Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Don't You Just Love America?

Commuter to detonate DC bridge Monday night
Mon Aug 28, 2:37 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A detested bridge that has plagued generations of Washingtonians will be blown up by a long-suffering commuter on Monday night.
The Wilson bridge has long been one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in a region notorious for gridlock. Backups can stretch for miles when the drawbridge is raised 270 times per year to let boats through.
A local man who has crossed the bridge for 30 years as part of his two-hour commute won a contest to detonate a half-mile section. Dan Ruefly of Accokeek, Maryland, had his hip crushed in an accident on the bridge in 1999. He leaves his home at 5 a.m. each week day to avoid the worst of the traffic.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Foibles of the State

Friday, August 11, 2006

Terror Averted, Thanks to Torture?

It was a little news item at first, the one where it was revealed that the whole recent international terror plot was foiled due to the initial arrest of a jihadist in Pakistan. The Pakistanis were quick to take the credit for it, of course.

Yet there is no way a jihadist would spill the beans on such a plot just like that. Was that man tortured by the Pakistani authorities? It's a guess, but it wouldn't be a surprise. If so, do thousands of westerners owe their lives to one man being tortured?

It's becoming quite amusing seeing how AP, Reuters, and AFP are tippy-toeing around that main question. They're now trying to bury the significance of that initial arrest with all sorts of facts about the subsequent arrests in Pakistan, in the hopes that no one will ask the most significant question of all.

UPDATE: More information is now available about the initial Pakistani arrest, via AFP:

In Pakistan, two senior officials told AFP that Britain's intelligence services had asked their Pakistan counterparts to trail Rauf after he entered the country. He was arrested on August 4 in the eastern city of Bahawalpur.


"When they interrogated Rauf, he broke. He told them what we believe was not even in the knowledge of the US and the British -- that they were actually planning to blow up airliners," one of the officials said.

Now, why are none of these journalists asking the obvious question at this time: did Britain’s intelligence services tip the Pakistanis off, knowing that the Pakistani security services would be able to “break” Rauf? It seems journalists only ask the tough questions when their political interests are served.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Tuomioja Blunders, Again and Again

Reading all the tepid, equanimious statements emanating from the European ministerial meeting at Brussels on the crisis in Lebanon, it's clear that Finnish foreign minister (and foreign minister of the EU presidency for the next six months) social democratic party member Erkki Tuomioja is up to a backtracking start from the position of leadership in Europe.

Right from the start of the conflict in Lebanon, Tuomioja (and his former lover, social democratic Finnish president Halonen) reacted with the most biased emotion, without thinking what was good for Finland, and good for Europe. As an established anti-Semite, Tuomioja immediately condemned Israel for its so-called “disproportionate” response, not realizing that this was an opportunity to not only engage Israel in a dialogue where European prestige and influence might be made more significant, but also finally to make Europe a political entity that is willing to take the lead in international affairs in a way that it believes it is destined to do.

The stage was also very well prepared: the Israelis had accidentally killed a Finnish officer in Unifil, and were of course at a disadvantage. Instead of lashing out at Israel, - and accomplishing nothing new -Tuomioja could have leapt at the opportunity to use the incident at getting closer to Israel. He should have shown understanding towards Israel in this predicament, and offered a helping hand in getting rid of the terrorists in southern Lebanon. Such a robust initiative would be instrumental in injecting the kind of debate within Israel’s democratic factions (which are open for all of us to see) as to have possible long-term significance making Europe an important partner in the Middle East peace process, and a major, multipolar player on the world stage.

But no, Tuomioja (and the Bimbo Of Finland, Halonen) both boorishly retreated into their self-defined moral high grounds by condemning Israel, at the same time slamming the door shut for Finland, and Europe. For it is not Hezbollah that needs to be courted and engaged (their religious fundamentalism means they cannot), - but democratic, secular Israel.

And we should ask if this was not done on purpose. The Middle East is a frightening place, where many international politicians and diplomats have failed in their efforts to bring peace (perhaps Tuomioja simply feels inadequate to the task, and tries to hide his cowardice). The US is already bruised and battered by experience in the Middle East; wouldn’t it just be easier to let the US do the leading first, giving Europeans the easier pickings later? In other words, is it not more profitable to let someone else (the US) do the leading, while Europe could enjoy the freeride later?

Finland, especially, has honed socio, political, and economic freeriding into an art form. It is not surprising that it continues to do so, especially with Tuomioja and Halonen as the most prominent shapers of Finnish foreign policy. The fact that such politicians are so quick to quit the field (making the US the only heavyweight left on the field) does say something about the quality of the moral high ground Tuomioja and Halonen are so convinced they possess.