The White House said Thursday it is taking seriously the allegations by former hostages that Iran's hardline president-elect, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was one of their captors at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran a quarter century ago.
President Bush told foreign reporters he has "no information, but obviously his involvement raises many questions."
"As soon as I saw the face, it rang a lot of bells to me," Don Sharer, who served as the embassy's naval attache at the time, told CNN. "...Take 20 years off of him. He was there. He was there in the background, more like an adviser."
[C]ontrary to the common perception, this election is not so much a sign of the Iranian system's strength as of its weakness. Last week's presidential election is only the most recent example of the tactical wisdom and strategic foolishness of Iran's ruling mullahs.
All the reformist candidates, particularly Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, as well as the approximately 70 percent of the electorate who voted for reformists or boycotted the election, sought above all to limit Khamenei's increasing despotism. Rather than accepting this possible outcome, Khamenei and his allies made a grab for absolute power.
In the process they may have unwittingly opened the door for democracy -- because their hardball tactics have created the most serious rift in the ranks of ruling mullahs since the inception of the Islamic Republic. The experience of emerging democracies elsewhere has shown that dissension within ruling circles has often presaged the fall of authoritarianism.
Early in 1979, Mr. Ahmadinejad became a leader of an organization called the Office for Strengthening of Unity Between Universities and Theological Seminaries, known as the OSU, which helped orchestrate the seizure of the embassy. The organization was set up by Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, then a close confidant of the Ayatollah Khomeini. The following year, when Khomeini staged what he referred to as an "Islamic Cultural Revolution," Mr. Ahmadinejad and the OSU helped purge dissident students and university lecturers, many of whom were arrested and subsequently executed.
UPDATE II: From The Ayn Rand Institute: Death to "Diplomacy" with Iran by Elan Journo .
A committed enemy of the West, Iran is the ideological wellspring of Islamic terrorism, and the "world's most active sponsor of terrorism" (according to the U.S. government). A totalitarian regime that viciously punishes "un-Islamic" behavior among its own citizens, Iran actively exports its contempt for freedom and human life throughout the infidel world. For years it has been fomenting and underwriting savage attacks on Western and American interests, using such proxies as Hezbollah. Like several of the 9/11 hijackers before them, many senior Al Qaida leaders, fugitives of the Afghanistan war, have found refuge in Iran. And lately Iran has funneled millions of dollars, arms and ammunition to insurgents in Iraq.
It's absurd to think that by offering Iran rewards to halt its aggression, we will deflect it from its goal.
The only consequence of engaging such a vociferously hostile regime in negotiations is the whitewashing of its crimes and the granting of undeserved legitimacy. The attempt to conciliate Iran with "incentives" further inflames the boldness of Iran's mullahs. What it teaches them is that the West lacks the intellectual self-confidence to name its enemies and deal with them accordingly. It vindicates the mullahs' view that their religious worldview can bring a scientific, technologically advanced West to its knees.
UPDATE III -- July 11: From The Jerusalem Post: The mask is off and no one cares by Caroline Glick.
IN A nutshell, Ahmadinejad is the personification of everything that the US and its erstwhile European allies claim that the war against global terrorism is seeking to defeat. He is a religious fanatic, a terror commander with global reach who seeks to destabilize the world and he is planning a no holds barred sprint to the finish line of Iran's race to acquire nuclear weapons which, he promises, will be used to protect the entire Islamic world.
This naturally begs the question, now that the mask of "reform" has been removed from the Iranian face, what will the US and Europe do? Will they accept that there is no diplomatic way of dealing with a regime that, in selecting Ahmadinejad as president has finally admitted that it remains fully committed to the destruction of Western civilization? Or will they try to ignore the obvious and tell themselves that a deal can still be reached if the payoff is high enough? The signs are mixed but discouraging. ...
While it is not surprising that the EU will do everything humanly possible to continue to appease terrorists even if it has no plausible way to deny that they are in fact terrorists, that the US reaction to both Iran's new president and Hamas's increased empowerment [in the Palestinian terroritories] has been so muddled is a major disappointment.
From FoxNews: Gov't: Gas Price Nears Record High.
U.S. motorists should prepare to pay more at the pump over the Fourth of July holiday, after a government survey on Monday showed gasoline prices rose for the fourth straight week, nearing an all-time high set in April.
UPDATE I -- June 29: Tempus Fugit notes that inflation is not being figured into the government's "record high" assertion: Oil Prices Peak? Well, No..
UPDATE II: Mike Williams e-mails an additional observation:
Inflation is not the only factor the Energy Information Administration ignores in its recent report on gas prices. As reported by the American Petroleum Institute, prices at the pump also include 18.4 cents per gallon in federal taxes and a national average of 23.6 cents per gallon in state taxes! If the federal or state governments were truly concerned about rising gas costs they would act to abolish gas taxes and burdensome energy industry regulations!
UPDATE III: This cartoon appeared in the July 5th The Detroit News.
From the June 24th New York Sun: Democrats Furious Over Rove Remarks On 9/11 Aftermath.
Mark Steyn writes: Don't worry, Old Glory can take the heat. (Hat tip Tom Pechinski)
For my own part, I believe that, if someone wishes to burn a flag, he should be free to do so. In the same way, if Democrat senators want to make speeches comparing the U.S. military to Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, they should be free to do so. It's always useful to know what people really believe.
UPDATE -- June 28: This cartoon appeared in today's The Detroit News.
From The New York Times: Justices, 5-4, Back Seizure of Property for Development.
The Supreme Court ruled today, in a deeply emotional case weighing the rights of property owners and the good of the community, that local governments can sometimes seize homes and businesses and turn them over to private developers.
In a case with nationwide implications, the court ruled, 5 to 4, against a group of homeowners in New London, Conn., who have resisted the city's plans to demolish their working-class homes near the Thames River to make way for an office building, riverfront hotel and other commercial activities.
The majority held that, just as government has the constitutional power of eminent domain to acquire private property to clear slums or to build roads, bridges, airports and other facilities to benefit the public, it can sometimes do so for private developers if the latters' projects also serve a public good. ...
Scott Bullock, a lawyer for the Institute of Justice, which represented the families, was bitterly disappointed. "A narrow majority of the court simply got the law wrong today," he said in an A.P. interview. "Our Constitution and country will suffer as a result."
But New London officials said the overall good that will come from private development in the Fort Trumbull area outweighs the rights of the individual homeowners.
From The Ayn Rand Institute: The Tyranny of Eminent Domain by Larry Salzman and Alex Epstein .
What justifies this treatment of Kelo and the other owners, who simply want to be free to live on their own property? The seizures and transfers, the government says, are in "the public interest"--because they will lead to more jobs for New London residents and more tax dollars for the government. This type of justification was given more than 10,000 times between 1998 and 2002, and across 41 states, to use eminent domain (or its threat) to seize private property. The attitude behind these seizures was epitomized by a Lancaster, CA, city attorney explaining why a 99¢ Only store should be condemned to make way for a Costco: "99 Cents produces less than $40,000 [a year] in sales taxes, and Costco was producing more than $400,000. You tell me which was more important?"
To such government officials, the fact that an individual earns a piece of property and wants to use and enjoy it, is of no importance--all that matters is "the public." But as philosopher Ayn Rand observed, "there is no such entity as 'the public,' since the public is merely a number of individuals . . . .the idea that 'the public interest' supersedes private interests and rights can have but one meaning: that the interests and rights of some individuals take precedence over the interests and rights of others." In the context of the Kelo case, the idea that "the public interest" trumps private property rights simply means that the desires of some individuals for property they did not earn and cannot get from others voluntarily trump the rights of those who did earn it and do not want to sell it. Why are their rights trumped? Because some gang with political pull doesn't happen to like how these individuals are using their property.
This is unjust and un-American.
UPDATE I -- June 27: This cartoon appears in today's Investor's Business Daily.
UPDATE II -- June 29: From Freestar Media: Could a hotel be built on the land owned by Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter?. (Thanks to everyone who sent this article to us.)
[Logan Darrow] Clements, CEO of Freestar Media, LLC, points out that the City of Weare will certainly gain greater tax revenue and economic benefits with a hotel on 34 Cilley Hill Road than allowing Mr. Souter to own the land.
The proposed development, called "The Lost Liberty Hotel" will feature the "Just Desserts Café" and include a museum, open to the public, featuring a permanent exhibit on the loss of freedom in America. Instead of a Gideon's Bible each guest will receive a free copy of Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged."
UPDATE III: From AP: Proposal Made to Seize Souter's Property.
The letter was passed along to the board of selectmen. If the five-member board were to endorse the hotel project, zoning laws would have to be changed and the hotel would have to get approval from the planning board. Messages seeking comment were left with Laura Buono, board chairwoman.
"Am I taking this seriously? But of course," said Charles Meany, Weare's code enforcement officer. "In lieu of the recent Supreme Court decision, I would imagine that some people are pretty much upset. If it is their right to pursue this type of end, then by all means let the process begin."
From The Wall Street Journal: Iran's 'Democracy' -- A rigged election, no reformist victory.
The most astonishing aspect of Friday's presidential vote in Iran is not that the elections will go into a second round but that Tehran managed to convince so many in the West that this is a real demonstration of democracy.
All power is held by Supreme Leader Ali Khameni, his Council of Guardians and the small clique of military officers and businessmen around him. The Council disqualified more than 1,000 candidates before the election, vetting only contestants who support the regime's ideological lines. The example of outgoing "reformist" President Mohammad Khatami, who presided over eight years of economic decline and worsening repression, has proven that the President cannot change anything against the Council's will.
The one number worth parsing in Friday's election is that of voter participation. Many Iranians had called for a boycott as the only way of showing resistance. Knowing this, the mullahs seem to have taken their usual election manipulations to another level. Intimidation by the Revolutionary Guards and the fact that proof of voting is needed for certain jobs and welfare payments have always pushed up turnout. Still, voter participation has steadily declined in the past few years to barely 50%.
They couldn’t even stage a phony election without appearing inept and thuggish, which is certainly not the image they wanted to send to the world. And the spectacle of intense internal conflict among leading figures in the Islamic republic makes me wonder if the revolution is beginning to devour its own fathers and sons.
First, the numbers. The regime had made it clear that the size of the turnout would indicate its legitimacy with the public, so they had to come up with big numbers. After hours of hilarious confusion, during which the "official" numbers oscillated wildly and different vote totals were announced by the interior ministry and the Council of Guardians, the regime finally decided to claim that something like 65 percent of eligible Iranians had voted. But most clear-eyed observers with the freedom to move around the country and actually go to polling places, found very few voters. ...
The lowest participation -- maybe as low as 3-5 percent -- was in Khuzestan Province, where there had been bombings and protests in recent weeks. But anecdotal evidence from all over the country indicated a very low turnout, as of late afternoon. Despite this, the mullahs trotted out rosy reports of big voter turnouts, and even broadcast "live" TV coverage of voters queued up, waiting patiently to make their voices heard.
The only problem was that the pictures were from past elections. One woman called up a Tehran radio station to say that she was sitting at home watching the tube, and saw herself voting. Very droll indeed.
And from Iran Press News: Tahkeem Vahdat: Boycott the bogus elections, this regime is not reformable.
The University Student offices of Tahkeem'eh Vahdat has sent out a bulletin reiterating it's stance: "based on an all points boycott of this bogus election and the immovability and unreformability of the regime ruling over Iran; we consider this fake election to be disastrous, highly restrictive and utterly ineffective and the office of the president should be castigated for this pathetic show of force."
In several parts of this bulletin, the members of Tahkeem'eh Vahdat have referred to this as a filthy stain on Khatami's departing report card and went on to say that Khatami showed once again that he never had the will to defend and protect the most evident rights of the people of Iran to the ruling powermongers in the country.
The latter story is via Free Thoughts who, as always, is closely following this and other Iran-related stories.
From The Jerusalem Post: Blair: EU on verge of irrelevancy to its citizens.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Saturday the European Union was at a crucial crossroads and must change course if it is to remain relevant and responsive to its citizens. ...
A visibly furious Blair argued that French and Dutch voters' rejection of the union's proposed constitution demonstrated that the EU's leaders were out of touch with citizens' concerns.
"This is a moment when Europe has to take measures of fundamental reform to reconnect ... to the priorities and concerns of the people in Europe," he said. "The 'no' votes in the referendums cannot be ignored; they represent something deeper across Europe. ... It's time we responded to it."
When Prime Minister Tony Blair's chief foreign policy adviser dined with Condoleezza Rice six months after Sept. 11, the then-U.S. national security adviser didn't want to discuss Osama bin Laden or al-Qaida. She wanted to talk about "regime change" in Iraq, setting the stage for the U.S.-led invasion more than a year later.
President Bush wanted Blair's support, but British officials worried the White House was rushing to war, according to a series of leaked secret Downing Street memos that have renewed questions and debate about Washington's motives for ousting Saddam Hussein. ...
Details from Rice's dinner conversation also are included in one of the secret memos from 2002, which reveal British concerns about both the invasion and poor postwar planning by the Bush administration, which critics say has allowed the Iraqi insurgency to rage.
The eight memos — all labeled "secret" or "confidential" — were first obtained by British reporter Michael Smith, who has written about them in The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times.
Smith told AP he protected the identity of the source he had obtained the documents from by typing copies of them on plain paper and destroying the originals. [Emphasis added]
SPECIAL UPDATE -- June 22: Take Back The Memoria reports: NYC councilman backs family members' call for halt to IFC.
The city councilman who represents Ground Zero yesterday called for a halt of the controversial International Freedom Center planned for the World Trade Center site because of concerns voiced by outraged 9/11 families.
"The families have raised legitimate questions as to whether or not that type of museum should be in the memorial quadrant," said Councilman Alan Gerson. "We should put the Freedom Center Museum briefly on hold. We need to rethink this before we proceed," Gerson told The [New York] Post following a hearing on Ground Zero reconstruction
If you haven't already done so, sign the "Take Back The Memorial" petition now.
[End of special undate. Orgininal post follows.]
For three long years we have played by the rules as set forth by Governor Pataki, Mayor Bloomberg and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. It got us nowhere.
We want a proper, fitting and respectful September 11th Memorial for the 3,000 innocent souls who perished that day. Not “a history lesson about tolerance.”
The planners of the World Trade Center Memorial have been put on notice that we are going over their heads to make our case to the American people. Please join us for a press conference to kick off our national campaign to enlist the American people in a Fight for Ground Zero. Our loved ones deserve no less.
I wrote extensively on the topic of the International Freedom Center in this post.
UPDATE I -- June 20: More about today's Take Back The Memorial rally at 9/11 Families For America.
UPDATE II: SIGN THE "TAKE BACK THE MEMORIAL" PETITION.
Also released: press conference. Excerpt from statement by Edie Lutnick:
But now 9/11 faces a different tragedy. Forgetfulness. The 9/11 Memorial will be buried underground. It‚s stories, artifacts, and place in history hidden underground. The fear, loss, hope and heroism of 9/11 replaced in prominence by stories from a different time, about a different day. While the memories of 9/11 are hidden underground, while 9/11 tries to squeeze between the infrastructure underground, a shiny new building is going to be constructed for the International Freedom Center. The message will not be the hope and renewal of 9/11, but a debate on world politics. The space will not be a sacred remembrance, but rather a speaker‚s corner. When you come to the WTC site you will not be immersed in 9/11. You will be met with world politics. No one who has come to the WTC site in the last almost four years has asked about world politics. Why? Because, it isn‚t the appropriate place. Everyone knows that.
The International Freedom Museum must be removed. If the museum building stays, it must be filled with 9/11 from top to bottom. There is no reason why cost or space should ever be an issue in teaching 9/11 to our children, while money and space exist to debate world politics. Make no mistake, we think Martin Luther King deserves to be honored, that there is a place for Ukrainian victors to be studied, but NOT on the site where 20,000 body parts of 2749 innocents were recovered. [Emphasis added]
UPDATE IV: Jeff Jarvis reports on the rally.
The families, always with the pictures of their lost loved ones, began changing: "9/11 memorial only" and "take back the memorial." And then a few family members spoke.
One appealed to the American people to join with them and take back the memorial. Another said that lessons of a freedom center would be fine, "but not here, not on sacred ground."
"Nobody is coming to this place to learn about Ukranian democracy and be inspired by the courage of Tibetan monks," he said.
Another spoke for many when he said that the remains of his family member were never found. "We have no place to go," he said, "we have no place to grieve" -- other than this place.
The sister of a firefighter pointed to her 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter and asked whether the lesson of what is to be built at the World Trade Center will be that "9/11 is something to be ashamed of."
"We will make sure this site is not violated a second, time," she said.
UPDATE VI -- June 22: Take Back The Memorial has posted two enlightening videos. The first video features Take Back The Memorial's Debra Burlingame and International Freedom Center's Richard Tofel on Fox & Friends. The second video is an O'Reilly Factor segment dealing with the first video and an off-stage encounter between Burlingame and Tofel.
Judging by Tofel's statements, the IFC's sales strategy appears to be this: Say the word "freedom" a lot; mention that President Bush said freedom was attacked on 9/11; note that most people agree that freedom was attacked on 9/11; then draw the conclusion that we should build a history-of-freedom museum and lecture hall at the WTC 9/11 memorial site.
At face value, this reasoning has its appeal, and they know it. Who would argue against building a museum dedicated to the history of freedom, right? The problem is that the IFC has proven time again that it can't be taken at face value.
To build a "freedom museum," one would have to begin by defining freedom. After all, some people believe that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Obviously we don't want terrorists being commemorated at the 9/11 memorial, so surely the IFC will define "freedom" in order to exclude exhibits, lectures and debates by terrorist sympathizers and apologists, right? No, not really. In his WSJ editorial., Tofel was explicit: "[The International Freedom Center] will not exist to precisely define 'freedom' or to tell people what to think, but to get them to think -- and to act in the service of freedom as they see it."
How can the IFC "celebrate the triumphs of freedom," as Tofel puts it it the video, while also refusing to even define "freedom"? They can't, not if they are truly concerned about freedom. "Freedom as they see it" is an intentionally open-ended concept that will leave the IFC plenty of room to smuggle in whatever exhibits they want. At "best," they could include exhibits and lectures about any fight for freedom not directly connected to 9/11 -- from the holocaust to civil rights -- thus detracting attention from the 9/11 atrocities and the Islamists who committed them. At worst, they could include speakers sympathetic to, say, the Palestinian "freedom fighters" who target civilians in their war against Israel -- just as Mohammed Atta did at the World Trade Center on 9/11.
But why be suspicious of the IFC's motives? Is there any indication of what they want to "smuggle in" to the WTC site?
The public has a right to know that it was the Mr. Bernstein’s organization [Human Rights First], joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, that filed a lawsuit three months ago against Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was Human Rights First that filed an amicus brief on behalf of alleged “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla, an American citizen who the Justice Department believes is an al Qaeda recruit. It was Human Rights First that has called for a 9/11-style commission to investigate the alleged torture of detainees, complete with budget authority, subpoena power and the ability to demand that witnesses testify under oath.
Burlingame characterizes Bernstein as "a driving force behind the IFC." This New York Times article noted how much so:
A Freedom’s Future space [within the International Freedom Center] will be devoted to public service. Lawyers would be invited to volunteer with Human Rights First, for example, or doctors and nurses with Medical Missions for Children or CURE International.
So when Tofel talks about inspiring memorial visitors to "act in the service of freedom as they see it," what he has in mind, as least in part, is working for groups like Human Right First, which is actively fighting the American military in a time of war.
Is this "celebrating the triumphs of freedom"? Is this the kind of activity that should be allowed at the WTC 9/11 memorial site?
There are some organizations that might be truly appropriate for soliciting volunteers at the WTC, like the U.S. armed forces. But somehow I doubt that would fit into the IFC’s scheme of things.
(Sign the "Take Back The Memorial" petition if you haven't already.)
The White House and Senate Republicans on Thursday assailed a Democrat for comparing American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis, Soviet gulags and Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.
It is "beyond belief" that Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin would compare the treatment of dangerous enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay to the death of millions of innocent people by oppressive governments, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. ...
Defending himself, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat said Thursday it was "just plain wrong" to say he was diminishing past horrors.
He said he was comparing interrogation techniques that the FBI report said were used at Guantanamo with those in foreign detainee camps. ...
"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings," Durbin said Tuesday.
Ignorance of history destroys our judgment. Consider Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), who just compared the Guantanamo Bay detention center to Stalin's gulag and to the death camps of Hitler and Pol Pot -- an astonishing, obscene piece of ignorance. Between 15 million and 30 million people died from 1918 through 1956 in the prisons and labor camps of the Soviet gulag. Historian Robert Conquest gives some facts. A prisoner at the Kholodnaya Gora prison had to stuff his ears with bread before sleeping on account of the shrieks of women being interrogated. At the Kolyma in Siberia, inmates labored through 12-hour days in cheap canvas shoes, on almost no food, in temperatures that could go to minus-58. At one camp, 1,300 of 3,000 inmates died in one year.
The title of this cartoon comes from this Investor's Business Daily editorial, which states:
Among his complaints is that, according to an e-mail he said he received from an FBI agent, on "one occasion the air conditioning had been turned so far and the temperature was so cold in the room that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold."
But that sure beats the temperatures on the upper floors of the World Trade Center that day when innocent Americans jumped to their deaths because jihadists turned passenger jets into manned cruise missiles.
Durbin quoted the e-mail as alleging that a prisoner who had been forced to listen to loud rap music had been "chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the floor." Why on earth would we restrain terrorists of the ilk that murdered 3,000 innocent people on American soil on Sept. 11, 2001, a date that seems to have escaped Durbin's memory?
UPDATE I -- June 18: Back when Amnesty International referred to the Guantanamo Bay dention center as "the gulag of our times," The Jawa Report had an essay that put things in perspective: The Gulag Archipelego vs. Amnesty International's 'Gulags'.
One measure of a civilized society is that words mean something: "Soviet" and "Nazi" and "Pol Pot" cannot equate to Guantanamo unless you've become utterly unmoored from reality. Spot the odd one out: 1) mass starvation; 2) gas chambers; 3) mountains of skulls; 4) lousy infidel pop music turned up to full volume. One of these is not the same as the others, and Durbin doesn't have the excuse that he's some airhead celeb or an Ivy League professor. He's the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Don't they have an insanity clause?
Again, the more one hears the specifics of the "insensitivity" of the American regime at Guantanamo, the more many of us reckon we're being way too sensitive. For example, camp guards are under instructions to handle copies of the Koran only when wearing gloves. The reason for this is that the detainees regard infidels as "unclean." Fair enough, each to his own. But it's one thing for the Islamists to think infidels are unclean, quite another for the infidels to agree with them. Far from being tortured, the prisoners are being handled literally with kid gloves (or simulated kid-effect gloves). The US military hand each jihadi his complimentary copy of the Koran as delicately as white-gloved butlers bringing His Lordship The Times of London. When I bought a Koran to bone up on Islam a couple of days after 9/11, I didn’t wear gloves to the bookstore. If that’s "disrespectful" to Muslims, tough. You should have thought about that before you allowed your holy book to become the central motivation for global jihad.
Under fire from Republicans and some fellow Democrats, Sen. Dick Durbin apologized Tuesday for comparing American interrogators at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp to Nazis and other historically infamous figures.
"Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line," the Illinois Democrat said. "To them I extend my heartfelt apologies."
His voice quaking and tears welling in his eyes, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate also apologized to any soldiers who felt insulted by his remarks.
"They're the best. I never, ever intended any disrespect for them," he said.
From Reuters: Bush pledges to speed up aid to Africa:
President George W. Bush told African leaders on Monday he would "work harder and faster" to accelerate aid to the region under a heavily promoted but little-used program after they complained the system was too bureaucratic. ...
Bush went into the meeting having turned down a proposal by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to give Africa as much as $50 billion a year by making long-term aid commitments that would allow poor countries to raise money on global capital markets.
Bush and Blair did work on a debt relief plan for Africa that finance ministers agreed on in London over the weekend, before a Group of Eight [G8] summit next month in Gleneagles, Scotland. Under the deal, about $40 billion in debt owed by 18 of the world's poorest nations, including 14 in Africa, will be canceled.
"We believe by removing a crippling debt burden, we'll help millions of Africans improve their lives and grow their economies," Bush said.
The current plan of George Bush and Tony Blair to send billions more in aid to Africa is futile. History demonstrates that brutal dictatorships and savage tribes engaged in internecine warfare are not transformed by handouts. After all, billions of dollars have already been poured into Africa. What Africa needs is freedom, not welfare. The West should reject the idea that it is our responsibility to lift Africans out of their poverty -- and then tell them of the system that enabled the West to gain its current wealth and power: capitalism. ...
Africa has the identical natural resource fundamentally responsible for the West's rise: the human mind. But it has neither the freedom nor the Enlightenment philosophy of reason, individualism and political liberty necessary for creating wealth and health. Africa is mired in tribal cultures that stress subordination to the group rather than personal independence and achievement. All over the continent brutal dictators murder and rob innocent citizens in order to aggrandize themselves and members of their tribes.
What Africa desperately needs is to remove its political and economic shackles and replace them with political and economic freedom. It needs to depose the military dictators and socialist regimes and establish capitalism, with its political/economic freedom, its rule of law, its uncompromising respect for individual rights. And to accomplish that, it first needs to remove its philosophic shackles and replace tribal collectivism with a philosophy of reason and freedom.
UPDATE -- June 17: From the South African Institute of International Affairs: The private sector, political elites and underdevelopment in Sub-Saharan Africa by Moeletsi Mbeki. (Hap tip Barry Rab.)
In the model described above the underlying assumption is that private individuals are free to pursue their search for security and comfort and they therefore own and control the means of achieving their objectives. They are assumed to be free to exchange what they produce without let or hindrance and that where they are able to make savings, they are free to retain those savings and plough them back in improved techniques or in other investment avenues as they may wish.
This is not the case with the private sector in Sub-Saharan Africa. Africa’s private sector is predominantly made up of peasants and secondly, of subsidiaries of foreign-owned multinational corporations. Neither of these two groups have the complete freedom to operate in the market place because they are both politically dominated by others -- non-producers who control the state. Herein lay the weakness of the private sector in Africa that explains its inability to become the engine of economic development. Africa’s private sector lacks political power and is therefore not free to operate to maximize its objectives. Above all, it is not free to decide what happens to its savings.
From The Wall Street Journal: Unsocialized Medicine; A landmark ruling exposes Canada's health-care inequity:
The larger lesson here is that health care isn't immune from the laws of economics. Politicians can't wave a wand and provide equal coverage for all merely by declaring medical care to be a "right," in the word that is currently popular on the American left.
There are only two ways to allocate any good or service: through prices, as is done in a market economy, or lines dictated by government, as in Canada's system. The socialist claim is that a single-payer system is more equal than one based on prices, but last week's court decision reveals that as an illusion. Or, to put it another way, Canadian health care is equal only in its shared scarcity.
UPDATE I -- June 16: This cartoon appears in today's Investor's Business Daily.
UPDATE II -- June 21: From Capitalism Magazine: Why Canadians Purchase Private Health Insurance by Walter Williams.
The Vancouver, British Columbia-based Fraser Institute keeps track of Canadian waiting times for various medical procedures. According to the Fraser Institute's 14th annual edition of "Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada (2004)," total waiting time between referral from a general practitioner and treatment, averaged across all 12 specialties and 10 provinces surveyed, rose from 17.7 weeks in 2003 to 17.9 weeks in 2004.
For example, depending on which Canadian province, an MRI requires a wait between 7 and 33 weeks.
Orthopaedic surgery might require a wait of 14 weeks for a referral from a general practitioner to the specialist and then another 24 weeks from the specialist to treatment. That statistic might help explain why Cleveland, Ohio, has become Canada's hip-replacement center.
As reported in a December 2003 story by Kerri Houston for the Frontiers of Freedom Institute titled "Access Denied: Canada's Healthcare System Turns Patients into Victims," in some instances, patients die on the waiting list because they become too sick to tolerate a procedure. Canada's Prime Minister Paul Martin responded to the court's decision saying, "We're not going to have a two-tier healthcare system in this country. What we want to do is strengthen the public healthcare system." That's the standard callous political response. He's telling Canadians to continue waiting, continue suffering and perhaps dying until the day comes when there's no more waiting.
From Reuters: Cheney slams Howard Dean as 'over the top'.
Vice President Dick Cheney slammed Democratic Party boss Howard Dean as "over the top" in a television interview to air on Monday, saying Dean had helped Republicans more than Democrats.
"I think Howard Dean's over the top. I've never been able to understand his appeal. Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does," Cheney told Fox News Channel.
"So far, I think he's probably helped us more than he has them. That's not the kind of individual you want to have representing your political party," Cheney said.
Cheney's attack was the latest in a chorus of Republican complaints about the Democratic National Committee chairman, who recently said Republicans "never made an honest living in their lives" and were "pretty much a white, Christian party."
Some prominent Democrats have complained about Dean's comments but others have rallied to his defense. The former Vermont governor was known for his fiery rhetoric during his failed 2004 White House run.
Cheney admitted it "doesn't matter so much what I think, I'm a Republican," but said some Democrats he had talked to thought Dean was "doing more damage to the party than he is good."
Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, responding to criticism from the vice president, said he doesn't "care if Dick Cheney likes my mother or not."
From Reuters: Sean Penn in new role at Friday Prayers in Tehran.
Hollywood actor Sean Penn, adopting the role of a journalist, scribbled in his notebook as Friday prayer worshippers in Tehran chanted "Death to America."
Penn, 44, in Iran on a brief assignment for the San Francisco Chronicle ahead of presidential elections on June 17, may be one of the best known faces in film, but he went unrecognized by the 6,000 faithful at Tehran University. [Emphasis added]
UPDATE -- June 13: From Editor & Publisher: Camera of Sean Penn, Journalist, Confiscated in Iran. (Via Free Thoughts)
Iran was rocked by bombings on Sunday, killing at least nine and wounding more than 30, as dozens of journalists from around the world gathered in advance of the presidential election this Friday. One of those journalists, actor Sean Penn--covering the events for the San Francisco Chronicle--was involved in a separate incident, and had his video camera confiscated for a time.
Several hundred women at a sit-in outside the entrance to Tehran University demanded rights revoked after the 1979 Islamic revolution. As chants and taunts arose, police and plainclothesmen surrounded the demonstrators, pushing away those trying to join the group. Officials also cut off cell phone service in the area, and challenged reporters nearby.
In the process, they briefly seized the video camera of Penn, 44, acccording to The Washington Post. He had arrived in Iran as a reporter for his friend Phil Bronstein, editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.
UPDATE -- June 16: Turns out Mr. Penn did hear the "Death to America!" chants last Friday. What meaning does he attach to them? From Reuters: Sean Penn warms to reporter's role in Tehran. (Via Little Green Footballs)
"I understand the nature of where [the chant] comes from and what its intention is," he said. "But I don't think it's productive because I think the message goes to the American people and it is interpreted very literally."
Get it? The "Death to America" chant is counterproductive not because it is an explicitly violent political message from our enemy but because Americans take it too literally. As LGF commenter PDM pointed out, when Iran claims it wants nuclear power only for "peaceful purposes," Penn will probably interpret that statement "very literally."
The Iranian writer Afshin Molavi knows well the politics of Sean Penn. Writing on Saturday on the blog Iran Scan, Molavi penned an accurate appraisal of the actor’s current trip, supposedly under the auspices of the San Francisco Chronicle, to cover the forthcoming election in Iran.
“I wonder how Sean Penn will see things,” Molavi wrote. “Will he honestly portray what he sees? Or will he be blinded by his hatred of President George W. Bush to fall into the trap many a good leftist falls into: defending the Islamic Republic to take a jab at Bush. Progressives in America consistently fail to side with the forces for democracy in Iran because it might just seem too, well, Wolfowitzian or, worse, Rumsfeldian."
From The Wall Street Journal: The Great Ground Zero Heist; Will the 9/11 "memorial" have more about Abu Ghraib than New York's heroic firemen? by Debra Burlingame:
The World Trade Center Memorial Cultural Complex will be an imposing edifice wedged in the place where the Twin Towers once stood. It will serve as the primary "gateway" to the underground area where the names of the lost are chiseled into concrete. The organizers of its principal tenant, the International Freedom Center (IFC), have stated that they intend to take us on "a journey through the history of freedom" -- but do not be fooled into thinking that their idea of freedom is the same as that of those Marines [mentioned earlier in the editorial]. To the IFC's organizers, it is not only history's triumphs that illuminate, but also its failures. The public will have come to see 9/11 but will be given a high-tech, multimedia tutorial about man's inhumanity to man, from Native American genocide to the lynchings and cross-burnings of the Jim Crow South, from the Third Reich's Final Solution to the Soviet gulags and beyond. This is a history all should know and learn, but dispensing it over the ashes of Ground Zero is like creating a Museum of Tolerance over the sunken graves of the USS Arizona.
The public will be confused at first, and then feel hoodwinked and betrayed. Where, they will ask, do we go to see the September 11 Memorial? The World Trade Center Memorial Foundation will have erected a building whose only connection to September 11 is a strained, intellectual one.
There have been two responses to this editorial that I've seen. GOP Blogger has communicated with a Lower Manhattan Development Corp. representative who claims the memorial board members and the memorial itself will not be, contrary to the editorial, a lopsided, left-leaning presentation.
However, a new op-ed in today's The Wall Street Journal in defense of the IFC's approach to the memorial is more revealing. In A Fitting Place at Ground Zero, Richard J. Tofel throws around a lot of quotes from Bush to Lincoln about "freedom" as if the concept will be important to the memorial, but then he admits that it really won't be:
To be sure, the International Freedom Center will host debates and note points of view with which you -- and I -- will disagree. But that is the point, the proof of our society's enduring self-confidence and humanity. Moreover, the International Freedom Center will rise above the politics of the moment. It will not exist to precisely define "freedom" or to tell people what to think, but to get them to think -- and to act in the service of freedom as they see it. And it will always do so in a manner respectful of the victims of September 11.
Keep in mind the context here: the "sue Rumsfeld for torture" ACLU* and other leftists groups are involved in the memorial. How can the memorial be "respectful of the victims of September 11" if, like the ACLU, we do not "precisely define 'freedom'"? True political freedom is not a matter of opinion. After all, didn't Mohammed Atta and his fellow Islamic mass murderers "act in the service of freedom as they [saw] it"? Didn't they want the Islamic world to be "free" from Western culture and "globalization"? Isn't that the very reason they chose to attack the capitalistic World Trade Center in the great New York City? Will views sympathetic to Atta's "point of view" be allowed on the hallowed ground where thousand were slaughtered by him? Have they already?
If one iota of appeasing, multicultural, moral-equivalence, anti-freedom ideology is allowed to desecrate the 9/11 memorial, it will be a victory for the very monsters who brought down the towers. Ask yourself: would it prove our "self-confidence and humanity" if we rose "above the politics of the moment" and allowed Nazi-sympathizers to express "freedom as they see it" at Auschwitz, or even the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum? No, it would not. It would be an insult to the victims. And likewise we must not allow terrorist-sympathizers and apologists any platform at the WTC memorial.
In fact, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., should serve as a model for the WTC memorial, as a guiding principle on how to create a real tribute to the 9/11 victims that does not shy away from naming the enemy, its anti-freedom ideology, and telling the full, horrible story. It's not a matter of scale but of content and presentation. Not only does the Holocaust Museum explain how and why Nazism came to power but also how and why the Nazis systematically murdered millions. It tells survivors' stories and how the free state of Israel was born. It shows how life was reclaimed from a culture of death, destruction and tyranny. There are even television monitors -- conscientiously shielded from children -- that unblinkingly show the true horror committed against Jews and others.
Will there be such a presentation at the World Trade Center memorial? Will there be, as Burlingame put it, "a memorial that ... acknowledge[s] the yearning to return to that day"? There won't be if we can't even stand up, define and defend what is morally right about American freedom. That is the only way to respect the victims of 9/11, because that is why they were murdered.
*[CORRECTION -- June 15: I incorrectly credited the ACLU with the “Guantanamo is a gulag” statement; that analogy actually belongs to Amnesty International. However, the ACLU has expressed a similar sympathy with enemy by suing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others for “direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody,” and they support government inquiry into alleged abuse at Guantanamo Bay (see here). This post has been edited to reflect the correction. Thanks to Peter Malloy for pointing out the error.]
FrontPageMagazine has another good overview of the issue by Jacob Laksin, How the Left Hijacked the September 11th Memorial (hat tip Larwyn):
The final design of the center’s memorial will not be finalized until the end of 2005, but unless an aroused American public speaks up, all signs suggest that the finished product will be little more than a propaganda vehicle for the blame America left.
My suggestion for Mr. Tofel and his supporters is to show some real courage and build their "International Freedom Center" in Damascus or Teheran. The effort might help him define freedom--and pronto.
The latest IFC response is even more revealing. A paragraph worth highlighting:
The IFC's highest aims are to inspire people, and engage them in service. It will tell the stories of Naziism-but also of the Greatest Generation that defeated it; of the Soviet gulag-but also of the courageous dissidents who helped bring it down; of Jim Crow segregation-but also Martin Luther King, who helped stamp it out. Inspiring people through these stories to do freedom's work today is our best long-run defense against more 9/11's.
Notice that IFC's "highest aim" is "to inspire people ... to do freedom's work," by using historical examples -- as if 9/11 itself doesn't inspire Americans to appreciate their freedom. Let's be blunt -- IFC seems to be using Naziism, Jim Crow and The Greatest Generation to distract memorial visitors from 9/11, to dull the significance of 9/11 by overwhelming it with distantly-relevant historical information. And if "doing freedom's work" is really so important to IFC, why can't they even mention in their reply the democratic progress in Iraq, much less the progress in Afghanistan, a country directly connected to the 9/11 attacks? Is it because mentioning the battle for freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan would bring attention back to 9/11?
Notice also that there's no mention of the Isalmofascists who today are oppressing millions and seek to oppress millions more -- not to mention that they are the ones who slaughtered thousands on 9/11. Jim Crow? What about the oppression committed by the Taliban? The jailing of dissidents in Iran? The lack of ideological freedom in Saudi Arabia? If Nazism and Communism are worth mentioning, why isn't Islamism -- the one ideology dedicated to crushing freedom that had anything to do with 9/11? Mentioning Islamism would bring the focus back to 9/11 and why those who committed the atrocity did so. And that, apparently, is what the IFC doesn't want.
Aside from the need to document and explain 9/11 at the memorial, I hope the victims will be represented by more than just their names carved in a wall. Hopefully there will be photographs. Perhaps there will be some of the original "missing person" signs that covered New York City in the aftermath. But I have one suggestion. Instead of seeing Nazi and Soviet atrocities, let's see the people who were murdered on 9/11 -- let's see a wall of 3,000 video monitors showing the home movies of those killed and the loved ones who survived. Let's see them alive and enjoying the freedom America offers. And then let's remember that that is why they were killed.
Yes, the history of freedom is crucially important to understanding how to defend our freedom. But at the WTC site, it would be a gross act of evasion to do so without fully integrating such history to the events of 9/11, as the IFC appears to be doing, especially in their refusal to define freedom. Instead, the WTC 9/11 memorial should focus exclusively on 9/11 and any directly relevant history. Leave the other history to other memorials and museums. The WTC memorial provides an opportunity to identify the anti-freedom ideology that motivated the 9/11 killers as well as the opportunity to explicitly defend the freedom they sought to destroy. That is "our best long-run defense against more 9/11's."
UPDATE V -- June 15: IFC president Richard Tofel appeared on the FoxNews channel to address this controversy. Take Back The Memorial has the video and a response here.
UPDATE VI: I just watched the video in the last update, and the Take Back The Memorial response is spot-on. The IFC is cherry-picking the one element of the mission statement that could be bent to justify what they have planned -- assuming you completely ignore the rest of the statement.
The passage from the mission statement cited by Mr. Tofel is: “strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire and end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance.” First of all, this is flat out impossible if the IFC does not first define freedom, which they have explicitly refused to do. Secondly, there’s all this talk about historical violations of freedom but still not a word about Islamism. How can IFC be serious about inspiring an end to “hatred, ignorance and intolerance” if they consistently refuse to even acknowledge the very hatred, ignorance and intolerance that brought down the towers?
UPDATE VII -- June 16: Take Back The Memorial continues their excellent coverage of this controversy. Go there to stay abreast. The latest includes a video of Neil Cavuto criticizing IFC plans and statements from families of 9/11 victims regarding the plans.
UPDATE VIII -- June 19: See our latest cartoon on this topic here.
From The Washington Post: A Defeat For Users Of Medical Marijuana; State Laws No Defense, Supreme Court Rules:
The Supreme Court dealt a blow to the medical marijuana movement yesterday, ruling that the federal government can still ban possession of the drug in states that have eliminated sanctions for its use in treating symptoms of illness.
By a vote of 6 to 3, the court ruled that Congress's constitutional authority to regulate the interstate market in drugs, licit or illicit, extends to small, homegrown quantities of doctor-recommended marijuana consumed under California's Compassionate Use Act, which was adopted by an overwhelming majority of voters in 1996.
Christian Science Monitor has an overview of the implications the Supreme Court ruling: Fallout of marijuana verdict:
Polls show most Americans support medicinal use, including those opposed to general legalization of the drug.
For example, in a poll conducted last December for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), 72 percent of respondents aged 45 or older agreed that "adults should be allowed to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if a physician recommends it."
This can be seen as part of the general public belief that individuals -- not government -- should be in charge of their medical care, including end-of-life care as was at issue in the Terri Schiavo case.
Gonzales v. Raich (previously Ashcroft v. Raich) is the latest in a long series of Supreme Court opinions interpreting the scope of the so-called commerce clause. Under Article I, section eight of the Constitution, Congress has the power to regulate “commerce ... among the several states.” For most of the nation’s history, this was understood as a rather limited power, rarely invoked by Congress. When Congress first sought to exercise its regulatory muscle, in the late 19th and early 20th century, it faced a hostile court, skeptical that the power over interstate commerce authorized plenary authority over economic concerns.
Here's the third in our new feature: Newsmaker Caricatures by John Cox.
From FoxNews: Jacko Jury Finishes First Day of Deliberations.
UPDATE -- June 13: From FoxNews: Jacko Found Not Guilty on All Counts.
From The New York Times: U.S. Faults 4 Allies Over Forced Labor:
The government was particularly critical of Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates for allowing young children to be held in captivity and used as jockeys in camel races, "a multi-million dollar activity" in the Persian Gulf states. Tiny children, some 3 or 4 years old, are prized, and they are underfed to keep their weight down, the report notes.
"Some boys as young as 6 months old were reported kidnapped and sold to traffickers and raised to become camel jockeys." Others, it adds, "were sold by their parents to traffickers." Recently, it adds, one fell off his camel and was trampled to death.
In Kuwait, it says, "some have been thrown from the camels they rode and suffered serious neurological damage. Most no longer remember where they came from."
After international criticism, these countries banned the use of children as camel jockeys, but the U.S. State Department's 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report indicates that there is little enforcement of the bans and what few children are rescued represent a small fraction of those still in captivity.
This May 9 Reuters article has more: Boy camel jockeys try to recover lost childhoods.
UPDATE -- July 8: From FoxNews: 86 Kids Rescued From Slavery in UAE.
From The Washington Post: Double 'no' to treaty plunges Europe into crisis:
The European Union faced a deepening crisis of confidence on Thursday after the Dutch joined the French in rejecting a new constitution in a move that could stall the bloc's expansion and disrupt decision-making.
Robert Tracinski at TIA Daily offers a good analysis: Liberty and Union -- Why the European Constitution Had to Fail:
That is the real essence of the European constitution. It is not that people know that it will be used to promote "markets" or that they know it will be used to promote socialism. It is that they sense it will create a political entity whose actions cannot be predicted or controlled. That is the overall sense that actually seems to be uniting Europe, and uniting it in opposition to the constitution. The one thing you hear from both left and right -- from French socialists, Dutch euthanasia advocates, and British conservatives -- is the sense that the European constitution creates a political elite that is not accountable to its subjects.