Entries from July 2010

Taliban Search Leaked Documents for Informers

July 31st, 2010 at 10:35 am 2 Comments

The Taliban have announced that they are using the WikiLeaks documents to find and punish informers:

Speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location, decease Zabihullah Mujahid told Channel 4 News that the insurgent group will investigate the named individuals before deciding on their fate.

“We are studying the report, pharm ” he said, confirming that the insurgent group already has access to the 92,000 intelligence documents and field reports.

“We knew about the spies and people who collaborate with US forces.  We will investigate through our own secret service whether the people mentioned are really spies working for the US.  If they are US spies, then we know how to punish them.”

The US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said last night that America has a “moral responsibility” to protect those who might be in danger.

“This department is conducting a thorough, aggressive investigation to determine how this leak occurred, to identify the person or persons responsible, and to assess the content of the information compromised,” he said.

“The battlefield consequences of the release of these documents are potentially severe and dangerous for our troops, our allies, and Afghan partners, and may well damage our relationships and reputation in that key part of the world,” he added.

Click here to read more.

WikiLeaks Claims “No Blood” on Their Hands

July 31st, 2010 at 10:12 am 2 Comments

The founder of WikiLeaks claims that no lives have been endangered by the thousands of documents he has leaked:

The founder of the website Wikileaks has rejected US claims he has blood on his hands after releasing 90,000 leaked classified documents on the Afghan war.

Julian Assange told the BBC there was no evidence that any informants had died as a result of the leaks.

He accused the Pentagon of trying to distract attention from the thousands of lives being lost in the war.

The White House has appealed to Wikileaks not to publish another 15,000 documents it is thought to hold.

The US denied Mr Assange’s assertion that he had asked the US government to help vet the documents to protect lives.

Mr Assange told the BBC’s Newshour programme that the US government had presented no evidence that innocent people or informants had been harmed by the leaks.

And he directly addressed comments made by Adm Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who sharply criticised Wikileaks.

“One must consider why the Pentagon is focusing on the hypothetical blood that it says might be on our hands – although there is no evidence of that – compared to the 20,000 lives that have been lost in Afghanistan that are documented and exposed by our material,” Mr Assange told the BBC.

Click here to read more.

Anti-Defamation League Opposes Cordoba House

July 31st, 2010 at 9:56 am 7 Comments

The Anti-Defamation League has come out in opposition to the Cordoba House in New York City:

The nation’s leading Jewish civil rights group opposes the planned mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero, saying more information is needed about funding for the project and the location is “counterproductive to the healing process.”

The Anti-Defamation League said it rejects any opposition to the center based on bigotry and acknowledged that the group behind the plan, the Cordoba Initiative, has the legal right to build at the site. But the ADL said “some legitimate questions have been raised” about funding and possible ties with “groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.”

“Ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right,” the ADL said in a statement. “In our judgment, building an Islamic center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain — unnecessarily — and that is not right.” The Cordoba Initiative did not comment Friday.

The mosque and community center would be located two blocks from the Lower Manhattan site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Click here to read more.

GDP Growth Slows Downs to 2.4%

July 31st, 2010 at 9:23 am 1 Comment

The newest GDP numbers indicate significantly reduced economic growth:

US economic growth slowed between April and June, with GDP growing by an annualised rate of 2.4%, the US Commerce Department has said.

This compares with an annual rate of 3.7% in the previous quarter.

The second quarter figure is a first estimate, and could be revised either up or down in the coming months.

There are growing fears about the strength of the US economic recovery, particularly concerning the country’s high unemployment rate of 9.5%.

Despite the slower rate of growth, economic adviser to the White House Christine Romer said: “This solid rate of growth indicates that the process of steady recovery from the recession continues.

“Nevertheless, faster growth is needed to bring about substantial reductions in unemployment.”

Click here to read more.

Obama: Rangel is at “The End of His Career”

July 31st, 2010 at 9:13 am 3 Comments

Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel has learned that even President Obama is not optimistic about the congressman’s chances of surviving an ethics investigation:

President Barack Obama is sending a strong signal to ethics-embattled Harlem Rep. Charles Rangel, telling CBS news that the time has come for the 80-year-old dean of New York’s congressional delegation to end his career “with dignity.”

But a person close to the Rangel tells POLITICO the embattled Democrat “doesn’t give a damn about what the president thinks about this” and won’t step down.

Yet Obama’s statement clearly changes the dynamic, and makes it much harder for the tenacious Rangel to hold on, according to Congressional sources.

After days of administration officials dodging questions about Rangel, Obama took on the issue with devastating bluntness in a interview with Harry Smith of the CBS “Early Show,” repeatedly referring to Rangel, who backed Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primary, in the past tense.

“I think Charlie Rangel served a very long time and served— his constituents very well but these— allegations are very troubling,” the president told Smith in an interviewed aired Friday night on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.

“And he’ll— he’s somebody who’s at the end of his career. Eighty years old. I’m sure that— what he wants is to be able to— end his career with dignity. And my hope is that— it happens,” he added.

Click here to read more.

Ben Nelson to Oppose Elena Kagan

July 31st, 2010 at 9:02 am 3 Comments

Senator Ben Nelson has announced that he will not vote to confirm Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, making him the first Democrat to do so:

WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson says he’ll vote against confirming Elena Kagan as a Supreme Court justice.

The Nebraskan’s announcement in a statement posted Friday evening makes him the first Democrat to say he’ll break with his party to oppose President Barack Obama’s nominee.

Nelson says he’s heard concerns from his constituents about Kagan, the 50-year-old solicitor general and former Harvard Law School dean. And he says her lack of judicial record makes it impossible to know whether their worries are unfounded.

Click here to read more.

Time for a North American Carbon Policy

David Frum July 31st, 2010 at 9:00 am 8 Comments

A loophole Canada once demanded in the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement now threatens to bite the Canadian energy industry.

The loophole allows either country to impose tariffs on the other for health and environmental reasons. Now, thumb that loophole creates an opportunity for the United States to impose sanctions on oil from Canada’s oil sands.

Here’s how.

Back in 2007, no rx the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency won permission from the U.S. Supreme Court to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant that is dangerous to human health. So far, help the EPA has not used this power. It is waiting for Congress to act. But if the Democrats lose their majority in the House of Representatives in November, Barack Obama’s appointees to the EPA may decide to proceed on their own.

Some U.S. environmentalists have proposed an impost on “dirty” oil from the oil sands. This would jolt the Canadian oil industry. But such an impost might well be legal under the FTA, unfortunately. Even more unfortunately, such an impost might gain support from House Republicans: If the GOP takes the House, the environment committee will be run by Joe Barton of Texas. Barton staunchly supports offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. A thumb on the scale against Canadian oil could help revive that battered industry.

So here’s a thought that might avert trouble — and secure Canada’s equal position in the U.S. energy market: a joint US-Canada carbon policy.

Here’s how it could work.

We draw a line around the North American continent. Any industrial greenhouse-gas producer anywhere on the continent would pay a tax per ton of emitted greenhouse gas. A ton of gas from oil, a ton from coal, a ton from natural gas — all the same price, all assessed at the source. A ton from Canada, a ton from the United States — the same price again. Having paved a level playing environmental field, goods would then move freely between the two countries.

Any imports into North America would have a greenhouse-gas tax assessed against them. (That way, it won’t pay to do your polluting in India or China.) Any exports from North America would have the greenhouse gas tax rebated to their producers. (That way, North Americans won’t be disadvantaged when they sell to countries without a greenhouse-gas tax.)

But within the North American marketplace, there would be no need for further regulation. Everything would be done with price signals. No need to ban the incandescent bulb, or restrict SUVs, or order utilities to substitute wind turbines for coal-fired generators. Just let people shop and compare at the new prices, and then make their own decisions.

The money raised from the tax would be pro-rated between the two governments in proportion to their country’s respective greenhouse-gas output. It could be used to cut other taxes or to repay the debt incurred in the 2008 financial crisis.

No discrimination at the U.S.-Canada border: We’d have created a single environmental standard for the two countries.

Obviously, there would be many further complexities and technicalities to address. (For example: What about agriculture?) But here’s the power of the idea: No two countries on earth will find it easier to reach such an agreement than Canada and the United States. And once such an agreement is reached to govern the world’s largest cross-border trade, other countries may find it much easier to copy the pre-existing North American agreement than to start from zero.

The third NAFTA partner, Mexico, could join when ready. A Canada-U.S. greenhouse-gas agreement could be an easily expanded foundation for an EU-North America deal or a Japan-EU-North America deal. Such a common Japan-EU-North America front — backed by tariffs on non-conforming products — would impose enormous pressure on China to adopt a more co-operative attitude. In a conference hall of 190+ contending countries, China looms huge and powerful. If the world’s most environmentally responsible actors co-ordinate first, however, China’s power to obstruct diminishes very abruptly.

The climate-change issue has provoked great skepticism. Too many climate advocates have engaged in hysterical exaggeration (that’s you, Al Gore). Others have engaged in dirty tricks and data manipulation (hello, “hide the decline”). But maybe the biggest problem of all is the well-founded suspicion that many climate-change activists are trying to use the environment to smuggle in other concerns: to promote the redistribution of wealth to poorer countries, to expand the role of government in the private economy.

The climate issue won’t go anywhere until climate advocates jettison those unrelated priorities. Junk the secret agenda, and the core problem may prove surprisingly easy to fix.

Originally published in the National Post.

Jeffrey Lord’s Embarrassing Attack on Sherrod

July 31st, 2010 at 8:50 am 3 Comments

It is frustrating that at a time when President Obama needs to be the target of clear and honest criticism that some commentators are irresponsibly resorting to racial issues to stoke the opposition. The most recent example of this is a piece that Jeffrey Lord has penned in the American Spectator about the speech Shirley Sherrod gave to the NAACP in Georgia. The piece is entitled “Sherrod Story False” because his argument is that Sherrod is a liar.

In her NAACP speech, look Sherrod spoke about her relative Bobby Hall being lynched by Claude Screws, salve a white sheriff in the 1940s. Lord argues that since the U.S. Supreme Court (comprised of all white men and at least one Ku Klux Klan member) never said Hall was lynched in its 1945 decision overturning Screws conviction that the lynching never happened and Sherrod had lied about it. This line of reasoning is preposterous; lynching was a common occurrence during this time and white judges often didn’t punish their white brethren for the crime.

But this isn’t the most offensive part of Lord’s writing. He also attacks Sherrod’s motives for telling the story and argues that she “concocted this story. . . to add glamour to a family story.”

Lord mockingly tries to suggest that the Democratic Party Sherrod aligns herself with today was responsible for the murder of her father and for her career at the Department of Agriculture. Lord reminds readers that Sherrod’s father was murdered in Baker County, Georgia in 1965 and that Sherrod said in her speech that “the murder of black people occurred periodically, and in every case the white men who murdered them were never punished.” Lord also reminds readers that then Senator Richard Russell of Georgia was a Democrat who repeatedly blocked civil rights legislation, and supported agricultural projects. He invites Sherrod to tour the Senate Russell Building and remember that it is named after a racist Democrat who was responsible for her father’s death.

Lord concludes that since Sherrod wanted to stay in Georgia and help black farmers that she is no different from the Dixiecrats who used to work there. Lord writes “Down scale a bit—a [black] bureaucrat is not the same as a [white] Senator or a Justice—but still finding herself on the same scale nonetheless.”

As America’s first black president, Obama was going to get dragged into discussions on race whether he liked it or not. But with pieces such as “Sherrod’s Story False” being written, I can see why he and the White House are loathe to engage in the discussion.

DC Interns Get the Lady Gaga Treatment

July 31st, 2010 at 8:45 am Comments Off

FrumForum contributor Mytheos Holt has been leading a double life. Seemingly a highly intellectualized recent honors graduate of Wesleyan, he is also a founder of a new Washington comedy troupe, Unbeltway, self-described as “elite Northeasterners who hate freedom, but hate the poor more.” Their first release is a parody of intern life in Washington, to the tune of Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro.” It’s funny!

D.C. Interns Do Lady Gaga

David Frum July 31st, 2010 at 2:25 am 2 Comments

FrumForum contributor Mytheos Holt has been leading a double life. Seemingly a highly intellectualized recent honors graduate of Wesleyan, he is also a founder of a new Washington comedy troupe, Unbeltway, self-described as “elite Northeasterners who hate freedom, but hate the poor more.” Their first release is a parody of intern life in Washington, to the tune of Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro.” It’s funny!