Friday, February 29, 2008

Jolie on displaced Iraqi's

Here is Angelina Jolie's important and well written WAPO op-ed on displaced Iraqi's.

Please click through to the entire article. It contains important information:

Staying to Help in Iraq

We still don't know exactly how many Iraqis have fled their homes, where they've all gone, or how they're managing to survive. Here is what we do know: More than 2 million people are refugees inside their own country -- without homes, jobs and, to a terrible degree, without medicine, food or clean water. Ethnic cleansing and other acts of unspeakable violence have driven them into a vast and very dangerous no-man's land. Many of the survivors huddle in mosques, in abandoned buildings with no electricity, in tents or in one-room huts made of straw and mud. Fifty-eight percent of these internally displaced people are younger than 12 years old.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Scourge of liberalism and godfather of US conservatism

By Jurek Martin
Published: February 28 2008 02:00

From my earliest years, I have been an ardent admirer and avid reader of the late William F. Buckley Jr. It seems that in all ways he represented character, dignity, and respect, every bit as much as he represented soaring talent and intellectual prowess.

I have read a good many of obituary and testimonial articles (including that of his own National Review) in search of words and a tone by which I would like to have his memory consecrated on Leaves.

For this I have settled upon the this report in the Financial Times.

Please click through to read of this great man in its entirety.

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William F. Buckley Jr, who died yesterday at the age of 82, was the witty patrician godfather of the modern American conservative movement, a man of many parts whose often self-deprecating erudition was admired by friend and foe alike.

He was a formidable television personality, hosting the programme Firing Line , which ran for 33 years. He founded the National Review, the pre-eminent conservative magazine, wrote nearly 50 books, including spy novels, and was a syndicated newspaper columnist. According to his son, the author Christopher Buckley, he was probably working on an article when found dead at his desk. He had been suffering from diabetes and emphysema.

The beginning of his career as a conservative provocateur, is manifested in his famous first book, God and Man at Yale , published in 1951, a sharp critique of what he saw as the university's atheistic and collectivist tendencies.

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Bush hires wealthy entrepeneur and industrialist NOT to learn anything but to tell Muslim nations how great the US is

Appointment is accompanied by a non-sensical remark about immigration.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush, acknowledging that the U.S. needs to burnish its image in the Islamic world, named a Texas entrepreneur as liaison to The Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Before founding SozoTek, he was chairman of Psionic Technologies Inc., an Internet security software company acquired by Cisco Systems in 2002. In 1995, he co-founded Applied Science Fiction, a company specializing in a digital dry film process whose technologies were recently acquired by Kodak. He previously owned Triumph Flexo Industries, which was acquired by American Greetings in 1994.

AP Photo

"Now, a lot of people love America, don't get me wrong," Bush said in the Oval Office where he met with Cumber. "After all, there's a lot of people trying to come here because of what we stand for. But we've got work to do in certain areas."

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Study of Muslim beliefs should guide policy makers

IANS Wednesday 27th February, 2008

US President George W. Bush has often said radicals in the Islamic world who commit terrorist attacks are motivated by hatred for freedom and democracy, but a new poll suggests exactly the opposite may be true.

Only about seven percent of Muslims condone terrorist attacks, but none of these 'politically radicalised' gave religious justification for their beliefs, instead voicing fears that the West and the US are seeking to occupy and dominate the Islamic world.

Most of them actually espouse democratic beliefs but are sceptical of their own governments and the US' professed intention to spread democracy in the Muslim world.

Those were some of the key messages Tuesday from the authors of a new book, 'Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think', which outlines the results from a Gallup organization poll of some 50,000 Muslims in more than 35 predominantly Muslim countries.

'Politics, not piety, differentiate moderates from radicals' in the Islamic world, said Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Centre for Muslim studies. 'Terrorism sympathizers don't hate our freedom. They want our freedom.'

Many of the poll's findings went against the 'conventional wisdom' of US politicians, media commentators and the American public about Muslims' views of the West, the role of religion and the value of democracy, according to John L. Esposito, a professor of international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University, who co-authored the book with Mogahed.

'What we have here is the ability to get beyond the battle of the experts' and let 'the data lead the discourse', Esposito said.

What is needed is an overhaul of how the United States reaches out to people in the Muslim world, Esposito said, criticizing the current approach as 'public diplomacy defined as public relations'.

Gallup's polling found that most Americans - politicians and people - suggest improvements in education and more exchanges as a means of improving ties between the West and Islamic countries. What Americans fail to recognize, Esposito said, is that Muslims lobbied just as hard for changes in US foreign policy - including a perceived 'double standard' in promoting democracy around the world.

'One also has to face the fact that policy really does matter,' Esposito told reporters. 'It's the political grievances that are the real drivers' of radicalisation.

In other words, it was not religious beliefs that have driven some Muslims to believe that the Sep 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington were justified.

'Not one gave religious justification' for the attacks, and radicals instead expressed fears that the United States was seeking to occupy the Islamic world, Mogahed said. It was actually those who condemned the attacks who would even cite passages from the Quran to demonstrate its moral repugnancy.

But while religion was not the motivation of those who supported the attacks, Esposito said that extremists have clearly 'framed' their arguments as a religious struggle in an attempt to attract devout Muslims to their cause.

'The most solid fear to mobilize somebody (with) is to use religion,' he said.

Among the overwhelming majority of Muslims, their views were driven less by a hatred of the West than a perception that the West hates them. Only 17 percent said the West 'respects' Islam.

Mogahed said that pollsters heard 'over and over' a belief that people in the West considered Muslims 'inferior', while a vast majority said that a change in those negative views of Islam was the best way to improve relations.

In fact, Muslims highlighted technological innovation and liberal democratic values as the two things they most admire about the US, yet fewer than 50 percent believe the US was serious about bringing democracy to Islamic countries.

Broad majorities across Muslim nations - 94 percent in Egypt and 93 percent in Iran - said they would support constitutions in their own countries that included greater freedom of speech and freedom of the press, while majorities also said that religious figures should have no hand in writing those constitutions.

Even 50 percent of so-called radicals said that democracy could spur progress in Muslim countries.

Yet more than 90 percent of all Muslims said that religion played a crucial role in their own lives, and large majorities said Islamic values and Sharia law should dictate a part or all of the state's laws.

Esposito said that the poll showed Muslims hoped for freedom 'but not an American imposed, defined democracy', while Muslims also showed a much greater concern for their own security and economic situation than espoused conflict with the West.

'The dreams are not for war with the West,' he said. 'It's dreams for work and jobs.'

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Danish youths riot for 7th night, several arrested - Police confused

Please read this Reuters article

Perplexed over why Muslim teens are rioting
Police could give no reason, but said unusually mild weather and the closure of schools for a winter break might have contributed.
Unusually mild weather? All I can do is quote Zoolander's Mugatu, "Am I taking crazy pills?"

Now that the police have weighed in (I guess now we know why Scotland Yard is not located in Denmark?), let's see what the Danish social workers have to say?
Social workers said an alleged plot to kill a Danish cartoonist for his drawing two years ago of the Prophet Mohammad might have fuelled the riots.
Excuse me? An alleged plot to kill a Danish cartoonist has caused the riots?

Perhaps in the next Reuters article we can hear from a Danish chemist to explain the fires ripping through Copenhagen for the past 7 nights.

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COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Bands of youths set fire to cars, buses and schools in Denmark on Saturday, the seventh night of rioting and vandalism in the capital Copenhagen and other Danish cities, police said on Sunday.

Hundreds of cars and a number of schools have been vandalised or burned in the past week. Police could give no reason, but said unusually mild weather and the closure of schools for a winter break might have contributed.

Social workers said an alleged plot to kill a Danish cartoonist for his drawing two years ago of the Prophet Mohammad might have fuelled the riots. Danish newspapers reprinted the cartoon on Wednesday in protest against the plot.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Danish Foreign Ministry Errs

The ten members of the Danish parliament's Foreign Policy Committee, including Denmark's former foreign minister Mogens Lykketoft, erred when they canceled a trip to Iran two days prior to scheduled meetings. The purpose of the trip was to meet with members of the Iranian Parliament as well as to look into such issues as the country's human rights and uranium enrichment.

During this same time period
Danish police arrested two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan descent on Tuesday, accusing them of planning to kill a cartoonist who drew a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that was then published in Danish newspapers 2 years ago.

One presumes that Denmark upholds due process, and that in Denmark arrests are not equated with guilt, but remarkably fifteen Danish newspapers reprinted this very same cartoon on Wednesday in protest against the alleged plot. The alleged plot.

Even if these papers had waited for a guilty verdict following due process, it would remain the case that an infantile provocation of this magnitude is beyond reproach. Considering the vast difficulties worldwide that derived from the initial printing of these cartoons, there are simply no words to describe the decision of not one or two deranged editors, but a coordinated effort among 15 newspapers in what is generally regarded as a modern nation. Publication of the cartoons two years ago led to protests and rioting in Muslim countries around the world. At least 50 people were killed and three Danish embassies attacked.

As explained in the Feb. 16 Reuters article:

"The Iranian parliament had demanded an apology of the Danish parliamentary delegation, which they of course cannot accommodate," Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller said in a statement....

Moller said the committee could not apologize for the fact that Danish media carried out its obligation to inform as it could not apologize for freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by the Danish constitution.

Here is where Moller commits a flatuous, and indeed a gross and arrant mistake. Why "of course"? No one asked Moller to apologize for freedom of expression, or to apologize that Danish papers have a duty to inform their readers. It would be more than simple enough for Moller or a designated spokesperson to express a mature, and reasoned apology, even seizing the opportunity to elaborate on whatever particular social virtues are so sacrosanct in Moller's mind.

Here is what Moller could better have said:

"Respected citizens of Iran, indeed respected world citizens who seek to live as true Muslims in elevated and peaceful ways, we of the Danish parliament who will soon be guests in Iran, wish to express profound apologies for any offense that happens in our country to that which you hold sacred. We hope you will understand our traditions in which freedom of expression must be guaranteed, and though it pains us to see abuse of these freedoms, the Danish government will never seek to encroach on what we believe to be a vital pillar of any free society. As Danes we are sorry that Islam has been offended in our country. Likewise we pray in earnest that all who call themselves Muslims will follow Islam as it advises us all to embrace its highest virtues of tolerance and harmony seen in the Hadith "You do not do evil to those who do evil to you, but you deal with them with forgiveness and kindness." (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

While we cannot undermine the all important democratic principle that guarantees freedom of expression, we can apologize for Danes who abuse this freedom to offend. As we try to elevate the mentality and public discourse in Denmark, we hope likewise that if newspapers or government policy in Iran espouses views that offend or incite Muslim believers against Christian and Western democratic sensibilities, that this too can change.

We hope that our upcoming visit to Iran will help us grow in our mutual understanding of one another, and lead to more harmonious relations among our peoples."

For a government to stand behind actions that are so patently reprehensible as a unified media decision to offend religious believers around the world, and then to poison international relations by canceling a high level diplomatic mission is a near perfect error, a disgrace to the West, an offense, and a missed opportunity.

Wanting it both ways

The Clintons have always struggled in their pained pursuit of privacy while seeking the full riches of public life.
Sadly this same confusion has infected Senator Clinton's use of her daughter as a political surrogate.

The Clintons' rightly protected their young daughter's privacy during that family's tumultous and embarassing 8 years in the Whitehouse.

During the early stages of this present campaign Chelsea stood silently by her mother's side, all the while refusing to speak to reporters. This second level of silence, while possibly to be seen as a odd, can still be defended.

Now however Chelsea has changed to giving speeches on policy, and to holding meetings with the Democratic party's super delegates. YET she remains committed to "no speaking to reporters." In this we see an extension to this poor heir of the Clinton's most self-destructive habit. They want the riches of public life, but want secrecy and inappropriate levels of privacy.

It has become clear that even democrats are wary and weary of former president Bill, and this has hurt the Senator's campaign. Is Chelsea requiring us to gear up for a fresh new lifetime of not wanting Clinton double-dealing around?

Here's the article on Chelsea's latest political evolution:

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Chelsea Clinton steps on political stage

Chelsea Clinton has emerged as a top surrogate for her mother as the former first lady has fallen behind Sen. Barack Obama in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Clintons instituted a firm circle of silence around their daughter when Bill Clinton won his first White House term in 1992. And she began this campaign as uneasy stage-dressing beside her mother — even ordered to hold supporters' jackets on one New Hampshire stage. In Iowa and New Hampshire, she never spoke.

By now, she's a full-fledged player in the campaign, something she had vowed to avoid.

While pressing her mother's case, she still has refused to talk on-the-record to reporters. She politely smiles when reporters ask questions.

Her new role hasn't come without criticism. Chelsea Clinton has been calling and meeting with superdelegates, but MSNBC anchor David Shuster noted that she refuses to answer questions about what she's doing.

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Security vs. privacy

Americans differ widely on the US invasion of Iraq. Somewhere between 20 and 30% of Americans stridently defend the decision.

Such differences of opinion in an electorate are normal. "The Iraq war" has become a code phrase used by lazy media to describe a strong dividing line in American public opinion. But readers should please note that the matter of the "war" or the invasion itself is more or less a strategic question. As such it is secondary. There will ALWAYS be difference of opinion about strategy (even if it is over what time in the morning is best for the family to leave on their vacation drive). This is just human nature.

What is far more important to concentrate on when analyzing American opinion are matters not pertaining to the secondary concerns regarding better or worse strategies, but matters pertaining to the core values represented in the American ideal, and the American experiment. These values include such concerns as equal rights under the law, due process, and the constitutional protection of citizens rights (among many others).

It is on these points that sincere, upright, internationalist American idealists despair over the violence committed to our moral traditions by the present administration.

Here USA Today editorializes on the president's persistent demand to spy on American citizens

You can easily click through to read the entire piece:

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Our view on security vs. privacy: Bush uses scare tactics to railroad flawed spying act

President Bush is rarely as vivid about the specter of terrorism as he is when he's trying to stampede Congress into doing something it should think twice about. On Wednesday, he demanded quick passage of a flawed surveillance measure because "terrorists are planning attacks on our country ... that will make Sept. 11 pale by comparison."

Whoa. There's little dispute that terrorists want to strike the United States in horrific ways, or that the government should aggressively hunt them down and stop them. But there's a legitimate debate over how much of Americans' hard-won civil liberties it's necessary to trade away to fight and win, and how much to curtail the traditional role of judges in overseeing wiretapping that involves Americans. The president has frequently gotten this trade-off wrong, and he's doing it again.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rising deficits to confront Bush's successor

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Piling up on the desk of the person who will succeed President George W. Bush when he leaves the White House in January 2009 will be higher budget deficits and looming long-term fiscal problems likely to demand immediate attention.

The leading Democratic and Republican candidates in the race for the presidency all have ambitious domestic agendas, including plans to overhaul the U.S. health-care system and change the tax code. The deficits will complicate those plans.

Deficits in that range would approach the $413 billion shortfall in 2004, an all-time record.

"The next president is going to inherit a mess of historic proportions," Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said in an interview. "The debt is going up like a scalded cat."

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Bush proposes $3.1 trillion spending plan

Can't we just pick our new president today?

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WASHINGTON - President Bush proposed a $3.1 trillion budget yesterday that includes big increases in military spending, major cuts in payments to healthcare providers, and extensions of tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest Americans. Bush, who inherited a budget surplus, said he expects a near-record deficit of $407 billion when he leaves office next year.

Bush sought to increase Pentagon spending by 7.5 percent, to $515 billion - plus $70 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the coming year. At the same time, Bush proposed cuts in 151 government programs, such as grants for elders' food services and community services for the poor, and reduced spending in several others - including significant reductions in Medicare and Medicaid. Spending in many other programs was frozen.

"The budget protects America and encourages economic growth," the president said, urging Congress to pass the budget quickly. He added that the plan reflects that "our top priority is to defend our country, so we fund our military, as well as fund the homeland security."

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