Date ►►► November 30, 2005
Ignatius's Flatulent Fatuity
I must confess, I don't particularly follow David Ignatius's column in the Washington Post. A quick romp through some of his archives tells me I haven't missed much: Ignatius appears to be an off-the-shelf anti-Bush liberal in the mold of, say, Joe Biden; not all the way over to Pat Leahy or Ted Kennedy, but definitely farther left than Joe Leiberman. If you know what I mean.
I could have skipped the trip down memory lane and learned everything I needed to know about Ignatius from today's column, linked by Power Line's Paul Mirengoff: "Rice's Rising Star." Paul boils it down to saying that "if Colin Powell didn't exist, the MSM, in conjuction with the State Department, would have to invent him." He's right, as usual; Ignatius's piece simply simpers over the little nuggets that he thinks indicates Condoleezza Rice is more Kissingeresque than Wolfowitzian (the nuggets are carefully plucked from a bucket that contains a lot of contrary indicators, but no matter). But I think it's worse than that: with its evasiveness, misleading implications, and downright fabrications, it reminds me of the worst of -- well, of Robert Fisk of the inaptly named Independent in the U.K.
Let's dive in, shall we?
While President Bush continues to talk about "staying the course" in Iraq, the nation's top diplomats and military commanders have in fact been changing the course this year to fit changing circumstances. They are planning on significant reductions of U.S. troops once a permanent Iraqi government is chosen in the Dec. 15 elections.
Now, what could the implication of this bit be? I suppose what Ignatius means is that when Bush says "stay the course" he means "never make even the slightest change in troop levels, deployment, personnel, location, mission, or diet. Everything in stasis. Nothing can ever change. Ten years from now, we'll have the same troop level... in fact, the very same soldiers! Nobody will even be allowed to visit the toilet."
I suppose that must be what Ignatius takes from the phrase "stay the course," because elsewise, the predicate would be a grand non-sequitur. I'm not sure what is Mr. Ignatius's native tongue, but the univerally accepted definition of "stay the course" allows for "slighly changing the course to fit changing circumstances, so long as you're not making an inexplicable U-turn in the middle of the road." Similarly, if you're driving along Glendale Avenue, and I tell you to "stay the course," you are still allowed to turn your steering wheel sufficiently to follow the street as it bends; and you can even stop at red lights along the way.
The real question is whether "planning on significant reductions of U.S. troops once a permanent Iraqi government is chosen in the Dec. 15 elections" is or is not the very course that Bush set upon in the first place. In Bush's speech to the Anapolis midshipmen today, he said "as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." This phrase caused a slight shiver of déjà-vu... has he ever said that before?
August 2005: As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.
June 2005: Our strategy can be summed up this way: As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.
February 2005, State of the Union Address: We will not set an artificial timetable for leaving Iraq, because that would embolden the terrorists and make them believe they can wait us out. We are in Iraq to achieve a result: A country that is democratic, representative of all its people, at peace with its neighbors, and able to defend itself. And when that result is achieved, our men and women serving in Iraq will return home with the honor they have earned.
(He should have just thought of saying "as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" last February; he could have saved himself a lot of wind.)
I must say, that seems pretty consistent to me, Dave. Almost like, I don't know, staying the course.
What is intriguing is that the administration's emerging position isn't all that different from the critique offered last week by Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden. Both are talking about cutting U.S. troop strength, relying on Iraqi security forces and brokering a compromise among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
Aha, Ignatius has latched onto the dirty, little secret of the Bush administration: the president always looks to Joe Biden for a lead! I'm not sure how exactly this fits into the timeline above; what was Joe Biden (D-DE) saying about our Iraq strategy prior to the State of the Union address nearly a year ago?
On the other hand, I suppose we should consider the faint possibility that the arrow of causality may point the other direction... that Joe Biden (and John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton, and all the other Democrats who still make some effort not to appear as mad as a hatter) simply parrots the current Bush agenda -- but whines a lot about it. I'm sure there must be some other explanation, however; one certainly wouldn't expect as distinguished a statesman as Joseph Biden to plagiarize someone else's thoughts.
Rice stands at the intersection of the Iraq debate. Watching her try to find a balance among Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites, not to mention Democrats and Republicans, I am reminded that in her younger days, she was a figure skater.
Another illuminating metaphor from Captain Left-Turn. But what is its purpose?
The Gaza agreement was Rice's first real "Kissingerian" moment, and in some of her public comments, she's sounding like a realist in the Kissinger-Scowcroft tradition. The idealistic, belligerent approach of the neoconservatives isn't much in evidence in her State Department.
Oddly, it's also not much in evidence among the neoconservatives. One mostly finds an "idealistic, belligerent approach" among left-liberals in academe, Hollywood, and at the mainstream media... particularly in op-ed columns in the Washington Post.
Colleagues say that she's running the department with confidence and that she's as good at administering her own agency as she was bad at coordinating interagency disputes when she was national security adviser.
Do these "colleagues" give any examples of the latter? How did Condi stack up to, say, Sandy? With colleagues like these....
Oh, wait. I get it: the "colleagues" Ignatius means are his own co-workers at the Post. Foolish me.
Bush doesn't do nuance on foreign policy, but that's not so at Rice's State Department.
Bush appointed Rice and evidently is happy with her "nuance." Do I detect a faint whiff of "Smirky the Wonder Chimp"-ism from Mr. I? Any "nuance" emanating from Bush's foreign policy must of course come from the dame, not from the president.
The Bush-is-a-moron meme is so usefully self-referential: because Bush is a moron, any cleverness in his policies comes naturally from the cabinet official, not Bush; but lo! If the president can't even define his own policies, doesn't that prove that he's a moron after all?
This reminds me of the passage in Mark Twain's wonderful account in Roughing It; but nothing else of this column reminds me of great literature. Twain visited Salt Lake City and obtained a copy of the Book of Mormon. The book professes to be "AN ACCOUNT WRITTEN BY THE HAND OF MORMON, UPON PLATES TAKEN FROM THE PLATES OF NEPHI" (the caps are Twain's). And if that is not sufficient pedigree, the testimony of three witnesses is attached. Twain responds:
Some people have to have a world of evidence before they can come anywhere in the neighborhood of believing anything; but for me, when a man tells me that he has "seen the engravings which are upon the plates," and not only that, but an angel was there at the time, and saw him see them, and probably took his receipt for it, I am very far on the road to conviction, no matter whether I ever heard of that man before or not, and even if I do not know the name of the angel, or his nationality either.
Following which is yet another testimonial, this time by eight more witnesses who testify to the veracity of the first boxed set of three witnesses. A total of eleven witnesses (five of them Whitmers) to say they've seen the plates -- which subsequently vanished. Twain again:
And when I am far on the road to conviction, and eight men, be they grammatical or otherwise, come forward and tell me that they have seen the plates too; and not only seen those plates but "hefted" them, I am convinced. I could not feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire Whitmer family had testified.
I think that's the proper approach to take when reading a new column by David Ignatius (did he change his name from Whitmer?) -- make sure you have three witnesses to testify to its veracity... say, Robert Scheer, Paul Krugman, and Gore Vidal. Then scrounge up eight more assorted editors of the Nation, the New Republic, and Mother Jones. And ensure that the original manuscript of the column is inscribed on copper plates that subsequently stroll off.
At that point, even I would be prepared to believe it!
Back to the Angel Ignatius:
Rice's biggest test as secretary of state will be Iran, the center of the volcano that has been shaking the Middle East for the past 30 years. Here again she is pursuing a policy more nuanced than administration rhetoric might suggest. While maintaining a hard line toward the mullahs in Tehran, she is also trying to draw Iran into a network of cooperation on regional security issues.
There he goes again. Is there anybody in the room buying this idea of Condi Rice, Rogue Secretary? (Or should that be Rouge Secretary?) Does anybody truly believe that she's out there, on her own, with no controlling legal authority -- some starkly beautiful but mad concatenation of Al Gore and Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now? I stir. I shift in my seat. I grow restive.
Rice has authorized her ambassadors in Iraq and Afghanistan to meet with their Iranian counterparts to discuss overlapping interests.
She didn't order them killed and eaten? Where was her neocon mind?
In an administration that has been in the doldrums lately, to put it mildly, Rice has been an unusual success story. The figure skater who learned to stay upright on a thin blade is gliding into a perilous new year as the problems of Iraq, Iran and Syria converge.
Aha, now I see why this strained metaphor was used earlier: so it could be used again later, producing equal gibberish. But familiar gibberish we remember from way earlier in the column. Alas, he didn't tell us a third time; if he had, then under the Snark rule, we should be obliged to believe it.
Does she truly speak for this administration on foreign policy? Can she make the Iraq balancing act work? The next few months will give us the measure of the Bush administration's second-term star.
Does David Ignatius truly speak for the quality of columnists in this once great newspaper? Can he figureskate the fine line between vague and vacuous without taking a spill onto the ice of absurdity? Will one more metaphor chill the entire discussion, leaving us wrecked on the rocks?
The problem with this entire column is that it seems vague but is in fact meaningless. The entire piece could be boiled down to Ignatius's fervant desire to see Bride of Powell in the State Department. But even Colin Powell wasn't the Colin Powell that Ignatius remembers: whatever Powell might have done behind the scenes, arguing for delay, inaction, and passivity, in public he always stood up and saluted when the president gave him his marching orders.
Condoleezza Rice is far closer to George W. Bush than Colin Powell ever was, and he is likely closer to the president and his vision than any head of State in my lifetime. She is not just close politically but has been a personal friend, almost part of the family, for years. She is certainly closer than Madeleine Albright was to Bill Clinton or George Schultz and Al Haig were to Ronald Reagan. James Baker did mangle a couple of George H.W. Bush's failed political campaigns, but surely Baker was no closer to Bush than to the many other Republicans whose campaigns he mangled. And Warren Christopher is not close to anybody, except perhaps Keith Richards, from whom he was evidently separated at birth.
Jimmy Carter and Cyrus Vance were not exactly buddies before 1977; likewise for Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Dean Rusk was a career State Department man when Kennedy tapped him in 1960, and he stayed on through the Johnson administration; doesn't appear to have been close to either man.
Nope, as far as the best-buddies sweepstakes between presidents and their secretaries of state, Condi Rice and George Bush are it. To imagine that she is "growing in office" and defying President Bush is just cracked: to the extent that she is carrying out more diplomatic policies than she did as National Security Advisor, that simply reflects Bush's own decision, not hers.
Mr. Ignatius, like the brother in the poem, seems to have forgotten an important (if sore) point: the president's "kitchen cabinet" these days simply reflects the whim of the man in the Oval Office -- whoever he is. Gone are the days of William Henry Seward, who conducted his own foreign and military policy as Lincoln's secretary of state, often completely at odds with that of the president. Whatever Condi does is done for the good of the country, as determined by George W. Bush. And if David Ignatius thinks different, he had better tend more to his fiction than his "fact."
Came a shriek that resounded for miles;
The vicar said "gracious!
Has Brother Ignatius
Forgotten the bishop has piles?"
(And now, having thoroughly alienated all LDS and Catholic readers, and having completed the sequence by admitting I ate bacon this morning, I lay down my pen. Keyboard. Whatever.)
It's Official: House Democrats Are Cowards
Today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) "came out."
She came out as a craven, an appeaser, a "cheese-eating surrender monkey." One might have thought, from the lopsided vote on cutting and running last week (403 to 3 against, and read all about it here), that the Democrats would at least maintain the facade of moral courage through the next election.
Evidently, that was a bit beyond their powers; for today, Pelosi announced that she now supports the Murtha Madness: an immediate withdrawal, commencing before the December 15th vote in Iraq, that would have all U.S. troops out of Iraq within six months... and to hell with what happens next!
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House of Representatives Minority leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday backed a call by Democratic Rep. John Murtha to quickly start the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
"I will be supporting the Murtha resolution,'' Pelosi said of Murtha's resolution calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq at the earliest practicable date.
Naturally, this being Reuters, they had to repeat the canard that John Murtha (D-PA) was a war hawk and a conservative:
Murtha, of Pennsylvania, is a decorated Vietnam veteran and one of Congress' most hawkish Democrats who had supported the Iraq war although he criticized President George W. Bush's handling of it.
The reality, as has been ably demonstrated by Captain Ed and by Paul at Power Line, is that John Murtha was always a fair weather feather. On those deployments that he deigns to support at all (he never supported the mission in Somalia, even back under Bush-41, when it was simply famine relief), he supports military involvement up until the moment we start taking casualties. Then he turns against the deployment and demands the boys be brought home.
Veterans for Common Sense notes that Murtha was already bad-mouthing the Iraq War six months before it even began [Kaus to Patterico to Big Lizards]. And in response to a Washington Post headline, the About-Face of a Hawkish Democrat, Captain Ed wrote:
But that isn't an "about-face" at all. Eighteen months earlier, in May 2004, Murtha had already started demanding that the US pull out of Iraq, although he did it outside of the halls of Congress. As Murray herself reports -- in the sixteenth paragraph -- he told CNN in an interview that further mobilization was impossible, and that made Iraq unwinnable. He started talking up a pullout eight months before the Iraqis held their first election, seventeen months before their constitutional plebescite, and nineteen months before their upcoming elections to elect their first permanent, constitutional republican government.
Even worse, Murray fails to do any research at all on her subject, accepting the Democratic-hawk line without question. Had Murray looked into Murtha's record, she would have found that the Pennsylvania Democrat has a record of only supporting military operations until the first casualties get reported. In fact, the only time prior to 9/11 that America's military faced off against terrorists and warlords in battle, Murtha demanded that Bill Clinton withdraw them immediately from Somalia -- and got what he wanted.
And now Nancy Pelosi has hitched the Democrats' wagon to the plummeting meteor of Jack Murtha. I suppose congratulations are in order: it's always astonishing when a Democrat is actually willing to come out and speak truth to cower!
A Month In the Life
Bill Roggio from the Fourth Rail is now in Iraq (and now blogging at ThreatsWatch, as Dafydd mentioned). He linked up with the 1st Platoon of Lima Company of the 3rd Marines, 6th Battalion, call sign Jackal 1. Roggio reports an uneventful patrol and having tea with local sheikhs in Husaybah. Yep! You heard me right, in Husaybah.
Both Lieutenant Oren and Corporal Hall explained the successful patrol in Husaybah this afternoon would have been unheard of just three weeks ago prior to Operation Steel Curtain. “Over three weeks ago, we wouldn’t have gotten 200 feet into this city without taking fire”, said Cpl Hall.
Let's flash-back a few weeks to the Battle of Husaybah, courtesy of -- well, of Bill Roggio in a different incarnation:
Saturday, November 5th (Guy Fawkes Day): Operation Steel Curtain in Husaybah
Steel Curtain is directed at the town of Husaybah, and the objectives are to "restore security along the Iraqi-Syrian border and destroy the Al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist network" on the Syrian border. Steel Curtain is a subordinate operation to Hunter, whose objective is to bolster the U.S. and Iraqi presence in the western Anbar region from Qaim to Haditha and deny al Qaeda in Iraq the ability to establish safe havens in the region....
In a recent interview, Maj.Gen. Richard A. Huck, the commanding general of the 2d Marine Division discussed Operation Hunter and the importance of involving the Iraqi Security forces in the fight.“The Marines and Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Marine Division understand that we won’t be the ones who win this counter-insurgency, it will be the Iraqi soldiers... We do this by partnering our battalions with Iraqi battalions. This is the way we’re going to win. By partnering with Iraqi Security Forces we are gaining a lot of insights previously denied to us... We could walk down the same street ten times and not notice anything out of place, but an Iraqi soldier will notice something his first time on the street. It is not uncommon for them to stop a patrol and say ‘those men over there have Syrian accents’ or ‘that graffiti is anti-government propaganda’. Having the ISF out with us is truly a force multiplier.”
Later That Night: Steel Curtain Update
Coalition forces are wisely using the Desert Protection Force, which is comprised of local tribesmen from the region, to provide intelligence on al Qaeda's activities; "Members of the Iraqi scout platoons, specially recruited soldiers from the Al Qa’im region, are embedded with U.S. and Iraqi infantry companies and are helping to identify insurgent strong points and areas known to contain these homemade bombs."
There are no casualties reported among U.S. or Iraqi forces, and enemy casualties are as of yet unknown. Nine airstrikes have been directed at insurgent safe house, and six IEDs have been neutralized, along with a car bomb.
CNN's Arwa Damon is embedded with the RCT-2, and reports on the estimated size and nature of the enemy resistance; "Soldiers believe insurgents in Husayba -- both foreign and home-grown -- will be the type that will fight to the death. Hundreds of insurgents are suspected to be in the city. Husayba insurgents are believed to be smarter and more experienced, survivors of other battles that move in squads of 12 to 15."
Sunday, November 6th: Steel Curtain and the Anbar Campaign
Day one of Operation Steel Curtain, which is aimed at dislodging al Qaeda from the border town of Husaybah and estabishing a permanent presence of Iraqi troops, has ended....
The street fighting has been reported to have been intense in the center and southwest corner of the city. Over thirty roadside bombs and booby trapped homes have been uncovered, along with two car bombs. "Dozens" of insurgent have been reported to have been killed. No Coalition deaths have been reported....
The avenues to the cities along the Euphrates have been closed, or made vastly more difficult and dangerous to travel with Coalition troops now permanently stationed in Husaybah, Sadah, Qaim, Rawah, Haditha, Haqlaniyah, Barwana, Khan Al Baghdadi, Hit, Ramadi, Habbaniyah, and Fallujah. This is the Anbar Campaign.
Today; now; a new Husaybah, and let's try this again:
Roggio reports an uneventful patrol and having tea with local sheikhs in Husaybah.
Without context, the savage magnitude of the Anbar Campaign is void of meaning. This is what the mainstream media does to truth, squeezes it dry of all context and content and reduces the war to an insipid "one American soldier was killed by an IED today" level. The sky is falling, the sky is falling!
But Roggio is in a Husaybah so calm that patrols are "uneventful" and he can sit and drink tea (was it sweet mint tea, I wonder?) with sheikhs that just a few weeks ago might have been on the other side, for all we know. That's progress!
Roggio also glows about how professional the Iraqi troops were:
They understood and responded to hand signals, maintained their intervals and guarded intersections during crossings. All the while talking to the residents of Husaybah. Other than their uniforms, they were virtually indistinguishable from their Marine counterparts - no small feat.
But of course, Roggio is just one man. His impression alone, informed as it is, is not "best evidence" of the Iraqi troops' competence. But Roggio is not alone. His observation is backed up by the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's discussion during a recent press conference, and by President Bush himself. First Secretary Rumsfeld:
On Tuesday, Rumsfeld gave a preview of the administration's argument that Iraqi security forces are improving. He said about 29 military bases have been turned over to Iraqi control; the Iraqi army has seven division and 31 brigade headquarters in operation, compared with none 16 months ago; the number of Iraqi army battalions "in the fight" is now 95, compared with five 15 months ago, and there are now over 212,000 trained and equipped security forces, compared with 96,000 last year.
Secretary Rumsfeld was not just talking through his hat. The president just delivered a major speech to the midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy at Anapolis this morning, and he echoed Rumsfeld's point (and gave more backing to Bill Roggio's on-the-ground assessment):
At this time last year, there were only a handful of Iraqi battalions ready for combat. Now, there are over 120 Iraqi Army and Police combat battalions in the fight against the terrorists -- typically comprised of between 350 and 800 Iraqi forces. Of these, about 80 Iraqi battalions are fighting side-by-side with coalition forces, and about 40 others are taking the lead in the fight. Most of these 40 battalions are controlling their own battle space, and conducting their own operations against the terrorists with some coalition support....
At this moment, over 30 Iraqi Army battalions have assumed primary control of their own areas of responsibility. In Baghdad, Iraqi battalions have taken over major sectors of the capital -- including some of the city's toughest neighborhoods....
Our coalition has handed over roughly 90 square miles of Baghdad province to Iraqi security forces. Iraqi battalions have taken over responsibility for areas in South-Central Iraq, sectors of Southeast Iraq, sectors of Western Iraq, and sectors of North-Central Iraq. As Iraqi forces take responsibility for more of their own territory, coalition forces can concentrate on training Iraqis and hunting down high-value targets, like the terrorist Zarqawi and his associates.
We're also transferring forward operating bases to Iraqi control. Over a dozen bases in Iraq have been handed over to the Iraqi government -- including Saddam Hussein's former palace in Tikrit, which has served as the coalition headquarters in one of Iraq's most dangerous regions. From many of these bases, the Iraqi security forces are planning and executing operations against the terrorists -- and bringing security and pride to the Iraqi people.
The reason we started to hear from the Pentagon and Condoleezza Rice's State Department about an "event" table (with some projected times attached) -- not a time table -- for US troops' partial withdrawal is the readiness of the Iraqi troops themselves. The military has always had an event-driven victory strategy with projected times; but until now, they kept it private, because it has to be flexible, not certain. Events and milestones are more important than dates.
But the general public -- and more important, the terrorists -- don't always understand the flexible nature of such plans, and they might have taken any announced "time table" as carved in stone. What President Bush just said to the middies at Anapolis about a time table for withdrawal (as Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, now advocates) applies to any date certain by which we promise to be gone:
Some are calling for a deadline for withdrawal. Many advocating an artificial timetable for withdrawing our troops are sincere -- but I believe they're sincerely wrong. Pulling our troops out before they've achieved their purpose is not a plan for victory. As Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said recently, setting an artificial timetable would "discourage our troops because it seems to be heading for the door. It will encourage the terrorists, it will confuse the Iraqi people."
Senator Lieberman is right. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a message across the world that America is a weak and an unreliable ally. Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our enemies -- that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends. And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorists' tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder -- and invite new attacks on America. To all who wear the uniform, I make you this pledge: America will not run in the face of car bombers and assassins so long as I am your Commander-in-Chief.
To allow cabinet members and top generals to openly discuss how we will be withdrawning some of our forces over the next year, the White house must be very confident that the Iraqi Army can handle the terrorists even after the US have left. It is not like the terrorists are holding back; what more could they do, even if they knew we were leaving? Evidently, the president has decided we're doing so well that there is no longer any danger in talking about a responsible, event-driven withdrawal... not the cut-and-run that the Democrats in Congress (including the Minority Leader in the House) are calling for, but a true phased, milestone-driven draw-down.
Of course, this has been the plan all along, which President Bush announced more than two years ago -- to anyone who was actually listening!
Date ►►► November 29, 2005
I predicted some months ago that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Rodham (D-NY) would not be the Democratic nominee for president in 2008 (or ever, actually). Here's reason number 217 why not. "Defending" her 2002 vote authorizing war in Iraq, Hillary writes:
"I take responsibility for my vote, and I, along with a majority of Americans, expect the president and his administration to take responsibility for the false assurances, faulty evidence and mismanagement of the war," the New York senator said in a lengthy letter to thousands of people who have written her about the war.
At the same time, she said the United States must "finish what it started" in Iraq.
Dafydd's Fast Translation: Stay the course, follow the Bush war agenda, but sit in the back seat and bitch the whole time.
If I were a liberal, I would be out looking for an anchor, a length of chain, a boat, a deep body of water, and Hillary Clinton. Fortunately, I'm not a liberal; so I can just sit back, pop a Caffeine-Free Diet Dr. Pepper, and enjoy the show!
The Anbar Effect
A decade or so ago -- oh wait, it was only last Friday; how flime ties -- I somehow accidentally came up with an idea I think is pretty good: the "Afghanistan Effect." One earmark that I may be onto something is the existence of corollaries. Consider the parallel principle I'll now call the Anbar Effect and its impact on future Iraqi politics.
Currently, most Iraqi politicians still more less hate America. Even the ones who should be grateful: after all, we booted out their quarter-century dictator, handed them their country for free (the politicians didn't have to pay), and we're still fighting the terrorists for them. Nevertheless, they still hate us, even as they grit their teeth and call for us to stay another year.
And it makes sense on at least two levels: politically, most Shiites have a problem with us because we're a secular government and a Christian people; most Sunni have a problem with us because they used to be in charge, and we've forced democracy down their throats; and any politician too heavily associated with the United States stands in danger of being assassinated. Psychologically, what is the most natural human reaction to unearned charity? Hint: it's not gratitude. Any psychologist will agree that when you bail someone out when he has done nothing to solve his own problems, the normal reaction is that he will resent and despise you, especially if he's still a beggar and must publicly thank and praise you.
So we're going to have to live with that infuriating irritation... for now. But let's look to the future. All of the ill effects above apply only when the recipient of largess sees himself as just that: a beggar, someone who cannot shift for himself, so the hairy, hidden hand of the rich man must work the machinations behind the scenes and give him what he cannot earn for himself.
None of which applies to the Iraqi Army.
Far from being beggars, the Iraqi Army were trained by Americans, fight alongside the Americans, and have increasingly been in charge of battles, campaigns, and holding cities recaptured from the terrorists. Everything they now know about modern combat they learned from us. And they have learned extremely well: Bill Roggio, once and future proprietor of the Fourth Rail and now blogging from Iraq over at ThreatsWatch, who is currently in Husaybah -- say, wasn't that a combat zone just a couple weeks ago? How (son of) flime ties -- described the performance of the Iraqi Army troops occupying Husaybah thus: "Other than their uniforms, they were virtually indistinguishable from their Marine counterparts. [Emphasis added]"
(For more about Roggio's current venture and the truth he is witnessing first hand, read here.)
They take casualties -- and take cities. They've earned their tremendous respect, not just in blood but in victories. The new Iraqi Army are not the recipients of American charity. Rather, they are our protégés.
The distinction is colossal. A beggar completely lacks self respect because he feels powerless over his fate. He resents and despises his benefactors because he resents and despises himself. But a protégé is anything but helpless: because his benefactor taught him how to fish, rather than simply giving him a fish, he can now provide for himself and his own. He is just bursting with new self-respect (note that I distinguish between earned self-respect and self-confidence and unearned "self-esteem"). And at the deepest level of his psyche, he sees his benefactor, not as an oppressor, but as a liberator.
In contrast to the current crop of Iraqi politicians, who hate America as a fat cat handing out charity, from what I've read Iraqi soldiers see us as mentors who have given them the tools to defend their own country. They feel about us the way those who have been in the military typically feel about their drill instructors: they may hate them during basic, but once they graduate, they're profoundly grateful to them for the rest of their lives. (Especially when the DI doesn't try to remain in control after basic training and become the Thing That Would Not Leave; let's hope we get out quickly -- except for air support as necessary -- after the Iraqi Army is able to defend the country without us.)
Now the final key. What sort of democracy will Iraq eventually resemble? Some have suggested Turkey, but I think that's wrong: Turkey has been a republic since 1923, for one thing. For another, the origins of the Republic of Turkey are almost mirror-opposite that of the Republic of Iraq.
Prior to the Republic, Turkey was the heart of the Ottoman Empire, a six-century empire that at its peak was the most powerful Moslem empire in history, stretching from North Africa all the way around the Mediterranean Sea to besiege Vienna, Austria -- twice. But what eventually destroyed it was losing World War I. That is, the Republic of Turkey was formed from the remnants of an empire whose military was crushed by the "crusader" Allies. Licking their wounds, the Turks formed a modern (and surprisingly free) republic, which is still going strong eight decades later.
Now, it's certainly true that the Iraqi dictatorship was crushed by the "crusader" coalition. But in between that humiliating military loss and the founding of the real Republic of Iraq, that losing army was disbanded and a new army created from scratch. For all the Democratic braying that this was a terrible mistake by Bush, that we should have just kept the old (losing) Iraqi Army under new management, this was in fact one of the most briliant moves by the Bush national-security team, headed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: we fired a losing Saddamite army and instead created and trained-up a winning Iraqi Army. Rather than Iraqis having to be ashamed by the lousy combat performance of Saddam's goons against the Iranians, against the crusaders in the Gulf War, and against the crusaders again in 2003, they can be proud and joyous at the brilliant performance of the new Iraqi Army against the foreign terrorists and Saddamite dead-enders in 2004 and 2005, leading up to a constitution and (next month) the first freely elected Iraqi parliament installed under a freely elected constitution.
With such good feelings abounding for the Iraqi Army, I suspect that the Middle-East democracy that Iraq will most resemble in form is Israel, perversely enough. And in Israel, the fastest and surest route into political power is via the military. Out of eleven male prime ministers, seven got their start either in the resistance to the British prior to Israel's founding in 1948 or in the Israeli Defense Force. Four were actually generals, counting Manachem Begin, leader of Irgun, and Yitzhak Shamir, one of the leaders of Lehi. (The others were Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon; after some hesitation, I decline to include David Ben-Gurion, even though he sorta kinda led Haganah in 1947, because I'm not entirely sure how official this was.)
I suspect this will happen again in Iraq: in later elections, it will surely be a major campaign advantage to be able to say "I commanded the brigade of the Iraqi Army that took and held Fallujah," or Tikrit, or Husaybah. And at that point, the Anbar Effect will kick in: Iraq's second generation of leaders will be heavy with army veterans, returned from the war, who will be strong supporters of the United States.
This doesn't mean they will always vote with us; Israel doesn't always do so, either. But it does mean a major turn-around in how Iraqis see America... driven, I predict, by the attitude of returning Iraqi soldiers who have worked side-by-side with American soldiers and Marines... just as I also predict a turn-around in American attitudes about the Iraq war when the American troops begin coming home in great numbers and telling about how well we did, regardless of what stories the MSM told.
The effect is the same in both cases: the powerful voices of those who actually undertook to defend their nation from harm overpower the purely political barnyard noises against America, freedom, and democracy. And the anti-Americans who have become allies of convenience -- the "insurgents" in Iraq and the mainstream media in the United States -- can become allies in defeat as well.
Winkin' Mark Warner
Did lame-duck Gov. Mark Warner (D-VA) actually grant clemency to Robin Lovitt, not because "evidence in Mr. Lovitt's trial was destroyed by a court employee... in a manner contrary to the express direction of the law," as he claims, but rather because Lovitt would have been the 1,000th execution in the United States since the Supremes allowed it to resume in 1976 -- and Democrat Warner doesn't want the "mark of Zorro" burning on his cheek as he runs for president in 2008?
I have the creepy feeling that Democratic primary politics had a lot more to do with Warner's only grant of clemency than any facts about the case itself. (Jed Babbin, substituting for Hugh Hewitt, just expressed the same opinion, so at least it's not just me.)
Those "Corrupt" Republicans
As Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) blubbered out a confession yesterday to accepting bribes large enough to intrigue the publishers of the Guiness Book of World Records, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pounced like a cat on catnip:
"This offense is just the latest example of the culture of corruption that pervades the Republican-controlled Congress, which ignores the needs of the American people to serve wealthy special interests and their cronies," Ms. Pelosi said in a statement.
Brace yourselves for a cold blast of truth: Pelosi is technically right -- but in the larger sense, she's wrong.
She is almost certainly correct that there are more corrupt Republicans in Congress today (even as a percent of membership) than Democrats. Why? For the simple reason that Republicans are in charge. Back when the Democrats ran the joint, they were the corrupt ones, from Dan Rostenkowski to Tom Foley to Tom Daschle to Bill Clinton (Marc Rich ring any bells, Sen. Hillary?) Of the "Keating Five" senators, four were Democrats: Alan Cranston (D-CA); Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ); John Glenn (D-OH); and Don Riegle (D-MI). (The only Republican was John McCain from Arizona. Heh.)
Do we detect a pattern here? Let's reason this through. Suppose you're a corrupt businessman or foreign politician or fugitive from justice, and you think a little judicious squeeze will help your case. You have some significant lettuce to spread around. How much of it do you plan to give to pathetic, powerless losers like Harry Reid (D-Las Vegas), Nancy Pelosi (D-Baghdad By the Bay), and John F. Kerry (D-Hyannisport)? Wouldn't it be a little more rational to extend the largess to the folks who can actually steer the car, rather than just sit in the back seat and bitch about the driving?
That said, Pelosi is also wrong: there is no indication that the Republicans are any more corrupt than were the Democrats when they were in charge; in fact less, but probably only because the GOP hasn't been in power long enough to really institutionalize corruption, the way the Democrats in the House did in their decades of rule. There is no distinctively Republican "culture of corruption;" the culture of corruption attends whoever sits in the big chair, has the biggest staff, and the office with a view of the Capitol Mall -- not a view of the garbage dump.
It's power, not party, that corrupts.
And of course, much of the so-called Republican "corruption" isn't corrupt by the normal meaning of the word (payoffs, kickbacks, bribes and suchlike): Tom DeLay stands (falsely) accused, not of accepting bribes, but of bypassing campaign finance reform laws to get around Democratic gerrymandering; Bill Frist is under investigation for the sale (by a blind trust) of stock that he already owned; and Lewis "Scooter" Libby was indicted for lying about having told reporters that the wife of disgraced former ambassador Joe Wilson worked for the CIA. None of these fits the classic definition of corruption, which requires accepting money for performing favors.
So the next time your wiseguy coworker smirks about those "corrupt" Republicans, instead of launching into a three-hour peroration on the baselessness of the charges against DeLay and Frist and the overexpanded reach of the special counsel in the "Leakgate" probe, just grin and say, "of course! Who the hell's going to bribe the losing candidate?"
Date ►►► November 28, 2005
Something seems to have snapped in Patterico's brain. In his quixotic quest to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, just to make the point that any yotz can "achieve" such an honor, Patterico now wants people to "Google-bomb" his name (Patterico), linked to the Nobel Peace Prize committee URL -- which is http://nobelprize.org/peace/nobelpeacecenter/index.html.
P.S. Can someone explain to me what a "Google-bomb" is, and why Patterico would make such a weird request?
Is Fear of Executing the Innocent Driving Down Death Penalty Support?
This appears to be the general worry underlying Patterico's proposal, over on his blog almost two years ago, that we only allow executions when defendants are found guilty "beyond all possible doubt," rather than merely "beyond reasonable doubt." He and I have been debating this point; but I wanted to get at the root concern -- which in fact should be thought-provoking even to folks who are otherwise uninterested in the back and forth. Simply put, is the public rejecting the death penalty because of a fear that some innocent person could be executed?
Not to be coy, I haven't been able to find any evidence at all that they are. There was a period in the mid- to late-1990s where it arguably could have been; there was a strong "innocence" movement then and a significant drop in support for the death penalty. But support began to move upwards after 9/11, and the late-1990s drop was entirely erased by 2003. Since then, we have returned to 2001 levels; but this cannot be explained by any "innocence project" cause célèbre.
Reuters carried a story that expressed the meme that the MSM has been flogging for years now:
A Gallup poll last month showed 64 percent of Americans favored the death penalty -- the lowest level in 27 years, down from a high of 80 percent in 1994.
"There's now considerable public skepticism about whether all those being executed are really guilty and that has cast doubt on the whole system," said Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center. [Emphasis added here and all subsequent unless otherwise noted. -- the Mgt.]
Several points to note in counterargument:
- The Death Penalty Information Center is a notoriously strident anti-death penalty organization that is not only against the DP but even against incarceration itself.
Incarceration and Crime: A Complex Relationship, a new report by The Sentencing Project, examines the financial and social costs of incarceration, and evaluates the limited effectiveness it has on crime rates. The report notes that the number of people incarcerated in the United States has risen by more than 500% over the past three decades, up from 330,000 people in 1972 to 2.1 million people today. Though an increase in the number of offenders who are incarcerated has played a modest role in the nation's decreasing crime rate, the report notes that this policy is subject to decreasing effectiveness in the long-term. The Sentencing Project warns that increasing incarceration while ignoring more effective approaches to preventing crime will impose a heavy burden upon the courts, corrections systems, and communities, while providing a marginal impact on crime. The group recommends that policymakers further assess this problem and adopt more balanced crime control policies that provide resources for crime-prevention efforts such as programming, treatment, and community support.
The Sentencing Project is a national nonprofit organization that works for a fair and effective criminal justice system by promoting alternatives to incarceration, reforms in sentencing law and practice, and better use of community-based services and institutions. ("Incarceration and Crime: A Complex Relationship," The Sentencing Project, 2005). See The Sentencing Project's Web site. See also, Sentencing and Resources.
- Support for the death penalty is always high but fluctuates quite a bit from year to year -- month to month, even. These fluctuations cannot be correlated to provable cases of innocent people being executed.
The soundbite here -- "lowest level in 27 years, down from a high of 80 percent in 1994" -- is very misleadingly stated, ignoring the fact that it dropped to about 65% approval in 2001, rose to 74% in 2003, and has now dropped back down to 64% in October 2005. In other words, support for the death penalty skews widely up and down. From the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty:
Results of Gallup Poll on Death Penalty
Gallup Organization November 16, 2004
Who Supports the Death Penalty?
Since 1936, Gallup has been asking Americans, "Are you in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder?" The percentage of Americans in favor of the death penalty has fluctuated significantly over the years, ranging from a low of 42% in 1966, during a revival of the anti-death penalty movement, to a high of 80% in 1994. More recently, public opinion on the death penalty has been more stable, with upward of 2 in 3 Americans supporting it.
Here is a 2005 abstract from Gallup itself; the full poll, which found support for the death penalty above the 74% of May 2003, requires a $95 subscription, and I ain't that interested!
Gallup's annual Moral Values and Beliefs poll finds Americans slightly more positive in their orientation toward the death penalty than they have been in the past several years. Compared with a year ago, more Americans say they support the death penalty as punishment for murder, more choose it over life imprisonment as the preferred punishment for murder, and more perceive that the death penalty is applied fairly in this country. A majority of Americans now say the death penalty is not imposed often enough. Perceptions that innocent people have been executed have fallen sharply.
So what is the claim? That people worried about innocents being put to death in 2001, so support dropped from 80% to 65%; but they changed their minds about the innocents being executed, so support rose to 74% just two years later; but then the fickle public flip-flopped back again about those poor innocents, so support dropped back down from 74% in May 2005 to 64% in October?
A far more likely scenario is that other confounding factors are at work, such as a fear of terrorism. The May 2001 poll was before 9/11, when we were still living in the world of the "peace dividend;" there were no more bears in the woods, and we had nothing to fear from criminals or terrorists.
But by the May, 2003 poll, after the war in Afghanistan and the beginning phase of the war in Iraq, terrorism was much on people's minds -- so support for the death penalty rose. Now, during recent polling, there is much skepticism about the Iraq war and the war on terror overall... so support is back down to the 2001 level.
Under this "event-driven" explanation of DP support, if Osama bin Laden were captured alive, I suspect support for the death penalty would skyrocket. But there doesn't seem to be any correlation whatsoever between support for the death penalty and the belief that innocent people are sometimes executed; that belief has been very high since at least the late 1990s.
It's possible that the drop in death-penalty support during the Clinton years, from 1994 to 2001, was due to the fear of innocents being executed; but if so, that fear was trumped by a fear of terrorism. There were no major "innocent executed" stories since the May, 2005 poll and and the most recent Gallup poll on the death penalty in October (the Ruben Cantu case Patterico discusses didn't hit the news until this month, long after the Gallup survey was taken in October).
There is thus no reason to suppose the return to 2001 levels of support from 2003 levels has anything to do with the fear of executing the innocent. We must look for other causes... of which I have suggested one; there are almost certainly others.
But the question that forms the title of this post can be fairly succinctly answered as No, there is no evidence that it has.
While You Were Shoveling...
...partially oxidized domesticated fowl into your maws....
For those of you who decided, funnily enough, to focus on "family," "friends," and "football" this holiday weekend, rather than do the manly thing and read your favorite blogs right there at the Thanksgiving Day table, over the screaming objections of your enraged mother and father, here is what you missed. (Though really, we at Big Lizards are not responsible for lacunae in your sense of priorities, are we?)
Thursday, November 24th, 2005 -- Thanksgiving Day (national holiday)
- Domestic Violence a "Worldwide" Phenomenon
Wherein Big Lizards turns a jaundiced eye upon a survey by the UN's World Health Organization that (mirabile dictu!) comes to the conclusion that radical feminism is right, and women all over the world -- well, in Third-World countries all over the world -- are being brutalized by the men in their lives.
- WHO Are You?
In which we prove we were right to squint and furrow reptillian our brows over the above study, as it was indeed every bit as tendentious as we imagined... and more so!
Friday, November 25th, 2005 -- Turkey Casarole Day (workplace holiday)
- The Afghanistan Effect
The Scaley Ones note the interesting phenomenon of soldiers returning home after being rotated out of the war zone and telling all their friends and neighbors what they actually witnessed -- to the detriment of the Soviet Union and the defense of the Bush administration.
- What's Flu With You?
Skepticism rears up like a hooded cobra once again. This time, it's Sachi who is in a "show-me" mood anent the current hysteria about the pending "pandemic" of Avian Flu (some panic even from the venerable dean of conservative blogging, Hugh Hewitt!)
Saturday, November 26th, 2005 -- Turkey Hash Day (digestive sick-leave holiday)
- Sadr On the Rise, As the Times Sinks to a New Low
We examine the possiblity that Muqtada Sadr may actually "go straight" and withdraw from his al-Mahdi Militia to better position himself to run a slate of candidates for the Iraqi parliament... or that he will continue to play both sides of the fence, politician and militant. (We also catch the New York Times in an undisclosed rewrite of an earlier story so outrageous, it comes darned close to plagiarism.)
Sunday, November 27th, 2005 -- National Please-God-Anything-But-Turkey! Day (mental-health holiday)
- Give Me That Old Time Religion
Cynicism seems to be the theme of the holiday: now we're unconvinced that the socialist, internationalist, anti-Islam Baath Party has really and truly suddenly "got religion," as they rewrite themselves as militant Islamists in the mold of al-Qaeda; and we ponder the angst this produces in the lily-livered Iraqi National Security Advisor.
So you see? You could have saved yourself all the time spent reading this recap (and all those calories over the past four days) by just forgetting all about that nasty Thanksgiving Day sham and investing your time wisely in more and carefuller perusal of Big Lizards. I know what you were feeling -- but what were you thinking?
America As Networked Anti-State
This analysis by Wretchard of the Belmont Club is absolutely riveting. He argues that post-national criminal and terrorist cells are actually the first truly 21st-century form of warfare; and that they are badly undermatched by the classic nation-state, such as those found in Europe, or the superstate that many Europeans want to create. He continues on to contrast these approaches with that of the United States:
But most States are an anti-network; in fact the ultimate hive, where drones swarm in vast pyramids around a Dear Leader, a Great Helmsman or a Driver of the Locomotive of History. And if the United States has one advantage over other states in an age of network warfare, it is because in some respects America is an anti-state; ideally, though not always in practice, a framework within which individuals can thrive. In this respect America was conceptually at variance with the scheme of Westphalia whose key precept was state sovereignty: in America sovereignty was useful mainly to allow the growth of individual freedom. For years European intellectuals have secretly suspected America of really being a religion masquerading as a country. And if that is true the First Republic is ironically well adapted to meet the Jihad on the intellectual battlefields of the 21st century.
The key challenge is whether America, in the sense of a shared idea, can be expansive enough to permit subordinate threads which can truly "take on a life of their own", and so become agile enough to engage the Jihadis at the lowest level. We are some of us familiar with the idea of multithreaded applications which can leave the main program and be re-entrant at an indeterminate point. Max Boot had hoped in 2003 that decentralized decision making would be part of the "new American way of war", multithreading within a larger architecture. Yet no sooner had those tendencies appeared when they were reined in by an American Left determined to impose all the blessings of the bureaucratic state upon networked warfare: oversight, endless hearings, legalisms -- the clanking apparatus of the unitary Sovereign -- to 'aid' in the pursuit of nimble bands of modern Mongols contemptuous of boundaries.
If technology has undermined the bureaucratic state, then the intellectual heirs of Westphalia, with their visions of supranational institutions will have truly confused the problem for the solution. In the face of increasing attacks by networks of criminals and terrorists, their answer will be bigger, more international bureaucracies. The United Nations will become the smallest unit capable of fighting modern terrorism. And some would call that good.
I even sampled a few of the comments. Belmont-Club comments always intimidate and dishearten me: he posts only three or four times a week -- but each post gets sixty, eighty, a hundred and twenty comments or more! The comments to this one are almost as fascinating as Wretchard's discussion itself.
Read it and weep (as I did) for our own pitiful efforts at blogging...
Zarqawi: Planting IEDs or Pushing Up Daisies?
We're still waiting for final word on whether any of the bodies found after the gunfight we discussed here more than a week ago was that of Musab Zarqawi. Last we heard, the Pentagon was testing the DNA... but we haven't heard any results.
Do any of you readers have any more recent information? A definitive answer? You'd think we would have heard one way or the other by now.
Know Thine Enemy
How can we tell the difference between foreign terrorists, militant Sunnis, and Shiite insurgents? My initial answer to that question is, “who cares?” If they are attacking us, they are our enemies. It doesn’t matter what name they call themselves.
However, our top military spokesman, commenting on the last week’s Iraq Reconciliation conference, tells us that we should understand the difference between these groups in order to know how to fight each type.
"We understand the capabilities, the vulnerabilities and the intentions of each group of the insurgency - the foreign fighters, the Iraqi rejectionists and the Saddamists," said Major-General Rick Lynch....
"The group in the middle, the Iraqi rejectionists - (which) includes the Shia rejectionists and the Sunni rejectionists - we believe that deliberate outreach will allow them to participate in the political process and allow them to become part of the solution and not part of the problem," he said.
In other words, we must separate the various types of Iraqi and foreign fighters and treat them differently. But treat them differently how, and why should we? What is the difference between a Sunni Iraqi setting an IED ambush of an American military convoy and Musab Zarqawi ordering a car-bombing of a Shiite marketplace?
In the Iraqi Reconciliation Conference in Cairo, which brought together Iraqis who support democracy and the new government and the rejectionists who still fight against it, the participants concluded that resistance against occupation is legitimate, but that terrorism is never acceptable:
Although resistance is a legitimate right for all people, terrorism does not represent legitimate resistance. Accordingly, we condemn terrorism and acts of violence, killing and kidnapping that target Iraqi citizens, civilian, humanitarian, governmental institutions, national wealth, places of worship and we call for confronting terrorism immediately. [Emphasis added]
Asked about this language, which clearly implies that violent resistance against Coalition troops is not terrorism, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack seemed reluctant to deal with the issue:
"Although resistance is a legitimate right for all people, terrorism does not represent legitimate resistance...I think that, you know, inasmuch as this statement talks about the right -- the legitimate right to peaceful protest, peaceful expression of differences -- absolutely, the United States has no quarrel with that idea.
Mr. McCormack is dancing around the point: the statement does not say that only peaceful resistance is acceptable; it draws a distinction between resistance and terrorism.
So let me answer the question that McCormack ducked: resisting a foreign military occupation force is not an act of terrorism; it is an act of war. The small number of former Saddam supporters and other anti-American Iraqi militants still left are actually attempting, however ham-fistedly, to build a native "insurgency."
Since we are occupying for a good purpose and with the consent of the most legitimate government Iraq has had in recent memory, one can argue that these Saddamites are misguided. We still have every right to fight back against the resistance to protect our own interest (and our own men and women). But the Reconciliation statement is correct: this kind of resistance against an armed and deadly military force is not the same thing as blowing up innocent civilians. The merely misguided can be persuaded to resist peacefully, via the ballot box and in parliament (see Sadr On the Rise, As the Times Sinks to a New Low). The terrorists can only be killed or driven into the desert.
It's clear how native Iraqis resisting the Coalition troops have the support of many other Iraqis who hide them and scrounge food and ammunition. But what about the bloodthirsty foreign terrorists, led by Zarqawi -- the ones who specialize in murdering ordinary Iraqis? How can they be tolerated?
In order for foreign terrorists like al-Qaeda to operate in Iraq, they need local support. No matter what the MSM says, local Sunnis must be actively providing logistic and military support to al-Qaeda. Disrupting this relationship would deal a tremendous blow to the foreign terrorists' operation.
At first, Iraqis must have thought the foreign fighters were there to support the ex-Baathists, under the command of Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, vice-president of Iraq and deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, the highest ranking Baathist still on the loose after Saddam Hussein was captured (al-Duri is reported to have died of leukemia on November 11th, 2005; but this has not yet been publicly confirmed by the Pentagon).
But as the tide of battle flowed, the Baathists withdrew from the field (to Syria, the other Baathist state, most likely), leaving the terrorists -- primarily Zarqawi's group al-Qaeda in Iraq -- in the driver's seat of the resistance. It seems very clear that as "resistance" more and more began to be synonymous with blowing up Iraqi Shia and occasionally Sunnis, rather than attacking Coalition forces, ordinary Iraqis began to be repelled by the vicious and indiscriminate butchery of their fellow citizens by the foreign terrorist organizations, led by Jordanian Zarqawi.
Thanks to the very successful attacks on al-Qaeda safe houses along the Syrian border and in Baghdad by Coalition and Iraqi forces, local support for the terrorists is waning; Arab culture does not encourage support for losers. Many of the recent attacks on terrorist safehouses were possible only because of tips received from local Sunni citizens, who clearly no longer support the foreign terrorists. Some Sunni tribes went so far as to actively fight against Zarqawi’s men.
This trend is so significant, even an America-hater like Juan Cole had to admit it:
[M]any Iraqi guerrillas are deeply dismayed at the al-Zarqawi group's tactic of targeting civilians and Shiites, and that significant numbers have deserted him to join the Iraqi group, The Islamic Army. Al-Zarqawi's "Qaeda in Mesopotamia" is angry about the desertions and refers to such Iraqis as "apostates." Nevertheless, The Islamic Army provides security to those who have left Zarqawi.
Iraqi insurgents have seen al-Qaeda being utterly defeated whenever they engage American or Iraqi government units. Everyone around the world now knows that the terrorists can do nothing aside from blowing up innocent civilians. The purely Iraqi insurgents, Saddamites and Shia, must have realized by now that they have no hope of winning militarily against the Americans; and the moment is rapidly approaching (if it hasn't already passed) where they have no hope even of defeating the Iraqi Army alone, even if we were to pull a John Murtha and "redeploy" out of Iraq immediately.
If we can convince the Sunni and Shiite insurgents (not the foreign terrorists) that the only way for them to have any kind of power at all is to join the political process, al-Qaeda will be further isolated in Iraq. Without the local support, they cannot possibly survive. They will be forced to flee Iraq as they fled Afghanistan when the Taliban fell, and as they fled Sudan before that.
So it seems we should care whom we are fighting against!
Date ►►► November 27, 2005
Give Me That Old Time Religion
Uh oh, now we're really going to get it!
In another bizarre twist, the pitiful remnants of the Baath Party in Iraq have remade themselves as -- holy warriors. Mujahideen. They have changed the name of their party from the Arab Socialist Baath Party to the Arab Baath al-Takfireen: a.k.a., "Arab Bath Moslems-who-declare-fellow-Moslems-to-be-infidels." I'm guessing their new rallying cry will be God is Great! Let us fight holy war to put that socialist atheist back on the throne!
Iraq's national security adviser, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, has gone into full panic mode, wailing:
"This is very dangerous. These people now have broader appeal among angry Iraqis and money from Arabs in regional states," he told Reuters in an interview.
"It could take years to defeat them."
Oy vey ismier! What will we do now? Forgive my flippancy, but I have a hard time buying the idea that Iraqis will be fooled into thinking that the anti-Islamic secular internationalst socialists of the Baath Party have suddenly got that old time religion. Religious Sunni and Shia are about as likely to follow the Baathists into jihad as the College of Cardinals are to elect Ted Kennedy Pope, or the Navy to give command of an aircraft carrier to Captain Kangaroo. The Baathists are Islamists like President Nixon was a Quaker.
Here is the timeline of events, as limned by Michael Georgy of Reuters:
Saddam and his pan-Arab socialist Baath party imposed secularism in Iraq throughout decades of iron-fisted rule. Muslim militants either kept their beliefs to themselves or were jailed, or worse.
But Islamic fundamentalism has gained a foothold since a U.S.-led invasion toppled the former president in 2003, with a proliferation of Sunni Arab militants opposed to the Shi'ite- led government backed by Washington. [It's all Bush's fault that there are now Moslems all over Iraq.]
FROM SOCIALISTS TO HOLY WARRIORS
Al Qaeda stepped in, forming loose alliances with Saddam's former Baathists as the insurgency evolved into daily suicide bombings and assassinations that have killed tens of thousands of civilians and security forces.
Shockingly enough, Reuters found occasion to forget that the Shia were already Islamists by most definitions before Saddam fell; that Saddam was already kowtowing to the Islamic Fundamentalists -- by changing Iraq's flag to include the words "Allahu Akbar," for example, as far back as 1991; and that there were already extensive contacts between Iraq and al-Qaeda even in Saddam's day. I'm sure over the next few days, they'll find occasion to forget that we did, in fact, find WMD in Iraq, and that Saddam was butchering the Iraqis to the tune of 12,500 per year or 125,000 per year, depending whose figures you believe.
"By embracing militant Islam, Saddam's people have appealed to fellow anti-American Muslims who also want the American troops to leave." [trembled Mowaffaq al-Rubaie]
Saddam, whose trial resumes on Monday, first appeared before his judges clutching an old Koran in his hand. Officials who met Saddam before the last session said he appeared demoralised.
But the national security adviser does not hold the same view of his followers, who are armed with much more than zeal in their new holy war.
"They have very good intelligence," he said.
I was planning to go see Chicken Little tomorrow, but why bother? I can save $8.50 X 2 by just staying home and reading more of the mainstream media.
Date ►►► November 26, 2005
Sadr On the Rise, As the Times Sinks to a New Low
This New York Times story is both troubling and hopeful, and I'm not sure which is ascendant. Moqtada al-Sadr is back -- actually, he never left, just bided his time and kept his "al Mahdi Militia" -- only now he is throwing himself wholeheartedly into the Iraqi political process... while still maintaining at least some control over his militia.
The al Mahdi Militia seems to have splitered into factions, almost like the IRA splitting into the (Marxist) Official IRA and the (militant) Provisional IRA in the late 1960s. While Sadr remains the spiritual leader of the more violent factions of the terrorist army, it's unclear how much operational control he still has: he claims, through a spokesman, Sheik Abbas al-Rubaie, that he is not involved in the various kidnappings and other terrorist activities of some factions of the al Mahdi militia, and the Times seems to support that view: alas, the Times's main source for that argument is none other than ultra-leftist blogger Juan Cole!
More likely, in my opinion, he has the same sort of control that Yassir Arafat had over the PLO: total control over one faction, influence over most of the others, and perhaps one or two that war with the other al Mahdi factions and actively seek Sadr's death... just as the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine routinely attacked other Palestinian terrorist groups and tried to kill Arafat.
What is undeniable, however, is that Moqtada al-Sadr has become the caliphmaker among the Shia in Iraq -- and that he maintains disturbingly close ties to Iran.
Even as that battle [in which al Mahdi militiamen fought Sunni terrorists] raged on Oct. 27, Mr. Sadr's aides in Baghdad were quietly closing a deal that would signal his official debut as a kingmaker in Iraqi politics, placing his handpicked candidates on the same slate - and on equal footing - with the Shiite governing parties in the December parliamentary elections. The country's rulers had come courting him, and he had forced them to meet his terms.
Wielding violence and political popularity as tools of his authority, Mr. Sadr, the Shiite cleric who has defied the American authorities here since the fall of Saddam Hussein, is cementing his role as one of Iraq's most powerful figures.
Just a year after Mr. Sadr led two fierce uprisings, the Americans are hailing his entry into the elections as the best sign yet that the political process can co-opt insurgents.
The Times does not cite a single piece of evidence that "the Americans are hailing" Sadr's political rise; and considering that one of the few "background expert"-type sources they cite is Cole, I'm suspicious. Did that line get tossed in there because of something Cole told them?
An earlier Knight Ridder story by Matthew Schofield, Once-targetted al-Sadr positions himself to be political kingmaker, was clearly the unacknowledged basis for the Times story -- in fact, so close was the November 6th Schofield story to the November 26th Edward Wong story in the New York Times that it borders perilously on plagiarism, in my opinion. But the Schofield story hits every one of the themes of the later Times story except for the "Americans are hailing" claim, the only new idea in the Wong story. I personally do not recall hearing that Bush administration sources were saying it's wonderful that Sadr was entering into the political process while maintaining his private army, but's possible the Times got it from someone more reliable than Juan Cole.
In any event, it's hard to know what to make of this. On the one hand, it's quite unhelpful that that dreadful man still maintains his terrorist militia, using it to threaten his way into the political process. On the other, if we truly believe in the redeeming force of freedom and democracy, then we must have faith that the very election Sadr bullies his way into will ameliorate the violence and alienation among the poor Shia who currently support him, as they see that democracy can embrace even someone as anti-American as this radical "cleric" (he is considered only semi-literate and nothing to match his father by most Iraqi observers). This will undermine Sadr's military base, even if it buttresses his political base.
On the third hand, his connection with Iran -- some al Mahdi factions have been using Iranian technology to build roadside bombs -- should be enough to worry us, since we certainly don't want the southern part of Iraq to become part of Greater Persia. But on the fourth hand, there is no particular evidence that Iran has managed to inject itself into the election in any significant way, nor that it understands well enough how elections work that it would even know how to do so. I don't know how many hands this monster has, but I'm sure there are at least two or three more.
All told, however, I'm still optimistic: I do have faith in the transformative power of real democracy (not the ersatz variety on display in the Palestinian Authority), and I believe that every terrorist movement is fueled by social alienation and disassociation from governing power: that is its natural manure, as Jefferson wrote about "the blood of patriots and tyrants alike" and "the tree of liberty." To the extent that the hurricane of freedom (and the quite respectable constitution that the Iraqis voted in) blows down the tyranny to admit the seabreeze of capitalism and trade, I believe it will likewise gust away the sands of hate that support a Moqtada al-Sadr. He will find that there is, in fact, no room in a free Iraq for the mighty al Mahdi Militia.
Date ►►► November 25, 2005
What's Flu With You?
Recently we have been hearing about this mysterious Bird Flu from Southeast Asia. Some prophets of doom say it has already spread to epidemic proportions in China, and that it will soon spread across the globe. Dire predictions warn of a worse pandemic than the Spanish Flu of 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.
But science reporter Michael Fumento challenges the conventional wisdom. “As of November 9, 125 cases and 64 deaths have been reported from avian flu since late 2003," Fumento writes; "all in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia." So far, at least, the Avian Flu is a bust in the pandemic sweepstakes.
Scientists have determined that, like the 1918 flu, the virus in the current Bird Flu does jump from birds to humans. But what has not yet been seen is a single case where the new H5N1 influenza virus was transmitted from human to human... which was what made the World War I Spanish Flu so deadly. H5N1 (H5, for short) is very different from the Spanish Flu.
Sir John Skehel, a lead researcher of the National Institute for Medical Research team, which studied the 1918 strain in great detail, told BBC News Online:
"[O]ur research will not have an immediate impact on the situation currently unfolding in the Far East with the chicken flu known as H5, since, from our previous work, we know that the 1918 and the H5 Hemagglutinins are quite different."
I believe that the reason all reported cases of H5 in humans come from rural Asian communities is that in those places, birds ranchers practically live with the birds. Bloody, dripping birds are routinely sold in the street without any kind of refrigeration or sanitation. I remember a number of years ago, many Japanese restaurants had dead ducks, feathers and all, dangling from hooks on the outside walls. But in developed countries like the United States, we raise, slaughter, and store poultry quite differently (freezers are a wonderful invention); these sanitary procedures help prevent bird-to-human infection. So from what I've read, I believe that unless the virus mutates to transmit human-to-human, H5 will not cause a pandemic in the developed world.
That is not to say that H5 won't suddenly mutate, as the Spanish Flu did. So, what is wrong with warning the population? Shouldn't we err on the side of caution? There is plenty wrong, Fumento says.
What we can say with confidence is that there is never such a thing as helpful hysteria. And the line between informing the public and starting a panic is being crossed every day now by politicians, public health officials, and journalists.
Headlines like "Flu Pandemic Could Kill 150 Million, U.N. Warns" (Reuters) certainly haven't helped. Never mind that the figure was tossed off by a single official who provided a range of "5 million to 150 million." (Translation: "We haven't the foggiest.") Similarly, the media have generally morphed the federal government's estimate of 200,000 to 1.9 million deaths to simply "1.9 million deaths." Also not helping is the media propensity to seek out the most alarmist "experts." [Emphasis added here and below]
But, how likely is it that a mutated virus will start to infect the human population? Fumento again:
There are no pat formulas, such as the chances of shooting snake eyes or drawing a royal flush. Nor is it just a matter of time. Indeed, one of the arguments against a human outbreak of H5N1 is that sick birds have been mixing with humans for years now without producing a pandemic.
It's practically a state secret that the discovery of H5N1 in poultry dates back not to 1997 but rather to 1959, when it was identified in Scottish chickens. Perhaps haggis had a protective effect on the farmers, but there was a terrible outbreak of the related H5N2 among both chickens and turkeys in Pennsylvania in 1983-85 (17 million birds were destroyed) that appears to have originated as H5N1 in seagulls. So H5N1 has been flying around the globe for over four decades and hasn't done a number on us yet. That doesn't mean it won't ever; but there's absolutely no reason to think it will pick this year or next.
However, just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn't mean it never will. This is hardly reassuring. Can’t we do something to help prevent a repeat of 1918?
The simplest prophylactic action would be to vaccinate all domestic birds. But considering the vast numbers of the bird population and the difficulty catching them to give them shots, it's highly doubtful this could be done. A more practical program is to minimize the contacts between birds and humans.
- Developing countries should adopt the procedures used by developed countries to raise domesticated poultry.
But what about mutations? If the flu mutates into a human-to-human infection, that will spread much faster than Bird Flu spreads today; most people have no contact with potentially infected birds... but everybody has contact with other humans.
In fact there is something we can do to minimize the possibility of mutation. There are two ways that the virus can mutate. The first is simply by random chance; but this is unlikely to produce a particular mutation -- human-to-human contagion, in this case.
But the other route to mutation is by contact with another strain of the virus. If a human who is already infected with any other human flu that spreads by human-to-human contact also contracts the H5N1, the two viruses can merge and form a completely different, so-called hybrid flu. The hybrid can combine the symptoms of H5 with the human-to-human contagion of the other flu.
- So to avoid hybrid flu, vaccinate as many humans as possible. We can do this without getting into a panic mode.
We can also minimize the spread of flu, even if a mutation occurs and H5 actually starts to transmit between humans. It makes perfect sense to take the same precautions we already take for any other flu.
- If you contract the flu, take medication that “reduces the duration and severity of acute human influenza” and stay in bed, away from other people.
As Michael Fumento notes,
Both Tamiflu and Relenza should be taken as soon as flu symptoms become evident, preferably within two days, although at least one animal study showed Tamiflu was still helpful long after what's normally considered the "window of opportunity." It's also okay to take them if it's known that avian flu is truly on the wing.
Of course if the flu is as lethal as they say it is (some claim a 50% mortality rate), none of these measures would be enough. But is it? Fumento argues that the lethality of this flu is exaggerated:
We do know, however, that there are millions of Asian farmers in constant contact with the saliva and feces of countless birds where the virus has been prevalent. Indeed, blood samples collected from rural Chinese in 1992 indicate that millions had already been infected with H5N1, yet there was no reported outbreak of human disease. An analysis was also conducted after an H7N7 avian flu outbreak in the Netherlands two years ago. It found infections among half of persons who either had contact with the birds or were family members. Were something like that rate to hold true for Southeast Asia, H5N1's mortality rate among infected humans would turn out to be no higher than for human flu.
The 50% lethality rate assumes that the 125 known cases are the only ones that have actually occurred; 64 deaths divided by 125 cases equals 51.2% mortality. But what if there have been hundreds or even thousands of other infections -- and the victims simply got over it? How would we know that they had H5, rather than a normal flu? Typically, doctors only know a person has Avian Flu if he is admitted to a hospital or other health-care center; but that would only happen if the infection became very dire indeed (rural farmers in the Third World don't go to hospital unless they're very, very sick for a very long time). So the H5 infections we hear about are exactly those that are so severe that death is not surprising. We would never hear about the milder cases.
But we always come back to the Spanish Flu. It did kill about 50 million people. How can Fumento be so confident that will not happen again? We have more people in the world. We have better and faster transportation (which spreads the disease quicker). If H5 spreads anything like the Spanish Flu did, the result would be much worse today. Or would it?
Odds are that the Spanish Flu would not have become a pandemic if it happened today. In 1918, the world was in the midst of WWI. Millions of young people from all over the world, many from rural areas with very little immunity to urban disease, gathered into congested military bases, then were shipped to faraway countries. You can almost track the epidemic in lockstep with the movements of American and English troops. Soldiers were stuck in trenches without adequate access to medical treatment and in daily intimate contact with all the other soldiers... a laboratory-perfect prescription for spreading disease. But none of these conditions exists now.
Avian Flu or any other kind of flu should not be treated lightly. But we have means to deal with this disease. Running around like “infected” chickens with their heads cut off is not one of them.
The Afghanistan Effect
John over at Power Line has just posted what I consider to be the most engrossing and fascinating blogpost of the past twelvemonth... and he decided to write it on Thanksgiving Day, when everybody's page views, even including a powerhouse blog like Power Line, is way, way below normal. The fool!
Since John has always been my mentor in everything (unbeknownst to him, the fool!) -- if John jumped off a cliff, I would definitely dive off in slavish imitation -- I shall likewise follow suit by posting my own sparklingly original observation about the same Pew Center survey that John discussed... also on Thanksgiving Day. Hey, turkey see, turkey do!
[Oh well, as the poet (Bobbie Burns) says, "the best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men gang aft agley." This was meant to be posted before midnight, but well, we got to watching Danny Kaye in the Court Jester, and I was tending the turkey, and of a sudden, I had no time. Pretend it's still yesterday, and before you know it, tomorrow will be upon you! -- the Mgt.]
Every four years from at least 1993, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (in collaboration with the Council on Foreign Relations) has conducted a series of surveys called America's Place in the World; the most recent was polled from September 5th through October 31st this year (the link is to the Iraq War section of the poll; there is an index, so you can check out the rest of the questions, too).
Pew asks a number of questions not only of the general public but also of a number of selected groups of "opinion leaders" in various fields; that is, besides regular blokes, they also queried journalists, foreign-affairs specialists, security specialists, state and local government officials, academics and members of think tanks, religious leaders, scientists and engineers, and retired generals and admirals.
Hardly surprisingly, every group but the last clocked in much further to the left than the ordinary Joe and Jane. This is especially unsurprising considering the way these elites were selected, which I'll let John explain:
Now the survey's results are less mysterious. If you define leaders in foreign affairs as members of the Council on Foreign Relations, it is no surprise that surveying the group generates liberal results. (It would be interesting to poll the same people on a question that has nothing to do with foreign relations--say, abortion. My guess is that the results would be identically left-leaning.) Likewise, liberal as academia no doubt is, it would be hard to find a more left-trending group than "officers (President, Provost, Vice-President, Dean of the Faculty) of the most competitive schools." It's not hard to see why "military leaders" divide so equally on the war, either; those "leaders" turn out to be mostly the retired talking heads, many with an axe to grind, that we see on television. As for those left-wing engineers, Pew didn't survey rank and file members, or even the most eminent members, of the profession; rather, their "leaders" are the 2,000 members of a group that exists largely to advise the federal government on issues relating to science. And, as we have noted before, the professional hierarchies of America's religious denominations are far to the left of their churches' memberships.
John is interested in this precise aspect; and he brilliantly analyzes the difference between self-appointed elite opinon leaders, especially those who have spent their entire lives trying to achieve that status, and the general public on a host of issues -- why the elites are typically so much more liberal than hoi polloi. You must read this post; it's very insightful, even for John (and that says a lot, as John is an unusually perceptive blogger).
But a completely different aspect of this survey struck me, and I instantly thought of what, twenty years ago, I dubbed the Afghanistan Effect.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on Christmas eve day in 1979, they clamped down hard on any press coverage. Not a word of the war was published throughout the Evil Empire except for the propaganda scripted by the Politburo... which was of uniform victory, massive destruction of the Mujahideen enemy, and a swift, triumphant end to the war. But the years passed, victory continued to elude the Soviets, and the losses began to mount. Eventually, the Reds were in a desperate strait: helos were shot down, transport aircraft exploded in balls of fire, and whenever they tried to send a tank column from Pakistan across the Hindu Kush along the Khyber Pass, they would be set upon by hundreds of jihadis shooting Stinger man-fired missiles... supplied to the Mujahideen by the United States, courtesy of Ronald Reagan.
The Soviets struggled to keep word of this from their people; and for a while, they were successful, and the Soviet subjects thought the war was going well. But you cannot keep troops in the field forever; eventually, they must rotate home to be replaced by fresh soldiers. And that was the downfall of the Empire.
For when the soldiers returned home, the tales they told of collapse and catastrophe, death, defeat, and disaster, so markedly contradicted the pravda (literally "official truth") that the people lost all confidence in the government. Perversely, besides taking out their ire on Gorbachev, the Soviet people also turned on their own soldiers -- the very ones who had brought the news of defeat. They were reviled as cowards and incompetents... and this, along with economic depression and the inability to keep up with the United States in the nuclear race (and the prospect of missile-defense via the Strategic Defense Initiative) completed the collapse of the Empire. The Kremlin bosses launched their eleventh-hour abortive coup against Gorbachav; Boris Yeltsin climbed atop the tank; and the Soviet Union fell.
The war in Afghanistan had a major impact on domestic politics in the Soviet Union. It was one of the key factors in the de-legitimization of Communist Party rule. Civil society reacted to the intervention by marginalizing the Afghan veterans. The army was demoralized as a result of being perceived as an invader.
And all because the returning troops told the real story of the debacle of Afghanistan. That is what I dubbed the Afghanistan Effect: when the lies of the government are exposed by the eyewitness evidence of the soldiers themselves.
I believe what we are seeing in Iraq is the Afghanistan Effect in reverse. Only this time, it's the lies of the liberal elites that are being exposed, as more and more soldiers and Marines return home from the war. In response to ludicrous fairy tales of bitter defeat, the troops are educating their families, friends, and neighbors about the tremendous victories we've won: the terrorists killed, the territory captured, the schools, dams, and generating plants rebuilt. They're telling everyone about the joyous Kurds and Shia, so glad to be rid of that vontz who lorded it over them for so many decades. Even many of the Sunni have embraced the Americans, thankful for the end of the monster and his spawn.
Our troops are extolling the virtues of the new Iraqi Army, and how well they fight against the butchers and beheaders. They've made tremendous and enduring friendships, the kind that can only be forged in the flames of side-by-side combat.
But against all this, the politicians (even on the Right), the religious and foreign-policy leaders, and academe, all led by the "news" journalists, are insisting that not only is the war a "quagmire" and "unwinnable," we already lost it.
So you have a choice. Who will you believe -- Chris Matthews, John Kerry, and Professor McQuisling... or your own son, brother, husband, sister, cousin, best friend, or next-door neighbor? What brought this to mind is the extraordinary similarity in the Pew Research study between the opinions of the ordinary Mooks -- and the "military elites," as selected by Pew: the "retired generals and admirals quoted in American news sources in the past year."
Asked about whether we should have gone into Iraq, the right decision/wrong decision split was 48 right, 45 wrong among the general public -- and 49 right, 47 wrong among the retired flag-ranks. Within all the other elites, wrong wins out over right. Wrong decision wins by a moderate 59 over 34 among government officials (that includes at least a few Republicans!); wrong wins big, by 70-something to 20-something, among all the other elites... except scientists and engineers, who say we shouldn't have invaded Iraq by a whopping 88-11.
Will we achieve success in Iraq? The general public says 56 yes, 37 no; the generals and admirals say 64 yes, 32 no. Among the other "opinion leaders," the only group that is optimistic, even slightly so, are government elites by 51 to 45. All other elites are wildly pessimistic, from 41 to 56 for religious leaders to a huge 13 to 84 pessimistic by (again) scientists and engineers.
On all the most important issues, the opinion of the retired military leaders neatly echoes the opinion of the general public. The most likely explanation to me is that that's where the public is getting its information... from the military. Not from the military elites, the generals and admirals, but from the men and women on the front lines themselves. Nevertheless, the opinions of men with stars on their collars more or less matches up with the opinions of the rank and file soldiers, enough so that the generals are reasonable proxies for the general public.
And just as the Afghanistan Effect was the beginning of the downfall of the Soviet Empire, with its Ministry of Truth that told only lies, so too will the Reverse Afghanistan Effect be the beginning of the end of mainstream media hegemony over "the truth." People have already lost confidence in the news media (note how out of synch the media journalists are with the American people in this poll). And in just a few short months, when massive numbers of troops begin returning home, having secured a tremendous victory in the Mesopotamian heart of the Middle East... well, the MSM may never again regain its face.
[Hat tip to Patterico for correcting a Yeltsin mistake of mine.]
Date ►►► November 24, 2005
WHO Are You?
Commenter KarmiCommunist, in the comments to my previous post, kindly provided the URL to the actual WHO report itself: WHO Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence against Women. A deeper look into this document both confirms my earlier guess (about the prevalence of violence against women in Japan compared to the other countries on that list) and also, it turns out, demonstrates the second feminist fallacy I discussed: the "all inclusive final term."
To forestall the inevitable, nothing here is meant to minimize the effect of physical and sexual violence against women. Rather, the point is the way it is reported: the explosive headline in the Reuters story, which does not bother mentioning that the survey was by and large conducted in the Third World; and the refusal by Reuters to note that the numbers for Japan -- the only member of western civilization included -- were far, far lower than the numbers of the other countries that truly drove the sad results of this survey.
As an aside, I also find it illuminating that WHO chose not to study domestic violence but only domestic violence against women. The reason this distinction is important is that it would tell us whether the violence was misogynistic in origin, or whether the particular culture is simply more accepting of partner-violence in general. The very title of the report implicitly concludes the violence is of the first (anti-woman) type. The fact that they chose from the very beginning not to study violence by women against men tells me that the purpose of the study was less to help individual victims of domestic violence (male or female) than to promote a feminist agenda... a conclusion rendered all the more believable by past WHO and UN positions on feminism. More on this anon.
But let's get to the specifics...
From page 5 (page 15 of the pdf):
The results indicate that violence by a male intimate partner (also called “domestic violence”) is widespread in all of the countries covered by the Study. However, there was a great deal of variation from country to country, and from setting to setting within the same country. Whereas there was variation by age, by marital status and by educational status, these sociodemographic factors did not account for the differences found between settings. The wide variation in prevalence rates signals that this violence is not inevitable.
The proportion of ever-partnered women who had ever experienced physical or sexual violence, or both, by an intimate partner in their lifetime, ranged from 15% to 71%, with most sites falling between 29% and 62%. Women in Japan were the least likely to have ever experienced physical or sexual violence, or both, by an intimate partner, while the greatest amount of violence was reported by women living in provincial (for the most part rural) settings in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Peru, and the United Republic of Tanzania. Yet even in Japan, about 15% of ever-partnered women reported experiencing physical or sexual violence, or both, at some time in their lives. For partner violence in the past year, the figures ranged from 4% in Japan and Serbia and Montenegro to 54% in Ethiopia.
So now that we know that, far from "one out of 6" women in Japan experiencing domestic violence each year, the actual figure is one out of twenty-five, let's ask what, exactly, the WHO considered "violence."
Prevalence estimates of physical and sexual violence were obtained by asking direct, clearly worded questions about the respondent’s experience of specific acts.
In other words, this is a self-report survey... which is important to bear in mind, as none of the claims are substantiated. Here are the types of incidents they asked about; note that I have rearranged these incidents in order to make a point. The list in the order WHO presents it in the pdf can also be found on page 5, as with the quotation above.
To measure "physical violence," the women were asked whether a current or former partner had ever done any of the following:
- threatened her with, or actually used a gun, knife or other weapon against her
- hit her with a fist or something else that could hurt
- kicked, dragged or beaten her up
- choked or burnt her on purpose
- slapped her, or thrown something at her that could hurt her
- pushed or shoved her
When broken down by severity, the difference between Japan and the other countries becomes even more stark. Although the report doesn't tell us the exact number in each country self-reporting each particular act of "violence," they do divide into "moderate" and "severe," with the former being slapped/thrown and pushed/shoved, while the latter being everything else. In Japan, only 4% of women reported ever experiencing "severe physical violence" (by this definition) from a partner in their lifetimes.
If we assume the same ratio of violence in the last year to violence in lifetime (4::15), that would mean that only about 1% of Japanese women would have reported experiencing "severe physical violence" from a partner in the last twelve months.
The most common act of violence experienced by women was being slapped by their partner, from 9% in Japan to 52% in provincial Peru. This was followed by being struck with a fist, for which these two settings again represented the extremes (2% and 42%, respectively). In most places, between 11% and 21% of women reported being hit by a partner with his fist.
The actual conclusion is not so explosive after all and barely even worth noting: countries that have enormous levels of violence in general will also have enormous levels of violence (and sexual violence) against women. But it wouldn't be as useful to the feminist agenda to write the more accurate version of the story; the more lurid version serves the purpose of attacking patriarchy so much better!
And that, I suspect, is the underlying purpose of such studies, even on the part of the World Health Organization itself: if not, why lump Japan, a civilized country, into what is actually a study of violence in countries that are perpetually in a state of crisis? Why include being "pushed" in the same questionnaire as being shot or stabbed, and why break down the results only in the body of the report -- the part few will ever read?
In fact, the very first recommendation made by the WHO study's final chapter explicitly calls attention (and demands international compliance) to the long history of gender-feminist UN framework agreements, treaties, and resolutions (I previously defined gender-feminism, paraphrasing Christina Hoff Sommers, as "the gynocentric view that girls are good and boys are bad"). Presumably, this study is intended to fit into the outline of establishing a feminist agenda across the globe:
Considerable progress would be realized if governments complied with human rights treaties and international agreements that they have already ratified, such the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993), the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) (24), the 1995 Declaration and Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women (the “Beijing Declaration”) (7), and the 2000 Millennium Declaration and Development Goals (25).
Governments should strive to harmonize their legislation with these commitments and bring about the necessary changes in national laws, policies and programming. Advocacy for gender equality and human rights, and monitoring of national progress towards international commitments, need to be strengthened.
Consider that first convention, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Among other things, that convention demands legislation to change cultures to eliminate "stereotyped roles for men and women," (article 5), and it also countenances affirmative action, denying that such constitutes "discrimination" (article 4).
The 1995 Beijing Declaration explicitly affirms "the right of all women to control all aspects of their health, in particular their own fertility," a fairly clear declaration of absolute abortion rights (paragraph 17). Here are a few more paragraphs, to give somewhat of a flavor of the orientation of these various UN agreements:
17. Local, national, regional and global peace is attainable and is inextricably linked with the advancement of women, who are a fundamental force for leadership, conflict resolution and the promotion of lasting peace at all levels
18. It is essential to design, implement and monitor, with the full participation of women, effective, efficient and mutually reinforcing gender-sensitive policies and programmes, including development policies and programmes, at all levels that will foster the empowerment and advancement of women
28. Take positive steps to ensure peace for the advancement of women and,recognizing the leading role that women have played in the peace movement,work actively towards general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control, and support negotiations on the conclusion, without delay, of a universal and multilaterally and effectively verifiable comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty which contributes to nuclear disarmament and the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons in all its aspects
(I'm not sure how an "effectively verifiable comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty" relates specifically to women, but that's the UN for you.)
The bulk of the Fouth World Conference for Women report (all the stuff following the Beijing Declaration) is labeled "Platform for Action." Among many, many, many other action items, this platform demands:
- A cabinet-level position devoted to "responsibility for the advancement of women"
- The use of "gender perspective" in law, regulation, and jurisprudence; in the past, this has included, e.g., demands that the reasonable-person standard (for example, whether some comment creates a hostile work environment) be replaced by a reasonable-woman standard that would be much looser
- Legislation to enforce "equal pay for equal work or work of equal value" (in other words, equal pay for comparable work: secretaries train equally long as firemen, so they must be paid the same)
- "Recognize collective bargaining as a right and as an important mechanism for eliminating wage inequality for women and to improve working conditions"
- "Develop policies, inter alia, in education to change attitudes that reinforce the division of labour based on gender in order to promote the concept of shared family responsibility for work in the home, particularly in relation to children and elder care" (translation: no more housewives: mothers in the workplace, kids in daycare!)
This is the gender-feminist agenda write large, cut with a knife across the face of the entire world. It's clear not only what the UN/WHO's attitude is towards "gender issues," but which sex they root for. It's also clear why they're uninterested in studying domestic violence against men, and why they chose to present this study the way they did.
Their "willing accomplices in the media" (as Rush calls the MSM) caught the point immediately and hyped the study's results in a way calculated to mislead -- but mislead consistently in the direction of gender-feminism. I suppose it's hardly surprising that Reuters would so eagerly participate in "advocacy journalism" (which is a fancy way to say propaganda)... but it's always discouraging, even when I can see it coming a mile off.
Domestic Violence a "Worldwide" Phenomenon
The statistic (and accompanying headline) sounds grim, from a feminist standpoint:
One in 6 women suffers from domestic violence: WHO
Nov 24, 2005
By Patricia Reaney
LONDON (Reuters) - One woman lost twins after being hit in the stomach by the father of her unborn babies, another sleeps in a locked bedroom to protect herself from the partner who has threatened to shoot her.
They are among the one in 6 women worldwide who suffer from domestic violence. In some communities up to 2 in 3 females have been harmed by their husband, live-in partner or boyfriend, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) study.
"Society has condoned this for far too long," said Joy Phumaphi, assistant director-general of Family and Community Health at the WHO.
And then, in mounting alarm, one reads to the end of the article... and discovers that this massive survey was conducted among women living in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Montenegro, Namibia, Peru, Samoa, Serbia, Tanzania, Thailand -- and Japan.
Ka-thump. That is the sound of your heels slamming back to earth. It is hardly a shock to the system to discover that famine- and flood-stricken Bangladesh, war-torn Serbia and Montenegro, and impoverished third-world countries like Peru, Namibia, Tanzania, and -- well, all the rest except Japan -- would have a high level of abuse of women. That is why (please forgive the politically incorrect assessment) those other countries, including Germany, Canada, Great Britain, and yes, the United States, make up what we call "Western Civ."
Japan is the lone exception... but even here, one abruptly realizes we have been told nothing: one out of six, with a base pool of 24,000 respondents, means 4,000 women in the sample claimed they had been violently abused. But we have no way of knowing how many (if any at all) of those women live in Japan. It's entirely possible that the domestic violence rate in Japan may be way, way below that "one in 6" ratio, and that Japan is just a "beard" for the real result.
Newsflash: Impoverished, war-ravaged, disease-ridden countries in the Third World have domestic violence rates comparable to their tribal, ethnic, religious, and criminal violence rates!
Hm... somehow, that just doesn't flow the way the headline they actually used does.
The particular fallacy here is called dropping context: if you knew at the outset that they were talking about domestic violence in the "developing" nations (developing what -- Rickets?), you would be considerably less interested in the article. It's hardly surprising that countries that have a higher homicide rate than literacy rate also have a lot of violence against women. But by dropping that context, headline-perusers are misled to believe the scare-stat refers to countries like (say) the United States.
Context dropping is a favorite fallacy of what Christina Hoff Sommers calls the "gender feminist" movement: radical feminists whose idea of feminism is simply to be pro-women and anti-men. (Sommers contrasts gender feminisim with "equity feminism," in which what is sought is equality of opportunity, not the gynocentric view that girls are good and boys are bad.)
Gender feminists are fond of reeling off statistic after flawed statistic, with wild abandon, to show how rotten men are. Another infamous fallacy used by the high-feminist cadre is what I call the all-inclusive final term:
Did you know that more than 50% of American woman have, in the last year, been murdered, beaten, raped, tortured, flayed alive, crucified, run over by a steamroller, fired from a circus cannon, hit on the head by a piano, or yelled at?
In this case, of course, virtually all of the women who fit the frightening percentage fall into the final term. The real statistic is that half of all women have been yelled at; the other dire fates in fact contribute almost nothing to that 50% figure. They serve only to alarm the reader, who might come away thinking that 50% of all America women are murdered.
A third fallacy is the eternally unchanging statistic: had you heard that women, on average, earn only "fifty-seven cents" for every dollar men earn? It's a discouraging statistic to a working woman, a seeming synecdoche of everything that is wrong with the patriarchal world. And it may even have been true -- back in the 1970s.
But the figure is never updated, though decades have passed. Once calculated (or made up out of whole cloth), the number assumes a life of its own, surviving many years of steady progress for women in the workplace. In that way, it remains a rallying cry long after it has ceased to be even vaguely correct. But no worries -- it may be fake, but it's still accurate -- in the meta-sense of conveying an important feeling that is part of "women's ways of knowing."
Between these three fallacies, you find about 99% of all gender-feminist Weltansicht. So the next time you see a feminist statistic that is just incredible, bear in mind that the word "incredible" literally means "not believable."
Date ►►► November 22, 2005
This past October 4th, as Ramadan began across the Middle East, Arabs were watching a the first of a thirty-episode television series titled "Al-Hour Al-Ayn," Arabic for "Beautiful Maidens" -- a reference to the 72 sloe-eyed virgins that supposedly await martyrs in Paradise. But what is significant about this series is its message:
DAMASCUS, Syria - A new television series being broadcast around the Middle East tells the story of Arabs living in residential compounds in Saudi Arabia and the militant Islamists who want to blow them up so they can collect their rewards in heaven - 72 beautiful virgins.
The show's message -- terrorism is giving Islam a bad name, and Muslims are suffering because of the actions of a few. [Emphasis added]
Considering the fact that the Syrian government is one of the primary terrorism-sponsoring states, this program, produced out of a studio in Damascus, is quite remarkable. But the way al-Qaeda terrorists have been operating, it was also inevitable.
The letter believed to have been writtin by Ayman Zawahiri to Musab Zaqarwi warned Zarqawi that his senseless slaughter of Moslems was alienating the militant-Islamist movement from Moslem society. This alienation appears to be spreading from country to country, a pandemic of sudden road-to-Damascus revelations in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Libya, Qatar, Yemen, and many others.
Recently, Moslem societies have started openly rejecting the jihadis. The attack on the Radisson SAS Hotel (killing many members of a wedding party), the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and the Days Inn, all in Amman, Jordan, created a firestorm of rage against Zarqawi and his terrorist organization, al-Qaeda In Iraq -- and against terrorism in general. Zarqawi's own al-Khalayleh tribe in Jordan went so far as to sever all ties with him and denounce terrorism.
"If my son was a terrorist, I wouldn't hesitate to kill him," family member Mousa al-Khalayleh said during Friday's rally, claiming he spoke on behalf of the tribe. "This is the slogan raised by the tribe as of this moment."
Sunday's message was similar to one sent last year by some members of al-Zarqawi's clan to [King] Abdullah [of Jordan]. That message, which contained fewer signatories, severed links with the terrorist for claiming a failed plot in April 2004 that targeted the Amman headquarters of Jordan's intelligence agency, the prime minister's office and the U.S. Embassy.
The reactions of the terrorists and their supporters to the Syrian-produced television show being broadcast on a Saudi satellite station are likewise predictable and tiresome. A Saudi entertainment Journalist, interviewed on CNN today (sorry no link), said that actors were "receiving death threats."
The critics are demanding the Saudi-owned and Dubai-based Middle East Broadcasting Corporation, a popular Arabic satellite television station that bought the show and broadcasts it across the region, cancel it.
Others lambasted its Syrian Muslim director and producer, Najdat Anzour, as an infidel for tarnishing the image of Islam. But still others have praised the groundbreaking series.
But after a daily dose of such death threats for years now, how threatening can such threats still be?
During Ramadan, devout Moslems fast during the day; but that means they stay home at night, gorge themselves on food, and watch TV. Many new television series debut during Ramadan, then repeat throughout the year. Millions of Arab families have already watched the series. The anti-terrorism program is being broadcast throughout the Moslem countries of the Middle East via satellite and is also being broadcast on local television in Syria and Lebanon.
I'm sure that as months pass, the memory of the Jordanian hotel bombings will fade (as the memory of 9/11 has faded for many here in America). Then many Arabs will lose some of their hatred of terrorists, especially if the jihadis refrain from attacking Moslem targets. But every time something like this happens, a few million more Moslems cross the Rubicon, finally and permanently rejecting the whole "holy war" model for the bombings and killings.
At some point, the Islamists will be on the run and without friends and safety, even in Riyadh, Damascus, and Baghdad; the civilized world will have won the global war on terrorism.
A few months ago, I (Sachi) watched a documentary about Saudi TV news. In it, a producer talking with his staff members said "terrorism is evil." A young staffer responded, "that is your opinion." The producer snapped back: "No! that is the truth!"
Truth indeed. Militant Islamism is not only the enemy of the entire free world; it has foolishly made itself an enemy to Moslems as well. The sooner the Moslem world figures this out and loudly rejects the jihad message, the better this world will be for everyone.
"Hello, Bernie Goldberg?"
Let's see how many blatant instances of anti-Tom-DeLay bias we can find in this one short article....
Judge puts off ruling on Delay dismissal
Nov 22, 2005
By Jeff Franks
Title's innocuous enough. Let's look at the first paragraph.
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Attorneys for U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay sought the immediate dismissal of conspiracy and money laundering charges against the once-powerful Republican on Tuesday, but a Texas judge said he would not rule for two weeks in the case that has derailed DeLay's political career.
Wow. So the case didn't just impede DeLay's career, or put it on hold, or even jeopardize it... it derailed it! What a train wreck. How can Tom DeLay ever recover from such a mortal blow?
Judge Pat Priest, new to the case after DeLay complained the previous judge was too close to the Democratic Party, also said he was unlikely to hold a trial before year's end if he did not throw out the indictments.
What a whiner that DeLay must be. Of course, the chief judge in Austin did actually agree with DeLay's complaint, but we don't need to get into that much detail, do we?
"This is not the only thing on my plate," he said.
...He said, wagging a finger in DeLay's face. Actually, I suspect the only finger-wagging here is by Mr. Franks.
In the nearly three-hour hearing on DeLay's case, his attorney, Dick DeGuerin, repeated assertions that DeLay had broken no laws and the indictment against him was flawed because of legal technicalities.
Yes. Technicalities such as "no crime occurred and no crime is charged," which is what DeGuerin actually argued.
The charges are part of a widening political scandal around DeLay, who has been accused of several ethical violations in recent years and whose former top aide and press secretary, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiracy to bribe public officials in a separate case in Washington.
Scanlon, after leaving DeLay's staff in 2000, was a partner with lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is being investigated for bilking American Indian tribes of millions of dollars for legislative help with their gambling casinos.
Say, where there's smoke... there's usually a lot of hot air. I love that Scanlon angle: the guy leaves DeLay, then gets in trouble -- and that's part of Tom DeLay's "widening political scandal." Never before have I seen a more artful use of guilt by disassociation.
Whew, is there a single point in these two paragraphs that is in any way germaine to this case? Oh, wait, here's something substantial:
Abramoff is also being probed for treating politicians, including DeLay, to lavish trips and perks that may have violated ethics rules in the House of Representatives.
"Politicians" including members of both political parties. But that's a minor quibble compared to the urgent necessity of singling DeLay out as particularly corrupt.
DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee helped Republicans win control of the Texas Legislature for the first time since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era. Under DeLay's guidance, the legislature then redrew congressional districts to increase the number of Republicans elected to Congress from Texas.
Waiter! A little context, please? Prior to the redistricting, Texas, one of the Reddest states in the Union, actually had a congressional delegation that was majority Democratic, due to gerrymandering. The district boundaries were so ludicrous that they more or less resembled a plate of spaghetti (which reminds me, I'd better start fixing dinner). Thanks to Tom DeLay, the Republican voters of Texas are now represented by a majority Republican delegation to Congress. Quelle dommage!
This might well be a new bias record, even in the difficult Reuters division. Keep up the good work, Mr. Franks. If you ever want to make the jump to CNN, I understand they're still looking for a replacement for Eason Jordan.
Kill Them All
Patterico is always fascinating to read... even when he's dead wrong, as he is today.
Under the title An Innocent Person Executed? [Post 1], Pat writes:
I can’t definitively say that this is the first example of a clearly innocent person having been executed in the United States — but it sure seems that way. At the very least, he shouldn’t have been convicted. This is why I have argued [Post 2 - DaH] that no death sentence should be imposed unless the defendant’s guilt is proved beyond all possible doubt. As more cases like this crop up, more people will agree with me.
I could not possibly disagree more. The problem, of course, is that the standard Patterico suggests -- that we should impose the death penalty only when the proof of guilt is "beyond all possible doubt" -- is probably impossible to achieve in this world. (Patterico disagrees; I will deal with this below.)
Under this standard, you could not even execute Osama bin Laden: after all, he wasn't even present at the scene of the crime... how can you say that beyond all possible doubt he ordered the attack?
The sad but inescapable fact is that every possible system for determining guilt or innocence will fail... and will fail in both directions. That means that some innocent people will be convicted, and also some guilty people will be acquitted.
Not "may" fail; the odds are 100% that any system will fail. This is because every system, no matter how well thought out, depends ultimately upon fallible and at times corrupt human beings. Thus, Patterico's first suggestion is clearly wrong: we have definitely executed completely innocent people before, and we shall do so again -- unless we ban capital punishment entirely.
And that is the only way to adhere to the Patterico Principle that no innocent person should ever be executed. The Patterico Principle is functionally equivalent to banning capital punishment altogether. Any judicial system that would not be able to execute bin Laden for the 9/11 murders of nearly 3,000 people could not execute any but a tiny handful of people... and even then only when the jury violates its oath and actually sentences on the basis of the reasonable-doubt standard, not the possible-doubt standard. Below a certain level of death sentences, we cannot fairly be said to have capital punishment at all.
Here is the problem, however. The damage caused when the system fails in one direction, when an innocent person is executed, is easy to see. But when it fails in the opposite direction, it's much harder to tell whether damage has been caused; we can never really know that a murderer set free did not kill again. We only know that he has not been arrested for killing again. And considering how many murders go unsolved each year, that's cold comfort indeed.
Besides, we know of many cases where a murderer loosed by a disfunctional CJS did kill again; that scenario is far more common than even the most exaggerated claims that an "innocent man was executed." In fact, I suspect that we actually know of more people killed every year by murderers who somehow get out of prison than the total number of people executed in all fifty states in that same year, including all the guilty ones. So it's very likely that more innocent life is taken because our system is too lax on murderers than is taken because it's too harsh.
This is the side of the equation that folks who call for liberalization of the CJS rarely consider with the seriousness it deserves. Pat is no exception; he discusses the possibility on another post [Post 3], but the discussion is facile and explicitly avoids quantification:
Is the death penalty a deterrent? I think it is. However, I am not convinced by the study cited by Xrlq. I have not reviewed the study, but I am highly, highly skeptical of any “study” that purports to quantify the number of lives saved by each execution — just as I am very skeptical of “studies” that purport to show that the death penalty has no deterrent effect. I simply don’t believe that any study can quantify such intangibles with anything approaching scientific precision. I am confident that any reasonably competent expert could probably take apart the study cited by Xrlq and demonstrate it to be junk science.
Patterico, who is not a statistician or even a mathematician, and who was not even aware of this study before Xrlq drew it to his attention, is nevertheless "very skeptical" of it or of any other study that "purport[s] to quantify the number of lives saved by each execution."
Why is he skeptical? Certainly not on the basis of having studied them with sufficient expertise to pass judgment on the methodology or analysis. It's hard to escape the conclusion that Pat is "skeptical" because the study clearly conflicts with the decision Pat had already arrived at before he saw the study. (I'm sure that Pat is being completely honest in saying he is skeptical; I'm questioning his accuracy, not his veracity!)
Here is the core of Pat's argument why he thinks we need this likely impossible standard of "beyond all possible doubt," or (as he phrases it later), "proof to an absolute certainty" -- which is, of course, just as bad. Early in , he argues:
[I]f it is ever shown that we have executed an innocent person, that could be the beginning of the end of the death penalty in this country. [Emphasis added, here and elsewhere except as noted]
But later, he "repeats" (those are air-quotes) the argument thus:
[I]f it is ever proven, with rock-solid evidence, that an innocent person has been put to death, that will be the beginning of the end of the death penalty in this country. Poll numbers already suggest that the public has concerns about innocents being wrongfully convicted. Common sense says that, if a concrete example of an executed innocent came to light and were widely publicized, the polls would swing wildly against the death penalty. It would take time, but such an example would (in my opinion) mark the beginning of the end of executions in this country.
This is a famous fallacy in rhetoric; I call it the Accretion of Certainty Phenomenon: one begins by saying some event might happen; the next time it rolls around (in the same piece), the event now will probably happen; and at last, in the closing argument, we discover that the event will happen.
No evidence has been adduced to explain this magical transsubstantiation from the wafer of possibility to the body of certainty. It's just the "snark" principle, from the Lewis Carroll mock-epic the Hunting of the Snark: "what I tell you three times is true." Simply repeating something makes it sound more definite, concrete, emphatic.
But in fact, Patterico gives us no reason to believe that he is correct. If you polled 1500 Americans and asked them if they believe that any state, ever in the history of the United States, has executed an innocent man, I suspect the number who would say "yes" would approach 100%. I haven't done this study, but you can try just asking around among your friends. Ask them, "do you believe that sometime since 1789, when the Constitution was finally ratified, that some state has wrongfully executed an innocent man?" If you can find even one person who says "no, no state has ever in our history executed anyone who wasn't guilty," then preserve him in formaldehyde, because you have a rare specimen of credulity indeed!
And yet, the American public still strongly supports capital punishment -- probably less than in the 1800s, but certainly more than in the 1960s. Many folks will even point to cases that they believe were wrongful executions: blacks hanged in the Jim-Crow South after a kangaroo-court conviction; Sacco and Vanzetti; Caryl Chessman, supposedly the "Red-Light Bandit;" Ethyl Rosenberg (some would even argue Julius; I personally believe both were guilty and deserved to die). Folks by and large know that dreadful mistakes happen and that innocent people have almost certainly been executed, but all but a handful of states support capital punishment anyway.
So why would "common sense" dictate that one more such case "would" result in "the beginning of the end of the death penalty in this country?" (Especially if the "innocent" person wrongfully executed was no choirboy, given how many people believe thugs who steal their cars should be executed.) This strikes me as the same sort of "common sense" that tells us that the world is flat.
But let's get back to the forbidden subject: those who die because a murderer was not executed. In this imperfect world, there are no solutions; there are only trade-offs. Every policy decision is a trade-off: you reduce aspect X only by accepting a higher incidence of aspect Y. In this case, Patterico wants to reduce the number of death sentences; but he can only do so, whether he admits it or not, by accepting an increase in the number of innocents killed by convicted murderers who somehow get loose, either into the general prison population or else back into society itself.
Like it or not, even a sentence of life without possibility of parole (LWOP) does not mean the person will actually serve life. There are a number of situations that can allow that person back into society at some point in the future:
- A future court might rule that LWOP constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" or that it was unequally applied.
- A future liberal legislature might remove that punishment from the code.
- The prisoner might be released by accident, or he might escape.
- A future governor might pardon him or commute the sentence, even without bothering to review the individual cases (as Gov. George Ryan did in Illinois in 2003, and Gov. Winthrope Rockefeller did in Arkansas in 1971, in both cases commuting death sentences to ordinary life sentences -- not LWOP).
Each of these has happened a number of times in the past. Every few years, Charles Manson comes up before the parole board. Why? He was originally sentenced to death; but the California Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Rose Bird, nullified the death penalty and changed all the death sentences to ordinary life (not LWOP, which did not exist as a distinct sentence at that point). Manson is still in prison; he's so high-profile, he'll likely never get out. But how many death-row inmates were released on parole following the Bird decision? And how many of them went on to kill again?
Unless Patterico has definite evidence that this number is significantly lower than the number of innocent people executed in California during that same period, he is wrong to dismiss the argument merely on his gut-feeling of skepticism.
So let us not make the same mistake that Patterico made; we'll leave the statement one of probability: it is likely that significantly more innocent people have been killed by murderers who eventually got out of prison than by the wrongful execution of innocent people. If Pat wants to dispute this specific point, perhaps he can start by estimating how many innocent people are typically executed per year.
Now to the point I said I would discuss below; this is "below" enough, so let's get into it! I said that the standard Patterico suggested be required for the death penalty, "proof beyond all possible doubt" (a.k.a. "proof to an absolute certainty"), was in fact functionally impossible to achieve (by which I mean you might get lucky occasionally, but not as a rule). Not surprisingly, Xrlq made the same point. Here is Patterico's rebuttal :
I think Roberta, a commenter to my original post, understands what I mean. In a comment to that post, Roberta says she prosecuted a death penalty case while personally applying the “beyond all possible doubt” standard — and she obtained a death verdict. All the while, she presented the case to the jurors just as if she had been required to prove the defendant guilty beyond all possible doubt. Even if the jury had been instructed according to my proposed standard, I’d bet that she would have obtained the same result.
And the conclusion of that paragraph?
I think Roberta’s experience indicates that my more stringent standard could work in the real world.
But the point is that Roberta did not test the Patterico Principle in "the real world," because that is not the standard the jury was instructed to apply. She may have thought in her own mind that's what she was proving; but how can we possibly know that's what the jury thought? Do we know that they didn't have doubts, discuss them in the jury room, and conclude that their doubts were not reasonable? How would Roberta know that... was she present while the jury deliberated?
Even Patterico was only willing -- at first -- to say he would "bet" that she would still have gotten her death sentence. But after the Accretion of Certainty, he concludes that her experience "indicates" that his standard would work. "Indicates" is too strong a word for this vague chain of assumptions, however. This example is meaningless as a test, because the whole point is whether a jury would ever impose the death penalty if they had to decide guilt to the preposterous standard he proposes, not what the DDA muses about while she's presenting evidence.
So in fact, Patterico has no evidence at all, not a shred, that any jury would ever find a defendant so guilty that the death penalty would apply. And certainly, even Patterico would readily admit they would do so far less frequently than they do under the reasonable-doubt standard... which means fewer death-penalty convictions, hence more murderers with life or LWOP -- hence likely more murderers let loose eventually. And some portion of those would kill the innocent again. The only question is how many, and how many wrongful executions of the innocent would be prevented by the Patterico Principle.
Given that I think it highly probable that virtually no jury anywhere could find a defendant "guilty beyond all possible doubt," which means a de-facto nullification of the death penalty, I find Patterico's alarmist conclusion amusing (in a head-shaking sort of way):
[I]f it is ever proven, with rock-solid evidence, that an innocent person has been put to death, that will be the beginning of the end of the death penalty in this country.
In fact, the Patterico Principle itself will be "the beginning of the end of the death penalty," if it's ever adopted. Since I know Pat supports the death penalty, I suggest he simply has not correctly thought through the implications of his own proposal.
By contrast, I want to see executions of those on death row easier and quicker than they are now. I believe that tremendously more innocent people are killed by our catch-and-release policy for murderers than are wrongfully executed by out of control cops, prosecutors, judges, and juries. I believe deterrence is only effective insofar as people see the punishment actually being meted out. (I also want to see caning, à la Singapore, for those habituals who see prison as free R&R with three hots and a cot thrown in.)
I want to see inmates of death row being executed at a faster pace than new ones are sent up, so we whittle down the huge surplus of dead men walking.
Will this mean some innocents are executed? Oh, without a doubt. But I believe the trade-off will be fewer innocents killed overall. And unlike the Patterico Principle, that is a trade-off that actually benefits both society and also the individuals within it.
Note: This is my conservative suggestion. If anyone cares to see my libertarian suggestion, be forewarned: it's even more gruesome and troubling to folks like Patterico than this'n!
Reforming the CIA
I'm not an expert in intelligence. I don't even play one on the internet. But that's never stopped me from tossing in my 2.38 ¥ worth... just so long as you understand I'm a complete ignoramus in this area, and my opinion is literally worthless. In fact, you're probably wasting your time reading this -- stop playing on the internet and get back to work!
What I would really like to see is the CIA broken up. All analysts should be split between realtime military-intelligence analysts (people who say "shoot this target now"), who would be transferred to the Pentagon; and longer term, strategic-intelligence analysts. The latter should be shifted to a special Intelligence Analysis Directorate, which would receive input from the CIA Provisionals (see below), the NSA, and all the military intelligence agencies, which would copy the Intel Directorate on all received intel -- other than specific targetting intelligence.
Much of the money currently spent on the CIA should go into the CIA Provisionals, to be spent recruiting, training, equipping, and supporting American citizens to infiltrate other countries' militaries, governments, businesses, universities, think tanks, and (ideally) intelligence services. Most of the remainder of the current CIA budget should follow the personnel, either into the Pentagon, the Intel Directorate, or wherever else functionality went.
The CIA Provisionals
The CIA Provisionals would consist almost entirely of undercover agents -- human-intelligence officers with no official cover. Nobody who works for an embassy, or any other job where the host country would routinely assume them to be CIA. The Provisionals would comprise only those agents whom nobody knows as agents: these will be our James Bonds.
Besides foreign-country intelligence agents, the Provisionals would also include our frontline agents for infiltrating non-state actors: terrorist organizations, multinational corporations, NGOs, the UN, and everything else that seems a likely source of intelligence. They would need some administrative personnel and some managers; but other than that, the rest are "secret agents."
The Provisionals would be organized as 4-, 6-, or 12-person teams in a classic cell structure (size determined by mission). Each person would know only a handful of other people, and then only by nickname. By and large, these would be unmarried men and women who have shown extraordinary reliability, loyalty, and courage. Every such agent would be given a $1 million life insurance policy -- and like in Mission: Impossible, everyone is told that if he is captured or killed the CIA will deny all knowledge of his existence.
The Intel Directorate
All the official-cover personnel (and we'll still need such) will be under the Intel Directorate -- which would therefore comprise all civilian intelligence analysts and openly known contact points... the people who can proudly drive their cars, with CIA stickers, into the Langley facility in full view of God and everyone. They would be organized into teams (about platoon sized) and would report up the chain; but on a rotating basis, each team lead would be taken in turn to the White House and/or a joint meeting of the House and Senate intelligence committees and questioned in secret.
This last is just to avoid the problem of the "disinformation pyramid," where each underling tells his boss only what he thinks the boss wants to hear, and tells his own subordinates only what will benefit his power. During these secret meetings, the team leads will be asked what they have been seeing, what they speculate it might all mean, what they told their supervisors, and so forth. The White House and Congress use this as a check to ensure that what the low-level analysis teams are seeing actually makes its way into the National Intelligence Estimate.
Data mining will be actively encouraged. Anybody in Congress or among the public who objects will be formally told to get stuffed.
Budgeting, Monitoring, and Recruitment
Of the $45 billion or so currently spent on the CIA budget, I would love to see at least $15 billion directed entirely to the Provisionals: salary, insurance, medical, and support activities, including insertions, extractions, satellite communications time, satellite launches if necessary (so the covert op can use a sat-phone), bribes, exotic weaponry and spyware, money for establishing unofficial cover, and so forth. Even military activities to serve as distractions or cover for a mission. This should be plenty enough money to recruit as many people as we could actually find who fit the profile.
In turn, Provisional cell-teams will have budgets to hire local thugs, terrorists, turncoats, traitors -- or technical support personnel, and so forth. Who they hire is entirely up to the team. How the team makes tactical decisions is entirely up to the team, though the team lead will be responsible for reporting up the chain. The team will be judged by the quality of its intel, not by how savory are the contacts it hires.
Obviously, there has to be someone in the Intel Directorate monitoring the Provisional teams, to make sure they don't go rogue (like Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now). I'm not sure how one goes about this, but I'm sure there are experts who specialize in such areas.
Especially heavily recruit from special-forces soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines; but the Provisionals should not be confined to big, buff men. We need women and more normal looking people too, all in good shape, but not necessarily built like the Rock.
Bonuses should be structured such that a Provisional can retire (or shift into a more open lifestyle in the Directorate) in ten or fifteen years; but they will be offered an annual stipend if they remain in the region even after retirement. If an agent opts instead to go into the Directorate, he cannot remain in the region (for obvious reasons).
Long-Term Geographical Stability
The idea is that the Provisionals settle into a geographical region and become one with their surroundings. They must know in advance that they will likely spend the rest of their careers in that one place -- unless their cover is blown. In which case, they're extracted post-haste and must leave the Provisionals. They can go into some other intelligence area or leave the agency entirely... but once blown, I think that's it. Too much danger of being recognized.
The point of remaining in a single spot is to get to know the area almost as well as a local, and also to become well-known and trusted by the locals. They will be trained in the local language so that accent is reduced to the absolute minimum necessary. Special bonuses for recruits who already speak the language, especially as a native. But every Provisional, without exception, must be an American citizen, must have no irregularities in his or her background, and must pass a background check at the highest level.
Well, anyway, those are my thoughts -- for whatever little they may be worth!
Date ►►► November 21, 2005
DeLay Hearing Tomorrow
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) will get his first opportunity tomorrow to argue that the bogus indictment against him by obsessed Democratic Texas D.A. Ronnie Earle should be dismissed for prosecutorial misconduct. That will give us our first opportunity to see how the wind is blowing, now that Earle's pet judge has been removed from the case.
We will of course blog it at Big Lizards when there is a decision (which may come some days later); this is just a heads-up!
Sony's Scary Adventures
I've been following this story for several weeks now, since I first got an alert from Jerry Pournelle -- whose excellent web site, Chaos Manor Musings, is absolutely worth your perusing time. Now it's broken into the mainstream press, big time:
Texas Sues Sony Over Anti-Piracy Software
Nov 21, 2005
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The state sued Sony BMG Music Entertainment on Monday under its new anti-spyware law, saying anti-piracy technology the company slipped into music CDs leaves huge security holes on consumers' computers.
The lawsuit is over the so-called XCP technology that Sony had added to more than 50 CDs to restrict to three the number of times a single disc could be copied.
After a storm of criticism, Sony recalled the discs last week.
To enforce the restrictions, the CD automatically installed the copy-protection program when discs were put into a PC - a necessary step for transferring music to iPods and other portable music players.
Attorney General Greg Abbott accused Sony BMG of surreptitiously installing "spyware" in the form of files that mask other files Sony installed as part of XCP.
This "cloaking" component can leave computers vulnerable to viruses and other security problems, said Abbot, echoing the findings of computer security researchers.
"Sony has engaged in a technological version of cloak-and-dagger deceit against consumers by hiding secret files on their computers," Abbott said in a statement.
You can find a list here of the fifty-two CDs that Sony currently admits had this dreadful copy-protection scheme built into them. If you have put any of these CDs into your PC's CD player, you have been infected. You have the Sony rootkit on your system, and you're now as vulnerable to hackers as you would be vulnerable to burglars if you left your front-door key under the doormat. As to what to do... I don't know. Sony has made available what they call an "uninstaller," but it appears only to uninstall the copy-protection and leaves all the security holes still on your system! Internet security companies caution that removing a rootkit can damage your computer's operating system; that's one of the things that makes them so awful: you're blued if you do and tattooed if you don't.
Sony was attempting to prevent the widespread copying of music CDs, DVDs, and computer games; as an author myself, I certainly understand the concern about such piracy: too many of Generation Next believes that they were endowed by their Creator with the inalienable right to free music and movies for life. They love to shout slogans (or more accurately type them, as they typically are a bit too shy to advocate such idiocy in person); their favorite is the imbecilic "information wants to be free!" By which they mean that information consumers want to get free stuff, and they don't give a damn who they steal from.
So, noble goal: stop the theft of intellectual property. Alas, Sony used enitrely dishonorable, even despicable means to achieve that goal, completely nullifying any shred of sympathy I would ordinarily have for them. They infected fifty-two CD releases with something they advertised as a copy-protection system, but which actually turned out to use spyware techniques to hide files on your PC... leaving gaping security holes through which malicious viruses can (and already have) slithered in.
Note that this isn't the first time that the Japanese keiretsu Sony has stumbled badly by instituting draconian or outrageous methods to prevent "copying." I want everyone of you to go out today and price some nice Betamax VCRs....
A long article in the technology section of today's New York Times asks the underlying question, going beyond the specific case of the Sony-BMG spyware: Who has the right to control your PC? They correctly note that there are two distinct property rights involved: the intellectual property rights owned by the composers and movie producers (and the sales rights owned by Sony), but also the physical property rights of PC owners.
Sony rages like a harpy about the first, but seems utterly oblivious to the last -- thus neatly undercutting its own case: if I don't get to own my own computer, why should Sony get to own its CDs? Kiddies looking for any excuse at all to rip-off music will surely not fail to notice this hypocrisy... and use it to argue that it's all right to steal stuff, but only if they rilly, rilly want it.
The intellectual property rights argument is sound: but it's just a subset of property rights in general. Sony and all other entertainment companies need to make the argument clean and find some copy-protection system that does not violate ownership rights of customers.
The Sony scheme uses a rootkit, or at least something close enough to be just as dangerous. A companion article to the piece linked above is titled What makes a rootkit? The broadest definition, good enough for non-technies such as us at Big Lizards, is that a rootkit is any software that (a) gives a third party the ability to execute commands at the root (lowest) level of your operating system, and (b) conceals its presence from the owner.
Rootkits have been widely available online, sold or given away by hackers to anyone who wants them -- typically for malicious reasons. But this is the first time I've heard of one installed covertly merely by inserting a commercial CD into your computer to play it. While Sony may only intend to protect itself from illegal copying of its CDs, the ability it creates to take over your PC's operating system remains available for any other virus or spyware that is clever enough to use filenames similar to those used by Sony.
The real question for me is -- why didn't it occur to Sony in the first place that there was something fundamentally wrong and dishonest about a corporation secretly tricking customers into handing over the reins of their PCs? And even if you think all big corporations are venal, then what possessed them to think that they would get away with it? Did they believe that their customers were all so stupid, that none of them would ever figure out that their Sony CDs were hacking into their PCs?
To paraphrase a Dierks Bentley song that was hot a few weeks ago, "I know what you were feeling, but what were you thinking?"
Internet security companies (Microsoft, McAfee, Symantec, etc.) are of course already working on rootkit removers; but it's difficult and dangerous, since even removing a rootkit like Sony's can damage your computer's operating system. This is yet another unacceptable element of Sony's dreadful error: they can damage the operating systems of the very customers they rely upon to keep them in business. How many lawsuits will be filed against Sony, I wonder? Not just from outraged individual customers, states, and the federal government, but also lawsuits filed by the artists whose CDs were issued with this insane copy-protection scheme -- and which surely now will be boycotted or rejected out of fear, perhaps even after the bad CDs are withdrawn and replaced by CDs that aren't infected.
If I were advising Celine Dion or Van Zant, I would urge them to break their contract with Sony (on "failure to disclose" grounds) and take out advertising everywhere saying not to buy the Sony version, but only the version by [fill in the blank], which is not infected with a rootkit "virus inviter." And I would advise them to demand that Sony pay for the adverts, pay the transition cost, and would insist that any future contract with Sony include a specific clause banning any type of copy-protection software that met the broadest definition of a rootkit.
Or else just sign with somebody else instead.
While You Were Sunk In a Stupor...
...Beneath the Table at Some Wretched Dive, Re-enacting the Lost Weekend, Starring Ray Miland, Jane Wyman, and Phillip Terry
As is our wont, when we're not lolling in Hawaii, working on a chain gang in Upper Iguana, or otherwise incapacitated, we here at Big Lizards post every Monday the joys and raptures you might have missed, if you're one of those folks who only read blogs during the workweek. And here they are, the posts we posted, the boasts we boasted, the toasts what were toasted, this last weekend!
Joys: Saturday, November 19th, 2005
- Agnostic Defends Faithful Against Atheist
In which we take Michael Newdow to the woodshed for his latest ludicrous lawsuit, trying to sue "In God we trust" off'n the coinage and greenbacks, and speculate that this is probably an excellent time for such a lawsuit to be heard by the Supreme Court.
- If True, So What?
Wherein we examine the crackpot allegation by a liberal blogger that Michelle Malkin doesn't really write her own blog, that it's in fact ghostwritten by her husband. Hm... could this be the voice of liberalism incredulous that a beautiful, young woman can actually think, as well? My, my!
- Did GOP Blow Murtha Vote?
Upon reflection, we herein reject the Power Line thesis that the Republicans blew a golden opportunity to trick masses of Democrats into voting for an immediate pullout from the Iraq war, without regard for consequences. It was more imporant, we muse, to reassure the troops that there was nigh unanimity opposed to the cut-and-run strategy than it was to embarass Nancy Pelosi.
- Underway: Seasickness
The first chapter of a new travelogue by Sachi about her recent "underway" testing for the US Navy Aegis system. The test was successful -- and in a break from the secrecy of the past, the Navy itself touted the success on a web site and to the press. This chapter is about the pandemic of "seasickness" among engineers who desperately don't want to spend several weeks incommunicado on a naval ship plying the high seas.
- Underway: Living Quarters
And the second chapter of the Underway travelogue, in which Sachi describes the living quarters -- "you call this living?" -- where she stayed in privacy and comfort... surrounded by thirty other gals!
Rapture: Sunday, November 20th, 2005
- Has Zarqawi's Luck Run Out at Last?
Where hope springs eternal that this time, unlike the other 966 times, rumors of Musab Zarqawi's death could turn out not to be exaggerated after all. Even as we write these words, we do not yet know -- though la Casa Blanca downplays the possiblility.
See? The best post are always published on the weekend! Disregard them at peril to your immortal soul....
Do You Have Prince Alberto In a Can?
Paul over at Power Line poses a fascinating question -- in subtext -- in a recent post:
How does the CIA protect its turf so well? Its skill in the art of the leak must play a major role. For one thing, this skill helps explain how the agency exerts so much control over those in the mainstream media who cover it.
The subtextual question is, of course, what to do about this?
My suggestion is that the Bush administration must realize that this is a terribly dangerous situation: at a time of national danger, when we are at war, the CIA has become a rogue agency, uncontrolled by any branch of the federal government. It conducts its own foreign policy; it dictates military policy (through control of the intelligence the Department of Defense needs); it has seized control of a significant portion of the powers of the elected Executive.
It's time to fight back... and best and quickest way to do so would be for President Bush to direct Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to immediately begin Justice Department investigations of this rash of recent leaks from the CIA, including the decision to allow Joe Wilson to go public with his lying claims in the New York Times about "what [he] didn't find" in Niger; the leak about the previously secret prison facilities for terrorists; and so forth.
Reporters should be subpoenaed; if they refuse to testify, put them in jail for contempt until they do. Use the full powers of the Patriot Act to seize records and find out who is doing the leaking. And then drop the hammer on them: prosecute them for misuse of classified information or even worse criminal violations. At the very least, get enough evidence to strip them of their security clearances... make it plain that leaking to the press to damage the administration is a career-terminating offense and might even lead to prison time.
Also, be sure to widely publicize the names of leakers as soon as you dredge them up. These people rely upon anonymity; if word gets around that whatever you tell Harry ends up in a Walter Pinkus column tomorrow, the leakers will be shunned by many of the folks who have unwittingly been helping them funnel damaging information to the mainstream leftist media.
Bush can do all of this without Congress lifting a finger. He can do it over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, and he doesn't need any votes from the Democrats. The press will scream; but if Bush were to demand time to give a short speech for broadcast and explain his reasons to the American people, I think they would not only back him, they would applaud lustily: "My fellow Americans, this constant stream of political leaks from the CIA has just got to stop... for God's sake, we're in a war! It's time for the Central Intelligence Agency to get out of politics and back to their actual job: gathering intelligence on our enemies, not leaking stories to the press."
This speech should be delivered with CIA Director Porter Goss at Bush's side; Goss should take over and give a few more details about what has been happening -- specific examples, so people understand the stakes. Then Goss should say he is behind the president's decision 100%... "I don't want to run an agency full of Machiavellian agents who leak classified intelligence for their own political purposes. I intend to preside over an agency with one and only one focus: gathering intelligence about our enemies, so we can use it against them."
Come on, Bush... this is a fight you can win, and one that will endear you not only to the base, but also to average Americans across the country who are uncomfortable and angry that so much classified information is readily available in the newspapers for terrorists to read. This isn't a new problem, but it's a solvable problem.
But so long as "good people do nothing," evil will triumph.
I don't know what to make of this; this is really breaking news. And it's a "crisis" in the proper sense of the word: a crossroads where we cannot see very far down any of the possible paths.
Ariel Sharon is leaving the Likud Party of Israel and forming a new party.
Ariel Sharon Leaving His Likud Party
by Mark Lavie
Nov 21, 2005
JERUSALEM (AP) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has decided to leave the political party he established three decades ago and form a new movement, one of his top advisers said Monday.
Asked if Sharon had decided to leave the Likud, top adviser Asaf Shariv said: "Yes. He will announce it sometime today."
Yesterday, the dovish Labor Party, now headed by leftist union agitator Amir Peretz, voted to pull out of the grand coalition with Likud, pretty much precipitating the collapse of the government. All of the Labor members of Sharon's government resigned, as well. Sharon has called upon Israel's president, Moshe Katsav, to dissolve the Knesset, which would bring about early elections; Katsav says he is "considering" doing so, but it's hard to see what other options he might have. If (when) he does, the elections will likely occur in March of 2006, which will annoy the heck out of Likud and some of the smaller parties, which are not prepared for elections that soon: they are currently scheduled for November 2006.
Presumably, Benjamin Netanyahu and other hardliners will remain in Likud, splitting the anti-Labor vote between two different parties. But some members of Labor, led by former leader and prime minister Shimon Peres, appear poised to bolt from Labor to follow Sharon into a new party.
The most likely outcome will be that there will be a large centrist party run by Ariel Sharon, a moderate-sized Labor Party, and Likud, likely the smallest of these three; this would put Sharon's new party in the catbird's seat, able to ally either with Likud against Labor or with Labor against Likud, as the whim strikes them; either alliance would likely yield a governing majority in the Knesset. From the New York Times:
Early polls show that a new party led by Mr. Sharon would be the largest in the Parliament, with about 28 seats of 120, but he would need other parties to form a coalition. Likud has 40 seats, but Mr. Sharon faces severe dissent within the party and its central committee, which regards him as having betrayed the principles of Likud by his willingness to hand territory considered part of the biblical land of Israel over to the Palestinians without negotiations.
But it's theoretically possible that if Labor and Likud allied against the new party, and perhaps sucked in some of the single-issue parties, they could put together a slim majority; everything depends upon the exact numbers in each. All in all, I'm quite unhappy about this. Volatility is exactly the opposite of what Israel needs now, what with the Palestinian Authority likely to come under the sway of Hamas after the January elections, with Iran itching to start firing nuclear missiles at Israel the moment they have some that work, and Syria about to explode.
I can only hope that sanity will prevail, and the Sharon party will ally with Likud on terms more favorable to each than the grand coalition of Likud and Labor that existed for the last few years until yesterday. Then cabinet seats can quickly be filled; Sharon and Netanyahu -- or Netanyahu's successor, if Bibi loses control of the hardline faction of Likud -- will no longer be rivals within the same party; and perhaps they can have a more meaningful relationship (yeesh, I sound like Dr. Ruth).
But it's just one more big, fat known unknown in the MIddle East morass.
Underway: This Ship Rocks!
"Secure all your items. We are expecting rough seas." The Project Engineer, a no-nonsense former Navy chief, warned us repeatedly before this voyage about how bad it could get where we were going. But this was my fourth underway (hey, I'm an expert!), and I had never experienced anything worse than little bit of wave action. None of my equipment had ever so much as shifted. He's being a little overcautious, I thought.
Then, on the fourth day of our voyage, bang, it happened: the ship began doing some sort of acrobatic manuevering. It rolled violently, and unsecured stuff started to cascade to the deck, crashing and smashing and bouncing around the room where I was monitoring some equipment.
A huge ring binder full of paper, weighing two or three pounds, tumbled from above me. It would have crashed directly onto my head -- except that the "unsecured" lawn chair I was sitting on started to slide across the floor with me in it. The binder thumped to the deck exactly where I had just been sitting.
I was sliding so fast, I was afraid of slamming into the bulkhead, which had a number of pointy things sticking out. I grabbed hold of the handle of a piece of equipment and jerked myself to a stop. That was close.
On previous ships, I've seen a chief ream a sailor out for having an open liquid container inside the computer room (or a loose item anywhere). The chiefs always seemed unreasonably anal about this... until that fourth day. But I want to make one thing clear: the unsecured items that fell in my workstation were not mine. My stuff was totally secure... except for my lawn chair and myself, that is!
(I have to bring my own lawn chair, because all the chairs in the room are bolted down, and none is bolted down next to where I put my equipment, of course. So unless I want to stand for hours at a time, I have to bring along one of our fold-up lawn chairs that we use when we go horse camping.)
My work on the ship is not especially physically demanding; I don't have to haul heavy equipment across the ship or bend steel with my bare hands. But just walking around inside a vessel underway requres you to be reasonably fit.
Counting from my work station, the bridge is five decks above us. The stairways connecting these floors are steep, almost like ladders. At the top of the each stairway, there is a hole called the scuttle, about the size of a manhole. Every single time I went up the stairs, I banged my knee on the edge of the scuttle.
Sometimes, the scuttle is closed, and the stairs are not accessible; you have to use actual ladderways. If you thought the staris were steep, the ladder is, well, vertical. Before exiting, you have to spin a wheel or move a latch to heave open the very heavy hatch above your head. Throughout the course of a day, I go up and down these stairs and/or ladderways many times. Since I have weak knees, I have to watch out.
Travelogue detour: Once, I was hiking in the Grand Canyon, along the South Kaibab Trail from the south rim down to the Colorado River (about 4000 feet of vertical descent over seven miles). I was wearing a pack that was way too heavy. Steps had been carved in the trail, but not for us humans; the steps were there to make it easier on the mules that also used this path. They were mule-sized steps, which means very much too large for people.
Not knowing any better, I went down the steps. Worse, I stepped down with my right foot every time, instead of alternating. Dafydd was walking around the mule steps, but he didn't think to warn me and I didn't think to ask him why he was doing that. After a few miles, my right knee started to ache so bad, I could hardly walk. So naturally, I started thumping down with my left foot each time!
You can guess what happened: by the time we reached Bright Angel campground (just near Phantom Ranch), both my knees were in total agony! They didn't stop hurting for days. When it finally came time to hike out back to the rim, I said "thank God we're going uphill for a change." Everybody thought I was very strange, but my problem wasn't lack of strength or running out of breath; it was my knees, and especially banging down on them while descending. Going up just didn't hurt so bad.
So the moral is, when you come to mule steps, just walk around them. But let's get back to the ship.
The passageway is very narrow. Two people cannot walk side by side; therefore, when someone approaches going the opposite direction, one of you has to flatten himself to the bulkhead. But you have to be careful where you do this, because pointy things are usually poking out from the wall. If you're not carefu,l you can stab yourself in the back. Since my berthing, where the ladies' head (bathroom) was, was far from my work station, I had to negotiate this narrow passageway back and forth a lot.
I kind of enjoyed this little bit of exercise. When you're stuck in the bottom of the ship, it's good to get out and walk around sometimes.
But it does get a little tricky when the ship starts to roll. Walking on a rolling, pitching ship gives you a strange sensation: as your foot comes down, you expect it to hit the deck at the certain time. However if the ship is pitching up, your foot smacks the floor sooner than you expect, and it feels like you're climbing a hill (and you are). When the ship tilts downward, you step out, but suddenly there is no deck! Untill you get used to the rythm, you stagger around like a drunken sailor.
Taking a shower in rough seas is also interesting. There is a handle inside the shower stall; I often clung to this bar and braced myself against the back wall.
I've heard that Japanese ships of this type have huge Japanese-style bathtubs. I don't see how they can use that; wouldn't the water slosh out with every roll and pitch? The waves would be worse inside the tub than out on the ocean! But since all Japanese military ships ban women anyway, I'll never find out.
Date ►►► November 20, 2005
Has Zarqawi's Luck Run Out at Last?
Musab Zarqawi has had an amazing number of close scrapes and stunning escapes. The most dramatic was when he was in a car being pursued by American forces, and his driver stopped under a bridge, allowing Zarqawi to leap out and evade apprehension (he had to leave his laptop behind in the car, which was captured with the driver; both yielded much valuable intelligence). He's had such a run that it seems the only explanation is that somebody down there likes him.
But it's possible -- not proven, not even yet claimed by our military, but possible -- that Zarqawi has finally gone to Allah to be sent downstairs to meet his benefactor. (Note that this has been claimed before, and rumors of Zarqawi's death have always been exaggerated in the past.)
All that we really know is that either we or the Iraqis received a tip that very high-value targets of al-Qaeda In Iraq were in a not-so-safe house; the house was surrounded by "U.S. forces" (the particular unit is not named in the article). There was heavy resistance from inside the house, the sort that often characterizes the presence of HVTs.
When the Coalition and Iraqi forces tried to force their way inside, one or more of the occupants set off explosives that destroyed the house, killing everyone inside (eight bodies, one of them female) -- but sadly, also four Iraqi soldiers and ten policemen, according to Omar at Iraq the Model, who cites (and links to) the news site Al Mada. Alas, the site is in Arabic, so I can't read it; if any reader here reads Arabic, please tell me what it says!
(Hat tip to Mudville Gazette for the Iraq the Model link.)
Al Mada has sources that believe one of those killed was Musab Zarqawi, but the United States has not yet conducted DNA tests (or if we have, we have not yet released the results). Let's all keep our fingers crossed that the house turns out to be Zarqawi's tomb.
I have believed for some time that al-Qaeda In Iraq has become a cult of personality, if indeed it was ever anything but. Typically, as in the Palestinian Territory, you have not one but a number of different terrorist groups who spend as much time fighting each other as fighting against the decent. But I have not heard of any other Sunni terrorist groups in Iraq besides Zarqawi's... which leads me to believe that Zarqawi has become an iconic figure to the Sunni-side terrorists, enough so that nobody dared challenge his authority.
If indeed he has been killed, he will be considered a martyr; there's no getting around that. But -- while a dead martyr may be revered, he cannot keep the terrorists from splitting into warring factions the way a living Zarqawi has done. The dead cannot recruit as well as the living, nor can they plot and plan horrific attacks with the same boldness and gut-sense of their victims' vulnerabilities.
If Zarqawi has been slain, the effectiveness of the Iraq jihad will be shattered. Within a few weeks, they will run out of Zarqawi-created operations; they may splinter even sooner than that. In any event, al-Qaeda In Iraq cannot survive the death of its cultic figure, I believe, not in its present form and effectiveness (effective only at slaughtering innocent Iraqi civilians -- but that's bad enough).
So let's hope the evil doer is no longer sucking air. As I have found many occasions to say, all human life has value... but sometimes that value is a negative number.
Date ►►► November 19, 2005
Underway: Living Quarters
When I ride on a co-ed ship, I sleep in the same room with enlisted girls. In quarters the size of a typical living room (they call it "berthing"), about thirty girls sleep. There are ten three-decker beds, two tables, one TV, two toilets, and a shower.
The beds are narrow and only six feet long (if you are a tall guy, you have to sleep folded up). The ceiling is so low that you cannot sit up without splitting your skull. You literaly have to crawl into and out of the bed. They don't call these racks "coffin beds" for nothing!
Most sailors don't want to sleep on the top bed. Therefore, when a civilian like me comes aboard, that's where she is most likely to be assigned. This was actually fine with me. Although climbing a ladder up and down while half asleep is not a easiest thing in the world, the top bed has much higher ceiling. For a claustrophobe like me, it is actually better. (Besides, I don't have to worry about somebody above me getting seasick in the middle of the night, if you know what I mean.)
When that many people live in such a small room, you notice a lot of things: smell, sound, lack of privacy. Even though the berthing is cleaned every day, the odor of thirty people can get overwhelming, especially as I have a very acute sense of smell. There are cans of air freshener everywhere, and the girls use it obsessively; but it only masks the smell and makes it even worse! Also, everyone uses her own flavor of perfume and deodorant, so that the room is always filled with some sort of weird, sweet odor, like rotting flowers. A dog would go crazy in there!
The ship is always noisy. Different pieces of equipment are making all kinds of noise all the time. Our berthing was right next to the engine room, so we heard the lullaby of the ship's engines clanking and grinding all night long. Also the berthing was same level as the ocean surface, so I heard the waves lapping at the hull, which was actually rather soothing.
None of these sounds bothered me. After a while, I forgot they were even there. I sleep very soundly anyway (Dafydd sleeps with one eye open, and he's never totally asleep, it seems).
The only thing that really bothered me were the gazillion alarm clocks. Sailors have many different shifts: some get up at midnight, some at 3:00 a.m., and so forth, and everyone sets his alarm accordingly. From midnight through six a.m., I was awakened every hour, on the hour, by somebody's stupid alarm clock. And of course, since each person's clock is slightly off from all the others, a bunch of alarms go off within few minutes, creating a bell curve of sleep deprivation.
Some people don't wake up right away, and their alarms keep ringing or buzzing for seemingly minutes. For god's sake, get up already! I thought to myself. It was impossible to sleep through the night even for me. And of course at 0600, the good old reveille sounds!
I never set my alarm. What's the use? With all those bells and beepers going off, I couldn't tell which one was mine anyway. So everytime I woke up, I checked the time and just got up when necessary. I was never late.
For some people, the lack of privacy is really an issue; but it turned out for me it wasn't. When ten people try to take a shower, go to the bathroom, and wash their faces, all at the same time, you cannot be embarrased about anything. Girls burp and fart in front of everyone and don't care. (I did try to avoid eating anything that could produce gas.)
Some people just put on headphones and zoned out, hiding in their racks with the curtain drawn... did I tell you each coffin bed has a curtain? Me, I just sat at the table and read. I finished three or four books, so the underway wasn't entirely wasted!
I work for the United States Navy as a civilian engineer. What I do requires me to be on ships a lot, but most of the time, I simply visit the ship at a port or shipyard. In fact, in four years of my Navy career, I never had to go underway untill this fiscal year started, and I joined a new project team.
When I thought of riding a ship, the first thing that worried me was seasickness. I am prone to some types of motion sickenss: I get car sick, air sick, and even a Disneyland ride can make me sick. I heard horror stories from my co-workers, some of whom said they carried around "barf bags" everywhere they went. Some guys were sick even before the ship left the harbor, and one guy was actually helpless with seasickness while the ship was still tied to the pier!
One of my co-workers got so dehydrated, he had to be treated with an IV drip. Needless to say, this job is not particularly popular amongst many of the engineers... and I think some of them use their weakness as a weapon: since they get seasick, they don't have to go underway for weeks at a time, without even being able to call home, like I have to.
The problem with getting sick on a Navy ship is that, for obvious reasons, you can't get off the boat. If the ship is not too far from land, they can helo you out; but otherwise, you're just stuck. And the on-board medical personnel cannot do much for a civilian; they're not authorized to give you anything much more than aspirin, unless it's a medical emergency.
The first time I went underway, I was really worried about being seasick. I brought enough Bonine pills to last for two weeks and took them religiously for the first week. Although Bonine is not supposed to make you drowsy, I felt like I was half asleep all the time. Every time I sat down, with the combination of the Bonine and the rocking motion of the ship, I was out like a light... and the Navy takes a dark view of people falling asleep on watch, military or civilian.
I finally had to give up and stop taking the pills -- and then it turend out that I don't get seasick at all! Even in a rough ocean, when some of the sailors themselves were down on the floor holding their heads, I was perfectly fine. At one meeting, a young officer was giving a presentation. Suddenly he stopped in the middle and fled to the bathroom. (What do you do if you find out you're prone to seasickness after you enlist in the Navy?)
Dafydd tells me ginger pills work well, according to Adam and Jamie on the show Mythbusters: they were the only non-pharmaceutical cure that actually worked for Adam Savage, who has a terrible problem with seasickness. I should recommend that to my coworkers. That way, they will have no more excuses for not going underway, and I won't have to go so often.
Did GOP Blow Murtha Vote?
Over on Power Line, John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson each separately come to the conclusion that the Republicans screwed up by voting, not on the exact wording of the Murtha proposal, but on a nearly identical simplification of it: Much Ado About Nothing, I'm Afraid and Friends, Romans, Clowns, respectively:
John: The House leadership had a golden opportunity to make the Democrats put up or shut up tonight, and I'm afraid they blew it. Rep. John Murtha offered a resolution demanding surrender in Iraq within six months (at least, that's how the New York Times describes it; I haven't seen the actual text, and news reports have varied.) If the House leadership had precipitated a vote on what Murtha actually proposed, we could have had a useful moment of clarity. Instead, however, they scheduled a vote on a resolution calling for immediate withdrawal, which was how Murtha's resolution was widely reported, but, apparently, not quite what it said. That gave the Democrats an easy out; they opposed it, and it failed overwhelmingly (403-3 is the last tally I've seen.)
Scott: Why didn't the Republicans just use Murtha's language? If all but three Democrats wanted to claim that "is hereby terminated" means something other than immediate withdrawal, fine. I think what would have emerged is that the only distinction is that logistics will require that the withdrawal take a certain amount of time, and will not, in that sense, be "immediate." The Democrats would have had to say what they really think about Iraq, or at least pretend to. Instead, they were given an easy out. Since the Republican resolution wasn't the same as Murtha's, they could credibly denounce it as a "sham" and their orchestrated votes against it mean nothing at all.
I disagree, and I believe John and Scott, so caught up in the politics of the vote (as was I until this bleary-eyed moment of clarity this afternoon) have lost sight of the purpose of the vote.
I now believe the purpose was not to humiliate the Democrats, though it certainly succeeded serendipitously at that: look not at the actual vote but rather at the hysterical denunciations of the war, the Republicans, the president, and indeed everyone who didn't believe we should cut and run. Assuming Ken Mehlman was bright enough to have the VCRs rolling, there is fodder here for TV commercials all across America in 2006. Dennis Kucinich's rant, which ended with him shrieking in unintelligible falsetto, like an out-of-control teenage girl in a raging hormone attack, will all by itself be worth at least 7% to Ken Blackwell next year!
For John's and Scott's positions to make sense, they would have to have been hoping that many more Democrats would have voted for the version that Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) actually proposed:
Section 1. The deployment of United States forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.
Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S Marines shall be deployed in the region.
Section 3 The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.
Rather than an attempt to seize political advantage by portraying the Democrats as feckless and irresponsible (which indeed was my original proposal), I believe the Republicans' purpose was to mitigate the damage to troop morale and the psychological boost to the morale of al-Qaeda in Iraq by instantly showing that the United States was not about to withdraw precipitously from that country -- which is how al Jazeera and all the major news sources here had (accurately) reported Rep. Murtha's original proposal.
If this is correct, then what the Republicans did was rise above the instant gratification of watching the Democrats damage their chances in 2006 -- and damage the nation's credibility in the process -- and put the troops' and the country's interests ahead of the GOP's own political interests: the troops were likely shocked and stunned by Murtha's original proposal and may have been terrified they were going to be "Vietnamed" by Congress. Rather than rack up a tidy 50 or 100 Democratic votes for just this policy, thus rattling the troops even further (and giving the terrorists the idea that if only they help the Democrats win in 2006, everything their hearts desire will come to them), the Republicans instead went for an overwhelming rejection of the underlying idea -- demonstrating not only to the terrorists but also our allies and our own military that Congress has absolutely no intention of cutting our soldiers' shanks from under them.
Perhaps it is we pundits who should be embarassed at allowing our desire to see the the Democrats damaged blind us to the very real damage that would concomitantly be done to the war effort itself. I think the Republicans did just fine.
If True, So What?
Liberal Avenger has a thesis that the brilliant and beauteous (my adjectives, not LA's) Michelle Malkin's blogposts are actually collaborations with her husband Jesse, some even (he suspects) written entirely by Jesse. (This post, and the one by Auguste discussed below, were posted in early April of this year.)
I have no clue whether this is true... but let's assume it for sake of argument. My question is "so what?"
Another blogger on LA, Auguste, anticipates this response in a subsequent post; but his or her reasons are weak and depend upon a critical point: the idea that blogging is fundamentally the same as journalism, hence should be held to journalistic standards. (Auguste is hardly disinterested, operating the blog Malkin-Watch in addition to group blogging on the Liberal Avenger.)
I would argue, contrariwise, that blogging is much closer to fiction writing than journalism. As a novelist myself, I do not see this as pejorative but descriptive (sort of like "in God we trust", eh?)
The distinction is important, because in journalism, what matters most is veracity, accuracy, and authority. Well, what used to matter most and should still matter today. But what matters most in fiction is entertainment (at least in my biased opinion); to the extent that character, complexity, literary landscaping, wordsmithing, and creativity matter in literature, they matter because thinking persons (my own audience) find such traits entertaining and are less entertained by mindless, derivative trash, à la the last seventeen or eighteen Anne Rice vampire novels.
This is not to say that blogposts are fiction, only that the appropriate standard for both is the same. Indeed, I struggle to make mine nonfiction; but I also attempt, at least, to make them entertaining!
On those occasions where Michelle Malkin (or Captain Ed Morrissey, or the Power Line gents) conducts original research, interviews sources, and breaks news stories, she is not blogging; she is rather engaging in open-source journalism -- and publishing it on what otherwise is a blog.
So my premise is that blogging falls under the same literary rules as fiction, not the distinct rules of professional journalism -- whether heirarchical or open-source. But what are these standards anyway?
From the basic premise that the primary duty of fiction is to entertain the reader, we infer several corollaries; I will list those that dispute Auguste's post from the Liberal Avenger:
- It's the lying
In the fiction standard, truth clearly does not mean the exact recitation of events that actually occurred, since that would mean all fiction was a lie -- which renders the term meaningless in that context. Rather, truth is the honest exploration of process. A fictionalize account of a romance, for example, is "honest" or "true to life" if it accurately depicts how two people might fall in love, showing all the pitfalls and bad mistakes as well as the beauty and terror... in other words, if the reader gets the feeling he is reading about real people in real situations.
In this sense, the byline is part of the product. Arthur Conan Doyle is not being dishonest when he pretends that the Sherlock Holmes tales were actually written by Dr. John Watson instead, because Conan Doyle writes as much like the character "Watson" would as one could possibly do; Watson is, if anything, even more alive than Holmes, because we see his thinking process so much more clearly.
Thus, even if Liberal Avenger's supposition is correct, and "Michelle Malkin" is a persona (like "Enya") rather than an individual blogger, so much the better! Because the posts come across as written by a single integrated human being. If two people are writing them, they're darned good at it.
- It's the scandal
Michelle has always been very hot on the idea that blogs are home to better reporting than the mainstream media. Well, one of Rick Bragg's biggest transgressions was allowing others to write stories under his byline. If Michelle were to admit that "Michelle Malkin" is a generic byline for both herself and Jesse, then fine. Except, of course...
This is pretzel logic. Michelle Malkin did not say "blogs must be held to journalistic standards." She doesn't demand they have editors separate and distinct from the authors, for example, nor that they adhere to "two-source" rules and suchlike. Thus, Rick Bragg's "transgression" is a non-sequitur. Literature abounds with supposedly single-author books that are in fact collaborations, and they cause no scandal at all.
- It's the persona
A quick glance through Technorati reveals, if one didn't know already, that Michelle is something of a right-wing darling.... It seems more than possible that Jesse Malkin, as a white male producing anti-immigrant, racially focused writings, would only ever be a face in the crowd.
For this to violate standards of literature, this "persona" would have to contradict Michelle Malkin's own, true personality, character, and beliefs... like if I were to ghost-write a hagiography of John Kerry simply because I was paid to do so.
But anybody who has seen Michelle on any of her numerous excursions on Fox News Channel (usually Hannity and Colmes) knows in his gut that those really are her opinions, beliefs, and passions. She could not possibly argue them as effectively in the heat of battle if she were simply parroting her husband -- which is, let's be honest, what Liberal Avenger is really saying in the first post: he is implying that a simple Joisey goil couldn't possibly be such an excellent writer or make such devastating critiques... so it must really be the man in her life.
This strikes me as a decidedly illiberal sentiment, but that is not the point. I think that if pressed, even Liberal Avenger would have to agree that the evidence indicates this "persona" matches Michelle Malkin's known "self," and we dispense with this argument.
- It's the questions it raises
The question to which Auguste refers is one of propriety of interests. Auguste quotes LA:
Has "Michelle" ever blogged or written about topics related to what Jesse was working on for the government at the think tank while Jesse was still connected with the think tank in any way?
But that is not the question: if Liberal Avenger or Auguste wants to charge Jesse Malkin with revealing any proprietary information covered under classification or a non-disclosure agreement, he needs to come right out and say so -- and produce some evidence. My wife, Sachi, works for an employer who has proprietary information; yet she is perfectly free to blog about all sorts of "topics related to" her area of expertise... there are only certain, specific things she must avoid revealing.
Journalists should steer clear of subjects with which they are too intimately involved, as dispassionate reporting is (supposed to be) the sine qua non of good journalism. But contrast a newspaper article with such great works of literary fiction as Ralph Ellison's the Invisible Man and Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Would anyone deny that the intense personal experience the authors had in these precise areas -- Ellison was, indeed, an erudite black man living in New York City in the 1940s, and Heller absolutely did fly 60 combat missions as the bombardier in a B-25 flying out of Corsica -- contributed to, rather than detracted from, their works?
The point is made: the crabs and snivels by which Auguste attempts to indict Michelle Malkin for the crime of being half of an unannounced collaboration (whether she is "guilty" or not is another question) have a common error... assuming that the proper standard to judge blogging is the journalistic standard of either a newspaper of high repute, such as the Washington Times, or even a squalid piece of yellow journalism, such as the New York Times.
But the correct standard to use is that of literature, rather than newspaper writing; and without addressing how Michelle Malkin and/or husband Jesse stack up on the scale that runs from a Joseph Conrad at the top to an Edward Bulwer-Lytton at the bottom, clearly the question of whether her husband also writes under the name "Michelle Malkin" is a non-issue.
That "question" is in fact completely irrelevant to the only urgent query: does "Michelle Malkin" write well? To which each reader may craft his own answer, in blissful ignorance of the exact composition of the author.
Agnostic Defends Faithful Against Atheist
This case could not have come at a better time:
Atheist Now Sues to Take Motto Off Money
Nov 18, 2005
By David Kravets
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (AP) - An atheist who has spent four years trying to ban the Pledge of Allegiance from being recited in public schools is now challenging the motto printed on U.S. currency because it refers to God.
Michael Newdow seeks to remove "In God We Trust" from U.S. coins and dollar bills, claiming in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that the motto is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. [Emphasis added]
I believe the result of this case is obvious: the Supreme Court will rule against Newdow, probably on a 5-4 decision led by the Chief Justice.
Let's start with the specifics: there is no constitutional prohibition against an "endorsement of religion." There is a First-Amendment ban on establishing a religion, but establishing and endorsing are completely separate. To the extent that judges pretend there is such a ban (for example, the Ninth Circuit in Michael Newdow's first Pledge of Allegiance case), they are covertly amending the Constitution -- and they well know it.
For this to stick, however, you need a Supreme Court to go along with the game and pretend that merely mentioning the fact that the nation was founded by men who believed in God, or at least "Nature and Nature's God," and who did in fact put their trust in that deity, violates the Constitution written by those very same Founders. If that's a logical inference, then I am Marie of Romania.
This should perhaps ring a bell:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
The Declaration of Independence is the foremost foundational document of our nation; all else, including the revered Constitution, was derived from this document. And this document itself was incorporated into federal law more than 125 years ago as one of the Organic Laws of the United States (along with the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787... and to answer Scott Johnson's question at the end of the Power Line piece, the Northwest Ordinance was the first piece of legislation from the Continental Congress -- predating even the Constitution -- that made it clear the United States would expand westward across the continent... and would do so by creating new states, rather than by making existing states larger; thus, it was every bit as influential on the "shape" of the United States as was the Constitution itself).
Sorry about the digression. Where was I? Oh yes, the primary foundational document unambiguously puts trust in God... hence the money motto. The phrase "in God we trust" is therefore historical, traditional, and descriptive; while the First Amendment only prohibits a prescriptive establishment of religion, such as the Church of England, and any proscription of the free-exercise of religion.
But Scott notes an important point in that Power Line piece I just linked, discussing the Ninth Circus Court of Appeals' agreement with Newdow that the Pledge was unconstitutional:
One interesting facet of the decision is that it only modestly extends the Supreme Court's misguided First Amendment jurisprudence on the subject of religion in the schools; I have read very little suggesting that the decision misapplies the jurisprudence.
So in fact, Newdow is making a good "paper bet" that the Supreme Court will play along with the charade; after all, it always has in the past. Even when they struck down the Ninth's decision, they did so on the weakest of all possible grounds: the Court simply found that Michael Newdow had no standing to sue on behalf of his daughter because he did not have custody. They never addressed the merits of the case.
So why is this the best possible time? Because we are virtually assured that this time, the case will actually be decided on the merits -- and that this time too, the Court will prune away that "misguided First Amendment jurisprudence on the subject of religion."
Not because of the changes in the makeup of the Court; Sandra Day O'Connor and William Rehnquist, replaced by Samuel Alito and John Roberts respectively, joined with Clarence Thomas the last time through, calling on the Court to decide the actual issue, rather than punting.
So why did they punt last time? I deduce it was because it would have ended up a four-four tie had they ruled on the merits.
The problem with the Pledge case was that Antonin Scalia recused himself, since he had given a speech on the subject of the case; so there were only eight justices hearing it. Now, let's suppose there were five justices ready to rule that the Pledge was indeed unconstitutional. In that case, I cannot imagine they would have gone along with booting the case on a technicality that they well could have ignored, or at least signaling in their opinions that if he refiles properly (as he now has done in Son of the Pledge of Allegiance), he'll be very happy with the results.
But by the same token, we know there were three justices who believed it was constitutional: Thomas, O'Connor, and Rehnquist. If there were two more, even without Scalia, then they would have done what they said they wanted to do: ruled on the merits and struck down the Ninth's decision more substantively.
Ergo, with my two lemmas above -- no five justices in favor of upholding the Ninth, nor five in favor of overturning it on substantive matters -- plus the Scalia recusal, I finally conclude that the score was 4-4... hence the compromise.
And that leaves Antonin Scalia. I believe that Scalia would have seen the light on the Pledge case and will do so in the coinage case: that the phrase is no more an establishment of religion than is the eye-and-pyramid seal an establishment of Freemasonry. Therefore, assuming Scalia can keep his piehole shut this time and needn't recuse himself, the case will probably hinge 5-4 in favor of sending Newdow away with a flea in his ear.
In fact, I think I can even name the five justices who will so rule: Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia, and Kennedy. Ginsburg, Breyer, and Stevens (assuming he's still sucking air and not retired by then) will vote with Newdow... and David Souter is a coin-toss on this issue, in my opinion.
Hm, just as I thought: it was obvious, after all!
Date ►►► November 18, 2005
Lies and the Lying Congressliars Who Lie Them
I'm listening to Hugh Hewitt, who keeps cutting to the floor of the House to listen to Liberals Gone Wild (if they hold a wet T-shirt contest, I'm out of here). I heard a rapid-fire, one-two punch of mendacity from the Democrats that I just had to share.
First, I don't know who it was (we didn't hear the announcement), but Democrat 1 said that 15,000 soldiers had been "grievously wounded."
This was followed immediately by Rahm Emmanuel, that paragon of honesty who used to be a top aide for that other paragon of honesty, Bill Clinton; Emmanuel said that we had seen "25,000 wounded" in Iraq.
I found this a fascinating synchronicity, because just last night, I read this Mudville Gazette post:
In [Rep. Murtha's] speech demanding our immediate surrender in Iraq he cited this statistic on casualties over there: "Over 15,500 have been seriously injured".
He's been visiting them in the hospitals, and that's awesome. But he may have gotten that bit of numerical intel from British sources - specifically the UK's Telegraph, who recently claimedWhile much was made of the US death toll recently reaching 2,000, little has been said of the 15,000 who have returned home mutilated.
You see, that's not quite right.
There have indeed been over 15,500 wounded. But of those, 8375 returned to duty within 72 hours - so although those wounds weren't funny perhaps those wounds weren't quite serious either. Still, 7347 troops have been wounded severely enough to require over 72 hours recuperation. Furthermore, 2,791 Soldiers were wounded seriously enough to require evacuation to Stateside Army Medical facilities. And 280 amputees have been treated in Army facilities as a result of the war. A lot of unscrupulous types who just want to pretend to "support the troops" ignore these facts in favor of the less correct (and more impressive) claim that 15,500 troops have been seriously wounded, or maimed, or mutilated. The real numbers are big enough - I just can't understand why some feel the need to pad them.
At this point, on Iraq policy, the Democrats have dropped barren reason and left themselves only fury (Rahm Emmanuel), hysteria (Dennis Kucinich), sarcasm (Nancy Pelosi), and bile (the normally gentlemanly Tom Lantos). Speaker after speaker arose from the left side of the aisle claiming that nameless Republicans had "questioned the patriotism" of John Murtha (the "uncheckable anecdote" again).
Samuel Johnson said that "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." If so, accusing your opponent of questioning your patriotism, when all he has questioned is your judgment and sanity, is the last refuge of the tongue-tied. Resorting to easily disproven lies about the number of "grievously wounded" is the mark, not of desperation, but of just not giving a damn anymore. Resorting to the infantile attack of calling the president a "liar" and the vice president a "chickenhawk" and "vice president of torture," because you would fight the war differently (if at all), is what Rudyard Kipling called "the mark of the beast."
I am so tired of this Democratic Party. It has never been worse than it is today. I am so tired of the lies, the smears, the hysterical fear mongering, the faux tears, the ersatz outrage at imagined slights. I am so tired of Nancy Pelosi's snide asides; she literally said today that John Murtha had shown "great courage" by "speaking truth to power." I rib you not: she used those very words. She has become a walking parody of a radical San Francisco feminist.
I am tired of the rot that reaches out and touches every member of that party, no matter how sane he was before the 2000 election. The miasma of corruption that follows Democrats around, like the cloud of dust permanently hovering over Pig Pen, has reached out a tendril and struck again... and I am utterly disgusted by it, never more so than today.
I held off on this post until I saw the final vote on the Murtha proposal. Here is the tally:
Republicans: 0 Yea, 215 Nay (16 not voting, probably already home for Thanksgiving);
Democrats: 3 Yea, 187 Nay, 6 voted "present" (6 not voting).
Bernie Sanders: 1 Nay
Well, the Murtha episode is all over but the shouting now... and expect plenty of that, as Republicans take to the weekend talk shows pointing out that the Democrats may talk a good fight about "a war we shouldn't even be in," but when actually put to a vote, they had to suck it up and admit the Republicans are right to stay the course.
And the Democrats will take to the airwaves whining that it was a totally unfair ambush to force them actually to vote on their defeatist and increasingly reality-challenged rhetoric.
So it goes.
Denny Hastert Finds a Spine
Or perhaps he simply rented one. In any event, he has wisely scheduled a vote on Mad-Eye Murtha 's document of surrender.
House Republicans, sensing an opportunity for political advantage, maneuvered for a quick vote and swift rejection Friday of a Democratic lawmaker's call for an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq.
"We want to make sure that we support our troops that are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. "We will not retreat."
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi had no immediate reaction to the planned vote.
Quelle surprise. She's already chewed through most of the rugs in her congressional office suite and is commencing on the furniture. The absolute last thing the Democrats wanted at this juncture was actually to be put in the quandry of going on record about what to do in Iraq -- stay and fight or cut and run, abandon our allies, and lunge at American defeat as if it were the brass ring on the merry-go-round.
The "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" is in raptures over the Murtha proposal. MoveOn, Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, our old friend Stansfield Turner (who calls Dick Cheney "vice president for torture"), Ramsey Clarke, Noam Chomsky and the like are always overjoyed when they can make America lose a war; and the fact that we would then assuredly be attacked over and over again by terrorists would just be icing on the cake, since they believe we could only respond then by becoming more socialist, more appeasing, weaker... more like France.
But the AP story has the other horn of the dilemma exactly backwards:
By forcing the issue to a vote, Republicans placed many Democrats in a politically unappealing position - whether to side with Murtha and expose themselves to attacks from the White House and congressional Republicans, or whether to oppose him and risk angering the voters that polls show want an end to the conflict.
Yeah, they wish. There has been no poll whatsoever that has ever showed a majority of the American voter (or even a sizable minority) wants us to bolt from Iraq and make all the Democrats' dreams about Vietnam come true. Not a one. Every poll shows that, regardless of whether they support the war or now believe it was not worth fighting, whether they believe the president was correct, wrong but truthful, or that he "lied us into war," Americans nevertheless recognize that the war has become a war against the most evil forces of terrorism and must be won before we can withdraw. Iraq must be left as a functioning democracy that has the ability to defend itself.
And that is the other side of the coin for Democrats: they can either vote against Murtha and infurate the leftmost branch of the party, which happens to be the only branch left with political energy (and necessary cash)... or they can vote with Murtha and reinforce, all over again, exactly why they can never again be trusted with the reins of power. "The Democrats were absolutely right to compare Iraq to Vietnam," the Republicans should argue: "because in both cases, the Democratic Party wants America to surrender to evil and withdraw from the world, hoping that appeasement causes our enemies to take pity on us. They were wrong to cower before Ho Chi Minh in 1974 -- and it's just as despicable to crawl before Zarqawi in 2005."
The other excellent outcome of this vote today -- and I truly hope the argument stretches on over the weekend and into next week, so we can milk this terrible error by the Democrats for all it's worth -- is that it will put all House Republicans on record as well: and I expect that each and every one, the entire 232-member extended family (weird uncles and crackpot cousins included), will vote to defeat John Murtha's craven proposal. They have no need to appease appeasers, as there is no MoveOn wing of the GOP.
This gives them a golden opportunity to get that "mulligan" we all want on the stupid Senate vote: the House can redeem the other side of Capitol Hill. And just because they're not voting, don't expect the Senate Republicans will keep their mouths shut about this; they can erase by their denunciation of this bill the taint of their slap at President Bush a few days ago.
Finally, the Bush administration had better pounce on this over the weekend and beat the Democrats like a taiko drum for the next several months. The meme is obvious: "For three years now, the Democrats have been obsessed, even possessed, with trying to prove that the president lied us into the war, despite all the evidence that convinced even the Democrats themselves just three years ago. And what is the result of this derangement? They become so intent upon making their 'Iraq equals Vietnam' rhetoric into a self-fulfilling prophecy, they're now actually demanding that America surrender to the terrorists, just to enhace the Democrats' political prospects in 2006 and 2008."
Speaker Hastert has shown the excellent political instincts that propelled him into the big chair in the first place. Go, dawg, go!
Who Is John Murtha?
The fact that a man steps up, joins the Marines, and does his duty in Korea (one year) and Vietnam (one year) makes him a brave, resourceful, and responsible citizen.
It doesn't necessarily make him bright.
Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) has a BA in economics from Indiana University of Pennsylvania -- a minor degree from a minor university. He went into politics at age 36 and has been there ever since (he's 73 now). His seat appears to be totally safe: Wikipedia says his only two close electoral calls were both in primaries; he took the seat from the Republicans in 1974, but that was in the depths of Watergate... since then, it has been a totally safe Democratic seat.
Although he has been in Congress for thirty-one years, his highest rank has been chair/ranking member of an appropriations subcommittee; that is, his subcommittee votes on spending bills. He has never been in the House leadership, minority or majority.
For all of John Murtha's website boasts about his "first-hand knowledge of military and defense issues" that made him "a trusted adviser to presidents of both parties and one of the most effective advocates for the national defense in Washington," I don't see anything in his background that would mark him as particularly knowledgeable about high-level strategy: he seems never to have commanded any unit larger than a company; he doesn't claim to have been through the Naval War College; he has never been Secretary of Defense or a service secretary.
There are twenty-nine Democrats who are members of the House Armed Services Committee (including Loretta Sanchez and Cynthia McKinney), but John Murtha is not one of them.
John Murtha appears to be a reasonably well-respected back bencher, one of the innumerable nomenklatura that litter the halls of the Capitol.
His attack on Dick Cheney as a chickenhawk is fascinating from a psychological standpoint: it seems excessively defensive. In reality, Cheney has had a much more successful career at virtually every level, and in particular in military matters: he was White House Chief of Staff to Gerald Ford at age 34 (the youngest in history); in the House of Reps, he was chairman of the Republican Conference and then Minority Whip (same position as Tom DeLay, except the Republicans were then in the minority).
As Secretary of Defense under Bush-41, Cheney actually sat in the War Room in the Pentagon with the top flag officers, planning strategy for Operation Just Cause (Panama) and Operation Desert Shield/Storm (Kuwait). Murtha, of course, has never done this. In fact, Murtha never served in any administration, so he has no strategic command experience in any way or form.
During the Clinton years, Cheney headed one of the largest companies in the world, Halliburton (currently ranked 654th in the world on the Forbes 2000), market cap around $20 billion, revenues about $20 billion, nearly 100,000 employees under Cheney's management; Halliburton is primarily an energy-construction company, but they do a lot of military contracting... so Cheney saw that side of military strategy as well. And he has now been vice president for five years, intimately involved at every stage with both the Commander in Chief and the current SecDef, his old boss, Don Rumsfeld, during two significant wars and scores of U.S. military involvements around the world.
Murtha is not privy to any highly classified intelligence; Cheney of course sees virtually all of it.
Yes, true: Dick Cheney signed up for a draft reclassification to 3-A (married with children) in 1965, and he was not drafted into Vietnam. He was already twenty-four at the time, just two years from likely not being draftable anyway. BFD.
John Murtha's background -- even in military matters -- doesn't begin to approach Cheney's, and Murtha knows it. The fact that he spent two or three years on active duty (and thirty-five years in the reserves) doesn't alter that essential fact: Murtha has never had any experience with, let alone responsibility for, military strategy... he simply did what he was ordered to do, first as an enlisted Marine, then as a Captain. This is honorable, but it is not a qualification for passing judgment on the strategic progress of a war.
Rep. John Murtha has no qualification to judge whether a war is "unwinnable" or should be abandoned. Dick Cheney does. End of story.
Date ►►► November 17, 2005
Help Send a Kid to Camp -- Camp Baghdad!
The brilliant Bill Roggio (the Fourth Rail), so full of bonhomie and bullroar, is bouncing off to Baghdad to blog the battles in just one week... but he's still $3500 short of the necessary. He needs some donations.
So consider this a bleg for Bill. If you have a spare hundred rolling around in uncollected change beneath the cushions of your couch, or even just twenty bucks stuffed in your penny loafers, send it to Bill. You can use PayPal or make other arrangements via e-mail with Bill.
Come on, muchachos, give it up to send Old Bill to Eye-Rack. He does scary things like this so that you don't have to!
"Cut and Run" -- the Slap Back
Antimedia writes in the comments to "Cut and Run" Now Out In the Open that the White House has already responded to Rep. Murtha's call for capitulation to Musab Zarqawi and the merry men of al-Qaeda in Iraq:
Statement by the Press Secretary on Congressman Murtha's Statement
Congressman Murtha is a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting a strong America. So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party. The eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists. After seeing his statement, we remain baffled -- nowhere does he explain how retreating from Iraq makes America safer.
"The policy positions of Michael Moore... surrender to the terrorists... retreating from Iraq" -- no-siree, this is not the president's father's administration anymore!
This spills more wind into the sails of those of us who desperately want to see Bush really start to fight back against unuseful idiots like Rep. Murtha.
For Cranky Supporters of Technology
I love this AP story:
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) - A cheap laptop boasting wireless network access and a hand-crank to provide electricity is expected to start shipping in February or March to help extend technology to school-aged children worldwide. [Emphasis added]
Here's a picture:
Sure, great for kids; but this same model could extend web connectivity to poor people in countries all over the world. Rather than having to string electrical wiring to every household -- nice but impractical in some areas -- you only have to keep power to a series of wireless relay antennas, a much easier task. This is the same idea as those hand-cranked radios survivalists are always touting (except you do need a wireless network).
For those worried about terrorists, I think we can just assume they have already rigged up generators and satellite uplinks on their own; this is for those honest folks who don't have hundreds of thousands of petrodollars to fund nefarious activities.
(Say, is it just me, or does it look as if that crank isn't going to clear the tabletop as it rotates around?)
Next step: the WiFi-access ready Etch-a-Sketch!
Filibuster Against PATRIOTism?
That's the implication from a bipartisan group of six senators who are so upset that we keep paying more attention to protecting the American people against terrorism than we do to protecting the sacred civil liberties of terrorists that they now threaten to "block" legislation making parts of the USA PATRIOT Act permanent and extending the rest for seven years. I don't know what else they could mean by blocking legislation, unless they plan to undertake the poor-man's filibuster: making amendment after frivolous amendment to try to delay the debate.
Either way, it makes those advocating surrender in the war on terrorism (see below) look particularly oafish: they're saying we should drop the military attacks on terrorism and focus on law enforcement at precisely the same time other Democrats (and even some moderate Republicans) are demanding that we drop many of the provisions that allow law enforcement officers to successfully prosecute terrorism in the first place!
The six senators are Larry Craig (R-ID), John Sununu (R-NH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Ken Salazar (D-CO). Sununu, Murkowsi, and Salazar were not yet in the Senate when the original PATRIOT Act was enacted in October 2001. Of those senators who were, Craig and Durbin voted in favor of it, while Feingold voted against it. Evidently, Craig and Durbin now believe the war is over, we've won (or perhaps lost), thus there is little reason allowing the act to continue. At least, that is what I deduce from today's threat.
I think I should lie down: my brain is starting to reel from all the political epicycles on this one. It seems pretty straightforward to me: there are still bad guys desperately trying to infiltrate America so they can set off bombs in a Galleria, or perhaps in a middle school; and the major subpoena and wiretap powers granted to terrorism investigations by the Patriot Act, the part lefties whine about, were already allowed when investigating drug gangs, the Mafia, and foreign spies.
This should be a no-brainer: nobody has shown any violation of civil liberties from use of this act; the Patriot Act should simply be made permanent, all of it. Yet evidently, simplicity is not a virtue to these complex and nuanced senators. And shame on the three Republicans for aping the Left's habit of attacking the president instead of arguing their case before the Ameican people.
Big Lizards Courts Vice Investigation!
After reading this --
Bottom line, the Democratic enthusiasm should really be muted because right now the most likely '06 result is the Dems pick up a handful of House seats and 1-3 Senate seats. That still leaves the GOP in control of Congress, and when we look ahead to 2008 I would at this (very early) time rate McCain as the front runner. And if McCain is the Republican nominee he will win 40+ states for the GOP and carry in a stronger Republican Congress.
-- here, on the RealClearPolitics blog, I sent this to John McIntyre:
I don't know enough about the House to handicap it; but I will bet you $20, even odds, that the GOP loses not a single net seat in the Senate in the 2006 election... that at the very worst, we wind up with the same 55-44-1 split we have right now. (Actually, I believe we'll gain a couple; but the bet is only that we don't lose any net seats.)
I will let you know whether (a) John responds, (b) he's willing to yield to the temptation of demon gambling (hey, if it's good enough for Bill Bennett, it's good enough for me!), and (c) whether he's willing to put his money where his blog is!
"Cut and Run" Now Out In the Open
It's good to know that even the Democrats have a few folks who never get the memo.
Hawkish Democrat Calls for Iraq Pullout
Nov 17, 2005
By Liz Sidoti
WASHINGTON (AP) - An influential House Democrat who voted for the Iraq war called Thursday for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, another sign of growing unease in Congress about the conflict.
"It is time for a change in direction," said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., one of Congress' most hawkish Democrats. "Our military is suffering, the future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region."
House Republicans assailed Murtha's position as one of abandonment and surrender, and accused Democrats of playing politics with the war. "They want us to retreat. They want us to wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists of the world," Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said in a statement.
Murtha estimated that all U.S. troops could be pulled out within six months. A decorated Vietnam veteran, he choked back tears during his remarks to reporters.
And I suspect the Democratic leadership was choking back rage and fury: here they are, desperately trying to convince the American people that the Democrats can be trusted with national-security policy, that we don't have to worry that they'll cut and run from Iraq if they get into power... and along comes "an influential House Democrat," "one of Congress' most hawkish Democrats," and "a decorated Vietnam veteran" who nakedly says exactly that!
Note that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) refused even to attend Murtha's press conference and was at pains later to distance herself from his tearful offer to surrender the United States to Musab Zarqaqi.
And this is not just some wackjob back-bencher, either... Murtha is about as good as it gets in Democratic circles; he has what passes for gravitas there:
The top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, Murtha has earned bipartisan respect for his grasp of military issues over three decades in Congress. He planned to introduce a resolution Thursday that, if passed by both the House and the Senate, would force the president to withdraw U.S. troops.
This is about the greatest present that the Democrats could give Bush and the Republicans, and coming at such a critical moment, too! Every Democrat in the House and Senate will once again have to go on record as advocating either an immediate, John-Kerryesque surrender in the global war on terrorism -- thus infuriating the American people -- or else advocating that we follow Bush's strategy of staying the course... thus enraging their paymasters at MoveOn.org, International ANSWER (another stupid acronym), and the Tides Foundation!
Could this possibly get any better?
By the way, two pet peeves of mine. Number one:
First elected to Congress in 1974, Murtha is known as an ally of uniformed officers in the Pentagon and on the battlefield. The perception on Capitol Hill is that when the congressman makes a statement on military issues, he's talking for those in uniform.
The fallacy of using proxy measurements instead of just measuring the actual event of interest
We also see this in the liberal "proof" that there is pervasive "right-wing bias" in the media: the media consist of big corporations -- Knight Ridder, Columbia Broadcasting System, and so forth; but we all know that corporations are right wing; therefore, the New York Times and the Washington Post, being corporations, must be biased towards the right wing.
In law, the principle is that of "best evidence," at least if Perry Mason (my main source of authoritative legal knowledge) knew what he was talking about: the best evidence of what is in, say, a will is the will itself, not someone talking about what he read in the will. You can only introduce the latter when the former is unavailable. In our mass-media example, we have only to look at how they treat liberals vs. conservatives in the actual articles they publish, and we see that they are in fact biased to the left -- as are many corporations. That is the best evidence.
In the Murtha case, surveys of soldiers are readily available; they get polled all the time. And I have never seen a single one where a majority of soldiers or sailors advocated the surrender for which Murtha here calls. So instead of reporting the "perception" that "he's talking for those in uniform," why not simply note that the best evidence indicates he decidedly is not?
His voice cracked and tears filled his eyes as he related several stories of visiting wounded troops, including one who was blinded and lost both his hands but had been denied a Purple Heart because friendly fire caused his injuries.
"I met with the commandant. I said, 'If you don't give him a Purple Heart, I'll give him one of mine.' And they gave him a Purple Heart," said Murtha, who has two.
The fallacy of the uncheckable anecdote
Name, please? So we can check out whether this really happened as Murtha relates, or whether it's a fabrication, like the atrocity stories of Jimmy Massey (or John Kerry, for that matter), now proven (by testimony of five embedded journalists) to be utter fakes.
This is astonishing... the mainstream Democrat who advocates turning Iraq into Vietnam is the political gift that just keeps on giving! If Ken Mehlman is on his game, we should start seeing Rep. Murtha in Republican television commercials about May or June of next year.
The Torture Club
It should hardly be a shock to discover that the so-called Shiite torture prison was in fact run by militias who had infiltrated the local police and security services. Sachi blogged about that general problem more than a month ago, here and here.
Simply put, the same rules that apply to Sunni Arabs in Iraq must apply to the Shia as well: just as the Sunni must reject Zarqawi and other terrorists, the Shia must also reject Sadr and his ilk. But it's unsuprising that they would not be exactly rushing to cast out those who abuse suspected car bombers while the Sunni still aid, abet, conceal, and apologize for those same car-bombers in the first place.
We cannot allow this to be a deal breaker in Iraq. Support for armed extremists -- on both sides -- will gradually diminish as Iraqis come to have more faith in the democratic system with its constitutional protections for the minority and majority populations. But this is something that comes with experience in democracy; it cannot be made to be a precondition of democracy, because then neither will ever happen.
The Iraqis are following the right course here: break up such Shiite gangs when they run across them, get them out of the security services -- but don't delay the elections or other democratization, even though some areas may be voting under a cloud. The vote itself is more important than perfection in the vote.
Date ►►► November 16, 2005
Maybe Not So PATRIOTic After All
A tentative agreement to renew the Patriot Act this week teetered late Wednesday without explicit support of the lead Senate negotiator, as Democrats complained that the draft wouldn't sufficiently curb the FBI's power to probe the most private aspects of people's lives.
Hours after House and Senate negotiators said they had reached a tentative pre-dawn agreement, Democrats and civil libertarians complained that it didn't address their chief concern: the curbing of FBI power to gather certain information by requiring the investigators to prove the subject's records are connected to a foreign agent or government.
So the biggest problem is that the FBI is still inexplicably able to gather information; evidently, the Democrats and "civil libertarians" thought the agreement would be that the Patriot Act was made permanent, but only if all its investigative teeth were first pulled! In other words, the Democrats will agree to pursue terrorists IF AND ONLY IF we agree in advance not to catch any.
But why didn't they voice these objections earlier? What could have changed in those few hours? The key is in the very next paragraph, in which we find out that the Senate failed to consult with the most important Senate negotiator of all:
"It gives a nod toward checks and balances without fixing the most fundamental flaws in the Patriot Act," said Lisa Graves of the Americans Civil Liberties Union.
Whoops! I guess next time the Republicans should just save time by going over the heads of the Senate Democrats directly to the real power on the Left, the infamous "shadow senate."
Somebody page Nina Totenberg!
Pentagon Needs a Librarian
Steven Hayes in the current Weekly Standard reports that there are literally millions of pages of seized Iraqi documents we have not yet translated and read, some with very suggestive titles:
- Locations of Weapons/Ammunition Storage (with map)
- Formulas and information about Iraq's Chemical Weapons Agents
- Denial and Deception of WMD and Killing of POWs
- Chemical Agent Purchase Orders (Dec. 2001)
- Correspondence between various Iraq organizations giving instructions to hide chemicals and equipment
- Cleaning chemical suits and how to hide chemicals
And my favorite:
- IIS reports on How French Campaigns are Financed
These are all titles of documents that have been entered into the HARMONY database, run by the Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM); but there is a literal mountain of other documents we have not yet even "eyeballed."
Want to bet that somewhere among those millions of pages are locations of actual "large stockpiles of WMD" that we'll eventually find? If we do, I will make another prediction: no matter where we find them, no matter how well sourced and authenticated the document that leads us there, the Democrats will argue (a) they were planted by Bush; (b) even if they're genuine, they don't count because it's possible to use them for peaceful purposes... a chemical rocket can also be used as a paperweight, for example; (c) they also don't count because the statute of limitations has expired; and (d) why is the Bush administration still obsessing about the past, about the lies they used to lie us into the war, instead of marching boldly into the future, as Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, and Harry Reid want to do?
Read the whole article; it's pretty staggering.
Still PATRIOTic After All These Years
This deal is probably the best we can get to extend and make permanent the PATRIOT Act, and I think Bush ought to grab it and sign as soon as it's on his desk, lest the whole thing fall apart.
My only real regret is that they didn't seize the opportunity to change the absurd acronymic name, which reads in full "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act," or the USA PATRIOT Act. Yeesh!
House and Senate negotiators struck a tentative deal on the expiring Patriot Act that would curb FBI subpoena power and require the Justice Department to more fully report its secret requests for information about ordinary people, according to officials involved in the talks.
The agreement, which would make most provisions of the existing law permanent, was reached just before dawn Wednesday. But by midmorning GOP leaders had already made plans for a House vote on Thursday and a Senate vote by the end of the week. That would put the centerpiece of President Bush's war on terror on his desk before Thanksgiving, a month before more than a dozen provisions were set to expire.
Here are the basic provisions, at least according to the Associated Press's Laurie Kellman:
- All existing provisions of the PATRIOT Act become permanent except those listed in the next bullet point.
- The exceptions are rules on wiretapping and obtaining records from businesses under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA -- this is the infamous "library records" provision), which sunset after seven years unless renewed by Congress.
- The deal enacts new rules allowing for better monitoring of "lone wolf" terrorists.
Examples of lone wolves include the Beltway snipers, John Allen Muhammed and Lee Malvo, and Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, who opened fire on the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport on Uly 4th, 2002: none of these people had contact with al-Qaeda or other known terrorist organizations, but they nevertheless "took up the sword" on their own nut to "kill the infidel." These new rules also sunset in seven years unless renewed.
- The Justice Department must "report to Congress" each year about how many "national security letters" they have sent out.
These are letters demanding various business and phone records and imposing a legal requirement of silence on the recipient about having received such a letter. Currently, before submitting such a letter, law-enforcement officers must first apply to the FISA Court -- a special, secret court set up specifically to issue subpoenas and warrants related to cases involving espionage, foreign sabotage, and other actions of foreign agents; the original PATRIOT Act added terrorist investigations to the list of those handled by the FISA Court, whose warrants and subpoenas are kept secret. (Of course, once a person is arrested, he is tried by an ordinary federal court.)
I hope there is enough wiggle room in the agreement to restrict notification to those members of Congress who sit on the House or Senate Intelligence Committees; otherwise, all this classified information will instantly be leaked to the press by Democrats for political advantage.
- Before sending national-security letters, law-enforcement officials would have to submit a new "statement of facts" to the FISA Court showing "reasonable grounds to believe the records are relevant to an investigation."
They would also need to show that the individual whose records are sought is in contact with an agent of a foreign power or known terrorist organization. (I suppose if the DOJ cannot show this, they would have to operate under the "lone wolf" rules instead.)
- The deal places "modest new requirements on so-called roving wiretaps."
The AP articles does not say specifically what those requirements are. I tried to Google for more information, but every article was simply an exact reprint of this AP story. We'll probably know more later this week, when the House and Senate votes occur.
The deal does not cover several ancillary provisions that had been sought by Republicans via amendment but to which the Democrats objected, including limitations on federal appeals of state court decisions, tightening of sex-offender registration laws, and better courthouse security. Presumably those will have to be brought up separately later.
All in all, this is a pretty darned good compromise, and it's likely the best we can possibly get. It's also proof that rumors of President Bush's political expiry are greatly exaggerated: he's still got it!
Nowhere Bridge Is Nowhere Now
The Sierra Club, of all sources, is reporting that the infamous "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska has been stripped from the budget by the Senate Appropriations Committee:
The Senate Appropriations Committee removed earmarks for two controversial "bridges to nowhere" in Alaska: the Gravina bridge, which would connect Ketchikan to an island of 50 people, and the Knik Arm bridge, which would link Anchorage to a sparsely populated area. The projects have been the subject of strong criticism because of the general backlog of existing roads and bridges in desperate need of repair, especially those affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. According to the National Association of Civil Engineers, one in four bridges nationwide is structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, not including the damage from Katrina and Rita.
If the Sierra Club is correct (hey, first time for everything), this is excellent news indeed; these earmarks were terrible embarassments, not only for the majority Republicans but for the Senate and the United States itself. Let's keep our fingers crossed this isn't just some absurd misunderstanding!
In breaking news, at the pre-meeting of the U.N. World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), AP reports that the final negotiated result anent control of the internet domain name servers -- basically big look-up tables that match internet domain names (like "biglizards.net") to specific internet addresses -- is that the United States will remain firmly in control; and that the U.S. will continue to allow the private Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to handle it all.
In other words, we won.
The negotiations overshadowed the ostensible purpose of the WSIS, which was supposed to be about the information gap:
The summit was originally conceived to address the digital divide - the gap between information haves and have-nots - by raising both consciousness and funds for projects.
Instead, it has centered largely around Internet governance: oversight of the main computers that control traffic on the Internet by acting as its master directories so Web browsers and e-mail programs can find other computers.
A number of countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia hijacked the pre-meeting (the actual WSIS meeting starts today) to demand that governance of the internet be turned over to a responsible international body. Not being able to find one, they demanded it be turned over to the United Nations, instead.
But in the face of American stubbornness, the internationalists caved. "Facts are stubborn things," Adams said; and the primary fact in this case is that the internet works. In fact, it works too well for some: China, for example, desperately wants to cripple the internet in their country so that anti-Communist forces cannot easily communicate with each other, and ordinary citizens cannot access web sites that show what freedom would bring. Hence, they wanted control placed into hands that they could manipulate, like puppets on a string.
They didn't get what they wanted. The only bone we threw them was the creation of a new intergovernmental group that would only have the authority to make recommendations:
Under the terms of the compromise, the new group, the Internet Governance Forum, would start operating next year with its first meeting opened by Annan. Beyond bringing its stakeholders to the table to discuss the issues affecting the Internet, and its use, it won't have ultimate authority.
John Bolton was not involved in this negotiation, but he may as well have been. The actual American negotiator appears to have been U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Michael Gallagher; three cheers for a great American who is an expert at the rare art of just saying no!
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the would-be Speaker of the House, has come out of her corner swinging. Alas, she seems as likely to hit the referee, the judges, and spectators in the first eleven rows as to hit her opponent, George W. Bush. (Via Daniel Weintraub's Bee-blog, California Insider.)
She gave a speech today designed to "develop an agenda that will help the Democratic Party retake power in the House" and "silence critics, even within her own party, who say she and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada haven't done enough to give disgruntled voters a reason to turn away from Republicans." In a hard-hitting, name-taking, prisoner-rejecting, high-ground-staking, high stakes, low-comedy departure from the Democratic norm -- we don't need no steekin' platform! -- she has drawn a line in the sand, laid down the law, put up or shut up, put her foot down, and grabbed the bull by the tail to look the facts in the face.
She has come out in favor of (wait for it) -- technology!
(Whatever happened to the good old days, when everybody opposed technology?)
But this is technology with a difference, the difference being Ludditism. Nancy Pelosi demands more energy, but only from sources proven ineffective at producing any:
"We should be spending America's energy dollars in the Midwest, not the Middle East," Pelosi is scheduled to say, proposing a crash federal research program into "high-risk, high-reward, revolutionary energy technologies."
"Our goal is energy independence, and we intend to achieve it within 10 years," she adds.
Those technologies include plant-based fuels such as ethanol and new engines for hybrids and biodiesel vehicles. [Emphasis added]
Not a word about drilling in ANWR, in the Gulf of Mexico, off the West Coast; shale oil; building more refineries; high-temp ceramic engines; or even nuclear power. Those are bad technologies; you can tell them from the good variety because the bad actually stand a chance of producing real energy.
Pelosi says the United States, the Internet's birthplace, has fallen behind other countries in broadband penetration, which she says threatens the country's economy. She wants to double federal funding to bring broadband into more American homes, businesses and schools, give businesses a tax credit for bringing such access to rural or other underserved areas and promote wireless Internet access.
Yes, we certainly can't trust the market to protect the constitutional right to high-speed broadband internet connectivity for all Americans; just think, there are some people still muddling along with dial-up! It's an emergency; the federal government must intervene quickly, before we lose another entire generation to slow surfing.
Pelosi also wants to boost the number of scientists, engineers and mathematicians in America by 100,000 over the next four years by providing more scholarships and other financial aid to students. In 2004, America graduated 70,000 engineers, while China turned out 10 times as many.
Ah -- and if this doesn't work to bridge that technological gap, she can simply use the same techniques as China: decide in advance how many engineers you want to graduate this year and simply order that many students to switch majors to engineering.
Folks, I rib you not, this is the upcoming Democratic party platform: Vote Democrat -- we're the Age of Aquarius, while they're the stodgy, old Picean plesiosaurs! Nancy Pelosi's response to the Global War on Terrorism? Ethanol! Imminent collapse of Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security? Broadband! The battle to protect traditional marriage? More state-subsidized engineers!
Sometimes you look at her and wonder. Other times, you just look.
Fre-School For All
The elfin Daniel Weintraub reports that Rob "Meathead" Reiner has paid for enough goons to gather a million signatures for his socialist initiative to give "free" pre-school to all children in California -- subsidized by "the rich," of course; Weintraub avoided using those prolix and tendentious adjectives, however, so you may find the Big Lizards take more exciting.
Every four-year-old child will receive "free" pre-school, paid for by a special tax on individuals earning $400,000 or couples earning twice that. If this succeeds, I'm sure Reiner will next move an initiative to give every child breakfast and lunch, new, fashionable clothing, a G4 Power Mac, and in high school, a brand new car (hybrid, naturally).
Presumably, children who don't actually need pre-school because they can already read will be told to forget everything they have learned and sit through the stultifying classes anyway. Big Bother has spoken.
Weintraub also dryly notes that the money required for this safari into deepest, darkest nanny-statism -- about $2.4 billion per year -- has already been earmarked by state legislators for higher spending on K-12 education and also earmarked by California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides for paying down the massive California budget deficit. In other words, this now would be the third way that same money would be spent.
The first problem is that California's state income tax is already one of the highest in the nation... and every rise sends another huge batch of wealthy job-creators fleeing to other states, thus reducing the tax base and increasing the misery index. But liberal do-gooders like Rob Reiner never care much about the actual consequences of their bursts of taxpayer-subsidized generosity: what matters is the good intentions; the actual grubby effects are left to someone else, someone less "creative" and more proletarian to sort out. It is enough that Reiner is willing to dig down deep, deep into the pockets of some other guy's trousers to show his compassion for those downtrodden, uneducated ignoramuses who don't even know the whole alphabet by the time they're being potty trained.
But of course, as Karin Klein argues in a Los Angeles Times op-ed,
We don't need this. Preschool is already more "universal" in California than you might think. Somewhere within that patchwork are an estimated 70% of all the 4-year-olds in the state — about 63% in preschool centers, and a handful in family child care. The universal-preschool crowd hopes to raise that to 80%. So to get an additional 10% enrolled, taxes would pick up the bill for the other 70% as well. California's nonuniversal system already covers a bigger percentage of its 4-year-old population than Georgia's universal pre-kindergarten system, now in its 12th year. [Emphasis added]
She also argues that the standardization envisioned by the Reiners of the world would likely decrease, not increase, the positive effects of such pre-kindergarten education:
Consider Doggett's description of what happens in a quality preschool class:
A little boy is happily building with blocks. The teacher (who has a bachelor's degree, of course) comes up to talk with him about the structure he's building. She suggests that he bring some model cars over to incorporate with the blocks. If the blocks make a roadway, how would the cars get to the road? In this way, Doggett says, the child is engaged in critical thinking on how to build a ramp. (In reality, he probably decides with the perfect wisdom of his age that cars can fly.)
Some parents might love this little "teachable moment" scenario. I feel like screaming, "For pity's sake, can't 4-year-olds play with blocks anymore without some teacher trying to turn them into future transportation planning administrators, GS-12, Level B?"
The Reiner initiative's "statewide preschool content standards" would be devised by the state schools' superintendent. These would be "aligned with statewide academic standards" and carried out and supervised by county education departments. It makes you want to weep for those tots.
It makes me want to weep for my home state.
So I guess the rule is that four year olds are best taken away from their parents to be
indoctrinated educated by the government -- while fourteen year olds are best taken away to give them abortions without the parents even being so much as notified.
Am I the only one who detects a pattern here?
Date ►►► November 15, 2005
Ooo-rah! I have internet connectivity again, don't know for how long.
I have to share this one with y'all; it's too delicious to consume all by myself.... (Hat tip to Lee Porter.)
From the Associated Press:
1,100 Lawyers Leave Saddam Defense Team
By Jamal Halaby, Associated Press Writer
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Amman, Jordan (AP)
Some 1,100 Iraqi lawyers have withdrawn from Saddam Hussein's defense team, citing insufficient protection following the slayings of two peers representing co-defendants of the ousted Iraqi leader.
Yes, isn't it odd? After their client murdered hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of Iraqis, these lawyers are shocked, shocked to find that some Iraqis don't take kindly to the rush of law jockeys to defend the monster. (What is the defense going to be... that it was somebody else, not Saddam Hussein, running Iraq all that time?)
However, the head of the investigative judges in Saddam's dozen cases, Raid Juhi, said Sunday the withdrawal of the defense team "will not affect the work of the court and it will continue its legal measures."
Translation: this is not particularly a trial to discover whether the accused actually did bad things; we pretty much know that. This is a show trial designed to demonstrate to ex-Baathists, once and for all, that they are no longer in charge and never will be again.
There are times when a show trial is the most proper and correct form of judicial proceeding.
After the killing of the first lawyer, defense attorneys announced they would not cooperate with the court and would refuse to appear at the next session until they were satisfied with security.
Laith Kubba, spokesman for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, said the lawyers twice turned down invitations to move to the Green Zone, where they could be protected by U.S. and other international troops.
The law jockeys demand complete security -- but not from the Americans. Who do they expect to protect them, the Red Crescent? Al Jazeera? Ramsey Clark?
I find this hilarious. 1,100 attorneys can't wait to sign aboard to defend Saddam Hussein; his rights must be protected! But not if their own lives might be in jeopardy (since they refuse our protection).
I reckon these lawyers think more highly of their own skins than they do of the 148 Shiites of Dujail. Who would have imagined it?
The Killer Arg
Apologies in advance; I can only post my own speculation and opinion here, sans any supportive links. You just gotta take my word for it!
On this increasingly infantile argument by the Democrats that "Bush lied us into the war" because he said Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and we supposedly "failed to find any WMD" -- the killer argument here doesn't even need evidence.
Every explosive in Saddam Hussein's arsenal was a "weapon of mass destruction." Every artillery shell, every rocket, every missile of whatever range; each could be used -- and had been used in the past -- to butcher masses of innocent people. I don't know who first said it, but it's again so obvious it needs no specific citation: Hussein was himself a weapon of mass destruction.
So we thought it was "two minutes to midnight" when we attacked him, and it turned out to be maybe twenty minutes to midnight. He wasn't as far along as we thought in developing the really nasty stuff... chemical weapons, biological weapons, nukes. So the hell what? How does this affect the moral question?
Ramsey Clark, former LBJ attorney general and current pain-in-the-neck traitor to the United States, makes the absurd argument that when America fights a war, and the casualty ratio is lopsidedly in our favor, that constittutes a war crime; we have to suffer and bleed just as much as the enemy, or we're morally guilty. Take my word for it; this is pretty much the definitional example of being "stuck on stupid," in Lt. Gen. Russel Honore's memorable phrase. I prefer the tack taken by Gen. George S. Patton, in the words of Francis Ford Copolla's screenplay to the movie Patton: "No poor bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country."
Broaden it out: it means you take your advantages where you find them. We had no obligation to wait until Hussein was just about to deploy Anthrax and VX rockets, just so we didn't have too great an advantage. The morality of a war isn't determined by how many casualties you suffer: the war is either righteous or it is wrong; it is either worth the risk or it is not; and we have a moral obligation to our soldiers to reduce the risk as far as we possibly can... yes, even by attacking before politely giving the enemy time to kill more American soldiers.
So long as we labored under the delusion that nobody was targeting the United States especially, we could get away with ignoring Hussein: he shot at our planes, we took out his fire-control radar.
But 9/11 changed everything. It became as obvious as the smirk on Howard Dean's lips that we were targetted, that Osama bin Laden was deadly serious when he publicly declared war on us some years ago. And that meant the rules had changed: by the basic law of war, we had the right to defend ourselves, including taking pre-emptive action (which Iraq was not, by the way) against allies of our enemy who posed a specific and credible threat to America or her interests.
The existence of WMDs was irrelevant to the larger moral question; it was just a way to explain the situation to people at the U.N. who don't understand moral arguments, having long since abandoned the belief in right and wrong. What mattered was the intent... and even the Democrats (even today!) admit that Hussein intended to develop any chemical, biological, or nuclear weapon he could. No "lie," no "manipulation," no trick: Hussein had the intent and the means, he had the al-Qaeda contacts and the hatred, he was rolling in petrodollars, and "his brain was squirming like a toad."
Maybe he hid them; maybe he was just trying to develop them. Who the hell cares?
Saddam Hussein became a dead man walking the moment the second plane plowed into the second tower. He should have picked better friends.
He could no longer be coddled; he could no longer be tolerated; like John Dillinger, he was too wild to live. We had a moral obligation to America and to the rest of the free world to take the bastard out. Since we're humane folks, we decided to invade and put our own troops at risk, rather than bomb Iraq into rubble and then bounce the rubble, killing hundreds of thousands of relatively innocent civilians. But that was just us being nice.
We suddenly realized Hussein posed an existential threat to the America we grew up in... therefore, after we took care of the Taliban, we moved his name to the top of the list. We attacked at the end of March 2003, and he was ousted a few weeks later.
All else is dicta.
Do Not Attempt to Adjust Your Television....
As you've probably guessed, Big Lizards is experiencing technical difficulties. Unless you thought I'd jumped into a kayak and headed back to the island.
Actually, the problem is not so much BL itself as the fact that I can barely reach any other websites at all. Thus, although I have drafted several posts today, I can't post them; each depends in some fairly critical way upon research and linkage that requires the internet.
My ISP, Charter Communications, says they have a "DNS problem" which interferes with any web page that links to other sites, either as direct links or as linked images. That, ah, means pretty much everybody!
I can access my Movable Type page (since that doesn't have many links); and some sites (like Big Lizards itself) are properly enough designed that the text will pop up while the rest is still grinding away. But a great many sites I routinely visit have become white screen with literally interminable loadouts.
Please keep checking back often; as soon as Charter gets my act together, I'll take it on the road here!
Date ►►► November 14, 2005
Off With the Gloves!
The demigods over at Power Line are just going to be ecstatic about this. John Hinderaker worried that Bush's speech a few days ago, defending himself and his administration from the destructive and absurdist "Bush lied, people died" meme was just a one-off, and that the president might decide that, since he had "answered" the charge, he could then just "move on to other things."
This is a pretty good beginning, but it means nothing unless Bush and his surrogates keep up the counter-attack. My fear is that Bush will think that now that he has responded, he can move on to other things. This would be a serious mistake. I think Bush and his surrogates should give the same speech more or less every day for the next month or two. The administration has a lot of catching up to do, and a single speech, or a handful of speeches, won't have any impact.
But today, AP calms our fears:
ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AP) - President Bush, heading to Asia with hopes of improving his image on the world stage, hurled a parting shot at Iraq war critics on Monday, accusing some Democrats of "sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy."
"That is irresponsible," Bush said in prepared remarks he planned to deliver to U.S. forces during a refueling stop in Alaska. Excerpts from the remarks were released by the White House as Bush flew to Elemendorf Air Force Base on the initial leg of an eight-day journey to Japan, South Korea, China and Mongolia.
"Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war, but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people," Bush said in his prepared remarks.
"Only one person manipulated evidence and misled the world - and that person was Saddam Hussein," Bush added.
The president continues the powerful centerpunching he finally began last week:
In his prepared Alaska remarks, Bush noted that some elected Democrats in Congress "have opposed this war all along.
"I disagree with them, but I respect their willingness to take a consistent stand," he said. "Yet some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past. They are playing politics with this issue and sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy."
Rem acu tetigisti, as the Romans said; Bush has touched the point with a needle. Congress does not have access to every jot and tittle of intelligence information that the president does; but the Senate and House Intelligence Committees did, in fact, have access to all of the major conclusions -- and all of the disagreements and caveats -- available to the White House.
Yet twenty-nine Democrats in the Senate (and most Democrats in the House, though that was a voice vote, not a roll call) voted on October 11th, 2002, to authorize the use of force in Iraq, including all of the presidential candidates of 2004 in Congress except for Bob Graham of Florida -- then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), John Edwards (D-NC), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and nominee John Kerry (D-MA) -- and several expected candidates for 2008, including Joe Biden (D-DE) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY).
Despite supporting the war in 2002, Edwards, Kerry, Biden and other Democrats (such as Charles Schumer) are leading the pack charging that Bush "lied us into the war." I suppose what they're really claiming is that they voted to send America to war without even having read the relevant intelligence. I don't believe it, but that's what they must be saying.
The minority Republicans (except for Lincoln Chafee) read the intelligence reports and concluded that Saddam Hussein had to go. Some Democrats read the same intelligence reports (or didn't bother) and decided it wasn't enough to go to war; these folks -- Dick Durbin (D-IL), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), for example -- at the very least have the virtue of consistency: they were agin' it then, they're agin' it now.
But the Democratic Party has a terrible problem: they desperately want to paint Bush as a mindless warmonger who was in possession of credible intelligence that Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction (despite the fact that we actually found those "large stockpiles" that were promised -- see here and here, most recently), but who "lied" about it just to get us into that war. But they have no answer for the large number of very big-profile Democrats who either looked at the intel and agreed with Bush -- or who couldn't even trouble themselves to look at the intel before voting.
I visualize John Hinderaker standing atop his desk and doing the "Dilbert dance" at the thought that Bush has finally awaked from his year-and-a-half slumber and picked a fight with the lying slime who have done him and the Republican Party -- and the country -- so much damage already.
If John has room up there, I'd like to join him. Now if only Bush would also finally take on the numbskulls who insist that a chemical rocket isn't a chemical weapon if the chemicals are not actually loaded, just sitting alongside in a 55-gallon drum inside the same camouflaged bunker.
Yup. And a gun isn't a gun if you just unload it.
Grits Gone Wild
Captain Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters is the man to follow for anything related to the struggle up north between Paul Martin's Liberal Party on the one side, and on the other, the Conservative Party's Stephen Harper, the the (basically socialist) New Democratic Party (NDP)'s Jack Layton, and separatist Bloc Québécois' Gilles Duceppe. In Captain Ed's most recent post on the imbroglio, he notes that the latter three have agreed to issue an ulimatum to the Liberals: agree to new elections to be held on January 20th, 2006, or else they will bring down the government with a no-confidence vote next week.
The Grits refused to acquiesce, so...
According to John MacDonald at Newsbeat1, expect the no-confidence vote to come on Thursday. Canadians can also expect that the reason given for the collapse of Parliamentary support for Paul Martin and the Liberals will be the corruption of the Sponsorship Programme -- and that they will make sure that Canadians understand that the Christmas campaign came giftwrapped by the same Liberals that stole the Christmas money.
Well evidently, Martin's newest tactic is also his oldest: when in trouble, when in doubt, bribery will get you out. This entire political crisis in Canada is due to the penchant of the Liberals to funnel through the system "hundreds of thousands of dollars of bogus transactions designed to benefit the Liberal Party of Canada over a period from 1994 to 2002."
When it looked in April as if the Conservatives were going to be able to push through a no-confidence vote with the help of the NDP, the Grits proposed a new budget that would funnel $4.6 billion (Canadian) into NDP priorities in exchange for the NDP dropping out of the coalition to topple the Liberals from power. Legal bribery, but bribery nonetheless: they bought their way out of trouble -- again.
But now the NDP is back in the grand coalition to force Paul Martin from control of the government... so in a huge turnaround that nobody could ever have anticipated, the Liberals are trying to bamboozle Canadian voters into supporting them in the January elections -- by bribing them! (From the Brandon Sun, via Matt Drudge.)
The beleaguered Liberal government will promise significant cuts to personal income taxes and a sprinkling of corporate tax reductions today in a pre-election mini-budget that offers something for everyone.
Finance Minister Ralph Goodale will promise to lighten the tax burden on Canadians, reiterate an earlier plan to cut billions from corporate taxes and introduce other business tax changes as part of a broader plan to boost the economy, sources say.
I'm trying to recall: I know there is not an exact match-up between the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party down here, but even so, I don't recall the Grits being known as the party of tax cuts for the rich in the past. Maybe I just missed it. Ironically enough, another Captain's Quarter's post includes the following from the prime minister:
"You know, they want to see Santa Claus, they don't want to see politicians," Mr. Martin said.
With this new campaign, I expect to see Paul Martin dressed in a red suit with a big white beard, ringing a bell with one hand and waving a wad of cash with the other.
I eagerly await Captain Ed's discussion of this, since he's been our best source of understanding what's going on north of the border: there is no other American site I've seen that has the contacts, the background, and the in-depth understanding of the Canadian Adscam (Sponsorship) scandal and the political monkeyshines of Paul Martin. Paging Captain Ed -- what the heck is going on with these tax cuts?
Is this the normal Grit platform, or is Paul Martin just panicking and falling back on the only tactic he seems to know -- throwing money at anyone who might be an enemy, hoping to (yet again) dig his way out of a deep hole. Is it likely to work this time, as it worked all the other times?
Date ►►► November 13, 2005
Another one of these cheesy personality tests, this one asking to which race of Middle Earth you belong.
All right; but I don't know whether I answered honestly, or whether I subconsciously answered in the (obvious) way that would result in a "score" of Elvish!
Sachi came out as Numenorean, just like Hugh Hewitt (from whom I stole the link to the test; a tip of a Numenorean helm):
You can take the test here. Let me know what you got!
A Sunshine Republican...
...Is Better Than an All-Weather Democrat
SCHIEFFER: President Bush accused his critics of rewriting history last week.
Sen. McCAIN: Yeah.
SCHIEFFER: And in--he said in doing so, the criticisms they were making of his war policy was endangering our troops in Iraq. Do you believe it is unpatriotic to criticize the Iraq policy?
Sen. McCAIN: No, I think it's a very legitimate aspect of American life to criticize and to disagree and to debate. But I want to say I think it's a lie to say that the president lied to the American people. I sat on the Robb-Silverman Commission. I saw many, many analysts that came before that committee. I asked every one of them--I said, `Did--were you ever pressured politically or any other way to change your analysis of the situation as you saw?' Every one of them said no.
This post is dedicated to all those commenters who insist that we have to dump all the RINOs (Republicans in name only) because "they're no better than Democrats, so we may as well have clarity by voting them out, even if they're replaced by actual Democrats."
John McCain is a sunshine Republican: he supports a great many Democratic ideas (his signature issue, campaign-finance "reform," for example, but there are many others -- tax increases, global warming, same-sex marriage); he was the founding member of the Gang of Fourteen, which prevented Republicans from getting rid of the judicial filibuster; he has a dislike of Bush bordering on hatred, stemming from an incident in South Carolina during the 2000 presidential primary: somebody who supported Bush over McCain circulated absurd and false flyers saying that McCain's adopted child from Bangladesh was actually "black," that McCain was gay, and that his daughter Cindy was a drug addict; to this day, I believe, McCain is still convinced that it was done at Bush's orders -- or at least that Bush passively acquiesced.
There has never been a shred of evidence that Bush had anything to do with this, but that's not relevant to McCain's inner belief (if indeed I am even correct about what McCain believes in the deepest cavity of his heart).
"Here comes the big butt," as Larry Elderberry likes to say. BUT -- nobody can name a single Democrat in Arizona who could possibly replace McCain as senator who would have come right out and said that it is the people accusing Bush of "lying us into war" who are the ones actually lying.
In fact, I believe that every nationally-known Democrat still serving in national office would have been terrified to call these liars what they are; it is too important a meme to the Democratic Party to allow free thought on the question.
But John McCain did; in defending Bush and the war itself, he was considerably more aggressive and blunt than Scott McClellan, Dick Cheney, or even George W. Bush himself. He believes we should send a lot more troops... but he has never been even ambivalent on the moral propriety of invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein; he has defended it with courage and vigor, as Kennedy -- not that one, the one who was president -- would say.
And that is the point: on many issues, such as the Iraq War and abortion, it is far, far better to have John McCain in the Senate than any Democrat you can name; better for the Republican Party, better for the president, and better for conservatives.
A Republican would need to be a heck of a lot worse than McCain before it would be rational to push him out, knowing he might be replaced by an "all-weather" Democrat. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) comes close, but not even he qualifies most of the time: for one thing, Chafee always votes for the Republicans on organizational votes; he doesn't vote for Harry Reid (D-NV) for majority leader, for example.
Beware the purists! They always prefer to lose in purity rather than win by compromise, no matter how minor. That is because they don't actually have to govern.
Der Sauer Kraut
You gotta love Charles Krauthammer. He's always so chipper and bright, never sees a dark cloud, almost Disney-esque in his optimism and love for all of humanity.
And generous! He's generous to a fault. I don't know of any other supposedly conservative columnist who would lend his column to Paul Krugman, despite the fact that Krauthammer's syndicated column runs in the Washington Post, while Krugman is syndicated out of the New York Times. True, Friday's column is bylined "Charles Krauthammer," but that's just the kind of stand-up guy he is, letting Krugman take over his column anonymously.
I mean, there is no other way to explain this, is there?
Just yesterday we were paying $3.50 at the pump and ready to pay $4 or $5 if necessary. No blessing has ever come more disguised. Now that we have lived with $3.50 gasoline, $3 seems far less outrageous than, say, a year ago. We have a unique but fleeting opportunity to permanently depress demand by locking in higher gasoline prices. Put a floor at $3. Every penny that the price goes under $3 should be recaptured in a federal gas tax so that Americans pay $3 at the pump no matter how low the world price goes.
Why is this a good idea? It is the simplest way to induce conservation. People will alter their buying habits. It was the higher fuel prices of the 1970s and early '80s that led to more energy-efficient cars and appliances -- which induced such restraint on demand that the world price of oil ultimately fell through the floor. By 1986, oil was $11 a barrel. Then we got profligate and resumed our old habits, and oil is now $60. Surprise.
The worst part is that much of this $60 goes overseas to foreigners who wish us no good: Wahhabi Saudi princes who subsidize terrorists; Hugo Chavez, the mini-Mussolini of the Southern Hemisphere; and (through the fungibility of oil) the nuclear-hungry, death-to-America Iranian mullahs. This is insanity. It makes infinitely more sense to reduce consumption, drive the world price down and let the premium we force ourselves to pay at the pump (which begins the conservation cycle) go to the U.S. Treasury. If the price drops to $2, plow that $1 tax right back into the American economy by immediately reducing, say, Social Security or income taxes.
This is classic Krugmanish liberal insanity, even if he is confusingly writing under the "Charles Krauthammer" nom de processor (possibly to get out from under that $50 masochism fee that the Times now charges to read Krugman under his own name): only a liberal would propose a massive, regressive, and East-Coast-centric gasoline tax in order to force consumers to change their driving habits. Particularly when even the actual columnist, whoever he is, admits that the market is already taking care of the problem by itselt, without heavy-fisted intervention:
Consumers are not stupid. Within weeks of Katrina, SUV sales were already in decline and hybrids were flying off the lots.
And we're talking a seriously big tax hike here: using the anonymous author's own example, if gasoline dropped to $2 a gallon, then the "Krauthammer" tax would be 50% -- on top of the outrageous tax we already pay on gas (about 40¢ per gallon in Southern California).
- It's a huge tax increase.
"Krauthammer" (Krugman, I presume, lurking behind the pseudonym) says that the tax should be ploughed "right back into the American economy by immediately reducing, say, Social Security or income taxes," but he knows this will never happen: the tax increase will simply increase the bloat of the federal government -- and will likely go towards new spending that has nothing to do with energy production. Of course, for liberals (like whoever is masquerading under the name "Charles Krauthammer"), that's a good thing.
- It's extremely regressive.
Naturally, a tax on a commodity like gasoline falls hardest on the lower middle class: the poor typically don't have jobs, or at least their jobs are nearer to where they live. And the impact of a per-gallon tax on the rich, no matter how huge, is miniscule compared to their annual income.
It's the commuter class, the mob of lower middle class worker-bees, who will be hit hardest; the folks who literally cannot afford to live near their work because the housing costs are too great, so they must commute every day -- often more than a hundred miles round trip (as Sachi does). Sure, they can try to carpool; but in many cases, nobody else lives reasonably nearby. And if you have to carpool with people who live far away and off your route, that just shifts the tax currency from dollars to time: working mothers and fathers who already have too little time with their kids would have even less.
Of course, liberals don't care about the middle class... only about the poor, who can be herded into the streets whenever the ballot box goes south on them, and about the rich, who are liberalism's natural constituency: the Hollywood elite, the Manhattan socialites, the "dot-com-ers," the Clintons. This is another clue that the culprit behind this column is a liberal. I'm guessing Krugman, but it could equally well be Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times or even Maureen Dowd of the New York Times (the latter is unlikely because there is nothing libelous in the column). I'm still putting my money on Krugman, since it's a tax and economy issue.
- It's aggressively Eastocentric.
Remember those maps of the United States as seen by New Yorkers? Enormously detailed Manhattan, Jersey is sketched in as a small strip surrounding Newark Liberty International, Cape Cod and Miami are islands, and the rest of the country warps around like a fisheye lens into one undifferentiated mass until you get another big bulge for Hollywood.
Well, this gasoline tax proposal suggests just such a distorted view. In the East, states and cities are small and compact, and they typically have workable public transportation that will get you anywhere a person might reasonably want to go. But out in the west, cities can be hundreds of miles apart; and even within a city, your job can be fifty or sixty miles from where you live. Distances are huge in California, Texas, and even smaller states like Arizona... and public transportation is virtually unworkable in a city without well-defined transit corridors, driving is a necessity, not a useless frippery, like a hair weave or eyelash extensions, that can be cut back when money gets tight.
I thought these all might be clues to the real author of this piece; but whoever it is, the real Charles Krauthammer would do well to see a doctor about his swollen generosity gland; left untreated, it can continue to lead him to such eccentric behavior as allowing some nameless, mindless, boneheaded, liberal nitwit to ghost-write Krauthammer's column for him.
Hawaii Blogging 3: Kayaking in Kaneohe Bay
On the last weekend before I had to sail away again (I'm still working, you know), we decided to do something adventurous: we would kayak on Kaneohe Bay and visit an island a ways offshore. I made a picnic lunch, and we started off.
Dafydd always talks me into these "adventure" things. I would be happy just lying on Waikiki beach for a week! There was the time we collapsed from heat exhaustion on the North Kaibab Plateau in the Grand Canyon, in 120+ degrees in the shade (no shade, of course). Or the time we were riding over the crest of the Fernandez trail in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, and it was so steep that as we descended, my head was actually hitting the horse's butt. That was the same trip where a bear prowled around our campsite during the night; I woke up Dafydd and told him there was a bear outside, and all he said was "let it get its own tent." He thought that was hilarious. Our nature trips are always... interesting.
We drove to a Kayak rental place called Go Bananas on Kapahulu Avenue. The store clark briefly (very briefly) showed us how to securely lash the kayak on top of the car. Then he gave us life jackets, seats, paddles, and a "dry bag," which was supposed to keep stuff inside it totally dry. He made us sign all sorts of legal notices and agreements. I foolishly read through them and started to get a little bit nervous: Kayaking can be dangerous, kayaking can be physically challenging, you can't sue us no matter what we do. etc. I asked Dafydd, "what if we capsize -- then what?" He assured me the bay was perfectly calm; besides it is so shallow, we can practically walk. We are wearing lifejackets; if we capsize, we just get wet. No big deal.
I wasn't totally reassured, but the boat was already attached to the car, so what could we do?
We found the Kaneohe Bay without incident, but hauling the kayak from where we parked the car to the pier was quite a challenge. Dafydd told me that the rental guy said the boat only weighed 70 pounds. I have had a quite bit of weight training, and have no problem carrying 35 lbs. I tell you after struggling with that thing that it ain't no measly 70 lbs!
After bitching and moaning for a while (just to get in the mood), I grabbed the lanyard at the front and helped Dafydd carry the kayak a long, long, long, long, long way to the boat-launch... only to find out we carried to the wrong place! We were supposed to launch at the "canoe beach;" but of course, we had no way to know that. I looked at the long pier and said, "since we're already here, let's just use the boat-launch. It's more convenient." My real motivation was that I was not about to carry that thing across the parking lot again. We launched and paddled furiously, hoping to avoid being run over by huge power boats. Our goal was to reach Kapapa Island about 2 .25 miles frome there.
At first, we were going pretty slow. But after a while, we found our rhythm and paddled fairly well. Dafydd told me that there was a sunken island on the way. I didn't know what he meant until I saw it: the color of the ocean changed, becoming much lighter there; and the water, which had been too deep to see bottom, was suddenly very shallow. Below us, I saw sandy beaches, coral, and some little fishes. It was like we were floating over a regular, dry-land island.
Dafydd wanted to walk around on the sunken island a bit, so he jumped out of the kayak. Big mistake! When I turned around to see what he was doing, I lost my balance, and boom, hit the water. Now we were both in the ocean.
Dafydd might have thought the water was much shallower than it actually was. It was about four feet deep. Four feet of water does not seem like anything. But when you're wearing a life jacket in the ocean with some wind, you don't have much control over your body. We bobbed around like couple of corks, and our parka, water bottles, my T-shirt, and whatever other gear wasn't lashed down went floating away from us.
We caught up with the parka we'd taken in case it rained, my shirt, and one water bottle; the other drifted off, never to be seen again. But we were still in the ocean and not in the kayak.
Getting back aboard was not as easy as we thought. First, I tried to get in it by holding on and putting one of my legs over the side. But all this managed to do was capsize the kayak. On the second attempt, Dafydd held the other side of the kakyak to keep it from capsizing while I climbed on top of it.
After a major struggle, I managed to get back into the kayak. Now it was Dafydd's turn. He told me to lean over the left (port) side when he climbed over the starboard. But when he told me to lean, I leaned too much and fell into the water again. Oh, I was so mad! We were right back where we started.
Then we thought it might be more feasible for Dafydd to climb back on board first, then pull me over. He got back in, he pulled me up... then somehow, the kayak flipped the other way, dumping us both in the drink again.
I started to get really scared. We were more than a mile out; what would happen if we couldn't get back into the boat? On the third time around, I struggled in safely (we had gone back to the mode of Sachi clamboring up first). Then Dayfdd got back in and slowly inched into position. I kept striaght up and didn't throw my weight around, and "Finally!" Then the kayak started rocking, I panicked and leaned too much to the side.....again, we were in the water.
Dafydd said to me in exasperation, "OK, Sachi. You climb back in first. When I climb in, no matter what, don't move! Stay stil." I was almost panicking at this point. I don't remember what exactly we did, but we mananged to get back in the kayak safely this time around. Amazingly, my sunglass which were not tied to anything, stayed on my face this entire time. The only thing we lost was an unsecured water bottle.
By that time, I had lost interest in going to the island. I was so scared that we were going to capsize again, that I just wanted to go back to the shore. But Dafydd would have none of that. "After all that trouble, you just want to go back? That's ridiculous. Besides," he added, "you'll be mad at yourself if you yield to your fear, just because we capsized a few times." Then Dafydd made the killer argument: we were more than half way to the island. That meant it was quicker heading to the island that going back to the shore -- and that made up my mind for me. Well, after few more minutes of coaxing and getting me out of panic mode. We headed toward the island.
It's hard to believe, but the most of the way to the island, the water is only a three or four feet deep. However, when we got closer to the island, we got caught in a wave "crossfire": the waves from the open ocean would hit this tiny island and wrap around, making a kill-zone of breakers from both left and right as we approached.
The guidebook had warned about this, but it's one thing to read about it and another to be in the middle of it. The waves made it really hard to steer; but at least the water was shallow, there was no danger of falling out of the boat. In fact, in another few paddle strokes, the water got so shallow we just climbed out of the kayak and pulled it to the island beach.
What had looked like nice, soft sand from the water turned out to be smashed up coral; I slipped on the slippery stuff and fell and cut my wrist. But I was happy to be on the ground again!
On the island, a young man with some sort of british accent* helped us carry the kayak out of the water, because I was too exhausted. He said he and his kayaking club members were camping on the island. When we talked about how calm the ocean was on the outbound trip, he warned us that the weather could change very quickly. Unless we were going to stay overnight on the island, we should not linger. So we quickly ate our sandwiches, took some pictures (our camera had nicely survived the repeated dunkings, being sealed inside the "dry bag;" I got some nice pix of a baby bird nesting inside a hollowed out rock), got the British guy to take a couple of pictures of the two of us, and then loaded up and pushed out into the water again.
Coming back from the island was much easier, since the current and wind pushed us towards the shore. Every so often, a wave would sneak up behind us, and we would find ourselves unexpectedly surfing! The only trouble we encountered was running aground over the very shallow part of the sunken island. Some parts were only a foot deep; I saw many tourists walking around only ankle deep in the middle of the ocean.
There is only about a half mile between the sunken island and the shore where the water is deep enough for power boats. On the one hand, this was good, because we did not have to worry about capsizing anymore. But on the other hand, the water eventually got so shallow that we could hardly move. (I think the tide had gone out since we paddled over this stretch going outbound.) This got worse and worse as we got closer to the shore.
After about four hours of constant rowing, interrupted only by the brief rest on Kapapa Island, we finally came back to the pier. We had to struggle to get the kayak up on the car roof. I especialy had a difficult time, and again, some total stranger lifted my end of the boat for me. We managed to secure the kayak (we thought), even though we didn't quite remember everything the store manager had said, and off we went. However, once on the H1 freeway, we noticed the kayak was defenitely shifting to the left. Dafydd told me to pull over, and just then, we heard a loud scrape as the kayak shifted hard left. It turned out we forgot to run the tie-in straps through one side of the kayak! After all this trouble, if we had lost the kayak on the freeway, we would have had to cough up at least $500.
After restrapping the boat right there on the freeway, we got back in the car. By mutual assent, we agreed not to tell the rental-shop manager about our screwup. "But you can blog about it if you want," Dafydd said -- and so I did.
When we got to Go Bananas again, it was 5:30, seven and a half hours after we rented the kayak. The store clerk who examined the kayak found some trivial "damage" on the rudder and immediately began talking about how we might have to replace it -- for $250! Dafydd looked at it and said it didn't look all that damaged to him. It was nothing a quick bend with a wrench wouldn't fix, he said. Dafydd and the clark argued for a while, then the clerk got the store manager, who had to make the final decision. After looking at the rudder, he went inside a shed... and came out with a crescent wrench and bent the bar back into place. No charge.
One last point: just for our future reference, we asked the manager how to get back aboard a kayak when you've capsized. It turned out we were doing it all wrong. It was amazing that we actually managed to pull ourselves aboard the way we did.
When we got back to the hotel, we both noticed that we were covered with scratchs and bruises, abrasions and bites. We were too pumped to notice them before. My muscles got so stiff and painful, it was difficult to walk to a restaurant for dinner.
But it was an adventure... and after it was over, it was really fun in retrospect!
* Dafydd says the guy was South African.
Date ►►► November 12, 2005
Hawaii Blogging 2: Manoa Falls
Before the this Hawaii trip began, we were planning on hiking almost everyday. However, one week is too short to explore all of Oahu. Not to mention that I had to show up at work every morning, only to be told there was nothing for me to do that day. Well, finally we had a chance to hike, although it was a short one.
Only four and half miles away from Waikiki Beach, toward the mountain (or hill) where Manoa Road ends, there is a rain forest. It was aptly named: as soon as the road turned upward toward the moutain, rain started to pour, startling us... the Ala Wai canal area we just left a mile back was totally sunny. We wondered if we should actually hike today; but it had been raining off and on like this every day since we got here. If we didn't hike today, we never would.
After driving a couple miles on the winding Manoa Road (Dafydd insisted on calling it "Manure Road"), we got to a dirt parking lot. There was a man sitting under a big unbrella attending the lot. The skinny Japanese parking attendant said the weather has been like this all week and would not likely change. "After all, this is a rain forest," he explained with a smile and a shrug. So we sprayed ouselves with insect repellant, and off we sloshed.
The entire trail is only two miles round trip. From the same trailhead, there is the much longer and more strenuous Aihualama Trail. But that one was closed due to the weather. Since it was a little too late in the day to start a long hike anyway (we spent longer at the U.S.S. Missouri than we expected), we were OK with the shorter.
The vegetation of this forest is like nothing I have ever seen. We felt like we were in Tarzan's forest, and at any moment, he would come swinging by on a vine. According to the guide book, the large trees are kukui, African tulip tree, guava, and mountain apple; Dafydd thought he saw mangrove, too. I cannot tell you which tree was which; but I did recognize palm grass and ferns, and vines hanging like giant Spanish moss from the trees. This really is a jungle. We are so used to a desert mountain hike, this was quite a difference!
The muddy trail follows a babbling stream on the right which makes a soothing sound. We wondered whether there were fish in the stream, but the stream was too muddy to see anything anyway. The temparature was a perfect 80 degrees, but the rain persisted and even got worse. When I saw a large palm that looked like a giant lotus leaf, I suggested we should use that as an unberella, just like the Japanese Anime monster Totoro did in My Neighbor Totoro. After a while, we could not tell if the water dripping into our eyes was sweat or rain.
The moderate slope is not a challenge for serious hikers. But the trail was wet and very slipperly. The reward for this slidey hike is at the end: the Manoa Falls. It's tall and skinny like Yosemite falls, making a perfect splash 150 feet down a sheer cliff to the pool below. We sat down on a bench by the pool and opened our lunch. At that precise moment, the heavens opened with a deluge. Dafydd covered his sandwich with his hand to avoid soggy salami, while I quickly shoveled the entirety of my own into my mouth, almost choking on it.
We wolfed down the food and decided to head back immediately. The trip back was worse than the trip out, even though it was all downhill. Especially because it was all downhill! Muddy tracks that were passable by fast lunging on the way up became a Winter Olympics slalom course heading back down. Our shoes were quickly caked with mud, and we lost what feeble traction we had. We should have worn water skis!
"We should just jump in the river and swim back," I said; "maybe it would dry us off."
The rain was heavy enough that we couldn't really even see the forest for the streams of water in our eyes. We slogged down and down, somehow staying on our feet. And finally, we reached the gravel part of the trail, then the wood planks, then gravel again... and then before we realized it, we were back at the parking lot. The Japanese man had turned into a Hawaiian girl, but she huddled under her drooping umbrella and didn't say anything to us. It was just as well. I don't think I could take another "alooooooooooooo-HA!"
Just as we got to the car, Dafydd said "oh good -- it stopped raining!" I looked up; he was right. I hadn't even noticed, because the water was still streaming from my hair across my eyes.
Everything we were wearing was soaked. We looked like big stacks of rumpled wetwash. We washed our hands with the bottled water we hadn't drunk and slid into the car, dripping all the way back through the sunshine to Waikiki. It was the best day of the vacation so far!
Tomorrow, we're going kayaking in Kaneohe Bay and the Kahana River. I bet it'll be drier.
Wanted: High-Efficiency Gasoline Engine X-Prize
In chapter 2 of the Wishing Ring, I discussed high-temperature ceramic engines. But of course, there are likely many different ways to rework the basic concept of the infernal combustion engine to make it highly efficient -- which I'm arbitrarily defining to mean operating at 75% efficiency or greater, as opposed to the 12%-15% that we get out of such engines today.
For back-of-the-fingernail estimate purposes, let's say a car gets on average 30 miles per gallon today. If that constitutes 15% efficiency, then 75% efficiency (five times that) would be 150 mpg. Here is my suggestion for solving the problem of overreliance on Middle Eastern oil imports:
Let the federal government run an "X-prize" contest for the first person to demonstrate a production model of an automobile that gets 150 miles per gallon of ordinary gasoline... where the prize is a federal transportation contract (or series of contracts) worth $1,000,000,000. That's one billion dollars -- but only to be paid when an actual production model is demonstrated, and paid not as a reward but as a contract for new fleets of vehicles for all the federal agencies, from the Department of Defense (military and civilian) to State to Interior to Transportation.
Of course, such an engine could also be adapted to electricity production and to industry; it would transform and revolutionize our economy... and once again move America forward by a quantum leap of technology.
Note that the feds pay absolutely nothing for development: zip, nada, zilch. Not one dime is forked over until the new car is available for production. But the value of the contract is so large that every major automotive developer, plus tons of "backyard inventors," will eagerly leap into the race.
High-temp ceramics are a good point to start; but there's nothing wrong with including ideas like flywheels and such to conserve momentum at the margins, or other ways to increase efficiency, and thus serendipitously reduce pollution by hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and so forth (those all represent unburnt fuel; greater efficiency would reduce or even eliminate them ).;
Let's unleash the genie of American ingenuity and the power of postive greed to reduce the importance of the Middle-Eastern oil fields (and not coincidentally, the importance of a certain "Yugo" of South America) and give a world-class kick in the butt to the American -- and eventually world -- economy!
A big announcement of such a great race by President Bush himself at a press conference, with all the bells and whistles -- Bush surrounded by conservative budget hawks, military mavins, the heads of several automobile manufacturers, and a bunch of well-known environmentalists and global-warming maniacs -- would be a political rocket to the Moon: at once, Bush would be promoting Americanism, conservatism, energy independence, energy conservation, small business, big business, the economy, and greater military power! And all without spending a dime of taxpayer money until there are actual results.
Golly, I can't think of anything more adventurous and exciting to rouse the American people out of their torpor, short of sprouting wings and a halo (in which case, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the ACLU would be after him). I would love to script that speech... I envision Bush actually holding up one of those giant-sized Publisher's Clearing House checks for one billion dollars, payable to "American inventor."
A whopping big tip of the hat to Jerry Pournelle, who told me about this same idea (I think it was original with Jerry) for the original "X-Prize," for development of a completely privately financed lifting vehicle that could fly from runway to orbit, many, many years before the X Prize Foundation came up with the same idea. I'm just adapting it to a more pressing and immediate problem.
Date ►►► November 11, 2005
The Wishing Ring, part 3
By this, the final segment of the Wishing Ring, you're either desperate to know what the heck I mean by "foodless food" -- or else you're so overwhelmed by ennui that you're gnawing your own leg off to escape.
On the assumption that those of you in the latter category will have other things to worry about (such as sudden, catastrophic blood loss), I'll dive right into this last wish of our iconic three.
Throughout most of human history and across most of the world even today, the poor are marked by their thin, gaunt, even skeletal look. They starve. That's the simple fact. Look at the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, if it's not too painful.
But in the civilized corner of the world, and especially in the United States, it's the rich and famous who look like scarecrows. The poor are positively rolly polly; many are actually obese.
This is because only the rich make enough money to afford very tiny portions of food, as Horace Rumpole once put it (courtesy of his author, John Mortimer). Low-fat, low-cal food costs big bucks, as do exercise regimes and personal trainers (and in the case of some stars, hand slappers: they reach for the pork rinds, they get their hands slapped). In fact, America's biggest health problem (sorry) may be obesity, though some medical researchers are backing off of that a bit recently.
The "problem" is that capitalist countries produce so much wealth, including food, that even the poorest can eat three full meals a day... provided he isn't too picky about the amount of fat, sugar, and carbohydrates he consumes. Even begging, let alone a job, generates plenty of income to gorge at fast-food joints three or four times a day. The result, of course, is not pretty; see the tendentious film Super Size Me. But the problem is not limited to the poor: the vast bulk of the middle class is more worried about losing weight than about getting enough to eat.
When diet, exercise, and willpower fail, we can always rely upon technology. Instead of denying ourselves the foods we love... let's imagine a world where we can eat, eat, eat, morning, noon, and night, yet never gain an ounce.
It's not only possible, we already have the most of the tools to create exactly that world: foodless food.
What I mean by the weird phrase is food that is engineered to have a precise mix of protein, carbs, fat, and sugar. A stomach-stuffing, belly-busting feast that nevertheless contains no more calories than a grilled chicken salad and a side of cottage cheese.
It turns out, oddly enough, that digestion has a lot to do with chemistry. There is a whole science about it: food chemistry. Our bodies are set up to digest certain types of food, and our taste buds can only detect certain types of flavors (sweet, sour, bitter, salt, and something I'd never heard of before reading this web page: umami).
But nothing says that the two processes must operate in synch. Food can taste sweet without providing a single calorie via digestion; I call this sugarless sugar, and it's sold under many names: NutraSweet (aspartame), Sweet & Low (saccharine), Sugar Twin (cyclamates), and Splenda (sucralose), depending on what you want to do with it -- add it to cooked food or cook with it, for example. By mixing any of these artificial sweeteners with real sugar (sucrose), you can create any degree of sweetness with any level of actual sugar.
The first artificial fat sold openly in consumer goods was Olean (olestra); others will likely follow. Olestra, developed by Procter & Gamble in 1968 but only marketed recently, is an artificial substance called sucrose polyester, "a synthetic mixture of sugar and vegetable oil, which passes through the human digestive system without being absorbed." In other words, it tastes like fat but cannot be absorbed by the body, making it zero calorie. It's not perfect; some people experience various digestive problems when they eat it. But the solution to this problem is easy: if you eat olestra and get diarrhea, and if this bothers you... then don't eat it!
I know that a number of food chemists are feverishly at work trying to develop an artificial carbohydrate for the millions on variations of the Atkins diet. I expect there will be breakthroughs there, as there always are when real money is at stake. And I fully expect artificial protein within the near future... protein that tastes like meat but passes right through. The only remaining problem then will be assembling all these parts into food that tastes authentic, but is in fact ersatz.
The long and the short is that eventually, probably sooner than we expect, we will have very good artificial substitutes for virtually every type of food taste and texture that exists... which means that any recipe could be made full calorie, zero calorie, or any value in between. You can dial your own nutritional prescription.
In other words, foodless food.
You could have pancakes, bacon, syrup, and hot chocolate for breakfast; a BLT with extra mayo and a side of Freedom Fries™ for lunch; and prime rib, mashed potatoes, split-pea soup, apple cobbler, and a grande mocha-vanilla caramel macchiato cappuccino au lait with double-shots of chocolate and fudge for dinner, and have the whole day’s feast clock in at only 1200 calories, comprising 150g of carbs, 33g of fat, and 75g of protein.
"OK, ab Hugh, it would be nice to lose weight without sacrifice. But how is that 'revolutionary?'"
Detour time: what is an economy anyway? Forget all that stuff you learned in Econ 101... does anybody actually offer a class called Econ 101? Any economic system is a method of allocating resources -- natural resources, goods, and services -- among the members of the community associated with that economic system: how do you divide up the apples?
Unless you believe in the Great Wealth Tree, these resources are both limited and unevenly distributed among the population. An economic system distributes them more evenly by allowing a person with too much of resource X to give it to another person who hasn't enough.
It doesn't matter to this definition whether the transfer is voluntary, in exchange for some other resource Y (money, for example), or is involuntary according to some Socialist diktat: the point is that scarce resources are distributed among the population by the rules of the economic system. In other words, economics is a sophisticated system for resource triage.
Medical triage recognizes the scarcity of medical resources in some circumstances (MASH units in combat areas, for example) and allocates that care among patients by various rules. An economic system does the same to allocate a wider set of resources among a larger population over the long term. But both forms of triage depend upon one irreducible fact: that the resources in question are limited. If they are unlimited and unbounded, then there is no reason to allocate them: everybody uses what he wants in a kind of Kropotkian anarchy.
Back to foodless food (I'll bet you thought that, like Grandpa telling a story, I had forgotten where I started). Sugarless sugar and fatless fat are the first baby steps in what I will call designer food: food specifically designed and created for a particular person, using a profile he himself has designed (in consultation with medical knowledge) for his particular needs. It will necessarily force consumers to get over their irrational fears of genetically modified food: greed and vanity are two of the most powerful and positive drives in the human psyche; and in the end, I'm sure they'll overcome our natural desire to live like a bunch of grim and grisly Puritans, depriving ourselves of such frivolities as "pleasure."
Eventually, we will be forced by greed and vanity to drop the idea that there is something sacred about comestibles; we'll start treating them as any other product, to be fiddled with and altered at will, subject only to the laws of product safety that govern goods such as minivans and semiautomatic pistols. With this religious prohibition against genetic food gone (it will die hard), normal market forces will create food that is better, healthier, and cheaper... and eventually, food will become so cheap that anyone will be able to afford the best-tasting and healthiest food in any quantity, designed personally for him. Food, even gourmet food, will no longer be a scarcity.
Therefore, we will no longer need triage to "distribute" food. The effect of this will be electrifying in itself: since (supra) the economy affects only those things that are scarce -- there is no fee for breathing air -- when food is no longer scarce in any sense of the word, then food will, by definition, no longer be a part of the economy.
Put it this way: why would you pay gourmet prices to get an incredible meal at a restaurant when you can get an equally incredible meal, just as much to your taste and just as healthy, but at a fraction the cost, through Amazon.com? And why pay even Amazon if your home cooking computer can create the same food for you for free?
Foodless food may be the first step of what some thinkers, capitalist and Marxian alike, call the "post-economic society" (science-fiction writer John Barnes falls in the latter camp and is responsible for first explaining this concept to me a number of years ago; hat tip to John). A post-economic society (PES) is one in which all the necessities of life and even many of the luxuries become, due to technological advance, so cheap and plentiful that they literally are no longer a part of the economy, as above. A PES can be both completely capitalist and fully socialist at the same time: one definition of socialism is the belief that it's the government's responsibility to supply all the necessities of life to all citizens; but if all the necessities of life can be made available to all the citizens at a tax cost of $5/year per person total, then taxes would in essence be zero... and you would still be free to engage in capitalist activity with no tax drag on the economy.
You have to understand that government control is measured not so much by its scope as its extent to each person: technically, it's "government control of the press" if Congress were to require, as its only requirement, that every publication in the United States include a little smiley-face on page 4. The scope of this silly example is universal. But the extent of the control is so trivial that it's a joke; only the most theoretical purist would say such a tiny requirement damaged freedom of the press.
So a government can be fully socialist -- every citizen is entitled to all the necessities of life for free; but if the cost is so trivial that you do not even notice it, then for all intents and purposes, the cost is nonexistent... and you have pure capitalism and pure socialism existing happily together in the same PES.
But technology will not stop with designer food; it will proceed apace. Eventually, technology will swallow up every kind of scarcity -- except the artificial scarcity: novels by Dafydd ab Hugh are scarce simply because I'm the only one who can produce them, not because novels themselves are in short supply (would that they were! then my own books would sell better). As more and more scarcities vanish, our idea of what constitutes a "necessity" will expand -- why shouldn't it? -- until the only thing in a PES that is not free for the taking is a service that one person performs for another. And even those can typically be done by machines; there is no reason a machine cannot learn to cook, to practice medicine, and to try legal cases.
In the final stage of a total PES, the only commodity for sale will be status: you status will be enhanced if you have a human butler, instead of a buttle-bot. If you employ a human chef while all your friends just have chef-o-matics, they will envy you. It is irrelevant if your butler and chef are any better than machines; they can even be worse! The status is that you have them at all.
Which means that anyone who can do something idiosyncratic (a painter, writer, composer, aide de camp, major domo, prostitute, performer, or other personalized service) will make "millions" of whatever money is used. But the only thing he can spend it on is more idiosyncratic, personalized service from someone else. The butler will have a juggler on retainer. The prostitute will have a personal secretary!
And that will be the greatest revolution of all: every concept of law, economy, war and territory, national sovereignty, and social control will crumble... and there is no way of predicting what type of society will spawn in its place. Nobody knows what a PES looks like, because none has ever existed on this planet. But surely it will be utterly unlike any society that has gone before... truly the "end of history," at least as we know it.
And all for the want of a cheesecake calorie!
In this absurdly long and drawn out series, the Wishing Ring, an agony in three fits, I have pointed out three fast approaching inventions, each of which has the capability of changing our entire universe: E-paper, high-temperature ceramic engines, and the mother of all inventions, foodless food. Besides the obvious reason for the series -- to waste time dreaming about the future when I should be building my own web page -- there is a higher calling, which I call ab Hugh's First Law of Prediction:
Any speculation about the future of society that does not take into account the unstoppable advance of technology is not worth the paper it's printed on.
(And ab Hugh's Internet Corollary: any such online speculation that ignores technology is not worth the paper it's not printed on.)
So the next time you hear some idiot talk about what Social Security will be doing forty years from now, whether he works for CBS or the Bush administration, ask yourself whether the technological advances in the next four decades will render the whole discussion moot.
Then kick back, have a beer, and blog, ranger, blog!
The Wishing Ring, part 2
High Temperature Ceramic Engines
Despite innovations galore over the past hundred and twenty years or so (depending on what ancestors you're willing to count), the internal combustion gasoline engine is basically the same today as it was in 1885/1886, when Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz independently invented it. Probably the most notable improvement was electronic fuel injection (1966); fuel injection can improve the power output of similar-sized engines by roughly 40%, and make it impossible to impress your wife by cleaning the carburetor. But even that is just a slightly more efficient way to squirt gasoline into a cylinder and mix it with oxygen to produce an inflammable mixture that burns reasonably well.
The real problem with the classic internal combustion engine is much more basic: to really get full efficiency out of burning fuel, you have to burn it at really hot temperatures, upwards of 5000° Fahrenheit. But at that temperature, steel cylinders, pistons, and the engine block itself will melt like a nervous Republican in a warm filibuster.
Say hello to ceramics.
When you say "ceramics," most people think of the cute, clay ashtrays that their children continually make in school for their nonsmoking parents. There are gobbledygook definitions of ceramics that chemists use; but for our purposes, we're talking about non-metallic, non-organic substances usually made by forming a powder into some shape, then "sintering" or firing it (heating it just below the melting point). You get a smooth, glassy material that is incredibly resistant to heat... and can also be strong, lightweight, non-corroding, and almost eternal. You can study up on ceramics here; I'll wait.
So what do these powdery, ashtray-thingies have to do with engines? The most important properties of ceramics for engine design is that they're lightweight -- and they don't melt easily.
I don't want to get too deep in the mathematical weeds (which look like little, green integral signs), but there's an equation governing gas pressure called Gay-Lussac's Law. To really boil it down, pressure P is equal to a constant k times temperature T: P = k • T.
Pressure, the pressure of the exploding gasoline-air mixture inside the cylinder, is what you want out of an internal combustion engine: the pressure pushes the piston up. The more pressure, the more horsepower you have. Gay-Lussac's Law tells us that the way to get more pressure is to burn the gasoline at a hotter temperature.
The problem is that the cylinder, piston, and all the rest of the engine is made out of steel, except for those parts made out of plastic (say "thank you, Mr. Clinton!" for plastic engine parts). And steel, along with Clintonian plastic, melts. Thus, you simply can't burn gasoline much hotter than we already do, about 1350°F. If you try it, your engine will end up looking like a Salvador Dali clock.
Enter the ceramic engine. Ceramics are very heat resistant, which is why even nonsmokers can stub out cigarettes in them. In an all-ceramic engine, you can burn gasoline much hotter, as much as 5000°F. Because that law above assumes everything is expressed in Kelvin, not Fahrenheit, this means you're burning the gas at three times the temperature, which should produce about three times the pressure, hence three times the horsepower.
In fact, it's even better. Much of the weight of your car's engine is used for water and oil pumps, hoses, and the radiator, all to keep cooling the engine and reduce friction in the cylinders... none of which you need in a ceramic engine. So they weigh less but produce more power.
Finally, the hotter you burn gasoline, the more completely it burns. Air pollution is basically the unburned remnants of incomplete oxidation (a fancy word for "burning"); so a high-temperature ceramic engine will be extremely clean. Why Ed Begley jr. isn't running around selling these things door-to-door, I'll never know.
The drawback is that so far, we can't make them well enough to keep them from developing microcracks. But this is simply an engineering problem that requires no staggering breakthrough. Similarly, it's tough to mass-produce them; but we'll have those techniques down pat relatively soon.
(Ceramics can also be used for superconducting, which means magnetic-levitation trains, and for rocket engines and turbojets for airplanes. They can be manufactured arbitrarily small, so they can also be used for nanotechnology tools. But that's another story.)
There are, of course, other ways to make car engines much more efficient -- momentum-storing gyroscopes, fuel-cell technology, electric battery cars, and cars driven by broadcast power. But each of these requires very significant conceptual breakthroughs to make them at all practical... and each but the first would require creating a whole new fuel-delivery infrastructure across the entire country: hydrogen filling stations, electrical car rechargers, or huge microwave broadcasters. I'm convinced that ceramic gasoline-burning engines can be perfected much more quickly than these other systems. And remember, I'm the guy who predicted the French would betray us, so you can trust me.
But how, you ask -- those of you who haven't nodded off from all the excitement -- does any of this qualify as revolutionary? "What's in it for me?" demand those of you who haven't called Sally Struthers recently to inquire about careers in the exciting field of automotive repairs. I'll explain it in three words: Oh Eye Ell.
Why the hell does anybody on the planet care about the non-Israeli part of the Middle East, including those who live there? Because the world runs on oil, and that's where most of it is. We live and die by the price of crude, currently about $53 a barrel. For those of you who went to public school, hence learned nothing about evil capitalism, the price of anything is set by supply and demand -- at least until the Democrats get back in charge. The supply of oil expands, but not as fast as demand, especially with China industrializing like mad. Therefore, the price rises: too many straws, not enough glasses.
But with ceramic engines, more power per gallon means many more miles per gallon, not only for cars but for jumbo jets and for trains. And that in turn means we would need significantly less gasoline than we need now. Less gasoline = reduced demand = drop in price... probably a fairly significant drop, possibly down to the $25 - $30 range for a barrel. That spells less money in the pockets of Mad Mullahs and Wacky Wahhabis. It also means less money for oil-producing states like Texas, Oklahoma, and California; but those would be balanced by lower prices for other goods and services: the Arab (and Persian) Middle East has almost no other economy than oil, and such a huge drop in demand would devastate it.
Devastate it, and also make the Middle East much less important to the rest of the world. It would end the unlimited flow of petrodollars into the Donna Karen purses of terrorists. Thus, it would make the job of democratizing the region much easier. As Wretchard wrote a while back, “if a normal army travels on its stomach, a terrorist insurgency travels on its wallet.” And today, that wallet is an oilfield in Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Kuwait. So let's all wish for a quick solution to the remaining engineering problems and a speedy introduction of high-temperature ceramic engines.
Today, ashtrays -- tomorrow, the world!
And besides the world, tomorrow will also bring the third installment of the exciting Wishing Ring series of dry, pedantic lectures, the one you've all been on tenterhooks for: Foodless Food.
The Wishing Ring, part 1
Here are three upcoming inventions that you probably haven't thought much about, but which will revolutionize the world. I will divide this post into three parts, to give the illusion that I have more to say about it than my feeble imagination can actually dig up.
Assuming you are over the age of twenty-five and know what a book or magazine is, open one up. Take a look at it. Very different from a computer screen, eh? You can lie on the couch or on the floor and still read it. You can even read it in the bathtub without electrocuting yourself (unless it's the Neve Campbell issue of Maxim). You can take it with you to the beach or the mountains, read it in direct sunlight or by flashlight on a camping trip. You can look at the centerfold under the covers when your Mom thinks you're asleep, which is how most of us got our first glimpse of Byte Magazine.
Now imagine a book or magazine that looks exactly like print -- but whose software driven words and pictures morph on the paper like a webpage. That, my slavish devotees and soon to be competitors, is e-paper, also sometimes called smart paper, though one company seems to have trademarked that phrase.
In one version under development by Gyricon, Inc, a spinoff from Xerox's famous Palo-Alto Research Center (PARC), the "paper" actually comprises tens of millions of tiny balls, like pixels... say as many as 1250 to the linear inch, the typical density of professionally printed magazines today. These spheres are contained between two sheets of clear polymer by a sticky fluid, allowing them to twist and spin freely (much like Bill Frist's political spine).
That would make almost a hundred and fifty million on an 8½ x 11 size sheet. In the simplest case, these spheres are black and negatively charged on one side, white and positive on the other. Like registers in a computer, tiny currents running alongside the spheres can flip any particular one to be either black side up (a black dot at that position) or white side up (a white dot). Flipping the right sequence of balls creates words, line drawings, even graytones. Anything that a super high quality laserjet printer can print can appear instantaneously on a page of e-paper, only to be replaced by the next page whenever the reader clicks the page-turn button.
The albedo (reflection) would be identical to ink on paper, meaning you could view it in direct sunlight or under a reading lamp; it would not be backlit. The smart book would probably include its own book-lamp, so reading in the dark would be just as easy as in the daylight.
A more complex version would use spheres with red, green, and blue sectors, in addition to adjacent spheres with black and white. This would operate like a color television screen or monitor, giving you full color illustrations.
Other versions of e-paper include products under development by E-Ink, where extremely tiny black spheres and white spheres float together in a viscous medium. Please don't start singing "Ebony and Ivory," or I shall do you a violence. All these black and white spheres (and the fluid) are contained within a larger sphere (about the diameter of a human hair).
The black spheres have a negative static charge, the white are positive. By creating a static charge on the bottom of the container, either the black or the white spheres can be sent to the top, where they become visible, giving you either a black dot or a white dot. Add them up, and you have a "printed" page. Distinct hotspots on the bottom of the hair-sized container with distinct static charges can send a mix of black and white spheres to the top, giving you a grayscale.
Finally, there is the possibility of crystal "pixels" that can simply change color in response to tiny electrical currents.
How would this change the universe? You must understand that the huge majority of readers cannot read lengthy books or entire magazines on monitors... or at least, we do not enjoy doing so. Those who get much of their news from online sources sometimes have a hard time grasping how many people are locked out of instant, online publication simply because they can't or won't read on a computer monitor. But with e-paper, "books" would be reduced to mere software, yet would be just as readable as the printed page. Online would cease to mean "on a CRT screen," and could mean on a "paperback book" in your pocket, with the same flexibility and internet access as a hand-held web portal. Blackberry soup for the soul.
Ordinary readers could carry hundreds of books with us wherever we went. If we needed a book we didn't have, it would be a download away.
But more to the revolutionary point, e-paper -- which is coming sooner than you might think -- will end up blogifying the mainstream print media. Today, if you want to publish a book or magazine in any quantity, you have to scrape together $20,000 or more. Various "instant press" companies can print you single books at a time; but they require a much higher unit cost to print than printing in quantity, which cuts into your profits as an author.
Therefore, authors have to submit proposals or manuscripts to editors at big publishing houses in New York. These editors have tremendous power to determine what does and does not get published; before a reader can read a book, an editor (usually a New York leftist) has to buy it first. The few publishers that will handle conservative or libertarian books (notably Regnery Publishing) get so many submissions from authors locked out of the mainstream press that they cannot possibly publish them all... or even the tiny fraction of authors who are worth more than $1.29 -- clothes, pocket change, blood chemicals, and all. And you know they're just going to love me for putting their URL up here!
But when anyone who can use text-editing and page-layout software can "publish" a book or magazine (by selling downloads) that looks just as professional as those from Warner Books or Time Life Publications, the distinction between a professional e-paper magazine and an e-paper magazine from the pajamahedin will boil down to editing and advertising. This will break the back of the New York literary mafia, the gatekeepers to literature and nonfiction for the masses. Reviewers will become the new elite; if you know you like the type of books that I like, then if I recommend some e-paper book in a review, you'll likely buy a download... especially since the cost will be tremendously less than buying a hardback from Amazon.
The author makes much more money per book because he owns it; rather than getting a mere 10% royalty on each copy sold, as he gets today (if he's lucky), his profit would be income minus expenses; books could be sold for half of today's prices and still net the author five times what he makes per book today. Which is another way of saying that an author can make the same profit from a book by selling only 20% of what he would sell through a big publisher. Ordinary people, who don't have multi-million dollar advertising budgets and distribution to thousands of bookstores, can still sell enough books to live on writing income alone.
E-paper is to books and magazines what blogging is to online publication... except E-paper will reach orders of magnitude more readers.
Next invention from the ring of three wishes: High-Temperature Ceramic Engines.
Flakey Cable Modem - Scaley Classics Upcoming!
The flipping cable modem in this hotel in Waikiki is fading in and out. I'm struggling manfully to make posts, but it's difficult.
In the meanwhile -- and I will still continue posting new stuff, don't worry -- here are some Scaley Classics, posts from the misty past, vast aeons ago, sometime between the Dark Ages and the last mini ice age. Well, stuff I formerly posted on Captain's Quarters and Patterico's Pontifications, while I was still trying to cajole the bank of little lizards to run inside their Faraday cages (that's what powers this website, you know).
Here is a three-parter: the Wishing Ring, about three inventions that will change the universe.
Note: There may be some old information in here; just let me know, and I'll update it. Thanks!
French Introspection? Ooh La La!
As if the New York Times has been reading blogs, they have started examining the question of France and whether or how much the French lack of a national identity is in part responsible for the non-assimilation of their Moslem immigrants.
Some choice quotations, all emphasis added by moi:
"I was born in Senegal when it was part of France," [Semou Diouf] said before putting the pipe in his mouth. "I speak French, my wife is French and I was educated in France." The problem, he added after pulling the pipe out of his mouth again, "is the French don't think I'm French."
That, in a nutshell, is what lies at the heart of the unrest that has swept France in the past two weeks: millions of French citizens, whether immigrants or the offspring of immigrants, feel rejected by traditional French society, which has resisted adjusting a vision of itself forged in fires of the French Revolution....
"People have it in their head that surveying by race or religion is bad, it's dirty, it's something reserved for Americans and that we shouldn't do it here," said Yazid Sabeg, the only prominent Frenchman of Arab descent at the head of a publicly listed French company. "But without statistics to look at, how can we measure the problem?"....
The idea behind France's republican ideal was that by officially ignoring ethnic differences in favor of a transcendent French identity, the country would avoid the stratification of society that existed before the French Revolution or the fragmentation that it now sees in multicultural models like the United States. But the French model, never updated, has failed, critics say. "France always talks about avoiding ghettoization, but it has already happened," Mr. Sabeg said, adding that people are separated in the housing projects, in their schools and in their heads [Yeah, well this "fragmented" United States ain't having no Moslem riots at the moment! -- the Mgt.]....
Most second-generation Muslim immigrants are generally no more observant than young French Catholics. But the legacy of discrimination [or the lack of any specifically French identity -- the Mgt.] creates the conditions for young people who feel neither French nor North African to seek an identity in Islam - often anti-Western, political Islam.
I don't know what to make of that last assertion. It's classic Times: vast, sweeping, unsourced. But it strikes me as more or less true, or at least verisimilitudinous: if true, doesn't this mean that the French antipathy towards non-European culture and especially against religion is, in fact, driving young Arab French into the arms of a particularly violent and primitive religion, militant Islamism?
The real problem, as I see it, is that this "transcendent French identity" they seek is one founded in the French revolution of 218 years ago and, as the Times notes, "never updated." It cannot function as a specifically French identity today because it is so inextricably bound up in the social milieu of eighteenth-century Europe. Unlike the American "organic laws" -- the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 -- which actually do transcend their eighteenth-century origins by avoiding too close an embrace with the petty questions of the day, the French Revolution degenerated into "the Terror" and became thoroughly and horrifically tied to a particular place and time (especially after its inauspicious end at the hands of one of its own, the "Emperor" Napoleon Bonaparte.
At least some of the French private sector is starting to understand the true solution:
Karim Zeribi, a former soccer player and political adviser, said a study he carried out earlier this year found that résumés sent out with traditionally French names got responses 50 times higher than those with North African or African names. In the wake of the study, Mr. Zeribi established an agency in April called Act for Citizenship, which canvasses minority neighborhoods for qualified job candidates and markets them to corporations.
"We want to create a network for these people where there is none," Mr. Zeribi said. Still, he said, his young candidates are regularly asked if they are practicing Muslims when they are interviewed for jobs.
This clearly is the way to go... apart from whatever the French government has to do to reassure the immigrants that they are not confined to particular ghettos in France -- "mosquitos trapped in amber," as Sachi put it in a previous post -- the best step is for business and private interests to seek out, on their own franc, qualified Moslem employees and students.
Calling Persia's Bluff
Iran has long insisted that its nuclear reactor development is purely for "peaceful" power generation, and that they only need uranium enrichment in order to have a steady supply of fuel for electrical power (aside from their vast oil reserves, one assumes). But the United States and most Western European nations have strongly suspected that Iran is enriching far more Uranium than it needs for power production and plans instead to use it for nuclear warheads.
So in a very clever proposal, Russia -- now joined by the "EU3" (Great Britain, France, and Germany) and also the United States -- has offered Iran a compromise deal:
- Iran is allowed to proceed with its nuclear reaction plans, except --
- Iran agrees to give up its Uranium enrichment program; in exchange for which...
- Russia agrees to enrich Uranium for Iran, taking the entire enrichment program out of the hands of the ruling mullahs.
The beauty of course is that Russia already has all the enriched Uranium (and Plutonium) it could ever use for warheads, so we're not worried about them enriching more. But Russia, which during the Cold War was allied with Iran against Israel, has now become very suspicious of Islamists, due to the ongoing problem in Chechnya and also due to the backlash against Russia (and before them, the Soviet Union) caused by their invasion of Afghanistan, a brutal occupation that spawned the mujahedeen... one of whom broke away from the main, anti-Soviet group the MaK in order to found his own base of operations, called simply "the Base" (in Arabic, al-Qaeda). Hence, the Russians will not be eager to funnel enough enriched Uranium to Iran to allow them to build nuclear bombs; those bombs would be just as likely to end up in the Chechens' hands as Hezbollah's.
Iran gets one concession:
Under the Russian plan, Iran could continue with uranium conversion, the step before enrichment -- something the West had previously wanted Iran to renounce too.
Sure, the deal would prove Iran's peaceful intentions if they took it -- by making it nearly impossible for them to do otherwise. And for that very reason, nobody really expects Iran to accept. But when they reject it, it will be that much harder for Russia or the EU3 to argue that anything about this negotiation is really on the square.
And perhaps that much easier to move on to the next step, which has to be the UN Security Council for significant economic sanctions, with likely even Russia and China refusing to veto the plan.
Sobering Reminder - UPDATE (twice!) and bump
UPDATE: See below.
Just a few days ago, in a stunning victory, the Senate voted to approve drilling in a microscopic sliver of ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Today, we have this news:
Arctic drilling dropped from House bill
It could still return when, if Senate and House negotiate budget
House leaders late Wednesday abandoned an attempt to push through a hotly contested plan to open an Alaskan wildlife refuge to oil drilling, fearing it would jeopardize approval of a sweeping budget bill Thursday.
They also dropped from the budget document plans to allow states to authorize oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts — regions currently under a drilling moratorium.
"But wait!" you cry, "we have the majority! How could the Democrats block drilling in the House, where there is no filibustering?"
Oh, that's easy:
The decision to drop the ANWR drilling language came after GOP moderates said they would oppose the budget if it was kept in the bill. The offshore drilling provision was also viewed as too contentious and a threat to the bill, especially in the Senate.
This is the point that I think a lot of conservatives miss when they savagely swarm-attack George W. Bush for not ramming through more conservative legislation: the fact is that while Bush has had a Republican majority in both houses since 2003, he has not had a conservative majority in either house of Congress for his entire administration. Given that serious limitation, he has done staggeringly well; and that also explains why he must often compromise or bargain -- such as with his immigration proposal and the MediCare prescription-drug benefit --rather than maintaining absolute purity on all ideological issues (were he even inclined to do so).
It also explains why George Bush is the president and not someone like Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
There is still a good shot at getting drilling in ANWR; since the Senate voted for it, if Sen. Frist (R-TN) has picked senators for the joint conference who insist upon it, and if Hastert picks representatives who support it or don't care, they may reinsert it... and once it's been approved by the joint committee, it's much harder for the fourteen Republican defectors in the House to prevent its passage.
Marnie Funk, a spokeswoman for Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said that Domenici considers the ANWR provision, which the Senate approved, “one of the most critical components” in the budget package. “He is committed to coming back to the Senate from the conference with ANWR intact,” she said.
But please bear this in mind for the next three plus years: unless more conservatives are elected to Congress in 2006, it will be impossible to get a "conservative agenda" through... not because Bush isn't a good leader or isn't trying hard enough, but because leading Congress is like herding cats: you can only take them wherever they planned to go anyway.
UPDATE: And now, the House has canceled the vote on the budget bill entirely! It seems that even after getting their way on ANWR drilling, those same House "moderate" Republicans demanded that budget reductions stay away from Medicaid, Food Stamps, and other entitlement programs.
I have no idea where they imagine significant cuts can come from if both entitlement programs and necessary military spending are off the table... so the only two possibilities are that these "moderates" want Bush to slash money meant to pay for anti-terrorism and nation-rebuilding operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and everywhere else we're engaged in the world -- or else they want him to balance the budget by some huge tax hike on "the rich," which (if the usual definition is used) typically means any family making more than $35,000 per year.
What did I tell you?
They hope to reschedule the vote for sometime next week, after the holiday weekend (God forbid the congressional darlings have to work on a Saturday)... but nobody is holding his breath.
UPDATE II: John at Power Line has an interesting alternative take on what all these shenanigans tell us.
But I still like mine better.
Date ►►► November 10, 2005
Why Congress Should Not "Ban Torture"
I made the mistake of reading an editorial in the Hololulu Advertiser this morning; it perfectly encapsulates why we must not allow Congress to charge off on McCain's newest crusade against "torturing" our detainees. (It is, of course, yet another attempt by McCain to aggrandize himself by smearing President Bush. But that's a given, considering who we're dealing with, and beside the point.)
Here is what caught my eye:
There is an Alice-in-Wonderland quality to some of the rhetoric coming from the White House these days on the subject of torture and treatment of detainees held in the war against terrorism.
On his South American swing, President Bush responded firmly to questions from reporters: "We do not torture," he insisted, when asked about alleged secret CIA prisons overseas.
That should be reassuring, but what, precisely, does the president mean? That's a legitimate question, considering back in Washington his administration is struggling to exempt the CIA from a proposed law that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of people held in U.S. custody.
Apparently, in some semantic netherworld, "cruel and degrading" treatment does not add up to torture.
The problem is not in the banning; nobody of any significance in the government supports or would even tolerate actual torture, either conducted by us or by some other state actor in our presence or with our knowledge. The problem is that every time a body like Congress addresses the issue, they define torture downward.
Here, for example: "cruel and degrading," the language used in the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, is so nebulous and malleable that it can mean anything some international tribunal chooses it to mean.
Far from "offer[ing] clear and consistent guidelines for troops who are charged with handling and questioning detainees," the definition of what constitutes torture or "'cruel and degrading' treatment" would be a moving target that changed daily (or perhaps hourly). Since no CIA field interrogator could ever be sure he wouldn't run afoul of Congress's new defintion -- and since the penalties would be harsh -- none would ever so much as ask a tough question or dare raise his voice for fear that he would find himself in a cell next to Charles Graner.
The Universal Code of Military Justice already bans torture... obviously; look at what happened to the idiots at Abu Ghraib. But the military makes the definition "clear and consistent." Congress, by contrast, could change the definition on a whim (or a good election day for the Democrats). All right... but what about the CIA? They're not under the UCMJ; should they be barred from engaging in anything that Congress, relying upon an international tribunal, defines as "cruel and degrading?" Or should they be allowed in extreme cases to use more aggressive interrogation?
It would be reasonable to leave the final decision up to the president, not Congress... which by an odd coincidence is the very exemption that the Bush administration is seeking:
The White House initially tried to kill the anti-torture provision while it was pending in the Senate, then switched course to lobby for an exemption in cases of "clandestine counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to terrorists who are not citizens of the United States." The president would have to approve the exemption, and Defense Department personnel could not be involved. In addition, any activity would have to be consistent with the Constitution, federal law and U.S. treaty obligations, according to draft changes in the exemption the White House is seeking.
Not that the CIA should be allowed to romp through the torture chamber like Tomás de Torquemada, but that in very exceptional circumstances (the "ticking bomb" scenario), they be allowed under direct presidential directive to use aggressive interrogation techniques, even those that don't sit well with the berobed pedants at the Hague (or in Congress).
This is precisely the sort of operational decision that must be made by the Commander in Chief, not by preening senators like John McCain (R-AZ) or anti-military, anti-war, anti-Bush House zealots like Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (S-VT).
It's as easy to say "I'm against torture" as it is to say "Nazis are bad," and just about as meaningful. Opposing a Congressional takeover of operational military decisionmaking is, quite naturally, portrayed in the press as supporting torture, as the Advertiser does above. But on this issue, Bush has no choice: he must do as he is doing, and just hope that there is enough sanity in Congress that they will sustain his inevitable veto.
Mosquitos Trapped in Amber
We already know that the Moslem immigrants in France were not allowed to assimilate into the French society. But it is not so well known that the French children of Moslem immigrants are still ensnared in government housing projects, echoing in France what happened for decades in the United States. They are mosquitos trapped in amber, struggling against the sticky sap that binds them in place.
The projects were built in the 1960's as a part of modern urban planning. At first, poor working-class Frenchmen and immigrants lived side by side. As the French economy improved, job opportunities soon opened up for the native French; but for a variety of reasons, they were not equally open to the immigrants, especially Moslems from North and Central Africa.
A home-buying program of the 1980s allowed most of the native French to move out of the projects; but without jobs, few Moslems qualified. Soon they were left behind; with no jobs, no future, and (most important) no sense of being part of society, many Moslem youths turned to crime, probably for the same reason disaffected and alienated youth do here: impulse, boredom, bad example, and a deep feeling of "apartness."
The police instituted a crackdown in the projects in 1983; that police reaction led to a riot. This is very similar to what is happening today across much of france: rootless young Moslems, alienated from a society they have seen only via interaction with police, riot in response to a crackdown on real crimes.
"There's nothing to do, and frustrations have added up until in the end it has become like a bomb that they carry inside," said Azzouz Camen, 44, at a small snack bar he owns between the neighborhood's apartment blocks and a gleaming new mosque.
Most of us have the impression that the inaction of the spineless French police has greatly contributed to the crime surge in the region. However, the residents see just the opposite, overly aggressive police tactics, as the real cause. Both could be true simultaneously, as France lurches from crackdown to appeasement. From this angle, it's hard to see who is more right.
It really doesn't matter anyway; today's rioters don't care whether their lifelong belief about the crackdown was accurate then or now... they believe it, and it drives their actions. You can't argue someone out of his basic belief system. Especially when, like the French, you don't have any basic beliefs of your own.
The riot of twenty-two years ago was put down very heavy-handedly... and I think it became a part of the mythology of the current rioters as they grew up: they would hear much about the supposed gallantry of the protesters and the (still evident) brutality of the French police, and that would alienate them even more from the society inside of which they live.
Nothing permanent came from that riot in 1983:
[Harlem] Désir emerged as a leader from that unrest and helped organize a march for equal rights that started in the immigrant neighborhoods outside Lyon and ended in Paris.
The press dubbed it the March of the Beurs, using the immigrants' slang word for Arab, and France's left-leaning intelligentsia embraced the cause, seeing in it an echo of the United States' civil rights movement. President François Mitterrand received some of the marchers at Élysée Palace and euphoria swept through the country's children of immigrants. They had stood up and been heard.
However, the government response to the problem turned out to be merely cosmetic with no substance. They repainted projects and assigned a few social workers to "help" youths. But they did nothing to assimilate the immigrants into the general population.
As things grew steadily worse, crime in and from the projects grew. An effort by the last Socialist administration helped improve things a bit by putting police officers on the beat in the neighborhoods and providing money to create jobs for young residents. But both programs ended after Jacques Chirac became president [in 1995].
His tough interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, replaced the police on the beat with officers from an anti-crime brigade who cover several towns at a time. Their aggressive tactics have won almost universal scorn in the projects and created an air of hostility that has precipitated the current violence.
Chirac's response to this problem was to keep the immigrants in the projects and lock the door. Assimilation is farthest from his mind. His tactics reminds of a Japanese saying: "put a lid on a smelly pot." All the while Moslem jihadis were recruiting potential terrorists in the projects.
France has been ignoring the probelm for too long. If you cut some segments of the population off from the rest of the society, tragedy is inevitable. They should have known this would happen. This is not to excuse the rioters, just to note that when you light a fuse, you shouldn't wonder that a bomb explodes.
Many people in the world have the wrong impression that the United States suffers from an unusually high rate of racial discrimination. I always tell people from other countries that you hear about our racial problems only because we are willing to face them. We heard nothing about the racial tension growing in Europe, but that does not mean there was none; it only meant they never had guts to face the reality.
If you ignore reality long enough, it will bite you in the face like a swarm of hungry mosquitos bursting free of their amber prisons. Well, Europe, are you ready to face the reality now?
"In But Not of" California
Here are some thoughts, in no particular order, upon further reflection on the California elections.
Where were you conservatives?
Hugh Hewitt rightly points out that Arnold Schwarzenegger has not really reached out to the conservative base of the California Republican Party:
Name the conservative icon upon whom you depend and to whom you go for solid advice? There isn't one.
Name the single conservative cause with which you are associated.
Spending restraint? Private property rights? Limits on abortion? Second Amendment advocacy? Judges?
You have picked fights with all the right people, but over what? Redistricting that might have cost the GOP crucial seats in D.C., a spending cap that wasn't, teacher tenure tweaks? Again, mixing it up with the public employee unions was fine, but off-year elections aren't exactly gladiator time, especially when the budget got passed because your advisors didn't want a show-down in the summer....
Bring in some senior advisors with pedigrees on the right and listen to them. Ask Bruce Herschensohn to spend a couple of days a week in the offices, as a "minsiter without portfolio." You don't have to do a thing he recommends, but there is no more respected figure on the California right than Bruce. Associated with Bruce, but also with Reagan, is Ken Khachigian. Ask Ken to take up a post somewhere on the battlements. And raid Hoover --get Robinson to convene a three day idea-fest with the folks who haven't spent their lives trading quarter percents with Sacramento's lobbyists.
But this is a rare moment when I'm really going to take Hugh to the woodshed. All right, Mr. Smarty-Pants Political Mavin... where the hell were Bruce Herchensohn and Ken Khachigian in this bloody ballot fight?
What is Hugh's point? That Herschensohn could have helped us out, but that he sat on his hands and did nothing because he didn't get a personal invitation from the governor? Well for God's sake, neither did I: but I did everything I could to push for these initiatives, in particular the two most important ones: Propositions 75 (paycheck protection) and 77 (redistricting reform). Just click on the Politics - California topic on the right (it's under Politics).
I'm sure those posts must have bored a lot my non-Californian readers. But I wouldn't give up; this is my state, and I'm not going to hand it over to the corrupt Left without a fight.
Evidently, Brush Herschensohn made a different choice.
If "there is no more respected figure on the California right than Bruce," then why the hell can't I find him on the front lines? Or even the rear guard? Did he even write a column about these initiatives? I sure didn't see it, and I can't find one now.
How about Tom Campbell? Bill Simon? Where was everybody? For that matter, where was Hugh Hewitt? The only California story I recall on Hugh's site in the past few weeks, the very time that the initiatives started to have trouble, was about the UC San Diego student who made a porn film. I listen to Hugh's radio show pretty religiously (I don't mean I don phylacteries; I mean I listen every day), and I don't recall any segments devoted to, say, paycheck protection, or even to Proposition 73, that would have required a waiting period and parental notification before a minor got an abortion. If there were, it wasn't enough for me to notice, let alone Hugh's readers who weren't sure whether they would vote. I guess Hugh Hewitt is "in but not of" California.
It's nice he found time to lecture Schwarzenegger about why he lost; but why couldn't Hugh find time to fight for the initiatives while he still had a chance to change the outcome, when he could have fired up the base? In fact, damned few California bloggers or pundits pitched in to help, and almost no well-known conservative (or at least Republican) politicians. Where were Pete Wilson and George Deukmeijian?
How many people did the Cal-GOP bus to the polls? How many did they call and remind about the election, urge to vote? I know I got exactly ZERO phone calls from human beings urging me to support these initiatives; I did get a couple from Democratic activists trying to talk me into voting against them. I even called the local Glendale GOP headquarters myself several times, asking what I could do to help the election: they said "we'll get back to you," and of course they never did.
This is Dan Lungren and Matt Fong all over again. This was a very low-turnout election. Had the conservative base turned out and voted, we would have won -- at least on a few of the initiatives, including the most important one, Proposition 75 (paycheck protection).
Look, Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a conservative. He has never claimed to be a conservative. Yet he has done many things for conservatives in this mixed state in the past two years: for example, he vetoed the same-sex marriage bill, despite the fact that he supports same-sex marriage, because the voters had voted against it.
He refused to raise taxes, even when that would have made it much easier to cut a deal with the Democrats in the legislature. And he pushed an initiative onto the ballot that was undeniably conservative -- a big one, too: Proposition 75 would have required public-employee unions to get written permission before using any membership dues money for political purposes. Not only that, but the Governator also endorsed Proposition 73, which put restrictions on abortion. Conservatives can maybe argue against Propositions 74 (teacher tenure reform), 76 (state spending restrictions), and 77 (redistricting reform) for not being "pure" enough conservatism... but 73 and 75 were purer than Ivory Soap.
And of course, since no good deed goes unpunished, how did conservatives respond? By sitting on their hands and refusing to turn out and vote. Great strategy, guys! Now guess what? Hugh's advice to Schwarzenegger has become garbage, because the governor is now the lamest of all lame ducks. As Daniel Weintraub noted, the reason Schwarzenegger went to the ballot box in the first place was that the Democrats in the State Senate and the Assembly refused to negotiate in good faith. So he went over their heads to the people.
And because the conservatives refused to turn out, they turned the governor's threats into idle smoke. Now Schwarzenegger has absolutely nothing to bargain with, nothing he can threaten, and the only things he can offer is Liberalism Lite.
Gee... how much good-faith negotiating with Governor Schwarzenegger do you suppose the Democrats intend to engage in now? How much of the conservative agenda do you think will get enacted? Smooth move, Ex-Lax.
Sometimes I completely understand why we're so often called "the stupid party." I know many of you weren't thrilled with every initiative Schwarzenegger was pushing, and you're angry that you can't get a hard-core conservative governor in this blue state, and you wish he were Ronald Reagan. But for God's sake, even Reagan knew enough to understand that if half a loaf is all that you can get, you take it and be glad... then you start bargaining for the other half.
But you know what we have now? Crumbs. Bupkis. And now there's about a 50-50 chance we'll have Governor Angelides by January 2007. Let's do the math: ultra-leftist state legislature + left-liberal governor = what?
I suspect conservatives who sat home and sulked may soon come to feel like the Sunnis shortly after that first election. The only difference is, we won't get a Mulligan.
Date ►►► November 9, 2005
Same Old Same Old
Post-Mortem and Dead-Dog Party
Well, very disappointing results in California. I tend to be optimistic (have you noticed?), so it's always a shock to me when Republicans get in a "mood," sit home, and sulk, ceding the election to the Democrats -- and then complain that Gov. Schwarzenegger isn't doing enough conservative stuff!
But taking the long view across the nation, what we saw was a "status-quo" election: voters everywhere decided not to change anything. That was bad for Republicans in California, New Jersey, and Virginia (two liberal Democratic states and one mixed state), but good for them in New York City, Texas, and Ohio.
- California: every initiative failed -- the Governator's four, parental notification, both the consumer activist phramaceutical plan and the one pushed by the pharmaceutical companies, and even energy reregulation, a big deal with the California Democrats. Short-term fallout: bad news for Arnold; unless he creates a huge turnaround in GOP support (or the Dems nominate a doofus), he's a dead duck in 2006. But the legislative Democrats don't fare any better.
- New Jersey: Sen. Jon Corzine won as governor; ho-hum. This one was never in any doubt. And of course, NJ was already in Democratic hands before the election, so it's not a crushing defeat for the Republicans or a "harbinger" of 2006, no matter what the MSM tries to sell you. Short-term fallout: Corzine may now fancy himself a serious contender for the presidency, having been both a senator and a governor. But massive vote buying ($60 million to buy his senate seat, another $30 to buy the governor's mansion) may play well in Sopranos territory, but it's not the righteous stuff to get elected president.
- Virginia: I thought we had a shot in this one; Jerry Kilgore started out the campaign strong, but he was a weak finisher, and he was hurt by Republican apathy in the wake of the various setbacks of the first year of Bush's second term. Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, buoyed by the stratospheric approval ratings of Mark Warner (the outgoing Democratic governor), finished strong, persuasively beating Kilgore by five points. Note that, again contrary to the MSM spin, Virginia is not a "red state," at least as far as the governorship goes. As Rich Galen points out, four of the last six governors of Virginia have been Democrats. Short-term fallout: Mark Warner's stock for 2008 significantly improved, which may cause problems for La Hill, giving her another strong competitor to the "moderate" mantle she is (falsely) trying to claim. I don't believe she will even be nominated, and this is just one more straw on her camel's back.
- New York City: the huge surprise was that Mayor Michael Bloomberg got only 59% of the vote, instead of 99%. This is the fourth straight election in which Democrats have been thumped in the city they have long thought of as their capital... and it's the most decisive drubbing in modern New York City history, larger even than Fiorello LaGuardia's 1937 landslide of 19%. Short-term fallout: shellshocked New York Democrats will huddle to decide whether they would have better luck running a Chupacabra in 2009.
- Texas: another entry in the "I saved traditional marriage" sweepstakes! There are now nineteen states (I believe) that have passed explicit constitutional amendments defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Short-term fallout: one out of every twenty-three left-liberals in the country will spontaneously combust.
- Ohio: curiously, in Ohio, it was the Democrats who were desperate to have someone other than the legislature draw the district boundaries. I have no idea if the Ohio redistricting (State Issue 4) was as egregious a gerrymander as the one in California -- it's hard to top "perfection" (not a single seat changing parties in 2004). But in any event, the voters rejected the identical change whether it would benefit Republicans (California Proposition 77) or Democrats (Ohio). Short-term fallout: nothing changes (same with 77). Ohio State Issue 4 was rejected by an even bigger margin (70 to 30) than was California Proposition 77 (59-40)... and three other significant, Democrat-backed changes to Ohio elections procedures (State Issues 2, 3, and 5) were likewise turned back.
So not a great day, but not a catastrophic one, either. Basically, everything was put on hold by the voters until 2006 (or 2009, in the case of New York).
Date ►►► November 8, 2005
With Friends Like These...
Reading about the arrests of seventeen terrorist suspects in Australia -- suspects who appeared on the verge of executing massive bombings of the train system there until Prime Minister John Howard pushed sweeping anti-terrorism detention and investigation laws through parliament and used them to break up the plot -- I was struck by the concluding sentence of the AP story.
After discussing the plot and the arrests, Mike Corder's story ends on the familiar-to-the-point-of-satire dodge of the terrorism apologists:
Opponents say Howard's strong support for the U.S.-led strikes on Iraq and decision to send troops there and to Afghanistan have made it inevitable Australia will be attacked.
I find this claim increasingly surreal... given this, the other big international story of the last two weeks!
The French must be thinking, With friends like these....
Vote Early, Vote Often!
All of the polls on the important California ballot inititatives have turned south, but I'm not buying their turnout models. For one thing, the idea that Californians would vote down an initiative to require that before minors can get an abortion, they merely have to notify (not even get permission from!) their parents is troubling to me. Well, we'll see how it turns out.
There are two initiatives that are worth the entire rest of the ballot put together: Proposition 75 (paycheck protection) and Proposition 77 (redistricting reform). The first is slightly leading or trailing, depending on the poll, and will definitely be decided on turnout: if we do better than expected, we'll win this one!
Prop 77 is dicier: it will take every concerned Republican to go and vote for us to pull this one out... but arguably, it would have been a slam-dunk, were it not for the lying, tendentious campaign against it. A campaign that was so scurrilous and tricky, it actually sucked in some well-known neocons to rail against the silly caricature of Proposition 77 that the Left put out... including David Horowitz as the prime "useful idiot!"
Horowitz was somehow led to believe that it was "judicial activism" to allow retired judges to draw the proposed district lines -- which would then have to be approved by a vote of the people before it could be used. I understand now why Horowitz was so easy to convince that in the 1960s that Marxism was the wave of the future: he's just plain gullible.
All we need to do is beat expectations, and we'll win this election. If we live down to the sniggering presumption that Republican bumpuses won't bother to show up and vote -- I guess we're too busy picking fleas out of each others' hairy pelts and peeling bananas with our feet -- then we'll lose. It's as simple as that.
But even if you are a Democrat, you should vote for both of these: why should unions be able to extort dues from members then use them to promote policies and candidates that the member hates? That's just plain nuts. Vote YES on Proposition 75 to force the unions to get prior written consent before using a member's dues for that purpose. That is as fair as can be.
And second, right now, your vote counts for nothing -- even if you are a Democrat! This is because right now, there is exactly zero incentive for any strong challengers in this intensely gerrymandered legislature. It makes no difference how you vote; they don't need to listen to you, and they don't care about you.
They don't have to care: their seats are all assured. In 2004, despite scores of seats up for "election," not one single seat changed parties!
Vote YES on Proposition 77 -- erase all these "safe" seats and bring back competitive districts, as God and the Founders intended.
Hawaii Blogging 1: the Polynesian Cultural Center
We are in the Island of Oahu, Hawaii. My work brought me here for a week. (I declined the opportunity to go to Norfolk Virginia and picked Hawaii instead. That was a hard decision.) Since I am already here and have a hotel room and a rental car, Dafydd decided to join me.
Today, we drove to the northern part of the island to visit the Polynesian Cultural Center. The main reason for the visit was to eat Luau and see a show. But on the way, we stopped to see a famous Buddhist temple called "Byodo-In."
This is a scaled-down replica of a Japanese temple found in Uji, much smaller than the original. The serene scenery was emphasized by the prosaic, almost hypnotic buzz of a gasoline-powered hedge trimmer.
The temple itself is not particularly interesting, but I was very impressed by the jagged mountain behind it, shrouded with greenery. It looked like the giant Roc from the Sindbad stories had clawed the side of the mountain! The fog over the spearhead crags reminded me of old Chinese brush paintings. The temple also has the world's largest carved Buddha not from ancient times; it was carved in the 1960s, laquered in gold, and then covered with gold leaf.
A pond curled around the front of the building like half a moat. But instead of sharks or crocodiles, it was filled with koi (big Japanese goldfish; actually, they're a kind of carp), some of them humongous. I guess tourists have been feeding them like crazy; when we stood still and looked at them from a bridge, a huge mass of them noticed us and crowded around, their mouths wide open. I imagined them saying "feed me!" like the plant in the musical version of Little Shop of Horrors.
A black swan was also in the pond, pecking at something invisible on the bank. It was floating oddly higher than the waterline, and it suddenly occurred to us that it wasn't floating at all: it was standing on the backs of some koi, like they were floatation devices. The fish didn't seem to care.
We took a few pictures and moved on.
The Polynesian Cultural Center is kind of like Florida's Epcot center, separated into several different Polynesian pavillions, each corresponding to a different island: Fiji, Samoa, Aotearoa (Maori New Zealand), Tahiti, Hawaii, the Marquesas, and Tonga. We rode a small canoe on a canal that runs between all the "island" pavillions. Then we started visiting the different cultures... which seemed very similar, except they had different styles of thatched hut.
In Islands of Marquesas, we saw a couple of women, one old, the other new, teaching a gaggle of tourists how to weave long grass into some shape: it consisted of two big loops, with the ends of the foot-long blades shuttling inside and out in some complicated pattern. We moved on to Tahiti... and came across a pair of women teaching a clutch of tourists how to weave long grass into some shape: closer inspection revealed it was exactly the same as the previous "island."
We found the same teachable moment in Tonga; this time, it was two old women. Crossing over the bridge to Fiji, we saw the same pattern, but the loops and ends pointed the opposite direction. Then we saw the old Fijian woman writing something and realized she was left-handed.
This must have been basket-weaving day in Polynesia, because the next pavillion (Samoa) had an old woman and a young one teaching the exact, same patter of grass weaving (right way round this time; anybody want to bet the head woman was right-handed?) The last pavillion we visited, just before we got to the Luau, was Hawaii -- and there were no women and no basket-weaving gawkers; if they were there, they had already left. We did, however, find a single blade of long grass on the ground; it had split down the middle. We deduced that at least one tourist hadn't listened to his old woman.
Hawaii is not exactly known for great food. Oh, sure, it's better than our backpacking trip through the Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, where we hiked for five days on nothing but dried pieces of buffalo, squid jerky, and oatmeal. But you don't go to Hawaii for the fine cuisine.
The one exception to this rule is the luau. We honeymooned in Hawaii some time ago, and the luau is the only meal we can really remember. (Dafydd says he remembers every lobster from our trip to Maine a couple of years ago.) We're pleased to report that the luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center is just as good as or better than the one we had on Maui last time.
If you played a word-association game and someone said "Hawaiian luau," I'll bet the first word that would pop into hyour mind would not be "Mormons," but that's who runs the Polynesian Cultural Center: Brigham Young University. In practice, this only means that you can't drink alcohol on the premises... so if the highlight of any luau for you is a gigantic Mai-Tai, you have to go somewhere else. But the food at the Center's luau is excellent.
The highlight of any luau is the kuala pig, steamed underground in a hole that acts like an oven: they line it with heated rocks, drop the dead pig on it, toss on herbs and vegetables and other food, then bury it under cocoanut husks. Then they drape wet burlap over it, so it steams instead of burns. And then they leave it alone for about twenty-four hours.
By that time, it's done. In fact, it falls off the bone; so they serve it the only way they can: shredded, as part of a huge buffet. I didn't like the pig that much, but Dafydd said it was really good. I liked all the vegetables, even the poi (made from pounded taro root). At the end, the cocoanut cake was excellent, but I could only eat a bite. I thought I was going to explode like the anaconda that tried to digest an alligator!
The last thing we saw at the Center was the traditional dancing and singing show. It's called "Horizons;" but even with such an insipid name, it's a terrific show. The second half was a lot better than the first, with actual hula dancing (which seems to have come to Hawaii from Tahiti) and the fire dancing. The fast movement of the hips is incredible. I could never figure out how anyone can move a hip that fast without moving anything either above or below it.
The acrobatic dance using fire was from Samoa. Three guys litereary sat on fire to put it out. They were walking over the fire and torching their grass skirts on purpose.
The star of the last half was a Samoan who we watched at the Samoa show a few hours earlier. He was very funny... he knew a few words in a lot of different languages (French, Chinese, Korean, Japanese), and he knew how to make fun of people's languages without getting them angry at him. At one point, he had a stick that was burning at both ends, and he threw it high up on the stage to another guy. The guy on the upper stage caught it and started spinning like a baton. Later, he threw the torched stick back to the guy on the lower stage. I don't see how they can do all that without burning themselves!
The drive home was uneventful. We decided we had been eating too much of food that wasn't all that great to begin with; so we stopped off at a supermarket and bought fixings to make sandwiches instead, for lunch and dinner.
Yeah, right. We'll see how long we stick to that budgeting plan!
Date ►►► November 7, 2005
Post to the Post
I wonder if Deborah Orin reads Big Lizards? Somehow I doubt it... though it's a nice thought to contemplate. In any event, I must rise to correct one small point in her otherwise excellent New York Post column on the Joseph Wilson scam, flagged by my favorite blog, Power Line. Actually, though it's a small point in her column, easily corrected, it's a monumental, colossal point in the history of the Iraq war and aftermath.
The column lays out, with perfect clarity, the case that far from wanting to keep the lid on Joe Wilson, the CIA actually encouraged his repeated lies about his trip and what he found (and "didn't find"), even though it knew this would jeopardize the career of his CIA employed wife, Valerie Plame Wilson. In the course of the column, Ms. Orin found occasion to wonder why they would be so complicit in Wilson's attacks on the president; she concluded, with admirable straigtforwardness rare in the MSM, that the CIA was in full CYA mode by the time Wilson went public in mid-2003:
But then, all this came at a time when the CIA division where Wilson's wife worked had an intense need to cover its rear: Remember — they were the ones who (along with every other intel agency in the world) had insisted that Saddam had WMDs — but no WMDs were being found.
The irony of this could choke a horse. The reason that "no WMDs were being found" is that the Iraq Survey Group, a creature of the CIA as well as the Pentagon and the IAEA, was headed at that time by David Kay; and Kay had made a conscious decison not to count as WMD any item that had a dual civilian use. Read how carefully Kay parsed his words when he resigned in January 2004 (via Wikipedia):
I believe that the effort that has been directed to this point has been sufficiently intense that it is highly unlikely that there were large stockpiles of deployed, militarized chemical weapons there.
Note that this would elegantly rule out any chemical weapon that was not "deployed" -- that is, rockets made to accept chemical payloads but which were currently empty, even if they were found twenty-five feet away from 55-gallon drums of cyclosarin-based "pesticides" in a camouflaged ammunition bunker. This is akin to cops searching a convicted felon's home and refusing to arrest because all the guns they found were unloaded, thus not "deployed" and "militarized."
So if the CIA was in the doghouse, as clearly it was, its embarassment was entirely of its own making... both for predicting (one can only presume) that we would find warehouses of carefully labeled WMD, all loaded up and ready to fire -- and then after the war, for allowing David Kay to construct a definition of WMD so crabbed and narrow that virtually nothing would qualify except the cartoonish scenario above.
That in turn causes me to wonder whether there were some in the CIA so anti-Iraq War, so anti-President-Bush, that they were willing to sacrifice even the good name of the Company itself, so painstakingly rebuilt from the nadir of the Carter era, if only that would hurt President Bush's reelection chances. If so, all we would have shown (alas) is that the liberal rot was no less advanced within the CIA than within the State Department, academe, and the mainstream media.
Oil for Blood
NOTE: This story was developed in collabortion between Sachi and Dafydd.
Is the United Nations trying to change the subject from its own complicity -- for literally years -- in the massive theft from the Iraqi people that is the Oil for Food scandal?
According to the New York Times on Saturday, a UN-sponsored auditing board, called the "International Advisory and Monitoring Board of the Development Fund for Iraq," is recommending that the United States should "repay as much as $208 million" to Iraq for alleged overcharges by Kellog, Brown and Root (KB&R), a subsidiary of Halliburton that has come under fire before by the Democratic Party and their allies in the press and the UN.
An auditing board sponsored by the United Nations recommended yesterday that the United States repay as much as $208 million to the Iraqi government for contracting work in 2003 and 2004 assigned to Kellogg, Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary.
The work was paid for with Iraqi oil proceeds, but the board said it was either carried out at inflated prices or done poorly. The board did not, however, give examples of poor work. [all emphasis here and elsewhere added]
Even the Development Fund Board isn't quite sure just how much actual money they think should be forked over:
The monitoring board, created by the United Nations specifically to oversee the Development Fund - which includes Iraqi oil revenues but also some money seized from Saddam Hussein's government - said because the audits were continuing, it was too early to say how much of the $208 million should ultimately be paid back.
In other words, it could be $208 million... or it could be zero. Or anything in between. But such irrelevant questions won't stop the UN from playing "let's you and him fight."
Let's open a tab: the UN Board recommends that the United States pay "as much as" $208,000, but doesn't actually know how much of that money is actually overcharge and how much is perfectly legimate; and they also criticized KB&R workmanship but couldn't point to any specifics. They just dropped the last charge without going through all the fuss and bother of finding actual evidence of any wrongdoing.
A spokeswoman for Halliburton, Cathy Mann, said the questions raised in the military audits, carried out in a Pentagon office called the Defense Contract Auditing Agency, had largely focused on issues of paperwork and documentation and alleged nothing about the quality of the work done by K.B.R. The monitoring board relied heavily on the Pentagon audits in drawing its conclusions.
"The auditors have raised questions about the support and the documentation rather than questioning the fact that we have incurred the costs," Ms. Mann said in an e-mail response to questions. "Therefore, it would be completely wrong to say or imply that any of these costs that were incurred at the client's direction for its benefit are 'overcharges.'"
I wonder... how much thought has the Board given to the actual costs of working in Iraq during the chaos starting right after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's government? Civilian workers had been subjected to roadside bombings, kidnappings, and even beheadings. In order to attract workers to work in such a hostile environment, KB&R would have to offer much higher salaries than other companies -- not mention enormous insurance premiums and the cost of a large number of security personnel. Since KB&R is a private company, not a government organization, they had to provide security for their own employees.
But there is no evidence the Board considered any of these explanations for the high cost. The Times says they "relied heavily on [earlier] Pentagon audits" in preparing these recommendations; but it does not quote from any of those previous audits; so we have no way of knowing whether the Board's recommendation agrees with the Pentagon's audits or contradicts them.
Why is the United Nations releasing this report, with its hearsay and inuendo, at this particular moment in time? Several reasons leap out: First, there is the continuing investigation into the UN's Oil for Food bribery scheme. With both its own investigation by Paul Volcker and the investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations nipping at the heels of Secretary General Kofi Annan, his family, and cronies over the billions of dollars stolen from the Iraqi people by Saddam Hussein with the connivance of the United Nations heirarchy (who took their own bribes and kickbacks), they desperately need someone else to be the villain for a while. Since there seems no way to blame Israel for any of this, the United States is elected.
Second, for those who have always opposed the war to remove Saddam, there is the urgent task of getting more Iraqis to hate the United States and perhaps demand our immediate withdrawal, while there is still time for the Baathists to return:
The monitoring board authority extends only to making recommendations on any reimbursement. It would be up to the United States government to decide whether to make the payments, and who should make them. But Louay Bahry, a former Iraqi academic who is now at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said the board's findings would stoke suspicions on the street in Iraq, where there had always been fears that the United States invaded the country to control its oil resources.
"Something like this will be caught in the Iraqi press and be discussed by the Iraqi general public and will leave a very bad taste in the mouth of the Iraqis," Mr. Bahry said. "It will increase the hostility towards the United States."
And finally, most in the UN would much prefer to see the Democrats in charge in the United States, rather than "warmongers" like George W. Bush and the Republicans. Anything that will further that cause is always in order.
The audits may also come at a bad time for the Bush administration, since Vice President Dick Cheney's former role as chief executive of Halliburton has led to charges, uniformly dismissed by Mr. Cheney and the company, that it received preferential treatment in receiving the contracts. The early Kellogg, Brown & Root contracts in Iraq were "sole sourced," or bid noncompetitively.
"The Bush administration repeatedly gave Halliburton special treatment and allowed the company to gouge both U.S. taxpayers and the Iraqi people," Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat who is the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform, said in a statement on the new audits. "The international auditors have every right to expect a full refund of Halliburton's egregious overcharges."
Speaking of "a full refund," when will the UN pay back all the money they helped loot from Iraq in the last years of Hussein's bloody rule? Perhaps after they do that, we can talk about this tendentious audit.
Date ►►► November 6, 2005
The headline is scary -- Police Find Bomb-Making Factory in Paris -- but the guts of the article tell us that both more and less than meet the eye are going on in France.
First, the bad news: clearly, the riot is getting more organized, more violent, and of course, spreading far beyong the flashpoint of Clichy-sous-Bois. The rioters are no longer just rampaging Moslem youths; they are rampaging Moslems with an organized plan and a goal: to be "let alone," which is to say, to be allowed to create a sharia-based "bantustan" in the heart of Western Europe, where they and they alone are the law.
The good news is that the "bombs" they're talking about are Molotov Cocktails, and the makers were juveniles... just relatively organized juveniles. But what they are not is as important as what they are: the fact that they're still using improvised incendiaries (it's easy to make a Molotov Cocktail), rather than an explosive ordnance like a modified mine or artillery shell, shows that the order in these riots arises out of chaos, not out of an international terrorist organiztion like al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood. Clearly, some Moslem immigrants in France are members of one or both of these organizations, but the unsophisticated nature of the weapons this "factory" was manufacturing demonstrate that it's not a jihad just yet... though it might well be an "intifada" by now.
It also shows that much of the worst violence, the gasoline bombs, may very well be a "crime of opportunity": alienated young Moslems are looking for a way to express rage and satisfy their violent tendencies, and suddenly somebody hands them the perfect means of doing so: a ready-made Molotov Cocktail. There may have been no more planning about what they would bomb and why than there is in a typical gang fight.
The third shoe, which has not yet dropped, is that if French inaction continues (I mean a lack of effective action to end the rioting), the French "intifada" may well turn into the French jihad. As we take note of what is happening in France and Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands, so too are the real terrorists taking note: they see these spasms of ill-directed rage nevertheless shaking a once mighty nation to its core, and they surely will try to move in and take over, inciting terrorist acts so horrible that there would be no going back.
There is still time to avert this, but France must slap itself awake from the nightmare of apathy and hostility to Western virtues. Little Nemo must awaken from Slumberland. France stands at a crossroads, and the rest of us stand alongside her; we don't know which way the coin will land because it's still spinning... but very quickly, we shall know whether it's heads -- or tails.
Go Ahead -- Be Silly!
I think this is good news. Or maybe it's just silly news.
BlackFive reports that soldiers and Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, who have problems with houses that have been booby trapped with tiny tripwires (so small they're invisible in the dark) attached to explosives, have found an amazing way to find those tripwire threads: Silly String!
Evidently, they spray the stuff into dark areas; when it floats down, it allegedly is caught by the tripwires, dangling from them. Since Silly String is bright, it makes the booby traps easy to spot and avoid, or to detonate from a safe distance.
Now, I caution that this could be a hoax; I have no way of knowing. It seems pretty reasonable on its face. BlackFive links to this website (not a blog), which has authentic-looking photos of the site author testing the theory in his home. And there's nothing inherently preposterous: Silly String is much, much lighter than a human brushing against a wire: it seems unlikely that it would have enough weight to trip the explosion.
I wonder how old this idea is? Silly String was around in the early seventies; supposedly, it was invented in 1969 -- so theoretically, it could have been used in Vietnam. But you'd think if this trick were a mainstay, BlackFive would have heard of it before. So is this new? Anybody out there use Silly String in previous military engagements to find invisible tripwires?
This is either a spectacularly clever practical joke -- or else it's a spectacular example of American ingenuity and sideways thinking, coming up with a brilliant solution using a child's toy to prevent Coalition and Iraqi forces from being killed by terrorists.
Either way, I reckon it's good news!
Date ►►► November 5, 2005
Six Billion Chickens Come Home to Roost
Ingrid Newkirk, founder and president-for-life of PETA (People for
Eating Tasty Animals the Ethical Treatment of Animals), is well known for saying that the massacre of six million Jews during the Holocaust is nothing compared to six billion chickens barbecued each summer.
But now, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) has extracted from an animal "rights" activist the obvious consequence of that sort of mentally unbalanced, misanthropic floccinaucinihilipilification: an explicit call to "assassinate" human beings in order to save "10 million non-human lives" from medical research.
From Robert Novac's column today (scroll to the bottom):
Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, at an Oct. 26 hearing drew from an animal rights activist an admission that he advocated murder of medical researchers who performed experiments on animals.
Dr. Jerry Vlasak of North American Animal Liberation was quoted as saying at an animal rights convention: "I don't think you'd have to kill, assassinate too many. I think for five lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, or 10 million non-human lives."
Questioned by Inhofe whether he was "advocating the murder of individuals," Vlasak replied: "I made that statement, and I stand by that statement."
(Ten million non-human lives? What is Jerry "the Pickle" Vlasak counting -- experiments performed on bacteria?)
Well, there you are. Does this really need comment?
I was reading "old" history of Operation Iraqi Freedom and remembered the story about Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester. Something suddenly occurred to me that I haven't seen anyone mention so far. The award itself isn't really "news," because the MilBlogs were all over it at the time. But there is a special point to note that I'll get to a few paragraphs down.
Sgt. Hester is the first American woman awarded the Silver Star since World War II. The Silver Star is awarded for "gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force." But what is most interesting about Sgt. Hester is that I think she is the first American woman to be awarded that medal for actually attacking and killing the enemy!
Other recipients all received their medals (sometimes posthumously), whether Silver Star, Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Cross, or even Medal of Honor, for heroically performing their duties during air raids or under fire. But those duties were almost all as nurses (the Medal of Honor winner was a Civil-War surgeon, Dr. Mary Walker), except for a couple of pilots. They bravely stuck to their posts and did their duty despite bombs and gunfire. But their duty was to heal, not to kill.
Sgt. Hester is a Military Policewoman. She was assigned to Raven 42, 617th MP Co, Kentucky National Guard, assigned to the 503rd MP Bn (Fort Bragg), 18th MP Bde. She got her Silver Star on June 16th this year for her gallantry during an ambush on a convoy of supply trucks some months earlier. Raven 42 saw the convoy stopped and they charged directly towards the sound of the gunfire.
After her Humvee came under fire, Sgt. Hester grabbed an M4 carbine and an M203 grenade launcher, jumped into an irrigation ditch being used by Iraqi terrorists to fire on her Hummer crew, and killed at least five jihadis. She had to return to her vehicle once to reload, then ran back to the trench to continue clearing it out. She is America's first medal-winning Rambette!
You can read the After Action Report about her engagement at Blackfive.
Of course, until recently, women were not allowed to carry weapons into combat zones (even as MPs). As time passes, we will probably see more and more awards like Sgt. Hester received. Eventually, a woman will be awarded the Medal of Honor for the same reason Audie Murphy received his: for killing bad guys!
Here is Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester receiving her Silver Star:
Date ►►► November 4, 2005
Thickening the Plot
Borrowing a thought from frequent commenter KarmiCommunist, who seems ever exercised over the limitations of dualism, I think we've got the wrong end of the dog when we ask whether the riots in France are a "French intifada" or only a natural militant response to the social anomie and economic dislocation that are inevitable under extreme social-welfarism. Let's suppose that they started out as the latter... what are the odds that corrosive Islamism will somehow get twisted into the weave as time passes and turns riot into rebellion?
We assume a riot either is or is not an uprising; Dualism. But in fact, it changes constantly, because it is a dynamic hydra that has not one head or a dozen heads but thousands and thousands. The rioters do not seem to have been militant Islamists at the beginning; the violence arose spontaneously from grief, anger, Gallic gall, and seething resentment. But as I noted in a previous post, events are simply events with no inherent significance; it is we hairless apes who invest observation with consequence; we spin a thread, then another, then we weave the threads together into the big tapestry of meaning.
I don't mean to get all hippie-dippy on you. A Molotov Cocktail is thrown into a building; that is a fact, it is measurable: we know what gasoline is, we know what a bottle looks like, we can tell when something is on fire. But is it jihad? An angry assault upon the cops because the thrower's brother was arrested? Or maybe insurance fraud? Even if it started out as the latter, how difficult would it be for others, victims or the rioters themselves, to inspire an act of simple arson with the organized and exciting rationalization of Holy War -- even ex post facto?
There's your real danger: that what begins as a race riot can metamorphose, inside its coccoon of post-hoc justification and organization, into jihad. The search for meaning is universal; but French Socialism-Lite has stripped France of such meaning. France isn't France anymore; it's a cog in the
United States of Europe European Economic Community European Union. The entire continent is sans frontières, and humans need frontiers -- boundaries, walls, fences, divisions between this nation and the other.
For the immigrants who fled Algeria for France, and even more so for their children who grew up in atomized "Eurabia," the only meaning they can access is the one they or their parents left behind; around them they find only a moral, religious, and nationalistic vacuum. As we Republicans have said many times about the Democrats, you can't fight Something with Nothing; that is even truer for faith-based immigrants in the faithless wasteland of today's Europe, where the only acceptable belief is nihilism.
This is why I do not particularly fear that what is happening in France and Denmark and elsewhere on that continent will spread to the United States, or even to Great Britain; we are not the same. Most Americans are religious; and even those of us who are not religious still have a strong quasi-religious belief in our own exceptionalism: America is different, and real Americans know that. Immigrants to America can find new meaning and significance to replace the old; to a large extent, it works to suppress resurgence of old-world values.
We understand the concept of Americanism, even if we argue about what it encompasses; but I don't believe the French even have the word, let alone the concept of, Francism. How would it differ from Netherlandism, Belgism, or Italianism? America had the advantage of always being defined by a philosophy, an ideology, a creed, rather than the blind chance of people living near each other who happened to speak the same tongue. We have weathered the changes brought by the technology-shrunken world much better than has Western Europe.
Eastern Europeans are in better shape because at least they have vitalities to cling to -- their newly gained liberty and democracy -- that seem almost holy after decades of being nothing but little cogs in the big machine of the Evil Empire. And Great Britain still has a sense of self that transcends any tenative toe they have stuck into the waters of the European Union (within the memory of living Brits, all of occupied Europe was arrayed against England during the Battle of Britain). But I believe the French elite have lost their national identity, and I can't envision Jacques Chirac or Dominique de Villepin rising up in defense of French nationalism against imported Algerian Islam. And that's sad; France used to have a unique national identy as recently as under le général de Gaulle.
Europe needs another crusade.
If France can bestir itself to rediscover what makes it unique in the world, and if it can start teaching its children (and their parents and grandparents) what it means to be French and why that is vital for them, then they may redevelop a national identity to defend against Islamism in the great struggle over meaning. But if they contine along the present course, we may one day be asking "who lost France?" the way somebody lost China.
One last non-dualist answer to the question above: "this book is a mirror: when a monkey looks in, no acolyte looks out."
Date ►►► November 3, 2005
Little Demo In Slumberland
John over at Power Line (easily the second snappiest dresser of those three) mulls the motive behind the Democrats' hysteria -- now -- over pre-war intelligence:
Democratic activists desperately want to block Judge Alito from ascending to the Court, but the reality is that Senate Democrats are powerless to achieve that goal. Alito's qualifications are unassailable, the Democrats are a minority party, and the Republicans are united in the conviction that Alito deserves a vote. A filibuster isn't out of the question, but if the Dems try it, it will fail.
So the Senate Democrats can't come through for their party where it counts. I doubt that the timing of the Month of Valerie is a coincidence; I suspect it is intended mostly to distract the Democratic base from the reality of the Senate Democrats' impotence.
I don't mean to be fip, but I think John has hold of the means, not the motive. He has to grab the bull by the tail and look the facts in the face.
Ever since the catastrophe of 1994, the Democratic Party has lived in a fantasy world of its own devising. Unable to face the reality of losing the House and Senate in 1994, then the presidency in 2000, then the Senate again in 2002 (after Jumpin' Jim Jeffords' defection was discounted), and most recently the 2004 reelection, they have been unable to recover sanity, daily drifting deeper into political schizophrenia... to quote Adam Savage, "I reject your reality and substitute my own."
I don't need a psychiatrist like Charles Krauthammer or Thomas Szasz; the signs are manifest. Most overtly and trivially, there are the two distinct TV shows set in fantasy universes where the Democrats are in charge of everything: the West Wing and Commander In Chief. Arguably, many Democrats demanded a show like CinC because they were unsatisfied with the West Wing -- because they had a few Republican characters who were not totally corrupt raving lunatics.
But the dementia manifests in uglier ways, too: many Democrats still, to this day, refuse to admit that Bush won the election in 2000 or in 2004. A U.S. senator, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), actually tried to prevent the Ohio electoral votes for Bush from being certified in January of this year, presumably on the grounds that John Kerry was the "real" winner there.
Democrats have wallowed in increasingly occult conspiracy theories and nightmarish fantasies, from George W. Bush conspiring with Arabs on the 9/11 attacks to Republicans and the Army Corps of Engineers plotting to blow up the New Orleans levees "to kill the black people." Karl Rove has assumed monstrous significance, as if he were an incarnation of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (for the younger set, Dr. Evil). Creepy cartels of neocons (read "Jew-o-cons") secretly seize control of the world for their nefarious Zionist plans.
Many left-liberals now live in a world that is as thrilling and horrific as the H.P. Lovecraft "Cthulhu" Mythos *, full of dark, eldrich gods, nameless cults, and unspeakable rites. Reliable, old, secret-society paranoia has resurged, of course: the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderbergers, even the Illuminati; but new and bizarre cults have formed around the basic template of "Famous Right-Winger X is secretly in league with Evil Villain Y"... for example, Osama bin Laden is actually a Mossad agent working for Ariel Sharon, Bush-41 started the Gulf War in order to build an oil pipeline for Mullah Omar, and Saddam Hussein is actually a mole who has been under Donald Rumsfeld's thumb since the early 1980s. Other brand new (tired old) cult archetypes include the specter of "globalization," with the World Trade Organization taking the place of the Knights Templar or the Hashishim "Assassins;" and the omnipotent, omnipresent Haliburton standing in for Wolfram & Hart in the Buffy spinoff Angel.
Let's be clear about this. Reality does not come packaged in stories; but our brains are hardwired to comprehend events in dramatic form, with heroes, villains, a climax, and a denouement. So we (all of us) dream up "the story of our lives," in which the dreamer is the protagonist, someone or some group is elected to be antagonist, and life becomes a series of chapters, each ending in a cliffhanger.
For Republicans and conservatives, who are in the ascendency and generally happy with life, the tale is a modern-day adventure-romance, typically with a happy ending. But for Democrats and liberals, who have seen nothing but dark chapters for years now, the tome is a Clive Barker bloodfest, a King Lear tale of madness and woe, a science-fiction black comedy like the Matrix, or a Walter-Mitty fantasy of easy triumph and cheap, childish victory, depending how much angst the tale-singer can take before breaking from reality entirely. Read the New York Times quickly, then ask yourself whether it wouldn't have even more verisimilitude with a wicked stepmother and a dragon.
The Democrats have no "plan" for how to use pre-war intelligence against Bush... no more than John Nash (Russell Crowe) had any well thought out purpose for hallucinating "Agent Parcher" (Ed Harris) and his machinations in a Beautiful Mind. They are demon-driven to expose the evil, just as D.A. Jim Garrison was driven to expose the massive conspiracy behind the assassination of JFK (a plot that required the connivance of Lyndon Johnson, the FBI, the Soviets, and the 82nd Airborne). And it doesn't matter that nobody will listen anymore, that Democrats have "no one left to lie to," in Christopher Hitchens' memorable phrase. Like Dr. Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) in Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, they are condemned to stagger forever along the street, flagging down cars and screaming the warning: "They're already here! You're next!"
* Spellchecker attempted to correct this to the "Chihuahua Mythos."
ANWR Shall Drilling Opponents Go to Cry?
Yesterday, I gave you all a heads up (HT Hugh Hewitt) that the Senate was to have a final vote on drilling for oil in ANWR.
Today the Senate voted -- and pro-energy forces won! The Luddites lost, but narrowly:
An amendment offered by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., that would have removed drilling authority for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), was defeated 51-48. She called the drilling proposal a gimmick that will have little impact on oil or gasoline prices, or U.S. energy security.
And Sen. Cantwell knows this -- how? Since we haven't gone there to explore much yet, all estimates of reserves are really just back-of-the-envelope guesses. They are educated guesses from geologists; but there are equally well educated guesses from other geologists that contradict the ones from the DOE's Energy Information Administration that Sen. Cantwell and other enviromentalist extremists rely upon.
Until we spend some real time there and drill more exploratory wells, we really don't know. The oil companies themselves have done some exploration in ANWR; but they keep the findings a closely guarded secret, since it affects which leases they want to bid on. It may conceivably turn out to be a big bust, as the Democrats desperately hope, since that would hurt the United States (and therefore President Bush); it may turn out to have as much oil as Saudi Arabia (not likely, but that's what Republicans hope); or most likely, it will land somewhere in between... which will still be good for the country.
Here is my favorite part:
Later the Senate in an 86-13 vote, required that none of the oil from ANWR can be exported. Otherwise ''there is no assurance that even one drop of Alaskan oil will get to hurting Americans,'' said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a drilling opponent who nevertheless sponsored the no-export provision.
That's a bit stronger than I would have wanted, but it's better than doing all that drilling, then selling it all to Japan, as some here have suggested is just the way things work; with this amendment, we need not continue to depend upon the beneficence of our enemies (Venezuela) and our intense rivals who might become enemies (Saudi Arabia)... at least not as much as we do today.
With that oil flowing here first and only later into the world market, we will have a much more robust supply if OPEC does to us again what they did in 1973, when they decided to punish us (and the the Netherlands) for supporting Israel after the Arabs launched a sneak attack in the Yom Kippur War... a non-market political reaction that drastically affected the market -- which was my point in proposing something like this yesterday.
For every million barrels of oil flowing from 1002 to the country, we would import a million fewer barrels; but the price will not be affected by the non-export proviso, because there is no requirement that the Alaskan oil be sold here for any less than the world market price. (More supply in the market will of course lower the price.) But in the event that we get cut off by OPEC again, at least we will have a flow of crude that the Islamists (and that Communist Hugo Chavez) cannot simply shut off.
Here is the most dishonest argument against drilling:
No oil is likely to flow from ANWR for 10 years and peak production of about 1 million barrels a day would be expected about 2025, according to the Energy Department.
Environmentalists have been making this argument -- for 10 years now, since the 1995 budget vote that President Clinton vetoed.
The Partisan Game
You can sing this to the tune of that old Irish rebel song, "the Patriot Game." But only if you do not have a voice like a walrus in heat.
Watch your hat and coat.
The Partisan Game
And list while I crow,
For the rule of one’s party
Is a glorious show.
It banishes honor,
And fortune, and fame,
So let us all worship
The partisan game.
And I just won my seat;
My foe had a conscience,
That’s how he got beat!
His friends took positions,
And he took the blame;
I owe my election
To the partisan game.
It’s split like a hair,
‘Twixt the old apathetics
And the young who don’t care.
If the slime keeps on rising,
And DeLay fits the frame,
They’ll all cast their votes for
The partisan game.
Or heaven, or hell;
If it comes in a sound-bite,
You’ll buy what I sell!
We can lie, cheat, or steal,
If winning’s the aim,
And my seat’ll be saved by
The partisan game.
A year and some change;
Watch tyrants and bullies
The House rearrange.
With nothing to lose, and
A leader who’s lame,
We’ll spew out the mud in
The partisan game.
You’ll still pay the price –
For the census allows us
To load up the dice.
With a poll-built agenda
And no hint of shame,
We’re slouching towards Sodom
In the partisan game!
© 1999 by Dafydd ab Hugh, all rights reserved
Date ►►► November 2, 2005
Arms For the Poor
According to the Brussels Journal, the French police are quite simply unequipped to enforce lawn order in Paris, or any other cities where areas have become de facto part of the ummah. This is evidently true not only in France but the rest of Europe, even including Great Britain: the typically unarmed and overawed police cannot make arrests, and the terrified firefighters cannot fight arson fires with the arsonists shooting at them.
Since [Nicolas] Sarkozy became Interior Minister he has insisted on more police presence in Muslim neighbourhoods. This triggered last week’s riots in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, when policemen went in to investigate a robbery and two teenagers stupidly got themselves electrocuted while hiding from the police in an electricity sub station. Many French politicians now probably regret that the police had the audacity to investigate a robbery in Clichy. The result of the incident so far has been six consecutive nights of rioting that is now engulfing the entire Paris suburban area and might soon affect other parts of the country. Last night at least 69 vehicles were torched in nine suburbs across the Paris region. Officials say that small, mobile gangs are harassing police, sometimes even shooting at them. The gangs are setting vehicles, police stations and schools on fire throughout the region.
“For several nights in a row Rosenhøj Mall has been the scene of the worst riots in Århus for years. ‘This area belongs to us’, the youths proclaimed. [...] ‘The police have to stay away. This is our area. We decide what goes on down here’. [Elipses sic]
All your base are belong to us?
Commenting on the situation in Britain, Theodore Dalrymple wrote in City Journal: “Surveys suggest that between 6 and 13 percent of British Muslims -- that is, between 98,000 and 208,000 people -- are sympathetic toward Islamic terrorists and their efforts.... This is the tightrope that the British state and population will now have to walk for the foreseeable future.” It applies to all West European nations. Where, however, is the boundary between carefully walking the tightrope and falling victim to the Stockholm syndrome? The latter would mean that Western politicians act as hostages of the Muslim extremists.
The European Collapse
One proposed solution is to send in the army. "In a war, use the army, rather than police." However, to do so is to admit that civil authority has completely lost control of the nation, and the politicians simply refuse point blank to make that admission. Instead, they hide, serve out their time, and hope to retire before the Noahide flood: "après moi, le déluge," as another famous Frenchie said.
Besides -- this is my own speculation, not that of Brussels Journal -- European military forces are not exactly known for their steadfast determination and willingness to stay the course, even when they start taking casualties. They're not as tough, resourceful, battle-hardened, experienced, or well trained as, say, the Army of Greater Iraq. I'm not so sure the French military (except perhaps la Légion Étrangère) would do any better at quelling the rioting than the police (or the firefighters, for that matter). The British Army is rather better than the armies of the continent; but even they have too great a tendency to so "softly, softly," as in Basra in Iraq.
There is old story that in 1967, in the Six Day War, the Israelis realized the Arab axis put together by Gamil Nasser of Egypt was about to invade the Holy Land. In a lightning-like pre-emptive strike, the Israeli Air Force struck the Egyptian and Jordanian air bases. Then the Israeli infantry, armor and artillery, and paratroopers swiftly pounded the Gaza and Sinai (Egypt), the West Bank (Jordan), and the Golan Heights (Syria) in a coordinated assault that bordered on genius.
Twenty-four hours later, the Italian Army surrendered.
The American Way
The solution seems simple to me. France and the rest of Europe (including Britain) need to enact the right for all citizens to keep and bear arms. Small arms, I mean: weapons a man can comfortably bear.
The advantages are myriad and manifest:
- Each person has a tremendous incentive to protect his own life, his family, and his property; so motivation is high.
- There are tremendously more citizens than there are police or soldiers. Even if only a small fraction of the people choose to carry a weapon, they will still dwarf the authorities.
- The armed citizen is right on the spot: he is, in fact, the intended victim... so the bad guys will come find him.
- As we're finding in Iraq and Afghanistan, the locals are better at spotting people who don't belong (or known violent thugs) than the cops, and certainly more than military troops who may not even be from that region of the country.
The studies above indicated that between 6% and 13% of British Moslems "are sympathetic toward Islamic terrorists and their efforts;" similar numbers probably apply across Europe. The corollary to this is that possibly as many as 85% are un-sympathetic; isn't it about time Europe armed that 85%? For those of you who worry that Europe would be arming the very people it's afraid of, may I remind you of findings of such folks as John Lott anent domestic gun-control attempts... the bad guys already have their guns. They're already armed. France, et al, can either dis-arm the good (or not so bad) guys... or else finally allow them to defend themselves.
I suspect that most European politicians would literally rather lie down and die than allow their citizenry to be armed (the latter could lead to the former, or so they may fear!) It would be an even greater blow to Socialism than bringing in the army. But it would have the advantage of putting individual self-interest and the distributed swarm attack on the side of decency and good, not criminal evil.
And it might just work. It seems to work here; and even without the traditional American ethos of self-reliance and defense of home and hearth, it could hardly be worse than what they have now.
ANWR Shall We Drill Next?
Hugh Hewitt notes that tomorrow, the Senate votes on drilling for oil and natural gas in a teensy sliver of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) -- the 1002 Area of the Arctic Coastal Plain, to be specific. And just now, Sen. George Allen (R-VA) predicts that drilling will pass.
If this proves correct, this is great news! I would stick the "Good News" subject on this post, but we typically use that for Good News about Iraq, not about Alaska. Even if it involves black gold.
The House has been supportive of drilling in ANWR for a long time, even going back to the Clinton administration, when they voted for it in 2000. The Senate has always been the roadblock. Ever since 9/11, there has been a majority in the Senate willing to vote for drilling... but the vote has been stopped at least once before by Democratic threats of a filibuster.
I don't know whether Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has solved this problem; they got ANWR drilling into a budget vote on March 16th of this year; the budget is not subject to filibuster, and it passed. However, simply budgeting money does not release it... it also must be appropriated; and I don't know whether the Democrats are going to be allowed to filibuster that vote -- which presumably is what they will hold tomorrow.
Perhaps the procedural machinations have made ANWR drilling immune to the filibuster; in that case, Sen. Allen's prediction will likely eventuate. But if it's still subject to filibuster, I'm pretty sure there are more than 40 die-hard opponents of Alaskan oil drilling, and it will fail.
This is a critical battle that can have long-term impact not only on gasoline prices (when coupled with major construction of refineries, as called for in the recently approved Energy Bill) -- but also on the Global War on Terrorism, for reasons which are obvious.
And who knows? If this passes, maybe we can likewise step up oil production off the coast of Santa Barbara and in the Gulf of Mexico. We could, if we chose, convert ourselves into almost being energy independent.
I would actually hope for one codicil in this ANWR bill: I want a proviso that says Americans have the right of first refusal to buy the oil and natural gas from this site, at prevailing world oil prices, before it's sold on the world market. In other words, we should first offer to sell American oil to American consumers (at the same price, but of course with lower transportation cost) before exporting it to foreigners. This would encourage energy independence, weakening the Axis of Islam significantly.
Well, that's my two barrels, at least.
Is Paris Burning?
Is This the "Third Intifada" -- Or Not?
It fascinates me how little attention the riots in France have received, even from the blogosphere. The paucity of posts points out, as if we needed reminding, how dependent bloggers are upon the very MSM that we decry... media that all too often, as in this case, leave us in the dark about critical aspects of the stories they supposedly "report." Unknown unknowns, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld might say.
For example, everyone (including me) seems to think he has the answer to this question: are those riots in Paris an organized uprising by Moslems, a "third intifada," as some have called it? I think most folks would say "Yes," but much of that is just due to bloggish logrolling, a "blogstorm," as Hugh Hewitt calls it. Being a natural skeptic -- I'm even skeptical about skepticism -- I want something more than just handwaving, even when it fits my belief system (or perhaps especially when). Alas, this is precisely the information that the mainstream news seems determined to conceal from us.
(Wretchard of the Belmont Club, I believe, once called for citizen journalism to go along with citizen punditry... a million folks with digital cameras, each person roaming his city, taking photos, and doing original reporting; this would then, I recall, be passed along to blogpapers that would post the news and photos -- and finally blogs, who would analyze it. So far, that intriguing idea has come to nought. Taking myself as representative of many bloggers, I don't have a digital camera; I wouldn't know where to go to snap pictures of news events; I have no "sources" who slip me tips; subjects won't talk to me as readily as they would talk to CBS or the LA Times; I don't have the resources of a news agency to do research (I don't even have a Nexis/Lexis account), and on and on. I don't think the time has yet come. Sorry for the digression.)
Where was I? Oh yes, fumfahing around, trying to find information about the riots without actually hopping on an Airbus to Pahree. Were they sparked by Moslem anger against France? Or did they have nothing to do with the rioters' "origin or religion or faith," as the mayor of Clichy-Sous-Bois, "a neighbourhood of high-rise public housing projects," implies?
Over on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy flatly stated that "Islamofascists" were burning Paris. He noted that they were "confined to ghettos" surrounding Paris, presumably by Parisian laws or zoning rules (which I have heard before), but he did not elaborate. Hugh himself stated that the two kids whose deaths sparked the riots were Moslems; but as with Gaffney's comment, there was no citation for how he would know this.
Power Line had a post about them -- but John had to turn to al-Jazeera for the original story! Reading the al-Jazeera account, you would barely realize that the rioters might possibly be Moslems; apart from the fact that al-Jazeera is interested in them at all (which is itself suggestive), there is only one passing reference:
The area, home mainly to families of immigrant origin, most of them from Muslim North Africa, is marked by soaring unemployment and delinquency.
This tells us who lives in Clichy-sous-Bois but not who is rioting there, nor why, exactly.
Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) has linked to stories about the riots a couple of times; the first time to CBS (see below), and the second to Tim Blair's website (called Tim Blair, appropriately enough). Blair, in turn, cited a post on Little Green Footballs, another French/English speaking blogger whose name I don't recognize, and yet another.
He does cite a CBS story; but it's the same story that Glenn linked yesterday. CBS is even more reluctant to discuss the ethnicity and religion of the rioters. Note how this paragraph doesn't even entirely admit to being on topic:
Suburbs that ring France's big cities suffer soaring unemployment and are home to immigrant communities, often from Muslim North Africa. Disenchantment, and anger, run high.
At least al-Jazeera admitted that the particular suburb with the riots was one of those "Muslim North Africa[n]" ones. CBS won't edge itself quite that far out on a limb, being only willing to tell us that some unknown suburbs somewhere near Paris are stuffed full of Moslems from North Africa -- but they won't say which 'burbs or whether they have anything to do with this story. Just thought you'd like to know.
Other than that, all we learn is that the riots began after two teenagers were electrocuted:
The troubles started Thursday night in Clichy-sous-Bois, northeast of Paris, following the accidental electrocution deaths of two teenagers who hid in a power substation to escape police whom they thought were chasing them. Officials have said police were not pursuing the boys, aged 15 and 17, at all.
We are not told anything more about them than their ages... despite the same-day revelation of their first names in another source; we're coming to that.
Reuters took the same tack, dancing around the question in this piece published Monday (via CNN International). We are told in the subhead:
French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy defended his tough crime policies on Monday after a fourth night of riots in a Paris suburb in which tear gas was fired into a mosque.
But any hope for a conceptual breakthrough -- presumably the cops shot tear gas into the mosque because that's where the rioters were congregating -- are dashed in the next paragraph:
Sarkozy, addressing police officers, vowed to find how tear gas had been fired into the Muslim place of worship, an incident which had helped fuel the disturbances....
"I am, of course, available to the imam of the Clichy mosque to let him have all the details in order to understand how and why a tear gas bomb was sent into this mosque," he told about 170 police officers at the prefecture.
Again, we're left unsure whether the fact that one police target was a mosque (or was it a misfire?) has anything to do with the rioting. Reuters then takes away the prize for most misleading statement in any MSM article on this issue:
The violence began four days ago after the deaths of two teenagers, believed to be of African origin, who were electrocuted after clambering into a power sub-station while apparently fleeing police.
Evidently, it was too much trouble (or they ran out of room) to add the word "North" in front of "African," leaving the impression the youths might be from Kenya or the Congo, or perhaps rampaging Boers from Johannesburg.
The New York Times rewrites the Reuters story down even further, to a scant three paragraphs. Again, that same misleadingly truncated "African" rather than "North African," now tidily combined into the same sentence with the mystery term "immigrant population":
The violence began three days ago in Clichy-sous-Bois, which has a large immigrant population, over the deaths of two teenagers, believed to be of African origin, who were electrocuted.
Still on my quest to find out What the Heck Is Going On Here™, I turn to the BBC's account -- and snag another tile of the mosaic. The Beeb is even more politically correct, mentioning only that the yutes came from a suburb that "has a large immigrant population" which faces "discrimination against immigrant communities such as theirs." But they finally begin to give the game away by unwisely identifying the first names of the two boys who were electrocuted:
Flowers now lie near the spot where Ziad, aged 17, and Banou, 15, died.
Most of the residents in the rioting suburb are immigrants from Northern Africa.
Since every country in Northern Africa (north of and including the Sahara Desert) is Moslem, this does tend to at least imply a religious identity, especially when coupled with the names, the fact that the cops fired tear gas into a mosque, and that al-Jazeera felt moved enough by their plight to write about them. Of course, there are non-Moslems living in North Africa -- in Sudan, for example -- so I still don't know for certain.
Gateway Pundit links to Reuters video that shows some marchers who could be Moslems; they're being addressed by some guy speaking what sounds like Arabic to me (or else Hebrew, but somehow I doubt that possibility). But we only see a few people, and none of them is rioting. No signs visible in the shots, so I can't even see whether they're in French or Arabic.
At this juncture, I think I have to just throw up my hands in surrender. I have no idea if the rioters are Moslems, whether that's one reason they're rioting, whether it has anything to do with the headscarf law, and what is the significance of the fact, solemnly chronicled by Gateway Pundit, that the neighborhood just opened up their first halal (Moslem-kosher) Burger King.
The sad and simple fact is that when the basic news conveyers -- the mainstream media -- conspire to withhold key facts from the readers, there is often no way of reliably getting that information. As much as we may hate it, the fact is that we are still, several years into the blogger revolution, utterly dependent upon exactly the people we hope to supplant. This is not a good sign.
Say, where's Wretchard? Maybe he should trot out that "citizen journalist" idea again.
The latest surveys from various sources are still mixed -- but now they're virtually incomprehensible. As always, Daniel Weintraub leads the way with his Sacramento Bee-blog California Insider.
The disappointment is SurveyUSA, which consistently had all four of the Schwarzenegger initiatives up; now it has Proposition 73 (Parental Notification Before Abortion) winning by 55-44, 77 (Redistricting Reform) losing by 44-53, and 74 (Teacher Tenure Reform), 75 (Paycheck Protection), and 76 (State Spending Limitation) all dead even.
One caveat: SurveyUSA uses short, punchy descriptions of the ballot initiatives. But they did a "split ballot" on Proposition 76 this time and noticed that the longer their description was, the worse the initiative did: with the original description of 36 words, the measure ties 49-49; with a longer description of 51 words, Proposition 76 loses by 42-56; and with the third description of 54 words, it loses by a whopping twenty-five percent: 36-61!
Bear in mind, these descriptions are all read to the respondents over the telephone (by a recorded voice); they do not have them in written form before them. It's entirely possible that the longer a description that the respondents have to listen to on the phone, the more lost they become -- and when they get lost, they tend to vote No. Interestingly, SurveyUSA noted that the longest description they read is similar to the descriptions read by the other two phone pollsters, the Field Poll and the PPIC poll... both of whom showed strikingly similar results for Proposition 76: losing by 28% and 32%, respectively.
By contrast, a new Knowledge Networks Poll conducted by the Hoover Institute of Stanford University shows a kinder picture, with only Proposition 76 (State Spending Limitation) losing, by 10 points (45-55). The other initiatives are all winning.
Once again, the...
Table 1: Justifiably World Famous Big-Lizards Vote-At-a-Glance Table
Survey USA (in bold); Stanford Knowledge Net Poll (in italics)
- Prop 73: Parental Notification Before Abortion
55 yes, 44 no (2% undecided) lead: +11
58 yes, 42 no (0% undecided) lead: +16
- Prop 74: Teacher Tenure Reform
49 yes, 50 no (1% undecided) trail: -1
53 yes, 47 no (0% undecided) lead: +6
- Prop 75: Paycheck Protection
50 yes, 49 no (2% undecided) lead: +1
64 yes, 36 no, (0% undecided) lead: +28
- Prop 76: Limit State Spending Growth
49 yes, 49 no (2% undecided) Tie: 0
45 yes, 55 no (0% undecided) trail: +10
- Prop 77: Redistricting Reform
44 yes, 53 no (3% undecided) trail: -9
55 yes, 45 no (0% undecided) lead: +10
(The Knowledge Net Poll is a "forcing poll," where respondents do not have the option of voting "no opinion" or "undecided;" just as with the real ballot, they can vote Yes, vote No, or skip the question -- in which case they are not counted for that question. That is why all questions have 0% undecided above.)
I have one reason to be somewhat skeptical of the Knowledge Net Poll -- and one reason to consider it more reliable:
- My back of the envelope calculations indicate the poll may have oversampled Republicans.
Assuming that roughly the same people voted on each question, taking the first three questions, turning everything into matricies and inverting, I ended up calculating 42% Republicans, 25% Independents, and 34% Democrats. Now, bear in mind that the initial sample was probably closer to the state party percentage; it's possible this simply represents a "side prediction" that turnout will be higher among Republicans. But I'm still a bit worried, and this makes me somewhat skeptical about the results.
Therefore, I recalculated all the question results using two alternative turnout models; see Table 2 below.
- On the other hand, unlike the other polls, the Knowledge Networks Poll is not a telephone poll. Instead, respondents vote on a simulated paper ballot, just as they would vote in the voting booth.
The ballot descriptions are there in front of them, and they can read and reread as necessary, rather than just listening over the phone. This makes it a better simulation of the actual vote than a telephone poll.
As in the 2003 California Recall Election Surveys conducted by Stanford University and Knowledge Networks, the wording from the actual ballot was presented to survey respondents. Therefore, there was not provided to respondents a category to capture “undecided” or “not sure” responses. Respondents were forced, as in the actual ballot, to make a “vote” decision or to skip a ballot question. Also, as in an actual vote decision, the interview simulated conditions in the ballot box in that an interviewer did not administer the ballot questions; the questionnaire is self-administered.
(Daniel Weintraub opines that during the 2003 California Recall election, both the SurveyUSA poll and the Knowledge Networks Poll "pretty much nailed it.")
Here is a table contrasting what you get with the original mix, as above (in bold); then after correcting the percentages of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats to 37.5%, 25%, and 37.5% (equal numbers of Rs and Ds, italics); and then finally correcting again to flip the percentage of Rs, Independents, and Ds to 34%, 25%, and 42% (ordinary Roman text):
Table 2: Knowledge Networks Poll, Three Turnout Models
- Prop 73: Parental Notification Before Abortion Robust Lead
58 yes, 42 no -- lead: +16
56 yes, 44 no -- lead: +12
55 yes, 45 no -- lead: +10
- Prop 74: Teacher Tenure Reform Shaky Lead
53 yes, 47 no -- lead: +6
50 yes, 50 no -- Tie
48 yes, 52 no -- trail: -4
- Prop 75: Paycheck Protection Robust Lead
64 yes, 36 no -- lead: +28
61 yes, 39 no -- lead: +22
59 yes, 41 no -- lead: +18
- Prop 76: Limit State Spending Growth Loser
45 yes, 55 no -- Trail: -10
41yes, 59 no -- trail: -18
39 yes, 61 no -- trail: -22
- Prop 77: Redistricting Reform Good Lead
55 yes, 45 no -- lead: +10
52 yes, 48 no -- lead: +4
50 yes, 50 no -- Tie
I define an initiative as having a "robust lead" if it wins in all three turnout models; it has a "good lead" if it wins in two of the three; it has a "shaky lead" if it leads only in the first; and one initiative is a "loser," losing in all three turnout models.
So that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!
Date ►►► November 1, 2005
Weapon of Mass Media Deception
The absurdity of Harry Reid's tantrum today, forcing the Senate into a rare closed session as a stunt to draw attention to the Democrats' claims that the entire Iraq war was cooked up by Karl Rove and the neocons and sold to Americans by lies and distortions (see virtually any speech by John F. Kerry in 2004) has been ably covered already today by Power Line and by Captain's Quarters. I have little to add to the main points of Paul and Ed.
I'm more interested in the way that the mainstream news media manipulate the story in order to support the Democrats' side of the dispute. Let's start with the easiest to document, the slam dunk. Here is the Associated Press today:
Democrats contend that the unmasking of Valerie Plame was retribution for her husband, Joseph Wilson, publicly challenging the Bush administration's contention that Iraq was seeking to purchase uranium from Africa. That claim was part of the White House's justification for going to war.
Missing in action from this report is the fact that the Butler Report from Great Britain completely affirmed this very contention (actually, Bush said that the British had such evidence), and also that the final, unanimous report of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found that Joseph Wilson himself told his CIA debriefer that the Nigerien prime minister (and former minister of mines) had stated that the Iraqis conducted secret negotiations to buy something from Niger -- and that the prime minister believed that "something" was yellowcake uranium (as opposed to animal hides or cowpeas, Niger's other exports).
But lying by omission is not the worst of the reporting. In its zeal to cheer the Democrats on, AP has yet again exaggerated beyond the evidence to blatant falsehood about what we actually found in Iraq:
Reid's move shone a spotlight on the continuing controversy over prewar intelligence. Despite administration claims, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, and some Democrats have accused the White House of manipulating the information.
While it is true that under the crabbed definition of WMDs used by the U.N. inspectors no "large stockpiles" of chemical or biological weapons have been found, it is completely false to assert, as AP does, that none were. Washington Post, July 3rd, 2004, in a story written by Walter Pincus:
Yesterday's coalition release also said that two other 122-milimeter rounds, found by the Poles on June 16 with help from an Iraqi informer, tested positive for small quantities of sarin but were "so deteriorated" that they would have had "limited to no impact if used by insurgents against coalition forces."
Charles Duelfer, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, told Fox News on June 24 that "some" old sarin and mustard rounds have been discovered in scattered places, demonstrating "that the Iraqi declarations were wrong at least in . . . amount." But Duelfer cautioned he was not ready to make any judgment whether there were any "still concealed" military-capable stockpiles.
Even by the overly strict definition of the Iraqi Survey Group (ISG), these all qualify as "weapons of mass destruction." But more to the point is the definition itself: for Walter Pincus, the Associated Press, the entire mainstream media, the official line of the Democratic Party, and evidently the CIA and State Department themselves, the rockets found (or purchased) by the Poles in 2004 do not count as chemical munitions because the warheads, while manufactured to accept chemicals, were not filled.
Bear in mind that the ISG was led first by David Kay, then by Charles Duelfer. Kay was pushed by the State Department and by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency and Mohamed ElBaradei; and Duelfer was appointed by then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet: all three of these groups have waged relentless political warfare against George W. Bush, against Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in particular, against the conclusion of the "neocons" that Iraq posed a grave and gathering threat to the United States.
Each has persisted in this war-against-the-war long after the major-combat phase of the war itself was won, and the peace began to be waged with such intensity. The primary tactic they have used during this latter period has been to dispute every single WMD find as being something benign -- or at least potentially civilian -- instead of military.
Many times, we found huge drums of cyclosarin-based "pesticides" hidden in camouflaged ammunition bunkers... and many times we found empty chemical rockets and artillery shells, often at the same ammo dumps. But evidently, that doesn't constitute chemical weapons according to the ISG. But if Hussein's regime had actually poured the first into the second, then and only then would they be defined as chemical weapons.
Does this mean that a gun is not a gun if it's not loaded?
In virtually every case - chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missiles - the United States has found the weapons and the programs that the Iraqi dictator successfully concealed for 12 years from U.N. weapons inspectors....
But what are "stockpiles" of CW agents supposed to look like? Was anyone seriously expecting Saddam to have left behind freshly painted warehouses packed with chemical munitions, all neatly laid out in serried rows, with labels written in English? Or did they think that a captured Saddam would guide U.S. troops to smoking vats full of nerve gas in an abandoned factory? In fact, as recent evidence made public by a former operations officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA's) intelligence unit in Iraq shows, some of those stockpiles have been found - not all at once, and not all in nice working order - but found all the same....
But another reason for the media silence may stem from the seemingly undramatic nature of the "finds" [Douglas] Hanson and others have described. The materials that constitute Saddam's chemical-weapons "stockpiles" look an awful lot like pesticides, which they indeed resemble. "Pesticides are the key elements in the chemical-agent arena," Hanson says. "In fact, the general pesticide chemical formula (organophosphate) is the 'grandfather' of modern-day nerve agents."
(Hanson was an "atomic demolitions munitions security officer and a nuclear, biological and chemical defense officer" who was a civilian analyst in Iraq in summer 2003 working on WMD issues.)
It is well known that the staggering extent of Saddam Hussein's WMD programs was only discovered after he lost the Gulf War. Iraqi chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons by the tens of thousands were unearthed (often literally) and destroyed by the coalition. Afterward (we have known this for some time from defectors), Hussein decided that Iraq would take a new tack in its never-ending quest for WMD: from then on, all of Iraq's programs were designed to be "dual use": each would have an ostensibly civilian purpose (pesticides, medical research, nuclear power generation) but could quickly -- in some cases within minutes -- be converted to military use.
Therefore, when looking for "stockpiles" of WMD, the Iraqi Survey Group (ISG) should have been looking, not for a warehouse full of shells pre-filled with sarin or mustard gas or anthrax, but rather for the precursor components of such: shells and rockets built to accept such chemicals or biological agents in close proximity to the agents themselves... even if they're not actually loaded into the warhead yet.
A rocket that can accept toxic chemicals into its warhead near a 55-gallon drum of cyclosarin-based "pesticide" is a chemical weapon, and it should be defined as such.
At Karbala, U.S. troops stumbled upon 55-gallon drums of pesticides at what appeared to be a very large "agricultural supply" area, Hanson says. Some of the drums were stored in a "camouflaged bunker complex" that was shown to reporters - with unpleasant results. "More than a dozen soldiers, a Knight-Ridder reporter, a CNN cameraman, and two Iraqi POWs came down with symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent," Hanson says. "But later ISG tests resulted in a proclamation of negative, end of story, nothing to see here, etc., and the earlier findings and injuries dissolved into nonexistence. Left unexplained is the small matter of the obvious pains taken to disguise the cache of ostensibly legitimate pesticides. One wonders about the advantage an agricultural-commodities business gains by securing drums of pesticide in camouflaged bunkers 6 feet underground. The 'agricultural site' was also colocated with a military ammunition dump - evidently nothing more than a coincidence in the eyes of the ISG."
That wasn't the only significant find by coalition troops of probable CW stockpiles, Hanson believes. Near the northern Iraqi town of Bai'ji, where Saddam had built a chemical-weapons plant known to the United States from nearly 12 years of inspections, elements of the 4th Infantry Division found 55-gallon drums containing a substance identified through mass spectrometry analysis as cyclosarin - a nerve agent. Nearby were surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles, gas masks and a mobile laboratory that could have been used to mix chemicals at the site. "Of course, later tests by the experts revealed that these were only the ubiquitous pesticides that everybody was turning up," Hanson says. "It seems Iraqi soldiers were obsessed with keeping ammo dumps insect-free, according to the reading of the evidence now enshrined by the conventional wisdom that 'no WMD stockpiles have been discovered.'" [Emphasis added]
Coalition troops have found mortar shells filled with a mystery liquid that tested positive in the field for being a blister agent (mustard gas, used so horrifically in World War I, is a blister agent); subsequent testing (redefinition) by the ISG disputed that finding. But lost in the shuffle was the question that should have leapt out at everyone: what conceivable purpose is served by placing a liquid inside a mortar shell in the first place?
Putting any sloshing substance inside a ballistic object would obviously throw off the accuracy -- so there must be some advantage that offsets that problem. Can we put our heads together and think of some possibility, a reason why a man like Saddam Hussein would order some liquid to be poured into a rocket or a mortar round?
Even by the most tendentious definition of WMD, we have found some; so AP's overreach is just flatly wrong. But more important, the definition of WMD stockpile itself is wrong. When assessing threat, you dare not take the most benign view that all those drums of cyclosarin, "reference strains" of Anthrax and botulinum, and those empty chemical and biological munitions are unrelated and only coincidentally situated right next to each other in camouflaged bunkers and ammo dumps. You must use the most expansive defintion that takes into account the avowed intent of the Iraqi WMD programs to produce "dual use" chemical, biological, and even nuclear weapons. And by that definition -- which the ISG would have used in any other context than the CIA's attempt to thwart the Bush Administration's foreign policy -- we have indeed found "large stockpiles" of WMD.
Even if the Democrats -- and their allies in the MSM and the CIA -- don't want to admit it.
Rep. Tom DeLay (D-TX) won the first round today of his epic toe-to-toe squareoff with obsessed political prosecutor Ronnie Earle when the judge hearing the recusal motion, C. W. Duncan, decided that Bob Perkins, the "MoveOn" judge, would not be hearing the case as originally planned. Instead, DeLay will get a different judge... presumably one who is not a longtime Democratic activist who had donated to an organization and groups that actively sought to remove Tom DeLay from the House by any means necessary.
It isn't merely that Perkins is a Democrat, it's that he has been a Democratic activist, donating thousands of dollars to the cause -- including $200 to the extremist left-wing group MoveOn.org, which in particular has had a vendetta against Tom DeLay for years. From the New York Times on October 21st (free registration required to read article):
In respectful tones, Mr. DeLay's lead defense lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, noted that Judge Perkins had given money to, among others, MoveOn.org, a liberal group that Mr. DeGuerin said had been "selling T-shifts with Mr. DeLay's mug shot on it...."
(MoveOn.org quickly denied that it had been selling DeLay T-shirts. "DeGuerin has either bad information or lied in court," said Tom Matzzie, the organization's Washington director. "Americans are sick of the corruption in Congress and think it will be a better place without Tom DeLay.")
In court filings this week, Mr. DeGuerin listed dozens of contributions that Judge Perkins had made since 2000 to "causes and persons opposed to Tom DeLay," including $1,175 to Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, last year's Democratic presidential nominee; $400 to the Democratic National Committee and $200 to MoveOn.org.
(Incidentally, nice defense, Mr. Matzzie: the claim, true or false, that MoveOn.org had been "selling T-shifts with Mr. DeLay's mug shot on it" was intended to show that they had a very strong and visceral hatred of Tom DeLay in particular. So in the course of vigorously denying this, the Washington director simply could not stop himself from tacking on a completely gratuitous statement of visceral hatred of Tom Delay as the embodiment of "corruption" in Congress. If I ever want to get the chair, I'll hire Tom Matzzie as my attorney.)
In contrast to Mr. Matzzie, DeLay's attorney, Dick DeGuerin, made a point that he was not accusing Judge Perkins of any wrongdoing, only that his liberal activism created the appearance of a political trial. This seems to have gotten under Ronnie Earle's skin:
District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who heads the criminal investigation into DeLay's fund-raising activities, watched in the courtroom while his deputies questioned witnesses. He got up at the end of the hearing and chided DeLay's attorneys for repeatedly calling it a "political case."
"This is not a political case; this is a criminal case," Earle said. "Mr. DeLay stands charged with a felony."
Yes... a felony indictment that Earle had to go through three grand juries to obtain -- and finally did so only on the basis of a critical piece of evidence that Earle has now admitted he does not actually have. Thank goodness Mr. Earle has only disinterested justice at heart.
And now he will have to play out his obsession before a disinterested judge.
Alito Lit. 101
There are two main cases tried by Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito that will whip all the Democrats into a froth of hysteria. First, Patterico has a great analysis of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Alito's dissent from a ruling that reaffirmed but rewrote Roe v. Wade.
Second, John at Power Line does the same for another major case that has gotten a lot of attention: Alito's dissent from a decision that rejected dismissal of a lawsuit against police officers for "strip searching" (by a female cop, of course) a mother and her ten year old daughter who were found in a methamphetamine den (Patterico adds his own two centavos worth, disagreeing with John Hinderaker about Alito's dissent but agreeing that there was nothing terrible or even untoward about it).
These will likely be the two lines of attack by leftists against Judge Alito; we should read up on them to gird ourselves for battle.
Syria Activates Bat-Signal for Help
...But Batman lets the answering machine pick up.
In a sign of increasing desperation, Syrian President Bashar Assad has issued an urgent call for an emergency meeting of the entire Arab League, the twenty-two Arab-speaking countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
But in a sign of increasing Syrian isolation, Arab diplomats have rebuffed Assad, suggesting instead a cozy gathering of just five countries -- all but one of whom (Algeria) are actively working with the United States in the GWOT, hence against Syrian interests.
From the Associated Press via FoxNews.com:
DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria called for an emergency Arab League summit in a bid Monday to rally regional support in the face of a stern, unanimously adopted U.N. Security Council resolution demanding greater cooperation in the probe of the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister.
But Arab diplomats, anticipating lack of broad support for a summit of all 22 members, suggested a smaller gathering of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Lebanon and Egypt if others decline out of concern over harming ties with the resolution's prime sponsors — the United States, France and Britain.
That "if" in the second paragraph is actually a gentle reminder that Bashar Assad is not his father Hafez, and this is not the 1970s.
Take a look at Syria's position as it stands now:
Every single country surrounding Syria is now actively working with the United States in the Global War on Terrorism: Turkey in the north, Lebanon and Israel in the west, Jordan (to some extent) in the south -- and on the eastern border is of course Iraq, which used to be Syria's brother Baathist dictatorship but which now contains a democratic government and 157,000 American soldiers, Marines, airmen, and sailors.
Meanwhile, Walid Jumblatt, head of Lebanon's of the Progressive Socialist Party and fierce critic of Assad and Syria, bluntly warned Assad to look east to see what was in store for him if he obstructed the U.N. investigation:
"If (he) acts like Saddam did, yes, we are heading to a situation similar to what happened in Iraq," Jumblatt said in an interview with the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite television channel late Sunday. "But if he acts in order to preserve Syria's national unity and Syria's interest before (serving) the brother-in-law, a brother or anyone, he can save Syria."
Jumblatt was referring to Assad's brother, Maher Assad, and his brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, the chief of military intelligence, who were named in an initial report submitted by U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis on Oct. 28.
Jumblatt was probably being overly optimistic: as noted in a previous post, it is unlikely that the Syrian military would allow its head of intelligence to be handed over to the U.N. for interrogation and possible prosecution; they may well respond with an attempt at a coup d'etat instead.
It is looking more and more like Assad's days are numbered (or perhaps, as Woody Allen suggests, "lettered"). Many fear that if the Baathists collapse in Syria, it will bring a wave of Wahabbism or other Islamic fundamentalism to Syria. This is certainly a possibility; but as Turkey has proven, a country can be Islamist and still be democratic... and an Islamist democracy like Turkey does not pose a threat to the United States. The real danger is not Islamism but Islamic totalitarianism.
Bush may not have to "throw the dice" on Syria; it looks ready to come apart all on its own. We should be prepared, however, to move swiftly if necessary to rearrange the pieces into something more closely resembling democratic Iraq than the Wahabbist autocracy of Saudi Arabia or the Mullocracy of Iran.
The New German Left Has Left
The so-called "Grand Coalition" in Germany of the two biggest parties -- the Christian Democrats, who (barely) won the recent elections, and the erstwhile ruling Social Democrats -- has been shaken, if not yet stirred, by an uprising of more hard-core leftists within the ranks of the latter party.
According to the New York Times,
The chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Franz Müntefering, said he would not run for re-election next month after the party's executive committee rejected his candidate for its No. 2 position.
Mr. Müntefering, 65, is representing the Social Democrats in delicate negotiations to form a coalition government with the Christian Democratic Union, led by Angela Merkel. The parties had hoped to wrap up the talks in time to elect Mrs. Merkel on Nov. 22 as the first woman to serve as German chancellor.
It seems that the German Socialist youth took umbrage at being told what to do by their elders. Younger members of the Social Democratic Party (Gerhard Schroeder's party) tend to be much more leftist... rather like Michael Moore Democrats here. They don't like the idea of any economic reforms at all, preferring to rescue the ailing German economy by shouting slogans at it.
Like Mr. Müntefering, Mr. Schröder, 61, represents an older generation of Social Democrats that is increasingly at odds with younger party members. Some of these up-and-comers are staunchly leftist and opposed Mr. Schröder's efforts to overhaul the German economy.
The tension finally erupted at the recent party meeting, when Mr. Müntefering backed a longtime aide, Kajo Wasserhövel, to be general secretary. Political analysts said some of the younger members were antagonized by what they viewed as Mr. Müntefering's high-handed style.
Andrea Nahles, 35, a former leader of the party's youth wing and an unofficial leader of its left-wing faction, emerged as an alternative candidate. She was chosen in a secret ballot, by a vote of 23 to 14. Ms. Nahles's victory must be ratified at the party's congress in Karlsruhe in two weeks, where members are also scheduled to approve the agreement for a grand coalition.
Conceding her decisive victory, Mr. Müntefering said, "I can no longer be party chairman under these conditions."
This has set plans for the Grand Coalition wobbling, if not quite yet crashing down. If the merger does not go through as planned, however, new elections will be required, since neither the Christian Democratic Union on the "right" nor the Social Democratic Party on the left is likely to be able to form a ruling coalition with smaller parties.
Nobody seems to know what would happen in new elections: either voters would decide it had been a mistake to oust the Social Democrats, and they would win; or they would become impatient with the antics of the Left, and the Christian Democrats would win; or most likely, the results would be more or less the same, and the country would remain in turmoil. Ah, the wonders of the parliamentary system... it's so much more exciting! (Imagine Florida 2000 for months on end, with not only the presidency but also Congress in limbo.)
Oddly, although it's the Social Democrats who are splintering, the Christian Democrats are now also in trouble:
The jolt reached other parties too. Edmund Stoiber, a leading conservative politician who has developed a good rapport with Mr. Müntefering, said the announcement had given him second thoughts about his own role in a grand coalition government.
Mr. Stoiber, the prime minister of Bavaria, is the designated economics minister under Mrs. Merkel, and he has been a constant presence at her side in the talks with Mr. Müntefering and Mr. Schröder. His defection would sting Mrs. Merkel, since he heads the sister party of the Christian Democrats [the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, that is].
We'll have to watch this game of "spin the Bundestag" carefully, as it could have a very significant impact on Europe and the United States... both directly in terms of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and indirectly as a result of its effect on the increasingly fragile German economy.
Defund the Thugs
Of the five major initiatives on the California ballot this year -- I don't consider either of the two drug-cost initiatives all that important; I voted for one and against the other -- the two with the most long-term urgency are Proposition 77, Redistricting Reform, of course... and Proposition 75, Paycheck Protection.
For a perfect example of why we so urgently need to sever the automatic pipeline from the employee's wallet to the public-employee unions' campaign coffers, just take a look at this video, courtesy of Daniel Weintraub's Bee-blog, California Insider:
(This video is work safe; it's off the KCAL Channel 9 News, and is fairly short.)
(Apologies to Daniel for hot-linking the video, but as his is a corporate (newspaper) site, and I deliberately waited a day to give him the scoop, and his site doesn't accept comments or trackbacks anyway -- I thought it was reasonable to link directly. By the way, do you notice how often I link California Insider? Take the hint and start reading him every day!)
The video shows an anti-Schwarzenegger rally by a small crowd of union members. One of the Governator's initiatives would force public-employee unions to first get written permission from each member before using any of his dues money for political purposes... and they don't like the restriction one bit.
Nor do they like anyone who supports it. In the video, a lone woman, identified as Gene Vieve Peters, showed up at the rally with some pro-initiative, pro-Schwarzenegger signs. You will see the crowd surround her, intimidate and harass her, and then violently lay hands on her, seizing her materials and destroying them. Even one of the "security" guards (orange Security vest) snatches the woman's signs and proceeds to tear them into pieces with a visceral hatred that makes me wonder how little more it would have taken for that woman to have torn up Ms. Peters instead of her campaign placards.
It is a videotape of sheer wanton union thuggery, nothing less. And this picture makes the case better than ten thousand words why we need, ultimately, to defund the thugs.
Yes on 75 -- no on political violence. This isn't Iraq or Russia or even France... this is America the free and California, the Golden State. For God's sake, haven't the unionistas even enough wit to rationally answer one lone woman at a rally of hundreds of their own supporters?
I hope this gets played every day in the news from now until the vote on Tuesday, November 8th. If it is, we win in a landslide.
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