Zombie on “peace” flotilla: “Losing is the new winning”

Don’t miss Zombie’s take on this, and his/her tongue-in-cheek take on the kneejerk sympathy for the underdog that motivates people who ought to know better.

The post also embeds a useful video by Shraga Simmons summarizing the evidence:

An earlier Zombie post that ought not to be missed is a photoreportage of an 0bama visit to San Francisco, finding him reviled by left-wing loonbat and “out of the closet” conservative demonstrators alike.

Zombie: the new free speech movement

My intrepid blog-ancestor has an essay up on the satirical mock-holiday “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”.  The crux of his/her argument is in this paragraph:

This is not an argument over the right to be “provocative” or “offensive”; rather, is it something much more significant — an argument over who gets to determine what counts as provocative or offensive in the first place. The Western world dragged itself out of the church-dominated Dark Ages and into the Enlightenment in part over this precise issue: The freedom to engage in speech and actions which formerly had been classified as the crime known as “blasphemy.” It seems such a trivial and quaint issue in retrospect, and hardly worthy of note from our hyper-secularized 21st-century perspective, but tell that to the millions of people who for centuries lived under the yoke of governments which used accusations of blasphemy and other religious misbehaviors as a primary tool of tyranny and oppression. The modern world dawned with the American and French Revolutions and the emergence of the explicitly secular state — the Americans rejecting the Church of England as Britain’s legally enforced national religion, and the French shrugging off centuries of acquiescence to domination by the Catholic Church in civil affairs. In both cases, new governmental paradigms were established in which there was an inviolable separation of church and state, which in practice meant no civil laws enforcing religious doctrines and (most importantly for our discussion) no laws against blasphemy.

In 19th-Century France and Belgium, paleoconservative Catholic clericalists known as “ultramontans” (from “ultra montes”/”beyond the mountains”, i.e., Rome) and the emerging [classical-]liberal bourgeoisie were locked in an existential struggle for the soul of their societies. A similar struggle (mixed in there with nationalist elements pitted against the Papal State) existed in Italy during the risorgimento. Contemporary anti-clerical propaganda was as offensive as anything one can see on Everybody Draw Muhammad Day. Of course there were protests, and of course the clericalists retaliated in kind (with propaganda depicting anticlericals as devil-worshippers etc.) — but few anticlericals seriously feared for their lives. Of course, nothing would have been further from the truth a few hundred years before. But who (outside perhaps Spain itself) still expected the Spanish Inquisition?

Everybody Expects the Islamic Inquistion

Well, the Spanish Inquisition may be a distant memory now relegated to Monty Python skits, but the self-appointed Islamic Inquisition is threatening to take its place. Remember that the Spanish Inquisition (and the much larger papal inquisition which preceded it) existed for the purpose of enforcing religious dictates on the general populace, including and especially religious crimes such as heresy, blasphemy, and apostasy. Punishment for these deeds could be severe and often as not included torture or execution. This is exactly what the Islamic fundamentalists want to impose on us in the 21st century: Obedience to religious dictates, enforced where necessary by violence.

[…]

Islamic extremists still seem to think that banning Facebook or threatening to kill the Everybody Draw Mohammed Day organizers will somehow make the problem of blasphemy go away. They don’t yet understand that we in the West have spent the last 600 years not merely earning the right to be blasphemous, but more importantly creating a society and a worldview in which there is no such thing as blasphemy, because all forms of speech are permitted and religious bullies no longer get to determine what is forbidden.

Read the whole thing.

Dumbest Times Square bombing theories

Correspondence Committee has a roundup of news about the arrest of the failed Times Square carbomber, a disgruntled [sarc] Catholic Flemish separatist [/sarc] named Faizal Shahzad (from a high-status [sarc]Flemish[/sarc] Pakistani family) working for the [sarc]Vlaams Belang[/sarc] Taliban.

In the immediate aftermath of the event, but also following the arrest, various politicians, such as NY’s ueber-RINO mayor Bloomberg, and various “blow-dried bozos” (as Michael Moynihan describes them) in the lamestream media put on amazing displays of mental contortionism to somehow assign the blame to Tea Partiers, opposition to 0bamacare, or even a failing mortgage. [In fact, it turns out he suffered from a bad case of Bush Derangement Syndrome.] Mary Katharine Ham has a contest for the silliest such attempt. The “winner”:

And, finally, we have Contessa Brewer [heh] of MSNBC [Moonbats Spouting Nothing But Crap] taking the silly crown so early in the game and with an enthusiasm which will be hard to top:

“I get frustrated…There was part of me that was hoping this was not going to be anybody with ties to any kind of Islamic country.” [Audio available here.]

Brewer continued, “…There are a lot of people who want to use terrorist intent to justify writing off people who believe in a certain way or come from certain countries or whose skin color is a certain way. I mean they use it as justification for really outdated bigotry.”

Indeed, a Tea Party terrorist might have been more useful for someone who is intent to justify writing off people who believe in a certain way and use it as a justification for bigotry. To be fair, he could end up being a Pakistani-American who trained in a Pakistani terrorist camp who is also incensed about federal intrusion into his life via Obamacare and inflamed by his inability to qualify for a loan modification, but we should probably hold our horses.

[Other MSNBC donkey-clowns, meanwhile, fear another terrorist attack “might strengthen the Tea Party”. ] Mary adds:

In other news, a white powdery substance was sent to the Arizona governor’s office today, requiring a lockdown of the building. There was a hazmat team on site. It’s unknown what the substance is or from whom it came. Unlike Brewer, I hope this turns out to be a false alarm of some sort. But if it weren’t liberals who are mad at the Arizona governor, you can bet this incident would make it into all the networks’ “Republic is crumbling” montages and lamentations about the loss of civility, false alarm or no.

And of course the pathetic joke Attorney-General claims the attack was thwarted, when in reality only an alert Vietnam Vet T-shirt vendor (and the bomber’s lack of knowledge of chemistry) prevented a calamity.

UPDATE: Leon de Winter does not spare his sarcastic pen concerning the lamestream media’s assiduous avoidance of the true elephant in the room. Go read it all.

“These are the smart people? Oh please…”

Must-read the whole thing: just a taste:

Yes, we have a highly educated, Ivy League president.  Yes, we have a whole flock of back-patting, self-congratulating, fully credentialed staff.

But smart?

Oh, please.

So what will the campaign slogan of the other party be for 2012?

I’ll have a whack at it:

Obama lied; hope died.

The Iranians got the A-bomb, the Russians got their jive back, and the Chinese own everything.

Vote for the un-cool, work-experienced, good-without-a-teleprompter guy or gal who knows a friend from a foe and can add 2 + 2 and get 4 every single time.

CIA agent inside Iranian Revolutionary Guard interviewed

Reza Kahlili (a pseudonym) was an expat Iranian who returned to Iran after the fall of the Shah. He joined the Revolutionary Guard, but out of disgust with the Khomeinist regime started spying for the CIA under the code name “Wally”. He is presently living in Los Angeles under an assumed name, and published a book about his experiences called “A time to betray”. Here are two extensive interviews:

Is this guy’s story for real? We link, you decide.

Zombie on the Pentagon shooting

Zombie asks this rhetorical question: Anti-Bush Truther shoots up Pentagon; Should we play the political blame game?

On Thursday, a “9/11 Truth” fanatic named John Patrick Bedell started shooting at the Pentagon and managed to wound two guards before they mercifully put him out of our [sic – heh] misery.

We now know that the guy thought the government and the Bush family were behind the 9/11 attacks (or “demolitions” as he called them), and was basically frothing at the mouth with Bush hatred.

Now, I’ve been to innumerable “Truther” rallies over the last 8 years, and can say with some confidence that about 98% of folks who think 9/11 was a hoax are left-wingers, or at the very least fit in very comfortably in the left-wing milieu, since the impetus behind Truthism is to undermine the basis for Bush’s “War on Terror,” an impetus which is also a cornerstone of modern Leftist thought as well.

So far, however, I’ve noticed a deafening quietude on the left-leaning blogs about this guy’s affiliations and belief systems. Those brave enough to troll leftist comments sections have noted mumblings therein that the guy was probably a secret “teabagger,” despite all evidence to the contrary.

Compare this to the response in the leftosphere when Joseph Stack flew his plane into an Austin IRS building a couple weeks earlier. Despite leaving a suicide note that approvingly cited Karl Marx and that condemned capitalism as nothing but “greed,” he was pilloried by every left-leaning site as a right-wing hitman who epitomized the inherent violence of the Tea Party movement — because he had anti-government feelings.

Now, just for a moment, let’s set aside the false guilt-by-association game everyone’s always playing. We all know that John Patrick Bedell and Joseph Stack are basically insane, plain and simple — as are any number of similar whackjobs who periodically go loco and erupt into violence. Violent psychopaths often incorporate some seemingly random overarching theme into their mindset, and on occasion that theme involves politics. Whenever someone like Bedell or Stack goes ballistic, every pundit jumps into the fray and tries to spin the outburst as “exemplifying” the political viewpoint of those with whom the pundit disagrees.

But that only rises to the level of a valid argument when a distinct pattern emerges. If, say, 5,000 suicide bombers in a row are invariably Islamic fundamentalists — well, OK, we’ve got a problem with the belief system, not just with the individuals. Yet I don’t see a pattern in these “going postal” violent outbursts which seem to happen perhaps three or four times per year, every year, no matter who’s in power or who’s president: […]  the truth is, paranoid people simply feel threatened by the external power structure in general, so they lash out at any symbol of authority, regardless of its political affiliation.

So, instead of playing the blame game so unapologetically employed by the Left when they feel they can spin things to their political advantage, I’m not going to say that Bedell’s actions at the Pentagon epitomize the leftist worldview. Rather, he was just crazy, as clearly indicated by his belief in the craziest of modern crazy conspiracy theories, 9/11 Truthism.

Are most Truthers leftists? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that all left-leaning Americans are thereby just as crazy as the most extreme among them; it simply indicates that when a leftist goes crazy in the post-9/11 era, he often gloms onto Truthism as his paranoia of choice.

Put it this way: Leftism fails as a coherent philosophy on its own terms. We shouldn’t try to wring significance from the delusional outburst of someone who just happened to be leftist. There are plenty of ways to logically disembowel Marxism and its numerous noxious contemporary offspring without having to resort to an unnecessary round of political “gotcha!”

Amen.

UPDATE: Dan Riehl and Patterico have more details on the shooter.

UPDATE 2: Despite attempts by the usual suspects to paint the shooter as some sort of radical Republican, he turns out to be a registered Democrat. Oddly enough, Wikipedia (reader beware, as always) offers evidence that he was also a big fan of anarcho-libertarian Murray Rothbard. The same page also states he suffered from bipolar disorder, that he envisioned a US currency based on cannabis, … Complex, arcane medical terms like “round the bend”, “nucking futz”, and the like may be more appropriate than partisan labels.

Looking Around, Jan. 11

Too busy at work to blog today, but here is some good stuff seen around the ‘net:

  • Instapundit » Blog Archive » FROM MICKEY KAUS, A QUESTION FOR TOM BROKAW: “Did you know that the Dartmouth analysis–contrasting the amount spent by U.C.L.A. in the last six months of life with the smaller amount spent by Mayo in Rochester–doesn’t count the money spent on patients who live? And here I thought having patients survive was kind of the whole point.” Snarks Insty: “No, Mickey. Power for the right sort is the whole point.”

Airline security: signs of intelligent life?

In “Profile Away” (h/t: Pi Guy), John Stossel argues in favor of adopting the “El Al approach” to airline security, which I have discussed here earlier.

I like what David Harsanyi writes:

It is an unavoidable fact that these “bad people” tend to come from certain places and subscribe to a certain religious affiliation. Focus on them.

From the evidence, it is clear that it is impossible to cover every base, but the wasted billions shaking down the average passenger offers little more than psychological comfort.

And comfort in knowing that no special interest will complain.
The anti-profiling people are usually worried that terrorist profiling will lead the TSA slippery slope to profiling based on skin color.  But that hasn’t been the case with the Israeli airline, El-Al, which aggressively profiles for terrorism.  Here’s one blogger’s experience:

I flew El Al from Los Angeles to Israel. I was a male in my 40s, traveling alone. Even though I was an American Caucasian and wasn’t anything close to even looking like a Muslim, I was pulled out of the line by a security official with the Israeli airline and interrogated – in an unfriendly manner, I might add – for about 10 minutes before I was allowed to board. I was pulled out of line for interrogation because I fit a key part of the El Al profile – a male of a certain age traveling solo.

This is such common sense that it’s unbelievable that the TSA won’t utilize this tool.  Then again, in government, common sense is often uncommon.

Some observations are due here. It’s not entirely true that El Al does not engage in ethnic profiling: it does seem to occur at “initial presorting” stage, and there’s no denying that my “cousins” (as Jews call Arabs, cfr. Isaac and Ishmael) disproportionately get subjected to in-depth screening.  (Note that this is still not profiling by race or skin color, as will shortly become clearer.)

By the same token, El Al knows that profiling by ethnicity alone would not work for a number of reasons. For one thing — while Americans think of Jews as “white” because the American Jewish community is 90% descended of Central and especially Eastern European Jews — about half the Jewish population of Israel descends from immigrants or refugees from Arab countries, and many of those could easily pass for Arabs and conversely. Second, many of the attempts that came close to succeeding have involved Western ‘patsies’ agreeing to bring luggage or parcels that contains bombs (such as the pregnant Irish chambermaid that was unwittingly smuggling a bomb for her terrorist ‘fiancé’), or indeed Western converts to Islam (e.g., search for “Stefan Smyrek” in this page).

The main tool, aside from profiling for unusual behavior patterns (long trips without luggage, paying tickets in cash, one-way tickets,…) is the study of microexpression during interrogation. The background of the traveler may determine the subject of the interrogation: an American Jewish tourist may be asked about his bar mitzvah as a child, an Xian tourist about the religious places (s)he visited/intend(s) to visit and what they mean,…, while an Israeli citizen will be expected to produce their national ID card and be interrogated about their family details and/or some peculiarities of their town of residence. The content of the answers isn’t even important: expressions that suggest “something to hide” are.

Incidentally, what I’ve picked up from Israeli Arabs is that they are ambivalent about them getting screened in-depth more often: they do know that if one of their coreligionists blows himself up on a plane that they happen to be on, it’s their hide as well… “Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” (Samuel Johnson)

Via a thread at The Blogmocracy, here is another example of Samuel Johnson’s Law in action:  Headscarf-wearing Muslim ‘privacy advocate’ who was on board Flight 253 changed her tune, now advocating mandatory body scans.

“I’m always standing up for rights and privacy concerns, but now I hope that body scans will be mandatory,” [Heba] Aref, 27, said Wednesday. “Balanced against national security, it’s worth the invasion of privacy. And I acknowledge the fact that there has to be attention paid to Muslims.”

Our Grace After Meals contains the phrase: And grace and good sense will be found in the eyes of G-d and man. May it be so, speedily and in our days.

Israel: “Iron Dome” antimissile system successfully tested

The Jerusalem Post reports that the Iron Dome antimissile system has been successfully tested against Kassams, Katyushas

Israel inched a step closer to deploying a missile defense system along the border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday after the Iron Dome [link added, Ed.] successfully intercepted a number of missile barrages in tests held in southern Israel this week.

The tests were overseen by the Defense Ministry, the Israeli Air Force and the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. which has developed and is manufacturing the Iron Dome, slated to become operational and deployed along the Gaza border in the middle of 2010.

The missile barrages that the system succeeded in intercepting included a number of rockets that mimicked Kassam and longer-range Grad-model Katyusha rockets that are known to be in Hamas’s arsenal.

The Iron Dome is supposed to be capable of intercepting all of the short-range rockets in fired by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hizbullah in Southern Lebanon, by using an advanced radar that locates and tracks the rocket that is then intercepted by a kinetic missile interceptor.

During the test, the radar succeeded in detecting which rockets were headed towards coordinates that were designated as open fields and therefore did not launch an interceptor to destroy them.

The IDF has already established a new battalion that will be part of the IAF’s Air Defense Division and will operate the Iron Dome. Prototypes of the Iron Dome have already been supplied to the new battalion which has commenced training with the systems.

The IDF has also located positions along the Gaza border that will be used as bases for the system, which includes a launcher and radar system. After it completes the deployment of the system along the Gaza border, the IDF will begin deploying the system along the northern border with Lebanon.

This is a potential game-changer in the Arab-Israeli “long war”. Israel can use some good news right now.

What I do hope is that the countermissiles are: (a) inexpensive; (b) can quickly be manufactured in bulk. Otherwise the Ham-Ass and HizbShaitan can simply wear the system down by lobbing over thousands of their dirt-cheap homebrew missiles…

Additional info:

  • Brochure on the website of RAFAEL (reshut le-pituach emtza’ei lehima, i.e., Weapon Systems Development Authority)
  • StrategyPage article on Iron Dome/kipat barzel. The article states an individual countermissile costs $40K — which is not all that bad but ideally should be reduced as far as possible.

Looking around, Jan. 5, 2010: depressing op-ed edition

There is an ancient joke about four Jews sitting in a café, discussing the situation. The first three go through various “oy vey”s. Then the fourth (it could have been yours truly) announces that he’s an optimist. The others ask why, if he is an optimist, he looks so worried. He answers: “do you think it’s easy being an optimist?”

Today it’s not being made particularly easy by two depressing op-ed pieces:

  • Former Jerusalem Post editor (before that, Brussels correspondent of the Wall Street Journal) Bret Stephens wonders whether our civilization has become incompetent. Moneygrafs: “a civilization becomes incompetent not only when it fails to learn the lessons of its past, but also when it becomes crippled by them.[…]Our deeper incompetence stems from an inability to recognize the proper limits to our own virtues; to forget, as Aristotle cautioned, that even good things “bring harm to many people; for before now men have been undone by reason of their wealth, and others by reason of their courage.[…] We can be proud of how deeply we mourn the losses of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. But a nation that mourns too deeply ultimately becomes incapable of conducting a war of any description, whether for honor, interest or survival. We rightly care about the environment. But our neurotic obsession with carbon betrays an inability to distinguish between pollution and the stuff of life itself. We are a country of standards and laws. Yet we are moving perilously in the direction of abolishing notions of discretion and judgment. […]One of life’s paradoxes is that we are as often undone by our virtues as by our vices. And so it is with civilizations, ours not least.

In other news:

Toronto Star: “Israelify” airport and airline security?

The Toronto Star suggests “Israelification” of airport and airline security. See also my earlier article here.  Some quotes from the TS article with  information not contained in my earlier article:

At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. [Israeli security consultant Rafi] Sela plays devil’s advocate — what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?

I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): […] And he said, ‘Evacuate the terminal.’ And I said, ‘Oh. My. G-d.’

“Take [Lester] Pearson [Airport, Toronto]. Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let’s say I’m (doing an evacuation) without panic — which will never happen. But let’s say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, ‘Two days.'”

A screener at Ben-Gurion has a pair of better options.

First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain ‘bomb boxes’. If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

“This is a very small simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports,” Sela said.

Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben-Gurion Airport shares with Pearson — the body and hand-luggage check.

“But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America,” Sela said.

“First, it’s fast — there’s almost no line. That’s because they’re not looking for liquids, they’re not looking at your shoes. They’re not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you,” said Sela. “Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes … and that’s how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys.”

The Toronto Star asks an obvious rhetorical question, and gets an answer:

So. Eight years after 9/11, why are we still so reactive, so un-Israelified?

Working hard to dampen his outrage, Sela first blames our leaders, and then ourselves.

“We have a saying in Hebrew that it’s much easier to look for a lost key under the light, than to look for the key where you actually lost it, because it’s dark over there. That’s exactly how (North American airport security officials) act,” Sela said. “You can easily do what we do. You don’t have to replace anything. You have to add just a little bit — technology, training. But you have to completely change the way you go about doing airport security. And that is something that the bureaucrats have a problem with. They are very well enclosed in their own concept.

Or, as a general described the press after Hurricane Katrina: “stuck on stupid”. I can’t help being reminded (leHavdil) of Nazi counterintelligence suspecting that the Allies had cracked the Enigma encryption system, yet it being decided that replacing it with something more cryptographically secure was too difficult and costly…

Looking around, Jan. 1, 2010

Looking around, Dec. 31 edition

  1. 13 AGs threaten suit over health care | KOMO News – Breaking News, Sports, Traffic and Weather – Seattle, Washington… http://shar.es/a9Bhc

  2. Victor Davis Hanson » President Humpty-Dumpty and his Humpty-Dumpty View of the World – http://shar.es/a9FXf

  3. Fouad Ajami: A Cold-Blooded Foreign Policy – WSJ.com – http://shar.es/a9F1Y

  4. And I Thought I Was a Comedian: “Dems claim 0bama tougher on alQaeda than Bush 43” « Robomonkey’s Blog – http://shar.es/a9Fn9 about

  5. Facebook as a narcissist’s best friend? Rachel Marsden: Technology and the New ‘Me’ Generation – WSJ.com – http://shar.es/a9QLP

  6. Terror Crackdown … On Bloggers – http://shar.es/a9O7o

  7. Shelby Steele: Obama and Our Post-Modern Race Problem – WSJ.com – http://shar.es/a9Ov6

  8. This is so over the top, it almost has to be a hoax: To All You Hunters « Joy, Nikki, Sue, Laura & Pam~Our Views – http://shar.es/a9zFB

  9. The Green Religion and ClimateGate: Interview With Steven Mosher – Big Government – http://shar.es/a9xLa

  10. JPost.com | BlogCentral | Rosner’s Domain | Saying no to Obama is no drama [while Bush was crazy like a fox?] – http://shar.es/a9xVl

  11. [What is she smoking?!] Napolitano wants to unionize TSA employees despite safety concerns | Washington Examiner – http://shar.es/a9xQd

  12. iowahawk: Man, Do I Hate Holiday Travel by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [satire alert] – http://shar.es/a9xU5

  13. The Volokh Conspiracy: $150K Settlement for Black Public School Students Harassed by Other Blacks for “Acting White” … http://shar.es

  14. JPost.com | Shmuel Rosner | Hannah Rosenthal’s new problem – http://shar.es/a9Zss

  15. Sen. Dodd, D-Conn., slashed aviation security funding for pet constituency | Washington Examiner – http://shar.es/a9hSj

  16. Thomas Sowell: “Unhealthy Arrogance” (RealClearPolitics) http://shar.es/a9hB6

  17. First case of highly drug-resistant TB found in US (H/T: Syrah) – Yahoo! News – http://shar.es/a9uz2

  18. Rosner’s Domain | “Anti-antisemitism czar” Hannah Rosenthal is officially more burden than help – http://shar.es/a9ux0

  19. Paying people to grow trees instead of food — gee, what could go wrong? (H/t Robomonkey) – Washington Times – http://shar.es/a9uZz

  20. (H/t Insty) Medical tourism — the new growth industry?

  21. Last but not least (H/t: “goddessoftheclassroom”): in Close to the Edge, Christopher Johnson administers a well-deserved fisking to an anti-Israel Anglican “theologian” moonbat

Flight 253 bomber led “antiwar” seminars?!

Department of Whiskey Tango Echo Foxtrot (“what the everloving …”): It has been reported (H/t: Running Bare) that the “underpants bomber” (a.k.a. “great balls of fire”) led “antiwar” seminars  in London:

Keying off an article in the UK Times Online about Northwest Airlines flight 253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab organizing an antiwar seminar called “War on Terror Week”, I did some quick research before the links get scrubbed.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article6971071.ece:

According to isocnews.com, an online magazine for Muslim students, War on Terror Week at University College London was one of the events of the year in 2007. There was a slick video advertisement for the event, an eye-catching poster and packed lecture theatres for five days of discussions about Guantánamo Bay, allegations of torture and the subject of “Jihad v Terrorism”.

The website reported the week of talks as “informative, relevant and always entertaining — the audience got involved with a good mixture of Muslim and non-Muslim attendees asking tough questions of the speakers”. In a corner of the poster, the event is declared to have been “approved by Umar Farook, president of UCLU Islamic Society”. The speakers advertised included George Galloway, the Respect MP; Geoffrey Bindman, the human rights lawyer; and former Guantánamo Bay detainees.

The Nigerian student who organised “War on Terror Week” in January 2007 is now better known as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be suicide bomber who tried to blow up a transatlantic airliner last week.

Mr Galloway said last night that he did not attend any of the events in War on Terror Week and had no record in his parliamentary diary of any contact with UCL Islamic Society. Mr Bindman, a visiting professor at UCL, said that he could not recall the event or meeting Mr Abdulmutallab.

Go read the whole thing. My main reservation: “Umar Farooq” is a pretty common Arabic name combination, and I would want to see evidence that the London Times has done its homework. Still, it’s generally pretty careful at least by Legacy Media standards….

UPDATE: More here (H/t: Naomi Ragen)

Airline security: why is El Al different from all others?

In the wake of the failed Xmas bombing on Northwest Airlines flight 253 to Detroit, some people wonder why El Al (Israel’s national airline) is succeeding where the TSA is making a pig’s breakfast of things. (Instapundit has never hidden his opinion that the TSA is a make-work program that may incidentally provide some security benefits, rather than the other way around.)

As a frequent long-haul business traveler, I obviously have a vested interest in airlines getting their act together on this one.  Here are some impromptu observations on El Al security (in part based on my own experiences):

  • El Al openly and unapologetically profiles. (Passengers reportedly get “presorted” in risk level categories: Israeli Jews the lowest, non-Israeli Arab Muslims the highest.) [BTW, as by clockwork, the usual suspects are calling on the TSA not to adopt profiling in the wake of the latest incident. (H/t: C2) This perhaps for the same reason that certain organization keep trying to pressure Israel into dismantling the security fence: because something that actually works cannot be suffered to live ;-)]
  • Every passenger gets interrogated in person: the depth depends on the assigned risk level, but also on one’s response and body language during interrogation (cfr.: microexpression). If interrogation switches from routine to in-depth, repeating questions several times (in different wordings) in order to trip up the person is common, as is cross-checking versions of different family members traveling together.
  • An Israeli citizen will be expected to produce his/her national ID card (compulsory to carry at all times, like in many European countries) as well as his/her passport. Commonly, the security guy will pull out the slip that lists your place of residence and family members and ask some questions about those — including some details only somebody actually living in that town would be likely to know.
  • The people doing screening are generally smart and well motivated. El Al security staff abroad, in particular, are quite unlike your typical TSA drone — for them it’s generally the first rung on a career ladder in the country’s security establishment. This aside from the fact that terrorism has been a living reality in Israel for all of its existence. (What did Samuel Johnson say again: “Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”)
  • The security section in the Wikipedia article on El Al, which is fairly objective, has additional details on in-flight security. Not only does El Al keep armed plainclothes security staff on all its flights, but the in-flight staff is trained in both weapon use and hand-to-hand combat, and almost all El Al pilots are former air force flyers capable of handling their planes under… “unusual” circumstances.

Overall, the three things that set El Al security apart from everybody else’s are:

  1. reliance on human elements first and technology second, and — analogously — on common sense first and procedures second
  2. smart and motivated staff
  3. disregard for political correctness

A few older articles that may be of interest for further reading:

  • Interview with former El Al security chief
  • This pilot clearly has a liberal political perspective, but has some interesting observations, specifically on issues in “scaling up” the El Al security approach to the vast US air transit network. I definitely take issue with his calling Israel a “full-blown security state” though — many things Americans perceive as “intrusive” (like compulsory national ID cards, a centralized population registry,…) are common currency in continental Europe, not just Israel. [And, perversely, I feel a lot freer to speak my mind in Israel than on a US college campus 😉 ]
  • Jeff Jacoby in 2006 on airline security
  • This piece on a recent kerfuffle involving the El Al route to Johannesburg has some interesting details buried in it. Notably, that El Al’s security staff abroad carry diplomatic passports, with their concomitant diplomatic immunity.

UPDATE: The businessman blogging at Coyote Blog explains why he cut his airline travel by 75%, even as his business kept expanding. “Security Theater” indeed. Or perhaps “Keeping Up Appearances“, starring Janet Napolitano as Hyacinth Bucket.

ABC video of Dutch hero who stopped plane bomber

ABC video (sorry, no embed): Jasper Schuringa: ‘We Heard Bang’.

In related news, the bomber was no lone wolf but an al-Qaeda operative trained in Yemen, and a failed detonator prevented a disaster. The explosive used was reportedly PETN (pentaerythritol nitrate).

PowerLine asks the hard questions why the bomber — one Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who apparently had beem on a watch list of people with suspected terrorist connections for two years — was even allowed to fly at all.

And Mark Steyn. “The men eager to self-detonate on infidel airliners are not goatherds from the caves of Waziristan but educated middle-class Muslims who have had the most exposure to the western world and could be pulling down six-figure salaries almost anywhere on the planet. And don’t look to “assimilation” to work its magic, either. We’re witnessing a process of generational de-assimilation: In this family, yet again, the dad is an entirely assimilated member of the transnational elite. His son wants a global caliphate run on Wahhabist lines.”