Wednesday, October 27, 2010

LeBron

Wow, man got Nike to do a commercial in which he tells us, he doesn't care what we think about him. Well, Lebron, so much for fixing your public image problem. Dude, you still have a lot to learn about class. Take notes from D-Wade while down in Miami...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010

How to end suicide bombing

Robert Pape is a Professor in Political Science at the University of Chicago and a national expert on suicide terrorism.  He has written several books and heads the world's largest academic research project on the subject.  
Image via University of Chicago
He has co-authored an important new book, "Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It" in which he argues that suicide terrorism is essentially driven by political considerations rather than religious ones. 

It echoes my belief that extremists distort Islamic tenets to achieve political aims among adherents who are largely ignorant of Islam's rich intellectual and spiritual tradition.  

Indeed, traditional Islam has never accepted suicide under any circumstances nor has it ever accepted an "anything goes" approach to achieving political aims.  The Islamic tradition is to first make and spread peace.    

If nothing else, Pape's book argues for a more nuanced approach to dealing with the threat of extremism, one that avoids foreign occupation but still safeguards American interests both domestically and abroad. 

Below is a copy of the press release from the University of Chicago:

How to End Suicide Bombings: New book argues the problem is not Islam, but lengthy military occupations. 

October 4, 2010

The University of Chicago Project on Security & Terrorism and the New America Foundation will hold a major national policy forum in the U.S. Congress titled “Cutting the Fuse, Moving Beyond the War” on Tuesday, Oct. 12. The conference will be streamed live athttp://www.thewashingtonnote.com. For more information and a list of speakers, visithttp://cpost.uchicago.edu.

To put an end to suicide bombings, the United States needs a new strategy that would reposition troops and work with local allies to boost their fighting capacity, contends Robert Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago and one of the nation’s leading experts on suicide terrorism.
Despite a popular belief that suicide terrorism is the result of religious fanaticism, such bombings are really a calculated response to occupations by outsiders, according to research in a new book, Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It. The book examines exhaustive data on suicide attacks since 1980 in the Middle East, Chechnya, Sri Lanka and around the world.
The data show that the best way to reduce suicide bombings in Afghanistan or Iraq is not to condemn Islamic extremism, but to end foreign occupations as quickly as possible, Pape claims.
Pape’s co–author is James Feldman, a former professor of decision analysis and economics at the Air Force Institute of Technology and the School of Advanced Airpower Studies. The book is published by the University of Chicago Press.
Their work shows that the suicide terrorism threat to America is growing, despite military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Pakistan’s attempts to fight its own militants.
“Each month there are more suicide terrorists trying to kill Americans and their military allies in Afghanistan, Iraq and other Muslim countries than in all the years before 2001 combined,” Pape said. In addition to nations where the United States is involved in military conflicts, the United States also has stationed troops on the Arabian Peninsula, a situation that al Qaeda claims is the reason for its hostility to the U.S.
The central problem is that leaders in the United States have constructed a narrative that identified the threat as coming from Islamic extremists who hate the United States. That explanation led to the invasions, occupations and eventual efforts to establish democratic regimes, something that requires a heavy military presence, the authors explained.
“But we now have strong evidence that the narrative — that suicide terrorism is prompted by Islamic fundamentalism — is not true,” Pape said. Despite some military success, suicide terrorism has continued, Pape said.
The book’s extensive research points out that after the United States occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, suicide attacks worldwide rose dramatically — from 300 between 1980 and 2003 to 1,800 from 2004 to 2009. More than 90 percent of the attacks were anti–American. Indirect occupations, in which the United States helps lead an occupation without committing troops, such as in Pakistan, have the same impact as direct occupations and explain the rise of suicide terrorism there, Pape said. The research also showed that civilian casualties during occupations increase suicide terrorism by giving terrorist leaders rallying points to turn local residents against the invading force.
Pape oversees the Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism, the world’s largest academic research project on suicide terrorism, and Feldman is the project’s principal advisor. The CPOST team recently completed a study of more than 2,000 suicide attacks. The team also studied tapes left by suicide bombers and collected other key information, such as their religious backgrounds, methods and number of casualties resulting from the attacks.
The research found that in each of the countries where suicide terrorism flourished, it was used to combat an occupying force. While occupation may sometimes be necessary to achieve immediate foreign policy goals, it does so at the risk of stimulating a suicide terrorist campaign against the occupier’s homeland. This is the dilemma an occupier faces, Feldman noted, since when the threat of occupation was removed, suicide terrorism largely stopped. After Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, for instance, Lebanese suicide terrorist attacks against Israel ended, Pape pointed out. Since Israel withdrew militarily from Gaza and portions of the West Bank, suicide attacks have been down 90 percent.
In order to end suicide terrorism, or to “cut the fuse,” the United States needs to “reduce the reliance on foreign occupation as a principal strategy for ensuring national interests,” they concluded.
“I’m not saying that we should cut and run, but rather that we have to use our military power differently,” Pape said. Offshore and in–country balancing would contain the threat to American rather than fuel it, he said.
Offshore balancing would involve stationing American forces on ships in the Persian Gulf and and islands in the Indian Ocean, and establishing military bases with non–Western forces on the Arabian Peninsula to support rapid deployment of ground forces, if needed in a future crisis.
In–country balancing involves working more closely with local forces, such was the case in Anbar Province in Iraq, where Americans empowered local Sunni leaders to be responsible for their own defense and accordingly curtailed insurgency.
“Intelligent debate and decision making require putting all the facts before us. For over a decade our enemies have been dying to win. By ending the perception that the United States and its allies are occupiers, we can cut the fuse to the suicide terrorism threat,” Pape said.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Conversation with President Obama

This is pretty cool, MTV, BET and CMT hosted a "Conversation with President Obama." Below is a link to the show, best parts come later in show:


Friday, October 15, 2010

Musharraf interviewed on This Week

Saw part of this interview of former Pakistani prime minister Pervez Musharraf, by This Week's Christiane Amanpour, in which Musharraf argues that Pakistan plays an important role in the fight against terrorism that is not fully acknowledged by the international community.

Over 2,000 Pakistani soldiers have died, in military actions against extremists, and many Pakistani civilians have lost their lives due to attacks by extremists as well as drone attacks that inadvertently hit civilian populations.  



Musharraf has made quite a career for himself on the lecture circuit since leaving office, and has apparently evinced enough nostalgia for his leadership to form a new political party with the aim of returning to Pakistani politics.  The problem with his tenure as prime minister has mainly to do with his lack of respect for civic institutions.  The end of his term was marked by "emergency rule" and effective dissolution of the judicial branch of government in Pakistan.  

Nevertheless, he does remind viewers in this segment that Pakistan continues to incur a high cost in the war against terrorism.  No one is more interested in stability and an end to terrorism than Pakistanis.

Extremism in Islam is not native to Pakistan nor is it embraced by the majority of the population.  Islam spread in Pakistan mainly by the efforts of Sufi scholars and saints, who still enjoy a special reverence in Pakistan today, both culturally (in terms of music, poetry) and religiously. Only by reconnecting to this spiritual tradition can we hope to battle extremist interpretations of Islam.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In Health Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality

An interesting argument about the healthcare bill from NY Times columnist Leonhardt:

For all the political and economic uncertainties about health reform, at least one thing seems clear: The bill that President Obama signed on Tuesday is the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.
While I'm sure the assertion will be widely debated, I think it frames an important issue, the stark economic inequalities of our time.  We see an economy in which there is 10% unemployment but the stock market is riding high with the Dow Jones at over 11,000.

This disconnect is not healthy.  America's middle class needs to be revived and it needs leaders who will represent and defend its interests.  Instead, we've had the rise of the Tea Party whose reactionary zeal threatens not only our economic sensibilities but even more fundamental institutions such as religious freedom.

Astonishingly, the Democratic party seems unable to articulate a coherent response.  Yet there could be no simpler strategy than to reaffirm our tradition of civil, religious and economic liberties that made this nation great.

In the interim, it is important for us all to do what we can to be more neighborly, to extend a helping hand to each other to show the kind of individual leadership that builds communities and societies.  

The healthcare bill has important reform that went just short of what it could have been. Nevertheless, if Leonhardt is right, it will probably be the most important thing Obama has done in his presidency to date.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Should we Fear Islam?

Keith Ellison, a Democratic congressman from Minnesota, has written an important opinion piece in the Washington Post's "On Faith" series, in which he offers an important analogy between the way the media is portraying Muslims in America and how that would look if the same portrayal was extended to the African American community.


Keith Ellison is not only an African American, he is also the first Muslim American to be elected to Congress.  He has always taken a practical, inclusive approach to his politics, from which many others in Congress could learn.

Here is an excerpt from the article, which is worth a read:
We are having a national conversation about belonging. The threatened Qur'an burning in Florida and the controversy over the proposed Islamic Center in lower Manhattan are examples of this national conversation about whether America can stretch her arms wide enough to embrace Muslims too. Irresponsible and sensational depictions of Muslims in the popular media are not the cause of Islamophobia, but they certainly can make it worse. Recent news shows and media reports do nothing to shed light or understanding on this national conversation, which is too bad.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Bears: hold on to the towels

As Bears fans are wont to do, the hand-wringing, second guessing and desire to throw in the towel will begin tonight given the beat down the Bears took from the NY Giants.  But, I say, hold on to your towels...

Despite Cris Collingsworth attempt to paint the Giants as an awesome defensive machine, despite the record-setting sacks in the game, the score was still 3-0 at the end of the first half.

You'd think, with all the praise being heaped on the Giants, that the Bears were doing nothing.  Yet the Bears defense kept Eli Manning's offense to just a field goal.

Where things went south were with the exit of Cutler and thus any leadership or rhythm to the offense.  The way Cutler played in the first half, though, you'd be right to say there was never any rhythm.  I mean, given all the blitzes the Giants were throwing, you'd think Cutler would figure someone would be free 5 yards from the line, and as the replays demonstrate, there always was.

This is where Mad Scientist Martz messes us up.  When you are in a defensive showdown, you take every 5 yard completion you can get and tell your QB to stop looking downfield.  Instead, Martz got Cutler concussed right out the game.

When your backup quarterback is in his 16th season, and no one has heard of him, you effectively knew the game was over.  Despite our defense, which continued to create amazing turnovers, the offense could do nothing.

At one point, I just wanted Urlacher, Harris and company to line up on the o-line and run routes.  Maybe even have Urlacher as QB.

This was a game where we needed the defense to score and, unfortunately, they were playing against Eli Manning and company, who are not known for allowing the defense to score on them.

This loss demonstrates that we have championship level defense but need an offense.  We have to hope that Cutler is not out and that Martz realizes that short completions are just fine when you don't have a running game.  We can still do this.