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Nuclear Energy The Green Solution

(category: Commentary, Word count: 927)
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The United States with less than 5% of the world's population consumes roughly 25% of the world's energy. Some might argue that this is egregious, while others would say that it is simply a yardstick by which the world's largest economy is measured. But for whatever the reason for our vast consumption of energy, the fact remains that in order to consume you first have to produce. And as most of our energy comes from burning fossil fuels- which wouldn't be too bad except that:

(1) burning vast amounts of fossil fuels in this county alone dumps millions of pounds of earth warming greenhouse gasses into, what appears, is a fragile atmosphere, every day. Just warming up the atmosphere a couple of degrees on average has significant impact. Look no further than last year's hurricane season. The worst on record. And...

(2) let's not forget its close cousin; smog pollution, which adds to respiratory problems and other health conditions, not to mention the visual blight hanging over our cities as well. In addition...

(3) have you filled your tank recently? Paid the heating bill? The cost of all fossil fuels, even coal has increased significantly. As other emerging economies such as China and India vie for ever more limited resources, all bets are that the costs will continue to climb over the long haul. Moreover...

(4) as we import most of our oil nowadays- we are increasingly held hostage to an unstable supply from a number of countries that we, for whatever reasons, are increasingly unpopular with. The end game? If our supply of oil is not first arbitrarily cut off, as it becomes increasingly scarce the price will rise until our growth is strangled. In either case we will feel impelled to engage in war with other rising powers to secure our supplies.

The bottom line: Fossil fuels are not only hazardous to our health (and the planet's) but may in fact be hazardous to the American way of life.

But if energy is the lifeblood of our economy what are we to do? Wind? Solar? While anything we can do other than consume fossil fuels will help, these sources of energy are relatively diffuse and inconsistent. In other words, their "cost to calorie" ratios are not efficient and they are not always dependable. As James Kunstler points out in his intriguing book The Long Emergency, one of our best options out of these dilemmas is to do an "Apollo Project" type effort to develop additional, new nuclear energy capability. As it turns out, it just may be the greenest, viable alternate we have.

The U.S. currently produces about 20% of its electrical power from nuclear power. The advantages are; that there are no greenhouse emissions into the atmosphere, no visual pollution, it is cost relatively cost effective, quiet and we have sufficient supply of uranium here at home for the foreseeable future to provide for a major portion of our energy needs. Historically, at least, the problem with nuclear energy has been primarily two fold. First, the "China Syndrome" problem of a meltdown of a reactor which could release a large amount of radioactivity and second, what do we do with nuclear waste material that has a half-life of over 25,000 years! The perception of these two significant obstacles might doom a new nuclear drive and stand in the way of an energy-independent United States.

However, there are new technologies in this field that, like the cavalry, have come to our rescue- and none too soon. First, there is a new class of nuclear reactors that have their nuclear fuel so structured that they cannot do a melt down. Turn off the cooling to this new nuclear reactor and it only gets a bit hotter. No big deal. Turn the cooling back on and it runs more efficiently. Okay, one down. But what about all that radioactive spent reactor fuel? Let's see if we can put some perspective on it. If you gathered all the spent nuclear fuel in this country under one roof it would fill a typical high school gym. Not too unmanageable. Moreover, the spent fuel is encapsulated in super strong glass beads, which in turn are embedded into hardened concrete inside steel drums. This makes the waste product "transportable" and is designed to withstand the elements for 10,000 years. Nevertheless, even in it's tomb it is still relativity radioactive. Most of these drums are stored in water as radiation cannot penetrate more than about 3 feet of water. However, no one seems anxious to have it in their back yards. A political hot potato to be sure.

But while our politicians don't have the answer, the earth does. The answer lies in the bottom of the Marianas Trench in the Pacific. It is the deepest place in the ocean (over seven miles) and one of the fastest moving subduction plates on earth. If the drums of waste were placed in the bottom of the trench, they would, within a few hundred years, be swallowed up into the bowels of the earth and blend into the earth's core where heat and pressure (caused in part by radioactive substances contained within the earth) rendered insignificant.

Given the current geopolitical situation, which only seems to be working to our disadvantage, limited resources for cheap fossil fuels, not to mention the environmental impacts we are starting to experience, it is time we take drastic measures to get us off our fossil fuel addition. Let's hope we are not too late.

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True American Patriot

(category: Commentary, Word count: 1908)
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By Bill Gallagher

It ain't fair, John Sinclair

In the stir for breathing air.

Won't you care for John Sinclair

In the stir for breathing air?

- John Lennon, 1971.

DETROIT - Those were the days of Nixonian madness - the hopeless war in Vietnam, the illegal invasion of Cambodia, riots on college campuses, secret police, break-ins, enemies lists, IRS audits, the White House leak-plugging "plumbers unit," and on and on. But Nixon's paranoia, crimes, abuses of power, trampling on civil liberties and the Constitution are tame, almost benign, by the standards of the Bushevik regime.

"These guys make Nixon look like a Cub Scout," says John Sinclair, a poet, musician, journalist, veteran radical, cultural icon and professional disturber of the establishment peace. The native of Davison, Mich., near Flint, became an international cause celebre in 1969 when a fascist-leaning judge sentenced him to 10 years in prison for possessing two marijuana joints. "They gave him 10 for two," John Lennon wrote in his song about Sinclair's draconian sentence.

The sentence - right out of Stalin's guidelines - had nothing to do with the gravity of his offense, but had everything to do with his political views. Sinclair founded the White Panther Party and included among his radical and freethinking friends Allen Ginsberg, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin and Timothy Leary. He, along with photographer Leni Arndt, his partner and later wife, organized the Detroit Artists' Workshop, a communal group of artists from all disciplines.

His love of music further branded John as a dangerous subversive and put him under the eyes of the FBI creeps J. Edgar Hoover assigned to watch every move he made. Sinclair used music as a conduit for his poetry. Until his imprisonment, he was the manager and Svengali of legendary Detroit rockers the MC5, who made sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll a national pastime.

It was for his thoughts, poems, music, politics and passion that Sinclair was deemed a dangerous enemy of Nixonian Amerika, and he paid a horrible price for his revolutionary ways.

Sinclair did hard time for his soft crime at Michigan's infamous Jackson State Prison. "Jack Town" was, and still is, a hellhole, the largest walled prison on earth, an American gulag where the goal is to degrade and dehumanize the inmates and expect that society will improve as a result. Sinclair spent his time reading and writing, but most of all just surviving.

I met Sinclair on Thursday, Dec. 8, the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's murder. We met at Agave, a fine Mexican restaurant near the campus of Wayne State University. His presence in Detroit on that day was entirely serendipity. He was in town for a poetry reading and concert at the university honoring the poets and music of Katrina-battered New Orleans, a town Sinclair loves and where he lived for 10 years.

I asked where he lives now.

"Amsterdam, for obvious reasons," he replied, with a laugh and a twinkle in his eye. But his voice softened and his eyes moistened when we talked about John Lennon.

"I always remember him on this date every year. It was so close to the date where our lives intersected, because it was Dec. 10 when he came here to Ann Arbor and got me out of prison," Sinclair said.

He shook his head, thinking about his friend John Lennon.

"For any artist to be assassinated in his prime, on his way home from work, going into his home, it's horrifying. For it to be a guy like John Lennon, who represented and believed in peace, love and communications between human beings, probably more than anyone else in the music world, you just shudder to think of this," he said.

Sinclair had been rotting in Jackson State Prison for nearly three years when his life intersected with John Lennon's. Sinclair's lawyers had challenged his sentence and the constitutionality of Michigan's marijuana laws. The case went before the Michigan Supreme Court and Sinclair won, but a lower court refused to grant an appeal bond, claiming he was a "danger to society." He remained in prison.

Friends and supporters organized a rally at the Chrisler Arena on the campus of the University of Michigan set for Dec. 10, 1971. The organizers hoped the "Free John Now Rally" would be a major event, drawing attention to the grave injustice that kept Sinclair locked up.

But filling the 15,000-seat arena worried Sinclair.

"So I was very concerned. I thought it would be awful if we staged this huge thing and nobody came, and then they'd say, 'Oh, man, this guy ain't nowhere. Nobody cares about him,'" Sinclair recalled.

Then, one of his lawyers from Ann Arbor visited Sinclair at Jackson and told him about a surprising phone call he had just gotten.

Sinclair's lawyer told him, "Oh, man, I really got good news. John Lennon is going to come. He's written a song for you."

Sinclair scoffed at the claim, saying, "Man, don't mess with me. I'm already at my wits' end here."

The lawyer went back to his office, called Lennon, tape recorded his offer to help, then went back to the prison the next day and played it for Sinclair.

"It was just unbelievable. You're in prison. People in prison are pretty much abandoned. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here," Sinclair laughed.

Lennon showed up and sang his new song "John Sinclair" to a sold-out crowd.

"Immediately, the whole complexion of my situation changes," Sinclair recalled. "Instead of people saying, 'Why doesn't he just shut up and serve his 10 years?' all of a sudden, they're saying, 'Well, jeeze, John Lennon says this is wrong; maybe we ought to think about this. You know, the Beatles are coming here to look into this guy's case.' Everything changed. Ten days later, I was out. It was like a miracle."

Out of the slammer, Sinclair went to New York to meet and thank John Lennon.

"He wasn't above anyone, even though he was probably the greatest popular creative artist in the world at the time. He was just a regular guy, a beautiful cat. We hit it off pretty good."

Lennon and Sinclair thought of a project to go on a concert tour following Nixon on his 1972 re-election campaign. They'd sell tickets for three bucks and give the money to community organizations.

"The poor guy wanted to have songs, and tell people to make peace. You know, really ugly stuff like that," Sinclair said. But J. Edgar Hoover's FBI and Attorney General John Mitchell's Justice Department were going to put a stop to those plans. Hoover and Mitchell, both serial felons, by the way, got the Immigration and Naturalization Service to tell Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, both foreign nationals, that they were going to have visa problems unless they stopped mixing politics with pop music. "First, the government hounded him out of public life. And then, when he decided to come back, some nut blew him away," Sinclair said. "You just shudder to think of this. He was my age. He would have had another 25 years of productivity, genius, works of art. It's so sad."

Sinclair finds the violence and gun culture of America appalling.

"You'd think, at one point, they'd rethink the concept of everybody being armed. It's so stupid. And now they're taking this kind of thuggery to an international level," he said.

Sinclair believes Lennon would have found the Bushevik regime "frightening," and if he were alive, he would be doing everything he could to end the war in Iraq. Sinclair finds Bush's appeal and ability to sell the war in Iraq disgusting and more harmful than Vietnam.

"This is the worst, in my view. This is the one that took America out of the realm of civilized nations and put us in with Hitler, bliztkrieging some poor little nation because you want their oil. Lying. It's just so ugly. How long are the American people going to put up with this?" he said.

Sinclair watched the BBC in Europe as American democracy unraveled in the 2000 presidential election.

"It was frightening to me. You expect the right wing to do bad things. You don't expect the people to endorse this and cheer them on. You expect them to have more sense. This is a democratic country with a long history of intelligent, informed citizenry, and now they don't have a clue," he said.

We talked about the mainstream media, the American Pravda that helped sell Bush's war in Iraq and failed to question the phony reasons for invading the country. But beyond the propaganda, Sinclair sees a disturbing need in the American people for a leader with such horrible traits and instincts.

"I finally understand what Hitler was all about," Sinclair said, sipping black coffee. "You know, all my life I wondered, how did Germany let this little weird guy gain power? How did they give him everything? He spoke to something in them and that's what this guy does. He doesn't speak to me. I look at him and can't believe someone would follow him across the street. But they like this guy for some reason. He gives them what they want and I don't understand it. I guess I've lost any understanding of mass psychology."

Sinclair still performs with his band, the Blues Scholars, and he loves traveling around the country in an Amtrak train. He hosts a weekly radio show from Amsterdam on the Internet at It's also available as a podcast, and his radio show archives are found at

"I've never been a big fan of the way our country organizes itself socially. I think that's on the record," he chuckled, "but now more than ever. That's why I spend most of my time in Amsterdam. It's the opposite of here."

Sinclair acknowledges Europe has "right-wing religious fanatics." But unlike the fundamentalist Christianity the Busheviks are trying to impose as a state religion, the European zealots "aren't trying to get into your home. They really don't care what you do in your bedroom. They don't really care what you do to alter the inside of your head, which is as it should be, in my view. And they aren't armed."

Touring with the Blues Scholars is a haven for Sinclair. "I present a moving target," he said. His beard is gray these days and he'd love to experience another miracle like a MacArthur grant or the appearance of some wise and inspired patron to help fund his work and art. His laugh is hearty and contagious. But he is perplexed and saddened that the nation and culture he began challenging more than 40 years ago is in the worst state of his lifetime.

Asked about Lennon's song, Sinclair said, "I light up. I love to hear that song. The ironic thing about it is, I'm a blues man. It's about the closest thing to a blues song he ever made, with the snare drum and slide guitar. So I enjoy it on several levels. But most of all, it was my ticket to freedom."

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Contenders For Iraq And The Potential For Civil War

(category: Commentary, Word count: 571)
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Iraq stands at the junction of three different and competing cultures for the control of the country. Kurds, Shia and Sunni Arabs all want to control their own affairs and that of the Iraqi state. Since each of them have their own distinct identity and their own supporters the potential for conflict is great.

The first group entails the Kurdish people who have developed an independent living arrangement for their 25 million people spread among Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Despite not having their own state they do have their own government, schools and military. They are in effect a state without borders and without international legitimacy. Their race for statehood started in 1920 during World War I when President Woodrow Wilson promised them independence in return for support. The Treaty of Sevres was to have accomplished this. However, when the Ottoman Empire was reformed into Turkey the Kurdish people lost their legitimacy.

Sunni Arabs make up the second group of contenders for Iraq. Even though they are slightly outnumbered by the Shia in Iraq they are major contenders for the country because 95% of the 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide are Sunni. They are the orthodox Muslims with a level of legitimacy unseen by the other groups. In recent times there has been a surge of calls for the reforming of an Islamic state and leader (Caliph). Therefore the Sunni insurgents are supported by other Muslims with weapons, money and recruits. Throughout Chechnya (Caucasian), Afghanistan (Indian), and Iraq (Arab) you are beginning to find coordination of tactics and recruits. It is becoming common to see Muslims from different nationalities fighting along side of each other because they have the same vision for Islamic independence.

The final group is the Shia which represents approximately 3% of all Muslims worldwide. The Shia became famed with the Iranian revolution which is one of the first Shia Muslim states. Iran is actively supporting the Shia in Iraq and trying to export their revolutionary ideas throughout the region. As we can tell from the past rhetoric between the U.S. and Iran that they are not supports of American democracy and make every attempt to thwart it. Due to sanctions and rigorous development Iran has developed their own military industry that is sophisticated. If these weapons show up in Iraq there is likely to be great bloodshed.

Iraq is a country on the verge of civil war. The three contending groups each have their own particular strength. The Kurds have a pre-established governmental institutions and military, the Sunnis have the support of the wider Muslim people and the Shia has the staunchly anti-American Iran. If the U.S. looses control of Iraq or withdraws from it in the near future it is unlikely that the country will be able to withstand a civil war where each group has a highly concentrated region. The end of civil war could potentially mean three distinct countries all competing for Iraq's oil reserves. It is also likely that such a war will not be easily quenched and may produce one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. Once started it is wholly possible that Sunni countries will begin to get involved against their Iranian rivals. All of them will be against any Western influence and are unlikely to heed any calls of quiet until they have exhausted their resources.

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Bush Flirts With Fascism

(category: Commentary, Word count: 1204)
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DETROIT - The regime has already produced so many ignominious legacies that historians in the near future will be able to feast on the task of measuring the damage from the wretched deeds the Busheviks have wrought.

Certainly, the unnecessary pre-emptive war in Iraq, sold with lies, will echo for generations as a symbol of America's failed experiment in empire cloaked as proselytizing democracy. Our actions in Iraq have created a terrorist breeding-ground that makes George W. Bush the greatest friend al-Qaeda leaders will ever have.

Unsustainable budget deficits used to fund tax cuts for the rich and create fiscal havoc will be a legacy that will leave our children with an unconscionable burden. Slashing programs for the poor will do the obvious: create more poverty and more misery for people living on the margins, especially children.

Bush, a child of the opportunities flowing from family privilege, has presided over an era of declining economic opportunities for working-class Americans. Real wages have declined, manufacturing jobs have vanished, and the trade deficit isn't sustainable. Forty-five million Americans are without health insurance, and each day more working people are losing their health benefits, or being forced to pay significantly more for them.

The administration is systematically defiling the environment and refuses to recognize the threat of global warming. Real science is ignored and pseudo-science is nurtured.

Rivaling all of those horrors, though, is the assault on human rights and constitutional protections the Busheviks are waging, selling it as a way to keep us safe from lurking terrorists. Whether with "enemy combatants" or with our own citizens, the effort to deprive people of fundamental rights has been relentless, dangerous and an affront to our national tradition that bows to no king and resists tyranny.

The Republicans who run the Congress have shown little willingness to challenge the president's claims to do just anything he wants with suspected terrorists. Detention without charges, torture and secret prisons - these are tactics more suitable for Stalin than a successor to Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Jimmy Carter. What Bush has done to trample on individual liberties may well be what historians see as his most egregious political perversion.

American citizen Jose Padilla spent three years in prison without being charged with a crime. No magistrate or judge reviewed the government's reasons for incarcerating Padilla, or considered any facts in the case. Padilla was jailed because Bush declared himself a king, with the authority to jail citizens because he alone deems they are threats and "enemies." No president has ever before claimed this blanket authority.

Bush disregarded the constitutional guarantee of "the right to a speedy and public trial." The fundamental civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution did not apply to Padilla because Bush said they should not.

Originally, the Justice Department claimed that Padilla planned to detonate a "dirty bomb" - a crude nuclear device that would release radioactive materials on an American city. John Ashcroft, then attorney general, said Padilla was a trained terrorist on a mission to kill thousands. When Padilla, also known as Abdullah Al-Muhajir, was taken into custody at Chicago's O'Hare Airport in 2002, Ashcroft described just how dangerous his captive was, saying, "Let me be clear: We know from multiple independent and corroborated sources that Abdullah Al-Muhajir was closely associated with al-Qaeda and that as an al-Qaeda operative he was involved in planning future terrorist attacks on innocent American civilians in the United States."

On the strength of that assertion, the Brooklyn-born Padilla was declared an "illegal enemy combatant" and shipped off to a military prison in South Carolina.

In 2004, Padilla finally did get to talk to lawyers. They went into federal court challenging Bush's claim that he can imprison and detain people indefinitely and that citizens accused of terrorism cannot be dealt with through the criminal justice system. The government released a document claiming Padilla was involved in a plot to blow up apartment buildings in Chicago. Not quite a nuclear weapon, but certainly a disturbing accusation.

Padilla's case was heading to the U.S. Supreme Court after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, a known legal bastion for the executive-can-do-anything school, upheld Bush's position.

Supreme Court justices are not prone to toss out the Constitution and, in effect, declare that, in dealing with suspected terrorists, the president is king. The Justice Department charged Padilla, but not with being the "dirty bomb" delivery boy or as a "known terrorist," an apartment bomber or anything remotely related to "planning future terrorist attacks on innocent American civilians in the United States."

Padilla was charged in a criminal indictment with "aiding terrorists and conspiracy to murder U.S. nationals overseas." But wait. We were told only the military could handle the case. This man was plotting domestic terrorist attacks. What's this "overseas" crap?

Padilla's lawyers still want the Supreme Court to hear his case. Bush's propensity to dispense with the Constitution must be stopped. Padilla is no saint. He's a street thug. But he's entitled to the protections the Constitution provides all criminal defendants.

The Busheviks, while claiming to export freedom to Iraq, are threatening it at home with the greatest assault ever on the civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution.

At long last, a handful of lawmakers are resisting the renewal of provisions of the horribly misnamed Patriot Act without specific assurances that civil liberties will be protected. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), the only member of the Senate to vote against the original law, is getting some company in his threat to filibuster the renewal unless it goes far enough in "making reasonable changes to the original law to protect innocent people from unnecessary and intrusive government surveillance."

A bipartisan group of senators is now working to curb the flirtation with fascism found in many provisions of the law. So far, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, Joe Biden and Teddy Kennedy are not among them.

Several individual European nations and Europe's top human rights watchdog are investigating the CIA's secret detention centers suspected to have operated in Poland and Romania. CIA planes are believed to have landed at several airports in European nations while transporting suspected al-Qaeda members to the secret prisons.

Council of Europe, the EU's human rights organization, finds the claims "extremely worrying." Satellite photographs are being examined to verify the CIA flights and landings. Torture is suspected of being routinely used at the secret prisons operating outside any independent inspections.

European Human Rights Commissioner Alvaro Gil-Robles told a French news agency, "Such practices would constitute a serious human rights violation, and further proof of the crisis of values that the use of certain methods in the fight against terrorism is proving."

The "crisis of values" is at the heart of the Busheviks' support of torture and their disdain for basic human liberties. That may well be their most horrible and lasting legacy.


Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is

Niagara Falls Reporter Nov. 29 2005

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Ur Bin Legend

(category: Commentary, Word count: 993)
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I may be repulsed at the deeds orchestrated by Osama bin Laden ...

But I'm even more repulsed at the ineptitude displayed in the attempts to stop him and his cause.

I mean, the guy's a murderous criminal. He's an anti-Muslim, as any credible scholar of the Koran would attest. He's been disowned by his family and disavowed by the country of his birth.

So, why is it so hard to dislodge him as a hero to a significant portion of the Muslim world?

The answer, frankly, is in the policies of those to whom his attacks are directed. The USA and its allies have transformed the perception of Osama bin Laden into that of a modern-day Robin Hood, a rich guy who is a champion of the poor by virtue of his acts against the capitalist infidels who invade their lands and impose a foreign culture upon them. As far as I'm concerned, it takes a band of idiots to offer democracy to a country and not be able to make it palatable, but to date, the Western powers are 0-for-2 in Afghanistan and Iraq, and their mishandling of bin Laden's image is a major reason why.

It seems clear that, until they can defeat Osama bin Laden and his band of thieves, they'll fight an uphill battle. It seems just as clear that this task shouldn't even have been part of the equation. After all, al-Qaeda wasn't the Taliban - the actual rulers of Afghanistan at the time - and it certainly had little or nothing to do with Iraq.

However, every enemy needs a poster boy, and bin Laden was certainly well-positioned to provide one. He was only an uneasy ally with the Taliban and just a distant acquaintance with Saddam Hussain's iron-fisted machine. However, he fit the stereotype of an extreme, culpable Muslim terrorist who stood for all that was evil in the region. That put him in perfect position to be publicized by the Western world's leaders, which in the process, proved the age-old bromide to downtrodden and/or displaced Muslims that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

I highly recommend the recently published book by Peter Bergen, 'The Osama bin Laden I Know: an Oral History of al-Qaeda's Leader.' To defeat an adversary, one must first understand him. This book does an excellent job of not only providing a series of first-hand accounts which illuminate bin Laden's origins and background, but even more importantly, confirming that the publicity heaped upon him by the USA and its allies has only served to solidify bin Laden's legend among his followers and others who are susceptible to his twisted message.

Bergen argues that al-Qaeda was close to becoming an afterthought in the Muslim world prior to the invasion of Iraq. The majority of Muslims were appalled by the wanton murder of innocents on 11 Sep 2001. The al-Qaeda movement was virtually crushed during the American retaliation in Afghanistan, which was really directed against the Taliban government for harboring bin Laden. It could be effectively argued that the al-Qaeda cause had been minimalized to that of an outrageous bunch of anarchists hiding behind a great religion's doctrine.

And then, the Americans tied al-Qaeda to Iraq to further justify their invasion.

My guess is that bin Laden couldn't believe his good fortune. He had no standing in that country until that time. Now, his money and his message sound quite appealing to devout young Iraqi men who have few alternatives in a devastated land that will need years to stablize. The irony is that these are people who like the American way; they just happen to like it on their terms rather than have it thrust upon them in a context of imposition which leaves them little choice but to obey or rebel.

And therein lies the ultimate irony. At no time has bin Laden or al-Qaeda actually stated their way. We know what they're against, but never raised the question as to what they are for. The concept of 'a fundamentalist Muslim state' is too broad. After all, Iran claims that objective, and they're hardly close friends with al-Qaeda.

Sir Winston Churchill once said, "It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt." I can think of no better policy shift in the battle against al-Qaeda than that. Rather than continue to personify a criminal element, why not begin a campaign to goad bin Laden into listing specifics as to how he would run a perfect world. My guess is that his responses would alienate enough of the Muslim community to the point of his becoming trivialized, and in the process, exposed for the villain he is.

Why are we not demanding to hear his words and then throwing them back in his face? Why are Western leaders trying to associate his name with every Muslim-based transgressor - eg- the Taliban and Saddam - with whom they have an issue? Could it be their laziness in spin-mongering or simply their cynical attitude that the Western populace cannot discern the reality of these matters for themselves?

Never-ending cycles of attack and imposition haven't worked yet for the Israelis and Palestinians. Did the Americans and their allies really think it would work elsewhere in that region?

It's unconscionable that Western leaders have turned bin Laden into a legend for the mere fact that it's convenient to put a face to an adversary. Make no mistake, this was their doing. To this day, you've never seen a Muslim authority - not even the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan - ascribe any heroic faith-defending status to him. Bergen's book underscores the reality that Osama bin Laden is nothing more than a soldier of fortune.

It's time for the world to see the difference between a real legend and an urban legend. Bergen's book is further proof that Osama bin Laden is the latter.

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Uae S Imbalanced Demography Poses Concerns

(category: Commentary, Word count: 534)
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Even as Dubai's rising expatriate population is being projected as a measure of its association with the outside world, many historians, media experts and political observers are looking at the same phenomenon with some concern these days. Very recently, an editorial in the Gulf News stated how eight out of every ten people living in the UAE were born abroad. This was expected to reach up to nine out of every ten by the year 2015. This scenario might become even more imbalanced by the year 2025, when the expatriate community will almost score ten out of every ten native citizens counted. This analysis is however hypothetical in kind, and there are factors overlooked by the author, which might actually decide a totally different demographic scenario in the years to follow.

First of all, the current crop of construction projects are expected to be over in the next 5 to 10 years, which will force up to 50% of the UAE's expatriates to go back to their homelands. The expatriate population will still continue to remain quite significant though, as the properties being developed now will mostly by bought by the offshore clients later. The projected scenario of the Gulf News article can only arise, if the authorities kept announcing more and more new projects in the years to come. This could again be called a distant possibility, as no nation can ever dream of having an endless growth.

However, some related issues of these demographic upheavals might require attention by the authorities sooner than later. For example, outsiders can buy homes and properties but no land on which they were made. This limits their ability to have a say in the matters of policymaking in the UAE. How long will they continue to stay and share their knowledge, time and wealth if disallowed to have even the basic rights of a tenant? Remember, the UAE and Dubai are heavily dependent on both the cheap and the highly skilled labor from other nations. The local economy will crumble immediately the day outsiders were asked to leave the UAE. Either the ethnic Arab community will have to be self-reliant or be ready to provide greater rights to the expatriate community, to continue having an association that has benefited all involved.

There is no scope for any permanent citizenships being granted to the outsiders, as it can seriously interfere with the ethnic interests. But, what many observers are asking right now, is to let the outsiders have more say as tenants, and thus ensure their continuation in the UAE's economy. Unless it was done so, the expatriates might think of moving away to other locations, thus curtailing the UAE's commerce.

This brings us to the belief that the imbalanced demography of the UAE will have to be addressed by its administrators, so that their economic achievements didn't get wasted down. It will be in the interest of all parties involved to have a lasting alliance between the ethnic Arabs and the outsiders. Despite the fact that no overnight solutions could be achieved for the above stated matter, one will still require looking for the answers for the sake of tomorrow.

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America Beware Hillary Clinton May Run For President

(category: Commentary, Word count: 794)
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America is the greatest country in the world. Our citizens are caring, generous, trusting and forgiving. Those are some of the traits that make our country so great and so strong. Those traits can also be some of our biggest weaknesses. We are always willing to give people a second, third or even a fourth chance. We want to believe in the goodness of others even when they have shown us time and again that they are not good. We are always ready to give others the benefit of the doubt. Because of the foregoing, we get taken advantage of over and over again. We believe that France is our friend and ally, even though it has proved, time and again, it cares only about itself. The cold war is allegedly over and we call Russia our ally, even though they try to sabotage almost everything we get involved with and even though they constantly support our enemies. We call China our friend and trading partner, even though the leaders of China would like nothing better than to oversee the demise of the United States. Some of us cheer at the thought that, Hillary Clinton might be our next President, even though, in my opinion, she cares nothing about the United States or it's citizens.

In my opinion (Note: These are all strictly my opinions. I am not not an expert and I don't know everything.), Hillary Clinton, cares for nothing, other than her own desires for power over the rest of us, and I don't trust her any further than I can throw the White House. She is very intelligent, probably far more intelligent than I am, and she can be very charming when she wants to. She talks the talk, but I have never seen her walk the walk. She talks about dealing with the rights of women, but as far as I can tell, she has never done anything other than talk. She talks about helping minorities, but again, the only thing, that I can tell that she has done is talk about it. She talks about supporting the war effort, however, she always adds a 'but' to her statements and by the time she gets through explaining the 'but' you don't know what she really thinks. She seems to leave everthing open to interpretation. The only person, that I know of, that is better at 'doublespeak' than she is, is her husband.

If Hillary Clinton runs for the Presidency, she will have liberals voting for her because they will believe that she is a liberal, not as liberal as they are, but liberal enough. She will have moderates voting for her because they will believe that she is a moderate, not as moderate as they are but moderate enough. She will have some conservatives voting for her because they will believe that she is a conservative, not as conservative as they are but conservative enough. Some people will vote for her solely because she is a Democrat and others will vote for her solely because she is a woman. No one, however, will really know what she truly believes in or stands for. I believe that no one can know because, the only thing that she believes in or stands for is herself.

Hillary Clinton, in many ways, reminds me of President Nixon. The main difference, as far as I can see, is that she is better at hiding her arrogance, ruthlessness, lack of respect for the American people, etc., than he was and she is smoother and much better at fooling the American people into believing that she stands for whatever they stand for, no matter what they stand for. Additionally, she probably will not be foolish enough to tape her White House conversations.

She also reminds me, very much, of her husband, except that she appears to be smarter, considerably more ruthless and I doubt if she is a womanizer. She is, however, just as good at fooling the people, just as good at taking credit for good things done by others, just as good at laying the blame for bad things, that she may have done, on others and just as hungry for power.

I believe that if Mrs. Clinton does run for the Presidency, she will make whatever behind the scenes deals that she has to, make any promises that she has to and step on any people that she has to in order to assure herself a place in history as America's fourty fourth President. I also believe that when she leaves office she will, like her husband, leave this country is worse shape than, it was in, when she took office.

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Heal Our Republic Change Our Electoral System

(category: Commentary, Word count: 842)
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Consider the presidential election system we have today: Every state has a number of electors, equal to their amount of representatives and senators, who vote for the President of the United States. In most states, every elector goes to the candidate who achieves the most popular votes, regardless of his margin of victory. This means:

1. Presidential candidates have little reason to campaign to the whole country. If partisan or personal loyalty makes victory certain in a state, a candidate can safely ignore it in favor of other states. Conversely, if a candidate will definitely lose in a state, then he won't waste his time there. Only competitive "battleground states" see much activity.

2. We have less national turnout. If a state will assuredly support one candidate, why bother voting? Also, lack of vigorous campaigning in a state might contribute to voter apathy during an election.

3. With the winner-take-all plurality system, candidates try to attract moderate voters, so to avoid turning people off, they emphasize their personalities more than their policies. This results in bland, visionless candidates who take those traits into the White House.

I believe a new presidential electoral system is in order. We need something that rewards candidates who have bold ideas, while drawing more voters into the process as well.

Therefore, I recommend we emulate the French.

Hear me out! The French have an excellent method by which to elect their president. It is a two-stage electoral process. In the first part, candidates from all the country's parties can run. Candidates who mobilize partisans with daring policy agendas will perform best here. Afterwards, during the second stage runoff, the first and second place finishers of the first round compete. Whoever achieves a majority vote wins. This requires the candidates to make themselves as palatable toward the center as possible.

Eliminating the Electoral College and implementing two-round direct popular vote elections here would deliver many benefits. It would reward courageous candidates with striking ideas in the first stage, but it would weed out dangerous fanatics in the second stage. It would allow smaller parties to achieve greater prominence than they could achieve in a winner-take-all elector paradigm. It would give candidates reason to campaign to every American. And it would give each voter a larger role in determining the outcome of the election.

As a German friend also pointed out to me, "I don't quite get it that in the US, votes for the Greens i.e. are all lost, even help a candidate from the right to get into office (see 2000) - a second turn of the elections would allow Green supporters to vote for the Democrat." This is an important point. The major parties would have to give adherents of smaller parties reasons to vote for them. This would force the Democrats and Republicans to take other parties, such as Greens and Libertarians, seriously, and perhaps heed some of their political desires. This would make more Americans feel as if they play an important role in the republican process.

To complete the reform, we also need to make going out to vote easier. Right now, we seemingly make voting as hard as we can. Elections take place on weekdays, so if Americans want to vote, they must take off work or rush to the polls before or after work. When they get there, they must wait a long time to finish the process, because the volunteer polling coordinators are old, retired people. (Young people have to work, after all.) All this makes voting seem not worth the hassle to millions of Americans.

To change that and increase turnout, Election Day should become a federal holiday. That would allow Americans to vote without worrying about missing work and forfeiting pay, or hurrying through throngs of people in the morning or evening. Younger Americans would also be able to volunteer to oversee the polls, thereby making voting a smoother and faster experience.

While we're on the subject of changing our electoral system, let's consider this: At the time the Constitution was drafted, one of the Anti-Federalist objections to the document was to the pluralistic election of representatives. The Anti-Federalists argued this could allow the election of representatives whom most of the community despised, but who still managed to get more votes than anyone else. Instead, according to the Anti-Federalists, districts should select their representatives by majority vote.

I believe that Anti-Federalist objection has merit. How can a representative represent a district if most of the people there hate him? Changing congressional elections to two-stage elections, similar to what I outlined above for presidential elections, would be a good idea. That way, we could ensure the majority of citizens in a district would have voted for their congressman. All the benefits of switching the national presidential election to a two-stage majority vote model would apply here.

Many conservatives would object to the national scope of my reform plan. They'd correctly point out it would erode federalism. Because population centers

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Islamic Intolerance

(category: Commentary, Word count: 659)
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Islamic apologists keep telling us that the religion of Islam is a kind, tolerante and peaceful religion. Every time a woman is stoned or someone is beheaded or a homicide bomber blows up a bus or restaurant filled with innocent people, we are told that it is the work of Islamic fanatics and that true followers of Islam do not agree with these things.

Now we find out that in Afganistan, a country that is 99% Muslim, a man is being tried under Sharia (Islamic law) for apostasy, and if convicted, will face the death penalty.

What did this man do that was so horrible, so against the Islamic faith? He converted to Christianity, that's the terrible thing that he did. This is apparently one of the worst things a Muslim can do. He chose to give up the Islamic faith and therefore is so evil that he deserves to be put to death. He can be spared, however, if he agrees to become a Muslim again.

The Hadith (which is said to be the body of quotes attributed to Muhammad), Sahih Bukhari Vol. 9, book 84, number 57, has been interpreted as saying "Kill whoever changes his religion", so the Sharia court judge is proposing to do just that.

The Torah in Deuteronomy 13:6-10 has been interpreted as saying about apostastics "But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." yet I don't believe that any Israeli judge would ever even consider attempting to hand down any type of criminal sentence for apostasy.

If the Islamic religion is so kind, tolerant and peaceful, why are it's laws interpreted in such a barbaric and intolerant way by so many followers. I realize that not all Muslim countries follow Sharia law and that of those that do, not all are so fanatical. However, many Muslim countries do still practice amputation of one/both hand(s) for theft, stoning for adultery, and execution for apostasy. Other countries, including Iraq, that did not, in the past, follow Sharia law are now talking about setting up Sharia courts.

I also realize that not all Muslims interpret Islamic law the same way. Islamic law like any other body of laws is subject to interpretation and therefore can be interpreted liberally, moderately or fundamentally. The problem is that while some Muslims interpret Islamic law liberally or moderately, it seems that a large majority of the Muslims in the Arabic world interpret the law fundamentally (at least as it pertains to women and non believers).

Afganistan's constitution guarentees freedom of religion, however, in an interview, Afganistan's Foreign Minister stated that the government had "nothing to do" with the court case. He further stated that he hoped there would be a "satisfactory result" to the case. To me, this seems that he was saying that the Sharia court is not bound by Afgani law and can do as it pleases, thereby making the Afgani constitution worthless. It further leads to the belief that Afganistan is a democracy on paper only and is actually ruled by Islamic fundamentalists. These fundamentalists may not be as bad as the Taliban but, so far, they do not seem to be much better.

There are many religious groups that believe that apostasy is wrong and that their religion is the only true religion. However, I know of no country, in this day and age, other than certain Muslim countries, that would sentence a person to death for changing his or her religious beliefs. Such things did happen in the past, look at the Spanish inquisition, but are now considered repugnant.

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