Long time, no blogging

Remember me, Ed’s partner? Probably not, and I don’t blame you since my posting has dwindled this summer. After a year in Asia, I will move back to the US in August, and I’ve been in a frenzy finishing up my work here. I plan to make up some lost blogging time over the long weekend, but it’s rainy season here and the internet connection goes down when things get too wet. Please bear with me over the next few months as I make the transition back to the land of the waterproof internet!

Jordan Offers Troops To New Iraqi Government

In a blockbuster announcement that underscores the massive political victory that the handover of sovereignty represents to the US, Jordan’s King Abdullah announced that Jordan would send troops to assist the new Iraqi government if asked:

Jordan’s King Abdullah II said Thursday his country would be willing to send troops to Iraq, potentially becoming the first Arab state to do so. The statement marked a major shift in Jordan’s position on Iraq. Abdullah had initially refused to send troops.
In an interview Thursday with the British Broadcasting Corp. television “Newsnight” program, he said the new Iraqi interim government had changes his mind.
“I presume that if the Iraqis ask us for help directly it would be very difficult for us to say no,” he said. “Our message to the president or the prime minister is: Tell us what you want. Tell us how we can help, and you have 110 percent support from us.”

Jordan allied with the US for political support for the Iraq War, causing hard feelings among some of its neighbors but boosting Anglo-American efforts in the region. Now that the Bush administration held the line on the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis, Abdullah now feels free to provide more material assistance, as it avoids directly aiding the US.
This announcement represents a stunning endorsement of Bush’s decision to stand firm on sovereignty as well as underscore the legitimacy of its nature. Bush’s critics have repeatedly charged that Iraqi sovereignty is nothing but a sham. Obviously, Abdullah disagrees to such an extent that he is willing to place his own armed services under Allawi’s jurisdiction, something he refused to do with Americans in charge. I rather doubt that Jordan would countenance its troops under the command of Western, Christian commanders. Even under Allawi’s command, Jordan risks a political backlash from extremist groups inside and outside of its borders for supporting the independent and representative government forming in the heart of Arabia.
Will this convince the doubters that the Bush strategy and diplomacy has been badly underestimated?
UPDATE: More from the BBC:

Praising the new Iraqi leaders, whom he described as “good, tough, courageous people” he urged them to call on the Jordanian people for support.
“The challenges… that face them on security are going to be their major problem and they are going to need everybody’s help,” he said.

Perhaps it’s just that Abdullah has a better vantage point than International ANSWER and the rest of the naysayers … or maybe he just has his eyes open.

Hey Diddle Diddle, The Moore Jumped Over The Shark

Over the past twenty-four hours, it’s become obvious that the credibility of Michael Moore even among his natural allies has diminished to near zero. Last night Newsweek blew apart the central thesis of his paean to conspiracy-theory paranoia, Fahrenheit-9/11, by utterly refuting the notion that the Saudis had bought the entire Bush family in the 1990s. Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, no right-wing apologists, did that with simple research and understanding of the calendar.
Now today, two major opinion columnists on the Left have shredded Moore’s tactics and conclusions even more vociferously than the deferential Isikoff and Hosenball. First, Richard Cohen writes of Moore’s film in today’s Washington Post (via Memeorandum):

I brought a notebook with me when I went to see Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” and in the dark made notes before I gave up, defeated by the utter stupidity of the movie. … Moore’s depiction of why Bush went to war is so silly and so incomprehensible that it is easily dismissed. As far as I can tell, it is a farrago of conspiracy theories. But nothing is said about multiple U.N. resolutions violated by Iraq or the depredations of Saddam Hussein. In fact, prewar Iraq is depicted as some sort of Arab folk festival — lots of happy, smiling, indigenous people. Was there no footage of a Kurdish village that had been gassed? This is obscenity by omission.

Next, Ellen Goodman follows up with her own disapproval towards the Oscar-winning documentarian, whom the Academy may wish to avoid during the next voting cycle, titled “Limbaughing To The Left“. (That’s not a compliment, by the way, when coming from Goodman.)

But at some point, I also began to feel just a touch out of harmony. Not even this alto believes that the Iraq war was brought to us courtesy of the Bush-Saudi oil-money connection. Not even the rosiest pair of my retro-spectacles sees prewar Iraq as a happy valley where little children flew kites. …
Moore described his movie as an “op-ed piece,” not a documentary. Well, I know something about op-ed pieces. Over the long run, you don’t get anywhere just whacking your audience upside the head; you try to change the mind within it. You don’t just go for the gut. You try, gulp, reason.

Bear in mind that both columnists take plenty of opportunity to take shots at the Bush administration, although Goodman also writes about the lack of intelligent discourse between the right and the left in this country, which people should take time to read. Both Goodman and Cohen, especially Cohen, argue persuasively that not only will F-9/11 fail to convince anyone but the true ABB believers, its falsehoods and propaganda will repel the centrists.
If Tom Daschle, Tom Harkin, Barbara Boxer, and the other Democratic leaders who showed up for the premier and lavished praise on this film are reading the papers today, they have to feel cut off at the knees. After all, Michael Moore will make tons of money off of this film and continue to produce movies regardless of how F-9/11 plays out from here. But if Moore’s lunacy sticks to the fools who jumped into his cesspool with both feet, their careers may be over sooner than they think, especially Daschle, who faces a strong challenge from John Thune in November.
QandO has a good roundup on Moore, and Instapundit notes a lot of blog reaction as well.

Benon Sevan Knew Of Bribery, Took No Action: Fox

Fox News reported yesterday that they have discovered documents that show Benon Sevan, the UN Oil-For-Food program chief, was notified of illegal bribes and kickbacks in a blunt and direct letter asking for his help in getting a refund. Sevan received a letter from the Russian oil corporation Lakia informing him that Iraq had reneged on an arrangement:

The Oct. 2, 2002, letter was blunt and direct. It accused the State Oil Marketing Organization (search) of “lying to us.”
“It is necessary for us to ask the immediate reimbursement of the sum of $60,000 which was sent to you from us on your request for a so-called necessary advance payment,” said the letter, written by Gazi Luguev, Lakia’s president.

Upon receipt of this letter, Sevan should have immediately notified the UN Security Council of the corruption within the Iraqi agency handling OFF, and launched an investigation of other contractual engagements. Instead, he first went to Iraq to inform them of the letter’s contents:

After getting the Lakia letter, Sevan wrote to Mohammed A. Aldouri, Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations.
“I am duty bound to bring the matter to the attention of the Security Council…prior to doing so, however, I should like to receive most urgently the views and comments of the Government of Iraq,” Sevan wrote.
Aldouri issued a brief response that said Lakia’s letter “contains information that is not correct” but it did not spell out the problems with the Lakia allegations.

Fox asks the right questions in its analysis:

Why did Sevan, who’s been reluctant to publicly answer any questions about the beleaguered oil-for-food program, tell the Iraqi government about the bribe allegation against it before apparently telling the Security Council? Was he getting the facts straight, or was he, in effect, tipping off Saddam Hussein that questions might soon be asked?
Second, after Sevan eventually brought the matter to the Security Council’s attention, why did it not provoke an investigation and changes in the program especially since rumors of corruption were already widespread?

I had heard about this document on Hugh Hewitt’s show last night but am surprised at how little play it has received today. Could this be due to its source, Fox News, which now tops the ratings among cable-news programs? Or could it be that mainstream media outlets are making editorial decisions to protect the UN’s image? Whatever the reason, the public has little clue how overt and indiscreet the corruption at Turtle Bay became as more and more people cashed in.
UPDATE: Well, color me myopic … I looked around at Instapundit and didn’t see a link back to this story. That’s because Glenn linked to a more comprehensive article from Claudia Rosett, the star of UNSCAM reporters. Read the whole thing.

Well, I Used To Be, Anyway

Saddam Hussein made his first appearance in court yesterday, jauntily in some reports while coming across confused in others, to face charges of genocide and other assorted war crimes. The former dictator has lost weight and cleaned up since his capture, the AP notes, but has lost none of his arrogance:

A defiant Saddam Hussein rejected charges of war crimes and genocide against him in a court appearance Thursday, telling a judge “this is all theater, the real criminal is Bush,” according to a reporter in an official media pool. … “I am Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq,” Saddam said, according to the CNN reporter.
In his first public appearance since he was captured seven months ago, Saddam refused to sign a list of charges against him and questioned the court’s jurisdiction, according to a CNN reporter who was in the courtroom as part of a pool arrangement. He defended the invasion of Kuwait, saying Saddam said he invaded Kuwait “for the Iraqi people.”

Saddam On TrialIt will come as no surprise if Saddam attempts to hijack his trial to turn it into a showcase for his political viewpoints, to the extent they exist beyond his threadbare rationalizations for his personality cult. I doubt it would have much affect on the tribunal, as they had all been victimized by that cult in the past, but I don’t think Saddam’s terribly concerned about working towards an acquittal.
Hermann Goering used the Nuremberg tribunal as a means of projecting the Nazi political message to the world, expecting fully to be executed, and more importantly taking most of his fellow Nazis in the dock with him. Goering figured he had nothing to lose and surely had nothing to gain by trying any other strategy, and he was right. Only a few other primary Nuremberg defendants rebelled against Goering, notably Albert Speer, who saved his life by his calculated strategy of dispassionate self-incrimination, acknowledging his culpability up front while offering no excuses for it.
Expect Saddam to follow Goering’s example. I doubt that there will be an Albert Speer in the entire Ba’athist bunch.

Homeland Security Sloppy With Wireless

CNN reports that the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security has completed an audit of internal security and found that its own wireless communications systems leave gaping holes into their networks:

Although charged with making the nation more secure, the Department of Homeland Security has not taken the steps needed to secure its own wireless communications, according to a report from the department’s Inspector General. …
In some tests, investigators detected Homeland Security wireless signals broadcasting beyond the perimeters of secure facilities. “We detected wireless signals … in the parking lot, on public roads behind the facility, and in the surrounding residences,” the report says. “These wireless signals create security vulnerabilities such as eavesdropping and denial of service attacks.”
Investigators also detected wireless signals from surrounding residences and businesses within some Homeland Security facilities. “These signals can be used to monitor or gain access to DHS wireless networks and sensitive data,” the report says.

Wireless networks are tricky; their signals do not necessarily respect boundaries such as walls and fences, and unless precisely calibrated and located, will allow access from unusual spots (and disappear in others). In some of my adventures with my laptop and wireless adapter, especially in hospitals and medical facilities, I have been surprised by how easily I have accessed network resources to get out to the Internet. I can’t access the network file servers — I’d have to know quite a bit more about the network, including internal IP addresses and logins — but a more adept user might be more successful at gaining access.
Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed that the IT people at DHS haven’t figured this out before now. I’m sure that their wireless networks are encrypted, or at least I would think CNN would have reported it if they weren’t, but encryption does not ensure impregnability. DHS needs to address this weakness immediately.

Democrats Discover Religion

One of the Republican strategies for this election is to energize the chuch base, one of their weak points in 2000 when a significant portion of the evangelical voters failed to come to the polls, mistrustful of George Bush’s centrism. (One of the reasons Bush chose Cheney as his running mate was to shore up his conservative credentials.) The Washington Post reports that the Bush campaign has sent support material for their volunteers to get church congregations involved, sending up wailing and lamentations from Democrats that claim, among other things, that the outreach is “sinful”:

The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has sent a detailed plan of action to religious volunteers across the country asking them to turn over church directories to the campaign, distribute issue guides in their churches and persuade their pastors to hold voter registration drives.
Campaign officials said the instructions are part of an accelerating effort to mobilize President Bush’s base of religious supporters. They said the suggested activities are intended to help churchgoers rally support for Bush without violating tax rules that prohibit churches from engaging in partisan activity. …
The instruction sheet circulated by the Bush-Cheney campaign to religious volunteers lists 22 “duties” to be performed by specific dates. By July 31, for example, volunteers are to “send your Church Directory to your State Bush-Cheney ’04 Headquarters or give [it] to a BC04 Field Rep” and “Talk to your Pastor about holding a Citizenship Sunday and Voter Registration Drive.”
By Aug. 15, they are to “talk to your Church’s seniors or 20-30 something group about Bush/Cheney ’04” and “recruit 5 more people in your church to volunteer for the Bush Cheney campaign.”
By Sept. 17, they are to host at least two campaign-related potluck dinners with church members, and in October they are to “finish calling all Pro-Bush members of your church,” “finish distributing Voter Guides in your church” and place notices on church bulletin boards or in Sunday programs “about all Christian citizens needing to vote.”

Because of the tax-exempt status of churches, they cannot participate in partisan politics. Churches as organizations can hold voter registration drives and sponsor debates, but are prohibited from endorsing a particular candidate or party. However, members of congregations can certainly politic with other members, call them on the phone, and encourage their pastors to do all they can within the tax laws to promote political activism amongst the parishioners. In the examples the Post cites, that’s as far as the Bush campaign requests them to go.
That hasn’t stopped the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments from the Democrats, however. Various Democratic activists warn the Post’s readers of the Apocalypse of tax investigations if people take the Bush campaign’s advice. The Kerry campaign warns that Republicans are “luring” churches into risking their tax-exempt status, while liberal activist group, America Coming Together, hints at even darker consequences:

“I think it is sinful of them to encourage pastors and churches to engage in partisan political activity and run the risk of losing their tax-exempt status,” said Steve Rosenthal, chief executive officer of America Coming Together, a group working to defeat Bush.

If you recall, Rosenthal’s group is the same one who sent convicted sex offenders to people’s homes in order to register the residents as Democrats, a fact which the Post fails to mention in its overwrought coverage of this non-story. This is also the same party that has insisted for eight years that Vice President Al Gore did nothing illegal when he engaged in fund-raising at the Hsi Lai Buddhist temple in Los Angeles.
Of course, now the Democrats have become terribly concerned about the souls of the various churches that may come into contact with the Republican heathen, and don’t hesitate to use terminology that would have them screaming “impending theocracy!” at the top of their lungs had Republicans used it instead. It’s a thinly-veiled attempt to threaten churches with IRS complaints if their members organize for political activity on behalf of Republicans, a blatant act of intimidation that belies the fear Democrats have that the Republicans will wind up with the greater grass-roots effort this election cycle.