Showing posts from September, 2007

"Peace keepers" can't stop war in Darfur

Independent: At least 10 African Union soldiers have been killed and 50 are reported missing after a weekend assault on their base in southern Darfur. It was the worst attack yet on AU peacekeepers in the war-torn Sudanese region since their deployment three years ago, and happened just weeks before the first wave of new UN troops is set to arrive. "Our camp has been completely destroyed," an AU spokesman, Noureddine Mezni, said yesterday. "There is a feeling of shock." As many as 1,000 armed men in at least 30 vehicles stormed the base in Haskanita, South Darfur just after sunset on Saturday evening in what the AU called a "deliberate and sustained" assault. The latest violence to threaten Darfur's fragile peace process came as a new diplomatic initiative for ending the four-year conflict got under way. Brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, the so-called "peace elders&q

Iraqis get deal from Iran on arms shipments?

LA Times: Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has secured a pledge from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to help cut off weapons, funding and other support to extremist militiamen in Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Saturday. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said there were signs of a slight drop in the types of attacks associated with Shiite militants since the deal was reached in August, and he raised the possibility that U.S. and Iraqi officials might be able to do something in return. But he said it was too early to tell whether there had been a real reduction in cross-border support. "Honestly, and I really mean this, all of us would really welcome the opportunity to see this, confirm it and even -- in whatever way we could -- to reciprocate," Petraeus said during a visit to the Baghdad district of Karada. "But it really is wait-and-see time right now still." Iranian officials have made no announcement of such a commitment and could

Iraqi army on offense

Reuters /Scotsman: Iraqi army forces killed 40 militants during operations in three northern Iraqi provinces in the last 24 hours, a Defence Ministry statement said on Sunday. It said the operations took place in the volatile provinces of Diyala, Salahuddin and Kirkuk. Another eight people were arrested in those provinces, the statement said. ... The statement said the army had also managed to defuse three bombs in those provinces. Across Iraq, the army killed a total of 44 militants in the last 24 hours, and arrested 52 suspects, the statement said. This is encouraging news for Iraqis who are eager to see their army step up and be effective in independent operations. Defusing the bombs also suggest they are getting ahead of the curve on the IED war. Diyala and the other provinces is where the remnants of al Qaeda is located. American combat aircraft killed another 20 al Qaeda troops north of Baghdad.

Brits give access to all phone records

Daily Mail: Officials from the top of Government to lowly council officers will be given unprecedented powers to access details of every phone call in Britain under laws coming into force tomorrow. The new rules compel phone companies to retain information, however private, about all landline and mobile calls, and make them available to some 795 public bodies and quangos. The move, enacted by the personal decree of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, will give police and security services a right they have long demanded: to delve at will into the phone records of British citizens and businesses. ... Records will detail precisely what calls are made, their time and duration, and the name and address of the registered user of the phone. The files will even reveal where people are when they made mobile phone calls. By knowing which mast transmitted the signal, officials will be able to pinpoint the source of a call to within a few feet. This can even be used to track someone's route if, for

Something to drive the jihadis crazy

Neat video on the women in the Israeli Defense Force: Hat tip to Astute Blogger.

The Hsu effect on 3rd quarter fund raising?

Donald Lambro: Democratic presidential front-runners this week will report raising far less money in the past three months than they did in the first two quarters of the year, campaign-finance consultants say. ... "Historically, the numbers go down every third quarter. The easier fruit is the low-hanging fruit, so campaigns tend to get the most money from their known supporters early in the campaign," said Jan Baran, a Washington-based campaign-finance lawyer. "But as time passes, they find it increasingly difficult to find new supporters." ... Yes, it is much harder when your biggest fund raiser is in jail. Dick Holman nails Hillary's "reform" hypocrisy.

Czechs holdout for lawfare treatment of terror training camp plotter

Baron Bodissey: Ousama Kassir, who originally hails from Lebanon, is under indictment in the United States for conspiracy aimed at providing material support to terrorists. He has been charged with planning to set up terror training camps for would-be mujahideen in Oregon back in the 1990s. If his plans had matured, graduates from his little academies would have been sent to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban. His other alleged activities include setting up and maintaining websites giving fellow terrorists instructions on bomb-making. Mr. Kassir had been holed up in Sweden, where he was probably safe from the long arm of American law, until 2005. Then he made the mistake of stopping off at the airport in Prague on his way to Beirut. The Czech authorities were alert; they detained him, and have been holding him in custody ever since. ... The only thing we had to do to get the Czechs to let him go was to promise not to stick him in Guantanamo: - - - - - - - - - “The USA has prov

Combat deaths continue to decline in Iraq

AFP: US military losses in Iraq for September stood at 70 on Sunday, the lowest monthly figure since July last year, according to an AFP tally based on Pentagon figures. The figure also marks the fourth consecutive drop in the monthly death toll following a high of 121 in May. June saw 93 deaths, July 82 and August 79. The monthly toll in July 2006 was 53. Two US soldiers were killed on Saturday in separate incidents, pushing the overall toll of American losses since the March 2003 invasion to 3,801. A surge in US troop numbers saw an extra 28,500 personnel deployed from mid-February, mainly in Baghdad and the neighbouring province of Anbar, although commanders said most were not in combat positions until May. US commanders say the strategy is starting to work and that levels of violence are dropping, allowing for a possible drawdown of the 160,000 or so troops now deployed. ... By having a higher force to space ration and putting into the s

Earmarks are the new feather bedding

Houston Chronicle: The Pentagon insists it has enough C-17 Globemaster jets, which are partly manufactured in Texas and used by the Air Force to ferry troops and weapons to hot spots around the globe. Nevertheless, lawmakers from the Lone Star State and elsewhere recently inserted in a defense authorization bill a requirement that the military buy 10 more aircraft at a cost of $2.4 billion. The project is among the billions of dollars of earmarks, or special funding items, tucked into several defense measures recently approved by the House and Senate for the coming fiscal year. The number of earmarks is down from previous years as they are increasingly criticized as legislative tricks that avoid competitive bidding and grant application processes and are performed at the behest of lobbyists. Supporters say they allow lawmakers, rather than unelected bureaucrats, to decide where government money goes. But the huge defense bills remain a major source of earmark funding for lawmakers s

"Logjam" on surveillance

David Ignatius talks about the negotiations over the FISA laws and how both sides are bruised by the battle. The problem starts with the false premise that we really need a FISA law. That false premise is based on another false premise that the 4th Amendment even applies to surveillance of foreign enemies and their agents in this country. It conceivably could if we were trying to build and espionage case and take them to court. But in a time of war, you primary concern should not be indicting the enemy but discovering his plots and stopping his attempts to mass murder non combatants. Into that mix, Democrats are concerned about terrorist privacy rights, even if it means foregoing intelligence on enemy activities. This was dramatically demonstrated when we had a 10 to 12 hour delay in the search for kidnapped soldiers in Iraq because the enemy was communicating on internet lines that touched US soil requiring a FISA warrant. If this requirement does not seem idiotic to you, you m

The advocates for terrorist privacy rights

David Rivkin and Lee Casey: Would any sane country purposefully limit its ability to spy on enemy communications in time of war? That is the question Congress must answer as it takes up reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Privacy activists, civil libertarians and congressional Democrats argue that both foreign and domestic eavesdropping must be subject to judicial scrutiny and oversight, even if this means drastically reducing the amount of foreign intelligence information available to the government, without ever acknowledging the costs involved. It is time the American people had an open and honest debate on the relative importance of privacy and security. FISA, of course, is the law regulating the government's interception of "electronic communications" for foreign intelligence purposes. Earlier this year the special FISA court narrowed dramatically the National Security Agency's ability to collect overseas intelligence under the law, so Congress

Audacity of incomeptence camouflaged as hope

George Will: Is it audacious to hope for more clarity from Barack Obama than he has so far supplied? Herewith 17 questions for him: You advocate leaving in Iraq "some" U.S. forces for three missions -- fighting al Qaeda, training Iraqi security forces and protecting U.S. forces conducting those two missions. Some experts believe that even 60,000 U.S, troops would be insufficient for those functions -- even if the Iraqis were not, as they will be for the foreseeable future, dependent on U.S. logistics, transport, fire support, air support, armor and medivac capabilities. What is your estimate of the numbers required by your policy? How, and in consultation with whom, did you arrive at your estimate? As to fighting terrorists but not insurgents -- how would soldiers and Marines tell the difference? If, while searching for terrorists, they make contact with insurgents, would your rules of engagement call for a full force response? You say all "combat brigades" should b

The starry eyed generals of Burma

Ben MacIntyre: The fate of the Burmese junta is written in the stars. That, at least, is what the Burmese junta believes. For one of the odder and most revealing aspects of the brutal military gang that rules Burma is its faith in astrology. When the junta moved the capital from Rangoon to a malarial town deep in the jungle, it did so because an astrologer employed by Senior General Than Shwe had warned him of an impending catastrophe that could only be averted by moving the seat of government. The same astrologer asserted that the most auspicious moment for the move would be November 6, 2005, at 6:37 in the morning. Sure enough, at that precise hour on the ordained day, the bullet-proof limousines of Burma’s generals started to roll towards their new home on the road to Mandalay. Burma’s intensely superstitious rulers have long been guided by a belief in portents and prophecies, cosmology, numerology and magic. The time and date of the ceremony marking independence from Britain was al

9-11 makes Thomas Friedman stupid

In his column in the NY Times today Thomas Friedman tries to make the case that 9-11 has made us stupid, but really makes the case that he and many liberals have become stupid because of our reaction to the attacks. Friedman is not "truther" stupid, but his motivation is similar. The truthers reject the obvious about the attacks because they do not want to have to deal with the consequences of the truth. They don't want to be at war with anyone so the block the truth of enemy aggression and come up with a conspiracy theory. Friedman, like John Kerry in 2004 wants to return to the pre war mode, where terrorism and enemy attacks are not the front burner issues that get in the way of the liberal agenda. ... It is not that I thought we had new enemies that day and now I don’t. Yes, in the wake of 9/11, we need new precautions, new barriers. But we also need our old habits and sense of openness. For me, the candidate of 9/12 is the one who will not only understand who our

Talking with tyrants

Mark Steyn: "I'm proud of my university today," Stina Reksten, a 28-year-old Columbia graduate student from Norway, told the New York Times. "I don't want to confuse the very dire human rights situation in Iran with the issue here, which is freedom of speech. This is about academic freedom." Isn't it always? But enough about Iran, let's talk about me! The same university that shouted down an American anti-illegal-immigration activist and the same university culture that just deemed former Harvard honcho Larry Summers too misogynist to be permitted on campus is now congratulating itself over its commitment to "academic freedom." True, renowned Stanford psychology professor Philip Zimbardo is not happy. "They can have any fascist they want there," said professor Zimbardo, "but this seems egregious." But, hey, don't worry: He was protesting not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presence at Columbia but Donald Rumsfeld's pre

US training Gulf air forces to fight Iran

Sunday Telegraph: The American air force is working with military leaders from the Gulf to train and prepare Arab air forces for a possible war with Iran, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. An air warfare conference in Washington last week was told how American air chiefs have helped to co-ordinate intelligence-sharing with Gulf Arab nations and organise combined exercises designed to make it easier to fight together. Gen Michael Mosley, the US Air Force chief of staff, used the conference to seek closer links with allies whose support America might need if President George W Bush chooses to bomb Iran. Pentagon air chiefs have helped set up an air warfare centre in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where Gulf nations are training their fighter pilots and America has big bases. It is modelled on the US Air Force warfare centre at Nellis air force base in Nevada. Jordan and the UAE have both taken part in combined exercises designed to make sure their air forces can fly, and fight, together a

German bomb plotter on the run in UK

Sunday Times: A KEY suspect in the alleged plot to mount an attack in Germany on the scale of 9/11 is on the run in Britain, German security officials disclosed yesterday. Scotland Yard counterterrorism detectives are hunting the man, who escaped from Germany after a plot to explode bombs at Frankfurt airport and a US airbase. The collective power of the bombs would have exceeded those in Madrid and London in 2004 and 2005. The plot was foiled on September 4 when three men were arrested at a rented holiday apartment near the central German town of Kassel. Police recovered chemicals and bomb-making equipment which investigators believe would have led to the biggest loss of life since the 9/11 attacks in America six years ago. About 10 other members of the gang were said by German prosecutors to have escaped and one is now in Britain. The arrested three - two of whom were German nationals who had converted to Islam - were alleged by prosecutors to be members of an Al-Qaeda splinter g

UK plans to sink its navy

Sunday Telegraph: Ministers have drawn up confidential proposals to slash the number of ships in the Royal Navy, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose. The expected reductions follow a fierce row between Service chiefs and the Treasury over defence spending. The Ministry of Defence has produced a plan to decommission five warships from next April, which would reduce the Navy's capability to the level where it could carry out only "one small-scale operation". Separate documentation from inside the department suggests that the total number of ships in the Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary could fall from the present level of 103 to 76 in 2017 and only 50 in 2027 — a reduction of more than half. The information has been supplied in an email from a whistleblowing official inside the MoD, who has given details of a row between senior officials in the department and Andy Burnham, the Treasury Chief Secretary, over the allocation of money to the MoD over the next three years. ... The e

The IED war

Rick Atkinson introduces a series on the IED for the Washington Post. ... Since that first fatal detonation of what is now known as an improvised explosive device, more than 81,000 IED attacks have occurred in Iraq, including 25,000 so far this year, according to U.S. military sources. The war has indeed metastasized into something "completely different," a conflict in which the roadside bomb in its many variants -- including "suicide, vehicle-borne" -- has become the signature weapon in Iraq and Afghanistan, as iconic as the machine gun in World War I or the laser-guided "smart bomb" in the Persian Gulf War of 1991. IEDs have caused nearly two-thirds of the 3,100 American combat deaths in Iraq, and an even higher proportion of battle wounds. This year alone, through mid-July, they have also resulted in an estimated 11,000 Iraqi civilian casualties and more than 600 deaths among Iraqi security forces. To the extent that the United States is not winning mi

Is tortilla boom around corner? Ethanol glut depressing prices

NY Times: The ethanol boom of recent years — which spurred a frenzy of distillery construction, record corn prices, rising food prices and hopes of a new future for rural America — may be fading. Only last year, farmers here spoke of a biofuel gold rush, and they rejoiced as prices for ethanol and the corn used to produce it set records. But companies and farm cooperatives have built so many distilleries so quickly that the ethanol market is suddenly plagued by a glut, in part because the means to distribute it has not kept pace. The average national ethanol price on the spot market has plunged 30 percent since May, with the decline escalating sharply in the last few weeks. “The end of the ethanol boom is possibly in sight and may already be here,” said Neil E. Harl, an economics professor emeritus at Iowa State University who lectures on ethanol and is a consultant for producers. “This is a dangerous time for people who are making investments.” While generous government support is exp

Media and lawyers riot in Pakistan over court permitting Musharraf to run

CNN: Pakistan's election commission Saturday accepted President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's nomination to run in next week's presidential elections as riots between police and anti-Musharraf protesters erupted outside the commission's building in Islamabad. Pakistan's Supreme Court cleared the way for the commission's action Friday by rejecting petitions that attempted to prevent Musharraf from seeking re-election, effectively allowing him to run in next week's elections for another five-year term. Displeased with the decision, scores of journalists and anti-Musharraf lawyers led demonstrations Saturday that eventually turned violent. Wielding riot batons and tear gas, police cracked down on crowds massed outside the Supreme Court and the nearby election commission office. Video footage showed a crush of people pushing against the shields of riot police as smoke from tear gas canisters clouded the background. ... There is something interesting about seeing a com

Border fence under construction

LA Times: The federal government's border fencing effort has accelerated rapidly in recent weeks with barriers rising in towns from California to New Mexico and workers completing the longest stretch of continuous fencing on the U.S.-Mexico frontier. The Department of Homeland Security reached its goal of completing 70 miles of new fencing by the end of this month, nearly doubling the length of barriers on the border to about 145 miles. ... Whether the new fencing slows illegal immigration remains to be seen, but the project is a milestone in another way. Once limited mainly to cities, fencing along the 1,952-mile border is now going up in rural areas, where much of the illegal immigration traffic has shifted in recent years. Fleets of tractor-trailers loaded with fence posts and steel tubing have been crossing remote highways and deserts. Crews of National Guard troops spend hours welding raw materials under tarps. In some areas, contractors are installing the barriers at a pace o

Are Muslims really this nutty?

A Saudi man divorced his wife for watching a TV show with a male host while she was home alone, saying she "was effectively alone with an unrelated man, which is forbidden under the strict Islamic law..." The answer to the question in the headline is that some clearly are.

Iran labels CIA and US Army terrorist organizations

Jerusalem Post: Iran's parliament on Saturday approved a nonbinding resolution to label the CIA and the US Army "terrorist organizations." The move is seen as a diplomatic tit-for-tat after the US Senate voted in favor of a resolution urging the State Department to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. "The aggressor US Army and the Central Intelligence Agency are terrorists and also nurture terror," said a statement by the 215 lawmakers who signed the resolution at an open session of the Iranian parliament. The session was broadcast live on state-run radio. The hard-line dominated parliament said the two were terrorists, because they were involved in dropping nuclear bombs in Japan in World War II, used depleted uranium munitions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq, supported the killings of Palestinians by Israel, bombed and killed Iraqi civilians and tortured terror suspects in prisons. The resolution, which is seen

BBC gives kids al Qaeda propaganda

Daily Mail: Britain's former spy chief accused the BBC of "parroting" Al Qaeda propaganda to children as young as six. Dame Pauline Neville Jones, who is also a former BBC governor, is infuriated at the stance the corporation's Newsround programme took on the September 11 attacks. She accused the flagship children's news bulletin of feeding an "ugly undercurrent" which suggests the terrorist outrage was somehow justifiable. Newsround is aimed at viewers aged between six and 12. On its website it answered the question concerning 9/11, "Why did they do it" by saying: "The way America has got involved in conflicts in regions like the Middle East has made some people very angry, including a group called al Qaeda - who are widely thought to have been behind the attacks." After the public complained, the text was amended. It now reads: "Al Qaeda is unhappy with America and other countries getting involved in places like

Al Qaeda sent Zarqawi to Iraq to fight US

Ray Robison: ... ... new reporting from an important Pakistani journalistic source close to al Qaeda leadership confirms that Abu Mus’ab al Zarqawi was an al Qaeda operative sent by Usama bin Laden to Iraq to fight US forces. He was definitely not in Iraq to fight against Saddam Hussein. This new revelation puts the Saddam regime and al Qaeda on the same side against Coalition forces in the initial invasion. There is so far no specific information from this new source as to whether both parties orchestrated their activities. However, it dispels claims by war opponents that Zarqawi was not al Qaeda before the war and that he was in Iraq to fight Saddam. As is widely known, Zarqawi was indeed moving between Iraq and Iran at this time but his links to al Qaeda and reasons for being in Iraq have been contested. ... Zarqawi’s mentor Barqawi was a Saddam sympathizer and al Qaeda affiliate who sent these Jordanian-Palestinians to Iraq to fight the Americans. Clearly these Jordanian-Palestin

Mass murdering mullahs of Iran

Dan Senor: "I think it would be almost inconceivable that Iran would commit suicide by launching one or two missiles of any kind against the nation of Israel." --Jimmy Carter, speaking at Emory University, Sept. 19, 2007 On March 17, 1992, a suicide bomber crashed an explosive-filled truck into a building filled with Israelis in Buenos Aires. The bombing was so powerful that the destruction covered several city blocks--29 innocents were killed and hundreds more were injured. This occurred more than 8,000 miles from Tehran. Two years later, on July 18, 1994, Buenos Aires was again hit with a terror attack. This time the target was the Jewish community center in the center of the city--85 were killed. Argentina was, understandably, rattled. The government launched a full-scale investigation. One of the key officials assigned to it was Miguel Angel Toma (later appointed by then President Eduardo Duhalde as secretary of intelligence from 2002-03). Mr. Toma is not a warmonger. And

Suppression in the name of Islam

Paul Marshall: Some of the world's most repressive governments are attempting to use a controversy over a Swedish cartoon to provide legitimacy for their suppression of their critics in the name of respect for Islam. In particular, the Organization of the Islamic Conference is seeking to rewrite international human rights standards to curtail any freedom of expression that threatens their more authoritarian members. In August, Swedish artist Lars Vilks drew a cartoon with Mohammed's head on a dog's body. He is now in hiding after Al Qaeda in Iraq placed a bounty of $100,000 on his head (with a $50,000 bonus if his throat is slit) and police told him he was no longer safe at home. As with the 2005 Danish Jyllands-Posten cartoons, and the knighting of Salman Rushdie, Muslim ambassadors and the OIC have not only demanded an apology from the Swedes, but are also pushing Western countries to restrict press freedom in the name of preventing "insults" to Islam. The Ir

Cold Cash Jefferson says 'what a waste'

Washington Post: Before searching Rep. William J. Jefferson 's New Orleans home in August 2005, FBI agents confronted him with a video that showed him accepting $100,000 from a government informant, according to a prosecution document filed yesterday in federal court in Alexandria . Afterward, the Louisiana Democrat sank back into a couch in his living room and "with total dejection remarked 'what a waste,' " according to the government account, which did not elaborate on his comment. Jefferson then "questioned how his reputation could survive" and expressed concern whether the search warrant affidavit could be permanently sealed to keep the information from being made public, according to the document. Meanwhile, on the same day, FBI agents found $90,000 of the $100,000 in marked bills in Jefferson's freezer at his Capitol Hill home. The government alleged that Jefferson took the money from a Virginia businesswoman who was working as an in

The Sheik who was our friend in Anbar

Sterling Jenson: From May 2006 until May 2007, I was an interpreter for most of the meetings between U.S. government officials and Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the Sunni sheik killed by a car bomb Sept. 13 in Ramadi . I watched as Abu Risha changed over time from an unknown local tribal leader to arguably the United States' best hope in Iraq . His death was a shock to me, but it was not unexpected, given the dangers surrounding him. Unfortunately, though, Abu Risha's life and efforts are being misinterpreted by some in Washington. Abu Risha was no ordinary sheik or ordinary man -- he was fearless, even if it meant being branded pro-American in an area that not long before had been crawling with al-Qaeda forces. I have many memories of Abu Risha, and I vividly recall him standing up in September last year in front of his fellow Sunni sheiks in Ramadi -- then the most dangerous place for U.S. troops in all of Iraq -- and declaring: "The coalition forces are friendly forces,

Hearings on AG nominee?

Robert Novak notes: ... Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy , chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, still hasn't scheduled hearings on the Mukasey nomination two weeks after it was made. A White House political operative has grumbled that the Senate needed only 12 days, all told, to confirm Janet Reno as President Bill Clin ton 's attorney general. ... They must not want to repeat that mistake again.

Ahmadinejad's mad vision

Carolyn Glick: ... Ahmadinejad gave two major addresses this week - at Columbia University and at the UN General Assembly. He devoted both to putting forward his vision for global Islamic domination. And while the Western media sought hidden meanings and signals for peaceful intentions in his words, the fact is that on both occasions, Ahmadinejad made absolutely clear that his vision of Islamic domination cannot coexist in any manner with Western civilization. Consequently, Ahmadinejad's statements were not negotiating stances. They were the direct consequence of the world view he propounds. As such, they are non-negotiable. At Columbia University, Ahmadinejad devoted the majority of his speech to a discussion of the role of science in human affairs. While most coverage surrounded his refusal to renounce his call to annihilate Israel, his central message, that he rejects the right of people to be free to choose their paths in life, was ignored. His remarks on the issue were dismi

Senate Democrats defeated on retreat from Iraq

Washington Post: Senate Democrats' failure to reach agreement with wavering Republicans on legislation to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq forced party leaders to concede yesterday that they are running low on options for altering President Bush 's war strategy this year. The breakdown, coming at the end of days of debate over defense policy legislation, makes it increasingly likely that Congress will conclude 2007 without passing a single Iraq bill of policy-altering significance. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said yesterday that the next big Iraq showdown could come over an emergency war-funding bill that may not be considered until early next year, as he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) turn their attention to the domestic policy front, where Democrats' prospects for success are brighter. One of the few remaining windows for Democrats on Iraq is on the spending front. Until war funding is secured for the next year, Democrats say that action

Attacks on critics of hip hop culture

Juan Williams: It started with Bill O'Reilly's grandmother. And it blew up into charges of O'Reilly being called a racist and me being attacked as a "Happy Negro" (read that as a lackey or Uncle Tom). O'Reilly, controversial host of the top-rated TV cable talk show on Fox News Channel , interviewed me on his radio show about a woman-hating, N-word-spouting rapper being hired by McDonald's for a celebrity endorsement. O'Reilly has been on a crusade against big companies legitimizing a crass, hateful and pornographic popular culture by putting stars like Snoop Dogg, the pornographer/rapper, in their ads. Sad to say, but a lot of today's rappers fit the bill. They make their name by bragging about how many people they've killed, how many times they've been shot and how many "bitches" they've abused. And those rappers, along with no-talent black comedians who use the N-word and profanity constantly, are creating

Democrats retreat on retreat

Thomas Ricks , Washington Post: In their debate Wednesday night in Hanover, N.H., none of the three top Democratic presidential candidates would promise to have the U.S. military out of Iraq by January 2013 -- more than five years from now. "I think it would be irresponsible" to state that, said Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). "I cannot make that commitment," added former senator John Edwards of North Carolina . And Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) put it simply when she outlined the dilemma that Democratic presidential aspirants face on Iraq . "It is very difficult to know what we're going to be inheriting," the party's front-runner said. After President Bush 's announcement this month of a limited troop drawdown and a continuation of the "surge" strategy through next summer, the key question for centrist Democrats in the presidential race is no longer whether U.S. forces will remain in Iraq but what size, mission and length

Hsu associate, Winkle Paw missing

Suitably Flip asks Where's Winkle. While we no longer need to worry about the whereabouts of the habitually slippery Norman Hsu, there's another central figure in this Democratic fundraising/investment fraud scandal that may have slithered away amid the sensational hubbub. Winkle Paw, Hsu's most delightfully named associate, seems to have turned up missing. According to campaign finance disclosures, Paw has served as everything from project analyst to CEO at a handful of Hsu's companies, including Components, Ltd., Next Components, Next Electronics, and CoolPowers (though that last one could've been a poor transcription of the word "Components" by a Tom Harkin campaign staffer). Paw was actually CEO of Next Components (one of those companies I couldn't seem to locate in my tour of Hsu's facilities) nearly two years before becoming a business analyst at the firm this summer, according to the filings, which is an interesting career trajectory. ...

Taiwan plans its own missiles to hit China

NY Times: Faced with a threatening military buildup by China, an increasingly outgunned Taiwan is quietly pushing ahead with plans to develop missiles that could strike the mainland, defense and security experts say. Taiwan successfully tested its first cruise missile with that kind of range this year, one that could send a nearly 900-pound warhead more than 600 miles, to targets as distant as Shanghai, military analysts said. Some Taiwanese military specialists have argued for decades that Taiwan should develop offensive weapons, including missiles, as a deterrent to the mainland, which has threatened to attack the self-governing island if it moves toward formal independence. The Pentagon estimates that China has deployed 900 missiles across from Taiwan. Senior military officials and lawmakers in the governing Democratic Progressive Party of President Chen Shui-bian have confirmed that the cruise missiles were under development. They said these missiles were essential to Taiwan’s defe