Saturday, January 30, 2010

More Washington

As Obama sees it, whatever the problem, the solution is more Washington.

By Mark Steyn
January 30, 2010 7:00 A.M.

The world turns.

In Indonesia, the principal of a Muslim boarding school in Tangerang who is accused of impregnating a 15-year-old student says the DNA test will prove that a malevolent genie is the real father.

In New Zealand, a German tourist, Herr Hans Kurt Kubus, has been jailed for attempting to board a plane at Christchurch with 44 live lizards in his underpants.

In Britain, a research team at King’s College, London, has declared that the female “G-spot” does not, in fact, exist.

In France a group of top gynecologists led by M. Sylvain Mimoun has dismissed the findings, and said what do you expect if you ask a group of Englishmen to try to find a woman’s erogenous zone.

But in America Barack Obama is talking.

Talking, talking, talking. He talked for 70 minutes at the State of the Union. No matter how many geckos you shoveled down your briefs, you still lost all feeling in your legs. And still he talked. If you had an erogenous zone before he started, by the end it was undetectable even to Frenchmen. But on he talked. As respected poverty advocate Sen. John Edwards commented, “After the first hour, even my malevolent genie was back in the bottle.”

Like any gifted orator, the president knows how to vary the talk with a little light and shade. Sometimes he hectors, sometimes he whines, sometimes he demands. He hectored the Supreme Court. He whined about all the problems he inherited. He demanded Congress put a jobs bill on his desk. Or was it a desk job on his bill? No matter. He does Nixon impressions, too: “We do not quit,” he said.

Boy, you can say that again!

So he did: “We don’t quit. I don’t quit,” he said. Throughout the chamber, Democrats were quitting. “I quit,” says Rep. Marion Berry of Arkanas, declining to run this November. “I quit,” says Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, doing likewise. “I quit,” says Beau Biden of Delaware, son of Vice President Joe Biden, choosing not to succeed to his father’s seat in America’s House of Lords.

But not Barack Obama: “I don’t quit.” So on he went. As my colleague Rich Lowry put it after the Massachusetts vote, the public thinks Obama doesn’t get it, and Obama thinks the public doesn’t get it. And as he’s got the microphone, he’s gonna keep talking at you until you do get it.

The ever tinnier, more perfunctory sophomoric uplift at the start and finish can’t conceal the hope-killing, jobs-slaying, soul-sapping message in between, which is perfectly consistent, and has been for two years. As President Obama sees it, whatever the problem — from health care to education, banking to the environment — the solution is more Washington.

Simply as a matter of internal logic, this is somewhat perplexing. After all, when he isn’t blaming Bush, Obama blames “Washington” — a Washington mired in “partisanship” and “pettiness” and “the same tired battles” and “Washington gimmicks” that do nothing but ensure that our “problems have grown worse.” Washington, Obama tells us, is “unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems.”

So let’s have more Washington! In our schools, in our hospitals, in our cars, in everything!

Which raises the question: Does even Obama listen to Obama’s speeches? The public does — at least to this extent: They understand that, when he’s attacking the tired old Washington games, he’s just playing the tired old Washington games. But, when he’s proposing the tired old Washington solutions, he means it; that’s the real Obama, the only Obama on offer. And everything the president proposes means more debt, which at the level this guy’s spending means, at some point down the road, either higher taxes or total societal collapse.

Functioning societies depend on agreed rules. If you want to open a business, you do it in Singapore or Ireland, because the rules are known to all parties. You don’t go to Sudan or Zimbabwe, where the rules are whatever the state’s whims happen to be that morning.

That’s why Obama is such a job-killer. Why would a small business take on a new employee? The president’s proposing a soak-the-banks tax that could impact your access to credit. The House has passed a cap-and-trade bill that could impose potentially unlimited regulatory costs. The Senate is in favor of “health” “care” “reform” that will allow the IRS to seize your assets if you and your employees’ health arrangements do not meet the approval of the federal government. Some of these things will pass into law, some of them won’t. But all of them send a consistent, cumulative message: that there are no rules, that they’re being made up as they go along — and that some of them might even be retroactive, as happened this week with Oregon’s new corporate tax.

In such an environment, would you hire anyone? Or would you hunker down and sit things out? Obama can bury it in half a ton of leaden telepromptered sludge but the world has got the message: More Washington, more micro-regulation of every aspect of your life, more multi-trillion-dollar spending, and no agreed rules in a game ever more rigged against you.

Obama and the Democrats have decided, in the current cliché, to “double down.” That hardly does justice to what the president’s doing. In effect, he’s told embattled congressmen and senators to strap on the old suicide-bomber belt and self-detonate for the team this November.

That’s a lot of virgins to pass out, but with this administration, budget restraints aren’t exactly a problem: Untold pleasures will await every sacrificial incumbent in paradise, or at any rate the coming liberal utopia. What’s the end game here? President Obama gave it away in his student-loan “reform” proposals: If you choose to go into “public service,” any college-loan debts will be forgiven after ten years.

Because “public service” is more noble than the selfish, money-grubbing private sector. C’mon, everybody knows that. So we need to encourage more people to go into “public service.”


In the last 60 years, the size of America’s state and local workforce has increased five times faster than the general population. But the president says it’s still not enough: We have to incentivize even further the diversion of our human capital into the government machine. Like most lifelong politicians, Barack Obama has never created, manufactured, or marketed any product other than himself. So quite reasonably he sees government dependency as the natural order of things. And in his college-loan plan he’s explicitly telling you: If you start a business, invent something, provide a service, you’re a schmuck and a loser. In the America he’s building, you’ll be working 24/7 till you drop dead to fund an ever-swollen bureaucracy that takes six weeks off a year and retires at 53 on a pension you could never dream of. Obama’s proposals are bold only insofar as few men would offer such a transparent guarantee of disaster: It’s the audacity of hopelessness.

In Massachusetts, enough voters got the message. And the more speeches this one-note politician inflicts on the nation, the louder they’ll hear it.

Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is author of America Alone. © 2010 Mark Steyn

Friday, January 29, 2010

Courtroom Cirque du Jihad

by Michelle Malkin
January 28, 2010

Imagine this nightmare courtroom scenario: Unhinged Jew-bashing, open mockery of American soldiers, juror intimidation, and coldly calculated exploitation of U.S. constitutional protections by a suspected al Qaeda defendant. Well, there’s no need to wait for the Gitmo terror trial circuses. New York City is already getting a glimpse of the future.

Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, seen here in a 2004 FBI handout photo. The Pakistani woman accused of trying to kill US servicemen at an Afghan police station was ordered out of a New York courtroom Tuesday after denouncing the start of her trial.

Jihadi scientist Aafia Siddiqui is on trial right now in a federal Manhattan court for the attempted murder and assault of U.S. military personnel in Pakistan two years ago. She’s an accomplished Karachi-born scientist who studied microbiology at MIT and did graduate work in neurology at Brandeis University before disappearing in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Counterterrorism investigators connected Siddiqui and her estranged husband, anesthesiologist Dr. Mohammed Amjad Khan, to Saudi terror funders. The couple’s bank account showed repeated purchases of high-tech military equipment and apparel, including body armor, night-vision goggles, and military manuals. Her second husband, fellow al Qaeda suspect and 9/11 plot helper Ammar al Baluchi, is one of five Gitmo detainees that the Obama administration is planning to transfer to New York for trial.

Siddiqui was identified as an al Qaeda operative, financier, and fixer by no less than 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed during U.S. interrogations. Al Baluchi is KSM’s nephew. Mohammed reportedly enlisted Siddiqui in a Baltimore-based plot to bomb gas stations, fuel tanks, and bridges, and poison water reservoirs in the greater Washington, D.C. area.. Siddiqui was taken into custody in Kabul in July 2008 after attempting to shoot U.S. military interrogators and FBI agents.

Now, the savvy “Terror Mom” of three is pulling out all the stops to win a mistrial. Among her Cirque du Jihad antics:

*Demanding that jurors be genetically tested for a “Zionist or Israeli background” to ensure a fair and impartial jury of her Jew-hating peers;

*Ranting about 9/11/Israel conspiracies during voir dire;

*Screaming out loud during the testimony of U.S. Army Capt. Robert Snyder, who was in the room in Kabul when Siddiqui allegedly grabbed an M-4 rifle and proclaimed, “Allah Akbar!” and “I hate Americans! Death to America!” Before being ejected from the courtroom, Siddiqui shouted to Snyder, “You’re lying!” She also babbled about torture at a secret prison;

*And blurting out “I feel sorry for you” to the witness in front of the jury before being led out of the courtroom again.

Siddiqui’s defense team, funded in part by the Pakistani government, asserts that Lady Al Qaeda is so mentally ga-ga that she should not be allowed to take the witness stand. Bleeding-heart human rights groups have dutifully rallied around Siddiqui. She’s Mumia abu Jamal in a burqa. Indeed, her supporters have launched their own “Free Affia” campaign. But two government-retained psychiatrists, working independently, determined last year that Siddiqui’s so-called symptoms of mental illness were attributed to “malingering” and “manipulation.” The judge in the case concluded that she is competent and understands full well the charges against her.

The Crazy Jihadi tactic is in perfect sync with the al Qaeda training manual advising its operatives to claim victimhood status if arrested and put on trial. This act is also in keeping with a long tradition of terror defendants invoking the insanity card – from “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui (whose lawyers chalked up his mass-murdering ambitions to a traumatic childhood) to Fort Hood massacre Nidal Hasan (whose defense will undoubtedly play up his lonely bachelorhood).

To make matters worse, the New York Post reported this week that an “unidentified man in a white headdress” mouthed an obscenity at the Siddiqu trial and cocked his finger like a gun at two jurors. The jurors were let go; it remains unclear whether the thug in white headdress will be charged and what relation, if any, he has to Siddiqui.

Would you answer a jury summons knowing you could end up sitting in front of a jihadi sympathizer on the loose mentally painting a target on your forehead? And would you trust the White House ringmasters and Justice Department terror-coddlers to protect you from harm?

These suspects belong in controlled military tribunals, not federal courtrooms that are being turned into al Qaeda p.r. platforms. The O.J. Simpson spectacle of a smirking murder suspect, preening defense attorneys, a showboating judge, and the judicial process run amok on cable TV 24/7 was bad enough. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial, which gave the bin Laden network a multi-million-dollar, tax-subsidized legal team, free translation services, personal dry-cleaning services, race-baiting defense witnesses, and access to information that was allegedly used by jihadists to evade surveillance, was even worse.

The specter of 10 or 15 or 20 Siddiqui-style courtroom carnivals – at a cost of at least $1 billion to taxpayers – threatens to throw our civilian courtroom system into complete chaos. America can’t afford to clown around with national security.

The handling of the Christmas Day bombing suspect: the scandal grows

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, January 29, 2010; A23

The real scandal surrounding the failed Christmas Day airline bombing was not the fact that a terrorist got on a plane -- that can happen to any administration, as it surely did to the Bush administration -- but what happened afterward when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was captured and came under the full control of the U.S. government.

After 50 minutes of questioning him, the Obama administration chose, reflexively and mindlessly, to give the chatty terrorist the right to remain silent. Which he immediately did, undoubtedly denying us crucial information about al-Qaeda in Yemen, which had trained, armed and dispatched him.

We have since learned that the decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab had been made without the knowledge of or consultation with (1) the secretary of defense, (2) the secretary of homeland security, (3) the director of the FBI, (4) the director of the National Counterterrorism Center or (5) the director of national intelligence (DNI).

The Justice Department acted not just unilaterally but unaccountably. Obama's own DNI said that Abdulmutallab should have been interrogated by the HIG, the administration's new High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group.

Perhaps you hadn't heard the term. Well, in the very first week of his presidency, Obama abolished by executive order the Bush-Cheney interrogation procedures and pledged to study a substitute mechanism. In August, the administration announced the establishment of the HIG, housed in the FBI but overseen by the National Security Council.

Where was it during the Abdulmutallab case? Not available, admitted National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, because it had been conceived for use only abroad. Had not one person in this vast administration of highly nuanced sophisticates considered the possibility of a terror attack on American soil?

It gets worse. Blair later had to explain that the HIG was not deployed because it does not yet exist. After a year! I suppose this administration was so busy deploying scores of the country's best lawyerly minds on finding the most rapid way to release Gitmo miscreants that it could not be bothered to establish a single operational HIG team to interrogate at-large miscreants with actionable intelligence that might save American lives.

Travesties of this magnitude are not lost on the American people. One of the reasons Scott Brown won in Massachusetts was his focus on the Mirandizing of Abdulmutallab.

Of course, this case is just a reflection of a larger problem: an administration that insists on treating Islamist terrorism as a law-enforcement issue. Which is why the Justice Department's other egregious terror decision, granting Khalid Sheik Mohammed a civilian trial in New York, is now the subject of a letter from six senators -- three Republicans, two Democrats and Joe Lieberman -- asking Attorney General Eric Holder to reverse the decision.

Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins had written an earlier letter asking for Abdulmutallab to be turned over to the military for renewed interrogation. The problem is, it's hard to see how that decision gets reversed. Once you've read a man Miranda rights, what do you say? We are idiots? On second thought . . .

Hence the agitation over the KSM trial. This one can be reversed, and it's a good surrogate for this administration's insistence upon criminalizing -- and therefore trivializing -- a war on terror that has now struck three times in one year within the United States, twice with effect (the Arkansas killer and the Fort Hood shooter) and once with a shockingly near miss (Abdulmutallab).

On the KSM civilian trial, sentiment is widespread that it is quite insane to spend $200 million a year to give the killer of 3,000 innocents the largest propaganda platform on earth, while at the same time granting civilian rights of cross-examination and discovery that risk betraying U.S. intelligence sources and methods.

Accordingly, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Frank Wolf have gone beyond appeals to the administration and are planning to introduce a bill to block funding for the trial. It's an important measure. It makes flesh an otherwise abstract issue -- should terrorists be treated as enemy combatants or criminal defendants? The vote will force members of Congress to declare themselves. There will be no hiding from the question.

Congress may not be able to roll back the Abdulmutallab travesty. But there will be future Abdulmutallabs. By cutting off funding for the KSM trial, Congress can send Obama a clear message: The Constitution is neither a safety net for illegal enemy combatants nor a suicide pact for us.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Today's Tune: Ike & Tina Turner - River Deep, Mountain High

(Click on title to play video)

A lobe divided will not stand

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Friday, January 29, 2010

Barack Obama tiptoed Wednesday night along the seam that bifurcates the Democratic Party's brain. The seam separates that brain's John Quincy Adams lobe from its Sigmund Freud lobe.

The dominant liberal lobe favors Adams's dictum that politicians should not be "palsied by the will of our constituents." It exhorts Democrats to smack Americans with what is good for them -- health-care reform, carbon rationing, etc. -- even if the dimwits do not desire it.

The other lobe whispers Freud's reality principle: Restrain your id -- the pleasure principle and the impulse toward immediate gratification. Settle for deferred and diminished but achievable results.

Obama was mostly in Adams's mode Wednesday. His nods to reality were, however, notable.

Such speeches must be listened to with a third ear that hears what is not said. Unmentioned was organized labor's "card check" legislation to abolish workers' rights to secret ballots in unionization elections. Obama's perfunctory request for a "climate bill" -- the term "cap-and-trade" was as absent as the noun "Guantanamo" -- was not commensurate with his certitude that life on Earth may drown in rising seas.

Last Feb. 24, when unemployment was 8.2 percent, Obama said in the second sentence of his speech to Congress that the economy "is a concern that rises above all others" and later that his agenda "begins with jobs."
After 11 months of health-care monomania, he said Wednesday that "jobs must be our No. 1 focus." Unemployment is 10 percent.

He called Wednesday for a third stimulus (the first was his predecessor's, in February 2008) although the S-word has been banished in favor of "jobs bill." It will inject into the economy money that government siphons from the economy, thereby somehow creating jobs. And you thought alchemy was strange.

Not until the 33rd minute of Wednesday's 70-minute address did Obama mention health care. The weirdness of what he said made it worth the wait.
Acknowledging that the longer the public has looked at the legislation the less the public has liked it, he blamed himself for not "explaining it more clearly." But his faux contrition actually blames the public: The problem is not the legislation's substance but the presentation of it to slow learners.
He urged them to take "another look at the plan we've proposed." The plan? The differences between the House and Senate plans are not trivial; they concern how to pay for the enormous new entitlement.

Last Feb. 24, with a grandiosity with which the nation has become wearily familiar, he said, "Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last 30 days than we have in the last decade." He was referring to the expansion of eligibility to an existing entitlement -- the State Children's Health Insurance Program. But that expansion was minor compared to the enormous new Medicare entitlement for prescription drugs created under Obama's predecessor. Before the Massachusetts nuisance, this year's speech was to be a self-coronation of the "last" president to deal with health care.

Last Feb. 24, he said he had an activist agenda because of the recession, "not because I believe in bigger government -- I don't." Ninety-seven days later, he bought General Motors.

Wednesday night's debut of Obama as avenging angel of populism featured one of those opaque phrases -- the "weight of our politics" -- that third-rate speechwriters slip past drowsy editors. Obama seems to regret the existence in Washington of . . . everyone else. He seems to feel entitled to have his way without tiresome interventions in the political process by the many interests affected by his agenda for radical expansion of the regulatory state. Speaking of slow learners, liberals do not notice the connection between expansion of government and expansion of (often defensive) activities referred to under the rubric of "lobbying."

Lamenting Washington's "deficit of trust," Obama gave an example of the reason for it when he brassily declared: "We are prepared to freeze government spending for three years." This flagrant falsehood enlarges Washington's deficit of truth: He proposes freezing some discretionary spending -- about one-eighth of government spending.

Obama's leitmotif is: Washington is disappointing, Washington is annoying, Washington is dysfunctional, Washington is corrupt, verily Washington is toxic -- yet Washington should conscript a substantially larger share of GDP, and Washington should exercise vast new controls over health care, energy, K-12 education, etc. Talk about a divided brain.

Obama's answer for America: more of me

New York Post
January 28, 2010

There's a story of an ex hausted tenor at La Scala who, facing repeated cries of "Encore," responded that he couldn't go on. A man rose in the audience to say, "You'll keep singing until you get it right."

That seems to be the defining principle of the Obama administration -- whose response to every problem, every setback, every hiccup and challenge has been, simply, "more Obama."

Indeed, for people who aren't sticklers for political jargon, it will be a shock that last night was Obama's first State of the Union Address, since it was his third formal address to a joint session of Congress. Yet for all of the political déjà vu, what was most surprising last night was the degree to which Obama delivered even more of the same.

Washington graybeards and pundits have been insisting that Obama needs to "start over," "reboot" and "tack to the middle" after Scott Brown's win in Massachusetts. But Obama's response last night was to recommit himself to the agenda that has gotten him in so much trouble.

In fairness, the president took a French-bath of Clintonism before he took to his beloved TelePrompTer. He doused himself with the scent of the deficit-fighter and trade-promoter. He unveiled a slew of small, easy, applause-gathering proposals and populist appeals that he knows will go nowhere.

He also indulged in a lot of feel-your-pain pathos, trying to connect with the real Americans suffering from the recession and the misdeeds of a "Washington" that Obama seems to think is run by someone other than him.

But the eau-de-Clinton couldn't mask the stench -- and Obama, in his supreme arrogance, didn't really seem to care.

There was no "pivot to the center," no serious accounting for the Massachusetts miracle or his misfortunes. Instead, there was an innumerate, inaccurate and distinctly unpresidential whine -- blaming George W. Bush for nearly all of his problems (leaving out, among other things, that the Democrats have been controlling Congress and crafting budgets since 2006).

The White House insists that the new wave of populism created by Democratic governance is, in fact, the same populist wave that carried Obama to victory in 2008. In other words, Obama was elected president by the backlash against his own presidency.

This novel theory allows Obama to stick to his view that there's nothing wrong with his health-care plan, and anyone who feels differently hasn't heard or understood the president's explanations.

So, he not only implored Democrats not to "run for the hills" on the health-reform bill, but insisted that as "temperatures cool," hot-tempered opponents will, of course, realize they were wrong about the bill.

Obama began his presidency insisting that government is the answer to our problems. A year later, he still believes that the era of big government is upon us.

In the same speech in which he preened over a gallingly gimmicky "spending freeze," the president promised more jobs bills, more "investments" in schools, roads, trains and factories. He even reaffirmed his support for his carbon-tax legislation -- which would send far more jobs overseas than it would create here at home.

But Obama has a bigger problem: Aside from a few throwaway lines of self-deprecation, whenever he grew passionate, it was to blame others.

His predecessor topped his list, of course. But also everyone else who disagrees with him.

Obama insists that Americans need to muster the courage to agree with him, to sign on to his agenda. Just as at Omaha Beach and Bull Run, Americans need to show their mettle. "Again, we are tested. And again, we must answer history's call." That "call" is the call of Obama.

"I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I can do it alone." So come on, you slackers, fall into line.

He decried the politicians who are in "permanent campaign" mode -- the same week he brought into the White House his campaign manager.

Other politicians are vain, cowardly and insubstantial. They need the courage to change. Meanwhile, Obama is great the way he is.

That is the attitude that has gotten the president in so much trouble. And last night's State of the Union speech showed us that change really isn't easy, particularly for the president.


By Ann Coulter
January 27, 2010

In the wake of the Massachusetts Miracle last week ("The other Boston Massacre"), President Obama adopted a populist mantle, claiming he was going to "fight" Wall Street. It was either that or win another Nobel Peace Prize.

Now the only question is which Goldman Sachs crony he'll put in charge of this task.

If Obama plans to hold Wall Street accountable for its own bad decisions, it will be a first for the Democrats.

For the past two decades, Democrats have specialized in insulating financial giants from the consequences of their own high-risk bets. Citigroup and Goldman Sachs alone have been rescued from their risky bets by unwitting taxpayers four times in the last 15 years.

Bankers get all the profits, glory and bonuses when their flimflam bets pay off, but the taxpayers foot the bill when Wall Street firms' bets go bad on -- to name just three examples -- Mexican bonds (1995), Thai, Indonesian and South Korean bonds (1997), and Russian bonds (1998).

As Peter Schweizer writes in his magnificent book Architects of Ruin: "Wall Street is a very far cry from the arena of freewheeling capitalism most people recall from their history books." With their reverse-Midas touch, the execrable baby boom generation turned Wall Street into what Schweizer dubs "risk-free Clintonian state capitalism."

Apropos of the Clintonian No-Responsibility Era, Goldman Sachs and Citibank became heavily invested in Mexican bonds after a two-day bender in Tijuana in the early '90s. Any half-wit could see that "investing" in the dog track would be safer than investing in a corrupt Third World government controlled by drug lords.

But precisely because the bonds were so risky, bankers made money hand-over-fist on the scheme -- at least until Mexico defaulted.

With Mexico unable to pay the $25 billion it owed the big financial houses, Clinton's White House decided the banks shouldn't be on the hook for their own bad bets.

Clinton's Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin, former chairman of Goldman, demanded that the U.S. bail out Mexico to save his friends at Goldman. He said a failure to bail out Mexico would affect "everyone," by which I take it he meant "everyone in my building."

Larry Summers, currently Obama's National Economic Council director, warned that a failure to rescue Mexico would lead to another Great Depression. (Ironically, Summers' current position in the Obama administration is "Great Depression czar.")

Republicans in Congress said "no" to Clinton's Welfare-for-Wall-Street plan.

It's not as if this hadn't happened before: In 1981, Reagan allowed Mexico to default on tens of billions of dollars in debt -- Mexico claimed the money was "in my other pair of pants" -- leaving Wall Street to deal with its own bad bets.

As Larry Summers expected, this led like night into day to the Great Depression we experienced during the Reagan years ... Wait, that never happened.

At congressional hearings on Clinton's proposed Mexico bailout a decade later, Republicans Larry Kudlow, Bill Seidman and Steve Forbes all denounced the plan to save Goldman Sachs via a Mexican bailout.

So the Clinton administration did an end run around the Republicans in Congress and rescued improvident Wall Street bankers by giving Mexico a $20 billion line of credit directly from the Treasury's Exchange Stabilization Fund.

Relieved of any responsibility for their losing bets, Wall Street firms leapt into buying other shaky foreign bonds. Soon the U.S. taxpayer, through the International Monetary Fund, was propping up bonds out of South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, then Russia -- all to save Goldman Sachs.

The IMF could have saved itself a lot of paperwork by just sending taxpayer money directly to Goldman, but I think they're saving that for Obama's second term.

Throughout every bailout, congressional Republicans were screaming from the rooftops that this wasn't capitalism. It was "Government Sachs." As Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) put it, the same rules that apply to welfare mothers "ought to apply to rich Greenwich, Conn., investors who are multimillionaires."

But Wall Street raised a lot of money for the Democrats, so Clinton bailed them out, over and over again.

Before you knew it, once-respectable Wall Street institutions were buying investment products even more ludicrous than Mexican bonds: They were buying the mortgages of Mexican strawberry-pickers.

Why shouldn't Wall Street trust in suicidal loans no sane person would ever imagine could be paid back? Time after time, when their bets paid off, they pocketed huge fees; when their bets failed, they sent the bill to the taxpayers.

With nothing to fear, the big financial houses bought, repackaged and resold investment products that included loans like the one issued by Washington Mutual to non-English-speaking strawberry pickers earning a combined $14,000 a year to purchase a $720,000 house.

But the financial wizards on Wall Street were trading these preposterous loans as if they were bars of gold. They may as well have bet the entire U.S. economy on a dice game in an alley off 44th Street.

Every mortgage-backed security bundle was infected with suicidal, politically correct loans that had been demanded by community organizers such as Barack Obama -- as is thoroughly documented in Schweizer's book.

On the off chance that mammoth mortgages to people who could barely afford food somehow went bad, Wall Street firms could be confident that their Democrat friends would bail them out.

Even the Republicans would have to bail them out this time: They had strapped the dynamite of toxic loans onto the entire economy and were threatening to pull the clip. Wall Street had infected every financial institution in the country, including completely innocent banks.

But now Obama says he's going to "fight" Wall Street, which is as plausible as claiming he'll "fight" the trial lawyers.

As Schweizer demonstrates, whenever the Democrats "regulate" Wall Street, the innocent pay through the nose, while Wall Street swine lower than drug dealers and pornographers end up with multimillion-dollar bonuses so they can run for governor of New Jersey and fund lavish Democratic fundraisers in the Hamptons.

Republicans should respond the way they always have: Support the free market, not looters and welfare recipients on Wall Street, especially the Democrats' friends at Goldman.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Spender-in-Chief’s Fiscal Freeze Follies

by Michelle Malkin
January 27, 2010

There are more loopholes in President Obama’s proposed “spending freeze” than in an Olympic volleyball net. Gargantuan government entitlements (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) are exempt. A half-trillion in unspent stimulus money is exempt. Foreign aid is exempt. The Democrats’ proposed $154 billion jobs bill (Stimulus II) is exempt.

Pet federal education programs will be exempt (including $4 billion for the White House “Race to the Top” standards initiative and an additional $1.35 billion he just requested in the 2011 budget). Green jobs spending will be exempt. (Obama proposed $10 billion in new clean energy spending earlier this month.) Electorally driven tax-credit expansions will be exempt. The health care takeover plan is not included. As even The New York Times reported, the “estimated $250 billion in savings over 10 years would be less than 3 percent of the roughly $9 trillion in additional deficits the government is expected to accumulate over that time.”

Which amounts to a molecule in a drop of the ocean of red ink in which American taxpayers have been drowning.

The current Spender-in-Chief unveiled details of this lofty new work of political fiction on Monday with more fanfare than a new “Twilight” title. It was supposed to be the centerpiece of the State of the Union address. But by Tuesday morning, Obama’s illusion of fiscal discipline had been shredded left, right and center. By Tuesday afternoon, irritated White House spokesman Robert Gibbs was already downplaying the gimmickry. It’s just something Obama will “mention,” Gibbs bristled.

After campaign videos of Obama repeatedly deriding “hatchet”-wielding spending freezes spread like Kudzu across the Internet, official White House blogger Jared Bernstein tried to control the widespread hypocrisy charges:

“During the campaign, you may recall that John McCain touted option 1 -- the hatchet approach of an across-the-board freeze.

“The President was critical of that approach then, and we would be critical of it now. It’s not what we’re proposing. To the contrary, the entire theory of the President’s proposed freeze is to dial up the stuff that will support job growth and innovation while dialing down the stuff that doesn’t. Under our plan, some discretionary spending will go up; some will go down. That’s a big difference from a hatchet. …

“President Obama deeply understands the various imperatives of this moment in time, even if they don’t always point in the same direction.”

So, he had a hatchet on Monday when he wanted headlines praising his return to austerity in the wake of the GOP’s Massachusetts Senate victory; a scalpel on Tuesday when he needed to mollify the big-government left. What will he wield at the State of the Union address on Wednesday night? A variable-speed Dremel rotary tool?

Some conservative Beltway analysts are cheering Obama’s fiscal freeze follies as a step in the right direction, a rhetorical victory and a “good start.” Pardon me for not joining in the standing ovation for the latest performance of White House kabuki theater. Praising the president for carrying on the charade of budget reform because a few piddling cuts are real is like complimenting the Naked Emperor’s fingernails: So he didn't have any clothes. At least his cuticles were real. It’s a start!

Moreover, who believes this freeze will last for the entire, cynically timed three-year period that the White House announced fewer than 72 hours ago? McDonald’s French fries have a longer shelf life than Obama’s pledges of fiscal accountability. All it’ll take is one more bad jobs report, one Chicken Little Congress-induced panic, to drop the budget restrictions faster than reality dad Jon Gosselin’s ex-girlfriends.

One year after riding into town on a wave of adulation and ambition, Obama has lost his “swagga.” His pre-State of the Union appearances have been listless and perfunctory. His dependence on a teleprompter -- even for a standard 6-minute stump statement at an elementary school -- is now the butt of universal mockery. And his political machine has been forced to lay down enough fake Astroturf support to cover a football field.

This is the time to nail the phonies in the White House, not to beg for meetings in hopes of bipartisan problem-solving. There’s little triumph in Obama’s empty “concessions” on the need to cut spending. They are fueled not by sincere commitment to reining in Washington’s appetites, but by craven political self-preservation.

The president has lately regressed into his “I will fight for you” campaign sloganeering -- by which, of course, he means, “I will fight for me.” There will be no hands reaching across the aisle. Obama’s too busy using them to point fingers at everyone else for his own political meltdown.

Opening the Door to a Stealth Jihadist

by Robert Spencer

Five years after being barred from the U.S. for making charitable contributions to a group that sent those contributions to the jihad terror group Hamas, internationally renowned Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan, often mislabeled “the Muslim Martin Luther,” is allowed to enter the country again. The turnabout comes not because Ramadan has been cleared of these charges, but because Secretary of State Clinton has, in the words of State spokesman Darby Holladay, “chosen to exercise her exemption authority for the benefit of Tariq Ramadan.”

Tariq Ramadan

Holladay disingenuously suggested that the Bush Administration had barred Ramadan from the country because of his opposition to the Iraq War, but no “exemption authority” would have been needed to overturn a ban that had been put in place for that reason. Clinton was exempting Ramadan from prohibitions on supporters of terror groups entering the country.

Ironically, days after the Obama State Department announced the exemption for Ramadan, a Detroit-area Muslim named Mohamad Mustapha Ali Masfaka was arrested at the border while attempting to cross from Canada back into the United States. His crime? Lying to the FBI and immigration officials about his work with the Holy Land Foundation, formerly the largest Islamic charity in the United States, which has now been shut down for funneling charitable contributions to Hamas.

So what is the difference between Tariq Ramadan and Mohamad Mustapha Ali Masfaka? They have both allegedly been disingenuous about their ties to a Hamas charity, and yet Ramadan is free to enter the United States and Masfaka is under arrest. So what unique and compelling benefit does Tariq Ramadan bring to the U.S. that would move Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to bend their own anti-terror rules and make this exemption for him?

The answer, of course, is that Tariq Ramadan is internationally famous as a voice of Islamic moderation -- and a vocal critic of the Bush Administration’s Middle East policies, which the Obama Administration very much wants to subject to public criticism. Mohamad Mustapha Ali Masfaka, in contrast, toils in relative obscurity and offers the Obama Administration no such political fringe benefits.

Ramadan represents the kind of Muslim who should respond most favorably to Obama’s recurring pleas for a new relationship based on mutual respect: urbane, sophisticated, Westernized, closely identified with Islamic moderation and reform. In fact, Holladay explained the exemption for Ramadan in terms that specifically recalled Obama’s repeated appeals: “Both the president and the secretary of state have made it clear that the US government is pursuing a new relationship with Muslim communities based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

However, there are cracks in Ramadan’s façade that should have raised eyebrows even in Obama’s State Department. Ramadan is the grandson of Hasan Al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood -- an international Islamic supremacist organization that is dedicated, in its own words (according to an internal Brotherhood document captured in a raid of the Holy Land Foundation), to “eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house.”

French journalist Caroline Fourest, who has published a book-length study of Ramadan’s sly duplicity, Brother Tariq, concludes that this much-lionized putative Muslim Martin Luther is actually anything but a reformer: in reality, Ramadan is “remaining scrupulously faithful to the strategy mapped out by his grandfather, a strategy of advance stage by stage” toward the imposition of Islamic law in the West.

Ramadan, she explains, in his public lectures and writings invests words like “law” and “democracy” with subtle and carefully crafted new definitions, permitting him to engage in “an apparently inoffensive discourse while remaining faithful to an eminently Islamist message and without having to lie overtly -- at least not in his eyes.” Ramadan, she said, “may have an influence on young Islamists and constitute a factor of incitement that could lead them to join the partisans of violence.”

In light of Ramadan’s smooth duplicity, his new welcome into the U.S. is a fitting symbol for the entire catastrophe of the Obama Administration’s policy toward the Middle East and Islamic terror. Obama reaches out to the Islamic world, assuming that his overtures will be welcomed by voices of reason and restraint. But in making this appeal, Obama drastically underestimates the jihad threat and mistakes all too many enemies for friends. And so now he also underestimates and misevaluates Tariq Ramadan, with consequences that no one can foretell at this point, but which are not likely to be positive.

Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)", "The Truth About Muhammad," "Stealth Jihad," and most recently "The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran" (all from Regnery -- a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

Recognizing Terrorism

It’s time for Obama to look at terrorism differently.

By Jonah Goldberg
January 27, 2010 12:00 A.M.

It is always dangerous to mistake your ideological preferences for shrewd political strategy, but that is precisely what President Obama and his advisors have done with the War on Terror.

On the right, the prevailing critique of the president’s approach to the War on Terror is that it is both deeply ideological and unserious. Obama remains fixated on the idea of closing Guantanamo, even if it means keeping irredeemable terrorists in U.S. prisons indefinitely. The administration initially banned the use of the term “War on Terror,” preferring the ridiculous bureaucratese “overseas contingency operations.” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano favors “man-caused disasters” to describe 9/11-style terrorism. Attorney General Eric Holder has decided to send self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others to a civilian trial in New York City, allegedly without consulting anyone save his wife and brother.

After the Fort Hood shootings and again after the foiled Christmas Day attack by “suspect” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the president’s initial response was to look at the incidents through the now-familiar ideological prism. These were “isolated” attacks from individual “extremists.”

Admirably, Obama was quick to correct the record about Abdulmutallab, contradicting Napolitano’s initial contention that “the system worked.” Rather, Obama admitted, there was “systemic failure.” Since then, the media have reported that Abdulmutallab’s arrest and interrogation were as flawed as the system that let him on the plane. FBI agents interviewed the jihadist for only 50 minutes, according to the Associated Press, before he was read his Miranda rights and lawyered up, and no one even bothered to consult with Obama’s national-security team.

Meanwhile, pro-Obama pundits have been rolling out a revealing argument: Terrorism happens; get over it. For instance, Time’s Peter Beinart and Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria argue that the American response to the Christmas Day bomber was “hysteria” or “panic.” Both say that the threat from al-Qaeda is overblown and distracts us from smart policies and more important priorities.

Whatever the merits of these arguments and Obama’s responses, one thing is becoming clear: They amount to awful politics. One of Scott Brown’s biggest applause lines leading up to the special election last week was that “in dealing with terrorists, our tax dollars should pay for weapons to stop them, not lawyers to defend them.”

“People talk about the potency of the health-care issue,” Brown’s political strategist, Eric Fehrnstrom, told National Review, “but from our own internal polling, the more potent issue here in Massachusetts was terrorism and the treatment of enemy combatants.”

Indeed, after years of debate over the tactic, a Rasmussen poll found that 58 percent of Americans favored waterboarding Abdulmutallab to get intelligence.

Of course, if the Obama administration’s reluctance to treat terrorists like enemies is derived entirely from deep-seated ideological principle, then it should stick to its guns. But couldn’t some of the reluctance be a holdover from the politics of the George W. Bush years? The Democrats came into power believing that downplaying and downgrading the War on Terror was both right and politically smart. The former is debatable, the latter now is unsupportable.

Overseas, Obama has doubled down in Afghanistan and has lobbed more Predator drones at al-Qaeda than Bush did. His base didn’t like it, but it was nonetheless both right and politically shrewd.

The White House insists that it is not ideological but pragmatic, and yet it clings to an ideological nostrum that hawkishness on terrorism is not only atavistic but at odds with a progressive agenda at home.

The British Empire destroyed Thuggee terrorism in India in the 1830s. (The Thuggees may have killed a million people.) But the war on Thuggeeism hardly dominated British politics. Bill Clinton initiated “extraordinary rendition” without any serious political blowback or distraction (in part because it was largely kept secret). LBJ’s Great Society and civil-rights victories coincided with escalation in Vietnam. And let us not forget that domestic spending skyrocketed under Bush even as he prosecuted the War on Terror.

Question: Would Obama’s domestic prospects look better or worse right now if he had correctly treated the Fort Hood and Christmas Day attacks as terrorism from the outset?

Purely partisan conservatives should hope that Obama continues to see the War on Terror through the same lens he has used for the last year. But it would be better for America — and Obama — if he saw the light.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

London’s Mega-Mosque Blocked For Now

by James Delingpole

Islamists’ plans to build one of the largest mosques in Europe within a stone’s throw of the site of the 2012 London Olympic Games hit a bureaucratic snag when the planners failed to meet a deadline. Right now -- thankfully -- the 12,000 capacity mosque can’t be built.

The proposed London "Mega-Mosque" wouldn't just have stuck out like a sore thumb. It would have stuck out like a defiant, upraised middle finger sending a very clear signal from the world of militant, conquering Islam to Western civilization. "Hasta la vista, baby!" It would have said. " Welcome to the Caliphate!"

A computer image of Tablighi Jamaat's "mega-mosque" planned for a site next to the Olympic Park in Stratford.

Which is why one or two of us here in Britain, right now, are sighing a rather huge sigh of relief at the news that the Mega-Mosque is no more. At least we hope it is. There's always the grim possibility that -- as it did after its first rumored death a year and a half ago -- that the Mega Mosque may yet try to stage a Terminator-style comeback.

But the auguries so far are promising: the 12,000-seater (or should that be 12,000-prayer-matter?) mosque, which was supposed to have been built in East London in time for London's 2012 Olympic Games, has been denied planning permission by the local borough council. This means that with luck, the Mega-Mosque will never be built -- especially if the council goes ahead with its plans to impose a compulsory purchase order on the land so as to stop its current owner Tabligli Jamaat from developing it.

Why would the Mega Mosque have been such a disaster not just for London, Europe, and the whole of the Western world? A number of reasons, perhaps the most worrying one being its symbolic impact.

Had the Mega-Mosque gone ahead, it would have been erected on a site perilously close to that of the London Olympic stadium. Not only would Olympics fans have had to walk past it when going from the tube station to the stadium, but in every aerial shot of the event, it would have been London's most visible religious building -- far more, so, than, say St. Paul's Cathedral, or that 1000-year old irrelevance Westminster Abbey. Its effect on U.S. viewers, no doubt, would have been especially marked. "Just as we thought," many of you reading this would have gone: "Europe is now Eurabia."

Another big concern would have been the people actually in charge of this mosque. Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) -- literally "Proselytizing Group" -- is a highly secretive organization, founded in India in the late 19th or (reports vary) the early 20th century. Its goal, according to the invaluable, Islamic-extremism-monitoring website “Gates of Vienna,” is to purify and renew Islam throughout the world, without recognizing any borders to the ummah. It has perhaps as many as 80 million followers.

“Gates of Vienna” reports: "Within the Islamic world TJ draws its greatest success from the marginally Muslim communities, those isolated and neglected corners of the Ummah such as the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Islam has languished there; its traditions have fallen into disuse, and the poor and ill-educated people there are often only nominally Muslim. They have proved fertile ground for TJ’s proselytizing, and the group has had an impressive rate of success there."

"In the lands of the infidel, TJ seeks out the Western analogue of the same people: the underclass. In the United States their preferred strategy is to convert African-American felons in the prison system."

Though Tablighi Jamaat isn't explicitly involved in terrorism, it's viewed by intelligence services as a gateway organization. A senior FBI official once described it as "a recruiting ground for Al Qaeda" and the French secret services called it "the antechamber for fundamentalism." A disturbing number of its adherents have gone on to do very bad things. Among its alumni are shoe bomber Richard Reid, white American jihadist John Walker Lindh, spree killer John Allen Muhammad, and dirty bomb plotter Jose Padilla.

The reason we know so little about it is because that is TJ's policy. It communicates with its members only by word of mouth, meaning that there are no propaganda journals or incriminating websites which might reveal its goals and scare the liberal useful idiots.

London, which already has more mosques than any other Western city, has had a lucky escape. Although notionally designed for 12,000, the Mega-Mosque -- which would have been funded by around $150 million of Saudi money -- was to have had room to accommodate a further 70,000. There was talk (quite against the Olympic spirit of harmony and integration) that it might have housed some of the Islamic competitors at the 2012 games.

It would have done little to create social cohesion among London's divided ethnic communities -- as even moderate Muslims appreciated. Many of the 48,000 people who petitioned against the Mega-Mosque were local Muslims, disgusted at the thought of having their religion represented by a mosque run by ultra-conservative separatists. In the end, though, it was not local objection which did for the Mega-Mosque but (perhaps conveniently for local councillors who didn't want to find themselves the victim of Jihadist vendettas) the bureaucratic process. The Mega-Mosque had been asked to submit an application detailing its plans and how they might benefit the area. This it failed to do by the deadline date.

So: a cause for celebration then? Not especially, according to Douglas Murray, head of Britain's leading monitor of Islamist activity, the Institute for Social Cohesion. "It’s a victory. But a token one," he says. The problem he points out, is that Mega-Mosque or no, Britain is now all too firmly established as Sharia Central. Fully 40 per cent of the CIA's terrorism-monitoring program is now directed at the UK. Understandably so, when the British security services currently have under surveillance at least 2,000 British citizens with Islamist sympathies believed to be plotting terrorist outrages. And those are the ones they DEFINITELY know are dangerous. Detroit bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab -- the Nigerian-born Islamist believed to have been radicalised while studying at University College London -- didn't even make the cut.

What's really depressing, says Murray, is the failure of the British political establishment to take the problem anywhere nearly seriously enough. Not even David Cameron's Conservative opposition are prepared to take a firm line for fear of sounding "Islamophobic."

- James Delingpole is an English journalist, writer and broadcaster. His books include "Welcome To Obamaland" (Regnery) and "Coward on the Beach" (Bloomsbury) the first in a series of adventure novels set in World War II.


By Mark Steyn
Politics and War
Tuesday, 26 January 2010

from the January 25, 2010 issue of National Review

If you're Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, September 11th 2001 was a third of a lifetime ago. He was a 14-year old pupil at the British school in Lome, Togo when Osama bin Laden remade the New York landscape. I doubt 9/11 resonates terribly fiercely in the breasts of, say, the average Californian 23-year old, for whom the intervening years will have brought many lively diversions. But the best part of a decade later the Knickerbomber loaded up his undies for a one-man reprise of that magnificent blow against the Great Satan. This time, hundreds would die in the air, and more on the ground, assuming the debris fell on the few remaining inhabited blocks of metropolitan Detroit.

He was a good choice: A well-spoken, westernized Muslim from a respectable family, born in Nigeria, seduced in London, trained in Yemen, booked through Amsterdam, seated where he could do the most damage, and ordered not to light up his scanties until over the American metropolis. That's pretty sophisticated. In return, the TSA imposed even more irrelevant prohibitions on you, me and everyone else. That's pretty stupid. But what can you do? We're assured by the Administration that Mr Abdulmutallab wasn't actually on the no-fly list proper, only on the standby list for the no-fly list. But roll your eyes at the Security Kabuki while in line at Newark, and some vindictive clod will fast-track you and your four-year old kid on to it for the next decade.

This is where we came in. In the fall of 2001, Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta was all but declaring it a source of national pride that 87-year old nuns were being as aggressively searched as young Saudi males. More so, in fact. No profiling for us, no sir. That's fine for some fantasy cop show in which you're trying to track down a serial killer, but in the real world of Secretary Mineta, there are eight million stories in the Naked City and he wants to hear all of them before drawing any conclusions. Eight years on, the granny patdowns are the responsibility of Janet Napolitano and the TSA. New pol, new acronym, new cap badge, same jokes.

In the least unserious of their otherwise risible reactions to the Pantybomber, the United States government announced that henceforth citizens of 14 "countries of interest" from Nigeria to Pakistan would be subject to additional security. It has taken almost ten years for "Homeland Security" to venture this first tentative step toward recognizing that the seven billion residents of Planet Earth do not all pose the same risk. Of course, if you're a Nigerian Christian, you pose no security risk, either. Nigerian Anglicans - of whom there are more in the pews of a Sunday morning than in Britain, Canada and America combined - have differences with the Episcopal Church over their curious fetishization of gay bishops, but not to the extent that they're minded to fill their gusset with PETN and book a flight to O'Hare. Yet Nigeria's Christians will now be hauled off for secondary screening.

On the other hand, the threat posed by Yemen and Pakistan is not confined to those who travel on Yemeni and Pakistani passports. There are many Muslims with western passports who shuttle back and forth from these countries. Indeed, the flight routes between Britain and Pakistan are some of the busiest in the world - a lot of innocent stuff like picking up the child bride, but some trips whose purposes are not so clear.

Come to think of it, if we're profiling, why not the Brits? Americans do the shoeless shuffle for every 40-minute puddlejump because of one British subject - Richard Reid, the shoebomber. Americans dutifully put their restricted quantities of shampoo and cough medicine in approved plastic sacs because of more British subjects - the Heathrow plotters. And now Americans will be forbidden from going to the bathroom or reading a paperback book or whatever halfwit stricture the TSA has settled on this week because of a British university student, Mr Abdulmutallab. Obviously - although less obviously than a decade ago - not every Briton is a terrorist risk: One would probably not need to screen David Beckham... Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall... Rod Stewart... Nevertheless, according to The New York Times, of Britain's half-million university students one fifth are Muslim. And, according to a poll by the Centre for Social Cohesion, one third of British Muslim students favor a global caliphate and believe killing in the name of religion is justified. Presumably only a small percentage are so gung ho that they'd be willing to stuff the explosives in their briefs. But they provide a large comfort zone for the jihad to operate in.

More importantly, the very normalcy of their views makes the "security" system's job impossible. After all, these views can hardly be "extremist" (President Obama's preferred evasion) if they're entirely routine. And even the Bush concept of a "war on terror" implicitly concedes that you can share all the goals of Mr Abdulmutallab and his trainers in Yemen but simply because you're not prepared to blow up over Michigan in service to them you're perfectly respectable. From 9/11 to Christmas Day 2009 was eight years and three months. Nudge the calendar forward a similar distance, to the spring of 2018. What proportion of British students will be Muslim by then? And what proportion of them will support sharia, the new caliphate and death by apostasy? We cannot win this way. And, if we do not change course soon, we will surely lose.

Senators rebel over treating Detroit airline terrorist as a civilian

By Byron York
Chief Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner
January 26, 2010

A bipartisan revolt is brewing in the Senate over the Obama administration's handling of accused Detroit bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. A small but growing number of lawmakers is asking the president to undo what many regard as the disastrously wrong-headed decision to grant Abdulmutallab full American constitutional rights. Once he was told he had the right to remain silent, the accused terrorist stopped talking to U.S. investigators, possibly denying them valuable intelligence about the threat from al Qaeda.

The revolt started last week when top administration counterterrorism officials testified they had not been consulted about the decision to read Abdulmutallab the Miranda warning and give him a court-appointed lawyer. Several senators were aghast, including Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, the committee's ranking Republican Susan Collins, and the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican Jeff Sessions. How could the Justice Department have done something so consequential without even consulting the administration's own experts on terrorism and intelligence?

The anger on Capitol Hill grew over the weekend, when the Associated Press reported that local FBI agents in Detroit were allowed to question Abdulmutallab for just 50 minutes before he went into surgery for several hours. During that time, Justice Department lawyers in Washington intervened and Abdulmutallab was later read his Miranda rights.

That was bad enough, but what really made lawmakers angry was when White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, appearing on "Fox News Sunday," insisted the 50-minute interrogation had been entirely sufficient for investigators to learn everything they needed to know about the al Qaeda plot to bomb Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

"You really don't think that if you'd interrogated him longer that you might have gotten more information?" asked Fox's Chris Wallace.

"Well, FBI interrogators believe they got valuable intelligence and were able to get all that they could out of him," Gibbs said.

"All they could?" Wallace asked.

"Yeah," Gibbs said.

That was it for some lawmakers. "It is now clear beyond doubt that the administration squandered an invaluable opportunity to gather intelligence from a captured terrorist fresh from al Qaeda's operation in Yemen," Sessions said. "But this weekend, the president's spokesman actually argued that the right call was made and that fifty minutes of interrogation was sufficient."

On Monday, Lieberman and Collins wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as top White House terrorism official John Brennan, saying the decision to give Abdulmutallab full American constitutional rights had been a serious mistake, but that "the administration can reverse this error, at least to some degree, by immediately transferring Abdulmuttalab to the Department of Defense ... [which has] the authority and capability to hold and interrogate Abdulmuttalab and try him before a military commission."

Sessions agrees, and it's a suggestion more lawmakers are likely to support in coming days. But it raises a critical question: Once Abdulmutallab has been given the Miranda warning, can the administration take it back?

"Of course," says David Rivkin, a lawyer who served in the Reagan and Bush I administrations. "To the extent that the facts justifying his designation as an enemy combatant are there, you can always designate him as such. Miranda rights are relevant only to interrogations in the criminal justice system. If he were transferred to the military justice system, it wouldn't be taking those rights back -- it would be just irrelevant."

Others worry that it wouldn't be so easy. "The problem is, once you get them into the civilian system, the federal courts have made very clear that they're not going to let go easily," says Lee Casey, another veteran of the Reagan and Bush I administrations who has co-authored several articles with Rivkin. "While I think it would be a great idea, given how solicitous the courts have been of these detainees, I doubt the federal courts would cede jurisdiction."

Whatever the degree of difficulty, it is a fact that Abdulmutallab was recruited by al Qaeda, trained by al Qaeda, and sent to the United States by al Qaeda. It's reasonable to assume he could be an important source of information about the terrorist organization. For Lieberman, Collins and Sessions, that makes it worth the effort.

You might think the president would agree. After all, he has said specifically that the United States is "at war against al Qaeda." But changing Abdulmutallab's status would be an admission that his administration got it wrong when confronted by an al Qaeda terrorist determined to kill Americans. And it's not at all clear that that is something the president is prepared to do.

Byron York, The Examiner's chief political correspondent, can be contacted at His column appears on Tuesday and Friday, and his stories and blog posts appears on

Monday, January 25, 2010

Climategate: The Wheels Come Off for the IPCC

Two major errors based on poor science. Not a good week for the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (See also Roger L. Simon: "Climategate: The Scandal that Keeps on Giving")

January 24, 2010 - by Charlie Martin

Back in December 2009, Madhav Khandekar, in a guest posting on the blog of Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr., questioned the IPCC AR4 report’s conclusion that glaciers in the Himalayas — vital to the water supply of the whole Ganges Valley — would disappear by 2035. (This was first reported by PJM on December 1.) The problem was that this really couldn’t be verified in the “peer-reviewed” literature. In fact, as it was investigated, it looked more and more suspicious.

Tom Maguire at JustOneMinute followed the footnotes and tracked the suspicious 2035 number down to a World Wildlife Fund report, which mentioned (without citing a source) the 2035 number. The earliest source anyone could find for that number was an article in the New Scientist that quoted “Syed Hasnain of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, the chief author of the ICSI report.”

The result was that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — after Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, called the 2035 story “voodoo science” — eventually had to withdraw that section of the report. (The full statement is here.)

Bad enough.What had been revealed was that the IPCC had put this inflammatory (and physically impossible) date into the IPCC report, even though it hadn’t been peer-reviewed and couldn’t actually be sourced to anything more than an offhand remark in a casual phone interview.

Naturally, everyone involved was shocked, utterly shocked, that such a thing could happen. There were calls for Pachauri to resign, but Pachauri refused on Jan 23.

The IPCC’s problem is that it wasn’t the last issue. One of the effects of the Climategate files has been that a lot of complaints that had been dismissed by the scientific world and the world at large as unbelievable and perhaps even a little paranoid turned out to be true. Some of those complaints had to be taken seriously, and the IPCC’s reports had to be re-evaluated.

One question was whether anthropogenic global warming (AGW) was causing more violent storms and more storm damage. This had been received wisdom in the AR4 report; Time connected AGW to the damage from Katrina in 2005, and similar things were reported throughout the mainstream media.

Only it turns out that was no better sourced than “2035″ had been. In fact, as Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr. has documented extensively, the original AR3 and AR4 reports also depended on non-peer-reviewed material to infer that storms were stronger and causing more damage than in the past, thanks in large part to AGW. In fact, as Roger Pielke, Jr. puts it, the treatment of the effect of AGW on storm damage reveals:

[T]he systematic misrepresentation of the science of disasters and climate change in major science assessments. … [T]here is a pattern of behavior taking place in this community that should be of concern to anyone who cares about the integrity of science, regardless of their position on climate policies and politics.

Roger Pielke, Jr. had been raising this issue for quite a while, including papers published as early as 2006, to little effect. But in the new post-Climategate world, suddenly these complaints were taken more seriously, and the blows to the IPCC’s credibility arrived thick and fast.
From the on January 24 (”UN wrongly linked global warming to natural disasters“):

The United Nations climate science panel faces new controversy for wrongly linking global warming to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

It based the claims on an unpublished report that had not been subjected to routine scientific scrutiny — and ignored warnings from scientific advisers that the evidence supporting the link too weak. The report’s own authors later withdrew the claim because they felt the evidence was not strong enough.

Another suspicious report, claiming great risks, based on what turns out to be poor science. (The same poor science about which Roger Pielke, Jr. complained. He has a good summary posting on this on his own blog.)
All in all, not a good week for the IPCC. Two major errors, both of them integrating inflammatory, un-reviewed results into what had been advertised as the most authoritative peer-reviewed summary of the state of climate science. This follows the collapse of Copenhagen, and the Climategate emails’ evidence of pressure to influence the results of climate science. All of them working in the same direction: to slant the evidence presented to the world toward the conclusion that AGW is a current crisis, a world cataclysm.

Now, suddenly, those conclusions are hard to credit.The wheels have begun to come off.

Charlie Martin is a Colorado computer scientist and freelance writer. He holds an MS in Computer Science from Duke University, where he spent six years with the National Biomedical Simulation Resource, Duke University Medical Center. Find him at, and on his blog at

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Little Rock Shooter Says He’s with Al-Qaeda in Yemen

Abdul Hakim Muhammad's reversal highlights the threat from al-Qaeda in Yemen, and should draw attention to "prison jihad."

January 24, 2010 - by Annie Jacobsen

On June 1, 2009, a Tennessee man born Carlos Bledsoe — but who changed his name to Abdul Hakim Muhammad — walked up to a military recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas, and opened fire. He killed a 23-year-old private named William Long and wounded another man, Private Quinton Ezeagwula, who was eighteen. At the time of the shooting, Muhammad was under investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) for having traveled to Yemen, where he spent time in prison.

Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, right, appears in a Little Rock, Ark., courtroom with his new attorney Jim Hensley Friday, June 5, 2009. Muhammad is accuesd in the death of a military recruiter outside the Army-Navy Career Center in a west Little Rock shopping center. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

According to police reports, after the shooting Muhammad waved his Miranda rights, and on video “stated that he was a practicing Muslim … [and] that he was mad at the U.S. military because of what they had done to Muslims in the past.” According to a detective on the case, Tommy Hudson, Muhammad said that he had “fired several rounds at the soldiers with the intent of killing them.”

He pleaded not guilty.

Last week, on January 12, this same man sat down and wrote a letter to the judge presiding over his capital murder case. Abdul Hakim Muhammad asked that the judge change his plea to guilty. In the letter, Muhammad says he was trained in Yemen by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the same group believed to have trained Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day.

Abdul Hakim Muhammad told the judge:

My lawyer has no defense. … I wasn’t insane or post-traumatic nor was I forced to do this act. Which I believe and it is justified according to Islamic laws and the Islamic religion jihad — to fight those who wage war on Islam and Muslims.

Muhammad’s father, Melvin Bledsoe, told the New York Times that he does not believe his son has ties to al-Qaeda. This despite the fact that in the fall of 2007, his son went to Yemen, where he lived for 16 months. He married a woman from Yemen and was imprisoned for using a false passport. Sometime after his release from the Yemeni prison he returned to America, where the JTTF picked up his trail.

In his interview with the Times, Melvin Beldsoe “suggested that [his son] might be trying to link himself to al-Qaeda because he believes it will lead to his execution and make him a martyr.” Bledsoe said he considers his son “unable to process” reality and that he has been “brainwashed.”

Regardless of what the father thinks of his son, those tasked with reading the recent Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on the Yemen/al-Qaeda/American jihad connection will have to take note of this new information. The 21-page report deals with Americans radicalized for jihad in prisons, largely in the state of New York. Abdul Hakim Muhammad presents the scenario in reverse — a Muslim convert who gets radicalized in America, goes to Yemen, and winds up in prison there.

The report released last Monday speaks of as many as 36 American ex-cons, all of whom “arrived in Yemen in the past year ostensibly to study Arabic,” but actually were studying how to be terrorists. The men fell off the radar, the Committee on Foreign Relations says. They never returned to America, but instead “disappeared and are suspected of having gone to al-Qaeda training camps in ungoverned portions of the impoverished country.”
These are not 36 isolated incidents, the report says. Patrick Dunleavy, a former deputy inspector general of New York’s prison system, explains: “There is a network that steers them once they are out of prison through a series of proving grounds until they end up in Yemen.”

Terrorism analysts and experts have been writing about this problem for years: American prisons have become a breeding ground for Muslim extremists. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross has written several investigative reports on prison jihad, including a series for the Weekly Standard. In “Revenge of the Shoe Bomber” at the Wall Street Journal, Debra Burlingame explains how shoe bomber Richard Reid has resumed jihad from prison. The Investigative Project on Terrorism has gone undercover to learn more about the roots of radical Islam in prison.

One wonders why it takes a near-miss on a Detroit-bound airplane for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to take note of what is already known. Important questions remain. Will action be taken? Will the Muslim clerics who foster radicalism inside prisons be shut down, and will the networks who help the ex-cons travel overseas for jihad be investigated and held accountable?

Or is Congress in CYA mode?

Annie Jacobsen writes about aviation and intelligence. She blogs at and is working on a new book for Little Brown and Company.