat the Constitution, but that the defeat means something more profound for democracy and public discourse in that country.

As far as the Netherlands are concerned: in the past few days I've often wondered what worries Dutch politicians most: that a majority is considering to vote 'no', or that the country is finally engaged in the most intense political debate since the assassination of Pim Fortuyn. Indeed, the one thing that seemed to annoy most politicians about Fortuyn is that they suddenly had to debate issues which a large part of the electorate had wanted to address for years, and thanks to Fortuyn, they no longer could avoid it (though Ad Melkert famously tried).

I've felt strangely hopeful for the past few weeks, as the voice of dissent gradually increased in strength, that the tide may indeed be turning, and that this is the first step towards a better way of governing, in which politicians rule on behalf of the people rather than over them from a pedestal of feigned moral superiority.

My understanding of Dutch politics is limited, but it's my understanding that two or three parties have dominated -- trading places in the cabinet but operating under an unquestioned consensus. You get to an unstable political situation when no dominant party addresses an issue that matters to a large percentage of the population. In the Netherlands, immigration (particularly Muslim immigration) and European integration are two issues that had been ignored by the traditionally dominant parties.

The Netherlands sounds a lot like Tulsa: a powerful political elite confronted by upstart voices challenging the conventional wisdom, and a growing sense among the public that politicians should make government work for all the people, not just a favored few.

Newsweek lied, people died

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Kevin McCullough has the low-down on the six ways Newsweek got the story wrong about Koran-flushing at Guantanamo.

Kevin's radio station, WMCA, is now providing a 24-hour stream of the best of conservative talk radio, including Kevin his own self at 5 pm Eastern time, and they're advertising the fact here on BatesLine. Click the ad at right to tune in.

Ulster accent

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The counting for Northern Ireland's 18 seats at Westminster is underway, and while I work I'm watching BBC Northern Ireland's coverage of the results. The results notwithstanding, it's fun to hear Ulster's distinctive accent again -- something I haven't heard in person for nearly 10 years -- to hear each candidate talking about how "proyd" he is of the "campeh-un" he ran.

Unionists -- those who favor keeping Northern Ireland as part of the UK -- are split between two major parties, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The UUP has been the leading unionist party for many years, representing the unionist side in negotiations over self-government, security, and cross-border institutions. Continued violence in NI has led unionists to prefer the DUP, a party with a tougher negotiating stance. The UUP had 10 of NI's 18 seats at one time, were down to 6 after the 2001 election, and may end up with only a single seat. David Trimble, UUP party leader, 1998 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and, briefly, first minister of NI, just lost his Upper Bann seat to DUP candidate David Simpson, who announced an end to "pushover unionism." (UPDATE: Here's a column in the Scotsman outlining Trimble's rise to power, his involvement in peace talks, and his fall from favor. Hat tip to Slugger O'Toole, who blogs about Northern Ireland politics and culture.)

On the nationalist side -- those who want the Six Counties united with the rest of Ireland under Dublin's rule -- voters are shifting from the once-dominant Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) to Sinn Fein, a radical party with close ties to the terrorist Irish Republican Party. It's likely that when all the votes are counted the DUP and Sinn Fein will have the most representation at Westminster.

You'll find the latest results from Northern Ireland here.

I mentioned in an earlier entry that I was excited, when watching the 1992 British election results, to see that Michael Bates, a Conservative, had been elected as MP for Langbaurgh. He was turned out in the Labour victory of 1997 (for the renamed seat of Middleborough South and Cleveland East). Tonight I found out there was more to like about him than just his name.

I googled to see what had become of him, and it turns out that he writes a "Thought for the Week," published on the website of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, an organization that seeks to reconnect British Christians with the political process.

The other Michael's columns are meditations on living out the Christian faith in the world. They are a bit lengthy, but thoughtful, and lead the reader in unexpected directions.

His most recent essay starts with the Senate confirmation hearings for UN ambassador-designate John Bolton, and the complaints about his temperament and management style, and asks how should a Christian manage people. A Christian manager should be a servant to his subordinates; a visionary leader; a casting director, matching people to the jobs that fit them; a skilled navigator, setting realistic short-term goals to maintain morale over a long-term project; and an encourager.

You'll find links to column archives at the bottom of that page. The most recent archive, from March and April, includes an essay on spiritual healing, a piece called "Thank God for Politicians," an account of an epiphany in a New York jazz club, and some thoughts about town criers, the men of Issachar, and the Internet. I've just begun to read through it, and I think you'll find it worth your time.

The piece on healing starts with a phrase from Isaiah's prophecy which Jesus reads in the synagogue at Nazareth: "He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted...." Bates writes that we don't respond to inner pain as we ought. We try to numb the pain, but it always comes back, because we don't look to the One who can heal it:

Today we see certain symptoms of inner injury prevalent amongst Christians and non-Christians alike: anxiety, guilt and depression. These symptoms define our sense of self-worth, our relationships and our work. Yet our approach to remedying them differs substantially from physical injury. The instinct is to struggle on in the hope that it will heal itself, or to blame people or circumstance and as such transfer the power to change our hearts into the hands of other human beings. If you have ever carried an injury physically we know that perhaps sitting in a chair and resting you can appear fairly normal-like Agnes Sanford's domestic appliance--and be fairly comfortable, but the extent of our injury is revealed when we try to exert ourselves in even the most minor tasks: climbing the stairs, lifting a box etc.

There is a purpose in pain and that is to get us to rest the injury. There is a purpose in spiritual and emotional pain and that is for us to seek inner healing. Tragically, many of us wander through life in denial never pausing to rest and realise that there is an injury to our soul, which requires the healing touch. We have become expert in believing that all that is required to alleviate the symptoms of the injured soul is more money, a new job, a new relationship, alcohol, food and entertainment. In other words anything which distracts us from facing up to the pain which lies within. Whatever distraction technique we try our cloud re-appears in the morning. The message is this God wants to replace our anxiety with His peace; our guilt with His forgiveness, our depression with His joy and to restore our relationships beginning with our relationship with God. It was for this very reason that Jesus came, that we may again be at one with our Lord and enable Him to bind up the wounds of our broken hearts.

In "Thank God for Politicians," Bates calls on Christians to reject cynicism and rather to appreciate those who serve as politicians:

For many if not most of our politicians politics is a vocation, a worthy calling to serve the 'common good,' not a career designed to serve themselves. Few, except the foolish, would ever seek elected office to make money. Few would seek elected office in pursuit of an easy life. Few would find the experience of canvassing of receiving abuse and having doors slammed in their faces an effective boost for the ego. Most people enter politics because they rather like people and are proud of their communities and want to serve them. Politics involves sacrifice and often those who pay the highest price are the spouses and children of elected representatives.

He calls on Christians to thank those who seek office and assure them of our prayers, to consider the values and character of a candidate when they go to vote, to pray for Christians in public office, and to pray for spiritual awakening in the nation. And how should a Christian respond when a candidate knocks on the door?

[W]hen a canvasser comes to your door to deliver a leaflet or enquire after your voting intentions, don't berate them because they are disturbing you in the middle of an episode of 'Eastenders,' or because they have woken the children who have just been put to bed. Don't be aggressive or defensive, don't enter into an argument over some aspect of policy, but be reasonable in your conversation. Listen to what they say and ask genuine questions that will help you decide how to cast your vote. Thank them for treading the streets in the rain, for giving of their time and for playing their part in upholding our freedom, serving our community and enabling us to be better informed about those who seek to represent us.

Here I am in Oklahoma, where Christian involvement in politics is a given, and it seems strange to read this website telling British Christians that politics is a noble pursuit, urging them to get involved and to commit to being involved in the process over the long haul. Then I remember that 30 years ago, American Christians needed the same prompting to get involved, and it took groups like the Christian Coalition not only to urge the involvement of Christians in the system but also to instruct them in how the system works. I remember attending a seminar at Grace Fellowship in Tulsa, back in the late '80s, at which we learned about precinct caucuses and county conventions, platform and rules committees, and door-to-door canvassing -- all the nuts and bolts of party activism and campaigning.

The Conservative Christian Fellowship appears to have learned from the successes of the conservative Christian movement in America and from its shortcomings as well. Have a look at its mission statement. The CCF doesn't believe that revival will result from political victory. It understands that what ails Britain (and read anything by Theodore Dalrymple if you don't believe that Britain is ailing) is a spiritual problem at the root, and the state must leave room for the church to play its role in society. The CCF isn't about achieving a laundry list of legislative goals, but about getting people with a Christian worldview involved in politics, culture, and education.

I'm struck by the parallels between the uphill task faced by Conservatives in Britain and Republicans in Blue America, and the role that the committed Christian remnant could play in transforming politics in these evidently post-Christian realms. Republicans in the Blue States can learn from the CCF how to involve and energize Christians who now sit on the sidelines, disheartened because both major parties ignore their concerns. We Red Staters have something to learn from the CCF, too: A broader understanding of what it means to live out the Christian life in a democracy.

I'm happy to learn that a group like the Conservative Christian Fellowship exists and to learn that someone named Michael Bates is a part of it.

George Galloway, MP, expelled from the Labour Party in 2003, has won Bethnal Green and Bow, an east London constituency, from Labour incumbent Oona King. Galloway was elected for the Respect Party, a party that opposes Britain's involvement in the war in Iraq. Galloway was implicated by documents discovered in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein suggesting that he had been on Saddam's payroll, receiving funds diverted from the corrupt Oil for Food program.

BBC World Service just played a an interview between BBC Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman and Galloway. Here's how Paxman began the interview: "Are you proud of having driven out one of the few black women in Parliament?" Galloway refused to answer such a loaded question, but Paxman persisted, and Galloway terminated the interview after Paxman called him a demagogue.

I'm no fan of Galloway, but I don't blame him for walking off.

UPDATE: The BBC has posted a transcript and video of the bout with comments.

UK votes today

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The United Kingdom is holding a general election and local elections today. The polls are closed, and the first results are expected to be declared at about 5:30 p.m. CDT. Iain Murray will be live-blogging the election. Writer and Conservative MP Boris Johnson has a list of key constituencies and when they are expected to be declared. (British Summer Time is one hour ahead of GMT, six hours ahead of CDT.) The University of Keele has a comprehensive page of British politics links, including links to results and party manifestoes (platforms) from past elections. The BBC news website has comprehensive election coverage, but I can't get to it right now.

There was a time when I followed British politics very closely. In the run-up to the 1992 general election, I read through a book analyzing the electorate in every one of the 659 constituencies and made my own guesses as to the outcome. Labour, led by Neal Kinnock, had their first real chance to beat the Tories, in power since 1979, but torn apart over Margaret Thatcher's ouster and Britain's relationship with the European Union. I was especially interested in the fortunes of Michael W. Bates, a Conservative running for the second time in a seat with the lovely name of Langbaurgh. (It was changed before the next election.)

C-SPAN was going to carry the BBC's election night coverage, but in Tulsa it would be preempted by the live broadcast of the City Council, so I called around and determined that C-SPAN would be on uninterrupted in Claremore. I found a place I could watch the broadcast, but when I arrived I discovered to my disappointment that while C-SPAN had not been preempted, the BBC broadcast had been -- the House of Representatives was in the middle of a lengthy debate. I returned home and listened to some of the coverage on BBC World Service, which the cable company offered through a special FM antenna adapter. (This was in the days before the World Wide Web.) C-SPAN ran the BBC TV election special late that night; I taped it and watched it the next night and rejoiced to learn that Michael Bates had won.

John Major and the Tories won, too, just barely, and they spent the next five years crumbling: Financial scandals, sex scandals, deepening divisions over Europe. With the advent of the web, I was able to follow the decline via the Electronic Telegraph. The Tories were blown out of the water in 1997, did a little better in 2001. The Tories began to resemble the '62 Mets, and my interest in following their fortunes faded.

They've made some impressive showings in other elections -- in the June 2004 European Parliament elections, the Conservatives received the most votes of any party, and they made significant gains in local elections on the same date. Tony Blair has been under a fierce media attack over the UK's involvement in Iraq, and after eight years any politician has begun to wear out his welcome with the voters, so you might think that the Conservatives would be competitive this time around, but the expectation is that Labour will be returned to power for a third time, but with a smaller majority.

A British general election is really 646 separate contests, like our biennal battle for control of the US House of Representatives. The only people who can vote for or against Tony Blair live in his constituency of Sedgefield. Nevertheless, campaigns are waged on a national scale, and British voters are more aware than Americans of the national impact of their vote.

I had a browse through the manifestoes for this year's election. What's striking is the absence of America's hot-button social issues in the campaign literature of the three major parties. One of the reasons I think the Tories have failed to generate much enthusiasm of the voters is that they've accepted certain issues as settled matters, despite significant numbers of potential voters who care passionately about those issues and are looking for a major party to take them seriously. Should Britain continue as a member of the European Union? Are abortion laws too liberal? Are government welfare policies undermining families? What is the impact of mass immigration on British society? Where the major parties are silent, minor parties have sprung up to respond. The UK Independence Party came in third in the 2004 European Parliament elections, ahead of the usual third-place finisher, the Liberal Democrats.

I came across the website of a new minor party, the Christian Peoples Alliance, which is trying to address some of those issues, but I'm off to a baseball game -- more about that later.

I've recently blogrolled Publius Pundit, a group blog with the ambitious mission of "blogging the democratic revolution." There's a lot of material today on the situation in Venezuela, photos of the crackdown on a protest in Belarus, and this entry about protests in Mongolia, pointing to a Gateway Pundit item, pointing to this News 24 story. The protests were inspired by the successful revolution in Kyrgyzstan and are over government corruption and the diversion of public money. Publius Pundit will be a regular stop on my daily tour de blogs.

Part of the price

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Hooah Wife lives in the Tulsa area. Her husband is being deployed to Iraq with the Corps of Engineers. She wrote a few days ago about the effect of deployment on kids:

Anyway, back to children. Sometimes you want to beat them but they really need a hug. That is how it has been at my house lately. I gave all the info for deployment to the counselor at my boy's school. But, unless you have ever lived it, paper can't prepare you for the possibilities. Children go through a rollercoaster of phases with a missing parent. Let me tell you, it can be trying at times. Often times the only ones that really understand it completetly are other military parents. We just expect kids to lash out at some time or have nightmares or anxiety during deployments. I even have a friend whose 10 year old stopped eating. I bitch & gripe a lot on my blog, but that is my healthy outlet. Kids can't necessarily funnel their anger appropriately.

This is a slight revision of an entry that appeared a year ago. It will stay at the top of the home page through Saturday night -- scroll down for more new entries.

Please read this, read the earlier articles linked below, and please pray for the Litle family and the families of the other victims through this season of remembrance. And pray for real, lasting peace in Israel.

abigaillitle.jpg
Saturday is the second anniversary of a suicide bombing of a city bus in Haifa, Israel, which took the life of 16 innocent people, including Abigail Litle, the 14-year-old daughter of Philip and Heidi Litle, college friends of mine. In memory of her, I invite you to read an article I wrote shortly after the bombing, and an article by her dad, written a month after the attack, about Abigail's triumphant faith in Jesus.

Remembering Abigail, a victim of hate

Remembering Abigail, a victor in faith

In a letter to friends and family just before the first anniversary, Phil told us how Abigail's school planned to remember her and a classmate who died in the attack:

The night they said "Ni!"

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Specifically, Ukraine said:

Фальсифікаціям. Ні!
Махінаціям. Ні!
Понятіям. Ні!
Ні брехні!

"Ні" ("Ni") is Ukrainian for "No." Those lines are from the theme song of the Orange Revolution -- no to fraud, no to machinations, no to prison rules, no to lies. Saying "Ni!" didn't do much good for the legendary knights of ancient Britain, but for Ukraine, "Ni!" felled a corrupt government and reversed a fraudulent election, which is much better than a shrubbery.

The latest results from Sunday's presidential rerun show that, with the count 93% complete, Yushchenko leads Yanukovich 53% to 43%.

Blogging the Ukraine re-runoff

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Discoshaman is live-blogging from Kyiv -- most recently from Yanukovich HQ -- and Orange Ukraine has lots of election news. Exit polling, which was conducted throughout the day (rather than just in the morning as the American exit polls were) show about a 15-point blowout for Yushchenko. There was a report of violence at one polling station. Polls closed at 8 p.m. Ukraine time.

Press releases in English on Yushchenko's site can be found here, but it's very slow to load. They are relaying reports of fraud -- ballot box stuffing, "dead souls" voting, busloads of soldiers going from one polling place to another. This time it may not be enough.

And I can't imagine a political leader in the world that combines toughness and loveliness better than Yulia Tymoshenko, co-leader of the Orange coalition. Wow.

Ohio ain't Ukraine

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A couple of weeks ago a college fraternity brother of mine, who just came across my blog, wrote with a question about my support for the demonstrators and a new election in Ukraine:

I see a lot of material there devoted to the current situation in the Ukraine. One certainly hopes the best for those people struggling against a cold war era attitude for a fair and reformed democratic government. Nevertheless, as "blue" voter (in a very blue county in a rather red state), I find the support for protesting close election results in other countries on your obviously "red" website bemusingly ironic. By extension, should all those of us who live in large cities (all very blue in the north and west) be out en masse to protest that things didn't quite go our way?

Still, recalling our debates on theology in college, I refuse to believe that the aims and hopes of Americans are as starkly divided as the manipulators of elcetoral dynamics on both sides would have us believe. But how do we proceed? We have in the past in this country worked through compromise and consensus, even if that leads to such despicable temporary solutions as counting slaves as 3/5 of a person. Despite Bush's first term promise to be a "uniter not a divider," I see little evidence that he means to seek consensus on any issue.

So I ask you to consider if our roles were reversed in this election. What would you do? Should I be marching in the streets like the Ukrainians?

In my friend's mind, the situations are parallel -- both countries elected a president of the party in power by a slim margin, disappointing a large number on the other side, who believe that the victor is part of a corrupt system. Supporters of Yushchenko are protesting, in his view, because "things didn't quite go [their] way."

There are some aspects of the situation in Ukraine that my friend may have overlooked:

  • The runoff election was marked by massive fraud, particularly in the region of Donetsk, where Prime Minister and government-supported candidate Victor Yanukovich was once governor. Yanukovich supporters were bused from one polling station to another to cast multiple votes. Thugs stole ballot boxes and threatened opposition supporters. The Central Election Commission never released results by polling station. The Ukraine Supreme Court ordered a rerun of the runoff election because the runoff was too marred by fraud to make it possible to determine who actually won.
  • The opposition presidential candidate was poisoned with dioxin, probably while dining at the home of the head of Ukraine's Secret Service.
  • The Ukrainian government under President Kuchma has shut down opposition media, and may have ordered the 2000 murder of Internet journalist Georgy Gongadze.
  • According to Jane's Intelligence Digest, 500 Russian Spetsnaz special forces were deployed to the vicinity of Kiev during the election aftermath, at the request of current Ukrainian President Kuchma. Twenty of the Russians serve as his personal bodyguard. (Hat tip: TulipGirl)

I don't remember anything like that happening in the US presidential election. Opposition media outlets, including federally-subsidized NPR and PBS, were going full-blast at the President all the way to the election. John Kerry wasn't poisoned. Thugs didn't steal ballot boxes. "Voter intimidation" was limited to poll workers who didn't smile with sufficient warmth when asking for picture ID. And if there was a busload of voters being driven from polling place to polling place, it probably wasn't full of Republicans.

If Yushchenko had lost a close vote in an honestly run election, there wouldn't have been hundreds of thousands of protesters in the streets of Kiev. The Orange Revolution is about more than an election. Discontent with years of gross corruption and suppression of basic civil liberties is finally surfacing. Ukraine is a great nation and it could be a prosperous and free nation if the hands of the "oligarchs" are finally removed from the national till.

Ukraine update

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Ukraine may be headed for a rerun of the runoff election. That at least is the likeliest, happiest outcome of the current crisis. Discoshaman and TulipGirl continue to post regularly. Discoshaman has some photos up on his blog, as well as the third installment of his series on how and why the election was stolen. TulipGirl links to a wonderful story about a revolutionary babushka, an answer to the misapprehension that Ukraine is a mere pawn in a struggle between Russia and the west.

They link to many more blogs and news sources, including SCSU Scholars blog (which has some interesting maps illustrating the likely pattern of voter fraud) and Orange Ukraine, which has a comparison of Russian and American involvement in the Ukraine election.

Show your support for Ukraine

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Amelia Hunt has created some logos you can display to show support for democracy for Ukraine. I'm displaying one above. You can find them here. Hat tip to Fire Ant Gazette.

All eyes on Ukraine

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Ukraine is in crisis following the presidential election runoff. Reform candidate Viktor Yushchenko is believed to have won the election, but election officials have proclaimed Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych the winner. Yanukovych is backed by the political establishment and the Russian government. There are reports of voter fraud, particularly in eastern Ukraine, which has a higher concentration of ethnic Russians. When I say voter fraud, I don't mean vacant lots voting, but soldiers shooting election officials or stealing ballot boxes. Not to mention pre-election intimidation -- shutting down opposition newspapers and TV stations, replacing election officials with allies of the government, poisoning Yuschenko.

There are pro-reform demonstrations all over Ukraine, perhaps a million people on the streets in Kyiv, the capital. There are reports that Russian special forces (spetznaz) flew into the airport and are in the city.

The situation reminds me a lot of the Philippine "snap election" of 1986, in which long-time President Ferdinand Marcos attempted to cheat Corazon Aquino out of her election victory. Clerks at the central election office walked out to protest fraud, and people took to the streets in support of two military leaders who turned against Marcos.

TulipGirl is there in Kyiv and has links to news reports and commentary. Here's a link to her most recent entry, about reports of a $21.6 million bribe paid to the head of the Central Elections Committee. Start there and work your way back.

Her husband, Discoshaman, has been out on the streets with the protesters. He's just posted the first in a series of entries to try to explain to the rest of the world what this conflict is all about. A couple of excerpts:

You have to understand the situation in Ukraine. The country is run by a series of oligarchic clans that actually found their beginnings in the Soviet Union, and then grew fabulously rich during the early days of "privatization". ...

Do you start to see how life works here? This isn't about a few stolen votes. It's about an entire system of fine control over the political, social and economic life of the people. Economics and politics are incestuously fused here in a way that is difficult to imagine for those in the West.

The BBC has a Q&A piece up with the basic facts of the election crisis.

Keep praying for Ukraine.

Voting in Ukraine

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Blog de Connard is blogging the Ukraine presidential election and has photos of the voting process (start here and go on to later entries) and passes on an AP report of an exit poll giving reform candidate Yushchenko an 8 point lead, but not a clear majority, which would mean a runoff in three weeks.

(Hat tip to TulipGirl.)

Keep praying for Ukraine.

The other election

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In just a few hours, Ukraine will go to the polls to elect a president. TulipGirl, who lives there, asks us to keep the country and election in our prayers. The republics of the old Soviet Union have great potential but are still suffering from the legacy of 70 years under totalitarian rule, which prevented normal economic development and decimated civil society.

She links to this NRO article by Bruce Bartlett. Bartlett has this spot-on description of the economic disaster that is socialist central planning:

And because of communism, the Ukraines economy never developed naturally so as to exploit those industries and businesses most appropriate for its location and resources. Under central planning, production was guided by political whim, with the result that much of the industry located in the Ukraine at independence was inherently unviable in a free market.

There is a reformer in the race, and Ukraine would be blessed to have Viktor Yushchenko as president. Bartlett writes of him:

[As head of the Central Bank], he was one of the few Ukrainians who was trusted by foreign investors. He has a reputation for honesty as well as competence the former perhaps more important than the latter, given the widespread corruption in the Ukraine. (A new report from Transparency International ranks the Ukraine as one of the most corrupt nations on Earth.)

In December 1999, Yushchenko was named prime minister. By all accounts, he did an excellent job, helping to implement economic and political reforms. This did not endear him to President Kuchma or the oligarchs who have robbed the country blind, so he was sacked in April 2001. Since then, he has been a member of the Ukraines parliament, where he has continued to press for reform.

Hmm. Reformer sacked by oligarchs who are running the country for their own enrichment. Sounds like my hometown....

TulipGirl links to a few articles that will give you a sense of what things are like in the run-up to the election. One article reports a plot to have a mob pose as supporters of the reform candidate and create a disturbance to discredit him. There has been violence targeting supporters of Yushchenko. Government agencies have used their enforcement powers to harass opponents of the current president's handpicked successor.

Ukraine has the potential to be a great and prosperous nation, but only if there is an end to corruption. Pray for Ukraine.

UPDATE: TulipGirl has another post up with links to blogs on the Ukraine election, and she links to her husband's comments on the election, in which he says:

Please be in prayer, that the people will make the right choice, and that their choice will be honored.

Will do.

MORE: Ukrainian author Oksana Zabuzhko wondered if free Ukraine has only one week left. She wrote this essay last Sunday -- week's almost up. Worth reading. (Published on Ukraine, Russia, Europe, the US, Oh My!, which was linked by TulipGirl.)

Crusades in context

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Just noticed a couple of items that Discoshaman posted before he and TulipGirl and family left for two weeks' holiday in Egypt. Discoshaman has a way of getting right to the point, for example, putting Arab complaints about the Crusades into perspective:

Liberals, and the 3rd World bigots they pander to, can't shut up about the Crusades. Listening to them, one would think Western Europe decided to annex the Holy Land on some sort of ecclesiastical lark.

Lost somehow is the fact that the Crusades, while not politely conducted, were only a minor counter-offensive in a 1400 year history of almost unbroken aggression against Christians by militant Islam. Do these idiots never stop and ask HOW there were Arabs in a former Roman colony to begin with?

He provides details and makes the connection to the Western left's impulse to cultural suicide.

Then there's a nice, concise five-point breakdown of what Rathergate was really all about. Hint: It wasn't just an "oopsie, my bad" on the part of CBS. The item begins with this paragraph, which concludes with a wonderful turn of phrase:

It's possible to interpret Rathergate as a mere journalistic fumble, but it requires a childlike faith. A more rational interpretation is this: it's a clear-cut example of what conservatives face every election cycle -- a constant headwind from the blowhards of the Fourth Estate.

Nice. The shaman and his girl should be back and posting again any day now -- looking forward to it.

"They can't poison all of us!"

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And you thought Tulsa politics was rough....

Discoshaman of Le Sabot Post-Moderne is back from his blogging hiatus and is covering the election in Ukraine:

The Ukrainian people are facing an incredibly decisive election in a few weeks. Unlike in Russia, they've actually been blessed with a clear choice between an oligarch-supported thug (Yanukovych) and a genuine, if flawed, reformer with a proven record (Yuschenko.) And I really think they're going to elect the thug.

Yanukovych's people have hired criminal gangs to beat Yuschenko supporters. They have attacked pro-Yuschenko journalists and arsoned their offices. They own most of the TV stations, and issue Soviet-style temniki to tell their pet journalists exactly what to report. They've hired Nazi groups to march in support of Yuschenko. It looks now like they organized a fatal bombing in a local market in order to discredit Yuschenko. They have used the organs of government to arrest, harrass and investigate Yuschenko's major supporters. And then there are the "accidents" involving Yuschenko people and Kamaz trucks.

The Ukrainian people by and large know that there is a massive disinformation campaign going on. They know that Yanukovych's oligarch friends are stealing the election. The outrage factor? About two on a ten scale.

He goes on to put forward an explanation for this lack of outrage.

There's more about the campaign here:

We hit the big Yushchenko rally yesterday in European Square. He had been poisoned, and spent last week in a Vienna hospital recovering. His opposition is suspected in the attack. His voice was still weak and his jaw seemed tight as he spoke. It was in Ukrainian, so I didn't perfectly understand, but it was awesome when he called out to the crowd, "But they can't poison all of us!"

Let's keep Ukraine in our prayers.

UPDATE 9/25: More on Ukraine from NRO here.

Remembering again

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I've already touched on the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks over the last few days, but I cannot let the day pass without pointing you to the New York Times' "Portraits of Grief", a collection of brief profiles of the people who died in those attacks.

Here's a link to the profile of my friend Jayesh Shah, which highlights the close relationship between Jay and his younger brother Niloy. You have never seen two closer siblings, and no one can ever remember seeing a cross word pass between them. Close in age, they came from India to America as small boys, and made the adjustment to the new world together. They went to high school, college, and grad school together, and both ended up working for Amoco in Houston. They were separated when Jay took the opportunity of a lifetime -- an executive position with Cantor Fitzgerald in New York -- but they still spoke daily, talking over the previous night's sports news or their kids' latest antics. Was it the affection between two brothers, the love of a husband for his wife, the love of a dad for his children -- is that what the terrorists set out to extinguish?

Jay and the Shah family are of the Jain religion. At the heart of that religion is a n avoidance of violence against any living thing. Jains are vegetarian, and some Jain monastics go so far as to sweep the ground before them to avoid crushing an insect as they walk. Ironic that someone of that faith should be the victim of such an extreme and deliberate act of violence.

The Shah family went through sixteen days of hoping against hope that Jay had survived. Jay's name showed up on a survivors list on the Internet. The family got to New York as quickly as they could, and went from hospital to hospital. Through the whole process, Niloy communicated with friends and family via e-mail, sharing his hopes and fears.

All the searching was in vain. On September 27, Jay's body was recovered and they had the comfort of certainty about his fate. The family was now able to hold the traditional last rites. A memorial prayer service was held a couple of weeks later in Houston, which I was privileged to attend.

This is the story of one man and his family, and the profound loss of a brother, husband, son, father, and friend. I tell it because it is important to remember why we are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and may find ourselves fighting in other places that harbor and sponsor terrorists. Although we desire to live at peace with all men, governments have a divine commission to use force to oppose evil. We cannot hope to enjoy peace as long as there are those who would seek our deaths for the crime of being alive and free.

Before I close, let me point you to a couple of places to stir your memories and your resolve:

  • Tom Junod's Esquire article about "The Falling Man" -- the search for the man captured on film as he fell from the World Trade Center. (Hat tip to Matthew for the link.)

  • Here Is New York, an extensive online gallery of photographs of the day and its aftermath.

OGP-deja-vu

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So right, Karol:

Headline: Madonna Dedicates 'Imagine' to Russia...

No religion, no possesions? I think Russia may have tried this already.

Hat tip to World Net Daily for the link to this story:

Cantor Fitzgerald Securities, a bond trading firm that lost two-thirds of its workers in the World Trade Center attack, has sued Saudi Arabia for allegedly supporting al-Qaida prior to the Sept. 11 attack through financing, safe houses, weapons and money laundering.

The company, in a $7 billion lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan and made public Friday, also named dozens of other defendants, including numerous banks and Islamic charities, in a bid to hold them accountable for its losses in the terrorism attack.

Jayesh Shah, who was a Tulsa Memorial High School and University of Tulsa graduate, was Vice President of Technology for Cantor Fitzgerald's eSpeed division, working on the 103rd floor of the north tower on September 11, 2001. I knew Jayesh through, of all things, Hal O'Halloran's radio sports talk shows in the late '70s and early '80s. He was a very smart guy with a great sense of humor and very devoted to his family and he is missed by all who knew him. I'm happy to see that his employer is pursuing those parties who may bear some responsibility for the attack, but who have yet to be held accountable in any way.

If you've missed the news about the taking and murder of hostages by Islamist terrorists at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, Russian Federation, you will want to read this timeline by Michele at the Command Post.

And many people, including Charles of Little Green Footballs, are linking to a remarkable Daily Telegraph opinion piece by the general manager of Arabic satellite TV station Al-Arabiya, which begins like this:

It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.

The hostage-takers of children in Beslan, North Ossetia, were Muslims. The other hostage-takers and subsequent murderers of the Nepalese chefs and workers in Iraq were also Muslims. Those involved in rape and murder in Darfur, Sudan, are Muslims, with other Muslims chosen to be their victims.

Those responsible for the attacks on residential towers in Riyadh and Khobar were Muslims. The two women who crashed two airliners last week were also Muslims.

Bin Laden is a Muslim. The majority of those who manned the suicide bombings against buses, vehicles, schools, houses and buildings, all over the world, were Muslim.

What a pathetic record. What an abominable "achievement". Does all this tell us anything about ourselves, our societies and our culture?

This piece was originally run in Arabic in a pan-Arabic newspaper.

Never forget

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Charles Johnson has posted a slideshow of images from September 11th. We all need a reminder of what is at stake. Charles's blog will give you daily reminders, with news of islamofascism around the world -- make it a regular stop as you surf the web.

Maybe we should lobby to have Charles speak at the Republican National Convention.

Also on the Southern Appeal blog, we are given a peek (words and pictures) inside Abu Ghraib's prison and the "death row" used during Saddam's reign:

When it was time for the prisoners to die they would be lead down the above corridor, past an open room used for the harvesting of body parts, so they could see what would ultimately happen to them, into the above room with the concrete loft. This is the room where the prisoners were hung. Ropes were attached to the two metal hooks fastened to the ceiling so that prisoners could be hung two at a time.

Why dwell on this? It's to remind us for years what we all knew about Saddam's WMD program but seem to have forgotten lately:

The above pictures and description are not intended to titillate but rather to show the depraved nature of the Saddam regime. Keep in mind, as you ponder these images, that, prior to the invasion, the landlord of this hell on earth had failed to account for nearly four tons of VX nerve agents, Growth media for 20,000 liters of biological warfare agents, 15,000 shells for use in biological warfare (some of which have been recently found) 6,000 chemical warfare bombs, and the tools with which to reconstitute his nuclear program. According to the terms of the cease fire to Gulf War I, to which Saddam agreed, the burden was on him to establish that he destroyed the aforementioned weapons. His defiant refusal to do so demonstrated his consciousness of guilt. Simply because we have not found all of these weapons nicely arranged in a convenient location does not mean that they did not exist.

Remember Saddam expelling the weapons inspectors? And when the inspectors were allowed back in, their movements were restricted and they were prohibited from interviewing government scientists alone? Saddam had something to hide -- otherwise why risk the punishment he ultimately received?

The coalition was right to go to war against Iraq, and the world is safer because there is one less government working to develop WMDs, one less government acting as a state sponsor of terrorism, one less government supplying WMD technology to terrorists.

There's an interesting juxtaposition just now on C-SPAN 1 and C-SPAN 2. On C-SPAN 2, there's Ralph Nader, looking and sounding like he just crawled out of bed (did he have a stroke recently?). He's peddling the Michael Moore / Democrat Party / International ANSWER / Islamofascist / moonbat line about the war in Iraq -- Bush is engaged in "Messianic Militarism", and the war was all about contracts and cheap oil for his evil corporate buddies.

Meanwhile, C-SPAN 1 has Rand Rahim, the representative of Iraq's interim government to the United States, speaking and taking questions at the American Enterprise Institute today. In response to a pointed and hostile question, Ms. Rahim said that the war to depose Saddam Hussein was a humanitarian necessity for Iraq and a necessity for the stability of the region and the world. Asked about the somewhat clandestine handover -- if that undermined the idea that a real transfer of sovereignty had occurred -- she pointed to the reality of the security situation and expressed pride that the US and the interim government had stolen a march on the terrorists. Asked if the war in Iraq had made Americans less safe, she said that Iraq has become terrorism's last stand, which is unfortunate for Iraq, but she believes that, in Iraq, terrorism will be defeated. She said that the terrorists are not a resistance against the coalition, they are against Iraq and Iraqis, a fact demonstrated by their actions against contractors who are not from coalition countries, and their threats against the transfer of sovereignty. She said that the interim government needs to communicate this fact effectively to the Iraqi people.

Ambassador Rahim's only criticism of the coalition's now-ended oversight is the focus on reconstruction efforts that were capital- and technology-intensive, and thus out of reach for Iraqi firms and workers. Wages have improved dramatically, but only for those who are employed. In order to make more Iraqis stakeholders in a rebuilt Iraq, there should be a focus on labor-intensive reconstruction efforts that can make use of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi businesses and workers. That made me think of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which provided a structured environment for young men who would otherwise have been at loose ends, helped them earn money (most of which was sent directly home to their families), and resulted in the construction of needed infrastructure as well as public amenities. The need is infrastructure and the available resource is unskilled labor. While some infrastructure needed to be rebuilt quickly, and thus needed the technology and capital that Western firms could bring to bear, much of the infrastructure could be rebuilt at a slower pace, using old fashioned techniques that take advantage of a large labor pool.

Seeing rumpled Ralph Nader reminded me of an "internal memo" in National Lampoon's fake letters column sometime in the late '70s. It said something like this: "The last Robert Hall store has died in captivity. For now, have Ralph Nader, et al., buy their suits at K-Mart." Robert Hall was a discount clothing store -- Tulsa had one on the southwest corner of the Traffic Circle at Admiral and Mingo. It apparently was also a shorthand way to say that someone wore cheap clothes. Nice to see that Ralph still disdains haute couture.

Sorry to use an unspeakably rude word in the header, but I need to get your attention.

You remember hearing about that group encouraging Christians to resettle in South Carolina, in order to reestablish "godly, constitutional government" in one state? Or the libertarian Free State Project, which aims to locate enough libertarians in New Hampshire to take over the political system there?

Well, an Islamofascist has come up with a similar idea for taking over a small European country and suicidal American leftists are swooning over this fellow. Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs blog (the chronicle of Islamofascism's war against the west) has excerpts from a Salon puff-piece on Belgian Islamofascist Dyab Abou Jahjah. Here's the Salon article's subhead:

Dyab Abou Jahjahs Arab European League calls for sharia law, celebrates 9/11 and warned Belgian Jews to break with Israel or else. Is he defending Muslims civil rights or inciting hatred?

Well, duh.

Reagan in his own voice

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Audible.com offers for download five and a half hours of Ronald Reagan's radio commentaries from the late '70s, with introductions from cabinet members and associates like George Shultz and Ed Meese. This is going on my wish list. (Amazon offers an abridged CD version.)

We had a lengthy dinner table conversation about Reagan's legacy with my seven year old son. The toughest part was explaining the background: communism, the Cold War, ICBMs, inflation, the energy crisis. Later, Joe let me read to him from Reagan's autobiography, which begins with a sketch of his 1985 first meeting with Gorbachev. We read that and the opening chapter, about his first seven years, moving around Illinois as his dad followed job opportunities. He mentions that the course of his own life would have been very different had he been hired by Montgomery Ward to run the sporting goods department in their new Dixon store. That closed door kept him free to pursue his dream of radio broadcasting, which in turn led to everything else.

I was raised to believe that God has a plan for everyone and that seemingly random twists of fate are all a part of His plan. My mother -- a small woman with auburn hair and a sense of optimism that ran as deep as the cosmos -- told me that everything in life happened for a purpose. She said all things were part of God's Plan, even the most disheartening setbacks, and in the end, everything worked out for the best. If something went wrong, she said, you didn't let it get you down: You stepped away from it, stepped over it, and moved on. Later on, she added, something good will happen and you'll find yourself thinking -- "If I hadn't had that problem back then, then this better thing that did happen wouldn't have happened to me."

Damning with faint praise

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Charles Krauthammer writes that the liberal media are focusing on Reagan's sunny and optimistic personality as a way to trivialize his real accomplishments. But they miss the heart of the matter:

Optimism? Every other person on the No. 6 bus is an optimist. What distinguished Reagan was what he did and said. Reagan was optimistic about America amid the cynicism and general retreat of the post-Vietnam era because he believed unfashionably that America was both great and good -- and had been needlessly diminished by restrictive economic policies and timid foreign policies. Change the policies and America would be restored, both at home and abroad.

He was right.

Krauthammer reminds that, in his presidency, Reagan's optimism was interpreted by the media as a sign of dangerous simple-mindedness. Now it's being used as a way of praising this beloved leader without acknowledging that the man they derided has been vindicated by history.

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for the link.

Funereal notes

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  • One of the nice things about state events -- funerals, inaugurals, and such -- is that it's a rare opportunity for good music to get some public exposure. Choral music usually takes a back seat to orchestral works and opera. It was a treat to hear choirs at the Capitol, at the National Cathedral, and at the Reagan Library. Peter Wilhousky's arrangement of the Battle Hymn of the Republic is a favorite. William Harris's "Faire is the Heaven", which preceded the entry of the casket into the Cathedral, was a perfect fit for the occasion. And there's something thrilling about hymns and baroque music played by a brass ensemble.

  • It's also a treat to watch the replay of the services on C-SPAN, without commentary. I listened to the Cathedral service on the radio while at work, and found myself switching back and forth between KFAQ, KRMG, and KWGS trying to find the station with the least amount of annoying chatter. Brian Gann did a fine job of describing without being obtrusive as KFAQ simulcast the audio from Fox News Channel, but when they switched to Fox News Radio, we had to listen to John Gibson speak in all the wrong places. Announcers please note: Hymns and anthems are not bumper music or filler. They are an integral part of the service. Likewise, the liturgy is not fluff. You can wait until former Senator John Danforth is done with the opening words of the service ("I am the resurrection and the life") to tell us that John Danforth is speaking. American broadcasters could learn a few things from the way the BBC covers these sorts of events.

  • John Derbyshire, on NRO's The Corner: "It was, as the English say, a lovely funeral. The British, in fact, used to boast that they did this kind of thing -- pomp and circumstance -- better than anyone. I don't see how that boast can any longer be maintained. This was done as well as it possibly could have been." But I think that the pomp and circumstance was a reflection of President Reagan and in accordance with his wishes, as he understood the importance of tradition and the place of formality and manners. Recall his first inaugural, when the dress code was not business suits but morning dress. (And many of us learned for the first time that black tie is not appropriate for formal events in midday.) Insisting on the full pomp and circumstance of tradition for his inaugurations, rather than trying to remake the ceremony in his image, was not an act of egotism but an act of respect for the nation and the institution of the presidency.

  • Along the same lines: A reader's e-mail to The Corner: "So I'm sitting in my home office, lump in throat, tears on cheeks. Watching the precision of the honor guard and the unbelievable reverence and beauty of the moment. And it dawns on me: he's done it again. He has an entire nation realizing again how beautiful this country is. Its people. It's respect for things great. Tradition. Class. There could not have been a departing gift so powerful. His first lesson to me in 1980, when I was 10. His last, today."

  • The most often played soundbite from President Bush Sr's eulogy was the moment where he says, his voiced choked, "As his vice president for eight years, I learned more from Ronald Reagan than from anyone I encountered in all my years of public life." But I think it was the words immediately preceding that got him choked up, because they choked me up too:

    And to the Reagan kids -- it's OK for me to say that at 80 -- Michael, Ron, Patti, today all of our sympathy, all of our condolences to you and remember, too, your sister Maureen home safe now with her father.

    That heaven is a place where we are in the immediate presence of God ought to be overwhelming enough, but the thought of heaven as home, where we are reunited to those who passed on before us, touches something deep. And I wonder if President Bush's thoughts turned just then, as mine did, to the little one who's been waiting for him there for fifty years.

Reagan's economic record

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Much of the focus of the last week has been on Ronald Reagan's role in the demise of Soviet Communism, but his economic achievements are just as impressive. If you're my age or older, you remember the '70s when double-digit inflation and double-digit mortgage rates seemed to be a fact of life, when gas prices skyrocketed, and it seemed like things would only get worse. Now we take the absence of inflation and low interest rates for granted, and gas prices are well below their 1970s levels in constant dollars.

Critics of Reagan's record charged that the gap between rich and poor grew, that the jobs created were low-paying, that the tax cuts helped only the very wealthy, that homelessness became epidemic because of his policies, and that the Reagan years were a decade of greed and neglect.

National Review Online now features the contents of its 1992 special issue, "The Real Reagan Record", which answers those charges. The articles are chock-full of numbers, graphs, and analysis from economists. Well worth revisiting.

Maybe I should have titled this "a cult gathering to worship the career of 6-6-6", which was the heading to one of two negative replies I received to my notice of the gathering at Paddy's to toast the life and work of Ronald Reagan. We partook of the cultic food (jelly beans), and passed around graven images of our departed leader. The big tables in the back of Paddy's would have been large enough for sacrificing a liberal in memory of Ronaldus Magnus, but it would have been out of keeping with the spirit of the event.

About 30 folks showed up. I was sick abed most of the day but managed to recover sufficiently to attend, and anyway I figured Guinness and camraderie would complete the recovery.

A couple of people present actually met the president and more than just once. Architect Joe Coleman was a delegate to the 1976 and 1980 Republican national conventions, and he brought along some wonderful pictures -- one of him with President and Mrs. Reagan, and several from the time he escorted Nancy around Tulsa during a campaign visit.

Former County Clerk Joan Hastings brought some photos of her with President Reagan. She told about a fundraiser held at the Fairgrounds, where the organizers severely underestimated the number of tickets that would be sold. It was $100 a plate for a box of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Joan's solution was to send a runner out to McDonald's and come back with 100 Big Mac certificates, which Reagan signed. Naturally, people were happier to have Reagan's autograph than chicken, mashed potatoes and a spork to eat them with. One gentleman (Joan mentioned the name, but I can't remember who) went away emptyhanded, but later received a handwritten note: "Good for one Big Mac. Ronald Reagan."

Ron Barr called our attention to a remarkable aspect of Reagan's effort to defeat the Soviet Union -- hurting the USSR's source of hard currency by working with Saudi Arabia to drop the price of oil and sabotaging the Soviets' ability to deliver fossil fuels by selling them and allowing them to steal flawed technology. He mentioned two books by Peter Schweizer: Reagan's War: The Epic Story of His Forty Year Struggle and Final Triumph Over Communism and Victory: The Reagan Administration's Secret Strategy That Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union.

State Rep. Pam Peterson told us of a wonderful surprise she received earlier this year. An ORU student at the time, she was part of a crowd of students that met Ronald Reagan in 1976, when he came to Tulsa to campaign for Jim Inhofe. (Inhofe was running for Congress that year.) She had no idea that a picture existed of that moment when she was getting Reagan's autograph. But Tony Lauinger, head of Oklahomans for Life, was there too, that day in 1976, not far away, and someone had snapped a black-and-white photo of the scene, probably for the school newspaper or yearbook. Earlier this year Tony thought he recognized her in the photo and gave her a copy of it. Pam didn't have a copy with her Thursday night, but she's got a copy framed on the wall of her House office.

The rest of us present never had that brush with greatness, but all had been inspired by Reagan's courage to stand for the truth. In the mid '70s, conservatism was homeless in American politics. Conservatives felt their concerns were being ignored. No one was calling for the rollback of communism, and even containment was a thing of the past; instead the USSR's expansionism was a fact of life we'd just have to accommodate. No one was calling for shrinking the federal government or reducing the tax burden, and no leader expressed a realistic hope for ending our economic doldrums. Both parties supported abortion, and driving religion out of the public square, and the decline of the traditional family was seen as unavoidable. Neither of the national parties held out hope for significant improvement.

That's why Ronald Reagan was such a breath of fresh air. For a younger generation, it was the radio commentaries that first brought Ronald Reagan to our attention. Someone was affirming our understanding of the world, validating our hopes, and assuring us that our hopes weren't impossible. That someone was capable of carrying those hopes to the White House and leading us in making them a reality. That revival of hope was even more profound for those behind the Iron Curtain, when Reagan's clear rhetoric cut through the usual diplomatic blarney. I'll close with this tribute from Natan Sharansky in the Jerusalem Post:

In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an "evil empire." Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan's "provocation" quickly spread throughout the prison. We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.

At the time, I never imagined that three years later, I would be in the White House telling this story to the president. When he summoned some of his staff to hear what I had said, I understood that there had been much criticism of Reagan's decision to cast the struggle between the superpowers as a battle between good and evil. Well, Reagan was right and his critics were wrong.


Moral compass

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In response to the previous entry, Steve Carr sent in this eloquent tribute:

Ronald W. Reagan was indeed a good man and a heroic figure in times when the United States of America had begun to question where it was going - he was truly a moral compass for us and the world in the manner in which he led, and more importantly, in the manner in which he lived. He treated everyone as if they were his best next door neighbor. We in Tulsa would do well to live that and treat all Tulsans as our neighbor and to continue building our shining city.

This excerpt from negotiations at the 1986 Reagan-Gorbachev summit is on CNN's website for its "Cold War" miniseries. I got a smile out of it.

Secretary General Gorbachev: We are for parity in general. In the information field, for example, or in film. Almost half of the movies showing in our theaters are American. Soviet movies are hardly ever shown in the United States. That is not parity.

President Reagan: We do not have any ban on your movies. The film industry is a free business, and if someone wants to show your films he can do it.

Secretary General Gorbachev: I see that the President avoids this question and goes into talk about business.

President Reagan: Our government cannot control the film market. If you want to inundate us with your movies go right ahead. How our movies get to your country, I do not know.

Secretary General Gorbachev: It is an interesting situation, simply a paradox. In your country, the most democratic country, obstacles arise to showing our movies, while in our country, a totalitarian country, almost half the movies being shown are American. How can you reconcile this, that the Soviet Union is an undemocratic country but your films are being shown?

President Reagan: There is a difference between free enterprise and government ownership. You have no free enterprise, everything belongs to the government and the government puts everything on the market. In the United States we have private industry, and other countries have the right to sell their goods, movies and so on. You have the right to set up a rental organization in our country to distribute your movies, or to lease some theater. But we cannot order it.

Three giants

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Recently, John Derbyshire called us to look back 25 years, to 1979. He recounted the seismic shifts of that year, including John Paul II's visit to Poland, Margaret Thatcher's election as Prime Minister of Britain, and Reagan's announcement in November that he would seek the presidency.

The miserable shuffling retreat had been stopped. Western civilization had turned to face its enemies, both those inside the walls and those without. The war that then commenced is not yet over. Perhaps it never will be; but it was in 1979 that we got our nerve back, picked up our discarded weapons again, and resolved to fight. This was the year it all changed, the year the ice cracked.

How amazing that God would bring those three leaders to power in three successive years. All three of them survived (were preserved through) assassination attempts. All three of them were ridiculed as throwbacks, out of step with modern realities. Each of them worked to push back the forces of totalitarianism threatening the West from without and the forces of despair, relativism, and moral collapse that were eroding the vitality of Western culture from within.

Now one of these three giants has laid down his earthly burdens and entered in the glorious presence of his Lord. The other two are no doubt soon to follow, frail and afflicted as they are. It's a good time, 25 years after that momentous year, to reflect on how different the world is today because of their strength and determination.

It must have been on the minds of a lot of folks this Sunday morning. It was certainly on my mind. There are so many reasons to be thankful to God for the life and work of Ronald Reagan. Here's one that came to mind Saturday night, and filling in as worship leader this morning, I wanted to share it with the congregation, but in a way that didn't detract from the purpose of our gathering together, which is to glorify and worship God, not to glorify man.

During announcements at the beginning of the service, I called attention to the list on the back of the bulletin of the missionaries our church supports. Notice how many times you see Ukraine in the list. Twenty years ago, the idea of Christian missionaries openly preaching the gospel and planting churches in any part of the USSR would have been unthinkable. But, in His providence, God raised up a leader who called evil by its real name and worked to defeat it. And because of that, hundreds of millions of people are free to hear and respond to the good news of Jesus Christ. God willing that will happen again, and the door will open for a billion more souls. We ought to give thanks to God for bringing this to pass.

I didn't mention his name; for those who were old enough to remember, I didn't need to.

Ronald Reagan, RIP

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President Ronald Reagan, the man of faith who led this country out of malaise and into prosperity and secured victory in the Cold War, passed away a couple of hours ago at his home in California, surrounded by his family.

Tributes are pouring in all over the web. Visit National Review's The Corner, Kevin McCullough's blog, the Town Hall C-Log, and the Heritage Foundation's tribute site for remembrances. I'll have more later.

What's up with Chalabi?

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You may have been puzzled as I was about the raid on the home of Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, on friendly terms with the US, and once seen as a prime candidate to lead the new Iraq. Chalabi has been accused of involvement with Iranian intelligence, and his apparent fall from grace is being applauded loudly by anti-war voices on both the left and the right. These same voices are claiming that the Bush administration and the "neocons" in the Defense Department (that's code -- what they seem to mean but won't say out loud is "the Jews who are subverting American interests for Israel's interests") were duped by Chalabi, who used bad intelligence to persuade America to go to war with Saddam, to the ultimate benefit of the regime in Iran.

On closer examination, these events in Iraq, and the corresponding debates among American talking heads, appear to be mere proxies for power struggles back in Washington. William Safire wrote last week:

The three factions controlling Iraq - long suspicious of one another - are now on the brink of open tribal warfare. Not Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds - I mean the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA.

Reporter Joel Mowbray, who has kept a close eye on the State Department's game of footsie with uncooperative Arab regimes, writes that the State Department's careerists opposed the war and want to see the President fall from power -- discrediting Chalabi helps the overall goal of discrediting the war. Meanwhile, the CIA was embarassed by Chalabi a few years back.

Chalabi, you see, has been hated by State and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), for different reasons, for years.

States diplomats have long resented the Iraqis promotion of a war against Saddam that none of them wanted. And Chalabis push for a strong, secular democracy in the heart of the Arab world would threaten the most cherished of all State Department objectives: stability.

Although the CIA largely shares States worldview, its contempt for Chalabi is personal. In the mid-1990s, the CIA organized a ham-handed coup attempt against Saddam. Chalabi warned them it wouldnt work. He was rightand said so publicly. The CIA fumed. Bad blood has existed ever since.

In striking Chalabi, State and CIA are not simply attacking him, but his allies inside the administration, the decision to go to war in the first place, and most significantly, President Bush himself.

And thats not unintentional.

Mowbray goes on to illustrate how career bureaucrats at State are working to undermine the President's foreign policy objectives:

When international watchdog groups say our troops are "degrading" or "humiliating" prisoners in Iraq, it's natural to assume they are referring to behavior like that uncovered at Abu Ghraib prison. But is that assumption correct?

Samizdata features an enlightening letter from Gabriel Syme, writing from Basra, Iraq, about Amnesty International and the International Committee of the Red Cross, in their function as watchdogs over the treatment of prisoners.

He praises the concept of independent civilian organizations keeping an eye on the military as a brake on social pressures within the military, pressures that unchecked could lead to abuses. These private organizations serve as a backup in the event that the military's internal checks fail. He suggests that this is an example of the robustness of the Anglosphere's institutions. "In this context, one could think of Amnesty International checks as a sort of moral separation of powers."

But he goes on to say that AI and the ICRC have "completely lost perspective" in their reporting on prison abuses, which will ultimately undermine their moral authority and thus their effectiveness in performing their vital role. Syme cites this example:

As an anecdotal example that [I] know of from a man working on the reports AI compile on us: They complained that Iraqis in Umm Qasr (British/US administered detention facility in the South) where being degraded because their food was handed out in plastic bags rather than delivered on some kind of trolley or plate. The Iraqis were not bothered, the food was perfectly good, but this was thought to be "degrading". This is an important point - when one of these reports comes out and accuses anyone of "degrading" or "humiliating" behaviour, etc, it is essential to dig deeper and see exactly what they mean.

Syme goes on to analyze how this loss of perspective has come about. The groups seem to apply skepticism only to statements by military personnel, not to claims from Iraqis, even though there are powerful incentives (including financial) and no penalties for claiming to be a victim of abuse.

Go read it all, and browse through the latest offerings on Samizdata.

Saddam's head on a platter

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Possibly the best use of Photoshop to commemorate the capture of Saddam:

It makes a nice bookend to this photo from 1975, when Chirac took Saddam on a tour of a French nuclear reactor:

saddam-and-chirac-75.jpg

Nice eye contact. You can almost hear "Some Enchanted Evening" playing in the background.

The authoritative source for news about the war on terror is the oddly-named Little Green Footballs blog. Scrolling back a few days you'll find excerpts from and links to dozens of news stories and columns about Saddam's capture, as well as Israel's ongoing fight against Palestinian terrorism. Recent entries will point you to Iraqi and Iranian weblogs. I won't attempt to reproduce what LGF proprietor Charles Johnson has accomplished. I'll just encourage you to surf his way on a regular basis. And if you appreciate the service he provides, you can hit his Amazon and PayPal tip jars -- donations allow him to spend less time on web design (his real job), and more time providing his comprehensive news service.

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Our man in Cairo

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Meryl Yourish links to no-holds-barred interview with U. S. Ambassador to Egypt David Welch by a panel of Egyptian journalists. Welch not only defended U.S. policy in the region but politely challenged the assertions of the Egyptians. At one point in the interview, a journalist brings up the "humiliating" video of Saddam Hussein getting a dental exam:

[Welch:] With respect to the display of Saddam Hussein, can I be honest with you here? I am stunned that you would say this. I did not see any problem with his treatment whatsoever. What is wrong with a medical examination?

Shukrallah: But why the medical examination on TV?

Welch: Give me a break, folks -- this guy is an unbelievable war criminal. He did not deserve dignified treatment; he did not give any of his victims dignified treatment.

Shukrallah: Torture torturers and assassinate assassins...

Welch: He was not tortured. He is receiving medical examinations. Look at the facts. That was a DNA test. Had he not been put on TV, it would have been said that we did not have him... There was a prominent Al-Jazeera journalist who was on TV yesterday saying it was not Saddam Hussein.

Shukrallah: Still, this does not prove anything. The object seemed to be to just humiliate him.

Welch: He is now a prisoner and he will be dealt with as a prisoner.

Khalil: Then why were the Americans up in arms when the Iraqis showed US POWs on TV? You said POWs should not be treated this way. Why are you doing that now -- isn't he a POW?

Welch: Yes, there is a difference. Look at Saddam Hussein. I cannot believe you guys are defending this guy.

Shukrallah: We don't accept it, and if you've been reading the Weekly carefully, you'd have found out that we never found it justifiable that someone who is arrested for the most heinous terrorist acts in this country should be mistreated or tortured. And if you've read the Weekly you would have seen how much the Weekly has exposed and given coverage to a whole range of mistreatment and abuse.

Human rights conventions are very clear on this. The criminality of a criminal does not justify his abuse and mistreatment by a state, or this would mean that we would say goodbye to all human rights and all due process of law. Americans should hear themselves talking -- you are flaunting the very principles on which the American Revolution was based.

Welch: There is a basic difference in the facts. Implicitly, your position is that we are abusing this person, and I say we are not. So we have a difference of views. You interpret videoing while he's getting his teeth checked as abuse, and I don't.

Nyier Abdou: Whether or not you want to call it abuse, there certainly is a distinction between showing somebody in this manner and showing them in a more dignified way. I think what makes people angry is that the US fails to see how this kind of imagery will inflame people, and that they do it anyway, and that's what really makes people angry. It is a misunderstanding of what is going to convince people.

Welch: I think your moral compass has gone crazy. I think you should be looking at the Iraqi people and their reaction to this. Your reaction puzzles me to be honest. Can we move on because this is boring...

There are several more exchanges just as lively. It's good to know that the US is represented by someone who isn't inclined to diplomatic weasel words.

Web world roundup

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The CounterRevolutionary features New York Times articles saying that America is losing the peace, occupation is failing, and the enemy didn't have the weapons we thought they did. Of course, these articles are from 1945 and they're about Germany. Interesting reading -- start here and keep scrolling down. (Hat tip: Clayton Cramer.)

Little Green Footballs linked this story of Palestinian family life a few days ago:

Rofayda Qaoud - raped by her brothers and impregnated - refused to commit suicide, her mother recalls, even after she bought the unwed teenager a razor with which to slit her wrists. So Amira Abu Hanhan Qaoud says she did what she believes any good Palestinian parent would: restored her family's "honor" through murder. ...

Killing her sixth-born child took 20 minutes, Qaoud tells a visitor through a stream of tears and cigarettes that she smokes in rapid succession. "She killed me before I killed her," says the 43-year-old mother of nine. "I had to protect my children. This is the only way I could protect my family's honor."

And in India, the Scotsman reports that affluent urban families are adopting what was once mainly a practice among poor rural families: female feticide and infanticide.

A new report published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has revealed that the practice of female foeticide, in which an unborn baby is aborted or killed at birth simply because it is not a boy, is now spreading from India's poor and rural classes to affluent urban families.

The report said that far from helping women win equality, increased affluence had brought little change, and that sex discrimination had in fact spread through all levels of Indian society. And it is estimated there are between three and five million girl babies, born or unborn, "disappearing" each year.

India has a shocking history of child-killing due to gender, but the tradition has largely been among the uneducated and rural classes. However, the new figures reveal that the sharpest fall in the number of female babies being born is now in Delhi. ...

The methods used in the past to get rid of unborn or newborn girls have been varied and shocking. Opium has been used as well as over-salted milk, which causes a slow and painful death in a baby. Midwives have also been known to hit newborn girls over the head or throttle them.

Anyone care to argue that all cultures are morally equivalent?


Yes, you read that right. The grandson of Ayatollah Khomenei, himself a Shiite Muslim cleric now living in Baghdad, is hoping for American initiative in the overthrow of the Islamic theocracy established by his grandfather. Christopher Hitchens interviewed Hossein Khomenei for Slate:

In any event, added Khomeini, there was an important distinction between what the Quran said and what an ayatollah as head of state might say. "We cannot nowadays have executions in this form." Indeed, he added, it was the policy of executions that had turned the Islamic revolution in Iran sour in the first place. "Now we have had 25 years of a failed Islamic revolution in Iran, and the people do not want an Islamic regime anymore."

It's not strictly necessary to speak to Hossein Khomeini to appreciate the latter point: Every visitor to Iran confirms it, and a large majority of the Iranians themselves have voted for anti-theocratic candidates. The entrenched and reactionary regime can negate these results up to a certain point; the only question is how long can they do so? Young Khomeini is convinced that the coming upheaval will depend principally on those who once supported his grandfather and have now become disillusioned. I asked him what he would like to see happen, and his reply this time was very terse and did not require any Quranic scriptural authority or explication. The best outcome, he thought, would be a very swift and immediate American invasion of Iran.

Hat tip to Clayton Cramer for the link.

Front Line Voices from Iraq and Afghanistan

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Periodically I check out a global news weblog called Winds of Change, which features a twice-weekly roundup of news from Iraq. The latest roundup included a link to an item about the challenges posed by Iraq's tribal social structure, which is reinforced by the practice of cousin marriage.

There was also an item about a new weblog. Blogger Frank Fleming, voicing the widespread frustration in the Blogosphere with the Western media tendency to trumpet bad news from Iraq and Afghanistan, has launched a new website called Front Line Voices. Here's what it's all about:

Since, as the saying goes, perception is nine-tenths of reality, those who control what we learn about the war in Iraq and other conflicts have an immense power. They can spin a victory into a failure, and a perceived failure in the fight against tyranny can only strengthen the resolve of tyrants.

It has increasingly been the complaint of many troops that the picture that the media is painting of the progress in the War on Terror is far from reality. The mission of this site is to get out the full story by posting first-hand accounts as written by men and women who have actually been to Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no editing or commentary by those who run this site, and we will print any letter or story submitted by a legitimate source who has served overseas. Our only goal is to offer you the opportunity to read these stories and to find out what the reality is.

They have already gathered a number of stories from months past that have been published on various weblogs, including many letters written in response to care packages from the US. Here's an excerpt from a letter written by a Navy corpsman to his mom, who had written asking if he would mind if she joined an anti-war demonstration in Hollywood:

Dear Mom:

It's really your decision to march if you want to or not. You are the one who has to decide if what we are doing out here is right or not. My opinion is not yours. I do, however, have things I would like for you and Grandma and everyone else at home to know. ...

We live in a country where people feel secure with their daily lives. They do business like usual and don't worry about the thought of terrorism actually happening to them.

The people of 9-11 thought the same thing. We now know that it can happen to anyone at any time.

Yet as Americans we're afraid of losing our soldiers to defend our security. I can only speak for myself when I say that my life is an easy expense to ensure that my family and friends can live in peace. I strongly believe in what we are doing and wish you were here to see for yourselves the honor and privilege that American soldiers aboard this ship are feeling, knowing that we are going to be a part of something so strong and so meaningful to the safety of our loved ones. Then you would know what this potential war is about. We will stand tall in front of terrorism and defeat it. We as soldiers are not afraid of what may happen. We are only afraid of Americans not being able to understand why we are here.

This site will be worth our attention.

Nej-sayers triumph

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It's a familiar story: The newspapers nag relentlessly, the politicians and the political parties trumpet their support. Everyone is voting yes. It's all about jobs. Only kneejerk naysayers would be so selfish, so unpatriotic as to oppose this progressive measure.

No, not Tulsa. Sweden. And today the Swedish people voted overwhelmingly against joining the European Monetary Union, which would have meant discarding their own currency and control over their own monetary and economic policy and adopting the Euro. The Euro has now been rejected by voters in the two countries (Denmark and Sweden) that allowed their voters to make the decision. In both cases, well financed "vote yes" campaigns, with the support of the establishment, the major media, major political parties and big business, were defeated by grass-roots opposition campaigns which cut across ideological lines. But the pro-Euro forces in Denmark are already plotting a second attempt, and will no doubt keep trying until they wear down the populace and get it passed.

In Sweden, the opposition withstood a wave of sympathy following the death of Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, who was stabbed in the chest in a Stockholm department store last Wednesday. Lindh was a leading spokesman in favor of adopting the Euro.

Before the vote, left-wing British newspaper the Grauniad had this to say about the two sides:

The yes camp has most of the money. In the seat pockets on trains, there is a free glossy magazine, designed to look like "OK!" or "Hello!". It is called "Yes!" At yes rallies, young women wearing Yes! anoraks and carrying Yes! satchels hand out free sandwiches and bottled water to voters. Business leaders stand four square behind [Prime Minister Goran] Persson. Unlike Britain, almost all the other mainstream political parties are backing the yes campaign. Unlike [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair, Persson has not had a pack of viscerally anti-EU newspaper proprietors, editors and columnists snapping at his heels. There's no Daily Mail in Sweden.

There has been a problem. While the ruling business, media and political elite has been marching towards the single currency, the majority of the voters, and many of the members of the pro-euro parties, have been marching in the opposite direction. The social democrats have been split; Persson's party has a No! campaign as well as Yes! campaign, and in an act of some humiliation for the leader, the party treasury was forced to allocate funds to both sides. Five of Persson's own cabinet ministers have publicly said they are against Sweden joining the euro, although they have agreed not to take part in the no campaign.

The other parties are split as well. And what should make Britain's political establishment sit up and take notice is that opponents are not divided, and allies not united, along traditional, right-left lines. Something remarkable emerged in Sweden's euro debate, the crystallisation of a new set of political dividing lines, in which right-wing and left-wing activists find themselves in alliance against powerful, cross-border, private-public bureaucracies. On one side, the small, the local, the personal, the individual, the accessible, the familiar, the inherited; on the other, the big, the transnational, the impersonal, the mass, the remote, the alien, the acquired.

Drawing the comparison to Tulsa's recent vote: Some high-ranking politicians in Sweden's ruling party were willing to oppose their own prime minister for the sake of principle. Here in Tulsa, the only open opposition from elected officials came from one State Senator and one Glenpool City Councilor. A lot of high-ranking elected officials from our "ruling party" privately opposed the tax measure, but either out of fear of political reprisal or out of a desire not to undermine Mayor LaFortune, they remained silent.

As in Sweden, this campaign polarized Tulsa's politics in a way that brought left and right together on both sides of the issue, with the more activist-minded in both parties fighting against country-club Republicans and country-club Democrats.

What would Whirled editorial page editor Ken Neal's counterpart in Sweden have to say about all this? Thanks to the Babelfish Swedish Chef translator, we don't have to guess:

Emeed zee smesheeng veen ooff Feesiun 2025 lest veek, zeere-a vere-a sume-a deeseppuintments.

Zee fuoor meesoores iech vere-a epprufed by et leest 60 percent ooff neerly 129,000 futers. Boot ceefic leeders hed tu puny up mure-a thun $700,000 tu prumute-a zee prugrem und persooede-a futers tu epprufe-a a 1 percent increese-a in zee cuoonty seles tex.

Thet sooggests thet mooch muney oor mure-a veell be-a needed uny teeme-a zee ceety oor cuoonty needs ceefic imprufements. It tekes thet mooch tu oofercume-a ebuoot 50,000 ceetizens vhu veell fute-a egeeenst elmust unytheeng. Bork Bork Bork!

Bork bork bork, indeed. That makes more sense than it did in the original.

This morning at 8:46 am local time, Trinity Episcopal Church will host a choral concert to remember the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Coventry Chorale and singers from other Tulsa choirs will present Gabriel Faure's Requiem. Admission is free.

It's the weekend, and Andrew Stuttaford is doing his usual fine job of keeping NRO's The Corner group-blog full of interesting material while all the Yanks take the weekend off.

He links to "Footnotes to History", which features the stories of short-lived and little known nations. Some are exotic:

Redonda- The island of Redonda is currently within the nation of Antigua, but it was briefly an independent kingdom. In 1865, Matthew Dowdy Shiell, who resided on the nearby island of Montserrat, proclaimed himself King of Redonda, as no nation had bothered to extend a claim yet. Four years later, the British Empire annexed Redonda, but allowed Shiell to retain the title of King. The kingship was passed on to his son, and from there things get fuzzy. There are currently several claimants to the throne, who maintain a barrage of mutual invective.

Some are right here in the USA:

North Dakota- In 1933, William "Fighting Bill" Langer took office as Governor of North Dakota. Although he was hugely popular, he soon exhausted his support when he demanded that state employees contribute to the state Republican party. As some of these salaries were paid with federal money, he was convicted of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government in June of 1934. Langer refused to accept the verdict or to resign from office. Ole Olsen, the lieutenant governor, asked the state's Supreme Court to order Langer to resign. On July 17, 1934, the Supreme Court of North Dakota declared Olsen the legitimate governor. Langer's reaction was not what the Supreme Court expected- before the Court's order was filed on the 18th, Langer met with ten of his friends and declared North Dakota's independence. He then barricaded the governor's mansion and declared martial law. Not until the Supreme Court met personally with Langer did he relent, revoking his declaration and bringing North Dakota back into the Union.

Incredibly, Langer was later re-elected. From all accounts, he served out his second term in a much quieter fashion.

There is a nice collection of links to related sites, including official sites of some of these micronations.

Tulsa has a connection to one such ephemeral nation. David Arnett of Tulsa Today recites the story of New Utopia and its founders. Nearly five years after that story was written, New Utopia's web site is still up and running.

Which presidential administration first raised the alarm that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and posed a threat to America? The Clinton Administration. Rich Lowry has them warning of the danger in their own words. (Thanks again to Dave Russ for the link.)

Abraham the missionary

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In NRO today, David Klinghoffer (who is Jewish) argues that there shouldn't be objections to Christians communicating the Gospel as they bring supplies and help to the Iraqi people. After all, Abraham, revered by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, was a missionary for monotheism, and used hospitality to create opportunities for his message:

Abraham was pretty aggressive. In another cryptic verse in Genesis, he's said to have planted an "eshel" in Beersheba (21:33). If that is just a kind of tree, as many translators say, who cares that he planted one? According to the Talmud, this eshel refers to an inn Abraham established in the wilderness, a hospice where he taught wayfarers to acknowledge God. The patriarch would give them food, then ask them to say grace.

Sound familiar? As Christian missionaries understand, food creates fellowship. We eat with our friends. And it is friendship that, more than food itself, leads to conversions.

How could any religious believer, who thinks his faith has the answers to ultimate questions, not share those answers with others? The patriarch operated in a free market of ideas, where he was able to share his conception of the One God. Part of his legacy is missionary work. Another part is the liberty to make friends by offering food, and then to tell them about your God.

Time to drain Foggy Bottom

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Not a day goes by without a report that employees of our State Department (motto: "To protect and to serve... Saudi interests") is in some way undermining the policies of their nominal boss, President Bush.

Donna M. Hughes, Women's Studies Professor at the University of Rhode Island, reports on NRO that the State Department seems to be touting legalized prostitution to foreign countries as a solution to the problem of global sex trafficking:

Last week, the State Department took a Southeast Asian delegation for a tour of a brothel in Nevada. As a part of the International Visitor's Program, nine people from the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia visited the Moonlite Bunny Ranch and heard lectures on legal prostitution....

Taking foreign visitors to brothels in Nevada seems to be an ongoing practice of the State Department. In August 1999, I gave a presentation on trafficking of women and children for prostitution to a group of U.S. Information Agency visitors from East Asia. They told me they too had visited a brothel in Nevada as part of their tour....

The purpose of these particular State Department visitors' tours is to teach the participants about human trafficking and how the U.S. is combating the problem. One might conclude from the program of a visiting brothel and a pro-prostitution organization that the State Department is telling international visitors that legalization of prostitution is a solution to trafficking.

Meanwhile, the Washington Times reports on morale over at State Department HQ:

Walk the halls of the State Department's main offices in Washington these days, and you'll encounter an abundance of political cartoons something you could not have found even three years ago. It's not that the diplomats at Foggy Bottom have suddenly developed a sense of humor, but rather a newfound contempt for the leader of the free world. The cartoons overwhelmingly lampoon President Bush as a simpleton who doesn't understand the "complexities" of the foreign policy.

Foreign Service sneering at a president is nothing new, of course, but such open disrespect for a commander-in-chief hasn't existed since Foggy Bottom's diplomats decried Ronald Reagan's description of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire." But at least then-Secretary of State George Schultz was able to keep something of a handle on his lieutenants and foot soldiers. Colin Powell has not.

Consider an example with deep policy ramifications. On March 31, representatives of the North Korean government told State Department officials, for the first time, that they were reprocessing plutonium, a key step in developing nuclear weapons. The Pentagon and the White House did not learn of this stunning announcement until Pyongyang told them during previously scheduled talks with North Korea in China on April 18. The State Department intentionally withheld this vital piece of information, fearing that, if the White House knew, officials there might call off the meeting. The White House was reportedly furious about this deception, but it has done nothing concrete to make sure it doesn't happen again.

And if you want more reason to get mad, read through NRO's archive of reporting by Joel Mowbray, who has relentlessly covered the State Department's policy of expediting visas for Saudi nationals, obstructing efforts to release abducted American children being held in Saudi Arabia, and undermining our relationship with Turkey.

Does the State Department exist to represent U. S. interests abroad, or to influence U. S. policy for the benefit of foreign countries? Is there corruption -- bribery -- behind this behavior? Or is it that people attracted to the Foreign Service are more likely to be enamored of foreign countries and disdainful of America? Does the glamour of jetting around the world and attending peace conferences in fancy hotels lead to a preference for "peace process" over real peace (which usually only results from the measured application of military force)?

Perhaps we ought to fire the whole lot and start from scratch. A government agency charged with representing our interests around the world ought to by manned by people who identify with those interests. Yes, Foreign Service employees should have an appreciation for foreign cultures, but they ought to passionately love our culture, our way of life, and our traditions of liberty and rule of law, and seek to defend them against all threats.

If someone views himself more as a "citizen of the World" then as an American, let him go join the French Foreign Legion. He doesn't belong in the U. S. Foreign Service.

A hat tip to Little Green Footballs for the link to the Washington Times op-ed. LGF is another source for a long litany of State Department outrages.

There's more to the story of Abigail Litle. About a month after her murder by a terrorist, her father Phil, a friend of mine from college, collected his thoughts and remembrances of his daughter, of learning of her murder, mourning her death, and celebrating her victory over death through her faith in Christ. With Phil's approval and encouragement, I want to make her story known as widely as possible. The full text is below. (You can also download the original PDF from Phil. It's a large file, 961 KB, which included some color photos, but the text is identical to what you see here.)

Here's a quote from Phil's introductory letter, which is an apt summary of the article.

The measure of our love for Abigail can be found in the depth of our pain. How it hurts that we can no longer hold her, that our partnership in the dreams she dreamt is broken and that our dreams which included her being here on earth with us are over. But we are finding comfort and strength in the Lord through the prayers of the multitudes who are interceding for us -- many who we have never met. We are thankful that we can know that we will hold her once again as we share together in our Heavenly Father's Kingdom.

We have tried to record some of the events and our experiences beginning with the moments we first heard of the bus bombing in Haifa. Our desire is that the Lord would enourage your hearts and strengthen you as you pray for us in the weeks and months ahead.

More victims of hate

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Charles Johnson is reporting that there has been another terror attack in Jerusalem, in addition to a bus bombing earlier today. There is no negotiating with these people, and it is time the US stopped pushing Israel into committing national suicide.

If you care about the Middle East and want the unvarnished truth about our "partners in peace", you should visit Charles Johnson's website, Little Green Footballs, every day.

What follows is an article I wrote back in March. The article was written two weeks after the daughter of some dear friends of mine was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist on a bus in Haifa, Israel on March 5, 2003. I am re-publishing it here for the convenience of the readers of this weblog, who may not have had the chance to read it before. I also wanted to make a couple of corrections to reflect some better information that I received subsequent to its original publication. Here's a quote from the article; follow the link at the end of this entry to read the whole thing:

Two American young women died violent deaths in Israel in recent weeks. Much has been written about Rachel Corrie, the 23 year old radical, killed accidently when she chose to throw herself in front of a bulldozer as she tried to protect tunnels used by Palestinian terrorists. For some reason, the media hasn't given as much attention to the other victim, a teenage girl riding a bus. Let me tell you about her.

Wednesday, March 5, 2003, Abigail Litle, a 14-year-old American living in Haifa, a Christian attending a predominantly Jewish school, was going about her routine. She was taking the bus from her high school to a tutoring appointment for help with her dyslexia. Riding with her was a schoolmate, Juval Mendelevich. Juval was on his cell phone, telling his dad how his day had been. It was their last conversation.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Global News category.

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