Wednesday, December 16, 2009

UK to review war crimes warrants after kooks try to arrest Israeli

Britain is reviewing procedures for issuing arrest warrants in war crimes cases after a diplomatic row with Israel over allegations against its former foreign minister.

David Miliband, the foreign secretary, saidtonight the government was "looking urgently" at ways the legal system might be changed following action against Tzipi Livni, Israel's opposition leader, over her role in the Gaza war.

The dispute erupted after Westminster magistrates court in London issued an unprecedented arrest warrant for Livni on Sunday – a move described by Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, as an "absurdity." Miliband said Israeli leaders "must be able to visit and have a proper dialogue with the British government."

Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to Britain, said after talks with Miliband: "The British government must take a firm stand to prevent British courts becoming a playground for anti-Israel extremists.

"The current situation is absurd and unacceptable in equal measure. Israelis cannot continually be held hostage by fringe groups of anti-Israel extremists, preventing politicians, businessmen and officers from visiting the UK."

The warrant for Livni's arrest was withdrawn amid embarrassment in the Foreign Office when it was discovered that she was not in the UK. But the fact that it was issued in error – at the request of lawyers acting for Palestinian victims of the Gaza war – did nothing to quell Israeli anger. The Israeli foreign ministry condemned what it called it a "cynical" move.


That a judge would issue such a warrant raises questions about his judgment and integrity. That it would be done at the urging of a death cult organization whose continuing war crimes provoked the Israeli action to defend its citizens, makes it even more absurd.

It was clearly an attempt by Hamas to hijack the British courts for its political objectives.

Woods voted top athlete of the decade

Even after a shocking sex scandal that tarnished Tiger Woods, it was tough to ignore what he achieved on the golf course.

He won 64 times around the world, including 12 majors, and hoisted a trophy on every continent golf is played. He lost only one time with the lead going into the final round. His 56 PGA Tour victories in one incomparable decade were more than anyone except four of golf's greatest players won in their careers.

Woods was selected Wednesday as the Athlete of the Decade by members of The Associated Press in a vote that was more about 10 years of performance than nearly three weeks of salacious headlines.

Just like so many of his victories, it wasn't much of a contest.

Woods received 56 of the 142 votes cast by AP member editors since last month. More than half of the ballots were returned after the Nov. 27 car accident outside his Florida home that set off sensational tales of infidelity.

Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor who won the Tour de France six times this decade, finished second with 33 votes. He was followed by Roger Federer, who won more Grand Slam singles titles than any other man, with 25 votes.

Record-setting Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps came in fourth with 13 votes, followed by New England quarterback Tom Brady (6) and sprinter Usain Bolt (4). Five other athletes received one vote apiece.

The Full Story

DC City Council votes to legalize gay marriage

Aisha Mills, left, and her partner Danielle Moody, both of Washington, react after the District of Columbia City Council approved gay marriage in their final vote on a bill legalizing the unions in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009. Same-sex couples could be marrying in the nation's capital as early as March. Mills and Moody are engaged and plan to marry.

After suffering setbacks from California to New York, Maine to New Jersey, same-sex marriage supporters got a victory Tuesday with the City Council's vote to legalize gay marriage in the District of Columbia.

Gay couples could begin tying the knot in the district as early as March. The only hurdles left to clear are the city's mayor, who has promised to sign the bill, and Congress, which has final say over laws in the nation's capital. The district's nonvoting delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, said she expects no opposition there.

"Make no mistake, 2009 has been one hell of a year for marriage equality," said David Catania, who introduced the bill and is one of two openly gay council members.

Council members said that it was symbolic that the nation's capital had voted to pass gay marriage. But the city is also in many ways not representative of the nation. More than three quarters of the voters in the city of 600,000 are registered Democrats.

Patrick J. Egan, a professor of politics at New York University, called the city "the most liberal and Democratic-party-dominated jurisdiction in the United States."

Congress now has 30 working days to act on the bill, but it has rejected legislation just three times in the past 25 years.

The Full Story

Climate talks deadlocked as clashes erupt outside

A Danish riot policeman beats a demonstrator who climbed on top of a police vehicle during a demonstration outside the Bella Center, the venue of the U.N. Climate Conference, in Copenhagen Wednesday Dec. 16, 2009. The largest and most important climate change conference is underway in Copenhagen, aiming to secure an agreement on how to protect the world from calamitous global warming. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

The 10-day-old climate talks ran into disputes and paralysis as they entered a critical stage Wednesday, just two days before President Barack Obama and more than 100 other national leaders hope to sign a historic agreement to fight global warming.

Poorer nations stalled the talks in resistance to what they saw as efforts by the rich to impose decisions falling short of strong commitments to reduce greenhouse gases and to help those countries hurt by climate change. Conference observers said, however, that negotiators still had time to reach agreements.

Outside the meeting site in Copenhagen's suburbs, police fired pepper spray and beat protesters with batons as hundreds of demonstrators sought to disrupt the 193-nation conference, the latest action in days of demonstrations to demand "climate justice" — firm steps to combat global warming. Police said 260 protesters were detained.

Earlier, behind closed doors, negotiators dealing with core issues debated until just before dawn without setting new goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions or for financing poorer countries' efforts to cope with coming climate change, key elements of any deal.

"I regret to report we have been unable to reach agreement," John Ashe of Antigua, chairman of one negotiating group, told the conference.

In those talks, the American delegation apparently objected to a proposed text it felt might bind the United States prematurely to reducing greenhouse gas emissions before Congress acts on the required legislation. U.S. envoys insisted, for example, on replacing the word "shall" with the conditional "should."

The Full Story

Inconvenient Question to Al Gore

Journalist and filmmaker Phelim McAleer (Mine Your Own Business, Not Evil Just Wrong) attempts to ask Al Gore a question about 'Climategate' emails at the UN Climate Change Conference. Al Gore's Press Secretary grabs his McAleer's microphone and UN security guard pulls the cable from the microphone. For more Inconvenient Questions and answers about The True Cost of Global Warming Hysteria visit

Iran's Missile Test

Associated Press is reporting that Iran has now tested a new Sajjil-2 missile:

Iran on Wednesday test-fired an upgraded version of its most advanced missile, which is capable of hitting Israel and parts of Europe, in a new show of strength aimed at preventing any military strike against it amid the nuclear standoff with the West.

A few thoughts:

1. While Western intelligence officials will analyze the success of the test and the capabilities of the missile, policy makers should take no solace should the test turn out, as before, to be less than meets the eye. The policy of procrastination — we needn't take serious action; the Iranians aren't there yet — is policy malpractice. We have the most freedom to coerce changes before the Iranians succeed with new technologies. And if we wait too long, we may find ourself in a situation where Iran gains capability or another power — Israel, for example — attempts to pre-empt.

2. We must recognize that both the long-range missile program and any future nuclear-weapons capability would be under the command-and-control of the most hardline elements of the Islamic Republic: the Office of the Supreme Leader and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. That the Iranian people are far more moderate and cosmopolitan than their leadership is irrelevant under the current structure of power.

3. The overwhelming passage yesterday of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act is a step in the right direction. The most effective diplomacy occurs when it occurs simultaneously with more coercive strategies. Indeed, if we wanted maximal leverage in diplomacy, we should attempt to maximize sanctions and then negotiate to suspend them as Tehran complied with international norms. There are many sanctions that would be effective even without Beijing or Moscow's buy-in and which could not be exploited by Chinese and Russian businessmen. Most of these involve designations of Iran's Central Bank.

4. Discussion of whether any particular Iranian figure endorses any particular sanction are silly. Designing any U.S. policy around the endorsement of any Iranian figure is silly. The Obama administration should instead base U.S. strategy on U.S. national interests and effectiveness. The Iranian people would certainly rally around the flag should there be any military action against Iran, but they have never rallied to the government's side when faced with economic trouble. They consistently blame the government, as they did when during previous oil shortages.

5. The Obama administration should recognize that survival of the Islamic Republic as a regime is not a U.S. interest.

Magic Mike Holmgren came and went. After spending about a day and a half in the city of Cleveland to meet with Randy Lerner as well as a few select members of the coaching staff, he has reportedly returned back to his home in Seattle without a contract. But did he?

The big news yesterday was the fact that Holmgren was even in town. We are hearing that the checkbook of Randy Lerner was opened right out of the gate, ranging from paying for Holmgren’s travel to and from Cleveland all the way down to the meals that were consumed. And given that Holmgren’s agent Bob LaMonte was reportedly present at the meetings, thinking is that dollar amounts were at least mentioned a few times in attempt to get the former GM/head coach to call Cleveland home.
The fact that Holmgren left without a deal may be a cause for concern. As mentioned yesterday, getting him to come out to Cleveland was a giant step in the right direction for Lerner. There is apparently legitimate interest on Holmgren’s end given that he was willing to spend the day in Berea to interview coaches. But also a cause for concern is the amount of leverage that Holmgren has – and that amount is “all of it.”

Given the state of the Cleveland Football Browns, all Randy Lerner has on his side is money (with a hint of history) to go with some of the better facilites in the league. If he really wants a certain individual, Lerner will have to allow full control of the football-based deicsions. Reports of Holmgren’s trip to Berea have come across as if he was the one doing the interviewing. How often do potential candidates for a job get to interview their potential boss? The NFL is a different game, folks, and even more so with the 2009 Cleveland Browns.

With that said, is Holmgren’s leverage being forced upon Seattle as well? Is he using Cleveland and Randy Lerner to establish some market value, only to turn around and go elsewhere?

Mike Homgren has gone on record to say that he would like to have his future planned out by Christmas Day, which is roughly nine days away. And as reported by ESPN’s John Clayton, there is little evidence that the Seahawks have even reached out to Holmgren at this point in their process to fill their open front-office position. Perhaps Holmgren is trying to use his leverage on the ‘Hawks as well? If so, it isn’t working just yet.

With that said, even if things did go well between Randy Lerner and Mike Holmgren, and the Browns managed to burn the video footage of the Chicago and Green Bay games, there is a chance that Magic Mike could in fact be back. The Plain Dealer was quick to mention that even if the Browns did strike a deal, they would be unable to announce it until the interview process is complete vis a vis the “Rooney Rule.” Lerner (or in this case, likely Mike Keenan) will have to interview a minority candidate prior to making any hiring official.

For what it is worth, Clayton has gone on record to say that he gives the Browns a 70 percent chance of landing Mike Holmgren for all of the reasons laid out above.

As with nearly every other Browns cliffhanger…Stay tuned, folks.

Immigration reform bill is on its way

Border lawmakers have enthusiastically embraced the new comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois.

U.S. Reps. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi, and U.S. Rep. RubĂ©n Hinojosa, D-Mercedes, announced they have co-sponsored the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIR-ASAP).

The Republicans say no.

Republicans said the bill would take jobs from American workers suffering through one of the worst economic downturns in U.S. history.
They like to hire undocumented workers on the down low and pay them squat.

Bernanke is Time's Person of the Year

What else is there to say but the obvious snark: the award goes to the person who has made a mark for better or for worse. You can find the full list of award winners here (including SLU alum Owen D. Young in 1929). Among the names there are many of the really nasty folks of the 20th century. Bernanke didn't kill anyone, but in terms of the damage he may have inflicted on the US economy over time, he might well have made many of us notably poorer than we would have been.

That monetary policy so depends on the powers of one person that he or she could be Time's Person of the Year is the best summary of exactly what's wrong with central banking. Creating the powers to do what we imagine will be great good inevitably become powers of destruction, given the epistemic limits of human control. Ben Bernanke and the Fed illustrate that as well as anything.