Archive for March, 2007
29 Mar 2007

Iranian Sleeper Cells in US

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Richard Miniter warns that Iran have a network of sleeper cells inside the United States that could strike us if we bomb their nuclear facilities.

The consensus view among intelligence analysts, in and out of government, is Hezbollah maintains an extensive network inside the U.S. and Western Europe.

The sleepers in the U.S. may number as many as 800.

This has been the consensus view for some time. There are “hundreds” of Hezbollah members here, a U.S. official told USA Today on May 13, 2003. A senior FBI official told the paper that some 20 potential Hezbollah cells are being investigated.

Senator Bob Graham reiterated to the Miami Herald on Nov. 13, 2002: “recent warnings that Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, had a more established presence in the United States than al Qaeda, and was just as dangerous.” …

Sen. Graham told the Miami Herald that Hezbollah has substantially greater numbers in the United States than al Qaeda.

Hezbollah has killed more Americans since 1982 than any other terrorist group, except al Qaeda.

Most of those are not “operational terrorists,” one American intelligence official cautioned Pajamas Media.

Many are here for illicit fundraising. Some channel donations from mosques or peddle videos and books. Others run criminal enterprises for the terror group, everything from car-theft rings to high-end cons.

One cell was involved in cigarette smuggling, capturing the difference between the wholesale price and the high-tax price paid by consumers. Cigarette taxes range from $1 to $3 per pack. The North Carolina cigarette operation was apprehended by the FBI and prosecuted by the Justice department.

Three Yemeni-born men in Rochester, New York were charged with funneling some $15 million to Hezbollah between 2002 and 2004, according to a filing at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York on Feb. 27, 2007. They were caught thanks to a sting operation by the FBI, conspiring to send $200,000 to Hezbollah. The three owned or operated delis, mini-marts and restaurants, from which they allegedly sold fake green cards and engaged in credit card fraud.

Other Hezbollah operatives are here to gather information on potential targets, searching for weak points in schools, malls and office towers.

Still others are foot soldiers who are loaned out Mexican drug cartels, where they serve as bodyguards and enforcers. The Mexicans call them “Turcos.”

Read the whole thing.

28 Mar 2007

British Parents Buy Body Armor For Children

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Daily Mail:

Worried parents are buying their children body armour to protect them from knife attacks.

A firm that supplies stab and bullet-proof vests to government agencies around the world said it had been flooded with orders following a series of brutal knife murders on Britain’s streets.

VestGuard UK said it had received more than 100 calls from parents in London alone. It normally receives only one or two inquiries nationwide each year.

Some 60 jackets, costing between £300 and £425, have been sold – with parents saving up to buy the armour.

The American approach is cheaper, and more permanently effective.

28 Mar 2007

Russia Reports US Military Buildup Near Iranian Borders

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Novosti, the Russian News and Information Bureau, is reporting a US military buildup in the vicinity of Iran as a follow-up to its earlier article predicting a US attack on Iran in early April.

Russian military intelligence services are reporting a flurry of activity by U.S. Armed Forces near Iran’s borders, a high-ranking security source said Tuesday.

“The latest military intelligence data point to heightened U.S. military preparations for both an air and ground operation against Iran,” the official said, adding that the Pentagon has probably not yet made a final decision as to when an attack will be launched.

He said the Pentagon is looking for a way to deliver a strike against Iran “that would enable the Americans to bring the country to its knees at minimal cost.”

He also said the U.S. Naval presence in the Persian Gulf has for the first time in the past four years reached the level that existed shortly before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Col.-Gen. Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said last week that the Pentagon is planning to deliver a massive air strike on Iran’s military infrastructure in the near future.

A new U.S. carrier battle group has been dispatched to the Gulf.

The USS John C. Stennis, with a crew of 3,200 and around 80 fixed-wing aircraft, including F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, eight support ships and four nuclear submarines are heading for the Gulf, where a similar group led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been deployed since December 2006.

The U.S. is also sending Patriot anti-missile systems to the region.

Earlier Novosti story.

28 Mar 2007

Still Possible to Win

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Arthur Herman, in Commentary, finds defeatism shaping our outlook on the war at home.

To the student of counterinsurgency warfare, the war in Iraq has reached a critical but dismally familiar stage.

On the one hand, events in that country have taken a more hopeful direction in recent months. Operations in the city of Najaf in January presaged a more effective burden-sharing between American and Iraqi troops than in the past. The opening moves of the so-called “surge” in Baghdad, involving increased American patrols and the steady addition of more than 21,000 ground troops, have begun to sweep Shiite militias from the streets, while their leader, Moqtada al Sadr, has gone to ground. Above all, the appointment of Lieutenant General David Petraeus, the author of the U.S. Army’s latest counterinsurgency field manual, as commander of American ground forces in Iraq bespeaks the Pentagon’s conviction that what we need to confront the Iraq insurgency is not more high-tech firepower but the time-tested methods of unconventional or “fourth-generation” warfare.

In Washington, on the other hand, among the nation’s political class, the growing consensus is that the war in Iraq is not only not winnable but as good as lost—Congressman Henry Waxman of California, for one, has proclaimed that the war is lost. Politicians who initially backed the effort, like Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Joseph Biden, and Republican Congressmen Walter Jones and Tom Davis, have been busily backing away or out, insisting that Iraq has descended into civil war and that Americans are helpless to shape events militarily. A growing number, like Congressman John Murtha, even suggest that the American presence is making matters worse. The Democratic party has devoted much internal discussion to whether and how to restrict the President’s ability to carry out even the present counterinsurgency effort.

In short, if the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis still continues and is showing signs of improvement, the battle for the hearts and minds of Congress, or at least of the Democratic majority, seems to be all but over.

But the war is not yet lost, and a new approach to dealing with the insurgency is actually underway, and it is still possible for America to win.

on August 1, 1956, a French lieutenant colonel of Tunisian descent named David Galula had taken command of the mountainous and rebel-infested Aissa Mimoun area of Kabylia. To the FLN’s unconventional mode of warfare, Galula responded with unconventional methods of his own. These proved so successful so quickly that they were soon adopted by French commanders in other parts of Algeria. …

By January 1960, the war that many had considered lost three years earlier was virtually won.

Galula’s subsequent book, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, laid out the blueprint for success in this form of warfare. From the start, Galula had discarded the assumptions governing conventional conflicts. A decisive battlefield victory of the kind familiar from World War II, he saw, would never work against indigenous, loosely organized, but deeply committed insurgencies …

Galula grasped that the new form of warfare had reversed the conventional relationship in war between combatant and civilian. No longer bystanders or useful adjuncts to the war effort, as in World War II, civilians were the critical determinants of success or failure. Without the help or at least the passive acquiescence of the local population, the government would be doomed. In a crucial sense, it did not matter how many guerrillas were killed, or how many regular soldiers were on the ground; the center of gravity was the opinion of the local community.

Thus, the key to success lay in bringing to the surface the portion of the populace that hated the guerrillas, and then turning that minority into a majority by a combination of political, social, and cultural initiatives …

As recently as two years ago, Galula’s book was virtually unknown in Pentagon circles. Today it has become the bible of American counterinsurgency thinkers like General Petraeus.

Highly recommended. Read the whole thing.

Hat tip to John R. Finch.

27 Mar 2007

The Tort Tax

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Lawrence J. McQuillan and Hovannes Abramyan have done a study of the economic impact of American Tort litigation. Their conclusions are more than a little appalling.

Economists have long understood that America’s tort system acts as a serious drag on our nation’s economy. Although many excellent studies have been conducted, no single work has fully captured the true total costs, both static and dynamic, of excessive litigation.

The good news: We now have some reliable figures. The bad news: The costs are far higher than anyone imagined.

Based on our estimates, and applying the best available scholarly research, we believe America’s tort system imposes a total cost on the U.S. economy of $865 billion per year. This constitutes an annual “tort tax” of $9,827 on a family of four. It is equivalent to the total annual output of all six New England states, or the yearly sales of the entire U.S. restaurant industry.

Anything useful you could do with an extra $9827 a year?

Read the whole thing.

27 Mar 2007

Giuliani: First Amendment Protects Gun Owners

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Listen to this exchange on Sean Hannity.

That’s not just a slip of the tongue. You don’t get the First and Second Amendments confused, if you are significantly personally interested in the issues associated with either one. You can just tell that Rudolph Giuliani and the Bill of Rights have not had a meaningful relationship since high school civics class about 50 years ago.

Hat tip to Brian Hughes.

John Lott review Giuliani’s dismal record on the Second Amendment here.

One person’s “reasonable and sensible” gun laws aren’t always another’s. So when Rudy Giuliani recognizes that the Second Amendment guarantees people the right to bear arms subject to “reasonable and sensible” laws, it really doesn’t tell us much. Yet one thing is for sure though: Giuliani is hardly a “strict constructionist” on constitutional matters, at least when it comes to the Second Amendment. It is a long ways from “shall not be infringed” to “shall infringe whenever Congress has a ‘reasonable and sensible’ justification.”

For those who support the Second Amendment, the main problem is that Giuliani has rarely met a gun regulation he didn’t see as “reasonable and sensible.” In 2000, he pointed out how he was “a very strong supporter of gun-control legislation” and called for everything from federal gun-licensing and registration to banning guns based upon their price.

Only in the last couple of months has he finally gone on the record as opposing a gun law: he came out against re-imposing the assault-weapons ban. Yet he originally supported this law when it was first adopted, and he wanted it renewed as recently as 2004, when it expired.

His support for all these gun laws isn’t too surprising given his belief that “the single biggest connection between violent crime and an increase in violent crime is the presence of guns in your society . . . . the more guns you take out of society, the more you are going to reduce murder. The less guns you take out of society, the more it is going to go up.”

Read the whole thing.

27 Mar 2007

Stalking the Wily Cane Toad

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Heh! Even holier-than-thou tree-hugging enviromental whackjobs retain mankind’s natural sporting instincts.

They enjoy hunting down the wily and elusive cane toad (Bufo marinus), and are just as proud as any Safari Club-member when they bag a record-book specimen. (Personally, though, I think deer, antelope, and sheep all look much better mounted in one’s trophy room.)

AP reports:

An environmental group said Tuesday it had captured a “monster” toad the size of a small dog.

With a body the size of a football and weighing nearly 2 pounds, the toad is among the largest specimens ever captured in Australia, according to Frogwatch coordinator Graeme Sawyer.

“It’s huge, to put it mildly,” he said. “The biggest toads are usually females but this one was a rampant male … I would hate to meet his big sister.”

Frogwatch, which is dedicated to wiping out a toxic toad species that has killed countless Australian animals, picked up the 15-inch-long cane toad during a raid on a pond outside the northern city of Darwin late Monday.

Cane toads were imported from South America during the 1930s in a failed attempt to control beetles on Australia’s northern sugar cane plantations. The poisonous toads have proven fatal to Australia’s delicate ecosystems, killing millions of native animals from snakes to the small crocodiles that eat them.

As part of its so-called “Toad Buster” project, Frogwatch conducts regular raids on local water holes, blinding the toads with bright lights then scooping them up by the dozen.

“We kill them with carbon dioxide gas, stockpile them in a big freezer and then put them through a liquid fertilizer process” that renders the toads nontoxic, Sawyer said.

“It turns out to be sensational fertilizer,” he added.

Did you catch the line about “Australia’s delicate ecosystems”?

Australia has about seven out of ten of the top-ranking venomous critters on the planet. Its plants generally come equipped with an array of spikes and thorns a Sonoran cactus might envy. Even the cuddly platypus can poison you with a spur on its hind foot. “Delicate?” I’d hate to run into whatever lives in the ecosystem these people would describe as robust.

27 Mar 2007

YouTube Video Awards

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YouTube has made its first annual awards for videos in a variety of categories. Should be worth a look.

26 Mar 2007

Webb Aide Arrested For Carrying Senator’s Gun

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Gun laws are often written in such a way as to criminalize “possession” when possession consists of merely holding somebody else’s legally owned gun in one’s hand briefly. In this case, the possession was a senator’s pistol in a briefcase being carried by an aide.

FoxNews

U.S. Capitol Police arrested a top aide to Sen. Jim Webb on Monday after he tried to enter a Senate office building carrying a loaded pistol and two fully loaded magazines that belonged to the senator.

Phillip Thompson sent a bag through the X-ray machine at Russell Senate Office Building, where Webb’s office is located. It detected the weapon and Capitol Police say they determined that Thompson didn’t have a license to carry the gun in Washington, D.C. Thompson was arrested and charged with carrying a pistol without a license and possession of an unregistered firearm and unregistered ammunition.

A senior Democratic aide said Webb gave the bag that contained the gun to Thompson when the aide drove the senator to the airport. Thompson said he forgot it was in the bag when he took it into the office building.

26 Mar 2007

Russian News Predicts Imminent US Attack on Iran

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The Russian News and Information Bureau reports on “Operation Bite:”

(translated from the French)

Russian military experts estimate that the planning of the American military attack against Iran passed the point of no return on February 20, when the director of the IAEA, Mohammed ElBaradei, acknowledged, in his report, the inability of the Agency “to confirm the peaceful character of the nuclear program of Iran”.

According to the Russian weekly magazine Argoumenty nedeli, military action will proceed during the first week of April, before Catholic and Orthodox Easter (celebrated this year on the 8th), when “Western opinion” is on leave. It may be also that Iran is hit on Friday the 6th, a public holiday in Muslim countries. According to the American plan, it will be a one day strike which will take 12 hours, from 4 AM to 4 PM. The code name of the operation is currently “Bite.” A score of Iranian installations are to be hit. Among them will be centrifuge machines for uranium enrichment, study centers and laboratories. But the prime target of the nuclear thermal power station at Bushehr will not be touched. On the other hand, the Americans will neutralize the DCA, will sink several Iranian war ships in the Gulf, and will destroy the keys command posts of the armed forces.

Such steps should deprive Teheran of any capacity to counterattack. Iran is expected to sink several tankers in the strait of Ormuz with an aim of cutting off the supply of oil to international markets and to strike Israel with missiles.

Analysts confirm that the American strike will be launched from the island of Diego-Garcia in the Indian Ocean, from which will take off long-range B-52 bombers with cruise missiles on board; by the naval aviation forces of American aircraft carriers deployed in the Gulf, belonging to the 6th American Fleet in the Mediterranean; cruise missiles will be also launched from submarines concentrated in the Pacific and off Arabia.

Result, the Iranian nuclear program will be thrown backward several years. In private talks, American generals admit that the deployment of American anti-missile defense in Europe can then be postponed to a later date. It is also expected that the price of a barrel of oil could soar to 75-80 dollars for a prolonged period.

Meanwhile, a new resolution concerning Iran and its (nuclear) project was sponsored by the five permanent members of the Security Council and with Germany voting should be adopted by the Security Council this week. Its text proposes sanctions against 10 Iranian public companies and three companies belonging to the Revolutionary Guards, an elite unit under the command of the spiritual leader of the Islamic Republic, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Sanctions are also proposed against 15 actual persons: eight highly placed leaders of organs of the state and seven key figures of the Revolutionary Guards.

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I certainly hope they’re right.

How the left will scream! But I suspect this kind of decisive action will help, rather than hurt, Bush public support.

26 Mar 2007

Hollywood’s Armed Response

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David Kahane, at National Review, observes signs of a double-standard flourishing in the ultra-affluent communities of the Hollywood elite.

I was driving through Beverly Hills yesterday, on my way out to Malibu, and the signs in the yards caught my eye.

Not the “For Sale” signs. …

No, the other signs. You know, the ones that say “ARMED RESPONSE.” (They’re usually just to the left of the “Kerry/Edwards” signs.) Not only in Beverly Hills, of course, but in Santa Monica, Hancock Park, Brentwood, Bel Air, and all the best neighborhoods in town. The signs that advertise our private-security services.

You see, although we in Hollywood are personally opposed to firearms, and passionately support gun control, we have to be realistic about Bush’s America and protect our families and, more important, our possessions from burglars, stalkers, muggers, street people, the homeless, immigrants, the Christian Right, and tourists from Kansas City.

That’s why we were all so taken aback by the recent D.C. circuit-court ruling, which found that the residents of Washington are constitutionally entitled, as individuals, to possess firearms. It’s bad enough that every criminal in L.A. County has unlimited access to guns — now they want to give them to ordinary people, too?

Everyone knows perfectly well that the Bill of Rights was meant to protect the federal government against the depredations of the citizens — if you don‘t believe me, just ask senators McCain and Feingold …

Read the whole thing.

26 Mar 2007

Gonzales Won’t Be Missed

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Debra J. Saunders, at the San Francisco Chronicle, explains why conservatives will not be crying if democrats’ attacks force Alberto Gonzales to resign.

If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigns over the U.S. attorneys flap, many Republicans will not be sorry to see him go.

It’s not just that some believe Gonzales made a huge mistake in claiming that he asked for the resignations of eight U.S. attorneys for “performance-related” reasons — which was bad form. Or as Washington attorney Victoria Toensing, who worked in the Reagan administration, noted, “Replacing at-will employees should be Government 101. This is not a difficult process. They flunked smart.”

Forget the U.S. attorneys flap. Many on the right believe that Gonzales has been lax in enforcing immigration law, not been sufficiently partisan, and that he’s not particularly competent, either. They wonder: With friends like this, who needs enemies?

For example, some Republicans wonder why Gonzales did not include U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton of the Western District of Texas on his got-to-go list. Sutton, you may recall, prosecuted two Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, for shooting at a fleeing drug smuggler, covering up the incident and depriving the Mexican smuggler of his constitutional rights. Many voters are outraged that the two agents are now serving 11-year and 12-year sentences.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntingdon Beach, is incensed that Gonzales did not stop Sutton from throwing the book at two good agents — strike one — while Sutton granted immunity to a man who was smuggling 743 pounds of marijuana into the country. Strike two.

Rohrabacher told me that his frustration with the Bushies had been mounting. “I kept quiet for a long time,” he said. “But when he put the lives of these two Border Patrol agents on the line and decided he was going to squash them like a bug, that was the end of it.”

The cherry on top: Gonzales failed to protect Ramos and Compean when they entered prisons filled with the sort of criminals they used to put away. One night, gang members at the Yazoo City Federal Correctional Complex in Mississippi beat up Ramos. Said Rohrabacher, “The attorney general knew and knows today that these two men’s lives are at risk. Instead of moving forward to try to send them to a minimum security prison or let them get out on bond (while they appeal), he has dug his heels in.” Strike three. …

Then there is former Clinton adviser Sandy Berger. It drives conservatives crazy that the feds prosecuted Scooter Libby for lying about leaking the identity of ex-CIA operative Valerie Wilson, when the feds cut a generous plea bargain with Berger for destroying classified documents.

Berger, who in 2003 destroyed classified National Archives documents relating to the Clinton administration’s terrorism policies, received no penalty: No jail time, just a fine, 100 hours of community service — and he even gets his security clearance back after three years.

Earlier this year, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., charged the Justice Department with giving Berger a “free pass.” …

As one conservative lawyer, who did not want to be named, told me, the right wants an attorney general who is a “pugilist.” As for Gonzales, he said, “All he does is walk backward and apologize.”

Read the whole thing.

26 Mar 2007

Anti-Rape Device

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South Africa has the highest incidence of reported rape in the world. One in three women questioned in a recent Johannesburg poll said they had been raped in the last year.

In response, a new invention will soon be marketed, a female-used condom-like device with teeth.

Some liberals are outraged.

This is a medieval instrument, based on male-hating notions and fundamentally misunderstands the nature of rape and violence against women in this society,” said Charlene Smith, one of South Africa’s most prominent campaigners against rape.

“It is vengeful, horrible, and disgusting. The woman who invented this needs help.”

26 Mar 2007

Obama’s Non-Euclidean Constitutionalism

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Gary Shapiro, in the New York Sun, discusses Barack Obama’s collaboration with Harvard Law School’s ultra-liberal Constitutional Law Professor Larry Tribe in the production of a 1989 Law Review article employing scientific metaphors to justify bizarre and over-reaching interpretations of the Constitution.

You thought liberal Supreme Court justices’ interpretations of the Constitution were bad enough now? Just imagine new Obama-appointed justices following Larry Tribe’s suggestion of applying a little Heisenberg to Constitutional jurisprudence.

Is Barack Obama a space cadet? The man who would become senator of Illinois and a top Democratic presidential contender was credited for editorial or research assistance in a page-one footnote of what may be the zaniest-titled article ever published by the Harvard Law Review: “The Curvature of Constitutional Space: What Lawyers Can Learn From Modern Physics,” authored by noted legal scholar Laurence Tribe.

The 39-page densely argued treatise — think “The Paper Chase” meets “Star Trek” — argues that constitutional jurisprudence should be updated in a similar way that Einstein’s theory of relativity replaced Newtonian mechanics, a view that would release judges from the original intent of the Founders of America. Published in 1989, with help of the much younger and politically greener Mr. Obama (a few others are also thanked in that footnote), the article is sprawling with references to cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz and physicists Stephen Hawking and Werner Heisenberg.

In 1990 Mr. Obama became the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. The long-ago article could indicate his views on the Constitution, which, if he is elected, could come into play in such matters as his choice of nominees to the Supreme Court. …

Mr. Tribe employs this analogy to argue for a more expansive view of what constitutes governmental action. He examines legal cases involving child abuse, suburban white flight from suburbs, and abortion, asking what the state’s role was in shaping the legal environment.

A Yale-trained lawyer who earned his Ph.D. in mathematics at New York University, Elisha Kobre, said Mr. Tribe is “making a reasonable — but debatable — legal point that courts should intervene not only when government directly infringes individual rights but also when people are adversely affected by existing social structures that he asserts have been created or perpetuated by the government.” Mr. Kobre added that while Mr. Tribe’s physics analogy did not particularly add to or enlighten a point that others have made before, it was nice to see a lawyer managing to incorporate ideas of science into legal theory. …

If Mr. Obama captures the White House, he might not curve space but may settle for setting aside a high-altitude seat on the Supreme Court for his former teacher, Mr. Tribe, who is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard.

Whether James Madison and the other Founders would have had such a benign view of Mr. Tribe’s theory is another matter, though.

Read the whole thing.

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