Friday, April 28, 2006

Vital Perspective on the IAEA Condemnation of Iran

Vital Perspective has a link to the IAEA report on the Iranian Nuclear Program, with analysis.

So That's the Origin of the Pin Test

I heard about the pin test years ago from Rabbi Aryeh Strikovsky in Jerusalem.

It's this test whereby you stick a pin in any volume of Talmud, to any depth you like, and tell the person you are testing the page number. Judging from where the pin is located on the first page of that tractate, he has to tell you which word the pin has marked on the corresponding page.

Turns out it was a psychological test.

Whereas I always figured that this was the sort of thing little Lithuanian geniuses at Ponevezh Yeshivah, or the like, did to amuse themselves at the dead of winter at night, after they finished rolling naked in the snow, as a tikkun (spiritual fix) for their souls, (a practice known in Hebrew as "gilgulei sheleg") at least until their teeth had stopped chattering enough to fall back to sleep.

I'm fairly sure Rabbi Strikovsky could do the pin test, even though, at least according to Joshua Foer at Slate, no such thing as a photographic memory exists.

Scenarios: A Story Behind the Story of the CIA Leakers?

[ UPDATE: Remind me not to post at 2:00 in the morning when I'm too tired for a comprehensive proofread. I apologize unreservedly for the errors in copy and somewhat incoherent prose. It's fixed now. ]

Is there a story behind the story of the CIA Leakers?

Macranger at Macsmind certainly thinks so, and has been suggesting so for some time. Based on the fact that Uranium, Niger's one product, has a black market, besides its legal, UN-certified market. And that this black market, which has sold its product illictly to various countries over the last several years, including Libya (until its recent agreements with the US and Britain to get rid of their WMDs) and North Korea. And that Joe Wilson, for one, spent a great deal of time in Niger first on official business and then returned there, pursuing his own business interests, in 1999.

Macranger has several posts elaborating on this subject, with internal links for further references and a new one today.

AJ Strata of the Strata-Sphere joins the game by elaborating on the point that the family oil consortium of anti Iraq war, Senator Jay Rockefeller - so troublesome to Bush for so long on Iraq, and particularly on the NSA leaks - does business with the French company COEGMA. And COEGMA just happens to run the uranium trade in Niger. "COGEMA is the French company (now Avera) that runs the Niger mines and monitors the uranium." That's all "above board."

Macranger has been predicting trouble for Senator Rockefeller, particularly in respect to the trip he took to the Middle East to see the heads of state of Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan, to warn them, by his own admission, that Bush had already made the decision to go to war.

What motives would a US Senator have, who is the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Intelligence, to act as his own self-appointed spokesman to these countries?

Now, what does this have to do with Mary McCarthy?

She has a West African, uranium connection, too, expounded here by Douglas Hanson.
One aspect of her background so far comparatively unexamined is her West African uranium connection. She served in a key government position concerned with West African nations producing yellowcake uranium at the same time that Joseph Wilson was working in the area. The two may be considered members of the "yellowcake community" within the Clinton national security apparatus of the 1990s...

Mary McCarthy held positions in both African and Latin American analysis desks at Langley while Wilson was U.S. Ambassador to the Gabonese Republic from 1992 to 1995. Gabon was a producer of yellowcake uranium. Wilson’s powerful position in Gabon from 1992 to 1995 raises questions about his official trip to Niger to discredit President Bush’s claim that Iraq had sought quantities of uranium from Africa.

During his time in Gabon, Wilson must have been deeply knowledgeable about uranium production and trade there, and must have been familiar with officials of the French energy giant COGEMA, now consolidated into the French Areva Group, a firm closely involved with the French government which appoints members of its board. Joe Wilson has his own French connection.

So are there motives to the actions of all these people, other than that of partisan politics?

A very lucrative market was involved, to which all of these people had strong connections. It certainly begs the question, then, as to whether something else was going on.

But back to the article, where Douglas Hanson asks this question as well, while pointing out a few more connecting facts.
Speaking of dealing in commodities, this whole affair brings us back to square one and Mary McCarthy. One of her previous employers was Beri, SA. Possibly by coincidence Beri provides a Mineral Extraction Risk Assessment service for up to 145 countries that are expected to show rapid growth in oil, gas, and mineral extraction capacity. If one had advance access to economic intelligence and had fostered close business ties over the years with uranium producers, huge financial gains would be possible. Could the Wilson-McCarthy-Africa connection may indicate another instance of US intelligence and Foreign Service personnel taking advantage of regulatory loopholes and lax security in third world countries for personal gain?

There have been many indicators since the Iraq War started that the CIA's internal war against the administration is much more than ideological. For some in the CIA, the Global War on Terror is not just about the struggle for democracy and freedom to protect our national interest.
All this is on the level of speculation still, at least for the general public. It's interesting that, thus far, these net of connections have received very little journalistic attention, and even less in the US, than in Italy or Britain. For, those two countries support to this day the intelligence report about Iraq attempting to purchase Uranium from Niger that Joe Wilson later "debunked" in his op-ed in the NYTimes. And it turns out that it was the French, with its state vested interest in French firm COEGMA, that produced the forgery about Iraq and Uranium that made a mockery of the subject. But that forgery did not undermine the original report.

Recently Christopher Hitchens approached this problem in a little article about Joe Wilson, but did not go far enough in looking at its magnitude. His article, Clueless Joe Wilson concluded, essentially, that Joe Wilson was a narcissist and an idiot. He's certainly a narcissist. But he may be less of an idiot than Hitchens suggests if the line of reporting I wrote about above ends up having a bearing on the motives of various players in the anti-war, anti--Bush crowd.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Europe Now in Striking Distance of Iran

Will Europe keeping yawning about the Iranian threat now that they are in striking distance of the mad mullahs?

Iran procures missiles capable of hitting Europe

Iran has purchased ground-to-ground missiles from North Korea with a range of 2,500 kilometers, the head of the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Branch, Major General Amos Yadlin, said Wednesday.

While Iran already possessed missiles capable of reaching Israel, the new weapons pose a threat for countries in Europe and parts of the Middle East that have now come into Iranian range.

Some of the missiles have already arrived in Iran, Yadlin said in a lecture in memory of Israel's sixth president Haim Herzog, who was also head of the IDF Intelligence Branch.

The missiles are known in the West as BM-25s, operate on liquid fuel and are single-stage. The BM-25 was originally manufactured in the Soviet Union, where the first generation, adapted for use by Soviet submarines and able to carry a nuclear warhead, was known as the SSN6. After the Russians retired the missiles from service, they sold them to the North Koreans, who developed them to carry a heavier payload.

With this purchase the Iranians have leap-frogged over their Shihab-4 missile with its range of 2,000 kilometers.

Iran worked for years on the development of the Shihab-3, which has a range of 1,300 kilometers, and conducted numerous tests. They also developed a cone with improved ability to enter the atmosphere, which meant it was more accurate.

And let's not forget Iran's announcement earlier this week that it planned on sharing nuclear know-how with Sudan.

UPDATE: Won't help much against an nuclear armed missile, but here's more information on the Trophy Active Protection System, the new weapon that Israel has developed to disable RPGs, soon to be mounted on US fighting vehicles, if testing continues to go well.
the Trophy was developed as a result of the changing nature of urban conflict, as exemplified by the US presence in Iraq.

"The whole concept of warfare has changed drastically. Traditional protection has been passive - which means armor. But armor has a number of deficiencies. For one, armor makes many vehicles too heavy," Ben Yoash told ISRAEL21c. "Moreover, armor doesn't protect 360 degrees around the vehicle."

"With conventional warfare, we knew more or less where the enemy was - which was right in front of you. With today's low intensity conflicts, threats are coming from all around - from every direction, and we need the protection to be all around as well. To protect against weapons like the RPG, you need active protection, and the Trophy is a result of that," he added.

The Trophy system is a miniaturized version of the anti-ballistic missile system that automatically detects an incoming threat and launches an interceptor rocket that homes in on the missile and destroys it at a safe distance. Designed to mounted on a fighting vehicle and provide a virtual bubble of protection, it includes rockets that are launched vertically and knock down the RPG round as it streaks toward the vehicle.

We highlighted a cool Video about the Trophy previously: The Next Generation of Weapons

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The CIA Cracks Down

No more talkie-talkie for ex-spooks.
The Central Intelligence Agency has warned former employees not to have unapproved contacts with reporters, as part of a mounting campaign by the administration to crack down on officials who leak information on national security issues.

The clampdown represents the latest move in what observers describe as the most aggressive government campaign against leaks in years. The Justice Department is investigating the disclosure to the media of secret overseas CIA prisons and a highly classified National Security Agency domestic spying programme authorised by President George W. Bush. Last week, the CIA fired Mary McCarthy, an intelligence officer, for allegedly leaking classified information and having undisclosed contacts with reporters...

Another former CIA employee who maintains links to the agency said it did not need to be blatant about threats because contractors and retirees who had relationships with agency officials understood that talking to reporters could have repercussions for future work.

Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committe is now studying whether ex-spooks can lose their pension for "disclosing classified information even when not prosecuted."

Interestingly, I found this tidbit too on renditions and the investigation of secret prisons by the Office of the Inspector General.

Recently Rand Beers and Larry Johnson have claimed that Mary McCarthy did not have access to intelligence on the black sites in Europe. However, the CIA's Inspector General, as it turns out, is currently investigating the matter, if this report can be believed.
U.S. officials previously said that as of late December, some 100 to 150 people had been seized in "rendition" operations involving detaining terror suspects in one country and flying them to their home country or another where they were wanted for a crime or questioning.

The officials, who agreed to discuss the operations only if not quoted by name, said the action was reserved for people considered by the CIA to be the most serious terror suspects. But they conceded mistakes had been made and were being investigated by the CIA's inspector general.
It is hard to know who these anonymous officials are and what weight we should attribute to their words. But, they, at least, believe that the OIG, where McCarthy worked, is investigating the matter.

The question then is, when did the investigation begin? At what point could she have received access to this information?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Where Do You Turn at Prayer Time In Space?

American Space Agency NASA is about to begin a series of consultations with rabbis as part of preparations for the stay of Jewish astronauts in its international space station.

NASA is seeking to consult rabbis regarding the necessary arrangements and ways to uphold Torah commandments in space. Among other things,

there is a need to determine at every stage in the space flight the position of Jerusalem in relation to the space station, so that astronauts know which was to turn when praying.

Other issues include the keeping of kosher food and the keeping of Shabbat in space. The international space station is supposed to receive in the coming years guest experts from other countries, and an effort has been made to send Israeli scientists to the station.

The question of upholding commandments in space came up before first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon was sent to space. Ramon was not religious, but he took with him kosher food and made sure to keep the Shabbat.

UPDATE: Soccer Dad kindly sent me sources which discuss how to determine when to keep Shabbat in Space. (Shabbat is determined on earth at sundown and continues until 43 or 72 minutes after sundown the next day - all of which is hard to determine in space.)

Sabbath in the Space Age by Azriel Rosenfeld.

And from a online Jewish education listserv: Shabbat in Space. Scroll down a bit on the page for the relevant part which, among other things, provides a bit of a bibliography of relevant articles.

What's More Lingual than Multi-Lingual?

Ali G. interviewing Noam Chomsky weirdly enough, comes to a conclusion.

[ Hat Tip: Normblog]

Monday, April 24, 2006

Rand Beers On Mary McCarthy

According to Rand Beers, whom she was hired to replace at the NSC, Mary McCarthy categorically denies being the source of the prison leak story. Though this is as yet unconfirmed by McCarthy herself who did not reply to attempts to contact her.

Rand Beers, who has been publicly very critical of the Bush Administration, after working for it for two years, was a national security advisor to Democratic Party candidate John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign.

Notice, however, that even if this is true, it is a very narrow denial. She is denying only that she was the source of the prison leak story. She could have been a confirming witness about it, a second source, as opposed to the primary one. And she could have leaked other stories.

Indeed, "CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano re-affirmed on Monday that an agency official had been fired after acknowledging “unauthorized contacts with the media and discussion of classified information” with journalists." This appears to mean that McCarthy had more than one set of contacts with journalists, which is exactly what she is alleged to have confessed to.
The officials, who asked for anonymity because they were discussing sensitive information, said that McCarthy had been fired after allegedly confessing during the course of a leak investigation based heavily on polygraph examinations that she had engaged in unauthorized contacts with more than one journalist regarding more than one news story. The only journalist so far identified by government sources as one of the unauthorized persons with whom McCarthy admitted contact is Washington Post reporter Dana Priest, who last week won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing details of a secret airline and prison network that the CIA operates to detain and interrogate high-level Al Qaeda suspects...

A counter-terrorism official acknowledged to NEWSWEEK today that in firing McCarthy, the CIA was not necessarily accusing her of being the principal, original, or sole leaker of any particular story. Intelligence officials privately acknowledge that key news stories about secret agency prison and "rendition" operations have been based, at least in part, upon information available from unclassified sources.
And then, to finish strongly, Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff introduce the ubiquitious Larry Johnson, who informs us, after the authors have introduced several caveats to explains why he suggest he certainly couldn't be biased in her favor, that:
[H]e "never saw her allow her political [views] to cloud her analytical judgment." Johnson maintains the Bush White House is "really damaging the intelligence community" by sending a message to career officials that "unless you are a partisan of the party in power, you cannot be trusted."
Really? And I thought that was precisely the ethos of such folks as Larry Johnson, who is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

But back to the article.
This message, Johnson says, is destroying the intelligence community's "professional ethos."
But then Johnson didn't ever work with her while she served under an Administration with which she strenuously disagreed, such as she currently does, as the amount of her political contributions to various Democrats in 2004 inform us tacitly. The amount was just short of $10,000 dollars, on the salary of a government official. (She has been contributing again recently, this year, to the campaign of Joseph Sestak, director for defense policy on Bill Clinton's National Security Council - see this post at Sweetness and Light for more details.)

What's that about her political contributions to various campaigns in 2004?

Oh that's right. Hosenball and Isikoff could not be bothered to introduce the information. It might shake the narrative line they are trying so carefully to trace between the cracks and pits of their presentation.

For a contrasting view, and in my opinion, a far more perspicacious one, see Andy McCarthy's discussion of Mary McCarthy's political donations.
Now we find that an intelligence officer who was leaking information very damaging to Bush was a Kerry backer to a degree that was extraordinary for a single person on a government salary, and, even more extraordinarily, gave $5K of her own money to Democrats in the key swing state (Ohio) that, in the end, did actually decide the election.

From where I sit, that's pretty damn relevant.
But, then, I guess Hosenball and Isikoff must have figured the news of her political contributions to Democrats was already all over the net, put there, I might add, by centrists and republicans, not by journalists. And here they wanted a coup, with their "testimonial" from Rand Beers. His words conclude the article:
"She worked for me on the most sensitive national security material there is and I had no reason to think she ever did anything like what's been alleged to have been done here," said Beers. McCarthy was a "quality intelligence officer who handled the matters with skill and understanding," he added.
So she didn't leak any information damaging to Clinton while she worked with Beers. But then she was a Clinton supporter, and it was under Clinton's Administration that she rose high. So her motivations were simply otherwise currently. How she acted in the past is in no way determinative of her current behavior.

In Some Systems..

"Beam Us Up" is a synonym for Aliyah.

One of the things missed by not spending Passover in Israel was a huge fantasy fest - sponsored by The Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy, Starbase 972, The Israeli Tolkien Society and The Sunnydale Embassy in Israel (fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

Thanks to My Urban Kvetch and Haveil Hevilim.

Funny Mark Steyn

Saying funny Mark Steyn is really a redundancy. But I'll say it anyway, because I was taken with the opening to his new piece.
Do you worry? You look like you do. Worrying is the way the responsible citizen of an advanced society demonstrates his virtue: He feels good by feeling bad.

But what to worry about? Iranian nukes? Nah, that's just some racket cooked up by the Christian fundamentalist Bush and his Zionist buddies to give Halliburton a pretext to take over the Persian carpet industry. Worrying about nukes is so '80s. "They make me want to throw up. . . . They make me feel sick to my stomach," wrote the British novelist Martin Amis, who couldn't stop thinking about them 20 years ago. In the intro to a collection of short stories, he worried about the Big One and outlined his own plan for coping with a nuclear winter wonderland:

"Suppose I survive," he fretted. "Suppose my eyes aren't pouring down my face, suppose I am untouched by the hurricane of secondary missiles that all mortar, metal and glass has abruptly become: Suppose all this. I shall be obliged (and it's the last thing I feel like doing) to retrace that long mile home, through the firestorm, the remains of the thousands-miles-an-hour winds, the warped atoms, the groveling dead. Then -- God willing, if I still have the strength, and, of course, if they are still alive -- I must find my wife and children and I must kill them."

But the Big One never fell. And instead of killing his wife Martin Amis had to make do with divorcing her. Back then it was just crazies like Reagan and Thatcher who had nukes, so you can understand why everyone was terrified. But now Kim Jong-Il and the ayatollahs have them, so we're all sophisticated and relaxed about it, like the French hearing that their president's acquired a couple more mistresses. Martin Amis hasn't thrown up a word about the subject in years. To the best of my knowledge, he has no plans to kill the present Mrs. Amis.

The Comprehensive Theory of Male/Female Relationships

This new data on the differences in the emotional wiring of men and women explains everything.

It perfectly explains the whole shtick about why women are always complaining about men being out of touch with their emotions and men always complain about women being overly emotional, and why it is harder for them to be out of touch with their emotions. Why men can compartmentalize easily, and disregard negative emotions, and why women find that much harder.

And of course, there is a good evolutionary basis for understanding that this should exist.

Men and women are actually from the same planet, but scientists now have the first strong evidence that the emotional wiring of the sexes is fundamentally different.

An almond-shaped cluster of neurons that processes experiences such as fear and aggression hooks up to contrasting brain functions in men and women at rest, the new research shows.

For men, the cluster "talks with" brain regions that help them respond to sensors for what's going on outside the body, such as the visual cortex and an area that coordinates motor actions.

For women, the cluster communicates with brain regions that help them respond to sensors inside the body, such as the insular cortex and hypothalamus. These areas tune in to and regulate women's hormones, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and respiration.

"Throughout evolution, women have had to deal with a number of internal stressors, such as childbirth, that men haven't had to experience," said study co-author Larry Cahill of the University of California Irvine. "What is fascinating about this is the brain seems to have evolved to be in tune with those different stressors."
Read, as they say, the whole thing.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tony Blair on the Effect 9/11 Had on Him

Con Coughlin interviewed Tony Blair on the political effect that 9/11 had on him.
I never had a moment's doubt about this. Because 9/11 for me was, 'Right, now I get it. I absolutely get it.' This has been building for a long time. It is like looking at a picture and knowing it was important to understand it, but not quite being able to make out all its contours. And suddenly a light was switched on and you saw the whole picture. It was a defining moment. We stood shoulder to shoulder with America because my belief then, and my belief now, is that America was attacked not because it was America - but because it was the repository of the values of the Western world, and it was the main power embodying them. It was an attack on all of us. And I don't mean that in a sentimental way."

... the fact of the matter is - what was September 11? It was an attack on America as the most powerful country in the Western world. And I have no doubt at all that any of us are vulnerable to this kind of attack. I meant what I said when I said it was an attack on all of us. And if it was an attack on all of us, it was in our own interests to stand up. I haven't done this because I believe it is in America's interests. I am not elected in America, I am elected in Britain. I've done it because I believe it to be in Britain's interests. Now I know that is fiercely disputed by my critics, and there it is. But this war against terrorism is happening now, and it affects all of us. And we should stand together to fight it."

And his opinion on the evolution of the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq:
My view of this has probably evolved since September 11. My view is that the origins of these security problems - with their mixture of secular dictatorships, religious fanaticism, failed nation states, governed, in every sense, by oligarchies - are the Middle East. This is a struggle that will only be won when, across the whole of the Middle East, there is a place for greater democracy, human rights, religious toleration and so on…"

That makes you sound like a neocon, you know that?

"Yeah, but I think spreading democracy and human rights is very progressive. I can't quite get this idea it is supposed to be neocon."

The neocons, I pointed out, originally came from the Democrat wing of American politics.

"I just go with my instinct. But I keep saying to people: one of the greatest failures of progressive politics in my lifetime has been that, in the anti-American parts of the progressive Left, we have ended up on the wrong side with someone as evil as Saddam. Even now, when we have been there with a UN resolution, we are on the wrong side of the battle between terrorism and democracy. I can't understand how progressive people can be on the wrong side of that argument.

... [T]he one thing I know for sure is, we are never going to get anywhere by showing weakness. You can see this in respect of Iran now, where I think it is very important that the world gives a strong signal.
I couldn't disagree more with the effect of certain parts of Blair's domestic agenda, which I think has been disastrous for Britain. The method for dealing with crime throughout the UK has come to be reprehensible.

But on 9/11 and Iraq, I think he is magnificent.

A New Development in the AIPAC Case

Condoleezza Rice to be subpoenaed.

In the quest to prove that the Government is overreaching and attempting to criminalize an area of behavior long considered normative among Washington Lobbyists, the Defense team of the two former AIPAC officials accused of conspiring to receive and disclose classified defense information received permission to subpoena Condoleezza Rice, among other top administration officials.
The lawyers for the former lobbyists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, intend to prove that Rice herself spoke with Rosen about matters the prosecution argues were classified and forbidden for him to discuss.

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III accepted the defense's claim that Rice's testimony might be relevant to the case, but added that the secretary can resist the subpoena and explain to the court in writing why she does not wish to testify. A U.S. State Department official told Haaretz a few days ago that Rice would oppose an attempt to subpoena her in the case and would try to persuade the court that conversations she held in which Rosen was also present bear no relavance to the case against him.

Rice's spokesman yesterday denied she had leaked national defense information to Rosen.

"The claims by these defense lawyers are utterly false," Rice's spokesman, Sean McCormack, told The Associated Press. "The secretary is the most careful person in the handling of classified information, and she absolutely did not convey classified information to either of these individuals," McCormack said.
Given the difficulty that prosectuion had in coming up with a law that could be used as a precedent in this case, it seems clear to me that the Government attorney's appear to be overreaching.

The Judge seems to concur with this opinion as well, given the fact that last Friday, he said he is still considering dismissing the entire case, as he was petitioned to do by the Defense.
During Friday's hearing, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said he is considering dismissing the government's entire case because the law used to prosecute Rosen and Weissman may be unconstitutionally vague and broad and infringe on freedom of speech.

Previous entries on the AIPAC case:

Washingtonian Interconnectivity

Are the AIPAC Charges Unconstitutional?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Details Details

Mary McCarthy, the CIA officer just fired for political leaking to the press turns out to be, how unsurprising!, a Clinton appointee, who worked under former National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, well known for stealing classified documents himself during the time of the 9/11 commission.

She apparently failed not just one polygraph, but a series of them. And, AJ Strata points out that she may now be cooperating with the Justice Department, as she has not yet been charged with any crime and is not the subject of a Justice Department investigation.

Macsmind has a slightly different take, reporting that the investigation on McCarthy came as a result of a tip, by someone who may have received immunity.

Meanwhile, in the ultimate irony, the EU yesterday reported that they have been unable to find any secret prisons in Eastern Europe, the very story which McCarthy is charged with leaking unlawfully to Washington Post reporter, Dana Priest.
Investigations into reports that US agents shipped prisoners through European airports to secret detention centers have produced no evidence of illegal CIA activities, the European Union's antiterrorism coordinator said yesterday.

The investigations also have not turned up any proof of secret renditions of terror suspects on EU territory, Gijs de Vries told a European Parliament committee investigating the allegations.

The European Parliament's probe and a similar one by the continent's leading human rights watchdog are looking into whether US intelligence agents interrogated Al Qaeda suspects at secret prisons in Eastern Europe and transported some on secret flights through Europe.

But so far investigators have not identified any human rights violations, despite more than 50 hours of testimony by human rights activists and individuals who said they were abducted by US intelligence agents, de Vries said.

''We've heard all kinds of allegations, impressions; we've heard also refutations. It's up to your committee to weigh if they are true. It does not appear to be proven beyond reasonable doubt," he said. ''There has not been, to my knowledge, evidence that these illegal renditions have taken place."
What, one wonders, will happen to Ms. Priest's Pulitzer if the story was entirely fabricated, and Ms. Priest never bothered to research it, relying only on the leak and the anti-Bush media frenzy that would follow.

From this tidbit, Rick Moran and others, among them Macsmind, conclude that the "Secret Prisons" story may have been part of an internal CIA ruse to uncover leakers within the CIA.

Just One Minute provides a list of her political donations in 2004; McCarthy and her husband contributed $9500 to various democrats, $2000 a piece from husband and wife to Kerry, $5000 to the Ohio DNC and $500 to Barbara Mikulski.

And we all remember the crucial role of Ohio in the previous election, don't we.

Mary McCarthy also has links to Richard Clarke, whom she defended during the 9/11 hearings, as well as JOE WILSON, whom she served together with at the National Security Council under the African portfolio. AJ Strata demurs, thinking that the connection to WIlson so far looks thin.

She was also a member of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which she joined in August 2001. Fellow members include:

Zbigniew Brzezinski -- Counselor and Trustee, CSIS
General Wesley Clark USA (Ret.), Distinguished Senior Adviser
General Anthony Zinni USMC (Ret.), Distinguished Senior Adviser

The CSIS removed Mary McCarthy's biographical data from the web very shortly after it was cited on the web. It is cached here.

There is a question now as to her relationship with VIPS - Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, who have been notable Bush critics, and some people suspect helped orchestrate the Plame Game. McCarthy was the former boss of Larry Johnson, a prominent member of VIPS, though he claims she was responsible for him leaving that position.

On that point, Macsmind, among others, notes that she worked in the IG's (Inspector General's) office of the CIA, which office "directly worked on the referral to the JD of the Valerie Plame Game." It's been a question for a long time who leaked the IG's referral to the Justice Department to Andrea Mitchell, causing a media frenzy with enough political pressure to set the Plame Game Investigation in motion.

UPDATE: In an absolutely hysterical, "soft light focus" look at Mary McCarthy, the NYTimes digs up all her bestest friends, connections from her time at the CSIS and presents us with their view of her. NOT INCIDENTALLY, the director of CSIS, William Goodfellow, is the husband of Dana Priest. Oh how incestuous it all is!

CORRECTION: How embarrassing. I'd been working on this correction, then took a break to procrastinate, just as a commenter kindly informed me that my info about Goodfellow was incorrect. He is not an executive director at CSIS, but at CIP, which is the Center for International policy, otherwise known as Fidel Castro's favorite think tank. A commenter has more info here. And Sweetness and Light has yet more info here.

But back to the NYTimes' expose friendly treatment of McCarthy.
We're talking about a person with great integrity who played by the book and, as far as I know, never deviated from the rules," said Steven Simon, a National Security Council aide in the Clinton administration who worked closely with Ms. McCarthy.

Others said it was possible that Ms. McCarthy, who began attending law school at night several years ago, made a campaign contribution to Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004 and had announced her intention to retire from C.I.A., had grown increasingly disenchanted with the often harsh and extra-legal methods adopted by the Bush administration for handling Al Qaeda prisoners and felt she had no alternative except to go to the press.

If in fact Ms. McCarthy was the leaker, Richard J. Kerr, a former C.I.A. deputy director, said, "I have no idea what her motive was, but there is a lot of dissension within the agency and it seems to be a rather unhappy place." Mr. Kerr called Ms. McCarthy "quite a good, substantive person on the issues I dealt with her on.
So she only leaked because she was disenchanted or unhappy, because she is a good person with integrity, that's all right then.

The end of the article can't be missed. Despite the fact that Ms. McCarthy has already admitted talking to reporters, her old pal, Larry Johnson, whose boss she used to be, is incredulous that this could be true. No, he reckons it was an hysterical confession from an innocent woman. The evil Porter Goss and his cabal done her wrong.
Government officials said that after Ms. McCarthy's polygraph examination showed the possibility of deception, the examiner confronted her and she disclosed having conversations with reporters.

But some former C.I.A. employees who know Ms. McCarthy remain unconvinced, arguing that the pressure from Mr. Goss and others in the Bush administration to plug leaks may have led the agency to focus on an employee on the verge of retirement, whose work at the White House during the Clinton administration had long raised suspicions within the current administration.

"It looks to me like Mary is being used as a sacrificial lamb," said Larry Johnson, a former C.I.A. officer who worked for Ms. McCarthy in the agency's Latin America section.

What a weird defense! How does this help her? They've constructed a scenario where she only confessed because she couldn't stand the pressure, though she is innocent. Is that the kind of CIA agent we want operating at the top level of government.

Gosh! Perhaps those evil Bushies took her down to Guantanamo and pressured her to confess!

Could it be that the NYTimes is already angling to save their own reputation if it turns out that McCarthy leaked to them as well on a significant story that jeopardized ongoing intelligence operations, such as the NSA story by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau? Seems likely (scroll down to Update II on the link.)

Previous Post on this issue: Dozens of Leak Investigations Under Way

Friday, April 21, 2006

Dozens of Leak Investigations Under Way

In a well deserved FUCK YOU to the Pulitzer Prize committe and the Mediot Establishment, the CIA just fired one of their own, CIA agent, Mary McCarthy, responsible for leaking to Dana Priest about secret prisons in Eastern Europe, which the Pulitzer committee had rewarded with a prize mere days earlier. Ms. McCarthy, who may be the first CIA agent fired for such a matter in the Agency's history, failed a polygraph exam prior to her firing and admitted discussing classified information with unauthorized personnel.
The leak pertained to stories on the CIA’s rumored secret prisons in Eastern Europe, sources told NBC. The information was allegedly provided to Dana Priest of the Washington Post, who wrote about CIA prisons in November and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for her reporting.

Sources said the CIA believes McCarthy had more than a dozen unauthorized contacts with Priest. Information about subjects other than the prisons may have been leaked as well.

The Washington Post report caused an international uproar, and government officials have said it did significant damage to relationships between the U.S. and allied intelligence agencies.
The Justice Department is now investigating the situation. As Macsmind has been predicting for months on the issue of CIA agents who indulged in the game of political leaking, this will likely only be the first of many. We'll have to wait to see how fast she turns around and starts giving up her allies for consideration. Macsmind also suggests that Jay Rockefeller may find himself in more than a spot of trouble once these links in the chain start coming undone. Not to mention the coming joy that awaits Dana Priest as she decides whether to go to jail or to squawk on her source.

Milchelle Malkin has rounded up reports who wrote stories commenting on the bestowal of the Pulitzer Prize.

Let's remember why this measure was necessary.
CIA Director Porter Goss has pressed for aggressive investigations. In his latest appearance before Congress, Goss condemned the unauthorized disclosure of information.

"The damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission," Goss said in February, adding that a federal grand jury should be impaneled to determine "who is leaking this information."
Heh! I wonder how this will effect Bush's poll numbers. Effective action at last.

Faster please.

Some Camel Milk in Your Coffee?

Is Camel Milk the new super food?
The United Nations is calling for the milk, which is rich in vitamins B and C and has 10 times more iron than cow's milk, to be sold to the West.

Camel's milk, which is slightly saltier than traditional milk, is drunk widely across the Arab world and is well suited to cheese production...

As well as its high mineral and vitamin content, research has suggested that antibodies in camel's milk can help fight diseases like cancer, HIV/Aids Alzheimer's and hepatitis C.
Well if the UN is in charge of the business, I somehow doubt it will succeed.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Now that Passover is Over...

We can all appreciate again just how much fun it is to eat spaghetti.

China in the News

The MSM is finally beginning to cover news of the coerced organ harvesting from Falun Gong political prisoners in China.
Top British transplant surgeons have accused China of harvesting the organs of thousands of executed prisoners a year to sell for transplants.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the British Transplantation Society condemned the practice as unacceptable and a breach of human rights.

The move comes less than a week after Chinese officials publicly denied the practice...

Professor Stephen Wigmore, who chairs the society's ethics committee, told the BBC that the speed of matching donors and patients, sometimes as little as a week, implied prisoners were being selected before execution.

Chinese officials deny the allegations.

Just last week a Chinese health official said publicly that organs from executed prisoners were sometimes used, but only with prior permission and in a very few cases...

The emergence of transplant tourism has made the sale of health organs even more lucrative.

Patients increasingly come from Western countries, including the UK, as well as Japan and South Korea...

Secrecy surrounding executions in China has always made it difficult to gather facts.

The SeattlePI covers news of a small protest against Hu and the treatment of the Falun Gong in Washington, as Hu visited Bill Gates, a rally with about 200 people

Today, as Hu visited the White House, he was interrrupted by a journalist heckler who writes for Epoch Times, a Falun Gong paper, protesting the human rights abuses of Falun Gong prisoners in China.
The protester interrupted the ceremony by shouting to Bush to stop the Chinese president from "persecuting the Falun Gong."
Michelle Malkin has the video

It seems likely that Hu will be unused to dealing with heckling journalists, since, as Boris Johnson lets us know, the system works otherwise in China. There - reporters commended by government officials receive bonuses from their editors. Which nicely subverts the free practice of journalism with bribery essentially.
[T]he editor of one big paper recently admitted that he gave bonuses to reporters whose work was praised by the Ministry of Information. In many cities the journalists turn up at press conferences and are given little cash-stuffed envelopes to thank them for being there. When I asked the lecturers in journalism to name their professional heroes, they looked utterly bemused, eventually naming Edgar Snow, the American stooge and hagiographer of Mao. At the end of our session at the journalism college a pale, intense academic came up privately and said of course I was right to say that journalism should root out corruption, 'but we must also care about stability,' he said, and there is the nub.
Johnson is not yet ready to concede, as so many in Britain are already eager to do, that China is going to become the new world power:
But with Chinese per capita GDP still only $1,000 per year, and with all the corruption and inefficiency still generated by a one-party state, I am not yet convinced that we need to force all our children to learn Mandarin. If China is really to rule the world, she will need two things that America now has in superabundance: hard power and soft power.

As a military power, China is still relatively insignificant (her defence spending is smaller than that of the UK); and as for soft power - cultural projection abroad - what can China boast, apart from the occasional arrival in London of the state ballet or the Beijing People's Circus? ...

Soft power - cultural influence - is ultimately impossible without an appealing international brand, and for the foreseeable future China's international brand will be vitiated by her domestic political arrangements. China will never rule the world as long as the Forbidden City is adorned with the face of the biggest mass murderer in history. In the words of John Lennon, 'If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/ You ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow.'
And finally Bill Gertz reports that in the recent case of a Chinese man attempting to smuggle Chinese QW-2 anti-aircraft missiles into the United States, there is a Chinese military connection? Corruption? Or state policy? Whichever, it will certainly be denied.
Court papers made public yesterday in the case of a California man who pleaded guilty to trying to smuggle anti-aircraft missiles into the United States show that a Chinese general and state-run manufacturer are linked to the crime.

Chao Tung Wu, 51, of La Puente, Calif., pleaded guilty yesterday at U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to conspiracy to smuggle Chinese QW-2 anti-aircraft missiles into the United States. It was the first conviction under a 2004 anti-terrorism law aimed at preventing the spread of shoulder-fired and portable anti-aircraft missiles.

Wu and a second defendant who is awaiting trial, Yi Qing Chen, met an undercover FBI agent and sought to sell 200 QW-2s, as well as launcher and operational hardware for the missiles, according to court papers. A statement of facts read in court yesterday revealed that Wu had offered to provide enough missiles "for a regiment" of soldiers.

Wu told the undercover agent that the plan for getting the missiles out of China involved the help of a "corrupt customs broker" in China and falsified export papers, the statement said. The deal involved a "Gen. Wang" in China who was to supply the weapons.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Former-Leftist Manifesto

In reply to the British Euston Manifesto, promulgated by Norm Geras and Nick Cohen, among others, who classify themselves as disenchanted-with-the-left, pro-Iraq progressives, Stephen Pollard writes the Maida Vale manifesto for leftists who have already thrown off their shackles:
There are many decent people on the Left, who understand the difference between good and evil, and who do not ally themselves with terrorists, murderers and oppressors. The Prime Minister himself is an outstanding example of this, risking his political support within his party to do the right thing at the right time.

But the very fact that supporting the liberation of Iraq from Saddam entailed such a political risk says almost all that needs to be said about the outlook of most Labour Party MPs and members....

The evidence of reality is something with which we have had to wrestle. It is not easy to acknowledge what the Left has become, and the mindset of leftists. But that evidence is so overwhelming that we can no longer conceive of describing ourselves as being on the Left in any recognisable form.

Theoretical arguments about what is or is not a proper left-wing position are now meaningless. The mainstream Left has demonstrated clearly which side of the battle to preserve Western civilisation and freedom it is on. The Left, in any recognisable form, is now the enemy.
I think that that tallies well for a lot of Post 9/11 hawks that I know personally.

It's So Lunatic, It Could Only Happen at the UN

As the international community looks into ways of stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons, an Iranian representative was elected to be the vice chair of the UN's disarmament commission...

The new Iranian vice chair, Mehdi Danesh-Yazdi, who is also the country's ambassador to the UN, said last week that Iran will cooperate with the IAEA and will "seek an acceptable venue for holding transparent talks with interested parties." The ambassador, who is one of three vice-chairpersons, said during the meeting of the commission that Israel's nuclear stockpile is among "the major sources of concern with regard to global peace and security."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Guess Who Is Coming to the Faculty?

Here's a tidbit to turn the stomach right before the final days of the holidays.

Guess who Yale is thinking of appointing as as Faculty in the Middle East department?
Yale University is on the verge of offering a faculty appointment to the University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole. That is the word around the campus here in New Haven. If Yale proceeds with the appointment, it will bring in one of the few professors in the United States, perhaps the only one, who has publicly endorsed the recent paper warning against American support of Israel by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard.

A professor of modern Middle East and South Asian history at the University of Michigan, Mr. Cole rose to national prominence in the wake of September 11 when reporters and journalists began seeking him out as an authority on the modern Middle East. It is on similar grounds - seeking a scholar of the contemporary Middle East - that the Yale Center for International and Area Studies and the Yale History Department have sought out Mr. Cole.

The prospect of Mr. Cole joining the Yale faculty is disturbing for many reasons. His "scholarship" in this area consists entirely of crude polemics, and his outlook is colored by a conspiratorial view of history. Mr. Cole has used his modicum of fame not to participate in the realm of respectable scholarly debate but to express his deep and abiding hatred of Israel and to opine about the influence of a Zionist cabal on American foreign policy.

Unfortunately, this particular appointee, who is more extreme on Israel even than Noam Chomsky, will have the effect of making Van prophetic rather than satiric in his recent sally at Kesher Talk.

[ UPDATE: Check out Martin Kramer's Sandbox for his extensive coverage of Juan Cole, starting with his article on Cole and Yale. The rest of his articles are grouped together in Juantanamo, on the right side of his blog, towards the bottom of the page.

Here's a sample of his Juanalysis from The Colephate.
Juan Cole is a virtual storehouse of misleading, absurd, and false "juanalogies," which cut against more than a century of scholarly efforts to explain Islam in its own terms. It's thanks to those efforts that no one calls Islam Mohammedanism anymore. When Cole draws analogies between Saudi Arabia and Amish country ("Saudi Arabia is an extremely conservative society; going to Saudi Arabia is kind of like going to Amish country in the United States"), or between Al-Qaeda and David Koresh, he functions as an anti-expert, obscuring the very complexities whose elucidation we expect from someone who's spent years studying Islam. Cole's only possible excuse is that he's talking down to his fans, because they're not smart enough to grasp the intricacies. Well, maybe they aren't: after all, they're his fans.

Here's Michael Rubin's opinion of Juan Cole in the Yale Daily News. ]

MORE: Here's Michael Rubin's opinion of Juan Cole in the Yale Daily News.
Professors should choose their words carefully. Early in his career, Cole did serious academic work on the 19th century Middle East, although his books did not have lasting historiographical impact. He has since abandoned scholarship in favor of blog commentary. Perhaps YCIAS is not looking for academic rigor. But unlike prominent professors at Princeton, Columbia or Tufts, Cole cannot bring real-world policy experience to either the classroom or research.

Cole is a major public figure. But political popularity and punditry should not substitute for research, accuracy and experience. Bush criticism may be trendy and perhaps even valid, but the reputation of Yale's faculty and the future of YCIAS should be based on more. Now, it is time for YCIAS to decide whether it prioritizes academics above politics.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Washingtonian Interconnectivity

I'm working on el primitivo computer, so can't blog at length, but here are three interrelated articles that may be of interest, which by the bye, through a side door, connect the Plame case to the AIPAC case.

Here's Christopher Hitchens writing about 'Clueless Joe Wilson'. I'd differ from him in one sense only. He seems to think that Wilson's motives in failing to understand what was going on before his face in Niger resulted, one way or another, from his cluelessness. I guess he doesn't want to libel Joe Wilson, but it is not clear to me that the man was necessarily clueless and not necessarily ill-motivated in his 'failure' to understand what was going on. In any case, Macranger, blogging at Macsmind, spent a lot of time in the fall and winter unraveling possible scenarios for Joe Wilson's cluelessness. He was ahead of Hitchens in several respects about Wilson.

Moreover, the memo at the State Department, recently declassified, contains no hint that Plame's role at the CIA was classified or covert, reports Josh Gerstein writing in the invaluable NYSun.

So there goes that conspiracy theory.

Finally, here's an article in the Forward suggesting that Bush's decision to leak info about unranium sales to Niger to select journalists several days before large parts of the NIE was declassified will help the defendants' position in the AIPAC case.
Late last month, the federal district judge in the case, T.S. Ellis III, raised constitutional questions about the prosecution of the two former Aipac staffers, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman. Now, some observers argue, the two men are likely to benefit from developments in the Libby case that highlight the frequent use of leaks and classified information in Washington among politicians, lobbyists and reporters.

"The Libby developments will serve to educate the public and perhaps the jury about the realities of leaking in Washington, which is a daily occurrence that is often instigated at the highest level of government," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy. "So the future jury members are likely to recall in the back of their minds that the president also selectively disclosed previously classified information to advance his agenda. It puts the actions of the defendants in a different light and helps them by placing their offense in context."...

"The administration's admitted policy of selective leaking to embarrass its enemies and conceal the truth won't help the government case" in Rosen and Weissman's trial, said Douglas Bloomfield, a former director of legislative affairs at Aipac. "What Rosen and Weissman were doing is no different than what reporters, lobbyists, experts, Congress and half of the government is doing, which is to find out what the administration is up to. This can't be a crime in a free society."

Rosen and Weissman filed a motion in January to dismiss the charges against them, arguing that the 1917 Espionage Act's prohibition on receiving and disclosing "national defense information" — even if it is unclassified — is too broad.

Previous articles on the Plame case can be found here

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Go Lord Carey, Go!

There is a move by other Anglican bishops to quell former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey's "disloyalty" to Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop.

Among other things, Lord Carey announced to the world he was ashamed to be an Anglican after Rowan Williams gave his support to a measure that would cause the Anglican General Synod to change its policy to supporting disinvestment from Israel.

That, in fact, is considered one of Lord Carey's "unhelpful" interventions.
The letter to Carey says: "Your actions in retirement are . . . discourteous to Archbishop Rowan Williams as he attempts to hold together the Anglican communion . . . [He] deserves our respect and support, not the disloyalty which you currently display.

'We respectfully request that you desist from further intrusions into areas now beyond your control, and honour the convention of not undermining the work of your successor.'

While the letter is intended to help Williams, it highlights splits over his leadership. In February he had to deny rumours he was planning to retire early, in 2008. Lambeth Palace is said to be "saddened" by the frequency with which Carey "pops up" to take positions that increase his successor's difficulties.

Interventions seen as unhelpful include Carey's comment that he was "ashamed to be an Anglican" after the General Synod decided with Williams's support to review church investments in Caterpillar, whose bulldozers have been used by the Israeli government to attack Palestinian buildings.
Rowan Williams, I believe, is a Liberation Theologist, or at least his perspective is heavily inflected by that line of Marxist-Christian theology, so it is not surprising that he consistently drifts into left wing theological platitudes.

See here for earlier coverage of Lord Carey and the Anglican disinvestment issue.

To Eat or Not to Eat Kitniot on Passover?

Dovi Harel, an Ashkenazi man married to a Sephardi woman, motivated by the difficulty of eating at his in-laws on Passover (because of conflicting Passover traditions), proposes a people's revolution to get rid of the Ashkenazi ban on eating Kitniot on Passover:
So here's the deal, plain and simple. I understand that you, most respectable rabbis, aren't going to solve the legumes conundrum. What rabbi needs the headache? The first to offer a solution will be written off as 'reform' or 'national religious.' I truly understand you.

The bible forbade hametz (leavened bread) on Passover. The edict against legumes was added later out of concern that hametz could get mixed into the tiny spaces between the beans or grains (though the truth is, no one really knows exactly where the ruling came from).

In modern times, when things are packaged in sophisticated methods, when everything undergoes careful sorting, if Rabbi Ovadia Yosef isn't worried that a bag of rice has traces of flour in it - then I'm not worried either. I understand that you don't have the power to lift the ban that has become traditional among the people, or at least among some of the people. I understand, and therefore I'll help you out. The much-needed revolution won't be brought about by you, the rabbinate. The revolution will come from the lower rungs - from the people.

We'll start eating legumes on Passover. It'll spread, because people will have no choice; because the reality of Ashkenazi grooms and Sephardic brides is stronger than edicts and traditions; because between celebrating the festival of liberation and emphasizing exile - I choose the path of life, the path of redemption.
It's true enough that some innovations of Jewish law came about because the practice of the people changed. And the law had to be changed, a posteriori, to reflect the change in practice.

Head's Up for Washingtonians

There's a symposium in Washington on The Underlying Roots of Terrorism, with some fabulous speakers on the weekend of April 28-29.

I'd love to attend myself.

Featured speakers include:

Dr. Andrew Bostom
David Horowitz
Dr. Harvey Kushner
Dr. Walid Phares
Robert Spencer
Dr. Paul Williams
Brigitte Gabriel
Joe Kaufman
Laura Mansfield
Whalid Shoebat
Dr. Bruce Tefft
Kenneth R. Timmerman
And more...

Topics to be discussed:

The mindset of Islamic terrorism from a reformed PLO terrorist

al Qaeda's plans for future attacks against Americans on US soil including an 'American Hiroshima'

'Dhimmitude' and the uniquely Islamic institution of jihad

Terrorist recruitment in the United States

A detailed look at the charges and trial of Florida Prof. And terror suspect Sami al Arian

An in-depth look at ties between the radical left and the enemies of the state.

The nuclear crisis with Iran as well as Iran's military capabilities in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

Understanding the threat posed

Effective counter-terrorism

The threat posed to world peace and national security by the ideology of radical Islam

The West's misidentification of the challenges faced from the global jihad

A critique of the government's performance on its prosecution of the War on Terror

A first hand account of a slaughter committed against innocents.

Terrorist indoctrination on the campuses of US Universities

Analysis of the Jihadi ideology, strategies and movements goes back to the early 1980s

To Read a Story On Its Face? Or Between the Lines?

These days when I read a story like the one appearing in today's Scotsman, whose headline blares that Blair refuses to back Iran strike, I go into immediate story deconstruction mode. To begin with the story is entirely leaked by anonymous sources. Who knows who they are or what agenda they are pushing. Moreover, what benefit is there, vis-a-vis Iran, in announcing the country's military posture right up front?
TONY Blair has told George Bush that Britain cannot offer military support to any strike on Iran, regardless of whether the move wins the backing of the international community, government sources claimed yesterday...
While the sense of crisis over Iran has been escalated by the fiery rhetoric between Tehran and the West - particularly Washington - many within the British government are now convinced that the impasse can be resolved by repeating the same sort of painstaking diplomatic activity that returned Libya to the international fold...

"The only long-term solution to Iran's problems is democracy," said Alex Bigham, co-author of the [The Foreign Policy Centre] report. "But it cannot be dictated, Iraq-style, or it will backfire. Iran may seem superficially like Iraq but we need to treat Iran more like Libya. Diplomatic engagement must be allowed to run its course. There need to be bigger carrots as well as bigger sticks."
As far as I can see, there are three possibilities.

1) The story is true at face value. Blair, whose approval ratings are hovering around 30, believes he'll never have enough domestic support to back an invasion and, given the set of facts on the ground, believes that a strike on Iran will not achieve a desirable outcome. This is more or less the position of Iran expert Michael Ledeen, as far as I understand it, so it is not unreasonable.

Moreover, this way Blair, still allying with the US, is setting up Britain as the "reasonable" diplomatic interlocuter, so that the diplomatic effort will be a two pronged process, as it was with Libya, with a fully informed and complicit US. Let's not forget that George Bush was aware of Blair's domestic difficulties in achieving support for the Iraq war, and at the time of the Iraq War offered him the option of supporting the war effort through means other than combat troops.

There is no reason to believe that Bush would be less aware of Blair's domestic realities at this point. Nor less willing to work within those confines.

2) Some members or the Gordon Brown clique in the Labor party wants to back Blair into a corner by leaking news of a policy they feel will be a relief to a majority of Britons, thus making it harder for Blair to act contrary to this leaked advise. This was the same clique, by way of example, that recently "leaked" news of "Blair's decision" to retire by next Christmas, in order to embarrass him into giving up the job before he was ready to leave, so that Brown can succeed him.

3) Though, since, one audience that might be glad indeed to hear news of the British government's decision not to turn to military strikes as an option is the British domestic, possibly he is simply reassuring his public.

Thus, this is Blair assuring the public of his "reasonable" posture, so if he ever decides he has to change that posture, based on changing facts on the ground such as what we find just below, he'll be able to do so with "reluctance".
IRAN has formed battalions of suicide bombers to strike at British and American targets if the nation’s nuclear sites are attacked. According to Iranian officials, 40,000 trained suicide bombers are ready for action...

Dr Hassan Abbasi, head of the Centre for Doctrinal Strategic Studies in the Revolutionary Guards, said in a speech that 29 western targets had been identified: “We are ready to attack American and British sensitive points if they attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.” He added that some of them were “quite close” to the Iranian border in Iraq.

In a tape recording heard by The Sunday Times, Abbasi warned the would-be martyrs to “pay close attention to wily England” and vowed that “Britain’s demise is on our agenda”.

Well, maybe a fourth.

4) Disinformation.
British officers took part in a US war game aimed at preparing for a possible invasion of Iran, despite repeated claims by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, that a military strike against Iran is inconceivable. The war game, codenamed Hotspur 2004, took place at the US base of Fort Belvoir in Virginia in July 2004.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman played down its significance yesterday. "These paper-based exercises are designed to test officers to the limit in fictitious scenarios. We use invented countries and situations using real maps," he said.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Pollard for Barghouti?

[ UPDATE: Or perhaps not.

The US is now denying the report of the Pollard-Barghouti prison release deal. Most likely a proactive leak, to put out feelers. In any case, "US embassy spokesman Stewart Tuttle called the report "ridiculous speculation."

"As far as I know, it has no basis in reality," Tuttle said."

Well that settles that...for now.

Meanwhile, Pollard is also warning against appointing Rafi Eitan, his former Mossad mis-handler, as a minister in the new government. Eitan is chairman of the Gil Pensioners' Party, likely to be a coalition partner in Olmert's government.
Sources close to Jonathan Pollard - the Israeli agent imprisoned in the United States - warned on Friday that if Gil Pensioners' Party Chairman Rafi Eitan would be appointed a minister in Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government, Pollard would release classified information that could be harmful to Israel.

They claimed that the information would be detrimental to every former Israeli prime minister, including senior Kadima MK Shimon Peres, Channel 2 reported.


I hope not.
Officials in Jerusalem claimed on Saturday that the US would free imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard in exchange for Israel releasing jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.

Okay, I certainly believe that Jonathan Pollard has already spent enough time in jail for his crimes, especially if what Rafi Eitan claims is true, that Soviet spy Aldrich Ames made use of Pollard's capture to turn him into a scapegoat to hide Ames' own activities.
The former agent [Rafi Eitan] says shortly after Pollard's trial ended, Israel discovered Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger sent a top secret memorandum to the judge, accusing Pollard of exposing 11 American agents.

"The information the charge was based on arrived from the CIA, and more accurately, from the counter-espionage branch of the CIA. Only years later it turned out the person who headed the branch and initiated the move against Pollard…was a person by the name of (Aldrich) Ames, who all those years was the top Soviet spy in the U.S.," Eitan says.

"He simply took advantage of the Pollard affair to cast the blame for the affair he (Ames) himself was guilty of on Pollard, thereby clearing himself of suspicion," Eitan says. "I have no doubt that had Pollard been tried today, in light of what is known about Ames and other agents who were exposed, he would have received a much lighter sentence."

But trading Pollard for mass murdering terrorist Marwan Barghouti? I'm leery.

Not sure I see an upside in that, even if the Israeli and/or US governments now believes this is a "good" way to go about strengthening Fatah against Hamas.

Remember when we spent all that time strengthening Iraq against Iran? And here we are mired in Iraq now. Or, for that matter, when Israel strengthened Hamas against Arafat's PLO? And here we are today with Hamas in office in Palestine.

Speaking of which fact, it turns out that the Palestinians are confused about how we can support the mechanics of a democratic vote in Palestine while refusing to finance that vote.
The most common claims - to the point of exhausting cliché - heard from PA officials are that the international community is failing to "respect the democratic choice made by the Palestinians" and that the cutting off of aid constitutes a "collective punishment" against all Palestinians.

“The Palestinian people should not be punished for their democratic choice,” PA leader Mahmoud Abbas lamented recently, adding that by suspending aid the United States and Europe were “punishing all the people, workers and families."

The world should "respect the choice of the Palestinian people," Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh agreed, while also slamming foreign leaders for "punishing the Palestinian people."

By resorting to such arguments, however, the Palestinians are again demonstrating their failure to fully grasp the meaning of such terms as "respecting democracy" and "collective," a fact that has become evermore apparent while the PA has continuously made use of the same old rhetoric-of-whine it has become so well familiar with.

Had the Palestinians possessed a better understanding of "democracy" et al, they would realize that the world, led by the U.S. and Europe, has very much "respected" the Palestinian people's choice - and is now acting accordingly, in a way that may perhaps make Palestinians rethink this choice. Maybe.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Recycling Last Year's Passover Hidush

Since recycling old news into big stories is the current style, in lieu of something new, here's last year's thought about the structure of the Haggadah:
So last night at the Seder as we were reading through the Haggadah, I had a thought about the point of the Haggadah.

These days, instead of making a pilgrimage to the Temple and offering a sacrifice, you read through the Haggadah, which is a reenactment text of the service, more or less. It is interesting though, that in comparison the liturgy on Yom Kippur, where the reenactment takes you into the Temple, to the service of the High Priest, as it describes, over and over, his service to God on Yom Kippur and the reaction of the assembly, in this case, the thing being reenacted is the rabbinic service of Passover. So what you are supposed to do, instead of a physical commandment drawn from the biblical text, is to spend the night discussing the meaning of the Exodus.

We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt; but God took us out from there, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. And had the Holy One, blessed be He, not taken our ancestors out of Egypt--we, our children, and our children's children would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt. Therefore, even if we are all wise, all men of understanding, all well versed in the Torah--we would still be commanded to tell about the Exodus from Egypt; and whoever tells about it at length is worthy of praise.

The thing is, in it's current state at least, it is really a teaching text. You go through the Haggadah, and it takes you through the process of generating a midrash praising and extolling God based on parts of the text of the Exodus. And it teaches you to do that based on the paradigm of Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon telling the Pesach story over, all through the night, until it is time to read the morning Shema.

Once Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon were all celebrating the Seder in B'nai B'rak. And they told the story of the Exodus from Egypt the entire night, until their students came and told them, "our masters, the time has come for the morning recital of Shem

So first the Haggadah lays out a way to address the questions and attitudes of each of the four sons. More or less, it is setting the intellectual prototyes for how to engage people of varying mindset, from the most engaged to the least engaged.

But after that it goes into some detail itself generating a midrash about the number of miracles performed by God throughout the Exodus and the splitting of the Red Sea. The text is really playing a little game at that point, but the upshot, if you care to examine it, is that the text itself is providing an example of the generation of a midrash. It's revealing the midrashic process in the making.

IOW, you can read the text on two levels. The first, simple level allows you to fulfill the mitzvah of discussing the Exodus at the seder simply by reading through the Haggadah itself. But the second level of the text shows you how to be creative yourself, midrashically speaking. It provides a pattern for you to follow if you are so inclined, to take a verse and expand upon it by interpreting it through the aid of other verses. And it shows you the joy and the zest that this activity held for these particular men. And in that sense it becomes a teaching text, not just as the content it provides, but in terms of showing you the technique itself and how it works.

In passing, it also provides a remarkable template of how the sages viewed Passover - a holiday celebrated in the elevating discourse that takes place among a group of friends, when one insight can spark others, leading to revelations about the abundance of God's intercession in human affairs. This interactive quality among friends and family, that is the Sages' notion of a Passover seder well done.

Melanie Phillips Talks to General Georges Sada About the Lost WMD

Melanie Phillips recently met with General Georges Sada, former Air Vice Marshal in Saddam's Iraq, to discuss what he believes happened to the WMDs.

He also says that he lived and worked with the ever-present daily reality of Saddam's tactics of hiding his WMD from the weapons inspectors. Whole environments were transformed and rebuilt - buildings, whole factories - in the largely successful strategy of hiding the stuff. The idea that Saddam suddenly stopped hiding it and secretly destroyed it instead, he says, is utterly ludicrous. Hiding WMD was the unchanging pattern of his regime.

He has listened to the tapes that recently surfaced of Saddam's discussions with his top brass about the problems being caused by the UN weapons inspectors. He says the translations that have so far been made of these tapes are inadequate because the translators, who are of course Arabic speakers, do not however speak Tikriti Arabic, the dialect in which these discussions were conducted. Sada does speak Tikriti. He has translated a crucial three and a half minutes of these tapes, he says, in which Saddam and his generals are discussing how to outwit the UN inspectors; in which they say that the problem of the chemical weapons is solved but the biological are still causing a problem; that this problem will probably be solved with the help of the Russians and the French; and in which Saddam says: 'In the future the terrorism will be with WMD'.

In April 2004, a group of al Qaeda terrorists was caught in Jordan with 20 tons of Sarin gas. When Sada heard of this, he says, his blood ran cold. There was only one place which was capable of producing 20 tons of Sarin: Saddam's Iraq. To his horror, he says, he realised at that moment that Saddam's WMD had got into the hands of al Qaeda.

Earlier this year, Sada was interrogated about his claims by the American House Intelligence committee, to whom he gave the names of the Iraqi pilots. Subsequently, he says, the Committee went to Iraq and spoke to the pilots. The result, he says, is that a major American investigative and diplomatic effort is now under way to finally locate the missing WMD.

But in Britain, I say, people now firmly believe that there were no WMD and that we were taken to war on a lie. Sada looks utterly flabbergasted. 'How can they possibly think that?' he asks in bewilderment and anger, and puts his head in his hands.
I've formerly discussed Georges Sada and his claims about the WMD here.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Why I Like the Gospel of Judas

Or, Heresies are tons more fun!

In the newly reconstructed Gospel of Judas, Jesus appoints Judas as his betrayer:
In a key passage Jesus tells Judas, "You will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me." This indicates that Judas would help liberate the spiritual self by helping Jesus get rid of his physical flesh, the scholars said.
This narrative of events accounts for the fact, among other things, that Judas returned his 30 shekels of silver to the priests in the Tempe. He didn't betray Jesus for the money but to fulfill prophecy.
Christianity in the ancient world was much more diverse than it is now, with a number of gospels circulating in addition to the four that were finally collected into the New Testament, noted Bart Ehrman, chairman of religious studies at the University of North Carolina. Eventually, one point of view prevailed and the others were declared heresy, he said, including the Gnostics who believed that salvation depended on secret knowledge that Jesus imparted, particularly to Judas.

In any case, this testament from a branch of early Christianity bears a resemblance to the heresy of Sabbatianism, a widespread, heretical messianic movement from the 1600s that moved East from Poland to Turkey under the leadership of a "messianic figure" named Shabbtai Tzvi. In this mystical doctrine, Tikkun Olam - the fixing of the world, is completed by uplifting even the darkest and remotest sparks; specifically, in the case of Sabbatianism through the practice of anti-nomian acts. That is to say, acts that are against halacha, both erotic and heretical, performed in a state which Sabbatians understood to be divine inspiration, in order to liberate the divine sparks even from the depths of darknesss.
But [Shabbtai Tzvi's] truly original characteristic is without any doubt to be found in the peculiarity of his mania: the commission of antinomian acts which in his state of exaltation he appears to have regarded as sacramental actions. ...In his state of illumination he was the living archetype of the paradox of the holy sinner, and it may well be that, without his being able to express it, the image of an act of Tikkun through the infringement of the holy law was before his eyes in these exalted states of mind. And this and nothing else is the true heritage of Shabbtai Tzvi: the quasi- sacramental character of antinomian actions, which here always take the form of a ritual, remained a shibboleth of the movement, not least in its more radical offshoots.

Gershom Scholem in Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, p. 293

It was Nathan of Gaza, Shabbtai Tzvi's theologian and prophet, who formulated this theology. Of him, Scholem says:
It is a matter of the deepest interest that one encounters in the writings of a youth from the Ghetto of Jerusalem in the 17th century an age-old gnostical myth of the fate of the Redeemer's soul, built up from Kabbalistic ideas but nevertheless obviously intended as an apology for Shabbtai Tzvi's pathological state of mind. Were it not for the fact that the raw material of this Kabbalistic doctrine is actually to be found in the Zohar and in the Lurianic writings, one would be tempted to postulate an intrinsic, though to us obscure, connection between the first Sabbatian myth and that of the ancient Gnostical school known as Ophites or as Naassenes who placed the mystical symbolism of the serpent in the center of their Gnosis.

And what was the myth of the fate of the Reedmer's soul that Nathan of Gaza formulated? That of its imprisonment in the stronghold of darkness and evil and its eventual release.

Notice the similarity. With Sabbatianism, the deepest mystery about the Messiah is his turn to apostasy when, under duress he converts to Islam (rather than martyring himself). And that act is then theologically transformed, in theory, when tikkun olam is completed, as a way to free the soul of the Messiah.

And with the Gospel of Judas, the deepest mystery of this branch of Gnostic Christianity is the ritual aspect of the betrayal, which act of betrayal allows Jesus to die on behalf of humanity, in order to save it. By sacrificing "the man who clothes Jesus", that is, Jesus' physical body, Judas releases Jesus to his Messianic purpose, through the means of sin and betrayal.

Judas, too, in this Gnostic interpretation of his role, becomes the living archetype of the paradox of the holy sinner. And in both cases, the soul of the messianic figure in each tradition respectively must be freed; in Shabbtai Tzvi's case, from its shackling to darkness and evil, where its shards became trapped after God's act of tsimtsum. For the Jesus presented in the Gospel of Judas, his soul had to be redeemed from its imprisoning flesh before fulfilling the mysteries of the kingdom.

Insane Media Manufactured Story of the Day

Thomas E. Ricks, of the Washington Post, has "sources" who have informed him that the US military is conducting a propaganda campaign "to magnify the role of the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq." Apparently "some military intelligence officials" believe that this campaign "may have overstated Zarqawi's Importance." It is all nicely anonymous and Ricks doesn't bother to inform us that there is also very likely a whole other contingent who views the exact same set of facts in a completely different fashion. That is to say, they have a different narrative to explain the same set of facts. To begin with, they are positive about the approach.

The point of this propaganda campaign, by the way, is to turn Iraqi insurgents unconnected with Zarqawi, against him by exaggerating his importance and magnifying such qualities as the fact that he is Jordanian, rather than Iraqi.

Though this campaign latterly seems to be working, Ricks dislikes the fact that the campaign has in some ways made Zarqawi more important than he is -- made him into a caricature, as it were.

Similar, for example, to the way the insurgents and the leftists scream Abu Ghraib, Bush Lied and Guantanamo Bay every other minute and turn everything, including themselves, into caricatures. But apparently it is only wrong and worthy of special note when it is our guys using the tactic successfully.

Ricks also seems to be annoyed that some of this "propaganda" about Zarqawi, which is meant for internal Iraq consumption, has been reflected in American media as well, though that was not the audience it was intended for.

Ricks never mentions that the tactic of propaganda is one of the most important elements of this war. The other side has a firm handle on this. But somehow when we use the tactic as well, this is considered to be "lying."

It's a war people. This tactic isn't cruel; it's simply a way of manipulating the other side to do what we want them to do. That is what is called winning a war. Ruses are legitimate methods of fighting wars. That includes disinformation.

Yet somehow Ricks and hordes of "realist" leftists now consider this to be an illegitimate approach to fighting a war.

Today in Passover Searches..

I've had some interesting searches recently, including:

Passover+Kosher+ Marijuana

And various forms of a classic from last year:

Why is Coriander Considered Kitniot?

Kitniot is an grouping of food that is not chometz, which is forbidden on Passover, but which some rabbis believed might in some way become confused with chometz. (Chometz include all substances made with the five major grains: wheat, rye, oats, barley and spelt or any extract thereof.) At its core are rice and beans and other substances classifiable as legumes, but that extends far out from that core group.

Coriander, for example, is particularly perplexing for people who are used to purchasing cilantro, otherwise known as Chinese parsley. It is hard to visualize that as a substance that might be confused with a form of grain. Coriander is the seeds from the cilantro plant. And when ground, it still is nothing like a ground grain.

Apparently, though, in the olden days, it used to be grown near wheat fields, and thus grains of wheat were found mixed up in it. And because of that, rabbis don't want you to use it today!

Ah, the joy of Jewish tradition!

Pillage Idiot has a piece from last year which will help you deal with your joy!

The confusion as to whether marijuana is classified as kosher for pesach, I take it, relates to the fact that on some lists, hemp is also regarded as kitniot. The fact that it is a substance that inflates your spirit, I'm sure, is just coincidental, halachically speaking that is. But if anyone knows better, please let me know.

Oh and by the way, here's the good news! Peanuts and quinoa - definitely not kitniot! Just in case you wanted to make quinoa cookies with peanut butter or something.

Hey! Now that you mention it, maybe I will!

And here's a hot Passover Cleaning Tip from Martha Stewart Magainze, which I picked up in the doctor's office.

To clean brass and copper using a natural method: Cut a lemon in two pieces, pour course salt - sea salt or kosher salt - over object to be cleaned, and then rub it with the lemon.

This one works.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Next Generation of Weapons

Check out this new, ultra modernistic, RPG repeller from Israel, named Trophy. To be tested by American troops in

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Premature babies experience real pain

Premature babies experience feelings of pain rather than simply displaying reflex reactions, a study says.

Experts have never been sure how a premature baby responds to pain, the Journal of Neuroscience reported.

But a team from University College London found that they do feel pain after analysing brain scans taken when blood samples were being drawn.

They hope the findings will lead to more formal plans for managing pain in premature babies.

Lead researcher Professor Maria Fitzgerald said: "We have shown for the first time that the information about pain reaches the brain in premature babies.

"Beforehand, although we could assume it, we did not know for sure that these babies could feel pain.

"These babies' brains are so immature that it was difficult to genuinely know that the pain was going to their brain."

Previous research had shown that premature babies are capable of displaying behavioural, physiological and metabolic signs of pain and distress.
I've never really understood the propensity in science to seriously entertain the notion that pain reactions in premature babies and in animals are only the display of reflex reactions rather than real pain. It seems a willed obstinacy to disbelieve, to me, rather than a genuinely scientific position.

Considering the painful methods that are often used to abort (viable) babies, this is bad news as well for advocates of second term and third abortion, the latter of which is currently practiced in Holland.