Saturday, December 31, 2005
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
It has been an interesting year in the world of Spitfire's Hurricane. Just to recap for the masses: got laid off in February by the multinational financial conglomerate I had been working for for more than 3/4s of a decade, got a nice severance as well as stock options, took six months off, went to Costa Rica and communed with poisonous snakes, flying toucans (had no idea they could fly!), and monkeys that use their crap as a weapon (if you get too close to them, that is; they'll crap on cue and chuck it at you). I also wound up crossing paths with a lunatic from Virginia that, due to his intake of psychotropic medication in combination with prodigious consumption of alcohol, went completely wild in the hotel room next to mine, wholly destroying his room in the process. (He was subsequently deported, so it was rumored.) Came back to NYC, went to the gym a lot, started to get bored with my early retirement, then went back to work in September for different multinational financial conglomerate. As for reading, it seems that I've gotten through a record nine books this year, and I'm about a third of the way through a tenth. (Unemployment does have its perks, I guess.) Not small ones, either. The bio on Hamilton was almost eight-hundred pages, and Paul Johnson's epic "History of the American People" clocked in at slightly under one-thousand. At the rate that I'm going, I think I might be intellectually strong enough to tackle Edward Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire". I'm currently reading "Rubicon-The Last Years of the Roman Republic", by Tom Holland. Fun, fun, fun.
In times of crisis, New York has a tendency of being a very interesting place to be in. I've written about 9/11 and its aftermath, but one time I wasn't in New York (meaning Manhattan, that is) was when we had a blackout in the summer of 2003. From what I've been told, it was great fun to be in Manhattan at that time. (I'm kind of sorry I was living in Queens at the time.) I did, however, manage to experience the transit strike last week. Yes, it was kind of a pain in the ass to get around, particularly in light of the fact that it took me two hours each day to get from Queens to Brooklyn by car each day of the strike. (Normally, it is a 20-minute ride by car.) It also kind of sucked that it cost me anywhere from $10-$15 a day to park near the Brooklyn Bridge. And the cold weather made it all that much more challenging. All that can't be disputed. But you know what? I rather enjoyed going across the Brooklyn Bridge every morning. To me, there is no more beautiful bridge than the Brooklyn Bridge, and there's no better view of the east side of Manhattan or downtown Manhattan than from the Brooklyn Bridge. Frankly, I can think of much less visually striking paths with which to walk to work to and from. I'm not going to say it was a wholly enjoyable experience, but it wasn't a wholly unpleasant one, either. The American Red Cross was giving out hot chocolate every night on the Brooklyn side of the bridge; I thought that was cool. I also thought it was cool that Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was on a bullhorn every night welcoming Manhattan commuters back to Brooklyn. I'm not a fan of Markowitz per se, particularly since he's a lib and he once said he was going to take down a portrait of George Washington from Borough Hall because he "wanted to get rid of all the pictures of dead white guys" (typical lib thing to say), but he won some semblance of my respect for being out there in the cold like the rest of us.
Saw the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk The Line" about a week back. Decent flick; Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon both did a creditable job.
Here's a real random thought: How weird does the three-martini lunch seem these days? I was speaking to a co-worker who's about two decades older than I, and according to this fellow, this now-extinct institution was de rigeur up until the mid-to-late 80's, but was particularly common in the 60's and 70's. How weird does the three-martini lunch seem now? About as weird as seeing someone smoking indoors in a public building, I guess.
I think the taste of most vegetables is awful. I've had people tell me that they like the taste of green vegetables. Bullsh*t, I say. I eat vegetables, but I usually need some kind of topping on them to make them even remotely palatable. No one REALLY likes green vegetables. Anyone who says that they do isn't telling you the truth. I know I'm right on this.
I've 'ad enough. I'll see y'all tomorrow...or the next day.
Monday, December 26, 2005
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Read it here. Enjoy.
Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Why the Founders made presidents dominant on national security.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST
Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold wants to be President, and that's fair enough. By all means go for it in 2008. The same applies to Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who's always on the Sunday shows fretting about the latest criticism of the Bush Administration's prosecution of the war on terror. But until you run nationwide and win, Senators, please stop stripping the Presidency of its Constitutional authority to defend America.
That is the real issue raised by the Beltway furor over last week's leak of National Security Agency wiretaps on international phone calls involving al Qaeda suspects. The usual assortment of Senators and media potentates is howling that the wiretaps are "illegal," done "in total secret," and threaten to bring us a long, dark night of fascism. "I believe it does violate the law," averred Mr. Feingold on CNN Sunday.
The truth is closer to the opposite. What we really have here is a perfect illustration of why America's Founders gave the executive branch the largest measure of Constitutional authority on national security. They recognized that a committee of 535 talking heads couldn't be trusted with such grave responsibility. There is no evidence that these wiretaps violate the law. But there is lots of evidence that the Senators are "illegally" usurping Presidential power--and endangering the country in the process.
The allegation of Presidential law-breaking rests solely on the fact that Mr. Bush authorized wiretaps without first getting the approval of the court established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. But no Administration then or since has ever conceded that that Act trumped a President's power to make exceptions to FISA if national security required it. FISA established a process by which certain wiretaps in the context of the Cold War could be approved, not a limit on what wiretaps could ever be allowed.
The courts have been explicit on this point, most recently in In Re: Sealed Case, the 2002 opinion by the special panel of appellate judges established to hear FISA appeals. In its per curiam opinion, the court noted that in a previous FISA case (U.S. v. Truong), a federal "court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue [our emphasis], held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information." And further that "we take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power."
On Sunday Mr. Graham opined that "I don't know of any legal basis to go around" FISA--which suggests that next time he should do his homework before he implies on national TV that a President is acting like a dictator. (Mr. Graham made his admission of ignorance on CBS's "Face the Nation," where he was representing the Republican point of view. Democrat Joe Biden was certain that laws had been broken, while the two journalists asking questions clearly had no idea what they were talking about. So much for enlightening television.)
The mere Constitution aside, the evidence is also abundant that the Administration was scrupulous in limiting the FISA exceptions. They applied only to calls involving al Qaeda suspects or those with terrorist ties. Far from being "secret," key Members of Congress were informed about them at least 12 times, President Bush said yesterday. The two district court judges who have presided over the FISA court since 9/11 also knew about them.
Inside the executive branch, the process allowing the wiretaps was routinely reviewed by Justice Department lawyers, by the Attorney General personally, and with the President himself reauthorizing the process every 45 days. In short, the implication that this is some LBJ-J. Edgar Hoover operation designed to skirt the law to spy on domestic political enemies is nothing less than a political smear.
All the more so because there are sound and essential security reasons for allowing such wiretaps. The FISA process was designed for wiretaps on suspected foreign agents operating in this country during the Cold War. In that context, we had the luxury of time to go to the FISA court for a warrant to spy on, say, the economic counselor at the Soviet embassy.
In the war on terror, the communications between terrorists in Frankfurt and agents in Florida are harder to track, and when we gather a lead the response often has to be immediate. As we learned on 9/11, acting with dispatch can be a matter of life and death. The information gathered in these wiretaps is not for criminal prosecution but solely to detect and deter future attacks. This is precisely the kind of contingency for which Presidential power and responsibility is designed.
What the critics in Congress seem to be proposing--to the extent they've even thought much about it--is the establishment of a new intelligence "wall" that would allow the NSA only to tap phones overseas while the FBI would tap them here. Terrorists aren't about to honor such a distinction. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," before 9/11 "our intelligence agencies looked out; our law enforcement agencies looked in. And people could--terrorists could--exploit the seam between them." The wiretaps are designed to close the seam.
As for power without responsibility, nobody beats Congress. Mr. Bush has publicly acknowledged and defended his decisions. But the Members of Congress who were informed about this all along are now either silent or claim they didn't get the full story. This is why these columns have long opposed requiring the disclosure of classified operations to the Congressional Intelligence Committees. Congress wants to be aware of everything the executive branch does, but without being accountable for anything at all. If Democrats want to continue this game of intelligence and wiretap "gotcha," the White House should release the names of every Congressman who received such a briefing.
Which brings us to this national security leak, which Mr. Bush yesterday called "a shameful act." We won't second-guess the New York Times decision to publish. But everyone should note the irony that both the Times and Washington Post claimed to be outraged by, and demanded a special counsel to investigate, the leak of Valerie Plame's identity, which did zero national security damage.
By contrast, the Times' NSA leak last week, and an earlier leak in the Washington Post on "secret" prisons for al Qaeda detainees in Europe, are likely to do genuine harm by alerting terrorists to our defenses. If more reporters from these newspapers now face the choice of revealing their sources or ending up in jail, those two papers will share the Plame blame.
The NSA wiretap uproar is one of those episodes, alas far too common, that make us wonder if Washington is still a serious place. Too many in the media and on Capitol Hill have forgotten that terrorism in the age of WMD poses an existential threat to our free society. We're glad Mr. Bush and his team are forcefully defending their entirely legal and necessary authority to wiretap enemies seeking to kill innocent Americans.
By DICK MORRIS
ANYONE who wonders whether the Democratic Party in general and Sen. Hillary Clinton in particular are really tough on terror — or are just posing for the cameras — needs to look at the vote by the entire Democratic Senate delegation (excepting only Nebraska's Ben Nelson and South Dakota's Tim Johnson) to prevent closure of their filibuster against the Patriot Act extension.
While the legislation President Bush proposed extends the entire act, certain key provisions are set to expire at year's end. (The rest of the act is good until September 2007.) By voting to allow these provisions to lapse, the Democrats have shown a total disregard for national security.
It is particularly galling that Sens. Clinton and Chuck Schumer — whose New York constituents are in the terrorists' bull's-eye — voted to let these vital protections expire.
How galling? One of the key provisions due to expire in two weeks is one that President Bill Clinton presented as the cornerstone of his response to the escalation of terrorism in the wake of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The measure allows "roving wiretaps" — so that the FBI can tap all phones a suspect uses, rather than just one specific number. Hillary's vote to let this provision expire is incredible.
Back in the '90s, the Republican-controlled Congress refused to enact the legislation promptly — and the Clintons excoriated the GOP for dragging its feet on this vital proposal.
After 9/11, the measure became law in the Patriot Act; it it remains a centerpiece of the War on Terror. Yet now Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Democratic Party in the Senate are voting to kill it, by preventing a vote on the measure to extend it.
As a further Christmas anti-present to New Yorkers, Clinton, Schumer & Co. are also killing the Patriot Act provision that demolishes the infamous wall — erected by Clinton-era Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick — between those who investigate terrorism and those who prosecute suspects.
The goal was to avoid tainting criminal prosecutions, by avoiding the collection of evidence without a full search warrant. But the result was to keep the left hand from knowing what the right hand was doing when it came to preventing acts of terrorism.
Like the 9/11 attacks.
As a result of the wall, the FBI was unable to access the personal computer of Zacarias Moussaoui when it had him in custody before 9/11; that laptop reportedly contained the names of other hijackers.
The feds seized Moussaoui a full month before 9/11 — but could not follow up on the leads his laptop would have highlighted because of the pernicious wall that Senate Democrats are now fighting to restore.
Equally irresponsible is the criticism Democrats are leveling at President Bush for his use of National Security Agency wiretaps to catch terrorists. Before Clinton and Schumer criticize this policy, they'd do well to reflect on the fact that the Brooklyn Bridge might well be rubble, with thousands dead, if Bush did not use these wiretaps.
In 2002, the feds (presumably the NSA) picked up random cellphone chatter using the words "Brooklyn Bridge" (which apparently didn't translate well into Arabic). They notified the New York Police Department, which flooded the bridge with cops. Then the feds overheard a phone call in which a man said things were "too hot" on the bridge to pull off an operation. Later, an interrogation of a terrorist allowed by the Patriot Act led cops to the doorstep of this would-be bridge bomber. (His plans would definitely have brought down the bridge, NYPD sources told me.)
Why didn't Bush get a warrant? On who? For what? The NSA wasn't looking for a man who might blow up the bridge. It had no idea what it was looking for. It just intercepted random phone calls from people in the United States to those outside — and so heard the allusions to the bridge that tipped them off.
In criminal investigations, one can target a suspect and get a warrant to investigate him. But this deductive approach is a limited instrument in fighting terror. An inductive approach, in which one gathers a mass of evidence and looks for patterns, is far more useful.
But, if the Democrats are to be heeded, it will no longer be possible.
Monday, December 19, 2005
Section 1802. Electronic surveillance authorization without court order; certification by Attorney General; reports to Congressional committees; transmittal under seal; duties and compensation of communication common carrier; applications; jurisdiction of court
(a)(1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the
Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a
court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence
information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General
certifies in writing under oath that -
(A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at -
(i) the acquisition of the contents of communications
transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between
or among foreign powers, as defined in section 1801(a)(1), (2),
or (3) of this title; or
(ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than
the spoken communications of individuals, from property or
premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign
power, as defined in section 1801(a)(1), (2), or (3) of this
Read the whole thing here:
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Saturday, December 17, 2005
--President George W. Bush, December 17, 2005
Friday, December 16, 2005
Mightier Than the Pen
Why I gave up journalism to join the Marines.
BY MATT POTTINGER
Thursday, December 15, 2005 12:01 a.m.
When people ask why I recently left The Wall Street Journal to join the Marines, I usually have a short answer. It felt like the time had come to stop reporting events and get more directly involved. But that's not the whole answer, and how I got to this point wasn't a straight line.
It's a cliché that you appreciate your own country more when you live abroad, but it happens to be true. Living in China for the last seven years, I've seen that country take a giant leap from a struggling Third World country into a true world power. For many people it still comes as a surprise to learn that China is chasing Japan as the second-largest economy on the globe and could soon own a trillion dollars of American debt.
But living in China also shows you what a nondemocratic country can do to its citizens. I've seen protesters tackled and beaten by plainclothes police in Tiananmen Square, and I've been videotaped by government agents while I was talking to a source. I've been arrested and forced to flush my notes down a toilet to keep the police from getting them, and I've been punched in the face in a Beijing Starbucks by a government goon who was trying to keep me from investigating a Chinese company's sale of nuclear fuel to other countries.
When you live abroad long enough, you come to understand that governments that behave this way are not the exception, but the rule. They feel alien to us, but from the viewpoint of the world's population, we are the aliens, not them. That makes you think about protecting your country no matter who you are or what you're doing. What impresses you most, when you don't have them day to day, are the institutions that distinguish the U.S.: the separation of powers, a free press, the right to vote, and a culture that values civic duty and service, to name but a few.
I'm not an uncritical, rah-rah American. Living abroad has sharpened my view of what's wrong with my country, too. It's obvious that we need to reinvent ourselves in various ways, but we should also be allowed to do it from within, not according to someone else's dictates.
But why the Marines?
A year ago, I was at my sister's house using her husband's laptop when I came across a video of an American in Iraq being beheaded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The details are beyond description here; let's just say it was obscene. At first I admit I felt a touch of the terror they wanted me to feel, but then I felt the anger they didn't. We often talk about how our policies are radicalizing young men in the Middle East to become our enemies, but rarely do we talk about how their actions are radicalizing us. In a brief moment of revulsion, sitting there in that living room, I became their blowback.
Of course, a single emotional moment does not justify a career change, and that's not what happened to me. The next day I went to lunch at the Council on Foreign Relations where I happened to meet a Marine Corps colonel who'd just come back from Iraq. He gave me a no-nonsense assessment of what was happening there, but what got to me most was his description of how the Marines behaved and how they looked after each other in a hostile world. That struck me as a metaphor for how America should be in the world at large, and it also appealed to me on a personal level. At one point I said half-jokingly that, being 31 years old, it was a shame I was too old to serve. He sat back for a second and said, "I think I've still gotcha."
The next morning I found myself roaming around the belly of the USS Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier museum moored a few blocks from Times Square, looking for a Marine recruiting station and thinking I'd probably lost my marbles. The officer-selection officer wasn't impressed with my age, my Chinese language abilities or the fact that I worked for one of the great newspapers of the world. His only question was, "How's your endurance?"
Well, I can sit at my desk for 12 hours straight. Fourteen if I have a bag of Reese's.
He said if I wanted a shot at this I'd have to ace the physical fitness test, where a perfect score consisted of 20 pull-ups, 100 crunches in two minutes, and a three-mile run in 18 minutes. Essentially he was telling me to pack it in and go home. After assuring him I didn't have a criminal record or any tattoos, either of which would have required yet another waiver (my age already required the first), I took an application and went back to China.
Then came the Asian tsunami last December.
I was scrambled to Thailand, where thousands of people had died in the wave. After days in the midst of the devastation, I pulled back to Thailand's Utapao Air Force Base, at one time a U.S. staging area for bombing runs over Hanoi, to write a story on the U.S.-led relief efforts. The abandoned base was now bustling with air traffic and military personnel, and the man in charge was a Marine.
Warfare and relief efforts, as it turns out, involve many skills in common. In both cases, it's 80% preparation and logistics and only a small percent of actual battle. What these guys were doing was the same thing they did in a war zone, except now the tip of the spear wasn't weapons, but food, water and medicine. It was a major operation to save people's lives, and it was clear that no other country in the world could do what they were doing. Once again, I was bumping into the U.S. Marines, and once again I was impressed.
The day before I left Thailand I decided to do my first physical training and see what happened. I started running and was winded in five minutes. The air quality in downtown Bangkok didn't help, but the biggest problem was me. I ducked into Lumpini Park in the heart of the city where I was chased around by a three-foot monitor lizard that ran faster than I did. At one point I found a playground jungle gym and managed to do half a pull-up. That's all.
I got back to Beijing and started running several days a week. Along the way I met a Marine who was studying in Beijing on a fellowship and started training with him. Pretty soon I filled out the application I'd taken from New York, got letters of recommendation from old professors and mentors, and received a letter from a senior Marine officer who took a leap of faith on my behalf.
I made a quick trip back to New York in April to take a preliminary physical fitness test with the recruitment officer at the USS Intrepid. By then I could do 13 pull-ups, all my crunches, and a three-mile run along the West Side Highway in a little under 21 minutes, all in all a mediocre performance that was barely passable. When I was done, the officer told me to wipe the foam off my mouth, but I did him one better and puked all over the tarmac. He liked that a lot. That's when we both knew I was going for it.
Friends ask if I worry about going from a life of independent thought and action to a life of hierarchy and teamwork. At the moment, I find that appealing because it means being part of something bigger than I am. As for how different it's going to be, that, too, has its appeal because it's the opposite of what I've been doing up to now. Why should I do something that's a "natural fit" with what I already do? Why shouldn't I try to expand myself?
In a way, I see the Marines as a microcosm of America at its best. Their focus isn't on weapons and tactics, but on leadership. That's the whole point of the Marines. They care about each other in good times and bad, they've always had to fight for their existence--even Harry Truman saw them as nothing more than the "Navy's police force"--and they have the strength of their traditions. Their future, like the country's, is worth fighting for. I hope to be part of the effort.
Mr. Pottinger, until recently a Journal correspondent in China, is scheduled to be commissioned a second lieutenant tomorrow. He spent the last three months at Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Va. As of early December, his three-mile run was down to 18 minutes and 15 seconds.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Friday, December 09, 2005
Caesar was esteemed for the many kind services he rendered and for his lavish generosity; Cato, for the consistent uprightness of his life. The former was renowned for his humanity and mercy; the latter had earned respect by his strict austerity. Caesar won fame by his readiness to give, to relieve, to pardon; Cato, by never offering presents. The one was a refuge for the unfortunate, and was praised for his good nature; the other was a scourge for the wicked, admired for his firmness. Finally, Caesar had made it a rule to work hard and sleep little; to devote himself to the interests of his friends and to neglect his own; to be ready to give people anything that was worth the giving. For himself he wanted a high command, an army, and a war in some new field where his gifts could shine in all their brightness. Cato's taste was for restraint, propriety, and, above all, austerity...he was more concerned to be a good man than to be thought one; and so the less he courted fame, the more did it attend his steps unsought." Sallust, 54, the Conspiracy of Cataline
Thursday, December 08, 2005
I'm sure the encomiums will come rolling in about what a wonderful guy John Lennon was, how he was all about peace, non-violence, and social justice (etc., etc., blah...blah...blah...). I'm sure Rolling Stone, published by perhaps the worst rock star suck-up/sycophant on the planet, Jan Wenner, will give the full force of its journalistic hackery to promote, yet again, this meme. Those in the know are well aware that this was BS. John Lennon beat both his wives, abandoned his first son, and was capable of tremendous verbal cruelty. (Peter Brown, in probably the best book written on The Beatles (titled "The Love You Make"), recounted that when the gay manager of The Beatles, Brian Epstein, asked for suggestions about what the title of his autobiographical book should be whilst riding in an elevator with John Lennon and ghostwriter Derek Taylor, John Lennon suggested Epstein call his book "queer Jew". By the end of the elevator ride, Epstein had his face in his hands crying hysterically, while Lennon grinned sardonically at his cruel, verbal handiwork.) He was a habitual substance abuser, touted worldwide communism ("Imagine no possessions/heaven/countries, etc...etc...) whilst living in high luxury, and hung with ultra-violent Black Panther types. If the contradictions amongst all of us were and are extreme, those in Lennon were exponentially worse than even the most contradictory personalities. John Lennon spoke about peace, love, and caring, but he did very little of what he preached; if anything, Paul McCartney lived and practiced these concepts, whereas Lennon merely spoke of them.
In the end, and this is merely my opinion, I think Lennon was a dreamer because his reality was so terribly unhappy. A sad childhood such as Lennon's manifested itself in many ways: while he was a utopian, he also did everything in his power to make the lives of the people he loved more difficult. He wanted a better world, but more than anything, what he really wanted was peace of mind; he seemed to lash out and hurt those around him when he failed to get it. Whether or not he got it in the years preceding his demise is subject to debate. What Lennon represents to me is earnestness coupled with deep disappointment. Afflicted with the terrible sadness that a dysfunctional family life brings, he was both hopeful, yet discontent. He wanted a better world because his personal world was such a mess. Perhaps his politics, misguided though they were, were a projection of that sentiment.
Most of his solo stuff wasn't worth much, as I'm of the opinion that George Harrison put out, in all likelihood, the best post
Beatles solo album ("All Things Must Pass"). Some was good, some was not, none of it great. But his output within the context of The Beatles was stellar, particularly his later work with the group. It was cutting edge because he was cutting edge, both musically and psychologically. All things being equal, John Lennon was a creative giant.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
There are some who would be inclined to regard the servile pliancy of the Executive to a prevailing current, either in the community or in the legislature, as its best recommendation. But such men entertain very crude notions, as well of the purposes for which government was instituted, as of the true means by which the public happiness may be promoted. The republican principle demands that the deliberate sense of the community should govern the conduct of those to whom they intrust the management of their affairs; but it does not require an unqualified complaisance to every sudden breeze of passion, or to every transient impulse which the people may receive from the arts of men, who flatter their prejudices to betray their interests. It is a just observation, that the people commonly INTEND the PUBLIC GOOD. This often applies to their very errors. But their good sense would despise the adulator who should pretend that they always REASON RIGHT about the MEANS of promoting it. They know from experience that they sometimes err; and the wonder is that they so seldom err as they do, beset, as they continually are, by the wiles of parasites and sycophants, by the snares of the ambitious, the avaricious, the desperate, by the artifices of men who possess their confidence more than they deserve it, and of those who seek to possess rather than to deserve it. When occasions present themselves, in which the interests of the people are at variance with their inclinations, it is the duty of the persons whom they have appointed to be the guardians of those interests, to withstand the temporary delusion, in order to give them time and opportunity for more cool and sedate reflection. Instances might be cited in which a conduct of this kind has saved the people from very fatal consequences of their own mistakes, and has procured lasting monuments of their gratitude to the men who had courage and magnanimity enough to serve them at the peril of their displeasure.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Read up on it below:
Huge Democracy Rally Held in Hong Kong
Tens of Thousands Urge Timetable for Universal Suffrage
By K.C. Ng
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, December 5, 2005; A17
HONG KONG, Dec. 4 -- Tens of thousands of people marched through Hong Kong on Sunday to protest the slow pace of democratic reform in this former British colony, but the territory's Beijing-backed leader again rejected demands to set a timetable for achieving universal suffrage.
Police and protest organizers gave sharply conflicting estimates of the size of the march, but the demonstration appeared to be the largest in Hong Kong since the huge anti-government rallies in 2003 and 2004 that drew crowds of more than 500,000 people into the streets demanding the right to elect the city's leaders.
Organizers said more than a quarter-million people participated in Sunday's protest, which was intended to pressure the Chinese government and the man it picked to run Hong Kong, Chief Executive Donald Tsang, to modify a proposed package of limited political reforms. Police said about 63,000 participated in the protest.
Tsang's plan would add seats to the legislature and expand the committee that China uses to name the chief executive, but the pro-democracy opposition has condemned it as inadequate and vowed to block the proposal when it comes to a vote later this month.
Speaking at a news conference Sunday night, Tsang struck a conciliatory tone and said he would "see what I can do to perfect the package." But he said the march had not persuaded him to make significant changes, and he rejected the opposition's main demand for a timetable for introducing general elections.
Instead, Tsang said, he would work on producing a timetable after his plan was enacted. "I am 60 years of age. I certainly want to see universal suffrage taking place in Hong Kong in my time," Tsang said. "My feeling and my wish is the same as most other people participating in the rally today."
China has ruled out direct elections in 2007 and 2008 to choose the territory's next leader and all its legislators, and has refused to say when it will fulfill a long-standing promise to allow universal suffrage in Hong Kong.
Pro-democracy lawmakers called on Tsang to overhaul his proposal in light of the size of the protest. "Any responsible government should make a positive response to this march," an independent legislator, Ronny Tong, told reporters.
A small group of protesters began a sit-in outside government headquarters after Tsang's news conference, and march organizers said they were considering staging another large demonstration next weekend if Tsang refused to offer concessions.
In a development that could give a boost to the democracy movement, one of Hong Kong's most popular politicians -- a career civil servant who has not participated in similar demonstrations in the past -- joined the march Sunday.
"I feel that there are moments in one's life when one has to stand up and be counted, and for me, I believe this is one of these moments," said Anson Chan, who stepped down as the territory's number two official in 2001 and is often described as "Hong Kong's conscience."
Chan said she decided to march in the protest after a hastily convened meeting that Chinese officials held with pro-democracy legislators and community leaders this past week. At the meeting, Chinese officials declared that it would be unlawful to set a timetable for achieving universal suffrage.
On Sunday, Chan's voice was quickly drowned out by applause and cheers when she was spotted in the crowd. Analysts consider Chan a potential candidate in any future election to lead Hong Kong and say the government might be forced to offer a compromise if the public rallied around her.
Stanley Ho, a casino tycoon in nearby Macau who is a power broker in the region and serves as an adviser to the Chinese government, dismissed the protest as "insignificant" and warned the public against angering Beijing. "If 500,000 people came out, the government might need to do something," he told reporters.
Bernard Chan, a member of Tsang's council of advisers, also said the government would not offer any concessions, adding that only the people of Hong Kong would suffer if the limited reforms that Tsang has proposed were rejected.
The reforms would double the size of the 800-member Election Committee that chooses the chief executive and add 10 seats to the legislature. Analysts say that would introduce a measure of greater representation to the political system but keep the government firmly under Beijing's control.
Tsang has campaigned aggressively for the proposal, and he delivered an unprecedented televised address on Wednesday to answer his critics, arguing that the reforms were the best that Hong Kong could currently win from nervous Chinese leaders.
But many in the crowd of demonstrators -- who wore black T-shirts and waved banners saying "We want direct elections!" -- demanded faster change.
"We are not anti-China. We are here to fight for the rights we should have as citizens," said Tang Bok-man, 74. "I probably cannot see full democracy in Hong Kong in my life, but I hope my children and grandchildren can enjoy it."
Correspondent Philip P. Pan in Beijing contributed to this report.
Friday, December 02, 2005
New York Sun Staff Editorial
November 29, 2005
When President Reagan described the Soviet Union in 1983 as "an evil empire," he was widely denounced as a warmonger. The British historian Eric Hobsbawm, whose bestselling history of the 20th century, "Age of Extremes," has become a standard text on many campuses, reckoned that in the "Second Cold War" that began in 1979 when the Russians invaded Afghanistan, American democracy was "more dangerous" than Soviet totalitarianism. "The hysteria in Washington was not, of course, based on realistic reasoning.... There was absolutely no evidence, or likelihood, that the USSR wanted a war...let alone that it was planning a military attack on the West. The feverish scenarios of nuclear attack which came from the mobilized Western cold warriors and government publicity in the early 1980s were self-generated," he wrote. Historians of the 21st century, he predicted, "remote from the living memories of the 1970s and 1980s, will puzzle over the apparent insanity of this outburst of military fever...."
Well, the 21st century is here and it turns out that it is not the Cold Warriors but the "peace movement" that in retrospect looks insane. That is the meaning of the the Warsaw Pact map of Europe covered in nuclear mushroom symbols that was disclosed last week by the new Polish defense minister, Radek Sikorski, and reproduced on our foreign page yesterday. Mr. Sikorski is the Polish patriot who has made it his mission to teach his countrymen the truth about communism. He was recently based at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., until he was elected to the Polish Senate and joined the new government as head of the armed forces. Historians who, unlike Mr. Hobsbawm, do not have a record of lifelong support for communism now have a duty to examine the evidence that is emerging.
Mr. Sikorski's recent press conference, our Daniel Johnson wrote us from London, marked the first time that the Warsaw Pact archives have been opened for public scrutiny. Mr. Sikorski unveiled a battle plan dating from 1979. The Soviet led alliance was then poised for a massive tactical nuclear strike against forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, paving the way for the occupation of Western Europe. Much of Germany, Denmark, and Belgium would have been obliterated, including hundreds of thousands of American military and civilian personnel. This scenario was based on the assumption that NATO would retaliate with its own tactical nuclear weapons against a line of targets in Poland along the Vistula. The Kremlin was cynical enough to expect its Polish ally to launch an unprovoked offensive against the West in the full knowledge that millions of Polish civilians would be sacrificed.
It turns out that many of those who are today's leading European anti-Americans were the same individuals who, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, demanded unilateral nuclear disarmament. It is now clear that the deployment of Cruise and Pershing missiles by NATO, bitterly opposed by the so-called peace movement, was decisive in deterring a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. Yet not only communists and fellow travelers but leftists on both sides of the Atlantic insisted throughout that America, not the Soviet Union, was the greater threat to world peace, especially once the Reagan administration halted the period of decline that followed the Vietnam War. Wouldn't it be something to have been a fly on the wall when President Putin, the erstwhile KGB colonel who is now leading Russia, clicked on his television to watch Mr. Sikorski, who spent the years of Soviet-imposed martial law in Poland in exile?
The editors of these columns have long been for an Eastern European lustration. But the historical record will be a good start, particularly if other other governments of former Warsaw Pact countries will have the courage to follow Poland's lead and throw open their archives, too. They should ignore not only the Kremlin, but also the hypocritical complaints of those who say that old wounds are being reopened. For these disclosures - and there will be more, once historians have sifted through the documents - have vital lessons for the present. Once again, America is being depicted as an aggressor for standing up to a tyranny that thinks nothing of genocide. Once again, Europe is in danger of losing its nerve. Once again, an administration that refuses to appease the foe is accused of hysteria. Only this time the enemy is not communist but Islamist. The threat that an "Islamic bomb" will be developed and used, either by Iranian mullahs or by terrorists, is real and imminent. It is good that President Bush and veterans of the Cold War, such as Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld, are in a position to ensure that these lessons are learned, not forgotten.