Date ►►► October 31, 2005
UN to Syria: It's Déjà-Vu All Over Again - UPDATED
UPDATE 5:18 pm PST: See below.
Once again, I must trot out poor, old Yogi Berra to explain international affairs.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) just voted unanimously to impose an inspection regime on Syria similar to that imposed on Iraq... but in this case, they're looking for evidence about Syria's involvement in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri.
But I have a question: suppose the team investigating Hariri's assassination, poring through records, comes across evidence that Syria accepted "large stockpiles" of weapons of mass destruction from their Baathist brothers in Iraq; is there any way that the investigation can be expanded to include that question?
I suppose I'm really asking three questions:
- Is there any possibility that the UN inspection team members would decide to follow such a lead if they stumbled across it?
- Is there any possibility that the UNSC could rein them in if they decided to do so?
- Is there any wiggle room for Syria to prevent the investigation turning that direction without violating the resolution?
Number 2 is the easiest to answer: since the United States and Britain are both permanent members and have veto authority in the UNSC, if the inspectors did start moving that direction, I don't believe the UNSC would, as a body, stop them; any such attempt to restrict the investigation would be vetoed by us and probably by the Brits as well.
Number 3 is so inside baseball that it could only by answered by an attorney familiar with this particular resolution and with "international law" in this area (those are scare quotes because I am very skeptical about the existence of international law in the first place). It certainly seems as if the leader of the inspection team, Detlev Mehlis, has the authority to pursue the case wherever he wants to take it:
The resolution grants the U.N.'s chief investigator, Detlev Mehlis of Germany, the authority to take his investigation anywhere in Syria, demand any documents and interview any individual, including Syrian President Bashar Assad, inside Syria or abroad. Syria is also required to abide by any request by Mehlis to arrest suspects, including Assad's closest aides and relatives.
So the most interesting question is number 1: suppose such evidence of WMD transfer cropped up... would Mehlis pursue it? He is the investigator who just submitted a hard-hitting report accusing Syria of active complicity in the assassination and also specifically naming a number of top Syrians, including chief of Syrian military intelligence Asef Shawkat (Bashar Assad's brother in law), President Bashar Assad's brother Maher, and other top members of the Assad regime. So it's pretty clear that Mehlis is rock solid on the assassination question.
But I don't know how he would react to discovering evidence on the two questions that are more interesting to me than the fairly settled issue of the Hariri bombing: did Iraq transfer its WMD to Syria before the war to prevent it being found, and is Syria actively complicit (as opposed to passively turning a blind eye) to terrorists crossing the border into Iraq to kill Americans and Iraqis?
How wide is Detlev Mehlis willing to expand his investigation to follow the evidence?
If he is more of a Norm Coleman or Richard Butler type, then I think the answer would be "as far as the evidence leads;" but if he's a Hans Blix clone, I would suspect "not one inch beyond the mandate."
My guess is he is somewhere in between those two extremes, so I'm left in a state of uncertainty.
One delicious Freudian slip on the part of the Syrians is contained in the article, though the Washington Post reporter, Colum Lynch, doesn't seem to have noticed:
The Syrian foreign minister, Farouk Sharaa, said Syria would cooperate, but he argued that the U.N. report produced no evidence that Syrians had committed a crime. He denied that Syrians knew in advance of the plans to kill Hariri and said such suggestions were akin to saying that U.S. officials were aware that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were coming or that British officials expected the subway bombings last summer.
In other words, Sharaa drew a comparison between the United States suffering an attack on American soil and Great Britain suffering an attack on British soil -- with a terrorist attack on Lebanese soil. Is he admitting that the Syrians consider Lebanon a "renegade province" of Syria, as Saddam Hussein used to consider Kuwait to be Province 19 of Iraq, and as China considers Taiwan to be a breakaway part of Red China? An interesting admission!
One excellent sign: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice used exactly the same phrase, "serious consequences," to describe what would happen if Syria refused to cooperate as UN Resolution 1441 threatened if Iraq refused to cooperate -- which, of course, is just what he failed to do.
Even if the United Nations refuses, at the end, to enforce its own resolution (again), let's hope that America will show as much resolve in 2006 as we did in 2003.
UPDATE: Captain Ed at Captain's Quarters earlier predicted dire consequences for the Assad dynasty if this resolution passed... which of course it did, unanimously. If Detlev Mehlis exercises his mandate and demands that Bashar Assad hand over military intelligence chief Asef Shawkat or Assad's brother Maher Assad, this puts the Syrian president in a quandry:
Assad doesn't generate the same kind of fear his father did, and that means his enemies will not find themselves cowed merely by his personality the way they might have with his father.
Turning over the suspects, of course, means coughing up his own family and the people at the top of the military intelligence apparatus. Before that happens, the military will likely have something to say about protecting its own, especially after suffering the humiliation of the withdrawal from Lebanon just this year. That looks like actual suicide, rather than political suicide.
If Assad chooses not to turn over the suspects, it will likely trigger real economic sanctions: even Russia and China will be hard-pressed to vote against such sanctions if Syria thumbs its nose at the resolution that they, themselves supported. As Ed notes,
After losing Lebanon for economic exploitation, the Syrians cannot afford any more economic hurdles and will not handle this kind of outside assault. The collapse of the Syrian economy will force the monied interests out of the country, and those have provided Assad with most of his power base.
So if Ed is correct, then the real question is who will follow Bashar Assad in the UnComfy Chair? If Syria suffers an actual coup d'etat, that might well open the door for the US forces just across the border to intervene much more directly and aggressively by launching attacks on so-called "safe cities" inside Syria, where terrorists gather and plot before infiltrating into Iraq.
It also might make it easier for Syrian democrats -- and I am sure they exist -- to try to seize their own country back from the vicious Baathists who have ruled there since 1963, after Syria split from the United Arab Republic (under which Syria had unified into a single country with Gamil Nasser's Egypt). If so, I hope that we offer whatever support such democrats may request from our nearby troops and airpower.
Judge Alito -- Breaking News!
According to Hugh Hewitt, Charles Schumer is "slowing" the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court; I haven't yet seen this in print, but he did say that "it is a question" whether Alito would "reverse much of what Rosa Parks and so many others fought so long and so hard to put into place," as reported by Hugh. (I just heard the audio clip of Schumer using this phrase, so it's not just Hugh's word.)
Hugh had the same idea as I on the point of the delay: it's not out of any idea that Schumer and the other rejectionists could gather enough support to stop Alito's confirmation; rather, they hope to delay his confirmation long enough that Sandra Day O'Connor, not Samuel Alito, will decide the two abortion cases that will be argued in November.
But Hugh also reports that Lindsay Graham (R-SC) has as much as signalled that he will not support a filibuster against Judge Alito, and that he will support the "constitutional option" if the Democrats try. And just now, I heard with my own ears (not someone else's ears) Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) explicitly say that he sees nothing in the way of "extraordinary circumstances" in the Alito nomination and that DeWine too would support the constitutional option if the Democrats filibuster.
That means two members of the Gang of Fourteen (specifically, the Seven Dwarfs contingent) have now come out in favor of the constitutional option -- banning judicial filibusters altogether -- if the Democrats filibuster Alito, as Patterico long-ago predicted the Democrats would for anybody that Bush nominated to his second Supreme Court opening.
Assuming that neither Arlen Specter (R-PA) nor Chuck Hagel (R-NE) would refuse to pull the trigger on that option, that means that the Democrats can get no more than five Republicans to vote against it... and that is not enough; with Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote, the rules change would in fact pass. (Assuming, that is, that no Republican is unable to make the vote due to illness.) Though I'm also a bit concerned about Chuch Grassley (R-IA),
Speaking of Patterico, he also discusses this question.
I am convinced that Specter, in his present capacity as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, could not reasonably vote against the constitutional option in the context of a Democratic filibuster against Alito. So we need to get one more Squish on record out of the following group: John McCain (R-AZ), Chuck Hagel, Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and John Warner (R-VA). I suspect Hagel, McCain, and Warner will make it clear before the hearings that they see no "extraordinary circumstances" in the Alito nomination.
It's looking good. The only question is whether the Democrats go ahead and force a filibuster, thus allowing the Senate to ban such tactics, or whether they read the tea leaves and drop the idea, just to keep that possiblity open for the future. (But who would they be waiting for, other than Samuel Alito? Is there anyone reasonably imaginable that Bush could nominate who would be worse for the Democrats than Alito?)
While You Were Aimlessly Frittering Your Time Away...
...Over the weekend, in keeping with your drab, wretched lives that have all the drama of an episode of MisteRogers' Neighborhood, we here at Big Lizards were engaged in the exciting industry of blog production!
In fact, we producted -- er, produced -- two posts this weekend, one each day, that you might enjoy:
Saturday, October 29th, 2005
- The Dog That Didn't Bark, in which I note that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald declined to charge I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby with conspiracy, and that this very likely means Fitzgerald does not believe Karl Rove (or Dick Cheney) either told Libby to leak the information about Joseph Wilson's wife being in the CIA or to lie or obstruct Fitzgerald's investigation. In other words, as I predicted ages ago (here, here, here, and here), Rove is off the hook.
Sunday, October 30th, 2005
- Iraqi Kumbaya, in which Sachi reports the Good News that politics is breaking out all over Iraq!
Realistically speaking, y'all should be reading Big Lizards nine or ten times a day. (But be sure to allow a half-hour cooling-off period between readings, so each will register as a separate "hit" on SiteMeter.)
AP Sez Alito! -- and It's Now Official
AP says that President Bush has selected Judge Samuel Alito to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. And President Bush is currently announcing Judge Alito's nomination even as I type these words.
Here is Alito's c.v. from the Federal Judicial Center:
Born 1950 in Trenton, NJ
Federal Judicial Service:
U. S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
Nominated by George H.W. Bush on February 20, 1990, to a seat vacated by John Joseph Gibbons; Confirmed by the Senate on April 27, 1990, and received commission on April 30, 1990.
Princeton University, A.B., 1972
Yale Law School, J.D., 1975
Law clerk, Hon. Leonard I. Garth, U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, 1976-1977
Assistant U.S. attorney, District of New Jersey, 1977-1981
Assistant to the U.S. solicitor general, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, 1981-1985
Deputy assistant U.S. attorney general, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, 1985-1987
U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, 1987-1990
Race or Ethnicity: White
(To find this, go here and type alito,samuel in the text box, and press Enter; click on the link that appears.)
I would love to see Patterico scramble to explain this post! Relevant quote:
If you believe this commenter at Confirm Them, Alito is out because Arlen Specter doesn’t like him. [Please see both updates to this post.]
Good Lord. Does Bush want Specter’s blessing or that of his base? Because they’re not the same thing.
Has he learned nothing from the Miers debacle?
Heh... we went from "if you believe" to "has he learned nothing -- ?" in just five sentences!
Patterico reminds me of Mark Twain's story about a cat who sat on a hot stove. It was such a painful lesson that he never sat on a hot stove again.
Trouble was, he never again sat on a cold stove, either!
Just Go Right in There and Get 'Em!
Yesterday, Captain Ed had an interesting and troubling post on the rise of a particularly vicious Central-American gang called Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, M-18, or MS. At the end of the post, Captain Ed noted that deportations have had virtually no effect on gang members, who now number more than 50,000; they simply sneak right back into the United States again the moment they are released. He ends with this ringing demand:
We need to demand that Congress finally do something about the southern border and the flood of illegals that come across it if we purport to take security seriously, especially in this age of terror. We made an impact on the Supreme Court and on spending just by speaking out -- and we need to do so on this issue as well. [Emphasis added]
All right. Like what, exactly?
Note, I want specifics: not like Phil Donohue's prescription for how he would have captured Osama bin Laden without invading Afghanistan: "I would just go right in there and get him!" Ed links Michelle Malkin (Chris Kelly writing) -- another brilliant blog whose brilliance seems to fade a bit on this particular issue; Kelly suggests no more of a solution than does Captain Ed.
There are probably about 12,000,000 illegal immigrants in the U.S. How do you round up this many people? How many cops would it take? Do we need to rewrite the posse comitatus act to set the military loose to search American houses and arrest people they suspect of being criminals? How many soldiers do we pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention Central America, to play police officer when they have had exactly zero training for that function?
Where do we put all these detainees as we round 'em up? Reopen Manzanar for anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant? Even at a rate of one hearing every five minutes, it would take more than 37 years just to process the first million detainees -- and you still have 11,000,000 to go. Plus however many slip across during that first 37-year period. How many courtrooms, judges, court reporters, and clerks are we going to dedicate to doing nothing but processing these hearings? And since the arresting agent would have to testify in any case where irregularies were alleged by the detainee, how many Border Patrol and soldiers do we pull from the line to hang around the courthouse in case they're needed?
And when the hearings end, what do we do with the proven illegals? Deport them?
Nothing, absolutely nothing, is going to work so long as we're dealing with millions of people. Before anything else is done, we must create incentives for the illegales to regularize themselves. And we only do that by offering something: people who have hidden here for years are not going to turn themselves in for nothing.
President Bush's plan might not be the best we can construct; Congress will have its say. But without first separating the "people [who] want nothing more than economic opportunity" -- the vast majority -- from the criminal scum who join gangs like MS-13 (or worse, al-Qaeda), everything we do will be overwhelmed by sheer numbers. As any engineer knows, any structure, no matter how sturdy, will collapse under its own weight if you make it big enough.
There is no blinking it: we are going to have to offer carrots along with the stick to get undocumented aliens to turn themselves in voluntarily. There is no alternative. Some may wrongly term this "amnesty;" but given the choice between the unpalatable and the impossible, I know which I would select.
I grew up listening almost exclusively to classical music ("classical" used in the general sense to include baroque, classical, romantic, etc.) When I went away to university, I started listening to rock... but in typical reptillian unfashionable fashion, I focused on rock from an earlier era than the 1980s; I listened to tons of acid rock: Iron Butterfly, Country Joe and the Fish, early Pink Floyd -- the Syd Barrett period -- along with lots of progressive rock, mostly King Crimson, Yes, ELP, Bowie, Gilmour-era Pink Floyd, and so forth... all stuff that was already a decade old or more when I first heard it.
Very recently, Sachi (another recent convert) has gotten me interested in country music -- mostly the newer stuff from Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Gretchen Wilson, and suchlike, but also older country from Hank Williams (sr. and Bosephus), Junior Brown, and even the Sons of the Pioneers (Roy Rogers' first group, started at the beginning of the 1930s). A later incarnation of Sons of the Pioneers included the amazingly good lead singer Ken Curtis -- who you might know better as Festus Haggen, the scruffy deputy with the strange accent on the TV show Gunsmoke.
I had always liked blues; but a few years ago, I found and loved Jimmie Rodgers, probably the first country-bluesman and direct inspiration for Gene Autry, who also began his career singing country-inspired blues (including several covers of Rodgers, including "Frankie and Johnny," "In the Jailhouse Now," some of the "Blue Yodels," and so on).
To me, country represents the real lives of real people. I would turn to the progressive rock of the 70s for cosmic consciousness, and to classical music for transcendancy. But for the personal moment, songs like Keith's "Huckleberry" or Paisley's "Alcohol" just can't be bettered.
But more and more, contemporary country is losing some of the distinctive "twang" that has both defined and bedeviled it since the earliest days. Alt-country especially sounds like a country-cousin to rock anymore.
So I'm turning to any long-time country fans to help me out here: how would you define the essence of country and how it differs from rock? Is it the values? the attitude? a particular element of the songs themselves that I've missed?
Enquiring ears want to know!
Happy Samhain Eve!
May all your ghosts, goblins, witches, and power-saw murderers be unectoplasmic, nonhumanitarians ("humanitarian" as in "vegetarian"), wartless, and purely pretend, respectively!
Calling for Iraqi Bill of Rights
Omar on Iraq the Model reports on a conference he just attended. It was called Oath of Iraq (Ahd Al-Iraq), organized by a number of prominent Iraqi women and including powerful members of the national and tribal governments:
The event was attended by more than a few female Assembly members as well as several tribal sheiks and representatives of other political entities and organizations…one can fairly say that a wide range of social and political the spectrum of Iraq population was well represented in the event.
The group seems to be an attempt to enact an Iraqi bill of rights as the first amendments to the Iraqi constitution. The conferees initially proposed five amendments:
- A requirement for the explicit definition of the term of art "public order and ethics," which the constitution allows as a limit on certain basic rights and freedoms (speech, press, assembly, peaceful protest). Otherwise, individual judges can invoke it whenever they don't like the free exercise of freedom.
(Someone should warn Omar that even defining it doesn't always work... as we've found out with regard to the Second Amendment, the "interstate commerce" clause, and too many others!)
- An amendment "to return back to the civil law legislated back in 1959 and to prevent Shareat [Sharia] laws from replacing that law."
- Clarifying the qualifications of the supreme federal court, the requirement that Sharia judges not outnumber legal judges, and the demand for at least 25% of the court to be female.
- Requiring the Committee to review all laws to ensure they do not violate the Iraqi constitution.
- Requiring the Higher Human Rights Committee to review all laws to ensure they do not violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
They had better tread carefully with that last amendment, and with the constitutional invocation (explicit and implicit) of the Universal Declaration. It is a bludgeon used by the United Nations to force conformity with European social-welfare policies and includes such whoppers as....
- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
- Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
- Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
- Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
- Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
And so forth. All these look nice on paper -- but the first is so vague as to justify anything, while the last is out and out Socialism; the others more or less boil down to the requirement that the productive labor on behalf of the unproductive... which seems to violate Article 4:
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
One more amendment was proposed by a tribal sheikh of Sadr City, and this one seems eminently reasonable. As Omar puts it in the post from Iraq the Model:
The entire crowd welcomed the notes of one tribal Sheik from Sadr city who raised an objection to one clause in the punishment law which states that teachers and husbands should not be persecuted if they use disciplinary beating against their students or wives respectively. in his unexpected note, the sheik asked the committee to include correcting this clause in its agenda. [Emphasis added]
Given the abuse of both women and students that is endemic in the Arab Middle East, such an amendment is vital.
Date ►►► October 30, 2005
Togetherness is breaking out all over Iraq... and I understand that some sort of election might be about to be held. (Pssst! Nobody tell the Democrats... Carville and Begala might head out to drum up support for Hillary in 2008.)
Since the victory of the Iraqi constitution, an amazing thing has happened: in the midst of a terrorist war, Shia, Kurds, and even Sunni have begun to act like civilized people gearing up for an election: they're campaigning, making alliances of political convenience, giving speeches, and I wouldn't be surprised if they kissed a baby or two.
This is remarkable, because less than three years ago, they lived in a dictatorship that had never held a real, contested election in their lifetimes. The success of Iraq gives this skeptic of "nation building" a lot to ponder.
Islam Online reports that it's not just the Iraqi Islamic Party, but all three of the biggest Sunni parties have joined together to urge Sunnis to vote in the December elections -- and to warn them against boycotting this time.
The Conference of the People of Iraq (CPI), the Islamic Party and the Iraqi National Dialogue (IND) joined the political fray in Iraq on October 14 as one entity on October 14 to run in parliamentary elections.
"We want to run as a political bloc in the next elections in order to obtain the best results," IND head Sheikh Khalaf Alayan told reporters on Wednesday.
CPI chief Adnan Al-Dulaimi criticized those who might call for a boycott of the vote, saying they "sought to destroy the country".
"We hope that those who oppose this consultation will not place obstacles in our path," added Islamic Party number two Tareq Al-Hashimi.
In related and very odd -- and probably good -- news, even Muqtada Sadr, renegade functionally illiterate Shiite "scholar" and great disappointment to his revered father has, for the moment at least, given up his Mighty al-Mahti Militia and joined with the Sunni Arabs in Anbar province to present a joint slate of candidates for the Iraqi parliament:
NAJAF, Iraq, October 26, 2005 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) - Shiite leader Moqtada Al-Sadr said Wednesday, October 26, he would present a joint list of candidates with Sunni Arabs in Al-Anbar province to contest the December 15 legislative elections.
The office of the anti-occupation firebrand said it decided to ally itself with the Sunnis due to "the difficult situation facing the country, to prevent the occupier and enemies of Iraq from attaining their goals, to consolidate national identity and to reaffirm its unity," reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Sadr's deputy, Fattah Al-Sheikh, joins eight Sunni candidates on a list for the Anbar representation. While we're not great admirers of the buffoon Sadr (as you can probably tell), at least it's a step in the right direction that he wants to run for Parliament instead of holing himself up in a mosque in Najaf and threatening to destroy the 6,225th most holy site in the entire ummah.
In really unalloyed good news, the largest Islamic association in Iraq, the Association of Muslim Scholars (Hayat Al-Ulama Al-Muslimin), has decided not to call for a boycott this time -- at least for now. With all the major Sunni political groups in Iraq now calling for Sunnis to vote, not boycott, it's likely this Sunni association will do so too.
Regardless of whether we like or dislike various political parties in Iraq, it's just plain better that they fight against each other with political campaigns and parliamentary votes than Kalashnikovs and car bombs.
Let me give over the floor to Mohammed of Iraq the Model; he wrote some stirring words today at the end of a post describing all the new parties and alliances and political factions lining up for the election. It's like there's suddenly politics going on in heart of the Arab Middle East! Western style politics, as in Spain or France. Iraq has made amazing strides in just two and a half years... which is a tribute not only to the Iraqis themselves (of course) but also to a man named George W. Bush.
[I]t has to be acknowledged that the political experiment in Iraq has matured by far during these two and a half years and the political language slowly began to take more realistic dimensions and we can sense a growing faith in the ways of democracy giving some sort of special divinity to the ballot box which shall remain the only base for building a new Iraq. The more Iraqis believe in elections and in voting as a way to express themselves, the weaker violence becomes and the more isolated the terrorists will be. Iraqis will prove that they do believe in democracy and they do want liberty and justice and the[y] will show the region an example of how partners can work out their differences in spite of all the hardships. [Emphasis added]
Well, he ought to know!
Date ►►► October 29, 2005
The Dog That Didn't Bark
In the 1892 Sherlock Holmes story "Silver Blaze," the following exchange occurs as Colonel Ross queries Holmes, the conversation being related by the ever helpful Watson:
"Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
"The dog did nothing in the night-time."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.
In fact, this turned out to be the key to the mystery: that the dog did not bark when the horse Silver Blaze was led out of the barn. In the Plame Name Blame Game, what is the curious incident, the dog that didn't bark? It is the fact that Patrick Fitzgerald did not charge Lewis "Scooter" Libby with conspiracy. I saw this mentioned a couple of times, but I was a little slow on the uptake (and also not a lawyer), so the significance of this point escaped me. But at last the penny dropped today.
Here is what I finally realized: I believe a prosecutor can charge conspiracy against one party to the criminal agreement even if he doesn't charge it against anyone else -- hence the phrase "unindicted co-conspirator." That is, you can charge Fred Flintstone with entering into a conspiracy with Barney Rubble to commit mopery with intent to gawk... even if you don't have enough evidence against Barney to charge him as well.
The point is this: even if Patrick Fitzgerald didn't have quite enough evidence to charge Karl Rove or Dick Cheney, but he believed they had all conspired with Libby to leak Plame's name -- or else to orchestrate a series of denials to obstruct his probe afterwards -- Fitzgerald could still have charged Libby himself with conspiracy. Frequently such charges, carrying very significant prison time, induce the charged person to sing, implicating his co-conspirators in an effort to reduce his own punishment... especially if he knows the prosecutor would rather have the scalp of the capo who ordered the hit than the button-man who carried it out.
The fact that Fitzgerald did not charge conspiracy is an even stronger exoneration than the fact that he didn't indict Rove or Cheney: the latter might simply mean he thinks they lied but can't prove it; but since he actually has a case against Libby for lying (as clearly he does), then that supplies the overt act -- and all he would need besides is mere agreement to turn it into a heavy conspiracy charge.
Evidently, Fitzgerald just doesn't have evidence that they all got together either to out Valerie Plame or else to lie about it afterward. In other words, despite ominous words about the investigation still being "open," I suspect that's it: it's over as far as any other big names are concerned. If anyone had been named but not indicted, we might think that Fitzgerald had some evidence, and if he squeezed Libby hard enough, more indictments might forthcome. But with even that possibility gone, "Fitzmas," as Captain Ed puts it, seems to have left the Left only a lump of coal in its collective sock.
My guess is that Libby won't go to trial. I think he'll push on for a few months, trying to raise some doubt; then he'll take the best bargain he can get. Even if he loses his law license, he can still make money writing a book and going on the lecture circuit.
It will end with a whimper.
Date ►►► October 28, 2005
Survey Says... Whaddit Say?
Today, Big Lizards offers a delectable Smorgasbord of poll results... take your pick!
Daniel Weintraub's Bee-blog California Insider links to a poll by the left-leaning* Public Policy Institute of California; he previously linked to Survey USA's poll of the same race; and he quotes from Governor Schwarzenegger's team on their internal polling on the four issues the governor put on the ballot. This table compares all three sources. Note that the governor's campaign polling did not issue actual figures, but they characterized them.
Frankly, I'm inclined to go with the third, the governor's version: first, it's in between the other two; second, campaign polling is often the most accurate of all -- unless they're lying about it, of course. But it doesn't sound like it, or they would have said they were all leading (since then Survey USA would give them cover).
In any event, I'll post 'em all here, so that everybody on all sides can feel depressed and anxious!
Survey USA (in bold) has all the measures up! Public Policy Institute (italics) has all of them down! The Governator's campaign polling (ordinary Roman type) has the results mixed!
- Prop 74: Teacher Tenure Reform
53 yes, 45 no (1% undecided) lead: +8
46 yes, 48 no (6% undecided) trail -2
- Prop 75: Paycheck Protection
56 yes, 42 no (2% undecided) lead: +14
46 yes, 46 no, (8% undecided) dead even
- Prop 76: Limit State Spending Growth
54 yes, 41 no (5% undecided) lead: +13
30 yes, 62 no (8% undecided) trail -32
- Prop 77: Redistricting Reform
54 yes, 41 no (5% undecided) lead: +13
36 yes, 50 no (14% undecided) trail -14
Well... now you know why I tend not to take polling very seriously!
* "Left leaning Public Policy Institute of California": in the poll, 60% disapprove of George Bush, but only 29% disapprove of Barbara Boxer. There are a lot of liberals in California, but not that many! If there were, then why did the 2002 gubernatorial election go down to the wire with Gray Davis winning only 47.4% to 42.4% against one of the (let's face it) geekiest major electoral candidates ever, Bill Simon?
What I Don't Get...
And maybe somebody can help me, is why bother mentioning Wilson's wife at all?
Here is the problem: Joe Wilson was sent to Africa by the CIA (by whatever means) to investigate the claim that Iraq had tried to purchase yellowcake from Niger. When he returned, he said during his debriefing several things that made the charge seem more likely (the speculation from the prime minister of Niger, for example).
But then he turned around and began leaking lies to the press, and eventually went public in an op-ed lie in the New York Times (find it here to avoid those annoying ads), to the effect that he had found the precise opposite: Wilson pretended that he had found no evidence of Iraq trying to buy Uranium in Africa, that he told the CIA this, that it was passed up the chain, and that Bush had deliberately told a falsehood in his State of the Union address.
All right, so there was a problem: the public was being spoonfed the Joe-Wilson confabulation that he had debunked the claim that later made its way into the president's speech. And I agree, that needed to be countered.
But how the hell does it counter that point to say that Wilson was suggested for the job by his CIA wife, Valerie Plame? Who cares?
Suppose Wilson's false leaks were instead true: suppose he had actually disproven the claim, and suppose Bush had deliberately used a false claim to take us to war. Would the fact that Joe had been suggested by Mrs. Joe have made such a presidential lie all right?
Of course not. As juicy a tidbit of gossip as that was, it was a complete non-sequitur to the most urgent point, which was to refute Joseph Wilson's lies. Am I wrong?
The correct line of attack -- why didn't they listen to me? -- would have been for the president to immediately declassify and openly release to the press Wilson's CIA defbriefing. That would have been perfectly legal, and unlike what they did, it would have been devastating to Wilson's slander and libel of the Bush administration.
I guess my conclusion is that Republicans in general and the Bush administration in particular are terrible dirty fighters. I mean that literally: at the skill of being a dirty fighter, they're wretchedly incompetent! The real problem is that they have so little practice. Their hearts just aren't in it. Unlike the Leftist fantasy, Bush just hasn't slimed, smeared, or destroyed enough people, the way the Clintons did every day and twice on Rosh Hashonah.
Republicans need to watch a marathon of Mission: Impossible.
The Grand Mulligan
At last, Real Clear Politics has a real clear blog! So far, I love it. I had no idea this was coming; I knew that the paucity of "commentary" was due to an ongoing site redesign, but even before they started that, Tom and John tended to post little each week... I hope they can keep up the current pace.
John MacIntyre's only contribution so far (he posted it twice, first as preview) is also, in my opinion, the most significant:
The politics of this is very simple to distill: 24 hours ago liberals were giddy in anticipation of multiple indictments and what other early Christmas presents the Special Prosecutor might bring. Meanwhile, conservatives were despondent over the prospect of having to beat up on a President they want to support, all because of the unfortunate Miers nomination.
With the announcement of Miers' withdrawal everything changed. Conservatives are the happiest and most energized they have been in months. Liberals like Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy have a sick feeling in their stomach, because they realize the conservative suicide pact has been called off and the Senate is likely to get a rock solid appointment who is anathema to everything they believe - and they know there is little they can do to stop that person from getting on the court.
Let me amplify that if I can. It's very, very common for the presidential wheels to come off in the second term: it happened to Clinton, who spent years fighting impeachment; to Reagan, who had to deal with Iran-Contra; to Nixon (duh!); and to Johnson, whose Vietnam troubles forced him to withdraw from reelection in 1968. The last president to have a fairly smooth second term was Dwight D. Eisenhower, and that began nearly fifty years ago!
What is not so common is for a president in his second term to get a Mulligan. I don't play golf, but I understand that means a do-over. Reagan earned himself a Mulligan with his magnificant speech in which he apologized to the American people for allowing personal concern for the hostages to overwhelm his common sense, leading him to make an arms-for-hostages deal. (I actually think that Iran-Contra policy was correct, by the way; but the speech was still a transcendent political moment.) After that point, his approval soared, and he was able to complete an ambitious second-term agenda, with more tax cutting and the final vindication of his stubbornness in the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START), the beginning of the collapse of the Evil Empire.
I do not believe Bush pushed Miers out the airlock. I think that was entirely her idea. And I know that Bush did not armtwist Patrick Fitzgerald into laying the golden egg -- one major indictment after two plus years of high-profile investigation, and it was an indictment of someone that 75% of the electorate has likely never heard of, a man with the improbable name of "Scooter." Yeah, yeah, the investigation continues, blah blah. But the admission that after two years and millions of dollars, Fitzgerald still could not find even a single charge to lay against Karl Rove makes it extraordinarily unlikely that the next couple of years with a different grand jury will turn up anything significant.
So I guess somebody out there just plain likes George W. Bush. (I wonder if he's given God a nickname?)
But gift it was; Christmas came early for the Bush family. And now W. has the chance to start off fresh with a reasonably clear scandal slate -- and a unified base, assuming he takes advantage and names a "consensus" candidate... where the consensus is between the various wings of the Republican Party, and to hell with what Ted Kennedy and Charles Schumer want!
There are two main areas where Bush needs to offer a strong proposal: spending and immigration. In both cases, he can build on ideas he has been floating for years, but which he has been too busy with other agenda items -- like, you know, an economic crash he inherited from his predecessor, ditto a staggering terrorist attack, and fighting two wars -- to really pursue: illegal immigration and excess federal spending.
Take a look at a couple of ideas for both of them; I plucked these from ideas that Bush himself has floated, but which are still in "emergent" form, not yet fully articulated to the American people or to Congress:
- He really does have an immigration plan, and it really is significantly different from the "amnesty" caricature that the Tancredoites have flung at it.
He has a very good story to tell here: everybody now agrees that with the present flood across (mostly) the southern border, there is no possible way to wall them all out -- let alone round up millions of people already here, hold them (where, in special camps?) while awaiting immigration status determination, and then ship them somewhere, anywhere, especially if the countries of origin refuse to accept them.
The only possible way to get control of our borders is first to reduce the number of otherwise honest immigrants who sneak in solely to work and earn a better life for their familiies. The system must be regularized, giving would-be immigrants a clear path they can follow that will lead from immigration to assimilation to citizenship -- with lots of emphasis on that middle item, how to be an American. Give immigrants a door, and they won't keep trying to come in by the window.
Yes, I've heard the arguments: why should we reward all those illegal immigrants by letting them in? The problem is that finger-pointing has led to nothing but millions more immigrants... completely unregulated, out of control, and invisible to the eyes of the INS. Great plan!
The obvious analogy is to a flood -- and a dam: if you stop and think about it, no matter how strong your dam is, the swelling water will eventually shatter it or overflow the top unless you let just as much water through the floodgates as pours in at the back end. Again, duh! The only question is whether the deluge sneaks over the top and around the sides, or overwhelms us entirely -- or is channeled and controlled through the gates... where it can be harnessed to generate energy and push this increasingly soggy analogy to the breaking point.
If Bush were to couple immigration reform and regularization with a vigorous effort to beef up terrorism-focused border security, particularly at the northern border and the ports, and heavy sanctions on companies that hire illegal aliens, I think he could even get Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) on his side... especially if he were to reach across to Tancredo and John McCain for help in developing the program in the first place.
You can't bring the hammer down on companies now, because they need to hire immigrants to survive; but once they can get that lower cost, unskilled labor legally (which today they cannot), there is no more excuse to get it illegally. I'm talking jail time for corporate officers.
And when the decent and honest immigrants are coming in openly through the door, that frees the border patrol to act more like the military against those evil-doers who still try to sneak in under the wire, since there must be some nefarious reason why they can't just go through the checkpoints legally like everybody else.
We need better checking of ships' cargo and a refocus of the CIA onto tracking known terrorists, even when they're "whitewashed" through the Great White North... something like Able Danger, with no apologies and no bowing to the PC crowd. It's a great idea, and it's about time Bush put the hard choice to Congress with a truly hard sell -- and totally out in the open. I think the American people would be behind it, if you told them of the program's successes, even in the limited form it had. I'll bet most Americans don't even know about it (sadly, most Americans don't read Captain's Quarters!)
- A presidential plan to rein in spending. Alas, Republicans discovered that they, too, can imitate drunken sailors when they get control of the Congressional grouch bag. This has got to stop. Republicans disagree on what constitutes valid spending, but every one of us agrees that spending is too high.
Sen. Tom Coburn's (R-OK) approach was well intentioned but stupidly executed: why go after only one senator's pork, and one of the most powerful ones at that -- Senator-for-Life Ted Stevens of Alaska? Everyone in the Senate pushes for "pork," and one man's pork is another man's urgently needed projects for the constituency.
There is nothing wrong with pork; there's just too much of it. So instead of trying to completely eliminate it, why not just reduce it... for everyone? Since everyone in the House supposedly represents the same number of constituents (more or less), give everyone a "pork allotment": that allotment can be traded to other representatives (consolidated) in exchange for various other favors -- keeping a helpful federal program going, for example -- but the total level would be limited, and the president would promise to veto any budget that failed to abide by the pork allotment. For senators, it's a little tricker, because they represent varying amounts of people; but some formula based on the allotments for each representative within the state, so the House and Senate versions of the budget are the same, should work.
Not everyone would go along at first... but if the president were to veto a budget or two, just to prove that he's now serious about it, the American people would cheer. And there would be no way to override such a veto in the face of overwhelming public pressure to "hold down spending," especially since Bush could use the fairness argument: there is an overall pork allotment, and as with Milo Minderbinder, "everybody has a share."
In fact, I think it would be a stroke of genius if Bush were to call it exactly that: a Pork Allotment. He could explain it to the American people with a wry grin, then go on to praise local "pork" projects, and say that he didn't want to stop all that... just hold it down enough that overall spending can be decreased. The amount of pork allowed per budget would be deterimined by the state of the economy: more pork when the economy is good, less if it turns down. Perhaps even an exterior panel, similar to the Base Closure and Realignment Commission, which determines in a bipartisan way which military bases to close or move, and which has been tremendously successful in Congress. (Everyone grouses about it, but they still accept the recommendations.)
Bush could join that to a general cut in many other, larger budget items -- across the board, even some aspects of the military budget (we can get into that later). The combination would make it clear the Republicans were utterly serious about stopping the spending spree.
With those in place, we would see a reinvigorated presidency, one of those rare times when the second term could produce more substantial achievements than even the first -- which "merely" produced tax cuts, corporate reform, strong economic recovery from the Clinton Recession of 2000-2002, recovery from the worst terrorist attack in American history, the transformation of two terrorist states into democracies, the reintroduction of faith into social work (and I'm not talking about Harriet Miers' nomination!), the realignment of much of the district- and circuit-cout judiciary towards judicial conservatism (that finally began to occur after the 2004 reelection, but the seeds were planted starting in 2001), and the brilliant idea -- which needs to explode forth into new proposals this term -- of the "ownership society."
If Bush grabs hold of this Grand Mulligan and does just a couple things right, the rest will fall into place... and in 2008, the Republican nominee for president will welcome President Bush's help barnstorming across the country!
I supported Harriet Miers' confirmation (with, as I said, caveats) because I thought it was bad for the party if she were rejected or forced to withdraw.
She was of course forced out, and I do believe damage has been done to the party -- hence to the country, because the Democrats are so wretched and such appeasers that anything that gives them political support is, I believe, bad for America. (If in the future they find their way back home to sanity, I will withdraw this sentiment.)
Damage has been done; do not be deceived. But repairs are still possible... if we act swiftly.
Clearly, the president must nominate someone who is acceptable to the judicial conservatives, but also someone who will not so turn off the Seven Dwarfs that they refuse to pull the trigger on the Byrd option, stopping a filibuster. That is not an easy task.
Hugh Hewitt suggests Michael McConnell. He is trying for an end-run in this case: McConnell was not filibustered last time around; the J-Com sat on his nomination for more than a year, but that was because of Jumpin' Jim Jeffords,
Republican Democrat from Vermont, who gave the chairmanship to Patrick "Leaky" Leahy. (What with Leahy and Fitzgerald, I have decided that from now on, I will be instantly suspicious of anybody named Patrick.) Hugh's idea is that, having refused to filibuster McConnell in 2002 -- he was confirmed after the election which gave control back to the Republicans, but before the new Congress was even seated! -- the Gang of 14 would find it very hard indeed to yell "extraordinary circumstances" now in 2005. Thus, Hugh reasons, they wouldn't get the votes they need to stop cloture; so the "nuclear option" wouldn't even come into play.
Numbers, numbers, numbers. Both sides are plagued by numbers. Most Republicans (I think) want to eliminate judicial filibusters altogether. The principled argument is that the Senate has a constitutional duty to advise and either consent or reject in a timely manner. The filibuster leaves the nominee in limbo, neither confirmed nor chucked out -- and is an abdication of Senatorial duty. If he were rejected, the president could name another nominee; but with the nomination still pending, the slot just stays open. On the Supreme Court, that would mean an eight-justice panel that could end up splitting 4-4 endlessly, leaving appellate court rulings in place -- even when they contradict each other from circuit to circuit.
But to get this passed, they need at least 51 votes, one of which can come from Vice President Dick Cheney if the Senate splits 50-50. There are 55 Republicans in the Senate; so they can lose up to five Republican senators and still vote to end judicial filibusters; but if they lose six, they lose the vote (I am assuming no Democrats will vote for the Byrd Option).
The "Seven Dwarfs" (Republican members of the "Gang of 14") are John McCain (AZ), Mike DeWine (OH), Lindsay Graham (SC), John Warner (VA), Olympia Snowe (ME), Susan Collins (ME), and Lincoln Chafee (RI). Two others not in the Gang but still potentially trouble are Arlen Specter (PA) and Charles Grassley (IA).
I believe Chafee, Snowe, and Collins are very likely defectors on this vote; so the GOP can only afford to lose two out of the remaining six worrisome senators in order to push this through.
But the Democrats have their own numbers to fret about. They need 41 votes to sustain a filibuster (that is, to deny cloture, the calling of the question), and the Democrats have only 45 members in their Senate caucus. I believe that for any reasonable nominee, no Republicans (not even Chafee) will vote to filibuster... thus, the Democrats can only afford to lose four of their number and still possibly prevent cloture. For a popular candidate, they may have trouble with some of their own members of the Gang (the Seven Skunks?), including Ben Nelson (NE), Joe Lieberman (CT), Mary Landrieu (LA), Ken Salazar (CO), and Mark Pryof (AK); plus there are other "red-state" Democrats, such as Bill Nelson (FL) and Kent Conrad (ND). The Democrats must hold four of these seven to be able to sustain a filibuster.
Hugh thinks that there will be too many defections from the Democratic side for Judge Michael McConnell, and they will not be able to get their 41. I take a different tack, since I am always willing to consider politics, so long as it's not at the expense of the party or country. I would rather see Emilio Garza as the nominee, even though he is 58 years old (to McConnell's 50), because -- I will be very naked about it -- Hispanics are a very fast-growing voting group; they tend to be more culturally conservative than blacks, Asians, or Jews; and they have shown a willingness to vote Republican -- as much as 45% may have voted for Bush in 2004; so I want to see them encouraged by a Republican Party that recognizes their contribution. Since even the Rebel Alliance has said in the past that Garza is acceptable, I see no reason not to consider politics when deciding between two candidates who both earn the seal of approval. After all, if you don't win presidential elections, you don't get to name any judges at all.
Regardless of who is "at fault" in the Miers debacle, Bush must move swiftly to repair the breach in the GOP coalition -- both the elections coalition and the ruling coalition. He must nominate someone who will mollify the judicial conservatives, but he cannot nominate someone who will scare off the weak sisters in the Seven Dwarfs. He owes us that much.
But we also owe a duty to the president. If any one group tries to completely take over, it will shatter the coalition, and we may well see Chairman Leahy in the Judiciary Committee... in which case, no appointment will move, not even to the Supreme Court. The power of the chairman to disrupt and delay confirmation hearings is almost absolute.
The Rebel Alliance must be satisfied with anybody reasonable. If Garza or Edith Jones is nominated, they cannot say "no, we demand Luttig!" And the Seven Dwarfs must not insist upon a "consensus" candidate who would be, in reality, impossible to find: nobody who is acceptable to Patrick Leahy (VT), Joe Biden (DE), Ted Kennedy (MA), Chuck Schumer (NY), and Dick Durbin (IL) is going to be acceptable to Orrin Hatch (UT), John Kyl (TX), Sam Brownback (KS), or Tom Coburn (OK). It's just not possible: they have such disparate worldviews that "never the twain shall meet."
Both sides of the recent rift -- the White House and the Rebel Alliance -- must reach across to the other. So long as Bush makes a serious effort to find someone with a track record of judicial conservatism, the Rebels should stand behind the president and his nominee and push to get him or her confirmed. Not only that, but I believe the rank and file Republicans need to be much more proactive in helping pass the president's agenda, even if they don't believe in each and every single plank: there is such a thing as compromise... if all the nativists refuse to support Bush because he won't round up all twelve million illegal immigrants and ship them back by parcel post, and all the fiscal conservatives refuse to support Bush because he didn't veto the Highway bill, and the religious Right turns their backs (or sits on their hands in 2006) because Bush hasn't brought prayer back into the schools, while the libertarian Republicans take a walk because he won't fund stem-cell research... well, "there was nobody left to speak out." Say hello to President Dean and a Democratic Congress.
And then none of these groups gets what they want -- though they may end up getting what they deserve.
Remember what Benjamin Franklin said: "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." Franklin meant it literally, which, thank God, we no longer have to fear; but if you hang the Republican president out to dry, don't be surprised if you find that your own prospects wind up wilting on the same clothesline.
Date ►►► October 27, 2005
Double Sourced, Double Trouble
It is well known that Sens. Norm Coleman and Carl Levin believe that Respect Party MP George Galloway lied under oath when he testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs; when Galloway was being questioned by the two -- and he was unfurling his usual sneer and condescension -- he seems to have forgotten that in addition to sitting on that committee, the two were also the chair and ranking member of one of its subcommittees: the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Galloway has responded with predictable bravado, practically daring Investigations to refer him for indictment. Per the Belmont Club: "I am ready to fly to the US today, if necessary, to face such a charge because it is simply false," he boasted. But perhaps he'll cash in those plane tickets and plan an extended holiday in Switzerland instead after reading the upcoming report by Paul Volcker, who has hardly been considered a serious investigator of U.N. corruption -- given that he reports directly to Kofi Annan, one of key suspects in the case. Surprisingly, however, Volcker's report strikes hard against a number of targets that the Turtle Bay Illuminati would have preferred be protected... including a certain Respect Party MP from Bethnal Green and Bow (HT Dirty Dingus for correcting Galloway's district):
Among those named in the report as receiving oil vouchers that could be sold for a commission were British lawmaker George Galloway, former French UN Ambassador Jean-Bernard Merimee, former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua and Russian ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
So it's not just those radical right wingers, Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Carl Levin (D-MI)... it's former Chairman of the Federal Reserve and current Elliot Ness of the United Nations, Paul Volcker. Maybe it's time for George of the Bungle to drop the ludicrous posturing and raspberry blowing and simply confess his guilt and expiate his sins, else he may get the opportunity to see how his rhetoric falls on the ears of an American jury.
Miers Withdraws From Supreme Court Consideration
As expected, President Bush did not withdraw her; from what I have read, Harriet Miers withdrew herself.
At this point, the best thing for the party would be if Bush were to nominate one of the hard-core judicially conservative women whose names have been floated... and I hope he does; but Hugh Hewitt's prediction of the Democratic response has already come true:
Under withering attack from conservatives, President Bush ended his push to put loyalist Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court Thursday and promised a quick replacement. Democrats accused him of bowing to the "radical right wing of the Republican Party"....
"The radical right wing of the Republican Party killed the Harriet Miers nomination," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who had recommended Miers to the president.
So the question is, will the "Gang of Fourteen" use the replacement of Miers with (say) Priscilla Owen or Janice Rogers Brown to declare "extraordinary circumstances" and vote against the Byrd option, allowing judicial filibusters to continue? Or will they inform Bush that they plan to do so -- pushing him to nominate someone like Alberto Gonzales instead? I'm not sanguine about the possibilities.
Hugh made another prediction -- well, more accurately, he proposed this as a possibility and asked whether the Rebel Alliance would accept a measure of responsibility if it happened. AP raises the same issue; are they reading Hugh's blog?
On Nov. 30, the court will hear arguments on New Hampshire's parental notification law for abortion, which a lower court said is unconstitutional because it lacks an exception allowing a minor to have an abortion to protect her health. O'Connor has been expected to vote to strike down the law. That case also could determine the legal standard for challenges to other states' abortion laws.
Also in late November the court may decide whether it will hear the Bush administration's appeal of a 2003 federal law that bans the type of late-term operation known as partial-birth abortion. Lower courts have said the law is unconstitutional, because it lacks a health exception.
So if one or both of these cases turns out to be a 5-4 decision to uphold the lower court with Sandra Day O'Connor in the majority -- and if there is at least a pretty good chance that Miers would have voted the other way... then is it unfair to say that it was the anti-Miers opposition that took away parental notification and/or a ban on partial-birth abortion?
(I believe that if the new justice is seated after those cases are heard, he or she cannot participate in the decision... which means the Court may well split 4-4, leaving the lower-court rulings in place. Am I wrong?)
Time will tell... and not very much time at that.
Who Are We Fighting For Anyway -- Déjà Vu
In Lizard's Tongue number 3, I asked the question "who are we fighting for anyway?" If America is the champion of liberty everywhere but guardian only of our own, then why are we fighting in such far-flung lands as Iraq, Afghanistan, Columbia, the Horn of Africa -- and the Philippines?
My answer is the same as President Bush's: because if there ever was a time when we could retire behind the walls of Fortress America, counting on the two oceans to more or less protect us from attack, that era vanished in a blaze of bombings more than thirty years ago.
And today, we see just what the president meant by that. In Suspected Muslim Militants Caught in Philippines, from AP via FoxNews.com, we learn that seven Islamic terrorist converts were just captured in Zamboanga City, at the tip of the Zamboanga penninsula (south) on the island of Mindanao. This is an area of the Philippines that has seen almost continuous battles for a number of years between the terrorist groups Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah (both affilliated with al-Qaeda) on one side and the Philippine Marines and American forces on the other. (The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, MILF, is another Islamic terrorist organization based in Mindanao; but it's currently in peace talks with the Philippine government in Manilla. It does, however, give save haven to members of Abu Sayyaf and JI, from which they can strike against targets across the South Pacific.)
The group whose leader and six other members were just captured, the Rajah Solaiman Revolutionary Movement, is small compared to the two above; but it is also linked to both of them and to al-Qaeda as well. In fact, Philippine authorities on terrorism believe Rajah Solaiman was deliberately recruited and trained by Abu Sayyaf in order to take the terrorist campaign to new level... because the leader of Rajah Solaiman, Hilarion del Rosario Santos III, and most of his followers are Christians who converted to Islam, presumably in order to join the jihad.
This is truly bizarre. They are not Arabs, of course; they are not even natively Islamic. Why on earth would people convert to a religion and immediately begin planting bombs and massacring the innocent in the name of that religion? This indicates that the appeal of lawlessness to the hopeless spans culture and religion: militant Islamism has become the "lingua franca" of barbarity. Anybody or any group with a grievance and smouldering hatred can convert to Islam and receive an immediate terrorism indulgence.
Here is more on Rajah Solaiman from Newsweek International Edition from May 2005:
[Wally] Villanueva calmly entered the office of Norberto Gonzales, national-security adviser to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and in the presence of a NEWSWEEK reporter, surrendered himself.
The nondescript young man, it turns out, was a radical Muslim convert, one of dozens wanted on an arrest warrant in connection to deadly terrorist attacks and recently planned bombings in the Philippines. Filipino authorities hope his ongoing interrogation will reveal the whereabouts of other converts believed to be lurking in Manila, waiting to strike. "This is a bigger threat [than past terrorist plots]," says one official from the government's new antiterrorism task force. "Muslim converts are now one of the strategies that [terrorist groups] like to employ." [Emphasis added]
Abu Sayyaf, which dates back to the early 1990s, has promoted its goal of a Muslim state through repeated terrorist attacks and kidnappings. But a previously little-known Islamic group called the Rajah Solaiman Movement, whose membership consists of Filipino Christians who have converted to Islam, is now one of the top worries for the country's intelligence services.
Filipino authorities say the group's members have been trained, financed and directed by Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiah, a regional terrorist group with links to Al Qaeda, for at least two years. They claim the movement has dispatched dozens of its operatives to Manila to plan and carry out terrorist attacks.
The AP story makes clear the American military implications of this arrest:
Santos' group allegedly hid about 1,322 pounds of explosives, including TNT, that the military seized in a hideout in Manila's Fairview residential district in March. Soldiers arrested a brother of Santos in connection with the seizure, military officials said.
National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said the explosives appeared to be intended for a 2,204-pound truck bomb that militants planned to use against the U.S. Embassy. That plot, along with other planned bombings by the group in the capital, was foiled with the seizure of the explosives, he said. [Emphasis added]
This is exactly why "Fortress America" cannot work. There simply is no way to tell whether someone entering the United States is a Filipino Christian -- or a recent convert to militant Islamism bent on jihad. Unless we have a workable plan to hermetically seal-off our borders (including all 12,000 miles of coastline), we cannot rely upon stopping these demonically possessed, sociopathic, "ticking time bombs" at the border. Unless we are forward-deployed, disrupting their plans at the source, we will lose this war.
That is why it is so vital to keep the reins of government out of the hand of the unserious, such as Howard Dean, John Kerry, or even Hillary Clinton, for all that she talks a great fight. Certainly, neither she nor her husband had any plan for aggressively assailing these terrorist groups in their heartland... so instead, we had to deal with them in ours.
It was there in the Philippines that the first glimmerings of the 9/11 attacks were planned. From Robert D. Kaplan's essential Imperial Grunts, about America's forever-war with terrorism around the globe:
It was in Afghanistan that AbuSayyaf's founders, Abduajak Janjalani and Abdul Murad, befriended Mohammed Jamal Khalifa -- Osama bin Laden's brouther-in-law -- and Ramzi Yousef, the organizer of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. In 1995 in Manila, Abdul Murad and Ramzi Yousef planned an attack on Pope John Paul II during the pontiff's upcoming visit to the Phiippines.
Following a fire that erupted as they were mixing explosives, Murad was captured; the Philippine security services are believed to have tortured him.
Murad gave Philippine investigators the password to his computer that was recovered from the burned-out apartment. On the hard disk they found the details of several terrorist plots, including one to use eleven jetliners to crash into CIA headquartes and other prominent buildings in Washington and New York. [Emphasis added]
It was this plot, hatched in Manila, that evolved into the most horrific act of terrorism ever committed on American soil.
Date ►►► October 26, 2005
Waiting for Anita
Wo will step forward to be the conservative "Anita Hill?"
Fourteen years ago, a specter was haunting Liberal-land... the specter of Clarence Thomas. A conservative black man was nominated to the Supreme Court, and this was anathema to the plantation politics of the Left.
Worse, they could not bork him the way they had borked Bork: he made manifestly absurd claims -- for example, that he had never thought about Roe v. Wade or discussed it with anyone -- but nobody forthcame to credibly dispute him. The liberals, led by Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH), had thrown every negative thing they could find at Thomas, "cherry"-picking the worst statements they could wrench out of context and hit him over the head with, but he had survived, albeit with a split 7-7 vote out of the Judiciary Committee. It was clear that notwithstanding the Democratic majority, the full Senate was going to confirm him. The Democrats were faced with a crisis: something had to be done, and fast.
As David Brock ably demonstrated in the Real Anita Hill -- before he went mad -- frantic liberals recruited a young lawyer who had worked for Thomas, Anita Hill, to make a false charge of sexual harassment. Realizing the flimsiness and absurdity of the charge, they first tried to get Thomas to withdraw; failing that, they tried to float the charge anonymously, hoping to derail Thomas's approval without ever having to reveal the weakness of their hand.
When he refused to withdraw, his nomination was wrenched back to the J-Com for hearings, chaired by Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE). Senators, including some Democrats, refused to reject him on secret "evidence" without giving him a chance to rebut. At that point, having no alternative, the "shadow Senate" -- a gaggle of left-liberal luminaries and interest groups, including Nan Aron (Alliance for Justice), Kate Michelman (NARAL), Ralph Neas (Leadership Conference on Civil Rights), Judith Lichtman (Women's Legal Defense Fund), Molly Yard and Eleanor Smeal (NOW), Art Kropp and Melanne Verveer (People for the American Way), Benjamin Hooks (NAACP), and Nina Totenberg (NPR) -- and Hill's friend "Judge" Susan Hoerchner prevailed upon Hill to go public.
Hill seemed frightened when called to testify... as well she might be. She was followed by a parade of witnesses that refuted virtually every particular of her claims except those for which there were no witnesses but Hill and Thomas. In the end, the vicious slander melted away in the harsh light of cross examination (mostly by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT). The enemies of Thomas could not keep him off the Court, but the could damage him: the final Senate vote was a bare 52 to 48, the closest judicial confirmation vote of the twentieth century.
Flash forward to today. Today we have another nominee to the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers -- and a different "shadow Senate" equally desperate to stop her... but this time made up of "judicially conservative" pundits, writers, and bloggers, dubbed the Rebel Alliance in Captain Ed's nomenclature. As in the case above, they have thrown everything they could find at her, seizing upon every carefully elided innuendo and artfully worded smear, whether from the Washington Post, the New York Times, or even Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), opiners that on any other issue, these conservative Rebels would utterly scorn. And as with the Thomas case, despite misgivings, no Republican senator has publicly said he will vote against Miers or even that he is leaning that way.
Curiously, and unlike the previous case, the Rebels seem very concerned that Miers be forced out before she even has her confirmation hearings. David Frum just argued on Hugh Hewitt's show that he believes that if she goes to hearings, it will become "obvious" that she is unfit to serve on the Court... in which case, one wonders, why not wait for just that to eventuate? It's hard not to conclude that they're less worried about her doing badly than about her doing much better than expected. Hence they want to force her out beforehand, without giving her a forum to respond. This, then, is precisely analogous to the first moves to force Thomas out without allowing him to confront his accuser.
This is likely to fail; the president is not going to withdraw Miers prior to her hearings. So the next question is whether Republican senators will turn on her. They may; I expect the top Rebels will be funneling bork-worthy smears to senators they hope will be predisposed to reject her. But President Bush may well prevail, and we may be facing a looming J-Com vote where it is clear that Miers has the votes to be recommended, as well as the votes on the floor to confirm.
That is the moment I await: I want to know... who will be the conservative "Anita Hill" to step forward with some explosive, un-disprovable charge? What form will the charge take? Will the accuser attempt to make the charge anonymously? And will the majority Republicans prove as just as a handful of the majority Democrats did in 1991, voting for Thomas when they could have simply borked him?
I worry about the Rebel Alliance. They have worked themselves into such a frenzy, that it would not be beyond belief were they to decide that stopping Harriet Miers was so important, it justified any means necessary to do so. A new "Anita Hill" is not beyond my imagination.
I hope it doesn't happen; I hope the Rebels rebel against the inevitable suggestion, refusing to sink to the level of the "shadow Senate" of 1991. I like these people; I'm friends with several of them, and I hate having to worry just how far they're willing to go.
But I'm just not sure; and that is what saddens me most.
What Is Truth?
I don't know... how about simply saying things that are accurate to the best of your knowledge?
UPDATED: See below!
The New York Times is once again trying to pick a fight with the White House over an absurdity. Here is the setup:
While not commenting on the report about Mr. Libby's conversation with Mr. Cheney [where the vice president is alleged to have told Libby that "Mrs. Wilson" suggested her husband for the mission], the White House took issue with suggestions that Mr. Cheney had not been truthful several months later in a television interview when he said he did not know Mr. Wilson and did not know who had sent him on his mission.
Asked whether Mr. Cheney always told the truth to the American people, Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, answered, "Yes."
At issue were remarks by Mr. Cheney in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sept. 14, 2003. In response to a question about Mr. Wilson, Mr. Cheney said: "I don't know who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report that I ever saw when I came back."
Mr. Cheney later added, "I don't know Joe Wilson," and said he had "no idea who hired him."
The point the Times makes obliquely, but which is being charged explicitly in the lefty blogs, is that there is a contradiction between Cheney saying he has "no idea who hired" Joe Wilson -- and Libby's notes, which indicate Cheney knew that Wilson was suggested by his wife, "Mrs. Wilson," for the mission to Niger. This is "teen logic" at its worst!
Here, I can settle this whole thing for the country right now. When I went to work for FileNet, I recommended they also hire my friend and former Ashton-Tate co-worker, George.
I suggested George, but I did not hire him; I was just a worker bee. The manager of our division, Mike, hired George.
Valerie Plame was a peon at the CIA. She had no authority to hire anyone, especially not her own husband. She suggested Joseph Wilson, but somebody else actually made the decision to send a know-nothing ex-ambassador to inquire whether Saddam Hussein tried to acquire yellowcake. Nobody seems to know who that "somebody else" was -- not Dick Cheney, and not the Times. And the only thing that Cheney "knew" about Joe Wilson was what George Tenet told him: that Wilson was the guy who was sent to Niger.
UPDATE: I think I've read eight MSM stories about this case in the last twenty-four hours... and not one, single story has so far mentioned the most salient feature of this case: that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence determined that Joseph Wilson lied in his teeth about what he found in Niger. Not a single story has noted that he actually found that Iraq had likely tried to purchase yellowcake from Niger, and that Wilson's carefully orchestrated series of leaks to various reporters was a campaign of falsehoods -- capped by Wilson's own mendacious op-ed in the New York Times.
So, Mr. Wilson -- what is truth... to you?
Who Are We Fighting For Anyway? The Lizard's Tongue 3
I found occasion in the previous post to quote from Major E., a frequent corresponder on Power Line... and it struck me that the question in the title above demands an answer: who are we fighting for in Iraq?
I hope those reading this will make the connection between the sacrifice of the troops and the ever-expanding freedom of the Iraqi people.... Every American deserves to know that the sacrifice made on the streets of Fallujah by US servicemembers last year is what made possible last week the jubilant dancing of Iraqis waving their ink-stained fingers after they had cast the first vote of their lives. The Iraqi people know and appreciate what we have done for them, and I hope that the American people will come to know it more and more as well.
Are we fighting for good of the Iraqis? Should we demand appreciation? Do they owe us a debt they can never repay? Or are we really fighting for ourselves, our own land, our own people?
There is an old saying that America is the champion of freedom everywhere but guardian only of our own. The thought might occur to many that we seem to be guarding the freedom of an awful lot of other people lately -- should we be? Are the neocons right that it's in America's interest, or should we listen to the paleocons who want us to withdraw our troops from all these "foreign entanglements" and just defend the dadblamed country?
For a long time, George W. Bush was simply not making the case. I reckon it seemed so obvious to him that he didn't realize that lots of folks may agree that freedom is good but just plain disagree that the United States is reponsible for dispensing it. But lately, he has done a much more conscientious job of defending his position; and it's time for us to really start to listen. Even when the president's strategery is being misunderestimated, he really does make a whole lot of sense.
I thought to write a post to delve more deeply into the president's argument; but it turned out to be too long for a blog post. So instead, it has become the third instance of the Lizard's Tongue column.
Hence, to see what sense we may make of the grand strategy of George W. Bush, read on to the Lizard's Tongue, o wise!
Date ►►► October 25, 2005
Fightin' Room With a (New) View
Scott at Power Line has much more on the attempted attack on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad; their frequent correspondent Major E. has an eyewitness account, and he states that it was clearly a failed attempt at a much larger and more sinister operation than merely setting off some bombs:
The number of terrorists involved and the follow-on small arms attacks make it clear that the overall goal was to use suicide vehicle bombs to breach the security perimeter, then take over the hotel and hold the international guests as hostages. Instead, they failed to achieve those objectives and the attackers were killed.
(SmallTownVeteran is also on top of this story.)
Yes, this wasn't just a failed terrorist attack: it was an attempt to pull off another Beslan Massacre, except instead of children, the hostages would be a bunch of journalists (no jokes, please).
Major E. has a truly insightful pair of paragraphs about the dilemma the Commander-in-Chief faces trying to get more public support for the war (emphasis mine):
Many Americans seem to know the bad news from last year, but not the good news from last week. While I am glad that the public knows that many gave life and limb for Fallujah, I am saddened that so few know the incredibly positive result of that sacrifice. There is so much good happening in Iraq in terms of rebuilding the society and offering the people the priceless opportunity of freedom and democracy, yet so little of the good is being reported in the media. I hope those reading this will make the connection between the sacrifice of the troops and the ever-expanding freedom of the Iraqi people.
Every American deserves to know that the sacrifice made on the streets of Fallujah by US servicemembers last year is what made possible last week the jubilant dancing of Iraqis waving their ink-stained fingers after they had cast the first vote of their lives. The Iraqi people know and appreciate what we have done for them, and I hope that the American people will come to know it more and more as well.
All this by way of introduction to my next post....
Great News for Iraq...
...But not-so-great for my petty, vainglorious self: I missed my prediction by one province!
From AP via Fox News:
Iraq's Constitution is Adopted
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq's landmark constitutional was adopted by a majority of voters during the country's Oct. 15 referendum, election officials said Tuesday.
Results released by the Independent Electoral Commission (search) of Iraq showed that Sunni Arabs, who had sharply opposed the draft document, failed to produce the two-thirds "no" vote they would have needed in at least three of Iraq's 18 provinces to defeat it.
The commission, which had been auditing the referendum results for 10 days, said at a news conference in Baghdad (search) that Ninevah province, had produced a "no" vote of only 55 percent.
The New York Times has some more. Don't forget the new deal they have, where you have to suffer through an advert on your way to the story. Just click the "skip" button in the upper right corner. ( Why can't the ads hide behind the firewall along with the "premium" columnists?)
Alas for me, I had predicted that only one province would muster the necessary two-thirds to reject; Salahaddin messed me up -- but next-door Ninevah saved the day for Iraq.
Still, I had been confident throughout that the Sunni would not get their three; and on that prediction, I was correct. (Shoulda quit while I was ahead... but that doesn't suit my cheerful, optimistic nature!)
A great day for Iraq, and since I had no money riding on my prediction, I'll laugh it off and say a great day for me, too!
Son of Secret Polling Man
Omar at Iraq the Model has also blogged about that "secret military poll" reported in the Telegraph. He comes to pretty much the same conclusions as we while adding a caveat that only a local would know...
And by the way, I almost forgot to tell you this; when Iraqis are performing a poll they tend to do so while trying to keep as low a profile as possible for concerns about being misidentified as spies or intelligence gatherers for the coalition, the terrorists or even the government so they try to interview the first person they meet and think is safe to interview forgetting about all the known standards and requirements of correct sample choosing. This alone is enough to weaken the validity of the poll results.
Bottom line, I will personally ignore the results as a whole as I think it cannot add anything of value to a view of the situation here in Iraq, which is a shame, as it might have done so, had they framed the questions in a more scientific manner. I tend to recommend that you not take it seriously as well for these reasons.
Iraq the Model -- which we have blogrolled on the starboard side of your Big Lizards window -- is Sachi's favorite Iraq blog (and she reads four or five Iraqi blogs every day).
The Great Debate on the Fate of the State
It ain't too late!
Daniel Weintraub live-blogs the debate last night in Walnut Creek (just across the bay from San Francisco) between legislative Democrats and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. They each bobbed and weaved and managed to slip many audience jabs; but in the end, voter information was inadvertently generated -- to the advantage of the Governator, in Weintraub's expert scoring.
Start here, then just keep reading and clicking the "forward" links (the ones that include ">>") until you get to the post titled My take.
Lotsa fun and laffs!
NOW Will Ya Gimmie Some Fightin' Room?
Uh oh, Zarqawi's in for it now. The mainstream media thirsts for his blood.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Suicide bombers including one in a cement truck packed with explosives launched a dramatic attack Monday against the Palestine Hotel, where many foreign journalists are based, sending up a giant cloud of smoke and debris over central Baghdad. American troops and journalists escaped without serious injury but at least a half-dozen passers-by were killed....
The cement truck was the last of three vehicles trying to break through the wall outside the hotel. The first car drove up to the wall and exploded, blasting out a section of the concrete. According to the U.S. military, the second car was headed for the fresh breach in the wall but exploded near the 14th Ramadan Mosque when it was engaged by civilian security forces.
Within minutes, the truck made it through the breach but apparently became stuck on a road between the Palestine and the neighboring Sheraton hotel. The truck rocked back and forth and then blew up after a U.S. soldier opened fire on it. Had the truck traveled 20 or 30 yards farther and blown up at the hotel entrance, it could have killed many people inside the Palestine.
So after "a U.S. soldier" saved the lives of countless precious and vital journalists in the Palestine Hotel, do you think they'll start cutting the troops some slack on the endlessly manufactured torture/murder/stealing-Iraqi-oil stories? Or will this be another case of "no good deed goes unpunished?"
For some perverse reason, I'm fascinated by the description of the journalists inside the hotel:
There was minor damage to the hotel, which was last hit in an insurgent rocket attack on Oct. 7, 2004. Moments before the second blast, journalists, photographers and technicians were walking up and down hazy corridors in a state of confusion, urging each other to remain calm, put on flak jackets, and to stay away from windows. Thicker clouds of smoke filled the far end of one hallway, with many people coughing and waving their hands.
The second explosion shook the building momentarily. Confusion and panic again set in, with those inside debating whether to exit, but all eventually deciding to stay in the corridor and sit propped against walls, most in flak jackets. Sounds resembling gunshots could be heard outside.
Strips of floorboards were strewn about and air vents were blown in.
"The impact pushed us forward in our chairs," he said.
He noted that the journalists at the Palestine often can hear the distant blast of other attacks. "But I've never felt blasts as strong or as loud as the ones Monday," [AP journalist Thomas] Wagner said.
Did I misread? Is Wagner actually shocked that blasts right next to his location are louder and stronger than distant blasts? All right; so now he knows what the soldiers and Marines must go through every day. What will he do with that information? Will it change how he and his cohorts report the war?
Our newfound allies will surely fight like demons, swinging their cameras and flinging 3/4-inch tape cassettes at future terrorists.
"These appalling attacks are fresh reminders of the myriad dangerous [sic] facing those who continue to report from Iraq," [the Committee to Protect Journalists] Executive Director Ann Cooper said....
"By attacking the Hotel Palestine, which is commonly known to be home to many foreign journalists, those behind this cowardly attack sought to deliberately target the Western media," the press freedom organization [Reporters Without Borders] stated.
We may have entered uncharted waters here: this could be the very first time the press has condemned a suicide bombing in Iraq. The world is topsy-turvy.
Date ►►► October 24, 2005
More Questions to Ask Harriet Miers
UPDATE: Some suggested cases below!
I just thought of something that might actually be valuable to the confirmation process, at least to the extent that members of the Senate bother to listen to constructive suggestions.
I hope we all, Loyalists and Rebel Alliance alike, that Republicans should not stoop to asking Miss Miers how she plans to vote on various pending cases. But on the other hand, as George Will noted -- broken clock, right twice a day (or once if it's military time) -- it would be very useful to ask her questions to elucidate her judicial philosophy.
So I had a brain storm. Not quite Hurricane Delta, but maybe something better than a tropical depression: what historical cases can we find -- none dating after 1960 (year arbitrarily picked for personal, sentimental reasons related to someone I greatly love) -- that would illuminate the judicial philosophy of any nominee who analyzed them?
I suppose you could start with Marbury v. Madison, but that would be silly, since I think any contemporary nominee supports judicial review, at least in theory. But how about comparing Plessy to Brown? Or that case (whose name I always forget, not being a lawyer) that held that even wheat grown for personal consumption could be regulated under Congress's interstate-commerce grant of authority... would a Court nominee's thinking on that case be illuminating?
There must be a number of other cases that Miers could analyze without running afoul of the prohibition against prejudging -- the cases arising out of the Japanese internment? early free-speech cases? some of the "incorporation doctrine" cases? -- that would tell us something significant about how she thinks. (Ideally, since I want to hear a considered opinion, rather than a game of gotcha, I'd prefer the list be given her in advance, so she could research and ponder them.)
But I'm not a lawyer, so I certainly cannot compile a list of the top of my triangular head of the most important, most illuminating cases: can some of you blogospheric attorneys please offer up suggestions?
If you can explain its importance to a non-lawyer such as me, I'll update this post to include a list (with links) at the bottom; but if you just say the name and nothing else, I will ignore it, since I've probably never heard of it -- I have absolutely no intention of briefing these cases myself!
I call upon you, Patterico -- and upon Bill Dyer, John, Scott, Paul, Glenn, Hugh and any other attorneys or law profs. And even non-lawyer deep thinkers about constitutional issues... Captain Ed? Please either comment here or on your own blogs with a trackback here, and I'll compile the list and try to figure out how to get it to J-Com senators who might find it useful.
(Every time I do this, I get a good comment from Pat, very occasionally something fascinating from Beldar, and everybody else just ignores me. But, ever the optimist, I shall try and try again....)
UPDATE: All right, our first batch of cases to ask Miss Miers about has come in. Fort Wit:
- Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965) - the case that found a right to privacy emanating from the penumbra of various other rights; this case was suggested by both Captain Ed and also commenter Diffus. (Technically, this falls outside my arbitrary line, and it's a bit too contemporary and likely to come up again in subsequent cases... so this one may be out).
- Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896); Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) - the first found that public schools could be segregated on the principle of "separate but equal;" the second overturned the first, finding that no such scheme was possible, and that the Civil Rights Amendments required desegregation. Captain Ed (in the same post as supra) seconded my suggestion of these above.
- New York Times Company v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964) - this case found that in cases of libel or slander involving public figures, the standard that had to be met was "actual malice" (I thought "reckless disregard for the truth" was also a possible standard... do I misremember?) Suggested by Patterico, in the comments. (Also inside the "red line" of 1960.)
- Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 (1942) - the "wheat" case I mentioned above; Unabrewer has been suggesting this one as a question since long before this post!
- United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 - Miller was convicted of possessing a short-barreled (sawed-off) shotgun; he raised the Second Amendment, but the Court ruled that no evidence had been presented that this type of weapon was normally found in army or militia units, so was not covered by the right to keep and bear arms. That is, they held that the RTKBA covered all military style weapons, presumably including so-called "assault weapons."
TriggerFinger suggested this one, and it's a good suggestion, as this case has been wildly misconstrued by virtually every appellate court that has cited it since it was decided in 1939: typically, appellate courts wrongly claim that the Court held that only members of the National Guard qualified as militia, and the Second Amendment applies only to them. The Court itself revisited this issue in 1990 in United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259, 265 (1990), clarifying in dicta that "militia" standing of the gun owner has no bearing on the right.
- Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. (19 How.) 393 (1857) - a very bad decision decided very badly; lots of juicy constitutional issues in this case, only the second time the Court had struck down a federal law as unconstitutional... and in my mind, the prototype for judicial activism of the worst kind. Suggested by moi.
Great start, guys -- let's get some more folks to weigh in on this one!
(Some have misunderstood the exercise: it's not just to think of questions, but specifically landmark Supreme Court cases from long ago... so that Harriet Miers can analyze them and clarify her judicial philosophy without worrying about compromising her ability to judge future cases that come before the Court.)
I Support the Miers Nomination
All right, I suppose I don't mind joining the bear's newest blog survey. Here you go:
I support the Miers nomination.
...With caveats and pending her performance in the hearing. Actually, the real reason I'm participating is that I'm vey curious to see whether her confirmation hearing changes any minds -- and in which direction! I hope NZBear has the wisdom to rerun his scavenger-bot after the hearing is over and see how things have shifted, one way or another. If at all.
So here's my vote, and we'll see what happens.
(Note, this post took six minutes from soup to baklava... but that doesn't quite break my speed record for putting up a post!)
And How Are You, Mr. Wilson?
I am remiss in posting this; Scott from Power Line had this up more than a week ago!
But it's worth noting: the best timeline of the Plame-name blame-game imbroglio is by (no surprise) Stephen Hayes, writing in the Weekly Standard: "The White House, the CIA, and the Wilsons".
Note that the "unuseful idiot" of the category is creepy liar Joseph Wilson -- not Stephen F. Hayes!
Read it and shriek.
Gen. Pace: Thirty-Nine Iraqi Battalions "In the Lead"
U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was just this moment a guest on the Hugh Hewitt show, with Jed Babbin (of NRO fame) sitting in for Hugh. Gen. Pace dropped a rather stunning bombshell.
Babbin asked Gen. Pace for an assessment of the Iraqi fighting forces, and the chairman made the following points:
- There are now over 200,000 Iraqis either in the Iraqi army or the Iraqi police forces.
- There are over 100 battalions of Iraqi army now considered battle-ready; Gen. Pace said he believed it was actually 117 battalions (which matches other reporting).
- And in breaking news, the chairman stated that fully one-third of these battalions are already "in the lead" in fighting the terrorists. The other two-thirds are fighting alongside American troops but not yet ready to assume the lead.
Assuming that last figure is correct, that would mean at least thirty-three Iraqi battalions and as many as thirty-nine battalions of the Iraqi army (as many as 39,000 men) are actually taking the lead in fighting for their own country. This is incredibly good news... and even though Sachi is traveling, it deserves to be reported.
I doubt I'll be able to scoop the MilBlogs (some of which you can see blogrolled to the right) -- they probably got this same information weeks ago during one of their weekly breakfast briefings with Gen. Pace -- but at least I have the forlorn hope of scooping Prof. Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit!
(I will of course scoop the MSM with this good news... but that would still be true if I sat on it until Shrove Tuesday.)
While You Were Goofing Off...
I see that Patterico has reinvigorated his own recap of the weekend's posts, This Weekend On Patterico.... doubtless because he was inspired by me. Few people know this, but I was the one who suggested the idea to him in the first place; even fewer are aware that it was I who took him in as a poor, orphaned child, removing him from the terrible environment of the workhouse (where he was terrorizing all the other kids), and persuaded him to go to law school. I was grooming him to be the next White House Counsel, stepping stone to the Supreme Court, but he decided to go into the DA's office instead; ah, the rebelliousness of youth!
But that's all spoiled water over the bridge. The important thing is that there were five posts on Big Lizards this weekend that you might enjoy reading (and bitterly disputing):
Saturday, October 22th, 2005
The 800 Pound Gorelick, in which I discuss -- but ultimately cannot endorse -- Rep. Curt Weldon's newest claim, that the Able Danger revelations were kept from the 9/11 Commission by "the lead staffer for Jamie Gorelick."
Zarqawi's Golden Parachute, in which Sachi and I speculate rampantly that the real reason Musab Zarqawi is creating a "network" of terrorists "across almost 40 countries" is that he has decided that he may soon be ousted from Iraq, and he's preparing various bolt holes to flee to when that happens.
Sunday, October 23th, 2005
US kills 20 Terrorists in Western Iraq, a rather blunt and straightforward title for a post in which Sachi conveys more good news in the global war on terrorism, the GWOT.
Secret Polling Man, in which I draw your attention to a bizarre and inexplicable "secret military poll," funded by Great Britain's Ministry of Defence and conducted by "an Iraqi university research team" (otherwise unnamed for "security reasons"), which purports to show that nearly half of Iraqis support "suicide attacks" against Coalition forces, and "fewer than one per cent" think Coalition troops help the security of the country.
Finally, in the most controversial post in the bunch, George Will: the Old Maid in the Popcorn Bag, I use Will's own prolix style to argue that the famed columnist has long since jumped the shark -- if unpopped kernals can jump over Plagiostomi -- and become increasingly shrill, embittered, and offensive.
(Note: except for TTLB, which stubbornly insists upon ranking sleek, scaley reptiles lower than those hairy, milk-bearing mammals -- hiss! -- I have no idea what any of these websites are, and I certainly don't endorse them -- again, except for TTLB, which, except for the caveat noted above, is coolness. I just thought it kind of interesting that each was a domain name for some web site.)
MPM From the MSM
Misinformation per minute from the mainstream media, that is. AP has an incredible story up -- with the word "incredible" meant literally: it's hard to count the number of misstatements, malicious manglings, myopic maunderings, and just plain mental missteps. If the author's name were not "Nancy Benac," I would assume Paul Krugman wrote it. (Maybe he has a secret identity.)
Let me just run through a few; but you really should read the original, lest I spoil the best parts.
NOTE: Bulleted points are quotations from the Benac story.
- CIA officials asked [Joe Wilson] to travel to Africa in February 2002 to check out a report that Niger sold uranium to Iraq in the late 1990s for use in nuclear weapons. Wilson quickly concluded the report was bogus. (Documents related to the purported sale later were exposed as a forgery.)
Actually, according to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Wilson quietly concluded the opposite... at least, that is what he told his CIA handlers. I'm sure that was just an honest mistake from Ms. Benac, who is an honorable woman. They are all honorable men (and women) at the Associated Press.
Clifford May is the man-on-the-spot at the National Review to debunk this first set of -- misunderstandings (for Nancy Benac is an honorable woman). (And a tip of the hat to Power Line for the link.) From July 12th, 2004:
Ironically, Senate investigators found that at least some of what Wilson told his CIA briefer not only failed to persuade the agency that there was nothing to reports of Niger-Iraq link — his information actually created additional suspicion.
A former prime minister of Niger, Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, told Wilson that in June 1999, a businessman approached him, insisting that he meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss "expanding commercial relations." Mayaki, knowing how few commodities for export are produced by impoverished Niger [basically just yellowcake and animal hides --DaH], interpreted that to mean that Saddam was seeking uranium.
Yes, there were fake documents relating to Niger-Iraq sales. But no, those forgeries were not the evidence that convinced British intelligence that Saddam may have been shopping for "yellowcake" uranium. On the contrary, according to some intelligence sources, the forgery was planted in order to be discovered — as a ruse to discredit the story of a Niger-Iraq link, to persuade people there were no grounds for the charge. If that was the plan, it worked like a charm.
But that's not all. The Butler report, yet another British government inquiry, also is expected to conclude this week that British intelligence was correct to say that Saddam sought uranium from Niger. [And so it did. --DaH]
- The Times' Judith Miller went to jail for 85 days before sharing with the grand jury what she knew. After [I. Lewis "Scooter"] Libby personally assured her that he had waived her pledge of confidentiality, Miller told the grand jury about three conversations with him.
In fact, Libby had "waived her pledge of confidentiality" a year before she reported to la calabooza. If she were in any doubt about his seriousness, she had only to pick up the phone and call him or have her attorney do so. Whatever is the reason for her curious decision to don prison gray, like Joan of Arc, and suffer for the cause -- and speculation is delicious -- it was not uncertainty whether Libby had really, truly, actually waived confidentiality when he signed a document waiving confidentiality.
I'm sure that Nancy Benac knew all this and simply thought it too tedious to bring up, for they are all honorable men. Women. Whatever.
- One important question is what Bush and Cheney might do if top aides like Rove or Libby are found to have been the leakers. Bush initially pledged to fire any leakers but later gave himself more wiggle room by promising to fire anyone who is found to have committed a crime.
This is pure invention from the MSM, though certes, they are all honorable. Nobody has found any quotation from Bush where he said he would "fire any leakers," or fire anyone who spoke to reporters about Mrs. Wilson, or any other such prejudicial nonsense.
This all stems from a reporter who started asking a question of the president at a press conference. I don't recall the exact wording, but he said as preamble that Bush had promised to fire any leakers, and did he still stand by that pledge.
President Bush tried to answer, but the reporter kept talking, forcing the president to repeat his answer. In a move eerily presaging what was done later to Laura Bush to falsely make it appear as though she were calling Miers critics "sexists," the reporter seized upon the word "yes" that began Bush's answer -- and clearly referred to another point of the question -- to claim that Bush had therefore agreed with the reporter's premise that Bush earlier said he would fire any leakers... notwithstanding the fact that Bush had said no such thing.
Note how this asinine claim has progressed: nobody can find an original quotation of Bush saying he would "fire any leakers;" so the reporter's premise, at least as publicly provable, was factually wrong. But by tacking it onto a question that would certainly draw a "Yes" response (Bush responding that no one convicted of a crime in this affair would have a place in his administration), the reporter could later claim that Bush had retroactively made the reporter's false premise true!
And after that bit of legerdemain, all the news media may take it as read that "Bush initially pledged to fire any leakers." See how easy that was? Though we must absolve Ms. Benac of blame, for she is an honorable woman.
- In a way, the whole Wilson saga can be traced back to Cheney and Bush. It was Cheney's interest in the alleged Iraq-Niger deal that led the CIA to dispatch Wilson to Africa.
Well, so sayeth Mr. Wilson. He claims that:
In February 2002, I was informed by officials at the Central Intelligence Agency that Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report.
But Condoleezza Rice, then National Security Advisor and now Secretary of State, and a hot tomato in both positions, begs to demur. From a CNN transcript of an interview with Wolf Blitzer, posted by JustOneMinute a couple of years ago:
BLITZER: Who sent [Wilson]?
RICE: Well, it was certainly not a level that had anything to do with the White House, and I do not believe at a level that had anything to do with the leadership of the CIA.
BLITZER: Supposedly, it came at the request of the vice president.
RICE: No, this is simply not true, and this is something that's been perpetuated that we simply have to straighten out.
The vice president did not ask that Joe Wilson go to Niger. The vice president did not know. I don't think he knew who Joe Wilson was, and he certainly didn't know that he was going.
It's still possible that the CIA simply misled poor Joe Wilson into thinking the VP really wanted to know; but if so, why would they send a retired ambassador with no expertise in either Iraq or WMD, no experience as an investigator, and who did not even work for the Company? Heck, they could at least have sent the man's wife instead. In any event, official denials of the administration should disallow AP -- for they are all honorable, all honorable persons -- from stating as fact what is still in dispute.
- And it [was] Bush's use of the debunked claim in his State of the Union address that led Wilson to publish his doubts.
Just in case you missed it the first time; for being honorable men, they could not do otherwise than to remind you. And women... honorable women.
I'm afraid I have spoilt it for you after all, those intrepid few who read to the end of this post. But don't fret: I'm sure these honorable persons, variously male and female, will give us another incredible story to digest tomorrow!
Date ►►► October 23, 2005
George Will: the Old Maid in the Popcorn Bag
Those of us who support the nomination of Harriet Miers (even reluctantly) were warned repeatedly that we would be devastated, blown away, and inundated by the Noahide deluge of Hurricane Gamma, George Will's unanswerable final whirlwind of rhetorical devastation of Harriet Miers. Instead, all we got was a spritz of seltzer down our pants.
Will's meticulous retailing of yawn-inducing epithets ("perfect perversity," "discredits," "degrades," "justifications," "deficit of constitutional understanding," "gross misunderstanding of conservatism," and "persons masquerading as its defenders" -- all from the first paragraph!); his hand-waving dismissal of counterargument (his entire final paragraph -- see below); the by now comical snobbery ("crude people"), looking down a sharpened beak at the ants crawling about his Ozymandian feet; all this does surely leave me breathless... but with an amazed sense of loss, not cowed submission.
Lately, Christopher Hitchens has turned into the most articulate defender of the global war on terrorism in the administration. Well actually, outside the administration; but he may as well be a presidential spokesman. Hitchens' denunciations of the Left's politics of bending over coupled with their moist invective of personal destruction -- which now takes the place of any attempt at rational debate of the war, its history, purpose, and effect -- has made him, much to his discomfort, the Cassandra of the death of Socialism as a serious force in world affairs: he sees where his beloved Left is headed and what is going to happen, but he cannot get them to beware of Moslems bearing rifts. No more eloquent spokesman for the conservative virtues of liberal western democracy now exists than Chris Hitchens, which must drive the poor man mad.
Did space aliens sneak down and switch the souls of the two polemicists, Will and Hitchens?
I rummaged through George Will's column looking for the big pop; instead, I'm holding just an old maid in my hand: the kernel is barely cracked, just enough to release its meagre store of steam, not enough to burst open and rattle the pot with its noise. The cherry bomb that fizzled. One of my mother's sneezes, where she gasps for air, teary eyes as wide as millstones; she flaps her arms and turns fire-engine red -- then nothing more than the squeak of a deferential churchmouse.
Oh, I cannot stand it. Let's jump right into some of Will's incisive invective.
Such is the perfect perversity of the nomination of Harriet Miers, it discredits, and even degrades, all who toil at justifying it.... Other arguments betray a gross misunderstanding of conservatism on the part of persons masquerading as its defenders.
Miers' advocates, sensing the poverty of other possibilities, began by cynically calling her critics sexist snobs who disdain women with less than Ivy League degrees.
Practically the first words out of Will's pen betray the very quality of discrimination that has served him so admirably for so long... until now, in his dotage. Which "Miers' advocates" would those be? Anyone in particular? In this case, a careful study of the record reveals that these advocates consist of Ed Gillespie -- assuming one is willing to look at a cap gun and call it a Howitzer. Will bravely shoulders that duty: so Gillespie said (according to Will) not only that "her critics" (all of them?) were "sexist" but that they were "snobs" as well.
Did Gillespie say "snobs?" Did anyone? I'm certain someone must have... and in the new world of Will's rhetorical cannonade, that is enough; what was said by one was said by all.
No longer can Will discriminate between one charge (sexism) and another (snobbery), or even between one man and another. Would collectivism be one of those new understandings of conservatism of which Will rises in defense? Alas, in George Will's case, this may not represent degeneracy: a man who calls himself a "Tory" can hardly claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan, or any other American conservative, can he? He rises and falls with the collectivist nature of Europeanism, where even parties on the right see people only as ordinals, never cardinals.
The sharpest piece of recent political dissection I have read is William F. Buckley, jr.'s "In Search of Anti-Semitism," the lengthy essay that underpinned the all-antisemitism issue of the National Review. In the essay, Buckley managed to disciminate between Joe Sobran, whose anti-Zionism, Buckley concluded, had metastasized into full-bore antisemitism -- and Patrick J. Buchanan, who Buckley absolved of that sin (at that time; revisiting, he might come to a different conclusion today). That is, Bill Buckley treated the two as individuals, not as representatives of some class of people.
The latter precisely describes Will's entire sloppy column; it is "Crown Heights" reasoning, named after the infamous New York pogrom: when a car in the motorcade of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson ran a red light in Crown Heights, New York City, striking and killing a seven year old black child named Gavin Cato, a mob of black residents, vowing retaliation, went and found the nearest Jews they could and assaulted them. Two men were murdered: Yankel Rosenbaum, for being Jewish -- and Anthony Graziosi, for looking Jewish. It mattered not to the rioters who actually drove the car or whether the collision was intentional; one Jew (or bearded man in black) was the same as any other, and intentions are always irrelevant in tribalist warfare.
Thus, if Ed Gillespie says something that can be interpreted as tarring all critics, including conservative ones, with the brush of sexism or elitism, it is right and proper to today's George F. Will to lash out in retaliation against all "advocates" of Miss Miers' nomination (that is, advocates of waiting to hear what the woman has to say in the hearings). We are all "degrade[d]," we are all guilty of Gillespie's sin, all including Hugh Hewitt and Bill Dyer and Dafydd ab Hugh -- regardless whether Gillespie even meant what Will inferred; intentions are irrelevant to Will.
(But not to Amy Ridenour. Displaying a willingness to listen that eludes Prince George, she writes:
(I just received a gracious phone call -- especially considering what I have been writing -- from Ed Gillespie. He made a compelling case that he was not referring to conservatives when he referred to some critics of the Harriet Miers nomination with the terms "sexism" and "elitism," but to others who said things that, when he described them, did sound rather sexist and elitist.... I believe him when he says he didn't means us with those words.)
Worse, Will's simplistic denunciation does not even understand the charge -- of which he, more than anyone, is truly guilty. The "elitism" or "snobbery" charge is not that the Rebel Alliance looks down upon Miers because she graduated from Southern Methodist University; the charge is that her critics insist that only a person who is a particular kind of professional legal intellectual qualifies for the Supreme Court. Those who make that argument are fond of analogizing the Court to brain surgery; Charles Krauthammer (another snob) japed on Brit Hume Friday, if you needed brain surgery, would you go to a podiatrist? But the Court was never intended to be the supreme legal university; if judicial conservatives are to be believed, the primary purpose of the Supreme Court is to adjudicate disputes, not churn out postdoctoral dissertations on arcane and occult points of constitutional doctrine.
But I must not spend forever on a couple of sentences (though I could). Here is Will's refined elucidation of Miers advocates as know-nothings:
In their unseemly eagerness to assure Miers' conservative detractors that she will reach the ``right'' results, her advocates betray complete incomprehension of this: Thoughtful conservatives' highest aim is not to achieve this or that particular outcome concerning this or that controversy. Rather, their aim for the Supreme Court is to replace semi-legislative reasoning with genuine constitutional reasoning about the Constitution's meaning as derived from close consideration of its text and structure. Such conservatives understand that how you get to a result is as important as the result. Indeed, in an important sense, the path the Supreme Court takes to the result often is the result.
By contrast, Miers' advocates (all of them) must understand none of this; I'm sure Will's clarification comes as an eye-opener to Hugh Hewitt, for example. In an earlier piece, Will was more explicit:
[President Bush] has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their prepresidential careers, and this president, particularly, is not disposed to such reflections.
This is the high-verbal lynching carried to the point of low comedy.
Of course a judge must understand the Constitution; but caselaw (common law) is equally important, including an understanding of contracts, torts, legislation (state and federal), and every other area of the law besides con-law that might pop up in a legal dispute. Nobody is an expert in all; every justice must rely on the writings of specialists (often previous judges that they quote at length... at great length).
But equally, every justice must look within himself to decide where he lands when the experts disagree -- which inevitably is always. Judicial philosophy is indeed important, as judicial conservatives and liberals alike argue; and contrary to Will's later snoot-cocking, I do not consider it "inappropriate" for senators to inquire into the nominee's opinions on past cases to determine her judicial thinking. But the "brain-surgery" analogy is infantile; it paints judging as merely a narrow technical skill, rather than a balancing act of competing verities that collide in the instance of a single set of facts.
Reducing the Court to a gaggle of lecturing professors is not only offensive, it's a blunder. Intellectuals, especially truly clever ones, can talk themselves into anything. There is good reason why so many of the brightest lights of the twentieth century talked themselves into joining the Party -- but Ronald Reagan never did. Room must be made on the Court for a person grounded in sanity and the real world, rather than airy theory and lugubrious rhetoric.
Harriet Miers may very well not be that person; I do not know her -- that is the best argument for the Rebel Alliance, that nobody really knows her but George W. Bush. But Will could drip the same sneer with equal indiscrimination onto anybody who fit the Ronald Reagan profile, not simply Miss Miers: if you are not an effete, egocentric, snide, condescending, etherial, arrogant, elite intellectual -- preferably, one who sports the ridiculous affectation of a bow tie -- then you need not apply for the position, in Will's determination.
His argument is sloppy, ugly, and self-important. But can we really expect more from a man who accepted the twin lures of lucre and the chance to strut and fret on a weekly basis in order to stay on at This Week? Will remained long after all the real journalists had left, throwing in his lot with the limp-brained, talentless, preening, no-count, wriggling, pencil-necked, geeky political hack George Snuffleupagus to carry the torch of David Brinkley forward into the twenty-first century.
This is Will's brave, new world, the tiny pond in which he chooses to shimmer. He holds court in Chevy Chase (not quite in but definitely of the Beltway) -- in the pages of the Washington Post -- on the set at ABC treating a former Clinton campaign operative as his journalistic equal (he is probably right) -- looking down his bespectacled nose at the lower classes, such as evangelical Christians (the "crude people" who resort to the "incense defense" of Harriet Miers) -- and whose favorite political figures are all from Europe... yet he has the chutzpah to pontificate to the rest of us about the nature of conservatism. Will, who never attended law school, lectures us on the duties of those who would interpret the law. He is not a minister, but he incessantly enunciates the Gospel of St. George, in which the only mortal sin is to be "unseemly."
I am astonished that Will did not openly campaign for John Kerry, they are so much alike. Perhaps Will was put off by Kerry's overemphasis on athletics: except for baseball, which Will sees as "contemplative," a form of meditation, perhaps, he seems uncomfortable with exhibitions of manhood.
In the end -- the last paragraph -- Will anticipates that some conservatives (or in my case, anti-liberals) may have the bumptious presumption to disagree with his assessment. He prepares for that eventuality with the classically liberal best defense: the cerebral threat.
As for Republicans, any who vote for Miers will thereafter be ineligible to argue that it is important to elect Republicans because they are conscientious conservers of the judicial branch's invaluable dignity [almost as good as seemliness]. Finally, any Republican senator who supinely acquiesces in President Bush's reckless abuse of presidential discretion -- or who does not recognize the Miers nomination as such -- can never be considered presidential material.
Well! Who could argue with that?
This column is a sad chapter in the long twilight denouement of George Will's career. I doubt the Rebel Alliance can see its errors; they have long since dropped into a form of tribalism themselves, in which any anti-Miers remark is embraced as a sacrament, even if it comes from Arlen Specter or Patrick Leahy (the new arbiters of conservative judicial competence). Doubtless, the Alliance will seize upon the Will piece to wave as they lurch through the streets, sharpened writing quills in hand, looking for some "Miers advocates" to stab (any will do). See how easy collectivist caracature can be?
And that, too, is sad.
Secret Polling Man
Yes, Virginia, there should be a Sanity Clause.
The headline nearly bellows its bias: Secret [Ministry of Defence] poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops. It's enough to make you leap up off your chair, full five feet up and higher.
But the harder we look, the more elusive the actual data... providing a salutory lesson why we demand a great deal of disclosure before taking any poll seriously. This "survey" is less about finding the truth than it is about creating a truth more palatable to the Telegraph than the actual facts on the ground in Iraq: military cooperation -- a rush of new intelligence tips to American troops -- and that minor election a week ago.
In today's Telegraph, this article alleges that a "secret military poll" conducted by "an Iraqi university research team" (otherwise unnamed for "security reasons") on behalf of Great Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) shows a catastrophic collapse in support for Coalition forces, a huge rise in the number of radicalized Iraqis -- a country on the verge of an explosion of violent attacks on British and American forces by ordinary civilians, who now hate our guts:
Millions of Iraqis believe that suicide attacks against British troops are justified, a secret military poll commissioned by senior officers has revealed.
The poll, undertaken for the Ministry of Defence and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, shows that up to 65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks and fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country.
You know your poll is in trouble when the results fly in the face not merely of previous polling but of the very actions taken by the people you are attempting to model. In this case, we are asked to believe that "fewer than one per cent" think that Coalition presence helps improve security.
Yet it's pretty clear that the Iraqi Army and police likely think that being trained up to superior fighting units helps security... and if you add up the number of Iraqi military and police who are trained, equipped, and deployed throughout Iraq, you have nearly 200,000, according to MG Rick Lynch, the spokesman for Multi-National Force Iraq:
Between the Iraqi police force and the Iraqi Army for the January elections, there were about 138,000 trained and equipped members of the Iraqi security force. Now the Iraqi police service and the Iraqi Army is over 195,000 trained and equipped and deployed across Iraq.
Add in those who are still being trained and equipped but who are very enthusiastic about their mission and the American trainers, such as the Iraqi mechanized-infantry division that MG Bob Scales (ret) discussed on Brit Hume, which we blogged about here, and you already have over one percent of the Iraqi population without even considering civilians, surely some of whom must support the Coalition. Already, the main claim is dubious -- not a good sign for a survey that somebody -- we're never told who -- demands remain "secret."
Read the Telegraph article and note what they do not tell us: who conducted the survey? Who was surveyed? How many, and how many from each province? What was the margin of error? What were the exact questions? Where did the respondents live? How did the pollster assure a representative sample of Iraqi citizens?
Did they ask about "suicide attacks," or simply "attacks?" The Telegraph article uses both terms almost indistinguishably. What were the conditions of the question about attacks on Coalition forces... was this question in the form "if Coalition forces were to do X, would you then support attacking them?" And if so many Iraqis hate us -- then why do they cooperate so enthusiastically with the security training, intelligence tipping, and constitutional voting that we helped them set up?
Can't the Telegraph give us something? Anything?
Contrast the deafening silence on the entire methodology of this alleged "secret military poll" with the transparency of this poll, conducted by SurveyUSA anent the upcoming special election in California. We blogged it here, because we can be confident of the findings -- since SurveyUSA told us nearly everything we need to know to evaluate or "qualify" the poll itself, as an attorney might say about a witness. And a poll is a sort of witness, as it purports to tell you what people would say if you got them in a room and pumped them full of truth serum.
And what the heck does the Telegraph mean by saying the results were "seen by" the Sunday Telegraph? Did the Ministry of Defence hold up the results and let the reporter, Sean Rayment, glance through the survey? Did he see results, or just a summary? How long was he allowed to look? Did they let him take home a copy? As exactly none of these vital questions were answered, I suspect we can guess what the answers would have been.
A dubious claim does not suddenly become plausible when tarted up by an equally dubious "survey"... especially when we're told nothing about the methodology, when the results fly in the fact of not only previous polling but also the attitudes implied by the increasing level of cooperation we're getting from Iraqi military and civilians (see the previous post, US kills 20 Terrorists in Western Iraq), and the poll itself is allegedly a state secret.
There is a lot less here than meets the eye. Just as a good DA can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, a clever pollster can produce a poll showing anything he wants.
Without a track record for the pollster and full access not only to the survey methods but also a complete list of the questions (in order asked) and raw responses, the "results" reported by the Telegraph are utterly meaningless.
US kills 20 Terrorists in Western Iraq
On Saturday, American forces conducted a series of raids at the Syrian border. In western Iraq, the Anbar province, 20 terrorists were killed during raids on houses believed to contain foreign al-Qaeda fighters. The U.S. is continuing the offensive, not giving terrorists any breathing space.
A statement said U.S. forces found two large caches of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds and bomb making materials, during the raids in the western town of Husayba. It said one insurgent was captured in the operation.
In another raid near Qaim, Coalition forces detained five terrorists and seized a large cache of weapons in an al-Qaeda not-so-safe house. The best news about this good news is how we obtained the intelligence in the first place... from ordinary local Iraqi citizens, who are turning against the foreign al-Qaeda invaders at an astonishing rate:
Intelligence sources and tips from local citizens led coalition forces to the location. Coalition aircraft, using precision guided munitions, destroyed the safe house and weapons cache after coalition forces left the scene.
Elsewhere in Iraq, quick thinking by Iraqi police officers attached to the Khalis Iraqi Police station thwarted a potentially devastating attack on the station.
Shortly after noon, a semitrailer approached the Khalis traffic circle and failed to slow and stop as directed. Guards fired on the vehicle, which then veered to the south. Its payload of explosives detonated when it hit a brick wall, killing a police officer.
A short time later, four mortars were fired at the traffic circle, seriously injuring two children in a nearby field. The children were taken to an Iraqi medical facility for treatment.
As the pace of our offensives increases, more and more foreign fighters have been targeted. This year alone, 376 foreign fighters had been captured and over 400 killed. The Fourth Rail reports:
With an estimated 150 terrorists entering the country monthly, well over half of the year’s total have been killed or captured, an exceedingly high attrition rate. General Lynch also points out that al Qaeda in Iraq’s leadership is often of foreign origin.
Okay, okay: 776 out of 1800 is only 43%, not "well over half." Minor arithmetic errors aside, al-Qaeda’s foreign invaders are clearly losing this war -- "big time."
Date ►►► October 22, 2005
Zarqawi's Golden Parachute
Am I the only one who thinks like this? I hope not....
AP is carrying an item titled U.S.: Zarqawi's Terror Network Growing. The first thing that pops into the reader's head, of course, is that US officials are claiming that there are now more terrorists, that we're losing the war (I'm certain that was just the idea they intended to convey). The article claims no such thing, however, only that Musab Zarqawi is expanding his influence and contacts into other terrorist groups in other countries.
WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. intelligence officials say Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has expanded his terrorism campaign in Iraq to extremists in two dozen terror groups scattered across almost 40 countries, creating a network that rivals Osama bin Laden's....
In figures not made public before, counterterrorism officials say that Zarqawi's network of contacts has grown dramatically since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and now includes associates in nearly 40 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.
Those Muslim extremists are members of at least 24 groups, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to much smaller organizations in Indonesia.
Since this is the Associated Press, there is the obligatory swipe at President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld, albeit subtlely:
He also is helped, said one U.S. intelligence official, by the fact that there is not a large, constant American military presence in Anbar, but rather pockets of forces that are bolstered during operations. Iraq's largely Shiite security forces do not want to go to the Sunni-dominated area, either.
Translation: an anonymous "intelligence official" says We're losing! We're history, man! Bush should have sent in a million soldiers, like we have argued all along -- except for the time we were arguing he shouldn't have gone in at all!
Naturally, those interviewed in the article, when they express an opinion at all, opine that this means his strength is growing.
In interviews, U.S. government officials said the threat to U.S. interests from al-Zarqawi compared with that from bin Laden, whom al-Zarqawi pledged his loyalty to one year ago....
Al-Zarqawi is now seen as the top general who is putting in place al-Qaida's long campaign to establish an Islamic society throughout the Middle East, with Iraq at its heart....
The persistence of their attacks and subsequent media exposure have made al-Zarqawi the public face of al-Qaida and the broader insurgency. He has become so central to al-Qaida's operations that some evidence suggests he is providing money to bin Laden.
But I have own theory, probably idiosyncratic: I think Zarqawi is setting up bolt holes, international affiliations to whom he can flee when he inevitably has to bug out of Iraq... just as Osama bin Laden and his cronies fled to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan when they were booted from Sudan. I suspect that Zarwawi, a streetwise thug who has murdered his way to being capo di tutti capos of the biggest mob in the Arab Middle East, sees the noose tightening around his neck, and he is preparing to escape to some other country... probably simply abandoning all his followers in Iraq except for his closest cadre.
But then, I always was an optimist. We shall soon see.
The 800 Pound Gorelick
I'm quite reluctant to run with this, considering the source -- actually, considering both the original and the reporting sources! -- but what the heck. Consider yourselves duly cautioned: objects in the mirror may be farther than they appear.
Newsmax.com alleges that Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) now alleges that the staffer who actually blocked the 9/11 Commission from hearing testimony about Able Danger was none other than Dieter Snell, one of the chief investigating lawyers on the commission and a former prosecutor of Ramzi Yousef for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 -- and that Snell, according to Weldon, was "the lead staffer for Jamie Gorelick." It's this last part that is a new claim, a supposed direct connection between Snell and Gorelick... and that is the part I cannot independently verify.
(I am guessing this is why Captain Ed has not yet commented on this: he is waiting for some verification of the central claim.)
It has been known for some time that it was Snell who did not pass along Navy Captain Scott Philpot's testimony to the commission; for example, consider these two postings on National Review Online's blog the Corner, two posts the same day (August 20th, 2005) by Andrew McCarthy:
This is a troublesome story, we don’t know all the facts, and I happen to know and be fond of Dieter Snell--the Commission staffer who did the interview of the naval intel officer [Scott Philpot] -- so if Snell found him unpersuasive, that carries a lot of weight with me. ("WANT TO REPHRASE THAT?," at 4:52 am)
As I've noted with respect to the former, we don't know enough about what happened, and the fact that someone as able as commission staffer Dieter Snell appears to have rejected the naval officer's information gives me cause for pause. ("THE POINT IS TRAINING AND FOCUS, NOT ASSOCIATIVE MEMORY," at 10:45 am)
But Weldon now claims that Dietrich Dieter Snell was "the lead staffer for Jamie Gorelick." Alas, I cannot find any definitive evidence that Snell was specifically working for Gorelick, as opposed simply to being the lead investigative staffer (or one of the leads) for the commission as a whole. Also, I'm not sure how much weight to give this even if true: I can't find any connection between Gorelick and Snell prior to the 9/11 Commission. If that is correct, then the mere fact that he was appointed her staffer -- if he actually was, that is -- wouldn't mean he would necessarily collaborate with her on some deep conspiracy to keep Able Danger out of the public eye in order to hide the damage caused by what I called "Jamie Gorelick's wall of separation between intelligence and law enforcement" back on Captain's Quarters.
Until I see much stronger evidence of some prior connection between Snell and Gorelick than the mere fact that he was an investigator on the commission that she (and many others) sat on, I'm not going to believe in a conspiracy arising between the two... despite the fact that Rep. Weldon has been right more often than wrong on this issue.
Commenters with knowledge of this specific question -- the actual connection, if any, between Snell and Gorelick -- are urged to share.
Date ►►► October 21, 2005
It's Morning in Medicaid
How did this manage to slide by unnoticed? (Warning, you have to click past the advert.)
U.S. Gives Florida a Sweeping Right to Curb Medicaid
By Robert Pear
Published: October 20, 2005
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 - The Bush administration approved a sweeping Medicaid plan for Florida on Wednesday that limits spending for many of the 2.2 million beneficiaries there and gives private health plans new freedom to limit benefits.
The Florida program, likely to be a model for many other states, shifts from the traditional Medicaid "defined benefit" plan to a "defined contribution" plan, under which the state sets a ceiling on spending for each recipient.
Children under the age of 21 and pregnant women will be exempt from the limits.
Medicaid is, of course, the federal/state system for insuring the poor (Medicare insures the aged and the disabled). Traditional Medicaid is a classic "defined benefits" plan, where the state decides on the benefits and then shops for the cheapest way to pay for them; when such plans run into financial trouble, their only alternatives are to cut benefits or raise taxes, neither of which is politicall palatable.
Florida's new system is a "defined contribution" plan, joining a number of other states that have gotten federal wavers to shift from defined benefits to defined contributions or otherwise reform their broken Medicaid programs.
"Defined contribution" has long been considered the Holy Grail for libertarian and conservative analysts of programs like Medicare, urged by both the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation; it relies upon consumer choice to keep costs down. Cato writes:
Under the traditional defined benefits approach, an institutional purchaser such as an employer determines what range of services it will cover, then seeks or creates a plan that will provide those services for an acceptable price. It has become increasingly difficult to sustain a defined benefit system. A steady stream of emerging technologies requires an equally steady stream of decisions about which ones will be covered by the plan. Moreover, it has become nearly impossible to provide such benefits economically, in the face of rising health care inflation and increasingly impotent cost-cutting tools.
In contrast, under defined contribution, the employer determines up front how much it will spend for health care, then typically provides an array of options from which beneficiaries can choose (Wye River Group on Healthcare et al., Parrish 2001, Blumenthal 2001). Those options can assume various forms. In the oldest, most familiar version, the contribution essentially represents a voucher for a conventional health plan. The employer assembles a collection of plans from which employees can choose, and then defines its own contribution according to the least expensive of those plans.
Unlike a defined-benefits plan, under the new system, recipients will be able to select more expensive health-care plans than the state is willing to pay for, so long as the recipient picks up the rest of the tab. The recipient gets an expensive plan for little of his own money, and the state keeps its own costs down.
Florida is not the first state to make the transition, of course; but I believe they are the biggest. And while states like Vermont have pilot programs, Florida is actually implementing the changes system wide.
The new Florida plan also incorporates private medical care into the state Medicaid program:
Joan C. Alker, a senior researcher at the Health Policy Institute of Georgetown University, said: "Florida's proposal is one of the most far-reaching and radical proposals we've seen to restructure Medicaid. The federal government and the states now decide which benefits people get. Under the Florida plan, many of those decisions will be made by private health plans, out of public view"....
For each beneficiary, Florida will pay a monthly premium to a private plan. Insurance plans will be allowed to limit "the amount, duration and scope" of services in ways that current law does not permit.
The Florida plan includes many of the very same features that President Bush has proposed for national Medicaid. From the New York Times article:
- Recipients must select a private health-care "Medicaid" plan. If they do not, the state will automatically enroll them in a private plan of the state's choosing.
- Recipients can choose to completely opt out of the Medicaid system; in that case, Medicaid will partially subsidize the employee share of an employer-sponsored health-insurance program (the article doesn't say how this works with the self-employed). Such persons will still pay the same co-payments, and they will have the same deductables as other members of that same employer-sponsored health insurance.
- Recipients who enroll in weight-loss or stop-smoking programs will receive Medicaid subsidies to help pay for them.
- The state and feds will pool money to spend up to $1 billion per year on hospitals that treat a large number of indigent or uninsured patients.
President Bush has been flogging Medicaid reform since his first days in office, at least since August, 2001. But the administration has finally begun to focus like a laser beam (as Clinton used to say) on presenting a fleshed-out proposal... which likely will look a lot like the Florida program.
We certainly could do worse; we're doing worse right now! But with these reforms, most of the projections of massive future liabilities will melt away, because market forces will actually hold costs down -- for the same reason that Cadillacs don't cost a million dollars: too much competition. Perhaps a successful program in the fourth largest state in the United States will spur Congress finally to enact such reforms nationwide and encourage other states to follow suit.
Then Medicare could be reformed the same way; and the public-private partnerships in Medicare/Medicaid could remove some of the terror on the Left, allowing meaningful Social Security privatization before the entire system crashes and burns. Although privatization of "entitlement" programs is inherently conservative, it is not inherently anti-Leftist. They're only against it because conservatives favor it.
I expect only two of these (probably Medicaid and Medicare) to be enacted during Bush's presidency; but that in itself would be a stunning conservative domestic legacy, especially coupled with his tax cuts, with the Patriot Act and other criminal justice reforms, and (I still hope) general tort reform. As we begin to see the benefits of a free market in what was previously thought to be sanctified to dictatorial bureaucracy, anything could happen.
Date ►►► October 20, 2005
Right to Own Weapons...
Correction... this is a great day for litigation reform!
AP and all the nets are reporting a fantastic breakthrough -- in something that should have been a no-brainer. Congress has finally agreed that victims of criminal misuse of firearms cannot sue the gun manufacturer for damages (presumably for having the temerity to manufacture products that can potentially be misused). Bush is, of course, expected to sign the bill into law.
(In a startling corollary development, Congress also enacted legislation preventing victims of drunk drivers from suing Chevrolet and Toyota for building cars in the first place.)
The real intent is clear: unable to persuade American voters to vote to ban guns (perhaps due to that pesky Second Amendment), the Left decided to try to sue them out of existence by legally blaming gun manufacturers for the actions of criminals who buy, borrow, or steal guns to commit their crimes.
As A.E. Van Vogt wrote in "the Weapon Shops of Isher":
The right to own weapons is the right to be free.
Today, thankfully, America is the land of the freer.
Do You Want Subpoenas With That?
Today is a very good day for litigation reform.
Responding to a swarm of bizarre and offensive lawsuits "on behalf of" fat kids -- lawsuits that seek damages from fast-food restaurants for daring to sell food other than carrot sticks and tossed chard salads -- the House of Representatives has (once again) passed a bill that would throw these outlandish suits out of court.
The legal theory appears to be that when kids and their parents are faced with the trauma of a hamburger, their brains literally shut down, and resistance is futile. They're assimilated into the McBorg. Toss in a bag of fries, and it may as well be a crime against humanity.
It has nothing to do with kids; these suits are being pushed by two groups: greedy parents who want simultaneously to get rich via life's lottery (as Rush Limbaugh called tort litigation) and find somebody to blame other than themselves for their kids being obese -- and professional pleasure haters, such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the group which brought you the shocking news that popcorn, pizza, chow mein, and burritos are fattening if indulged to excess.
Oh, and trial lawyers steaming off of their success at blaming "Big Tobacco" for smoking; all right, three groups.
"But of course this silly legislative effort has nothing to do with encouraging personal responsibility and everything to do with pleasing a powerful and politically connected industry," said Michael Jacobson, director of the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest.
I reckon Mr. Jacobson believes the best way to "encourag[e] personal responsibility" is to blame Big Food for your stupid eating choices.
Alas, it's not a given that the Senate will follow suit. The House passed essentially the same bill last year, but the Senate failed to act. Maybe they just ran out of time, or maybe they just ran out of courage: I'll believe it when I believe it, when the McFood Protection Act of 2005 lands on President Bush's desk.
Then he can sign it with an ink-stained french fry.
"Hurricane" Hugo Chavez is having another psychic fugue.
US planning invasion, says Chavez
Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez, says he is in possession of intelligence showing that the United States plans to invade his country.
October 20th, 2005
In a BBC interview, Mr Chavez said the US was after his nation's oil, much as it had been after Iraq's.
But he stressed that any invasion would never be allowed to happen.
My first thought was, of course, "when was Hugo Chavez ever 'in possession of intelligence'" in the first place? But even making my way past that huge suspension of disbelief, I note that yet again, the American loony-Left is writing the script for Communist thugs and dictators around the world: why would we invade Venezuela? Why, to steal their oil, of course! Just as we did in Iraq.
Thank you, "Hurricane" Howard Dean.
If you have ever considered a career in forensic psychiatry and psychological profiling, you simply must read this article.
But worry not, Hugophiles; the Man has assurred us that if the United States were to attack Venezuela, the mighty al-Chavez Militia will repel us, driving us into the sea to drown like rats. Presumably just as the terrorists did in Iraq.
Date ►►► October 19, 2005
Everybody's Gone Survey, SurveyUSA - Page 2
Daniel Weintraub notes in his Bee-blog, California Insider, that the leads enjoyed by Governor Schwarzenegger's five ballot initiatives for California' special election on November 8th have narrowed from their Olympian heights two weeks ago; but they are still considerably ahead.
According to SurveyUSA's latest poll, four of the five still hold commanding, double-digit leads; only Proposition 74's lead (reforming teacher tenure) has dropped into single digits, down to 8% from 11% two weeks ago.
Here are the current results:
Results of SurveyUSA Election Poll #7189
Filtering: 1,200 California adults were interviewed 10/15/05 - 10/17/05. Of them, 963 were registered voters. Of them, 609 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 73. 613 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 74. 609 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 75. 594 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 76. 600 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 77. Crosstabs reflect "likely" voters. Voter interest in this election has increased: in an identical poll of 1,200 California adults 2 weeks ago, at most 529 voters were judged to be "likely" to vote on any question. No change was made to the way voters were filtered or the way questions were asked.
Questions on Propositions 73, 74, and 75 have a margin of error of 4.0%; questions on Propositions 76 and 77 have an MOE of 4.1%.
- Prop 73: 60 yes, 38 no (2% undecided) lead: +22
Parental Abortion Notification
- Prop 74: 53 yes, 45 no (1% undecided) lead: +8
Teacher Tenure Reform
- Prop 75: 56 yes, 42 no (2% undecided) lead: +14
- Prop 76: 54 yes, 41 no (5% undecided) lead: +13
Limit State Spending Growth
- Prop 77: 54 yes, 41 no (5% undecided) lead: +13
My own speculation is that much, if not all, of the movement comes from Democrats "coming home" to oppose the measures, following the many, many millions of dollars spent on attack ads by the teachers unions and other hard-left sources, ads that skirt as close to flatly lying as the FEC and FCC will allow. We'll see if the ads produced by the governator and the Cal-GOP ads that will debut next week can bring these waverers back into line.
This Bloody Teleconference Is Rigged!
The same Power Line post linked below also pointed me to a nice column from the brilliant and beautiful Michelle Malkin. On the subject of the president's teleconference with American and Iraqi troops anent preparations for the Iraqi elections, Malkin takes up the thread where Sachi and I left it here, here, and here. Perhaps now the MSM will begin to pay attention to the actual questions and answers, which show that it was no accident that the election ran as smoothly as it did.
Oops, maybe we should have linked to Michelle! (Actually, we independently read Sgt. Long's post.)
This Bloody Fight's Been Rigged!
Power Line tipped me to a fascinating article by Todd Manzi up at Human Events, provacatively titled "The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy: Attack on Bill Bennett Was Staged." While Manzi makes some powerful points about the irresponsibility of the press, he ultimately fails the twin labors of Hercules he sets himself: either to prove that the dogpile on William Bennett was "staged," or to offer any practical suggestions for preventing such media mayhem in the future.
My response turned out to be 1,600 words... far too long for a blogpost. So it has become the second hissing of my semi-regular column, the Lizard's Tongue -- go thou, o wise, and read why I say Manzi did not deliver the knockout blow many think he has!
To see links to all the Lizard's Tongue columns (all two of them), check here.
Summary of Judge Robert Bork's Hit Piece On Bush
Apres moi, le deluge!
ab Hugh's Universal Rules of Intelligence
Thinking about the many intelligence failures -- the collapse of the Shah of Iran, the failure to find "large stockpiles" of WMD in Iraq, the tragic case of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, shot to death in London by police who mistook him for a suicide bomber -- and about the many intelligence successes (all those terrible terrorist attacks that didn't occur on American soil because they were thwarted -- suggests some rules of intelligence and analysis that we should always keep in mind:
1. The Law of Imperfect Precognition: Sometimes there is no "right choice." Throw the dice.
2. The Law of Imperfect Postcognition: Not even hindsight is ever really 20-20.
3. The Law of Colliding Interests: Five different people can each make a rational decision and still wind up in a melee.
4. The Law of the Onion: There is always another layer of analysis that contradicts everything you've already concluded. At some point, you just have to stop.
5. The Law of Models: There is a real reality out there, whether you can see it or not. And it will bite.
Date ►►► October 18, 2005
Soldiers' Answers Weren't Scripted
When we wrote about the so-called "staged" teleconference between the president, ten American soldiers, and one Iraqi soldier, we introduced Sgt. Ron Long, who actually participated in the conference. We e-mailed Sgt. Long to ask if the soldiers themselves actually wrote their own answers, or if the answers were supplied by (or even edited by) the White House.
Sgt. Long did not respond personally, but he answered the same question in his blog. The blogpost quotes a fellow soldier from the 278th Regimental Combat Team, Lt. Gregg Murphy, who was interviewed by the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Murphy was chosen for the Tikrit teleconference because he had spent the last three months leading an Iraqi army training program near the Iranian border. The article is titled "Soldiers' questions weren't scripted, participant says," by Edward Lee Pitts.
"We wanted to give President Bush a no-kidding assessment of what we have all been working 14- (to) 18-hour days on for the last 11 months," said Lt. Gregg Murphy, of Chattanooga. "We gave him the God’s honest truth as we know it."
Although the soldiers themselves gathered before the teleconference to "brainstorm" what questions President Bush was likely to ask and how best and most accurately they could answer, there was no coercion, suggestion, or even editing by administration personnel.
[Lt. Murphy] said the only guidance the solders received was to avoid using military jargon that would confuse the general public and to write out bullet points to keep their comments concise and clear. Lt. Murphy said writing out key points kept the soldiers from being nervous.
"[Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Allison Barber] did not orchestrate the interview," Lt. Murphy said of the Defense Department employee. "We were nervous, and she put us at ease. Nothing more."
As for the reharsal, Lt. Murphy has this to say:
[T]he military rehearses all the time. "We do that so that when we actually have to execute, there isn’t any confusion," he said. "Rehearsing is why we are so good at what we do."
This should be the final refutation of the initial knee-jerk and entirely predictable -- scripted, if you will -- response by the Associated Press, reprinted in the Washington Post, that smarmily implied (without quite saying) that the soldiers were either too dumb or too intimidated by the president to give honest answers, and that the White House had scripted the entire event.
On the one hand, you can believe the nod-and-a-wink insinuations of a reporter whose only connection to the teleconference is that he saw some of the rehearsal inadvertently broadcast -- footage that does not show even one single reported instance of the White House altering a soldier's answer. Or you can believe the straightforward words of two of the actual participants in the teleconference, a lieutenant and a sergeant who have each spent many months fighting in Iraq (the latter as a combat medic) and are still there on the ground, dealing with Iraqi citizens, Coalition forces, and terrorists on a day-to-day basis.
It's your choice.
Date ►►► October 17, 2005
US Seizes al-Qaeda Webmaster, Hacks al-Qaeda Website
The US military captured Abu Dijana, a top propaganda agent for Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Abu Dijana was the Webmaster of a "members-only" website called Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He was responsible for blogging the day-to-day operations of al-Qaeda, such as bombing American convoys, Iraqi police, or citizens exiting from a mosque.
Abu Dijana was so efficient that, within minutes of some brutal act of terrorism, Al-Qaeda in Iraq would take credit on the website, posting video clips and triumphant boast-posts. Intelligence officers and major American media regularly used the site to make official determinations of responsibility.
In one typical case, just three hours after an attack, the site showed video of a man identified as the suicide bomber Abu Musab al-Iraqi, who says, "I have dreamed about this moment. I am sure if my family is watching this they will be more proud of me."
Musab's words are followed by a video of a car he is said to be driving, blowing up in the midst of an American convoy. The incident is replayed again and again with more of Musab's speech superimposed over the ball of flames and smoke rising above the U.S. convoy. "Thank God this day I went to kill many crusaders." His declaration ends, "Today I will be in heaven."
Not only are the attacks themselves coordinated, so is the recording of them. Abu Dijana gathered information of impending attacks and provided equipment to his cell members to record attacks. After each attack, the collected photographs and video were swiftly uploaded to the website.
The most obvious purpose of the website is to webcast terrorist attacks as a propaganda tool, but al-Qaeda also uses the site to recruit volunteers for more suicide bombings and intimidate local citizens. Al-Qaeda members use the site as a communication system as well, to coordinate attacks, train the recruits, and just to report the daily dish for jihadists. It's so popular, it's a wonder they don't have SiteMeter and a listing in the TTLB Ecosystem.
That's why the "al-Qaida in Iraq" site, available to members only, features highly detailed tutorials on bomb-making, strategy for assassinations, and even a workshop on hacking into secret American government Web sites. The Web site claims it has 4,000 members.
For reasons of security, each new member of the site must be approved by a committee of existing members. "It's full of intelligence information and the enemy might use it against us," one member said. With as many as 1,500 members logging on in a single day, the Web site is also an effective security tool for al-Qaida. When its operatives get word of an impending U.S. raid, it puts out flash security warnings to fighters who might be targets.
Evidently this precaution was not sufficient: the webmaster, Abu Dijana himself, was caught in just such a raid.
There are more unsecured websites in Iraq. Americans are closely monitoring such sites and hacking them for information gathering. Not only are we winning the war on land, sea, and air, we're beating them like a dozen eggs in the blogosphere, as well!
Paycheck Protection Initiative Endorsed By -- the Los Angeles Times?!
In an astonishing burst of good sense, decency, and even courage, the Los Angeles Times has actually endorsed Proposition 75, the initiative that would ban public-employee unions from using member dues for political purposes without the prior written consent of the member. This according to the ever-reliable Daniel Weintraub at the Sacramento Bee, whose Bee-blog, California Insider, is a daily must-read at Big Lizards central.
Weintraub links to the LA Times editorial:
IN 1998, THIS PAGE OPPOSED Proposition 226, the so-called paycheck-protection measure that sought to bar labor unions from spending a member's dues for political activities in the absence of that member's consent. We considered that initiative a disingenuous "good government" move aimed at diminishing the voice of only one side on public policy debates, and we would oppose such a proposition again if it were on this year's ballot.
But contrary to some of the arguments being mustered both for and against Proposition 75, this election's version of "paycheck protection" is significantly different than Proposition 226: It applies only to public employee unions. We support this more narrowly tailored initiative primarily as a means of lessening the power of public employee unions in Sacramento, but also as a way of reinforcing the right of union members to insist that their hard-earned income not be diverted to political causes they don't endorse.
Ah, the world, which had been wobbling on its axis, has steadied itself: the Times supports the initiative, but for a silly and contradictory reason! They support, among other things, "the right of union members to insist that their hard-earned income not be diverted to political causes they don't endorse." But they nevertheless opposed Prop. 226, which would have upheld "the right of union members to insist that their hard-earned income not be diverted to political causes they don't endorse."
So evidently, they only support the right of public employees to be free of such odious misuse of their paychecks!
(The Times cites the thoroughly discredited canard that a similar restriction on private-employee unions would be wrong because corporations would still be able to contribute money without asking shareholders. But this is absurd: shareholders can register their disapproval by dumping their stock; I dumped my Disney stock some time ago because I despised the politics Michael Eiser was funding, and I suffered no financial setback. But absent such an initiative, the only way for an employee, public or private, to stop his union money going to causes he loathes would be to quit his job and go on the dole.
(There already is a law, on paper, "allowing" members to specifically tell the union not to use their dues for politicking; but union thugs have a habit of "hatting" and beating anyone who tries to use it.)
The Times supports the First-Amendment rights of conservatives, but only in a limited fashion... and only because even politcos like Antonio Villaraigosa despise the teachers unions.
Sanity is restored. I am glad to have the Times on my side for a change, but at least I don't have to rethink the fundamental nature of reality!
US Air Raid Kills 70 Terrorists
On Sunday, several different military operations involving U.S. warplanes, helicopters, and ground troops (both American and Iraqi) killed a total of 70 terrorists.
An American F-15 spotted a group of terrorists burying a roadside bomb in Ramadi; the Eagle dropped a single bomb, killing twenty. Subsequently, according to Reuters:
Another 50 militants were killed in a series of separate strikes, the statement added, saying military commanders had no indications of any U.S. or civilian casualties in the operation.
The military said separately that 18 insurgents had been killed in three separate clashes elsewhere in western Iraq.
Iraq's Defense Ministry said separately U.S. and Iraqi troops had killed 12 insurgents south of Baghdad on Sunday.
The Reuters article is poorly enough written that it's impossible to say whether the thirty deaths detailed above are part of the fifty mentioned earlier, or whether a total of 100 jihadis, not seventy, were killed.
Of course, being the MSM, they had to throw in this kicker:
However, Ramadi police Lieutenant Karim Salim said 20 of those killed were civilians, including some children as young as 11. Doctors in the city had made a similar assessment on Sunday.
I wonder how exactly a doctor can look at a patient brought to a hospital -- alive or dead -- and determine that he was a "civilian?" And what kind of civilian? A terrorist who isn't a member of the armed forces is a civilian, even if he is still a terrorist.
As far as the children who may have died, that is, of course, a despicable evil. But those deaths are the full responsibility of the jihadis who hide among children to fight, using them as human shields. God may have mercy on them, but America should not.
While You Were Sleeping
Taking a page from Patterico, this post inaugurates a new series: since we get a lot fewer visitors over the weekend (people being busier with "RL"), each Monday I will try to post a brief recap of what we posted on Saturday and Sunday, capsule descriptions plus links, of course. And I'll keep this up as long as I remember to do so. So here goes!
Two posts on Saturday, October 15th:
- Earle-y to Bed -- and Stay There: a stunning new development in the Tom DeLay case! It turns out that Ronnie Earle's office, which based its second indictment upon a single, critical document, does not actually have that document. When challenged to produce it in court, they handed over a different document instead -- and claimed it was "factually similar" to the real one!
- Bush's Teleconference: the Actual Q&A: in all the excitement over whether the answers given by the soldiers in President Bush's teleconference were scripted or were their own words was the much more interesting news of the answers themselves... and Sachi thinks this bit of misdirection may have been purposeful on the part of the Associated Press, the Washington Post, and other MSM sources. Get the lowdown on the high drama of how the American presence created such a smooth and violence-free election in Iraq.
Sunday was exceptionally full with the KRLA Talkfest in the afternoon (I already told you about that) and a play in the evening, so blogging was light (by "light," I actually mean "nonexistent;" but it sounded better the other way). So that's all you missed last weekend... happy reading!
What I Would Ask Strict Constructionists
(Or whatever they choose to call themselves.)
Would it be unconstitutional for a state legislature to enact a law banning all vaccination within the state?
If one did, would any court at any level be allowed, under your judicial philosophy, to overturn such an insane act? Would Congress be constitutionally allowed to do so, under any element of the grant of rights in Article I, Section 8?
If your answer to either of these is Yes, doesn't that entail some level of judicial activism... in a good cause, of course? And if the answer is No and No, those kids just gotta die of polio, diptheria, and typoid fever... then doesn't the whole philosophy of governance fail the most basic test of preserving the citizenry's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness?
I was inspired by Dennis Prager's remark at the KRLA Talkfest yesterday that "purists can ruin great movements." I believe that absolute blind purity of essence in even a movement such as originalism (by whatever name) is destructive of the very goals it was designed to foster.
What I Would Ask Miers
Here's a burning question that I would ask Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, were I a senator... not because I think she would be bad on this issue, but because the Court has been bad in the past:
Miss Miers; within your judicial philosophy, is there ever a valid situation in which foreign law or jurisprudence -- that has never been formally recognized by treaty with the U.S. -- can nevertheless trump the United States Constitution or American federal or state legislation in American courts?
All right, a lawyer would phrase it more bulletproof, but that's the gist. The Supreme Court -- in particular Justices Breyer and Kennedy, I think -- say Yes, lots of situations. I say No, never.
What does Miers say? For that matter, what does Roberts say?
A Tale of Two Whistles
The first whistle we all remember: Joseph Wilson, the proven serial liar who was sent by the CIA to investigate claims that Iraq attempted to purchase yellowcake Uranium from Niger, returned to report that indeed this was likely true -- but then wrote a completely fabricated article for the New York Times on July 6th, 2003, in which, in order to politically damage President Bush, Wilson flatly lied about his own findings.
Yet despite the exposure of these lies by a unanimous, bipartisan Senate committee investigation, Wilson continues to be lionized by the press and by the Michael Moore/MoveOn mob; more to the point, he remains free to wander about, instead of sitting in solemn silence in a dull, dank dock -- and wasn't even fined.
But turn now to a different whistle which blew its tune in a very different concert hall.
According to the Telegraph, a whistleblower who warned of a serious (potentially deadly) cabin-pressure design flaw in the new Airbus A380 now faces not only financial ruin but possible jail time, first because of a criminal lawsuit filed against him by his former employer and also for violating a gag order by talking about his own criminal case.
Joseph Mangan thought he was doing Airbus a favour when he warned of a small but potentially lethal fault in the new A380 super-jumbo, the biggest and most costly passenger jet ever built.
Instead, Europe's aviation giant rubbished his claims, and now he faces ruin, a morass of legal problems, and - soon - an Austrian prison. Mr Mangan is counting the days at his Vienna flat across the street from Schonbrünn Palace, wondering whether the bailiffs or the police will knock first.
Mangan, an American aerospace engineer, was brought in to head up the aerospace team at TTTech Computertechnik, an Austrian company that makes some of the components used in the A380. The A380 is the pride of Europe. It is intended to carry more than 850 passengers and fly at altitudes of 42,000 (flight level 420) -- the Boeing 747, by contrast, carries up to 524 passengers, typically at FL 350 with similar range and speed. Much is riding on the success of the A380, "the symbol of what Europe can achieve," according to French President Jacques Chirac; not only the pride of the EU but also its economic prospects depend upon a successful and timely launch of the huge airliner.
Mangan claims that his team was under tremendous pressure to meet deadline when they decided to change the specifications for the outflow valve control system. Rather than the more usual arrangement of three different systems for safety redundancy, they chose to use four identical valves.
The problem is that if an event occurs that causes one of the valves to fail, the other three may simultaneously fail for the same reason. In that case, the cabin would experience sudden catastrophic loss of air pressure. Since irreparable brain damage can occur after four minutes without oxygen, and since it takes two and a half minutes to descend from 420 to 250 (where ambient air is breathable), the flight crew would have to notice the problem and begin the descent within ninety seconds -- and among the first symptoms are inattentiveness, poor judgment, and loss of motor coordination (as I can attest from personal experience).
Any delay could result in neural damage or even death among hundreds of passengers and crew... and could even result in the aircraft crashing, if the pilots pass out: loss of cabin air pressure is considered a primary cause of a crash of a Boeing 737 over Greece this last August.
Once TTTech changed to the new valve design, they were obliged to report that change to the testing agencies, who might have to begin certification all over again. Mangan charges that the team failed to get the new design recertified, which could have taken as long as two years; the A380 was already six months behind schedule and $1.8 billion over budget. Instead, Mangan alleges,
TTTech falsely classified its micro-chip as a simple "off-the-shelf" product already used in car valves in order to except it from elaborate testing rules, he claimed. This would breach both EU and US law on aircraft regulation. "I refused to sign off on the test results, but TTTech went ahead anyway," he claimed. The key papers relate to the TTPOS operating system and were allegedly dated August 24 2004.
A number of agencies appear to have accepted or seriously considered Mangan's charge, which he first made in September 2004; he first raised the issue with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the EU equivalent of the Federal Aviation Administration here in the United States.
[O]fficials at the air safety watchdog EASA said they took the concerns "extremely seriously". An EASA source told the Telegraph that the agency was "able to confirm certain statements by Mr Mangan".
A probe - conducted by the French authorities for EASA - allegedly found that TTTech was "not in conformity" with safety rules and had failed to carry out the proper tests. The key microchip was deemed "not acceptable". EASA instructed Airbus to sort out the problem before the final certification of the A380 next year. It is unclear whether this has now been done. EASA has refused to comment publicly on the details of the dispute, prompting concerns at the European Parliament. Eva Lichtenberger, an Austrian Green MEP, wrote an "urgent" letter to the agency last month demanding "prompt and extensive information on the matter".
Had this chain of events happened in the U.S., the FAA would immediately have frozen deployment of the aircraft until the issue was investigated. Several agencies would have gotten themselves involved and there might even have been hearings in the Aviation subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. (In fact, such hearings might still be a good idea before A380s are allowed to fly in the United States.)
Instead, the response in the European Union was markedly different. TTTech filed a lawsuit alleging both civil and criminal defamation under Austrian law, and the judge in the case issued a gag order, which Mangan says prohibited him from talking even to the EASA or other aviation safety officials. While the trial drags on, the A380 is nearing debut -- without any changes, corrections, or retesting done on the valve system, Mangan says.
This violates my duty to the public. People could die on that plane if they don't fix the problem," he said.
TTTech denies that there is any problem and denies that any of its elements covered up or failed to disclose any significant design changes. They say that Mangan has inflicted "severe damage" to their corporate reputation by making unsubstantiated claims about safety problems. They refer to him as disgruntled, say he never fit into the team, and that he is motivated by revenge.
There seems little interest within the European political community in helping Mangan defend against the criminal charge or even to evaluate his claims, despite support from the EASA. He is bankrupt, was fined $180,000 (which he could not pay) for violating the gag order, faces a year in jail for that violation -- and still faces the possibility of even more time in jail or prison for speaking out in the first place, even before the gag order.
Too bad. If only he had thought to embed his charges inside a diatribe against George Bush, as Joe Wilson did, the EU would hail him as a Hero of the People.
Der Beste of Der Krapp
Way back in the dim mists of antiquity, before many of you were more than a gleam in your parents' eyes -- I refer to the dark hell of the Carter 70s -- Brad Linaweaver began a column about the best of the worst movies ever made, the "golden turkeys," as Harry and Michael Medved dubbed them. Brad called his column Der Krapp.
While occasional columns have been reprinted here and there, and he even wrote a retro column in the 1990s, at no time for the last twenty-five or more years has the entire run of Der Krapp been collected: if you missed them in their original magazine, fanzine, and advertising-circular venue, you were just SOL.
But no longer! Brad, who is of course a partner in this very website, has turned over publication of (eventually) every, last Der Krapp column right here on Big Lizards. To read the first "boxed set" of seventeen columns right now (confusingly numbered 1 through 16 with two number 11's), just click on the Movies button in the navigation bar up top (if you can't work the graphic nav bar, use the text-based equivalent at the top of the sidebar on the right hand side, above).
Or else just click here. In either case, just follow the links!
(Yes, amazing... some non-blog content on Big Lizards!)
Some of the topics Brad covers:
- The rise and tragic fall of Bela Lugosi!
- The exquisite agony of Robot Monster!
- A complete rundown of Japanese giant-monster and space cinema (and some of them are very run-down indeed!)
- The gore-fest vulgarities of Hershell Gordon Lewis!
In other words, it's like Mystery Science Theater 3000 -- except done by somebody who actually likes movies!
I cannot recommend it enough, and not through lack of trying, either. You'll laugh! You'll cry! You'll cringe! But best of all, you'll increment our page views through the roof!
As Bela said, chomping on his stogie, "Some of these brains wouldn't be missed."
P.S. Check out the nifty drop-down menu, by which you can jump immediately to any piece of Krapp that you desire!
A Feast of Talk, and the Law of Barriers
Yesterday, Sachi and I attended the KRLA Talkfest at the Alex Theater in Glendale. Glendale is the home of (oddly enough) KRLA, the local conservative talk-radio station; KRLA carries Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, and Mike Gallagher... and they returned the favor Sunday by carrying the show at the Alex.
I had previously met Hugh and Dennis -- though of course Hugh stared blankly at me when I reintroduced myself to him. He recognized Big Lizards, though... so now you know that the way to a Hugh's heart is through a blog. He made the rather outlandish claim that he's been reading Big Lizards, which I took as a charitable white lie, an example of the kindness for which he is renowned in myth and legend.
Larry Marino, who has substituted for each of these gentlemen, was also present as the MC; Sachi had imagined a much older gentleman, but I had envisioned him as about eighteen; so if you average us out, our age estimate was right on the money. The format was simple: Larry would ask questions, and the quadrumvirate would pontificate for several minutes, lolling back on their stools and making lordly pronouncements. It was of course enthralling, though I longed to leap onto the stage and join the talkers (flashbacks of my days on panels at science-fiction conventions!)
Hugh directed every blogger present to go home and, when he blogged about this event, to include the following words: " ."
It was actually quite a humorous jape; but being the ornery cuss that I am, I instantly vowed not to quote it... so if you want to find out what the joke was, you'll have to read another blogger's take.
The questions were political and topical, like a tube of Cortizone cream. The best exchange occured over what to do about illegal immigration, and the disputants -- the two Mikes -- battled passionately. Gallagher's simplistic formulation, that we should just "send them all home," met with resounding applause; but Medved utterly stymied him by asking a simple question: how exactly did Gallagher propose doing so?
I pause for a moment. Return with us now to the thrilling days of yesteryear, shortly after the Pentagon and WTC attacks and our overthrow of the Taliban. Bill O'Reilly (I believe) had Phil Donohue as a guest [Sachi believes it could have been Dennis Miller, rather than Bill O'Reilly]. Donohue obstinantly rejected the Afghanistan War, insisting instead that what we really ought to do was just "go right in there and get bin Laden."
The subsequent exchange bordered on the surreal:
O'Reilly: Get him how?
Donohue: Just go right in there and get him.
O'Reilly: But how? How physically would you do it?
Donohue: I would just go right in there.
O'Reilly: Into Afghanistan? When it was still run by the Taliban?
Donohue: Yup... just go right in and get him.
O'Reilly: But how do you get bin Laden? He's surrounded by thousands of al-Qaeda terrorists and tens of thousands of Taliban troops!
Donohue: Right in there. There's no need to kill all those innocent people! We just go right in and get him.
O'Reilly: How many soldiers do you send?
Donohue: I said we didn't need to go to war.
O'Reilly: But how do you get him?
Donohue: Bill, I would just go right in there and get him!
We skip forward four years to yesterday's KRLA Talkfest once more. Karl Marx's wonderful rumination on historical cycles perfectly describes the verbal tennis match between Medved and Gallagher: "History always repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second time as farce." (Karl Marx, the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.) But somehow, a repetition of the O'Reilly-Donohue dialog must have skulked past unnoticed, because Gallagher's repeated refrain of "I would just kick them all out" was surely more farcical than tragic! No matter how Medved tried to pin him down on specifics, Gallagher simply kept repeating the phrase over and over, like an audio clip trapped in an infinite loop.
Hugh finally interrupted, playing referee, and offered his own point, which he amplified later during audience Q&A, that it was in fact possible to get all the illegal aliens out of the United States... but only if Congress imposed upon corporate officers a fine so massive or prison time so lengthy that none of them would hire any illegal aliens ever (or possibly any legal ones, either).
Alas, such a draconian "solution" would impact the American economy so drastically that it would throw us into a recession that would fling far more Americans into unemployment that could possibly be displaced by the illegal population itself. In other words, the economic version of exsanguination, a "cure" more deadly than the disease.
However, Hugh added a codicil to the effect that whatever we decide to do about the illegales, the solution must include "building a wall." I take that as synecdoche for strengthening border security in general, which may include a wall (or fence) but also signficantly increasing the Border Patrol, strengthening punishments for aiding and abetting illegal entry or hiring illegals, and so forth.
Here is where I most wished to enter the fray. I longed to quote ab Hugh's Law of Barriers:
There is no wall, no matter how high or thick, that can be secured against a million peasants with pitchforks trying to knock it down.
Before any wall can be built, no matter how metaphorical, we first must sharply reduce the number of pitchforks. The only way to stop people from trying to batter down your wall is to build them a gate. We must drastically reform our entire immigration system to make it much easier for honest, decent, hard-working foreigners of good moral character to enter, work, earn money, and then either stay or leave as they choose.
There are many advantages: first, there is no controversy among economists... we need those migrant workers to pick strawberries and other agricultural crops. We need them to program our computers, clean our buildings, and build our sun decks.
Besides the purely economic need, America needs a constant influx of new blood, new ways of thinking, and new cultures... so long as the immigrants themselves are forced to assimilate. This is a point that Dennis Prager stressed with a great deal of vim (and volume). In a very literal sense, America was built by immigrants, but immigrants who had every intention of becoming Americans -- not living as Poles, Russians, Chinese, or Mexicans in exile.
Our schools should indoctinate both the children of immigrants and the native born in what it means to be an American -- and why the immigrants left their home countries in the first place. Our civic, cultural, and religious institutions should echo, not fight this message. And the government should not merely encourage but require assimilation as a necessary condition to continued guest-worker privileges.
Nobody not born here has the "right" to live here; but we need immigration as much as the immigrants need a country of greatness and opportunity: ours is a symbiosis of spirit... so long as we honor both sides of this voluntarily chosen social contract.
Finally, we cannot, like France, live securely with a permanent fifth column within the city walls. We must completely absorb these people, and that means citizenship. Now, there is a higgledy-piggledy collection of contradictory and opaque immigration laws that nobody is able to follow, not even immigration attorneys -- or the bureaucrats at the INS.
These must be swept away and replaced by a compact, crystaline progression of steps by which a desirable immigrant who truly wants to become an American can traverse the path from guest to citizen. He should be able to check off the steps one by one, like a pawn advancing to the last row, where he finally stands and takes the oath. But the progression should also allow immigration officials to swiftly identify those who do not belong here and swiftly deport them before they have a chance to hurt us
Thus every immigrant, whether guest or nascent naturalized citizen, will be an integral part of the community... in contrast to the European model, where immigrants are virtually indentured servants forced into degraded slums that breed treachery and terrorism. Ask the ghost of Theo Van Gogh.
It may seem we have wandered far afield, but in fact, this was the most significant exchange of the show, which all by itself earned the price of admission ($45 ea. for the good seats). So let me finish my thought.
Security must be of paramount concern at all levels of the immigration cycle:
- Those who apply must undergo a records and fingerprint/DNA check, just to make sure they're not already wanted.
- We must develop a "Smart Green Card" encoded with biometrics (fingerprints, face scan) and an immigration number; whenever an immigrant is arrested or convicted -- or receives welfare, requires a Child Protective Services intervention, or is found to be addicted to drugs or alcohol -- that fact is appended to his file; negative events such as these accrue "minus points" on the path to citizenship or even continued guest privileges (make it appealable, in case there are mitigating circumstances). Likewise, positive events -- charitable works, continuing education, professional accreditation, honorable service in the United States military, and suchlike -- earn positive points.
- You make a gate, and everyone who crosses the border at any of the gates must pass through automated booths that require insertion of the Smart Card; they scan his face and palm print, and if everything checks out, the front doors open in a second or two, admitting the guest. If the immigrants "point total" falls below the security/desirability threshold, the side door opens instead, and he can explain himself to the friendly Border Patrol agents.
- And with such automatic access to the front door for the law-abiding, anyone trying to cross the border anywhere else can be assumed to be up to no good and treated accordingly. As I said in an earlier post on another blog, if a business allows easy access during business hours through the front door, then anyone entering through the window at night can reasonably be considered a burglar.
Since studies show that 90%+ of all illegal immigrants are not, in fact, criminals in any other aspect than that (and related crimes, such as obtaining false documentation), regularizing and automating the traffic of otherwise law-abiding immigrants would reduce the illegal traffic to a small fraction of what it is today: your wall will no longer need to keep out a million determined immigrants each year, but only a few thousand of the most dangerous... and that, as Israel is proving today, is imminently possible.
The rest of Talkfest was interesting but of less moment than this argument, which is surely one of the two most critical fissures within the conservative community (the other being excess spending, of course).
Date ►►► October 15, 2005
Bush's Teleconference: the Actual Q&A
In the comments section of an earlier post, AP Response to Bush Teleconference Staged!, I asked, “and what WERE the questions and the answers?” All we have heard from the MSM is speculation about whether the TV conference between President Bush and the toops was "staged," meaning scripted; but we have heard nothing about the conference itself. What did the president and the soldiers say? Does anybody know?
After some digging, I found a transcript. As I read it, I understood why the AP had to divert our attention to the trivial non-issue: once again, the MSM is determined to hide "good news from Iraq."
Since they're not going to tell, here are the actual questions and the answers, with commentary.
The ten American soldiers and one Iraqi soldier who participated in this conference are stationed in Tikrit, overseeing the security of the constitutional referendum vote. The purpose of this conference was for President Bush to learn how ready the Coalition and Iraqi security forces were to ensure security during the election.
After President Bush gave a short speech about how important it is for us to stay the course and bring democracy to Iraq, he began asking questions about pre-election operations: what Coalition forces had been doing, what their strategy was, and what was their assessment of Iraqi Army readiness.
Captain Brent Kennedy, who is responsible for coordinating the security response in the area of operation, responded:
Good morning, Mr. President, from Tikrit. I'm Captain Brent Kennedy. To my right is Sergeant Major Akeel from the 5th Iraqi Army Division. We're working together here with the Iraqis in Task Force Liberty for the upcoming referendum. We're surging an operation, called Operation Saratoga, that includes the securing of over 1,250 polling sites. We're working right alongside with the Iraqis as they lead the way in securing these sites.
Captain Dave Smith added that Iraqi forces have been "conducting battalion and brigade-size operations since April." The local Iraqi military themselves coordinated with other Iraqi forces, such as police and local government agencies, Smith added; the Coalition forces took only a supporting role.
When President Bush asked them to assess the security forces’ readiness, Captain Steven Pratt responded:
The Iraqi army and police services, along with coalition support, have conducted many and multiple exercises and rehearsals. Recently we've conducted a command post exercise in which we brought together these Iraqi security forces with emergency service units, and the joint coordination center, in which we all sat around a model and discussed what each one would do at their specific location and what they would do at the referendum.
It was impressive to me to see the cooperation and the communication that took place among the Iraqi forces. Along with the coalition's backing them, we'll have a very successful and effective referendum vote.
Captain David Williams said that voter registration in North-Central Iraq was up 17 percent. “That’s 400,000 new voters in North-Central Iraq, and 100,000 new voters in the al-Salahuddin province.” He said. Captain Williams said that he spoke to his Iraqi counterpart, who told him the Tikrit locals were “ready and eager to vote in this referendum.”
Considering the extremely high turnout for this election (66%), and the extraordinarily low rate of successful violent attacks by the terrorists, it's clear that the information that Bush got from these soldiers was quite accurate on all counts: they and the Iraqis had done a very good job of securing the polling places... and the Iraqis (even the Sunni) were definitely "ready and eager to vote."
Master Sergeant Corine Lombardo reminded the President that she met him in New York, on November 11th, 2001, at Ground Zero, when he recognized the Rainbow Soldiers -- the 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division of the Army National Guard. Bush took the opportunity put the soldiers at ease with a bit of ribbing, saying "I thought you looked familiar."
SERGEANT LOMBARDO: Well, thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I probably look familiar to you, too.
Sergeant Lombardo praised the improvement in the Iraqi forces over the past 10 months.
We've been working side-by-side, training and equipping 18 Iraqi army battalions [in the Tikrit area]. Since we began our partnership, they have improved greatly, and they continue to develop and grow into sustainable forces. Over the next month, we anticipate seeing at least one-third of those Iraqi forces conducting independent operations.
Coalition forces have captured over 50 terrorists and detained thousands, she added.
Then President asked the only Iraqi participant in the conference, Sergeant Major Akeel, whether he had anything to add:
SERGEANT AKEEL: Good morning, Mr. President. Thank you for everything. Thank very much for everything.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, you're welcome.
SERGEANT AKEEL: I like you. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that.
Finally, First Lieutenant Gregg summed up the situation. I can't improve on his words:
Back in January, when we were preparing for that election, we had to lead the way. We set up the coordination, we made the plan. We're really happy to see, during the preparation for this one, sir, they're doing everything. They're making the plans, they're calling each other, they've got it laid out. So on Saturday, sir, we're going to be beside them, we're going to be there to support them through anything. But we can't wait to share in their success with them on Sunday.
In closing, the commander-in-chief thanked the troops -- not only his own, but the Iraqis as well:
I wish I could be there to see you face-to-face, to thank you personally. It's probably a little early for me to go to Tikrit, but one of these days perhaps the situation will be such that I'll be able to get back to Iraq to not only thank our troops, but to thank those brave Iraqis who are standing strong in the face of these foreign fighters and these radicals that are trying to stop the march of freedom.
Finally, as for what kind of “rehearsal” and “staging” went on before the conference, you should read the account of Sergeant Ron Long of Tennesse who was actually there at the conference.
[W]e were told that we would be speaking with the President of the United States, our Commander-in-Chief, President Bush, so I believe that it would have been totally irresponsible for us NOT to prepare some ideas, facts or comments that we wanted to share with the President.
The MSM knows very well that everyone rehearses before a live TV interview, and this was no exception. Participants had to know who would speak when, who would answer which questions, and practice passing the microphone to avoid "strangling" their neighbors with the microphone cord. They practiced speaking out loudly and clearly, both to be audible to the mikes and also to relieve the anxiety of junior officers and non-coms speaking directly to the commander-in-chief.
But that was as far as it went; nobody has managed to find any example of the White House scripting the soldiers' answers or changing what they wanted to say. It is terribly irresponsible of the mainstream media to hint at some sort of administration conspiracy, particularly by using inuendo and ambiguous phrasing. If that is what the Associated Press and the Washington Post want to charge, they should just do so straightforwardly... if they have any actual evidence, that is.
Earle-y to Bed -- and Stay There
Yesterday, on Special Report With Brit Hume, Brian Wilson had the most fascinating report yet on the growing national embarassment: the Persecution and Assassination of Tom DeLay, As Performed By the Inmates of the Travesty County District Attorney's Office, Under the Direction of the Marquis de Earle (with only the most muted apologies to Peter Weiss).
The most important piece of evidence on which Crusading D.A. Ronnie Earle based his multiple attempts to properly indict Rep. DeLay is single a piece of paper. After Earle found that DeLay's political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC), sent that now famous $190,000 check to the Republican National State Elections Committee (RNSEC), the only way that Earle could allege "money laundering" was to claim that the transaction was a sham whose only purpose was to disguise "soft" money being funneled indirectly into state campaigns in defiance of Texas law. His only piece of evidence to that effect was that, as the indictment puts it:
[O]n or about the thirteenth day of September, 2002, in Washington D.C., the defendant, James Walter Ellis, did provide the said Terry Nelson with a document that contained the names of several candidates for the Texas House of Representatives that were supported by Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, namely, Todd Baxter, Dwayne Bohac, Glenda Dawson, Dan Flynn, Rick Green, Jack Stick, and Larry Taylor, to whom the defendant, James Walter Ellis, requested and proposed that the Republican National Committee and the Republican National State Elections Committee make political contributions in exchange for the committees' receipt of the proceeds from the aforesaid check, and that contained amounts that the defendant, James Walter Ellis, and Texans for a Republican Majority PAC suggested be contributed to each of the said candidates;
Yesterday, Brian Wilson reports, the Travis County Assistant D.A. was in court, and he was asked to produce this critical document, which had been subpoenaed by the attorneys for Ellis and DeLay.
He was unable to produce "said" document. Not that he didn't produce A document; he simply said he was "unable to authoritatively confirm" that it was in fact THE document mentioned in the indictment. However, he rallied, the document he produced was "factually similar" to the document upon which the entire indictment rested!
Brian Wilson reported that the document contained names of several Texas politicians, some of whom had received money from the RNSEC and some of whom had not. I suppose this is "factually similar" to the actual document they allege existed in that both are pieces of paper, both have words printed on them, and both contain lists of names of prominent Texans. I eagerly await testimony from an eyewitness who claims he saw someone in a conspiratorial meeting... he won't be able to swear it was actually Tom DeLay, but it was surely someone who was "factually similar" to DeLay, in that he was a male and had some funny sort of accent.
I wanted to link to an article about this latest Keystone Kops escapade, but amazingly enough, at this point, I cannot find a single article about this absurdity -- not even on FoxNews.com. Since they actually had video of the incident as it unfolded and discussion with the attorneys right after they came out of the courthouse, I would find it hard to believe it never occurred; but in the mad world of the MSM, even being caught on videotape doesn't mean something really exists: it only exists when one of the media news managers decides it exists. Perhaps I hallucinated the entire thing.
Here we have a story that even the MSM agrees is important: the indictment of the second most powerful man in the House of Representatives. And five years after Ronnie Earle began hounding DeLay, three years after the alleged crime of "money laundering" occurred, at least a year after the D.A.'s office began investigating this particular transaction, and eleven days after obtaining the new, improved indictment from the third grand jury to investigate, we discover that the District Attorney's office doesn't even have the critical piece of evidence that underpins their entire case.
But evidently, that's just not news.
Sad to say, except for those of you who watched Brit Hume last night, "you read it here first."
Date ►►► October 14, 2005
New Reason to Support Harriet Miers
I have been pretty much supportive all along, based solely on the grounds that I think it would be bad for the party if she were slammed out of bounds before she even got a hearing. Then I became more strongly attracted to the notion that we really ought always to have at least one justice who isn't a former judge and isn't an "expert" on the Constitution: "convictions make convicts," as Timothy Leary used to say (I mean when he was alive), and experts who spend all their lives studying the writings of other experts in their subject tend to have a very subjective view indeed.
Bush believes Miers is Reaganesque in the sense of having an innate grasp of right and wrong in many circumstances, and I've seen nothing so far from her opponents that persuades me to the contrary. Examples of trivial mistakes or instances of stepping carefully through a landmine are no more persuasive than are the few mistakes Reagan himself made -- such as yanking our "peacekeeping" troops out of Lebanon directly after the Beirut massacre.
But I have just come across evidence that I haven't seen anywhere else... and this now puts me unabashedly in her corner. I now truly hope she will be confirmed.
I neither confirm nor deny that Patterico at Patterico's Pontifications may or may not have ever blogged on this subject, nor in the case that he has, do I either agree or disagree or even know what he may have said, in the event that he may have said anything about this at all. I am only an egg. I am Sgt. Schultz.
With that out of the way, we may proceed.
I was just reading the Wikipedia biography of Miss Miers, and I came across the following datum that absolutely clinched the decision for me:
Miers graduated from Southern Methodist University with a bachelor's degree in mathematics (1967) and from its law school with a Juris Doctor degree (1970) .
I suspect we have never had a Supreme Court Justice who actually passed classes in differential equations, possibly even partial differential equations -- and five of you reading this know how amazing that would be! -- group theory, Galois Theory, functional analysis, dynamical systems, and probably even mathematical logic. Imagine a justice who understood how to tell a convergent from a divergent infinite series, how to do a LaPlace Transform, and what Fourier Analysis is for! Or even just a justice who is comfortable thinking in N-space.
Harriet Miers has my full and unstinting support (I was about to say unqualified support, but that is too ambiguous).
I try very hard to make Big Lizards as strict XHTML as I can in order that as many browsers as possible be able at least to read it. For example, whenever I post a link that includes dangerous characters ( such as <, >, &, =, and ?) I go through the entire link replacing them with the corresponding HTML character entities (Amazon.com is the most egregious felon in this respect). Note that some entities themselves may not display on older browsers, but I think these work pretty widely -- tell me if they don't!
So I'm distressed when things don't look right in one or another browser. I think the site looks fairly good -- rather, it looks as I intend it to look! -- in recent versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape. Firefox seems to do well (not surprisingly, since I think it and Netscape 8 use the same engine). I have less success with Opera.
And recently, Sachi (who uses a Mac) had a problem with the Mac version of Netscape 7.2. She wasn't picking up changes in comment display wrought by tweaking the stylesheet. At my suggestion, she deleted her cache, and then she was able to see the changes; evidently, Mac NS 7.2 didn't recognize a page being changed merely because the CSS file it linked was changed!
Some things to look for that I occasionally notice in some browsers:
- The lizard-scales background is supposed to go all the way down to the bottom of the page, not stop where the right sidebar stops.
- The parchment background of the sidebar should extend to cover all the links and such in the sidebar; there should be no place where the parchment ends but the words continue.
- The SiteMeter bug should be at the very, very bottom, below everything.
- The graphic navigation bar in the top section should work to link to other pages of the Big Lizards site; if it doesn't, I put a text version at the top of the sidebar.
- Oh, yeah: the sidebar should actually be on the right-hand side -- not below, above, or floating over your living-room coffee table!
So if any of you has a problem viewing Big Lizards properly in any particular browser, first try deleting your browser cache and reloading. If that all-purpose restorative doesn't work, then please let me know via the comments; I don't promise to fix it (it may be unfixable), but I'll look into it and do what my limited understanding of such issues allows me to do.
This is a standing offer; if at any time you have a problem viewing something, please comment to that effect in any post you happen to be reading at the time: I read all comments.
What Is a Religious Test?
So are conservatives "hypocritical," as E.J. Dionne concludes, for objecting to the Democrats' use of religion to criticize nominees like John Roberts then turning around and using Harriet Miers' religion as a reason to support her now?
The answer is an emphatic No, they are not. There is no hypocrisy involved for the simple reason that those opposing the use of religion before are not the same people as those encouraging its use now.
Dionne falls into the classic liberal trap of seeing groups of people instead of individuals. He writes that "President Bush's supporters" will "play religion up or down, whichever helps them most in a political fight." When Sen. Dick Durbin implied that Roberts might not be acceptable because he was a Catholic, several of Bush's supporters opposed that position on principle:
Durbin had his head taken off. "We have no religious tests for public office in this country," thundered Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), insisting that any inquiry about a potential judge's religious views was "offensive." Fidelis, a conservative Catholic group, declared that "Roberts' religious faith and how he lives that faith as an individual has no bearing and no place in the confirmation process."
But now, Dionne announces in triumph, President Bush himself mentions Miers' evangelical Christianity as a selling point, and several other religious conservatives and conservative groups (not including Fidelis) are pleased by that fact. I suppose the identity-politics of the Democratic Party has confused the columnist... but here on this side of the aisle, we actually believe in individualism. If John Cornyn thinks we shouldn't use religion in any way to consider a judicial nominee's fitness, while James Dobson thinks it's perfectly all right, that quite obviously does not make either of them a hypocrite.
Other examples of possible conservative "hypocrisy":
- Bush supporters think we should round up all illegal immigrants and deport them, but then they turn right around and say we should give them guest-worker status!
- Bush supporters think the government is spending too much money, but then Bush supporters are in favor of a prescription drug benefit for Medicare!
- Bush supporters say that government should keep its hands off people's private lives, but wouldn't you know it? Bush supporters angrily attack Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned laws against "sodomy," as judicial activism!
- Bush supporters say same-sex marriage should be legal because to do otherwise is discrimination -- and then they scream that same-sex marriage should be illegal because traditional marriage is the cornerstone of civilization!
Those wacky, Bush-supporting hypocrites just can't make up their minds. Of course, in each case above, I played the Dionne trick: the first part of each charge referred to a different group of people than the second -- the only point gluing them together being support for George W. Bush's presidency.
The Democratic Party is a patchwork quilt sewn together from a pile of special interests, each of which comprises single-issue voters; it's like a coalition of convenience in a fractious parliamentary system: any deviation on the part of any prominent Democrat from revealed word on any issue is brutally suppressed, because of the panic that advocates for that issue -- taxing the rich, abortion, pulling the troops out of Iraq, same-sex marriage, abortion, Social Security stasis, welfare for everyone, abortion, affirmative action, or abortion -- might pull out of the fragile coalition, causing electoral collapse.
By contrast, the Republican Party is a big tent with room for many divergent opinions. The center-right coalition has proven remarkably stable: libertarian conservatives like California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, social and religious conservatives like William Bennett and James Dobson, spending hawks like the gang at National Review, and projection-of-force neoconservative advocates like Paul Wolfowitz can happily cohabit, arguing specific issues while still agreeing it's more pleasant to be inside the tent spitting out than outside the tent spitting in (LBJ's original saying doesn't use the word "spitting," by the way).
If a specific individual took the Cornyn position before and takes the Dobson position now, then that individual is a hypocrite. But if you want to convince me, then show me the quotation. Until I see one, the case remains unmade.
So what -- you ask, wrenching the discussion back to the title of the post -- about Article VI, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, which commands:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States. [emphasis added, obviously]
What the heck is a religious test anyway? Come on, the answer should be obvious to everyone except a lawyer: a religious test, as used here, is a law or regulation that says something like "no Catholics shall be appointed to any position in this state government," or "only those professing a belief in God shall be allowed to file for elective office." That is, a religious test is an actual law or regulation that prohibits or requires a particular religious belief for public office. Arguments or even votes for or against a candidate or nominee on the basis of his religion do not constitute religious tests.
Even some of our best conservative and/or Republican thinkers raise this faux issue, alas. I say alas not because I'm religious, which I am not, but because this argument is an attempt to stifle legitimate discussion by invoking non-existent constitutional diktat. For example, Captain Ed writes:
Using religion as a test for a nomination gets us into dangerous territory, not to mention provides more than a dollop of hypocrisy for this administration. We do not want Congress opening a debate on people's religious beliefs and how that affects their approach to the job. It will create a mini-Inquisition on Capitol Hill for each nominee, who will be required to disavow their faith before proceeding to nomination. It's the kind of act that this administration has often decried, and for good reason.
Why would a nominee have to disavow his faith? If Sen. Charles Schumer argues that the nominee's "deeply held personal beliefs" means he cannot fairly judge, the nominee simply responds "I do not believe sincere Christians, Jews, and Moslems should all be disqualified from the bench" -- and Schumer looks like a religious bigot. No disavowal of faith required.
It's perfectly legitimate and appropriate for Sen. Schumer to make that argument; he absolutely has that right. Just as we absolutely have the right to point out to the nation what he is really saying. Considering the depth of religous belief in the United States -- for which I, as an agnostic, say thank God! -- any such argument can only help the Right and hurt the Left. Why stop the Democrats from pursuing political hara-kiri by the death of a thousand self-inflicted paper cuts?
This approach is consistent with the American way -- disparate ideas clashing on the battlefield of freedom of speech, and may the best argument win! Go ahead and argue for Harriet Miers or John Roberts on the basis of faith; don't feel ashamed. And let those who despise faith argue their case. I'm satisified in this case, as in nearly all others, to abide by the democratic process unless clear and explicit rights are to be violated... and of course, nobody has the "right" to be either a judge or a senator.
Scales of Military Justice
On Tuesday the 11th, Special Report With Brit Hume had a truly inspiring interview with Major General Bob Scales, whose assessment of the Iraqi Army was very good news indeed. They made the transcript available the next day, but I've been dilatory in putting it up here.
First the setup. General Scales went to Iraq to evaluate with his own eyes the combat-readiness of the Greater Iraq Army. He had no particular expectations either way, since he had heard both positive and negative assessments.
We were there for six days. We spent time in Baghdad. And then we went up to a place called Taji, which is the headquarters of the Ninth Iraqi Mechanized Division.
We specifically asked not only to see our American men and women but, "Let's just go up north and talk to the Iraqis, look them straight in the eye, and get a sense of their military readiness," not readiness in terms of readiness reporting, you know, how many vehicles have you got, what's your percent filled and all that.
Instead, we wanted to look at things like, you know, their training, their will to win, the courage factor, bonding, and cohesion, and leadership, and all those intangibles that really make an army effective, rather than just, you know, "How are you equipped?" And, frankly, what I saw was very encouraging.
Scales discussed a particular unit he interacted with extensively while there, a self-created mechanized infantry division, I believe (actually, I'm just assuming infantry, since he didn't say armored cavalry). The unit was only partially formed, but already it was patrolling and fighting the Sunni terrorists around Baghdad. Significantly, 75% of the unit comprised combat veterans. And although they had American embeds, they only numbered a dozen -- in a division that already had eight or nine thousand soldiers.
All in all, General Scales said that the Iraqi Army had 117 battalions, of which 80 were currently fighting alongside American forces, sometimes taking the lead (as in Operation Restoring Rights in Tal Afar).
Scales gave a vivid example of the progress that has been made in just a few months:
SCALES: Remember about eight months ago, Bill Cowan was in here talking about the BIAP [Baghdad International Airport] road, you know, the airport road?
HUME: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, the alley of death.
SCALES: Right. I drove the BIAP road, five miles along that road. And it's clear of the enemy. It's full of commerce. And who's protecting it? The Iraqi Sixth Infantry Division.
And in many ways, they're better than we are, in the sense that they're better able to gather intelligence. I mean, they can spot insurgents by their body language and by how they act and the language they use. They can spot foreigners far better than our soldiers can.
And they're better able to engage these terrorists when they find them oftentimes than our own soldiers are. You know, being part of the culture really means a lot when you're fighting an insurgency.
General Scales' final assessment was tremendously upbeat:
The insurgency is on a steady downward trend, mainly because U.S. forces and Iraqi forces have been successful in cleaning out the ratlines.... But I think the greatest hope is Iraq, Iraq units, the regular army, building them up very quickly so that they can take over the fighting and increase the probability of coming out of this OK.... It's happening.
Date ►►► October 13, 2005
Dawn Breaks Over Iraq - Photos
Black Five has incredible photos of operation River Gate.
We previously blogged about the overall Anbar Campaign here.
AP Response to Bush Teleconference Staged!
UPDATE 18:23: See below.
Now the AP has taken to attacking the president for supposedly "staging" a teleconference with soldiers... because they rehearsed in advance which soldier would answer which question.
Bush Teleconference With Soldiers Staged
Oct 13, 2005
by Deb Riechmann
WASHINGTON (AP) - It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution.
When I first read that paragraph, my Skept-O-Meter™ went off like the Queen Mary's foghorn. What did Ms. Riechmann mean, the questions were "choreographed?" Aren't the questions always choreographed?
During an interview, for example, the interviewer always knows in advance the major questions he will ask, the order he will ask them, and to whom they will be directed (if multiple subjects are being grilled simultaneously). Often the subject also knows, to allow him to do whatever research is necessary to come up with a more detailed answer. Typically, major questions spawn follow-up questions; we have no clue from the AP story whether this happened this time, even though that would reveal much about the charge of being "staged."
So what the heck does Ms. Riechmann mean? How is this different from any other interview situation? Remember, the president is the interviewer, not the subject; he's playing Brit Hume, for a change of pace.
"I'm going to ask somebody to grab those two water bottles against the wall and move them out of the camera shot for me," [Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Allison] Barber said.
A brief rehearsal ensued.
"OK, so let's just walk through this," Barber said. "Captain Kennedy, you answer the first question and you hand the mike to whom?"
"Captain Smith," Kennedy said.
"Captain. Smith? You take the mike and you hand it to whom?" she asked.
"Captain Kennedy," the soldier replied.
And so it went.
Yes... it went, rather than crashed, because the soldiers actually knew in advance the order in which they would speak! They didn't talk over each other or tussle for the microphone. Will Bush's perfidy never stop?
"If the question comes up about partnering - how often do we train with the Iraqi military - who does he go to?" Barber asked.
"That's going to go to Captain Pratt," one of the soldiers said.
"And then if we're going to talk a little bit about the folks in Tikrit - the hometown - and how they're handling the political process, who are we going to give that to?" she asked.
And here at last we have the substance of the charge of "choreographing" the questions: that the soldiers knew in advance which of them was the expert in a particular area -- hence who would actually answer the questions pertaining to that area.
This is what the Associated Press is trying to pass off as another "scandal" in the Bush administration. This barely even counts as a college try; Ms. Riechmann may as well have just used the pre-existing template titled Bush the Lying Liar Version 23.
Does even the Left doubt any longer the bias of the press against this president and against Republicans in general? Or do they just go through the motions occasionally, tossing a bit of tainted, gray meat to their base, more or less as a hobby?
Of course, they had to close with an eyebite from somebody hostile to Bush:
Paul Rieckhoff, director of the New York-based Operation Truth, an advocacy group for U.S. veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, denounced the event as a "carefully scripted publicity stunt." Five of the 10 U.S. troops involved were officers, he said.
"If he wants the real opinions of the troops, he can't do it in a nationally televised teleconference," Rieckhoff said. "He needs to be talking to the boots on the ground and that's not a bunch of captains."
I don't know what branch of the service Mr. Rieckhoff served in (if any), but it's evidently one where junior officers stay at the Pentagon and only privates and non-coms actually venture into the field.
I wonder whether he applies that same scorn to a certain fellow who was a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam, the exact equivalent rank to "captain" in the Army or Marines: Lt. John F. Kerry.
UPDATE: I have now listened to the 4:26 audio that National Public Radio made available (hat tip to Octavius), and contrary to some of the commenters to this post and some lefty blogs, such as This Divided State, there is not one, single instance of anybody "coaching [the soldiers] along the way" (as Bryan at TDS claims).
Allison Barber asks one question and listens to Captain Kennedy's answer; she does not tell him to change anything or give him any feedback whatsoever. She runs through a couple of other questions but doesn't wait for the soldiers to answer.
Let me repeat something I said above, because it may not have sunk in. When you are evaluating verbal acuity or mental quickness, you don't want to reveal the questions in advance; you prefer to watch the subject squirm. But when you want to gather solid information, you do give him the questions in advance, so he will be prepared with complete and accurate answers.
President Bush was not giving these soldiers a pop quiz, for heaven's sake. He wanted to hear what they had to say when they'd had a chance to think about it. And even if every one of them had been given an opportunity to rehearse speaking his answer -- on national TV and before the Commander In Chief -- it is neither "staged" nor "choreographed," except in the most technical meaning of those words, and there is no example at all of "coaching."
These are the real opinions of real soldiers who know what the hell they're talking about. Even if half of them are captains.
Comments Listing Style Slightly Changed
I changed the comments listing style slightly: I added a line above each comment identifying the commenter to go along with the line below, and I changed the color of the border (I never liked that blue-gray line, though Big Lizards Red may be a bit strong).
I would appreciate anyone interested in such things to click on the comments to this post -- I'll add a few ersatz comments -- and let me know what you think. This is your chance to get involved in site design!
Please leave comments about the change here; in addition to posting your words of wit and wisdom, you'll create more comments so that people can see how it looks with other commenters' names.
Questions to consider:
- Is it easier to tell who has left which comment?
- Is it confusing to see each person's name twice? Would a border without the commenter name be better?
- Is the border line too bright? Should it be a different, more muted color? Or does it clearly demarcate each comment better than a brownish line would?
By the way, this is the advantage of designing and creating one's own site, rather than relying upon the kindness of subcontractors: I can make changes like this myself whenever I see a need, without having to locate and engage the attention of some other mortal.
Always My Hero, Cap
Despite the idiotic response from the White House prior to this telecon, I'm inclined to support Miers. I don't believe she'll be a disaster, and I think she'll at least improve on O'Connor. I also don't believe she'll get pushed around, but I have to be honest and say I get that impression more from what Hugh Hewitt and Beldar have argued and presented than anything the White House has bothered to do on their own behalf. I've come to the conclusion that spanking Miers over the clumsiness and incompentence of the White House doesn't make a lot of sense.
-- is about the best summary of how I feel that anyone has yet posted, including myself. Thanks, Captain Ed!
It's been three days since my last post about Harriet Miers, which I think is a reasonable cooling-off period; I will continue talking about the nomination occasionally, as new issues arise -- and of course, one has just arisen, ergo....
The newest charge, and it's remarkably silly, is that she dissed the Federalist Society in 1990, when she was a defendant in a lawsuit against the Dallas City Council, of which she was a member. None of my favorite blogs has jumped on this one so far, happily enough. But I figure it's important to nip it in the bud anyway!
The lawsuit charged, evidently, that there was some racist plot to keep blacks and Hispanics off the city council. I'm not exactly sure of the facts in the case; keep them off how? It's an elected council, isn't it? But they're likely not relevant to this particular charge against Miss Miers. In the course of the trial, she was subpoenaed to testify, and the following exchange occurred (via the Drudge Report; I'll assume throughout that Drudge is accurate):
Q. Ms. Miers, are you a member of any predominantly minority organizations, such as the NAACP, Black Chamber of Commerce, Urban League or any other predominantly minority organizations?
A. Women minorities?
Q. Well, maybe predominantly racial and ethnic minorities?
Q. . . . . In your capacity as an at-large member do you think being involved in such organizations might assist you in having a perspective that -- bring a perspective to your job that you don’t have?
A. I attend meetings designed to give me that input. However, I have tried to avoid memberships in organizations that were politically charged with one viewpoint or the other. For example, I wouldn’t belong to the Federalist Society any more than -- I just feel like it’s better to not be involved in organizations that seem to color your view one way or the other for people who are examining you. I did join the Progressive Voters League here in Dallas during the campaign as part of the campaign.
Q. Are you active in the PVL now, do you intend to be?
A. No, I am not.
Q. Do you think the NAACP and Black Chamber of Commerce are in the category of organizations you were talking about?
A. No, I don’t. . . . .
Transcript of Trial, Roy Williams et al. v. City of Dallas, No. CA-3-88-152-R, pages V-46 to V-47 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Tex. Sept. 11, 1989).
Let's get one point out of the way at the start: Miers joined the Progressive Voters League "during the campaign [for the Dallas city council]," in 1989. At that time, as Ed Gillespie has noted, she was a conservative Democrat, perhaps in the mold of former Georgian Governor Zell Miller.
(A year earlier, she had donated money to Al Gore's first presidential campaign -- back then, Gore was an ardent member -- and charter member -- of the Democratic Leadership Conference, the last attempt to lead the Democratic Party back to sanity on issues such as defense and the economy; he was not then the Rantin' Al that we all know and loathe today.)
I'm not a Texan; but my guess is that back in 1989, in Dallas (where the PVL was still strong), it was probably de rigueur for any Democrat running for local office to join the PVL during the campaign; the conservative Dems would probably just drift away after being elected, as Harriet Miers testifies she did.
So let's get to the meat: the Federalist Society, the NAACP and the Black Chamber of Commerce, and why the first could be considered "politically charged with one viewpoint or the other," while the latter two not.
First, let's just compare what the organizations themselves say. Here is the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce:
Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce
The Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce serves as an advocate for the creation, growth and general welfare of African American business in the Dallas community. The Chamber actively promotes the expansion of public/ private sector business opportunities on behalf of its members through referrals, partnerships, seminars, technical assistance and marketing. We continue to focus on economic and business development, education, convention/tourism, special projects and member services.
(The National Black Chamber of Commerce didn't exist at the time of the lawsuit, being founded three years later; but it has a similar mission statement.) This clearly is a business alliance, not an overtly political organization; it may have been hijacked by the Democrats; many such organizations are, though I don't specifically know about this one. But if so, it's an apolitical organization that was hijacked, not "politically charged with one viewpoint or the other" by its very nature.
And here is the NAACP:
The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination....
The principal objectives of the Association shall be:
- To ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of all citizens
- To achieve equality of rights and eliminate race prejudice among the citizens of the United States
- To remove all barriers of racial discrimination through democratic processes
- To seek enactment and enforcement of federal, state and local laws securing civil rights
- To inform the public of the adverse effects of racial discrimination and to seek its elimination
- To educate persons as to their constitutional rights and to take all lawful action to secure the exercise thereof, and to take any other lawful action in furtherance of these objectives, consistent with the NAACP’s Articles of Incorporation and this Constitution.
Clearly the NAA(L)CP has been hijacked by the screaming radical Left, and was, though to a lesser extent, in 1990. Arguably, the entire political approach of NAACP founding saint W.E.B. DuBois is far too aligned with the politics of aggrievement, much more so that, e.g., his great rival, Booker T. Washington. But Miers is correct that the organization itself is not overtly partisan-political in nature, any more than is the ordinary Chamber of Commerce -- despite the fact that it undeniably leans to the right.
On paper, neither of these two organizations is overtly "politically charged;" the political charge comes from the personalities who run them, not from the structure or mission. Heck, even I could get behind the mission statement of the NAACP -- if only they, themselves could!
By contrast, here is the Federalist Society:
- Law schools and the legal profession are currently strongly dominated by a form of orthodox liberal ideology which advocates a centralized and uniform society. While some members of the academic community have dissented from these views, by and large they are taught simultaneously with (and indeed as if they were) the law.
- The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. It is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.
- The Society seeks both to promote an awareness of these principles and to further their application through its activities. This entails reordering priorities within the legal system to place a premium on individual liberty, traditional values, and the rule of law. It also requires restoring the recognition of the importance of these norms among lawyers, judges, and law professors.
- In working to achieve these goals, the Society has created a conservative and libertarian intellectual network that extends to all levels of the legal community.
The difference is stark. The Federalist Society is specifically and particularly a political-advocacy organization organized against "orthodox liberal ideology" and in support of "a conservative and libertarian intellectual network" within the legal community. In its very nature, it is libertarian-conservative, and it declares liberalism its enemy.
Now, I happen to thoroughly agree with these politics. If I were a joiner, this would be the first organization I would join (the only organization of which I'm an active member is Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, my professional organization). But Miers is absolutely right that the Federalist Society is "politically charged with one viewpoint or the other."
As to whether elected members of a city council should be members of such organizations, I don't see why not; but on the other hand, I was never a conservative Democrat in an increasingly liberal Democratic party, worried about getting reelected, and embroiled in a politically charged lawsuit, as Miers was at that time. At another time and place, she may well have praised the Federalist Society -- and lo and behold, she did exactly that back in April of this year, when she was not under consideration for any judgeship, and indeed no openings on the Supreme Court yet existed: Sandra Day O'Connor did not announce her retirement until July 1st.
So once again, a hurricane in a hatbox. She answered carefully, legally, and correctly under hostile direct examination in a lawsuit back when she was still a conservative Democrat in a way that was calculated not to piss off her constituency any more than necessary. That's all.
Dawn Breaks Over Iraq
Dafydd and Sachi conspired on this post.
Bill Roggio's military blog, the Fourth Rail, has several detailed analyses and descriptions of the Anbar Campaign, an overarching military strategy that includes both Iron Fist and River Gate as recent operations. (Hat tip to commenter Terry Gain.) From Recent Operations on the Euphrates:
The current operations must be looked at in the context of the Anbar Campaign, which began in November of 2004 when U.S. and Iraqi forces executed Operation Dawn in Fallujah. Fallujah was al Qaeda’s easternmost headquarters, a safe haven where thousands of terrorists and their insurgent allies operated freely and directed attacks towards the heart of Iraq. Over one thousand terrorists and insurgents were killed and fifteen hundred were captured. Operation Dawn ejected the insurgency from Fallujah, but it was only the beginning of the Anbar Campaign.
The Anbar province is the poinky part in the middle-left (west) of Iraq, roughly hexagonal, which points at Jordan; the northwestern border of Anbar is Syria, and the Euphrates River runs near the northeastern edge. Big city: Ramadi.
The section of Iraq in between the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers comprises Salahuddin, spreading northwest from Baghdad, with the Tigris running northwest through it; big city: Samarra; and Ninevah, almost the very north of Iraq; upper Tigris runs right along the big city here, Mosul.
If we understand an earlier post on the Fourth Rail, the Anbar Campaign focuses on these three provinces... basically, in and around the two rivers and the land between them. This is where we find the "ratlines" connecting Syria in the northwest and the terrorists in the Triangle of Death south of Baghdad; it is through here that al-Qaeda elements in Syria and Syria itself ship jihadis and weapons: this is one of the two areas we must bring under control if we are to defeat the enemy (the other being the South, where Shiite militias receive arms and terrorists from Iran).
Operation Dawn was aptly named, for it began a year-long squeeze-play that first saw a number of search-and-destroy missions and battalion-sized or smaller operations, coupled with air strikes on al-Qaeda safe houses (or not-so-safe houses, to be more accurate); these were punctuated by some very large operations (corps-sized or larger).
The tempo is increasing. From Operation Dawn (Fallujah in November 2004) to River Blitz (Ramadi, Hit, Baghdadi and Hadithah in February 2005) was three months; another quarter-year elapsed before there was a flurry of operations in May. Since then, not a month has passed without multiple operations.
Not only is Operation Anbar squeezing the terrorists farther and farther west, right to the border with Syria, and seizing both banks of the two rivers, it's also the baptism by fire of the Greater Iraqi Army. From Recent Operations:
The Iraqi security forces have taken an increasingly larger role as operations progressed over the summer. They have a strong presence in Fallujah and Habbaniyah, and are beginning to appear in battalion strength in the Euphrates cities of Ramadi, Hit, Haditha and Rawah. In Tal Afar, the Iraqi Army took the lead and outnumbered U.S. troops three to two.
Through the Anbar Campaign, the Iraqi Army and Coalition forces are isolating the terrorists, ripping up their ratlines, driving them back into Syria, and seizing or destroying bridges that are crucial to the enemy being able to maintain his strength and resources. If that's not good news, I don't know what is!
Date ►►► October 12, 2005
British Policy Still Clueless
Earlier I wrote that "the [British] lion may be old, but it is not toothless." But I might have written in haste.
Yesterday, the UK Government announced that they will pay for the damage they caused during the September raid to rescue two British soldiers, according to BBC.
The joint statement said: "We regret the incidents that took place in Basra on 19 September 2005 at the Serious Crimes Unit.
"We also regret the casualties on both sides and the material damage to public facilities.
"The British government is prepared to pay valid claims for compensation for casualties and material damage in the well-established manner."
This announcement came after British troops arrested twelve insurgents last Friday without the cooperation of the corrupted Basra police, according to an October 7th AP article.
On September 21st, AP reported that after the September rescue raid, the governor of Basra Province, Mohammed al-Waili, publicly "threatened to end all cooperation with British forces unless Prime Minister Tony Blair's government apologizes for the deadly clash with Iraqi police."
The British government has already issued an apology. But Basra's provincial council continued to demand compensation. From the September 21st AP article:
In a statement, the council demanded Britain apologize to Basra's citizens and police and provide compensation for the families of people killed or wounded in the violence.
Why did the Brits choose to reward the terrorists? They decided they needed the cooperation of the officials in Basra Province; it was extortion, plain and simple. The Basra police are largely terrorists themselves now, thanks to the previous "softly, softly" strategy of Great Britain. We haven't heard much about this growing problem, but it has been brewing for a long time now.
Since the beginning, the British prided themselves in their soft approach in Basra and other areas under their jurisdiction. The relatively peaceful situation seemed to justify this strategy, exemplified by their insistance on wearing cloth berets instead of helmets while on patrol. But beneath the surface, Shia militiamen with strong ties to Iran, including the infamous "Mahdi Army" of Mugtada Sadr, slowly (but not so secretly) have taken over the Basra police. By May of this year, the Basra police chief said only one quarter of his men could be trusted.
According to our correspondent Silverlining, there was a bombing near the Iran border last June that killed three British soldiers. The bomb used was very similar to those that Iran provides to Hezbollah. This prompted the British to bring in their Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) for investigation.
Silverlining, who has proved to be an accurate source before, speculates that the kidnapped soldiers were SRR members investigating the Iranian connection inside the Basra police, and that they had been directly responsible for arresting two members of Sadr's terrorist army. In the comments to a previous Big Lizards post, Silverlining wrote:
Sheik Ahmed Majid Farttusi and Sayyid Sajjad are believed to be senior leaders in the police mafia at al-Jameat and commanders of a terrorist group receiving funding and weaponry from Iran.
My own speculation is that British soldiers were kidnapped for retaliation as well as for bargaining chips; they were responding to anger on the part of Iran-supported Shia, and they also intended the British histages to be used as bait in a hostage exchange.
With all this going on, what purpose does it serve the British to kow-tow to the Basra provincial council? True, we need their cooperation; but this is equivalent to paying ransom to kidnappers. What was the point of rescuing them in such a dramatic way, if they then turn around and pay for the damages?
The British have fumbled the ball here. The Basra police and the provincial government are totally corrupt. I don’t know if the British can straighten this out on their own; but the more they show weakness, the more British soldiers will be attacked.
Tony Blair insists that Great Britain will not pull out of Iraq, and the British do continue to make arrests. Just yesterday, Defence Secretary John Reid praised the troops involved in the very raid for which Great Britain now pays compensation and apologizes; so all is not lost by any means.
If the UK does indeed prove true and stays the course, then I would have to say that the lion's gums may be getting a bit mushy, but his fangs haven't fallen out quite yet.
Date ►►► October 11, 2005
Big Lizards' Commenter Scoops NYT!
Back on October 6th, one of our Japanese commenters, Silverlining, noted in the comments to Were British Soldiers Hostages From the Start? that the militiamen who had infiltrated the Basra police were a gang of thugs called "the Jameat."
Some Iraqi policemen in Basra have been acting like gang, indeed: assassination, murder, smuggling, and extortion. Such gang-like policemen, with connection at ministerial level in Baghdad and allegedly funded by Iran, is allowed to carry on with impunity and remains at large and in uniform.
Specifically, the al-Jameat police headquarters in southwestern Basra is the base for about 200 Iraqi policemen and included units of the Internal Affairs Directorate and Serious Crimes Unit, both heavily implicated in a series of abductions and killings in Basra.
The identical information was featured three days later in this October 9th story in the New York Times, In Basra, Militia in Control After Infiltration of Police.
The most feared institution in Iraq's third-largest city is a shadowy force of 200 to 300 police officers known collectively as the Jameat, who dominate the local police, who are said to murder and torture at will and who answer to the leaders of Basra's sectarian militias.
Do we have the greatest commenters, or what?
News About "Good News" News
I have created a new top-level category, Good News!... click on that entry in the category list in the sidebar, and you can read all the news that just plain makes you feel good about things, especially our tremendous success in the Iraq War and the Global War On Terrorism. But other issues, too: if Congress finally makes permanent the repeal of the death tax, that will get Good News! as one of its categories, as well.
So now you've got a one-stop shopping center for whatever good-news stories get posted on Big Lizards (mostly by Sachi, of course, since I'm the dour Spockian of the two of us). I reckon that's good news itself!
Iraqi Constitution Deal Reached
AP is reporting that at the last minute, the Iraqi assembly has finally reached agreement between all three major ethnic groups, Shia, Kurd, and Sunni, on the new constitution (hat tip to John at Power Line). The agreement is only with one Sunni group -- the Iraqi Islamic Party -- but it's the first crack in the solid wall of Sunni rejectionism.
Iraqis Reach Breakthrough Deal on Charter
Oct 11, 2005, 8:53 PM (ET)
by Lee Keath
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraqi negotiators reached a breakthrough deal on the constitution Tuesday, and at least one Sunni Arab party said it would now urge its followers to approve the charter in this weekend's referendum. Suicide bombings and other attacks killed more than 50 people in the insurgent campaign aimed at intimidating voters.
Under the deal, the two sides agreed on a mechanism to consider amending the constitution after it is approved in Saturday's referendum. The next parliament, to be formed in December, will set up a commission to consider amendments, which would later have to be approved by parliament and submitted to another referendum.
The most significant addition only changes how future constitutional amendments will be considered. Sunni leaders are worried that the current federalist constitution gives too much autonomy to Shia and Kurds:
The central addition allows the next parliament, which will be formed in Dec. 15 elections, to form the commission, which will have four months to consider changes to the constitution. The changes would be approved by the entire parliament, then a referendum would be held two months later.
That is no guarantee that Sunnis will be able to make the changes they seek. They are likely to have a stronger representation in the next parliament, but would still face a strong Shiite and Kurdish majority that would likely oppose major changes.
This is indeed great news, assuming the agreement holds at least through Saturday's vote. No matter how hard the terrorists try to frighten the Iraqis out of freedom, the people are determine to have their constitution. Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope rest of the Sunnis will vote "Yes."
No, She Didn't
UPDATE: Welcome, readers from InstaPundit, Michelle Malkin, Captain's Quarters, Patterico's Pontifications, JunkYardBlog, California Conservative, UNCoRRELATED, and Media Lies!
UPDATE 11 October 2005 9:29 pm: Before delving into the minutiae of how many miliseconds elapsed between various phrases in Laura Bush's answer, let's all take a step back and look at the big picture. The charge from Michelle Malkin and Captain Ed is, boiled down, that Laura Bush is calling opponents of Miers "sexist." That is, that Mrs. Bush is a liberal.
This is errant nonsense. There is nothing whatsoever in her background that would make us think she is a liberal. In fact, she's likely more conservative than Bush. So please, folks, get a grip. The MSM deliberately misreported this in a way designed to split us further apart... and by golly, it worked! So let's sit down, take a stress pill, and talk this out....
This post is not about Harriet Miers; she is merely cosmic background radiation. Rather, I rise as a gentleman to defend the besmirched honor of the First Lady.
Despite the newest charge sweeping the blogosphere, Laura Bush did not call Miers opponents "sexist."
A partial transcript appeared in two Washington Post articles (two completely different articles posted one minute apart); the second article (from Reuters) used that micro-bite, which isn't even an accurate transcription, to drive the headline:
Laura Bush says sexism possible in Miers criticism
by Tabassum Zakaria
Tuesday, October 11, 2005; 3:13 PM
COVINGTON, Louisiana (Reuters) - First lady Laura Bush joined her husband in defending his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday and said it was possible some critics were being sexist in their opposition to Harriet Miers.
"That's possible, I think that's possible," Mrs. Bush said when asked on NBC's "Today Show" whether criticism that Miers lacked intellectual heft were sexist in nature.
The other story used the same flawed transcription:
Asked by host Matt Lauer if sexism might be playing a role in the Miers controversy, she said, "It's possible. I think that's possible. . . . I think people are not looking at her accomplishments."
Alas, two stalwarts of the conservative blogosphere, Michelle Malkin and Captain Ed, relied upon that bad transcript from the epitome of the MSM to drive stories of their own attacking Mrs. Bush. Malkin was typically brief and cutting:
So, the First Lady pulled out the sexism card in her defense of Harriet Miers on NBC's Today Show.
Matt Lauer lapped it up.
Did the White House not inform Mrs. Bush that some of the most vocal criticism and questioning of the nomination comes from conservative women? Or does she buy into the Left's conservative-women-are-self-loathing-traitors-to-their-gender line, too?
I feel a pile-on coming. Not only against Laura Bush, but a dogpile on me for politely disagreeing with Michelle Malkin. But in reality, having just watched the video up on the Today Show's website (which must be viewed using Internet Explorer 6, evidently), I can say that Malkin's take on this is totally wrong and backwards in every respect.
In the first place, Malkin has the order backwards: it was Matt Lauer, not Laura Bush, who "pulled out the sexism card;" Laura Bush never used the term. Second, far from "lap[ing] them up," Lauer never even returned to the question. I listened to the entire segment, and I particularly played the relevant snippet over and over, trying to get every word even when Lauer, Bush, and Laura Bush were talking over each other. Here is my own transcription of that miniscule portion of the fourteen-minute segment; this part starts at 7:58 into the main segment, but you have to sit through a thirty-second commercial first:
Lauer: [to President Bush] You said she’s the most qualified candidate for the job. [points to Laura Bush] Would you agree with that?
Laura Bush: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Lauer: You had pushed for a woman to be the nominee --
Laura Bush: That’s right. And I know Harriet well, I know how accomplished she is, I know how many times she’s broken the glass ceiling herself. She’s a roll model for young women around our country --
Lauer: Some are suggesting --
Laura Bush: Not only that, she is very deliberate and thoughtful and will bring dignity to, uh, wherever she goes. But certainly to the Supreme Court, she will be really excellent.
Lauer: Some are suggesting there’s a little possible sexism in the criticism of Judge [sic] Miers.
Laura Bush: That’s possible. I think --
Lauer: How would you feel about that?
Laura Bush: That’s possible. I think she is so accomplished that... I know, I think that people are not looking at her accomplishments and not realizing that she was the first elected woman to be the head of the Texas Bar Association, for instance, and all the other things. She was the first, uh, woman managing partner of a major law firm. She was the first woman hired by a major law firm, her law firm.
George Bush: My attitude, Matt, is that when people get to know here, they’ll see why I picked her.
Laura Bush: They will. In the confirmation hearings alone, they’ll, they’ll see what she’s like.
What a difference a single interruption makes! In the deceptive version being pedaled by Reuters and the Post, they have Laura say sexism was possible and then repeat it for emphasis: "I think that's possible." This has the subtextual effect of making it appear certain that the First Lady was agreeing with Lauer's question, that critics were motivated by sexism.
But in reality, Lauer asked the question and paused; Mrs. Bush started to answer and was cut off by Lauer, who finished asking the question... so the First Lady, being a trouper, simply re-commenced her same answer. She did not say "that's possible... I think that's possible;" she dismissed the charge with a curt "that's possible," then started a new sentence on a different topic.
[This is the paragraph that some critics, especially Patterico, dispute most. I did not make my determination by timing pauses with a stopwatch; my analysis is based upon the structure of the response itself: she starts to answer, she is interrupted, and when she answers the second time, she quickly shifts away from the question Lauer asked to the (probably memorized) answer she wants to give, about Miers' accomplishments. She is not repeating for emphasis; she is repeating because the boor talked over her answer. -DaH.]
Listening to the audio, it is clear that she was not agreeing with or even emphasizing the point. In fact, she was brushing it off. She said the most non-commital thing it was possible to say: "that's possible." In fact, if anything, she underplayed it; I have absolutely heard criticism that is clearly sexist... I heard a caller on a recent Hugh Hewitt show say that he opposed Miers because every time we let a woman onto the Supreme Court, she rules just based on her feelings. But Laura Bush simply brushed off Lauer's suggestion and launched into a litany of Miers' accomplishments (which I am not here to argue).
(I just know that somebody is going to argue that she nodded her head as she spoke those words; but then, she actually both nods and shakes her head constantly and randomly throughout her segment. She's bobbing, not nodding. I think it's just nervousness, just like her uncomfortable, little laugh. I don't think she enjoys the spotlight at all.)
Captain's Quarters fell into the same MSM honey-trap that nabbed Michelle Malkin.
Instead [of answers], we get attacked for our supposed "sexism", which does more to marginalize conservatives than anything the Democrats have done over the past twenty years -- and it's so demonstrably false that one wonders if the President has decided to torch his party out of a fit of pique. After all, it wasn't our decision to treat the O'Connor seat as a quota fulfillment; that seems to have originated with the First Lady herself, a form of sexism all its own.
Again, Laura Bush did not call critics sexist. She did not even agree with Lauer that they were sexist. Close examination of the transcript -- or simply viewing the segment -- shows that she brushed off the question and instead simply gushed about what she saw as Miers' accomplishments.
Reuters then creatively massaged her words -- by breaking them up in a non-natural way -- to falsely make it appear as though she were lobbing the "sexist" bomb. And two of our most brilliant minds swallowed the bait, hook, line, and curve ball.
[As I noted to Patterico, consider the title of the Reuters story: "Laura Bush says sexism possible in Miers criticism." Did she say that? No, she did not. A more accurate title would have been "Laura Bush fails to kick Matt Lauer in groinal area for suggesting sexism behind Miers criticism." Maybe he deserved it, but that's not exactly the First Lady's job. Though it sure would have made for good television.... -DaH]
For the love of God, Montresor, you must remember that these people do not mean us well. Reuters and the Washington Post are beside themselves with glee at the internecine GOP warfare; it is they, not the White House, who are "pour[ing] more gasoline on the fire," as Captain Ed titled his post. We know the MSM lie and distort, particularly when transcribing oral statements that have a chance of fanning the flames.
Teachers Union Spending Tomorrow's Dues Today
Both Daniel Weintraub, on his Sacramento Bee-blog, and Brit Hume on Fox News Channel report that the California Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers' union -- in fact, at 335,000 members, the largest union in the state, and the local affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA) -- has already blown the $50 million they had budgeted to fight against all four of Governor Schwarzenegger's ballot initiatives:
- Proposition 74 - teacher tenure reform
- Proposition 75 - paycheck protection
- Proposition 76 - limit state spending growth
- Proposition 77 - redistricting reform
(For an example of how unbiased is the union's political use of member dues, come gawk at their web site!)
That $50 million was taken from a union-dues surcharge; it is, of course, precisely the sort of political spending of member dues that would be banned under Proposition 75, paycheck protection. So now that they have spent all the money they could afford, and the initiatives are doing better than ever in the polling, what is the "poor" union to do next?
Simple: since they know they won't be able to spend dues tomorrow, after the initiative passes, they've decided to spend tomorrow's dues today. The CTA is arranging a $40 million line of credit to continue spending every dime of their members' money that they can shake loose, with complete disregard for the political leanings of those teachers.
But it's even worse than that: on Monday's Special Report With Brit Hume, Hume reports that the union has already borrowed as much as $34 million for their previous spending spree:
The group has already spent the $50 million it raised to fight the initiatives — which would make it easier to fire teachers with tenure and increase restrictions on unions using members' dues for political campaigns.
Now, the CTA is asking for an extra $40 million in credit to keep up the fight — on top of $34 million in loans the union is already paying down.
If maths were not your long suit, that works out to $90 million of union dues going to fight against a ballot initiative that would restrict the use of union dues for fighting ballot initiatives! Plus enough previous debt to raise the total debt to $74 million. Now that's what I call painting yourself into a hole!
And be sure to note that the CTA is not only opposing Propositions 74 and 75, which arguably affect teachers, but also 76 (which simply caps state spending growth) and even 77, which changes how the legislature is reapportioned; neither of these two have any direct connection with teachers, schools, students, or education whatsoever.
[Hat tip to Cloud Master for catching a typo in the last paragraph!]
They also support Proposition 79, one of the two prescription-drug price-control initiatives, and Proposition 80, to completely re-regulate the electrical grid. I have a hard time seeing what any of that has to do with teachers, either. The fact that both initiatives are heavily supported by the Democrats in the state legislature (and Schwarzenegger's initiatives are opposed) is the most likely explanation for the CTA's cheerleading.
The message is clear: never argue with a union that buys red ink by the barrel!
Thirteen to One
The other day, I read a familiar headline about US troops getting killed in Iraq: “Six Marines Killed in Iraq Bomb Attacks,” the AP article said. If all we read are the MSM headlines, we almost can’t help feeling a sense of dread. It seems like we are losing, and losing badly.
In our two most recent major offensives in Iraq, Iron Fist and River Gate, we first were told that 1,000 US troops were fighting near the Syrian border; then the next thing we heard was that six soldiers were killed in those operations -- nothing in between! We fought; we died. Is that all?
What did we achieve? What did we win in return? Surely our troops did not die for nothing, no matter what Cindy Sheehan says.
The reality is that our troops have done an incredible job, though you have to hunt hard to find this information. Our troops' achievements are routinely buried in the middle of articles, sandwiched in between accounts of roadside bombs and ambushes. From the AP article linked above, fifteen paragraphs into the story:
On Thursday, warplanes dropped four precision-guided bombs on an abandoned three-story hotel seized by militants in the town of Karabilah, near the Syrian border, the focus of the Iron Fist assault. Twenty militants were killed in the bombardment, the military said. Seven more insurgents were killed when planes destroyed three buildings from which gunmen were firing on Marines, and two gunmen were killed in fighting in Karabilah.
The 29 deaths raised the insurgent death toll in Iron Fist to 71. At least six insurgents have been reported killed in River Gate offensive.
Wait a minute. 77 bad guys verses six good guys. That’s a 13 to 1 kill ratio. Isn’t that a remarkably successful operation? Shouldn’t the headline actually be “Iron Fist’s great success,” or “77 terrorists slain,” or something like that? That is the way the very same news agencies would have written the very same articles during World War II or Korea.
Why are we so shy about telling the American people how many terrorists we are killing or capturing? If we only hear about the cost but not the payoff, how in the world will the American people realize that we are winning, and winning big? Ever since the Korean War, the MSM has been determined to spin every engagement as an American loss, no matter what actually happened.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Iraq, Black Five reports that US Army troops raided two houses of terrorists and captured numerous bomb making devices:
How many Army and Marine lives saved does this successful raid represent? You'll never find out by reading the Associated Press.
Date ►►► October 10, 2005
Al-Qaeda In Exile
John on Power Line (one of my three favorite blogs!) has a thoughtful and thought-provoking post up about the first stirrings of al-Qaeda in Gaza. He links a Jerusalem Post article that discusses some leaflets recently found in Gaza that are being distributed by a group called "al-Qaida of Jihad in Palestine." As per usual with AQ, the litany of complaint begins rather far back:
"The Muslim nation has been subjected, through various periods, to conspiracies by the infidels," the leaflet said. "[The infidels] have brought down the Islamic Caliphate, dividing the nation into small and weak states. They also managed to dilute the Islamic and character [sic] of the nation."
Since the last time there was an Islamic caliphate that included Gaza was the Ottoman Empire, which collapsed in 1922, I should think both we and even Israel would be off the hook. But you never know.
From 1517 onwards, the Ottoman Sultan was also the Caliph of Islam, and the Ottoman Empire was from 1517 until 1922 (or 1924) synonymous with the Caliphate, the Islamic State.
I wonder if this edition of al-Qaeda is still holding a grudge from the crusades?
John more or less agrees that the nascent al-Qaeda in Gaza may actually be a good thing, finally persuading President Bush that there's no future in the policy of treating the Palestinians and the Israelis in a "more or less even-handed" manner. My own view, expressed oft before -- e.g., Dafydd: Crystal Gaza -- is that the real advantage Israel gained by disengaging from Gaza and to a lesser extent the West Bank was a clearer military order of battle that allows them to respond more freely than if they had thousands of potential hostages they had to protect with tens of thousands of soldiers... soldiers who could be better deployed actually fighting strategic battles.
But I think John's point has equal validity and is just as important. And in any event, John's posts are always worth reading for their own sake, whether one agrees with them or not!
The only odd omission from "Al Qaeda Moving Into Gaza" is that, while discussing how this might force the United States to finally begin treating jihadist terrorism against Israel as we treat jihadist terrorism everywhere else, and how we might have to move into the region in some force, John inexplicably fails to ask how Israel itself will respond: since they're right next door and have shown no particularly reluctance to defend themselves, one might expect they will react even before we do -- and perhaps their response will be so effective that we won't have to send any of our own troops... except perhaps veterans of Iraqi reconstruction projects!
Bush Nominates Reagan to the Court!
This will be my last post on Harriet Miers for some days, not because there's not more to say but because I'm tired of talking about it (and I presume most readers are getting more than a little tired of reading about it!)
I was talking with a friend (another Dogface), and he said that he was really annoyed with Bush for (as he put it) telling one of his extremely rare "lies." "What lie was that?" "When he said that he believed Miers was the most qualified person for the Court." "I think Bush actually believes that." "Then," said my friend, "Bush has totally lost it."
And at that moment, I had a Revelation stronger and more sudden than anything I've experience since I quit taking LSD back in the 1980s: I suddenly understood exactly why Bush nominated Harriet Miers instead of (say) J. Michael Luttig.
In my last post, riffing off Captain Ed's Washington Post piece on the taxonomy of the Miers debaters, I talked about the fourth class of conservatives, what I called the Cowboys. These are intelligent but non-intellectual (even anti-intellectual) folks who don't try to articulate their conservativeness... they simply live it. I noted that Bush belongs to this class, rather than to the Loyalist Army, the Rebel Alliance, or the Trench-Dwelling Dogfaces, all of whom at least have pretensions to being intellectuals.
The Cowboys very much distrust intellectuals because they believe those eggheads can talk themselves into believing anything. Case in point: how many extraordinarily intelligent and perspicacious intellectuals managed to talk themselves into believing in Communism, including such later conservative luminaries as Whittaker Chambers, David Horowitz, and about half the founding staff of Bill Buckley's National Review?
(When asked why so many NR editors were ex-Communists, Buckley simply grinned and repeated "EX-Communists!")
In contrast, there is a very special kind of person found almost exclusively among the Cowboys. For want of a better word, I'll call this sort a Gipper. A Gipper (Ronald Reagan is the prototypical example) is a person who doesn't need to logically reason his way to rightness, because he has an instantaneous intuitive understanding of right and wrong.
Despite so many of Reagan's friends and mentors falling for the Communist line, and despite the fact that Reagan was a New-Deal Democrat, Ronald Reagan never once, not even for a moment, had anything but absolute contempt and loathing for Communism and its kid-sister Socialism. He started fighting the Communists in the 1940s, during the war, while even FDR himself was pedaling the line that "Uncle Joe" Stalin was an enlightened, progressive, scientific, and democratic leader.
(Don't believe me about FDR? Rent a copy of the 1943 Warner Brothers movie Mission to Moskow, made by Jack Warner on direct orders from Roosevelt himself and filmed from the diary of FDR's former ambassador to the USSR, Joseph Davies.)
Reagan happened to be an excellent writer, but he never thought of himself as an intellectual. His genius was first in seeing the right, then in being able to explain it in terms that were not only universally understandable but extraordinarily persuasive. Buckley made conservatism respectable, but it took Reagan to make it popular.
Anybody who knew Reagan for any length of time knew that, no matter what compromise he was forced to accept due to circumstances, Reagan would never, ever "drift to the left," "grow in office," or accept the nearly universally held postulate that Socialism was the way of the future, and the New Soviet Man was the future of Mankind.
Since everyone reading this far is probably both intelligent and pretty intellectual, I predict that you're way ahead of me. George Bush knows Harriet Miers extremely well; he clearly believes that she is not only a Cowgirl but also has an uncanny knack for immediately knowing the right thing to do (from Bush's point of view).
George Bush sees Miers as a female Ronald Reagan: to him, she is a Gipper.
The reason he believes that she will never be seduced by intellectual arguments for judicial activism is that she has that eerie ability to cut through the crap and see the true, ignoble self of the Left. And he believes that she knows what is the right thing to do and can articulate it to the other justices in their conferences before they vote. Bush would argue that it's a thousand times more valuable to be able to persuade one or two justices to her way of thinking -- than simply to write a brilliant, erudite, and scathing dissenting opinion, as Antonin Scalia so often does.
He sees her lack of an intellectual paper trail not as a drawback that must be explained but the very reason he trusts her in the first place: Harriet Miers would never have been impressed by the mighty brains who proved in the 1930s that Das Kapital was the blueprint for secular paradise.
I was somewhat subdued by this flash of comprehension. Of course I don't know if Bush is right about Harriet Miers; I don't know the woman. But I now believe he is right about the basic approach -- there should be at least one person on the Court who is not an intellectual and has a natural immunity to the soulless absurdities that intellectuals can so readily rationalize. The Supreme Court needs a Gipper to slap the other justices across the face and say "snap out of it!"
According to Newsmax.com (a source I almost never cite, for obvious reasons), Antonin Scalia himself seems to have come to a strikingly similar opinion:
"There is now nobody with that [non judicial] background after the death of the previous chief," Scalia laments to [CNBC's Maria ] Bartiromo.
"And the reason that's happened, I think, is that the nomination and confirmation process has become so controversial, so politicized that I think a president does not want to give the opposition an easy excuse [to say] 'Well, this person has no judicial experience.'"
Scalia concludes: "I don't think that's a good thing. I think the Byron Whites, the Lewis Powells and the Bill Rehnquists have contributed to the court even though they didn't sit on a lower federal court."
I wouldn't have made such an appointment myself. But then, I'm not a Cowboy.
Date ►►► October 9, 2005
Loyalists, Rebels, Dogfaces -- and Cowboys
As usual, Captain Ed absolutely nails the taxonomy of conservatives who are arguing about the nomination of Harriet Miers... but yesterday, he managed to do so in the Washington Post!
"Local boy makes good." Even though I'm based in California and he's one of the Northern Alliance Minnesotans like the Power Liners, he's "local" in the sense that he's a blogger; when a blogger is invited to write an article for the Washington Post, it's a spectacular triumph for the entire blogosphere. Congratulations, Captain Ed, both for the column and also for its placement in the Holy Grail of MSM!
The analysis has the conservatives breaking up into three factions -- the Loyalist Army, the Rebel Alliance, and the Trench-Dwelling Dogfaces.
Ed defines these three categories as (respectively) those who actually defend the Miers nomination itself as a good one, either because of Miers' abilities or because of the strategic nature of her stealth appointment; those who are so opposed to the nomination that they've actually decided to go to war against it, regardless of the consequences to the GOP (or perhaps because some believe that the consequences of letting it go forward would be worse -- more on that anon); while the Dogfaces in the trenches are those like the blokes at Power Line and Captain Ed himself (and like me) who think it a blunder -- but who believe that having a civil war within the party would compound the error into a serious threat to our chances in 2006 and 2008. This makes it so much easier to swiftly characterize various actors, from Hugh Hewitt to Patterico.
Ed gives several examples of bloggers in each of the first two categories, but the Post inexplicably snipped out his examples from the Dogface category, which I'm absolutely convinced must have refereced John and Paul at Power Line as well as... other blogs. (Ed tactfully refrained from answering my rather ham-fisted hints about whether he had mentioned Big Lizards, thus leaving me free to fantasize that I might have been mentioned in the Post, if only the blackguards hadn't snipped the passage. Thanks for not shattering my illusions, Ed!)
The primary argument by the Rebel Alliance is that her confirmation would cause vast numbers of voters to be so depressed or infuriated that they simply sit out the next election, leading to catastrophic losses. With all due respect to the Rebels, I have to say this indicates, well, a rather colossal ego (one which I am certainly prone to myself!): the idea that most everybody else around me shares my priorities.
In reality, most conservatives across the country aren't even aware this battle is raging. They're the undistributed middle from Captain Ed's taxonomy -- I call them the "Cowboys." Alas, this vast class is routinely ignored by the Rebels, who (like many other intellectuals) consider someone's opinion relatively unimportant unless it's articulated in a written court opinion, in a book or article, on television or radio, or in a well-regarded blog.
Cowboys can live in the city or the country. As a group, they are completely untroubled by the nomination of Harriet Miers because they just plain like her (as they just plain like Bush, another Cowboy). These are people who don't philosophize about their conservatism... they simply live it day to day. They form the true core of the Republican Party.
When they vote, they vote on the big core issues: taxes, the Global War on Terrorism, moral issues, ethical issues, regulation, the economy -- not on specific nominations of specific judges (even to the Supreme Court). And they always vote Republican.
They ignore the day-to-day bickering among the chattering classes; they may not be able to intellectually define a conservative, but they know 'em when they see 'em. And they love Harriet Miers because she is one of them. They won't be turned off by this nomination; they don't particularly trust intellectuals anyway... they see them as always able to find some egg-headed justfication for liberalism.
The Cowboys are the reason that confirming Miers is better than destroying her: when they get upset at Republicans (for example, at liberal appeasement by George H. W. Bush), they don't vote for third parties, and they for God's sake would never vote for a Democrat. They simply don't vote.
Miers is one of the Cowboys. She only recently arrived at this position; earlier, she clearly was a moderate. But the Cowboys always welcome sincere converts, and I don't think even Patterico would argue that Miers is not socially and politically conservative now. The Cowboys see Meirs as that nice lady from church who's always the first to volunteer to raise money for Christmas gifts for the troops or toys for poor kids -- the little lady that always makes them feel so good when she smiles and waves and says "howdy!"
The Rebels seem to have fooled themselves into believing that most conservatives are as passionate about the life of the mind as the articulate, highly educated, and very intelligent Rebels themselves are. I have great sympathy for this mistake; I make it myself. But my too-brief stint in the Navy taught me that most intelligent, decent, and moral folks are simply not "intellectuals": they do not spend their life pondering postulates, arguments, and logical conclusions (as, e.g., lawyers must). They don't commit philosophy. Think of John Wayne, the perfect Cowboy.
But the Cowboys might be very much bothered by her rejection, because they hate traitors and losers: if Miers is forced out or defeated by Republican votes, then the Rebels will come across to the Cowboys as disloyal, and the Loyalists will come across as incompetent losers. The Cowboys may well fume, lose interest in voting, and sit out the election.
I do agree with Patterico in one respect. He argues that:
If this nomination is to be stopped, it should be stopped before it ever gets to Judiciary Committee hearings. A withdrawal would be far less embarrassing and damaging than a defeat in the Judiciary Committee, or (less likely) on the Senate floor.
I'm glad to see that Patterico is finally acknowledging that defeating Miers in either the J-Com or on the Senate floor would severely damage the Republican Party. Where we differ is that he believes it's possible that Bush might be persuaded to make Miers softly and suddenly vanish away, doing minimal damage -- whereas I believe Bush's personal loyalty to those close to him who have done him no dirt will prevent him from ever abandoning her... just as he never abandoned Priscilla Owens, Miguel Estrada, or Janice Rogers Brown.
The only way to keep Miers off the Court will be to defeat her, either in committee or on the floor. And as Patterico himself admits, this will damage the party. So count me as a Dogface doggedly defending a Cowboy's Cowboy.
Date ►►► October 8, 2005
Would a Miers Fight Hurt the GOP in 2006?
Over on Patterico's Pontifications, Patterico made the point that "Robert Bork’s defeat in 1987 didn’t seem to hurt Bush I much" (in his quest to succeed Reagan, I presume Patterico means).
Of course not. Reagan had already lost Congress, and the Senate was 55-45 in favor of the Democrats. It's expected that a president with a hostile Senate is going to lose nomination fights, and the electorate has already discounted that fact.
What hurts a party -- indeed, weakens it -- is when it has a strong majority and it still loses a nomination fight. Bush and the GOP were all right during the filibuster wars, but that was because of the wide perception among Republican voters that the Democrats were using improper and unfair tactics, where 41 senators could stop 59 senators from confirming a judge. The GOP repeatedly made the point that if those nominations had actually gone to a vote, each of them would have been confirmed: "we're not losers," the Republicans were saying; "the Democrats are cheating!" In fact, not a single confirmation cloture vote during Bush's presidency has failed to get a majority; each confirmation was blocked by a minority, typically even less than the entire Democratic caucus.
Americans hate cheaters.
But if the anti-Miers camp succeeds in sparking a revolt among six or seven of the most conservative Republican senators, leading to the rejection of Miers despite a strong GOP majority in the Senate, this will put the mark of Cain on the GOP, the scarlet-L for LOSERS. And that, much more than grudging acceptance by the Senate, is what will depress turnout.
How does that work, depressing turnout? The core of the base will vote; they always do; that's part of the definition of "core." But that only accounts for 38% - 40% of the total vote. So where does the other 11% - 13% come from to get to (say) 51%, as Bush got in 2004? It comes from what I call "sunshine voters." These are not party stalwarts but cast their votes depending on how they feel that particular day. This is not the same as "independents," because most of the latter have more-or-less consistent leanings but are unwilling to declare themselves members of either major party. I'm talking about the folks who truly switch their votes from election to election.
If the GOP comes across as Losers, it will be the sunshine voters who vote Democratic, vote for a goofy third-party candidate, or just stay home. They supported Bush in 2004 because he seemed like a winner, in contrast to Kerry, who seemed like a whiner. Americans hate losers just as much as they hate cheaters.
If you polled 1500 Republican voters, the percent that would recognize the name "J. Michael Luttig" would likely be in single digits, and virtually all would be core voters. The sunshiners are not upset that Bush nominated Miers instead of Luttig or Emilio Garza or Priscilla Owens; they don't even know who those people are, and they certainly wouldn't base a vote on that issue. What they're upset about right now is the absurd MSM-driven perception that we've lost in Iraq and thousands of American soldiers are being slaughtered every month, and the (partly true) perception that the Republicans are spending too much.
(I say "partly true" because spending as a pecent of GDP has been remarkably constant recently. In 2001, it was 18.5%; this rose to 19.4 and 19.9 in the next two years, dropped to 19.8 in 2004, rose to 20.3 this year (Katrina), and is 19.9 again in the 2006 budget. By contrast, the average during Reagan's administration was 22.4%, and at no time did spending ever drop below 21.)
By 2006, we will have pulled significant numbers of troops out of Iraq; and almost certainly, spending will be down from the Katrina-driven high this year. So there is no reason to believe, absent a civil war within the party, that the Republicans will do poorly in the 2006 campaign. Structurally, we're poised to pick up seats in the Senate (more engandered Democratic seats than Republican) and at least hold steady in the House.
But if we lose the sunshiners, that will spell electoral disaster. That's what happened to the Democrats in 1994; their core voted for them, but nobody else, and GOP turnout was unexpectedly high... because the sunshiners defected to the right for a variety of reasons (taxes, the failed Hillarycare proposal, and so forth). The 2006 sunshiners could defect left under several circumstances: if Iraq collapses; if Bush were to follow his father's lead and raise taxes; if some huge corruption scandal rocked the GOP (for example, if Patrick Fitzgerald indicted a dozen top Republicans in the Valerie Plame leak investigation); or if spending and deficits shot upward sharply. None of these is likely at this point; in Iraq, eventually perception will be forced at gunpoint to catch up to reality. Bush isn't going to raise taxes, and it's unlikely Fitzgerald can find any significant figures in the administration who (a) identified Plame by name to reporters and (b) actually had authorized access to the CIA personnel files -- neither Rove nor Libby would have that, for example. Indictments could only flow if officials stupidly lied under oath, which seems unlikely, since they're actually legally in the clear. And we're not likely to have another Cat-4 hurricane strike a huge city in 2006.
But the one thing that could turn the tide for the Democrats is if a civil war erupts within the GOP, and especially if several Republican senators campaign against and vote down Harriet Miers, or if they force Bush to withdraw her name. Ironically, the ones who might do this would be the most conservative senators in the reddest states -- and they won't suffer a bit for their defection, because red states vote red. Where it would make a difference would be in the purple states like Ohio, where DeWine is already in political trouble, and in Pennsylvania, where Rick Santorum is teetering on the brink. It could also hurt possible pickups in states like Washington (Cantwell) and Maryland, where disarray among the Democrats and a very atttractive Republican candidate in Lt. Gov. Michael Steele gives the GOP a real shot at stealing away the seat of retiring Sen. Paul Sarbanes. The Loser Label on the Republican Party could the kiss of death in close Senate races.
So yes, a bloody internecine combat over Miers within the GOP has a much greater chance of damaging the party's chances in the 2006 elections, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, than could possibly happen if conservative senators gripe and bitch but in the end go ahead and vote to confirm her.
Patterico made another point earlier, that not even those calling for her confirmation, such as myself, actually think she was the best candidate -- or even a very good candidate. He's absolutely correct; I think this was a huge Bush mistake. And Patterico is also correct that Bush should have seen this reaction coming and been unsurprised. And in terms of "fault," if that is important to you, Bush certainly must shoulder some of the blame. But withdrawing her now in response to furious attacks by the conservatives would be just as bad as having her voted down by his own party: he would look like a right-wing sock puppet.
The last chance to avoid the collision with the eighteen-wheeler rests with the Senate Republicans. They, not Bush, are in the driver's seat now. And if the conservative senators put personal pique over party loyalty and start a donnybrook, and if we head-on the semi in 2006, then in the last analysis, the onus will be on them for not swerving when they had the chance.
The BBC planned to stake their reputation on the claim that President Bush said that God told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. But will they actually broadcast this story, now that their only source is backpedaling like a circus clown on a unicycle?
In its three-part series “Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs,” the BBC will feature Abu Mazen, Palestinian Prime Minister, and Nabil Shaath, his Foreign Misnister, describing their first meeting with President Bush in June 2003.
Nabil Shaath says: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …" And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.'"
The Bush administration denies that the subject of Iraq and Afghanistan even came up during the meeting. And now Shaath, the only source for the divine-guidance quotation from the president, has already begun to backtrack from his extraordinary claim, according to Fox News:
Shaath, whose comments will be featured in an upcoming BBC documentary, clarified his remarks Friday saying, "We never thought that God was literally whispering in his ears or that the angel Gabriel gave him a direct message from God ... We understood this to mean a commitment by President Bush in the Middle East." Late today Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement supporting the notion that Shaath's account was inaccurate.
So the MSM conundrum du jour is, what is the BBC to do? That depends on what they think they can get away with, and how much it will cost them. They may decide they can damage Bush’s credibility world-wide, or at least in the Arab countries, without losing too much of their own reputation when the charges collapse. Just like CBS, the BBC may well decide to trade some of their luster for a chance to bash Bush, and maybe damage Prime Minister Tony Blair on the bank shot, as well. But does even the Beeb have enough chutzpah to broadcast a story that their only source now repudiates?
They are left in a quandry: whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of being caught in outrageous propagandizing, or to drop the only reason why anyone would want to watch a three-part series on the Palestinian Authority in the first place -- the ridiculous "God talks to me" charge -- and end up with the Masterpiece Theater version of Al Capone's Vault.
But there is another option for the BBC, if they're brazen enough to take it. I understand Mary Mapes and Bill Burkett are available at the moment... perhaps, if they put their collective mind to it, they can discover a gospel written by Lieutenant George W. Bush on a word-processer in 1973 in which he reveals that he's the fifth Beatle.
Then at least they'd have something.
Date ►►► October 7, 2005
Zawahiri to Zarqawi: Your Lifestyle's Too Extreme
When the number-two guy in al-Qaeda tells you that you're over the top, you might want to sit down and do some serious rethinking.
The United States recently intercepted a copy of a "letter of instructions and requests" sent in July, 2005 from bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In it, Zawahiri first articulates the al-Qaeda vision of the future:
The letter of instructions and requests outlines a four-stage plan, according to officials: First, expel American forces from Iraq. Second, establish a caliphate over as much of Iraq as possible. Third, extend the jihad to neighboring countries, with specific reference to Egypt and the Levant -- a term that describes Syria and Lebanon. And finally, war against Israel.
For al-Qaeda, kicking the "crusaders" out of Iraq is only a means to an end. Zawahiri understands that in order to realize this grand vision, al-Qaeda needs to win hearts and minds in the Moslem world, starting with the Iraqis; yet he fears that Zarqawi's brutal treatment of hostages is alienating the entire ummah. His sadistic bloodthirst is unhelpful, to use a Rumsfeldism.
Ayman Zawahiri… warns Abu Musab Zarqawi against alienating the Islamic world, and virtually reprimands the Iraqi branch of al Qaeda for beheading hostages and then distributing videotapes…
[H]e rebukes the leader of Iraq's insurgency for its brutal tactics -- noting that hostages can just as effectively be killed with bullets rather than by beheading.
Zawahiri the moderate! Zarqawi does not seem much perturbed by this warning though; he beheaded more hostages only two weeks ago, two months after presumably receiving the letter.
In a perverse way, Zarqawi’s insane urge to torture and kill has actually helped us. Because of his brutishness, no American soldier will ever surrender; they know that, unlike when we fight civilized people, surrender to Zarqawi means disgrace and a horrible death without honor. This makes for very determined warriors indeed.
Even though some Iraqis still cooperate with al-Qaeda, either through fear or powerlust, no one in Iraq, not even the Sunnis, wants to be ruled by Zarqawi; the cost in blood and freedom is too high. In economic terms, al-Qaeda has priced itself right out of the market!
Against this blood-red backdrop, even to the Sunnis, self-rule must seem a real bargain.
A lot of us here are old enough to actually remember the seventies, the shambles the country was in after half a century of liberal rule (including the liberal Republicans Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard "we're all Keynesians on this bus" Nixon, and Gerald "WIN" Ford).
Even more of us are old enough to remember Ronald Reagan. Reagan made some bad decisions (Beirut, Sandra Day O'Connor); and he suffered some serious disappointments and setbacks.
But the thing about Reagan was that he never lost heart. He was the cheerful warrior. If he lost a battle, he took the best compromise he could get -- and then continued to work together with his center-right and conservative allies for the victory that eluded him the last time. He famously said that if half a loaf was all we could get, then let's get half a loaf now and go back for the rest later.
There's an old British expression that may sound quaint, but it's just as critical today as in the days of Benjamin Disraeli: Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party.
The center-right coalition is critical to everything the Republicans have achieved since 1995, when we took over the House and Senate... but it's in terrible danger now. And who is threatening it? President Bush, because he nominated Harriet Miers?
No. Bush isn't threatening to destroy the coalition: that honor goes to the enraged critics of Miss Miers.
I don't think it was a good nomination. I think it was a big mistake. But it is not a catastrophe... and it certainly is not worth pulling down the entire edifice upon our heads, like a blinded Samson pullling down the Temple of Dagon. Not only will that destroy the entire Republican agenda, it will result in even more judges like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer -- the very result the anti-Miers camp claims it wants to avoid! Remember, Samson, too, died in the collapse of the Philistine temple.
This is, quite literally, insane: because they're mad that Bush appointed someone they don't know will be a conservative judge, they'll engineer a situation where we'll get three hundred judges that we know damned well will be the most liberal judges President Dean can possibly find.
Oh, and we'll lose the war on terrorism, too. We'll try to fight it as a police action... you know, the European way. The French way. We'll get the opportunity to experience Intifada up close and personal.
If tax cuts, business deregulation, and litigation reform are your goals, then kiss them goodbye. If reform of entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security are important to you, well, get used to disappointment. Say hello to Hillarycare. Shake hands with an expanded Americans with Disability Act, runaway crime rates, and even wilder spending that we're getting from the Republicans. If you love the Vermont, Massachusetts, and California state legislatures, you'll be in hog heaven... because that's Congress with the Democrats in charge. Oh, and get ready for same-sex marriage, nationwide hate-speech codes, a million Kelo confiscations of land and property, an even more powerful Endangered Species Act, $6 a gallon gas, and the swift Europeanization of the United States.
But there is an upside: the Miers attackers will have taught Bush a good, hard lesson for nominating someone they don't personally know and like to the Supreme Court.
I know this has become a holy war for many: but holy wars produce an awful lot more martyrs than victors. Please stop and think: do we really want to live in the world brought about by annihilating the center-right coalition of the past decade? Over this?
I would rather be Reagan than Samson. I'd rather work for the rest of the loaf than pull the temple down upon my own head. I will support Bush and the Republicans in 2006 and 2008 as strongly as ever, despite the nomination of Harriet Miers. And who knows? Maybe she'll turn out to be a good justice after all.
A Tale of Two Stories
I have clenched in my reptillian jaws a pair of stories. Both about Iraq; both about the prospects for the constitutional referrendum on October 15th. Both MSM: one is Reuters, the other Associated Press.
Night. And. Day.
(A tip of the hat to Pajamahideen, in the comments of Harry Reid's Babysitting Service, for calling the Reuters story to my attention.)
Here is the Reuters story:
Pollster says weary Iraqis back constitution
04 Oct 2005
By Andrew Quinn
BAGHDAD, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Iraqis are exhausted by the country's descent into chaos and most pin their hopes on a new constitution as a first step toward order, the director of one of Iraq's few opinion polling agencies said on Tuesday.
Mehdi Hafedh of the Iraqi Centre for Development and International Dialogue said his latest poll showed support for the draft constitution going into a vote on Oct. 15 was widespread -- even in areas where Sunni Arab groups fighting a bloody campaign to derail the new charter are strong.
Hafedh believes the constitution will be approved. But he's not speaking from a gut feeling or wishful fantasy; unlike anybody else I have read, he actually polled Iraqis on the question.
Hafedh's poll of 3,625 Iraqis between Sept 14-19 showed 79 percent in favour of the new constitution against eight percent opposed. The remainder did not answer the question.
While support was particularly high in the northern Kurdish areas and southern regions dominated by Shi'ites, Hafedh said it also ran at over 50 percent in central provinces known as the heartland of Sunni Arab unrest -- a sign, he said, that the Sunni-Shi'ite split was not as wide as many fear.
"This is exaggerated by political elites who are seeking power and by Western media and analysts," Hafedh said.
"If you go down to the streets, you can't tell who is Sunni and who is Shi'ite. We are all mixed." [emphasis added]
Nobody imagines that the constitution will pull less than 50% of the voters, not even the Sunni "political elites" who are frantically rounding up Sunnis to vote against it. The constitution will only be derailed if any three of the eighteen provinces of Iraq vote against it by a two-to-one majority (more than 66%).
There are four provinces that are majority Sunni; but from what I have read, only three where the Sunnis are so overwhelming a majority that a two-thirds No vote is plausible. Even those provinces, however, are not 100% Sunni. If even 10% of the population are Shiite, and if the Shiite there vote at least as strongly for the constitution as their brethren elsewhere (which would be at least 86%, if Hafedh's poll is accurate among the Shia), the Sunni in that province would need about a 73% No vote to get the overall two-thirds to count for a "rejection" province.
But Hafegh's poll indicated there was "over50 percent" even in those provinces. So the only way the constitution can be rejected is if the poll is stunningly in error -- or if there is a huge turn-around in the next week.
It's not a done deal by any means; but there is great cause for optimism.
(I do actually have a dog in the fight; in a recent post here, I made a prediction:
Dafydd the Great, wearing turbin and holding back of hand to forehead, predicts that no more than one province will muster the necessary 67% rejection. (Actually, I believe none will; but I'm hedging my prediction slightly.)
We'll see if this one works out, or if blows up like my Judiciary-Committee prediction!)
But wait; what about the other story?
This one is so boilerplate, it could have been phoned in from the New York offices of AP:
Many Sunnis to Vote No in Iraq Referendum
Oct 7, 2005
by Thomas Wagner
BAGHDAD (AP) - Like many Sunni Arabs in Iraq, Faleh Hassan opposed the U.S.-led invasion, boycotted the election that brought the interim government to power and plans to vote "no" in the Oct. 15 referendum on the country's draft constitution.
As far as he's concerned, ever since U.S. forces drove Saddam Hussein, a fellow Sunni, from power, Iraq's Kurds and majority Shiites have used democracy to grab an unfair share of power and to penalize the Sunni minority for the many abuses Shiites suffered under Saddam. [emphasis added]
Several things to note: first, there is no quantification; this story is pure "feelings" and no thought: clearly, we are supposed to draw the conclusion that the constitution is going down in flames... despite the fact that nowhere does Wagner explicitly quantify how many Sunnis are likely to vote against it in the Sunni provinces -- which is, of course, the only relevant question in deciding whether it will be adopted.
Second, note the extraordinary number of sources of information Wagner drew from for his literary endeavor: four, counting himself! Much of the story is Wagner's personal recollection of the last Saddam Hussein "referendum," when Hussein was the only candidate on the ballot, and with the Fedayeen Saddam looking over the ballots before they were put into the box. From that wealth of data, we learn that:
Iraq's Sunni Arabs are mobilizing in large numbers to defeat the referendum. Many Sunni politicians believe the document would give Kurds in northern Iraq and Shiites in the south virtual autonomy, control of Iraq's oil wealth in both regions, and leave Sunnis powerless and poor in central and western Iraq.
And one other point is glossed over. Wagner casually admits that in the past, he was willing to report pro-Saddam "news" under duress:
To show off this "democratic reform" to the world, [Saddam Hussein] opened Iraq to hundreds of foreign journalists, including this reporter.
All of us were assigned "a government minder" to monitor the few interviews we won with the frightened general public and to make sure we didn't try to visit any of the many off-limit palaces that Saddam and his family owned.
So for "weeks" in 1995, Thomas Wagner filed stories from Iraq while he was being carefully controlled by Saddam's "government minder[s]." I wonder: during all that time, or even in the eight years between that sham election and the fall of Saddam, did Wagner ever once reveal to his readers that those stories he filed were actually orchestrated by Saddam Hussein to make a democratic silk purse out of the pig's ear of Saddam's tyranny?
I don't find very much charity in my heart for Thomas Wagner. Nor do I feel any great impluse towards believing him now.
Date ►►► October 6, 2005
Iraqi Children Thank Iraqi Troops
The Iraqi blog Friends of Democracy organized a touring gallery in many elementay and high schools in Iraq. The gallery displayed childeren's drawings and letters that show their appreciation and love for the Iraqi troops. Some of the heart warming pictures are shown here.
The words and drawings had a wonderful positive effect on the morale of our soldiers and policemen who received them with overwhelming happiness and tears of joy “we’re not going to let them down and these paintings will take their place on the walls in our base” these were the words of one grateful soldier to whom we handed some paintings while his unit was patrolling the streets of Baghdad, the next day we received a call from the officer in command asking for more of these paintings which he described as “a proof on national unity in this confrontation with the powers of evil”.
Harry Reid's Babysitting Service
This morning, President Bush delivered yet another exceptionally good speech on the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), this time to the National Endowment for Democracy in D.C. Bush candidly explained where we are now, what our strategy is for the future, how Iraq fits into the plan, and what specifically we're doing to continue winning that smaller war, as well as the larger GWOT itself.
In response Sen. Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas) issued a terse and Kennedy-esque -- Ted Kennedy-esque, that is -- "response" that did not respond to anything the president said; in fact, it clearly was written before the speech, comprising nothing but boilerplate invective from the disloyal opposition. But even so, I will take up the smart man's burden and let you know what Sen. Reid said. It's a tedious task, but somebody gotta do it.
Reid: The Rhetoric Doesn't Match The Reality
Thursday, October 6, 2005
Washington, DC – Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement today on Bush’s continued failure to talk straight to the American people about the war in Iraq:
Failure to "talk straight?" What about Harry Reid's continued failure to use the English language with clarity and precision? What on earth does that phrase, "talk straight," mean anyway? I'm really getting sick of this argument-by-illiterate-catch-phrase... and yes, I do include McCain's "Straight-Talk Express."
"Talk straight" is quite evidently a placeholder phrase, like a movie stand-in: you insert it into a sentence to take the place of what you really mean to say, so you can get the lighting and camera angles right without wasting the real term's time. The problem arises when, after you polish up the sentence, you forget to go back and replace the placeholder with the real words!
In that case, you end up with nothing but airy persiflage: things are looking bad, because the president won't bite the bullet and just do what needs doing. It's gut-check time, Mr. President! It's now or never! The American people eagerly await the straight talk, the real deal... but all you give us is the same-old, same-old. Our patience is not limitless, sir! For the last time, the American people demand to know just exactly where you stand: are you going to stick with the failed policies of the past? Or will you finally, at long last, move forward boldly into the future?
Once again the president had an opportunity to lay out for the American people the facts on the ground in Iraq and his strategy to achieve the military, political and economic success needed in order to bring our troops home.
Uh... yes; exactly like that.
Once again, he failed to do so. Instead, the president continued to falsely assert there is a link between the war in Iraq and the tragedy of September 11th, a link that did not and does not exist.
He did? I just read the speech, and I don't see anything like that in what I read. Of course, I have an unfair advantage over Sen. Reid... I actually did read the speech before attempting to comment on it.
Here is what Bush actually said on this subject, as opposed to what Harry Reid imagined Bush would say a couple of days ago, when Reid actually write his "response":
We know the vision of the radicals because they've openly stated it — in videos, and audiotapes, and letters, and declarations, and websites. First, these extremists want to end American and Western influence in the broader Middle East, because we stand for democracy and peace, and stand in the way of their ambitions. Al Qaeda's leader, Osama bin Laden, has called on Muslims to dedicate, quote, their "resources, sons and money to driving the infidels out of their lands." Their tactic to meet this goal has been consistent for a quarter-century: They hit us, and expect us to run. They want us to repeat the sad history of Beirut in 1983, and Mogadishu in 1993 — only this time on a larger scale, with greater consequences.
Second, the militant network wants to use the vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments. Over the past few decades, radicals have specifically targeted Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, and Jordan for potential takeover. They achieved their goal, for a time, in Afghanistan. Now they've set their sights on Iraq. Bin Laden has stated, "The whole world is watching this war and the two adversaries. It's either victory and glory, or misery and humiliation." The terrorists regard Iraq as the central front in their war against humanity. And we must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror.
Third, the militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia. With greater economic and military and political power, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people, and to blackmail our government into isolation.
I'm curious which part of this Reid rejects. Does the good senator argue that al-Qaeda doesn't really mind us being in the Middle East, that they've decided democracy and peace are pretty cool after all, and that they've given up their Blofeldian ambitions of world domination?
Or maybe it's the second paragraph that Reid disputes: perhaps Harry Reid argues that if we pulled out of Iraq instanter, then Zarqawi and his butt-monkey brigade would be mollified and would likewise leave Iraq to return to certain arrest and execution in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Egypt. Or that they would emmigrate out of Iraq to Iran, Syria, Sudan, or Cechnya, but they would retire from the mindless mass murder biz; perhaps they would become shrimp farmers or start a cotton plantation.
If it's Bush's third point that Harry Reid pooh-poohs, then I can only conclude that Nevada's favorite son believes in the power of Islamist jihadi redemption: sure, the terrorist killers may have claimed they want a globe-spanning caliphate from "al-Andaluz" and the Moorish North Africa, the Persian Caliphate eastward to India, the deserts of Arabia, then following the old Ottoman Sultanate through Algiers, Tripoli, Egypt, through Mesopotamia right up against the Caspian Sea in Russia, up around into Europe, across Hungary, and right up to the gates of Vienna, Austria, plus the new elements of the ummah -- Indonesia (the largest Moslem country), Micronesia, the Philippines, and everything in between Australia and China.
Sure, maybe that's what they say; but it's just trash-talk (not straight talk, as Harry Reid gives us). They don't really want nukes, chemical weapons, or biological agents. And Israel? Heck, the jihadis are willing to "live and let live" alongside all those Jews and Crusaders. Don't harsh their mellow, man!
Show of hands: anybody here persuaded by Sen. Reid's read on the Jihadi mindset?
Once again, he failed to do so. Instead, the president continued to falsely assert there is a link between the war in Iraq and the tragedy of September 11th, a link that did not and does not exist.
Harry Reid's homework list:
- The Connection : How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America
- Countdown to Crisis : The Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran
- 9/11 Commission Report: Staff Statement No. 15, Overview of the Enemy
(The official version of the document from the 9/11 Commission is unsearchable; they seem to have messed up something in the pdf. Here is a searchable version of that same document.)
The truth is the Administration’s mishandling of the war in Iraq has made us less safe and Iraq risks becoming what it was not before the war: a training ground for terrorists.
"Made us less safe." Hm. We're safer with an avowed and bitter enemy of America in charge of the world's second-largest known oil reserve, a military machine that includes missiles and chemical artillery shells, active and ongoing programs to develop nuclear and chemical/biological weapons, and who has deep, extensive, and rapidly expanding alliances with al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups that desperately desire to destroy America -- than we are with 140,000 American troops in Iraq protecting a democratic state that is about to vote on a constitution (and if they reject it, upon another, and another until they get their democracy)?
Yeah, I can see that... if the pronoun "us" in "made us less safe" stands for "Democrats in Congress," and "safe" refers to their electoral prospects. Indeed, Bush's entire prosecution of the GWOT has made Democratic seats in Congress very unsafe indeed, as the last couple of elections -- and the prospects for 2006 -- have shown. So in that sense, Harry Reid is right about this claim. Ten points for Slytherin!
I do note, however, that while Iraq may have become a training ground for terrorists, what it has mainly trained them to do is to be killed by the thousands by Coalition forces. And it has unquestionably become a training ground for American forces, turning us into the premier urban-terrorist warfare-fighting military on the face of the Earth.
It is clear our window of opportunity is closing in Iraq and the president continues to fail to provide a strategy for success in order to prevent this outcome.
See above, long discussion of Reid's obsession with torturing the English language until it converts.
My Democratic colleagues and I submitted four specific questions to the president about his strategy for Iraq that the American people demand be answered.
Which particular American people would those be? I don't recall being asked. Then again, statistical probability suggests that the vast majority of the people will not, in fact, be questioned for any particular poll. I'm willing to believe that Reid, Kerry, Leahy, Schumer, and Kennedy (and any other colleagues Reid has left) all got together and commissioned Gallup or Pew Research to poll the American people on which particular, specific four questions they demand the president answer, which turned out to be the very four that Reid asks below... so if he could give us a link or even a citation of this poll, it would be very helpful.
Instead of answering those questions, the president offered the same failed approach, stay the course. We cannot continue to stay the course, we must change the course. The American people and our brave men and women in Iraq deserve better.
It's like déjà-vu all over again!
Ah... here come those four questions that were determined by extensive polling among statistically weighted representative samples of the American people:
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE’S KEY QUESTIONS ON IRAQ
- How many capable Iraqi forces do we need before we can bring our troops home?
- What is the administration doing to forge a political consensus?
- What is the administration doing to make Iraq’s neighbors a part of our strategy?
- What progress is being made on the reconstruction in Iraq and how do we know taxpayers dollars are being spent wisely?
Let's see if we can answer the senator's questions; then he can say "my job here is done" and head back to the video-poker slots.
How many capable Iraqi forces do we need before we can bring our troops home?
I have no idea how to answer this. What is a "force?" If he means "how many individual soldiers," that's a much larger number than if he means "how many battalions."
And what does he mean by "capable?" Wretchard of the Belmont Club has done a bravura job of analyzing just what we have done so far in building up a free Iraqi army, composed of volunteers led by officers who actually care about democracy and freedom, to take the place of the Saddam's old army, led by would-be military dictators (such as Col. Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the King of Clubs on my quasi-official Iraqi Deck of Death) and largely manned by wretched Shiite and Kurdish conscripts who desperately didn't want to be there and would flee at the first opportunity.
First the raw numbers. Secretary Rumsfeld reports there are "technically 194,000 Iraqis" in the security forces. In terms of what may properly be referred to as the Iraqi army, General Casey said there were 100 battalions in all. These were divided, in terms of their capability into three categories: Category 1, 2 and 3 -- with Category 1 being the most capable [and available, per Wretchard's update].
The widely circulated report in the press that of 3 Iraqi battalions that were formerly combat ready, only one is currently rated in that status is an example of how the 'quantity of men' issue has been misunderstood. That number turns out to be the number of Iraqi battalions in Category 1, which as we shall see later, is not the critical category at all.
When Democrats disparage the capability level of the Iraqi troops, they refer only to the paucity of "Category 1" battalions; but Category 1 refers to a capability nearly equal that of the United States; and by this measure, virtually no other nation in Christendom has more than one or two such battalions, most not even that. Even Israeli units don't come up to our present capability to fight an urban war against terrorists... though we certainly couldn't have said that prior to the Iraq War. It is the units in the middle capability level, Category 2, that form the backbone of the fighting force in Iraq, as Wretchard explains:
The eightfold increase in company-level operations in five months (from 160 company level operations in May rising to 1,300 in September) is one crude way to estimate the rate of training of Iraqi battalions . If operational tempo has not increased, this suggests that since there are 100 battalions now then there were only about 12 in May and the US military transition teams have been training about 18 new battalions each month. This is a very crude estimate, but it should in the correct order of magnitude.
Of these 100 battalions the truly important number are those in Category 2 (not the Category 1 batts the press was interested in) because it is on these that the operations over the next six months will be fought. The members of Press realized this in the course of the briefing and attempted to get the speakers to state this number without success.
All right, let's pick one measure that Reid might have meant and run with that. What does he mean by asking "how many capable Iraqi [battalions] do we need before we can bring our troops home?" Does he imagine that is the goal: as soon as there are X number of operational Iraqi battalions, we splitski?
This is a perfect example of Democratic illogic. Bush has enunciated a perfectly comprehensible "exist strategy": as soon as the Iraqis begin to be able to take over their own defense, we begin to pull out. This could be accomplished with the 100 battalions in place now, if they improve their capabilities. Or we could raise another fifty battalions who are at the same level as today. Or we could degrade the terrorist ability so much that a mere seventy Iraqi battalions would be enough to drive them out... there are many routes to the victory condition.
Look at it this way. You're driving to the Grand Canyon. When is the trip officially finished -- when you arrive at the parking lot of Bright Angel Lodge? Or do you pull over and park when you have traveled exactly three and a half hours or 210 miles, no matter where you actually are?
What is the administration doing to forge a political consensus?
Among whom? Is this question left over from a previous set of four about, say, Social Security reform?
What is the administration doing to make Iraq’s neighbors a part of our strategy?
Well, we're telling Saudi Arabia to stop exporting jihadi materials to American mosques; we're welcoming Kuwait's and Jordan's recognition of Israel; we're trying to bring Iran's nuclear program before the UN Security Council; we're supporting Turkey's bid to join the European Union; and we're pressuring Syria to pull its intelligence agents out of Lebanon and fighting a riverine campaign along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers to seal the Iraq border against Syrian terrorist incursion. Why do you ask, Sen. Reid... has your newspaper been stopped?
What progress is being made on the reconstruction in Iraq and how do we know taxpayers dollars are being spent wisely?
First question in this double-question, reconstruction progress: ca. September 29th, 2005, see this post from Good News Central.
Second question, how we know taxpayer dollars are being spend wisely: we know, obviosuly, because they're being spent by the Bush administration, not by the Democratic Congressional caucus. Was this a trick question?
And that appears to cover the entirety of Sen. Reid's "response." I suspect I'll never have to write this again... because the next time President Bush gives a speech about Iraq -- or about Hurricane Rita, the repeal of the death tax, or the Patriot Act -- Harry Reid will send out this same general, all-purpose "response," and I can just link back to this post.
Change In Comments Policy
Due to the diligent efforts of a particular commenter to disrupt the dialog and drive away other commenters through sheer insufferable boorishness, I am forced to add a new rule to the Big Lizards Reptillian Comments Policy, which is now Rule 4:
Comments whose primary purpose is to derail, disrupt, or destroy the conversation, or to drive away other commenters, or to serve any similiar troll-like goal, will be deleted and the troll warned; subsequent violations -- or even a single violation for anyone on comments probation -- can result in permanent termination. The hosts are the sole judges. Squeals of "censorship" will be considered further abuse. While the hosts dislike having to institute this rule, we dislike even more seeing other commenters driven away by the abuse of the few (or in this case, the one). Reasoned dissent is welcome; verbal assaults and intimidation will not be tolerated.
Enforcement of the rule begins immediately for all comments subsequent to this announcement.
Examples of such abuse include but are not limited to repeated deliberately off-topic comments, endless epithets to describe those the commenter dislikes, and incessant use of circumlocutions to insult other commenters.
The comments section is for conversation and discussion -- not infantile game-playing to see how close the troll can come to violating specific commenting rules without technically crossing over the line.
Simply put, the line is no longer one pixel wide; it is now thirty pixels wide and fuzzy. All other commenters on this blog, including others who disagree with the hosts, have managed to stay well within the lines, making reasoned arguments for their side without stooping to trollish behavior. One commenter has not.
These are the new rules, for which I apologize. But necessity is the mother of restriction.
Date ►►► October 5, 2005
Everybody's Gone Survey, SurveyUSA, Addendum
Per Daniel Weintraub of the Sacramento Bee and his BeeBlog, California Insider, three heavy-hitter "reform" groups have just endorsed Proposition 77, the Redistricting Reform initiative:
Three prominent reform groups -- Common Cause, CalPIRG and TheRestOfUs.org -- have endorsed Prop. 77, the redistricting reform measure. These groups, especially Common Cause, have been working for fair, independent district boundaries for a long time. Perhaps their backing of this measure will help dispel the opposition argument that it's a partisan power grab -- for either the Republicans or the Democrats, depending on who is making the accusation.
I think we're finally starting to roll here!
Speaking of which, I spoke to the California Republican Party yesterday, and they said that they were going to "roll out" a major ad campaign for all the governator's initiatives around "October 25th or 26th." I guess this is breaking news; I certainly haven't seen this mentioned elsewhere, not that I've been poring over the newspapers lately.
We'll see if they keep their word this time. I still remember Dan Lungren, Stealth GOP Nominee for Governor in 1998. I think the CA-GOP's slogan that year was "No ads -- no votes -- no problemo!"
More Miers Musings
I just read George Will's typically elitist (and typically boorish and snide) hit piece on Harriet Miers, President Bush, and indeed upon everybody who didn't listen to George Will.
Perhaps it's the mathematician in me, but a conundrum just occurred. Will writes:
The wisdom of presumptive opposition to Miers's confirmation flows from the fact that constitutional reasoning is a talent -- a skill acquired, as intellectual skills are, by years of practice sustained by intense interest. It is not usually acquired in the normal course of even a fine lawyer's career. The burden is on Miers to demonstrate such talents, and on senators to compel such a demonstration or reject the nomination.
Since Professor Will -- who has a PhD in politics, but not specifically in constitutional law, and who is not even a lawyer -- has not particularly demonstrated "years of practice sustained by intense interest" in constitutional law, nor that he is "among the leading lights of American jurisprudence," or that he possesses "the inclination or the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution"... then perhaps he is also unqualified to set the standards to determine who actually does have the very qualities he, himself lacks.
Those are just my thoughts, but I'm not a lawyer, either. I'm not sure I'd take kindly to a journalist telling me who is qualified to be called a mathematician, however.
Ron and Tom's Bogus Journey, part Deux
Once again, Democrats prove that, contrary to what some may think, it really is possible to fall off the floor.
If you -- I mean they -- today, Ronnie Earle -- oh for heaven's sake, just read this, from the Austin American Statesman:
Prosecutor Reveals Third Grand Jury Had Refused DeLay Indictment
Newly impaneled grand jury returned money-laundering charge within hours
By Laylan Copelin, American-Statesman Staff
October 4th, 2005
A Travis County grand jury last week refused to indict former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as prosecutors raced to salvage their felony case against the Sugar Land Republican. [emphasis added]
In a written statement Tuesday, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle acknowledged that prosecutors presented their case to three grand juries — not just the two they had discussed — and one grand jury refused to indict DeLay. When questions arose about whether the state's conspiracy statute applied to the first indictment returned last Wednesday, prosecutors presented a new money-laundering charge to second grand jury on Friday because the term of the initial grand jury had expired.
Working on its last day Friday, the second grand jury refused to indict DeLay. Normally, a "no-bill" document is available at the courthouse after such a decision. No such document was released Tuesday.
Ronnie Earle claims that after prosecuting the case with single-minded zeal -- "obsession" would be a better word -- for literally years, he suddenly discovered "new evidence" over the weekend, coincidentally just after fatal problems arose with the first indictment from the first grand jury, and just after a second grand jury refused to return an indictment. Amazing how perfectly that worked out. God must be in Ronnie Earle's back pocket.
DeLay's legal team, led by Houston lawyer Dick DeGuerin, has been taking to the airwaves to portray Earle as an incompetent prosecutor who is pursuing DeLay only as a political vendetta.
"It just gets worse and worse," DeGuerin said. "He's gone to three grand juries over four days. Where does it stop?" [emphasis added]
I find it quite telling that the first grand jury, which returned the first (flawed) indictment, and the third, which returned the second indictment four hours after being seated on their first day, were both empaneled by Democratic judges; but the second grand jury, the one that heard Earle out but refused his call to indict (a very rare thing in a venue where the defense isn't even allowed to participate) was empaneled by a Republican judge.
Is it perhaps just barely possible that there might be something to this "partisan" charge after all?
Changing Rules in the Middle of the Game - UPDATE and bump
UPDATE: See below.
Whenever I hear frustrated Americans complaining about the seemingly slow process of Iraqi democratization, I tell them, "give Iraq a chance; they are not used to this democracy thing; it will take time; they have a lot to learn from us." Well, they might have learned a bit too much from Democratic election committees of Florida 2000.
Over the weekend, the Shia dominated Iraqi parliament changed the rules of the upcoming election. They rigged it so that no matter how the Sunnis vote, the referendum will pass.
Iraq's parliament made a ruling on Sunday determining that for the October 15 referendum to pass, half of those who turn out to vote across the country would have to say, "Yes." However, a clause setting a two-thirds "No" vote in at least three of 18 provinces as a veto on the charter would be interpreted to mean two-thirds of all registered voters, rather than voters on the day. In other words, parliament was interpreting the word "voters" in the interim constitution in two different ways in the same article. [emphasis added]
In other words, the meaning of the word “voters” will be interpreted depending on how the voters voted! "Yes" voters are measured against other voters, while "No" voters are measured against all potential voters. This is just as bad as the infamous hanging chads.
This of course does not sit well with Sunnis.
Sunni Arab moderates threatened Tuesday to boycott the voting after the Shiite-led parliament passed new rules over the weekend that make it effectively impossible for Sunnis to defeat the charter at the ballot box. "Boycotting the referendum is a possible option... because we believe that participating in the voting might be a useless act," said Saleh al-Mutlaq, a leading Sunni politician.
Even the United Nation is perturbed, saying this does not follow international standards.
The United Nations also expressed concern about the new electoral rules, saying they don't meet international standards. U.N. officials have been meeting with Iraqi authorities and are confident that Iraq will ultimately agree to sound electoral rules, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
The UN is negotiating with the parliament right now. But I don't have much faith in the UN. The United States government echoes the concern, but I don’t know what we can do.
"Ultimately, this will be a sovereign decision by the Iraqis and it's up to the Iraqi National Assembly to decide on the appropriate electoral framework," Dujarric said. "That being said, it is our duty in our role in Iraq to point out when the process does not meet international standards."
This is outrageous. You can't change the rules in the middle. It was wrong when Democrats did it in Florida 2000, and it's still wrong now in Iraq.
What the Iraqi parliament must realize is that Democracy constitutes the rule of law, and the law must apply equally to everyone. That’s the basis of Democracy. The Constitution is the cornerstone of that democracy: if you rig the election to ratify it, what kind of beginning is that?
I put no stock in the UN. They can negotiate all they want; but at the end of the day, the only voice Iraqis listen to is America's. The United States government has to do more than express its "deep concern" and "strongly suggest" that they change the rules back to the original. Hey, we've got the guns; we got to ram this democracy thing down them Iraqis' throats whether they like it or not!
Omar at Iraq the Model sums up my feeling.
I wasn't worried at all when the final draft came with several articles I didn't agree with since I thought my voice would count and could change things in either direction but now? Now I feel like I'm facing a challenge of having my voice ignored and hijacked again and that is something I cannot accept.
Any rules change that causes even the pro-democracy bloggers at Iraq the Model to back away is a terrible miscalculation. Rules are rules -- leave them alone, and just trust the Iraqi people.
UPDATE from Dafydd, 12:40 pm October 5th:
Sachi just e-mailed me that the Iraqi parliament has changed the rule back to the original (hat tip to Matoko Kusanagi and Terry Gain, who noticed and commented around the same time Sachi found the AP article). Via AP:
Sunnis Drop Threat to Boycott Referendum
Oct 5, 12:51 PM (ET)
by Qassim Abdul-Zahra
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's parliament voted Wednesday to reverse last-minute changes to rules for next week's referendum on a new constitution after the United Nations said they were unfair. Sunni Arabs responded by dropping their threat to boycott the vote and promised to reject the charter at the polls.
The United Nations, which was supervising the referendum, and U.S. officials had pressed Iraqi leaders to drop the rule change, which would have made it nearly impossible for the constitution to be defeated and jeopardized efforts to bring Sunnis into the political process.
One might, of course, conclude that American opposition to the rule change might perhaps have played slightly more of a role here than the objections of the toothless U.N., which fled Iraq after a single bombing of the U.N. facility there and have only crept back when assured of protection by the United States.
After a brief debate Wednesday, the National Assembly voted 119 to 28 to restore the original voting rules for the referendum. Only about half of the 275-member legislative body turned up for the vote.
The text approved by parliament Wednesday confirmed that the word "voters" throughout the election rules in the interim constitution has a single meaning: those who cast votes.
"The word 'voters' in paragraph (c), article 61 of the Transitional Administrative law, means registered voters who actually cast their votes in the referendum," reads the text, according to deputy speaker Hussain al-Shahristani....
Wednesday's vote came after intensive talks by U.N. and American officials to pressure the Iraqis to reverse the rule change as Sunnis accused the Shiite-led government of fixing the rules to guarantee a victory.
The Sunnis may "promise" to reject the new constitution, but they may find it harder to deliver. Mustering a two-thirds majority against the referendum in three separate provinces will not be as easy as they imagine: for one reason, more Sunnis than Sunni leaders care to admit actually support the constitution, believing that they can change clauses they don't like by subsequent amendment. The bloggers at Iraq the Model fall into this category, as seen in the post today by Mohammed:
Although I have my objections to several articles of the draft constitution, I will certainly respect my people’s choice and I do believe that half a step forward is still better than many steps backward. I still see this constitution as an upgradeable project that can be improved for better performance in the future and it’s much better than the no-constitution-state and the chaos that would accompany that.
Captain Ed is all over this on Captain's Quarters, as well.
She Wants Her Money Back
Speaks for itself.
Private eye nabbed after woman contacts police over his failure to kill lover's wife.
Date ►►► October 4, 2005
Everybody's Gone Survey, SurveyUSA
Daniel Weintraub's always-excellent California Insider flagged new survey results on various California state ballot initiatives.
In an abrupt and rather stunning turn-around, SurveyUSA, the newest poll of the five California initiatives being pushed by Gov. Arnold Schawarzenegger, Propositions 73-77, shows all of them running ahead for the first time.
The smallest lead is held by Prop. 74, which requires teachers to serve for five years before getting tenure, rather than the two years they have to serve today; Prop. 74 leads by only 11%. The largest leads are held by Props. 75 and 77, both of which lead by 23%: Prop. 75, Paycheck Protection, requires prior written approval by a public-employee union member before the union can use any part of his dues for political purposes; Prop. 77, Redistricting Reform, requires districts to be drawn by a 3-judge panel and approved by voters, rather than allowing the legislature to draw the district lines, as they do today.
Results of SurveyUSA Election Poll #7043
Filtering: 1,200 California adults were interviewed 9/30/05 - 10/2/05. Of them, 989 were registered voters. Of them, 529 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 73. 528 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 74. 529 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 75. 507 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 76. 517 were judged to be "likely" voters on Proposition 77. Crosstabs reflect "likely" voters.
All survey questions have a margin of error of 4.3%, except for Prop. 76, where the MOE is 4.4%.
- Prop 73: 59 yes, 39 no (2% undecided) lead: +20
Parental Abortion Notification
- Prop 74: 55 yes, 44 no (2% undecided) lead: +11
Teacher Tenure Reform
- Prop 75: 60 yes, 37 no (3% undecided) lead: +23
- Prop 76: 58 yes, 36 no (6% undecided) lead: +22
Limit State Spending Growth
- Prop 77: 59 yes, 36 no (5% undecided) lead: +23
SurveyUSA breaks down the vote by various demographics; their site is pretty cool and well designed -- if you have a recent browser -- I have no idea how well it would work on Internet Explorer 4.0!
This is truly excellent news. Previous polls had shown the measures limping towards defeat, but in each case with very large "undecided" respondents. I almost blogged about this earlier, but I wasn't sure how to explain it: the problem in the earlier polls were lengthy, hard-to-parse questions and no explanation of any of the measures. I was certain that most people's reaction was "huh? I don't get it," and that was artificially lowering the Yes vote.
But in the SurveyUSA poll, the measures are clearly, succinctly, and impartially explained. For example, Prop. 75, what I call Paycheck Protection, is explained thus:
Next, Proposition 75. Proposition 75 prohibits public employee unions from using union dues for political purposes without the written consent of union members. If the special election were today, would you vote Yes on Proposition 75? Or would you vote no?
And my favorite, Prop. 77, which I call Redistricting Reform:
Finally, Proposition 77. Proposition 77 changes the way California draws boundaries for Congressional and legislative districts. District boundaries would be drawn by a panel of retired judges and approved by voters in a statewide election. If the special election were today, would you vote Yes on 77? Or would you vote no?
Surprise, surprise on the Jungle Cruise tonight: when these simple and obvious reform measures are actually explained to the voters, the voters are overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
So chin up, folks; I think we're going to see some significant changes in the structure of California in just a few years. Redistricting Reform alone will break up the Democratic gerrymander and make a great many seats in the Assembly and State Senate competitive again.
Memo to All Republicans:
TO: Republican stalwarts having the vapors over the nomination of Harriet Miers
FROM: Realm of Sanity
SUBJ: All is forgiven, please come home
Ladies and gentlemen; please lie down on the floor, put a cold compress on your foreheads, and try to calm yourselves. Deep breathing helps. If you begin to feel dizzy, recall that you cannot fall off the floor -- although recent actions of the Democratic Party cast some doubt on this observation.
So you were hoping for J. Michael Luttig or Emilio Garza, or maybe one of the Two Ediths, and you got Harriet Miers. You're disappointed or perhaps confused. I'm with you; so am I.
But.... Before you go flying off in all five directions, saying you've "had it" with President Bush and threatening to "sit out" the next eighteen elections (just to show those stinky Republicans who didn't listen to you), let's talk this out. If you prefer, take a stress pill, assuming that is legal in your neck of the woods.
What is your goal? What are you most concerned about anent judicial appointments? You want a conservative judge, or a strict constructionist, or an originalist, or a textualist, or somesuch other being who will not "legislate from the bench." Right?
First of all, you don't know that Miers is not just such a creature; you don't know she is, but you also don't know she isn't. In fact, President Bush also wants such persons on the bench. While you and I have been opining, he has been busily appointing conservative judges to district and circuit courts and to the Supreme Court.
He has known Miers for two decades and worked closely with her for his entire tenure as president, and as governor of Texas before that. Unless you think he's been taken over by the pod-aliens from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, he must think that Harriet Miers will be just such a conservative judge. He says she is; is he lying?
But even if he turns out to be wrong, and Miers is another Sandra Day O'Connor... how does hurting the GOP help your cause, which is still to get strict constructionists onto the bench? If a bunch of us fold our arms and refuse to vote, or vote for a wacky third-party candidate like Ross Perot, what happens? Well, what happened in 1992? Say, you've got a good memory; we ended up with William Jefferson Clinton in the White House. That sure worked out well!
And who did Mr. Clinton appoint to the federal courts? 373 judges like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Nearly every time I read about a despicable, activist decision by a federal court, I look up the judges and they turn out to have been appointed by either Bill Clinton or by Jimmy Carter -- not coincidentally the last Democratic president before WJC.
In fact, the worst justices on the Court appointed by Republicans -- Souter and Stevens -- are better than either justice appointed by Clinton; you know, the ones you gave us last time by sitting out the 1992 election.
If your goal is more Scalias and Thomas and fewer Ginsburgs and Breyers, and your strategy is to punish Republicans by refusing to vote for them... well, I don't know about you, but I see a bit of a disconnect from reality there. So bitch and moan privately, if you want, but then suck it up and support the Republicans in 2006 and beyond. After all, even if you think the lesser of two evils is still "evil," it's still also "lesser!"
Ron and Tom's Bogus Journey
I have now read all the way through the second indictment of Tom DeLay by Ronnie Earle, the obsessesed "Inspector Javert" of Travis County, TX. In fact, I read through it several times. And I'm completely befuddled.
Now, I'm what's known in the Navy as a "sea lawyer." That is, I'm not an attorney, but I sometimes play one in my own mind. So I may be unaware of case law that might clarify this indictment further. But so far as I can make out, reading the indictment and the sections of the Texas Election Code that it cites, it doesn't really even allege a crime... and in any event, the connection to Tom DeLay is as tenuous as gossamer.
DeLay is only mentioned twice in the indictment:
John Dominick Colyandro, James Walter Ellis, and Thomas Dale DeLay, the defendants herein, with intent that a felony be committed... did agree with one or more persons... that they or one or more of them engage in conduct that would constitute the aforesaid offense, and the defendant, John Dominick Colyandro, the defendant, James Walter Ellis, and the Republican National Committee, did perform an overt act in pursuance of the agreement....
[T]he defendants, John Dominick Colyandro, James Walter Ellis, and Thomas Dale DeLay, did knowingly conduct, supervise, and facilitate a transaction involving the proceeds of criminal activity that constituted an offense classified as a felony under the laws of this state....
In both cases, the only "law of that state" cited is the Texas Election Code, chapter 253, subchapter D. I didn't have any trouble finding that code section online, either (subchapter D begins at 253.091).
Sec. 253.104. CONTRIBUTION TO POLITICAL PARTY. (a) A corporation or labor organization may make a contribution from its own property to a political party to be used as provided by Chapter 257.
Chapter 257 lists the detailed restrictions in section 257.002:
Sec. 257.002. REQUIREMENTS RELATING TO CORPORATE OR LABOR UNION CONTRIBUTIONS. (a) A political party that accepts a contribution authorized by Section 253.104 may use the contribution only to:
(1) defray normal overhead and administrative or operating costs incurred by the party; or
(2) administer a primary election or convention held by the party.
(b) A political party that accepts contributions authorized by Section 253.104 shall maintain the contributions in a separate account.
In other words, money contributed by corporations is "soft money," which can't be used directly for campaigns; and parties must maintain separate accounts to segregate "soft money" from "hard money" (contributions from individuals). This is exactly the same as the federal prohibition -- not surprising, since the Texas statute was modeled on the federal statute.
But the Republican National State Elections Committee (RNSEC) responds that this is exactly how they handled these transactions, and indeed, all such soft-money transactions, since they must obey federal law themselves. They had two separate accounts, one for "soft money," the other for "hard money". The money from Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC), which came from corporations, went into the "soft money" account. But the money sent back for use in political campaigns came from the "hard money" account.
Ronnie Earle calls this "money laundering." Now, I don't know about Texas, but to me, money laundering can only occur if the initial source of the money is itself criminal. I've never before heard the term used to mean money legally donated to a political party or political action committee.
Also, don't you have to show that the money at the end of the process is the same money that was criminal at the beginning -- that is, that there is no separate and distinct origin of the end money? But in this case, when the RNSEC donated money to the Texas campaigns, the money came from their separate "hard money" account collected from specific, named, and reported individual donors. It was not the same money.
Well, maybe there technically wasn't any crime; but what about the spirit of the law? Did this agreement attempt to circumvent the law? Again, the answer is emphatically No, it did not: Texas set up a procedure to follow for corporate/union money on the one hand and money from individual donors on the other; all that TRMPAC did was follow those rules.
In fact, it appears that Ronnie Earle has charged the defendants with willfully conspiring to obey the law.
The purpose of campaign finance reform is twofold: to strictly limit the amount of money that can be donated by corporations and unions to campaigns, and to sever the direct connection between candidates and deep-pocket donors. The money sent into the Texas campaigns came from individual donors, not corporations; every dollar sent to Texas was a dollar that could not be sent to any other state or federal campaign. Those Texas corporations could have contributed a billion dollars, and the RNSEC still would not have had one, single extra dime to spend on political campaigns!
And as far as severability, Earle's indictment doesn't even allege that a single candidate was told "pssst! this money is actually from such-and-such a corporation." There is no allegation they were even told it was from TRMPAC. So far as I can tell, the candidates would only know they had gotten money from the Republican Party.
Well how about coordination? Does the list of proposed recipients of the money that TRMPAC sent to the RNSEC make it into money laundering? Again, that seems quite a reach: the whole point of money laundering is to conceal the source of criminal proceeds or their destination; yet both the point of origin (XYZ Corporation) and the destination (RNSEC) were not only not concealed, they were reported to the Federal Elections Commission.
The final absurdity is the contortion that Ronnie Earle had to go through in order to extend the indictment to Tom DeLay himself. Every single act alleged in the indictment is the act of somebody other than Tom DeLay; hence the conspiracy charge... Earle has to prove that Tom DeLay "did agree" to do all the things that other people did, which Earle alleges were illegal.
But unless Earle has some explosive evidence that nobody else has heard about, the only thing Tom DeLay agreed to do is found a political action committee; he left all the day-to-day decisions to the people who actually ran it.
This indictment is no less tendentious (and ridiculous) than the first; the only difference is that Earle has added "money laundering," so he can threaten DeLay with a 99-year sentence. A bogus travesty has just been converted into a double-secret bogus travesty, if I can mix my movie metaphors.
Date ►►► October 3, 2005
In an excellent post on Captain's Quarters about the sub-rosa negotiations that appear to have preceded Judith Miller's agreement to testify to what everybody has known for a year -- that Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff, was one of her sources that Joseph Wilson's wife Valerie Plame worked for the CIA -- Captain Ed draws a conclusion about who won and who lost those negotiations; I think that conclusion is premature and unwarranted.
Captain Ed first breaks some news:
This revelation didn't receive a lot of notice, but the lawyer for Judith Miller told reporters yesterday that he asked Patrick Fitzgerald for essentially the same deal a year ago that sprang Miller from prison last week. This seems to indicate that Fitzgerald really wanted testimony from Miller on another matter and later on settled for testimony about Scooter Libby instead.
After quoting from an AP article to that effect, the Captain concludes:
This changes the context of the new agreement in a couple of subtle ways. First, the jailing of Miller never had anything to do with Libby or his statements to Miller. According to Abrams, the grand jury could have heard that testimony from Miller at any time as long as Fitzgerald agreed to only ask about Libby. Fitzgerald refused, which seems to clearly indicate that his investigative thrust didn't include Libby as a potential target. If so, it means that Fitzgerald's belated acceptance of this limitation acknowledges that he lost the battle with Miller and wanted to wrap up her situation before the grand jury mandate expired later this month.
The first part of Captain Ed's conclusion is sound; no question but that the naming of Libby was never what Miller and Fitzgerald were fighting about. But there may be a much bigger leviathan swimming beneath the waves, something only dimly seen on the sonar scope. Let's turn to Power Line for another submarine "ping."
In an earlier post, John at Power Line posted speculation he had received from a reader to the effect that Miller was involved in a case of much more moment than who outed Valerie Plame.
Sometime in late November or early December of 2001, less than two months after the 9/11 attacks, Judith Miller became aware that the FBI was planning to freeze the assets of the Holy Land Foundation, a Moslem "charity" organization that has since been listed as a terrorist front. On December 3rd, Miller telephoned the offices of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) to ask for "comment" from them on this impending freeze; Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel investigating the Plame blame game, alleged in the district court case New York Times v. Gonzales (04 Civ. 7677) that Miller also warned them that "government action was imminent." (Opinion of Judge Robert W. Sweet at page 13.)
That "action" was more than just freezing the funds; the FBI conducted a search of the offices of the HLF on the day after Miller's article appeared in the New York Times. Then on December 13th, Miller's colleague Philip Shenon called the offices of the Global Relief Foundation (GRF), yet another Moslem "charity" foundation since identified as a front for terrorism, to warn them -- rather, to get "comment" from the GRF about the impending freezing of their assets, as well; in a curious coincidence, Shenon's phone call also came just one day before the FBI searched those offices. (Judge Sweet's opinion, p. 14.)
Both tips came from "confidential sources" inside the government, and Fitzgerald has been investigating who leaked word of those asset freezes, whether the leaker(s) likewise told Miller or Shenon that the charities' offices were to be raided, and whether the reporters inadvertently (or deliberately) passed along that information in their phone calls, allowing the terrorist fronts enough warning to sanitize their files, getting all incriminating evidence out of the office, or even to set a booby-trap for the FBI agents, had they so chosen.
Fitzgerald's office contacted Miller and Shenon, trying to find out who the tipster was; they refused, through the New York Times, and Fitzgerald threatened to subpoena the phone records from the Times's telephone service provider. After some back and forth, the Times sued in federal court to prevent such a subpoena, and Robert Sweet heard the case.
Sweet, a Jimmy Carter appointee, ruled in February 2005 that the records were protected under the First Amendment as well as federal laws and common law shielding reporters from having to reveal sources; the case is currently under appeal, I believe (unless it's already been adjudicated). But in reading the opinion, I stumbled across information that may well change the determination of who "won" this round, Fitzgerald or Miller. Here is the sequence of events:
1. After July 12th, 2004, the Times contacted its telephone service provider and asked that they inform the Times if they receive a subpoena for the records, and that they refuse to hand over the records until the Times can litigate the issue; the phone company refused. (Opinion, p. 17)
2. The Times received a letter from Fitzgerald dated July 27th, in which he wrote, "We do not intend to engage in debate by letter. We will not delay further and will proceed." (P. 19)
3. The Times' lead attorney, Floyd Abrams, called Fitzgerald to ask whether the government had already obtained Miller's and Shenon's phone records; Fitzgerald refused to answer. He did, however, offer Abrams "a period of time" during which they would not seek such records or review those they already had:
After The Times received Fitzgerald's July 27 letter, Abrams spoke with Fitzgerald by telephone. During the course of this conversation, Abrams asked Fitzgerald whether The Times' telephone records were being sought in connection with a grand jury investigation and whether the telephone records had already been obtained. Fitzgerald declined to answer either question. However, Fitzgerald agreed to give Abrams a period of time to familiarize himself with the situation, and that, in the interim, the government would not seek to obtain any of The Times' telephone records that it had not already obtained and that it would not review any such previously-obtained records. (P. 19)
4. On September 23rd, Deputy U.S. Attorney James Comey, who had looked into the possible subpoenas at Abrams' request, "concluded that Fitzgerald's conduct was proper in all respects." Comey found that Fitzgerald had no "obligation to share with the New York Times a summary of the investigation to date before we can conduct our investigation," nor that they need to "afford the New York Times an opportunity to challenge the obtaining of telephone records from a third party prior to our review of the records, especially in investigations in which the entity whose records are being subpoenaed chooses not to cooperate with the investigation." (P. 21)
Having diligently pursued all reasonable alternatives out of regard for First Amendment concerns, and having adhered scrupulously to [DOJ] policy, including a thorough review of Mr. Fitzgerald's request within [DOJ], we are now obliged to proceed.
5. On September 29th, the Times filed suit in federal court to quash any subpoenas that may have been issued for the phone records.
6. On October 14th, Abrams sent a letter to the court claiming that "the Government has agreed to forgo any action to obtain records or to review any records that may have already been obtained until such time as [the Court] has ruled on the planned motions." (P. 21)
This must have been a new agreement, because it is completely at odds with Judge Sweet's own characterization of the earlier agreement, in which Fitzgerald agreed only to give Abrams "time to familiarize himself with the situation."
Speculation alert: I believe that Fitzgerald would have concluded that from July 27th, 2004 until September 23rd, 2004, when Comey concluded that the Department of Justice had acted properly and "we are now obliged to proceed," was all the time that Fitzgerald had promised to Abrams to allow him to come up to speed.
And if there were a new agreement (if Abrams were not simply mischaracterizing the old one), it could only date from some time after the case was actually filed, on September 29th, 2004. That leaves a gap from Friday, September 23rd to some time after Thursday the 29th (the day the case was filed) during which there was, in Al Gore's infamous words, "no controlling legal authority" to prevent the Department of Justice from subpoenaing records or reviewing records it already had: at least four working days.
Four days might not have been enough time to issue a subpoena and have it complied with (though it might); but recall that as early as July 27th, Fitzgerald refused to tell Abrams whether he had already obtained those records. He only promised not to review them during the grace period. If I had to guess, Fitzgerald probably subpoenaed those records as soon as he realized the NYT was going to be intransigent about it... back in July of 2004, shortly after sending the letter to the Times informing them he was investigating Miller as well as Shenon and would obtain the phone records elsewhere. If, in fact, he did already have them, then four days was certainly ample time to run the phone numbers and determine to whom Miller and Shenon had talked just before calling those two terrorist front organizations.
In other words, Patrick Fitzgerald may already have known who leaked news of the impending FBI government action before the federal case was even filed.
It poses an interesting quandry. If Sweet's ruling is upheld, then presumably Fitzgerald cannot use those phone records even to investigate the leakers (fruit of the poisoned tree); if it's upheld, he can. But everything depends upon the fate of the appeal of Sweet's ruling -- not on the testimony of Judith Miller.
In fact, I am certain that Miller would refuse to testify about the HLF case in any event, on grounds much firmer than some journalistic shield law: she would probably stand on the Fifth Amendment, since she could well be incriminated as an accessory or even accomplice in obstruction of justice. And she could not be put in jail for refusing to testify if she took the Fifth, as she could (we now see) for refusing to testify on grounds of journalistic "privilege."
This is because a few days before Judge Sweet made his ruling, the D.C. Circuit held in Miller v. United States/Cooper v. United States that the reporters themselves could be compelled to testify; as this is certainly more chilling to investigative journalism than merely obtaining phone records, I suspect that Fitzgerald believes that when Sweet's ruling comes up in the New York Circuit -- or at least before the Supreme Court -- that it will be overturned. In which case, Fitzgerald can subpoena Miller and Shenon at that time (under a new or extended grand jury) and compel testimony, telephone records in hand, about who tipped them off to the action against HLF and GRF. Even if they take the Fifth, Fitzgerald can still proceed against whoever is incriminated by the phone records.
Abrams claims that he "tried to get a deal a year ago."
I spoke to Mr. Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, and he did not agree at that time to something that he later did agree to, which was to limit the scope of the questions he would ask, so as to assure that the only source he would effectively be asking about was Mr. Libby. [Emphasis added]
But we do not know the exact wording of the two deals, so there is no way to know whether they really are identical. I'm curious about the word "effectively" in there; it very much qualifies and limits the earlier phrase "the only source." The sticking point could indeed be the HLF case; and by "the only source," it's possible that Abrams now means the only source relating to the Plame affair.
More speculation: if the two deals are substantially similar, but they differ on the prospect of future testimony on the HLF case in the event that the appellate court overturns Sweet's decision, that would certainly be a good reason for Fitzgerald to refuse the first time but accept the second.
I think it very premature to conclude that Fitzgerald lost this contest of wills; it's more likely that he concluded that there was no reason to keep Miller in jail right now, because the real action will have to wait until he finds out whether he can proceed with the phone records he already has (or subpoena them, if he has not already done so), and neither Miller nor Shenon is likely to flee the country in the meantime.
My speculation does involve some reading between the lines; but I still think it more probable than the idea that Fitzgerald was so cowed by Miller's intransigence that he has simply given up on the Moslem "charity" leak probe, which he has been investigating since at least August of 2002.
The Evitable Collapse
Beebop, in the comments of Bill Bennett, Won't You Please Come Home?, called my attention to an article by Charles Murray linked at Real Clear Politics: "The Hallmark of the Underclass," from the Wall Street Journal's opinionjournal.com, Sunday, October 2, 2005.
It is a sobering article, even for those of us who haven't been drinking. Murray argues that Hurricane Katrina blew down the screens our society had erected to shield the "underclass" from view.
We haven't rediscovered poverty, we have rediscovered the underclass; the underclass has been growing during all the years that people were ignoring it, including the Clinton years; and the programs politicians tout as solutions are a mismatch for the people who constitute the problem.
What is the underclass? The Democrats like to portray all those currently in poverty as the underclass, undifferentiated between the deserving poor -- those who are temporarily poor because of bad luck, but who otherwise exemplify the virtues our society tries to inculcate -- and the undeserving poor, who are poor because of stupid choices they have made (and typically continue to make, over and over, until their miserable lives end in well-earned misery). But this is a tendentious (and tedious) class-warfare argument that Murray, of course, has no intention of perpetuating.
Charles Murray restricts the label "underclass" to the "looters and thugs," the "young men who grow up unsocialized and who, given the opportunity, commit crimes," the "young males who choose not to work," even when jobs are available, and the "inert women doing nothing to help themselves or their children. They are the underclass."
The underclass manifests as the "yeah, right, whatever" society (my quotation, not Murray's) who believe that life is pure destiny, though they would not have the words to describe it so concisely. They are not actors; they are passive elements that are acted upon by outside forces. Criminality is only one manifestation of the underclass; another is the complete lack of ambition or the mental connection between material comfort and holding a job:
Criminality is the most extreme manifestation of the unsocialized young male. Another is the proportion of young males who choose not to work. Among black males ages 20-24, for example, the percentage who were not working or looking for work when the first numbers were gathered in 1954 was 9%. That figure grew during the 1960s and 1970s, stabilizing at around 20% during the 1980s. The proportion rose again, reaching 30% in 1999, a year when employers were frantically seeking workers for every level of job. The dropout rate among young white males is lower, but has been increasing faster than among blacks.
Theodore Dalrymple, "a British doctor and writer... [who] now works in a British inner city hospital and a prison," published an entire book on the subject of the underclass: Life At the Bottom, © 2001, Ivan R. Dee Publisher. Dalrymple put his finger on the definition of the underclass, something which we urgently need to understand:
Nevertheless, patterns of behavior emerge -- in the case of the underclass, almost entirely self-destructive ones. Day after day I hear of the same violence, the same neglect and abuse of children, the same broken relationships, the same victimization by crime, the same nihilism, the same dumb despair. If everyone is a unique individual, how do patterns such as this emerge?
Dalrymple considers and rejects "economic determinism, of the vicious cycle-of-poverty variety," "genetic or racial determinism," and "the role of the welfare state." That last cause contributes and may even be a necessary precondition. Not even welfarism, however, makes the underclass inevitable.
What Dr. Dalrymple finally realized, after interviewing and treating literally thousands upon thousands of patients, is that the universal defining characteristic of the underclass is an idea: the utter lack of responsibility for their own lives. They all believe themselves to be helpless victims of forces beyond their control. It's immaterial whether those forces are economic, occult, or medical; it is the collapse of free will that sends a man or woman spiraling into the underclass.
The contrary idea [that we lack free will], however, has been endlessly propagated by intellectuals and acaemics who do not believe it of themselves, of course, but only of others less fortunately placed than themselves. In this there is a considerable element of condescension: that some people do not measure up fully to the status of human. The extension of the term "addiction," for example, to cover any undesirable but nonetheless gratifying behavior that is repeated, is one example of denial of personal agency that has swiftly percolated downward from academe....
In fact most of the social pathology exhibited by the underclass has its origin in ideas that have filtered down from the intelligentsia. Of nothing is this more true than the system of sexual relations that now prevails in the underclass, with the result that 70 percent of the births in my hospital are now illegitimate (a figure that would approach 100 percent if it were not for the presence in the area of a large number of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent).
In yet another brick in the wall of evidence that the underclass is growing to devour an ever-larger segment of society, Drudge linked an article from the Associated Press: Marriage On the Rocks in Britain.
Marriage is on the rocks in Britain, with the proportion of unmarried people set to exceed that of married people within 25 years as more men and women opt to live together without constraints, according to government statistics published this week.
The proportion of married men is expected to fall from 53 percent in 2003 to 42 percent in 2031, while the percentage of married women will decline from 50 percent to 40 percent, Britain's Office for National Statistics predicted Thursday.
The "Population Trends" report predicted on the other hand that the number of unmarried couples living together will almost double from two million in 2003 to 3.8 million in 2031.
We each have anecdotes that bring home the shock of the growing underclass -- including those rich in material wealth but impoverished of moral courage. My wife, Sachi, took a class in ethics at university some years ago; the students were asked what they would do if they discovered their best friend at work had been embezzling funds from his employer for months. Out of a class of forty-five students, exactly two said they would turn their friend in... by coincidence (perhaps), the only two girls in the class. (It was a class for engineering students only.)
When Sachi said that of course she would turn in the thief, that she could never remain friends with a person who could do such a thing, one of her male classmates sniggered "that's just like a woman!" He almost lost some teeth -- Sachi was furious.
Charles Murray gloomily notes (he was born with a dark thundercloud over his head) that none of the legislation proposed in the wake of Katrina stands even a chance of truely changing the mindset of the underclass. They will help the deserving poor, of course; but the deserving poor hardly even need help: with a mindset that a man is responsible for his own life, virtually nothing short of death can keep him down.
One might argue that by definition, only the deserving poor "deserve" to be helped. But reforming the underclass is not an act of altruism, which I find repugnant. Altruism is selflessness in the sense Ayn Rand used the term, the complete negation of self: a true altruist will take food from the mouth of his own starving child to give to another man's child.
Reforming the underclass -- ripping from their brains, root and branch, this crazed idea that somebody or something else is really to blame for the calamities the befall them -- is rather a life-and-death necessity for society. For even if we're willing to write off as "subhuman" the tens of millions of human beings in the underclass, without any concern for what will happen to them; even if we have icewater coursing through our veins; there is still the cancerous effect of such dreadful memes: they grow and metastasize through the body politic, infecting the young at all levels of society. As Dalrymple writes,
Worse still, cultural relativism spreads all too easily. The tastes, conduct, and mores of the underclass are seeping up the social scale with astonishing rapidity.... Never before has there been so much downward cultural aspiration.
Murray characteristically despairs that anything can or will be done. "Five years from now," he concludes, "the official evaluations will report that there were no statistically significant differences between the subsequent lives of people who got the government help and the lives of people in a control group. Newspapers will not carry that story, because no one will be interested any longer."
Murray's implication is that we are destined to tailspin inevitably down into a smoking hole; but this is flatly wrong. There is much we can do... but first we must shake not only the passivity induced by underclass-style disconnect between actions and consequences but also Murray's passivity of despair, cultural malaise, and gloom. What is most urgently needed to avoid losing yet another generation to the underclass mentality is not massive piles of money, nor smaller classrooms, nor better pedagogies, nor unions, nor governments, nor even homeschooling, though any of these can help along a program founded upon the proper strategy.
What we need more than anything else is to admit, first to ourselves and then to our children, that our own cultural virtues are worth learning and passing along. That there really is a right and wrong path; that evil exists, but so does good; that every person is absolutely responsible for the direction of his or her life. We need to teach that stealing is wrong; cheating is wrong; lying is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Those who say "there are no right or wrong answers" are colossally foolish. That still, small voice is not just a "Jiminy Cricket" to be crushed underfoot but a moral compass telling you that what you are doing is wrong. There are civil institutions -- police, military, religious, judicial, service organizations, and especially youth groups such as the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts -- that are worth preserving, not destroying. That voting may be a right, but voting intelligently is a duty. That children are for marriage, and that parenthood is for life. That sobriety is vital, while intoxication is toxic.
In other words, we need once again to begin teaching Civics to the young. It was stupid to stop in the first place... another brainy scheme from eggheaded intellectuals who never see the connection between ideas and their natural consequences. We need to begin teaching civics and requiring a passing grade in order to advance and graduate. And we need, above all else, to teach personal responsibility and accountability: as "Red" Foreman said in the only great line I ever heard on the TV series That 70s Show, "son, bad things happen to you because you're a dumbass."
The final collapse of society is not inevitable; it is, in fact, thoroughly evitable.
We didn't get to the edge of this cliff overnight; and it will take at least a generation to back away from the abyss. But two generations have already passed since Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan published his 1965 report for the Department of Labor, The Negro Family: the Case for National Action, warning of the impending dangers of fatherlessness, illegitimacy, divorce, and welfare dependency. Two lost generations.
If we allow another twenty years to pass, it will be three lost generations. The alarm is ringing; it is time to wake up.
Date ►►► October 2, 2005
Al Qaeda's Plan. What Plan?
In today’s Reuters’ article, I found this passage:
Interior Minister Bayan Jabor told Reuters that documents seized after troops killed a purported aide to al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, indicated a plan to spread Islamist violence to other Arab countries.
Whenever I hear about a “plan” by al-Qaeda, I have to ask “What plan?” I have no doubt al-Qaeda has the capability to spread Islamist violence thinly around Arab countries. As Army Gen. John Abizaid said, al-Qaeda is like McDonalds -- a franchise: they can always find some local extremists willing to blow people up under the al-Qaeda umbrella. But that is just a mode of operation, a tactic. What is “spread[ing] Islamist violence” supposed to achieve? What is their strategy and ultimate goal? And, how exactly does random violence help achieve that goal?
Gen. Abizaid seems to know the answer:
"They believe in a jihad, a jihad to overthrow the legitimate regimes in the region," he said. "In order to do that, they first must drive America from the region."
Al Qaeda believes the most important prize is Saudi Arabia, which is home to the holy shrines in Mecca and Medina. If al Qaeda terrorists manage to take control of Saudi Arabia, they will try to create and expand their influence in the region and establish a caliphate, Abizaid said.
The term harkens back to the immediate successors of Muhammed and means a land led by a supreme secular and religious ruler. Al Qaeda insists that re-establishing a caliphate would mean that one man, as the successor to Muhammad, would possess clear political, military and legal standing as the global Muslim leader.
That sounds more like a daydream than a cohesive plan.
Take Iraq for example. Al-Qaeda has been trying to "spread Islamist violence" there ever since Zarqawi arrived in Northern Iraq ("Kurdistan") in May of 2002, nearly a year before the American invasion; and they have been spreading it at a fierce pace, especially since Hussein’s regime fell, killing an awful lot of people.
But what have they achieved? Have they gained territory? No. Have they succeeded in kicking out the "Crusaders?" No. Have they stopped or even delayed Iraq’s democratic progress? No. Have they won the Iraqi people’s hearts and minds? NO!
In fact they are losing ground. Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabor said.
Foreign Arab militants now numbered fewer than 1,000, compared to between 2,500 and 3,000 six months ago....
(I don’t necessarily believe the exact number the minister states; after all he has his own agenda. But you get the drift.)
We should expect more terrorist attacks as the October 15 referendum on a post-Saddam constitution approaches. But that threat is not likely to deter the Iraqi people; they have shown themselves to be hard to intimidate.
After an opinion poll forecast turnout would be as high as 80 percent, one of Iraq's electoral commissioners said voter registration had gone well, including among the once dominant Sunni Arab minority, which largely boycotted a January election.
Al-Qaeda has overplayed their hand. Their relentless attacks have only hardened the Iraqi people’s determination: they have nothing left to lose by resisting the terrorists' demands. As Minister Jabor put it:
"What can the insurgents do that's worse? There are already car bombs every day."
This reminds me of a philosophical observation by Ann Coulter, which I paraphrase: the terrorists hate us and want to kill us; but if we fight against them, then they will hate us and want to kill us!
Well then, we might as well fight; because unlike Al Qaeda, we do have a plan to win.
Three Minor Conveniences
It suddenly occurs to me that readers here may not be aware of some of the conveniences I built into Big Lizards (mostly because of my own irritation at the inconveniences I found in other blogs). Let me mention three and a half of them.
First, if you're like me, you try to read blogs in chronological order of posting. When I go to Power Line, Captain's Quarters, or Patterico's Pontifications in the afternoon, the first thing I do is scroll downward until I see the last post I read the previous day. The post directly above that is, of course, the first post I haven't read yet.
I scroll to the top of that post, then read it all the way to its bottom. But now, to read the next post, I must scroll up again to the top of the post I just read, then past it to the top of the next post above it. That's the part I find irritating: staring at the screen while I scroll often gives me a headache, which doesn't improve my mood, already grouchy from having just awakened.
Big Lizards Convenience Number One: On this blog, you may have noticed that at the bottom of every post (except the top one, of course) is a link titled "Lizard-leap to the head of the next scroll, o wise!" If you click that link, you will magically be transported to the top of the post right above the post you just finished reading... that is, the link skips all that scrolling, letting you read the next post immediately, shortening the time you're forced to spend on this furshlugginer blog.
Had anybody noticed this before? I don't think I've seen it in any other blog, but it's really easy to do in Movable Type. I had to ask someone who knew what he was doing to tell me how to do it; but the actual coding was easy. It's probably equally easy in other blogging software.
I wish all blogs would put such a button in. I hate scrolling.
The next one is so simple, I'm amazed nobody else seems to do it. Maybe people get annoyed by it; I don't know.
When I first start reading a blogpost on a multi-author blog (like this one, or like Power Line), I like to know right away who wrote the particular post. It annoys me when the name isn't right there at the top -- as it isn't on Power Line. Now, I know those three chaps' writing styles, so I can usually figure out who wrote a particular post after a paragraph or two. But not always; and I hate scrolling down to the bottom to find out, then scrolling back up to the top to commence reading (see above).
But on the other hand, if a post is long, and if the name of the author is up at the top near the title, it's not uncommon that the substance of the post drives) the author's name out of my miniscule, reptillian brain (about the size of a grain of rice) by the time I finish reading. Then I have to scroll up to the top to remind myself who wrote it. (As you've probably deduced by now, I'm annoyed by far too many little, petty things.)
Big Lizards Convenience Number Two: On this blog, therefore, the author's name is both at the top and the bottom. Simplicity itself. It's not because we're egoists -- though I don't deny the charge -- but for convenience's sake.
Finally, try this experiment on Captain's Quarters: go to the blog; slide the slidebar about two-thirds down; scroll down until you can see the bottom of a post. Note the permalink and what it says: it tells you the time of posting, called the "timestamp."
All right, Mr. or Ms. Smarty Pants... now tell me what date that post was put up! Uh-huh; you have to (sigh) scroll up -- and up -- and up, and up, and up until you finally get to a date header: September 30th, when I tried it just now. Yeesh!
Big Lizards Convenience Number Three: The permalink for every post on Big Lizards shows both the timestamp and the datestamp. Now, if you read a post here about a fast-breaking story, and the post seems hopelessly out of date, you can look at the permalink and say "oh, for Pete's sake, these scaley idiots wrote this two days ago!" Then you can roll your eyes in exasperation at lizardly laggardliness.
(A convenience I tossed in that doesn't really merit its own number is that all the categories attached to a post are listed and linked right beneath the post title; so if you're interested in the subject, and you want to search for other posts that might discuss that same subject, you can just click on one or more of the listed categories and be taken to that category's archive.)
Since I do all the XHTML programming on this site myself (being a skinflint), if any of you has a suggestion for other conveniences, please let me know in the comments. If it seems useful, and if I can figure out how to do it, I'll give it a shot.
Date ►►► October 1, 2005
Bill Bennett, Won't You Please Come Home?
UPDATED: See below.
The Bill Bennett imbroglio is about the all-time stupidest dogpile I've ever seen.
All right, all right, so it's not as stupid as the attacks that drove Dr. Laura Schlessinger off the TV airwaves. And yes, I reckon it's not as absurd as the scrum of imbeciles who insisted that Rush Limbaugh said that all feminists were members of the American Nazi Party.
And I suppose I have to confess that the most barking mad pile-on in recent history was the mob that grabbed their torches and pitchforks and marched off to assail silicone breast implants. So let me rephrase my opening comment: this is about the stupidest dogpile I've seen in weeks.
Let's start with fact number 1: Former Drug Czar and Secretary of Education William Bennett did not at any time suggest that we should abort all the black babies in order to reduce crime.
Fact 2: Nor did he at any time say, imply, or suggest that blacks were responsible for all crime in America.
Fact 3: He didn't even offer his comments as a valid analogy; he offered that argument -- which is taken from a rather silly book called Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner -- as a reductio ad absurdum showing that all such extremist extrapolations are ridiculous and tend to be morally reprehensible.
However, we also have Fact number 4; a lot of people are dancing around this one, because even conservatives have been cowed into political correctness. I, however, simply care more about the truth than I do about people's hurt feelings.
Fact 4: The violent crime and homicide rates are tremendously higher for blacks and Hispanics than they are for non-Hispanic whites, Asians, and many other groups (Jews, for example).
If half of all violent Asian criminals were to reform, turn over a new leaf, and become honest citizens, it would slightly lower the violent-crime rate of the United States; but if half of all violent black and Hispanic criminals were to cease committing crimes, it would drastically lower the national violent-crime rate.
Here is what Bennett actually said:
Bennett's comments came Wednesday, during a discussion on his talk show "Morning in America." A caller had suggested that Social Security would be better funded if abortion had not been legalized in 1973 because the nation would have more workers paying into the system.
Bennett said "maybe," before referring to a book he said argued that the legalization of abortion is one of the reasons the crime rate has declined in recent decades. Bennett said he did not agree with that thesis.
"But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down," Bennett said, according to an audio clip posted on Media Matters for America's Web site. "That would be an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, you know, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."
First, we should sit down, have a good, stiff martini, and then read the allegedly "extremist" remarks. Perhaps the calming effect of the alcohol will paradoxically allow us to react with the intellect, not the emotion. There is nothing remotly offensive to blacks in Bennett's words. If a person thinks he's offended, he has allowed knaves and demagogues to make a fool of him.
The only offensive thing that I saw was Howard Dean -- in between bleating that Republicans never worked a day in their lives, are evil, and are full of hate -- rushing to the microphones to scream about "Bill Bennett's hateful, inflammatory remarks," which Dean caricatured as "reprehensible racial insensitivity and ignorance," and demanding that the Republican Party "denounce them immediately as hateful, divisive and worthy only of scorn." Dean went on to laud "the virtues that bring us together, not hatred that tears us apart and unjustly scapegoats fellow Americans." Hm....
I'm still waiting for the word from Byrd: will Sen. Robert Byrd take a break from comparing Republicans to Nazis to chastise Bennett for being divisive?
And perhaps we'll be treated to the spectacle of Rep. Charles Rangel, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Rep. Major Owens pausing for a moment from saying the George W. Bush is "more diabolical" than Bull Connor to lecture Bill Bennett on being racially insensitive.
I do think the Doofus On Parade award must go to whichever rocket scientist at the Associated Press came up with the headline to the AP article "White House Condemns Bennett's Remarks."
That condemnation? Here it is:
"The president believes the comments were not appropriate," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.
Oh, the humanity! Move over, Emile Zola.
Before retiring from this field of screams, I should note some voices of sanity out there in Blogoland. Paul Mirengoff at Power Line notes that several leftist sites have to some extent defended Bennett's remarks, or at least called for some proportionality. [Correction note: I had originally attributed this post to John Hinderaker, but it was Paul's post. --the Mgt.]
John particularly singles out Matthew Yglesias and Brad DeLong. Here is DeLong:
Bennett did not "concede" that "aborting all African-American babies 'would be... morally reprehensible.'" That was his point. His caller said: "Abortion is bad because it has worsened the financing of Social Security." Bennett says: "Stay focused. We're anti-abortion not because we think that abortion is a means that leads to bad ends like a higher Social Security deficit; we're anti-abortion because abortion is bad; make arguments like 'abortion is bad because it increases the Social Security deficit' and other people will make arguments like 'abortion is good because it lowers the crime rate' and we'll lose sight of the main point."
Bennett is attempting a reductio ad absurdum argument.
Never attempt a reductio ad absurdum argument on talk radio. You can't keep exact control over your phrasing in real time, and so somebody is bound to think you are endorsing the horrible absurdity that you are rejecting.
DeLong is entirely correct... and the first paragraph of his post should dispel any tentative thoughts that he might be a closeted fan of William Bennett.
A tip of the hat to a couple of Bennett-hating lefties who nevertheless are able to separate their dislike for the man from a dispassionate evaluation of the words. Such finesse is found all too infrequently on both Left and Right.
UPDATE October 1st, 2005 15:06:
Over on Captain's Quarters, Captain Ed makes a point that requires response. He takes issue with my example above thus:
Less convincing is Dafydd's argument supporting Bennett's assumption. Dafydd says this:If half of all violent Asian criminals were to reform, turn over a new leaf, and become honest citizens, it would slightly lower the violent-crime rate of the United States; but if half of all violent black and Hispanic criminals were to cease committing crimes, it would drastically lower the national violent-crime rate.
But part of that argument's veracity comes from the fact that the Asian population accounts for 3.6% of US population as a whole, while blacks and Hispanics account for 24.8%. Dafydd's argument is obviously true, and just as obviously irrelevant. And Bennett still would have been better off choosing white babies as a way to lower crime, because they would account for roughly three-quarters of all births and could contribute much more to the lowering of the crime rate. In 2003, white births outnumbered black births 6-1.
The Captain, while well intentioned, is simply wrong here; my argument's "veracity" (I believe he meant accuracy) derives, not from the relative proportions of the population, but rather from the relative rates of criminality of different cultures within the United States.
Captain Ed seems to be under the mistaken impression that all races are equally represented at the table of criminal victimization. This simply is not correct. Nota bene: I will confine my discussion here to blacks, not Hispanics, for two reasons: first, Bennett used the example of blacks; second, the best source of data on criminality in the United States is the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and they do not segregate Hispanic whites from non-Hispanic whites.
Before getting to the stats, however, an important caveat is in order. One thing Captain Ed said is completely correct... but he wrapped it inside something profoundly incorrect.
At the heart of that assertion, Bennett has to assume that all other things being equal, blacks are more likely to commit crime than non-blacks as part of their innate nature, and not as part of an environment.
The Captain is perfectly correct that there is nothing "innate" within blacks (or any other race) that compels them to commit crime; there is no evidence of any sort of connection between melanin and criminal tendencies. However, he errs in assuming that the only two possible explanations for crime are either racial -- which every serious researcher rejects -- or environmental, by which Ed appears to restrict himself to factors such as poverty. He completely ignores the importance of culture. The sad fact is that most blacks grow up in a culture that tells them violent "acting out" is not only permitted, it's a sign of rebellion against a racist system.
Most blacks overcome that conditioning, of course; the great majority of blacks are not criminals. Alas, a much higher percent are than people who grow up in different cultures which teach different behaviors. This is hardly a shocking or unprecedented observation; the exact same tragedy has been noted by a number of black commentators -- from Spike Lee to Louis Farrakhan to Al Sharpton, Charles Rangel, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Larry Elder, the late Carl Rowan, and Colin Powell. The late Sen. Patrick J. Moynihan (who was not black, obviously) produced a lengthy "white paper" (no pun intended) on the problem of black illegitimacy and violence back in the 60s, and the problem has only gotten worse since.
The problem is not race. The problem is culture. But culture, unlike race, can be voluntarily chosen -- or rejected. Larry Elder is a very vocal proponent of this point of view: blacks cannot choose their parents (as who can?), and they have the disadvangate of growing up in a culture that teaches a lot of destructive behavior; but they have the ability and the duty to reject those teachings... just as I had to consciously reject the teachings of exclusionism, bigotry, racism, and cultural isolationism that I inherited from my Jewish upbringing: I kept the good parts of Jewish culture and rejected the bad.
That said, let's look at the crime problems of black culture (not "race") in America.
The seminal statistical snapshot of criminal victimization in the United States is the annual National Crime Victimization Survey, published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a division of the United States Department of Justice. It includes a number of statistical tables, which you can access here.
Take a look at Table 40 in the complete set: Percent distribution of single-offender victimizations, by type of crime and perceived race of offender.
Although self-reported blacks account for only 12.3% of the population (according to the census figures Captain Ed linked), they account for 21.3% of all crimes of violence. Individual crimes show even greater rates: blacks account for 39.5% of all attempted robberies, 40.9% of attempted robberies with injuries, 49.5% of completed robberies, and 55% of completed robberies with injuries.
This particular publication does not discuss homicide, because it's based on surveys of the victims of crimes. In another BJS publication, however, Homicide Trends in the United States: 2002 Update, we find the following statistic for 2002:
Blacks were 6 times more likely to be homicide victims and 7 times more likely than whites to commit homicides in 2002.
During the study period 1976-2002, 86% of white murder victims were killed by whites, and 94% of black victims were killed by blacks.
Another important measure of criminality is the annual FBI publication Crime In the United States, which reports arrests. Table 43 breaks it down by race:
In 2002, 50% of people arrested for "murder and non-negligent homicide" were black, though only 12.3% of the population were black; and only 1.2% were Asian, even though 3.6% of the population are Asian. 47.7% were white, and the white percent of the population is 75.1% (both the census and the FBI stats lump Hispanic whites in with other whites). Similar distributions exist in every category of violent crime and most categories of property crime. (Whites are overrepresented only in DUI, liquor laws, and drunkenness -- three areas where blacks are not overrepresented... in fact, underrepresented in the first two).
Therefore, it is simply erroneous to assert, as Captain Ed does, that the race of the babies aborted in the grotesque example that Bennett was decrying would not matter in lowering the crime rate:
Do we know that the crime rate would go down, any more than if we aborted every white baby in America? No, we do not, and that mistaken assumption creates the much smaller but legitimate criticism of Bennett's remarks....
And Bennett still would have been better off choosing white babies as a way to lower crime, because they would account for roughly three-quarters of all births and could contribute much more to the lowering of the crime rate.
Mathematically, since whites are underrepresented in both the crime and violent crime rates, aborting white babies would raise, not lower, the crime rate. Bennett, who understands these statistics very well (and grieves over them), chose the example that made statistical sense, even though it turned out to be offensive to those who don't want to hear certain home truths. Talk to Larry Elder sometime about some of the bad elements of black culture, and how they can be overcome without having to abandon "being black" at all.
Again, an important caveat is worth repeating: these are not problems of race; they are problems of culture. What Bennett was saying -- not as adroitly as he would have written, had he the opportunity -- was that crime is not evenly distributed by culture, and it may be tempting for some to wish away, via abortion, those subcultures that contribute so much more crime than others... but that such fantasies are ludicrous and offensive. Similarly, it's ludicrous and offensive to offer some asinine economic argument against abortion. Abortion is either right or wrong entirely on its own, without regard to ancillary questions of either crime or the funding of Social Security.
The example Bennett chose, while disturbing, was nevertheless a truth we need to confront: cultural relativism is a comforting but thoroughly discredited idea: it is a dangerous fantasy to believe that all cultures are the same.
Since culture, unlike race, can be chosen, it's the responsibility of each individual, no matter what color he is or what culture he inherited at birth, to choose a culture of decency, not one of indecency. There are many areas of black culture that are positive, beneficial, and uplifting, as with every other culture. Most blacks manage to retain these elements while dropping the elements that are destructive and degrading. Others, however, trap themselves in the negative aspects: it is the task of the decent to bring the rest to their senses.
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