Al Qaeda Says It Would Use Pakistan's Nukes on US

The stakes are high in the Pakistani military's fight against Islamist militants in the Swat Valley. If you need reminding, just take Monday's threat by Mustafa Abul-Yazeed, Al Qaeda's commander in Afghanistan, said to be the group's number three leader behind Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Speaking to al-Jazeera, he warned that, were Al Qaeda able to gain access to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, it would not hesitate to use it against the United States. Of course, according Bruce Riedel, the former CIA officer who led the Obama administration's retooling of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, Islamabad's nukes are "well protected, concealed, and dispersed." But Abul-Yazeed's claim (empty or not) is a reminder that Al Qaeda continues to think big in terms of the damage it hopes to inflict. From UPI:

"By God's will, the Americans will not seize the Muslims' nuclear weapons and we pray that the Muslims will have these weapons and they will be used against the Americans," [Abul-Yazeed] said in an exclusive interview.

Abul-Yazeed told al-Jazeera that al-Qaida had been assisting Taliban militants in their fight against U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan and against Pakistani government forces in that country's Swat Valley and tribal areas.

He predicted insurgents would defeat the government in the Swat battles. He also said al-Qaida's two main leaders, Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, "are safe from the reach of the enemies, but I don't know where they are and I can't say where they are, but they are aware of everything and all the fighting in the field."

Neda

"Neda," it turns out, is Neda Agha-Soltan, a 26-year-old native of Tehran who was shot dead during Saturday's clashes at Azadi Square.  Borzou Daragahi of the LA Times reports from Tehran:

Security forces urged Neda's friends and family not to hold memorial services for her at a mosque and asked them not to speak publicly about her, associates of the family said. Authorities even asked the family to take down the black mourning banners in front of their house, aware of the potent symbol she has become.

But some insisted on speaking out anyway, hoping to make sure the world would not forget her. Neda Agha-Soltan was born in Tehran, they said, to a father who worked for the government and a mother who was a housewife. They were a family of modest means, part of the country's emerging middle class who built their lives in rapidly developing neighborhoods on the eastern and western outskirts of the city.

Like many in her neighborhood, Neda was loyal to the country's Islamic roots and traditional values, friends say, but also curious about the outside world, which is easily accessed through satellite television, the Internet and occasional trips abroad....But she was never an activist, they added, and she began attending the mass protests only because of a personal sense of outrage over the election results.

"She was a person full of joy," said her music teacher and close friend Hamid Panahi. "She was a beam of light. I'm so sorry. I was so hopeful for this woman." The Lede has more, including a report that Basij militia members and police officers broke up a memorial service for Soltan on Monday by violently beating and arresting the protesters.

Barney Frank to F-22: Drop Dead

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) has authored an amendment that would remove funding for the extra F-22s that the House Armed Services committee slipped into the defense budget authorization bill last week, his office has just confirmed.

Here's the story so far: at around 2.30 a.m. on Wednesday last week, a bare majority of lawmakers on the committee voted to take $368 million allocated for environmental cleanup of defense sites and re-route it to buy parts for the F-22, thus committing the Pentagon to an extra 12 planes. Frank's amendment would reverse that maneuver.

Frank is one of the few reliable voices on the Hill in favor of dramatically reducing military spending: earlier this year he called for the defense budget to be slashed by 25 percent. (The Obama administration declined to follow his advice.) It's too early to tell whether his amendment can overcome the deep congressional support for the F-22—first his proposal has to make it through the Rules Committee, which gets to decide which amendments to the bill will come up for a vote. That will probably happen late Wednesday. We'll keep you posted; in the meantime, you can check out our ongoing coverage of the defense budget here.

UPDATE: On a conference call on Tuesday afternoon about the amendment, Frank was in fine caustic form:

On the F-22: "This will probably be the only combat the F-22 has ever engaged in or will engage in."

On his fellow lawmakers who are keeping it alive:"I'm struck that so many of my colleagues are worried about the deficit but apparently think the Pentagon is funded with Monopoly money."

Frank was very blunt about the significance of the F-22 to Obama's promises to clean up Pentagon waste: "If we cannot hold the line on this, it's very bad news for holding down excesses in military spending."

UPDATE II: Frank's amendment failed. So the F-22 stays in the House version of the bill.

 

Obama and Iran and Intelligence

On Sunday, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, said that she wasn't too happy with US intelligence on Iran:

I don’t think our intelligence – candidly — is that good. I think it’s a very difficult country in which to collect intelligence right now. I think our ability to get in there and change the course of human events is very low.

Now there's a big difference in the spy world between intelligence-gathering (obtaining information on what's happening in another state) and covert action (running operations to affect developments in another country, such as fomenting a coup). By and large, most people would like to see the US intelligence community do a good—if not really good—job at the former. But once again, according to DiFi, the spies are falling short.

No surprise here:

The Supreme Court announced Monday it will not give further consideration to a lawsuit brought by a fired CIA agent and her husband against high ranking Bush administration officials, including former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The decision is a victory for Cheney and his former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. They and nine unnamed co-defendants were sued by Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband Joseph after her CIA cover was leaked to reporters.

Last month, Solicitor General Elena Kagan wrote a brief urging the Court to deny certiorari to the Wilsons. In her argument, Kagan explains "Congress has enacted a carefully calibrated set of judicial remedies for violations of the Privacy Act [of 1974] and its implementing regulations."

In fact, Congress calibrated those judicial remedies so carefully that they barred Federal employees from being deemed liable for damages when they disclose personal information about a colleague; only the agency is liable.

In other words, codified in our federal law is a provision that protects individuals—Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Richard Armitage and Scooter Libby—from accountability when they violate that same law.

Thrilling Land Use Post

When someone says "land use policy," what do you think?  Time for a beer?  Time to clip my toenails?  Worthwhile Canadian initiative?

I feel your pain.  And yet: it's important!  Here are two examples.  First, from Kaid Benfield at NRDC, there's urban land use:

It's quite possible that California's new land use and transportation planning law, SB375, has been a game-changer....Suddenly people who two years ago wouldn't give smart growth advocates the time of day are talking about things like transit-oriented development and growth boundaries (if they still haven't caught on to revitalization and walkability, unfortunately), and mainstream enviros are beginning to seek ways to increase neighborhood density instead of opposing it.

....Smart growth and smart transportation choices can reduce the amount Americans need to drive — as measured in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) — by 10 percent per capita from 2005 levels. A 10 percent reduction in per capita VMT would reduce annual transportation emissions by 145 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MMTCO2) in the year 2030, equivalent to the annual emissions of about 30 million cars or 35 large coal plants.

And now, rural land use.  In particular, an amendment to an appropriations bill last week that would have banned federal scientists from considering land use changes when calculating greenhouse gas emissions.  It failed, but only barely.  Michael O'Hare comments:

This is a particularly vile attempt to protect the corn industry at the expense of the planet by short-circuiting the science Obama promised would guide his administration....I can't be too clear or flatfooted about this: there is no respectable or responsible view that growing biofuel feedstock on land that could be used for food does not cause an indirect land use discharge of greenhouse gas, and corn ethanol is the biofuel with the largest indirect land use change effect.

....This is not a close scientific call even though the size of the LUC effect for a given fuel is subject to debate, it's a disagreement between people who will say anything for money and people who know what they're talking about....If we are willing to make stuff up and stifle the science with legislation like this, countries like India and China, and the Europeans, have no reason to get on board, especially after the last eight years of Bush administration denial and ignorantism and stasis on climate. It will be a catastrophe.

Mike wrote that last week, and as I said, the amendment ended up failing in committee.  But only by 30-29, and it's coming back to the floor this week.  Mike has more here on what you can do about this.

A study of 4,000 "eco-friendly" consumer products found on supermarket shelves found that 98 percent of them make false or misleading claims. The study, presented to Congress earlier this month by the environmental consulting firm TerraChoice, found rampant greenwashing in every product category. Twenty-two percent of the products it evaluated featured an environmental badge, or "green label," that was actually meaningless.

Congress is now debating better ways clamp down on greenwashing. The Federal Trade Comission, which is supposed to prevent the practice, has taken almost no enforcement action against greenwashers over the past decade. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is contemplating introducing a bill that would boost federal oversight of eco-marketing, including product lablels.  While one third of conumers rely on labels to decide if a product is environmentally friendly, there is a confusing jumble of 300 competing environmental certification programs that bombards them with competing and misleading claims.

UPDATE: Check out the interview I did on the subject with Green Patriot Radio.

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

Most activists combat current threats to justice, but last Friday, at a private screening in San Francisco, the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell demanded activism by revealing an egregious historic omission: women's central role in the Liberian peace process. The film has been touring festivals since 2008 and has racked up a few awards, including Best Documentary at Tribeca. Its producer, Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Walt, heard about the Women's Peace Initiative in 2006, when she was in Liberia "like a typical American do-gooder who didn't really know much of anything." As it turns out, neither did the rest of the world.

The story goes like this: Since 1980 Liberia had been in and out of brutal civil wars, mainly between the leader of child-soldier battalions, Charles Taylor, elected president in 1995, and rebel groups. As fighting approached Monrovia in 2003, Leymah Gbowee began organizing women in her church and in neighboring Muslim communities to stage a protest. Eventually, there were two thousand women sitting for days outside Taylor's offices, holding signs demanding peace. When Taylor finally agreed to speak with them, Gbowee gave a statement requesting that he immediately engage in peace talks with the rebels. He conceded. Gbowee then sent two delegates to Sierra Leone to convince the Liberian warlords to come to the talks. Skeptical and unimpressed, they agreed.

As a hundred Liberian women sat outside the peace hall in Ghana, war raged back in Liberia. International media picked up on the talks when Sierra Leone indicted Taylor for war crimes. Taylor fled back to Liberia, leaving the warlords to plan a transitional government. The women had been sitting outside every day for six weeks when they got news that the American embassy in Monrovia had been hit by a missile, killing several members of their families. Spurred into action, Gbowee sent for reinforcements, and the women physically blocked the rebel leaders from leaving the hall before making progress.

It worked. In less than two weeks, an interim government was established and war subsided. Charles Jackson, a Liberian journalist who now lives in the U.S. and was in Accra at the time, told me he thinks "without the women, there would have been no peace agreement." Yet no major news networks covering the peace talks or Taylor's indictment showed the women. Because of this, much of the film's 2003 footage came from hand-held cameras used by the women themselves. Disney found one box of film that a local TV channel had abandoned being used to keep open a window at a Ghanian NGO.

Back in 2006, Disney was surprised when the story of these women became more real the deeper she investigated. She expected the narrative to turn out to be false or an exaggeration—that it would "just puff away and disappear." But it didn't—and Pray the Devil, which is concise and stunning to boot, has now made sure that it never will. 

 

Google Reader Bleg

I guess I should have done this over the weekend, but I have a technical bleg.  I use Google Reader for my RSS feeds, and it seems to work fine for every RSS feed except one: mine. Here's the problem: Instead of showing up a few minutes after I write them, my posts seem to sit in limbo for a few hours and then show up in batches all at once.  I've checked the feed itself, and it goes out within a few minutes of publishing a post, so the problem appears to be with the reader, not the feed.

Some people seem to have this same problem and some people don't.  So two questions.  First: if you use Google Reader, does this happen to you?  Second: does anybody have any idea what might cause this?  Thanks!

Obama Derangement Syndrome Watch

I guess I shouldn't really be surprised at anything Andy McCarthy says these days, but he somehow manages to surprise me anyway with some regularity.  Here he is telling us the real reason Barack Obama has been restrained in his public statements about Iran:

The fact is that, as a man of the hard Left, Obama is more comfortable with a totalitarian Islamic regime than he would be with a free Iranian society.

Believe it or not, it goes downhill from there: McCarthy thinks Obama actually wanted to make a statement supporting the mullahs, but that wouldn't have gone over well with Joe Sixpack.  So he did the next best thing and stayed quiet.  Still, "Obama has a preferred outcome here, one that is more in line with his worldview, and it is not victory for the freedom fighters."

Also worth noting is that in the spirit of true paranoids everywhere, McCarthy manages to twist his theory so that it explains all of Obama's actions, both past and future.  No matter what Obama does — whether he speaks up or not — it will be in service of his overarching hard Left ideology and the volcanic anger and resentment that controls his life.

Somebody really needs to have a little chat with Rich Lowry.  I don't expect a lot from National Review these days, but McCarthy's public descent into madness isn't pretty to watch and doesn't do the magazine any favors.  Maybe it's time to ask him to work out his issues a little more privately.

UPDATE: I missed this the first time around, but to his credit, Lowry does respond to McCarthy here.  Remarkably (or not, perhaps), McCarthy then digs himself in even deeper here.  "I detect in your post a sense that I'm this close to the fringe," he says.  Well, there's no need to sense what I'm saying in my post, Andy.  You are batshit crazy.