Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Has Obama bombed?

Reading the most recent issue of NEWSWEEK while biking at the university's recreation center today, I was surprised to see Obama slammed by two fairly prominent commentators. William Broyles, a former NEWSWEEK editor, compares the president to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister remembered for endlessly appeasing Hitler in order to avoid the war that the world got in spite of (or perhaps because of) his policies. Broyles writes, "Chamberlain did one bold thing. He finally realized he was not the right man to lead Britain in dangerous times. He resigned so that Churchill could take over. There is one bold thing Obama could and should do. He should bow out of the race for reelection and throw his support behind Hilary Clinton --- the leader we should have chosen on the first place."

Even more caustic in his criticism of the president is Cornell West, the Princeton professor, radio host and writer. West has called Obama, a "black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs."

In 2008, I was still writing my weekly "Attorney at Large" newspaper column, where I initially predicted that the first-term senator was a flash in the pan. He proved me wrong. I then said I wouldn't vote for him, citing his gross inexperience: 2000, an Illinois state legislator, 2004 a US Senator... what kind of background is that for, arguably (if you know how to use your clout), the most powerful position in the world?

But I ended up voting for him anyway. When John McCain turned out to be an opportunistic cowboy, rather than a senior statesman, I felt I had no choice.

Since then, Obama has in fact underwhelmed me, as he obviously has disappointed Broyles and West. All the same, my daughter, who graduated from college last year and is living at home, trying to make it as a freelancer, enjoys the benefits of our health insurance, thanks to Obamacare. No other president succeeded in enacting comprehensive health care reform.

Bush inherited a nation at peace with a balanced budget. He ran up the national debt from $3.4 trillion to $11 trillion, and left us with two wars... at least one of which was launched on a wave of flat-out lies.

So, Obama is criticized for too many compromises with a greedy, insatiable GOP right wing. Too true. The Republican myth that we can climb out of the hole we dug purely by growth with no new taxes is just that... a myth. Since the Grand Old Teaparty seems determined to starve the federal beast, no matter the body count rung up in the process, Obama needs to strap on a big brass set of them and show some vigorous, gutsy leadership... take the gloves off... no more Mr. Nice Guy.

I favored Hilary CLinton in 2008 and I'd vote for her in a heartbeat now. But I don't expect to get that chance. Consequently, Cornell and Company, we have to get behind our man in the Oval Office. Let's hope he gets behind us, as well.

From Professor Ely Karmon: Al Qaeda in the Sinai

Dear friends and colleagues,

See below the link to a short comprehensive analytical article on an important hot subject, "Al-Qaeda In The Sinai Peninsula," by Robin Simcox.

As I was interviewed for this paper and not all what I told the author could be cited, I would like to clarify some important points.

The statement that "the security situation has ‘collapsed’ and the Sinai is ‘on the way to becoming a failed region’" refers to the post-Mubarak period. In my opinion, if the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood will take control of the Egyptian parliament in the future elections, it can be evaluated that we will witness the same situation as in Gaza after Hamas took control of the Strip: the flourishing under their ideological and strategic umbrella of a myriad of jihadist and salafist violent groups which will find in Sinai, bordering Israel and the Hamas controlled Palestinian territory, the natural breeding ground for their terrorist and insurgency tactics, against Israel and the West. The Multinational Force Organization will be one of their main targets.

I am not at all sure that the pipeline bombings were financed by Iran and Hezbollah, but there are good chances that the Popular Resistance Committees' (PRC) attack on southern Israel was indeed supported and perhaps devised by these two radical partners, who have a vested interest in destabilizing the sensitive strategic Israel-Egypt relations, on the background of the Arab uprisings and especially the rebellion in Syria.

As for the background of al-Qaeda's "revival" in Egypt and more specifically the Sinai, see my 2006 article, "Egypt as a New Front of al-Qaeda," at:

Ely Karmon

Ely Karmon, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scholar

International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) and

The Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at

The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC)

Herzlyia, Israel

Tel.: 972-9-9527277

Cell.: 972-52-2653306

Fax.: 972-9-9513073, 972-9-7716653



National Council on US-Arab Relations: What Lies Ahead?

National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations

invites you to attend

What Lies Ahead for America in Arabia and the Gulf?:
Analyses and Prognoses

Thursday, September 15, 2011
3:00pm - 5:00pm

Rayburn House Office Building, Room B-340
Washington, D.C.

Participating specialists include:

Dr. Abdulaziz Sager
Chairman and Founder, Gulf Research Center

Dr. Christian Koch
Director, Gulf Research Center Foundation

Dr. Mustafa Alani
Senior Advisor and Research Program Director, Gulf Research Center

Dr. John Duke Anthony
Founding President and CEO, National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations

R.S.V.P. (Acceptances Only) via email to



Light refreshments will be served. If you have any questions you can call the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations at (202) 293-6466.

Dr. Abdulaziz Sager

Dr. Abdulaziz Sager Dr. Abdulaziz Sager is the Chairman and Founder of the Gulf Research Center. He is also President of Sager Group Holding in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Dr. Sager has a special research interest in Gulf strategic issues and is a regular contributor and commentator to international and regional media as well as the author of numerous publications. In 2003, Dr. Sager was appointed as a member of the Makkah Province Council. In addition, he serves on the advisory group for the 4th Arab Human Development Report for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and also as a Faculty of Economics and Administration of King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Christian Koch

Dr. Christian Koch Dr. Christian Koch is the Director of the Gulf Research Center Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland. Previously, he served as Director of International Studies at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, UAE. Prior to joining the GRC, he worked as Head of the Strategic Studies Section at the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research, Abu Dhabi. His work at the Gulf Research Center combines the various international and foreign relations issues of the GCC states with a particular interest in GCC-EU Relations. Dr. Koch regularly writes for the international media including the Financial Times, Handelsblatt, die SĂĽddeutsche Zeitung, and Jane's Sentinel Publications on Gulf issues, and his media appearances include the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and Al-Arabiyya television.

Dr. Mustafa Alani

Dr. Mustafa Alani Dr. Mustafa Alani is the Senior Advisor and Director of the Security and Defence Studies Department at the Gulf Research Center (GRC). Before assuming his position at the GRC, Dr. Alani worked as a Senior Consultant on Middle East Security at the Middle East Security Program, The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) in London. He is a frequent lecturer on political and security developments in the Middle East region in general, with special focus on issues and developments affecting the Gulf states (the GCC, Iraq, Iran, and Yemen.) He is the author of several books and essays on security and defense, and contributes frequently to international news agencies and leading newspapers in English and Arabic.

Dr. John Duke Anthony

Dr. John Duke Anthony Dr. John Duke Anthony is the founding President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, and currently serves on the United States Department of State Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy and its subcommittees on Sanctions and Trade and Investment. For the past 38 years he has been a consultant and regular lecturer on the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf for the Departments of Defense and State. Dr. Anthony has served as an Adjunct Faculty Member at the Department of Defense's Institute for Security Assistance Management (DISAM) since 1974, and as an Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies since 2006, where he teaches a course on "Politics of the Arabian Peninsula."


The Gulf Research Center (GRC) was established in 2000 as a public policy research institute/"think tank," thereby joining a community of nearly 7,000 such centers worldwide. It currently has offices in Geneva, Switzerland; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Cambridge, UK. In the University of Pennsylvania's "Global Think Tank Survey" in 2010, the GRC walked away with more awards for excellence than any other sister research organization in the region. The Survey ranked the GRC second among the 333 think tanks in the Middle East and Arab North Africa and first in the eight-state Gulf region comprised of Iran, Iraq, and the six GCC countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In so doing, the GRC bested such older, larger, and more widely recognized international "think tanks" as the Survey's four top-rated policy research organizations in Israel -- the Institute for National Security Studies, the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs -- and, among others, the Brookings Institution in Doha, Qatar. Among the criteria that determine the final selection of the Survey's annual think tank awards are the rigor and relevance of the research and analysis produced, the organization's ability to produce new knowledge or alternative ideas on matters pertaining to public policy, and its efforts to contribute to positive change in its given fields of policy-related endeavor as well as its overall academic and media reputation.

* Gulf Research Center Website

Katrina Redux? GOP blocks disaster relief after Irene

10 years later: This writer says we can declare victory[P11497822]&rrid=387566735

Libyan dictator falls shy of 42nd anniversary

Give me Texas-style justice over this!

The Albanian nut job who shot two American servicemen to death in Germany last March is on trial now. Although he's confessed to the crimes, he could get as little as 15 years from the German court. Give me Texas-style justice... he deserves the death penalty.

And, it seems, he committed the atrocities for the flimsiest, dumbest of reasons: He saw a Hollywood film depicting the rape of a Muslim woman by American soldiers and thought it was a documentary!

Time to shut down the Philadelphia School Reform Commission?

Some say so:

Certainly, the Commission owes the public answers, for instance: Why did it renew Arlene Ackerman's contract as superintendent and then buy her out for nearly a million dollars just a few months later?

CLE for House Counsel

Utopia on offer

Dear Jim Castagnera,

Please find below a special message from our trusted friends at Alpha Publishing. They have some important information to share with you.

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Bob Livingston
Editor, Personal Liberty Alerts™
Editor, The Bob Livingston Letter™

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Enlarge the picture of that new world whose people hold no grudges nor compete to exert control. Their behavior conforms to a natural law, causing them to overcome the stress and pressures of their former lives.

Picture other details of a new-world society. People's activities need no supervision as they are guided by what reality calls for. There are no locks on doors or windows, no legal documents to assure honest compliance, no addictions, no crime, no poverty, and no deprivation of any rightful thing or opportunity.

There are no scoldings or punishments and no stress. There is liberation of men, women, and children of every race from the tyranny of prejudice. There is plentiful food and shelter. There is nonpolluting transportation. In this new world there is full employment with unique opportunities available to everybody.

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As people consult nature's storehouse of knowledge, there are spectacular accomplishments. No prizes are awarded, as everybody is attending the university of life and learning from its boundless source.

Reality results from whatever the natural laws deliver.

What creates a new world? The answer is found by people that conform to a natural law created by whoever or whatever created natural laws. This law identified by Richard W. Wetherill in 1929 is called the law of absolute right: Right action gets right results.

The law defines right action as thoughts, words, and deeds that are rational and honest - nonconformance prolongs society's old-world problems, failures, and afflictions.

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Scientific research and discovery require identifying various aspects of nature to learn their principles and functions. In the process researchers have mapped the body's DNA, planet Earth, large areas of space, tectonic plates, and the ocean floor, showing that to acquire knowledge and dispel beliefs, researchers study nature.

By turning to the creator, Wetherill had insight into a behavioral law, establishing a new world. Whoever or whatever created the universe, its people, and its laws intended a peaceful and productive society.

Becoming rational and honest enables people to function in a world envisioned for the human race by whoever or whatever created that precious law!
Not the right Utopia for you? Plenty more to choose from:

E-discovery CLE courses on offer

Should "Ugly" be a protected category under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

This UT-Austin law prof thinks so:

From "Corporate Counsel": Ten Time Saving Tips for Document Handling

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Conspiracy Theories: The Molly Maguires and the Ancient Order of Hibernians

Jim Castagnera: The Ancient Order of Hibernians: From the Molly Maguires to Malachy McAllister

SOURCE: Carbon County Times-News (12-1-07)

“What do you know about the AOH?” I asked my pal Ned McAdoo during one of our regular Friday lunches, this one appropriately enough at Maggie O’Neil’s Pub in the Pilgrim Gardens Shopping Center in Drexel Hill.

“Say what?” Ned squinted at me. Being of Irish-American heritage, Ned, I had assumed, would be well-acquainted with the Ancient Order of Hibernians. A little bit of internet research had revealed more than 20 divisions in Greater Philadelphia, including the Dennis Kelly Division in Havertown, where I live and Ned maintains his law practice.

Realizing McAdoo was at a loss, I pulled from my coat pocket a page I’d printed from Wikipedia, unfolded it and read, “The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) is an Irish-Catholicfraternal organization. Members must be Catholic and either Irish born or of Irish descent. Its largest membership is now in the United States, where it was founded in New York in 1836. Its original purpose in the United States was to assist Irish Catholic immigrants, especially those who faced discrimination or harsh coal mining working conditions. Many members had a Molly Maguire background. Its mixture of religion and politics (similar to that of the Protestant Orange Order) has led its critics to accuse it of sectarianism and anti-Protestantism. In historical context, the Order may have emerged in America as a Catholic response to Freemasonry, which the Papacy forbade Catholics from joining.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Ned, before slurping the thin brown head from his pint of Guinness. “Now I remember. Some people claimed the AOH was the Molly Maguires. I ran across that when I helped my old man out with that case of his, when I was just a kid.” I knew Ned was referring to some work that his father Archie, also an attorney, had done to help win Black Jack Kehoe, the so-called King of the Molly Maguires, a pardon. I knew Ned had been only a teenager then. “I haven’t thought much about that in a long time. Why your sudden interest, Seamus?”

I explained that, while attending a funeral up in Schuylkill County last week, I’d run into one of my wife’s cousins. Jimmy Brennan was at the bar in the Middleport Inn, sporting a bright green AOH jacket. Together we’d taught the barmaid to make a White Russian. “I read your column every week,” attested the 76-year-old Jimmy. “Mention me in it sometime.”

“Thus my research into the AOH,” I concluded, as my own pint arrived and we sipped while reviewing the menu. After we’d ordered lunch, Ned picked up the thread. “So.” He asked, “Your research turn up anything interesting?”

I allowed that it had. “The organization is still in the thick of terrorist controversy, much as it was in the 1870s, when the Molly Maguires were arrested, tried and hanged for assorted acts of murder, arson and mayhem.”

“Alleged acts,” McAdoo cautioned me. “Some historians question whether the Mollies even existed or whether they were a concoction of the coal barons to nip Irish unionism and political power in the bud… not unlike the more recent claim that Saddam Hussein was in bed with Al Qaeda,” he added. “Hey, you’re not telling me the AOH is involved in the War on Terror, are you?”

No, I said. More predictably, the national organization, according to its web site [], currently was championing the cause of a former IRA man, who fled Protestant death squads in 1988. “The Department of Homeland Security is apparently trying hard to deport one Malachy McAllister and his family from the U.S.” According to McAllister’s own web site [], “The McAllisters are a Catholic family from the Lower Ormeau Road area of Belfast in the north of Ireland, who have been seeking political asylum in the United States. Malachy and Bernadette McAllister and their four children fled Belfast in 1988, after narrowly escaping an assassination attempt by pro-British Loyalists. Following weeks of evidence by some of the foremost authorities on the conflict in the north of Ireland, the trial judge found that the McAllisters had suffered severe persecution as a result of the attack on their home, ritual intimidation and abuse from the British security forces, public humiliation by those forces and a lifetime of discrimination. The judge awarded political asylum to Bernadette and the McAllister children, but ordered Malachy deported to face the same dangers, because he had served a prison sentence for fighting back against his persecutors.”

“So how does the AOH fit in?” queried Ned.

“For one thing,” I replied, “the web site supports a telephone campaign.” I pulled more paper from my pocket. The form I smoothed out on the table read, “Malachy McAllister and his two youngest children are facing deportation when the suspension of their order of removal expires in September. They have been advised that a private bill in the Senate would be their only hope to remain in New Jersey with the older McAllister children and their families.

Please call [Senator Frank Lautenberg’s] New Jersey Office at 973-639-8700 and his DC Office at 202-224-3224 and leave the following message:

My name is ________ I am calling from _________

I am calling to ask for Senator Lautenberg's support to prevent the deportation of Malachy McAllister and his children Sean and Nicola. Please, Senator Lautenberg introduce a private bill in the US Senate that would grant permanent resident status to this deserving family. Thank You.”

As Ned read, a bemused smile crossed his face. “Well,” he finally said, “Old Black Jack Kehoe, King of the Mollies, would be proud.”
Posted On: Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 19:48

Conspiracy Theories: Why Nobodies Are the Real Threat from Now On

Why Nobodies Are the Real Terrorist Threat

By James Ottavio Castagnera
Mr. Castagnera, a Philadelphia journalist and attorney, and author of the weekly newspaper column “Attorney at Large.”

Direct Textbooks Textbook resource center

As I write this, the British news media are reporting that at least three of the four suicide bombers, who killed more than 50 Londoners and wounded scores more, were born in Britain and lived in the English Midlands. They are described as “British nationals of Pakistani origin” by Fox News. One was only 19, another was aged 30 with an 8-month-old baby at home. The third, aged 22, loved cricket, according to an uncle, who added that his nephew had gone to Pakistan earlier this year to study religion. A London-based intelligence analyst was quoted by Fox as concluding, “One of these men reportedly was 19, which is way too young to be training in a [terrorist] camp in Afghanistan.”

These facts inject new urgency into the debate about whether we are fighting an organization or an idea. Last year, Jessica Stern observed in an Op-Ed published by USA Today that “we are continuing to swat at yesterday’s threats with yesterday’s tools and, in the process, aiding the terrorists’ cause. If the United States continues to prosecute a war on terrorism without thinking about what motivates new recruits, we, as a country, will lose.”

Many Americans find the concept of suicide bombing not only repulsive, but baffling. That’s because few of us can conceive of any idea or ideal so dear to us that we would wake up one morning, strap on explosives and walk out of the house to our self-inflicted deaths, as the four London bombers did. Our revulsion and confusion are functions of our time and place in human history. Anonymous nobodies, leading lives of quiet desperation until moved by the power of a radical idea to act, fill the pages of modern Western history.

In The Proud Tower, the late Barbara Tuchman’s 1966 history of the West just prior to World War I, the best-selling historian wrote of Anarchism (with a capital “A”) during the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries. “So enchanting was the vision of a stateless society… that six heads of state were assassinated for its sake in the twenty years before 1914.” Her list included President McKinley, shot by a lone assassin. Following the murder of the Spanish premiere in 1897, a British magazine opined, “The mad dog is the closest parallel in nature to the Anarchist,” while another writer wondered how you could protect civilized society from “a combination of crazy people and criminals.”

Whether you believe that Lee Harvey Oswald also was a lone assassin or the patsy of a broader conspiracy, read Norman Mailer’s book Oswald’s Tale. In it you’ll meet a lonely young man who yearned to make his mark, and who was drawn first to Soviet-style communism and then to Castro’s Cuba, as sources for his half-baked ideas. That he first took a pot-shot at a right-wing general, before being caught up in the Kennedy assassination, suggests that his choice of victims was as much a matter of opportunity as it was the selection of specific targets.

Just as 19 th Century lone killers were motivated by the writings of Anarchist intellectuals whom they’d never met, Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh is said to have been heavily influenced by Leaderless Resistance, a 1962 book by one Ulius Louis Amoss. A former U.S. intelligence officer and Cold Warrior, Amoss founded the Baltimore-based International Service of Information, Inc. When McVeigh and Terry Nichols, apparently aided and abetted by one or two other home-grown radicals, did their dirty deed in 1995, Amoss was already nearly two decades in his grave. His ideas had been kept alive primarily by an apostle named Louis Beam. McVeigh and Nichols never knew Beam either.

The Amoss/Beam idea is chillingly simple. In the words of one scholar, Simson Garfinkel, “Leaderless Resistance is a strategy in which small groups (cells) and individuals fight an entrenched power through independent acts of violence and mayhem.”

This sounds a lot like what happened in London two weeks ago. In the words of one Fox News commentator, recalling the Madrid train bombing of a year ago, “both point to an al-Quaida evolving into a movement whose isolated leaders offer video or Internet inspiration --- but little more --- to local ‘jihadists’ who carry out the strikes.”

If this is how it is… then all of America’s expenditures of lives and treasure and Afghanistan and Iraq are so many wasted soldiers and dollars. In some sense we actually are repeating the mistakes of Vietnam, even though our modern Armed Forces were designed never to repeat our errors in Southeast Asia. As we tried for a decade to fight a conventional war against what was essentially a guerilla force in Asia, now we once again are deploying our military might against far-flung nations.

Meanwhile, the real terrorist threat turns out to be anonymous nobodies lurking right next door.
James Ottavio Castagnera
Mr. Castagnera, a Philadelphia journalist and attorney.

"Turkish Student" Magazine seeks advertisers for AY 2011-12

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Monday, August 29, 2011

GOP House Bill would tie NLRB's hands re: runaway plants

WASHINGTON (Gannett Washington Bureau)--- A proposal by a Republican South Carolina lawmaker to limit the National Labor Relations Board's authority to penalize companies will get a vote on the House floor next month, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Monday.

Federal judge blocks Alabama's immigration law

By Peggy Gargis
BIRMINGHAM, Ala | Mon Aug 29, 2011 5:37pm EDT
(Reuters) - A federal judge on Monday blocked Alabama's tough new immigration law from taking effect this week, making it the latest U.S. state to have a measure on illegal immigration halted in court.

NIH releases final rule on researchers' conflicts of interest

The rule is accessible at:

Grand Canyon Education, Inc. reports to SEC that it failed DOE's "Gainful Employment" Test

The for-profit educator's Form 8-K, dated August 29th, states in pertinent part:

Gainful employment issue. The preliminary program review report sets forth the Department of Education’s position that the University’s Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program was not an eligible program under Title IV because it did not provide students with training to prepare them for gainful employment in a recognized occupation. While the University is pleased that the gainful employment issue, which originally focused broadly on all programs offered within the University’s College of Liberal Arts, is now focused on a single program, the University continues to believe that its Interdisciplinary Studies program, which it first offered in Fall 2007 in response to a request by one of the University’s employer-partners, was an eligible program and intends to communicate with the Department of Education to resolve the matter.
The complete Form is available at:

Conspiracy Theories: What I Wrote in 2007 as I prepared for a Visit to Israel

James Castagnera: Tuning in to Terrorism

SOURCE: News of Delaware County PA (5-2-07)
[Jim Castagnera is a Philadelphia lawyer and writer.]

I’m a coward. And I’m not afraid to admit it. In Catholic grade school I was one of the weenies the class bully picked on. My high school letter is in “newspaper.” You jocks out there didn’t know a guy could letter in something as wimpy as that, did you? When my 2-S (college-student) deferment ran out, I enlisted in the Coast Guard, correctly concluding I’d never come closer to Southeast Asia than Hawaii. In the event, I never got any farther west than Duluth, Minnesota, while some classmates sweated out their tours as grunts in Vietnam.

All of the above is in the interest of full disclosure. So when I tell you that later this month I’m off to Israel on an Academic Fellowship on Terrorism, you’ll know that I’ll be looking over my shoulder the whole time. Some 45 faculty from universities across the country were picked for this fifth-annual fellowship by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies []. FDD was founded by Steve Forbes, Jack Kemp, Jeane Kirkpatrick and other, mostly conservative, philanthropists and politicians, shortly after Nine/Eleven to help support democracies and confront terrorists around the world.

My own interest in terrorism predates September 11, 2001, by a couple of decades. In 1968, when my 2-S deferment was still solid, Paramount Pictures came to my hometown of Jim Thorpe to film “The Molly Maguires,” starring Sean Connery and Richard Harris. With many other locals, I briefly worked on the film’s set. Ten years later, I devoted the central chapter of my doctoral dissertation to a discussion of whether the Mollies really were a 19th century Irish terrorist organization in the Pennsylvania anthracite fields. Or were they neophyte labor organizers, branded “terrorists” in order to hang them and ‘bust’ their union?

Whatever the answer to that question (still controversial), the U.S. is no stranger to terrorism. An anarchist killed President McKinley shortly after he was elected at the turn of the last century, ironically enabling his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, to become one of our great national chief executives. During the Roaring Twenties, Sacco and Vanzetti were executed as much because they were Italian immigrant-anarchists as because they may have committed an armed robbery and murder. A bomb set off on Wall Street by a fellow anarchist sealed their fate, even though the evidence of their involvement in a payroll heist left lots of reasonable doubts.

The Sixties were a decade of domestic terror, carried out in the context of the unpopular war I joined the Coast Guard to avoid. The assassinations of John, Bobby and Martin; the bombings, arsons, and violent marches orchestrated by the Yippies, Weathermen, and Students for a Democratic Society; and the war between the Black Panthers and the nation’s police all contributed to the atmosphere of terror. Why some Baby Boomers of my generation now romanticize and even glorify the Sixties is a mystery to me. To quote from novelist-newspaperman Philip Caputo’s recent reminiscence on the 1970 Kent State shootings, which were precipitated in part by the fire bombing the KSU’s ROTC barracks, “It was a dreadful time.”

The Nineties were no pastoral period in the U.S. either. The first Islamic terrorist attack on the World Trade Center early in the decade prefigured the horror in store for us in the first year of the new millennium. So did the Oklahoma City bombing at mid-decade.

Like most Americans, I’ve tried to keep my head down and myself out of trouble across the six decades of Cold War, hot war, civil unrest, and terrorism that have disturbed the peace during my life. Consequently, friends and colleagues have wondered why apply for a fellowship on terrorism that will take me to the roiling Middle East to study the topic on its home turf.

Maybe it’s because Nine/Eleven seems somehow different from all the other acts of terror I’ve recounted in this column. From the Mollies to Sacco and Vanzetti, down to Lee Oswald and Tim McVeigh, my studies of terrorism in America never led me to conclude that the Republic was in mortal danger from these wild-eyed radicals.

In 2007, when radical Islam is locked in mortal combat with Western democracy, and the potential weapons could include biological plagues and dirty nukes, this old coward isn’t so sanguine about our prospects. So, head down and eyes over my shoulder, I’m off to get better informed about what a “War on Terror” really means.

Conspiracy Theories: What I Wrote on the Fifth Anniversary of 9/11

James Castagnera: 9-11 and the Search for Meaning

SOURCE: Lehighton (PA) Times-News (9-16-06)
[Jim Castagnera is a Philadelphia attorney and author, who writes a weekly newspaper column, “Attorney at Large.”]

Human beings need meaning. We seek it in events and mark it with anniversaries. This summer was especially meaningful for me. Events included the wedding of our son and the high school graduation of our daughter. With her now off to college, we’re empty-nesters for the first time in 22 years. As if that wasn’t enough, the summer marked my 25th year out of law school and in the Pennsylvania bar, and my 10th year in my current job.

Monday marked the 5th anniversary of the Nine/Eleven terrorist attacks. Maybe having five fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot explains why a 5th anniversary seems special. I don’t know. I do know that the airways were filled with memorial services, retrospectives, and “where were you when” features. For my generation, JFK’s 1963 assassination was our first “where were you when” event. For my daughter and son, Nine/Eleven is the first event to fit this category.

Kennedy’s killing and the September 11th attacks have some things in common, beyond the “where…when” phenomenon. Both have spawned a plethora of conspiracy theories and urban legends.

Kennedy’s Assassination: Oswald was a lone madman. No, he was the patsy in a CIA-driven coup. Wrong, he was Castro’s agent. Wrong again, he was KGB.

September 11, 2001: Israel knew of the impending attacks and told Jewish workers in the Trade Center to stay home that day. The two airliners could never have brought down those giant buildings; explosives were rigged inside them to do the job. Neo-Cons in the Bush administration perpetrated or permitted the attacks, because they needed a Pearl Harbor to secure public support for their Mid-East agenda.

“What If” theories abound around both events.

Kennedy’s Assassination: America would never have become embroiled in its ten-year Vietnam debacle had Kennedy lived. Kennedy would have been one of our great presidents. Wrong, Kennedy would be just a footnote, had he served two normal terms.

September 11, 2001: America would never have become embroiled in its (so far) 3.5-year Iraq debacle had the attacks been foiled.

“Time” magazine tells us this week that America’s response to Nine/Eleven has “reshaped the century.” An article in “Foreign Policy” magazine counters that September 11, 2001 was “The Day When Nothing Changed.” The author argues that the real sea change occurred in 1991, when the Soviet’s “Evil Empire” closed shop and the Cold War Ended. Nine/Eleven to this author is merely a symptom of the brave new world of American empire and the resistance the new Rome is bound to encounter.

What really has changed for average Americans… which is to say, for you and me? Getting on an airplane to anywhere is a major hassle. Gas is pricey. The evaporation of the Clinton budget-surplus, replaced by record deficits, is troubling, as I approach retirement age and hope for a little Social Security in my future. The creepy feeling that the Islamic “Professor Moriarty” or “Fu Manchu” is down in some deep Afghanistan cave plotting his next diabolical move has become a permanent itch on the back of my neck.

Speaking strictly for myself, all of the above lie on the perimeter of day-to-day existence. Thanks to all those annoying security measures, the family and I were able to travel safely to and from my son’s July wedding in Hamburg, Germany. When I commute, I keep the speedometer between 55 and 60, which has added an amazing five more miles per gallon. And if the Social Security fund is in jeopardy, due to budget deficits and other federal financial peccadilloes, the stock market is more than making up for it.

As for that ol’ creepy feeling on the back of my neck… speaking as a child of the fifties, who practiced “duck and cover” exercises in elementary school in anticipation of a Soviet nuclear first-strike, all I can say is “so what’s new?”

No, for me the meaning of life lies where I’ve always found it: in the “little” family events --- the weddings, the graduations, even the funerals --- that mark life’s endless cycle. Stone me for saying this, if you must… but for me, the 5th anniversary of Nine/Eleven doesn’t come close to matching this year’s 36th wedding anniversary for personal significance.

The First Time Lower Manhattan Was Hit by a Conspirators' Bomb Blast

The Black Tom Island Explosion

By James Ottavio Castagnera

Eighty-Five Years Before "Nine-Eleven"
Lower Manhattan Was Blasted by Terrorists

LIBERTY STATE PARK --- Since September 11, 2001 --- when the World Trade Center was attacked and destroyed by Al-Qaida terrorists --- tourists have been barred from climbing to Lady Liberty's crown. Since July 30, 1916, visitors to Liberty Island have been barred from climbing into the Lady's torch. At about two o'clock on that Sunday morning, an explosion of such severity rocked adjacent Black Tom Island that Philadelphians felt the shock wave. The Statue of Liberty sustained 100,000 1916-dollars worth of damage from a shotgun-blast of shrapnel. One long-term result was the closing of her torch to tourist traffic, according to a U.S. Park Service Officer. "Another," he adds, "was the founding of the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

Black Tom Island, today comprising a portion of Liberty State Park's south side, was connected to Jersey City by a long pier used by the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company and the National Dock and Storage Corporation as a munitions depot for trans-shipment to the allies on the Western Front. The night Black Tom blew, its warehouses held more than two million pounds (1000 tons) of TNT, gunpowder, dynamite, and shrapnel. One vessel, Johnson Barge Number 17, alone accounted for 100,000 pounds of TNT. As with the airliners high-jacked by Al-Qaida three years ago, the railroad and barges on and around Black Tom were poorly guarded. The U.S. was still formally "neutral" in 1916, albeit British control of the Atlantic shipping lanes insured that the allies were America's main customers for our munitions production. Germany resolved to do something about that.

Accident or Act of Terror?

The park officer, who took this writer on a tour of Ellis Island recently, says the main blast damaged neighboring Ellis Island, where he leads tours, to the tune of $500,000 or "half the one million dollars it cost the government to build the facility." In the immediate aftermath of the Black Tom disaster, spontaneous combustion was suspected. Guards spotted several small fires and ran for their lives. One watchman had the mental presence to pull the alarm that alerted the Jersey City Fire Department… but too late. The fires set off a series of shrapnel shells. As if part of a nuclear chain reaction, the small explosions culminated in a giant blast. And as if to record the blast for history, a chunk of metal hit the Jersey Journal's clock tower, stopping it at exactly 2:12 a.m.

Readers of the Journal were told in two-inch headlines later that morning that damage amounted to $75,000,000. Damage estimates vary, but windows were shattered within a ten-mile radius; the vast, vaulted concrete ceiling of Ellis Island's main hall collapsed; and "the shock wave set off burglar and fire alarms all over Manhattan," according to my guide. In sharp contrast to the thousands killed in the Nine-Eleven tragedy, the Black Tom death toll was mercifully low… 50 at most. Fortunately, no immigrants were in the Ellis Island great hall at that early hour; ultimately all those in transit at the time had to be evacuated to Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan.

Since spontaneous combustion was the initial suspect, the first defendants brought to trial were not terrorists. Rather they were corporate officials charged with "criminal and gross negligence." And civil litigation concerning who should shoulder the losses dragged on through both World War I and World War II, including a 1941 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

However, local police actually apprehended a suspected saboteur shortly after the disaster. His name was Michael Kristoff (sometimes identified as Krisoff in court records). Aged 23 in 1916, he boarded with a distant relative, the elderly Anna Rushnak, a Czechoslovak who ran a half-dollar-a-night boarding house in Bayonne. According to an article published in American Legion Magazine in August 1964, Mrs. Rushnak --- tossed from her bed like so many others in the path of the Black Tom shock wave --- subsequently encountered Kristoff seated on the edge of his bed, mumbling "What I do? What I do?"

After consulting with her daughter, Mrs. Lulu Chapman, who also had boarded Kristoff for a time and who found his comings and goings mysterious, the elder landlady approached a friend, Captain John J. Rigney of the Bayonne P.D. Kristoff was arrested, and questioned. A Slovakian subject of the Austro-Hungarian Empire --- Germany's chief ally in the Great War --- he had emigrated in 1899 and was employed at the Tidewater Oil Refinery near Black Tom shortly before the explosion. All the same, he was released, viewed by the authorities as "insane but harmless."

Kristoff actually enlisted in the U.S. Army after America joined the allied cause in April 1917. He and the Black Tom disaster were temporarily forgotten, their celebrity eclipsed by the war news from "over there." But after the November 11, 1918 Armistice ended the "war to end all wars," the Lehigh Valley Railroad --- itself buffeted by multiple civil suits, similar to the owners and operators of the Trade Center today --- wanted to recoup its losses and, if possible, shift the blame onto other shoulders.

The railroad's chance came due to the occurrence of other alleged acts of sabotage in the years immediately before America's entry into the war. For example, on New Year's Day, 1915, a fire had damaged Trenton's Roebling Steel Foundry. And on January 11, 1917, the Canadian Car and Foundry plant in Kingsland had suffered an act of arson. Congress finally acted to address these claims in 1922 by passing the Settlement of War Claims Act. The statute established a "German special deposit account" and a Mixed Claims Commission.

The Mixed Claims Commission

The commission's creation and the assertion of the Black Tom claim brought Michael Kristoff back into the judicial spotlight. Located in an Albany jail, serving time for theft, Kristoff admitted to being employed "for a few weeks" by Germany back in 1916. Released before this tantalizing but inconclusive statement could be followed up, he was fitfully pursued, until in 1928 he turned up in a potter's field on Staten Island. Even after exhumation of the corpse, however, Kristoff remained an enigma. The body carried papers identifying it as Kristoff's, but its teeth failed to match dental records purported to be the suspect's.

Consequently, in the words of one of many federal judges to consider aspects of the railroad's claim over more than two decades of litigation, District Judge Goddard of the Southern District of New York, sitting in Manhattan, "[A]fter extensive investigation by Lehigh, Federal, State and local agencies, evidence was obtained tending to show that the explosions had been caused by one Krisoff. Although it was suspected that Krisoff was acting as an agent of the German Government,... Lehigh did not have the evidence to establish the fact...."

A former German agent, Lothar Witzke, was trailed to South America and then to China. Interviewed when he was beyond the reach of the U.S. law's long arm, and therefore voluble, he said, "yes" he "did the work in New Jersey with (an accomplice, Kurt Jahnke) when the munitions barges were blown up and the pier wrecked."

Despite such evidence, the commission dismissed the Black Tom claims in 1930. Attorneys for Lehigh Valley Railroad and its co-claimants moved to reopen the case, contending that the commissioners had been misled by "fraudulent, incomplete, collusive and false evidence" provided by Germany's witnesses. The motion was heard by the commission's umpire, Justice Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court, who decided in December 1933 that "while the Commission was without power to reopen a case merely for the presentation of after-discovered evidence, the Commission was still sitting as a court and did have power to consider the charge that it had been misled by fraud and collusion...."

After that the commission, comprised of its umpire, plus one American and one German commissioner, reopened the Black Tom case. Proceedings dragged on into 1939 and became so contentious that the German commissioner ultimately withdrew, and the German Ambassador challenged the commission's continuing jurisdiction in the absence of its member. The American commissioner contended that the tribunal enjoyed jurisdiction to determine the claim, even if reduced to a duet. Mr. Justice Roberts, as umpire, asserted his power to resolve the jurisdictional disagreement. He then held that, the commission having agreed six years earlier to retain jurisdiction and reopen the hearings, and having heard evidence establishing fraud by the German side, was obliged to render an award.

Following subsequent proceedings, Roberts ruled that the claims had been accurately calculated and, at a hearing boycotted by the Germans, he joined the American commissioner in an order awarding $50 million to the Lehigh Valley Railroad and its co-claimants.

The award was immediately certified by Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, and almost as quickly challenged by the holder of an earlier commission award. Z. & F. Assets Realization Corporation challenged the cabinet members' decision to sanction the huge award, realizing that its payment would so deplete the fund that plaintiff's own award would not be completely covered. Z. & F. lost its case all the way up the judicial ladder. On January 6, 1941, in a decision penned by Chief Justice Hughes, and supported by the concurring opinion of Justices Douglas and Black, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial and appellate courts, holding that Lehigh Valley's award should stand.

But even this seeming-swan song by the "Supremes" did not put the claim completely to rest. An attorney named Lewis A. McGowan sued Lehigh Valley Railroad for a contingent fee, based on his efforts to implicate the German government in Michael Kristoff's misdeeds. McGowan finally lost his case in 1944, District Judge Goddard of the federal court in Manhattan holding that the lawyer's contract with the defendant railroad required that plaintiff actually prove Germany's complicity in order to qualify for a fee. Since the defendant had succeeded in establishing German culpability by other evidence, after Justice Roberts reopened the claim, McGowan was out of luck. And, at last, the long saga that started on July 30, 1916, ended.

Lasting Legacy of Black Tom Island

The Black Tom blast and related acts of German terrorism resulted in the passage of the federal Espionage Act in June 1917. The statute went beyond its principal purpose of curtailing Teutonic terrorists. Section 2 embargoed from the U.S. mails "every letter, writing, circular, postal card, picture, print, engraving, photograph, newspaper, pamphlet, book or other publication... containing any advocating or urging of treason, insurrection, or forcible resistance to any law of the United States," and subjected the authors to a $5,000 fine and five years imprisonment. A potent precedent favoring the Constitutionally-questionable provisions of the United States Patriot Act, passed shortly after the Nine-Eleven attacks, the 1917 law was given the Supreme Court seal of approval in Schenk v. United States, where no less a civil-libertarian than Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote for the high court majority, "When a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its efforts that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight...."

Additionally, the U.S. Justice Department was given a Bureau of Investigation, which would soon be re-christened the FBI. Shortly after the 1918 Armistice, the new agency launched the now-notorious Palmer Raids against suspected-communists and other "subversives," initiating the nation's first Red Scare. Immigrants deemed to be pro-communist or else Anarchists --- including Sacco and Vanzetti, now viewed by many civil-libertarians as martyrs to an hysterical attack on First Amendment free speech and free association --- were targeted for deportation and worse.

Lingering Traces of Manhattan's First Terrorist Attack

Walk the south side of Liberty State Park today and you'll find a marker memorializing the Black Tom terrorist attack of July 30, 1916. A circle of American flags compliment the plaque, which stands just a bit east of the visitor's center.

Says my Ellis Island tour guide, "People have pretty much forgotten the Black Tom explosion. They don't know that, as bad as the Twin Towers tragedy was, it wasn't the first time terrorists attacked lower Manhattan."

He adds that to this day, Black Tom stands as one of the three worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, the other two being the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by Timothy McVeigh and Terry McNichol and the Nine-Eleven attacks.

(Jim Castagnera, a Philadelphia journalist and lawyer, is the Associate Provost at Rider University and author of the weekly newspaper column "Attorney at Large.")

Copyright © 2004 James Ottavio Castagnera

Conspiracy Theories Abound as 10th Anniversary of 9/11 Approaches

A BBC news program being aired today in Britain, and scheduled for later on BBC World News, reports on a survey of 1000 Brits and a like number of Americans. One in seven said s/he believes that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by conspirators within the US government. One in four of those surveyed, between the ages of 16 and 24, believes this.

The conspiracy theorists --- the more knowledgeable ones, that is --- hang their hats primarily on the collapse of World Trade Center Building Seven, which imploded suddenly following the initial attacks. The best-known film focused on this theory is:

The producer of this film, interviewed on BBC World News this morning, claims to have accumulated 1600 architects and engineers who question the official version of what happened.

Conspiracy theories abound. A quick visit to the website will quickly confirm this. Persistent ones include:

1. FDR knew about the attack on Pearl Harbor, but allowed no warning to be issued, because he was determined to get the US in WWII.

2. JFK was assassinated by: The CIA/FBI; Fidel Castro; the Mafia.

3. The 1969 moon landing was faked in a TV studio.

4. The Oklahoma City Bombing was masterminded by Iraqi intelligence agents.

Here's a fifth one straight out of my head: For decades, multi-national corporations have been closing US manufacturing facilities and moving jobs overseas. Ala Thomas Friedman's THE WORLD IS FLAT, they recognize the decline of the US vis a vis China, India, South America. They have given up on the American middle class and are leaving us to fend for ourselves. Thus the lack of willingness to step up and pay more taxes to alleviate the national debt.

When I was doing a weekly newspaper column for much of the last decade I delved into some of these conspiracy theories. Between now and September 11th, I'll revisit some of that material and share it with you. I'll also add some news stuff in this space.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tell Congressman Boehner to shape up

I did. You should, too:

The new "Greatest Generation"?

That's what last week's TIME Magazinecalls the veterans of the War on Terror. "A new kind of war meant a new set of skills. Now veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are bringing their leadership lessons home, where we need them most." The article speaks of their altruism. "But there is another, competing and decidedly conservative sense that is common to veterans: that AMerican society has gone soft and is filled with whiners, an entitlement culture lacking a sense of individual accountability." One vet, says author Joe Klein, who served in Congress, called his colleagues "a professional bed-wetting society." They share a sense of genuine patriotism.

All this sounds pretty good to me. Are there enough of them to make a difference. The WWII generation was heavy with vets. I doubt there was a single, extended American family that hadn't contributed at least one member to military service. Although the War on Terror has lasted ten years --- more than twice as long as WWII --- it hasn't touched as many households. Whatever the shared values among this new batch of vets, it just can't be as extensively shared across our society.

However, there are a number of vets organizations that may have an impact beyond their size, thanks to the Internet:

Student Veterans of America

Iraq and Iran Veterans of America

Purple Heart Homes

Team Rubicon

The Mission Continues

Operational Medicine Institute

Hire Heroes

When I was a kid, WWII was the dominant theme of our imaginative play... well, boys that is. If you had a dad who served, then you had gear from the attic that you could use to add realism to playing at soldiering. Second only to Westerns, it was soldiers --- not cops or lawyers --- who dominated the movie screens. Some great films were made amid all the John Wayne/Audie Murphy stuff:

The Vietnam War also produced some great films:

The War on Terror has already produced many outstanding films, most of which I've reviewed over the past decade at The History Place:

The Hurt Locker and The Green Zone

A Mighty Heart

United 93
World Trade Center
The Kingdom
Yes, the War on Terror certainly already has its own film genre. Can it also boast the next Greatest Generation, as TIME claims? Joe Klein's article is persuasive. We'll see. I hope so.