« March 2006 | Main | May 2006 »

April 30, 2006

When are we going to bomb Iran?

One of the most important reasons I had for voting for GWB over John Kerry in 2004 (though there were many reasons for my decision) was my confidence that Bush -- unlike Kerry -- could be relied upon to step up to the plate and actually do something to prevent the Iranian government from obtaining nuclear weapons. As you probably recall, John Kerry, and every other major Democratic pol I can think of, repeatedly stated that it was "unacceptable" for Iran to be allowed to have nukes. This continues to be their stated position, but other than calling for energetic diplomacy and international sanctions, it is unclear how -- or if -- they would intend to enforce the lack of acceptance.

Many advocates of taking our time with regard to Iran are comforted by the findings of the latest National Intelligence Estimate that Iran is five to ten years away from having a bomb. (Of course, these estimates were prepared by the same guys who told us that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons.) Unfortunately, news emerged over the past weeks suggesting that Iran's enrichment technology may be far more advanced than had been commonly supposed: Iran's openly acknowledged enrichment program (for "peaceful energy purposes only") is based upon cascades of "P1" type Pakistani gas centrifuges. Unfortunately, it now appears that Iran may have built or acqured more advanced "P2" model centrifuges from Pakistan's A.Q. Khan arms trading ring, which would drastically reduce the number of centrifuges and time required to produce weapons grade material. Also, the IAEA has no information on the location or number of P2 devices Iran has deployed, since Iran denies having made use of this technology at all.

From a tactical point of view, the sooner we attack and destroy Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities, the better. For one thing, each passing day allows Iran to create more enriched uranium. When their nuclear installations are ultimately destroyed, this material will be released into the environment, potentially exposing thousands (millions?) of people to dangerous levels of radiation. For another, Iran is expected to soon begin receiving 29 Tor-M1 air-defense missile systems, Russia's latest and most advanced low and medium altitude air defense system. When Iran deploys these systems around its nuclear facilities, the cost of any attack will increase, both in terms of lives and dollars.

From a political point of view, the Bush administration would like to delay any attack on Iran. At a minumum, it would be very costly for the Republicans if an attack were to take place before November's mid-term elections. In addition, the administration would like to "give diplomacy a chance to work" and cobble together an international coalition that would support military action against Iran. Finally, it would dangerous to attack Iran before a new Iraqi government is formed and, hopefully, stabilized the political and military situation in that country.

Barring a miracle (like Russia and China agreeing to impose strict economic sanctions against Iran, or the Mullahs deciding to back down from their effort to build a bomb), I expect that Iran will be attacked during the middle of 2007. If the US were unwilling to act, Israel would have no choice but to remove this existential threat to their society. Unfortunately, given the heaviliy fortified and dispersed targets in Iran, a single, long range raid (like the 1981 attack on Saddam's Osirak facility) would not be sufficient. That is, unless Israel were willing to use its own nuclear weapons to prevent Iran from developing ones of its own. This may be the choice that George Bush will face: an Israeli ultimatum that the US help Israel destroy Iran's nuclear facilities using conventional weapons, or else step aside while Israel handles the threat on its own.

April 30, 2006 at 09:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 27, 2006


Tim Blair, paraphrasing Sean Connery, on the Chicago way. . .

April 27, 2006 at 02:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 21, 2006

So Much for Journalistic "Ethics"

Blogger Patterico, whose "real life" job is prosecuting criminals for the LA County DA's office, has busted the LAT's business columnist Michael Hiltzik for posting comments on his own (and other people's blogs) under phony names. In response, the LAT's editors suspended Hiltzik's LAT-sponsored blog "Golden State" for breach of the paper's ethical guidelines requiring their employees to correctly identify themselves to the public. (By the way, Hiltzik is a twenty five year veteran of the LAT and won a Pulitzer prize in 1999 for exposing corruption in the music business.)

Now, 'splain to me again how professionally-trained journalists with their layers of editorial fact-checking and adult supervision are so much more responsible than the guttersnipes of the blogosphere? At least most bloggers I know would never stoop to posting bogus comments praising their own views and pillorying their critics. Good detective work, Patterico.


The WaPo's media reporter, Howard Kurtz, has a good piece on the LAT's suspension of Michael Hiltzik's column/blog.

The bizarre, and troubling part of all of this is why should a respected, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist resort to this kind of crap? Personally, I have been surprised at the hostility and defensiveness I've encountered from journalists when they learn that I'm a blogger. There is no way to be sure, but I suspect that a lot of this hostility is resentment at what they perceive as a diminution of their privileged status. Previously, journalists were free to criticise others whose only recourse would be to write a letter to the editor that their institution could freely edit or ignore, as they wished. Now, with blogs, anyone can respond, and criticize, and point out hypocrisy and inconsistencies wherever they find them. Evidently, it's enough to drive some of them around the bend in an attempt to regain some of their old power to shape public opinion.

Sad, really.

Further Update

Howard Kurtz has more in his Monday column, including the interesting information that Hiltzik was recalled from the WaPo's Moscow bureau for hacking into colleague's personal email accounts in 1993:

He was exposed through an internal sting operation when he asked about phony messages that had been sent to other staffers in the bureau.

"His answer was that he was nosy and curious," says Carey Goldberg, a former colleague in the Moscow bureau who now works for the Boston Globe. "We were extremely upset. It was an incredible invasion of privacy. There were a lot of personal e-mails in there."

I hate to cast stones, but Mr. Hiltzik does appear to have something of an honesty deficit. Perhaps blogging, which after all is unsupervised (except by its readers), requires a higher level of ethics and intellectual honesty than does traditional journalism, where editors and fact checkers are supposed to enforce basic ethical standards.

April 21, 2006 at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 20, 2006

More on Raed Mansour Albanna

I initially failed to make the connection between Raed al Banna, the middle-class, Jordanian suicide bomber profiled in the LAT last Saturday, and the tensions that erupted between Iraq and Jordan more than a year ago when his murderous attack was made. At the time, his suicide bombing (which killed 132 Iraqi's) prompted demonstrations and boycotts of Jordanian goods in Iraq. Also, an intrepid Jordanian blogger (Mental Mayhem) created such an uproar about an article in the Jordanian arabic press which appeared to glorify al Banna's actions, that the paper was forced to apologize.

It seems even more curious that H.G. Reza's piece in the LAT didn't mention any of this background, since the NYT's Dexter Filkins wrote about it more than a year ago. Perhaps space constraints or uniterested editors forced Reza to cut out this back story, but I think it would have made the story even more compelling.

(As an aside, the inconsistant transliteration of Arabic names into english probably helps to cause no end of confusion, both within the press and the law enforcement and intelligence communities. Is it Raed or Raad? Albanna or al Banna? All of which make it tougher to make connections using the usual tools like Google.)

April 20, 2006 at 10:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 19, 2006

Brit Hume, an Underappreciated Star

Today's WaPo has a great profile by Howard Kurtz of Fox News' Brit Hume. Personally, I find Hume's 6pm Special Report to be, hands down, the best news program on television. I particularly enjoy the panel discussion segment where conservatives (like Fred Barnes and Charles Krauthammer) speak with (and not past) moderates like Mort Kondracke and intelligent liberals like Mara Liaason.

It was something of a cheap shot, however, for Kurtz to lead off his article with a story Hume did 36 years ago, that he now admits he wishes he shouldn't have done.

Thirty-six years ago, as a long-haired reporter for columnist Jack Anderson, Hume was handed information that Spiro Agnew's son had left his wife and moved in with a male hairdresser. Hume tracked down the vice president's son in Baltimore, talked his way in with a made-up tale about reports that Randy Agnew was living in a "hippie crash pad" and confirmed the details. Although Hume expressed strong reservations about the story -- his wife thought it was disgraceful -- he convinced himself that it could be a big deal.

Why start with this sorry tale rather then, say, Hume's scoop digging up a memo linking Nixon Attorney General Richard Kleindienst to the settlement of an anti-trust suit against ITT after it gave a $400,000 contribution to the RNC? But this nit aside, if you read the whole story, Kurtz paints a detailed portrait of an interesting -- and underappreciated -- American journalist.

Technorati Tags:

April 19, 2006 at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 18, 2006

Sometimes Life Just Ain't Fair

Poor Stefan Eriksson; who would have guessed that a little fender bender (ok, his car was actually torn in half) could have gotten him into so much trouble?

Watch his weasel shyster complain to the cameras that Eriksson is being "treated worse than a serial killer," here.

The SF Chronicle's James Sterngold also has an interesting (if somewhat floridly written) piece exploring some of the background of Eriksson's "fortune."

Technorati Tags: ,

April 18, 2006 at 08:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 15, 2006

What We're Up Against

Today's LAT has a chilling feature article profiling a suicide bomber who murdered 132 Iraqis with a car bomb outside a clinic in Hillah on February 28th, 2005.

Raed Mansour Albanna was born to a middle class family in Jordan. He studied to be a lawyer, though never succeeded in establishing a viable practice. Supported by his well-to-do family, he came to the US on a tourist visa early in 2001 and lived in LA for nearly two years, working as a pedicab driver at Ontario International Airport and enjoying Hollywood's club scene. Raed assimilated easily into American life, and made lots of friends in LA.

On 9/11, he was working at the Airport, according to another pedicab driver and friend. As everyone crowded into an airport bar to watch the horrors of that day unfold, Albanna reported to turned to his friend in anguish, denying that all moslems were like the attackers of 9/11 and that "Not all of us hate America."

For no apparent reason, about a month before he left to return home to Jordan, he began to attend a mosque and pray five times a day. His family were also surprised at his new found religious observance.

He was 32 years old when he triggered the bomb that killed himself and 132 innocent Iraqis.

What happened to convert this apparently harmless young man into a religious fanatic? Did he meet some Imam in LA who started on this path to death and destruction?

Like many of the 9/11 plotters, he was well-educated, from a good family, and had a largely secular upbringing. He also, like many of the 9/11 terrorists, felt that he had let his family down by failing to find a good job or career to justify his family's investment in his education. This sense of personal failure made him an easy target for recruitment into nihilist terror.

Given the vast numbers of well-educated, unemployed or under-employed young arab men throught the stagnant economies of the mideast, there are many more potential jihadist recruits out there. Even worse, there could be many of them right here in this country today. Not a pleasant thought at all.

April 15, 2006 at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 12, 2006


Black market boobs.

Technorati Tags:

April 12, 2006 at 01:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Three Lives, Recorded

The UK Telegraph has a trio of interesting obits this week: one of an artistic genius who lived in isolation and obscurity, one of a frustrated hero who tried -- and failed -- to prevent genocidal murder, and one of a classic British eccentric. All are interesting stories, in their way.

  • Joash Woodrow, the artist, has died aged 78. His paintings and drawings only attracted the attention of the art world when he was placed in a nursing home and his life's work was about to be thrown out.

  • Rudolf Vrba, who has died aged 81, survived two years in Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland before escaping to warn the world of Nazi plans to exterminate one million Hungarian Jews in 1944. (Also worth reading is Jon Thurber's obit of Vrba in Thursday's LAT.)

  • Henry Stonor, who has died aged 79, was an enthusiastic founder member of the Vintage Car Club of Malaya and a tireless campaigner for the Karen tribesmen of Burma.

April 12, 2006 at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 10, 2006

Poor Agent Enzo

It's been a tough couple of months for Stefan Eriksson, the former computer game mogul turned homeland security consultant for the San Gabrial Valley Transit Authorities famed anti-terrorism unit. Totalling his $1 million Ferrari Enzo in a crash at 162 mph was bad enough. Then, two weeks ago, his wife was arrested for driving his (unregisted) Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren without a valid drivers license, and the car was impounded by the LAPD. (Pictures here, courtesy of 13 year-old Spyder Dobrofsky.)

The final indignity occured last Saturday night, when police raided his home and arrested him for grand theft auto (the crime, not the video game). The poor guy is being held without bail because customs and immigration has "put a hold" on him. Of course, his other Ferrari (a black Enzo), was also impounded.

Technorati Tags: , ,

April 10, 2006 at 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack