Monday, March 21, 2011

Leftists need secrecy -- and Obama is no exception, despite his deceptive talk

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., was too diplomatic Thursday in saying the Obama administration's treatment of a Department of Homeland Security whistleblower "appeared to be an act of retaliation."

In fact, the way several of President Obama's political appointees at DHS treated a senior career civil servant who blew the whistle on them is a classic illustration of an all-too-familiar Washington story. That this is happening under Obama is yet more proof that business as usual in government is moving apace in his administration.

Catherine Papoi was the deputy unit chief for the DHS office that processed Freedom of Information Act requests. She told the DHS inspector general that Obama's political appointees were improperly interfering with the agency's FOIA response process, including those submitted by journalists and members of Congress.

Not long afterward, Papoi found herself out of a job. She was still being paid at her old rate, but her title and office were taken by somebody else who was approved by one of the political appointees who Papoi claimed interfered with the department's FOIA responses. DHS officials denied retaliating against Papoi and cited as proof the fact that her grade and pay were unchanged. But that's the way Washington tames career employees who buck the political types -- the troublemaker is left with no official duties and is marginalized in every way possible in the bureaucratic equivalent of a rubber-hose beating.

Issa was less diplomatic in pointing out that "denying or interfering with employees' rights to furnish information to Congress is against the law." In a five-page letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano that was obtained by the Associated Press, Issa said "federal officials who retaliate against or otherwise interfere with employees who exercise their right to furnish information to Congress are not entitled to have their salaries paid by taxpayer dollars." He has started an official investigation of the Papoi scandal.

On his first day in office, Obama declared that "a democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency." This week happens to be Sunshine Week, which commemorates the FOIA, and Obama's spokesman used the occasion to claim that thisadministration has been "the most open" ever.

Yet Obama administration officials have interfered with or otherwise stonewalled FOIA requests on politically sensitive topics such as Guantanamo Bay detainees and illegal immigrants. A recent Knight Foundation survey found that only 13 of the 90 major federal departments and agencies it reviewed have changed their FOIA processes significantly since Obama took office. Obama's Office of Management and Budget even redacted an e-mail exchange between federal employees who were discussing how to apply the administration's own Open Government Initiative.



Victoria’s Secret: The inside story of an arms-laden ship

Led by Flotilla 13 commander Capt. S, the Shayetet 13 commandos evidently knew what they were looking for

The ships closed in fast. Hours earlier, the navy had received news that the Victoria, a 179- meter-long cargo ship flying a Liberian flag, had departed from Mersin Port in southern Turkey with Alexandria, Egypt as its destination.

According to intelligence received several days earlier by the defense establishment, the ship was carrying 39 containers among the 100 on its deck that had been loaded onto it at Latakia in western Syria the week before.

Latakia is one of Syria’s primary ports and is also home to a newly-built Russian navy base. It is there that the Russian supersonic P-800 Yakount cruise missiles will be brought later this year as part of a deal Israel tried to torpedo.

It was also the port where two Iranian warships – the frigate Alvand and supply ship Kharq – docked in late February.

First to approach the Victoria were Sa’ar 5-class missile ships from Flotilla 3, based in Haifa. They contacted the captain of the German-owned ship on the international radio channel and began questioning him about his point of origin and planned destination. A navy officer then told the captain his ship was suspected of carrying illegal cargo and asked for permission to board for an inspection. “Yes,” the captain said. “I will tell engineers to stop our vessel.”

A few more minutes passed before speedboats carrying armed commandos from Flotilla 13 pulled alongside the Victoria, which dropped down a ladder for them to use to climb aboard.

Not knowing what to expect, the commandos boarded with their weapons at the ready out of concern that there could be Iranian or even Hamas operatives aboard. They ordered the ship’s crew to gather by the bridge and then began going over the cargo certificates.

Led by Flotilla 13 commander Capt. S – a bald, short but serious looking officer – the commandos apparently knew what they were looking for. Out of the 39 shipping containers that had been loaded onto the Victoria in Latakia were three that were supposed to be unloaded in Alexandria.

According to their cargo certificates, the three were carrying lentils and cotton, but when the commandos located them on the upper deck they were found sealed with heavy locks, not the kind used for innocent cargo. After breaking them open, the commandos pulled away the first few rows of sacks and discovered a number of crates each of which had a “Made in Britain” sticker pasted to it.

The first few crates contained mortar shells of various sizes as well as regular ammunition. But Capt. S. knew the true reason he and his teams of commandos had been sent 350 kilometers into the Mediterranean in the middle of the night, and it wasn’t for mortars.

“Open the containers’ back door!” he ordered his men. It was then that the commandos saw two large metallic looking tubes, each containing a four-meter long missile known in Iran as the Nasr-1 and in China as the C-704, an extremely sophisticated antiship missile.

After the containers were unloaded at Ashdod port, the navy found they were carrying six C-704s in all, and two of the British-made radars that are used to guide them.

With a range of 35 km. and a 130 kg. explosive warhead capable of sinking 1,000-ton vessels, the missiles – had they arrived in the Gaza Strip – would have forced the navy to change the way it operates. It now operates just a few kilometers from shore; this would no longer be possible.



Implications of the armaments seizure

By seizing the Victoria, Israel not only dealt a blow to Hamas machinations but foremost to those of Hamas’s Iranian patron. The Victoria’s cargo wouldn’t merely have added quantitatively to Hamas’s already colossal arsenal; it would have strategically upgraded its quality.

With a 35-kilometer range, the Chinese designed C-704 could theoretically have hit any boat within that radius from Gaza, as well as hit naval facilities on Israeli shores, to say nothing of strategic sites like the Ashkelon power plant, fuel depots, oil and gas facilities and much more. It could have truly triggered a nightmare scenario.

So far, the world media has shown only scant interest in the story. The likely pretext for the lack of interest is Japan’s overshadowing radioactive mega-scare.

Yet in November 2009 the interception of the Francop, with a haul of 320 tons of military hardware earmarked for Hezbollah (in brazen violation of UN Resolution 1701), also made almost no waves internationally. No looming nuclear calamity diverted the world’s attention at that time. Although Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke of the Francop’s cargo as constituting “components of a war crime,” much of the negligible resonance generated in some broadcasts actually dealt with accusations about “Israeli piracy.”

THE IMPLICATIONS are grave. Now, as then, there appears nearly no readiness to hear Israel out. Israeli grievances are essentially ignored. Aggressive anti-Israel schemes – of which the Victoria is only the most recent example – aren’t registered, much less internalized, at a time when the war against Israel has increasingly switched to the propaganda arena, where vilification and libel are the preferred weapons of choice. Iran’s protégés continually provoke Israel, yet are still allowed to masquerade as victims.

The arsenals that Tehran-sponsored terror groups import and hoard are crucially important. They demonstrate that Israel isn’t facing local militias but Iranian stand-ins. These ostensible underdogs possess deadly missiles and artillery, capable of upsetting the precarious balance in our vicinity, undercutting our defenses and ultimately enabling attacks on our civilian population centers.

It is precisely to thwart these fundamentally strategic dangers, as distinct from tactical annoyances, that Israel has maintained its sea blockade against Gaza. This isn’t arbitrary wickedness but an indispensable element of Israel’s self-defense. Were Israel misguidedly to forfeit its controls on traffic into Gaza, gunrunning ships like the intercepted Victoria might then regularly unload lethal arsenals in broad daylight.



Christianity the reason for West's success, say the Chinese

With an estimated 200 million Christians, China may have the world's largest Christian population. China quietly encourages Christianity, seeing it as a force for modernization. The churches must be wholly Chinese, however, with no leadership from overseas bodies such as the Vatican

In the West we are doing our best to destroy our Christian heritage but in China, Chinese intellectuals are coming around to the view that it is precisely this heritage that has made the West so successful.

Former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, Dominic Lawson, in a review in the Sunday Times of Niall Ferguson's new book, ‘Civilisation: The West and the Rest’, carries a quote from a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in which he tries to account for the success of the West, to date.

He said: “One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world.

“We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. “Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. “But in the past twenty years, we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful.

“The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.”

Note the source. It isn't from a religious leader, or some religious think-tank. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is an instrument of the Chinese Communist government which spends a not inconsiderable amount of time and money persecuting Christians and is officially atheistic.

If this is the conclusion it has come to, maybe Europe needs to reconsider whether it mightn't be an idea to encourage rather than eradicate Christianity.

Incidentally, just to drive home the point, Lawson also refers to this data point in Ferguson's book: Wenzhou, the Chinese city which is rated as the most entrepreneurial in the country, is also home to 1,400 churches.

Lawson refers to a quote in the book from a prominent Wenzhou business leader, a Mr Hanping Zhang, who argues that “an absence of trust had been one of the main factors holding China back; but he feels he can trust his fellow Christians because he knows that they will be honest in their dealings with him”.

It has long been accepted that Christianity is one of the core elements of Western civilisation; it is too little understood that it is also one of the secrets of the stunning success of that civilisation.



End the Drug War, Save Black America

One key to getting past the race issue in America is to end the war on drugs. John McWhorter says it's the most important thing we could do.

Cato's Letter features a lecture by McWhorter in which he calls for an end to the war on drugs. (It's really a war on certain people.) McWhorter, the former Berkeley linguistics professor and now senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, specifically indicts the war on drugs for "destroying black America." McWhorter, by the way, is black.

The "main obstacle(s) to getting black America past the illusion that racism is still a defining factor in America" are, he says, "the strained relationship between young black men and police forces" and the "massive number of black men in prison."

And what accounts for this? Prohibition. "Therefore, if the War on Drugs were terminated, the main factor keeping race-based resentment a core element in the American social fabric would no longer exist. America would be a better place for all."

McWhorter sees prohibition as the saboteur of black families. "It has become a norm for black children to grow up in single-parent homes, their fathers away in prison for long spells and barely knowing them. In poor and working-class black America, a man and a woman raising their children together is, of all things, an unusual sight. The War on Drugs plays a large part in this."

He also blames the black market created by prohibition for diverting young black men from the normal workforce. "Because the illegality of drugs keeps the prices high," he says, "there are high salaries to be made in selling them. This makes selling drugs a standing tempting alternative to seeking lower-paying legal employment."

This has devastating consequences. The attractive illegal livelihood relieves men of the need to develop skills that would provide stable legal incomes. To those who argue that there's a shortage of jobs for black men, he says that is refuted by the black immigrants who thrive in America. "It is often said that because immigrants have a unique initiative or 'pluck' in relocating to the United States in the first place, it is unfair to compare black Americans to them. However, the War on Drugs has made it impossible to see whether black Americans would exhibit such 'pluck' themselves if drug selling were not a tempting alternative."

One poisonous byproduct of prohibition and the black market, McWhorter says, is that going to prison is a now "badge of honor." "To black men involved in the drug trade, enduring prison time, regarded as an unjust punishment for merely selling people something they want (with some justification), is seen as a badge of strength: The ex-con is a hero rather than someone who went the wrong way." This attitude did not exist before drug prohibition.

Would cheaper and freely available drugs bring their own catastrophe? McWhorter says no.

"Fears of an addiction epidemic are unfounded. None such has occurred in Portugal, where the drug war has been significantly scaled back." How about damage to the culture? "Our discomfort with the idea of heroin available at drugstores is similar to that of a Prohibitionist shuddering at the thought of bourbon available at the corner store. We'll get over it."



List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)



Hindu Nationalist said...

"Leftists hate the world around them and want to change it: the people in it most particularly. Conservatives just want to be left alone to make their own decisions and follow their own values."

Off topic but I'm qouting from the side of your blog. I have to disagree as a significant portion of Christians identify as "conservative" and they definitely have a strong agenda to change the entire world to their religion.

JR said...

Jesus said: "my kingdom is not of this world" so true Christians definitely do not want to change the world. It is individuals whom they seek to inspire

Hindu Nationalist said...

Then missionaries aren't "true Christians" then. Who knew?

JR said...

Missionaries concentrate of saving individual SOULS, not the world

Hindu Nationalist said...

No actually. They come into foreign countries and want to change the culture, religion, very way of life - even our eating habits!

Better they go to atheistic European countries than enter countries that already believe in God.

It makes no sense.

And yet they DON'T go to wealthy, atheistic Euro countries. They go to countries where God believing people are pious and humble and take advantage of our hospitality and open nature.

Shame on them.

Its nothing but another form of imperialism.

If it were about God or religion they would focus on missions in atheistic countries, not a place like India. For goodness sake, Indians INVENTED the concept of God.