At the age of 15, Leyden's life took an unfortunate turn when his parents divorced and he turned to punk rock and a violent skinhead culture to vent his anger. Fifteen years later, he had become one of the most successful organizers in the white supremacist movement. Truly and hatefully dedicated, he even hung a Nazi flag over the crib of his newborn son.
It took the stark realization of hearing and seeing his three-year-old son mocking his racist words and gestures for Leyden to make the decision to desert the white supremacist culture and search for a better life for himself and his sons.
This search led him to the California home of his mother and eventually to a job at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, where he acted as an anti-hate activist and educator. At first skeptical, the Wiesenthal Center staff spent many hours with Leyden, eventually recognizing his sincerity.
"I got the impression that this was a person who had a profound change of heart and was willing to tell the world he was wrong," said Rabbi Marvin Heir. "He was saying, everything I've stood for in the last decade was for nothing. That's admitting to a life's mistake."
The then 30-year-old ex-Marine became an educator, speaking at more than 100 high schools and various military groups, including the Pentagon. He also presented at Hate Crimes Summits and spoke to the FBI. To date, Leyden is the only former skinhead actively working to fight against the groups that once nurtured him.
White supremacist organizations frequently target him with death threats, and many of their Web sites have issued a "kill on sight" order against him. However, this fear is easier to deal with than the fear that his children will grow up haters, according to Leyden.
"I wasted a lot of time," Leyden said. "It's time for me to do something with my life. I would like to go to college and become a teacher. College students are activists. They can make a difference. I know that my story can have an impact with that group."
Leyden's presentation is straight talk, and it's not always pleasant. He speaks about the brutality with which he used to beat people simply because of their race. He describes how he and his friends would rob and harass homosexuals and Latinos just for sport.
He shows the 29 tattoos of swastikas and Nazi SS officers that cover the majority of his body, and he shares the recruiting methods of the neo-Nazis.
"We all need to be aware of the culture of hate that exists - otherwise we are powerless to fight against the violence and insanity that they breed," Leyden said. "As a recruiter, I figure I drafted at least 80 haters into the movement. So now my goal is to turn at least a million students the other way."
Investor’s Business Daily has an amazing editorial today suggesting that oil prices have probably peaked. It cites significant trading activity showing that some very big players are selling oil stocks like a herd of panicked elephants, unafraid to take losses now - because they know the losses are going to be bigger later. It’s really interesting stuff because this paper knows how to read stock markets in a systemic way and implicitly forecasts very well.A thimbleful of cognac to Frank IBC for this fascinating tidbit. I encourage you to click the Gustavo Coronel link as well and read about the mismanagement of PDVSA, the state oil company of Venezuela.
If this reading is correct, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is finally in for some very bad times. Right now he has held onto power not through popularity but through the high price of oil. Those oil earnings have been his tyrant’s premium, enabling him to oppress, wreck and ruin his once-vibrant country, as well as spread his influence abroad, with no apparent consequences. He’s flung money all over the hemisphere, and supported the moribund government of Cuba as well.
Gustavo Coronel has a powerful new essay on the already-shoddy state of finances of PDVSA, the Venezuelan state oil company, a pristine company when he was a board director with it, but now a tattered, bush-league, crummy shadow of its once-gleaming self since the Chavez takeover. He discusses the falling production, the dodgy balance sheets and the intransparency, all of which are preventing Venezuela from taking advantage of record-high oil prices in any meaningful way. Just imagine what would happen if oil prices fell? Read it here.
All of this could be adding up to very bad times ahead for Hugo Chavez. Keep an eye on him and what he’s doing, he may well know the gig is up and either grow more aggressive with his enemies, or stash more money abroad along with his cronies. Maybe both. Falling oil prices are his worst nightmare. Could cheap oil be conducive to democratic revolution? I think it could.
France, grappling for decades with its colonial past, has passed a law to put an upbeat spin on a painful era, making it mandatory to enshrine in textbooks the country's "positive role" in its far-flung colonies.You can imagine how the Algerians feel about this law: France Orders Positive Spin on Colonialism
A long-awaited U.N. report says the leadership of one member state conspired to assassinate the former leader of another member state. The time for diplomacy may be over.The UN is already taking steps to make sure nothing real happens:
Just days after opposition groups in Syria ended rivalries and declared a united front, the U.N. issued a 54-page report officially linking the government of Bashir Assad to murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The strongly worded report by chief investigator Detlev Mehlis said the decision to assassinate Hariri, someone Damascus feared would rally Lebanese opposition to continued Syrian occupation, "could not have been taken without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security officials" and their Lebanese counterparts.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he hoped to keep the report from tightening tension between Syria and Lebanon. But Hariri's murder touched off eight months of demonstrations over the decades long presence of Syrian troops and intelligence agents, forcing the withdrawal of the Syrian army. Evidence of direct Syrian involvement is likely to spark renewed outrage.
The report also comes shortly after the apparent suicide of former Syrian Interior Minister Brig. Gen. Ghazi Kenaan, Syria's top dog in Lebanon for two decades. He was found dead in his office a few weeks after being questioned by U.N. officials.
Some wonder if it was a suicide at all. Was he murdered because he knew too much? Was he offered the "choice" of "suicide"? Danielle Pletka, vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, told The New York Sun that it's "hard to believe that a person with a track record of murder, drug trafficking and unspeakable things would suddenly feel guilt" and take his own life.
The U.N. report is the latest evidence of Syrian efforts to undermine the hopes for Mideast peace and democracy . It was also one of the topics of an Oct. 18 breakfast meeting between Annan and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The Bush administration believes Syrian intelligence agents are still active in Lebanon, and in June Rice publicly told Damascus to "knock it off." The problem is Syria's refusal to recognize officially or publicly Lebanon's sovereignty. A Rice spokesman repeated Washington's call for Syria to open an embassy in Beirut, an act of recognition, something that it has refused to do.
The U.N. investigation continues, and it's certain the Security Council will hear well-founded calls for sanctions and other concrete steps to enforce its resolution calling for Syria to (1) withdraw from Lebanon and (2) quit interfering in Lebanon's affairs.
It may be time for something else — regime change. Certainly the Syrian resistance thinks so. Enough so that a motley crew of Syrian politicians and human rights activists, including communists, Kurdish nationalists, overseas Syrian exiles and imprisoned member Riad Seif, recently backed a joint declaration calling for an end to domestic repression and a national conference on democratic change.
That Syria has been a banker of and a haven for terrorists moving in and out of Iraq is well-known. Lawrence Eagleburger, secretary of state under Bush 41, has called Syria the Cambodia of the Iraq conflict — the place where terrorists, often non-Iraqis, can hide without fear of being attacked.
As democracy struggles to return to Lebanon and emerge in Iraq, it may be time to deal with a major impediment to both.
The report into the Feb. 14 car bomb that killed the popular opposition leader and 20 others stopped short of directly blaming Syrian President Bashar Assad or his inner circle. But it accused the regime of failing to cooperate in the inquiry and alleged that Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa lied in a letter to investigators.Fascinating.
It also cites one witness as saying Assad's brother-in-law, military intelligence chief Assef Shawkat, set up a false confession to Hariri's murder 15 days before the bombing.
But an earlier copy read by journalists because of a computer glitch named Assad's brother and included a second reference to Shawkat. That second reference said Shawkat, Assad's brother and three others decided to assassinate Hariri and met many times to plot the killing.
Chief investigator Detlev Mehlis said Friday he deleted the references because he did not want to give the impression the men were proven guilty.
"None of these changes were influenced by anyone," Mehlis said.