June 2005

Members of congress are supposed to represent the people who voted them into office. That’s their job.

So who were they representing when they voted in favor of this asinine “flag burning” amendment? Not liberals or conservatives.

I’ve always thought that flag burning was equivalent to book burning – a symbolic expression of protest or hate – offensive, but still protected by the first amendment.

It’s legal to burn a flag, pee on a Koran, put a crucifix in urine, etc., as it should be. If we make special exceptions for the flag, than what will we say to the extremist Muslims who want to ban all criticism of their apartheid laws and beliefs? Should they be allowed to amend the constitution?

John Conyers, one of our representatives might go along with that.

This reactionary piece of legislation doesn’t belong in our constitution. These reactionary legislators aren’t doing their job.

Via the Financial Express:

“Biofuels are getting more competitive due to the surge in oil prices but these would need to be somewhere between $60 and $100 a barrel for biofuels to be competitive without subsidies,” IEA biofuel specialist Lew Fulton said after a seminar on biofuel options.

US crude oil futures hit another all-time record on Monday at $59.52 a barrel as worries over fuel demand festered amid limited US refinery capacity.

An exception is Brazil where ethanol, made from sugar cane, is competitive without subsidy when oil prices are at $35 a barrel, said Brazil’s ambassador to Paris, Sergio Silva do Amaral.

for real?

Sad to hear about this..

But then again, how many failures did we have during the early days of the space program? Got to keep trying.

Via Arizona Central and MSNBC:

While Americans fume at high gasoline prices, Carolina Rossini is the essence of Brazilian cool at the pump.

Like tens of thousands of her countrymen, she is running her zippy red Fiat on pure ethanol extracted from Brazilian sugar cane. On a recent morning in Brazil’s largest city, the clear liquid was selling for less than half the price of gasoline, a sweet deal for the 26-year-old lawyer…

..Developing its own oil reserves was crucial to Brazil’s long-term strategy. Its domestic petroleum production has increased sevenfold since 1980. But the Western Hemisphere’s second-largest economy also has embraced renewable energy with a vengeance.

Today about 40 percent of all the fuel that Brazilians pump into their vehicles is ethanol, known here as alcohol, compared with about 3 percent in the United States. No other nation is using ethanol on such a vast scale. The change wasn’t easy or cheap. But 30 years later, Brazil is reaping the return on its investment in energy security while the United States writes checks for $50-a-barrel foreign oil.

“Brazil showed it can be done, but it takes commitment and leadership,” said Roland Hwang, vehicles policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. In the United States, “We’re paying the highest prices at the pump since 1981, and we are sending over $100 billion overseas a year to import oil instead of keeping that money in the United States. … Clearly Brazil has something to teach us.”..

..What most can agree on is that Brazil is an example of what might have been if America had seriously committed itself 30 years ago to renewable energy.

“If we would have spent one-hundredth of the money that we have spent to send tanks around the world to protect our oil supplies … we would already be using cellulosic ethanol,” said Michael Bryan, chief executive of BBI International, a Colorado-based bio-fuels consulting company.

From Daniel Pipes and the New York Sun:

Homaidan Ali Al-Turki, 36, and his wife, Sarah Khonaizan, 35, appear to be a model immigrant couple. They arrived in America in 2000 and now live with their four children in an upscale Denver suburb. Mr. Al-Turki is a graduate student in linguistics at the University of Colorado, specializing in Arabic intonation and focus prosody. He donates money to the Linguistic Society of America and is chief executive of Al-Basheer Publications and Translations, a bookstore specializing in titles about Islam.

Last week, however, the FBI accused the couple of enslaving an Indonesian woman who is in her early 20s. For four years, reads the indictment, they created “a climate of fear and intimidation through rape and other means.” The slave woman cooked, cleaned, took care of the children, and performed other tasks for little or no pay, fearing that if she did not obey, “she would suffer serious harm.”

The two Saudis face charges of forced labor, aggravated sexual abuse, document servitude, and harboring an alien. If found guilty, they could spend the rest of their lives in prison. The government also wants to seize the couple’s Al-Basheer bank account to pay their former slave $92,700 in back wages.

It’s shocking, especially for a graduate student and owner of a religious bookstore – but not particularly rare. Here are other examples of enslavement, all involving Saudi royals or diplomats living in America…

Why is this a consistent problem with the nation that has been called the “United States’ closest allies in the Arab world”?
(pardon me while I barf)

Feeling better. According to Daniel Pipes:

Why is this problem so acute for affluent Saudis? Four reasons come to mind. Although slavery was abolished in the kingdom in 1962, the practice still flourishes there. Ranking Saudi religious authorities endorse slavery; for example, Sheikh Saleh Al-Fawzan insisted recently that “Slavery is a part of Islam” and whoever wants it abolished is “an infidel.”

The U.S. State Department knows about the forced servitude in Saudi households and laws exist to combat this scourge but, as Mr. Mowbray argues, it “refuses to take measures to combat it.” Finally, Saudis know they can get away with nearly any misbehavior. Their embassy provides funds, letters of support, lawyers, retroactive diplomatic immunity, former U.S. ambassadors as troubleshooters, and even aircraft out of the country; it also keeps pesky witnesses away.

More here.

UPDATE: About 2,500 MORE Saudi students are going to receive scholarships for study at American universities. Nothing is too good for our terror-supporting, slaveholding “closest allies in the Arab world.”

[link thanks to Fausta]


Protesting the “Freedom Center” at the WTC

Via Bloomberg.com

A group representing families of some Sept. 11 victims gathered at New York’s World Trade Center site today to oppose construction of a “museum of freedom” next to a memorial to those who died in the terrorist attack.

The demonstration by a group calling itself “Take Back the Memorial” appealed for the planned International Freedom Center [IFC]to be excluded from the 16-acre site.

The freedom center is the brainchild of Tom Bernstein, the president of Chelsea Piers, a Manhattan recreation complex, who is a friend and former business partner of President George W. Bush…

…Debra Burlingame, whose brother Charles “Chic” Burlingame was a pilot of American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon, wrote in the June 7 issue of the Wall Street Journal that the International Freedom Center would be dominated by “ideologues hoping to use the memorial site as nothing more than a powerful visual aid to promote their agenda.”

Burlingame wrote that the freedom center’s Bernstein is president of Human Rights First, a group that sued U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld over alleged abuses of detainees from Iraq and Afghanistan.


Protesting the “Freedom Center”

Jeff Jarvis, who was a block away from the World Trade Center when the first of the two towers collapsed that Tuesday morning said of the protest:

A coalition of 9/11 families’ groups held a press conference at the World Trade Center today to call for exactly what I hoped they would when I spoke with Debra Burlingame last week: Do not build the International Freedom Center here. Do not distract from the 9/11 memorial and bring politics and polemics to this place. Let the memorial speak for itself.

Debra Burlingame, creator of Take back the Memorial said this in her Wall Street Journal op-ed:

The World Trade Center Memorial will break ground this year. When those Marines return in 2010, the year it is scheduled to open, no doubt they will expect to see the artifacts that bring those memories to life. They’ll want a vantage point that allows them to take in the sheer scope of the destruction, to see the footage and the photographs and hear the personal stories of unbearable heartbreak and unimaginable courage. They will want the memorial to take them back to who they were on that brutal September morning.

Instead, they will get a memorial that stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the yearning to return to that day. Rather than a respectful tribute to our individual and collective loss, they will get a slanted history lesson, a didactic lecture on the meaning of liberty in a post-9/11 world. They will be served up a heaping foreign policy discussion over the greater meaning of Abu Ghraib and what it portends for the country and the rest of the world…

…While Gov. George Pataki, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and LMDC are focusing their attention on the economic revival of lower Manhattan, there has been no meaningful oversight with respect to the “cash cow of Ground Zero.” Meanwhile, the Freedom Center’s organizers are quickly lining up individuals, institutions and university provosts with this arrogant appeal: “The memorial to the victims will be the heart of the site, the IFC will be the brain.”

According to Bloomberg.com,

Pataki’s chief of staff, John Cahill, appointed by the governor to coordinate Ground Zero development, rejected the demonstrators’ call to bar the freedom center. Speaking to reporters after the demonstration, Cahill said the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation will oversee the freedom center’s programs. The foundation is raising $500 million for the memorial, the freedom center and the art museum, known as the Drawing Center.

I believe that decisions about the memorial and any “Freedom Center” should be most influenced by the people who were most affected by September 11th – the thousands who lost loved ones, the thousands who almost lost their lives as a result of the attacks.

The most powerful supporters of the International Freedom Center include:

George Soros, billionaire financier of the left wing advocacy group MoveOn and founder of the Open Society Institute, the nonprofit foundation that helps fund Human Rights First.

Eric Foner, professor at Columbia University who, even as the bodies were being pulled out of a smoldering Ground Zero, wrote, “I’m not sure which is more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House.”

Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, who is pushing IFC organizers for exhibits that showcase how civil liberties in this country have been curtailed since September 11.

Michael Posner, executive director at Human Rights First who is leading the worldwide “Stop Torture Now” campaign focused entirely on the U.S. military.

These names don’t appear on any lists of survivors.

Opponents of the International Freedom Center include:

Jeff Jarvis

Debra Burlingame’s Take Back the Memorial

Advocates for 9/11 Fallen Heroes founded by John J. Finucane, Lieutenant, FDNY (ret)

The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund

The September 11th Families Association.

That’s why I signed this petition.

Kevin Drum on rising oil prices:

Oil prices continued their recent climb this week, reaching a new high of $58 per barrel on Friday. What’s causing this increase?

He’s got links to Nasdaq, the Dow Jones Newswire, the Houston Chronicle, the Saudi Oil Minister (via the BBC), Forbes and others. According to the experts:

  1. Experts can’t agree about why oil prices keep going up.
  2. They do agree that prices won’t go down soon.

  3. Our ‘friends’ in OPEC don’t have as much control over the situation as they (and we) thought.

In related news, General Motors’ Chairman and CEO Richard Wagoner believed that SUV sales would rebound, that gasoline prices have no effect on buyers’ behavior. GM bonds were near “junk” status.

As usual, the American public is ahead of the curve. According to a Yale University research survey of Americans “overwhelmingly believe that the United States is too dependent on imported oil.”

The survey shows a vast majority of the public also wants to see government action to develop new “clean” energy sources, including solar and wind power as well as hydrogen cars.

92% of Americans say that they are worried about dependence on foreign oil

93% of Americans want government to develop new energy technologies and require auto industry to make cars and trucks that get better gas mileage

The results underscore Americans’ deep concerns about the country’s current energy policies, particularly the nation’s dependence on imported oil. Fully 92 percent say this dependence is a serious problem, while 68 percent say it is a “very serious” problem.

And, of course, bloggers are also way ahead of the experts. On Winds of Change, John Atkinson of Chiasm has the latest Alternative Energy News.

Hariri’s Son Gets Majority in Lebanese Parliament:

Lebanon’s anti-Syrian opposition won all 28 seats contested in the fourth and final round of the country’s parliamentary elections, giving it an eight-seat majority in the 128-seat parliament.

Interior Minister Hassan al-Sabaa announced the results in a news conference broadcast live by al-Jazeera television.
Opposition leader Saad Hariri, the son of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, killed in a Feb. 14 bombing that the opposition blamed on Syria and its allies, said the victory was “a present for the soul of the country’s martyrs.”

As Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Via Yahoo:

In sworn testimony that contrasts with their promises to the public, the FBI managers who crafted the post-Sept. 11 fight against terrorism say expertise about the Mideast or terrorism was not important in choosing the agents they promoted to top jobs. And they still do not believe such experience is necessary today even as terrorist acts occur across the globe.

“A bombing case is a bombing case,” said Dale Watson, the FBI’s terrorism chief in the two years after Sept. 11, 2001. “A crime scene in a bank robbery case is the same as a crime scene, you know, across the board.”

The FBI’s current terror-fighting chief, Executive Assistant Director Gary Bald, said his first terrorism training came “on the job” when he moved to headquarters to oversee anti-terrorism strategy two years ago.
Asked about his grasp of Middle Eastern culture and history, Bald responded: “I wish that I had it. It would be nice.”..

…When [Dale Walton was] asked whether he, as the FBI’s former counterterrorism chief, could describe the differences between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, Watson answered, “Not technically, no.”

Not technically?

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