Friday, December 28, 2007

Commentary: Failing nuclear power

Few if any in the world write with such authority grounded in deep background, in the classical form and rigors of true political analysis and commentary, as Arnaud De Borchgrave, UPI editor at large.

This article is vital for students of the region, and for knowledge of the current and emerging challenges in Pakistan

These clips are cited only to hint at the article content. Please click through to read this extensive piece in its entirety.

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Emerging Threats - Analysis

UPI Editor at Large
WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 (UPI) --
Pakistan is one of the world's eight nuclear powers and the first one to be categorized as a failing state. Not failed yet, but on its way, and the world's major powers are powerless to correct the downward spiral.
There is little doubt al-Qaida and the Taliban ordered Bhutto's assassination.
They saw her and her plans as the biggest threat to their privileged sanctuaries in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas that straddle the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Over the past year Taliban guerrillas in three of the seven FATAs -- North and South Waziristan and Bajaur -- fought the Pakistani army to a standstill.
Bhutto also talked to me, not for publication, about the Taliban in Afghanistan, which she considered a no-win situation for U.S. and NATO allies unless the Taliban and al-Qaida could be eliminated in the FATA tribal agencies.

The Time to Act is Now

Here is a courageous call for a unified front to oppose violence. This is no small armchair call from a distance. Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad, professor of Political Science at Hampton University, Hampton, VA, writes from directly on the scene. The following is written while IN Ilsamabad for the national newspaper in Pakistan:

The Time to Act is Now

Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad*

Benazir Bhutto challenged the extremists and terrorists among us and paid for it with her life. The question is: Is there anyone else among the Pakistani politicians who can stand up to them and make the fight against extremist elements as a top priority?

True, Benazir acted a little imprudently by endorsing the military action against the Ghazi brothers of Lal Masjid in July this year. But, in principle, her stand on the rising tide of extremist violence was courageous, whatever the motives.

We may differ on the genesis of terrorism and political violence that has gripped the nation in recent years. We may also have different views on how to deal with this menace. But the time is now for all political parties, and especially for religious political parties and the ulama, to come out publicly, and forcefully, to condemn this senseless violence and send a clear message to the militants that the nation is united against them.

Terrorists and militants have thrived on a tacit understanding that they enjoy a degree of support among the people for their violent actions both as a result of the prevalent anti-Americanism and anti-Musharraf sentiments.

The time has come to tell them that the popular resentment against the US-led global war on terrorism and the policies of the present government will not gain any sympathy for their gruesome murders, suicide attacks on security forces and innocent civilians, and intimidation of people in the name of Shariah.

Those of us who do not endorse the current strategy pursued by the US and the Pakistan authorities to fight against militancy may continue to voice our disagreement with such strategies that have not produced any positive results so far. But no one should give the militants the satisfaction that by opposing the policies of the US and President Musharraf people also support their murderous agenda.

When the bomb blasts by some religious fanatics ripped Bangladesh in 63 out of its 64 districts on the same day in August 2005, the entire nation was united in condemning these horrible acts of violence. More importantly, the first to come forward were the Bangladeshi ulama of all schools of thought – since the violence was committed in the name of jihad and Islam – and condemned all kinds of political violence and suicide attacks as un-Islamic. In May this year, more than 250 Bangladeshi Deobandi ulama gathered in one of the largest madrassa in Northern Bangladesh and passed a unanimous resolution condemning suicide bombing as un-Islamic, howsoever just the cause may be of the perpetrators.

The time is now for the religious parties and the ulama of Pakistan to similarly disassociate jihad and Islam from the suicide attacks and political violence and deprive the extremists of the Islamic legitimacy on which they seek to justify their heinous acts.

Egypt in the 1990s was similarly gripped with religiously-inspired violence. What really ended the reign of terror in Egypt were not the high-handed and equally violent tactics of President Hosni Mubarak but the popular disgust against, and abhorrence of, senseless violence, especially by the mainstream Islamic groups. Bereft of Islamic legitimacy and popular support, the militants withered away, left with no ideological locus standi and no place to hide.

The Islamic political parties and the ulama failed to take the lead to resolve the Lal Masjid crisis which subsequently led to a bloody showdown with numerous innocent lives lost. They watched the looming crisis sitting on the sidelines until the lines were drawn and it was too late to be effective. Some among them left for London during the most critical time in the negotiations between the Ghazi brothers and the government, from where they issued empty threats and shallow sermons.

But it is still not too late for them – and for other civil society groups – to prevent further bloodshed and anarchy in the country. Only they can delegitimize the socio-cultural and ideological infrastructure that the radical Islamic groups have been able to put together in recent years in the name of jihad and Islam.

The time is now to challenge the religio-ideological claims of extremists. The complacency of the mainstream Islamic groups for political expediency or any other reason will most likely lay the ideological foundations of a new generation of radicalized Muslims youth, threatening the already fragile edifice of the moderate center. Once the extremists have a monopoly on Islamic discourse, the mainstream Islamic groups are the ones that will become the obvious target of their righteous rage.

The time to act is now!

* Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad is a Professor of Political Science at Hampton University, Hampton, VA, USA

Bhutto Attack Probably a Taliban Plot, Ministry Says (Update1)

Bloomberg news has generated a fine piece of reportage through Khalid Qayum, and Khaleeq Ahmed, both in Islamabad . The article carries unadorned the formal statement of the Pakistani government, including its public defense of its efforts to secure Bhutto's campaign from threats and danger.

(After reading these clips, please be sure to click through to the entire article)

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Dec. 28 (Bloomberg) -- A Taliban commander linked to al-Qaeda is suspected of plotting the suicide attack that killed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's government said.

Authorities have a taped conversation of the Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, in which he congratulates a friend for Bhutto's death, Interior Ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema told reporters today. ``Very brave boys'' took part in the assault, Mehsud said, according to a government transcript of the tape.

``We pray and wish that she had not come out of that sunroof to wave to the people,'' Cheema said. ``Police had advised her not to expose herself, that she might be harmed.''

To contact the reporters on this story:

Khalid Qayum in Islamabad at

Khaleeq Ahmed in Islamabad at

Kamal Nawash "Who killed Benazir Bhutto?"

Kamal Nawash of Free Muslims Coalition is a devoted writer and opinion maker. Here are timely reflections on the impact of the Bhutto assassination, together with Kamal's opinion on immediate policy impications:

Who killed Benazir Bhutto?

While there is no conclusive answer to who killed former Pakistani prime minister Bhutto, so far the only claim of responsibility has come from an Al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, who posted the claim of responsibility on an Italian Web site. Al Qaeda posted the following message: "We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat the mujahideen. (holy warriors.)"

Bhutto was an outspoken critic of Al Qaeda and other extremist Islamist groups. Consequently, Al Qaeda and other Islamist groups hated her for her rhetoric, for supporting secularism and for being a woman.

While we can’t know for sure who killed Bhutto, on two occasions, Al Qaeda has also tried to kill Pakistani president Musharraf. This brings us to the state of emergency that was enacted by Musharraf in November to “defend Pakistan from extremists and terrorists.” At that time the United States and much of the world criticized Musharraf and pressured him to lift the state of emergency and to resign as army chief, a position he held alongside the position of president.

Currently, the only force that can keep Pakistan intact and safe from the terrorists is the Pakistani military. The Pakistani military and president Musharraf know better than any outsider what it takes to keep Pakistan from failing and falling in the hands of terrorists and extremists. It is a mistake for the United States or any other country to interfere in the internal affairs of Pakistan by pressuring the Pakistani government to take any action that Pakistan does not want to take. It should be left up to the Pakistani people to decide whether emergency rule stays or not, whether the president wears an army uniform or not and when and whether elections are held.

The wrong interference by the United States and the weakening of the Pakistani military’s control over Pakistan may produce a repeat of the disaster that brought clerical rule to Iran. In 1979, the Shah of Iran was deposed when the military refused to back him and the country fell in the hands of religious fundamentalist who continue to rule the country until today. This must not happen in Pakistan. The United States needs to be more emphatic to the particular circumstances of Pakistan and not to pressure Pakistan to do anything that is a threat to the stability and security of the country. If president Musharraf abuses his powers it is up to the majority of the Pakistani people to stop him and not foreign governments. The Pakistanis have a long democratic tradition and are capable of protecting their rights and institutions. An example is when Pakistani lawyers took to the streets to demonstrate against the weakening of the judiciary.

While democracy is a great ideal, Pakistan is currently facing turmoil and the Pakistanis need a strong president, a strong central government and a strong military to keep order. This remains the case despite allegations that the Pakistani military has been infiltrated by extremist elements. The United States should take no action to undermine the power of the central government, the military or president Musharraf, who has been a great ally in fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Currently, the Pakistani military has more than 100, 000 troops fighting extremists on the Pakistani/Afghanistan border at a miniscule cost to the United States.

Please respond to this article by posting your opinion on

Also, there is still time to make a tax deductible contribution on line at: or by mail at: 1050 17th St. NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20036.

The Media may contact Kamal Nawash at 202-776-7190 or 301-905-6438
Media relations:

For more information, visit:

Pakistan and Bhutto - Private correspondence

The moment I learned of the Bhutto assassination, I wrote to a close friend in India, highly placed, knowledgeable of reality behind the scenes. "What do I need to know?" I asked. I received a quick letter back, many hours before the WaPo article posted below.

My letter:

Dear ______

The Bhutto assassination is shocking!

Will its impact remain domestic for the most part? The region?

Any help for my understanding please

The response:

Dear Frank,

Indeed, it is a great shock, but well awaited given the scenario in Pakistan. The old saying is that you reap as you sow.

She could not get away from her past deeds of sheltering and encouraging the Taliban, the Kashmiri extremists and her latest compromise with the dictator Musharraf. They boomeranged on her.

However, it is unfortunate that she was removed from the scene when she was pretending to be a champion of democracy. In fact she always thought that the PPParty was her family business and never encouraged any inner party democracy.
That is why there is a vacuum of leadership for her party after her.

I think now USA and like should understand that unless they stop supporting the army dictators and start supporting democratic forces in Pakistan it would soon turn into another Iraq or Afghanistan in their worst form as it has the nukes and
other destructive weapons already.

It is of great concern for India as we get the brunt of it all.

U.S. Brokered Bhutto's Return to Pakistan

Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler of WaPo offer VERY important background for analyzing the impact of Bhutto's assassination.

(After reading clips, click through to the entire article)

White House Would Back Her as Prime Minister While Musharraf Held Presidency

For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to return to Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret diplomacy -- and came only when it became clear that the heir to Pakistan's most powerful political dynasty was the only one who could bail out Washington's key ally in the battle against terrorism.

Bhutto's assassination leaves Pakistan's future -- and Musharraf's -- in doubt, some experts said. "U.S. policy is in tatters. The administration was relying on Benazir Bhutto's participation in elections to legitimate Musharraf's continued power as president," said Barnett R. Rubin of New York University. "Now Musharraf is finished."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Reactions fo the assassination of Dr. Benazir Bhutto

We struggle today to arise from the shock and despair upon awakening to the horrifying news from Pakistan.

Media Channel dot org collects some quick voices from on the ground in the region, voices that help us begin to think, and help us to catch up where our knowledge falls short.

(sadly the blog seems to have attracted idiots in the comment section, which at the time of this posting at least, is best ignored)

Please read this statement from the Irish Supreme Muslim Council (<-- click)

Merry Christmas from the "This defies commentary" department

(Color highlighting mine)

Priests brawl at Bethlehem birthplace of Jesus

Seven people were injured on Thursday when Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests came to blows in a dispute over how to clean the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Following the Christmas celebrations, Greek Orthodox priests set up ladders to clean the walls and ceilings of their part of the church, which is built over the site where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born.

But the ladders encroached on space controlled by Armenian priests, according to photographers who said angry words ensued and blows quickly followed.

For a quarter of an hour bearded and robed priests laid into each other with fists, brooms and iron rods while the photographers who had come to take pictures of the annual cleaning ceremony recorded the whole event.

A dozen unarmed Palestinian policemen were sent to try to separate the priests, but two of them were also injured in the unholy melee.

"As usual the cleaning of the church afer Christmas is a cause of problems," Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh told AFP, adding that he has offered to help ease tensions.

"For the two years that I have been here everything went more or less calmly," he said. "It's all finished now."

The Church of the Nativity, like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City, is shared by various branches of Christianity, each of which controls and jealously guards a part of the holy site.

The Church of the Nativity is built on the site where Christians believe Jesus was born in a stable more than 2,000 years ago after Mary and Joseph were turned away by an inn.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Humanitarian crisis in Somalia

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AFGOYE, Somalia — A year after the U.S.-backed Ethiopian army toppled a hard-line Islamist regime in Somalia, the country has become Africa's worst humanitarian catastrophe.

Some 200,000 refugees, mostly women and children, have fled from a pro-government offensive to makeshift camps along a 10-mile stretch of sun-baked asphalt that leads from the seaside capital of Mogadishu toward the inland town of Afgoye.
Somalia refugee camp location

The United Nations Children's Fund said last week that one-quarter of the refugees around Afgoye were younger than 5. Both sides are using older boys as combatants, and girls who venture out of the camps risk being raped by freelance militias, the agency said.

"Things are now getting absolutely worse," said Christian Balslev-Olesen, the UNICEF representative for Somalia. "There is a dirtiness to this war. Children are a real target."

Terrible war brewing in the Congo

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SAKE, Congo — A major confrontation between the Congolese Army and a renegade general is plunging the country back toward war, threatening to undermine the fledgling democratic state and set off a new regional conflict on a scale not seen here in years.

The battle turns on many of the same issues that caused Congo’s civil war, which supposedly ended in 2003. It was Africa’s deadliest modern war, fueled by the ethnic tensions between Hutus and Tutsis,

Another factor was the quest to control Congo’s unusually rich endowment of minerals and farmland, especially here in North Kivu Province.

The violence is also unfolding despite years of military and diplomatic intervention by the United Nations, the European Union and the United States to stem the tide of blood

“The fundamental issues that led to the Congo war have never really been dealt with,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch. “We are seeing the results of that now.”

Holiday giving

We all feel the burden of conflict in the holidays in which we deplore the materialism and evacuation of deep meaning, yet we do want to show our love and appreciation in a special season of giving.

Here are some notes from a blog with a few good ideas on how to leave at peace with both impulses from our conscience. (There are more suggestions in the article itself)

Holiday Gifting: 14 Ways to Give More Meaning and Less Stuff

... so much meaningless stuff

It's bad for the environment, it's stressful to have extra clutter in the house, and it emphasizes material objects as the way to show people you care about them.
Here are a wide variety of different approaches:
Give to fewer people
In a family circle or a group of friends, you can pull names out of a hat so that everyone gets and gives one gift each, rather than shopping for everyone.
Give to a good cause
Give donations in others' names:
Give non-"stuff" gifts
Give experiences

From tickets to concerts, movies, and plays, to admission (one-time or yearlong) to museums, national parks, and theme parks, to spa visits
Give favors:
From babysitting to cooking to back massages to crafting lessons, offering your skills and assistance
Give food and drink items:
eventually they're used up, leaving less clutter and less waste.
Give better stuff
Give fair trade, organic, recycled, sweatshop-free, green, non-corporate, etc

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Getting old

In case you are wondering what has happened to the world since you shaved off that shock of hair and got your first job, how about the Wall Street Journal being the place to get the play list for Led Zeppelin's London show?

Enjoy the article, I have to run get my copy of Mother Jones to check on how my hedges and derivatives are doing today.

For more implications on the WSJ/Led Zeppelin fusion, here's today's quiz: Which US presidential candidate worked for Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein. the law firm that represented Huey Long and the Black Panthers? * see clue below

clipped from
The Wall Street Journal Home Page

Led Zeppelin's Rocking Return

Filling his father's shoes is asking a lot of Jason Bonham. Not only was John Bonham an inventive and powerful drummer, but his interplay with Mr. Page's guitar lines is as responsible for the band's singularity as its musical wanderlust and Mr. Plant's bluesy, helium-like vocals.

They played old Led Zeppelin tunes with incredible raw power, allowing for invention within familiar structures


Quick background information on Lebanon bombing

Car bomb attack in Lebanon kills 3

(From AP report)

BEIRUT, Lebanon - A car bomb attack killed one of Lebanon's top military generals and at least two others Wednesday

Lebanese soldiers and police stand near burning cars after a bomb exploded outside a municipal building in Baabda, an eastern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007. An early morning bomb attack killed one of Lebanon's top military generals and at least three others as they drove through a Christian suburb of Beirut, putting even more pressure on the country's delicate political situation, the military and state media said. (AP Photo)

The target of the attack, Brig. Gen. Francois Hajj, a top Maronite Catholic in the command, was considered a leading candidate to succeed the head of the military, Gen. Michel Suleiman, if Suleiman is elected president.

Hajj, 55, also led a major military campaign against Islamic militants over the summer.

The blast is the first such attack against the Lebanese army, which has remained neutral in Lebanon's yearlong political crisis and is widely seen as the only force that can hold the country together amid the bitter infighting between parliament's rival factions.

The political divisions have paralyzed the government and prevented the election of a president, leaving the post empty since Nov. 23 in a dangerous power vacuum. Under Lebanon's sectarian division of political posts, the president must be a Maronite, like the army commander.

Anti-Syrian politicians blamed Damascus

Damascus has denied any role in those killings.

Minister Marwan Hamadeh, speaking to Associated Press Television News, accused the "Syrian-Iranian axis"

But the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah, which has good relations with the army, denounced the assassination.

Suspicion also fell on al-Qaida-inspired Sunni Muslim militants, whom the army crushed at the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared in northern Lebanon in an operation led by Hajj, a battle that cost hundreds of lives.

Parliament is sharply divided between anti-Syrian supporters of the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and the opposition, led by Hezbollah, an ally of Syria and Iran.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

China Link Suspected in Lab Hacking

I posted reports on this matter early last week.

I post this NYTimes piece to keep us informed as this important matter unfolds.

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SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 8 — A cyber attack reported last week by one of the federal government’s nuclear weapons laboratories may have originated in China, according to a confidential memorandum distributed Wednesday to public and private security officials by the Department of Homeland Security.

Security researchers said the memorandum, which was obtained by The New York Times from an executive at a private company, included a list of Web and Internet addresses that were linked to locations in China. However, they noted that such links did not prove that the Chinese government or Chinese citizens were involved in the attacks. In the past, intruders have compromised computers in China and then used them to disguise their true location.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Excerpts from Mitt Romney's 'Faith in America' Speech

Mitt Romney's speech does NOT work on a number of important fronts.

Follows is a point by point response to excerpts from the Romney "Religion speech" earlier this week:

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"Given our grand tradition of religious tolerance and liberty, some wonder whether there are any questions regarding an aspiring candidate's religion that are appropriate. I believe there are. And I will answer them today."

Very good! A person's religion (or non-religion) is a very important part of who they are. The notion that such a matter is irrelevant to how a person will govern a nation is perfect folly!

"I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith."

Yes this too is perfectly true. A person should NOT be voted for or not voted for because of his or her faith.


Neither should the person bracket this matter. The insistence on bifurcating doings and who and what a person is, has proven enormously errant and costly in all ways.

"Let me assure you that no authorities of my church, or of any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within the province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin."

Two problems with this passage: In the first sentence, the speech writer offers and Romney agrees to deliver this phrase: "or of any other church for that matter"

The problem with this phrase primarily has to do with seriousness of just what the candidate has agreed to attempt. OF COURSE no other church will attempt to influence Romney in any way that a voter would consider problematic. Romney's a Mormon, the only church a voter concerns him or herself over vis a vis Mitt Romney is the Mormon church,

So why add the pharse "any other church for that matter"? It is there to say, "Why are you worried in particular about MY church? Many candidates are members of churches. In fact the guy that just beat me in Iowa was actually a pastor! Why do you demand to know only whether or not MY church will exert undue influence over me? Why don't you want to know about the church of, say perhaps my former pastor competitor who just whipped my butt while spending 1/10th of what I spent. Why don't you want to know whether or not HIS church will influence HIM!? What is this religious discrimination?"

Here is the problem with this tiny phrase "or any other church for that matter": This particular text is about the candidate's religion. Such a text must be perfectly and completely sincere. It can NOT enjoin cleverness, and political-ness. This is the one speech where the candidate must simply say what he or she means. Does he want to talk about his opponent's faith? Then do so. Does he want to address religious bigotry in America? Then do so. If you choose to speak about religion, then do so. It is a good and legitimate topic (especially after this current administration). But be simple and be straight. This is the one speech where political speech writers must be given the weekend off.

The problem with the "or any other church" line is that is mismatches the occasion in which a person must be sincere. If you choose to speak about religion, it is the time suffer NO cleverness. Speak straight.

Secondly and as importantly, why does a person of faith presume that it is so easy to identify a clear line of demarcation between "the province of the church" and the "affairs of the nation." Is it possible that any church on earth addresses its adherents in such a way that everything taught is utterly irrelevant to social and political life? Is it really correct that spiritual and religious teachings are so irrelevant to life that it utterly withdraws and has zero to say "where the affairs of the nation begin"? Why belong to such a church? Why would anyone want to vote for someone who is completely uninfluenced by one of the most important parts of anyone's life, namely what they BELIEVE. If Romney's a Mormon, and that fact has NOTHING to do with how he governs, I am not interested in a leader like that. If one's religion has nothing to do with who one does as pertains the most important things in one's life (like being PRESIDENT for example!) then I am not interested in a person as sorely rent as that.

"As (Massachusetts) governor ... I did not confuse the particular teachings of my church with the obligations of the office and of the Constitution -- and of course, I would not do so as president. I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law."

Again, why would someone both belong to a religion AND hold public office if his or her religion were at odds "with the obligations of [an] office and of the Constitution?" I am not interested to know that a candidate is proudly not confused about what constitutes religion and what constitutes "the sovereign authority of the law," what I want to know is this, if your religion is at odds with the sovereign authority of the law, then I would like to know that you will NOT hold any elected office, OR if you want to hold elected office, then you will not belong to such a religion. I don't want to know that you fancy yourself for some odd reason as capable of keeping contrary convictions separate. We already had a president who tried to separate himself as a person from his ability to govern. This great compartmentalizing capacity, did our country and society great harm. We do not need another such self-separating leader. They cause serious and enduring problems.

"If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States."

Good. That's good. That is a good point of juncture and overlap between religion and political governance. And it is good to explain this to prospective voters.

"Some ... would prefer it if I would simply distance myself from my religion, say that it is more a tradition than my personal conviction, or disavow one or another of its precepts. That I will not do. I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers -- I will be true to them and to my beliefs. "

Again very good. That is positive. It is good to know that you will live by your faith and not distance yourself from it. But if you will live by your faith, how on earth is it possible that it will not influence your governance?

"Some believe that such a confession of my faith will sink my candidacy. If they are right, so be it."

Good again.

"There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and the savior of mankind."

OK - So what. That is a question Romney should NOT bother to answer. Unless of course he offers an example of some policy or legislation that he would support on the basis of that belief, and would reject on the other hand if he happened not to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. No one is asking any other candidates about their Christology? This is a silly concern. If voters don't know what Mormon's believe and are curious, let them look it up, or go chat with a missionary. Is it really possible that a voter who is so religiously narrow that she will vote for you if you believe Jesus is the Son of God, but would vote against you if you do not, would now decide that you're Christologically kosher? Of course she won't, no Mormon is going to appeal to that kind of religiously narrow person, anyway. It is smarter to keep your dignity, and not play into the hands of this corrosive part of American politics.

"There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church's distinctive doctrines. To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes president he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths."

Yet in giving this speech at all, you tread these very waters

"You can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: We do not insist on a single strain of religion -- rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith."

Romney's decision to deliver this speech comes from the calculations of his campaign strategists. This is fine. If he wants to give it fine, if he doesn't fine. This is simple strategy, coming from these little sharks and bean counters sucking the blood out of political campaigns. They strategize right, they strategize wrong, that's their business. It doesn't matter as pertains to the extremely important matter of the relationship between religious belief and governance.

The problem with the speech is not that it was given. The problem is that so little was correct in the speech. Virtually ONLY his express commitment to universal religious freedom - (which by the way is unrelated to being a Mormon. You could hold any faith and be committed to religious freedom, and you could hold any faith and not be.) The one thing he gets right in his big speech about his religion, turns out to be unrelated necessarily to his explanations about his religion anyway!

The rest, as described above introduces a good many points for serious pause. The content of the speech is the problem. Not that he chose to give it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Hackers Launch Major Attack on US Military Labs

This is a very serious matter

Please click through to read the entire article

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Hackers have succeeded in breaking into the computer systems of two of the U.S.' most important science labs, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Los Alamos has a checkered security history, having suffered a sequence of embarrassing breaches in recent years. In August of this year, it was revealed that the lab had released sensitive nuclear research data by email, while in 2006 a drug dealer was allegedly found with a USB stick containing data on nuclear weapons tests.

"This appears to be a new low, even drug dealers can get classified information out of Los Alamos," Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), said at the time. Two years earlier, the lab was accused of having lost hard disks

Monday, December 3, 2007

Imus Returns to Radio

There'll be a lot of ink on this. But this is a fair article.

One remark not in the article that I'd have included was his: "I'd rather be in a fox hole with Al Sharpton than with [the long list of opportunists who benefited from the show through the years and then stabbed him in the back during his exile (like Tim Russert, and David Gregory)]"
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Imus Returns to Radio

Just eight months after he was spectacularly fired from both CBS Radio and MSNBC for making racially and sexually disparaging remarks about the Rutgers women's basketball team, radio railer Don Imus was back on the airwaves Monday, assuring listeners and advertisers he was a changed man.

Don Imus

But not that changed.

Still, while his rhetoric remains much the same as it did pre-implosion, Imus, with a revamped lineup of sidekicks that includes the notable addition of black comedians Karith Foster and Tony Powell, said he would bolster his usual talking points with "an ongoing discussion about race relations in this country."

Imus also denied that the new, equal-opportunity additions to his radio-show cast were the result of any lingering guilt over the incident.

"I thought it was an opportunity to diversify the cast," he said. "Anybody who is on our program is there because they are funny or smart. I suddenly find myself in this unique position to present a better program.

Bush's executive versus the Supreme Court

Please pay close attention to this development. This pits the Executive branch of government against the Supreme Court, on matters pertaining to rights and justice.
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whether federal judges have jurisdiction to hear cases brought by detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba
in Rasul v. Bush in 2004 that federal judges could review the legality of the Guantánamo detentions, rejecting the administration’s position that the detainees’ fate was a question for the executive branch alone?
This third round is potentially the most momentous, because at stake is whether the Supreme Court itself will continue to have a role in defining the balance or whether, as the administration first argued four years ago, the executive branch is to have the final word.

Congratulations - Well done Mr. al Bashir

Gillian Gibbons, the British teacher jailed for insulting Islam in a row over a teddy bear, was preparing to fly home from Sudan today after being pardoned by the country's President.

British primary school teacher Gillian Gibbons is pictured in this undated photo downloaded from her Friends Reunited account

The 54-year-old mother-of-two was released into the care of the British Embassy in Khartoum after receiving an official pardon from Omar al-Bashir. Her release followed 48 hours of negotiations between Sudanese officials and two British Muslim peers, Lord Ahmed of Rotherham and Baroness Warsi.

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

WHILE shaking hands! and two days later

JERUSALEM — The Wednesday morning newspapers trumpeting the latest fresh start toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians hadn't hit American doorsteps when the first crude Qassam rocket of the day soared out of the Gaza Strip and into southern Israel.

Before lunch, Palestinian Authority police in the West Bank were using truncheons to break up angry mourners trying to bury a demonstrator who was killed a day earlier while protesting the new peace initiative.

By the time Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas joined President Bush in the Rose Garden to launch the latest round of negotiations, an Israeli airstrike had killed two naval police officers in the Gaza Strip, where the militant Islamist group Hamas seized military control in June after winning U.S.-backed elections in January.

Things could have been worse on a day that was supposed to celebrate the beginning of a yearlong march to peace. But Wednesday's events were a reminder that facts on the ground in the Middle East usually trump expectations in Washington.

"I expect peace talks will go on for a few months, maybe two or three or four months and then they will stop," said Iyad Ibrahim, an Abbas supporter and computer engineer in the Gaza Strip. "There will be some Israeli operation or attack from Hamas."

JERUSALEM, Dec. 1 — Five members of the Hamas armed wing were killed Saturday by an Israeli rocket strike in southern Gaza, near the village of Abassan. An additional eight gunmen were wounded, one critically, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, when helicopter gunship attacks followed the airstrikes.

Nonstop Theft and Bribery Are Staggering Iraq

New York Times

BAGHDAD, Dec. 1 — Jobless men pay $500 bribes to join the police.

Painkillers for cancer (from the Ministry of Health) cost $80 for a few capsules; electricity meters (from the Ministry of Electricity) go for $200 each, and even third-grade textbooks (stolen from the Ministry of Education) must be bought at bookstores for three times what schools once charged

Corruption and theft are not new to Iraq, and government officials have promised to address the problem. But as Iraqis and American officials assess the effects of this year’s American troop increase, there is a growing sense that, even as security has improved, Iraq has slipped to new depths of lawlessness.

One recent independent analysis ranked Iraq the third most corrupt country in the world. Of 180 countries surveyed, only Somalia and Myanmar were worse, according to Transparency International, a Berlin-based group that publishes the index annually.

And the extent of the theft is staggering. Some American officials estimate that as much as a third of what they spend on Iraqi contracts and grants ends up unaccounted for or stolen, with a portion going to Shiite or Sunni militias. In addition, Iraq’s top anticorruption official estimated this fall — before resigning and fleeing the country after 31 of his agency’s employees were killed over a three-year period — that $18 billion in Iraqi government money had been lost to various stealing schemes since 2004.

Olmert: Peace deadline not binding

That was fast!

This is not the stuff of greatness. The Palestine - Israel problem needs greatness.
clipped from
JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his Cabinet on Sunday that Israel was not bound by a December 2008 target to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians, and reasserted that no deal would be carried out until Palestinian militants were reined in.

At last week's gathering in Annapolis, Maryland, the leaders agreed that "an effort will be made to hold accelerated negotiations in the hope that it will be possible to conclude them in 2008," Olmert told his Cabinet, according to a statement put out by the prime minister's office. "However, there is no commitment to a specific timetable regarding these negotiations."

The deadline is set to coincide with the end of U.S. President George W. Bush's tenure. After taking a laissez-faire approach to the region for most of his two terms, Bush has recently demonstrated a greater resolve to clinch a peace deal — something that would at least partially eclipse the failures of U.S. policy in Iraq.