dude, where’s my country?

Bin Laden’s son plans peace ride on horseback – good for him! it’s about time someone close to bin laden had some ideas for change that didn’t involve violence against innocent people… although i must admit, i’m not sure whether or not i posted this, more than for any other reason, just so that i could have the name “Bin Laden” in my blog… is that shallow of me?

Canada Adds U.S. to List Of Nations That Torture – finally! it’s too bad it was a mistake…

Huckabee vows to defy birthright citizenship – what part of “huckabee should not be in the competition to lead this country” do you not understand? why are more people not up in arms about this?

Montana Governor Foments Real ID Rebellion – let’s hope it’s not too little, too late… why are more people not up in arms about this?

Bin Laden’s son plans peace ride on horseback
January 17, 2008

omar osama bin laden & zaina alsabah

CAIRO – Omar Osama bin Laden bears a striking resemblance to his notorious father, except for the dreadlocks that dangle down his back.

Then there’s the black leather biker jacket.

The 26-year-old doesn’t renounce his father, Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but said in an interview there’s a better way to defend Islam than militancy.

Omar wants to be an “ambassador for peace” between Muslims and the West.

Omar, one of bin Laden’s 19 children, raised a tabloid storm last year when he married a 52-year-old British woman, Jane Felix-Browne, who took the name Zaina Alsabah.

Now, the couple say they want to be peace advocates, planning a 5,000-kilometre horse race across North Africa to draw attention to the cause.

“It’s about changing the ideas of the Western mind,” Omar said in an interview. “A lot of people think Arabs, especially the bin Ladens, especially the sons of Osama, are all terrorists.

“This is not the truth.”

Omar doesn’t criticize his father and says Osama bin Laden is just trying to defend the Islamic world.

“My father thinks he will be good for defending the Arab people and stop anyone from hurting the Arab or Muslim people any place in the world,” he said.

Omar said the West didn’t have a problem with his father when he was fighting the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Osama bin Laden, believed to be in hiding in the Pakistan-Afghan border region, offered a truce to Europe in a 2004 audiotape and a conditional truce to the United States in a 2006 message.

In November, he called on European nations to pull out of Afghanistan in a message seen by some experts as an effort to reach out to Europe.

However, in a series of messages since last fall, he also has been calling for Muslims to rally around jihad, or “holy war.”

During his epic peace ride, Omar said they plan to ride 50 kilometres a day, with periodic weeklong rests in each country they pass through.

Teams from around the world will be encouraged to join in what the couple envisions as an equine version of the Paris-Dakar car rally.

That rally was cancelled this year due to fears over terrorist threats made by Al Qaeda-affiliated groups in North Africa.

Omar, however, said he isn’t worried.

“I heard the rally was stopped because of Al Qaeda,” he said. “I don’t think they are going to stop me.”

Canada Adds U.S. to List Of Nations That Torture
January 19, 2008
By Robin Wright and Julie Tate

In Canada, the United States has joined a notorious group of countries — Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Afghanistan and China, among others — as a place where foreigners risk torture and abuse, according to a training manual for Canadian diplomats that was accidentally given this week to Amnesty International lawyers.

The manual is intended to create “greater awareness among consular officials to the possibility of Canadians detained abroad being tortured.” Part of the workshop is devoted to teaching diplomats how to identify people who have been tortured. It features a section on “U.S. interrogation techniques,” including forced nudity, hooding and isolation.

The 93-page PowerPoint document was inadvertently released to attorneys working on a lawsuit against the Canadian government; it was obtained by The Washington Post from an attorney for defendants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who has been held at the U.S. military prison for more than five years, has generated attention across Canada.

The U.S. ambassador to Canada protested the mention, and the leak appears to have embarrassed Canadian officials.

“The document is a training manual. It is not a policy document or a statement of policy. As such it does not convey the government’s views or positions,” said Marina Wilson, spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa.

Huckabee vows to defy birthright citizenship
January 8, 2008
By Stephen Dinan

Mike Huckabee wants to amend the Constitution to prevent children born in the U.S. to illegal aliens from automatically becoming American citizens, according to his top immigration surrogate — a radical step no other major presidential candidate has embraced.

Mr. Huckabee, who won last week’s Republican Iowa caucuses, promised Minuteman Project founder James Gilchrist that he would force a test case to the Supreme Court to challenge birthright citizenship, and would push Congress to pass a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to remove any doubt.

The former Arkansas governor thinks the case against U.S. Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean was railroaded, Mr. Gilchrist said. Ramos and Compean are serving lengthy prison sentences for shooting a fleeing drug-smuggling suspect in the buttocks.

“I would make it my first act as president to pardon agents Ramos and Compean,” Mr. Gilchrist said Mr. Huckabee told him. “I regret that they have spent yet another Christmas locked up in a windowless cell like animals and unable to be free and with their families.”

Mr. Gilchrist, who campaigned with Mr. Huckabee in Iowa last week, said Mr. Huckabee explained his positions in a half-hour conversation on the campaign trail.

“I read back my notes to him twice and I told him I did not want to put words in his mouth,” said Mr. Gilchrist, who also issued a press release from the Minuteman Project detailing Mr. Huckabee’s positions. “The guy looked me right in the eye.”

Campaign spokeswoman Kirsten Fedewa said Mr. Huckabee intends to review the case against Ramos and Compean as one of his first acts as president, but she didn’t otherwise dispute Mr. Gilchrist’s quotes as provided by The Washington Times.

Miss Fedewa said Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Gilchrest are “united by a mutual desire to end illegal immigration and are political allies toward that end.”

Mr. Huckabee has defended his policies on illegal aliens while he was Arkansas governor. He pressed for illegal aliens to gain college tuition benefits, complained about federal immigration raids in his state and declined to have state police enforce immigration laws, although the state legislature gave him the authority to do so.

Mr. Huckabee now has adopted one of the strictest immigration platforms of any campaign. He has proposed a policy requiring all illegal aliens to return home and apply for immigration through legal channels.

His new position on birthright citizenship also puts him alone among the candidates. Many legal scholars say the 14th Amendment, which says “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States,” grants automatic citizenship to any baby born in the U.S., except in diplomatic cases.

Members of Congress have never tried to change birthright citizenship by law.

Mr. Huckabee told Mr. Gilchrist that he supports a Supreme Court test case but also would encourage Congress to introduce a constitutional amendment to exclude from automatic citizenship any children born to illegal aliens.

Mr. Gilchrist endorsed Mr. Huckabee last month and has campaigned with him ever since. Mr. Gilchrist said Mr. Huckabee is the best candidate on the immigration issue still in the race and who has a chance of being the presidential nominee.

Others calling for stricter immigration policy have accused Mr. Gilchrist of opportunism and backing a bad candidate.

Brook Young, who runs ImmigrationWatchdog.com, produced a Web video criticizing Mr. Gilchrist’s endorsement. Mr. Gilchrist fired back last week with an e-mail that appeared to threaten to publicly accuse the man of being a pedophile.

“I have been hearing on the blogs, over the telephone and through e-mails that you are a pedophile, Brook. Will that accusation also reach the news media soon?” Mr. Gilchrist wrote. “If the blogs and e-mails say so, then aren’t you guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt?”

Mr. Young posted the e-mail on his Web site and said he had to go public because Mr. Gilchrist has exceeded the bounds of the immigration debate, “to promote and actually lie about Mike Huckabee and his immigration plan and his past record. Now we feel like we have to say something.”

“It’s crazy,” he said. “You get e-mails from this guy and it’s like this guy is truly out of his mind.”

Mr. Huckabee has promised to run a clean campaign. William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration Political Action Committee, said Mr. Gilchrist’s campaigning reflects badly on Mr. Huckabee.

“He’s an intrinsic front-row part of the campaign who’s sending out e-mails to people who oppose Huckabee to try to lie about them,” said Mr. Gheen, who has tangled with Mr. Gilchrist and is trying to block Mr. Huckabee from winning the Republican nomination.

Mr. Huckabee’s campaign said the governor was not available to comment on the e-mail exchange.

Mr. Gilchrist said he was not accusing Mr. Young of pedophilia, but making a point about making up charges.

He also said he was not speaking on behalf of Mr. Huckabee when he sent the e-mail, and that the criticism pushed him to the limit.

“That was a private e-mail and what I was doing was setting up an example: ‘This is what you’ve done to me, I’m not going to do this to you, but how would you like it if I did this to you?’ ” Mr. Gilchrist said.

Montana Governor Foments Real ID Rebellion
January 18, 2008
By Ryan Singel

Montana governor Brian Schweitzer (D) declared independence Friday from federal identification rules and called on governors of 17 other states to join him in forcing a showdown with the federal government which says it will not accept the driver’s licenses of rebel states’ citizens starting May 11.

If that showdown comes to pass, a resident of a non-complying state could not use a driver’s license to enter a federal courthouse or a Social Security Administration building nor could he board a plane without undergoing a pat-down search, possibly creating massive backlogs at the nation’s airports and almost certainly leading to a flurry of federal lawsuits.

States have until May 11 to request extensions to the Real ID rules that were released last Friday. They require states to make all current identification holders under the age of 50 to apply again with certified birth and marriage certificates. The rules also standardize license formats, require states to interlink their DMV databases and require DMV employee to undergo background checks.

Extensions push back the 2008 deadline for compliance as far as out 2014 if states apply and promise to start work on making the necessary changes, which will cost cash-strapped states billions with only a pittance in federal funding to offset the costs.

Last year Montana passed a law saying it would not comply, citing privacy, states’ rights and fiscal issues.

In his letter (.pdf) to other governors, Schweitzer makes clear he’s not going to ask for an extension.

“Today, I am asking you to join with me in resisting the DHS coercion to comply with the provisions of REAL ID, ” Schweitzer wrote. “If we stand together either DHS will blink or Congress will have to act to avoid havoc at our nation’s airports and federal courthouses.”

But Homeland Security spokeswoman Laura Keehner says DHS has no intention of blinking.

“That will mean real consequences for their citizens starting in may if their leadership chooses not to comply,” Keehner said.  “That includes getting on an airplane or entering a federal building, so they will need to get passports.”

Keehner says DHS’s policy won’t change even if Georgia — one of the 17 states that has signaled strong opposition to the rules — declines to apply for an extension.

If that scenario came to pass, every Georgian who flies out through the nation’s busiest airport — Atlanta-Hartsfield International — would have to be patted down by Homeland Security agents and have his carry-on bag hand-screened, likely resulting in massive delays.

Keehner also suggests that patted-down citizens will turn their wrath not on the feds but on their state government.

For his part, Schweitzer wants Congress to step up and pass alternative legislation that would stop Real ID and re-instate a commission that was working on driver’s license rules before the REAL ID Act was slipped into must-pass defense legislation in 2005. That legislation assigned DHS the task of setting the rules single-handedly.

Keehner is adamant that the rules will make the country safer and that the price tag is not too high.

“The ability to get false identification must end, and Real ID is that step,” Keehner said.

Privacy groups counter that the rules create a de-facto national identification card and won’t stop terrorism or identity theft.

For his part, Schweitzer struck back at DHS statements he obviously considers arrogant.

“I take great offense at this notion we should all simply ‘grow up’,” Schweitzer wrote, referring to Thursday remarks from DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff about border rules regarding Canada. Schweitzer says those remarks “reflect DHS (sic) continued disrespect for the serious and legitimate concerns of our citizens.”

A DHS policy maker suggested earlier this week that Real IDs could also be required to buy cold medicine and to prove employment eligibility.

Schweitzer’s letter went out to the governors of Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Maine, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Arizona, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.