In writing this piece, I’m reminded of a little exchange between the late William F. Buckley and friend and fellow National Review writer Florence King. Buckley had just penned some less-than-flattering words about a recently deceased person of prominence whose name escapes me, and King chided him, saying something to the effect that he had broken ground in journalism: the “attack-obit.” Buckley’s response was, “Wait till you see the obituary I have planned for you!” And in writing this critical article about bon vivant Christopher Hitchens in the wake of his death this past Thursday, I expect some ridicule as well. Yet I don’t think Hitchens would demand to be spared the acidic ink he used to eviscerate others — or that he would have any credibility doing so. Remember that this was the man who, before the gentle Jerry Falwell’s body was even cold, said things such as “If he [Falwell] had been given an enema, he could have been buried in a matchbox” and “I wish there was a Hell for Falwell.” For my part, I wouldn’t wish eternal damnation on Hitchens; I truly hope he rests in peace. But I can’t say the same for his legacy. And when I see the obligatory exaltation of his life’s work — with secular icons, the deader they get, the better they were — I think that legacy needs a little damnation.
A former member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) with suspected ties to a 1996 terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S servicemen was part of an Iraqi government delegation visiting the White House December 12. The meeting coincided with President Obama’s announcement of the official end of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. According to the Washington Times, Hadi Farhan al-Amiri, Transportation Minister in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, “was part of the delegation that visited the White House to discuss Iraq’s future and Iran’s influence there, among other topics.” The Times recalled that al-Amiri was a commander in the Revolutionary Guard’s Badr Corps, the leading edge of that nation’s military effort against Iraq and the regime of Saddam Hussein, and remained in that theatre throughout the late 1980s and ’90s. “The FBI linked the Revolutionary Guard to the attack on the Khobar Towers in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, on June 25, 1996,” reported the Times. “Nineteen U.S. servicemen were killed by a bomb blast at the towers, which were housing American military personnel.”
On Thursday, motions were filed in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals by attorneys general of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina asking the court to temporarily halt challenges currently proceeding against their immigration laws pending a ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Arizona v. United States, scheduled to be heard by the highest court sometime during this term. The Obama Administration has challenged the constitutionality of all three recently enacted immigration statutes, arguing that the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction to legislate in the arena of immigration. Early last week, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear oral arguments in the matter and ultimately issue a ruling deciding whether the legislature and Governor of the Grand Canyon State were preempted by federal law from enacting a law establishing immigration policy.
Members of the House Homeland Security Committee unveiled legislation Thursday that would authorize the cybersecurity functions of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and establish a quasi-governmental entity to coordinate cybersecurity information-sharing with the private sector. The bill, called the Promoting and Enhancing Cybersecurity and Information Sharing Effectiveness Act (PrECISE), would station a national clearinghouse for information relating to potential attacks on critical infrastructure, such as electric grid, water facilities, and financial service systems. "The risk of cyberattack by enemies of the United States is real, is ongoing and is growing," warned Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.). "The PrECISE Act, in line with the framework set forth by the Speaker’s Cybersecurity Task Force led by Rep. [Mac] Thornberry [R-Texas], protects our critical infrastructure without a heavy-handed and burdensome regulatory approach that could cost American jobs." Under Section 226 of the bill, the Secretary of Homeland Security "is authorized to maintain the capability to act as the focal point for cybersecurity through technical expertise and policy development." Further, the Secretary is ordered to "coordinate cybersecurity activities across the Federal Government, designate a lead cybersecurity official within the Department of Homeland Security, publish a cybersecurity strategy and provide appropriate reports to Congress."
Mitt Romney has a plan. A plan to solve the “immigration problem.” And it will come as no surprise to those following the GOP presidential debates that the answer of Romney — the former Governor of Massachusetts and father of the “individual mandate” — is more government. At last week’s debate, Romney announced his idea for dealing with the more than 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States in defiance of applicable federal and state laws. On stage in Sioux City, Romney laid out for Republicans his plan for a national identification card system to distinguish between those here without permission and those legally permitted to live and work in the United States. As an additional protection against encouraging further illegal entrance, Romney proposed an expansion of the E-Verify program, which requires employers to investigate the immigration status of potential workers. In October at a town hall meeting in Sioux City, Iowa, Romney addressed the role he envisions the federal government playing in preventing businesses from hiring those without proper work visas.
Critics of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) have pointed to its provisions that permit the indefinite detention of American citizens, without charges and without trial. Additionally, the measure violates individual liberties in another way: by waging war on the Internet. A major component of the criticism against the NDAA is that it labels all of the United States as a "battlefield" in the "War on Terror," thereby treating virtually all American citizens as potential terrorists. But in addition to that, buried deep in the massive paperwork of the bill is a provision that would allow the Pentagon to treat the Internet as a "battlefield" as well, in order to “defend our Nation, Allies and interests.”
The field of private space ventures is gaining a new competitor, Stratolaunch Systems, the brainchild of former Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. According to press reports, Allen is prepared to commit at least $200 million of his own fortune to the creation of a launch vehicle he believes will allow for inexpensive launches of satellites into low Earth orbit. While the U.S. government’s manned space program has floundered for years, lacking a destination and the will to develop new launch vehicles in a timely fashion to replace the obsolete space shuttle, several private corporations are actively pursuing technologies for carrying people and cargo to Earth orbit. On December 13, Allen announced the creation of Stratolaunch Systems, which would, the company claimed, reunite Allen and Burt Rutan “to develop the next generation of space travel.” Allen and Rutan collaborated on SpaceShipOne, which flew in September 2004. According to a corporate press release, the goal of Stratolaunch Systems is to “bring airport-like operations to the launch of commercial and government payloads and, eventually, human missions. Plans call for a first flight within five years. The air-launch-to-orbit system will mean lower costs, greater safety, and more flexibility and responsiveness than is possible today with ground-based systems.”
The New American has been reporting on the controversy surrounding the Christmas season, particularly when Christians attempt to display the Nativity scene or assert the holiness behind the Christmas holiday in any way. These reports would seem to indicate that Christmas brings out the worst in people; however, it's salutary to note that it also brings out the best. A prime example of the latter can be found in reports from Kmarts across the nation that anonymous donors are paying off strangers’ layaway accounts in the spirit of the holiday. In Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, for example, an employee at the Kmart confirmed that an anonymous donor sent a $500 gift card to pay $100 on five different layaways. Store manager Barb Winowiecki then randomly selected which accounts to fund through the gift card. “Those with layaways are in for a happy surprise when they come in to pay on their account,” Winowiecki observed. “We’re not informing them ahead of time, so they can have a happy surprise.” “Unlike giving to organizations," she added, "people who anonymously donate this way know exactly where their money is going. It seems to be contagious. A local resident paid on another person’s layaway.”
U.S. forces will not be leaving Afghanistan when Afghan troops are scheduled to take responsibility for the country's security in 2014, American officials in Kabul have said. “If you're waiting for us to go, we're not leaving,” Marine General John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces, said, according to a report in Monday's USA Today. The United States has 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, along with 30,000 from NATO allies. By the end of next summer, the American troop level is expected to be reduced the 68,000. Americans will be training the Afghan Air force until 2016, but how many troops will remain or what additional roles they will play has not been announced and may not yet be decided. "This is a work in progress," Allen said. "The continued work beyond '14 in terms of development of economic capability and governance will continue. We will also see, probably, a U.S. military capability beyond '14." “I don’t know what we’re going to be doing in 2014,” Ryan C. Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan told journalists earlier this month. A continued American military presence would be contingent on the wishes of the government in Kabul, he said. “They would have to ask for it,” Crocker said. “I could certainly see us saying, ‘Yeah, makes sense.’ ” That request will likely be forthcoming, since Afghan leaders earlier this year called for continued political and military support for at least another decade. That would extend America's military involvement to 20 years from the time U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban government in the fall of 2001.
North Korea’s official government-controlled media announced that the country’s “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong-Il, died on Saturday at age 69 from “physical and mental overwork.” A teary-eyed TV anchorwoman claimed, “It is the biggest loss by the party … and it is our people and nation’s biggest sadness … [but we must] change our sadness to strength and overcome our difficulties.” Those "difficulties" can be traced back to at least the assumption of power by Kim Il-Sung in 1945 as he established a Stalinist totalitarian system in the country and enforced it with iron rule until his death in 1994. His son, Kim Jong-Il assumed the mantle of dictator after having been groomed for the position for years prior to his father’s death. A “cult of personality” was firmly established by the “Eternal President” (a title given to Kim Il-Sung at his funeral service) and extended by his son: Portraits of them hang in every building and every North Korean wears a Kim Il Sung lapel pin.